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Today’s author mentions many titles from one of my favorite authors of rhyme Lisa Wheeler. Have you read her books? If not, you MUST read them all to see what a true quality RPB entails.
I am so happy to have this very talented teacher/writer with us today! Look for more of his books coming soon!
I’m pleased to introduce
Author Rob Sanders
Author Rob Sanders
Finding Your Rhythm in Meter
By Rob Sanders
I love parades—have since I was a kid. I distinctly remember the Christmas parade back in Springfield, Missouri. Our entire family would bundle up and stand in front of the county court house waiting for the floats, bands, and, eventually, Santa. The drumline of each band would get my pulse racing. It was almost like I could feel the bass drum beats ricocheting off my chest. The syncopated rhythms always got the crowd cheering and clapping along.
Meter can do the same thing in rhyming picture books. Meter can quicken the pulse of the reader, provide the rhythm that drives the story forward, and cause the reader to cheer, “Read it again!”
A few years ago I was leading in-service training for teachers in my school district. Many of our Title I schools had been given sets of books to use as mentor texts to teach writing craft during writers’ workshop lessons. I was familiar with the books that filled the tub each school received because I’d spent several days reading all the books and creating a master list of the writing crafts in each book, the page numbers where examples could be found, and how each craft might be taught in a lesson.
During the training, small groups of teachers read through texts, used post-its to mark what they found, and then shared out their discoveries. One group read a passage from a picture book and started listing the writing crafts they had identified. “We found vivid verbs, and a simile.” I nodded my head in agreement, and then the teacher continued, “We also found rhyme and meter.” I must have given the women a funny look because she added, “Really, we did!”
I asked her to read the passage aloud again, and sure enough there was rhyme and meter. As many times as I had read that passage, I hadn’t heard it. Why? Because the rhymes were so perfect and the meter so fluid that the text flowed seamlessly. “What a great writer!” I gushed upon the discovery.
I’ve never had that experience again, but I have begun to discover something that most masters of rhyme do. They choose their meter specifically to fit the text they are writing. They find the rhythm that suits the story.
For instance, in AVALANCHE ANNIE, Lisa Wheeler (a true master rhymer) uses her meter to drive the forward momentum of the story, leaving us speeding forward with Annie as she outpaces an avalanche.
That avalanche was angry—
an awesome icy beast!
That wicked wonder wouldn’t stop
its power had increased.
As Yoohoos scurried downward,
their snowshoes lost their grip.
SNAP! That brute, in close pursuit,
cracked at them like a whip!
In MAMMOTHS ON THE MOVE, Lisa uses the same meter, but adds an additional foot. The pace slows, and I feel like I’m traveling side-by-side with these plodding, pre-historic pachyderms.
The oldest mother led the way
across the steppes both night and day.
The females followed in her tracks,
majestic glaciers at their backs.
Rivers ran across their path
But mammoths didn’t mind a bath.
They raised their snorkel-trunks up high
And swam with noses to the sky.
I know Lisa Wheeler, and I’ve heard her speak at boot camps and conferences. She has professionally critiqued many of my manuscripts, and I’ve adopted her as one of my mentors. I don’t think the meter she used in each of these books happened by accident. I think Lisa intentionally chose the meter she would use in each book so it would contribute to the overall impact of the story she was telling.
Another strategy for choosing the meter that will create the rhythm in the story you are writing is to look to existing and familiar metric schemes. Examples include ONCE UPON A TWICE by Denise Doyen which uses the same meter as “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll, and THE SOLDIERS’ NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS by Trish Holland and Christine Ford which is based on the Christmas classic THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Since I seem to be leading us through an author study of Lisa Wheeler’s rhyming picture books, let’s examine an excerpt from her SPINSTER GOOSE: TWISTED RHYMES FOR NAUGHTY CHILDREN which uses the rhyming structure and meter of many well-known nursery rhymes as inspiration.
Peas porridge hot.
(I hate this food a lot.)
Peas porridge cold.
(All moldy, green, and old.)
Peas porridge thin.
(In slimy gelatin.)
Peas porridge thick.
(I think I’m feeling sick.)
A strong meter anchors the reader in the story. Meter also serves as a road sign to readers—a road sign that directs them on their reading journey. Meter can dictate the pace at which a story is read, what words are emphasized, and what feeling is created. In all fairness, meter is not the only road sign that readers use on their reading journeys. Other road signs that dictate how a reader reads a piece of literature include punctuation, vocabulary, the use of all caps, onomatopoeias, line breaks, placement of words on a page, intentional interruption in the flow/meter, and, of course, the rhyme choices themselves. The importance of meter, however, cannot be over emphasized.
