Books for a Big Snow

The meteorologists have been buzzing for days, and that giant icy blob on the weather map is headed your way. The wood is stacked, you’ve been to the grocery store, and the hot chocolate is on the stove. There’s just one more snowstorm priority. What will you read while you’re cozied up and hunkered down? 

This morning, the Albany Ave. Elementary Library in North Massapequa, NY sent me a photo of some excited readers getting ready for their big snow with my picture book OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW.

kidssnow

OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW is the story of a girl who goes cross country skiing with her father and discovers the secret world of animals under the winter snow. It’s a book I wrote because I’ve always been a fan of snowy weather and wait every winter for that first big storm. 

Here are some other suggestions for reading by the fire when that first big storm arrives…

For Younger Readers:

I had to start with this one because it’s a winter-storm classic, now and forever. Thank you, Ezra Jack Keats, for THE SNOWY DAY.

Jane Yolen’s OWL MOON illustrated by John Shoenherr was one of our family’s favorites when the kids were small. It’s about a father and daughter on a quiet, snowy, moonlit adventure in the woods, searching for owls.

WINTER BEES AND OTHER POEMS OF THE COLD is a lovely, frost-laced poetry collection by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen. This one is perfect for reading aloud by the fire.

BLIZZARD by John Rocco helps us to remember the adventure of going outside for the first time after that big, big snow. It’s a little like being an Antarctic explorer!

And finally, I love THE LITTLE SNOWPLOW by Lora Koehler, illustrated by Jake Parker. This story of a small plow training for the big day is a great one for young truck fans.

For older readers:

 

TWELVE KINDS OF ICE by Ellen Bryan Obed, illustrated by Barbara McClintock, is one of the loveliest cold-weather read-alouds you’ll ever find.  With the quiet joy of a freezing lake, it introduces readers to all the kinds of ice we see while we’re waiting to skate. 

COLD AS ICE is Book 6 in Sarah Mylnowski’s Whatever After series of fractured fairy tales, popular with 2nd-4th grade readers. This one will be a particular treat for fans of the movie Frozen, since it plunges two kids into the icy world of The Snow Queen

BREADCRUMBS by Anne Ursu is a Snow Queen retelling for older elementary readers. For everyone, really… This is one of my all-time favorite novels, so lovely and frosty and magical you’ll be able to see your breath when you read it.

ICE DOGS by Terry Lynn Johnson is a great title for middle school kids to curl up with while the storm rages outside. It’s the story of a teen dog sledder struggling to survive a storm and save her team.

For grown-ups:

WINTER WORLD: THE INGENUITY OF ANIMAL SURVIVAL was a book I picked up while I was researching OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW, but it’s one I’ve read many, many times since. Whether he’s writing about ravens, summer trees, or winter insects, naturalist Bernd Heinrich has a way of looking more closely than the rest of us – and reminding us through science how magical it is to wonder.

What are some of your favorite “big snow” reading recommendations to pick up when a winter storm rolls in?

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Skype with an Author on World Read Aloud Day 2016!

Hi there – and welcome to the World Read Aloud Day author Skype volunteer list for 2016!

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

Ranger #3 Final CoverHow to Read a StoryLink to Up in the Garden and Down in the DIrtLink to All the Answers

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 2016 is Wednesday, February 24th!

Unfortunately, I’ll be traveling to a conference in Missouri on that day and won’t be around to Skype myself, but I promise to share a special video read-aloud here on that day, so bookmark this page &  you’ll be able to share that with your students!

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 24th. 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 let me know that if you can!)

World Read Aloud Day – Skyping Author Volunteers for February 24, 2016.

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.)

 

Phil Bildner
 FSG and Chronicle
Older Elementary 
9-12 (Eastern Time)
www.philbildner.com
​philbildner@gmail.com​

Jennifer Maschari
HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray
Older Elementary & Middle School
8 am- 12pm EST
http://www.jenmaschari.com   
jen.maschari@gmail.com 

Joanne Levy
Aladdin M!X (forthcoming), Bloomsbury
Middle School
8 am  – 4 pm EST
http://www.joannelevy.com
joanne@joannelevy.com

Stacy McAnulty
Random House Kids
Elementary
8:30 am- 2pm EST
www.stacymcanulty.com
author.stacymcanulty@gmail.com

Kim Norman
Penguin, Sterling & Scholastic
Younger Elementary
10am-3pm Eastern Time Zone
www.kimnormanbooks.com
kimnorman@mac.com

Ammi-Joan Paquette
Philomel/Penguin
Elementary
11am – 3pm EST
www.ajpaquette.com
joanpaq@gmail.com 

Melanie Crowder
Atheneum / Simon & Schuster

Upper Elementary, Middle School or High School
8 am -11 am MST
www.melaniecrowder.com

Julie Falatko
Viking Children’s Books
Elementary
9 am – 2 pm EST
http://juliefalatko.com
julie@juliefalatko.com

Lisa Jahn-Clough
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Elementary K – 3 (picture books)

High school (YA novels)
9 am – 2 pm EST
www.lisajahnclough.com
jahnclough@gmail.com

Sarah Albee
Random House/Bloomsbury/National Geographic

Middle School, Older Elementary
1 – 3 Eastern Time
sarahalbeebooks.com
albees@taftschool.org

Josh Funk
Sterling Children’s
Younger Elementary
8am – 6pm EST
http://www.joshfunkbooks.com
joshfunkbooks+av@gmail.com

Jennifer Swanson
National Geographic Kids, Charlesbridge, Capstone 
Older Elementary, Middle School, High School
 8am to 2pm EST
www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com
 Jennifer@JenniferSwansonBooks.com

Miranda Paul
Lerner Publishing Group & Macmillan Children’s

Elementary
9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. (Central)
http://mirandapaul.com
wisconsinauthorsbooking@gmail.com

Molly B. Burnham
Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins
older elementary
East Coast time available school hours
www.mollybburnham.com
mollyb.burnham@gmail.com

Anne Marie Pace
Disney-Hyperion, Scholastic, Henry Holt, Beach Lane
Younger Elementary
9-3 Eastern time, minus 1:45 – 2:15
http://www.annemariepace.com
annemarie@annemariepace.com

Augusta Scattergood
Scholastic

Upper Elementary, Middle School      
2-5 PM EST
www.ascattergood.com
gsgood2@gmail.com

Nanci Turner Steveson
HarperCollins Children’s
Upper Elementary/Middle School 
8:30-11:30 Mountain Time
www.nanciturnersteveson.com
Ponywriter7@gmail.com

Alma Fullerton
HarperCollins, Fitzhenry and Whiteside
Elementary
8am – 2pm EST
www.almafullerton.com
almafullerton@almafullerton.com

Erin Dealey
Simon & Schuster/Atheneum, Sleeping Bear, Kane Miller

Elementary
Flexible to your needs–worldwide. (I’m PST)
http://www.erindealey.com

Laura Sassi
Zonderkidz (HarperCollins Christian Publishing)
Younger Elementary, Preschool

10am – 2pm EST
www.laurasassitales.wordpress.com

Hayley Barrett
Candlewick Press
Younger Elementary
9-12 EST
https://hayleybarrettwrites.wordpress.com
hayleybarrettwrites@yahoo.com

Deborah Freedman
Viking Children’s Books
Younger Elementary
9 am — 3 pm EST
http://www.deborahfreedman.net/

Nikki Loftin
Penguin (Razorbill)
Older Elementary
1 pm – 4 pm Central
www.nikkiloftin.com
nikki@nikkiloftin.com

Sarah Darer Littman
Scholastic Press/S & S Aladdin
Upper Elementary/Middle School/High School
8 am- 4pm EST
http://sarahdarerlittman.com
sarahdarerlittman@gmail.com

Sarah Jamila Stevenson
Flux Books
Middle School/High School
10am – 3pm PST
http://www.sarahjamilastevenson.com
sjs@sarahjamilastevenson.com

Michelle Edwards
Random House Books for Young Readers, HMH
Younger Elementary
9 am- 3 pm  CST
www.michelledwards.com
michelledwardsmail@gmail.com

Katy Duffield
Two Lions Publishing
Younger Elementary
9am to 3pm EST
www.katyduffield.com
katysduff@yahoo.com

Rosanne Parry
Random House Books for Young Readers
Older Elementary
8:30 to 2:30 PST
www.rosanneparry.com
rosanne@rosanneparry.com

Allison Ofanansky
KarBen
Younger Elementary
9 am to 5 pm. Israel (2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time)
www.karben.com
allison.ofanansky@yahoo.com

Lauren Magaziner
Penguin Books for Young Readers
Elementary
9 am – 6 pm EST
http://laurenmagaziner.com/
lauren@laurenmagaziner.com

Nancy Castaldo
Houghton Mifflin/Random House/National Geographic
Elementary, Middle, High
1-3 pm

Abby Cooper
FSG/Macmillan
Older Elementary/Middle School
9 AM – 4 PM Central 
www.AbbyCooperAuthor.com
AbbyRCooper@gmail.com

Gretchen Kelley
Henry Holt for Young Readers
Older Elementary/early middle school
Available 8:00- 2:00 EST
gretchenkelleywrites.com
glelley2012@gmail.com

Jodi Wheeler-Toppen
National Geographic Kids and Capstone Press
Upper Elementary/Middle
8:30 am- 2pm EST
http://OnceUponAScienceBook.com
wheelertop@gmail.com

Denis Markell
Little Simon (Simon and Shuster) 
Younger Elementary
9am – 2pm EST
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/534331.Denis_Markell
Dmarkell@aol.com

Kerry O’Malley Cerra
SkyPony Press
upper elementary, middle school
9AM-2PM Easter Standard Time
 
Madelyn Rosenberg
Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins and Holiday House
Younger Elementary, Older Elementary, Middle School
9 a.m. to 11 a.m., Eastern

Lindsey Leavitt
HarperCollins, Bloomsbury
Older Elementary,  Middle School, High School
9am-3pm Mountain
www.lindseyleavitt.com
contact@lindseyleavitt.co

Margie Palatini

Simon & Schuster, Harpercollins, Hyperion, Clarion, Dutton, Abrams, Scholastic
All Elementary
10 am to 2 pm (Eastern Standard)
www.margiepalatini.com
margiepalatini@netscape.net

Lisa Schroeder
Scholastic and Henry Holt
Elementary and Middle School
7 am to 10 am PST
 

Laura Murray
GP Putnam’s Sons, Penguin Random House Books for Young Readers
Younger Elementary
10:30 am – 12:30 pm EST
www.LauraMurrayBooks.com
LauraMurrayBooks@gmail.com

Dana Alison Levy
Delacorte Press/Penguin Random House
Elementary
9-3 EST
www.danaalisonlevy.com
dana@danaalisonlevy.com

Jennifer Roy
Middle school
Amazon, Simon and Schuster, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
9 – 2 EST
 
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins
Elementary/Middle School
8:30 AM am- 1pm EST
http://olugbemisolabooks.com
olugbemisola@olugbemisolabooks.com
 
Sue Fliess
Random House Children’s Books, Little Golden Books & Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Younger Elementary
9 am – 1 pm EST
 
Keila Dawson
Pelican Publishing Co., Inc.
K-3
8:00am – 3:00pm Eastern Standard Time
www.keiladawson.com
keilavdawson@gmail.com
 
Lee Gjertsen Malone
Aladdin/S&S
Older Elementary/Middle School
8am – 2pm EST
 
Kirsti Call
Character Publishing
Elementary, Picture Book
1:00-2:00pm  EST
http://www.kirsticall.com/
Kirsti.call@gmail.com
 
Jeanie Franz Ransom
Charlesbridge, Magination Press, Peachtree
Younger Elementary
9 AM-3:30 PM CST
www.jeanieransom.com
ransomink@pobox.com
 
Tracey Baptiste
Algonquin Books for Young Readers
Grades 3-8
9am-noon EST
 
Deborah Guarino
Scholastic Press
Younger Elementary
School hours EST

Julie Segal Walters
Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
Younger Elementary
9:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
http://www.juliesegalwalters.com/
julie.segal.walters@gmail.com

 Brenda Ferber
FSG and Dial
Elementary and Middle School
10am-noon EST
 
Tamara Ellis Smith
Schwartz & Wade/Random House
Middle school 
9-1:30 EST
 
Carmela LaVigna Coyle
Rising Moon, Taylor Trade, Rio Nuevo
Younger Elementary
9 am- 3pm  MST
 
Jennifer Fosberry
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Elementary
10 am -2 pm PST
http://jfosberry.com
jennifer@jfosberry.com
 
Jane Sutcliffe
Charlesbridge, Lerner
Older Elementary, Middle School
8am-2pm, EST
 
Robin Yardi
Arbordale & Carolrhoda
Elementary
8:15 am – 2pm PST
 
Rob Buyea
Penguin Random House (Delacorte)
Older Elementary
10:00-1:00 EST
 
Carmella Van Vleet
Charlesbridge, Holiday House, Nomad Press
All Elementary
9:00 am – 3:00pm EST
 
Dianne Ochiltree
Blue Apple Books
Younger Elementary
10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
 

Dianne White
Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster
Younger Elementary
10 – 3 pm MST
http://diannewrites.com
dianne@diannewrites.com

Stephanie Greene
Putnam Books for Young Readers
Younger Elementary
9-3 EST
www.stephaniegreenebooks.com
scgbooks@aol.com
 
Sarah Prineas
HarperCollins Children’s
HarperCollins Teen
Older elementary/Middle/High school
Central time zone (Iowa).  Available all day.
 
Anne Ylvisaker
Candlewick
Grades 3-6
9:30 am – 3pm  PST
 
Janet Sumner Johnson
Capstone Young Readers
Older Elementary
8 am – 12 pm PST
 
Ann Jacobus
St. Martin’s Griffin/Macmillan
High School
8:30am – 2:30 pm PST
 
Jasmine Richards
Harper Collins
Older Elementary/Middle School
PST 12-3PM
www.jasminerichards.com
jasminenrichards@gmail.com
 
Susan Laidlaw
Penguin Random House
High School (14+)
Available 2pm – 4pm PST; 9-11 am EST/CST (I live in Vietnam ICT)
 
Debbie Dadey
Simon and Schuster
Younger Elementary
Afternoon EST
 
Katy Kelly
Random House/ Delacorte
Older Elementary (Second- Fifth Grades)
9 AM – 3PM EST
 
Karen Romano Young 
Chronicle Books 
Upper elementary or middle school 
10-6 EST
 
Tricia Springstubb
HarperCollins
All elementary and middle school
1-4 PM EST
 
Shelley Pearsall
Random House Books for Young Readers
Older Elementary and Middle School
12pm to 3pm. EST
 

Marcie Colleen
Macmillan/Imprint, Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins, Scholastic
Elementary
9am-4pm PCT
www.thisismarciecolleen.com
marciecolleen@gmail.com

Patricia J. Murphy 
Penguin Random House 
Pre-K – 3rd Grade  
Central Standard Time (8:30-3:30 p.m.)
www.patriciajmurphy.com
 
Gail Nall
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster; and Epic Reads Impulse/Harper
Older Elementary and Middle School
10 am – 2 pm EST
gailnall.com
gailnallwrites@gmail.com
 

Robbie Byerly
ARC Press Publishing
Younger Elementary 
10 am – 4 pm EST
www.trainingwheelsseries.com
Robbie.byerly@americanreading.com

Dee Romito
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster
Older Elementary/Middle School
9 am- 2 pm EST
http://www.deeromito.com
dee@deeromito.com

David A. Kelly
Random House Books for Young Readers / Lerner Publishing
Elementary
9 am – 5pm EST
http://davidakellybooks.com
davidakelly@gmail.com

Melanie Conklin
Penguin (Putnam)
Older Elementary or Middle School
10am-2pm EST
http://www.melanieconklin.com/
melanie@melanieconklin.com

Dianne K. Salerni
HarperCollins
Older Elementary/Middle School
9 am – 5 pm (EST)

Nancy Viau
Albert Whitman & Co.
Younger Elementary
Noon – 3 pm EST
www.NancyViau.com
nancyviau@comcast.net

Monica Tesler
Simon & Schuster/Aladdin
Older Elementary, Middle School
10-2
 
Laurie Wallmark
Creston Books
Elementary
9-12(Eastern time)
www.lauriewallmark.com
laurie@lauriewallmark.com
 
Gail Donovan
Penguin (Dutton, Dial)
Older Elementary
 
Stephanie Bearce
Source Books/Prufrock Press
Upper Elementary, Middle School
8am-3pm CST
 
John Bianchi
Douglas & McIntyre
Grosset & Dunlap
Elementary
10:00 AM – 1:00 PM MST
 
Monica Carnesi
Penguin (Nancy Paulsen Books)
Elementary
9 am – 5:00 pm EST
 
Darlene Beck Jacobson
Creston Books, Berkeley, CA
Grades 3-6
11:30 Am- 2:30 PM EST
http://www.darlenebeckjacobson.com
djac2185@verizon.net
 
Robin Mellom
HarperCollins
Older Elementary (3rd-6th)
9 a.m. – 2 p.m. (Pacific)
www.robinmellom.com
robinmellombooks@gmail.com
 
Robin Newman 
Creston Books 
Younger Elementary
9:00 am – 12:00 pm EST
 
Jenn Bishop
Knopf / Random House
Older Elementary, Middle School
11 am – 4 pm EST
 
Deb Pilutti
Simon & Schuster/Henry Holt/Christy Ottaviano
Elementary 
8 am – 10 am and 2-3pm EST

Dan Paley
Tilbury House
Young Elementary
8am- 3pm PST
www.danpaley.com
dp@danpaley.com

 
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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World Read Aloud Day 2016 – A Call for Skype Read-Aloud Volunteers!

Hey, author-illustrator friends! To help schools plan their celebrations for LitWorld’s World Read Aloud Day I’m putting together a list of author & illustrator volunteers who would like to read aloud to classrooms on that day. 

(image courtesy of LitWorld)

World Read Aloud Day 2016 is Wednesday, February 24th. For the past several years, some authors & illustrators have spent part of their day reading aloud to classrooms via Skype to help schools celebrate. These aren’t long, fancy presentations. They typically run 10-15 minutes each, and 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  minutes: Author answers a few 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 WRAD SKYPE INQUIRIES OR A LINK TO YOUR WEBSITE CONTACT PAGE

 

So…the body of your email should look something like this example:

Laurel Snyder
Random House Books for Young Readers
Elementary
8 am- 2pm EST
http://laurelsnyder.com

Laurel-email@gmail.com

 

Thanks for using this exact format. It saves so much time. Once I have all of your information, I’ll add you on the list and share it. 

IMPORTANT: Whenever your schedule for WRAD is full, please send another email to worldreadaloudkskype@gmail.com to let me know that, and 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. 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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The Power of Place in Researching Ranger in Time: Long Road to Freedom

Writing the Ranger in Time books is a dream job for a long list of reasons. I get to spend my days making up adventures for a time-traveling golden retriever. I write for amazing, enthusiastic readers who devour chapter books like M&Ms. And every time I send Ranger off on a new adventure in history, it feels like I get the chance to time travel, too. I read piles of books and devour diaries, journals, letters, and newspaper articles from each time period Ranger visits. I tend to save my favorite part of the research for last — the field trips.

When I was working on Rescue on the Oregon Trail, I traveled to Independence, Missouri, a jumping-off point for the Oregon Trail, to see where Ranger would have met the Abbott family for the first time. Danger in Ancient Rome sent me overseas to explore the ruins of the Roman Colosseum and Ludus Magnus gladiator school where Marcus and Quintus trained.  

The third book in the series, Ranger in Time: Long Road to Freedom, is the story of two enslaved children who escape from a tidewater Maryland tobacco plantation and make their way north in search of safety and freedom.

Ranger #3 Final Cover

Ranger travels with Sarah and Jesse through Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and Vermont. I decided that the best way to gather details from all those settings was to plan a road trip that traced my characters’ imaginary journey, so in the summer of 2014, my daughter and I flew to Philadelphia, rented a car, and drove south to the Mount Harmon plantation in tidewater Maryland, where we’d arranged a tour. This planation became the model for the Bradley planation in Long Road to Freedom. 

bighouse2

formalgarden

So often, details of a site visit help to inspire the plots for my Ranger in Time books. That’s why a creekside tobacco prize house, where tobacco is packed in barrels for shipping, plays an important role in Long Road to Freedom.

prizehouse

prizer2

The plantation house at Mount Harmon has a widow’s walk, where someone could spot an approaching boat. That scribble in my notebook became a plot element, too.

widowswalkriver

From Maryland, Sarah and Jesse escape through Odessa, Delaware to Philadelphia. My daughter and I explored real-life settings like William Still’s house and the Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia, and I took notes on details that I thought Sarah and Jesse might notice, too. 

WilliamStillHouse

MotherBethelChurch

From there, Sarah and Jesse make their way to Albany and end up, for a time, at Rokeby, a farm owned by the Robinson family in Ferrisburgh, Vermont. That farm is a museum now and tells the story of two real-life enslaved men who found their way north to Vermont in the 1800s. Interestingly enough, the “hidden rooms” that we hear about in many Underground Railroad stories are nowhere to be found here. Vermont was a free state, and historians say it was no secret that the Robinson family, who were powerful land owners, were helping and employing people who had escaped from their enslavers. Some of those men reportedly slept in a not-so-secret room above the kitchen and worked openly in the fields and with the sheep, alongside the other workers.

RobinsonFarmBedroom

RobinsonSheepDip2 RobinsonSheepDip

Across Lake Champlain, in Northern New York, it was a different story. In early 19th century Clinton County, historians believe that about a third of people were against slavery, about a third were pro-slavery, and a third wanted nothing to do with the whole issue. That meant that abolitionists who did help escapees had to do so more in secret. This barn owned by the Keese Smith family, documented abolitionists, does indeed have a secret room that might have been used as a hiding place.

NY Barn

HiddenRoom

I spent some time in this damp, cobwebby space with my notebook, soaking up the details and imagining what it would have been like on a dark night, with cows walking over the boards on the floor above. 

As I read and research and travel and read some more, elements of the story take shape, and then it becomes even more fascinating to try and see all these places through my characters’ eyes. You’ll recognize some of these settings if you read Ranger in Time: Long Road to Freedom – and I hope seeing these photos from my research will help you to imagine their journey even more vividly.

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Want to hear more about my research for the first two Ranger in Time books, set on the Oregon Trail and Ancient Rome? Check out this virtual author visit!

 

 

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33 Rules of Writing from Some of the Most Brilliant Women in Children’s & YA Literature

Yesterday, I spoke to class of teachers and soon-to-be-teachers at our local SUNY college. Their professor had asked me to talk about how authors plan and draft and revise, and how those practices might apply to student writers, too. I spent a wonderful hour doing that but also promised the teachers that if they brought in a dozen other authors, they’d hear about a dozen different processes. A process or strategy that works for one of us might or might not be effective for another — and that doesn’t vary only from author to author but from book to book. So perhaps the best advice for writers of any age is to understand that – and to honor lots of different processes, in the classroom, the coffee shop, and the office.

I love posts like this one from Brain Pickings, sharing Neil Gaiman’s 8 Rules of Writing. But I couldn’t help thinking, in reading this, that it would be even more interesting to see a list of rules that didn’t all come from one guy. So I reached out to some friends, and we’ve come up with…

33 Rules of Writing from Some of the Most Brilliant Women in Children’s & YA Literature

Do the work. Don’t waste your precious energy on doubt, except where it shows you more opportunities for growth. Pretend you’re working on the last thing you’ll ever write. Give it that much ferocity and that much love. That’s the book the world needs from you.

~Martha Brockenbrough, author of The Game of Love and Death

My newest novel is teaching me this one: Keep showing up, and you start to run out of mistakes to make.

~Caroline Starr Rose, author of Bluebirds

Often, the story comes during the act of writing, not thinking. So even if you have no idea where you’re headed, start writing.

~Barbara O’Connor, author of The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester

Write the book that you (or that you as a child) would want to read.

~Christina Diaz Gonzalez, author of Moving Target

Regarding process, whatever works is what works best for you.

~Sarah Prineas, author of Ash and Bramble

Keep your story materials in one place. I keep a dedicated notebook for each novel in which I brainstorm ideas, jot critique partners’ notes, work through issues, etc. I stuff hard copy research materials in a pocket in back.
For you, a folder or 3-ring binder or envelope might work better–but figure out something to keep your work together. It saves time and serves as a map if you get stuck or lost in your story–you page through and, chances are, there’s an idea in those pages to help you along.

~Erin Dionne, author of Ollie and the Science of Treasure Hunting

 

Fast-drafting is fine, but don’t be afraid to go slow. When I begin something new, it helps me to focus on each word, as if I’m writing a poem. To sit with each line, and think about tone and voice. Those first paragraphs matter so much.
A very wonderful poet once told me that he sits down at his desk and gives himself an hour to come up with a line. If he gets that line, he gives himself an hour to come up with the second line, and so on…   I like to remember this, when other people talk about word counts per day. In the end, I’d rather find the ten right words than the 2,000 quick words.
The main thing, I think, is to remember we all write differently. Slow or fast. Clean or sloppy. One book at a time, or with 4 manuscripts open simultaneously. When people tell you to NEVER do something, or to ALWAYS do something, they’re generally wrong. Write in the way that feels best to you.

~Laurel Snyder, author of Swan: The Life and Dance of Anna Pavlova

There is no one writing process, and if anyone tells you there is, they’re selling you snake oil. What works for me, might not work for you. And what works for me on one book might not be the right process for the next book. As brilliant female author Laurie Halse Anderson said at Kindling Words (and this helped me SO MUCH) each book requires different tools from the writer’s toolbox. For me, writing the first draft quickly helps because it helps me trick what I call “The Inner Crazy Lady.” If I can get the first draft mostly written before she wakes up and tells me everything I’ve written is complete garbage and all of my (insert previous number of published books) were flukes, I can be much more productive. I also find that when I write the first draft quickly, my subconscious leaves me nuggets that I can tease out later to make the novel richer and more nuanced.

~Sarah Darer Littman, author of Backlash

Become familiar with the subtleties of your own particular brand of crazy. I have a hard time discerning whether I’m avoiding writing or giving my subconscious some time to pick apart a tangled plot point. I think it’s important to trust your instincts when they insist you need time away from a particular project but always examine the true root cause. Avoidance wears many deceiving disguises.

~Audrey Vernick, author of Screaming at the Ump

Keep reading until you find a book that blows open the doors of what’s possible.

~Melanie Crowder, author of Audacity

I tell my students that what elevates a book to that Next Level is tiny details and huge risks. Fill your work with tiny details, all kinds of unique specificities, little moments that add texture to the greater plot of the book, and then take huge risks as you’re writing. Take unexpected turns and push to go beyond what feels comfortable. I love that writing requires both that careful attention to detail and that ferocious risk-taking.

~Corey Ann Haydu, author of Rules for Stealing Stars

Write to your passion. The world is full of zippy plots and larger-than-life characters; these are important, of course. But what’s going to elevate YOUR book is finding that story that only you can tell, and setting it down in the way that only you could tell it. Write what thrills you. Write what terrifies you. Write the big questions lurking at the edges of your mind. This is how your book will stand out from the rest.

~Ammi-Joan Paquette, author of Princess Juniper of the Hourglass

Don’t read your reviews.Even the good ones will probably not be good enough to fill up that gaping hole you were hoping to fill. And the bad ones will gut you like a fish, stealing all your joy. You need the joy in order to believe in the next idea when it settles itself around your shoulders.

~Ellen Wittlinger, author of Parrotfish

Don’t be afraid to take risks. Experiment with form. Write beyond what you feel your abilities are. You are allowed to write whatever you can dream up.  When your inner voice starts asking, “But what if it won’t sell? What if I am wasting my time on this?” gently tell it to hush. Tell that voice what you are learning from the writing and how it energizes you. Remind that voice that you are allowed to define your own idea of success. And then write with wild abandon.

~Heidi Schulz, author of Hook’s Revenge: The Pirate Code

 

Beauty comes from honesty, no matter how ugly the truth is. Let your writing shine light on that dark place–that’s where hope starts to grow.

~Jo Knowles, author of Read Between the Lines

Backside in chair. Lots of people talk about writing, but to be a writer, you have to write. You have to close your mouth and sit down and do it – with a monklike self-discipline. And that’s where you find the joy.

~Kate Hannigan, author of The Detective’s Assistant

It’s okay if you return to the same thematic material over and over again. In fact, it means that you have found something that matters deeply to you.

~Elana K. Arnold, author of The Question of Miracles

Try not to be scared. But if you are scared, use it as fuel to push through whatever is in the way.

~Tracy Winfield Holczer, author of The Secret Hum of a Daisy

Go for a walk, preferably in the woods. Going for long walks away from the keyboard allows your ideas to work themselves out without the pressure of writing them down in the moment.

~Karen Rivers, author of The Girl in the Well is Me

Read your work aloud. Listen to the rhythm and musicality of your words. You’ll hear repetition and problem sentences. I do this for individual scenes and whole novels, walking and reading. Don’t do it in public though – people will think you’re nuts.

~Cheryl Blackford, author of Lizzie and the Lost Baby

The moment you are frustrated and ready to quit on a manuscript: Don’t! It means you are on the verge of a breakthrough.

~Kirby Larson, author of Audacity Jones to the Rescue

Remember the books you loved to pieces as a kid? Remember all those authors you never wrote to? Out there in this world is a kid who will love the book you are writing just as much as you loved those books. You will never hear from that kid. The love, however, will be real. That’s the person you are writing this book for. On his or her behalf, thank you, thank you, so much!

~Anne Nesbet, author of The Wrinkled Crown

Find peers who will cheer for you and challenge you. (They don’t have to be the same people and they don’t have to do both at once.) The right friends will help you get through the rough times, push you to become a better writer, and enrich your life in general.

~Jenn Reese, author of Above World

Write the first word that pops into your head– even if that word is “the.” The rest will always follow.

~Danette Vigilante, author of The Trouble with Half a Moon

Writing is fun until it isn’t and then it is hard work, plain and simple. But trust that if you show up and put in the work, day after day, the universe will respond. Magical moments will happen, often when you least expect them, giving you goosebumps because the words are so right and true, and exactly what the story needs. A lot of grit + a teensy bit of magic = how the book gets written.

~Lisa Schroeder, author of My Secret Guide to Paris

All the advice in the world ain’t gonna help you write the #$%@ book. So quit looking for reasons to procrastinate and just write the #$%@  book. Remember the difference between a published writer and an unpublished writer is that they persevered.

~Ellen Oh, author of Prophecy

The first draft is going to be awful. Briefly acknowledge that, then move on.

~Lisa Yee, author of The Kidney Hypothetical

Behind every “breakout hit” is a whole lot of hidden study – study of craft, of the classics, of what’s being written right now – and an even greater dose of perseverance and discarded material.

~Janet Fox, author of The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle

Don’t be afraid to go big. Allow crazy things to happen in the plot, make room for wild emotions and passions, be brave and risk your characters’ hearts. You can always dial it back a little later if you have to, but you don’t want to regret not having gone far enough.

~Liz Garton Scanlon, author of The Great Good Summer

1. You *are* a writer. Not “trying to be”, or “aspiring” — you are.

2. Know that *your* story is precious and powerful.

3. Nothing you write is a waste, even if you don’t explicitly “use” it.

4. Value every scrap, phrase, or bit of an idea by writing it down as soon as you can, preferably the old-fashioned way, on paper. Then don’t worry about it. When you need it, it will be there.

Olugbemisola Amusashonubi-Perkovich, author of 8th Grade SuperZero

Don’t give up! If your first book doesn’t get published, write another book. If your second book doesn’t get published, write a third book. It took me 8 years to get a book published. Most of the people in my first critique group never got published. Most aren’t even writing anymore. And they were all better writers than I was at that time. The reason I got published and they didn’t is because I didn’t give up.

~Dori Hillestad Butler, author of The Haunted Library

Find your way of writing. I had a ton of instructors who said you should overwrite because you can always cut. But I don’t work that way. I start slight and add layers. It took me years to shake the idea that I was doing it wrong.

~Megan Frazer Blakemore, author of The Friendship Riddle

Don’t be afraid to fail. Fail often and joyfully and make lots of things. If you do, you’ll get better at it. And some of them may work out. (I have a whole post about this advice as it relates to picture books here.)

~Kate Messner, author of the Ranger in Time series

Ranger #3 Final Cover

So there you go. 33 rules to follow. Or not. But hopefully, some of them will resonate for you.

Go on now.

Write.

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My NCTE 2015 Schedule: Research, Writing, Revision, Magic, and Book Signings

As a former middle school English teacher (and always a teacher at heart!) I’ll admit that I’m partial to the annual NCTE Convention and look forward to this one the most. I have a super-full schedule at this year’s NCTE Convention and hope that I’ll see many of my teacher, librarian, author, and reader friends. Here’s where I’ll be speaking…

The Power of Passion Driven Research with Deb Perryman, Laurel Snyder, Jennifer Vincent, & LeUyen Pham

FRIDAY 9:30 AM – 10:45 AM in Minneapolis Convention Center, L100E

From baseball to ballet, Minecraft to marshmallows, favorite topics paired with authentic research opportunities unlock a love of learning in students. Two educators, three authors, and an illustrator share experiences with passion-driven research in and out of the classroom that promotes creativity, motivation, and engagement.

Read, Write, Think, Research, Rewrite…Writing is Not Linear with Susannah Richards, Katherine Applegate, & Heidi Stemple

FRIDAY  12:30 PM – 1:45 PM in Minneapolis Convention Center, Auditorium 3

While we often teach students that writing is a linear process, most writers will say that it is not. In this session authors Katherine Applegate & Heidi Stemple, a former teacher/author Kate Messner and a teacher educator will share strategies to teach writing that reflect the process of published authors.

Close Writing: Reading, Reflecting, and Revising Through a Writer’s Lens with Paula Bourque, Andrea Bryant, Sarah Albee, Linda Urban, Lester Laminack, & Selene Castrovilla

FRIDAY 4:00 PM – 5:15 PM in Minneapolis Convention Center, M100J

We teach students to closely read other authors’ writing, but what about their own?
Close Writing strategies help writers build a stronger relationship with their writing through reading, reflecting, and revising. In this session, teachers and authors will share some of these strategies from the classroom and beyond.

Global Read Aloud: Making Connections Around the World, Within Communities, Classrooms, and Ourselves with Pernille Ripp, Sharon Draper, Katherine Applegate, Jenni Holm, Lynda Mullaly Hunt, & Michelle Kedzierski

SATURDAY 8:00 AM – 9:15 AM in Minneapolis Convention Center, 101D

Imagine 300,000 students, immersed in a book, discussing with students and authors, using technology to spark a global conversation; this is the Global Read-Aloud. Join our panel featuring the founder as well as alumni authors. Be inspired to connect and be inspired to create your own global project!

Exploring Tough Issues Through Magic and Fantasy in MG and YA Literature with Linda Urban, Anne Ursu, Laura Ruby, Tracey Baptiste, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Nikki Loftin, and Colby Sharp. 

SATURDAY 2:45 PM – 4:00 PM in Minneapolis Convention Center, 101E

One of “the arts of language” is its gentle ability to help us understand the world and ourselves. Sometimes, the most fantastical stories push us to confront the hardest truths. In this session, six authors and a teacher-blogger explore using fantasy and magical realism to explore tough themes with readers.

 

I’ll also be signing books at my publishers’ booths. Here’s where I’ll be, when I’ll be there, and which titles I’ll be signing at each booth…

FRIDAY – 2:00-3:00 – Scholastic – Ranger in Time series

SATURDAY – 9:30-10:30 – Chronicle Books – OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW, UP IN THE GARDEN & DOWN IN THE DIRT, HOW TO READ A STORY, and TREE OF WONDER: THE MANY MARVELOUS LIVES OF A RAINFOREST TREE

SATURDAY – 4:00-5:00 – Bloomsbury – ALL THE ANSWERS, THE SEVENTH WISH (ARC)

  

Hope to see many of you in Minneapolis!

 

 

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THE SEVENTH WISH – Kid-Blurbs Project!

For my upcoming novel THE SEVENTH WISH, Bloomsbury and I decided to try something a little different to help spread the word. You know those “blurbs” you see on the covers of books, usually from famous authors? We thought it would also be cool to get some blurbs from great kid-readers for this book, so Bloomsbury sent a few dozen copies out into the world to be shared with young readers before the book’s release date. Advance copies of THE SEVENTH WISH will also be available at AASL in Ohio (find me and whisper the code word “rutabaga” if you’d like one from my secret stash) and at NCTE in Minneapolis in November (come by the Bloomsbury publishing booth on the exhibit hall floor during my signing late Saturday afternoon).

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THE SEVENTH WISH is a book that uses magic to explore something many families are afraid to talk about with kids – addiction. I was floored a few years ago when a neighborhood friend told me that her beautiful, smart, joyful daughter was hooked on heroin. She got help and survived, and she is thriving now, but I still struggle to understand how it happened. And when I struggle, when something really scares me, I write. Here’s what THE SEVENTH WISH is about:

When Charlie Brennan goes ice fishing on her town’s cold winter lake, she’s hoping the perch she reels in will help pay for a fancy Irish dancing solo dress. But when Charlie’s first catch of the day offers her a wish in exchange for its freedom, her world turns upside down.

Charlie catches the fish again and again, but each time, her wishes go hilariously wrong. Just when things are finally starting to turn around, a family crisis with her older sister forces Charlie to accept the fact that some of the toughest challenges in life can’t be fixed by wishing.

Here’s how the Kid-Blurbs project works…

  1. Read the book. Or, if you have impatient readers, skip to #2 and read it later.
  2. Share the book with at least three student readers.
  3. Ask students who enjoyed the book to write a short “blurb” like the ones you see on book covers sometimes – a recommendation saying specifically what they loved about the book. These aren’t full reviews – just one or two-sentence recommendations about why they loved the book. On the back of this page, you’ll find a reproducible handout on writing blurbs, with mentor texts of blurbs written by authors, for other authors’ books.
  4. Take a photo of your Kid-Blurber with the book open in front of his or her face (to protect student privacy)
  5. Share the student’s blurbs and photos on your Facebook and/or Twitter feed, along with his or her first name & grade. (i.e. “Great book!” ~Emily, 6th grade reader) I’ll share and RT these posts as well, but please post on your own FB wall, rather than putting it on mine, so that your school/library community can see your student writers’ work. In order for others to re-post a student’s blurb (we hope your kids’ work will be shared far & wide!), you’ll need to share it as a PUBLIC post. You can choose that privacy setting by clicking the little icon right under your name after you post – change it from the “friends” image to the one that looks like a globe, for public posts.
  6. Please tag me in these posts on Facebook and @ me on Twitter (I’m @KateMessner there) so that I don’t miss thanking any kids. I’ll also try to share as many of these posts as I can, to help amplify your students’ book-talking voices. You also can use the hashtag #7thWish. If your students also wish to write longer recommendations for a classroom blog, please send me links to these, too. I’d love to share some of them!
  7. You can start right away – it’s fine to post student blurbs any time between now and the end of the school year. If you find that you aren’t able to take part in the Kid-Blurbs project, please try to pass your ARC on to someone who’s interested in giving it a try.

Thanks for sharing THE SEVENTH WISH with your readers!  Here’s more about writing book blurbs…

Book Blurbs! How to Recommend a Great Read in a Line or Two

Sometimes, when you pick up a book at the store or library, you’ll see a blurb on its cover – a quote from a famous author recommending the title in your hands. These are quick, short endorsements of books people love and want to share with others. The more specific they are, the more powerful they can be. For example, “It’s a great book” or “This novel is interesting and exciting” are positive but don’t say much about who might like the book and why. When we get more precise with our praise, it’s a whole different story. Check out these real authors’ blurbs that do the job with specific word choice and pizzazz:

“Fiercely original and uncommonly lovely, The Witch’s Boy is equal parts enchanting and haunting. Kelly Barnhill is master of truly potent and unruly magic; luckily for readers, she chooses to use her powers for good.”

~Anne Ursu’s blurb for The Witch’s Boy

Eighth Grade SuperZero is one of the funnier and more thoughtful books I’ve read it a long time. Reggie and his crew had me cheering for them from page one till the end of the book. Fabulous.”

~Jacqueline Woodson’s blurb for Eighth Grade SuperZero

“Here’s a story that funny and ferocious, and adventure with a heart of gold buried deep in its chest, told by one of the great unreliable narrators – unreliable in the sense that you wouldn’t want to ask him to watch your bike.”

~Adam Rex’s blurb for The Pirate Code

“When Ivy Green can’t take any more missing, when even God seems to have taken off for parts unknown (along with her Mama) redemption nevertheless appears–in the sky, the stars, a kind of cute science boy, and a whole cast of people who love her. Liz Garton Scanlon has written a great good miracle of a book. I can’t stop hugging it.”

~Kathi Appelt’s blurb for The Great Good Summer

“Reading this book is like discovering a treasure box full of rare and wonderful things. If you open it, you’ll find a brave and good-hearted girl hero, the mysterious streets of Paris, and a magical cabinet full of life itself. The writing is luminescent and absolutely compelling. It’s the best thing I’ve read in a long, long time.”

~Sarah Prineas’ blurb for Cabinet of Earths

 

Ready to try your hand at blurbing a book? Write a sentence (or two or three) about why you love the book and would recommend it to other readers!

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Dear Grace: Climbing Sawteeth on 10.12.15

Dear Grace,*

I’d had a rotten cold all weekend but figured it was nothing the mountains couldn’t sure, so I kept my hiking date to climb Sawteeth Mountain this morning. As you must know, to get to the trailhead for Sawteeth, you park your car, hike half a mile up a road to the very private, very exclusive Ausable Club, which lets hikers pass through. It was beautiful with the bright leaves in the hills over the golf course. Some very fancy cars passed us on this road.

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The Ausable Club dates back to 1886, when a group of Keene residents and visitors were concerned about lumbering in this area and bought 25,000 acres to preserve it. Much of that land and subsequent acres purchased have since been conveyed to NYS to maintain as “forever wild.” Once we went through the main gate, it was fun seeing all the smaller trails that lead into the woods from the Lake Road.

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I’m guessing this “Ladies Mile” sign dates back to the earlier days of the club, when the women would take shorter hikes in their skirts while the men went exploring. All the ladies I saw today passed by this dainty bridge in favor of the high peaks beyond.

Once we were past the club, it was another three and a half miles of flat walking on the Lake Road to get to the beginning of the Sawteeth Trail. Along the way, we listened to the sound of the brook and watched for beavers. There was no sign of them, even though their activity was evident.

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Our next million-dollar view came at the dam, overlooking Ausable Lake.

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It was hard to leave the little bridge that afforded us this gorgeous lookout, but there was climbing to do – and lots more to see along the way.

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The summit of Sawteeth has limited views, so we decided to take the steeper, scenic route down. It was such a good decision.

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This ended up being a longer hike than we’d planned – just over 13 miles RT – but it was so, so worth the sore feet and tired knees. The views were as stunning as anything I’ve seen, anywhere. And you know what else? My head cold was a whole lot better at the end of the hike. Sunshine and leaves are magic that way.

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Good climbing!

~Kate

 

* Grace 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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Dear Grace: Hiking Giant Mountain on 10.5.15

Dear Grace,*

It hardly felt like October today, with blue skies and temperatures reaching 70 degrees. I’d beard amazing things about the hike up Giant Mountain via the Ridge Trail and was excited to have such perfect sunshine lighting up the fall leaves. Our first lookout, about half a mile into the hike, brought beautiful views over Chapel Pond below. The kids at my rock climbing gym come here sometimes for bouldering and say it’s one of the best spots in the area. We couldn’t see anyone climbing from so far up, but I like to think they were down there, having adventures.

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At .7 miles, we reached Giant’s Washbowl, which is a wonderful name for a short story. I don’t have an idea for it yet but have tucked it into my notebook, just in case.

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This hike was steep in places. I’ve heard Giant described as a “three-mile staircase,” and while it wasn’t as relentless as I’d expected, it was a workout. Thankfully, there was plenty to look at whenever we stopped to catch our breath.

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Marsha and I made it to the summit in just about two and a half hours and took our time enjoying the warm rocks and views. Shortly after we arrived, three men showed up and explained that they were at a conference for work. They’d left one guy behind to take notes. We asked how much they’d pay for us not to share their photos. :-)

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The steep parts of Giant were a fun challenge on the hike down. Sometimes, Marsha and I played it safe and sat down to slide instead of risking a fall, but all in all, it wasn’t as tough as we thought it might be to descend. Looking down at our feet to avoid tripping paid off when we spotted this cool millipede.

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We made it back to the trailhead just about six hours after we’d set out. I’m finding that my favorite mountains have as much to do with the weather and the sky as the actual terrain, so it’s not surprising that this was near the top of the list so far. Giant is such an autumn beauty. It’s one I’m already planning to revisit.

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Good climbing!

~Kate

 

* Grace 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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Dear Grace: Hiking Mount Marcy on 10.3.15

October 3, 2015

Dear Grace,*

“Every hike is different” is something I’ve heard over and over from people who have climbed all 46 Adirondack High Peaks. I’ve climbed a dozen now, and I appreciate that sentiment more with every mountain.

My friend Sandy and I had on-again, off-again hiking plans for this week, based on a weather forecast that finally improved to the point where we decided to go for it and spend our Saturday hiking Mt. Marcy. Both our boys had climbed this high peak and deemed it “not that bad,” so we were feeling good about the hike, our longest to date at 15 miles RT. We set out from Adirondack Loj at 7am on the dot and hiked through the morning fog, enjoying the fall leaves.

 

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Our first clue that this might be an “interesting” hike came two miles from the summit, when we started meeting people coming down. “Did you climb Marcy?” we asked the first guy. He shook his head. “Tried. Too icy. I had to turn back at mile six.”

Pretty soon, we saw another hiker descending. “I drove five hours for this hike and had to turn back without summiting.” He shook his head. “It’s a slab of ice. Good luck.”

The third man we met had turned around at the same spot. “It is not possible,” he told us.

We were still hopeful, though, because we’d brought microspikes, on the advice of some wise, experienced folks on the Aspiring 46ers FB group. None of the men who’d turned back had crampons, so we figured we’d keep climbing and see how it went. The trees along the way let us know that conditions were about to change.

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About a mile from the summit, there’s a clearing where we could see Marcy’s frosted-over peak, and that’s where the summit steward was camped out for the day. We were carrying our spikes at this point, and her face lit up when she saw that. “Oh! You brought microspikes. You might be okay.” She warned us that the wind was blowing 60mph at the summit. “So just turn around if you feel unsafe.”

We asked if anyone had made it to the top yet. “I don’t know. A few people went up,” she said, “but they haven’t come down.” So that was a fun blend of encouraging and ominous.

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We decided to put on our spikes and hike as long as we felt safe, which ended up being all the way to the summit, at 11:45am. As promised, some of the rocks were slabs of ice, but our spikes worked well. The summit was frigid and windy but stunningly pretty with the rime ice coating everything and the lower, autumn-colored mountains all around. Sadly, we do not have photos of that view, because when we took out our iPhones at the summit, they both shivered and died. Lest we follow in our phones’ footsteps, we only braved the wind on top for about 45 seconds before retreating back to the clearing below for lunch. We met a couple other groups on their way up. The ice was melting slowly in the sun, so I hope more people were able to summit as the day went on.

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We made it back to the Loj at 4pm – exactly nine hours after we’d set out. The whole way down, as we shed our layers one by one, we couldn’t stop talking about that last mile of the climb. It felt like another mountain up there – a whole different season. Every hike really is different, and that’s what makes the Adirondack high peaks so alluring. I tend to overuse the word “awesome,” but this time, it fits.

Good climbing!

~Kate

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* Grace 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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