RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 12 Iza Trapani

Welcome to

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 12

Iza Trapani

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Guest Blogger Badge RPBM 15 Iza Trapani


 Today’s guest blogger is a talented artist and author who has a very successful series of books in rhyme…Nursery Rhymes!

I will refrain from getting on my nursery rhyme soap box today but let’s suffice it to say, I am a big advocate of these simple, yet very powerful language development tools! As a former kindergarten teacher and developmental therapist, I want writers to know how truly important reading and having repetitive, rhyming text is to helping a child learn to talk and to read. Iza tells that she was given Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes as a child and these helped her learn English…very powerful indeed!

I am thrilled to have another nursery rhyme advocate

on board this rhyming train!

I gladly introduce

Iza Trapani.


RhyPiBoMo 2015 Bird with Feather

Editing and Revision

By the time we submit our manuscript to an editor, we have worked and reworked it many times. We have carefully chosen our words, took out unnecessary ones, made sure that  the story moves forward from page to page. If it’s written in rhyme, we have paid strict attention to the rhythm and meter; we’ve read it out loud many times to make sure it flows (read prose aloud too), and we’ve also had others read it, because we poets are notorious in our ability to make our uneven rhymes sound “good.”  We’ve removed forced rhymes, smoothed out awkward spots and made sure our words sing. Generally, we feel satisfied with the story, because we know we have done our best.

And yet, after all that work, an editor will still find problem areas.

When I first started writing children’s books, like many beginners, I was very attached to my words and my initial responses to editors’ comments were defensive. I got over that in a hurry. I have learned that another set of eyes and ears is essential. When I go back to my early stories that I had once considered “precious”, I want to gag and run out of the room. Time is a great editor.

But so are professionals. Without question, my manuscripts are much improved after my editor and I have reworked them together. And I adore the process! Yes, it involves “killing my darlings”- throwing out  words and lines I may love- words and lines that may be strong and lyrical, but don’t work in a particular story. Yes, it can be a struggle to find replacement lines. And yes, sometimes a close to complete revamp is needed. Nonetheless, I find the process invigorating and satisfying.

Sometimes the edits are minimal. Sometimes not. The edit on my most recent manuscript, an extension of the nursery rhyme, OLD KING COLE,  was quite a challenge. Here is the traditional verse:

Old King Cole was a merry old soul,
And a merry old soul was he.
He called for his pipe, and he called for his bowl,
And he called for his fiddlers three.

The problem was that my editor and I didn’t realize we each knew different melodies for the rhyme. The one she knew was a lively, staccato tune (and I later found out- the more popular one). The one I knew was a more melodic, minor tune.

The last line of the verse caused the most problems. In singing the verses, (which we do with all my nursery rhyme books – in addition to reading aloud) she was pronouncing fiddlers with three syllables as in the melody she knew, whereas I was pronouncing it with an arpeggiated four, as in the melody I knew.

Eventually we discovered we had different tunes in our heads, and then we agreed on using the more popular one. After that, the editing went much smoother.

Still, this was a hard rhyme to adapt. It has internal rhymes and three spots with the same rhyming sound, and it isn’t  always easy to find three words with the same sound that will work in context (especially when writing for children.) Then, of course, there was that troublesome last line.

Here are some of my edits of the second stanza:

(1st draft)
“Welcome all to the Cole Castle Ball!
Hear my fiddlers play us a tune.
We’ll frolic and dance in the grand royal hall
On this fine and festive afternoon.”

I’ve been writing rhyming books for over twenty years, but some of my first drafts are awful. Like this first one. Ugh!

(2nd draft)
“Welcome all to the Cole Castle Ball!
Come listen to my fiddlers play.
Let us romp and dance in the royal hall
On this bright and very merry day.”

Replacing  frolic with romp and taking out grand was an improvement, but not there yet. The stresses are in the wrong places.

(3rd draft)
“Welcome all to the annual Ball,”
Said the king to the guests within
“We’ll romp and we’ll dance in the royal hall.
Let the fun and music now begin.”

I improved the meter in the 3rd line. I also realized that I should have a dialogue tag: Said the king to the guests within. We didn’t like annual Ball, and the fourth line is awkward.

(4th draft)
“Welcome all to the King Cole Ball,”
Said the king to the guests within.
“We’ll romp and we’ll dance in the royal hall.
Let the tunes and merriment begin.”

My editor came up with King Cole Ball which I initially resisted. It was a bit of a tongue-twister and lacked a  syllable but it flowed better than Cole Castle Ball and was an improvement over annual Ball. Now, I really like it. It’s playful. Up to this point, I was still stretching  fiddlers into 4 syllables. This fourth line using merriment was better than in the 3rd draft, but still problematic for my editor- which is why I kept changing that line. Finally, I decided to pronounce fiddlers with two syllables- as it should have been from the beginning! I had resisted it because of the print of the tune in my head. Here’s the final draft:

“Welcome all to the King Cole Ball,”
Said the king to the guests within.
“We’ll romp and we’ll dance in the royal hall.
Let the tunes and the fun begin.”

With Let the tunes and the fun begin I established that fiddlers is pronounced with two syllables and it matches the traditional line to a tee. Thinking of fiddlers as as three or four syllables just created havoc in each of the fourth lines. The syllables were right but the lines didn’t flow. Fid-di-lers rolls off the tongue nicely, but other words are not so cooperative, and the lines ended up awkward.

The crux of the matter, rather than counting every syllable, is to maintain the proper pulse and to choose words that make the lines flow- both in reading and singing. And if you’re editing a song, make sure you and your editor know the same melody!

Here is another example of reducing syllables while maintaining the proper pulse from my book, Row, Row Row Your Boat.  Here’s the traditional verse:

Row, row row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream

The 3rd line has 12 syllables. I reduced mine to 8 and it works nicely:

Row row row your boat
Row with all your might
Rocking, bashing, water splashing
Better hold on tight!

I also took the liberty of using gerunds rather than adverbs- to add action: I only had four short lines in which to describe the scenes so I had to optimize them. Here are a few more examples of that shortened 3rd line:

raining, hailing, wind is wailing
beavers damming, logging, jamming
sunshine glowing, off and rowing

The constraints of rhyme are always challenging. It’s a lot of work. But it’s also rewarding to make those edits and end up with a polished manuscript. Remember- there’s always a way to say it differently. Happy revising!



About Iza:

When Iza Trapani immigrated to America from Poland when she was seven years old, her relatives gave her a Mother Goose collection. Little did she know, as she was learning English through the rhymes, that someday she would be retelling them in picture books. Iza is the author and illustrator of a best- selling series of nursery rhyme extensions, in which she starts with the traditional verse then adds additional stanzas to create a story. Among her titles are The Itsy  Bitsy Spider (which was featured on PBS Storytime), Row Row Row Your Boat, Froggie Went A-Courtin’, The Bear Went Over the Mountain and many more. Her books have received the IRA/CBC Children’s Choice Awards, Bank Street Best Books of the Year,  ABA Pick of the Lists and the Oppenheim Toy Portolio Gold Book Awards. Most importantly, her books are widely used in schools and libraries to help children learn to read. Iza’s 24th book, Old King Cole,  will be released on August 4th, 2015 and she has two more titles in the works for 2016 and 2017 publication.


         Row Row              Old King Cole

      Buy Here                   Buy Here


Iza’s Website

Iza’s Blog

Like me on Facebook

Follow me on twitter

RhyPiBoMo 2015 tiles with bird

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Optional Writing Prompt: 12

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.

Today’s writing prompt is to write your own version of your favorite nursery rhyme.

For example:

Hickory Dickory Dock

the cat ran up the clock.

He chased the mouse

around the house.

Hickory Dickory Dock.

Hickory Dickory Duck

the cat was out of luck.

The mouse, you see

was gone by three.

Hickory Dickory Duck.

© 2015 Angie Karcher


*RhyPiBoMo 2015 Bird with Feather

Rhyming Party!

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Rhyming Party

What’s a Rhyming Party you ask?

It’s a party in our RhyPiBoMo Facebook group where I quiz the attendees about past blog post information and all involved

MUST…respond in rhyme!

It’s silly, fast-paced fun and one lucky partier will win

a Scholarship for my Writing in Rhyme to WOW! Class!!!



Golden Quill Poetry Contest

The Golden Quill Poetry Contest is open for submissions.

The deadline is April 25th midnight Central Time.

And…did I mention the prizes?

