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TIME OF HONOR by Margo Sorenson

Dear Friends,

You may remember back in May 2012 when I interviewed Margo Sorenson about her just-released book ALOHA FOR CAROL ANN.  Margo has a brand new tween ebook out, and I’m excited to tell you about it.

In TIME OF HONOR (MuseItUp Publishing, Canada), fourteen-year-old Connor’s smart mouth gets her in and—luckily—out of trouble on her prep school’s debate team and in the classroom.

On a field trip to the U.K., when she is suddenly catapulted into the year 1272, she finds her new royal friends’ lives are threatened by a conspiracy fueled by greed. When William and Maud learn that their father has been murdered on the Crusade, they beg Connor to help them find who is plotting against them. William must confront his enemy in battle, but what does Connor discover about herself and her ability to use words when she tries to save her new friends—and herself?

Author of twenty-eight books for young readers, Margo has won recognition and awards for her work, including being honored by ALA nominations and being named a finalist for the Minnesota Book Award in YA Fiction. TIME OF HONOR is available through online retailers such as Amazon.com.  Read more about Margo on her website, www.margosorenson.com.

Congratulations, Margo.  And happy reading, all!


Happy Release Day, Dwayne, Lea, Taylor, and Taylor!

Hey, Everybody,

I’m delighted to announce that today is Release Day for my celebrity biographies, DWAYNE ‘THE ROCK’ JOHNSON, LEA MICHELE, TAYLOR LAUTNER, and TAYLOR SWIFT!

Here’s what my publisher, The Child’s World, has to say about the Stars of Today series:

                 “The Stars of Today series introduces today’s hottest celebrities to young readers.
                 Each book covers a star’s early life, rise to fame, and career highlights. Interesting
                 quotes and anecdotes are captured in sidebars throughout each book. A glossary
                 and lists of additional resources help readers better understand each star. This
                 series is a must-read for any fan of these celebrities!”

Want to rub elbows with a star?  Order online or ask your librarian to pick up a copy!

Interview with Nancy I Sanders

Hey, Everyone,

Today I’m being interviewed about my upcoming celebrity biographies on Nancy I Sanders’ blog.  Check it out!  http://nancyisanders.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/author-interview-jody-jensen-shaffer/#comment-3338

Thanks, Nancy!

A BLUE JEANS sighting!

Friend and fellow picture book writer, Lindsay Weiss, sent me this picture yesterday.  She and her kids discovered BLUE JEANS BEFORE THE STORE in the “New Books” section at her library (Blue Valley branch of the Johnson County Library system)!

Thanks for letting me know, Lindsay!


I just received notice that the KREATIV BLOGGER AWARD has been given to me by Laura Sassi, children’s writer and poet.  Laura’s blog, http://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/, includes writing tips and guest blogs from other children’s writers.  Thanks for the nomination, Laura!  I’m delighted to receive this award and to pass it along to others.

The rules for the KREATIV BLOGGER AWARD are simple. First, thank the person who nominated you. Second, write 7 things about yourself that no one knows. Third, nominate several creative bloggers for this award.


1. I love peanut butter in all shapes and forms.  Crunchy?  Yep.  Smooth?  Of course.  Inside Reese’s cups?  Definitely.  On apple slices?  You bet.  In sandwiches?  Duh.  I lurve me some mashed up peanuts.

2. I usually begin new writing projects in a spiral notebook. Then when I know where they’re going, I transfer my notes to the computer. I have LOTS of spiral notebooks.

3. I love nature.  Bugs, animals, trees, dirt, wind, birds…I love it all.  (Which is probably why I also love science.)  I have to confess, however, that I’m not that crazy about bodies of water, unless they’re fishing ponds where the bass are biting or our local pool.  Guess I’m a landlubber at heart.

4. I adore reading aloud to my kids.  There’s nothing like the shared experience of a great book.  When we take driving trips, we stock up on books on CD from the library and let someone else read to all of us!  We’ve read lots of great books that way.  In fact, I associate many of our vacations with the book/books we listened to on the way there or back.  Land Between the Lakes, Kentucky=The Hound of the Baskervilles.  Salida, Colorado=The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z.  Mt. Rushmore, South Dakota=The Bunnicula books.

5. I walk a lot.  I try to get in five fast miles every day, either outside with my dog or on my treadmill.  I do a lot of pre-writing when I walk.  If I’m afraid I’ll forget an idea by the time I get home, I call my house and leave a message on the answering machine.

6. Dogs like me.  The feeling is mutual.

7. I visit my local library at least once a week and usually more than that.  Libraries rock!

TERRIFIC WRITING BLOGS I wholeheartedly nominate for the KREATIV BLOGGER AWARD: (Please check them out.)

