Bullying has become a huge issue in schools. Not that its new. But people are trying to stop it in new ways. Author and former teacher Kate Messner has come up with a good tool for the younger set in SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH. I asked Kate some questions about her new book and her career...

Q. Hi Kate, as a teacher I imagine you've had to deal with a good share of bullying. What inspired you to write Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish?
A. When I was teaching, the most important thing to me was that kids in my classroom treated one another with kindness. If you don’t feel safe and appreciated in your school environment, it makes it awfully difficult to speak up, try new things, and take the healthy risks associated with real learning. That’s why I feel like this story of inclusion will ring true for a lot of families as well as teachers who want their own classrooms to be “kindness zones.”

Q. Its such a timely story and message. How are teachers using Sea Monster and the Bossy Fish in their classrooms?
A. Well, the book is brand new, but I’ve already heard from so many teachers emailing or tweeting to let me know that it will be one of their first shared read-alouds this school year. I hope that’s because they feel like it’s a book that sets a tone – one of fun and friendship – that will be sustained through the year.
     Lots of teachers and librarians are extending the reading with discussions and having kids talk about what good classroom citizenship looks like. Chronicle has created a great poster and handout to go along with those discussions. The “Friend Fish Pledge” reminds kids that it’s important to include everyone in play.

Q. You seem to switch between writing picture books, non-fiction books like Over and Under the Snow, and novels like The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z., with ease. How do you keep up?
A. When you said “with ease,” I just about spit out my coffee laughing. It’s never particularly easy; one of the reasons I love writing so much is that it’s always a challenge, and even when I feel like I’ve cracked the secret of a book I’m working on and gotten something just right, I learn that the process needs to be totally different for the next book.
      But that said, I do love writing for different age groups and in different genres, about a wide range of topics. I think that’s because I love learning so much. I’m interested in so many things that I can’t imagine being confined to write just one kind of book.

Q. What was your path to publication?
A. Like most paths to publication, I suspect, mine was paved with rejections. My first book, a Lake Champlain historical novel for middle grade readers, was rejected multiple times before I completely rewrote it and sold it to a small regional press. I did one more book with that small press before writing THE BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z, which felt more like a national book to me. That’s when I started looking for representation (more rejections along the road!) and eventually signed with the agent I have now. I was writing all that time, so I had several projects for her to shop, and she ended up selling my first three books in less than a year.

Q. You gave a TED talk recently - what an honor! How did that go? (Do you have a link so I can share the video?)
A. Oh, it was an incredible honor and just an amazing experience. Terrifying – but amazing. My favorite part, to be honest, was getting to spend the whole week at TED and hear all those other incredible speakers. My talk hasn’t been uploaded as a video yet, but here’s a link to the official TED blog, which summarized it: LINK.

Q. I'm sure you must have more in the pipeline, you're wonderfully prolific. What can we expect next?
A. My next picture book with Chronicle is called TREE OF LIFE, and I’m so excited about this one. It’s a nature/multiplying sort of book that celebrates a kind of rainforest tree upon which more than a thousand different organisms depend. That’s due out in Spring of 2014. I also have another middle school science thriller with Walker/Bloomsbury; WAKE UP MISSING is due out in September, and Scholastic will publish my next Marty McGuire chapter book, MARTY MCGUIRE HAS TOO MANY PETS, in February

Q. Thanks so much for visiting!!! Along with the giveaway below, Kate has a "Friendship Pledge" which you can download right now! Click the image above.

Chronicle is kindly giving away one free copy of SEA MONSTER AND THE BOSSY FISH to one of my lucky commenters (must live in the US or Canada to win). So enter below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This sounds like a wonderful way to set the classroom tone for the year! I'd use it if I was still teaching, and will suggest it to my local school librarians and elementary teachers.