The Bloodline Writers

In my large extended family, there are several writers. Some of them write without the hope of publishing, or even without the hope of showing their work to anyone, but all of them love the written word. I suspect that many of my family members have never even mentioned to anyone their love or practice of writing (after all, we are Finns, a stoic people, known for their resistance to demonstrative affection and strong displays of emotion). Drawn to writing since childhood, I wonder if there is a genetic connection. Perhaps writers understand one another in specific ways, just as painters do, or electrical engineers, or archaeologists. When I hear writers talk about their craft, I understand it intuitively. When I hear my relatives talk about writing, I understand it on an even deeper level. We are not as illustrious as the Brontes or the Dumases, but the artery of writing runs through us nonetheless.

As a child, I heard a lot about the passion for writing felt by Uncle Ub, who had an untimely death due to a stroke at the age of twenty-nine. UbEvidently we had met, though I was only nine months old. I have visited his grave many times, and tonight my mom gave me a browned page of one of his school assignments. It opens this way:

“Geraldine busied herself in front of the full-length mirror that covered most the entire wall of the spacious, luxurious, but somewhat frightening room. She was engrossed in pinning back a stubborn curl of her raven black hair with an artificial but arresting white carnation. Her lips as red as new drawn blood were puckered in an expression of exasperation as the curl defied her assaults.”

From all accounts, he was interested in traveling, writing, and women. Wounded during the Korean War where he had been in a MASH unit, he received a purple heart. Had he lived, I’m sure we would have been friends and that we would have had many wonderful conversations about writing. In some families, writers may seem odd and unproductive (see for example, the article in the New York Times by Roger Rosenblatt, referenced below) but in our family, the desire to write was applauded and generally appreciated.

Greg

 

For the past few months, I have been meeting with my cousin, Greg, a retired sheriff, now a developing author and poet. He read a poem in public for the first time during the open mic portion of a poetry reading on February 21. We began meeting regularly to discuss our reading of Hemingway’s works, which led to more writing of our own. Greg now has more than thirteen new poems and stories.

Before my time with Greg, I had been meeting regularly with my cousin, Lori Beth, who has long had a desire to write fiction. We did free-writing exercises sometimes, which evolved into longer, more polished works, and we had some laughs over coffee as we read our work to each other. Lori has since gone into teaching, though I’m sure her writing efforts will continue. An accomplished student of anthropology, Lori brings a deep understanding of diverse cultures to her fiction. LoriBeth

My cousin, Jim, is a comedy writer and performer. I have seen his performances at the Flapper’s Comedy Club both in Claremont and Burbank a few times. When I saw the photo of his desk on Facebook, I couldn’t help but think how fun it would be to sit down and write jokes every day. His father, my Uncle Jim, was a supreme wit, as is his brother, my cousin Richard. I feel grateful that Jim is taking his talent to both the page and the stage.

SpudSpudstypewriter

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Aunt Emily, a spinster who passed away in 2013 at the age of eighty-five, was someone who wrote often, though she never mentioned it to anyone, as far as I know. I have been slowly going through some of her journals and recognizing her talent and love of writing.AuntEm

IMG_2927

Her sister, my Aunt Mavis, wrote a book about her faith. It was published by a vanity press, and I have a few copies in my study.

I know that my predisposition to writing comes from my mother who seems to embody all the strains of writing I have mentioned in relationship to other relatives. She has written memoirs, poetry, non-fiction, comedy, and novels. Thanks to her, I have an unrelenting appreciation for writing, family history, and humor. We might be Finns, but we do love to laugh.MomAceyI was an only child until I was almost twenty years old. Finally, I got a sibling when my mom and stepdad had my brother, Joel. Now an R & D Imagineer for Disney, he has always been creative. I will never forget the night we came home late one night after I picked him up from one of his college functions. JoelvineyardWe drove down the main street of what had been the small town in which we grew up. The streets were slick with rain, and it was after midnight. He began to recite poetry in the grand tradition of the Beats (Kerouac, Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti). He did it spontaneously and quickly. Mesmerized, I experienced the poem as it was being uttered. It was beautiful. Another Finn with the soul of a poet.

What is the role of the writer in your family? Are you the only writer? One of many?

Rosenblatt, Roger, “The Writer in the Family,” New York Times, May 11, 2012.

 

