Happy International Rhyming Picture Book Day!

Today I declare that from this day forward April 9th shall henceforth be known as International Rhyming Picture Book Day!

Why Rhyming Picture Books? As April is National Poetry Month (and has been since 1996 as declared by the Academy of American Poets), and Rhyming is one small sliver of poetry, I think 1 out of the 30 days in April should be dedicated explicitly to Rhyming Picture Books. It also happens to coincide with Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo (Rhyming Picture Book Month) for writers of rhyming texts.

Why International? Because I kind of like Canada, too.

Why April 9th? No particular reason.

International Rhyming Picture Book Day April 9th

So celebrate International Rhyming Picture Book Day with me today! Read a Rhyming Picture Book (or two, or twelve). Buy one at your local book store or take one out of your library! Read one to a child. Or whisper one to your dog.

How will you celebrate International Rhyming Picture Book Day (#IRPBD)?

What’s your favorite Rhyming Picture Book?

My Official Picture Book Idea Month Post Is Now Available!

Just a quick note to the four of you who read my blog. My Official PiBoIdMo post is up at Tara Lazar’s website. I even snuck in two new previously unreleased sketches from Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast (by illustrator Brendan Kearney). Or is it sneaked? Is snuck even a word? It has that dastardly red jagged line underneath it! The word snuck/sneaked definitely causes problems for a rhymer.

joshfunk_pibo_prize

Also, I’m giving away FIVE signed books from my critique family over at my post: THE RAINDROP WHO COULDN’T FALL by Kirsti Call, REX WRECKS IT! by Ben Clanton, MONSTER NEEDS A CHRISTMAS TREE by Paul Czajak, RUTH THE SLEUTH AND THE MESSY ROOM by Carol Gordon Ekster, and ESTHER’S HANUKKAH DISASTER by Jane Sutton.

Happy PiBoIdMo Day #12.

Book Announcement: Pirasaurs!

From the September 30, 2014 Publisher’s Weekly Children’s Bookshelf Rights Report:

pw

I’m thrilled to be paired with Michael Slack, who recently illustrated Tammie Sauer’s NUGGET & FANG, and wrote and illustrated MONKEY TRUCK, ELECOPTER, WAZDOT? and the upcoming TURTLE TUG.

I’ve been a big fan of Slack’s art for a while now, and I’ve been giddy ever since my friends at Scholastic(!) mentioned his name as a possibility. Check out the amazing potpourri of fantastic images at his website!

And get ready for PIRASAURS! in 2016!!!

Tips for Writing Picture Books: Rhyming Picture Books Are All About Rhythm

Expanding on my last post, today I explain why rhyming is not about rhyming.

Rhyming Picture Books Are All About Rhythm

I could spend all day (every day) talking about my thoughts on rhyming picture books. But rather than one or two or ten blog posts about it, I started a Tumblr called Victimless Rhyme. I plan on posting little quick hits on all aspects of rhyming, usually related to rhyming picture books. Check it out if you’d like.

Victimless Rhyme

But today, it’s rhythm. To re-emphasize a point I made earlier, there are three critical factors that must be addressed when writing a rhyming picture book. In order of importance, they are:

  1. Story (and characters, plot, arc, etc)
  2. Rhythm
  3. Rhyme

Story is most important. Rhyme comes last. But more important than rhyme is Rhythm. You may be able to find the most amazing pair of rhyming words in the world. But if the meter doesn’t work, then the entire picture book will go up in smoke.

What is rhythm (or meter). I’m not going to go into a scientific description of Iambic Pentameter (or Anapestic Heptameter and so on), but on a high level rhythm is the sequence of stressed and unstressed syllables. Think of a famous limerick about Nantucket. Once, Man, and tuck all have the same stressed emphasis on them, while the rest of the syllables aren’t stressed.

Map of Nantucket

But I’m not going to teach you rhythm. That would take more than a blog post (and there are already great resources out there … I personally like Rhyme Weaver if you really want to learn). I am going to stress (pun intended) the importance of rhythm. Just know that getting the meter right is much harder and takes significantly more time and effort than putting together a single pair of words that rhyme.

