Sharon Fiffer's Blog

April 2, 2014

So there’s this.  April 25-27, I’ll be the guest speaker at The Heartland Spa in Gilman, Illinois.  In addition to a presentation on Saturday evening, I’ll be conducting a mini-workshop aimed at novice writers as well as those more experienced.  In fact, I’m hoping there will people who come who have never written, but just think they might have a story to tell.  This will be the perfect environment to start the process–to think about your own story and how you might like to tell it.  You might want to keep it as a private journal piece or share with friends or family–or maybe you want to write for the wider world.  I’ll be available all weekend for individual consultations!

My workshop is included in your weekend at the Heartland.  It’s not cheap to go to the Heartland–I know that–but it is one thing you can do for yourself that is so beneficial!  I visited the Heartland in 1997 for the first time and it was my first spa experience–I’d never even had a massage before.  I learned so much about taking care of myself–and it was so good for me, I’ve managed to visit at least once a year ever since.  I’ve been lucky enough to be one of the guest speakers now for about twelve years and it is a total pleasure to watch people de-stress, unwind and be inspired.

If you can afford to treat yourself–please come.  If not in April, then go when you can–it’s always worth it.  And if you click on the link to the Heartland site and you’ll find some special offers–or just call the office and ask what special they have the weekend of April 25.  The most economical way to visit is to go with a friend and share a room.  Surely you deserve a getaway after this long winter!

Below is the description of my participation in the weekend.  It will be lots of fun–but probably not better than the massage included in your weekend package!

What’s Your Story? A Writing/Reading Weekend for everyone!

Everyone has a story to tell.  Whether or not you’re a beginner, an experienced writer or someone who only dreams of one day putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), this mini-workshop promises fun and insights for both writers and dreamers! 
Interested guests will meet with Sharon on Friday night for a discussion and optional writing exercise based on a prompt.  Bring a notebook–this will be fun!  Saturday, Sharon will be available  for individual consultations during the day.  Guests may submit up to 15 manuscript pages for Sharon to review in advance. (either bring pages to Sharon on Friday evening or send via email as an attachment–.doc format only–to the Heartland and they will forward to Sharon)  
On Saturday evening, Sharon will discuss Reading, Writing and Other Mysteries–Finding your way into a Story.  
Sharon Fiffer is the author of eight Jane Wheel mystery novels published by St. Martin’s Minotaur, most recently, LUCKY STUFF.  Sharon has also edited three collections of literary memoirs, HOME, FAMILY and  BODY.  Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in the Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Chicago Magazine, The New York Times and several literary magazines. She has taught creative writing and American Literature at The University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University and is the co-founder of the Wesley Writers’ Workshop where she currently teaches several writing workshops.
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Published on April 02, 2014 13:12 • 3 views

March 10, 2014

For those of you who took the Jane Wheel quiz last week–and for those of you who are readers of the books, , I’m guessing you pretty much know the answer to which character you most resemble.

In Kankakee, on March 4, when I gave this quiz to over 100 women who are members of the Tuesday Book Review, the majority of the quiz takers ended up as Nellie.  This made me think that perhaps Kankakee is so intertwined with Nellie’s personality that Kankakee is even more of a character than I thought it was.

Please let me know which character you are?  I’ll post something on the Jane Wheel facebook page and you can answer in the comment section.

As promised, here’s your answer key:

If you answered mostly a, you are well-on your way to becoming an amateur sleuth—and you probably have a few collections displayed in your house!  You’re Jane Wheel!

If you answered mostly b, you are the best friend and sidekick anyone could love!  You also have excellent taste! You’re the fun-loving Tim Lowry!

If you answered mostly c, Namaste, my friend!  You are the wise and modest Detective Oh.

If you answered mostly d, I think you know who you are.  You don’t like pretension, you don’t suffer fools lightly, and you are more honest than most.  Congratulations, Nellie!



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Published on March 10, 2014 13:17 • 10 views

March 6, 2014


Welcome to the quiz that will inform you which character from the Jane Wheel mysteries you most closely resemble!  Just like the quizzes that tell you which city you should live in, which movie star you resemble and which Downton Abbey character you are, the Jane Wheel quiz promises you equally valuable information!  Answer key will be posted next week.  Oh–and if you have time to take this quiz, I hope you’ll also go to facebook, search for Jane Wheel and go to the Jane Wheel facebook page and click “like.”  Any readings, signings, up-to-date information is posted there regularly.  Thanks–hope you click soon!



