Measuring Success

In graduate school, I had a professor who, for whatever reason, didn’t want to give me an ‘A’. I was three points away from my ‘A’. I KNEW what was coming – and I was correct:


“Professor, you said that if we came to every class and always participated that we would get extra credit.” (here it comes -)


“Yes, Julie. But I never said HOW MUCH credit.” Her Cheshire Cat look was unbecoming.


“Come on professor. I come to every class. I always participate and you won’t give me three points for that!”


I got my three points. I received the ‘A’ I had earned. 




This same professor gave a writing assignment and said that we didn’t have to put our names on our stories if we didn’t want to. She read mine out loud and asked who wrote it. Well…well…well…I did not raise my hand. It was rewarding enough knowing she liked my work when she didn’t know it was mine. 



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 Art is subjective. Contests are subjective. Still – winning is good.


The publisher of our newspaper thought that my writing was good enough to enter into a contest representing his paper. The professionals judging the contest thought that my writing was good enough to give 1st Place in serious column writing! The awards came out this October.


My newspaper column started running on March 1, 2013. I won a 2nd place award that first year. There had been a columnist with our newspaper and she stepped down. I wrote a story. I gave it to the publisher. I was hired. One of my most significant rewards was having the previous columnist complement my writing.



And writing is subjective.


 Last year, I hired a woman who is in the market to ‘help writers.’ She use to work in the corporate world advertising famous products. I wanted her to help me get my picture book out into the world. She had very little positive to say about Mountain Mutts – Joy’s Tale. She was no help to me at all. She refunded my money. 




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 Mountain Mutts – Joy’s Tale is my current work for which I am most proud. It is a true story. I wrote the account and I took the photographs for this picture book. I have been told many times by all sorts of adults who work with children: teachers, parents, librarians, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and so on – what a touching story – how charming – so sad it made me cry. Every complement is very much appreciated – especially the ones that were given to me by the children: “Can I take this book home?” “Write more stories like this!” “Read me the real, true story about the dogs.”



So I had the nerve to enter my first book contest. I entered Mountain Mutts – Joy’s Tale in the big, international, Paris, France Book Festival. My book won an honorable mention in a big, international, book contest! The category was Children’s Books.



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Mountain Mutts is a finalist in the American Writing Awards Category: Parenting & Family



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Reader’s Choice Book Awards gave Mountain Mutts – Joy’s Tale: Best Children’s Book ages 8-12


And writing is subjective.


In the summer of 2019, I was accepted into a master’s writing program. Then Covid hit. I turned down my acceptance. I created a plan. I thought that a better, safer use of our money and my time would be to take writing classes online. I found Jane Friedman through the Great Courses classes my husband enjoys. Since then I have taken some of Jane’s classes and some classes from other people through her recommendations. I joined a couple of professional writing organizations Jane suggested. I found writer’s groups and critique partners. I attend classes, webinars, conferences and enter contests. I read and write and rewrite continuously.


Some of the good things to come out of Covid have been the availability to stream classes we now have regularly. I attend online conferences and classes with writers in different time zones around the world. 



****What makes me know that I am a writer is when people contact me to tell me how my writing makes them feel.



My books sell in our little mountain village. They are available in our museum gift shop and Slumgullion Gifts. My professional goal is to get my books farther out into the world. I desire that children all over the world will grow up on Mountain Mutts. My goal is for my writing to LONG out live me – that Mountain Mutts – Joy’s Tale, with its universal themes of friendship, death, and love becomes a classic along with books like Peter Rabbit, which was self-published and is on most children’s bookshelves and in libraries around the world. *I’m working on it.



My takeaway in all this: Be Encouraged! There will always be naysayers and unhelpful people like my professor and the woman from the corporate world. If you have something that is important to you, that you want to accomplish – keep working at it. Have goals. The New Year is on the horizon.

***What is it you want to accomplish? What’s your passion? What’s your plan? You can do it! Start now.


“The most precious gift we can give one another is letting them know they matter.”  Julie A R Stephens

Living in the Mountains

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