Janell Butler Wojtowicz Speaks Up!

Janell Butler Wojtowicz 2

Everyone’s Story welcomes Christian fiction author Janell Butler Wojtowicz. While Janell is no stranger to writing, she makes her debut in fiction with her release of Embracing Hope. I’m thankful Janell is with us this week and I’m sure you’ll be too. I believe you will be moved when you read her feature on encouragement, as I was. Please check out Janell’s novel excerpt and her BookGiveaway. We’re both looking forward to hearing from you!







Janell is offering 1 randomly chosen commenter  1 ebook edition of Embracing Hope. The winner will be announced here on Friday, May 26th between 6-7 PM EST.

** For Giveaways: it’s not necessary to insert your private email information within comments.



 Excerpt from Embracing Hope:

 Embracing Hope by Janell Butler Wojtowicz

When Drew got back to his condo after breakfast with Mitch, he took recycling bins from the garage and headed straight for his office. He pulled open the top drawer of the filing cabinet, labeled “Dissertation,” removed all the folders and tossed everything in a bin with a satisfying thump. He turned on the TV for company and for the next several hours sorted through files and books, occasionally reading, mostly shredding. Taking the framed photo from the bookshelf, he wrapped the UConn afghan around it and placed it carefully in his briefcase. Sitting down at the computer, he composed a new email.


Dr. Cavanaugh,

Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve as Dean of Students at Riley University. Riley is an outstanding university devoted to its students and committed to serving God. It’s been a privilege to work here.


However, it is in the best interests of the university and its students that I resign the position of Dean of Students, effective immediately. I will contact Human Resources upon your acceptance of my resignation to complete the necessary exit procedures.



Andrew McKinley


Without hesitation, Drew hit “Send.”


He looked up a phone number on his contact list. “Ed, this is Drew McKinley. Could you give me a call as soon as you can? I need to put the condo up for sale.”


Next he went online and checked flights to Hartford. He frowned at the airfare, but booked a one-way ticket for eleven the next morning. He perused the online career section of the Chronicle of Higher Education and made notes.


Going into his bedroom, Drew hauled out a suitcase from the back of the closet and laid it on the unmade bed. He pulled out clothes from the bureau, placed them in the suitcase and stuffed a couple of suits in a garment bag. The bottle of pills on the bed stand caught his eye. He poured out two, then two more, and swallowed all four without water. Closing and moving the suitcase to the floor, he lay on the crumpled linens. He glanced at the clock: 2:38. Closing his eyes, he let the memories—bittersweet as they were—engulf him.


He saw his preschool teacher leading him to his little desk as his mother lingered in the doorway.


He saw himself as an eight-year-old on his knees next to the bed asking Jesus into his heart.


He saw his mother taking a picture of him in his high school cap and gown.


He saw Kendra grinning across the table in the student union, a dollop of whipped cream from the latte on her nose.


He saw her floating down the aisle on her father’s arm.


He saw Tony behind his desk, interviewing him on a sunny, spring day.


He saw him and Kendra kissing in the gazebo during orientation.


He saw the white casket being put inside the white hearse.


He saw Allison at the Christmas party in the sparkly green dress.


He saw her with Eliza nestled in her arms.


He saw the red car with the bashed-in rear fender in the ramp.


The shrill squeal of the phone sliced through his ears, a crack of thunder shook his bed, and Drew bolted upright in the darkened room. The red numbers of the clock glowed 9:12. He leaped out of bed, but when he stood his legs buckled, and he fell over the suitcase onto the floor. The phone screamed at him again. Like a flood, the dream from the bus rushed back: the storm … the ramp … the exit sign … footsteps … Allison!




Encouragement by Janell Butler Wojtowicz


Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing1 Thess. 5:11

Everyone agrees that no matter our calling—writer, computer programmer, teacher, business mogul—we need a mentor. I’ve had wonderful mentors throughout my life who guided my professional development.

But we need a cheerleader, too; someone on the sidelines waving the pompons of motivation and perseverance that spur us onto success. A decade ago my cheerleader, Dale, emerged when I embarked on the arduous trek to publish what became Embracing Hope.

I met Dale in our college’s communication program in 1979. (Whoops, I just dated myself!) His academic emphasis was graphic design; mine was journalism. We shared classes and struck up a friendship. After graduation, Dale and I went our separate ways out of state, married our spouses and had families. A decade later we ended up working together in the PR department of our alma mater. A new deeper friendship developed and even after we left our jobs at the college, we kept in touch through calls, emails, Homecomings, and occasional workday lunches.


Dale encouraged people wherever he met, whether me in my writing, co-workers, or people in his church who took part in drama productions that he directed. His gift of encouragement was his spiritual DNA. It came naturally and genuinely.

I began working on Embracing Hope in 2007, and Dale quickly became an ardent cheerleader. He was the first to read my pathetic attempts. He was purposeful in his encouragement, but not pushy. As bad as my early work was, he never said anything negative and never shot down my efforts. Sure, we discussed troublesome issues, but his suggestions were always accompanied by affirmations.

Dale would send me online articles, websites of potential agents and publishers, and inspirational pieces. In addition to our writing (he liked poetry and writing book reviews), we’d discuss pitching the novel, the uproar of traditional publishing in light of what I call the “Amazon Effect”, self-publishing, and marketing.

Over the years, as I labored over the novel and its sequels, Dale kept track of my progress (or lack thereof). He’d ask if I was working on the novel. I’d send him chapters to prove I was. When the novel sat—at one point it was on the shelf for over a year—he insisted that one day I’d be published and he vowed to be my first reviewer. Good, I thought. I’d get at least one 5-Star rating.

