Today I’m writing in honor of my friend Julie Forward DeMay and her memoir, Cell War Notebooks – today is a blog-athon organized by Indies Forward and I asked to join as well. Julie’s book was made from seven months of her blog posts, telling the story of her journey with cervical cancer. It’s beautiful, honest, funny, full of love and so, so hard to read at times – I just want the ending to be different, so badly. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I hope that you read it, too. And as Indies Forward says…
What if you couldn’t promote your book? Not everyone gets that chance. Our indie-ninja-in-spirit Julie Forward DeMay dreamed of being a published author, and in 2011 her first book was released — two years after Julie (a daughter, sister, wife, and mother) lost her battle with cancer.
In a couple weeks, it will be sixteen years since I landed here in Portland. The first morning I was here, I went for a walk and got a cup of coffee in the rain. The very first store I walked into was a little record store called Q is for Choir. I set my coffee down and started flipping through records, and it was sometime in that magical hour that I realized that I was home, and that if I loved Portland in February when it was wet and dark and cold, it was the place for me.
I met Julie through a bunch of mutual friends sometime a couple years after that. I loved her photography and we sold our stuff at a few of the same art shows and craft fairs. I remember buying a couple of her prints and loving them. This top one is called “Trapeze” and I don’t think the other, of train tracks, had a name. We were never super close friends, but I always liked her so much, was always so happy to see her at a party or an art show or her shop. She was a bright light and a huge talent, one of the people who made Portland special.
Julie and her husband Scott bought Q is for Choir a few years later, and they made it such a cool place… they carried zines (they sold my husband Andrew‘s eBay PowerSeller guide), art shows, books (I got my Ex Libris Anonymous spiral-bound family cookbook there) and lots and lots of records. Julie (whose adorable daughter Luka is a few years older than Pearl) had created such a great kids’ section, I always found some treasures there with her guidance. Here are a couple of my favorites she helped me pick out.
I was out for a walk with baby Pearl one afternoon early in 2009 and we saw Julie on Clinton St., walking to work. We chatted for a few minutes and I asked how she was doing. She said that her cervical cancer had come back after nearly a year of remission, but she was doing everything she could to take care of herself and beat it again. I told her that my mom is a cancer survivor, four times over, and that love and support from her friends had meant so much, and I’d be honored to help in any way I could. She told me that she’d started writing a blog to share updates and her story for everyone, and I started reading it, and like so many of her friends, left her little porch presents and sending cards, cheering her on, visiting her at the shop, hoping so much that her bravery and strength would win.
The last time I saw Julie was at her opening for a show of her photographs that summer. I got to tell her how much I loved them – they were all lights and colors and beautiful-ness. Andrew and I bought this one. I sure wish I could get a good photo of it for you, today. It’s just so luminous and serene and warm and energetic all at once. I hope you can see a bit of that even in these off-kilter snapshots, with the reflections and angles. Every time I see it now in my house, it makes me happy. I’m thankful to her for capturing that image and sharing it with the rest of us.
Julie was a photographer, writer, mother, wife, friend and record store owner. Her amazing blog has become a book, self-published by her family, with all proceeds going to her beloved Luka (who is now nine). You can buy it here and find out much more about it here, and you can see all of the Indie Forward posts linked here.
That spring of 2009, my third book, Button It Up, came out, and I brought a copy of it over for Julie and Luka. Julie was so excited for me, and her kind words meant a lot. She asked what it was like to have your own book in your hands. I’m shy, even around friends, and probably to a fault never want it to seem like I’m bragging – I feel so lucky and thankful for the chance to write, but I downplayed it a little bit, not wanting to seem cocky. But now, holding Julie’s book in my hands, I wish I could somehow go back to that conversation with her and be more brave, and say instead – it’s awesome. The chance to have your very own book out in the world is wonderful. And I am so proud of Julie and her beautiful book, and very thankful to her family for bringing it to life on the page. I wish she were here to tell you about it herself. But I am honored to be one of the ones talking about her, and her book, today.
PS: Q is for Choir has now become Clinton St. Record and Stereo, and along with records, they specialize in stellar vintage record players and audio equipment. Aaron recently fixed my static-y early-70s Pioneer receiver and it has never sounded better. I love the shop and I’m so happy to be able to walk over, after all these years.