MMM-State Books Giveaway!

I’m heading north to spend the summer working at a girls’ wilderness camp in northern Minnesota, and I’m thrilled. It’s a wonderful counterpart to a year spent in a bookstore and at my desk. There’s in-camp time, when I’ll have one class I’m marginally qualified to teach (Storytelling) and one I’m not at all (Yoga: “Assume the, um, Wounded Caterpillar pose…”).

We also take smaller groups of girls into Ontario for ten-day canoe trips, which are glorious. Snow in July, matted French braids, fingers so sore you can hear them crepitate when you wake up, reeking of campfire and sweat, hauling your food and gear and boats through deadfall-strewn portages, almost capsizing when your ten-year-old bowman decides it’d be great fun to pee off the side of the boat…

Yeah. It’s amazing.

I’m guessing that blog posts will be few and far between (by which I mean “nonexistent”). I’ll be trying to squeeze in revisions for The Land of Ten Pounds of Marijuana, and the rest of my computer time will be spent assuring my mother that I have been killed neither by a bear nor by my campers going all Lord of the Flies on me. (Which sometimes seems a distinct possibility.) So to kick off a few months of absentia, and to celebrate my escape to the land of ten thousand lakes and ten bazillion mosquitoes, here’s a giveaway!

Fluorescent bike helmet not included.

Subtly stabilizing finger not included.

This tricolon is entitled, “Books Set in M-States, Which Kate Either Adores or Owns So Many Copies Of That Her Bookshelves Look Really Egotistical.”

1. The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by emily m. danforth

I’ve raved about this book before. It’s set in Montana and it’s gorgeous. I’m so impressed by books that manage to be lyrical but also funny, and this is one of them.

2. Empire Falls, by Richard Russo

Another of my all-time favorites. And it’s set in Maine! And it won the Pulitzer! And it’s hilarious and heart-breaking (much like Cam Post, in fact). And, writers, if you’ve ever struggled with making a limited third-person voice sound like a character and not just like narration, Russo will show you how it’s done. (From personal experience, however, I will say that seeing it done well does not really make it any easier.) (That’s sort of the main problem with writing, isn’t it?)

3. The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy, by me

(“Did she really just link to her own About Me page?” “Yes. Yes, she did.”)

I won’t say I adore this book, but I do own a veritable crapload of copies. And it’s set in Minnesota! So even though I may have to package it separately lest those cool besunglasséd kids on the front start getting Ideas about their Literary Merit, it’s the final piece of the tricolon.

Here’s what Leila Roy had to say about Vigilante Poets over on the Kirkus blog. (Which is so nice I pretty much started weeping.)

Fill out the form below to enter.

Tweet this link for an extra entry. (You can just retweet my tweet if you’re so inclined.)

I have an anemic number of followers, so follow me for an extra entry.

Or, since I have a soft spot for eschewers of Twitter, email me at with a subject line that’s something like “PLEASE CHOOSE MEEEEE TO WIN THOSE  TWO AMAZING BOOKS AND ALSO YOUR BOOK!!!!” And I will give you an extra entry.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

(Not sure why Rafflecopter insists that we use the royal plural.)

Giveaway ends at midnight on Sunday, June 1. I’ll notify the winner on Monday, June 2. You can defollow me on Tuesday, June 3, and I will never know.

Punctuation First May: launches, monkey tails, & good books

The fifth of May is sort of the first of May, right?


Without further ado…

exclamationHave to start with our old friend Mr. Exclee (you might want to ask permission before you call him that, but we’re on good terms), because hands-down the best night of the year so far was my launch party a few weeks ago at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. Lemme gush for a sec: I still feel so, so incredibly grateful to all the people who came — and to all the people who weren’t there, but were integral to the mind-blowing fact that there now exists a book. It takes a village. And whether you talked me through ideas, or dealt with my sullenness when I didn’t want to talk through ideas, or made my writing breaks fun, or had your joke stolen — ahem, appropriated — by one of my characters, or read the book, or, heck, are just here because apparently when you Google “I am heinously bored” this page comes up, well, thank you.


Two things about this little beauty of a punctuation mark:

First: henceforth it shall be known as apenstaartje, the Dutch word for “monkey tail.” (My obituary headline will read, “Kate Hattemer, Peruser of the Wikipedia Pages for Punctuation Marks, is Dead.”). Let’s all agree to stop saying the horrendously boring “at sign.”

Second: the apenstaartje is not terribly à propos in this case, because Sarah V. Combs, the author of the book I’m about to encomium-ize, is one of the two living writers not on Twitter. (The other, obviously, is Jonathan Franzen.) Nonetheless, I’ve been apenstaartjeing the hell out of her book, Breakfast Served Anytime. It’s awesome. It’s lyrical and sad and hilarious; plus, it’s set at GEEK CAMP. (My high school summers revolved around national Latin conventions, so this is a subject near and dear to my heart.) And the voice, the voice, yall! (That’s how Sarah V. Combs spells yall, and I think — I think I’m a convert!) Read this book.

ampersandAnd finally, here are some combinations I have been enjoying lately:

  • Maggie Shipstead’s Astonish Me & large quantities of food (for some reason, reading about skinny ballet dancers makes me absolutely ravenous)
  • Salads made of spinach, tofu, tempeh, & olives (the laziest salad ever; no vegetable-chopping and you don’t even need a dressing if you dump in a little extra olive brine)
  • Spring & my bike (though not “hills & my bike,” the other theme of this month)

Until next time, which (hope springs eternal) may be before “Punctuation First June” but (let’s be honest) probably won’t be, I remain

Your vigilante* blogger,


*That word does not mean what I am using it to mean.

Punctuation First April: podcasts, ambivalence, & Baby Beluga

Hello, my long-lost friends. In a blatant attempt to force myself to blog more often, I’m introducing a new feature…

[pause while I realize it's been so long since I've posted that I don't even remember how to insert an image, which, I assure you, is not difficult]


Not only is this my personal philosophy, but it’s a series of punctuation-themed prompts that I will answer on the first of every month. Or near the first: I wouldn’t want to set up unrealistic expectations, and for me, making a minor monthly deadline is one of them.


A burning question: why punctuation? Well, in brainstorming ideas for blog features, I had the same thought process as when I was figuring out what to get as a case for my new phone. This is the face I show the world, I thought. What do I possibly like enough to use as a theme? Punctuation was the clear choice. (If you’re wondering about the phone case, I was torn between a library card and the Deathly Hallows sign. The ultimate selection shall remain shrouded in mystery.)


Something I’ve been following lately: Literary Disco! I’ve been obsessively listening to this podcast. It’s fantastic, guys. So smart and hilarious. Now that I’ve listened to the back episodes about books I’ve already read, I’ve started to plan my reading around the rest of the backlist. Next up: Justin Torres’s We the Animals.

quotation A quotation, obviously: In one of the interstitial pages in MFA vs. NYC, edited by Chad Harbach, Meghan O’Rourke writes:

[...] I think there’s a real virtue to that secret period when you’re developing your work and no one has read it. To me that’s the best time. It’s the worst time too, because you’re alone with your doubts! But it’s the best time, because you’re in your own little world. No one is commenting on it, or misunderstanding it [...]

You can imagine why that resonated (T minus 7 days!). But she continues:

Although you would never write a new book if you weren’t horrified by the last book. Writing a book is so hard, so there’s the moment when you’re like, I’ve done it, ta-dah! Then that curdles into self-loathing and disgust and hatred, and if anyone brings up the name of your book you just feel ill. So you start a new book.

I could write a whole post about the ways in which the publishing process is different from what I’d imagined, and my ambivalent feelings toward my own book are perhaps the most surprising — and the most horrifying. Sometimes I’m properly excited, and sometimes I’m just like, Wait, that swill is going to have my name on it? Can I take it back?

There are no backsies.

I once saw Meghan O’Rourke speak at my college, and she was fascinating. However, this brush with fame did not come close to the time I went to tea with Raffi: yes, the Raffi. In the high point of my expensive liberal-arts education, we all sang “Baby Beluga” together. (I wish I were joking.)


