I have a million things to do, so…

…I’m photographing my socks.

Why?  Because Linda Urban (

) asked me to, and she’s a very cool writer person. 

(My mother, who reads my blog, is now saying, “Well, if this lurban person asked you to jump off a bridge, would you do that, too?”) 

Well no.  Plus, really, this is all about celebrating Linda’s new book, A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT.  I loved this middle grade novel, and if my fuzzy striped feet help her get the word out, then it was worth almost falling off the piano bench while I leaned over to take the photo.  You can read my review of the book here.

If you check out my friends list, you’ll see just what kind of power Linda has (or how much people like Neil Diamond…hard to tell) because there are cool socks showing up on blogs as far as the eye can see.  (Hey, Linda…does this kind of make you want to ask people to do other crazy things to see if they’ll really do it?) 

Linda would like to see your socks, too, and if you post them on your website or blog (or send her a photo), she’ll enter you in a contest to win a signed copy of her book, a pair of toe socks, and Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits. (If you’ve already read CROOKED, you will NOT roll your eyes at that.)

Miranda Mink’s Feast

When I looked out the back door this afternoon, I thought a saw a log in the water.

But it was moving kind of fast.  By the time I got out to the deck, the “log” had scurried to shore and hidden behind a rock.  It was Miranda — the mink that’s been visiting over the past few weeks.  (We named her from THE TEMPEST because she’s not afraid to swim in rough waters…).  And she brought a friend for lunch!

Miranda played peekaboo with us around the rock for a while before running off to eat her new friend in one of the pipes where she likes to hang out.

We’ve lived here nine years, and every day, the lake brings something different.  Wild lightning and double rainbows.  One September, it was a cloud of hundreds of monarch butterflies, flying south along the shore.  And one May evening a few years ago, we watched what neighbors swear was Champy, Lake Champlain’s legendary lake monster, swimming back and forth about 40 yards offshore. 

What a gift, as a writer, to have new ideas delivered on the waves with every new day.

Burlington Book Festival

I know it’s early, but I want to let everyone know about the Burlington Book Festival coming up next month.  Burlington, VT hosts an incredible book festival each fall, just as the leaves are changing color in New England.  If you live in the Northeast (or even if you don’t but you really, really like autumn leaves and books), it’s worth the trip.  Most of the events are being held at Waterfront Theater on the shores of Lake Champlain.

I’ll be presenting  on Sunday, September 16th at the Children’s Literature Festival.  Here’s my blurb from the festival website:

11:00 AM-12:00 PM


Join Kate Messner for a trip back in time to the American Revolution on Lake Champlain. Kate will read from her middle grade historical novel Spitfire, set during the Battle of Valcour Island in 1776, sign books and present an interactive multimedia slide show about the real 12-year-old who fought in the battle. Kids will be invited to taste the food and try on the clothes of an 18th century sailor, handle artifact replicas and design their own powder horns to take home.

Waterfront Theatre Black Box, 3rd Floor

Right after my presentation, Linda Urban (

) will read from A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT and talk about the journey of writing and publishing a children’s book.  (Even though Linda says it will make her nervous, my kids and I are definitely going to be in the audience!)

Also on tap for the Sunday kids’ day… Tracey Campbell Pearson, James Kochalka, Anna Dewdney, Harry Bliss, Jim Arnosky, Barbara Seuling, Marie-Louise Gay, Barbara Lehman, and Warren Kimble.

And the rest of the Book Festival is nothing to scoff at either, with writers like Chris Bohjalian, Howard Frank Mosher, Russell Banks, and Joyce Carol Oates speaking on Saturday, September 15th.  The full schedule is posted at the festival website now. If you’re in the area that weekend, please stop by the Children’s Literature Festival and say hello! 

Toe socks and marzi-pianos…

There should be more books like Linda Urban’s (

)  A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT.  When I checked at my local bookstore today, they had one copy.  I snatched it up and read it in one sitting. 

Zoe Elias, a would-be piano prodigy, ends up not with a  baby grand piano at Carnegie Hall but with a sighing, cha-cha, oompa organ at the Perform-O-Rama.  Zoe’s voice is funny and touching and true, as she paints the picture of her ten-year-old life.  A coin-counting mother who works all the time.  A father who’s afraid to leave the house (but makes a mean maple tart).  A best friend who ditches her. And that organ….

This book made me laugh out loud on the couch so many times my son put down THE LIGHTNING THIEF to listen for a while.  It’s a fantastic example of how a great middle grade book can turn the every day trials of a kid into an amazing story, just like Zoe makes music from whatever life dishes out to her.

I teach middle school, and sometimes I find that I have more choices for my readers who like edgy YA stories than I do for those kids who read well but aren’t quite ready for teenager issues.  A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT is a perfect kind of book for those readers, and I’m so happy I’ll have it  for them when school starts in a few weeks.

SPITFIRE cover & bookmark

Okay…I know I shared the cover art for SPITFIRE a couple weeks ago, but today, fabulous Zach at North Country Books emailed me the whole thing…the front cover, the back cover, the spine…even the promotional bookmark.  That’s what they call the whole kit & caboodle.  (Is that how you spell caboodle?)

And here’s the bookmark.  SPITFIRE has its own bookmark!   How about that?

Fabulous Zach says everything is on track for SPITFIRE’S September 10th release date.  Have I mentioned that I’m just a tiny bit excited?

August Visitors

We’ve had some colorful visitors stop by the house lately…

The monarch butterflies are loving my Echinacea.

And this little guy has made appearances on our beach twice this week…

It’s a mink, we think, a member of the weasel family.  Some of you may have read

‘s entries about the weaselly creature that showed up at her house a few weeks ago and looked a lot like a wolverine.  I think this may be a smaller, cuter, distant cousin.  He spent the afternoon frolicking up and down the shore, climbing into drainage pipes, and then playing peek-a-boo before jumping out again.  We’re trying to think of a name for him (or her).  Any suggestions?

Make a SPAM sandwich…

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.  What about when your in-box is loaded with spam? 

 used it as an inspiration for his hilarious blog post this morning, and he’s prompted me to come clean with a quirky hobby.  I save subject lines from spam emails and use them as titles for poems.  This is great fun, as you can imagine. Here’s my favorite so far, and yes, the title really was the subject line of an email I received…


I have been sitting on the plastic lawnchair
all afternoon
sipping lemonade in the sun
and cannot possibly get up
to make you dinner.

My cool glass needs me.
Beads of condensation roll down its sides
and my book has five more chapters.
The forest green plastic
is woven in and out
like a first grade construction paper placemat
to keep me from falling through the aluminum base
to the warm prickly grass.
The plastic and I are one.

If I stand to get the chicken from the fridge
the chair will come along
stuck to my sweaty thighs for all time
or at least until I get to the door
and it falls off onto the porch.
Then I’d have those little squares on the backs of my legs
     for hours —
maybe even until dinner
and if we sit in these chairs to eat,
well, it would start all over again.

We’d better order a pizza,
and I’ll just stay put.

What’s in your email trash today?  If you find inspiration for a poem, I’d love to read it!

Many things on a Monday

I’ve been a bad blogger this week, but I’ll try to make up for  it with an mega-post today.  Here are many things on a Monday…

1. I had coffee this morning with Bonnie Shimko, a marvelous YA writer and, it turns out, a marvelous person.  I’ve read her books but never met her until this morning, even though she lives in my area.  Bonnie wrote the Lambda Award-winning LETTERS IN THE ATTIC and more recently, KAT’S PROMISE.  It was wonderful to talk writing over an iced coffee and  to laugh (and lament) about the agent search with someone who’s been through it.

2.  My parents visited this weekend for E’s birthday, and we enjoyed the sunshine and the lake.  They also brought me an unbelievable early book release gift — an antique powder horn from the 18th century.  The gift came with a note from my main character…

Abigail, my MC in SPITFIRE  carries her father’s powder horn.  It’s an important symbol in the story and a part of my presentation for schools.  Mom and Dad were at an antique show in the Finger Lakes and found this one, from the Kingston, NY area, dated 1787.  Leave it to them to put the icing on the cake of this first book being published.  These are the people who have believed in my writing since I could hold a pencil, and … (secret for LJ readers coming)… my mom is the artist who did the cover painting for SPITFIRE.  You can visit her and see more of her work at her journal,

3.  It’s finally stopped raining in the Champlain Valley, so we spent a few great days camping in the Adirondacks with family and boating on Lake Champlain.  Spending time outside here makes me so thankful to live in a place where there are still so many special, forgotten places. 

My husband’s brother and his family camp each summer in Wilmington, NY, so we spent a night with them and took a hike to Copperas Pond in the Adirondacks. (It’s one of the stops in Mystery Writer’s journal, but alas, the log book here also failed to go back as far as the date of her hike, so we’ll have to keep waiting to get the older logs we’ve requested from the Department of Environmental Conservation.)

Copperas Pond is a cool blue gem in the shadow of the mountains, perfect for frog-hunting and swimming.  My son made a friend while he was resting on a log in the water…

Temperatures passed 90 degrees this week, so we were thankful for the cool mountain water.  Copperas Pond has some terrific cliffs that drop off into deep water, which means you can do this…

(That’s me, when I finally got up the courage, after the 11-year-old had already done it five or six times.)

Yesterday, we took our little rowboat over to Valcour Island, the setting for SPITFIRE and a place I’ve always loved.  There’s a perfect pebbly beach on the south end of the island where the stones are smooth and warm. 

There’s also a rock wall on one side of the cove with a little cave in it, where we play Messner Rock Challenge. 

Here are the rules, in case you go there some day and want to play.  See those pieces of driftwood on the beach?  You have to stand behind the back stick if you’re an adult and behind the front stick if you’re a kid.  Toss rocks, one at a time, and try to get them to stay in the little cave.  Take turns.  The first person to have three rocks stay in the cave wins.  If someone knocks your rock out of the cave, you don’t get credit for that rock. You have to have three rocks in there at the end to win.  It’s harder than it sounds because they bounce out.  My husband won yesterday’s game after about 15 minutes of rock tossing, and there were only this many rocks in the cave.

The ground next to the cave was another story…

I managed to get just one rock into the cave, which was promptly knocked out by someone (can’t remember who) who laughed a sinister laugh.  Here’s hoping you have better luck if you get a chance to visit Valcour Island some day…