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.

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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.

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One of of the things I love to do in my author visits to schools is share the research behind my books with student writers. Kids love seeing photos of the real places where Ranger in Time stories takes place, and it’s fun to share how a tiny detail I might notice on a research trip – a feather on a grassy trail, a line in a letter from an earthquake survivor – turns into a plot thread in the story.

Today is book release day for RANGER IN TIME #5: JOURNEY THROUGH ASH AND SMOKE, so I thought I’d do a mini-author-visit here on my blog for the readers I won’t see in person this week. This book is set in Viking Age Iceland and features a Viking girl named Helga as the main human character.

My research for the Ranger in Time books always begins with a big pile of books from the library, so that I can get a solid overview of the time period in which I’m writing. I start reading with a list of basic questions. What was happening in my particular setting and in the larger world at this time? What were the details of the historical event taking place in the book? What was the social structure of the society in which my characters live? Who had power and who didn’t? What did people believe? How did they live? What did their homes look like? What jobs had to happen on a day to day basis? Who did those jobs and how did they get done? What did they eat/wear/do for fun?

From there, I branch out to articles and websites written by archaeologists and historians. This is important because even though we often think of history as a subject that’s literally set in stone, we’re constantly making new discoveries. Sometimes, that happens via archaeology, as in this recent case where a team in Poland was working at the site of a Nazi death camp and found a pendant believed to have ties to Anne Frank.  Sometimes, historians find documents that shed new light on old stories from history. And sometimes, newly developed technology lets us learn more about artifacts that we found a long time ago. That’s how scientists and historians working together found out that many of the bright white marble statues we see in museum exhibits about Ancient Greece and Rome were once painted in bright, colorful hues. 

After this part of my research, I often still have questions, so for almost every Ranger in Time book, I also plan a trip to the setting where the story takes place. That allows me to visit more museums, talk with historians and archaeologists who live and work in the place they’re studying, and see the settings my character would have inhabited.

Two summers ago, I spent a week in Iceland, doing research for RANGER IN TIME: JOURNEY THROUGH ASH AND SMOKE. Before I take a research trip like this, I already have a lot of notes and a rough idea for how the story might go. But there are always details I haven’t discovered yet and settings I can’t quite picture yet in my mind, and that’s where the site visits come in.

My first stop in Iceland was The Settlement Exhibition in Reykjavik, a fantastic museum that was literally built around the archaeological discovery of one of Iceland’s first farms.

This museum, along with the National Museum of Iceland, gave me great insight as to how Helga and her family might have lived. Here’s a conjectural image from the National Museum of Iceland, showing how a Viking longhouse was constructed.

In this new Ranger book, you’ll read about a woman who works for Helga’s family making cloth on a loom. It would have looked like this one, on display at the National Museum of Iceland.

In every Ranger in Time book, the historical character gives Ranger a small token of remembrance when it’s time for him to go home. As I research each book, I’m looking for ideas for what that item might be, and sometimes, I find it on my research trip. Here’s a broken brooch from a display at the Settlement Exhibition. You’ll see it again in the story.

Iceland’s geography is largely formed by geothermal activity, and there are amazing lava caves in parts of the country. I knew this would be one of the settings for Helga’s story, so I spent some time exploring those areas and taking reference photos for Ranger in Time illustrator Kelley McMorris.

At one point in the story, Helga climbs out of one of the lava caves, and when I saw that Scholastic had chosen that scene for Kelley to illustrate, I sent her this photo of my daughter in case it was helpful. Here’s my daughter climbing…

And here’s Helga…

Another big scene in the story takes place at Thingvellir, the site of Iceland’s first parliament, where chieftains would come from all over the island for two weeks each summer, to make laws, talk about issues that affected everyone, and settle disputes. Here’s a speculative painting from the National Museum of Iceland showing what that might have looked like in Helga’s time.

And here’s what Thingvellir looks like today.

I’d been searching on this trip for a place where the story’s climax could take place, and I found it in these crumbly, hazardous cliffs.

On a different rocky cliff near the ocean, I got to see Iceland’s puffins. They’re an important part of Helga’s story and also amazing to watch. I stood here for hours taking photos.

But probably my favorite part of each Ranger in Time research trip is the part I’m not expecting – the tiny detail that I wasn’t looking for but can’t imagine leaving out of the story once I find it. In Iceland, that detail was Funi.

When my family was hiking near an extinct volcano in the interior, we met this tiny arctic fox pup near the base camp. Local guides told us his mother had been shot by a hunter, so they’d sort of adopted him. He was curious and adorable, and I was smitten, as both an animal lover and a writer.

A quick check of Iceland’s natural history told me that the arctic fox was indeed around when the Vikings arrived, so if you read RANGER IN TIME: JOURNEY THROUGH ASH AND SMOKE, you’ll discover that in addition to looking after Helga, Ranger finds himself babysitting a mischievous arctic fox pup as well.

Iceland is a beautiful, rugged place, and visiting pushed me to think more about Helga’s character. What would it be like for a girl who left her home in Norway to live in a rocky land so far away?

I’ll wrap up this post with some tiny purple and yellow flowers that seemed to answer that question for me. They grow everywhere in Iceland — on the most windswept, rockiest stretches of land. You’ll find these in the story, too. They’re defiant and tough, and they seemed to embody Helga’s spirit. I thought she might find inspiration in them, just as I did when I was working on her story.

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To Share or Not to Share: Evaluating News & Other Online Content

To Share or Not to Share: Evaluating News & Other Online Content

shareIf you’re on social media, you’ve likely had the experience of scrolling through your feed and seeing something you thought was so great, so important, or so awful that you wanted to share it far and wide.


Recently, I watched a fake graphic about a protest inauguration-day concert go viral among many smart people in my news feed.


The same week, I saw someone else share a Breitbart piece about Obama ignoring the fact that violent crime in America is way up, even though real statistics actually show the violent crime rate is way down.

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We tend to get excited when we see things that a) align with our ideas, or b) outrage us, and sometimes, we share those things without checking as well as we should.

Who cares? Well, it’s important to realize that whatever political side you’re on, sharing things that are unconfirmed or just plain wrong tends to weaken your positions, rather than strengthen them. If you’re interested in curating a social media feed that’s respected and thoughtful – and not just in the eyes of people who agree with everything you believe – here are some questions to ask yourself before you hit that Share button.

What’s the source for this information?

With links, that’s fairly easy to determine. Is the website hosting the information a reputable news source? Real news outlets employ trained professionals with journalism degrees. They’re trained in investigative reporting as well as legal issues relating to journalism, and ethics. (That doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes from time to time, but when a real journalist does report something in error, you’ll see a timely correction and/or apology rather than a doubling down on the incorrect information.)

Which news sources are trusted by most people in America? This chart based on a 2014 study from the Pew Research Center and published in Business Insider offers some guidelines.

If your hope is to have people across the political spectrum view your social media feed as reliable and reasonable, you’ll probably want to stick to sharing information from sources that are more maroon than yellow.

You might also choose to make a special note of that source. Donalyn Miller, an author & educator I respect a lot, has taken to posting something like this each time she shares a piece on Facebook:

**Please read the article before commenting or sharing. PBS is a legitimate, credible news source.

I think this is a great idea. It’s helpful to identify what you’re sharing, whether that’s news, a persuasive piece written to promote one point of view, or something intended to be humorous. (More on that when we talk about satire…)

Is this particular piece NEWS or OPINION/COMMENTARY?

Reputable news sources such as those identified above offer both objective news and opinion or commentary pieces. Sometimes, they’re labeled clearly in the headline, but often they’re not. You may need to take a close look at the piece to determine what you’re reading.

