Laura Purdie Salas on

In honor of April being National Poetry Month, I thought who better to be our featured author than the SCBWI Golden Kite Honor winner for picture book text in 2013? That’s right! Today we welcome Laura Purdie Salas, award-winning author of A LEAF CAN BE and (get this) more than 100 other books for children!  

If you look at the photo of Laura, you’ll probably think she looks sweet and kind. And she is — unless somebody treads on one of her peeps! Last year at the SCBWI-LA conference, I was lucky enough to have Laura take me under her wing as it was my first time on faculty. Whenever anybody gave me smack talk (yes it did happen) or was monopolizing my time, there was Laura to my rescue! I told her I want to pack her into my suitcase for all of my speaking engagements!

Laura is a phenomenal writer, a huge supporter of fellow writers, a mentor, and an amazing friend. What more could you ask for? A post about poetry you ask? Well, she did that too! Please welcome Laura!

10 Thoughts About Poetry
Hi, 12×12-ers! It’s great to visit this super energetic community! I miss everyone’s enthusiasm:>) I’m honored to be the April Guest Author, and, since my true love is poetry, I’m sharing some thoughts/tips on the writing, marketing, and sharing or poetry. I hope you like it.

The Difficult Truth
1. It’s hard to sell a poetry collection to an editor. This is not good news. But poetry books tend not to make much money (see #2), and even editors who love poetry often aren’t free to acquire it. I have at least four poetry collections that my agent has submitted around that I think are stronger than any of my published collections. No sale.

2. Even once you sell to an editor, it’s hard to sell to the public. My first trade poetry book (meaning a book I wrote and sold to a publisher, rather than writing on assignment from a publisher) sold, at last count, fewer than 2,000 copies. It just went out of print. It was a Finalist for the Minnesota Book Award and got another couple of nice honors, but they didn’t translate into nearly enough sales to keep the book in print.
So, what can you do? Make your work the best it can be!

Immerse Yourself in Poetry
3. Join the Poetry Friday gang. The best way to improve your poems is to read a ton of them. And there’s no better company to do that in than with the Poetry Friday blogosphere celebration every week. It’s easy. You go to Mary Lee Hahn’s blog, A YEAR OF READING, and look at the Poetry Friday schedule in the right sidebar. Click on the link for this week’s host. Then go visit their Poetry Friday Roundup, in which they will post links to all of the participating bloggers. You’ll see lots of single poem posts (people post their own poems as well as poems by others) and reviews of poetry books and interviews with poets. Lots of the poetry is for kids; some is for adults. If you go through the posts each week, reading the ones that seem appealing, you will start to get a picture of children’s poetry. Read. Enjoy. Learn. Comment. Even if you don’t have a blog, you can start to build relationships as the weeks go on. I have made some wonderful poetry friends through this community, and I have also been invited to participate in several anthologies by folks I met online this way. And to speak at conventions and such. Plus, we’re generally just a really nice, cool group of people! You will have lots of fun while absorbing a lot about what works and what doesn’t work, and what you like and don’t like. Water Can Laura Purdie Salas

4. Write for the fun of it. Knowing and accepting that the majority of my poetry will never be shared in book form is a blessing and a curse. It’s a curse because…well, that’s pretty obvious, right? But it’s a blessing because it means I write it because I love it. I can’t help writing poetry–it’s the most fun writing I get to do. And if you want to write poetry for kids, I hope the same is true for you! I’m generally very goal-oriented, so I don’t, for instance, sit and write nonfiction pieces that I know will very likely never be published or even seen by other people. But there’s a freedom that comes with knowing I’m doing something totally inefficient and ineffective as a career strategy. It brings a sense of wild freedom that is wonderful. So write lots of poetry to stretch yourself. Most of it will stink. And that’s good! It means you’re reaching past your abilities. Keep doing that, over and over, and eventually your abilities will improve. And you’ll discover what kinds of poems you’re really good at!

5. Read a TON of poetry! In addition to the Poetry Friday posts, you want to be reading all the poetry books being published in your specific poetry genre (picture books, novels in verse, upper elementary collections, etc.). And you need to read what is being published NOW, not what was hot when you were a kid. Sylvia Vardell, anthologist, teacher educator, children’s poetry fanatic, and blogger, publishes a sneak peek of upcoming poetry books at the start of each year. Here are links for the past couple of years to get you started on your reading.

