Get to Know… Jody Jensen Shaffer!

My name is… Jody, which I’ve always liked. It’s nice to like your name. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

I am a… grown up small-town girl with big dreams. Also, I prefer land to water, prairie to beach. Home, home on the range…

As a kid, I was… funny, active, creative, an animal-lover, a good reader, fiercely loyal to family, and afraid of tornadoes.

Writing is… sooo much fun!

Reading is… an escape.

Books are… amazing glimpses into the minds of their creators.

Did you know… I love musicals and plays? I’m a big baseball fan? I played trumpet through high school? I play piano? I walk a lot? I love dogs? I don’t give up? I’m not a fan of jazz? My wardrobe is mostly t-shirts from my kids’ activities? My faith and family are the most important things in my life?

You can find me… on Twitter @jodywrites4kids or on my website at jodyjensenshaffer.com. There’s my name again! I still like it.

. . .

Don’t miss Jody’s newest book! It’s a Field Trip, Busy Bus! — the follow-up to her and illustrator Claire Messer’s It’s Your First Day of School, Busy Bus! — hits shelves on September 3rd!

Screen Shot 2019-08-15 at 9.24.40 AM.png

EngiNerds 3!!!

In case you missed it over on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, I’ve got book news! The EngiNerds series has been extended!

Screen Shot 2019-08-21 at 4.25.25 PM.png

Since the very beginning, even before I sold the manuscript that would become EngiNerds (it originally had a much wordier — and much worse — title), I envisioned this story arc in three installments, so I’m very excited to get a chance to complete that vision and share it with all of you. And if you or your young readers were left upset or desperate by the ending of Revenge of the EngiNerds, you can rest assured that you won’t be left hanging. Well, you will be, actually, for a little while longer — until the book comes out.

I’ll be sharing more information about Book 3 in the coming weeks and months. But for now, I just want to say THANK YOU to every person who has read and/or shared these books of mine. If not for the support of all of YOU, this contract wouldn’t have landed on my desk yesterday afternoon.

So thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

~ Jarrett

Get to Know… Christina Soontornvat!

My name is… Christina Soontornvat. My last name rhymes with MOON-BORN-SPOT!

I am a… Thai-American author who writes books for kids of all ages. My newest books are the DIARY OF AN ICE PRINCESS chapter books, which are about a princess with winter powers who is a descendent of the North Wind (talk about a legacy to live up to!). She just wants to be a normal kid and go to a regular school (on the ground, of course).

E50BA2EA-E1CB-41CB-8D41-911FCAC48C5E.jpeg
The first two books in the DIARY OF AN ICE PRINCESS series (there will be 6 total!).

As a kid, I was… reading to get out of doing work. My parents owned a Thai/Chinese restaurant when I was growing up, and that’s where I spent most of my out-of-school time. I quickly learned that if I didn’t want to fold napkins or sort silverware, I needed to put my nose in a book!

IMG_3688.jpg
Me, with my grandparents, in front of our restaurant.

Writing is… a lot like engineering. In addition to being an author, I’m also an engineer. One of the first things you learn in engineering is how to solve problems. Figuring out the best way to tell a story is also problem solving, and sometimes you have to keep trying it this way, then that way, until you get it right.

IMG_3687.jpeg
Ice princess Lina and her best friend forever, Claudia.

Reading is… my favorite place to get lost. There is no better feeling than reading a book that is so good that I forget where I am or what time it is.

IMG_3388.jpeg
My daughter, on the day when finished copies arrived – so exciting!

Books are… all around me. I literally have piles and piles of books in every room of my house, threatening to topple over and bury me in paper (okay maybe not quite that tall).

IMG_3685.jpg
Lina and her Granddad, the North Wind. They don’t always see eye to eye.

Did you know… that I love movies almost as much as I love books? When I get stuck in my writing I usually watch movies. Musicals are especially helpful because so much emotion comes through in the songs. Yes, I watched a lot of FROZEN while I was writing the DIARY OF AN ICE PRINCESS books!

IMG_2264.jpeg
Me and some of my very favorite authors and friends, Booki Vivat, Angela Dominguez, and Karina Yan Glaser.

You can find me… at the pool. I live in Austin, Texas and it is a billion degrees here 5 months of the year so I am usually swimming. Oh, if you can’t make it to the pool you can just go to my website: www.soontornvat.com or find me on Twitter as @soontornvat.

#KidsNeedMentors: Year 2!

#KNM.JPG

Once again, Kristen Picone, Kristin Crouch, and I spent a chunk of our summer poring over spreadsheets and playing matchmaker for hundreds of educators, librarians, authors, and illustrators for the second installment of the #KidsNeedMentors program. It was A LOT of work, and we’re not even quite done yet. But I think it’s safe to say I speak for Kristen and Kristin when I say that this is some of the most rewarding work we do. Getting to see the outcome of these partnerships — all the amazing, creative work they do together to benefit the kids — is tremendously satisfying, uplifting, and inspiring. If you want to see some of that stuff for yourself, I suggest you head over to Twitter or Instagram and search the #KidsNeedMentors hashtag. If you scroll back in time, you can see some of the awesomeness that occurred during last school year.

