Posts Tagged 'Juliann Rich'

The Universal Experience



by Juliann Rich


GRAVITY, my latest book is not a coming out story. It is a coming of age story. When I asked Kathi from BSB for topic ideas for this blog, she suggested readers might be interested in why I’ve written four books featuring LGBT characters. So I thought about that, and it didn’t take long to figure out that my closest connection to teen culture has been through my son…and my son’s friends…and their friends ~ all of whom gathered around my kitchen table, playing D & D and eating me out of Doritos and Oreo cookies. Just like in the world of GRAVITY, no one needed to worry about “coming out.” Not in my house, anyway. There, they were not “gay” or “lesbian” teenagers. They were simply my son’s friends. And as I had experienced approximately one and a half million years ago when I was a teen myself, they were growing up and falling in love and trying to figure out how not to be flung into the stratosphere since the world had stopped spinning on its axis.


So, in answer to the question about why I write what I write, I’m going to share a chapter from my own life. It is my touchstone memory to which I return again and again as I remember how this universal experience we call falling in love for the first time forever changed me.




The first boy I ever fell in love with was named Brian. I was 13, maybe 14, and volunteering as a candy striper during the summer holiday at the hospital where my mother worked as a nurse. I was too young to get a job that paid money, but old enough to volunteer and my mother was determined—even then—that I would follow in her rubber-heeled and white nursing shoes steps.


She had my whole life planned out for me and if that fact bothered me at the time, I don’t remember.


My body had changed over the previous winter and the pink stripes on my uniform followed all my new and unfamiliar curves. I was still part-child and smitten with the “dress up” aspects of volunteering at the hospital. I was also part-adult and my future was easier to imagine as I pushed my cart with an ice compartment and a large garbage receptacle through the gleaming white hallways. I did, however, hate the hospital’s hair policy, which mandated I wear my hair in a bun since even my tomboyish ponytail hung down my back. I liked feeling older. I hated feeling old. And so every shift I tugged out half a dozen strands from that granny bun and let them fly free.


Too many years have passed and I have no memory of whether Brian glimpsed my red-headed rebellion when I walked into the hospital room where his younger brother lay in the hospital bed, his right leg in a cast. There aren’t enough years in one lifetime, however, to make me forget how one glance at him utterly changed my reason for being there. Yes, it was my job to take out the garbage and change the water in the pitcher, but there was one and only one reason to be in that room: to look into his dark brown eyes.


“Hi,” I said, blushing. “I’m Juliann.”


“Brian,” he told me, and I remember deciding I had a new favorite word. “This is my brother Jace. He broke his leg,” he said, unnecessarily. “Do you work here?” he asked as I crossed the room. I would use the word sashayed because it’s probably a more accurate description, but it’s a stupid word and even now I’m unwilling to admit that’s what I did.


“Yes and no.” I opened the curtains though that was not technically one of my candy-striping duties, but sunlight made my hair look like it was on fire and singeing Brian seemed a perfectly acceptable response to the question his eyes were asking the curves of my uniform. I returned his stare and took in all the important details of him: 5’7”, maybe 5’8”; medium build that whispered rather than shouted the presence of muscle; dark brown eyes; hair the color of coal; and cheeks that flushed ever deepening shades of red the longer I held his gaze.


“I’m a volunteer,” I finally said. “A candy striper.”


Jace attempted to sit up in his bed and winced as the cast dug into his swollen leg. “Your job is to give out candy?” he asked. “Cool!”


I laughed which made Brian laugh and I decided the rest of the hospital could live with overflowing garbage cans and stale water for the remainder of my shift. “Sorry, no, but I do have gum.” I reached into my pocket and withdrew a pack of grape-flavored Bubblicious. I popped a piece into my mouth before handing it over to Jace who looked disappointed, which would have bothered me if I weren’t so relieved to know my breath was, if not minty-fresh, at least grape and not garlic scented.


My flirting skills were not then what they are now. Neither were Brian’s, probably, and so I emptied the garbage can to the unspoken cadence of one thought that looped through my mind like a broken record: Brian…Brian Who and how am I supposed to find you again in a world filled with Brians?


In the end it was Brian who changed the tune I danced to for the rest of that summer and the year that followed by shoving an uncapped black magic marker in my face when I returned from my cart with a pitcher of ice water. The intoxicating scent of ink and solvent flooded my nose and made my head spin.


