2018 BEST IN RHYME TOP 10 – Karen Beaumont INTERVIEW by Darlene Ivy

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2018 Top 10 Best in Rhyme

 

pretty kitty

 

Q I have to ask. Do you have cats? Did they find you or did you find them?

KB I don’t have cats now, but I’ve had many cats through my life. I like to think we found each  other!

 

Q Pretty Kitty reminds me of an updated and urban version of Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag. Was that book an inspiration for yours or did something else spark this story?

KB No, her book did not inspire this story. I wrote PRETTY KITTY to inspire pet adoption, and as a tribute to my beloved cat, Jake. Jake was the embodiment of pure love, wrapped in thick, soft, fluffy, creamy white fur, with a stubby little pom-pom tail. The excuses given by the protagonist to resist adopting the kitties were the same ones I pondered when my then seven year old daughter held up this tiny ball of fur she’d found in the big, red barn and asked, “Mommy, can I keep him?” I was a recently divorced mother of two young girls, renting a small old farmhouse in the country. I was juggling numerous part-time teaching jobs as I struggled to develop my writing career and provide a stable home life for my kids. I was stretched to the max, emotionally and financially. I didn’t need another mouth to feed! But as I looked into my daughter’s sweet, pleading eyes, my heart melted, and I heard my mouth say, “Okay.” I  have never regretted that decision. Jake was a cherished member of our family for 18 1/2 years.

 

Q Why did you choose rhyming verse to tell your story?

 

KB All of my published books (17 to date) are written in rhyme. It’s my passion! I feel that very young children respond well to rhyme, if it is done right.

 

Q Rhyme Revolution members also submitted questions for you. Joy Moore asks: How do you choose the stanza length? and How do you know when the story is ready to submit?

KB I don’t choose the stanza length. It just happens, intuitively. My writing process is very right brain, so I never really know where a story will go until it’s gone there. I feel my way, rather blindly, without a map, if that makes sense. I don’t use “formulas” or magic spells or rule books! I just dive into word play and stir up whatever is floating around in the elusive, intangible, mystical realm of the Muse!

There is a great quote that says “A good story is not written. It is re-written.” I guess, for me, a story is ready when I know in my heart that I’ve re-written it  enough for it to sparkle, and it gives me a sense of joyful enthusiasm. I trust my gut!

prety kitty back

Q Following up on that question. What is the story of Pretty Kitty’s path to publication? Was it an easy one?

KB I don’t remember how many times it was rejected, but it was. I intended for it to be a companion book to DOGGONE DOGS!, also a counting book, which was published by Dial. But they rejected it, as did others. Luckily, Laura Godwin at Holt, with whom I’ve worked before, is an animal rescue/rights advocate and she loved it because of PRETTY KITTY’s pet adoption theme.

Q As a final question, do you have any words of wisdom for other picture book writers, especially those that write in rhyme?
KB Yes! NEVER GIVE UP! Trust that if you’re willing to devote the necessary time and effort to develop your craft, study the market, and keep submitting, you will find your niche. I was told in the beginning not to write in rhyme – that editors HATE getting manuscripts in rhyme! Thankfully, I didn’t listen! I’ve learned that what they hate is getting manuscripts in BAD rhyme! Many people underestimate the demands of this art form and submit amateur material. My formula for success is:  PASSION + PERSEVERANCE + PATIENCE = PUBLICATION! Follow your passion, not the market. Develop your own unique voice. And make those manuscripts sparkle! You will find your place on the literary playground! It’s a demanding, exhilarating, rewarding ride! I wish you all great joy and success on your journey.

karen beaumont - headshot

Check out Karen’s website HERE:

 

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2018 Best in Rhyme Top 10 – Tim McCanna Interview by Nancy Riley

2018 Best in Rhyme Logo

2018 Top 10 Best in Rhyme

 

tim-mccanna-image-1.jpg

  1. Bitty Bot is a busy little robot! In your first story Bitty Bot builds a rocket to go on a space adventure. Now, in Bitty Bot’s Big Beach Getaway, Bitty Bot builds a submarine to explore the ocean. Was Getaway in the works before Bitty Bot was published?

 

Yes and no. I wrote the first draft of Bitty Bot back in 2011 and tweaked it for years until I got my agent in 2014. We sold Bitty Bot in a two-book deal to Paula Wiseman Books at Simon & Schuster soon thereafter. But I hadn’t written or even considered a sequel at that point. I wasn’t sure if I could replicate the rhyming style I’d used for Bitty Bot into another story! While the first book was in the process of being illustrated, I brainstormed and landed on the concept of Bitty going to the beach and having an ocean adventure. It was a lot of fun to explore new territory with Bitty and use beach and underwater-related rhyming words.

tim mccanna - image 2

  1. Do you have more adventures planned for Bitty Bot?

 

Well, I’ve written a third adventure that puts Bitty in a forest setting. I’d love to have a trilogy, but it all hinges on sales numbers of the first two books. That’s just the nature of the business, I guess. We’ll see!

 

  1. Are all your picture books written in rhyme? Did you have trouble finding agents or publishers who accepted rhyming manuscripts?

 

I’ve written many manuscripts in prose over the years, but so far, I haven’t sold any. Nine out of my ten sold manuscripts are rhymers. The exception is BOING! A Very Noisy ABC, which uses onomatopoeia in alphabetical order to tell a story. I never ran into an agent or editor that said they wouldn’t accept rhymers. The key is to do your research and target your submissions. Luckily, my agent recognized that my body of work had potential and that my rhyming was solid. She’s able to submit my manuscripts to editors she knows will connect with my style and subjects.

 

  1. One of our Rhyme Revolution members, Suzie Olsen, would like to know: What writing challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

 

Good question! When I first started out writing rhyming picture books, my manuscripts were very long and dense. I was unwilling to cut a single word, and I included too much detail. I was using long sentences in a fairly inconsistent meter. It was a mess! Once I shifted my style to more spare, airy text in tighter, shorter phrases, things started to click—and sell. On average, my rhyming stories are between 50 and 300 words. I try to leave a lot of room for the illustrator to shine. Not everybody needs to write in those same parameters, but it’s important to recognize when something isn’t working and be willing to change and experiment until you find a voice that works.

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  1. What words of wisdom or advice can you offer to writers of rhyme as we move into 2019?

Writing picture books is hard work. Writing picture books in RHYME adds even more pitfalls to the process. You can absolutely sell rhyming picture books, but editors are watching for manuscripts that fire on all cylinders. Tight meter, unforced rhymes, lovable main characters, great stories with openings that hook and endings with a satisfying twist. It’s a lot to ask for! Be patient and give yourself time to write lots of rhymers and study the greats. If you truly love to rhyme, then go for it!

Learn more about Tim’s books HERE 

 

2018 Best in Rhyme Top 10 – Josh Funk Interview by Gayle C. Krause

       2018 Best in Rhyme Logo

2018 Top 10 Best in Rhyme

 

THE PICTURE BOOK FUNKMEISTER

 by Author Gayle C. Krause

Thank you so much for inviting me to chat! I’m incredibly honored to have

three books nominated for the Best Rhyming Picture Book of 2018 Award!

 

1. Tell us something we, as rhyming picture book fans, don’t already know about

you.

 

I have been rhyming my whole life. My first word was banana (which is

filled with internal rhyme). I guess that was a sign…

 

2. Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

 

            jfunk - headshot       jfunk - character

I think I’m a lot like Baron von Waffle. Crispy and villainous on the

outside, but fluffy, misunderstood, and craving friendship on the

inside. Also, I

enjoy sneaking the last drop of syrup before others can get it.

 

3. How long ago did you get the idea for Lost in the Library?

 

jfunk - library

Actually, the folks at the New York Public Library got together with Macmillan and put

the idea together: Patience goes missing and Fortitude goes searching through the library

(getting a tour throughout), eventually finding him in the… well, I don’t want to spoil it.

That’s all they gave me. I dug deeper into their characters. Fortitude, stoic and steadfast,

had never entered the library before. Patience became a master storyteller, etc.

The idea for the sequel, though (*wink*) – that one’s all me.

 

4. When did you start the first draft for Mission Defrostable and how long, from

that point, until the book was completed? Did this 3rd book in the Lady Pancake Series

come quicker or slower than the first two? 

 

Because I know the characters, the world, and have an idea of what Brenda Kearney’s

brilliant illustrations might look like, it probably only took me a week or so to complete a

first draft.

jfunk - mission defrostable

But these books actually start well before the first. I do a lot of brainstorming and preparation as to

what the vibe of the book is going to be, who the new characters are going to be, what is the pacing

going to be like. Before I even start the first draft, I already have a loose pagination of

the entire story in my head. So I’d say once I actually get started with the drafting it

comes pretty quickly – faster than the first one for sure.

 

5. When and where do you write?

 

I’m a software engineer by day, so I tend to write on the evenings and weekends at

home. I also love to go to the public library to write. Sometimes I work in a study room.

But I’ve had a lot of success sitting in the open space in the children’s room and putting

on headphones with some white noise – it’s easy to be inspired with all the books,

librarians, and little readers around.

 

6. What inspired you to write Albie Newton?

 

jfunk - albie

Albie Newton’s classroom is basically my office. I work with a diverse group of really talented

people. Albie was inspired by many of the brilliant people I’ve worked with who sometimes don’t

have great social skills on the surface. But when you look closer, they might surprise you with

what great people they truly are.

 

7. Jay Reese, a member of the Rhyme Revolution, would like to know what your

preferred POV is when writing in rhyme? And is there a market preference for a

particular rhyming POV that we should be aware of?

 

Hi, Jay! The answer to your question is that I don’t think this has ever come up. I don’t

have a conscious preference and I don’t think the market has one either.

I haven’t analyzed a large subset of rhyming picture books to see if the trend of certain

POVs in rhyming books is any different from non-rhyming, but I’d hypothesize (without

any data to back it up) that there is no difference. I think POV and rhyme are completely

independent of each other. If it’s good rhyme, it won’t matter what the POV is.

 

8. Do you have any new rhyming picture books coming out in 2019?

 

Actually, I *don’t*! I have three books currently scheduled for 2019, but all three are in

prose! It’ll be my first year without a rhyming picture book since I was first published in

2015! (but don’t worry – I should have two rhymers out in 2020)

 

9. What are you currently working on?

 

I’m currently working on a bunch of sequels. HOW TO CODE A ROLLERCOASTER (sequel

to HOW TO CODE A SANDCASTLE). A second (IT’S NOT HANSEL AND GRETEL) And third (IT’S NOT LITTLE RED RIDING HOOD) It’s Not a Fairy Tale books. A fourth pancake book. A second NYPL Lions book. And a secret project. And hopefully something totally brand new very soon.

 

10. If you could give advice to writers who haven’t published yet, or an earlier

version of yourself, what would you want to share?

 

Keep writing new things. Don’t get hung up revising the same manuscript over and

over and OVER again. Yes, get it critiqued, revise, get it critiqued again, and maybe even

query it. But also start writing something new. That new thing will start off in such a

better place than the first manuscript because you’ll have learned sooooo much along

the way. And then write a third. And a fourth. And keep going.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a keynote speaker say “And finally, after

seven years and 10 completed manuscripts, I finally got my first book deal.” But I can tell

you it was a lot – like pretty much all of them. I know you love that first story. But it’s

likely going to be your fifth or tenth that will be your first one published.

Now, go off and break a pencil!

 

Bio:

Josh Funk writes silly stories and somehow tricks people into publishing them as

books – such as the Lady Pancake & Sir French Toast series (including The Case of the

Stinky Stench and Mission Defrostable), How to Code a Sandcastle (and the upcoming

sequel How to Code a Rollercoaster),  It’s Not Jack and the Beanstalk, Dear Dragon,

Albie Newton, Pirasaurs!, Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude (in

conjunction with the New York Public Library), and the forthcoming It’s Not Hansel and

Gretel, It’s Not Little Red Riding Hood, and more coming soon! Since the fall of 2015, Josh has visited

(or virtually visited) over 300 schools, classrooms, and libraries. Josh is a board member of The

Writers’ Loft in Sherborn, MA and was the co-coordinator of the 2016 and 2017 New England Regional

SCBWI Conferences. Josh grew up in New England and studied Computer Science in school. Today, he

still lives in New England and when not writing Java code or Python scripts, he drinks Java coffee and

writes manuscripts. Josh is terrible at writing bios, so please help fill in the blanks. Josh enjoys

_______ during ________ and has always loved __________. He has played ____________ since age __ and his

biggest fear in life is being eaten by a __________.

 

For more information about Josh Funk, visit him at http://www.joshfunkbooks.com and on Twitter at

@joshfunkbooks