Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.


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Come With Me To HollyWorld!

Holly Jacobs, one of the nicest and most prolific writers I know, is letting us into her office. I love Holly. She’s one of those people who’s always willing to help out if she can. She’s just the kind of author I want to be when I grow up! LOL.

Anyway, I couldn’t wait to get a peek into her office. Shy person that I am, I asked, and guess what! Sweet Holly came through. 🙂

Me: Hey, Holly Jacobs! Would you share with us a little bit of the behind the scenes of your writing life?

Holly: Sure. What would you like to know?

Me: This might seem like a silly question, but do you write in your office?

 Holly: I used to write almost exclusively in my office.

HollyJacobsOffice2-(2)

Holly cont: But as the kids got older and the house got quieter, I started writing in the backroom on the couch.  The dogs like it better.  Normally they’re right next to me as I write…they were cuddled in the recliner when my daughter took this picture!

HollyJacobsOffice-(2)

Me: Where’s your favorite place you’ve ever written?

 Holly: Really, writing on the couch in front of the fireplace is pretty near perfect!

Me: Okay. Well, tell us about the best cool weird place you’ve ever written. Dungeon? Mountain peak? Bottom of the ocean floor?

 Holly: Uh, I don’t know if I have any of those.  But I’ve written poolside, at the beach, in a hotel, in a car, at a sporting event…  I’m not sure those are weird though.  Now I’ll be looking for someplace weird to write!  LOL

Me: Cool! Be sure and share it with us when you do.

Me: Do you have a ritual you follow before you write? Light a candle? Dance naked in the moonlight?

 Holly: I’m not a naked dancing in the moonlight type.  LOL.  I tend to get up very early and answer any email and visit my social media.  Then it’s breakfast, a walk with the dogs and then I write.

Me: Do you write every day?

 Holly: Yes.  Not as much on the weekend.

Me: What’s the atmosphere in your office?

Holly: Well, when these pictures were taken, I was just getting home from a trip, so the actual office was a bit chaotic.  But this time of year sitting on my couch, it’s peaceful. The house is quiet other than the crackling of the fire.  I have a slight Yankee Candle addiction, so frequently there’s a candle burning.  The dogs are snuggled close.  It’s darn near perfect.

HollyJacobsOffice3-(2)

Me: Do you play music while you write? If so, how do you choose the music?

 Holly: Nope. I can write in the midst of family chaos, but I prefer the quiet.  I do tend to have songs that remind me of my books.  Sometimes I listen to those repeatedly as I mull.  For instance, August’s SuperRomance, Her Second-Chance Family, has a troubled teen, and Sister Hazel’s Concede was my go-to song.

Me: If you could have your dream office, what would it be?

 Holly: I pretty much have it.  When we moved here a decade ago, I went from a huge office, to this one which has two doors so it feels like a glorified hallway.  And I lost so many bookshelves.  My husband gave me such a lovely gift.  He had a carpenter come in and put in these beautiful floor to ceiling bookshelves on two of the walls.  It’s so amazing to have everything close at hand. And frankly, every time I see those shelves I realize how much this man gets me.  He’s such an awesome husband!

DJHollyMe: I’ve heard about Holly’s wonderful husband for years, but I’ve never met him. Naturally, I asked for his picture, so she sent me this from their recent trip to Disney World. Is that cute or what? 😀

Me: Tell me, Holly. How did you get started writing?

Holly: My youngest was getting to a school age and I realized that I might need a real grownup job.  I thought about all the things I might enjoy doing, and writing was the answer that kept buzzing around in the back of my mind.  But it was scary saying it.  It was such a long shot…such a dream.  Saying I want to write out loud was one of the bravest things I ever did.  And I was lucky my husband supported me from the get-go.

Me: You and your husband make an amazing team! I wish every writer had that kind of support!

Me: Are there any how-to books you recommend for writers?

 Holly: I loved Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird.

HollyJacobsOffice5-(2)

 Hey, TD Hart–Holly has a guitar in her office, too. Wonder if she uses it like you do?

Me: What’s your process for starting a new book?

Holly: An idea starts nibbling at me and I start jotting notes and before I know it, that idea has become a story.  I don’t know how to explain it.  It’s like magic.  Or maybe like farming!  LOL  Yes, I mean, there’s this tiny kernel and it becomes something so much bigger.

Me: Did you struggle as a new writer or were you blessed with sales from the word go?

 Holly: I was lucky in that my early stuff sold.  I sold a lot of short stories, and then some books…and I’ve been writing steadily ever since.

Me: You write in more than one genres and under more than one name. Can you tell us a little about that?

 Holly: I write as Holly Jacobs and write, straight up romantic comedy, some sweet contemporary romance and family dramas.  Then I branched out a did a comedic mystery series with a splash of romance (Maid in LA Mysteries) and most recently I’m writing blends of women’s fiction and romance.  That’s what April’s Carry Her Heart is, and last year’s bestselling Just One Thing was.  I’m enjoying these stories that are a women’s journey…that has romance in it.

It might seem that I jump around a lot, but really whether it’s a comedy or a drama, a mystery or women’s fiction, all my books are about people…about love.

