Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey


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SUMMER SPOTLIGHT: LYNETTE D’ARTY-CROSS

Images Courtesy of Lynette D’Arty-Cross

 

Hello everyone! I’m so pleased to be Jill’s guest – I’ve admired her and her blog for a long time now. (And she’s a published author now!)

In blog years, I’ve been around for a long time. I started in October, 2012, but occasionally I’ve taken breaks from it because of work or personal demands.

What’s important is that I’ve always come back to it though. I started my blog as a way of dealing with a very short but very bad marriage to a man who, in my unprofessional opinion, is a full-blown clinical narcissist.  I was completely wrecked by my contact with him, both emotionally and financially.

But getting my thinking out in writing has helped me to clarify what happened to me and how I also bore responsibility for inviting him into my life. The interaction with other bloggers too, their comments and posts, helped me enormously, two of them in particular.  So, I don’t really consider myself to be much of a writer, although I have dabbled in it. For me, blogging is much more about helping me through my thinking, and I always seem turn to it to sort out my thoughts or organise my learning.

The fallout from this relationship is ongoing and I will always have to deal with it, but I have very much moved on to other topics as well.

Landscape photography is one of them, and I’ve included some samples here. I do have a decent camera, but often I find myself taking pictures with my cell phone because the camera is languishing, forgotten, at home.

I’m very fortunate to live in a vast, beautiful land, some of it very conventionally lovely and plump and some of it stark and tight. My home base is the fabulous wine country of the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, but right now I am in the Northwest Territories, at 60 degrees of latitude and 60 degrees of many other things, too. I am working in a Dene Nation community and am learning about land …

I am hoping that over time my photographs of this place will begin to communicate the character and depth that lives here. But that will take practise and patience.

So, on to Jill’s questions!

Where do you most want to travel and have never been?

  • New Zealand. I would love to visit there and have wanted to go since I was a child. I understand that it is quite spectacular and there’s also some really great wine …

What are some events in my life that have made me who I am?

  • Being married to a narcissist was one. It was a very nasty experience but I have learned intensely from it, mostly about the peoply peopleness of us. Still am.
  • Having been posted to a war zone when I was in the military. When I hear of people trying to come to this country because they are escaping a war, I understand. And those who are opposed to refugee immigration? If they were trying to escape a war, they would want someone to accept them too. Most of the time, people are just people who don’t want to have bombs dropped on them.
  • Having canine friends in my life. I love dogs. Their unconditional acceptance has taught me a lot about how to be a person.
  • Learning to fly a plane. There is a great deal of satisfaction to be had from the precision and discipline of aviation, and I learned as much about myself as I did about how to handle an aircraft.

What was the biggest obstacle I’ve ever had to overcome?

  • There have been many, but probably the greatest one has been dealing with my insecurities. I don’t believe that this aspect of my personality can be changed, but I am aware of them and I work on them all the time. Some manifestations of them are better than they used be: I don’t stutter as much as I used to when I was younger, for instance.

My life is pretty rich, though. I’m married to a man who’s perfect for me. I have good friends and family.  I just got a work promotion, too!

Many thanks to Jill for having me as a guest.

 


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SUMMER SPOTLIGHT: ANNIKA PERRY

First of all, thank you, Jill for the opportunity to appear on your Summer Spotlight.  You’re a wonderful friend here on WP and your support and friendship have meant a lot to me since my very first blogging days. It’s an honour to be featured on your blog.

 

To start this post, you’ve asked some great and inspiring questions which I fear has encouraged the rambling writer in me…

 

What is special about the place you grew up?

 

Although I’ve never lived in Ilkley, I was lucky enough to spend many of my formative years in the town. Nestled deep in the Yorkshire Dales beneath the stunning Ilkley Moor to the South and the River Wharf to the North, this old Victorian town thrives on its idyllic location.

 

It was originally settled in approx. 1800 BC as evident from the 250 Bronze Age cup and ring marks carved into the rocks above the town. Thereafter Romans lived in Ilkley and there are the remains of a Roman fort and altars. Later the town was mentioned in the Doomsday book in 1086.

 

In the 18th and 19th century Ilkley thrived as it became famous for its healing waters and a hydro complex was built. To this day only one building, White Wells, remains from this period and here is still possible to see the wells and the ice cold waters to which people flocked.

