Rhyme Clinic With Linda Ashman!

Happy December, Everyone!

I hope you all had wonderful Thanksgivings and beginnings of Hanukkah and weekends with your families!

I must say, the morning run the last couple days has been more of a morning roll…  I blame the pie 🙂

Today’s post is a long one, but I think you’ll find it very educational and worthwhile!  The incomparable Linda Ashman kindly offered to do a Rhyme Clinic, since rhyme can be very tricky indeed!  I think we’ll all be able to learn a thing or two.  And it’s kind of appropriate to be doing such a special post today because it is my 3rd Blogiversary!  (Well, technically that was yesterday – but we were all sleeping off pie, so let’s celebrate today… with some cake!… which I shall make coffee cake in deference to the hour and the fact that we should go light after the Thanksgiving weekend feasting :))

And while we’re at it, I think some confetti would be appropriate, don’t you?  It’s not every day you celebrate a blogiversary with someone as famous as Linda to guest post 🙂

Alrighty then!  Now that we are fortified with snack and covered in confetti, take it away, Linda!

*     *     *     *     *

Greetings, everyone!
I’ll begin with a confession: Although I’ve critiqued many rhyming manuscripts over the years, I’ve never done a Rhyme Clinic via blog post. So, a huge thank you to the intrepid Susanna for being game to try this.
And thank you to everyone who submitted manuscripts. I really enjoyed reading them, and am sorry I couldn’t use them all. I chose manuscripts which would allow me to answer frequently asked questions and address common issues that bedevil writers of rhyme. I’ll be sharing parts of them in just a minute—but, first, a quick intro. 
In The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, I go into some detail about meter, feet, and how to avoid “Crimes of Rhyme.” Given our limited space here, let me just mention three of the most commonly committed crimes:
1.  Letting rhyme trump story. Sometimes we focus so much on making rhymes that we lose sight of the story. The result? Confusing plot lines, poetic detours, and “random” rhymes that don’t move your story forward.
2.  Unnatural phrasing. It’s tempting to use rarely-heard words or twist sentences into awkward contortions in order to make a rhyme. If it’s not a phrase you’d actually say, it probably shouldn’t go in your story.
3.  “Off” Meter.  Writing rhythmic verse involves more than counting the syllables in each line. You need to pay attention to the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables. There are different names for these patterns—which I won’t go into here—but the main point is to be aware of the pattern and be (mostly) consistent in using it. You also want to pay attention to “feet” – the number of times the pattern is repeated in a line. Tracking this pattern line by line is called “scanning” your verse—something writers of rhyme should know how to do.
In discussing the meter of rhyming manuscripts, I’ll use ALL CAPS for stressed syllables, and lower case for unstressed. For example:
twas the NIGHT / before CHRIST / mas and ALL / through the HOUSE
has a “da da DUM da da DUM” (anapestic) pattern. This pattern is repeated four times in one line, for four feet. (By the way, putting stressed syllables in all caps doesn’t mean we shout those syllables when we read them—the emphasis should be discernible, but subtle.)
Okay, that’s it for the quick intro. Let’s read some rhyme, shall we?
Our first example is from Winnie Brews a Witchy Stew by Rosi Hollinbeck. Winnie’s mom isn’t feeling well, so Winnie decides to make stew—but a crucial ingredient is harder to come by than she realized.
Winnie’s mom is sick in bed.
With an awfully achy head
            Caused by her pointy hat.
Supper is near, it’s time to cook.
So Winnie scans her big cook book
            For things to fill her vat.
She finds a recipe for cake
That calls for boiled rattlesnake
            It doesn’t sound quite right.
Cold spider soup with extra mud
Needs a cup of green toad blood
            But has to cook all night.
So Winnie wracks her witchy brain.
She pages through the book again
            And finds the perfect thing.
She checks to see what is at hand.
Sure her stew will be quite grand.
            She just needs one bat wing.
She fills her vat with lizards’ feet
Adds chopped jumping spider meat
            Spiced up with dried swamp scum.
Nettles, stinkweed, fried toad warts,
Black squid ink – six or seven quarts,
            And pickled fish eyes –Yum!
Yum, indeed! Anyone hungry? Rosi does something interesting with her rhyme pattern: the first two lines rhyme with each other, then the third rhymes with the third line in the next stanza, and so on. Because she’s consistent about it, it works. Still, I can’t help thinking that third line lands rather heavily and interrupts the flow of the story. What do others think?
