Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 9 ~ Linda Ashman ~ Coaches and Trochees and Iambs—Oh, My!

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Hey Coach

by Linda Ashman

Illustrated by Kim Smith

2016 Best in Rhyme Award Top 20

Congratulations Linda!

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See the Top 20 Best in Rhyme Books for 2016

One blue star

Coaches and Trochees and Iambs—Oh, My!

by Linda Ashman

Hello! Thanks for inviting me here to chat about Hey, Coach!, and about meter—an aspect of rhyme-writing that can cause a fair amount of confusion and angst.

But first, the book. Hey Coach! was inspired by my son’s first experience playing soccer years ago, and by his patient and good-natured coaches. In writing the story, I wanted to capture the energy, humor and everyone-speaking-at-once chaos of a young soccer team’s first season. The text is written entirely in dialogue—no description, no he said/she said attributions, just the voices of the kids themselves.

The story begins with the first practice:

Hey, Coach!

Guess what?

I’m on your team.

Can we be blue?

No, red!

No green!

 

Let’s be the Tigers.

No, the Sharks.

The Unicorns.

The Bears.

The Sparks!

(Notice the off-rhyme in the first stanza? I generally try to avoid them, but this one—team/green—sounded okay to me.)

It then proceeds through all seven games. Each one presents a new challenge, whether it’s a thunderstorm, wardrobe malfunctions or injuries:

Ouch!

My nose.

My knee.

I’m stung.

I bumped my head.

I bit my tongue.

 

I’m sick.

I slipped.

I stubbed my toe.

Uh, Coach—

I really have to go.

To show the team improving over time—without having to say so in the text—Kim Smith’s illustrations include a scoreboard for each game. Over the course of the season, we see the team’s losses get narrower until—finally!—they win their last game. The book ends with the kids gathered around the coach:

Hey, Coach—

I’m sad.

Our season’s done.

I love this game.

It’s so much fun.

 

I’ll play next year.

Can’t wait till then—

 

Can I be on your team again?

It’s a tribute to coaches—one that I hope will resonate with kids and parents as well. I also hope that teachers will use the book as a way to discuss dialogue, and encourage their students to write their own dialogue-only stories.

And now, on to that other topic . . .

Meter

Like many beginning picture book writers, I wrote my first manuscripts in rhyme without knowing a thing about meter. And—not surprisingly—I racked up the rejections. Learning about different metric patterns (and about poetry generally) made a huge difference in my writing.

Meter—the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a text—determines the rhythm and tempo of your verse. Well-done, metrically-consistent verse is pleasing to the ear, whether it’s soothing and lyrical or bouncy and energetic. Inconsistent meter, in contrast, can be jarring and discordant.

Here’s a quick rundown of four common metric forms (noted as either rising or falling):

Iamb (rising)

One unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable.

Examples: to/DAY, be/GIN, de/PART, en/DURE, Ma/RIE, Lou/ISE

I Hatched

Hey, Coach! is written in iambic, as is Jill Esbaum’s terrific book I Hatched! (illustrated by Jen Corace). Here’s how it begins:

A patch of light!         

One final peck.           

I give a shove and s-t-r-e-t-c-h my neck.

Then—CRACK!

Ta-da!

My head pokes through.

At last, I’m hatched!

Hello, what’s new?

Anapest (rising)

Two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed syllable.

Examples: com/pre/HEND, un/der/STAND, in/ter/JECT, in/ the/ BOWL, Em/my/LOU

Before

Joyce Sidman’s beautiful book Before Morning (illustrated by Beth Krommes) is written primarily in anapest:

In the deep woolen dark,

as we slumber unknowing,

let the sky fill with flurry and flight.

 

Let the air turn to feathers,

the earth turn to sugar,

and all that is heavy turn light.

Trochee (falling)

One stressed syllable followed by one unstressed (it brings to mind a drumbeat, itself a trochaic word).

Examples: FRIEND/ship, AW/ful, PUMP/kin, GAR/den, BASE/ball, ED/gar, PE/ter, LO/is.

Goodnight

Deborah Underwood’s Good Night, Baddies (illustrated by Juli Kangas) is written in trochaic verse. Here’s how it starts:

Sun dips down; the day has gone.

Witches, wolves, and giants yawn.

Queen and dragon, troll and gnome:

tired baddies head for home.

Dactyl (falling)
One stressed syllable followed by two unstressed syllables.

Examples: UN/der/wear, DI/no/saur, LUL/la/by, POR/cu/pine, EL/e/phant, REG/in/ald, EL/in/or

I’ve yet to come across a book written entirely in dactyl (if you’ve seen one, let me know!), but I included it here because you’ll sometimes find it combined with trochaic verse. In general, rising and falling meters can be combined in a pleasing way but, again, it’s important to be consistent about it.

How do you know if your meter’s consistent? By scanning your verse, noting the stressed and unstressed words and the number of feet in each line (a “foot” is one unit of meter).

To learn more about meter (and about poetry and rhyme more broadly), I always recommend two books: Poem-Making by Myra Cohn Livingston (clear and concise) and The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry (very comprehensive and entertaining).

Happy Writing!

(Which, I’m sure you noted, is a trochaic phrase.)

