Welcome to RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 1 Tim McCanna

Welcome to

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 1

Tim McCanna

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Guest Blogger Badge RPBM 15Tim McCanna


I am happy to introduce Tim McCanna as the perfect guest blogger to kick off this crazy month of rhyming fun! He is another musically talented author and comedian. His humorous video clips and picture book trailers are amazing! Tim’s unencumbered style of teaching is contagious and just plain fun so we are fortunate to have him share his rhyming wisdom!


First, please watch this short clip on rhyme by Tim:




RhyPiBoMo 2015 Bird with Feather


by Tim McCanna

Woo-hoo! It’s April 1st, DAY ONE of Rhyming Picture Book Month 2015! I’m totally honored to help kick things off for this rhymetacular celebration. And let me first promise you that I will not use the word rhymetacular ever again. Big thanks to Angie for all of her hard work. This is exciting! Ready to rhyme? Ok, it’s time!
Are you sure you belong here? The only reason you could possibly be reading this post right now is that you A) enjoy reading rhymes, B) enjoy writing rhymes, C) you’re my mother, or D) you’re a misinformed pastry chef who thinks RhyPiBoMo is some sort of Rye Pie Baking Month. Mmmm… Rye Pie. Well, whoever you are, welcome aboard.
yNo Baker image
1. “It’s fun!” Writing in rhyme is like solving a puzzle. When you fit two pieces together, it’s sooo satisfying! Rhyming should be an enjoyable challenge, and if you’re not enjoying it, then don’t do it!
2. “I can’t help myself,” is also an acceptable answer. If your brain just wants to go there, don’t fight it.
3. “It’s simply the highest form of writing ever.” Seriously! Whether you’re writing a picture book, a novel, a poem, or a song, rhyming is like word MAGIC. The fact that we humans have language at all is astounding, but that we can weave amazing stories that also rhyme kinda blows my mind.
4. “It’s all about the kids.” Am I right, folks? If you haven’t read a rhyming book to a group of wide-eyed kindergarteners yet, then put it on your bucket list. It’s the best. Now, I’m no scientist. I can’t tell you how rhymes help develop kids’ brains or teach them how to read using “word families” and such. But I do know that rhyme gets their attention like nothing else. They can’t wait to help you end the sentence. It brings them into the story, and delights them with rhythm and alliteration and all the other tools we use as writers.
1. For money. Unless someone is willing to pay you for it, then go ahead. Rhyme for money.
2. For political gain. I don’t think rhyme works that way.
3. Peer pressure. Come on, everyone’s doing it.
4. Because rhyming is easy. News Flash: it’s not.
Anybody can stick two sentences together with words at the end that sound alike. It’s really not that hard. What’s hard about writing a rhyming picture book or poem is finding a fresh, natural rhythm to the words that make reading them aloud effortless. Rhymes are twice as impactful when they trip off the tongue in crafty ways. So don’t choose your meter arbitrarily. Make very specific choices about the shapes of your stanzas. Sometimes, you can let the natural stresses of your key words or phrases inform the scan. And while you’re at it, strive for word economy. Keep your sentences clean, short, and punchy. If you find yourself writing in long, rambling phrases just to achieve a rhyme, see if you can’t break up the same idea into tidier constructions. Your readers (and editors) will thank you.

Less is more image

Your rhyme will only be as strong as the story it’s helping to tell. Rhyming words are the dressing, the decoration, the flash that hooks the ear. As rhymers, a lot of times we fall into the pattern of lists. That’s ok. Everyone does it. Some authors do it very well with great success. But if you have a rich story with a unique main character in an interesting conflict that ends in a surprising twist, that sturdy framework will lend itself to more engaging language giving you opportunities to use interesting rhymes to punctuate and propel your story!
A perfect rhyming picture book doesn’t happen on the first go. Ever. I wrote 17 drafts of my upcoming picture book, Bitty Bot!, before signing with my agent. And that’s just 17 known file versions. I made hundreds of micro-edits over the course of three years. The title changed, the characters evolved, lines got flip-flopped, words got tweaked, whole stanzas were cut and replaced. The manuscript received a letter of commendation from SCBWI, and I STILL kept revising it. When I signed with my agent, SHE asked for revisions. Before the publishers bought the manuscript, THEY asked for a completely different ending. Then I sold the book, and they asked for MORE revisions! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining. (Okay, maybe a little.) But without fail, after every revision, the work became stronger and better. The trick is, you have to be willing to listen to critiques and trust that change is good.
WHY YOU SHOULDN’T LISTEN TO ME (or anyone else for that matter)
I’m just one dude. A dude who writes in rhyme now and then. I have my own tastes and I know what works for me. You love writing limericks? Do it. You want to use imperfect rhymes? Go for it. You want to write in loose, free-form, percussive phrases? Try it. Make your own rules. Then break them. Practice. Experiment. Stick to your guns. And now that you are not listening to me, here are…
Okay, there will be THREE tips, but I like the alliteration in the title, so sue me.
1. You’ve got a fantastic story idea and you think it absolutely MUST be written in rhyme? Try writing it in prose FIRST. It allows you to focus on plot and character without trying to rhyme, which is tough enough. Then, once you have that overwritten prose version down and you’re still positive that rhyming is the best storytelling format, circle the key words and phrases that pop. Make a list of all the richest, most colorful story-driven words and then find rhymes for those. You’ll wind up with more interesting rhymes that lend a spicier flavor to the world of your story.


