Jill Weatherholt

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


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Ouch!

Image courtesy of http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Image courtesy of  CNaena @ http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

“Of all the senses, sight must be the most delightful.”  ~ Helen Keller

I’d never seen anything like it. The blooms were the color of Florida tangerines. Like my favorite throw blanket, it looked soft and fuzzy.  I had to feel it. As soon as I did, regret set in, as did a piercing pain in my right hand. Lesson learned – you can’t touch everything you see in the desert.

This wolf in sheep’s clothing was a desert plant named Cylindropuntia Fulgida, also known as a “jumping cholla or the “teddybear cholla.” The name comes from the ease the stems detach when brushed or when someone like me is unlucky (dumb) enough to touch it.

After I extracted the needles from my swollen palm, I realized at first glance, the desert appears lifeless and brown, void of life. I was wrong. The Arizona desert explodes with flora and fauna. By only relying on my sight, I was limiting myself to the beauty the desert has to offer.

As a beginning writer, I’ve discovered how important it is to use all five senses. I want the reader to smell the story’s reality, to feel it, to taste it, to see it, and to hear it. If I can make them feel as though they’re a fly on the wall, I’ve done my job.

While reading, I love to have my memory sparked by a description that uses one or more of the five senses. If it’s a pleasant memory, that’s an added bonus. It’s nice to read what a scene looks like, but including the sound of the coyote’s howl or the smell of the desert air after the monsoon rains, pulls the reader closer and they become more than an observer of the writer’s fictional world.

A lesson was learned that first day in the desert. The sense of touch can not only be pleasurable, but it can be painful. During the rest of my time in Arizona, I saw more beautiful chollas, but I resisted the urge to touch. Instead, I enjoyed the sweet smell of the blooms from a distance because there’s a reason they call them “jumping cholla.”


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Heroes

american flagOn Monday, May 27th we honor those who died defending the rights we have in the United States while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Although this weekend marks the start of summer fun, let us not forget the brave individuals who served in our military and gave their lives for our freedom.

Have a safe holiday. God Bless! ~ Jill

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.  ~ Theodore Roosevelt


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Speak!

puppyIt is better to keep one’s mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and resolve all doubt. – Abraham Lincoln

Recently during a round of golf, my shot off the tee made an errant hook out of bounds. As I walked to the fence where my ball had landed, a Bichon Frise ripped through its doggy door and raced toward me. He reached the fence, looked at me and began to bark. At least, he was trying to bark. His mouth was moving but there was no sound.

“He doesn’t have a voice.” My playing partner yelled from across the fairway.

As I watched the little guy’s desperate attempt to protect his master’s property, I was reminded of the first contest I entered several years ago. I received an acknowledgment of my entry in the mail and the recipient had written, “You have a very unique writing voice.” At the time, I had no idea what that meant. What did my voice have to do with my writing? Was “unique” a bad thing in the writing world?

I never knew why the dog had no voice, but three years later, I’ve learned there’s no magic blueprint to create my writing voice. I already have one, just like I already have a speaking voice.  Sure, I could imitate voices of famous authors, but it wouldn’t be mine. I am who I am and I write the way I write.

In order to learn from other writers, I subscribe to many blogs. I can read a post without looking at the name of the blog and know who wrote it. They each have their own style,  they’re not a bunch of parrots imitating other blogs. They’re all unique and that’s what makes them fun to follow and read the comments.

I still think about that voiceless dog and how hard he tried to speak. Like him, I have so much to say, but I struggle with how to say it. Rather than copying a voice, I want to be original, different from other writers. In order to do this, I need to keep writing and in doing so, my writing will evolve and my voice will emerge. If only finding my golf balls were that easy.


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Tempus Fugit

HourglassWhen I was in high school, my most dreaded class was Algebra. I just didn’t get it. I tried so hard. Once a week, I stayed after school for extra help. My good friend, who was a math whiz tried to help, but something was missing.

During class, I tried to hide my head behind the student in front of me, but I was too tall. My palms got sweaty when I thought the teacher would call me to the chalkboard to work a problem. I stared at the clock, willing it to move faster, but the hands moved slow like grains of sand through an hourglass.

Thankfully, I’ve never faced an Algebraic problem since those dreaded days. English was a different story, I thrived. I especially enjoyed the creative writing assignments. Even then, my biggest obstacle was sitting down and staying put until the words were on the page.

I’m easily distracted. I can have an entire afternoon open for writing, but I’ll keep popping up to do this or clean that. Recently I discovered a solution to this jack-in-the-box predicament. It’s an hourglass and it’s changed the way I write.

Sitting on my patio staring at the lake and daydreaming doesn’t make me a writer. In the past, a daily or weekly word count goal was my modus operandi. I’ve discovered having a time limit set by the hourglass has improved my ability to stay focused. As the sand flows through the glass, the most important thing isn’t the quality or quantity, but the fact that I’m writing.

To grow as a writer, I must make the time to write on a consistent basis, without interruptions. For whatever reason, this gadget with the sand trickling from one end of the glass bulb to the other, has kept me in my chair. Some days, after the last granular of sand has fallen,  I’ll flip it over and keep writing. That’s a good day.

 


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To Each His Own

Image courtesy Elmers.com

Image courtesy Elmers.com

When I was in the 4th grade there was a boy who sat next to me who ate glue. Every morning he would pull out a bottle of Elmer’s he kept tucked in his backpack and squirt a blob on his desk. After it dried, he would carefully peel it away from the wood and eat it. This was his morning ritual. I remember thinking maybe his mother didn’t make him breakfast before school, so one day I asked.

“Why do you eat that?”

“I like it.”

That was all he said before turning his attention to the chalkboard. So began my life as a people-watcher. I didn’t know then, but people watching would play an important role in my life. Observing the idiosyncrasies or quirks displayed by family, friends and strangers on the street is beneficial to me when it comes to creating characters.

Everyone has quirks; something that is unique, odd or special. You might even say it borders weirdness. I have to admit, I did think it was a little weird that my classmate ate glue every morning, but I was 10 years old, who was I to judge?

I love characters that leave a lasting impression long after I’ve read the last page. I want characters that are three-dimensional with complex emotions and conflicting motives. Characters who are complicated and have messy lives are someone I will root for. By adding a quirk or two, maybe a twitch, an obsession or a habit allows the reader to see inside the character, even if the other characters cannot. I relate to a character that is obsessed with clean hands or eats M&Ms by the color. As a child, I used to separate my M&Ms by the color before popping them in my mouth and these days, I never leave home without my antibacterial wipes.

Many years ago, as a job requirement, I was fingerprinted. The supervisor made several attempts to obtain good prints, but finally gave up and sent me to the Sheriff’s Department for electronic printing. Even electronically, the technician wasn’t able to get clear prints. He asked me if I washed my hands a lot. I revealed my germaphobe tendencies, and he explained how he has seen “bad” fingerprints in scrub nurses and doctors.

As fun as it may be to give your characters quirks, be careful not to overdo it. The reader might begin to get annoyed and then the quirks become the story. Case in point, I’ll be remembered now as the writer who washed her fingerprints down the drain.