Highlights Foundation

David Harrison (far right) at the Highlights Foundation Poetry Workshop

April is celebrated as being the beginning of spring, but for writers, it’s also the beginning of poetry month. So I arranged a special treat for you this month. Our featured author, David Harrison, is the author of more than 100 books, many of which are collections of poetry.

I had the amazing good fortune of meeting David and working with him last year at the Highlights Foundation Poetry for All workshop. He is humble, gracious, funny, and ferociously talented. It was an honor to learn from him, and I wanted to bring that experience to you.

David was generous enough to fit me into his very busy schedule with a Skype interview, which I intended to take 20-30 minutes. We ended up on that call for an HOUR!

One tragedy is that, despite testing the call recorder to make sure it was working (the test worked just fine), the rest of the interview ended up with still, frozen images of us. I certainly didn’t want to make you stare at us like that for the duration of the interview, so I added photos to accompany specific topics during our talk. I’ve divided the interview into seven parts according to theme. This way you can enjoy them in stages if you don’t have time to watch them all at once.

One caveat: In some cases the videos might seem to end abruptly, but that’s because we didn’t break the conversation up into themes – I did that separately. Any parts that don’t come across as well as they should are entirely my error and not David’s.

David has very generously offered to give away one critique to a lucky 12 x 12 winner. Having worked with him, I know how phenomenal his feedback is. THANK YOU again to David for giving so much of your time and talent. Welcome!

In case the formatting doesn’t come through categorizing the videos, here is the order of the videos by topic.

  1. Part I: Introduction and Reading Your Work Aloud
  2. Part 2: David’s Writing Journey
  3. Part 3: Importance of Theme in Children’s Poetry
  4. Part 4: Impact Common Core State Standards
  5. Part 5: e-Publishing for Poetry Collections
  6. Part 6: Writing Rhyming Picture Books vs. Poetry
  7. Part 7: Final Words of Wisdom 

Part I: Introduction and Reading Your Work Aloud

Part 2: David’s Writing Journey

Part 3: Importance of Theme in Children’s Poetry

Part 4: Impact Common Core State Standards

Part 5: e-Publishing for Poetry Collections

Part 6: Writing Rhyming Picture Books vs. Poetry

Part 7: Final Words of Wisdom

Categories: 12 x 12 Featured Author, Authors, Children's Books, Creativity, Digital Publishing, Friendship, Giveaway, Goals, Picture Books, Poetry, Publishing, Rhyming, Self Publishing, Works in Progress, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,



  1. Stacy S. Jensen

    Wow. Thanks for breaking that down. I look forward to listening to the interview.

  2. What a terrific interview! I’ve been wanting to know more about writing poetry PBs and this really satisfied my curiosity. Thank you, Julie, for doing such a terrific job with the interview and separating it into discrete and easily digestible chunks. 🙂

  3. Wonderful interview…thank you, Julie! And thank you, David…for sharing so much of your time and expertise. When I saw “The Boy with the Drum” I smiled…it made me think of my story about the girl who wants to get rid of her brother because he is always banging on his drum! And the cover looks so familiar…I know I have had a copy of this book. 🙂

  4. A great effort Julie. This must be useful for me and for others.
    Your interview with David Harison is something worth watching. We can learn a lot from this interview.
    Good video! It educates very much.
    It does not matter with the trouble in the process of recording but you have done your best for me to share your precious experiment.
    Thank you…

  5. What a fantastic series of video interviews! You’re absolutely right … he’s humble and gracious … and knows what he’s talking about! Really enjoyed listening to and learning from these!

  6. Thank you so much for bringing David to us, Julie! I look forward to listening to the videos!

  7. Happy Poetry Month Julie and Mr. Harrison. I particularly enjoyed your interview because I’m a closet rhymer who practically thinks in rhyme. Additionally, as a new writer, the industry says to stay clear unless it’s perfect, so I picked up a thing or two here that may just help. Boy, would I like to win this critique; I’ve got a rhyming story that needs a set of eyes just like yours! :0)

  8. Wow! Thank you both so very much. I have a rhyming picture book and would love to write some children’s poetry down the road. Loved listening and learning! *waving*

  9. I’ve been a follower of David’s blog and thoroughly enjoyed this series of interviews that made me feel a new level of “connection.” Thank you David and Julie.

  10. As someone who’s never really written children’s poetry, this is a wonderful introduction from the writer’s perspective. Thanks David!

  11. Fantastic. always loved poetry and often find myself writing this way.

  12. WOW! And I have to say, I am consistently so impressed with the amazing authors you get to be part of 12×12.

  13. “Just don’t give up…celebrate small successes…don’t set the bar too high at the beginning…take your first rejection letter and frame it, hang it on the wall. That proves you’re trying. That proves you’re doing something…above all, patience.” Thanks, David, for those words. Someday, that rhyming picture book might happen. Even if it doesn’t, just writing it has been satisfying.
    Lisa Rogers

  14. As I commented on David’s blog, I feel like I’ve been to a first-class workshop or seminar that I should have paid hundreds of dollars for! What a solid bundle of kid lit wisdom…thanks Julie and David for a fantastic interview and learning experience. I am more encouraged, more enabled, and more excited about writing for kids–especially poetry for kids.

  15. What a great interview. Thank you Julie and David. Nice to hear your voice, David! As a poet and a rhyming picture book writer, your words were music to my ears.

  16. I am a big fan of David and his work, so am thrilled he is your guest this month! Whoot! I am making my way through the videos – all gems! Thank you both.

  17. Great interview, Julie! Thanks to you both!

  18. 67 rejections? I once heard someone say to expect 100 – and to get out there and start racking them up. I’ve got a ways to go, but this was inspiring.

  19. I’m enjoying these warm comments. My thanks to all and, of course, especially to Julie for asking such great questions to make me look good!

  20. Thank you so much for your insights, David. Your comments about reading aloud and mining what we know from our own youth were valuable to us as picture book writers. I also appreciate the reminder of not setting the bar too high at the beginning, as we collect the rejection letters and insights that are making us better writers.

  21. Inspirational and heartwarming……..feels good to hear your thoughts about the uphill climb to success. I do so appreciate the practical advice about topics publishers are looking for. It is comforting to know that there is some rhyme and reason about it re common core standards. Thank you, Julie for making this possible.

  22. Cool! I like the videos! 😀

  23. Can’t wait to get home tonight and watch these videos! Thanks Julie and David for another great month of inspiration!

    Donna L Martin

  24. One hundred books…wow! And the topics widely vary. Thanks for sharing your expertise with us,

  25. Thank you, David and Julie, for this superb interview!

  26. Interesting interview. I especially liked what he and you had to say regarding the common core. I, too, didn’t read books in my childhood that had to do with school themes.
    ~Tina Cho

  27. I’m so happy you addressed the Common Core State Standards. As a former teacher, I KNOW how scary this is. My writing is rarely tied in, but at my school visits, I give the kids hints and strategies about how to succeed in the writing portions of the state testing.

  28. Again, I thank you all for posting your thoughts and responses to the interview. As for the CCSS, I quote Tiny Tim: “God bless us every one.”

  29. Thank you Julie and David. A fantastic interview and great information. I love rhyming picture books and am sending them “out there”. I’m proud (or at least I try to be) of every rejection I get. With hard work and a little bit of luck, hopefully something will happen! Thanks again.

  30. This is great. My jury duty entertainment/education! Thanks, guys!

  31. What a fantastic interview Julie and David. Thanks so much. I had to chuckle at the part where you both said you struggle to write from a kid’s p.o.v. me too. I would love to buy Goose Lake but I don’t have a Kindle and I can’t seem to upload a Kindle reader 🙁

  32. thank you julie and mr. harrison!
    what a treasure chest of goodies and in bite size pieces which is especially helpful for me. thanks to you both for your time and generosity!

  33. Thanks so much David and Julie. Great interviews.

  34. Thank you, David and Julie! I enjoyed watching the videos!

  35. Julie, I want to tell you again how much I enjoyed our visit and how much I appreciate what you did with it. To all of you who have left such lovely comments, my gratitude. It has been a lot of fun.

  36. Awesome interview! I’ll re-read this one again. Thank you, David and Julie!

  37. I love it that he now has over 100 published books, but his first 67 submissions were rejected! What a humble, inspiring, generous man.

  38. Thanks David for sharing your insights and experience into the writing process and the common core standards.

  39. What a great interview. It took me a while to watch all of it, but it was worth it. I always admire people who can write in rhyme. I’ve done it, but I find it very hard.

  40. Thank you, David and Julie! What an excellent interview!

  41. Penny Klostermann

    I enjoyed every single minute of the videos and when they were finished, I was wishing for more! I am a big fan of David’s work. Thanks Julie for your wonderful interview questions…you are a natural for asking questions that bring us information that is helpful and enjoyable!

  42. Thank you both for such generous sharing of your time and knowledge.

  43. Such an inspiration… AND a busy, busy guy. Over 100 books?! That’s a celebration. I love how David Harrison points to the difference between poems and rhyming books. He makes it all seem so effortless.

    I bet the first few words he ever spoke rhymed!

