10 Questions with Jeryn Konezny and Julie Close

JerynJulie
1. 
What inspired you to launch the educational website, The Glinda Factor?

Our teenage daughters were the inspiration for The Glinda Factor—we have five girls between the two of us. As mothers, our goal is to instill confidence in our daughters. We both love history and had discussed our mutual concern that women’s stories are too often missing from traditional history texts. Generations of American women have been pushing boundaries and blazing trails, and we believe in the power of sharing their stories. So we decided to team up and start The Glinda Factor, which celebrates the stories of amazing women throughout American history. Our mission is to encourage the next generation of women to believe in their own power and become the leaders of tomorrow.

2. How do you decide who to include in The Glinda Factor?

The rebel in both of us gravitates to women who have been forgotten by history or defied conventional norms of their day. But the lawyer in both of us requires that we are methodical about ensuring a variety of ethnicities, time periods, and professions. We developed a content strategy based on these factors and how they are connected to relevant current events. We feature a new “Glinda Gal” every week. Also, each story includes a section titled “Power of the Wand,” which highlights a current tween, teen, or woman carrying on the Glinda Gal’s legacy. The National Women’s History Museum has added our website as one of their online resources.

3. You both earned law degrees from the University of Michigan and then practiced at large Minneapolis law firms before pivoting to this venture. What was your career fork in the road?

Jeryn: When our oldest daughter was born, it was clear that she needed me on a full-time basis (she has a number of special needs). So I have been home with our daughters ever since. Over the years, I have volunteered with a number of nonprof it organizations that are close to my heart, such as the Minneapolis Institute of Art, St. David’s Center for Child & Family Development, and Children’s Minnesota.

Julie: My professional life is a tale of two loves: solving legal puzzles and teaching others how to solve them. I left my firm to teach legal research and writing at a local law school, and then took a hiatus after having two children in 20 months. My hiatus lasted longer than I planned. I filled my need for solving legal puzzles by serving on various nonprofit boards where my experience came in handy. I channeled my love of writing, research, and education into creative projects, usually with strong women at the center. Jeryn and I had weekly writing dates. After years of discussion about our separate projects, we decided to tie them together with The Glinda Factor.

4. How does your legal experience influence your work on The Glinda Factor?

Jeryn: My legal experience taught me to love a good challenge. I also draw heavily upon my research and writing skills—I particularly like searching for needles in haystacks and figuring out how to explain complex topics in a simple way.

 Julie: My experience as a litigator taught me how to follow a research thread to find information. Litigation is also about framing and storytelling, which helps me choose each woman’s "Ruby Shoe Moment" and tell her story through that lens.

5. Many of the women you write about took the road less traveled. Tell us about a time you followed a different path.

Jeryn: A few years ago, I self-published three books based on our family’s summer learning projects—the 50 States, the US Presidents, and the First Ladies. It felt like a huge risk to put my work out there for anyone to read (and it still does, if I’m completely honest).

 Julie: I have never thought of myself as a risk taker. But upon reflection, I realize that my philosophy of life involves risk on a smaller, but no less real, scale. I question authority. I don’t like to follow rules that aren’t fair or just. I speak up when power is exercised arbitrarily, even if doing so could make someone angry. So many of our Glinda Gals were told no, and not for any real or meaningful reason. They believed in their own power. I think that is why I am so drawn to them.

6. You both studied history in college. If you could have coffee with one historical figure, who would you choose?

Jeryn: I am fascinated by America’s first ladies. As Pat Nixon said, it’s “the hardest unpaid job in the world.” So I would be thrilled to have coffee with any of them. If given a choice, however, I would love to meet either Dolly Madison or Eleanor Roosevelt.

 

Julie: If I had to choose just one, it would be Amelia Earhart. What a life she led: she fought hard for her education, volunteered in military hospitals during World War I, contracted and survived the Spanish flu, worked odd jobs to pay for flying lessons, and completed legendary solo flights acrossthe Atlantic and from Hawaii to California. Her disappearance while attempting to fly around the world is one of history’s biggest mysteries.

7. How do you like to spend your free time?

Jeryn: I love to row on Lake Minnetonka, especially in the morning when it is just me and the loons, before the boats come out. In the fall, our family enjoys long walks, bonfires, and lots of caramel apples.

Julie: I enjoy being outside with my family and friends whether on a boat, bike, trail, ski run, or sledding hill. Our family watches a lot of football in the fall—our extended family has alumni from seven Big Ten schools so there is a heated rivalry pretty much every Saturday. We will have a void to fill with the 2020 season postponed, so may need to start a new tradition of family football games in the backyard.

8. You mentioned that your families inspired your work. What is your most unusual family tradition?

Jeryn: Since our daughters have grown out of Easter egg hunts, we started the tradition of an egg hunt for our two dogs—the girls put dog treats intoplastic eggs and “hide” them in the yard. It is both chaotic and hilarious.

Julie: The four of us do an old-fashioned pen-to-paper family NCAA Basketball Tourney draw. The competition is fierce and the winner getsbragging rights for a year and their choice of restaurant for the victory celebration. I still have the story my youngest wrote about her picked champion losing in the first round (they were a #2 seed) where she called the school “a destroyer of dreams.”

9. What book is on your nightstand?

Jeryn: I always have a number of books on my nightstand, just waiting for me to stay awake long enough to read them. I currently have a few by Jill Lepore, including The Secret History of Wonder Woman and Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin.

Julie: I’m currently reading The Guest House by Sarah Blake for my book club. The book that is always on my nightstand is my favorite of all time: A Ring of Endless Light by Madeline L’Engle. I first read it in when I was 11 and re-read it at least once a year. It is the book that had the biggest influence on the adult I became.

10. If you could click your heels like Dorothy and be transported anywhere for a day, where would you go?

Jeryn: I would love to spend the day browsing through treasures in the Vatican Secret Archives—the Chinon Parchment, trial of Galileo, excommunication of Martin Luther, and letters from royals such as Mary Queen of Scots and Henry VIII.

Julie: Last summer I was lucky enough to visit the tiny island of Naxos in Greece with my family. We went on a small catamaran cruise and the captain anchored in a little bay just off the village where he grew up. We spent one of the most blissful afternoons of my life swimming, snorkeling, scrambling up rocky cliffs, and just floating. It was a special moment in time in a beautiful place.