Poetry Writing Lessons for Children #guestpost by Robert Lynch

Today, I welcome a new guest, online writer Robert Lynch with poetry tips for children… of any age…

Many people love poetry but writing a poem is not simple. Students who are studying at school, college, or university used to attempt to poetry for various purposes. Children try to write poems for fun, to get away from their boredom, to contribute to school magazines, and so on. However, most of the time, they end up writing poor poems. Many students will have ideas but may not be able to write even a single line. It can happen if they are not familiar with writing poems based upon their lives.

Since writing poems seems to be difficult for them, they should ask poetry experts. Writing poems will aid the children to express their ideas, feelings, emotions, thoughts, etc. They can write amazing, stirring, thoughtful, and witty poetry that will astonish their friends, parents, and teachers. All you want to do is to understand how to prepare a poem, and know how to get started.

Here are some effective poetry writing lessons for children that will aid them to come up with good poems:

Read Poetry

Children who are interested in writing poetry should read some popular poetry so that they will understand how famous poets write. Reading poetry will help the children understand how these poets arrange their thoughts, ideas, and communicate their emotions to their readers. So, go to your school or college library, or search online in order to choose some books of poetry. You will be able to find a wide range of children’s poetry, and it will let you understand how to prepare poetry within your age range. Read some poems to realize how the lines of poems end, how they form rhythm, have an effect on the meaning of the poem, etc.

Recognize Your Goal

Children should primarily understand their goal of writing poetry. None of the students can write a good poem without knowing their goals. You cannot simply write a poem. You should have some ideas and thoughts with you to prepare a good poem. Children can write poetry for the reason that they would like to capture a feeling they have experienced. Your goal is to communicate with the readers and make them understand what you have to tell them. You can choose to write from experiences etched in your mind, some remarkable e achievements, an incident that you witnessed, and much more.

Avoid Clichés

When children are preparing to write a poem, they should think about something out of the box. They cannot make a good impression on people who read their poem if their it has no new elements. Readers need originality and freshness in poetry. If children love making their poetry interesting, they should keep away from common clichés. You have to keep in mind that people give importance to creative content and they will ignore your writing if it contains common clichés. When readers notice poetry without clichés, they will find that the writer has made a good effort to write original content.

Poem Structure

The poems that children write should have structure. If children desire to learn how to write poetry and how to become a successful poet, they should aim to understand the structure of a poem. If children write poems with no structure, none of the readers will be interested to read their poem. Hence, children should understand how should a poem be divided into lines, how to arrange their ideas into perfect lines, how to communicate their goals through ideal lines, etc. You have to find some superior ideas about selecting the exact structure for your poem.

Poetry Techniques

It can be observed that famous poets used to use poetry techniques in order to make their poetry excellent. They have the custom of adopting some poetry techniques that helps them to communicate their thoughts, ideas, knowledge, understanding and experiences. Poetry techniques will give children a good idea about how to write poetry, what to write about, how to get started, and pick the right words to add in the sentences. It will also lead you to identify how to get poetry ideas and convert them into poems.

Pick a Subject

Children can never write poetry without a proper subject. Hence, they should pick a subject before they write their poems. Picking a subject gives the children a perfect understanding about how to write poetry. There are many topics in the world to choose as your poetry subject such as death, love, nature, animals, friendship, politics, education, health, and much more. You can choose any topic but you have to come up with unique and original thoughts to make your writing authentic.

Choose a Pattern                                 

Children should know poetry patterns when they write poetry. It will aid the children to write in a manner to attract the attention of people with ease. Children should select free verse, rhyming couplets, or a usual poetry style. The ideas, thoughts, and words of your poetry should flow with the style that you have selected for your poetry, and you can also convert ideas into a completely new scheme if you choose a pattern to prepare your poem.

Other Tips

There are in fact many things that children should take care of while writing poetry. I recommend they stay away from sentimentality, but make use of images, bring into play metaphor and simile, exercise tangible words rather than abstract words, communicate a common theme, pass up ordinary ideas and thoughts, and finally, they should revise many times what is written. Children have to be creative so that they can create creative poetry. As poets always observe the world another way, children should also observe the world differently so that they can have a different point of view.

