Parroties and couplets galore

BULLETIN: Today I’m interviewed by Kathy Temean on her blog: . The subject is the importance of choosing themes.

BULLETIN: Since I posted the note below, other delightful parroties have come in. Check out B.J. Lee at the very bottom.

Hi everyone,

I don’t know if it’s over yet, because more poem parroties continue to be posted, but as of yesterday morning seventeen poets have contributed thirty + entertaining poems on the post dated August 24. They include Jane Yolen (4), Cory Corrado (2), Jeanne Poland (2), Renee La Tulippe (3), Julie Krantz, Robyn Hood Black (2), Steven Withrow, Vikram Madan (3), Marilyn Singer (2), Avis Harley, Buffy Silverman, Pat Lewis (3), David Harrison (2), Joyce Sidman, Douglas Florian, and Taylor McGowan. Take a few minutes to read them all from top to bottom. It’s well worth the time. My thanks again to Pat Lewis for suggesting this thoroughly enjoyable exercise.

If you would like to read a collection of great couplets, scroll down a bit further to August 21. There you’ll find fifty-one couplets contributed by twenty poets, including Joy Acey (2), Jane Yolen (11), Don Barrett (3), Cory Corrado, David Harrison (8), Renee La Tulippe (4), Charles Ghigna (6), Taylor McGowan, Ken Slesarik (2), Jane Heitman Healy (2), Buffy Silverman, Sara Holbrook, Brod Bagert, Annalisa Hall (2), Jeanne Poland, Julie Krantz, Vikram Madan, Catherine Johnson, Charles Waters, and Rachel Hendricks.

I particularly want to acknowledge two of our contributors, Taylor McGowan and Rachel Hendricks. These young women are now in middle school but they began posting their poetry on my blog when they were 4th graders. It’s such a pleasure to watch young people grow up sharing a bit of themselves with us here. Thank you, Taylor and Rachel.

My thanks to everyone for pitching in so many exceptional pieces of work. Wonderful job everyone!


Good news from Sandy Asher

Hi everyone,

Sandy Asher sent me an announcement about her new one-woman play and, with her permission, I’m posting it here to share with you. If you are in a position to take advantage of this opportunity, or know someone who can, please take note:

Dear friends near and far,

Following their debut mainstage production in Margaretville, NY, on Memorial Day weekend, The Open Eye Theater is now booking a tour of my one-woman play, “Walking Toward America,” directed by Amie Brockway and featuring Patricia Van Tassel. A synopsis and YouTube promo link are below.

This is a huge job, but I’m very excited about it, and I’m writing to you now in hopes you can offer contacts who might be interested in booking this piece. The play runs about 75 minutes and is appropriate for ages 10 through adult. The script is inspired by the memoirs of my dear friend Ilga Katais-Paeglis Vise, who arrived in Oak Lawn, IL, as a 17-year-old, graduated from Northwestern University, obtained her master’s degree from National-Louis University, and became a teacher, originally of first graders and later of college students at Drury University in Springfield, MO, where she and her husband are currently enjoying their retirement. There will be a reading of the play at the Library Center in Springfield on July 14 and 15, directed by David Montgomery and featuring Annie Meek Montgomery.

Please see the synopsis and video below and feel free to get in touch with me or with Amie Brockway ( ) — or to forward this information to others.

Many thanks!


SYNOPSIS: On the eve of a three-generational pilgrimage back to her Latvian homeland, ILGA speaks to her grandchildren about their great-grandparents. In the winter of 1944-1945, ten-year-old ILGA and her parents left Riga, Latvia, to escape the Russian occupation of their city. Soon they were taken into a German forced labor camp, where they spent a brutal month — but fared better than the Jewish prisoners held on the other side of a barbed wire fence. Eventually, they walked 500 miles across frozen, war-torn northern Germany, survived strafing by Russian planes, and found their way to a refugee camp in western Germany. Six years later, they sailed through an Atlantic storm to safety and freedom in America. What makes ILGA’s event-filled story unique and compelling is that she was a child witness to the devastation of war and the sources of strength that got her family through it. In “Walking Toward America,” one actress plays ILGA as a grandmother and at ages 4, 10, and nearly-17, plus all the characters that populate her remarkable journey.

