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Millcreek Journal

Beyond the byline: East Coast equestrian transplant Deb Hafner is an award-winning writer for the Millcreek Journal

Aug 03, 2022 07:54PM ● By Sona Schmidt-Harris

By Sona Schmidt-Harris | [email protected]

Editor’s note: this series highlights the writers behind the stories found here every month.     

Writer Deb Hafner has a serious demeanor but a friendly manner. A transplant from the East Coast, she has embraced her life in Utah and her love of writing. She also brought her equestrian skills with her.

Born in New Jersey, and raised in Newton, Connecticut and Fairfax County, Virginia, Hafner received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature as well as a teaching degree. The call of the Big Apple lured her where she primarily did marketing work for law firms.

As a resident of Manhattan from 1999-2006, she was present for the attack on the World Trade Center. “My husband (then boyfriend) was on his way to work, and he saw the planes fly overhead,” Hafner said. “He called me and said, ‘We're under attack,’ and then he proceeded to run uptown. I worked in Midtown.” 

At the time, Hafner lived on the Upper West Side. “I started running to work. I don't know why I didn't just stay home,” she said. “I think I was thinking I was going to meet my husband in town somewhere as he was running up.”

“The second plane hit when I was on my way to work. The building started falling and that was crazy, and the smoke came all the way up Fifth Avenue.”

Despite the trauma of the experience, Hafner remained in Manhattan a few more years. In addition to her work at law firms, she also taught horseback riding lessons in Central Park. English riding is her specialty.

Hafner and her husband moved to Utah in 2013. Soon thereafter, she began her acquisition of horses and rides on a regular basis.

Despite a busy life with two sons and equestrian interests, Hafner finds time to write for the Millcreek Journal. “I like the breadth of stories that are found in Millcreek,” she said. Hafner recently took second place for environmental writing in the Utah Society of Professional Journalists contest for her story, “Good news for Mill Creek six months after concrete spill.” 

As a writer, she sometimes feels inspired. “Sometimes, it's just coming through me like magic,” she said. “And other times, I'm just sitting there staring at my computer for an hour and moving paragraphs around, and getting sidetracked, and making kids food, and then going back to it.”

On a sadder note, Hafner’s son, Colton, was diagnosed with brain cancer not long after she and her husband arrived in Utah. “I learned so much about pediatric cancer,” she said. “I do a lot of research in my spare time keeping up with cures and clinical trials and the stages of clinical trials because when he (Colton) was going through cancer, I joined this group of parents who also had children with medulloblastoma. And everybody shared ideas and knowledge, and I think it saved his life because of the information I was getting from that.”

Though Colton is currently doing well, Hafner is still driven to do research and is convinced that some of the knowledge gleaned from other parents of children with cancer helped to save her son’s hearing during treatment.

In addition to her love of family, writing, researching and English riding, Hafner loves animals. Not only does she have three horses, but she also has two Australian shepherds, a cat, and a rabbit living in her front foyer. And these were the animals that were visible in a single visit. There may be more.
       If Hafner’s multi-faceted life continues to migrate to her writing, Millcreek can expect many more multi-faceted stories to come in the Millcreek Journal.