In 2010, I approached Chris Craig, then the Director of the School of Education and Child Development at Drury University, and proposed that I, as Drury’s poet laureate, write a book about writing for elementary/middle school students. He loved the idea. We met with Todd Parnell, then president of the university, and Todd endorsed the notion too. Lauren (Laurie) Edmondson, then an education professor (later to succeed Craig as dean of the school of Education and Child Development), agreed to be my writing partner. We were off and running.
Over the two years that followed, the book took shape and substance. Laurie and I divided the contents into five chapters: how to get started, writing poetry, writing fiction, writing nonfiction, and how to revise. I wrote four tips for each chapter and Laurie provided lessons and suggestions for classroom teachers. In Drury’s sound studio I made 5-minute videos for each of the twenty tips and the DVDs became part of what was growing into a kit. Laurie wrote a student journal and we reached an agreement with my trade publishers to provide samples of books used in some of the student activities.
We sent the book, titled LET’S WRITE THIS WEEK WITH DAVID HARRISON, to a number of teachers and professors around the country and received strong encouragement. A grad student at the University of Missouri at Columbia wrote her master’s thesis on the project and found it be a valuable addition to the market’s offerings on the teaching of writing. A marketing class (at Drury) weighed in with the finding that today’s kids might be bored by a guy they don’t know, standing in front of a camera talking to them, rather than an animated cartoon complete with noise and excitement and entertainment. By then the DVDs were already done. We heard the marketing concern but proceeded to look for a publisher anyway.
We were turned down by three publishers, all of whom expressed concerns about how they would market such an expensive package, but the fourth publisher agreed to take us on. It was a small operation, Phoenix Learning Resources (under the Stourbridge Distributors umbrella) in Pennsylvania. A contract was signed, the cost of the kit was set at $499, and we got under way in 2013.
By 2015 it was over. LET’S WRITE THIS WEEK WITH DAVID HARRISON had come and gone. We should have listened to Drury’s marketing class although, to be honest, at no time did we ever have a budget to produce a product like they had described.
Time has passed and a few weeks ago I approached Laurie with the idea that sometime in 2021 we should brush off the ashes of our collaboration, forget about recordings, and focus on making a good book that can be priced like any other book. She likes the notion, too, so we’ll see what, if anything, eventually happens to my old brainstorm. It has been a ride.