The Tap Dancing Elephant Falls Down! Wednesday

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!

Meter Maids

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!




        Rhypibomo Guest Blogger Badge    Ruth M Barshaw 1


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?)

Ruth M Barshaw 2

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 ( ) 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

Thank you Ruth McNally Barshaw!



RhyPiBoMo Daily Lesson: Wednesday, April 23nd
By Angie Karcher © 2014
Lesson 25


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.



Resources: – Eight Things Picture Book Editors Don’t Want
by Penny Lockwood Ehrenkranz

POETRY WRITING- DO, DON’Ts by Dr. MC Gupta–DO-DONTs-winner


Writers Digest:The Do’s and Don’ts of Electronic Poetry Submission


Absolute Rhyme
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”

Them: “Oh”

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
© 2014




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

  1. A small part of me thinks I’d like to dance with the elephant, but most of me is quite happy riding this elephant through RhyPiBoMo while you all are dancing with it. We’ll see what May brings…Maybe I Will.

    • Thank you, Rebecca! Hearing that the greats don’t just write (or draw) something worthwhile instantly gave me the courage to try writing books for kids. And then, a few years later, hearing it again gave me the courage to keep trying at writing rhyming picture books.
      None of us are born knowing this stuff.

  2. Am I a rhymer? I’m really not sure.
    A wordsmith, a poet? Will I endure
    To see my work published and read by so many?
    No, my rhyme closet’s empty. I do not have any.

    Well, not today, at least. We’ll see. Thanks, Angie, and thanks, Ruth. Your “a story needs” paragraph is a great summary.

  3. Rhyme and meter come naturally to me -but they aren’t fun for the most part. I enjoy prose more – but LOVE using poetic devices in my writing! And KNOW my prose will be stronger and more beautiful and flowing from all this! Thanks for working BOTH halves of my brain this month! (I may even have a third part that’s been working that I didn’t even know existed LOL)

    Great post!!

  4. I have a question for today’s guest, Ruth Barshaw. Is sketching something that one is just naturally good at, or can it be learned?

    • Hi, Kristi! I’ve read varying opinions on this, and have talked to some famous illustrators about it too. Though some will argue against it, I’m not alone in my firm belief: Anyone can learn to draw well. It just takes time and lots and lots of concentrated effort.
      Some people say that it also requires talent. I say no. Some people claim I started higher on the “talented” level — that people who draw well are somehow born with a special knowledge, or even just a predisposition that sets their work apart. I am not sure if that’s true or not. I’m not an expert on brain studies, but I am a researcher and have dug deep into this subject a few times.
      I don’t have any of my early childhood art. I do not remember being told by anyone that I had special talent for art until I was in third grade. By then I loved to draw, maybe as much as some other kids loved to run, or loved to play baseball — things I liked, didn’t practice much, didn’t *understand* how to do better, and so wasn’t much good at — and so didn’t excel at.
      Lucky for me, my art ability was recognized by a couple of teachers who asked me to draw things for their bulletin boards. I’d drawn one giant cartoon of Dennis the Menace for a group project and one of the other kids begged to take it home. Third grade is the first I can recall of anyone wanting my art. I remember working really hard in second grade to develop my art (and also to grow my hair long). The working hard on art part, I’ve done ever since.
      I see amazing art done by very young children. Maybe they really are specially talented. Or maybe they just have smart people in their lives who value art and tell the kids why what they did is special. I believe it’s learning WHY that makes one a better artist. And, of course, repeated concerted effort.
      If you want to read more about how to become a better artist, check out Betty Edward’s Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. You’ll be astounded at her students’ growth in mere days. But it shouldn’t be surprising: They have someone telling them how to see things differently, WHY certain things work and others don’t. You can teach yourself how to draw. You’ll learn faster with help.

    • Kristi, I believe sketching can be learned and like many things some people probably have more natural ability than others. A great way to start is by borrowing or buying how-to-draw books & study/practice the basics. The more you do it, the easier it gets & the better you get!

    • Kristi, I think a great way to start sketching is to just draw everything around you.

