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Hey, everyone,

I am thrilled and humbled to share this news: 
                            Nancy Paulsen will be publishing my debut picture book, ROCKY! 
Thanks to my awesome agent, Kathleen Rushall, for sending my little pebble out into the world. And thanks to Nancy for believing in him once he arrived. I can’t wait to start working with her!
Here’s the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement.
April 21, 2014 – ROCKY by Jody Jensen Shaffer
Children’s Picture Book
     Jody Jensen Shaffer’s ROCKY, about a little pebble trying to find his place in the world alongside some famous relatives complete with informational backmatter, to Nancy Paulsen at Nancy Paulsen Books, by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency (World).

Lewis and Clark Elementary Rocks!

A big shout out to the fifth graders at Lewis and Clark Elementary!

I had a great time today talking with them about writing nonfiction. They listened well, asked good questions, and made me feel right at home.

They even introduced me to a resource I didn’t know existed, myON.com, an interactive digital library. We listened to some of my VAMPIRES AND LIGHT book. Cool voices! These smart students and their equally-wise teachers use it all the time.

Thanks to super teachers, Ms. Raney, Ms. Williams, and Mr. Lewis, and to Assistant Principal, Katie Lawson.

Go get ’em, fifth graders! I can’t wait to see where YOUR interests take you!

[Photo credit: Ms. Raney]

Middle Grade March

Deb Marshall
Hi all!
I was recently interviewed by my critique buddy and school librarian, Deb Marshall. Thought you might like to have a peek.
Thanks, Deb! I can’t wait to send one of your students one of my books!

I went a little ape! CHIMPANZEE, in fact!

Happy New Year, Everyone!

I went a little ape in 2013, and my newest book, CHIMPANZEES: THE SMARTEST ANIMALS, is the result.

Here’s what my publisher, ABDO, has to say about this book:

Go inside the mind of one of the most intelligent animals on Earth. Learn more about chimpanzees, how they use their cleverness to survive, and how they are astonishing scientists with their surprising smarts. Complete with well-researched, clearly written informational text, primary sources with accompanying questions, charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, and maps, multiple prompts, and more. Aligned to Common Core Standards and correlated to state standards. Core Library is an imprint of ABDO Publishing Company.

I hope you have a chance to read about these amazing, oh-so-human-like creatures. They are fascinating and endearing and definitely worth taking care of.

All the best to you and yours in 2014!


Taylor Swift on Birthdayographies

Hey everyone,

Here’s a cool idea: a blog which celebrates picture book biographies! It’s hosted by Donna Bowman Bratton. You can read all about it here: http://www.birthdayographies.blogspot.com/.

Thanks, Donna, for featuring my biography of Taylor Swift! And Happy Birthday, Taylor!



Hey, Everyone,

I’m delighted to announce that my newest celebrity biographies were officially released yesterday. Please join me in welcoming DEMI LOVATO: TAKING ANOTHER CHANCE and VICTORIA JUSTICE: TELEVISION’S IT GIRL (Lerner Press, 2013).

Welcome, ladies!

And guess what? School Library Journal has already reviewed the series, which also includes books about Bella Thorne, Carly Rae Jepsen, Cody Simpson, and the band The Wanted! You can read their review below.

“Gr 5-8–Along with high-appeal content, these celebrity biographies also offer high visual appeal with an engaging, colorful format and numerous photos. However, there is perhaps too much happening. Sidebars (which details the stars’ favorite foods, movies, etc.) can distract from the texts, which are often choppy and too casual. Quotes from the actors/performers are scattered throughout, and full-color photos adorn almost every page (in addition to a final spread in each book devoted just to “pics”). The titles read more like teen magazines than biographies, but that might not be a problem if libraries have high demand for information about these particular stars.”

I sure had fun writing about these ladies. I hope you have fun reading about them!


