Reading with Houston

Julie Houston reading her latest work.
Photo Credit / Jamie Reese
Julie Houston reading her latest work.
Photo Credit / Jamie Reese




East Stroudsburg University’s English Department and “Calliope,” ESU’s literary magazine, hosted writer Julie Houston on Thursday, April 19, 2013, in Monroe B01 Lecture Hall, as a part of the English Department’s ongoing commitment to bring successful and inspirational published writers to the ESU Community.

Julie Houston is a graduate of the John’s Hopkins Writing Seminars and has published both fiction and non-fiction works including poems, stories, travel articles, tennis articles, and articles on archeology.  She was introduced by Dr. Jan Selving of the English Department before reading from her upcoming novel, “Traveling Light,” which she hopes to have published by the end of the summer.

“We have had very few writers visit ESU with such an eclectic collection,” said Selving of Houston’s body of work.

Houston read from two sections of her novel, which outlines two stories that run parallel to each other.  The present day story of her main character is offset by stories from Greece, where her main character lived for 10 years.

After the calm reading to the nearly full lecture hall, Houston took questions from the crowd.  One student asked Houston how she was able to achieve such fluidity in her writing.

“It’s my voice,” joked Houston about her smooth soft-spoken demeanor.  She continued in a serious manner, explaining that she went through several stages of editing, “If you came to my house, you would see literally boxes of drafts.”

Yet, Houston advised attendees that eventually they had to stop editing because they would take it too far.  “Keep editing,” she said, “and then you ruin it.”

Houston began attempting to become published when she was twelve years old, simply by sending out letters with her work.  She finally was published at 18, when she was a freshman in college.

She had received so many rejection letters over the years that when she received a letter notifying her of her pending publication in a magazine alongside Joyce Carol Oates, she walked into the dining hall holding the letter to show her friends, and shaking as if something had gone horribly wrong.

After that, publishers started coming to her for her work.

Houston was honored to have visited the famed Lascaux (Lasco) Caves in southwestern France, which are famous for containing cave paintings that are estimated to be over 17,000 years old.  Houston described the experience as overwhelming, and one that rendered her in speechless awe for several hours following.

When asked about the past experiences in her life and how they’ve influenced her work, Houston explained that it is the experiences of life that help the writer compose.

“It gives you more to talk about,” said Houston.  “I think you can be very gifted, and very talented, and a terrific writer at a very young age, but the more you have to live through, the more you have to talk about… the more that you have stolen from your friends.  Making sure you borrow everything you can from everybody around you.”


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