Julia Simpson Urrutia

 

Not long ago, my son Omar accompanied me to Switzerland. I wanted to make sure the memories I had of boarding school were accurate, for they are the ones on which my ghost-hunting mystery Wax Works is based.

 

DSCN6761 Wax Works tells the tale of a once prestigious boarding school that punishes the students who helped it fall from prestige.

Americans Lauren Briant and Rachel Gordon reunite at Château Mont Rose in Lausanne. The former boarding school has opened a new business face as an inn/hotel and wax museum. Rachel has a girl Friday job with a ghost-hunting crew led by wealthy Greek clairvoyant, Helena Stamoulos, an alumna who wants to reach out to the spirit of a teacher murdered on site. Lauren interviews for the script-writing position.
Meanwhile, prodded by Interpol, Detective Cloquet of Lausanne Sûreté investigates the deaths of fourteen visitors to the château in its new business identity. He insists his nephew/intern, Paul Junod, get on the ghost-hunting team and close to the young women at risk.

The ghost of Danielle Schwartz stalks its former students at the Château de Chillon and elsewhere, but is not allowed within Château Mont Rose. During the second night’s lock-down, the damaged institution manifests power to impact human egos and animate the wax statues.

 

I currently am seeking literary representation for this thriller.  You can see the book trailer at the link following:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6fG_gVZ31E&feature=youtu.be

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What follows below is a truth for which I am grateful. Alhamdullilah.
Julia and son Yousef at graduation

In the summer of 2010, I celebrated not only a return accumulating to ten years on U.S. soil, but the graduation of my oldest child, a Saudi-American, from architectural school. An entire week was spent walking on air and feeling intensely grateful.

Many Saudi students come to the USA for education, but to have found myself with my son as he did so, here in my native land, indeed,  to have watched both of my children become truly bi-cultural and appreciative of their two backgrounds is a blessing I once despaired of enjoying.

I lived in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, for seventeen years.  It was the most dramatic change from my childhood as could possibly be imagined.  There is an abundance of  positive things I remember from my life in Saudi Arabia:

1. Saudi Arabia is really exotic.  Jeddah, the town I lived in, is exotic. The Red Sea is exotic.  Swimming in the Red Sea is amazing.

2. I learned that drivers and maids working for me or others ended up liking me. They liked being greeted and asked after. They liked being talked to.

3. Le Notre is a wonderful pastry house in Jeddah. There are days I yearn for its goodies. There are other excellent pastry houses but their names escape me at the moment.

4. Saudis love visitors and will give them juices, teas, coffees, cookies, and dates at the very least all in one visit.

5. There are lots of small  amusement parks for children (accompanied by adults of course) in Jeddah.

6. There are lots of good restaurants in Jeddah.

7. If white is your favorite color, you will love the men’s clothes.

8.  Provided one’s Saudi husband knows the right person, a Western woman can get a Saudi citizenship in about ten years or maybe fourteen,  providing she has children and is Muslim.

9. Once a woman has a Saudi citizenship, any degree she has earned in her native land may help her get a job, provided she knows the right person.

10. Who you know counts.

11. If a Western wife went to a Swiss boarding school before coming to Jeddah, she may run into some people she went to school with.

12. They probably won’t help her get a working visa, but they will give her tea and cookies.  (How often she is invited for tea and cookies depends on her financial state.)

13. Learning that comes with the degrees that are theoretically useless without a working visa or citizenship can be used to educate children.

14. Living abroad in places like Saudi Arabia will inspire a mother to discover internet and mail-based home tutoring schools in the West, which are credentialed. These institutions provide the means by which a child may receive an adequate Western education and step into a Western university without going into shock.

15. Western women married to Saudis make friends with other Western women married to Saudis very quickly.

16.  Satellite dishes (though technically illegal) offer all kinds of packages and programming if you have the money.

17. Living abroad in places like Saudi Arabia is a good way to learn that changing the color of one’s skin or converting to the local religion won’t make a people like a person any more than changing one’s nationality.

18. If you like cats, there are a lot of them in the streets of Jeddah.

19. If you feed the cats, you will get as many feral cat visits as your heart desires.

20. Speaking a language with the precise regional accent can fool people over the phone.

21. Having self-respect and values starts in one’s own heart.

22. Sometimes the thing that is not considered “work” (hence not requiring the very difficult-to-obtain working visa) like writing umpteen articles for every single English newspaper in a foreign country under various pseudonyms, as well as writing several radio shows for the English service, will make enough money to buy airplane tickets home for a Western mother and her children during the summer vacation. (Pseudonyms help boost the volume of her sales.)

23. When children see how much a mother is respected in her native land, they may think about that.

24. Other Western writers, like Hilary Mantel, have lived in Saudi Arabia.  Hilary wrote Eight Months on Ghazzah Street from that experience.

25. People who write stories about Arabia are rare so they do not find a lot of competition.
26. Books are cheaper in Saudi Arabia than in the U.S.A.

27. A Muslim woman–no matter what her nationality– can go to Mecca and make ‘umra alone, as I have, so long as she can find a driver to take her.

28. Making dolls is a way to fight loneliness when one is living on the other side of the world. Plus, the dolls can be dressed up in the interesting ethnic garb if you would rather look at the clothing than be in it.

29. Dolls are not haram (“forbidden”).
30. Now that smart phones are so attainable in Saudi Arabia, it doesn’t matter that it takes ten years to get a main line telephone in one’s house (provided one knew/knows the right person).
31. Women who move back to the West will be amply supplied with snipped-out articles or links about Saudi Arabia as if it were enlightening news to them.  None of it is news. Even the articles explaining how Saudi education leads to ISIS fanatics is not news. It is all known to women who had children in the Saudi school system. Tradition usually means nothing changes, even if change is in keeping with a very good ideology.

