Thursday, December 27, 2012


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:

Barnes and Noble:


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



Monday, December 3, 2012

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:

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:

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:

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.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

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  Read more about Margo on her website,

Congratulations, Margo.  And happy reading, all!


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

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!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

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!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


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,, 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

Monday, June 11, 2012

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.


Saturday, June 9, 2012


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 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:


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

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!


Monday, May 7, 2012

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 The Enchanted Inkpot blogs at And Verla Kay’s Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Chat Board can be accessed at

Monday, April 16, 2012

My interview with Laura Sassi

Laura Sassi is a very talented picture book writer and poet. We're critique buddies and friends.

Recently Laura interviewed me about writing for children. Please take a look!


Friday, March 30, 2012

River Read - Park University

On March 13, I had a great time chatting with fourth and fifth graders from the Park Hill School District at Park University's River Read Festival!

We used BREAD BEFORE THE STORE and BLUE JEANS BEFORE THE STORE to discuss the writing process and elements of nonfiction, including text features to look for in nonfiction books.

The kids and their adults asked great questions and even gave me suggestions for future writing projects.

Thanks for the opportunity, Park University!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What the UPS Man Brought

My books!

Teachers--A teacher's guide on the basic principles of economics is available from my publisher by clicking this link: