A Friend Who Has Knocked My Socks Off With Her Talents

I've known Denice for a couple of years now. I was drawn to her by her peaceful spirit when I first met her. She was (and still is) writing a book and also wrote for a local newspaper. We met when she wrote a story on a DIY project that you can read about HERE. We soon got to know each other better, and I realized Denice was set apart from others, and I enjoyed being in her presence. She's very good listener and gets you to respond in ways only a writer could. I'm going to interview her so you too can get to know this beautiful friend of mine better:)

Denice, What inspires you daily?

So, so many things. Truth. Vulnerability. The shape of a tree. The color of a flower. My dogs. The talent of my children and husband. Deep movies. Deeper music. Conversations with compassionate friends. Art. The goodness human beings are able to show to one another if they really try. When people pursue doing what they love. Fine stories, whether writing them, reading them, or hearing them. And, of course, food. Food is pretty inspiring. Food and I go way back. 

Denice's best canine buddies, Max and Petey.
Tell me about your book. 

The book I'm currently finishing is called Bradbury and Seven Other Endearing Tales of Quirky Compulsion. It's a collection of short stories about people who can't keep their mind off of some certain thing and how it affects them and those around them. 

Cover design by Paul Bennett.
The characters in each of the stories have become like friends to me; there's Walter who has lost his child to a senseless act of violence and can't let go of his desire for revenge; Evie, who thinks that the Christian Dior dress in the window of the local boutique is the answer to her problems; and, of course, the title piece, a fictional story about one of my favorite authors and the inspiration for the collection--Bradbury is based on an interview I heard with Ray Bradbury, author of Fahrenheit 451 where he talked about meeting Aldous Huxley for the first time. That one won some awards and got the ball rolling on the whole collection. Each story was illustrated by a different local artist and was funded through a Kickstarter campaign. I'm hoping it will be published by fall, but because I'm a feature writer, reference associate at the library, general manager for several musical groups, and always a mama, I'm taking my time to get it right. You can read about the journey of that project here

The Five Little Hazletts and How They Grew

You have many irons in the fire right now. Tell us about your Airstream project.

Well, we live in one of the most gorgeous places on the planet, and I'd really love to share it with travelers who are interested in visiting. Our family has always been keen on hospitality--hosting house concerts, having homemade pizza parties where we make pizza on our great big butcher block island, and welcoming international guests. I've long thought it would be wonderful if we could build a tiny house on our property in Ohio's Amish Country and let it serve as a bed and breakfast while providing an income that would allow me to be financially self-sufficient, home with my family, and further my writing career. 

1972 Tradewind and 1969 Human
Last spring, the idea hit me--I love Airstream campers, with their sleek, silvery beauty, and if I could secure a vintage one, we could transform it into a guest house. A group of generous backers supported the acquisition of the Airstream, and, after a long search, we found the right one. It's a 1972 Tradewind, and it's shining in my side yard right now, waiting to be returned to its former glory. Now, we're in the process of gutting and remodeling it, but it's going to take a little while and more funding from some savvy businesspeople who believe in and want to back the remodeling project. Keep that in your prayers! 

Denice is often late to appointments because she has to stop and take photos of random things. 

What is one thing you'd never want to give up that you hold dear, other than your family?

On this earth, my house. I've worked hard for many years to feather my nest. When my two oldest kiddoes were young ones, we lived in a very small house on a busy road. One evening, I was making dinner when I heard an insistent honking from the road. I ran outside to find a motorist holding my diapered son by the hand through his open car window. My son was standing on the yellow line. That was it for me. I was determined to do whatever I could to make a place for myself and my children where they could raise goats and rabbits should they so choose, climb trees, and explore fields and creeks. I grabbed the nearest piece of paper and a handful of markers and drew all of the things I'd want in a house. A few years later, I found the property we're living on now and made a deal with the landowner, lived in a 600 sq.ft. cabin without electricity or indoor bathroom facilities for a couple of years, then designed and built our home, doing all of the general contracting and a lot of the labor. We've had some tough financial times, but I've fought, begged, and borrowed to keep our home, and, by the grace of God and the kindness of others, we're still here. It's my favorite place  to be on this spinning sphere of dirt, rock, and water. 

Denice is a little bit obsessed with gardening.
 What is one of your favorite quotes?   

“If we listened to our intellect we'd never have a love affair. We'd never have a friendship. We'd never go in business because we'd be cynical: "'t's gonna go wrong.' Or 'She's going to hurt me.' Or, 'I've had a couple of bad love affairs, so therefore . . .' Well, that's nonsense. You're going to miss life. You've got to jump off the cliff all the time and build your wings on the way down.” ~Ray Bradbury

This is why we can't have nice things. 
What motivates you to write when writer's block hits?

If it's an article that's on a deadline and the bills are coming due, those two things are motivation enough for me! If it's a piece of fiction or an essay that's been niggling at my brain and I want to finish it, I most often will simply go to the page, put my butt in the chair, and force myself to write. If I really hit a block, I'll step away from the page to take a shower (most of my great ideas and solutions happen in the shower!) or I'll go out and work in the garden. Pulling weeds fills a multitude of plot holes.  

I'm also part of an incredible group of writers called the Killbuck Valley Writers' Guild that meets every Sunday from 1-4 at Jitters Coffee House in Millersburg. Several of those folks, especially the group's founder, Ray Buckland, come to my rescue to help me solve problems I'm having with my writing. 

What color makes you feel happy?


Not Denice's truck, but she wishes it were.
What are you passionate about?

Human kindness, caring for others, and making a difference every day, whether it's by doing small things like putting the shopping cart away or bigger things like helping a person get the medical care, housing, or transportation they need. Each of us has so much to give in time, talent, and, yes, even money. You have no idea how much of a difference you can make in a person's life just by giving what you have to give. Every day, it's my goal to treat others the way I want to be treated, and every day I fail at it miserably, because I'm an impatient, selfish, lazy excuse for a human being. But I keep trying. I have to believe that matters. 

Be the Change You Want to See in the World
The best thing you've ever eaten?


Morning or evening person?

I'm a morning person by nature, but I'm married to a bohemian who has passed that trait along to some of our children, so if I want to spend time with them, I'm forced to be a bit of both. Left to my own devices, I'm asleep by 10 and up with the sun. 

What 24 years of marriage can do to a person. 
What's one thing most people don't know about you?

While I often appear to be an extrovert, I'm really more of an introvert. I love speaking in front of crowds, but I suck at small talk, so I often avoid one-on-one conversations with people I'm not completely comfortable around. When we're having some kind of gathering at our house, I can often be found in my room waiting until most of the guests have arrived so I don't have to address anyone one-on-one. 

You've been talking about Amish socks lately. What's up with that?

I'm glad you asked! For the past couple of months, I've been working with a local man, a few Amish folks, and a U.S. sockmaker to create Miller's Plain Clothing. MPC sells high-quality socks that are made in the United States especially to suit Amish, Mennonite, and plain dress folks. But the cool thing is these socks are great for everyone, because they come in sizes for hard-to-fit legs and feet, from babies to big feet, and are made right here in the United States. They're superior quality to what you'd find in most retail stores. I'm excited about it, because I really believe in supporting local businesses, and we have plans for it to grow into something that serves a much broader community. 

I have other stuff I do, too. I'm a copy, content, and feature writer for a bunch of different publications (including, locally, Larry's Music Center's local music column Liner Notes, Just Plain Values and Farming magazines and, until recently, I wrote features, profiles and Marketplace pieces for the Bargain Hunter). I also serve in several capacities doing social media, blog editing, creating content, web design and maintenance, and booking, management, and promotion for several folks, like the band Honeytown, the singing group Sonnenberg Station, the library's local history page Our Town, and writer Paul Stutzman.
The top 5 of your bucket list? 

In no certain order: 
~Publish my book. 
~Have one of my stories read on This American Life, which is one of my favorite radio shows ever. It's one of my life goals to make Ira Glass laugh.
~Tell stories at The Moth, a live storytelling event where you tell a true story on stage live without notes. 
~Take my family on a fabulous vacation that involves a beach, a large budget, and lots of bacon (but not at the same time, because sandy bacon is a drag).
~Become debt-free. 

Beaches and Bacon Don't Mix
Best childhood memory?

It's a toss-up between fishing at Geigers' pond, or setting up a tent in the middle of our cornfield and picking fresh raspberries. I had a great imagination as an only child, and spent many, many hours outside. Those were amazing times. 

Ornery from the get-go.
Idea of a perfect day?

My perfect day involves: accomplishing something productive; going somewhere I've never been before; learning something new; visiting antique stores or my favorite thrift shop, Save & Serve in Millersburg, and finding a treasure; being with family; making new friends; and getting a huge check in the mail. And food. Especially bacon.

Your first social media you go-to?

I'm still a Facebook fan. I've found it to be a place where--when carefully maintained--great, meaningful dialogue can still happen and people can identify with one another, find common ground, and learn new, inspiring things. Facebook can be an amazing tool when it's not misused. That said, I'm also on Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn

What talent do you wish you had?

I really, really, really wish I could play a musical instrument proficiently. My children can all play things very well, and my husband is a gifted performance musician, but I can only strum a few chords on the ukulele and sing harmony parts. 

What a Hazlett Family Jam looks like from Denice's perspective.
 What fear handicaps you?

The fear of being judged. The fear of being misunderstood with no one to defend me. The fear of being rejected. I'm a people-pleaser, so when I know I've let someone down, it devastates me. Often, I make bad decisions because I'm afraid I'll disappoint someone, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Also, tornadoes.

Being a writer has its perks! Denice gets
to interview and hang out with some pretty cool people
Best lesson ever learned?

If a person doesn't want to be in your life, don't make them be. It's better to let go than be dragged. 

What's your favorite kitchen essential?

That's a toss-up--either my garlic press, my cast-iron skillets, my food processor, my husband and kids, or my wine bottle opener. 

The Thanksgiving table.
Wrap this interview up of things you want to talk about that I missed. 

I just have to say that I'm terribly fond of you, Lena. I will never forget the day we met, the day I watched you wield that hammer to knock the stone shelves off of the wall in the Blessing Design Team house. I knew then that I'd met a woman who lived with gusto. I'm so glad you're my friend. 

Also, I welcome brave people to visit my website and follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. I love new friends!

She Who Lives With Gusto

Thanks for the interview, Denice! I hope you have seen the beauty that shines within this lady like I have, and that she inspires you to think outside the box.

All photos in this blog post: Copyright 2014 Denice Rovira Hazlett.

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