Jill Weatherholt

Pursuing a Passion for Writing


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The Good Stuff

Imagine Courtesy of Wikipedia

Imagine Courtesy of Wikipedia

I grew up in Fairfax County, a suburb of Washington, D.C. My neighborhood had two kinds of houses during Halloween, the houses with the “good stuff” and the houses with the “cheap stuff.” The good stuff was Snickers, Milky Ways, M&M’s and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Then there was the little clear package that held four or if you’re lucky five candy corns, this was known as the cheap stuff.

Trick-or-treating was all about strategy. You had to hit the houses with the good stuff first, before they ran out. You also wanted to pace yourself in order to conserve energy. Passing up all of the houses with the cheap stuff in order to get the good stuff could be tiring.

I remember there was a particular house that went all out to celebrate Halloween. It was always decorated like a haunted house. Cobwebs and ghosts hung from the trees and Monster Mash blasted through the sound system. They even had a coffin in their foyer.

In order to get your King Sized candy bar which was known neighbor wide as the really, really good stuff, you had to reach inside the coffin. Some years there would be someone under a blanket who would grab your wrist when you reached inside. Other years a large mummy would pop out from behind the bushes and scare you away. You had to snatch the candy fast or fear would send you running empty handed.

Sometimes I would get that huge candy bar, but other years I was too scared and took off running. That family went to a lot of trouble each year to make the Halloween experience extra special, so special that after forty years, I can still picture it perfectly in my mind.

Do you have any special memories of Halloween?


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The Summer of 2014

Image courtesy of Yolanda McAdam

Image courtesy of Yolanda McAdam

One of my favorite segments on our local news is “The Good News.” Each week the stories vary. At times they make me laugh and sometimes I cry. I’m often left with a feeling that there are still good people out there and good things do happen, more often than the network news reports.

This past summer as I was enjoying the Summer Spotlight Series, I had a bit of good news of my own. As some of you know, I’ve been living with Crohn’s Disease for over twenty nine years. I don’t talk about it very often on my blog primarily because I don’t want to be defined by a disease. It’s something I have to live with for the rest of my life, so there’s no use whining and complaining. To use a quote that I’ve never cared for, “It is what it is.”

In April of 2013, I began a new drug called Remicade. It’s a two hour infusion that is administered every six weeks. In the past, other drugs only managed my symptoms. The purpose of Remicade is to stop the spread of the disease. This summer, after being on the medication for over a year, I had a colonoscopy. I was elated when I was told for the first time since the diagnosis, the disease is currently inactive.

For now, I’ll continue with the treatments until the drug no longer controls the disease or another treatment option comes along. Whatever happens in the future, I’m thankful for Derek, my family and friends who have provided so much love and support along the way.

Another bit of good news I received during the summer involved my obsession with lighthouses. In April, I wrote a post about being driven to write a story about a lighthouse keeper. I had a strong character and his backstory in my mind, but getting it down on paper was a struggle. Not only did the story hit close to home, but I had other obligations in my life that consumed my free time.

Image courtesy of Yolanda McAdam

Image courtesy of Yolanda McAdam

In the end, a story was written, one that will always have a special place in my heart. The story was submitted and a couple months later I received an email from Southern Writer’s Magazine, “Memories of the Lighthouse Keeper” had won second place in their Best Short Fiction of 2014 and would be published in July. It was a good summer.

P.S. The beautiful lighthouse photos were a special gift I received in May from my dear friend and talented photographer, who many of you know, Yolanda McAdam. She was on a hike with her husband and thought of me when she saw the lighthouse. Thank you again, Yolanda!


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Mission Accomplished

Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

When I came up with the idea for the Summer Spotlight Series, I went straight to my favorite editor, Derek. I explained the idea to him and his first response was, “What if no one wants to participate?”

Fast forward twenty weeks and I’m one happy blogger. The series accomplished exactly what I had envisioned. First and foremost, I wanted to learn more about those of you who faithfully visit my blog each Friday. I’ve been blessed to meet some wonderful people and consider you all friends. However, being the inquisitive person that I am, I wanted to know more, so I thought asking a few questions would be fun.

Each week I was thrilled to see the interaction that was happening. You asked additional questions that revealed more interacting facts about the person in the spotlight and yourself. That part I loved!

What made me the happiest was to see you go to the person’s blog for the first time, leave a comment and then start to follow that blog. When that started happening, I knew it was mission accomplished. So thank you to all who participated both in the spotlight and in the conversation. You all are a talented and often comical bunch!

Next week I plan to share some good news I received during the summer of 2014 and I hope you’ll have some good news to share as well.

