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Truth In Fiction: Storytelling for Social Change with Juliet Rose, Author and Activist

Three of Juliet Rose’s books pictured on a bed with a cup of coffee. Prick of the Needle, We Don’t Matter.

Listen to the podcast here


In this discussion, we are invited to learn more about social and sustainability issues we all face through the power of storytelling with fiction. From the pages of We Don’t Matter to Prick of the Needle, we gain perspective through the lives of people living in incredibly difficult situations, where protests rage, fires swallow hillsides and drug addiction separates people from mainstream society. We are invited to think differently, and gain an greater understanding for and love of one another as we journey into lives we might otherwise never have known.

00:00 Introduction

02:00 Why write “We Don’t Matter” and focus on bringing truth to fiction?

07:20 Telling the story of Wren, the main character in Prick of the Needle, a recovering addict who becomes a woodland firefighter

11:00 Repairing the damage we’ve done to earth (regeneration commentary)

13:30 Pushing for change through storytelling

17:00 Regeneration podcast series and Paul Hawken’s important work

23:15 Why we matter

27:00 Leading with compassion

About Juliet Rose:

Juliet is an author whose goals are to bring truth to fiction and change the narrative. She brings a lot of social issues into her work and is determined to use her voice. She has three published novels, and a short story in a horror anthology, We Don’t Matter, Do Over and her latest release, Prick of the Needle, released in May. Juliet lives in northern Georgia with her rescue animals.

Connect with Juliet Rose:

email: julietrose.author@gmail.com

instagram: instagram.com/authorjulietrose

facebook: facebook.com/authorjulietrose


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Truth In Fiction: Storytelling for Social Change with Juliet Rose, Author and Activist

Every week, I invite you to care a little bit more so that together we can all be a little bit better.  Today, I’m inviting you on a different sort of journey. As a part of a new series I’m releasing as we explore the power of fiction to push forth social issues. Story is a powerful way to communicate the complex challenges we face, especially when those challenges are multi-layered and seemingly difficult to tackle to begin the journey I’m joined by Juliet Rose.

She’s an author whose goals are to bring truth to fiction and change the narrative. She brings social issues into her work and currently has three published novels and a horror story published in an anthology. Her latest book Prick of the Needle is available now on Amazon for Kindle or even a traditional paperback.

Juliet. Welcome to the show.

Thank you so much for having me on.

Well, I’m an avid reader. I personally love to read fiction though. I often don’t make enough time for it. And lately I’ve been bringing on so many authors onto this show that I’ve been busy reading a lot of nonfiction by doctors. So your book was a welcome relief for me.

I recently finished a, your copy of, we don’t know. So I’d like to start by talking about that particular book. What inspired you to write? We Don’t Matter?

We Don’t Matter by Juliet Rose, pictured on a desk.

Yeah. So I think my inspiration really came from. I feel like decades kinda like rattling the chains and trying to speak out about social issues to anybody that would listen.

I also have written on fiction and I did it as well there. And I just got to the point, I think last year, really, where I was thinking about how to reach people in a different. And so as a writer, I thought a lot about writing these issues into fiction in a way that instead of feeling, I was thinking of soapbox, trying to preach to people and get them to understand, I could weave it into a story where, you know, the general reader would pick up that book.

And instead of feeling like they were reading something that was trying to teach them a lesson, they were just reading a story. And in that past, Being able to get a different perspective or just a perspective on something they hadn’t thought about before.

So ultimately what you’re saying is that you have the ability to reach people in a different way through this powerful storytelling when you can dig deep into who characters are and what might motivate them and see the challenges that we face in this time, and then ultimately try to communicate around them and that book itself. And I’m referring specifically to the, We Don’t Matter work, you’re tackling things like protest and race, unsheltered, or homelessness, and how we perceive them.

The police state that some specific municipalities start to feel like two particular members of the community. I mean, it’s a lot, I personally was very intrigued about your, both your story writing process and how you might approach this differently than when you do take the trouble to write it in a nonfiction format versus more of a story.

Yeah. I think that when you write nonfiction, you really, you know, you’re really writing to a specific audience. Even if you hope that you’ll reach different readers, you know, that you, you tend to write to people that are drawn to it. And so you tend to be more single focused on your subject matter. We’re in a fiction story because.

