Bell, Julia 1971-

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Bell, Julia 1971-

PERSONAL:

Born 1971, in Bristol, England. Education: Attended University of Birmingham; University of East Anglia, M.A.

ADDRESSES:

Office—School of English and Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London, Malet St., London WC1E 7HX, England. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

University of East Anglia, Norwich, England, former faculty member and manager of university small imprint Pen & Inc Press; Birbeck, University of London, London, England, lecturer in M.A. program in creative writing;.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Award for Artists, Arts Council England East, 2003.

WRITINGS:

(Editor, with Jackie Gay) Hard Shoulder (short-story anthology), Tindal Street Press (Birmingham, England), 1999.

(Editor, with Jackie Gay) England Calling: 24 Stories for the 21st Century, (short-story anthology), Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 2001.

(Editor, with Paul Magrs) Creative Writing Coursebook: The Forty Authors Share Advice and Exercises for Fiction and Poetry, Macmillan (London, England), 2001.

Massive (novel), Young Picador (London, England), 2002.

Dirty Work (children's novel), Macmillan Children's Books (Riverside, NJ), 2007.

Founding editor of the biannual literary magazine Pretext. Massive has been published in several languages, including French, Finnish, and Thai.

SIDELIGHTS:

Julia Bell is a British writer and editor whose first novel, Massive, tells the story of the destructive relationship between fourteen-year-old Carmen and her mother, Maria, a weight-obsessed woman who becomes anorexic. Maria leaves Carmen's stepfather and moves with her daughter to Birmingham, where she not only obsesses over her own weight but also over her daughter's weight and health, forcing Carmen to partake in her mother's own dangerous diet and exercise regimen. The story is narrated by Carmen, who describes her mother's descent into physical ruin as well as her own struggle with bulimia and the refuge she finds with her mother's sister, who runs a local nail salon. A Kirkus Reviews contributor called the novel "a sad, sharp tale of food and pain." Ilene Cooper, writing in Booklist, commented that the author "does a masterful job of describing what anorexia looks like from the outside."

Bell has also coedited two short-story collections with Jackie Gay. Hard Shoulder features primarily new authors writing mostly about life in urban England. England Calling: 24Stories for the 21st Century was called "a hodge-podge of short fiction" by a Kirkus Reviews contributor. Mary Margaret Benson, writing in the Library Journal, noted that "prevailing sense [of the anthology] is of an England of inevitable bleakness."

Bell told CA: "What first got me interested in writing was reading. Reading stories and imagining myself inhabiting them, as if I were one of the characters, or turning on my ‘Magic Pillow’ and lying in bed, staring at my glo-stars making up stories in my head. I have a real sense of vocation about it, even from a really young age. I told my aunt when I was eight that I was going to be a writer. So, here I am. Who knew?

"My work is influenced by reading, especially something inspiringly written—Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, Julie Orringer's short stories, Michael Chabon, Meg Rossoff, David Almond, Murakami … And so on and on, and sometimes watching really good films. I like powerful stories that move the reader, the kind that you try and read even when you're boiling the kettle or doing the ironing or walking alone in the street.

"I write in the morning every day for about four hours, and then I usually have other responsibilities at Birkbeck to attend to. The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that a novel is always provisional until you get to the end.

"My favorite novel is always the one I am currently working on. With the novels I've written for young adults, all of the books are issue-based in some way— Dirty Work is about human trafficking and prostitution, Disser, the novel I am currently working on, is about characters who have disabilities. I guess you could say I'm tackling issues and trying to spin them a little differently. With Massive, for example, I wanted to look at anorexia from the outside, almost as a discourse. The first line of the book is a quote attributed to Liz Hurley (‘If I was as fat as her I'd kill myself’—Liz Hurley on Marilyn Monroe). With Dirty Work I was just plain angry. And I hope the book raises a few eyebrows. I do have another side, however, one which writes novels for adults and I am working on one very secretly, when my YA novels aren't looking."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, February 1, 2006, Ilene Cooper, review of Massive, p. 42.

Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2001, review of England Calling: 24 Stories for the 21st Century, p. 1563; December 15, 2005, review of Massive, p. 1318.

Kliatt, November, 2005, Annette Wells, review of Massive, p. 12.

Library Journal, February 15, 2002, Mary Margaret Benson, review of England Calling, p. 180.

New Statesman, January 31, 2000, Keith Martin, review of Hard Shoulder, p. 57; July 16, 2001, Nicholas Blincoe, review of England Calling, p. 56.

ONLINE

Birkbeck, University of London Web site,http://www.bbk.ac.uk/ (July 9, 2006), faculty profile of Bell.

Julia Bell Home Page,http://www.juliabell.net (July 7, 2006).

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