Jill Weatherholt

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


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Summer Spotlight: Gwen Stephens

GwenI’m Gwen Stephens, writer, runner, elementary schoolteacher-turned-“lunch lady” (yeah, really), wife of the funniest guy I know, and mom to a ‘tween and young teen. I started blogging at The 4 A.M. Writer in 2012 to connect with others chasing the same crazy obsession, and what a rewarding journey it’s been.

Apart from a 5-year stretch my family and I spent in Europe, I’ve lived in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. my whole life. For the past 23 years, I’ve been proud to call Chicago my hometown. The Windy City, a place known for its ferocious winters, unscrupulous politicians, and deep dish pizza. I suppose we have a little history of organized crime here, too. But the tenacity of my people makes this city what it is — a progressive, sophisticated melting pot with down-to-earth Midwestern values.

As the name of my blog suggests, my days begin in the early morning hours with a steaming cup of coffee, my Mac, and a host of imaginary friends. Through lots of trial and error, I’ve discovered I feel most at home writing stories about ‘tweens and teens. Perhaps years of working in a school environment helps the writing come naturally, albeit not easily. I believe writing is a craft that’s never mastered. There’s always room to improve and something new to learn, but that may be the greatest joy of this art.

Thank you, Jill, for inviting me here today, and for the chance to consider my answers to this engaging mix of questions.

If you could meet anyone, living or dead, who would you meet?
I’d want to meet the so-called Founding Fathers of the United States, the men who framed the Declaration of Independence. They were brave and radical thinkers who challenged the most powerful monarchy on Earth and declared independence from it. How cool is that?

If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
Nothing within the scope of saving the world or anything. I’d just learn to read faster. There are so many good books waiting to be read, and I’m a painfully slow reader.

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
Without a doubt, moving to a foreign country at 7 months pregnant with my first child. Newly unemployed on a new continent, in a new culture, as a new mother, trying to learn a new language. Hmm…how many major life changes is that all at once?

If you could visit any place in the entire world, where would it be?
The islands of the South Pacific. So completely different from my corner of the world.

What do you think the greatest invention has been?
Electricity. Imagine the impact on our modern civilization if it suddenly ceased to exist.

Thanks for taking the spotlight, Gwen! I’m with you, living in the South Pacific would be heavenly. Up next week is Hollis Hildebrand-Mills.


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Summer Spotlight: Eric Baker

Eric BakerDo not attempt to adjust your monitor. I am controlling the internet!

Jill is taking a break from spotlighting thoughtful, literate, compassionate, salt-of-the-Earth writers this week, instead turning her blog over to me, Eric John Baker… the person you might avoid sitting next to on a train because I just seem a little bit off.

Interesting facts about me:
I am ½ human, ½ wicked witch, and ½ mole person, and I am highly regarded for my mathematical expertise. Like Godzilla, I inexplicably live underwater despite being an air-breathing biped without a biological mechanism for deep-sea propulsion.

If you’re still reading, here’s the boilerplate:

I also work in an office building in New Jersey as an editor and a writer, churning out businessy stuff all day. Before you ask: No, I do not sound like Tony Soprano when I talk.

Jill invited me here today because I am a fellow WordPress blogger. If you visit my blog, you will find humorous grammar and punctuation lessons, writing discussion, and stuff about music and movies. And beards. And mole people.

I am also a musician and songwriter, serving as the guitarist and drummer of the two-man rock band, Full Blown Cranium. We released our first album, Cacophony of Weirdos, last year, and you can listen to sound samples here and here. I’m thinking of doing a solo record next.

My fiction writing falls into the category of Speculative (encompassing the horror, science fiction, and supernatural genres), though I prefer to think of my stuff as “twilight zonish.” That is, I don’t do much with monsters and space ships, instead setting my stories in the real world but with a twist on reality. These days, my main creative project is a novel, the first draft of which I have just completed. I have not settled on a title yet, but the plot involves three young girls facing off against street gangs, starvation, and a megalomaniacal sociopath after a global apocalypse kills every adult on earth.