6. Share your work online. A lot of people are hesitant to share their work online, but it’s the best way to make connections—of the heart, not of the business kind (though that is a benefit as well). For me, I have found that an attitude of abundance helps me. There will always be another poem. That’s my mantra. I don’t share poems that I write specifically with publication in mind, but I do share occasional poems that I think MIGHT be publishable. I also share a super rough first draft every Thursday on my 15 Words or Less Poems post, where I post a photo and share a very short poem draft inspired by it. Then other people join in and share their first drafts based on the same photo. It’s amazing to see the variety! (There are other poetry prompts out there, too, of course.) And for National Poetry Month, I’m posting a riddle-ku (a riddle haiku) every day. It can be very lonely to be writing lots of poems and not getting published. Even though publishing is my overall goal, I enjoy sharing my work and connecting with other poets on a regular basis. I’d encourage you to think about how you can share your work online. Don’t blog? Maybe you’re on Facebook or Twitter, both awesome for sharing poems. Or if you don’t do any of those, you might just share your poems on other peoples’ blogs in response to poetry prompts they post. Hoarding your poems, in my experience, just doesn’t lead anywhere. Yes, every once in a while, I’ve seen a call for poems and wished I hadn’t shared a certain poem online (because many journals and book markets do consider a poem published if it has appeared online). But those twinges of regret have been far and few between and have been greatly outweighed by being an active member of an encouraging, rowdy poetry crowd.

BookspeakImprove Your Craft
7. Learn meter and rhyme. This is the number one weakness I see in poems and rhyming picture books that I critique. There are some good websites and books on this topic, and you should use them. Poor meter is THE number one problem I see in beginners’ poetry. But the ability to use meter well CAN be learned. It’s just that it’s hard and time-consuming. But it’s worth it. One book I recommend is poet Mary Oliver’s Rules for the Dance: A Handbook for Writing and Reading Metrical Verse. A few more resources are:
• Lane Fredrickson’s Rhyme Weaver website
Interactive scanning tool at For Better or Verse, from the University of Virginia
“Have You Got Rhythm?” by Jan Fields at the ICL site
“Rhymer’s Workshop” (a chat transcript) with Shelly Becker at the ICL site
• Examples of good rhyming books on my Pinterest Boards: Rhyming Nonfiction Picture Books and Fun Rhyming Picture Books

8. For rhyming picture books, make sure you have a story. With a plot. Stories in verse can be lots of fun, but lots of writers forget that story is a crucial element. Often, writers get so caught up in the fun of the rhyme and the wordplay that they leave small elements like conflict and obstacles and resolution out. A great way to test your rhyming story is to write it out in prose. Does it have a beginning and an end? A conflict? Events that cause other events? An ending that feels satisfying? If it’s missing any of those elements, you don’t have enough there for a story, rhyming or not. I’ve been there. It hurts. But it’s better to figure that out now than to have an editor point it out to you:>) (Concept rhyming books and nonfiction rhyming books have other important elements instead of or in addition to a plot.)

9. Create a collection with a super special hook in either topic or form. Or both. I can’t count the number of times an editor has said, “I love this collection of state poems. But there’s already a book of state poetry.” And there is. One. Published 10-15 years ago. I have heard this response on other topics too. Because poetry doesn’t sell well, editors hate it when there’s already a competing book. Most libraries with dwindling budgets will not buy another bug (for example) poetry collection if they already have one. So that means you have to be extra imaginative! Think outside the box. Your topic or poetic form (or both) should be something not already done a lot. Take a peek at Marilyn Singer’s Mirror Mirror and Follow Follow and Bob Raczka’s Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word for examples of unique forms. For unique topics, look at Poem-mobiles: Crazy Car Poems (J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian), Cowboys (David Harrison), Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole (Bob Raczka again), and This Is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness (Joyce Sidman). For most writers and most large mainstream publishers, an animal poetry collection is much too general. But Joyce has a poetry book coming out all about how animals survive very cold temps. So, one thing you can do is take the topic you’re interested in and narrow it down, give it a twist, approach it from a different direction. Do something that hasn’t been seen before. That is your best chance of actually hooking an editor.

10. Read my Poetic Pursuits:>) From 2007 to 2009, I wrote a series of monthly (sorta) columns for my website on all different parts of writing poetry for kids, from getting ideas to scanning meter to writing in different forms. They’re all on my site and are just as relevant today as when I wrote them. The only difference is that my examples are 6-7 years old. If you’re interested in writing poems for kids, though, I think/hope you’ll find a lot of good info there to inspire you!

Bonus! Two exercises for you to try:
As an 8th-grade English teacher, one class project we did was work in small groups to create ballads by taking the lyrics to a t.v. theme song (like Gilligan’s Island) and telling a myth or a history story by doing a song parody. Same meter, same rhyme scheme as the original theme song, but a totally different topic. I still do this kind of thing today to stretch myself beyond my comfortable poetry forms and meters. So I challenge you to do the same thing! You can see a blog post I wrote about this where I shared my own imitation of a Rebecca Kai Dotlich poem here.

And if you’re interested in giving rhyming nonfiction a try, I’ll lead you through a quick exercise here.
I know this was lots of information, but I figured some of you might be brand new to poetry and thinking about giving it a try. Others of you might be further along in working in poetry and be looking for a few more advanced tips. So…I tried to give a variety. I hope you found something useful here, and I hope you’ll give poetry a try! Happy National Poetry Month!

Laura is giving away a prize to one lucky 12 x 12 participant. Take your pick between these two items:
Choice 1: A selection of five of Laura’s poetry and/or rhyming nonfiction books, personalized.
Choice 2: A one-hour on-the-spot poetry critique session with Mentors for Rent via Skype.

Laura Purdie Salas is the author of more than 120 books for kids and teens, including the brand new WATER CAN BE… (starred reviews in Kirkus and Publishers Weekly—holy cow! , A LEAF CAN BE… (Bank Street Best Books, IRA Teachers’ Choice, Riverby Award for Nature Books for Young Readers, and more), and BOOKSPEAK! POEMS ABOUT BOOKS (Minnesota Book Award, NCTE Notable, Bank Street Best Book, Eureka! Gold Medal, and more). Poetry is her very favorite thing to write! See more about Laura and her work at Laura and her Mentors for Rent partner Lisa Bullard do hourly coaching and critiquing for kids’ writers.


Categories: 12 x 12, 12 x 12 Featured Author, Authors, Giveaway, Poetry, Publishing, Rhyming, Writing · Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



  1. Thank you for a lovely post.

  2. HOORAY!!! I am so happy to see a post about poetry AND Laura Purdie Salas all in one place. THANK YOU, Laura! While it is sad to hear how hard it is to sell a collection, I can’t stop working on them. I think I have a few never-done topics, but your advice is making me take a second look at all these ideas.

    I had a question — do you think collections stand a better chance if we build a story (or the framework of a story) around the collection, like Lisa Wheeler’s PET PROJECT or Joan Bransfield Graham’s THE POEM THAT WILL NOT END? The trend seems to be going in that direction, so I wondered if that’s something you strive for.

    I’d also chime in to say that PB writers NEED to study poetry, whether they write in rhyme or prose. Both Jane Yolen and Ann Whitford Paul have spoken about this need, and who can argue with them? 🙂

    Grazie, Laura!

    • Love your question, Renee.

      • P.S. Nikki Grimes was the first one who really made me aware of this whole narrative framework in poetry collections. It totally changed the way I organized and approached the early collections I was submitting!

    • Thanks, Renee–and, yes! Poetry collections have a much better chance of selling if there’s a framework/narrative of some kind. Whether it’s all around a character, or a chronological narrative about items or a place through a specific time period (day, year, etc.), or even a narrative that is mostly shown in illos (but is at least hinted at through the text), editors definitely love a collection that has some narrative thread in it, pulling the reader forward. Great point:>)

  3. Wonderful post, Laura! I always enjoy learning from you, blog posts, and your newsletter. This post is packed with great stuff. Thanks!

  4. Thank you for sharing your wealth of information, Laura!

  5. Wonderful post with such great tips especially if you are just trying your hand at this.

  6. Wow! Thank you for the wealth of information, Laura! What a wonderful post!

  7. Great information. Thanks for sharing. Love your books.

  8. Great post, Laura. Poetry is my very favorite thing to write too, but I’ve got a long way to go in improving my skills. I love your 15 Words or Less prompts, and will certainly be pinning this post so I can refer to it again and again! Thank you. :0)

  9. Poetry is one of my favorite things, too! Thanks so much for this great post, Laura. It’s full of wonderful information!

  10. I had never even considered working in rhyme, though I read poetry at all levels. Thanks for sharing your struggles and lots of resources too. I’m going to try one of your exercises now!.

  11. I love the synergy that seems to happen in the KidLit world. I just bought BOOKSPEAK a week and a half ago. I loved it so I and pinned it to my poetry board on Pinterest. Meanwhile, I asked a question on the NFforkids Yahoogroup and Laura was one of the people who responded. That prompted me to email her and express my love of BOOK SPEAK. And here she is once again sharing her expertise with me in another forum. Thank you, Laura!

    • It’s truly a small kidlit world, isn’t it? I so appreciated your email. I’m making a big effort to share brief reviews/ratings on Amazon of all the kids’ books I give 4 or 5 stars to in Goodread. My small way of trying to pay forward the nice feedback I get. Boy, those personal notes mean a ton to writers, though. I should do more of those. Thanks, Michelle!

  12. This is fantastic. I’m just trying my hand at rhyme now and this post has given some great information.

  13. Thank you for some good advice, Laura! I don’t write poetry as much as I used to but I do think picture books and poems have a lot in common. (And you are so right about meter and rhyme.) Happy National Poetry Month to you too!

  14. This is FABULOUS stuff! So much to learn here – thank you thank you THANK YOU – and sharing this post with my RhyPiBoMo friends 🙂

  15. This came just at the right time, Laura. I’m getting ready to revise a rhyming nonfiction picture book, and I can’t wait to dive into the resources you’ve suggested. And, as you’ve mentioned, I need to go back through and make sure my conflict and climax are really there. Thanks!

  16. Thanks for the great advice! I love your books!

  17. Wonderful information! Thank you.

  18. Julie Dillemuth

    What about the children’s magazine market for poetry publication? There’s a better chance for success there, and LOTS of kids would be reading your poems.
    Thanks for sharing the online resources – I plan to check out the articles on your website!