Children’s Author Blog Hop

Hey, everyone!
I’m excited to participate
in the Children’s Author Blog Hop. What’s a blog hop? Authors answer four
identical questions and then invite three more kidlit authors to join in. I was
delighted to be asked by my friend and fellow children’s author LAURA SASSI.
Here’s a bit about her:
Laura is a children’s
writer and former teacher. Her poems, stories, articles and crafts have
appeared in many publications including Highlights for Children, Cricket,
Ladybug, Spider, Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse and Clubhouse
Jr., FamilyFun, and Pack-O-Fun. She has a passion for playing with
words and rhyming and is delighted to announce that her first picture
book, GOODNIGHT, ARK, will be published by Zonderkidz, a Harper Collins Company
and is scheduled to debut in August 2014. She is represented by Lara Perkins of
the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Laura writes from her century-old home
in New Jersey where she lives with her awesome husband, two adorable kids, and
a black cockapoo named Sophie. She can be found on the web at:  www.laurasassitales.wordpress.com.
Thanks for asking me to participate, Laura! Here are my answers to the four blog hop questions.
I’m always thinking of a
new story, writing a new story, or thinking of and revising an old one. Lots of
times I’m doing all of those things at once. It’s good to have several projects
percolating! Right now I’m brainstorming an ending to a picture book I thought already had an
ending. Turns out, I was wrong! Endings are tough and soooo important! I’ll
stick with it until it’s just right.
The concept of this
particular picture book is what sets it apart. And the main character is
atypical, some might say quirky.
I love writing poetry, and
writing picture books is a lot like writing poetry, whether the texts rhyme or
not. Picture books are partly about choosing the very best word to propel the
story and partly about letting the illustrations do their thing. I love that
combination. I write for kids because I still remember what it feels like to be
a kid. I had a great childhood. I love the innocence of childhood, all the
possibilities and awe that come with being new to the world.
Getting the endings right!
Also, finding just the right editor/publisher for my work can be challenging.
Thank goodness I’ve got an agent to help me with that! [Shout out to Kathleen
Rushall! Woot!]
Without further ado,
please join me in celebrating the following three fabulous children’s authors.
NANCY VIAU is the author
of two nature-inspired picture books:  Look What I Can Do!, which School Library Journal calls
“wonderfully expressive” and “a gently affirming tale perfect for
parent-and-child sharing,” and Storm Song, 
a fun read-aloud filled with rhythmic text thatcaptures
the excitement of thunder, lightning, and rain. Viau
is also the author of the middle-grade novel Samantha Hansen Has
Rocks in Her Head. 
She lives
with her family in New Jersey, but loves to travel anywhere her frequent
flyer miles take her. You can follow Nancy at http://www.nancyviau.com/.
‘F’ with the words “get a tutor” on his college writing paper, and after that
he never thought he’d become a writer. But after spending twenty years as a
chemist, he knew his creativity could no longer be contained. He his first picture
book, Monster Needs A Costume,
illustrated by Wendy Grieb was recently released through Scarletta
Kids.  This is the first picture book in the Monster & Me
series (all of which will be illustrated by Wendy), with the second, Monster
Needs His Sleep
 due April 2014 and then Monster Needs A Christmas Tree set
for September 2014.  He has also recently signed a contract for Seaver
the Weaver
 which will be illustrated by Ben Hilts of The Hilts
Brothers and is planned for April 2015. Living in Massachusetts
with his wife and two little monsters, Paul has rediscovered his passion for
writing and looks forward to sharing his stories for years to come. Catch up with Paul at http://paulczajak.com/.

AMY DIXON grew up as one
of seven siblings, so the only peace and quiet she ever got was inside a book.
Once she had her own kids, she rediscovered her love for picture books at the
public library. It was the one place she knew all four of her kids would be
happy . . . and quiet. She writes from her home in Clovis, where she lives with
her four little inspirations and her marathon-running husband, Rob. MARATHON
MOUSE is her first picture book. Her second picture book, SOPHIE’S ANIMAL
PARADE, will be out from Sky Pony Press in Fall 2014. Find Amy online at http://www.amydixonbooks.com/.

My latest book is out! GRIZZLY BEAR: GREAT PREDATORS series

Hey everyone,

My latest book, GRIZZLY BEAR, is out with ABDO, and I wanted you to know.

