Our fourth grade is immersed in the writing process using Lucy Calkins Writing Workshop. They are looking at mentor texts. They are studying author’s craft and developing their own style of taking a story from an idea to a published piece of writing. During this exploration, the fourth grade team reached out to ask if there was any possibility of connecting with an author to talk about the narrative writing process. I immediately thought of the dynamic sister duo from south Georgia, Kate and Cassie Beasley. Both of these talented authors have visited our school in the past for their books, so I reached out to them to consider the possibility of connecting for an informal chat about writing.
They enthusiastically said yes, and the whole fourth grade came to the library with writing journals and index card questions in hand.
Cassie Beasley is the author of Circus Mirandus and the recently released Tumble and Blue. Kate Beasley is the author of Gertie’s Leap to Greatness and the upcoming Lions & Liars. During our connection, they started out with an informal conversation about writing. They each took turns asking questions about writing process from the beginning to the end. I loved how it was like a mini-interview conversation between the two of them and how we discovered that they both have different ways that they accomplish the same task of writing a story.
Cassie shared that she often starts with an idea for a story and Kate often starts with a character and tries to put that character into a setting and a problem. Both sisters shared that they do a good bit of outlining when they are getting ready to write. One of the most surprising things to all of us was the amount of writing that they do that never makes it into a novel. Circus Mirandus, Tumble and Blue, and Gertie’s Leap to Greatness all went through multiple rewrites. Kate even shared that she thinks that about 75% of what she writes doesn’t get used. After our connection, we spent a bit more time talking about this and came to the conclusion that even though that writing doesn’t make it into the novel it wasn’t wasted work. The 75% was what was needed in order to discover the best story that was hiding underneath everything else.
I’ve heard several authors talk about how much they rewrite, and it’s important for students to hear that too because it’s really hard to start over. I casually asked Kate and Cassie how they feel when they have to start again. I asked if they scream or throw things. I mostly asked because that’s a bit how I feel when I have to start over. I think it’s important that students know that it’s not always the best feeling to start over even when you know it’s the right thing to do. Kate and Cassie both talked about the frustration. They shared how it’s a moment of panic. Cassie relies on Kate to talk her through the frustration so she can start again. Some deep breaths are involved and maybe some chocolate too.
Students had a chance to line up and ask their own questions to support their writing. One of the questions was about “where”. Where do you write? Kate has a very specific place where she writes. It’s a house that doesn’t have phone or internet so that she can stay away from distractions. Cassie also writes in that place but she does writing just about everywhere: a coffee shop, the pool, outside. It was an important reminder to us all that sometimes it’s tricky in the crowded classroom to find writing spaces that feel supportive. I hope we can think more about how to give students a space where they feel productive in their writing process.
Another student asked about how many books they hope to write, and it was so great to hear that they have many more ideas for stories that are waiting to be told or are in the process of being drafted. Even though writing takes time and has frustrating moments, it still comes down to that magic of escaping into someone else’s life or some other magical place on the page. It was so refreshing at the end of our skype to hear students who were excited to go back to class and write after hearing from published authors.
Thank you Cassie & Kate Beasley for taking time out of your writing lives to share your wisdom with us. We can’t wait to celebrate all your future stories.
To learn more about Kate’s upcoming novel, click here.