Good Job, Writers! Here’s a Sticker For You…

January 14, 2018

IMG_2747Taking my cue from Gemma Correll and her awesome stickers for ‘adults at the art museum’, I thought, hmmm, hey, why don’t writers have these?!

Here are some ideas for ‘writer stickers’ for you!

  • I wrote today!
  • I wrote a challenging emotional part today!
  • I switched the entire story from past to present tense!
  • I switched the entire story from first person narrator to third person narrator!
  • I wrote the word ‘awkward’ correctly on the first try!
  • I multi-tasked & wrote in between cooking dinner and cleaning the kitchen!
  • Someone asked me if my ‘novel’s done yet’ and I just smiled mysteriously!
  • I put pants on and left the house!
  • I figured out the ending!
  • I wrote the ending!
  • I sent off a query!
  • I got rejected—and I didn’t let it hurt me TOO much!
  • I shared my writing with someone!
  • I started a new story!

Hey, world, guess what?  

I wrote today!


Writers, claim your stickers. You are doing a GOOD JOB!



How to be BOLD as a Writer…

January 6, 2018

IMG_2652What, me? Bold? Huh?

If, like me, you are a bit on the shy side, when someone says BE BOLD you go: Uh, no thanks. Why don’t you go be bold and meanwhile I’ll be over here on the couch reading a good book, ok?

That is my preferred response.

But when you are a writer you are, by definition, bold.

Boldness is built into the process.

Being a writer is an odd mix of solitude + introversion + creativity + stubbornness + boldness.

Here’s how you are bold as a writer.

1. When you write
When you sit down and pour out your ideas on paper/napkin/phone/laptop you are being bold.

This does not always seem obvious but every time you write it is an  act of self assertion. It is you saying: this idea matters to me and I am going to preserve it, shape it, design it and give it the space it deserves in the world.

Being creative requires that you be bold.

So you are bold whenever you decide to honour the voices within you and give them shape.

Recently I went through a few (agonizing) stretches of self silencing. And when those moments finally broke I felt like the hero in a movie finally climbing those steps/picking up the sword/squaring off against the enemy (in this case, self doubt).

Just making it up to the page and laying it down, making something or of nothing, is BOLDNESS.

2. When you share your work with others
Whenever you hand something over to another and say “I made this” there is vulnerability. Whenever you say: “this is my idea” or “this is what I think”, there is vulnerability. To face ones vulnerability, one must be BOLD.

Dealing with feelings of vulnerability  is a central aspect of being a writer. We tap into our intellect, empathy, experiences, imagination, and we take all that and magically weave it into something important to us.

When we share it, we risk the judgement of others.

This goes for everything from a tweet to a trilogy.

Once you put your words out there, they belong to the world. It’s in the hands of the audience and some might appreciate it but some might not. Some might not even care.

And so we also risk indifference.

Whenever there is RISK you need to be BOLD.

Whenever you put yourself out there, you are being BOLD.

3. Self promotion
Ugh! This is the tough one and I think for most writers this is what they think about when they think of being bold…

The moment when you really have to ‘put yourself out there’ in the marketplace.

This is beyond just ‘sharing’. This is when you are deliberately entering the book selling business and have to do things like make a pitch, write a query letter, tweet/email someone in the business or, if you are self publishing, pick a platform, and self promote.


This is when you/I have to make yourself/myself get up off the couch…

Ok.  Square the shoulders, and assert yourself with purpose, with focus, and with polite firmness…

Declare: ‘my work is worthy of of the market’s attention’.

Say it again: ‘my work is worthy of of the market’s attention’.

This requires BOLDNESS x 10.

But by this point, remember: writers are boldness ninjas.

Before we even reach this point, we have acted with considerable boldness. As noted above, we experience many many many micro-bold moments over time.

Now here’s a macro-bold moment and guess what? You got this!

It’s the same muscle group. Just flex it!

And that, I think, is the writing life writ BOLD.

Just follow step 1-3 on and on, to infinity.

Or did I miss something? Where else are we bold with as writers? Any thoughts? List them below!

PS. How do you like my low-tech comic (above) made from recycled cardboard with a sharpie pen? Bitstrips as I knew it is no longer, alas. So no new bitstrips comics from me.

I’m going DIY. But TY Bitstrips, we had a good run!



Apologies for disappearing…

January 6, 2018

Yes, I went away from this blog for awhile but I have the perfect writer excuse!


Since my last post, I spent a lot of time on a new blog called Hill of Greens AND I also completed a novel inspired by that blog.

I wrote that novel in about a YEAR. I was on fire, people!

It is also called HILL OF GREENS and I am currently in the process of seeking representation!

I am also writing the sequel.

And now I’m back here.


Multiple creative projects. It’s the writer’s curse, yes?



Writing to Avoid Writing aka #writerproblems

August 12, 2016


I haven’t been here in awhile because every time I’ve had a creative writing moment, I’ve poured it into my latest novel. There are only so many writing minutes in a day, after all, and I have to use them wisely!

So there has been no time for blogging or other writing projects! It’s been full on, primary novel writing, which is a good thing, right? *round of applause*

But recently I hit that novel writing milestone of leaping from the beginning portion (part 1) and entering that middle portion (part 2) which I personally find to be the most challenging, most tedious, most annoying part of the entire process. (As I have detailed in prior blog posts: here and here).

So of course now I’m more susceptible to procrastination. I’m quite eager to be diverted, to chase after things that are shiny! (Hello, Internet! Isn’t that what the Internet is for?)

This leads me to my current, strange-yet-eerily-familiar predicament of using writing to avoid writing.

Oh, my poor writing brain!

Overloaded by bothersome novel writing chores such as hashing out necessary plot details and confirming character consistency, I’ve suddenly found myself wanting to start a different story…something with pizzazz, something with some high energy to it…

Beginnings of stories are always fun! Full of discovery! (Who are these people? OMG What’s happening to them? What world is this? Where am I?)

Indeed, I have a drawer/computer file full of beginnings! My writing Achilles Heel is writing novel beginnings. I have many, many novels I’ve started that, alas, fizzled out because they just did not have the substance to keep going.

Crafting novel beginnings is my version of ‘something shiny’.

However…it can be tricky at times to know where to invest one’s creative energy. Sometimes that energetic juice is right on the money! It feels, with this new stuff, like I am really onto something!

So I have to ask myself: is this an avoidance of the writing grind or an alternative to the writing grind? Perhaps this second project is something that will sustain me through the dry spells!

Writing, after all, tends not to be linear.

I can hop back and forth, can’t I? It won’t take me twice as long to finish both, will it? I can indulge in this little detour, right? It will still take me to the same place, won’t it?

Arg! Writing decisions! What do I do? Just write, I know. But write what? WHICH ONE?

Fuss, fuss, fuss!

#writerproblems, indeed!







What It Means To Be A Writer

November 12, 2015

ur writing always misses uSometimes writing is a blessing. Other times it feels like a curse.

Here’s the blessing part:

  • the satisfaction of defeating writer’s block
  • the bliss of creative flow
  • the excitement of getting a new, really cool and awesome idea
  • the personal pride in completing something
  • the personal pride in completing something WELL
  • the gratified sense of connection, when something you wrote resonated with another human being

Okay, now here’s the curse.

Writing will never EVER leave you.

This might sound like it’s a blessing.

Great! you think. I’m a writer and writing will never leave me! I’ll always have that creative energy to tap into. I’ll always have words, even if I have to dig them out with my bare hands…

But there’s another way to look at this:

Writing will *never* *EVER* leave you.

When you are NOT writing, it is going to hover over your shoulder until you PAY ATTENTION TO IT.

Like a cat, it will sit on the book your are currently reading, on your laptop while you do work, on your jacket when you need it to rush out the door.

Your writing will never EVER leave you and it wants you to know that.

When you are NOT writing, your writing will send you texts in your mind, like ‘miss u’ and ‘why did u leave me :(‘ and ‘i am here 4 u’ and ‘i am here’ and ‘i am here’ and ‘i am here’.

Just so you don’t forgot!

Like you could forget. Because whatever story you are working on, it’s already a part of you, like you already lived it, like you knew the characters in another life, like all it needs is your writing breath to animate it…

The curse of being a writer is to never know an ‘off switch’. Not even in sleep!

To be a writer means even when you are technically NOT writing you ARE still writing.

There is no ‘not writing’. The state of ‘not writing’ is a myth you tell yourself when you are ‘too busy’ or ‘too consumed by other stuff’ to put pen to paper.

The truth of the matter is that WRITING WILL NEVER EVER LEAVE YOU…even if maybe you want it to for awhile.

But no. It won’t go! It will haunt you until you finally sit down and give it the attention it craves.


All right, writing! You win! 

I finally texted writing back: miss u 2, see u soon 🙂


When Writing Leaves You Feeling Vulnerable

June 4, 2015

pub1Sometimes I shout inwardly:




I have a pen name all picked out. Many years ago, when I volunteered at the GLBT bookstore in Vancouver, one of my co-volunteers misunderstood my name Julie as Jubilee when we were introduced.

I was very excited by this miscommunication. JUBILEE! I excitedly responded. That’s awesome!

Isn’t that a great name? Jubilee sounds fun loving and sassy and bright. Jubilee is happy go lucky and doesn’t care what anyone thinks, so there.

But I have not been able to embrace this cool pen name. I have decided to be boringly ‘authentic’ and ‘claim my writing life’ as who I am naturally: Julie Johnson.

Also, I have been so keen to claim my writing identity, I have not been able to shut up about it. Everyone knows. Every one, near and far, in the Twitter-verse and down the road.

This leads to moments of horrible paralysis.

Moments of a very particular writing brain-freeze that is akin to stage fright.

Watch, as I enter the twilight realm of ‘what if’…

What if someone I know reads my finished work. What if, while publicly congratulating me on email, FB and Twitter, they secretly feel it’s terrible, scandalous, badly written and probably half of it is autobiographical…they are trying to work out what parts reveal my dirty secrets…is that Mr. Rutherford character based on a high-school boyfriend, for instance?

The worst will be people I interact with face to face. There we’ll stand, chatting about the weather, both of us keenly aware of page 119. Yes, I wrote that scene. Yes, I know you know I wrote that scene and I know you know I know, you know?


So very awkward.

This can be such a stomach churning sensation in my imagination that all further writing dries up.

What if my parents read this? What if my friends read this? What if my co workers read this? What if my neighbours read this? What if my kids, when they are all grown up, read this? What about my in laws? My extended family? The students I’ve worked with over the years?

The bus driver? The contractor who put in our front door? My chiropractor? The dentist?

What will they think?


In moments like these, I have to talk myself back into a better head space. 

I have to tell myself:

  • most people you know will not read your book, Regency mysteries not being their cup of tea
  • most people you know will just be happy for you that you got published and reached your goal
  • most people you know are polite, they won’t openly admit if they disliked it
  • and if they disliked it, then they did, so what?

It’s easier to think of strangers reading my books. So sometimes I try take the personal element out of it.

Sometimes I channel my feelings into the book. Guess what, main character, you are about to experience a cringe inducing moment of vulnerability in front of your worst enemy…

Because, it’s true, fiction can be autobiographical, though not in the way most people think…

Like most things in life, here’s how you handle it: you take a deep breath, and keep on going as you were, right towards your goal, right on through.

Write even though you feel vulnerable. Write until you feel strong in your voice again. And if you feel vulnerable again, here’s the plan:

Keep writing.


7 Reasons Why Writers Should Blog

May 31, 2015

blogging addictI’m a novelist at heart.

Sometimes I wish I wasn’t. It’s time consuming and complex. But it is the writing form that calls to me.

It isn’t the only writing form I’ve tried, mind you. I’ve written essays, short stories, poems. Except for the essays (school related, primarily) the others will likely NEVER see the light of day.

First, because they are from a younger age, when I was experimenting with writing forms, and thus they have that cringe-inducing youthful earnestness to them that is still embarrassing.

Second, because they are not my strong suit and I know it.

I chose novels, or novels chose me. Whatever. My point is, this is where I spend the vast majority of my writing time. In Novel-Land. Working on novels.

When I’m not blogging, that is.

Somehow, I became this blogger–with short comics to go along. So I became this blogger/comic person in addition to a novelist.

I just launched a SECOND blog with comics, even. One about environmental activism.


WHY do I share my precious writing time with blogs and (short) comics?

Thinking on this led me to realize the awesomeness of blogging.

I think no matter what kind of writing you do, blogging is an excellent accompaniment.

Here’s 7 reasons why:

1. Reflection & Refinement

My blogs tend to be auto biographical, acting as a mirror that reflects back where I’m at, what I’m thinking. Not a journal, not a diary. It’s more polished than that (Get it? Okay, I’ll drop the mirror analogy).

It’s not stream of consciousness. It’s applied consciousness.

I focus on a concern, worry at it, explore it. Refine my communication of it. Isn’t that the essence of the writing life? Well, there it is in micro, when you blog.

2. Short and Sweet

Blogs are not meant to go on for pages. There is NO pressure to write FOREVER. It’s liberating, especially for a novelist who is typically aiming for a 90 000 word count.

3. Daily Flexing

I write on a consistent basis, either novel(s) or blogs/comics. If the novel is stuck or moving slowly, I can tap into the jazz of blogging and get the writing flowing again. I can access my creativity sideways.

4. Uncomplicated

Blogs do not demand intense historical research, complicated character emotions, a clear thematic statement, subplots, etc. Pick a topic. Write about it for a few paragraphs. DONE.

5. Let it Go

When I finally click the ‘publish’ button, I’m trusting that feeling inside that says ‘it’s done’. I’m letting it go. I’m not getting stuck in a self-recriminating editing rut. I’m trusting my writer’s voice. I’m trusting my writing intuition. It’s done. Let it go.

6. Writerly Pride

There is something supremely satisfying about finishing a piece of work and sending it out into the world…to be stumbled upon by unsuspecting Twitter followers or Google searchers.

I am writer, hear me roar.

7. Connection

I was once asked in a Facebook thread to sum up ‘what writing meant to me in one word’. I wrote: connection.

Thanks to the internet, I can be part of a writing community! I can contribute to the inter-connectivity of writers supporting and sharing! Maybe someone will not only find my blog but actually READ IT!  In the same way I sometimes stumble across other people’s blogs, and read it!

Sometimes what I read resonates! Maybe what I wrote will resonate with someone else! Just the possibility of that happening is VERY COOL.

So what are you waiting for? Start blogging!

Unless you are a writer/blogger all ready, in which case, you get what I’m saying, right?

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