 

Ilkley was the closest town to where I grew up, within biking distance and for five fantastic years I attended its only secondary school. There wasn’t a day that my heart didn’t rejoice at my school’s wonderful position, high up on the moors, where many of our lunches were taken by White Wells or at the nearby Tarn, cooling our feet in the pond or fresh water streams during the hot summer months. Other times my friends and I would wander into the town for lunch, buy a sandwich and sit on the benches on the infamous Grove – the church behind us, a promenade of shops in front of us, including my most beloved bookshop, The Grove Bookshop. This became my haunt and I wiled away many happy hours in the shop and it became the grateful recipient of my pocket and baby-sitting money.

 

The last year at school saw my daily hike up the hill replaced with my first car, a white Beetle. A faithful vehicle, it served me well although it barely made it all the way up to school and once was famously overtaken on the hill to the moors by a scooter. My friend threatened to abandon me in her fit of embarrassment!

 

My first job finally took me away from Ilkley. However, it happily and regularly features in my life as my brother now lives in the town. On visits to him and his family, I can once again traipse the streets, my feet familiar with the layout, my eyes ogling in surprise at the changes, including the numerous and delicious eateries and art shops.

 

Some things never change though and with delighted expectation I rush to the moors; once again I’m young, free and just me! I’m home!

 

What would be some of the most annoying things about yourself as a roommate?

 

This is one of the more unusual questions I’ve come across and since I shared a room in my first year at the University of St. Andrews I began to recall those days.

 

Having always felt cold when young it was perhaps not the most auspicious beginnings by moving to the colder climes of the North East Scottish Coast. Nothing had prepared me for the bitter winter and no amount of coats, jumpers, or duvets stopped me from shivering and feeling freezing cold. Nothing seemed to help and when inside our room I’d be huddled in front of the tiny electric fire, wrapped up in blankets, clutching a cuppa soup! My roommate, meanwhile, would breeze in wearing just a top and jacket into what most likely felt like a sauna and promptly fling open the window, turning off the fire! Our discrepancy in temperatures was never reconciled however our friendship endured once it was agreed I pay for all the heating costs!

 

Where do you most want to travel, but have never been?

 

The Grand Canyon, in particular, caught hold of my imagination as a child and my desire to visit it has only grown stronger through my adult years. My sense of incredulity on seeing photos from there never falters, the grandeur and beauty of the landscape is awe-inspiring, the desolate scenery humbling. My heart and soul are drawn to the place and I just know this is somewhere I have to visit.

 

In recent years I’ve become increasingly intrigued by the giant Sequoia (redwood) trees, particularly in California – their splendour, size and age are astonishing and I long to walk beneath them, staring upwards at nature’s wonder, dizzy in reverse with vertigo and elation.

 

Closer to home the magic and mystique of the Northern Lights calls to my soul, to see this timeless eternal natural phenomena in real life must be overwhelming; I’m sure I wouldn’t want to break the spiritual experience for days afterwards. It’s as if the heavens put on their own ethereal art show for the planet, capturing our spirits and letting our souls soar free. I hope to make it to Northern Sweden or Norway soon although if I was still living in Yorkshire I would have had the opportunity to witness them this year as they were unusually visible that far south!

 

A little about myself.

 

Writing has been my passion since childhood although it is only in the past few years I have seriously started to write fiction. Like so many I worked in various areas first, including journalism and in the timber trade. Illness and motherhood meant a career break and I finally had an opportunity to pursue my dream.

 

With the added incentive of a writing course and a tutor, my occasional scribblings became a daily work schedule as I threw myself into writing short stories. My confidence was boosted when my story ‘Biding her Time’ won First Prize in a Writing Magazine short story competition and short-listings in other competitions soon followed.

 

With the encouragement of my family, friends and tutor I embarked on writing a novel and I was delighted to complete ‘Island Girl’ which is now in its final editing phase, delayed as so often happens, by major life events. I have previously completed two, as yet unpublished, books for younger children.

 

Like so many writers, I’d read about the importance of creating a social media presence and as a result I started my blog in January 2015. Quickly I realised it would be dull to merely concentrate on my novel writing experience and since then my blog has transformed to include book reviews (thank you, NetGalley!) and articles about books. Literature is never far from my side and I could not imagine a life without books! Other posts cover such subjects as the arts, my travels and nature, many with a spiritual and inspirational twist to them and often including photographs from my newly discovered love for this craft.

 

Furthermore, it has been a delight to share some of my numerous short stories and flash fiction pieces on my blog and the warm, positive comments have given me a huge morale lift. As a result of the wonderful and uplifting feedback and following the increasing popularity of short story books I am seriously considering a compilation of my own short stories to be self-published. This is a project I have just started working on and is proving an exciting new venture for me.