Oh, I knew what he wanted, but I had evolved enough as a woman in the previous five minutes to know the value in making him say it. I placed the pitcher on the swing table that covered Jace’s stomach but left his cast perfectly accessible and looked at Brian.


Your marker, buddy, your move, I thought.


Something swelled inside my chest and expanded until the last bit of little girl that remained inside me was pushed out by something new. Something mysterious. Something deeply connected to all the other changes that were happening to me.


“You’re supposed to write your name,” Brian said as he looked at me with eyes steadier than his hand. “Both your first and last name,” he rushed to add. “You know, so people know who you are.”


Rarely, but occasionally, I have been inspired to recklessly fling open the doors to my hidden places where I keep my most private of feelings.


This was the first of those moments.


I took a step toward Brian and reached for the marker. “If we’re talking about writing on casts, I’m obliged to tell you I’m not bound by any rules,” I said, staring into his eyes.


“Huh?” he asked.


“There are rules. Lots of them actually,” I admitted. “But I highly doubt there are any stipulations regarding the content of what someone writes on a cast. I mean, it’s not like you can report me to some Official Broken Limb Message Inspector if I don’t write my name, first or last, on Jace’s cast, right?”


I stood there, hand still outstretched for the marker, while the realization flooded his eyes. He was hopelessly outgunned in any contest involving words and he knew it. Lucky for me he seemed clueless to the fact that he could defeat my strongest defense with one glance.


One smile.


He answered by dropping the marker in my hand.


“I thought so.” I bent over Jace’s leg just as he smacked a bubble, spraying me with artificially sweet and grape-flavored spit.


“Jace!” Brian scolded while I wrote a message that contained seven numbers and two words, neither of which was my first or last name.


“Eight, seven, three.” Brian began reading what I’d written, but when he finished with the numbers, I read the words.


“Call me,” I said, and then I turned and walked out of the hospital room, leaving Brian to ponder whether or not I’d broken any rules. As for me, I’d stepped into my womanhood, and I didn’t give a damn.




Would it have mattered if Brian had been Brianna? To the world? Yes. This was the early ‘80’s when leg warmers were cool (the first time around) and girls wore off-the-shoulder sweaters and John Travolta was still skinny and if you were a girl into another girl or a guy into another guy, you didn’t talk about it. So yes, had Brian been Brianna, the world at large would have reacted very differently.


Hence, decades of coming out stories – including The Crossfire Trilogy.


But with GRAVITY I explored the inner experience of falling in love for the first time and discovered something I think I’ve always known. I cherish that memory of the day in the hospital not because I met and fell in love with Brian, but because I met and fell in love with a strange and wondrous new version of myself – one I would spend the next million and a half years trying to understand.


Which is what has inspired me to write every single book.


That moment. That encounter. That journey.


I’ve simply written about it through the lens of the kids who rolled the dice in life and love and left my kitchen table covered in Oreo crumbs.



~ Juliann Rich







Minnesota writer Juliann Rich spent her childhood in search of the perfect climbing tree. The taller, the better! A branch thirty feet off the ground and surrounded by leaves, caterpillars, birds, and squirrels was a good perch for a young girl to find herself. Seeking truth in nature and finding a unique point of view remain crucial elements in her life as well as her writing.

Juliann is the author of four young adult novels: CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE, SEARCHING FOR GRACE, TAKING THE STAND, and GRAVITY (forthcoming in November, 2016). She writes character-driven books about young adults who are bound to discover their true selves and the courage to create an authentic life…if the journey doesn’t break them.

Juliann is the 2014 recipient of the Emerging Writer Award from The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival and lives with her husband and an adorable but naughty dachshund named Bella in a 1920’s brownstone she is lovingly restoring to its original beauty.


Her newest novel, GRAVITY, will be released by Bold Strokes Books on November 15th, 2016.


Gravity FINASometimes you fly. Sometimes you fall.

A dream at Olympic gold in ski jumping. It’s a dream that’s been the exclusive property of male Olympic athletes.

Until now.

For seventeen-year-old Ellie Engebretsen, the 2011 decision to include women’s ski jumping in the Olympics is a game changer. She’d love to bring home the gold for her father, a former Olympic hopeful whose dreams were blown along with his knees on an ill-timed landing. But can she defy the pull of gravity that draws her to Kate Moreau, her biggest competition and the girl of her dreams?

How can Ellie soar through the air when all she feels like doing is falling hard?