Now, what you really came here for… My answers to 5 of Jill’s questions:

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

Why would I want to meet a dead person? They can’t even shake your hand much less say anything interesting, and, at best, they smell like dust. Clearly a living person is a wiser choice. I would want to meet a world-renowned astrophysicist and ask her if my theory on backward time travel makes any sense.

Q: What celebrity do you get mistaken for?

Once a day, I am mistaken for George Clooney. Then I realize it’s my reflection and remember that I’m the only one who ever makes that mistake. When it comes to other people mistaking me for a celebrity, I get a lot of, “Hey, aren’t you Judy Dench?” That, or R2D2.

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

Definitely climbing K2 in the Himalayas naked with a polar bear strapped to my back.

Wait… did you say what’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done or never done? The hardest thing I’ve ever done is work my way through college while raising a child. That was still much easier than climbing the world’s second tallest mountain naked with a polar bear strapped to my back, although I’m only speculating about the second thing, since, as I mentioned above, I’ve never done it.

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

Ancient Greece in the high classical period to see the Parthenon in its glory and to check out all the bronze masterpieces that were later melted down by short-sighted idiots.

Ha! You didn’t say it had to be now. Besides, I have a theory on backward time travel.

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

I do not understand why so many women are attracted to men. We’re really quite shallow in character, we’re hairy like gorillas, we’re selfish, we’re blocky and lack appealing curves, we have whiskers, and we’re looking at their boobs when they aren’t paying attention.

Eric, you did not disappoint! Thanks for bringing your sense of humor to the spotlight this week. Stay tuned next week for Gwen Stephens.


114 Comments

Summer Spotlight: Dianna Keen

DiannaMy name is Dianna Keen. I began writing my blog “These Days Of Mine” in September, 2010. At first, I blogged every day, but now I take the weekends “off”.

I’m a born and bred Virginian, with deep roots in the southeastern part of the state. My maternal grandmother’s family has been traced to 1607 Jamestown. I’ve never lived more than 30 miles from my home town of Bacon’s Castle, located just southwest of Jamestown, across the James River.

I’m married to Motor Man, builder of high performance engines (race cars, race boats, classic cars), and I have one son, Marshall. My life and my blog revolve around those two, as well as the two kitties, Sundae and Gypsy, who adopted Motor Man and me.

Other than blogging, my hobbies are rubber stamping (I make all my greeting cards), photography, and antiquing. Motor Man and I also enjoy riding the beaches of Corolla, NC to see the wild horses that call that area home. Last year, I entered three of my photos in the Corolla Wild Horse Fund Calendar Contest, and was honored to have this one chosen for the 2015 calendar.

Image Courtesy of Dianna Keen

Image Courtesy of Dianna Keen

Thanks, Jill, for featuring me on your blog today!

Here are the questions I chose to answer:

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

I would meet my Dad. He died when I was only eight months old, so I have no memory of him. My mom and other family members always told me what a quiet, kind person he was. As a Christian, I know that I will meet him one day.

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

Dance. I love to watch people dance (the jitterbug, ballroom dancing, etc., none of this modern “stuff” that’s passed off as dancing). Yes, I know I could take dance lessons, but I’m much too self-conscious to ever dance –even when I’m alone.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

Time passing so slowly. As a child in school, the two-week Christmas vacation stretched out forever. And summer break: indefinite! Now, the days just zip by so quickly.

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

Great Britain. The genealogy on my dad’s side of the family was traced to Glasgow, Scotland, and my mom’s side to England. Now, I just have to get up the courage to fly across the ocean!

What do you think the greatest invention has been?

The internet, hands down. Not only is information on anything available to you in a matter of seconds, communication with anyone in the world is so easy. Without the internet, we wouldn’t have all our wonderful blogging friends!