1.At Blue’s Café (or Pink’s), you order:

a. Pie  b. Salad  c. Tea  d. Black coffee

2. Your favorite decorating style is:

a. Arts and Crafts  b. Mid-century Modern

c. Contemporary  d. What the hell is a decorating style?

3. Your favorite reading is:

a. A P.D. James mystery  b. Any celebrity bio

c. Modern poetry d. Kankakee Daily Journal—Obituaries

4. At a large rummage sale, you head first to:

a. Housewares/kitchen b. Furniture c. Books

d. Why would I touch something if I don’t know where it’s been?

5. Go-to accessory?

a.Frye boots b.Kalo silver cufflinks

c.vintage necktie  d.hairnet

6. At Cobb Park, you are most likely to:

a.collect buckeyes  b. re-imagine the landscaping

c. enjoy the view of the river

d. Offer unasked for advice to the tennis players

7. Where do you search if you’ve misplaced your car keys?

a. inside the vintage “flip-top” sugar bowl

b. on the Chase chrome butler’s tray

c. you never misplace your car keys

d. Why would I need car keys?

8.Your drink of choice at the E Z Way Inn:

a.Grey Goose b. Craft beer  c. Saki

d. what the hell is Grey Goose, craft beer, and Socky?

9. At the Root Beer Stand, you order:

a. sauce bun

b. sauce bun to go (I don’t eat in my car)

c. sauce bun (can you make it vegetarian?)

d. sauce bun (extra napkins)

10. Which quote most closely resembles your philosophy?

a.“Three things cannot remain long hidden—the sun, the moon, and the truth.” Buddha

b. “Man suffers only because he takes seriously what the gods made for fun”  Buddha

c. “There has to be evil so that good can prove its purity above it”  Buddha

d. “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see”  Me–who is Buddha?

 Answer Key to come!






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Published on March 06, 2014 08:58 • 6 views

January 3, 2014

Although we are not, strictly speaking, snowed in, we are somewhat “frozen” in.  icicle1


our home's personal best

our home’s personal best


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Published on January 03, 2014 08:53 • 21 views

December 20, 2013

I wanted to title this post Merry Christmas, but I am a sporadic poster these days, so that would mean, if I don’t get anything up here again by the end of January, that title would tell you right away what a laggard I’ve been!

At least with the new year type headline, I figure I’m good until early spring–not that I intend to be a stranger here.

So here’s my end of the year wrap-up.  I’ve finished a book.  Not Jane Wheel. And until I know the book’s fate, I can’t say a word about it.  My own superstitions.  I’ve also begun work on an EZ Way Inn project that’s not exactly Jane Wheel–but readers will see the connections!  And…I’m working on another novel that looks at the “picking” life from another angle altogether.  My other creative pursuits?  Well, there’s this.

I made, well...stacked this!

I made, well…stacked this!

My projections for 2014?  More of the same–writing, writing, writing and reading, reading, reading.  Teaching three workshops a week continues to delight and inspire me–I learn something new every class.  Our dog, Fergus, continues to amaze and amuse us.  I can only hope that he is as pleased with us as we are with him.

My wishes for you, friends, readers, countrymen and women?  To always have an anticipated book to read on your night stand, a pending garage sale to attend that promises “vintage and MORE” and a winter that lasts only as long as you can stand it and not a minute more.

Thanks for reading about Jane Wheel and friends.  She’ll be back soon, I hope, but for now, she’s decorating the old button factory in Kankakee with a million twinkling lights and serving eggnog from a vintage Heisy punch bowl.  Tim has hung swags of evergreen over all the doors and Nellie and Don will be co-hosting a Christmas Eve party for all of the EZ Way Inn customers who have nowhere else to be.  Not a bad way to say goodby to 2013 and welcome the new year!

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Published on December 20, 2013 08:28 • 20 views

September 8, 2013

I don’t often post anything labeled “science” since I believe collecting, writing and remembering fall more into the arts than sciences.  However, I engaged in an experiment this weekend that I’d like to share.

If you like Jane Wheel on facebook, you might know I attended three rummage sales this weekend and gathered some “stuff.”  Since I like to think that I can cull my collections to make room for new old things, last night I scanned the kitchen for ways to control clutter.  I spotted a cake pan I had purchased–mostly for its yellow color and also for the recipe for “flan” printed on the bottom. I hadn’t bothered to try the recipe–or use the pan.  Should I get rid of it or keep?  I was ready to put it into the subtraction bag when I decided that I ought to at least make the “flan” once.  So, last night, while watching a little college football (Go Wildcats and Go Blue in honor of my Michigan family members), I whipped up this little “flan.”