 

Jill, thank you once again for featuring me on your blog – it’s been a real joy to be here!

Connect with Annika on Twitter @AnnikaPerry68


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SUMMER SPOTLIGHT: PATSY PARKER

Thank you, Jill, for the opportunity to share a little about myself on your blog and for having me as your guest.  I am thankful for the friendship we have shared for the last several years, and I am happy for your success as a writer.

I began my blog, Patsy’s Creative Corner, on WordPress, almost four years ago when I was looking for something new to do.  I started it in July of 2013.  At the time, I was drawing and painting as a hobby, however, didn’t occur to me to share my artwork until much later.  I draw in pencil but mainly use watercolors.  I have done some acrylic paintings as well.  A couple of years ago I became obsessed with sea turtles, so I gave myself a project of learning to draw the seven different types of sea turtles.  I also painted them in watercolors.  Here’s a link to a finished project I did quite a while ago where each type of sea turtle was painted in watercolors.  There are many, many more drawings and smaller paintings of sea turtles as well as many other works of art on my blog.  Currently I am in the process of reorganizing the navigation of my blog, but if you click on the box that says “Select Category” under the widget “Look Around,” it will help you get around faster.

If you decide to spend any time looking around there, you will see that I write about a wide variety of things.  One of the most frequent themes is mental health because I believe I have suffered from depression and anxiety for many years as I believe my family of origin did also.

Here are my answers to the three questions I picked from Jill’s list:

What is special about the place you grew up?

I grew up in Georgia, Kentucky, and California.  Georgia holds some of the most special memories mostly of neighborhood friends and lots of things to do.  For a couple of winters after I turned eight, I was a cheerleader at Midway Park nearby.  One of my brothers played football one or two years also.  I played softball for three summers.  When I wasn’t playing softball or taking piano lessons, my favorite place to be was the community swimming pool.  My favorite memory from there was becoming acquaintances with a girl, whose name I wish I could remember, who had part of one of her arms missing below the elbow.  When I first met her I wondered why she was there because I ignorantly thought she probably couldn’t swim very well.  It was amazing to watch her swim; she even beat me in races lots of times, and I was a strong swimmer!  Because of Midway Park, I guess the thing that stands out about growing up in Decatur, Georgia, was the sense of community I knew.  I honestly have never experienced anything like it since we left there when my dad’s company was transferred to Kentucky when I was ten, then again to California when I was 16.

What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?

When I was in my first new school in Kentucky, I was teased a lot and given a terrible nickname.  It devastated me to the point where I wished we had never moved there.  Then a terribly inappropriate and embarrassing thing happened to me in my elective art class I in Jr. High school.  I wrote about it on my blog.  It is a featured page called The Art Class.

I think getting teased and made fun of and humiliated in school all the times I ever went through it, made me hate that behavior in people.  So, over the years I became the kid who made friends with other kids whom were teased or bullied, too.  Not only did I stick up for others, but I eventually had enough courage to stick up for myself.  In eleventh grade I was picked on for being the new kid at my new school in California.  Three girls decided to begin bullying me for no reason.  I was miserable until I had enough and stood up for myself one day.  I was fully prepared to fight the ringleader if I had to, but when I stood up to her, she backed off, and they left me alone after that.

I have always been an advocate for the victim or the underdog; I’ve been that way my whole life even though there have been many situations where I was the victim.  There were times I couldn’t protect myself and suffered in horrendous ways, but after many years of counseling I became a mom to two kids who don’t ever let anyone walk all over them.  They know how to either work through problems with others or leave unhealthy relationships behind.  For this I am grateful.

What would be some of the most annoying things about having you as a roommate?

I love this question!  I am 56 years old and didn’t have my kids until I was 36 and 38 so they have grown up with older parents than most of their friends.  First, I hate clutter!  I am not a fanatic about neatness by any means; I just really don’t like it when STUFF is left lying around where it doesn’t belong or isn’t put away when it isn’t being used anymore!  Second, I am an avid reader.  I really prefer the house to be quiet after 9 p.m. at the latest unless all of us were ever watching a movie together or something.  I personally cannot read well when there is noise.  I have a slight disability in the area of comprehension.  Third, and this the most annoying to my family for sure, I tend to repeat things I’ve already told my family because I don’t remember telling them OR I don’t remember things that they claim they’ve already told me!  So as you can see, I’m a little like Dori in Finding Nemo – “I suffer from short-term memory loss!”


