A little help from her friends; Cedar Rapids native's debut novel focuses on friendship

The idea for Cedar Rapids native Kelly Harm’s debut novel came to her at an unlikely time. She was watching a marathon of “House Hunters International” on HGTV (“I have absolutely no self control when it comes to watching cable TV.”)

The station was advertising for its dream home sweepstakes and it got Harms thinking. “There was part of me that really thought: This is the answer to what I should do next. Win this house.”

While Harms knew that was crazy, she realized there was some need that wasn’t being met by her 400-square-foot apartment and job as a literary agent in New York City.

“There was this part of me that would not shut up,” she says.

That part of her wanted to write.

But Harms had worked hard to establish herself in the field of literary agents. After graduating from college she moved to New York and “called agencies out of a phone book and asked for an internship.”

This was 2001 before all the online jockeying, she says. The world was more face-to-face at this time, and “a little chutzpah got you someplace.”

She spent years working with “authors I was crazy about” and loved her New York life, but she missed home and wanted to raise her family in the Midwest. She also wanted to write without the pressure of sky-high rent.

So Harms made another great leap and moved to Madison, Wis., and wrote “The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane,” the story of two young women who win that huge HGTV dream house and how their lives change as result.

Throughout all her transitions, Harms says, “my girlfriends have been my guiding light.” From late-night conversations in New York to front-porch conversations in Madison, Harms knew the power of female friendships.

That’s why friendship, and not romance, was the main focus of her novel.

“Yes, there’s wish fulfillment, yes, there’s men. But the men don’t get as much TLC from the writer as the women’s friendships do. Because as a reader I think you know this is what’s going to carry them forward. It’s the friendship with each other that heal and change them enough to make them ready to be in love. And I wanted that to really sneak up on the girls themselves, in the way that is does in real life.”

Building and maintaining these friendships isn’t easy considering the demands of careers, family and other commitments. “I think we get this illusion that the work of exposing ourselves is over … that at some point we’ve clocked in enough relationships that we can be done.”

“The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane” reminds us of what can happen when we open up and take risks — not just with falling in love, but in opening ourselves up to new friendships as well.

“There are a lot of books about finding who you’re meant to love,” Harms says. “And I wanted to write about finding who you’re meant to be.”

What: Kelly Harms reads from “The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane”

When: 7 p.m. ThursdayWhere: New Bo Books, 1105 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids

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