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    JulieConversation

    Julie Ascarrunz (Photo Provided)

     

    bill berry:

    Hey Julie, thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to talk to me for a bit.

         I was intrigued with your bio in the current issue of aaduna. You speak Spanish; earned a graduate degree in Educational Equity and Cultural Diversity, which is one of two graduate degrees, the other being in Creative Writing; you’re a published writer in periodicals other than aaduna, and you are a vocalist with a repertory group. Where does all of this come from? Were you the poster child for being “model multi-talented, bi-lingual youngster” growing up? In fact, what was your childhood like?

     

    Julie Ascarrunz:

    Hi bill.  Thank you for welcoming me to aaduna.  Yes, a short bio seems almost false because you don’t get to see the towers and tumbles behind who someone is today.  I want to say that I am such an average person – middle-class white girl. Grew up in SE Denver; lived in the same house with two parents, two brothers, and a dog; went to the local high school. Except there is no such thing as an average person. If we were talking about anyone except me, I would passionately argue that every detail of a person’s story differentiates them from everyone else.  Perhaps it is our failure to see, or fear of seeing, how each of us is unique that leads to so many problems in the world today. So I have to own my story.

         I was painfully shy and awkward as a child.  Still am, at the core of me.  So I would read.  I lost myself in books.  That’s where I hid. My mom took us to the library every week during the summer.  Reading became my reaction to things.  Looking back, I realize for every major eruption in my life, my reaction has been to return to school, return to the books.  So what does that say about all the degrees? {Wink face.}  Anyway, I had a childhood full of love, opportunity, and high expectations.  My father (who is in a dementia care center now) had a mantra “I can’t change the world.  All I can do is get up and go to work.  Every day.”  Showing up.  That is what changes the world.

         I took some Spanish classes in school.  Then French.  Bilingual didn’t happen until later. I didn’t talk a lot.  But I listened to everyone and everything. Tried a lot of activities, was very curious.  Played piano, auditioned for musicals and plays.  But I could never get past my judgment of myself.  I am a chorus girl at heart.  I need to make music to express some part of me, to connect me to the world, but I am no soloist.  I was like a frayed nerve as a child, so unsure of what to do with everything I felt.  Pummeled by my emotions.

     

    bb:

    I am quite sure you are not “average.” For example, you are white. I am not. You are female, I am not. You can sing. I suck, and sing at least a quarter-note off key. (I think it is a whole note.) My Mom (who is 93 getting ready for 94 in 6 months) speaks fluent Spanish, but I was not raised to be bi-lingual because my Dad did not speak any Spanish. So, in your heart of hearts, what makes you much more than average (i.e. unique) as compared to folks who generally meet your social profile regardless of cultural or ethnic background?

     

    ja:

    Then, at the core of me is music. If you think of a symphony, music is about creating while being absolutely aware of what those around you are creating. A choir is about singing while listening to the altos and tenors across the way.  Care and nurturing play a part as well because nothing about us grows in a vacuum. We have to listen.  We have to create.  We absolutely must take care of others. Words are simply my instrument for all of that.

         Malebranche said “Attentiveness is the natural prayer of the soul.”

    When life has forced me to reset, I have always returned to words.  Not necessarily as tools to build logic, but as elements of image and song to help in my own discovery.

         I recovered from a brain injury in my 20’s. There was a period of time that I was aphasic — the words in my head were not what came out of my mouth. I had planned to become a teacher, but I didn’t think I would be able to.  So I went back to school and studied English Lit.  That gave me new words, new ways to describe and pay attention to the world.

         I married a man from Bolivia whose parents died when he was young.  We raised/supported his siblings as they grew up and cared for his aunt who had cancer. Somewhere in there, I became bilingual and had a whole other set of words to help me attend to things, notice things. Children completely diversify your focus.  Then divorce.

         In the mess of dirty diapers and piles of laundry, I realized the academic language of studying literature didn’t fit with my reality. It didn’t help me pay attention to what I needed to figure out.  I wasn’t sure what that was, but I needed to be tearing words apart and building with them as opposed to analyzing them.  I wanted to be up to my elbows in something as opposed to holding it at arm’s length.  So I went back to school in Creative Writing.

         What joy!  I found a space to listen, to make my own music, to write poems.

    It was like being given permission to sing after being silenced.  To sing, to pray, to explore, to revere even the nastiness of life.  Like an interior cathedral with all its reverberations.

     

    bb:

    There is joy, understanding, and eloquence in your words and those attributes appear in your poetry. Plus it seems you have a thirst to live life, explore, and discover. Where are your explorations taking you now as a new year starts to take its roots? And do you have long range life plans?

     

    ja:

    Thank you for your praise.  Such validation is valuable and rare for most artists.

         My son asked me this morning, “What do you think is the biggest problem in the world today?”  My answer:  We don’t communicate well with one another.  As a hive, as a world community, we don’t listen to one another, we don’t explore back story and context; we don’t think individually and critically; we don’t ask the right questions.  It’s ironic in an age of information and communication.  I hope that education is the solution to that.  So, I will always continue teaching in one form or another.  Probing and prodding the way we make meaning. Figuring out how everyone can unlock the valuable vault of words involved in the transaction of ideas.

