The Writing Life
Since 10th Grade, Julie has always considered herself a writer. In high school and college, it was journalism. After graduate school, when asked, "Do you know how to write a business plan?" she replied, "Sure" (never having seen one before), therein starting her long career in writing business plans. She branched out to writing other marketing and investor-related documentation, as well as learning other things about marketing, strategy, and the world of early-stage startups and venture capitalism along the way. Most recently, she has turned to writing short fiction. Over a dozen of Julie's short stories have been published (see below), and she is currently seeking a publisher for her collection of linked stories. Check out her favorite resources for writers and her list of top 100 novels.
The girl at Barbara’s door on Saturday morning wears gleaming lip gloss. Frizzy dark hair pulled back in a ponytail, she’s fresh-faced, familiar-looking. Like the blurry mass of pre-teen girls who bounce around the neighborhood, her jeans have trendy tears running up and down the leg, and her designer t-shirt is emblazoned with “Who’s your baby?”
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Hal isn’t ready for the bevy of people who will flock to his house this week. He’s awake and downstairs before anyone else. With bent back, he drags the heavy bag of seeds out from under the banister. When the grandchildren were younger, they’d aid in the task, and it’s possible one of them will stumble into the kitchen now and help him lift.
A trepidation of yellow warblers, Vi said. When they’re in a group. Or a sweetness. She read aloud from “Birds of Connecticut” as he scrambled egg beaters on the stove.
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The Ultimate Guide to Surviving the Next Four Months While I am Out Enjoying Maternity Leave
We Are Not All Impudent Snobs
Riggwelter Press, Issue 10
June 1, 2018
The orange juice turns tart on Brad’s tongue when Paul mentions the tear gas. His roommate is a practiced protestor but this is Brad’s first. Nat, Paul’s girlfriend, puts the polishing touches on their placard. They joke he’s a protest virgin. Aunt Ellen has her back to him, scrambling eggs for his friends, but it’s not hard to detect her displeasure. It was a mistake to ask his aunt if they could crash in her basement. Brad knew she’d say yes, of course, but her soft spot for her nephew will not extend to his friends if they speak crassly in her house.
The Way Forward
The SFWP Quarterly, Issue 13, Spring 2018
Ella veers and ducks to avoid the thorns but it’s no use: her arms and legs are full of pricks and she is bleeding in at least two spots. The helmet slides down over her left eye, then right, depending on the direction she swerves, but if she dismounts here, she’ll lose yelling distance with Jonas and will never find her way. By mid-July the trail should be well-travelled, the thick summer overgrowth trampled by hikers or cyclists, but this one is not. What seemed like a stroke of luck hours ago – pristine views all to themselves, no congestion on the trails – worries her now. The hair on Ella’s arms glistens and her skin stings where it’s been lashed. Gravel crunches under her tires, her bike chain whirs, but loudest of all are the animate noises: the rhythmic chirp-chirp-chirp from the evening crickets and a persistent low buzz, she’s not sure from what. She tries to kick negative thoughts away with each pedal and un-remember that the area is well-known for its snakes.
Ellipsis Zine, February 26, 2018
Millie is smattered and smacked in the sea like lacy lingerie in a heavy load of denim. The salty water stings her lips and prickles her thighs. She emerges, heaving and dripping, and splatters forward in the direction of the arrows. Peels off the silicon swim cap, grasps her goggles, and runs with her gaze on the ground to avoid sharp rocks. The asphalt path to transition is long and steep but gives her time to reorient. The crowd is thin; most spectators have moved to the next cheering zone, but here is Dennis flashing his camera! And Taylor and Ryan in matching t-shirts emblazoned with “Go Mommy!” and a picture of the four of them in their old backyard, a more carefree time. Millie manages a merry yelp, an “Ah! You’re here!” There’s no time to answer her husband’s unfinished question, “How was…” but she bends towards the children and kisses their ruddy cheeks.
Do What it Takes
Sick Lit Magazine, May 1, 2017
Decked in our kickoff week swag – fleeces and dry-fit running shirts with the company logo – we marched into John’s office with an ultimatum. Seeing us, he broke into a broad grin and we remembered his childish sense of wonder and possibility, the thing that had once attracted us to come work for Viva Technologies.
“You MUST take a vacation,” we said to our CEO, holding aloft plane tickets and reservations for an extreme sports spa in the desert. He opened his mouth to protest but we held up our hands to silence him. We pointed to the list of Viva’s core values stenciled on his wall: Think huge. Do what it takes. Save lives.
Gerstler's Triumphant Return
Bryant Literary Review
Sitting among the malodorous teenagers – boys ripe with day-old sweat, girls thick on jasmine scents – Jeremiah Gerstler tried to check his mounting vexation. He never would have guessed these shaggy-haired kids were honors students. They wore fringed suede jackets, peasant blouses, and despite the season, short, short mini-skirts. Hannah seemed to be the only normal one in the group, dressed in Levis and the argyle sweater they’d given her for Chanukah. The bus hurtled toward its destination, and Jeremiah was stuck, no way out of his commitment to spend the next five days shepherding his daughter’s 10th grade class around DC.
The Book of Jeremiah
SixFold, 2015 Summer Fiction Issue
Jeremiah rips the packaging, hands quaking and breath drawn. His fingers feel nimble, like those of child tearing open a gift. The brown paper lies in shreds on the floor and he clasps the thick volume, holding it at arm’s length for the initial assessment. His eyes take a few seconds to focus on the title: Globalization and Crisis: Essays on the International Political Economy in Honor of Professor Jeremiah Gerstler’s 80th Birthday. Eighteen essays—six of his own and 12 of his colleagues and former students—reflecting a lifetime of scholarship. A faint smell of glue springs from the spine, and he inhales with gusto. He fingers the crisp, sharp pages. As soon as he clears the lump in his throat, he’ll phone his editor to commend him on the final product.
SixFold, 2014 Winter Fiction Issue
Three weeks before turning sixty, Molly Gerstler strode into Ace of Bass and came out an hour later with a sparkling new electric guitar. The Gibson Les Paul, in skyburst blue, was a gift to herself, something she’d wanted ever since her music teacher had introduced her to classic compositions for the electric. The arrangements for Bach and Paganini, with their clean plucked lines, sounded wonderfully modern. She fended off suggestions for a big party—now that she had her guitar, her only request was to spend her birthday weekend at home in the Berkshires. “Just quiet, intimate family time,” she explained to her husband Jeremiah and the kids, both of whom promised to come up from New York for the occasion. “No parties, no surprises, no fireworks.”
The Dalhousie Review, Winter 2013 Issue
“He’s in complete denial,” Stuart Gerstler said to his mother, as he watched Jeremiah inflate a long yellow balloon and twist it into a giraffe, his third balloon animal of the evening. “I mean, he does realize Hannah’s getting married, not turning five, right?” His sister, busy with her bridesmaids, didn’t notice their father’s constant supply of elongated balloons or the mini pump he was carrying around in his pocket, but to Stuart, this was a clear sign of his father’s mental demise.
34th Parallel, Issue 16
Jeremiah kept thinking that the wet tea bag in his peripheral vision was a glazed donut hole, and each time he looked up and saw that it wasn’t, he felt a wave of disappointment. The gnawing for something sweet tugged at his stomach. He shifted his weight to his better leg, eased himself out of the desk chair and made his way to the kitchen. He opened the cupboards and closed them, opened the refrigerator and closed it, and then the freezer. He knew exactly what was in each one, but he played the opening and closing game hoping there was some hidden-away treat he had failed to see the first time. There were a thousand ways he missed Molly, but it was the lack of home-cooked food that upset him late at night, made him feel off-kilter.
34th Parallel, Issue 12
The Burkette’s yard was a mangled mess of spruce trees, half-dead Broadmoor junipers, and white oaks that hadn’t had a haircut in a decade. A “pssshhh” sound escaped my lips, and I had to stop myself from glowering before I turned around and faced Mrs. Burkette. She stood back a few paces, her pale hands fumbling nervously at the sides of her skirt, waiting for me to react.
“When’s the last time you all had a gardener out here?” I asked, trying to keep my tone neutral. My gut was telling me not to take the job, but my brain was reminding me that college bills were right around the corner.
Subsoil of Memory (an essay)
The Coil Magazine
I stand in the center of the open-air memorial amid a forest of gray concrete columns, my heart hammering. An aerial perspective would show that these are, in fact, 2,711 rectangular blocks, coffin-shaped, organized in a grid. But here on the ground, I am tiny and powerless against the colossal hulk of the towering slabs. Though I hear other tourists in the distance, for long moments I see no one. I feel as if in a maze. No escape.
