If it isn’t one thing, it’s something else. Yay.

Hi everyone,

I’m spending today and maybe tomorrow tying up loose ends on Book #1 of the 2-book set with Tim Rasinski and Mary Jo Fresch for Scholastic. I need to replace one of the poems and write titles for all twenty-six. A proposal for a new project went out this morning so fingers crossed for that one.

At 1:00, Jen Murvin (Pagination Bookstore) and I will be interviewed by Ettie Berneking of 417 Magazine so I look forward to that. After that, the gym, then the rest of the day. I’m not pressing my luck in the gym yet. I’m not sure how hard to work since the pacemaker went in so for now I’m only doing twenty minutes every other day. I feel fine but need to check with my cardiologist before pushing any harder.

Sorry I haven’t written my poem for July yet but am working my way in that direction. I started to do it yesterday but decided instead to get back to updating the list of my published poetry. I made a decent start but now it looks like that little chore goes back to the rear burner again for the time being.

Marilyn Singer and Online Chat, Part II

BULLETIN: Thanks to Jana Foster, who teaches in Toledo, Ohio, we’ve just received three new student poems from 6th graders, Hope Murphy, Fareid Elgafy, and Karena Amy. You need to read these!

Don’t forget that tomorrow we’ll hear from Marilyn Singer as my blog guest. I’m very happy to welcome her and know that you’ll be pleased too. Here is a brief bio about Marilyn to whet your appetite for what she has to tell us.

Marilyn Singer likes to be called “versatile.” She has written over 80 books for children and young adults in many genres, including novels, picture books, non-fiction, short stories, and, especially poetry. Her most recent books are I’M YOUR BUS (Scholastic) and I’M GETTING A CHECK-UP (Clarion). This March, MIRROR, MIRROR: A Collection of Reversible Verse (Dutton) will be published. It is a poetry collection based on fairy tales, featuring a form that Marilyn invented: the reverso. Marilyn has also edited four short story anthologies and contributed to a number of short story and poetry anthologies as well. She annually co-hosts the ALSC Poetry Blast at the ALA Conference. Her hobbies include ballroom/Latin dancing, dog training, bird watching, going to the theatre, watching every dance show on TV, and buying stuff on eBay. She and her husband and several pets live in Brooklyn, NY and Washington, CT.


Now here is the second half of the oncline chat at 417 Magazine in Springfield, Missouri.
[Comment From Boyd Elementary]
Can we write limericks for your blog?
My blog! I never meant to be a blogger. Now I have one and post on it every day. If you haven’t gone there yet, here’s how to find it. https://davidlharrison.wordpress.com .
You may be talking about my word-of-the-month challenge. Each month I post a word for the month. In October it was dirt. November’s word was thanks and this month the word is bone.There is one division where adults can share their poems that were inspired by the word of the month. In the young poet division we have two groups, grades 3-7 and 8-12. Poets are free to use any type of verse or go with free verse. A nice limerick would be a grand way to write a bone poem.

[Comment From Brooke]
As an advocate of education, how would you suggest improving the public school system? Longer school year? A more challenging curriculum? Your thoughts?

Yes, I am an advocate for reading, writing, and lifelong learning. I served six years on the Springfield school board and during those years I voiced my opinion, but not until I was reasonably sure of my information. At this point I have little current data to support whatever I might suggest about longer days/years and more challenging curricula. Public schools in America include nearly all children. It’s a huge enterprise and changes of any substantive sort come slowly. (An added note: In rereading that response, it sounds as though I’m unaware of all the fine parochial and other schools that exist. I meant only that public schools accept nearly all of the students whose parents wish to enroll them. That’s in contrast with some other nations where only students with the highest academic records are accepted for extended education. DH)
[Comment From Nikki]
What is your favorite book and/or children’s book?

I always refer to E. B. White and his marvelous stories. For decades he also entertained and enlightened adults with his wise and witty pieces in The New Yorker.

When I need a quick reminder of what I’m attempting to do — write well — I pull out my battered old copy of The Elements of Style by White and Strunk.

[Comment From Boyd Elementary]
What is your favorite poem in Pirates? Dakoda J.

“Signing On a Crew.”

[Comment From Boyd Elementary]
Why did you started your poem career? Nick M.

When I decided to try poetry, I had already been published dozens of times in fiction and nonfiction. I took off from all other writing for three years and wrote nothing but poetry. By then I had kept 100 poems. A publisher saw them and decided to publish my work in five books.

[Comment From Gary]
What’s on your bedside table right now? If you were buying a Christmas book gift, what have you read lately that you think would make a memorable gift?

I’ve been reading books on education lately, including the works of Ruth Culham and Tim Rasinski. Most recent book other than that was The Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. I recommend that one.

[Comment From Guest]
So how do you go about getting a school named after you? It is on my bucket list, i would just like some pointers to get the ball rolling.

Ha! Hmmm, well you start slowly. I have a room named for me in The Library Center in Springfield. Then came a sidewalk at the Burton Barr’s Children’s Garden with one of my poems (My Book!) sandblasted in it.

[Comment From Kaitlyn]
A lot of people would have given up after so many unsuccessful tries to get their first book published. What kept you so determined?

You are right. Most people do give up after a time. In my case I had invested so much of myself into the pursuit that there came a time when I could no longer consider quitting. I quit my job instead (but not before I had another lined up) in the hope that a change of scenery might improve my work.

[Comment From Mary Nida Smith]
You prefer writing fiction or non-fiction?

Hi Mary Nida,
I began as a short story writer for adults. Next came an awful novel. After that I wrote a terrible novelette. My stories were improving but I decided to check into writing for children, loved the experience, and slowly evolved into a children’s author.

I like poetry better than anything else I write but fiction and nonfiction come in close behind.

[Comment From Debbie]
I understand you do a lot of traveling and speaking do you enjoy that as much as writing at home?

I enjoy standing before an audience and talking about my pet subjects. I always look forward to speaking at conferences and meeting students and their teachers in schools.

I like writing more, of course, but speaking and traveling are part of the business of being an author.

[Comment From Karen]
I just wanted to let you know that the students at Jarrett Middle School enjoyed having their school mentioned in Connecting Dots!

Good! I loved being a student at Jarrett!

[Comment From Marjie DeWilde]
I have 40+ students who are wondering if any of their questions will be answered in a more kid-friendly, quick format. Should I take them back to class?

I apologize if I haven’t responded to questions from your students! This screen doesn’t always tell me who is asking the question. (Added note: I’ve suggested to 417 Magazine that we set up another chat that is just for students. If we work out the details, I’ll do a better job next time in responding to our young readers. DH)

I’ve just been told that I’m out of time so I’ll do my best to answer a question from a student of yours. Can you please resend and identify?

[Comment From Katie]
Hi, David! Can you give the writers here at 417 (and any budding writers at Boyd Elementary) some tips for overcoming writer’s block and getting our creative juices flowing?

Okay, this will be my last response. The time has flown by and I’ve enjoyed it. There remain many questions that I haven’t answered. For this I am sorry!

Writer’s block doesn’t have to happen. Always have more than one project going. Start a story, a poem, and a nonfiction project so you’ll always have something to think about. Make lists of everything you might want to write about. Keep a folder for ideas you clip from the paper and, of course from 417 Magazine!

Thanks everyone,



Thank you everyone for participating. We’re sorry David couldn’t get to more questions, but there were a LOT of them and we could only ask for an hour or so of his time. If you would be interested in doing more of these (with Mr. Harrison or other 417-land folks) please let us know by e-mailing matt@417mag.com.
Thanks again for participating!

Online Chat, Part I

BULLETIN: We’ve just been joined by three more student poets posted by Linda Kulp. Check out the poems by Maisha, Cara, and Priya!


