Letters to Julia

( 2 )

Overview

Liz Beech wants nothing more than to escape her crazy family and be a writer. Channeling all her energy and drive into her work, Liz becomes an astute and humorous observer of the people around her. When she begins writing to Julia Steward Jones, a professional editor, the two become fast friends. But Julia doesn't realize the impact that her words have on others until she has gone too far. This unforgettable novel gives readers a glimpse into the minds of two compelling and ...

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Overview

Liz Beech wants nothing more than to escape her crazy family and be a writer. Channeling all her energy and drive into her work, Liz becomes an astute and humorous observer of the people around her. When she begins writing to Julia Steward Jones, a professional editor, the two become fast friends. But Julia doesn't realize the impact that her words have on others until she has gone too far. This unforgettable novel gives readers a glimpse into the minds of two compelling and rich characters.

Author Biography: Barabara Ware Holmes is the author of several novels for young people, including Charlotte Shakespeare and Annie the Great, illustrated by John Himmelman. She lives in Collingswood, NJ, and Port Clyde, ME.

In her journal, chapters of the novel she is writing, and letters to a New York editor who has befriended her, a fifteen-year-old budding author reveals her journey of self-discovery in the midst of a dysfunctional family.

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Editorial Reviews

The ALAN Review - Megan Lynn Isaac
With some prodding from her enthusiastic English teacher, fifteen-year-old Liz sends a piece of her creative writing off to a New York City publisher, Ms. Julia Steward Jones. Much to Liz's delight, Julia responds - not with promises of publication, but with insightful comments and genuine encouragement. Holmes follows this epistolary friendship for a period of two years and intersperses the letters exchanged between Liz and Julia with chapters of Liz's semi-autobiographical novel and selections from her much more private journal. The novel reveals the dangers of hero worship, the nature of depression, and the joy of self- discovery. Through her writing, Liz also explores her conflicted relationship with her divorced parents, especially her father. The novel is a compelling tale about friendship between two women of different generations and a wonderful exploration of the personal and artistic growth of a young writer.
Children's Literature - Sheree Van Vreede
Combining letters, journal entrees, and book chapters, this novel takes on a unique format. The story is about Liz Beach, a high school sophomore, who aspires to be a writer. Liz queries an editor (Julia) and they soon begin exchanging letters. Liz sends Julia chapters of a book she is working on. And in the meantime, Liz keeps a journal in which she struggles to sort out her feelind and relationships with friends and her parents. Liz's parents live on opposite sides of the house, creating a strange situation. While this is a likable book, Liz's voice doesn't always seem real, and the ending seems too rushed.
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8In a series of personal letters, journal entries, and chapters from her autobiographical novel-in-progress, Liz Beach, an aspiring author, relates her relationships with her separated parents and with Julia Jones, an editor at a New York publishing house. Prompted by her English teacher to submit her creative writings to Julia, Liz receives an encouraging initial reply, and before long she and the editor are exchanging letters expressing mutual friendship. Julia urges Liz to send chapters of her novel, which depicts an acrimonious home life with dull, unsympathetic parents. As the teen communicates disappointments with her family, Julia's letters are unfailingly supportive and nurturing, even after the woman loses her elderly parents, then her job, and eventually suffers a nervous breakdown. Liz does begin to gain a measure of appreciation for her father, but the relationship between Liz and Julia is highly implausible and weakens the book, as does Liz's didactic transformation from self-absorbed aesthete to perceptive, caring young woman who, in the end, is not-too-ironically encouraging Julia to write as rehabilitation therapy.Susan W. Hunter, Riverside Middle School, Springfield, VT
Kirkus Reviews
A teenage aspiring writer strikes up an unlikely correspondence with a New York City editor in a novel that takes on books and beauty, the writing process, and personal and parental problems.

