Time to Write Revision Retreat – November 3-5, 2017

TIME TO WRITE REVISION RETREAT with Linda Urban & Kate Messner

November 3-5, 2017

The What:
The 2017 Time to Write Revision Retreat will include daily craft lectures from Linda and Kate, mentor-facilitated small-group critique sessions, lively community meals, and quiet work time.  Cost: $480 (or $455 for early registration by August 1st) includes all lectures & workshops, snacks and meals from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch. Lodging is not included. See below for options.

The When:
November 3-5, 2017.  Arrive any time after noon on November 3rd (first session begins at 4pm) and depart after lunch on November 5th.

The Where:
Valcour Inn and Conference Center is located on beautiful Lake Champlain, just south of Plattsburgh, NY. You can read about the inn here:

The Valcour Inn has nine bedrooms with different nightly rates depending on the level of accommodation and occupancy. Some are large with lake views, porch access, and private bathrooms. Some are smaller with a shared bathroom. Most rooms can accommodate 2-3 people, if you’d like to have a roommate or two to reduce lodging costs. There are also larger hotels in Plattsburgh, just a few miles away, and of course, if you live nearby, you are welcome to sleep in your own bed and commute.  Valcour room options and rates are here:


Additional nearby lodging options include the Hampton Inn & Suites and Microtel Inn &  Suites, both about a 10 minute drive.

The Who:  

Linda Urban and Kate Messner are award winning children’s authors and friends who love to teach and mentor other writers. Between the two of them, they’ve written more than thirty books, presented at over a dozen state and national conferences, and consumed approximately four hundred mocha lattes.

Who should attend?
This is a retreat for experienced novelists, both published and not-yet published.  The workshop will be aimed at writers who are working to revise a completed (or mostly completed) draft of a middle grade or young adult novel or chapter book.  We’ll be asking for writing samples – just your first few pages – when it’s time to register, so that we know you’re in a place where what we’re offering will be useful and relevant.  We can accommodate up to twenty-two writers in this lovely, intimate setting and will cap the retreat at that number. We’ll have the option for returning writers to repeat a craft session from years past or break off into a smaller group workshop.

The How:
Valcour Conference Center is on Lake Champlain in Northeastern NY, 1.5 hours from Burlington, VT, 2.5 hours from Albany, 4 hours from Syracuse, 4.5 hours from Boston, and 5 hours from New York & Rochester.
You’ll see that the website gives driving directions from Plattsburgh International Airport, but this is not an airport that services many places. The nearest full-service airport is in Burlington, Vermont a little over an hour away (including a ferry ride). If you fly, it will probably be necessary to rent a car or find a friend who’s passing through Vermont to pick you up at the airport.

How to sign up: 

Send an email to timetowriteretreat at gmail dot com with your name, address, email, and phone number. Please include a quick note about what you hope to be working on and share a short writing sample (700 words or less) if you’re not a returning writer. Don’t worry about this being a tryout or application; our goal is to make sure the workshop will be useful to you, and this will help us to plan our sessions. If you’re hoping to room with someone at the retreat, please let us know that as well. As soon as we receive your email, we’ll send you more information, including directions for mailing your deposit.


August 1st for Early Registration Discount ($455) 

October 1st Regular Registration Deadline ($480) 

To reserve a spot at the retreat, participants must submit a $50 nonrefundable deposit at the time of registration, with the balance due by October 1st.  It’s also fine to pay the full amount when you pay your deposit. After October 1st, retreat registration fees are not refundable unless we’re able to find someone to fill your spot.

Questions? Email us at timetowriteretreat at gmail dot com.

Fergus and Zeke, a new series for beginning readers!

FERGUS AND ZEKE, the first book in my new easy reader series with Candlewick is out today!

I’m excited about some great news we’ve already gotten about this book. It’s a Junior Library Guild selection. There’s a lovely review from Kirkus that ends with “Here’s to more adventures for Fergus and Zeke!”

