Book signing…and signing…and signing…

Thanks for all of the good wishes on today’s Spitfire book signing.  It was so much fun and went well — 190 copies well.  The bookstore ran out, so my husband made two runs out to the van for more books.  (Thank you,

for telling me to bring extra, even if I thought I wouldn’t need them!)

Spitfire is about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to fight in a Revolutionary War battle on Lake Champlain — the Battle of Valcour Island.  So many people at today’s signing were history lovers, excited to share this story with their kids.  It made me smile.  Here are some pictures of today’s event for friends who weren’t there…

That’s me on the left and Bonnie Shimko, author of Letters in the Attic and Kat’s Promise, on the right.

Favorite book signing moment #1… signing books for some of my 7th grade students!

Favorite book signing moment #2… Looking up and seeing an actual line of people at the table.

Favorite book signing moment #3… Talking with teachers who plan to share Spitfire with their students.

The folks at Borders were fantastic — from general manager Jim who kept replenishing my pile to Taylor who met me at the door with a huge smile and helped me to get settled.  Thank you!  It was just a fantastic day.

I am overwhelmed, to say the least.  Also out of ink in my Sharpie.

Next weekend, I’ll be doing a presentation for kids and families in Medina, NY where I grew up and signing books in  Canandaigua, NY, where my parents live now.  Tonight, though, it’s time for a family bonfire on the beach, where I can hear the waves of Lake Champlain, see Valcour Island, and toast some of the real-life historical figures who are characters in Spitfire.  I think they would have been pleased today.

Someone should have told me…

…that when one visits one’s book in a real live bookstore for the first time, one is overcome by an almost insurmountable urge to hide behind a bookshelf and watch to see who picks it up and what kinds of faces they make.

I restrained myself, though, and went to find the other historical fiction titles I wanted for my Fall Fireside Basket of Historical Fiction to raffle off at the launch.

Spitfire is about a girl who disguises herself as a boy and fights in a Revolutionary War battle on Lake Champlain, and tomorrow is my first signing.  I’m scared and excited …but mostly excited.  Bonnie Shimko will be there, too, signing Letters in the Attic, which is out in paperback now. This makes me feel better because a) I won’t be alone, and b) Bonnie is friendly and warm and funny, which is always a good thing.

And the winner is…

We’re celebrating Spitfire’s official release this weekend… with an event from 12-2 Saturday at Borders in Plattsburgh, NY.  I’ll have treats, a raffle, teacher resource packets, bookmarks, and (giggles uncontrollably) temporary tattoos.  If you’ve ever considered having a Revolutionary War gunboat tattooed on your arm, this is your chance to try it out.  Bonnie Shimko will also be signing on Saturday.  If you haven’t read her Lambda Award-Winning Letters in the Attic, you should, and it’s out in paperback  now.  Jan Stanley and illustrator Tamia Gastio  will be there, too, signing their playful picture books.

One more thankful Thursday thing…

After school, the phone rang in my classroom, and it was one of the 6th grade ELA teachers.

“Hey- I’m having a computer problem, and I can’t figure it out. Can you just come down and help me real quick?”

When I opened her classroom door, there was no computer problem —  just a bunch of giddy English teachers and a big chocolate mousse cake (don’t tell the HeartSmart committee) to celebrate the release of my book.  Have I mentioned that I love my department?

And now… the winner of the Spitfire Writers & Characters Contest…. (I would have posted more of the entries on my blog, but it turns out that spitfire writers are busy people and often leave things to the last minute, so I got hit with a slew of 11th hour entries and no time to post them.)
Thanks for playing along; all of your entries were fun and spitfirey.

And now… the winner… drawn at random from all the entries…out of an 18th century bonnet… by my kids… is………..


(You may be asking now how two children drew one name out of a hat.  The parents among you realize that when a child is called upon to pick a contest winner, the other child will invariably shout, “NO!  I want to pick the winner!”  So for the curious… E picked three names from the hat, and then J chose one at random from those three.  Anyone wishing to appeal the contest results or protest this procedure may email J and E, care of me.)

Hey Amber…email me with your address, and I’ll send along your signed book and chocolate early next week. Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thankful Thursday

I’ve been keeping the emotions of my book release in check so far.  (This is an accomplishment for someone who cries at Folgers commercials.)

My box of author copies arrived from North Country Books this week, and inside were hundreds of shiny Spitfire bookmarks.  They were beautiful, but they didn’t make me cry. 

This one did….

“The Eagle Has Landed”

That was the subject line on the email my husband sent me at school this afternoon.  Look what was waiting for me at home…

My first author event with books is this Saturday from 12-2 at Borders in Plattsburgh, NY — part of the Educators’ Weekend.  If you live in Northern New York, please stop by and say hello!

Meet “Reformed Spitfire” Loree Griffin Burns…

She says she’s not a spitfire any more,
but I don’t believe it for a minute.  Loree Griffin Burns

 is making waves with her Scientists in the Field award-winner TRACKING TRASH: FLOTSAM, JETSAM, AND THE SCIENCE OF OCEAN MOTION.  Here’s her entry in the Spitfire Writers & Characters Contest:

Me? A spitfire? Nah.

Okay, well, maybe a reformed spitfire. A once-upon-a-time spitfire. Yes. That fits better. I’m a recovered spitfire. Which is to say that I have spent a good deal of my adult life learning to control the fiery outbursts of my youth and to maintain—at all costs—a peaceful demeanor. It has been a long process, fraught with missteps and setbacks. But becoming a wife, a daughter-in-law, a mother, and a teacher has steadied me in ways that have allowed me to let go of the idea that I have everything figured out and that it is my job to share my wisdom with the rest of humankind. I have learned to accept that people will not always believe what I believe, behave in ways that I approve of, or do the things I think they should. That is their right and no matter how angry it makes me, spitting fire won’t help.

An open mind, now that helps. Respect and tolerance help too.

And so even though I am passionate about my world views, even though I share them in appropriate venues, I no longer rile when they are challenged. I work hard—very hard—to maintain a peaceful outlook and a respectful approach. As I say, there are missteps and setbacks constantly.

Just recently my six-year-old daughter and I were waiting for the schoolbus.

“Girls can’t spit,” she told me, innocently.

The feminist in me roared to life. I counted to ten, calmed the beast as best I could, and pointed out that girls can spit every bit as well as boys. And then, well, I spit. Literally. Right there in our driveway in broad daylight, I hawked a good one.

My daughter stared at me in horror. Her little hand actually covered her mouth for a moment before she let loose on me, “Mom! Boys can’t spit either! Girls can’t spit and boys can’t spit! It spreads germs!” She paused for a moment before going on. “It’s the school rule and you’d be in trouble if Mr. Caruso found out.”

She let the threat of my shame hang in the air a moment before going on. “It’s okay, Mom. I won’t tell on you. Just don’t let me catch you doing that ever again!”

That daughter of mine? Now she is a spitfire. Long may she spit!

If you’re a world class spitter or spitfire (or something else with the word spit in it), you have one more day to email me your entry!  The contest wraps up when the clock strikes midnight Tuesday night.  A winner drawn at random gets a signed copy of SPITFIRE and some Lake Champlain Chocolate, which is organic and fabulous.  I’ll announce the winner on my blog this Friday — the day of SPITFIRE’s official release!

Who’s a Spitfire? Meet Sheri Goad…

Time to feature another entry in the Spitfire Writers & Characters Contest!

Some of you have already met this Spitfire Writer…Sheri Goad…aka goadingthepen.   She’s a children’s writer and blogger and finalist in the ABC PB Contest.  If you haven’t already done so, you’ll want to check out her Awesome Author Contests.  Here are Sheri’s thoughts on being a spitfire:

Spitfire: Little Me

My momma’s little spitfire;
Ask her she’ll admit.
I was quiet the feisty thing,
She had her share of it.

I filled my drawers with shaving cream,
Cracked eggs onto the floor.
As if that wasn’t just enough,
I broke the bathroom door.

I decorated every wall,
With markers red and blue.
Then flushed them down the toilet,
The moment I was through!

I threw spaghetti on the floor
The dog wanted a snack.
She shook her finger crazily,
Some day you’ll get this back!

And though I had no clue
What she was talking about…
As I catch jello shooting from the fan….
I think I’ve figure it out.

 Sheri Goad

As the mother of a spitfire, I TRULY appreciated this one!   Are you a spitfire?  Do you have a favorite spitfire character?  Email me your entry by the end of the day Tuesday, September 25.   It’s kmessner at katemessner dot com (no spaces).   Your name could be drawn to win a signed copy of SPITFIRE and a box of Lake Champlain Chocolates!

Six Things on a Sunday…

1. We went apple picking yesterday, which always reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem “After Apple Picking” and makes me smile.     

2. Do not think that you are safe from rejection letters for the weekend once you’ve checked the mail after 5pm on a Friday.  They can always zap you with an email from the West Coast.

3. Aforementioned rejection letter lit a fire under me, so I’m now within 20 pages of my first revision goal for


4. This is the week my author copies of SPITFIRE should arrive in the mail.

5. Here is an excerpt from Linda McCrary’s entry in the SPITFIRE Writers & Characters Contest:

A spitfire, in my mind, has always been someone with energy.  Someone who speaks their mind.  Someone who won’t take no for an answer.  Someone who isn’t afraid of a challenge.  I grew up in the country catching and riding my own horses by age 8. I was writing about horses when I wasn’t on them.  I fought with and survived 4 siblings including an older and younger brother.  That deserves some recognition! At my current place in life I’m a spitfire for different reasons.  At the age of 48 I’m avidly pursuing publication of my first picture book.  Last year I auditioned for and appeared in my first play. I refuse to be submissive and follow the “rules” set for slightly over middle aged women. I won’t believe that I’ve waited too late for anything, except maybe becoming Miss America!

Go, Linda!  And you other spitfires… only two more days to submit your entries to win a signed copy of SPITFIRE and Lake Champlain Chocolate!

6. The truth is, I didn’t really have six things, but “Five Things on a Sunday” isn’t as catchy.   I wanted to be alliterative, so I just plunged in and assumed that I would have a sixth thing by the end of the post.  Alas…I don’t.  Have a great week, though!

Who’s a Spitfire? Meet Amber Hamilton…

I promised to start featuring some excerpts from the SPITFIRE WRITERS & CHARACTERS contest, so today…meet Amber Hamilton, a wife, mother, writer of magazine articles and books (in progress) for kids, and undisputed spitfire.  Her essay will make you smile if you’ve ever tried to juggle writing with kids!

Whether people would call me a spitfire or just a glutton for punishment, I’m not sure. Still, no one will stop me from doing either of two things. Number one is writing, no matter how deep I spiral into the abyss that is brokeness. (Don’t tell me you hold on to that ancient concept of grammar that says I can’t make up a word like “brokeness.”) Number two is entering a contest where you can win a free, signed copy of a historical novel, especially when everyone who enters has an equal shot.
But, personally, I believe that anyone who changes two pooooooooooooopy diapers while listening to “Popcorn, Popcorn!” being screamed into one ear from one knee and breastfeeding a one-month old who’s teetering on the other knee while typing the finishing line of your third chapter (Well˜ OK, that scenario does describe almost all of my writing time now. I just wrote that part about it only being during the last line of a third chapter to make myself sound like a better mother.) deserves the title SPITFIRE, don’t you? (And don‚t argue with my spelling of pooooooooooooopy. I‚m telling you, “poopy” just doesn’t cut it.)
 It is for those reasons that I hereby, being of frazzled mind and worn-out body, qualify myself for the title of “spitfire.” Now, I must go. I may be a spitfire, but I still haven’t figured how to keep typing when it’s time to swap kids to different knees.

I’ll feature at least a few more SPITFIRE Writers & Characters on the Book  Blog this week & next, and I know there are more of you out there.  Don’t forget to send me your entry.  You can win a signed copy of SPITFIRE and a box of Lake Champlain Chocolates. (Mmmm…chocolate….).  Just email me a short essay (Heck, did I say essay? How about a sentence or two?) about why you’re a spitfire in your writing life OR your favorite spitfire character in children’s literature.  Feel free to introduce us to a character in your book or someone else’s.  The email is kmessner at katemessner dot com (no spaces).

The winner will be drawn at random from all entries I receive by the end of the day on Tuesday, September 25.  And If you mention this contest on your blog or website so others can join in the fun, I’ll enter your name in the drawing twice.