Writing a Single Story Using a Variety of Poetry Styles by Kathleen Long Bostrom

It is my pleasure to welcome multi-published, award-winning children’s book author and poet extraordinaire Kathleen Long Bostrom back to Frog on a Blog. I featured Kathleen in the summer of 2020 when her board book Will You Be Friends with Me? came out. She spoke about the connection between writer and illustrator and trusting the publisher and illustrator to help bring your story to life. To read that post, please click HERE.

Today, Kathleen’s here to share her latest picture book Since the Baby Came: A Sibling’s Learning-to-Love Story in 16 Poems and talk a bit about her process of writing a book in different poetic forms. This book officially released this week from WaterBrook and features adorable, playful, and detailed illustrations by Janet Samuel. It’s perfect for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and baby showers or simply to help a child navigate welcoming a new sibling into the family. It’s also a great choice for children and adults to learn about different poetry styles, including the very tricky Villanelle, of which Kathleen gives an example below. Let’s hear from Kathleen!

Dr. Seuss taught me how to read. Not literally, of course (I read once that he didn’t particularly like children!) but through his marvelous books. The Cat in the Hat was my favorite. Through these playful, rhyming stories I not only learned to read but also fell in love with poetry.

When I began to write books for children, I felt drawn to writing in rhyme. I kept hearing that editors did not want to look at manuscripts in rhyme. Why not, I wondered? Don’t most children love rhyming picture books? As I began attending writer’s conferences, I learned the reason. Time and again, editors declared, “We get so many poorly rhymed manuscripts, we don’t even want to see them anymore.”

If I was going to write in rhyme, I had to do it well. No forced rhymes, no using stanzas that rhyme by twisting a sentence into something a person would never say. I worked hard at it, yet it never felt like work. I loved it! When I began to get books accepted for publication, many of them were written in rhyme.

After twenty-five years of publishing books, I am still learning, still loving the process of writing in poetry.  

Around the time I retired from serving as a pastor and turned to writing full-time, my best friend and I attended a children’s writing conference. She was then working as an editor in educational publishing. During lunch, I asked, “What are the areas in early education where more good books are needed?” Without hesitation, she replied, “Poetry.”

“Aha!” I thought. “I can do that!”

But what would make a story told in poetry unique? I researched the books currently on the market and looked for the gaps.

Then it hit me: write a single story in verse, but not limited to the rhyming couplets that I and most other authors used. Could I write a single story using a variety of styles of poetry? I read books that described different poetic forms. Was I surprised! I knew about haiku, limericks, sonnets. But Villanelle? Cinquain? Triolet? Fascinating!

I had to tell a story with all the necessary components: beginning, middle, end, including an arc with conflict and resolution. I wanted to write a story that would be pertinent to the lives of young children. I wanted to tell a story that would engage young readers, and in the playfulness of poetry, whether they were old enough to learn the specifics of the forms or not.

I pondered many potential topics but landed on the story of a young child learning about the imminent arrival of a new baby who must then face the reality of this huge change. I wanted to explore all the possible emotions—excitement, confusion, frustration, and ultimately joy—thus affirming that all emotions are part of the journey, to be welcomed and honored.

Once I carved out an idea for the full story, I needed to figure out which poem forms to use for each component. This took months! Each of the sixteen poems had to work within the story arc, but also to be a complete and independently executed poem.

Take the Villanelle: nineteen lines of poetry comprised of five tercets (three-line stanza) and one quatrain (four-line stanza). The first and third lines of the first stanza repeat alternately in the following stanzas. And the two lines of the refrain also form the final couplet (two lines) in the ending quatrain!

Here’s how it looks in my poem, “When Will This Baby Go Away?”

When will this baby go away?

He’s all mixed up with day and night.

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.


He cannot even talk or play.

Those dirty diapers are a fright!

When will this baby go away?


He sleeps and eats and cries all day.

Such bad behavior isn’t right.

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.


Please send him back. I’ll even pay!

I took his hand—he took a bite!

When will this baby go away?


Oh, why do babies act this way?

That belly button! What a sight!

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.


Will he become more fun someday?

I can’t imagine that he might.

When will this baby go away?

Don’t tell me that he’s here to stay.

This one poem took months. I worked on the book for two years. What fun I had! On my writing days, I could hardly wait to get up and get started. The hours flew by. Hours and hours and hours, rewrite after rewrite.

I could go on and on about all the forms, but I’d end up writing a book about writing a book! Instead, read the book first, and simply enjoy the story (and the fabulous illustrations by Janet Samuel). Then read the descriptions of the poem forms at the back. Which ones catch your fancy?

Try writing your own. Start with a limerick, or haiku (senryu), or a simple, rhyming couplet. Have fun with it! Let the words dance and sing on the page.

Maybe even try your hand at a Villanelle? You can do it!

I’d love to read your poetry. Thank you for reading mine.

Kathleen Long Bostrom is an award-winning author of over fifty books for children. Her books are published in over twenty languages. She is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA) who now writes full time. As a middle child, Kathy was both the new baby and the older sister who later became a mother of three herself. She knows whereof she rhymes!

For more information, please visit kathleenlongbostrom.com.

Happy Book Birthday to SINCE THE BABY CAME by Kathleen Long Bostrom!

Title: Since the Baby Came: A Sibling’s Learning-to-Love Story in 16 Poems

Author: Kathleen Long Bostrom

Illustrator: Janet Samuel

Publisher: Waterbrook & Multnomah Kids

Release Date: May 2, 2023

Format: Hardcover

Summary: Since the Baby Came offers a unique take on a timeless topic. The heartfelt and humorous drama unfolds completely in verse, addressing the full range of emotions a young child experiences when a new baby joins the family—from surprise and confusion to feelings of neglect and jealousy to wholehearted tenderness and affection. The book also introduces young children to the playfulness and fun of various forms of poetry, from senryu to villanelle.