The Air is Humming
Former Cactus, Issue 11
A faint, pink light glimmers through skinny pines on the horizon and the familiar shapes of the forest sharpen into view. It is 5:45 am on a Tuesday morning and the night stars are dissolving into the pale dawn. A chorus of birds chirps somewhere to my right. Twigs and gravel crunch under the grooves of my tires, and as we climb the first steep hill of the day, the sound of our huffing is audible. My biking group – all women but the instructor – has been riding these trails for five years. It’s winter, the rainy season, and our back wheels spray mud as we ride through puddles, forming splattered patterns of brown dots on our cushioned behinds. We’ve encountered entire trees uprooted and blocking our path, trail runners with dogs in tow, foxes, snakes, tiny violet wildflowers, and here in Israel, the occasional goat herd and Bedouin camp. We round a bend and suddenly the air is humming with human bustle and activity. Two hundred meters later, we see an entire movie set — trailers and film crews, tables piled with pastries and neatly-stacked water bottles, and assistants running to and fro speaking into wireless headsets — plopped right in the middle of our forest.
Three, Ellipsis Zine
The children clucked, conspiring against her.
“The Jewish Home is a beautiful place, Ma. Nice gardens. Activities. Dance three times a week,” said her oldest, filling out forms.
They’d found Estelle puzzling over the implications of the words “breakfast” “lunch” and “dinner” on her pill box.
Sam’s passing, a few years earlier, had jolted something in her brain.
On the Dancefloor, We Blot
Occulum Journal, Issue 6
In the damp disco, we dance to forget. To disremember the boy named Billy who charmed us with ballads on his banjo. We want to undo the indentations he left on the fragile filaments of our flesh. Margie flags down a waitress and orders another round of Tomahawk shooters. Jess’s eyes are lowered, her body moving in smooth circular sequences. KellyAnne flips her pink, angry hair and shakes bra-less boobs in the direction of two guys in tight t-shirts. Sophie stares at me through swirls of smoke, her face brooding on a serious subject. I glance away, uncomfortable under her gaze, and concentrate on the cheap crystals creeping down from the ceiling. When my head swivels back, Sophie’s expression is softer, forgiving. We’ll get through this, Lucy, she seems to be saying.
A Strong Hand and an Outstretched Arm
Salt Hill, Issue 38
Rikki’s son keeps the live chicken tucked under his arm, giving it a little zetz every time the wicked Haman’s name is chanted. Rikki flinches with each squawk, but Jeremiah seems unconcerned by his mother’s squeamishness. “Relax, what’s to be afraid of?” says her husband. Leave it to Abe to dream up the Purim costume of a ritual slaughterer for their 11-year-old, arranging with the fowl market in East Bridgeport to borrow the bird for the night. Mottled, tea-colored feathers drift to the floor and Rikki collects them in tissues so the synagogue won’t look like a chicken coop. Looped around Jeremiah’s belt is a six-inch fake knife, a straight blade with no point at the end. Abe, son of a kosher butcher himself, had declared the imitation to be “very close” to what a real shochet would use, though the chicken does not seem worried.
Tough Day for LBJ
SixFold, 2015 Winter Fiction Issue
Jeremiah Gerstler checks his watch, trying not to rush Molly, but she can’t stop fussing with her outfit and hairdo. The cocktail party is supposed to be a relaxed affair—a summer get-together for the political science faculty—but when spouses are invited, it’s never informal. With his DC experience, Jeremiah expects a warm welcome from his new colleagues. If someone asks if he’s rubbed elbows with LBJ and JFK, he’ll nod and say, “Sure, sure. And don’t forget Ike! What’s he, chopped liver?”
American Athenaeum, Wayfarers All Issue
In his whole nine years, Lenny Gerstler can’t remember feeling this mixed-up, even though he hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s sitting next to his father in the synagogue, listening as the congregation recites the special Rosh Hashanah prayer:
Avinu Malkenu, Our Father, our king, we have sinned before You.
