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1. Pool Tables in Phoenix Metro Area

I have had a great interest in the game of pool since my early childhood. Growing up in local neighborhood bars and bowling alleys my parents frequented. I took a fast and keen interest to the game. It's a game which anyone man who wants to apply themselves can become a bit a shark with their friends. I never had aspirations to go pro but I have won a few friendly bets with my girlfriends and friends. These usually involved who would pay the bar bill or if I could win a unwilling accomplice to something she had no interest in but was a favorite past time of mine. Living in the Phoenix metro area over 20 years now. I have played countless games of pool all around the city. It's time I purchased my own pool table in phoenix and have been on the great hunt for a very nice pool table.

Pool Tables in Phoenix; It turned out there were far more retail pool stores than I had first imagined. Buying a pool table online was not in my opinion a good option. Once you understand the mechanics of table construction. Reading about a table and seeing it in person are two separate experiences. The feel of table and look are lost on the online experience. And since I was looking for a custom table I wanted a store who could accommodate my wishes.At a minimum I wanted a 1" thick slate. Three part slate or a single slab was part of what I wanted. Single slabs are great but a serious determent to me ever moving and breaking down my own table. My friends are getting old and they dont have the bravado for lifting heavy pieces of slate and telling the story later. So three pieces seemed to be a good match.

Pool table are created in segments, the under box or the apron can be plain or ornate. I was dreaming of a more ornate version. Top rails and side rails can be finished in a variety of stains and shaped to match the undercarriage but I have seen some wonderful examples of contrasting top rails to the bottom apron. I did find a company who sold pool tables in phoenix after finding this video. I found a billiards seller contender as an outlet and a very good place to start from near me. You know the story start out watching your favorite video theme and before you know it your ten videos in and no where near where you started. But this time it worked and I found Diamondback billiards. It it turned out they were local and would work with me to customize my dream table. That's when it started getting crazy. I mean that is when I started going crazy. They had over a hundred options to create my own dream table. I would have walked out of there with a million dollar table if I had been a lottery winner. Actually it turned out far better than I thought and I found an exception table sitting on the floor that had everything I wanted all ready to go. It was as if they had read my mind and created my dream table. As I said a dream table and this was certainly a dream table.

Meet the Rococo. Think of Versailles in past centuries and order up ornate carvings and rare woods. Now you have a an idea and I was hooked. Seriously this table blew me away. I love wood and this table was a small masterpiece. The top rails were tiger stripped maple which is a long held favorite of mine. A super dark royal blue cloth top made of Belgium wool (90% wool 10% nylon) and carvings that will blow you away. The legs were made from solid hardwood maple which must have started out as a 18" thick block. Carved from top to bottom inside and out. The apron featured matching carvings and the side rails all matched. The finish had a light antique milk finish to give the table a subtle antique look. It looks stunning in my game room by the way. If any thing terrible came from this it this. I have to move my game up to the next level to really deserve this table. It's that amazing when you see it. Really it's amazing.

If you reading this and in the Phoenix area I suggest you find Diamondback Billiards. They have a few showrooms east and west side of phoenix so there should be one somewhere near you. I am posting a a video I found of theirs that describes their pool table business in phoenix. Watching the owner talk about his business you can hear the passion in his voice.


Here is the part that kills me. They have a matching shuffle board and I don't know how I am going to fit in the game room but its going in.

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2. Join me at the War of 1812 Museum this weekend!

I’ve had a busy year of travel, so it’s with a big smile that I’m sharing the news about my speaking event for this weekend…right here at home!

If you live near Plattsburgh, I hope you’ll join me for “An Afternoon of History & Mystery” from 1-3pm this Saturday, March 16th, at the Battle of Plattsburgh Association’s War of 1812 Museum at 31 Washington Road on the former Plattsburgh Air Force Base.

I’ll be sharing some fun behind-the-scenes stories about my children’s mystery novel, CAPTURE THE FLAG and helping young writers do a little mystery brainstorming of their own. Here’s what CAPTURE THE FLAG is all about…

Anna, José, and Henry are complete strangers with more in common than they realize. Snowed in together at a chaotic Washington DC airport, they encounter a mysterious tattooed man, a flamboyant politician, and a rambunctious poodle named for an ancient king. Even stranger…news stations everywhere have announced that the famous flag that inspired “The Star-Spangled Banner” has been stolen! Anna, certain that the culprits must be snowed in, too, recruits Henry and José to help catch the thieves and bring them to justice.

But when accusations start flying, the kids soon realize there’s more than a national treasure at stake. And with unexpected enemies lurking at every corner, do Anna, José, and Henry have what it takes to solve the heist?

And if you’d like, you can read the first two chapters of CAPTURE THE FLAG here. This was an amazingly fun book to research and write, and its sequels, HIDE AND SEEK (coming out this spring!) and MANHUNT (coming in 2014) have been a gift to work on, too.

This Saturday’s talk is open to all ages but is especially suited to families and anyone who loves history and mysteries.  I’ll also be talking about my Adirondack picture books and figure skating novel, SUGAR AND ICE. After the event, I’ll be signing books and hanging around to visit and answer any questions.  And…I’ve decided to bring one of my early author copies of HIDE AND SEEK to give away in a drawing.

Hope to see some of you this weekend!

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3. On Valentines and Dads

I posted a version of this story on Father’s Day a while back, but today is both my mom and dad’s birthday – and I wanted to share it again…

My dad was the school superintendent in the village where we grew up.  His office was in the junior high school, which was both convenient and mortifying for me, in turns.  Convenient because he’d carry my baritone saxophone into school on the mornings I had jazz band.  Mortifying because if I got in trouble for talking in study hall, he knew before lunchtime.  But something else happened in those junior high years, too — something I didn’t figure out until I had grown into a less gawky, slightly less nerdy high school girl.  My dad was my secret admirer.

The student council at my junior high school had renamed Valentine’s Day “Carnation Day.”  In the weeks leading up to it, you could pay a dollar to send a carnation to the person of your choice, and it would be left on his or her desk before homeroom that morning.  The result was a very colorful and extraordinarily visible display of relative popularity.  There were some kids who walked in and sat down at empty desks every Valentine’s Day morning.  It’s a wonder they kept showing up.  There were other kids whose desks were so laden with flowers there was no room for a pencil.

It was a great source of angst.  I worried.  But I didn’t have to.  In my three years of junior high school, my desk was never without a carnation on Valentine’s Day.  Some years, there was more than one.  But always, there was one.

The card was either signed “from a secret admirer” or not signed at all.  My friends thought it made me seem exotic and mysterious.  I think it was freshman  year when I figured it out.  Every year, he heard the student council’s morning announcement and made the long walk from district offices at one end of the building to the cafeteria at the other end to order my flower. 



Happy Birthday, Mom & Dad!  And Dad… thanks for the carnations when I needed them most.

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4. Thank you, Wisconsin State Reading Association!

Living on the East Coast, winter travel can be tricky, so I don’t do too many speaking events in January and February. But when the Wisconsin State Reading Association asked if I’d speak at their annual convention and Authors Festival this week, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. The weather, thankfully, held off just long enough for me to arrive in Milwaukee on Thursday.  We had to circle the airport a few times while they plowed the runway, and here’s what it looked like when we landed.

On Friday, I spoke to Wisconsin teachers and librarians in two separate sessions — “Letting Kids Lead,” focused on transcending the one-answer sort of thinking that standardized tests promote and helping kids develop problem-solving and divergent thinking skills through authentic literacy activities, and then “Real Revision,” focused on writing that goes beyond those single-draft test questions. The lead learners in both of my sessions were absolutely fantastic – rolling up their sleeves to write and revise and try out world-building and mystery crafting activities they might share with their students later on.

Friday night, we had a wonderful dinner with the WSRA organizers and Authors Festival Committee. There was lots and lots of laughter coming from our room at the restaurant!

On Saturday morning, the festival authors got to spend time with young writers from area schools, which was such a wonderful way to end the conference. Jack Gantos had us all laughing during the morning breakfast.

I worked with two different groups, sharing some stories from my own research and writing adventures, and then we did some brainstorming and mystery crafting together.

I’m so thankful to have had this opportunity, in addition to working with the teachers and librarians on Friday. The young writers in my sessions were amazingly enthusiastic and talented, and I have no doubt I’ll be reading some of their books one day.

Thanks so much, Wisconsin Reading Association! I loved spending time with your teachers and young writers, and I can’t imagine a warmer welcome on a snowy weekend.

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5. HIDE AND SEEK impatient reader giveaway!

I’ve been getting lots of emails and tweets and general pokes about when HIDE AND SEEK, the sequel to CAPTURE THE FLAG, will be available. The answer to that question is April 1st – less than two months away!

The book is available for pre-order now, through your favorite bookseller, and Scholastic just sent me a few more advance reader copies, so I thought it would be fun to give some away for CAPTURE THE FLAG fans who aren’t feeling all that patient.

To enter the drawing, just leave a comment on this blog post with your name & a way to reach you if you win. I’ll draw a winner on Friday, February 15th – so let’s say that the deadline to enter is 11pm EST on Valentine’s Day.

If you’d like extra chances to win, you can do any or all of these things:

  • Blog about CAPTURE THE FLAG
  • “Like” my author page on Facebook.
  • “Like” CAPTURE THE FLAG on Facebook.
  • Write a mini-review of CAPTURE THE FLAG as your Facebook Status Update
  • Share a cover image of CAPTURE THE FLAG or HIDE AND SEEK on Facebook. (You can swipe the cover from above.)
  • Tweet a mini-review of CAPTURE THE FLAG.
  • Share your review of CAPTURE THE FLAG on GoodReads, Amazon, & Barnes and Noble.
  • Share your review of CAPTURE THE FLAG at Powells (and if you’re 1st to review it,  Powells will also enter you for their gift card giveaway!)
  • Ask your school or library to pre-order HIDE AND SEEK
  • Tweet or Facebook this update: HIDE AND SEEK, @katemessner’s sequel to CAPTURE THE FLAG, comes out April 1st! http://bit.ly/YEgLPg
  • Have the cover of HIDE AND SEEK or CAPTURE THE FLAG  tattooed on your left bicep. (Not really… I just put that in to see if anyone was still  paying attention.)
  • Do some other creative, great thing to spread the word about CAPTURE THE FLAG and HIDE AND SEEK.

Whatever you do for extra chances to win, please just leave a comment here  letting me know. Total honor system here. If you think it’ll help more mystery lovers discover the Silver Jaguar Society series, then go for it, and I’ll toss your name in the hat an extra time or two. Or ten.

And finally,  if you’re a teacher or librarian who does something cool with your whole class, let me know and I’ll enter you for  for a separate, special teacher/librarian giveaway.

Giveaway rules: Books can only be shipped to US addresses. If you’re under 13, please have an adult enter for you. Deadline to enter is 11pm EST February 14th.  Winners will be announced here on my blog on Friday, February 15th.

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6. Skype with an Author on World Read Aloud Day!

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

 

I also read lots and 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 couple 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. World Read Aloud Day 2013 is March 6th.

Some of you have already sent me notes asking if I’m available to Skype on that day, and I’m so sorry to tell you that I’m not this year – but for the very good reason that I’ll be reading to some kids in person at a school author visit in Vermont on that day. Instead, I’ll offer a sneak-preview video read aloud of two upcoming titles — HIDE AND SEEK (which is the sequel to my mystery CAPTURE THE FLAG and comes out April 1st) and MARTY MCGUIRE HAS TOO MANY PETS (which doesn’t come out until 2014, so I’ll be reading to you from the not-yet-edited draft. Cool, huh?)  So if you’d like to share those with your students, just bookmark this page and stop back on March 6th, and the videos will be posted right here.

So now…on to the World Read Aloud Day Skype list! 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 some 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’d like to have an author visit your classroom or library for 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 clicking on the link to his or her website and finding a contact form or email.  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 March 6th. Please note authors’ availability and time zones. Adjust accordingly if yours is different!
    • Your Skype username and a phone number where you can be reached on that day
  • Please understand that authors are people, too, and have schedules and families 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 his or her name.  (Authors, please let me know that if you can!)

World Read Aloud Day – Skyping Author Volunteers for March 6, 2013

Authors are listed along with publishers, available times, and the age groups for which they write.  (PB=picture books, MG=middle grades, YA=young adult, etc.)

 Anne Marie Pace
Disney-Hyperion
Elementary
10-12 EST
http://www.annemariepace.com
 
Crissa-Jean Chappell
Flux
High School
10am-3pm EST 
http://crissajeanchappell.com
 
JoAnn Early Macken
Disney-Hyperion, Candlewick Press, Holiday House
Elementary
10 a.m.-2 p.m. CST
http://www.joannmacken.com
 
Laurel Snyder
Random House Books for Young Readers
K-5 EST
8 am- 2pm
http://laurelsnyder.com
 
Erica S. Perl
Random House/Abrams
Elementary/Middle School
9am-12pm EST
http://www.ericaperl.com
 
Jody Feldman
HarperCollins/Greenwillow
Elementary/Middle School
8am-5pm CST
http://www.jodyfeldman.com
 
Terry Golson
Scholastic
K-3
10 to 2 EST
http://www.HenCam.com
 
Lynn Plourde
Dutton, S&S, Down East
Elementary EST
9am-noon EST
http://www.lynnplourde.com
 
Alissa Grosso
Flux
High School & Middle School
All day – EST
http://alissagrosso.com
 
Tricia Springstubb
HarperCollins
Elementary
10-2 EST
http://www.triciaspringstubb.com
 
Lori Degman
Simon & Schuster
Elementary
1:00 – 6:00 CST
http://www.Loridegman.com
 
Karen Day
Random House
Elementary/Middle School
11am-2pm EST
http://www.klday.com 
 
Donna Gephart
Delacorte Press/Random House
Elementary/Middle School
9am-6pm EST
http://www.donnagephart.com
 
Sarah Albee
(Numerous publishers)
Elementary/Middle School
10am-3pm EST
http://www.sarahalbeebooks.com
 
DiannaWinget
Harcourt
Elementary/Middle
9am-2pmPST
http://www.diannawinget.com
 
Erin Dealey
Atheneum/Sleeping Bear Press
Elementary/Middle School
10am-6pm EST 
http://www.erindealey.com
 
Sonia Gensler
Knopf
Middle School/High School
10am-3pm CST
http://www.soniagensler.com
 
Nikki Loftin
Penguin
Older Elementary (Third Grade & up)
11am-2pm CST
http://www.nikkiloftin.com
 
Linda Joy Singleton
Llewellyn/Flux
Middle/HS
Flexible times PST
http://www.LindaJoySingleton.com
 
Tiffany Strelitz Haber
Philomel/Penguin
Elementary Time Zone
10am-4pm EST
http://www.itsrhymetime.com
 
Margo Sorenson
Marimba Books/Just Us Books
Elementary K-3
6 AM – 8 AM PST
http://www.margosorenson.com
 
Irene Latham
Penguin & Macmillan
Elementary/Middle School
9am-1pm CST
http://www.irenelatham.com
 
Carol Weis
Simon & Schuster
Elementary 
11am-2pm EST
http://www.carolweis.com
 
Hillary Homzie
Simon & Schuster
Elementary/Middle School
9 am- 12 am PST
http://www.hillaryhomzie.com
 
Tami Lewis Brown
Farrar Straus & Giroux
Elementary
8:30- 2:00 EST
http://tamilewisbrown.com
 
Wendy Kitts
Nimbus Publishing
Elementary
9 am-7 pm PST
http://www.wendykitts.ca
 
Diane Zahler
Harper Collins
Elementary/Middle
12pm-3pm EST
http://www.dianezahler.com
 
Monica Carnesi
Penguin/Paulsen
Elementary
10 am – 3 pm EST
http://www.monicacarnesi.com
 
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Arthur A. Levine/Scholastic
4th-8th grade
9:00AM-11:00AM EST
http://www.olugbemisolabooks.com
 
Greg R. Fishbone
Lee & Low
Upper Elementary/Middle School
Any time
http://www.gfishbone.com
 
Natasha Wing
Grosset & Dunlap
Elementary
9-11 MST
http://www.natashawing.com
 
Lizzie K. Foley
Dial/Penguin
Elementary/Middle School
9:30am-2pm EST
http://www.lizziekfoley.com
 
 Tanya Lee Stone
Candlewick/Henry Holt/Penguin
Elementary/Middle School/High School
10am-2pm EST
 http://www.tanyastone.com
 
Amy Guglielmo
Sterling
Pre-school/Elementary (up to 2nd grade)
11am-2pm EST
http://www.touchtheart.com
 
Leslie Bulion
Peachtree,Charlesbridge
Elementary/Middle School
2-5pm EST
http://www.lesliebulion.com
 
Mark Jeffrey
Harper Collins
Middle School
Anytime – PST
http://markjeffrey.net
 
Dori Hillestad Butler
Albert Whitman/Peachtree/Grosset & Dunlap
Elementary or Middle School
1:00pm-3:00pm CST
http://www.kidswriter.com
 
Carmela LaVigna Coyle
Rising Moon/Taylor Trade
Elementary
9am-2pm MST
http://www.carmelacoiyle.com
 
Shannon Delany
St. Martin’s Press
Middle/High School
9am-2pm EST
http://www.ShannonDelany.com
 
Ammi-Joan Paquette
Walker/Tanglewood
Elementary/Middle School
10am-2pm EST
http://www.ajpaquette.com
 
J&P Voelkel
Egmont USA
Middle School
10am-1pm EST
http://www.jaguarstones.com
 
Melissa Wiley
Simon & Schuster/Random House
Elementary
10am-2pm PST
http://melissawiley.com
 
Mina Javaherbin
Candlewick/Disney Hyperion
Elementary
8:30am-2pm PST
http://minajavaherbin.com
 
Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan
Upper elementary and middle
10 am to 2 pm CST
http://kristintubb.com
 
W.H. Beck
Houghton Mifflin
Elementary/Middle School
7-7:45, 12:15-12:45, 4:15-5 CST
http://www.whbeck.com
 
Joanne Levy
Bloomsbury Middle School
Elementary/Middle School
8:30 EST – 10:30 EST
http://www.joannelevy.com
 
Jean Reidy
Bloomsbury/Disney Hyperion
Preschool/Elementary School
10 am – 5 pm EST
http://www.jeanreidy.com
 
Melanie Hope Greenberg
Penguin
Elementary
9am – 12:00pm EST
http://www.melaniehopegreenberg.com

Alison Alison Formento
Albert Whitman & Company
Elementary 
1:00-4:00 pm EST
http://www.alisonashleyformento.com
 
Debbie Dadey
Simon and Schuster/Scholastic
Elementary
9:00-11:00 and 1:00-3:00 EST
http://www.debbiedadey.com
 
Cynthia Platt
Tiger Tales
Elementary
10am-1pm EST
http://scribblingintheattic.com
 
Frané  Lessac
Candlewick/Holiday House/Lee and Low
Elementary/Middle School
Author’s time zone: Australia +8 GMT
10:30- 11:00am EST
http://www.franelessac.com
 

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

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7. Twelve Kinds of Lovely: Frost Flowers on Lake Champlain

It’s probably no surprise that someone who writes books like these…

…is a winter person. I love summer, but winter light and winter quiet feed my soul in a different way. If you’re that kind of person, too, you won’t want to miss this small, lovely book called TWELVE KINDS OF ICE, written by Ellen Bryan Obed and illustrated by Barbara McClintock.

Don’t expect a novel; this is more the kind of story your grandmother told you over hot chocolate — a remembrance of wintry childhood memories that celebrate all that’s good and pure and wildly fun when it comes to being a kid.  It starts with the ice on the sheep pails in the narrator’s barn, “an ice so thin that it broke when we touched it.”  The language in this personal narrative is as crisp and sparkling as the ice itself. But it was the section on Black Ice that resonated with me the most:

We could see the clouds, the blue sky, the tree-edged shoreline, in the mirror of black ice beneath us. We could see ourselves in the glass, our long-winged spirals, our flashing blades, our new mittens.

This is the kind of ice we live for at my house on Lake Champlain. And as I read yesterday, the temperature was plunging for the third night in a row. This morning, it was -16 when I woke up. When I got home from taking the kids to school, I went out back and down the stairs to the lake. My back yard gets a lot bigger this time of year.

I found what I was hoping for — that smooth, perfect, black ice — and an unexpected gift, too.  Delicate, feathery frost flowers…

 

An article I found in New Scientist says this is mostly an Arctic phenomenon. Here’s an excerpt:

Grae Worster and Robert Style of the University of Cambridge found that frost flowers form mostly in still, dry air. The key factor is air that is much colder – by around 20  °C – than the water below the ice, they say.

Under these extreme circumstances ice vaporises into the dry air and then refreezes in the form of a frost flower. The pair confirmed this by recreating such conditions in the laboratory. They grew frost flowers from fresh water at 0  °C by cooling the surrounding air to around -25  °C.

I love it when science makes magic like this. Here’s an NPR feature about the phenomenon.

It wasn’t long this morning before cold hands and warning noises from the not-quite-thick-enough ice sent me scurrying back to the stairs. I’ll be working in my writing room overlooking the frozen lake today, warmed by hot tea and a space heater…and the memory of magical flowers that bloom on the ice.

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8. Writing and Writing (and a short story to read while you wait!)

I must admit… I’ve been a bad blogger lately because all  my words have been going into a few projects I’ve been working on. So now that I’m here, how about if I tell you a little about those?

This one’s all done…

HIDE AND SEEK is my follow up to CAPTURE THE FLAG, and in this second mystery, a sacred Silver Jaguar Society artifact goes missing, and Anna, Henry, and Jose go with their families to the rainforest of Costa Rica to try and track down the priceless Jaguar Cup before it falls into the wrong hands forever.  I love this book (maybe even more than CAPTURE THE FLAG – am I allowed to say that?) and can’t wait for it to come out in April.

After HIDE AND SEEK, Anna, Henry, and Jose will have one more adventure, and I’m working on that book right now. It’s called MANHUNT, and it pits the Silver Jaguar Society against the most nefarious art theft gang in all of Europe in a race to save the most beloved works of art in the world. This book takes place in some of the brightest and darkest places in Boston and Paris and was so much fun to research that I wish I could hop on a plane and do it all over again. But the great thing about writing books is that you get to relive your research trips with every draft.  It may be below freezing and drizzly where I live, but in my writing room this week, it was Paris in August, right down to the breeze on the Seine and the wafting smell of banana-Nutella crepes.

I’ve also been working on a couple proposals for new projects that are too new to be talked about but have been haunting my dreams and my notebooks for a while.

I don’t have a new book coming out until Spring, but I do have a short story to share now.  A while back, Scholastic asked me to write a piece of original fiction for their Storyworks magazine, and I jumped at the chance to try something a little different from what I usually write. It’s science fiction, and it’s called “They Might Be Dangerous.”

TMBD

Scholastic has made much of the February/March issue of Storyworks available online (they’re great that way) so if you’d like to read my story, you can click here to find it.   Scroll down to find “They Might Be Dangerous,” and then you can click on it to download the story as a pdf to read and share.

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9. Eli the Good by Silas House

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 9.58.21 AMSo what’s to say about ELI THE GOOD?  I loved this book, despite a burst of bad attitude last week that made me impatient with its gorgeous descriptions for a day or so.  You can read more about that here, or not.

ELI THE GOOD is one of those stories where setting — place and especially time — takes center stage. The year is 1976 — a year I remember for our town’s bicentennial parade and because I spent most of it angry that I wasn’t allowed to ride my bike to the park alone.  Eli remembers it as the year things fell apart in his family — with a wild-spirited aunt who shows up with a secret, a mouthy, strong-willed sister who comes to blows with their mother, and a father who is trapped in his memories of Vietnam. It’s a beautiful, poignant book, full of the kinds of details that made me want to go back and reread passages.  There were many that I loved, but maybe this one most of all:

“Whole scenes of your life slip away forever if you don’t put them down in ink.”  ~Eli Book

I loved this book, though I haven’t had a chance to share it with students yet, and there’s one thing that makes me most curious as to how it will be received.  Even though Eli is ten years old the summer of 1976, he’s a grown man, narrating from years in the future as he narrates the book. In that sense, it feels more like an adult book sometimes than a title aimed at kids.  I’m curious to see how much students will connect with that older, wiser voice. Has anyone shared this title with tweens & teens yet?  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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10. Authors Wanted: A call for World Read Aloud Day 2013

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Confession: 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 couple 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. World Read Aloud Day 2013 is March 6th, and I’d love to do this again, to help interested authors, teachers, and librarians connect.

A suggested World Read Aloud Day Skype visit goes 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 some 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

Sound like fun? If  you’re the author of a traditionally published* book and you’d like to volunteer to do some 10-15 minute Skype visits with classes on March 6, 2013, please send me an email via the contact form on my website (you can get there by clicking on the little envelope on the right side of the screen).  Deadline: February 1st, please, so people can plan.

  • Put WORLD READ ALOUD DAY VOLUNTEER in the subject line
  • Include the following information in the body of your email:
    • Your name
    • Your publisher
    • What ages your books fit best (Elementary, Middle School, or High School)
    • What time zone you live in (EST, CST, etc. This is important for scheduling!)
    • Hours you’ll be available for Skype visits on March 6, 2013 (10am-2pm EST, for example)
    • Your website (and email if your website doesn’t have contact information)

So a sample email from an author volunteer will look like this:

Kate Messner
Scholastic
Elementary/Middle School
EST
11am-2pm EST
www.katemessner.com
 

Please use this exact format; it will make it easy for me to copy & paste your entry to the blog post, and then I will love you forever.

I’ll pull all the author volunteer information together in a blog post for early February and share with teachers & librarians who want to Skype with read-aloud authors on March 6th.  Teachers & librarians will contact authors directly to request visits.  If you’re on the list for a while and then realize your schedule for the day is full, it will be helpful if you email me to let me know that so that I can cross you off and you don’t keep getting requests.

*Yes…I’m limiting this volunteer round-up to traditionally published authors who write children’s and YA books. That’s not because I have anything against self-publishing or ebooks — it’s simply to limit the scope of the project so it doesn’t overwhelm me. If someone else would like to create a similar list of self-published and/or ebook author volunteers, I’ll happily link to it here.  Thanks for understanding!

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11. Why writing a book about concussions can be hazardous to your health&#8230;

WAKE UP MISSING, my Fall 2013 MG novel with Walker/Bloomsbury is just about put to bed. I spent much of the holiday break reviewing copy edits, and I have to admit, as excited as I am for this book to be out in the world, I was a little sad to let it go because it’s been so much fun, so interesting to work on.  The cover design team has done a spectacular job, and I can’t wait to show you what they’ve created.  But for now, I’ll share a little about the book.

Meet Quentin, a middle school football star from Chicago…

Sarah, an Upstate New York girls’ hockey team stand-out…

Ben, a horse lover from the Pacific Northwest…

And Cat, an artistic bird watcher from California.

The four have nothing in common except for the head injuries that land them in an elite brain-science center in the Florida Everglades. It’s known as the best in the world, but as days pass, the kids begin to suspect that they are subjects in an experiment that goes far beyond treating concussions….and threatens their very identities. They’ll have to overcome their injuries – and their differences –  to escape, or risk losing themselves forever.

 Researching this book meant lots of reading and multiple trips to the Florida Everglades to soak up the setting and details, so I’d have a better sense for what it might be like to attempt an escape through that unforgiving landscape.

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My daughter and I went kayaking with alligators — twice — once in the early morning hours and once in the dark of night, when their eyes glowed red in our head lamps.

I went hiking in the Fakahatchee Strand with snakes like this one…

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…and made it through all those experiences with nary a scratch.

But sometimes, while you’re working on a book, the heaps of laundry really pile up in your bedroom. And so sometimes, when you finish copy edits, you resolve to clean that room as soon as the manuscript is back in the mail. And if you’re not careful, you might bend over really fast to pick up a stray sock from your floor and forget all about that very solid oak bedpost that’s been living in that corner of your room for your entire married life. And it might connect with your head and cause you to see stars and sit down for a little while thinking, “Wow, that hurt!”  And two days later, when you develop a sudden and intense headache on that side of your head, you’ll probably need to go to the hospital for a CT Scan to make sure your brain isn’t bleeding. And you’ll learn that you are just fine, but you do have your first-ever concussion.

On a positive note…I got to see pictures of my brain, which is pretty cool.

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My friend Irene thinks this should be the author photo for WAKE UP MISSING.

My post-concussion headache has abated now, but for a few days, it allowed me to empathize with my poor novel characters in a way I’d never planned.  I’m calling it accidental research. And also…validation. For years growing up, I told my mom that I was sure cleaning my room was somehow hazardous to my health.  Now I know, I was right all along.

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12. Books on the Move!

Last weekend, I had an author signing at The Bookstore Plus, a terrific independent bookstore in Lake Placid. In addition to signing for holiday shoppers in the store, I spent nearly three hours personalizing & signing books for students whose classes had Skype visits with me this fall. The Monday after my event, Sarah, one of the store owners, sent me a picture of all the books, boxed up and ready to be shipped to schools all over the country – from Georgia, to Maine, to California and everywhere in between.

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Many thanks to Sarah, Marc, and Cherise for handling the phone calls, paperwork, and organization for this, and to all the teachers and librarians who offered their students the chance to order personalized, signed books.  They’re on the way!

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13. Authors Who Skype with Classes &#038; Book Clubs (for free!)

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Welcome to the Authors Who Skype with Classes & Book Clubs List!  I’m Kate Messner, the children’s author and educator who maintains this site.  I started it because I’ve found that virtual author visits are a great way to connect authors and readers, and I realize that many schools facing budget troubles don’t have the option of paid author visits. With that in mind, this is a list of authors who offer free 15-20-minute Q and A sessions with classes and book clubs that have finished reading one of their books. As an author, I offer free Skype chats for the following titles:

(Please check book release dates! Upcoming titles are also listed; Skype visits available upon book’s release!)

If you’re interested in booking a “virtual visit” with me, please visit my website or drop me an email (kmessner at katemessner dot com). 

How does a Skype virtual visit work?  Click here to read a blog entry about my students’ virtual visit with the fantastic Laurie Halse Anderson. It includes an overview of how a Skype chat with an author might work, as well as tips for teachers, librarians, & book club organizers to help your virtual visit run smoothly.  You can click here to read my first School Library Journal technology feature on Skype author visits, called “Met Any Good Authors Lately? Classroom Visits Can  Happen Via Skype” and this follow-up SLJ feature, “An Author in Every Classroom: Kids Connecting with Authors via Skype. It’s the next best thing to being there.”  There’s also an ever-growing list of authors who offer both free and paid Skype visits at the Skype An Author Network.

Important note for teachers & librarians: Please check with the author via email to be sure he or she still offers free Skype chats before you purchase books or make plans. (Some authors offer only a limited number of free Skype visits, and some who start out offering free visits begin to charge later on.  I don’t always get those updates right away.)  And authors…if you’re on this list but no longer offer free Skype visits, please let me know.

Authors Who Skype With Classes & Book Clubs (for free!)

The following authors offer free 15-20-minute Skype chats with book clubs and classes that have read one of their books! (Many also offer more in-depth virtual visits for a fee.) To arrange a virtual visit, check out the authors’ websites for book choices and contact information.  Then ask for their books at your favorite bookstore or visit IndieBound to find a store near you!

For Middle Grade Book Clubs (Ages 8-12)

Sarah Albee
R.J. Anderson
Hannah Barnaby
Dale Basye
Julie Berry
Helene Boudreau
Larry Dane Brimner
Christine Brodien-Jones
Susan Taylor Brown
Leslie Bulion
Stephanie Burgis
Dori Hillestad Butler
Jennifer Cervantes
Katie Davis
Kenneth C. Davis
Julia DeVillers
Erin Dionne
Bonnie Doerr
Gail Donovan
Kathleen Duble
Kathleen Duey
Sarah Beth Durst
Deva Fagan
Greg Fishbone
D. Dina Friedman
Dee Garretson
Donna Gephart
Mike Graf
Danette Haworth
Bridget Heos
Tess Hilmo
Sara Lewis Holmes
Jacqueline Houtman
Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Mark Jeffrey
Lynne Kelly
Derek Taylor Kent
Rose Kent
Morgan Keyes
Jo Knowles
Jane Kurtz
R.L. LaFevers
Irene Latham
Jessica Leader
Lindsey Leavitt
Debbie Levy
Cynthea Liu
C. Alexander London
Dayna Lorentz
Eric Luper
JoAnn Early Macken
Torrey Maldonado
Leslie Margolis
Nan Marino
Kate Messner
Rita Murphy
Richard Newsome
Jennifer Nielsen
Barbara O’Connor
Wendy Orr
Mitali Perkins
Erica Perl
Sarah Prineas
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Yolanda Ridge
Karen Romano Young
Kurtis Scaletta

 

Augusta Scattergood

 

Laura Schaefer
Lisa Schroeder
Adam Selzer
Laurel Snyder
Margo Sorenson
Tricia Springtubb
Anna Staniszewski
Catherine Stine
Melissa Thomson
Jennifer Trafton
Anne Ursu
Greg van Eekhout
Cynthia Willis
Barry Wolverton
Tracie Vaughn Zimmer

For Teen Book Clubs
(Also check out the list of adult authors below; many also work with teens.)

