Lori Calabrese is an award-winning children’s author. Her first picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, was named Dragonfly Publishing Inc.’s 2009 Best Children’s Book. She writes for various children’s magazines, is the National Children’s Books Examiner at Examiner.com, and enjoys sharing her passion for children’s books at festivals, schools and events. Visit her website to learn more, loricalabrese.com
Lori–you’re a member of Indie-Debut 2010, a group that supports small presses. How did you find your small press and why did you choose to publish with them?
I found my publisher, Dragonfly Publishing, Inc., online. Since 2008, DFP has held a children’s picture book contest. DFP has to keep their submissions closed most of the time because they get too many and just can’t physically handle the volume—a testament to the truth that small presses are growing. As a result, 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 and came along with a book contract. Needless to say, I was buzzing.
I know that The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade is out just in time for back to school. One of the topics covered is germs. How did you come up with the play on words of catching a bug?
The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade took a long time to evolve into what it did. It all started when one of my sons got that dreaded stomach virus—ya’ know the one every parent cringes at when they realize their kid has it. When everyone asked how he was doing, I would say, “He caught the bug.” It made me stop and wonder why we say that. Something clicked, so I expanded on the play on words of getting sick and catching an insect. But then I needed an insect. What would it be? I researched and researched and discovered The Hines Emerald Dragonfly. I knew it was the right one!
The Hines Emerald Dragonfly is the only dragonfly placed on the Federal Endangered Species List. Why was it important for you to educate young readers about The Hines Emerald Dragonfly?
I’ve always been amazed at dragonflies and enjoy when one pops up in my backyard. I usually find myself mesmerized because they’re like little helicopters. Dragonflies can fly at speeds up to 35 miles per hour. They can hover, fly backwards, change directions in mid-air, and are some of the most acrobatic fliers in the animal kingdom.
The Hines Emerald dragonfly relies on spring-fed marshes and meadows with high calcium carbonate levels in the water, but unfortunately, most of these wetland habitats have been drained for urban and industrial development. It’s important for young readers to realize the effect that we have on our earth and that by saving wetlands, we can save more than the Hines Emerald Dragonfly.
A small press usually has less of a promotion budget than a large publisher. How have you tried to garner attention for The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade?
Small presses do have small promotion budgets, so a lot, and sometimes all, of the marketing efforts are the author’s responsibility. I started marketing long before The Bug that Plagued the Entire Third Grade was released in August. As authors, we’re not just marketing our books, but we’re marketing our brand, which is us the writer. I have my own personal website at http://loricalabrese.com; I distribute a monthly e-mail newsletter called The Book Bugz (you can opt-in at my website); I consistently blog about children’s books and writing at my website; I’m the National Children’s Books Examiner for Examiner.com; I contribute articles to article directories such as Ezine articles; I conduct school visits and I try to do as much social networking as I can. I look forward to my virtual book launch party on October 18th—all of your readers are invited!(http://thebugbooklaunch.blogspot.com) –and participating in a virtual book tour in November.
Do you see publishing with a small press as a stepping stone, or do you see this as the wave of the future?
I think publishing with a small press is a great stepping stone for an aspiring writer to break into publishing. The experience I’ve gained by publishing my first book with a small press, DFP, has been great. I don’t see small presses as replacing the larger publishers, but the world needs small presses to champion new voices, focus on niche markets, and reissue out-of-print titles. Thankfully, the internet has made it easier for small presses to reach their customers and share some great stories that might not have been published for one reason or another. For that, I’m grateful!