Top 10 Best in Rhyme
Congratulations on being chosen for Angie Karcher’s Top Ten Rhyming Picture Books for 2018! I’m very honored to have this chance to interview you.
Linda: Your book DIVA DELORES AND THE OPERA HOUSE MOUSE is adorable and your rhyme delightful. What was the inspiration for this book? Was there any special reason why you chose an opera house for your setting?
Laura: My initial inspiration was crossing paths with a little mouse in the woods. The writer in me immediately started imagining what his life might be like, where he might live etc. The first result of those observations was a rhyming rebus called “Mouse House” (Highlights for Children, May 2013). Months later, I was paging through my notebook looking for inspiration for Tara Lazar’s Picture Book Idea Month writing challenge (now called STORYSTORM) and I came across that mouse again! Only this time, I imagined where else a mouse might live – and that imagining led me to the opera house, which I thought would be a humorous setting for a mouse full of rich language and illustration possibilities.
Linda: You’ve proven you’re gifted when it comes to rhyming books, but when did you first know you wanted to write in rhyme? Did you have a mentor? Critique group?
Laura: I’ve been an avid reader and writer since childhood. My mother actually saved most of my earliest childhood writings. Interestingly, many of them are written in rhyme – and not badly – which goes to show that I’ve loved rhyme (which is my favorite mode of storytelling) almost all my life! Becoming good took a lot of writing (and reciting), a lot of reading and a lot of just plain playing with rhythm and rhyme in my journal. The best decision I ever made in terms to truly improving my craft was to join a critique group – and I’ve been in several now over the years – that focus on picture books and rhyme.
Linda: Any suggestions for authors who have not published a rhyming book yet – but love to write in rhyme?
Laura: The key, in my opinion, is to saturate yourself in the kind of writing you love. Read as many rhyming picture books as you can – with a writerly eye – thinking about what makes them work – or not. Do the same with poems from anthologies and magazines. And then, using those as models of rhythm and rhyme, write, write, write! I also have three great resources that I have found invaluable to improving my craft. They are: The Complete Rhyming Dictionary Revised (Doubleday), edited by Clement Wood and revised by Ronald Bogus, Timothy Steele’s All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing: An Explanation of Meter and Versification (Ohio University Press) and Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (Longman). Finally, if possible, join a critique group!
Linda: After you’ve written and revised your manuscript, how do you know when it’s “ready” to be submitted?
Laura: That’s a tricky question. It’s kind of like asking when you know a pie is ready to come out of the oven. Each pie is different just like each poem or story is different. That being said, there are certain hints that indicate to me that a rhyming manuscript is ready to submit. These include: 1) The meter and rhyme are working flawlessly – and are fresh and unexpected. 2) The story arc is satisfying and is not limited by the rhyme 3) At least THREE people beside myself have read it aloud smoothly and with enjoyment. 4) My agent gives it the thumbs up.
Linda: Do your own children influence/inspire what you write?
Laura: Absolutely! Many, if not most, of my stories and poems got their initial spark from something that my kids said or did, or something that we saw together. One of the joys of being a writer is seeing the world through writerly glasses and I’m quick to jot down any ideas that come to me, as they often do, when I’m with my children.
Linda: Debbie Smith, a member of Rhyme Revolution would like to know if you write in rhyme from the start, or do you write the story first and add the rhyme later?
Laura: I write in rhyme from the start, but interestingly it’s seldom in the metrical form I ultimately choose for the piece. My mind just likes to think in playful rhymes. I do, however, bullet point the plot line pretty early on, but this is more like telling a story in list form than prose. I also like to capture snippets of rhyming phrases – couplets or quatrains – that have the feel that I’m going for in a particular story. I call this phase my playing around phase and I can sometimes do it for months before settling on the right versification for a particular story.
Linda: Is there any special place, or time of day, etc., that helps you develop new ideas for books? How do you keep your creative juices flowing?
Laura: I find that getting out and exploring, either on my own, or with my family, is a great generator of new ideas. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a story or poem spark just by walking in the woods or down a city street and seeing something that sparks my creativity. It can happen anywhere, so I try to always keep pen and paper on hand – in my purse or back pocket. My phone has also become a wonderful repository for ideas. As far as keeping those creative juices flowing, I’m easy. Writing is what fills my well – and I find time to let words spill on paper (or laptop) every day. That alone keeps the flow fresh and moving. I also make a goal to treat myself to at least one conference/writing retreat a year.
Linda: What’s next for you in your writing journey? Do you have another rhyming book in the works?
Laura: I’m writing, writing, writing! I have several rhyming picture books in the hopper ready to go out on submission, so I guess we’ll all just have to stay tuned on this front.
Linda: What would you like your readers to know about yourself?
Laura: I love connecting with readers and writers. Invite me to your school or library or special event. Come chat at book events. I’d also love to connect on social media and via my blog. Here’s how:
Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eVtpAogBnE