How can I check to verify the information shared here?

Google is your friend, especially if you really want to share something being reported on a less consistently reliable source like BuzzFeed or HuffPost. Find out if similar information is also being shared via some of the more reputable, trusted new sources listed above.

Sometimes, there may be other ways to check out information, too. If the piece is about what someone said on Twitter or on a website, go directly to the source. But also realize that tweets can be deleted, so the fact that something isn’t there now doesn’t mean it never was. Sometimes people have screen shots of these deleted tweets, and you can look for that as well. It’s important to look very carefully at the Twitter account, too. There are many, many fake Donald Trump accounts, with the same profile picture and very similar Twitter handles. Go to the person’s actual Twitter home page to check the account name and look for the “verified” checkmark in their profile in situations like this.

For example, this is a real tweet from Trump:


This is not:


Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between real tweets & the parody tweets, so checking the profile is helpful.

One more note about Twitter: Keep in mind that unless an account is verified or you know the person who owns it, you have no way of knowing who’s tweeting. The fact that a Twitter account is named “Democrats for Trump” or “Conservatives Against Trump” doesn’t mean that the account is run by people who fit that description.  Since KellyAnne Conway’s “alternative facts” interview on Meet the Press and bans on social media from government agencies like the EPA and National Parks Service, several apparently subversive Twitter accounts have sprung up with names like AltUSEPA and RogueNASA. While it makes good sense that someone defying a gag order would need to protect themselves with an anonymous account, there’s no way to guarantee that those accounts are run by people from those agencies. Even if they are, before long, we’ll probably see similar accounts that are not. So follow & read if you’d like, but be wary.

It’s also important to look carefully and use tools to evaluate websites.  One example:  Since the inauguration, I’ve seen shared articles about the WhiteHouse.gov website, including some that criticized Melania Trump’s biography for promoting her jewelry line’s availability on QVC. 

In situations like this, it’s important to visit the website to check the article’s accuracy. It’s also important to remember that websites get updated all the time. It’s common for someone who receives criticism to edit in response to that criticism. If all you see is the “right now” version of the website, it might look like the criticism was based on “fake news.”

An Internet Archive tool called the Wayback Machine allows interested citizens to check on things like this. It’s an online archive that allows you to paste in the website’s URL and look at what was posted there at specific times on specific dates. As an example, here’s what the Melania Trump bio paragraph in question looked like Friday afternoon after the inauguration (on the top) vs. Sunday, after the critical articles were published (on the bottom).

Regardless of whether you care about Melania’s jewelry line, this is a helpful tool for evaluating information about what was or wasn’t on any website. It’s also interesting for students to see how websites change over time.

Be careful with photos.

If you want to share a photo that’s not connected to a legitimate news article, find the ORIGINAL source to determine its origin. Photos get repurposed sometimes, and pictures being shared on social media don’t always show what the caption says they show or what is implied. During the campaign (September 2016), Eric Trump tweeted this.

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Whether or not you agree with Eric Trump’s sentiment, this photo wasn’t taken at the Pensacola rally. It was a year-old photo of a larger crowd from a Trump rally in Dallas. (Note the Texas flag to the bottom-left of the big screen. That might have been a clue for careful photo sharers.)

Just after the November election, another photo circulated on social media showed hooded Ku Klux Klan members marching with a caption saying it was KKK members celebrating. This wasn’t true either. The Klan did hold a victory parade in North Carolina, but the particular photo being shared in this case was an old one that had nothing to do with the election. Unless you check the original source of the photo, you have no way of knowing where it came from, who took it, or when it was taken.

Check the date for news articles and tweets

And highlight it in your post if you choose to share something that’s not current.  This is an easy mistake to make when sharing everything from politics to astronomical events. Just yesterday, this tweet from Vice President Mike Pence was making the rounds.


This came as the Trump administration was reportedly preparing to issue an executive order banning immigration from a list of mostly Muslim countries.  This Pence tweet could give the impression that the Vice President is critical of that policy. But check the date. This was Mike Pence of December 2015, before Trump had won the Republican nomination and tapped Pence to be his VP. The current order is also expected to modify the ban so it’s no longer “a complete and total ban on Muslims” as Trump promised during his campaign but a ban that lists mostly Muslim countries the administration says are “terror prone.”

This “old news” situation also happens sometimes with articles about bills urgently described as “currently being voted on.” Check the date so you’re not sharing bad information that results in a flood of calls to a politician’s office about something that happened a month ago.

Checking the date doesn’t just apply to political articles. A while back, I saw a Facebook post about a meteor shower that would be “Lighting Up the Skies Tonight.”  I love meteor showers! My first impulse was to share, but before I did, I wanted to find out the exact date & time. When I clicked through to the article, I found out that it was old – about a meteor shower that had happened a couple years earlier. If I’d shared, I’d have been that person who sent 4500 of her closest friends out into their yards in the cold to stare at an empty, dark sky.

Check to see if the piece is satire.

Satire is defined by Merriam Webster as “a literary work holding up human vices and follies to ridicule or scorn.” If the piece you’re sharing is satire, you might want to consider making that clear in your post. The Onion is a well-known satire site that posts pieces like this.



Most people know that The Onion is a satire site, in which all of the articles are made up, including the details, the quotes…everything. Still, you’ll sometimes see a piece like this shared with a heartfelt comment about how upset the person is that the Vice President would be so sexist in his language. That happens even more often when the piece comes from a magazine like The New Yorker, which offers both real, in-depth news articles and satirical pieces, often by the writer Andy Borowitz.


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These pieces, if you look closely, are labeled as “Satire from the Borowitz Report.” It’s helpful if you label them in your social media feeds, too. This is especially important in our current climate where some real news may feel like satire to readers, given the unprecedented nature of some things being tweeted or said by those in power.

Pay extra attention before sharing something that you feel passionate about, either way.

Propaganda is designed to produce strong emotions – patriotism, fear, love, disgust, identity. When something you read gives you a surge of one of those feelings, that doesn’t mean it’s automatically not true or worth sharing, but it does mean that you’ll need to be diligent to make sure you’re sharing news and not propaganda that will cause others to view all of your posts as less trustworthy. Strong, emotional language in a headline is another clue that what you’re reading might be written to influence more than to inform.

Don’t make assumptions.

I participated in the March for Civil Rights and Women in Atlanta recently and saw this when the march passed by the Ferris wheel by Centennial Park.



I immediately connected it with the tens of thousands of people demonstrating, and I shared this photo along with some other march pictures on social media. I was just visiting Atlanta and am not a football fan, so I didn’t know that aside from being a beloved and revolutionary line from the musical Hamilton, Rise Up! is also a rallying cry for the Atlanta Falcons, who were about to play the game that ended up sending them to the Super Bowl. It was an excellent lesson for me on how we all see things through our own lenses, and I appreciated the people online who kindly let me know that I’d misinterpreted the message. The people who jumped into my Twitter mentions to call me names and make thinly veiled misogynistic threats were another story. Which brings me to the next topic…

How to Help a Friend Who’s Shared Something Untrue or Unreliable 

I appreciated the friends & strangers alike who replied to me on Twitter, saying things like “Hey, not to be a bummer, but I’m pretty sure that sign is for the Falcons,”  or even “That awkward moment when you think the Falcons sign is for your demonstration…”  Those posts allowed me to realize my mistake and make a note on the photo so other people weren’t under the false impression that the Ferris wheel was lit up for the march. I got other replies, too – the usual, misogynistic, name-calling tweets that appears in most women’s social media feeds when they’ve said something a man doesn’t like. Those just make the person tweeting look like a jerk.

