GCC Re-entry Student Named Radio Station Book Reviewer

Beverly Irwin
El Vaquero Staff Writer

Carolyn Howard-Johnson is not your regular GCC adult re-entry student. She has been a student here, on and off, since 1967 and on one return visit was a writer for El Vaquero, penning a column entitled “On The Cheap” and contributing reports from a GCC Study Abroad visit to Prague.

Howard-Johnson was the first of three generations to attend GCC. She was followed by her daughter Erika, another Adult Re-Entry student, who recently transferred to UCLA, and this semester her grandson Travis is a freshman. Her husband, a professional actor, even took acting classes here.

It is her first novel, “This is the Place” for which Howard-Johnson is best known. Released in July 2001 she immediately began to win rave reviews. The book was named a Top Ten Novel in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll where editors and reviewers vote for their favorite novel. The writers’ group, NUW, awarded Howard-Johnson its Award of Excellence and she was the winner of the Literary Award from Red Sky Press in 2001.

At 17, Howard-Johnson was the youngest person ever hired as a staff writer for the Salt Lake City Tribune. She later graduated from the University of Southern California with a bachelor’s degree in English literature. Writing has always been in her life.

However, 12 years ago Howard-Johnson was diagnosed with cancer. A disease of this magnitude often becomes a turning point. “I believed that denying my dream had contributed to the cancer,” she says. And her dream was to write a novel.

She wrote a story based on her Utah-based family as seen from her unique perspective of being half Protestant, half Mormon. “As I began to write it all came back to me,” she says. “Usually novels set in Utah are either pro- Mormon or anti-Mormon.” She believes her book offers a balanced view.

It is a story about a 19 year old girl who “learns to follow her own star, not her parents, religion or society,” explains Howard-Johnson, who enjoys “writing from a woman’s perspective.”

“This is the Place” sold well in Utah at the 2002 Winter Olympics and although popular among the more liberal Mormon population it has stirred some controversy among the more conservative followers of the faith. What annoys her most are the conservatives who believe the book is “Mormon-bashing” without having read it. “I wanted to make a difference,” she says. “Not make more angst.”

Recently Howard-Johnson has become a reviewer for the Web-based BookCrazy Radio Network — www.BookCrazy.net — and of course there are other books waiting to be written, perhaps a book of poetry.
Her second book, “Hearkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered,” again based on her Utah family, is scheduled for release in November and she has contributed to two anthologies.

“Cooking by the Book” is a collection of recipes and excerpts from writers’ works that relate to the recipes. “Musings: Authors do it Write!” is a selection of thoughts from 12 members of the CB Authors Group. Both of these books are available free, as Adobe Acrobat downloads, through Howard-Johnson’s Web site: www.tlt.com/authors/carolynhowardjohnson.htm.

“This is the Place” is available in the GCC bookstore.