December 7, 2010

Interview: Kate Messner Author of Sugar and Ice

I've very thrilled to have Kate Messner join us today on The O.W.L.  Kate is a fantastic author for the middle grades.  Today we are celebrating the release of her new book Sugar and Ice

Before we get to the interview, here is a bit about the book:

Junior Library Guild Selection 
Winter 2010-2011 Kids IndieNext List   
An Best Book for December
For Claire Boucher, life is all about skating on the frozen cow pond and in the annual Maple Show right before the big pancake breakfast on her family's farm. But all that changes when Russian skating coach Andrei Grosheva offers Claire a scholarship to train with the elite in Lake Placid. Tossed into a world of mean girls on ice, where competition is everything, Claire realizes that her sweet dream come true has sharper edges than she could have imagined. Can she find the strength to stand up to the people who want to see her fail and the courage to decide which dream she wants to follow?

I was able to ask Kate some questions the my students always have for authors.  And to be honest, as the teacher, I have these same questions!

The O.W.L. is excited to welcome Kate Messner!

1.  How much time a day do you spend writing?  How do you fit it into your busy schedule?

On a regular day, I spend about two hours writing, and that generally happens from 9-11pm after my teaching and mom responsibilities are done for the day.  I also write during what I call “stolen times,” like in the bleachers at my daughter’s skating practice.

2.  How much do you revise?  From start to finish how long did your latest book take you?

I revise a lot. When I visit schools, I always confess to kids that I’m not a great writer…I’m just really good at revising, because that’s where the good stuff really happens.  Usually, my books go through anywhere from 10-20 drafts before they’re on a bookstore or library shelf, ready to read.  SUGAR AND ICE took about 18 months from start to finish, including many rounds of revision.

3.  What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject and did you always write?

I was a strong student, though I sometimes questioned my teachers more than they would have liked. English was indeed my favorite subject, and I’ve loved writing since second grade.  There was a period of time when I was writing only for school and then for my journalism job, though, and it wasn’t until I started writing stories again that I realized how much I’d missed it.

4.  How much say do you have in the cover of your books (my students are always curious about this one!).

Umm…not much.  That’s pretty typical of authors and publishers, too. Once the book is sold to the publisher, a whole team of people takes over, and that’s actually a good thing because they know more about marketing the book to readers than I do.  My editors do generally share the proposed cover once it’s designed, though, to see what my thoughts are, and I appreciate that. 

On the cover of SUGAR AND ICE, which I love, there were a couple changes from first to final version.  I’d sent a note asking for that steam coming out of the sugar house in the background, so my North Country readers would recognize that telltale sign of sugaring time. Joe Cepeda, the artist who did the painting for the cover, added that little detail for the final cover, and it made me so happy!

5.  And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing?  WHOOOO do you look up to so to speak?

I have so many writerly role models, it’s tough to name just a few.  Growing up, Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume were my favorite authors, and their work is still an inspiration.  I’m also inspired by many of the great kids’ writers I’ve had a chance to meet, including Cynthia Lord, Linda Urban, Wendy Mass, Lisa Yee, Danette Haworth, Deborah Wiles, Sharon Draper, Rebecca Stead, and many more.  If you want to write for kids, there are so many great examples out there to learn from, and I love learning from other writers. In fact, I wrote a teacher-resource book about teaching kids how to revise their writing that will be out with Stenhouse this spring. It’s called REAL REVISION: AUTHORS’ STRATEGIES TO SHARE WITH STUDENT WRITERS, and it features interviews with more than forty kids’ authors about their revision processes as well as a lot of behind-the-scenes revision stories from SUGAR AND ICE. 

Thank you so much for joining us today on the blog.  Now if you want a SIGNED copy of SUGAR AND ICE check out the info below!

Want a personalized, signed copy of SUGAR AND ICE?
The Bookstore Plus in Lake Placid is hosting a SUGAR AND ICE launch party from 3-5 pm on Saturday, 
December 11th, so please consider this your invitation if you live in the area! If you can’t make it but would still like a signed, personalized copy, just give the bookstore a call at (518) 523-2950 by December 10th. They’ll take your order, have Kate sign your book after the event, and ship it out to you in plenty of time for the holidays.  


  1. Fabulous interview! I'm always on the lookout for MG books so I'm definitely adding this one to my TBR list :).

  2. Great interview. I love this beautiful cover!

  3. Only two hours a day to write, and after all her creative energy is used up teaching school. Amazing!

  4. It's amazing how she squeezes time in after her busy work day!

  5. I love this interview! I also can't believe she teaches all day and then still has the creative juices going to write at night. I need to learn her secret. ;) I love the part about revision. I need to remember that when I get down on myself for my own writing!

    I have several of Messner's titles in my classroom and plan on adding Sugar and Ice as well!