Jill Weatherholt

Pursuing a Passion for Writing


Summer Spotlight: Mark Anderson

Thanks, Jill, for what has truly been a delightful Summer Spotlight on your blog. I have very much enjoyed meeting so many talented and interesting people each Friday. Before I answer a few of the questions, I think I should introduce myself.

I’m Mark Anderson, a retired middle school language arts teacher, who has not had one iota of a problem grasping the whole retirement scene! It has always amazed me that there are those folks who, once they finally retire, can’t seem to figure out what to do with themselves and all of their new-found freedom.

A long time ago, I told myself that when the day finally came that I could retire, I’d be that writer that I’d always dreamed about being. When that wonderful day rolled around in June of 2007 after thirty-five years of teaching, my wife Carolyn and I sold our house in Naperville, Illinois, had a new place constructed several miles further west in northern Illinois—out among the corn and bean fields—and have enjoyed the simpler, quieter, less-hectic lifestyle ever since.

Soon after our move, I resurrected many old half-started manuscripts, jottings, doodlings, and other rough drafts from the large file box I’d kept in the back of my closet for many years. Most of the scribblings I found sparked many memories—for better or worse. The mere act of opening up that kind of “time capsule” was all the impetus I needed to get my writer’s mind moving toward the novel and short stories I’d vowed to write for as long as I could remember. Here was stuff I could use to ignite ideas and propel me into the writing mode.

As a result, in 2010, I published Black Wolf Lodge. That experience gave me the confidence that I could actually write a book—start to finish—and sell a few copies. Of course, I realize the formatting was not very good, but I’d learn all about making it so much better in my second novel a few years later.

And about this time, I discovered the challenging project known as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) that fills up November with the efforts to produce a 50,000 word novel by month’s end. The result of that experience was the draft for my second novel, The Good Luck Highway, published in the spring of this year. Talk about a fun book to write and put together! By this time, too, I’d discovered and learned the fantastic writer’s software known as Scrivener, making me a much more organized and efficient writer.

Currently, I’m enjoying more reading than writing while spending time up at our 101-year-old cottage on a wonderful lake in southwest Michigan. Though summer has proven to be less productive overall, I’ve still managed to get well into the draft of my next novel, a story featuring the main characters from Black Wolf Lodge.

Besides devoting my time to writing short stories and novels, I have a blog named Down Many Roads (http://cortlandwriter.wordpress.com). And when I’m not writing or reading, I am usually plying the waters on our pontoon or splashing in the water with our two grandsons. It’s all very special—this life—and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else!

Now, onto Jill’s questions…

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

For a very long time, particularly as I’ve aged, I have had a romantic notion that it would be neat to hook up with all of my ancestors (living and dead) and be able to get to know them and what exactly their lives were like, and the interesting twists and turns in their lives—their stories—that eventually paved the way to my entering this world. I would be most interested in seeing the people I most resemble and, perhaps, behave like.
I would love to have one more family gathering—like so many holidays past—with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins in attendance. Those who have gone before me, I’d love to be able to tell them what they meant to me and how they each have an influence on my life even now. I’d hug my dad and thank him for all things I might have failed to thank him for back then. I’d hold my mom and let her know that she’s not forgotten even though she lives away and not getting any younger.

What do you miss most about being a kid?
I miss those afternoons and evenings, playing baseball with my friends, in the hot Indiana summers until it was too dark to see, and having to be reminded a million times that it was time to come home! I miss the love of a wonderful mom and dad and all of the very special things they did for my two sisters and me. My dad always found time to play catch or hit me fly balls or take me to hockey games in Fort Wayne in the winter or to White Sox games out in Chicago in the summer. At the time, I wasn’t always so appreciative, and I regret that very much, especially since he passed away suddenly in 1978, just before he turned 50.

