Getting to Know You–er, Me

Today I’m offering up an interview I did with author/blogger/human extraordinaire, Jan Wissmar I had a marvelous time with Jan and I do hope you’ll check out her work. She’s just released her third book, Willful Avoidance and continues to impress me with being someone whose work on this earth is beyond inspirational.

I hope you enjoy.



Meet Shelley Sackier, author, blogger, pilot, and whisky drinker


Today I’m delighted to welcome Shelley Sackier, creator of the always entertaining blog – Peak Perspective – and author of the upcoming teen novel DEAR OPL.

Shelley Sackier headshots 3 (1704x2272)JTT: Hey Shelley – thanks for being here!  First of all, how did you come up with the title Peak Perspective?

SS: The blog title and tagline (Peak Perspective: trying to climb out of the fog.) was born of both sight and wordplay. I live in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I’m surrounded by mountains, and living on top of one gives me a spectacular view, except when it doesn’t. Some days I’m fogged in, occasionally I’m above the cloud base, but most days, the scene is truly breathtaking and allows me a view of three counties. As I’m always staring out one window or another for a moment of inspiration, rare is the day when something remarkable does not flit across my field of vision. It’s a little like living on the live set of a National Geographic special filmed by the WeatherChannel. Some days are truly spectacular. Some days are scary. A couple have made me think that it might be time to start doing bladder strengthening exercises.

Bruichladdic view

JTT: Please send me a copy of those bladder strengthening exercises ’cause I need ’em.  With those spectacular views there must be a lot of artists living in your part of the world, however your illustrator, Robin Gott (who I just adore), is from England, but lives in Sweden. How did you find him?

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SS: I love the fact that Rob and I live in separate countries and have worked together for a few years but have never met. There’s something so remarkably “today’s business world” about that. We were introduced years ago and had almost worked together on a different project. The blog venture just sort of spilled out of that serendipitous past.

Robin is one of those incredibly multi-talented folks whose craft spills over into myriad dimensions. Animation, acting, drawing, writing. His work is prolific and I feel so fortunate to have this time to be creative with him. I’ve discovered what it feels like to work with someone whose brain will likely be preserved for science.

However long the blogging business keeps us artistically woven together, I can think of so many other missions I’d like the two of us to take a crack at. Time will tell. Fingers are crossed. Pencils are sharpened.

JTT:  Blogging does provide us with some interesting bedfellows doesn’t it? Well, “bedfellows” isn’t exactly the right term.  Collaborators?  Gads, that’s not much better… (Help me troops!)

Haggis Mascarade.JPG (592x800)

Speaking of blogging, I’ve been in awe of your blog for a long time.  I wonder if you’d mind sharing some blogging tips and tricks (or is it top secret)?  When did you start?  How did you build your incredibly supportive audience?

SS: Well, firstly, thank you for saying so. That’s the hope of so many writers. Tips and tricks? I think when searching for success, you have to be willing to stick your neck out and embrace vulnerability. And more importantly, you have to be willing to fail. I’ve gotten pretty good at kicking myself out of safe mode, skinning both knees, and then moving on. There’s so much to learn when you make mistakes. Being careful does not make a terribly exciting life. And I crave challenge.

And chocolate. I’m not sure which I devour more.

Also, it might be extraordinarily helpful to have a roadmap—a story grid of sorts. Why are you blogging? Is it to share wedding photos? A trip to Dubai? Your time in the slammer? It helps to understand what the end goal is.

My blogging exploits began strictly to develop a skill I thought I needed improvement with: churning out about 1000 words on demand. Butt in chair, holler to muse, write the damn essay, finish the laundry. When you devote attention to something every day, bit by bit the challenge begins to feel increasingly more comfortable. Welcome to the new normal.

And building the supportive audience comes from caring about what people have to say. There are so many wildly interesting people hon our planet, each with a distinctive voice, and I find it’s like a funky orchestral hot mess when I engage with everyone. It’s a huge time investment, and I’m not looking forward to the approaching day when I’ll have to back off because of other writing commitments—ones from people who rightfully require more time as they’re actually paying me to produce work for them, but I’m hoping to have at least created a community of folks who can carry on the conversation if I’m not there and who have made worthy friendships simply from having had my blog site be one of their playgrounds.

