Thursday, September 28, 2017

Top 5 Reasons to Start a Women's Writing Group

I'm starting a new new women's writing group on Monday, here in Narberth, called Girls Write Out. (Thank you, I like the name too.) Why?

1. Writing is an isolated activity, and can feel lonely. Writing together in a group, giving and receiving feedback has been essential to my development as a writer.
2. A number of women I know express something like this, "I really want to write, but I don't know how to start." Or "I'd love to write but I struggle to make time for it." Or "I have a book I want to write, but I'm stuck." I relate to these obstacles, and I wanted to make a space where women can gather and write, together, in a supportive community.
3. I have started and been a part of other writing groups, some of which helped me a lot, some of which damaged me quite a bit. I have come to believe that a writing group needs a leader, someone to establish ground rules and ensure the rules are respected. This allows everyone to feel safe, and when we feel safe, we do our best work.
4. I believe we all have stories to tell, and I want to encourage new writers, and established writers, to claim their stories, write their stories, and share their stories.
5. Writing is how I make sense of the world; it is one of the ways I heal. I want to help other people find that outlet.

One of the students from a previous workshop had this to say:

"Over the course of a month in 2015, I took Julie’s weekly writing workshop and was impressed with her thoughtful and organized style, which drew on multiple tools to engage our group, encourage and draw out our ideas. Julie established a nurturing atmosphere for the workshop. We learned from Julie and each other. The positive vibes and different writing styles of the group emboldened and challenged me to open up and continue trying."

Please contact me if you're interested in learning more about Girls Write Out at

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Fuck You, Death

No one else I love is allowed to die. I'm serious. My heart can't take another one. I woke up yesterday morning, on my 41st birthday, and logged onto Facebook to see birthday wishes. As I scrolled I came across a post from Carol, my first writer friend. It was a sweet photo of one of her nephews as a child. I "liked" it, then noticed a comment that said, "This brought a tear to my eye. She loved her nieces and nephews so much." Wait, what?

I looked at the other comments, my heart beat picking up the news before my head could. Why was that written in the past tense? Why had this been posted by her husband? What the fuck was going on? I didn't want to believe it, but I messaged a mutual friend, asking if Carol had died.


Between my birthday and my last day of a job I really loved, I couldn't absorb that news yesterday. I wouldn't let myself even think about it. But this morning, after sleeping in, meditating, praying, talking to some friends, I looked at Carol's blog, and read this, her last blog post: Writing the Story of Your Life.

You have to be made of stone not to cry reading that. But I knew Carol, I loved her. And I didn't know her cancer had returned. We saw each other mostly during the summer, when I was closer to her home in Cape May. We hadn't talked in a few months, but I thought nothing of that. I was going to call her next week to set up a catch-up date.

I didn't get to say goodbye. I didn't get to tell her how much it meant to me that she befriended me at my first ever writer's conference; that she asked for my email information, and that we struck up an easy friendship. I didn't get to tell her how much I admired her perseverance with her writing. How she inspired me by self-publishing her two beautiful novels. How much I admired her move from Philly to the shore, and how she went after what she wanted in life with gusto.

Her last blog post talks about how she can be a friend to us from the beyond, but you know what? Fuck that. I have too many angels already. I don't want anymore. I want to have decadent pancakes with her at Clary's. I want to walk with her on the beach, or through Stone Harbor, looking at books. I want her support when my book comes out. I want my novelist friend, here, on earth, where I need her.

I will move through the sadness and anger, eventually, and the shock. I know I will. I've done it too many times before. And I will call on her help from the beyond. I do believe that my loved ones are still with me, in a different form. But I hate this.

The price for having a big, beautiful, rich life, so full of love, is having to say goodbye to people, sometimes much sooner than we are ready to do so.

Carol, thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your belief in my writing, and in me. Thank you for your work. Up until your last days, you wrote and published work that deeply moved me, and countless others. I'm angry we won't have any more writing from you, and I am so grateful, bone-deep, that you shared the work you did with us. Help me to follow your example, to have an eighth of your courage, persistence and grace. Thank you for blessing me with your love.