My literary agent had been a model in the early 1970s. She was dark haired, tall and willowy like an English Cher. The metaphor strengthens with Julie Castiglia’s sharp English accent, contrast of black hair, green eyes, and paper-thin skin and her infamous curt communication.
Julie used words like scissors and would assign her brutal honesty to being English. But that wasn’t Julie’s whole story: just her armor. Julie revealed a heart that was warm and tender when she spoke of her children. As fate would have it, her daughter hung out with my children’s father in college. Whenever I think of the ad that I answered to be her assistant, I see a halo pulsating around a tiny rectangle notice in the Wanted Section of the North County Diego Times. I could not have missed that door of opportunity. I had been praying to enter the writer’s world and here was my desire answered.
I learned the publishing industry under her tutelage from Julie’s office that was sandwiched between the Del Mar Racetrack, the fire department and a wild bird sanctuary. And when we moved to her Del Mar home, I watched how she lived and how she loved, especially toward her arctic white half wolf/half Shepherd she named Bear who rested beside her all day like the Queen’s guardian.
One day in 1998, an editor asked Julie if she knew someone who could write The Wicca Cookbook and she decided right there that would be my first published book. “I always knew she could do it.” Julie told the Orange County Register reporter who wrote a two-page article about me and my fifth book in October 2006.
Julie was fragile, beautiful and fierce in a way that reminded me so much of my own mother: a particular type of Goddess Warrior. I learned so many great and wonderful things from Julie nearby. I’ll always remember the pride I felt when she stood beside me the night I won my first literary award. Through the years, I sent her Mother’s Day cards and birthday cards.
I visited her when she retired to the Santa Barbara coast a few times. One day she was a She-dragon and then slowly, I watched her fade. In our last visit, I gave her an advanced copy of The Book of Spells: The Magick of Witchcraft, my latest book, my ninth. I drove less than a mile after leaving Julie, and pulled over to cry because I knew that I would not see my champion ever again. I plucked rosemary for remembrance which happened be growing nearby and placed the herb on my car dash for the courage of her memory to keep going. I had a new book and I’d be going it alone.
I called her this past January 26, her birthday, and the phone had been disconnected. I reached out to her daughter but didn’t get an answer until several days ago when she wrote to say Julie had passed, but she had been there holding her hands through the transition. I know how heartbreaking and fulfilling it is to let every unmet expectation and every exquisite memory go when a parent dies.
I have stood at that life death threshold many times. I stand here again, reaching out to my beautiful mentor and loving supporter. Thank you for believing in me Julie. Thank you for opening the door to a world where my creativity has found a home. I know you are still with me, now another angel in my heavenly choir. I love you. I miss you, already, Julie.