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Web Dweller
"Web Dweller" by Anya Geist, 12 From Stone Soup April 2020

A note from William

Joyful news!

This newsletter is dedicated to the newest member of our Stone Soup family, Editor Emma Wood's first child, Margot Dylan Bassett-Wood, who was born last week. Congratulations to Emma and her husband, Conner. This is a very strange time to be born into our world. I would like each of you to find a way to say a welcome to Margot. Margot has very special parents, so I know she is a very lucky child. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains in a redwood forest, so her first vision of the outside world will be these huge amazing trees. Emma is not checking her Stone Soup email, but if those of you who write poetry would like to write a poem for Margot, I know that Emma will value whatever you send. You can email your poem to me with the subject line, “For Margot,” and I will be sure that Emma receives it so she can read it to her daughter. The email address to use is stonesoup@stonesoup.com.

This is a very emotional time for all of us. I am writing this on April 15, which is always a very emotional day for me. This is the 45th anniversary of my mother's death. She died two years after I founded Stone Soup. My mother gave me so much: my life, of course, but also my world view and the encouragement and money to make Stone Soup possible. We all owe this wonderful project to her, and so I also dedicate this newsletter to my mother.

These are eventful times! It is a long newsletter today. Please stay with me. There is a lot to say.

Thank you, team!

Before getting into the heart of the newsletter, our first project, and lots of news, I would like to thank my colleagues for the huge amount of work they have put into getting our coronavirus programs up and running. Monday will be our 21st Daily Creativity Prompt, and we now have two Zoom workshops running, a new COVID-19 blog with daily posts, and a weekly Flash Contest. The heavy lifting for all this has been carried by Jane Levi, who, like me, has been working unpaid for the past three years. Sarah Ainsworth, a graduate student in Library Science, has been going the extra mile on top of her coursework. Our newest colleague, Laura Moran, who manages the Stone Soup Refugee Project (more on its status in a future newsletter) has stepped in to run the Wednesday Book Group on top of being a parent and an adjunct professor in cultural anthropology. (Also, Emma wrote a large number of the prompts before taking maternity leave.) Thank you. This week’s art—and William’s weekend project
What a gorgeous photograph! A tour de force. A story told with a limited color palette—golden brown, silver, grey, and black. Anya Geist has titled the image Web Dweller. At the moment, all of us are house dwellers. Our houses are closed boxes. Her spider's dwelling is as open as open can be. It is also a trap. An engineering marvel. And exceedingly beautiful. Anya's vision of this spider and her web at night is told with boldness and subtlety. Sharp lines and blurred light. We all have spiders in our houses, so spiders make the perfect COVID-19 photography project. One thing we all have right now is lots of time. So, find a web, and take the time to observe it closely. And photograph it in different lights and from different angles. Send us the images you like the best by going to the submissions link.

COVID-19 projects update

We have two groups meeting via Zoom every week: the Wednesday Book Group (ages 10–13) and the Friday Writing Workshop (all ages). To receive the link detailing how to join these groups, you must sign up for the Daily Creativity prompts that we are sending out Monday through Friday. Monday will be the 21st prompt.

Please look below for the winners of this week’s Weekly Flash Contest. Remember, the first prompt of the week is the prompt to use when you enter the contest, and entries are due at midnight on Friday of the week.

This week’s story—and some thoughts on writing serials

You might have noticed that we brought forward the launch of our second annual Book Contest. I hope you are all thinking about your entries for this year! But this week, I want to talk about last year's Book Contest because this month everyone can finally start reading some of 2019’s winning work! In this month's issue of Stone Soup, you can enjoy the first part of nine-year-old Hannah Nami Gajcowski's inventive adventure, the novella Elana. Elana won third prize in last year's Book Contest and is appearing in three parts over the April, May, and June issues of Stone Soup. Hannah has invented a world populated with colorful characters and filled with fantastical adventure. Congratulations, Hannah, on writing a wonderful book. We are very excited to be publishing it in Stone Soup and thrilled to be sharing it with all our readers at last!

Publication in serial form was a common model in the nineteenth century. Charles Dickens (1812–1870) wrote many of his most famous novels week by week for publication in parts in newspapers and magazines. This imposes quite a discipline on a writer. You need to be very organized. You must make it easy for the reader to keep track of all your characters, remember what has happened to them in past episodes, and make sense of what might happen to them in the future, without lots of repetition and reminders. You also need to be able to retain a reader's interest in every section of the story: each episode has to be able to stand on its own, with its own arc, as well as earn its place in a larger narrative. If, like Dickens, you have a huge cast of characters, you need to make sure that your reader can still remember about one group while you are talking about another. It’s a big challenge! Elana wasn't originally written to be published in episodic form, but the inventiveness of Elana's imaginary world and the excitement of the various highs and lows of the story make it perfectly suited to this kind of presentation. You can read the opening of Part One below and click the link to see the rest of Part One on our website. Don’t miss it! You will be waiting impatiently for May to come so you can read Part Two!

Stay safe.

Until next week,

Weekly Flash Contest #2: Winners

Our second flash contest asked entrants to write a blog post about how COVID-19 has affected daily life, and we received a huge number of entries from all over the world—from Singapore, India, Poland, Switzerland, Canada, and the United States! We are so proud of our international family of young writers, and we congratulate every one of you who wrote so honestly, clearly, and beautifully about your experiences of COVID-19 up until now. We enjoyed reading each and every one of the entries, and it was even more difficult than before to choose our top five—so difficult, in fact, that we chose six! PLUS, we have decided to publish some of the other entries separately on our COVID-19 Blog as well!

