Meet Author Jody Jensen Shaffer!
Blog: Just Kidding: On Writing for Kids and Other Life Stuff
Jody Jensen Shaffer is a poet and the author of several fiction and nonfiction books for children. Her magazine work has been featured in Highlights High Five, Babybug, Turtle, Humpty Dumpty, COLUMBIAKids, and coming soon in Highlights, Hello, and Clubhouse Jr. Jody lives in Missouri with her husband, two kids, and dog.
These photo-illustrated picture books from The Child’s World feature popular entertainers that children will recognize. Each book follows the life of its star from childhood through today.
Q: How did you break into writing biographies for kids?
A: I owe my introduction to biography writing to Patricia Stockland, former Editorial Director of Red Line Editorial and current Editorial Director of Lerner. I had written two social studies books for Patricia, published by The Child’s World. When she asked if I’d be interested in writing some celebrity biographies, I jumped at the chance. Writing four biographies for The Child’s World helped me land more celebrity biography-writing jobs for other publishers.
Q: Describe the research process it takes to write a book about a current celebrity.
A: Researching a current celebrity is a lot of fun, but it also has its challenges. The internet is a vast source of information about celebrities, some of it reliable, some not. So I found reliable sources, like trusted newspapers and online magazines, that had interviewed my subjects. I was able to quote directly from the stars’ own words. I also found youtube videos of my subjects giving interviews. Finally, my local library subscribes to many searchable research databases, like Biographies in Context, which I used as well.
The challenging part about writing about a current star is that they’re still living! And every day that goes by, there’s more to write about! Thank goodness I had deadlines, or I might never have finished those books!
Q: Describe your typical writing schedule.
A: During the schoolyear, I get my kids to school then sit down at my computer. I work until it’s time to pick them up at the end of the day. Summers are a lot spottier in terms of my writing time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love summers with my kids!
Q: Share one word of advice you’d like to give to a children’s author who wants to write biographies of famous people.
A: Use reliable sources! (Oops, that’s three.)