3 Things I've Learned about Writing & Life

During the past two years, I’ve made some big changes in my life.

I quit my full-time job to become a full-time writer.
I co-authored the first book of a fantasy series.
I wrote my first YA novel.
I wrote and sold my first picture book in half a decade.
I climbed Machu Picchu and traipsed Ireland to solve a family mystery.
I moved from a big house to a small apartment with two (large!) teenage sons.
I downsized my possessions to a minimum and donated the rest.
I trained to become a volunteer advocate for abused and neglected children in the court system.

When I write it all down like that, it sounds like a lovely, busy, rewarding time…and it has been. But those two years have also been stressful and hard, and I experienced dozens of false starts, flubs, and failures. Yet in the spirit of learning from my mistakes, I offer you three lessons I learned along the way.

1. Circle the Wagons.  Keep yourself surrounded by people who nurture and protect your dreams, the friends and family members who build you up, make you laugh, and give you a gentle yet firm kick in the pants when you’re being a twit or blowing a deadline. These people are your personal defense shield in the world, your very own Dumbledore’s Army.  Keep them close, love them back, and GO FIGHT EVIL together. (I’m pretty sure this is the actual key to the universe, friends, so don’t delay!)

2. Toss your Stuff. Baggage comes in many forms: material possessions, people who take from you more than they give, mental clutter and addictions, the inner critic who won’t let you fall asleep at night, the snarky comment or book review that eats you alive. We let all of this “stuff” hold us back, mess with our heads, distract us from our goals and dreams. Ask some trusted friends for help (see “Circle the Wagons” above), and dig in. Or dig out, as the case may be. But always keep your eyes on the true and simple, for there you will find a single perfect gem worth preserving.

3.  Trust Yourself. Stop letting other people tell you what to do and how to do it. This advice may strike you as ironic, given the prescriptive nature of this blog post. But I write this list of three mainly as a reminder to myself. When I compare myself to others—to the many more accomplished, successful writers out there, to the mothers who bake rainbow cupcakes for room parties and never miss a PTO meeting, to my gorgeous girlfriends who run marathons in their spare time (honestly, stop it already!)—I’m creating exactly the baggage I just told you to toss.

I can only write and parent and age to the best of my own abilities, not those of anyone else. 

The same goes for you.

As Goethe once said, “Trust yourself, then you will know how to live.”

We’re all just works-in-progress around here.

Edit yourself with a tender pen.

Revise yourself with care.


Author Visits

Engaging, fun presentations designed to:

* spark creativity
         * encourage innovative thinking
                 * promote multicultural awareness
                         * inspire readers and writers of all ages!

School Visits (K - 8)
Julia’s 45-minute presentations are specifically tailored for both the age range and group size of the intended audience. Each presentation is a fast-paced, interactive experience, incorporating a variety of book-based activities to involve the audience, such as choral read-alouds, readers’ theater, “pop quizzes,” and multimedia props. As a former school librarian, Julia draws upon her experience with a variety of literacy strategies to ensure that her presentations inform as well as entertain.

Skype Visits (K - 8)

Julia’s 30-minute Skype visits are an affordable way for students to “meet” an author and have the opportunity to exchange ideas and ask questions. These visits work best if students are already familiar with Julia’s books and have prepared their questions in advance. 

Rates (as of 6/2013)

School Visits: $1500/day for up to 3 presentations (45 minutes each).
Travel expenses additional for visits beyond a 100 mile radius of Ottawa, Illinois.

Skype Visits: $200/session          

For more information, please send an email to juliadurango(at)yahoo(dot)com

About Julia

Portrait of Julia by Bridget Stevenson

I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada, to the Greiders. They always called me Julie when I was a kid, not Julia (too adult-sounding!), and I still go by both names. Due to my father's job, our family moved often. My older sister, Sherry, and I attended seven different schools in five states from California to Rhode Island. We never minded, as we always had each other wherever we went. It helped that we were close in age — born exactly one year and one week apart.

Julie & Sherry, 1970
When Sherry started school ahead of me and began learning how to read, I was SO jealous! But my sis was nice enough to come home every day and teach me how to read. By the time I started Kindergarten, I was an avid reader. Now Sherry is a teacher and reading specialist...and I still love to read.

Julia & friends in Bogotá, Colombia

In 1985 I left home to attend the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where I received degrees in Latin American Studies and Political Science. I traveled frequently to Latin America during that time, but mostly to Colombia, where I worked in a program for street children. I loved working with the kids, but it was also very sad to meet so many kids without homes or families. I later co-authored a chapter in Hate Crime: the Global Politics of Polarization about the abuse and murder of Colombian street children. I still travel to Colombia whenever I can.

Now I live with my sons in Ottawa, Illinois, where I spend my days reading and making up stories.
Press Photos (right click to copy or save):
Photo credit: Lori Nicoli