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‘Tragedies & Joys’

Harshman: Life experience key to being a writer

February 27, 2013
By SARAH HARMON - Staff Writer , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

West Virginia Poet Laureate and local children's author Marc Harshman paid a visit to Steenrod Elementary School on Tuesday to inspire students to let their imaginations run wild when writing stories.

During a reading of some of Harshman's children's books including "Only One" and "The Storm," he described to students where he gets inspiration to write his stories.

"I present many of my picture books and tell the stories of their origins and how I came to write them," Harshman said. "I emphasize there are basically three sources, at least for my own books, in that some of my stories are old stories, some come from real life and some are from my imagination - sometimes, I just get lucky."

Article Photos

Photo by Sarah Harmon
West Virginia Poet Laureate and children’s author Marc Harshman, right, reads his book “Only One” with the help of student Trent Thomas at Steenrod Elementary School Tuesday.

The author cited certain steps students can take to be a writer, including obtaining an college education, reading and writing as much as possible and having many life experiences.

"Some of the best advice I've heard to become a writer is to 'go chop wood,' which means you need to live life," Harshman said. "You can't just live in your head. You need to experience the tragedies and joys of other people to be a writer."

Harshman also held writing workshops in the afternoon, during which students read "Only One" and practiced replacing words in the book to make their own version of the story.

"The students all have the ability to do well at whatever they want to do well at and especially, they all have the ability to be a writer," Harshman said.

Harshman has written 11 picture books for children and has won numerous awards in poetry and literature. His books have been published in Spanish, Korean, Danish, and Swedish. His book "Only One" is a Reading Rainbow review title on PBS TV and "The Storm" is a Junior Library Guild selection, a Smithsonian Notable Book for Children, a Children's Book Council Notable Book for Social Studies, and a 1995 Parent's Choice Award recipient.

Harshman is a graduate of Bethany College, Yale University Divinity School and the University of Pittsburgh.

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