Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lose and Learn

Last fall I entered the Children's Writer contest for a 125-word seasonal piece for a pre-k audience. Now I've had good fortune with their pre-k contests before - once a first prize and once a third prize. This time? Nada. Zippo. Why?

I submitted a non-fiction winter piece about the snowshoe hare. I did my research and included a bibliography gathered from four excellent sources. My 125-word entry described how, in the fall, the snowshoe hare changes color from brown to white and tied that fact to the leaves changing color. Good work, I thought, a reference to something pre-k kids know about.

Then I went on to show how the white coat against snow is camouflage by introducing an encounter with a hungry fox to demonstrate how the hare can avoid disaster. The final two sentences dealt with the hare hopping home, showing how its special paws work to keep the hare from sinking into the deep snow.

Okay, so where did I go wrong? When I saw the three winners, I knew immediately. They had more child appeal. And all three winners rhymed! Editors are always discouraging rhyme, but when well-crafted, it's perfect for the pre-k crowd. My first and third place winners in previous pre-k Children's Writer contests? They rhymed. Good rhyme = rhythm = child appeal.

Does this mean I should always write in rhyme? No, but it does mean I should never forget my strong suit and even if it doesn't rhyme, I should give my prose the rhythmic lilt of poetry. I had concentrated on cramming information into 125 words. My sentence structure was wooden and choppy. I needed to make those blasted words sing! And I didn't.


  1. Another "duh" moment!

    Glad you learned from it. Your rhyming is akin to singing.

  2. As the saying goes...hare today, gone tomorrow. (I don't know how that relates to your post, but I had to get the pun in somehow.)

    Seriously, though, maybe you could rewrite the hare piece in rhyme and resubmit it to next year's contest.

    Congrats on your previous wins, btw, that's very cool.

  3. And this is why it's so darn hard with 125 words. (Not that 50,000 is any picnic.)

    But my guess is our group will soon see a revision that strikes the right chord! (Sorry, just trying to out-pun J.L.)

  4. Never, ever question yourself. Question those in charge of the contest. Reading comprehension may not be one of their skills.