Kristy Acevedo talks about how writing is like painting, writing with pens and pencils, and the importance of creating personal checklists.
Listen to the soundbite above to hear how Kristy compares writing to painting. Novels don't originate overnight. They take weeks, months, years to complete. Why? Well, because they're like a painting. The creator adds layer after layer to each book in order to weave together an enticing plot and complex characters.
Like the characters in her novels, Kristy understands all creative processes are complex. When she writes a really emotional scene, she shuts down her laptop and grabs a pen or pencil. When she wants students to understand the complexity of a character, she asks her students to use their dominant hand to trace their non-dominant hand. Then, on the inside of the hand, students write what they think the main character thinks about themselves, and on the outside of their hand, they write down what other characters think about the main character. Pens and pencils have powers that keyboards do not.
Another powerful tool Kristy teaches her students about is a personal checklist. Sure, students need to know how to follow a rubric. But, they also know how to create rules and lists for themselves so that they can pursue their personal dreams, whatever those may be.
Kristy thinks all high school libraries should have the following three books:
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
One of Kristy's students had never seen herself in a book until she read The Hate U Give. But as soon as she finished Angie Thomas's novel, she wanted another book just like it.
This part of the episode illuminates Rudine Sims Bishop's wise words about how important it is that our classrooms have novels that are mirrors for all students. Here are two other books that act as mirrors for Kristy's students:
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Kristy is generously offering a book to a podcast supporter. Please leave a comment below by November, 11th.
Thanks so much for listening.
When I first started hosting chats, I didn’t record them because I worried it would hinder audience participation. But when Ruth, Veera and I were planning, they asked me to record our chat. Wow, am I glad we did. Due to the terrorist attack in Israel on October 7th, this conversation seems even more important than it did last spring. In addition to the incredible parallels in Ruth and Veera’s work we talk about othering and writing from a personal place.
In case you're unfamiliar with Ruth and/or Veera's work, there are several parallels, which we explore in depth in this episode. Both authors wrote novels around WWII. Ruth's novel Letters from Cuba is set on the eve of the war in 1939, and Veera's novel, The Night Diary happens two years after the war ends in 1947. Not only are these two novels set in similar eras, they're also both epistolary.
These two novels aren't the only similarity between their bodies of work, either. Both authors have novels set in the 1960s. Veera's How to Find What You're Not Looking For takes place in Connecticut, while Ruth's Lucky Broken Girl takes place in New York.
All four of these novels dive deep into othering be it the othering of Jewish people during WWII, the othering of Hindis and Muslims during the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, the othering of biracial couples and immigrants in the 1960s. While the novels explore the pain of being othered, they also celebrate the power of perseverance and showcase characters who embrace diversity, even in times of duress.
Finally, as showcased above in the two soundbites, both authors write from deeply personal places, which is why their work is so powerful.
Be on the lookout for both of these authors new releases coming in 2024. I can't wait to read the sequel to Veera's The Night Diary, called Amil and the After or to read Ruth's Across So Many Seas, which she compares to Alan Grat'z stunning novel, Refugee.
Hà Dinh talks about wildflowers, night owls and trailblazers in this episode.
Hà and I had a delightful discussion about why she chose to include wildflowers in her powerful picture book debut, Where Wildflowers Grow. I shared a memory of picking a peony off a neighbor's bush for my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Young, and the joy I felt giving it to her followed by the shame of admitting I shouldn't have picked a flower off of someone else's bush. She shared memories of all the sweet bouquets she received as a first-grade teacher.
Unlike me who is a card-carrying member of the early bird group, Ha is a night owl. As soon as her children go to bed, she gets busy creating or researching about writing. She doesn't set a schedule for herself, because that stifles her flow. Instead, she works on whatever calls to her, for however long she's able.
When Ha grew up, she didn't see herself represented in books. She thanks authors Minh Lê and Joanna Ho for blazing the trail for her to tell her story.
During the episode, we talk about Eve Bunting's Fly Away Home, a book we've both used with our students to facilitate discussion about challenges that unhoused people face.
If you'd like to register to be eligible to win a free picture book critique from her, fill in this form by Saturday, October 21st, 2023.
Jyoti Rajan Gopal and Tina M. Cho chat about all things kindergarten. We talk about beautiful beginning of the year books to build community, the importance of extended family, and Tina and Jyoti’s upcoming releases.
We celebrated so many wonderful community building books. Here are just a few of the titles mentioned in the episode.
When Jyoti mentioned All Are Welcome, I of course had to talk about the super fun fact that Suzanne Kaufman illustrated my family in that book on the gatefold spread. I also talked about the powerful bumper sticker writing activity I do with my class each year, which includes All Are Welcome.
This year I added Jyoti's book, American Desi. The bumper sticker phrase changes in American Desi, which my students didn't notice. We had a deep discussion about how the changing bumper sticker phrase illuminates the themes of the book, embracing diversity and acceptance.
We talked about the stereotypical representation of grandparents in media. Often times older people images depict older people as being sedentary and rickety. This is not the case in Tina's The Ocean Calls or Jyoti's My Paati's Saris. Both of these grandmas are on the move, filling their grandchildren's lives with vibrant colors.
We also talked about Jyoti's and Tina's upcoming releases. Jyoti's Desert Queen looks absolutely stunning, and ever since I heard about Tina's middle grade graphic novel, I have been waiting anxiously to hold a copy in my hands. It will be a wonderful sliding glass door book to add to my classroom library collection.
Be sure to read Hà Dinh’s wonderful debut picture book, Where Wildflowers Grow, to prepare for our next episode.
Until then, happy listening!
You know what's amazing about hosting this podcast? More often than not, a guest says exactly what I need to take my writing to the next level.
That's what happened in this episode when H.M. Bouwman took a deep dive into interiority. This summer, when I was working on drafting a new novel, I had the thought that I should reread the first chapter of Jennifer Brown's Perfect Escape, try to write it from memory, see what I missed, and then analyze it to figure out how to make the opening chapter of my rough draft better. I never got there due to the demands of my summer classes, but the idea lingered.
Well, it turns out that Heather Bouwman does this exact activity in her college creative writing class with Tracy Deonn's Legendborn to help her students see that they need to add much more interiority to their novels be it interior thoughts, flashbacks, or setting details. There's a lot more space in a novel than a picture book, so use it!
Heather also talked about the power of sharing her writing process with her students. How does one respond when a well-respected critique partner points out that your witch is a half-hearted villain? What does that mean, and how can the problem be fixed? Can sea monsters fix all problems in drafts? Finally, and this one's a lot less fun, what's the difference between revising and editing?
Speaking of revision, that's one of the other topics we delved into. Heather uses revision rounds to flush out the emotional arc of her major and minor characters. In Gossamer Summer, Jojo deals with grief in one way. In order to contrast Jojo's interior arc with the minor characters' interior arcs, she made sure that Jojo's older sister and Jojo's friend dealt with grief in different ways. By using multiple revision rounds to flush out different characters, the reader has many opportunities to find mirrors in the book.
For modern classics, Heather recommends Holes by Louis Sachar and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
For modern author recommendations, please read anything by Varian Johnson, Gene Luen Yang, and Christina Soontornvat.
But as an expert in eighteenth century literature, she wants make sure she tips her hat to titles from other eras. Please check out James Thurber's The 13 Clocks. It's a playful text that launches into rhymed iambic pentameter. Also, for upper middle grade readers, be sure to read Frederick Douglass's first autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Heather emphasizes that he's absolutely not in favor of enslavers, which is misinformation that it currently being circulated, and that he writes deceptively simple, beautiful sentences such as, "You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made a man."
If you and your class have read some of Heather's novels, and would like to be eligible to win a virtual author's visit with her, please leave a comment below or share this episode on your favorite social media platform and be sure to tag Heather and me.
If you're a preschool or a kindergarten teacher, be sure to join us live on Saturday, September 16th for our first Chalk + Ink Chat of the 2023-2024 school year with kindergarten teachers and authors Tina M. Cho and Jyoti Rajan Gopal. Sign up here.
Stacy Mozer dives deep into ways to enrich your writers' workshop, why it's important to develop a relationship with your local librarian, and how reading is a writing and a teaching superpower.
My mind is 100% on school right now. I'm thinking about how I can make this school year better than last year, and one way to do that is by facilitating a better writers' workshop. Stacy gives listeners a ton of tips in this episode including offering students a smorgasbord of planners, how to help students develop multiple leads or hooks or attention grabbers, and how to help individual students revise in whole group settings-wow! Listening to Stacy was just what I needed to get me jazzed up for writing with my students.
Many podcast guests have talked about how getting to know their local librarian helped them research their books, but Stacy's librarian story is different. Her local librarian taught her about children's publishing. Granted, not everyone's local librarian is a member of the Sibert Committee or the Caldecott Committee. Nevertheless, the point is librarians have knowledge, and they're more than happy to share it. So, be sure to ask them for help.
Superpowers! We all have them. One of Stacy's superpowers is reading quickly, which helps her in the classroom and when she's writing. During readers' workshop, Stacy rapidly reads a chapter of a student's book before conferencing with them, unless of course she's already read the book! For writing, Stacy's reading superpower helps her know just which mentor text to turn to, when she wants to create a craft move in her own work.
Here are Stacy's book recommendations for the upper elementary classroom:
The One and Only Ruby by Katherine Applegate
Stacy says this is a book that lives in her heart and that it's a fabulous story about friendship.
The Last Mapmaker by Christina Soontornvat
This is a 2023 Newbery Honor book. So, obviously Stacy isn't the only one who thinks it's a wonderful read. I agree 100% with Stacy. This book is set in a fantasy world, where family heritage determines one success. But even though the main character has no family legacy, she's an incredible artist who gets to participate in a high sea adventure full of friends, foes, and fantastic beasts.
The Last Beekeeper by Julie Carrick Dalton
In this dystopia, all the honeybees are presumed extinct. But when the main character sees a honeybee on her family's abandoned farm, she knows it's important. Meanwhile, there's a company trying to control all the world's technology that produces the world's food supply. I haven't read it yet. But, it's definitely on my tbr list now!
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen by Sarah Kapit
This book is about a little girl who loves baseball and who also has autism. She learns how to throw a knuckleball and becomes a successful little league pitcher. This is an epistolary novel told in letters written by Vivy and a local major league star. This book pairs well with Stacy's middle grade novel, The Sweet Spot, which is also about a female little league star.
The Secret of the Dragon Gems by Rajani LaRocca and Chris Baron
Full disclosure-I love anything written by Rajani and Chris. Last season I interviewed Chris. Click here to listen to his episode. This novel is told from two points of view. Two campers become friends at a summer camp where they find some rocks, which they feel connected to. They take the rocks home and communicate through email, texts, and letters. Meanwhile, the owners of the camp are looking for these rocks, too. I haven't read this one yet, but my classroom has a dragon theme this year. So, this seems like it would be a perfect read aloud.
Don't Want to be Your Monster by Deke Moulton
This is one of the most interesting novels Stacy has read because it's a vampire novel for middle grade students. This novel debunks the way we see one another, and why we're scared of people who are different than ourselves. It also addresses anti-Semitism. I haven't read this one either, but it sounds fascinating.
If you would like to be eligible to win a 30-minute virtual classroom visit with Stacy, write a comment below by Friday, September 1st. The winner will be announced on the next episode.
Before our next episode, be sure to read one of H.M. Bouwman’s fantastic middle grade novels. Gossamer Summer just came out this past May. In addition to being truly delightful, it’s less than 200 pages. It’s a quick, fun read jam-packed with magic.
Chris Baron, talks about how writing starts with you, reaching unseen readers, and the magic of maps.
It's funny how someone can rephrase an idea and it revolutionizes the concept. So many people say, "Write what you know," but Chris Baron says, "It starts with you." The difference is the immediacy of the statement. Starting with me begins inside the heart, while writing what I know starts with the mind, and those are two very different starting points. Chris talks about how even though he had an elementary teacher who told him, "It starts with you," he had a professor in college who hit him over the head with a rowing oar, not literally but figuratively, with the same concept. Ever since then, his writing has come from his heart
When writers start from the heart, they reach unseen readers--readers who haven't seen their struggles revealed on the page. Whether it's through Ari's self-hatred, Etan's inability to trust, or Sasha's anxiety as he tries to navigate his father's toxic masculinity, readers will find themselves and their fears inside Chris's novels.
The magic of maps threads itself all three of Chris's novels, too, but it's front and center in The Gray. Preorder your personalized copy here so that you, too, can feel like a character in a video game navigating through unfamiliar landscape to rescue a friend.
Chris recommends the following authors and these books:
Read all of Rajani LaRocca's and Mae Respicio's books.
Check out Reem Faruqi's Golden Girl, Shari Green's Missing Mike, Remy Lai's Pie in the Sky, Jess Redman's The Adventure Is Now, Nikki Grime's Garvey's Choice, and Gillian McDunn's, When Sea Becomes Sky.
There are so many names here that are new to me, but I know where I'm starting. People are tweeting morning and night about When Sea Becomes Sky. So that's the one I'll be checking out.
If you would like to be eligible to win a signed copy of one of Chris's novels or a ten-page middle grade novel critique, be sure to leave a comment below.
Finally, many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink's art. Just like Chris's novels are great summer reads, so is Sarah and Melissa Stewart's Summertime Sleepers. Be sure to add it to your summer stack.
Hanh Bui highlights the helpers who welcomed her and her family to the United States in the 1970s, surrounds herself with positive people, and stays true to her story.