If a friend posts something on social media that’s just plain false and you can find the reliable information that shows that, it’s often helpful to share a link to a reliable, trusted news source with a friendly note that says, “Hey…just so you know, I think this might be inaccurate. Look what (source xyz) has today.”

If your friend posts something that’s circulating but that you can’t find confirmed anywhere, a question might be helpful. “Were you able to confirm this anywhere else? I read this piece with interest but haven’t been able to find the information anywhere else, so I’m wondering how accurate it is. Thanks!”  That’s a kind way to ask the question and is likely to result in a good conversation in which your friend either shares more sources or realizes that the information might not be confirmed.

What Happens When You Make a Mistake

If you discover that you’ve posted something that turns out to be inaccurate, unconfirmed, or badly dated, you might feel embarrassed. But the reality is, mistakes happen. Try to be open to listening and researching, rather than feeling defensive. Read what people are saying, whether they agree with your position or not (this is admittedly easier with meteor showers than it is with politics) and then defer to common-sense guidelines and decide if what you shared is really news or not. If you’ve posted satire that people thought was real, that’s easy to fix with a quick edit identifying it as such. Same story if you’ve posted an opinion piece that people are taking as fact. But I’d advocate for a different approach if you come to realize that what you’ve posted is just incorrect or misleading.

Standard social media protocol is often not to delete tweets/posts that have become controversial because it can look like you’re trying to cover up your mistake. But personally, I think sharing bad information should be an exception to that rule. If you share an article that turns out to be false or misleading, it’s not enough to add a note at the bottom of the comments thread saying, “Please note: This is not confirmed and is from a questionable source.” Those articles – especially the emotionally charged ones – get shared at lightning speed with one click, so it’s probably best to delete the bad information entirely and offer a new, separate post that says something like “Earlier today, I posted an article about a meteor shower that I then deleted because it was brought to my attention that the article was from two years ago. I apologize for the mistake & appreciate the friends who pointed out the date.”

Why is all of this important?

We’re living in an age where facts are under attack and where information spreads more quickly than it ever has, whether it’s reliable information or not. Being part of the solution means doubling down on our efforts to make sure what we share on social media is clear. I’ve decided that for me, that means sharing news that comes from reliable sources, double checking those sources, and clearly identifying essays and satirical pieces I choose to share so that they’re not mistaken as news.

Here are some great resources for reading, thinking about, and sharing with students.

Politifact is a nonpartisan, Pulitzer Prize winning fact check website for political issues.



Snopes is a reliable website for determining the validity of almost anything going viral on social media, from politics to warnings about going to your car at the mall.



Snopes gets attacked sometimes by people who don’t like their ideas challenged. Here’s an article about who runs it & its background so you can make your own decisions about that.



Here’s the Business Insider article on trusted news sources in America:



A Finders Guide to Facts from NPR has another good list of questions to ask yourself before hitting that Share button.



The News Literacy Project is a nonpartisan national education nonprofit working with educators & journalists to teach students about information literacy.



An article from the NY Times on How Fake News Spreads



A piece from the journal Psychology Today on the manipulation tactic known as gaslighting



Blogger’s note: Given that this post is all about checking and evaluating sources, here’s some information about me. Aside from being a children’s author, I spent fifteen years teaching middle school English and earned National Board Certification in Early Adolescent English Language Arts in 2006. Before that, I worked in television newsrooms for seven years and have a degree in Broadcast Journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication. The common ground with all three of these jobs is that facts matter.

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Wishes and Words: A Collaborative Poem from #NCTE16

This week at NCTE, I had the honor of presenting a session called “Get Writing! A Hands-On Workshop Celebrating the Transformative Power of Writing Communities for Teachers,” along with Jen Vincent, Jo Knowles, Kekla Magoon, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Mike Jung, and Karen Romano Young.  It was inspired by Teachers Write, our free, online summer writing camp that serves teachers & librarians. We had an amazing group of enthusiastic & brave teachers who participated in a pile of writing activities. (And our authors wrote, too!)


One of those quick-writes involved jotting down two ideas to share as part of a collaborative poem. What do you wish for your students? And then: Finish the sentence “I want my words to…” Here’s our poem.

Wishes and Words: A Collaborative Poem from #NCTE16

by the participants of Sunday’s “Get Writing!” session with Jennifer Vincent, Kate Messner, Kekla Magoon, Ammi-Joan Paquette, Jo Knowles, Mike Jung, and Karen Romano Young

I wish for my students to feel safe and calm
in a world that is often out to get them.
I wish for them to have conversations
that help them process their thoughts, feelings, and emotions,
To have confidence in their abilities
and feel empowered in their everyday lives,
To have more academic confidence,
To know their value and feel like they have time to read and write for fun.
To gain a love of reading
and to love it long after they leave my classroom.
I wish for a library full of interesting books
calling to my adolescent readers.

I wish for my students to have learning opportunities
that lead to confident, capable, competent, citizens.
I wish for them to have a feeling of belonging in the world.
Open minds, open ears, kind hearts.
I wish for my students to experience teaching without being constantly evaluated
So they have room to grow.
I wish for them to understand writing is for everyone,
To have compassion, tolerance, and kindness for all.
I wish for compassion
And action.

I wish for my students to ask “Why not?” instead of always asking why.
I wish my students love and joy in life and that curiosity will bring them there.
I wish for my students to believe the world is not against them.
And I’d like that to be true.

I wish my students wisdom.
I wish for them to know that they matter,
To recognize each other’s humanity on a daily basis.
I wish for them not to be faced with the choice
between being safe and doing the right thing,
and when it comes,
I wish for them not to fear.

I wish my students resilience.
I wish for them to internalize the power of their voices,
own their stories,
and share them with the world.

I want my words to bring light to places that are right now in shadows,
To share my story and help others grow.
I want my words to hit someone’s heart,
To make myself whole and help heal others,
To further causes of social justice,
And to tell you that you’re not alone.

I want my words to show my readers we have shared experiences,
To help people understand themselves
and have more empathy for others.
I want my words to encourage kindness,
To make kids stronger, so they value themselves and have courage.
I want my words to find a place in the world.

I wish for my voice, dissenting as it is, to be heard.
I want my words to save lives.

To change the course of history.
I want my words to make people feel happy, nostalgic, and touched.
And loved.
I want my words to encourage others to believe in the impossible.

I want my words to reach.
All across the world.


Thanks to everyone who came out to write with us at NCTE!  If you’d like to get updates on this summer’s Teachers Write, a free, online writing camp for teachers & librarians, please join our Facebook group here. You can also find information about Teachers Write (and access all of our past Teachers Write mini-lessons and writing prompts!) here. 

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Banned Books Week: An Update, a Note of Thanks, and Some Book Love


This is Banned Books Week, an annual event from the American Library Association celebrating the freedom to read. It’s a week I’ve always marked by sharing my favorite challenged books, honoring authors who write about those tough topics that matter to kids (but sometimes scare adults), and thanking librarians, teachers, and booksellers who make sure kids have access to the books they want and need to read.

This past summer, I had my first real experience with one of my books generating controversy, so I’m celebrating this week with a more personal understanding of the importance of groups like the American Library Association’s Intellectual Freedom Committee, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.  When an author is disinvited from a school visit or finds their book being pulled from school shelves or kept out of libraries, these groups offer much-needed services – not only in terms of support for the writer but also in the education and outreach they provide to schools and libraries as they work for better outcomes.