Jonathan Sackier Blue Ridge Mountains Virginia

JTT: “Butt in chair, holler to muse, write the damn essay,” AMEN!  However, you did manage to finish DEAR OPL while building your audience.  Congrats on that major accomplishment.  You deserve chocolate, lots of chocolate.  However, I know from reading DEAR OPL (and your blog) that keeping our food safe, nutritious, and delicious are important issues for you.  I don’t want to spoil the plot for potential readers but the main character, Opl, achieves some amazing things while battling a common bugaboo for many of us growing up:  a negative self-image.  At first, I have to admit I thought the mother was cruel – always making a big issue of Opl’s understandable weight gain (I mean, she had just lost her father!) but by the end you managed to make the mother sympathetic.  I think it had to do with Opl’s growing awareness that staying healthy need not be an arduous task. Was personal experience a motivation for writing DEAR OPL?

SS: I’ve had food issues for as long as I can recall, but not of the same type as Opl. Working in the entertainment industry, one gets judged every which way but Sunday. It was brutal. Costumes were measured and remeasured on a regular schedule. If you lost a pound of sweat during a show from exertion, and your waistband had a half an inch worth of give in it, it was immediately sewed shut. I survived for years believing that fat was an enemy and that tinned peas and Cream of Wheat was my culinary lot in life. This was horrifically rough for someone who grew up in a family full of caterers, butchers and chefs. I loved food, but was growing deprived of it because of the fearful sweeping top to bottom gaze of an unforgiving producer or director.

I was determined to raise kids with the idea of nutrition as the motivating factor for meal planning and food education, and didn’t want to create battles over what we put into our mouths. I knew that as my kids grew more independent I’d lose a lot of sway over what they’d choose to eat. I knew that layering information in small bite-sized chunks, and also walking the talk would be important components of whether or not they’d remember what I’d said, and did as I advised. Most importantly, indulging in food they knew I’d cringe at was a given, but I hoped that they’d pay attention to the correlation between what they ate and how they felt afterward. I know the pressures teens feel when trying to fit in with their friends, and that sometimes food issues become friendship issues. In my mind, I believed they’d make diet related decisions based on things other than what the crowd was doing. They learned to love good food, and cooking it themselves has been an ongoing joyful discovery.

Chloe & Gabe 2015

JTT: You’re absolutely right – making decisions about what to eat based on how you will feel afterwards is far wiser than going along with the crowd but it is a hard lesson for many teens to learn. On your blog you’re doing an excellent job of what marketeers call “building your platform” and so I’m fairly confident this next question will be an easy one for you to answer, please describe Dear Opl’s ideal reader?  Who are you talking to?  What do you hope your readers take away from the book?

SS: DEAR OPL’s reading base is 9 to 13 year-olds, but I’m hoping to attract kids who may be in a similar situation as Opl—those who feel like they are either losing the battle with weight, or who feel they can’t stop eating junk food, but mostly kids who are desperately looking for a bit of direction. People don’t realize how much help is available and often give up before they’ve even begun.

My hope is that Opl will be able to communicate that there is no “magic pill,” and that change can happen in small ways creating a ‘ripple effect’ result. If we expect to shift the habits of a lifetime, it requires education, support, patience and faith that you’re doing the right thing. (And a big dose of self-forgiveness when you don’t.) I feel that all too often we’re told by marketers to expect a miracle with their slick headline promises and mind-blowingly easy overnight success. I’m hoping to impart some savviness.

JTT:  You’re absolutely right – kids are bombarded by “lose weight overnight” ploys which are nothing by quackery.  It’s horrible.  Speaking of horrible, now onto the uncomfortable revelations part of the interview (just pretend I’m Barbara Walters).  You’re a pilot and whiskey drinker, is that correct?  Were you also abducted by aliens like other famous whiskey-drinking pilot drinkers, i.e., Harrison Ford? Please describe some close encounters of the third kind you’ve had while soaring through the clouds.Runway 23

SS: Really? Ford was abducted?

