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Regular news and insight from our many poets, writers, educators and facilitators

03 July 2021

Posted by Beth McKeeman

Cheer For Squiddly Diddly

Number – 11

My favourite thing about our group of young writers is just how engaged and expressive they are. When Susmita read The Story of Squiddly Diddly, written by Theodora Shilito and inspired by Julia Donaldson, the moments of peril dragged them in, despite genre and age conventions letting us know that it should ultimately turn out alright in the end.

Squiddly Diddly is a poem with the message of recycling, anti-litter, and conservation. Through meeting various ocean creatures who get into trouble with ocean pollutants and then require the help of Squiddly Diddly, the message is simply delivered. There is a rhyming structure of couplets and a refrain used each time Squiddly Diddly appears, which is flipped on its head when Squiddly Diddly becomes the one in trouble.

We split up into four groups to create our own poems inspired by Squiddly Diddly.

The first group comprised of Amelia, Conrad and Shani who were tackling the jungle as their habitat.

Next was Ella, Katie and Sofija who were working with city creatures.

Focusing on the sky was Gene, Rowan and Ruhaan.

And finally, Eleanor and Kamille used the desert as their setting.

The first thing to do was to think of different types of creatures that lived in these environments. As our jungle explorers pointed out, some of these might cross-over, mosquitos have a habit of turning up where ever there’s still water, and pigeons can be assigned to both sky and city. Then there’s the challenge of naming the creatures. Often the names chosen by Julia Donaldson and Theodora Shilito are alliterative or rhyming, such as Myrtle the Turtle or Tina the Tuna in Squiddly Diddly. Look out for Paulie Pigeon, Juno the Surfer of Dunes, and Sid Sloth among many more.

Knowing what the message of your poem is, the overarching narrative, and the refrain, is also essential before writing. However walking around the room between the groups it’s clear that some of this was led by the rhyme structure during the writing process.

Eleanor and Kamille shared their great way of finding rhymes, by going through the alphabet from A-Z until they found a word. I even spotted the alphabet written in the front of a notebook to prompt this frequent endeavour. As you’re doing this, you should take time on each word to think of more than just swapping out the first letter. Of course, Amelia’s tactic of Google is equally valid if not quite as accessible for everyone as when we were meeting online.

The other tip for writing in rhyme is to be flexible with what word you wish to rhyme. Perhaps there’s a way to change the order of your sentence so you end on another word, or if you skip ahead another line was there something else you could say instead. When hovering near the city group I overheard them debating how to rhyme table with a word for walking. Their original tactic was to go through synonyms for walking, and then for descriptors of table before striking on the idea to use what was on the table instead - a sausage roll to rhyme with stroll!

Wandering around this week, listening to each of our writers support each other to create something was really special. We’ve got our final session of the term next week, a showcase event for the anthology and to share some of what we’ve been working on, including Amelia’s book! Which she has printed a proof copy of and you should check out our instagram to see.

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