Harrison’s Commandments

William N. Harrison generously provided his expertise when I tapped him for information to include in the new Screenwriter’s & Playwright’s Market guidebook, which is scheduled to appear in bookstores at the end of 2008. Harrison is a cofounder of the creative writing program at the University of Arkansas. He wrote the original script for Rollerball, as well as Mountains of the Moon and A Shining Season for television. Though he retired from the university a decade ago, he continues to write and was pleased to reiterate his advice for aspiring screenwriters.

David Sanders, one of Harrison’s former MFA students, recently unearthed a page of lecture notes distributed by classmate Lex Williford in 1984. Playfully titled “Harrison’s Commandments,” Williford’s list summarizes their instructor’s admonitions, glossed with a little sarcasm. Harrison’s recommendations for writers remain a model for excellence, and Williford deserves thanks for allowing me to share them.

Click on the image below to download and print the larger PDF.

Lex WillifordLex Williford holds an MFA from the University of Arkansas. His book, Macauley’s Thumb, was co-winner of the 1993 Iowa School of Letters Award for Short Fiction. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in American Literary Review, Fiction, Glimmer Train Stories, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Kansas Quarterly, Laurel Review, Natural Bridge, Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market 2002, Poets & Writers, Quarterly West, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, Southern Review, Sou’wester, StoryQuarterly, Tameme, Virginia Quarterly Review, and Witness. His stories have been anthologized in W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction, The Iowa Award: The Best Stories 1991-2000, The Best of Witness: 1987-2004, The Eloquent Short Story, and elsewhere. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment of the Arts, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Blue Mountain Center, the Centrum Foundation, the Djerassi Foundation, the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, the Ragdale Foundation, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Villa Montalvo, the Wurlitzer Foundation, and Yaddo. He is coeditor, with Michael Martone, of the popular Scribner Anthology of Contemporary Short Fiction, as well as the new Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Nonfiction. Currently the director of the new online MFA at the University of Texas at El Paso, he also teaches in UTEP’s on-campus bilingual writing program.

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