Enjoy your weekend!


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Summer Spotlight: Renee Johnson

189_7374461562651070902_n (2)Hi Jill and all of your blog followers and readers. Thank you for allowing me to join your wonderful list of author interviews. It’s been fun and interesting getting to know the writers a little deeper.

For those who are already familiar with my work, you’ll recognize me as the author of http://writingfeemail.com and http://reneejohnsonwrites.com. The first is for pleasure, photography, and whatever pops into my head. The second is based solely on my journey as a writer – what I’m doing, thoughts on working with an editor, etc.

My first novel – Acquisition – is being published by The Wild Rose Press and is scheduled for release on November 7, 2014 through http://thewildrosepress.com and all of the other usual sites.

Now onto Jill’s questions.

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?

So many people came to mind, but in the end I decided on the first one to pop into my head – Ernest Hemingway! He had so much courage, yet in the end, succumbed to his depression. How enlightening would it be to sit with the man who changed the way we write and then naturally get his opinion on some of my work! (Of course, I might then wish I’d chosen a different answer.)

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
Speak other languages fluently, especially French and Italian. Even when I work at it the words seem to fly out of my head as quickly as I chisel them into it.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

Time. There seemed to be plenty of it when I was a child. I could read for days on end. Now, there’s barely a spare minute for even the blogs I follow, much less the many novels waiting for me on my Kindle.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
A lot of answers popped into my head for this question. There are physical challenges, mental and emotional ones, and some professional hurdles as well. But in the end, I think I’d have to say releasing that first manuscript for someone’s critique took a lot of courage. Writing is such a personal act, even if the scenes and characters only exist in your imagination. When others read your words, they are traveling not only through your novel, but through your mind. It’s very intimate and makes me feel quite vulnerable.

If you could visit any place in the entire world, where would it be?

Egypt. My traveling friend and I were discussing visiting when the uprising occurred. Since then, it hasn’t seemed wise. But there is something about the history of Egypt and its pyramids which speaks to me.

If you could go back in time to change one thing what would it be?

Oh boy. This gets tricky. There are so many things I would want to change, such as my father’s death – as untimely as Ernest Hemingway’s if you know what I mean. But, in the end, if you like the person you now are, you also have to realize changing events in the past alters who you would become in the future. So given the necessity for the courage and determination these events seared into me, I suppose I’d change nothing and just learn to be at peace with everything up to this point.

Thank you so much for taking the spotlight, Renee. I know it’s a busy time for you with your book release and the writer’s residency. I wish you all the best and I look forward to reading Acquisition.
Up next week, I’ll be back!


138 Comments

Summer Spotlight: Sherri Matthews

Greetings everyone from Jolly Old England! Thanks so much Jill for including me in your wonderful Blog Spotlight. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about old friends and making lovely new ones shining brightly beneath your summer spotlight. I’m honoured to be here amongst such fine company: after all, if someone had told me a couple of years ago that I would be writing on a blog, I would not only have laughed my head off but would also have asked, “What’s a blog?”

Blogging didn’t exist when, as a teenager, I hid away in my room furiously scribbling away at my angst-ridden poems and crazy song lyrics (none of which ever saw the light of day I might add). When I was twelve, I wrote a short story entitled ‘The Telephone’, but when I read it out to my family they all laughed and I don’t blame them. It was supposed to be a thriller not a comedy, so you can see I had a problem. I didn’t think I was cut out for it, but I longed to be a writer.

Working in both the legal and medical fields paid a few bills, but my happiest years were as full-time mum to my three, now grown children, raising them in California after moving there in 1986. Returning to my ‘home’ in England seventeen years later as a single mum in my mid-forties when my marriage ended wasn’t easy, but life is full of surprises and eight years ago, I happily remarried.

The call of the pen beckoned throughout but my writing dream remained just that…a distant dream. My feeble efforts to write, seriously, always stalled. Life and all that…

Then one winter’s morning two years ago, weighed down by life and my concerns for my daughter’s recent diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, I sat at my kitchen table in despair. I had lost two jobs in as many years, thanks to office closures, and I felt washed-up and yes…old. Then I read this by the novelist George Eliot:

‘It is never too late to be what you might have been.’

Overcome with a surge of ‘it’s now or never’ I knew then that it was time to change my life, it was my time to write. Today, I am a best-selling author. Oops, scratch that Jill…what I meant to say is I am scribbling away on my first draft of my first book (a memoir) but I’ll never forget the day I took my first phone call from the editor of a magazine to discuss publishing my article. I almost dropped the phone.

