|Simon and Schuster, July 2010|
Welome, Lori! So your debut picture book came out last July with Simon and Schuster. Here’s a big HIGH FIVE congratulations to you!
What if 1 curious boy told you he saw 2 zebras in goggles and flippers or 4 elephants packing their trunks or 7 hippos playing musical chairs…would his story add up?
Question ONE: How has reading picture books to your children made you a better parent?
It allowed me and my sons to spend countless hours of quality time together. Reading picture books with my sons sparked conversations that we may never have had and gave us a ton of laughs.
And quality time with our children always makes us better parents, right?
Question TWO: What are three of your favorite picture books (because we all know you have way more than three)?
- The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein - It was the first time I realized the sacrifices my mother made for me and my siblings.
- What Do You Say Dear? by Seslye Joslin & Maurice Sendak - I love the irreverence and simple surprise.
- The Dinosaur Dreamed (I can't find my copy or anything online so I don't know who wrote it) - For months it was the last thing I'd read to my sons before going to bed - it has a lot of warm memories for me.
Question THREE: What was your road to publication like?
I had a kind of crazy road to publication. My book, 1 Zany Zoo, was the first picture book manuscript I ever wrote (at the time, it was called You'll Never Believe What I Saw At the Zoo). The title just popped in my head and I thought it sounded like a great first line for a picture book. I actually wrote it about 20 years ago - on a typewriter. I submitted it seven times and received seven rejections over the next few years. Back then, without the help of the internet, I had no idea there were organizations like SCBWI. I never heard of critique groups and I never met other children's book writers. I was completely on my own. After about four years of writing and submitting, I went back to work. I was so busy with work and my kids' activities that I stopped writing.
Fast forward to 2007. Both of my sons were in college and I had much more time to write, so I pulled out my old manuscripts and started revising. I found SCBWI on the internet, as well as Verla Kay's Blueboards. With the help of both, and a fantastic online critique group, my writing improved and my knowledge about children's book publishing increased. I read about the Cheerios New Author Contest on the Blueboards and entered my manuscript - then called One Wacky Zoo. In November, 2008, I won the contest and the manuscript was purchased by Simon & Schuster. I also acquired an agent, Jamie Weiss Chilton, with Andrea Brown Literary Agency. After a few rounds of revisions with my editor, the book finally went to print. In spring 2010, a mini version of the book was included inside 2.2 million boxes of Cheerios. Then, in July of the same year, the hardcover was released.
Oh, what a GREAT story! Success, at last, for you. How encouraging to the rest of us. You shared so much info with us. Might I refer you to contact Julie Hedlund about sharing your story for her “How I Got An Agent” series? We would all love to hear that, as well. Congratulations, again!
Question FOUR: How might teachers use your book in the classroom?
Because it's a counting book, it's a no-brainer for learning to count. Kids enjoy searching through Colin Jack's awesome illustrations. The book is written in four-line rhyming stanzas, so it can be used to work on phonics or poetry. It also includes a lot of higher-level vocabulary, so it can be used to introduce and support "power words." In addition to these things, children enjoy the zaniness and humor in the text and illustrations.
I can see it working for Pre-K through 1st grades very easily for counting. And for 2nd through 3rd grades, I can see the poetry and vocabulary for sure.
Question FIVE: What are some writing tips you can offer to writers seeking publication?
- First and foremost, join SCBWI - the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. They have a wonderful website and they offer workshops and conferences throughout the year. I have never met a more giving group of people!
- Join a critique group to get some honest, thoughtful feedback on your work. Let's face it, our parents, spouses, children and friends are a bit biased.
- Learn as much as you can about writing in your genre so your work will be the best it can be.
- Don't let rejection discourage you - it's so subjective! As a matter of fact, 1 Zany Zoo received a very negative critique just one week before it won the contest! Not everyone will love your work, but someone will, so keep writing, revising and submitting.
I love that. “Not everyone will love your work, but someone will.” That’s a quotable quote that will inspire us all. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us today. Now, go write the next book!
Lori Degman lives in the northern suburbs of Chicago with her husband and two sons and is a teacher of the deaf and hard of hearing. Make sure you stop by her website, too!
If you missed any of the previous HIGH FIVE interviews, you can check them out too. See everyone next month for another HIGH FIVE!