It began in California on the 6th of July in 1951. It is influenced by a childhood with lots of books mostly about Laura & Mary or Betsy & Tacy or Tom & Huck. I live and work in a brown house near the very center of Independence, Missouri, the Queen City of the Trails. Outside is a tiny yard. Inside is 1 Scottie (Maudie), 1 cat (Merrie Emma), and hundreds of books.
That began with a degree in art education (1973) at Central Missouri State University. After I was a student teacher, I worked as a waitress, and art supply seller, a theme park portrait spinner, a greeting card person at Hallmark Cards and a needlework designer in California. I kept reading and drawing, nursing a crush on the kind of picture-making done by N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, and Jessie Wilcox Smith.
I’d gone to Uri Shulevitz’ children’s book summer-study in 1984 which gave me the courage to go to New York in 1985 to show editors my willingness to illustrate books for them. Mostly, they weren’t thankful. Still, I illustrated ten books, night and weekends, until I quit my greeting card job at Current in Colorado in 1989. I sculpted, designed music boxes and Kleenex boxes, won a Republic of San Marino postage stamp painting prize, and finished writing my first book. I discovered, on the Mayflower, a feel for American History.
My days are filled up with researching, writing, and painting (out of a rusty watercolor box I’ve used since the first Nixon Administration). I go gallivanting all over the country to see historic places and talk about picture books.
Friends, books (murder mysteries in particular), movie theaters, and taking my old Scottie for walks – these are my pleasures. Mostly though, my fun is what I get to do for a living. If someone had told my 10-year-old self that I would get to stay home and read, write, and draw all day, I’d have said, “Oh thank you! Thank you, Fairy Godmother!”
“I’d encourage any young reader to scan their libraries and bookstores for more splendid nonfiction by Harness.”