For previous posts on the contributors, see these authors who were all featured in the first section of the book, “Mystics and Messengers.”
And from the second section of the book, “Angels Watching Over Me.”
Maybe it’s just a coincidence that Johnnie’s essay follows Sonja’s, since they are both Catholic, although most of Johnnie’s published writing isn’t specifically religious or spiritual in nature. But God is definitely in there—sometimes in the lives of the brave characters who are the heroes of her books. A former teacher and journalist, Johnnie is passionate about reading and writing. She was chosen as a selected speaker in the 2020 TEDx Fearless Women Series. In 2021, She was named a teaching artist with Gemini Ink Writing Arts Center and the national TAP Summer Institute 2021. Her published novels are Hannah and Ariela, Sisters of the Undertow, How We Came to Be, and A Good Girl. She also received “Best of the University Presses 100 Books” by the Association of University Presses in 2021.
Johnnie and I have served on four panels together: The 2022 Louisiana Book Festival, The 2021 Mississippi Book Festival, the 2020 AWP Annual Conference, and the 2017 Mississippi Book Festival.
“Angels Watching Over Me”
Johnnie’s essay title was part of the inspiration for the title of the book. It comes from an African American spiritual. ( Here are a couple of excerpts from the first part of her essay, which takes place at a retreat at a church camp on the Gulf coast of Texas when Johnnie was a little girl.
One summer we learned a song that I later discovered was an African spiritual. I’ve never forgotten the beauty of the lyrics and its joyful profession of faith: “All night, all day, angels watching over me, my lord . . . Pray the Lord my soul to keep, angels watching over me.”
My sisters and I believed without reserve, as only children can do, angels existed. I grew up in a home where visitations from angels and entrapments of the devil created a world of good versus evil. . . . I came from a family of story tellers based on our habit of sharing our dreams from the night before and discussing them with coffee in the morning. The telling of the dream was set like a plot. There was a setting, rich in color and sensory details, along with the character, who came from our conscious lives, or angels with a message. Interpreting that message was the topic throughout the day—what did the dream mean?
It wasn’t until I attended college that I realized most families don’t talk about their dreams. . . . After side glances and smirks from roommates and boyfriends, I began to question my family’s idiosyncrasies, dream interpretations, and visiting angels. I decided rejection from my peers was not nearly as painful as losing the hope an angel protected me.
Johnnie continues her essay with a story about an angel who helped her on a Southwest Airlines flight. As she says, “There was never a doubt in my mind he was an angel sent to help me on a sad day.” And of course, you’ll have to get the book and read Johnnie’s essay to find out about that angel and several more that she writes about in “Angels Watching Over Me.”