Saturday, January 27, 2024
Wednesday, January 24, 2024
Please welcome Sheila Hansberger, an award-winning author and artist, to the Window today. Sheila resides in California. Her paintings can be found in permanent collections across the USA. Full-color illustrations of her apple-themed artwork are included in the five-star rated paperback, The Better Than Average Apple Cookbook. The Gardener’s Secret is her debut novel. Visit her website at: www.s-hansberger.com.
Thanks for coming today, Sheila! I'm so happy you're here. I love your interview!
What is your favorite thing about yourself? And your least favorite? My favorite thing about myself is that I’m determined, and I never quit on a project, no matter how long it takes to get it done right. That is also my least favorite thing, because I’m too much of a perfectionist. More could be accomplished if I didn’t expect everything to be perfect. A case in point: I wrote a romance…in fact I’ve rewritten it more times than I care to admit. Although one of the rewrites won 2nd place in a writing competition, I’m still not happy with the finished product…or should I say “unfinished” product? I’ve set the manuscript aside in favor of completing work in which I have more faith. Yet, it still lurks on my computer, trying to woo me back. I plan to finish it someday, but for now, I shove it to the back of my mind and work on other more pressing projects.
Is there a particular line you won’t cross in writing, even to satisfy a trend or—possibly—to make a story more compelling? I won’t write erotica. I’m not a prude, but I’m a mom and grandma first.
Is there someone you’d like to make proud of you with your writing, and do you think you’ve done it? Making my late husband proud would top the list. I’ve been a professional artist most of my life, and he was always my greatest fan and supported all of my creative endeavors. He’d come home from his office and greet me in my studio where I had hovered over a painting for hours. He’d sniff the air and say, “I don’t smell dinner cooking. What would you like me to fix?” I hope he’d do the same now if he found my fingers attached to a keyboard.
What do you do on those days when you’re pretty sure the muse has died and you’ll never again write a publishable word? I rarely have moments like that, but if I did, I would read books, blogs, and articles about writing. Or, I would update my mailing list or tidy my studio.
What would you want to be if you weren’t a writer? I’ve been a successful artist for over 30 years and would go back to that profession full-time. Currently, I write more than I paint, but if the balancing act ever ceased, I’d be happy to be creative in any way possible.
Do you have any particular fan-girl moments you’d like to share? We’d love to hear about them, especially if they were embarrassing and good for a laugh! As a newbie writer at my first conference, I perused the hotel’s buffet, then settled my breakfast tray on the only empty table. A young woman approached and asked if she might sit opposite. As we ate, I admitted indecision about which classes to attend. She suggested looking for topics that interested me, but not to worry, because even if the subject matter didn’t meet my criteria, I’d come away with valuable information. That afternoon, I rushed into a class already in session. Lo and behold, she was at the microphone! Good thing I didn’t know she represented a publisher, or I might have pitched my not-yet-ready-for-consumption manuscript way too early.
Looking back, what do know now that you wish you’d known the first time you opened a file and typed “Chapter One”? OMG, it’s so true what people say about ignorance being bliss! If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have had the courage to begin, because I didn’t realize how unschooled I was. I mean, anyone can write a romance…right? I’m not a plotter, I’m a pantser, so writing…er a, rewriting…slows me down. But in three months, I wrote a 60K-word story and thought it was salable. I even sought advice from a published author about what to do next. She was so patient, listening to me babble on and on about my manuscript. She even offered a sample query letter. I cringe now, remembering how I called myself an author that day. Years later, after joining two national writing organizations, finding critique partners, taking classes, and reading everything possible about the art of writing, I can say I possess the skills to claim the title of author.
What was a best day of your life? A worst? (Feel free to skip this one—I know it crosses the line into nosiness, but I’ve been fascinated by it ever since the first time I saw City Slickers.) Choosing one “best” day in my entire life is impossible; I’ve been blessed with dozens. But Death lingers on what you’d call my worst days. So many family members and friends have left this earth far too soon. My husband fought Multiple Myeloma cancer for fourteen months. Shock and grief soften with time, but you lose a piece of your heart along the way.
Do you have a favorite quote? Feel like sharing it? A quote by Paul Sweeney reminds me to write the very best story I have inside me, because this is what readers expect: “You know you’ve read a good book when you turn the last page and feel a little like you’ve lost a friend.”
Who are your heroes / heroines? Have they made a difference in your writing? Rather than lean toward one particular hero or heroine, I admire certain human qualities any of us can possess. Individuals who exhibit unselfishness, generosity, and loyalty to loved ones get my vote. And, yes, I write those attributes into my characters.
Believing she’ll get to report gritty news, Callie accepts a job at her hometown newspaper. Instead, she’s assigned the gardening column—a subject she knows nothing about. She begs advice from a tight-lipped neighbor when he admits he’s a retired gardener, even though his mannerisms and speech suggest he’s anything but.
