What Happened to Your Book Today

This can be a tough time of year to be an author or illustrator. When all those “Best of the Year” book lists come out from publications like Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, it can feel like getting picked last for the kickball team all over again.But my wise writer friend Erin Dionne reminded a fellow author on social media today that there are other lists – quieter ones – that matter, too. Every kid who is a reader has one – and your book just might be number one.

It’s true. And it reminded me that this might be a good time to bring back a poem I wrote a couple of years ago.

What Happened to Your Book Today
by Kate Messner (Copyright 2011)
Somewhere, a child laughed
on that page where you made a joke.
Somewhere, she wiped away a tear,
Just when you thought she might.
Somewhere, your book was passed
from one hand to another in a hallway
busy with clanging lockers,
with whispered words,
“You have got to read this.”
And a scribbled note:
O.M.G. SO good.
Give it back when ur done.
It’s looking a little more love-worn lately,
rougher around the edges than it did on release day.
There are dog eared pages and Gatorade stains.
Someone smeared maple syrup on the cover
because she read all through breakfast.
Pages 125 and 126 are stuck fast with peanut butter
Because Chapter 10 was even more delicious
than lunch.
Somewhere, tiny hands held up your book
And a little voice begged, “Again!”
Somewhere, the answer came,
A grown-up sigh…and a smile…
And the fourteenth read-aloud of the morning.
That same book. Again.
Your book.
Somewhere, a kid who has never read a whole book on his own
(Really. Not even one.)
picked up yours and turned a page.
And then another.
And then one more.
And it was pretty cool, turns out.
He brought it back – huge smile on his face –
(and I mean huge)
And asked for another one.
And he read that, too.
Somewhere, a teenager who thought she was alone
Opened your pages and discovered she’s not.
And somewhere, somebody who thought about giving up
will keep on trying,

keep on hoping.

Because of that book you wrote.
Somewhere tonight – listen closely and you’ll hear–
A child will turn the last page of that book,
That book you wrote,
and sigh.
Can you hear it?
It’s the sound of a story being held close
Right before a young voice says,
“It feels like this was written just for me.”
And it was.
Note from Kate: If you love this poem & want to share it on your own blog, website, or Facebook wall, please do not copy and paste the text. Instead, please include a short quote or just the title and then share the rest of the poem by providing a link to my original post here – that way, you can share with your own readers and honor the copyright, too. Here’s the URL:


Many thanks for practicing good digital citizenship!

Where to Find Me at NCTE

I’m heading to Boston for the NCTE Convention this weekend. Looking forward to talking books, signing, seeing old friends, and meeting new ones!  Will you be there, too?  If so, I’d love to see you! Here’s where you can find me throughout the weekend…

Friday, November 22

3-4 pm

Signing HIDE AND SEEK at Scholastic (with Deborah Wiles signing COUNTDOWN), Booth #1018



Scholastic Family Dinner, followed by the Nerdy Book Club gathering!

Saturday, November 23

6:45 am

 Meet-up for the Author-Teacher Run/Jog/Walk! We’ll be leaving from the Sheraton at 7am for a casual, fun 2.3 mile trek. Join us! All the info is here.


4-5 pm




Dinner with Bloomsbury team

Sunday, November 24

8:30-9:45 am

HOW TEACHERS WRITING NOW CAN BUILD STUDENT WRITERS OF THE FUTURE panel with Jo Knowles, Gae Polisner, Jen Vincent, and Brian Wyzlic – Sheraton/Beacon E Room, Third Floor


Signing WAKE UP MISSING and EYE OF THE STORM (with Megan Frazer Blakemore signing THE WATER CASTLE) at Bloomsbury Booth #818



BRINGING THE WORKING METHODS AND STYLE OF PUBLISHED WRITERS TO YOUR CLASSROOM panel with Linda Urban, Loree Griffin Burns, and Matt Phelan.  Hynes Convention Center, Room 105, Level One

Other than these official events, I’ll be around much of the weekend, ogling books on the exhibit hall floor.  If you see me, please don’t be afraid to stop me and say hello!

Thank you, Skano & Tesago Schools!

I had a great day of author visits with the students of Tesago and Skano Elementary Schols in Clifton Park, NY last week. It’s always so great to walk into a school where reading and writing are valued, and it shows from the moment you arrive. These kids were so enthusiastic, and they had such smart, thoughtful questions for me.


After my morning presentation, I spent a couple hours signing books in the library (these kids LOVE their books!)  While I was signing, some students came in with a poster for me to sign.


The students brainstormed this list in their classroom right after my presentation and told me their teacher was going to keep it on the classroom wall to remind everyone of the habits of writers. I thought that was such a great idea and a wonderful way to make the most of an author visit.

Many, many thanks to the students and staff at Tesago and Skano Elementary Schools. I had a great day with your readers!

Join Us for an Author-Teacher Run/Jog/Walk at NCTE!

Will you be at NCTE in Boston next week?

If so, and if you’d like go get in a little exercise and fresh air with friends, I hope you’ll join us for the First Annual Author-Teacher Run/Jog/Walk at NCTE! (I’m being optimistic with that “first annual” part, but hope springs eternal, right?)

Here’s your official invitation:

Who’s Invited? Teachers, librarians, authors, illustrators, editors, and other publishing folks and readers who want to get a little exercise and cavort with one another before getting down to business at NCTE on Saturday.

What: A fun, casual 2.3 mile run/jog/walk with fellow book lovers

When: Saturday, November 23 – Meet between 6:45 and 6:55 am – Depart at 7am sharp!

Where: In front of the entrance to the Sheraton near Prudential Center. There’s a brick colored walkway between two trees at entrance at the corner of Dalton & Belvedere. That’s where we’ll meet!


The wonderful author-runner Erin Dionne has planned a route that takes us through the Public Garden and crosses the Boston Marathon finish line!


Why: Because exercise and sunshine are good when you’ve been traveling and breathing hotel/conference center air. Also, because authors love teachers and vice versa. We’ll have fun, I promise.

My school/library publicists at Bloomsbury will be joining us as walkers, and they’ve added an extra incentive for you to wake up early. The first 25 people who show up at my Bloomsbury signing on Sunday with a photo of themselves at the author-teacher run will get a FREE copy of WAKE UP MISSING. The same deal holds true for Erin Soderberg’s signing of THE QUIRKS on Saturday afternoon.

Please know that runners/joggers/walkers of ALL ability levels are welcome. We have running authors and walking authors. None of us run super-fast; we’re talking 10-13 minute miles, mostly. (If you run faster, you can totally join us, too. We’ll give you a route map and there’s no need to wait for us. 🙂

I hope you’ll consider setting that alarm a little early to run or walk with us. And now…I’m excited to introduce your running/walking buddies!

Julie Berry, author of ALL THE TRUTH THAT’S IN ME



Erin Downing (Erin Soderberg), author of THE QUIRKS series  – Be one of the first 25 people to show a photo of yourself at the run to get a free book at Erin’s signing at the Bloomsbury booth #818 from 2:30-3:30 on Saturday.

Ammi-Joan Paquette, author of RULES FOR GHOSTING and PARADOX

And me. I’m Kate Messner…just in case you stumbled on the blog and said,”Wait…who is this?” 

I’ll be signing these books at NCTE:

HIDE AND SEEK at Scholastic Booth #1018 from 3-4pm Friday

OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW, SEA MONSTER’S FIRST DAY, and SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH  at Chronicle Books Booth 1007 from 4-5pm Saturday

WAKE UP MISSING and EYE OF THE STORM at Bloomsbury Booth 818 from 10-11am Sunday(Be one of the first 25 people to show up at this signing with a photo of yourself from the morning run, and you’ll get a free copy of WAKE UP MISSING!)

Authors/Illustrators: If you want to join us and know for sure you’ll be there, let me know if you’d like to be added to this invitation!

Teachers-Librarians-Readers: You don’t need to RSVP to join us – you can just show up. But if you think you’ll probably be there, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment to let me know. Hope to see some of you bright & early Saturday morning at NCTE!

