The Fire Behind WILDFIRE Magazine
An Exclusive Interview With April Johnson Stearns, Founder, Editor-in-Chief, WILDFIRE Magazine
I’ve enjoyed April’s Instagram posts as well as her magazine and decided to reach out to her because I was so intrigued with her publication that I just had to learn more!
I’m so honored to have recently been in included in the Survivorship issue, among so many other incredible women. If you haven’t done so already, definitely check it out! It was so much fun to shine the spotlight on April this time, because she’s always so busy sharing all of our stories. Plus, it’s April so the timing seemed to be perfect.
First Things First: April’s Official Bio
A lifelong writer, April was diagnosed at 35 years old with Stage 3 breast cancer that she found while breastfeeding her daughter. Four years later, while struggling to “go back to normal” and find other young women in similar circumstances, April launched WILDFIRE Magazine as a way for young women to tell and read breast cancer stories. April grew up on a 43-acre Christmas tree farm with horses, chickens, dogs, cats, and a couple of co-conspirators in the form of younger brothers. The closest neighbor was a half-mile away. Like most who don’t know what they have till it’s gone, she spent her teen years desperate to be “normal” and live in a town.
Now she lives with her husband and young daughter on the coast of California in a real-life town where she can see and hear her neighbors almost all the time, but she can also ride her bike down to the beach at a moment’s notice to watch the sunset. Although she does love town life, she also likes to get away from all the hustle and bustle whenever she can to hike in the woods, but writing remains her purest escape.
The Wake Up Call. We All Have One.
Today, April is seven years out from her breast cancer diagnosis. While going through treatment, she didn’t even think she needed a support group. “I didn’t feel the need to join a support group. I could tell that the older women in the chemo waiting room felt bad for me because I was so young. I just wanted to get through it. I thought, when I get to the other side, I’ll just go back to being normal,” explained April.
She had been working from home for about five years as a conference producer and held her position through surgery, radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Her capacity for work had diminished but she continued for another two years. April soon realized that she was never really going back to what she considered her normal way of life. “This was the impetus for me to look for other women going through the same thing. How were they making this life after diagnosis? I felt like I needed a road map from them,” continues April.
In addition to her full-time job, April was also the author of a parenting blog. “I figured, rather than write a cancer blog, I’d write a life after cancer blog. Around this same time, my Dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His diagnosis ended up lighting a fire under me. That made me realize that I hadn’t’t fully figured out who I am now, and who I want to be after cancer. Life suddenly seemed very fragile, and this was my wake-up call to do what I really wanted to do. So I quit my job to help my Dad through his cancer,” said April.
What Does Wildfire Mean?
When I asked April how she came up with the name Wildfire, she explained, “My Dad and brothers were firefighters. And of one my brothers is a forester, so fires and forests were always a topic of conversation. Regrowth happens after a fire. It’s easy to feel like a fire is the end of the world. The inspiration behind Wildfire is more about who we are after cancer, whether we’re still fighting the cancer or not. Fire comes in, and it obliterates everything. I wanted to play with idea of what will grow after the fire, and how fire is really clarifying for a forest. It burns all of that extra junk that has been choking the forest floor. Now the sun can come in, fresh air comes in and things start to grow.”
I am a Wildfire. I’m a force, making a change. Wildfire is the resource that I needed when I was being treated for cancer,” continues April. She lost her Dad to pancreatic cancer in 2014. This inspired her even more to pursue the idea of Wildfire. She spent every day caring for him, and wanted to created a platform for patients and caregivers alike to share their stories. And most importantly, to know that they’re not alone.
Fun Facts about April!
Q. Guilty pleasure
A. Lots of Netflix streaming
Q. Ice cream or pizza?
A. Ice Cream
Q. If you could invite ANY celeb to dinner, who would it be?
A. Author Cheryl Strayed
Q. If you could interview anyone in the world for Wildfire, who would it be?
A. Writer Audre Lorde
Q. Favorite Movie
A. 13 going on 30
What’s Next for Wildfire?
This truly special publication is now in its fifth year. When April started Wildfire as a blog, her vision was to evolve it into a collection of stories. In 2017 a reader reached out and asked if she wanted to make it more like a digital magazine…which April did! From there, she made the move to print which was her dream in the first place.
The print edition comes out six times per year, every other month. April loves that she can offer the community both print and digital versions. “Ultimately, I’d love to do some kind of live event. I envision people telling their stories from a stage.”
Well, we are SO into this idea, April! Thank you for bringing Wildfire to all of us. We can’t wait to see what you’ll do next!
*** Special Note***
Give yourself the gift of writing in a community of others who understand being diagnosed with breast cancer younger. Make the most of this time of forced isolation by learning how to access some of the stories hidden within you. Writing is a type of meditation. And what a great way for you to write away your stress!
Writing workshop 4-week series. Choose 1:
Thursdays at 8pm Eastern Time (April 9, April 16, April 23)
Fridays at 8pm Pacific Time (April 10, April 17, April 24)
For more information about Wildfire: