Writing Tip — Favorite Stories — The Mysteries of Harris Burdick


I discovered this book when I was working as a children’s librarian in a public library many years ago. If you are looking for inspiration, especially for a work of speculative fiction, look no further than The Mysteries of Harris Burdick.

In the introduction, the author uses a very intriguing gimmick to explain the source of the book. Thirty years before the book’s publication, Harris Burdick walked into the office of editor Peter Wenders.

“Mr. Burdick explained that he had written fourteen stories and had drawn many pictures for each one. He’d brought with him just one drawing from each story, to see if Wenders liked his work.

“Peter Wenders was fascinated by the drawings. He told Burdick he would like to read the stories that went with them as soon as possible. The artist agreed to bring the stories the next morning. He left fourteen drawings with Wenders. But he did not return the next today. Or the day after that. Harris Burdick was never heard from again.”

The title of the story and one line accompanies each picture. The fourteen illustrations should kindle the imagination of any writer, even one like me who has no talent for speculative fiction. My favorite pictures are “Under the Rug”, “A Strange Day in July”, “Another Place, Another Time”, “Captain Tory”, and “The House on Maple Street”.

I introduced the book to the tweens in a writing workshop I am leading at a library. The pictures immediately grabbed their attention, and I challenged them to write a story based on one of them

If you try to order it from Amazon, don’t be put off by the product details that state it’s a picture book. It is, but one for writers of any age. The Chronicles of Harris Burdick is a collection of short stories by fourteen different writers based on the pictures. If you want to get inspired, don’t read Chronicles. It will limit your imagination.

If you get the book and get inspired, let me know.

2 thoughts on “Writing Tip — Favorite Stories — The Mysteries of Harris Burdick

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  1. Harris Burdick stories are so wonderful! They actually were a huge factor in making me love writing when I was in elementary and middle school. I am so glad to see someone else enjoying them! I know I wrote stories for tThe Harp and Archie Smith Boy Wonder (I think that is the title– it is the boy in bed), but I used that book for six years. It is such a fun tool.

    1. My favorite illustration is “Captain Tory” because I love anything about the sea, and a lot is going on in that photo a writer can sink her pen into. The fog, the waterfront, and the way the captain is holding onto the boy, like the boy doesn’t want to be there.

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