10 years ago I was a senior in college, focused on videography and writing. I was thrilled, finally getting to be good at something, and sharing ideas that I thought mattered.
Though I sometimes regret not having gone to school in a bigger city, the smallness of my adopted home in Dover, Delaware allowed for great networking. I joined the Delaware State Writer's Group, which helped me practice my craft and meet other writers.
One of these writers was Julianna Baggott, a poet, who had just published her first novel. It was, as a beloved Delawarian would later say, “A big f’n deal.”
In need of a subject for my senior thesis, I asked Julianna for a day of her life and she agreed. I followed her and her family for a day or two and produced the 13-minute video A Day in the Life of Julianna Baggott.
Throughout the year she invited me to other events and I helped bring her to my own college for a lecture. Right before her talk, I was informed that since she was my friend, I had to introduce her. It was my first foray into public speaking and I was insanely nervous. (I haven’t shut up in front of large groups since.)
Just before I left school, I was in a park in Dover. Preparing to move away and worried about my future, I watched a father and son play ball and wondered what their lives were like. My own nuclear family had imploded my last couple of years in school, so whenever I saw a seemingly happy family I was envious, mournful. I called Julianna and told her I wanted to write a short story about them. Her advice was not to gloss them over, rather, look for the dirt under their fingernails. I took her advice, and although I never did write that short story, I did end up in journalism for a while.
Seven or eight years ago we both moved to Florida. Julianna & family moved to Tallahassee, where she is now an associate professor. Today is a big milestone for her, the release of Pure, her post-apocalyptic novel.
In the decade since I've been stringing together a freelance career, she's been writing away, novels and kids books and young adult fiction. She tries and fails and doesn't give up. I'm proud of her. She's been an excellent role model for this anxious writer.