Thanks for taking the spotlight, Dianna! Stay tuned next week for Eric Baker.


101 Comments

Summer Spotlight: Luanne Castle

Luanne CastleLuanne Castle has been a grad student, college instructor, businesswoman, wife, mom, crazy cat lady, and more. Woven throughout those other identities has been writer, but more often than not writing has had to come second to everything else.

After years of dreaming of retiring and sitting in a pretty office writing her first book, Luanne seized the day when she partially retired. Now she works from home for the family business and writes—blogs, poetry, and memoir. Her office is beautifully decorated with her creative colors of ivory, coral, and black. Instead, she sits at the kitchen laptop, alternating between writing and handling the business demands by phone and email. She finally learned that it’s better to write “some” than “none.”

Recently, Luanne completed Doll God, a poetry manuscript. She is sending it out to publishers and contests. She also sifts through her memories and the family story, arranging it into a memoir called Scrap: Salvaging a Family. A short piece of this memoir, called “Patterns,” has been published in River Teeth’s “Beautiful Things” column here.

On her blog Writer Site, Luanne posts a review of a memoir each week. She also writes creative nonfiction posts and discusses the writing process. Additionally, she is the family historian, in charge of many antique photographs and the caretaker of family stories. She posts these photos and stories and the fruits of her research on her blog thefamilykalamazoo.wordpress.com.

Here are the questions I chose to answer:

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

When I started thinking about this question, the first name that popped into my head was Benjamin Disraeli, a statesman and writer who fascinates me. He wrote and said many inspirational, humorous, and thought-provoking things. This is one of my favorites: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him his own.”
My thought of Disraeli was followed by images of Emily Dickinson, Louisa May Alcott, Charlotte Bronte, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sylvia Plath, and Muriel Rukeyser. I was astonished that all but two of these people were from the 19th century because I’ve always thought I was more interested in 20th century literature, history, and style. I don’t find Victorian styles very attractive, for instance. But literature flourished so incredibly in that century that I can’t help but get excited thinking about meeting these people. Then the mid-century female poets like Plath and Rukeyser . . . well, it would be thrilling to meet them, although I suspect I wouldn’t like Plath and would adore Rukeyser. It’s so much easier to think about meeting dead people than living who I very well could end up meeting—and being disappointed by.

What celebrity do you get mistaken for?

I have been mistaken for many celebrities over the years, although not often now that I am older (gee, I can’t imagine why, sans Botox and plastic surgery that I am). The name that has come up over and over is Sissy Spacek, but there are other people who seem to get angry when they hear that and say, “There is a resemblance, but NO you could not be mistaken for her.” My husband and my friend both say I remind them of Natalie Wood, although I look nothing like her, so that is a big mystery.

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

I can’t think of any animal that I would like to be because they are all threatened—either individually or en masse–by humankind. When people see my cats lying contently on my kitchen counter in their beds ;), they sometimes say, “I wish I had the life of a cat.” I cringe when I hear that because cats are killed every day in shelters across the country. When an animal becomes very plentiful, like rats, they are hunted down and killed by humans through all manner of barbarous murder and torture.

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

I would love to visit Myanmar before it was Myanmar. In 1967 I visited Expo 67 with my parents and fell in love with the Burmese Pavilion. Inside, the focus was on a gigantic golden Buddha, as if it were a temple. I felt peaceful inside and thought I had waited my short life to be there. After that, I was fascinated by the country. Burmese food is also my favorite food. The flavors are a mix of Indian and Thai, but not Indian and not Thai. Instead, they are a delicious blend of the best of both cultures.

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

I would like to stop Columbus and the other explorers from bringing disease and slavery to the native populations of the west. It seems such an insurmountable task, though, and I don’t know how I would accomplish it. It might be easier to use my one wish to go back before Kristallnacht and assassinate Hitler.

Thanks for taking the spotlight, Luanne! Stayed tuned next week for Dianna Keen.