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The Curious Cat Blog is all about writing, for writers, by a writer.


An Interview With Medium's Julie Russell

Carina Sitkus

I'm so excited about this interview with Medium's head of IT, Julie Russell. I met Julie online through her NaNoWriMo publication on Medium, and then we got the chance to meet in person during my trip to the San Francisco Medium office. For those of you who have read all of my (many) posts about how much I love Medium, you know how awesome that was for me. 

Julie's also on the board of NaNoWriMo and is overall just an incredibly gracious, kind, and whip-smart writer! If you're participating in NaNoWriMo this year, definitely follow Julie and the NaNo publication for some extra motivation. 

Without further ado, meet Julie!

You're the head of IT at Medium and you're a writer. What is it like to work for a company that fuses that work together so perfectly? Has your writing life changed since you started working there, if at all?

JR: Honestly?  It's awesome and confronting, in equal parts!  I love writers, I love writing (most of the time), and I love technology and making things work.  But nearly all of my colleagues follow me on Medium, some of whom are professional writers, so that tiny bit of anonymity I could have as a writer on the Internet doesn't exist.  Many times my inner critic rears its demonic head and shouts, "Who are you to post your writing on Medium; to presume you can write a novel?!"

So I shrug, try to grin, and say to my worst fears, "Who am I not to?"


You're known for being "balanced." How do you balance work with personal life and your writing life? What's your advice for other writers who are seemingly "juggling it all?" 

JR: Writing for me fits in the cracks of my day.  Sometimes I have a whole afternoon, sometimes I have an hour before my family wakes in the morning.  Sometimes I rant for pages in my writing notebook, and sometimes a coherent start of something meaningful appears after the opening sentence.  

Writing is how I keep my sanity, it's how I stay connected to myself.


Does where you live matter for what you write? 

JR: I write where I know, and where I've been, so San Francisco shows up a lot!  Travel keeps my mind open, even if it's about being a tourist in my own city for a day, or getting on a plane to somewhere English isn't the primary language.


What is your advice for writers who are struggling to reach readers on Medium? In general? 

JR: For me, it comes down to promotion, which can be the hardest thing for (this) introverted writer.  At least on Medium it's easier than it was on my blog islands, where I'd wave banners, please come read!  Please come read!  And my Mom would show up.

Sometimes a post gets lucky - which can be good and strange, because my Minecraft post skyrocketed and I didn't think about much for 2 days.  Internet fame is fickle and consuming.  My novel posts are doing okay, with a couple dozen readers, a handful of recommends, but that is enough to keep me posting!


What is your favorite piece published on Medium?

JR: That's kind of like trying to choose between my dog, my cat, and my daughter, as to which is my favorite, so I'll pass on that question ...I will say I can lose a whole Sunday reading post after post on Medium, and of course I'm partial to all the fun stuff we do on the NaNoWriMo publication in November!


What's dogeared and sitting by your bed? 

JR: Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.  Autographed twice!  Tamora Pierce's The Immortals Quartet.  I am a YA fantasy junkie, and these are my go-to when I want to escape to another world.

I'm currently reading Natalie Goldberg's Thunder and Lightning in prep for November's NaNo adventure. 


Finally, where can we follow your writing? How can CCP readers/writers get in touch?

JR: I write exclusively on Medium these days, which is where I'm sporadically serially-posting my first novel.  I have a couple of abandoned blogs, but doesn't everyone?

Many thanks to Julie for the interview. If you're interested in learning more about NaNoWrimo, check out the website here. In short, you write 1,667 words a day for the entire month of November. Thank God for coffee.

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