Interview with Julie C. Eger, Winter 2009 Contest Runner Up
When Julie isn’t busy with her regular job as a massage therapist she acts as coordinator for The Original Voice, a local venue she founded to help highlight some of Wisconsin’s most hidden talent including seasoned and unseasoned poets, writers, musicians, and artists through feature presentations and open mike events.
Julie lives with her wood-splitting/fisherman/plumber husband, a chocolate lab named Aggie, and a black Golden Doodle named Estr. She has two grown sons and two beautiful grandchildren. She didn’t start to take writing seriously until 2004 when she became a member of a local writing group, claiming she had finally found her ‘tribe.’ Much of her writing stems from group assignments but she would love a side job where she gets paid for her writing. It’s true she’s a dreamer, and even though she often gets lost in the words, she always finds her way home.
Interview by Jill Earl
WOW: First of all, Julie, congratulations on being selected as a runner-up in our Winter ’09 Flash Fiction Contest! How do you feel?
JULIE: Hi Jill, thank you and it’s so nice to talk with you and to be a runner-up in this contest! It feels amazing to have placed within the top ten and I’m still a little shocked to learn I made it this far.
WOW: Your entry was amazing! Mama’s Wish Comes True is so powerful! It wasn’t an easy read for me, yet I couldn’t tear myself away from the harrowing story and intense imagery. How were you able to come up with the idea behind your piece?
JULIE: This piece stems from my World History class back in 1975. There were images that stayed with me, and the story was born out of that. I was curious if the piece would be too dark for this contest. I get comments from the members of my writing group that I’m too dark with my writing. Sometimes I think I have to get the dark stuff out before I can write something lighter, but I’ve been working on some humorous pieces. I wrote a piece titled Bowling Green about a woman who wrecked her husband’s favorite bowling ball when she bowled over a bunch of little green aliens who kept wrecking her petunias. The writing I did for that was very different from this entry, but I want to learn to write about all kinds of things.
WOW: ‘Bowling Green’ sounds like a hilarious read, and I love the play on words with the title. Do you have a writing routine that you follow?
JULIE: My writing routines change with the seasons. In winter, I can roll out of bed writing at 4:00 AM. Then I’ll go through a phase where time is impossible to find so I set a timer and write whatever I can in 15 minutes. I amaze myself at how much I can accomplish in short spurts. Now, it’s summer and I’m all over the board. One thing I’ve learned about myself it’s that I’m consistently inconsistent. I think it’s a multi-tasking thing. The more I have going on, the better I write. When I’m doing something like vacuuming, or driving to the store, that’s when the best ideas come. I have a voice recorder I carry to capture ideas. Once I have the idea, anything goes! It’s my most effective way of writing.
WOW: I admire anyone who can write at 4 A.M, but regardless of the time, you've got to write. Those short spurts you mentioned really do add up. And tools such as voice recorders are very helpful in retaining ideas as they come; my PDA goes everywhere with me for that very reason.
Your bio mentions that you didn’t start to take writing seriously until 2004. How did that period of time become a turning point for you?
JULIE: My kids were grown and gone. I had extra time on my hands and one day I sat down to write a brief history of my family, and then stopped at 396 pages, about 6 months later. That experience surprised me in how caught up I was with the idea of writing. I loved playing with words, rearranging them, thinking of interesting ways to phrase things. There was a writer hiding inside, and that experience brought it to the forefront for me.
WOW: The process of exploring your family history and discovering the writer inside you is inspiring. And ‘Playing with words, thinking of interesting ways to phrase things,’ appears to sum up the essence of writing.
In addition to writing, you have a regular job as a massage therapist, and you founded and coordinate a local venue called The Original Voice, which showcases writers, musicians, poets and artists in Wisconsin. How do you manage to balance them all?
JULIE: Being self-employed and at the mercy of my client’s schedules, I have no set schedule. It’s like working without a net, and when you do that, you’ve got to find a way to achieve balance in your life or things can start to fall apart. I think the key in that regard is that I’m doing things I love. I love my work as a therapist. I love writing and all that is involved in that arena. And showcasing some of the hidden talent in our rural area is very rewarding. Some of the artists have never performed in front of an audience and it is amazing to see how they shine when they get a chance.
WOW: You truly are blessed to be working at what you love! Speaking of The Original Voice, can you tell us how you became involved?
JULIE: A few years ago I took a few writing classes, and after one class they held an open mic to showcase our work. I’d never experienced an open mic before. While I was sitting in the audience, I kept thinking, “We need something like this where I live. We have people who have stories to tell.” That’s how it began. It also helped that I had my own microphone, amp, and speaker from when I belonged to an all girl band called ‘The Reflections.’ I think I’ve always had a secret desire to be heard, since my voice is so quiet and I thought maybe other people might have the same problem, the same desire. The microphone unleashes something inside. Everyone has a story and it’s important for those stories to be told. Hearing them in the author’s own voice is very powerful.
WOW: How fortunate that The Original Voice has you as an advocate for writers and other artists in your hometown. If you weren’t willing to help your peers get their voices heard through their writing, some would never be known.
Besides runner-up in WOW!’s Flash Fiction Contest, you are also a three-time winner of the Wisconsin Regional Writers Association Jade Ring Contest. How have you found success in entering contests?
JULIE: When I first started writing I wanted to know if, how, and where my writing might fit so I decided to enter a contest. It was scary to send out my first entry, and I was surprised when it took second in state. I kept sending things in. Some of my work didn’t place, but some of it did, and some entries took first. I was using the contests to help me define what kind of writing suited me. I viewed the judges as though they would be editors considering a piece for publication. Having that background gave me enough courage to send an entry to WOW! I don’t have much training behind me, and it was a gauge I could use to see where I fit and if people liked what I was writing. Through this, I began to see the strength in my essays, poems, and short stories.
WOW: Using contests to discover what writing best fits you---I think that’s a great idea. You get to experiment with various forms, while sharpening your skills. It also helps that you didn’t get discouraged when one of your entries didn’t place, but kept the momentum going by entering other contests.
So, Julie, can you share what you’re currently working on?
JULIE: I’m having fun writing simple how-to articles for eHow (thanks to a link from WOW! - see Julie Eger or Jukota at http://www.ehow.com/) but I think the most serious writing I’m doing is a collection of short stories. Even though I wrote a novel (which – by the way - is still available for just the right publisher whenever they’re ready!) and though I’m extremely fond of poetry, I think I’m more of a short story writer. For a long time, I kept thinking I had to write a novel, because that’s what people would want to read, but I’ve found I really like short stories, and if the stories are good enough, people will want to read them.
WOW: You definitely have plenty on your plate, but that’s a good thing! What’s one piece of advice you’d like to offer aspiring writers?
JULIE: The one piece of advice I would give is that there is more than one way to become a better writer:
1. WRITE. A blank page will leave you with nothing to send out. Some of my best work has come from just jotting down what was on my mind in the morning when I woke up. If I hadn’t caught it on the page, it would be gone forever. It’s a tool to work from.
2. RESEARCH. Know something about the publication where you plan to send your work. Do you THINK it will be a good fit or do you KNOW if it will be a good fit? Always follow the publisher’s guidelines.
3. SUBMIT YOUR WORK. Buy a stamp and an envelope. Hit ‘send’ on your computer. Use rejections as a tool to help you become a better writer. Use work you’ve had accepted as a tool to help you become a better writer. Write what you love, let it set for three days, read it out loud, make corrections, and then send it out.
WOW: Write. Research. Submit your work. Classic advice for writers.
Julie, thank you so much for taking time out to chat today with WOW! Best of luck and we’ll see you on the writing front!