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WritingFiction, Non-Fiction, Web Content

Grandma Violet's letter

 

This image is the Rosetta Stone of my relationship to words. It was sent to me by my Grandma Violet just before my 4th birthday. In it she revisited the year that had just passed, reminding me of all that had happened since my last birthday. She enticed me with a picture of a musical birthday cake, shared the news from her bird feeder and gave me a heads up that she had posted a package to me containing my birthday present. The letter included a label typed with my name and address just like the one that would be on my package, and since my birthday falls in mid-December she made sure that Santa made an appearance, riding a rocket ship as it happens.

 

I saved the letter when I threw out my childhood scrapbook into which it had been carefully taped, and carted it around from place to place until I grew to adulthood and had it framed. I handled it often as a child, peering at the words, picking out letters and doing my part to tell the story as it was read aloud to me, because the pictures had been included just for me.

 

This letter, along with the stories read to us by my parents every day, gave me ownership of words that told a story. It showed me, through the inclusion of pictures, what every early reader knows: that words are meant to represent things that happen and things that cannot happen and to do so vividly and unexpectedly. It also gave me ownership of that process, for since my Grandma had cut pictures out of magazines and newspapers and strung them together with words and paste to talk to me, I felt I could do this too. What a great relief to already know some of the language of reading. It made the words more accessible, and me more eager than ever to understand them. To this day when words are spoken I often see them in my mind’s eye as pictures, or letters spelled out in black and white.

 

I write fiction for young adults and middle grade readers, and marry words and pictures in studio work and book illustration. An essay of mine is included in Like a Valentine, the recently printed catalog of Jeffry Mitchell’s artwork, published by the Henry Art Gallery at the University of Washington. The Story Chairs project, an audio installation that incorporates the work of 32 writers and musicians, features a number of short non-fiction pieces based on my own experiences with nature.

 

I create interpretive print and web content for 4Culture programming – Arts, Heritage , Preservation and Public Art – and created much of the Public art educational material available on the website. In the end I am a storyteller, clearly an inherited trait.