Paperback link: https://a.co/d/g6M9zcJ
Saturday, January 20, 2024
I remember snow days when I was in school. My dad was never home, because he worked on the highway department, which lent a different kind of freedom to the days. If the snow was deep, which it often was, my brothers built tunnels. We slid down the hill behind the barn. On wood-cutting days, we slid down the bigger hills where my uncle lived, coming to a crashing stop in a gully at the bottom of the hill. I learned to use a two-person saw with my brother. I didn't get good at it, but I could do it. (Same thing happened with cooking--go figure.)
I read a lot in the mornings, especially when my own writing voice is still croaky and stubborn, and this morning I read Amy Abbott's essay about musical theater. It made me think of songs I've heard sung on stages, plays and concerts I've been privileged to see.
It's basketball season, complete with snow and school being called off late this morning. I thought of all the games I'd been to. When our school played in the semi-state my senior year, when we watched our oldest play, and later a grandboy or two. It's funny how your own gym always feels the same, regardless of the changes that have been wrought there, the adulthoods reached for. The tassels turned on mortarboards.
On my phone this morning was a picture of our youngest standing behind Eamon, his and Laura's youngest, helping him with his tie. That's been a while, Jock texted when I sent him the picture, and I thought of how long ago it was Duane helping him and Chris with double Windsor knots.
Oh, the memories.
I titled this Songs of Winter, because the snowy stillness of morning is one of the times so many things seem clear. Even though one of the worst parts of aging is what happens to your memory, when even the reason you went into the kitchen totally escapes you, you still recall how things made you feel.
Wishing you a week of feeling good things, making memories, and being nice to somebody.
Saturday, January 13, 2024
Something else I know is that much of the criteria we use for judging others is flawed. Seriously flawed.
So, there you go. My time on the soapbox has expired. I wrote this from a perspective of sour grapes, of having my feelings hurt by someone I've known my entire life. It's something that happens more and more these days, isn't it?
Maybe we can try to do it less often. Maybe we can remember before we say or do something hurtful that what means nothing to us means the world to them. In a lesser way, from pure thoughtlessness and often misplaced righteousness, we might be stealing their Baby Jesus. All we have to do to give Him back is say Hello. Have a great day. Smile. And go on.
Have a good week. Be nice to somebody.
Saturday, January 6, 2024
Monday, January 1, 2024
It was the first Christmas after losing my son, and I was struggling to find joy in anything, much less Christmas. I had not put up my tree and there was no trace of any holiday cheer.
My daughter saw a post on a social media Mom’s page, asking if anyone had experience in repairing memory bears. Not for the first time, my daughter volunteered me. I am beyond blessed and sometimes frustrated that she seems to believe I can fix or make anything when it comes to sewing.
I got the woman’s information, and we chatted a bit by text. Her grown son was off to college and was struggling with being away in his new environment. The only thing he asked for that Christmas was for his childhood bears, “Bear” and “Other Bear” be repaired.
When the woman delivered the bears and all I could do was bite my lip and think to myself, this would require a miracle. She handed me two ragged brown, near faceless bundles and explained to me how she held one of them while she was in labor with her now grown son and that her son loved the bear so much; they had to find another one because the first one was showing wear.
She asked how much I would charge, and I told her I wasn’t sure if I could do anything and that there would be no cost. I have always felt like when you are blessed with a skill or gift, you should pay it forward as much as possible and this was the perfect opportunity.
I looked up the well-loved bears to see how they looked like in their less loved days and found, to my shock, that they were originally white. Picking one up, I inspected it closer, wondering what I had gotten myself into and how I would return them to their actual youth. Doing what I always do when in doubt- I jumped in and started working.
I made a bath of warm soapy water with a little oxy clean and let them swim for a while. That did little, so I sprayed them with an oxygen based cleaner and a miracle occurred. I rinsed them well and put them between a towel and squeezed out the water and let them dry.
I used a wire dog brush and gently brushed them out. They really had fur, after all, at least a little. I had to be careful, because they were pretty fragile. Then, I fattened them up with fluff and restitched the many holes and sewed their heads back on.
I used oil-based paint pens to paint the eyes and even add that special white dot for the gleam. It was the nose, though, that brought the bears to life and gave them back their personalities.
As a side note, I sent a photo to my daughter as I was repairing them, and she asked if I had changed out the fabric on them.
The last time I saw the bears, they were neatly tucked in a box awaiting pickup. I thought nothing more about them until Christmas eve when I got an emotional video of the young man opening his gift and his sweet and sentimental reaction at the realization it was Bear and Other Bear.
… and just like that – the joy and spirit of Christmas found me once more.