If you could go back in time to change one thing what would it be?
I think I’d enjoy having applied myself much more diligently as a student growing up and not been quite such a class clown. Don’t get me wrong, I had a good time, but that was the problem most of the time, especially when I was supposed to be learning multiplication, fractions, and long division. I could never see the importance of stuff such as that, so I goofed off instead. But I regret that now and wish I’d learned it then. It wasn’t until later, when I was working on my master’s degree during my teaching career, that I buckled down and actually earned good grades.

What do you think the greatest invention has been?

Without a doubt, the greatest invention was the typewriter/keyboard. Without either one, I would have fallen far short of becoming a writer, especially if anyone has had the pleasure of trying to decipher my handwriting! To this day, I consider my high school typing class the most important class I ever took. It’s the one skill I learned, honed, and put to use more than any other (not counting learning to read or to write, of course).

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
Playing the piano. I have always imagined myself walking into a party, with a room full of people having a wonderful time, and sitting down at a piano and reeling off all kinds of tunes—boogie-woogie, ragtime, jazz, classical—and bringing the entire room to silence as they all turn, spellbound, totally captivated by my unleashed talent. Of course, I’d really just enjoy being able to play for myself whenever the spirit moved me.

Thank you for taking the spotlight, Mark. I love that you’re enjoying retirement and fulfilling your dream of being a writer. Up next week, it’s Pauline King.


Summer Spotlight: L. Marie

It’s Me, L. Marie

Hi, I’m L. Marie. Everyone so far has been a tough act to follow. I’m a little nervous, so please bear with me. Um, let me see. You want to know about me. Perhaps this would go more smoothly if you asked me questions before I answer the ones that Jill provided. I’ll pretend that you did.

You: I’m guessing you’re some sort of blogger?

Me: Yes. My blog is El Space: The Blog of L. Marie. I blog about writing and life. Both are broad topics, so that leaves me with plenty of subtopics on which to write. So of course I’ve chosen topics like the perfect bathroom reading and the use of hand puppets to brighten one’s day.

You (momentarily stunned into silence by that remark): Um, moving on, what’s with the name L. Marie?

Me: L. Marie is a pen name (hence the Scaredy Squirrel photo rather than a photo of me). Over a year ago, I established my blog under it, because I plan to publish fiction under that name. I’ve published books under my “real” name before. They’re very different from my current fiction. I’m used to writing books mainly for kids 9-12. But I’m currently working on a young adult fantasy series—not something I’d want my young readers to read. It’s fairly violent, but not gratuitously.

You: What’s your background?

Me: Glad you asked. I’ve been a ghostwriter, a book editor (fiction and nonfiction), a writer of devotionals, curriculum writer (I currently write curriculum for Pre-K-Grade 8—mostly pre-K and Kindergarten now; I’ve written textbooks for public schools), production editor, proofreader, copyeditor, and a manuscript reviewer for publishers. During my years as a manuscript reviewer, I read about 21,000 manuscripts. Yes. You read that right. I’ve also worked as a technical writer.

You: Um, could you answer Jill’s questions now?

Me: Certainly.

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
Definitely C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. Because of the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I’m a fantasy writer today. I love the fact that their series can be enjoyed by people of all ages. I also love their approach to fantasy. Both were fervent admirers of fairy tales, but never saw them as stories only for children. I also love fairy tales. My parents used to read them to me at bedtime.

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

I’d learn Mandarin. Though I spent a summer teaching in China (in WuJiang, a city near Shanghai), my Mandarin was fairly bad. I meant to improve, but I haven’t so far. One of my nephews, however, studied Mandarin in high school.

What do you miss most about being a kid?
The freedom to lie around in the backyard and daydream without worrying about deadlines, rent, or other bills. I also miss having a family in the same house. My parents and older brother live in a different state, so I don’t see them as often. My younger brother and his family live close by.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Becoming a writer full time. My parents hoped that I would be on the fast track toward success, which in their eyes meant being an engineer, a doctor, or a lawyer. In that way, I could live the American dream. But I’d begun writing stories when I was eight years old. They didn’t encourage my story writing and were quite dismayed that I went into the writing program as an undergraduate. They were afraid I’d wind up a broke writer eating a can of cold beans in someone’s garret. They weren’t the only ones. Others encouraged me to switch my major to “something useful.” Ha ha! I can’t say that the life of a writer is the easiest life. After years of trying to get a manuscript sold, I almost considered taking the LSAT while working at the American Bar Association. But I left that job and became a full-time editor. That’s when I published my first book. When I returned to grad school four years ago for an MFA, no one tried to tell me to switch to a more “useful” major.

