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!
PLEASE like our guest bloggers on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, go to their websites and express your appreciation for their time and wisdom! Many have generously donated multiple prizes and this event would not be successful without their support, so please support them! Oh…and buy their books too!!
To be eligible for today’s prize drawing by Random.org you must comment at the bottom of the page where it says “Leave A Reply” AND add your FIRST and LAST name in the comment. If I don’t have your name or how to contact you via email, you can’t win.
You must be a member of the RhyPiBoMo Facebook Group and if you haven’t officially registered, you are not eligible to win.
Please follow the pledge rules daily to get the most out of this challenge!
The drawings will be done daily and announced on Saturday of each week.
110 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 3 Agent Tricia Lawrence”
Yes! Tricia hit the proverbial nail/s on the head:
1) Focus on craft and story FIRST.
2) Make sure the story NEEDS rhyme; don’t force the rhyme upon it.
3) Be a poet; read and write poetry, and lots of it – – from silly to classic and in multiple forms, if you want your rhyming picture books to stand out among the crowd.
Kudos, Tricia, and thanks for sharing your insights!
There Was an Old Dragon is my current favorite! It absolutely sings! I can’t imagine creating anything even close to it.
Lane Fredrickson. I love a good secret. Thanks for the 411!!!
I think the rhymes we all love sing! The more rhyme you read, the more you hear the music when it’s there! Thanks for sharing this today!
I really like the comment that rhyming added another layer to Penny’s book. It isn’t the story, it’s something that made it even more special. Thank you for your post!
Wendy Greenley: There was a fine lady who wanted to rhyme–I don’t know why she wanted to rhyme, I’ll give it time. (cracking myself, and only myself up!) I can see why Tricia loves Penny’s work. 🙂
Thanks Tricia. Rhyming picture books do keep the read aloud engaging. I enjoyed your insight.
“Rhyme has to sing. It has to make you dance.” These words will stick with me. Thank you!
Thank you, Tricia, for sharing Penny’s rollicking fun PB, THERE WAS AN OLD DRAGON WHO SWALLOWED A KNIGHT. I have the book and read it often. The delight and smiles never go away.
I had the privilege of meeting Tricia Lawrence at an SCBWI conference a couple years ago. Immediately, she impressed me as being approachable, yet all-knowing in the kidlit industry. 🙂 I agree this book is a first-rate example of kids’ poetry done right. Thank you for this post!
Great post!! Thanks for the insight!
Sarah Harroff – Thanks, Tricia. I love hearing what it is that editors need to see in rhyming manuscripts to know they’re working. We’re grateful for your perspective.
Thanks for the post, Tricia. I added the book to my reading list and requested a copy from the library.
Great comments! Inspiration for those writers who know children love the rhythm and dance of language. Thanks for the post! #RhyPiBoMo.
Thank you, Tricia for sharing Penny’s journey creating her book ” There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight.” I now have a better idea how I should go about writing my manuscripts. Focus on the plot and story arc first and the rhyme second. Most of all, read alot of rhyming picture books and poetry.
Thank you, Tricia, for your encouragement. Lots of writing, lots of reading, lots of learning to do.
So nice to hear the value Tricia and other agents hold for the study and appreciation of poetic technique! What a great post.
Penny’s book is a great example of rhyme that sings.
Thanks, Tricia!! Go EMLA & Penny 🙂
Good rhyme looks easy but it’s not. So true. I also have lots of books – not enough bookshelves!
Great post…thank you!
Thank you for pointing out that today’s kids enjoy more upbeat rhyming books.
Laura Renauld – Tricia, thank you for your insight into rhyming picture books. Story first, rhyme second. Got it!
What great post! Thanks for the wonderful inspiration, encouragement, and information. Now to revise my rhyming ms! -Beth Gallagher
Sara Gentry – Ack! Realized that I forgot to put my name in my previous comment…. Hopefully I will remember in the future!
Great example of great rhyme!
Kathy Mazurowski- I agree that There Was An Old Dragon keeps your feet tapping. That is a great clue-to sing your manuscript. Thank you!
“Does the story NEED to rhyme?” Great insight with that question!
Thanks Tricia! This is a fun analysis of a great book.
Singing is a great way to find the rhythm of your rhyme. Great tip! 🙂
I,too, fell in love with Penny’s story-sense and ‘effortless’ rhyme the very first time I read it several years ago. It was a joy to hear you speak positively about rhyming picture books, Tricia…yes, they have to be absolutely perfect in every way…but at least there is hope for those of us who love to use rhyme. A wonderful inside look at a bit of the editorial process…thank you for sharing this. Vivian Kirkfield
Read aloud. Tap it out. Soon your rhyme will scream and shout.
NATALIE LYNN TANNER: Hi Tricia! I really appreciate your post focusing on one specific book (which we explored in yesterday’s blog with Penny) in order to see your comments and suggestions at work. The questions you posed, especially: “Does the story need rhyme? Does it rollick and jump off the page when rhyme is added or does the prose work?” have me thinking and rewriting already! THANK YOU for your unique insights as an agent, and for your inspiring words!!!
Thanks Tricia for the perspective on Penny’s book! I like your comment on how “Rhyme has to sing and it has to make you dance!” That’s what I will remember when I write!
I read The Was an Old Dragon to my kids yesterday. It’s one of our favorites to sing aloud! Thanks for the insightful post, Tricia!
This was very insightful Tricia, thanks for your post. Story first, followed by great rhyme; and of course There Was an Old Dragon does both so well!
Thanks for the terrific tips, Tricia! I love There Was an Old Dragon!
Thanks for sharing your perspective. As with anything, the more you practice the better you get. I especially appreciate the point to focus on story first, not rhyme.
Thanks, Tricia for the inspirational post!! I love There Was An Old Dragon!
Thanks for the inspirational tips, Tricia. I love the tip to sing my manuscript. I’d better tell the neighbours to close their windows!
DebbieLubbert – Thanks for the post!
Wonderful insights, Tricia. It’s crucial to figure out the story first and THEN decide if the rhyme enhances or detracts from it. And Penny’s habit of reading lots and lots of poetry is one that Angie is helping us all to develop — keep reading those rhyming PBs!
DebbieLubbert Thank you for the post!
This is a great approach. I love that we don’t need to start with rhyme, but start with the story.
Tricia, Thank you for your inspirational post! I appreciate the tips!
Reading, reading, reading! Not only do we get to know what’s out there and has been done before, but when we take the time to study books we figure out what works and doesn’t, and why. Thank you, Tricia, for that reminder, and Angie, for organizing this group where we can do it together!
Toe tapping poetry! It’s so true. I love the comparison to music.
Thank you Tricia for your post. I love Penny’s book (as does my ten year old). It’s a great book to learn from. 🙂
Reblogged this on Michelle Eastman Books.
Thank you Michelle!
Bowing to post written entirely in rhyme. I’m glad I read this post. Having a good story is foremost in writing and to be reminded of not forcing a rhyme for the sake of rhyme is too important to forget. Good, no wonderful post.
Oops! Comment above is in wrong place. Anyhoo, this post is so insightful. Penny’s book follows a crucial, yet funny “what if” engagement throughout her story. And she so knows how to bring the funny to each page. This story was very well written. This post was a great one. Thank you.