Tuesday, May 19, 2009

 

Interview with Julie Hoerth - Runner Up in WOW! Fall Essay Contest

Health writer by day. Freelance writer and novelist by night.

Fall essay contest runner up Julie Hoerth writes for a nutritional supplement company. Her subjects: natural medicines, covering everything from women's nutrition to mind/body fitness. But her favorite genre is creative nonfiction. Julie's work has appeared in local newspapers, magazines and business journals. Currently, she's co-authoring her first book.

Julie mentioned this is the first writing contest she has entered since the fourth grade and she was thrilled to be a finalist. WOW! is thrilled for her, too.

Have you read Julie's essay, Weight-Bearing Walls? Surf on over to WOW! and read it. You'll be glad you did.

WOW: Congratulations, Julie! I'm sure our readers are interested in learning about your approach to writing. Let's get started!

Your first image conjures up a happy home. I like the contrast with your husband's home. It shows that not everything in life is perfect and every house is full of secrets. How did you determine which memories to integrate and show how things can be similar yet different?

Julie: The memories from my childhood were easy…we are a close family, and dogs were considered kids/siblings at our house. My husband comes from a huge family, so sharing memories of large celebrations was only fitting. Both my husband and I were brought up by very loving parents in households where faith played an integral role. Those themes made it easy to tie the piece together. Obviously, I left a lot of memories out of the piece – word limits can be a blessing.

WOW: Yes, a word count keeps writing tight and makes a writer be selective. Speaking of being, selective, I find "putting the house through therapy" an interesting concept. Did the entire house go through therapy or just select rooms?

Julie: Oh, the entire house will have gone through therapy when we’re completely finished! Anyone that’s worked on a house knows it takes much longer to complete than you anticipate. I’ve never considered myself superstitious, but I must be to some extent – I really felt the need to change this home, to make it “ours”, and start fresh. I tend to try to control things that are out of my hands, and “putting the house through therapy” was my attempt to clear out any bad juju. (Who am I kidding – I must be superstitious!) But then you realize that erasing the past is impossible, and it’s the ability to forgive that allows you to move on and create new memories.

WOW: That's so true! Forgiveness has powerful effects. How did you determine which of your husband's memories should be included in your essay?

Julie: I got permission. I was sensitive to his feelings from the moment I started writing. It could have been edgier, but dredging up the past wasn’t my intent. A key part of this essay was the line, “despite hard times…” In fact, that was an alternate title I was considering. People are innately good, but we all make mistakes and have regrets. Thankfully, we are also able to grieve, forgive, heal and hopefully grow. Life goes on. At the same time, I didn’t want to minimize the events of my husband’s childhood. In many ways, they contribute to the person he is now.

WOW: That's such an important realization. It's great you understand how the past makes him the person he is.

Let's talk about writing. Your job requires different styles of writing. What brain switch do you have to make to focus on creative non-fiction and fiction?

Julie: At work I write marketing collateral, packaging copy, web articles, etc. Depending on the particular job, I’ve had to learn what level of creativity I can bring to the piece. Switching from non-creative to creative is quite easy – it comes more naturally for me. Switching the other way can be a challenge – it just takes a little more work. I have just started writing some fiction at home, and it’s not too tough to make the switch. It’s like taking a vacation from the writing I usually do, and there’s a sense of freedom knowing that I’m doing it just for me – at this point I’m not worried about critics or an audience.

WOW: That's wonderful! I'm sure the different styles provide that balance of freedom. What's your non-work writing routine like?

Julie: It’s…interesting. There’s no rhyme or reason to it at this point. I’m not one of those people that gets up before the rest of the world to hammer out five pages of writing each morning, but I wish I was. Since I write all day at work, I have to summon up the energy to face the computer screen once I get home – and I actually manage to a couple nights a week. I let my thoughts run wild. At work I have to remain focused, so once I get home, I’m all over the place. I guess that’s why I start much more than I finish. I’m working on that…

WOW: Good luck finding your focus! Those of us who juggle a full-time job and write empathize with the dilemma. Have you entered and/or won other contests? Any advice you'd like to offer to writers considering entering a contest?

Julie: I won a fiction contest in 4th grade with a story called Skates on High. It was about a little girl who could fly when she put on her magic roller skates. So it only took me about twenty years to enter another one. We all have the grandest of intentions, but we make excuses and let life get in the way. After entering this contest, I encourage other writers to just do it. It’s amazing what kind of support is out there for you, and you’ll miss a lot of great opportunities if you never try!

WOW: Excellent advice! What projects are you currently working on?

Julie: I am currently co-authoring a book with a friend who lost her brother when she was young. Her family had published a grief book a few years ago, and this is more of a “life after grief” book. I have so much admiration for her – she and her family created a scholarship foundation that surpassed any of their expectations, and this book is a tribute to the many people they have met along the way. You can learn more about their foundation at briansjourney.com.

WOW: Thanks, Julie, for talking about your essay and your writing ideas. Good luck with your book project.

Interview by LuAnn Schindler

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