If you could visit any place in the entire world, where would it be?
Everyone who knows me knows that I would love to go to Italy. I’ve wanted to go there ever since I was a kid and saw the movie Three Coins in the Fountain on TV. I’d stay at least three weeks. I’d also stop over in Ireland and Scotland.

Thank you for taking the spotlight, L Marie. I’m so happy you’ve pursued your dream of being a writer. Up next week, it’s Mark Anderson.


Summer Spotlight: Theresa Hupp

I’m Theresa Hupp, and I’m delighted to participate in Jill’s summer guest blogging series. One of my pleasures as a blogger has been getting to know Jill through her writing.

As I say on my Twitter profile, I am a writer, editor, mediator, human resources consultant, and attorney, and also a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, and colleague. That pretty much sums me up. I worked as an attorney and in Human Resources for Hallmark Cards for 27 years, then retired to become a writer. I have a husband and two grown children.

As you can see, I have many facets to my life, and I struggle daily with how to balance them. At the moment, I am trying to spend more time on writing, but volunteer work and family matters—also important—keep creeping in.

I blog at Story & History: One writer’s journey through life and time. The title of my blog provides me both focus and freedom to post about the many facets of my life.

I am working on a series of historical novels about travel along the Oregon Trail and the California Gold Rush—that’s my journey through time. Some of my blog posts are about my research process and the history I have learned writing these books.

I also write about my family and personal experiences—that’s my journey through life.

Almost everything I want to write about fits within the themes of journey, life and time. If it doesn’t fit these themes, it probably doesn’t belong on my blog.

In addition to the historical novels that are still works in progress, I have a contemporary novel published under a pseudonym. It is a financial thriller, and reached #1 in that category in the Kindle store this summer.
If anyone is interested in reading it, please e-mail me at mthupp@gmail.com, and I will send you the link to buy it.

Here are my answers to some of Jill’s questions:

What celebrity do you get mistaken for?
I don’t get mistaken for anyone these days, but when I was in high school, a friend started calling me Jane Fonda. Soon many of my other friends picked up the nickname. I don’t look anything like Jane Fonda, but during my junior year of high school (circa 1971), I wore a pair of green crushed velvet bellbottoms with a purple floral print top. My friend said, “That looks like something Jane Fonda would wear!” and it took off from there.
My friend even took me to see Klute, an R-17 movie, sneaking me in when I was still 15. That’s about the baddest thing I did as a high-school student.
This anecdote is part of my journey through life. I tell other stories in my blog posts, from all decades of my life.

What do you miss most about being a kid?
I had a good childhood, but there isn’t much I miss about it. I have been fortunate in life to (mostly) choose what I wanted to do in my education, in the careers I pursued, and in the family life I’ve led. That doesn’t mean my pursuits have been easy, or that my path through life has always been what I expected, but I have taken charge of my own life as much as I could.
One thing I have missed about childhood is the carefree life kids lead. Starting around the ninth grade, I began worrying about grades and class standings, then about where to go to college, what profession to pursue, what job to take, etc. And also about marriage, raising children, and doing well enough financially to educate my children and plan for retirement. Kids don’t have to worry about any of that.
Now that I’m retired, I’d like to find that lack of responsibility again. But life doesn’t work that way. There are parents to worry about, adult children who still need my guidance (though they may not think so), volunteer organizations to run, books to write, and my own future aging to prepare for.
I’ve concluded I will never be carefree again. Once an adult, always an adult. (Unless dementia strikes, which has happened in my family, and you can read about that on my blog also).

