Interview with Director of Global Citizenship at Barefoot Books and Debut Author, Dr. Paula Laurel Jackson
The talented and tenacious, Dr. Paula Laurel Jackson, talks about the importance of quality over quantity, music as a universal first language, and global citizenship.
Laurel is a single-parent, with a full-time job, so she doesn't have a lot of free time. But she doesn't let that stop her from writing. Instead, she wakes at 4 AM every morning, meditates, writes morning pages, and then focuses on her creative writing for fifteen minutes. It doesn't sound like a lot of time, but because she's zoomed in on her work, she's found that somedays she's more productive in fifteen minutes than she was when she had hours to write.
As a former concert pianist, Laurel brings music into the classroom whenever she can. Sometimes, she asks students to tell her what story they think the music is telling and other times she works with students to create musicals that feature original music that she composes and lyrics that students write.
Since Laurel has lived in three different continents and several countries in those continents, global citizenship is a fundamental part of her identity. Although many schools claim to value global citizenship in their mission statements, she has found from her travels and her educational research that very few schools provide opportunities for students to develop their identities as global citizens.
While living in Germany, Laurel read Mama Panya's Pancakes: A Village Tale from Kenya by Mary and Rich Chamberlin. Inspired by the book's message about sharing, Laurel contacted Barefoot Books. Now, she's the Director of Global Citizenship at Barefoot Books, and she promotes books that nourish children's hearts and souls around the world.
Laurel recommends that elementary classrooms have the following books:
Nour's Secret Library by Wafa' Tarnowska
When Nour's city in Syria is bombed, she has to seek shelter underground where she builds a subterranean library. When Laurel discussed this book, it made me think of Digging for Words by Angela Burke Kunkel because it also features an unusual library created by an unusual librarian.
Love by Matt De la Pena
This is Laurel's daughter's favorite book. If you're looking for a warm hug, this is it.
We Are Grateful by Traci Sorrel
Laurel and her daughter moved to the United States from Germany in the fall of 2021. As part of their first Thanksgiving celebration, the delighted in reading We Are Grateful. One of the great aspects of this book is that it focuses on gratitude throughout the year.
Thanks so much for reading. If you would like to be entered to win a signed copy of Laurel's The Perfect Party, please leave a comment below and fill out this form.
Interview with Author and Educator, Rukhsanna Guidroz
The brave and reflective, Rukhsanna Guidroz, talks about the importance of bringing newspapers into classrooms, the power of a color-coded plot grid, and how engaging in social media can open up career doors.
When I interviewed Kristen Nordstrom, we talked about the power of newspapers in an early elementary classroom. On this episode, Rukhsanna Guidroz, talks about the power of newspapers in a high school English class in France. Not only did her mostly male students relate to the English football fans' shenanigans, after reading the paper her students almost felt as if they themselves had travelled to England.
When Rukhsanna reveals that using a color-coded plot grid led to a writing breakthrough, I dig deep. Rukhsanna lets the listeners in on a secret-it was her editor who taught her how to use a plot grid. Now, instead of being a pantser, Rukhsanna plots her whole novel out from the beginning to the end before she begins the writing process. This allows her to stay in the flow once she starts writing. Also, after she finishes drafting, she no longer has to engage in the painful process of unraveling plot threads because she's had a visual tool to make sure each plot thread is present throughout the novel.
If you're not involved in social media, Rukhsanna suggests you get busy and get yourself out there. Had it not been for #pitmad on Twitter, Rukhsanna wouldn't have published her debut book, Mina vs. the Monsoon. Before everyone emails me and tells me #pitmad just shuttered their doors, I know. But the truth of the matter is a myriad of writing opportunities are available on social media and one can't participate in them if one isn't on social media.
Rukhsanna thinks every upper elementary classroom should have the following two novels:
Unsettled by Reem Faruqi
Nurah, an immigrant who settles in Atlanta, Georgia, stays true to herself and finds her voice through swimming.
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
Like Rukhsanna's Samira Surfs, The Crossover is a novel in verse. It features basketball instead of surfing and it won the 2015 Newbery Medal.
Thanks so much for reading. If you would like to be entered to win a copy of Samira Surfs, please leave a comment below and fill out this form.
The talented and tenacious, Lisa Stringfellow, talks about the importance of setting goals and being accountable to ourselves, how word choice and sentence length determine voice, and why it makes sense to involve students in our professional writing journeys.
Lisa joined Inked Voices and participated in workshops that required her to submit pages for critique. She also learned that she needed a complete draft before she began to revise, which made her realize there is a difference between polishing and revising. Finally, for fun, Lisa used Pacemaker to help her track her progress.
In earlier drafts of A Comb of Wishes, Lisa received feedback that her voice was inconsistent-sometimes her character sounded like a middle grade character and sometimes her character sounded older. Lisa took a voice workshop with Linda Sue Park and learned that word choice and sentence length determined voice. This information helped her hone Kela's voice. She also talks about when The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill won the Newbery, she realized she could have a 300-year-old vengeful mermaid narrate part of her novel as well.
Not many educators can say they wrote their first draft of their novel with their students, but Lisa did. She and her students participated in NaNoWriMo. After students finish their word count at the end of the month, which translates loosely to 1,000 words per grade level, Lisa asks her students to write a query letter to an imaginary editor or agent. The query letter requires her students to write a succint summary as well as use their persuasive writing skills, which not only engages them in two standards but teaches them about the publishing world as well.
During the episode, Lisa talks about two different mentor programs: Author Mentor Match and Writing in the Margins (which unfortunately is no longer active). She also talks about how Kweli's Color of Children's Literature Conference humbled and honored her by awarding A Comb of Wishes the Kweli Color of Children’s Literature Manuscript Award in 2019 for the novel manuscript. Lisa will be presenting at Kweli's Color of Children's Literature Conference as will former Chalk + Ink guest, Zetta Elliott.
Lisa also talks about two different teaching resources. Inspired by Ralph Fletcher's Live Writing and Jess Lifshitz's blog, Crawling Out of the Classroom, Lisa asks students to write letters to imaginary editors summarizing their writing and revision process for their work to help students build their metacognitive skills.
According to Lisa, every elementary classroom should have the following books:
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
This is the first book in a trilogy, and it highlights the social programs of the Black Panther Party, such as providing free meals to impoverished children. The main character, Delphine, is trying to understand her mother, and the choice her mother made to leave her and her sisters when they were young.
The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson
Like The Chronicles of Narnia, The Barren Grounds is a portal fantasy. Unlike The Chronicles of Narnia, the two main characters are Cree children who are in the care of the foster system. The book celebrates Cree traditional stories and takes a hard look at how the foster care system has disrupted and harmed indigenous cultures. During our discussion of The Barren Grounds, which I love, I added that Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac would be a good companion title to The Barren Grounds and Lisa suggested Christine Day's books, I Can Make This Promise and The Sea in Winter would also pair well with The Barren Grounds.
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
Both Lisa and I love this book because it's a mystery like The Westing Game, and it shines a spotlight on racism in a small Mississippi town and celebrates same-sex couples.
If you would like to enter to win a signed copy of A Comb of Wishes, please leave a comment below and fill out this form.
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