Rosi also does a nice job of keeping her meter (mostly) consistent, alternating one stressed and one unstressed syllable (DUM da / DUM da / DUM da / DUM)—or vice-verse—throughout. I stumbled—slightly—in just a couple of places. For example, in the second stanza, she breaks the prevailing pattern with “SUP per is NEAR” (DUM da da DUM). This is easily fixed by using a contraction: SUPper’s NEAR.
I stumbled slightly over the next line as well. Because of the rhyme pattern, I want to say: “so WINnie SCANS her BIG cook BOOK.” But that sounds unnatural because, in speaking, we say “COOK book”, not “cook BOOK.” I’d suggest changing it to something like “WINnie SCANS her GIant BOOK” (the context and illustrations will show that it’s a cook book).
I also tripped over the sixth stanza. The first line sounds unnatural (in speaking, we’d say “She checks to see what’s at hand” (which, unfortunately, doesn’t work with the rhyme pattern), not “She checks to see what is at hand). And the third line has the same problem as the cook book example. Because of the meter, I want to say “bat WING” but, in speech, we’d say “BAT wing.”
A few other lines were troublesome: “Adds chopped jumping spider meat” is a mouthful, and the rhythm is off for “BLACK squid INK – SIX or SEVen QUARTS”. The latter is an easy fix with something like “BLACK squid INK—a DOZen QUARTS.”
Overall, though, Rosi’s rhyme and rhythm are good. My bigger concern is with the story’s pacing. Although a witch’s house is a great setting, Winnie spends the first nine stanzas (of a 24-stanza story) in her kitchen trying to decide what to make, then mixing up various ingredients. When Winnie goes off to a cave in search of a bat wing (in the 10thstanza), things start to get more interesting. Rosi might consider condensing these early stanzas and making them more active and visual. Instead of staying in the kitchen, for example, Winnie might actively collect her ingredients—dig up snail shells, climb a tree for an owl feather, hunt through her dusty attic, etc.
1.  Try writing it in 4-line stanzas to see how it changes the rhythm and story.
2.  Scan the rhyme to make sure it’s consistent.
3.  Strive for natural phrasing.
4.  Condense the beginning stanzas, vary the scenery, and get to Winnie’s problem sooner.
Now let’s look at a different sort of manuscript. Anteater Saves Gas, Zebra Recycles Trash: A Green Alphabet is a concept book—an alphabestiary with an environmental twist (the author, Nancy, requested I use only her first name):
Anteater saves gas
riding her bike to class.
Bear buys his trash pail
at a garage sale.
Cheetah checks her meter,
then turns down the heater.
Donkey collects rain
pouring down his drain.
Elephant swings higher
in her recycled tire.
Fox lends to friends
his odds and ends.
Giraffe has great advice:
Use sheets of paper twice.
Hyena donates toys
to other girls and boys.
I like the active language (all those great verbs!), illustration potential, and the short, catchy rhymes. The main issue, rhyme-wise, is the meter. Many of the stanzas don’t have a discernible rhyme pattern, and there’s no predominant meter for the manuscript overall. Because this is a concept book—and we’re focused on each page as opposed to an ongoing story—Nancy may not need to use the same meter for all the stanzas. However, each stanza should be rhythmic and follow some sort of pattern.
Let’s start with what works. In the last two stanzas of our sample, Nancy uses a consistent iambic trimeter (three feet of “da DUM”):
gi RAFFE / has GREAT / ad VICE:
use SHEETS / of PA / per TWICE.
hy E / na DO / nates TOYS
to OTH / er GIRLS / and BOYS.
Excellent! Now let’s look at the first stanza:
ANT eat er saves GAS
RI ding her / BIKE to / CLASS.
The three unstressed syllables in the first line make it hard to know how to divide the line into feet. Part of the problem comes from using anteater (DUM da da) to lead things off. It might be easier to use a different animal—like aardvark, for example. If Nancy wanted to keep the three feet pattern of the giraffe and hyena stanzas, she might try something like this:
(and) SAVES a / LOT of / GAS.
The illustrations could show aardvark on a bike, so it wouldn’t need to be spelled out in the text.
I like Nancy’s “B” stanza:
BEAR buys his / TRASH pail
AT a gar / AGE sale.
Because Nancy uses the same pattern in each line (DUM da da / DUM da ), it has a nice rhythm to it.  It’s a different pattern than the others we’ve looked at, which—as I mentioned—may not matter so much in a concept book. But if Nancy wants to maintain a pattern of three feet per line, she might try something like this:
BADGer / BUYS his / TRASH pail
SHOPping / AT a / YARD sale.
I also tripped over the rhythm of the elephant (a rhythmically troublesome word like anteater) and fox stanzas. Here’s the latter:
FOX lends to / FRIENDS
his ODDS / and ENDS.
This feels abrupt to me (I keep wanting to say “his odds and his ends,” which sounds more rhythmic but doesn’t make sense). Again, if Nancy wants to aim for three feet per line, she could try something like:
