Beware the Chocolate Spiders! (poem)

Beware! Beware! Beware!
The haunting time of year!

When chocolate spiders hatch,
Spreading candy fear!

You may think that’s just a costume,
A Halloween disguise

But take a second look:
Count that creature’s eyes!

Don’t think of trick OR treat:
To them it’s all the same!

Weaving caramel webs
Around your window frame…

Lurking in the darkness…
Hiding out of sight…

Then dropping down in front of you
Giving you a FRIGHT!

You yelp and drop your candy;
Sprint off down the street

Those spiders give a cackle
And eat up every treat!

Beware! Beware! Beware!
The chocolate spider scare!

 

 

friendly jackolantern

This was written for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Halloween challenge – write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (title not included in the 100 words), using the words costume, dark, and haunt. Your story can be scary, funny or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!) Get it? Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂 

http://susannahill.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/the-5th-annual-halloweensie-writing.html

Dinosaurs, Aliens, Pants and Poo (poem)

Stuck for an idea?
Don’t know what to do?
Based on book sales
I’ll give you a clue

Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo
Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo!

Picture book writers
Form into a queue
(Resist the temptation
To write something new)

Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo
Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo!

Top tips for the many,
And not for the few.

(Don’t even think of
A contrary view:
If it’s already written
DELETE! Strike it through! )

Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo
Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo!

An alien dino’s
Got locked in the loo:
He’s lost all his clothes,
And underwear too!

Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo
Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo!

Can’t quite remember?
One more time through

Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo
Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo!

To end this advice,
I’m telling you true:

If you could NOT rhyme,

Please
Do!

Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo!
Dinosaurs, aliens, pants and poo!

 

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Picture courtesy of flickr.com/photos/zharth/5976725631… probably not the type of aliens that should feature in picture books though

 

 

This post was “inspired” by Cathy’s fantastic blog post on what makes a picture book stand out, and what’s popular in the market at the moment – https://beecathy.wordpress.com/2015/10/01/picture-books-and-the-power-of-poo/. Well worth checking out 🙂

10 Crucial Lessons for Rhymers… from Monty Python

or, inevitably, WHAT HAVE THE PYTHONS EVER DONE FOR US?

We are all products of our environment. Some wear their influences on their sleeves; others may not even be aware of tapping into their formative influences. I grew up in the 80s with Monty Python, a child of Python-loving parents who mercifully spared me the sketches that didn’t work (there are many), but instead exposed me to the films, the highlights reels, the comedy albums (on vinyl, no less), the Live at the Hollywood Bowl fan-fest. And here I am now trying to write rhyming picture books and other entertainments…

Here are ten lessons that rhymers (perhaps storytellers of any stripe) can take from the songs of Monty Python. Some of the links are NSFW…

1) CHALLENGE EXPECTATIONS
Have your main character do something unusual, that goes against type and challenges expectations. You’ve got a knight called Brave Sir Robin?

“When danger reared its ugly head
He bravely turned his tail and fled

Yes Brave Sir Robin turned about
And gallantly he chickened out…”

Or take a rugged, “manly” lumberjack, and then tell us that he likes to “put on women’s clothing, and hang around in bars.”

Or take the less-travelled perspective:

2) PLAY WITH WORDS
Have fun with the language, whether that’s homophones, (“sail the wide accountancy”)

lists,

or

or non-sequitors for comic effect
“We dine well here in Camelot, we eat ham and jam and spam a-lot

I have to push the pram-a-lot!”

3) GET THE TONE RIGHT
The gentle, plinky start of “Finland” sets the tone perfectly for an homage to a country “where I quite want to be”…

4) ENJOY YOUR RHYMES
Repeating the same end rhyme throughout, and even using it as an internal rhyme, can be fun…
“Half a bee, philosophically,
Must, ipso facto, half not be”

5) DON’T TALK DOWN TO YOUR AUDIENCE
The Galaxy Song, and the Medical Love Song, are examples of introducing a range of language and ideas that go far beyond what might be expected of the “everyman”. If the narrative, and the rhyme, is strong enough, you can introduce unfamiliar names and ideas very quickly.

Don’t talk down to your audience. Raise them up.

“Just remember that you’re standing on a planet that’s evolving
And revolving at 900 miles an hour.
It’s orbiting at 19 miles a second, so it’s reckoned,
The sun that is the source of all our power”

(I love the punchline at the end of this song)

6) MAKE YOUR RHYMES UNEXPECTED, OR UNUSUAL
All I know about philosophers, I know from this:

“Heideggar, Heideggar was a boozy beggar…

John Stewart Mill, of his own free will
On half a pint of shanty was particularly ill.”

And what about one of the greatest thinkers in history?

“Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle”

7) REPETITION, repetition….
A good example of repetition, and letting your characters grow, is the theme song from Life of Brian, with “a boy/ teenager/ not a girl/ a man called Brian”

“… his voice dropped down low
And things started to grow…”

8) DIVERSITY IS IMPORTANT
Monty Python made an effort to address diversity, in their own particular fashion, with “I Like Chinese” and “Never Be Rude To An Arab”…

“I like Chinese, I like Chinese,
They only come up to your knees”

It’s vital to reflect the diversity of the world we live in, to keep your characters relevant, and grounded in the reality of the time.

9) BE PREPARED TO MAKE MISTAKES
Viewed through modern eyes, neither of these songs have aged well… but how do you future-proof your material from the differing standards that will inevitably follow? You can’t. Write what’s in your heart, rather than chasing the trends of the day (or anticipated trends of tomorrow). If you never make mistakes, it just means you’re never trying.

Which leads us to our final point.

10) KEEP TRYING
There is only one way to finish this list. A song that has a ridiculously catchy chorus, a perfect balance of repetition/ variation/ progression, fun rhymes, a playful, changing rhyme structure… it’s even got whistling.

So, when the rejection emails start to pile up around you, put the kettle on, grab a slice of cake, and listen to this:
“Cheer up, Brian. You know what they say…”

The Buoyant Bubble (poem)

A buoyant bubble floated by
Borne upon the breeze
A buoyant bubble hanging there
In days as long as these

That buoyant bubble bore inside
A hundred hopes and dreams
That buoyant bubble full of wishes
Glistens and it gleams

The buoyant bubble on the breeze
It starts and then it stops
I go to catch the buoyant bubble

It pops

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Picture courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/ferran-jorda/2903135140 / Creative Commons

This poem was inspired by a beautiful haiku by Annette Rochelle Aben – you can check it out here: https://annetterochelleaben.wordpress.com/2015/07/30/ageless-wonder/

Summer Lovin’

Here in the UK, the school summer holidays are about to start. I’m taking most of this period off work to spend with my boys, so will be blogging less from now until September. My boys are 2 and 5 years old at the moment, and I’m really looking forward to doing a whole bunch of daft stuff with them while they are at such a fun age. (Any top tips on rainy day options, or things to do in the garden, gratefully received!)

So, the plan for the next few weeks looks like this, all around the loose theme of “summer”. I make no promises about posting every time – priorities!

Mon – Silliness, Stuff and Nonsense (I have some zombie/slug issues still to get out of my system… and don’t even ask about zombie slugs)

Wed – Haiku City

Thu – Throwback Thursday (a poem from the archives)

Fri – “Love”… yeah, I’m keeping this one vague to keep my options open!

A wee insight into my process – I literally have none of this written yet. As ever, I’ll fly by the seat of my pants, and use these prompts and “deadlines” as a spur to my creativity. Let’s hope it all works out… (I’ll still contribute to Ronovan’s weekly haiku challenge too, although I may have to submit late with some.)

Hope you can join me, and hope you have a great summer (even if it’s winter where you are 🙂 ).

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/3772193760 / Creative Commons… I’m not nearly as photogenic as this guy!

That Was The Month That Was… June

June has been another productive month. 28 posts published before this one, so these are some of the “highlights”, in the tradition of that filler episode of your favourite TV show when they have enough content for a 22 episode series, but sell 23 episodes to the broadcaster!

Rhyming blog
I completed a short series on what I’ve learned about writing rhyming picture books – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/from-bad-to-verse/ . The last part of this series included a round-up of the key bits of advice, and a host of useful rhyming resources, – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/18/from-bad-to-verse-10-top-rhyming-tips-useful-resources/ – so if you are pushed for time then you could start with this one and dip into the previous posts as and when you have time/ inclination/ need to develop your skills and understanding.

Haiku
There has been some haiku… quite a lot of it actually. I love Ronovan’s weekly haiku challenge and have posted several attempts at these. For the prompt words “Bard” and “Water”, I even attempted bending some Shakespearean iambic pentameter into haiku form – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/haiku-challenge-water-bard-cntd-poems/

I wrote a short series of “love haiku” – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/love-haiku-1/

And for us office drones, in case you missed it last month, consider using one of these “out of office” haiku next time you are away from your desk… https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/05/18/out-of-office-autoreply-haikus-poem/

Poetry
My most popular poetry post this month has been “The Lie” – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/the-lie-poem/ – probably because it’s so universal… and short!

My favourite though is this one – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/26/lost-and-found-poem/ .

I have covered a variety of topics again over the month, from zombies – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/05/the-zombie-blues-poem/
– to GHOST slugs – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/ghost-slug-poem/
– to a Victorian version of Charlie’s Angels – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/the-original-charless-angels-poem/
– to a plea to be noticed (yes, the stereotype of the needy artist, but hopefully it resonates more widely than that) – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/08/i-just-wanna-be-noticed-poem/

Game of Thrones came up in two separate pieces this month. I love that show/ book… https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/16/jon-snow-has-gone-to-sleep-poem/ and https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/22/weekly-haiku-challenge-gain-hound/ . Is this the first time that The Hound has inspired a haiku?

I love testing myself with a variety of challenges, so I’ve also started entering Mara Eastern’s weekly poetry challenge – https://altheauthor.wordpress.com/2015/06/09/away-poem/

Coming Up
In July, look out for more haiku, more random poetry (the zombies and slugs will be back… probably!), and a blog post on rhyme and comedy. Hope you’ll join me.

Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to stop by and read my stuff, and double thanks to those who have “liked” and commented!

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Picture by kind courtesy of NB Photography (you can find them and more amazing photos on Facebook, or at http://www.neilbarr.co.uk). Loch Katrine from Ben Venue.

Ghost Slug (poem)

Hiding underground
Creeping up at night
This is one night crawler
You wouldn’t want to fight

Ghost slug is its name
Ghostly are its features
It really is the creepiest
Of all the garden creatures!

Its teeth are razor sharp
(Good for chomping worms)
The slimy thought of it
Makes me want to squirm

No Scooby Doo villain:
But something very real
What’s that wriggling through your toes?
Try hard not to SQUEAL!

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Picture courtesy of wikipedia… ghost slugs are real! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_slug

When The Zombie Came To Call (poem)

When the zombie came to call,
There was no answer at 56.
54 ignored it, thinking
Ethan up to his tricks.

52 said “no thank you”
Without opening his door.
Number 50 didn’t respond
(She can’t hear anymore)

48 through 42
Had all gone into town
40 had just got out of the bath
And was in her dressing gown.

Not a one even noticed
The zombie on their drive,
Taking for granted the pleasure
Of simply being alive.

And that was how it continued
For most of the rest of the day.
Life can be awful lonesome
For a zombie who just wants to play

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Picture courtesy of: https://www.flickr.com/photos/vogelium/3481252317/

Slugs on Broadway (poem)

I’m a low-down dreamer
My dreams are so big…
But if life is a tree
Then I’m just a twig

I want to make my mark
Not just leave a trail
Not be mistaken for
An ugly old snail

But I’m a slug, right
Don’t want no bug fight
Just want a hug to-night

I want to be a star
The only one to beat
Standing tall
On my own one feet

But I’m a slug, right
Don’t want no bug fight
Just want a hug to-night

I’m underneath this hedge
But dreaming of those nights
Sliming down the red carpet
With my name spelt out in lights

Cuz I’m a slug, right
Don’t want no bug fight
Just need a hug,
to
night

slug

Mum vs the Dragon (poem)

The little lad came bursting in
“Dad,” he cried, “come quick!
A dragon is attacking Mum;
She’s only got a stick!”

“Calm down, lad,” the dad replied,
Giving him a look.
“The dragon’s in with half a chance”
And continued with his book

dr