No doubt the reason most editors say “no rhyming books” is due to the fact that rhyme is so difficult to do well. When Lynn Becker said she “walked out the rhymes” as she wrote her debut picture book MONSTERS IN THE BRINY,” I asked her to share that in a blog post. All that walking paid off! In a glowing review, Kirkus notes “the perfectly scanned rhymes” and says “This catchy read-aloud demands to be sung at the top of your lungs.”
And Lynn’s offering a GIVEAWAY! Just leave a comment after the post for a chance to win a copy of MONSTERS IN THE BRINY!
Congratulations to Jessica Milo, winner of Kimberly Wilson’s A PENNY’S WORTH from last week’s post!
Walking the Rhyme by Lynn Becker
In all the years I spent developing my writing craft, if anyone had told me that my debut picture book would rhyme and even be set to music, I would never have believed them. MONSTERS IN THE BRINY, (Sleeping Bear Press, April 15, 2022), illustrated by Scott Brundage, however, is just that and, despite being sure that I was not a rhymer myself, I had a great time writing it.
While I have worked with a number of gifted poets in my critique groups who use rhyme to great effect, I rarely attempted to write anything in rhyme myself. My few early tries fell so flat, they never even made it to a critique group meeting. But when I wrote my short sea shanty about a kraken—which was later expanded into a tale of sea monsters and the woe they unwittingly inflict on a ship full of sailors who try to help them—everything changed.
What made this possible? First of all, it was finding a subject that I thought was interesting enough to spend a lot of time with. So important! I’ve always loved mythical creatures but up to this point hadn’t figured out what or how to write about them. The sea shanty format made sense, and set a framework for the story.
But, what was key to the entire endeavor for me was that back when I was developing MONSTERS IN THE BRINY, I took long hikes in the hills that surrounded my then-home in the California desert. I began walking out the different stanzas, keeping track in my head or chanting them out loud to the world (luckily, the trails I used at this time were nearly always deserted). I also brought pad and pencil in case something seemed too complicated to remember. Walking allowed me to focus on the beats, and helped me to be my own metronome. By walking and speaking the lines out loud, I was rarely able to cheat on the rhythm (the few times I did, first my critique group and then my agent soon set me straight). This was essential, since getting the rhythm right is at least as important as nailing the rhyme in poetry and song.
But, walking also helped in the rhyming department. By stepping to the beats, I was able to focus on the feel of the whole stanza, using “la-la”s or any other nonsense phrase in a spot where there’s no word yet, and generally got to play with words more freely. I could toss out a line and walk, walk, walk while getting a feel for what should follow. And a big part of the fun was using words that are fun to say, and even making up nonsense words that fit the rhyme scheme, a few of which ended up in the final MONSTERS manuscript. Walking definitely helped me more fully release my inner silly. And I’ve never had so much fun writing anything in my life.
I wrote and rewrote, shuffled stanzas around and around again, I even sang the piece when no one was listening (I’m a horrible singer!), but through it all I walked and talked and walked my way to the heart of my very first published picture book—with rhyme!
Thanks for having me on your blog, Beth!
Don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of MONSTERS IN THE BRINY! (continental US addresses, ends 4/22/22)