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FIVE ON FRIDAY with David Harrison

David Harrison, author of literally dozens of children’s books joins us for our weekly discussion at FIVE ON FRIDAY. David is a poet, a novelist and an all around good guy. You can visit him at his website. His most recent book is PIRATES a book of illustrated poems.

When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

My senior year in undergraduate school at Drury University, where I majored in science, I took a creative writing class. The professor told me I should consider becoming a writer. It was as easy as that. That and six years of effort. And 67 submissions. And 67 rejections. My first sale was for $5.03.

What book or writer do you feel influenced you the most?

During my first ten years of writing, I focused on short stories. I loved Updike, Hemingway, Vonnegut, the so-called black humorists – Bruce Friedman, Terry Southern, Tomas Pynchon – and the essays of E. B. White. When I wrote my first book for children in 1967, I did nothing more to prepare for that genre than re-reading my own childhood favorites and those of my son and daughter. From the beginning I felt influenced by my musical background. Growing up, I played trombone in Dixieland, jazz, and dance bands, German bands, marching bands, concert bands, orchestras, and symphonic work. I taught music and directed a choir. That musical sense of rhythm and its nuances seemed to find its way into my writing, particularly when I turned to poetry.

What books are you currently reading or have recently read that you’d recommend to others?

Lately my reading has all been related to various writing projects. Normally I wouldn’t read about the history of honeybees, how children develop reading fluency, the various archaeological theories about the first migrants to this continent, the significance of phonemic awareness, or the giraffe. The last book I read for recreation was a Grisham novel and the one before that was by Janet Evanovich. I feel another need for a Hobbit fix coming on.

If you could offer one piece of advice to aspiring writers or illustrators what would it be?

If you have the basic talent, don’t give up. Competition is fierce, and worldwide. Until you develop your skill to a professional level, you’ll probably be rejected, but that doesn’t mean you’re not making progress.

Can you share with us your next project or any information about the next book you’re working on?

I’m currently involved in half a dozen projects that include poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and two books with teachers for teachers. My habit is to develop an idea or manuscript to the point where I ship it off to the editor. That gives me months to start something else. Once in a while more than one editor finally responds at the same time and it’s all hands on deck for a while. But I’d rather be swamped now and then than sit around making up new terrible things to call editors. And this way is far more productive.

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