Jill Weatherholt

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


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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.