Thursday, July 31, 2014

Spotlight on Lori Degman + DMC Challenge

LORI DEGMAN        Photo: Brian Degman

Lori Degman is a teacher of deaf/hard of hearing students by day and a writer of picture books by night, weekend and school holiday. But it was Lori's children's poetry that first captured my attention during this year's March Madness Poetry tournament.  Following the competition, I kept tabs on her blog, where she celebrated National Poetry Month by posting a new, original poem each day in April.  With a winning combination of expert rhyming skills and a silly sense of humor, it's no wonder she's a successful author of children's picture books.  

Lori's debut picture book, 1 ZANY ZOO, was the winner of the Cheerios New Author Contest and a mini version was included inside 2.2 million boxes of Cheerios.  The hardcover was published by Simon & Schuster in 2010.  

Creston Books, May 2014
ISBN: 978-1939547071
Click HERE to find it via Indie Bound

Her second picture book, COCK-A-DOODLE OOPS!, was published by Creston Books this past May.  Chock full of puns and clever wordplay, it tells a story that is quirky, unexpected, and a delight to read aloud. Coupled with Deborah Zemke's charming illustrations, this book is a must-have for any child's bookshelf. Here's the synopsis from

When the rooster is away, who is there to ring in the day? Cock-a-Doodle Oops! is the humorous tale of a community of farm animals who band together to help out a rooster who is badly in need of a vacation. How hard can it be to wake up a sleeping farmer? While the rooster is gone, the pig, cow, sheep, and other farm animals attempt to rouse Farmer McPeeper with "cock-a-doodle SQUEAL," “cock-a-doodle MOO,” and "cock-a-doodle BAAAA," with hilarious results. The irresistible humor in this barnyard comedy builds vocabulary while encouraging children to cock-a-doodle-uh-oh along with the silly farm animals.

Today I invite you to get to know Lori a little better. Let's start with five favorites:
When I go into a grocery store and smell the produce section mixed with the smell of summer, I'm instantly brought back to when I was a child, grocery shopping with my mom.
My favorite foods are spicy ethnic foods!  I love Asian, Mexican and Indian - the hotter the better (within reason)!
I love traveling to cities and prefer to only be in my hotel room to sleep, bathe and dress, so I can spend my time exploring!  My twin sister and I started a birthday tradition of going for a long weekend to a city and we try to cover as much ground as possible. 
My favorite pastime is anything that makes me laugh! 
I have a lot of favorite quotes, so it's hard to pick just one. The one that came to mind right now is:  
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
I always thought Dr. Seuss said this but, when I checked to make sure I wrote it correctly, here's what I found: "The quote said to be from Dr. Seuss is actually widely circulated misattribution. [It] actually came from FDR presidential advisor Bernard Baruch, about his dinner party seating arrangements."  You learn something new every day!

What inspired you to write for children and what do you enjoy most about being a children's author?

I was inspired to write for children when my two sons were young and I'd read to them all the time.  They loved funny picture books best and that made me want to write stories to make them (and other kids) laugh too!  The thing I enjoy most about being a children's author is going to schools, libraries and other events and reading my books to kids!  I love when they get the jokes I wrote!

What is your writing process like?

I teach full-time and don't have a lot of time to write during the school year, so I'm typically limited to editing – if I even have time for that!  I do most of my writing in the summer and I write in spurts. When I get in the flow, I can work on a story for hours straight – unfortunately, that doesn't happen often enough.  I have a file full of partially finished stories on my laptop so, when I'm stuck, I open a bunch at one time.  I'll work on one until I'm stuck and then move on to the next until I'm stuck again and so on . . . Have I mentioned I have ADD?

What was the biggest challenge you faced in writing Cock-a-Doodle Oops!?

Once I settled on the rhyme scheme and decided that each animal would take a turn crowing, the beginning and the animal's attempts came pretty easily and were so much fun to write.  I thought of the twist ending early on too, but I couldn't figure out how to get there.  I had the hardest time coming up with how they would finally wake Farmer McPeeper, since Rooster couldn't do it.  I wrote several versions that I thought were too typical and struggled with it for a while.  

Oh, but your clever solution was worth the wait!  (Sorry folks, my lips are sealed.)

Rooster's special skill is crowing.  What, other than writing, is one of your special skills? 

I'm a pretty decent singer – I'm not great, but I can carry a tune.  I almost put singing as my favorite pastime because I sing a lot!

Would you please share a favorite selection from your book?

Without being too immodest, I have to say I love all the puns in this story!  I'm a punaholic!!  My favorite stanza is the last one, but I don't want to give away the surprise twist, so I won't share it here.  My favorite animal's attempt to crow is the sheep:

Text © Lori Degman, Illustration © Deborah Zemke

"I know that I'm quiet, but I'd like to try it.
Here goes," said a shy little sheep.
Her "Cock-a-doodle baaaa" didn't travel too faaa.
In fact, she made barely a peep!

