Lori Degman-feature

Poetry Monday: “A Snake Ate My Homework” by Lori Degman

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” —

Lori Degman!

(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]

Lori Degman

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:

  1. Join SCBWI – The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It’s an awesome organization with wonderful members and resources.
  2. Read as much as you can of the genre you like to write. Then write, write, write!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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]

[heading style=”1″]Extension Activities: “A Snake Ate My Homework”[/heading]


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.