I got the idea to start my blog, ‘A View From My Summerhouse’ http://sherrimatthewsblog.com/ ) after reading an article about blogging in a women’s magazine. My first post was about my garden robin with accompanying photograph, but I was clueless. Tags? Who knew? No wonder I only had three likes (thanks Hubby, Mum, friend…).

A lot has happened since that cold winter’s morning: these days I dare, at last, to call myself a writer (shock, horror!) and I’ve gained a blogging community of amazing people I call dear friends. I might be a late-bloomer but I’ve discovered that it really is never too late – for anything. And who knows, maybe one day I’ll surprise everyone, myself included, and write a proper thriller.

Now onto answering Jill’s excellent thought-provoking questions:

If you could meet anyone living or dead, who would it be?

I would love to meet King Henry VIII and have a nice little chat with him about all his wives. Maybe put him straight on a few things. Of course, I would be careful not to ‘lose my head’. I am fascinated with all things medieval and Alison Weir’s book ‘The Six Wives of Henry VIII’ is among my favourites. Then, of course, there is Steve McQueen. Forget Donny Osmond and The Bay City Rollers, it was the King of Cool’s posters hanging on my bedroom walls. I was gutted when during my first ever visit to Hollywood when I was nineteen that I didn’t bump into him as I truly believed I would. But I did get to place my hand in his handprint at Mann’s Chinese Theatre, so I got to touch him…sort of.

What celebrity do you get mistaken for?

Well, no one really, although Jill thinks I look like Diane Sawyer! I remember once getting on a school bus when I was about fifteen and the driver telling me I looked like Hedy Lamarr. I had absolutely no idea who he was talking about, but when my mum later told me she was a movie star in the forties, I felt quite proud. Love that era! Recently, someone said I looked like Jennifer Aniston – ten years from now. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

Ahh…so much. Before my parents split up when I was ten, my life as a kid had seemed idyllic and carefree to me. Yes, I remember the arguments, but what I hold dear are the picnics we had as a family and the long walks my brother and I took with our dad in the woods at the back of our house. He told us wonderful stories of mystical creatures lurking in the shadows, particularly of one red fox. To this day, I’m fascinated with foxes and the first short story I had published was based on these walks. My dad was a wonderful storyteller and it is those early years with him before a lifetime of alcoholism stole him away that I remember and miss the most.

If you could go back in time to change one thing, what would it be?

I would change the way dinosaurs disappeared. Impossible I know, but I have always tried to imagine what the world would have been like if they still existed, although I realise that this would be wholly impractical. We all know what happened in the film Jurassic Park, but I think it would be incredible to be able to see one of these amazing creatures with my own eyes. Obviously not the T Rex though…unless he was far, far away.

What do you think the greatest invention is?

Now my answer here is not exactly profound and it certainly won’t bring world peace, but I have to share: you see, I’ve discovered a product that to me, seriously, is the best invention since sliced bread: it is Nivea Skin Conditioner. I don’t know about you, but I just hate all that faffing about applying body lotion after a shower. This product eliminates the need for all of that: apply it in the shower, rinse and dry off, job done. It’s a brilliant time-saver and what could be better than that?

Thanks so much for reading, I had a lot of fun with this and I hope you did too. Happy blogging! Sherri.

Thanks for taking the spotlight, Sherri. Meeting you through Word Press has been a special gift. Up next week it’s Renee Johnson.


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Summer Spotlight: Yolanda McAdam

I feel very privileged indeed to be part of Jill’s wonderful Summer Spotlight Series! I have enjoyed getting to know you all.

Ok so a little about me…

Hi I’m Yolanda and I was born and raised in South Africa to Portuguese immigrants. My parents’ marriage was spectacularly unsuccessful (no adjective can truly describe how awful it was). One of my earliest memories is of my dad arriving home from a night out on the town (he was a notorious gambler and womaniser) to a barrage of verbal insults and flying plates. The trouble you see is they were both far too young and too tempestuous for a serious commitment like marriage. When eventually they parted ways (in very dramatic fashion – locks changed, suitcases left outside, father hammering on windows, police intervention) my father moved to another city and my mother went on to live the life of a single lady.

My sister and I were mostly raised by our grandparents. I started working ‘to pay my own way’ at fourteen years of age. At the time of course, I was resentful of the fact that I had to work if I wanted Corn Flakes for breakfast or a Duran Duran cassette. By the time I was twenty I had worked as a wedding photographer’s assistant (great job – when I think back I can still sometimes smell the chemicals in that dark room), waitress, receptionist and dental hygienist.

Eventually I saved up enough money for university and went on to major in Counselling Psychology but I didn’t practice until I was in my early thirties. Although I now work in marketing I am and always will be passionate about the benefits of therapy and personal development.

