Short & sweet: Julia Parlette-Cariño (nee Cariño) is originally from the Philippines. She received her BA in English at Old Dominion University (Norfolk,VA, 2005). Julia has worked professionally as a graphic designer for over 15 years. Julia implements a problem-solving approach to her work to create products and experiences that people love to use. With a background in creative writing, she generates content that engages audiences and communicates a cohesive brand identity.

In 2014 she was a finalist for the Aquarius Press / Willow Books Literature Awards, for a manuscript of poetry entitled Illuminated Body. She received her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (2015).

Long story: I was born in Baguio, a mountaintop city in the north of the Philippines. There were pine trees and street dogs. Roosters crowed underneath the window of the room I grew up in. There were puttering, smoke-belching jeepneys climbing the hill streets. From around May or June, torrential rains poured from the sky. The monsoons reached a frenetic peak between the months of August and October, and afternoons saw me walking home, through patches of calf-deep water. I hung my school uniform up to dry when I got home. By the next day it was dry enough for me to wear again.

In November, sunflowers dotted the landscape like the many the unblinking eyes of the emerald hillside gods, and because of the cooler mountain air, strawberries shouldered their way out of the dark earth, there in my city–where otherwise in the country, the climate is too tropical for them to grow. I saw the sky blistering with fireworks, smelled the smoke from thousands of bonfires around which families gathered around the city to greet the New Year. Morning vendors called out their offerings year round as they went their early routes: small, hot rolls of fragrant, white bread; steel vats filled with silken tofu, steaming brown sugar syrup and tapioca; fried bananas skewered on sticks. All around me, there was a cacophony of sound and images–and yet I remained a quiet and pensive child throughout my youth. I’m still reserved (to a degree) to this day, but have only recently come to terms with how this is an okay way to be.

I moved to Virginia when I was 16, fresh from high school, plunged immediately into the American college academic system. My mother, a poet and professor of English, had accepted a position at a university there, and my sister and I immigrated a year or so afterwards. It is from her I received my love of words and the written language, often turning to pen and paper where otherwise speaking had failed me. Small wonder then that I majored in English, even if I wandered through the first couple of years of my undergraduate career, undeclared, unclear of where I was actually heading.

I picked up graphic design by chance–self taught, on the job, I started designing flyers and logos for local businesses at a copy shop close to the university. This led to what has now been a 15 year career under my belt, moving from company to company until I gathered a plethora of hard and soft skills.