Archive for the 'Float' Category

The Arts, Literature, and the Ecology



Thank you, State Rep Lori Ehrlich

Marblehead State Representative Ehlich has introduced a state-wide ban on single use plastic bags. House Bill 696. Ask your representatives to make this happen in 2013.


A Green Launch Party, God Knows I Tried.


Launch party for Float

Float Launch party guests with paper cups of Ocean Punch.

My new novel, Float, was released in February, so we had a launch party at the Rocky Neck Cultural Center here in Gloucester. The plot of Float swirls around the dangers of plastics in the ocean, hence, no plastics at the party. In fact, I was giving out raffle tickets to anyone who brought in a piece of plastic washed up on the beach, which meant we couldn’t exactly serve  drinks in plastic beverage glasses. We drank Blue Ocean punch out of waxed paper cups. The recipe called for coconut-flavored rums, blue curaçao, and Chambord, all of which came in glass bottles, so no problem there. Harder to figure out was the Sprite. Instead of plastic one-liter bottles, I opted for a case of aluminum cans. Aluminum has its own environmental problems, but at least it was not plastic. Thank you to my bartenders, Denise and Margi, for opening all those cans and here’s to wishing you both a speedy recovery on those index fingers.

Launch Food

I don’t drink carbonated beverages, but if I did, I would get one of these nifty Soda Streams for the kitchen, which turns tap water and flavored syrup into soda. Soda Stream is out to challenge the single-use plastic bottle market. Let’s hope this is the way the market is moving. Many of the Float party guests simply walked back out to the beach and picked up a washed-up soda bottle to claim their raffle ticket. Soda Stream machines are also are being hacked all over New York to create fizzy cocktails.

Soda Stream System

Soda Stream System

Paper plates were a no-brainer for the cocktail nibbles (fried calamari, locally smoked fish, gold fish and Swedish Fish), but I wish I’d known about Easy Island bio-plates, made from naturally fallen Areca palm leaf sheaths. No trees are cut down, no dyes or resins are used, they are aesthetically pleasing, and able to hold liquids for up to 6 hours. They can be composted or used as animal fodder when the party is over. What would Mr. Piggy think? He’d wonder if they came with any Swedish Fish.

Easy Island



The cocktail napkins were paper, the linens were real and washed at home, and the utensils were wooden toothpicks. Where, then, did I go wrong in having a green party for Float?  The wine.  At the liquor store, I’d chosen Fish Eye (but of course!) which was available in many varieties and two types of containers, glass and box. I chose the white wine in bottles because they needed to be iced, but I bought the red wine in boxes, believing that cardboard was more environmentally friendly than glass. Both are recyclable, but cardboard, I reasoned, could also decompose faster in the landfill. I am not a boxed wine drinker, so it wasn’t until I opened a spigot, did I realize that the box was holding a huge plastic bladder of wine. Plastic.

JoeAnn signing Float, giving out raffle tickets

JoeAnn signing Float, giving out raffle tickets

Sigh. I hope I made up for it with the raffle, in which we collected huge bags of marine debris that we brought to the recycling center. Jay McGloughlin won the Neptune’s Harvest cap, Beebe Nelson won the membership to Maritime Gloucester, Dianne Emmons won the quart of Neptune’s Harvest fertilizer, and Tom Cox won the copy of Float signed by both me and Karen Ristuben, who did the cover art. The best piece of Beach Plastic Award goes to Jen Fahey, who found this lovely plastic vixen on Brace Cove.  She was too good to bring to recycling, so she now sits on my desk next to Salacia, a bisque doll from a completely different era, when there were no plastics to worry about.

Beach Babes, a hundred years apart

Beach Babes, a hundred years apart

Watch the Float Launch Party:



Ode to Float, by Duncan Nelson

Duncan orating, photo by

Duncan orating, photo by



O I shall permit no debunkin’

Of a book whose protagonist’s name is “Duncan” –

For that is the very name of the bard on

Whom falls the duty (he hopes you’ll pardon

His doggerel) to deploy his art

In praise of the prose of JoeAnn Hart!


