Picture This: A Visit With Kathryn Craft

Today’s post by Kathryn Craft | @kcraftwriter

Kathryn Craft

Kathryn Craft

A lone leaf, falling from the sky, is not the image I held in my mind as I wrote THE ART OF FALLING—but it’s close enough to stand in for the one that did. Called “The Falling Man,” it’s the image of the unidentified man plunging headfirst from the North Tower the morning of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. The image was captured by AP photographer Richard Drew and used widely, often to much controversy.

We don’t need to see it again. Those of us who saw it will forever carry it emblazoned on our souls.

In the photo’s Wikipedia entry, theologian Mark D. Thompson said, “perhaps the most powerful image of despair at the beginning of the twenty-first century is not found in art, or literature, or even popular music. It is found in a single photograph.”

It isn’t known whether the man fell or jumped, but the question of jumping, and the despair that would incite such an action, stuck with me. At what point in our lives is jumping—however dangerous—the only kind of forward movement we can conjure? This man would have died if stuck within the inferno. In leaping, did he seek a different kind of death? Or did he see, in this last desperate leap into the expanse of air stretched before him, a glimmer of hope?

I wanted to turn a dangerous, last-chance maneuver into a story of hope. I wrote the story of Penelope Sparrow, a dancer who wakes up in a Philadelphia hospital room unable to move or remember the accident that landed her there. A witness, the baker from the first floor of her high-rise, soon arrives to tell her what he knows: she landed on his car, which had been parked fourteen stories beneath her penthouse.

The baker, her hospital roommate, the local dance critic, and newspaper readers across the country all want to know what happened out on that balcony. But at first Penelope can only think about taking first steps toward regaining the movement she lost when the rest of the company left for their big-break European tour without her. Can the miracle of her survival—and the support of her first friends outside the dance world—give her new perspective on the body image issues that imploded her career?

Come to think of it, maybe my novel is like the leaf picture, after all. After my first husband’s suicide sixteen years ago, I soothed my frazzled nerves with long quiet walks in autumn’s brilliance. One day I watched up ahead as a leaf let go from the high branch of an oak and when I got beneath it—without breaking my stride—I opened my hand. The leaf landed my palm.

The thought occurred to me that outcomes aren’t always dependent on actions taken in private despair. There are other characters in the story.

Sometimes, it’s not about the leap.

Sometimes it’s about who catches us.



All Penny ever wanted to do is dance—and when that chance is taken from her, it pushes her to the brink of despair, from which she might never return. When she wakes up after a traumatic fall, bruised and battered but miraculously alive, Penny must confront the memories that have haunted her for years, using her love of movement to pick up the pieces of her shattered life.

Kathryn Craft’s lyrical debut is a masterful portrayal of a young woman trying to come to terms with her body and the artistic world that has repeatedly rejected her. The Art of Falling expresses the beauty of movement, the stasis of despair, and the unlimited possibilities that come with a new beginning.

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is the author of THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS (2014), FLIGHT OF DREAMS (2016), and I WAS ANASTASIA (2018). Her books have been translated into numerous languages and have been Library Reads, One Book One County, and Book of the Month Club selections. She is the co-founder of SheReads.org and lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee, with her family.

, ,

15 Responses to Picture This: A Visit With Kathryn Craft

  1. Gwyn March 14, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    wow, I am intrigued by this book!! I can’t wait to read it and suggest for my book club.

  2. Janice Gable Bashman March 14, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Sometimes, it’s not about the leap.

    Sometimes it’s about who catches us.

    Wow – what wonderful wisdom.

    It’s amazing how a powerful image can create such a lasting impression. And it’s incredible how one man’s last moments led you to write such a wonderful book that inspires hope and a will to no only live but to thrive.

  3. Kathryn Craft March 14, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks Gwyn. There are so many aspects of this story to discuss in a book club. If you’d like me to join in on the discussion via Skype, contact me through my website!

  4. Kathryn Craft March 14, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks Janice, for reading my book and for your comment. Judging by the number of titles that have come out in the past five years in which things are falling from the sky, I don’t think I’m the only one who was inspired by this photo, whether the motivation was conscious or not.

  5. Nancy Reynolds March 14, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Sounds like a wonderful story. I loved hearing your story about what your vision of your book was – it gave me some wonderful insight. You can bet I’ll be getting your book to read. Thanks for sharing your thought process.

  6. Melissa Crytzer Fry March 14, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Oh, Kathryn — that photo has haunted me for years and years. I remember the day I first saw it in a video montage (my mom was actually in AZ visiting that day) … When I came outside to greet her, she was shocked at my puffy eyes, and worried. “What’s wrong?” she asked. I couldn’t even speak after seeing that image. That you have built a story around the emotions that photo evoked is probably says so much to so many people.

    I can’t wait to read your book; you know I’m a fan of your Writers in the Storm posts. The Art of Falling is sure to dazzle even more! You are such a gifted, positive, inspirational writer.

  7. Donna Galanti March 14, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Beautiful thoughts! That photo of the falling man has always stayed with me. My son was just asking me about him the other day. He wanted to know what I would do: jump or stay. It’s hard to envision being in that terrible spot to decide. Would you jump, believing you still had hope to survive? I then think of the man who DID survive the tower falling. He was the man who surfed 15 stories floating in a free fall like a feather on updrafts to land unhurt. I would carry that miracle with me if I had to jump.

  8. Kathryn Craft March 14, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Nancy—never underestimate the power of a prompt! Writing this piece gave me added insight as well.

  9. Kathryn Craft March 14, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Aw, thank you for your kind words, Melissa. 🙂 I think the two singularly most powerful (unlived) images in my life were the Falling Man photograph and the video footage of the Challenger disaster. Some things just stick with you—and when they do, you know there’s a greater story there.

  10. Kathryn Craft March 14, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Donna—interesting that even though I was inspired by that photo in many ways, I never asked myself what I would have done. Maybe it so inspired and moved me because I would have made the same choice—to leave the inferno, and take a few last breaths of air before the end. To surrender to fire if there is another choice at hand is beyond my comprehension.

  11. Heidi M. Thomas March 14, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    This is beautiful, Kathryn, just like your book! Thank you for sharing this with us.

  12. Kathryn Craft March 14, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    Thank you Heidi, and thanks for sharing it on Facebook as well!

  13. Melanie Backus March 14, 2014 at 10:17 pm #

    I am intrigued. It sounds like a wonderful story.

  14. Kathleen Basi March 15, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    What a beautiful reflection. That image of the leaf falling on your hand is familiar–it was a transformative moment for another person I know.

  15. Kathryn Craft March 15, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    Thanks, Melanie!

    And Kathleen—I can see why. In times of chaos, the sense that each of your steps was planned, and that they complete some sort of intended connection, is most comforting.

Leave a Reply

Site by Author Media