The adults around him chant the haunting, powerful melody, first in a murmur, then in a louder, unified plea for God to be gracious. If God is so great, Lenny wants to know, why – this year of all years, when his favorite team is playing – does the Jewish New Year fall on the same days as the World Series? The last time the Yanks had been in the Series Lenny was too young to appreciate it. Later, after the festive lunch, and the relatives have gone home, Lenny plans to slip out of the house and walk over to the Barnum Avenue drugstore, where the neighborhood men will be listening to today’s game. He’s not usually a sneaky boy, and he hopes God will forgive him this once.
Red Wheelbarrow Literary Magazine
Volume 13: 2012
Jeremiah peered up at the long-legged blonde standing by his table and nearly spit out his chicory-laced coffee. He hadn’t known what to expect from Mary McDonald, RN, Second Lt. of the 107th Evacuation Hospital, but even if his brother had described her allure in a letter, Jeremiah could not have conjured the looker who now stood before him. She wore a navy blue skirt that did not quite cover her splendid knees, and a white blouse with ruffles, inviting attention to a nice set of bazooms. Her hair was pinned up, but a strand had broken free and dangled near her face. Only when she cleared her throat did Jeremiah jump to his feet, flushing, and pull out the chair for her.
The MacGuffin, Fall 2012
The interviewer’s flat top, stiff with wax, announced he was A Person of Authority. Not to be messed with. Jeremiah was trying not to stare at the jagged scar running from the nail bed on the man’s right thumb to his wrist. Tell me again why you want to work for us. His tone was confrontational. Jeremiah’s thick file sat on the table in between them and he wondered if this would be the same recruiter who would be visiting his parents, provided he made it that far in the process. What kind of impression would his mother make, he wondered, in the face of such intimidation. He gathered that Agent Morehouse was the type of man who disliked people with foreign accents. Jeremiah measured his words. I want to serve my country. First of all. Second of all, I think I might be good at it.
Israel Short Stories, Ang-Lit Press
I had been waiting for 20 years for someone – anyone – from my family to move to Israel and live close by, and finally, it was happening. My first cousin Mona was not one I had expected to take up the Zionist cause; when we were younger she could not have told an alef from a bet or Beersheva from Eilat. But here she and her husband were, at 42, dragging their children across the ocean to set up new lives for themselves. In the two decades I had lived here, she had come only once, on a solidarity mission during the second intifada. Her group had donated a defibrillator and some other medical supplies to Magen David Adom, and she was practically in tears as we sat having coffee in Jerusalem during her one free afternoon. “They were very grateful. For the first time I felt the people-ness, as in ‘the Jewish people,’” she said in a choked whisper. “I was so moved, Rachel. Everyone is so brave here.”
How to Handle Passive-Aggressive
descant 2010, Volume 49
When your mother-in-law pops in, unannounced, and within five minutes you feel like chasing her around the living room with a broomstick, restrain yourself. Instead, smile sweetly and offer her tea. Think that despite your attempt at politeness, there is no way she is not picking up the insincerity in your voice. Wonder why she always drops by at times when Rob is not home and make a note to speak to him about it. Remind yourself later to look up “passive-aggressive” on the Internet, and how you should handle her in the future. For now, grit your teeth and pour her tea. When she asks for Sweet ‘n Low, tell her you don’t believe in sugar substitutes. Sigh heavily when she says she doesn’t want the tea after all. Catch her flitting her eyes to your stomach, searching for a little bump, as if she doesn’t trust you and Rob to tell her such news. Think when the time does come, and you both feel ready to start a family, you might just make her wait to see the physical evidence. Banish the thought – because you cannot deal with it right now – that really, only one of you is not ready, and it isn’t you.
The New Orphic Review, Vol. 13 Number 1, Spring 2010
As the pilot came over the loudspeaker announcing they would be landing at Logan in approximately 10 minutes, Doris felt at once both relieved the flight was almost over, and saddened that each minute on the plane was carrying her farther away from her baby boy. She wished she could package his newborn smell and soft skin into something tangible to hold on to until Jeffrey and Maryann brought him north for Thanksgiving. Arthur, Arthur, she had gone over it many times in her head and cooed to him. Hello Arthur, it's your Nanny, trying out her new name when no one else was around. She smiled as she closed her eyes and pictured him and his funny facial contortions, wide-eyed, staring up at her, his tiny mouth puckered like a guppy.