For more information and parent/teacher resources, click HERE!

Also, please come back and visit this Friday when Kathleen will stop by to talk about her process of writing a book in different poetic forms. Don’t miss it!

Do you have a children’s picture book coming out soon? I’d love to wish it a Happy Book Birthday here on Frog on a Blog! CLICK for more information.

Trusting The Process by Kathleen Long Bostrom

I’m thrilled to feature multi-published children’s book author Kathleen Long Bostrom today on Frog on a Blog. I’m sure you’re familiar with many of Kathleen’s books. She’s the author of the award-winning Little Blessings series and several VeggieTales books, as well as lots of other books and magazine stories for children and adults. She and her books have received multiple awards and honors. Kathleen’s newest children’s book, Will You Be Friends with Me?, published just this month by WorthyKids, is a timely board book that celebrates friendship, differences, and diversity.

Kathleen’s here to talk a little about the connection between writer and illustrator, letting go and trusting the publisher and illustrator to help bring your story to life. Let’s hear from Kathleen!

Trusting the Process

by Kathleen Long Bostrom

My children were three, five, and seven when I began writing picture books in 1992. They’re all in their thirties now and two are about to be married. In other words, it’s been a long time!

Much has changed but one thing hasn’t: the questions I get asked. First and foremost is, “Do you illustrate your own books?”

The answer is an unequivocal, “No!” I can’t even draw a decent stick figure. Illustration is not my gift, although I’d love if it were.

I knew nothing about publishing picture books when I first began writing them, but I learned quickly. I discovered that it’s up to the publisher to choose the illustrator. People startle when I say that.  “What? You mean you get no say in choosing? That doesn’t seem fair!” I felt like that myself at first, but I’ve learned to trust the process.

After four years and 250 rejections, my first book, What is God Like? (Tyndale House, 1998) was accepted for publication. I imagined a beautiful, jacketed hardcover book with colorful, double-page layouts. The design crew decided otherwise. The trim size ending up being  9” x 6” x 6”, which fit just right in little hands. The illustrations were not gorgeous; they were simple, childlike. And absolutely perfect! The illustrator, Elena Kucharik, was known for designing the popular Care Bears. For her books with Tyndale House, she created four charming children of different ethnicities. It was brilliant. This was back in the 1990’s when diversity in children’s books was not a priority (should have been). Over the years, many children told me, “I’m in the book!” A bi-racial boy. A girl adopted from China. My blonde-haired youngest son. I couldn’t have asked for more.

That book led to a series called Little Blessings, which ended up in 20 languages around the world, selling several million copies. This did not translate into millions of dollars for me! But I had the joy of knowing that my work was in the hands of children all around the world. From the start, I learned to trust the process.

Spread from Will You Be Friends with Me? by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Jo de Ruiter

My newest board book, Will You Be Friends with Me? (WorthyKids, July 2020) is another example. I sought to show how friends can be different in many ways. That’s what makes life great! I imagined one child speaking to another, trying to convince that child that their differences shouldn’t be a problem. But when the art team got to work, they decided on a device called “daisy chain.” One child in each spread moves to the next spread with a new child, and so on. At the end, all the children stand together, showing diversity and friendship and joy. Again, perfect! And timely, too.

Spread from Will You Be Friends with Me? by Kathleen Long Bostrom, illustrated by Jo de Ruiter

With 50+ books published, most of those picture books, I can honestly say that only once have I not been thrilled with the illustrations and how the book turned out.

It’s a fabulous collaboration, author and illustrator. And children! I love it all.

And yes, I’m still learning. I hope that’s always true.

Kathleen Long Bostrom is a Presbyterian minister who has written more than 50 books, including the award-winning Little Blessings series, multiple VeggieTales books, and the upcoming board book version of This Little Light of Mine.

Her books, both for children and adults, have sold close to three million copies and have been translated into more than 20 languages including Chinese, Russian and Indonesian. In fact, Italian versions of her books may be found at the Vatican bookstore in Rome.

Kathleen and her husband Greg, and Ellie — her little empty-nest dog — live in Carlsbad, California. Kathleen is represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary Agency. For more information please go to www.kathleenlongbostrom.com.

Connect with Kathleen online:
Twitter: @KathleenBostrom
Facebook: Kathleen Long Bostrom / Author
Instagram: kathleenbostrom

Happy Book Birthday to WILL YOU BE FRIENDS WITH ME? by Kathleen Long Bostrom!

Title: Will You Be Friends with Me?
Author: Kathleen Long Bostrom
Illustrator: Jo de Ruiter
Publisher: WorthyKids
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Format: Board Book
Summary: Celebrate the differences that make life richer and more interesting with this inclusive board book about a budding friendship.

Making friends is something all children do, but sometimes it can feel scary. They might worry that no one will like them or that they are too different to find a friend. In this sweet board book, the narrator lists all the ways children can be different from a prospective friend: “I wake early. You sleep late. My hair’s curly. Yours is straight. I say, ‘Now!’ You say, ‘Wait?’ Will you be friends with me?” Instead of worrying that these differences will make friendship impossible, the narrator decides that: “We’re all different. That’s okay! Life is much more fun that way.” Perfect for children heading to school or any child in a new situation trying to make friends, this encouraging book reassures readers that diversity is what makes friendship–and life–so interesting.

Author’s Site: www.kathleenlongbostrom.com

Do you have a children’s picture book coming out soon? I’d love to wish it a Happy Book Birthday here on Frog on a Blog! CLICK for more information.