FOX lends / TO his / FRIENDS
(a)SSORT ed / ODDS and / ENDS.
1. Try to find a rhyme pattern that you like and stick with it. Because it’s a concept book, it’s probably okay to have some variation in the rhyme pattern among the stanzas (what do others think about this?)—but each stanza should have a pattern.
2. The best stanzas (like giraffe) are natural-sounding. Most of your stanzas sound natural, but a few are awkward (for example, later in the text: Kangaroo’s magnet can feel / if a car is made of steel.)
3. In my book M is for Mischief: An A to Z of Naughty Children, I wrote an introductory stanza and a wrap-up stanza to make the collection feel more cohesive. You might consider doing something similar.
Since I’ve already used a lot of space here, I’m going to speed through a couple of examples from two other manuscripts. For each manuscript, I’ll pick out two stanzas—a strong one and a weaker one. 
Verse that works/Verse that needs work.
Our first example comes from Sylvester Johnson Ate a Slug by Pat Haapaniemi. I’ll start with the stanza that needs work because it’s the first one of the story:
Sylvester Johnson ate a slug,
all squiggly and alive.
He’s never done a thing like that
although he’s only five.
I like this stanza—the rhythm, the language, the evocative imagery (yuck!)—but was thrown by the last line. The “although” is confusing. Should he have eaten a slug by age five?  This feels like a “random rhyme”—the sort we use when we can’t find a better one. Sometimes you can get away with it, but I’d recommend changing this one—you don’t want your reader to be confused, especially so early in the story.
This stanza from Pat is much better:
His mother brushed and scrubbed his teeth
And made him gargle twice,
Then took him to professionals
To ask for their advice.
Here the rhyme sounds natural (I love when a multi-syllabic word like “professionals” works with your rhyme scheme), there’s good action, and it leads nicely into the next part of the story—the various experts’ theories on why Sylvester would do such a nasty thing.
For our second speedy example, I’ve pulled two stanzas from Midsummer Mischief by Joanna Marple. This time I’ll start with the stanza that (mostly) works:
On tippy toe paws, like cats on the prowl  
crept Bear and his friends – Mouse, Squirrel and Owl.
I really like the language in the first line of this stanza—it’s rhythmic, evocative, and I love the sound of “tippy toe paws.” I love it so much that it pained me to realize there’s a slight problem with it: owls don’t have paws. Perhaps Joanne can keep the “tippy toe” but get rid of the “paws.”
Here’s the one that needs work:
Fox sank in tears, “I’m a right soggy mess!”
Prankish adventures were his to confess.
The second line is one of those awkward contortions we sometimes do to make a rhyme. In speaking, we wouldn’t use such a phrase. We’d say “Fox confessed to his pranks” or the like. Again, if you wouldn’t say it, you probably shouldn’t include it in your story.
So does all this seem a bit obsessive—and perhaps a mite tedious?  Well, yes, it can be. But trying to find the perfect word—one that works rhythmically, sounds natural, AND moves your story forward—is what makes writing in rhyme so much fun (or not, depending on your perspective).
By the way, if my brief explanation of meter and feet left you more confused than enlightened, I highly recommend the following:
I fear I’ve made this post WAY too long, so I’ll wrap this up with a mantra for rhyme-writers: Be clear, be concise, be rhythmic, be natural.
Again, thanks for your submissions (and sorry I couldn’t include them all), and thank you, Susanna, for having me!
*     *     *     *     *
Thank YOU so much for joining us today, Linda, and for kindly offering your expertise!  I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say it’s been a great learning experience.  And I know I’ve mentioned this before, but Linda’s Nuts & Bolts Guide is terrific!  I’ve read it and highly recommend it to anyone who wants to buy themselves ask for a holiday gift 🙂
See you here on Wednesday for Would You Read It.  And for anyone who might have missed them in the craziness of the past week, the Holiday Gift Guide for Writers is HERE and the guidelines for the Holiday Writing Contest (with great prizes including 2 of Linda’s picture books!) are HERE.
Have a marvelous Monday, everyone!  
From Linda’s website:
Linda Ashman’s more than two dozen picture books have earned numerous honors and starred reviews, and have been included on the “Best of the Year” lists of The New York TimesParentingChild, and Cookie magazines, Bank Street College of Education, the New York Public Library, and more. As a children’s poet, she’s been compared to Ogden Nash, Mary Ann Hoberman, Douglas Florian, and Jack Prelutsky. She’s taught a variety of workshops on writing for children, and is the author of The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a “how to” handbook for picture book writers.