    • Good question, Julie–though I might debate you on the “better chance for success.” I definitely recommend submitting to children’s magazines–especially for poems that don’t make an entire picture book and aren’t part of a collection. It’s a thrill to get a poem published and beautifully illustrated in a magazine! But the competition at all the widely distributed magazines is fierce! They get tons and tons of submissions, and they only print one or two poems a month, mostly. And sometimes they use classic, public domain poems. So, the odds are still against any given submission. But that’s the writing life. I definitely recommend picking the 3-5 magazines that publish the poems that most appeal to you, analyzing a year’s worth of back issues to see what they tend to publish (rhyming, free verse, short, long, funny, serious, etc.). Then look for your poems that best fit them–or write new ones–and send away. It’s always nice to have magazine clips to refer to in your cover letters, as well.

  19. I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken workshops with Laura. She is a first class act, and obviously very talented. If you ever need a great critique, check out her critique service: Thank you for a lovely post on a snowy day! (Not an April Fool’s joke here in MN!)

  20. Wow, Laura. Your post is a one-stop for craft, resources, and encouragement. Poetry is a tough go as you mentioned. Thanks for making it a little easier.

  21. Amazing mix of resources in one post, thank you…

  22. Thank you Laura. I so enjoyed your post. And all the resources! I feel like I won the lottery. I always get your posts in my inbox. Thank you for giving back! 🙂

  23. Thanks for the wealth of information! There is a lot of poetry phobia out there – writers (for good reason – ha!) and readers (no good reason). Somehow when accompanied by music kids are more engaged and willing – love your ballad exercise!

    • You’re so right, Beth. I point out to teachers and kids that if someone hears a song they don’t like, they don’t say, “I hate music.” So the key is to share loads of different poems so they’re exposed to lots and find out what really resonates with them. Mixing poetry with music–both when reading it and when writing it–can be a fun way to engage kids.

  24. This is a fantasticly rich post, and I’d expect nothing less from Laura. We are so lucky to have her generous and wise self in our midst. A beautiful way to kick off the month!

  25. What a comprehensive and inspiring post! I’m going to try my hand at writing my April 12×12 draft in verse because I think the subject matter lends itself to the form nicely. I will be using the many resources shared above. Thank you, Laura

  26. Amazing post. Thank you Laura and Julie!

  27. I recently attended a Poetry Out Loud competition and found a renewed interest in poetry. Thank you for the book suggestions. Sincerely,

  28. Thank you, Laura and Julie! I love this post both for the information on poetry and the nuggets of writerly wisdom sprinkled throughout. I especially like this line: “Keep doing that, over and over, and eventually your abilities will improve.” I think that applies to poetry specifically and writing in general. Thanks for the inspiration. I’m off to find your books!

  29. What a fantastic post! I leaned so much and also really appreciate the resources. Bookmarking for if I ever decide to attempt a rhyming book.

  30. Thank you Laura for sharing so much helpful information and pointing us toward such valuable resources.

  31. What wonderful information and insight into writing poetry! Thx Joanne Sher for sharing this link with the RhyPiBoMoers!

  32. Laura, I just spent two hours looking at all your wonderful information. Thank you. It was so much fun!

  33. Great post! I’d like to add another great resource, Renée LaTulippe’s class for picture book writers:

  34. I learned so much! Thanks for this awesome post.

  35. Whoa! I did a little happy dance to see Laura pop up in the Featured Author spot. 🙂 I have learned so much from her, here of course, but mostly through her blog and Poetry Friday, and agree with Julie that she is one of the kindest, most generous authors I know. Happy National Poetry Month!

  36. Wonderfully informative post! Thank you!

  37. Wow, Laura – an incredible post full of an amazing amount of resources! I just posted a poem I wrote on Facebook for the first time today, so I’ve jumped right into the fray as you suggested. I’m participating in Angie Karcher’s RhyPiBoMo now, and one of the goals is to read a rhyming picture each day. I’ll put your A LEAF CAN BE on my list as well as Julie’s A TROOP IS A GROUP (which I’ll be re-reading as I’ve read our copy many times).

  38. Really love reading posts about poetry, as my critique partners often share their rhyming stories. Thank you.

  39. Laura, this post is a keeper for sure…jam packed with resources. I’m thankful for your generosity in sharing so much with us, and looking for A LEAF CAN BE and WATER CAN BE. They both sound fantastic. I’m a rhymer and relish great examples. I will be checking out your Thursday posts 15 or Less…thanks.

  40. Julie Segal Walters

    Thank you for sharing such valuable insight! *jumps on Amazon* *buys Rules for the Dance*

  41. Wow. What a lot of great information! Thank you, Laura! I’m a total rhymer and I look forward to reading your work, especially WATER CAN BE and A LEAF CAN BE. Thank you to Julie, too!

  42. I read this whole post with a blown mind. 100 books?? Really?! GAH! That hurts my brain. I think tip #4 is a really important one for poets and non-poets alike. Thanks for sharing so much valuable advice.

  43. Thank you for your 10 wonderful thoughts about poetry. I also love your ballad/parody idea. It’s a great beginning exercise for someone just starting out with rhyme. Thank you for saying that meter CAN be learned if you work at it. All of your suggestions will help so much with the process that is poetry.