R.J. Anderson
Ann Angel
Heidi Ayarbe
Kim Baccellia
Pam Bachorz
Cyn Balog
Tracey Baptiste
Lauren Bjorkman
Amy Brecount White
Sarah Rees Brennan
Larry Dane Brimner
Jessica Burkhart
Kay Cassidy
Angela Cerrito
Crissa-Jean Chappell
Ellen Dee Davidson
Kenneth C. Davis
Jaclyn Dolamore
Kathleen Duble
Kathleen Duey
Sarah Beth Durst
Debby Dahl Edwardson
Beth Fehlbaum
Megan Frazer
D. Dina Friedman
Margie Gelbwasser
David Macinnis Gill
Carla Gunn
Teri Hall
Brendan Halpin
S.A. Harazin
Sue Harrison
Cheryl Renee Herbsman
Jim C. Hines
Jennifer Hubbard
Jennifer Jabaley
Denise Jaden
Christine Johnson
Tara Kelly
James Kennedy
Jo Knowles
Daniel Kraus
Nina LaCour
Marie Lamba
Kristen Landon
Anita Liberty
Sarah Darer Littman
Cynthea Liu
Dayna Lorentz
Elisa Ludwig
Eric Luper
Sarah Maclean
Torrey Maldonado
Leslie Margolis
Peter Marino
Neesha Meminger
Marissa Meyer
Lynn Miller-Lachman
Megan Miranda
Saundra Mitchell
Mike Mullin
Greg Neri
Patricia Newman
Caragh O’Brien
Micol Ostow
Jackson Pearce
Mitali Perkins
Erica Perl
Amy Plum
Gae Polisner
Beth Revis
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Lena Roy
Carrie Ryan
Peter Salomon
Sydney Salter
Lisa Schroeder
Inara Scott
Adam Selzer
Kristina Springer
Catherine Stine
Laurie Stolarz
Tiffany Trent
Melissa Walker
Elaine Wolf
Mary Rose Wood


For Adult Book Clubs
(Also check out the authors listed above; middle grade & teen novels can be great book club selections!)

Christa Allan
Charlene Ann Baumbich
Sandra Gulland
Carla Gunn
Sue Harrison
Sarah Maclean
Maryann McFadden
Kitty Morse
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
Kelly Simmons
Garth Stein
Gwendolyn Zepeda

Picture Book Clubs for Younger Readers  (4-8)

Marsha Diane Arnold
Mike Artell
Louise Borden
Larry Dane Brimner
Susan Taylor Brown
Leslie Bulion
Katie Davis
Elizabeth Dulemba
Kathy Duval
Sonia Clark Foster
Laurie Jacobs
Jane Kohuth
Jane Kurtz
Kara Lareau
Deb Lund
JoAnn Early Macken
Wendy Martin
Kate Messner
Jamie Michalak
Wendy Orr
Erica Perl
Jean Reidy
Barb Rosenstock
Michael Shoulders
Margo Sorenson
Jennifer Ward
Natasha Wing

If you’re an author of a traditionally published book who would like to be added, please email me (kmessner at katemessner dot com).  If you’re a publicist and would like to send a list of all your authors who Skype with book clubs, that’s fabulous, too.  Again…this is a list of authors who offer FREE 20-minute Skype chats with classrooms & book clubs that have read one of their books.

If you’re a bookseller or book club member, teacher, or librarian, thanks for stopping by – and feel free to comment with any questions!

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14. ALAN 2012 and a quick desert getaway&#8230;

I’m still catching up from last week…Thanksgiving and the NCTE Conference and ALAN Workshop in Las Vegas.  But now that I’m digging out from the turkey bones and piles of laundry, I wanted to share a few more photos from an amazing week.

After three days of speaking and signing at NCTE, I had one last event before heading home — an ALAN breakout session called “Creating Ripples: Writing for Kids in the Middle” with some of the authors who inspire me most.  We had a wonderful afternoon talking with teachers about why writing for middle school kids is such a privilege for us.  Here’s our panel:

I loved hearing the other ALAN speakers in the main ballroom, too — so many amazing ideas and so much inspiration. But I also spent a little time away from the conference center on the Monday afternoon of ALAN.

 

This is Valley of Fire State Park. My friend & fellow TED2012 speaker Angie Miller decided that a little fresh air would do us good after Monday’s morning workshop, so we rented a car and headed out to climb rocks, spot wildlife, ogle 4000-year-old petroglyphs, and just explore. Here’s some of what we found.

 

Valley of Fire is a truly stunning landscape — one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen with so much space to roam. It was so very welcome after the bright lights and loud music of Vegas.

Between the wonder of the desert and the magic of so many book lovers at NCTE/ALAN, I came home feeling refreshed and full of hope. The world is a pretty amazing place, full of some truly awesome people.

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15. Great Friends &#038; Great Books at NCTE12/ALAN12

Imagine a conference center full of thousands of teachers who love books, reading, and writing more than anything.  Add in a hundred or so enthusiastic authors, an enormous exhibit hall full of amazing books, and a music-pulsing, neon-light flashing hotel lobby, and you can begin to imagine this year’s NCTE Conference and ALAN Workshop in Las Vegas.

 My conference began with a signing of EYE OF THE STORM, followed by a wonderful dinner with the Walker/Bloomsbury crew, including my fellow KidLitCares organizer Joanne Levy. Here’s the whole bunch of us showing off the team’s latest books.

 

(From left to right: Linette Kim, Susan Vaught, Michelle Naglar, me, Emily Eason, Donna Knoell, Megan Miranda, Shannon Hale, Sarah Maas, Jessica Warman, Lindsey Leavitt, Caroline Abbey, and Beth Eller)

The next morning, I headed to my first speaking engagement, where I met up with my fellow panelists, Donna Knoell, Anita Silvey, who talked about THE PLANT HUNTERS, which I started reading on the plane home, and Lindsey Leavitt, whose upcoming book GOING VINTAGE looks so funny. Here’s Lindsey…

 

My long-time online friend, author April Henry, stopped by my signing at Chronicle Books to say hello.  We figured out that we’ve been chatting over our blogs since 2006 or so but never connected in person until Saturday.

 

I spent an hour at Chronicle, signing SEA MONSTER’S FIRST DAY along with lots and lots of copies of OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW, which was on the NCTE Notable Books in the Language Arts list this year.

I also signed copies of REAL REVISION at Stenhouse, and the very first advance reader copies of HIDE AND SEEK at Scholastic.

This one’s the second book in the Silver Jaguar Society Mysteries with Scholastic, and it comes out April 1st.

 I got to spend much of Sunday morning with the Scholastic team and several hundred amazing teachers at the Scholastic Literary Brunch.  We shared excerpts from our new and upcoming books, using a readers’ theater format, which was so much fun. I got to read from CAPTURE THE FLAG, Blue Balliett’s HOLD FAST, and Eliot Schrefer’s ENDANGERED, along with Blue, Eliot, and David Levithan.

 After brunch, it was time for the session celebrating NCTE’s Notable Books in the Language Arts, where OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW was one of thirty books honored.  I was happy to see my friend Linda Urban’s HOUND DOG TRUE on the big screen, too!

Sunday night brought a Scholastic family dinner at a great Mexican restaurant whose name eludes me.  A few of us decided to forego the cab ride and walk back to our hotel instead.  Las Vegas is very shiny.

 

I’m not much of a fan of casinos and loud music, but the lights were pretty, and Las Vegas sure knows how to do dessert.

Monday kicked off the amazing, author-filled ALAN Workshop, along with a little time away from the city lights, climbing rocks at Valley of Fire State Park.  More photos to come in a future post, but now…it’s time for the quiet of home and some turkey this weekend.  Hope you’ve all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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16. Where to Find Me (in Rochester and at NCTE2012!)

