On My Shelf BLOG

Writing in Rhymed Verse for Children

rubiks-2382039_1920Picture book author Dori Chaconas says to write the STORY, then work on the rhythm of your sentences and words, THEN work on the rhymes.

I couldn’t agree more! That’s why I actually start a new picture book project by writing the story in prose with normal paragraphs and punctuation. It may be 1000 to 1500 words long. Way too long for a picture book!

Then I pull out the sentences and phrases I love – those that create images in my head.

Then I get a feel for the dominate rhythm of those sentences. Next I can hone that rhythm by word choices and order.

Next I search for words with internal rhyme – assonance – and repeated consonant sounds – consonance and try to use them strategically.

Lastly I find and plug in words that fit the other criteria AND rhyme for the ends of sentences.

Of course this becomes a cycle. I have to adjust the story, the rhythm, and the rhyme over and over again. When I change one of those elements it almost always means making changes in the other two.

cube-2209365_1920It makes me think of a Rubik’s Cube. To solve the puzzle you must continuously manipulate all six sides throughout the process. When the last little cube snaps into place the puzzle is solved.

Much the same when I’m writing in rhymed verse for children.

So, now that I’ve addressed my own method I want to share with you the advice of some experts on the subject. So, click-click-click your way through these little tutorials on writing in rhymed verse. Have fun with it!



On The Guardian by Pip Jones


On The Purple Crayon, by Margot Finke


On WritingWorld.com by Laura Backes


By Dori Chaconas


On Picture Book Den by Juliet Clare Bell


A Piece of Home

51rso0q1lfl-_sx411_bo1204203200_A Piece of Home was written by Jeri Watts and illustrated by Hyeon Yum. It was published by Candlewick Press in 2016.

The jacket copy says this picture book is about adjusting and starting over. I can see that. But it is also about diversity and kindness.


Hee Jun and his family move from Korea to West Virginia in the U.S. The story follows the children and their Grandmother as they slowly learn a new language, make friends and find ways to fit into a new culture.

It’s a sweet story with an unexpected vehicle that enables the children and Grandmother to move from loneliness and sadness to happiness in their new world.

A story that might help “new” children find their way to adjusting to new surroundings, too.

Proposals for Children’s Fiction Books

One thing that I’ve learned over the past twelve years of writing for publication is that there is a LOT to learn about it. It never ends. And that’s a good thing because that means I can’t be satisfied with my status quo. And it means that I’m keeping my mind active while I’m learning. When you start nudging that 70 years mark keeping your mind in top shape is a very real concern.

girl-1064658_1280.jpgOne of the many helpful things I’ve learned is how to write proposals for my book submissions. (Many thanks here to my buddy Jill Roman Lord and my agent Cyle Young.)

Whether you are sending your manuscripts out to editors or agents creating a professional proposal is important.

The bad news is that most every agency and publisher that I’ve contacted has their own guidelines for proposing fiction manuscripts and nonfiction ideas for books. Also, nonfiction proposals have even more requirements than fiction.

However, there are some basics that belong in every proposal. Let’s talk about those things.

A LETTER OF INTRODUCTION that is brief (no more than one page) and explains who you are, how you know of this publisher or agency, and what your story is about. Here’s a good place for your one-paragraph back cover copy or your tagline.



YOUR BOOK’S TAGLINE – a one or two sentence description of what your story is about (My Little Princess is the story of …)

BACK COVER COPY – a short paragraph that hints at what the story is about and hooks the reader’s interest in your story (When Joe Blow falls from a mountain and lands in a tree top his eyes are open to …)

YOUR BRIEF BIO – regarding your writing and publishing history – even things you’ve done for free in magazines, anthologies and newsletters. Include your blogging history also.

