We have an agent in the house!
Today, we are fortunate enough to have an agent’s perspective on rhyme. Raise your hand if you’ve heard, “We don’t accept rhyming manuscripts.” or “We don’t publish rhyme.”
We all know that’s not true. Brilliant, singing rhyme is published every day and the children who listen to it love it. So why do they say not to write in rhyme?
Answer: shhhhhh….listen carefully…
“It’s a trick so that unprofessional writers won’t send stinky rhyming manuscripts.”
Only the good stuff gets through, is published and blesses the laps of parents everywhere. Today’s guest blogger is here to share why this winning title is one such book.
I’m pleased to introduce
Agent Tricia Lawrence with
Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Agent Tricia Lawrence
Rhyme From Acquisition to Award
It’s the quintessential children’s book ideal. A sweet, rhyming story, sold in bookstores everywhere, something children adore and fall asleep to, quietly, orderly, and did I mention, quietly?
I hate to burst the bubble, but kids today, while still hankering for stories to fall asleep to every night, really want toe-tapping, dancing and singing, RHYME.
Enter Penny Parker Klostermann. Her words tip-tap-toe off the page and dance in your head. You can’t not nod along as you read her rhyming picture books, especially THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT.
We all find ourselves nodding along to music and poetry and the cadence of a really great public speaker. It moves us, inspires us, and it looks SO EASY.
It’s SO NOT.
With Penny, what got my attention was her craft focus on the art of writing a picture book. She was always reading, reading, reading a ton of picture books. And she didn’t force her rhyme onto every single manuscript.
Very few writers START with rhyme. They start with a story, an idea, something that can propel a child to continue to turn the pages, to yell “Again!” when the parent turns the final page. And that’s when the decision to rhyme comes in: Does the story need rhyme? Does it rollick and jump off the page when rhyme is added or does the prose work?
Rhyme has to sing. It has to make you dance. Penny’s THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON makes you feel the rhythm in your head all the way down to your toes. Rhyme added another amazing layer to DRAGON, so much so that it gleamed! Penny set it to song and sang it, over and over and over to herself, and then she sanded off any slow edges and tightened up any laborious stanzas.
Penny wasn’t just a picture book writer; she was also a poet. She inhaled poetry books. She listened to poetry, especially to cadence and stanza length.
And when Penny’s editor, Maria, saw her manuscript, she knew right away. She could feel the craft work in Penny’s manuscript. The melding of two incredible skill sets: the art of a picture book, the story world, the motivating idea and the world of poetry, the beautiful sound and feel of words and language.
Every time I read THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON, I’m tapping my foot all over again.
Tricia is the “Pacific Northwest branch” of EMLA—born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After 20 years of working as a developmental and production-based editor (from kids books to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist.
As agent, Tricia represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won’t let go.
Tricia loves hiking, camping out in the woods, and collecting rocks. She loves BBC America and anything British. She has way too many books and not enough bookshelves. You can find Tricia’s writing about blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, and other social media topics (for authors and the publishing industry at large) here and here.
Thank You Tricia!
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110 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 3 Agent Tricia Lawrence”
Great Post! Inspiring.
Thanks for the insider information Tricia!
Entertaining is hard work but magical when perfect.
i have learned most recently from REFOREMO and now here that Rhyme cannot be pushed and , the story arc is important. Having a musical bent, I can see that Penny’s book has that feel. I wrote one once based on the rhythm of Humpty Dumpty and then I found writing the music easy. After all ‘you’ve got to have the beat
to dance inside or on your feet’
Thanks for your clear view here. Sorry Angie, I thought we just had to comment on facebook page. I’m learning ( and soon travelling to UK so I’ll be late!)
“Rhyme has to sing” I love it! Thanks, Tricia!
David McMullin. Thank you, Tricia. I started writing everything in rhyme, then switched and now I write nothing in rhyme. I think it may be time to give it a go again.
There are so many layers to balance in a successful rhyming picture book. Now you have me picturing a teetering, tottering wedding cake with each layer being a skill to bring to the final story.
Ingrid Boydston Thanks for the super secret answer! I hoped that was the case! I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Klostermann’s session during the Rhyming Picture Book Revolution conference and I hear you echoing the same sentiment. Rhyming is hard, but it can be done! (with lots and lots and lots of hard work, but that’s fine!) What a relief to hear it from the agents mouth! Thank you!
This is an inspiring post. I know how hard poets/writers have to work, but when you read Penny’s book, it glides off your tongue so easily, you forget how much work it takes! I read “Dragon” to my two year old grandson who certainly didn’t understand the concept, but after I was done, he said, “Again!” The power of GOOD rhyme! Thanks!