Vermont DCF Conference

My Friday started early, with a rocky, bumpy ferry ride to Vermont for the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Conference.  I don’t think I’ve ever been on the lake when it was this rough.

This is my windshield.  There was no fog & It was not raining…just a sheet of lake water coming over the front of the boat.

Truth be told, it was kind of fun and exciting.  Part of me wanted to get out of the car, cling to a railing and shout, "Batten down the hatches!!"
But I’m not sure they have hatches on the ferry and I would have gotten my conference clothes all wet, so I refrained.

The conference was held at the Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont.  This has to be one of the prettiest views I’ve ever had from a workshop room.

I loved visiting with the teachers & librarians in my workshop, and one of them made me laugh at the end, when I shared the news that the nice folks at Bloomsbury/Walker had sent along ARCs of my new book, The Brilliant Fall of  Gianna Z, for everyone who attended my presentation.

"Oh!"  she said.  "It’s just like Oprah!"

Not quite…but there was a celebrity on hand, of near-Oprah status.

Caldecott Medalist David Macauley, who gave the morning keynote address, was gracious enough to sign books for my kids.

We had David’s new book, The Way We Work, out at the Messner house just last night.  We were talking about the swine flu, and my son was trying to explain to my daughter how a virus isn’t really a living thing.  "Hold on," I said…and sure enough, we found a fantastic illustration of an influenza virus, along with a great explanation of why it needs a host cell to reproduce. 

Vermont’s DCF Committee did a phenomenal job with this conference, and it was lovely to spend the whole day talking about books with people who love them so much.  Thanks, Vermont teachers & librarians, for a terrific day!

An Author Visit in Vermont

It’s been a long day, but I’ve promised some new friends that I’d post blog photos tonight, so here are some highlights of my author visit to Lothrop Elementary School in Pittsford, Vermont.

A town hall full of 4th, 5th, and 6th graders greeted me as soon as I arrived.  We talked about Spitfire and the American Revolution on Lake Champlain.  I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a room of kids with more questions!  Good ones, too – those Lothrop readers are astute.

After a quick break, I met up with the 5th graders again in their classroom for a second presentation: Encounters of 1609.  I read from my new historical novel, Champlain and the Silent One, and we talked about the Champlain Valley as it existed 400 years ago, when French and Native Peoples were meeting one another and encountering one another’s cultures for the first time. 

After lunch, I spent some more time with the 6th graders for my historical fiction writing workshop. The kids tried out 18th century games, foods, and tools and brainstormed sensory details about their experiences that they’ll use in writing their own stories later on. After spending the afternoon with these kids, I can assure you that the future of historical fiction is in very good  hands.

Before I hit the road, I stopped by one last classroom — this one in the home of a fifth grader whose health concerns have prevented him from attending school lately.  Jamee had read Spitfire with his mom and was waiting with it in his lap when I arrived.  After we talked about the Revolutionary War and the fur trade in New France, we took time out for a photo with our favorite historical hats — one that I promised Jamee I’d post tonight.

Thanks, Jamee and family, and everyone at Lothrop Elementary, for a fantastic day of reading, writing, history, and learning!

best tracker

The mother of all book-signings!

Meet  43 children’s authors & illustrators!

Kindling Words Caravan
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Phoenix Books
Essex, VT

I’ll be there signing copies of Spitfire, and I’m bursting at the seams over the company I’ll be keeping. 
Here are some hints…

Burlington Book Festival

I know it’s early, but I want to let everyone know about the Burlington Book Festival coming up next month.  Burlington, VT hosts an incredible book festival each fall, just as the leaves are changing color in New England.  If you live in the Northeast (or even if you don’t but you really, really like autumn leaves and books), it’s worth the trip.  Most of the events are being held at Waterfront Theater on the shores of Lake Champlain.

I’ll be presenting  on Sunday, September 16th at the Children’s Literature Festival.  Here’s my blurb from the festival website:

11:00 AM-12:00 PM


Join Kate Messner for a trip back in time to the American Revolution on Lake Champlain. Kate will read from her middle grade historical novel Spitfire, set during the Battle of Valcour Island in 1776, sign books and present an interactive multimedia slide show about the real 12-year-old who fought in the battle. Kids will be invited to taste the food and try on the clothes of an 18th century sailor, handle artifact replicas and design their own powder horns to take home.

Waterfront Theatre Black Box, 3rd Floor

Right after my presentation, Linda Urban (

) will read from A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT and talk about the journey of writing and publishing a children’s book.  (Even though Linda says it will make her nervous, my kids and I are definitely going to be in the audience!)

Also on tap for the Sunday kids’ day… Tracey Campbell Pearson, James Kochalka, Anna Dewdney, Harry Bliss, Jim Arnosky, Barbara Seuling, Marie-Louise Gay, Barbara Lehman, and Warren Kimble.

And the rest of the Book Festival is nothing to scoff at either, with writers like Chris Bohjalian, Howard Frank Mosher, Russell Banks, and Joyce Carol Oates speaking on Saturday, September 15th.  The full schedule is posted at the festival website now. If you’re in the area that weekend, please stop by the Children’s Literature Festival and say hello! 

Robert Frost Challenge

I’m rereading great bouquets of Robert Frost poems now for a project I’m working on, and I’m rediscovering how much I love his work.  So many little gems embedded in simple walks in the woods.  Can any Frost fans out there identify which poems these are from?  (I’ll post answers next week.)

  1. Earth’s the right place for love.
  2. Good fences make good neighbors.
  3. We have ideas yet that we haven’t tried.
  4. So all who hide too well away must speak and tell us where they are.
  5. ‘Men work together,’ I told him from the heart, ‘Whether they work together or apart.’
  6. ‘Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.’
  7. It’s a nice way to live, just taking what Nature is willing to give.

If you live in New England, check out the  Robert Frost Trail in Ripton, VT some day.  It’s a beautiful walk through woods and meadows, short enough for small kids.  You can stop along the way to read Frost verses that correspond to the landscape.  We stopped to catch frogs, too, on a trip when my son was little. The website says it will be closed for work for a few weeks in June but will be open in time for blueberry picking season.