Anyone who may believe math and creative writing proficiency is an unlikely duo surely hasn’t met Severna Park High School (SPHS) math department chair Julie Lowman.
A prolific writer since a preteen, Lowman earned a master’s degree in applied mathematics and statistics from Johns Hopkins University and followed her love of math and teaching to SPHS.
But Lowman never stopped writing, and her first novel, “Leaving Us,” was published in July by an Olney, Maryland-based publisher, Level Best Books.
In Lowman’s debut, the story follows a 16-year-old girl who finds herself in a complicated and often confusing relationship with a boy with an unpredictable temper. Something is off, but is it abuse? Is she imagining things? Should she share her concerns about what’s happening, and if so, with whom? The storyline is a culmination of her past experiences and what she sees in young people.
When Lowman was in college in 2010, Maryland native and University of Virginia student-athlete Yeardley Love was murdered by an abusive boyfriend. The event hit home because Lowman had friends and family members in some “not great” relationships at the time.
Immediately following Love’s murder, her family founded the One Love Foundation. The foundation’s message of domestic violence and relationship abuse awareness became a campaign for many universities and high schools across the country.
Lowman said that One Love club signs can be found around the SPHS campus, adding her belief that toxic relationships may be more prevalent than those reported.
“Yeardley’s murder has always stuck with me,” Lowman said. “I’ve attended several of the One Love club meetings here at school, and I think it’s a very important message.”
Lowman has been writing short stories about a fictional family for many years. Each new story adds new facets and situations to force the evolution of her established characters. When Lowman’s first manuscript failed to be published, a friend encouraged Lowman to think about what she’s most passionate about and how those interests could be woven into storylines.
“I love being a teacher,” Lowman said. “I find teenagers fascinating. They are not children. They are not adults. How their brains work is very interesting to me.”
Being a high school teacher, and a mother of preadolescents and teens, Lowman is concerned with healthy relationships and feels she has a particular vantage point to see how young people relate to one another, and how they communicate. As a writer, she also saw a void in the young adult genre for showing teens a way out of an abusive relationship.
“In an abusive relationship, things escalate and then go back to normal,” Lowman said. “After the fact, things don’t seem so scary and are harder to share. There are lots of books about girls falling in love with these guys, but not about realizing something is wrong and trying to get out of it while it’s happening.”
With the protagonist in a situation with a controlling boyfriend, the novel walks the line between physical and emotional abuse, so it might be hard for the girl to see how bad it was, or why it’s hard for her to tell someone about it.
“My hope is that people realize that these relationships exist, that they can get out of them, and all abuse isn’t necessarily physical abuse,” Lowman said. “Everyone deserves to be happy.”
Writing will always be a passion and a creative outlet for Lowman, who said she also has a pair of novels in the works, but don’t expect her to quit her day job anytime soon.
“I am excited to get this novel out and live through the process, but I can’t imagine not teaching,” said Lowman, who feels that writing is also a form of teaching. “I like the life of a teacher over the life of an author. If my writing takes off, that would be amazing, but I don’t think I could ever write without teenagers. I love their energy and their vibe. I hope to make a difference in their lives as a teacher.”
A book launch was held at the Severna Park-based store Park Books in August. “Leaving Us” is now available at booksellers.
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