Sunday, March 28, 2010
Interview with Daniel Errico, Children's Author & Founder of FreeChildrenStories.com
Daniel Errico graduated from Villanova University in 2005 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. After working at a mechanical contracting firm and an investment bank, he decided to devote his time to the only passion that ever mattered to him: children's literature. So he founded the website FreeChildrenStories.com with the principle that children's literature is not just another form of media. The goal of FreeChildrenStories.com is to make access to new and original stories as easy as possible. (But in no way, Daniel clarifies, is it meant to downplay amazing programs and resources already available, such as public libraries.)
And kids (and lovers of kid lit) are flocking to the site. FreeChildrenStories.com currently receives an estimated 15,000- 20,000 hits per month, and those numbers are expected to rise when the new site design launches in the near future. In the meantime, Daniel has recently launched an app for the iPhone, "The Journey of the Noble Gnarble," which you can download here. There are a few more apps in the works including an interactive animated app that sounds very exciting.
As you can imagine, Daniel Errico is an extremely busy individual, but he was kind enough to take the time to answer a few of our questions. Read on for Daniel's take on the importance of reading, his own favorite children's books, and why rejection is actually a sign you're doing something right.
Why is reading so important?
Reading allows you to have a more active role in the world around you, and connects you to people past and present. Literacy gives you access to an almost infinite amount of knowledge and ideas. Most importantly, without reading I'd have to find a different job!
Why did you start FreeChildrenStories.com?
When you submit to traditional publishers it can take months to hear back, so I accrued a backlog of stories. At the rate I was going (and without an agent at the time), anything I wrote would not be seen by an editor for years. That forced me to evaluate why I was writing, and shifted my focus to reaching as many kids as possible. This meant using the internet to cut out the middle man, and speak to my readers directly. The stories are free because children are more than just a market, and any child that wants to read should be encouraged in every way possible.
What has been the best part? The most difficult part?
The best part is doing live readings and interacting with kids. A preschool class painted characters from my story "The Three Brothers of Maladime." It pretty much made my year.
The hardest part has been trying to perfect the website. Currently, the site is being re-designing to accept stories from the public. The difficult part for me is not being able to help more in that process.
Are there any life lessons you have learned through starting this endeavor?
A hundred setbacks can be erased by a single positive moment if you're doing something you care about. Also, try not to insult the intelligence of kids.
What are your favorite children's books/stories?
Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman, The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss, and Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! by Mo Willems, are among my favorites. The Butter Battle Book was the first book to make me realize the lasting affect that children's literature can have on a reader, and was my biggest inspiration.
Do you have any advice for young people who want to become writers?
Writing is a personal and subjective form of art. Nobody can say what your work means to anyone except themselves. If you truly believe in your writing, don't ever forget that.
Surround yourself with creative minds as often as possible. Don't get too attached to a story, an idea, or even a sentence. It will limit you.
Every single rejection is a big step forward, so walk with your head high.
Oh, and of course, post your work on my new site!