It’s Finally PiBo Time! Sunday Day 29
Congrats to the Daily Prize
Winners for Last Week
Sunday Kristi Veitenheimer won
A Troop is a Group of Monkeys donated by Julie Hedlund
Monday Gayle C. Krause won
Dozens of Cousins donated by Shutta Crum
Tuesday Nicole Busenbark won
My Father’s House donated by Kathi Appelt
Wednesday Robyn Campbell won
Toddler Two-Step donated by Kathi Appelt
Thursday Jane Healy won
Barnyard Song donated by Rhonda G. Greene
Friday Heather Reading won
A Critique donated by Jill Esbaum
Saturday Judy Rubin won
No Pirates Allowed! Said Liberty Lou donated by Rhonda G. Greene
Congrats to all the winners!
Email me your address asap at
We had our last Rhyming Party yesterday…it was so much fun and the rhyme was korny and quirky and entertaining! I’m thinking we will continue to have them once a month. Go to the Facebook Group Page to see more of my favorite comments from the party…Here is a sampling.
Lucky Williams “Charlotte Dixon, you speedy vixen!”
Lucky Williams “I lost in this combat–did I really guess wombat?”
Angie Karcher “Charlotte is on fire sang the town crier!”
Danna York “Big Will fan here~ I dream he looks like Richard Gere”
Jane Heitman Healy “Slick Willy sells used cars downtown, not plays acted in the round”
Jane Heitman Healy “Pay fees, get fleas”
Angie Karcher “Lucky is lucky tonight…and don’t sub to a poetry contest that will give you fleas…Please!”
Danna York “Good night, good night! ~Parting is such sweet sorrow~That I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.~Juliette”
The prize winners were Charlotte Dixon and Jane Heitman Healy!
Today’s guest blogger is a busy lady! She is a very successful author of many award-winning picture books, a talented illustrator and a Regional Advisor for SCBWI in Michigan. She is also teaching several up-coming picture book classes…please consider signing up for them. If I wasn’t already attending the WOW Retreat this summer, I would definitely sign up for the PB and J course! What a yummy name!
I know these classes will be wonderful! I was fortunate enough to meet her at a conference last spring and I am so happy she’s here to give us some more writing scoop!
So, without further ado, I’m honored to present today’s
Golden Quill Guest Blogger
Leslie will be running a picture book intensive with Alexandra Penfold
(agent from Upstart Crow Literary) and partnering in a pb track workshop
in Orlando on June 6 & 7. More info at florida.scbwi.org
And she’ll be
running a workshop called PB&J (Picture Books and All That Jazz) with
author/teacher Darcy Pattison at Highlights June 13-15.
I remember distinctly finding out that writing in rhyme meant more than just counting syllables.
DUH you might think, but for me it wasn’t that long ago. How could I have not known this? Because I was not paying attention to good rhyming text and what makes it work.
Don’t settle on rhyme as a way to tell your story without a lot of thought. Try to write the same story idea out in prose. This is a good exercise to make sure you have an actual story to tell and are not just being seduced by a few rhyming lines that popped into your head. Make sure you have a strong character, a story arc, a satisfying resolution and good visual possibilities. If you do not find these things, then perhaps what you’ve written is not a rhyming pb but rather a child’s poem? Does the rhyming version have information that the prose version does not? That could be an indicator of the dreaded forced rhyme–putting in information to make a rhyme that is not necessary to the story.
Writing in rhyme can mean hours playing with one or two lines or even one or two words. It is sometimes tedious and frustrating. But if rhyme is still calling to you, I’d encourage you to give it a try. Playing with words is fun and it can be surprising what comes up when you force yourself to work within limits.
To those of you who feel you don’t know enough about rhyme to write rhyme—I say, PISH POSH! You don’t have to consciously know the correct terms for all the rhyming patterns and rules just as you don’t need to consciously know all the rules about writing in order to write prose. It can be helpful if you understand some of the whys and wherefores, but if all the terminology and rules make you feel like you are going to bolt, there is hope. We can learn intuitively, almost by osmosis, if we do a lot of reading and analyzing. It still means work on our part but it feels less intimidating.
Take a few rhyming books that you like, type up the words and mark out the pattern of accented and unaccented syllables. Pay attention. See what the author has done and where the patterns vary. In all likelihood the pattern will vary here and there, especially at the beginning of a line but the main body of each line should fall into the same pattern.
Notice that phrases often end with an accent on the last word as in “to the TOP” or “on the FENCE”. Notice that a particular word can start with an unaccented syllable but then turn around and function as an accented syllable depending on its placement.
