Jill Weatherholt

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


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.


Summer Spotlight: Jenny Pellett

???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I’m Jenny Pellett. To be honest, I usually feel awkward taking centre stage and talking about myself. It reminds me of training courses I was sent on in my early career – you know, where you have to stand up, introduce yourself then spend the rest of the day in a team situation creating a bivouac from a single sheet of newspaper and a few cocktail sticks. I prefer to watch and observe. I write, you see. I record and jot things down that might be useful: threads of conversations, odd words (I love words), how someone is dressed; the cut of their hair; anything that amuses me. Lots of things amuse me. My cup is always at least half full and not a day goes by without something or someone making me laugh. I was brought up in a happy household; we were taught to ‘find the funny’ – the best lesson I ever learned.

I’ve always written. Fiction, articles, diaries, essays. I started blogging at Charactersfromthekitchen as a means to anchor all the characters whizzing around in my head, to give them a platform. I soon discovered that to post equals publishing, so I don’t post stories any more – I blog about all sorts- anything that comes into my head – but that’s the reason behind my blog’s misleading name. I do a lot of thinking in my kitchen – it takes my mind off the boring other stuff that has to go on there. I hate cooking.

I live in the south-east of England with my husband and son, surrounded by beautiful countryside yet only an hour from London. I’ve always lived in the country but have a hankering for the city and all its treasures. I commuted there for fifteen years, had a career in publicity and loved every minute (except the training courses). Nowadays I work in a local mainstream school as a support teacher to mainly autistic students, helping them make sense of the world. I love their point of view; find humour and wisdom in their comments and have learned to be patient as well as one step ahead.

I have synaesthesia. I see things in colour that other people don’t. Days of the week, months of the year; my number line is a like a DNA spiral strand in glorious technicolour. It never occurred to me until a couple of years ago that this was unusual but now I feel privileged to encounter these heightened sensory experiences. Something to do with the brain’s unique wiring – it’s quite exciting.

Travelling has always been a passion – back in the day, (BC – before children) we journeyed to the Far East, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka and have seen an awful lot of Europe. (Some of it literally awful…). The Americas, apart from New York City, remain unconquered. I‘m looking forward, in the next few years, to having more time to travel and to pursue some of my other interests – theatre, rambling (on foot and verbally), visiting museums, galleries and places in the UK that I’ve always meant to go.

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow … but for now, I’d like to thank Jill for allowing me this space and crack on with answering her questions.

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

Without hesitation – Grayson Perry, the eccentric cross-dressing English potter and artist extraordinaire. He has won the Turner Prize; has presented an insightful television documentary about the British class system inspired by his series of brightly woven tapestries depicting a modern Rake’s Progress; has ridden his psychedelic motor bike all around Bavaria accompanied by his boyhood Teddy Bear, Alan Measles. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy, has curated a major exhibition at the British museum and has delivered a series of entertaining talks for BBC Radio Four’s prestigious Reith Lectures slot. I saw him hold forth at the British Museum and he was inspiring. He is funny, engaging and outspoken. I like to think we’d get along like a house on fire.

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

A miracle, that’s what it would be. Old dogs and new tricks are words that immediately spring to mind. I think my days of learning are gone – memory like the proverbial sieve, concentration span of a gnat. What I would have liked to learn and master perfectly is the French language – I’d like to be fluent. I understand and speak it ok, but I’d love to be able to jabber on all evening intelligently to a load of French intellectuals. No idea why – it’s not as if I know any English ones. Failing that, playing the piano would be an achievement.

What do you miss most about being a kid?

The thrill of one’s birthday. Birthdays were a wonderful event: the anticipation, the treats. Arranging the party and making a guest list; the presents, wrapped and ribboned, attached to a well-wishing card; the birthday song sung at school; the embarrassment and discomfort of the bumps; not being told off; chocolate for breakfast; the cake, the candles – oh the list for what’s good about youthful birthdays is virtually endless. Nowadays I gloss over a particular annual date which, like time’s winged chariot, seems to hurtle round ever quicker.

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

Give birth. Anyone who says that you forget the pain and the unpleasant bits is lying, however wonderful your infant is. And mine was – and is – pretty wonderful actually, especially when he remembers to take the rubbish out and put his plates in the dishwasher.

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

Pretty much everything. Understanding the opposite gender is a work in progress – likely to last a lifetime. Why, for instance, don’t men like browsing? They go shopping, yes – but they go straight to what they want, buy it and head for home. No comparison shopping, no checking out alternatives – so boring.
Why can’t they ever find anything? Why do they shout from upstairs, before they’ve even opened a cupboard “where is my …………..?” Or worse: “What have you done with my …………?” And when they do open the cupboard or drawer, they just stand there waiting for whatever it is to leap out at them.
Why don’t they ever throw anything away? Why do they leave torn-open envelopes on the hall table, having retrieved the post that they need? Why are they always mislaying their wallets/car-keys/passport/tickets? Why do they panic when this happens instead of putting these items somewhere they’ll remember? Why can’t they do gift-wrapping? Appreciate your map-reading skills? Sleep without snoring or hogging the duvet?
Why do we love them?

Thanks for taking the spotlight, Jenny! ‘Finding the funny’ I love that! Up next week is Johanna Bradley.


Summer Spotlight: Hollis Hildebrand-Mills

HollisMy name is Hollis Hildebrand-Mills. My mother named me Hollis because she said it was euphonious (her word) with Hildebrand. I wanted to keep these two names together. When I married my husband, I decided to hyphenate. I am the only Hollis Hildebrand-Mills in the world. The search engines and advertisers love it.

