What genre do you write in?  What books have you written?  What are they about?

I write fiction for all ages.  Coming March 20, 2012, from Disney Hyperion is The Hop–a novel for young readers about knowing what’s important and fighting for it.  It’s a “green” book–a good book for Earth Day–about toads and gardens and ponds and kids.  I also have an adult novel about ready to go to my agent.

My other books are The Purple Ribbon (a family lap book), Over the River (a novel for young readers about a girl’s relationship with her daddy and other family in the aftermath of World War 2), A Higher Geometry (a love story for teens about about a mathematically gifted girl growing up in the 1960s), and The Snows (a four-generation family saga for teens and adults).

Tell us about yourself?

I grew up deep in the heart of rural southern Illinois where the stars blazed bright at night and there was not much to do but dream. Although I haven’t returned since college except for visits, paradoxically, I’ve never left.  Like Anna, in A Higher Geometry, I love math, but somehow ended up with a doctoral in English Lit.  Since high school, I’ve flipped burgers, nannied, done social work, taught, managed a corporate IT staff, advocated for children, and written.  Currently, I write and teach.

What are you working on?

I’m working on an adult novel:  rural and dark.  And I working on a children’s novel, cosmopolitan and bright-spirited.

What are three random things others wouldn’t know or guess about you?

I’m a little compulsive about my pedicure, probably, and have a deep affinity for bright coral polish.

I hate “dead dog” books and movies.  If the dog dies or gets killed in the story, it’s not for me.

I love the smell of borage on my hands when I come in from the garden.


Author SpotlightMary Kay Shanley

October 2010

What genre do you write in? What books have you written? What are they about?

I write in too many genres. Not because I’m brilliant, but because I am scattered. My first four were for women, including, a national-best seller about friendship. Finding a decent degree of success in the genre, I left it. The next three books were for McGraw-Hill and Barron’s. Two high-school-to-college transition books for kids and one for parents. I don’t know which group needed help more. Our State Fair—Iowa’s Blue Ribbon Story chronicles the first 150 years of America’s greatest fair. Published by the Iowa State Fair Blue Ribbon Foundation, this coffee-table book it is just plain fun to read and visually gorgeous because Paul Micich from Norwalk art-directed the project.

Tell us about yourself.

I began my career as a newspaper reporter in The Register and Tribune’s heydays. Rubbed shoulders with Pulitzer winners. Got run over by biker riders in the newsroom. Went to parties after the first edition of The Register rolled off the press at midnight.

I left when Baby No. 1 was due, vowing I’d be back. But those babies kept arriving and by the time the last one was in kindergarten, I’d moved into free-lance writing. Not a bad place to be in Des Moines—home of Meredith Publishing.

I never intended to become an author, but after a good friend (Karen Van Hon) died of cancer, I was asked by a company that published perpetual calendars to write a book about friendship based on Karen. I told the publisher I didn’t know how to write a book and she didn’t know how to publish one. Apparently that didn’t matter, because She Taught Me to Eat Artichokes has enabled Karen’s gentleness to touch hundreds of thousands of people. I never intended to write Book No.2, but on book tours, people kept asking about the next book.

Our three children live in either LA or Pasadena, my husband works at Von Maur in a second career. (I said he couldn’t be home during the day, what with my office being here.) And I continue keyboarding away.

What are you working on now?

A memoir. After teaching memoir at the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Festival for nine years, the late Barbara Robinette Moss (Change Me into Zeus’s Daughter: A Memoir) suggested I try writing one myself. It’s hard.

Name three random things others would not know or guess about you.

I had jaw surgery when I was 48. Once back out on the streets, friends walked past without recognizing me.

I have been cleaning out the back basement for three years and the back basement isn’t even big.

I love teaching in workshops as much as I love writing.

What genre do you write in? What books have you written? What are they about?

I write contemporary young adult fiction. My first novel, Fairest of Them All, which was released in April 2009, is the story of Oribella Bettencourt, who’s a model, dancer, and star of the beauty pageant circuit. A Hollywood producer has come to Des Moines in search of a modern Rapunzel, and Ori lands the part. And why shouldn’t she? With her hardworking, self-sacrificing mother guiding her career, Ori is stunning, dedicated, poised and has lustrous blond hair that sets her apart from all the other girls at school. So what if she doesn’t have any friends her age, or anyone to talk to other than her mother? Ori is on the verge of having everything she’s ever dreamed of, until almost overnight she begins to lose her hair. With no career, no social life, and her mother barely speaking to her, Ori must find a way to rebuild her life.

