There aren’t many people who can honestly list their biggest challenges and greatest rewards in the same breath, but Julia (Green) Heckathorn ’07 can. A nonconformist to the core, she possesses a passion for writing, a yearning to teach children and vision to save the endangered Pygmy Sloth population. She didn’t listen to the "realists" or naysayers and after years of hard work she now has two published books in her new children's series, Search for the Hidden Clover: Kangaroo Island and Search for the Hidden Clover: Redwood Forest.
A Christian leader, artist, athlete and former massage therapist, Heckathorn hasn't lived the traditional career path. However, her experiences as a Psychology major at Arcadia gave her the confidence to focus her diverse interests into an independent career. In 2011 she founded Hidden Clover LLC, a company focused on teaching kids of all ages to love and care for the environment and animals of all kinds through books, wildlife interactions, and other activities. She feels her undergraduate education prepared her to get into the mindset of a child and keep them engaged.
Heckathorn works with mediums as diverse as her interests, and engages her young audience through books with a combination of cartoons, photography and a rhymed adventure story that features fascinating animals and exciting environments. The books are designed to grow with children as they advance from story time to more advanced elementary-aged readers. She also uses her website, to allow readers to access additional animal facts, watch fun videos, or purchase books.
Currently, Heckathorn is preparing her third book for printing and illustrating her fourth. She frequently appears at elementary schools and museums in the region as well as book fairs, giving readings, playing games and sharing interesting facts about nature, also bringing live animals for children to interact with like her anteater or sugar gliders. In the future, she hopes to use a kangaroo and possibly a sloth. Along with the Tree Foundation, she is also working on the preservation of the pygmy sloth species of which there are only 300 left.
“The biggest challenge was that most of the people I came in contact with while I was writing told me that my dream as it was, was completely unattainable and unrealistic,” she says. Fellow authors and illustrators discouraged her from trying to both write and illustrate her own books. They also discouraged her from trying to market her books without a major publisher. While challenging, marketing her books independently allowed her the freedom of donating part of the proceeds to the preservation of the Pygmy Sloth population.
“Arcadia taught me it was okay to be different,” she says. “Now I find myself writing books, teaching children with my own anteater and sugar gliders, and trying to save the pygmy sloths while leading a mission trip to a jungle island in Peru to build wells in my 'spare time'. When I feel called to do something in my life, I do whatever it takes to follow it through. Now that I have two books published, and have overcome many of the initial challenges of being a writer and illustrator, I feel like so much more is possible.”