What do you think the greatest invention has been?
There are so many! The Internet—we now have the world’s knowledge at our fingertips! Other developments have also fostered the dissemination of information, such as the printing press, the typewriter, the telegraph, and the personal computer.
But I have to give the nod to indoor plumbing. First of all, anyone who has been camping knows how awful it is to be without indoor plumbing on a cold or rainy night. More importantly, public sanitation has decreased the spread of disease throughout the world, thus increasing life spans.
I have thought often as I’ve written about traveling the Oregon Trail how the pioneers had to dig latrines every night along the way. The cholera epidemics along the trail were largely due to contamination of the rivers and streams where they stopped. Diseases caused by lack of sanitation wreak havoc on the lives of my characters in 1847.

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
This question stopped me. As I thought about the things I really want to learn, I realized they are all within my capabilities, if I chose to pursue them.
• Learning Spanish—I’ve learned other languages, and could learn Spanish if I took the time.
• Learning to play Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”—I used to play the piano, and could do so again if I took the time.
• Parasailing—I’ve always wanted to try it, but I chickened out the one time I had a real opportunity. But I could do it if I wanted. I’ll never be an Olympic athlete, but I’ve come to terms with that.

Is there anything about the opposite sex you just don’t understand or comprehend?
There are many things about the male of the human species I don’t understand. One of them is why they can’t just apologize when they’ve done something wrong. I had this explained to me once in a gender diversity seminar. Every male, I was told, wants to be the alpha dog. None of them wants to put himself beneath the other dog. That means they won’t apologize, because that would be admitting they had been wrong. It would sure solve a lot of relationship issues if men could get over this.
P.S. I know I’m generalizing about men . . . but really, isn’t this true? They don’t apologize. At least not effectively.

* * * * *
Many thanks to Jill for this opportunity, and I hope some of Jill’s readers will follow me on over to my blog, Story & History, or follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Thank you for taking the spotlight, Theresa. Congratulations on your novel! I’ve got it on my Kindle and I’m anxious to read it. Up next week, it’s L. Marie.


Summer Spotlight: Marie Ann Bailey

Marie Ann Bailey is a writer, knitter (among other needle arts), and stray cat magnet. She started her blog 1WriteWay.com in November 2007 when she was participating in the National Novel Writing Month challenge for the first time. She wanted 1WriteWay to be a serious resource of all things related to writing and editing. But Life happened, she got distracted, and went offline for awhile. In February 2013, she returned with a new purpose for her blog: Simply to share her writing and to engage with a dynamic and supportive community of writers and readers.

Marie’s background as a writer is similar to many. She started writing stories at a young age and took creative writing classes whenever she could, joined college literary guilds, and participated in readings. But she was never very confident about her writing talent. She was shy and introverted and easily discouraged, in spite of the support she got from mentors and fellow writers. Add to this her upbringing in a rural, working class/farming community. Her family considered being a manager at a McDonald’s to be a more viable (and reasonable) way to make a living than writing fiction.

And it was hard to argue with that. So Marie made a lot of detours in the past 30 years, trying to become a “professional” whatever (social worker, data analyst), trying to believe in careers and working in offices and 401k’s. She’s done the reasonable thing by her family. Now she’s in a time of her life where she wants and plans to do the reasonable thing by herself: Write.

Here are the questions that Marie chose to answer

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
Virginia Woolf. I admire her very much as a writer but if I could meet her, I’d want to understand how she could have committed suicide. There’s history of mental illness and suicide in my own family which drives my interest. Woolf was an extraordinarily intelligent person but beset by periods of darkness. Still, she had the presence of mind to plan and carry out a suicide that could have not been swift and that had to have been terrifying. I understand that she may not have had access to firearms or drugs, the usual tools of suicide. Still, the method she chose was so deliberate that one would have been hard-pressed to argue with her.

What celebrity do you get mistaken for?
When I was much much younger and my hair was much much darker, I was (sometimes) told I resembled Brooke Shields (if I had makeup on) or Katherine Ross (if I didn’t). Those days are long gone.