JTT:  Whoops, sorry.  I was actually thinking of the drunken pilot from the movie The Fourth of July who saves the world from aliens somewhat in retaliation for having been abducted by them.

SS:  Whew! Well, flying and whisky have been a significant part of my life. Although, never at the same time for obvious reasons.

When I was first learning to fly, in order to gather up the courage to do solo night flying (which is incredibly different than daytime flying — you’ve got nothing but a Lite-Brite board beneath you), I’d belt out the theme song to Raiders of the Lost Arc while doing finals and preparing to land the aircraft. You have to acquire a fair amount of knowledge to fly and land an airplane, and a teensy bit more if you’re hoping to reuse it. But you also have to have an element of faith.

Also, having an old codger for a flying examiner was a lucky thing. I think he realized as I was taking my final physical flight exam that I was still too timid with the aircraft. He took the controls and shouted, “You’ve got to manhandle this beast, lass! And you’ve got to know its limitations.” He then proceeded to pull the plane up into a stall and let her do a falling leaf pattern for about twenty seconds before recovering the aircraft. He kept shouting, “She ain’t gonna break!”

I think that was about as close to an extra-terrestrial experience as I’ve ever had, as I was fairly sure I’d not live to walk on our planet again.

JTT:  I love that story! My father was a pilot – he loved to get me into his little Cessna and do loop-de-loos! Okay, here’s your chance for revenge, what embarrassing question would you like to ask me?

SS: You see, this is where I’m struggling, Jan. I can find absolutely no dirt on you. You are one of the most impressive humans I’ve come to know. Your work with the Make a Wish foundation, your advocacy for at risk foster children, your books, your blog, your terrific writing … yeah, I got nothin’.

But maybe I’ll ask the question readers are probably wondering: how is it that you can get so much done in one lifetime?

JTT: How sweet of you but perhaps I should have given you my ex-husband’s phone number!

Whenever I hear the theme song from Raiders, I’ll think of you soaring across the skies! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me and best wishes for the release!

092314_DearOpl_HiRes (533x800)DEAR OPL is available for pre-ordering on Amazon here.  The official release date is August 4, 2015.  Here’s my review:

DEAR OPL is an honest look at a problem facing many young teens: negative self-image brought on by weight gain.  It is also the story of a family trying to move ahead after a catastrophic loss.  Young OPL (who left the “A” off her name in order to lose weight – LOL!) has a talent that surprises her classmates and gives her an outlet for the ongoing frustrations of teen life.  She can blog!  In fact, she rapidly becomes a blogging superhero as “Dear Opl” dispelling advice to her peers with an abundance of sass and wit. But she doesn’t just make a difference in her own life, she reaches out and makes a difference in the lives of others.


Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

82 thoughts on “Getting to Know You–er, Me

  1. Wonderful glimpse into your world, Shelley. I love the flying story and I love your Peak Perspective shot up there. Wow!

    • Thanks, Torrie. I’ve done a bucketful of interviews during the last couple of months. I’ll post a few of them here and there. It’s been so much fun answering questions. Nothing like really getting to know your internet neighbors, eh? 😛

  2. Great interview Shelley! I listened to the radio interview too – it was nice to hear your voice again. What an interesting life you have lived – I enjoyed the story of your flying instructor – who, for some reason, appeared in my head in a kilt and a thick Scottish accent 🙂 I hope pre-sales are going well and that an ocean of little girls will all be talking about Opl soon. xoxo

    • A kilt? Speaking with the most glorious dialect known to mankind (present company excluded, Pauline!)? But oh, if it had only been so.
      Nope. This ole geezer had more chins than teeth and was still chewing last week’s tobacco.
      Still, he did know his shtick, and he was determined to make the skies a teensy bit friendlier than I realized they could be.

      Thanks for the well wishes. Opl launch in T-minus Two Days! 😀

  3. Loved the interview and savoured the humor and the wit. So it is living on the beautiful Beautiful Mountain Ridge and the splendid view which are the source of your indomitable energy and enthusiasm 😀

    And mighty relieved to know that the whiskey and flying don’t happen together 😳 . How I wish I could borrow that magical pen from Robin for some humor in my blog.

