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Interview with Julie Lockhart, Q4 2022 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest Runner Up


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Julie Lockhart spent most of her career in academics, publishing extensively in peer-reviewed journals, such as Critical Issues in Environmental Taxation, and Advances in Accounting Education. During the last years of her career, she led a grief support nonprofit, where she discovered the beauty and depth of personal stories, sharing her own experience as well as that of others to help grieving people feel less alone. Her essays have appeared in the Medford Mail Tribune, Ashland Daily Tidings, Women on Writing and the Journal of Wild Culture. Julie’s website is: www.julietales.

interview by Marcia Peterson

WOW: Congratulations on your top ten win in our Q3 2022 Creative Nonfiction essay competition! What inspired you to write your essay, “Lego Girl?”

Julie: Thank you for these questions! Lego Girl came out of a writing class with Chelsey Clammer. She had an assignment choice to write about a special toy from childhood while weaving in some research. I pretty quickly came up with Legos since they enhanced my creativity as a child and occupied me for hours. When I write about the challenges I’ve faced in my life, I also strive to show how I’ve moved through them so the reader may be inspired to grow through their own stuck places. Lego Girl evolved into such an essay.

WOW:  That's great, and we love to hear of your successful experience with  Chelsey's class. How did your essay develop, both in your initial thinking about it and in the revision process?

Julie: Sometimes I know my story line right away, but for this one I had to work it out as I went along. The assignment required taking a different look at how to tell my story. I started out with researching some of the basic facts about Legos as I told the story of building Lego mansions as a kid. The writing then reminded me that my messiness around Legos followed me into adult life, which brought me to the relationship with my first husband where my messiness triggered his anger. I started to see how Legos could become a metaphor for the mold my parents and other relationships tried to put me in. I know I’m not alone in the challenge of breaking molds to become who we are, especially for women. Next, I looked to the research to see what benefits Legos have for Attention Deficit Disorder, which I was happy to find. I hoped to take the reader through my own understanding that ADD was actually a good thing; the way my brain works, once I was able to understand it, has allowed me to have a very successful career. Intuitively, I chose to write the essay in third person. This is the first time I’ve done this, and I really like how it came out. As I edited the piece, I worked to weave appropriate metaphors of Legos into the essay, such as “hard plastic hurts,” and “…they broke the mold…” I also found the writing process to be cathartic – where I came from, and where I am now. I didn’t know how I would construct the essay until I did; the different aspects of the essay and the ending surprised me, which is fun!

WOW: Thank you for sharing your essay writing process. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?

Julie: I’m often in the middle of several books at the same time, part of my ADD nature. Priest Daddy, by Patricia Lockwood, is a wonderful memoir that I recommend. I am also reading a lot of literary magazines online to get a feel for where my essays might be accepted. I have a lot of unpublished pieces, and a “stack” of rejection letters (part of the process), although I’ve had some recent successes. This comes from studying these magazines and persistence in continuing to submit!

WOW: Are you working on any fun writing projects? What’s next for you?

Julie: It’s all fun, especially since I’m retired and looking back at my life from a place of peace and contentedness. I’ve been focusing on learning and experimenting with the different forms of writing personal essays, such as collage and braiding. I recently revised a personal story by braiding in another story from my childhood. I watched the piece magically transform from a good story to one with so much more depth. And then there’s my memoir. I want to get back to it as winter sets in, but I’ve been having so much fun writing short essays where my ADD brain loves that the finish line is in sight. I’m starting to look at classes on writing a memoir so that I get an outside push to finish it!

WOW: Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Julie. Before you go, can you share a favorite tip or piece of advice related to creative nonfiction writing?

Julie: The best thing I’ve done for myself is to loosen up my writing and experiment with different forms of constructing essays. My professional career started in academics (accounting) where I stuck with all the rigid writing rules I learned in school. Creative nonfiction writing has given me the opportunity to explore and break out of rigid molds. I encourage it for everyone!

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For more information about our quarterly Flash Fiction and Creative Nonfiction Essay contests, visit our contest page here.

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