What do you miss most about being a kid?
I didn’t really enjoy being a kid. I remember myself as always wanting to grow up fast and get out on my own. (At ten years old, I had Marlo Thomas (That Girl) as my role model and would get all excited about someday having my own apartment. I was ten and couldn’t wait to get out of the house. I remember my mom being rather concerned about that.) But there is one thing I DO miss: that sense of timelessness, that a moment can hang in the air, buzz around your head before it disappears. That sense that Time was infinite, a bottomless pit, never-ending. I have vivid memories of feeling like Time wasn’t moving on at all. Although I couldn’t wait to grow up, I still had enough sense to know that I would someday miss those moments when I felt Time standing still.

After death, if you were to come to life as an animal, which would you choose?
A jaguar. I know it’s a near threatened species, but it’s still fairly at the top of its food chain. I love cats, but domesticated cats are extremely vulnerable. I’d want a fighting chance.

If you could visit any place in the entire world, where would it be?
Ayers Rock, Australia. It’s reported to be a phenomenal place to stargaze as there is no artificial light to dampen the night sky. But we also have friends who live in Perth, Australia, who we haven’t seen in years, and Ayers Rock would be a great place to rendezvous.

Thank you for taking the spotlight, Marie and for sharing one of my favorite pictures of you! Up next week, it’s Theresa Hupp.


Summer Spotlight: Kate Crimmins

Thanks to Jill Weatherholt for inviting me to contribute to her blog. I have been a fan of hers for a long time and it’s an honor to post.

My blog started as a way to showcase my skills for possible business writing gigs after I retired three years ago. I was the head of a Human Resources function and I did a lot of business writing. Most of it was what I call “thou shall not” memos along with policies and procedures (are you asleep yet?).

Unfortunately once I started writing for fun, I couldn’t go back. I like snark in my humor along with digressions, tangents and a pinch of sacrilegious or irreverence (depending on the spice du jour).

I blog about stupid people, cats and what happened on the way to Starbucks. Starbucks is a wealth of blog fodder! Seriously, how hard is it to order coffee? (This is so much more fun than business writing!)

I am currently pulling together a book of hmmm….let’s call it….reflections. It’s a series of humorous essays on life. Depending on your perspective, life can be darn funny.

Oh yes, everything I write is edited by four opinionated (and sometimes cranky) cats who do the damndest things.

Here are my answer’s to Jill’s questions.

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

My great grandparents in Germany of course! They lived in the second half of the 1800s. Life was so different. They sent their daughter to the United States to find a better life knowing they would never see her again and they didn’t. How hard was that? At a time when family meant everything, they would be denied the pleasure of their grandchildren and great grandchildren. What did I inherit from them? I know I walk like my father’s father because my mother told me so but where did my other traits come from?
In my fantasy I envision very resilient people with crinkly eyes that laughed a lot. The women had their hair in buns and wore sensible tied shoes and pinafore aprons. There was always food cooking on the rustic stoves — especially cookies and strudel for their favorite great grandchild (that would be me!). Their gardens had fresh produce and there were live chickens in the yard. I know nothing about them. For all I know they lived in cities and hustled for a living but I like my fantasy better.

What celebrity do you get mistaken for?

I mistake me for Meg Ryan all the time. Maybe it’s wishful thinking but I love her hair. My hair is sort of the same color and I often look tousled. Of course, her tousling looks better than mine which just looks unkempt or uncombed….for days at a time. It’s best if I take my glasses off before I look in the mirror, then I can see the resemblance really well.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

I miss my parents. I really miss all my relatives. It was a different time when everyone lived close by if not within walking distance. It was safer and kids were never stolen or shot. In fact, parents would threaten to sell you to the gypsies if you were bad and no one took it seriously. (I always imagined myself as a gypsy with a tambourine and a long, flowy skirt!) Doors were always open and you could pop in to see anyone without notice. Best of all you didn’t have to put on makeup and comb your hair. It was such a carefree time.

