Posted by: Kathy Temean | April 3, 2013

David L Harrison – Poetry, Anthologies, Educational Books and IRA

Just thought I would point out why I’ve started posting interviews with published authors – Answer: I feel writers can gain useful information and ideas of what others have done to get published and maybe use something talked about during the interview to further your career. In this post I ask David L Harrison, who has over 90 children’s picture books published, about the anthologies he has participated in and educational books he has written to help children learn to read.  I hope this interview sparks some new ideas for you.

Lets Write Teacher Guide240KATHY: Can you tell us about the journey you and your book “Let’s Write This Week with David Harrison” took to get published? 


I’m the poet laureate for Drury University, which implies that I should do something to promote poetry in particular or writing in general. While brainstorming for a project, one wag compared me to Mister Rogers and suggested that the university should create some sort of electronic program with me providing writing talk for kids based on my forty years of experience. The notion caught on.

We tested the idea with me in a classroom visiting with a student, reading a poem or two, and offering advice. We quickly LetsWriteJournal240acquired a producer, a studio, and Drury’s backing for the cost of professionally producing twenty DVD sessions. I wrote scripts divided into four tips each on five subjects: getting started, poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and revising. Each video session lasts five minutes and is meant to be shown in the classroom to help set the stage for the teacher’s follow-up lesson.

Dr. Lauren Edmondson (interim director of the School of Education and Child Development at Drury) joined me in writing a teachers’ guide and a student writing journal to accompany the DVDs. She will also teach a graduate credit course on “Let’s Write” for those who wish to enroll online.

We’ve come a long way from the original, casual suggestion and I’m proud of the result. The kit – 20 video sessions, 1 Teachers’ Guide, 20 Student Writing Journals, and 3 of my trade books used as examples in the guide –retails for $499.00 and will be introduced at the International Reading Association annual conference in San Antonio beginning April 19. The goal is to place the kit into elementary schools as an aide to teaching writing in grades 3-5.

KATHY: I see your poetry has been included in a number of anthologies during the last two years. Did these opportunities come to you from your blog?


Probably a few did. My blog has 1,200+ followers and I’ve made many friends since this blog journey began in 2009. However it happens, I was in half a dozen last year plus about that many slated for 2013.

dare-to-dreamKATHY: Do authors make any money when they are included in an anthology or do people mostly do it for exposure?


Money? Nah. It’s fun, though, to be invited to join a group of other poets to make a new book. The editor who pulls it all together might make money if the book sells. I always hope they do! But to a certain extent this current wave of anthologies is the answer for poets who want to get their work out there where readers might see it. The poet receives a flat fee per poem or a royalty based on sales. In royalty cases, the more poets, the smaller the piece of the pie.

KATHY: How did you connect with Jill Corcoran for Dare to Dream…Change the World anthology?


She sent me an invitation to participate in the book she was planning. I was paired with Jane Yolen. We each wrote a poem about a young boy named Nicholas Cobb, who made a difference in the lives of others by raising money to buy coats for children in a shelter. Here’s the link to Nicholas’s website: The book has already been selected as a winner for the 2013 Notable Books for a Global Society Award!

KATHY: How did the series of books with Shell Education develop?


dhl-and-mjfMary Jo Fresch is a professor at Ohio State University with special research interests in Spelling/Word Study, Children’s Literature, and Early Literacy. We wanted to do a book together and settled on using poetry to help preK-1 kids develop reading skills. We worked on the manuscript for some time and eventually shared it with Dona Rice at Shell Education. She and the staff liked the idea and suggested that we divide the approach into five parts: short vowels, long vowels, consonants, rimes, and consonant blends. That required me to write a total of 96 poems, each based on a distinct sound that needed to be modeled as part of that week’s lesson. Mary Jo wrote the introductory text and provided clever, practical classroom activities to follow each poem.

The last step was to record all 96 poems on CDs that are attached inside the back covers of each book. Mary Jo and I were flown to California for the recording in a studio near Shell headquarters. It was a day filled with good vibes and laughter.

KATHY: Can you tell us a little bit about Shell Education? And in what way is IRA involved?