Nancy I Sanders’ blog: Blogzone–Practical Tips to Help Your Writing Dreams Come True

Nancy Kelly Allen’s blog:  Writing Workshop

Rachel Hamby’s blog: Writing and Reading a Picture Book

Vijaya Bodach’s blog: Reading, Writing, & Ruminating

Angela Ackerman’s blog:  The Bookshelf Muse

How To Write A Rebus

Earlier this year, the SCBWI Regional Advisor for Missouri, Sue Bradford Edwards, asked if I’d write an article for the region’s newsletter on how to write a rebus.  I’d recently had three accepted for publication by Clubhouse Jr..  I was happy to. 

Don’t know what a rebus is?  Then this is the perfect time to learn!  Here’s a link to the region’s website and newsletter. 




Today I am hosting Nancy I Sanders as she celebrates the June 1 release of FREDERICK DOUGLASS FOR KIDS: HIS LIFE AND TIMES, WITH 21 ACTIVITIES (Chicago Review Press).

About the book:
Few Americans have had as much impact on this nation as Frederick Douglass. Born on a plantation, he later escaped slavery and helped others to freedom via the Underground Railroad. In time he became a bestselling author, an outspoken newspaper editor, a brilliant orator, a tireless abolitionist, and a brave civil rights leader. He was famous on both sides of the Atlantic in the years leading up to the Civil War, and when war broke out, Abraham Lincoln invited him to the White House for counsel and advice.

Frederick Douglass for Kids follows the footsteps of this American hero, from his birth into slavery to his becoming a friend and confidant of presidents and the leading African American of his day. And to better appreciate Frederick Douglass and his times, readers will form a debating club, cook a meal similar to the one Douglass shared with John Brown, make a civil war haversack, participate in a microlending program, and more. This valuable resource also includes a time line of significant events, a list of historic sites to visit or explore online, and web resources for further study.

About Nancy:
Nancy I. Sanders is the bestselling and award-winning author of over 80 books including the picture book D is for Drinking Gourd: An African American Alphabet, illustrated by E.B. Lewis. She teaches other writers how to launch their career to the next level based on material found in her groundbreaking book for writers, Yes! You Can Learn How to Write Children’s Books, Get Them Published, and Build a Successful Writing Career. Nancy and her husband, Jeff, live in southern California. They have two adult sons, Dan and Ben.

You photographed many of the images in your book.  Tell us how you did it.

I knew that this publisher accepts photographs as part of the finished book, so the first thing I did was send a couple of samples to my editor to see if my digital camera took shots that were of the quality needed to publish in the book. Some were and some weren’t, so I got out my instruction guide to my camera and learned more about how to use the settings on my camera. I knew I’d be working inside museums with low lighting so I especially wanted to see if that would work. This time around, my editor said that the photographs were a much better quality.

Then I contacted museum and historic sites to get permission to take photographs and publish them in my book. Some sites required a payment fee and also a permission form to fill out. Others didn’t require anything and gave me permission. Still others don’t give permission to photograph their collections.

My publisher requires written permission from every place that shows I have permission to publish photographs from their museum or historic site. For some of these places, an e-mail from them stating they gave me permission was enough. For other places, my publisher had a form for them to fill out.

Then, during my trip I took tons of photographs of each thing. I used a tripod a lot, too. This was because I had no way of checking the quality of my photographs until I checked them out on my computer when I got home. I’m not a professional photographer, so I knew I’d have lots of fuzzy images to deal with. In the end, I had lots of clear shots I was able to use for the book. Plus, I use lots of my extras that didn’t make it into the book for posts on my blog and other marketing events.

How did you acquire the pictures that you didn’t photograph?

The Internet is such an amazing resource for authors today! When I’d search for a name or topic for my book, lots of images would come up. I always looked for free images since I’m paying for these myself, and also for images in the public domain. The Library of Congress had a lot of these types of images.

Another source that had numerous images for a very low cost was Documenting the American South. They own a lot of historic books that are in the public domain. They have scanned many of the images from their books and now offer them for use in projects like mine for a very low cost. I used a lot of images from them, too. They had a permission form I filled out and then sent me the images to use.

Another resource I used was Flick.com. I’d search for a public historic site such as Frederick Douglass’s gravesite in Rochester, and up would come a bunch of photographs people have taken who have visited the site. Then I contacted several of these people and asked for permission to publish their images in my book. I acquired a couple of images this way.

What are you doing to celebrate the release of your book, Frederick Douglass for Kids?

I’m hosting a two-week virtual Book Launch Party! There are prizes to win, fun facts to learn, and lots of inside peeks and helpful tips about how a book is born. Stop by my site today to join in the party. You can join the fun on my blog today at:


Thanks, Nancy!  And good luck with your book. 
Readers, you can learn more about Nancy and Frederick at these sites:



Amazon:  http://tinyurl.com/7opjcn4

My STARS OF TODAY Book Covers!

