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Going with the Flow: Mastering Pacing and Rhythm in Children’s Picture Books with Carole Boston Weatherford

Creative Lab Syllabus

The best children’s picture books employ rhythm and pacing in concert to create suspenseful narratives that engage young readers and create emotional impact from the beginning of the story to the end. Balancing the elements of rhythm and pacing requires an understanding of language, storytelling techniques and the age group of the target audience. This Creative lab will immerse you in the art of creating engaging narratives with a keen focus on pacing and rhythm. You will explore the principles, techniques, and editorial decisions that make picture books come alive for young readers. Through interactive activities and practical exercises you will gain skills to craft stories that resonate with children and capture their imaginations.

Prerequisites and Advance Preparation

This Creative lab will be most productive for participants who bring a completed rough draft of a picture book manuscript or a partial draft that is well underway. Please bring your work-in-progress either on your device or printed double-spaced with wide margins to allow for notes. For writing exercises during the workshop, bring a lap top or a notebook, pen or pencil. Also bring one or more mentor texts that flow the way that you envision your manuscript unfolding.


Unit 1: Introduction to Pacing and Rhythm (30 minutes)

  • Introduction and course overview
  • One-sentence story statement that gets to the heart of your story
  • Defining pacing and rhythm
  • Examination and discussion of mentor texts

Unit 2: Principles of Pacing (20 minutes)

  • Understanding pacing as the heartbeat of your story
  • The role of dialogue, voice, narration, exposition, description and the order of events in pacing
  • Using sentence structure and length and page for pacing effects
  • Writing Exercise – Creating Pacing (20 minutes)
  • Guided writing exercise to practice pacing techniques
  • Reading aloud to “measure” pacing’s momentum

Unit 3: Principles of Rhythm (30 minutes)

  • How the musicality of language contributes to rhythm
  • Incorporating patterns (repetition and refrains) for rhythmic effect
  • The interplay between text and illustration in creating rhythm
  • Mentor texts that model rhythm.

Break (15 minutes)

Unit 3 (continued): Writing Exercise: Crafting Rhythm (20 minutes)

  • Engage in writing exercises to develop rhythmic passages
  • Share work with peers and receive constructive feedback

Unit 4: Balancing Pacing and Rhythm (20 minutes)

  • Finding harmony between pacing and rhythm
  • Maintaining suspense throughout the story
  • Recognizing when to speed up and when to slow down the narrative
  • Interactive Story Analysis (25 minutes)
  • Collaborative analysis of a picture book text with a focus on pacing and rhythm
  • Group discussion and insights from the analysis

Unit 5: Conclusion and Next Steps (15 minutes)

  • Recap of key takeaways
  • Q&A session


Participants will:

  • Identify the heart of a story.
  • Discover the elements that contribute to pacing and rhythm.
  • Analyze pacing decisions in mentor texts and manuscripts to identify an address pacing issues.
  • Identify passages in mentor texts where language helps to drive pacing. Identify passages in mentor texts where repetition and refrains create rhythm.
  • Collaborate with peers to identify elements that infuse rhythm and enhance pacing in stories.
  • Practice guided writing exercises to create rhythm and propel pacing.
  • Revise a passage from a work-in-progress.
  • Vary sentence and paragraph structure and lengths to achieve pacing goals.
  • Make a post-workshop revision plan to apply what was learned.
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