My guest today is Katherine Harms. Katherine was born in Poplar Bluff, Missouri. She grew up moving from place to place in the bootheel of Missouri as her father, a civil engineer with the highway department, moved from project to project. This may have been a rehearsal for her retirement life afloat, moving from place to place in a sailboat.
How did you develop an interest in writing?
I was a reader before I was a writer. In fact, maybe I was a reader before I even started school. My favorite preschool storybook was Bongo, the Circus Bear. I asked my mother to read it over and over. It may be that Mother fatigued of the story, or perhaps it was her advanced age in her mid-twenties, but she got in the habit of changing the text of the story. I screamed in outrage at any modification and pointed to the page while reciting the correct words, which Mother dutifully repeated as instructed.
Everybody knew that I was a reader. One of my sixth-grade friends said, “Every time I see you raise your hand, I know you will say, ‘I read in a book once….” It was in sixth grade that I finally wearied of writing sentences with spelling words and petitioned the teacher, along with three of my friends, to be permitted to write a story with the words. That was the beginning of my writing career. My published career came much later.
What has been your writing path?
I have been writing since sixth grade. I wrote stories, poems, and newsletters. I made up stories to tell my children, and I even put some of them in writing, but I didn’t know what to do next. When I lived in Omaha, a friend started a newsletter for boaters on the Missouri River. Larry and I were sailing a lot at that time, so I wrote articles for the Omaha River Rat. When I worked for a rural hospital in Missouri, I was the editor of the hospital newsletter for two years. Later, I wrote meditations and labyrinth prayer guides for our church newsletter in Baltimore. I love teaching, and there is a rich interaction between material I have developed for classes and material I write for other purposes. I have taught spiritual journaling, varieties of prayer, faith practices, and studies of books and characters in the Bible. My blog “Living on Tilt” focuses on the challenge of living a life of faith in a world dominated by secularism.
When did you start writing seriously?
My working life has been as varied as my home towns. Among my experiences I have been a substitute teacher, full charge bookkeeper, job placement specialist, assistant manager of a sheltered workshop, IT manager for a rural hospital system, and IT consultant in software installation and upgrade projects nationwide. No matter how I earned my living, I was always writing. However, I got very serious about it during my last six years before retirement. After retirement, writing became a major part of life aboard. I am called to write about the life of faith, my primary focus, and I enjoy the writing about the adventure of cruising on a sailboat.
Are you published?
I have been published in “The Word in Season” and “Christ in our Home,” devotional magazines by Augsburg. My article, “Turkey in the cockpit” describing the first time I tried to roast a turkey in a marine galley oven, appeared in the magazine “Living Aboard” in 2004. In 2003 we spent the month of August in fog off the coast of Main. My article “Foggett” chronicling our experiences appeared in “Cruising World” magazine in 2006. In 2009 my book Oceans of Love was self-published in hardcopy at blurb.com and in Kindle version at Amazon’s Kindle Store . My book Pray the Catechism, Walk the Labyrinth is seeking a publisher.
What was your first major writing project?
In 2003, I chose as my Lenten project a study of the life of Hannah, the mother of Samuel. In the spirit of learning about sacrifice during that penitential season, I asked how Hannah could possibly give up her son to God after having waited so long for the blessing of a baby. My study taught me that sacrifice is not so much about giving up something a person wants as it is about accepting God’s sovereignty. I learned that we hold our blessings as stewards before the God who is the source of all gifts. Our gifts are faithful acknowledgments that everything we give to God already belongs to him. The study became a book, Hannah’s Journal, which took third place in the 2004 First Novel Contest sponsored by the Christian Writers Guild and Tyndale House. Several publishers have missed their opportunity to publish this book, but I am still seeking the publisher that will love it.
Do you have a work in progress?
My current work in progress is Don’t Panic: How to stop living from crisis to crisis. This book was inspired by stories of individuals and families who feel battered by personal crises, family crises, and national crises. While reading Thomas Mann’s masterpiece novel, Joseph and His Brothers I saw the pattern of Joseph’s strength in dealing with a life that truly did move from crisis to crisis. My book explains how Joseph’s life reveals principles everyone can use to live in confidence and peace through any crisis or emergency, and provides strategies and tools for growing in faith to sustain a rich and fulfilled life in any circumstance.
What prompted you to live on a boat?
I married for the second time in 1995, My new husband (Larry) and I first set foot on a sailboat during our honeymoon cruise. We booked a daylong adventure of sailing on a catamaran from Tortola to the Baths at Virgin Gorda for snorkeling. We stepped aboard and were ushered forward to sit on the trampoline. They powered up to navigate out of the harbor, but as soon as the sails were raised, they cut the engine. We sat in the gorgeous tropical sunshine with the wind in our faces, swooshing across the water with no engine noise. We looked at each other and said, “This is great!” We were able to book one more sailing adventure that week.
At the end of the cruise, we went home to Omaha and immediately began shopping for a sailboat. Both of us were driving sports cars at the time, but we needed something that could pull a boat and launch it. I traded my car for an SUV with a towing package. Larry found a 26-foot trailerable sailboat, and the adventure was on. We cruised all over Iowa and South Dakota on big lakes created by damming up rivers. We even cruised on Lake Superior. Most Thursday nights of the summer we packed the boat, and most Friday nights we drove 3-5 hours to get to a lake. We eventually became skilled enough at rigging the boat that we could rig in 45 minutes in the dark with flashlights in our teeth. We were so eager to get into the water that we did this at ten o’clock at night in order to sleep on the water.
The next morning, as soon as breakfast was over, we headed out to the lake and cruised until Sunday evening. We anchored out in coves. We watched herons fish. We saw turkeys bed down in treetops. We saw deer dance in the water at sunset. By the end of that summer, we knew we wanted bigger horizons. Larry went to the 1995 Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland, to begin shopping for a bluewater cruiser. In 2000 we finally found the boat of our dreams in Toronto. We tied her up in Baltimore, began living aboard in the summer of 2001, and departed for full-time cruising in 2009 after I had retired. Larry and I currently live and cruise aboard the sailing vessel No Boundaries. We enjoy keeping in touch with family and friends, including our combined four children, eleven grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren.
How can my readers stalk you?
I love to hear from readers of any of my blogs, Living on Tilt, Bookshelf on Tilt, or Ship’s Log S/Y No Boundaries. Contact me directly by email at email@example.com. You can find more materials for download at www.katherineharms.com . Follow @qatharms on Twitter. Visit me on Facebook and “Like” my page.