  44. Wow! I apologize for not getting by to check messages in a while. April is busy and I leave for IRA in a couple of days. Thank you, everyone, for all the nice things you’ve saying about the interview. Carmela, you’re not far off. My first poem came at an early age, and it was a triplet. David

  45. Wonderful interview. Thank you David and Julie! 🙂

  46. Thank you David and Julie for a wonderful interview! This was very uplifting and inspirational. Happy Poetry Month!
    Beth Thaler

  47. Melanie Ellsworth

    I just posted but it didn’t seem to take, so I’m trying again. I found all the videos fun and really informative. Thanks for breaking them into themes, Julie. David was right that themes are helpful! Loved the story about how PIRATES came to be, with the illustrator inspiring the theme for the poems. Thanks to David for mentioning the important work librarians do in helping teachers select material for their students. What a wonderful interview, and I enjoy David’s blog as well!

  48. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience! It is very helpful!

  49. Excellent resource! Thank you!

  50. Wow what a great interview. thanks to both David and Julie….a fab resource

  51. thanks a bunch! super fun. loved it:) especially the 3 year fast writing only poetry and the “story” of the collection themes.

  52. Great interview!! Ta
    kelly mcdonald

  53. Thank you for this entire interview. I particularly appreciated hearing both of your thoughts on Core Curriculum Standards.

  54. Thank you Julie and David~ I am learning so much. Thanks hugs~Lori

  55. Thanks so much for the interview! I love that David has published collections of poetry. I used to write a lot of poetry. My husband wooed me with poetry too, so I have a soft spot for the form.

    ~Becky Fyfe

  56. Oh. My. Gosh. What a great interview – thank you so much.

  57. I’ve heard David at NJSCBWI

  58. I can’t wait to see the videos and see what I can learn from them….I would love to learn how to write poetry..unfortunately, for some reason I seem to struggle with it 🙁

  59. Fab interview. Thank you both! 🙂

  60. Seems like a great guy. So down to earth with wonderful suggestions. Thanks.

  61. Thanks so much for an outstanding interview. The resources available on 12×12 are amazing!

  62. Thank you for a very informative interview!

  63. A great interview, thank you for sharing your time and insight with us David, you had us hanging on your every word!

  64. Thank you, David and Julie for a great interview. Makes me eager to try my hand at poetry again.

  65. David does so much for poetry, and for writers. I enjoy participating in his W.O. M. (Word of the Month) poetry section on his blog and have learned so much from the other contributing poets. As usual this has been an excellent interview, thanks Julie and David!

  66. Sharalyn Edgeberg

    Thank you for sharing. Much to learn. Will try some poetry.

  67. Wonderful interview! Thank you for your generosity in sharing your knowledge and kindness!

  68. Thank you, David, for the terrific interview — a special treat for poetry month! And thank you, Julie, for dividing into sections so that we can quickly come back to the parts we’d like to hear again.

  69. Thank you, Julie and David, for all of the effort you put into this interview. I am currently working on a rhyming picture book, so all of this great information could not be more timely for me!

  70. Loved hearing about poetry and rhyme! Thank you!

  71. Great interview.
    Thank you so much!

  72. Thanks, Julie and David. This is a topic dear to my heart. Happy Poetry Month!

  73. Thanks for the great interview Julie. And thank you David for your words of wisdom. It was nice to get to know you. We love your books.

  74. Wonderful interview! Thanks a bunch for all the words of wisdom.

  75. What a wonderful interview and great advice!

  76. What an excellent resource! Thank you!

  77. Awesome! Thanks!!

  78. Thanks so much for sharing this! I’ve been scared off writing rhyming text so I am especially interested in the part of the interview that deals with writing rhyming picture books vs. poetry.

  79. I especially liked David’s final advice–believe in yourself and your work (I might have paraphrased that a bit). Although we’d all like to be published, if you make that your only goal, rejection letters become frustrating “slaps in the face.” I look for those “glowing” rejection letters (the hand-written comments). If an editor takes the time to write on the form, or to write an entire letter, then I know I’ve made an impression–and that’s quite the praise. Like he said, look for the little things. Write from your heart. Write for yourself. Publishing is the frosting on the cake!

  80. As a former Kindergarten Teacher, I can say that reading poetry with and teaching kids to write poetry is incredibly valuable and satisfying (for ALL parties involved). Thanks for reinforcing the value.

  81. What a great interview! Thank you Julie and David for sharing such great information.

  82. I’m a little late to chime in, but thanks for all the great info. Writing poetry is fun and it’s nice to see that it is still something possible to do!

  83. Thanks for the great information & interview!

  84. Thanks for sharing David’s great wisdom and experience with us. I absolutely love “When Cows Come Home”!

  85. Thank you for your expertise, time, and the valuable information.

  86. Christine Connolly

    I appreciate the sage advice.

