RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 21
Sherri Duskey Rinker
Today’s guest blogger is a New York Times Best Selling author who has, I’m sure, more award winning picture books up her sleeve! I absolutely love her books and the rhyme in them is…perfection! GOODNIGHT GOODNIGHT CONSTRUCTION SITE has been mentioned multiple times this month, by multiple authors, as one to read and study as a mentor text.
I am please
Sherri Duskey Rinker.
Picture Book: Read It Out Loud!
As I child, I loved it when people read to me, and I ESPECIALLY loved rhyming books. There was a song-quality in the meter; a special kind of rhythm that allowed the child-me to often predict the final word in the sentence, or to be able to “sing” along with a refrain. There was comfort and great fun in that. So perhaps that’s why, in part at least, I’m particularly attracted to WRITING the read-aloud rhythm that a rhyming book creates.
Many (but not all) of my soon-to-be-picture-books manuscripts are written in verse, at least partially. Why? I’m not completely sure, but to (badly) quote my friend and brilliant fellow author, Andrea Beaty: “That’s just the way a particular story comes to me.” Andrea and I are in agreement here: It’s nearly impossible to turn a verse book into prose. Just like those TV commercial jingles or the refrains of Taylor Swift songs, once it’s in my head, I’m stuck with it. The rhythm has tangled itself into my brain; I can’t unwrap it. But, I can finesse it…
As I’ve written more (and more), I’ve learned a few things along the way, thanks to the insights and assistance of a few spectacular editors. The learning curve has been painful — even excruciating — at times, and I’ve spent countless hours fighting for (and admittedly sometimes boo-hooing over) syllables that an editor assures me must go: sometimes for the sake of the meter, sometimes for the sake of structure. But, with painful experience has come some knowledge, and, for whatever it’s worth, I’d love to share some insights…
First, the easiest and most straightforward tip for creating solid picture book verse is to simply count out the meter:
He came into the house. (6 syllables)
And then he saw a mouse. (6 syllables)
This is a VERY simple example, but it illustrates a good starting point. It’s not a fail-proof system, (and, arguably, it can be a little stale) but it’s a solid place from which to begin. Just keep in mind that rhyming lines can be a syllable or two (or sometimes more) off, and still work, especially if the lines are longer. That’s simply because our typical speech pattern pushes compound words together or speeds though several small one-syllable words, etc. BUT, if you look closely at a book like Anna Dewdney’s Llama, Llama Red Pajama you’ll see that the verse is almost totally mathematical. With almost no exception, there are exactly the same number of syllables in rhyming lines, making it almost impossible to not hit the meter correctly — and making it just one of the reasons that it’s an approachable, enjoyable read-aloud and a great early reader choice.
And now, I come to the title of this post: Since picture books are often read out loud, it seems logical that that’s what we, the writers, need to do. Actually, let me rephrase that: IT’S IMPERATIVE. And, it’s certainly what I do, constantly. And, not only do I read my manuscripts-in-progress aloud ALONE (like some kind of crazy woman constantly speaking to her computer screen as if it’s a small child), I capture everyone I can find and force them to endure bits-and-pieces as I work through the manuscript.
Sample of actual dialog:
Me: I need to read this to you.
Kid: (insert eye roll and huff): Ok.
Me: Bla, bla, bla…
Kid: You read that to me yesterday.
Me: It’s not the same, I revised it.
Kid: Mom, can’t you read it to (other kid) then? You read it to me yesterday.
Me: It’ll just take a second.
Kid: (insert eye roll and huff): Fine.
Me: Bla, bla, bla… Ok, wait, that’s off. Here, ok (scribble note on page) … Let me start over…
Kid: Mom, are we out of Wheat Thins?
Here’s my point: You’ve read it out loud twenty times, but something changes when you read it to someone else. You are trying to get the CONTENT to come across and CREATE INTEREST WITH INFLECTION and, in doing that, you notice issues with the meter. Trying to make your point that the dog is SO FILTHY can throw off the pace of the entire couplet — and it needs to be fixed. (My other point is that my children don’t appreciate me, but that’s a story for another blog post.)
And then, once you’ve annoyed and alienated every person in your inner circle and a few strangers on the street, the next step is: Give it to someone who has never read it, and ask them to read it out loud to you. THIS is where your text is made or broken. THIS is where you discover stops and stumbles that you so smoothly are able to breeze over because it’s so familiar to you. THIS is where you find that you can quickly push together the syllables in “Unappreciated,” while it causes others to read it in such a way that makes the meter of the entire line two beats off. THIS is where you discover that your sister in North Carolina says “tired” as two syllables… (Again, probably a subject for another post…).
