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Lisa talks about two different mentor programs: Author Mentor Match and Writing in the Margins (which unfortunately is no longer active).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.
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