YOUR CREDENTIALS – this includes your education and your experience (including volunteer) as related to writing and publishing, your professional memberships AND any training or experience you have related to the subject matter of your book. (ie: If your story is about a girl and her horse include any training or experience you have as a horse rider or trainer.)

girl-1064659_1280 (1)COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS – THIS is the hard part. Many of the agencies and publishers you propose to want you to do some research into books similar to yours published in the past four or five years. Note the titles, authors, illustrators, publishers and copyright dates. Then, note how each book is similar to, and different from YOUR book. Include five to ten books you’ve researched.

This is very time consuming and very important.

 STORY SYNOPSIS – In two or three sentences BRIEFLY describe your story. Don’t give away the ending. Do use a hook to make your reader curious.

MARKETING STRATEGIES – here you list ideas you have for promoting and selling copies of your book when it is published.

Lastly, follow the publisher’s or agency’s guidelines about sending the entire manuscript, or the first three chapters, or whatever they specify.


Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? It is! But one more BIG thing that I’ve learned is this:

If I can’t create these files or answer these questions my manuscript probably isn’t yet ready to submit. That’s a painful thought. But it is less painful for ME to discover for myself that my manuscript isn’t ready, than for up-teen rejections to scream in my face that it isn’t.

To request a list of online resources related to writing proposals please email me at jean@jeanmatthewhall.com .


Freedom in Congo Square

congo-squareFreedom in Congo Square was written by Carole Boston Weatherford and Illustrated by R. Gregory Christie. Little Bee Books published Freedom in Congo Square in 2016. It is a Coretta Scott King Honoree.



The text and illustrations of Freedom in Congo Square complement each other so well. Both are stark but beautiful. Weatherford’s language is cbw2008headshotstraightforward. She gently shows her readers that slavery meant hard, hard work day after day, all the time; that punishment was always nearby; and that those who tried to escape were hunted down.

She continues that same reserved tone when showing readers the joy and celebration of Sunday afternoons at Congo Square. Near-freedom for just a few hours each week.

The illustrations are almost primitive and reinforce the text beautifully to me regarding the difficulty of slave life, and the irrepressible joy of Sundays at Congo Square.greg-christie

The Foreword, Glossary and Author’s Notes fill in much needed information for adults and older readers.

Seeking a Literary Agent

IMG_2987In His good time God led me to my agent, Cyle Young of Hartline Literary Agency. And I’m glad. Cyle is very high energy, always engaged in several things at the same time and dedicated to helping authors who are Christians spread the message God has given us to spread. Oh, and he’s funny, too. That helps a little when he tells me that there is “no news” to report on my manuscripts.

Also, either he’s really tall, or I’m really short. I’m not saying which it is.

Thanks, Cyle, for working with me and for me.

Have you found that just-right agent yet? Don’t give up. Search. Pray. Submit. Wait. And keep writing. Also, while you are waiting be LISTENING and WATCHING for God to show you the right one.

If you need a little nudge to start searching for the agent who will represent you to the publishing world get some great info and advice from the following articles, and don’t give up the search.


What To Know Before You Submit: 28 Great Tips from Literary Agents

By: Chuck Sambuchino | December 28, 2016



Christian Manuscript Submissions



By: Michael Hyatt



By: Caitlin Muir

Goodnight, Grizzle Grump

Goodnight, Grizzle Grump! Is Aaron Blecha’s first authored/illustrated picture book. It was published in 2016, by Harper Collins Children’s Group,

prt_1493980973Goodnight, Grizzle Grump! fits the definition of a fun picture book exactly. The illustrations are cute and silly. The many creatures that surround Grizzle Grump are all goofy looking with big, buggy eyes. Hilarious! Even Grizzle Grump himself looks more funny than grizzly.

Grizzle Grump (and his anonymous side-kick) show us how persistence pays off in Grizzle Grump’s search for the perfect place to take a long nap.

And that toothy side-kick reminds us subtly of the importance of being a true friend who sticks with his pal all the way to solving his problem.

A cute book. First, second, maybe even third graders will really enjoy it – especially as a read-aloud.

In April of 2017, Blecha’s second picture book was launched as a sequel. Good Morning, Grizzle Grump! is bound to be just as funny.

