Harryman was born and raised in Orange, California and studied at the University of California at Santa Barbara and San Francisco State University. In 1978, she co-founded the Poets' Theater in San Francisco. The theatre survived until 1984 and staged experimental plays, including a number written by Harryman.
She has published nine books of poems, plays and essays, including Animal Instincts : Prose, Plays, Essays (1989), and There Never Was a Rose Without a Thorn (1995) and a novel called Gardener of Stars (2001). Harryman lives in Berkeley, California and teaches at Wayne State University.