The Tap Dancing Elephant Falls Down! Wednesday Lesson 25
I have more good news for RhyPiBoMoers!
We will be having a Q and A with The Meter Maids
Corey Rosen Schwartz and Tiffany Strelitz Haber!
Type The Meter Maids in Google Search
Save your questions concerning rhyme, poetry and picture books for these 2 awesome writers who will answer your questions live in our Facebook Group on May 7th from 8:00 – 9:00 p.m. Central Time.
I will be the moderator and we will take as many questions as we can in the Hour of Rhyme. Put it on your calendar now and make your list.
You must go to their blog The Meter Maids: Learn to rhyme. Or do the time. that is currently on hold as these two are too busy to blog…imagine how wonderful that must be! Their site is loaded with tons and tons of great information about rhyme and poetry in their archived posts. Isn’t that just the best name for a blog!
You must check it out!
Today’s guest blogger is a friend who I met at a conference last fall. She is a powerhouse of energy and so kind and supportive…and busy! She is a very talented artist along with being a successful author of the Ellie McDoodle series.
She is actually the first author I contacted to ask for help finding guest bloggers. Not only did she volunteer on the spot but she gathered names and email addresses of some very impressive friends of hers. She sent them an email with my request and her blessing for the event. I can’t thank her enough for helping me get all this started! I was friends with her on Facebook before we met in person and she is exactly as I pictured her, warm, funny and clever. I am so happy she is here today and I can’t wait to read her rhyming picture book when it is published, which I know it will be!
So, without further ado, I’m honored to present today’s
Golden Quill Guest Blogger
Ruth McNally Barshaw!
Some poetry do’s and lots of do not’s
by Ruth McNally Barshaw
I’m not new to writing rhyme, but I am new to writing rhyme for picture books.
In 1999 as a newly minted AOL Professions chat host (no age/sex/location in our chats), I wandered into a behind-the-curtain forum and posted a little poem. It was answered by another chat host– in rhyme! Magical!! For months we alternated writing rhymes for everyone’s amusement. I fancied myself a decent Shel Silverstein-ish poet.
Boy, was I wrong.
Three years later I got into children’s books.
I absorbed the rules:
1. Don’t write rhyme; editors dislike it
2. If you must write rhyme, avoid near rhyme, bad meter, and convoluted wording.
3. Don’t use Dr. Seuss as your style guide. The work won’t sell.
Afraid, I now avoided rhyme.
As brilliant friends sold stunning rhyme, I thought, “I’m not one of them. Real poets are gifted.” (I’ve always believed greatness in art and music can be taught. Why wouldn’t that also be true of poetry?)
I wrote and illustrated the Ellie McDoodle Diaries and kept busy with a few anything-but-rhyme picture books. If editors didn’t want to read my rhyme, that was just fine; I was busy developing an appreciation for craft and revisions.
But eventually I grew annoyed at the closed, locked, bolted shut doors of the rhymers club.
I decided to learn poetry and rhyme so that if a good rhyming book idea ever came, I could manage it.
I studied anapest and trochee and iambic pentameter. Bought books on poetry and sometimes actually read them. I tried writing a zoo story in rhyme. Failed. But I did not give up.
I analyzed the structure of rhyming books and listened carefully to my poet friends’ advice.
I discovered a few things:
The story needs to have everything a non-rhyme story needs:
– the universal in the specific
– relatable, three-dimensional characters readers care about
– situations the reader can connect with
– interesting writing
– a twist ending
– 12-16 illustratable scenes
– rhythm, patterns, spark
It needs to have a reason to rhyme.
Maybe great rhythm is what it needs, not necessarily rhyme.
It needs sophistication in the rhyme.
Ned held his head in his bed <– boring.
Throw in something about misled, chocolate spread, overhead, riverbed and/or dragon head, and the rhyme perks up a little.
One day a story idea about music fluttered down from the ether. Surely it needed to be in rhyme.
I was determined to create rhyme that wouldn’t embarrass me.
I heard Liz Garton Scanlon ( http://www.lizgartonscanlon.com/ ) say on stage at the SCBWI Wild Wild MidWest Conference in May 2013 that it took her 80 tries to get one stanza in All The World to where she wanted it to be.
If a great writer like Liz needed 80 tries to get one stanza right, then it’s okay for me to take 80 tries to get one line right.
(Actually, it ended up taking 107 tries.)
My manuscript went through vigorous critique group rounds and several brilliant poet friends. Finally I felt it was ready to send to my agent. She likes it and thinks it will sell. Now I’m working on the art, which I hold to the same high standards. We’ll see what happens.
One thing I probably will not do: reread that poetry I wrote in 1999. Considering what I’ve learned over the years, it’s very likely dreck.
Ruth McNally Barshaw is author/illustrator of the 6 Ellie McDoodle Diaries, and is now trying her hand at picture books for younger kids. See her work at http://ruthexpress.com
Thank you Ruth McNally Barshaw!
RhyPiBoMo Daily Lesson: Wednesday, April 23nd
By Angie Karcher © 2014
Rhyming Do’s and Don’ts
Do write rhyming picture books
Do write poetry
Do read, read, read lots of different types of poetry
Do learn how to use poetic techniques in your writing
Do use alliteration
Do use assonance
Do use consonance
Do use hyperbole
Do use imagery
Do use internal rhyme
Do use reverse rhyme
Do use rhyme effectively
Do use punctuation as you would when writing prose
Do set the precedent for the patterns in your poetry in the first stanza
Do find the rhythm of your poem and follow it throughout
Do learn how to use scansion in your revising
Do learn the common rules and names for poetic feet
Do choose an amazingly awesome title
Do write using strong characters
Do write it, put it away for a month, then revisit it for revisions
Do know your target age
Do find your lyrical voice
Do choose delicious words
Do read your poem out loud
Do let others read it out loud
Do mark spots where others get stuck
Do choose multi-syllabic rhyming words
Do write a clever, humorous or poignant ending
Do listen to lots of poetry read out loud
Do write lots and lots and lots of different forms of poetry
Do continue to write every day
Don’t write the typical ABAB rhyme scheme all the time
Don’t use predictable rhyming words
Don’t write sing-songy verse
Don’t try to be Shel or Dr. Seuss…
Don’t ONLY count syllables in your poetry
Don’t submit anything without lots of revision
Don’t mix and mingle many different rhyme schemes within one poem
Don’t mix and mingle many different metric feet within one poem
Don’t be predictable with your story
Don’t forget to write the hook
Don’t forget your story arc
Don’t forget to cut as many words as you possibly can
Don’t forget to write brilliant rhyme
Don’t forget to add conflict to your story
Don’t get stressed over word stress
Don’t think your poetry always has to rhyme
Don’t forget to watch your word count
Don’t give up
There are a few people who have commented jokingly about whether we will have a test on all this material. LOL
Yes, here’s your test…If you know what all this Do’s and Don’t stuff means, you get an A.
I personally have learned what all of this means and then some. If you want to learn something, teach it!
If you don’t understand what everything here means then you are assigned to self-study and to quiz yourself again when you’re done.
Writingworld.com – Eight Things Picture Book Editors Don’t Want
by Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz
POETRY WRITING- DO, DON’Ts by Dr. MC Gupta
Writers Digest:The Do’s and Don’ts of Electronic Poetry Submission
Writing in Rhyme by Laura Backes, Publisher, Children’s Book Insider, the newsletter for Children’s Writers
If you are a rhymer, you may have experienced something similar to this…
Once upon a time there was a children’s author who attended a writing conference where she didn’t know any other writers…
Yes, okay, this story is about me!
I enjoy attending conferences by myself sometimes because I find that I meet so many more people that way. And…I’m not shy, if you haven’t figured that out by now. Throughout the morning, I quickly met new people and I also met a few other rhymers.
There is an instant connection when two rhymers meet. Of course it’s fun to bond and talk about what we do but there is also an odd sort of comfort that occurs. The rhymers in the room tend to stick together.
Why, you ask?
I think it’s because of the tap dancing elephant.
The elephant in the room that tap dances around all the rhyming picture book authors, around all the rhyming poetry authors, and sometimes around the picture book authors in general.
There is definitely a stigma concerning writers who write rhyming picture books.
They think that we are not really writers.
I’m certainly not saying everyone feels this way. But, it is an issue.
As the conference went along, our little group of rhymers grew and we made plans to meet at the wine and cheese book signing that evening.
The wine was flowing and the cheese was aging and we sat and chatted about our craft. It really is the most fun part of going to conferences. A group of other writers asked to sit with us and we all started getting acquainted.
This is how the conversation went:
Them: “So, where are you from?”
Us: “The Land of Rhyme” (no, that’s not really what we said, at least not literally)
Them: “So, what do you write?”
Us: “Rhyming picture books”
Us: “What do you write?”
Them: “YA, MG, Novellas, Fantasy, Dystopia…”
Us: “That’s great! What are you workin……”
Them: “Are you published?”
US: “Not yet”
Them: “Boy, that wine and cheese looks good!”
They were gone…they really like cheese!
We sat there giggling because we knew…they were friends with the tap dancing elephant.
I don’t tell that story to cause friction between writers of different genres. I don’t tell it out of anger or resentment. I tell it because I am ready to dance with the tap dancing elephant, in harmony and maybe she will learn a few steps from me. Maybe she will learn how much I practice my dancing, just like she does.
We don’t get the respect from many people in the business because of the genre we write. I’m pretty thick skinned and maybe a bit obstinate because this didn’t stop me from continuing to write what I love. Rhyme.
In fact, maybe it even challenged me to work harder. My goal is to write and be published in rhyming picture books. It is my passion, my joy and my bliss.
I am now published in children’s non-fiction and in MG biography which I am very proud of. But what I really want to write and focus on is RPBs.