Our lives do weave in and out. You’re able to bring in different subject matter because you’re telling a story of a person versus telling, you know, a synopsis of a situation or an issue.

Well, I personally just resonated with the format of the story. It felt like it flowed quite well. And. As I began reading, cause I’ve only got about two chapters into your new book, which just became available.

I’m told to yesterday as we recorded this. So it’s real fresh and new, hot off the presses or hot off the Kindle as the case may be. But even in this case, you’re digging in to two big issues. One is heroin addiction or drug addiction, and the other is, the effect we’ve had on the climate with forest fires, raging in different places around the globe.

I’ve personally been affected by forest fires. Not nearly as much as some people I know in my community who lost their homes and the reason recent fires, um, and the Santa Cruz mountains here, September of 2020, we were evacuated for 10 days. City was evacuated. And some of my friends in the mountains lost their homes.

Those fires were started by, well, it was lightning and we don’t often have lightning strikes here that hit the ground, but there was a series of them. And I remember that night waking up in the middle of. To some of the loudest thunder and brightest lightning I had ever seen. Um, even when I traveled to other places that are where they commonly have like lightning heat, lightning and things like that.

So there was something like 10 or 11 lightning strikes that hit trees in the forest and it lit the CZU fire. Which then was really difficult to get into because you’re talking about they’re deeply crevasse terrain. And so when you hear something like, oh, well they should just have minded their forest floors better or something like that.

It’s an obvious comment from someone who doesn’t understand the terrain, because we’re talking about. Spots that it’s, you know, there aren’t roads, there’s no way to get in like these deeply curved past mountains, like, yes, you might have landslides or something like that. Uh, some of the roads even go to people’s homes are so circuitous.

They navigate around these very deep forests. And so when they got hit and because of the proximity of the trees to one another, the fire would just move through a mountain. Like a flash, especially since we’ve had some very dry years, it’s nearly impossible to curtail or contain these fires. And so why don’t we dig into your process and just the content of this new book, because.

I mean, you have a female character is essentially in the central frame, right. She’s living as a firefighter, but she also has a very interesting history. So tell us about her and what inspired you to write this particular character in this way.

Prick of The Needle, pictured on a grassy bed of greenery.

So the main character ran. She is an recovering heroin addict. She was sent to prison. She was arrested during basically a house raid and there were enough trucks on site that she was sent to prison for eight years. And during her time in prison, they offered a chance or an opportunity to start learning wildland firefighting, because a lot of states are now using prisoners to do wildland firefighting simply because there isn’t enough.

Manpower to keep up with the demand. And, and you were mentioning kind of like the mitigation side of it, you know, in an ideal world. Yes. We would have enough people to go in and do mitigation, but the reality is we don’t, we hardly have enough people to fight the fires. So they are using prisoners and a lot of the Western states to basically go in, they learn this process, they go on and they help out during these wildfires.

After they are released, some of them are offered the opportunity to continue on with wildland firefighting. And so that’s what this character does. She goes to prison and is offered a chance to, to participate in this program. And afterwards she gets out and she stays on with the program as opposed to.

And she becomes a supervisor with a wildlife crew. And the reason I picked this was because I feel like one, we don’t really recognize who’s actually out there doing this. And so I did want to make sure that I brought in the recognition of, of prison wildland firefighters, because they’re not really necessarily.

Given the recognition they deserve for what they’re doing. And then also being female. I feel like we tend to think of firefighting as a male field, and there are plenty of women firefighters, self.

Well, something else because I was evacuated for a little bit there. And because I was in a local community where we saw this, um, the reality was they brought in people from other states to fight fires with us.

And something I learned recently from a friend who works at Cal fire is that Cal fire has this kind of consortium with the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon Washington. And I think even Montana. And so when there’s a big fire raging. Fireman will come from one spot to another, or back over again to fight the fires in a given region.

And so, you know, we had like this small group of people here to support the fireman and then also just ensure that people are safe by evacuating their homesteads. And so I think it’s, it’s something that we’re going to see come up more because the. Change that we’ve faced today is all real. Even if we stopped polluting today and had practices in place that put more oxygen out there and we’re drawing down more carbon, we would still see some of the.