  87. I enjoyed the interview. What David said about writing poems for 3 years to learn to write poetry I found so interesting. I have a strong desire to write poetry but feel like I don’t quite know where to start. Now I’m thinking that reading a lot and jumping in and starting to write poetry is the way to go – practice, practice. Also, heartening to hear that such a successful author was initially rejected 67 times but finally made it. “Rejections prove you’re doing something” – I like that!

  88. I can’t believe it took me all month to listen to these great interviews. Julie, you and David made great companions as I made dinner this evening. Thank you for sharing him with us.

  89. I used one of David’s books as a reference for one of my mss – which had nothing to do with poetry but everything to do with cowboys! I still have a lot to learn about writing poetry, so these videos are bookmarked!

  90. What a wonderful interview! I always wish that I was more of a poet when I am revising a picture book, and a poet’s prose always stands out. My 5yo daughter wrote her first two poems this month and she inspired me to write my first poems since my school days. You can’t be afraid of poetry when your 5yo is doing it! We will definitely be reading some of David’s poetry in the coming days. Thanks so much for your time and wisdom, David! And thanks, Julie for the pertinent questions!

  91. Kathy Bloomfield

    I am way late in listening and commenting, but this was excellent as usual. Thank you, Julie, for providing such great resources. Thank you, David, for bringing poetry a bit closer for all of us. I particularly appreciate your speaking about the Common Core Standards which also keep me up at night!

  92. Thank you Julie and David for this insightful and delightful interview. I enjoy writing rhyming picture books and have always been drawn to rhythm and rhyme. Wonderful content, very helpful!

  93. Fantastic interview. And thanks for breaking down! I’ve bookmarked for future reference 🙂

  94. Thank you, David, for sharing your knowledge and experience – I think that’s also known as wisdom! I am bookmarking this – and I see so many others are doing the same. Julie, how will you top yourself next month?….you continue to amaze me.

  95. Love to hear writers talk about their passion for writing. I find this interview so inspiring because I am a poet and beginner PB author. I am also an elementary school teacher who’s been in the trenches looking for the books we need to fill the gaps in the curriculum, I hope to authentically incorporate the Core Curriculum Standards in my writing! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  96. Looking forward to listening to the your advice. Thanks!

  97. Thanks for sharing this great experience with us.

  98. Thanks so much for the great interview. I’m bookmarking it for the future.

  99. What a depth of knowledge about the picture book market! I enjoyed hearing his insights on writing. Thanks for agreeing to cross of #36 with Julie.

  100. I think I forgot to comment again! i had read this interview a while back. Now I am here to say what a fabulous interview this was. i especially appreciate the videos broken into bite size pieces.

  101. I forgot, gee hope I am intime. He so interesting. apreciated and loved the video links, thanks Julie.

  102. What a wealth of information about writing poetry for kids — themes, common core, writing short, reading aloud . . . the list goes on! And perseverence! I carried my first rejection letter with me at the front of my Franklin Planner when I was slaving away in the corporate world as a reminder that there was more to my life than marketing insurance products. It was a good letter, too, requesting more of my work. Kept my dream alive. Thanks, David, for sharing all this treasure (as pirates would call it) with all of us, especially the poets who are so often told, “poetry doesn’t sell,” “no poetry, please.” Thanks, Julie!

  103. Awesome! I do sometimes write in rhyme even though editors say not to. And guess what, my rhyming PB, DON’T LET THE BEDBUGS BITE! came out last October! Onward to more! Thanks for the help.

  104. Wonderful interview! I learned some valuable information that I feel will help transform my attempts at poetry into something worth reading. Thank you for sharing another wonderful author and poet with us.

  105. Wow, Julie your great questions and the fabulous answers makes this interview rock! I have been enjoying David’s blog. Thank you again for all the great info!

  106. What a great interview! I’m saving this to listen to again! Thank you!

  107. Thank you, David for taking the time to share with us. I particularly enjoyed your words of wisdom/encouragement about not giving up. I believe I have an empty picture frame in my closet and the perfect rejection letter to go in it.

  108. David thank you for sharing your wisdom. I’ve enjoyed what I heard so far, and look forward to listening to the rest soon.:)

  109. Thanks for this great interview and encouragement!

  110. This month’s post went above & beyond, Julie & David! Thank you both so much!

  111. Thank you so much for a great interview!!

  112. Thank you! Looking forward to giving it a go.

  113. Kenzie Benbrook

    Thanks for the awesome interview and info, I love rhyming picture books, one day hope to publish one myself, sigh . . .

  114. Hello to all who have been kind enough to leave comments. April was a busy month and I’ve fallen seriously behind in correspondence! I’ve just sat down and read all these delightful comments and want to say again how much I appreciate your responses. Julie, you made me look good! David

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