RhyPiBoMo grew from my desire to educate myself and to help improve the quality of rhyming picture books submitted to editors and to improve the credibility and erase the stigma associated with being a writer of rhyme.
It has become so much more than that.
I am shocked every day at the people who email and message me thanking me for hosting RhyPiBoMo. I think rhymers feel that they have found a home here. I am honored and thrilled to be a part of your journey to publication. If this event helps one rhymer become published it has all been worth it!
I have also heard from some who have decided that rhyme is not their cup of tea.
Believe it or not…I am equally as proud of that.
I wanted to help writers decide if this is really what they aspire to do…because when done well it is a spewing beast that will rip your eyeballs out and eat them for dinner! But, I can only imagine that the end result, signing a contract for your first rhyming picture book must be compared to how a prince feels once he has slayed the dragon…scorched, exhausted but exhilarated and proud. Proud to know that it can be done with heart, perseverance, a great critique group and a good rhyming dictionary…and some friends who aren’t afraid of the tap dancing elephants.
As for the tap dancing elephants, last I heard they were tripping over each other, wearing tutus and sobbing in unison…saying something about “I can’t…”
*You will have to read my elephant poem from yesterday’s post for any of this elephant stuff to make sense.
This poem was written in your honor, my rhyming friends!
It’s What I DO!
Don’ts and do’s,
do’s and don’ts.
I wish you would make up your mind!
One minute it’s this,
one minute it’s that.
I’m feeling a tad bit resigned.
I’m darned if I do.
I’m darned if I don’t.
I need all these rhyme facts aligned.
Perfect rhyme’s in,
but slant rhyme’s in too.
I’m starting to feel so behind.
My rhyme’s moving mountains.
I’m not backing down!
Ambition and brute strength combined.
I am a rhymer!
Among the rhyme few,
who choose to be clearly defined.
You write what you like.
I’ll write what you can’t.
I don’t mean to be so unkind.
But darn it I rhyme!
It’s just what I do!
While sitting on my rhyme behind…
So…don’t look down on me
I won’t look down on you
There’s room for us all intertwined.
Rhyme is important
and so hard to do.
When singing, it’s very refined.
By Angie Karcher
Writing Prompt: Write a poem about whether you are a rhymer or not.
Okay, now do everything else on the pledge for today and don’t forget to comment on today’s blog post!
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81 thoughts on “The Tap Dancing Elephant Falls Down! Wednesday”
Ruth, what a welcome surprise to have you as our guest blogger today! I carry so much not only learned from your skillful writing, but to never give up our dreams.
Angie, super poem!
What great lists! I appreciate the do’s and don’ts.
Ruth wrote: “Bought books on poetry and sometimes actually read them.” Oh boy, do I understand that one! Thanks for another fine lesson!
Excellent list of Dos and Don’ts 🙂
So glad you kept at it, Ruth. I hope you find a home for the book soon.
And, Angie, I think we need RhyPiBoMo buttons with an illustration of a tap-dancing elephant to hand out at conferences!
I love that idea! LOL What does it say? “Watch out for the Tap Dancing Elephants” or “I’m a Rhymer, Would you like to dance?”
I really am not trying to be controversial…I do want to express that again…sincerely, I’m not!
But, I do think there is room for more conversations about the subject. : )
Angie, I loved your poem! Writing in rhyme is hard work, but you’ve made it fun to try our hardest.
Thank goodness for poets who submit rhyming poetry so the art doesn’t die!
Ruth…thank you for trying 80+ times to get that one line just right…you are an inspiration! Angie…those are three of the most important words for us writers…NEVER GIVE UP!
I love this line: If you want to learn something, teach it!
Exactly how and why I was a tutor for my Research Methods Statistics class!
I like the guidelines of Do’s and Don’ts and it’s always fascinating to read someone’s writing path.
I think the do’s and don’t sums up RhyPiBoMo very well. The do’s are something I am working toward. Thanks!
Love the dos and don’ts. Thanks!
Love the tap dancing elephant! 🙂
Angie, You are our balcony person! You cheer us on and applaud our efforts. Thank you!
Great pep talk and encouragement from both of you– thanks!
Iwant to be an old timer rhymer!
Very good! The post is about how I feel about some authors, no matter what their genre. Writers are very similar to artists once they have made the grade. Some are very reluctant to help others who are climbing the creative ladder. There is a vast amount of snobbery in this world of writing and painting. There are exceptions to that thought though as we have seen this month by all the dedicated, wonderful writers who have given up their time to be guest bloggers. I love your poem Angie, it just sums up how you feel.
The rhyming Dos and Don’ts are excellent tips. Thank you Ruth and Angie. ~Suzy Leopold
“Bought books on poetry and sometimes actually read them.” Ruth, I’m glad I’m not the only one who only sometimes reads her reference books. 🙂
Ruth’s story is encouraging. I relate to your poem, Angie. 🙂