By Brydie Wright
It's a brand new year, friends, and many of us might be looking at our writing goals for 2019.
Mine is improving my rhyming skills, with a view to sharpening the humour in my picture book manuscripts.
Before you all gasp in horror, I am aware of the common wisdom that editors are wary of manuscripts written in rhyme. Arguments include:
When we're thinking of the craft and business of picture book writing, all these points are important for budding writers of verse. I'd venture, however, that only one of the points is in my control as a writer, and it's the first. Rhyme is hard to do well. The other points are best left to the publishing experts.
If rhyme is hard to do well then that lays down a challenge - we can learn the right techniques for writing metre and verse. If all children’s book writers were scared off by the idea of writing in rhyme, then we would never have the great books of Dr Seuss, Julia Donaldson and Australian author, Aaron Blabey, to name but a few.
And if the popularity of any of these authors has taught me anything, it's while editors may not favour rhyme for the reasons listed above, children most certainly do. Many of the all-time favourite picture books are written in rhyme. Rhyme makes kids laugh and rhyming text screams out for being repeated, over and over…
If you’re an author who’s keen to take a rhyming challenge this year, modelling the greats can be a useful way to get you writing and practice your craft.
Some of my favourite examples of rhyme used effectively to convey humour include:-
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss
No one quite matches the ability of this author for long-form rhyming verse. The very fact that numerous feature length films are adapted from his texts, suggests he uses rhyme effectively to drive a fully-fleshed narrative. Perhaps you could say his rhyming technique is a gimmick but it is a skilful gimmick and it is never at the expense of a story and it's moral.
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.
Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
How many times have you read Room on the Broom, or watched its animated short film adaptation? If you’re anything like me, your pre-schooler has read and watched it a hundred times and there’s no way you can have escaped its catchy refrains.
Then out of the bushes on thundering paws
There bounded a dog with the hat in his jaws.
He dropped it politely, then eagerly said
(As the witch pulled the hat firmly down on her head),
“I am a dog, as keen as can be.
Is there room on the broom for a dog like me?”
Donaldson, like Seuss delivers fully-formed narratives in verse, with perfect storytelling - a film maker’s dream. Reliable repetition of rhyme becomes a way for the child to engage with the story and know what’s coming at every turn. For a modern day reading audience, Donaldson’s rhymes are less dense and perhaps more readable than Seuss, but both convey a classic sense of whimsy, humour, wonder and a moral core through lyrical manipulation of words.
Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey
It would be remiss of me to leave off this blog without recommending an even more contemporary example of a rhyming star, capturing the hearts and tapping on the funny bones of children all over Australia. With over four million Pig the Pug series picture books in print, Blabey adheres to the time-old formula of Seuss and Donaldson: the delightful mix of a pesky animal (anti)hero, good strong rhyming narrative and lessons that teach, without alienating the young reader.
Pig was a pug
and I’m sorry to say,
he was greedy and selfish
in most every way…
These opening words bring back childhood in an instant. One could almost be reading about a Grinch or a Gruffalo…
“No, they are mine!
Are you nuts? Only mine!
You keep your paws off them,
you sausage-shaped swine!”
You might even be forgiven for hearing the echoes of Roald Dahl in this perfectly formed rhyme… It’s no secret that there is nothing completely new under the sun in literature, and the masters never apologise for modelling the work of the trail blazers who have come before them.
So, I figure if I can model and master rhyme as a mechanism for delivering humour, I can make an editor's job easier. While there is hope to be published, I can't give up on rhyme. The form, if executed well, can be incredibly rewarding for the child reader, and spawn the kind of loyal following won by these best-selling masters of lyricism.
Happy New Year and all the best with all your writing goals for 2019!
Brydie Wright Bio
Graduate, Craft & Business of Children’s Picture Book Writing Course
Chief Editor, Sydney Mums Group and Reviewer, WeekendNotes and Just Write For Kids Books on Tour
Author of Daddy and the World's Longest Poo, IAN Awards 2017 Finalist, & Magic Beans from the Creative Kids Tales Story Collection
Website - Facebook - Twitter - Goodreads - Instagram
by Sarah Momo Romero
It’s the holiday season, and the hustle and bustle of shopping and preparing for the festivities is in full swing. With just a few days until the new year, I can’t help but look back on the year and be grateful for all the memorable events and magical moments, both big and small. With that in mind, this month I wanted to look into picture books about appreciating the small things in life. Sometimes, it’s those small things that bring about the most unexpected changes.
Pearl, written and illustrated by Molly Idle, is another gorgeously illustrated book with soft textures, brimming with emotion. Pearl, the youngest mermaid in her family, looks to her older sisters, with the important duties of taking care of the coral and guarding the giant creatures of the sea, and yearns for a purpose of her own. Pearl soon discovers that a seemingly small task could have the biggest impact on the world around her. Idle’s illustrations also captivate the viewer, with her vivid use of color for Pearl’s underwater world.
As we go (or run around) about your day, with the last minute shopping and gift-giving of the season, let’s not forget the most important part of this time of year, the moments to appreciate with family and friends. Have a wonderful holiday, and best wishes for a very happy and creative new year!
Sarah Momo Romero is a Japanese Peruvian American artist, a graphic designer by day and children's book author and illustrator by night. She’s loved drawing and painting since she was a chiquita and now crafts stories of adventure and wondrous creatures. Sarah is an active SCBWI member who draws inspiration from her life in sunny Los Angeles with her husband/creative partner and dog/infamous escape artist, Peanut. Her debut picture book, "Wake Up, Little Bat!" is out now!
by Bryan Patrick Avery
Well, it’s the holiday season, one of the most magical times of the year. My magic props have been packed away for the past month or so, meaning I haven’t spent much time practicing. That’s okay though. To me the holidays are a wonderful time to connect (or reconnect) with family and friends. In fact, I believe that these relationships are a large part of what makes the holidays so magical. This month, then, let’s take a look at a few picture books that focus on relationships.
