Children's book reviewer, blogger, and author Lori Calabrese is on a blog tour and today she is stopping by Into the Wardrobe! Lori's picture book The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade (Dragonfly Publishing, 2010) is about a boy who has caught a bug - both literally and figuratively! I love how it is a rhyming picture book. Unfortunately, the illustrations by Chet Taylor look amateur and they do not do justice to Lori's great writing. Still, the story is cute. And by cute I do not mean trite. I mean you will smile and your kids will smile because of it! :o) So I am very happy to host Lori today. Thank you so much for sharing with us, Lori!
Discovering My Writing Process by Lori Calabrese
So what exactly is the writing process and how do you find your voice? As a new writer, those were just a few of the questions I often pondered. Was there some secret veteran writers weren’t sharing or was it something that just came naturally? Whether we know it or not, all authors have a writing process. As I dived into writing my first picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, I discovered that although writing is a task no two people do the same, every writer follows the same basic steps to create their manuscript. And I was no different.
First comes the prewriting. I love this stage because it’s all about generating an idea and the possibilities are endless. I get most of my inspiration from my two boys and the idea for The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade was one of the first they gave me. When my son got a vicious stomach bug, friends and family called to see how he was doing. I always replied, “He caught the bug.” It’s something we always say when we’re sick, but it made me question why we say that. Of course, I needed to build on the idea, but the play on words of catching an insect and catching a cold was enough to get me started.
With the idea brewing, I grabbed my laptop and let my fingers do the walking. However, the writing that eventually came out would not be winning any children’s literature awards. Fortunately, it was a little reassuring to learn this is normal for many—it doesn’t always come out right the first time. So I wrote several drafts and ventured on to revising.
With most of the writing laid out, it became easier to rework. But this was when a light bulb went off in my head and I realized that, although I had a fun rhyming story, my plot wasn’t working. So I decided to write the story without the rhymes. As soon as I did this, I really discovered what my beginning, middle and ending were. I also discovered I hadn’t chosen a bug! The bug was one of the main characters in my story, so it had to be a good one. It also had to be able to cause havoc and it needed to be rare. I researched until I found a story about the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly. I always loved dragonflies and am continually amazed how they can dart and hover in mid-air. When I learned that the Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly is the only dragonfly on the federal endangered species list, I knew it was the one! From there, the story just seemed to come to life and I was able to rework it into a rhyming story once again.
I love rhyming picture books and have been influenced by so many I really find this stage fun. I often compare it to putting together a jigsaw puzzle. It definitely helped to immerse myself in some of the stories I loved growing up and reading to my boys. Some of my favorites are A Fly Went By by Mike McClintock, All Aboard the Dinotrain by Deb Lund, Parts by Tedd Arnold and If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen. Of course, it took about a year, but after scratching paper copies with that dreaded red pen, consulting Rhymezone.com often to make sure I had the perfect rhyming words, and submitting to my critique group, all of the vivid details added up to a manuscript that was ready to submit. What a surprise it was to learn The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade won DFP’s Best Children’s Book Award.
Some people say that as soon as you write one book, the rest are a bit easier because you get your writing process down. Others say each book presents its own difficulties. Frankly, I agree with both. But although every author’s writing process is different, it’s important to note we all start staring at that blank page and finish with a manuscript we can’t help but feel has the potential to line book store shelves. So as you may be settling down to discover your writing process, don’t forget to start with the basics.
About the guest blogger: Lori Calabrese is an award-winning children’s author. Her first picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, was awarded DFP’s Best Children’s Book Award. 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.