    Have a lovey weekend Shelley. 💐💐

  4. Great interview, great humour. Never too much of that on the blogosphere. Some people ( you particularly) make it all seem so effortless. Best of luck with the book,there is a large audience in need of it, which means from a writing perspective you lined up the right ducks in the right formation. Unlike moi. My ducks can’t even swim!

    • Oh, boy, do I beg to differ, Philippa. Your ducks are actually some of the world’s finest prima ballerinas preparing to take a bow for their renditions of Swan Lake except the stagehand who needs to pull back the curtain is a teensy bit late on his cue because he’s still using the toilet.

      The applause for your efforts is waiting.

      • He is still late ( as I am to answer a kind third call for reasons of deafness and distraction) There’s only so much time you can spend ‘en pointe’! But you do very well as the sound of one hand clapping, so here’s my curtsey…and have another!

    • Spot on, P!

      I used to tell the kids when they’d complain about us living so far away from their friends that the bonus was that because we were a few minutes closer to the sky, they’d get snow before their friends did.
      Small comfort.

  5. Great interview, Shelley. As always, you made me laugh and I learned new things. Pilot? Very impressed indeed. Entertainment industry? Which, what? It certainly explains our instant connection at the beginning. Thank you for brightening my Sunday, dear friend.

  6. My lady,

    Love the interview concept in the blogging world, (and JTT’s pattern of questions:), as this is not new I understand (I don’t get out much). Any chance you’d consider me to interview you? That’d be a hoot… and one you probably would have to highly censer as does the D.O.D. with all Top Secret projects from Area 51 (not that that place exists, right?).

    Miss the view of the hill top, especially from the kitchen. I miss Titt’s and Piddle, love the picture of the family (they’re so lucky to have you as their guide in life and perhaps, someday they’ll come to realize this). You are their Yoda, but with much more humbleness, oh, and of course better hair. 🙂

    I’ve always admired your spirited, unswayable lust to journey beyond where most humans would crack, (we have that in common). I can see you in flight and if you only had access to a booster rocket, a pressurized cabin, an oxygen mask with pressure suit attached to your plane, you would have taken that one risk to fly as high and as fast as you could just to try to reach the outer limits of the earth’s atmosphere, even if for only one look… and that, my dear Shelley, is what you continue to produce with your creative writing. Thank you for that.


    • You? Interview me?? Egads no!
      I think we’ll keep the bodies buried, buddy.

      And currently, my ‘spirited, unswayable lust to journey’ is propped up most days by a hefty, barrel-sized jug of java.
      Regardless, I SOLDIER ON!

  7. Great interview. Jan sounds like a lovely lady too. The Blue Ridge mountains sound and look so beautiful – they’d give Skye a run for its money. I enjoyed reading more about the wonderful Rob and I’m in total awe of your piloting ability/qualification – that’s just amazing. I’m now off to pre-order DEAR OPL (if it’s on Amazon UK) and to follow Jan on twitter.

    PS I’m prepared to overlook the use of the Irish ‘whiskey’ word – for now… whisky is the real thing 😉

    • Oh, Skye. *sigh*
      Thanks for your always wonderful comments, Anne. Treasured words, indeed.
      And yes, I did not have the heart to point out to Jan how sticking a toe across the line into the world of whisky with an E causes me to inhale sharply with widened eyes. I assure you, Scotland’s spirits have my heart.

  8. Wow! Breathtaking photos and the one of your kids brings a happy smile! Great departure from the usual with a few life lessons thrown in!

  9. I love your flying story. Like one of the other commenters up there, I also pictured your flying examiner in a kilt (but maybe that’s just residual imagery from our recent trip to Scotland. So. Many. Kilts.)! Have you ever read any of Elizabeth Wein’s recent books? Code Name Verity or Black Dove, White Raven? They’re both about flying. I’ve only read Code Name Verity but it seriously made me want to become a pilot. That is, if I weren’t so worried about crashing spectacularly…

    • Elizabeth Wein’s books have been on my reading list for far too long. Time to bump them upward toward the top. Now … finding time to read.
      And I’m green with envy over the fact that Scottish soil likely still clings to the souls of your hiking boots. But I’m also hugely happy that you and Josh eat up historical gems like gummy bears.
      And speaking of historical gems, I’m growing quite desperate to know how things are going for you on the publishing front. Any updates?