Where did October go?

There were snowflakes falling during my run this morning.  As much as I love snow and winter, this has left me bewildered. I feel like we were just smelling new pencils a couple days ago, and now it’s mid-November. Where did October go?  If I look back through my photos, I can start to piece it together…

Staff development day at Washington West Supervisory Union…

I spent a wonderful morning with the staff of Washington West Supervisory Union in Central Vermont, including these great teacher-librarian readers who read MARTY MCGUIRE with the Global Read Aloud. It was truly energizing to be around educators so committed to staying true to students and authentic learning in the midst of all of our “educational reform” twists and turns.

Writing with 7th and 8th graders at Nashoba Brooks School in Concord, MA…

I do a wide variety of presentations and workshops when I visit schools, but some of my favorites are the writing and revision workshops, where I get to work with smaller groups of excited student writers, and this crew of 7th and 8th grade girls was just amazing. They had such fresh, thoughtful ideas in our “Writing the Future” workshop that I have no doubt I’ll see some of their books on shelves one day.

Speaking and signing at the Rhode Island Festival of Children’s Books & Authors…

The authors on the bus go scribble, scribble, scribble…  This festival was SO much fun. The dozen or so authors invited to sign and speak at Providence’s Lincoln School rode a cute little bus from place to place, which was great because we had so many opportunities to talk and laugh. The festival itself was simply amazing — an incredibly well-organized celebration of books and reading – and it was an absolute joy to be there.

One reader brought me a copy of MARTY MCGUIRE that illustrator Brian Floca signed for her at last year’s festival!

The post-festival dinner for authors and organizers was quite a treat, too. It was held at the Providence Atheneum – book-nerd heaven.

I may have been a bit over-enthusiastic about the library setting. At one point, storyteller Bill Harley tactfully brought this to my attention when he said, “I don’t know if you realize this, but you’re kind of petting that card catalog…”  Before you judge, you need to understand that it was full of hand-written cards dating back to the 1800s. I couldn’t help myself; I was smitten.

School visits in Chicago…

I had a great day at Saint Clement School in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. The second graders welcomed me with a bulletin board full of sea monsters!


The kids were absolutely wonderful, and I always love seeing how different schools are from one another.  Because Saint Clement is in the middle of the city, space is at a premium, so its playground is on the roof!

My second Chicago-area school visit was at the wonderful Whittier School in Downers Grove. We spent an energy-filled day writing together in the gym – everything from Halloween stories to myths!


And of course, I couldn’t let October pass without heading for the mountains. Even in the midst of a busy school visit month, I spent some time leaf gazing (and snake gazing!)

Hope you’ve had a wonderful fall, too!

Celebrating Writers with Ruth Ayres

One of my favorite things about being a traveling author is meeting other writers, teachers, and librarians . Last summer, I had the opportunity to spend some time with teacher-writer Ruth Ayres. We had so much in common and became fast friends. Ruth has a new book out called CELEBRATING WRITERS, so I invited her to visit my blog today to tell one of the stories behind the book!

celebrating-writersThe Story Behind Finishing the Manuscript by Ruth Ayres

My favorite part of the book Celebrating Writers is the “Closing Thoughts.” I wrote it in ten minutes and then couldn’t wait to read it aloud to someone—anyone. I walked around the school, searching for someone with ears I could steal for a few moments.

I landed on the school secretaries. In a rare course of events, there were no phones ringing and no students hanging on the counter and no doors buzzing, so I asked, “Do you want to hear what I just wrote?”

Like they’d say no.

 I read my words straight from my computer screen. I finished and looked up from my screen, expecting high-fives. The book was officially complete! I knew I could depend on the secretaries to whoop it up and make a little noise to celebrate. Instead there was silence. They blinked back a couple of tears.

“You wrote that?” one asked.

I smiled and nodded, “Yeah, just now. The book is officially finished!”

“Girl, you are a writer,” the other said. “That’s powerful.”

There were no high-fives. Instead, I was given the gift of a genuine celebration. It was quiet and simple, and yet it fuels me—even months later—on the hard days of being a writer. When genuine celebrations happen, writers are sustained and encouraged to keep going. This is the heart of the message in Celebrating Writers and the reason I’m grateful I get to keep putting words on the page alongside students.

Closing Thoughts

My husband and I adopted three of our children from the state when they were the ages of four, six, and seven. As they adapt to life as a forever family, our constant conversation has been about making choices and the power we have as individuals to determine the outcome of our lives.

My side of the conversation sounds like this: “You have the power to decide if the day is going to be pleasant. It is completely up to you. You can make choices that lead to a pleasant day or choices that lead to unpleasant consequences. Either way it is up to you.”

The same is true in our classrooms. There are many things we cannot control. We cannot control educational mandates. We cannot control fathers drinking and mothers leaving. We cannot control standardized writing assessments.

But we can choose joy.

This is the heart of celebration. We choose joy about the excess periods in a student’s writing, because a month ago there were none. We choose joy about the three meager lines of writing, because yesterday there were crushed pencil points and tears. We choose joy about the misspellings, because all of the sight words are accurate.

In the face of so much need, we can make a choice to celebrate. There will always be an error, a refusal, an inadequate paragraph. Student writing will never be perfect. We live among the mess. We can choose to wallow in the doom. Or we can choose joy.

I will always choose joy. I suspect you will too.


Ruth’s CELEBRATING WRITERS blog tour continues all week with these stops:

Nov. 13: Reflect and Refine with Cathy Mere (http://reflectandrefine.blogspot.com/)

Nov. 14: Read, Write, Reflect http://readwriteandreflect.blogspot.com/

Nov. 15: Nerdy Book Club http://nerdybookclub.wordpress.com/

If you ask a question or leave a comment these blogs, you’ll be entered to win a free Stenhouse book at the end of the tour!

Marty McGuire Global Read Aloud Video Q and A – Week 5

When MARTY MCGUIRE was selected for this year’s Global Read Aloud, I never could have imagined all the amazing readers I’d meet via Skype and Twitter and email over the past six weeks. I’ve so enjoyed watching all of you discover Marty’s world and listening in on your conversations about her classmates, friends, and challenges. Here’s our last Video Q and A session…

If you enjoyed MARTY MCGUIRE, please ask your librarian for MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS (out now) and MARTY MCGUIRE HAS TOO MANY PETS, which comes out in January.

Celebrating the Season (to read!): A #GiveBooks Giveaway

If you’re anything like me, you don’t need much of a nudge to choose books as holiday gifts. I’ll admit it…I am officially “the book aunt.” My nieces and nephews never have trouble guessing their presents, even when I’ve disguised the books by wrapping them in a lumpy package with candy or a nice fleece blanket.

All through the holiday season, I’ll be making book recommendations for like-minded friends, but I get to start of f the season with a bang this year, thanks to Chronicle Books. Chronicle, which publishes my picture books OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW, SEA MONSTER’S FIRST DAY, and SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH, just launched its 2013 #GiveBooks campaign, encouraging all of us to become book aunts and uncles, as well as book spouses, book friends, book sisters, and…well..you get the idea. Give books!

The great logo for this project is by Gemma Correll. Click on it, and you can sign Chronicle’s #GiveBooks pledge. For every #GiveBooks tweet, pin, or online signature, Chronicle Books will donate a book to children in need through First Book. The goal is 10,000 books!

The Chronicle folks asked me a fun question: Which ten items from their list would I most like to share as holiday gifts? My list is below…and the best news of all is that you can enter a drawing to win the same amazing stack of books.  Read on to find out how – and click on any book cover to read more about it.

For the Dog Lover in Your Life:

With titles like “DOORBELL!” and “I Lose My Mind When You Leave the House,” I COULD CHEW ON THIS AND OTHER POEMS BY DOGS is the perfect stocking stuffer, a charming and funny collection of poems in the voices of our canine friends. And don’t feel left out, cat lovers…there’s I COULD PEE ON THIS for you.

For Your Favorite Chef:

SIMPLY ORGANIC, A COOKBOOK FOR SUSTAINABLE, SEASONAL, AND LOCAL INGREDIENTS is one of those cookbooks that’s almost too beautiful to use in the kitchen. You’d hate to spill olive oil on it, but then again, Chard and Feta Pie is too delicious to be left between the pages.

For the Word-Nerd:

I am so smitten with A COMPENDIUM OF COLLECTIVE NOUNS (from an Armory of Aardvarks to a Zeal of Zebras) that I’m going to be hard pressed to actually wrap this one up and let it go. It’s rich with fascinating etymologies as well as lovely, lively, illustrations depicting everything from a prettying of doves, to a whoop of gorillas, to an opera of canaries. So. Much. Fun.

For the Tech-Geek on your List:

THE STARTUP PLAYBOOK: SECRETS OF THE FASTEST-GROWING STARTUPS FROM THEIR FOUNDING ENTREPRENEURS is a book that just oozes cool, from its sleek yellow-black-white design to the technology gurus profiled inside. This is a great how’d-they-do-that book that looks behind the scenes at some of the biggest start-up success stories through the eyes of their founders. Kind of like going out for drinks with Chris Anderson of TED and Wired, Caterina Fake of Flickr, Charles Best of DonorsChoose, and all their smartest friends.

I fell in love with the title of THE TOASTER PROJECT: OR A HEROIC ATTEMPT TO BUILD A SIMPLE ELECTRIC APPLIANCE FROM SCRATCH because I have some experience in this area. When the power went out years ago, my son built us a rudimentary toaster out of some batteries and nichrome wire from an old hair dryer. (It was neat but left the bread tasting kind of metallic.) This is a more complicated story because author Thomas Thwaites set out to build a real toaster…really, truly from scratch. That involves things like smelting one’s own metal and more. Fascinating, funny, and so eye opening for those of us who don’t always think too much about our toast.

For the Creative Kids in Your Life:

HOW TO BUILD A HOVERCRAFT: AMAZING DIY SCIENCE PROJECTS is an absolute treasure for kids who are always experimenting. You know…the ones who use up all of your kitchen staples making secret potions while you’re in the other room? They’re going to love this collection of awesome, messy experiments. The projects are fascinating and challenging, the directions are clear and detailed, and the science is explained in a way that shows real respect for young readers.

DOODLES: A REALLY GIANT COLORING AND DOODLING BOOK is just what it sounds like, an oversized invitation to imagine. The doodling challenges in this book go beyond the usual “finish this picture” sketch-starters to get young artists thinking about story and action. This spread, for example, says the two elephants have a problem. What is it? That’s up to the young artist to draw!

Pair DOODLES with a nice set of colored pencils, and you’ve got a winner of a gift.

THE STAR WARS COOKBOOK – ICE SABERS: 30 CHILLED TREATS USING THE FORCE OF YOUR FREEZER is entirely too much fun. I’m not that much of a Star Wars fan, but I still can’t resist the idea of sword fighting with a homemade juice pop.

For Kids Who Love Nature:

I’m a big, big fan of both author Lola Schaefer (writer friend and super nice person) and illustrator Christopher Silas Neal (awesome guy who illustrated my picture book OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW) so I was expecting great things from LIFETIME: THE AMAZING NUMBERS IN ANIMAL LIVES, and I wasn’t disappointed. How many pairs of antlers will a caribou grow and shed in a lifetime? How many flowers will a giant swallowtail visit? These are things I need to know, even if I didn’t realize it until I picked up this gorgeous book.

UNUSUAL CREATURES: A MOSTLY ACCURATE ACCOUNT OF SOME OF EARTH’S STRANGEST ANIMALS is a Messner family favorite. From the Fairy Armadillo to the Yeti Crab, the animal profiles in this book are accessible and truly fascinating. My daughter was particularly enchanted with the hagfish, which produces its own slime as a defense mechanism.

Want to win all these books? We’re going to give away this whole huge pile in a random drawing.

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email before midnight EST on November 30th. I’ll contact the winner, and Chronicle will send you a box of bookish awesomeness shortly thereafter, in time for holiday giving, should you decide to share the loot.

Whether or not you win the drawing, Chronicle Books is offering 30% off your entire order (excluding personalized products) and free shipping with a special #GiveBooks promo code. The offer is good through December 31st. Just enter the promo code GIVEBOOKS when you check out. And if your order includes one of my Chronicle picture books, I’d be happy to mail you a signed book plate! Just send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Kate Messner at P.O. Box 1857 – Plattsburgh, NY 12901.







Real Revision: An Interview with Ammi-Joan Paquette

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know I’m a card-carrying revision geek. My  book for teachers, REAL REVISION: AUTHORS’ STRATEGIES TO SHARE WITH STUDENT WRITERS, features interviews with more than forty authors about how they revise. From time to time, I also like to feature blog interviews on the topic of real revision…the nitty gritty, make-the-book-better strategies that some of my favorite authors use when they’re revising a project.

Today, Ammi-Joan Paquette is here to talk picture book revision with a focus on her brand new book. PETEY AND PRU AND THE HULLABALOO!

Kate: First of all, congratulations on the new book! Tell us a little about PETEY AND PRU – where the idea started and how the text has changed from its first draft to the published book as you revised.

Ammi-Joan: Thanks, Kate! The original inspiration for PETEY AND PRU AND THE HULLABALOO was drawn from my lifelong love of words. I’ve always been the type of person who keeps an “awesome words” page in my notebook/file on my computer. Then one day, a listserv I belong to started swapping and sharing their favorite words—so many of these were ones I loved, too. And seeing them stream by one after the other got me thinking, “What if I could put together these words that are so fabulous to say aloud, so they could form a story?” The idea grew from there.

My original manuscript consisted of just those words I had chosen, strung together in story order, but with the bulk of the work being carried by my italicized art notes in the margin. My editor loved the book idea, but wasn’t sure the words-only approach was the best. With his encouragement, I built an actual narrative story around the words, which I am now so much happier with.

Kate: So what was your biggest challenge in revising this book?

Ammi-Joan: This book was a challenge in that its whole concept was to build a story around words for which kids don’t know the meanings. Put like that, it does seem a bit counterintuitive! But what I tried to do, first in the writing and later in the revising, was to make the story context self-evident enough that the words could be learned just from the story reading. (And, of course, once the story was illustrated by the luminous Joy Ang, the pictures carry a huge part of that load as well.) There is, of course, a glossary in the book—but I really believe that the best way to learn new words is by seeing them in action. And that’s what I tried to do here.

Kate: I think picture books can be tough to revise because they’re so concise. Like me, you write for a wide range of ages. How do you find revising a picture book is different from revising a novel?

Ammi-Joan: With a novel, I think the hardest part of revision is often harnessing the willpower. It’s making yourself sit down and put those words on paper. It’s all about sheer hard work and time and effort. With picture books, the process is more delicate. There is so little space, and so much that has to be taken into account—story arc, character growth, subtext, rhythm, wordfeel, and more. With picture books, the bulk of the work is done in the pre-writing, so I find I need long stretches of just letting the ideas simmer, trying on different solutions, brainstorming, sticking with it. It’s more of a mental than physical process, of putting yourself in the place where lightning will strike and that perfect idea will float right down on your page, the one that will bring your story together just right.

Kate: Will you share a favorite revision strategy when it comes to picture books?

Ammi-Joan: Free-writing and brainstorming is a strategy I find really helpful when I’m stuck on a PB revision. I’ll open a document and start talking to myself about what I need to do in this new draft. I’ll make lists whenever I can, write out the problem in different ways, try out crazy ideas that I don’t even think will work. Because it’s a mental/creative/imagination block often, more than a physical one, anything I can do to stir up my ideas and get the juices flowing helps toward the end result.

Kate: Thanks for joining us to talk revision today! 

I support independent bookstores. If PETEY AND PRU AND THE HULLABALOO is on your must-read or holiday shopping list (and it really should be!) please consider asking for it at your local indie, or check out IndieBound to find a store near you.