Although it’s hard to do, I find that the best rhyming picture books force the reader to speak with the correct rhythm. They’re carefully crafted with words that must be pronounced with the correct emphasis and stress. Rhythm can be subjective and the intended meter can easily be misinterpreted. And this is not something writers often think about. When the you write a rhyming picture book, you know which words to emphasize – but when someone else reads it, they won’t. And books are ALWAYS intended to be read by someone else.

I might say the word fire with 2 syllables. You might say it with 1 syllable. Put that fire in the middle of a line in your manuscript, and the whole text might come burning down.

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image20761815

There’s no easy road to writing quality rhyming picture books. It takes practice, study, and hard work (and maybe some talent). And not every book should be written in rhyme. I’ve tried and failed with some and next time I’ll share my thoughts on why …

Some Ideas Just Don’t Work

… next time. Whenever that is.

 

See all of Josh Funk’s 12-Step Guide to Writing Picture Books

Lesson #1: So, You Wrote a Book. Now What?
Lesson #2: Picture Books Are Short
Lesson #3: Every Word Counts
Lesson #4: The Illustrator Is Your Partner
Lesson #5: Show Don’t Tell
Lesson #6: Write with Active Emotion
Lesson #7: Story Arc Components
Lesson #8: Don’t Write In Rhyme
Lesson #9: Rhyming Is All About Rhythm
Lesson #10: Some Ideas Don’t Work
Lesson #11: Keep Learning
Lesson #12: Now You’re Ready! Dive In!

Obligatory Blog Hop Post (My Writing Process Blog Tour)

Following my good friend’s example, blog hops die here. However, I will oblige another good friend and still participate in one. Please visit Kristine Carlson Asselin’s blog to check out her entry in the My Writing Process Blog Tour. To participate, I must answer the following four questions. Unlike previous blog tours, however, I think I might actually answer them seriously (for once):

1. What am I working on?

I am currently working on several items.

  • I’m writing a picture book series which might end up being a chapter book series which might not be any good so I might decide to stop working on it altogether.
  • I’ve got a couple ideas for new rhyming picture books, all of which are currently in the contemplative stages.
  • I’ve recently finished editing some picture books that have been acquired by publishing houses. In case you didn’t know, LADY PANCAKE AND SIR FRENCH TOAST was acquired by Sterling Children’s for a 2015 release and DEAR DRAGON: A Pen Pal Tale was acquired by Viking/Penguin (release date unknown – 2016, perhaps?).
  • I’ve also been working on a series of blog posts highlighting things I’ve learned about writing picture books. As someone relatively new to the field, I thought people might find it interesting to see what I’ve found most useful in the past two and a half years of learning.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Hmmm…. I write humorous picture book texts, mostly in rhyme. While none of that description is entirely unique, put together, it’s a bit different … from unfunny non-rhyming picture books. I can’t think of too many picture books that take place in refrigerators – that’s pretty different. And while there are some epistolary picture books out there (The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and illustrated by David Small is one of my favorite), there aren’t too many of those (especially written in rhyme … and about human-dragon relations).

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart and David Small

3. Why do I write what I write?

One of my goals is that I hope that my picture books appeal to both children and adults. Not that this would make them totally unique – there are LOADS of picture books that I enjoy – but there are enough that my many many many kids might like that I’d rather not spend my time reading. I’d like to think that children will want their parents to read my books over and over (and dare I say over) again … and the parents gladly do just that after every request.

4. How does my writing process work?

Honestly, I find it best not to think about that question. I just write what and when I’m inspired.

… unless someone asks me to join a blog tour. Then I spend hours and hours thinking about what to say.

Thanks for passing people along, Kris!

BLOG HOP DIES HERE

Tips for Writing Picture Books: Don’t Write in Rhyme

Today I share the reasons I’ve been told:

Don’t Write in Rhyme

“Why not?” you ask.

“But publishers are constantly printing new rhyming picture books.”

“I’ve heard librarians like reading rhyming books at story time.”

“Children love rhyme, don’t they?”

