• Birth—April 20, 1973
• Where—Austin, Texas, USA
• Education—B.A., Amherst College
• Awards—2 James Beard Awards, 2004 & 05; First Annual
"Blooker" Award, 2006; Quills Award, Debut Author, 2006
• Currently—lives in Queens, New York
Things were not going very well for Julie Powell. She had moved to a crummy apartment in Long Island City, Queens, with her husband and was working at a succession of even crummier temp jobs rather than fulfilling her dream of becoming a writer. Like so many New Yorkers on the cusp of turning 30, Powell was questioning every aspect of her unfulfilling life. As she told blogger Christopher Lydon, she often lamented, "Why am I in New York? Why am I torturing myself with the commute and the un-air-conditioned apartment and making $50,000 a year but still being unable to pay my bills?"
Unable to reconcile her life or find a constructive outlet for her increasing hostility (particularly irked by that daily commute, she was known to punch and shout at subway cars), Powell turned to a book, which she has described as having "totemic" qualities. The book was her mother's well-worn copy of master-chef Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Powell didn't exactly consider herself to be a great cook, but she began to formulate a seemingly hair-brained project that might give her life some much-needed structure. She decided to tackle all 524 recipes in Child's cookbook in a single year.
The project started relatively easily as she whipped up some potato soup. Soon enough, however, the dishes became increasingly complex and Powell's pet-project became a true test of her mettle (not to mention of a test of her husband's commendable patience).
While diligently working her way through Julia Child's cookbook, Powell chronicled her progress on the Internet via her own blog, appropriately naming the project "Julie & Julia." Much to Powell's surprise, the funny, self-deprecating, often potty-mouthed and completely unpretentious accounts of her trials and triumphs in the kitchen became a big hit with readers. Before she knew it, the project she began as a means of giving herself a bit of direction yielded a whiz-bang memoir with the unwieldy title of Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen: How One Girl Risked Her Marriage, Her Job, & Her Sanity to Master the Art of Living (mercifully abbreviated to Julie & Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously in its most recent printing). Suddenly, Powell was no longer just another unsuccessful, struggling New York artist. Her book became a smash hit amongst readers and critics. The Library Journal declared it "well-executed" and "entertaining," while Kirkus Reviews applauded "its madness and pleasures." Periodicals including the New York Times Book Review, Washington Post, and Publishers Weekly were also quick to recommend the book, and Powell even snared a James Bean Award and a Quill Award for her efforts. Incidentally, Powell has also discovered that she has become something of a celebrity.
"When I was working on my first draft, in the summer of 2004," she told Powell's.com, "I took my dog Robert up to the Adirondacks, to this primitive cabin all by itself in the middle of nowhere... [I] got to talking to the couple, about how beautiful the country was, and how quiet, and how I like the cabin—the only one on this particular tract of land that had electricity. I offered that I needed electricity to power my laptop, since I was working, so they of course asked me what I was working on. I'd barely gotten out ‘Well, I'm writing this book about how I cooked all the recipes in Mastering—when the wife said, ‘You're Julie Powell! I'm a huge fan. I read your blog all the time!' That was pretty gratifying—if just the teensiest bit creepy."
From a 2007 Barnes & Noble interview:
• The "Julie & Julia" project was not the first time that Powell has indulged in a bit of ritualistic behavior. When she was a kid, she would read Douglas Adams's entire "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" trilogy every two years.
• Aside from housing one bestselling author and one husband, Powell's Queens loft is also home to three cats, one snake, and a 115-pound dog named Robert.
• In working on Julie & Julia, I had the opportunity to rifle through Julia Child's archives. Surprisingly, the most fascinating thing to me was her husband Paul's archives of letters. He was an extraordinary correspondent and a complicated, contradictory, sometimes crabby man. I became far more fascinated by him, and by the nature of his and Julia's marriage, than I would ever imagine. I hope that someone will someday publish his letters.
• I first met David Straithairn, wonderful actor and my secret dangerous boyfriend, while working as an intern at New Dramatists', a fantastic non-profit service organization for developing playwrights in New York City. This incident is described in my book. But I have met (stalked) him several times since. He even knows my name now. It's a very special relationship.
• I'm still living in Long Island City, Queens, albeit in a MUCH superior apartment. Three things I like about it particularly:
a. Sitting in the living room, we can watch the 7 train arc around us like a necklace. Every time we notice it, my husband Eric says, ‘The 7 train to Times Square. You'd like to be on that train, wouldn't you?' and I say in my best Bogey voice, ‘Why? What's in Times Square?' And it's this whole big married moment.
b. I have a dishwasher that isn't my husband.
c. In the summer we can stand on our patio and look down every Saturday at all the hipsters dancing at PS 1 museum's weekly DJ party, and feel quietly superior.
• I hate all bananas. I like Cheetos, occasionally, and Skittles, which I eat like an OCD sufferer, two skittles of the same color at a time, until I only have odds left in the bag.
• Butchery is my new favorite thing to do, and, while tiring, a fantastic way to unwind and get out of my head for awhile. My head can be an annoying place to be.
• A gimlet is worth learning to make well. Very cold vodka (or gin, that would be more authentic, but I like vodka) shaken with about a third of a capfull of Rose's lime juice. NEVER fresh lime juice. Something made with fresh lime juice might be tasty, but it is not a gimlet. That's it. If someone serves you something with an onion in it, that is a Gibson, not a Gimlet. It can be tasty, if a little strange, but is no substitute.
• When asked what book most influenced her career as a writer, her is what she said:
Well, the most obvious impact is clearly Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It reached out to me at a time when I felt like I'd hit the end of the road. A year's immersion in its challenges, and in Julia's exhorting voice, prepared me as nothing before had for transforming myself into a professional writer. (Bio and interview from Barnes & Noble.)
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