Orion Filippazzo has been an author for almost half of his life — which, when you’re only 8, means you’re really, really committed to your craft.
“Technically, it’s a third of my life,” the young wordsmith said.
See! Exacting and serious. We stan.
Orion’s book, the just-released, self-published “Super Caveman,” has not only sold out of its first printing, but it’s helping accomplish a super feat that its titular hero could only aspire to — helping meet the needs of cancer patients, like his mom.
“The creative process is healing,” said his mother Anne Sibert, who is living with and fighting non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. A few weeks ago, Sibert, 44, her husband Joseph Filippazzo, 39, and their daughter Olive, 5, hosted a book-signing celebration befitting a bestselling author at their Rodgers Forge home for about 70 people. It was a family affair, with their nieces manning a homemade concessions booth and neighbor Cliff Murphy of the band Say ZuZu providing music.
The event also turned out to be a celebrity affair i Well-wishers included Maryland State Del. Cathi Forbes, who Tweeted to spread the word about the book and got a book special delivered to her house, and children’s author and Baltimore County resident Kevin O’Malley, who came to the signing.
So far, the Filippazzos have sold 140 copies and made nearly $1400, with about $700, going toward HopeWell Cancer Support, a Baltimore County organization offering support services to those with cancer and their families.
“It makes me feel really good,” the young author said.
“Super Caveman” is the first of Orion’s books to be published, but he also wrote another work — “The Legend of The Chicken” — three years ago. (Orion remains unrivaled with the cool titles.) The current book, which he started writing in 2020 during the beginning of the pandemic, “is about a caveman, a pterodactyl and an evil paleontologist who came out of a time machine, and doesn’t like them.”
His parents, long supportive of his creativity, looked at the pages and “it was clear this was something special. This wasn’t just a bunch of scribbles from a little kid,” Joseph Filippazzo explained. “He can be very focused. He would wake up at 7 in the morning to work on pages and come into the room while I was still in bed to show me. His dedication was totally self-imposed.”
Excited by Orion’s talent and enthusiasm, his dad offered to ink the drawings for him. Then, using an app called Procreate that Orion taught himself to use, he digitally colored the book and decided to print it and sell it, and then donate some of the money made to a worthy cause.
“And he decided he wanted to do something with cancer,” Sibert said. HopeWell, where she has gone to support groups during her fight with cancer, and which offers their services for free, made sense. Sibert was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2019 and went through grueling treatment including chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, only to relapse six months later.
She’s currently in maintenance therapy for the cancer that she and the family have wryly named Chad, “because it’s a great tool to allow us to talk about it. Chad’s been really difficult for our family. Part of the lesson Joe and I learned is that we want to live each day to fullest, to take advantage of each day and to have fun.”
“Super Caveman” has been an example of that lesson. The COVID-19 shutdown “gave Orion time to work on the book, making lemonade from lemons, turn a bad situation into a good one for himself,” Sibert said.
And it’s making new opportunities for sibling bonding. “I’ve been teaching her to write,” Orion said of his younger sister Olive, who so far “can write letters, not sentences” but is getting there.
He’s also already learned a secret about merchandising. His book costs $15 and he found, at his book signing, “that the chances of people having both a $10 bill and a $5 bill aren’t great,” he said.
So … and I’m just spitballing here … maybe make that extra $5 a donation? Just a suggestion. I’m pretty sure Orion’s going to be a famous author one day and I’d like to get in on his good side early.