Snow Day!

Breaking news:  we are having our first official snow day of the year!  And it is actually snowing (which is not always the case – in these days of doppler radar (don’t you love it when I use technical terms I don’t really know the meanings of?) the school districts have been known to jump the gun with a little too much enthusiasm.)

I love snow days!

I’m no longer a kid (I know that comes as a shock :)) and I don’t attend school, so snow days shouldn’t be that different from regular days.  I still have plenty of work to do.

But somehow, snow days are still great.  The kids can sleep late and have a fun-filled, relaxing day.  We can have a fire in the fireplace before evening – so cozy:)  There’s an almost lazy feel to the day because if the school buses can’t venture out then I am certainly not going to endanger society by taking the Dog Mobile out of the garage!  So, no errands.  And something about being holed up, warm and dry, while the snow falls peacefully outside is very conducive to writing stories.  At least for me.  As long as I don’t get side-tracked into reading stories instead 🙂

Aside from writing, I have a special project for today.  I’m almost finished with the book trailer for April Fool, Phyllis!  I know you’ve all been counting the minutes until you can see it, so this is surely thrilling news 🙂  It just needs some more of that nit-picky tweaking I’m so not fond of, and then it needs some complimentary music.  Anyone have any ideas?  I’m open to suggestion.  I can’t wait until it’s completely done and I can share it with you!

Also, I hope you all noticed the totally cool count-down thingy on the right side of the blog page.  It’s counting down to the release of April Fool, Phyllis!  So fun, don’t you think?

In other news, I have allowed myself to be talked into joining Month of Poetry.  Yes, it’s true.  My apologies to all the real poets out there.  I wrote my first Haiku poem yesterday.  It was not good.  Maybe today I’ll try a limerick…  There once was a dog on the hill/who loved to chase after a squirrel…  Maybe not.

But I’m thinking of dogs and squirrels because, at this very moment, Jemma is climbing a tree.  I am not making this up.  A squirrel ran up it (well, let’s be honest – she chased it there) and she’s doing her darndest to get up after it.  Four sets of claws are doggedly (:)) clinging to bark, and it is obvious she intends to catch that squirrel by sheer force of will.  Oops.  Sliding.  If only I’d been a little quicker with the camera!  Story idea here?