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

I would start my career earlier and be more adventuresome. When I grew up, women could be a teacher, nurse or a secretary. That is until you married and became a mother. It was much harder to break into “male-dominated” professions at that time. I took some detours until I flourished but given my “druthers,” I would have been either a shoe designer (would you buy a Kate Chew shoe for thousands of dollars?) or a rock star (I would sound like a cross between Janis Joplin totally high and a bull moose in heat.) Perhaps what happened was the best course after all.

Is there anything about the opposite sex you just don’t understand or comprehend?

How much time do I have here? I don’t know why they don’t know what I’m thinking at any given moment. I don’t know why they don’t know what presents I want. How can they tune out things I say and only hear words that don’t include work? How does he exasperate, agitate and mystify me at the same time? Why is there such a hole in life when he is not around?

Thanks so much for taking the spotlight, Kate! Up next week, it’s Marie Ann Bailey.


Summer Spotlight: John W. Howell

Thank you, Jill for having me on your post today. I believe this idea of setting time aside for guest posts is terrific. I think before I start in on the questions, it might be a good idea to tell your readers a little about myself so they will have some context as to why some of my answers are a little off beat.

I was born in Detroit Michigan and pretty much was on my own from my eighteenth birthday on. I graduated from Michigan State University and went to work for a large consumer packaged goods company. From that beginning, I pretty much stayed close to the consumer business. After about forty-five years as a prisoner of organized commerce, I made a break for it and succeeded in escaping. During the previous ten years before liberty I struggled with writing a novel and it eventually grew to over 100,000 words. I finally printed it off the computer for the purposes of an edit. After about fifty pages I realized it was a piece of crap and it is currently holding the laundry room door open. (Nice and heavy)

I don’t think the ten years were wasted since the time gave me the experience of doing really mediocre work. I found it impossible to write and work full time as well. I gave up writing until I gave up work. I started writing full time in 2012 and finished my first novel titled My GRL in my grlAugust of that year. I did a round of queries and was picked up by Martin Sisters Publishing. My GRL was published in December of 2013. I also started my blog on WordPress at johnwhowell.com. My next novel is a sequel to My GRL and is temporarily titled His Revenge. The manuscript was submitted to the publisher and I am waiting on news of publication. In the meantime, I am working on the third book in the series and plan to have the first draft finished by September of this year.

So that is a little about me. Jill has asked some interesting questions and here are my responses:

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

I would love to meet Kurt Vonnegut. I have loved all his books and would want to ask him several questions about his process. They wouldn’t be deep intellectual questions, but more like: How do you start your day? What was your most difficult story to write and why? Where is the most productive place to write? How long does it take to get a first rough draft that is satisfactory? How much editing do you do on your own and how much does the editor do? What is the dumbest thing said to you by a reader, critic, or educator. What is your writing process? Are you a plotter or a pantster?
What do you do for fun? I would also be up for a couple of drinks and a few smokes. I can imagine we would be pretty loose after a while. I would keep asking him questions until he would finally tire of giving answers. All the while, I would hope he would wonder why I keep asking writer type questions. He would finally ask and then I could tell him I am a writer too. He would want to know what I write and I would tell him all about my book. If I’m lucky he will still be awake as I finish my synopsis.

What celebrity do you get mistaken for?

I am never mistaken for a specific celebrity, but constantly am asked by people if they know me. I think I have one of those faces that could be mistaken for everyone and no one. I should have gone to work for the CIA since everyone would think they know me, but won’t know from where. I would have instant street cred no matter where I was. Think Russia. All I would have to do is stand around with a shot of vodka and answer “Da” to any question. It would be assumed, I was who the person asking the question thought I was, and that would be it. The last time I was caught in the doctor’s waiting room with a guy who said he recognized me from TV. When I told him I don’t do TV, he asked about places I’ve been and companies I worked. He even asked if I had played Las Vegas. We did not have anything in common. He left to see the doctor still mystified as to why he thought he knew me. I wanted to say my picture is in the Post-Office, but held my tongue in case he took me serious. I never mentioned my book since I was pretty sure he would not have read it. Besides I hate the picture on the back cover. It looks just like me.