Notice which lines end with an accented beat. Notice that sometimes a line or phrase ends in a feminine upbeat, and its rhyming partner should do the same, creating a fun unexpected rhyme as in this example from Janie Bynum’s Altoona Baboona:
ate peas with a spoona.
Some lines complete a thought or sentence as in Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault’s Chicka Chicka Boom Boom:
Skit skat skoodle doot.
Flip flop flee.
Everybody running to the coconut tree.
And some lines will carry a thought over to the next line as in this example from Mary Ann Hoberman’s Seven Silly Eaters:
He did not like his milk served hot.
He liked it warm…
and he would not
Drink it if he was not sure
it was the proper temperature.
Watch the author’s punctuation and placement of words. Do these things add to any feelings in the story? Are spaces added or are all lines rigidly flush left? What do the extra spaces do? Do they make the reader pause? Do they create tension or humor?
Pay attention to the stanzas throughout a piece. Are they always the same number of lines? Are they broken up with a refrain here and there or is it the exact same pattern over and over again?
Does the rhyming story have any fun words or invented words? What words would a kid want to say out loud when being read to?
From my newest book, Big Pigs:
Blip. Blop. Bloop. Three pigs sank into the mud…
And from Big Chickens:
The chickens pwocked, flocked and rocked.
Most of my books are not in rhyme but I use a lot of internal rhyme and rhythm. In this way I’ve sneaked my way into being a rhymer. If you are unsure of yourself, consider slipping in a rhyming refrain or a repeated line of rhyme in an otherwise prose text.
This is all so much more than counting syllables. But reading and paying attention to books is fun, right? It hardly feels like work.
Children’s author and illustrator Leslie Helakoski is the author of eight award winning picture books such as Big Chickens, Woolbur, and Fair Cow. Her books, known for their word play and humor, have won acclaim from Junior Library Guild, Kirkus, Book Sense Picks, and were nominated for honors in over 20 states. She has illustrated her three most recent books, including her newest release, Big Pigs. She lives near Kalamazoo, Michigan where she is a Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
my website is helakoskibooks.com, my youtube channel with book trailers is http://www.youtube.com /user/lesliehelakoski
Thank you Leslie Helakoski!
RhyPiBoMo Daily Lesson: Sunday, April 27th
By Angie Karcher © 2014
We have finally made it to the PiBo part of this writing challenge…the Picture Book part! YAY!
It has been a long month of learning how to create the musical, lyrical, artistic words…now we must go back to the basic rules for writing picture books. We only have a week for this part so you will have to study more in this area if you are a new writer. Many people offer classes and there are lots of books out there on how to write picture books. Ask around before signing up for any class…get recommendations from friends!
My favorite resource book by far is Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul.
Courses that I can recommend based on my personal experience or from recommendations of friends that have taken them…
Mira Reisberg offers The Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books
I have personally taken this course and it is phenomenal! Mira is so thorough and generous with her information. She is known as “The Picture Book Whisperer” as she has many students that have been published after studying with her. I am now friends with Mira and she is very supportive and encouraging to her students. Highly Recommended!
Susanna Leonard Hill offers the Making Picture Book Magic Course
Highlight’s Foundation Writing Workshops
I know there are more wonderful courses out there. Please mention any you have taken and would recommend in your comment today. Thanks!
Who are you writing your book for?
If you can’t answer this question…stop!
You must go and research at least a dozen other well-received picture books as similar to your manuscript as you can find and study them.
Type the text out and watch for all the things we have studied this month. You also must see what age group it is suggested for and what the word count is.
These are both VERY IMPORTANT!
There are a few easy ways to do this research.
Do you know what AR is?
AR stands for Accelerated Reading and it is a program that schools use to encourage children to read. This system categorizes books into age groups by content, reading difficulty vocabulary and other educational factors.
A student is given a reading goal, (a number) that he/she must meet at the end of a desired period of time. At my son’s school they must reach their goal each grading period. The goal is typically increased unless a child is struggling to make the goal.
It is a fairly controversial topic and there are great points on both side of the fence but ultimately, the goal is to get kids reading…and that’s a good thing.
I tell you about this program because as a writer, you can access their system to research target age and word count in your research.
AR Book Finder
Here is the information for Leslie’s book Doggone Feet!
AR Quiz No. 157944 EN
Description:As the household changes from a single man to a man with a wife and children, a dog learns to adjust to and enjoy each new member of the family.
AR Quiz details for Doggone Feet
ATOS Book Level: 2.9 (grade 2, 9 months)
Interest Level: Lower Grades (LG K-3)
AR Points: 0.5 (the child will get half a point for reading and taking a quiz for this book) There is a scoring system for the quiz that plays into the points achieved.