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SUMMER SPOTLIGHT: KATE CRIMMINS

Link to my blog: www.coffeekatblog.com

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

In blogging years, I’m an old-timer. It’s been over five years.  It started out as a marketing tool to continue a professional presence after retirement but quickly turned into a humor blog about cats, Starbucks, stupid people and anything else on my mind.

When the evil humor demons came out of the box, I couldn’t get them back in. Once in a while, I’ll do a business project but I can’t wait to get back to my happy place at my keyboard with a mocha latte and some cat trying to hack up a hairball. And snark. Lots of snark!

The connections you make as a blogger are amazing and so are the things you learn. Unlike other social media where you post selfies or what you are currently eating (and there is nothing wrong with that), most bloggers post stories and experiences, often accompanied by beautiful photos.

What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?

I was one of the original latchkey kids. My Dad died when I was ten and it changed my world forever. Overnight we went from being a “Cleaver” family to a single Mom family. At that time, it was very unusual. My mother, who had been a stay at home Mom typical in the 50s, went back to work. Jobs for middle-aged women were not good paying. There wasn’t money for extras or a lot of time. I had to pick up responsibility fast. I learned to cook and during the summer, I did the cleaning and helped with laundry. My life was very different from my friends’ lives but I didn’t recognize it at the time. The need to be responsible early changed my life and made me more focused and independent.

If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what rule would you make?

“Kindness rules!” The past year has been painful and I’ve seen long-term friendships ripped apart. (Yes, there are people I am still avoiding!) Getting back to basic kindness would go a long way toward healing. You don’t need to have the same beliefs. Tolerance and kindness should be a basic rule. Drop the snark (except for funny blog posts) especially on social media.

What would be some of the most annoying things about having yourself as a roommate?

I don’t like people, especially up front, personal and in my face all the time. I would not make a great roommate. My neatness is annoying. I like peace and quiet. When I moved back to my hometown 20 years ago, I lived a block from an all-women’s college campus. I considered renting out a room to a student. One margarita and I got over that idea. Privacy is important to me and the possibility of being matched with someone more outgoing was frightening.


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Summer Spotlight: L. Marie

Image Courtesy of fiftyflowers.com

Do not adjust your screen. You are not seeing things. You have just entered El Space. Thank you for traveling with us.

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m L. Marie. You probably noticed that I didn’t include a photo of myself. Though I’ve published books under my given name, I established the pen name L. Marie for my blog (El Space: The Blog of L. Marie and my middle grade and young adult fiction. But I can’t say that L. Marie isn’t a “real” name, because it’s my name too.

I’m still querying agents and publishers about three of my fantasy books. So, I don’t yet have a book to go with this blog post. Sorry to disappoint. Have some virtual chocolate instead. No, I insist.

Image Courtesy of Whisper app.

Instead of three questions, I decided to answer one, since this post would be about three thousand words otherwise. But the question of where I grew up is one that resonates with me very strongly. Sometimes, you have to look back in order to see where you’re going.

Jill asked, “What is special about the place you grew up?”

I grew up on the far south side of Chicago in Maple Park—around 117th Street. For some of you, this might seem like foreign territory. Many times, whenever I’ve mention where I grew up, I’ve either been told, “I didn’t know Chicago extended that far,” or “I would never go there. I’m too scared.”

These days, Chicago gets a bad rap because of the murder count and issues with gangs. Yes, many murders have happened, sadly. And yes, gang activity has increased. But Maple Park was the womb in which I developed as a writer.

Here’s a screen shot of my old house—the first house my parents owned. They were among the first homeowners in this planned community. We moved here when I was three years old. Over the years, I spent many a sun-washed summer’s day in the ’70s riding my bike around the neighborhood.

Image Courtesy of Googlemaps

In my neighborhood, there were many kids my age and the ages of my two brothers. We shrieked, we sang, we laughed, we traded a tremendous amount of words. Because I loved books at an early age, and was surrounded by so many kids, I knew early on (at age eight as a matter of fact) that when I grew up, I wanted to write books for kids.

My elementary school—John Whistler—was six blocks away. My parents were not the hovering types, taking us to and from school every day. Mom walked with me to kindergarten once. After that, I walked with a friend to school each day, sometimes until the watchful eye of my older brother. (He’s only two years older.) I say sometimes, because he was not the hovering type either.

Dad taught my brothers and me to navigate through the neighborhood and the city. “The lake [Lake Michigan] is always east,” he’d say. “Don’t worry if you get lost. Just find your way back.”

