Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Good for the Soul

In a fit of near-graduation panic, I applied to a couple of MFA programs during the winter break of my senior year. Much to my surprise, the program chair of one of the schools called to tell me I had been accepted. I was walking up a grand staircase in the Treasury building on the way back to my desk after lunch, and after I hung up, I slumped down on those steps in the rather dramatic way that only interns can pull off.

My mom went out to Idaho with me a few weeks later, and I got to meet that professor and loads of other writing students. At dinner in Spokane, my mom and I talked about our lives, and my parent's marriage, and what it means to be successful and fall in love. There was something I couldn't put my finger on, but I knew that this school, which had lentil fields that stretched on for long miles beyond the campus, wasn't for me.

One week later, I met Peter.

I do not regret passing up graduate school, but there are times when I long for the body of work that I surely would have produced as a student. I wrote this post during a time when I was feeling some of that angst. So many of you seemed to interpret it as happy and sweet, but I felt antsy and a little stuck - searching for the lofty and astonishing.

I turned to google in my time of need (don't we all?), in search of some kind of writing contest that would make me feel like I could produce material any time I wanted. I found that the Chicken Soup for the Soul series was accepting submissions for an upcoming books on weddings and engagements. I whipped something up, sent it off, and promptly forgot about it. More than a year later, they wrote to let me know that my little essay had made the cut.

And today, I came home to a giant box from the publisher - the very publisher that I used to work for in New York. It was a terrible job for me. It made me weepy and irritable. There were times when I had so many knots in my back, I felt like I couldn't fully fill my lungs with air. I left after just a year.

MFA or not, I think my professional life would have followed a similar trajectory. I would have wanted to try traditional publishing, and then I would have returned to international development, and ultimately I would try to figure out a way to marry the two. I am still working that out. But if I had done that MFA program in Idaho, I would not be married to Peter. And it turns out that he is the key element - the very best part - of my lofty and astonishing life.

 *   *   *

As you can see, I have been gifted with quite a few copies of this book. If you would like one - for yourself or someone you know who is recently engaged or planning a wedding - I would be absolutely delighted to send a copy along! Email me at fresh.basil.blog AT gmail.com.


  1. This post is the PERFECT example of what a stellar writer you are. Can you submit THIS to another contest? You'd make the cut again, for sure. Congratulations on having your piece published - I am so impressed! Next time I'm at the bookstore I will make a point to read it!

  2. What a wonderful post - I'm very lucky you don't live in Idaho!

  3. Oh, Julie, congratulations! I'm so proud of you that I have tears in my eyes! Your essay has been published AND today's post is lovely! I will buy the book tomorrow! On top of all that, Peter's comment is so sweet!

    1. Oh, Ann, this is so sweet of you. But please, please, allow me to send you a copy! I will ask Kate for your address. It will come later this week!

  4. Julie, I am fortunate enough to remember an early foray into creative writing...something about a family trip to visit colleges...and it was clear even then how talented you are and how the world needs to read more of your work. To be published, how exciting?!

    And how funny how life works out, isn't it?

  5. YAY, Julie!! How exciting!! I will definitely check out your entry the next time I am at Barnes and Noble! Life had a truly special way of working itself out! So happy for you and all of your accomplishments!!

  6. Julie, how exciting! Hooray! I'll definitely check out the book. What a great accomplishment!

  7. So cool, Julie! You are a beautiful writer, and you have a beautiful marriage. Life has been so good to you!

  8. Julie! I am so excited for you and proud of you! What a great accomplishment. I will check it out and get one for my sister - she's getting married next month!


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