Skype with an Author on World Read Aloud Day 2019!

Hi there – and welcome to the World Read Aloud Day author Skype volunteer list for 2019!

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

The Seventh Wish

Image of Ranger in Time: D-Day: Battle on the Beach

Also this one…which comes out three days before World Read Aloud Day, on January 29th!

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.


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 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

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 1st. 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 personal lives, just like you, so not all authors will be available at all times. It may take a few tries before you find someone whose books and schedule fit with yours. If I learn that someone’s schedule for the day is full, I’ll put a line through their name – that means the author’s schedule is full, and no more visits are available.  (Authors, please send an email to me know when you’re all booked up! And please note that due to travel and other obligations, it may take up to a week for me to update.)

World Read Aloud Day – Skyping Author Volunteers for February 1,2019

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

Kate Messner



9-11am EST


Jarrett Lerner

Simon & Schuster/Aladdin

K-2 and 3-5

8 am to 8 pm EST



Ann Braden

Sky Pony Press


8:30am – 2:15pm EST



Mary Sullivan

Houghton Mifflin


9:00 to 4:00 cst



Alyson Gerber



9am-4pm EST



Saadia Faruqi



9 am to 2 pm CST



Jesse Klausmeier



10:00a – 10:00p CST



Stacy McAnulty

Random House Children’s Books

K-2, 3-5, 6-8

9am – 3pm (EST)



Miranda Paul

Penguin Random House, Neal Porter Books, Lerner Publishing Group


9 am – 2 pm Central Time Zone



Daphne Kalmar

Feiwel and Friends, Macmillan


Any time (eastern standard time)




Robin Newman

Creston Books and Sky Pony Press


10 am – 1 pm EST.



Dee Garretson

Macmillan, HarperCollins, Month9


8:00 – 3:00 Eastern time



Rebecca Donnelly



9:30-2:00 EST

Carmella Van Vleet

Holiday House, Charlesbridge, Nomad Press

K-2 & 3-5

9:00 am – 3:00 pm EST



Erin Teagan

American Girl and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

3-5, 6-8

8am – 5pm EST



Ginger Johnson


3-5, 6-8

12-3 EST


Larissa Theule

Lender, Bloomsbury, Abrams


9:30-2:00 West Coast


Rebecca Rupp

Candlewick; Random House

K-2, 3-5, 6-8

8 AM – 3 PM EST


Lori Richmond

Scholastic, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and more

K-2 or 3-5

10-2 EST


Jenna Grodzicki

Clear Fork Publishing, Millbrook Press

K-2, 3-5

9:30am – 2:00pm (EST)


Kevin Sylvester

Scholastic, Simon and Schuster


8am-10pm ET


Jodi Kendall

HarperCollins Children’s Books


9-11am EST


Sarah Sullivan

Candlewick Press

K-2, 3-5, 6-8

8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Eastern time


Jennifer Swanson

National Geographic Kids

K-2, 3-5

Jan 30th 9am EST-2pm EST, or the week afterwards


Laurie Morrison

Abrams (Amulet)


9:00am-12:00pm EST


Bethany Hegedus

Atheneum/S&S Balzer+Bray/HC




Abby Cooper


3-5, 6-8

12-4 PM Central


Constance Lombardo


3-5th grade

10 – 4 EST


Nancy Castaldo

Houghton Mifflin, Nat Geo, Random House

3-5, 6-8, 9-12

9 am EST to 5 pm EST


Phil Bildner

FSG, Chronicle, Candlewick

3-5, 6-8

8 AM – 11 AM



Dana Alison Levy

Delacorte Press/PRH

3-5, 6-8

8:00 am-2:00 pm EST


Beth Ferry

Putnam, Scholastic, etc

K-2, 3-5

9:30-2 p.m. EST


Debbie Ridpath Ohi

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers


1-3 pm EST


Jenn Bishop

Alfred A. Knopf / Penguin Random House

3-5, 6-8

10 AM – 5 PM EST


Nancy Churnin

Albert Whitman & Company; Creston Books




Carole Estby Dagg

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen

3-5 or 6th

After 11 am Eastern (8 am western) I’m on west coast


Jody Jensen Shaffer

Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan

K-2 and 3-5

10am-2pm CST


Kristin L. Gray

Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books


Morning, Central Time


Sarah Aronson

Scholastic and Beach Lane Books

3-5: K-2

7:00am-6:00pm Central Time



Laya Steinberg

Barefoot Books; Dawn Publications; KarBen Books


East coast time 9am-2pm


Jennifer Roy

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

6-8 or 3-5

Any (I am EST)


Kate Feiffer

Simon & Schuster


east coast flexible


Lynn Plourde

Down East Books & Nancy Paulsen/Penguin

Gr. K-3 (focus “Baby Bear’s NOT Hibernating” Gr. 4-6 (focus “Maxi’s Secrets”)

8:30 am-3 pm (Eastern Time zone)


Rosanne Parry

Random House

3-5 and 6-8

9am to 3pm PST Oregon


Marcie Colleen

Macmillan, HarperCollins, Scholastic

K-2, 3-5, 6-8

9am PCT to 4pm PCT


Cate Berry

Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins




Katey Howes

Carolrhoda, Sterling, Ripple Grove Press

K-2, 3-4

On the hour and half hour, 9-2 EST


Kathleen Benner Duble



any time that day but 11-12


Laurie Ann Thompson

Simon Pulse, Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins

Any and all

10am-4pm Pacific



Annie Silvestro

Doubleday, Sterling, HarperCollins


9am – 2pm EST


Tricia Springstubb

Candlewick; HarperCollins

K-2, 3-5

during the school day, all time zones


Lindsey Leavitt

Random House, Harper Collins

K-2, 3-5, 6-8

9 am MST-2pm MST


Kim Tomsic

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Books and Chronicle Books


10-3 (MST)


Lindsay Leslie

Page Street Kids


8:30 a.m.- 2 p.m.CST


Laura Sassi

Sterling Children’s Books and Zonderkidz

K -2 and preschool

9 – 2pm EST

Contact through website “contact” tab


Amanda Hosch

Capstone/ Capstone for Young Readers


9 am to 1 pm PT


Michele Weber Hurwitz

Random House & Simon & Schuster


9 am to 3 pm central time


Melissa Gijsbers

Stone Table Books


Melbourne time (AEDST) – I think we are still on daylight savings then


laurenne sala

harper collins & candlewick


9-5 PSt


Tamara Bundy

Nancy Paulson/Penguin

Grades 3- 8

10 a.m. EAstern – 4 p.m


Ishta Mercurio

Fitzhenry & Whiteside

K-2 and 3-5

All Times EST: half hour slots all day from 9-4


Carol Gordon Ekster

Clavis Publishing, Pauline Books and Media

k-2, 3-5

Eastern Standard time – after 12:00 noon


Carter Higgins

Chronicle Books


6:00-8:00 PST, 10:00 – 12:00 PST


Erin Soderberg Downing

Random House/Simon & Schuster/Bloomsbury

K-2, 3-5, 6-8

9-3 CST


Kate Narita

Farrar Straus Giroux MacMillan


Available after 3 EST


Jeanette Bradley

Roaring Brook


9-3 Eastern


Tina Cho

Little Bee Books–Bonnier Publishers

6-8 OR 9-12

9-10am CST or EST/which in South Korea for me is late night Friday


Gail Nall

Aladdin/Simon & Schuster


9 am-3 pm Eastern


Laura Gehl

Albert Whitman (for most recent book)


10:00-2:30 EST



Dianne White

Beach Lane/S&S; HMH


7am to 2 pm MST


Hannah Holt



9am-noon (Pacific Time)


Monique Fields



11 a.m. – 1 p.m. (central time zone)


