RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 15 Margarita Engle

RPB Badge - for blog

Our 2015 RPB Revolution Conference Badge

The RPB Revolution Conference Recording

 Last December, my aMaZing Best in Rhyme Award Committee and my aMaZing RPB Conference Committee and I planned the first Best in Rhyme Award Ceremony and the Rhyming Picture Book Revolution Conference in New York City, sponsored by KidLitTV.

Congratulations to Author Penny Parker Klostermann
and her award winning book

It was a last minute opportunity that we managed to pull off in 3 months time with the help and support of many. It takes a village of rhymers, for sure! Julie Gribble, of KidLitTV, generously hosted our conference as well as the Best in Rhyme 2015 Award Ceremony.

Julie Gribble Headshot with scarfKidLit TV logo - new

Our wonderful presenters were: Author Penny Parker Klostermann (2015 Best in Rhyme Award Winner), Author Lori Degman, Agent Kendra Marcus of BookStop Literary, Author Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Editor Rebecca Davis of WordSong/Boyds Mills Press, Author Karma Wilson and Editor Justin Chanda of Simon and Schuster. 

These generous folks donated their time, their wisdom and their support to our first conference and we are very grateful!  We, in turn, covered their flights, food and lodging. Hotels in Tribecca, NY in December are incredibly expensive, even with a group rate. ($350.00/night) This was the bulk of our expenses, plus the cost of renting chairs, tables and podium, appetizers and drinks for the award ceremony and a nice faculty dinner. We made tough decisions to cut costs and keep conference fees down. Many of the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Authors donated books for us to auction.  Karma Wilson and Rebecca Davis donated boxes full of books for us to auction. Justin Chanda and Simon and Schuster covered Karma’s expenses, to help us. Julie Gribble loaned us her studio, which is also her home, and recorded and edited the conference recording, HOURS of work, at no charge. Even my committee and I paid our own expenses to make this event happen. I’m explaining this because I want you to know how much passion there is from all involved to promote, support and write wonderful rhyming picture books! We felt that it was a great success with nearly 50 people attending the Best in Rhyme Award Ceremony, the Conference and the Books of Wonder book signing.

Were there bumps along the way? Absolutely! Did I learn a lot about hosting a conference? Absolutely! Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat!  ♥

Books of Wonder - with Penny 2

Author Penny Parker Klostermann and Author Angie Karcher at Books of Wonder Bookstore in NYC

Our presenters allowed Julie Gribble to record the conference, so we could sell it for 6 months following the event, to help pay the remaining bills. June 1st is the day the recording link expires, so that means that we have limited time to sell this OUTSTANDING conference recording! It is over 4 hours of information presented by talented authors, agents and editors!

And…those who purchase the recording will be invited to present a manuscript to Editor Justin Chanda, Editor Rebecca Davis and Agent Kendra Marcus! What? Really? YES!

All for the bargain price of $49.99!

The final sales of this recording, plus the auction sales, will make it possible for me to plan another book award ceremony and conference. I assure you that this was a non-profit event and anything you can do to support our efforts is greatly appreciated! 

Did I mention that I will have 3 in college this fall? = 0

Why am I offering this explanation? Because I continue to ask for your help and I felt like I should offer the explanation of where we are… RhyPiBoMo was never and will never be about making money.

It is about the love of the rhyme!

RPB Conference Group Pic

Here is the link:


Okay, taking my crumpled, car salesman hat off now!

Whew…the least favorite part of my job! 


I’m pleased to introduce

Author & Poet Margarita Engle

Margarita Engle Headshot

Author & Poet Margarita Engle



I’m so happy to be included in this fantastic collection of brief statements honoring rhymed picture books.  None of my own picture books actually rhyme in the traditional way, with metered lines and rhymes that appear at predictable intervals.  In fact, I tend toward free verse, partly because most of my picture books are intended for older children.  Only three of them, When You Wander, Tiny Rabbit’s Big Wish, and Drum Dream Girl, incorporate a bit of rhyme.  In all three of these books, the rhythms emerge from the subject matter, rather than by counting syllables.  In all, at least some of the rhymes are widely scattered and often tend to be interior, occurring within lines, not just at the ends.

Tiny Rabbits Big Dream

People often ask me why I write the way I do, as if they find it unusual.  I can’t offer a logical answer, other than to say it feels natural, and the flowing effect makes me happy.  That’s really the key.  No matter how serious the subject, poetry has the innate ability to make writers—as well as readers and listeners—feel pleased in a physical, sonorous, sensory way.  Perhaps it’s our yearning to sing, even when we don’t have beautiful voices, or it could be the ancient link to verbal storytelling around a campfire, or chants repeated while planting and gathering crops, or lullabies dreamed up by mothers in an effort to soothe babies.  Whatever the source, poetry brings real pleasure in the form of lyrical, musical language.  The possibilities are endless.  Some natural sounds occur at regular intervals.  Cricket chirps, frog calls, and ocean waves bring to mind metered rhymes.  Other sounds found in nature are varied.  Mockingbirds, wind in treetops, thunder.  Writers are free to choose any combination.  Even the act of choosing is pleasurable, making the writing process a privilege, not a chore.

Drum Dream Girl

In my opinion, the most important characteristic of any story or poem is honesty.  Nonfiction, fiction, and fantasies all need emotional truth.  If I tried to write like a traditional balladeer, my counted syllables and forced rhymes would expose me as a fraud.  By letting rhythms, rhymes, and ideas flow naturally, I am being myself, a hybrid between a free verse poet and scientist.  For me, these mixtures work, while fixed forms would not.  When You Wander, a Search and Rescue Dog Story, needed to be very comforting, because the idea of getting lost is so scary.  Tiny Rabbit’s Big Wish incorporated rhymes inspired by the hopping motions of a bunny. In Drum Dream Girl, How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music, the dance like rhythms and scattered rhymes grew from Cuba’s wealth of percussion instruments  For me, this hybrid approach is natural, a balance between structure and flow.  It’s not something I do consciously, not a technique I could study or teach, just my own natural, variable, constantly changing approach.


Each seeker has to find her own way.  Some paths lead to the beautiful counted meters and patterned rhymes of traditional poetic forms, while others lead into a wilderness.  I happen to love exploring.



Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many verse books, including the Newbery Honor winner, The Surrender Tree, PEN USA Award winner, The Lightning Dreamer, and Walter Dean Myers Honor winner, Enchanted Air.  Her books have also received multiple Pura Belpré and Américas Awards, as well as a Jane Addams Award, International Reading Association Award, and many others.  Books for younger children include Mountain Dog, Summer Birds, and the Charlotte Zolotow Award winner, Drum Dream Girl.


Margarita’s 2016 books are Lion Island (Atheneum, August), and Morning Star Horse (HBE Publishers, autumn).  She lives in central California, where she enjoys helping her husband train his wilderness search and rescue dog.

Margarita’s WEBSITE




 Tiny Rabbits Big Dream



Drum Dream Girl


Thank You Margarita!

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.




84 thoughts on “RhyPiBoMo 2016 Day 15 Margarita Engle

  1. Emotional truth really makes a PB resonate with its audience. As to your writing style, I know I’d find it difficult to write in this way that you find natural, but it was fascinating to read about and I can’t wait to read your books now, Marguerite! — Rebecca Colby

  2. Joy Main – Thank you Margarita, I am fascinated by combining rhyme and prose in a story, and how hard it is to do well. I’ll look up your books for inspiration.

  3. Thank you for the inspiring post – it’s wonderful to see that there is a place for every voice – and the goal is happiness and expressing for the sheer joy of it! xo Susan Bernardo

  4. Linda Hofke

    As a poet myself, I agree with your statement about writing what feels natural. There are many poetic devices we can incorporate in our writing other than or in addition to rhyme. And,as you’ve note, those elements must also match the theme of the story. Thanks for the reminded and the support.

  5. Anne Bielby Thank you for the prize I won last week, which is to listen to and watch the recording of the conference! Thank you for all the hard work you did to make that a reality, Angie. Marguerita, thank you for an inspiring post.