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

I think it would be really useful if I could learn to type using more than two fingers. I can’t imagine the output produced if I could engage the other eight digits in a more helpful role in producing words. Those guys just loaf along and take credit for all the stuff that rolls off the two who carry the load. I have watched others type using both hands and it not only looks cool, but the keyboard sings like a piano. Whoa. Now there is another thing that would be useful to learn. Picture walking into a grand salon and sitting down at the Steinway. The next thing you realize you are playing Rhapsody in Blue and a crowd has begun to form. How much easier would that be to get attention? I would say a heck of a lot easier than writing a book and doing it with two fingers yet. Speaking of attention, how about learning to play the banjo. Everyone loves the banjo and the song She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain. You could just open up your banjo case and start that picky picky pick pick banjo music and before long you would have a crowd. You could even get some guy with a guitar and the two of you could do the Guitar Duel from Deliverance. Speaking of Deliverance how about learning to shoot with a bow and arrow. Imagine if you will, walking around with a quiver of arrows and an actual bow. You could dress up like Burt Reynolds and takeout anyone who makes you squeal like a pig. Speaking of pig, I would like to learn how to make tender pork chops. I have tried a brine, quick cook, slow cook, grill, bake, you name it. Always dry and tough. Okay, that’s my choice for this question. Learn to make great pork chops.

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

I would go back to the time when Microsoft and Apple stock were selling for about fifteen dollars a share. The change I would make would be to ignore the business advice given at the time, which predicted the failure of the two companies, and buy at least a thousand shares of each. I also would have bought one share of Berkshire Hathaway at one thousand dollars. My final change would be to sneak into the editorial offices of the New Yorker and pullout one of the short stories I have written and place it in the “to be published file.” I figure that if the New Yorker published one of my stories back when Apple was Fifteen bucks a share there would be no way I would have to work like a mule trying to get noticed in the publishing world today. If nothing else I could always put New Yorker contributor on agent query letters which just smells of easy money to an agent. Don’t get me wrong. I am published by a nice indie publisher, but all I’m saying is it would be nice to have Doubleday on my team.

What do you think the greatest invention has been?

The greatest invention has to be the corkscrew. I cannot imagine trying to secure my daily ration of wine without a corkscrew. Imagine the chunks of cork in the bottle if a knife was used. Even worse would be the slivers of glass if it was necessary to break off the top of the bottle. I’ll bet the guy who invented the wine bottle and decided to use cork as the sealer was sure happy the corkscrew came along. I’m pretty sure he got tired of all the complaints about glass and cork in the wine. I have to say the second greatest is the wine glass. I wonder how it would feel to either drink the wine directly from the bottle or be forced to drink it out of a tin cup. Imagine some effete wine connoisseur running his nose over a tin cup and then trying to describe the bouquet as “fruity with a hint of metallic essence.” All of us are spared that vision with the advent of the wine glass.

Thanks John for those interesting answers. John’s book My GRL can be found in Print on Amazon and in e-book format just about everywhere else. Here are the links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

Barnes and Noble


Up next week, it’s Kate Crimmins in the spotlight!


Summer Spotlight: Johanna Bradley

IMG_1206You know that sense of panic you have when confronted with a blank sheet of paper? Well, I’m experiencing it right now! I’m Johanna Bradley, by the way, and I run a blog called Restlessjo. The blog is my writing space, and I can kick off my shoes and feel totally comfortable in there. I hope my visitors can too.

When I tentatively suggested to Jill that I would be up for a little Friday Fun, it seemed like a good idea. Now I’m wondering whatever possessed me to mingle with so many great writers and high achievers. Maybe I’m hoping that a little inspiration will rub off on me. Words have always been my friends, but occasionally they can be the enemy too.