A note about Family Voices

Hi everyone,

I’ve mentioned Family Voices before but would like to give it another plug today. I’m reprinting a letter to the editor that was in yesterday’s paper here in Springfield, Missouri. Although it bears my name, at least four other people on our committee had a hand in perfecting what you see here: Kay Logsdon, Nancee Dahms-Stinson, Sony Hocklander, and Laurie Edmondson.

It’s hard to stress too often how critical it is to read every day to children, particularly those under five years old. If you have children in that age range or know others who do, please share this reminder. Thanks!

Reading to children

An invitation to join Family Voices

Editor’s note: This Sunday feature aims to give special recognition to a letter (under 300 words) that stands out for impact, style or in another intriguing way.

David Harrison

Spr ingfield

One of the most precious gifts a child can receive doesn’t have to cost a cent, and every parent can give it to their child. Sadly, too many parents unknowingly withhold that gift.

It’s simply reading to your child.

Failure to read regu­larly to little ones under 5 often sets in motion a sequence of serious con­sequences. Kids who en­ter kindergarten not knowing their letters are already months be­hind their classmates. If they can’t catch up by end of third grade, many will remain be­hind in every grade thereafter. Who wants to go to school when you feel frustrated? Anything, even dropping out of school, may seem better.

Failure to read to young children is not always related to income. Regardless of afflu­ence, many families are guilty of not setting aside that all-im­portant snuggle and read time. That’s why Family Voices was started, and summer is the great time to take advantage of what it offers.

If you have a child under 5, call Gail Gourley at The Li­brary Center. Here’s her num­ber: 417-616-0554; and email ad­dress: will make arrangements to record you reading to your child.

Your voice will be added to a collection of 25 previ­ously recorded sto­ries read by Spring­field celebrities. This personalized CD li­brary is yours free.

Your child will love this keepsake that features your voice as the first reader. It’s perfect if you travel or are away from your child or grandchild for any reason! We’ll also give you a free picture book for each child in your family under 5, no strings attached. We just want people to read more to their children.

Sound like a bargain? It is! All you have to do is get to the library. It’s cool in there. Cool books. Cool reading. Cool chances for your child.

David Harrison co-chairs the Fam­ily Voices committee. DavidL

Golden Pe n Award

Thoughts on expanding Word of the Month challenge

BULLETIN: Yesterday morning I looked out the dining room window to make sure the newspaper was there before venturing out in the rain to bring it in. No paper. We have a circle drive. Sometimes the thrower tosses our paper on one drive, sometimes on the other. I don’t get it but he must find it amusing. Yesterday both drives were bare and I felt peevish. I finally opened the front door, determined to go search anyway. There on our front step was the paper. On top of it lay a single goose feather.

Does that bring a tear to your eye or what! Some sweet, contrite goose was undoubtedly trying to make up after our little incident in my back yard. I found it very moving.

The only other possibility I can imagine is that my next door neighbor, Mary Thill, has been up to her good deeds again. She watched across the fence as I attempted to reason with twenty-eight geese the other day. And she has a much better sense of humor than the paper boy and the geese. Hmmmm.

Hi everyone,

Since October 2009 I’ve posted a new word each month and poets from many nations have contributed poetry that began with a single word. I’m proud of how Word of the Month Poetry Challenge has been accepted and put to work. A number of teachers have found the exercise useful and we’ve enjoyed the results of their students’ efforts. Just this past month Nancye Flinn discovered how to excite her third grade students to write poetry and we had the pleasure of welcoming Emma and Ashley to the ranks of published young poets.

I love fiction and nonfiction too. And sometimes one of my books in those genres will start with something as small as a simple thought, a glimpse of someone or some thing, a news clipping, a single word. In schools, I know that teachers have all sorts of obligations to teach their students besides a brief poetry unit sometime during the year. I know that many of my readers are story writers at heart and would prefer to have an exercise of their own from time to time.

This makes me wonder if I’ve been leaving out a lot of writers who would rather, at least sometimes, write a brief essay or short story or nonfiction piece or perhaps a song instead of a poem.

So I’m suggesting that we throw out the latchstring to anyone who would like to participate in the Word of the Month Challenge with something other than poetry.

I haven’t discussed this yet with my webmaster Kathy Temean. She may roll her eyes at me if I ask about setting up new boxes to click on like the ones she made for Adult W.O.M. Poems and Student W.O.M. Poems. Maybe for now anyone who wants to post a story or nonfiction piece can just place them in the comments boxes until I see if we are getting enough responses to organize to receive them.

I’m not looking for work. I probably won’t comment very often for the same reason I rarely comment on the poetry. The time for me these days just isn’t there. But dozens of others are kind enough to post their own thoughts and words of encouragement and I’m sure these and others will continue to support the work of fellow writers.

The rules are simple. Keep your fiction or nonfiction piece to no more than 500 words. Keep it clean. This site is visited daily by young people, parents, teachers, librarians, writers, and the family, relatives, and friends of those who come here to post or browse because they feel comfortable and safe here. Let’s make sure we keep it that way always. As I’ve mentioned before, we regularly have visitors from more than 40 countries during any given week.

The other rule is that whatever you post must be inspired by the Word of the Month word. This month the word is SUMMER. That one should get all sorts of creativity stirring so I hope we’ll see a variety of results in several genres.

So there you have it. Let me know your thoughts. Maybe this will turn out to be a one-month experiment. One never knows. But sometimes we learn by trying something different. I’m willing to learn.



Hi everyone,

One of the highlights of my experiences at IRA was the chance to introduce my new DVD series called LET’S WRITE THIS WEEK WITH DAVID HARRISON. My co-author of the teacher’s guide and student journal, Laurie Edmondson, was also there to join the celebration. Now that the program is officially introduced, here is a fuller description than I’ve posted before. Let me know what you think!


When I visit classrooms I like to give students tips on how they can enjoy their own writing more and improve the results of their efforts. Over the years I’ve developed a number of these tips, all of which are based on methods that real writers really use. I’ve used the same techniques myself so I know they work. Some are tricks of the trade, some are common sense advice, but student writers benefit from all of them.

When I became Drury University’s Poet Laureate, I began to consider worthwhile projects I could do that would fit my responsibilities. I decided to create video vignettes of me doing what I’ve been doing for more than 40 years when I visit classrooms. I began by making a list of five broad categories – how to get started, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and how to rewrite. Under each of those headings I taped four presentations. For example, under Getting Started I talk about 1) finding ideas through association, 2) beginning with a single word, 3) the power of observation, and 4) reading to discover things to write about.

I kept each episode brief (five minutes) so that busy teachers can display me on a Whiteboard while I present to their students the tip for the week and then follow up with reinforcing activities. The episodes are not sequential so a teacher can choose any topic that fits the current unit being taught.

I’m finishing an accompanying Teacher’s Guide with Dr. Laurie Edmondson, Interim Director for Drury’s School of Education and Child Development. Each of the 20 Writing Tips featured in the DVDs is expanded for the teacher in the guide book. Laurie is providing classroom activities that teachers can use to complete the lesson. We also present what research says about each category, a home connection to help gain family support, and how each lesson ties into the Common Core State Standards.

In addition to the 20 video sessions and the Teacher’s Guide, the kit includes a set of 20 Student Writing Journals and three of my trade books – one each of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction – that we use as examples to help students see exactly what I’m talking about on the videos. What began in my mind two years ago as a set of taped writing tips for students has evolved into this hands-on, interactive, creative writing program that can bring me into classrooms anywhere. The full kit, which is designed for use in grades 3-5 (but could be used in later grades if desired) will be available by late summer or early fall and will be priced at $499. The publisher is Phoenix Learning Resources. Sales will be handled through Stourbridge Distributors. You can contact them at  .

Further, Laurie is going to teach an online course for graduate credit based on LET’S WRITE THIS WEEK WITH DAVID HARRISON. Those who are interested in signing up for the course or learning more about it can contact Laurie directly at