Name: David L. Harrison
What do you write? My publications have been in poetry, fiction and nonfiction (all for young people), and education books for classroom teachers.
Why BookEnds? BookEnds was recommended to me by another agent who speaks highly of the agency and its agents.
Tell us a bit about your writing process. Where do you write, and how often?
My office is down the hall from our bedroom, twenty-three steps from my side of the bed to be exact. I get up at 6:00 each weekday, brush and flush, turn on the coffee, and am usually at work by ten after. I quit at 1:00 p.m. I used to write twelve hours per day instead of seven but when my wife retired from the gift store she owned for 34 years, I promised to cut back on computer time so we can do more things together. I confess, though, that I’m frequently back on from time to time during the day when incoming mail requires it.
Do you have any writing rituals? (e.g. burning a candle if you’re having trouble getting started at the computer or writing longhand first if you’re feeling uninspired.)
My writing process usually begins with a longhand draft, if not the whole thing, enough of it to get my mind in a groove to go forward on the keyboard. After that it’s a matter of printing, revising, printing, revising, etc. As for rituals, I don’t like unanswered e-mail or deleted mail to last more than a few hours. As I write this, both files are empty so I’m happy. But I check dozens of times a day to avoid build up. That might drive some people nuts but for me it provides numerous micro-breaks while I’m writing/thinking, during which my mind seems to enjoy the little timeouts and comes back to task refreshed and ready to try a few more words.
What do you love about writing poetry?
Poetry has been called a word game (by Robert Frost I believe). In general I don’t enjoy games of any kind – from board games to human relations – but boy do I like playing with words the way poetry requires me to do. Poetry demands that we achieve a level of sophistication (even with aw-shucks poems) to know when our humor is trite, our passion is tepid, or our language of the heart doesn’t fit the hearts of others. Poetry is all about communicating. The poet must learn the techniques of the craft and how to apply them, but the nub of the challenge is for something to be exchanged between writer and reader in a way that each can celebrate.
Why did you choose the genre you’ve chosen?
In the beginning of my career I focused on fiction picture books. When I became comfortable with that genre, I looked around for a new challenge, something to give me a new shot of enthusiasm. I settled on nonfiction because I was a scientist by training and loved doing research. Many years later I hoped the time was right to try poetry. I took off three years from all other writing and practiced nothing but poetry. Several years and books of poetry later it felt like time for a new mountain so I began partnering with teachers to write books for the classroom. My latest challenge is to write middle grade novels. I’ve loved every step along the way and this latest one is no exception.
What is the hardest part about freelance writing?
The hardest part of being a freelance writer is to accept how little anyone else cares whether I write or not. It’s up to me. If I don’t show up at my computer, no one is going to miss me. No editor will wring her/his hands in despair. No child will notice. Only I can make me create the time, have the discipline, and show up for work on a regular basis. When I am my own boss, I need to be the toughest one possible. One morning last month I overslept by twenty minutes. I was furious. Friends kidded me, told me to lighten up, but to me it wasn’t a joking matter. My boss didn’t think it was funny either.
Do you get inspiration from any TV shows or movies? If so, which ones?
I don’t watch much television and rarely get ideas from TV or movies. I do get ideas from the world around me. One of my books was inspired by the lake behind our house. Another came from getting bitten by midges (small biting flies) in the back yard. A poem came from watching cardinals in their mating rituals, another from geese strutting across our front yard.
If money were no object, what would be your dream writing location?
I’m exactly where I want to be, twenty-three steps from my bed, living on a small lake, surrounded by books and the serenity of a long, beautiful marriage. I’ve never been anywhere else I would trade. Here I can be calm, comfortable, and productive.
Do you belong to any writing organizations?
I re-up my dues each year for SCBWI, National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), and International Literacy Association (ILA).