Previous works by Juliann Rich:

The Crossfire Trilogy, published by Bold Strokes Books


Caught in the Crossfire 300 DPI    Searching For Grace 300 DPI    Taking the Stand





To learn more about Juliann, visit her website:

Rich with Meaning

Bold Strokes Books author Juliann Rich’s Crossfire triology tells the heartfelt and sometimes heartbreaking story of young love. Her first book, Caught in the Crossfire is available now and the second installment, Searching for Grace, is scheduled for release on September 16, 2014.

Caught in the Crossfire 300 DPI Searching For Grace 300 DPI

Tune in to hear the story behind the stories.

For more about Juliann and her work, check out her website here.

Caught in the Crossfire- A Guest Review

Alright, I’m just gonna start off by saying until recently I have not read many LGBT YA books. I am not sure why, but it was just something I never got around to doing. Well my aunt had given me a couple books and I am now in love with the genre and I can’t wait to read the next one.


One of the books I read and will be reviewing is called; Caught In The Crossfire it is written by Juliann Rich.


Caught in the Crossfire 300 DPI



The book is about two boys who meet at Spirit Lake Bible Camp. The first boy is Jonathan Cooper, a firm believer in God who had come from a military household. The second boy is Ian McGuire who is a new face at bible camp. Ian is open about his sexuality and argues openly about it to those who believe otherwise. Jonathan keeps information about his sexuality more closed off, not sure exactly how he feels, and scared to how others would react to it. Ian knows what could happen between the two of them if only Jonathan admitted his feelings. However, Jonathan is in the middle of a battle between his belief in God and how he feels about Ian. When an actual disaster happens and Ian is in danger, Jonathan is forced to make a decision that could change his life.


What I Dislike About The Book:


Honestly, I can’t put too much in this space because I really loved the book. However I guess if I have to the things I dislike about the book are;The ending. I know it makes room for other books to come out, but I’m a person who JUST HAS to know what’s going to happen next. Now that I’m left in the dark in this one I can only guess what’s going to happen between Jonathan and Ian! All we know is that a friend request from Jonathan to Ian has been made! Do we know if Ian accepts? No! Do we know if they still talk to each other? No! What about that book? Zip. Do we know if they ride off in the sunset together? Okay well obviously not, but still! This is still a good job on the author’s part though because now once that next book comes out, I’m snatching it up as soon as possible.

I wish we could have gotten a bit more information about Jonathan’s relationship with his mother after she found out he was gay. We know she made an effort to try and talk to him on the way back from Bible Camp but he refused and that was that. All we get is a couple of sentences from her and that she is driving him home. But how does she really feel about him being gay? How does she feel about Ian? Does she still accept him? We don’t really know.

Finally in this category, is Ian’s overall relationship with his foster family. He speaks about them briefly but we don’t get too much information about how they feel about him or vice versa. We don’t even get time to meet them when Ian is taken home from Bible Camp.

What I Like About The Book:

Different types of Christians. Love it. Love it. Love it. We get to see Christians of all different types! There’s Paul, who is a great leader, but more or less stuck in his ways. He is a bit critical of things that are against “what the bible says” and tries to “fix” people. He obviously doesn’t mean to hurt people, but his ways are a bit offensive. There’s Simon. He is in my opinion someone who you could see running a Youth Church. He is knowledgeable in this bible but is not boastful about it. His relationship with God is strong, but he does not criticize or judge others. He’s very understanding. Then there’s Dawn. Her family does not understand God and hates that she is apart of the church. You don’t often see this situation happening as it is sometimes the other way around. You have Jonathan, he is still what we call a baby Christian. He’s learning about God and he still has so much to learn. He is also now apart of the small yet growing, LGBT Christian community. Ian isn’t exactly a Christian but it’s quite obvious that he’s a bit curious. He told Jonathan, he’s not a Christian, but he’s not an Atheist either. He has a feeling about God but I don’t think he quite understands Christianity yet.

I love that Jonathan was not forced to choose between Christianity and being gay. I see a lot of members of the LGBT community who think they have to choose, that they can’t be both. But you can! This book just goes to show it! On this topic I would like to refer to one of my favorite lines from this book, “Thank you God for loving me just as I am.”

