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A Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis-St. Paul

Hey Everybody,

We had a great time in the Twin Cities, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, this summer. And thanks to some great suggestions from my Blueboarder buddies about fun places to visit and things to do, we found an awesome children’s bookstore along the way…

…complete with its own resident rooster! (He was a bit camera-shy.)

They had an iguana, too, who was NOT, I repeat, NOT overweight.

We also had fun

  • at Fort Snelling, a completely-restored 1820s military fort filled with lots of costumed interpreters who know their stuff
  • renting bikes and touring Lake Harriett
  • bowling at Earle Brown’s near Brooklyn Center, MN
  • watching “Sweet Revenge,” a hilarious melodrama staged by students of the University of Minnesota. It was performed on the Mississippi Centennial Showboat on Harriett Island in St. Paul. It was worth the trip by itself. Well, this and the rooster.
  • fishing at Twin Lakes

I could go on, but I won’t. We made lots of great memories. Thanks for being super hosts, Twin Cities!

Friends, drop me a line and let me know what you did this summer for vacation!


Brianna Caplan Sayres’ Interview with 3 Highlights authors!

Picture book author, Brianna Caplan Sayres, (WHERE DO DIGGERS SLEEP AT NIGHT? and TIARA-SAURUS REX) interviewed three authors of Highlights pieces–one from each of their magazines, Highlights for Children, Highlights High Five, and Highlights Hello.

I was lucky enough to be interviewed about my recent poem, “Robins’ Treat,” in the June issue of Hello.

Here’s the article from Brianna’s web site. http://briannasbookstop.blogspot.com/2013/06/good-news-day-tuesday-interview-with.html

Thanks, Brianna!


Hey, everyone,

Check out this great review of LIAM posted by Booklist on June 1st. Woot!

Liam Hemsworth: The Hunger Games’ Strong Survivor.

Shaffer, Jody Jensen (Author)

Mar 2013. 32 p. Lerner, library edition, $26.60. (9781467707428). Lerner, e-book, $19.95. (9781467710145). 791.4302.

Liam Hemsworth has become famous in recent years for starring in The Hunger Games and for his engagement to Miley Cyrus. Luckily, this title in the Pop Culture Bios: Action Movie Stars series covers both while also detailing Liam’s early life in Australia, the move to L.A. in 2009 and screen test for the movie Thor, and his wait for “the call that would change his life forever,” when he was offered the part of Gale Hawthorne, Katniss Everdeen’s best friend. Like most Hollywood actors, Liam is easy on the eyes, and the plentiful, current full-color photos throughout make sure his baby blues are on full display (cause, really, that’s what fans are coming for). The design here feels fresh and engaging, and of course, the requisite star design elements appear on each page. What’s best here is that readers are offered little-known tidbits about Liam in sidebars; for instance, he can “put away almost two dozen—that’s twenty-four—
glazed doughnuts at one time.” For drooling fans, additional resources are offered.

— Ann Kelley

Recent School Visits and Author Appearances

I’ve had a great time at several school visits and author appearances lately. Here’s a shout out to all the great students, teachers, librarians, and bookstore community relations managers who made them happen.

St. Charles Borromeo Parish, March 7

Laurie Currier, Librarian extraordinaire, arranged for me to talk with the 4th and 5th graders at St. Charles. What an enthusiastic group! We chatted about what it’s like to be an author, the stars of the Hunger Games’ books, and lots more. These kids know books!

St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, April 16

What better way to celebrate National Poetry Month than to talk about poetry with 6th, 7th, and 8th graders? There isn’t any! We discussed several forms of poetry, and the students did lots of poetry-writing activities. There are definitely some future poets in that group! Thanks to Ramona Magers for coordinating and to Mrs. Loehr, Mrs. Ward, and Sister Sharon.

Tiffany Ridge Elementary/Barnes & Noble–Zona Rosa, May 11

Question: what do you call it when an author crashes a school’s book fair?
Answer: The Tiffany Ridge Elementary Book Fair at Barnes & Noble!

On Saturday, lots of students and parents of Tiffany Ridge Elementary made their way to Barnes & Noble–Zona Rosa. They did a scavenger hunt, bought books to benefit their school, and made me feel welcome. Thanks to Amy Barr and Sherry Polito for the invitation! And to all the kids who let me take pictures with them and of them!

If you’d like me to visit your school, email me at jody jensen shaffer at sbcglobal dot net (normal punctuation).

My Interview on Literary Rambles

Hey everyone,

Casey McCormick, of the fabulous blog Literary Rambles, interviewed me today. It was really great to be her guest. Thanks, Casey!


Stop by and give Casey a high five for me! And enter to win a signed copy of LIAM HEMSWORTH: THE HUNGER GAMES’ STRONG SURVIVOR!




Hey, Everyone!

I’m pleased to announce that my latest books, LIAM HEMSWORTH: THE HUNGER GAMES’ STRONG SURVIVOR and JOSH HUTCHERSON: THE HUNGER GAMES’ HOT HERO, are out in paperback and library binding!

Lerner says this about LIAM:

“You may know that Liam Hemsworth stars as good-looking tough guy Gale Hawthorne in The Hunger Games films. But did you know that Liam:

• once dressed as a table tennis player for Halloween, complete with white “short shorts”?

• couldn’t stop laughing the first time he saw a squirrel—a type of animal they don’t have in his home country of Australia?

• is absolutely crazy about Vegemite, a veggie paste that Aussies spread on crackers?

Want to know more about the life of this talented celebrity? Read on to learn all about Liam’s early years, family, rise to fame, favorite pastimes, engagement to Miley Cyrus, and more!”

And this about JOSH:

“You may know that Josh Hutcherson became super famous when he was chosen to play Peeta in The Hunger Games movies. But did you know that Josh:

• bakes an awesome apple pie?

• joined forces with Hunger Games costar Liam Hemsworth to jokingly support “Team Haymitch”?

• felt a deeper connection with the character of Peeta than with any other role he’s played?

Want to know more about the life of this talented celebrity? Read on to learn all about Josh’s childhood, family, past projects, pet peeves, future plans, and more!”

And here’s what Amanda Bosky, Children’s Librarian, said on Goodreads:

“This book [LIAM] would be an especially excellent pick for a reluctant reader–simple, fun text, engaging photographs, and lots of funny/cute sidebars. Liam Hemsworth is a rising star, so this biography would be a good purchase for libraries as it will be well-read over the years. Since it mentions the second and third Hunger Games films, this biography will not become outdated too quickly. Highly recommended purchase for most public library nonfiction collections.”
Happy reading!

Thank you!

Hey everybody,

A huge THANKS to all who stopped by Barnes & Noble, Zona Rosa yesterday in the pouring rain to chat about books, vampires, and light. Another big YAHOO for Sherry Polito, B&N Community Relations Manager, for coordinating it all! Enjoy the pics!

VAMPIRES AND LIGHT Book Signing–You’re Invited!

Hey Everyone,

Sherry Polito, my super-fabulous Community Relations Manager at Barnes & Noble, is hosting me for a book signing, and you’re invited!

If you’re in the Kansas City area on Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 1:00pm, please stop by and say hi. We can chat about books, light, vampires, or anything else. You might even score a set of neon-colored vampire teeth!

This link has all the details you’ll need. http://store-locator.barnesandnoble.com/event/4178466

Hope to see you there!



It’s official. My newest book is in the world! VAMPIRES AND LIGHT (Capstone Press) hit virtual bookshelves a couple days ago. Official release date is January 28 for hardback and February 1 for paperback.

Here’s a description from my publisher:

“Learning about light doesn’t have to be scary. Join vampires as they uncover the science of light and the electromagnetic spectrum. You’ll give your knowledge of light a boost with a monster dose of humor.”

Written for third and fourth graders (with an interest level up to ninth grade), this comic book-style book explains what light is (energy), how light works (through waves), the characteristics of light, and how light makes life on Earth possible.

You can order it in hardback and paperback from these retailers: 

Capstone Press: http://www.capstonepub.com/product/9781429699280

Barnes and Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/vampires-and-light-jody-jensen-shaffer/1113714583?ean=9781429699280&itm=26&USRI=vampires+and+light

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Vampires-Light-Graphic-Library-Monster/dp/1620658208/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1356616185&sr=8-1&keywords=vampires+and+light%2C+jody+jensen+shaffer

Don’t be afraid. Take a peek at VAMPIRES AND LIGHT. Just be sure to keep your flashlight handy!



Picture Book Author Diana Murray

Hey everyone,

Today we’ve been joined by children’s picture book author Diana Murray.