My editors tell me that they’ve passed the manuscript and, later, the layout around the office for read-alouds, even in the early/rough layout stages. There’s huge value in that step. My first request with every editor on each new project is this: “Once it is edited and the text is inserted into the layout, I’d like to have someone who has never seen or read it before read it aloud to both of us, on a conference call.” Every editor has been completely open to this step, and it offers both of us the assurance that it will read smoothly for every parent, teacher and librarian who picks it up to read. Sometimes, I request that a syllable be added or removed (take off the word, “then” on that line, or change “big” to “giant.”) Sometimes, we find problems with how the text is set in with the illustration (i.e. The reader didn’t see the word “flea” behind the dog’s ear.). We’ve both seen it so many times that it never occurred to us. But, thankfully, this final step is final peace-of-mind. (And, I’m not sleep-deprived with worry for the next year while it’s being printed and shipped from China.)
My final suggestion is tricky, because editors like their manuscripts formatted a certain way before they send them to copy-editing or off to agents for illustrator look-sees. But, writer-to-writer, I think it’s important that, if you want a certain word/phrase emphasized (bigger, bolder, hand-drawn, etc) or whispered (smaller, lighter, italicized, etc.) for the sake of meter (or content), include that note in your original manuscript and make sure to comment on it occasionally throughout the process. Most illustrators will likely do something special with the word, “EARTHQUAKE!!!” anyway — but it can’t hurt to make your thoughts known.
And so, to simply review: Count it out (literally), read it aloud (to yourself and anyone that will stand still), have someone new read it aloud — in manuscript AND in layout form, make suggestions for the illustrator or typesetter so that the final pages are read correctly.
As completely obvious as this all might seem (and, reading through it, I keep thinking that I’m incredibly dense that it took me so long to figure some of it out!), it’s reflective of a tremendous amount of frustration and trial-and-error. But I can happily report that, as of today, I have ten picture books in various stages of production, so, hopefully, there might be a small fleck of wisdom here that the next writer can find helpful.
Happy writing, happy rhyming!
Buy Here Buy Here
Sherri is the author of two #1 bestselling picture books, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site and Steam Train, Dream Train. Cumulatively, these two books have spent over four years on the NYT Bestseller List.
Additionally, Sherri has numerous other projects in production, including Since There Was You, illustrated by Patrick McDonnell (spring 2016) and a sequel to Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site (spring 2017).
Sherri is passionate about children’s literacy and has had a life-long love of books. Her exciting school presentation, “Books Are Magic!” is designed to encourage and support students on the wondrous journey of reading and writing.
RhyPiBoMo 2015 Optional Writing Prompt: 21
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 choose your favorite rhyming picture book manuscript and read it out loud 20 times.
Next, find 5 people to read it out loud to you while you mark where they stumble or trip and on the words.
Revise and repeat until it is flawless!
We have a
so don’t miss the blog!
Hmmm…I wonder what it is? Hee Hee!
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
Don’t Miss the
Friday Night BIG Finale Rhyming Party!
ONLY 1 spot left!
The $99.00 discounted price ends Thursday.
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!!!
61 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2015 Day 21 Sherri Duskey Rinker”
Sherri, Thank you for a wonderful post. Not only do I love to read stories aloud, but I have a dog that climbs on my lap and listens. A real win-win situation. – Judy Rubin
Sherri, thank you so much. I had not heard & probably would have stumbles though your third point. I really appreciate your sharing your experiences. Can’t wait to see the next books.
Thank you for the fabulous advice. I will bother my friends more often to read my stories.
I love that you and your editor have a third person read the manuscript to you in a conference call. A rhyming PB really can’t be read aloud enough to ensure that it flows as smoothly as possible. Thanks for a great post!
Rita Antoinette Borg I have always heard the book God night, Goodnight, Construction Site mentioned. I think I should buy it soon. So glad I met the author. Thank you Angie!
Kristi Veitenheimer – I really enjoyed today’s post. It’s always valuable to be reminded again and again about important steps in the revision stage, such as reading your manuscript aloud. Thanks!
Elaine Hillson – thank you Sherri for a great post. If I can’t find anyone to read my manuscript aloud I have been known to record myself reading and then play it back. 🙂
I read aloud to my husband, and now I will bother anyone else I can get my hands on! I will also buy Goodnight Construction Site.
I was shaking my head in agreement as I read this. Laughing, too, because my daughter does that eye-roll-thing when I want to read my W.I.P. to her. Often, after I’ve received advice from my critique groups and I feel I’ve polished a manuscript as much as I can, I give it to my husband for the first time to read out loud to me. Exactly as you pointed out, any flaws in meter come to attention.
Sherri, great idea on having editors give your manuscript to new blood to read before going to print!
Read aloud is an amazing discovery tool for even the slightest hiccup.
Rebecca Trembula – Having a fresh reader once the text and images are combined is such a good idea. And I love Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site. Although I’d read it before, it was one of my RhyPiBoMo books.
This is such a helpful post, and I love her first name. Haha. My sister was visiting and has twin grandsons that she wanted to read some of my picture books to. I gave her GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE, just to borrow. Love that book. Ooh, I hope having the same first name means I am also slated for greatness. Sherri Jones Rivers
Yes! Reading out loud is imperative. And what a clever idea to have someone read it in a conference call!
