Medina native has become prolific children’s book author
MEDINA – Kate Messner’s love of books goes back to growing up in Medina, when she spent a lot of time visiting Lee-Whedon Memorial Library.
“My favorite titles were Beverly Cleary’s Ramona books, but I also loved reading nonfiction, especially about natural disasters and dangerous animals,” said Messner, now living in Plattsburgh with her husband Tom.
A daughter of former Medina school superintendent Tom Schirmer and his wife Gail, Messmer has become an award-winning author, who has published 50 books for children and educators and sold more than 3.5 million copies. She has 12 books for children scheduled to come out this year.
Messner graduated from Medina High School in 1988 and attended Syracuse University, where she earned a degree in broadcast journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication. She spent seven years working as a television news producer and reporter at NBC affiliates in Syracuse and Burlington, Vt., before going back to school to get her master’s degree in education.
“Both of my parents were educators, my dad superintendent of schools, and my mom an elementary school art teacher,” Messner said. “Teaching was something that was also calling me.”
After getting her teaching degree, she taught middle school English in Plattsburgh for 15 years and earned National Board certification in 2006.
“It was while I was teaching that I started writing more seriously, mostly to share stories with my students and model writing and revision,” Messner said. “That’s when I published my first books. In 2012, I transitioned to writing full time, but I still love that time I get to work with kids in school systems as a visiting author.”
Messner’s husband, who is from Rochester, is chief meteorologist at WPTZ, the NBC affiliate in Burlington, Vt., where she met him when she worked there.
Ideas for her books come from all over the place, Messner said.
“That is why I always carry a writer’s notebook,” she said. “I’ve had inspiration strike on airplanes and in museums, on school field trips and in line at the grocery store. Mostly, I tell aspiring writers that the best way to court ideas is to be curious about people and the world around you. I talk to strangers and ask a lot of questions.”
She doesn’t know how to answer when asked what her favorite book is.
“That is always such a tough question for a writer to answer,” she said. “It’s a little like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. But I’m always excited about the newest books and the projects I’m working on at the moment, so today, I’d tell you that one of my favorites is my newly released novel, Chirp, which is a mystery set on a cricket farm, as well as a coming-of-age story about summer, friendship, family and finding your voice. I’m also really excited about a new series I’m writing for Random House, called History Smashers, which is aimed at undoing some of the lies and myths we teach young children about history. It’s illustrated by comic artist and graphic novelist Dylan Meconis, and the first two books – about the Mayflower and Women’s Right to Vote – launch in July.”
She is really excited about three books coming out in March. Tracking Pythons: the Quest to Catch an Invasive Predator and Save an Ecosystem is about a team of scientists researching South Florida’s invasive Burmese pythons, and comes out from Millbrook on March 3.
The Next President, illustrated by Adam Rex, is a picture book about where future presidents were when any given president took office. That comes out March 24 from Chronicle Books.
Another favorite of Messner’s is a title she co-authored with her sister Anne Ruppert, who lives in the Buffalo area and just retired from teaching high school science.
“She taught forensic science for years, so we teamed up to create a book for kids that puts them in the role of a forensic scientist, solving imagined mysteries,” Messner said. “Solve This: Forensics comes out from National Geographic Kids on March 17.”
Messner’s titles are frequently selected for One School, One Book and One School/One Author programs, according to her publicist. The novel Chirp has already received impressive five star reviews from critical journals, and her books have been New York Times Notable, Junior Library Guild, IndieBound and Bank Street College Education Best Books selections. Her novel The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z. won the E.B White Read Aloud Medal, and her science picture books have been finalists for the American Academy for the Advancement of Sciences/Subaru SB&F prize for excellence in science writing.
In addition, Messner is a frequent speaker at conferences for writers and educators and visits schools all over the world to talk to students about books, writing and the power of curiosity.
Messner writes pretty much every weekday, unless she’s traveling for research or appearances. On a typical day, she writes for three or four hours in the morning, takes a break at noon to get some exercise and have lunch, then tries to get in another writing session in the afternoon.
When she’s not writing, she loves the outdoors. She has aspirations to climb all of the 46 Adirondack peaks, and so far has climbed 32.
Her books are available at The Book Shoppe in Medina and Barnes and Noble.