Why the annoying “”"”?  Because I always thought of flan as a delicious caramel custard and this recipe made what looked to be a cross between a lemon cake and shortbread.  I covered it and decided to serve it tonight when we have dinner guests coming.  Too bland looking alone, this afternoon I filled in the indentation on the top with lemon curd and raspberries and will serve whipped cream on the side.


Thus, whether the pan stays or goes will be up to the tasters of tonight’s dessert.  Don’t you wish all decluttering could be solved scientifically…or deliciously?

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Published on September 08, 2013 14:30 • 37 views

September 3, 2013

Anyone who has spent any time reading and/or visiting the website knows that my spring post ended on a high note!  The Kankakee trolley tour was so much fun and I was happy to share some photos, my daughter’s “trailer” video, and my gratitude for all who planned, worked, and scurried around to make it all work so well.  And thanks, of course, to those who attended.

Then, Jane Wheel went underground and I followed.  Or vice versa.  I would love to tell you that I was at a cabin far out of internet range, cranking out books and living close to nature, but that would be a lie.  The truth is, we got a new dog, I started writing a new book (not a Jane Wheel this time around) and I busied myself with family and friends.  I also worked at more estate sales than I usually do–cataloging great libraries and prepping houses for downsizers.  Normally, I work a few summer sales for “research” and that’s it, but this season there were lots of books and lots of treasures to discover, prep and price.  Also taught two nights a week.  So yes, I was busy, but that’s not an excuse.  Who isn’t busy?

The closest I can come to an explanation for my absence here is that summer just isn’t my enthusiastic season.  Oh, I love the respite from snow and cold, but it’s just not the productive time for me that it is for so many others.  You know how some people get depressed when there’s not enough sunlight?  I think I’m a minority sufferer of some malady about too much sun.  All of those beautiful days?  So much pressure to be out there enjoying them, doing something sporty!  Not my season at all.  But September?  With cool mornings and acorns crunching underfoot?  That’s when my energy returns.

So here’s hoping I can stay on a schedule that includes staying in touch here on the website.  I’ll be teaching three workshops a week starting next week, finishing the YA book I started this summer, hosting family for the upcoming holidays, and continuing to work and play with our maybe-scottie-maybe-cairn-terrier mix, Fergus.  Next weekend is a favorite rummage weekend for me–the four corners sale in Highland Park.  Three churches across from each other.  Park once, shop thrice? So I feel like I’m coming back to life–sweater season brings out the best in me.  How about you?

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Published on September 03, 2013 09:03 • 23 views

May 23, 2013

A surprise from my daughter Nora this morning!

Now you can take the tour in just a few minutes!  I’ll fill in the details soon–but in the meantime, enjoy!

Sorry that it doesn’t come with pie from Blues, but you get the idea!

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Published on May 23, 2013 07:18 • 50 views

April 22, 2013

I apologize for not updating the site about the tour.  The May event

was sold out as soon as the library had the information ready.

When I spoke there last fall, a sign-up sheet was passed

around and those who were interested in the tour got calls and priority

sign up.  That sold out the trolley, I’m afraid.

Because this all happened so quickly, we are considering another

tour in the fall.  I will keep you posted about that, but I want to remind

everyone that the library is sponsoring this event.  I am not selling any

tickets personally!

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Published on April 22, 2013 14:57 • 31 views

March 6, 2013

The May 18 Trolley Tour in Kankakee is on! More details will follow here–and you can also contact Vicki or Allison at the Kankakee Public Library for more information as the date draws closer.  Rumor has it there will also be a Jane Wheel flea market on May 18th at the Farmer’s Market, so come to shop and tour!

Unfortunately, I have to report that the Milwaukee workshop, Finding Your Hidden Story, scheduled for Friday-Sunday, March 8-10 is off.  I’m sorry we’ve had to cancel, but am hoping that Lynden Sculpture Gardens and Woodland Patterns Book Center and I can reschedule.  Stay tuned–and if you’re in the Milwaukee area and were hoping to attend, let us hear from you and we’ll be sure to keep you in the loop.

Those are the updates–but here is the real news.  Despite the snow here in Illinois, I count the number of estate sales this weekend to be on the upswing. Lots more than last weekend.  Plus, daylight savings time begins this weekend!  Some people look for robins and tulips, but I say blooming estate and garage sales and more light are the real first harbingers of spring.  How about you?

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Published on March 06, 2013 09:41 • 34 views