I’ve always been a fan of Jon Klassen’s work, and his picture book “We Found a Hat” is no exception. The story centers around two turtles who find a hat in the desert. They both like the hat but there is a problem: there is only one hat. They make a difficult decision, to leave the hat behind. But that is not where the story ends.
The best stories give the reader something to think and talk about after the story is over. It’s something Alfred Hitchcock referred to as the Watercooler moment. “We Found a Hat” provides a watercooler moment at the end of the book and provides food for thought about the best way to treat our family and friends. As always, Jon's artwork is incredible. For example, we are able to tell exactly what one turtle is thinking about, just from his eyes. Anyone looking for a great example of a simple, well-told story accompanied by illustrations that help tell the story should read, and re-read, this book.
Another beautifully illustrated, well-told story is the recently released “Trevor”. Written by Jim Averbeck and illustrated by Amy Hevron, Trevor tells the story of a lonely yellow canary who makes friends with a lemon he mistakes for another canary. What follows is a tale of friendship, highlighted by an example of gift-giving, a lesson in forgiveness, and acceptance of loss. Through Trevor’s experiences, he learns to be a friend, and by the end of the book, his experience with the lemon has prepared him for the world. As for the lemon? Well, you’ll have to see the final spread.
If you’re looking for a book that tells a story of friendship in a deep and meaningful way that kids can relate to, check out “Trevor”. This is a book that readers will want to come back to again and again.
“Your Alien”, written by Tammi Sauer and illustrated by Goro Fujita is the story of a little boy who befriends an alien who crash lands on earth. As the alien experiences everything life on earth has to offer, including a trip to school, the boy notices something is wrong. As the day goes on, the alien seems more and more morose. When bedtime comes, the boy realizes that his alien friend must miss his family and sets out to reunite them.
Once the alien is returned to his family, it’s the boy’s turn to be a little sad. “Your Alien” ends in the best way possible, with a final spread that is heartwarming and the best way to close the book before saying goodnight. As is typical of Tammi’s books, “Your Alien” is impeccably plotted, with no wasted words. It is a perfect example of picture book storytelling.
Well, that all for this month. Have a wonderful and safe holiday season. See you back here in the new year. Have a magical month!
by Melissa Stoller
December is always a busy month, with holiday celebrations, school and work events, family commitments, and more. It’s easy to let creative pursuits take a back seat to end-of-year demands. So how do you stay motivated to be creative during this sometimes overwhelming season? Read on for five practical tips.
FIVE TIPS FOR STAYING MOTIVATED:
1) Pick one project to work on. It can be writing a new draft, revising a particularly sticky section of a current work in progress, illustrating one spread, brainstorming ideas, or working on marketing and branding plans. Focus on one aspect of your creative writing career. And if you make progress in that one area, you may decide to move to another project if time permits.
2) Set up an accountability check-in with other creative friends. Whether it’s an online critique group, an in-person meet up, or an email chain with a creative buddy, set up a system you can rely on to help you move through the next few weeks. You can agree on goals together. Maybe you decide that you don’t have the time to write a new draft but you agree with a writing partner to critique one draft each. Maybe you agree that you will simply check in! Just keep the momentum going.
3) Carry a journal. Write down snippets of conversations, scenes you witness, adorable animal antics, cute phrases your children say, and anything that sparks your creative thoughts. Even if you don’t do much writing or revising over the next few weeks, if you have ideas to dive into, you will be ready to tackle new projects in the new year.
4) Keep reading in your genre and in other genres. You can read children’s literature, poetry, magazines, and adults stories, too. As you read, think about how the works could inform your own writing process. And enjoy other art forms as well. Keeping your mind trained to appreciate language and art will help foster your own creativity when you are ready for it.
5) Map out a calendar for January, 2019, and plan creative projects for the new year. Write your project ideas and action strategies directly on a calendar, or keep a running 2019 project list. List out the ideas you have and the projects you might be working on after this busy time of year, when things start to settle back into normal routines. Also, keep a list of your works-in-progress and where you are in the process with each, such as brainstorming, writing, revising, submitting to critique groups, submitting to agents or editors, and marketing. In January, pull out this list and get back to work!
* * *
During busy times, it’s easy to let creative projects get sidelined. But hopefully, you can take some time now to focus on a few steps that will keep you motivated to forge ahead with your creative work. And just as important, make time to enjoy the many special moments of the season.
Happy creating! And all the best for 2019!
Melissa Stoller is the author of the chapter book series The Enchanted Snow Globe Collection - Book One: Return to Coney Island and Book Two: The Liberty Bell Train Ride (Clear Fork Publishing, 2017 and 2019); and the picture books Scarlet’s Magic Paintbrush and Ready, Set, GOrilla! (Clear Fork, 2018). She is also the co-author of The Parent-Child Book Club: Connecting With Your Kids Through Reading (HorizonLine Publishing, 2009). Melissa is an Assistant and Blogger for the Children’s Book Academy, a Regional Ambassador for The Chapter Book Challenge, a Moderator for The Debut Picture Book Study Group, and a volunteer with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators/MetroNY. Melissa has worked as a lawyer, legal writing instructor, freelance writer and editor, and early childhood educator. Additionally, she is a member of the Board of Trustees at The Hewitt School and at Temple Shaaray Tefila. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and one puppy.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at the Children's Book Academy, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Sarah Momo Romero.
And 5th Mondays will feature awesomely irreverent and super funny Aussie author Brydie Wright.
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