  44. I have to go back to finish reading your Poetic Pursuits–too much to take in at once! Glad to know it’s there. 🙂

  45. Excellent reminder to “write for the fun of it” — whether poetry or picture books, rhyming or not. We lose track of that purpose and the “freedom” as you note when we focus on what will sell, what will an editor think, do I need to put this in a blog post, etc. Thanks for the exercises, too!

  46. This was a wonderful post – grounded in reality and encouraging, despite the hurdles of publishing poetry. Can’t wait to explore the many resources you’ve listed. Thank you, Laura, for this thoroughly enjoyable post!

  47. Wow, what a great post and a generous prize. Thanks, Laura.

  48. Such a wealth of info! I’ve followed your Pinterest boards and want to say that I do write poetry for fun quite often. Some of my poems have even found homes in Babybug and Ladybug magazines…thank goodness for literary magazines that publish poetry. I urge others to support those types of publication to promote a love of poetry from birth. 🙂

    Thanks so much for this enlightening and helpful post!

    • Congratulations on that, Teresa–I have sent a few things to Ladybug but haven’t made it in. I’ve had a few in their magazines for older kids, but I have Babybug and Ladybug in my sights. Those very very young poems are deceptively simple looking!

  49. Thanks, Laura and Julie – a perfect post to ring in Poetry Month!

  50. Whoa! Info pack post. Thanks, Laura!

  51. Fantastic post and links!!!! Thank you.

  52. What a wonderful way to start off National Poetry Month! Thank you for sharing so much valuable information with us, Laura. I write poetry but am lousy with rhyme so most of all my poems are free verse. I was hoping to turn four them into picture books but may take your advice and do a collection, as all my poetry is nature based

    • Yeah, it’s a tough market either way. I love free verse, and young kids need more of it. If they ONLY hear rhyming poetry, then they think that’s all poetry can be. And then when we ask them to write poetry, we get tons of terrible flower/power/hour poems that make no sense. But kids write amazing free verse poems. Joyce Sidman’s Swirl by Swirl is usually catalogued as nonfiction, and it’s really a free verse poem. And Susan Marie Swanson’s picture books are really free verse. So don’t feel you *have* to turn them into a collection. Just go into it knowing the market is super tight, so don’t take the rejections personally. But you never know–shoot high!

  53. Such a lovely, informative post! So many listed resources – thank you so much! Can’t wait to read your new book.

  54. Great post..and id like to win please lol.

  55. Gabrielle Snyder

    Thanks, Laura, for the wealth of fabulous information you’ve shared here. I love Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook. I will definitely check out Rules for the Dance.

  56. I have bookmarked this, so full of goodies! I am thinking of joining the poetry friday gang next year and taking a break from PPBF, I can, though I would like to, manage both!

  57. Perfect post for me, as I am going to try my hand for the first time at doing a rhyming picture book. What a comprehensive post too. Loved reading all of it. Thanks so much for sharing your wealth of experience.

  58. I loved poetry as a kid and my kids loved it, too. In fact, my oldest has a degree in creative writing and his concentration was poetry (though honestly, I never had ANY idea what he was talking about!). But the point is, when we love something, we pass it along. Just as you’ve done here, Laura, and with the countless number of kids AND adults who’ve read your poems (published or not!). Thanks for a great post with a ton of take-away!

  59. OK, I feel so dumb. When this post first went up, I looked at it and didn’t see anyplace for comments. So I thought, “Huh, that’s weird. Oh well…” And then, la-di-da, I went about my day (which was super busy since it was book launch day!). Thank goodness Renee nudged me about a question she asked or I’d never have come back and spent the last half hour reading through all your thoughtful and kind comments! Thank you for all of those! If you had a specific question or a point I wanted to respond to, I answered personally. But please know that I read and appreciated all of them, even if I didn’t reply. And for every person who said she was thinking of trying rhyme or was going to look at a certain resource, I gave a little cheer. I’m heading out of state in 45 minutes, and this next week I’ll be traveling/speaking. When I get back, though, I’ll check on comments and answer any new questions that are posted. Happy writing (poetry or anything else!), all you terrific 12×12-ers!

  60. I’ve read Laura’s post 3 times and come away with new inspiration each time. Thanks Laura and Julie!

  61. I was so excited to see you as our featured author, This post is a treasure of resources. Thanks!

    I have to say how much I love your blog and your newsletter and that you have inspired many a poem draft from me with your 15 Words or Less. I need to get back over there!

  62. Fantastic post! Poetry is so fun, but also so difficult.

  63. Thank you Lara for sharing your knowledge. Poems really force you to pick your words carefully. Do you ever find yourself fighting with a poem?

  64. Thank you for sharing all these wonderful resources and for passing on your thoughts and knowledge. I don’t often write poetry (unless that’s what pops out when I start writing) but it’s good to know where to go to learn more about it.

