A note from William
Book Contest Deadline Extended to August 21
A few of you have asked if we can extend the contest deadline because of busy summers. We can give you all a one week extension, to August 21. If you have already submitted your work and want to keep working on it, then you may re-submit anytime prior to the deadline. The deadline will not be extended again, so keep going and do submit your work as soon as it is ready!
Besides working for Stone Soup I am also a writer. Within the next two weeks I have two articles for magazines and one book chapter due. Like those of you finishing up your book for our contest, I am also working hard to meet deadlines right now.
I'd like to share with you how I bring the final polish to my pieces. I am a firm believer that the best way to polish prose is to hear yourself read the text. After I consider a work "finished" I let it sit for a couple days and then I read it aloud to myself from a paper copy. As I'm reading I make notes on the pages wherever the reading sounds rough to me. I either work on the rough passage right then or I come back to it when I have finished reading the entire piece.
If you haven't already turned in your submission (whether for the book contest or as a regular submission) here is what I suggest you do. Aim to have your manuscript finished at least one week before the deadline. By finished I mean something that you think is good enough to turn in. Then, let that draft sit for a couple days. Don't read it. Don't think about it. Let your mind rest. Then, when you are ready for the final push for perfection, print out your work and go sit somewhere comfortable where you can read it out loud to yourself and note revisions.
At this stage you are tweaking your work. All the big editing should already be complete. As you are reading listen to how the prose flows. You are going for perfection here. Does the dialogue all sound natural? Do you stumble over a long sentence, which suggests that it either needs breaking up or that you need more or different punctuation? Listen for sentences that when you hear them aloud just don't strike you as quite right. You are the author. You will know what you need to do.
While this is not the time to re-write whole sections of your work, this can be the time to make slight changes in word choice. This is the stage when I sometimes find myself deciding that a different word will better express what I want to say, or better conjure the image I have in my head. This final revision is very important. It can provide that final gloss that makes the difference between very good and brilliant.
Update from Kenya
Jane and I returned from Kenya last weekend. We gave the science books several of you sent us to Bonifiace, the headmaster of the Remot primary school in the West Gate Conservancy, near the Samburu National Reserve. To say he was excited to receive the books is an understatement. He spent an hour looking through them with us and has told us that his teachers can't believe what you gave the school. Boniface told us that the science is the same, of course, but that the way ideas are presented in the books we brought are much more clearly laid out than in their books and will thus be a big help to their teachers and their students. Thank you all again for your help with this.
Overall, it was a trip that had unexpected aspects, some of which were not positive. But, as it turned out, the "every cloud has a silver lining" expression was true for us. While what we had gone to Kenya to do did not work out, we had some very positive travel experiences and, remarkably, we found a wonderful computer programmer named Silvia Nyawira who we interviewed at the lodge where we were staying and who we hired for Stone Soup! Silvia just graduated from University in computer science. She is familiar with the programs our website uses and what she doesn't know she will learn. Welcome to Sylvia! We have a big list of website projects to get her started on. When she has worked through them we will then begin asking you for your website ideas.
William's weekend project
Today's project. If you are working on a book for our Book Contest, then work on that. But, if you aren't, then I'd like to suggest something very simple for today.
At some point, go outside with a writing book and pencil or pen. Find someplace to sit, and then open your writing book and start describing what you see. This is the first of two texts I'd like you to write today. Keep it short–between 50 and 250 words. Think of this text as "pure description." What do your eyes see? This piece should be in the styhle of science writing or journalistic writing in which the narrator does not reveal him or herself. You might think of yourself as almost mechanically recording what you might see through a camera lens.
For contrast, in the second piece I want you to show us what you are seeing through the point of view of a character–it can be you writing from the first person, the "I" voice, or a character you make up, which can be an animal. In this second piece the narrator may have a point of view, and may be part of the scene being described. For example, while in the first piece you might simply say, "there is a warm breeze," in the second example the character might interact with the breeze, feel it on his or her arm, or might sniff a scent on the wind, or it might remind the character of another experience. While in this second piece I still want you to describe what you see, but the character's perspective and feelings should be strong enough that we experience the scene through the character's eyes. This second piece should also be short–between 50 and 250 words.
Send what you write via Submittable to Stone Soup's Editor, Emma Wood, for consideration for Stone Soup.
Until next week,
Contest and partnership news
Contest: Write a Book!
Keep working on your entries for our summer contest: book-length writing in all forms and genres by kids aged 14 and under (we have extended our usual age limit for this contest). The extended deadline for entries is August 21st, so you have more than 2 weeks left to work on perfecting your book, whether it is a novel, a collection of poetry or short stories, a memoir, or other prose. There will be three placed winners, and we will publish all three winning books in various forms. Visit our contest page and Submittable entry page for full details.
Highlights from the past week online
Abhi Sukhdial, age 11, writes thoughtfully and critically about Carly Ann West’s Hello Neighbor: Missing Pieces. After picking it up at the school book fair and discovering that it contains much to unpack, Abhi is happy not to have underestimated a book based on a video game.
From Stone Soup
By Sarah Bryden, 12
Illustrated by Claire Schultz, 13
Our car, rusted red paint and all, squeaks into the driveway. It lurches to a stop, shoving Mom and me forward in our seats. The boxes in the back shift, slamming against the sides of the trunk. I shut my door with a bang and stand, staring at the ugly brown house directly in front of me. The paint is peeling, the shutters look like they are falling apart, and the lawn is overgrown with weeds. My mom comes up behind me.
“Do you want to go in?” she asks. I glare at her in response. She should know as well as I do that I do not want to go in. Nonetheless, Mom sticks her key into the hole and turns the doorknob. She pushes on the door, but it won’t budge. After considerable shoving, Mom manages to get the blue door open. “Welcome home, sweetie.” She gestures grandly.
Frowning, I look around. There is tile on the floor, but I can tell it is the fake sticker kind. It doesn’t look real and besides, some of the pieces are peeling off. One wall has splotches of different colored paints on it, like someone was using it to figure out what color to paint something. A moth-eaten rug sits in the middle of the entryway.
We move into the living room, which is just as bad. Two small windows let in a dirty, grimy light, doing nothing more than illuminating the dust that covers the floor. There is a fake-crystal chandelier hanging in the center of the room, covered in cobwebs.
After seeing the kitchen, my mother and I head upstairs. There are two bedrooms—one for me, one for her. Mom gets her own bathroom, but it’s tiny. As for me, I’ll have to use the one downstairs or borrow Mom’s.
My mom puts her hand on my shoulder. “It needs a little work,” she says, “but once I get the diner off the ground, we can fix it up together.” I want to believe that we will.
Mom heads back outside and walks over to the car, carefully pulling up the trunk door so as not to break it. “Come on, Lilly. Let’s start unloading.” . . . /more
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.