Monday, October 1, 2012


I was typing away about my upcoming trip to Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books, telling the story about how I’ve transitioned from a trembling laliaphobe  into a confident public speaker (well, mostly) over the past 11 years and six novels, but, and this is going to sound crazy, I could NOT get certain words to quit playing in my head.

The first words that refused to be quieted are some things Berenice tells F. Jasmine in The Member of the Wedding; “I’m not so old as some peoples would try and make out. I can still ministrate. . . ” Next are words Tom Wingo says in the opening of The Prince of Tides; “My wound is geography. It is also my anchorage, my port of call. I grew up slowly beside the tides and marshes of Colleton . . . I carried the sunshine of the lowcountry inked in dark gold, on my back and shoulders.” Last are some powerful words spoken by Queen Esther in the Old Testament book of Esther, when the King had signed an edict to annihilate all the Jews. She’s a Jew, and she makes a plan to intercede for her people. She says to Mordecai, her uncle; “Go, assemble all the Jews . . . and fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days . . .  I will fast in the same way. And thus I will go in to the king, which is not according to the law; and if I perish, I perish.”

These stories, these characters, these words, plus untold more, are alive inside of me. I love to read and I love to write stories, and I drink my morning espresso out of a mug that says, “Inspire others to inspire others,” and when I teach writing workshops, I make it a point to share certain words that have shaped my writing. Here are three I keep at my computer.

“I am not afraid that the book will be controversial, I’m afraid it will not be controversial.” Flannery O’Connor

 “A novelist must wrestle with all mysteries and strangeness of life itself, and anyone who does not wish to accept that grand, bone-chilling commission should write book reviews, editorials, or health-insurance policies instead. The idea of the novel should stir your blood, and you should rise to it like a lion lifting up at the smell of impala. It should be instinctual, incurable, unanswerable, and a calling, not a choice.” Pat Conroy.

“These novels change us because their authors are willing to draw upon their deepest selves without flinching. They hold nothing back.” Donald Maass.

Amen, Donald. In one memoir writing workshop, I assign an exercise on childhood fears. My students are to pull up repressed material, write about it, and then read their stories aloud. Grown men cry when they release certain things. But here’s the beauty - many times it’s cathartic. Putting those words down on paper is a healing thing for them.

 When I began writing Twang, I wanted country music singer/songwriter Jennifer Clodfelter to show how cathartic it is for her to dig up some unmentionable stuff from back home. I wanted to show how a wounded country music diva can use her pain to create powerful songs that touch others’ lives. My prayer is that this novel shows how the seemingly unredeemable things in life can be used for good.

Please tell me what you think. I’m sure you’ve had a few bumps and bruises in your life. Do you find it empowering to share stories of how you survived? Does this help give meaning to your pain?  

Julie L. Cannon is the author of the award-winning Homegrown series, published by Simon & Schuster and described as ‘Southern-fried soul food.’ Her novel I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Summerside Press, 2010, made Nielsen’s Top 50 Inspirational Titles. Abingdon Press will release Scarlett Says in October 2013. Julie lives in Watkinsville, Georgia. Visit her website at and connect with her on Facebook at and on Twitter at JulieLCannon.


  1. Love your words of inspiration. Great way to start the writing day. Thanks for the boost!

  2. I love that Pat Conroy quote about the lion and the impala. Lately I've been writing more autobiographical stuff and it's interesting and revealing to revisit those times and the way my mind worked. I was not always the kindest person!

  3. I'm so glad, Cindy. Means a lot to hear, and I appreciate your comment. And Karin, when I go back and read my journals, I just shake my head and wonder if I ought not go back through and delete my name with a Sharpie. But, and here's the beauty of it all, they make me a LOT more apt and quick to give grace to other folks! Plus, hindsight like it is, I can see what all else was going on in my life at the time and maybe, just maybe, forgive my mean self (if I was hormonal, chasing two toddlers, etc...) and plus, it's good writing fodder! Hugs - :)

  4. Good post, Julie. Isn't it amazing when we write and then see ourselves on paper?
    These words spoke to me - Putting those words down on paper is a healing thing for them. Because in the story I am working on my heroine speaks what happened to her and begins to heal. Take the load of condemnation that has burdened her. The enemy hides in the secret and unspoken, shackling his victims in easily broken chains. If they only knew...

    Love your book cover.

  5. Hey Patricia - Yes! Thanks. I love what William Makepeace Thackeray (1811 - 1863) said, "There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write."

  6. Twang sounds like the kind of book I'd love to read! Childhood memories and experiences haven't played that strong a role in my life, but adult memories shared with others have. Some words that gave me confidence decades ago, that I've since shared with other women who were down on themselves, are "At this moment in time, you're as good as you can be. You can improve over time, but right now this second you can't change your weight, your hair, your language. You're as good as you can be for this moment." Those words can be very freeing for those of us who are imperfect and insecure!
    BTW, my daughter lives in Watkinsville, GA, now too -- she's attending UGA as a grad student. Small world!

  7. I forget who said that to write good fiction you have to be willing to cut open and vein and bleed all over the page. Very graphic, but also there is truth there. It's not pleasant, but makes for some great prose. Nice post, Julie.

  8. I've got a ton of mine in my stories! If anyone ever puts them all together, they'll find a perfect composite of me. The only saving factor is only small bits show up in each book. Hopefully, no one will put them all together. ;o)

  9. After I read your blog, I came across this from the Letters of Note website. The author loves not only the beauty of words, but the physiognomy of them as well. I love to collect sentences from all the books that I read--some i love for the beauty of the words, others for their thoughts. Great conversation, Julie Hope you enjoy.

  10. Thanks, Betty - that is a very powerful, freeing thought! And, yes, I've heard that one, too, Nancy. Now I think I ought to look it up, write it down, and take it to my writing workshops. Thanks for reminding me... Ane M. - Can you see me smiling? Same here. Thanks for your comment. And Jacqueline - thanks for the Letters of Note. This may seem ironic, but I've heard the word physiognomy over the years, but never used it. I had to write it down, look it up. It's a pretty word. :) Thanks to all. I'm putting the responder names in a 'hat' (well, maybe a box and drawing out a winner for a free book this a.m.)

  11. Betty Bolte - you're the name I drew out of the box to get a copy of Twang! Here's my email address, and if you'll send me your preferred mailing address I'll pop a book in the mail to you:

    Again, thanks for your comment.