 My sons Omar and Yousef have been really wonderful about reading my stories.  As Omar said recently, “Mom, everything you write is as good as the stuff we read in class, or better.  You write as well as the guy who wrote The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” (Thank you, Sweetheart.)

Julia with son Omar at his high school graduation ceremony 2011

Yousef delighted me by reading every story in Under a Crescent Moon: Stories of Arabia and calling me to talk about each one after he had read it. Yousef says Under a Crescent Moon: Stories of Arabia is one of his favorite fiction books in the world if not THE favorite. I believe him. He doesn’t lie, not even to make me happy.

Yousef


Connie has been wonderful too.   Whatever she has last read of my stories is judged by her (she is not only a writing judge of many years experience, but at least one of her books can be found at Harvard University) as her “favorite one of all.”  Everyone should have a friend who is unfailingly most impressed by one’s last endeavor.



This blog is preeminently meant to entertain and inspire others to pursue their creative endeavors and think about what it all means. We are all looking for an oasis. May you find yours.  (My doll oasis can be reached by visiting

http://adifferentdoll.wordpress.com).


 
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13 thoughts on “Julia Simpson Urrutia

  1. Thank you so much for stopping by my very newest blog! I was thrilled when I saw the picture of your doll. Glad to meet you. See you here in the blogosphere!

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  2. I finally found this link you wrote on my homework. I am looking for another one of your books to read. You are so amazing, I have learned a great deal from you and hope you continue to write wonderful books.

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  3. This Comment is for Julia about a query she posted on another blog regarding epitaphs for the death of the Countess of Oxford in 1588. Here is what I have in my “Chronology of Everything” about Shakespeare, which I’m planning to publish in due time:

    Jun25 1588 Reg. An epitaphe upon the life & Death of the Countesse of Oxon for J.Charlewood**-m-o-r under “Master Gravet” (Wm.Gravet, Prebendary of St.Pauls) marked as by a Ct. order.
    [[Important as it is to the “Sh. Enterprise” to understand career of J.Charlewood**-m-o-r, note the numerous links of J.C.** to both Ox & Munday*]]

    Julia should be able to find this on the “Early English Books Online” service at any research library. With a thumbdrive, it can be downloaded in .pdf format for study at home.

    Julia should note that my chronolgy is particularly interested in Oxford, his one-time servant Anthony Munday, Thomas Sackville Lord Buckhurst (Oxford’s literary and political mentor), and of course “Shake-speare.” One key, thread, or pattern among many is the printer-publisher John Charlewood, who died in 1593 just before the Sh. works began to appear, but not before he had established his publishing house as the one which would put out the most important Sh. works all the way to 1623 F1 and 1640 Poems by Shake-speare. The most impressive thing about him was his close association with Munday, who from circa 1578 to 92 supplied JC with over a dozen publishing projects. Since Munday had been apprenticed as a printer to another favorite printer of Oxford’s (John Allde) from 1576 to circa 84, and Munday began a string of works dedicated to Oxford starting in 1579, claiming himself to be his servant until circa 86, afterwards saying he continued to serve Oxford and his family all the way to 1621, I’m fascinated by the possibility that he and Munday had been “partners” in a publishing sense, allowing Munday to channel to JC and his successors in the house (principally the Jaggards) the unfolding Sh. works. It’s a complex but wonderful argument.

    I am accessible over Facebook, but prefer e-mail (I’m at BeornsHall@earthlink.net). Feel free to view my website about my trilogy, “The Dark Side of Sh.” Also, I run an e-mail list of 200 Oxfordians worldwide, in case you’d like to join.

    W. Ron Hess

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  4. Dahllingest Julia!

    I read ALL of Under a Crescent Moon…and I got it for free 😉 Thank you! The Cherry Tree remains my most treasured of your short stories…now more than ever!

    Love you!

    Samia

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  5. Hi Julia!

    So nice to hear from you after all these years! I’m living back in Brazil with my mom and am freelancing from here for Al-Ahram Weekly.

    I see that you’ve been back in the US for ten years now. I liked your list of things about living in Jeddah. So true!

    I left Arab News at the end of 2007 and moved to Abu Dhabi to work at The National. I stayed for a year and then moved back to Brasilia in December 2008 when my dad (Saudi) passed away. I’m now living next to my mom (who is American).

    Glad to see that your sons are graduating from college and moving on in life. Write to me, you have my email address above.

    Best wishes, Rasheed

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  6. Hi Julia,

    I don’t know why I didn’t find your blog sooner….when you posted on mine.
    You got some great posts, and I like your idea of your catalog…I think I might have to add my book. I don’t know if you’ve checked my blog lately, but I have a book signing coming up in February at the biggest bookstore in my city, so that’s kind of exciting!
    Happy writing…

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  7. Shoroug, you darling and delightful bundle of energy, creativity, reflection, and loveliness, I believe in you. Thank you for the kind words. I know you are forging your own path, and I know it will yield much satisfaction and joy. We must keep in closer contact. Happy Eid to you, your mom and siblings!

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  8. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you. I have always been impressed by you. The way you carry yourself, you’re creativity, the courage it takes to share it with the world is an inspiration. I wish you all the best in all you endeavours.
    And I hope that, one day, I have the courage to follow in your footsteps mashallah.

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  9. Thanks so much, Julia. I think we’ve come a long way in terms of quality of the stories of women who spent anywhere from months to lifetimes in Arabia.
    Did you ever read “Princess”? After that one I was more careful about buying just any book that had to do with this area of the world.

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