Gregory, Julie 1969–
Gregory, Julie 1969–
(Julie Jo elle Gregory)
PERSONAL: Born May 16, 1969, in Columbus, OH. Ethnicity: "Caucasian."
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Publicity Director, Bantam Dell Books, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Julie Gregory told CA: "Looking back, I can see that I wrote as a means of escapist survival. All my little notes and letters to people as a kid were like messages stuffed in a bottle and sent off the island where the clan rulers were hostile. I used to see kids in a K-Mart parking lot, swap addresses with them, and then they'd become my pen pals. My exchange with them was usually under a minute—in between the time I jumped out of the car in the parking lot and my mother got out and yelled for me to get my ass over there—and sometimes it took them so much by surprise they'd give me their address before even realizing what I was asking. It didn't matter if they were twelve or twenty-four. Complete strangers would get these letters from me with who knows what contained in those pages because there was no other means for me to say what was going on.
"My first writing cast out and responded to was by Readers Digest, I read an article about the bombings in Belfast, Ireland, and I saw this boy my age who had lost his parents and was in an orphanage and couldn't wait to get out of there and join the fighting. I wanted to write back and forth to him. Actually I wanted to be his girlfriend. I was ten then. I got a nice letter back from Readers Digest, but they said they couldn't send my letter over to him. That's the first time I grasped how sometimes media would use its subjects with little intent on helping or following up on any of the people it was reporting on. It wasn't that articulate, but of course they could have sent my letter to him; they knew where he was, what orphanage he was in, they read the letter, it was wonderful, they just didn't want to take the time; it wasn't in the direction of any of their goals.
"What influences my work is probably feeling the gulf between reality, between perception and the infinite variables of the outside world's reality and perception. I have the urge to write then and to chasm the distance between the two. When I'm at risk of being grown over by another's distorted or shy-of-the-truth perceptions or beliefs, I write to gain clarity of my own inner landscape. Then when I'm done, a lot of that writing [done for personal reasons] seems to have universal properties that can be applied to lots of situations. This is particularly helpful in good old-fashioned family dysfunction, which is where most of my published work leads from. There tends to usually be one truthful black sheep and the rest of the family is steeped in denial. This can really shake one's sense of reality, especially when sorting out the truth of family members or the past. And dysfunction is the same the world over; far more rampant and horrific than we'd ever want to comprehend.
"I usually hem and haw, procrastinate like crazy, start dreaming words on the page, in perfect text, feel anxious, have a few panic attacks, write on why I'm resisting writing, complain to my partner that I'm not writing on my work, watch a lot of baddd tv while mentally kicking myself for not tapping my god-given talent and just doing it, and then finally, after I've hit rock bottom in that cycle, I just start a thread, it unravels and I have a major portion of writing done in an insanely small amount of time. I wrote Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood, in about three months and it was close to thirty pages longer before the editing of it. I think I might have started the first chapter on one of those little snack napkins you get on an airline flight with the peanuts. I don't know how other writers are, but I couldn't read a book for almost a year after writing and editing mine. It literally was a self-induced, man-made obsessive-compulsive disorder I gave myself. I must have printed out the manuscript one hundred times and it was 300 pages. I read and re-read the same paragraphs until the words were automatically imprinted and I would read along in my head before my eyes were even caught up with the words. In late edits, I would hear the old way the paragraph read, even though I'd changed it. Then when it was done, I couldn't read a book without editing it as I read along.
"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that I got tired of talking. When I first started writing for a living, I was living pretty isolated—think Nell in a farmhouse on a mid-sized town campus. I didn't have many social skills and I was kind of desperate for a little intellectual interaction—and I certainly wasn't going to get it from the small-town yahoos I lived among. I think I loved to talk about my writing then because it was safe, I wasn't talking with someone face to face, I was doing interviews on the phone or e-mail and it was another medium to writing, one where I wasn't in hiding all the time and feeling like prey when I was out in public. But then I got tired of talking. And I started to see some of the banality of it, that no matter how good an interview you give, it's only as sharp as the reporter. Now, I just like to have entire days where I don't have to talk to anyone. Not even my partner if I'm too saturated or externalized. I use the time to float back to myself. I languish in my own interior world because if I don't, I can't write. You need space to do it, space to feel yourself and even find the threads of what you feel or want to say and if your partner isn't supportive of that, you're going to be fighting against yourself all the time. Stephen King gives the best advice: be willing to find a room with a door. And be willing to close it.
"Some of my favorite writing is my short or unfinished pieces, the stuff that is going to be used for books in the future. I once lived in this abandoned, three-storey pink hurricane house on Key West that perched in the back of an empty parking lot and had a mile of rotting sea grass running along outside. The week I unscrewed the boards that nailed the plywood to the door and started sleeping in the dark and peeing in an igloo cooler, was the week I began to write in my sleep. I saw perfect reams of text lined up and I put my sleepy hand out and could capture enough of the prime words to be able to reconstruct the feeling later, when I was awake. It also was the same week that the traveling carnival set up in that parking lot, right outside my door. So I'd have this peaceful model house interior with all these dreamy candles in tall skinny glass with religious motifs on them (because they were only ninety-nine cents from the grocery store) and then open the door to Motley Crue's "Shout at the Devil" blaring from the tilt-a-whirl twenty feet away. Surreal.
"I hope all sorts of things. That some of my writing will be carried around in a depressive kid's backpack and slipped, dog eared and double-underline inked (complete with exclamation marks) under his pillow at night, as a sort of teenage blankie. My work finds its way into the hands of young cutters and kids with suicidal tendencies due to being lone wolves in families or societies that can't or don't or won't see them and from there, I can lead them to others (people, places, or books) who offer mirroring and understanding. That the reader can realize that it doesn't matter what anybody tells you, or how anyone might try to hold you back in life, or mistreat you; you can get away and start your life where you want it or at least strive to get there. That you don't have to go from here to there, dragging your pain around like an old dying flap of skin, but you can unplug, make a quantum leap, slot into the highest place of your own shine and have that be your new base of self.
"For people that are new to writing and want to try to earn a living at it I offer this: I have no official high school diploma, have been homeless a couple times, have a crummy family and took only one writing class, and yet got accepted into a master's program when I was in my thirties based on my hard work and ambition, then went on to write a book that made its way to twenty countries—and as you know, I wrote part of that book (before it ever sold) when I was living in a miner's shack in Death Valley. You don't have to come from something to be something. If you have a vision as an artist, start from the top, only work backwards if you have to. Do anything you can to keep your inspiration alive and don't let small voices around you in. Most people, especially in small towns, cannot recognize true talent, beauty, or genius. People in general, even people who say they love you, often have little to zero comprehension of what you are really here to do in this life. You do. So tap into that and don't look back."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Gregory, Julie, Sickened: The Memoir of a Munchausen by Proxy Childhood, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 2003.