ShortVowelsShell Education and its sister publishing imprint, Teacher Created Materials, is a strong member of the educational publishing industry. Everyone on the staff is a former teacher and that means that they understand what goes on in the classroom. They are always searching for ways to respond to the needs of teachers and their books reflect that partnership. I love working with them. Another favorite of mine is Tori Bachman at International Reading Association. Tori wears a lot of hats, including book acquisitions. Thanks to discussions between Tori and Dona, IRA is co-branding “Learning through Poetry” so that we appear in both catalogs. How cool is that!

KATHY: Would you be able to share part of one of your “Learning through Poetry” books with us?

Rimes DAVID:

Mary Jo and I will give a 55 minute presentation at IRA on this subject to help teachers see how to apply our approach in their classrooms. It begins with a poem. My job was to make sure that this was a collection of poetry for young children, not a group of sing-songy, didactic lesson-poems. In every case I began by making a list of words with the sound I needed. After staring at the list long enough, sooner or later an idea would begin to form. From there it was a matter of writing a poem the same way I always do except for the restriction of using words with the same sound as much as possible.

For example: “ack” became: 


When my brother
needs a snack,
he opens every
box and pack,
gobbles every
pile and stack,
empties every
jar and sack,
looks like he
could pop
or crack,
but soon
his snack
is back.

And “ing” became


Money in my pocket,
Ching a-ching ching.
What will it buy me?
Thing a-thing thing.
Might buy a cell phone,
Ring a-ring ring.
Might buy a bracelet,
Bling a-bling bling.
Might buy a chicken,
Wing a-wing wing.
Might buy an ice cream,
Ding a-ding ding.
Might buy a CD,
Sing a-sing sing.
Money in my pocket,
Ching a-ching ching!

I’ve written my share of poems inspired by a picture, a conversation, a thought, even one word. Starting from a single sound was an entertaining challenge!

A Perfect Home for a Family240KATHY: Is your new book from Holiday House titled “A Perfect Home for a Family” available for purchase?


Yes, as of March 1. Four years ago we had raccoons in our attic. They drove us nuts with their nightly stirrings. We fussed and fumed and finally had the roof torn off and replaced. Later I realized that from the raccoons’ perspective, we must have been quite a nuisance too. That notion is what drives the story, which is wonderfully illustrated by Italian artist Roberta Angaramo. Sometimes it pays to see things from the other fella’s side!

KATHY: What are you working on now?


I have a series of three poetry books going, one each for grades 3-5; three collections of original poems for trade publishers; and a new picture book trying to find its best form.

KATHY: Do you have any words of wisdom for the authors and poets who visit this blog?


Thanks for having me, Kathy. And thanks again for creating my website and blog spot. I didn’t set out to blog but I’ve met a lot of nice people that way.

As for advice? Old timers must guard against reminiscing about the good old days. It took me six years to sell my first piece back in the 60s so I can’t imagine that today’s market is any tougher than that! It’s different, for sure, and anyone who aspires to see his/her name on the cover of a book should spend whatever time it takes to become familiar with the current market. I preach patience. Set goals that you can reach and climb on their backs like ladder rungs as you move farther and farther up toward success. Lastly, make it your best. I’d rather write one story well than ten stories poorly. Editors feel that way too.

Thank you David for answering my interview questions and thank you for sharing so much of your poetry expertise on your blog Here is David’s Website address:

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Hi Kathy,

    Thank you for the good interview. It’s a pleasure to visit with you and I appreciate the chance to be posted on your blog!



  2. I’m going to be in a workshop with David in the fall, so enjoyed learning more about him and his work that seems to be in a lot of places! The best advice is to be patient, but not always easy, is it?


  3. I really enjoyed this up close and personal look at David. Thanks for a great interview.


  4. In case anyone wondered, the title of the “ack” poem should be SNACK ATTACK. The snake must have slithered in from some other poem. You know how they are. David


    • David,

      I am so sorry. I thought I had killed that snake when you pointed it out. The whole thing is weird, since I thought I just copied what you sent me. Well, the snack is back, at last.



  5. Some genuinely good posts on this website , thankyou for contribution.


    • Remona,

      Thanks for leaving a comment. I am glad you noticed my blog. Hope you will stop back.



  6. Great interview, Kathy! I’m excited to meet David at his workshop this fall. See you there, Linda Baie!


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