Apr 30, 2014

Spillworthy Blog Hop

During the first ten days of May, individuals will be releasing copies of Spillworthy into the world as part of our Catch and Release.  Look for photos and fun to follow on that page.

For the blog hop, I'll be giving away five Kindle copies of Spillworthy at the end of the week. One lucky winner will also receive a signed ARC and media package, just like the one sent to librarians and book reviewers.

To be entered into the drawing, just comment on any of the following blog posts.  If you'd like to be entered more than once, just comment on more than one blog post.  Winners will be announced on May 11th and we'll party. :)

The Blog Hop

Links will be updated as posts go live on that day.

April 24: 

*Note that I gave away a copy to celebrate my first interview, but anyone who comments before May 10 will still quality for the final drawing.

April 30: 

"Why Do You Think I Got The Chickens?"
Guest post with Buddhapuss Ink

May 1: 

JC Rosen's Girl Meets Words

May 2

May 3:

Angie Capozello's Techtigger's Soapbox

May 4:

May 5: 

May 6:

May 7: 

May 8: 

April Brown: Uncovered Myths
Spillworthy by Johanna Harness (contains spoilers)

May 9: 

Zehra Cranmer: A Life in Writing
"Sally Day"

May 10: 

Shari Risoff: Thinking Out Loud
"Spilling About Spillworthy"

Apr 26, 2014

First Book Signing!

My book doesn't come out for a few more days, but there were a few copies available for today's SCBWI conference in Boise.  I had so much fun!

Virginia and Greg have been hiding something from me for months!  Virginia presented me with this beautiful Pendleton blanket today, to celebrate my first signing and the beginning of book release events.  I knew she had a Pendleton box, so I was prepped to like what was inside, but I never dreamed it would be such a beautiful blanket.  There are tabs on the top, so I can hang it.  Do you see the Spillworthy monogramming?  Yeah. I could totally release another book just for another blanket.

Apr 25, 2014

Spillworthy Review from Mariam Kobras!

Review posted by Mariam Kobras on Goodreads:

"A note rolled up inside a note, left in the fence: 

Some truths are kept hidden in the basement of our souls. We should never stop trying to find them."

Spillworthy by Johanna Harness has left me baffled, surprised, speechless, and with the deep wish that all schools all over the world put this middle-grade novel in their libraries, and not only one copy, but fifty. Or maybe one-hundred. Or maybe enough copies so every child can take it home and then "release" it into the world so it becomes a real Spillworthy, a piece of writing set free into the world. 

I just know that kids will devour this book, and maybe not only kids. When I began reading I had a text marker in my hand to highlight notable passages, only I gave up a few pages into the book. Every page is noteworthy, full of observations, insight, philosophy.

This: "Maybe we're all supposed to be making music together whether it feels like we belong together or not. Maybe it's not enough to live your own lives with quiet respect for others. Maybe we're supposed to be reaching and connecting – even when it seems like there's no way that's possible."

This novel reminds me of To Kill a Mockingbird; the kids are of about the same age, and sometimes the tone is similar. Then again, it's something completely different, something not attempted before, both in style and form. 

Buy this book. Read it. Share it. It's a wonderful book!

- - -

Mariam is an amazing writer, so her praise means a lot to me. You can see all her books on Goodreads as well. :)

First Spillworthy Interview!

I'm so excited!  My first Spillworthy interview is up over at FridayFlash.org!

J. M. Strother interviewed me and I found myself revealing much more than I've revealed in other interviews--like why I decided to self-publish, information I've kept to myself for some time.

If you comment on the interview, I'll add your name to a drawing for a Kindle version of Spillworthy.  I'm doing the Kindle direct program, so I'll be purchasing the book for you through Amazon when the book comes out in May.

This interview with Jon was such a pleasure.  I'll leave the opportunity to comment open until the book is available to send and then I'll post the winner in the comments thread.

The #FridayFlash community on Twitter has been so good to me.  While you're there reading my interview, you should explore the site.  You'll especially want to see "The Friday Flash Report," with links to amazing short stories, all written this week.  Want to add your own flash fiction to the list?  Just click on "The Collector" in the upper right hand corner.

I'll see you in the comments! :)

Apr 22, 2014

National History Day

My kids started working on National History Day projects last October.  History is a major part of their homeschool curriculum.  

Many say (and rightly so) that writing is best taught as an integrated part of other classes.  When you separate writing from content, you get busy work.  That's not a very good way to teach English. Words contain power.  The better we write, the more power our words contain. Purpose and passion come first. Writing comes second.

I also hear the argument that math should be taught as part of other courses. Show kids why they need math and they'll want to practice.  The same can be said for science.  Show me any meaningful activity in the world and we can probably talk about the science and math making it work.  And hey! Then we can write about it. 

So where does history come into this?

Mmm.  I'm glad you asked.