The read-aloud component is so important, and I especially appreciate having someone else read it aloud to hear the differences from reader to reader. Thanks, Sherri. Val McCammon
I like to read my stories out loud too. It helps me find those place where I might be emphasizing the wrong syllable to make the meter work.
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site is an excellent mentor text, and makes a wonderful gift! Thanks, Sherri.
My office dog is finally used to me reading out loud. The new kitten? Not so much, but she loves these conversations! Darlene Ivy
Great ideas! My husband is a percussionist (when he’s not doing something that actually makes money) – so I find that having him read a text aloud helps me find errors in meter that I would never have noticed on my own. He is quicker to discover off beats and errors than anyone else I know. It’s always good to have a drummer around! –Katey Howes
Caroline Twomey-I really enjoyed today’s post, thank you Sherri! Great advice and I’m definitely going to start annoying some more friends to read my work aloud to me “)
This is great advice, and the prompt makes sense too. Having someone read your manuscript to you is smart. I personally find myself stretching words or pronouncing them to fit the rhythm! On of the things I heard from the NESCBWI conference is to record then playback.
Rita Allmon– Thanks, Sherri, for this helpful post and the great advice.
So important to let someone who has never read your text to read it cold. Often in my writing group i read what i have written to the group. I’m going to always start now by letting someone else do a first reading so i can listen. Thanks for this reminder!
Great advice, Sherri! Thanks. 🙂
Melanie Ellsworth – Sherri, thanks for making me laugh out loud with the mom/kid dialogue! All of your read-aloud suggestions are great, and it was interesting to hear about your experiences with your editors. My daughter really enjoyed GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE, and it has been a perfect book for gifting to friends with children.
Wonderful post! Having someone read your manuscript to you is invaluable. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
Great point about having someone new read it after it’s laid out!! I, too, loved GOODNIGHT, GOODNIGHT, CONSTRUCTION SITE!
Joanne Sher LOVED this advice – especially about the reading aloud (Both personally and by other people). Thanks so very, VERY much, Sherri! (and your kids are like mine – except they would ask about donuts rather than Wheat Thins)
Sherri, I am completely with you on both your points. And my chat with Kid sounds similiar too (except were gluten free, so they eat ice cream). – Manju Howard
Appreciations to Angie Karcher & Dusky Rinker (what a lovely author byline you have!)
Thanks for pointing out we need to do the math.
And for all the insider tips.
Above appreciations from Jan Annino 🙂
Jill Proctor – Thank you, Sherri, for such great advice. Reading aloud is sooo important. And thank you for pointing out how important it is to make note on the original ms. which words should be emboldened, or vice versa.
Sherri thanks for the great suggestions. I laughed at your family member’s feedback with your reading. It’s so true! Therese Nagi
Thanks for the pointers, Sherri! Reading it aloud is one of the most basic things, and I still tend to skip it. Will make a greater effort!
Thank you for your insight and tips, Sherri. Love your books and have them in my personal library. I look forward to the new arrivals 🙂 I get that eye rolling thing in my household, too-LOL
I laughed so hard at the part where your kids tell you that they have already heard it. (I get that too. “But wait, it’s revised! I removed 2 words! it’s different!”) I enjoyed reading your post and the tips that you share. Thanks Sherri!
Sherri, I love your advice…it seems like the revisions go on forever, but it’s completely necessary.
Great advice, thank you! Lynne Marie Pisano
Ann Magee. Thanks, Sherrie, for the advice today. Now, to put it into practice . . .
Excellent advice. Thank you. – Marianne Gage
Thank you, Sherri! I will keep all of your steps in mind, although I happily await the day that I can apply the ones that pertain to actually getting published. 🙂
Sherri, I agree wholeheartedly about reading it aloud, even if that means driving your children crazy!
Great post. My daughter loves hearing the latest version of my manuscript – my son not so much.
Ginger Weddle- Sherri, Thank you for the great suggestions and tips!!!
Shirley Johnson – Great advice! Thanks for sharing.
Thank you for your generous and inspiring post. I had never thought at the late stage of having someone read it to you and the editor. Brilliant!!
Thank you for your generous and inspiring post. I had never thought at the late stage of having someone read it to you and the editor. Brilliant!! Thanks again.
Omg. Sherri I think you just saved my life. I’m working so hard to finalize a new ms to send off to an agent and as I read your post I kept thinking to myself: “yep, did that. Check.” And then the part about having someone brand new read it to me….what? Yes! I hadn’t thought of it and I’m so grateful for this advice. Thank you so much!
Karen Nordseth Roos
The conversation between mom and child is all too familiar in our house! Thanks for the motivation to keep on reading it out! Carrie Charley Brown
Thank you Sherri – I appreciated the steps of revision and also the point that sometimes you can have an extra syllable or two if it works! I have always felt that was okay but have read that you need to be very specific with meter. Love Good Night Good Night Construction Site – it’s a great mentor text!
Sherri, what a wonderfully informative and helpful post. It is amazing how difficult it is to write rhyme in such a way that it flows off the tongue of any reader. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. – Maria Oka