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.


Exciting news. The ALA, American Library Association, included Wendy Delsol’s Stork in its nominations for Best Fiction for Young Adults. It’s among some impressive titles: Suzanne Collins’s Mockingjay, Alice Hoffman’s Green Witch, Carolyn Mackler’s Tangled, Rick Riordan’s The Red Pyramid, and the mysterious Pittacus Lore’s I am Number Four.

The final list will be determined at the ALA’s Midwinter Meeting in January of 2011.

by Kali VanBaale, Literary Advisor

In seemingly perfect harmony with September’s national Be Kind to Editors and Writers Month, I’m proud to announce the launch of the Modern Dickens Project.


Inspired by Charles Dickens’s serial novels of industrial London a century before (OLIVER TWIST, A TALE OF TWO CITIES, you may have heard of them…), The Modern Dickens Project is a serial novel contest designed to showcase untold Iowa stories by undiscovered Iowa writers. The novel itself is being written by a series of one-chapter contests held for 12 consecutive months.


At midnight of Sept. 1, 2010, an opening chapter, written by our guest Iowa author John Domini, was posted on The Modern Dickens Project website. Any writer who is an Iowa resident or has a strong connection to or interest in Iowa, is then challenged to continue the current story. Participants have until midnight of Oct. 21 to write and submit a chapter draft that builds on the previous chapter. (The Editorial Board is allowing extra time for the first contest.)

A winner will be selected and notified on Nov. 1st, and they will receive a $100 honorarium and an author spotlight on the MDP website. A lightly edited version of their winning chapter will be posted to the website on midnight of the same day and the contest will open again for Chapter 3, (with the standard 21 days to write and submit for the remainder of the contest) and so on and so forth, chapter by chapter, month by month, for twelve months, resulting in a collective thirteen chapter novel. Complete submission dates are outlined on the homepage of the website:

 Any winning author who is interested and/or able is invited, but not required, to read portions of their winning chapter at various Des Moines bookstores and coffee shops, scheduled and hosted by the MDP team.

 There is no entry fee. I repeat, NO ENTRY FEE. We wanted this contest to be open to anyone with a vested interest in our state, without financial limitations or constraints.

After the yearlong project concludes, the Modern Dickens editors will work with the winner of each chapter to polish the pieces, with a release date for the completed novel December 2011. The team is currently working with several interested local publishers and also plans to release it first as an e-book.


The MDP is the true brainchild of creator Chris Draper, a Van Meter native and Des Moines businessman. Our editorial board is comprised of a very lovely and brilliant group of ladies who bring a wide-range of experiences and taste to the judging table. (And they work for free! But that’s not why I called them lovely…) First, we have Rachel Vogel, a recent Drake University grad from the journalism/magazines program. She is our Managing Editor and handles our day-to-day correspondences, questions, fires, etc…Tracey Kelley and Murl Pace round out our board, both of whom bring extensive editing and fiction writing backgrounds to the table when selecting a winning submission each month.

Chris will also read submissions and give input throughout the process, and the five of us have worked collectively on our aggressive project timeline, marketing, promotion and other odds and ends. I serve as Editorial Advisor and did most of my work leading up to the open of the contest.

Chris’s end goal of this project all along has been to eliminate the need for anyone to ask the question, “Why Iowa?” He believes that our product is our community’s ability to pull together, and his hope is for us to be one of those projects that embraces re-looking at how we think of things. And I speak from experience here, the man’s enthusiasm and vision is contagious.

THE WHERE: The opening chapter is an all-Iowa flavored whodunit with a mix of current social issues tailored to our state. The story opens in the Iowa State Capitol where a young female Iraq war veteran receives a death threat via text message. She’s in town for a controversial gay wedding of an acquaintance, and carries more than her share of baggage from her past. Right on the heels of the threat, she’s pulled into a murder in the East Village area. Where it goes from there is up to you undiscovered writers out there!

 As John Domini so perfectly said: “This is a mystery, but it’s not just a mystery. One hopes it’s somehow funny and a discovery on a level other than whodunit. The good mysteries all have that.”

 John’s opening chapter and complete submission guidelines can be found at

Email any questions to Rachel Vogel, Managing Editor


                                     Chris Draper, Executive Director

This project supported in part byIowaArtsCouncilLogo

Wendy Delsol

reads from her debut YA novel:



6:30-7:30 p.m.


Des Moines Central Library

First floor meeting rooms 1 & 2

1000 Grand Avenue

Des Moines, IA

(515) 283-4000



Praise for Stork:


Skillfully written and quite engaging.” —Kirkus Reviews


“Mixing folklore with romance, humor and a gutsy heroine, Delsol has created a fresh new take on the YA Paranormal.” —Eileen Cook, author of What Would Emma Do? and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood.


 “Unpredictable, masterfully put-together, and such fun.”—Nancy Werlin, author of Impossible and Extraordinary


“Mystical and moving – but full of laughter, too.” —Beth Fantaskey, author of Jessica’s Guide to Datingon the Dark Side and Jekel Loves Hyde


“Interesting myth use, enjoyable YA romance.  Norse lore & elementals in a contemporary world.” —Melissa Marr, author of the Wicked Lovely novels



Candlewick Press

ISBN-10: 0763648442

ISBN-13: 978-0763648442

Age 12 and up


*books available for purchase that evening.

Wendy Delsol guest blogs at savvyauthors.

Interview copied below:


Published: 08-21-2010 07:00 AM
Because writing is such a solitary endeavor, it helps to cultivate a few pals. In my case, PAL is actually an acronym for Published Authors’ Liaison . I’m convinced that at every stage of a writer’s career it’s essential to find and sustain support. While honing the craft and agent/editor hunting, critique groups and writers’ conferences are great resources. But who do you turn to once you’ve signed that first contract? Among authors, what opportunities exist to network, share information, and provide mutual promotional support? I couldn’t find anything like it in the Des Moines area, so I just went ahead and started one. Thus, the Published Authors’ Liaison of Central Iowa was born.

At PAL’s July 2009 first meeting, eight writers (representing an array of genres: mystery, literary, women’s fiction, YA fiction, children’s, and middle grade) met for introductions.

Since that first meeting, PAL has met four more times and its membership has grown to eleven (now including the genres of science fiction, food, and historical nonfiction).

In the group’s first year, the following topics were addressed:

Just who qualifies for membership? Certainly, a society of published writers can take many forms. For our purposes, it was decided to follow the guidelines of organizations such as Romance Writers of America and Mystery Writers of America and define published as advance earning authors who are with a non-vanity, non-subsidy, non-electronic book publisher. In limiting membership this way, our goal is to focus on the promotional obligations and expectations specific to the publisher/author relationship.

What is our mission? To network, share information, and provide mutual promotional support.

How is this mission accomplished? Being the busy-bee writers that we are, it was decided that we’d meet four times a year, seasonally as it turns out. Each meeting would have an assigned topic. Below are some of the tangible outcomes of the group’s collaboration:
For the Writer’s Guide to 2010 by Writer’s Institute Publications , Sharelle Byars Moranville contributed an article entitled “Beethoven Versus the Crickets, Description in Fiction.” Fellow PAL writers—Kali Vanbaale , Mike Manno , Rebecca Janni , Kimberly Stuart , Eileen Boggess , Jan Blazanin —and I were quoted for the article. Free publicity none of us would have received had we not teamed with Sharelle for mutual promotion.

PAL of Central Iowa now has its own blog. Content and categories include meeting details, author profiles, author news, and book launch announcements. All PAL members have access to the blog’s dashboard and can post on any topic related to writing.

PAL of Central Iowa has a facebook fan page. Again, all members can post status updates on any author-related topics.
At the launch parties for Eileen Boggess’s MIA THE MELODRAMATIC, Rebecca Janni’s EVERY COWGIRL NEEDS A HORSE, and Mike Manno’s END OF THE LINE, fellow PAL members were in attendance. Writers often share stories of sparsely attended bookstore events. Not only do PAL members give priority to one another’s appearances, but also help spread the word. Nor does it hurt to have a few friendly faces in the crowd ready with an interesting query should the audience get shy during the question and answers period.
PAL members have researched and shared information on book fairs and author events where signings and book sales will take place. One such example is the Iowa Center for the Book’sThe Write Stuff: Iowa Author Fair 2010” .

Busy freelance writer Sharelle Byars Moranville, partnering with fellow PAL member Jan Blazanin, again penned an article, this time for The Writer’s Guide to 2011. The article entitled “Promotion Motion” opened with a description of our very first PAL meeting. The piece interviews members Rebecca Janni, Susan Maupin Schmid, and me. Regarding PAL, I state: “Ironically, the act of writing is an introspective undertaking. The type of personality that is well suited to hours of contemplation and reflection isn’t always the most outgoing or gregarious of temperaments. Nonetheless, a book requires promotion and today’s author is expected to sing its—and our own—praises. It’s comforting and encouraging to have backup singers. With any luck, they can dance too!”

PAL’s August 2010 meeting took place at Beaverdale Books and discussed opportunities for cross promotion between authors and independent bookstores with owner Alice Meyer. It was fascinating to view the book industry from the perspective of a bookseller. Alice shared her trust in the Midwest Booksellers Association as a source for book recommendations. New Pages was cited as a source for a state-by-state listing of independent books, while Alice reiterated that a local angle and personal contact from the author often makes a difference when selecting titles for the shelf. Finally, our group and Beaverdale Books will cross promote via website links.

Next up for PAL, Tweeting 101. Those members who have successfully been using this form of social media will help get their fellow writers up to speed on the @ing, #ing, and DMing of Twitter.

Today’s writers wear many hats, one of which is that of circus barker. So even if it’s entirely out of your comfort range and makes you feel like, well, a freak, it helps to have support. So, what the heck, sign up a few fellow writers, pitch a tent, hand out megaphones, and spread the step-right-up message. Your book will have multiple promoters and more than likely you’ll make a few new friends—PALs—in the process.

Bio: Wendy Delsol ( writes both young adult and women’s fiction. Her YA novel STORK releases with Candlewick Press on October 12, 2010. In 2011, The McCloud Home for Wayward Girls will be published in August by Penguin and Stork’s sequel, FROST, will release in September, again with Candlewick.

(note: PAL picture includes, left to right: Kimberly Stuart, Wendy Delsol, Wini Moranville, Kali VanBaale, Susan Maupin Schmid, Jan Blazanin, Rebecca Janni, Mike Manno, Sharelle Byars Moranville)

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.


August 9, 2010

PAL members (L-R): Mike Manno, Kali VanBaale, Eileen Boggess, Alice Meyer (Beaverdale Books), Susan Schmid, Victor Verney, Jan Blazanin, Sharelle Moranville, Kimberly Stuart, Wendy Delsol

On August 5th, 1010 PAL of Central Iowa was hosted by Alice Meyer of Beaverdale Books for another successful meeting. Thank you to Alice for opening up her store to the group and taking time out of her busy schedule to consult with us on the topic of cross promotion between authors and independent bookstores.

Judging by comments overheard during the evening, every author came away from the meeting having learned something new. Among the topics discussed:

Alice mentioned the Midwest Connections Programs, sponsored by the Midwest Booksellers Association  as a resource used by independent bookstores. The program is something that Midwest based authors could discuss with their publishers. Also, New Pages  was suggested for a list of independent bookstores in Iowa. Alice did reiterate that often personal contact from the author makes a difference as to whether or not she will carry a book.

One of the most out-of-the-box ideas of the evening was Alice’s Home Book Party concept, a kind of Tupperware meets book club format. Wow. What a great idea. I can’t wait to hear more about how this innovation in bookselling will work.

Another of Alice’s golden promotional ideas: designating Beaverdale Books as the (or one of a handful) of places that ships signed copies. We also talked about having an icon or link to Alice’s e-mail on our site included with other purchase options.

Thanks again to everyone for an educational and enjoyable evening.

PAL members (L-R) Mike Manno, Kali VanBaale, Eileen Boggess, Alice Meyer (Beaverdale Books), Susan Schmid, Victor Verney, Sharelle Moranville, Jan Blazanin, Kimberly Stuart, Mary Kay Shanley