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. Thanks, Iza! I have loved nursery rhymes since I was very little. And I loved following your revisions, from draft one to the final verse. –Peggy Archer

  2. Rebecca Trembula – Just before RhyPiBoMo started, I read something (perhaps on the RhyPiBoMo FB page) that talked about reading poems with different accents and how words that rhymed might suddenly not be rhyme any longer if the reader were say, English instead of American. The problem with the melodies varying sounds so similar! Thanks for sharing the process those stanzas went through. It’s always helpful to be reminded that you aren’t alone in having to go through 19 drafts!

  3. Jennifer McRae
    With lots of practice and lots and lots of edits the quality does get better. Even though it is sad to see ones “genius” first words vanish .
    Great advise to keep make our best better !

  4. Zainab Khan

    I love nursery rhymes and know most of them by heart. I enjoyed reading how your drafts changed and transformed the rhymes into a lively story.

  5. Nadine Cranenburgh: very inspiring Isa! I love nursery rhymes and traditional songs and have had a few goes at adapting and retelling them. Still going through the drafting process now. I’m looking forward to reading your books, they look wonderful.

  6. Caroline Twomey- thank you Iza, I found that so interesting to see your revisions move from draft to draft! So often when we see the finished product produced in a book on a bookshelf its easy to forget that everyone begins at the same place-draft 1! “) Very inspiring!

  7. Vicki Wilke
    Thank you Iza – your sharing of your revising process was very helpful! Having taught young children for thirty three years, I believe in the power of nursey rhymes!

  8. Cindy Argentine. It’s inspiring to see the progress from the first draft to the final revision. Thanks for a very helpful post!

  9. I always like reading revisions and the process. I learn so much. Thanks for sharing–I know how we like to only show our best work. Danielle Hammelef

  10. Dziękuję Iza. I always feel it is imortant to learn and grow everyday and that I did today as I catch up on the many excellent RhyPiBoMo posts, yours included. Not only do I have a better understanding of “time is a great editor”, I have acquired a new vocabulary word: gerunds.
    ~Suzy Leopold

  11. There is a patience to poetry – to get all the details right. We used to rewrite nursery rhymes and songs on long car rides, but I haven’t done that for years. I’m ready to try again. Thank you!
    Darlene Ivy

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