It’s that time of year again, when kiddies of all ages sicken themselves with candy corn and creep about in the dead of early evening, and zombie writers enter Susanna Hill’s Halloweensie contest.
But wait! Speaking of Susanna Hill and scary things, I must interrupt this program to mention her fabulous online picture book writing course, Making Picture Book Magic. Picture books are a strange and wondrous creature for me, and downright scary if I’m to be totally honest. A certain manuscript about cats has been kicking my butt for over a year, so in August I decided it was time to tame the beast. I signed up for Susanna’s class and, in short, the angels sang.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t sing some praises in return. Susanna breaks down her affordable, month-long course into bite-size pieces that you can chew on for half an hour each day so that, by the end, I had a completely rewritten manuscript that I think may just work! It’s not perfect yet — she’s not a wizard, people — but it’s such an improvement over what I started with that I finally feel that finishing it is a possibility. It’s curing in a drawer some more before I give it another workout, but it’s this close to being what I want it to be.
One of the many wonderful things about the course is that Susanna keeps the class size small, puts us all in a Facebook group, and provides insightful, generous feedback every step of the way. And there’s the camaraderie and feedback from fellow classmates. Plus I got this cool badge.
All I know is that I needed my hand held, Susanna held it, and I came away with a workable manuscript, more confidence, and a solid strategy to follow for my next picture book adventures. The lady knows her stuff. Maybe she is a wizard after all. So if you’re struggling or just need accountability, you’ll get it all right here. I will probably take the class again to help me focus another project. It’s that good.
Now back to the contest! The guidelines this year are:
no more than 100 words
the words spooky, cackle, and black cat must appear in the story or poem
the entry must appeal to kids
collect your prize in a timely fashion (okay, that’s not really a guideline, but I would be sure to do that were I to win a prize…)
I know I managed at least two of those guidelines with my 75-word poem. Due to too many newt eyes in the cauldron, I was not able to do a video this year, but I did record the poem, which you can listen to below the graphic.
Writing the Poem
For those of you interested in behind-the-scenes happenings, this poem began with a shockingly blank page. Then the name Pumpkinseed McCrackle popped into my head, which sounded like a scarecrow to me. Scarecrows give me the creeps, so I put myself in McCrackle’s overalls and thought about what a scarecrow would be proud of. After writing the first two stanzas, the scarecrow started getting on my nerves with all that bragging, so I began thinking about what would scare a scarecrow. I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz enough to know that scarecrows are afraid of being torn to bits, and who better to do the honors than a misbehaving black cat? That’ll show Mr. Pumpkinseed McCrackle!
The stuttering repetition of ca-ca-ca-ca-cackle in the first stanza was at first a placeholder for my meter. But the more I read it out loud, the more I liked it because it does indeed sound like a cackle. So then my goal became finding ways to use that trick in the other stanzas, which turned out to not be so difficult.
The next issue was that this had to be a story, so something had to happen. There had to be a change somewhere. The last two lines in stanza 3 caused a lot of trouble. In those two lines, I had to introduce a problem, show how the scarecrow felt about it, include a climactic action, and make it clear enough that the reader would know what’s going on. And it all had to happen with perfect meter. I rewrote those two lines several times and still don’t think they are quite right. But we’ve entered into a truce for now.
While I was stuck on those lines, I frittered away some time by looking for scarecrow images and serendipitously stumbled upon the amazing graphic I used in this post, which is a free wallpaper from this site. It’s exactly how I pictured Mr. McCrackle, so it gave me some inspiration to finish.
Finally, at some point during the process, I realized that I could play on the word piece at the end, and this made me so happy that I ate a cookie.
Be sure to check out the other spooky delights right here at Susanna’s place. Or better yet, join in the fun! The DEADline is tonight at midnight!
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See more poems in my poetry video library.
“Pumpkinseed McCrackle” © Renee M. LaTulippe. All rights reserved.
Video and post content © Renee M. LaTulippe. All rights reserved.
Great poem, Renee. I will eat a cookie for the ending too! And I love hearing about your process!
The video, of course, I have watched several times and it’s amazing!
Lo-lo-lo-love this! What a great poem. I love the scarecrow v. cat angle.
Golly, where to begin, Renee?! First, thank you so much for your kind words about my course – you’re very sweet! Second, what a terrifically fun poem! I love that ca-ca-ca-ca-cackle – perfect! And I love that the braggy scarecrow got his comeuppance from a kitty 🙂 Finally, I always love it when you tell about your process and how you put the poem together. It’s fascinating to see how other writers’ minds work. I have no idea how my mind works – if it works at all – so I could probably never articulate my process in this way! Thanks so much again for saying such nice things about the course, and for joining in the Halloweensie Madness! 🙂
Fun poem, Renee – I love his name!
Fabulous poem, Renee! His name is perfect, to start with, and the rest of the poem is perfect also, to go on with. Love the word play and the way you used stretching out the words to add to the Halloween feel of the poem.
Some day I’ll be able to take Susanna’s course — I’ve heard so many good things about it. (No surprise there, Susanna rocks!)
Fu-Fu-Fun! Great name, great character and great poem. There was not a wasted word.
Maybe one day, I too will get a chance to take Susanna’s course. It sounds terrific.
Love the poem and the part about the process. You filled the blank page very nicely. (I too endorse the class. Love those small assignments by email. Makes it very doable).
I love this poem. I listen to you recite and I walked away with a different feeling from when I read it by myself. I love you sharing your process. Thanks for that. I enjoyed your work.
You deserve that cookie! Pumpkinseed McCrackle is a winner. Thanks for sharing your writing process too.
Oh, Renee, I should have known Pumpkinseed McCrackle was yours. When I saw it on the list of stories, the name cracked me up. Too bad poor Pumpkinseed cracked up, too. He should know better than to mess with a cat.
Oh my goodness! Love Pumpkinseed McCackle. That’s the best name ever! Thanks for sharing your process. Love the graphic and your poem is amazing…as usual!
Well, you had me at “Pumpkinseed McCrackle”. What a great start. I loved it.
WO- WO- WO- WO- WOW! Then a double-delight Macbeth piece…all I can really say is WOW, great job! :0)
Aw, poor Pumpkinseed…no match for the black kitty, I guess!
Of all the fun of the way it sounds, it is a marvelous story, Renee, and in only 75 words! Love it! Happy Halloween!
Really enjoyed hearing it read too!
great name, and I loved hearing about your process? terrific poem, as always.
Love, love, lurve it!
Crinkle, crackle, CRUNCH!
Oh gosh Renee. I adore Pumpkinseed McCackle. What a great scarecrow! But what a great cat! (Apologies to Pumpkinseed McCackle) “Meow!” I also loved reading about your process. So interesting. Thank you for sharing it with us. 🙂
Great name! He ought to have his own concept book: P. McCrackle’s Hay B C!
Going to share this one today and IT’s A KEEPER, Renee!!
Love your backstory and wallpaper and as usual everything!
A crackling good poem, Renee! Loved your soundcloud recitation and your perfectly polished post as well. I have come to expect no less, and may very well have a cookie in your honor. 🙂
LOVE it. Poor scarecrow. The wonderful ending alone is worth at least a dozen cookies . . . and many donuts, a couple pies, and chocolate cupcakes. Brava!!
What fun, Renee! I also love your comments on Susannah’s picture book course. Maybe next year after our move is complete! Also, meant to tell you I lurve your Macbeth witch performance – a 3-in-1 delight!
That is so awesome and super to get insights too. I can’t believe you just whipped up that name like that.
Oh, I love this, Renee! It’s wonderful. Great job!
Fun poem, Renee! The image does fit perfectly with McCrackle’s personality. I am definitely going to check out Susanna’s class – sounds wonderful. =)
Oh, I love this poem! And I think I recognize your name–we have a friend/poet in common in Robyn Hood Black. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen you duke it out in a poetry battle or two. 🙂
This post is filled with awesomeness, Renee! Your poem is Gr.gr.gr.great!!! But I especially appreciate your step by step process of writing it. LOVE the title as well.:) Wonderful entry for the Halloweensie contest.
And thank you for the shout out for Susanna’s course. I know I have too much on my plate right now…but it is VERY tempting because I know she makes it in bite-sized pieces. 🙂 Congrats on taking it!
This poem will be so much fun for kids to read aloud!
And I’m thinking it’s picture book-worthy!!
What a teacher you are, Renee. This poem was so much fun to read!! As always, I love the way you share your writing process. Thank you so much for putting your poem in an audio file for us. Your voice is the bestest! Great work!
Even without the super scarecrow story, the name Pumpkinseed McCrackle is a poem all by itself. Thanks for running down the story of its creation. If you really want to write a poem a day, Renee, you could do it–but you’d have to give up all the funny, interesting process commentary, and that would be a loss to us all! : )
Great poem! I love it! 😀
Renee I love your poem. It’s so cre cre creepy! Thanks for sharing your process–very interesting how the creepy mind works.
I also endorse Susann’a class. I learned so much. It was fun to have you in our small facebook group.
Hi, Renee! What a fun Halloweensie poem. Isn’t it amazing how a name can conjure up a whole character? Pumpkinseed McCrackle’s bravado is as thin as the rags he wears 🙂