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 can talk about picture books all day! Thanks, everyone, for joining in. What an amazing feat this RhyPiBoMo is!! I’d say let’s extend it but it might kill Angie.
Thank you Leslie. I enjoyed your post.
Angie- that’s quite the challenge 150 words – I’m ready!
Thanks, Dawn. I’m trying the 150 challenge too. Daunting!
Thanks for the information on the classes and workshops. And a big thank you again for all this great information at no cost! Wow – we are lucky!
Yes, Angie, it has been a long month. A long, month of learning and growing with your many posts, lessons and resources. As an educator, I am familiar with AR program and system. Thank you for referring AR to research target age and word count. Leslie, thank you for the reminder that rhyming is more than just counting syllables. ~Suzy Leopold
Thanks, Leslie, for a great reminder to include those fun made-up words. And thanks to Angie for the word count challenge!
Loved the “words to eliminate” list! Very helpful!
and my stories are already improving because of you Angie Karcher 🙂
Altoona Balboona is one of the favorites on my PB shelf!
Many thanks for the word count chart and challenge….and the myriad of resources not only in today’s post but all month long! I will be returning to them often in their archived version and will continue to refer other writing friends (and teachers!) to them as well.
KUDOS to you, Angie!!!! And thanks again to all your guest bloggers….
Great exercise, Angie. I try to do that kind of cutting with all of my writing.
Helpful information! Although, I didn’t like looking at the “words to eliminate” list (I use most of those words VERY often). Thanks again for another informative post!
Timely advice Angie! I’m looking to reduce the word count on my WIP right now!
Angie – That sharpie every other word trick is pure insanity, and I must give it a try!