Author Bio

Robert Lynch is a freelance writer who enjoys his career as it offers opportunities to improve his writing, as well as every facet of his life. Presently, he works for a professional custom essay online writing service which allows him to aid students in making their assignments look simple. Robert also loves to write articles for blogs, online magazines, and content for a variety of websites.

New feature: blog interviews

I’m a member of nine writing-related LinkedIn forums and just a few days ago on one of them I spotted the opportunity of being a guest blog interviewee. I was invited to answer some questions, which I did, and found it fun (as I did with a Who Hub interview a while back). Having also read comments from two other LinkedIn members, both offering the same service, one saying that she was currently closed for submissions (due to numbers received), the other picking up the gauntlet, I then (on Wednesday this week) threw mine into the ring and received 40 acceptances in the first 24 hours (with more coming in all the time… hoorah!).

Now armed with over a dozen completed questionnaires already, I’m planning on releasing one a day on this blog and the first, later today, will be from my fellow Radio Litopia colleague, horror / thriller / sci-fi writer Colin Barnes (www.colinfbarnes.com).

If you write (fiction or non-fiction) and would like to take part then all you need to do is email me at morgen@morgenbailey.com and I’ll send you the questions. You complete them, I tweak them (to reflect the blog ‘clean and light’ rating) where appropriate and then they join the queue to get posted. When that’s done, I email you with the link (which will also automatically appear on my morgenwriteruk Twitter and Facebook pages) so you can share it with your corner of the literary world. And if you have a writing-related blog and would like to interview me… let me know. 🙂

A couple of pieces of interest for those writing for children/ya

  • New independent publisher Mythmaker is looking for new writers to submit original children’s and young adult fiction. See www.mythmakerpublications.com.
  • Guardian’s new book website for children has content designed to encourage child-to-child reading … Michael Morpurgo, whose books include War Horse and Private Peaceful, said: “This new Guardian site will open up the world of books to children. It is wonderful to see a newspaper offering something for children and taking children’s books seriously. Sharing and reading stories from the earliest age can transform a child’s life.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/childrens-books.

Extract from Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 009 (Oct 2010) – recommendations

Publications

  • Puffin, part of the Penguin Group, is one of the most famous children’s publishers. Others include Bloomsbury (Harry Potter), Faber & Faber, Hodder, Little Tiger Press, Macmillan, Oxford University Press (OUP), Random House, Chicken House, Dorling Kindersley (Kinder meaning children in German presumably not coincidental, otherwise known as DK, who mainly produce educational books).
  • A magazine aimed at 8-12 years olds, ‘tbkmag’ is published quarterly (copies usually viewable at the library) by Winchester-based newbooks. Their adult version is called ‘newbooks’ and their website is www.newbooksmag.com where you can subscribe, browse book reviews and more.
  • ‘Young Writer’ is a quarterly magazine aimed at up to 18 year olds, published by the same company as ‘Writers News’ and ‘The Writing’ magazines. The website is www.young-writer.co.uk and the team welcomes submissions.
  • Writing guide books include the established ‘Teach yourself’ books. Their ‘Writing for children’ includes ‘improve your techniques’, ‘develop your range and ability’ and ‘get your work published’. The sections are clearly labelled on each page and there is a very comprehensive rear index. Other books in their range include ‘Creative writing’, ‘Crime fiction’, ‘English grammar’, ‘English language’, ‘English verbs’, ‘The Internet’, ‘Letter writing skills’, ‘Literature 101 key ideas’, ‘Screenwriting’, ‘Speed reading’, ‘Tracing your family history’, ‘Travel writing’, ‘writing a novel’ and ‘writing poetry’.
  • If you have something to send and don’t know where to send it to, a good place to start is The Writers’ & Artists’ Children’s yearbook. There’s also the ‘The Writers’ Handbook – Guide for writing for children’, Andrew Melrose’s ‘Write for Children’ and Pamela Cleaver’s ‘Writing a children’s book’.
  • The Bookseller magazine also has their own version: the ‘Children’s Bookseller’.
  • And finally, launched in 2006, ‘Quick Reads’ books by NIACE (The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education), although designed for encouraging adult literacy, are great for young adults as they are no longer than 128 pages and don’t contain particularly difficult words being usually limited to a maximum three to four syllables. There’s a really interesting article about Minette Walters which mentions her Quick Read book ‘Chicken Feed’ (www.guardian.co.uk/education/2007/mar/13/furthereducation.uk1).

Websites

  • Wordpool’s ‘Writing for Children’ page http://www.wordpool.co.uk/wfc/wfc.htm currently has 22 categories including FAQ (frequently asked questions) for new writers and new illustrators, screenwriting for children, understanding young readers, writing picture books, writing series fiction and links for writers.
  • http://www.ukchildrensbooks.co.uk provides an incredibly comprehensive list (over 200) children’s authors, illustrators, publishers and listed under ‘others’, organisations, series, characters, events, news, reviews and booksellers.
  • www.lovereading4kids.co.uk is a good site. Although a bookstore it also has information, book/author interviews. Again you can sign up for their ‘email news’ as well as ‘1000s of free book extracts’.
  • I’ve mentioned this before but Jacqui Burnett’s website www.jbwb.co.uk is packed with submission information and both the short story and novel markets sections include outlets for children’s fiction.
  • On a general note, The Publishers Association’s website (www.publishers.org.uk) has a great ‘How to get published’ page which in turn recommends the publishing guidelines page of the ‘Spread the Word’ website (www.spreadtheword.org.uk) which although aimed at London-based writers has general links on that page entitled ‘Hints and tips’, ‘Dos and Don’ts’, ‘Case studies’, ‘Who to approach’ (literary agents, publishers, small presses), magazines, e-zines and useful websites. It’s part of their resources section which is heaving with information although the most relevant part for anyone listening to this podcast is probably the ‘For writers’ link which offers you a choice of six sub-links, the fourth of which takes you to the guidelines.

Extract from Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 009 (Oct 2010) – ideas

In this section of the hints & tips podcast I provide a couple of story ideas or ways to get new ideas then list seven sentence starts picked at random from my http://twitter.com/sentencestarts; each one, if you’d like to use them, for a daily writing project.

  • Children love animals so either think about an animal that isn’t written about very often (can you think of a famous giraffe for example?) or perhaps pick an ordinary animal and give it a twist (perhaps a blue dog?).
  • Take an ordinary every-day household object, for instance a clock, and make something unusual or magical about it.

And episode 9’s sentence starts were…

1.    Irene clung for control as the tyre burst…

2.    Zara wondered whether she’d make it in time…

3.    “Guess who turned up at ______ today?”…

4.    It was only one pay packet…

5.    Matthew (or Marion) looked in the mirror and winced…

6.    As the window shattered, scattering glass…

7.    Sharon signed the paperwork and knew life would never be the same again…

Extract from Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 009 (Oct 2010) – younger children

  • Picture books are obviously designed for younger children and there are many types available including board/cloth/padded baby books, pop-up books, flap books (where the child pulls tabs to reveal something), books with holes in the pages (revealing something exciting on the next page), pictorial consequences (pages cut horizontally in several places so you can make different pictures by turning one or more horizontal strip), picture books with minimal or longer text and wordless picture books. A good trick is to make a book educational without the child realising.
  • Things to watch out for when writing a picture book text include: dialogue – too much dialogue it’s said is tedious to read aloud and dull to illustrate because there is no action. Cultural differences – certain details may cause problems for the illustrator when co-publishing and overseas sales are considered: food varies so much from country to country; vehicles drive on different sides of the road; typical pets, landscapes, buildings and so on vary. Rhyming verse: there are mixed views on rhyming verse with some editors having reservations about verse-written stories as they can trivialise the story by making it sound humorous but the same story in prose may be revealed as flat and mundane. For the illustrator, a formal verse structure is bound to be reflected in a formalised layout, which will need to be varied by ingenious means if the book is not to look too repetitive. So the best advice really would be to write it, if you can in both formats, and see how it feels to you.
  • The Children’s Laureate, currently sponsored by Waterstone’s, is a position awarded in the UK once every two years to a distinguished writer or illustrator of children’s books. Anthony Browne is the current Children’s Laureate and Michael Rosen held this position from 2007-9, taking over from author Jacqueline Wilson (2005-7), Michael Morpurgo before her, Anne Fine (2001-3) and initially Quentin Blake (who illustrated most of Roald Dahl’s children’s books) 1999-2001. The idea for the Children’s Laureate originated from a conversation between Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes and prolific story teller Michael Morpurgo. The main website for reference is www.childrenslaureate.org.uk but http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children’s_Laureate also makes an interesting read and details other children’s awards including the Blue Peter Book Award, Nestle Smarties Book Prize and the Carnegie Medal.
  • The British Library released a CD around the £10 mark called ‘The Spoken Word: Children’s Writers’ which includes the only known recording of AA Milne reading ‘Winnie-the-Pooh’ as well as contributions from JRR Tolkien, Roald Dahl and Philip Pullman amongst others. Order reference number is 0712315182.