While JoeAnn calls herself “a mean troll,”

She is also very much a “mean troller”

Through “troubled waters.” Her laudable goal

Is the planet’s salvation. We’re here to extol ‘er

For merging bankruptcy, conceptual art,

And plastic plethora into Float:

A book bound to play a part

In getting our collective goat,

As for sure it got hers. O may we pay heed

And pay honor to the goat that just died,

Yea, butt up against the mounting tide

Of pollution afloat on groundswells of greed.


I have already, of course, been Addled,

In a good sense, by your setting your sights

On an uppity country club scene that straddled

A subtext of Food and Animal Rights,

While ringing choice changes on Mother Goose!

Oh what a lot of fun that book was –

It left me aghast, ‘twas so fast and loose!

And tonight, dear JoeAnn, all the buzz

Is on Float, “Number Two”; and looking to “hat tricks,”

Number Three, no doubt, will tell much about

What we’ll need as we deal with Post-Flotsametrics,

Against which, I’ve no doubt, you’ll raise a loud shout!

We toast you, JoeAnn! May the fuss and commotion

You stir up be wide and deep as the ocean,

And on the way, may we find, per your wish

Recyclable uses for jelly fish,

And from similar innovations commence

To float upwards on bubbles of Common Sense!


Duncan Nelson                                  2/15/13


The crowd, photo by

The crowd, photo by



The Next Big Thing Project

Welcome to the Plastics and Water Don’t Mix blog. As a rule, I’ll be posting about just that, plastics in the oceans, a problem not just for the sea life, but for human life. But every now and then I’ll be writing about my upcoming novel, Float, which falls under that topic. Eventually, maybe everything will fall under it, but in the meantime, just as I was about to launch the blog, I was tagged for “The Next Big Thing” by fellow Benningtonian Susan Barr-Toman, whose book, When Love Was Clean Underwear, has the best title ever.  “The Next Big Thing” is a literary chain letter. Susan tagged me when she answered her questions about her current work, after she was tagged by Andrea Jarrell, so now I answer those questions and tag more writers. What fun! I don’t know what happens if anyone breaks the chain. Maybe the e-version of the book gets corrupted.

At any rate, I’m going to tag fellow Ashland Creek Press authors John YunkerMidge Raymond, & Jean Ryan.

Now the questions.

What is the working title of your book?

No longer just a working title, Float will be published by Ashland Creek Press in February 2013.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

 As with most of my work, the title came to me first, so I played around with the different meanings of the word float. Suddenly I had a character, Duncan Leland, who was sinking in his business and marriage, so I brought him to the water, thinking something float-like might occur there. What’s floating at the beach? Plastic. What washes up everywhere? Plastic. Seagulls are always at the beach too, so I put the plastic and the bird together, slipping a six-pack holder over the poor creatures’ head. Duncan saves the bird by removing the plastic, and I realized that was the book: The impact of plastics in the ocean on the natural world, of which we, and Duncan, are both part of the problem and the solution.

What genre does your book fall under?

 Eco-fiction, an emerging sub-genre where ecological consequences help move the plot along.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

 Colin Farrell for Duncan; Minnie Driver for his estranged wife, Cora; Meryl Streep for his crazy mom. Phillip Seymour Hoffman for Osbert, the mysterious financier, and Frances MacDormand for Josefa, the seagull rescue character. Will Ferrell for Slocum, the slightly deranged chef.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Float is the story of one man’s attempt to save his business (a fish dehydration plant) and his marriage (to a marriage counselor), while attempting to develop a jellyfish alternative to the plastics that are killing the oceans.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Two years. I worked on short stories, here and there during that time, but mostly wrestled with Float.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

 Skinny Dip, by Carl Hiaason and A Friend of the Earth by T.C. Boyle.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

The word Float. I wanted to explore the meanings. To float on water or on air. To float a loan or to float a check. Flotsam — debris in the water — is from French flotter, to float, and god knows there’s lots of floating garbage in the book. A float can be a glass ball used to suspend a fishing net and a float can be the flat, wooden part of a dock. In a psychological sense, to float through the day like a jellyfish is to have no direction in life (think Duncan). Floating can be a good thing, as in the ability to float over stress in order to survive.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

For those readers who suffer under the weight of a crazy mom, know that they are not alone. Duncan’s mom has not left her octagonal house in ten years, even as she controls his brother’s sailing career by the use of an elaborately painted floor, all the while sip, sip, sipping on her mulberry wine.