  65. Thanks, Kathy, Penny, Andrea (that’s how I became a poet–I sat down to write something else and poetry popped out. Surprise), and kp. Yetteejo, thanks, and yes, I do find myself fighting with a poem! It usually happens when I’m trying to fit a poem into a specific form (triolet, villanelle, etc.). Or when I’m trying to share a specific topic for a specific age range and discover that the words I need to use just don’t have good rhymes that make the whole thing work. In general, for me, poem-writing is a party. If nobody’s having fun, me OR the poem, then it’s usually time to call it quits. I’ll either try a new topic or a new form or a whole new age range. Sometimes it’s just one specific line. In WATER CAN BE…, I’m not in love with “School drink-er,” since water doesn’t do the drinking. But bruise shrinker was to be included, and that was the best thing I could come up with. Still nags at me. I think there’s one line like that in next year’s ROCK CAN BE…, too. Fighting with a poem is not fun.

  66. This was so interesting. I haven’t written much poetry, but I’ve bookmarked this page so that should I want to try I can find some good resources to get me started. Thanks so much for sharing some of your knowledge with us.

  67. Thanks for the great informative post! 🙂

  68. Wow, Laura! Thank you for sharing so many great things here! I appreciate the new poetry resources as I learn more about this very difficult craft. It is so precise, and therefore, I only “dabble” in it a little now, with a manuscript here or there. Maybe one day, after utilizing all of the great resources you’ve provided, I will really perfect one of them enough to submit. 🙂 I love to read poetry and can’t wait to check out your books! 🙂

  69. Info-packed post, thanks!

  70. Thanks Laura! Lots of great info there. Will have to check out all the links. I do love your book BOOKSPEAK!

  71. Laura,
    There are many lessons in your post. I’m a poet (not always in rhyme) but thought your Two Voices might mean two readers, performing a single, didactic poem, such as some of Vachel Lindsay’s poems. I liked reading “Hiroshima Post A-bomb” and “Gemini” for the sound of the words and the side by side reflection.

  72. Thanks, dd, Doreen, Darshana, Claire, Carrie, and Pam. Poems for two voices are single poems meant for two readers, though they’re not necessarily didactic poems. Sometimes the poem itself is from two different points of view, and other times the poem is just divided into different speaking parts for fun. JOYFUL NOISE is a wonderful collection of them:)

  73. Wonderful post. Thanks for sharing.

  74. Thanks, Laurie. I think we all get so focused on our current projects that we sometimes forget to write for the joy of it. Poetry is one area where we can remind ourselves of that joy and keep our brains flexible. Great post!

  75. Wow, so many great tips and resources! Thank you, Laura!

  76. I never thought to write poetry until I read your post, Laura. I’m going to check out your links and try it out. Thanks!

  77. What an amazing Post! Thank you soooo much!

  78. I enjoy poetry, but I’m not where I need to be to write in it. I’m impressed with those who can though.

  79. Belatedly seeing this post…nicely done! I want to check out your “Poetic Pursuits.”
    This sounds super frustrating: “I can’t count the number of times an editor has said, ‘I love this collection of state poems. But there’s already a book of state poetry.’ And there is. One. Published 10-15 years ago.” — ack!

  80. Thank you Laura for the great post. I especially love your suggestion to test your rhyming picture books by redoing them in prose. I have a couple rhyming stories I am going to put this test to.

  81. The Unexpected Calving of Mt. Frigidaire
    (Who knew?)

    I thought it was just winter
    But after many springs
    And partial thaws
    I discover
    -I’m an

    Cynical, I click and Google-off
    To find a 5-star mega microwave
    to melt the massive

    Stopped here instead.
    I felt:
    Laura’s solar radiation,
    A somewhat sharpened pencil push,
    And ultraviolet wavelength.


  82. Wonderful post, Laura — so many great resources and tips. Definitely bookmarking it for the future! Thanks so much!

  83. Thank you for the wonderful post, Laura!

  84. Laura, ‘Book Speak’ looks like a terrific book. Thanks for all the poetry tips and information.

  85. Thanks for all of your tips and resources. I’ll definitely be checking them all out.

  86. Laura,
    What a great bunch of resources! Thanks so much!! Love your books. 🙂

  87. I love poetry. My husband wooed me with poetry he wrote for me. I’m out of practice though, but thanks to Angie Karcher’s challenge, I am getting back into it!

  88. I think more than anything I have to do your suggestion of “read a TON of poetry.” While I know I’m not a rhyming writer, I have been trying to shoehorn more poetry into my stories. As a frequent overwriter, I find that thinking more poetically is a great way to convey the story and chop words too.

  89. April has poetry all month and I am loving it.

  90. Thanks for the post -informative!!

  91. Barbara Scheer-Hochheimer

    Laura, thank you so much for taking up the cudgels for poetry!
    And thank you for providing so much information. For all these wonderful insights, examples, hints and links. I love your post!

  92. Thanks for the tips and information.

  93. Thanks for this lovely post, Laura. I have a copy of Book Speak at home, and it is well read 🙂 I am on my way to check out your Poetic Pursuits 🙂

  94. Thank you for all your advice. Although I wrote poetry years ago, I seem to be more into non-verse works. All of your points make sense to me in my own writing. Thank you!

