RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 16 Dianne White

Welcome to

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 16

Dianne White

RhyPiBoMo 2015 Guest Blogger Badge RPBM 15 Dianne White


Today’s guest blogger is a wonderful author with whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting last summer at the L.A. SCBWI Conference.  She has had great success early on as her debut picture book, BLUE ON BLUE, had received much national attention. I was a judge for a Mock Caldecott award ceremony in my area and Diane’s book was on my list to read and vote on…SO cool! I wish her the best of luck and can’t wait to see what she gives us next.

I am so happy



Dianne White

*RhyPiBoMo 2015 Bird with Feather

The Sound and The Feeling and How to Get There



Each syllable, each line break, each sentence’s placement on the page … the rhythm, the word choice, the repetition (and maybe even the rhyme, if it’s done well) — all of these are massively important… The read-aloud experience should be so extraordinary that practically as soon as the book is closed, everyone just wants to open it up and do it again.

–from “Why We’re Still in Love with Picture Books (Even Though They’re Supposed to Be Dead),” May/June 2011 Horn Book

One of the first things a picture book writer learns is that each word must earn its place. So how does a writer know which words to choose and how to arrange those words to add to the sound and feeling of a piece? How does a writer get “there” – that undefined but immediately recognizable story place that captures not only the voice and structure you aimed for, but the emotional feeling you intended to leave with readers?

And how does a writer know if the words should rhyme?

Perhaps the easiest answer is – it depends. On the story. On the writer. On the ways the tools of poetry – those very syllables, line breaks, words, rhythms, and sentences – are put together.

According to Oliver Sacks, M.D. noted neurologist and author, our brains are wired for sound. It’s such an effective way to remember and learn new things, that it’s not surprising that young children are taught rhymes and songs at an early age. But the powerful connection between music and words isn’t limited to rhyme. Prose needs to sing, too. And it can. With the tools of poetry.

In Awakening the Heart: Exploring Poetry in Elementary and Middle School, Georgia Heard divides these tools bluetoolboxinto Meaning and Music.


* A WORD reflects not only its denotation or literal meaning, but also its connotation, or implied subtext. Choosing the best words means looking for words that do double duty. Words that shed light not only on character or setting, for example, but also mood or tone.

Kevin Henkes is a master at this. Take CHRYSANTHEMUM. She’s an over-the-top mouse in love with her name.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes“She loved the way it sounded when her mother woke her up.

She loved the way it sounded when her father called her for dinner.

And she loved the way it sounded when she whispered it to herself in the bathroom mirror.

Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum.”

Longer sentences, repetition, and the rule of three help convey the voice of the entire piece and something of Chrysanthemum’s own exuberance for life.

* The ORDER, or arrangement and length of the words, affect a reader’s response.

Characters can skip, dash, or marchsaunter, shuffle, or waddle. The latter three not only describe a slower pace, but are two syllables long and take longer to say or read. In other words, the words themselves embody the slower pace they describe.

Next, MUSIC:

The link between Meaning and Music is simply that the SOUND of a carefully chosen word can amplify meaning and deepen the emotional layers of story.

Think of the alphabet as families of sounds, each conveying something slightly different. For example, some letters in English produce a harsh sound, others a soft sound.

Now, consider how letter/sound combinations work in the context of words, phrases, and sentences. Mary Oliver writes:

The following three phrases mean exactly the same thing:

  1. Hush!

  2. Please be quiet!

  3. Shut up!

The first phrase we might use to quiet a child when we do not want to give any sense of disturbance or anger. [The “sh” sound at the end of the word “hush” is soft, though slightly abrasive.]

The second phrase is curt, but the tone remains civil… [In particular, the “t” at the end of “quiet” is a harsh, hard stop.]

The third phrase indicates … impatience and even anger. [In this case, the “t” and “p” at the end of both words produce two hard stops.]

