I want to talk about my books for teachers, #9

Hi everyone,

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.

Seeking pictures for Family Voices

Hi everyone,

I’ve talked in the past about one of my projects as poet laureate for Drury University — Family Voices — which I co-chaired with Laurie Edmondson, a professor in the School of Education and Early Childhood Development. For a number of years our committee steered a community-wide appeal to parents of children from birth to five to read to their kids on a regular basis. During those first sixty months of life the human brain is hungry for information and absorbs life’s lessons at a pace never to be matched during the rest of the lifetime.
When we eventually brought an end to the project, Laurie set up a site where we might continue to remind parents long after our major activities were over. https://www.facebook.com/ozarksfamilyvoices

Now and then I post something on the site. A number of people have discovered its presence and follow it. I don’t think of myself as a nag, exactly. I see myself as a friendly but passionate advocate for early childhood literacy. I’ve learned that a good photograph helps draw readers to the site so I often insert one from my own files of fans reading one of my books to their children. Altogether flattering, but I often feel awkward using them because it look too self serving.

I’m wondering if any of you might be willing to send me pictures of you or someone you know reading to a child in the 0-5 range with permission for me to post it on the Family Voices site. I would prefer that the books not be mine. There is no schedule for using these pictures. I sometimes go weeks between posting anything new. Other members of the committee are always encouraged to add thoughts of their own. There is only one purpose for this effort so anything that promotes it is appreciated.

The week to be

Hi everyone,

Looks like a good week coming up. Monday is lunch with an old friend, Laurie Edmondson, a Drury University professor in the school of Education and Child Development, with whom I wrote a book about writing a few years ago.

Thursday evening is the annual Missouri Writers Hall of Fame Student Awards Banquet. I had the pleasure to help start the organization with three others in 1993. At this event four of us will read the winning works of area students who were selected from entries in the LAD Fair (sponsored by the Language Arts Department at Missouri State University in Springfield), itself an annual event that attracts around 7,000 student entries each year.

Friday evening is the annual banquet sponsored by The Breech School of Business at Drury. The school is named for Drury graduate Ernie Breech who, during his brilliant career, served as head of Ford Motor Company and Trans World Airlines. I was inducted into the Breech School of Business Hall of Fame in 2004. This year an old fraternity brother is being inducted so I look forward to seeing him again after all these years.

Saturday from 10:00 – 12:00 I’ll sign my newest book, CRAWLY SCHOOL FOR BUGS, at Barnes & Noble in Springfield.

Otherwise it looks like a good week for writing and I know exactly what I’ll be working on. Unless, of course, something else comes up. Which, of course, is likely to happen.

The waiting game

Hi everyone,

Sometimes people who are not in the business ask how it’s possible to be at work on so many books at once. Here’s part of the answer. As of now:

1) Last Friday I completed the third draft of the long story I’ve been mentioning. I promptly sent it out. I’ll continue to fact check a bit but basically I’m in a waiting period on that one for now.
2) A story in verse that I co-wrote with Sandy Asher is with an editor who says she likes it but wants to make some suggestions. The play that grew from it (JESSE AND GRACE) was published some time ago and has been produced. The current interest in publishing the story as a book might or might not lead to a contract but of course we’re eager to see what she has to say. We expect to receive her notes later this week. For now, I wait.IMAG1194
3) I’m working on a 200+ page professional book with Mary Jo Fresch. We wrote a 9,000 word prospectus, waited for readers to respond, and now need to get back together to plan how to finish the book. But for unrelated reasons, my writing partner is involved in something else for a while so for now, I wait.
4) Early last week I completed a new book of poems, a work that began years ago. I don’t want to know how many times I rewrote that manuscript or how many of the original poems I eventually replaced. Now it’s done and that feels good. It has no artist yet and no pub date. Next step will be when I hear from the copyeditor with a list of questions. For now, of course, I wait.IMAG1200
5) I’ve proposed to write an expanded version of a professional book co-authored with Laurie Edmondson. Tentative interest has been expressed by a publisher but further discussion probably won’t happen until July or perhaps September. For now? Wait.
6) I wrote poems for three books for the classroom: grades 4, 5, and 6, all supporting specific core curriculum subjects. My co-author for content is Tim Rasinski. After completing my work, the publisher elected to roll all three books into one. Some work remains to be done but the combined title is on track for publication this fall. For now I have nothing to do but wait.

There are several other manuscripts out for review, a typical situation for a writer. At the moment I have nine, including a couple I wrote with Jane Yolen and a collaboration with Cheryl Harness.
IMAG1203
So as of today I am officially out of work on all fifteen projects. Something new could drop in my lap any time, and usually does, but for now I can do one of two things. Write or wait. I’m not good at waiting.

Plans underway for a new Celebration of Writing event

Hi everyone,

My responsibilities as poet laureate for Drury University include hosting events meant to stimulate interest in writing among students in elementary, middle, and high schools. One of our most successful ones was in 2008. It was billed as “A Celebration of Writing.” Partnering with Drury, MOREnet, and Springfield Public Libraries, we used videoconferencing and web streaming, plus live audiences of Springfield students from Boyd, Pipkin, and Central, to reach elementary, middle, and high school students in roughly 40 classes in four states.
David and Laurie
I stood on stage in Lay Hall on the Drury campus and talked to live audiences for each of the three groups. On each occasion there were classes of students on the screen above my head so I could look up at them; and other kids, who were attending via steaming, were could watch and send questions during the session. Dr. Lauren Edmondson, interim director of the School of Education and Child Development, assisted and handed me questions that were e-mailed or texted in. I hasten to point out that the picture shows us on a different occasion and that is NOT an alcoholic beverage in our glasses!

Laurie, by the way, was my writing partner for another Drury project, LET’S WRITE THIS WEEK WITH DAVID HARRISON. For that one we created twenty 4-minute videos of me giving writing tips (getting ready, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and making it better). To complete the kit we wrote a teacher’s guide and a student writing journal. http://www.phoenixlearningresources.com/Let_s_Write___This_Week_with_David_Harrison-details.aspx.

Laurie and I have decided the time has come to reprise “A Celebration of Writing” and are planning it for late April. If you or someone you know might be interested in learning more as we go, please let me know to add you to the list. At this point I don’t know how far we can reach with the streaming. On a previous occasion I think we had kids in eleven states tuned in, but I’m still in the stage of exploring what’s possible for this event.