Ideas and Art So Good, They Must Be Spilled…

IMG_5753Many years ago, a kind voice reached out to me in the Twitterverse. By most accounts, it was an accidental meeting. Unless you believe that words find the ear most in need of hearing them at that moment, in which case, it was no accident that I met Johanna Harness first on the Twitter hashtag #amwriting and then in real life at Powell’s many months later.

I, by the way, am a believer. I believe in all sorts of things like the power of words, and that a book can speak to a person, and that sometimes people cross our paths because that intersection will ultimately change everything. And, in this case, my casual use of Johanna’s hashtag, #amwriting, led to an introduction to a writing community, my publication by Buddhapuss Ink, and a wonderfully supportive friendship.

I have been participating in Johanna’s publication build-up for her middle grade novel, Spillworthy. What that means is I “released” two copies of the book into the world and now I’m offering you a chance to get to know Johanna via my blog.

But, since I always do things  just a bit differently, I did my book drops Kristina-style and my interview of Johanna is different at well.

First off, I dropped my first copy (Book #9) with a bartender at the Couples Negril resort while Mister Soandso and I were on vacation there. Amay is expecting a daughter in June, but I asked her if she had any nieces or nephews who might enjoy a new book. When she said yes, I brought her copy 9 and told her I hoped her nieces and nephews enjoyed it. When I went back to the bar to refill my pina colada, I’m happy to report that Spillworthy #9 was open on the bar and the bookmark’s placement indicated Amay was well into chapter 2. Who knows who will read book #9 or if it will be logged into the tracking system. As the protagonist of Spillworthy would say, it’s good enough that the words are being shared.

My second copy was intended to be released in Brooklyn, NY. Other Twitter contacts, Molly O’Neil and Corey Ann Haydu, had generously suggested several places in the Brooklyn area I might consider visiting on my trip back to the States from Jamaica. Several hours (!) of Google-searches and schemings later, I had my plan hatched for the restaurants and bars I could visit in Brooklyn, as well as where I might drop Spillworthy #10. But Kristina-style is not without bumps in the planning road. On our last night in Jamaica my consumption ration of alcohol to water was not sufficient and I got dehydrated. By the time I got to the airport in Montego Bay, I was sicker than the proverbial dog. At that point, I only wanted to get home. A swipe of the credit card later, my travel plans changed but so did my book dropping plan.

Who wouldn’t be interested in a book while waiting in the Atlanta airport, right? The only problem with this plan is between my earlobes. My imagination, specifically.

That’s right, after struggling to find a decent place to “drop” Spillworthy, I finally decided to leave it in the food court of the terminal we were flying out of. And, wouldn’t you know it, I got caught in the act.

It is a lot harder to surreptitiously leave a book lying about the place than I had thought.

“Ma’am? You left your book!” a very nice gentlemen said as I walked past his table. All of his table mates and the table next to him turned to look at me.

“That’s okay,” I said. Grace under pressure, I am not.

“She meant to; it’s a book drop,” Mister Soandso said. I don’t know what the nice man did because I was hot-footing it through the throngs of suitcases and crabby travelers by this point. A quick glance over my shoulder confirmed that a woman sitting at the table was either in the process of grabbing the book–or doing some sort of aerobics move my thighs can never attempt.

We headed back towards our gate and as we turned the corner, the looped security announcement about aviation safety and beware of unattended items filled my ears. In what is true Kristina-style, I expected to be stopped by security from that moment until the airplane door closed. Paranoia will destroy ya, right?

So that was my book drop experience. Pretty exciting, right? But also in perfect keeping with what Spillworthy is about and the book’s pacing.

Speaking of pacing, I’m sure you are all waiting for me to get to the interview part. Which I aim to do. But having interviewed and been interviewed, I always like to give an interviewee a chance to do something different than answer the same sorts of questions all over again.

One of the first things I knew about Johanna, besides that she is amazing, is that she is quite a photographer. Over the years, I’ve looked a many of her photographs as she captures pictures of her lambs (Baxter will always have my heart), the Idaho countryside, or even more abstract artistic photos. Let me tell you, I like it when Johanna takes photography classes!

Writers really are artists–just some share their artistry in multiple ways. Johanna Harness is a sharing sort of person, indeed.

I asked Johanna to share with you some of her photographs that are meaningful to her either because of location or their place in her journey as a person and/or writer. The following are what she said and shared:

Place is really important to me in my writing. I think it’s where I start all my stories. I imagine the place and then ask who lives there, and what do they want?

In the beginning of Spillworthy, when Ulysses describes standing at the back of the hall listening to the saxophone-accordion duet, I was there.

It’s weird because I kick myself now. If I’d just turned around, he was there. He was in that place with me.

And yet, he wasn’t there. He’d yet to be written.

I feel that way in a lot of places, like there are ghosts of characters not yet written.

The photos I’m sending to you today are from a nearby wildlife refuge. When these photos were taken, Ulysses and Gem weren’t there yet, but their spirits were. I knew them as clearly as I know my own memories. If I’d only turned around more quickly, I’m sure I’d have caught a glimpse of them. ~ Johanna Harness

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What I love about the photos Johanna chose to share with you, as well as the reason she shared them are why I believe Johanna’s artistry resonates with so many of us, whether they are her words or her photographs. She looks for the beauty in all of us and all around us and because she looks for it, that is what she is able to show us.

If you have a chance, I suggest you find a copy of Spillworthy. It may be for “middle grade” readers, but even adults love Ulysses and Gem and all of what makes Spillworthy so worthy.


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