S’pose a poet says stuff all rhymey
Slips in here with words sublimey…
So says I, “It ain’t no crimey–”
slinky, slithery, super-slimy
s’Monday, s’Monday, s’poetry timey!
Salutations, squirmy souls! I don’t know about you, but I worked all weekend, so I’m feeling pretty low to the ground today. In fact, if my boss weren’t such a snake in the grass, I might even call in with some sort of excuse, like indigestion (you try swallowing a deer whole). But no, I slunk over to my desk, cheered only by the fact that we can all slide into a new week with a bit of verse from the Habitual Rhymer herself.
So please bag your rattlers and give a sibilant salute to the author of today’s hiss-erific poem “A Snake Ate My Homework” —
(Can’t see the video? REFRESH your screen or watch it on YouTube here!)
A Snake Ate My Homework
A snake ate all my homework, Ma’am, I swear to you, it’s true.
It swallowed it with one big GULP. It didn’t even chew.
I chased it to my brother’s room; it headed straight for Pete.
It ate his high-top sneakers and the socks right off his feet.
It gobbled up Pete’s football pants, his soccer shirt and shorts,
His baseball bat and catcher’s mitt (I guess the snake likes sports).
It slunk into the bathroom; poor Dad was in the tub.
It drank the water, soap and all. It gurgled, GLUB, GLUB, GLUB.
My dad slipped-slided, gave a yelp, and wrapped up in a towel,
but not before the snake escaped, so Dad joined in the prowl.
We tracked it to the kitchen; it had opened up the fridge.
The only things it didn’t eat were Mother’s snacks for bridge.
“There it goes!” my father called. “It’s heading toward the door!
We have to catch that snake before it swallows any more.”
Suddenly, I thought of how I’d get my homework back.
I gathered the supplies I’d need to launch my sneak attack.
I grabbed a jar of pepper and a box fan from upstairs.
I aimed it at the snake and said, “I hope you said your prayers!”
I sprinkled pepper near the fan; it floated on the breeze.
It sprayed the snake right in the face — “Ah CHOO!” Wow! What a sneeze!
The sneeze was so gigantic that it knocked me to the ground,
and everything came flying out; it scattered all around.
I found this on the neighbor’s lawn; I’m here at school on time.
So now my homework isn’t late. But, please, excuse the slime!
[heading style=”1″]Guest Poet Snickerview™ ~ Lori Degman[/heading]
What’s Up with Lori
Lori: who are you, where are you, and how long have you been a rhyming fool?
I live in a northern suburb of Chicago with my husband, John, my two dogs, Pippa and Tucker, and my two sons, Sean and Brian (when they come back to visit). Having only one published picture book, I’m not quite ready to quit my day job, where I’m a teacher of deaf/hard of hearing students. I would love to write full-time and get my kid-fix by doing school visits — maybe some day . . .
I’ve been a rhyming (and punning) fool for as long as I can remember! I have always loved writing goofy rhymes and song parodies, but I didn’t think of writing picture books until I started reading them to my sons. I decided to give it a try, and since this was back in the day before the Internet, I never realized there was a whole kidlit world out there! I wrote and submitted for a couple of years, with no publishing success. When my kids both entered school, I went back to work and didn’t pick up writing again until about five years ago, when my younger son went to college.
I’ve seen you around the Internets, and I say you seem a slinky sort. So ‘fess up – is your poem autobiographical? Did you make up excuses for your teachers?
Honestly, I had a habit of turning in homework late, but I never made up excuses — I was too chicken! Some of my siblings (who shall remain nameless) were pretty good at it, though. The idea for “A Snake Ate My Homework” came when a student told me her dog ate her hearing aid. I thought that would be a cute story, but there aren’t many kids who wear hearing aids, so I changed it to homework. I knew I couldn’t write a story about a dog eating homework — much too cliché — so I thought a snake eating everything in sight could be funny.
A lot of the poems and stories I write start with a rhythmic sentence that pops into my head. I got the idea for my picture book (see below) when the sentence “You’ll never believe what I saw at the zoo!” popped into my head. Another story I wrote from a sentence I heard in my head is There’s a Cow in the Kitchen and Company’s Coming. I’ve also gotten story ideas from overhearing things kids say or from newspaper headlines.
Your picture book is called 1 Zany Zoo (Simon & Schuster, 2010). Are there algebra-eating snakes in there, too? And how long did it take you to slither along the path of publication?
As I mentioned above, 1 Zany Zoo started with that one line and grew from there. I thought it had the perfect rhythm for a rhyming picture book. There are no snakes in the story (though Colin Jack, the illustrator, drew a lot of snakes escaping from their cages), but there are zebras in goggles and flippers, hippos playing musical chairs, and lizards in sunglasses wailing on the sax, plus a menagerie of others.
