Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Interview with Johanna Harness

by Frank Burton

As promised a while ago, here is an interview with Johanna Harness, creator of the #amwriting hashtag, and recipient of the Christopher Al-Azwad Prize.

More information about this project here

Information about the Christopher Al-Azwad Prize here

Are you surprised by the success of #amwriting? Did you expect it to win awards?

I've been constantly surprised and amazed by the success of #amwriting. The writers using the hashtag are unstoppable, creative, supportive--I could go on and on. It really never occurred to me that there could be awards attached to starting this. It fills a need and that makes me very happy. The rest is all a bonus.

Does the #amwriting community actively promote itself, or is this something that happens naturally?

When writers use the hashtag, everyone in their following list sees the tag and word spreads. It's a very organic process. Once in a while a member will see an opportunity to promote the group and everyone jumps in, but even those moments are pretty spontaneous.

Can Tweeting get in the way of writing?

If writers are looking for ways not to write, anything can be used for an excuse. The great thing about #amwriting is the excitement everyone shows for the craft. It's difficult to read through the stream of posts without wanting to jump into writing. The writers who post there have fun and their enthusiasm spreads.

#amwriting is a great way of information-sharing between writers. Are there any particularly useful things you've learnt from using it?

One of the best things I've learned is that everyone gets frustrated at times. The words don't flow one day or the revision is much more complicated than imagined. It's enormously reassuring to know that this is part of the writing process and others experience these same things.

Would you recommend #amwriting to writers who want to promote their work, or is it not used for that?

Promotion flows naturally from the community of writers. We know each other, support each other, and want each other to succeed. If someone starts using the tag for promotion, but they never write with us, they're not going to find much help from the group.

How do you feel about writers creating fiction and poetry through Twitter?

I love pushing the boundaries of creative expression and greatly admire writers who are able to embrace new forms. Twitter is a fun part of this.

Would you be concerned if someone used the #amwriting hashtag incorrectly? Or as a means of insulting other writers?

The users of #amwriting are very tech-savvy. When we do have spammers or offensive posters, those users get blocked and reported by 200-300 people and their account disappears. Good energy attracts good energy and I have faith in that, but my faith is helped along by good filters.

What are you writing at the moment?

Right now I'm working on an anthology of short stories featuring my young adult character, Claire Morgane. The stories all take place either before or within the first three chapters of the first Claire novel and I'm publishing a new one on my website every Friday (http://clairemorgane.com). Unlike serial novels, the stories are created to stand alone and can be read in any order. My goal is to introduce readers to Claire's world and keep posting stories while I'm working on additional novels.


  1. I'll definitely check out the online stories - sounds interesting. I'm working on something similar myself at the moment :)

  2. Thanks so much for the interview, Frank!

  3. I really appreciated this interview and am inspired by Johanna's efforts to connect creatives.