Sixth Generation Arizonan Defies Odds: Becomes Writer and Pens Arizona Rain

PRESCOTT, AZ – Despite never being able to hold a pencil the right way, Jessica Lynn MacLean was first published during high school, and she became a writer. Growing up, she fought health problems like migraines, TMJ, knee syndromes, and an autoimmune condition. In her 20’s, Jessica learned she’d been living with spina bifida occulta since birth. Her spine never finished forming; she had a gap in vertebra where there should have been bone.

“Looking back, the diagnosis explained pain, limitations, and differences I’d experienced or noticed about my body throughout life,” Jessica said. “But it didn’t explain everything. That same year, when a physical therapist assistant said I was hypermobile, it sounded like she was just saying I’m flexible.”

For some, flexibility, long fingers, skinny wrists, and a slew of other signs can indicate a genetic, degenerative tissue connectivity disorder involving faulty cartilage: hypermobility spectrum disorders or Ehlers Danlos Syndromes, which can impact every bodily system and lead to more health conditions.

“I could never hold a pencil correctly. I remember in kindergarten or first grade, my teacher tried to show me how to get the grip right. But I never could. Even though I rode dirt bikes and had enough spunk to earn nicknames like Fist City—which is a Loretta Lynn song—my loose joints couldn’t manage to hold a pen the right way,” she said.

That didn’t stop Jessica from becoming a writer and eventually, writing a book about her ancestors. Creativity helped the author cope with her mom’s passing in 2020, along with dozens of her own lifelong health diagnoses.

“My mom was also chronically ill. She always said I should write a book,” Jessica explained. “Writing about family was productive and gave me purpose after my genetic conditions caused too many others for me to do much.”

The author expanded on letters, articles, and photographs so her ancestors could help tell their own stories. In her first novel, Arizona Rain, Jessica brings readers along on Adventures in Life, Love, and Loss that Span Generations.

Part One is a journey with Jessica’s grandma: Mrs. Arizona circa 1954 and the daughter of a reverend who built churches. The author’s grandparents fixed up old Army barracks and survived monsoons, raining scorpions, and the Big Snow. They built homes, cabins, and a beautiful life together while being trick water-skiers.

Nine of Jessica’s relatives worked at the Grand Canyon from 1902 to 1949. Railway employees, mule train guides, Harvey bus drivers, and Harvey Girls blazed trails. Part Two (Winslow, Arizona) opens in 1962. Her young dad learns that his father was struck and killed by a railcar. Readers see through his colorblind eyes. When older family members tell him stories from their past, the descriptions change to full color vision.

“Great Grandma MacLean donated 100-year-old photographs of relatives working at the Grand Canyon to state library archives,” Jessica said. “Those photos are now in my book with 95 other historical photographs.”

Many pictures couldn’t fit on the pages. Saturday, October 22 at 2pm, a talk at Peregrine Book Co. in Prescott will include videos and historical photos on a family of adventurous Arizona writers who helped build the state. Arizona Rain is also available at the Prescott Western Heritage Center on Whiskey Row or through Barnes & Noble.

Jessica is related to bestselling, Arizona Author of the Year, Nancy E. Turner, and Arizona author born in 1907, Joyce MacLean. Published in several magazines, Jessica has written for the city of Sedona, town of Camp Verde, Disability EmpowHer Network, and Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. A recipient of the English Award and Cothran-Mulvey Award for Excellence, she holds a Summa Cum Laude BA in Human Communication and Mass Communications from ASU. In 1991, Jessica appeared as Weather Kid with Dave Munsey on FOX 10 Phoenix.

She hopes, “red flags will be more widely recognized as potential signs for spina bifida occulta, hypermobility, and EDS. Occulta means hidden, but like photographs buried in archives, sometimes you only need to look.”

Event: Saturday, October 22, 2pm

Peregrine Book Co. Prescott, AZ