About

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photo by Rubidium Wu


Julia Fierro is the author of the novels The Gypsy Moth Summer and Cutting Teeth.

Her work has been published in Poets & Writers, Buzzfeed, GlamourThe Millions, Flavorwire, and other publications, and she has been profiled in Brooklyn Magazine, the L Magazine, The Observer and The Economist.

A graduate of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, she founded The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop in 2002, which has grown into a creative home to 4,000 writers in NYC, Los Angeles, and Online. SSWW was named “Best Writing Classes” by The Village VoiceTime Out New York, and “Best MFA-Alternative” by Poets & Writers.

Julia lives in Brooklyn and Santa Monica with writer Justin Feinstein and their two children.


My story

The first story of my life is my parents’ story, which has always fascinated me.

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The earliest photo of my father taken right before the Allied invasion of Southern Italy

 

1953. My father, 18 years old, when he joined the Carabinieri, the national military police of Italy.

1953. My father, 18 years old, when he joined the Carabinieri, the national military police of Italy.

 

 

 

 

 

My mother as a young girl in Queens with her parents. My mother did not meet her father until the end of the war, where he was serving in the United States Army as a Lieutenant Colonel

My mother as a young girl in Queens with her parents. My mother did not meet her father until the end of the war, where he was serving in the United States Army as a Lieutenant Colonel.

 

 

My parents' wedding, 1975

My parents’ wedding, 1975

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My parents met at a 1967 dance in the Bronx sponsored by the NYC Catholic Diocese. My father, a recent immigrant from Italy, spoke no English. My mother, an Irish-American 2nd grade teacher, spoke no Italian. “We spoke the language of love,” my mother says. In 1969, my mother joined my father when he returned to Italy.

Torino, Italy, where we lived until I was two years old.

Torino, Italy, where we lived until I was two years old.

I spent the first two years of my life in our cozy villa in Turin, Italy, surrounded by tree-lined boulevards and stately art nouveau cafes and a view of the snow-capped Alpine arch. My father, who had spent fifteen years in the Caribinieri, the national military police of Italy, worked as a security guard in Turin for Fiat. My mother was the principal of an International elementary school.

Me, in my first ballet at 4. I would dance until my early 20s. So many of my fondest memories are of dancing on stage.

Me, in my first ballet at 4. I would dance until my early 20s. So many of my fondest memories are of dancing on stage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We moved to Long Island when I was two years old. My father filtered his struggle to adjust to life in a new country through his still life oil paintings, which came to line the walls of our home. Witnessing his transition inspired me, and the “American Dream” would become a central story in my life as a reader (no surprise that The Great Gatsby was one of my first favorite books) and, later, as a novelist.

My mother was my first, and best, storyteller, and when I was old enough to tell my own stories, often acted out by my Barbie dolls, my mother was my first captive audience.

Each weekend, my father drove my brother and I to the public library where we borrowed armfuls of books. These weekly trips were the beginning of my love for reading.

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The view from my parents’ home, also the setting inspiration for my novel Cutting Teeth.

Growing up on the North Shore of Long Island, the Sound a short walk from our front door, inspired my love for the salty air of the sea. Our backyard was the lush and overgrown Caumsett State Park, and my brother and I spent hours in the woods each day acting out stories of adventure in which we were always the heroes.

I would miss the sea when I left Long Island for college in Washington, DC at American University. It was at American that my love for books would become a way of life.

Literature was both my haven and my gift. I threw myself into reading–Dostoyevsky, Edith Wharton, Fitzgerald–and, with a newfound confidence, began to write short stories.

In Washington, D.C., at the end of my senior year, I met the love of my life, my husband Justin, a musician studying drums at the Berklee College of Music. We’ve been together ever since.

In 2000, while living in Boston, where my husband was studying percussion at Berklee College of Music, I opened a letter from the University of Iowa. To my shock (I even called the program to make sure there wasn’t a mistake), I was accepted into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

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Marilynne Robinson’s spring 2002 workshop on the steps of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop Dey House

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Happy Sackett Street writers at our 10th anniversary bash at BookCourt

For two years, I lived and breathed the craft of fiction writing, working with Marilynne Robinson, Francine Prose, Lan Samantha Chang, Ethan Canin, Frank Conroy and Chris Offutt. I am so grateful for my time at Iowa, where I had the honor of teaching fiction-writing as a Teaching-Writing Fellow, and where I gave myself permission to take my writing seriously.

After graduating from Iowa in 2002, my husband and I moved to Brooklyn where I taught literature and creative writing at Hofstra University. A few months later I put the first ad on Craigslist for a writing workshop in my home on Sackett Street. What started as eight writers meeting around my kitchen table has now, over 11 years later, become The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, a creative home to over 3,500 writers.

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Playing on the deck overlooking the Long Island Sound, the setting inspiration for Cutting Teeth

 

In between teaching, writing, and developing The Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, I gave birth to two children, both people-lovers and book-lovers.

They keep me on my toes, provide endless inspiration (and material), and have a fondness for Raggedy dolls ever since the cover of their mama’s book was released.

I teach the Post-MFA Workshop and Advanced Novel-Writing Workshop at Sackett Street, and edit novel manuscripts for select students. Manuscripts I’ve edited include novels and story collections published by Riverhead Books, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Harper Collins, and other presses.

I’m proud to work and live in the vibrant literary communities of Brooklyn and Los Angeles. When I’m not writing or teaching or parenting or directing Sackett Street and hopping from coast to coast, I’m working in my garden, or knitting shawls and baby blankets while listening to audiobooks.

One of my favorite knitting patterns: silk fan shawl

One of my favorite knitting patterns: silk fan shawl

My Brooklyn backyard in summer bloom

My Brooklyn backyard in summer bloom