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An Excerpt from Raw Talent

28 Aug

I’m very happy to share an excerpt of my new book, Raw Talent, about a girl who wants to be a pop star but suffers from stage fright, published by Orca in their Limelights performing arts series. CM magazine gave Raw Talent a 4**** Highly Recommended review and called it “A timely story, well written.”

Copyright © 2018 Jocelyn Shipley. All rights reserved. 

From Chapter Three:

I pour myself a glass of water from the pitcher next to the plate of cookies. Then I sit on the sofa and take a sip. It helps, so I take another.

“Always good to stay hydrated,” Maxine says, reaching for a cookie. “Mmm, so good. Craig is an amazing baker. And Sunita, well, she makes living here a real pleasure. Honestly, I don’t know how I’m going to leave when my home renovations are done.”

“Yeah, Riverside House is awesome.”

Maxine finishes her cookie. “Now, tell me about your singing. Ever had any lessons?”

I shake my head. “I thought about it once, but then, well, it just didn’t happen.” That awful audition. So humiliating.

Maxine shrugs. “It doesn’t necessarily matter. Lots of popular singers are self-taught and don’t even read music. Anyway, Jasmeer tells me you’re going to sing at Farmshine?”

“Well, I want to. But I have this problem with stage fright.”

Plus, I’m a total fraud for not signing up.

Maxine reaches for another cookie. “Okay, let’s talk about that. First, I want you to name it. Call it what it is—performance anxiety. Second, I want you to know that performance anxiety is common and manageable. You can learn to accept it as a challenge, rather than a threat, and channel it into performance energy.”

Wow. She makes it sound like there is hope after all. “But what if I can’t?”

“If you want to succeed in show business, you will.”

Her stern tone indicates she won’t tolerate me wimping out and feeling sorry for myself. “Okay,” I say. “But do you really think I can do this?”

“Of course. That’s why I agreed to coach you. Trust me—I’ve been there and know how hard it can be.”


“Yes. Performance anxiety can happen to the most experienced performers. Suddenly, out of the blue, you panic. Your mouth goes dry, your heart starts racing, and you think you’re going to die.”

Maxine pours herself some water and takes a long drink. “I’m going to tell you something you may find hard to believe. I actually found it hard to go from film, where you can always do a retake, back to live theater, where you can’t,” she says. “Things got so bad for me at one point that I almost quit.”

“Really? So what did you do?”

“I had to face my fear and admit I had a problem. And then I went back to basics.”

“And those would be?”

“It all starts with proper breathing.”

“You mean, like, just take a deep breath?” “As long as you’re doing it properly. Have

you ever heard of something called diaphragmatic breathing? It’s also called belly breathing or deep breathing.”

“Um, maybe? But not exactly, no.”

“Shallow breathing won’t help you relax, and it doesn’t help you sing well. But deep breathing will calm you and give you a supported sound.” Maxine stands and places one hand on her stomach. “Like this. First exhale with a big sigh to get rid of all your air. Then, when you breathe in, take air into your belly.”

“Shouldn’t the air go into my lungs?”

“It will, but focus on expanding the belly instead. Let it fill like a balloon. Breathe through your nose, not your mouth.” She demonstrates.

“In for a count of ten…then out for ten.” She smiles and says, “Okay, now you try. Stand up.”

I feel silly at first. But once I get going, I start to relax.

“You’re getting it,” Maxine says. “I want you to practice at home every day and come back next week.”

“That’s it? Just practice breathing?”

“Do five sets in a row, several times a day, and work your way up to ten.” Maxine slides onto the piano bench and starts playing softly again.

I guess the lesson is over. “Thanks so, so much!” I say, heading out the door.

“You’re welcome,” she calls after me. “And don’t worry. You’ll be fine.”

I happy-dance down the hall to the study. “Oh my god, that was fantastic!” I tell Jasmeer. “Maxine is sooooo awesome!”

“Yeah, I know,” Jasmeer says. “But my mom being celebrity obsessed is quite enough.”

“No worries. It’s not like she’s Denzi. But somehow Maxine made me feel like I can do anything!”

Like signing up to sing at Farmshine.

Want to read more? Raw Talent is available through online and independent bookstores and directly from the publisher.




An excerpt from Impossible

9 Feb

I’m very happy to share an excerpt from Chapter Two of my new book, Impossible, published by Orca in their Soundings series for ages 12 and up. Resource Links (December 2017) called Impossible “… perfect for reluctant readers in either a literature circle setting or as an independent read.”

 Copyright © 2018 Jocelyn Shipley. All rights reserved. 

“I take the stairs, not the elevator, so there’s less chance of being noticed. I can’t risk anyone telling Wade they saw me going out without Violet.

What a relief the cooler night air is. I glance around as I cross the street, to be sure nobody’s hiding in the shadows. This area is pretty safe, but I always check, even in broad daylight. Have to watch out for a certain guy I never want to see again.

It’s been over a year since I escaped, and he hasn’t shown up. But he’s not the kind of guy to just let me go.

I don’t see anyone lurking, so I cut across the park, keeping clear of the party. Wouldn’t want to be tempted to join in. I focus on reaching Ready Go.

Luckily, the store isn’t busy. I resist the smokes, but break down and buy a carton of chocolate-fudge ice cream along with the diapers. When the cashier checks me through, she says, “Love that top. Where’d you get it?”

“Thanks. Old Navy final sale.” I don’t make eye contact, just hurry from the store. So far I haven’t been gone longer than it would take to load three washing machines and put in the coins. But what if Violet wakes up? What was I thinking, leaving her alone?

Back out on the sidewalk I see a kid from our building, Kwame Mensah, riding his bike. Hope he doesn’t see me and stop to say hey, like he does when I have Violet with me. That’s all I need.

I flatten myself into the doorway of a building to hide. I’m not completely out of sight, but it works. Kwame rides right on by.

Whoa! That was close.

I step back onto the sidewalk.

And then, out of nowhere, a black SUV with windows wide open blasts past. I catch a split-second glimpse of the driver as the vehicle squeals around the corner.

Just as Kwame reaches the intersection, a guy leans out the passenger window.

He’s got a gun.

He fires.

Kwame and his bike go flying. The bike crashes into the curb. Kwame lands on the pavement with a sickening thud.”

Want to read more? You can buy Impossible from independent and online bookstores, or directly from the publisher.

An excerpt from Shatterproof

17 Oct


I’m so happy to share an excerpt from Chapter 3 of my new book Shatterproof, published by Orca Book Publishers in their Currents Series for reluctant readers aged 10 – 14. Hope you like it!

Copyright © 2016 Jocelyn Shipley. All rights reserved. 

“She blushes and can’t speak. Her friends urge her on. “Okay,” she finally says. “Here goes. Are you, um, are you Bo Blaketon?”


“Are you Bo Blaketon? You know, from Shatterproof?”

Whoa. How I wish I was.

I glance over at Lug. His eyebrows have shot way up and his mouth hangs wide open. He’s probably thinking what I am. This is too weird. Dakota said the same thing in the car.

“Yeah, I know that show,” I say. “But no, sorry. I’m not him.”

The girl tilts her head and squints at me. “Are you sure?”

I snort. “Last time I checked.”

“Oh come on,” she says. “You’re him. But don’t worry, we won’t invade your privacy.”

“No really, I’m not.”

She gives me a flirty smile and fluffs her hair. “I heard that Shatterproof is filming in North Van next week.”


“So that’s why you’re in town. And you’re from here, so it all makes perfect sense.”

“Well, it would if I was Bo Blaketon. But I’m not.”

The girl touches my arm gently. It feels like an electric shock. “It’s okay,” she says. “We won’t announce it to the whole world. But can you get me on your show?”

“No way!”

“So you are him!”

“No, I meant I can’t get you on that show. Because I’m not Bo Blaketon”

“Oh please?” She actually flutters her eyelashes and pouts her lips. “Just as an extra?”

“Hey,” Lug butts in. “He might be able to make that happen.”

I frown and shake my head at him. “What are you doing?”

“He-he,” Lug says. “Can’t blame these pretty things for trying.”

“But I’m not Bo Blaketon!”

They all stare at me like I’m lying.

Even Lug.

“Let’s go.” I stride away. “This is ridiculous.”

The girl follows, her friends behind her. “Look, I’m sorry,” she says. “I should have respected your privacy. But can you please just sign my arm?” She pulls a purple marker out of her purse. “Then I promise I’ll leave you alone.”

She’s wearing a flowery shirt, open over a tank top. She slips one sleeve off. Thrusts her shoulder at me. Points at her bicep. “Here,” she says. “Please?” She hands me the marker.

I can’t not take it. And then I’m scrawling on her smooth skin: Bo B. It kind of looks like BoB, which makes me laugh. It’s a nervous laugh though. What was I thinking?

“Ohmigod!” She actually starts to cry. “Thank you so much!”

Her friends gather close to take pictures. Lug steps in and shields my face with his hand. “Ladies, please! Privacy!”

The girl wipes her tears and grabs her marker back. “If you change your mind about me being an extra, here’s my number.” She writes it on my hand.

“Sorry, but we have to go.” I pull Lug away with me.

The other girls call after us, “Hey Bo, come back! Sign us, too!”

I break into a run.”

          Shatterproof is available from Orca or online bookstores.

Telling Tales Festival

12 Sep

Looking for a fun family event in the GTA this Sunday, September 15? Come to Telling Tales, a FREE festival of stories and music at Westfield Historic Village in Rockton.

Organizers have been working on this Fifth Anniversary of the Telling Tales Festival for months now. They’re booked an impressive line up of presenters for kids from newborn right up to age 16.

I’m so excited to be reading from my award-winning YA novel, How to Tend a Grave, for ages 13 & up, at 1:30 pm on the Summer Stage.

It’s going to be a fabulous day! And best of all, the event is a fundraiser for literacy. Hope to see you there.




How to play “Pianoball”

6 Nov

Not everything I write is as dark as my YA novel, How to Tend a Grave. Sometimes I produce amusing poetry for kids. And that can lead to other exciting things, like inventing a new sport.

Here’s how it happened. I got my start in poetry at an early age, when I entered three poems in the local Hobby Fair, and won first, second and third prizes. Okay, I’m not sure there were any other entries. But still.

As a teenager, I wrote a lot of poetry, now gone and best forgotten. But then when I had kids, I sold two poems to Chickadee magazine. That encouraged me to produce more poems for the children’s market, and although those were never published as a book as I’d hoped, one was accepted for Canadian Poems for Canadian Kids.

Now I’ve had another published in the terrific new anthology for Grades 3 – 6, And the Crowd Goes Wild! A Global Gathering of Sports Poems. The book is edited by Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer, illustrated by Kevin Sylvester, and winner of the 2012 Bronze Moonbeam Award for Children’s Poetry.

When I saw the call for submissions for this anthology, I revised and submitted four of my in-the-drawer poems, and was thrilled when Heidi said they were interested in the one about a girl practicing piano while her friends are playing softball – if I’d make just a few tweaks.

Of course I would! Turns out she actually meant weeks. Heidi is one brilliant but very demanding editor. We tossed that poem back and forth for a full nine innings. She pushed me to throw harder, hit farther, run faster. I started calling her Coach.

Just when I thought practice was over, Coach said my poem needed a new title. I went through lists of sports and musical terms, but couldn’t find anything that worked. So I reconsidered where my poem came from.

As a kid I was an avid softball player, but a reluctant piano student. One year my piano exam conflicted with the city softball finals. My teacher forbid me to play ball, lest I not have time to prepare properly and to avoid injuring my fingers. No way was I listening to the “tick, tick, tick” of my metronome when I could be hearing the ump call “batter up!”. I did practice a bit though, and managed to get 73. But she wasn’t impressed – she considered anything less than 90 a bad reflection on her. She didn’t care at all when my team won the championship.

I didn’t care at all about anything but the joy of playing on that championship team with my friends.

And then, as these things go, once I stopped searching for a title for my poem and lost myself in the glory of my softball days, an idea came flying through the air. “Pianoball” felt pitch perfect. Coach declared it a winner and a new sport was born.

