Thursday, April 12, 2012

Meet Lori Degman - Rate Your Story Judge

A day late - but worth the wait! 
Today’s guest is a rhyming best.



In all her glory,
At Rate Your Story,
Please welcome judge...
 


Degman, Lori!

(okay, stop snickering...or there’ll be bickering!)


About Lori Degman (in prose):Lori Degman is a teacher of Deaf/Hard of Hearing students and writes picture books stories in her free time.  She lives in Vernon Hills, IL, about 30 miles north of Chicago, with her husband, John and their two dogs.  Her two sons, Sean and Brian, are grown and living on their own.  Her story, 1 Zany Zoo was the winner of the 2nd annual Cheerios New Author Contest and a mini version was distributed inside 2.2 million boxes of Cheerios.  The hardcover was published by Simon & Schuster in 2010. 1 Zany Zoo won the Mother's Choice Award - Gold Level for Picture Book
Humor in 2012.




Miranda:  I’ll stop rhyming now.  I hear your first published book was printed over a million times.  Wow!  Can you tell us about the process you went through to make it so strong and each word perfect?  Was it ever rejected?  How did you make it stronger?



Lori: Was it ever rejected?!  You're kidding, right?  Yes, I have six form rejections to prove it - not a personal note in the bunch!  The only reason I don't have more rejections is because I stopped sending it out. I've revised the story a zillion times!  It originally was in couplets until I got some great advice and turned it into a counting book. Because I added the counting element, I had to change it to four-line stanzas.  My editor, Julia Maguire gave me great suggestions of how to improve the story and I also made changes based on illustrations Colin Jack drew.  It was very much a collaborative effort.  I'm a stickler for using exact rhymes - near rhymes make me crazy!  I'll work as long as I need to to find the perfect rhyme.  In the book, there are two rhymes that are not exact - 'keys' and 'free' and 'line' and 'designs'.  Those kind don't bother me as much but I still tried to get them to change it - no luck!  That's how much power a debut author has :-)  Here's a secret: when I read the story to kids, I say 'key' and free' and 'lines' and designs'.

Miranda: Nice insights.  Now...I also happen to know you exclusively write in rhyme.  Got tips for our rhymers out there?

Lori: Actually, I now have a couple of stories in prose but I feel more confident in rhyme - that's why I asked to only rate rhyming submissions.  Maybe, after I've written more stories in prose, I'll trust my judgement more.

I guess I'll answer your question now :-)

~ Have rhymezone.com open when you're writing.  It not only has great lists of rhyming words, but it also has synonyms and antonyms.

~ Read Dori Chaconas' article, Icing the Cake - it has great advice on story rhyme and meter!

~ Have someone read your story out loud so you can listen for places where the meter is off.   The reader shouldn't have to think about how they're reading the story to make it flow - it should read the way it would in a non-rhyming story.

~ Be creative in your word choices.  I love when I'm able to come up with a surprising rhyming word - especially when they are multisyllabic!

~ Make sure your story is suited for rhyme and you're not sacrificing your story to make the rhyme work.

Miranda:  Love the tips.  And I’m a huge fan of Dori Chaconas, too!  Do you only read rhyming books, too?  Or do you have other favorite books and genres?

Lori: I love reading funny books so, as long as they're funny, I don't care if they're in rhyme or prose.

Miranda:  Humor is great, isn’t it?  So, what is the hardest part about writing for children?  And what's the easiest (if anything!)?

I  don't think writing for children is hard - it's much harder for me to write for adults. Revising can be very hard, though.  When I really want to keep particular words or phrases and I just can't make them work, it's hard letting them go!  Actually, the hardest thing for me is to not use too many exclamation marks.  I had to go through my answers
and take out a bunch!

The easy part comes after your book is published and you get to read it to kids - that's the easiest and funnest part by far!!

Miranda:  I’m noting all the exclamation marks...at least you know that about yourself! (look there’s another one!)  Now...getting down to business.  Do you have an agent?  If so, can you tell us more about the process of becoming agented?

Lori: I went on an agent search about six months before I won the contest.  I had emailed back and forth with a few but nobody offered to represent me.  One of the agents I really liked was Jamie Weiss Chilton at Andrea Brown and, after I won the contest, I contacted her again and she became my agent.  Unfortunately, we parted ways last month, after being together for three years.  It was very amicable - she's a terrific person and agent!  Now, I'm submitting to editors on my own and it feels great getting my work out there again!  I may try to find another agent if the rejections start piling up - we'll see what happens.

If you're looking for an agent, a wonderful site to use is querytracker.net - it's a one-stop-shop for finding and contacting agents and keeping track of your agent search.