Laura Renauld

Beaming Books


9-3 EST


Leslie Bulion

Peachtree, Charlesbridge


EST 10am-8pm


Kim Chaffee

Page Street Kids


9am – 11am, 12:30-2:30 Eastern Time


Stephanie Ledyard

Neal Porter Books/Roaring Brook Press


School day any time zone


Laura Murray

GP Putnam’s Sons


8:30- 2:45 EST


Kimberly Norman

Sterling, Scholastic, Penguin/RH

K-2, 3-5

10am-4pm eastern


Susan Ross

Holiday House

3-5, 6-8



Stel Pavlou


3-5, 6-8

11am-5pm EST


Elly Swartz

FSG, Scholastic


10-2 EST


Wendy McLeod MacKnight

Greenwillow Books


8 to 3 EST


Karina Yan Glaser



8am EST -1:30pm EST


Abigail Rayner

NorthSouth Books


9.30am-12.30pm EST website


Lauren Magaziner



9 am to 6 pm EST


Janet Sumner Johnson

Capstone Young Readers


9 AM – 2:00 PM MST


Alex Flinn


6-8, 9-12



Jennifer Hansen Rolli

Penguin Random House, Simon Schuster


9-3 EST


Jennifer Camiccia


3-5 and 6-8

10-2 PST Tuesday’s- Friday


Kathleen Burkinshaw

Sky Pony Press


10am EST – 3pm EST


Dana Middleton

Feiwel & Friends

3-5th grades

7am-3pm PT


Kayla Cagan

Chronicle Books

8, 9-12



Kathy Ellen Davis


K-2 and 3-5

7a.m. to 1. p.m. PST


Lisa Katzenberger



9-3 Central


Linda Vigen Phillips


6-8 and/or 9-12



Dee Romito

Aladdin/S&S and Little Bee Books

K-2, 3-5, 6-8 (if only one, 3-5)

8:30-1:30 EST


Lindsey Becker

Little Brown


Any US


Christina Farley

Scholastic Press

3-5, 6-8

9am-2:30pm EST



Christina Uss

Margaret Ferguson Books/Holiday House


9 am – 2 pm EST


Nina Crews



9:30 – 11:30am EST


Jennifer Chambliss Bertman



10:30-11:30 MST



Samantha M Clark

Paula Wiseman Books/Simon & Schuster


9-2 Central


Kim Ventrella



7:00am-5pm CST


Ann Rose

Entangled Teen


9am(CST) – 3pm(CST)


Josephine Cameron

Macmillan, FSG (debut release April 2, 2019)


8:30am -12:00pm EST


Mike Grosso

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Clarion Books)

3-5, 6-8

8am-3pm CST


Lee Gjertsen Malone


3-5, 6-8

8am ET to 4pm ET


Marcy Campbell



9:30 to 2:30 eastern


Deborah Bruss



10 AM to 2:30 PM. EST


Jen Petro-Roy

Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends


12:15-2:15 EST


Sarah Albee

Random House, HarperCollins, National Geographic

3-5, 6 – 8

9:30 am – 1 pm EST


Monica Tesler

Simon & Schuster

3-5, 6-8

9-6 EST


Melissa Sarno

Knopf Books for Young Readers


10:30am-12:30pm EST


Katy Farber

Green Writers Press

K-2, 3-5



Emma Wunsch



Eastern Time 9:00 am -2:00 pm |


Vivian Kirkfield

Holiday House/Pomegranate/Creston/HMH/Little Bee Books


10am to 11pm EST


Nanci Turner Steveson

HarperCollins Children’s

3-5 6-8

Mountain Time 7:30am to 1:30pm


Jessie Oliveros

Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

K-2, 3-5

Morning (9-12) central time zone


Margaret Greanias

Running Press Kids




Beth Anderson

Simon & Schuster

K-2, 3-5, (a bit long for K)

9-4 MT


Bonny Becker



10 am and 11am, Pacific Standard Time


Julie Abery

The Creative Company

3-5, 6-8

09.00 AM – 12.00 Am EDT


Rachel Noble

Enchanted Lion

3 to 8

I live near Brisbane australia


K. A. Reynolds



EST 10-2pm


Anne Marie Pace



9-12 Eastern


Augusta Scattergood

Scholastic Press


10-3 EST


Loree Griffin Burns

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Henry Holt, Millbrook Press


9am until 4pm EST


Jennifer Elvgren



Eastern 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Jessie Janowitz


3-5, 6-8

10:30-1:30 EST


Patricia Valdez

Random House / Knopf

K-2 (3-4 as well)

10 am ET -12 pm ET; 1 pm ET – 3 pm ET


Stef Wade


K-2, 3-5

9-10 am CST, 12-2:30 pm CST


Melissa Roske



8am-4pm EST


Jenn Bailey



7 a.m. to 5 p.m. CST


Diane Magras

Kathy Dawson Books/Penguin Young Readers

3-5 and 6-8

9am-12 EST


Rob Vlock

Simon & Schuster/Aladdin


9-5 Eastern time


Yvonne Ventresca

Sky Pony Press


12:30, 1, 1:30 EST


Amanda Rawson Hil

Boyds Mills Press

3-5, 6-8

7 am – 12 pm PST


Mike Hays

Writer’s Digest Books

6-8 or 9-12

9:00-3:00 (Central)


Elaine Vickers



10-1 and 2-5 pm MST


Deborah Freedman



TUESDAY, JANUARY 29, 9:00 am – 4:30 pm Eastern


Gina Perry

Tundra (Penguin Random House Canada), little bee books


8:30am-2:30pm EST


Dianne K. Salerni



10 am to 4 pm EST


Camille Andros

Abrams, HMH/Clarion, Macmillan

K-2, 3-5

9:00-2:00 EST


e.E. Charlton-Trujillo

Candlewick Press

6-8, 9-12

9:00 – 1 p.m. Pacific


Shawn K Stout



10-3 ET


Amy Makechnie

Simon and Schuster


EST – kindof depends on the day so please get in touch and I can work with a lot!


Cynthia Levinson

Peachtree, Simon & Schuster

3-5, 6-8, 9-12

9-12 and 1-3 CST


Ariel Bernstein

Simon & Schuster, Penguin/Random House




Lauren Abbey Greenberg

Running Press Kids


9am – 2pm EST


Corabel Shofner





Dawn Prochovnic

Graphic Arts Books and Abdo Publishing Group

K-2 and 3-5

9 am to Noon Pacific Time


Sarah Jane Marsh


3-5, 6-8



Mikela Prevost



9am-1:30pm MT


Jonathan Rosen

Sky Pony Press

3-5 or 6-8

10-1 EST


Dev Petty

Random House/Doubleday and LB & Co


After 9am PST, before 2pm PST


Beth McMullen


3-5, 6-8

9-2 PST


Corabel Shofner





Lisa Schmid

North Star Editions/Jolly Fish Press




suzanne kaufman

random house




Irene Latham

Penguin Random House


8 – 3 CST


Robin Yardi

Lerner Publishing, Arbordale Publishing

K-2, 3-5

6:00 AM Pacific – 2:30 PM Pacific

robinyardi (at) mac (dot) com


Chana Stiefel

NatGeoKids, Feiwel & Friends, HMH

All of the above

Morning (Eastern)


Dusti Bowling

Sterling Children’s Books

3-5, 6-8

9:00-3:00 MST


Gail D. Villanueva

Scholastic Press


Morning EST if possible please


Fran Wilde



10am-4pm EST


Lori Degman

Sterling Publishing


8:00am – 5:00pm CST


Jennie K. Brown

Tantrum Books Imprint of Month9Books


10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. EST


Beth Vrabel

Running Press


8 am to 3 pm cst



Tina Powell

Peanut Butter Press & BWL Publishing


9 am to 3 pm ET


Claudia Guadalupe Martinez

Cinco Puntos Press, Charlesbridge, Lee and Low


9-12 central


Lindsay Moore

Greenwillow Books


9 AM, 10 AM, 11 AM EST


S. K. Ali

Simon & Schuster


8 am to 3 pm EST


Michelle Cusolito


K-2 and 3-5

9am EASTERN to 4pm EASTERN (with periodic breaks)


Sue Fliess

Albert Whitman, Running Press Kids, Sky Pony Press


9am – 2pm EST


Sarah Grace Tuttle

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, The Creative Company

K-2, 3-5

EST 11 AM – 3 PM


J. Anderson Coats

Harcourt Children’s, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Candlewick (forthcoming)

3-5, 6-8, 9-12

9:00 am – 3:00 pm PST


Christian McKay Heidicker

Holt Macmillan and Simon & Schuster




Linda Joy Singleton

Albert Whitman and Little Bee

3-5 (can do other ages)

In Pacific Tie Zone – flexible on time


Barbara Lowell

Penguin Young Readers


CST any time during the school day in any time zone


Krista Van Dolzer

Putnam, Sourcebooks, Capstone, Bloomsbury

3-5, 6-8

10a-noon MT, 1p-3p MT


Danielle Davis



10am – 4pm PST


Elly MacKay

Tundra, Running Press, HMH, Owlkids, Orca

K-2 or 3-5

9-3 EST


Samantha Cotterill

Little brown books, Simon and Schuster , Harper Collins

K-2, 3-5, 6-8

Between 9:30-1pm EST


Sandy Stark-McGinnis


9-12 Pacific Time–I am a teacher, so I only could a talk during my lunch (12:00-12:45).


