Angie Azur is a YA Sci-fi Writer.
Writer for PALEO Magazine.
Former Intern at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
SCBWI & COWG Member.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

BIG SUR 2013 Registration NOW OPEN!

I'm not sure if I've fully raved enough about the Andrea Brown Big Sur Writing Workshop. I've attended this fabulous workshop twice and both experiences have been marvelous for my writing, and writing connections.

In fact, at the last workshop in Dec. 2012, I spoke with Andrea Brown about interning for her company. And here I am, almost a year later, interning and loving every minute of it, and with much more knowledge about this industry than any other class or degree has ever given me. 

I'm very excited to attend this year to present my newest YA (young adult) novel - FLESH AND BONE. I am anxious to see old writer friends from around the US, and hopefully to make some new ones, and of course to catch up with the Andrea Brown crew as well as Magnus, the fabulous Henry Miller Library host.

Wish me luck! And I hope to see you all there too!

Check out the website for more details:

Or go to Andrea Brown - under writing workshops:

Monday, August 19, 2013

Poetry & Rhyme in Children's Books

We've been getting a lot of rhyming and poetry queries. It's funny how query trends come in waves. We were getting tons of alien queries a few months ago, then it moved to horror, and then to poetry and rhyming picture books. 

There a few great poets out there with books that have done very well. One of my favorite is Ellen Hopkins. The first book I read of hers was BURNED. I fell in love with poetry then. I had it in my head that poetry was fluffy, a way of stating the obvious in flowery words. After reading her books I can proudly say, I love poetry. 

But it's hard to do what she does. Impossible for me, but very difficult for any poet to break into that niche. 

The only spot harder to break into in children's books are rhyming picture books. Of course Dr. Seuss is the master, but unless you are incredible, it's probably not going to happen. At least not right now in this market. No one is looking for rhyme. They are a tough sell. And because the greats are so great, and so well known, readers buy those books over new rhyming books.

Here are some tips from me if you are querying poetry or rhyming books.  

Poetry/Rhyme dos to remember:

  • Emotion: Every piece of writing begins with an emotion, either felt by the writer or an emotion connected to the piece. Exploit this. Make us laugh. Make us cry. Make us angry. Use your emotions first. How do you feel about the subject you are writing about? 

  • Tighten. Do not use two words when you can use one. Cut down on the small words that do not give more meaning to your piece. Use strong verbs, the more interesting and pinpointed the better. Don't say he cut her when you can say sliced, carved, minced, chopped...

  • Voice. This is your unique view of the world. What do you notice when you first meet someone? Where do your inner thoughts take you? Things you think are weird, unusual, funny. Do not be afraid to show you in your work.

  • Ease. Nothing should be forced. If the line you are trying to rhyme makes you force an awkward word, it does not work. The tongue should not trip over words. It should feel easy to read, like a song you know by heart.

What sells in Children's Books?
  • Compelling Storylines
  • Interesting Characters
  • Imaginative Details
  • Reality of Today
  • Relatable Characters
  • Fantasy based in Reality
  • Cyclical Stories
  • Humor
  • Deep Emotional Impact
  • Lyrical Writing 
  • Real Issues
  • Detailed New Worlds
  • Characters Like Themselves
  • Conflict
  • Honesty
  • Books that Follow the Rules/ Books that Break 'em


I suggest before you query your children's book in rhyme, you re-write it in prose. See if it can stand that way first. 

Example: Rhyme

By Angie Azur

The day Duncan Worm chose to take his first dare.
Rain clouds loomed very low in the air.

Three other worms came up with the folly,
To enter the chicken coop where no worm should trolley.

"Duncan, where you headed so fast?"
A short, chubby worm slithered up to ask.

"Home," Duncan said, without turning about.
"My Mom's making soup, I promised to help out."

"Hey Duncan!" The tallest worm winking said.
"You'd beat us if you took the coop shortcut instead."

"Yeah Duncan," said the thinnest of the three.
"I beat them yesterday. If you can believe me."

White and brown feathers scattered here and there.
While mounds of white bird goo stunk the clean air.

"Don't worry, Duncan," the third worm said.
"You slither fast. You have nothing to dread."

"I don't know." Duncan adjusted his heavy backpack.
"Mom said chickens eat worms like us for snack."

Number three said laughing, "Adults make up jerkies,
"Chickens don't eat worms, beware of the turkeys."

The thinnest grinned at Duncan's plump form.
"Don't worry Duncan, you're a very fast worm."

He nudged Duncan's side. "You beat everyone at school."
Duncan took the bait. "Really?" said the young fool.

"Sure," said the worm. "You've even out squirmed me.
You're rocking, so totally cool. You must agree."

The other two chuckled, but stopped with a warning,
The third one was giving, his face frowning and scorning.

"Look!" he said. "The farmer's locked them away."
"The chicken door's closed, bolted. You'll be okay."

Duncan wrapped himself around the metal fence,
Scanning the yard and feeling quite tense.

But no chickens, at that moment, came into sight.
So Duncan shrugged, and said, "All right."

Duncan checked the chicken door once more before taking off.
A spindly rooster skinny foot stuck out, clawing at stuff.

But the door stayed shut, due to two bolts rusted.
So Duncan decided he would not get busted.

Determined to prove and boast that he could,
Duncan started off, never questioning if he should.

He got braver and braver with no chickens in sight.
And soon he stopped watching or readying to fight.

Then a lightening bolt cracked across the dark sky.
It scared him so much; he fell into chicken poo pie.

Duncan face planted in the sticky white goo.
Lifting his head he screeched, "ker-choo!"

Outside, three daring worms laughed themselves silly.
Billy fell onto Willie who knocked into Jilly.

Piling on top of each other, they squirmed on the ground.
As raindrops large as chicken eggs came crashing down.

Duncan aimed his head toward the dreary, wet sky.
The white goo on his face, the nasty poo pie,

Washed off before it started to dry.
But Duncan glanced back at his friends and began to cry.

"Slither! Duncan slither!" yelled a worm very wet,
As the rooster crashed the coop door open, loud as a jet.

The rain you see had greased the two rusted bolts.
Releasing the hens they charged out like wild colts.

His life in danger, Duncan slid super fast.
He flopped and he flittered, but the yard was so vast.

The rooster darted in front of the small quivering worm.
Then a claw came down hard and held Duncan quite firm.

"Please," cried Duncan. "I must win this race.
My reputation is at stake. I must save my face!"

"Are those your true friends who pulled at your pride?"
The rooster cocked his head eyeing the three worms outside.

Duncan looked down, feeling quite glum.
"Yes," finally he answered. "They're the reason I've come."

"Not very wise," said the rooster with glee.
"But I'll give you a ride if you promise something to me."

Duncan, relieved, felt ten thousand pounds lighter.
"Anything," he said. "I'll even pull an all-nighter."

The rooster croakily clucked, bringing Duncan up to his beak,
As three worms outside the fence started to shriek.

The rooster pretended to gobble him down.
All Duncan had to do was to wiggle and frown.

As the rooster shoved him to the side of his mouth,
Duncan grinned as three worms screamed to the south.

And when it was done, all Duncan must do
Was to bring the rooster some of his mother's vegetable stew.

The rooster it seemed had a cold from the rain.
And the farmer only threw in dried corn and dried grain.

Three terrified worms then took off of the drive,
Screaming and squirming, thankful they were alive.

Then Duncan wriggled up to the rooster's red head.
"I truly appreciate your help. Thanks," he said.

"Sure," said the bird. "As he trotted to the gate."
Then off slid Duncan. "I have to hurry or I'll be late."

Slithering and slimming out of the muddy chicken coop,
Duncan turned and announced, "I won't forget your soup."

"Mom! Mom!" cried Duncan as he slithered through the hole.
"What honey?" she said mixing vegetables in a square bowl.

She sniffed then she scolded. "You smell like a hen.
Have you been near that perilous chicken coop again?"

"Yes,  it was crazy, yes it was dumb."
"But the rooster inside is looking quite glum."

Duncan sweetly slid up to her whispering these words.
"Would you mind if I took some of your soup to the birds?"

Duncan's mom asked, "Are all the birds ill?"
"No mom. But your soup might just cure the attack of the bill."

And so Duncan brought vats of soup to the chickens.
Who drank and slurped and slopped from square bins,

Until all of the stew slid into all of their tums,
There was nothing left, not a morsel, no crumbs.

That day was a day to record in the books, 
When worms young and old became vegetable soup cooks.

The hens, the worms and the rooster made two pacts.
There would be no more bills pecking at small squirming backs.

Instead they would help one another along.
The worms serve the soup, while the chickens sing a song.

And what of the three daring worms do you say?
Well they catch glimpses of Duncan each day.

Duncan turns white after rolling in chicken pie poo.
He looks scary, quite daunting, like most ghosts do.

The rooster and ghost-worm charge from inside the coop.
Until Duncan slides down and wipes off the goop. 

Same Story in Prose: (W.I.P.)

Daring Duncan Took the Bait

The chicken coop cast checkered shadows across Duncan's dirt path home. Clouds rumbled above.

"Hey, Duncan, where you headed so fast?" a short, chubby worm asked.

"Home," Duncan said. "I have to be there by three."

"Come on D. If you take the chicken coop short cut, you can stay and play," a second, skinny worm said, kicking a sunflower seed ball toward Duncan.

A third worm said, smiling. "Your Mom won't ever know."

Duncan peered into the coup. White and brown feathers scattered here and there, and mounds of white bird goo stunk up the air.

"Don't worry," the third worm said. "You slither so fast." The others nodded.

"I don't know," Duncan said. "Mom says chickens eat worms."

The three worms laughed out loud.

The chubby worm said, "She's trying to scare you."

"That's right," said the skinny one. "The farmer feeds them grain, they don't eat worms. We promise. Right guys?" The three worms nodded.

"Plus, you're so fast. You beat everyone at school," said number three.

"Really?" said Duncan.

The three worms agreed.

"Look!" The chubby worm squirmed up to the fence. "The coop door is bolted."

Duncan wrapped himself around the metal, scanning the yard. No chickens. The worms were right. He could play and still make it home in time.

"Okay," Duncan said. He kicked the seed ball back. The four worms played ball, but somehow Duncan managed to always be the one to dig it out of bushes, chase after it down the road, and roll it to them to kick over and over.

Duncan was exhausted. "I have to go home, now," he said.

"We'll watch out for the chickens for you," the chubby worm said.

"All right," Duncan said. He checked the chicken door once more before sliding into the yard. A spindly rooster foot stuck out, clawing at stuff, but the door didn't give.

"Go on! Go now!" yelled the three worms.

Duncan took off. He slithered fast around feathers and chicken goo...


Now I don't know about you, but I like the rhyming version better. Although I am not very good at rhyme. I don't understand meter and flow as well as I should to really submit a story in rhyme. 

This is a great exercise for anyone who is thinking about querying a rhyming children's book. Most agents and publishers are not accepting rhyming books at this time. If you find one that is open to rhyme, be sure to research their current authors and rhyming styles.

If you query the prose version and get a bite from an agent or publisher, you can always let them know that you do have a rhyming version if they'd like to see it too.

Good Luck!