Why is this man smiling?

Hi everyone,

Ruth Culham kindly snapped me signing at Charlesbridge. That’s part of my wonderful editor, Karen Boss, in the background. So now I can prove that I really was there! Thank you Ruth!

Here’s Tara Welty between Mary Jo Fresch and me showing off our new book with Scholastic. Tara is Editor-in-Chief for Teacher Resources at Scholastic.

Laura Salas was kind enough to share this selfie from NCTE. With Laura (left), Sylvia Vardell, and Sandy around me, you can understand why I’m smiling!

Laura Purdie Salas’s new book

Hi everyone,
Laura Purdie Salas
Way to go, Laura Purdie Salas! My copy of CATCH YOUR BREATH: WRITING POIGNANT POETRY just arrived and I’m impressed (as always) by any book of Laura’s. This one is directed toward teen girls and provides encouragement and tips to shine a friendly light down the path.
Catch Your Breath
A number of poets have contributed to the cause by modeling a variety of poetic forms. Mine is a found poem, “Just Add Algae.” Pat Lewis chips in a delightful acrostic. Matt Forrest uses a haiku to show us how alliteration works. Teen girls (and a LOT of others) will enjoy the wit and wisdom of Kenn Nesbitt, Marilyn Singer, Nikki Grimes, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Laura herself, and a number of other talented poets.

Thanks for the invitation, Laura. Good luck with your newest title.


Vegas and Boston

Hi everyone,

Here’s a shot of the Las Vegas Marathon while we were there. I heard that it involved 35,000 runners.
At NCTE I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get any pictures but Linda Baie was kind enough to take one of Sandy and me Sandy and Davidand someone else took a picture of Georgia Heard and Laura Purdie Salas with me at breakfast.photo Do I know how to pick glamorous women or what!

Foreword to Edgar Allan Poe

Hi everyone,

Laura Purdie Salas wondered if I might post the foreword to the newly released book about the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe. I asked my editor, Jim Baumlin, for permission and he graciously granted the request. So here it is.

Poe cover
David L. Harrison

Burma-Shave was a brand of brushless shaving cream when I was a
boy in the 1940s. It was famous for its funny signs, which I loved to
memorize. There were usually five or six small signs spaced along the
roadside so when you spotted the first one, you started anticipating
those to come.

Does your husband
Grunt and grumble
Rant and rave
Shoot the brute some

Hardly a driver
Is now alive
Who passed
On hills
At 75

This was not my first experience with memorization. I was already
famous (with my parents plus one aunt and one uncle) for
memorizing the Gettysburg Address. And what did all those words
committed to memory teach me? They taught me the pleasure of
carrying beautifully written ideas around in my head.

Does that sound silly? I don’t mean that I became a memorization
freak, but I did like thinking, sometimes, about those words in my
head put there by Abraham Lincoln and wondering how he decided
on just those words and none others and how he managed to arrange
those particular words to create such a powerful message. “Four score
and seven years ago” reads like poetry. It has a solemn cadence to it,
the perfect cadence to begin a somber speech in a sad place. He could
have said, “Eighty-seven years ago,” but there would have been no
magic in it. It’s not just what you say; it’s also how you say it.

Not long later I discovered Edgar Allan Poe. I read “The Raven”
and was transported into the world of a master story teller, sitting
alone and forlorn, “pondering … over many a quaint and curious
volume of forgotten lore.” This was a long way from Burma-Shave
signs! And although Lincoln’s great speech was exquisitely crafted,
this guy Poe was a poet in a class by himself.

So what do you think I did? I memorized “The Raven,” of course.
Like, who wouldn’t? I’m not telling you you have to memorize
anything. But I am telling you that to read a poem or story by Edgar
Allan Poe is to sit in the presence of a unique American genius. Few in
any age have matched him for creating a mood, word-painting
indelible images, and capturing an audience the way Poe does.

He was born in Boston in 1809 and died in Baltimore forty years
later. During much of his brief life he was described as melancholy,
erratic, and willful. He never made much money and was often in
need. Yet he became an important figure in American literature and
even now, more than one hundred sixty years after he died, his work
remains well known and respected.

That’s why I’m so glad that the book you are holding has been
created. When you start turning its pages, you’ll learn about the life
and times of Poe, the mystery of how he died, the many ways in which
his work has influenced other writers and whole genres of writing
and, best of all, you’ll get to sample rich servings of the man’s
remarkable work.

If you want a good chuckle, look up some Burma-Shave signs:
Train approaching
Whistle squealing
Avoid that run-down feeling

If you want to read one of history’s finest speeches, check out
Gettysburg Address:
… our fathers brought forth upon this continent, a new nation …

But if you want to meet the haunting and often haunted melodies of
the works of Edgar Allan Poe—
It was down by the dank tarn of Auber,
In the ghoul-haunted woodland of Weir …
—turn the page and go!

David L. Harrison
Springfield, Missouri
1 February 2013

The book is a private printing that is available at the Library Center in Springfield and at select Big Read events. It can be purchased (for $5.00) exclusively at PawPrints Bookstore in the Plaster Student Union on the MSU campus. (417) 836-8959.

BOOKSPEAK by Laura Purdie Salas

Hi everyone,

Good friend and poet Laura Purdie Salas has scored with a great book of poems called BOOKSPEAK. I am the proud owner of a copy and had to wrestle it away from Sandy when I wanted to finish reading it.

Each poem in this collection stands alone though each also adds beautifully to the whole. I don’t think I’ve ever considered books from so many different but converging angles. “If a Tree Falls” asks us about the silence inside an unopened book. In “A Character Pleads for His Life,” well, a character pleads for his life. And how could anyone turn a deaf ear to a plea that ends, “Please open the cover and liberate me!/Turn that first page./We’ll be boundless and free.”

See what I mean?

Then there’s the diary acrostic, the index poem with a rather supercilious attitude, and the cliffhanger. Gems and keepers all. Even the cover gets in on the act by telling us in no uncertain terms, “I’ve Got This Covered.”

Sandy’s favorite poem is the one for three voices – “The Beginning, The Middle, and The Ending”. As you might expect, The Middle has a bone or two to pick with the others. I won’t divulge how it turns out.

I could go on, but hopefully this will whet your appetite and send you rushing to your book store or computer to add Laura’s fine book to your collection. It’s available in hardback and also as an e-book. I recommend it!

BOOKSPEAK is a Finalist for the Minnesota Book Award, an NCTE Notable book, an Honor book for the inaugural Gelett Burgess Children’s Book Award, a White Ravens 2012 book, and a Librarians’ Choice book. Way to go, Laura!

Laura has a teaching guide, book trailer, parts-of-a-book worksheets, book reviews, excerpts, etc., on her website: www.laurasalas.com .
Just click on the BOOKSPEAK cover. Also on her site, she will soon (“Nervously,” she says) be adding links to videos of her reading a couple of BOOKSPEAK poems.