RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 20
Laura Purdie Salas
Today’s guest blogger is an award-winning author with over 120 children’s books published to date. She says her first love is poetry and several of her latest books are in rhyme. She and author, Lisa Bullard, offer critiques, consultations, and guide books for children’s writers at Mentors for Rent. We can all use a second opinion on our work so stop by and let them take a peek. I am also very excited about the latest book in their series for writers called RHYMING PICTURE BOOKS: THE WRITE WAY. I immediately bought it read it cover to cover. It is full of great information that is pertinent to why we are all here! Check it out!
Buy It Here
I am so happy to introduce
today’s guest blogger,
Laura Purdie Salas.
READER AGE AND MANUSCRIPT LENGTH: KEEP THOSE NUMBERS LOW!
The rhyming picture books that are being published today most often target the younger edge of the picture book market. Occasionally there are nonfiction rhyming picture books that appeal to elementary-school readers, but the true sweet spot for most rhyming picture books is the preschool set.
A problem that often crops up when Mentors for Rent is critiquing rhyming verse manuscripts is that many of them actually target older readers, even upper elementary-aged readers. We usually have to advise the writer to revise their work so that it is a better fit for all those editors who seem to prefer preschool-appropriate picture books. Pieces in rhyming verse for an older elementary audience might work well as poems published in magazines that target these older readers, but they usually won’t work as well for picture books.
So when approaching your rhyming picture book, remember to shrink your vision to a time when you were knee-high in the world!
And don’t just shrink your vision—shrink your word count! Rhyming picture books, like picture books in general, are shrinking! Many new rhyming picture books are 100 words or less. It takes restraint and creativity to tell a story in so few words.
Some of my favorite rhyming picture books feature just four or five words per spread. What can you cover in so few words? A lot!
* Think Big, by Liz Garton Scanlon, follows kids putting on a show—in 61 words.
* An Island Grows, by Lola M. Schaefer, shows the formation of a new island in 119 words.
* Eight Days Gone, by Linda McReynolds, tells the true story of the Apollo 11 mission of 1969 (155 words).
So, you’re not off the hook for covering a lot of ground in a very short book. The key is to make every word count. Avoid filler words like “the” and “a” when you can. Delete useless words like “very” and “so.” We often see writers using these words just to make the rhythm work. But every single word needs to contribute to story and mood. It can’t just be short. It has to be short and evocative, specific, and meaningful!
Here’s a not-great quatrain:
Kids are singing very loud
Kids are singing very proud
Voices carry, sure and strong
Not a single note is wrong
That’s 21 words, and it does tell us information—that the kids are singing loud and singing well.
Here’s how Liz Garton Scanlon conveys that in Think Big:
Four words. That’s it. And “pitch” rhymes with “stitch” on the next page.
In Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s All Aboard, she describes trains whistling across prairies and through storms, always staying on schedule. You could write that in a boring way, like:
Across the dark and quiet plain
there goes a racing, whistling train.
Over prairies and mountains they climb.
Even through storms, they stay on time.
Not Dotlich. She writes:
Trains whistle through prairies,
a long, steel sweep.
Through thunder and wind,
they have schedules to keep.
Dotlich’s version is eight words shorter and more compelling and vivid!
Start out with a situation or topic that will either be familiar to preschoolers (or, at the oldest, primary grade students) or will fascinate them. Explore or celebrate your topic using few words, and make sure all your words are fabulous ones! Then you’ll be on your way to writing a fantastic rhyming picture book!
–Laura Purdie Salas and Lisa Bullard
The material in this post is excerpted from Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way, by Laura Purdie Salas and Lisa Bullard. Laura is the author of more than 120 books, including several rhyming picture books, such as A Rock Can Be…, Water Can Be…, and Move It! Work It! A Song About Simple Machines. Lisa Bullard is the author of more than 80 books for young readers, including her middle grade mystery novel Turn Left at the Cow. Her first published book was a rhyming picture book called Not Enough Beds! Laura and Lisa offer critiques, consultations, and guide books for children’s writers at Mentors for Rent.
As a kid, Laura Purdie Salas devoured books. Her big sisters, Gail, Patty, and Janet, taught her to read when she was 4, and she read for hours every day, despite constant orders from her parents to “Go outside and get some fresh air!” Since she grew up in Florida, she heard these dreaded words all year long. If she was forced outside, she climbed up to the treehouse or lay on the trampoline, reading.
Books were like pieces of magic, conjured up to entertain her, keep her company, and show her the whole world before disappearing into the library return drop as if they had never existed. It never occurred to her that real people actually wrote those books.
College was the first time she considered a career in the publishing field. After graduating with an English degree, she worked first as a magazine editor, and then as an 8th-grade English teacher. While teaching, she rediscovered her love for children’s literature. She began to focus on children’s writing, and she never looked back.
