Tuesday, October 22, 2019

THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY: Just Read with Lori Degman

BUY HERE: https://amzn.to/2N1VJuC

by Lori Degman

When I do school visits, I am usually asked “How long does it take to write your stories?”  And my answer is always, “It depends on the story.”  I spent several years revising my first book,1 Zany Zoo, and it was many more years before it was published.  In contrast, I spent five months revising Just Read and it sold about nine months later.  Sometimes a story just pours onto the page without the struggle others impose. I think one reason Just Read was easier to write and edit is because it doesn’t have a true story arc – and plotting is usually what slows me down.

Here’s how the story came about: 
Growing up, reading was hard for me – I was always in the lowest reading group.  Actually, I’m still a really slow reader.  It wasn’t until I discovered the type of books I really love to read (murder mysteries with short chapters and anything by Stephen King) and figured out the best place and ways for me to read (i.e.: not laying down or I’ll fall asleep), that I started to enjoy reading. Because of this, I wanted to write a story that would encourage kids to read – and to do it any way they want or can. JUST READ!  I wrote my first draft as more of a traditional story about a girl who has just learned how to read and loves it so much, she reads anything and everything she sees – cereal boxes, washing instruction tags on clothes, street signs.  It gets out of control because she just can’t stop reading**.  While writing that story, I thought it might be better to have a group of diverse kids who love to read and have a book club in a tree fort. Then I got the idea to break it down into when, where, what, how and with whom you can read.  At that point, it was just a matter of creating reading scenarios with those things in mind. 
**I’ve started working on that story again – so I call DIBS!
I shared the manuscript with my critique groups and other writer-friends and got some helpful feedback and a lot of encouragement to send it out – so I did and Meredith Mundy (then at Sterling) bought it.  Sterling found the perfect illustrator – Victoria Tentler-Krylov!  She had just been a runner up in the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Winter Conference Portfolio Showcase.  She topped herself this year – she was the grand prize winner of the showcase this past February!  So, needless to say, the illustrations for Just Read are amazing!

I want to give a shout out to SCBWI (Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators) because they’ve been instrumental in most of my publishing successes!  Here’s how they were involved with Just Read.  I had attended the SCBWI-New Jersey annual conference in 2015 and did a “First Pages” session with Sterling editor, Meredith Mundy, and another editor.  I was happy when they laughed in all the right places, but they both seemed uninterested in seeing more of the manuscript – or more from me.  I’m a professional rejectee, so I took it in my stride.  Well, five months later, I received an email from Meredith asking if the story was still available and to send it if it was.  Of course it was available (and it still is in case any editors are interested J)!  I sent her the story, and she took a pass, but invited me to send more manuscripts.  I did and one of them was Just Read.  

She also accepted my upcoming book, Like a Girl, which came out in August.  Thanks, SCBWI!

BIO: Lori Degman is a teacher for the deaf and hard-of-hearing students. She is the winner of Cheerios Spoonfuls of Stories New Author contest. Lori has two grown sons and lives with her husband in Vernon Hills, Illinois. Learn more about her at: loridegman.com


  1. Thanks so much for having me on your blog, Lynne Marie!!

  2. Replies
    1. It definitely is, and was nominated for a Cybils Picture Book Fiction Award this year. Thanks for stopping by My Word Playground, dear Lydia! Just Read!

  3. Thanks so much for sharing Lori's interview, Lynne Marie! I'm a school librarian at a school for diverse learners--many of them struggling readers--and I can't wait to share this book and your story of your own struggles with reading with them, Lori. It means SO much to my students to see adults who have struggles similar to them and see they can literally do/be anything they want. Thank you for sharing!

  4. I definitely see this as a good book for them. Will definitely appeal to a diverse audience and also ALL KINDs of doors into reading are featured.