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Community Spotlight

Ginger Johnson

Date Posted: February 26, 2024

Meet Ginger Johnson: children’s book author, visual artist, and recipient of Mosaic Lowell’s first round of Mini Grants in December 2023. Ginger’s husband’s work brought them to Lowell, but she feels very much at home as Lowell is reminiscent of Buffalo, NY, where she grew up. Here’s what you need to know about Ginger:

1) How did you get started as a children’s book author?

Though I didn’t start writing fiction until I was well into adulthood, I did ask for a typewriter for Christmas when I was six, apparently because I wanted to write my autobiography. Hah! I didn’t get a typewriter, but instead had to make do with a journal, which I have since kept diligently for decades. It was in these journals that I grew comfortable putting words on the page.

A year or so later, I got a pen-pal, and the thrill of sending and receiving mail was so enticing that we wrote steadily for years. We are still dear friends today. Between the journals and the letters, I had a place to practice telling my real-life stories and an audience to tell them to.

Also, I read everything I could get my hands on. My mother was a school librarian, so I spent a lot of my childhood in libraries, reading many Newbery Award winners along with Cricket magazine. Most people don’t equate being a writer with being a reader, but reading well-written books internalizes the elements of good stories, so that a natural fluency develops.

However, I didn’t see myself as a writer until I was well into my thirties after some positive feedback from an editor, which made me think that maybe . . . possibly . . . I could be one. From there, I pursued a MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

2) When looking at your artistic career, what are you the most proud of?

Several years ago, a friend asked me to articulate what my goal as an author was in order to help set my priorities in anticipation of the release of my first novel. I wrote something very clunky, but I had a special hope that “The Splintered Light” would be accessible to all kinds of children, because it touches upon a multiplicity of human experiences and personal strengths and joys.

This special hope was realized when a dear friend of mine read “The Splintered Light” with her daughter, Grace, each night. Grace has a chronic illness, and saw her own experience reflected in the story and the details in a way I had never anticipated. Hearing her daughter’s responses as she connected with the story was truly a gift, and it’s something that I’ll always cherish.

3) What useful resources or tips do you have for aspiring artists?

Feed your art. It’s necessary in order to live a productive creative life. If you’re a dancer, study technique and build strength, but also go to art galleries and study the ways visual artists portray the body, then bring that emotion to your performance. If you’re a musician, practice your scales, but also go to a poetry slam and let the spoken words inform your sense of rhythm. If you’re a writer, read all of the best books you can get your hands on, and then practice yoga, or dance in your kitchen until your mind is so clear that all those consumed words settle into your soul and emerge as something completely different. If you’re a visual artist, along with your studio time warm-ups, listen to jazz, or opera, or classical music. See how that shifts your mark-making. Try a new medium and see how it changes your insight. If you’re an actor, don’t just inhabit your character, bring that character with you to a concert and see how that illuminates your understanding and portrayal of that character. Feed your art.

4) What do you hope to accomplish with the Mini Grant?

The Mini Grant is funding the purchase of a classroom set of my latest novel, “The Other Side of Luck,” as well as a writing workshop with a participating class. I’m really looking forward to connecting with local teachers and readers. Opportunities to interact with authors is sometimes limited in city schools; having gone to city schools, I know. I hope that meeting with students will help them recognize the value of their own stories and perhaps give them some tools to be able to tell them in a satisfying way.

5) Social media:

Instagram: @gingerjohnsonbooks, @gingerjohnsonart

Website

Past Perfect Podcast

CreativeGround


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Email us at info@mosaiclowell.org! Mosaic Lowell posts Community Spotlights with the goal of highlighting artists, crafters, performers, supportive patrons, creative businesses and vendors in the Lowell community. Community Spotlights are posted on Mosaic Lowell’s blog, newsletter, Facebook, and Instagram.