Welcome to Day Four of NAPIBOWRIWEE! We are officially half way through my fourth annual National Picture Book Writing Week where we attempt to write 7 picture books in 7 days. I’m thrilled by everyone’s comments on their writing journeys this year. A lot of you have managed to keep up and write one book per day – congratulations! For those of you still struggling on Book 1 or 2 or 3, don’t worry! Just keep writing. You’re still a winner in my book even if you only get ONE draft done. This week is to celebrate WRITING and to CONQUER PROCRASTINATION! 🙂
Today’s blog is all about POETRY, featuring special guest picture book author and poet HOPE VESTERGAARD.
Now, I know all the editors and agents and veteran published picture book authors always advise “DO NOT WRITE RHYMED METERED POETRY FOR A PICTURE BOOK SUBMISSION” at the children’s book writing conferences and SCBWI (Society for Children Writers & Illustrators) events.
That’s because writing a picture book in rhymed, metered poetry is difficult. SUPER difficult. SUPER DUPER REALLY UNBELIEVABLY FREAKING DIFFICULT! 😛
BUT… in order to go from a novice poet to an expert published poet, you gotta start somewhere. So why not try your hand at a rhymed metered poetry picture book for this year’s NAPIBOWRIWEE? No one has to see it! 🙂 Just write it, get that rough first draft done, and then one day you can revise it. Or it might inspire more poetry.
And if you STINK at writing poetry, the mere exercise of ATTEMPTING rhymed metered poetry will help you appreciate the musical language of prose writing. You will be more conscious of the rhythms and sounds of your own prose writing.
(Keep reading after the jump for some advice from HOPE VESTERGAARD plus other news and updates…)
For those brave souls who want to attempt a rhymed and metered poetry picture book for Day 4 (or Day 5, 6, or 7), guest author HOPE VESTERGAARD offers some fantastic poetry advice. As an added bonus, she is also going to give a lucky winner his or her own rhyming dictionary! 🙂 Thanks Hope!
Hope Vestergaard is an early childhood consultant and children’s author with seventeen years’ experience working with children, teachers, and families. She earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Smith College and is a member of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the International Reading Association. Hope currently trains teachers, conducts parent workshops, (works with classrooms in transition,) and develops curricular materials for parents and teachers. Her particular areas of interest include literacy, developmentally appropriate practice, and dynamic classroom environments. Publications: Potty Animals (Sterling), Nothing Rhymes with Orange: Perfect Words for Poets, Songwriters and Rhymers (with Bessie G. Redfield, Perigee), I Don’t Want to Clean My Room: Poems About Chores (Dutton),Weaving the Literacy Web: Creating Curriculum Based on Books Children Love (Redleaf Press), What Do You Do When A Monster Says Boo?(Dutton), Hillside Lullaby (Dutton, 2006) Hello, Snow (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004) Driving Daddy (Dutton, 2003) Wake Up, Mama (Dutton, 2003) Baby Love (Dutton, 2002), as well as numerous feature articles for The Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market guides (Writer’s Digest Books). Hope frequently presents at state and national conferences as well as visiting elementary schools and libraries to discuss the writing life and to lead young writers workshops. Hope’s Web site, www.hopevestergaard.com, features articles, links, and activity guides for teachers and parents.
Hope says: “Thinking about writing in rhyme? Maybe you’re hoping that putting your story in rhyme will kick it up a notch; make the ordinary extraordinary; help your manuscript stand out in the slush. Just remember: rhyming alone doesn’t make a story poetic.”
For Hope, writing a poetry picture book is a tough job because not only does the poetry have to sing, rhyme and make metered sense, but you still have to feature an original compelling character who actively struggles to achieve his/her goal in a unique storyline that’s filled with tension, action and clever resolution.
“Rhyming stories and poems suffer from the same maladies as prose: flabby plots, one-dimensional characters, pat resolutions,” Hope explains. “Unfortunately, these problems are sometimes obscured by a rhyming format. Good meter and true rhymes are not a get-out-of-jail-free card. If your writing isn’t well developed, even perfectly metered poems and stories will not impress the reader.”
Hope offers a number of fantastic tips on how to write rhymed metered poetry picture books on her website. Her article, RHYMES AND MISDEMEANORS, can be found at this link: http://hopevestergaard.com/writers/articles/rhymes-and-misdemeanors/
I highly recommend reading her article for fantastic advice. And Hope has graciously offered to give a rhyming dictionary as a prize for our contest prize drawing. Thank you Hope!
Below is a list of other poetry books that I highly recommend if you are interested in studying more about poetry and picture book writing. The big book that is a MUST HAVE is the famous Myra Cohn Livingston’s POEM-MAKING: Ways to Begin Writing Poetry. The other books are also very helpful. Click on each title for the Amazon link.
