The versatile and vulnerable Sally Engelfried talks about productive weekends, innovative ways to use a writer's notebook, how to find a story's emotional core and so much more!
Full disclosure... I love routines and systems. That's why I'm all about learning about new routines that I might be able to incorporate that will help me make the most out of my wonderful life.
Sally explains that she's not a morning person, so she makes the most out of her weekends. She spends Saturdays and Sundays writing. She starts off with a three-hour chunk in the morning. Then, she takes a lunch break and writes for another two hours. Lastly, she does a quick fifteen-minute chore, and then gets in another hour.
She accepts that some chunks of time will be more productive than others, and that some chunks of time may be spent on tasks such as marketing, instead of creating. She finds that this structured system coupled with acceptance, works really well for her.
I don't know about you but the pressure around having a writer's notebook causes me some anxiety. Maybe it's because as I said above, I crave structure and the term writer's notebook makes me feel like there should be some inherent notebook structure. But Sally blasts that worry to pieces throughout this interview, revealing different ways she uses her notebook throughout our discussion.
Finally, Sally is vulnerable and honest. She talks about throughout her writing journey, she has wondered if she's wasting her time writing because there's no guarantee that all the hours she puts into crafting a manuscript will result in a published book in her hands. But she's found a way to put that worry to rest using her writer's notebook. In her notebook, she explores why she has to write a certain story. She examines what's going on emotionally in her current life that's propelling her to bring a specific character in a challenging situation to life.
For crafting novels that sell, Sally recommends Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing by Larry Brooks. Check out Sally's Learning to Fall to see how she embraced Brooks' orphan, wanderer, warrior, and martyr archetypes.
Sally thinks that all elementary libraries should have the following books:
The Panda Problem by Deborah Underwood
This super-fun read is a must have for writer's workshops. It turns out it's a big problem if your story doesn't have a problem.
Merci Suárez Can't Dance by Meg Medina
I've only read the first Merci book, but Sally is in love with all three, particularly this book, which is the second one in the series.
Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone by Tae Keller
I love Tae Keller's first two novels, The Science of Unbreakable Things and When You Trap a Tiger, but Sally insists I need to move this title to the top of my to-be-read stack. This mystery is about bullying and shaming people for being different. Reading this book will definitely encourage empathy for others.
In addition, Sally loves developing the children's horror section in her library. She recommends stocking up on titles by K.R. Alexander, Mary Downing, and Dan Poblocki.
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On today’s episode the positive and perseverant Cindy Rodriguez talks about the importance of embracing opportunities, growth mindset, and developing relationships in and out of the classroom.
Cindy talks about her Robert Frost fork in the road moment. She had one traditional book published but no other forthcoming projects. She could have quit writing after reaching her goal of becoming a published author and focused on becoming the best educator possible. Instead, after hearing Kwame Alexander speak, she decided to just say yes to whatever writing opportunities came her way.
This meant she had to embrace a growth mindset. Could she write a novel about volleyball even though she knew nothing about volleyball?
Could she write a graphic nonfiction novel even though she had no idea how to write a graphic novel script?
Finally, Cindy talks about the importance of developing relationships in and out of the classroom. Cindy and I talk about the fact that if educators intend to teach students anything, that the educator must first develop a relationship with her students. Without that relationship foundation, students won't learn. Outside of the classroom in the writing world, relationships are just as important. Cindy worked hard joining Facebook work-for-hire groups and connecting on Twitter with editors who had work-for-hire projects. It paid off! Cindy has published several work-for-hire titles including The Doomed Search for the Lost City of Z and the forthcoming book The Mount Everest Disaster of 1996.
Cindy recommends that middle school classrooms and libraries have the following titles:
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera
In addition to being the 2022 Newbery Winner, The Last Cuentista pairs well with The Giver by Lois Lowry, a standard book in many middle school ELA curriculums.
Treasure Tracks by S.A. Rodriguez
Unlike The Last Cuentista, this book is a fun read. It's about a boy who lives in the Florida Keys, and he's a deep sea diver. His grandfather has been searching for Spanish gold and when his abuelo gets sick, the main character takes charge of the search. Cindy says this book is perfect for reticent readers because it's short and an easy read.
City Spies by James Ponti
This is a series, and I read one of the titles over the summer, too. I agree with Cindy that these books are definitely worth picking up. MI6, the British version of the CIA, recruits 12-16-year-olds into their agency to go on missions for peace and justice. A great pick for kids who think outside the box.
If you want to be entered to win a book from Cindy or a thirty-minute virtual classroom visit with her, leave a comment below.
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Finally, I want to give a shout out to Sarah Brannen for Chalk + Ink’s podcast art. If you haven’t read Sarah’s book, Uncle Bobby’s Wedding, check it out. It’s on the ALA 2021 Rainbow List and Bank Street's Best Children's Books 2021.
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