Lori Goldstein





Jane Kurtz

Beach Lane


8-12 Pacific


Lauren Eldridge

Little Brown; Viking

K-2; 3-5

8:15am-2pm CST


Rebecca J. Gomez

Penguin, S&S


9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. (Central)


Veronica Bartles

Balzer + Bray (Harper Collins)

K-2, 3-5

7am-3pm eastern time


Buffy Silverman

Lerner Publications

K-2 or 3-5

10:30-12:00, T-Th


Elana K Arnold

Harper Collins


8-9:30 am pacific time


Fran Manushkin



12:00 noon-2:00 EST


Keely Hutton

FSG Macmillan




Sarah Darer Littman

Scholastic, S & S

3-5, 6-8, 9-12

EST 8am-12pm 1pm-6pm


Angela DiTerlizzi

Simon and Schuster


10:00am -1:00pm EST


Michael Salinger and Sara Holbrook

Scholastic, Boyd’s Mills, Red Giant

K-12 just give us a heads up

9am-12pm EST


Cynthia Platt

Amicus Ink


8:30 a.m. – 1:30 a.m. ET


Jennifer Thermes

Abrams Books for Young Readers

K-2, 3-5

10am-3pm EST. *Please note, I will be unavailable for WRAD on Feb 1, but would love to skype with your class on Wednesday, Feb. 6th!


Jeri Watts


K-2; 3-5

9-3 Eastern time zone

Skype in the classroom


Terri Farley

HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin, Simon &Schuster


Any (i am in Pacific)


Hillary Homzie

Charlesbridge, Simon & Schuster, Sky Pony

k-2, 3-5, 6-8

Anytime from 7:30 a.m. PST through 2:00 p.m.PST


Patricia Bailey

Albert Whitman and Company

3-5, 6-8

9:00-3:00 Pacific


Juana Martinez-Neal
Candlewick Press, Penguin Random House
9am — 3pm MST


Elizabeth Bender



10 -12 EST and 1-3 EST


Melanie Sumrow

Yellow Jacket/little bee books


9:00am-11:00am CST


Christy Mihaly

Holiday House (and Lerner)


9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern


Jean Alicia Elster

Wayne State University Press

3-5, 6-8

9a – 2p Eastern


Susan Ross

Holiday House

3-5, 6-8



Rebecca E. Hirsch


K-2, 3-5, 6-8

1 to 3:30 pm Eastern time


Betsy Devany

Henry Holt and Co.


10 -5 EST


Mae Respicio

Random House

3-5, 6-8



Jackie Yeager

Amberjack Publishing


10:00am- 3:00pm EST


Marie Miranda Cruz

Starscape, Tom Doherty Associates


6-8 am PST


Shauna LaVoy Reynolds

Dial / Penguin

K-2 and/or 3-5

I’m in central time and available between 9-11 AM, 12-2 PM, and 4-6 PM


Christina Collins

Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Ages 8 and up

10:00 am – 12:15 pm EST


Victoria piontek



10:00 PST-2:00 PST


Brigit Young

Macmillan (Roaring Brook)


9:30am – 1:00pm EST


Melissa Stoller

Clear Fork Publishing

K-2 and 3rd grade

9-4 EST


Rebecca Caprara

Carolrhoda Books/Lerner

3-5 & 6-8

9:30am-12:30pm EST


Christina June


6-8 or 9-12

9-11:30 EST, 1-3:30 EST


Sue Lowell Gallion

Beach Lane Books/Simon & Schuster, Sleeping Bear Books


9-11 and 1-3 Central Time Zone




3-5, 6-8

11-1PM EST



Kim Tomsic

Chronicle and Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

K-2 or 3-5 or 6-8

Mountain Time


A. B. Greenfield

Holiday House


9:00-10:30 EST


Merrill Wyatt

JIMMY Patterson Publishing


Between 10:45 and 12:45 or after 3:30 EST


Jennifer Kam


6-8 or 9-12

8AM-1:30PM EST


Laura Shovan

Random House Children’s Books

3-5 and 6-8

9-4 EST


Stephanie Robinson

Random House/Delacorte Press


8:30-3:30 EST


Diane Zahler

HarperCollins, Capstone, Boyds Mills


12-3 EST


Wendy McLeod MacKnight

Greenwillow Books


any time between 9 a.m. to 5 pm AST


Joy McCullough

Dutton/Penguin Random House


any time after 8 am PST


Karuna Riazi

Simon and Schuster/Salaam Reads

3-5, 6-8

9 AM – 1 PM, 2:30 PM – 8 PM (all EST)


Brooks Benjamin

Random House Children’s Books

3-5, 6-8

8:00 am – 4:00 pm (EST)


Jill Diamond

Farrar, Straus & Giroux


9:30-3:00 PST


Kris Waldherr





Karen Leggett Abouraya

Lee & Low


Any school hours (I am in Eastern Time Zone)


Mark Maciejewski

Simon & Schuster


8-3 pacific


Mike Mullin

Tanglewood Press


9 – 3 EST


Monica Carnesi

Nancy Paulsen Books


9:00 am – 4:00 pm EST


Molly Idle

Little Brown


9am-1pm AZ time


Bridget Hodder



9:30-3:30 EST


Rebecca Ansari

Walden Pond Press (Harper)


8:30-3:30 CST


Jess Redman



9-12 EST; 1-3 EST


Hallee Adelman

Albert Whitman

K-2 or 3-5

10-2pm est ;


Shauna Holyoak



noon to three EST


Anica Mrose Rissi

S&S, Disney-Hyperion, and HarperTeen

K-2, 3-5, and 9-12 (picture books, chapter books, and YA)

10am to 6pm, Eastern Time


Mara Rockliff

Candlewick, HMH, Chronicle, etc.

K-2, 3-5

9 am – 3 pm ET


Augusta Scattergood

Scholastic Press


10-3 EST


Sarah McGuire



anytime after 1pm EST


Jonathan Rosen

Sky Pony Press


EST 10-2


Judy Lindquist

Florida Historical Society Press





Stefani Deoul

Bywater Books


EST – Flexible


Shelly Becker

Sterling Publishing

Grades K-4

Midday (Eastern)


Jenipher Lyn

Crown / Penguin Random House branch

middle grade / tween age

Eastern, open availability.


Melanie Conklin


3-5, 6-8, 9-12

9am EST to 2pm EST


Emma Otheguy

Lee & Low Books, Bloomsbury, Knopf

3-5, 6-8

8am-6pm EST


Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Skypony Press

3-5, 6-8

EST 1-3 PM


Angela Cerrito

Holiday House


EST Noon – 4PM


Danette Haworth

Bloomsbury Walker


10:00 am-2:00 pm EST


Doreen Spicer-Dannelly

Random House Books for Children




Laurie Wallmark

Sterling Publishing


9-5 ET


Jennifer Brown

Bloomsbury (MG); Little, Brown (YA); Katherine Tegen (YA)

Grades 5-12

9am-2pm CST


E.D. Baker


6-8 & 8-12

10 am EST – 3pm EST


Jacob Sager Weinstein

Random House/Clarion

K-2 (for my picture book) and 6-8 (for my MG novels)



Patricia Sutton

Chicago Review Press


9-noon Central Time


David A. Kelly

Random House Children’s

Grades 2 – 4

10 am – 6 pm (eastern)


Jodi Wheeler-Toppen

National Geographic Kids; Charlesbridge

K-2, 3-5, 6-8

10-2 EST


Mari Mancusi

Disney Hyperion


8:30-3:00 CST


Malayna Evans


MG (5-6_

9a-2p CST


Corey Ann Haydu


3-5, 6-8, 9-12

10 am EST- 4pm EST


Shannon Hitchcock



10:00-2:00 EST


Tracy Marchini

Creative Editions


9am – 5pm EST


Gail Hedrick

Tumblehome Learning


8–12and 1-3 EST


Susan Tan

Roaring Brook

3-5 (But I also frequently skype with K-2, and would be happy to do that too!)

All day EST


Holly Thompson

Random House, Clarion, Henry Holt, Lee&Low


I’m in Japan so between Tokyo time 6 am to 11 pm is fine!


Stacie Ramey



after 1:00 PM EST


Maria Gianferrari

HMH; Roaring Brook; Aladdin; Boyds Mills Press

K-2; 3-5

10 – 12 EST 1-4 EST

contact form


Sheetal Sheth

Bharat Babies


9:30am- 2pm EST


Anna Raff



9 AM to 3 PM EST


Jody Feldman
8:30 am – 4:30 pm CST

Sherry Howard

Clear Fork


11-4 eastern time zone

www.sherryhowardwrites for


Wendy Greenley

Creative Editions


9am-12 EST


Jo Hackl

Random House Children’s Books


8:00-9:00 eastern standard time


Claire Lordon

little bee books/Sterling Children’s


9:30am – 1pm PST


Jennifer Blecher



9am-2pm EST


Anna Staniszewski



1:30-4:30pm Est


Jackie Azúa Kramer

North-South and Clavis


10:00-2:00pm EST


Linda Marshall

Peter Pauper, Scholastic


9:00 – 5:00 EST


Julie Segal Walters

Simon and Schuster

K-2, 3-5

9:00 – 3:00 ET


Jody Feldman



8:30 – 4:00 CST


Darlene Beck Jacobson



9-11AM EST 1-3PM EST


Denis Markell

Delacorte Press


9am-4pm EST


Jane Kelley

Random House Children’s Books, Feiwel and Friends


9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. CTS


Megan Wagner Lloyd

Knopf/Random House

K-2 only

10 AM to 2 PM EST


Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Henry Holt / Christy Ottaviano Books


MST 9:30am – 3:30pm


Evelyn Bookless

Marshall Cavendish

4-5 and 6-8

9am – noon


S.A. Larsen

Leap Books & Ellysian Press

3-5, 6-8, 9-12

8:00 AM – 1:00 AM EST


Justin LaRocca Hansen

Dial Books for Young Readers, Sky Pony Press

K-2, 3-5

8am-3pm EST


April Jones Prince

Scholastic, Macmillan, Houghton Mifflin, Penguin Random House, Abrams


10-2 EST


Annette Bay Pimentel

Nancy Paulsen Books, Charlesbridge, Amicus

K-2, 3-5

Pacific Time Zone 5 AM-3 PM


Susan Lubner

Running Press Kids/Hachette


9am – 3pm eastern


Michell Schaub


k-2, 3-5

8-3 central time


Ella Schwartz

Bloomsbury, National Geographic Kids




Lisa Kahn Schnell


K-2, 3-5

8am-3pm EST, but other times may be possible


Meera Sriram

Penny Candy Books


9am-12 noon PST


Maria Padian

Knopf Young Readers; Algonquin YR

ANY age group. I write YA but read everything!

9 A.M. – 3 P.M.


Tom Hirschfeld

Penguin Random House


1-4 ET


I’ll be updating this list every few weeks until WRAD, so if you check back, you may 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 leave a comment to let me know. If you’re an author or illustrator and 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 (such as those listed here), 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, specialty, 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

#WhyWeWrite: Seven Award-winning Authors Share Their Secrets for the National Day on Writing

We write to share wonder and curiosity, to illuminate universal truths and small moments, to shine light into shadows, and so that our stories can walk quietly beside readers to let them know they aren’t alone. Today, we’d like to share some of our best writing secrets — the ones that keep us going and help transform a draft from good to great.

Martha Brockenbrough, author of The Game of Love and Death and the forthcoming Unpresidented: A Biography of Donald Trump







One thing I see often in the writing of my students (and sometimes my own work) is a scene that could be made stronger with a really strong setting acting as an anchor.

We all know that lots of description can be a snooze for readers, so I’m not encouraging anyone to do that. Most definitely not!  

But …  we should know where we are at the start of every scene, and finding clever ways to establish that will make your writing sing.

Think about how you know where you are. Your senses tell you. Sight often dominates, so here’s a way to find fresh observations. Close your eyes right. What do you hear? What can you smell? Are you sitting or standing or in some way interacting in your environment? How is that affecting your body? Those are questions you can ask yourself about your character and their world, and you can choose the most interesting and useful ones to help your reader slide inside your character’s entire existence—head, body, and experience in that form.

And one more tip: this is sometimes something I do the day after I’ve written a scene, and when I’m trying to warm myself up for new words. I read the previous day’s work and think about how I can create more anchors and more resonance for readers. It’s always a quick way for me to get myself back into the project, and I find so much pleasure in enriching things for readers this way.

Kate Messner, author of Breakout and the Ranger in Time series


I look for small things when I write. Often, the tiniest detail is the best detail when it comes to grounding a scene in a particular time and place or bringing a huge, sweeping moment back to the personal. The tricky thing about this is that the first thing we think of as writers is almost never that perfect, small detail. We have to dig for those.

When we’re imagining a beach by a lake, we get the lapping waves and the calling seagulls right away. But when we go to a lake and listen, we also hear the two dogs barking just up the hill – one with a deep woof and one with a high-pitched yapping. We hear the far-away train and maybe the scrape-clunk-scrape of a kid sorting rocks to find just the right one to skip. These are better details.

We’ve all seen disaster scenes on television, but again, when we imagine this setting, the first details we think of – twisted beams and emergency lights – probably won’t tell the story in the best way. It’s the smaller, more specific details that make it personal – the broken eyeglasses with the red frames, the Snapple rolling down the street from an overturned bagel cart, the firefighter who’s stopped to pet a dog. The first set of details tells us there’s been a disaster; the second set makes us care.

Here’s an exercise you can try in any setting. First, just stay at your desk or wherever you are, and write a quick description of that setting. What do you think you’ll probably see, hear, feel, and smell when you get there? Now, take your notebook and go to the place. Sit down, and for five or ten minutes, just watch and feel and listen, and write down things you notice. Sniff the air, too. Everyplace has smells, and not always the ones we expect. What did you notice that wasn’t on your first list? Those might be the best details of all.

Tracey Baptiste, author of The Jumbies books and Minecraft: The Crash

The most fun thing for me about writing is cutting scenes. Knowing where to cut a scene is hard, and getting just the right ending to it is also tough, but I think about it in two ways,

  1. Have I shown the reader everything they need from this scene? And
  2. Does the ending propel them to the next one?

So the first part always involves some back and forthing. Sometimes you don’t know if you’ve given the reader everything in a scene until you get to the end of the story and realize that you didn’t set up some things earlier that they’re going to need at the end, so you have to go back and fill this into scenes you’ve already written. This is mostly easy enough to figure out once you realize that you don’t have to get the scene perfectly right the first time, and it’s TOTALLY fine to go back and re-do a scene, add or subtract, etc.

What’s more difficult is knowing how to end it in a way that makes the reader want to keep on reading. And for that, I encourage you to watch one of my favorite movies in the whole wide world, The Fifth Element.

This movie cuts scenes with razor-sharp precision and what ends one scene starts the next, and it all feels orderly, but also super exciting.

Anytime I can’t seem to get the end of a scene right, I go watch The Fifth Element to re-learn how to basically throw the reader from one scene to the next. The way the editor or director moves from one scene to the next is merciless, and I apply that strategy to the end of every scene I write. Mostly, it involves finding the connective tissue between the two scenes so that what’s dropped in one is immediately picked up in the other by someone else, in a different way, but it works like gangbusters.

And it’s super fun.

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, author of Two Naomis and Naomis Too 

Revel in what you do well. Enjoy your writing strengths, and use them unashamedly. I think of myself as much better at character development than ‘plotting’/action, and often spend too much time as my own personal contortionist, trying too hard to PLOT THE STORY, feeling inadequate and dim. It is inevitably misery-inducing, and not very good. But when I start with and spend time with what works for me — thinking deeply about character — the story comes, and those things that I think I have to do to PLOT, do come as a more natural extension of my work. So, do you. Enjoy it. Be proud of it–congratulate yourself, even (for just a bit, don’t get all biggety. But if it were me, I *might* have a morsel of cake). And then get to work. Start from your joy, and then challenge yourself. For instance, if you start with character, keep thinking about how the fullness of your character can drive the story. If Naomi Marie is anxious to appear a high achiever and prove herself on this group project, she might take on some tasks without asking her other team members if that’s OK. Maybe she takes on too much, and that affects another activity. Maybe another group member suspects her of sabotage, and engineers revenge. Stuff can happen! If you start with action, with a bit more ‘What if?’, maybe there’s a group of kids working on a project but one has been asked to cheat in order to make a friend look impressive. What kind of character might agree to cheat, and why? How would they go about it? Who in the group might immediately be suspicious, what would they do? and WHY? Would another group member be an accomplice, and (you guessed it) WHY?

Don’t try to be a different type of writer. Start from your strengths, and let them nourish your challenges. Let your writing joys feed your struggles.

Anne Ursu, author of Breadcrumbs and the forthcoming The Lost Girl

Like Olugbemisola,  I am not a person who thinks in plot. To me, books are all character–even fantasies with the most elaborate world and coolest creatures are nothing without a compelling, whole character at the center. Fantasy books are journeys–yes, external ones, but more importantly they are internal journeys. Our protagonists begin in a situation where they have some deep-seated need or wound, something so desperate and profound that only a fantasy journey can heal that wound.

Whenever I get stuck on the plot, world, antagonists, or side characters I go back to the protagonist. What is her journey really about? What does she want and what does she really need? How can I design the rest of the story to challenge her and change her so that need is met by the end of the book?

When writers I work with are having trouble with their books I often have then write a journal entry from the protagonist’s point of view from the night before the book starts, where the protagonist confides all of their feelings and desires. Maybe the root of these desires runs far deeper than they know; after all they haven’t had a fantasy journey yet. But out of this exercise, I hope, comes a sense of what the gravity of the book is, the thing every other element should revolve around.

Laurel Snyder, author of Bigger Than a Breadbox and Orphan Island

As a teacher, I probably talk more about “default writing” than anything else.

Of course, we all have defaults, and occasionally, they can be useful. But learning to write well means learning to interrogate our defaults, to question their value in each instance. This means that we all need to know how to identify our defaults on the page, and consider other (better?) options.

Like the man said, KNOW THYSELF!

An example: I’ll confess that often, in my books, I default to BLINKING. Characters who are confused or upset or stunned or happy will BLINK, as a way of expressing that there’s a lot going on inside them. Now, this is fine once in a while, but it’s kind of a cheap trick, a manipulation, and I certainly don’t want to rely on it too often. So now that I recognize my BLINKING default, I look out for it. In fact, at the end of each draft, I do a search for the word “blink” and then replace that word/moment with something else, in each case.

An easy exercise that can help with this is something I call the HIGHLIGHTER TRICK. Simply take a printed draft of your work, and a highlighter. Now, read the manuscript backwards, sentence by sentence, beginning at the very end. You aren’t reading for content, so you don’t want to read forward, and get caught up in the narrative. You want to slow down and read each line on its own, as a discrete sentence. Paying attention to the words themselves, rather than the story. And each time you see something familiar—a word or phrase or sound or gesture that you know you’ve used in the past—highlight it. Then, once you’re done reading the whole thing with your highlighter, go back through and treat the story like a Mad Libs, replacing each highlighted item with something else.

One last note: when you find yourself absolutely resisting a specific change, that’s fine! Leave the highlighted section as is. Because sometimes in life, your default is the exact right instinct. The point isn’t that you should never use it. Rather, that you should CHOOSE it, each time, the way you should choose everything carefully.

Linda Urban, author of Road Trip with Max and his Mom and Mabel and Sam at Home

The best way to become a better writer is to read more.
You knew someone was going to say it, didn’t you?  Next to writing a lot, reading a lot is the most commonly dispensed advice there is. Because it is very good advice.

Here’s what gets said less often, but is just as important:  Read Aloud.

So much of writing is about the sound of things — the way words bounce or clash, the rhythm of sentences, the pitch of paragraphs, the hush of the rests between them.  I realized recently that some of my best, most joyful writing has happened during times when I was also actively engaged in reading aloud to my children. It gets in your head, that sound, like an earworm tune you’re not even aware of until you’re singing along with it.  Read aloud to write work worthy of reading aloud.

And then, do that.  Read your own work aloud.
How does it sound? Are there consonants clacking when you intended a soothing swish?  Does a languid pool of description slow down what ought to be a high speed hydroplane race? Have you spiraled madly round a manic moment only to peter slowly out? Again? Really? Fine.

Read it aloud.

Find the beat.
Make a change.

Read it aloud, repeat.  Or re-beat. Until, finally, it sings.

Do you have a favorite writing secret to add? Please feel free to share in a comment. We hope you have a great National Day on Writing and a year full of wonderful stories!

Teachers Write 8.3.18 One Last Friday Mini-Lesson…and Looking Ahead

Good morning! It’s hard to believe that our four weeks together have flown by already, and today is our last day of Teachers Write for 2018, and I want to use this last day of camp to talk about setting goals. That’s probably something you talk about with your students, right?  But sometimes it’s easier to set those goals when we have specific assignments and set deadlines – an essay due on Friday, or final grades posted by the 20th. Goals for your personal writing can be more of a challenge, but they’re just as important.

I use something called a bullet journal to set my writing goals on a day-t0-day schedule, and I set up lists of monthly goals, too. Here’s what that looks like.

You’re probably noticing that this isn’t just about writing. My exercise and hydration goals are here, too, and so are reminders to schedule my kid’s physical and make plans for an upcoming trip to NYC. That’s what works best for me – including all of my responsibilities on one big list – because really, that’s how my world operates. You can read more about bullet journaling here – and there’s a whole post about how I use it in my writing life here. 

I also use other kinds of charts to keep track of ongoing projects. This Gantt chart is a project-scheduling tool that TW guest author Tracey Baptiste taught me about, where you set up a chart with major steps to completing a project and shade in the boxes as things progress. (Please note that this chart only includes the first two major revisions – there are typically 8-15 more after that!)

However you keep track of your day to day and ongoing writing goals, it’s also important to make time to reflect, and that’s what I’m going to ask you to do today.

Your Assignment: How has your summer of writing gone? Take some time to reflect on what you’ll take away from these past four weeks of Teachers Write and what you hope the coming weeks and months will look like for you as a writer. What’s your plan for keeping regular writing a part of your life? Feel free to share thoughts in the comments. And don’t forget to check in with Jen at Teach Mentor Texts on Sunday for one more conversation about the summer’s progress.

Finally, I want to say thank you so, so much for making this a part of your summer. You’re teaching and sharing stories with kids and helping them to find their own voices in a time when this work is so desperately needed. So thank you for choosing this work and for making it a priority even during your summer break. Thanks for opening up and sharing, for encouraging one another to be brave, and for stepping outside of your comfort zones as writers. It’s been such a gift working with you this summer, learning from you, and reading your powerful words. And it’s an even greater gift to call you friends.

Keep writing. Keep sharing stories. And please know how grateful your author friends are for all of the work that you do.




Teachers Write 8.2.18 Thursday Quick-Write with Tracey Baptiste

Good morning! Our final Thursday Quick-Write for the summer comes from the amazing Tracey Baptiste.

Tracey is the author of the creepy MG fantasy adventures The Jumbies and Rise of the Jumbies (and a third book on the way, too!), the contemporary YA novel Angel’s Grace and 9  non-fiction books for kids in elementary through high school. Her new official Minecraft novel, The Crash, just came out last month! Tracey is also a former elementary school teacher who does lots of author visits, and she’s on the faculty at Lesley University’s Creative Writing MFA program.

Your Assignment: Write a scene in which a character has to communicate something important (traumatic/time-sensitive, etc.) but cannot use spoken or written language. They may be in a foreign country, or an alien world, or there’s some other reason for the restriction. Feel free to share a bit of what you wrote in the comments if you’d like!

Teachers Write 8.1.18 Q&A Wednesday with Meg Medina and Ann Angel

Good morning! It’s time for our final Q&A Wednesday of Teachers Write Virtual Summer Writing Camp. Today’s author guests are Meg Medina and Ann Angel!

Meg Medina is the author of numerous prize-winning works for children and teens, including Mango, Abuela and MeTía Isa Wants a Car, and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. Her forthcoming novel, Merci Suárez Changes Gears, will be published by Candlewick Press in Sept 2018. Meg is a founding member of We Need Diverse Books, a faculty member of Hamline University’s MFA program for children’s writing, and serves on the Board of Advisors for SCBWI. More at

Ann Angel writes middle grade and YA nonfiction and serves as contributing editor for YA anthologies. Anthologies include Things I’ll Never Say, Stories About Our Secret Selves and Such a Pretty Face, Short Stories About Beauty . Ann’s biography Janis JoplinRise Up Singing received the 2011 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Award and the 2011 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award, was listed by Booklist as a 2011 Top Ten Biography for Youth and a 2011 Top Ten Arts Book for Youth. Additional nonfiction includes an Amy Tan biography and a reader’s guide to Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street. Ann teaches creative writing at Mount Mary University in Milwaukee. For more information:

Teachers & librarians – Feel free to ask your questions in the comments.  It’s fine to ask a general question or to direct one directly to a specific guest author. Our author guests have volunteered to drop in and respond when they can.

Note from Kate: I’ll try to be here for Q and A most Wednesdays, too. Please be patient with me if you’re a first-time commenter – it may take a little while for me to approve your comment so it appears.

Got questions? Fire away!

Teachers Write 7.31.18 Tuesday Quick-Write with Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Good morning! Our Tuesday Quick-Write guest author today is the wonderful Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich! She’s the author of 8th Grade Superzero, a Notable Book for a Global Society, as well as a Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. She is a co-author of the NAACP Image Award-nominated Two Naomis, its sequel, Naomis Too, and the forthcoming Above and Beyond: NASA’s Journey To Tomorrow, as well as the picture book biography Someday Is Now: Clara Luper and the 1958 Oklahoma City Sit-Ins. Olugbemisola is the editor of The Hero Next Door, a 2019 anthology from We Need Diverse Books. A member of The Brown Bookshelf and the Advisory Board of We Need Diverse Books, Olugbemisola lives with her family in New York City. Visit her online at

Often when we think of writing stories, we think primarily of the character and setting — the who and the where/what.  One of the ways to deepen a story and write three-dimensional characters is to be thoughtful about their emotional life and how they express those emotions in different situations. I often use a variation of this exercise as a writing game with small groups; it’s fun to see how differently we may think about demonstrations of thought and feeling!
Your Assignment: Write a scene using the following:
1) Create a character (include their age, race and ethnicity, gender)
2) and now…using that same character, mix and match setting and emotion.
a) Put them in a SHOPPING MALL, and the emotion is FRUSTRATION
b) in a CLASSROOM, and the emotion is JOY
c) at the BEACH, and the emotion is FURY
d) in a New York City subway station, and the emotion is EXHILARATION
e) in a KITCHEN, and the emotion is SURPRISE
f) in a PARK, and the emotion is DISGUST
g) in a CAR, and the emotion is SHAME
h) on a FARM, and the emotion is ENVY
i) at a BASKETBALL GAME, and the emotion is ANXIETY
j) in a SWIMMING POOL, and the emotion is LOVE
For each of these, be thoughtful about the ways that your character’s traits and the setting impact their actions, how the same trait is expressed differently, depending on the situation. Get to know your character even more, and most of all, have fun! And feel free to share a bit of what you wrote in the comments today if you’d like.

Teachers Write 7.30.18 Mini-Lesson Monday with Chris Tebbetts

Good morning!  Jo has your Monday Morning Warm-Up here… and Chris Tebbetts joins us with today’s mini-lesson. Chris is the author and co-author of many books for young readers.  Titles include the #1 New York Times bestselling MIDDLE SCHOOL series, as well as PUBLIC SCHOOL SUPERHERO, with James Patterson and illustrator Laura Park; the New York Times bestselling STRANDED series with Jeff Probst; and the young adult novel M OR F? with Lisa Papademetriou. His work has received children’s choice awards in Oregon and Hawaii, as well a Sunshine State Young Readers Award nomination, and a nod on the New York Public Library’s annual list of Books For the Teen Age. Watch for his YA novel, ME, MYSELF, AND HIM next summer—and in the meantime, you can reach him with questions or school visit inquiries at

Three Steps to Character Dimension:
Internal Conflict, Contradiction, and Shadow Traits

I often think in terms of duality when I’m writing. I ask myself, what are the two sides to this story, this scene, this moment?

Or, for the purposes of today’s mini-lesson: what are the two sides to the characters I create? It’s a question that helps make the people who populate my stories more interesting, more human, more complex, and usually, more relatable.

To that end, here are three items for your writer’s toolbox; three ways to bring out the dimension in your own characters.

1) Internal Conflict

We all know that a story needs some sense of stakes. Your character needs a goal, and that goal needs to be impeded by some collection of obstacles and antagonist(s), creating the external conflict of your story.

But how about internal conflict? What conflicting stakes might exist—or could exist—within your character’s situation?

For Katniss Everdeen, there’s a driving tension at the heart of the story, between the rules of the Hunger Games (kill!) and her own moral compass (don’t kill!).

For Les Miserables’ Jean Valjean, it’s an internal conflict between his obligations to Cosette and to the rule of law, embodied by the story’s antagonist, Javert.

And for Ramona Quimby, it exists as a constant tension between what she knows she should do and what she wants to do.

What about in your own works in progress? Is there a way to complicate your character’s situation by giving her more than one want? And by making those wants mutually exclusive?

2) Contradiction

As Walt Whitman’s famous quote goes, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”

Contradiction in characters is nothing new. It’s as old as story itself. And yet, at the same time, I have this sense that audiences are increasingly open to the idea of characters who don’t always turn one-plus-one into two. Characters who are more than one thing at the same time. Characters who contradict themselves and contain the multitudes that go with it.

In his excellent book, THE ART OF CHARACTER, David Corbett distills the role (and value) of contradiction into two things: 1) It defies expectations; and 2) It depicts complexity and depth.

He goes on to say:

“Developing a character with genuine depth requires a focus on not just desire but how the character deals with frustration of her desires, as well as her vulnerabilities, her secrets, and especially her contradictions. This development needs to be forged in scenes, the better to employ your intuition rather than your intellect.”

I like the way he emphasizes intuition in this case, since we’re dwelling into aspects of character that don’t always make sense on paper, but are, at the same time, completely and realistically human.

3) Shadow Traits

Here’s a bit more from THE ART OF CHARACTER:

“The tension created by these two antagonistic impulses – to control our behaviour so we “get along” and to let go and “be ourselves” – forms one of the core conflicts of our lives. And conflict is inherently dramatic…. For every trait we publicly exhibit, its opposite lurks somewhere in our psyches.  These shadow traits may be feeble and ill-formed from lack of conscious use, but they exist – meaning that if a character acts unbelievably, we can make what he does seem more organic if we find a way to root it in the battle between the character’s conscious and suppressed behavior.”

Even as I write this article, I’m aware of the overlap between these ideas. Internal conflict is a kind of contradiction. And contradiction might easily contain some element of these so-called shadow traits, like Katniss Everdeen’s savage side, the part of her that comes out only by necessity. (Notice how that story begins with a hunting scene, where she’s killing wild game to provide for her family.)

That said, it’s not as important to me for these ideas to be distinct from one another as it is to find ways of asking myself useful questions about my characters along the way. To that end, here’s an assignment and some additional food for thought to consider:

Your Assignment:  This exercise is based on ideas from “Composing A Life,” by Mary Catherine Bateson, a sociologist (and also Margaret Mead’s daughter). For more, I suggest listening to Bateson’s interview on the On Being podcast from a few years ago.

In the meantime, you can apply this exercise to any of your characters, or even to yourself, which can also be illuminating.


What are the two sides of your character’s story? That might refer to her entire lifetime; her arc within the story; a specific scene or chapter; or even an individual moment. Almost always, at whatever scale, there is more than one thing going on.

I’ll use myself as an example. Both of these stories about me are true to my experience:

Story 1: In high school, I lived in the coolest little hippie town in America, surrounded by an academic, artistic, and diverse community. I was popular, confident, and involved in all kinds of extra-curricular activities. I loved my friends, and felt like I could truly be myself around them.  I learned a ton in those four years, and I’ve never lived anywhere like it since.

Story 2: In high school, I lived in the most boring little town in America, surrounded by corn fields and pig farms. I was deeply closeted and keeping it a secret, not just from everyone around me, but also from myself.  There was still so much I didn’t know. In fact, all I really knew was that I couldn’t wait to get out of Yellow Springs, Ohio.


Now look for the continuity between those two sides of the story. Bateson poses this as a sociological question, but I’ve borrowed it with my storyteller’s hat on. What is it about your character (or yourself) that unites those seemingly conflicting truths?

Working off my own example, I’d say that the continuity for me was in two things: SMALL TOWN LIFE and SURVIVAL. Which is to say, yes, I grew up in a really cool little town, and yes, it was still (for me) the absolute middle of nowhere. Also, while one part of me thrived in high school, that was only possible because I was also keeping another part of myself hidden from the world.


Write a scene that captures some of this duality. How might the contradiction manifest? And how might the continuity? Maybe it’s a scene you can use in your finished story. Or maybe it simply helps inform your overall writing process. Either way, I hope it might be useful for some of you.


Some questions to consider if you’re feeling stuck:

What is/are your character’s internal conflict(s)?

Are there competing stakes in your story? Two things the character wants, but can’t have both? If not, would that improve the story?

What is/are your character’s shadow trait(s)?

Where at the beginning of your story is the person your character will (or might) become?  Can you show the potential for that change? (And do you want to?)

How is your character the same (and changed) at the end of the story?

Feel free to share a bit of what you wrote today in the comments if you’d like!

Teachers Write 7.27.18 Friday Mini-Lesson with Linda Urban

Good morning! It’s the end of the week, and that means you can stop by Friday Feedback to get help with a work in progress. It also means another great mini-lesson, and today’s guest author is Linda Urban!

Linda writes picture books, chapter books, and middle grade novels. Her titles include A Crooked Kind of PerfectHound Dog TrueThe Center of EverythingMilo Speck Accidental AgentMouse Was MadLittle Red Henry, Mabel and Sam at HomeWeekends with Max and His Dad, and Road Trip with Max and His Mom. Her books have appeared on more than 25 state reading lists, as well as best books lists from The New York Public Library, Kirkus, the National Council of Teachers of English, and IndieNext. Linda has a BA in Journalism and an MA in English from Wayne State University in Detroit and pursued further graduate study in Film and Television Critical Studies at UCLA. For ten years, she served as marketing director at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, California.

Linda’s joining us today to talk about notebooks!

One of the most important things I’ve ever written is this:

Like so many people who love to read and aspire to write, I had been gifted dozens of beautiful notebooks over the years.  Hardcover, softcover, leather bound, handmade.  I’d purchased at least as many for myself.  And I almost never wrote in them. I was so afraid of making a mistake, or saying something inane, or making any mark I thought might be unworthy of the paper I was writing on.

The notebook page you see above was one such journal.  Hardcover.  Thick paper.  Bright white.  I loved it and knew instantly that THIS would be the journal of all journals – a document of our family’s holiday traditions, the sort of thing that my children would find upon my death and sue each other for custody of, it was so poignant and lyrical and full of meaning.  On the first page, I hoped to begin with something simple.  A Christmas shopping list.  For my husband’s first gift, I intended to purchase a Southern treat I knew he’d love.  These special, mail-order only grits  from a company called Hoppinjohn’s.  Do you see what I wrote instead?  Yes.  Papa Johns.

So long perfect notebook!

Or maybe, hello perfect notebook.

Because for the first time ever, I crossed out my mistake and kept writing.   The burden of heirloom writing had been lifted and now I could write ANYTHING!

In an instant, my notebook went from being a performance space, with the expectation of perfection and a someday-audience, to a practice space where experimentation, play, and messes were not only okay, but expected.

And it has made a huge difference in my work.  My notebooks are full of observations, experimentations, doodles and drafts.  Jumbled amongst the writerly stuff are to do lists, drawings by my kids, theater programs, and recipes.   And while that might sometimes make a particular item a tiny bit more challenging to retrieve a few weeks later, most of the time it prevents me from feeling too precious about things.

This is a page of observations from a trip to the dentist’s office.   While I have not written a novel set in a waiting room, I can’t say it won’t happen.  And the practice of observing small details has most definitely come in handy.

This is a notebook page I made during a revision of Milo Speck, Accidental Agent.  I was working out the relative size of our hero, Milo, to the beings and features of Ogregon. These doodles didn’t just help with revising what was already in the manuscript, it sparked inspiration for an entirely new scene.

This is a brainstormed list of participants one might find in a small town parade, like the Bunning Day Parade that structures so much of The Center of Everything.  You see I’m also working out some of the book’s themes and character choices as well.

Since messing around with my own notebook, I’ve grown more and more interested in the ways that other creative people use notebooks and if you’re similarly intrigued, I highly recommend you take a look at Syllabus by cartoonist and University of Wisconsin Prof Lynda Barry (whose Tumblr  is a must-follow).  Also eye-opening, the notebook Frances Ford Coppola kept while working on The Godfather (scroll down to see the actual pages. That is annotation!), and this great collection of notebook pages from JK Rowling, Kurt Cobain, and Sylvia Plath, whose sketches of the furniture at Yaddo are both delightfully wonky and a model for keen observation.

Your Assignment: More important than studying other people’s notebooks, however, is to get busy getting messy in your own.  So, my prompts for you today are twofold.

  1. If you have a nice notebook that you haven’t been using, take it out now.  Open randomly to any page.  Make a mess.

You’re expecting someone to scold you.  Or you want to scold yourself.
Ask yourself why that is.
What principle or belief is at work?
Now set a timer and for five minutes, write about why you hold that belief.  Where did it come from? What purpose does it serve?  Is it empowering you – or holding you back?
Does that belief in any way inform your internal editor?

  1. Find another page. If you like, you can turn to the front of your notebook, but if you’re feeling really rebellious after exercise one, let randomization be your guide.

Set your timer for ten minutes and observe the space you’re in.   You don’t need to write in complete sentences – in fact, it might be better if you don’t.  Take time to notice.  What do you hear?  What sounds are closest to you?  What sounds are furthest away?  What sound is missing?  How about touch?  What temperature is it?  How humid?  Are you sitting? Standing?  What surfaces are you making contact with?  What do you see?  What is just out of sight?

Turn the page.  Now consider a setting from your work in progress.  A protagonist’s bedroom.  That awkward Thanksgiving dinner at the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet.  The dragon-tamer’s office.  Whatever.  Now set your timer for 10 minutes and do the same sort of observing.  Doodle, draw, write, draw lines and arrows.

Now set your timer for another 10 minutes and write a moment where your protagonist enters this space.  Let her observe.  Notice how her emotions, her agenda, her experience shape her observations.  Don’t worry if what you write has little to do with your story-in-progress.  This is notebook work.  You’re not performing for a reader.  You’re practicing.  Get messy.

Teachers Write 7.26.18 Thursday Quick-Write with Ammi-Joan Paquette and Jen Petro-Roy

Our Thursday Quick-Write today is a team effort from Jen Petro-Roy and Ammi-Joan Paquette. Jen was born, raised, and still lives in Massachusetts, even though she rejects the idea that snow and cold are ever a good thing. She started writing in third grade, when her classroom performed a play she had written. It was about a witch and a kidnapped girl and a brave crew of adventurers who set out to save the day. As a kid, numerous pictures of Jen often featured Baby-Sitters Club and Sweet Valley Twins books clutched in her hand, so it was just a matter of time until she started writing her own books for children. In the past, Jen has worked as a teacher and a teen and children’s librarian. She loves running, board games, trivia, and swimming, and has a mild obsession with the television show Jeopardy! P.S. I Miss You is her debut novel.

Ammi-Joan Paquette is the author of many books for young readers, including The Train of Lost Things, the Princess Juniper series, Ghost in the House, Bunny Bus, and The Tiptoe Guide to Tracking Fairies, as well as the Two Truths and a Lie series, co-written with Laurie Ann Thompson. Joan is the recipient of a PEN New England Discovery Award honor, and her books have been recognized with starred reviews, Junior Library Guild selections, and on a variety of “Best of the Year” lists. In her non-writing life, she is a senior literary agent with Erin Murphy Literary Agency. Visit her on the web at

Jen & Joan both write books that address emotional topics for kids, and they’re joining us today with a conversation and a writing prompt. 

Q: Many books are inspired by their authors’ life events. Did any personal experiences inspire this novel for you?

Jen: Absolutely. P.S. I MISS YOU tackles a bunch of “tough topics.” (Or, I should say, what people label as tough topics.) Because for me, tough topics are real-life for so many, and that’s why it’s so important to include these issues and situations into our narratives–so our readers can see themselves in our books. In my book, Evie struggling with a lot–her older sister Cilla is staying with a relative after getting pregnant in high school and disappointing her strict Catholic parents. At the same time, Evie’s friends are starting to develop different interests and Evie herself is developing a crush on the new girl in school. While struggling with my sexuality is something that I myself never went through, Evie’s relationship with religion and her journey to both question and redefine her faith in God is something that I did experience (and that I am still navigating). For many, faith is something that is set in stone–for them, it’s a touchstone. But for others, for adults as well as kids, faith is something that has to be worked through, doubted, lost, or strengthened. Any of these paths is okay, and I worked hard to make Evie’s journey feel authentic.

Q: What was the journey that led to writing your book? Did you feel any concerns in dealing with such a sensitive topic?

Joan: This novel is the most personal of any I’ve written so far. The external catalyst event that brought on the book was my daughter losing a jean jacket that was important to her. That led me to think about things that I had loved and lost over the years, and about lost things in general. Right before my eyes, the Train of Lost Things was born—and with it, the question: What if there was a way to get back your most precious lost belongings? What if you just had to believe enough?

As I set to writing the story, however, I knew right away that there would be deeper layers to tell. And thinking of loss brought me to the passing of my mother, in a very quick fight with cancer over a decade ago. While Marty in TRAIN OF LOST THINGS is dealing with the loss of his jacket, and his efforts to get it back, the deeper aspect of his fight has to do with the impending loss of his father to cancer, and how he learns to deal with this.

I know some people question whether sad or “tough” topics are too much for kids to handle, whether they should be cushioned from them. But I think we all know that real life is sometimes messy and sad and tough. There’s no avoiding it! Fiction can give young readers the tools to experience some of these sad or hard emotions in a safe space, to explore their own feelings through these hypothetical situations, which may give tools or strength to draw from in any future challenges. As well, sometimes kids—just like us adults—need the cathartic experience of curling up with a sad book and having a good cry.

Q: What is your writing process? How do you begin a new book?

Jen: I’d say that I’m a combination between a plotter and a pantser. I’m a natural perfectionist, so I absolutely need a road map to guide me as I write, but I also thrive off of the excitement that comes from the thrill of that “new shiny idea.” Usually when I have a new idea, I start writing furiously…until I hit around page twenty and realize I have no idea where I’m going. That’s when I start to draw my road map.

I usually plot out my book in a notebook, drawing out timelines and calendars, plotting each chapter, and writing up character profiles. Then I dive back into the first draft, which is my least favorite part of the process. I’m a huge revision fan. I love diving back into the mess, pushing up my sleeves and figuring out what I did wrong and what I did right, how to connect different threads, build up certain sections and further develop characters. Since we’re talking about “tough issues” in this post, revision is another place where I can revisit any serious situations my characters are getting into and make sure both the details and the emotions are true to life, without being too preachy or heavy-handed.

Like many, I go through a lot of drafts as I’m writing, usually at least four before anyone else sees the manuscript. I think it’s so important to realize that that messiness is part of the process. For everyone!

Q: How do you know when a life experience or idea is “the one” to make it into fiction? When it comes to tough subjects, how much is too much?

Joan: I think the best ideas to pursue as a writer are the ones you absolutely cannot put out of your mind—the ones that won’t let you go, no matter what. The ones you can’t help but write. So how do I know when a story is “the one”? When it hunts me down until I write it, and forces me to stick with it come what may. (As a matter of fact, I’m wrestling with just such an idea right now…!) And there is something cathartic about exploring difficult life experiences through fiction, even for us as writers. I think sometimes we sit down with big life questions, framed as the experiences of others, and through the safety of that fictional lens, we can work through to understand what we truly believe, and want, and are.

So how much is too much? That’s a question that only I can answer for my stories, and only you can answer for yours. One thing I do know for sure, though: It never hurts to try. It never hurts to start.

Your Assignment: Brainstorm a list of situations and experiences in your recent or distant past that come back to you. It might be a big challenging life turn, or it might be the smallest conversation or exchange that left you scratching your head or cringing in embarrassment. Try retelling that event in a fictional setting. What will you change? What will you preserve? What is it about that incident that has so captured your mind that you have not been able to forget it? Maybe it would do the same to another reader, somewhere . . .  As always, feel free to share reflections in the comments.

Teachers Write 7.25.18 Q&A Wednesday with Phil Bildner and Tanya Lee Stone

Got questions about writing?  Wednesday is Q and A Day at Teachers Write Virtual Summer Writing Camp, and we have some fantastic guest authors visiting to answer questions. Today’s author guests are Phil Bildner and Tanya Lee Stone.

Phil Bildner is the author of numerous children’s picture books including the Margaret Wise Brown Prize winning Marvelous CorneliusMartina & ChrissieTwenty-One Elephants, and The Soccer Fence. He is the also the author of the Rip & Red middle grade series — A Whole New BallgameRookie of the Year, Tournament of Champions, and Most Valuable Players. A former middle school teacher in the New York City public schools, Phil spends much of the year visiting schools around the country conducting writing workshops and talking process with students. In 2017, Phil founded The Author Village, an author booking business. He lives in Newburgh, New York with his husband and dog.
Tanya Lee Stone is known for telling true stories previously missing from our histories. Her work has earned an NAACP Image Award, Sibert Medal, Bank Street’s Flora Straus Stieglitz Award, Golden Kite, and numerous other honors including Parents Magazine Best Nonfiction Picture Book, YALSA Nonfiction Finalist awards, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor, Jane Addams Honor, NPR Best Books, NCSS and ALA Notables, YALSA BBYAs, Kirkus Best Books, and NCTE Orbis Pictus Honors. Stone is a frequent speaker at schools and conferences.

Teachers & librarians – Feel free to ask your questions in the comments.  It’s fine to ask a general question or to direct one directly to a specific guest author. Our author guests have volunteered to drop in and respond when they can.

Note from Kate: I usually try to be here for Q and A most Wednesdays, too. Please be patient with me if you’re a first-time commenter – it may take a little while for me to approve your comment so it appears.

Got questions? Fire away!