         My sons are both in college now so my responsibilities have shifted.  I have more time to write and I am working hard to make sure that time doesn’t get eaten away by my tendency to say yes.  I attended a workshop with Mark Doty in June.  He told me that no one will read my work if I never send it out.  It’s obvious, but I just hadn’t put my energy in that direction.  Since June, several poems have found homes. However, the three aaduna embraced are the first to be published.  Thank you for that.

         My goal for this year is to shape a manuscript or maybe two and get them published.  I am also considering application to a low-residency MFA program, but the costs are pretty restrictive.  Some universities accept the MA/MFA combination while hiring. I might eventually go that direction, but I am more intrigued by alternative forms of education that break down walls, welcome the inquisitive, and include the local community.  The status quo agitates me.  We turn too quickly toward violence. It is almost pre-packaged in our fast-food, speed-consumption world.  Why don’t we spend our millions to study peace and conflict resolution?  What would restorative justice look like in the curriculum of our schools?  Shouldn’t these things be the bedrock of the Common Core?  As you can see, I will continue to question.

     

    bb:

    You voice intriguing observations, and raise critical and valid questions. My simplistic answer tends to be that this country is a capitalistic nation…end of story. Understanding the dynamics and virtues or vice, depending on one’s perspective, of our economic system generally predict the direction that the 1% will go with the rest of the country following….all too often if money can’t be made then let that issue flounder and eventually it will disappear. In your field, there are for-profit companies that suggest radical improvements in education. (I worked for a for-profit college so I speak from experience.) Some work, most do not. But that is a growth investment industry. OK, I will get down from the soapbox. I am glad that you followed Mr. Doty’s advice and more than pleased that we embraced your work. It is a nice surprise to learn that we published you first, but more so, that other publishers also heard the intrinsic value of how you weave words and phrases. So, before I bring our chat to an end, what do you do for simply fun…besides the choir and writing?

     

    ja:

    I love roller coasters.  At Disney we learned how to ride ‘California Screamin’ over and over again by lining up single.  I think we went on the ride eight times.  We finally stopped when we figured we were reaching another state of awareness and weren’t sure we wanted to go there.

         Also, I am lucky to live near Boulder, one of the most beautiful places in the world.  I spend a lot of time outside:  walking, hiking, running, taking the dogs to the dog park.  Much of my summer I am in the garden, fighting the weeds and clay.  Also, I religiously spend one weekend a year at “Rockygrass,” a bluegrass festival in Lyons, CO.

    Of course, I read, read, read, go to readings and to concerts. Whenever possible, I spend time with my friends, my family, my sons.

     

    bb:

    Your love of roller coasters is the bane of my existence. My first and last ride was at Coney Island when I was a youngster at my Dad’s urging. Since then, I live my life re-incarnated! We have similar garden activities and I will add Boulder to the list of U.S. places I should visit. OK, now you get to play “this or that.” Simple rules, do not think about your answer or try to figure what any of this means, which is not much, just silly fun. Here you go:

     

    Mall Restaurant or Theme-Park Restaurant?

    Mall

     

    Poached or Over Easy?

    Poached

     

    Begin or End?

    Begin

     

    Football or Soccer?

    Soccer

     

    Doberman or German Shepherd?

    Doberman

     

    Potato Chips or Pretzels?

    Potato Chips

     

    Desktop or Laptop?

    Laptop

     

    Fingernails or Toenails?

    Fingernails

     

    Earache or Headache?

    Headache

     

    Bre’r Rabbit or Bugs Bunny?

    Bugs Bunny

     

    [N.B. Julie’s answers are in red.]

     

    Thank you taking the time to chat with me and continue to enjoy and excel at all that you do!

     

    ja:

    Thank you, bill. It has been a pleasure.

    ♦  ♦  ♦

     

    Read Julie Ascarrunz’s poetry:   http://aaduna.org/fallwinter2014/poetry/julie-ascarrunz/

     

     Click here to read additional conversations:  http://aaduna.org/fallwinter2014/conversations/

     

    Click here to read conversations from previous issues:  http://aaduna.org/summer2014/conversations/

     

    ————————————————————————————————————

    Message from Bill Berry, Jr

     

    When aaduna started, I did an interview process titled “E-Viewpoints” with contributors. The purpose was to construct a wider audience for aaduna writers and artists while providing our readership with a better understanding and glimpse of the individuals who penned the poetry, fiction, and non-fiction and created the diverse array of visual arts. For a variety of unplanned reasons, I took a hiatus from that initiative. But now, I am back with “Conversations.” The plan is to chat with current and previous contributors and delve into aspects of their background that you may find intriguing and uplifting. I hope you become a regular follower of this series of “Conversations” and continue to enjoy the work of the individual that I have a chat with. The intent is not to be “in your face” but enable you to savor the nuances, expectations, and challenges that aaduna contributors face as people, just like you and me.  I think you will find “Conversations” interesting, maybe provocative, and enlightening. I hope so.

     

    Stay Creative,

    bill

    Conversation with Tearz

    February 10, 2015