My 50th anniversary

Hi everyone,

1969 was the year of Woodstock. Richard Nixon took office as president. John Lennon married Yoko Ono. Neil Armstrong took a giant step for mankind on the moon. And I took a giant step for me. On October 1 of that year my first book for children, THE BOY WITH A DRUM, was published by Western Publishing and went marching off into my future as a children’s author. I’ve been holding my own private celebration all year and though I meant to wait until October 1 to mark the precise date of my 50th anniversary in this wonderful business, I can’t wait any longer to share.

Half a century in the business. Can this be? I remember so clearly the thrill of holding my first book. We lived in Kansas City. I was either the product manager for children’s cards or had just been promoted to editorial manager for all Hallmark and Ambassador cards by then. I was married to this wondrous woman. We had two beautiful, loving children, Robin and Jeff. We could finally afford two cars. We had great neighbors. And I — after ten years of trying various genres in search of who I was or might become as a writer — was finally holding in my hand the solid evidence of sweet success. I had no idea how lucky I was to have Eloise Wilkin for my illustrator. I had been trained as a scientist. I knew nothing about the world of publishing. All I knew was this book in my hand changed everything.

Our friends Larry and Maryann Wakefield drove up from Springfield. From the $350 I had received (for outright purchase of my story) I treated us to lobster dinners at the Savoy. Sandy presented me with a Steuben Glass brontosaurus in honor of the occasion. She told me that if I needed to quit my job to pursue my dream, we could tighten our belts and live on her salary for a year while I gave it a try. I couldn’t accept, but I’ll never forget what she offered to do for my sake.

The years have passed swiftly. These days I’m often saddened by the losses of old friends and acquaintances even as we welcome strong new voices to the choir. In May of this year I held my 96th book, AND THE BULLFROGS SING. It was a great thrill. But I will never again feel the giddy kind of joy reserved for the first, first book an author sells. With all its oops and downs, writing for young people is the best ride in town. I’m happy to report that I have a fistful of tickets left.

35 comments on “My 50th anniversary

  1. And of course in the coming year a new drum book written with a new(ish) friend:
    RUM PUM PUM(Holiday House). Differences? You get to keep your half of the money, kiddo. And know the pleasure of a lifetime of books that change the world one small reader at a time.



    • Thank you, dear Jane. I’m eager to hold RUM PUM PUM and others that we’ve done or will do. I love writing with you. XO

  2. David, that is the most wonderful book testimonial I have ever read. And I saw your little boy photo and you look like you had a bright start from the beginning as the best little boy ever! I am so happy for you. Equally amazing to me us the fact that the baby sister I share a Hebrew birthday with, Deborah was born on the same anniversary date as your book. Congratlations. Ariel O’Suilleabhain

    • Thank you, Ariel! I’m glad to share my own important date with your sister. I’m glad you have joined me in my celebration.

  3. Congrats. An amazing accomplishment. I’m off to Houston to do a 2 day PD for 500 1st grade teachers. Glenda is in England doing PD. I managed to throw out my back so my wife is coming along to help me in Houston. When all the dust and drama settle I would love to do an interview with you for both the blog and the fall issue of Missouri Reader. Will be in touch when I get back on Friday. We most certainly can’t let this event go by unnoticed!!!! Sam

    • Sam, I’m sorry about your back!! What a time for this to happen. I hope you get over it as quickly as possible. Enjoy Houston and all those 1st grade teachers. It would be my pleasure to be interviewed for whatever purpose you decide works best. Many thanks!

  4. David, I can feel your joy as I read this. God Bless you with many more books and the children who will read them. Connie Currie


    • You’re right, Connie. I do feel joy. I’m so very grateful that I found my calling and have had the good fortune to follow it all these years. Thank you.

  5. You have been a wonderful blessing to many, many children and teachers over the past 50 years. Congratulations!!!! I’m proud to call you my friend.

    • Good morning, Sandy, and thank you! You are a good friend and I have always looked forward to the next time and the next time we see each other. I’m a lucky man in so many ways and know it.

    • Thank you, Matt. So far so good! And yes, I do feel proud to have had such a long ride. Never thought about it in the beginning. I just wanted to get something published.

      • Absolutely! A novel in verse that took ten years to become what it needed to be, and to find a home (Fitzroy, 2020), was well worth the effort. And even more importantly, every day that I write (and that’s every day) means that I have become the writer I wanted to be.

  6. So honored to know you during part of your ride! And, as always, thank you for being a champion for kids and teachers when it comes to poetry. You’ve helped me lead a lot of kids towards a love of poetry! It’s an honor to call you friend.

    • Thank you, Su! The pleasure is mine. The world of children’s literacy (including poetry!!) is a magical place to live. You meet all sorts of fantastic people, like Su Hutchens!

  7. I love reading about your first book, David. My husband and I were in KC that year & for a few more until we moved to Colorado. Wish I had known you & since I was teaching first grade, I actually “might” have read your book! Sorry, I don’t remember… Congratulations to you, hoping for many more!

    • Hi, Linda. Wouldn’t it have been something if we had met waaaaay back then? Well, at least we have met and enjoyed our friendship and I’m very grateful.

  8. No one who knows you can read your post today and refrain from smiling, nodding. Congratulations . . . on the anniversary, the 96 books, the achievements, and, most of all, for finding and staying true to your calling as a writer. Your commitment and passion for the craft is an inspiration.

    • And you do know me! If all I did for the rest of my days was sit back and smile over fond memories, I would never run out of good thoughts. You, of course, would be in a great many of them.

  9. Splendid! You have 2 decades on me. And vastly more books, of course! Congratulations. And great to have that new one and another on the horizon and…and…and… Onward!

  10. Pingback: David Harrison: Happy 50th Anniversary | One Writer's Journey

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