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Connected

I’m a writer. Obviously.

I’m actually a lot of things: Wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, housekeeper, student, marketer, photographer, cover designer, historian, cook (not a good cook though–more like the kind at a fourth rate restaurant in a creepy back alley; don’t ever ask me to cook for you if you value our life). In spite of all the things I do and am, writer defines me. My first indication of being a writer was in second grade. The teacher asked us to write down what we did best and how we thought we could use it as a career. I put down write as my thing I did best and put writer as my career choice. So I’ve known for a long time that this is who I am.

I’ve worked at being a writer my whole life, from poetry to short stories to novels to screen plays to articles to ad slogans. If a thing can be put into words, I’ve tried to be the one to make the words.

But I don’t always succeed. I have more rejection letters than most people I know. I have nice letters, form letters, letters that feel they were written by the head of the department of ruination, letters that sing praises to my words and curses to the timing. I have acceptance letters too. And I’ve actually made a career out of this thing I said I could do back in the second grade.

While cleaning out my garage the other day, I found something that halted pretty much all work: a box of old things. Really old things. The kinds of things where the paper crackles with fragility. Newspaper articles from my long dead great grandmother. Her name was Dezi Irene Dunlap.

She was a writer.

I had some vague knowledge of this before but never had I realized the depth of our connection. My great grandma wasn’t just a dabbler-writer. She was serious about her craft. The first news article–the one that caught my attention as I moved the box from one shelf to another– announced on the society page in bold print

Feasting the Muse . . .

The article shares the details of an awards banquet for short stories. A picture of my great grandmother ties up a good portion of the left bottom corner of the newspaper and the caption declares her to be a “national magazine writer for the Saturday Evening Post and other slicks” My great grandmother! How cool is she? And I hadn’t really known the extent to how much she wrote, to how dedicated she was to the craft.

Inside this particular box I found several of her stories as they were published in national magazines including the Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping. I found rejection letters. I found signed contracts. I discovered she’d actually been the president of the League of Utah Writers at one point in her life.

And on April 16th, 1944, my grandma was featured in a newspaper article that  discussed how Salt Lake City would one day be a focal point of great creative writing. The article mentions how many Salt Lake writers were coming to the fore in ever increasing numbers, their names appearing in national magazines standing as a witness to their success.

It was interesting to me how seventy years later, Salt Lake could indeed be considered a focal point of great creative writing. With so many of my friends being on the New York Times list and so many more winning awards and signing movie contracts and myself achieving so many things in the literary world,  I can only smile. My great grandmother and I would have been great friends had we had the chance to know one another. She died just one year before I was born. We would have sat through banquets together, clapped and cheered for one another’s successes and maybe provided a thoughtful critique or two for each other. I am so glad I found this box and had a chance to connect to someone whose blood runs through my veins. Thanks, Grandma, for this connection to my past and congratulations on your successes, but more importantly . . . congratulations for sticking it out through the rejections and slush. That is an accomplishment to be truly proud of.

Grandma is the lady on the left

Grandma is the lady on the left

I wonder how long it took her to pin up her hair like that . . .