Friday, December 13, 2013

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:

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


Saturday, November 2, 2013


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!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

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:

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
PAUL CZAJAK got an ‘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

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

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

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!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

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 better!

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?

The idea for TIARA-SAURUS REX 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!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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:

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!


Saturday, July 20, 2013

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!


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

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.

Thanks, Brianna!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

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).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

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!


Thursday, March 14, 2013



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!


Sunday, March 10, 2013

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!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

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.

Hope to see you there!