Spells & Spies

10 03 2014

photo PatriceI love it when I see authors using creativity to hook readers. Had to smile at Patrice Lyle’s preparations for her Skype visit with a school.

With her Spells & Spies sign in the background and crystal ball in hand, she was ready to discuss her tween mystery in the Poison Ivy series, The Case of the Invisible Witch. Other props included items from her paranormal collection (the figure she used to inspire the series) and surprise visits from two of her three cats.

She also gave the schools a pdf with discussion questions (authored by Mary Helen Sheriff, along with some great Common Core activities)and writing prompts as well as tidbits of interesting information about herself, such as the fact that her father was a detective and she used to snoop in his files. That’s how she learned so much about solving mysteries.

And just to clarify, the pink room is her writing room, not her daughter’s bedroom, as one student guessed.

Interested in a Skype visit with Patrice? You can contact her through her website. Learn more about her at her Leap Books author page or Twitter (@Patrice_Lyle).

Poison Ivy Cover

Poison Ivy Cover


Thirteen-year-old Tulip Bonnaire, Witch PI, runs Spells & Spies out of her dorm room at Poison Ivy Charm School, a school for polite witches and warlocks. She has only 72 hours to figure out her latest case, or her classmate, Missy, will never be seen again. Literally.

When Missy shows up in Tulip’s dorm room around midnight, she’s invisible. As in not even x-ray vision could spot her. The mean triplets who call themselves The Belles have cast an invisibility spell on poor Missy. But if Tulip can’t break the spell in 72 hours, Missy will remain invisible forever.

It’s a case Tulip can’t resist — between her mom’s annoying new boyfriend and her own secret crush at school, Tulip understands how much it stinks to feel invisible. Luckily for Tulip, her two best friends and her cute, techy guy friend help dig up clues on a case that turns out to be her freakiest one ever.

Why Editors Hate Rhyming Picture Books

4 05 2012

OK, so maybe they don’t hate all of them. Some rhyming picture books still get published, but they have to be exceptional.

Many first-time picture authors believe stories should be told in rhyme. Not so. It’s so easy to trip up and make mistakes. The first and most glaring mistake is to use unnatural phrasing to make your lines rhyme. Would your phrases make sense if you wrote them out in prose without the rhyme? Convoluted sentences that lack flow drive editors crazy.

Newbie authors almost always twist word order. The cat on a fence sat is not normal sentence order. If you want an editor to consider your story, be sure it reads the way people speak. For a wonderful example of natural word order, read Alice Shertle’s poems. Here’s an excerpt from one of her poems:

I Am the Cat

I am the cat in the easy chair–
velvet arm, and a cushion where
I scratch my claws and groom my hair–
Mine, alone, is the easy chair.

I am the cat in a puddle of sun–
isn’t a sun puddle wonderful fun?
Doesn’t the light make my dark coat shine?
Isn’t it right that the sun is mine?


Read more samples of her work at the Miss Rumphius Effect blog, or better yet, pick up some of her 40 books. You’ll be glad you did. And if you have the opportunity to take a workshop with Ms. Shertle, do so. I had the privilege of attending a conference breakout session with her, and it was phenomenal. You’ll never look at a poem the same way again. Guaranteed.

So back to editors’ peeves… Another major flaw is choosing words because they rhyme. Often the words make little sense or are unrelated to the story. (And, yes, rhyming picture books do have to tell a story.) Having your giraffe drink from a carafe may fit the rhyme scheme, but not the storyline.

Near-rhyme is another annoyance. Is your turtle wearing a girdle? Close but not quite there. As Deborah Diesen says on the 12×12 blog, “it’s not enough that the words end with the same final syllable sound.  Instead, the last stressed syllable and everything that comes after the last stressed syllable must rhyme.” She gives the example of bunny and chickadee. Both end with the same long e sound, but they don’t rhyme.

After all this advice against it, if you still think you want to write a rhyming picture book, then I recommend hopping over to Diesen’s post for a long list of fabulous tips on editing your poetry. If you follow all her steps, then an editor may just be thrilled to pick up your submission.