Contest Winner

Angela Calabrese Winners Circle

Angela Calabrese


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Welcome to the Winners Circle where we celebrate the success of our ICL and IFW Contest winners. Today we celebrate with Angela Calebrese whose narrative nonfiction picture book manuscript Crack! Chick! Boom! The Story Of Legendary Jazz Drummer Chick Webb won 1st place in our ICL Narrative Nonfiction Picture Book Contest! Congrats, Angela!

Angela CalebreseWhat contest was your winning entry submitted to?

ICL Narrative Nonfiction Picture Book

How many writing contests have you entered?

Over a dozen at least!

Please give  the title of your entry and a short summary of the story.

Crack! Chick! Boom! The Story Of Legendary Jazz Drummer Chick Webb

Chick Webb was a lame boy who lived in a poor Baltimore neighborhood in the early 1900s. His doctor told his mama he should “loosen up his bones” and suggested Chick take up an instrument. Although small in stature and saddled with chronic pain, Chick was a force of nature who overcame every obstacle that was flung his way. Not only did Chick master the drums, he became one of the greatest jazz musicians of his time. The music world would never be the same again because of this talented pint-sized musician.

What inspired your winning entry? 

When my husband, also a drummer, shared details about Chick Webb’s incredible life, I knew I had to write his story. This young man managed to fulfill his wildest dreams even with a serious disability. It symbolizes the triumph of the spirit over the flesh.

How has entering this contest helped your writing?
I’ve been better at refining and capturing the essence of my stories since this contest. I can more readily detect areas that need extra pizzazz or tightening. I have newfound confidence as well which is an added plus!

How did the critique in the Winners Workshop help you?
Lori Mortensen was utterly fantastic! As I listened to her feedback for each winning entry, I learned so much about the art of writing a picture book. She used tangible examples to show just how lyrical and poetic this genre can and should be. She highlighted the sentences in each story that made them stand out from the rest.

Are you a full-time writer? If not, what is your “day job”?

IFW complete logo lg

Yes, I am now writing full time.

How long have you been writing?
I’ve been crafting little stories since second grade but took it
seriously about twenty years ago.

What will you do with your piece now that it’s been recognized?
I’ve already started sending out this story to agents and publishing houses. Wish me luck!

Any fun plans for the prize money?
I’d love to attend another Highlights workshop. It’s such a
nurturing and well organized venue.

What do you do when you’re feeling discouraged or blocked? Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?
When I’m stuck on one of my stories, I typically take a long walk and the majority of the time, I come up with a solution. Other times, I’ll be creative in different ways—playing Rummikub on the computer or partaking in 30 minutes of Kundalini Yoga. That’s a real energy booster..

If you could go to the yard sale of any character in the history of children’s literature, whose would you go to, and what would you buy?

I would be honored to visit Miss Rumphius at her yard sale by her small house overlooking the sea. I’d buy as many lupine seeds as she would allow. I would spread those seeds as she did—behind schoolyards, atop rolling hills and in between stone walls. Just like Miss Rumphius, I would be making the world more beautiful as the blue, purple and rose colored lupines begin to bloom.

Anything you’d like to share about your IFW experience?

I appreciated the opportunity to put my story out there and be recognized for its merits. ICL has done so much for budding writers. What a confidence booster to have my story read aloud in real time during the workshop.

Will you be our next contest winner? Discover our current writing contests here!

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