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Back To Literature, Past
A Literary & Poetry Column
By Carolyn Howard-Johnson


Can Prejudice Cause Cancer?

Author Writes Her Way into Health


Haven't we all experienced the devastation of bigotry?
We are diminished when we dish it out.
We feel keenly its destruction when it is directed at us or at those we love.

I believe that years of suffering from suppressed feelings of unworthiness due to bigotry contributed to my cancer. That was twenty-five years ago, but I still consider it a life changing—and surprisingly—a life affirming moment.

I refused to let it beat me. I began to journal through the prejudice I had experienced and eventually turned my story into a novel.

This is the Place is inspired by the stories that I confronted. It tells the story of a young journalist, Skylar Eccles who finds intolerance cloaked by family, love and community and does not recognize it. By examining her own history--several generations of hardy Utah women who--and by experiencing a series of devastating events, she comes to see she must make her own way in the world, follow her own true north. Skylar Eccles is a fictionalized version of me and is based on family records (the journals of other women and my own.)

This Is the Place is out of print but it still is available on Amazon’s New and Used feature for about a dollar. Authors don’t receive a cent from books sold on this feature unless they are selling their own books. I still consider the feature a great service to authors because it can keep a book alive. People can still find a long out-of-print book to read. And most authors care more about being read—sharing—than the royalties.

Reviews and awards of this novel suggest that This Is the Place is a winner. Misti Jackson, author of Help from Above, said, "I look at the clock and it says '3 a.m.;' I just can't seem to put it down."

Rolf Gompertz, UCLA professor and author of Abraham the Dreamer said "This is the Place is a magnificent book and Carolyn Howard-Johnson is a magnificent writer. Her book is a joy to read. It is a work of literary art. It is an important book. It is a book that touches the heart, mind, and soul."

I think I bring a unique perspective to my work. I was born and raised in Utah and lived in Southern California for many years. My life in Utah, my experience at the Salt Lake Tribune, and my life outside of Utah including a stint at Good Housekeeping magazine early in life all brought me insight into the two cultures-the Mormon and the Non-Mormon. Many years of experience made me aware of the many faces of prejudice and allowed me to write about them with a gentle touch. But I couldn’t have this sense of accomplishment if it weren't for writing. And I wouldn’t have written a novel if it hadn’t been that cancer came knocking to warn me that if I didn’t follow my dream in that moment, I might not get a chance to do so.

So, if Prejudice can cause cancer, journaling or writing about it creatively can cure it. I am living proof of that.

Tips and Tidbits

(Each month in this box, Carolyn lists a Tidbit that will help authors write or promote better. She will also include a Tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected books or a sapphire among the newly-published.)

Writers' Tidbit: Everyone is a writer these days. They write on social networks. They blog. They may even write books. My multi award-winning The Frugal Editor will help them with all the grammar and formatting that their English teacher never taught them. Or all the things that have changed since their English teacher gave them an A. The Frugal Editor is now in its second edition in paper or as an e-book. It’s been reformatted, updated, and expanded.

Tidbit for Readers: This is a frugal gift indeed. And, yes, it is This Is the Place. I hope a few Back to Literature readers find a moment to learn about my first step out of repression into health and use it to consider the value of writing for their own happiness and health.


2017 Past Columns

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