“The imagination is a precious and delightful entity. If you allow yourself to explore, you’re open to learning new things..” –Julie Poole
Julie Poole was born in Seattle, Washington, and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She received a BA from Columbia University and an MFA in poetry from The New Writers Project at The University of Texas at Austin. She is currently a profession track journalism student at UT’s School of Journalism and Media. Her first book of poems, Bright Specimen, was inspired by the Billie L. Turner Plant Resources Center at UT and was published in June 2021. In 2022, Bright Specimen was a finalist for the Writers’ League of Texas Book Award. Her second book, Gorgeous Freak, is forthcoming from Deep Vellum in 2023. She has received fellowship support from the James A. Michener Center, the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, The Corsicana Artist and Writer Residency, and Yaddo. In 2017, she was a finalist for the Keene Prize for Literature. Her poems and essays have appeared Denver Quarterly, Poet Lore, Cold Mountain Review, Porter House Review, HuffPost, and elsewhere. Her arts and culture writing has appeared in Split Lip Magazine, Publishers Weekly, The Texas Observer, Texas Monthly, Scalawag, and Bon Appétit. She received support from the Economic Hardship Reporting Project to write about unpaid caregiving for Yes! Magazine, a piece that will be anthologized in 2023. You can learn more about Julie at her website.
On Saturday, February 4th, Julie Poole is teaching a class for the WLT called “Writer’s Reset: Mapping Your Writing Goals for 2023.“ In this class you’ll learn more about how to start the year off with a fresh look at your projects, both ongoing and new.
Here’s what Julie had to share with us:
Scribe: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you write? How did you come to writing?
Julie Poole: I write poetry, nonfiction, and a blog about personal finance called Maximum Rich. Like many people, I discovered writing through journaling. My high school guidance counselor suggested that I keep a journal as a creative space to dump my very intense adolescent feelings. I’ve journaled pretty much every day since 1994. Journaling was a catalyst for exploring poems, short stories, essays, and articles—forms that work best for an audience beyond the self.
Scribe: In your own work, how do you approach overcoming the challenges that come with writing, be it writer’s block or craft or business-related challenges?
JP: One of the biggest breakthroughs I’ve had in overcoming writing challenges is understanding that it’s okay to not know what I’m doing. Sometimes as writers, we expect big things right out of the gate, forgetting there that are so many small steps in between. If you’ve never written a novel before, of course it’s going to be a challenge; it’s new! If you were preparing for a marathon, you probably wouldn’t just show up—without any prior training—and expect to make it to the finish line. It helps to be kind to yourself. I’m constantly having to say to myself “be kind.” I’ve been working on a memoir for five years and it’s been very important to me to practice my skill by writing shorter essays. Finishing shorter pieces also helps boost my confidence to stick with my memoir for the long haul.
Another critical shift I’ve had is to remember that publishing is a business. In a certain sense, even as creative people, we’re still selling a product. That can be a challenge for someone like me, a poet, who would prefer that writing remain this pure activity worth pursuing because I love it. Agents and publishers want to why your book is new, relevant, magnetic, and why you’re the person to write it—understanding this can help you to shape your career so that it’s clear what you bring to the table.
Scribe: Has there been a moment of epiphany in terms of your work, when you thought, “This is it! Now I know what I’m doing?” How long did that feeling last?
JP: When I was getting an MFA in poetry at UT, I asked my mentor Dean Young when he finally felt like a poet. He told me after he published his second book. I was surprised by this. When you’re building your identity as a writer it can take a while for imposter syndrome to quiet down. I don’t think it ever fully goes away. I understood that if I was going to struggle with feelings of inferiority and doubt, that I might as well try to have fun and give myself permission to follow my instincts. When I tapped into my inner voice that pushed all the other BS aside. My writing automatically became more authentic and confident because my creative brain just wouldn’t shut up.
Scribe: What piece of advice do you find yourself giving to writers again and again?
JP: Explore! The imagination is a precious and delightful entity. If you allow yourself to explore, you’re open to learning new things. If you hold onto your work too tightly it can harden into a cement block. It’s a good idea to imagine you’re playing with clay—this allows your vision to morph into something even better than you imagined.
Scribe: What is one thing that people will take away from this class?
JP: Setting yourself up for success means setting yourself up with a support system made up of three main elements: a writing routine, community support, and selfcare. Think of it as a three-legged stool—all three legs are needed, so you don’t tip over.
Click here to learn more about Julie Poole’s upcoming class.