Backlash from prior experience because there’s what they refer to as climate lag. Right. And there’s a lag in experiencing the damage that you do. Just like there’s a lag in it and seeing the damage you do when you stub your toe. And, you know, if you develop arthritis later, it’s like the same thing. So if you were to point to a particular spot in this book that you think really helps to inform people about the sorts of changes that they might make, what would it be?

Well, that’s a tough one.

I mean maybe there isn’t, maybe it’s throughout the story cause I’m only a couple chapters in, so I really don’t know yet.

Yeah. And I think the story kind of is written in a way to reflect that there’s no simple solution to this. There isn’t like, I just do this. And I think, you know, quite often we’re marketed to, to say, if we recycle, if we do this, then we’ll, we’re solving the problem.

But ultimately we’re not because even if we stopped the things that we were doing today to the. It’s not going to fix it. Like we have to then go in and repair it. We have to take steps that actually go the next step, which is to regenerate the earth. And so that’s one of the things I bring up in the book is regenerative agriculture and, you know, putting carbon back into the soil and taking steps to repair the damage instead of just stopping it.

Cause we stop it. It’s going to stop it, but it’s not going to stop it. It’s still going to progress because we need to actually take those steps to repair what we’ve done. Um, and that’s one thing I wanted to address in the book, but I want you to address it kind of in a way that parallels, like what she’s going through with her past heroin addiction and you know, how she needs to repair herself.

Motivation can come from unlikely places, even direct signs like these. Don’t Give Up! You Are Not Alone! You Matter!

Because I think by putting again into fiction and showing those parallels of like, you know, there takes, it takes more than stopping something that’s damaging. To move forward. We have to then also go in and nurture what we’ve done and fix it. And so that’s, that’s really in the story where I think that pivot becomes because she has a wildland firefighter and she spends every day basically going out there and trying to stop the damage, but the recognition of having to do more.

Isn’t it an integral part of the story, right?

Well, I think that’s so interesting because in a way, what you’re saying is the character is a reflection in a way of the fact that you can’t just sit there and try to put out the fire with a wet blanket, just like she can’t say goodbye to her addiction that way, like maybe this is this firefighting is even like fighting against that addiction in a way like her keeping so busy and using her physical body that way every day is kind of a way to escape the dragon.

That is the addiction, right?

Absolutely. You know, she has to eventually determine what brought her to the addiction in the first place. And so by fighting the fire, she’s preventing the addiction for herself, but she’s not really actually dealing with the addiction.

Right. Well, there’s a couple of things that you also brought up there, which, you know, ultimately yes.

If we were to stop all pollution today, we’d still see these fires probably raged for the next several seasons while things kind of cool down and settle. Right. So there was, um, an earlier interview where I brought on and he has, um, a company called hello, Therma. Right. He brought to my knowledge, the fact that refrigerant and the cooling chemicals are used in refrigerant are much more.

Harmful. And so far as being these greenhouse gases because of the fact that they can’t be drawn down. Right. And so we have carbon that we can draw down into our soil and we’ve covered that in depth through the regeneration series where we interviewed Paul Hawken and then also Tom Newmark, who is the co-founder of the carbon underground.

But the fact is that like earth wants to not remain bare. And in going through this learning, I have started to look at the weeds in my garden a little differently. I’m like, oh, so let’s see. Um, you might not be, you’re a volunteer plants, but I might not review out. I’m just going to trim this back a little bit and, you know, keep my garden pseudo, tidy, but I’m letting it go a little bit more wild in spots as a result because what I learned.

This process of learning about even regenerative agriculture is that every time we disrupt the soil, we release it’s carbon. And so plowing releases carbon and doing something as simple as mindlessly, like weeding or tricking plants out of the soil, that way releases carbon. And I know that, you know, a lot of these, these weeds will come back if I don’t get them out by the root, but as they pull them out by the root, I’m actually changing the micro organisms.

Set within the soil, I’m releasing carbon, I’m disturbing the earthworms and other things that might be in there making that soil healthy and able to sequester more carbon. And so I just think it’s such an interesting thing as we learn more about regenerative agriculture versus organic, right? Because organic does not necessarily mean it’s better.

CMBB 71 | Urban Foraging
Urban Foraging: If you are gardening, focus more on edible plants. This way, you can grow spices to add to your soups in winter and gather fruits to sweeten your stews and meat.

And so far as carbon, draw-down organic. If you’re tilling the soil, You know, you’re basically releasing that carbon. You’re also disturbing the soil in such a way that a lot of it will become dry and that dry earth becomes dust and that dust blows away. And now you’ve got erosion of your top soil.

You’ve got top soil loss and there’s all sorts of. Uh, statistics that show that our top soil is depleting. It’s such an incredible rate that if we don’t do something to change our farming practices, we won’t have soil to farm. So it’s kind of the problem with agriculture is so deep and so rooted that it’s going to take a lot of us talking about it in different ways to push for change.

And so I just want to personally say thank you for putting that in the book. And I can’t wait to get there.

Exactly and that’s, that’s why I put it in the book and showed it on like that kind of human side level of it, you know, in the book, they decide to buy a land them and start a regenerative agriculture farm.

And they talk about that, like that. They don’t tell that they, you know, cause tilling, you know, basically turn soil. And to dirt and dirt and dust. And so then you’d lose your top soil and, and how you need to keep the ground covered. You know, you don’t have single crops, you really have to work and using multiple different species of plants to really feed that soil and using animals to free-range and, and things like that.

Because I felt like it was really important to show it on a really simplistic way. Because again, we might hear about it on this higher non-fiction kind of level. And a lot of people will tune it out or they won’t really understand, or they’ll just avoid it. And what I wanted to do was just bring it into like a real life situation.

This is what they decide to do, and this is how they do it.

Well, I love that. And what I will say to anybody listening is Paul Hawken did write a great textbook on regeneration and it’s called Regeneration: Ending The Climate Crisis In One Generation. I interviewed Paul in September, the week of its launch and then did an 11 podcast series going over the book on a chapter-by-chapter basis.

And the reason I did that is because. Even if you are a climate activist, you might not pick up the book and read it, cover to cover. So I did it kind of book report format, and each of the chapters I gave my perspective and I shared some of the things that I found somewhat humorous too, because Paul Hawkin is so good at using metaphors.

And sometimes the metaphor is just got into my crazy brain and became something else. And so I found it humorous and I would share that the reality is that I think through doing. It kind of takes it from text format and you know, maybe, oh, that seems daunting to, to read this giant book to something that’s a little more digestible.

Each of those episodes is basically 15 to 30 minutes. I think one of them might’ve been 40 minutes. And so in an 11 podcast series, you get the meat of what was covered in that book. And I don’t read it. I read it. Snippets here and there, but I think it’s a great way to get informed. The great thing about that textbook.

I will encourage everyone to go out and pick that up as well, is that it goes kind of chapterized. So if you chose something that you were passionate about, like fashion, like I need to know more about what this fashion industry is doing to create a less regenerative system. You can go back to it. That that book is out there.

I’ll include links to all these in show notes too. But I personally find that reading fiction to discover these stories is going to be. I mean a page Turner, like what you’ve created thus far, like the first book I couldn’t put down this book, prick of the needle, I’m two chapters in and deciding that I need to write my life story.

So you’ve inspired me.

That’s awesome. And you know, I’m a non-fiction reader too. I’m somebody that, you know, observed. It’s kind of same reading nonfiction books, but I also understand the need to step away from that sometimes because it can get very heavy. And, and what I’m trying to do is bring not a lightness necessarily, but like, um, if you think of like a sponge with a hose, it allows a little more to be absorbed in because you’re not feeling that heaviness constantly weighing you down and the world is heavy.

And we do feel that. I mean, I think all of us go through that and especially those of us that are. Are activists and are trying to dig in and change things like the world can get really, really deep sometimes. And so through fiction, I think it allows an idea to plant a seed in people’s heads without necessarily.

Making them feel that heaviness.

Yeah. So you’re not clobbering them over the head with the do more care, more, be better.

I get it. I mean, that’s like how I live my life. I was like, I don’t read enough fiction. I think for that reason. Cause I do care, but I have done the same way. I kind of been stepping towards fiction a little bit just to even get my own brain, a little bit of escapism as well.

Yeah, well, I just have to say only two chapters in and I was like, well, I can I squeeze another chapter in before lunch? I feel like it’s going to be something I, I thoroughly enjoy. I mean, in the short time of reading this new book, prick of the prick of the needle, I, I mean, you’re touching on drug addiction.

Loss of your love being in prison and then becoming a firefighter, being a woman in a male led type of world, doing things like having to wait until the, all the guys had showered until you got to do so. So you think about gender issues at the same time, you’re not sitting there, you know, clobbering them on the head with it, but it’s like, okay.

So yeah, she has to wait to go last type thing. Like this is just. Some of these moments, you know, you can read into it what you will, but it’s. You’re doing it through story in such a beautiful way. And so I really encourage people to go out and pick up the book prick of the needle. And if you’re really, really curious about what it might be like to be an activist seat, who’s pushing for change through things like protest and, and working on some really sensitive issues.

Your earlier work is like right on the nose that We Don’t Matter. Wow.

Protesters pictured gathering with cardboard signs, extolling messages about what it means to be black in America and why we should all care more. One sign reads: “If you think your mask makes it hard to breathe, imaging being black in America.”

Yeah. And I just want to give props to them. We Don’t Matter. The, the cover photo was taken by a photographer that I know who went to protest in Oregon and he was taking that photo. And at the time he took the photo. If you look at the photo, you’ll see that the protestors flipping off the police.

And he said, literally, he took that photo. Seconds later, the police were basically hitting them with batons and they were running. So it had a really powerful story behind it. And when I saw that photo, I just knew that that was a photo for the book because I wanted to show something real, kind of that same truth in fiction.

I wanted to make sure I showed a real photo from a protest and I really, I want to appreciate him. And that was Austin Granger. He’s an amazing photographer and obviously a very brave person to have to be willing to go on and take photos and then basically running for his wife second.

So was he perhaps an individual who inspired some of the characters in that book?

You know, I’ve actually written the book before. I ended up somehow through another photographer, finding him on Facebook. And I had just seen a different photo here, taken from it from the protest, but it was kind of a, just a scattered fiddle. Like you couldn’t make it out. And so I just went to his page and started going through his photos.

And when I came across that one, it actually brought me to tears. I was like, that’s the one. And so I didn’t know him. I reached out and said, yeah, I wrote this book and I think your photos perfect for it. And so he said, well, would you mind if I read the book? And so I sent him the book and he said, absolutely use the photo.

Like, that is exactly what I wanted to express when I was trying to do that. So it was just two of us that didn’t know each other and coming together as creatives and it just worked perfectly. Oh, wow.

So would you mind giving our audience just a quick one, two punch of why that’s so impactful, given who the main character of that book?

So the story, basically, the reason it was really important to me is, you know, I’m somebody that I, you know, I was in my local town part of occupy, you know, back when we were doing that, my children were there. They protested with me. It’s something, uh, very felt was very important that we need to use our voices.

And at times our bodies to fight for those that maybe don’t have the ability and the main character in that story is also, you know, he doesn’t know this in the beginning story, but he discovers that he is gay, that a lot of feelings and things he’d been dealing with, he suffered some amounts of illness from the death of his brother.

And so a lot of things that he kind of chalked up to that he finds out a really. Not connecting with himself. And so through that story, he really learns to find his voice and then learning to find his voice and express who he is. He finds that he’s able to stand up for others as well. And so that was a really important story for me to tell, because I think a lot of us stand in that position where we have a hard time finding our voice because maybe of what we’ve been through or, or where we stand.

And so we have a harder time knowing how to fight for others. And I think by finding ourselves, we’re able to see. It’s important that I stand up, that I took what I’ve learned and I’ve, you know, I’m willing to be that barrier between this person and this brutality, this person that mess reality.

Well, the reason I brought it up is because that character also was kind of a documentarian, right? Like he was trying to be a filmmaker taking footage of these events as they were occurring. And then. Being land blasted by the police for so doing and I mean the, the first pages of the book are essentially he’s being, you know, it’s like a flash.

To later in the story, you’re starting it from that point of like almost the climax of the story in a way you start it. And then you tell the story and get there where the police are chasing him. They want the footage that he has. Right.

