First Novel Secures Award for Author from Millbrook

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Julie Joyce Doner proved publishers wrong when she self-published her first novel which won one of this year’s Emerging Writer Prizes.

Julie Joyce (nee Doner) began writing during her school days growing up on Zion Line south of town.  She became particularly enthralled by the popular TV series, The Gilmore Girls, but sometimes found the plot lines less than satisfactory.  With few friends sharing her interest in the show, she discovered on-line fan discussions which led her to experiment with fan fiction.  This form of writing takes an existing work of fiction from a novel, movie or television show and uses characters, settings or other features in the original work and takes them in their own direction.  Fan fiction writers share their creations with other fans, from whom they receive immediate feedback which can be helpful or not.  It may sound unsophisticated, but this writing form has generated some blockbuster hits from unknown writers, including Fifty Shades of Grey and Bridget Jones’ Diary.  Not bad company to be in…

Fast forward 17 years.  Julie has developed her writing skills primarily in short stories and produced her first novel entitled “Steeped in Love”, which won the 2019 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize in Romance this summer.

While it may sound like an instant win, that is not the case.  After many rejection letters from traditional publishers for this novel, Julie decided to go it alone and self-published her book. The story employs witty dialogue and quirky characters reminiscent of The Gilmore Girls television show that inspired Julie to write in her teenage years. In addition to bragging rights, the award includes a $10,000 cash prize, which Julie acknowledges is more than many of her writing friends earn from their craft over several years. 

While she is thrilled with the award, in some ways it is bittersweet.  She began to write this novel as a gift for her mother, who Julie describes as her best friend and most enthusiastic cheerleader.  Her mother had read all of her short stories and believed Julie had the ability to produce something bigger.  Julie wasn’t as sure.

Julie’s mother passed away unexpectedly a couple months after Julie began her novel. While the event side-lined her for a while, she persevered, and attributes her success in part to her mother’s confidence in her ability.  Her father, who still lives on Zion Line, is pleased to see his daughter’s writing talent recognized by fellow authors who selected “Steeped in Love” for this prestigious award.

Writing may be her passion, but like most creative types these days, Julie has a day job.  She teaches Phys. Ed in an Ottawa High School, where the frantic pace and energy of her students and the drama of high school life provides plenty of inspiration for her craft.  She looks forward to more evenings and weekends, writing on her laptop from the comfort of her bed, fueled by peanut butter and Nutella.  It sounds like she would have no trouble relating to high school students; that’s probably their approach to completing their homework.  Congratulations, Julie. KG

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