ABDO says this about the book:

“Around the world, skilled animals hunt and catch their prey. Learn more about the grizzly bear and the special characteristics that make it such an excellent predator. This title takes you on the hunt with well-researched, clearly written informational text, primary sources with accompanying questions, charts, graphs, diagrams, timelines, and maps, multiple prompts, and more! Aligned to Common Core Standards and correlated to state standards. Core Library is an imprint of ABDO Publishing Company.”

I hope you’re having an awesome day!


Interview with picture book author Brianna Caplan Sayres

Hey, Everyone,
Today I’m hosting picture book author Brianna Caplan Sayres.
Welcome, Brianna! DIGGERS is delightful! How did you find your publisher?
I met my wonderful editor at a
critique. (I promise, I had been doing this long enough to know that you should
never expect to get a manuscript acquired from a critique. But this time it
happened. Yay!)
I had signed up for a small
group critique with a Random House editor to be held at the Jennifer De Chiarra
literary agency. (Thanks so much to Jennifer De Chiarra and to Stacy Mozer for
these awesome critique opportunities!) So I sent off two manuscripts.
The morning of the critique, I
got an email with the title of one of the manuscripts. Was the editor writing
me for some reason?
Then I read the email. It wasn’t
from the editor who was giving me the critique. It was from a wonderful agent I
had submitted to via an online form a month or two earlier. The agent (now my wonderful agent) liked my manuscript
and wondered if I had anything else.
“Did I have anything
else?!?!?!” Yes!!!
So I went off to the critique in
a very good mood. What a great day!
Then the editor passed out the
amazingly detailed written critiques she had prepared for each of us. She was
so thoughtful. As I began to skim through mine, I was very pleased. She was
very complimentary about my first manuscript and believed it would find an
editor. Hooray!
Then I read what she had to say
about my manuscript. Again, she was very complimentary, but the final line
really got me. She “would like to consider acquiring it for their list”
Oh my!!!
In the next few weeks, I signed
with my agent. Hooray! She liked many of the manuscripts I had sent her. Soon
after we heard from my editor, and WHERE DO DIGGERS SLEEP AT NIGHT? was
acquired. It was quite the whirlwind (though as I waited to hear back time
seemed to pass very slowly :o) .)  
But that November day when I first
heard from both my agent and my editor was incredible!
What was the editing process like?
My editor and I went through
three or four rounds of revisions on DIGGERS. The first round was right after
it was acquired. I completed the revisions that my editor had suggested on my
manuscript in her initial critique. I removed some verses entirely and replaced
them with others. Others I polished to make them flow better.
Then we went through another round or so of “flow revisions.” Getting the garbage truck verse just right was challenging, but kids really like how funny it ended up with the stinky “Peeyoo!” (Thanks to my awesome editor for that fantastic suggestion!)
And during that round of
revisions is when I changed the tractor verse from “Do their dads sing Old
MacDonald for a barnyard bedtime song?” to “Do their dads sing Old TruckDonald
for a barnyard bedtime song?” That idea just came to me as I was making
the verse flow better and it has been another hit with my young readers. During
the truck slumber parties I often do for little ones, we all have a grand time
singing Old Truckdonald. :o)
Also, my editor suggested
changing one of my verses to make it about monster trucks. Some parents and
grandparents have mentioned how much their kids appreciate the inclusion of
monster trucks, so this was another awesome suggestion!
Finally, my editor came back to
me with one more super-important question. I had not answered the question I
posed in my title. Where DO diggers sleep at night? Yikes! How could I NOT answer
that question? But, how COULD I answer that question? After some thought, I
added two more verses that imagined where all the trucks could be sleeping…
though I kept it in question form just like the rest of the manuscript.
Working with my editor was wonderful!
In each round of revision, she challenged me to make the manuscript better and
Your second picture book, TIARA-SAURUS REX, sounds delightful! Can you tell
us a bit about it, without giving away the plot?