Exactly. Yeah. He’s, he’s a film student and he’s about to graduate and he, you know, just films, everything.

And in filming everything, he. Happens to film some police brutality, something that happens. And the story does begin. He has to stash his camera and run, um, because his own body is in danger. Kind of going back to that. Sometimes we put ourselves physically in danger as well to do the right thing. And, and so a lot of what his voice is, is through his, I have his camera.

Yeah, well, that was beautifully done. It’s an abnormal kind of way to start a story too. So I was like, wait, what did I miss? You know, like I first started reading home, like, this is like your right to the action. Right. So, um, really just, I think. Compelling story to read a lot of challenges that we face in this time.

I mean, that was a page Turner. And so too, is this prick of a needle, even though, again, I’m willing to chapters in, I started last night, sorry,

There’ll be a lot more. You’ll see. I get into also, you know, and something I’m passionate about as well is, is, you know, indigenous culture and how we really need to be paying attention to indigenous culture and how they’ve treated the land and how their practices are.

Because I feel like. We have missed the boat on the right way to do things. And I feel like by looking at indigenous cultures and how they work with the land and with animals and, you know, within themselves even you’ll see a better way to be and how we can actually do a lot of repairing of the damage that we’ve done.

So, Juliet, I’ve really enjoyed this work so far. And I look forward to finishing your book. I’d like to invite you at this point to share with our audience, any closing thoughts you might have, or if there’s a question that I haven’t asked that you wish I had ask and answer it, please.

I don’t think there’s a question per se, but I would like to say that, you know, one of the reasons I come to my books, the way that I do is that I feel.

As a society, we need to come together and work together on things instead of fighting, you know, these ideals against each other. Ultimately we have the same goal in mind. We want to have, you know, a safe and long-term environment for our children. We want our children to be safe. You know, we want to basically love our neighbors and live in communities where we feel supported.

And I. Opening our minds and our perceptions instead of immediately resisting something, because maybe what we were taught or how we were raised. I think it’s really important to stop and just consider another point of view and be willing to, you know, research that a little bit more. And find out, you know, facts based behind it.

It’s not, you know, a lot of us, I mean, I was raised a certain way with certain beliefs and, you know, it took a lot for me eating, you know, I could say probably until even my thirties where I was really like, okay, I don’t really feel good about this. That’s okay to feel. And it’s okay to say, you know what, I’m going to, I’m going to take a little more time and I’m going to do a little more research into this.

And that’s what I hope with my books. It’s just to put those little ideas in people’s minds where they can say, oh, I hadn’t thought about it that way. Let me, let me think on this a little bit more. Let me lead with empathy. Let me lead with compassion instead of preconceived notions.

Well, yeah, I have to say wholeheartedly.

And the reality is that by talking about these things more, it just enters our brain. We kind of normalize the thought. We get to a, a point where we can feel more engaged with the topic where we know more, or we see where we could make changes or push for change at the local state government levels so that we aren’t all sitting here feeling as helpless as we might have a few moments before.

Well, Juliet, thank you again for coming to join me today. This has just been awesome.

Thank you so much for having me. I’m glad we finally get a chance to meet.

Yeah, this was incredible. Now, listeners, it’s time for that simple ask. You know, the, we can all push for change in small way. Part of that could just be sharing this podcast or one of Juliet’s books with a friend and your community.

You could even grab their phone, download this episode right onto it. So you have a better shot at actually reaching them. Now I’m going to go ahead and include links to find Juliet rose and her books and show notes as always. And I encourage you to go ahead and visit CareMore B better.com to find those complete.

Assets as well as a tool to help unleash your inner activist. All you have to do is go to care more, be better.com. Sign up for my newsletter and moments later, you will receive a five-step guide to unleash your inner activist as your welcome gift in your email box. Thank you listeners now, and always for being a part of this pod and this community, because together we really can do so much.

We can care more and we can be better. We can even regenerate earth.

Important Links

Guest

  • Juliet is an author whose goals are to bring truth to fiction and change the narrative. She brings a lot of social issues into her work and is determined to use her voice. She has three published novels, and a short story in a horror anthology, We Don’t Matter, Do Over and her latest release, Prick of the Needle, released in May. Juliet lives in northern Georgia with her rescue animals.

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