I’ll be sharing more about the program and the wonderful participants throughout the year, but now, at the outset, I’d like to highlight a couple of cool things:

— Last year, our creator list was mostly filled with authors from the United States. This year, we’ve got a whole bunch of illustrators, author-illustrators, comic book-markers, and graphic novelists. We also have lots of creators from Canada, and others who are in Australia, the Netherlands, Germany, South Korea, Austria, the Philippines, and the UK. We’ve also got educators and librarians in Zambia and Cambodia!

— My pairing for this year is Ms. Tilden’s 4th grade class at Brown School in Natick, Massachusetts. Now, the town of Natick is right next to Wayland — and that’s where I grew up. It’s where I made my very first comic books and wrote my very first short stories. It’s where I fell in love with books and reading. Meaning that, when I go to visit Ms. Tilden’s students, we’ll all be just a handful of miles from where, when I was their age, I was first beginning to dream of doing what I’m doing now. Pretty cool.

If you want to learn more about the #KidsNeedMentors program, click here for a blog post I did about it at the start of last year, and click here for an interview I did about it over on the From the Mixed Up Files of Middle Grade Authors blog. Also, once again, you can always search the hashtag!

~ Jarrett

MORE #KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds T-Shirts!

You asked for it, so here it is: another chance to get a #KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds shirt. And look — new colors!

The original fundraiser only lasted two weeks, and many people either missed the deadline or couldn’t make a purchase during that time. Many people also expressed an interest in having some other color options. So, I worked with CustomInk to (a) re-launch a second, longer fundraiser and (b) add some new color options to the mix! As you can see below (and also on the fundraising page itself), there is now a black with white ink option, a military green option, a light pink with dark pink ink option, and an orange with white ink option.

Screen Shot 2019-08-10 at 3.14.50 PM.png

The landing page for the fundraiser is the same as last time — you can click here to access it. One thing, however, that is a little bit different about this fundraiser: instead of all the funds going directly to First Book, a portion will go to them and a portion will be reserved for book donations to other school in need that do not qualify for First Book.

Once again, a big, huge, gigantic THANK YOU to everyone who has supported and/or shared the last fundraiser, and a big, huge, gigantic THANK YOU in advance to everyone who supports and/or shares this one. I am excited to learn more from First Book about exactly where the funds raised last round are going, and am excited to put whatever is raised this round toward getting more books into the hands of kids.

Oh! And if you already have a shirt (lots of people got theirs today!), don’t forget to post a #ShowMeYourShirt pic to enter to win some signed books and custom artwork!

~ Jarrett

#ShowMeYourShirt

If you purchased one of my #KidsNeedBooks of All Kinds T-shirts, then you might’ve received an email from CustomInk earlier this morning letting you know that your shirt has shipped and is on its way to you (if you did not receive the email, you should within a couple days)! Hopefully you’re excited, because I’m excited, and FirstBook is excited too. They are so excited, in fact, they want to see you in your shirt! They asked me to help launch a #ShowMeYourShirt campaign.

Twitter.jpg

Please note that the handle mentioned above is FirstBook’s Twitter handle. Their Instagram handle is @FirstBookOrg.

Taking part is as simple as putting on your shirt, snapping a pic, and posting it! Just make sure to tag me and FirstBook, and to use the #ShowMeYourShirt hashtag somewhere in your tweet or Instagram post. But wait, there’s more — one lucky #ShowMeYourShirt poster will win some signed books and custom artwork by me!

Thank you all again for your celebration of my art and your support of FirstBook. And if you didn’t get a chance to purchase a T-shirt and want one, I’ll have news in the coming days about how you can get one!

~ Jarrett

First Drafts Are…

Before I visit a school, I always ask educators and administrators if there is anything in particular that they want me to share or discuss during my time with their students. Pretty much 100% of the time, they ask me to talk about revision — the importance of it and the reality of it, even for so-called “professional” authors and illustrators. Because, as a kid, I was under the impression that authors and illustrators always got it “right” on the first try, I already spent a lot of time during my presentations talking about revision. But during one visit a year or so ago, I had this thought — that I am just one person telling these kids about how writers should really be called “revisers,” because that’s mostly what we do, and about how every illustration you see in a book is the product of hours and hours and hours of work, of countless attempts. What if, after spending the day with me, the kids thought, “Well, that’s just how it is for that guy. But every other author and illustrator must get it right on the first try.”

How could I make sure this wasn’t the case? I got my pals to help me out! I asked kid lit authors to describe their first drafts for me using just one word. The responses were wonderful — and, of course, not a single creator said “perfect” or “polished” or “awesome” or “complete” or anything even remotely close to that. Frankly, the majority of respondents used the word “poop” (or some variation of it…). To share this information with kids, I made a quick drawing in my sketchbook, illustrating the words to make them more fun. This morning, I made a digital version of that drawing, so that educators could download a clean copy and use it as they wish.

first draft.jpg

Seeing this graphic, kids are always blown away — and, once they get over the fact that they are looking at the word “POOP” on a big screen, they feel encouraged and inspired to get back to their notebooks and sketchbooks and make some creative mistakes. Thank you to all the creators who responded to my original tweet all those months ago! To download a free copy of the graphic (and a number of others), head over to my Art page.

~ Jarrett