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From Poems to Bylines
Are you looking for more credits on your cover letter? Try submitting some poems. Children’s magazines are filled with poems. Kids love them; they’re short, to the point and easily read. They’re fun to read out loud, especially rhyming ones. Children love funny poems or ones that read like a silly joke and they also like to write them.
I would never claim to be a serious poet and have no training but still I’ve had a few poems published. You can too! This is a promise. Selling a poem is a good way to break into the children’s market. Often you can sell a poem faster than a story or article.
A few helpful tools are a rhyming dictionary, a regular dictionary, and a thesaurus. They are all available on the Internet. A small notebook is handy to have to carry around for ideas.
Choose a very basic topic. Use the first thing you think of for that topic and start at that point. If you decide to write about something in the kitchen, let’s say a toaster, what’s the first thing that comes to mind; toast, crumbs, butter, jam or jelly? Many words immediately come to mind that rhyme with these words.
Poems always need work. There is always one word or line that will improve it. Often removing a whole verse helps the poem take a new direction. Some of your poems will be better than others. I challenge you to write a new poem every day for the next week. In a week’s time your poems will be better.
Many Types of Poetry
There are two groups of poetry, structured and “free verse.” Structured poetry can follow one of the traditional poetic forms such as “limericks” or it can be a rhyming poem with or without meter. Free verse usually has no rhymes and no set meter. Your lines can be as long as you want.
Rhyme-and-meter poetry has rhyming lines, and meter or rhythm. Usually the rhymes are at the end of each line, or every other line. Meter usually means that every line or every couplet (a pair of lines) has the same rhythm; the same number of syllables and the same pattern. Meter means the poem has a rhythm. It’s easier to make a poem funny if it has rhyme and meter. Some use three lines in each verse, with the first line and third line rhyming.
Keep it Simple
The first poem I sold was about a bookmark, the most mundane of items. What does a bookmark do for us? Think of everyday items for children when writing poems.
I found a pretty bookmark
As sweet as it can be
Was in the middle of the park
And on the ground you see!
Whenever I am reading
It only wants to show
Exactly where I’ve been
And where I want to go!
Don’t touch my little bookmark
Or take it from its home
For I will only read again
The pages that I know
Teach Something Within the Poem
Another style of poetry is one that teaches. They are more complicated and usually longer. I also sold my poem, Phil’s Shadow about Groundhog’s Day. I did research and included the most significant facts concerning the holiday within the poem. My research uncovered the facts that Phil lives on a heated hill, on Gobbler’s Knob, he eats dog food and ice cream and his house is under a simulated tree stump a the Punxsutawney Library. Then I included the fact that Phil’s shadow is telling us if winter will go on for six more weeks. This style of poetry could be done with any holiday or event. Holiday poems are in great demand in almost all children’s magazine markets. Two verses from this 20 line poem are as follows.
Atop Gobbler’s Knob
At his job
Sits old Punxsy Phil
On his heated hill!
The Punxsutawney Library is his hometown
Under s simulated tree stump he’s found
His diet of dog food and yummy ice cream
Makes his life a complete dream!
A third style of poetry uses its subject as a metaphor. Here I speak about a computer mouse in an office as though it’s a real mouse. The child will discover the truth in the last stanza.
Our Office Mouse
Our family has a little mouse
That lives upon our desk
Inside the office in our house
He’s almost like a guest!
The following is a sample of one of my poems that rhymes with each line that precedes it. Kids enjoy the sing song rhythm of this type of poem, and enable them to memorize quickly.
My story is written
About a small white kitten
With the darkest of mittens
While Grandma was sitting
She started knitting
With yarn that was black
She found on a rack
The mittens unraveled
Over the house they traveled
Up and down the stairs
And even around the chairs
So the yarn was rewound
Into a ball so round
Put back on the rack
To later become a hat!
When I started writing for children I had no plans on ever writing poems. However, once I started I found it opened a door to another room of creativity. Please give it a try!
Christine Collier has completed basic and advanced writing courses at the Institute of Children's Literature. Her mysteries about four women writers, The Writer's Club and its sequel, Mystery Is Our Shadow, are available at www.iuniverse.com , www.barnesandnoble.com and www.amazon.com Her first middle grade chapter book, Adventure on Apple Orchard Road, is available at the same places. You may e-mail Christine at firstname.lastname@example.org