History is the glue.  History informs us that nothing happens in a vacuum. All those scientific discoveries? They happened in time and space. They were influenced by all that came before and adherence to those ideas influenced what came after (for good or bad, for intended and unintended consequences).

Studying history helps us understand limitations of perception, and through that study, we begin to see the things that hold us back as well.

Growing up in the rural west, I remember hearing how I would have to move away to make anything of myself.  Living here apparently trapped me at a level of dire mediocrity.  I didn't question that assumption for years. When I chose to live in the place I love, I accepted being cut off from the rest of the world.

Granted, this was in the days before internet, so there we are again with context. Add to this a family history which includes members coming west, knowing they would never see parents and siblings again.  Moving west historically has come with trade-offs and those lessons, passed from one generation to the next, still ring of truth--even when they are no longer relevant.

A friend of mine described her attendance at a reception for elite artists in New York. She identified herself as being from Idaho, and her answer was actually waved away, as if untrue. "Forget that," she was told. "You don't need to live in Idaho anymore.  Move here and put that behind you."

I hear it from members of my local writing group. "No one wants to hear from an Idaho writer. Agents can't even find Idaho on a map."

That may be true for some. Certainly there are a great number who can't imagine people living west of Colorado without living on the coast.  I sent a post-apocalyptic story to one agent who sent back a note telling me I'd sent the wrong story, as this one appeared to be set in modern-day Idaho. I laughed, feeling bad for her even as I realized how bad she must feel for me.

Of course this is one aspect of living with privilege. People live in a context that informs them their context is the only one that matters.  We certainly have that in the west too--writing history that includes the valor of western settlement by European Americans--continuing to write as though the descendants of European Americans were never immigrants themselves.

"How can we hate recent immigrants without hating ourselves?"  The question came up around our kitchen table. 

I shrugged.  "What do you think?"

"Maybe we can't," my son answered. "Maybe all hatred starts with hating yourself first."

I was blinking, kind of blown away, a little close to tears. "You think there's anything we can do about that?"

My little girl stood behind me. I didn't realize she was there. "Just love people," she said.

"But you have to love yourself first," said my son. "Don't keep trying to be somebody else just because everyone says it's better."

My older daughter smiled from across the room.  She was taking notes for her National History Day paper.  She started participating in National History Day six years earlier, always choosing a topic central to the American West.  This year she was writing about Amy Trice and the Kootenai War of 1974. She was not blown away by the brilliance of her siblings. She knew they'd come to it, just as she had many years earlier.  If you study history long enough, you start seeing patterns.

My son turned back to his history project.  He started with fossils and math and a love of science.  Then he started looking at context.  Central to the story of Hagerman Fossil Beds was a rancher named Elmer Cook--a man who used grazing rights to protect fossils.  We heard from one longtime resident that she grew up hearing jokes about Elmer and the horse bones he found out in the desert.  Ah--context.  

"What does that tell you?" I asked my son.

"He's kind of a hero. He spent his whole life like that--protecting fossils while people made fun of him. It's the best remaining late-pliocene fossil bed in the world. He saved our best clues to life in a time that spans three and a half million years, but nobody knows who he is."


"I'm going to tell them."

Power. Words. Writing. Science. History.

Now we just have to deal with the math.  Both kids took first place at regional history day.  Both kids took first at state. They qualify to participate in National History Day, but they have to raise money to get there.

Two thousand miles each way. Two thousand dollars to get there.

Their fundraiser is here:  gofundme.com/nhdkids

Apr 19, 2014

Spillworthy Excerpt

In Portland I could abandon Mom with her boyfriend-of-the-moment and go ask for food outside this pizza place. People don’t mind giving a kid their leftover pizza, and I don’t see how that’s any different than someone inviting me to dinner—except, of course, that we don’t actually have to talk to one another—and that can be a bonus.

Plus, the carryout box makes a perfect display for a spillworthy. The lid of a medium carryout holds about 500 words. With a small box, poetry works better, but a medium is perfect. 

After my belly’s full, I’m like a ship with sails billowing with wind. I write my heart out, transfer those words to a box, and set them free.

My last medium spillworthy was about Keats. I propped it up on a garbage can outside our neighborhood music store. The next day I saw someone had cut it out and put it on display in the window alongside album posters. That was so cool.

Once, Old Doogy asked me, “What’s your deal?” So I told him, “I’m homeless.” And he nodded because it was like saying, “the sky is blue” or “your dog is ugly.” Self-evident. 

But Old Doogy, being drunk, he thought about it for a long time before waving the bottle at me. 


And so I told him, “I can’t take my writing with me. Where would I put it? So, you know, I fill notebooks and then I throw them in dumpsters and then I go beg for a new one. But sometimes I actually write something that shouldn’t be thrown away—something good, something worthy of spilling my heart out to the world.”

“Something spillworthy,” he slurred.

“Yes! And I rewrite those thoughts on pizza boxes or the backs of old posters—something big, but not too big—and I release that part of me into the world.”

And Old Doogy, he said, “don’t they still get thrown away?”

