Today, I’d like to introduce you to Janell Butler Wojtowicz. She’s graciously agreed to stop by and handle the blog today, so as soon as I introduce you to her (and she tells you how to pronounce her last name), I’ll leave it in her capable hands
Janell Butler Wojtowicz, born and raised on an Iowa farm, was one of those kids who loved to write the dreaded “What I did on summer vacation” essay. Her summers on the farm were rather boring, but she enjoyed the challenge of making mowing a huge lawn edged by prickly rose bushes with a push mower sound adventurous.
Janell attended the University of Northwestern in St. Paul, Minnesota, earning a bachelor’s degree in, naturally, Written Communication/Journalism Emphasis. She returned to Iowa where she worked as a reporter/editor at three small town newspapers for 10 years.
Janell left the small town Iowa life when she married, Frank, a family friend, who lived in Minneapolis. (By the way, her Polish last name is pronounced “Why-tow-vitch.) She worked in public relations at her alma mater, the University of Northwestern; Leadership Foundations, a nonprofit organization supporting inner-city Christian ministries; and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Today, Janell owns a freelance service, A Portrait in Words, and is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America.
She and Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota, a pleasant suburb of the Twin Cities. She has two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law, and three step-granddaughters.
Twitter – @janellwoj
Author Facebook – www.Facebook.com/janellbwoj
Guest Post from Janell
A few of my favorite things
Raise of hands: How many of you know the words to the Sound of Music’s, “My Favorite Things?” You know: “Raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens.”
Since readers like to know interesting tidbits about a book’s characters, I’m sharing the favorite things of Embracing Hope’s main characters. Recently-widowed college dean Drew McKinley is a well-bred upper-class New England professional. Allison Bennett, a grad student and the new employee in the dean’s office, is a self-confident woman accustomed to financial hardship and personal struggle.
And I thought I’d throw in my favorite things as an Iowa farm girl living in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.
Our Favorite Things
Allison: Anything but “Communication Research Methodology”, a dull 2-inch thick textbook I’m using as a resource for my master’s thesis. It’ll make a great doorstop after the class ends. A good literary biography suits me, such as Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.
Drew: I echo Allison’s sentiments about textbooks, especially my half-done Ph.D. dissertation. Why anyone would want to read dissertations is a mystery to me. To be honest, I’m not big on reading as a pastime.
Janell: Without a doubt, “Pride and Prejudice.” I love the challenge of Jane Austen’s complex writing style, and her subtle and sarcastic humor. Note Allison’s last name, a literary salute to the Austen novel.
[Suzie here. Did someone say Jane Austen?]
Allison: Taco Bell. It’s not great food, but it’s cheap. The taco salad is the best. It comes in a taco shell that I break into pieces first then mix with all the other ingredients. The restaurant near campus has Wi-Fi which is great for studying.
Drew: I haven’t lived here in Omaha that long to be familiar with the restaurant scene, but I’m a typical guy who appreciates a good steak. If I had a grill, I’d get some of those famous Omaha Steaks, nuke a baked potato and put sour cream on both.
Janell: Culver’s, for its frozen custard, preferably a cherry chocolate chip Concrete Mixer.
Allison: I try to stay away from dessert, but Christmas sugar cookies in the shape of Christmas trees with red and green sprinkles are irresistible.
Drew: Pumpkin pie with REAL whipped cream. A bakery in my hometown, New Haven, Connecticut, makes the best pie. My mother has bought three every Thanksgiving for decades. (We like leftovers.) She got four this year since the family keeps growing with spouses and kids.
Janell: It’s a tie between cheesecake and carrot cake: I’m a sucker for cream cheese. Carrot cake counts as a vegetable, right?
Allison: Spring, the season of new beginnings: baby birds in nests, the first crocus, trees budding. Spring is lambing time on the farm. There’s nothing more adorable than a newborn lamb struggling to its feet minutes after birth and staggering over to its mother for its first meal.
Drew: Fall, especially college homecomings. I love the crunch of leaves underfoot, the homecoming parade, the aroma of hamburgers grilling on the quad before the big football game. We set off fireworks after the game, which we usually win since we purposely schedule the lousiest team.
Janell: Summer, with its long days, hot weather (as long as the AC is on at night), lightning bugs, quiet dusks; the landscape is a lush green.
[Me again. I was tracking with Janell until she said summer. But then again, I live in the south where summer is sticky!!]
Allison: Cats. They are as common as cows and pigs on farms. We had a couple of favorites on our farm that we’d feed table scraps. Otherwise, they found food on their own, like mice. I hate mice so I was glad they helped curb that population. Once, when I saw a mouse in my bedroom, I brought in a cat—no more mouse!
Drew: We had a Yorkie, Phoebe, when I was a kid. She liked to sleep with my older sister, Becky. Once I got jealous and took Phoebe to bed with me. But that stupid dog whined, growled, and barked until I gave up and took her back to Becky. She was put down when I was in high school. I don’t have a pet; they aren’t allowed in my condo, which is OK. They’re high maintenance.
Janell: Kittens, kittens and more kittens. The softness of their fur, big inquisitive eyes, how they roll around and play with such freedom. I especially love them when they’re just a few days old, eyes still unopened, and curled up asleep in my hand.
Drew: Emerald green
[Hmm, no one mentioned my favorite color: blue]
Allison: Who has time for hobbies? I barely have enough time to sleep!
Drew: Golf. My wife and I golfed together; she was better than me, of course. She excelled at everything she did: piano, cooking, teaching kids. She was even Homecoming Queen.
Janell: Until my eyes betrayed me in recent years, cross stitch
Allison: I’d say roses, but most women do and I think they can be ostentatious. I prefer wildflowers. I guess that’s my farm girl mindset kicking in.
Drew: Lily of the Valley; my mother’s favorite.
Allison: I’m content with “staycations.” Omaha has a lot to offer: Henry Dooly Zoo and Aquarium, the beautiful Durham Museum in a 1930s train depot. In Iowa, near where my family lives, there’s Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University and the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad. Hm, I must be drawn to railroads.
Drew: I toured Jane Austen Country with my wife, which is rich in centuries-old history and literature. But I’m a tropical guy. I’ve been to Hawaii, Jamaica and Bermuda, which are big contrasts to Connecticut.
Janell: I’d love to go to Jane Austen Country in England. She’s my favorite classic novelist. I’ve watched so many on-location movies based on her novels that I’d love to visit the settings.
[Yes, Jane Austen’s England is on my bucket list.]
Allison: The Riley University student senate chose Psalms 16:11 as the theme verse and it really resonates with me. “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”
Drew: I can’t think of one right off the top of my head. I need a concordance. NOT that verse in Jeremiah about the Lord knowing our plans for a hope and a future.
Janell: I like the entire chapter of Psalm 100, especially verse 5: “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
[My favorite is Psalm 103:11-12: For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.]
Aren’t God’s promises good to us? What beautiful hope we find in his words. How about you readers? Tell us your favorite Bible verse in the comments]
More about the Book
Take a poignant look into the broken heart and daily struggles of Christian college dean Drew McKinley. The story chronicles the turbulent first year in his desperate journey to understand God’s motives for the sudden death of his wife and his quest to find hope in his future.
Crossing his perilous path are Allison, a graduate student and new employee in the dean’s office, and Chris, the handsome but egotistical student senate president.
The road Drew must navigate is fraught with career upheaval, a reawakening heart and the struggle for forgiveness and restoration. Will Drew finish his journey to embrace the hope God offers, the love Allison shares and the guidance Chris needs, or will he turn his back on all three with catastrophic consequences?
And don’t forget to add it to your Goodreads shelf