November News and a Writing Challenge

November always feels like an in-between month, doesn’t it? But this is a great season to cozy up with a cup of a tea and a notebook to try some writing prompts. Here’s one for you…

Recently, an author-illustrator friend shared a painting she’d created, along with an invitation: Write a story to go with this art!

I happened to see it in one of my online groups, and even though I was on deadline for a writing project, the playfulness of that post pulled me away from my other work for a while. It was so much fun, imagining a story that was so different from the history-based nonfiction I’d been working on that day. And it reminded me of a project I loved to do with my 7th graders when I was teaching. We’d each choose a piece from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s online collection and use it as inspiration for a piece of writing. A story…a poem…whatever it sparked. Today, I visited the Met’s Twitter feed and found this photo.

It’s from the Met’s “The Last Knight” exhibit. What do these ghostly knight hands spark for you? Take fifteen minutes to write whatever comes to mind. (And feel free to share this prompt with your students, too!)

Art-inspired writing aside, I’ve been wrapping up a number of projects this fall and also celebrating some new & upcoming books.

INSECT SUPERPOWERS is about real-world insects with real-world superpowers. It’s graphic nonfiction, illustrated by Jillian Nickell in the style of a super-hero comic book. Out now from Chronicle books, it’s a perfect book for graphic novel fans as well as budding entomologists. You can read more about it and order a signed copy here.


My next novel, CHIRP, doesn’t come out until February but has already earned two starred reviews. This one, from Kirkus, captures the spirit of the book perfectly:

“Sometimes courage is quiet.”

Mia’s life turned upside down a year ago when she broke her arm during a gymnastics routine, so a family move back to Vermont, where Mia’s paternal grandmother lives, seems like the perfect fresh start. Gram farms crickets as an alternative food source, and Mia is eager to help out during the summer. Things start going wrong at the farm, however, and Gram is certain that sabotage is the cause. With the help of new friends made and new skills acquired at the day camps her parents force her to attend, Mia is determined to keep Gram’s beloved business from failing. But to grow past obstacles internal and external, she must first find the courage to speak out. This story defies categorization: It’s at once a friendship yarn, a summer idyll, a mystery, and a push for female empowerment. Messner deftly weaves together myriad complex plot threads to form a captivating whole. Characters are well drawn and multifaceted; all are imbued with a rich individuality, from earnest, increasingly confident Mia to the never seen farmhand James who attends all his husband’s baseball games. The women, tellingly, remain at the helm throughout. They are entrepreneurs, activists, engineers, mayors; they are mothers, daughters, friends, lovers. Each woman’s rise is its own story, giving Mia a supportive space in which she can come to terms with her own conflicts. Mia and her family are white; the supporting cast is vigorously diverse.

Rich, timely, and beautifully written. (Fiction. 10-14)

Bloomsbury is offering a fun pre-order offer for CHIRP – if you order your copy now and send them the receipt, they’ll mail you a poster and a class set of bookmarks! Details are here. 

If you’d like your copy of CHIRP personalized and signed to you, your favorite reader, or your classroom or school, you can pre-order through my local independent bookstore, The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid, and they’ll send your book out on release day.  Just leave a note in the comments about how you’d like it signed.

I hope that you and your family have a wonderful rest of November! Read some great books and try out that writing prompt, okay?

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