Extract from Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast episode 009 (Oct 2010) – writing for children

The ninth episode of my Bailey’s Writing Tips audio podcast was released on 18th October 2010 and the content has never been released other than website links (on my website www.morgenbailey.com) so I hope you find this information useful. In the first eight episodes (see earlier blog posts), I covered ‘show not tell’, the five senses, repetition, points of view, tenses, dialogue, characters, crime, poetry, short stories and novels. This episode talked about writing for children and young adults.

  • Publishers usually categorise their books into picture book then ages of 5+, 7+, 9+, 11+ and 13+ (or Teenage/YA – Young Adult). Bear this in mind when you’re writing your story. What age are you aiming at? Ideally read some books in your targeted age range (if you don’t have any the library, bookshops, charity shops, and the internet are great sources) but bear in mind that children like to read about a character a couple of years or so older than them so they can aspire to being like them. With any writing, you need to know your market.
  • Don’t limit your vocabulary. If your story is gripping, your reader will be hooked, and can either look up the words later (although the context of the rest of passage should be enough to make sense) or for younger children, their parents could explain. It’s good to have a challenge once in a while but don’t go overboard – it’s frustrating, even for an adult, to have to refer to the dictionary too many times!
  • Children love stories told through the eyes of an animal whereas most magazine guidelines say not to relay the story with an animal as first person unless writing a children’s story and for an adult certainly don’t make the twist where we find out at the end that the character isn’t human after all. Joyce Stranger is one of the most prolific animal storywriters and her stories work because they’re targeted at readers of that style of story, popular by the likes of People’s Friend for instance.
  • Don’t underestimate your reader – writer Joan Aitken likened children’s fiction to thriller writing. Certainly the skill of being able to keep the reader in delicious suspense and wanting to know what happens next is critical in children’s books. You can get away with more though with children as, in theory, adults have read more and are harder to please!
  • Do confront complex issues and create worlds that are not necessarily safe and cosy. Remember, some of the most brilliant children’s fiction deals with children who are powerless, isolated and afraid.
  • Don’t write for children because you see it as easier than writing for adults. It isn’t! There may be fewer words in a children’s novel but there should be the same amount of passion and commitment.
  • Always make sure the 5W/1H questions are answered…Who (characters), What (story), Where (location setting), When (time of day, year etc), Why (reason for conflict) and How (resolution).
  • Whilst there can be conflict, and certainly should be for older readers, children’s books for younger readers usually end happily. You can get away with a sad ending for older children or young adults but you don’t want a bawling toddler on your hands whose hero has died!
  • An excerpt from Basil Blackwell’s ‘Guide for Authors’ reads “The process of publishing fiction and non-fiction for older children does not differ in any significant way from that relating to the adult equivalents. Writing for younger children is a more specialist activity, and particular attention needs to be paid, for example, to vocabulary. Nearly all books for younger children are illustrated, sometimes by the author, more usually by a professional illustrator. Most publishers of children’s books will have a team of freelance artists and will try to assign to your book an artist appropriate to your style. You should certainly ask to see examples of the artist’s work; most publishers will show them to you automatically. If you are already teamed up with an artist, send examples of his or her work when asked to do so, taking care to pack them carefully and to send them to registered post. Even better, make an appointment and carry them to the publisher’s office yourself.” Nice and specific.

Educational periodicals are a good source of information if you are thinking of writing non-fiction. The Times produces their weekly ‘TES’ (Times Educational Supplement) not to be confused with their ‘TLS’ (Times Literary Supplement) which is available in most newsagents or by subscription. The TLS website (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/the_tls) includes a ‘poem of the week’, ‘then & now’, blog and pay-to-access archive.