This week, I have some positive outcomes to share from the summer. As some of you know, last June, there were several incidents regarding THE SEVENTH WISH, my middle grade novel about Irish dancing, ice fishing, magic, entomophagy, flour babies, and friendship. It’s also about the effects of opioid addiction can have on families, especially younger siblings. Because of this theme, a school librarian I’d never met emailed me to tell me that while she loved my other books, she’d removed THE SEVENTH WISH from her order list when she found out that the main character’s older sister was struggling with addition. I blogged about this here.

After that post, the librarian and I engaged in a long email conversation about censorship vs. book selection, which we agreed to share here. It’s long but shines a light on how people are able to see this issue so differently.  We invited readers to share ideas, too, and the conversation continued with this post, which may also be of interest.

The same week this happened, just as my book was released, one of the Vermont schools I was scheduled to visit on my book tour cancelled the visit with less than twenty-four hours notice. The reason, they said, was that even though they’d sent home a letter to families, they felt they hadn’t prepared their students well enough for the visit, given the sensitive subject matter. The school also returned all the copies of the book they’d purchased to the local bookstore. Later on, the school did decide that it would carry a copy of THE SEVENTH WISH in the school library. The principal also sent home a note letting families of 4th and 5th graders to let them know about my event at the South Burlington Community Library.

While all this was happening, the children’s book community responded with amazing support for the book, for the freedom to read, and for Vermont kids. The South Burlington Community Library offered to host an event. People in Vermont and beyond donated hundreds of copies so that everyone who attended went home with a free copy.

The Seventh Wishsblibrary

South Burlington Community Library Children’s Librarian Meg Paquette sends along this note of thanks:

We appreciate the generosity of:  Bloomsbury Children, Blue Manatee Children’s Bookstore, The Bookmark, The Bookstore Plus, Chronicle Books, Erica Perl, Oblong Books & Music, Phoenix Books, Heidi Schulz and all the other anonymous donors who kindly gave copies of THE SEVENTH WISH to the children in our community. The response was overwhelming and as a result we were able to place books into the hands of over 100 young readers as well as create a discussion set for classrooms and book groups.

That discussion set – 35 copies of THE SEVENTH WISH – is currently available at the South Burlington Community Library for any teacher or librarian who would like to sign out books for a classroom read or book club. Thank you so much, Meg!

Phoenix Books, the local independent bookseller handing books for the Burlington tour visits, also offered amazing support. The great folks at Phoenix took orders from readers all over the country and delivered the books for the library event. Phoenix Books also donated one hundred copies of THE SEVENTH WISH themselves. Those additional copies were recently delivered to the Vermont Department of Libraries, which just finished distributing them to school and public libraries throughout the state – providing access to readers in Vergennes, Swanton, Chester, Derby Line, Colchester, Shoreham, Marshfield, St. Johnsbury, South Burlington, Jericho, Randolph, Ludlow, Cabot, Essex Junction, Lyndonville, Middlebury, Westford, Grand Isle, Plainfield, Morrisville, Bristol, Strafford, Quechee, Craftsbury Common, Danville, Greensboro, Franklin, Springfield, East Corinth, North Ferrisburgh, Weybridge, Wilmington, Milton, Bradford, Orwell, Albany, Montpelier, West Rutland, Wolcott, Readsboro, Northfield, Killington, Vernon, St. Albans, Tunbridge, Sharon, Northfield, Thetford, Wardboro, Jeffersonville, Westminster, Williamstown, Windsor, Richford, Alburgh, Rochester, Fairfax, Bethel, Bennington, Montgomery Center, Woodstock, Richford, Jamaica, Townsend, Johnson, Charlotte, Enosburg Falls, Bondville, Middletown Springs, Hartford, Pittsford, North Troy, Waterbury, Marlboro, Fairlee, Bakersfield, Orleans, West Hartford, Moretown, and Island Pond.

That’s a lot of towns and a whole lot of readers, and I am so very grateful.  Thank you, Phoenix Books and Vermont Department of Libraries!

As book challenges go, this one has a pretty positive ending. But that’s not always the case.

This year’s Banned Books Week theme is Celebrating Diversity, noting that books by diverse authors are especially likely to face challenges. From the Banned Books Week website:

“The majority of banned books are disproportionally from diverse authors. The 2016 celebration of Banned Books Week (taking place Sept 25 – Oct. 1) will examine this dichotomy. The American Library Association (ALA) defines diversity as being “those who may experience language or literacy-related barriers; economic distress; cultural or social isolation; physical or attitudinal barriers; racism; discrimination on the basis of appearance, ethnicity, immigrant status, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression; or barriers to equal education, employment, and housing”. Diverse authors represent the marginalized factions of our society and the voices of those who are not often represented in mainstream outlets.

This discrepancy, in regard to the banning of diverse books, is significant. The University of Wisconsin’s Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) and publisher Lee & Low have provided statistics from 1994 to 2012 that illustrate that while 37% of the U.S. population are people of color, only 10% of books published focus on multicultural content. In addition, ALA’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, has determined that 52% of the books challenged, or banned, over the past decade are from titles that are considered diverse content. These statistics are troubling and create more questions than answers.”

Troubling is an understatement. So what can we do to change that? One small step is making a point to recommend diverse titles by authors from marginalized groups, pointing out why they’re valuable and important. Here are a few of my favorites – not all have been challenged, but I think they’re all important books that should be available for readers:

Sherman Alexie’s THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE DIARY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN is not only a thoughtful story about identity and discrimination but a truly hilarious YA novel as well.

Hena Khan’s GOLDEN DOMES AND SILVER LANTERNS is a beautiful book exploring colors through the eyes of a Muslim child celebrating her family’s cultural and religious traditions.

STELLA BRINGS THE FAMILY by Miriam Schiffer is a charming picture book about a girl with two dads, struggling over what to do about a Mother’s Day event at school.

FALLEN ANGELS, Walter Dean Myers’ YA novel about the Vietnam War, is raw and brilliant, and frequently shows up on challenged book lists.

HOW IT WENT DOWN by Kekla Magoon is a complex and heartbreaking story about the shooting of a black teen, told in multiple voices.

Whether or not they’re frequently challenged, what are some of your favorite books by authors from marginalized groups? Let’s build our reading lists this week and shine a light on some of these titles.

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Skype with an Author on World Read Aloud Day 2017!

Hi there – and welcome to the World Read Aloud Day author Skype volunteer list for 2017!

If you’re new to this blog, I’m Kate Messner, and I write books like these:

Ranger in Time -- Race to the South PoleHow to Read a StoryLink to Up in the Garden and Down in the DIrt The Seventh Wish

I also read lots of books, and reading aloud is one of my favorite things in the world. When I was a kid, I was the one forever waving my hand to volunteer to read to the class, and still, I’ll pretty much read to anyone who will listen.

For the past few years, I’ve helped out with LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day by pulling together a list of author volunteers who would like to spend part of the day Skyping with classrooms around the world to share the joy of reading aloud.

World Read Aloud Day 2017 is Thursday, February 16, 2017

The authors listed below have  volunteered their time to read aloud to classrooms and libraries all over the world. These aren’t long, fancy presentations; a typical one might go like this:

  • 1-2 minutes: Author introduces himself or herself and talks a little about his or her books.
  • 3-5 minutes: Author reads aloud a short picture book, or a short excerpt from a chapter book/novel
  • 5-10 minutes: Author answers some questions from students about reading/writing
  • 1-2 minutes: Author book-talks a couple books he or she loves (but didn’t write!) as recommendations for the kids

If you’re a teacher or librarian and you’d like to have an author Skype with your classroom or library on World Read Aloud Day, here’s how to do it:

  • Check out the list of volunteering authors below and visit their websites to see which ones might be a good fit for your students.
  • Contact the author directly by using the email provided or clicking on the link to his or her website and finding the contact form.  Please be sure to provide the following information in your request:
    • Your name and what grade(s) you work with
    • Your city and time zone (this is important for scheduling!)
    • Possible times to Skype on February 16th. Please note authors’ availability and time zones. Adjust accordingly if yours is different!
    • Your Skype username
    • A phone number where you can be reached on that day in case of technical issues
  • Please understand that authors are people, too, and have schedules and families just like you, so not all authors will be available at all times. It may take a few tries before you find someone whose books and schedule fit with yours. If I learn that someone’s schedule for the day is full, I’ll put a line through their name – that means the author’s schedule is full, and no more visits are available.  (Authors, please send an email to me know when you’re all booked up!)

World Read Aloud Day – Skyping Author Volunteers for February 16, 2017.

Authors are listed here (kind of randomly, actually…in the order they emailed me) along with publishers, available times, and the age groups for which they write.  (PB=picture books, MG=middle grades, YA=young adult, etc.)

Kate Messner
Elementary & Middle School
9:30-12 (Eastern Time)

Phil Bildner
FSG and Chronicle
Older Elementary
9-12 (Eastern Time)

Jennifer Maschari
Older Elementary & Middle School
8 am- 2pm EST

Loree Griffin Burns
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Henry Holt/Millbrook Press
Lower Elementary, Upper Elementary, Middle School
8 am- 2pm EST


Laurel Snyder
Chronicle/Walden Pond Press

Barb Rosenstock
Knopf/Random House, Calkins Creek, Dial, Dutton
8am-3pm, CST

Jen Swann Downey
Middle School
I am flexible and in the Eastern Standard Zone. 

Stacy McAnulty
Random House, Running Kids Press
8:30 am- 3pm EST

Sarah Albee
Crown/Bloomsbury/Harper Collins/National Geographic

Older Elementary, Middle School
10-2 Eastern Time

Josh Funk
Younger Elementary
3pm – 9pm EST

Jennifer Swanson
National Geographic Kids, Charlesbridge 
Older Elementary, Middle School
10am to 4pm EST

Christine Pakkala
Boyds Mill Press
Younger Elementary
10 am-2 pm EST

Molly B. Burnham
9-4 EST

Lori Richmond
Bloomsbury; Simon & Schuster
Younger Elementary
9:30 am – 3:00 pm EST

Nanci Turner Steveson
HarperCollins Children’s
Upper Elementary/Middle School
7:30-10 Mountain Time

Deborah Freedman
Viking Children’s Books
9 am — 4 pm EST

Sarah Darer Littman
Scholastic Press/S & S Aladdin
Upper Elementary/Middle School/High School
8 am- 6pm EST

Lauren Magaziner
Penguin Books for Young Readers
9 am – 6 pm EST

Lindsey Leavitt
Random House, HarperCollins, Bloomsbury
Elementary & Middle School
All day, Mountain time

Dana Alison Levy
Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House
8:30-3 EST

Karen Romano Young
Chronicle Books
Upper elementary or middle school
9-5 EST

Melanie Conklin
Penguin (Putnam)

Elementary and Middle School
10am-2:30pm EST

Laurie Wallmark
Creston Books

9-5 (Eastern time)


Annette Simon
Younger Elementary
8 am – 2 pm EST

Jennifer Brown
Little, Brown Books; Katherine Tegen; Bloomsbury
Older Elementary, Middle School, High School
8:30am – 2pm CST

Leslie Bulion
7:30 am – 6pm EST

Mike Grosso
Clarion Books/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Older Elementary, Middle School
9:30am-10:15am and 3:15pm-6:00pm CST

Carmella Van Vleet
Holiday House/Charlesbridge/Nomad Press
9:00 am – 3:00 pm EST

Laura Shovan
Wendy Lamb Books/Random House Children’s Books
Older Elementary
Hours: Flexible (EST)

Sara Nickerson
Dutton Children’s Books
Older Elementary
9am-2pm PST

Jane Kelley
Random House Children’s Books; Feiwel & Friends
Older Elementary
10 am – 2 pm CST

Rita Antoinette Borg
Younger Elementary
3 hours/ Gmt +1 with Rome Italy

Kara LaReau
Candlewick & Abrams/Amulet
10-11am and 2:30-3:30pm EST

Anne Broyles
Charlesbridge, Tilbury House, Pelican Elementary

Cynthia Levinson
Peachtree/HarperCollins/Simon & Schuster
Older Elementary, Middle School
8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. CST

Ellen Wittlinger
Merit Press/F&W Media
High School
10 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST

Jenny Lundquist
Aladdin M!X/ Simon & Schuster
Older Elementary
9:15am – 2:30pm PST

Robin Newman
Creston Books
Kindergarten – Third Grade
10:00 am – 2:00 pm EST

Karen Leggett Abouraya
Dial/Fable Learning

Upper Elementary
 7:00 am – 8:00 pm   Eastern Standard Time

Anica Mrose Rissi
Simon & Schuster BFYR
Younger Elementary: Grades 1-4
10am to 5pm EST

Monica Tesler
Simon & Schuster
Older Elementary
9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST

Sue Fliess
Albert Whitman & Co/Sky Pony Press
Younger Elementary
9 a.m. – 3 p.m. EST
sue.fliess@gmail.com or http://www.suefliess.com/contact

Robin Yardi
Arbordale & Carolrhoda
Elementary (K-6)
7:00 am – 2pm PST

Ronni Arno
Simon & Schuster/Aladdin
Older Elementary / Middle School
9 am – 2 pm EST

Sarah Sullivan
Candlewick Press and Macmillan
All Elementary and Middle Grades 5-7
8 am – 5 pm EST

Alan Katz
9 am – 2 pm EST

Abby Cooper
Older elementary/middle school
9 AM – 3 PM Central

Madelyn Rosenberg
Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)/Holiday House/Scholastic
All Elementary, Middle School
8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., EST

Laura Murray
GP Putnam’s Sons
Younger Elementary
9 am -2 pm EST

Mary Crockett
Middle and High School
8 am – 2 pm EST

Paula Chase
Kensington Books/Dafina Imprint
Middle School
9 am- 1:30pm EST

Lisa Schroeder
Scholastic and Simon and Schuster
Older Elementary, Middle School, High School
8 am – 12 pm PST

Julie Segal Walters
Simon & Schuster
Younger Elementary
Available 12:00 – 3:00 EST

Dee Romito
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
Older Elementary, Middle School
9:30 AM-2 PM EST

Katy Kelly
Random House
Older Elementary
9:30-6:30 EST

Jenn Bishop
Alfred A. Knopf / Random House
Older Elementary, Middle School
10 am – 5 pm EST

Gail Nall
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
Older Elementary and Middle School
10am-2pm EST

Holly Thompson

Henry Holt, Delacorte/Random House, Shen’s/Lee&Low
Elementary, Middle School, High School
8am-5pm Japan time; 8am-11am EST

Erin Teagan
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Older Elementary
8am-1pm EST

Brooks Benjamin
Delacorte/Random House
Older elementary/middle school
11:30am–12:45pm & 2:00pm–7:00pm EST

Jennifer Wolf Kam
Charlesbridge Publishing
Middle School/High School
8 am- 2:30 pm, EST

Hannah Barnaby
HMG/Knopf/Putnam/Simon & Schuster
All Elementary; Middle School; High School
9am – 2pm EST

