Straus employee completes childrens book

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:17

    When Karen Kaufman Orloff was in high school, she wrote an essay on what her life would be like as an adult. "I said I would be married, live in the country, have two kids, a dog named Dudley and would be an author," Orloff remembers. Except for the dog named Dudley (she's got a guinea pig and an iguana), Karen's fantasy has come true. The Dutchess County resident, who works as a proofreader for Straus Newspapers, has just had her first picture book, "I Wanna Iguana," been released by G.P. Putnam. The book was illustrated by award-winning artist David Catrow. It has been chosen as both a Children's Book-of-the-Month Club and a Junior Library Guild selection. Its art will be featured now through Nov. 24 in the Society of Illustrator's Original Art Show in New York City. The story was inspired by true life. "The kids wanted a pet, and since my husband was allergic to dogs and cats, we thought about an iguana," says Orloff. "But I wasn't too happy with that since I had heard iguanas could get as big as six feet!" They got the iguana anyway and it, in turn, gave Orloff a story idea. "A little boy wants an iguana, but his mother is reluctant so he starts a letter-writing campaign to her. The first few lines - ‘Dear Mom, I know you don't think I should have Mikey Gulligan's baby iguana when he moves, but here's why I should. If I don't take it, he goes to Stinky and Stinky's dog Lurch will eat it' -just came to me, and it took off from there." Orloff always enjoyed writing, but was side-tracked for many years, working as an editor for various publications. She also kept busy writing for publications like Baby Talk and New York Family. Eventually, she became a regular humor columnist for The Poughkeepsie Journal, a job she continues today, along with working for Straus two days a week. Writing for children, though, was something she always loved. Over the years, she wrote short stories, a middle-grade novel, a poetry collection and picture book texts. None were published. Then she got involved with The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, and it was at one of their conferences that she made a connection with an editor. That editor read the manuscript for "I Wanna Iguana" and bought it. It took another four years, however, to actually see the book in print. Orloff explains: "The illustrator Putnam wanted, David Catrow, was booked up for several years before he could even start on my project. But he's a fantastic artist and was well worth the wait." While she was waiting, Karen got another picture book acceptance from Sterling Publishing, a company owned by Barnes and Noble. That book, "If Mom Had 3 Arms," will be out in a couple of years. But after waiting so long for the first one, Orloff isn't bothered by that. "I know things take time in publishing and that's okay. I'm just so excited it's finally happening." Orloff will be signing copies of "I Wanna Iguana" at the Vassar Road Elementary School Book Fair on Friday, Nov. 5, from 7-9 p.m. and at Merritt Books in Millbrook on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2 p.m. The book is available at local bookstores and through on-line booksellers like It can also be ordered through the publisher, G.P. Putnam's Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group, 345 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014 or by logging on to its Web site at