“Pianoball” is for all those kids who’d really rather be on the field.

Good game!








I’ll be reading “Pianoball” at the Toronto launch for And the Crowd Goes Wild!

Friday, November 9th @ 5:30 p.m. Northern District Branch – Toronto Public Library 40 Orchard View Blvd. (Second Floor), Toronto

Please come cheer me on!

A big bouquet of thanks!

2 Jun

My launch for How to Tend a Grave last week was a wonderful event! I’m happy to report that total nakedness didn’t happen, and I didn’t get crumbs on my dress either (more later). Thanks so much to everyone who came and made it such a success, and to everyone who sent congratulations and good wishes. Your support is deeply appreciated.

Thanks to Ben McNally of Ben McNally Books for hosting. What a gorgeous space! If you’re looking for a place to hold a launch, I highly recommend this bookstore. But even more important, I’d like to thank Ben for being in the business of selling books. That’s what it’s all about, after all. So if you’re looking for a place to buy books, again, I highly recommend this bookstore.

Thanks to my husband Allan, my daughter Caitlin, and my friend, writer Lena Coakley, for so graciously offering to help with everything. They kept me calm, and I couldn’t have organized and survived my book launch without them.

Books don’t just happen either. Writers need help all along the road to publication. So thanks to my family for their unconditional love and support over the years. They sustain and inspire me. And thanks to Great Plains Publications and my stellar editor, Anita Daher. I am so grateful to everyone for believing in my book.

Thanks to Michael Galan for his photos of the launch, and also for taking the time last fall to visit a historic cemetery with me to shoot my author photo for the book’s back cover.

Thanks to Nicolle Thow, emerging cake artist, who made the fun cupcake cookie favours (shown in baskets on the signing table) and the absolutely amazing book cover cake for me. She didn’t even balk when I told her it had to look like a gravestone. She just went ahead and produced a delicious vanilla cake filled with vanilla frosting and fresh strawberries.

My mother always said, “Be careful that your words are sweet, in case those words you have to eat.” Right. Thanks, Mom! So here I am, literally preparing to eat my words, because despite all my fretting, the launch went really well. And the reason I didn’t get crumbs on my dress? The cake was so popular I almost missed tasting it at all. Luckily someone saved the last piece for me to take home.

How to Tend a Grave is out in the world now. Thanks again, everyone, for everything. Roses to all of you!!!


Naked Book Launch!

22 May

At the launch of Lena Coakley’s Witchlanders in Toronto, with L.M. Falcone

I love going to book launches. Other people’s book launches, that is. There’s so much to celebrate when a new book is released. I know firsthand how much work went into my friends’ books before publication – the years they spent writing, revising, despairing, revising, pushing through, revising, facing rejection, revising, finding a publisher, revising, working with an editor, revising, revising, revising and then finally, many years later, launching.

At the launch of Susan Juby’s The Woefield Poultry Collective in Nanaimo

But a launch for my own new book makes me very nervous. I know that on the day of, I’ll want to say, “Oh, you go on ahead. I’ll just stay home and read.” Because with the focus of the evening on me and my book, I’ll just feel, you know, so totally naked.

It’s not that I don’t get support from my family and friends. I do – immensely so. And it’s not that I’m worried no one will come, or that my scribbled handwriting will muck up the books when I sign, or even that I won’t be asked to sign at all. Those are major concerns, for sure, but my true dread comes from something far deeper. It comes from knowing that my entire heart and soul are laid bare in my book. It’s me there on the page, wearing absolutely nothing.

I so need to get over this. I can’t let my fear of feeling naked turn me into a ditzy blathering mess at my launch – I have to make it work for me instead. So here goes. Since my last launch was all about Cleavage, I’m going to assume that appearing naked at this one is the logical and perfect topper. I’ll keep in mind the artistic advantages too. Maybe I’ll inspire someone to write a story called “The Author’s New Clothes” or “The Naked and the Read” and then dedicate it to me. And just imagine the possibilities for launch photo titles: Nude with Book, Nude Signing Collector’s Copies, Nude Eating Cake. But best of all, if I’m naked I won’t have to worry about getting cake crumbs on my launch outfit.

Yes, there will be cake. And seriously, to spare everyone undue shock and embarrassment, I’ll risk crumbs on my dress and remain fully clothed (this time!) Please join me if you can for the launch of my new YA novel:

How to Tend a Grave

Thursday, May 24, 6pm, at Ben McNally Books, Toronto

Hope to see you there! Naked or not.



13 Apr

In honour of national poetry month, check out the April 13 post on Sylvia Vardel’s Poetry for Children blog. It features an interview with Carol-Ann Hoyte and Heidi Bee Roemer, co-editors of the forthcoming children’s poetry collection And the Crowd Goes Wild!: A Global Gathering of Sports Poems, illustrated by Kevin Sylvester. I’m happy to say that my poem “Pianoball” was accepted for the book and is previewed at the end of the interview.

Cover reveal!

27 Mar

Presenting the fabulous cover of my new YA novel, How to Tend a Grave, coming soon from Great Plains Teen Fiction!

I absolutely love this cover! I wasn’t sure what the design team would come up with, since the story features both a guy and a girl, but I think they got the feeling of the book just right.

How to Tend a Grave is contemporary, realistic fiction for readers 14 & up. Here’s the catologue copy:

He always figured he might be thirty or something before he could even talk to a girl. Before he met the right one. One who could make him forget that his mom had sex for money. Liam’s mom has been killed in a hit-and-run, forcing him to live with a grandfather he’s never known in a small town with a big youth crime problem. At the cemetery he meets and falls for Harmony, a gorgeous but mysterious girl who records the names of all the babies buried there long ago.

Harmony is afraid that Liam will join the local gang of vandals and ruin his life. As a result of her painful history with the gang leader her best friend dumped her and she was shunned at school. In her journal she writes to the unplanned baby she recently miscarried, and examines her growing feelings for Liam. But as she says, “He’s a grieving teen and I’m a loony nutbar. Does that sound like a good combination?”

The very different stories of these two fifteen-year-olds interweave brilliantly in this fast-paced, engaging and unforgettable book about family, love and healing.

The proofs are finished and the book is at the printer (it will also be released as an ebook). Launch in late May, when I’m back in Toronto. Details TBA. But for those who just can’t wait, How to Tend a Grave is now available for pre-order at online bookstores.

Anything’s Possible!

31 Jan

I’ve now published another ebook on Smashwords. Anything’s Possible is a collection of three short stories for adults, written under my pen name, Elizabeth Sage. An earlier version of one of these stories won an award in a fiction contest and was published as a result. Another holds the record for my most “just about published” story, meaning that it was accepted for publication three different times, but in each case the magazine disappeared or the deal fell through before the story appeared.

Anything’s Possible is free. I know, I know, I’m not totally sure that’s a good idea. Why give my work away for nothing? But my hope is that readers who like it might then go on to buy my ebook, Finding Home. Kind of like when you get a free sample of a yummy new product in the grocery store and then decide to buy a whole box to take home. So in the interests of attracting readers and building a fan base, I’ve embraced the world of free ebooks. Well, one free ebook.

Here’s the link to Anything’s Possible:

Remember, you don’t need an ereader. You can download in HTML to read on your computer screen.

I listed Anything’s Possible on some free ebook sites to see what would happen, and am shocked at the response. Within a couple of weeks it’s been downloaded 1065 times. No reviews yet, but some likes on FB. (Hint, hint.)

Now here’s an update on Finding Home. To promote it, I lowered the price to $2.99 and also posted a time-limited coupon for a free copy to a couple of ebook sites. It’s now been downloaded 115 times, and I’ve actually sold 3 copies. I’ve also figured out how to make Finding Home available in Amazon’s Kindle Store and have sold 2 copies there.

The other good news is that I finally, finally got an independent review for Finding Home and the reader liked the book! Plus I have four other reviews promised by book bloggers.

So this is how it’s looking in my quest to make a million selling ebooks:

Sales on Smashwords:   9.09

Sales on Amazon:           4.18

Total Sales:                     13.27

$1,000,000 – $13.27  = only $999,986.73 left to earn!

Here’s hoping anything’s possible.