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

———————–

* 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 Street & Nye on 9.28.15

September 28, 2015 – Street and Nye Mountains

Dear Grace, *

Today, the forecast was for overcast skies and maybe some rain showers — a perfect day to climb a couple peaks with wooded summits, like Street and Nye. So my new hiking pal Marsha and I enjoyed the view of Heart Lake, signed in at the trailhead at 9:34am, and started our hike through the fall leaves. Along the way, we chatted with a man who was making his second attempt at Street and Nye. The first time he’d tried, the water was too high for the brook crossing, but happily, that wasn’t an issue today.

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We reached the junction, where the two trails diverge, just after 11:30 and decided to tackle Nye first, since the trail was shorter and the view the lesser of the two. Ten minutes later, we were at the summit – something we knew not because of the beautiful views from up high but because the trail simply came to an end and there was a simple sign letting us know we were there.

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We returned to the junction, headed up Street, and summited just before noon. This one is wooded, too, but there are a couple of trails that lead to overlooks with limited views that were more limited than usual today with the clouds.

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We had lunch, climbed down, and signed out at 3:20pm, so the two mountains took just under six hours in all. Not my favorite peaks, but I did love the cute toad we met, the fascinating old lumber camp remains along the trail, and the brook.

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These rock-hopping water crossings always make me feel like I’m ten years old again. Mountains have a way of turning us all back into kids & adventurers, and for that, I’m thankful.

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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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Dear Grace… Hiking Big Slide on 9.24.15

On August 27th, I climbed my first two Adirondack High Peaks and am officially smitten with these mountains. I’ve been hiking for twenty years but had only tackled smaller mountains until this summer. As we head into October, I’ve climbed nine of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks and loved these days too much to let them go without writing about them.

In researching my hikes, I’ve also been reading about Grace Hudowalski. She was the first woman on record to climb all 46 high peaks as well as a founding member of the Adirondack 46ers, an amazing group that cares for the trails, promotes the high peaks, and with unbridled enthusiasm, encourages and informs all of us who set out to climb them all. Grace was the group’s first president, from 1948-1951. Then she became its secretary and historian, roles she filled until she died in 2004. She was 98 years old.

Grace did amazing things in her time with the 46ers, but my favorite story I’ve read is about the letters. In the earlier days of the club, if you wanted to be a 46er, you had to log each climb, most often with a letter to Grace. She encouraged hikers to share stories in these letters — not just the date of a climb and the peak, but what happened on the mountain that day, what they saw, and how they felt. Current 46ers say Grace liked to tell people, “If it’s worth climbing, it’s worth writing about.” So they wrote letters – and Grace wrote back to them. She answered thousands and thousands of letters, with encouraging words and sometimes, her own reflections on a climb, too. Those letters went into folders for each aspiring 46er, and those folders grew fatter and fatter, until the final peak was climbed.

Today, the 46er application process is simplified; one only needs to keep simple climb records on a club form that can be downloaded. It’s efficient and user-friendly.

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, for the rest of my climbs. I think Grace would have liked that.

September 24, 2015 – Big Slide

Dear Grace,

I was going to write today, finish my chapters, and climb a mountain on Friday. But when the sun rose over the lake, the sky was cloudless blue, and tomorrow might not be as clear. So I closed my laptop and went. The mountains were calling, and I know you understand that more than anyone.

At about 9:50am, I arrived at the Garden – my first hike from this trailhead – and started out on the trail over the Brothers.

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In twenty minutes or so, I came to the first lookout and understand why people told me this hike might spoil me for the rest.

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The leaves are just starting to turn in the mountains – the foliage is at maybe 10-15 per cent, but it was enough to make the hills blush with autumn.

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I’d also heard about the rock scrambles on this hike and had so much fun with them.

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I’m a little braver, a little more confident than I was even a few weeks ago on that steep part near the top of Cascade. Maybe it’s because I’m coming to understand that big things always seem impossible from a distance.

Sometimes, I look up at a rock face and think, “No way!” More than once, I’ve spent time looking for the place where the trail goes around the cliff, only to discover that the cliff was the trail. But when I step right up to it and look more closely, it’s not impossible after all. There’s a tiny ledge for a foot here, a crack to grab onto there, another foothold, a root to grab, and step by step, the impossible wall turns possible.

Writing is like this for me, too. When I start a new book and have to stare down that first blank page, it feels too big to write. But I can write a sentence, a paragraph, a scene, and one by one, they make a story. Somehow, the act of climbing those rocks in the mountains stays with me when I sit down at my computer. I remember that I can do this thing. Not all at once. Just one step at a time until it’s done.

The views crossing over the Brothers to Big Slide were breathtakingly pretty. I’ve overused that phrase on my hikes this fall – and probably used up my share of superlatives for the whole year – but really… Look…

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The last three tenths of a mile to Big Slide were the steepest, but again, the climbs were manageable, taken one step at a time. There’s a ladder on one of the steeper rock slabs now. I climbed this one but skipped the second one (not in the photo), which was in bad shape, in favor of climbing right up the rocks.

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On the summit, I met a couple from Pennsylvania – they were happy to have a moment of cell service because they’d been instructed to text their kids to let them know they made it. A young man from New Jersey arrived next, with his dog, who was afraid to climb the last steep rock at first. (I could relate to that dog!) We all cheered, and soon, the dog came crashing up through some trees, bounding onto the rocks. Tada! I’m here! Then it sat down and looked out at the high peaks like the rest of us. Because how could you not?

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Soon, the other three climbers headed down, and I took a few more minutes on the summit. It’s hard to leave when you have one of the prettiest spots on earth all to yourself for a few minutes. I do a lot of writing-in-my-head while I’m walking – especially on the less exciting, more plodding parts of these hikes. On the way through the col between the Brothers and Big Slide, I figured out the solution to a plot problem I’d been having with my work-in-progress. So I sat for a few minutes on the quiet summit to make sure those ideas didn’t slip away.

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I took the Slide Brook Trail down to make a loop and was so glad. I loved the brook with its millions of little waterfalls.

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Once I reached Johns Brook Lodge, the last three miles back to the Garden on the Phelps trail were quick and easy, if a little bit of a letdown compared to the rest of the hike. But I made good time, did more good thinking, and returned to my car to finish the almost-10-mile loop in six hours fifteen minutes.

 

I think this might have been my favorite hike so far. Something about the perfect weather, the changing leaves, and the fact that it wasn’t supposed to be a hiking day made it shine.

I’ll end this letter the way you ended your replies to your hikers, Grace.

Good Climbing,

~Kate

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The Seventh Wish

My next novel, coming out in June, is one that’s awfully close to my heart. The story opens with a morning of magical ice flowers like the ones I love to see on Lake Champlain and uses that magic to explore something that many families are afraid to talk about with kids – addiction.

I was floored a few years ago when a friend told me that her beautiful, smart, joyful daughter was hooked on heroin. She got help and survived and is thriving now, but I still struggle to understand how it happened. And when I struggle, when something really scares me, I write. The result is my new book for readers in grades 4-8, called THE SEVENTH WISH.

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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 terribly and 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.

Even though this book is funny in places – it’s one that I hope will make you laugh and cry – it may not be a favorite for people who think novels for kids should only be light and happy. But I’ve always believed that the darker places in our world are best explored by shining lights. And I think books are some of the best beacons.

I’m speaking at NCTE this November, on a panel called “Exploring Tough Issues Through Magic and Fantasy in MG and YA Literature,” along with some other great authors who believe that books can spark important, life-saving conversations with kids and families. I’m so hoping this book opens up a lot of those talks at the dinner table and in the classroom. If you’re at NCTE this fall, I hope you’ll come to our panel or stop by the Bloomsbury booth to ask for an ARC.

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46 High Peaks: Algonquin & Iroquois 9.18.15

When I climbed Wright Peak a few weeks ago, I’d looked up at Algonquin in the distance and felt a little intimidated. It was tall. And I was already pretty tuckered out on its lower neighbor. But with a couple more climbs under my belt and a gorgeous, sunny day ahead, I decided to give Algonquin a try and go on to climb Iroquois, too, if I had time.  I met these turkeys along Adirondack Loj Road.

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I parked at the Loj, signed the trail register, and started out at 8:40am. After almost a mile, the trail splits, with one branch going left toward Marcy Dam and the other turning right toward Wright Peak, Algonquin, and Iroquois. If you climb this way, you’ll be following the orange trail markers from this point.

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The trail is moderate at first and easy to follow. After another mile and a half, it gets steeper, and I could hear the pretty cascade known as MacIntyre Falls before I saw it.

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From the falls, it’s about another half mile to another split in the trail.

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Last time I came this way, I turned left to ascend the trail up Wright Peak, but this time I took the path just to the right, heading up Algonquin. It’s a steep mile to Algonquin’s summit from here, including a slide steeper than any I’d climbed so far.

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Here’s another shot looking up the slide. I was really hoping it would be nice and dry, since it hadn’t rained in days, but parts were still wet and a little slimy.

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Here’s a view looking back from about halfway up the slide…

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I went up a few more rock scrambles after the slide – these were more fun than scary – and then the trail leaves the trees and continues over a rocky alpine zone.

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From here, I followed the rock cairns over a wandering path to the summit.

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Algonquin’s summit is stunning, with views in every direction, including over the two Boundary Peaks toward Iroquois, where I was headed next.

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The trail to Iroquois follows the rock cairns and yellow hash marks down Algonquin to keep hikers off the fragile alpine plants. It’s pretty special to be able to hike in a place like this.

 

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It’s just under half a mile down Algonquin to the place where the trail splits, and it’s easy to get confused here.

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The marked trail goes left and descends toward Lake Colden. But if you’re climbing Iroquois, you actually need to go straight here, down a very narrow, snarly, easy-to-miss path through the trees. Someone tried to make that clear with a Sharpie, but it’s scratched out and easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.

 

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The Iroquois herd path is narrow – less than a foot wide in places, so if you pass another hiker, you’ll need to make friends quickly.

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The herd path crosses a pretty little alpine bog over a mini-boardwalk. I’m always thankful for the work that’s been done on these trails to let me pass through places like this without having a negative impact.

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The route to Iroquois had a couple of rock scrambles that I found challenging. (Twice, I spent a few minutes trying to figure where the trail went around the cliff before I realized that the cliff was the trail.)  The photo below shows one of those spots, from a distance. Once you get right up to the rocks and start climbing, though, you can see that there are, in fact, plenty of good places to put your hands and feet along the way.

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Iroquois’s summit is just as pretty as Algonquin’s but with fewer people to take photos, so I snapped a summit selfie with the rock cairn that marks the highest point. This is Adirondack High Peak #8 for me!

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I had the mountain to myself for about twenty minutes while I had lunch and explored a bit. Again, there are views in every direction, including a great look at Mount Colden with its dramatic slides and New York’s tallest peak, Mount Marcy, over its shoulder.

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There’s also a nice view looking back at Algonquin, which reminded me that I’d have to climb it again to return to my car.

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The hike back took about 50 minutes, and after a short trail mix break, I started climbing down Algonquin. The hike down took longer than I might have, because I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Here’s a look at Avalanche Lake and the Flowed Lands from Algonquin.

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This photo shows rocky Wright Peak, which I climbed a few weeks ago. It felt so much taller then!

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Here’s a look at Heart Lake, and behind it is Mount Jo, which also felt really tall when I climbed it for the first time. I couldn’t believe how tiny it looked from Algonquin.

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It was tough to say goodbye to these views and go back into the trees, but the promise of cold water at the falls made it easier. I hiked down, took a quick break to filter water, and made it back to the Adirondack Loj at 4:25 – just about 7 hours and 45 minutes after I started out. The trip up Algonquin & Iroquois  ended up being about 11 miles RT – not my longest Adirondack hike to date but the toughest and the prettiest, for sure.

 

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46 High Peaks: Phelps and Tabletop 9.11.15

I took advantage of a beautiful September Friday to hike my fifth and sixth Adirondack High Peaks, Phelps and Tabletop.I signed in at the Adirondack Loj trailhead at 8:25am and started the hike with an easy and pretty 2.1 mile walk through the woods to Marcy Dam.

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After Marcy Dam, the trail to Phelps follows the Van Hoevenberg Trail for a while. I knew I’d turn that way, but I always like to stop and read the signs anyway. It’s fun to think about where the next adventure might lead. I’ve heard that Avalanche Lake is stunning, so I have my eye on that for a future fall hike.

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It’s just over a mile from Marcy Dam to the trail that starts up Phelps Mountain, and the hike is a beautiful one that meanders along Phelps Brook much of the way. Then the climbing begins for the last mile up Phelps.

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This climb was steep, but it didn’t feel as difficult to me as the first mile up Esther Mountain, where the loose, rocky trail goes pretty much straight up Marble Mountain for the first mile. On Phelps, I had the summit all to myself for about twenty minutes – a rare gift in the high peaks in the popular fall hiking season.

 

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After a short break, I headed back down. Pretty soon, the sound of the brook let me know I was almost back at the Van Hoevenberg Trail. There’s a really cool tree near the Phelps junction.

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Since I’d made pretty good time, I decided to tackle Tabletop as well. This is an unmarked, unmaintained herd path, and many of the older books and trip reports make a point of saying that there’s no sign – just a marker for a ski trail, so I ended up turning off the Van Hoevenberg Trail before I should have, onto a ski trail. It got me to the summit eventually, but with more mud & blood than the people who’d gone on the real herd path. If you’re climbing Tabletop, you should actually turn right at this junction in the trail, instead of going straight under that birch tree onto the ski trail that leads off to the left.

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If you turn left, the “trail” is not much of a trail, though it does eventually meet up with the herd path.

 

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The photo below shows where I should have turned after staying on the VH trail a bit longer. As you can see, there is a sign that shows where to turn onto the herd path now.

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The real herd path, which I met up with eventually, is much cleaner than the ski trail, though it’s still muddy and full of gnarly roots. The summit of Tabletop is wooded, but there’s a marker and a bit of a view through the trees.

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After I made my way down Tabletop, I took a quick side trip to Indian Falls to filter some water and enjoy the view of the MacIntyre Range.

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I took one last break to admire the view from Marcy Dam and made it back to the Loj at 4pm, just about 7.5 hours after I’d started out. The hike ended up being about 14 miles RT, but much of that was over fairly level ground, getting out to the two peaks. All in all, another beautiful September day in the Adirondacks!

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46 High Peaks: Esther Mountain 9.7.15

I tackled my first trailless Adirondack High Peak today! Esther Mountain is one that I’ve seen on the drive to Lake Placid hundreds of times, but somehow, I never paid it much attention with its busier neighbor, Whiteface, right there to the left.

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One thing I’ve learned from reading guide books & others’ trip reports is that the “trailless” peaks aren’t just vast wilderness. The herd path up Esther Mountain looked a whole lot like a trail to me – just without the signs and trail markers, so it was more important than usual to pay attention and carry a map and compass. The only time I had difficulty with this trail was at the very beginning, in part because my guide book made such a point to talk about how the trailhead isn’t marked – not at all. So when I got to the parking area near the Atmospheric Research Center in Wilmington and found this, I was perplexed.

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There’s a simple sign there now, pointing hikers in the right direction, down the trail into the woods. After a short hike, that trail opens up to a dirt road that my book hadn’t mentioned. photo 1 (42)

The right path leads back up to the research building, so I went left and found another left turn into the woods, flagged with an orange marker. I could see down the trail that additional blue markers identified it as a snowmobile path. I thought maybe this was another new “unmarked trail” development – like the sign on the bench – so I turned down this snowmobile path and hiked about half a mile before I figured out it was wrong and turned back.  If you are climbing Esther Mountain, you should not go this way. 🙂

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Instead, you’ll want to continue along the dirt road. This goes to the base of Marble Mountain, which was a ski area a long time ago, before the days of Whiteface Mountain and ORDA. Here’s an interesting article about that history. 

If you’re going the right way, you’ll see this:

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And then this:

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The right path is blocked off. The left path goes back to Wilmington. The middle path is the one that you want. It goes straight up Marble Mountain. My book described it as a long and steep. That part was right.

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This goes on for almost a mile, and it was my least favorite mile of the hike, both on the way up and on the way down (which makes it my least favorite two miles, I suppose). The rocks are loose and gravelly, so you have to be careful with your footing. I’d only brought one of my trekking poles and wished I’d brought them both.

At the end of this climb, the top of Marble Mountain has a lookout area with what I thought were the best views of the entire hike.

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After this lookout, the trail climbs just a little more before there’s a sign…

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…and then another fairly long and steep-but-not-super-steep climb. As a relative beginner in the High Peaks, I found this mountain to be kind of challenging because of the loose gravel, but there were no real rock scrambles or climbs like the walls on Wright, which I did last week. Esther just felt long sometimes. But even though there weren’t waterfalls or stream crossings to break it up, there were cool red mushrooms and friendly toads.

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Eventually, the trail climbs up to a junction where one path goes straight to continue on to the Whiteface summit and the other turns right to climb Esther Mountain. This junction is marked with a big heap of rocks in the middle of the trail, so it’s pretty hard to miss. There’s a sign now, too.

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For an unmarked, unmaintained trail, this was fairly easy to follow.

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The trail gets narrow at times, which means some scratchy, grabby tree branches may snatch your reading glasses off your head if you tend to wear them as a permanent accessory like I do. But it’s a pretty walk through interesting woods that change as you climb and then descend into a boggy area between Lookout Mountain and Esther.

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The opening in this tiny shed is less than two feet tall. Shelter for gnomes or fairies? Actually, I think it may have been an old emergency toboggan shed for mountain rescues.

 

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Esther Mountain has a small false summit with a view that’s a little better than the glimpse of Whiteface you see at the real summit. It’s cloudy, but you get the idea…

 

 

 

 

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After a few quick photos, I continued on to the summit, which I had been warned would be anticlimactic. It was.

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There were no sweeping views like I enjoyed on Wright and Cascade, but there’s a plaque here with a great story about how this mountain got its name.

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Actually, Esther McComb is believed to have made the first recorded ascent of this peak not “for the sheer joy of climbing” but kind of by accident. As the story goes, she was trying to climb nearby Whiteface, got lost, and ended up on this other mountain instead. I wish the plaque included this part of the story. I chose this mountain today because of Esther, and I especially love the story of her mistake. As a writer, I can relate to climbing and climbing in one direction, only to find myself somewhere else at the end of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

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