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Dear Vaccine

Updated: May 9, 2022

Sometime between the time that my book was published in April and we moved to Mexico in July, Naomi Shihab Nye, outstanding poet and teacher, the Young People’s Poet Laureate, contacted me to ask if I would write a poem for an on-line publication called Dear Vaccine. She told me that writers from countries around the globe were going to write something addressing the subject of the vaccine, whatever that meant to them.

I was distracted and overwhelmed with our up-coming move, but I had to say yes to Naomi’s request because I wanted to be part of a project that connects us all globally about a subject that is deeply important to Everyone.

And I couldn't say no to my friend Naomi. It is because of her that many, many years and several books ago I started submitting my writing for publication. I met Naomi because I had read and loved her work, and found a connection between us that felt uncanny. Her feelings and thoughts were profound, eloquent but simply expressed, and revealed a deep concern and love for humanity. I called her, having tracked her down through her bio, and said ”Naomi, this is Julie Heifetz. You don’t know me, but I love you!” She was as warm and delightful on the phone as her words were on the page. Soon thereafter I wrangled an invitation for her to come to St Louis and give a few readings.


At dinner that night she asked, “Are you a writer?” “Yes,” I said. “But I just write for myself privately. I do it because I have to It’s the only way I know to work things out.” She nodded and asked to see what I wrote. The next morning I showed her a few of my poems. I was terrified, having never shared my work with a professional writer before. “”Why don’t you send these out for publication?” “Because I‘m afraid the rejection would stop me from writing. And what’s the point of going to all the trouble it would take to find a publisher?” “Don’t you know,” she asked, her eyebrows raised in surprise. “you publish because that’s the way you make friends. Friends who share their souls. It’s a different level of connecting. That’s why you do it!”


My gratitude to Naomi is enormous, all these 40 years or more later. so I submitted a quickly written piece to the on-line publication. Two months ago I got a message from Kent State University Press saying they were publishing a book of poems entitled Dear Vaccine from the on-line submissions and mine was one of those selected out of over 2000 entries from 119 countries. I didn’t remember one word of what I had written back before we left the States. But a few weeks ago my contributor’s copy of Dear Vaccine arrived. My piece at least didn’t embarrass me. And now I am writing to tell you, my friends, about the book, about Naomi. She was right. You who read and enjoy what I write are more than enough reward for what I do.


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4 comentarios


a4achievement
a4achievement
09 may 2022

Congratulations, Julie! This is a lovely message of why we write and publish! How exciting to have two of your works out of many reaching new readers!

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chapmagfin
chapmagfin
09 may 2022

So glad to hear about this! I'll be looking it up and getting a copy. Sounds like the kind of material that would be appreciated by a lot of the women I know and work with. Keep up the good work. I'm just off a weekend silent Ignatian retreat as part of the team -- made two presentations: a morning prayer experience and an evening healing and reconciliation service. It took a lot of time and energy but paid off, so this will expand the fruits of that preparation. Sounds just right. As you can imagine, the pandemic framed much of our discussion and has forced so many people to rethink the trajectory of their lives...

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This is a beautiful story. You are a talented writed and do need to share your gift.

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That is so cool that you know Naomi Shihab Nye! I first became aware of her work through her edited This Same Sky and I just read The Tiny Journalist. I will definitely have to get a copy of the anthology Dear Vaccine! Congratulations! That is so neat! I love what she said to you about the community of writers. I took a course on Authors Publish and the instructor say the same thing. You have to choose magazines that are your people, your community so that you connect with kindred souls!

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