Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Lisa Perron Talks About Rhymes and Patterns in Science ~ by Christy Mihaly

Lisa Varchol Perron

If you haven't yet heard about poet/author Lisa Varchol Perron, you will, because she's been working on a bunch of books that are coming out soon. I first got to know Lisa as a gifted poet through Poets' Garage, an online critique group. Now we also have an illustrator in common -- the talented Sheryl Murray (who illustrated my Patience, Patches!) illustrated Lisa's forthcoming book, My Love for You (Little Simon/Simon & Schuster). Meanwhile, Lisa's beautiful Patterns Everywhere (Millbrook), about the natural patterns all around us, is due out April 4. In it, Lisa explores the patterns of nature in rhyme, accompanied by gorgeous photographs and seriously scientific sidebars.

Sample rhyming text: 

Ripples stretch across the beach,

marking where the waves can reach.

Sand responds to water's flow. 

Patterns, patterns come and go. 

I invited Lisa to share her thoughts about poetry, science, and kids' books, some of my favorite topics. Read more on today's post at Archimedes Notebook by Sue Heavenrich. 

GROG: Welcome, Lisa, and congratulations! Tell us how Patterns Everywhere came to be. Did it start out in rhyme?

Lisa: Thank you so much, Christy. Patterns Everywhere began on a family hike. My husband ( a geoscientist) was pointing out patterns in the landscape to our daughters. 

I wrote it in rhyme from the get-go. Rhyming, metered verse has an expected pattern of stressed beats and end rhymes, so it felt like a natural fit.  

GROG: That's a great reason for this book to be rhyming, Lisa. Tell us how you write in rhyme -- and why.

Lisa: One of the biggest challenges is integrating the facts while keeping the verse natural. I enjoy jigsaw puzzles, and I get a similar feeling when piecing together a rhyming book, especially nonfiction. When writing nonfiction in rhyme, I start out with the topic and then decide what I want the tone and feel of the book to be. The rhymes come later, as I develop the focus of each spread.

One reason I write in rhyme is that research shows that rhythm and rhyme are important in developing early literacy skills. I saw how this worked when my kids memorized rhyming books and then started recognizing the words. Rhyming books were often the ones my daughters requested over and over. Re-readability is so important with nonfiction because repeated exposure helps readers retain information. 

GROG: How long did you work on Patterns Everywhere?

Lisa: I spent several weeks researching and deciding the scope of the book. This involved interviewing my husband as well as reading books and online sites. I generally research a bit and then start writing to figure out where the information gaps are. 

It took me a few months to write a draft that was ready to share with my critique partners. After that, several rounds of revisions. Then I had two geoscientists review it for accuracy. I submitted the manuscript to Millbrook a year after I first got the idea, and the book will be released about three and a half years after the idea sparked.

GROG: Where did the photos come from? Whose idea was the book design?

Lisa: I originally included reference images with my manuscript, as well as illustration notes. My editor suggested a photo-illustrated book and I thought it made perfect sense. The designer, Viet Chu, found beautiful photographs to showcase the patterns, and the team at Millbrook was receptive to suggestions I made as the book developed.

Rhyming text, sidebar, stunning photo (Millbrook Press ™-- an imprint of Lerner Publishing Group)

GROG: What do you want kids to take away from this book? 

Lisa: My biggest hope is that kids will feel excited about spending time outside. Patterns Everywhere is an invitation to explore our natural world with curiosity and wonder. The more we deepen our appreciation of the world around us, the more invested we become in taking care of it.

GROG: My thoughts exactly! So, tell us about your writing life ... What keeps you going?

Lisa: I write most days because I love it. Whether I'm working on a poem, picture book, or novel, I often start with a feeling or image that I want to capture. Sometimes I think I'm writing a poem but it turns into a picture book. Novel writing is more painstaking for me but it's really satisfying when the story comes together.

GROG: Okay! What about these forthcoming books?

After Patterns Everywhere and My Love for You this spring, I'll have two nonfiction from Little Simon/Simon & Schuster, illustrated by Jennifer Falkner: Tell Me about Space and Tell Me about Oceans. Then in summer 2024, Rocks Are All Around, which is co-authored with my husband, Taylor Perron, and illustrated by David Scheirer. 

GROG: So, that's five rhyming books announced for 2023 and 2024, nonfiction or informational fiction. Wow! Plus, I understand you have more yet to be announced. Congrats again. And for those wondering what is your secret, do you have some parting words of wisdom?

Lisa: We can spend a lot of time second-guessing ourselves and getting in our own way. When I feel stuck or self-conscious, I read some poems I enjoy, including Mary Oliver's "Invitation," and try to be more like the goldfinches who sing "not for the sake of winning but for sheer delight and gratitude."

GROG: Many thanks, Lisa, for stopping by and sharing your passion and insights! Congratulations again -- and happy writing.


  1. Great post! Thank you Lisa and Christy. It's always fun to see how other people approach their writing.

    1. Yes, I appreciated the insights into Lisa's writing process -- and can't wait to read that novel she's been working on ...

  2. Thank you so much for the interview, Christy, and for the wonderful Pattern Walk activity, Sue. I'm always happy to talk about poetry, science, and kids' books!

    1. Thank you, Lisa, I enjoyed learning more about your books and you!

  3. This was a great interview. I loved how she compared writing in rhyme to completing a jigsaw puzzle (and maybe that explains why I love writing in rhyme...I'm a puzzle fiend!). It was nice to read this since so much we hear about publishing these days seems to be anti-rhyme. It's so important for literacy (my 2-year-old also loves finishing sentences in his rhyming books), and I feel determined to get my rhyming books out there!

    1. Thanks for the comment, Alyssa -- you are so right! Keep reading rhyme to your kiddo!!