Today, I'm so excited to host my friend, Lori Calabrese, theaward-winning author of The Bug That Plagued The Entire Third Grade and National Children's Book Examiner for Examiner.com.
Oh, wow. The Iron Bodkin is the place to be. Not only do you serve up great books, but great snacks, too. Sign me up for a pumpkin latte (is that considered a snack?) —it is the season and I’m totally hooked on them!
Pumpkin latte coming up...along with my nice cold Mt. Dew. Cheers!
Your picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, is about a boy who believes he can win student of the year at the Bug-A-Fair by exhibiting the bug he caught. Were you a kid who wanted to excel at school?
Oh, boy. I have to admit, I was a kid who wanted to excel at school. Fortunately, the importance of school was instilled in me early on and it’s always been important to me to give my best at whatever I do.
Giving your all is a great trait to have! It definitely shows up in your writing. Aside from that, what unique pieces of yourself show up in your writing that make your books unique?
I like to think I bring my fun side to the table when it comes to writing for children. I started writing after the birth of my two boys and I credit them for renewing my sense of discovery. I always say because of them I see the world differently and have a new appreciation for the occasional gas and poop joke! Just today, I rediscovered the joy of a whoopee cushion! I try to bring that humor into my writing and hope young readers get a smile out of reading my books.
It definitely comes through! The Bug... is a delightfully funny read.
How long have you been writing? Do you write only picture books? Aside from winning the 2009 Dragonfly Publishing Best Children’s Book Award and the publication of The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, what have been the highlights of your writing career?
I’ve always been a reader, but I didn’t rediscover my love of writing until 2007. After college, I was a Television Producer for ten years, so I was very focused on my career and didn’t have much time for creative writing, except what I was doing for work like writing scripts for tv shows and dvds. It wasn’t until the birth of my two boys that I made the leap to become a full-time freelance writer. I LOVE writing picture books and consider it one of my favorite genres, but I also write for middle-graders and teens.
Each stage of my writing career has seen different highlights and I find that to be one of the great things about writing—you never know what’s going to come at ya’. Of course, when I was first starting out, having my first article published in Stories for Children Magazine was a big accomplishment. Then I graduated from the Institute of Children’s Literature’s Writing for Children and Teens course and had the fortunate opportunity to build my publishing credits with amazing magazines like Boys’ Life, Odyssey, Appleseeds, Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr., and Turtle Magazine for Preschool Kids. In addition to winning the Best Children’s Book Award for The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, I also had the fortunate opportunity to write a work-for-hire picture book for John Hancock’s Back-to-School campaign titled, Oh! the Possibilities. The illustrator, Si Huynh did such an amazing job illustrating the characters and I have to admit, it was a lot of fun to see that one come to life!
Ah - a fellow ICL graduate! I knew we had a lot in common. It sounds like you've been writing for a few years. During that time, what has frustrated you most about the children’s lit industry and what advice would you give to a writer just starting out?
I find the current picture book problem to be very frustrating and just wrote an article about it for Donna McDine’s blog:
Unfortunately, it’s a time when parents are forcing kids to chapter books as a means to advance test scores, few agents will even consider picture books and publishers aren’t plucking them out of the slush pile. It’s not impossible to sell a picture book by a newcomer, but there are many big waves one needs to conquer and authors need to be aware that the market is bad.
As any other writer can attest, I also guess the rejection aspect can be one of the most frustrating as well. You can be certain you wrote the next best-selling novel or picture book, but you have to convince an agent or a publisher that there’s a need for your story and that it will sell. We all have to understand this is a business, so for a writer just starting out and even for seasoned veterans who still get rejection letters (yes, they do!), I think it’s important to not take it personal and don’t let it get you down. No one likes rejection. It hurts no matter what your age. But it can be overcome with the right attitude. Sylvester Stallone (yes, I’m a big Rocky fan!) once said, “I take rejection as someone blowing a bugle in my ear to wake me up and get going, rather than retreat.” That’s so true!
I’m sure you have other projects in the works. What do we have to look forward to?
My idea list is way longer than I can possibly tackle, but I take one thing at a time. I just finished another humorous rhyming picture book and wrapped up my first middle grade novel titled, Playing Hardball for ages 8-12. I’m currently on the hunt for an agent and hope I’m able to share this book with young readers in the future because it was so much fun to write. I’m also knee deep in a young adult novel I’ve been working on that’s also a contemporary sports novel. Even though I’m finding this one more challenging than the first, it’s been exciting to see it take on a life of its own.
These all sound great! Any chance we’ll see your guinea pigs, Up and Down, in a story sometime soon?
If it’s up to my family—yes! There’s certainly a lot of inspiration there!
Well, I look forward to all of your future projects and am honored to have hosted you today!
Thanks for having me, Amy and congrats on The Iron Bodkin. I LOVED it!
Thanks Lori! :)
If you have any questions or comments for Lori, please leave them below. I'm sure she'll be checking in throughout the day.
For more information on Lori, please visit her website:
You can find Lori's book at your local bookstore or at amazon.com:
The Bug That Plagued The Entire Third Grade