      • Thanks for asking! Not too much to report here – my agent’s sent it out to a few editors, so I’m trying not to check my inbox obsessively. But I’ll let you know as soon as I hear anything!

  10. Wow, what great looking kids you have! It was such an honor to interview you (and a blast!). Thanks again! Love the landing picture – it gave me goose bumps because I remembered all the times I flew with my father and how terrified I was! I’m really looking forward to reading those other interviews! Jan

    • Seriously, those line up with the runway moments are some of the hairiest I’ve ever experienced. Touchdown somewhere within the recommended space was always a moment of realizing that I apparently still knew all the prayers from when I was a kid going to catechism classes.

      Thanks a million, Jan. It’s a been a pleasure!

  11. I loved finding out a bit more about you Shelley. I debated about commenting, though, just to save you some time! You are so conscientious about answering comments and reading other blogs and I know how time consuming that is when you also need to have time to eat chocolate and sleep and holler at your muse. xxx A

  12. Lovely to get to know a bit more of your world, Shelley. Great interview! And thanks for my new mantra – ‘Butt in chair, holler to muse, write the damn essay, finish the laundry’. Words to live by!

  13. Lovely to hear from you this week, Shelley – I can’t imagine how busy you must be and I’ve always been in awe of your commitment to replying to comments and reading other blogs! As others have said it’s good to be able to learn more about you and Rob, particularly how you got to work together – and I too heard the flying examiner speak in a Scottish accent, must have been the use of the word ‘Lass’.

    Those pictures of your views – absolutely fabulous and I’m slightly green with envy, even though I love where I live too. Great to see your kids as well, putting faces to names is such a treat, like finally meeting up with a penpal.

    • I’ve created a small altar to the god of caffeine–and that seems to be a good short term answer.
      And pictures are a must for me. I really love being able to see what folks look like when I’m corresponding with them. I always turn out to be horribly wrong up until then though and find myself totally off the mark. For years I thought Nina Simone was a man. (let’s just keep that one between us though, okay? *embarassing*)

  14. I too hesitate to comment knowing how busy you are, but I can’t help myself. I’m watching my mailbox like the proverbial hawk, waiting for my pre-ordered stack to arrive. I’m distributing a few to some of our local Little Free Libraries and of course a copy will be at my curb LFL as well. I’m excited to share your wonderful prose in my own community.

    Great interview, Shelley. I’m always in awe of your extraordinary life. It’s fascinating reading about your own relationship to food and admirable to see that you’ve been able to pass on better attitudes to those adorable kids. (Love that photo!)

    Big hugs and congratulations on your launch.

    • Alys … you always leave me floored and absent of words. Your kindness toward others is something I think most people rarely believe exists nowadays. I’m thinking that I shall erect a fitting shrine in your honor, and I’m going to put it right next to the small altar I’ve erected to the caffeine gods who have been answering my other prayers and petitions.
      I am truly lucky.
      I hope you feel my immense gratitude. (It smells a little like coffee as I’m doing my best to blow big kisses westward.)
      ❤ ❤

      • Thank you for those caffeine kisses and virtual hugs of gratitude. Miss Manners should be turning to you for column advice.

        Most of all, thank you for that gem of a book. Dear Opl belongs in classrooms and on nightstands the world over. You are a gift and so is she.

  15. I love the cover of OPL – best of luck!
    Also love Jan aka JTTwissel and her books.
    Amazed by your overseas collaboration with Rob … how does it work? You send him a blog and see what he comes up with (draws)?

    • Many thanks, Cinda!
      And it’s easy to understand the attraction to Jan’s writing. She has such a unique writing voice–one I enjoy immensely.

      As far as Rob is concerned, you’ve basically nailed it. Poor fella has little say in what gets lobbed over the fence onto his side of the screen. But boy, oh boy, does he manage to rise to the occasion each and every time. That’s talent.

