Congratulations to Julie Hester and Lucy's Lips and all the winners of our 2022 Quarter 1 Creative Non-Fiction Essay Contest!
Julie Hester has served progressive faith communities as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church USA, and is a freelance writer specializing in curriculum and faith formation. She leads workshops on writing through grief, and writing as a spiritual practice, and helps others discover the power of writing in company with a supportive group. Scattered in the pages of her composition books and computer files are the beginnings of a memoir, a couple of children’s books, and a novel draft that makes her laugh. Julie lives in North Carolina with a patient spouse, an anxious dog, and an open door for her young adult children to come home. Find out more about her work and subscribe to her weekly writing prompts at www.juliehester.com. This is her first contest submission.
If you haven't done so already, check out Julie's talent in writing with the touching story Lucy's Lips and then return here for a chat with this talented author.
WOW: Thank you Julie for sharing your essay. It's so inspiring to hear from our contestants - I always learn something! I'm sure you've got some great tips and tricks to share, so let's get to it!
Where do you write? What does your space look like?
Julie: I write all over the house. I have a favorite chair by a window in two different rooms, and I’ve gotten good at switching between my composition notebooks and my computer on my lap. I also have a home office upstairs, but my dopey senior dog Twyla prefers that I write downstairs with her.
WOW: I love that you've got a companion writing with you - Twyla sounds like a lovely companion! What’s next for you? What are your writing goals for 2022 and beyond?
Julie: In 2022 my goal is to choose between several ideas for a non-fiction book project, and make some progress on it—either one of two memoir ideas, or a writing guide and devotional for people who are grieving. Or work on the children’s book idea I have. Or pick up my NaNoWriMo fiction book again. Or take a poetry class. Like the space where I write—all over the house—I write all over different genres too. I’d like to actually finish something this year, as well as enjoy the process of writing whatever is most compelling to me in the moment.
WOW: Sounds like you'll be very busy - all those options and ideas; you certasinly won't be bored!
What role has journaling and/or writer's groups played in your life?
Julie: I’ve been a haphazard journaler since my first yellow diary with the lock and key I had in second grade. Half-filled notebooks are my favorite item to collect. I discovered the power of writing in company with others when I reluctantly walked into a one-day writing workshop for bereaved mothers. I was five years past the death of one of my twin sons, and knew I needed some way to process my grief. The group of grieving mothers that met one another that day has now been writing together for nineteen years. We usually meet twice a year for a weekend, but we’ve also traveled to a French chateau, the desert Southwest, and Willa Cather’s Nebraska prairie. We’ve written a book, host a blog, and share what we’ve learned to help others heal. Our group texts have given us all life during the pandemic. My experience with that group of writers led me to train as a facilitator with Amherst Writers & Artists, and I lead online and in-person writing groups where I get to share the power of reflective writing with others.
WOW: That certainly speaks strongly about the power of journaling and healing. Thank you for sharing in oh so many ways to help others.
This was your first contest submission - tell us what prompted you to submit? What would you like to tell other authors concerning contests and submitting their work?
Julie: Just do it! It’s terrifying and thrilling at the same time. I’ve been thinking about “someday” for a long time. Someday I’ll polish that piece. Someday I’ll have something good enough. Someday I’ll find the right journal or website. What if today is someday?
WOW: That right there is worth it's weight in gold - I hope others really follow you're great example!
How did you get started with your weekly writing prompts? What drives you in this arena?
Julie: I write better when I have a prompt to get started. My weekly writing prompts are as much for me as for those on my mailing list. They can be a starting point for morning pages, a prose essay, a poem, a journal entry, or an idea that writers just tumble around for a while in our heads until something unexpected comes out later. Choosing prompts to share has become a kind of spiritual practice for me. I’ve learned I need to slow down enough to notice what’s happening around me, and reframe it as inspiration for writing. Like the moment I wrote about in my piece Lucy’s Lips—it could have been gone and forgotten. Instead, the prompt to “write about something seen in a mirror” led to a memory I gratefully captured on paper.
WOW: This has been so inspiring - thank you ever so much Julie for sharing your essay, and your time with us today! We look forward to more from you in 2022 and beyond!