Of love and loss: local author celebrates “On Purpose”

Even when you gave
all you had to give,
you kept on giving
you had a way of
helping out
before anyone even asked

But sometimes, still,
it’s good to say
how you’ve changed by world
by making it …
Warmer
Brighter
Happier.

With endings, you’re sad
with beginnings, you’re glad
but what’s in the middle
counts most.

 

These are the words of a heartbroken high school freshman, barely a teenager and yet grappling with the tragedy of losing a classmate.

Julie Watson-Daly dealt with her grief of finding out a friend had drowned through the therapeutic process of writing. Almost 30 years later, the Gloucester City High School graduate and Deptford resident has continued to turn to poetry as a creative outlet, including having her work published in a collection titled “On Purpose.”

“You’re so young, you’re really not sure how to process it,” Watson-Daly said of the poem that began it all. “We were freshman. So you’re coming to terms with yourself as a teenager, hormones all over the place, and you’re trying to figure out how to handle that grief, and I just started writing. I had a great English teacher and she recognized it. She said, ‘You have talent and a story to tell.’ I started writing at the school newspaper … and it just kind of kept going.”

“On Purpose” is culmination of three decades of writing, a time when Watson-Daly endured just about every hardship a young adult could imagine, from losing her parents at an early age (both died when she was in her 20s), to heartbreak (a divorce that began when her partner left her while she was hospitalized), to a near-death experience (she suffers from stage four endometriosis and flat-lined on an operating table less than 10 years ago during complications from a hysterectomy).

The collection of poetry isn’t all tragic or autobiographical. Watson-Daly writes about nature, life, and even some things that could be categorized as “fun or silly.”

Watson-Daly’s goal is that her writing may just help others who also have to endure the big and small tragedies of life.

“That is my hope,” she said, repeating the phrase twice for emphasis. “With any piece I’ve written, whether it’s about endometriosis or something else, if it can reach somebody, if it can help somebody, that is my absolute hope.”

Watson-Daly was always drawn to poetry and believes the therapy she received in writing can be paid forward when someone else reads her poems. Perhaps they won’t feel so “alone” or “isolated” or “hurt.”

“When they read it, even the fictional ones, it might resonate with somebody, somewhere,” she said. “Maybe (it will) make people feel not as alone. When you see those words on paper, maybe you say ‘I feel that’ or ‘I have felt that before.’”

Watson-Daly’s labor of love and loss has its own story of overcoming odds. At the urging of friends, family, and her tightly-knit online community of writer friends, Watson-Daly put together a manuscript of her work (the personal stuff, the award-winning stuff, all of it) and submitted it to a couple of publishing companies almost 10 years ago. Unfortunately it resulted in a familiar feeling: heartbreak.

But then last summer, after another friend had a book published by a new, smaller, independent publishing company he was raving about, Eliezer Tristan Publishing in Portland, Ore., Watson-Daly gave it a third try, and we all know what the Royal We says of the third try.

Finally, Watson-Daly was charmed.

“Their goal all along was to have it out before Christmas, and sure enough, the Saturday before Christmas, Dec. 22, I woke up to a text message, ‘The kindle version is your book is available,’” said Watson-Daly, who works full-time as an analyst. “A great Christmas present. And they were able to get it expedited, and on Christmas Eve, the print copy was available as well.”

A couple of days after Christmas, Watson-Daly returned to her home after running some errands, and her boyfriend, Rick, had a surprise. He had gotten to the mail before her that afternoon and hid the package for a special, post-holiday surprise.

“Oh, guess what else came today,” he said while handing over her first hard copy of “On Purpose.”

Watson lost it. Finally, happy tears.

“You did it,” her boyfriend said.

“On Purpose” is available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.