I love the character development. I have always been a sucker for good character development. Obviously, if you have been through everything these characters have been through, you would not stay the same. Your personality is bound to change somehow. For example, in the beginning of the book, Jonathan is a firm Christian, firm in his beliefs, knows who he is. When he meets Ian, this starts to change. His beliefs falter and he isn’t sure of who he is anymore. We see a good example of this in chapter eleven; “Light glinted off the gold cross that hung from my neck. One hard yank and the chain broke. The cross landed on the grimy floor. The boy in the mirror was still a stranger. But at least he isn’t a liar.” Because he is scared to admit how he feels about Ian, he loses sight of who he is. As we get to the ending, he realizes his feelings for Ian and we see him getting more confident in himself again.

I put this in the dislike category, but I’m going to put it here for the exact same reason. Although I hate not knowing what’s going to happen next, it stuck in my head (I dreamed about the night after I finished the book!) and made it hard to forget. Because the book didn’t have a solid ending, there is room to add another book and it also leaves the reader guessing the possibilities.




I really loved this book. I would read it over again if I could and I would definitely tell others to read it as well. So I give this book 5 stars, two thumbs up, and all my tears that were shed reading it. I am so glad I got the opportunity to read this. Now go little jedis and find yourself a copy so you can see what I’m talking about!



Is There a Place for Faith in Fiction?


It was a late Minnesota autumn day. The kind where fallen leaves have surrendered their blazing crimson and orange and gold and are mere days, maybe minutes, away from disintegrating into dust.


The year was 2011 and, despite the quickly approaching harsh winter, my steps were full of spring as I entered the coffee shop in downtown Minneapolis to meet my very first beta reader and hear the verdict.


My feet may have been springing, but my stomach was lurching because this beta reader wasn’t my Mom or my co-worker or my neighbor next door. This beta reader was a published author of repute, someone whose work I admired. And this beta reader had agreed to read an early manuscript of CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE. I was a mass of nerves held together with optimism and hope.


I sat there, trying hard to contain my jiggling body parts to beneath the table. Legs bouncing, feet tapping, I listened.


“It’s well written. Great dialogue. Love your setting, your characters, your use of imagery.” The critique began. I relaxed. This was going well. “It’s just—“


Oh oh. I leaned forward. “Just what?”


“It’s just…I’m concerned your book might be too gay for Christians and too Christian for gays.”


That was not what I wanted to hear. Not even close.


I didn’t know what to think. This was an author I respected. Who was I to disagree? I was shaken to the core as I listened to my beta reader’s suggestions.


“You could make Spirit Lake Bible Camp a YMCA camp…perhaps you should downplay the religion or eliminate it all together… this would make a lovely romance book, you know.”


I thanked my beta reader and left the coffee shop with a lot to think about.


I lived in a hell of indecision for weeks. Eventually I stopped writing, a special kind of torment all its own, as I surrendered my emotional energy to a battle that raged between my sense of what my story was about and my lack of confidence that I could somehow know what was better for my book than a published author. I considered quitting.


That’s when I heard it. No, that’s when I felt it. Yes, that’s more accurate. “It’s simpler than all that,” Jonathan, my main character, urged me. “Just tell my story.”


It came rushing back to me—this sure knowledge of who Jonathan was: a kid. Just a kid. Sixteen-years-old and awakening to his sexuality in a world that would deny him the right to be real. I remembered what I owed him: the chance to have his voice heard. And I knew I had to embrace the very thing I’d been warned against writing: the tension that exists when spirituality and sexuality collide. That was my story, and I couldn’t shy away from any part of it.


But how to do it in a manner that would not be off-putting to future readers? Therein was the dilemma. Because while I didn’t agree with my beta reader’s advice, I also didn’t doubt the wisdom of the warning. It was possible to write a story that would alienate, and if I was going to avoid doing that I had to figure out how to write the Christians. It was that simple.


Or was it?


Every day of the year 2012 I opened a newspaper or turned on the television and heard another person of power use the Bible as justification for an amendment that would forever ban marriage equality from the Minnesota constitution, and I became increasingly frustrated. And angry. You bet I was angry.


“How am I supposed to depict you as loving people when this is what you do and say?” I shouted night after night at the television.


But that did little good so I volunteered with Minnesota United and made many phone calls to the constituents of my state. I had hundreds of heartfelt conversations with people, real people—not politicians looking for sound bites. And I realized that

the extremists in the news stories did not speak for the vast majority of Christians I knew and loved. Their venom-filled words were nothing like the soft-spoken concerns of people like my mother, who worried deeply about her grandson’s salvation.


