Jessica Calic remembers reading a lot in elementary school, especially books by Beverly Cleary.
Cleary, who is one of the world’s most successful children’s writers, has often been credited with capturing emotional realism in her stories that featured popular characters like Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins.
“I can remember staying up late reading,” says Calic.
“It was such a good escape.”
As a child, the new author would often craft stories to share with family members.
“At family gatherings, I would write stories and read them aloud to my family,” laughs Calic.
“Storytelling and getting lost in a book is something I enjoyed so much as a child.”
Throughout her schooling, reading and writing were the subjects she excelled at.
After graduating high school, Calic moved away from her hometown of the Sault for four years to study Communications at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.
“I received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication studies and then made my way back home to the Sault,” she says.
“I’m a homebody and love living here in the Sault. I am happy to be able to raise my children so close to family.”
She and her husband Paul are raising two children, Jack (4 years old) and Emmy (20 months old).
With the pressures of raising a young family, Calic finds it a bit more difficult to read for herself as much as she did in her younger years.
“I still constantly read with my kids though,” she laughs.
“I love that they enjoy reading. We read a wide variety of books together. Right now, my son is really into non-fiction books. He loves fiction and storytelling also, but he loves learning … my daughter is just really getting into books now. She loves Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, which was also a favourite of my son’s.”
It was those experiences reading with her children that provided Calic the impetus to write her own story, titled Can I Have Pancakes for Breakfast?
“I decided to write my book, obviously for my kids, but also because I wanted to do something they would be proud of,” she says.
With all the distracting events happening in the world today, Calic felt the need to remind herself to appreciate the time she has with her children while they are young.
“I needed to remind myself to appreciate the time I have been given and the precious moments I have at home with my kids. I am realizing how fast time does go and how fast kids grow up.”
It was a message that she felt other parents could relate to.
Calic notes that although the book is intended for children, she really sees its message connecting with the adults reading it.
“I feel it’s relatable,” she says.
“My hope is for the book to become a keepsake for the child who receives it. My thought was that a special message could be written in the book letting the child know how loved they are.”
Once she wrote the story, Calic says she considered a variety of publishing options.
“When I first had my manuscript ready, I sent it off to some traditional publishing companies … without getting my hopes up that it would be picked up,” she says.
“I know they receive thousands of unsolicited manuscripts all the time. However, I did hear back from a few of them wanting to move my manuscript further along in their publishing process. The fact that a few of them even read my manuscript and liked it enough to even consider moving it forward gave me so much more confidence in myself and the book.”
Ultimately, she decided to go the self-publishing route.
“It was the best fit for me as I could keep the control over the book and do it exactly the way I wanted.”
After interviewing a number of self-publishing companies, she decided upon Tellwell.
“They were great to work with and the process was very smooth.”
The company also put Calic in touch with several illustrators that have done previous work for them.
“One really stood out,” she says, noting she landed on an artist that goes by the moniker Stephanie from illustration company Jupiters Muse.
“She is also from Ontario and her style really fit with what I imagined for the book. I just felt a connection to her and her work, it was an easy choice to go with her.”
With Can I Have Pancakes for Breakfast? published and now available, Calic hopes to be able to start promotion on it as the pandemic restrictions allow.
“I would absolutely love to do readings and attend some local markets to promote and sell the book.”
In the meantime, she has already begun writing a second book.
“I really do love writing and want to publish a few more,” she says.
“I love the emotional connection books can have and I hope mine can hold a special place in readers’ hearts and homes.”
For Calic, it was her children’s reaction to the book that made it an instant success.
“My daughter loves the illustrations in the book and knows it’s ‘mommy’s book,’” she says.
“My son was jumping up and down and telling me that he was so proud of me. He loves telling people that his mom is a real author.”
Local stores interested in carrying the book can contact Jessica Calic by email.