  95. I think poetry is so important to all of us. Poetry makes the world sweeter. I don’t think there’s any reason to be any less “sellable” than prose! Love your advice.

  96. Laura, Thank you for sharing all your wonderful information with us. I just had enough time to read through the post this morning but I’ll be back to check out all the links for sure!

  97. I agree with you Laura that was a lot of information, but a lot of great information. I love to read poems, but I don’t write them like I should. Poetry is like drawing, everyone should do it for themselves even if it isn’t good.

  98. This is awesome. I’ve tried my hand at rhyming for the past few months, and the draft that came out of it was the most time-consuming one yet – and it’s not even done! Some awesome advice and resources here I’ll have to check out!

  99. Hi Laura…thanks so much for sharing all this with us…the more I learn about writing rhyming picture books, the more I realize I DON’T know. 🙂
    Julie…what an awesome April this has been for you…congrats on the award!!!! And I JUST completed my April draft (had already done several revisions)…hurray!!!!

  100. Great post for those of us who love poetry and write for the fun of the flow and rhythm. Thank you so much!

  101. Thank you for this great post, Laura. I learned I still have much to learn.

  102. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and resources, Laura! I found the points you made about writing rhyming picture books (#8) especially helpful. I’ll be using them when I revise my rhyming stories.

  103. Thank you for the poetry resources, that may help me try to do this in a future ms. Thanks again Laura.

  104. Thank you for all the useful info and resources. Very helpful!!

  105. Great post with helpful resources. I’m excited to try out the theme song exercise.Thanks!

  106. What a great and timely post. I’ve been looking into learning more about writing poetry for kids lately.

  107. Barbara Messinger

    Thanks, Laura! Great info and post!

  108. I haven’t done Poetry Friday in forever–I should get back into it. Thanks for the great post, Laura!

  109. This is great advice! I have written poetry since I could pick up a pencil. It’s a disease. If you have to do it, you have to do it. I recently came across a letter from Pliny the Younger about poetry readings and inattentive audiences almost 2000 years ago. Sighs. One of the perks of writing educational materials is the chance to sneak in an original poem or short-short story now and then. I know what you mean about the freedom of hopelessness. You don’t have to adhere to anybody else’s standards. The stuff won’t sell anyway (in collections). As an artist, you set your own, and you can break new ground, even if nobody else ever reads it. Thanks for the great post. Linda Armstrong (

  110. Thank you for sharing some helpful advice on writing poetry! I stopped writing poetry when I was told it was difficult to sell for picture books, but you have inspired me to start writing poems again. 🙂

  111. Thank you for some great suggestions! I have a question, though. This may sound silly, but I love to rhyme and would like to do a rhyming picture book. However, I do not consider myself a poet. I often don’t get (or appreciate as I should) verse that doesn’t rhyme. So, I think I am more like a jingle-writer than a poet. Does that make any sense?

  112. Thank you so much for this informative post. I am excited to have new resources to peruse. I appreciate you taking the time to create such a comprehensive post about the various aspects of crafting children’s poetry!

  113. Laura, cannot remember if I left a comment earlier this month or not. Glad to review this post again. Found I need more work on poetry and your list of books to read, especially on rhyme & meter will help. TY

  114. Thanks so much for the wonderful information!

  115. Holy cow! Wow! Wow! Wow! This is a poetry pot of gold! Thanks for sharing, Laura.

  116. Thank you for sharing your experiences and recommending such helpful resources for writing poetry. Congratulations on all your success!

  117. Such good advice, especially the part about meter, rhyme and plot!

  118. Wow! this post is filled with inspiration. feel I will come back to it often.

  119. lesliecolintribble

    Thank you so much for your resource list. I “think” in meter sometimes but have no idea how to properly execute it. Poetry frightens me so I’ve never tried it. Great poetry is exquisite and bad poetry is . . . NOT! I’ve been afraid any attempts i’d make at writing a poem would be horrible! Thanks for some much needed inspiration.

  120. I love ‘A Leaf Can Be’! Such a beautiful book 🙂 I’m going to have to bookmark this post — it’s full of great info. Thanks!

  121. Laura, thank you for your inspiring post and all those wonderful links! I hope that you will come and talk at our New Jersey SCBWI conference some June.

  122. A great post just chock-full of great information and resources. Thank you!

  123. wonderful post thank you!

  124. Thanks for your post. It’s nice to hear someone speaking for poetry in children’s books!

  125. Thanks! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this!

  126. Thank-you for the wealth of information and the link to the Poetry for Children site – it’s great to have specific titles to look forward to!

  127. I’m inspired – thank you! Maybe I’ll discover that I really *can* write poetry or rhyme. 🙂

  128. yay, hurrah for poetry!

  129. I loved this post the first time and just enjoyed reading it again. So much wisdom from Laura. Thank you!

  130. Thank you for sharing, Laura. I have taken a poetry class and continue to play around with it.

  131. I loved this post! I love to write poems and I continue to work on it. Sometimes as part of a PB project I will start the thought process in rhyme and then rewrite it without (just as you said) to see if I have a story, but the beginning process flows better for me in rhyme. I am going to look into the “15 words or less” and “The Poetry Friday” I think I would enjoy those. I appreciate the resources and the exercises. A great post Laura! Thanks for sharing.

