Spreading love with literature

Ivan Rome

“I want to be a poet.” 

An atypical response when asking a child what they aspire to be when they grow up. Many children aspire to be firemen, astronauts and princesses, but for Julia Johnson she always wanted to be a writer.

Just on the edge of sleep, each day Johnson grabs her pen and begins to reflect on her childhood days growing up in New Orleans, where creativity is encouraged and Mardi Gras rules supreme. She is now an accomplished poet whose third book “Subsidence” was just published. Johnson still remembers her days at the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts as if they happened yesterday. She was encouraged to write as a young child and now the tables have turned, with her using her platform to be the encourager. 

“I loved it from the moment I first walked into the classroom,” Johnson said.

Five years ago there were zero student literary organizations, but Johnson knew this had to change. 

“Student organizations are very important to me, for all of the obvious reasons,” Johnson said. “It adds energy to the university.”

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Therefore, her and two former students, Katie Cross and Kendra Sanders, created Graphite, a creative writing organization. Johnson is also a faculty advisor for the student literary magazine, Shale, and for Poetic Justice, a new student literary organization dedicated to social change. Just as her brother designs and supervises the construction of buildings as an architect, Johnson is supervising the construction of creativity and change. 

When Johnson is not writing or teaching, she can often be found reading the work of Wallace Stevens or Emily Dickinson. She might even be gardening or watching her favorite TV show, Transparent. She could be traveling back to the Big Easy, but no matter what she does, she makes sure to put her family first.

Johnson said her greatest inspiration and biggest influence when writing is her family. They are the most cherished people in her life and to lose them is her biggest fear. Motivated by the love of her parents, Johnson not only strives to encapsulate that love in her writing but also pours out that love on every person that she encounters.

“Legacy isn’t something that you can determine, orchestrate, or plan in terms of one’s career or work as a writer,” Johnson said. “But I hope I leave the world having been kind to people. I think that’s important.”