Thursday, November 4, 2010

Review and Interview Lori Calabrese

Today, my guest is children's author, Lori Calabrese.  Be sure to leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway for a free copy of The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade. (U.S. and Canadian residents only, please.)  I will need an email address so Lori can mail your book if you're the winner.

Lori, please tell me how long you've been writing, and why you decided to become a writer. 
I dived into the world of freelance writing in 2007 after the birth of my second son and haven’t turned back since. Not only do my boys provide me endless entertainment and headaches, it was because of them that I discovered my renewed passion for children’s books. We make endless trips to the library and read stacks of books. And that’s how I’ve discovered I can’t get enough of them.

I decided to become a writer because reading books to my children inspired me to write my own. I felt like I had so many stories that I wanted to share and ideas kept popping in my head, so there was nothing left to do but jot them down on the computer (and do revision after revision after revision while banging my head on the keyboard, but that’s the less glamorous part, so let’s just skip over that!).

Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?
Organize? You mean other writers are organized? (shaking head in disbelief)

I’m a full-time writer whose fully dysfunctional schedule works great for her. With two boys, it’s difficult to have a typical 9-5 workday, which is why writing works for me, frankly.

I tend to do most of my writing in the morning and at night when everyone else is sleeping. But there are also the marketing aspects, so my computer is usually powered up day and night.

What influences your writing?
Everything and everything influences my writing! Each person sees the world differently and everyone has had different experiences, so every action, relationship, job, etc…shapes a writer, in my opinion.

All of my writing inspiration comes from my two boys. In fact, the idea for The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade came to me when one of my sons had the stomach flu. When everyone asked how he was doing, I would say, “He caught the bug.” It made me stop and wonder why we say that when we’re sick. Something clicked and “The Bug” was born.

Between them and their friends, my idea pile is just overflowing!

Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?
The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade is my first published picture book, although I’ve also had the fortunate opportunity to complete a work-for-hire picture book, and have also been published in various children’s magazines, including Boys’ Life, Odyssey, Appleseeds, Focus on the Family Clubhouse Jr. and Turtle Magazine for Preschool Kids.

I also enjoy writing about the world of children’s literature as the National Children’s Books Examiner at (

Why did you choose to write a children's story?
I like to think I’m a kid at heart. It’s amazing how your mind plays tricks on ya’ and makes you think you’re younger than you really are!

I’ve always loved picture books and remember having a bunch growing up. One of my favorites was and still is The Fly Went By by Mike McClintock.

But only after reading tons of children’s books to my sons, did I find out I’m obsessed with them. After trips to the library, we used to (and still do!) come home with stacks of books and night after night we’d read story after story. Reading these books has been inspiring, so I set off to write my own. I realized along the way that writing is hard work, so I took a writing class with the Institute of Children’s Literature, joined the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and constantly try to soak up as much as I can when it comes to writing and the ins and outs of publishing. There’s so much to learn and just not enough time in the day!

What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?
It’s funny because I was digging through my old files the other day and stumbled upon the folder for The Bug that Plagued the Entire Third Grade. I got a good chuckle seeing the manuscript in some of its initial stages.

The idea came to me because of the dreaded stomach bug as I said before. My son caught it and when everyone asked me how he was doing, I would say, “He caught the bug.” Isn’t it weird how we call having an illness as having a bug? I knew there was something there!

The idea of incorporating the Hines Emerald Dragonfly came later into the revisions after I read an article about a kid catching a rare insect. I had to narrow down what the bug in the book was going to be, so I researched rare bugs and learned that the Hines Emerald Dragonfly is the only dragonfly listed on the endangered list.

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 when it was ready, I 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 a book.

What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?
I think it all depends on your dream for publishing, your goals for literary success, and your goals for financial success. Unfortunately, self-publishing in the past has gotten a bad rap, but now, at a time when the big publishing companies have been merging, the number of self-publishers has been increasing and people are seeing it as a great alternative to the big publishers.

It’s great that various alternatives exist because they do give a new writer the opportunity to break into publishing. If you have a passion for writing and don’t mind growing your career as most of us have to do anyway—slowly and methodically—well, self-publishing might be for you!

I think it’s most important to believe in your writing and stand up for yourself. I chose to publish with a small press and because of it, I’m able to see my story come to life, and I’m a member of an incredible group of first time authors whose books are being published by small presses from all over the country called Indie-Debut 2010. ( It’s been an experience I would definitely do again, so be sure to do whatever is going to make you happy.

What is your marketing strategy?
In order to promote The Bug, I have a fun virtual book launch party all lined up for October 18th—it’s a week-long event, so if you can’t make it one day, don’t worry! You still have time to pop in and mingle. I hope all of your readers will fly by because this Bug Party will be buzzing!

I hope everyone stops by my website because I’ve created a bunch of extras for The Bug such as teaching guides, activities, and a book trailer. Keep an eye out for an upcoming virtual book tour and I also look forward to sharing The Bug at festivals, schools and events.

What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one?
I think writers have to do what's going to work for them to reach their ultimate goal: To get published! In my opinion, if writers are looking to get published with a larger publisher then an agent is probably the right way to go. But if alternatives such as small presses haven’t been ruled out, then an agent might not be necessary.

I think also involved in the decision is what type of person a writer is. Many writers are capable of handling all the business aspects that come along with writing on their own (researching publishers, mailing and marketing manuscripts, negotiating a contract, etc...). But there are also writers who can't stand being bogged down with the business aspect and would rather spend their time on their writing.

Unfortunately, when you're trying to break in as a new writer, it's just as hard to find an agent to take a chance on you as it is to find a publisher, but whatever you decide, don’t give up!

Where can people find out more about you and your writing?
I invite everyone to my newly revamped website – (which has a new RSS feed, so I hope everyone updates their readers and becomes a follower). In addition to some amazing giveaways this month, I share my recent news and updates, and you’ll also find children’s book reviews and recommendations, author interviews, and the latest news in the world of children’s publishing.

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children's literature?
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, keeping up with practice and perseverance. You really have to keep at it and don’t get discouraged with rejections.

Please give us a brief synopsis about your current book and when and where it will be available.
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 runny nose and worsening cold, will he create a third-grade epidemic?

The Bug was just released a few weeks ago and is currently available at:
DFP Bookstore:

And hardcovers are available at:

It’s soon to be available at Barnes&

Thanks so much, Penny for having me at here at One Writers Journey. It’s been a blast!

And now let's take a look at The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade:


The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade
By Lori Calabrese
Illustrated by Chet Taylor
Published by Kittycat Books label of Dragonfly Publishing, Inc.
ISBN 1-936381-05-2

Award-winning author, Lori Calabrese, along with illustrator, Chet Taylor, brings to life the delightful story of Matt, a third grader who wants to participate in the Bug-a-Fair.  Told in rhyme and accompanied by full-color illustrations, this clever tale is sure to delight young school age children.  Boys and girls will be able to relate to Matt’s predicament.

Kids will delight in Matt’s adventures as he tries to win the Bug-A-Fair. Matt finds a bug to bring in for the school fair, but on the way to school, the lid on his jar pops off.  As Matt tries to retrieve his science project, he sneezes on his teacher.  Matt has caught another bug. His teacher sends him home, much to his dismay.  Will his bug win the Bug-A-Fair?  Or, will his other “bug” keep him from his goal?

This is a wonderful story which should find a home in every grade one through three classroom. In addition to the fun story, which children will relate to, there are issues which teachers can discuss with their students.  Although my own children are well past elementary school age, I’m looking forward to sharing The But That Plagued the Entire Third Grade with my granddaughter.

Lori Calabrese is an award-winning children’s author. Her first picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire 
Third Grade, was namedDragonfly Publishing Inc.’s 2009 Best Children’s Book. She writes for
various children’s magazines, is the National Children’s BooksExaminer at, and enjoys sharing 
her passion forchildren’s books at festivals, schools and events. Visit her website
to learn more,
Follow Lori's blog tour on the following blogs:
November 5 
Book Dads
November 8 
Brimful Curiosities

The Children's Book Review

November 9]
Mrs.Hill's Book Blog

November 10 
Miss O's Library Land

November 11]
Tara Lazar's Writing for Children (While Raising Them)/ PiBoIdMo

November 12 
N.A. Sharpe's Realms of Thought

November 15 
Beverly S. McClure's The Story of a Writer

November 16
Elysabeth's Stories

November 17 
Raising Itty Bitty Bookworms

November 18 
There's a Book

November 19 
The Iron Bodkin

November 30 
Into the Wardrobe



  1. Penny,

    Thanks for the interview and the lovely review!

    Hope everyone's able to visit some of the other stops on the tour! :)

  2. Great Interview!! I already won the book from Lori and loved it : ) I look forward to more children's books from her!

  3. Excellent interview. Kudos to both Penny and Lori. Best of luck to you and your new book!

  4. Lori, it's my pleasure. This is such a fun read.

  5. Heather, thanks for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the interview.

  6. Melissa, Thanks for following and I'm so glad you loved the book! :)

    Heather, Thanks for the well wishes! It's greatly appreciated! :)