When she's told she has talent and a "poetic sensibility, something rarer than the gift of words," Liz Beech, 15, sets to work submitting her novel-in-progress to editor and mentor Julia Steward Jones. The disjointed narrative is comprised of the chapters Liz sends (these are based on her own home life, forming a story within the story), her letters to Julia, and Liz's journal entries, which conveniently disclose her inner thoughts, but are also repetitive and dramatic. The premise of the book strains credibility, but the plot proves even more far-fetched: The pen pals meet and Liz leaves home, angered by Julia's friendship with her father, whom she despises; the now-rocky relationship is further endangered when Julia turns up—somewhat melodramatically—in a psychiatric clinic where, inspired by Liz, she writes poetry in an effort to heal herself. Julia's unburdening of adult concerns—death of an elderly parent, lack of direction, and midlife soul-searching—will fail to elicit much concern from readers; the characters never come off the page; and while there is a genuine attempt to reveal something of the writing (and publishing) process, the results are superficial.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780613218900
  • Publisher: San Val, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Product dimensions: 4.42 (w) x 6.60 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Read an Excerpt

146 West Cliff Street
Edgewood Heights, NJ 08025
September 30, 1994

Ms. Julia Steward Jones
Editor
Springtime Press
One East 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

Dear Ms. Jones,
My name is Elizabeth Beech, and I am a sophomore at Edgewood Heights High School in Edgewood Heights, New Jersey. Yesterday, my English teacher, Mrs. Reeves, gave me your name. You're the editor of her best friend's sister, a writer named Gillian Watson. Mrs. Watson told my teacher that your press specializes in books for young people and that as an editor you're "generous to beginners." Mrs. Reeves (who was also my teacher last year) immediately made submitting something to you my personal assignment. She thinks I have talent.I don't know. In my opinion I have a lot to learn about life and writing. I admire a writer like Henry James. You can tell by his writing that he'd been everywhere and thought about everything and everyone he'd met before he wrote about any of it. I'm only fifteen and I haven't been anywhere. Mrs. Reeves says "leave it to an editor to decide if you have talent" and that "good editors help writers they believe in." That's a nice thought. I agreed to write a query in case she's right. My query is: Would you be willing to read Chapter One of the book I'm working on? I'd appreciate hearing anything you had to say, good or bad. Sometimes it seems to me that my life is filled with two kinds of people-those who only want to say bad and those who only want to say good, no matter what. I could use a true opinion.

Thank you very much for even reading this letter. I'll understand if you answer my query with "no."

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Beech



Springtime Press
One East 56th Street
New York, NY 10022
October 28, 1994

Ms. Elizabeth Beech
146 West Cliff Street
Edgewood Heights, NJ 08025

Dear Ms. Beech:

Certainly you are welcome to send me your chapter. I must warn you, however, that chances are slim it will find a home here. We receive many submissions from young people who have been prompted by well-meaning adults to submit them. Unfortunately, the fact that we specialize in books for children and young adults does not mean that we publish books by them. Such books are seldom polished enough to succeed on our list, no matter how great the blossoming talent.

Nevertheless, I shall read your chapter with interest if you choose to send't had anything new from her in quite a while.

Sincerely,
Julia Steward Jones
Editor



146 West Cliff Street
Edgewood Heights, NJ 08025
November 3, 1994

Ms. Julia Steward Jones
Springtime Press
One East 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

Dear Ms. Jones,

Thank you for answering my letter. I'm embarrassed that I took up your valuable time. I thought Mrs. Reeves (my teacher) would be also, but when she read your letter, she said, "There! Now you have an editor willing to read your writing. Send it!" So here it is, with new apologies.

Very sincerely,
Elizabeth Beech



Chapter One

I was ten years old when my family split apart. I don't mean split up, I mean split apart. My mother and Eric to the right side of the house, my father and me, Elspeth Nicholson, to the left. As far as I can tell, each of us broke right down the middle when it happened so that we're hollow inside-blank in our centers, like the empty hallway between the halves of the house, or the row of canisters in my mother's kitchen that no one bothers to fill.

