Meet the Writer: Julie Schwietert Collazo

I want to thank Julie for answering my questions. You can learn more about her at her website, and you can read more about her notes and advice for writers and editors here! She is on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Google+ (the links are easy to access via her website).

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Writing was always important to me, as was reading, and I thought I would probably teach literature at the college/university level. But I ended up taking a different path, thanks to my senior thesis in Women’s Studies at Emory University. I was studying the use of art therapy in support groups for women with cancer, and I was amazed by the clinical effects of the groups. I immediately thought, “I want to do this with writing!” I wasn’t sure such a profession existed, but once I found out that it did, I got my MSW and became a creative arts therapist specializing in the use of writing in therapy sessions. Basically, I was helping people tell their stories, but in written form. After five years in that field, I became burned out by the bureaucracy of social service agencies, and I became a full-time freelance writer, work that isn’t so different; I still help people tell stories.

Do you think writing is taught, that we know how to do it instinctively, or both? Why?

I think some people have a gift for writing, certainly, but even the most gifted writers benefit from instruction, whether formal or informal. Writing is a craft and there are so many forms, techniques, and skills to learn, and how to use them well.

What was your least favorite class at any point in your education? Why?

Pre-calculus. My high school pre-calc teacher knew I was a good student and thought I’d perform as well in his class as I had in every other class. When I didn’t, he wrote in my high school yearbook, “You are my biggest failure.”

Are you reading anything right now?

I’ve always had the habit of checking out an impossible stack of books, which feels even more impossible now that I have kids. And I always pack too many books when I travel (I’m no technophobe, but I have no interest in a Kindle or Nook). Right now, I’m reading Midnight in Mexico by journalist Alfredo Corchado and Finders, Keepers by Craig Childs; the latter is about what is done—and should be done—with ancient artifacts.

Are you writing anything right now?

My writing habits are a lot like my reading habit; I’m always working on multiple assignments. I’m a regular contributor to The Latin Kitchen, where I write about culture and food. I’m working on an article for National Geographic Traveler, several pieces for a new project being launched by USA Today, and a number of other assignments. I’m also about to start promoting Moon New York State, a guidebook I authored that’s being released next week.

Update: Julie’s book has been released and is available for purchase!

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