My challenge to you, my fellow rhyming picture book writer, is to create the road signs that will take your readers on a successful and marvelous journey. Find the rhythm or meter that will dictate how a reader will travel through your story. Don’t leave your meter to chance; don’t let it be half-done, awkward, or inconsistent; don’t settle for a metric pattern just because it seems comfortable or familiar. Find your rhythm and make it work for, and contribute to your writing. In the end, your readers will be cheering, “Read it again!”
Want to Dig In Deeper?
Do you want to study more about meter? Head straight to rhymeweaver.com where author, friend, and fellow Florida SCBWI member, Lane Frederickson, will enlighten, entertain, and inform you.
There are many forms of meter and many poets challenge themselves to try out various metric patterns in their writing. If you want to see a master poet at work, subscribe to Jane Yolen’s “Poem A Day.” Jane often challenges herself (and her readers) with new, different, or unfamiliar metric schemes.
Do you know about the Poetry Foundation? You should check it out so you can get a crash course on various forms of meter!
Rob Sanders does not work as a telephone sales rep, a loading dock worker, a trophy engraver, or an editor. But he used to. Rob is not a cowboy, a ballerina, an alien, or a temper-tantrum-throwing toddler. But he writes about them. Rob is a picture book author and a writing teacher. He worked for fifteen years in religious educational publishing as a writer, editor, editorial manager, and product designer. These days he teaches elementary kids about books, and writes books for those same kids.
Since focusing on picture book writing eight years ago, Rob has sold six picture books to three major publishing houses. His first picture book, COWBOY CHRISTMAS, was released by Golden Books/Random House in 2012. OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE (listed among the top twenty rhyming picture books of 2015) was released by Random House Children’s Books in January 2015. RUBY ROSE—OFF TO SCHOOL SHE GOES (the first in a two-book deal with HarperCollins) releases in 2016. Other titles coming soon include: RUBY ROSE—BIG BRAVOS (HarperCollins 2017), RODZILLA (Simon & Schuster, 2017), and A FLAG FOR HARVEY (Random House Children’s Books, 2018). Rob also coordinates the Rising Kite Writing Contest for SCBWI Florida, organizes meetings for SCBWI Florida members in the Tampa Bay area, and coaches and critiques other picture book writers.
OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE
Pre-Order for June 2016
RUBY ROSE OFF TO SCHOOL SHE GOES
Thank You Rob!
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90 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 11 Author Rob Sanders”
I’m learning so many of the technical terms for things I do by instinct. Now I know that I can vary the rhymes to get different pacing. All very challenging.
Jill Giesbrecht – Meter is an aspect of RPBs I will focus on in the coming weeks. Thank you for the great examples and reminder.
Rob, you put your finger on what we have to strive for!
Joy Main – thank you Rob for a great post. I often choose a rhythmic character name and then use the name to lead the meter. It can work sometimes, and other times it just trips me up and I have to change the name and start again!
Great description of rhyme and meter, but challeging for me.
I guess I hadn’t really thought about the meter having such a strong impact on the story before, but it makes perfect sense that some meters would provide a stronger impact than others depending on the tone and the story line of the book. I plan to be far more conscious of this when starting out on a new manuscript in the future. Thanks for a truly helpful and inspiring post! — Rebecca Colby
Thanks for such a great post, Rob Sanders. Meter and rhyme shine in Lisa Wheeler’s stories. And thanks for pointing out some of the mentor meters that other author’s used for their manuscripts. Thanks again for this post.
Thanks Rob. I choose books for the PA Young Reader’s Choice Awards. I am definitely going to check out Outer Space Bedtime Race and your new works coming later in 2016.
I’m learning more each day, thanks to our great guest bloggers, and their fabulous book suggestions and commentary. Looking for those road signs, Rob.
It’s night time here in Oz but Rob has inspired me to get back out of bed and rework a rhyming manuscript, thanks Rob! Ramona DAVEY
Rob, thank you for your great advice. It is much appreciated!!!
Great post! I am going to revisit my meter on a WIP with your mentoring in mind.
Melissa Stoller —
Hi Rob – thanks for these insightful comments. Your examples are so helpful and I appreciate your list of resources. Looking forward to reading your upcoming books!
What a great post about rhyme and meter, Rob! Love your stories. Thanks for sharing this info and resources! Lisa Wheeler is a favorite of mine.
Thanks for such a great post on how meter can create mood. Your examples were very helpful.
