In 2002, the photographer RANDY BACON, well known for his black and white portrayals of people with stories to tell, teamed with Ozarks Literacy Council to create an gallery of men and women who had spent a significant part of their lives supporting the cause of literacy. I was one of those invited to be in the exhibit. The picture I was in also included author/playwright SANDY ASHER and singer/author JIM BILLINGS. These days Sandy and Harvey Asher live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and our friend Jim Billings recently passed away. I’m still around so I’m honored to be back, wrinkles and all, for the twenty-year anniversary of the celebration.Just as well that I don’t have a copy of the 2002 picture!
Each model in the new exhibit, which will be on display beginning March 25, was asked to write a brief story to accompany their picture of what attracted them to do what they do to support a more literate community. Randy just created this poster of his work. His pictures speak for themselves.
Yesterday Sandy Asher and I learned that her play inspired by my poems will be produced next in Missoula, Montana. I’ve lost track of all the places the play has been produced since its premiere in Springfield in 2002. Along the way it earned The Charlotte B. Chorpenning Playwright Award. Here’s the synopsis from the publisher of the play, Dramatic Publishing. A light-hearted, high-energy look at one eventful day in the life of fourth-grader Samantha, the new girl in town, who has lost her beloved cat, Corky. At the bus stop, Samantha meets three wacky new friends who welcome her into their class, which just happens to be studying the animal kingdom. Their search for essay topics takes them from a dinner table’s chicken thighs to the pasture of a bull not pleased to see visitors. A wayward wad of bubble gum, tuba practice and a sticky baby sister later, the busy day finally peaks with the rescue of Corky. Nineteen humorous—and sometimes serious—poems by David L. Harrison are woven into the script as dialogue. Instead of bursting into song, the characters break out into poetry! Incidental music composed especially for this play is available. Highly tourable by five actors. Somebody Catch My Homework also offers creative opportunities for a larger cast and/or audience participation.
I think (my) Sandy has relatives in Missoula and one of my favorite friends/authors, Sneed B.CollardIII lives there too. When the play is produced in Montana, I might have to go out and sit in the audience!
I’m potentially one day from an editorial meeting that will determine if a new educational proposal with Tim Rasinski will be accepted. If it is, I won’t have that window of time I was expecting until mid-August when I’ll begin work on the book for Shell with Laura Robb and Tim Rasinski. In anticipation of getting the green light, I’ve already begun work on the first of what would be 75 new poems.
If the proposal is accepted, I’ll have very little time for the rest of the year to develop new ideas for trade publishers. The other day Nikki Grimes was relating how she has recently pull some old manuscript out of storage and given them fresh chances to be accepted. Jane Yolen does now and then. So does Sandy Asher and any number of other writers including me. That might be about all I’ll have time for. That’s not altogether bad though. I once sold a book years later to an editor who had turned it down in the first place.
Ozarks Literacy Council is partnering with noted photographer Randy Bacon to revise an event he did for the Council almost 20 years ago, “Words and Pictures.” In the original collection, I appeared with Sandy Asher, with whom I had partnered on various projects to promote literacy such as America Writes for Kids, and opera star Jim Billings. That was before Sandy and Harvey moved from Springfield to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
I’m honored to be a subject in this anniversary event, which will feature 20 people and is scheduled to be shown in March 2022. To accompany my portrait, I’ve been asked to provide a sidebar of 750 words or so about why I became involved in promoting literacy originally (2022 will mark my 40th year) and why I remain involved today. Specifically, I was asked to respond to this: “You could just as easily have focused on being an author. We want to get the HEART of why literacy is important to you.” No one has asked me to address that issue before. This is going to take some thought.I’ll sit for the picture this morning at 9:30. I’ll wrestle with my response to the question soon.
Tonight at 5:00 CST, 6:00 EST, Sandy Asher and I are reading our story in verse about two best friends 4th graders: Jesse and Grace, a Best Friends Story. Some of you have heard us before but this time we’re on radio and the broadcast goes out worldwide. Apple users may have problems, which are adaptable if you have the right app I’m told, but everyone else should be okay. To listen all you should need to do is go to www.wioxradio.org. and the show will be streamed there.
For those of you in other parts of the world, I made a short list and attempted to look up the differences between our time here in Central Standard Time and your time. I don’t promise that these are all correct so you’d better double-check me if you are interested in hearing the reading.
+10’30” hours later for you: Rama Dixit, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
Here’s part of the press release.
OPEN EYE THEATER AIRS PLAY FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES ON WIOX
“Jesse and Grace: A Best Friends Story” a radio play for young audiences by Sandy Asher and David L. Harrison. will air on “The Open Eye Theater Playtime” on WIOX Radio in the Catskills 91.3 FM, Tuesday, May 11, at 6:00 p.m. ET. Children in grades 2-5 and their families will especially appreciate this play about two children who have been friends since birth, almost 10 years. It has never mattered that Jesse is a boy and Grace is a girl. They have always understood each other, protected each other, comforted each other, and shared their jokes, toys, dreams, and love of poetry and basketball. But now they’re in the fourth grade and about to celebrate their 10th birthdays. When Grace writes a birthday poem and gives it to Jesse, their classmates begin teasing: “Jesse’s got a girlfriend! Grace’s got a boyfriend!” Confused and hurt, humiliated and angry, they stop speaking to each other, and do everything they can to avoid each other. Secretly, they long to forgive and forget, and in time learn that a best friend is the best kind of friend of all.
Winner of the American Alliance for Theatre and Education’s Distinguished Play Award, “Jessse and Grace, a Best Friends Story” was developed from a cycle of poems co-written by Sandy Asher and David L. Harrison. Sandy and David will perform a two-character radio version of the play live on “The Open Eye Theater Playtime,” Tuesday, May 11, at 6:00 p.m. ET, and will share their creative process with Playtime co-hosts Carol and Arnie Schwartz and Amie Brockway.