1 Zany Zoo was actually the first picture book story I ever wrote, and it sat in a drawer for about fifteen years until I went back to writing. I submitted it to six different publishers with no success. Then I heard about the Cheerios New Author Contest…I entered the story and it won! A mini version was included inside 2.2 million boxes of Cheerios in spring of 2010, and the hardcover was released in July of that year. Because it was the Cheerios contest winner, the General Mills PR people set up all sorts of interviews with newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV. It was a wild and crazy ride!!
After winning the contest, I signed with Jamie Weiss Chilton at Andrea Brown Literary Agency, but we have since parted ways, very amicably. I’m enjoying submitting on my own for now. I have five completed picture book manuscripts, including two in prose.
What is your favorite part about being a children’s writer, other than stalking snakes and throwing hiss-y fits?
There are many things I love about being a children’s writer, but I think the thing I like the most is reading my book to kids and seeing them enjoy it! Other things I love are the creativity and playfulness of writing, especially in rhyme.
It’s also great to be able to work wherever you want — in the kitchen, in the back yard, on the train, or lying in bed when you’re trying to fall asleep. And you can wear whatever you want — sweat pants and t-shirt, pajamas, even a bathing suit with goggles and flippers…not that I have, but I could if I wanted to!
I also love the children’s writing community! I’ve met so many awesome people (like Renée) (Aw, go on.) and have been able to participate in so many wonderful things, like doing this video blog post. I’ve also participated in Poetry Month blogging and have been a guest blogger on many kidlit writers’ sites. I’m even a judge now on Rate Your Story! I just love helping rhymers hone their craft! (And what a great FREE service Rate Your Story provides for authors — I highly recommend it!)
Do you have formal training in writing poetry?
If by formal training you mean I know what I’m doing…then, no. I write poetry like I play piano and recorder — by ear!
What’s your best advice for kids who want to write poetry?
Have fun with it. If writing a poem for you becomes torturous, then find a different topic or style of poetry. As with any kind of writing — read, read, read and write, write, write! And check out this list of great poetry websites for kids.
What’s your best advice for writers who want to get their poetry/picture books published (other than “don’t bother”)?
If you’ve read other interviews I’ve done, this may sound familiar, but I truly believe you need to do these things to be a successful children’s author:
- Join SCBWI – The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It’s an awesome organization with wonderful members and resources.
- Read as much as you can of the genre you like to write. Then write, write, write!
- Find a critique group to join with writers who write in the same genre. SCBWI can help you with that. You learn so much from getting critiques and from doing them, too.
- Learn as much as you can about writing and publishing. There are so many great websites, blogs, and message boards — you’ll never have time to get to all of them! Conferences and workshops are wonderful for learning craft, meeting people, and re-energizing yourself.
- Be patient and fight the urge to submit before your work is ready. Put your manuscript aside for a bit and go back to it later with fresh eyes.
- Don’t give up and don’t be discouraged by rejections. Often, the difference between published and unpublished writers is that the unpublished writers quit!
Are there any children’s poets/writers that have inspired you and that you recommend?
This is going to be so predictable, but here you go: Dr. Seuss, Jack Prelutsky, and Shel Silverstein.
Can we come visit you and peruse your wares? (Online, of course, not at your house! Unless you can get your snake to slime and/or eat our mortgage payments, in which case we’ll be right over with our paperwork.)
Please do! I have two websites, one for me and one for my book. I also have a blog which I update in spurts — in April I posted a new poem every day but, sadly, I haven’t posted much since. As I said, I’m a judge at Rate Your Story, and I also offer more in-depth critiques through my website.
I’ve done several school visits, which I LOVE, but I’m not able to do them often because I’m working full-time! I have to pick and choose them carefully, or arrange them when a school district is in session when mine is out.
Here’s where you can find me:
Author website: Lori Degman
Author blog: Habitual Rhymer
Book website: 1 Zany Zoo
Facebook author page: Lori Degman – Children’s Book Author
Twitter ID: @LoriDegman
Thanks for stopping by, Lori, and for adding “A Snake Ate My Homework” to our video poetry library!
Thanks for inviting me, Renée!
[heading style=”1″]More Stuff About Lori[/heading]
- Lori’s complete bio
- Learn about Lori’s critique service
- Check out Lori’s tips and resources for student writers
- Watch Lori’s TV interviews on ABC and CBS.
- Read other interviews with Lori at Banana Peelin’, Write Wild, and Sharon Stanley Writes.