November is a busy month for me, but a great one as far as book events. On Saturday, I’ll be here…

…at the Rochester Children’s Book Festival at MCC.  If you live in Western NY, I’d love to see you there. It’s an amazing event full of book energy, and if you love books, you’ll love it here as much as I do.

Next week, I’m heading west to NCTE 2012 in Las Vegas. Here’s my schedule of events there:

Friday, November 16                 

3 – 4pm     Signing EYE OF THE STORM at Walker/Bloomsbury-  Booth #501

Saturday, November 17

8 – 9:15am  Author Strand: Mentors, Models, Ideas, and Dreams – MGM Grand Ballroom Room 121, Level One

9:30–10:30  Signing OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW and SEA MONSTER’S FIRST DAY at Chronicle Books – Booth #334

11am – 12pm   Signing REAL REVISION at Stenhouse Booth #721

12:30 – 2:30pm   Books for Children Luncheon – Premier Ballroom Room 318/319/320, Level 3   

3 – 4pm  Signing advance copies of HIDE AND SEEK (sequel to CAPTURE THE FLAG) at Scholastic - Booth # 200

Sunday, November 18

9 – 11:30am    Scholastic Literary Brunch

1 – 4pm   NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts – MGM Grand Ballroom Room 117, Level One

5:30 – 7:30pm    ALAN Cocktail Reception -  MGM Grand Ballroom 121-123, Level 1

Tuesday, November 20

2:40pm – 3:40pm    ALAN Author Breakout #5, Creating Ripples: Writing for Kids in the Middle

MGM Grand Premier Ballroom Room 309 – 311, Level 3                                     

Speakers: Kate Messner, Blue Balliett, Jody Feldman, Rebecca Stead, Jo Knowles                                

If you’re in Rochester on Saturday…or at NCTE next week, please stop by and say hello!

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17. Montclair Kimberley Academy Scholastic Book Fair

Earlier this week, I attended the biggest Scholastic Book Fair in the country – absolute heaven for a book geek like me!

This is just part of the set-up at the amazing Montclair Kimberley Academy in New Jersey, which is celebrating its 125th birthday this year. There were SO many books, and Scholastic brought in authors to speak to the students each day. I was one of the featured presenters, along with Trent Reedy, Lisa McMann, Loren Long, Matthew Reinhart, and Dav Pilkey.

Because this whole part of New Jersey was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy, I wondered for a while if this scheduled event would happen, but the Scholastic folks assured me that the school had power, even though most of the families’ homes did not, and the book fair would be a welcome break from storm clean up.  I knew there were lots of people in this area who couldn’t even think of getting to a book fair, though, so I checked with a Newark Red Cross shelter to see if they could use some books and things for the kids. They said yes – and told me they sure could use some socks and sanitary napkins, too -  so I loaded up my suitcase with books and notebooks…

…then stopped at the store to buy sanitary napkins and lots and lots of socks on my way to the airport. I can only imagine what the TSA inspectors thought of my stuffed-to-bulging bag full of books, socks, and feminine supplies. I had the chance to drop it all off at a shelter not far from the airport in Newark and spend some time talking with the coordinators there, who were still friendly and smiling a week after the storm.

There were plenty of smiles to go around at the book fair, too.  I loved chatting with these kids about books and reading and their own writing, too. Many were working on stories of their own and were eager to tell me about them.

Thanks, Montclair Kimberley Academy and Scholastic, for a wonderful book fair day!

 

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18. Teachers Write: Writing as Reflection

Where I live, the leaves have not only turned, they’re falling by the bushels as we look November in the eye. When I was teaching, this was always around the time I’d need to step away from my desk full of papers to reflect on how things were going. The new-pencil smell of September has probably worn off for you by now, so let’s take this week’s #TeachersWrite to do the same.  Here’s today’s prompt:

Choose one of your top students and finish these thoughts in his or her voice.

The best thing we’ve done in class so far has been…

My least favorite day of class was the day…

My goal for the next quarter is…

I wish…

Now, answer those same questions in the voice of one of your struggling students.

And finally, answer them in your own voice.

Sometimes, we write to be understood.  And sometimes, we write to better understand ourselves. That’s what reflection is all about, after all, isn’t it? Seeing something in a different way so that we notice things we might have missed.

If you discovered anything you’d like to share, feel free to comment!

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19. My Day with the Huebner Huskies!

When I’m visiting a city for school or library visits, I always love to see the area, so I was thrilled when San Antonio librarian friends Cari, Sue, and Natalie asked if I’d like to join them for dinner on the River Walk last night. We enjoyed some great Mexican food, the weather was perfect (it’s no longer outdoor dining weather at home!), and the view was spectacular.

After dinner, they took me to see the Alamo because you simply cannot leave San Antonio without having your picture taken at the Alamo.

Mission accomplished!  From left to right, that’s Natalie Watts, me, and Cari Young. It’s fascinating to me that this gorgeous historic site is right in the middle of downtown San Antonio, next to a mall, in fact.

The next morning, Natalie picked me up for my visit to her wonderful library and introduced me to the stellar Huebner Husky readers.

I gave presentations for the K, 1st, and 2nd students – then had lunch with these great ladies.

Kristin and Rachel are PTA library volunteers who help keep the place running. Today, in addition to taking care of breakfast (breakfast tacos!) and lunch for my author visit, they were getting ready for the school’s upcoming Scholastic Book Fair.

In this picture, they’re working on something I thought was too cool not to share.  They create a teacher wish-list board, with pictures of all the teachers and tiny folders where they can put slips of paper with the titles of books they’d like for their classrooms.  Parents who visit the book fair check out the board to find their child’s teacher and take a slip if they’d like to purchase a book for the class library.  Kristin and Rachel say by the end of the book fair, those slips of paper are almost always gone, and the kids have great new books to read in their classrooms. Neat, huh?

After lunch today, I spent some time in individual classrooms, visiting 5th graders who hadn’t seen a presentation but wanted to know about research and writing, and chatting with first graders who won a “private Q and A session” in the library drawing.

Then it was back to the library to finish signing books for the kids before dismissal time. We finished the last batch with about five minutes to spare!

I was heading out for a quiet dinner with my book tonight, but when I got to the restaurant, one of Huebner’s second grade teachers, Jillian Curtis, rushed up to say hi.

Jillian happened to be eating out there with her husband and invited me to join them – something I appreciated so much because I’ve been missing my family at night.  An evening of great conversation with new friends was the perfect way to end the day.

Thanks so much, Huebner Huskies!  It was truly a joy spending the day with such fantastic readers, writers, and thinkers.

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20. Amazing Readers (and one tarantula!) at Fox Run Elementary!

I’ve been at a different San Antonio elementary school every day this week, spending time with amazing kids, teachers, librarians, and parent volunteers – and today was no exception.  My morning at Fox Run Elementary School started with a special welcome on the school’s morning announcements.