1st place – A Manuscript Critique by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

2nd place – A Scholarship for Non-Fiction Archeology by Kristen Fulton

3rd place – A Scholarship for Pacing Picture Books to WOW! Class by Agent Jodell Sadler


PLEASE make sure you read the contest rules and follow them exactly. Unfortunately, due to the number of poems we will receive, a poem will be disqualified if it does not follow the guidelines exactly. This is only fair to those who did follow the rules and is good practice for us as writers because editors expect those guidelines to be followed to the letter.


Contest Rules:

First and Last name included in the body of the email at the top left

Email address included in the body of the email at the top left

Phone number – top left

Space down 5 spaces

The Theme is: Freedom

Title of poem – centered with no by line or name here

8 line limit

Must be a rhyming poem

You will be judged on clever title, rhyme scheme, rhythm, scansion, perfect rhyming words, internal rhyme, alliteration, consonance, assonance, onomatopoeia, and clever ending.

Submit poems to


by April 25th midnight central time

Writing in Rhyme to WOW! class logo

Do you enjoy writing rhyming picture books?

Do you find rhyme challenging?

Do you want to pep up your prose with poetic techniques?

Then this is the class for you!


Writing in Rhyme to WOW! is a 4 week course,

M-F with daily lessons, writing prompts, rhyme journaling, creating tools you will use, group poetry readings, webinars and critique groups, and a one-on-one webinar critique with Angie.

Each class begins on the first Monday of the month and the weekly group webinars are on Thursdays at 8:00 p.m. Central Standard Time, (Chicago Time) or at a time that best suits the group due to time zones of those involved.

There is only 1 spot left in May!

I am beginning to sign people up for June and July!

If you register now for June or July, I will give you the $99.00 price!

Contact Angie with questions.

Sign up now before the classes are full!

Click here for more information!

Need a critique?

Angie is now offering

rhyming picture book and poetry manuscript critiques.

She offers a One Time critique or a Twice Look critique.

See the tab above or click here for more information.


Official RhyPiBoMo 2015 Registration ended on April 8th.

If you are not officially registered you will not be able to participate in the Golden Quill Poetry Contest, in Rhyming Critique Groups or will not be eligible for daily prizes.

To see if you registered in time go to the Master Registration List on the drop down menu under the RhyPiBoMo Blog tab above.

*RhyPiBoMo 2015 Pledge

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

to be eligible for today’s prize!


148 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 12 Iza Trapani

  1. Elaine Hillson – Thank you so much for sharing how you went about transforming your story from the first draft to the final one. I am trying to revise my own story at the moment and it can be so hard to strike out the words and sentences that I like most and have become attached to.
    It is so helpful to see how someone else has gone through the process. I see more revising in my future.

  2. It’s always so helpful to have a peak at the process and changes involved in good writing. Thanks Iza.
    Daryl Gottier

  3. Wonderful to read your revision process and see the changes to understand that process. And how true that “time is a great editor.” Thank you so much, Iza. Val McCammon

  4. Manju Howard: Iza, thank you for sharing all your drafts of one stanza. I can hear the difference. I go through this process with every line I write. It’s nice to know that I’m not alone.

  5. Everytime I get a crit, someone will comment on the syllables. I’m generally very careful to only drop or add a syllable at the beginning or end of a line and after establishing the rhythm. So it is having the stresses in the right place and consistent metrical feet/rhythm trumps syllable counting?
    Marla Lesage

    • Counting syllables is just one part of it. The stresses need to be in the right places. For instance: Both “Mary” and “Coleen” have 2 syllables but the stresses are opposite. The words in a poem have to read the way they would be naturally pronounced.

  6. I’m working on something similar at the moment so it was very helpful to read about your editing process of these rewrites of traditional rhymes. Thanks, Iza!

  7. Iza,

    Rollicking great fun to read your nursery rhymes. It is so beneficial to see the revision process as you presented it. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. I look forward to reading more of your work. Thanks again!.

  8. Joanne Sher loves nursery rhymes (and MUST pick up some of Iza’s books :)). Great stuff! Loved the advice about “pulse” – for anal me, I ABSOLUTELY needed the reminder. Thanks!

  9. yep, even when you’ve revised and changed words, adding this, taking out that, and you think all is perfect, an editor will certainly find something

    not easy but all part of the process

  10. Lynn Alpert – Thank you Iza for sharing the different drafts of your story – it really shows how much work goes into rhyming!

