Thursday, September 26, 2019

50 years of David Harrison's poetry!

This week I'm featuring poet David L. Harrison in celebration of his FIFTY YEARS of poetry publishing! How about that? 50 years is quite a milestone! David writes about his beginnings and some milestones along the way-- all with is dry, wry sense of humor. Enjoy! David writes:

My Journey So Far
Waving goodbye as I leave for my first day of school in Ajo,
Arizona at age six.

I meant to become an astronomer. But I was only six and it didn’t pan out. When I was older, seven, I meant to become an artist, but there again, it never happened. What I didn’t mean to become was a writer. But I had an accident when I was a 21-year-old science major at Drury College (now University) in 1959. I’d accidently taken so many science classes that the dean made me enroll in something else my last semester, and I chose a writing course. My professor liked my efforts and said he hoped I would continue writing. A lot happened during the next decade. I became a musician, athlete, husband, father, parasitologist, pharmacologist, and greeting card editor. But not a published author even after ten years of trying and 67 rejections. 

On October 1, 1969 that changed. I held my first book, a picture book called The Boy with a Drum, and knew what I wanted to do with my life. 2019 marks my 50th anniversary since the moment that changed everything. My 97th, 98th, 99th, and 100th books are due out next year. Sometimes I sit in my office looking at my books on the shelf above me and think back over the years at all the wonderful things that have happened to me as a children’s author, and I am grateful. In my heart I’ve been celebrating my good fortune all this year.

Midway through my career, twenty-six years ago, I surrendered to a long-felt desire to develop as a poet. (Back when I was six and carting home astronomy books from the library, I was also making up my first poems.) For three years I read about and wrote only poetry. I wrote about what I observed, heard, felt, lived. I wrote about school and family, diets and hairless bears, a boy who spent his life counting all the stars in heaven and started over. I discovered that the music in my background was influencing how my rhythms evolved. I learned that sometimes syncopation is a good thing; sometimes it worries editors.

Turned out my Midwestern voice, sense of humor, love and respect for nature, and response to the world around me provided me a spot in our nation’s choir of children’s poets. Next year’s titles, After Dark and The Dirt Book, will be my 20th and 21st books of poetry. I work seven hours every weekday. Each year I attend conferences, participate in children’s literature festivals, do book store signings, and visit schools. I’ve learned who I am, what I know, what I want to say, and how I want to say it. I have a wonderful wife, daughter, son, and family. What’s not to love about that? I probably would have been a lousy astronomer anyway.

Okay, this and I’ll stop. My last three books of poetry are summarized here.

A PLACE TO START A FAMILY: Charlesbridge, January 2018
  • One of ten books for K-2 chosen by teachers across the country for this year’s International Literacy Association (ILA) Teachers’ Choice List
  • Chosen by Bank Street College for its Best Children’s Books of the Year 2019
  • National Science Teachers’ Outstanding Science Trade Books
  • Pennsylvania’s Young Reader’s Choice, Awards Program Master List, 2019 – 2020

CRAWLY SCHOOL FOR BUGS: Boyds Mills Press, March 2018
  • Selected by Missouri Center for the Book to represent Missouri at the National Book Fair in Washington D.C., 2018
  • Named by NCTE as a Notable Book of Children’s Poetry, 2019

NOW YOU SEE THEM, NOW YOU DON’T: Charlesbridge, 2016
  • Starred Kirkus review, 12/1/15
  • Chosen by Society of Midland Authors as best children’s nonfiction book published in 2016
  • NCTE Notable Poetry Book
  • Red Poppy Award nominee, Georgetown, Texas, 2017

Thank you, David, for sharing a few nuggets from an amazing career of 50 years of creating poetry for young people! Now head on over to Library Matters for more Poetry Friday fun!

10 comments:

Linda Mitchell said...

What a lovely interview. One of the best things about Mr. Harrison is how much of himself he's willing to share with readers, writers and the world. I adore seeing this peek into his beginnings that did not start out with writing. What a friend of poetry! Thank you both for this blog post.

Joan Bransfield Graham said...

Wow--50 years and 100 books! Congratulations, David, on an amazing career! Thanks, Sylvia, for the delightful opportunity to learn more about David's life and work.

David Harrison said...

Sylvia, I just now discovered that your post is up and running. Wow! I'm so happy I found this before leaving early Sunday morning for New York to visit with editors. You are wonderful. Thank you so much!

Linda and Joan, many thanks to you for your kind comments.
David

Molly Hogan said...

I recently signed up to follow David Harrison's blog and it's now one that I make sure to read each day! He has such a warm, witty voice. Thanks for sharing this peek into his journey. What an inspiring career!

Matt Forrest Esenwine said...

Congratulations, David, on such a marvelous career! You should be proud of everything you've accomplished, because we're all proud of you! Thanks for everything you've given to children (and adults) over the years, and thank you for continuing to share your experiences and guidance with those of us in the early stages of our careers.

Linda B said...

I don't have all David's books, but I have quite a few, and read them to my own kids when I wasn't even aware who he was, then discovered I had some of the early books of prose. And I've have had the pleasure of enjoying 2 Highlights workshops with him, too. You are an inspiration, David, have given children so many, many delightful books. Congratulations for 100 books! Amazing! Thanks, Sylvia, for having David over for a visit!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

Congratulations to David! It's quite the accomplishment, and well-deserved given his talent and work ethic.

David Harrison said...

Dear Sylvia, I'll try again to thank you for helping me celebrate my 50th anniversary in such style! Something happened to my first attempt.

I'm having a wonderful time all month. On the actual date of my first children's book, October 1, I was in New York visiting editors so see what I might consider for my next books.

Thanks again. I look forward to seeing you before long at NCTE.

David

David Harrison said...

Dear Linda,

I appreciate your kind words. It has been a wonderful ride so and I'm grateful for that first book so long ago that set my compass for a lifetime of pleasure to come.

David Harrison said...

Hi, Joan,

Many thanks for your note. I don't have a good answer for what keeps me climbing out of bed each day eager to get to work. I'm just glad whatever it is, is.