Happy Hagfish Day!

It’s finally here–the first annual Hagfish Day, to celebrate the “beauty of ugly.” Ooze on over to the WhaleTimes website for more information on the hagfish and other less-attractive but important marine creatures.

Hagfish, Queen of Slime
Mass-producing gallons of
Ooey, gooey, ooze.

Okay, now it’s your turn to write a hagfish haiku. Any takers???

St. Patrick’s Day & Limericks: A Wee Bit O’ the Wordplay

Even as a kid, I loved limericks. I think I first learned of them when I read Scott Corbett’s book, The Limerick Trick. Their predictable rhyme, kooky humor and telling tales have lots of kid appeal; and whenever St. Patrick’s Day comes around, limericks come to mind (not that they have a connection with St. Patrick–it’s just their connection to Ireland).

Here’s what Wikipedia says about the origin of limericks: The origin of the actual name limerick for this type of poem is obscure. Its usage was first documented in England in 1898 (New English Dictionary) and in America in 1902. It is generally taken to be a reference to the County of Limerick in Ireland (particularly the Maigue Poets), and may derive from an earlier form of nonsense verse parlour game that traditionally included a refrain that ended “Come all the way up to Limerick?”

But it was Edward Lear’s Book of Nonsense that launched limericks into poetry popularity. He wrote over two hundred, but here are two of my favorites, plus an attempt of my own.

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!’

There was an Old Man of Kilkenny,
Who never had more than a penny;
He spent all that money,
In onions and honey,
That wayward Old Man of Kilkenny.

There once was a writer named Terry,
Who had a great passion for berries,
She wrote up a story,
Of blackberry glory,
A sweet pick for any library.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I Wish…

On my last post, I mentioned Wish Poems. Here’s one that I want to share with you. It was written by a third-grader.

I Wish…

I wish I had a diamond, shiny and sparkly.
I wish I had an emerald, all beautiful and green.
I wish I had a sapphire, a pretty shade of blue.
I wish I wish for all these things
but all I really need is you.

Written by Ella, 3rd grade.


Pint-sized interviews that leave you smiling.
ANN WHITFORD PAUL writes picture books, poetry and early readers. Her books have won numerous awards including NY Times Notable books, Carl Sandburg Award for Children’s Literature, Bank Street College Best Books list, Notable Science and Social Studies Books, National Parenting Centers “Seal of Approval,” 2001 Recognition of Merit from the George C. Stone Center for Children’s Books of the Claremont Graduate University, and been nominated for numerous state reading awards. She teaches writing at UCLA Extension and her new titles include Count on Culebra, If Animals Kissed Good Night and Snail’s Good Night.

I’ve had the pleasure of taking one of Ann’s courses at UCLA and she recently presented a poetry workshop for my SCBWI chapter. She’s a marvelous teacher, master of poetry and has an extremely generous heart.

While many of us love to write in rhyme, not all stories are best told this way. How do you determine if a story is best suited to be written in a rhyme?
This is a tough question. My stories for younger children (toddlers) usually feel poetic from beginning inspiration. I hear a definite beat and the first few lines come easily. That doesn’t mean those lines are any good, or even that they’ll make it into the final manuscript, just that the writing starts out effortlessly. If, on the way, I discover I’m stretching to find rhymes, or the rhythm isn’t solid, and especially if my story goes on too long—over 400 words at most, it’s time to reevaluate.

Just because kids love rhyme and it helps them when it comes to reading, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to tell every story. However, if I do switch to prose, I make sure it’s poetic and that the words I chose bring forth a physical reaction that’s in line with the story. Little Monkey Says Good Night was always in prose, but became poetic when I focused on word sounds and onomatopoetic language. If Animals Kissed Good Night, started out as prose, but felt flat. Switching it into rhyme gave it new life. That’s what I love about writing. Every story is a new adventure.

Do you have any key advice for how to determine if your rhythm and rhyme is working?
The key word for both is consistent. If you start out with a rhyme pattern, you must continue that pattern. If you break the rhyme scheme, there must be a reason related to what’s going on in your story. For example, don’t break the rhyme scheme just because you can’t find the right word. Break the rhyme scheme if your character is suddenly thrown into danger. The same is true for rhythm. In my book Everything to Spend the Night, the girl had unpacked all of her goodies to stay at Grandpa’s. When she discovered she didn’t have her pajamas, I added an extra beat and broke the rhythm to signal to the reader that something was wrong. The best advice I can give regarding determining if your rhythm is working is to have someone else read your work and listen to where the stresses fall. If another person isn’t available, read your lines as though they were prose.

What is your favorite children’s joke?
Q: What is Snake’s favorite subject in school?
A: Hisssssstory.

Thanks, Ann!

St. Patrick’s Day Poems: A Wee Bit o’ Fun

Find a shamrock,
green and bright.
God be with you
day and night.

People often confuse the shamrock with the four-leaf clover. While the four-leaf clover symbolizes good luck, Irish legend says that St. Patrick used the shamrock to demonstrate the principle behind the Trinity (an important doctrine in Christianity), therefore shamrocks have more significance as a religious symbol than a symbol of good luck.

The Blarney Kiss
I always kiss me parents,
I even kiss me sis—Eeew!
I kiss me Great Aunt Erin,
And Uncle Patrick too.
But of all the kisses I’ve given
including those I’ve blown,
The kiss I like to give the most
is the one on the Blarney Stone.

The Blarney Stone is an actual piece of stone in the Blarney Castle, near Cork, Ireland. According to legend, those who kiss the stone are blessed with eloquence, meaning they become skilled at flattery.

A St. Patty’s Day Fib
Kiss the Blarney Stone
Don’t you just love St. Gomer’s Day?

For more fun fibs, go to Gregory K.’s blog here.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Valentine’s Day Silly Poems

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, I’d like to post two poems:

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
What a cheap way
to break up with you.

Okay, now for real:

Roses are red,
So is my dog,
Enough of this nonsense,
Time to go blog.

I welcome all creative and oh-so-corny poets to join me. And for all poetry lovers, visit Greg Pincus at “Gottabook” every Friday.
Happy Valentine’s Day!