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 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 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 - 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:!/LoriDegman

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

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Meet Katrina DeLallo - Rate Your Story Judge

It’s Wednesday!  This week, we’ve got the perfect author for the season.  With Easter just around the corner—a time of spiritual reflection and, more commercially, a time of fantasy and magic—our Author is right on cue as her two biggest passions are Christianity and fantasy stories.  Please welcome one of our gentlest judges (I personally like to think of her as the 'Paula' of our Panel)...

Author Katrina DeLallo!
Miranda:  Welcome!  Katrina, I ‘think’ you’re officially our youngest judge.  But I know you're not new to writing.  When did you begin?

Katrina: I’ve been scribbling on paper since I can remember. There’s a picture of me when I was two where I’m lying on the floor drawing on a piece of paper. I haven’t changed much. I still write and draw constantly. (I have a lot of sisters that inspire me with ideas.) I currently work at an optometrist’s office full time, and my writing gets done in the evenings, or in quiet times at work.

Miranda:  I bet a lot of other writers who visit Rate Your Story have similar stories, especially about working a full-time job and squeezing in writing.  Many times, people don’t feel comfortable officially telling others they’re a “writer.”  Can you share with readers some of the first things you did to establish yourself as a writer?

Katrina: Well, I didn’t think I could write until I took the evaluation test from the Institute of Children’s Literature (ICL) back in 2008. My results were encouraging, and I enrolled in the ICL Writing Course. I graduated from the Institute of Children’s Literature on August 30, 2010. During that time I joined the Institute’s Writing Retreat (fabulous!), started contributing stories to the Monthly Write Off they have there (most of the time you get critiques!), joined a Critique Group over at Critique Cafe, purchased Market Research books, and began submitting. I subscribed to Duotrope’s Digest, Children’s Writer, and just researched bunches of publishers.

Miranda:  Great process!  Since many of our writers are still pre-published, what do you take into consideration when judging a submission to help mentor them?

Katrina: I presume they know the “show, don’t tell” rule, and basic grammar and spelling rules. So I rate on how well I think a story fits a particular age group, how concise it is, and how “tightly” the story is written. If I read it and I’m mostly hooked, it gets a better rating. If it becomes WORK to read it, it doesn’t get such a high rating, even if the story is good, because I know an editor will not take the time to work through the pacing the way I would.

Miranda:  OK, we all know you’re a fantasy lover.  What are some lessons you've learned about world-building and writing stories in that genre?

Katrina: Make your world authentic. I hate worlds that aren’t “real,” where they took earth, added some fancily-named creatures and called it Somewhere Else. And I’m sorry, but adding apostrophes to gibberish (like Kwet’zl) does NOT make that a fantastic world. Worlds have to have rules and origins same as earth does. If they have magic, there has to be a reason for the magic. There has to be a reason for the cultures and the people, and the dialogue SHOULDN’T be modern, unless you’re writing sci-fi. There should be back history... you don’t have to share that back history with your reader, but the writer should have that history for themselves, to KNOW their world. Their knowledge will come through the tale.

Miranda:  Fantastically laid out!  Thanks.  Now, earlier you said that you love getting critiques and joined a critique group.  How did you form your first critique group?  Has it been helpful?  Would you recommend new writers join one?

Katrina: My first (and present) critique group was started probably about two years ago in May of 2010. One of the moderators at Writer’s Retreat started the Critique Cafe site for all us newbies just getting a foot in the door of the writing world. Mine’s a fantasy/ mystery group of writers for MG and YA writers, though we also critique PB’s, fiction, and queries for each other. We’re pretty accommodating. We’ve been together pretty much since day one, and it’s just wonderful. There’s nothing like getting those extra eyes to critique your work, and since everybody contributes a little differently you can see where your ms needs work because EVERYONE critiques that one part the same. I definitely recommend every writer joins at least one critique group. You’ll get honest help that way.

Miranda:  You also like to write Christian stories.  Do you have market or writing tips for our writers who like to craft stories in the religious/spiritual realm?

Katrina: Not really. I’m a very Catholic writer, so a lot of my writing tends to be very God-oriented and with spiritual conflict. Actually, spiritual themes tend to bloom in a lot of my fantasy writing, so my Christian stories and fantasy stories are actually quite paralleled, aside from the world in which the events take place. I do recommend the Christian Writer’s Market though, by Sally.... Fabulous! 

Miranda:  Enough about Katrina DeLallo, the writer. Tell us more about Cat when she's not writing!

Katrina: Unfortunately, Cat has many interests. When I’m not writing, I’m either:
  1. Reading
  2. Drawing
  3. Making Clay Creations
  4. Researching
  5. Singing
  6. Browsing Writer’s Retreat.
Miranda:  Nice!  Where can we stalk the Cat?

Katrina: I can be stalked... er, found at,,,

Comments are open!  Have a Happy Easter and enjoy the beauty of spring.  Get writing!