Kentucky Christian Writers Conference 2017

I spent last weekend at the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference in Elizabethtown, KY. I had a great time, made new friends, took a lot of photos, met with my agent, reconnected with an old friend, ate the best food I’ve ever had a conference, and, oh yes, learned a few things along the way.

IMG_3021The keynote speaker was the one and only “Gotta Tell Somebody Gal” Twila Belk. She’s funny and friendly and poignant. Her keynotes were a blessing to me.



Other workshop leaders included:

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IMG_3015Carlton Hughes served as our emcee, and Lydia Walker led us in Praise and Worship.  IMG_2916





Many thanks to Lisa Greer and the Planning Committee for a job well done.

And many thanks to the Lord for making a way for me to attend.

KY Christian Writers

kcw-logoToday and tomorrow I’m participating in the Kentucky Christian Writer’s Conference in Elizabethtown, Kentucky.

This is my first time at this particular conference so I’m kind of excited to see what the Lord is going to tell me or show me today and tomorrow.


I’m also looking forward to some face-to-face time with my agent, Cyle Young with Hartline Literary Agency.

How about you? Are you attending this weekend, too?

If not, which conference are you headed for this year? Tell us all about it, please!

Blogging About What?

cropped-jeanpbs02.jpgI’m stuck and I need your help!

I started this blog with the intention of summarizing one book about writing, and one picture book each week.

The picture book side is going well. Each year I get a whole new supply of wonderful books to read and discuss. But I get the feeling that, while I’m enjoying the picture books, my hoped-for audience is not gaining anything worthwhile from these posts.

Also, I’ve found that I can’t keep up with one book about writing per week. Not and do those books justice. I can’t read and digest them that quickly. Also, again, I think I’m not meeting the needs of my target readership.


Will you help me by telling me what YOU want to learn from ON MY SHELF?

Should I change the focus? To what?

Should I change the title? To what?

Should I post only once each week?

Do you have questions you want answered? Like what?

Should I focus on a different audience? Writers? Children? Parents? Teachers?

Should I simply shut down for a while?

Are you already trying to follow too many blogs?

Should I focus on a monthly newsletter instead of a blog?


Please respond so I can get some guidance. I don’t want to waste your time or mine shouting into empty space.

Please respond here in the Comments, or

Email me at jean@jeanmatthewhall.com, or

Leave a comment on my FaceBook page JeanMatthewHallAuthor

Thanks so, so much!

Feathers Not Just for Flying

51qrw4rngql-_sy384_bo1204203200_Feathers Not Just for Flying is a nonfiction picture book written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah S. Brannen. It was published by Charlesbridge in 2014.

Feathers Not Just for Flying is a beautiful book. Brannen’s illustrations are soft as down. The palette is muted colors of the earth, sky and sea. Easy on the eyes, yet inviting the reader to study every inch of beautiful space.

Stewart’s text is also soft and gentle. Yes, each page is filled with interesting tidbits about a specific bird and what makes its feathers useful and unique to that bird. But her language is both inviting and easy to follow. The way the text is laid out invites the readers eyes to skim and skip from one bit of text to another.

As I meandered through the pages I remembered my attempt a few years ago to create a book with the same format. I thought it was pretty good. But a couple of publishers did not. I soon learned the facts I had garnered through many hours of research were soon inaccurate. Research on the particular animals I chose is constantly revealing new things about them.

So, I filed it away. But reading Feathers Not Just for Flying has inspired me to pull the manuscript out and dig into updated research.

In the back matter Stewart explains to readers that AFTER tons of research she spent three years “tinkering with” the text of the book. I exhaled! You mean I’m not alone in spending years writing and rewriting the same manuscript? Hurray!

And (according to her website) Stewart has published more than 130 books! I’d call that a full-time job.

ph_ms1On Stewart’s website she has posted her “Revision Timeline” for another of her books, No Monkeys, No Chocolate. From inspiration to finished books on shelves was TEN years!


I feel so much better now about my own snail-paced writing process.

Thanks, Melissa.