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Linda Ashman is the author of more than thirty-five picture books including, most recently, Ella WHO?, illustrated by Sara Sánchez (Sterling 2017), Henry Wants More!, illustrated by Brooke Boynton Hughes (Random House, 2016), and All We Know, illustrated by Jane Dyer (HarperCollins, 2016), which Kirkus called “simply beautiful” in a starred review. Her next rhyming picture book, William’s Winter Nap, illustrated by Chuck Groenink, comes out with Disney-Hyperion in October. She’s also the creator of The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a “how-to” ebook for picture book writers. Linda lives in Chapel Hill, NC, with her husband, two dogs, and—on school breaks—their college-age son.

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63 thoughts on “Rhyme Revolution 2017 Day 9 ~ Linda Ashman ~ Coaches and Trochees and Iambs—Oh, My!

  1. Thank you Linda. I love the upbeat, fun tone of Hey Coach, and it’s great to have a reminder of rising and falling meters. I already have Nuts and Bolts, and will look up the two books you mentioned as well.

  2. Phew, I’ve made quite the study of meter this year, too, and I gotta say- it’s exciting to understand the how/why of good rhyme and bad rhyme, and it’s very satisfying to be able to reference this information in critiques of my own work and that of my peers. Having said that, I’m a little brain-scrambled after working on some revisions today, and I think I need to take a day or two off, hear another person read the work aloud, and revisit my meter analysis at that time. 🙂 Working too much on it all at once, you can start to hear things in all kinds of mixed up ways!

    But thank you so much for this post. Writing in rhyme, it’s really essential for everyone to have exposure to this information, and to reference it regularly, particularly if you’re having difficulty in making it stick. Me? My nerd brain loves having this knowledge, and it’s thankfully sticking well enough that I can counsel my peers on it. It’s fun to be an authority in rhyme (even if the degree of that authority is modest).

    In case anyone is looking for some more resources on rhyme, Renee LaTulippe has some great information on her website!

    Happy rhyming, all!

    Thanks again for this informative post!

  3. What a great primer on rhyming. Thanks for including examples from published PBs. A book that uses dactyl (though not entirely) might be The Gruffalo. I really enjoyed the unusual format (all dialogue) and the rhythm of HEY COACH! It really is a fun book. Thanks for the post.

  4. Wonderful post, I will definitely have to look up those books about poetry and meter. I often struggle with meter. Thanks again!

  5. Thanks for your great post, Linda, and I have your book on my “to get” list from the library. Your examples are spot on and provide a good reference source for different styles of rhyme. What a great time for the kids and the coach–something kids AND parents need to read about!

  6. Thank you for a wonderful post with clear explanations and wonderful examples of the 4 meter styles. I tend to rhyme but struggle with meter; i have a hard time knowing which words / syllables are stressed and unstressed sometimes. I will also check out the 2 books you mentioned at the end. Thanks again! I’ll have to check out Hey Coach! also.

  7. A lot of great information. This was a timely post for me, since I just started learning about meter and rhyme and all that good stuff. It’s so good to have the examples of books and their meter. Thanks, Linda!

  8. I can hear the ball bouncing in your story.
    And I like this example of dactyl with trochee (am I right?) from Tennyson:
    Cannon to right of them,
    Cannon to left of them,
    Cannon in front of them
    Volley’d and thunder’d;

  9. Very informative post! Thank you for giving such clear examples and explaining things so well. I really do need to study more about writing in verse. Thank you! Love the soccer book!

  10. Thank you so much for this free meter lesson. Hey Coach! Is so appealing and fun. I recently took a course in rhyme and meter and this was a great refresher.

  11. Thank you, Linda! Your explanation of meter was excellent. You make it sound so easy, but, oh how I know, it’s not. Great post!

  12. Linda, this is exactly what I need. You have outlined the types of meter so clearly and provided mentor texts to savor and study. Thanks for your informative post.

    -BTW, my grandson, just had his first soccer game last Saturday. I can’t wait to buy HEY COACH for him (and for me).

  13. Hi, Linda! Thanks for the helpful examples. HEY COACH sounds like a terrific way to introduce sports to young children. When my older son was 3, he was scared of the tall soccer coach with dark sunglasses. It was a learning experience for both my son and the young coach.

  14. Linda, so glad to see you here. Loved your post about meter and the rhyming books you recommend. Hope to see you soon! Thanks again for your post

  15. I am delighted to see such a helpful summary. You’ve conveyed the points so clearly, and I thank you very much indeed!

  16. I like hearing the children’s voices, without the he said, she said. You saved on word count! Nice rhythm- sounds great for reading aloud. Thank, Linda.

  17. I have a lot of catching up to do with these incredible Rhyme Revolution posts….but when I saw today was you, Linda, I just had to read it right away. I love that you shared how your first attempts garnered rejections. Perhaps there is hope for all of us hopeful rhymers. 😉 You’ve done your best here to help us…that’s for sure! Great post with an entire mini workshop at our fingertips! Thank you.

  18. Thank you Linda for the easy to understand breakdown of the different types of rhyme. I have heard the words before but never really had it explained so clearly. Got me some studying to do!

  19. LINDA: I LOVE your approach of writing the entire story as a conversation. I CAN’T WAIT to try my hand at this! And THANK YOU for the WONDERFUL text examples to study. I’m checking them out TONIGHT! HAPPY WRITING AND HAPPY RHYMING!!!!

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