So it’s time to get to work (as soon as I take dem dogs for a snowy walk and give the squirrels a little break!)  I hope I’ll have the new trailer to share with you by Monday.

Have a great weekend, and if you live around here, happy snow day!

Poet Or Not?

I’m a little afraid of poetry.

Actually, that’s a lie.

I’m a LOT afraid of poetry!

That probably sounds bizarre coming from someone who has three published books in rhyme, but to me, rhyming about airplanes, freight trains, and construction vehicles is not quite the same as poetry.  Certainly, a lot of poems do rhyme – good poems, real poems – but the concept of poetry can be much more elegant and sophisticated than my version of it, and I’m not really sure I can do it.

How, for example, does one go about writing poetry that doesn’t rhyme?

For all my years of education, and all the writing courses I’ve taken (admittedly, avoiding poetry :)) I really wouldn’t know where to begin.

If I’m going to be well-rounded (and no, I am not talking about my post-holiday figure, thank you very much!), I’m thinking maybe I should dip a toe into the waters of poetry.  I am not willing to risk a whole foot, never mind both.  A toe will have to do for now.

Megan over at The Write-At-Home Mom is participating in Month of Poetry.  Dare I join her?  I suppose I could, purely for your entertainment…  If I were to try writing a poem a day you would surely get plenty of amusement if I shared my attempts…  I don’t know if my delicate ego could take it, though.  I’m very sensitive 🙂

Here’s the most recent poem I wrote.  If you say nice things, I’ll consider sharing future attempts.  If you laugh, I will hear you!

Striped in festive red and white
Pretty peppermint delight
Smooth and sweet and cool as ice
Candy canes are mighty nice!

What do you think?  Should I add yet another writing challenge to my list for 2011?  Anyone else want to do it with me?

Meet Kathy Troidle Jackson

I am so pleased (at long last, after a few delays, but now with great fanfare!) to have the opportunity to introduce you all to the talented author/poet Kathy Troidle Jackson!

Kathy Troidle Jackson

Kathy works for IBM, but she still manages to find time to write.  Her books White Dog Haiku and Things I’ve Learned From My Westie were self-published on Lulu.  Kathy’s website is under construction but due to be launched imminently.  The tagline is write here, write now, and her new blog of the same name will be launched concurrently.  Write Here, Write Now describes how she thinks of good Haiku – the poet writes the moment as it is happening now and invites the reader in to feel it with her words.  Kathy’s other  blog, Ghent Fever, celebrates her life in New York’s upper Hudson Valley where she lives with her husband and their rescued Westie, Islay Bear.  Kathy recently had two Haiku poems published in Berry Blue Haiku – an online Haiku magazine for children.  She is available to teach Haiku workshops (if interested, please contact her at kathy [at] kathytroidlejackson [dot] com), and she would love for you to follow her on Face Book and Twitter, and to join her White Dog Fan Page!  Welcome, Kathy!

SLH:  How long have you been writing?