2. Write the garbage. Write the really, really bad stanzas. Do not judge your words before they’ve been written. Get them on paper. THEN judge them mercilessly.
3. Read lots of rhymers. We must learn by example. Have you been to a book store lately? How about an indie book store that only sells children’s books? They still exist! Go find one! Gobble up all their rhyming books.
Man, that’s dedication. Well, it takes dedication to be a rhymer, so you clearly belong here. Now, get rhyming! Make those words dance! Enjoy the challenges! Oh, and have yourself a rhymetacular RhyPiBoMo. I know, I know. I promised I wouldn’t use that word ever again. April Fools.

About Tim:

Tim McCanna is the author of the rhyming picture books, Teeny Tiny Trucks (Little Bahalia Publishing, 2013), and Bitty Bot! (Paula Wiseman Books, Simon & Schuster, 2016). He has also produced music and narration for award-winning story apps, picture book trailers, and the opening theme song for Katie Davis’s popular “Brain Burps About Books” kid lit podcast. Tim serves as Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI’s San Francisco/South chapter, and he holds an MFA in Dramatic Writing for Musical Theatre from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. Find Tim online at http://www.timmccanna.com.
http://www.amazon.com/Teeny-Tiny-Trucks-Tim-McCanna/dp/0989668819Teeny Tiny Trucks

Thank you so much Tim!

*RhyPiBoMo 2015 tiles with bird

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Optional Writing Prompt

This is NOT part of the pledge. It is an option for a writing exercise for those interested. You will not publically share this as part of RhyPiBoMo but may keep a journal of your writing this month for your own review.


Make a list of all the words that rhyme with Tim.

Now create a short, silly poem using some of your new words. They can be used as internal rhymes or ending rhymes.

*Bonus points if you can rhyme any word in the poem with McCanna.


For example:
Today’s honored blogger is Tim.
His message is shiny, not dim.
Our Mr. McCanna wears hats with bananas.
There’s only one author like him!

© 2015 Angie Karcher

= )


RhyPiBoMo’s Happy Birthday Maya Angelou Webinar

Hosted by Jackie Wellington – Saturday, April 4th 7:00 pm Central Time

Link coming soon.

Saturday, April 4th we are celebrating Maya Angelou’s birthday with a tribute to her life. You won’t want to miss Jackie Wellington’s heartfelt hour of adoration for Maya with her own powerful poetry. We will read some of Maya’s works and some of our own. It’s a time to celebrate poetry and diversity, so I hope you can stop by.


Maya Angelou image


RhyPiBoMo & Barnes and Noble Book Fair supporting


I have been invited to give a talk on Maya Angelou at my local Barnes and Noble Bookstore in Evansville, Indiana. I am excited to announce that Barnes and Noble will host a book fair that day in honor of WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS! 20% of all books sold that day, in store or on-line with a coupon code I will soon share, will go to support this very important organization. So, if you are planning some book purchases, please wait until April 11th!

Watch for more information coming soon on these two exiting events!

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Pledge

Please comment below. You MUST add your FIRST and LAST names

to be eligible for today’s prize!


198 thoughts on “Welcome to RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 1 Tim McCanna

  1. Melanie Ellsworth

    Oh Tim, your vigor and your vim
    have left me feeling rather grim.
    The meter sharks are circling round,
    in garbage stanzas I am drowned.
    And added to my newfound fears,
    shared with all these newfound peers
    is the fear that rhymetacular
    will enter our vernacular.
    So listen up, McCanna –
    I’m reporting you to Nana.

  2. What a way to start off RhyPiBoMo! (Well done, Tim.) But after such a great beginning, what else is there to be said? Hmmm…

  3. Jackie Wellington loved this post. Great information.

    I don’t normally write in rhyme. But my first picture book I wrote was in rhyme. It was pretty good. So Angie thinks I’m a rhymologist; I beg to differ. However, I do have an ear for GREAT rhyme. But I love reading rhyming books. One day, I might complete one. A girl can dream, right?

  4. A great idea to prepare the story first in prose – it kind of clears your mind to get ready for the meter and rhyme. I love reading rhyming picture books and thanks for the encouragement , humour, a great lesson!

  5. Tanja Bauerle – What a splendiferous post! Thank you very much, Tim, especially for the link to your wonderful video. Rhyme does not come naturally to me, so I always am impressed with writers that are able to create it in such a magical way. T.

  6. Patricia Toht
    Thanks for kicking things off, Tim! Yes, I’m one of those people who just can’t help myself. I love your tip to write a story first in prose before trying it in rhyme. Best way to make sure story comes before rhyme.