In alphabetical order, our winners this week are:

Lena Aloise, 10, Harvard, MA
Eliana Aschheim, 13, Santa Clara, CA
Analise Braddock, 9, Katonah, NY
Simar Grewal, 6, Bellevue, WA
Lyndon Raymond, 11, Houston, TX
Michelle Su, 13, Sudbury, MA

And, look out on the blog over the next couple of weeks for more writing and art about COVID-19 from these flash contest entrants: Jeongwon Choi, 13 (Mumbai, India); Annabelle Garner-Tamayo, 10 (Omaha, NE); SierraRose Gibson, 12 (Los Angeles, CA); Mehr Grewal, 13 (Belleville, WA); Vivaan Kartik, 11 (Horgen, Switzerland); Alice Pak, 10 (Beaver Creek, OH); Thee Sim Ling, 13 (Singapore); Patrycja Wanat, 13 (Rajsko, Poland).

Congratulations to everyone!

The Flash Contest is running every week during the COVID-19-related school closures. Visit Stonesoup.com for details every Monday, and get your entries in by Friday!

Highlights from the past week online

Don't miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com!

With just a few words, Max Corthésy, 11, is able to convey so much emotion in his poem “corona virus.” Read it on the blog and leave a comment!

Daniel, 10, reviews the book Moon over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. The book centers on a girl who learns more about her father's mysterious past.

Clara Kingsley Tripp, 12, looks at the bright sides of staying at home with her post “Hope for Quaranteens.” Even though staying at home can be anxiety-producing and boring, through the help of technology there are so many interesting things to fill your time with.

Anya Geist, a Stone Soup contributor, shares some beautiful shots of springtime in Massachusetts.

"We are like bees, trapped in their own hive" reads a line in “The Virus,” a powerful poem by Avah Dodson, 11.

Aarush Iyengar, 12, reflects in poetry on the "Tough Times" we are all going through right now.

Have you been watching a lot of movies in quarantine? So has Abhi! He reviews Unforgiven, a Western streaming on Netflix. It is a movie that deals with mature themes, so be sure to get parental permission before watching it.

For those of you playing more games during this time, we have a thorough review of the Nintendo Switch by blogger Daniel Zhu, 10.

We published an art piece by Analise Braddock, 9, called Social Distancing. What message do you think Analise is trying to communicate in her drawing?

Sophie, 14, has been keeping a journal documenting her time in quarantine. We've published some excerpts from it on the blog.

To cap off his series on science fiction and fantasy, we’ve got one last post from Marco: a short story! Read “Calamity 023,” and check out Marco’s other posts while you're at it.

From Stone Soup April 2020

Hannah Nami Gajcowski

Elana (Part One)

By Hannah Nami Gajcowski, 9 (Bellevue, WA)

CHARACTERS – In order of appearance

ELANA (Uh-LAY-nuh) A young furow girl who is the Chosen One
MS. SMIT Elana’s science teacher, who later reveals a secret identity
HENRY A tiny, green-haired fairy who guides Elana
CASEY FLUMPTON An evil rock star and Elana’s mortal enemy
TWEETLE and TWOOTLE Casey’s messengers
TOONA A Neptune devil
MRS. RICHARD Elana’s writing teacher
MOM, DAD, MARY, DAISY, JOHN, FIONA, and EDGAR Elana’s family
GALETTA A snappy owner at a bakery in Sugar Top
BUBBLES, GUMMER, LICORE, and CHOCO Workers at the Background Theater
SPOTS Coco’s pet dog
PRANKSTER Vanille’s pet cat
HALLOWEEN and EASTER Bubbles's pets
FILLINUS The ambassador of light
HAU’OLI A girl who befriends Elana in Casey’s palace
PHILADELPHIA Hau’oli’s pet rat
CAPTAIN HAWKINS The police chief
MR. REMY and MR. SAGARD Two police officers


The main creatures that live on Neptune are furows, intelligent beings that look exactly like humans. They also act a lot like humans and like having human names. However, they aren’t exactly the same. They can survive both on solid planets like Earth and gas planets like Neptune.

Furows share the beautiful planet of Neptune with other creatures, such as living gingerbread and various animals. These animals resemble Earthen animals such as cats, dogs, and crocodiles. We use Earthen animal names in this book to help our Earthen readers follow the plot.

Elana, the heroine of this tale, is an ordinary furow girl who uses her determination, daring, and faith in magic to save the planet.

I: The Chosen One

Once upon a time, on the planet of Neptune, in the bustling city of Thener and country of Thou, there was a tall, redheaded, 10-year-old girl named Elana Garfield. One afternoon in science class at Jonesberg Elementary, Ms. Smit, the teacher, announced that they were going to change from their current subject, animals, and start discussing electricity.

“To start with, class, I have a question for all of you,” Ms. Smit declared. “What are the two different types of electrical circuits?” Elana raised her hand at almost the exact moment Ms. Smit finished her question.

“Yes, Elana,” Ms. Smit said with a smile.

“Series circuit and parallel circuit,” Elana answered immediately in the most confident voice she could muster up.

“Very good,” Ms. Smit congratulated her. “Do you want to tell us more?”

Elana, though very shy, never wanted to lose a chance for attention, especially because she had six other siblings.  . . . /MORE

Stone Soup is published by Children’s Art Foundation-Stone Soup Inc., a 501(c)(3) educational nonprofit organization registered
in the United States of America, EIN: 23-7317498.

Stone Soup's Advisors: Abby Austin, Mike Axelrod, Annabelle Baird, Jem Burch, Evelyn Chen, Juliet Fraser, Zoe Hall, Montanna Harling, Alicia & Joe Havilland, Lara Katz, Rebecca Kilroy, Christine Leishman, Julie Minnis, Jessica Opolko, Tara Prakash, Denise Prata, Logan Roberts, Emily Tarco, Rebecca Ramos Velasquez, Susan Wilky.

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