  11. Loved hearing the thought process and seeing early drafts of your stories. I’m working on an old song made new right now, and was struggling with the syllables in a couple of parts. Your approach makes everything much clearer for me, thanks! Sandy Perlic

  12. Ginger Weddle – YAY for Nursery Rhymes!!! Iza, I love your updates of traditional rhymes! I worked with children with language delays and disabilities for years. Thank you for reminding everyone of the importance of Rhyme for early language development!!!

  13. Melanie Ellsworth

    Iza, it is so helpful to read about an author’s revision process and to see it in action. I really appreciate what you said about paying more attention to the “pulse” than the syllable count. I love what you did with the Row, Row, Row Your Boat tune – how you’ve changed the tone from gentle to active with the harder sounds and gerunds. It’s great fun to sing!

    • I tried several drafts to rewrite “Jack be nimble/Jack be quick/Jack jump over/the candlestick.” I wanted to try it with a child on the monkey bars and to capture that active movement of the original rhyme. I’m not quite there yet, but here’s one of my attempts:

      Child, grip tight!
      Grab and cling.
      Across the bars,
      you’ll sway and swing.

      • Great idea, Melanie! The first line could be reworked. It’s hard to go from CHILD to GRIP and so it messes with the meter. What about removing CHILD and saying something like?: Hold on tightly (that matches Jack be nimble perfectly). The rest of the lines work rhythmically – though they are different from the traditional verse. Line 2 is perfect. Lines 3 and 4 have the right amount of syllables but the stresses are in the wrong places. You’re almost there!

      • You’re right, Iza, an editor is really important! Thanks for your suggestions. I revised it to: Hold on tightly
        Grab and cling.
        Cross the bars with
        a gleeful swing.

        Still needs work, but it’s getting better!

  14. Sandy Powell — I think it’s funny how we get so attached to certain words or sentences in our manuscripts even though we know it or they do not belong. It’s always so hard to let them go, but in the end it really does make a better manuscript.
    I really enjoyed watching your revising process on the nursery rhyme. Figuratively speaking, it’s amazing how we can take a piece of clay and mold it into a work of art. Thanks for a very informative post.

  15. Rita Allmon– Thanks, Iza, for these great writing tips. Your tip about checking and maintaining a Proper Pulse instead of counting syllables is wonderful advice. I will strive to do this for some healthier rhymes. Thanks for my new mantra:
    ..”There’s always a way to say it differently.”

  16. Rachel Hamby
    My first reaction to revising a rhyming piece is always, “UgH!” I know it’s going to take a lot of work and deep thinking, but once I get past that initial frustration I end up having fun again!

  17. Kathy Mazurowski
    Interesting story of the process. It showed how common understanding of words or pronounciations can change understanding. Thanks.

  18. Natasha Garnett
    Thanks, Iza. Your examples of going from 12 syls to 8 in Row, Row were helpful. Getting the four beats right was the important thing- counting syllables can really mess you up.

  19. I loved your process and I loved your adaptations of nursery rhymes. I love to work off nursery rhymes, too. It was fascinating to see the flawed first draft morph into the perfect, droll rhymed story.

  20. Jill Proctor – I love reading someone’s first #$#$%& draft, all the way through to its publication. It’s such a big help to my own revision process. Thank you for your examples. Loved them!

  21. Appreciations to Angie Karcher & Iza Trapani for sharing singing poems. I luv to share Iza’s artwork & nursery rhymes to K & 1st grade as a volunteer reader.
    Songs are gre8t interactive way to help the little ones love poetry & learn language. I have submitted my revised & revised, reworking (I like the word extension, Iza, may I borrow it?) of a traditional folksong poem, without any results. My writing group says thumbs up, keep trying & so does my professional crit. advisor. This is hugely encouraging.
    (And, on a personal note, this wk especially, I’m so glad you landed with your family over here from lovely Poland as a little girl, Iza.) Brava!

  22. BBF, seeing your early drafts was a wonderful treat for me. I love your versions much better. Beats and syllables are very different. I learned that from Renee. Love your advice. Love you. xoxoxo

    • Hi BBF! I’m glad you took the course with Renee and I can see by your recent poems that she really inspired you. She’s a poetry expert. I just do it intuitively. Love to you! xoxoxo

  23. Patricia Toht: Thank you, Iza, for giving us a great example of how you worked on your stanza to get it just right. It takes a lot of work, but it’s so worth it when the verse just rolls off your tongue!

  24. Love reading your Row, Row, Row Your Boat to my 4K class. I thought seeing your edits was very helpful. Gail Cartee

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