Welcome to RhyPiBoMo 2016!
Can you believe it’s April? I am SO excited for this year’s event. Each year I think it can’t get any better and then…I am blessed that our wonderful guest bloggers have agreed to share their insight into how to write professional RPBs and what will get you noticed…and what NOT to do! PLEASE like them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and go to their websites and express your appreciation for their time and wisdom! Many have generously donated multiple prizes and this event would not be successful without their support, so please support them! Oh…and buy their books too!!
Every year we honor an author of rhyme and poetry. This year’s honoree is Theodor Geisel aka Dr. Seuss. He is a man of many talents and we owe him our praise for creating such treasured books for children. The quote this year, “Why fit in when you were born to stand out!” is the perfect mantra for us rhymers. Let’s all take pride in our rhyming efforts and not let criticism of rhyme keep us from creating the books that children, parents and teachers treasure! But, to do it well means lots and lots and lots of time and work and rejection.
So, go…stand out!
I had the good fortune of meeting our first guest blogger about 15 years ago at an SCBWI conference in Indiana. She spoke to us about poetry and rhyme and even mentioned that she authored a biography about Ted. I still have a copy of that book in my office and I believe that was the moment I fell in love with writing rhyming manuscripts. So who better to begin our month of rhyme than Editor and Author Tanya Anderson!
Author/Editor Tanya Anderson
A Tribute to Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss)
Long before he hopped on Pop or put a hat on a cat, Ted Geisel was a success. He had had a happy childhood, was popular in high school, and graduated from Dartmouth College (with a major in English!), where he met his first wife, Helen. She is the one who noticed him doodling in class one day and told him, “You’re crazy to be a professor. What you really want to do is draw.” It was love at first sight.
Ted set himself up as a freelance writer and illustrator, hoping to make enough money to finally marry Helen and start their life together. He was a humor writer, and the odd illustrations of unrecognizable animal and trees became cartoons (think: James Thurber but bizarre). He submitted his work to New York publishers, hoping to get a paid gig or to sell his work outright. Rejections piled up. He fought discouragement by drawing more silly scenes, including some hysterically funny political cartoons. He sold his first work to Saturday Evening Post for $25 and signed it “Seuss.”
In 1927, Ted was hired as a staff writer at Judge magazine in New York City. He began using the name “Dr. Seuss” on a regular feature in that magazine. He also drew advertising cartoons for the publication—and that skill paid off in big ways. His silly-looking ads for Flit bug spray went far beyond one magazine, showing up on billboards, in newspapers, and in the subway. He made good money (even though the Great Depression had hurt so many), but something was still missing.
He played with words. He doodled and colored. The rhythms of his mother’s voice, from far back in his childhood when she read to him, were imbedded in his literary ears. Rhythm and rhyme were the hooks. In the summer of 1936, Ted and Helen were returning from a trip to Europe aboard a luxury liner. Unable to sleep, Ted went to the bar and listened. He heard it—the ship’s engines kept a rhythm, over and over again. It matched the beat of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and Ted began writing: “And that is a story that no one can beat, and to think that I saw it on Mulberry Street.”
He finished the book six months later and started submitting it—personally—to children’s book publishers in NYC. The colorful palette and weird creatures filled the pages with creativity, but editors in New York didn’t agree. He was met with harsh criticism about the book being “too different” or “not teaching a moral.” Few picture books used rhyme back then. It seemed no one wanted to try something new. After the 27th rejection, Ted tucked his pages under his arm and started walking down Madison Avenue toward home. Then he heard someone call his name.
Mike McClintock, an old friend from Dartmouth, caught up with Ted and asked him what he was carrying. After Ted explained it was a children’s book manuscript and illustrations he intended to burn, Mike pointed at the building they were standing in front of. It was Vanguard Press, and Mike was an editor there. The two men went up the steps, showed the work to the publisher, and the rest, as they say, is history.
From Vanguard to Random House to becoming the president of the Beginner Books division there, Dr. Seuss broke old rules and opened the way for rhyming writers. His work at Random House brought in others who liked to rhyme, including Helen Palmer (his wife’s pseudonym), Jan and Stan Berenstain, P.D. Eastman, Robert Lopshire, Al Perkins, and others. (Seuss used the name “Theo LeSieg” for books he wrote but didn’t illustrate. “LeSieg” is “Geisel” spelled backwards.) Their books have sold (and continue to sell) millions of copies. Children have been delighted with the word play, the characters, the rhyme and rhythm for decades.
Learning about Ted Geisel as I researched his biography for Chelsea House made me fall in love with Dr. Seuss. I was a bit too old to have enjoyed his books as a child, but as a mother and a writer, I am grateful for his life, his talent, and his legacy. To me, it feels like this:
It’s okay to have fun,
To write stories that rhyme,
Because of a man
Who stands beyond time.
Whose books and weird art
Build a bridge in between
The things we imagine
And the things we have seen,
And a road with a future
Where young readers can meet
And to think that it started
On Mulberry Street.
P.S. Read all about him in Who Wrote That? Dr. Seuss (Theodor Geisel) by Tanya Anderson, Chelsea House/Infobase Books, 2011. He was a hilarious character, and you’ll love reading about this life.
Tanya Anderson is an award-winning author and editor of books for young readers. She has worked for more than twenty years in various editorial functions for Pages Publishing Group, Guideposts for Teens, SRA/McGraw-Hill, Darby Creek Publishing, and School Street Media, her own business.
Anderson is the author of more than thirty books published in children’s and educational book markets. Her book, Tillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of Gettysburg, is a narrative nonfiction book for young readers. It received excellent reviews, was a Junior Library Guild Selection, and won the 2014 IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award for Juvenile Nonfiction. Quindaro Press and Tanya are co-publishing the softcover edition of Tillie, coming out in May. Her next book, Gunpowder Girls: The True Stories of Three Civil War Tragedies will be available in September 2016.
Anderson lives in Springfield, Ohio, most of the year, but retreats to Palm Harbor, Florida, when it gets too cold. Her website is www.tanyaandersonbooks.com.
THANK YOU TANYA!
To be eligible for today’s prize drawing by Random.org you must comment at the bottom of the page where it says “Leave A Reply” AND add your FIRST and LAST name in the comment. If I don’t have your name or how to contact you via email, you can’t win.
You must be a member of the RhyPiBoMo Facebook Group and if you haven’t officially registered, you are not eligible to win.
Please follow the pledge rules daily to get the most out of this challenge!
The drawings will be done daily and announced on Saturday of each week.