I hate to admit it but based on the early polls, I hereby withdraw my name from the race for governor of the fine state of Florida. My pledge to introduce more kinds of pies is just not resonating with voters as I thought it would. Granted, I received commitments from 12 and received only 1 negative comment, but only two of the voters actually live in Florida. I’m beginning to think my campaign was too narrow, too one-issue, for the masses. It looks like my political aspirations have melted like meringue in July on a key lime pie.
This is one of those mornings when I sit down at the keyboard, listen to the coffee finish brewing, glance out the window to judge the morning weather, and wonder what on earth I should put on my post. My father-in-law, RALPH KENNON, had a saying he was fond of, under such circumstances. “You did that to yourself.”
Truth is, I have been doing this to myself for a long time now. A freelance writer has to get up each day, hear the coffee perking, look around, and come up with something to write about. It’s training more than talent, I know, but I spend a lot of time looking for and finding the buds of stories. If you follow this blog much you may have read it on a day when JANE YOLEN came busting through with an abrupt announcement about something I’d said. “You know that’s a book. You’re welcome.” And off she sailed to think of ten more books of her own.
Seeing stories wherever we look are finger exercise for a writer’s imagination. We’ll never tackle them all of course. But once in a while something special comes along. Excitement builds. You put aside what you are working on, even if it has a deadline, and fall madly in love. I’ve had people tell me how nice they think it is that I have a hobby that brings me so much pleasure. I asked Merriam-Webster to explain the word hobby. “An activity that you do for pleasure when you are not working.” Another source gives the example: “His hobby is writing. Hers is gardening and swimming.”Hobby is a perfectly respectable word. I’ve had and enjoyed many hobbies. But what serious freelance writing is not is a hobby. It isn’t an activity that one picks up and puts down on a whim or as leisure allows. It’s simply what one does.
Whether it’s a hobby or something else, what I love most about writing is how frequently it surprises me by how it turns out. Like this morning, for example.
Looks like the only point remaining to settle on the Benchmark Education book-to-be with TIM RASINSKI and LYNNE KULICH is to set the completion date. I hope to get that done this week so I can get started on my part soon. First I need to finish revisions on the books with Holiday House and Charlesbridge. The timing looks good.
Key lime pie for dessert last night. What else? This is Florida. Florida only knows how to make one pie. Really. If I were going to run for governor here, my platform would be to bring back chocolate pie.
Today I plan to add a few more paragraphs to my autobiography, a rather tedious work in progress with no end and no publisher yet in sight. Throughout my career I’ve published poems inspired by my own experiences growing up (we all do that), and on two previous occasions I’ve published collections of poems about various recollections. This one is in prose and includes much more about my life.
THE PURCHASE OF SMALL SECRETS was meant to share the musings of an introspective boy as he explored the world he lived in.
A Chip of Flint
for an arrowhead.
Maybe a chip
from the weapon
by a master craftsman,
flint in one hand
antler tip in the other,
a new stone point.
Did he pause
in these woods
or was he surrounded
by chuckling comrades
who winked at secrets
as flint chips fell?
It doesn't matter
the chip was rejected
by the arrowhead.
I accept it
as a gift
from an unknown hand.
~ (c) 1988 David L. Harrison
CONNECTING DOTS invited the reader to connect the dots of my memories to form a clearer picture of how my life was shaped to become who I am.
I’m 15. My collections now fill one room in our house. The years of field trips and chance discoveries are adding up.
Yes, that’s what you smell –
over here in my insect case.
They keep the beetles
from eating my bugs.
That musty smell?
You must mean bird wings
pinned to the wall.
Stand back some,
they’re not so bad.
A few little smells don’t bother me.
They’re worth the price
of actually owning a rattlesnake skin,
a crow’s nest,
a red fox hide I tanned myself.
I touch my treasures,
their fragrances perfume my room.
Their stories live again,
their memories sweeter.~ (c) 2004 David L. Harrison
So now I'm returning for a third time to the river of my life. I started the project a couple of years ago, imagining it as a play, but I decided that not even close friends and family could willingly sit through such drudgery. In the end I started over and am writing it as a sequence of moments and incidents that seem to me to have contributed to the making of a man who turned out to be a literacy advocate and writer of books and poems for young people. The journey has been long. I promise to make the book shorter.
I wrote outside for a while early this morning, sitting at the table with coffee. A dog bark two or three times somewhere but didn’t care enough about the issue to continue. Somewhere a leaf blower with a howling voice finished a small job and unplugged. Light breeze. Blue sky. I love it here when nature behaves itself.
Becoming reacquainted with this place always takes a while. I was writing about flies and not a one came by, but they’re there. A skinny lizard was my only company.