Eventually I began to write again, and this time when I went back to Spirit Lake Bible Camp, I did so with the goal of telling Jonathan’s whole story while using my mother’s good heart as the template for the Christians in my book.


I didn’t forget the advice I got that day in the coffee shop as I worked on the revision of CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRECaught in the Crossfire 300 DPI. Rather, I used it as a reminder to write characters who embody the truths held so dear by the people I love on both sides of this conflict. And I wrote with the commitment to reveal my own truth: that words spoken in love can and often do inflict deep wounds.


Over the past few years I’ve witnessed a bevy of miracles: In November of 2012 Minnesota upheld the wording in the state constitution as it was, thus defeating the harmful amendment that would have forever banned marriage equality in our state. In May of 2013, in a breath-taking statement of affirmation, we voted to make same sex marriage legal in Minnesota! My faith in my fellow snow-bound neighbors was restored. To top it off, CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE was not only finished, it had been sold to Bold Strokes Books! On this, the eve of its release in a season teeming with new life and potential, I am profoundly thankful for the advice I got from my very first beta reader because it made me a better writer and ally. I now know that I am called to walk beside those who are fighting for equal rights every bit as much as I am called to write the truth of my story, whatever that truth may be.







by Connie Ward, Publicist

Juliann Rich

What made you decide to become a fiction writer?

I grew up in love with the story.


I was the kid who read under the covers by flashlight until Mom inevitably busted me. I was the pre-teen who walked around with a journal sticking out of my back pocket. I was the teenager who stashed my journal in my purse when folded-up notebooks in back pockets became “uncool.”


Somewhere in my twenties, I figured I should grow up and get a real job. Because, you know, the kid. And the mortgage. So I put away my dream of being a writer, stowed my journal in my hope chest, and told myself that I would write that book someday.


Know what? Waiting for someday really sucks.


I spent all of my twenties and thirties and half of my forties knowing intuitively that I was not walking the intended path for my life.


So at forty-five, I dusted off my journal and discovered it had transformed into a MacBook Pro over the years! But even that change was good. It meant I couldn’t possibly tuck it away in a purse or a pocket, no matter how hard the writing process got.


I guess I became a fiction writer for the same reason I read under the covers as a kid and carried a journal all throughout my childhood. I’m still in love with the story.


What type of stories do you write?  And why?

I love, love, love young-adult fiction. It’s a form of literature that asks all the important questions and has the best darn time coming up with the most unexpected of answers. I am particularly drawn to stories about characters in the midst of a great cathartic change when everything once believed to be true is suddenly thrown into doubt. Struggles like those strip away all the impressive layers we wear, and the truest self emerges. Man, I love the privilege of witnessing that moment.


What do your family/friends think about your writing?

My family and friends are incredibly supportive. My husband, my son, and my close friends are my greatest cheerleaders. I lost my dad and only sibling many years ago so Mom is the only one remaining in my family of origin, but she also bursts with pride when she talks about my writing. This is a huge statement because what I write often differs from her worldview, but that doesn’t stop her from being supportive of me or understanding how important what I do is to me.


Where do you get your ideas?

It’s odd, but I frequently dream my characters. I now keep a notebook next to my bed. It certainly makes for entertaining nights, though by morning light the plots I’ve jotted down frequently read like an SNL skit and make me laugh just as hard. But the characters are often there, fairly fleshed out and with something compelling to say.


This doesn’t change when I’m actively drafting, by the way. In fact, it happens more often, and most of my best writing comes to me in the middle of the night. Sleep, I’ve decided, is something I’m willing to sacrifice when the words are bubbling up.


How do you write; do you plan everything out or just write?

I’ve tried both methods. In drafting Caught in the Crossfire, Caught in the Crossfire 300 DPII was too inexperienced to know how to plot a book so I pantsed it like crazy and got lucky. I stumbled over a self-contained world and a set time frame and didn’t even have to think about those things. In revision I learned a ton about plotting and thought I would apply that to my second book, so I had every scene figured out before I wrote the first word.


Guess what? It didn’t work!


I missed the spontaneity of allowing my characters to surprise me. I even missed those middle-of-the-night writing binges (sort of) and wound up scrapping my plot and going back in blind.