Sarah Aronson
Older Elementary
All day- Central Time Zone

Janet Sumner Johnson
Capstone Young Readers
Older Elementary
9 am- 2pm PST

Ammi-Joan Paquette
Philomel/Penguin, Candlewick, Bloomsbury
11 am- 2pm EST

Corey Ann Haydu
Katherine Tegen Books/Harper Collins
Older Elementary and Middle School
9-4 EST

Erin Petti
Mighty Media Press
Upper Elementary/ Middle School
erin.m.petti@gmail.comJ. C. Phillipps
Viking/Houghton Mifflin
Younger Elementary
10 am – 2pm EST

Tamara Ellis Smith
Schwartz & Wade (Random House)
Middle School
8:30-11 and 12:30-2 (EST)

Bridget Hodder
Macmillan/ Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Grades 4-8
all day – EST

Ellen Booraem
Penguin Books for Young Readers
Middle School
9 a.m. – 3 p.m. EST

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins; Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic
Elementary & Middle School
8 am- 2pm EST

Jodi Kendall
HarperCollins Children’s Books
Upper elementary/Middle School
9:30am-12noon EST

Julie Falatko
Viking Children’s Books
All Elementary
9:30-2:30 ET

Miriam Spitzer Franklin
Skypony Press
Older  Elementary
9-2 EST

Virginia Zimmerman
Clarion Books/HMH
Grade 5-8 / Older Elementary / Middle School
830 am – 230 pm EST

Shari Green
Pajama Press 
Older Elementary
9:00 a.m. – noon PST

Jody Feldman
All Elementary, Middle School
7:30am – 4:30pm Central

Monica Carnesi
Penguin Random House
9 am to 4 pm EST

Lee Gjertsen Malone
Aladdin/ Simon & Schuster
older elementary and middle school
9am to 4pm, EST

Megan Maynor
HarperCollins Children’s Books
Younger Elementary
9:30am-2:00pm CST

Trisha Speed Shaskan
HarperCollins Children’s Books
Younger Elementary
9 a.m. to 2 p.m. CST

David Huyck
Kids Can Press; Tundra Books
All Elementary
9am-noon Central time

Kirby Larson
Scholastic/Random House/Walker Books for Young Readers/Little Brown
All Elementary and Middle School (depending on the title)
10 am – 2 pm, PST

Augusta Scattergood
Scholastic Press
Upper Elementary, Middle School
10 AM- 12 Noon, 2- 4 PM, EST


Shannon Hitchcock


Older Elementary

10:00 am – 2:00 pm EST




Constance Lombardo


older Elementary

10 – 2  EST




Annemarie O’Brien
Alfred A. Knopf/Random House Books for Young Readers
Older Elementary
7am – 8am PST or 6:30pm – 9:30pm PST (on Feb 15th, if international)



Denis Markell

Delacorte Press
Older Elementary/Middle School
9am – 4pm EST


Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Skypony Press

Older Elementary

9-2 EST




Jill Diamond
Farrar, Straus & Giroux (BYR)
Grades 3-5 (Older Elementary)
9:30-4 PST


Anna Raff

Candlewick, G.P. Putnam and Sons, Viking

Younger Elementary

9am – 3pm EST




Annette Bay Pimentel

Older Elementary
8 am- 2pm Pacific Time



Kathleen Burkinshaw
Sky Pony Press
Middle School
9-2 EST
Jody Jensen Shaffer
10-2 CST
Mara Rockliff
9-5 EST


Sue Lowell Gallion
Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster
Younger Elementary
9 – 3 CST

Tricia Clasen

Sky Pony Press
Grades: 3-6
9-3 CST
Erin Soderberg Downing
Random House Books for Young Readers
9 am – 4 pm CST


Julie Fortenberry

Viking Books for Young Readers
Younger Elementary
8 am- 5pm EST

Ann Ingalls
Scholastic and Penguin Books for Young Readers
Early Elementary (K-1)
8AM to 12AM CST

David A. Kelly
Random House Children’s Books
11 am- 5pm EST

Dianne White
Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster
Younger Elementary7 a.m. to 2 p.m. MST


Laura Sassi
Preschool – 2nd grade
10am – 3pm EST
Website: http://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/
Contact via website:  https://laurasassitales.wordpress.com/about/contact/


Ann Jacobus
St. Martin’s Press
High School 
Available 8:30am-1:00 pm Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), Feb. 16
Maria Gianferrari
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Roaring Brook & more
10AM to 3PM (EST)
Website: http://mariagianferrari.com/
Contact: http://mariagianferrari.com/contact

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen
National Geographic Kids/Capstone/NSTA Press
Older Elementary
9 am – 1 pm EST
Contact me at https://onceuponasciencebook.com/contact-me/

Rebecca J. Gomez
Atheneum, Putnam
9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. CST
Andrea Wang
Albert Whitman & Co.
Younger Elementary
8 am – 3 pm MST
Penny Parker Klostermann
Random House Children’s Books
All Elementary
9am – 3pm CST

Terry Pierce
Tilbury House
8:30-2:30 PST

Hachette/Macmillan + others
All ages
8.00am-6.30pm AEST (Australian Eastern Standard Time) UTC/GMT +10 hours

Cynthia Reeg
Jolly Fish Press (Flux)
Upper Elementary
9am-12pm EST
Jackie Azúa Kramer
North South Books
Younger Elementary 
8 am- 2pm EST

Kim Norman
Sterling, Scholastic & Penguin
Lower Elementary
10 am- 2pm EST

Debbi Michiko Florence
Picture Window Books (Capstone)
Elementary (K-2)
9am – 2 pm EST

Elly Swartz
Farrar Straus & Giroux
Older Elementary, Middle School


Sarah Prineas
HarperCollins, Scholastic
Older Elementary
9-12 central time
Rosanne Parry
Random House Children’s Books
older elementary and middle school
5:30am to 10pm, PST

S.A. Larsen (Sheri)
Leap Books
Older Elementary & Middle School
8 am- 2pm EST

Stephanie Bearce
Source Books/Prufrock Press
Upper Elementary and Middle School
I am available 9am – 2pm central standard time
email me at: smbearce@gmail.com

Ann Whitford Paul


Younger elementary

11-2 pacific coast time




Margaret Dilloway


Middle Grade (Older elementary-middle school)

7-10:30 am PST



Michelle Edwards
Random House/Schwartz and Wade
Younger Elementary

9:30-4:00 CT



Anne Ylvisaker
Candlewick Press
Grades 3-6
9am-12pm PST

Nora Gaydos

Random House Kids
Younger Elementary
12:20 pm – 1:10 pm   EST
Miranda Paul
Knopf Books/Lerner/Millbrook & more
Elementary (K-4)

9 a.m. – 2 p.m. CST

Stephanie Robinson

Delacorte Press

Middle Grade (Grades 4-7)

Older Elementary/Middle School 

9:30-12:30  or 1:45-2:45 Easter Standard Time


I’ll be updating this list every few days until WRAD, so if you check back, you’ll find that the options will change. Schedules will fill, so some folks will no longer be available, but there will also be new people added.

Authors & Illustrators: If your schedule is full & you need to be crossed off the list, please email to let me know. If you’d like to be added to the list, directions are here. Please note that this particular list is limited to traditionally published authors/illustrators, only to limit its size and scope. I’m one person with limited time. However, if someone else would like to compile and share a list of self-published, magazine, and ebook author/illustrator volunteers, I think that would be absolutely great, and I’ll happily link to it here. Just let me know!

Happy reading, everyone!

“World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology.”              ~from the LitWorld website

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Getting Ready for World Read Aloud Day: A Call for Author/Illustrator Skype Volunteers!

LitWorld’s magical World Read Aloud Day is February 16, 2017 – and one of the fun traditions of this day of sharing stories is for authors around the world to Skype into classrooms & libraries for short read-alouds. For the past few years, I’ve helped out by compiling a list of author volunteers so that teachers & librarians can connect with them to schedule Skype sessions on that day.


Teachers & librarians: Please hold tight for right now… the list will be coming soon!

Authors & Illustrators: Are you a traditionally published* author or illustrator who would like to be listed as a WRAD Skype volunteer? Please read the information & follow the directions below…

WRAD Skype visits aren’t long or fancy presentations. Usually, they last 10-15 minutes and go something like this:

  • 1-2 minutes: Author introduces himself or herself and talks a little about his or her books.
  • 3-5 minutes: Author reads aloud a short picture book, or a short excerpt from a chapter book/novel
  • 5-10 minutes: Author answers some questions from students about reading/writing
  • 1-2 minutes: Author book-talks a couple books he or she loves (but didn’t write!) as recommendations for the kids

Interested in volunteering? If you’re a traditionally published* author or illustrator, here’s how to sign up:

  1. Send an email to worldreadaloudskype@gmail.com.
  2. In the subject line, write WRAD Skype volunteer.
  3. In the body of the email, please put these SIX pieces of information, in this exact format, so that it can be copied & pasted into the list:

-Your name

-Your publisher

-Grade level for which your books are most appropriate

(Younger Elementary, Older Elementary, All Elementary, Middle School, or High School)

-Hours you’ll be available and your time zone

-Your website

-Email where you’d like to be contacted with Skype inquiries OR a link to the contact page on your website

Here’s a sample, showing what the body of your email should look like:

Laurel Snyder
Random House Books for Young Readers
8 am- 2pm EST



Thanks for using this exact format. It saves so much time. Once I have all of your information in this format, I’ll add you to the list, which will be shared in early October.

IMPORTANT: Whenever your schedule for WRAD is full, please send another email to worldreadaloudkskype@gmail.com to let me know that. As soon as I can, I’ll cross your name off the list so you don’t keep getting requests.

*This list is limited to traditionally published authors/illustrators to limit its size and scope because I’m one person with limited time. However, if someone else would like to compile and share a list of self-published and ebook author/illustrator volunteers, I think that would be absolutely great, and I’ll happily link to it here. Just let me know! 


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Rebuilding School & Classroom Libraries in Louisiana

UPDATE AS OF 1/31/17 – At this time, all of the schools I’m aware of have had to stop taking donations so they can catch up on moving back into buildings and processing. Please do not send books without checking first! 

If you’re like me, you’ve been watching the news out of Louisiana and wanting to do more to help. When whole communities are flooded, families who have lost everything are uprooted, and that can be especially tough on kids. As a result of flood-damaged schools, many students have also been displaced from their classrooms for now, and teachers & librarians have lost books and supplies. Let’s make sure those kids have beautiful books in their school and classroom libraries when they return. The losses are devastating, and the need is enormous.

flooded books

For Flooded Schools & Libraries: Here are two resources that have been brought to my attention that may be helpful to you. Check out Beyond Words, the ALA’s relief fund with Dollar General and The Lisa Libraries, which donates books to organizations that work with kids in poor & under-served areas.

For People Who Want to Help: Not all schools are ready to accept book donations right now, so donating money to this disaster relief fund set up by the Association Education Professionals of Louisiana is one great way to help.

Tanglewood Elementary lost 90% of its library books in the flood and has set up this fund for donations to help rebuild. (For libraries, this type of monetary donation is even better than new book donations because books can be selected and purchased already processed so that they’re accessible to kids immediately.)

Some schools that lost classroom libraries are ready to receive donations of new and like-new books to replace classroom libraries now. Please follow the guidelines carefully so we don’t inadvertently create more work for people who are already buried in it.

What NOT to send at this time:

*Used books, unless they’re relatively current and like new. Please do NOT send boxes of used books that have been weeded from a collection. If your classroom or family has two new copies of the Harry Potter series, and you only need one set, that’s great to donate. But please don’t send discarded books or other boxes of used books at this time. When we were working to rebuild a library in the Adirondacks after Tropical Storm Irene a few years back, we found that boxes of used books quickly become overwhelming, and many had to be disposed of. The last thing we want to do is create another job for people who are already very busy cleaning up from the floods. If this changes and there’s a need for more books, I’ll post an update here.

*Books that do not meet the needs of the specific schools to which you’re donating (and for now, those are all elementary schools). If you have YA novels to donate, please hold onto them for right now. I know of at least one high school library that lost books to the flood, and they’d love donations eventually but are not prepared to receive them just yet. I’ll update this page with more information when I can.

More schools will be added as I learn about them, but here is a start for folks who are ready to help.

Brookstown Middle School

Brookstown Middle School had as much as 5 feet of water in places.  330 students are displaced and will be hosted by Scotlandville Middle until they can rebuild. 15 classroom libraries were lost. Most students here are people of color, so diverse titles would be especially appreciated. Donations of new and like-new books can be shipped to Scotlandville since they are open and dry.

Need: New and like-new books for grades 6-8 (both MG and YA – especially diverse titles)

*Authors & Illustrators: If you’re sending your own books and would like to sign them, I think that would be lovely for students to see. You can sign “For Readers of Brookstown Middle School” or just “For Louisiana Readers.”

Send to: 

Attn: Angela Rae
c/o Scotlandville Middle School
9147 Elm Grove Garden Dr.
Baton Rouge, LA 70807



Southside Junior High in Denham Springs, LA


Southside librarian Lindsay Varnado shared the photos above – one showing an aerial view of her school during the flooding and one showing what her remaining library books looked like when she and her colleagues were finally allowed back in to tour the school with a HAZMAT guide. The library is a total loss, as are classroom libraries, and new/like-new book donations will be very much appreciated.

Need: New and like-new books for grades 6-8 (both MG and YA)

*Authors & Illustrators: If you’re sending your own books and would like to sign them, I think that would be lovely for students to see. You can sign “For Readers of Southside Junior High” or just “For Louisiana Readers.”

Send to: 

Lindsay Varnado
Books for Southside Junior High
9111 Harris Rd.
Denham Springs, LA 70726


St. Amant Primary School in St. Amant, LA


Jessica Paz, a fourth grade science & social studies teacher at St. Amant Primary School shared this photo of her flooded building, along with the news that teachers there lost their classroom libraries for grades PreK-5.   They still cannot return to their school. For now, they are teaching grades 3-5 in an old community college.

“Our rooms are bare- not even everyone has a while/chalk board. We’re having to bring in items from home to improvise an environment as normal as possible. Students don’t have any reading materials for when they finish their work or when they come into class. We also do not have a library at this location, so reading books is considered a luxury as of now.”   ~Lindsey Kelley, 4th grade teacher

Need: New and like-new books for grades PreK-5 

*Authors & Illustrators: If you’re sending your own books and would like to sign them, I think that would be lovely for students to see when they get back to school. Either “For Readers of St. Amant Primary School” or just “For Louisiana Readers” would be great. (Some books may also be distributed to other schools in need.)