Laura has published more than 120 books for kids and teens. Although she’s written many nonfiction books, her first love is poetry. Her books include the award-winning BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS (Clarion, 2011—Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notable, Bank Street Best Book, Eureka! Gold Medal, and more), and the rhyming nonfiction books A LEAF CAN BE… (Millbrook, 2012–Bank Street Best Books, IRA Teachers’ Choice, Riverby Award for Nature Books for Young Readers, and more) and WATER CAN BE…. (Millbrook, 2014). She enjoys helping kids find poems they can relate to, no matter what their age, mood, and personality.
Laura and her family live in the Minneapolis areas, and she still devours books.
See more about Laura and her work at http://www.laurasalas.com
WATER CAN BE… (Millbrook Press, 2014 – STARRED reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly)
A LEAF CAN BE… (Millbrook Press, 2012)
BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS (Clarion, 2011)
and more than 100 nonfiction books for kids
RhyPiBoMo 2015 Optional Writing Prompt: 20
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 one of your rhyming manuscripts in 100 words or less. Next, try it in 75 words, and then in 50 words…
Bad Bye, Good Bye by Deborah Underwood
Congratulations to Week 4 Prize Winners
Monday Manuscript Critique by Kristy Dempsey(Under 500 words)
Winner – Stephanie Salkin
Tuesday Copy of BLUE ON BLUE Donated by Dianne White
Winner – Charlotte Dixon
Wednesday Copy of A POETRY HANDBOOK Donated by Dianne White
Winner – Carrie Charley Brown
Thursday Manuscript Critique by Lori Mortensen (under 1000 words)
Winner – Al Lane
Friday Copy of The 20th CENTURY CHILDREN’S POETRY TREASURE Donated by Dianne White
Winner – Sherri Jones Rivers
Winners, PLEASE message me your information on Facebook
or email it to Angiekarcherrpbm@gmail.com
A Friday night BIG Finale Rhyming Party!
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.
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 Rhyming Picture Book Critique?
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!
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!!!
130 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo Day 20 Laura Purdie Salas”
Thank you, Laura for the excellent post and examples on writing sparse books 😀
Writing these books are a fun challenge!
Thanks, Lori! Exactly. Sometimes I pull my hair out, but when they work, they’re amazing!
Excellent post, Laura! And mentor texts always clarify things in great ways. I really love your CAN BE series! Carrie Charley Brown
Thanks, Carrie–I really appreciate that. And I’m such a fan of mentor texts–still trying to catch up on all the great ones from Research Month!
Caroline Twomey-great post Laura, food for thought here! looking forward to reading Rhyming Picture Books: The Write Way
Thank you, Caroline–I hope you find the book really useful. We try to be super practical in it:>)
Thank you, Laura. It’s all about word choice when writing sparse!
Yes! Each word matters SO much in these super-short rhyming books. Amazing how long I can spend trying out variations for a single word…
Appreciations from Jan Annino to Angie Karcher, Laura Purdie Salas & Lisa Bullard for this informative post that makes me want to wield an eraser or strikethru key immediately!
Shorter version, here:
for your attitude
ps. so fun to begin to see weekly winners who i follow in social m!
Hehe, Jan–clever! Glad you found this useful. And I’m enjoying seeing so many names I recognize among the commenters!
Thank you, Laura, for the post and examples for writing shorter text. I need to chop and then some!
Happy to be here, Charlotte. Sometimes choosing the words to keep/use is like finding the valuable toothpicks out of a mammoth sequoia!
Great post, Laura. You and Rebecca are amazing at poetry.
That’s so nice of you to say, Catherine. If we write enough of it, we get some gems eventually, right? Rebecca Kai Dotlich was one of the first children’s poets whose work I totally fell in love with. She is a master at vivid images and concise writing!
Loved your post! Make it count…every word! So helpful.
Thanks, Susan. You summarized that whole post in just 5 words. I’m thinking you must be very good at writing short!
Laura, thank you for that great post. You work magic with words!
Well, thanks, Brenda–that pretty much makes my day!
An excellent post! I love the specific advice and examples pertaining to low word counts.
Ann Magee. Thanks, Laura, for your fabulous advice here and the examples that support it!
Fabulous examples and with them the incentive to masterfully place every word. – Marianne Gage
Thanks for the specific examples, Laura. They really drive your points home. Your books are wonderful examples of saying a lot in a very short word count!
Comment from Cynthia Cheng: Thanks for sharing your insights. A question for you…if I write a very short manuscript, is it advised to include illustration notes so that the editor and illustrator know what I’m envisioning? I’ve heard before that sometimes they like to envision the story themselves, but I also wonder if illustration notes might help them get it better. Thanks!
Thank you, Laura. Yes, rhyming PBs are for the youngest. Yes yes yes. I know that, but sometimes you (meaning I) have to be reminded to…uh…remember.
Thanks Laura. i appreciate how you walked us through a few of the examples. Selecting the perfect words is the fun (and hard) part!
You have shared great information, Laura. I especially like the *sweet spot* of writing rhyme for preschoolers. Teaching preschoolers is such a fun age. Sharing read alouds that rhyme with this age group help them to grow into emergent readers and writers. Thank you.
Enjoyed your post. Timely reminder to keep whittling away at the word count. I’ve got a story that needs some chopping. — Annie Bailey