Julie’s Story

“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.”

– Edith Wharton




Julie Gardner, AWA Affiliate


My dad the storyteller and comedian.

My love for story was fostered by my dad, the biggest storyteller who ever lived.  The work of writing was modeled by my mom, mother of nine, who started college to earn a degree in communications when I was in junior high school. “Camp,” my first poem, was published when I was 11 years old. I still have the poem but not the Kennedy half dollar prize. With an undergraduate degree in early childhood education and two masters degrees (human development and counseling) I worked and published in these fields for decades.

During the 1990’s, as program director for The Putnam House, a rural cultural center in Carrington, North Dakota, I collaborated with and supported many artists. Inspired by them and feeling a loss in my own creative development, I enrolled in a fiction class at Jamestown College.

Nine years later  in Columbia, Missouri, I took another fiction class and attended my first Amherst Writing & Artists (AWA) workshop. Though I had public speaking experience, I hyperventilated as I read my written words aloud-for the first time.

Writing, reading and being responded to, listening and responding to other’s written work in AWA workshops is life-giving. The joy of writing alone and with others is as necessary to me as air, bread and water.

After a move to Seattle, Washington in 2007, the Richard Hugo House became my second home. I took as many classes as I could, attended events, served on the board for a short time and completed the Literary Fiction certificate program at the University of Washington. In the summer of 2010 I trained to be an Amherst Writers & Artists Affiliate.

For over seven years, I’ve had the joy and privilege to facilitate WritersGathering AWA weekly workshops and retreats. As a volunteer I’ve led weekly writing groups at Mary’s Place. The largest group I’ve led was 400 secondary school girls in Malawi, Africa on a VoiceFlame cross-cultural journey.

In 2014, after my husband was diagnosed with cancer we began legacy writing. It was so rewarding and life affirming helping us to clarify our values. We agreed living and loving fully in the present was our top priority and we did this together until he left this world in July 2018. Through his written words and actions he has left us gifts which keep his love and presence alive. To guide others in this meaningful work, I became a Nationally Certified Life-Legacies Facilitator.

I write as a spiritual practice, and I’m working, at my own slow pace, on various works.

I’m honored to be able to do the work I do, to create a safe space for people to share their stories.