One year away day: Debut picture book Before I Lived Here, set in Colorado

One year away day: Debut picture book Before I Lived Here, set in Colorado

My debut picture book BEFORE I LIVED HERE is scheduled to be published on April 29, 2025.

While that’s one year away, I know the date could be iffy. Why? Because a lot can change. Think disruption of supply chains. Paper shortages. Pirates boarding cargo ships.

Dates can change. Anything can happen. I understand and that’s part of the publishing process.

I saw rough sketches from Illustrator Victo Ngai late last year. Her work is gorgeous.

I made this video to mark the “one year away day” with images from the neighborhood and the state that inspired this story that’s taken many years to get to publication.

I’m looking forward to sharing more about this book with you over the next year.

Before I Lived Here is a picture book about the history of where you live. It’s set in Colorado. I hope young readers will be able to imagine the story of their own neighborhoods before they lived there when they read this book.

Before I Lived Here is a picture book set in Colorado. It’s about the history of where you live.

In Before I Lived Here, a boy peels away each layer of the history of his house, which
may look a lot like yours. Follow along from the construction of the neighborhood back
to the planning of it; from the ranchers and log cabins that predated its modern
appearance back to the region’s indigenous people and their eviction from the land . . .
all the way back to the time of the dinosaurs.

Before I Lived Here reminds us that history isn’t something that happens far away, to
other people—it’s in our own backyards.

Halloweensie: Candy, Candy, Candy

Halloweensie: Candy, Candy, Candy

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I’m posting on deadline — my life story.
The Halloweensie Contest is the brain child of Author Susanna Leonard Hill. Thanks Jilanne for encouraging me to participate.

Candy, Candy, Candy

By Stacy S. Jensen

Candy wore the same thing every day.
White. Orange. Yellow.
Another Candy also wore the same thing every day.
Red. White.
They were bored and craved change.
“Let’s do it,” Candy Corn said on Halloween.
She dressed like a monster with a pink bow.
Candy Cane became a tree with a star topper.
The girls loved their costumes. They rang doorbells and filled their bags until ….
a shadow startled them.
“LOL. It’s me,” Candy Heart said. “I wanted to join the fun. XOXO.”
“Change is good,” Candy Corn said.
The girls skipped to their next adventure.
Word Count is 97. 

Read more about the rules and more entries here.
The Contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children (children here defined as 12 and under) (title not included in the 100 words), using the words candy corn, monster, and shadow. (Candy corn will be counted as 1 word.)  Your story can be scary, funny, or anything in between, poetry or prose, but it will only count for the contest if it includes those 3 words and is 100 words (you can go under, but not over!)  Get it?  Halloweensie – because it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂  (And yes, I know 100 words is short, but that’s part of the fun and the challenge!  We got nearly 150 fantastic entries last year, so I know you can do it!)  Also, you may use the words in any form – e.g. monsters, monstrous, shadowy, shadowed, whathaveyou 🙂  NO ILLUSTRATION NOTES PLEASE! (And yes, you may submit more than one entry if you’re so inclined 🙂 )

Edmund Pickle Chin Blog Tour

Greetings. This is the second stop on the blog tour for the release of Edmund Pickle Chin, A Donkey Rescue Story by Clara Bowman-Jahn and Susan April Elwood.

The book is illustrated by Lynne Bendoly and published by eTreasures Publishing in April 2014.
When asked to participate in the blog tour, I jumped at the opportunity to ask questions about being co-authors. Are you ever curious how writers work together. I’m happy Susan and Clara are sharing their experience.

WELCOME Friends!
This is the second stop in our incredible blog tour show casing Susan and mine journey from idea to book for Edmund Pickle Chin, a Donkey Rescue Story. Tomorrow is Vivian Kirkfield’s Perfect Picture Book Friday giving you the review and a parent activity you can do along with the book. At the bottom of this post you will find the other stops of this tour and the way you can win prizes by following this blog and by leaving a comment. I hope you enjoy our discussion of how Susan and I wrote the book together. —Stacy
Q: Who came up with the story idea for Edmund Pickle Chin?
Susan: I have the pleasure of caring for Edmund, so when we decided to write a book for the farm, Edmund was an easy pick for me. He out of all the critters had transformed the most.
Clara: The idea for a story came from both of us at the same time and Susan had already written a very rough draft for a story hoping with more work it could become a children’s picture book. We started talking picture book at the same time and it grew from there.
Q: Did you know one another before the book idea came about or did you get to know one another through the story?
Susan: We met while our now grown sons were young. We lost touch, and I saw on face book Clara’s had written her first book, Annie’s Special Day,  contacted her to congratulate, it took off from there.
Q: How did you all write the manuscript? Did you each create a draft or did you write it together?
Susan: I sent Clara Edmund’s true story in rough form and it morphed dramatically over time with our revisions and Clara’s critique groups input.
Clara: I worked on it feverishly for five months, getting up at dawn to work on it. When I thought I had a good revision, I sent it to Susan and we would work on it some more till it we thought it was done. We did this over and over. I also took it to my critique groups who were invaluable in their input. I give full credit to them in the acknowledgements page. One awesome friend even gave me the idea of matching the nick names with the days of the week showing passage of time for Edmund to build trust.
 Q: Did you write via email, via Skype or another video chat system?
Emailed. And phone calls. We were on the phone to each other almost daily.
 Q: How did the idea of using days of the week come about in your writing process?
Clara: See above answer, I give full credit to one of my awesome critique partners who gave me the idea of adding the nick names to the days of the week so Edmund could develop trust while showing the passage of time.
Q: How does the revision process work with two authors?
Susan: We bounced it off one other over and over.
Clara: I asked Susan questions of her care giving for Edmund and how trust developed. As each piece of the story showed it needed more info I would ask Susan more questions and she dug deep and found the answers I needed. I worked and worked the answers to my questions into the story you see. As each piece came together I would send Susan the “finished “revision and we would get to work on another draft till it was perfect. We had 28 revisions and each time I thought it was the finished manuscript. I only brought it to the critique groups when I thought it was finished. So you can see how important one or two critique groups can be.
Q: Did you still share the story with your critique groups?
Clara: I belonged to Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 where I posted the first 250 words and got good feedback and from there I belonged to a critique group we formed from the 12×12 group where I sent it but the awesome idea of turning each day with a nick name came from my Round Hill Writer’s group. And of course my SCBWI picture book critique group got to look at it twice. So my critique groups were invaluable. I knew I had a good idea but it would not be the book it is today without the invaluable feedback from my critique groups. Thanks, Friends!
Q: How does the submission process work for a co-authored story?
Susan: The same as for any author except we each had to write our bio’s etc.
Clara: Since I had already been published by eTreasures Publishing once with Annie’s Special Day, I felt they deserved first refusal for a second picture book and they were first on my list of submissions. I sent it right before leaving for my son’s wedding and did not send it anywhere else at that time. And we got a reply in two weeks saying they would take it. It was snoopy dance time!
Q: How long did it take you all to create the story and then to publication?
Susan: I believe we started around Dec. and submitted in the end of May. We heard within two weeks that eTreasurespublishing was interested.
Clara: I did not work on anything else but Edmund, starting early in the morning and giving it four good hours each day, working and reworking it, sending Susan questions as they came up. She was an awesome co-author giving me answers almost as soon as soon as I sent them. We also did a lot of phone conversations around the topic of the book.
Q: Did you all have a formal contract for the work you did or did you just work on a handshake? If you had a contract, how did you find out the proper way to do this? This question might be too personal, but wondering after I attended a ghostwriting workshop at the weekend conference.
Susan: I might say that we did not have a contract between us, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have. Especially with the farm involved. For us it worked out but for some it may not have.
Clara: I agree, it worked out for us not having a contract but for others, not as close, they may want to have a written contract.
Stacy: Thanks for answering the questions. I learned a lot about the process of working with a writing partner. Good luck with the book!

With two authors, we have two bios!
Susan April Elwood has worked with children for over twenty years in Northern Virginia as a preschool teacher, kindergarten assistant, and a library assistant. With her passion for animals it made perfect sense to combine the two and write an animal story for children, teaming up with author Clara Bowman-Jahn.
Susan and her husband Tom moved from Northern Virginia in 2007 to central Georgia where they founded Evermay Farm, a non-profit rescue for farm animals. This is the setting for the book titled, Edmund Pickle Chin, A Donkey Rescue Story. The story is based on Edmund a donkey, the first of many animals to call Evermay Farm home. Susan and her husband Tom have two treasured sons, a wonderful daughter-in-law and a precious grandson. In her free time, Susan enjoys photographing animals and antiquing.
Clara Bowman-Jahn worked as a registered nurse for thirty two years finally trading that job for her true love, writing. Clara’s short stories have been published in three anthologies, Campaigner Challenges 2011, The ‘I’ Word and Charms Vol. 2. She is also the author of Annie’s Special Day a children’s picture book. Her second picture book, a true story, called Edmund Pickle Chin, a Donkey Rescue Story,  also by eTreasurespublishing released in April 2014.
When Clara is not writing, she volunteers by teaching ESOL to adult students. She also likes taking long walks with her husband, Pilates, blogging, and reading books. She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, Julie Hedlund’s Picture Book Challenge 12×12, Susanna Leonard Hill’s Making Picture Book Magic; Pennwriters, Bethesda Writer’s Center and Round Hill Writer’s Group. She lives in rural Loudoun County, Virginia with her brilliant husband, and two cats. She is the proud mother of two wonderful grown sons and a grandmother to a delightful grandson.


Thanks so much for reading Friends! For all friends of Edmund are my friends. Below please find our links and the tour. Read every post, follow the blog and comment for prizes. The reader who follows each blog and comments on each stop of the tour will get first prize. And if there are many winners, hurray! We will deliver!
First prize is a print book of both Annie’s Special Day and Edmund Pickle Chin. Second prize is either a print copy of Edmund or of Annie, you get to pick. Third prize is a copy of the ebook of Edmund Pickle Chin, a Donkey Rescue Story.
For Susan April Elwood:
For Clara Bowman-Jahn

May 26: Animal abuse and mistreatment — Joanna –

May 29: Author collaboration— Stacy –

May 30: PPBF and review — Vivian –

June 2: Author interview  — Erik –

June 4: Edmund interview — Patricia –

June 9: Teacher info and guide — Susanna –

It’s ME — Stacy again. Thanks for stopping by and learning more about Edmund Pickle Chin, Susan, and Clara. Please visit the other blogs on the tour too and enter to win the prizes. I’m sailing away for a bit and will have limited Internet, I’ll be back eventually … Have a great day.

Writing Process Blog Tour

I was tagged by Penny Klostermann for the Writing Process Blog Tour.
Despite all of Penny’s updates and reminders, I forgot to handle a huge detail of the blog hop. I forgot to line people up before I posted to the blog tour. Hmm. I always feel like I’m breaking a chain letter, when I do this. Anyone want to help me out and consider yourself tagged? Let me know in the comments.
Participating in the Writing Process Blog Tour involves answering four questions and then tagging fellow writers who will join the tour.
Here are the four questions and my answers:
1. What am I working on? I just completed the National Picture Book Writing Week or NaPiBoWriWee.
I drafted seven new picture book manuscripts. I wrote one story two different ways, so I have eight really. Of those, maybe four are worth revising. I’ll give myself a few weeks before revisiting these drafts. I have an eighth idea that I want to begin today. Then, I’ll revise several other stories before I submit them to editors and agents, who are offering critiques at the upcoming WOW Retreat.
I also write {revise really} memoir. While at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference, I spoke with agents and attended workshops on the non-fiction craft. Oh … it can be depressing, but there is work to do, so I should focus on moving forward.
2. How does my work differ from others of its genre? My latest drafts tend to fall in the category of the snarky, picture book characters. Someone used the word “subversive” about one of my characters recently, who is not a traditional bear. While there are plenty of stories with bears, I’m trying to make my Henry stand out.
For memoir, well, it’s my story and no one else can write it.
3. Why do I write what I do? I love picture books for their entertainment value. If they can educate children or parents — BONUS! I love picture books for the pure joy of a funny line or a beautiful illustration. They just make me happy.
I love memoir, because I have always loved learning from other people.
4. How does your writing process work? I’ve written about my efforts to Just Write a couple of times. I try not to be overwhelmed by similar books on the market. If I did, then I would likely NEVER write a story. I mean every story HAS BEEN TOLD, right?
I participate in challenges to keep me motivated throughout the year. As a recovering journalist, I like the deadlines challenges provide.

Reader University: Give

This is the twelfth post in a series of 12 ways to help authors (and your writing) by reading.

This can be another form of “buying,” but I see it as a little different.
Consider giving a book:

  • to all ages.
  • books for all occasions.
  • books as love notes.

As a parent to a toddler, I get invited to birthday parties. If I know about them in advance, I’ll buy books at writer’s conferences and get them signed by the author as a personal gift for the birthday boy or girl. I’ve noticed these gifts aren’t a favorite. They don’t make noise or have parts to be lost. One can hope they bring joy at a quieter time after the birthday cake and decorations are long gone.  My son isn’t old enough to mind at the moment. So, until he protests — books will be our gift of choice.
Books make a nice hostess gift too. They can drink up the words later while relaxing.
Books make nice  holiday gifts whether they have a religious theme or not. My son received a nice Easter Story book last year in a basket from his grandmother.
Books as love notes? You may have provided a book love note without realizing it. You give a book that touched you in some way. I enjoy sharing The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow. While sad, to me, it’s a book about living and worth giving to others.
Giving books obviously helps authors with sales, but the act also helps writers, who share a love for a book that touched her, moved her, or made her laugh out loud.
How do you give books?
Reading: I read the Queen of Reciprocity author and illustrator Katie Davis’ updated How to Promote Your Children’s Book: Tips, Tricks, and Secrets to Create a Bestseller. I bought the first edition back in 2012. A while back, she asked people to join her launch team … you know the drill read an advance copy and give an honest review. The book offers a ton of information for authors about to launch a book or for those of us not-yet-published. There are dozens of tips on how to get involved in the kid lit world, how to give back, and how to streamline some of your social media time. I say streamline social media time, because she shares information on how to use different sites like Twitter and Pinterest. This second edition is available March 25 on Amazon. There are tips on how to do things on your own and resources to find professionals to help you. There are a ton of links, so you may want to go easy with those. I’m a bit of a “squirrel” type personality, so I clicked through to a lot of them. One could easily take one or two chapters a day to study and complete the action items in preparation for a book release.
Thanks for following along with the Reader University 12-part series. This wasn’t intended as a reading challenge, but the series kept me focused on reading and helping authors. I’ve read more novels and nonfiction books over the last 12 weeks than I’ve read in the last two years. I participated in the adult reading program at my library by reading eight books. I have an official volunteer, “reading” project and a volunteer job at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference in April that will keep me busy. I anticipate reading will continue to be a focus of 2014!

If you missed any of the Reader University posts,