GIANNA Z. is going to be a Scholastic Book Clubs/Book Fairs Selection!

I got a surprise email from my editor at Walker/Bloomsbury one day last week while I was cleaning up my desk at school, getting ready to go home. 

"I’m delighted to report that Scholastic Book Clubs have licensed book fair and book club rights to GIANNA Z…." 

I had to write back to make sure that meant what I thought it did.  That THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. would be one of the titles on the big racks at Scholastic Book Fairs at schools?  That it would be paperback, in a price that’s easy for kids to buy? That it would be in those book club flyers that get sent home in kids’ homework folders and backpacks? 

Yes, yes, and yes, my editor answered.  In September!

There was a stack of Scholastic Book Fair flyers on my desk, and I couldn’t help picking one up to page through it.  There are a lot of fun milestones in this children’s book world, but this one is especially cool for me.  

I grew up in Medina, a tiny town in upstate New York.  It has a lovely independent bookstore now, but it didn’t when I was in school.  You could get Archie comics at the drugstore, or you could try to get your parents to drive to the mall in Buffalo an hour away, where there was a Waldens, or you could order books at school through Scholastic Book Clubs.  I’d bring those flyers home and circle the books I wanted with Magic Marker, over and over,  until the color bled through to the other side of that thin paper.  Those flyers were important to me, as I know they still are for kids who aren’t lucky enough to be growing up in a town with a great bookstore. I’m thrilled that my book will be one of the Magic Marker choices this fall.

I’m going to do something fun to celebrate GIANNA Z’s paperback release in bookstores (also in September) and her appearance in Scholastic Book Clubs & Fairs.  Probably a contest on the blog and something special for teachers and librarians (I’m thinking about giving away some free virtual writing workshops for classes!)  If you have other fun ideas for a paperback/book club launch, I’d love to hear about them in comments!


For Vermont blog friends and other people who love Vermont… My interview with the delightful Jane Lindholm of Vermont Public Radio is scheduled to air on Vermont Edition today at noon and 7:00 PM.  Today’s topics are Vermont’s outdoor industry and THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z.

If you’re not lucky enough to get VPR over the radio, I’m told you’ll be able to check out the interview at the website after it airs.

And if you’ve found your way here from the broadcast, welcome!  If you’re looking for THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. book club giveaway, you can click here for all the details. 

Hope everyone has a brilliant fall day!


Since THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. was released, I’ve heard from a handful of parents, teachers, & librarians who have already tagged it as a choice for their book clubs.  This thrills me to no end.  Why?  Because I love the sense of community and the conversations that book clubs create.  So today, I’m announcing…


Would you like to read THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. with your book club?  It can be a mother-daughter group, a class literature circle, an after-school book club…any situation where a group of kids (and maybe grownups, too!) get together to talk about books.  In cooperation with my publisher, Walker Books for Young Readers, one book club will win all this:

  • Hardcover copies of THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. for your book club (up to 12 copies!)
  • Six copies of TREE FINDER: A MANUAL FOR THE IDENTIFICATION OF TREES BY THEIR LEAVES by May T. Watts, a great resource for creating your own leaf collections!
  • GIANNA Z. silicone bracelets and bookmarks for everyone in your book club
  • GIANNA Z. discussion guide, a recipe for Nonna’s famous funeral cookies, and the "What Kind of Tree Are You?" quiz.
  • Me…at your book club meeting!  If you live nearby, I’ll try to come in person,and if you’re far away, I’ll be there via Skype videoconferencing software to tell you all the juicy stories behind the writing of GIANNA Z. and answer questions.

Here’s how to enter.

Email me
at this address:  kmessner at kate messner dot com (with no spaces).

In the subject line, write BOOK CLUB CONTEST

In the body of your email, please include:

1. Your name
2. How many kids/adults in your book club?
3. Why would GIANNA Z. be a good choice for your book club?  Just a sentence or two is fine.  You can learn more about the book, view the trailer, and read reviews here.
4. City and state where you live
5. Your email address, where you’d like to be notified if you win

You must be over 13 to enter. If you’re younger, please have a parent, teacher, or librarian enter for you. 