Writing has always been an escape of sorts for me. I write to make sense of my thoughts and my feelings and I also write to make sense of the world. I started writing stories when I was eleven or so and I would share them with my friends and one of my English teachers who was very encouraging of my future career as a romance novelist. In high school I had a number of my poems (very dark, mostly inspired by dead poets like Owens and Plath) published in the year books. I should have gone on to become a famous poet or a Mills & Boon author (I have a high school friend who went on to do be just that) instead I went to work for ‘Big Corporate’ and got caught up in ‘making money’. My blog, Scribblings, is my way of committing to the craft of writing – expect to read random posts on thoughts about family, nature and life. There was a time I felt a sense of extreme urgency to ‘get published’ thinking at the time that I was ‘a prodigy’ waiting to be discovered, but countless rejections have since proved otherwise. Now all that matters to me is that I write something that moves people.

What celebrity do you get mistaken for?

John Stamos. I think it’s the dimples. Also I have had more than one male friend tell me I look like Mariah Carey. You should know said friends were not sober at the time and this was back in the early 90s when I still had a big voice. Um, big hair.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I would love to play the guitar. My eldest son plays beautifully but is an impatient teacher and I have short, stubby fingers. I love dancing and find it impossible to sit still when some Guitarra Latina is on the radio (or Spotify and Songza) for example but I move to just about any beat.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

My sister and I spent many happy hours baking mud pies and climbing trees in the African sun. I used to entertain myself, my younger sister and my friends with tales of wild adventure. I read Enid Blyton growing up, so there was always the possibility wasn’t there, of finding buried treasure in our backyard or that our neighbours were smugglers (despite living in a land-locked city)?
I miss the innocence. I miss my childhood friends, most of whom were boys. Two of them died in their teens in car accidents. I miss reading comic books and looking cool doing so. Nowadays you’re a nerd if you happen to know the difference between Green Lantern and Green Arrow. I miss that feeling of rolling in cool mud on a hot summer’s day. We (kids) were always dirty. I wish more parents embraced dirt and encouraged their children to run around in nature barefoot. I miss being small enough in the bathtub pretending I was a mermaid. I miss holding my breath underwater (now I just worry I’ll stop my heart). I miss the smell of ozone just before a Summer thunderstorm.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

I would have to say that following my heart was the hardest thing I have ever done (oh how cliché I hear you say)  My husband and I intended to move to Canada soon after getting married (20 something years ago) but family members were understandably upset at the prospect of us moving and we allowed ourselves to be held back. If we have any regret now is that we didn’t move sooner. We love North America.

What do you think the greatest invention has been?

Refrigeration. I know… I should have gone with ‘The printing press’ because what would life be without books and more books but I really do love my swanky refrigerator. So do my boys. I’m all for things that make my life easier like the internet and email and plumbing – oh yes, plumbing. I am very grateful for plumbing.

Thank you for reading.

Thanks for taking the spotlight, Yolanda. I love your thoughts on getting published, I feel the same. Up next week it’s Sherri Matthews.


119 Comments

Summer Spotlight: Shel Harrington

 Over the past few months, I’ve really enjoyed getting to see who’s behind those miniature pictures next to the comments on Jill’s blog. I feel privileged to be able to have the same opportunity to show you there is more to me than red glasses and a “You’re kidding, right?” facial expression. Thanks, Jill!

Living in a house named Dragonroost with my beloved spouse of almost 37 years, I spend most of the work day practicing Family Law. You know – divorce, custody, child support, etc. About 20% of my practice is representing children whose parents are going through divorce or custody disputes. It’s a world that has touched most of us in one way or another. While there are often rainy days in that world, there’s a lot of positive work to be done and, as you can imagine, it is rife with blog fodder!

As if the day job’s not enough of that stuff, I’m an adjunct professor teaching Family Law at a law school in Oklahoma City. I also authored a book for attorneys on the subject. And that is why, when reading for pleasure, I most often retreat into fast-paced thrillers and suspense novels that allow total escapism.

My writing life began at an early age with reams of bad poems, angsty essays, and dramatic diary entries that kept my mother on her toes for years (I thought the woman was psychic!). I always felt like I was ‘suppose’ to write, but squelched the notion as I dealt with the heavy reading and writing requirements of my profession. Until about eight years ago. That’s when I started going to writing conferences for the sole purpose of doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing. I learned, grew, met like-minded people and got motivated.

But I disdained social media. I thought blogs were on-line diaries. Hearing about people tweeting each other made me giggle like a 5th grader hearing the word ‘penis.’ And Facebook entries were things I used as evidence in custody battles.

