Interview with Author and Educator, Jyoti Rajan Gopal
The creative and flexible, Jyoti Rajan Gopal, talks about the power of changing one word in a manuscript, exploring various storytelling modalities, and the magic of making a manuscript sound like music.
The picture books that live in our hearts embody a feeling. It's fascinating to listen to Jyoti explain how she captured the sentiment of being caught between two cultures in her debut, American Desi, simply by changing the word "this" to "which." Sometimes revision means a complete overhaul. Other times, it means digging deep, figuring out why your heart is in your creation, and making sure each word mirrors that emotion.
Jyoti taught kindergarten for years, and she's passionate about storytelling. She informs listeners that writing is so much more than pencils, crayons, and papers. What we're all trying to do is tell a story, and students do that in various ways whether it be while building with blocks or playing with one another during unstructured moments inside and outside of the classroom.
Music has the power to transform not only our feelings, but our writing as well. Although Jyoti doesn't normally listen to music while writing, one day she put some music on while revising and magic happened. All of the sudden, she knew the manuscript had to sound like music and the right words flowed from her fingertips.
Jyoti thinks all elementary classrooms should have the following authors' books:
Carole Boston Weatherford-Listen to Carole's Chalk + Ink interview.
Kelly Starling Lyons
Matt de la Peña
Rob Sanders-Listen to Rob's Chalk + Ink interview.
Finally, this episode is dedicated to my beloved hound, Buck. When Jyoti and I recorded this episode, he was still alive. But he was struggling and in the room where I record. Since I knew we had very little time together and because it was difficult for him to move, I let him stay. He was quiet until the end of the episode, when he barked. Normally, I would edit that sound out; however, I couldn't do it. I couldn't cut out his voice. So, you may want to turn down your sound around an hour and five minutes.
As always, happy listening!
Interview with Author and Educator, Kate Messner
The prolific and versatile, Kate Messner, talks about what happens when we share our writing process with our students, inviting our students to help us make our writing stronger, and taking and making time to prioritize our writing.
Kate differentiates between writing exemplars for our students and writing alongside our students. When we write alongside our students, it's powerful for our students because they see all writers revise and struggle to master the craft. But it's not just powerful for our students, it's powerful for us as educators to feel like beginners again. When we remember "what it feels like to have the ground not so steady beneath our feet," it makes us much more empathetic educators.
One of the great benefits of simultaneously writing and teaching, is that our students can help improve our writing. Kate talks about having her students read her manuscripts and using different colors to mark boring or confusing parts. And hey, let's face it. Students get antsy during the spring months. So, now's the time to break out our writing and provide them with some new reading material.
Almost every guest talks about taking and making time to write. Kate takes it up another level. She tells us about the power of carving time out to write and then sharing our intentions with our family members. Not only will sharing our intentions with others, make it more likely that the writing time will actually happen, but it also shows our kids how it's important to set goals and communicate our needs to others.
We talk about a ton of Kate's books during this episode including but not limited to: History Smashers, Ranger in Time, The Next President, Fergus and Zeke, Breakout, Real Revision and my current favorite, 59 Reasons to Write. 59 Reasons to Write is filled with exercises that I'm using as a write another draft of my middle grade novel and Kate and her guests' tips are making my writing stronger.
Kate recommends the following writers and their work for upper elementary classrooms:
Tracey Baptiste: We started off talking about her wonderful Jumbies series, which were also part of Pernille Ripp's Global Read Aloud this year. Then, Kate talks about how Tracey wrote African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History because she became tired of her kids always bringing home information about the same Civil Rights Era icons. In African Icons, Baptiste showcases African history before the enslavement of black people began, a history that is not only often hidden, but intentionally erased.
Anne Ursu: Kate loves The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy because it's a fantastic fantasy with a feminist theme. I don't know this title but I'm thinking it would be a fantastic addition to my classroom collection.
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich: Operation Sisterhood looks like a super fun summer read. I'm definitely putting this one on my summer reading list.
Linda Urban: Linda's new book is Almost There and Almost Not, which Jennifer Laughran talks about on this episode of Literaticast and Michelle Knott talks about it here on her blog, Mrs. Knott's Book Nook. Jennifer Laughran and her guest talk about Almost There and Almost Not being a great gift for young readers in people's lives and Michelle Knott talks about the title being short and easily accessible for upper elementary readers. All I'm going to say about it is that it has a ghost dog. Does anything more need to be said? I don't think so. My summer reading list keeps getting longer and longer!
Kate and I also talk about Linda's humorous voice. Kate mentioned Linda's previous titles: Hound Dog True, A Crooked Kind of Perfect and The Center of Everything. I want to give a shout out to Milo Speck, Accidental Agent because I absolutely love that title and my students do as well.
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Chalk + Ink
Chalk + Ink is a biweekly podcast that publishes on Fridays throughout the school year. Sign up for our monthly newsletter to get notified of new episodes. Download Chalk + Ink wherever you get your favorite podcasts. Feeling inspired, grateful, and generous?