Me: And you do a wonderful job of it!  What advice do you have for a newbie struggling writer?

Holly: My favorite piece of advice is write something—anything—every day.  For me, making writing part of the rhythm of my daily life!

Me: Thank you so much for letting us visit you and your office, Holly! I can’t wait to read your next book.

Holly came to Oklahoma one year to speak at our writers’ retreat, and I enjoyed that retreat more than any other one I can remember!

Holly-&-Linda

This is Holly with Linda Trout, whose office you’ve already visited, at the retreat at Grand Lake. 🙂

You guys can get to know Holly better at her website, on Facebook, and on Twitter @hollyjacobs1 .  And if you don’t read her already, check out her books. You’re going to love them!

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Have You Met Anne?

This is from Anne Lamott’s Facebook page. She doesn’t know me. Doesn’t know I’m sharing it here. I’ve enjoyed and benefitted from her work for many, many years. From the time I first started writing seriously and was told to read her book, Bird by Bird. She’s a true blessing.

I don’t personally suffer from depression, but I know and love people who do. There’s no shame in it. My heart breaks to think people in my life don’t know how much they’re loved, cherished and needed, because they are.

So I’m sharing what Anne has to say, because she knows something we all need to hear.

Thank you, Anne, for caring.

This will not be well written or contain any answers or be very charming. I won’t be able to proof read it It is about times like today when the abyss is visible and we cannot buy cute area rugs at IKEA to truck out the abyss. Our brother Robin fell into it yesterday. We are all staring at the abyss today.

I called my Jesuit friend the day after the shootings in Newtown, stunned, flat, fixated, scared to death: “Is there any meaning in the deaths of twenty 5 and 6 year old children?”

Tom said, “Not yet.”

And there is no meaning in Robin’s death, except as it sheds light on our common humanity, as his life did. But I’ve learned that there can be meaning without things making sense.

Here is what is true: a third of the people you adore and admire in the world and in your families have severe mental illness and/or addiction. I sure do. I have both. And you still love me. You help hold me up. I try to help hold you up. Half of the people I love most have both; and so do most of the artists who have changed and redeemed me, given me life. Most of us are still here, healing slowly and imperfectly. Some days are way too long.

And I hate that, I want to say. I would much prefer that God have a magic wand, and not just a raggedy love army of helpers. Mr. Roger’s mother told him when he was a boy, and a tragedy was unfolding that seemed to defy meaning, “Look to the helpers.” That is the secret of life, for Robin’s family, for you and me.

I knew that those children at Sandy Hook were caught in God’s loving maternal arms at the second each crossed over, and the teachers were, too. I believe the shooter was too, another child of God with severe mental illness, because God loves, period. But this is controversial.

I know Robin was caught too, in both the arms of God, and of his mother, Laurie.

I knew them both when I was coming up, in Tiburon. He lived three blocks away on Paradise drive. His family had money; ours didn’t. But we were in the same boat–scared, shy, with terrible self esteem and grandiosity. If you have a genetic predisposition towards mental problems and addiction, as Robin and I did, life here feels like you were just left off here one day, with no instruction manual, and no idea of what you were supposed to do; how to fit in; how to find a day’s relief from the anxiety, how to keep your beloved alive; how to stay one step ahead of abyss.

We all thought after Newtown that gun control legislation would be passed, but no–not one new law. We think in the aftermath of Robin’s death that there will be consciousness raising about mental health, but I doubt it. The shock and awe will pass, like it did after Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. Unless…unless we take action. But what? I don’t have a clue. Well, here’s Glenn Close’s astonishing organization to raise awareness and diminish the stigma of mental illness, where you can give OR receive help: http://www.bringchange2mind.org. Go there, OK?

In Newtown, as in all barbarity and suffering, in Robin’s death, on Mount Sinjar, in the Ebola towns, the streets of India’s ghettos, and our own, we see Christ crucified. I don’t mean that in a nice, Christian-y way. I mean that in the most ultimate human and existential way. The temptation is to say, as cute little believers sometimes do, Oh it will all make sense someday. The thing is, it may not. We still sit with scared, dying people; we get the thirsty drinks of water.

This was at theologian Fred Buechner blog today: “It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life’s story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others’ lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling.”

Live stories worth telling! Stop hitting the snooze button. Try not to squander your life on meaningless, multi-tasking bullshit. I would shake you and me but Robin is shaking us now.

Get help. I did. Be a resurrection story, in the wild non-denominational sense. I am.

If you need to stop drinking or drugging, I can tell you this: you will be surrounded by arms of love like you have never, not once, imagined. This help will be available twenty/seven. Can you imagine that in this dark scary screwed up world, that I can promise you this? That we will never be closed, if you need us?

Gravity yanks us down, even a man as stunning in every way as Robin. We need a lot of help getting back up. And even with our battered banged up tool boxes and aching backs, we can help others get up, even when for them to do so seems impossible or at least beyond imagining. Or if it can’t be done, we can sit with them on the ground, in the abyss, in solidarity. You know how I always say that laughter is carbonated holiness? Well, Robin was the ultimate proof of that, and bubbles are spirit made visible.