If I needed motivation to create a new blog post, winning a spot in Brenda Drake’s Writer’s Voice Competition certainly supplied it! Thank you to the judges for your consideration.


Two teen girls, separated by more than forty years and decades of racism, learn how intoxicating first love can be—and how dangerous, especially when that new romance is an interracial relationship in Mississippi.

In 1995, Morgan’s father leaves her family, and she deals in the best way she knows how: binge drinking and cutting. But when Miss Eugenia, Morgan’s elderly neighbor and long-time family friend, takes her to the local theatre to keep her out of trouble, Morgan meets Sam, a popular guy from the richest school in Jackson. As their chemistry heats up, Morgan’s friends bully her for dating someone who is black, and she finds unexpected comfort in Miss Eugenia when she reveals her own teenage interracial romance. While Morgan is still trying to rebuild after her dad’s abandonment, the hostility towards her and Sam grows, culminating in a brutal attack.

In 1952, seventeen-year-old Genie, the young Miss Eugenia, has it all. With a mayor for a father, she’s part of Jackson’s elite, and nothing is off-limits. That is, nothing except the freedom to make decisions without her controlling mother. But when Genie falls in love with Terry, the son of her family’s help, their relationship shows her that not only do her parents control her choices, but so does a society that disapproves of black and white people being friends, much less dating. As the two secretly meet at night, they plot to escape Mississippi, and they are close to leaving when the unexpected happens—Genie is pregnant. When their actions are revealed, Genie must choose between her parents or Terry and their newborn child.

A realistic YA novel, THE FIRST IN THE SUN is complete at 72,000 words. Readers of Robin Talley’s LIES WE TELL OURSELVES and Rainbow Rowell’s ELEANOR & PARK will enjoy my novel’s similar structure and attention to race dynamics and family turmoil, as well as its focus on unexpected friendships and first romances that are both exhilarating yet plagued with challenges.

A native Mississippian, I now live in Washington, D.C. I hold a PhD in Counseling and also earned my MFA in Fiction from Spalding University. I have been published in Soundings Review and Red Savina Review. I am an essay and interview contributor to Spry Literary Journal, and I have served as a student editor for The Louisville Review. When I’m not writing or teaching, I’m chasing after my daughter, my dog, and the perfect glass of wine from a Northern Virginia vineyard.

Thank you for your consideration!

All best,

Julia Blake


When the back door hit its frame with the tenderness of a rifle shot, Morgan catapulted up from the floor. The room was spinning, and her mouth was dry. Her head felt like a guitar had been smashed over it. She regretted every sip, gulp, and chug of the cheap vodka and orange juice she drank last night to celebrate Sarah’s sixteenth birthday.

“Hon, you still here?” her mom yelled from the kitchen.

Morgan glanced at her watch. 7:29.


Her mom knocked on the door.

“Just a second,” Morgan said, lifting her hand over her mouth to see if she reeked of alcohol.

She launched over to the mirror, its frame still decorated with My Little Pony and Fraggle Rock stickers placed there a million years ago. She attacked the smears of mascara under her eyes with a tissue and sprayed herself with Calvin Klein’s “One” six or seven times.

Her mom couldn’t bust her for sneaking out. She’d lose her only chance to get enrolled in the acting classes at the swanky local theatre. After she’d begged to attend for months, her mom offered a deal: If Morgan would stop sneaking out to drink, especially with the hot older guys Jason and Billy, and would stop cutting her skin with a razor, then she could take the lessons.

After she took real acting classes, not just the ones at her high school, Morgan knew she’d be discovered somehow and land on Broadway.

When her mom knocked again, Morgan took a deep breath and opened the door.