Not quite a year ago, I asked Julianne if she would be willing to answer The Questions, and lucky for us all, she said yes. (I did warn her it could be a while before I got them posted… And I was not wrong about that.)
I don’t really remember why or how I connected to Julianne, but Facebook tells me we have 11 mutual friends (other writers) and have been friends since August 2013. So, over three years. (Or are Facebook years like dog years, and mean a lot more?)
I can tell you that I absolutely love love love Julianne’s business as the Faerie Goatmother. She has a herd of goats, and uses their milk to make hand-made, yummy, deliciously-smelling awesome soap (my favorite is Sunshiny Day, in case you’re wondering). And because she’s a poet, she uses the profits to support literacy, and wraps her bars in pages from old decrepit books.
And the soap is awesome, totally my favorite artisanal soap currently on the market. I hope you will purchase some and support her work.
In the meantime, I’ll shaddup, and let you meet Julianne.
14. Obviously, as a creative person, every day is different, but what do you find yourself doing every day?
Most days I am drawn to find some wide-open space. As a poet and an introvert, I tend to feel most alive in expanses. When I need to re-charge or find inspiration, I tend to go to my favorite beach to comb for shells and fossils (coolest finds to date are a giant fossilized barnacle and a fossilized turtle shell), or, closer to home, to Henry Cowell State Park to walk among the 3,000-year-old redwood trees. I find nature the best possible place to find metaphor, and walking to be the best way to let my thoughts wander and, on a lucky day, to land on one or two good poem or business ideas.
(dSavannah note: I feel best at the beach. But a five-hour drive seems much longer when you’re a Sick Person and the drive gives you much much pain. But it’s great when I can get there, and stick my feet in the sand and be soothed by the waves and find cool shells.
P.S. I too have a fossilized turtle shell that hubs and I found on our property in Arkansas.)
20. When did you know you wanted to be a writer/artist?
When I was three, all I wanted to do was sing. Unfortunately, I had an older sister who constantly told me to shut up because I was horrible. At five, I remember announcing to my parents at the dinner table that I wanted to be an artist. Back then I wanted to draw or paint, but I think that the medium almost doesn’t matter when you’re that young (my word tool box was relatively small), what matters is recognizing that inherent drive to be creative that not everyone is born with. My parents, in keeping with my sister’s encouragement (I wonder where she learned it), told me frankly that I would never make any money as an artist, so I should settle on something else. But, no matter how I tried, I could never escape my creative temperament or impulses. I wrote my first series of poems at age 8 and never stopped from there. I also bought myself a guitar in my early 20s and took up singing and song writing. I am relatively terrible, but it’s a process that I love to struggle with, and it’s definitely a sideline to writing.
(dSavannah note: Why do non-creatives always try to make us creatives not be what we are? Despite my parents’ many, many, many other faults, they at least let me be as creative as I wanted to be.)
24. If you could go back and give your 13-year-old self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Go ahead and buy that Simon and Garfunkel album, who cares what other people think about you loving minor key folk music!
(dSavannah totally side note: I met Paul Simon once. Did you know he is super-short?)
24a. What about your 20-year-old self?
Let him leave you this time. No matter how much it hurts, let him move back to the Midwest. You’re better off living at home and finishing school and starting a life on your own; otherwise it will be another eight years of conflict and co-dependence before you finally break free.
24b. Your 30-year-old self?
Stop worrying that your in-laws think you’re lazy for not having a full-time job! You are an artist and you should devote yourself to your passion, otherwise you will spend the next 16 years of your life struggling to find this out the hard way.
(dSavannah note: Ditto on earlier comment.)
Enjoy, because this is the best you’re ever going to look, honey. From here on out it all goes to sh-t. Oh, and stop eating gluten completely, because that is what has caused your lifetime of depression and social anxiety.
(dSavannah note: Ditto on the shit thing for me. And I totally wish going off gluten had solved those problems for me, too. Shit. They did not.)
26. I wish I was rich enough to ____?
I truly wish I was rich enough to make philanthropy a full-time endeavor. With limited time and limited money, I find myself struggling with how I can truly make a difference. If I won the lottery, I would truly make my life’s purpose to make the world a better place in any way that I can. I find that, as I get older, my aim is to deepen my relationships and life experiences. My social circle gets smaller and tighter, my focus on my children gets more intense and productive, and I find myself questioning my legacy – and not in a way that wants to be remembered for one thing or another, but in a way that simply wants to die knowing that I did something that truly matters and can carry on – either in a literal sense, or in terms of having put positive energy out there that will reverberate like sounds bouncing off a canyon wall long after I’m gone.