INTERROBANG! Oh, you combination of excitement and utter confusion, how I love the way you apply to ninety percent of my moods: Vigilante Poets is coming out in one week‽ One week‽ Do you need some extra incitement to read it‽

  • A punctuation mark provides a key plot twist
  • It’s one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Month
  • You can tell me whether it is brilliant or the most moronic book ever written, since I am not sure (see above)

Until next time, I remain

Your punctuation-preoccupied, interrobangalicious, negligent owner of a website,


A smorgasbord of links; one exciting announcement

I used to be freaked out by the fact I was Googlable. (I just spent several minutes pondering Googleable vs. Googlable. Decided the latter had a slight humor edge.) We fear in others what we are ourselves, or something like that, so I’m sure that Google scared me because I’m a consummate stalker myself.

Anyway, I did NOT like having an Internet presence. For example, unless I was pretty sure I was going to set a PR, I’d race under pseudonyms. In fact, one time I unexpectedly won my age group in a 5k (a very small 5k) and I couldn’t claim my prize because I had no identification as “Alicia Spinnet.”

This has all changed.

I am now the proud possessor of a fake ID.

Just kidding. Here’s a Venn diagram for you.







However, I’ve been trying to come to terms with the fact that writing a book means that people will be able to Google me. In fact, I am trying to embrace it. Recent conversation with coworker:

  • Coworker: Your book comes out soon, right? Are you excited?
  • Me: Yeah, and nervous.
  • Coworker: Nervous?
  • Me: It’s just … it’ll be so … out there.
  • Coworker: Uh, isn’t that the point?

In the spirit of that point, here are some places I’ve appeared on the Internet recently. And not recently.

The BookYArd

I’m excited to be a part of this fabulous group of fourteen YA authors debuting in 2014! Check out their books: there’s some good stuff on your way. In my first post, I discussed Writer’s Malaise. What is it? How do you fix it? Learn about the Pavlovian Bach Response, how to combine writing with bathroom-cleaning, and what happened when I eavesdropped on a lululemon interview.

Writes for Apples

Dee Romito, one of my agent sisters, was kind enough to feature me on her blog for her Query.Sign.Submit series. Here’s my advice on all matters agently. (Agentlemanly?) Learn about the intersection of push-ups and query letters, why you shouldn’t get all stressy when you get offered representation, and how rejection letters can both feed paranoid fantasies and give you useful writing advice.

YA Reads

Thanks also to YA Reads for interviewing me as part of their 2014 Debut series! I summarized my book in 15 words, discussed my gleeful history with lightbulbs, and revealed which 2014 debut I’m most excited for (my cousin’s!). Bonus: lots of other cool interviews on this page, too.

Talking the Walk

My former colleague and fellow writer John Copenhaver interviewed me as part of the Next Big Thing series. As this is the first and only time I’ll ever be called the Next Big Thing, it was thrilling to be featured.

Rate My Teacher

Here I learned that I am far more interesting when I’m not talking about Latin. This surprised me.

And now, the Aforementioned Exciting Announcement…


Launch party. April 8. Seven p.m. Joseph-Beth Booksellers, Rookwood Commons, Cincinnati, OH. You are cordially invited.

According to the events manager, there will be a chocolate fountain and professional dancers. I will make my entrance either by busting through a huge poster of my book, or by litter.

More details to come!

A holiday gift guide from a real-life bookseller

Let’s start with a graph.

holidaysatjosephbethIt’s a busy time at the bookstore. The Christmas lights twinkle, the hardcovers gleam, and the ornaments are already on sale. As you sprint through the store, chucking books into your basket, pause for a moment and ponder, “What do these gifts really mean?”

You buy Microwave Cooking for One (Marie T. Smith).  Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.50.55 AM

What you’re thinking: This is a thoughtful gift for my favorite bachelor.

What the bookseller is thinking: Could there possibly be a more tragic book?

What your favorite bachelor will think you’re thinking: You sad sap of a singleton. Do you even own a spatula?

Predicted outcome of this gift : You will never be invited over to bachelor’s apartment (“pad,” if you will) to sample the meals. Which doesn’t really matter, I guess, since they only feed one.

You buy The Bully Pulpit (Doris Kearns Goodwin).Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.54.07 AM

What you’re thinking: Excellent, a well-researched tome for my dearest history buff.

What the bookseller is thinking: Excellent, forty bucks.

What your recipient will think: Excellent, a doorstop.

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 11.57.22 AM

You buy Inferno (Dan Brown).

What you’re thinking: My uncle loved The Da Vinci Code!

What your uncle will think: I read this in June.

You buy Inferno (Dante).

What you’re thinking: Heh heh, no way my mother-in-law will catch the subliminal message.

What the bookseller is thinking: If my Judgment Day were based only on my behavior in the break room, to what circle would I be condemned? The third, gluttony? (Broken gourmet candy canes = my main source of calories.) The fifth, wrath? (“Sure, I’d be happy to print you twenty-three gift receipts!”) The ninth, treachery? (Ugh. Don’t wanna stand in line. Maybe I’ll just order my presents off Amazon.)

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 12.00.08 PMYou buy The Day the Crayons Quit (Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers).

What you’re thinking: Cute!

What the bookseller is thinking: Must develop new idea for picture book, The Day the Retail Workers Quit. Just kidding. Love this job. Really. I do. How may I help you, ma’am?


You buy How to Tie a Scarf: 33 Styles. You also buy a scarf.Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 12.03.15 PM

What you’re thinking: OMG, best pairing ever! I am so original!

What the bookseller is thinking: Yep, another sucker for the clever juxtaposition of “Scarf Rack” and “Stack of Books Entitled How to Tie a Scarf.”

Screen shot 2013-12-18 at 12.04.44 PMYou buy The Miseducation of Cameron Post (Emily M. Danforth).

What you’re thinking: Girl and a hay bale? Okay, sure.

What the bookseller is thinking: HALLELUJAH, someone finally read my raving shelftalker. (“This is the best YA book I’ve read all year. It’s lyrical and funny and melancholy and unforgettable. I don’t care whether you’re a young adult or a real adult or somewhere in between: you’ve got to read this book.”)

What my sisters reading this post will think: Hmm, wonder what Kate’s giving me for Christmas.


(All cynicism aside, here are two things I truly believe. 1) Books make great presents. 2) Books purchased at independent bookstores make greater presents.)

9 tips for having a highly productive run on November 1

It’s Tip Day on the blog! (This will not be a regular feature, because blog posts will not be a regular feature.)

Just as Halloween is the only day of the year in which it’s socially acceptable for little kids to take candy from strangers, November 1 is the only day of the year in which it’s socially acceptable for adults to pick up squished candy from the sidewalk.

This is the only running event in which I will ever truly excel.

Here are some easy steps so you, too, can have a Halloween haul.

Drop any pretense of having standards. You are an adult who is digging through heaps of leaves to collect that which is now half-price at every grocery store in America. You have no standards.

Dress for success. Wear shorts with pockets, or at least with a tight waistband. I like to add a festive air to the proceedings by wearing a hideously ugly shirt I got from a Halloween 5k a couple years ago. It is traffic-cone orange and one of the pumpkins is grinning malevolently.

Photo on 2013-11-01 at 13.56

See? The daddy pumpkin is terrifying.

Make sacrifices. If you, like me, have the bone density of a seventy-year-old woman with scurvy, and if you, like me, can’t do your long run the morning after a November 1 run — well, you’re just going to have to move your long run, aren’t you? Are you a dedicated candy troll or not? This Saturday is the first I’ve had off in ages, and despite this opportunity to recover from my weekend long run on my couch rather than on my feet, reading books rather than selling them, I have my priorities straight. Long run will be Sunday.

Accept that you are morally obligated to pick up every piece of candy you see. Here is where I shall display the strong-fisted discipline that would have served me well in the classroom (alas).

You, the Hapless Disciple: But I hate Twix!
Me, the Stern Teacher: I don’t care.
You: But Laffy Taffys are gross!
Me: Why do you think the kid dropped it?
You: But another runner is approaching, eyeing me as suspiciously as I was eyeing that decoy wrapper! But I know the runner who’s approaching! But the runner who’s approaching is my professor/mother/boss/ex-girlfriend!

You are out for candy and you’re going to get candy. The only exception is if you pick it up and it’s oozing. Then you are allowed to throw it into the next available trash can.

Set goals. S.M.A.R.T. goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-bound Goals. I don’t mean for pace; in fact, I’d suggest not having a pace in mind. Glee may add a spring to your step, but you’ll also be hampered by the fact that you keep diving to the sidewalk.

No, I mean your candy-to-miles ratio. Have a number in mind. 1:1 is a good place to start, but depending on your neighborhood, 1.5:1 may be achievable.

Think like the canny trick-or-treaters. You know, those teenagers whom nobody likes, who aren’t cute, whose costumes consist of a mask and a jacket, who move with the precision and speed of a Greek phalanx. The ones who hit the streets at 6 p.m. and don’t retire until every porchlight is dark. They don’t use plastic pumpkins to collect candy; they use pillowcases. They use the word “loot.” They train for this.

Go where the houses are close together. Hit the side streets, and double back to cover both sidewalks. (Scanning both sides at once is a highly advanced maneuver. You might trip.) This may result in awkward encounters, such as this one today:

Screen shot 2013-11-01 at 1.41.03 PM

The orange route is mine, because of that sports-drink-orange shirt. The green is the route of a strolling female pedestrian, approximate age 45. Over the course of about twenty minutes, I passed her at every red flag: seven times. She thought I was insane. Unless she noticed the burgeoning mound of chocolate at my waistband, in which case I assume she was mad with envy. (That’s why I made her green.)

Know thyself, know thy stomach. I’m not above eating a pack of Smarties along the way for that extra sugar-fueled zip, but I wouldn’t try a Butterfinger.

Plan a route that goes past your house halfway. True story: I spent the morning “writing,” i.e. gazing out my window as my new neighbors moved into their apartment. They look very nice. They have lots of books and also a grandfather clock, which is cool. Then I encountered them for the first time as, four miles into the run, I ducked into our vestibule to stuff my mailbox with muddy candy. I can’t imagine a scenario in which they haven’t figured out what I was doing. I can’t imagine a scenario in which they don’t think I’m the creepiest person ever.

Granted, I can catalogue their furniture. So maybe I am.

Tabulate your statistics. You’ll want to top these next year.

Miles run: 7.1
Bite-size candy bars collected: 10
Calories burned: maybe like 600?
Calories collected: 620 [how efficient, right?]
Novelty eyeballs collected: 1
Toothbrushes collected: 0
Toothbrushes spurned: 1
How much this run put the fun in fun-size: lots

How to deal when your draft is both heinous and dead boring

I’m in the middle of a draft.

Actually, I’m not even to the middle yet. This is worse. I’ve used up the momentum from starting, and it seems uncertain whether I’ll ever finish. These days, writing seems less like writing than answering a long series of questions.

Wait, does she have a sister or not? Why can’t you remember basic logistical details? Guess your character’s not very lifelike, huh?

Is it time for a snack break?

Kate, how can you possibly manage to write something that’s so simultaneously so awful AND so boring?

It’s the last one that gets me. It’s a marvel, really. Writing, my writing, is one of the few things that I find both howlingly bad and utterly tedious. Usually, when I hate something, I also find it interesting. For example, at the bookstore where I work, it’s always annoying to find piles o’ books hidden in corners. But it’s also interesting to see what people manage to combine. Last week — and I swear that despite my admitted propensity to exaggerate for a better story, this is both true and factual — I found, abandoned by a comfy chair, the following three titles:



“Ugh,” I thought. [On this website I put quotation marks around my thoughts. House style. By popular demand, my next post will explain wherefore.] “Now I’ve got to go to early readers and to philosophy.” The only two farther-flung sections, and I refuse to over-analyze this, are American Girl and modern warfare.

However, despite the trek, I also got to try to figure out what was going on. Who left this stack? Is there a grad student out there who’s researching how Nietzschean philosophy is espoused in the classic Rainbow Magic series? Perhaps Pinkalicious functions as a modern-day Übermensch? Or is the depression of believing in a Nietzschean view of the world — and there’s very little I remember from two college courses on Nietzsche except (a) how to spell his name (triumph enough) and (b) that it’s impossible to read him without being like, “You know, Friedrich, you are right, and I don’t care if your bleak worldview is an obvious reaction to the horror of growing up with a last name that had five consonants in a row, life is futile and God is dead and you totally called it” –

That depression. Is it assuaged only by glitter?

My point: usually loathing, true loathing, is accompanied by a sliver of interest. But I hate my draft, and it also bores me out of my mind.

Photo break! This is a compilation of me and my sister angrily snoring. This is also what I look like when I write.


I know I’m just supposed to keep writing. I have an index card taped to my window that says, “It sucks a lot now, but someday, probably, it’ll suck less.”

As cheering as that sentiment is, I’m still having trouble. I have a recurrent daydream in which I die and my parents open my files and look at each other and say, “Well, not such a loss after all.” I know exactly how it’ll go. I’ll be biking, and this a-hole with a red car and the Ohio license plate MG 100 is actually going to hit me, instead of honking vociferously throughout the process of almost hitting me. (THAT’S RIGHT, red-carred a-hole with the Ohio license plate MG 100. Called out on the blog nobody reads. And you thought my middle finger was as bad as it got.) The document will alight. My posthumous reputation will be ruined.

How to get through these weeks of self-loathing and uncertainty?

Happily, there’s an answer. Read only British mysteries set at racetracks.

I direct you to the oeuvre of Dick Francis, steeplechase jockey turned formulaic mystery writer. My sister (not the Angry Snorer above, but another one) coined the collective term “Dick Franci.” This appeals to the former Latin teacher in me. (Actually, it’d be an incorrect Latin plural, but I learned long ago that the best way to alienate people is to point out their incorrect Latin plurals. I still get a little shaky when I hear apparati or stati or even octopi – though I know that the second-best way to alienate people is to use the plural form octopodes – but I never say a word.)

I credit my dad with introducing me to the high shelf that contains his Dick Franci, each one so worn that the paper feels like fabric. Francis’s Golden Age was 1964-1980 or so. (Don’t bother with the new Felix Francis ones, unless you like to read detailed descriptions of sandwiches.) I’ve already read them all, many times, but I can reread them as often as I want because I never remember what happens at the end, even though it’s what always happens at the end.

That’s the beauty of Dick Franci: certainty in this uncertain world. Your questions are answered before you begin. Will the hero bounce back from grievous injuries within forty-eight hours? (Yes.) Will the hero remain laconic and manly even under the most extreme of circumstances? (Yes.) Will the hero ever eat anything but dry toast? (Of course not.)

When I finish this draft (inner voice: “you mean, ‘if you finish’”), I’ll go back to reading other stuff. Until then, bookstore browsers, while you’re carefully curating the piles you’ll leave on tables and beside chairs, while you’re pulling books from the most remote corners of the store, sadistically cackling, you might see me with a faraway look on my face. I’m not fantasizing about returning to school for a comparative lit Ph.D. (though I do have a great idea for a dissertation), nor am I plotting my own book.

I’m somewhere on a British racetrack. It’s 1972, and there’s a mystery to be solved. There are no questions. There is no uncertainty. Pass me a piece of dry toast.

Vigilante Poets: Almost Available, Sort Of!

VigilantePoetsCoverThe Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy comes out on April 8, 2014, which means that it’s just about six months away.

I have spent the past several minutes trying to figure out how to employ a pregnancy metaphor here. The book-embryo has fingers: you can have it hand-delivered to you via various websites, including B&N and the A-word? It has toes: it’s standing on its own Goodreads page? Its liver produces bile: uh, the first review is in? (I am intemperately excited about this review, because it is in Danish. Yå!)

But then I abandoned that metaphor, because it was horrendous, and I would never sully my first blog post with a horrendous metaphor.

All fetal imagery aside, I am happy to announce that Vigilante Poets has been chosen as an Indies Introduce Debut Authors Spring 2014 pick.

That’s all I got.

Yours sincerely in never writing blog posts, although I promise to update again when the baby has gums, not that I could name the metaphorical significance of gums, and besides I haven’t the faintest idea when in gestation gums happen and I have already googled enough weird things about pregnancy that my gmail ads are going to be totally messed up for the next month,