PBChat Mentorship Journey & Lessons from Lori

What a year it’s been… (and I’m not even talking about the thing that rhymes with shmamdemic…) It’s reached Lord Voldemort/He Who Must Not Be Named level in our house because it has been SUCH a stressful year. And because of it (among other things), my writing career has never had so many ups and downs in such a short amount of time (and I haven’t even been writing for THAT long)!

Let’s talk 2020…

  • I went back to work for the first time since 2017 = no writing productivity
  • The Lord Voldemort thing started (“it was dark times Harry”) = no writing productivity
  • I got a new job = even less writing productivity
  • We bought a house and moved = more stability, but still… no writing productivity
  • So many house projects/unpacking = no writing productivity

And then……

PBChat Mentorship Application is due! …..oh what the heck, why not!

Last year (2019) was the first year that PBChat Mentorship was open for applications and I did not get selected for a mentorship and I shouldn’t have because truly, I was not ready. Last year we were able to apply to four mentors, this year, only two, and I still only applied for ONE…Lori Degman.

I said to myself, If I get this mentorship, it will be a sign to keep going. A sign to not to give up on this fun dream of writing fun goofy stories for my kid (and others).

I applied to work with Lori Degman for a couple reasons:

  1. She was accepting applications for humour and/or rhyme;
  2. She’s a pun nerd;
  3. She was a teacher pre-retirement so open to teaching and mentoring in its truest form ❤ I knew she would be a great teacher and have patience with me 😉
  4. Her latest books were about monsters travelling around the United States (Travel Guide for Monsters, Sleeping Bear Press) and a book celebrating amazing women (Like a Girl, Sterling Publishing).  

In my mind – a perfect match!

So, did I freak out when Lori selected me as a mentee!? YUP!!!

And not really like a good freak out from excitement. It was like uh-oh I’ve literally written nothing for the last 6 months. So then began the busiest and most productive writing time of my life. I whipped out every manuscript I’d ever written and just tried to get as many as improved as I could before I’d have to show them to her. We focused mainly on my submitted manuscript but it has really tightened up and I learned so much from her through that process. So much growth, and so many lessons learned!

Lessons from Lori

To say I am grateful for Lori is an understatement! Lori selecting me really turned my writing career toward just that, a possible career. It was always a nice idea, something that I really wanted and made me realized that the dream of getting to hold my first published book in my hand for the first time would literally bring tears to my eyes.

So here are just a few things I learned from Lori:

1. Never settle for something that “just works.”

Make sure your manuscript sings, and is not just talking in a monotone voice. Every word has to push your story forward. There is no room for filler words when you only have 500-700 words to work with.

This is especially hard to do in rhyme because to change a line and have to admit it could be better after so many hours of coming up with something that finally fits the meter (or getting an awesome rhyme pairing) is SO HARD! But in the end, you’ll be happy that you put the extra effort in and made your manuscript amazing.

2. Revise, revise, revise!

During the mentorship, Lori held with her local SCBWI chapter a session about revising and it opened my eyes. It was mostly about prose but it was still so amazing to watch her slash through unneeded text. If you can get your point across in 10 words, don’t write 50. The illustrator needs to have a part in the story too, so if you are saying something in your manuscript that can be shown by the illustrator, leave it out!  

3. A good rhyming pair is not worth sacrificing the plot.

I submitted to Lori a certain soup related manuscript where I rhymed “gazpacho” with “macho” and thought, ok rhyme of the year award to ME! It IS a pretty stellar rhyme but I had to change my whole story around just to make this one rhyme work. Worth it? No. Because the rest of the story was….not great.

There are so many more, which as I slowly memorialize my experience, I’d be happy to share. I am so grateful that I had this experience to work so closely with her.

Here is what Lori has to say about mentoring:

“I really appreciate Jocelyn’s praise about being a good mentor, but I think it’s just that I’m good at spotting talent. It’s easy to help someone who has a strong manuscript and a great ear for rhyme and meter, as Jocelyn (and my other mentees) have! I think mentees get a huge confidence boost just from being selected and that confidence helps them become stronger writers and revisers. I’m so proud when a mentee works hard to polish their manuscripts and it leads to signing with an agent or selling a manuscript – or both!” (Lori Degman, 2021)

Thank you Lori for all the amazingly kind words (your cheque is in the mail!) 😉

To support Lori, check her out at www.loridegman.com and please check out Lori’s published titles, they are all so wonderful!

PBChat Mentorship

Now the creator of all of this wonderfulness was Justin Colón. Dude is straight up the coolest cat in kidlit (and he just landed his own agent – wow)! We are expecting BIG things from Justin. Here are a few words from him about his PBChat Mentorship program:

“It’s my goal to provide authors and illustrators, especially marginalized creators, quality resources, opportunities, and access in their path toward publication. Those resources include free chats, giveaways, mentorships, and more to help develop their craft and business savvy. Most of all, I want to give picture book creators a safe space to establish a community so there is a greater sense of solidarity. A safe space to pool resources; develop connections; share thoughts, feelings, ideas, and experiences. A place to learn, connect, and grow. A place to lift each other up.

And in thinking about authors and illustrators, I think about the readers. I think about the mentees and members of PBChat getting their books onto shelves around the world and how we can have a positive and profound impact on readers’ lives. That’s why it’s especially important to me that PBChat foster the voices and stories of marginalized authors and illustrators. In supporting and lifting up marginalized creators, we provide doors, windows, and mirrors to readers of all ages and all backgrounds. But most importantly, to marginalized children.” (Justin Colon, 2021)

If you are interested in applying for the 2021 PBChat Mentorship Program, please subscribe to receive updates and info at www.justincolonbooks.com

I was very fortunate to be granted this opportunity and hope it brings many exciting announcements in the not-so-distant future!

Thanks for reading!

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