All entries must be received via email by the end of the day on Thursday, October 15th. A winner will be drawn at random from all eligible entries and notified via email after the drawing.

best tracker

Newtonville Books and “Seeing Songs”

You know how some bookstores are so bright and cozy and wonderful you’d just like to set up a cot and move right in?  Newtonville Books is like that, and I was so happy to have an event for THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. there this past Saturday.  There were even beanbag chairs!

Thanks so much to store owner Mary Cotton, whose hard work just shines in this place, and to everyone who came out to meet Gianna and me.

And just in case they’re reading…thanks to my husband and kids, too.  As always, they helped so much.  My daughter single-handedly ran the leaf identification challenge for kids while I was signing books, and it even included a tree we don’t have at home – the rare and elusive sassafras! (We grabbed a branch from a tree in our hotel parking lot!)

The thing I’ve loved best about this book journey has been the fact that my family has been able to enjoy so much of it with me.  Our book trips always leave some room for non-book fun, too, so Sunday morning after a big diner breakfast, we headed into Boston for Free Community Day at the Museum of Fine Arts.

We wandered through the early American paintings and European masters before finding our way to an exhibit called "Seeing Songs" in the contemporary wing.  It’s a fascinating collection of visual art inspired by music.  This piece, called "Queen (A Portrait of Madonna)" especially caught our attention.

It was a bank of monitors with people performing — and I mean really performing — Madonna songs.  The artist, Candice Breitz from South Africa, put ads in newspapers and online inviting the most devoted Madonna fans to come to a studio in Milan to perform her entire 74-minute Immaculate Collection album.  Hundreds showed up; Breitz chose thirty people who are now captured in this wall of monitors, belting out Madonna songs in unison.  Breitz said she’d wanted the piece to explore the dichotomy between the "somebodies" who create music and experience fame and the "nobodies" who internalize that music and make it their own. 

I’m not sure why, but I had trouble walking away from this one.  Maybe it was watching ordinary people who were so different from one another so united in their passion for an artist’s music.  Maybe it was wondering what kind of person would travel to Milan for this.  While I was wishing I had video to share with you, I found the YouTube video below that shows a clip of the piece, along with video of the big karaoke party the museum had to celebrate its opening this summer.  That celebration, I think, captures the same sort of "putting yourself out there" that I appreciated so much in Breitz’s piece. 

And thinking about it, maybe that "putting yourself out there" feeling is the reason this piece caught my imagination this weekend – the first time I’d seen my book out on its own, in another state. Like a kid who snuck out when no one was looking. (I kept feeling like I should gather up all the copies and take them home.)  After all, as writers, we’re putting ourselves out there every time we let go of a book.  It’s not so very different from having the nerve to just let go…and dance.

Disorganized, red-headed artist girls are the new vampires.

Okay, not really.

I just said that to get your attention, so I could say this:

Thank you.

In the two and a half weeks since the official release of THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z, I’ve opened up my email and smiled like crazy at least a thousand times because people — and by that, I mean you guys — have been so amazing about helping to spread the word about this quiet, funny, quirky book about a girl and a leaf collection project, with not a single vampire in sight.

I’ve been sent links to blog reviews like these:
Jen Robinson
A Patchwork of Books
Mary at
Six Boxes of Books
Prose and Kahn
Kelly Fineman’s Writing and Ruminating
Doughtnuts ‘n Things

And today, there was this post on Publishers Weekly’s ShelfTalker blog, which I read religiously at lunch time.  I just about choked on my salsa when I opened the page today and saw Gianna staring back at me.  It was overwhelming.

It’s all been pretty overwhelming.  The nice notes you’ve posted on GoodReads and the ones you’ve emailed me or sent in other ways.  Those little things make a huge difference in an author’s world. This 140-character gift arrived via Twitter this morning and had me smiling all day:

My 9-year old is reading TBFOGZ; when I asked at breakfast this am how she liked it, her face stayed in the book; a good sign!

(I keep all my reviews in a file on my computer, but this one I printed out and put on the bulletin board for when I’m stuck on a scene.  That’s when I really need to remember the nine-year-old with her nose in a book at breakfast.  She is why I write.)

Anyway, thanks. The very best part of this publication journey has been the people whose paths I’ve crossed along the way.

(Editing to add: I have absolutely nothing against vampires, werewolves, evil fairies, bloodthirsty pixies, or fallen angels. In fact, I’ve been known to love and devour books about all of those things. I mention the vampires only to contrast that sort of book, which often gets heaps of attention, with the quieter, Gianna-ish books, which often don’t and rely on people who love them to share them with others. Thus the vampire bit…and the thanks.)

GIANNA Z. Launch Chapter 2: The Koffee Kat Book Bash

After teaching all day, then heading straight to my favorite coffee shop for this afternoon’s GIANNA Z. launch party, and signing books for two hours straight…I am pretty much out of words tonight.  Pictures will probably do a better job anyway, of capturing the brilliant fun and sheer joy of sharing this book launch with such amazing friends, colleagues, and students. 

Thanks so, so much to everyone who stopped by today – it was an afternoon I’ll never forget.

A bit of advice for new authors

Helpful tip #1:

It’s probably not a good idea to try out trail running for the first time, on unfamiliar trails, an hour and a half before you need to leave for a book signing.

Even if your son, who just started running cross country and claims to know the trails, really wants you to go with him.

Because if you have fall allergies, there will inevitably be lots of ragweed.  And your asthma will kick in and you will be the wheeziest runner the trails have ever seen.

And then you will probably trip on an invisible root and go flying through the air and land on your stomach with the kind of loud, guttural "Ooomph!" sound that is usually reserved for people falling in cartoons.  And then your legs will look like someone attacked you with sandpaper and you will have to wear the longer skirt to the book signing.

If you ever get there, that is. 

Because when you turn around to run home, you will take the wrong trail, not once, but three times, before you find the right one. You won’t have time to eat lunch, and you will just barely have time to shower really, really fast before you put on the skirt that covers your scraped up legs and get to Lake Placid.  (The good news is that you will be just a minute or two late, but the people at the Bookstore Plus are so, so nice that they will have your table all ready and offer you cold drinks and cookies anyway.)

Helpful tip #2:

If you are ever invited to sign at Bookstore Plus on a glorious Labor Day Weekend, you’ll want to say yes.

I had the best time at this afternoon’s event, despite my burning knees.  Lake Placid was bubbling over with visitors, and they set up a lovely little table outside under the awning for me, right on Main Street.  I spent the afternoon handing out bookmarks, visiting with readers, and signing lots of books, including one for Arabella…

She’s 15 months old, and her mom let me take her photo since she’s officially the youngest person I know of who owns a signed copy of GIANNA Z.  Her grandmother bought it to save for when Arabella is older, a tradition that I absolutely love.

Helpful tip #3:

If you are in Lake Placid signing books or doing anything, really, you should probably have dinner here afterwards.

Tail O’ The Pup BBQ is sort of a legend in the Adirondacks, thanks to their picnic tables, live bands, and killer chicken and ribs.  (Which you will appreciate more than ever…because you didn’t have lunch on account of that trail run, remember?)

Anyway…thanks to the great, great, book-loving people at Bookstore Plus for a fantastic afternoon – and to everyone who dropped by to say hello!

GIANNA Z. Launch Chapter 1: In which I hug friends, sign books, and eat too much candy corn

Yesterday’s launch party for THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. at Flying Pig Books was…well…it was the stuff launch party dreams are made of.  So many kids, teachers, readers, and friends, along with a great place for a party — the beautiful, light-filled Flying Pig Loft.  We got there early to set up…

We had a drawing for a free school/library presentation.  (Mrs. Althoff, congratulations!  My son drew your name out of the bag.  I’ll email you today so we can start figuring out the details!)

I was excited that the silicone bracelets I ordered – red and gold swirled with the book title embossed – arrived on time!  And those are Nonna’s famous funeral cookies from the book on the plate with the candy corn.  (If you weren’t there to eat some, you can download the recipe from my books page!)

My daughter helped me set up by placing a sugar maple leaf on each chair before the guests arrived.  That’s the tree Gianna and Zig are trying to identify in the book in the excerpt I chose to read, so I thought it would be fun for kids to follow along with a leaf as they tried to figure out whether it had teeth or lobes, a downy underside or not, milky sap…all those tree identifying things.

After the reading, kids had a chance to try their own hands at identifying leaves.  I set up a tree identification challenge – with photographs of three different trees and branches from each one.  Kids used the Watts Tree Finder guide – the same book Gianna and Zig use in the novel – to identify trees and win prizes.

And then it was party time!

Here I am with Flying Pig co-owner and picture book author Elizabeth Bluemle. Note her stylish accessories.

From left to right: Jo Knowles ( ) me, Cindy Faughnan ( )

Jo and Cindy and some other friends made long morning drives to be here, and it just about made me cry every time one of them walked through the door. My friend came over on the ferry from NY and brought her daughter Stephanie, who drove up from Albany for the weekend.  Stephanie is in graduate school to become a children’s librarian right now, and she’s one of my former students (also a survivor of the original monster leaf collection project that inspired my book!)

Me, Marjorie, & Stephanie

At the end of my reading, I took a minute to introduce the other authors & illustrators who were there.  In addition to Jo and Elizabeth, there were Sarah Dillard, Amy Huntington, Liza Woodruff, and Tanya  Lee Stone.  "Wow," my husband said when we were packing up the car. "You children’s book people really support one another, don’t you?"  We’ve talked about that before…how the people who work in this field are some of the nicest people around.  It’s one of so many things I love about writing for kids.

The morning flew by like leaves in a gust of autumn wind… I hugged lots of friends, read from my novel, ate entirely too much candy corn, signed lots of books (including a bunch for far-away friends!  When I came down to the store after the party, Josie presented me with a stack of "virtual book signing" copies. If you ordered one, it’s all signed and will be in the mail next week!) I’m so, so thankful to everyone who came out on the last weekend of summer and to the folks at Flying Pig, who always make an author feel so special. 

When the last book was signed, we headed to the nearby Shelburne Museum for a picnic with Jo Knowles and her family.  My daughter and Jo’s son got to be pals at her launch party for JUMPING OFF SWINGS a few weeks ago, so it was great to spend the afternoon together. Sitting on the grass, exploring the steamboat Ticonderoga, and riding the antique carousel seemed like just the right way to end the day.

So what did you do on your book’s release day?

First things first this morning…and that’s a HUGE thank you for all the good wishes on THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z.’s official launch yesterday.  I am so, so grateful for my family and friends, including this amazing community of writers I know mostly online.

Next, a few updates and bits of news on GIANNA Z.

  • For Boston-area folks, I’ll be at Newtonville Books at 2pm on Saturday, September 19th for a reading, Q and A, tree identification activities for kids, and book signing. I’ve heard AMAZING things about Newtonville Books and am so excited about this one.
  • Also…I’ll be doing a joint event with the inimitable Eric Luper ( ) at Dog Ate My Homework Bookstore in Glens Falls, NY on Saturday, October 3rd from 4-6pm.  I’ll be signing THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. and Eric will be signing his historical YA novel BUG BOY.  Or if you’d like, I’ll sign BUG BOY and he can sign GIANNA Z.  (We are easy-going that way…)
  • This weekend, I’m at Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, VT at 11am Saturday and at The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid, NY at 2pm Sunday. I’d love it if you’d stop by and say hi if you’re nearby.
  • My virtual book signing is this weekend, too!  If you don’t live close enough to attend an event but would like to order a personalized, signed copy of GIANNA Z. just call Flying Pig Bookstore at 802-985-3999 and they’ll take your information so I can sign a book for you this weekend and get it mailed out.
  • GIANNA Z. is featured on the Shrinking Violet Promotions blog this week, and you can enter to win a signed copy for your favorite library, just by leaving a comment on the entry. 

And now the "what-did-you-do-on-your-release-day" story.  As my fellow writers will tell you, sending a book off into the world involves a whole lot of planning and email-writing and flyer-making and things like that in the days that lead up to the launch, so a break from all that seemed like a lovely way to celebrate GIANNA Z’s birthday.  My daughter and I decided to hike Owl’s Head, one of those smaller Adirondack peaks that still has a great view from the top.  It was…perfect.  And as usual, E knew just what her mom needed.

"Mom, stand still for a minute and just listen. There are so many sounds here." 

And there were. Chirping crickets and whispering leaves and grasshoppers that made loud clicks when they jumped.  Buzzing cicadas and scolding red squirrels and the rustle of a hurrying something just off the trail.  And when we slowed down to listen, we saw things we hadn’t seen before, too.  A soaring hawk way down in the trees.  A spider web built around a hole in a hollow tree.

It felt like just the right way to celebrate a book about leaves and changes and the healing power of nature. I know the pictures won’t do it justice, but here they are anyway.  Listen, and maybe you’ll hear the cicadas, too.

When we got home, there was a big box in the front hallway, with this inside…

My author copies!  (A whole lot of GIANNA Zzzzzzzs!!!)

The rest of the day was a blur of phone calls and email wishes that made me smile, and an evening with writer friends who surprised me with cupcakes that we enjoyed on the porch. Not a bad way to bring a book into the world at all.

Twas the Night Before Book Launch…

Tomorrow is release day for THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z.   One of the bloggers who interviewed me this week asked about my plans for the big day…September first.  My mind raced…

I’m supposed to have plans for the release date?  Well…I guess I’ll probably get up and have coffee.  Wait…are we out of creamer? I think we’re out of creamer. Need creamer. Let’s see…what else…? I did get my new sneakers, finally, so I’ll probably go running.  And hey…September first is a Tuesday, right? I’ll need to get J to cross country practice, and I have to get groceries because we were away over the weekend and there’s not much in the fridge…even if we do have creamer, which I doubt.

Finally, I had the sense to talk about my upcoming launch party at Flying Pig Books, how we’ll have the Great Tree Identification Challenge for kids and Nonna’s famous funeral cookies.  But that’s not until Saturday, September 5th – five days after the fact.

Here’s a secret about launch day.  That magical day your book is released into the world.  That day you’ve been waiting for forever and ever, or at least it feels that way.

Not a whole lot happens.

The witty   illustrated this in what I thought was a particularly witty account of the release day for his YA  novel BUG BOY.

It reminds me a little of my tenth birthday. I remember getting out of bed, knowing that everything was different, and yet I felt just the same.  How could that be possible?  I was ten!  TEN!  I was a decade, all by myself!  Shouldn’t there have been fireworks or marching bands or something

Despite the lack of a parade, it was a great birthday, and I went to bed that night with the knowledge that I’d crossed a milestone. Double digits.  I’d never be just nine again, and just the quiet knowing was enough.

I expect that’s sort of what tomorrow will be like.  The party will come later — and we’ll do some fun stuff here online, too, including a big contest and giveaway for book clubs — but tomorrow will be that quieter milestone.  What will I be doing on release day?  Maybe that morning run. Definitely the groceries.  And then a little hiking – because the leaves are just starting to turn, and a mountaintop in the Adirondacks seems like as good a place as any to celebrate a book about fall.