I would also recommend buying a rhyming dictionary. These are VERY helpful. They even have rhyming apps for the iPhone and iPad, including this one: http://www.paragoni.com/rhymulator-rhyme-app-for-iphone-ipad/
POEM-MAKING: WAYS TO BEGIN WRITING POETRY by Myra Cohn Livingston
SEEING THE BLUE BETWEEN: ADVICE AND INSPIRATION FOR YOUNG POETS compiled by Paul B. Janeczko
THE POET’S COMPANION: A GUIDE TO THE PLEASURES OF WRITING POETRY by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux
Today I wrote a very simple poem, inspired by my poetry blog. It’s amazing how LONG it takes to write a very short story poem versus a longer prose book. I wanted to write something for younger children, as per Hope’s article advice. It was fun to make sure there was repetition and a song-like refrain for this book. Thank you, Hope! 🙂
I did learn something interesting today. After four NAPIBOWRIWEE events in a row, I’ve learned that although I prefer writing via typing/computer, I can handwrite a PROSE picture book in my favorite Moleskine notebook. BUT when it comes to poetry? Forget it. I can’t do it by hand. I NEED a computer. Isn’t that odd? It’s interesting to see what weird writing quirks appear during this event. 🙂
Finally, here are some recent NAPIBOWRIWEE questions that I answered in the comments section of previous blogs and/or on Twitter that I’m sharing here in case you missed them.
Twitter Question: “How long/short should #picturebooks be?”
Twitter Answer: Not too short and not too long. 🙂 1st draft: Keep 1000 words or less.
Expanded answer not on Twitter: Picture books can be anywhere from as short as 200 words to as long as 2000 words. For example, Kevin Henkes’ Caldecott Medal winning KITTEN’S FIRST FULL MOON is only 268 words. Yup. I counted. In fact, I would HIGHLY recommend you take your favorite picture book from your favorite author and type out the entire text in a WORD document. You will be amazed to see how short these books can be. Longer picture books tend to be for older children and/or non-fiction, like my books, which are about 1700 words long. But the rule of thumb I always use with first drafts? Keep it to 1000 words or less. When I revise, then I can either cut back or expand slightly if necessary.
Twitter Question: “Are most character details revealed in the illustrations?”
Twitter Answer: The writer should be visceral. The artist will be visual.
Twitter Question: “How in-depth do we get with our character?”
Twitter Answer: Character reveals plot. Pare down to essential details.
Question from NAPIBOWRIWEE participant Janie Bill: “How in-depth should we get with our character when writing a short PB? Are most of the character be revealed in the illustrations?”
Paula’s Rambling Answer That She Hopes Made Sense and Didn’t Scare Off Janie Bill: Hi Janie. This is a good question. I would say you should reveal stuff about your character that is relevant to the actual plot. Character moves the plot forward. For example, if your character is short AND short tempered and loves baseball, and your picture book is about a little girl who is too short to grab the cookie jar from the shelf (silly example, please bear with me LOL), then her being short and having a short temper will help push the story plot forward (obviously she can’t reach the shelf because she’s short, and she’s short tempered so she has a tantrum). And if the story has nothing to do with baseball, then you don’t need to tell us she’s a baseball fan. BUT… what if she tries to reach the cookie jar by taking her baseball bat and ball and hitting the cookie jar so it tumbles off the shelf? And so on. See how her personality creates ways for her to solve the problem? By focusing on that, you can make sure only the relevant details of your character are on the page without revealing unnecessary stuff that is not related to the story. I hope this makes sense. As for character reveals in the art – don’t worry about that. If your character HAS to have a red dress for the story plot, state that. If the color doesn’t matter, then use visceral imagery, like a flowing dress or a bright dress. The illustrator will decide what color it will be and so on. I hope this makes sense!
Well, that’s it for today’s DAY FOUR BLOG. I hope you found the information helpful. Good luck on Day Four – and you know the drill! Comment here to let me know how your progress went! Ask any questions too and I’ll answer them in the next blog. I also try to reply to everyone’s comments when I have the time! 🙂
Your cat inspiration picture for your poetry book… my cats (L-R) Beethoven, Charlotte and Oreo in their cat cages about to go to the vet earlier this month. They felt trapped! Don’t feel trapped by the strict demands of poetry! Be free! Rhyme away! 🙂
Stay tuned for more contest updates and don’t worry, if you have posted a comment or emailed me, your name will be included in the drawing at the end of the event.
Until the next blog, I’ll be live tweeting @paulayoo! HAPPY WRITING! WRITE LIKE YOU MEAN IT! 🙂