Now, in my third book, I’ve learned what I think is the best method for me. I do have the major turning points figured out, as well as the destination for the book, but I invite my characters to influence how we get there. I think of this as holding my book lightly in my hands. Then, once the first draft is complete, I examine the plot and book structure with an analytical eye and apply everything I’ve learned about book structure.


What makes Caught in the Crossfire special to you?

Caught in the Crossfire is, I think, my heart story. As the affirming mom of a gay son and as the daughter of evangelical-Christian parents, I’ve lived inside this world and loved people on both side of this complex issue.


In fact, that’s why I originally wrote this book at all! After six years of painful arguments that were rending my family, I decided to take a gamble on my mother’s heart. I believed that if she could, even through the pages of a book, see the world through a young gay Christian’s eyes and hear the impact of phrases like pray the gay away, she would view this topic differently. So I wrote my story and shared it with her. Believe me when I say I paced holes in my living-room floor while I waited for her verdict.


She did read an early draft of Caught in the Crossfire and immediately called me to tell me that it had moved her to tears. In fact, she wanted to have a heart-to-heart conversation with my son, and this time, she wanted to hear what he had to say.


Initially I had no intention of my little story going beyond my family, but a teacher at the Loft Literary Center, Megan Atwood, encouraged me. “There are more moms, more sons out there, Juliann,” she said. So I queried agents.


I knew the odds. I’d read the blogs that quoted the statistics. So no one was more surprised than I to find an agent who loved my story and who ultimately found the best possible home for it at Bold Strokes Books.


Sharing a story I wrote for my family with the world is indescribable. Forty percent terror. What if it flops? This is my heart on the page here. Eighty-five percent hope. What if it touches someone? What if it helps even one kid, one family? And if those numbers are greater than one hundred percent, that’s simply because my love for this story is as well.


How much of yourself and the people you know are in your characters?


Such a good question! I appreciate the opportunity to say this: Jonathan Cooper, my main character in Caught in the Crossfire, is not my son. In fact, there couldn’t be two more different guys! Yet quite a few people think that Jonathan must be some reflection of my own child, and that’s simply not the case.


However—spoiler alert—it wouldn’t be too big of a stretch for me to see myself in Simon and my husband’s good heart and love of Native American spirituality in Dawn.


That said, it is true that I grew up immersed in the Christian community, and I suppose that all the people I’ve known from that world are, to some degree, sitting somewhere along the shore of Spirit Lake.


Which gay/lesbian authors inspired you the most?  Do you have a favorite

of this author(s)?


The very first book I read with a gay character was James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. Talk about diving in deep, right? I bawled for the better part of a month over that book. But it sparked a deep love of the characters, the conflicts, and the courage that can be found in LGBTQ literature. I have since fallen in love with many other authors of GLBTQ literature: David Levithan, Radclyffe, Malinda Lo, Ellen Hart, Joan Drury, David-Matthew Barnes, Julie Anne Peters, James Klise, Rachel Gold, Kirstin Cronn-Mills, Brian Farrey-Latz, Andy Peters, Greg Herren, Lynda Sandoval, Jeremy Jordan King, Jennifer LaVoie, and KE Payne. The list is too long to name, but I have to say this: Alex Sanchez’s The God Box, perhaps more than any other book, showed me how to affirm my child while retaining my faith. To have Alex write an advanced review blurb for Caught in the Crossfire is a dream come true.


Do you have any suggestions for new writers?

Yes, I do, though specifically for authors of young-adult literature:


Write what you love.

Write what you’re passionate about.

Write for the one reader who is closest to your heart.

Write whatever you need to write so that kid’s voice is heard.


Do that, and you’ll achieve the truest definition of success.


When you’re not writing what do you do for fun?

Well…if I’m being honest…I squeeze my rear into pants that aren’t A) pajama bottoms or B) made of spandex. Then I venture forth into the world where I try to remember how to talk to the people who live outside my head. Many of them are adults so I frequently embarrass myself by saying things like “snotsicles are craptastic,” but they love me and understand it’s an occupational hazard for a Minnesota author of young-adult lit.


Three days per week, I go to my part-time job at a clinic where I remember that life is best when it’s spent in service to others.


On a far too infrequent basis, I go on dates with my husband, have lunch with my friends, spend an afternoon with my mother, or take my son out for a movie and Thai food.


Quite often, in the in-between moments of my very full life, I cuddle my dogs, Sherlock and Bella. They don’t mind if I’m sporting stretchy pants and have forgotten to shower in my quest for the written word, so that’s always a plus.