KTJ:  I have been writing as long as I can remember.  I grew up the oldest of four girls and nothing made me happier than to entertain them with funny stories and poems.
When given a writing project as a child, I not only did it but overachieved.  One assignment I remember was to write an idiom and illustrate it.  I put together an entire illustrated book of them including some choice ones like
He’s all thumbs
He flipped his lid
It blew her socks off
The drinks are on the house
There was something about combining art with words to paint a picture that captivated me even way back when. 
SLH:  When did you become interested in haiku?
KTJ:  I learned about haiku as most kids do in grammar school – the traditional three line 5-7-5 syllable format is accessible for all ages and fun to write.  But it wasn’t until recently that I got hooked on it in a big way.  I have been putting a lot of effort lately to live more in the moment, appreciate the abundance I have in my life, and celebrate the small things.  Haiku and my dog have helped me do that.
I never was allowed a pet growing up but my husband and I rescued a 5 ½ year old Westie (West Highland White Terrier) in August of 2009.  Islay Bear has been a joy to get to know and living in the moment is all he knows.   Once while I was away on business, my husband who discovered that people were doing haiku on Twitter, tweeted a couple haiku to tell me what the dog was up to….mostly to make me laugh out loud in my business meeting as he knew I’d be checking my blackberry during the meeting.  Here’s what he tweeted:
Islay Bear (pronounced eye-la)
White Dog walks
Gentle sprinkles fall on tree
Dog is now empty
He certainly accomplished his goal!  After that, I was delighted to find a whole community of haiku writers on Twitter.  @baffled puts out a word of the day that he calls the #haikuchallenge and we all write haiku with that word in it.  For a year now, mine have all been about the White Dog.
SLH:  Are there “tricks” to writing haiku that can make it easier/more accessible to beginning writers, especially children?  Or ways that teachers can use haiku in the classroom?
KTJ:  Good haiku uses words as imagery, contrast and seasonal words to invite the reader into the world of the poet and conveys a feeling of a particular moment in time in the poet’s life.  
Haiku can be a fun way to get kids interested in writing by asking them to write a three line poem about their favorite animal, describe what the animal is doing as if it was right there in the room right now.  A fun way to use haiku in a classroom is described in the latest issue of Berry Blue Haiku where a teacher brings in a bunch of photos of animals and/or nature events. The kids are asked to choose one and write a haiku about it. 
Another creative idea I like, also described in the December issue of Berry Blue Haiku, is to work with kids at holiday time to describe what the recipient might do with a gift they are giving with a haiku which is written up as the tag and placed on the wrapped item.
One of the best ways to describe haiku that I resonate most with is from the book The Haiku Apprentice by Abigail Friedman, where a haiku master asks her students to think of haiku as “a vessel into which you pour your feelings.”
Writing good haiku is not as easy as it first seems.  The three line 5-7-5 format came out of Japan, where the concept of haiku originated. Haiku was intended as a poem you could say in one breath.  In Japanese what is counted are sounds, not syllables.  There are a lot more Japanese sounds than syllables in most words.  Although the three line 5-7-5 syllable format can make the definition of haiku more tangible and perhaps easier to teach to children, it is thought now that strict adherence to the 5-7-5 syllable format forces poets to pad their thought with words like “a” and “the” and in Japanese these haiku would no longer be read in a single breath. 
Haiku groups, like the Haiku Society of America, now suggest that good haiku is more like 10-14 syllables, not the 17 of the popular 5-7-5 format.
SLH:  What is your typical work day like?  You have a job besides writing, so how do you fit writing time in?  Do you have work “rituals”/habits that help you think or be creative?
KTJ:  My day job is selling IBM services on Wall Street.  I am celebrating 23 years with IBM this month.   I sometimes work from home but often go into NYC on the train. I try to use at least part of the time on the train (2 hours each way) to work on my writing, add to the large White Dog haiku collection I have amassed.
Writing haiku is something I can fit in even on a busy day.  Some of my writing rituals include writing three pages in my journal every morning before I let the rest of the world in.   These are often just random thoughts clogging up my mind, odd dreams that I woke up remembering, to dos that are hanging over my head that I have to get done that day.  But sometimes, all sorts of haiku ideas come through – new ideas for books, my Write Here, Right Now Haiku Workshops, or my web site.  It’s a great way to get the creativity flowing.  
I also keep a gratitude journal and write a few haiku every day to remind me of a moment I particularly appreciated – usually something about Islay Bear but not always.
SLH:  Why did you decide to self-publish?  What was that experience like?  Advice for other authors considering self-publication?
KTJ:  I self published my first book, White Dog Haiku, in 2009 as a Christmas gift to family and friends, never expecting to take it farther than that. 
Since then I’ve submitted White Dog Haiku book and magazine ideas to several publishers and have submitted some individual haiku to a few online publications.  I have gotten some rejections, some constructive criticism and suggestions, and am waiting for the process to take it’s course in a few other cases.  The two haiku appearing in this month’s issue of Berry Blue Haiku is my first third party published work. This is a very slow process!  
Self publishing gave me a much faster sense of accomplishment and I had a copy of my book within just a few weeks of finishing it at lulu.com.  They provide templates you can use and all you have to do is bring in your content. They’ll even help you get an ISBN number and market it on Amazon and elsewhere.  It is on the expensive side though so my cost for the books doesn’t leave much room to make any money on them.  I donate my proceeds to Westie Rescue. 
There were a few lessons I learned through this process including to just do it!  The minute you write something down you are a writer!  Write it down and get it out there in the world. Enter writing contests, take writing challenges.  The mysterious world of publishing is changing fast in this uber-connected world and it’s less about being published by a big name publishing house and more about building and marketing to a community of “peeps” or followers that love what you have to say and eat up your material.
Also, get a coach…or a bunch of coaches!  At Christine Kane’s Uplevel Live event which I attended in 2009, no one in that class would let me call myself a budding author.  We were encouraged to set an intent, practice “imperfect action” and do something, which in my case meant write.  In my case, that got stuff out from my head, onto paper, and into print. Connecting with other authors at local SCBWI meetings, book fairs and signing events is another group of people who can guide and support you.  I regularly read great blogs like yours, Susanna, to keep me current on what’s going on in the world of children’s books.
And maybe most importantly, don’t let the process discourage you. Celebrate all successes.  Even a rejection is something to celebrate because it means someone looked at your work and if you are lucky has put some thinking into how it could be improved and shared that with you in the rejection letter.  Long after the event, the UpLevel Live participants continue to support each other’s successes, no matter how small they are and help each other get the word out about the release of our genius works.  Other authors on the SCBWI group lists support each other’s successes as well and that’s a great way to find out about local book signing events.
SLH:  Tell us about Berry Blue!
KTJ:  I am so excited about it! Berry Blue Haiku is a new quarterly digital magazine about haiku targeted to kids up to 13 years of age.  In addition to haiku of a seasonal nature, the magazine has sections for projects that use haiku as I have described above, articles on haiku writing techniques, and pointers to haiku resources. 
I heard about it at a local meeting of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) and have been submitting White Dog themed haiku to them since January 2010.  After reading through their submission guidelines and trying a few times unsuccesfully, they accepted two of my haiku for the December issue and you can find them on p. 17. 
SLH:  Do you write prose?  What kind?  For what audience?
KTJ:  In addition to haiku, I do have several picture book manuscripts done – all based on characters I have invented for my stuffed animals.  I am working on revising them with the knowledge I have gained at children book writing conferences and plan to submit at least a few of them this year.
SLH:  What are you working on now?  Do you have mss out for consideration?

