Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Author Interview and Giveaway: Kate Messner

Sorry for the late post, but I had a bit of a diversion this morning that included a constable and loose horses. When you have pasture horses, it's a scary thing to hear there are horses out down the road. Checked out the front, no horses, so I feared the worst. Long story short, the horses weren't ours, so all is well.

Today is the BIG announcement of the Children's Choice Book Awards. I am excited to bring the news to you!

K-2nd grade - The Pigeon Wants a Puppy by Mo Willems
3rd-4th grade - Spooky Cemeteries by Dinah Williams
5th-6th grade - Thirteen by Lauren Myracle
Teen - Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer
Author - Stephenie Meyer for Breaking Dawn
Illustrator - John J. Muth for Zen Ties

And now, for today's Children's Book Week Celebration post. I have another interview for you today. Today's author is Kate Messner, who has a book, THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z, due out in September. This is a book geared toward 8-12 year olds. Following the interview, Kate has a surprise for one of my readers!

Write For A Reader (WFAR): Please tell us a little about yourself.
Kate Messner (KM): I’m a children’s writer, mom, and middle school English teacher, and I love being all of those things. I live with my husband and kids on Lake Champlain, a gorgeous place that’s the setting for many of my books, including THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z.

WFAR: When did you start writing?
KM: In first grade, I remember writing a story about a girl throwing snowballs at her brother, and when my teacher put it up on the bulletin board, I remember thinking, “Hey! I might be good at this!” I’ve been writing ever since but got serious about writing for publication about eight years ago.

WFAR: Do you have writing “mentors?” If so, who are they?
KM: I feel fortunate to have a whole community of writing mentors – some I know in real life, some I only know online, and some I only know through their brilliant work. They all inspire me, but I’d be particularly lost without my online critique group that includes wonderful writers like Loree Griffin-Burns, Liza Martz, and Eric Luper. It’s a gift to be able to share works in progress and know that they’ll be appreciated and whipped into shape, all at once.

WFAR: Can you give us a little of the back story behind THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z? How did this book come to be?
KM: Well, I teach middle school English, and our 7th graders have to complete a legendary and infamous leaf collection project each year. I’ve heard a decade’s worth of crazy leaf-collecting stories (and some wild excuses, too!) and that was the inspiration for this novel about a Vermont girl who will miss her cross country sectional meet if she can’t finish her project on time.

WFAR: What’s next for you as an author? Do you have anything in the works?
KM: I have four more books under contract and at various stages in the editing process.

MARTY MCGUIRE, FROG PRINCESS will be the first in a chapter book series with Scholastic, starting in Summer 2010. It’s about a third grade girl who likes crayfish and frogs way better than dresses and tiaras, and who is forced to be the princess in the school play, with hilarious results. My second MARTY book is currently scheduled for Summer 2011.

My first picture book will be illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal and published by Chronicle Books in Fall 2010. It’s called OVER AND UNDER THE SNOW and is about a girl who goes cross country skiing and discovers the secret world of animals living under the winter snow.

And I’ve just signed up another middle grade novel with my editor for GIANNA Z at Walker Books. It’s called SUGAR ON SNOW, and it’s about a girl who lives on a maple farm and earns a figure skating scholarship to train with the elite in Lake Placid. My agent likes to call that one the “Mean Girls on Ice” book! I’ll be working on revisions for that novel this summer.

I’ve also started a new middle grade mystery that has me very excited. I’m going to Washington D.C. to do some research for that new book next week!

WFAR: What is your favorite piece or book that you have written?
KM: Oh gosh, that’s tough. When kids ask that question at my school visits, I always tell them it’s like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. And then I say that my favorite is the one I’m working on right now – the one I’ve been thinking about all day and will work on writing tonight.

WFAR: What do you like to do when you are not writing?
KM: We live in a beautiful part of the country, so my family loves spending time outside. We hike and ski in the Adirondacks and Green Mountains, and we love spending time on Lake Champlain, too. I’m just starting to get my garden rolling for the season. And of course, I love reading. I usually read a book or two a week.

WFAR: Describe your writing atmosphere…where do write, when, etc?
KM: When it comes to drafting a new novel, I almost always write at my desk in the office I share with my husband after my kids are in bed for the night. I’m more relaxed about where I revise & edit, though, and have been known to do that everywhere from the library to the bleachers at my daughter’s ice skating practice. Deadlines are great for making you more flexible!

WFAR: What are some of your favorites? Author, food, color, book, any others…
KM: I have way too many favorite authors to list them all, but a few current favorites who write for kids and young adults are Cynthia Lord, Linda Urban, Laurie Halse Anderson, Lisa Yee, Mitali Perkins, Kerry Madden, and Elise Broach. I love the Harry Potter series. And my absolute favorites when I was growing up were Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume.

Food? One word. Chocolate.

Color? Blue.