The Wall Street Journal just featured FERGUS AND ZEKE in a roundup of the best new children’s books:

“A dapper fellow with lavender fur, Fergus loves following the rules of Miss Maxwell’s class. ‘When the students solved math problems, Fergus solved them, too,’ we read; ‘he always kept his eyes on his own work.’ But when teacher and children prepare to visit the natural-history museum without him, Fergus embraces his inner outlaw and stows away in a backpack. He soon falls in with Zeke, a gray mouse of insouciant temperament who scoffs at the idea of following ‘people rules.’ Cheery illustrations by Heather Ross add zip to this educational excursion for 5- to 8-year-olds.”

And Publishers Weekly had this to say:

“In a high-spirited series opener set over four chapters, Messner (the Ranger in Time books) lets readers live out their Night at the Museum fantasies through Fergus and Zeke’s explorations, as they clamber over lion and dinosaur exhibits and generally disregard any “no touching” rules (“Those are people rules!” crows Zeke). Ross’s (Grimelda: The Very Messy Witch) energetic full-color cartoons run wild with the museum-as-playground theme, and Zeke’s decision to join Fergus in the classroom neatly sets up their next adventure.”


But what those reviews don’t tell you is the story behind this story…and how the seed for this book was planted years ago at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival.

One of my favorite things about festivals is the way young readers approach an author’s table. “Do you have any mysteries?” they’ll say, or “Have you written any books about dogs? Because I really love dogs.” Five or six years ago, a little girl walked up to my table, looked at me with big eyes, and said, “I just learned to read! Do you have a book I can read all by myself?” I didn’t at the time, and I felt bad about that…like I’d let her down.  When I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking about that reader, so I went to my library and signed out a stack of books – the best stories I could find, published with very new readers in mind. I read piles and piles of them and started experimenting. After a towering heap of failures, I wrote FERGUS AND ZEKE.

Fergus is a classroom mouse who’s enthusiastic about everything from music class to story hour. How could he possibly stay behind when it’s time for the big field trip to the natural history museum?  So Fergus stows away on his class trip to the natural history museum, has some adventures and misadventures among the butterflies, lions, and dinosaur bones, and ultimately brings home a friend.

I love research, so it’s probably no surprise that my first step in writing FERGUS AND ZEKE was planning a field trip for myself. I’d been to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, but I’d never imagined it from the point of view of a mouse. So with my notebook and my camera, I set off to spend a day at the museum, imagining what it would all look like from a small rodent’s perspective.

When I arrived, the coat check room was bustling – a mouse would have to be careful not to be stepped on there. I’ve always been in awe of the museum’s enormous blue whale model. Imagine how much more colossal it would seem if you were only a few inches tall! It was so much fun to see how our amazing series illustrator Heather Ross created these scenes…

Writing about Fergus and Zeke’s adventures behind the scenes at NMAH allowed me to live vicariously. Who hasn’t always wanted to get inside those glass cases in the mammal hall to play with the elephants or pet the lions?

And wouldn’t it be fun to climb on those dinosaur skeletons?

As a kid, I found that I learned best when I was doing something out of my seat. As a teacher, I always connected with fidgety students who couldn’t quite sit still during a lecture. I did my best to get us all up out of our seats – and out of the building – as often as possible. Those are the kinds of adventures that Fergus and Zeke have, not just in this first installment, but throughout the series. (They’ll be experimenting at the school science fair in book two!)

I’m so excited to share Fergus & Zeke’s adventures with readers – kids who love school, kids who live to explore, kids who don’t like to sit still, and kids like that little girl at my book festival table – who want books they can read all by themselves.

UPCOMING EVENT: I’ll be signing copies of FERGUS AND ZEKE on Saturday, June 17th from 3-5pm at The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid. If you don’t live nearby but would like personalized, signed copies of any of my books, you can call The Bookstore Plus at 518-523-2950 or order online here, using the comment section to share the name of the person or family to whom you’d like it signed.