(dSavannah note: I’m with you. As an empath, I want to heal others’ suffering, and many times, they need money. Of course, now I can’t work and need money my ownself. And I’m selfishly regretting all the money I gave away when I was working…)
35. Tell me one random fact about you that not a lot of people know.
I laugh hysterically at farts and anything having to do with toilet humor. Even at 46, I simply can’t get it out of my system.
(dSavannah note: So, have you seen all the movies represented in this Youtube video?)
44. How far back can you trace your ancestry?
My father has traced our ancestry back solidly to the 1600’s. My family was Waldensian and, as protestants, they were being persecuted by the French. They were forced to leave their home, in Lyon, France, in a quest to find a place to settle and to have peace. In that quest, they managed to fight off and defeat the French army no fewer than 3 times through the Italian Alps before finally reaching Germany and asking Princess Charlotte if they could settle in the region and if they could ask for her protection from the French. She agreed, so they named the town after her, Charlottenberg. In 1999 my dad took my brother and I (my sister was heavily pregnant and couldn’t travel) on a trip to re-trace the steps of our ancestors, which ended in Charlottenberg in time for a huge party in celebration of the 300th anniversary of the founding of the town. I love the story of my Waldensian ancestors because it’s a story of strength of conviction and not giving up your ideals.
(dSavannah note: That is. Super. Awesome!!!!)
46. What’s the best gift you’ve ever given someone? Who did you give it to?
When I was seventeen, my mom announced to my sister, brother and I that there wasn’t going to be much of a Christmas. Whatever the circumstances were that year, she was extra short on cash and could not afford to put a bunch of things under the tree. This very well might have been the first time I really stopped to consider the meaning of Christmas. I had lived through enough of them to know that my parents could not afford any of the material things that I really wanted; even if they could, I knew that the thrill of getting exactly what I wanted might actually wane over time.
A big part of the fun and excitement of Christmas was considering ways to bring joy to the ones you love. To select a gift for them and to, hopefully, see the look on their face when they opened that gift that would let you know that you totally nailed it gift wise. I decided that I would take it upon myself to play Santa that year. For the two weeks preceding Christmas, I went to the Mall almost every day, walking in and out of shops trying to find the exact right gifts for my mom, my sister and my brother (and myself, of course – because I, too, needed some stuff to open). I stashed the items in my closet, wrapping them when my sister wasn’t home in our shared room.
Christmas Eve there were some meager things under the tree as we all went to bed. I stayed perfectly still in my bed, listening in the dark until I thought everyone was safely asleep, then I took the gifts from my closet, one by one, and set them under the tree until there was a bounty of things to open in the morning. In many ways that Christmas morning was one of the best I can recall because it truly was only about giving my family the gift of Christmas.
In a sad note, Julianne’s father died recently. She posted this on Facebook, and I am sharing it on behalf of her and her father and their family. GNU Kenneth A. Bonnet.
Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death for men in the United States today. The Kenneth A. Bonnet Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Julianne’s step-mother, Dr. Xiaoke Gao, in honor of her late husband, who died from complications surrounding his treatment for prostate cancer.
The foundation aims to support research for alternative therapies that can be used in conjunction with conventional treatments in order to increase the survivability for this all-too-common disease.
They are now accepting donations to help fund their first clinical trial.
Donations are tax-deductible and can be mailed to:
The Kenneth A. Bonnet Foundation
211 E. 43rd Street, Suite 1301
New York, New York 10017.
About Julianne (in her own words):
I make organic goat milk soap and goat milk lotion from the milk of my own small herd of goats. In attempt to marry my past as a literary magazine editor and published poet, I wrap all my soap bars in the pages of discarded books of poetry, literary theory and literary magazines. I am in the process of turning my business, Faerie Goatmother, into a non-profit that donates 100% of proceeds to organizations that support literacy. My products can be found at www.faeriegoatmother.com, and my publications can be found at www.juliannebonnet.com.
Julianne Bonnet is a mother, poet, photographer and soap maker. She was the founding poetry editor of 580 Split, the graduate literary magazine of Mills College, which is now a for-credit part of the MFA curriculum. Julianne lives on five acres deep in the redwood forest of the Santa Cruz Mountains with her partner and their two strange and wonderful children, their eight goats, six chickens, four dogs and a parrot. Julianne is in the process of trying to figure out how to make the world a better place, how to slow down and deepen the life experience for herself and her kids, and how to find and keep peace inside of herself.