Thankful Thursday

I’ve been waiting.   I started checking out the back window every morning as soon as it got cold this week.

Today, the sea smoke showed up.

On the first really, really cold, calm morning of  winter, plumes of cloud rise up from the surface of the lake and drift in the pink light of sunrise.  

Sea smoke (lake smoke, I guess, in this case) forms when very cold air passes over warmer water.  The air right at the water’s surface is warmer, so it rises in a plume.  As soon as it gets away from the water, though, that air cools, and the moisture in it forms condensation that we see as fog.  Icy wisps of fog in the morning sun.

That’s what the meteorologists say.  But really, I think it’s the ghosts.  Lake Champlain has ghosts.  You can only see them in these cold, quiet moments, and only if you remember to look. Pretty soon, the wind comes and chases them away.  I am thankful that I wasn’t too busy to greet them this morning when they came.


Question:  When does a middle grade historical novel become a Halloween book?

Answer:  When the author agrees to dress up as her main character because she can’t resist Burlington’s Church St. Marketplace Halloween CelebrationSpitfire is about a girl who disguises herself as a boy to fight in a Revolutionary War naval battle on Lake Champlain.  That means…you guessed it…  On Church St. this Saturday, I’ll be an author, disguised as an 18th century girl, disguised as an 18th century boy.  Here’s the official blurb…

Saturday, October 27, 1:00: Join children’s author Kate Messner for a trip back in time to the American Revolution on Lake Champlain at Borders Books and Music, 2nd floor. Kate portrays Abigail Smith, the main character in her middle grade novel SPITFIRE, who disguises herself as a boy to fight in the battle of Valcour Island. Participatory activities for kids are based on the book. A book signing will follow the event.

If you’re leaf-peeping in Vermont this weekend, please stop by and say hello!

On Tuesday, October 30, I’ll be at the North Country Teacher Resource Center Educator Showcase at Plattsburgh State from 4:30-6:00, with five other fun author/illustrator people.  (At this one, I’ll just be regular Kate…)

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! 

August Visitors

We’ve had some colorful visitors stop by the house lately…

The monarch butterflies are loving my Echinacea.

And this little guy has made appearances on our beach twice this week…

It’s a mink, we think, a member of the weasel family.  Some of you may have read

‘s entries about the weaselly creature that showed up at her house a few weeks ago and looked a lot like a wolverine.  I think this may be a smaller, cuter, distant cousin.  He spent the afternoon frolicking up and down the shore, climbing into drainage pipes, and then playing peek-a-boo before jumping out again.  We’re trying to think of a name for him (or her).  Any suggestions?

SPITFIRE Presentation

I gave my first presentation on SPITFIRE on Monday and couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant and receptive audience.  Clinton Community College hosts a teachers’ historical workshop about Benedict Arnold in the Champlain Valley.   Facilitators Tom Mandeville and John Mockry do a fantastic job sharing knowledge about Lake Champlain history and leading field trips around the region. 

I was the after-lunch speaker on Monday.   They had lasagna, and I worried about this, but only one person dozed off a little, and I think I woke him up with my bo’sun’s whistle. (It’s used to issue orders during battle…or to get attention during a presentation as the need arises…)

I presented my PowerPoint about the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, the real 12-year-old boy who fought in that battle, and how I researched his life and life on board an 18th century gunboat to write SPITFIRE.   I also gave teachers a sneak peak at my school presentation, showing some of the artifact replicas, articles of clothing, and other 18th century treats I’ll be sharing with students this fall.

I gave my first reading from SPITFIRE to people who don’t live with me, and that was a terrific feeling.  The teachers were kind enough to laugh in all the right places, had nice things to say about my research and writing, and clapped when I was done.

It was a wonderful afternoon, and it was great to spend time with people who love Lake Champlain and its history as much as I do.