Rating: 3.5 (3.5 out of 4 stars by readers)
Word Count: 532
Topic – Subtopic: Animals-Dogs; Interpersonal Relationships-Family
You can also use Amazon.com for a quick reference
Amazon will give you target age and page count but not word count.
Amazon’s listing for Doggone Feet
Age Range: 4 – 7 years
Grade Level: Preschool – 2
Hardcover: 40 pages
I spent quite a while reading articles and trying to come up with a definitive answer for word counts and the best I can do is average the numbers from all the articles I read as there are many answers to the question, “How many words should a picture book have?” The best answer should be what word counts the best-selling books have so keep researching. If I had to give you one number it would be 800. Picture books should be 800 words or less in today’s market.
This is a chart I came up with but none of it is set in stone…just a suggestion.
CATEGORIES GRADES Avg. Word Ct.
PreK Picture Books age 4 and under PreK 300
Early Picture Books age 5/6 K/Grade 1 500
New Reader Picture Books age 7/8 Grades 1/2 800
Non-fiction Picture Books K Grade 3 800
Non-fiction Picture Books Grades 4/6 1000
Non-fiction Picture Books Grades 7/8 1500 & Up
Remember, recently In Bad Bye Good Bye, Deborah Underwood did it in 78 words! And it’s marvelous!!!
There are lots and lots and lots of techniques you can use for reducing your word count. I will give you a good list to start with and some resources to help you continue your efforts to chop it down to size!
Words to eliminate: (if at all possible and remain the same story)
What to remove:
□ repetitive descriptions
□ words that tell and don’t show
□ words that get in the illustrator’s way
□ wasted words – these are the words you add to get the rhythm right but don’t add to the story
□ passive verbs
□ emotion words – the illustrator does this
□ unnecessary dialogue
□ if it doesn’t move the story forward, take it out
□ passive verbs
Margot Finke – So You Want to Write a Picture Book?
Cutting Your Word Count: Five Words to Chop by Nina Whittaker
Tips for Cutting Word Count by Kaylee Baldwin
Writing Prompt:CHOP HALF YOUR STORY
Print out your manuscript
Take a black sharpie and mark through every other word throughout the entire manuscript.
Now go back and tweak it…see if you can add back the bare word minimum and make your story understandable…This isn’t the version you want to submit to an editor but it will show you what you can do without and what you decide, as the author, needs to be there.
Writing Prompt:150 WORDS
Choose a manuscript and rewrite it, telling the whole story in 150 words.
Yes…I said 150 words!
Those 150 words are the base for your story. Now decide on a word count goal. Add back in what you NEED and nothing you don’t!
Okay, now do everything else on the pledge for today and don’t forget to comment on today’s blog post!
RhyPiBoMo PledgeRhyPiBoMo Pledge Please comment ONLY ONE TIME below for a chance to win today’s prize! Prizes will be drawn by Random.com next Sunday for the previous week. To be eligible for a prize you must be a registered participant and comment after each days lessons.
64 thoughts on “It’s Finally PiBo Time! Sunday”
I loved this line by Leslie Helakoski, “I’ve sneaked my way into being a rhymer.” I’ll have to give that a try.
Great suggestions for cutting word count. WIll try that today. And thanks for Dozens of Cousins. 🙂
Congrats to all the winners this week!
Leslie, huge fan of your work! Woolbur still makes me laugh on every read. Guess it’s the free spirit in me. LOL!
Angie, Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul is a treasure trove of a writing resource!
https://www.renaissance.com/Store/ is an outstanding AR resource.
Great advice, Leslie! Great information, Angie!
And a huge “thank you” to Angie & Rhonda for the book Barnyard Song!
Great information, Leslie – and I love your books! Angie, tough job cutting words, but such great advice – thanks to you both!
Thank you, thank you. Every post this month has left me with so much to ponder and then apply to a pesky manuscript. I really appreciate your generous insight.
Thanks for the tips very encouraging Leslie. Great info once again Angie
Love that baboona/spoona rhyme, Leslie. And good exercises for cutting words, Angie
I know, Buffy, what a great line. So clever, fun and simple all at the same time.
Thank you for all the information.
Excited about my prize! I have won a critique by Jill Essbaum wow! Now I am scared as I’ve just Googled her and she is a mega star! How can I do her justice?
Glad we are doing some work on rhyming picture books now. I know we do have to learn the basics of poetry but this part really excites me. Thanks again Angie.
Thanks Angie for the terrific resource links.
This gives me such a new appreciation for the work that has gone into our favorite picture books that we read over and over!
