Johanna Harness Author of Spillworthy

Johanna Harness is the creator of the successful Twitter tag #amwriting.

Her novel was published in May 2014.  My review is full of spoilers, though it attempts to connect with the characters.

Spillworthy is an upper middle grade novel, perfect for all age readers.  There are spoilers in this essay.

Spillworthy by Johanna Harness

Before you read this, don’t get me wrong.  This is the way it touched me.   This is a heartwarming, uplifting novel of hope for all of those society has left behind.  Abusers, abused, ignored, and children.  Your words matter.   Their words matter.  They will touch someone, even if you never know who, where, or when.  They may never know who you are.  You may never know who they are.

Normally, when I r

ead a novel, I can only connect with one, or maybe two characters.  In this case, I can relate to nearly every character, and even the ones I can’t, I can understand how they became who they did.

Ulysses Samuel Finch – The first character introduced.  A homeless 10 year old boy who already understands the importance of sharing thoughts with the world without expectation.   An easy character to connect to.

Long-legged Janetta –  Ulysses’s mother.  The one parent who didn’t completely abandon him.  She is a long term drug addict, among other addictions.  And yet, she

values her son.  While I have never been a drug addict, I have known some.  Well portrayed character.  Many people say they never understand how anyone can become an addict.  My recent experience with the “medical” system we have in our country has given me a more in depth understanding of why.  Women need medical care without false accusation.  And to be respected, as Janetta likely never was.

Samuel Finch – Ulysses missing father.  He likely never knew he had a son.  The reader eventually finds out why he left home before he knew.  What is this missing character like now?  No one knows.

Gem Isobel Rost – A twelve year old girl who wants to find her missing mother.  She eventually finds out many secrets of her birth that her father didn’t want to tell her. She

learns the importance of not keeping secrets, and what can happen, when a person does.  I often wish I knew the truth of who I am.  And yet, does it really matter at this point in my life?

Estella – A sixteen year old girl who knows her father, and despises him.  She deals with this every day.  She has an apparent strong exterior, with a soft heart.  She would likely have found

Ulysses father if given enough time.  I was lot like that at sixteen.

Estella’s mom – Referred to as a “Sally.”  Someone who stands up for others, especially children.  She is strong, and left the man who had abused her. The reader never finds out if the abuse is physical, mental, or emotional.  They all leave scars.  Often, the mental and emotional leave more permanent scars, as other people can’t see the original scars, and frequently (and often unintentionally) rip them open and pour salt into the wounds.  Yes, I’ve done that as well.

Blake – The seventeen year old boy who left an ugly home and tried to escape abuse.  He returns each day to check on his mother’s welfare, as she will not leave the man she married.

The reader never finds out if she knew about the abuse, or, if she too were abused and could not admit it.  He rescues the little girl, Crystal Barnes.  An easy to connect to character who has a rough exterior, and a heart of gold.

Crystal Barnes – A six year old girl who rarely spoke, and who had been kidnapped and hidden on the Wildlife Refuge.  She would escape most days, and return to her hidden cell.  Like many abused children, she returned out of fear to her abuser.  Also easy to connect to character.  A starved child, only one outfit, and no ability to communicate her needs or wishes.  In fact, many abused children go home to their abuser everyday.

Norma – the dog walker.

A person who had once survived an unknown abuse, and never recovered.  She was afraid to reach out to others.  Easy to relate to.

So, the question becomes, was there anyone in the story I didn’t relate to?

The kidnapper?  Well, I don’t personally relate to him.  I have seen how power can easily become abuse of power though.  Ulysses grandmother?  No.  She kicked out her abuser.  She stayed with him for too many decades because of social requirements.  She finally determined what was important in her life.  I think, she’d search for her missing son.

Are there any characters left?

Gem’s dad.  He was a nice person.  He kept secrets for many reasons.   He learns that eventually, he has to share them.

The other characters in Portland?

They are mostly unique, and each come alive on the page.  The reader doesn’t really learn their stories, though they can sense what a few of those stories might contain.  Sally, Doogy, the music store owner, and a few others were part of his “family” network.  Those who listened and cared.  Every person of every age needs people like this.

All in all, a great novel of hope for those society chooses to leave behind.


Happy 5th birthday to #amwriting!

Happy 5th birthday to #amwriting created by @johannaharness!

Not many blogs last that long. It’s been a wonderful group to belong to.

Five years ago, I was still searching for an agent. I had my first completed novel, which actually turned out to be a novella. A memory loss workbook, and a survival novel.

I’ll never forget how excited I was to complete what I thought was my first novel. Those characters, and the story, had been a part of my life for 20 years. It was complete at 40,000 words. I was lucky to write 200 words a day on a 20 year old story I knew by heart and soul!

Along came @johannaharness and #amwriting.

What a difference! Having friends to chat with while I worked made all the difference. Though many have come and gone in five years.

How much of a difference?

If I chat with five different people, and make at least fifteen posts on a day, I can write 5,000 useful words and research as well!

How does it help, and not hinder my writing?

I’ll chat a bit on Twitter, and then write until the steam runs out of the scene. After another post or two, the next scene has formed, and I race back to write until I run out of words again. A good 1,000 word scene can be written in an hour, or less.

I don’t talk much about my writing on Twitter. Mostly about pets, weather, garden, and my health.

This method won’t work for everyone.

What happens on day I don’t post much on Twitter and the #amwriting tag?

I probably don’t write at all. I might complete a sentence or two.

While it won’t work for everyone, if you struggle writing, try it! It might work.

Thanks to @johannaharness and #amwriting, I have now published my novella and Trails 1: Trails Through the Fault Lines. With a full publishing plan scheduled through 2018.

I am no longer searching for an agent to represent an adventure writer with an indecent exposure name. I don’t write indecent exposure. My novels are closer to the classics. A journey through the minds of those who journey through life.

I am excited to announce that Trails 1: Trails Trough the Fault Lines is available on Smashwords ( ) and Amazon ( as of Friday, August 1, 2014.

 All thanks to @johannaharness and her support team at #amwriting!