Miranda: Most of your stories are quirky, wacky, and hilarious.  Tell us a hilarious story about Lori Degman, even if it's embarrassing.  We'd love to hear it!

Lori: This is probably the most embarrassing thing that's happened to me as an
adult!   I have a recurring topic on my blog called "Comedy of Errors" in which I share goofy things I've done. I've been saving this story for that but, since you asked so nicely, I'll share it here first.  Its a long story but hopefully it'll be worth it.  Here goes:

About a year ago, I was going to meet my sister, Mindy, at the beach to go sea glass hunting.

Let me stop here to say that, while I have a great relationship with Mindy, we did have a lot of the typical big sister (her) - little sister(me) conflicts growing up so there is an underlying bit of fear factor involved!

So . . . I had to stop to get gas on the way to meet her and, while the gas was pumping, I realized I had money in my wallet that my husband needed and I'd have to go home, which meant I'd be late meeting Mindy. You wouldn't think this would be a problem but I knew she'd be upset because she's always on time - actually, she's usually early - and
knowing she'd be upset made me upset!

I quickly called her and said I'd have to swing by the house to drop off the money and would be a little late.  She said, "What!!  I'm almost here!!  How long will it take you!!  I don't want to cancel!! . . . . !!"  I said, "Don't worry, I'll get home as fast as I can!"  I frantically turned on the car and started to drive, when I realized the gas was still pumping!  I could see the hose pull out of the car's gas hole(?) and the gas was still pouring out!  I slammed on the brakes and ran to shut off the pump.  That's when I found out gas is very slippery! I flew in the air and landed in the puddle of gas - my whole right side was soaked!  I managed to get up and turn off the gas.  The manager
 ran out to help me.  He said, "Here, let me wash your hands," and proceeded to drizzle dirty water from the windshield squeegee on my hands and then gave me a greasy rag to dry them.  That's when I realized I broke my finger!

Did I mention it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon and the gas station was packed with witnesses?

I hobbled back to my car and, sitting as much on my left side as I could, started to drive home.  I realized Mindy was still on the phone and was very confused about what she was hearing!  As I drove home, I explained what happened and that, of course, I wouldn't be able to meet her at the beach.  She said, "What?!!  I'm almost there!!  Come on!!  We'll never find another day to do this!!  I'll come to your house and wait while you change clothes!!   . . . .!!  So, that's what happened - I went home and got cleaned up - that's when I found the massive bruise on my leg - and we went sea glass hunting at the beach as planned!

Afternote: It took five washings and a week on the patio to get the gasoline smell out of my favorite sweatshirt!!

Miranda:  I don’t think there’s a story that’s ever going to beat this one!  Wow, thanks for sharing – and you should share it on Elizabeth Stevens Omlor’s Banana Peelin’ Thursdays if you haven’t already.  Thanks for the awesome entertaining story....and speaking of stories, what are the links to your books/sites/etc?

Lori: Here are the places you can find me and my book:
www.Loridegman.com
www.1zanyzoo.com
www.Loridegman.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lori-Degman-Childrens-Book-Author/122001301143422
https://twitter.com/#!/LoriDegman

Miranda:  Thank you so much Lori!  Comments are open!

33 comments:

  1. And to clarify: I wrote those horrible rhyming lines in the intro. Not Lori! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Miranda, I think the rhyming intro is cute!! Thanks so much for the interview!

      Delete
  2. Oh my goodness! That is one funny story Lori! The squeegee part had me crying but the the fact that your sister was still on the phone had me howling. I think I was laughing so much because that is something that would surely happen to me too. :) You are lovely Lori. And Miranda, thanks so much for introducing all of these wonderful people to us. This site is genius.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know - I couldn't believe when he held that dirty water over my hands like he was being such a hero! I agree, this site is awesome!

      Delete
  3. Congrats on the book. I second Elizabeth, that story was hilarious. I agree that it's much easier to write for children then it is for adults.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Rena! I just finished my poem for day 11 - I love your poetry challenge!

      Delete
  4. Miranda, you posted a great interview. Lori, we would make the best Lucy and Ethel (I'm quite rounder, so I'll be Ethel) duo. Your story was so funny! (oopsies, exclamation...I'm so guilty of excessive exclamaton points). All of your tips are so instructive. Thanks, ladies. This is my first visit, but I'll certainly be back! oops! shucks! Oh well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Pam, you've only seen a head shot - I'm plenty round enough to be Ethel! It's so hard not to use !!, especially when you feel enthusiastic about what you're saying! Definitely come back to this site - it's amazing! Also, if you write picture books, submit some for a rating!

      Delete
  5. Oh my Lori, very funny, but your poor finger! So, when did you stop by the hospital?
    Thanks for sharing and for all the rhyming advice. Congrats again on your book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never went to the Dr. - I thought it would get better but it just got more bent out of shape and the pain never went away! Finally, after about six months, I went to the dr. and after a couple of physical therapy sessions and a lot of work, it's pretty much back to normal. It still clicks when I bend it, which is kind of creepy!

      Delete
    2. You are one tough chick! Thanks again for sharing :)

      Delete
    3. With this story, you may be one click away from another MAJOR book deal. I know, I know. I couldn't resist. You had to know someone would go there.

      Delete
  6. Lori-- A few quick things--

    1. That story was a riot and the fact that you never, ever, EVER had to tell that story about yourself makes it even funnier (and says a lot about you!)

    2. Near Rhyme--HATE HATE HATE. Will not--CANNOT do it! :)

    3. Exclamation points--LOVE LOVE LOVE--never leave home without them!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    4. Rhymezone.com--Truly a "rhymers" best friend, I seldom write in rhyme without it!

    And finally I would like to speak for Lori's critiquing services. She critiqued one of my rhyming picture books that I was really stuck on about a month ago. She gave me some very helpful suggestions that will help me improve it greatly. It's a picture book that's been put away for a for a couple of months and I truly believe that her suggestions will help me give it new life! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great responses, Natalie! And, thanks so much for the kind words - I hope my comments were helpful! You're a great rhymer so it was fun to do your critique!

      Delete
  7. I'm sorry, I could not help laughing at your story. Unbelievable! Thank you for sharing your advice, journey, resources and gas station mishaps.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Heather! I'm able to laugh at it now - thank goodness there's not a video of it - at least not that I know of :-\

      Delete
  8. That was a very funny story! (I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time though.) Thanks for sharing, Lori! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Honestly, it was pretty upsetting and embarrassing at the time! Luckily I don't take myself too seriously so I an laugh at it now!

      Delete
  9. Hi! My name is Cathy!!! And I am a member of E.P.A.!!! (Exclamation Pointers Anonymous)!!!!

    Gee, I guess I am not that anonymous anymore, but I feel comforted that others here love !!! also!

    Great interview. Hurrah for fewer near-rhymes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Cathy! Sign me up as a member of EPA!!! Maybe we should come up with a substitute mark so we can be anonymous. How about ^ or > I'll try it out: I am SO excited ^^^ or I am SO excited >>> I just doesn't feel the same!

      Delete
  10. I hate it when that happens with the gas hole! I have an irrational fear of death by explosion, so falling in gas would pretty much put me over the edge. Thanks for the laughs, youse guys!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I never said "gas hole" before but hearing it in my head made me smile! That's an interesting fear - I have a fear of choking to death! I think the explosion would be quicker, therefor easier! Let's try to avoid both :-)

      Delete
  11. Ok! I am laughing, hooting, cackling, and all other forms of laughter! Even one of those incidences would've been funny...but all at once! Oh my!!!!
    Sorry about the finger part, though. Ouch!
    I've yet to use Rate Your Story. It sounds like a wonderful service and all I hear is positive feedback. I do have a rhyming story that needs new life. I may have to try it out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, penny! You should definitely send something in - what have you got to lose? I'm one of the rhyming raters so maybe I'll get yours :-)

      Delete
  12. What a delightful interview! Your "embarrassing story" definitely is one of those "only funny in retrospect" sorts of stories. And I love 1 Zany Zoo!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, Ellen - it took a while before I could see the humor in that story. Now I love it! I figure, you might as well laugh at yourself - everyone else is :-)

      Thanks for the nice Zoo comment!!

      Delete
  13. Thanks Lori for a great interview and sharing your story.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This was a fun interview, Lori. I really enjoyed it.

    ctny

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh my word, what a crazy story. I just popped along here to check out Rate your story and I get this amazing tale. Glad nothing worse happened with the petrol, yikes!

    I find it comforting that all your tips are things I already do, not that that means anything is nearer to submission :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. I know, Catherine - I could have blown up!! unfortunately, doing all the right things doesn't guarantee publication!!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Great post, Miranda! Thank you so much, Lori, for sharing all of the rhyme-writing and agent-getting info...as well as the amazingly wacky story (hope your finger healed quickly) at the gas station. :) Just discovered this site via Julie Hedlund's post on Darshana at Flowering Minds...the internet is definitely a spider-web of discovering wonderful places!

    ReplyDelete