WFAR: What is a typical day like in the life of a children’s book author?
KM: A typical day in my life starts with a morning run and the usual hustle and bustle of getting kids ready for school. Then it’s off to school myself, where I either teach my own 7th grade students or visit another school for an author visit. After school, I run my kids to whatever events & practices they might have, and this time of year, we usually sneak in a bike ride before dinner. Then we all read, and when the kids go to bed, I write from about 9-11. Then I read in bed, (usually about a paragraph!) before I fall asleep, get up, and start the whole thing over again.

WFAR: Is there anything else you would like the readers to know?
KM: My website – -- has lots of resources for teachers, librarians, & parents, including information about my school & library presentations and book club visits. I’ve started doing virtual visits using Skype and found that’s a great way to connect with classes and book clubs. THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z is a perfect mother-daughter book club selection, and I’ve already had a few mother-daughter groups inquire, so I’m really loooking forward to those chats!

Kate, Thank you so much for chatting with me today! I look forward to reading the book you sent and your upcoming works as well.

I’ve loved chatting with you, too, Shelly. Thanks for inviting me to celebrate Children’s Book Week with you and your readers!

Gianna Z at Amazon
Gianna Z at Powells


Kate has graciously sent me an autographed ARC of The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z to giveaway to one of my readers. All you have to do to enter, is comment on this interview. Since this book is coming from me, it is open to US/Canadian addresses only. The contest will end a week from today, May 20th, with the winner drawn randomly, emailed and posted here on May 21st.
Extra entries for:
  • Follower - +1
  • Tweet This - +2
  • Blog About It - +3
  • Visit Kate's Website and tell me something you learned - +5


Michelle Zink said...

I JUST finished this ARC a couple of days ago and can honestly say it is one of the most memorable, moving, flawlessly written books I've ever read.

I'm sad to have to pass it on but will be buying my own copy as soon as it's released!

Shelly B said...

Thanks for stopping by. Glad to hear praise for this from another author.

bloggytreasures said...

I have the same childhood author favorites! It sounds absolutely gorgeous where you live too. What a slice of heaven you have there!

The book sounds wonderful!!!

bloggytreasures said...

I tweeted -- +2

Anonymous said...

The upcoming Frog Princess sounds really good!

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

Anonymous said...

I am a follower of your blog on GR.

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

Harmony Poisson said...

I loved the interview and found her website very educational. I would love to share this wonderful book with my daugther. I am a follower and RT'd:)

Kitten22 said...

This looks great! Please enter me!


Kitten22 said...

I'm a subscriber (through Google Reader)!


Kitten22 said...

I tweeted about this!


eluper said...

I just finished this ARC a few days ago. It is a beautiful book in all senses of the word. Look for this title on lots of award lists!

Bonnie Shimko said...

Great interview, Kate. Can't wait to read all about Gianna!

Anonymous said...

This is a fabulous interview! When I popped over to Kate's website, one of the things I learned is how she spent her afternoons as a kid, exploring the woods and writing poems whilst resting on a footbridge. Reading that made me think about the footbridges - some sturdier than others - that I used to traverse at Guide camp. They were always very magical to me.

horsewin4 AT gmail DOT com

KR said...

I teach kindergarten. If it's too hard for my kids, I'll pass it upstairs to 3rd grade!!


KR said...

I follow.


KR said...

I think the What kind of tree are you? quiz sounds neat!


Sandie Kirkland said...

Please enter me in the giveaway; I love YA books as I have a daughter who just turned 11 and is a huge reader! My email is I'm also a follower. I went to Kate's website and learned that she has written some YA historicals that I plan to check out. Thanks!

Katie said...

Would love to win this! I am a follower and I tweeted about the giveaway!

Sheri said...

This sounds like a wonderful read. I'd like to enter.

Sheri said...

I follow you.

Sheri said...

I visited the site and learned that Kate has around 2000 red worms that live in a special worm house in her basement. She uses them for composting.


Unknown said...

Sounds like a wonderful book! Looking forward to her first chapter book.

Unknown said...

I'm a follower

Unknown said...


Anonymous said...

I had not yet heard that "The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z" would also be a good mother-daughter book club pick, and now I'm even more intrigued about the book, which sounds wonderful. I've seen Kate's web site before, but this morning, I discovered a fun quiz about Kate on the kids' section of the web site (I scored a 2 out of 5...). What a great idea! The quiz was fun and the answers were a neat way to learn more about the author.

Anonymous said...

So looking forward to this book! :)

I tweeted. +2
I blogged. +3

Anonymous said...

I know the leaf project!Idea for next book--- the infamous collect and identify the bugs project!
mel at

Abby said...

Boy your life sounds about as busy as mine and you still found time to write a book? Good for you!

ajcmeyer AT go DOT com

Carlene said...

What a lovely interview. I really enjoyed it. Please inlcude me in your giveaway.

I am a follower.


JJ said...

Count me in again. :)

gahome2mom at gmail dot com

JJ said...

gahome2mom at gmail dot com

Pamela S said...

Good luck with your next book "Sugar on Snow" the title!

This books sounds great and I can appreciate the problems with kids completing projects on time. Been there, done that!!

Thanks. pamelashockley(AT)netscape(DOT)net

Marie said...

This looks like such a wonderful book!

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