Lori Degman is a master rhymer and the author of rhyming picture books COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS! And 1 ZANY ZOO. Lori is also the author of NORBERT’S BIG DREAM, which is equally delightful and in prose. If you write rhyming picture books and you have not read COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS!, you need to go get it right now. It is the prefect example of a picture book in rhyme done right. It should be required reading for all rhyming picture book writers learning the craft. Someone out there will get to learn directly from the rhyming virtuoso herself. I can’t wait to see who it is!
The rhythm and rhyme in COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS! and 1 ZANY ZOO is wonderful! Have you always been drawn to poetry? Which poets have influenced you the most?
Thanks—I work really hard to get the rhythm and rhyme just right. I’ve always enjoyed writing funny, rhyming poems, so writing rhyming picture books seemed like a natural next step. I think Jack Prelutsky and Shel Silverstein have influenced my style of writing—I love how they use humor, irony, and surprise. I’m inspired by contemporary rhymers: Jon Agee, Corey Rosen Schwartz, and Karma Wilson.
What do you think is the biggest hurdle writers face when trying to publish a rhyming picture book?
Rhyme gets a bad rap! Editors get so many rhyming picture book submissions, with overly simple rhymes and inconsistent meter, that they get turned off of rhyme. So, your meter has to be perfect and your rhyming words must be creative—and a great story doesn’t hurt either.
You also write in prose. How do you decide which to use for a certain story?
Typically, the stories I write in rhyme begin with a single, rhythmic sentence that pops into my head and it just has to be written in rhyme. Other stories begin as ideas—not specific lines—and they tend to be better-suited to prose. I’ve tried rewriting some of my prose stories in rhyme, but it has never worked, so I stuck with prose.
You have been a teacher of hearing-impaired students for many years. Has working with students who are deaf or hard-of-hearing impacted the way you use language and craft your stories?
I wish I could say it has – that would make a more interesting answer—but it really hasn’t. But, my love of rhyme and picture books has helped when teaching students phonics and reading.
Animals are a big theme in all of your books! What is your favorite animal and why?
It’s so hard to choose just one! I love both dogs and cats for their companionship. I also really love horses and lions because they are beautiful and seem really Zen to me!
If you could go back in time and give your pre-published self one piece of advice, what would it be?
I’d tell myself to be more assertive, have more confidence in my writing, and not to be afraid to submit my work. It took a while to realize that, when editors and agents read your manuscript for the first time, they’re hoping they’ll love it.
You have a new book coming in 2019, JUST READ. Can you give us a synopsis?
JUST READ is a series of rhyming vignettes about kids in a reading club, who celebrate where, when, how, what, and with whom you can read. Victoria Krylov is illustrating it and I couldn’t be more thrilled! I’ve seen several finished illustrations and they are magnificent!
Thank you, Lori! Please remember to support the mentors. Buy their books, leave online reviews and tell your librarians.