  6. Donna Rossman
    I was very excited when I purchased the conference recording a few months ago and it didn’t disappoint!!!!! Thank you Angie, Julie and all for your hard work and love of the craft!!!!! 🙂

    Many thanks, Margarita for sharing your process! it’s very inspiring!!! 🙂

  7. Ordering the replay was worth every penny – and more. If you’re thinking about, do it! And Margarita, thanks for the insight into your process. Very helpful! Pat Haapaniemi

  8. MaryLee Flannigan
    Thank you Margarita for sharing your writing style. Your style sounds like the perfect example of a “fresh new voice” that is always being discussed.

    I am going to purchase the conference recording – thank you for sharing this with us!

  9. I enjoyed hearing this POV! I’m going to buy the books to have mentor texts for this mix, which I love, poetic prose. I’m glad you reminded again, Angie, I keep forgetting to get the recording. It takes being in the right place with time and e-money ready to go. Should happen today.

  10. Natalie McNee
    Even your post felt flowy and natural to me 🙂 You can tell you are definitely a person true unto themselves. Thank you for the post and I look forward to reading your books Margarita.

  11. Margarita, Thanks for sharing your approach to rhythm and rhyme. I believe your picture books will be perfect mentor texts for me. I want “the rhythms emerge from the subject matter, rather than by counting syllables.”
    Angie, I have viewed the Rhyming Picture Book Revolution Conference video numerous times. I’m grateful to hear writers, agents and editors share their love of story, rhythm and rhyme. Manju Howard

  12. (Katelyn Aronson) Thank you, Margarita. Even your prose in this blog post is so poetic. I love the passage about the way poetry makes us “feel pleased in a physical, sonorous, sensory way.” So true!

  13. I enjoyed reading your post this morning, Margarita, and also felt your words flowed beautifully. Your observations illustrate the fact that there are several ways to achieve the same results: entertaining, engaging the senses, and delighting the ear of the listener. I’m on my way to the library to get your books!

  14. Debbie Smart – Thank you, Margarita for your beautiful post! Love your wonderful words of insight. Thanks so much for taking the time to share them with us.

    Thank you, Angie for the recorded version of RBP Conference. I had already purchased this and love it! I hope many more of you will take the opportunity to grab this up!

  15. Yes, I thought this was a great description! “…poetry has the innate ability to make writers—as well as readers and listeners—feel pleased in a physical, sonorous, sensory way.”

  16. Joana Pastro
    Thanks, Margarita. This was such an inspired post. Some natural sounds are like poetry, and like poetry do inspire emotions. Right now I hear water flowing at a rhythm, and birds chirping in a subtle pattern. Both are lovely. I hope to be able to bring some of that loveliness into my writing soon. 🙂
    I can’t wait to read your books.

  17. Margarita – yes! keeping it honest is the most important. I also like the way you allow the rhythm and rhyme to emerge from the story/subject matter in an organic way. I’m still learning my way around rhyming, but there are definitely times when a story idea seems to have a certain rhythm and feels like it should be told in rhyme rather than prose.

  18. Randi Sonenshine
    Margarita, your post, itself, is reflective of your beautifully lyrical style and was a pleasure to read. I love the idea of “exploring” your writing territories and that the subject will reveal its natural rhythms. Though meter and rhyme come naturally to me, last summer I explored reworking one of my prose picture books into free verse. It immediately felt right! At the urging of several agents and critique partners, it has morphed into a novel in verse. Who knew???
    Thank you again for sharing your organic process; it confirms what I have felt but couldn’t put in words!

  19. Pam Phillips

    I’m so excited to go read these, traditional rhyming is driving me nuts. I would love to see another way to do it, thank you very much for sharing this.

  20. Melanie Ellsworth – Thanks for the beautiful post, Margarita. I love your sentence about poetry making us feel “pleased in a physical, sonorous, sensory way.” I get too wedded to structure when I write rhyming picture books, so I will have to remember what you said about “the balance between structure and flow.”

  21. Charlotte Dixon
    Thank you, Margarita, for sharing your journey to find your lyrical voice.

    I’ve bought my replay of the conference and I thank RhyPiBoMo for this incredible offer!!

  22. Julie Schuh

    Thank you for sharing your perspective on writing. I found your words to be both reassuring and inspiring. I am look forward to reading your work.

  23. Laura Renauld –
    Thank you for reminding us that we strive for emotional truth in our storytelling, whether that means metered verses or internal rhymes.

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