  16. Hey Shelley,

    The Blue Ridge Mountains look so beautiful, no wonder you love living there so much. I’m sure I wouldn’t want to leave – ever. One day I hope to see the mountains for myself, but in the mean time, I’ll just enjoy your photos.

    Thank you for sharing such a wonder interview.


    • Clare, I think the adventure that you and Dean are on has not left you devoid of the visual talents of Mother Nature. In fact, I think the two of you have put most pioneers and pathfinders to shame. You’ve set the bar incredibly high. I want to be at your side every time I visit your web site. You’re kinda my trailblazing heroes.

      • You’re making me blush, but you are right. Dean and I could travel from city to city looking at different concrete jungles, but we both have a deep love of the natural world and prefer seeking out Mother Nature’s treasures. (Says she who just spent two days in Sydney 🙂 )

  17. A wonderful interview! Shelley, I am giving you advance notice that I am moving into your house so I can enjoy that beautiful view. (At least on the sunny days.) Expect me when the bell strikes one.

    I appreciate the time you spend building community – in fact, I take you as my model when thinking about how to be a more supportive blogger. Hopefully you’ll still be able to balance that with your paid work. It always seems like there are too many things to do! 🙂

    • Well … ahem … I have been getting a wee bit of practice with that whole interviewing bit. 🙄

      And you are welcome anytime, Sue. There a million quiet snug little holes to find places to work, or not work, and simply while away the hours. I’m definitely planning to give that second part a try at some point soon. My yoga teacher–and mental mentor–has a poignant saying, “Life gets in the way of living.”

  18. Very interesting interview. And I admit that your explanation for the name of your blog is at the same time both self-evident and profound at the same time. I’ll be taking your blogging advice to heart.

    Have a nice day!

    • I really appreciate seeing word play at work. It’s such a delight to come across, in my opinion. So I keep working on developing the skill myself.
      And I wish you great good fortune with your blogging efforts. Much effort, but usually much reward as well.

  19. Pingback: Dear Opl: I Love You | Gardening Nirvana

  20. Two new books on my kindle. Thank you, both of you good-humorists. Will try not to take myself seriously for the rest of the day. And congratulations on the release of your books. Cheers!

    • Incredibly kind of you, JB. You’re already well-acquainted with Jan’s terrific writing, so fingers crossed you’ll find something worthy within the pages of Dear Opl too. Big hugs of thanks to you!

  21. Alys sent me by and what a delightful visit! Your book is in my cart and I’m looking forward to the read. I think I’m still that 13 year old with body image problems. When I’m done with it, I’ll pass it on to my great-niece who is struggling with it too. Maybe I’ll buy one for each of us. 😉 I loved this interview. You have a wonderful sense of humor. I’ll be back. That’s a warning, by the way.

    • A warning? Oh, in my eyes that’s a delightful promise I hope you keep!
      I adore Alys. She probably one of the most special human beings walking the face of the earth. Actually, when I think of Alys, I think that if the earth had a face, it would proudly sport hers.
      Thank you for reading, and especially thank you for considering Dear Opl. If you do read it, I’d love to know what you think (and your great-niece too!). Hope it strikes a chord.
      Cheers! 😀

      • Thought I’d let you know, both copies will be here Wednesday. I’ll probably read mine cover to cover right away and I’ll let you know what I think of it. I’ll be seeing the Great-niece in a couple weeks and will take her copy along.
        Yes, Alys is probably the face of mother earth. She is one of a handful of people that I truly treasure. I have been lax in my writing with all the other summer work and am quite itchy to get back to it. See you soon. 🙂

  22. I never knew you worked in the entertainment industry, Shelley!! What a rich and vibrant life you’ve had so far!!! This was an excellent interview. Loved all of the questions and the dialogue. And I still CAN. NOT. WAIT. to get my hands on Opl. Seriously, I hope Amazon knows to send it to Japan early so it will arrive ON TIME. 😀

    • Thanks, Dave. It makes my heart happy to know that folks come across some of these older essays. It makes my heart happier to know that some folks actually read them. Ha! Hope you’re well! Cheers

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