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Julie Shaw-Cole, Writer

Julie Shaw-Cole During the 1980s, Julie Shaw-Cole developed and managed a counseling program for Louisville’s Center for Accessible Living, an independent-living center for people with disabilities. One of her main tasks was to provide advice and practical help to people who were moving out of institutions and into the community for the first time. Reflecting on the people she met and the surprising situations they encountered convinced Julie that someone should write a book about them—so she did. Her experiences at the center became the background for the story of Emily Mason in Getting Life, a novel published in fall 2001 by Louisville’s Advocado Press.

Her undergraduate degree in English and theater, coupled with a graduate degree in expressive therapy, had not completely prepared Julie for the task of springing young people with disabling conditions from the societal expectation of permanent institutional care. But she believes that when you’re facing something new and untried, you jump in and swim until you master the freestyle. She approached writing her first book with the same philosophy.

It wasn’t that writing itself was new to her, but her previous writing had been in much shorter formats: articles on disability issues for the Disability Rag magazine (now published as Ragged Edge) and, on a lighter note, humorous gardening articles for several other magazines.

Getting Life is striking a responsive chord. Jo Ann Gates, a missionary in Nicaragua, called the book “a remarkable likeness of the lives of so many men and women with disabilities who face the very difficult decisions which leave independence and security hanging in the balance.... During my tenure as director of a day habilitation program, a small group of men and women with severe disabilities gathered weekly for the reading and sharing of Getting Life. These individuals found the novel absolutely compelling and were both supported and challenged in their own lives by the struggles of Emily and the other characters.”

Here’s a brief excerpt from Julie Shaw-Cole’s Getting Life:

“That light hits the side of the red roof at a different time each afternoon. I sit in the same place by the window every day. This window is on the other side of the street from that red roof. And I watch the light change just slightly each day, brushing back the shingles into shade, like gray paint rubbed into red.

“There are pictures I remember in a book, churches, all alike, yet all different. There is one fat old soft chair. I am propped up on folded clothes and an old raggy pillow. Aunt Jo puts that book in my lap and leaves me to go do what she does.”

Program 327

New co-hosts Chip Polston and Madeline McGeeney introduce the island tunes of Chuck Lawson, author Julie Scott Cole, and an exhibit of photographic works by a teacher and her student. (#327)


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