I’m super excited to show you my new book covers for…

Stars of Today: Taylor Lautner

Stars of Today: Taylor Swift

Stars of Today: Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson

Stars of Today: Lea Michele

These biographies for 7-10 year olds are available for preorder now, with an official release date of 8.28.2012 from The Child’s World.  Thanks for letting me share!


Interview with Pippa Bayliss

Today I’m talking with Phillipa (Pippa) Bayliss, an up-and-coming mid-grade writer who I met on Verla Kay’s message board (and really, who haven’t I met at Verla’s?).

Hi, Pippa. Thanks for joining us!

Thank you for being brave enough to have me.

You write children’s fantasy. Tell me about your current project(s).

At the moment I’m working on the revision that never ends (which shouldn’t be confused with the Neverending Story). It’s called ‘Ausmus Marney: 11 and 2/3’. Or, ‘Ausmus Marney: Eleven and Two-Thirds’. You see what I’m up against?

And the premise is just as tricky as the title: No one has been able to read a story, watch a movie or use their imagination for over ten years. When Ausmus Marney is taken – at the tender age of eleven and two-thirds – to the afterlife realm of the characters of fiction and make-believe, we find out why.

It’s lots of fun to work on, which possibly explains why I’m still polishing even though it’s already dazzling – (that gagging sound is me choking on my tongue-in-cheek). Seriously, the time I’m spending with Ausmus has absolutely nothing to do with the mess I made of a certain plot point, or my teeny tiny tendency to ramble. I’m so glad you asked so I could clear that up.

How long have you been writing for children? What made you want to be a writer?

This is an embarrassing question for someone like me who hasn’t got a word in print yet, Jody. But since it’s you, I’ll be honest and confess to ten years. I think that makes me addicted? I’m certainly obstinate, and an extremely slow learner. I’ve written plenty but have been very picky about which projects are ready for the world. Only one so far and, really, I’m not sure the world is ready for it.

Oddly, I have no idea what made me want to be a writer. I think at the beginning I wanted to get the stories out of my head, but now I suspect it might have been a generational madness and a touch of heat stroke.

I see you’re a member of The Enchanted Inkpot. What is that? How did you get involved?

Ah! The Enchanted Inkpot – a good question that is most blog worthy. I discovered the site through Verla Kay’s forum and won a swag of books for commenting on a post. I don’t think most of their followers became fans this way but it made me one. The Enchanted Inkpot is a group blog of fantasy writers who write for the juvenile market so its content was of huge interest to me. They let me join them after I begged and groveled a bit. And met their membership criteria. I’m honored to be part of such a talented group of fantasy writers and it’s a site full of wonderful interviews and useful topics. I’d hurry and bookmark it now if I were you.

What are your favorite resources for writing for kids?

I started with Nancy Lamb’s, ‘The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children’ and I still refer to it. There are a ton of resources out there – websites, blogs, Verla Kay’s Blueboard Forum – and really, I salivate over any writing resource I can get my hands on. One that I’d recommend for fantasy and science fiction writers is ‘Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy’ by Crawford Kilian. But by far the best advice you can get is from Snoopy.

I’ve read a ton of ‘how to’ books on the many aspects of good story telling, and inspirational books. If you go to my blog you’ll see that Anne Lamott’s ‘Bird by Bird’ has a very special place in my heart. She makes me laugh and cry and soldier on. My mind is a bit leaky so I go once a year to a writer’s conference to soak up good advice. There’s always something more to discover and my mantra at the moment is ‘Go brain cell, go! You can do it’.

Back to Ausmus Marney for a minute (which, by the way, sounds very fun). When will you kiss it goodbye and hustle it out the door?

My agent is waiting for it as I type so my intention is to have it back to her by May. Which means I should stop chatting and get onto it …

You clearly are committed to your work. What’s your best advice to writers who struggle to hang in there (that’s all of us, by the way)?

I struggle the most when I take my eyes off my own work and start seeing how brilliant everyone else is. A nasty little voice in my head tells me I’ll never be as good as them and I really should do something more suited to my talent – like worm rescue. It uses phrases like ‘waste of time’, ‘complete failure’, and ‘nobody cares’. So, my best advice is never, ever measure yourself against the success and popularity of others. You’re you, your work is yours and you can do what it takes to achieve your goals. Keep focused on the writing. And read the book that inspires you the most, over and over until you’re clear again about why you must write.

Thanks, Pippa. It has been fun chatting with you. Much success in your writing endeavors!

It’s been fun hanging out with you, Jody!

Readers, you can visit Pippa at http://pippa_bayliss.livejournal.com/. The Enchanted Inkpot blogs at http://enchantedinkpot.livejournal.com/. And Verla Kay’s Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Chat Board can be accessed at http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php.


Booklist has reviewed BLUE JEANS BEFORE THE STORE!  Please click on the link to read the entire article.  http://childsworld.com/editorial_reviews/506

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