KTJ:  I have a haiku board book for younger readers out for consideration with publishers now and am working up several other ideas for older kids all with a White Dog theme, including a workbook I can use for presenting/teaching haiku at school visits.
SLH:  What are your inspirations? Most difficult obstacles?

KTJ:  My inspiration comes from a passion to get kids to read and appreciate the value of the written word to capture a moment.  I am inspired by local authors like Susanna Hill, Hudson Talbott and Alexandra Skye who have created books that kids just love to read over and over again.

The biggest obstacle for me right now is that I don’t have a network of school contacts but hope to fix that this year.  Also, my first book does not have an ISBN so it is hard for people to find it easily.  Since I have come so much farther in my understanding of what makes good haiku, I may just leave that first book as is and go for ISBNs and eBook options for my future books.
SLH:  Do you do your own illustration/art/photos?
KTJ:  I am not an illustrator.  White Dog Haiku was done with photographs I took of Islay Bear.  Berry Blue Haiku had Doreen Dioro, one of their regular illustrators, do the drawing on the page with the White Dog haiku they chose to include in the December issue.  The manuscripts I have submitted to publishing were without illustration also.  

Kathy and Islay Bear

Thank you so much for joining us today, Kathy!  You and Islay Bear are an inspiration!

Readers, if you have questions for Kathy, please post them in the comments section!