Photo by Ivan Smuk

Photo by Ivan Smuk

It is July 4th, 2005. It is the in-between time. The sweet-smokey scent of barbeque hangs in the hot air. Post-grilling. Pre-fireworks.

I leave the dishes soaking in the sudsy sink and meander into the living room to visit with my family. It’s a holiday, after all, and I don’t feel like rushing to do chores.

“Are we picking Courtney up or is she being dropped off here?” I ask, thinking ahead. Sunset at 9:30. Fireworks should begin around 9:45. Don’t forget to pack the mosquito repellent! My 15 years-old son shrugs and walks out of the room. He too is in an in-between stage in his life.

“Trouble in paradise?” My husband asks. It is my turn to shrug. If so, it’s news to me. The slam of a bedroom door answers us both. Looks like fireworks are starting early this year.

“I’ll go,” I say and my husband nods. He is in charge of behind-the-wheel training and personal grooming. All issues related to dating and girl drama are my department.

I knock on my son’s door. “Hey, it’s me. Want to talk?”

“Not really.” His voice, high and tight, penetrates the door. Scrapped knees, lost competitions, episodes of teasing at school – I have comforted my son too many times to not recognize the sound of tears in his voice. I feel the prick of the blade on my skin, just above my heart. The price of love.

Raising a 15 year-old is tricky. 50% adult; 50% kid. The percentages are scored on the mean, an average of thousands of unpredictable emotional swings, and that’s just one day. I pause outside his door, trying to decide. Which son is this? The young man who needs to assert his independence? Or the little boy who needs a hug?

“I’m sorry you’re hurting, hon. I love you,” I remind him and take a few steps down the hallway. His door creaks, and I turn to see him, all six feet of his beanpole self, framed in the doorway. My only child: the acne flush on his cheeks raised and angry, his long auburn hair a failed experiment in cool, his t-shirt declaring to the world I don’t need your attitude. I have one of my own!


I wait, still uncertain what he needs from me, and then he crumples. A slow slide down the doorframe until he lands on the floor, his face buried in his arms, his shoulders rising and falling in silent sobs. I am with him in a flash, wrapping my arms around him, holding him and praying for wisdom because toddler boo boos are easy. An Elmo Band-aid and you’re golden. But this? I have no clue.

“C-c-courtney broke up with me,” he states the obvious. “She’s going out with Brad.” I don’t know who Brad is, but I secretly wish a plague of ingrown pubic hair on him. I think of Courtney who has eaten so many meals with us I’ve named one of the chairs in the dining room “Courtney’s seat.” The hovering blade over my heart plunges. All the normal things people say in times like this come to mind. There will be other girls. More fish in the sea. Her loss. But I swallow them down, remembering my own first broken heart.

“I’m so sorry, sweetheart.” I hold him tight, and whisper that he is loved. I hold him until his tears dry and the hiccupping sobs stop and the percentages pile up once again in the adult column.

He lifts his head and looks at me. “I couldn’t kiss her, Mom. I tried, but I couldn’t make myself do it. She said she needs to date a real man.”  Those damn mean percentages drop in the seconds of silence as the full weight of what he has told me registers.

I reach for him, this 50% child, 50% adult who carries my heart with him wherever he goes, and speak my one remaining truth. “I love you, and I always will.”

Eight years have passed since my son came out. I wish I could tell you it has always been an easy journey for our family. While my husband’s and my support of him has been unwavering, it has been a bumpier path for our extended family members. My first book, Caught in the Crossfire,Caught in the Crossfire 300 DPI was written for my mother so she would be able to look at the world through the eyes of a young gay Christian and perhaps gain valuable perspective. My mother did indeed read my book and, as a result, we were able to have some incredibly honest and healing discussions. It is my sincere hope that Caught in the Crossfire will spark similar conversations within families torn apart by polarizing beliefs.

Juliann Rich’s debut novel, Caught in the Crossfire, will come out with Bold Strokes Books on June 16th, 2014. The sequel, Searching for Grace, will come out with Bold Strokes Books in the fall of 2014. Juliann lives with her husband and two quirky dachshunds in rural Minnesota. Her son is now grown and in graduate school. He is doing great! Juliann spends her mornings writing affirming young adult fiction and her afternoons working as a Marketing and Public Relations Specialist at a natural health clinic. 


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 626 other followers

%d bloggers like this: