Dear Grace: Climbing Colvin & Blake on 8.1.17

Dear Grace,*

This wasn’t technically our first climb of the 2017-2018 hiking season, but it was the first that added to my list of High Peaks. Last week, we hiked Esther as a warm-up mountain (side note: Kate of just a few years ago would have had a good laugh at someone who called an almost ten-mile hike a “warm-up” but life is funny that way.) Anyway, we felt ready for the 14.7 miles it would take to add these two peaks to the list of those we’d climbed, so we parked at St. Huberts and set off down the road a little after 7am. The Ausable Club property is always so pretty, no matter the season.

We took the Gill Brook Trail, keeping an eye (and ear) out for bears, since there have been reports of a couple unusually bold ones in the area. Apparently, someone threw food at them, so they’ve taken to following hikers in the hopes of getting tossed a granola bar. We didn’t see any and didn’t hear reports of anyone else encountering them either. All we saw were pretty waterfalls, cool mushrooms, and a chia-pet boulder.

The trail up to Colvin was great – a bit challenging in places but not too demanding, and we reached the summit by 10:30ish, happy to drop our packs for a little while and enjoy the views.

We decided to eat half our lunch and then start making our way to Blake, which we could see from Colvin’s summit.

The trail between Colvin and Blake involves a steep descent into the col, followed by a tough climb back up Blake. It was a whole lot of effort to put forth for a mountain that has no view from the summit. But it’s one of the 46 High Peaks, so…

No matter how far we descended, Blake never seemed to get any closer.

But finally, we made it to the top. It was…uneventful. And then we started back down Blake and up  Colvin again. The ladders helped.

The trip to Black and back to Colvin took us 90 minutes each way. By the time we got back to Colvin, I needed a little nap.

We had our second lunch on this lookout spot near Colvin’s summit and then started the climb back down to the Lake Road. I was thankful when we met up with the Gill Brook Trail again because I was super low on water and took the opportunity to filter some in the brook. It felt pretty great to wash our hands & faces in the cold water, too. We made it back to the car just after 5pm for a ten-hour round-trip hike. Colvin was a beautiful climb and one that I’d happily do again. Blake…not so much.


* The Grace of “Dear 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 handwritten 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. There’s an online correspondent program now, too, and while I like my correspondent a whole lot, I still wish I’d had the chance to climb these mountains and write paper 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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Teachers Write 8.4.17 A Friday Farewell

It’s hard to believe that our four weeks of writing together are winding down already, but please know that even though we’re not blogging every day, this community doesn’t go away when it’s time to sharpen pencils again. Being a teacher-writer isn’t a one-time professional development goal, so we hope your writing habit lasts far beyond September. Gae has one more Friday Feedback for you today. And Gae, Jo, Jennifer, and I – and most of your guest authors – are always around on social media. We’ll keep cheering for you (and your students!) throughout the school year.

Today’s writing prompt is one that I’ve included before, but I can’t say it any better for this year’s group of brave writers, so I’m sharing it once more…

You all showed up here in early July – some of you veterans, some of you brand new to Teachers Write and even new to the idea of putting words on paper and sharing them. It’s been an amazing summer of learning and writing. You’ve written bravely and shared with joy and fear and courage and all the other emotions that go along with opening up a bit of yourself to friends and strangers who are being brave, too. You’ve made me smile and laugh and cry sometimes, too, in all the best ways, and I am so proud of you.

So here’s one last assignment…

(You are being granted special time-travel abilities for this one.)

Write a letter to yourself of 4 weeks ago.  It will be sent back through time and delivered to you on July 9th, 2017…right before you begin Teachers Write.  What advice would you give yourself?  What can you tell yourself about what the experience will be like and how it might change your writing or teaching?

Here’s the letter I wrote to my back-in-time self after our first summer of Teachers Write, back in 2012…

Dear Kate,

Today, you are going to notice some of your Twitter teacher-friends talking about their goals to write this summer, and it will occur to you that it might be fun to set up a virtual writing camp.  Go ahead and do it, even though it’s not going to go the way you’re imagining.  You’re probably picturing a dozen people, right? Maybe twenty? Multiply that by 100 and you’ll be a little closer. It’ll freak you out at first when you see all those people signing up, but don’t worry — they are amazing people who will be happy to be here and patient with your summer schedule. Besides, tons of generous and talented authors are going to show up to pitch in. This probably doesn’t surprise you, does it? The children’s and YA writer community is amazing like that.

What will surprise you is just how much you are moved when you sit down to read the comments every day. These teachers and librarians will be so smart, so brave. They will try new things. Some will be afraid at first, but they will be so good to one another, so supportive, that new voices will emerge every week.  And these voices will be full of passion and beauty, humor and joy and poignancy.  They will be amazing, and they will make you cry sometimes, in the best possible way.

So go on… Write that introductory blog post, even though you’re biting off way more than you know. It will be worth every second, and when August comes, you will not be ready to let go. Not even close.

Warmly,   Kate

Your turn now…  Put today’s date on the paper, and then write your message to be sent to yourself, back through time. We’d love it if you’d all share this one in the comments.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your summer and have an amazing school year with your student writers. Be sure to tell them about your writing this summer. They’ll be so proud of you.



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Teachers Write 8.3.17 Thursday Quick-Write with Alicia Williams

Ready for your final Thursday Quick-Write of the summer? Our guest author today is the brilliant Alicia Williams, whose debut novel comes out in the fall. Alicia is a graduate of Hamline University’s MFAC program. Her debut middle grade novel will be GENESIS RISING, with Atheneum/S&S. She started her storytelling as a folk storyteller and captivates audiences young and old with the Breh Rabbit and Breh Fox tales. She also writes and performs one-woman historical plays, featuring the likes of Sojourner Truth, Margaret Garner (slave that Toni Morrison based BELOVED on), Mamie Till (Emmit Till’s mother), to name a few. Alicia is also a Master Teaching Artist, combining her love of storytelling and acting, to teach writing based on an arts-integration pedagogy.

Since I’ve given several lectures on writing the other, and stress the importance and urgency of getting it right (for those who do venture off into that area), my prompt is in that area:
Write a scene where a character walks into a setting (ex. restaurant, church, school), creating instant discomfort and tension, due to their gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or race.
Note from Kate: Adding to Alicia’s notes about “getting it right” when writing characters whose backgrounds differ from ours, I want to share a couple great resources you may want to check out. This Buzzfeed piece from author Daniel José Older is an excellent starting point if you haven’t thought much about how to write characters whose cultural backgrounds you don’t share, when to make that choice, and when and why it may be best to leave that story for someone else.  Another great resource-  this list of sensitivity readers from Justina Ireland. You can read all about what sensitivity readers are (and aren’t) here. 
As always, feel free to continue the conversation in the comments!
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Teachers Write 8.2.17 Q&A Wednesday

Today is our final Q&A Wednesday for Teachers Write 2017 – one more chance to ask our guest authors all of your questions about writing craft. Today’s guest authors are J. Anderson Coats, Dana Alison Levy, and Karen Romano Young.

As always, if you have questions, post in the comments, and our guest authors will be checking in throughout the day to respond. Ask away!

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Teachers Write 8.1.17 Tuesday Quick-Write with Leah Henderson

Good morning! Our guest for today’s Tuesday Quick-Write is brilliant debut author Leah Henderson. Leah has always loved getting lost in stories. When she is not scribbling down her characters’ adventures, she is off on her own, exploring new spaces and places around the world. She received her MFA at Spalding University and currently calls Washington D.C. home, but you can always find her on Twitter @LeahsMark or at her website:

Tuesday Quick-Write

Setting the Scene: Do more than just see it

First: Choose either a listed prompt and complete it, one of the images provided or a moment from your own work.

A gleaming _______________

An antique _______________

A secret __________________

A pale ____________________

A magical ________________

A suspicious _____________

An abandoned ___________

A broken _________________

A wondrous ______________

A forgotten _______________

A new _____________________

A hidden __________________

Then, once you have a snapshot in your mind, describe it using at least two or three of your senses other than sight. Hear it, taste it, touch it, or smell the scene to bring it to life.

Happy writing!

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Teachers Write 7.31.17 Mini-Lesson Monday: The Thing about Things with Kat Yeh

Good morning! Are you ready for one more week of writing together? Head over to Jo’s blog for your Monday Morning Warm-Up, and then come on back for today’s post!

Our guest author today is the amazing Kat Yeh. Kat is the award-winning author of middle grade novels, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE (an NPR Best Book of 2015) and THE WAY TO BEA (coming Sept, 2017) from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, as well as picture book, THE FRIEND SHIP, from Disney-Hyperion. Kat and her family live in one of those crooked little nooks along the north shore of Long Island where they like to spend time exploring all the secret beaches and hidden paths. Learn more about Kat at
P.S. You pronounce her last name YAY!


As writers and storytellers, we want our characters to be interesting and complex and unique. We want them to feel like people in the real world. And the thing about interesting, complex, unique people in the real world is that they usually have very specific interests or obsessions. They usually have Things.

In my first middle grade novel, THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE, my main character GiGi’s Thing was recipes from her dead Mama’s cookbook. When GiGi discovers that a girl from school has revealed an unexpected side of herself that GiGi thinks threatens her close friendship with new best friend, Trip, she reflects on a recipe from her Mama’s cookbook:


All I could think about was this salad DiDi used to make for potluck dinner. It’s covered with this blanket of mayonnaise on top, so you assume it’s all bland and mayo through and through. What you don’t see is that right under that blanket of bland, there’s all this stuff just hiding there. Waiting. Waiting for someone to realize that there’s more to it than just mayo. I used to feel sorry for that salad whenever I saw it sitting there on the table with no one digging in. But now I think it was lying in wait. All mayo and innocence on the outside, not letting us know what it really was on the inside.


This passage is followed by a recipe for Secret Layered Salad. By including recipes in key scenes, I could further the emotions of those scenes and the themes of the story, while also reinforcing this part of GiGi’s world and personality.

In my new middle grade novel, THE WAY TO BEA (Little, Brown Sept 2017), my main character, 12 year old Beatrix, is an exuberant artist and poet whose world turns upside down when she loses her friend group, upon entering 7th grade. By including her poetry throughout the novel, I am able to show how the ways Bea expresses herself change and reflect her emotions. She goes from fanciful free verse painted on her walls to strict haiku secretly scribbled in invisible ink as her world begins to feel unsafe and her actions more guarded. She struggles when she realizes that sometimes what she wants to express might not fit into the rules of haiku.


But just because you act a certain way, that doesn’t mean it becomes true or real.

Does it?

I mean, what if I just started acting differently? What if…I acted that way I wish I were?


if I act the way

I wish I were

am I still acting…or becoming?


Five, four, nine.

Start over.

I watch the lemon juice and water shine and then fade. It doesn’t fit in the haiku structure. But I like it. And I don’t know how else to explain how I feel.


Having a Thing is a great device to show your character’s personality and emotions, but Things are even stronger when they are also tied into the driving force of your plot. Think about Ali Benjamin’s THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH and her character, Suzy’s obsession with – well, jellyfish and how this obsession plays throughout the storyline. Rebecca Stead’s WHEN YOU REACH ME with Miranda’s reading and rereading of A WRINKLE IN TIME. It may seem like a young girl’s quirky habit at first, but reveals itself to be much, much more.

That’s the thing about Things.

When your character has a deep seeded love, fascination, or interest, their story can unfold and be told in varied and dynamically different and wonderful ways. Which gives our readers all the more ways to connect and invest emotionally in our characters and stories. And isn’t that why we tell stories to begin with?

Your Assignment: Try giving your main character a Thing or a few Things. See what fits. What works. What would help drive your storyline. Write or revisit a passage in which they deal with conflict or deep emotion or sudden joy. Express it through their Thing. Experiment! You might learn something new about your character. And they might surprise you with a hidden layer that you never knew they had.

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Teachers Write 7.28.17 A Friday Reflection with Madelyn Rosenberg

Good morning! It’s Friday, which means there’s an opportunity to get (and give!) feedback over on Gae’s blog.

And here, we have guest author Madelyn Rosenberg! Madelyn is is the author of nine books for kids of all ages, including the Nanny X books and the How to Behave books. She wrote her newest book, THIS IS JUST TEST, with longtime friend Wendy Wan-Long Shang. You can find Madelyn online at or @madrosenberg on Twitter. Today, she’s joining us to talk about collaboration.

I sit and write in the world’s messiest office, where my only companions are often an exercise bicycle bedazzled with my most recent laundry and the braver of my two cats. Many writers I know spend their days (or nights) in similar situations, dependent, of course, on cat allergies, cleanliness habits, and whether or not they have invested in a standing desk. We take community where we can find it: In critique groups, at guild meetings, during an occasional Thursday write-a-thon at the Rock n’ Joe.

In a world that’s filled with rejection, even for published writers, it’s essential to have community support. I always find it’s easier to write knowing that someone’s out there waiting for Chapter 2. Over the past few years, I reached out to my writing community in a different way, by collaborating with a writing partner – with Mary Crockett for Dream Boy and most recently with Wendy Wan-Long Shang for This is Just a Test.

For me, collaboration was a real gift. It can be a gift for students as well. Sure, there might be frustrations if a partner takes you down a path you don’t want to follow or imbues a character with a trait you are certain she doesn’t have. But collaborative writing also gives you an editor, even as you write those first paragraphs. It helps you beat writer’s block. It gives you encouragement: you can do this, partner. With students, it also serves as an ice breaker and motivator, and increases both self confidence and self esteem (really: Google it.) I know it did for me.

All of this is a long way of getting to today’s writing prompt, which requires you to find a partner, if just for one day. You can try this with someone in Teacher’s Write, with your kid, your Uncle Buck, your mail carrier – anyone who’s willing. Two choices follow.

Your Assignment:

Option one: An exquisite corpse. You may have done this with pictures when you were a kid: someone draws the head, marks where the neck begins, folds the paper over, and hands it to the next person who draws the body without ever seeing the head. Here you’re doing the same thing, only with words. Have someone begin a story with just a paragraph or so, and pass it to the next person, who writes the middle. It goes back to player one for the beginning of the ending and back to player two for the final lines. You may take turns either virtually or on real paper. Provide your partner with the last three words from the last sentence of each section as a hook, an inspiration or a tease. The results show you how just a few words can generate thoughts, dialogue and plot.

If you want to your collaborative writing experiment to be more, well, collaborative, try option two: Do the same assignment, swapping paragraphs back and forth, only don’t hide anything. Discuss your character and plot. Give each partner a chance to tweak and edit and add lines to the parts he or she didn’t generate. If you want this one to be a little longer, that’s fine, but try to keep it to five or six paragraphs, max. (It’s a quick write, after all.)

If you have time and a willing partner, feel free to try both options.

In the comments, let us know which option you tried and how it worked for you. Were you funnier or more dramatic because you knew someone else would be seeing your words right away? More self conscious? Less self conscious? Were you surprised at the turn your story took? More confident in the final results?

I do this prompt with my family (the no-peeking version) when we’re on car trips or in restaurants. We especially like playing in large groups, where each person contributes a single line, with no clue as to what’s come the line before. The outcome is often more a surreal poem than a story, but we always end up laughing.

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Teachers Write 7.27.17 Thursday Quick-Write with Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Good morning! Our Thursday Quick-Write today is courtesy of guest author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich. Olugbemisola is the author of the novel 8th Grade Superzero, co-author of Two Naomis and the forthcoming And Two Naomis Too, with Audrey Vernick. She​ writes for Brightly and has written for Heinemann’s Digital Campus; she has contributed to The Journey Is Everything: Teaching Essays That Students Want To Write for People Who Want To Read Them, Imagine it Better: Visions of What Schools Might Be, Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures in Ten Voices, and Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself. She is a Brown Bookshelf and We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) team member and teaches writing online and in living colour. Olugbemisola lives with her family in NYC where she writes, makes things, and needs to get more sleep. Find her online at​

One of my favourite writing prompts is also one of the simplest, but I find it extremely powerful, especially when I’m trying to tease out a fledgling idea, brainstorming, or just writing to write without an end “product” in mind.

I think it works best at the end of the day, or first thing in the morning. But I am not one for hard and fast rules when it comes to writing, so work it out the way it works best for you.

Your Assignment: Spend at least fifteen minutes writing down the last 24 hours, just listing what you
a) did, and
b) noticed.

That’s it! Usually, after a while, I begin to see patterns, and what Don Murray called my “writing territories,” the things that I know and care about a lot. ​You might see many different variations on a theme, or realize that there is this one thing that your whole self is crying out to write. Almost every time, I’m surprised, and it leads me in new and beautiful and strange and well-loved and tedious and ​slightly scary directions. Which is how writing often is, all at once, yeah?

As always, feel free to share a reflection in the comments!

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Esther…and the mountains I climbed last summer

Dear Grace,*

It’s been a while. Last summer, I made time for hiking but not documenting those hikes, so this is a bit of a catch-up post. Think of it as the best of the 2016 High Peaks. Also, the worst of the 2016 High Peaks (hello, Allen).

August 8, 2016 – Lower Wolfjaw and Upper Wolfjaw

Lower Wolfjaw’s summit doesn’t have too much of a view – just a glimpse of loveliness through the trees, so we didn’t stay long here before pushing on to Upper Wolfjaw.

There was a bit of a tight squeeze on this hike…

By the time we summited Upper Wolfjaw, it was time for lunch.

This was our first High Peaks climb of the summer, and we chose a hot day for it. I thought two liters of water would be plenty. It wasn’t, and I ended up with a headache on the descent until we got back to a water source to filter. Lesson learned. And still a pretty great day in the mountains.

August 15, 2016 – Nippletop and Dial Mountains

Packing a lot more water this time, we set out again a week later to climb Dial and Nippletop – though not in that order. We opted to take the steep route on the way up to Nippletop and then traverse over to Dial and come down over the shoulder of Noonmark. It was a good route, though the walk out felt long, with lots of littler ups and downs. So many, in fact, that a man who was hiking near us pretty much wailed to his companion, “I want to stop climbing mountains now!” Sadly, he still had a couple miles to go. Here are some of my favorite views along the way, including a pretty marshy area on the way up, the cloud-shadowy view from Nippletop’s summit, my muddy boots on Dial, and a tree that had an ear.

We were careful not to tell secrets in this part of the woods…

September 16, 2016 – Mount Colden

We’d heard magical things about Avalanche Pass, so we opted to climb Mount Colden via that route in September, and it did not disappoint.

First view of Avalance Lake

The best part of this hike – ladders, bridges, and hitch-up Matildas along the lakeshore – like a giant jungle gym for grown-ups.

We met this newt on our way to the summit.

Perfect day on Colden! We took the easier way down & returned to the Adirondack Lodge via the Lake Arnold trail.

September 21, 2016 – Allen Mountain

We’d heard things about Allen Mountain. It’s a slog. It has a six-mile approach. It’s muddy. It’s steep. Oh…and there’s red slime, too. But every 46er has to climb it, so we started out super early on a late-September morning for the 20-mile hike. Parts of it were lovely – and there was a new bridge so we didn’t have to take our boots off to cross the Opalescent.

Lake Jimmy in the early-morning mist…

Shiny new bridge!

Opalescent River with fall colors.

And those are all of the nice things I have to say about Allen Mountain. Because everything we’d heard was true. Especially the part about the red slime, which frayed our nerves and bruised our extremities and rear ends. There was a bit of a view at the summit, but was a long hike down this one…

We were very happy to cross Allen off our list.

September 28, 2016 – Macomb, South Dix, and Hough Mountains

This hike started out on the sort of magical, foggy morning that makes you feel like there must be an enchanted kingdom down in the valley. Macomb was a steep climb, but it was broken up with photo breaks.

It was great that we enjoyed this view on the way up because by the time we reached Macomb’s summit, it was gone & we were staring into a cloud. The sign was the only evidence that we were, in fact, on top of a mountain.

The climb up South Dix was fun, but the view was, again, less than inspiring.

It was the same story at the summit of Hough.

But look! Here’s some cool fungus growing on a tree. You take whatever photo ops you get on cloudy hiking days.

October 6, 2016 – Rocky Peak Ridge and Giant Mountain

We’d already climbed Giant Mountain but ran out of time to do Rocky Peak Ridge, so this was our second time up this trail on a glorious fall day. On our ascent, there were clouds in all the valleys. It made the peaks look like islands.

I’m always slightly disappointed when there’s not an actual giant washing his face at Giant’s Washbowl. Pretty leaves, though…

View from Giant’s summit

The trail from here to Rocky Peak Ridge was steeper than we’d expected, so it took a while, but the views were worth the work.

Looking back at Giant from RPR

That wrapped up our 2016 hiking season because soon after, snow arrived in the mountains, and we are not winter hikers.

And that brings us to today…  Esther Mountain was a repeat for me, so I’m still at 25/46 when it comes to High Peaks climbed. This was #22 for my hiking buddy, Marsha, and at just under ten miles, we figured it would be a good climb to get our hiking legs back. Here…

You come, too.

I’m wishing I’d been better at writing about each peak after climbing last summer because I know there were tiny moments that I’ve already forgotten. The summit steward who pointed out a peregrine falcon soaring over Mount Colden. The sound of the waterfall on the way to Allen. The way everyone we met on our way down from Dial had crossed paths with a mother and two bear cubs we’d managed to miss.

But next week, there will be another hike – a summit I’ve never seen before (maybe two) with mushrooms and friendly toads and even friendlier fellow travelers along the way. I’ll write about it when I get back because I don’t want to forget any of these moments in the mountains.

Good climbing,



* The Grace of “Dear 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. There’s an online correspondent program now, too, 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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Teachers Write 7.26.17 Q&A Wednesday

Good morning! Got questions? Our guest authors have answers! Today on Q&A Wednesday, we have Anne Ursu, Sarah Darer Littman, and Anne Nesbet as our mentor authors.

As always, if you have questions for the group, or for a specific author, just post in the comments. They’ll be checking in throughout the day to respond.

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