(adapted from A Poetry Handbook, 23-24)

And finally, consider how the Music of individual phrases and sentences supports Meaning through another tool – the up and down patterns of speech known as RHYTHM. A boisterous or silly story deserves a rising (iamb or anapest) rhythm. A story about childhood fears might use falling (trochee or dactyl) rhythms.

In my book, BLUE on BLUE, when the rain is at its strongest, a falling trochee rhythm mirrors the endless heaviness of the storm.

BlueOnBlue cover

/ – / –

Pounding, hounding,

/ – / –


/ – / –

Dripping, dropping.

/ – / –

Never stopping.

You can learn more about the sounds of letters and letter combinations in Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook (“Sound,” chapter 4) and Ann Whitford Paul’s Writing Picture Books (“Making Music with Your Prose,” chapter 14).

So how does a writer get to the “sound and the feeling” of the best of the best picture books? By studying and using the tools of poetry. Picture books don’t always rhyme and they don’t have to. But look closely and you’ll find the author – consciously or unconsciously – has used many of a poet’s tools to place the best words in their best order.



About Dianne:

DIANNE WHITE has lived and traveled around the world and now calls Arizona home. She holds an elementary bilingual teaching credential and a master’s in Language and
Literacy. In 2007, she received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults
from Vermont College of Fine Arts. After teaching students of all ages for 25 years, she now writes full-time. Her first picture book, BLUE ON BLUE, illustrated by 2009 Caldecott winner, Beth Krommes, was published by Beach Lane Books (S&S) in 2014.


RhyPiBoMo 2015 Optional Writing Prompt: 16

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 a poem about rain with the best words in their best order.

For example:

Happily Damp


A drop

             a splash…then two, then three.

Where shall I go?

                                   Where shall I be?

The drops are dampening my hair

            I stop, then run…without a care.

It’s water falling from the sky.

Why did I run?

                               I’m not sure why.

‘Cause when I’m wet I feel …not dry.

But, it’s okay…

                              because I see

the  happy girl I’d hoped to be.

© 2015 Angie Karcher

Okay, these are spur of the moment poem examples…can you tell?  = )


RhyPiBoMo 2015 Bird with Feather

Congratulations to Week 3 Prize Winners


Monday Copy of THE BOAT OF MANY ROOMS Donated by J. Patrick Lewis
Winner – Ann Magee

Tuesday Copy of GROUNDHOG’S DILEMMA (Dec/2015) Donated by Kristen Remenar
Winner – Aimee Haburjak

Wednesday Manuscript Critique by Kristen Remenar
Winner – Kenda Henthorn

Thursday Manuscript Critique by Iza Trapani
Winner – Kristi Veitenheimer

Friday Manuscript Critique by Tim McCanna
Winner – Caroline Twomey


Winners, PLEASE message me your information on Facebook

or email it to Angiekarcherrpbm@gmail.com




Golden Quill Poetry Contest

The Golden Quill Poetry Contest is open for submissions.

The deadline is this Saturday, 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.

Email poems to Angiekarcherrpbm@gmail.com

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 are now 2 spots 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.

A One Time critique is ($25.00) or a Twice Look critique is ($35.00)

See the tab above or click here for more information.



RhyPiBoMo Gift Shop is Open!

Cafepress notebook


Please stop by and see what’s available this year. There are notebooks, mugs, buttons and more. All proceeds will go to WE NEED DIVERSE BOOKS!

Thank you Tanja Bauerle for these gorgeous images!!!



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!


133 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 16 Dianne White

  1. Thank you Dianne for making me aware of how words sound as they glide with ease or trip off my lips from the hollow of my neck.

    Zainab Khan

  2. Thank you for helping wake me from my unconscious writing state! Truly helpful look at language and why it works.

    Karen Nordseth Roos

  3. Rita Allmon– Thanks, Dianne, for this post pointing out the importance of the sounds, rhythm, and feeling of words in a sentence or phrase. I look forward to checking out the resources mentioned.

  4. Great reminder that “each word must earn its place” and that “prose needs to sing, too.” Your examples are terrific. Thank you, Dianne. Val McCammon

  5. I often consider the “sound” of words, but by this I mean narrowly considering things such as alliteration, assonance, consonance. I tend to forget about the emotional impact that certain letters/sounds have because of the way the sound is physically produced in the body, or even whether long or short vowels are used etc. Thank you for the informative post.

    • Thanks for stopping by, Natalee! The emotional impact of certain letters/sounds is something that we don’t always think of consciously, but *do* sometimes take into consideration subconsciously. But when things aren’t working exactly right, and we know something’s off, I find it’s another tool to pull out when revising.

  6. Joanne Sher was absolutely, positively motivated and inspired and gobsmacked by this post. Just beautiful and incredibly helpful and enlightening. ABSOLUTELY a keeper. Thanks so much, Dianne!

  7. Dianne,

    Thank you so much for the post. Even your post had a rhythmic feel to it. I love that you have given us resources to further our study of rhyming picture books. Thanks again for the inspiration.

  8. Jill Proctor – Thank you, Dianne! Your post was just what I needed to hear at this time. There sure is a lot to consider when writing poetry. Meaning and music are so important. Thanks!

  9. Rachel Hamby
    Hi Diane, Can I just tell you how obsessed I am with your book? I read it last month for the first time and am planning to gift it many times this year. What a wonderful debut book. Thanks for all the advice about words and sounds in your post.

    • It’s not my assessment, Carrie, but Mary Oliver’s from her book, The Poetry Handbook. Don’t you think it’s just the best way to make the point that words carry meaning on many levels?

  10. Elaine Hillson – This was a wonderful post Dianne. I don’t think I’ll ever look at my writing in quite the same way again. It’s time to make my story sing. 🙂

  11. Lynn Alpert
    I am trying to use the soft and hard sounds of words in a piece I’m working on right now. Thanks for your post!

  12. Appreciations, to Angie Karcher & Dianne White, from Jan Annino. Storms are exciting to me & my family & I appreciate lyrical books such as BLUE ON BLUE that share this feeling with the young.
    Brava for all the good attention it is deservedly receiving, too. The artwork which looks like woodcuts is so suited to storms.

  13. Dianne, thank you for this helpful information. I heard your voice as I read to myself, especially when I read the words – “it depends”…. Have a great day!

  14. Love this post Dianne. A great reminder of how carefully we need to craft the language in our stories. It really can make our words sing — I’ve seen it in your work! I’m reading Blue on Blue right now. Such a beautiful book. Were you just beside yourself when you saw the illustrations? So gorgeous! — Annie Bailey

  15. Melanie Ellsworth

    Dianne, my five-year-old daughter and I love BLUE ON BLUE. I’ll always remember it as one of the first books she tried to read all by herself without ever having had it read to her. I told her that it wasn’t written with beginning reader words, but she insisted on trying to sound out each word. She was so proud when she got to the end. Then she let me read it aloud to her, and we both loved the melody of the book. Thank you for this blog post, too. I particularly like your example about how carefully you must choose your words to match the pace of the story, like “dash” versus “saunter” and how our word choices also show us much about the character’s personality.

    • Ohh, that makes me so happy, Melanie! Having taught reading for so many years, there’s nothing more magical than seeing a child unlock the mystery of words. So glad Blue on Blue was one of those first “all-by-myself” books for your daughter.

  16. Sandy Powell — What a great post. So informative. Thank you. I have read BLUE ON BLUE, and I really enjoyed it. I actually have checked out from the library right now so I can read it again. Great mentor text.

  17. Waiting on BLUE on BLUE to arrive. Looking forward to reading it. Fascinating that our brains are hard-wired for sound. I suppose that is why 40 years post middle school, I can still sing all the prepositions to the tune of Yankee Doodle or Sunshine on My Shoulders. Any requests? 🙂
    Wonderful, thoughtful post. Thank you. – Marianne Gage

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