David McMullin. I really loved this article. So helpful. Thanks, Rob
So many thoughts and ideas are zooming through my head after reading this post! I’m really anxious to explore what I can do with all the information! I want to push myself now to see what I can accomplish in my writing. Thanks Rob for the book suggestions and your words on “How meter can quicken the pulse of the reader!” That’s what I’m hoping to find in my work!!!
Thanks, Rob! It’s very helpful to read examples of meters that work. I’m adding OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE to my TBR list. Manju Howard
Lots of great advice here. I, too, love Lisa Wheeler’s books! Spinster Goose is a particular favorite. – Rbecca Gomez
Thank you, Rob, for a fantastic blog post filled with great information! I appreciate all the examples and resources you gave! Looking forward to adding even more fun rhyming reads to my stack!
Jen Garthe — Thank you, Rob! It was nice to learn more about you and your books, and I really appreciate that resources you included!
An insightful post, to be sure! Thanks, Rob, for giving us some guidance on how to maneuver along the writing road. Road signs are invaluable, especially if at times your sense of direction isn’t all that great.
Once again there’s a treasure of reference material here. I love the generosity of the authors posting here! Sherry Howard
I love trying out different rhythm patterns to see which “feels” like a perfect fit for my story.
Thank you! I am a big fan of rereading and reading out loud. I do get some weird looks when I sit on the floor in the kids section at library doing this😉.
Really good post! Makes me want to try changing the meter to see if I can change the whole feeling of the story. Thanks!
I love to hear about mentor texts and authors I haven’t discovered yet!
Anne Bielby — It’s obvious that you spent a lot of time and effort and skill crafting this blog article to help us. Appreciated!
Melanie Ellsworth – I love parades, too, Rob. Next time I write a rhyming picture book, I will think of the sound of bagpipes to get the meter flowing! Thanks for the reminder that meter is a tool we choose to fit the story we’re trying to tell.
Great post, Rob – and good examples of how meter affects pace. I’d never really thought about it before, but when you show how adding a foot creates the plodding feel of mammoths – it all makes sense. Now I’ll read with more awareness.
Great post, as always, Rob — informative and inspiring. Can’t wait until Ruby Rose gets to our house! XO
Lynne Marie – LiterallyLynneMarie@Gmail.com
Gayle C. Krause
Hey, Rob. It’s been a long time since we exchanged those first manuscripts with Lynne Marie. Congratulations on all your successes. I agree, Lisa Wheeler is the Mistress of Meter. Glad you shared your wisdom and hers. 🙂
Hi, Rob. This post is great. The examples are perfect to make us understand the different moods that meter can create. Thank you!
Thank you for your helpful post!
Thanks for a terrific post.
(Katelyn Aronson) Thank you Rob Sanders for a great introduction to meter! Another wonderfully accessible resource, for those who want to study further, is the rhyme/meter chapter in Ann Whitford Paul’s “Writing Picture Books.” It helped me so much on my rhyming pb manuscript!
Thanks, Rob!! Lisa Wheeler is one of my favorites and I absolutely adore Avalanche Annie–it’s such a fun read aloud & the tall tale flavor makes the voice really since. Sailor Moo is great too. Looking forward to reading your books!
Great post. And now I have some more titles to read.
Rob I do try different meters but not always well! I had looked at the Poetry Foundation. this week I was reading Poem-Mobiles by J.Patrick Lewis and think he is a mater with words and meter. Thanks for the inspiration.
Thanks for sharing so many great titles! Now I have more great books to add to my reading list.
So helpful! Great resources. Thank you!
Ann Kelley – What a great post! I just put Lisa Wheeler’s books as well as Outer Space Bedtime Race on hold at my library. Thank you, Rob!
Thank you Rob for a great post and for sharing a wonderful “aha” moment. They are so rare and wonderful for both writer and reader. – Judy Rubin
Thanks for the info Rob, meter is still my biggest challenge I need to master. Your books look delightful btw.
Thanks for the post, Rob. I found your post helpful and look forward to reading the books you suggest.
So much to think about! Thank you for the examples and breaking it down, Rob!
Thanks for the post on meter, and for the examples of how to use it effectively.
Jill Proctor – Thank you for a great post, Rob. I loved your examples of great meter. I’ll be sure to check out books by Lisa Wheeler. And Poetry Foundation looks like a wonderful resource. Thanks!
Love this post and the examples. So much to grasp. Thanks, Rob!
Donna Rossman – Thanks, Rob! Outstanding examples! 😀