How did I get into blogging? For as long as I can remember, I’ve had the travel bug. I always kept a diary when I travelled, initially scribbled on the back of my postcard collection. It made the extravagance of buying so many postcards seem not so bad. This was long before digital, and I often experienced the crashing disappointment of abysmal photographs, even when I ‘knew’ I’d framed a superb shot! The postcards gave me a pictorial memory along with my travelogue.

One day I saw a job advertisement, of sorts. It was from a newly formed travel company called Simonseeks. The concept was for travellers to write their own mini guides to the places they had visited and publish them on the site, complete with photographs. In exchange they would receive a tiny percentage of any profits generated for the company by the guide. I loved the idea, and was soon engrossed in sharing my travel experiences.

Sadly the company foundered after a couple of years, but it had given me a taste of doing something that I loved. I continued to write for other outlets, but couldn’t find the ‘perfect fit’. I wanted to tell my stories in my own way. And that is exactly what I have the luxury of doing on my blog. I have discovered a love of photography too, and, though I am technically inept, I delight in telling a story in conjunction with my photos.

Could I write something ‘deeper’ or more substantial? I don’t really know. I don’t have the imagination or flair to write fiction. Those of you familiar with my blog will know that my Dad is Polish, and that I include a little of his extraordinary story in my Personal A-Z of Poland. It has the potential for a book, but it doesn’t feel like it’s mine to write.

I live in the north east of England, but am lucky enough to have a home in the Eastern Algarve, not too far from the Spanish border. It was bought as a place to retire to, where my husband might paint and I could scribble. We visit when we can and few things make me happier than finding new places to paddle and old ruins to explore. Maybe someday I’ll write that travel book. Who knows?

The Tavira Island ferry

The Tavira Island ferry

A flowering cactus in the Algarve

A flowering cactus in the Algarve

Tavira seen from the flyover

Tavira seen from the flyover

It’s ‘Question Time’! Jill has been an amazing hostess all summer. I am in just a little awe of this dinner party, but deeply grateful for the invitation.

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

Michael Palin- author and traveller extraordinaire. He has the twinkliest eyes and the kindest manner. Although I talk a lot, I’m really quite shy inside. I know that he would be gentle with me, and make me laugh, as he elaborated on all those amazing travels of his.

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

Ride a bike! I am a perpetual source of disappointment to my husband. He trails disconsolately after me as I pursue the travel adventure. ‘Just one more corner’ has been my stock phrase for my whole life. It all has to be done on foot, because I can’t ride (or successfully drive a car, either- but that’s another story). There’s many a weary day he’s said to me ‘if only you could ride a bike’. And think of the extra ground we could cover!

Me and my husband river rafting on the Dunajec

Me and my husband river rafting on the Dunajec

After death, if you were to come to life as an animal, which would you choose?

A dolphin. I’m not much of a swimmer but I have always been fascinated by water. It has to be warm water, though. One of my most magical memories is of an opalescent sunset, between the islands of La Gomera and Tenerife. We eagerly scanned the water for these friendly and curious creatures. I am the clumsiest person you ever met. To be able to glide seamlessly and frolic in that water would be the greatest joy. Exploring the underwater world, an added bonus.

What celebrity do you get mistaken for?

Helen Mirren. Don’t tell her, will you? She’d be appalled!
For my daughter’s wedding last year, I bought a quite becoming long frock. It cried out for a little fur stole and elbow length gloves (it was a winter wedding). No tiara, mind you! How flattered was I when somebody remarked that I looked just like ‘the Queen’. Not entirely regal though. As my daughter pointed out at the reception, ‘Mum, you’re wearing your choker upside down!’ She would know as she had made it for me.

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

Isn’t that the hardest question for a person who wants to go everywhere? I’m torn! The oriental has always called to me, yet I have never been to the Far East. Pagodas and temples are the stuff of dreams for me. An island paradise with lush gardens and the tinkle of wind chimes waits for me somewhere.

Many thanks, Jill. I hope I haven’t bored you.

Thank you so much for taking the spotlight and for sharing some of your beautiful photographs, Jo. You and your lovely blog are never boring! Up next week is John Howell.


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