Living the writer’s life
In her senior year at Montpelier High in Vermont, Julia Heney’10 had an unsettling realization. Like most of her classmates, she had confined her college search to New England. When acceptances began arriving, however, she panicked. While she loved New England, staying close to home for college felt claustrophobic.
“Look at Beloit College,” suggested her guidance counselor. “You already know someone who goes there.” Indeed, a close friend of Julia’s older sister was a current student, and Jon Urish, then a Beloit College admissions counselor, had visited Montpelier High several times for recruitment visits.
Julia reached out to Jon to talk about options, made a campus visit on a frigid winter weekend, and found what she wanted: programs in creative writing and French, and students both following their passions and genuinely caring about each other. Not only that, they wanted to help her decide if Beloit was where she wanted to be.
Julia returned home no longer asking what would happen if she attended Beloit, but what she’d forfeit if she did not. Opportunities at Beloit were too good to pass up, and financial aid put Beloit within reach.
Four years later, Julia graduated from Beloit with majors in French and Creative Writing and study abroad semesters in both France and Senegal. She had also hiked in Martinique, where author Patrick Chamoiseau’s novels take place. She studied Chamoiseau’s writing in a French class.
Beloit College faculty played key roles in helping Julia navigate her Beloit education.
“My advisors for my creative writing and French majors, Chuck Lewis and Scott Lyngaas, were always encouraging. They helped me determine that I could study abroad twice and still graduate with two majors. They also steered me to the summer funding that enabled me to travel to Martinique, and gave me feedback on my application.”
Philosopher Matt Tedesco’s door remained open for Julia, even though she had written “terrible papers” for him in the only course she took with him, a first-year advising course. Fran Abbate, with whom she took create writing courses, was supportive, even though she was never formally Julia’s advisor. It was a particular delight for both, then, when each had poetry published in the same issue of the Denver Quarterly.
After graduating from Beloit, Julia returned to France for 10 months to serve as an English assistant through the French government’s Englishteaching assistant program, after which she earned a MFA at Johns Hopkins with a focus on poetry.
In between the two, Julia briefly worked for Groupon, where she was introduced to customer-facing written communications and the technology companies use to scale their operations. She not only found out (again) that she could thrive after jumping into the unfamiliar, but found a career and life model she now emulates: holding a stable job one loves while continuing to pursue creative writing.
“For the last four years, I’ve been living the life of a writer that I was hoping for when I enrolled at Beloit. It’s been satisfying.” Leading a UX writing team within a healthcare software company suits her well, as did a prior job working for a small PR and content marketing agency. “The kind of work I do is perfect for people who loved researching and writing five-page papers in college.”
“What is most important to me is that I write and coach other writers in my day job, have time for my own writing, and actively participate in Chicago’s writing community.” The connections she made there have both led to creative collaborations and job offers. They’ve also helped her realize there are many different ways to pursue the writing life.
Julia’s advice for Beloiters coming after her? “Don’t feel rushed when embarking on a career. I’ve managed bakeries, sat at the front desks of wealthy nonprofits, taught college students, merchandised parking spaces, and ghostwritten for CEOs. Every job I’ve ever done has helped me get where I am today, and the willingness to try new things and go all in that I developed at Beloit serves me well everywhere I go.”
Further, “maintain ties with Beloit faculty and alumni. Faculty are always happy to hear from you no matter how busy they are, and Beloit creative writing graduates are a close knit bunch. Plus, when I moved to Chicago I found myself spending time with alumni from different years and different majors who were as eager as I was to explore Chicago.”
“It was a welcome realization that the close sense of community that exists on the Beloit College campus also extends to alumni, even if you didn’t know each other well on campus.”