Oyster River Pages: Who are the artists and writers who have made you who you are?
Michael Harshbarger: Lowis Lowry lit a fire in me when I was young. I grew up on Tolkien, Crichton, and Grisham. In my adult life I have drawn inspiration from both novelists and internet-based writers. As for the latter, Brian Phillips, Shea Serrano, Kaleb Horton, Jeb Lund, Jon Bois, David Roth, Rembert Browne, Claire McNear, and Drew Magary are very close to my heart. Serrano even took the time to answer my emails when I first started really pursuing writing. It meant the world to me. It still does.
I could list a thousand writers that I admire or am blown away by. Dave Eggers, Mary Karr, Terry Pratchett, George Saunders, Joan Didion, Stephen King, Douglas Adams, Denis Johnson, Hunter S. Thompson, Philip K. Dick, DFW, Ray Bradbury, Lincoln Michel, David Simon, Christopher Moore, Bill Bryson, Cormac McCarthy, Jon Krakauer, Tom Perrotta. Each one of these writers means a great deal to me. I will always be fascinated by regular humans that are so phenomenal at writing. It's like a superhero trait to me.
ORP: What are the lenses that shape your worldview?
MH: I think being skeptical is the most important thing a human being can be. It should be the default position for all of us. There are too many charlatans and liars and yarn-spinners out there to count. Demand evidence and logical reasoning and, most of the time, you will get as close to the truth of the matter as is possible. Also, treat people decently.
ORP: What’s the most important thing you’ve read/seen lately?
MH: The People are Going to Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore by Jared Yates Sexton. And not just because he is a fellow Hoosier. It's essential reading for those trying to figure out how the current political landscape came about.
ORP: What’s your least favorite word?
ORP: What’s your favorite thing that you’ve created?
MH: The first piece I had published in a literary journal was about my grandmother who is suffering from Alzheimer's. It's called "Wilma" and I'm very proud of it. It was the first time I felt my thoughts transferring directly to the page without any bumps or false starts. I didn't have to go searching for the right words. They were just there.
ORP: What do you want to read/see more of in the world?
MH: I want to see more of our best young--or not so young--writers keep their jobs, or find jobs that pay them enough to allow them to share their vital talent with the world. The whole "pivot to video" thing that's going on is maddening. Younger content consumers want to read. They especially want to read great writing. That's why I am very thankful for places like Oyster River Pages that collect and publish good writing.
ORP: How do you pay it forward?
MH: I fail at it everyday, but I have found that defaulting to kindness will allow you to help others in whatever situation you find yourself in.
ORP: What is the space that has shaped you the most?
MH: Books. They are the only form of writing training I've ever had. Besides my family, they are my favorite things on Earth. I can't imagine not being able to read books. That's why, to me, Bradbury's masterpiece is the scariest story of all time.
ORP: You’ve just written your autobiography. What’s the title?
MH: Are You Sure You Meant to Pick up this Book? by Michael Harshbarger.
Michael Harshbarger lives in Southern Indiana with his wife and two children. He reads as much as possible and attempts to write whenever he can find time. In addition to his day job, Harshbarger writes about sports for FanSided.com. He believes the best axiom in the world comes from Cinderella: Have courage and be kind.
Read his essay, "The Unexpected Baby Chronicles (Part 3)," which appears in Issue 1.