The following online chat took place at 417 Magazine from 2:00 – 3:10 on December 9, 2009.

Comment From Matt Lemmon
Hello David. What’s more important to coming up with a good children’s book? Is it character or lesson?

Hi, Matt,
I usually begin with an idea of what I want to do. Characters and/or scene seem to be there when I need them.

Hello Everyone,
Thanks for joining me today as I sit in the offices of 417 Magazine in Springfield, Missouri. This is a nice opportunity to visit a bit so send me your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

[Comment From Guest]
Hi David! Does writing poetry come easier now that you’ve been doing it for so long?

I think the longer we do anything helps us become comfortable with the tools we use. Thinking poetry takes a different thought process than we use for fiction or nonfiction.

As for the quality of what we write, I’m not sure that gets easier. I tend to be more critical of myself than I was when I began. And that’s a good thing!

[Comment From Guest]
What’s your favorite character that you’ve created?

I liked Detective Bob in the book, Detective Bob and the Great Escape. That was written for the TV generation, meaning I used more sight gags than in my previous works. I liked “The Boy” in The Boy with a Drum and “The Boy” in The Book of Giant Stories.

[Comment From Kevin]
So what would be the one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring writer, that you wish you would have known in the beginning?

Good question! In the beginning I rushed too much. I tried to follow every idea that came to mind and therefore focused very little on any one thing. My feeling is that it is better to slow down and do one thing well than to hurry along doing ten things poorly.

The first part of selling a story is to have something worth selling. At first I thought I was working hard if I revised a piece two or three times. Now I return again and again to the writing, making changes each time until I finally read it without seeing anything left to change. If I put the writing away for a day or two, I usually find more changes to make.

Much of the satisfaction in writing well comes during those last reviews when the writer discovers more subtle ways to improve his or her work. It’s worth the time and effort.

[Comment From Logan]
Hi David! How do you come up with ideas for books that will interest young people?

One of the real challenges for writers of children’s literature is to know and appreciate one’s audience. When I visit schools, questions and responses from students energize me and remind me what’s important to kids at various stages. Fan letters are nice because I often pick up on levels of maturity and insight.

The trick is to remember that young readers know a lot and have had plenty of experiences that we share in common. Good stories make the most of those experiences and add something new that helps the reader stretch and grow.

[Comment From A reader]
Do you only write children’s books and poetry, or do you write novels?

I don’t write novels although I have a few ideas for chapter books I’d like to do. My work is usually contained in 48 – 64 pages and most picture books are 32.

I’m usually at work on one or more professional books meant to assist classroom teachers. At the moment I’m co-writing a book about phonemic awareness with a professor from Ohio State and am discussing a new book about Greek and Latin root words with a professor at Kent State. In such cases, I write poetry to support the subject.

[Comment From Guest]
Hi David. Where do you draw most of your inspiration from? Also, do you have a favorite book you’ve written?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. My recent book about pirates was written by request from an editor who introduced me to the artist, and off we went. He (Dan Burr) and I brainstormed and agreed on scenes that he could paint and I could compose.

Wild Country summed up several trips over the course of a few years to Alaska, Colorado, California, Florida, and Wyoming. Sounds of Rain resulted from a trip up the Amazon.

The more we write, the more receptive our senses become to the possibilities of what we see around us.

Among my favorites are Connecting Dots, Wild Country, Pirates, The Book of Giant Stories, and Somebody Catch My Homework.

[Comment From Boyd Elementary]
Hello Mr. Harrison. Boyd Elementary is here to visit. We have third and fourth graders present.

Hi Boyd Elementary!

I’m glad you are here today!


[Comment From Savannah]
Hello David. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. I was wondering, How does it feel to have a school named after you?

Every time I think about David Harrison Elementary School, I smile. Nothing I’ve done prepared me for the warm feeling and pleasure of this honor. I visited students at Harrison last week and loved every minute!

[Comment From Guest]
Do you have any trusted friends or colleagues who get a sneak peek at the things your working on? Maybe someone who offers criticism or ideas?

Only my wife. Sandy has patiently read my work all these years and has saved me from error on many occasions. However, I never show her anything until I’ve gone through draft after draft to make it as smooth and finished as I can. Before that I don’t want anyone to see my mess-in-process. But after that I can’t wait to show it to my wife to get that vital first response.

Only after that do I occasionally e-mail something to a good friend or two who are also writers.

Tomorrow I’ll post the second half of the online chat. Given more time I might have done a better job with some of my responses but time is at a premium under chat circumstances and I didn’t say anything I don’t believe to be true for me.


Sandy Asher

My thanks to everyone who joined me yesterday for my online chat. I had expected the session to last 20 -30 minutes. After 70 minutes I was told to end the chat although there still remained a long list of unanswered questions and more kept popping up on my screen.

Many students had questions that I couldn’t get to. I’ve asked for a transcript of the program. If I get it, maybe the complete list of questions will be on it. If so, I promise to respond to them here on the blog. If the questions have been lost, I’ll ask that teachers and anyone else who wants to resend questions please post them under comments on this page or e-mail them directly to me. I promise to respond here on the blog as quickly as I can get to them all. Thanks again for your support and patience. This was a first-time experience and I had no idea what to expect.

Tomorrow we’ll enjoy my guest blogger Sandy Asher. Sandy and I have been friends and working partners for more than thirty years. She is one of those rare people who always comes through and meets her promises on time. I could go on but here is her bio to help you learn something more about her. Believe me, she could have written a lot more! i have every intention of inviting Sandy back later to talk about some of her other interests and talents.

Sandy Asher has written 25 books for young readers, including the award-winning TOO MANY FROGS! and its companion books WHAT A PARTY! and HERE COMES GOSLING! She’s also edited five books of fiction, among them WITH ALL MY HEART, WITH ALL MY MIND, winner of the National Jewish Book Award in children’s literature and her latest, WRITING IT RIGHT! HOW SUCCESSFUL CHILDREN’S AUTHORS REVISE AND SELL THEIR STORIES. Her plays, written as Sandra Fenichel Asher, have been produced across the country and in various foreign countries. Visit Sandy’s Web site at http://usawrites4kids.drury.edu/authors/asher.

Tune in tomorrow to enjoy Sandy’s remarks.



Online chat today

BULLETIN: I just returned home from doing the online chat. My thanks to all of you who joined me and my sincere apologies for all those questions I didn’t get to. I was originally told to expect to be online about 20 -30 minutes. After more than 60 minutes I hadn’t responded to half the long list of questions that kept pouring in.

I am especially sorry that so many students had questions that went unanswered. I needed another hour or more.

You teachers with disappointed students, please send me the unanswered questions. I promise to respond here on the blog over the next day or two. And that goes for any adults who didn’t get an answer. Okay?

My thanks to our December poets who have been sharing delightful efforts inspired by “bone.” So far we’ve heard at least once from Steven Withrow, Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Mary Nida Smith, Liz Korba, Barbara Turner, Jackie Huppenthal, Andromeda Jazmon, Diane Mayr, Janet Gallagher, and Marjie DeWilde. The range of format, message, and depth of the poems has shown once again how many stories a single word can hold.

So far this month we have not heard from our student poets. We know how busy December is for teachers and students alike, but I hold out hope that we’ll still be treated to some bone poems by our young poets out there!


Today I’ll be featured on an online chat hosted by 417 Magazine. You can find me at http://www.417mag.com/417-Magazine/A-chat-with-a-David-Harrison starting at 2:00 P.M. CST.Writers, teachers, librarians, parents, and students are welcome to click in on the interview or join in with questions. I hope to hear from a lot of my blog friends. You can read more at http://www.417mag.com .