Send to: 

Lindsey Kelley
Books for St. Amant
37054 Kathleen Ave.
Prairieville, LA 70769


Jessica Paz
Books for St. Amant
15510 Oakstone Dr. 
Prairieville, LA 70769


Glen Oaks Park Elementary in Baton Rouge


The photos above are from Glen Oaks Park Elementary, where first grade teacher Aimee Manzella Lastner lost the classroom library she’s built over the past four years. Other teachers and the library have lost books as well. Aimee says the K-2 classrooms seemed to suffer most of the losses. Her school is set up at a dry temporary location now and would appreciate donations of new and like-new books for grades K-2.

Need: New and like-new books for K-2

*Authors & Illustrators: If you’re sending your own books and would like to sign them, I think that would be lovely for students to see when they get back to school. Either “For Readers of Glen Oaks Park Elementary” or just “For Louisiana Readers” would be great. (Some books may also be distributed to other schools in need.)

Send to:

Glen Oaks Park at Banks Elementary
Attn: Aimee Manzella Lastner
2401 72nd Avenue 
Baton Rouge, LA 70807


Tanglewood Elementary in Baton Rouge

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Tanglewood Elementary in Baton Rouge also suffered devastating flood damage. The library lost nearly everything, as have many classroom libraries. Brittney Banta-Troxclair’s first grade daughter was only in class for one day before the rains began and school had to be closed. Brittney’s home was spared, so she has a safe, dry place to store donations and is working with the librarian on a book drive to begin rebuilding.


*New and like-new books for grades K-4, including picture books, easy readers, chapter books, graphic novels, nonfiction, and middle grade books of all genres.

*Authors & Illustrators: If you’re sending your own books and would like to sign them, I think that would be lovely for students to see when they get back to school. Either “For Readers of Tanglewood Elementary” or just “For Louisiana Readers” would be great. (Some books may also be distributed to other schools in need.)

Send to:

Brittney Banta-Troxclair
Books for Tanglewood
17186 Benton’s Ferry Ave.
Greenwell Springs, LA 70739


Westside Elementary in Scott, LA


(Photo: Westside Elementary, by Erick Knezek in The Advertiser)      (Photo: Westside library, KFLY News10)

Westside Elementary School in Scott, LA was also severely damaged by flooding. The school library lost many books, and K-5 teachers lost most of their classroom libraries. A nearby school in the district is dry and prepared to take donations for Westside now. Truman Early Childhood Education Center is dry and prepared to accept, store, and distribute book donations for grades K-5. Books may also be distributed to other schools in need and to families that lost their books in flooding.


*New and like-new books for grades K-5, including picture books, easy readers, chapter books, graphic novels, nonfiction, and middle grade books of all genres.

*Authors & Illustrators: If you’re sending your own books and would like to sign them, I think that would be lovely for students to see when they get back to school. Either “For Readers of Westside Elementary” or just “For Louisiana Readers” would be great. (Some books may also be distributed to other schools in need.)

Send to: 

Truman Early Childhood Education Center
Attn: Anita Pool
200 Clara Street
Lafayette, La 70501


Sharing and Updates

If you’d like to share this information, please share a link to this blog post, which will be updated as needed. Please do not copy and paste the address for donations. There may come a time when these schools are no longer able to accept donations, and there’s no way to stop that from happening if the information isn’t being updated. Also, we expect to have information about other schools in need soon. As I hear from them and learn about needs and storage abilities, I’ll post updates here, so there will be more opportunities to help in the coming days.  If you are a teacher or librarian at another school that suffered damage and you’d like help with book donations, please send me an email via my contact form with information about what you need and when/where it can be sent. Thanks!!

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Dear Grace: Hiking Lower & Upper Wolfjaw on 8.8.16

August 8, 2016

Dear Grace*,

My June and July were crowded with travel to cities whose views come atop buildings instead of peaks, but I finally made it out for the first big hike of the season this week. I was worried about having waited so long, but I shouldn’t have been. From the unmistakable smell of deep Adirondack woods to the scrape of rock on my palms as I climbed to the familiar burn in my legs on the descent…it was just so good to be back.

My hiking pal Marsha and I decided we’d climb Lower Wolfjaw and see how we were doing as far as time and energy, and make the call about continuing on to Upper Wolfjaw from there. We set out from the St. Huberts parking area at 7:22, and it wasn’t long before we reached the trailhead…along with a note about bears.


We decided to take the Wedge Book Trail, which heads into the woods after a short walk along the Lake Road.


We’d read that this climb is a gentle one at first, and that proved to be true – the trail is beautifully maintained and soft, with more pine needles than rocks. After a while, it begins to follow the brook, which was lovely. There’s an especially pretty little waterfall near this bridge crossing.


The last mile or so was steeper and rockier, but nothing particularly challenging by high peaks standards, even for someone a little out of practice. We reached the summit of Lower Wolfjaw at 10:10. It’s not an open summit, but there are some pretty views if you explore a bit and climb the rocks.


We decided to continue on to Upper Wolfjaw, since it was only 1.5 miles away. This was a fun spot…a tight squeeze that required us to take off our packs and shimmy through the rocks, climbing sideways.


(Hikers who don’t fit through here could bypass the crevice by climbing over a rock face instead. It’s steep but doable.)

We’d read about a false summit on Upper WJ, so we weren’t surprised when the trail continued on past this big boulder that seemed summit-like…


We were, however, a bit confused when the trail kept descending – a lot. Then it leveled off and started climbing again. It wasn’t until we got to the top of Upper Wolfjaw at 11:45 that we figured out why. In order to get from Lower to Upper, you have to climb a smaller mountain in between. You can see that in the photo below – that’s Lower on the left and the smaller hill on the right. My hiking buddy called it the “fake mountain” since it didn’t count for our 46.


The summit rock at Upper Wolfjaw is on the small side, but there was plenty of space to sit down for lunch and enjoy the views.



That’s Armstrong in the photo above, a mountain that some people climb along with the Wolfjaws. We were running low on both time and water, though, so we left Armstrong for another day and headed down. The path between Upper and Lower has some steeper sections that involve scrambling on the way up. We chose the tried and true Adirondack butt-sliding strategy to get down a couple of them.


I learn something on every hike, and if I had this one to do over again, I’d bring more water. I’d brought two liters and knew there were opportunities to filter along Wedge Brook Trail on the way down, but it was a hot day, and we were both out of water and thirsty about a mile before we reached the brook. Lesson learned. I’ll bring another liter next time I do a hike of this length. But the hike down was still enjoyable. We stopped to admire some cool fungi.



I had to take a photo of the AMR gate on the way out…so pretty with the afternoon sun in the trees.


It was fun to see Giant Mountain from the road back to the car and be able to say, “We’ve been up there!” It was one of my favorite hikes of last fall.


Our Wolfjaws hike ended up being about 12.5 miles and took just over 8 hours – not a bad start to the 2016 climbing season. My legs were feeling it the next day, but I feel like I have my high peaks confidence back now and am ready to get back out there. The mountains are already calling again.

Good climbing!



* Grace (in the greeting) is Grace Hudowalski, the first woman to climb all 46 high peaks. She was a founding member of the Adirondack 46ers, the group’s 1st president, and later on, its secretary and historian, roles she filled until she died in 2004. It used to be that if you wanted to be a 46er, you had to log each climb by writing a letter to Grace. And Grace would write back. She answered thousands and thousands of letters, with encouraging words and sometimes, her own reflections on a climb, too.  Today, the 46er application process is simplified; one only needs to keep simple climb records on a club form that can be downloaded. But I wish I’d had the chance to climb these mountains and write letters about them when Grace was around to read them. I love her story and her strength and the way she urged others to get outside and explore and tell their stories. So I’ve decided to write the letters anyway. I think Grace would have liked that.


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