I love that shy little sheep!  And also this self-confident cow:

Text © Lori Degman, Illustration © Deborah Zemke

"I'll teach you all how. I'm a talented cow.
Step back and learn from the master!
A-one and a-two and a- Cock-a-doodle-MOOOOOO!"
Boy, what an udder disaster!

If you had all the world's children in one room, what would you tell them?

I think I'd share the quote I chose above and tell them to be true to themselves and to not compromise themselves just to make people like them. Be yourself and you'll attract others who appreciate you and those people will be your true friends!

Finally, please tell us what you have chosen as this month's ditty challenge.

Soon after Cock-a-Doodle Oops! came out, I did a book launch with Deborah Zemke, the book's illustrator.  After reading the book, we asked the children to suggest other animals that could crow for Rooster.  Then, Deborah drew a picture of the animal and I came up with a rhyme to go with it.  So, my ditty challenge is to write a stanza following the style used in the book (see sheep and cow stanzas above), using an animal not mentioned in the book– no pigs, sheep, cows, chickens, mules, goats, or owls.  I'm looking forward to reading them!!

Cock-a-doodle WAHOO! 
While Rooster's away, the poets will play...

Your mission: wake Farmer McPeeper.

FARMER McPEEPER, illustration by Deborah Zemke

So who's ready for some animal antics? 
                                               ...barnyard buffoonery? 
                                                                        ...farmyard fun? 

Send your cockamamie cock-a-doodle stanzas to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right. For children under 13 who would like to participate, please read my COPPA compliance statement located below the contact form. Some contributions may be published on the blog as daily ditties, but all of them will be collected in one wrap-up post on Friday, August 29th.

Thank you for visiting Today's Little Ditty this month, Lori, and also for graciously offering a personalized copy of Cock-a-Doodle Oops! to one lucky participant.  A random drawing will take place at the end of the month.
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Before I announce the winner of July's Ditty of the Month Club giveaway, there were a handful of wonderful last minute entries, so do your funny bone a favor and check them out.  Thanks, again, to everyone who participated!  The variety was incredible, and the content... well, suffice it to say, you knocked my socks off. has determined that the winner of a personalized copy of THIS OLD BAND, by Tamera Will Wissinger and illustrated by Matt Loveridge, is:

TABATHA YEATTS – congratulations Tabatha!

Please join Margaret at Reflections on the Teche for some introspective thoughts and today's Poetry Friday roundup.


  1. Oh, this is fun, Michelle and Lori. What a book full of laughter Cock-a-Doodle Oops will be to read to kids. And, the challenge will be just that, a challenge, but fun! Thanks for a great post!

  2. What fun! A punaholic, indeed. And udder fun. :) Love it! I will have to think on the challenge. Thanks to both!

  3. The illustration of the sheep who barely made a peep -- how adorable is that?? Thanks for this fun interview. I had to stop a minute when I read that Dr. Seuss didn't say that quote. Very surprising!
    Thanks again, Michelle and Tamera, for THIS OLD BAND! :-)

  4. Thanks for the entertaining interview, Lori and Michelle. I read Cock-a-Doodle Oops a few months ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Will have to mull over who can wake Farmer McPeeper.

  5. What a delightful interview! I love Lori's pun prowess. I am really pitiful at punning and rhyming so I may leave this challenge for those who have skills.

  6. Looks like a cute book - and not the easiest of rhyme schemes to work with! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Looks like a perfectly adorable book! And I'm looking forward to writing a stanza for this month's challenge!

  8. Lori was one of the guest bloggers for Rhyming Picture Book Month this year, and it's great to see her work again here. This challenge sounds fun, Michelle.

  9. Love the interview and can't wait to read the book. It sounds udder-ly adorable.

  10. I absolutely LOVE the concept for this book, and can't wait to get a copy for myself! Thank you for the inspiring interview, Michelle and Lori!

  11. Love it! For some reason this reminds me of a barbershop quartet I've heard -- they've become well-known in barbershop circles for "Old McDonald Had a Deformed Farm." I'll have to brainstorm some animals to add to the farm.

    1. O.M.G. that quartet is SOOOO funny! Thanks for sharing the link, Keri. I'll be interested to see if that deformed influence creeps into your contribution this month!

  12. Thanks Lori and Michelle for a great feature and this fun challenge. I'm thinking and drafting.

  13. Thanks so much for the interview, Michelle, and for all the wonderful comments!! I can't wait to read the verses you all create, so send them in!!

  14. Thank you for the insightful interview with Lori Degman, Michelle! I love her books! And thank you for this ditty challenge. My neurons are firing and I hope to come up with a ditty to share. = )

  15. Thanks for all the great comments, everyone! I'm looking forward to seeing your fun wordplay. :)

  16. Hi there Michelle! I am loving your interview series, this one in particular is a lot of fun! Not very familiar with Lori's works yet, thanks for introducing her books to us. Will be on the lookout for them.