[heading style=”1″]Extension Activities: “A Snake Ate My Homework”[/heading]
- Writing prompts:
- Write an excuse poem! Using Lori’s poem as a model, start by making a list of everything that could happen if a ___________ ate (or messed up or sat on or chewed…) your _____________. Then craft your list into an excuse poem. Think about to whom you are giving this excuse and why!
- Lesson activities:
- Kidzone has more snake-themed ideas than you can shake your tail rattle at.
- Arts and crafts:
- Artists Helping Children has a hiss-tastic selection of snake crafts and art projects.
- In the kitchen:
Video Location: Backyard Snake Pit, Slitherville, IL.See more poems in my poetry video library. “A Snake Ate My Homework” copyright © Lori Degman. All rights reserved.
A very fun poem, and so visual! As always the interview and activities are great as well.
I think we need a poem from snakes POV. Why was it so hungry? What happened after the bug peppery sneeze?
Thanks, Jim! Great idea about telling from the snake’s POV!
Thanks again, Renee for asking me to share my poem for Poetry Monday! You took me out of my comfort zone and helped me prove I could do it and survive!
I forgot to say how much I love the extension activities!!
I’m so glad you said yes, Lori! I love your poem — and you did a great job with the video! Come back any time. 🙂
I might take you up on that, Renee!
Hello Lori, terrific poem – my kids got a kick out of it. Thanks for the writing advice. Wonderful interview ladies!!!
Thanks, Jennifer, that’s good to hear!
Funny poem Lori. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before you get another fabulous picture book published.
Thanks, Rena – if only you were an editor 🙂
What fun. Snakes are so fascinating, all those wiggles even when eating. The poem made me laugh, especially that final part with the slime. I know quite a few third-fourth graders who will love this. Thanks Lori & Renee!
Thanks so much, Linda! I really like snakes – except when they’re eating!!
A very fun poem, Lori! I enjoyed the interview and finding out the story behind your story 1 Zany Zoo!
Thanks so much, Tina!
Loved your poem Lori! It’s so fun to put a voice with face! 😉
Love No Water River too! Keep em coming, Renee!
Thanks, Natalie! I know what you mean – I was great hearing you read Cactus Toe! It was really cute and I loved your reading of it!
I love the poem! And the interview! And this post! And the little snakes! 😀
Thanks! Thanks!! Thanks!! Renee will have to thank you for the little snakes 🙂 I love your enthusiasm!
I loved the waterfall in the background, it seemed to fit that slippery snake!
Great tips, Lori, and as always, the “more stuff” by Renée is fabulous!
Thanks, Joanna, I love the waterfall too – it’s my favorite part of my back yard! I didn’t make the connection with the slippery snake though. I agree, Renee’s extra “stuff” was awesome!
Thanks to everyone for stopping by and cheering Lori on! It’s been such a pleasure having her on NWR with her fabulous poem. I love snakes! 🙂
I love Lori! Your poem is super and you did a fabulous job of reading it. You don’t give yourself enough credit….I kept looking for a snake to come slithering up your chair from that pretty little water feature in your back yard! It would make a hilarious picture book…well done you!
Sharon you are so nice!! I should have done something with a snake – that would have been a fun surprise! Looking at the video again, I realized the thing I don’t like about it is I’m not smiling – I smile all the time (I’ve got the laugh lines to prove it) so it seems weird that I’m not. Too nervous to smile, I guess 🙂
I actually wrote it to be a picture book but haven’t sent it anywhere. Maybe I will now – thanks!
Great job, Lori and Renee. The poem is hilarious and Lori is a natural reader/reciter. As always, I’m impressed by Renee’s top-notch presentation with great kid-friendly follow-up activities.
Thanks, Laura! I agree – Renee’s introductions and her own poetry readings are amazing! She has such a soothing voice!
What a fabulous poem, it was so fun! And great interview too 🙂
Thanks so much, Catherine!
Loved this poem and Lori you did a great job on the video, loved everything about this post. Thankyou Renee.
Thanks so much, Diane!
A ssssensational poem! Love it! So nice to learn about you Lori. I checked out your 1 Zany Zoo on Amazon. What an impressive debut for both you and your illustrator. Wonderfu! Thanks, as always, Renee. Your interviews are so much fun!
Thanks ssso much, Iza – I appreciate it!
This is fantastic! It is so cute and so fun and so creative! I could just picture each and every scene. You have such talent!! It was so nice to learn more about you in the wonderful interview.
Wow, Penny – thanks so much!
Lori, as I read your poem, I could actually see this poem playing out: The characters, their expression (especially dad in the towel), the swallowed objects floating and landing all over the place, and finally the slime soaked homework. I even imagined the teacher’s expression. All this to say, I loved your poem. You already know I’m a huge fan. Great interview ladies! Renee you always know the right questions. Good job to both of you.
Thanks so much, Pam! I wrote it as a picture book so I’m happy to hear it put pictures in your head! I agree, Renee does such a fantastic job with the interviews!!
Your poem made me laugh, Lori. My father used to be a home inspector and one day he found a boa in somebodies attic. It was a vacant home, so he brought the snake home. (I’m not sure what my mother thought of this.) We kept that snake as a pet until it bit the neighbor kid. I still don’t know what happened to the snake, although the neighbor kids is fine. But that snake never ate my homework. Maybe I should have tried. 🙂
What great fun that poem is! Fantastic possibilities for illustration, as well.
I so enjoyed reading the interview, too. THANK YOU, both!
Thanks, Hannah! Your boa story is a riot – you should write it! I wonder what a teacher would say if you blamed it on the snake?
Sorry, I meant to put this under Hannah’s post 🙂
Thanks so much, Beth!
Very funny poem, Lori. I love the punchline!. Hilarious! But I couldn’t load the video for some reason… 🙁
Thanks so much, Carrie! I always try to have a funny and surprising last line – I’m glad you liked it! Renee said to refresh the page if you can’t see the video.
I love Lori’s poem and story and advice. That “be patient” one continues to be a struggle for me… I think a snake ate my patience a long time ago!! Also, on the theme: in my new book which is set at the zoo, one of the scenes is Big Snake Day, where they measure the snakes in front of a crowd. I am in the process of creating a very long stuffed snake to re-create this scene at school visits. Perhaps I will also bring along Lori’s book (which I LOVE). Thanks, Renee and Lori, for sharing!
Love the big snake project, Irene!
Great poem, Lori — VERY funny!! And I loved hearing your Cheerio publishing story. You are a breakfast cereal Cinderella!!
Thank you, Renee, for bringing us another fabulous feature.
Thanks, Mary Lee! I love “breakfast cereal Cinderella”!! Mind if I steal it?
Oh, what fun! I just have to post this poem next to my homework board come September…although it might give my sixth graders some novel excuses they will most certainly want to try out! And thanks for the activity suggestions – these are always so appreciated.
I do hope someone finds the extension activities useful.
Thanks for popping in, Mary Lee and Tara!
Thanks, Tara! I’d be honored to be on your bulletin board! I love the extension activities too!
Enjoyed Lori’s poem and learning more about her. Thanks for the big gulp of fun :)!
Gorgeous poem and I love how it came into being – thank you.
Thanks so much, Marjorie!
That poem is so funny…
It makes me wonder, though. My son might have one of those snakes in his locker or his backpack judging by the state in which he hands in his homework…
Too funny – I had a son with the same problem!
What fun! Loved your poem, Lori – and thank you, Renee, for all the extras. I don’t comment every week but I read No Water River each time you post, without fail!
Thanks, Julie! I’m like you – I don’t always comment but, now that I’ve done a post and have gotten all these wonderful comments, I’m going to make sure I find the time to comment on others’ posts!
Wonderful post, Lori and Renee! Great job with the video. Thanks for sharing your story. (And, though I’m sure more great published works are forthcoming, I’d keep that snake around to handle the inevitable rejection letters….) ;0)
@ Julie — That is so good to know, Julie — thank you for saying so, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post.
@ Robyn — Hmmm…I may need to invest in a snake, too…
Thanks, Robyn! I might try that excuse on an editor – sorry, I got a letter from you but my snake ate it before I could read it 🙂
What a rich post. The elementary schoolers I work with will love Lori’s poem. It’s funny. It tells a story. It has onomatopoeia — all of the things younger readers love in a poem.
I completely agree, Laura! The visuals are so important, and Lori has given them to us in spades. 🙂
Wow, thanks so much, Laura! If only you were an editor 🙂
Thanks to you too, Renee!
We had a bird who would sneak up and eat our kids’ homework, and we have a rabbit who will chew on books, flip flops, and purse straps, so this poem seemed fairly believable to me! I can’t seem to talk my kids into getting a snake, but if I did, it would probably go after their homework. Or our rabbit. Anyway, what a fun poem! Thanks for sharing it, Renee.
That’s funny, Tabatha! You have the makings of a very funny poem/picture book!
I’m sorry I haven’t replied to recent comments – I was out of town for several days! I’m going to get to them now!
I can’t say I love snakes, but I love your poem, Lori! I really enjoyed reading about your journey to publication as well. I wish you lots of luck on your current submissions. Thanks, Renee, for introducing me to Lori!
Thanks so much, Kerry!