“But Dr. Seuss was amazing and he only wrote in rhyme.”

and so on …

Here are the two simple reasons you should not write rhyming picture books:

  1. The Business Reason: Rhyming picture books cannot be easily translated into other languages. Therefore, rhyming picture books are immediately less valuable to agents and publishers.
  2. The Artistic Reason: It’s very easy to write bad rhymes. Lots of people do it. Therefore, there is a stigma associated with rhyming picture books – a cringe-worthy stain on the entire genre (I’m not kidding – I got a very painful looking cringe from a highly respected and successful agent when I told her I wrote picture books in rhyme – a look you might give someone when they tell you their dog died … a horrific death).

The Business Reason is pretty obvious. Yes, it’s possible a loose translation might work in some languages. And maybe (hopefully) your story and characters are good enough to be satisfyingly told without rhyme. But … maybe not.

The Artistic Reason is more layered. Even if your rhyming picture book is flawlessly superb both in content and execution, there is an excellent chance that agents will choose not to read it because, in fairness, most of the rhyme they receive is bad rhyme. If they have to read 99 bad rhyming manuscripts to get to your good one, was it really worth their time?

(hint: the answer is no)

What is bad rhyme, anyway? Well, there a lots of types of rhyme crime:

  • Simple, everyday, cliche rhyme: “My cat ate my hat, well look at that.”
  • Near rhyme: “I see a staple, it’s right on the table.”
  • Forced rhyme: “I opened my giant umbrella. It’s raining, I said to that fella.”
  • Regional rhyme: “In England, you see lots of rain. But I’m in the U.S. again.”
  • Seussian rhyme: “Dr. Seuss was Dr. Seuss, and nobody else can do that shlamboose.”
  • Yoda rhyme: “It’s raining and wet. In the car, I must get.”

But the worst bad rhyme has nothing to do with rhyme. Rhyme is the 3rd most important aspect of a rhyming picture book.

The #1 most important aspect of a rhyming picture book is that it has to be a good story. It must have characters, emotion, plot, arc, and all the other aspects that make up picture books (see parts 1-6 of this series).

The 2nd most important aspect of a rhyming picture book is the rhythm. Rhythm is way more important than rhyme.  Any preschooler can rhyme. Rhyming is easy. That’s why I say writing a rhyming picture isn’t about rhyming …

Rhyming Picture Books Are All About Rhythm

More on that later, I’ve got to shlamboose!

 

See all of Josh Funk’s 12-Step Guide to Writing Picture Books

Lesson #1: So, You Wrote a Book. Now What?
Lesson #2: Picture Books Are Short
Lesson #3: Every Word Counts
Lesson #4: The Illustrator Is Your Partner
Lesson #5: Show Don’t Tell
Lesson #6: Write with Active Emotion
Lesson #7: Story Arc Components
Lesson #8: Don’t Write In Rhyme
Lesson #9: Rhyming Is All About Rhythm
Lesson #10: Some Ideas Don’t Work
Lesson #11: Keep Learning
Lesson #12: Now You’re Ready! Dive In!

Happy Old Year, 2013!

Before celebrating another year since the birth of the Earth (hey, that rhymes!), I’d like to congratulate 2013 for being pretty awesome to me. Here are some highlights:

I began 2013 with a little over a year’s experience, a single handful of decent manuscripts, very few contacts, and no online presence.

I adopted a pseudonym.

I wrote. I revised. I joined a new critique group and critiqued.

I dipped my toes into the pool of social networking.

Facebook LogoInstagram LogoTwitter LogoPinterest LogoWordpress Logo Google Plus LogoGoodreads LogoMammoth Logo  Tumblr Logo
(did I forget any? Probably…)

I ate lunch with at the same table as a Newbery Honor winner.

I made real and virtual friends with skillful sarcasm.

I attended 4 book launches and purchased more signed books than I can count.

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I started another critique group and became a board member.

I queried and submitted with a success rate higher than 0.0%.

Marsal Lyon Literary Agency Logo

I abandoned the pseudonym.

I end the year in the process of waiting.

Waiting for the phone to ring

The lessons of 2013? Don’t use a pseudonym. And get out there. And my wife is always right. Even if I crossed off the last five things from my list, it would still have been a pretty awesome year.

I wish all (both) of you a 2014 as ‘happy’ as my 2013.