My agent nicely described it as
“a tale of a very competitive dinosaur named Tina and some disappearing
contestants at the Miss Dinosaur Pagaent.”
How did you get the idea for this book?
came from a joke. One day for some reason, I joked to my husband about a
dinosaur beauty pageant. He laughed and told me, “That could be a picture
book.” The idea stuck in my head and I kept working on it through many,
many rounds of revisions. (In fact, I even wrote a blog post about this one
titled “How Many Times Can I Revise 500 Words?”)

TIARA-SAURUS REX will be published by Bloomsbury
in 2014. Can you tell us about
the acquisitions process?

My wonderful editor at Bloomsbury wrote back to my agent and said that she was
in the process of prepping the manuscript for an acquisition meeting with her
group. From the time we got that email, I was so excited and so nervous. What
were the chances of my manuscript going through acquisitions? I knew that many
manuscripts got that far and still got rejected. So I hoped and waited. (And
the NY Metro area had a major storm during that time that shut everything down.)

About a month later I got a
phone call from my awesome agent. We were going to get an offer! And then came
the email with the offer! It was real!
What else are you working on?
I’ve got a lot of other fun
picture books in the works. A couple about dinosaurs, a couple about jazz, and
one fun one about a dragon.
Now that you’re officially an author (woot!), what is the
most surprising thing about it? What’s the most rewarding?

I think the most surprising
thing about officially being an author is how badly I keep wanting to get the
next book published. Somehow in my dreams of being an author, I always imagined
how wonderful it would be to get a book published. (Which it is! Yay!) But in
my dreams, I almost imagined that as the end. But in real life, it is fantastic
to get a book published…. and I can’t wait to work on getting the next one
out there (and hopefully the next one and the next one and the next one!).
The most rewarding thing is hearing that kids enjoy my book. That it is being read every night or memorized or has become a favorite. That is an awesome feeling!
I am also loving getting to do school
and bookstore visits. I was a classroom teacher for many years and I love to teach
writing. It is so much fun to get to be the visiting author who teaches kids
about writing.
Thanks for visiting with us today and telling
us about your publishing journey, Brianna. Best of luck with the rest of the trip!

Books for Beaumont

Dear Friends,

You know how sometimes a situation presents itself, and you think, “I could help with that!”?

That’s what happened to me late last week when a writing buddy posted this notice on Verla Kay’s blueboards, a children’s book writing and illustrating message board:

“Well, I recently accepted a position as principal/curriculum coordinator at a local charter school here in Texas. We are a PK-8th grade campus with approximately 300 students. Over 90% are at poverty level. Our library is coming along slowly. We are in need of lower level AR books (PK-2nd grade for sure). Our library budget is nonexistent. We could use new or gently used books. If anyone knows of publishers/bookstores/individuals who might be willing to donate some books, I’d greatly appreciate it. We are the Ehrhart School in Beaumont, TX. Thanks so much!


I thought about all those kids needing books for their library with no funding and with school just weeks away. I thought about the complimentary copies of my books just sitting at home in my office not being used.

I contacted Larry and asked if he’d like some of my books. I knew they didn’t meet the Accelerated Reader requirement he requested, so I wasn’t sure. Larry responded with a big yes. I got the address of the school and boxed up my books.

I happened to mention my exchange with Larry to a writer friend. She wanted to donate some of her books, too. That started the ball rolling.

I contacted Larry, again, and asked if he’d be okay with me posting his message about his school’s need for books on my blog. Maybe other authors and publishing folks would donate their books. Maybe they would re-post, re-blog, tweet, and message their friends. Maybe we could send lots and lots of books to Beaumont, not just my five.

Thus, Books for Beaumont was created!

If you’d like to help the kids of The Ehrhart School, please send your books to:

The Ehrhart School
Dr. Larry Haynes
3380 Fannin
Beaumont, Texas 77701

Here’s their website: http://ehrhartschool.org/index.jsp.

Feel free to share this post. Let’s fill the shelves of the Ehrhart School’s library. School starts August 26, so don’t delay!

(And don’t forget: your donations and postage are tax deductible as business expenses.)

Thanks for helping with Books for Beaumont!


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