I was pretty much a city kid, used to masses of people. I loved taking public transportation all around the city. When I was thirteen years old, I took two buses and the El—Chicago’s elevated train—to get to high school in the inner city of Chicago. Got pickpocketed a couple of times. In these increasingly dangerous times, parents today would probably balk at allowing their children to traverse a neighborhood or a city on their own. But the freedom to do so allowed me to learn my way around—sometimes through trial and error.

Images courtesy of L. Marie

First picture taken from the DuSable Bridge in Chicago. Second shows Willis Tower (tallest building), taken from a Wendella boat on the Chicago River

My parents took us to museums, libraries, live theater productions, and parks (like Grant Park) within the downtown area of Chicago. I developed a love of the arts in all forms at an early age. We went to plays at the Goodman Theater and movies at the drive-in and neighborhood theaters, and listened to a ton of albums at home: Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra, Andre Kostelanetz, Muddy Waters, Mozart, the Jackson 5, Mahalia Jackson, Diana Ross, Tchaikovsky.

We also went to baseball games—White Sox, since we were South Siders. My older brother, however, was a Cubs fan. (Nowadays, everyone is.)

Because I grew up in Chicago, the city makes cameos in some of the books I’ve written. I hope you’ll get to read them someday. Till that day comes, please feel free to stop by my blog.

Thank you, Jill, for allowing me to take up space here.

You have now left El Space.

 

 

 

 


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SUMMER SPOTLIGHT: NICKI CHEN

What is special about the place you grew up?

In the early 1950s, a middle-class street that dead ends at the river, kids running free until their moms call them in for dinner and then coming out again after dark to play “Starlight Starbright” seemed absolutely ordinary. Now I see how special that street was: Harrison Street. (See: When Familiar Landmarks Disappear …)

What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?

When you marry someone, whether you realize it or not, each of you is agreeing to open yourself up to the other person’s world. For me, that meant going beyond my small town American world view and melding it with my Chinese husband’s more cosmopolitan, Asian perspective. (See: My Interracial Marriage and Weddings Used to be Simpler … and Cheaper.

A second event that made me who I am was giving birth and becoming a mother. Soon after we married, Eugene and I had three daughters, one after the other. Before the youngest was born, a factory closure and an economic downturn, one that hit engineers particularly hard, left Eugene without a job.

The job he eventually found with the Asian Development Bank in Manila had a profound effect on my life. It turned me into an expatriate for the next twenty-two years. Being an expat wife without a work visa put an end to my teaching career, but it also opened me up to new opportunities. I studied Chinese brush painting, batik, and Chinese language. I even (almost) finished an MBA course. Finally, after many years, I turned to writing. And here I am … a writer.

If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what rule would you make?

With apologies to Jill, my one rule would have to have three parts. I’ve often been accused of being hopelessly moderate. I just can’t go to the extremes that often go along with a single rule.

So here’s my rule: Be kind, be just, and be truthful.

 

My Blog: Behind the Story

I started my blog in August of 2013 in preparation for the 2014 publication of my novel, Tiger Tail Soup. As the title of the blog suggests, my aim was to provide background for the novel. I started out writing posts about the small Chinese island of Gulangyu where the story happens.Then I wrote about things like bound feet and Chinese food and maids. Because my novel takes place during the WWII invasion of China by the Japanese, I wrote about resistance fighters and collaborators and the attack on Pearl Harbor.

After a while, I started running low on topics related to my novel. Now I write posts on anything that strikes my fancy. For Valentine’s Day, I wrote about the seasons of love. Another post describes the problem I had with rats making a nest in my car engine and chewing up some wires. Recently I’ve been writing about the Philippines, one of the settings for my next novel.

If you haven’t visited Behind the Story, please consider this your personal invitation.

 

Tiger Tail Soup: a novel of China at war

When I was dating my husband, he told me stories about his childhood in China. It was a good tactic. All those exotic stories about a little boy and fierce tigers and Japanese invaders added to the romance and gave him an edge over the other young men I knew. I had no idea that years later I would write a novel inspired by those stories.

My novel, Tiger Tail Soup, tells a story of war from the viewpoint of a young Chinese woman left alone when her husband leaves to fight the Japanese. She’s responsible for her children, her mother, and her mother-in-, with only two maids to help her out. During seven long years, 1938 to 1945, she must rely on her wits and her courage to get her through.

You can buy Tiger Tail Soup on Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, or Apple Ibooks.

It’s also available for sale or order at your favorite bookstore.

The Chinese translation can be bought in the US on Amazon.