Thanks for stopping by, Diana!  How did you begin writing for children?

When I was eight years old, I wrote and illustrated my first book. Instead of trying to get it published, I buried it under a tree. I imagined that archeologists might find it someday and put it on display in some shiny, futuristic museum.

In college, I majored in psychology and (unofficially) minored in art. After that, I worked in the field of graphic design. When I left my job to stay home with my first daughter, I started reading her picture books. Lots and lots of picture books. I had never really been exposed to that genre before. I had never had that magical “picture book experience” as a kid. It felt wonderful to share those moments of bonding with my daughter. I began to fall in love with picture books and buy them by the dozens. I had picture books squeezed onto every shelf in my apartment (not to mention the chairs and tables). How did I not know about them before? They were the perfect blend of everything I adored–art, creativity, philosophy, psychology, humor, wordplay, quiet, conciseness–all in an attention-span-friendly, easy-to-share package.

After some fumbling around, I finally joined SCBWI around 2007. I started exchanging manuscripts with other writers, making some contacts, and learning the basics.

You’ve been published in lots of great children’s magazines.  Tell us about your magazine work.

When I started writing, I focused on picture books exclusively. But in 2008 I joined a great critique group and soon began to write more and more short poems. I got better at interpreting criticism and applying it to my own revisions, as well as offering constructive criticism to others. Slowly but surely, my form rejections turned into personal rejections with invites to submit again, and finally, acceptances. My first acceptance to a major children’s magazine came from Spider in 2010. Since then, I’ve sold twelve poems to Highlights for Children, Highlights High Five, and Highlights Hello, as well as one poem to Clubhouse Jr. It’s worth noting that some magazines take many months to respond to submissions, so the process can take awhile. “Unwelcome to Opposite Island” was the first poem I ever got to see in print. It was published in the July 2012 issue of Highlights. It was wonderful to see how the illustrator could bring it to life.

Your story, GRIMELDA, THE VERY MESSY WITCH, won the 2010 Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators’ Barbara Karlin Grant, awarded to an aspiring picture book author. Tell us about the story and your win.

The manuscript grew out of a concept I had for a quirky, messy character. The plot for the story kicked around in my mind for a few weeks, and once I started writing, it just poured out. Sometimes I forget this, but I was about seven months pregnant at the time! Anyway, I could tell from the reaction of my crit group that I might be onto something. I polished it up a bit and sent it off with my grant application. I got the call in early July. I didn’t pick up, as I assumed a telemarketer had been calling me all day. When I listened to the message, I nearly fell over in shock. It was just the confidence boost I needed. I felt like things were finally starting to come together. That was the first time I openly shared my secret passion with my family (not including my husband, of course, who had been supportive all along).

There’s a bit more about my experience winning the grant here: http://taralazar.com/2010/07/06/piboidmo-success-story/.

More recently, you landed an agent and sold your first THREE picture books! Can you give us some details?

When I read about my agent, who was new, I had a strong feeling that she might be “the one”. I queried her with GRIMELDA. In a couple of weeks, she wrote me back that she really liked it, was sharing it around, and that she wanted to see what I else I had. I selected five more manuscripts to send to her. After a great phone conversation, we decided to work together, with an initial focus on selling two picture books: GRIMELDA, THE VERY MESSY WITCH, and NED THE KNITTING PIRATE: A SALTY YARN.

There’s more about my experience getting an agent here: http://frolickingthroughcyberspace.blogspot.com/2012/09/how-diana-murray-got-her-agent-plus.html.

At this time, I can’t give too many specifics about what went down, exactly. But to sum things up, NED and GRIMELDA both sold pretty quickly. GRIMELDA sold in a two-book deal, so that will be my first experience writing a manuscript under contract. It’s extremely exciting!

What advice do you have for those who write poetry or picture books for children?

Read everything you can get your hands on in your genre, never stop learning, write what excites you, crit and be critted (both equally important), revise wisely, don’t get stuck on one manuscript, take chances, and have fun!

There’s some more advice here: http://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/write-like-a-top-chef-with-diana-murray/.

Thanks for sharing a bit about your writing, Diana.  Good luck!
Thanks so much for having me, Jody, and congratulations on your new and upcoming releases!

Diana Murray is a picture book author and poet represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. She lives in the Bronx with her husband, two very messy children, and a goldfish named Pickle. http://www.dianamurray.com.

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