20 thoughts on “The Bloodline Writers

  1. Thank you for this post which reminds me of my own roots in writing. My close cousin, Cindy, who lives in Oregon, is a screenplay writer. Cindy has written many television movies as well as scripts for her own productions at a theatre in Portland. Her sister has written several books which have been available for purchase at Barnes and Noble- I got to participate in a book signing several years back, which was just so much fun. Cindy is president of a writers group and teaches writing in a variety of venues. One such venue allows those interested in writing to go on an annual cruise with her and take workshops to help improve their skills. I have another sweet cousin, Celia, who keeps a blog going and writes online books blending the old west with faith. I have a cousin, Bill who who happened to be a Minister, write stories about my family history which are not only entertaining, but created for me, a window into our heritage. My own Grandmother Wise (my father’s mother) was president of the Pasadena Writers Club and wrote many poems, and short stories. Her involvement in that club provided an opportunity to know many interesting writers. One such relationship created a sort of mystical connection involving the Southwestern Indians. Carl and Grace Moon wrote and illustrated many children’s books through out the 1930’s and 1940’s. I have several of their books and consider them to be among my most treasured collections. My Great Grandfather, “Uncle Buddy Robinson”, was a traveling evangelist at the turn of the century and wrote many books during his lifetime. I enjoy writing as a way of expressing my thoughts and feelings. I am not published, yet feel this legacy of connection through expressing myself in this way. It has been a very special thing to sit in a comfortable home setting and share writings with you Carla….I would love to do that again. Thank you for this sweet reminder. It truly evokes a family sort of feeling………..Brenda

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    1. Thanks for reading, Brenda! As I mentioned in a recent email to you, I actually thought about your family when I wrote this blog. I knew you had many writers among you! Yes, let’s share soon!

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  2. Both my mom and dad wrote. Dad often wrote poems he’d turn into song. Mom works on her writing often.
    I love writing and turn to it often to just be.
    Thanks for posting this piece. It’s intriguing to see how our line are natural wordsmiths.

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  3. Carla, what a thought-provoking post! I loved meeting some of your family! My grandmother wanted to be a writer. She wrote little funny stories when I was very young, but eventually quit. She told me she grew up thinking of herself as Jo March. I can’t think of any other writers in the family, although my mother’s family is very literate.

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    1. Thanks Luanne! My mom is interested in family history, just as you are, and she spent five years creating a book with information about each family member along with photos. Though it has to be updated every so often, it is a real gift to all of us. I am going to show her your family site later today.

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  4. This is lovely! “The artery of writing’ runs through you all. A beautiful phrase. I admit, I’m jealous of your family ties with writing. Most of my family kind of hide their eyes at my stories. I think they’re worried about what I’ll come up with next. My blog has many followers and commenters, but none of them are relatives. They just don’t ‘get’ it – the passion to write. I smiled reading about all of your relatives: uncles, aunts, cousins, mother, brother who all write with such love and joy, AND TALK ABOUT IT and share. I hope you realize how lucky you are. When I was a teenager (with many a hidden poem in my dresser drawer), my dad suddenly told me that his mother (my grandmother, then in a nursing home) had loved to write and had hundreds of handwritten pages toward a novel in her dresser. Then, he kind of shuttered, saying, ‘historical romance.’ How I wish I had seen it. So there, at least I have some ‘writing blood’ in my arteries. 🙂

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    1. Yes, I do feel fortunate! I feel sad that you never got to see your grandmother’s manuscript! Perhaps she also felt the need to keep it under wraps? Maybe some of your relatives will get interested as time moves along. Fingers crossed! Thanks for taking the time to post!

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    1. Hi Stephanie! How interesting that both of your parents are writers. Yes, that is a nice compliment; you have a relative who wants to emulate your efforts. Wonderful! My high school English teacher, who is now in his eighties and still a friend of mine, encouraged me so many years ago. It helps to have some mentoring. Best to you and also your family members for getting some work published.

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  5. How fortunate you are to have such a vein of creativity in your family Carla – I wrote a post about this a little while ago, how it’s difficult to find the creative roots in the men in my family, who were mainly manual workers and the women whose history is hidden by being known as wives and mothers in censuses and historical documents – but I did find a few hints of creativity that may have passed their way down to me!

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    1. Thanks Andrea. Yes, I do feel fortunate, even to be part of a family, and on top of that, a writing family. Our family also has many manual workers, and yet I have found several creative strains, such as woodworking, painting, or creating sculptures from metal parts. It sounds as if you have done some family history research, a wonderful thing to do. Thanks for posting, Andrea.

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  6. There’s a long line of poets in my family. My mother has been published in anthologies. My granny wrote poetry for pleasure. There was also a relative on my father’s side of the family who had a poetry collection published. My son has a BA in History, English & Creative Writing. He’s presently learning his way around some computer software, so he can write online serialised fantasy role-playing games.

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    1. How wonderful, Sarah! I would imagine you have some nice collections of their work. Congratulations to your son, who is well on his way to a promising career. I have a nephew who is an enthusiast of online role-playing games, who has had some wonderful jobs related to that interest! Thank you for sharing these details about your family!

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  7. Wow Carla what a wonderfully written post. i was captivated and amazed at how many family members were and are writers. i would be in my element. Your Uncle’s piece of writing was beautiful too. My Father wanted to write but never had an education. Read some of his journal pieces and they were rough, raw and wonderful I asked him why he did not continue writing. He replied I had nine children I had the stories but no time to write them. Like they say everyone has a story to tell.
    Kath

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    1. Thank you Kourtney. So few of the writers in my family have published things, but I love their interest in both books and in creative writing. I know that I would have been great friends with Uncle Ub had he lived longer. Perhaps you have some good samples to relish of your mom’s earlier writing. I have a few of my mom’s pieces, and they are great reading!

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