      I recommend reading Danny Gregory’s book “Everything Matters.” It inspired me to start sketching after not drawing for over a decade!!

  5. Thanks for the inspiration! Great Do’s and Dont’s …. I’m not giving up until my passionately rhyming picture books are published!

  6. I love lists! I get satisfaction from going down and checking things off. Check, check, check and plenty left to work on.
    Thanks again.

  7. As I…. write on!…. I encourage myself…. I imagine my book on the store bookshelf…. but a little devil on my shoulder says “wanna be rhymer”…. she’s right, I feel
    stuck like a runner with a run away timer… filled with panic, falling flat before the finish line… brushing off my ego… pretending to be fine… by the sidelines I hear family writers cheering… go, go, go, go! A band-aid for my ego.

  8. Enjoyed Ruth’s post. I like rhyme, but I wouldn’t call myself a rhymer. I’ve been writing free verse poetry for many years for myself. Thanks, Angie, for inviting me on this rhyme journey!

  9. I think a big part of the rhyming issue is that it looks like it should be easy! And as we all know, it is far from that. Thanks for your post, Ruth. Loved the do’s and don’ts list and the Elephant poem, Angie! 😉

  10. Thanks for today’s great Do’s and Don’ts, Angie, and for handing us even more wonderful links to gradually sink our teeth into. I fear that I am a Rhymer, maybe mainly still poems for now, not fully-fledged PBs, but still a Rhymer. Thanks to you, I feel that I am a better Rhymer than at the start of RhyPiBoMo. ❤️😊

  11. Thanks for the post from Ruth and your good list of Dos and Don’ts. I love the Meter Maids site and have read several of their posts and subscribed. I write in rhyme when the story comes to me that way and nothing else will work. A lot of what I write doesn’t come to me that way, but when something does, I can’t do anything else. I am learning a lot this month. Thanks.

  12. Would love to meet you in person someday Angie! Your personality just shines through all your posts and it’s electrifying. I had a rhyming ms critiqued by an editor at a conference and she basically didn’t like what she read. She asked if I still wanted to write in rhyme and without hesitation I said, “yes.” That critique made me want to write in rhyme even more to prove her wrong. So I’m really glad you started RhyPiBoMo so I can learn as much as I can. I’m behind in reading the blogs but thank goodness they are there for reference later. Thank you for all you do!

  13. Thank you, Ruth, for the do’s and do not’s that you encountered in your writing. I admire your perseverance 🙂

    Angie, thank you for the poem written in honor of us RhyPiBoMoers-you are the greatest! I am so excited about the upcoming Q & A with the Meter Maids-love’em. I thank you, too, for the do’s and do not’s. I hope to tap dance right along side that elephant when I’m through here 🙂

  14. I thought I was a rhymer before RhyPiBoMo
    But there’s still so much stuff that I just do not know
    I do love me a good rhyme, but I’m a hater of the rule.
    Can I really do it and not look like one more fool?

    I love luscious language that feels good on my tongue
    Writing it is a delight and keeps me feeling young.
    I adore alliteration and assonance, as well
    Onomatopoeia, well, you’re just super swell!

    So I’ll write and revise until it sounds sublime
    And throw in a good rhyme from time to time.
    So, back to the question – do I think I’m a rhymer?
    I think that right now, I’ll say I’m a part-timer!

  15. There was so much good information and advice today. I especially liked Ruth’s remark about not going back to read old poetry. Every so often my mom brings out poetry I wrote when I was younger and I see such a difference between the writings of the me of then and the me of now.

  16. Enjoyed the post. Like the meter maid website. It was nice to read about another author, and I liked the do’s and don’ts of poetry

  17. Today’s poem is inspired by Jane Yolen’s “Welcome to…” Books.

    Welcome to my mind
    A free mind
    A sound mind
    A poet’s mind
    A revising all the time mind
    It writes in free verse
    In terse verse
    In song verse
    With perfect rhyme
    And near rhyme
    Internal rhyme
    In 4/4 time.

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