  132. GREAT poetry input! Thanks so much for all the help and advice!!

  133. Thank you for sharing your experience and opening my eyes up more toward poetry!

  134. Amanda Sincavage

    I love to play around with poetry in a journal, but have yet to explore it for picture books. Thanks for all the great information!

  135. Thanks for the wonderful post…I’m one of those writers that does not write poetry but wish they could. will be checking out all the links. I’m all for anything that will help my writing be more lyrical.

  136. I love the idea of a 15 words or less weekly post!

  137. Becky Scharnhorst

    So much great information on a topic I know so little about! My favorite part…. “Most of it will stink. And that’s good! It means you’re reaching past your abilities. Keep doing that, over and over, and eventually your abilities will improve. And you’ll discover what kinds of poems you’re really good at!” Those words of wisdom can be applied to all aspects of writing and life! Thank you!

  138. “Write for the fun of it,” that’s the ticket!

  139. Thanks for the great thoughts on poetry. I don’t know if any of my poetry will ever be published, but I think writing poetry is great practice for picture books anyway.

  140. Poetry feels like a foreign language to me. I enjoy reading and listening to it, but I don’t feel competent writing poetry myself. My daughter, on the other hand, has been writing some beautiful poetry at school, and she’s in third grade! Someday perhaps I will take a course and break down some of my imaginary barriers. I’m sure it would improve my writing and be a great creative outlet.

  141. Wonderful advice! One day soon I want to conquer meter, thanks for the great resources! 🙂

  142. Thank you, I have been working so hard with learning more and more about poetry, as my stories always naturally come out of me in rhyme. Thanks for the poetry tips!

  143. Thanks for all the great resources! People have mentioned your book A Leaf Can Be on the Favorite PB discussion at 12 x 12. I will be looking for you at the library this week. It’s encouraging to hear such a widely published author talk so frankly about not being published (still!). Thank you for sharing your wisdom and stories.

  144. Margaret Greanias

    Thank you for the great tips! I’d love to write poetry…someday I will tackle it.

  145. Hi Laura…

    Thank you so much,
    for sharing your poetry crush.
    Try as I might,
    I can’t deny my poetry plight.
    But my dearest fab poetic girl,
    You’ve now encouraged me to give it a whirl!


  146. Thank you for a lovely post

  147. A ton of useful tips for writers of poetry. I also liked the cover art and title of your book Water can be..
    Bright and evocative art and loved those playful frogs.

  148. Thank you for your insightful words of wisdom

  149. Thanks for this great post! I am attempting my first manuscript in rhyme, and I really appreciate your tips and links to other resources about rhyme and rhythm. THANKS!

  150. Great Author feature! Thank you!

  151. Thank you for such a thorough and informative post! It has given me much to think about and I will have to reread it a few times so all the gems can sink in.

  152. Thanks for all the great information and resources!

  153. When so often we hear “don’t write in rhyme”, it is wonderful to have Laura encourage us by giving us the tools and suggestions to write rhyme well.

  154. Thanks for your advice, Laura. I find poetry very difficult to write.

  155. Thanks for all of the wonderful resources!

  156. I had to smile when I read in your interview that a great way to test your rhyming story is to write it out in prose. I must have worked for well over a year on a rhyming pb. Then, when I felt it was complete, I rewrote it in prose to test for conflict, obstacles, resolution, etc… and found the story actually worked better in prose as some of my rhymes felt (and were) forced.

  157. So much fantastic info! The note about schools/librarians being unwilling to buy a book of poetry on a certain topic if they have an old one in their collection makes me very sad.

    I am, however, going to do my part and order some of the titles you suggested from my local bookstore. Thanks for the suggestions!

  158. Wow. An amazing amount of helpful information. Can’t wait to check out some of the noted resources.

  159. Thanks for this wonderful post and for the rhyming resources to learn about meter.

  160. Thank you for helpful hints and honest answers.

  161. Kathy Cornell Berman

    Thanks Laura! This was a fantastic post with a lot of useful information. Learning more about poetry is a must for picture book writers. Definitely bookmarking this post!

  162. Thank you Laura for such a wonderful trove of resources and ideas.

  163. I love reading poetry, but haven’t branched into it within my writing for kids. I love these thoughts you’ve shared here, and I’ve a few tabs open now with some of those resources you’ve shared! Thank you!

  164. What a wonderful wealth of information! Thank you so much, Laura!

  165. Wonderful post Laura, Thank you!

  166. Laura, this was such a friendly post just jam packed with more than a bucket full of information. Just the best,

  167. Thank you Laura for this awesome post. Very inspiring and I am motivated to write one poem a month in addition to PBs.

  168. Wow! This is quite the information-packed post! Thanks, Laura -it’s definitely a keeper.

  169. Thank you for this post. Very informative.

  170. Kimberly Cowger

    Thanks so much for all the info!

  171. Wonderful post. Thank you.

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