Friday, June 10, 2011

Chatting with Julie Dobbins

Today, my guest is Julie Dobbins. Julie is involved with a number of writing-related activities. She's been a guest before talking about her own work.  Today, she would like to discuss a project she joined in 2008.

Julie, tell me about the web site, The White Tree Fund.
The White Tree Fund was started by Lara Sookoo of Canada in 2004. She’s a very compassionate person who loves the themes of honor and helping one another in the Lord of the Rings. Her vision is to see the various Tolkien communities (and there are several) working together for the common good much like the characters did in the Lord of the Ring when they formed the Fellowship of the Ring.

Why did you decide to become involved with this?
A friend of mine was already involved and she would sometimes talk about the great folks who are involved and the projects they were supporting. Initially The White Tree Fund was more involved with small local projects or using their online presence to distribute reliable disaster relief information. As a writer and someone who has a special place in her heart for Tolkien, I was particularly interested in the Silver Leaves Journal. I was blessed by joining the editorial team in 2008 when they needed an extra set of eyes for last minute proofreading. Being an active part of helping others is very satisfying.

What is the Silver Leaves Journal?
Silver Leaves Journal is the fund raising arm of The White Tree Fund. The Girl Scouts sell cookies for their projects, we produce the journal. All of the profit goes to charitable work. The editors and contributors do not receive any payment. The printer and the post office, of course, are paid but they are the only ones.

What is the benefit of joining the community? (Penny, there is a forum on the site, but it has ceased to be active so I didn’t mention it. The activity has pretty well moved to Facebook.)
Joining the Facebook page or Twitter is a great way to find out the latest news. There are separate pages for The White Tree Fund and Silver Leaves. The kind of information that’s found on the White Tree Fund pages has more to do with ways to help people. It could be something that affects a lot of people like disaster relief for the earthquake in New Zealand or something on a smaller scale such as an auction by Ted Nasmith of some of his Tolkien-inspired art to help a relative pay their medical bills.

The Silver Leaves pages have information such as the latest news on The Hobbit movie, the release of a great new Tolkien related book, or other items that are pertinant to arts and literature. There is also information about the latest issue of Silver Leaves - including pictures!

Are you a regular contributor to Silver Leaves?
Yes, I am. I also have the honor of being one of the editors as well.

What type of writing do you do?
Whatever needs to be done! Actually, I’m not that good. So far I have written nonfiction pieces for the journal. In issue 3 I wrote about my experience with an 8th grade art contest in which I had entered a drawing of JRR Tolkien. Each issue has a theme and that one was about fantasy art, so one of my contributions was to compile a list of books, websites, and movies, etc. that were Tolkien/Lord of the Rings related. Issue 4 has a dragon theme and I have compiled a similar list for dragons. I also have an article in Issue 4 about fighting human trafficking.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t suppose writing on my bedroom wall as a kid counts, does it? It’s funny, but I distinctly remember making the decision to become a writer, but the actual date is a little fuzzy. I’m pretty sure it was when I was in the 8th grade. Like a lot of young girls I drew a pretty good bit and was halfway decent with it. I enjoyed writing poetry about that time as well. However, it was also at that time that I discovered The Hobbit and that’s when I fell in love with words and what they could really do. I was an avid reader of Nancy Drew mysteries and The Black Stallion stories, but The Hobbit was so incredibly different that it changed everything for me!

Do you prefer writing for children and if so, why?
I prefer writing for children. They are still learning and exploring, so it keeps things fun and fresh. Actually, I tend to write about something that interests me and then adjust it for the appropriate age as I go along. I’m still just a kid, I guess. After all, the name Julie is translated as “youthful”. It also translates as “downy”, but somehow that doesn’t sound as... inspiring.

What do you enjoy doing besides writing?
To be honest, it varies. I enjoy cooking when I have the time (I made a killer lasagna last night!) but recently I’ve come back to one of my first loves: learning. I particularly enjoy research. Sometimes I get carried away with the gathering of facts and almost forget to write the article or story. This fall I will be attending an online college to earn my bachelor’s degree in business - I’m very excited about it!

What are your favorite books and who are your favorite authors?
Tolkien (The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings), CS Lewis (Chronicles of Narnia, Screwtape Letters, A Grief Observed, and Until We Have Faces), Peter Beagle (Tamsin and too many others to name). Peter S. Beagle is probably the author I have read the most. I love how he makes the unbelievable believable.

I also enjoy Karina Fabian’s stories Dragoneye, PI. We have a four year old dragon named Vern who lives at our house and he has a similar personality, so they must be related. Since they’re dragons, they probably are at least third cousins.

Describe your work space?
Hmm, we have a small house so I don’t have a private room. I have a computer on an old vanity table nestled between a couple of bookcases in the family room/dining room/kitchen. It’s also a bit cluttered because I have several things I’m working on at once so I have notes and reference materials stacked in the floor beside my desk. It’s a neat stack, though!

I still have my favorite stuffed animal (a sleeping puppy) from when I was little girl that sits beside my computer. It reminds me of that sweet, innocent time.

What are your can't-do-without writing reference books?
A dictionary and a thesaurus. Thanks to spellcheck my spelling isn’t as good as it used to be. For everything else I either search the internet or go to the library.

What new projects do you have coming up?
There’s always something going on with Silver Leaves and The White Tree Fund as we are always looking at whatever the next issue will be.

I’ve been putting together some of my children’s stories to make a bedtime story collection. Each story is very short because that’s all it took to tell it. Also because I used to dread reading some of my son’s bedtime books because they took longer than I wanted them to - so maybe I’m the one with the short attention span?

Where can people learn more about you and your work?
There are a couple of places where I tend to lurk:
The website for my children’s book Melissa and the Green Blanket
My blog where I review books and interview writers and musicians.

Anything you'd like to add?
Since The White Tree Fund started in 2004, we've wanted to be able to do something to recognize the amazing efforts of people within the Tolkien community. Our Knights of the White Tree initiative was started with this in mind and thanks to the amazing support Silver Leaves has received we're finally able to realize this goal. Stay tuned for a special announcement about the Order of the White Tree!


  1. Hi Penny and Julie! Enjoyed the interview.

  2. Thanks Penny! As always, it was fun visiting with you.

  3. Hi Susanne, thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the interview with Julie.