My guest today is Lori Degman, author of the picture book 1 Zany Zoo (Simon & Schuster / 2010). The book is illustrated by Colin Jack. If you want to learn more about Lori and her books, visit her web site at http://www.loridegman.com/ .
Welcome to It Happened in Chicago, Lori!
LORI: Thanks so much, Scotti, for having me as your guest author!
Q: Please tell us a little about your ties to Chicago.
LORI: I've lived in the Chicago area all my life. I grew up in Wilmette, about 15 miles north of Chicago and currently live in Vernon Hills, which is about 30 miles north of Chicago. I enjoy taking the train down to the city, though I don't get there as often as I'd like.
Q: When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer?
LORI: I've always enjoyed writing in rhyme and often wrote poems and song parodies. I also enjoyed telling stories to my younger cousins and other children I'd babysit, but I never thought of writing them down. Years later, when I began reading picture books to my sons and I saw how much they enjoyed them, I decided to try writing rhyming stories.
Q: Please describe one of your earliest works (go back as far as you can remember). Who or what inspired you to create it?
LORI: The first story I remember writing was a chapter book called Susie Goes to the Moon when I was in third grade. I had three chapters written and my friend's baby brother got his hands on it and ripped it to shreds. I was too upset to start it again. I'm not sure what inspired it - it might have been all the space talk in the 60's.
Q: Can you name someone whose encouragement made a significant difference as you developed into a writer?
LORI: My twin sister, Julie, has been my biggest supporter - and critic! She has spent countless hours listening to and reading my stories and helping me with the plots, characters and rhyme. My other family members and critique group buddies have also been a great help!
LORI: My story (which was called 1 Wacky Zoo, at the time) won the Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories contest in 2008. As part of the prize, they offered the book to Simon & Schuster and they offered to publish it! A mini version of the book, written in English and Spanish, will be inside boxes of Cheerios this March/April and the hardcover will be in stores July 20th.
Q: What was one of the easiest things about writing 1 Zany Zoo? What was one of the most difficult?
LORI: The easiest, and most fun thing about writing 1 Zany Zoo was coming up with zany situations for the animals and writing the rhymes. The most difficult thing was rewriting it to make it a counting book - a suggestion I received from an editor that I am very glad I took!
Q: I understand that you work as an “Itinerant Hearing Teacher.” Can you tell us a little about that? How does this job influence your writing?
LORI: An itinerant teacher goes from school to school working individually with students. My students are hard of hearing and need extra support in areas such as listening skills, reading, and self-advocacy. I think time spent with children keeps me in touch with my inner child.
Q: What would you like us to know about your current work/s in progress?
LORI: I have two stories that my agent is submitting to a variety of publishers - There's a Cow in the Kitchen and Company's Coming and Rooster Flew the Coop. I have several other stories started but none are ready to submit yet.
Q: Anything else you'd like to share?
LORI: I just want to say to aspiring writers - keep writing and don't give up! To non-Chicagoans, I want to say - come visit - it's a GREAT city!!