This is the continuation of an interview with Children’s author, Lori Calabrese. Please be sure to read Part 1 of this article first.
AM- In your writing process, do you test out your material? ?
LC-I definitely test out my writing material. Every writer will tell you the importance of joining a critique group. When you receive critiques on your work, you’re looking for suggestions to make your work better, so it will inevitably be published. There are many things a fresh eye can see in your work that you can’t. My husband reads all of my writing and I have a wonderful critique group that gives me great feedback. ??I also try to seek out manuscript critiques online through contests and at writing conferences. Just this past winter, I participated in my very first writer’s intensive with SCBWI (The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) where I was able to read one of my manuscripts to a table of ten writers and an editor. It was such a great experience!
AM- What has been the most rewarding part of writing for children?
LC-I’ll never forget my very first school visit where I read one of my stories to a class. The opportunity to see their faces light up at certain points and to see what they liked (and didn’t) was so rewarding! I also enjoy receiving constructive criticism letters from children who have read my books. I save every single one of them.
AM- What was the publishing process like? Did you query a lot of publishers? Did you have connections? How was your experience with the process overall? ?
LC-The publishing process is like banging your head spastically on your keyboard! I don’t want to scare any aspiring writers away, but the truth is, this is a tough business to break into. I’ve received my fair share of rejections just like everyone else, but you’ll hear all the time that what differentiates a published author from an unpublished author is perseverance. You can’t give up. You have to keep working on your craft, honing your skills, learning the ins and outs of the business, and submitting your work. Like many new writers, I was anxious to get my manuscript out when it wasn’t quite ready. After receiving a few rejections from the larger publishers, I revised and revised and decided to submit it to Dragonfly Publishing Inc.’s Picture Book contest which is held annually. It was a delight to hear that my manuscript won 1st place in the 2009 contest and is now being made into a book. It’s great that various alternatives such as small presses exist because they do give a new writer the opportunity to break into publishing. Because of it, I’m a member of Indie-Debut 2010, a group of first time authors whose books are being published by small presses from all over the country.
Am- There are a lot of people who think writing children’s books is easier than long fiction, when in reality it is much more specific when it comes to content and method. Did you find the process harder than your other writing or does it come natural to you?
LC- ?I envy those for whom writing comes natural. I agonize over everything I write and everything I submit, whether it be a 32-page picture book or a 200-page novel. There’s definitely more to writing a picture book than some may think. It’s extremely difficult to write a story in less than 500 words. You have to take in account not only the length, but also your language, complexity, and conflict resolution; making sure it’s age appropriate. It took me a little more than a year of writing and revising my picture book, The Bug that Plagued the Entire Third Grade. However, on the other hand, it only took two weeks to write my picture book, Oh! The Possibilities. I think every project is different and you have to put in as much time as necessary to get a manuscript where it needs to be to be published.
AM- I always tell my students to read a ton of books in the genre they want to write. Did you read a lot of children’s books before you wrote? ?
LC-I’ve read tons and still do. It’s so important to see what’s being published, and analyze what writers do that you like and don’t like. It’s a great way to learn the craft of writing and study voices, styles, and plot structure.
AM- For an aspiring children’s book author, what do you think is the most important thing for them to do? What is your advice for a successful career?
LC-If you’re an aspiring writer, you’ve probably heard the tips I’m about to give you a million times—Read a lot and write every day. When I first started writing and read those tips, I’d say, “That’s it? Really? What else? C’mon. There has to be more!” I was certain these authors were holding back on the secret to success. ??But now that I look back at what’s helped me the most, it really is reading everything you can get your hands on, and keeping up with practice. You really have to keep at it and don’t get discouraged with rejections.
AM- Your new book, The Bug that Plagued the Entire Third Grade won Dragonfly Publishing Inc.’s 2009 Best Children’s Book Award. Tell us about the book, the award, where you can get it and what your plans are to promote it.
LC-As I mentioned earlier, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade is a picture book about the play on words when we say, “I’ve caught a bug.” It can mean catching an insect, or catching a cold! This amusing picture book celebrates the ambitious spirit of a third-grader as he tries to study, and uncover a distinct insect on the brink of extinction. Young readers will be buzzing as they follow Matt’s quest to win his school’s Bug-A-Fair. But as he ignores his running nose and worsening cold, will he create a third-grade epidemic? As for the award…Since 2008, Dragonfly Publishing, Inc. has held a children’s picture book contest. The 2010 contest is currently going on! DFP has to keep their submissions closed most of the time because they get too many and just can’t physically handle the volume, so Senior Editor Pat Gaines came up with the wonderful idea to give aspiring authors and illustrators an opportunity to get their books in print by holding this contest. I had learned of the contest and entered each year. Unfortunately, the manuscript I sent in 2008 didn’t make the cut, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn my entry for 2009 (The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade) won 1st place for Best Children’s Book. The Bug that Plagued the Entire Third Grade, for ages 2-8, will be available this summer. Be sure to visit my website for a release date and purchase information. But you’ll be able to purchase the hardcover from the DFP bookstore, Lulu.com and Qoop. The paperback will be available from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble.com, Tower.com and more. In order to promote the title, I have a fun virtual book launch all lined up. I hope everyone will pop in because this Bug Party will be buzzing! Keep an eye out for a virtual blog tour, a teacher’s guide and activities, and a book trailer. I also look forward to sharing my passion for children’s books at festivals, schools and events.
AM-What are you currently working on? You have written short stories and novels are any of them available for readers yet?
LC-I make sure I always have something on the burner! I just 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’ve also started another middle-grade 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 it’s own.
AM- As a fellow Examiner you write about Children’s books, tell us about your articles and what we should expect from them?
LC-I’m the National Children’s Books Examiner and have been contributing to beepwire.com for one year! I share articles on everything related to writing for children… Reading recommendations and reviews, author interviews, writer’s articles and resources, and tips for those interested in writing for children. Hope everyone gets a chance to visit!
To learn much more about Lori Calabrese be sure to visit her website and her Examiner page!
To learn more about my writing, visit AuthorMike.com and be sure to check out my other articles on writing on my Examiner page. Also, don’t forget to add me to your MySpace, Twitter and FaceBook pages for instant updates on articles, short stories and more!