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Dissecting a Poem

Melody, from NAME THAT DOG!
Between new babies and other family matters, my blog has taken a back seat this month. I decided to get in a late contribution to poetry month by going through how I wrote, and re-wrote, one of the poems from my picture book, NAME THAT DOG!

My inspiration for Melody was my friend’s dog, Mellie. Every time I would go to Karen’s house, Mellie barked like crazy, even before I got the front door! I told Karen, “You don’t need a doorbell. You have Mellie!”

My first idea was to write about a dog who loved to ‘sing,’ and with his barking he would get all of the dogs in the neighborhood to join in. I called him Maestro, like the leader of an orchestra. Here’s the first draft:

Maestro
He sings along
When I play the piano
He hits the high notes
In perfect soprano.
He can hold it long
He can sing it low
Dogs follow the lead
Of my dog, Maestro.

Ok, I wasn't really happy with this poem--yet. Here are some reasons why.

Rhythm: This poem didn’t just roll off your tongue with that easy rhythm.

The stress fell on different syllables in the lines. I try to have each line stress the same syllable, either the first or the second usually, to make it easy to read. It doesn’t always work out that way, but at least it feels right when you read it out loud. The stress here falls on the second or third syllable, and doesn’t line up in order. The last line puts the stress on the word ‘my,’ which doesn’t feel natural. In addition, the lines don’t have the same number of syllables. It doesn’t always have to be exactly the same, but I felt that it was too far off.

Imagery: I didn’t feel that the end result put any special pictures or images in the reader’s mind. Ok, maybe a piano, maybe an orchestra conductor. Boring!

Language: Word choice, or language, is what creates the images that the readers see when they read a poem. It’s also what makes the reader feel something when they read a poem. I definitely thought I could do better here.

So I started to make my lists. I made a list of words of ways that a dog makes noise: bark, howl, yap, etc. I made a list of words that were synonyms for ‘sing:’ croon, tra-la-la, chant, hum, wail, moan…. I made a list of types of music: country, opera, pop, rock, rap…. I made a list of musical instruments: piano, saxophone, flute, violin….

I decided to re-name my dog Melody, after Mellie, who barked whenever someone came up the walk, and made her a girl like the real Mellie. I looked at my lists, and tried to relate the different words to a dog, in particular to a dog who liked to ‘sing.’ Here’s what I ended up with.

Melody
She sings when I play the piano.
She croons to the saxophone blues.
She wails to that sad country music
And moans to the nine o’clock news.
She boldly increases her volume,
enjoying the voice that she’s found,
And sings a duet with the doorbell—
That howling, melodious hound.

Poems are meant to be read out loud! I ended up with a much better rhythm, and a poem that was fun to read. The language was fun, too. And the images are there in every line for the reader to enjoy. I hope that you enjoy these poems, as well.  Read More 
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April Was For the Dogs!

What a fun month April has been!

I visited schools and libraries where I talked about my books and writing poetry. I got some great questions from the students (and grown ups, too) and got to meet some very nice people. There was a book launch party for my new book, NAME THAT DOG! at the Valpo Library, complete with dog bone cookies, and cookies in the doggy dish. Thanks to everyone who was there to help celebrate. I met pet owners and some beautiful dogs at the Be Kind to Animals event, sponsored by the Porter County Animal Shelter and PAW, at the PC Expo Center. And I've enjoyed the book reviews, and seeing my new book finally out in bookstores. I'll be wrapping things up for a bit next week after a presentation at a Young Authors Event in Plainfield, Indiana. Be sure to keep an eye out for new pictures being added on the left.

Later in May I'll be taking time out for our Indiana SCBWI Spring Conference, and to enjoy our daughter's wedding! It's been a joyful year.

I thought I would wrap up this week's blog post with one of the poems that did not make it into the book. This one is for Spot:

One black nose
Is all that shows
In all that fur she’s got.

White as snow
From head to toe--
I think I’ll call her
Spot!

(copyright Peggy Archer)  Read More 
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Happy Birthday, Name That Dog!


It's official-- Name That Dog! is finally released for sale by Penguin's Dial Books for Young Readers,and is available in bookstores and on line!

Happy Spring!

Happy Poetry Month!

Happy Reading!

I'll be looking at poetry books for children, poetry blogs and websites, and posting more this month.
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Name That Dog! F&G's

An early Chritmas gift came in the mail this week from Dial Books. I received the F&G's for my newest picture book, NAME THAT DOG! F&G's, meaning 'folded and gathered,' is the un-bound cover and pages of the book. I love the pictures, the lay-out, the names of the dog breeds on each page! But I especially love the cover. Portraits of different dogs from the book, the little dog on the front looking up and his portrait on the back, the bone after my name, and the pawprints on the spine and back cover. "The A to Z Guide to Perfect Pupy Names!" is the caption over the puppy portrait on the back.

Available for pre-order at stores and online, NAME THAT DOG! will be out in less than four months.

Thanks, Liz, for bringing my book to life! And thanks, Stephanie, for the great artwork!  Read More 
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Snickers

Because of her I write poetry. And I’m filled with new ideas and stories to write.

When we got Snickers she weighed 5 pounds. I could hold her in my hand. At the animal shelter they said, “Her mother is a cocker spaniel.” The vet said, “You have a little lab!” Her daddy had the dominant genes.

She was creative. She pulled the tablecloth off the kitchen table to get to the food. She ate a dozen chocolate cupcakes from the back of the stove without leaving a trace. She could get the screen door open, even when it was locked.

She was contradictory. Snickers did not like cats. One day she ate the cat food from the neighbor’s front porch.
She got carsick. The only way to get her back home when she escaped from the yard was to back the car out of the driveway and open the car door. She came running.

She was full of energy. She ate my yellow tulips, and chased lightening bugs. She barked at birds, and once or twice at an airplane. She took her snowman toy with her everywhere. She ‘buried’ rawhide bones in a corner of the living room. She liked pretzels.

One day when she was a puppy, she peed on the kitchen floor while I was mopping it for the third time in a row. I put her outside. That was the last time she peed inside the house. Until recently. She never went past the baby gate when we had it up, even though she could easily push it over or jump over it. Back then. She would race across the back yard, and followed us everywhere...

We’ll miss you, Snickers.

A Dog’s House

copyright PeggyArcher, 1999

Noseprints on the window.
Pawprints on the door.
Bones are in the pantry,
Dishes on the floor.
You left your mark upon this house.
You claimed it from the start.
With noseprints on the window,
And pawprints on the heart.
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Welcome to my children's author blog!

Welcome!

My name is Peggy Archer and I am a children's author. My newest picture book, NAME THAT DOG!, will be out from Dial Books for Young Readers in April 2010! To see more about me and my books, please visit my website at www.peggyarcher.com.

My author website has been around for awhile, but until now I have resisted 'The Blog.' My plan is to add something of interest to children's writers and anyone interested in children's books weekly on Wednesdays. So please check back.

The ALA (American Library Association) convention was  Read More 
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