I’m hoping to start sneaking rhyme in my pictures books. That is my goal of participating in RhyPiBoMo.
Congrats to all the winners.
Thank you for another week of great resources and rhyming ventures. Being among the winner was a real treat, too.
Thank you Leslie and Angie! Oh, thank you Leslie for your encouraging words. I love writing in rhyme and analyzing it. But I am not a textbook on rhyme and it’s good to know I don’t have to be. I’m a WINNER! YAHOOOOO!!!! (Angie, thank you for all your hard work and dedication to ALL OF US.) 🙂
Great examples of invented words that fit the mood/ theme and build a rhythm. Thanks Leslie!
Words to avoid?? What words to avoid??
I just looked at very smart lesson that seemed almost fun because it was really different. (he,he)
Congrats to all the winners! 150 words – that will be a challenge!
Feeling grateful to be part of this. Thanks, Angie!
Congrats to the winners.
Loved the encouraging post from Leslie and the tips you shared today, Angie.
From personal experience, I can recommend Susanna Leonard Hill’s, Making Picture Book Magic and Renee LaTulippe’s, The Lyrical Language Lab. Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul is a favorite of mine, as well as The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books by Linda Ashman.
GREAT resources and motivation – I did RhyPiBoMo to make my writing more flowing/poemy (how’s that for a creative word?). I am currently working through Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books and learning TONS. Also hoping/planning to take Susanna’s class at some point. Thanks for ALL this!
What a rich post. Leslie gave us so much wonderful information and then Angie followed up with more! There is a lot to digest in this post. Thanks!
Good info today. Anastasia Suen offers some great online workshops.
Off to cut a story to 150 words.
Less is more when it comes to picture books! I love the magic of a tightly written text.
I’m going to get a “knife-a” (not a “spoona”) and carve some words out of my last manuscript! Thanks for all the imaginative ideas and the valuable info.
Congrats to this week’s winners. And thank you both for the post. I found the tips on what to remove very useful!
Thank you, Leslie and Angie! Congratulations to all of this week’s winners!
Thanks for the post. I will try cutting more words.
Doggone Feet is awesome. The dog down there at floor level has much the same perspective as a small child. Cute and funny.
Now back to the cutting board.
Congratulations to the winners! I tend to write on the sparse side, so some of my PBs are already below 150. Great advice.
For myself, I find that I add “just” all the time. That and passive verbs, but those are an easy fix and usually reduce the verb word count by half (was running becomes ran, or skipped or fled or whatever).
I’m so excited that I won! Thanks so much. And this has been a month full of learning!
All good stuff! Thanks, Leslie and Angie!
Chop! Chop! Chop! I feel like a lumberjack! But those stories are coming down to size.
Angie, arbookfind.com looks like it will be very helpful. Thanks for sharing it.
“If you are unsure of yourself, consider slipping in a rhyming refrain or a repeated line of rhyme in an otherwise prose text.” Love this idea, thanks Leslie!
Ahh . . . a deliciously meaty post. Thanks!
So much fabulous information and resources!!! Thank you Leslie and Angie
Wonderful post today! I really like Leslie’s idea of checking to see if the rhyming PB version has more info than the prose version as a way to check for forced rhyme. Terrific writing prompts, Angie! I’ll definitely try those out.
Some tough love today, ladies! Thanks a bunch!
Thanks, Leslie! I think writing the story out in prose as well as rhyme is a really useful tool.
And I agree, Angie, that Ann Whitford Paul’s book is excellent!
Congrats to all the winners! Angie, thank you for a great RhyPiBoMo party last night. The rhyme was not pinging-it was singing!
Leslie, thank you for your experienced advice. You answered some of the questions that I have been asking myself 🙂
Angie, thank you for a great lesson with all those terrific resources. I took out one of my poems and chopped it from 288 words to 147 words. Boy, I am gassy-LOL I love words and I hate to cut them 🙂
Cutting words is painful, very painful…..but it can be done!!
Enjoyed your post about the author, and Oh the importance of words which can drive your crazy.
Which word do I cut from my manuscript? Which word do I leave in my manuscript?
Thanks for an interesting post.
Cutting words is difficult. It took a long time to get those words and cutting them seems impossible. But, I did reviewed a picture book last year that used a total of 6 words. And it is a fantastic picture book.
Leslie offered good food for thought, and you, Angie, shared a link I especially needed. Thank you!
Great Skat! Beep Bop Do Wop Skeedly Do Wah Wah Wah!
So much help for me, Leslie…I need to allow myself to make up words and have more fun with my rhyming. 🙂
Angie…don’t tell me it is almost over!!!!! You’ve given us an amazing month!