An Interview with Julia Nusbaum; Empowering women through storytelling.

logo © Julia Nusbaum, creator and curator of HerStry, empowering women through storytelling

“Writing women back into history: For too long women have been left out of the history books. Their stories muddled or left untold. It’s time to change that. HerStry invites all women, from every walk of life, to tell their stories. We all have something worth saying.” Julia Nusbaum 

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“You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows what they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.” Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus


A number of years ago, Julia Nusbaum founded a brave and safe space for women to share their stories. It’s called HerStry. I’ve been watching it evolve. Julia’s values and intentions are born of experience in social services and of a keen awareness of the healing power of words and stories. Thanks to her, the stories shared by women from all walks of life correct the historic record, let others know they’re not alone in their experiences and perceptions, and provide inspiration for joy and healing, for overcoming trauma and depression.

Christmas, late ’80s, San Francisco, California

About a week or so ago, I dusted off Remembering Mom, a 2012 piece I wrote at the request of an editor at Connotation Press. It was well received, but at the time I had mixed feelings about delivering it for publication. If my mother was alive, she wouldn’t be happy with me. At this point, I had no reservations about asking Julia to consider it for publication on her site. The emerging tone of public discussion on privacy issues, race and gender issues, and women’s rights over their own bodies demands that we are open about our experiences and observations, both as a reminder and as a warning. We’re being thrown back into the second wave of feminism. I am old enough to remember when we first began sharing our stories, blue-penciling history, and fighting anti-woman, anti-race animus with Gloria Steinem and Alice Walker at the helm.

Remembering Mom is on HerStry. You can read it there. The subtext of my mother’s story is a culture that saw women as third class citizens and perennial children, consigned them to poverty with pay rates 40% lower than men working the same jobs, provided no privacy protection for medical records, and sanctioned an employment norm that allowed people to be fired or not hired due to illnesses like cancer.


AN INTERVIEW WITH 

Julia Nusbaum
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©  Julia Nusbaum

JAMIE: What are the influences that brought you to founding a safe space for women to tell their stories and why is it important for women to share them?

JULIA: I can’t talk about the beginning of HerStry without talking about my time as a graduate student at Vanderbilt University Divinity School. It shaped so much of what HerStry was and is.
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For the last year of my masters program I chose to spend a year working in a nonprofit rather than writing a thesis because my ultimate goal was to work in nonprofit rather than go on in academia.
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I ended up working for Thistle Farms, a Nashville-based social enterprise that works with women who have survived trafficking, addiction, and life in the street. As cliché as it is, that year changed my life.
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For one, Thistle Farms is an extraordinary place that operates under the assumption that love heals. Everything in that place is done with purpose and intention and love, including sharing stories and holding sacred space for every woman’s story and unique experience.
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While I was there I started a writing group. I was young and naive and thought we’d just do some fun short-story writing and be done, but it turned into a space where women wrote their true, raw, tender stories. And I wrote with them. I wrote about my life experiences. I discovered things about myself, and I realized that women don’t really get spaces to just talk about ourselves and share our experiences. I wanted to create some kind of brave space like that where we could open up. I started HerStry.
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I convinced a bunch of my friends to write for the first couple of weeks so I had content. Then I just started advertising. I created a Facebook page and Instagram and just built it through word of mouth. It was hard, but I wanted to do it so badly. So many women thanked me after they wrote for HerStry that I knew I was doing the right thing. I knew it could be something.
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That was long winded, but HerStry was created with so much love and born out of a place that wants to shake up the norms. I want women to talk about themselves, to take up space online and in the world, to own their stories and be proud of who they are and where they have come from and where they are going.
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JAMIE: I believe HerStry is about three years old now. Have there been any unexpected lessons along the way?
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JULIA: I’ve learned that I can’t please everyone. I’ll always do something someone doesn’t like. Whether it’s adding submission fees, not accepting a story (I’d love to accept every story we get but it would be so much), or being an unashamed feminist and voicing my views and opinions on things.
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JAMIE: In addition to hosting women’s storytelling, you have recently expanded your offerings to include workshops, journaling guidelines and other services.  So what’s the plan? How can you help women who have a story to tell but don’t yet have the skills to tell it?
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JULIA: So from the beginning I wanted HerStry to exist on and off the screen. But it takes money and work to make that happen, so it’s just been in the last few months that we started offering workshops. They have been a great success. We have two more on tap for late summer and early fall. I’m also planning our first writers’ group, which will be a five week online critique group. If the first one goes well, we will offer it at different levels. I think everyone deserves a chance to tell their story and if we can help them get there that’s what I want.
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I’m also in the process of planning our first writers retreat, hopefully coming summer 2020. Stay tuned. It’s going to be in the Midwest and full of Midwest summer goodness plus lots of healing and self care time … and writing time, of course!
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JAMIE: What is forthcoming from you as a writer?
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JULIA: I’m actually working on a novel. Well, my second novel. The first will never see the light of day and that’s okay. Everyone needs one novel that was trash. That’s how you learn.
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I went out to the Northern California Writers Retreat this spring and worked on it with a bunch of amazing writers. If you ever have the chance to do that retreat I highly suggest it. It changed my writing life.
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JAMIE: The readers and writers connected to The Poet by Day and The BeZine are multitalented.  Our writing community includes poets who also write fiction, creative nonfiction and drama. Some are performance artists, visual artists, actors and musicians. We even have a number of cartoonists. However, here our primary – not exclusive – focus is poetry. We can’t help but ask if HerStry will eventually expand to include women’s poetry?
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JULIA: We actually used to have a poetry section. If you look in our archives you can read the old ones. When we started getting a lot of submissions and started gaining popularity, we decided to only focus on personal essays.
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Our Facebook Group, Babes Who Write, as well as any of our critique groups are open to writers of all genres, but the literary website and our forthcoming anthology, Beginnings, are dedicated specifically to nonfiction prose.
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JAMIE: What is HerStry’s submissions process?
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JULIA: Click the Submit a story button on our website. It will give you all the details about how to submit. You can also find us on Submittable!
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Bravo, Julia!



© Julia Nusbaum

Julia Nusbaum is the creator of HerStry. She currently lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin where she works in nonprofit. When she’s not working she loves reading, sitting in sunny spots, and eating all the food and drinking all the tea.



ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poems in “I Am Not a Silent Poet”
* Remembering Mom in HerStry
* Three poems in Levure littéraire
Upcoming in digital publications:
“Over His Morning Coffee,” Front Porch Review

A homebound writer, poet, and former columnist and associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Ramingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander Cove, I Am Not a Silent Poet, The Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, an info hub for poets and writers and am the founding/managing editor of The BeZine.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton



 

6 thoughts on “An Interview with Julia Nusbaum; Empowering women through storytelling.

      • Sorry for taking so long to reply. I made the mistake of clicking the upgrade button, when I was asked to at 1 a.m. this morning. It took until about 4 a.m. LOL Longest story short is, I got up around 8/9 a.m. ish and came on line, checked email and went back to bed at ? Anyways I just got up 🙄 Yes I’m thinking about Herstry in the meantime I got an email from The Local Train saying they wanted to publish one of my little stories (Which isn’t this one 😂) in their 3rd issue on June 11th I hope it’s true. If any of this makes sense let me know. 😊

        Liked by 1 person

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