Julie Cantrell moved to Oxford in 2004, where she was inspired by the multitude of writers in the community and was able to discover that a career in writing was not just a fantasy.
Cantrell grew up in a working-class family in Louisiana; so a career in writing seemed to be out of reach and certainly not something that “real people” did. Now she is the published author of three novels with another in the works.
“I’m grateful I live in a community that supports and encourages creative expression, and I’m not sure I would have ever become a published author if I had not landed in this wonderful literary town,” Cantrell said. “It’s the first place I met published authors and began to understand a career in the arts was not just a ridiculous childhood dream. It was, in fact, a realistic possibility.”
Due to her background, the road to becoming a writer was not one that Cantrell could have foreseen. When she was in high school, her English teacher discouraged her from pursuing a career in writing, stating there was no money to be made in writing. Cantrell gave up the dream. In fact, she never took a single writing class in college.
Years later, Cantrell was living in Illinois and was a member of a group called Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPs). MOPs International was hosting a writing contest, and a friend dared her to enter. Cantrell, someone who never ignores a dare, accepted and won the competition.
“My writing career began fifteen years ago,” Cantrell said. “If you know anything about Louisiana girls, we rarely back down from a dare. I wrote a poem. I entered. I won… I’ve spent the last fifteen years building a freelance writing business off of that one stroke of luck.”
Cantrell’s family moved to Oxford over ten years ago, and she was immediately inspired by the writers in the community and by Oxford itself.
“I am a nature girl, so the landscape here speaks to me and has become a central part of my being,” Cantrell said. “This time of year carries a particular magic to it. I love cresting a hill and seeing Lafayette County sprawl out in all its glory. It’s such a beautiful place, and I hope I never become numb to it.”
Cantrell is also thankful to Oxford for helping to inspire her to achieve this goal she never thought was possible. She knows that the writing industry is difficult and she attributes much of her success to the community here.
“I recognize how many incredible choices readers have; so when someone gives my book their time and attention, I recognize that choice as a gift, and I am grateful,” Cantrell said. “Thanks to the people of Oxford for giving me a place to call home, a long-standing career in the arts, and space on your shelves for my stories.”
Cantrell’s newest novel is set in present-day Oxford and is set to release in fall of 2017.
Amy Goodin is a writer for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at argoodin12