I am an artist, working mostly in collage or pieced-together type formats. I made a movie, I paint and most recently I posted 100 collages, one a day here on WordPress, on my blog. This was taken from an installation I put together for a solo show in New York City earlier last year. I discovered that the blog world was full of self-disclosure and I started to ramble along with each piece I posted. A write up of my online exhibition appeared in The Atlanta Journal/Constitution.

I live with my husband and my daughter who is soon going to college in a few months. I continue to blog. I also am working on another solo show for 2016, also in Chelsea, New York City. I have decided to show paintings for this exhibition. I always try something different, believing that true art is created out of the ether. I let the Universe guide me along.

I have quite a background, however, in the structured learning of doing art. I believe in this strongly. Although many people believe that art can be self-taught, I am not one of them. I have a BFA from Moore College of Art and Design. And between pursuing a second degree at The Atlanta College of Art for four years, now known as SCAD, I worked extensively on post graduate studies in painting and drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia.

In order to support myself, which I did for many years, before I met my husband, I worked at TV Guide Magazine, various printing companies and art studios. I also was employed for thirteen years at an advertising agency in Atlanta. At the agency, where I worked the longest, I worked with some very interesting, creative people and eventually it was my privilege to work on the Orion Pictures Account. For Orion, I did their publicity in three major metropolitan areas and worked with the movie stars affiliated with the movies being released at the time. Both my assignments as an art director and my job as a publicist have influenced my fine art career, in the subject matter of my artwork and in the manner by which my artwork is done.

I was born in Roanoke, Virginia and moved to Swarthmore, Pennsylvania when I was eight years old. We moved again when I was fifteen to Stamford, Connecticut when my father commuted every day to New York City.

Atlanta is my home now. I like the South. The air is soft here. And the people are kind. They may not always mean it, but it is a more pleasant way to live. I live with a forest behind our house. Our house is on a slope, so in the winter, you can see the floor of the woods from the windows. The winter is now my favorite time of year because of that image.

One more thing, I catalogue my memories by what I was wearing at the time.

Here are my answers to Jill’s questions.

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

I would like to meet The Virgin Mary. I am not Catholic, or particularly religious, but I am spiritual and I do believe she was a divine person. It also helps that I took four years of Latin in High School!

I would like her “take” on how things were at that time. And if miracles were being performed, if people were surprised when they happened.

Life has changed so much during the short time I have been in the world. From the “Your call is important to us.” recorded message to “You can look it up online.” (Yes, I could do that, but you are here now.) Changes in our culture have evolved so quickly, what must it have been like in Mary’s time?

Maybe during Mary’s lifetime, miracles, kindness, music and love were in the air. Sort of like the 1960s where we thought anything was possible. A movie is being made about a 60s artist, Joni Mitchell, starring Taylor Swift. Will they get it right? Or will it be like “Ben Hur”, Mary’s time. Where it could never have been like that. But how do we know?

What celebrity do you get mistaken for?

One time, in between jobs, when I was a pet sitter, I was standing in my client’s greenhouse and she, an older, more settled woman, handed me a lemon, grown from her lemon tree there. It was the middle of winter and very dark outside. I was wearing a white Laura Ashley blouse and bright yellow pants. She said to me, “You know, you remind me of Blythey! When she and I were young! She was my roommate in college!” I don’t see my resemblance to Blythe Danner. Her hair is nice and thick and she seems to move so confidently, but others see it. She, by the way, is Gwyneth Paltrow’s mother.

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

I am a risk taker. Therefore, there is no to-do “bucket list.” Now traveling to a particular place is different. I would like to go to Machu Picchu, Peru. I recently got a Facebook message from Machu Picchu. The person was outraged because there was bad internet service there. Mulder, from the cult TV show, “The X Files” would find plenty of waves flying around up there, including UFO service, which I would find fascinating!

What do you miss most about being a kid?

I miss long summer afternoons playing with my friends, in our neighbor’s sassafras treehouse. The leaves looked like mittens and we sewed doll clothes. We made our dolls sleep outside overnight under a bush in our handmade sleeping bags. We worried all night about them on their campout.

I also miss ice skating on Crum Creek in Swarthmore or a pond when we moved to New England. The pond was clear and we could see gold fish swimming under the ice below. The ice was smooth. So that an outstretched jacket would cause the wind to propel us forward. Like a sail pulling our skates along, without having to move our feet.

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

Quit smoking. Hands down.

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

Probably as one of my pets. I think of all my pets as having “personalities.” I don’t think of them as being a dog or a cat or a bird. For instance, when Judy Garland sings “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, Bloobie, one of our parakeets, sings too. Does Bloobie know she is blue? Most definitely.

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

I mentioned Machu Picchu. I would like to see a UFO. From a distance.

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

I would have turned around and given the baby sitter the day off. As I was leaving our house, I saw through the glass, the sitter hoist our six month old baby up in the air and our daughter was laughing.

I am very driven, and my art had to be done. Also, the time during each baby stage seemed to last. Time was slower then. I thought those days would be around forever.

What do you think the greatest invention has been?

The washing machine. I would hate to be rubbing our clothes on the rocks in the muddy stream out back right now. I like the purr and beep of our washing machine.

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

I see men as being linear. I am probably more of a multilateral thinker than most women, although we women all tend to be able to do many tasks at one time. It spills over onto our thinking, as well. When I see a car (and I do not know the sex of the driver), I can guess by the way the person drives. Men definitely can only do one thing at a time. Therefore my recent car accident took place because the man must have been on the phone. A woman would not have broadsided a car directly in front of her, even if she was on the phone, eating a burger and smoking a cigarette.

Thanks for taking the spotlight, Hollis! I too miss those long summer afternoons playing with friends and not a care in the world. Up next week is Jenny Pellett.