Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Julie Miller Pennell

When Julie Miller Pennell offers to make me a grilled cheese, I accept. Perhaps like any red-blooded American, I am a sucker for melted cheese on bread. She places sliced cheese, bread, and butter on the counter, and assembles two, one for her and one for me. While each of them cooks, she adds some tomato soup to a small pot. “I’m not a very good cook,” she says, “but I can make grilled cheese!” She definitely can. It's delicious. 

In fact, there is a character whose culinary skills are based on Julie’s in her new novel, The Young Wives Club, which was published in February, on Valentine’s Day no less, by Simon & Schuster. The book, recently named one of Southern Living’s Best New Summer Books, follows the lives of four young Louisiana women who get married right out of high school and what happens as their paths unfold. There are traces of Julie’s three closest friends, with whom she is in a daily, ongoing group text, in the book’s other characters. 

Prior to writing her book, Julie worked at Seventeen and Alloy Digital Media as an editor. But her career in publishing had an interesting start. Originally from Shreveport, Louisiana, Julie idolized CosmoGIRL! founding editor Atoosa Rubenstein, and went to a beauty pageant in Louisiana, where Rubenstein was a judge, with the express purpose of meeting her. When the pageant ended, Julie ran to the stage to meet Atoosa, but the editor was being whisked away so Julie shouted “ATOOSA!” to grab her attention. It just barely worked, and the editor turned around and looked before heading out. Julie wrote a piece for a local newspaper about the experience and sent it to the editor, who loved it, later hired her as an intern at the magazine. She then brought Julie along to Seventeen when moving on. Atoosa actually wrote about Julie and their meeting in a CosmoGIRL! editor’s letter, which Julie has framed in her house. 

Julie later became a full-time freelancer while working on her book and has kept with it. She starts every day at her computer, writing and blogging for places like Teen VogueThe NestTodayInStyle, and more. This is what she is up to when I arrive at her apartment, pre-grilled cheese. Interestingly, though freelancers are notoriously hermit-like, this is the reason I met Julie: we were both speaking on a freelancing panel at a conference. Looking to be around other humans for a day, we resolved to meet up and co-work at a coffee shop. Luckily, we both like a quiet workplace, so working together was easy and very productive. In fact, after grilled cheese, we go downstairs to her building’s office space (which has a copy of Julie’s book in its library) and work on our own pieces. Time ticks by as the sky darkens and giant chandelier above the conference table begins to be more and more useful. Another freelancing day gone, this one not at all lonely.

Follow Julie on Twitter and Instagram. 

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