And I told him he must have missed the spillworthy I posted on the nature of art.

He took a deep draw from the bottle and squinted at me. Then, like a broken radio—once all static and then clear and booming—he said, “So tell me about the nature of art, young Spillworthy.” 

And there were these well-dressed people walking by and they were looking at us funny, and the woman whispered, “Does it seem like the homeless people are smarter than our friends these days?”
And so I took that as encouragement, and I told Old Doogy that art requires only two people, although there is no upper limit for participation. First there’s the artist—the writer, musician, painter, mime, whatever. If the creation is really art, it changes the creator in some way. That’s the first requirement. 

The second requirement is about the other person—the one who experiences the creation. If it’s really art, it changes something in the person who experiences it. There can be more than one creator and more than one person experiencing the art, but the circuit completes with a minimum of two people. That’s art. As long as my words reach one person first, it doesn’t matter if the pizza boxes get thrown away.

Old Doogy nodded and scratched his scruffy chin. When he opened his mouth, I expected him to belch but instead he asked, “What big name philosopher came up with that?”

“Ulysses S. Finch,” I said. 

“Never heard of him.”

His answer was quick and I realized he didn’t get my meaning, so I explained that I am Ulysses. I’m Ulysses S. Finch. And he laughed. And he kept on laughing and I started to turn red. 

- - -

Spillworthy releases on May 1, 2014!

Apr 11, 2014

Poetry Eggs!

Wouldn't it be great to have an event where kids left treats for others instead of rushing to fill their own baskets? I think so too. 

I'm presenting this free workshop for Caldwell Public Library as part of National Library Week. We'll be rolling around in the fun of words, writing short poems, and leaving them inside plastic eggs for others to discover.

We're meeting in the park next to Caldwell Public Library (Serenity Park) on Saturday April 19th from 11:30 to 12:30. Come join us!

Apr 9, 2014

New chicks

Yesterday we brought home chicks from our local hatchery: Buff Orpingtons, Araucanas, and Barred Plymouth Rocks.  They're all one day old in the photos, hatched on April 7th.

We saw the most adorable White Crested Black Polish too.  If they weren't straight run, I'd have seriously considered getting a couple.

Buff Orpington & Araucana chicks.

Barred Plymouth Rock chick.

Araucana chicks.

Apr 5, 2014

YouTube and Book Trailers

This mug filled with chocolates arrived for me yesterday--such a nice gift from an awesome friend. But really, I put it here to show you the frames in the background.

The kids and I put together the frames last fall. I had this great idea for a YouTube video where the frames went up on the side of our barn, one by one, and spelled out the name of the book.  It all sounded good in my head.

After a huge amount of effort, I discovered that I should have taken the glass out of the frames because the glare on the glass made it impossible to see all the letters at the same time. I could change the angle to remove the glare from one, but it would just pop up on another.

I thought I'd take the glass out and try again but, in the process of doing this, one of the frames broke. I'd have to get a new one.

Along the way, I lost my enthusiasm for the video and never attempted it again. The broken frame stays together if it's leaning, so all the letters became decoration for my office space instead.  I pretend that's what I always intended they would be.

Still, it was bugging me that I hadn't put anything up on YouTube. I have a few followers there, mostly because of a video J. C. Rosen convinced me to do on cluster plotting.

I suspect there's not a big crossover between YouTubers and the rest of my social media family because hardly anyone in my regular circles comments or clicks a thumbs up (or even a thumbs down) button. That's changed a bit since Google started posting G+ comments on YouTube videos, but I still see it. So most of the YouTubers represent people who don't travel in my regular circles and would likely never hear about my book unless I posted something.

You know what the second biggest search engine is after Google?  Right. It's YouTube. Clearly there's not room here for video phobia.

Still, I had that one idea that was supposed to all come together and it was now adorning the wall as decoration.  How much did I really want to invest myself in a new attempt?

That's when I turned it over to the kids. They make everything fun.  After our last book club, they jumped at the chance to be in a book trailer.  Even the librarian got involved.  Back home, the kids picked their favorite trailer template from iMovie and started dropping in pictures.

They had as much fun with the credits as anything else.  Did anyone notice that Baxter The House Lamb is our executive producer?  Jabberwocky (our sweet black & white cat with the unfortunate Hitler mustache) is the costume designer. Ruby Eccleston is my daughter's guinea pig and also director of photography.  If it made them laugh, we put it in.

This is the result:

I added links to the book excerpt, the media kit, and to the Goodreads giveaway.  After May 1st, I'll update that information, take away the Goodreads giveaway (since it will be over) and include a link to buy the book.

Will this help sell the book?  I don't know. My first objective is name recognition, either for my name or the book's name. The more times people see the name (in a pleasing context), the better.

I want people to know this book is out there, but it's even more important to tell people that I care about kids and the voices of kids. Presenting a video made by kids feels like the right way to go.

Plus--you know--I never did fix that frame.