  7. Lynn Alpert

    There is this writer named Tim.
    We really should listen to him
    on how to write rhyme
    that’s right every time
    with a word count that’s really quite slim.

  8. Natasha Garnett
    I wrote a terrifically dumb poem with words that rhyme with Tim. Of course I used banana to rhyme with McCanna. Off and running!

  9. Oh Tim- how I love your reasons NOT to write in rhyme!! I happen to have a rhyming ms about Christmas!😳

    What advice do you give holiday rhymers- in terms of who to sub to? I mean I am just sure it will go to auction at the big publishing houses😜. Rhyme + Holiday…aren’t those BOTH on the NO NO list for first time authors?!?! Ha!

    Are there any PB rhyme challenges?
    Do I use it as my ms at the scbwi conference roundtable critique?

    Oh being a newbie is daunting.

    Thank you for your droll advice
    Now you having me thinking twice
    About this passion to write in rhyme

    Although pleasing to MY ear
    Meter tempo crystal clear
    It just isn’t rhyming Santa’s time.


    • Hey Sarah! Don’t let ANYONE tell you you can’t write a rhyming holiday book! If you want to, and you enjoy it, then go for it. Yes, the industry is competitive, and yes holiday books can be a tough sell, depending on who you talk to. It’s simply about quality and getting a top-notch manuscript into the right hands at the right time. If you have a fresh take on a Christmas story and the rhymes are fun and the meter is tight (and you have the blessing of your critique group, if you have one), then sub away. Since we’re in April, I’d go to the library and find their holiday PB section. Find the more recent Christmas books and see which ones appeal to you and which houses published them. Start by submitting to 2 or 3 houses max and see what happens. Cold submitting to slush piles can be daunting. (You might not hear from them till Christmas, if at all!) For my money, it’s about meeting editors in person at SCBWI conferences and connecting with folks in the industry. You mentioned a roundtable critique–that’s a GREAT option! Best of luck, and thanks for the questions!

  10. Vivian Kirkfield

    Advice from a guy named McCanna
    Is sweet, like a ripened banana.
    He’s funny, not grim
    This gentleman Tim
    I wonder, is he from Montana?

    Thanks so much, Tim! I admire your passion, your enthusiasm and your sense of humor. I loved your advice about writing the story that MUST BE IN VERSE in prose first…I never used to do that…but it’s so helpful to see if you really do have a story…or just some fun verses. 🙂 Because if you don’t have a story, those fun verses will soon spiral out of control and your story will go on a wild goose chase. 😉

  11. Rebecca Forester
    …is a misinformed Rye Pie pastry chef who wandered in by accident (so shocking to see my fellow chef crossed out!) but now that I’m here I’m giving a cheer for a rhymer who really has clout! (Ok I’m blaming the late hour because I did not mean to write that but there it is. lol!)

    Anyway, I loved the video – so helpful! And this article is definitely being saved ~ so many great tips but now I also know what “slant” means (and surprisingly it isn’t that the floor isn’t level!)

    Thanks so much, Tim, loved the post! 😀

  12. Sydney O’Neill:Tim, I’ll remember your advice to start with key words in the prose story. Sounds like a good idea. Your video is really fun! (Sorry about the duplicate post. Forgot to add the name.)

  13. Lisa Willard
    Tim, Thanks for the idea of finding key phrases and colorful story-driven words and looking for rhymes for those. I’m standing on the edge with my toe in the water – your ideas give me a great way to begin! Fun video!

  14. Thoroughly enjoyed your video and the Post. I look at writing rhyme as a journey. When things go well it is smooth road and no hick ups but when the meter and rhyme is off there must car trouble or a flat tire. At times it’s hard to fix the car but you can only finish the journey if you do. Thanks again.

  15. Thanks for the great post, Tim. It was fun and inspiring. Here’s my paraphrase of what I’ve learned (I took poetic license):

    When rhyming gets kind of grim,
    remember these key tips from Tim:
    Keep an extra banana
    to rhyme with McCanna
    and a slim jim to rhyme with him.

  16. I always find myself editing as I write each sentence. Thanks for the reminder to just get it on paper and write the garbage. Thanks for the entertaining post! Pia Garneau

  17. Thank you, Tim, for getting the RhyPiBoMo party started with your outstanding thoughts and fun loving spirit. Even though you said not to listen to you, I find it important to do so. Your three top tips are terrific.
    ~Suzy Leopold

  18. (Ellen Izenson)

    Tim – Thank you for the encouragement and inspiration! I appreciated your honesty about how many drafts you went through. Rhyme (and meter and stress and the whole shebang) is so hard! It’s easy to start thinking about tossing it all out and going back to just plain prose once you hit that revision wall. Thanks!

    • I totally know what you’re saying, Ellen. It’s not easy, but the best things in life rarely are. We writers are gluttons for punishment, but when we finally eek out a stanza that works, it sure feels good. Enjoy the process and good luck!

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