Finally, upon hearing for the 193rd time that a writer can’t make it today without having a social media presence, I bit the bullet. I signed up for Facebook December 2012 and was delighted to learn that it could be used for other things besides making a public ass out of oneself. By this time I knew that blogs could be a wonderful way to communicate and, having a passion for talking about how NOT to get divorced, I started the ShelHarrington.com blog. After a year of enjoying the benefits of getting out info, getting in helpful feedback, and connecting with other bloggers and readers, my best friend and I started another blog to stay connected from our respective states and to poke fun at where we are in life. It’s called Fat-Bottom-Fifties Get Fierce. While you don’t have to be over 50 or have a fat bottom to hang out with us there, a sense of humor is mandatory. Although I don’t care who knows I co-author it, my name is nowhere to be seen on the site. It is my assumption that when potential clients Google my name they would prefer to see references to what a fierce attorney I am rather than references to my age and body type.

Taking on Twitter is on my to-do list. I plan to get right on that. As soon as I can say “tweet me” with a straight face.

And now for the Q and A portion of our program.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

Two events tie for that distinction. First, early into my marriage, my husband and I moved from suburbia – a Michigan world where we had spent our entire lives surrounded by family and friends – to the alien land of Oklahoma where we knew no one and worked opposite shifts because we only had one car. My first week in Oklahoma I heard “I’m Proud to be an Okie from Miscogee” about 32 times, experienced the horror of a half-mile wide tornado coming toward our apartment with no idea where to take shelter, and had to deal with a surprise visit from a nude Peeping Tom. [When the police questioned me regarding the latter incident, I explained that he was so close to my window that I could only see him from chest to knees. They asked for a description. Really? I again explained the limited portion of him that I had seen. When they asked the same question for a third time, in frustration I snapped: "Apparently he was brunette with naturally curly hair." Who knew a cop could turn so red??] Months later, in an attempt to alleviate the saturating loneliness, I looked through the phone book and found a person with my unusual maiden name, called him up and asked if he had relatives on the east coast. The surprised responder said he thought so. It was a short conversation.
The second event was being diagnosed last year with invasive lobular breast cancer. While there were some emotional and physical hurdles to jump, the most difficult part of that situation was seeing the pain in the eyes of those who loved me and knew they couldn’t fix it for me, and knowing I couldn’t fix that for them.
Both events were filled with blessings, lessons learned, amazing people, enhanced faith, incredible growth and positive outcomes. I wouldn’t have chosen either. Nor would I change anything.

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?

Picking one of anything isn’t my strong suit. I would love to hang out with Barbara Bush, Jimmy Carter, Pope Francis, and Ted Koppel. Not because of religion or politics, but in spite of them. When I analyzed my choices, I realized the common denominators were that each comes across as a straight-shooter, humble, compassionate, authentic and has a broad-world view because of their life experiences that I am fascinated by. I listened to books on tape by Jimmy Carter and Barbara Bush that they read themselves. When they were over, especially with regard to Barb’s (as I came to think of her), I was saddened that my new friend would not be driving to work with me anymore.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

The certainty that adults are good, right, and know everything. What a rude awakening that was to find out how human they all were. And what jerks some of them were.
I also miss how big everything was. For instance, when we would visit New Bedford, Massachusetts as kids, one whole day would be devoted to going over to the “French side” of town to visit my mother’s relatives, then over to the “Portuguese side” of town to see my father’s relatives. We stayed a half-hour or so and drove all the way to the next stop for another half hour, covering six or seven relatives on a good day. Visiting as an adult, I was appalled how everything had shrunk. Apparently everyone lives within blocks of each other. And their houses had gotten smaller, too.

What do you think the greatest invention has been?

Hay balers. For round bales. Seeing a field full of randomly placed hayrolls absolutely makes my day. Hayrolls bathed in sunlight, hayrolls shrouded in morning haze, hayrolls sillouetted against a sunset streaked sky . . . I am ridiculously smitten with hayrolls. And I’m pretty sure I can be heard for miles around at the end of the season doing one of those slow-motion “nooooooooooooooooooo” wails as the hayrolls start to form lines in preparation for being sold, moved, or winterized in white plastic jackets like jumbo marshmallows.
The ‘cut and paste’ feature on a word processor is a close second.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

Zip off witty retorts that would knock people’s socks off in the moment instead of receiving the brilliant insight after the phone has been hung up, the person has walked away, or the party is over.

Thank you so much for participating in the spotlight, Shel. You were great…as I knew you would be! I’ll keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Up next week it’s Yolanda McAdam.

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