These girls do the announcements live on school-wide television every morning!

Librarian Cari Young, who coordinated my week of visits, heads up the library here and did an amazing job getting her readers ready for today’s presentations.

She also introduced me to her library guest, Gordon the Tarantula.

Gordon is on loan from the regional educational center, which loans out not only the usual books and A/V supplies but also live animals.  Gordon’s visiting for two weeks, and while he’s in the library, kids are invited to write his diary.

What does the tarantula have to say?

Such a fun way to get kids thinking about point of view and voice!  My favorite entry from the spider said, “I need to shave my legs.”

Throughout the day, I signed lots and lots of books…and one cast.

Thanks so much, Fox Run readers, for an amazing day in your school library!

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21. Thank you, AuSable Valley Elementary!

Most of my school author visits this fall have involved airplanes and multiple days away from my family, so it was lovely to visit a school closer to home today. When I pulled into the parking lot at AuSable Valley Elementary School, I saw this trailer…

…and thought, “Oh, dear.”  I’ve been told that I give a pretty entertaining presentation, but there’s no way I can compete with miniature donkeys. But it turns out the donkeys were here for their own event, a special presentation arranged for one of the third grade classrooms that had been reading about therapy dogs. These are therapy donkeys, and I got to visit them to say hello.

After the donkeys went home, the third graders headed to the gym for our author visit. Both groups I worked with today — the K-2 students and the 3rd-6th grade crew — were just fantastic. I can always tell when kids are enthusiastic readers and writers because of the great questions they ask.  After my first presentation to the younger group, one of the boys came running back to the gym a few minutes later. “This is for you,” he said.

I asked him to tell me about his picture. “That’s you,” he said, pointing. “You’re the pink one, and you’re walking in the woods. And those are animal tracks.”  They were from a desert animal, he told me, maybe a frog or a prairie dog. This is one of the reasons I love school visits so much!

Thanks, Kobe, for your illustration, and thanks to everyone at AuSable Valley Elementary for a magical, story-filled morning!

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22. A Great Day at Henry Elementary School!

My second day of Missouri school visits this week brought me to the fantastic readers of Henry Elementary School, who had  warm welcome waiting outside the library!

My first two hours of the day were dedicated to a marathon book signing that claimed the life of a brand new Sharpie.

This book especially made me smile…

I love when a student drops off a book to be signed & there’s already a bookmark in the middle!

After the book signing, I gave presentations to the K-1st, 2nd-3rd, and 4th-5th grade groups. They were all amazing listeners, readers, and writers – and near the end of the afternoon, as the kids were leaving the library, I heard one of the best things an author can possible hear after a talk. A girl turned to her teacher and said, “Can we go write now?!” It made my whole day.  And so did these smiling faces…

Thanks, staff and students of Henry Elementary School – I loved spending my Tuesday with you!

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23. Thank you, Bellerive Elementary!

I’m in Missouri this week for two days of author visits. Today, I spent the day at Bellerive Elementary School just outside St. Louis, talking books, reading, and writing with some amazing readers and writers.  And boy, does this school ever know how to make an author feel welcome. Check out the artwork that greeted me everywhere I turned.

It’s so much fun to see my characters brought to life in kids’ artwork!

Cassie even created Gianna’s leaf-mobile from THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z.

School librarian Melissa Biehl organized this whole extravaganza – what an amazing woman!

She also introduced me to Jerome.

He’s the official bearded dragon of the Bellerive Elementary Library. I even got to hold him for a bit while the students cleaned out his cage.

Jerome was very friendly, if a little prickly.

After school, I got to spend time with district teachers, giving a “Real Revision” workshop. They were great sports – and enthusiastic writers even after a long day of teaching!

Thanks so much to EVERYONE  at Bellerive Elementary School for a great visit! What an amazing group of readers and writers!

 

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24. Introducing book #2 in the Silver Jaguar Society mysteries!

I’ve been busier than usual with Skype author visits to classrooms this fall. I’m delighted that so many teachers have chosen to share CAPTURE THE FLAG as a first read-aloud of the school year, and it’s been great fun to answer kids’ questions about the book and the series. One question that always comes up is this:

Is there going to be a sequel?

The answer is YES!  It’s called HIDE AND SEEK, and here’s the cover:


José, Anna, and Henry are junior members of the secret Silver Jaguar Society, sworn to protect the world’s most important artifacts. When they discover that the society’s treasured Jaguar Cup has been replaced with a counterfeit, the trio and their families rush to the rain forests of Costa Rica in search of the real chalice. But when the trail runs dry, new mysteries emerge: Who can they trust? Is there a traitor in their midst? With danger at every turn, it will take more than they realize for José and his friends to recover the cup before it falls into the wrong hands.

HIDE AND SEEK was so much fun to write, not only because I’m madly in love with these characters but also because this book meant traveling to Costa Rica’s rain forest for research.  You can bet that many of the animals I blogged about after that trip have crawled, flown, climbed, and slithered their way into the story, too.

HIDE AND SEEK comes out April 1st from Scholastic – and it’s already on GoodReads if you’d like to add to your to-read list. It’s available for pre-order, too, at your local indie bookstore or wherever you like to buy books.

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25. Teachers Write: What&#8217;s your character&#8217;s knot?

I’m working through a novel revision right now with a huge focus on character. Specifically, I’m studying the growth of my main character throughout the book, because if a character doesn’t grow and change…well, there’s not much of a story to be told.

I’ve been reading this book, which I recommend:

Jeff Gerke’s PLOT VERSUS CHARACTER takes a hard look at what we really need to make our characters live on the page. Every character, Gerke says, should start with a knot, which he describes like this:

I refer to your character’s problem as his knot. If you’ve worked with ropes much, especially in a nautical setting, you know they have to run smoothly through eyelets and pulleys and across capstans. A knot in the wrong rope at the wrong place can result in irritation, delay, or even disaster

So it is with your character. There he is, going along fine, minding his business, when something causes a knot to form in the rope of his life. Maybe he sees it and begins working on untying it. Maybe he sees it and doesn’t work on it. Maybe he doesn’t see it at all and the problems it’s causing are happening in his blind spot.

Whether he knows about it or is working to correct it or not, the knot is messing up his life.

                          ~from PLOT VERSUS CHARACTER by Jeff Gerke, p. 85.

Good stuff, this is.

So today’s prompt is this:  What is your character’s knot?  Remember that when we talk about a knot, we’re talking about a character’s internal problem, rather than the bear that may be about to eat him or her. I’m not denying that’s a problem, but it’s not the kind of internal struggle we’re talking about here.  If you have a work-in-progress, write a little about your main character’s knot (or your antagonist’s knot… bad guys have knots, too, you know!)  If this doesn’t fit what you’re working on right now, try writing about the knot of the main character in one of your favorite books that you’ve read. What’s Harry Potter’s knot? What about Katniss?

Write away…and feel free to share excerpts & thoughts in the comments if you’d like!

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