In early 2015, he sent me a database of small publishers that included those accepting manuscript submissions. I’d look through the email notifications that came from the database, but there were very few. Hang in there, he said, he’d keep praying.

On June 11, 2015, Dale suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack. He was 55. It hit me hard. I had lost one of my closest friends—the first in my circle. I questioned God’s purposes: Dale was too young, had too much potential, was a dynamic Christian, and had a loving family who needed him, including his only daughter getting married three months later.

Selfishly, I realized I had lost my cheerleader. Who would encourage me now?

Well, Dale did from the heavenly realms! In early 2016, it was as if he whispered, “Janell, it’s time.”

OK, Dale, I’ll try again for you. A few days later a database email came listing three potential small presses. One quickly offered me a contract and I signed knowing Dale would be thrilled. When the publisher closed its doors five months later, I wondered why God had taken me down this seemingly dead end path. Instead, God’s path took a turn via LinkedIn and my book was published by Discern Products in November 2016. Naturally, I dedicated Embracing Hope to Dale, who both on earth and now in heaven, cheered me on.

It was divine timing that I wrote this blog on May 3, Dale’s birthday. Thanks, Buddy. We did it!

We can all be cheerleaders in some way. I’m intent to “pay it forward” and hope to become the encourager that Dale was. How about you?

Janell’s Ah-hahs To Tweet:

Meet #ChristFic debut author Janell Butler Wojtowicz @janellwoj, writer of “people stories.” (Tweet This)

Author Janell Butler Wojtowicz @janellwoj speaks up: Encourage and build each other up! (Tweet This)

Like #ChristFic #Romance? #BookGiveaway of Janell Butler Wojtowicz’s @janellwoj Embracing Hope. (Tweet This)

Author’s Bio:

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. It’s no surprise that she has spent her entire 30-year career in writing, including newspaper journalism, Christian higher education and nonprofit public relations, and local government public information. Much of her writing has been the “people stories” of trial, tragedy and triumph, which are reflected in her debut novel, Embracing Hope. Janell is a freelance writer/editor, and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers and Romance Writers of America. She and her husband, Frank, live in New Brighton, Minnesota. She has two step-sons, a step-daughter-in-law and three step-granddaughters.

Places to connect with Janell:





Janell and I look forward to your comments.


22 comments to Janell Butler Wojtowicz Speaks Up!

  • Love this post. I think it’s very important to “pay it forward”, to encourage others. It’s one reason I judge contests. Someone judge when I was unpublished and they encouraged me so much.

    • elaineadmin

      Pat, you’re a phenomenal example of paying it forward. I appreciate all of your help, support, and definitely encouragement through the years on my writing. May God continue to bless your writing richly.

      And, of course, thanks for visiting.

  • Marilyn R

    Great interview with Janell about being an encourager. I’ve experienced the encouragement from others and always want to pay it forward. So many little ways to be an encourager to lift someone up in their journey of life.

  • Thanks for your comments, Pat. What’s nice about paying it forward is it doesn’t need to be a grand gesture like leaving a $100 tip. A friend of my mother’s takes a few minutes to send her a handwritten note on a pretty card. I know my mother appreciates them because she displays the cards and makes sure I see them.

  • Janell, so glad you had Dale to encourage you and keep you believing in your abilities. We all need someone to stand in our “corner” and urge us on. Only those who have walked the “writing” path know how lonely it can be and how “wobbly” our assurance can get. Keep the faith and press on! 🙂 And … may many more books have your name on them!

    • elaineadmin

      So, Karen, I’m not the only lonely, wobbly (debut) author around, huh? 😉 You might have been commenting to Janell, but I’m taking your advice to her and pressing on, too!! Thanks for your visit.

    • Karen, yes, that writing path has lots of ruts, but God always sends someone to pull us out. Recently, God sent me a new cheerleader who is stepping into Dale’s footsteps, so I’m blessed.

  • Ann Mock

    I love the cover of you new book! It really draws the interest of the reader.

    • elaineadmin

      Thanks for visiting, Ann. As a fellow author, it’s interesting to see what attracts a reader’s eye, especially if, like you, she’s an author too.

    • Janell Butler Wojtowicz

      Thanks, Ann. I fell for the cover when I saw Drew. He looks so sad! Makes me want to wrap him in a hug!

  • Esther Bandy

    Janelle, thank you for sharing your journey with us and reminding us of the importance of encouraging one another. Your book, Embracing Hope, sounds wonderful and I look forward to reading it.

    • elaineadmin

      Welcome to Everyone’s Story, Esther. I’m glad you enjoyed Janelle’s feature. You’re in the drawing for her Giveaway 😊

      I’m so touched that you visited and I hope to see you again.

  • Your excerpt from Embracing Hope certainly hooked my interest.

  • Esther and AnnaLee, thanks for taking the time to read my blog and first chapter. I hope you have encouragers like Dale in your life, and I challenge you to encourage others, too. It’s a win-win situation!

  • Charolette

    I would love to win a paperback

    • elaineadmin

      Charlotte, welcome to Everyone’s Story. Janell’s Giveaway is for an ebook edition, but let’s see first who the winner will be for the drawing and then we’ll take it from there.

  • elaineadmin

    While another week has ended on Everyone’s Story, another’s about to begin. For me, that’s spells Exciting with a capital E!!

    Heartfelt thanks goes out to my past week’s guest, the lovely Janell Wojtowicz. Thanks, Janell, for a touching post, as well as a fun week. I can tell my viewers enjoyed your visit with us. Thanks too for your BookGiveaway.

    And, the winner of Janell’s novel, Embracing Hope, is…

    Ann M. Yay, Ann 😊 Both Janell and I will contact you via direct emails. Happy reading!

    Blessings to all.

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