Thursday, October 21, 2010


I am thrilled to announce the sale of Sherry Shahan's ICE ISLAND to Michelle Poploff at Delacorte, an imprint of Random House.

How ICE ISLAND came about is one of those perfect writer-editor relationships. Here is what Sherry wrote me when she sent me this fantastic manuscript:

Michelle Poploff had been prompting me to return to my Alaska-writing roots for several reasons. Not only has FROZEN STIFF remained in print for more than 10 years, but it's a companion title in the classroom to "Call of the Wild" and "Julie" books.  It was Michelle's idea to include sled dogs. Enter ICE ISLAND.

So how does a California girl write authentic books like FROZEN STIFF and ICE ISLAND ?

Some readers have a weird idea of what it means to be a writer. They think I’m locked away in a dingy room with only a computer to keep me company. It's true. I have calluses on my fingers from typing more than 30 fiction and nonfiction books on a plastic keypad. (Okay, so a few titles were tapped out on a typewriter.) But that's only part of the story.

As part of my research, I’ve ridden on horseback into Africa’s Maasailand, hiked through a leech-infested rain forest in Australia, shivered inside a dogsled for the first part of the famed 1,049 mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska, rode-the-foam on a long-board in Hawaii, and spun around dance floors in Havana, Cuba. True!

My adventure novel DEATH MOUNTAIN (Peachtree) is based on a true story. While attempting to hike to the highest peak in the contiguous United States, Mt. Whitney in California, my group was caught on an exposed ridge in a deadly electrical storm. The pack horse and mule were struck by lightning and killed. Three women in my party were airlifted off the mountain by helicopter and flown to a nearby hospital. Thankfully, they were released shortly after a doctor examined them.

For my middle-grade novel FROZEN STIFF (Random House), I spent a week kayaking to the largest tidewater glacier in North America, Hubbard Glacier in Alaska. Like my main character, I battled renegade icebergs and had a close encounter with a bear. Again, true.

When I decided to write and photo-illustrate DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW: THE STORY OF THE JR. IDITAROD (Mondo), I stayed with a family of mushers in Alaska. Everyday, I followed them with my camera while they trained their dogs. You know that's a true story since "DASHING" is nonfiction.

After following the Iditarod for several years, I decided to fly to Nome for the end of the race. I wanted to see the teams come in after 1,000 miles. I was even able to set up a book-signing for DASHING THROUGH THE SNOW: THE STORY OF THE JR. IDITAROD, along side mushers who were autographing Iditarod posters. What an amazing experience!

I then flew out to St. Lawrence Is., which is in the middle of the Bering Sea; it's closer to Russia than it is to the US mainland. I was astounded to see polar bear hides on drying racks, and men repairing walrus skin boats in preparation for whaling season, etc. I always thought I'd set an adventure story on this remote island.

On a personal note, I am excited and grateful to make another sale for Sherry. Sherry's PURPLE DAZE was my first sale as an agent! 
Sherry queried me with her amazing novel in verse, PURPLE DAZE on Jan 12th, 2009. I read the manuscript that night and signed her on Jan 13th. At this point I had been an agent for 10 months and had not one sale, not one! So taking on a historical novel-in-verse would seem counter-productive for a non-selling agent, and signing with a non-selling agent would seem counter-productive for a writer who had sold over 30 books on her own, sans agent.  BUT one month later, on February 19th, the offer for PURPLE DAZE came screaming into my email inbox, and in March, 2011 PURPLE DAZE will be on bookshelves everywhere. 

Oh, and a few words about Michelle Poploff, a most respected and loved editor. After a full two months of agenting ( I signed my first client on March 22, 2009), I was thrilled to be on the faculty of the NJ SCBWI. A bit intimidated by being on the 'other side of the desk/stage' (yeah, check out all the amazing faculty at this conference), I was relieved and overjoyed to be kindly and sincerely welcomed into the industry by all the agents and editors (most of these agents and editors have known Ronnie Ann Herman for years so I was definitely riding the right coattails). But I particularly remember Michelle Poploff seeking me out and asking me to breakfast so we could discuss what she was looking for in manuscripts and her promise of quick reads. Michelle has become a wonderful friend who I can count on not only for honest and spot-on critiques of manuscripts I send her but guidance and straight-forward advice on how to be a well respected and successful agent.


Sherry Shahan is the author of 30 books for children, including books for preschoolers to middle-graders, both fiction and nonfiction. She is also a photo-illustrator. Current titles include novel Death Mountain (Peachtree), Spicy Hot Colors/ Colores Picantes and Cool Cats Counting (August House). An animated version of Spicy appeared on PBS “Between the Lions.” Her Alaskan-based adventure Frozen Stiff (Random House/ Yearling) remains in print after 10 years; it’s currently on the “Battle of the Books” list nationwide. Her novel in verse Purple Daze will be published by Running Press in March, 2011.

Sherry holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and teaches writing courses for UCLA Extension. She's been a featured author in the week-long Kern County Young Authors Fair in Bakersfield, as well as a presenter at professional conferences such as Colorado Council of International Reading Assn., Texas Library Assn., California Reading Assn., California School Library Assn., California Teachers of English, Santa Barbara Author-Go-Round, StoryFest in Ventura, and Eureka Author Festival.

Sherry Shahan's Website


  1. Wonderful story, both Sherry's and yours, Jill!

    Hugs all around and congrats on a great sale!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  2. I second what Angela said.

    Huge congrats to you both!

  3. This is just so amazing. Congratulations to you both!!!! Sherry sets an example to us all regarding real-life research.

  4. What amazing stories. Thanks so much for sharing all this! Congratulations to you both.


  5. Congratulations!! I enjoy these client/sale stories. You're on fire, Jill!

  6. Sherry Shahan and you are both so inspiring. Thanks for sharing the great news with all of us!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

join the mailing list

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner