Meredith Costain – Writing Verse Picture Books
Guest blog by Yvonne Mes (writer and illustrator) www.yvonnemes.weebly.com
Meredith Costain has written over a hundred books for children. From picture books (Doodledum Dancing) to novels for older readers (the Year in Girl Hell). She has been writing poetry since she was a little girl, thinking up poems while riding her bicycle.
Meredith’s latest picture book My First Day at School has the verse dance across the pages.
Throughout Meredith’s verse novels are elements of a narrative, though the poems can all be read separately and the narrative ends on a positive note.
The poems in her latest book, My First Day at School, revolve around the experiences of four characters and their reactions to their first day at school.
As part of her research she spent several hours at a preschool quietly and unobtrusively observing children’s first day.
Having worked as an early childhood professional for many years I can say that the poems really communicate the different experiences children have and the book will appeal to young readers.
Meredith gave a brief introduction into verse poems. Though they don’t rhyme, various elements of poetry are used such as: onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, and similes.
These poetic devices are reinforced in the book by illustrations and the creative use of font and typography.
Though I was looking forward to the workshop and enjoy reading Meredith’s books, I personally lack poetic ability and was a little horrified to learn her workshop session included a practical component.
Thinking up a poem on the spot confirmed that I will never be a good poet (I managed to get out of having to recite my poem out loud) and though I already knew that I was in the company of talented writers, I was in awe of the insanely talented writers/ poets that surrounded me from newbies such as Rebecca Sheraton to professionals including Helen Chamberlin and Meg McKinlay!
The practical exercise consisted of brainstorming a topic, (the beach) and then in small groups brainstorming events and sensory experiences around this topic and coming up with a linear narrative to suit.
So far so good.
But then we had 15 minutes or so to come up with a small verse poem.
I still have a headache.
As I mentioned above, I escaped humiliation in front of these talented writers but I must have masochistic streak because here is my effort:
Clacking, crawling crabs.
Stinky squashy starfish snot.
Where is Mummy, where is Daddy?
Where is bucket, where is spade?
The last sentence reflects how I felt about my poetic ability at that moment. But, my own insecurities are no reflection whatsoever on Meredith. She is not only a very talented writer, she is passionate about writing for children and helping others achieve their writing ambitions.
You can find out more about Meredith here