Monday, January 17, 2011

Michigander Monday: Jeffery Schatzer

This week I'm pleased to welcome Jeffery Schatzer to JTC's Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Jeffery, tell us a little about yourself.

Jeffery:  Hmmm. My name is Jeffery Schatzer. The “Jeffery” part is okay, but the “Schatzer” part is kind of funny sounding. My last name means auditor or treasurer in German.

I am a native Michiganian (more about that later). Growing up, I had visions of becoming an Olympic athlete. Unfortunately, I was born without any athletic gifts whatsoever. That didn’t stop me from reading about the greats of sports . . . Bob Mathias, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Bob Richards, Jesse Owens, Jim Thorpe, et al.

While in grade school, teachers began to tell me that I should consider becoming a writer. Maybe they thought I was goofy, but I can’t speak for what they were thinking. Through the gift (or curse) of this encouragement, I pursued writing as a vocation and as an avocation. Once out of school, I began a career as a commercial writer and did everything from creating names for things to writing film scripts for industrial film projects. While this was enjoyable work, I yearned for broader creative outlets. So, I spent my free time writing whatever I felt like writing.
My literary writing meandered over the years. Then, in 1996 I went to the Charles W. Howard Santa Claus School with a friend. My writing took a unique turn after attending this school. That’s when I started writing Christmas and Santa stories. My first short story was published in 1998 in the Lands’ End October Christmas catalogue. This was after 28 years of trying to get something/anything published. In 2004 my wife and I self published our first book, The Bird in Santa’s Beard. Through the diligent and dedicated work of my wife, Deborah, nearly 10,000 copies of this book were sold within six months. With that level of sales success, publishers began to call us. Since that time, I have been associated with Mitten Press of Ann Arbor.

I currently have seven books in publication, including three Christmas stories: The Bird in Santa’s Beard, The Bump on Santa’s Noggin, and The Elves in Santa’s Workshop. I have one non-Christmas picture book, The Runaway Garden. I also have three Michigan historical fiction chapter books: Fires in the Wilderness, a Story of the Civilian Conservation Corps Boys; Professor Tuesday’s Awesome Adventures in History . . . Book 1, Chief Pontiac’s War and Book 2, Migrating to Michigan.

The Bird in Santa’s Beard was a finalist selection in the Great Lakes Book Awards in 2005. The Runaway Garden was the recipient of The USA Best Book Award in 2007, the Mom’s Choice Award (Gold) in 2008, and the 2008 Growing Good Kids Award from the American Horticultural Society. In 2010, The Runaway Garden was chosen by the State Library of Michigan as its Michigan Reads! One State-One Children’s Book selection.

Debbie:  Tell us a little about your latest book.
Jeffery:  In addition to writing picture books, I very much enjoy writing chapter books for middle grade readers. Because of my love of Michigan history, I focus on writing Michigan historical fiction. My most recently released book is Professor Tuesday’s Awesome Adventures in History, Book 2: Migrating to Michigan.

Professor Tuesday is an odd duck who obsesses about Tuesdays and the number 2. He’s invented a time machine that only works on Tuesdays and only goes back to Tuesdays in history. In this story, two students are having trouble getting along with each other. So, their teacher, Miss Pepper, gives them an assignment to learn about migration to Michigan. They pay a call on the professor to learn about the topic. The professor takes them back in time to see the Erie Canal and learn how ‘Clinton’s Ditch” opened Michigan up to immigration. Through the story, Rachel and Owen continue sniping at each other until they learned that immigrants, too, had to cooperate. Through it all they learn many lessons of the past and how people from many countries worked together to make Michigan a great state.
Debbie:  Other books and projects on the horizon?

Jeffery:  I’ve got an interesting stew of projects on the stove right now. My next Professor Tuesday book is at the publisher’s office right now. This next book centers on the western route of the Underground Railroad and the important role the state and people of Michigan played in helping slaves find freedom. That’s been a very interesting writing project.

I am also finalizing an article that I plan to submit to Michigan History magazine. The article is about a man who I consider to be a living legend in our state . . . John Selesky. Mr. Selesky is 93 years young, was involved in the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Army Air Force, and served with the Michigan DNR for 28 years. Fascinating guy!

Finally, I am also working on an adult murder mystery set in Antrim County. I’ve come to find out that writing 120,000 words is a daunting, but enjoyable, task.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Jeffery:  The really wonderful part about being me is having a wonderful wife as a partner. She keeps all my appointments and schedules. It seems like there are always signing events and school visits on the books. Please visit http://www.bigbellybooks.com/ for appearance information.

Debbie:  Your favorite place in Michigan?

Jeffery:  I think Michigan is a great place to live and play. My wife and I live in Bellaire, Michigan right behind Schuss Mountain. I can’t think of a more wonderful place to be. We enjoy fabulous summers on Torch Lake and magnificent winters in the middle of a snow globe playground. We’re near to Traverse City, Petoskey, and other great Michigan towns. Yet, we live in the natural beauty of the woods. Ah-h-h-h.

Debbie:  Jeffery, your favorite Michigan event or happening?

Jeffery:  If I had to pick one, my favorite Michigan event would have to be the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City. It has EVERTHING . . . parades, entertainment, rides, films on the street, air shows, stupid events like bed races . . . EVERYTHING. The Cherry Festival is a great week! A close second choice for favorite would have to be the Traverse City Film Festival.

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should know about?

JefferyAnn Marie and Will Rowland are fun people. They are wonderful performers and Ann Marie is an excellent writer/poet. They live in Gaylord, Michigan. Shelly St. Ange-Sheldon is about the most fascinating person I know . . . wait, she’s tied in the fascinating category with her husband Roderick. And, I love visiting with the elderly. They are really interesting and I never tire of their stories.

Debbie:  Something a non resident should know about Michigan?


Jeffery:  Before Michigan became a state, it was in a squabble with the State of Ohio about its southern border. This event in history is referred to as the Toledo war. Ohio ended up with the contended strip of land, and Michigan was awarded the Upper Peninsula. The value of the UP ended up being vastly greater than the Toledo strip. The state prospered significantly from the minerals, lumber and beauty of the UP.

Debbie:  Finally, the last question for Michigander Monday profilees.  For our ongoing tally:  are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Jeffery:  During the Toledo war, the term Michigander was used in the Ohio legislature to signify the stubbornness of officials in Michigan . . . as if to say people from Michigan are as stubborn as geese. Therefore, I am firmly in the camp of those who describe themselves as Michiganians.

Debbie:  Jeffery, I'll add you to the Michiganian column!  Thank you for being here today.  Those of you reading this profile, please head on over to Big Belly Books to learn more about Jeffery Schatzer and his books!

2 comments:

Lori said...

Love this interview: I have a special place in my heart for The National Cherry Festival(along with their recently conceived film festival).
I received "The Bird in Santa's Beard" as a gift and my kids really liked it. :) What a lovely man.
Thanks.

Emma Price said...

Very interesting interview-Jerry Schatzer.