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S1 E5: Knocking on the Door of Zetta Elliott’s Writing World

S1 E5: Knocking on the Door of Zetta Elliott’s Writing World

Join us as we talk with Black feminist poet and author Zetta Elliott and her middle grade fantasy, Dragons in a Bag.

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Today’s guest is Black feminist writer and poet, Zetta Elliott. Zetta’s poetry has been published in numerous anthologies and additionally, she has written numerous essays (including the Children’s Literature Association’s Article Award winning 2014 essay, “The Trouble with Magic: Conjuring the Past in New York City Parks.”). Zetta also has published two middle grade novels-one of which we are talking about today! Dragons in a Bag is a middle grade fantasy book that the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC) named a Notable Children’s Book and it was selected for the 2021 Global Read Aloud. The fifth and final book in the series, The War of the Witches, will be published in January 2024.

Our talk with Zetta Elliott was rich in discussion on plot, characters, fantasy elements and the publication world.

You can listen to the podcast above or on Apple Podcasts.


We would love to hear from our listeners! Leave us a comment. Here are a few prompts to get you going:

  1. Zetta described fantasy as not being about worldbuilding, but rather about community. How do you/could you build community in your works in progress? What does that look like in your writing or other books you have read?

  2. What was your biggest takeaway from this episode?

  3. Have you read any of Zetta’s works? What is your favorite?

Leave a comment

Thank you for listening and sharing! If you are interested in joining our book club, complete this google form.

Music credits: Will Saulnier

About Zetta Elliott

Zetta Elliott with her series, Dragons in a Bag. Photo Credit: Zetta Elliott
  • Born and raised in Canada, but has lived in America for over 30 years.

  • Is a poet, essayist, and novelist.

  • Her works have won numerous awards and nominations.

  • Zetta’s purpose: “Ultimately, I try to tell stories that give voice to the diverse realities of children. I write as much for parents as I do for their children because sometimes adults need the simple instruction a picture book can provide. I write books my parents never had the chance to read to me. I write the books I wish I had had as a child.”-quote from Zetta’s website.

Dragons in a Bag


When his mother goes to court to challenge an eviction notice, she leaves Jaxon with a strange lady called Ma. The miserable old woman clearly doesn’t want Jax around, and she tries to hide a curious package mailed to her from Africa. Jax soon learns that Ma is keeping secrets. She isn’t actually his grandmother—she’s a witch! Ma’s last task before retirement is to transport three dragons from Madagascar to another realm where magic still thrives. Though his mother long ago rejected the chance to apprentice with Ma, Jax decides to help the old woman get the dragons back where they belong. But what does a boy from Brooklyn know about magic?

Watch Zetta read aloud the first three chapters here. Find great videos, activities, and other resources here. Download the publisher’s Educators’ Guide here.

Order Dragons in a Bag

Looking Ahead

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Read to Write Kidlit Substack
Read to Write Kidlit Podcast
Read to Write Kidlit is a bookclub and podcast where we read great books and talk about writing craft with authors! The hosts are two aspiring authors, Brittany and Alexis, who are ready to grow and learn by reading and discussing within the kidlit community. We focus on middle grade literature. Thanks for listening!