During the pandemic when Hanh heard about immigrant children being separated from their parents at the Mexican border, she knew she had to share her immigration story with the world. She wanted to tell stories about all the helpers who eased her and her family's transition to the United States: soldiers, social workers, teachers, church workers, as well as organizations such as the YMCA, the Salvation Army and the Red Cross.
In order to tell her story, she knew she would have to surround herself with positive people. She engaged with her local writing community by attending book launches at independent bookstores. The first author event she attended featured Mary Rand Hess. Mary became her first writer friend and mentor. From there, Hanh joined SCBWI, engaged with Highlights, attended Pat Cumming's Picture Book Boot Camp, and participated in Vivian Kirkfield's 50 Precious Words Contest. Hanh is so grateful to all of these people and organizations for helping her along the way.
Some people wanted Hanh to change certain aspects of her story. For example, some people wanted the mother in Hanh's debut book, The Yellow Áo Dài, to be angry. But that was not the experience Hanh wanted to portray. The fact that Hanh portrayed a kind and empathetic Asian mother, instead of the hurtful, stereotypical Asian tiger mom, attracted illustrator Minnie Phan to Hanh's story. Hanh stayed so true to kindness and empathy, that I felt loved as a reader.
Hanh recommends people have the following picture books in their elementary classrooms:
The Power of Yet by Maryann Cocca-Leffler
This book features a pig who practices patience and perseverance. With those two qualities, anything is possible.
The Kindest Red by S.K. Ali and Hatem Aly
This book shows children that they can be resilient and have courage especially when they surround themselves with positive people.
Hanh also recommends teachers have classics on hand such as Arnold Lobel's Frog and Toad, as well as books by Sandra Boynton and Mo Willems.
If you would like to win a copy of Hanh's book please leave a comment below.
To prep for our next episode, be sure to read one or both of Chris Baron's middle grade novels, All of Me or The Magical Imperfect.
As always, many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink's banner and logo. Summer is just around the corner. Be sure to pick up a copy of Summertime Sleepers, written by Melissa Stewart and illustrated by Sarah, and start daydreaming about summertime naps.
Mary Ann Cappiello and Erika Thulin Dawes talk about trusting the process, text sets, and the magic of working on multiple projects.
Often times we think our process isn't valid. This could be because it doesn't look like someone else's or because it doesn't look like we think it should look or because we haven't reached the goals we hoped to obtain. But Mary Ann and Erika talk about how important it is to trust the process, whatever that looks like for each writer, whether the two of them are collaborating on a new book, writing on their own, or coaching their students as they craft their own work.
What does it mean when we talk about a text set? Many people may think we're talking about various books. And while books are definitely part of a text set, they're not the whole picture. When Mary Ann and Erika talk and write about Text Sets in Action, they're talking about multi-modal, multi-genre text sets. To help teachers understand the various ways text sets may be utilized in the classroom, they have developed various visual models such as the solar system model or the tree ring model. My favorite is the tree ring model because it centers the main text and examines the sources the author used to create the text.
In addition to thinking our process isn't valid, sometimes we superimpose rules on ourselves that limit our creativity such as I should only work on one project at a time or I'm too busy to balance another project right now. But both Mary Ann and Erika feel when they work on multiple projects at once that not only are they more productive, they are also able to uncover solutions that would have remained buried if they were only working on a single project.
For elementary classrooms, Mary Ann and Erika Thulin Dawes recommend the following books:
Whale Fall by Melissa Stewart and Rob Dunlavey
Mary Ann talks about how a teacher, a former student of hers, raves about Whale Fall and the powerful impact on her elementary students. I just read Whale Fall in my class, and my students loved it, too. I loved watching them point and hearing them ooh and ah at each new sea creature they learned about as they feasted on the whale fall.
Berry Song by Michaela Goade
Erika loves books that celebrate our natural world. Not only does Berry Song invite readers to interact with nature, the text offers multiple opportunities to discuss social and environmental justice.
Ablaze with Color by Jeanne Walker Harvey and Loveis Wise
This book has been bringing Erika joy. She's been using it in one of her students' preschool classrooms and the preschoolers love it.
On Mary Ann and Erika's website, Teaching with Trade Books, they have a ton of curated recommendation lists.
If you would like to win a copy of Text Sets in Action or a thirty-minute coaching session on how to use text sets in the classroom, leave a comment below.
Remember to sign up for our next Chalk + Ink Chat on April 26th with Lisa Stringfellow and Michael Leali to talk about their debut year and DEI in middle grade novels.
On the next episode, I'm looking forward to discussing Hanh Bui’s debut picture book, The Yellow Áo Dài.
Many thanks to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink’s podcast art. Congrats to Sarah on her latest book sale. I’ll echo another critique group member and say I can’t wait to see Lolly on the ice and on bookshelves.
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