In Summer 2011, Egmont Publishing will release A&L Do Summer, my latest Iowa-based young adult novel. Best friends Aspen Parks and Laurel Piedmont are determined to fill the summer before their senior year with parties and cute guys. But it isn’t easy in dinky Cottonwood Creek, Iowa, even for an inventive Chicago transplant like Laurel. Her first idea—stashing pigs in the high school—fizzles when she posts her plan on Facebook and bullies Buster, Ferret, and Kong carry it out. Knowing they’ll be blamed, the girls spend all night herding the pigs outdoors and cleaning up the mess. The only plus for Aspen is meeting Clay, her brother Manny’s friend who helps them by driving the pigs home. When Buster, Ferret, and Kong realize the girls have ruined their prank they promise revenge, and the girls find themselves in more trouble than they could have imagined.

Tell us about yourself.

I grew up in Kennedy Station, Iowa, in what was left of a thriving railroad community. When I was in my early 20s, I went through a traveling phase and lived in Washington, D.C., Texas, Arizona, and California. Although I especially loved Washington, I feel most comfortable in Iowa—except in the dead of winter. Then I’d rather be someplace a whole lot warmer!

I attended elementary and high school in Adel, Iowa, earned undergraduate degrees from Grand View University and Iowa State University, and received my Master’s Degree in teaching from Drake University in Des Moines. I studied writing at the Institute of Children’s Literature and the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and I own dozens of books about writing I’ve actually read. I’m a member of SCBWI and a regular attendee at writing conferences.

Since I retired from full-time teaching in 2006, I’ve taught summer novel writing courses for fifth and sixth graders and creative writing classes for students 55 and older. I also present writing workshops for grades 4-12 throughout the school year.

I currently live on 11 wooded acres in Waukee, Iowa, with my life partner Mike, my dogs and cat, and a flock of guinea fowl. When I’m not writing, you’ll find me reading, running, working out, pulling weeds, walking the dogs, or chasing uninvited wildlife out of the house.

What are you working on?

My latest project is a young adult novel with paranormal elements. Amber Raymond is seventeen and a talented artist, but she doesn’t think she has much else going for her. She’s a little chubby and shy with boys, nothing like her beautiful older sister Brissa who travels the world with her antiquities dealer boyfriend. When Amber’s mother wins a trip to the Cayman Islands and her parents leave her alone on her birthday weekend, Amber reaches an all-time low. Then she eats the contents of a mysterious jar from Brissa and releases Amethyst, a teen ruler who’s been held in suspension for 3,000 years. Amethyst has five days to find The Heart of her people or doom them forever, and she needs Amber’s help to accomplish her mission. As if that weren’t difficult enough, evil sorceress Carnelia is determined to find The Heart and use it for her own purposes.

What are three random things others wouldn’t know or guess about you?

  1. When I was a kid, my brother Dan and I played on top of the boxcars left on the railroad siding near our house.
  2. Four years ago I rode on a zip-line in the Jamaican rain forest, and I wasn’t scared at all!
  3. I know how to drive a stick shift, and every car I’ve bought has had one.

Eileen Boggess is the author of Mia the Meek (Bancroft Press, 2006), Mia the Melodramatic (Bancroft Press, 2008), and Mia the Magnificent (Bancroft Press, 2010). A former middle school teacher with a Master’s Degree in Middle Level Education, Eileen enjoys exploring the humorous side of the topsy-turvy teenage years.

A native Iowan, Eileen currently lives in Urbandale with her husband and two children. She is presently working on several young adult manuscripts. For more information, please visit her website at http://www.eileenboggess.com.

Victor Verney

What genre do you write in? What books have you written? What are they about?

I write nonfiction — although I fully intend to write some short stories and a novel or two before all is said and done. My first book, Warrior of God: Jan Zizka and the Hussite Revolution, was published in ’09 by Frontline Books, a British press specializing in military history.  Zizka, little known in the West despite being a huge cultural icon in the Czech Republic, is to that country what Oliver Cromwell is to England, Simon Bolivar is to South America, or George Washington is to the U.S.A.  The Hussite Revolution of 1419 was the very beginning of the Protestant Reformation and the religious wars that swept Europe after Luther.

Warrior of God: Jan Zizka & the Hussite Revolution (Frontline, 2009)Tell us about yourself.

Although my parents were originally from northeastern Ohio, they moved around a bit during the early years of their marriage.  Eventually, however, they settled in Buffalo, NY, where my father was a mechanical engineer at a local steel plant and my mother an art teacher.  Like my father, I served in the U.S. Navy for four years, receiving my honorable discharge at the rank of E-5.  In addition to learning welding and pipefitting, I also saw Europe, the Caribbean, and the western Pacific Rim.

I earned a graduate degree in American literature with a minor in American history at the State University of NY/Buffalo, writing my doctoral dissertation under direction of the late Leslie Fiedler, renowned literary and cultural critic.  After a few years as an English professor, I entered the field of journalism, working as editor at both weekly and daily newspapers.  A desire to focus on specific projects led to a career as freelance writer.

Along with a strong avocational interest in jazz, I have a life-long fascination with baseball — two of my favorite writing topics — as well as history and literary studies.

What are you working on?

I’m currently working on a book about nine famous writers who served as bona fide combat soldiers — versus wartime ambulance drivers (e.g. Hemingway, Dos Passos, Cummings), journalists (Crane), or nurses (Whitman).  I signed a contract last year with Algora Publishing, and the provisional title is Pen & Sword: Writers Who Fight.  The subjects are Miguel de Cervantes, Lord Byron, Leo Tolstoy, Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Conan Doyle, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, George Orwell, and Kurt Vonnegut.

What are three random things that others wouldn’t know or guess about you?

  • I’ve played piano since I was 10 and have performed semi-professionally much of my life.  After starting with ’60s garage bands during high school, I discovered Miles Davis my freshman year of college and went off the deep end with jazz-fusion during the ’70s.  I even played in Top-40 bands in San Diego during the synthesizer-crazy ’80s and was able (for a while, at least) to fulfill every musician’s fantasy: quitting my day job!
  • I’m a serious cat lover and have been fascinated by felines since my first boyhood trip to the zoo.  My mother did not share my appreciation, so I didn’t have my own cat until later in life.  I recently experienced, for the first time, the sorrow of having to put a beloved pet to sleep, which affected me far more than I (or anyone else) might have guessed.
  • Despite taking typing classes in high school (at my mother’s insistence) and being a piano player, I am a terrible “hunt-and-peck” typist!  I rely heavily on the voice recognition software program Dragon NaturallySpeaking to write — or perhaps I should say dictate — my lengthier work.

Susan Maupin Schmid

August 4, 2010

Lost Time Susan Maupin Schmid grew up next to a cemetery and has always been interested in things like mummies, archeology, history, and exploration. She writes science fiction and fantasy for young adults. Her debut novel, Lost Time (Philomel 2008) was a finalist for the 209 Eleanor Cameron Golden Duck Award for excellence in science fiction for children and is a nominee on the Sunshine State Young Reader Award List for 2010/2011.


Born and raised on a dairy farm in southern Iowa, Kali VanBaale’s debut novel, The Space Between (River City Publishing, 2006) earned a 2007 American Book Award, the 2007 Independent Publisher’s silver medal for general fiction, the 2007 Iowa Reader Literary Award for Fiction and the 2006 Fred Bonnie Memorial First Novelist Award. The Space Between is the story of a wife and mother struggling to keep her family together after her son commits a high school shooting.

Her second novel, Mercy Road, is currently represented by Russell & Volkening Literary agency pending publication. Her short stories and essays have appeared in the anthologies Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Families, Voice’s of Alzheimer’s and Voice’s of Caregiver’s.

In 2009, she was awarded an Iowa Arts Council major artist grant to begin work on an untitled third novel. She teaches creative writing for Des Moines Continuing Education and is the Literary Advisor for The Modern Dickens Project, an innovative serial novel competition based in Des Moines. The Modern Dickens Project recently earned a 2010 Iowa Arts Council mini grant.

Kali resides outside Des Moines with her husband and three children.