Interview with Terry Pierce


Banquet_187To celebrate my interview with author, Terry Pierce, I will be giving away two signed copies of her book, BLACKBERRY BANQUET! The book is a fun, cumulative, rhyming tale about all the woodland critters who share one blackberry bush. You can enter to win by commenting on the blog post any time during December. If you are a subscriber to the blog, or become one, I will count your entry twice!

1. Hi Terry! I love that you wrote BLACKBERRY BANQUET in rhymed verse. Does the poetic structure you used in the book have a name? How can we write a poem like yours?

Thank you, Robin! Great question! BLACKBERRY BANQUET uses a cumulative story structure, where the story builds to a point and then subtracts from itself. As far as the rhyming form goes, the overall structure doesn’t have a name; I developed the pattern as I rewrote the story in rhyme.

I opened with a quatrain (four lines) with the second and fourth lines rhyming, but then switched to a rhyming couplet (two lines) with a building text that followed each couplet (this is the part where the animals make their sounds). I purposefully broke the pattern when the bear appears to reflect a change in the plot. After that, I used single sentences (with alliteration and/or assonance) to reflect the ensuing chaos at the blackberry bush. The ending comes full circle with a final quatrain that is similar to the opening.

As far as how to write a story-poem like mine, this might sound odd but sometimes (for the sake of creative experimentation) when I want to try a new poetry form, I experiment by finding an existing poem that I like and then I try to rewrite it (down to the same syllables and accents) but using a completely different subject. For example, if you want to write a story-poem similar to that used in BLACKBERRY BANQUET, start by trying to rewrite the opening of the story but using a different story premise:

In a wee green wood

Near a stream so blue

Grows a blackberry bush

Shining bright with dew.

Here’s a quick example I just wrote up:

In the deep dark sea

In a world so black

Swims a firefly squid

Hunting for a snack.

You get the idea! It’s a fun method to experiment with words and poetic forms.

2. How is writing in rhyme different for you than writing in prose? Do you use different tools, or write in a different place?

Writing in rhyme and writing in prose begin the same way, but soon take a different turn! No matter what, I always start by roughly storyboarding my idea to make sure I have enough distinct scenes required for a 32-page picture book. After that, I write the story in prose. This is an important step in writing in rhyme because it’s so very easy to get carried away with rhyming and lose sight of the story itself. Once I have the prose draft, I then decide if the story should be written in rhyme (not all stories work in rhyme—in fact, most stories work best in prose).

Once I decide to go forward with the rhyme then I will use the prose draft as a sort of “roadmap” during the writing process, to keep me on track so I don’t get swept away with the fun of writing in rhyme (because it IS fun—much like working out a word puzzle). I do keep a rhyming dictionary on hand but try not to rely upon it too much. I also like to “test” my rhyme and rhythm by walking while reading my work aloud. It’s amazing how you can feel it in your feet when the rhythm is off!

Writing in rhyme can be a tricky venture and is harder to do than it appears. This is one reason why I offered to teach a new course for UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, “Writing in Rhyme for Young Children.” The debut 8-week course will be offered this winter from Jan. 15- March 5.

3. What are you writing next? Is it about animals, like BLACKBERRY BANQUET, or about kids, like your book TAE KWON DO!?

I’m currently working on another easy reader about two insect friends. It’s a simple emergent-level story that I’m hoping new readers will enjoy the friendship between the two unique animals.

Thanks so much, Terry & good luck to everybody!

TerryBlackberry2010Terry Pierce is the author of 17 children’s books, including Blackberry Banquet, Tae Kwon Do! and the award-winning series, Mother Goose Rhymes. Her easy reader, Tae Kwon Do! was named on the Bank Street College Best Books of 2007. Terry holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and is an instructor for UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. For more information, please visit her website at:

P.S. – Here is a little friend, checking out my favorite spread! Even upside down, there is no way that is a frown!