I hate being with my father. Only his body is ever here. His mind, if he has one, always lives somewhere else. Once, when I was eleven, I tried to live in the hallway between the halves of the house, but it didn't work out. No bathroom. No food. No privacy, since my mother has to come into the hallway to get to her upstairs. Nothing but muddy boots and old umbrellas and me, tucked into a corner beside the stairs, watching the others come and go. It was almost like being homeless.

So, for six years, minus that short stretch in the hall, I've been with Dad. It's worked out perfectly for my parents-Eric to do the man's work for Mom and me to be the wife. I cook, clean, do laundry. Watch my father sulk.

"Grow up," I tell him (sounding like my mother!), but that only makes him worse. Someday I'll escape for real, to a place with a center that holds more than muddy boots. I know the place too-the very place. It's an apartment, occupied at the moment by my friend Angela's sister and her husband. They're saving their money for a house "a year or two down the road." Perfect. When they move out, I move in. That apartment is mine, I know it. I knew it from the very first minute I saw it. Angela's sister, Sammy, was standing in front of one of the huge wonderful windows that run from floor to ceiling, and the sun flashed around her as if she were made of metal. I was dazzled, like a baby when something sparkly and unexpected is dangled in front of its eyes. "Mine!" a voice hollered in my head.

Sammy doesn't have curtains on the windows and I won't either. "Light is everything," she says, and I mostly agree. Light and air. Space doesn't matter too much. I could live in a one-room apartment and be happy as long as it had a window and nobody else inside it. Funny-I feel suffocated in this whole big house, but I'd feel free in a tiny room.

Not that space isn't also nice-room for pictures and books. Sammy's apartment has a lot of space. It's perfect in every way. Lately, when I have extra money, I buy things for my future apartment. So far, I have a carved candle shaped like a flower to sit on my mantelpiece; blue cloth place mats with matching napkins (for my table that doesn't exist!); and one china teacup. I found the cup in an antique store. The lady who sold it to me said it had lost its value when it lost its matching saucer. Plus it has a chip you can hardly see on its bottom. Doesn't it matter that it also has delicate pink flowers painted on its side and solid gold around its rim? The lady practically gave it away, as if it were nothing.

It's lonely seeing beauty where no one else sees it. Angela doesn't even notice her sister's apartment, and she agrees with my mother that pretty things are just clutter. My mother's philosophy is: if you can't use and abuse it, then throw it away. Or at something. She threw me at my father. He isn't fussy.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2004

    Excellent

    Letters To Julia is one of the best books I've read recently. I admire Holmes ability to describe things in depth while using the letter format. Although, like someone said, Elizabeth Beech's character isn't exactly an outstanding writer, I can still relate to her. The things she goes through, although not incredibly big issues, are definitley relatable by todays teenager. I admire Holmes' ability to relate to youth so easily. The way Holmes' wrote such a rounded story with a great plot line and format, really inspired me to keep writing. She's a great author and I'd recommend this book to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2006

    Letters to Julia: Good but could be better

    This book is prertty good. It was well written, but considering that I, personally have read many, many books it is not the best book that I've ever read. One thing that I didn't like about this book that I would like to point out is that at the end of about the first ten to thirteen letters that Elizabeth writes Julia she states, 'I'm sorry that I'm wasting your valuable time' or 'I'm sorry to bother you with this' or something. That was the one thing that made this book a little less-enjoyable. The best book that I've ever read is Ida B. by Katherine Hannigan. She has to be one of the most talented writers in the world. If you like novels, read Ida B.!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2003

    okay

    i thought it was better than alot of the other books i have read although it is boring at times.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2002

    Letters to Julia

    This is the worst book that I have ever read in my entire life. The characters all appear fake especially Elizabeth Beech, the main character in the book who is struggling with relationship and school problems. I could not possibly see how Elizabeth could ever be an aspiring author due to her poor writing skills and those corny story topics. I loathe this book and I would not recommend it to any other reader unless you are searching for a misguided teen novel.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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