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Bridge in the Snow, Fujifilm X-T1 | Claire Lu, 13 (Portola Valley, CA), published in Stone Soup December 2021

A note from Sarah

Happy weekend!

I hope everyone is having a calm and restful December. If you haven’t had a chance to read Anya Geist’s Born on the First of Two, which was published on the first of this month, I want to direct you to the excerpt we published from the novel in our December issue (you can also scroll down to the end of this email to read it). We also have a lovely interview on our YouTube channel with Anya and Abhi Sukhdial, (which you can view above) where Abhi and Anya talk about character development, the worlds that Anya created in the novel, real-life inspiration, and so much more. If after watching the interview you find yourself hungry for more, there is a longer, more exclusive look inside Anya and her process writing Born on the First of Two that you can view, here. 

Coinciding with the interview, we have also launched a book page for Born on the First of Two that includes the interview as well as April Yu's five star review of the novel. Keep visiting the page for other news—reviews, awards, events—regarding Anya and Born on the First of Two!

Anya begins with a powerful prologue that draws the reader in by vividly describing a character’s troubling recurring dream. Without knowing any specifics about the plot, the reader learns of the dream (or is it perhaps a memory?) that plagues this character. As readers, we begin to wonder: what could this mean? Who are these dark figures? And why did her parents leave?

This compelling beginning of Anya’s novel reminded me of a recent topic covered by William in one of his Saturday Workshops: origin stories. In William’s workshop, the young writers were challenged to imagine the beginnings of a character who might go on to do significant things. In the post summarizing the workshop, you can find examples from participating writers to serve as examples, if you need them.

My challenge for you this weekend is to combine the dream concept from Born on the First of Two and the idea of origin stories. First, come up with a character’s life arc, from beginnings that could be considered quite modest, through a life that takes a surprising turn and challenges the expectations for this character’s trajectory. But crucially, have this character be followed by a memory or dream, whether faded or lucid, of an event that happened in the beginning of their life. How does this dream continue to haunt the character? And what does the dream reveal to the reader about the character’s beginnings? Perhaps it is a tragic dream or memory, as in the case of Born on the First of Two. Or maybe it is simply embarrassing-- school children laughing at one of their peers. Think about what you want to convey about the character’s motivations and how an event can shape a person’s life.

If you’re inspired to create anything based on this weekend writing activity, please consider submitting it to Stone Soup—we love to read your submissions.

Until next time,

Congratulations to our most recent Flash Contest winners!

Our December Flash Contest was based on Creativity Prompt #181 (provided by Molly Torinus, Stone Soup contributor), which challenged participants to write a creation story for a fictional world of their own imagination. For the third consecutive month we set a record for number of submissions, all of them worthy of recognition. Molly's ingenious prompt led to a breadth of creativity, with creation stories for fully realized worlds containing mathematical sets with biblical influence to anthropomorphic clouds to a dance recital gone wrong. In the end, we selected our usual five winners and five honorable mentions. As always, thank you to all who submitted, and please submit again next month!

Congratulations to our Winners and Honorable Mentions, listed below. You can read the winning entries for this contest (and previous ones) at the Stone Soup website.

"Darkness" by Kimberly Hu, 9 (Lake Oswego, OR)
"Adventure to the Lost Kingdoms" by Tang Li, 9 (Palmetto Bay, FL)
"The Beginning, the End, the Rebirth" by Lui Lung, 12 (Danville, CA)
"The Fearful Cloud" by Julia Ma, 11 (Portland, OR)
"The World of the Grand Staff" by Maya Mourshed, 10 (Silver Spring, MD)

Honorable Mentions
"One Dance" by Audrey Billington, 10 (Hillsboro, IL)
"Math: The Origin" by Lucas Hinds, 13 (Lenoir City, TN)
"The Creation of Warland" by Sophie Li, 11 (Palo Alto, CA)
"Eternalia" by Brooke Negin, 11 (Kanata, ON, Canada)
"The Fourth Dawn" by Divya Srinivasan, 12 (Sammamish, WA)

Highlights from the past week online

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

Super reviewer April Yu, 13, couldn't get enough of Anya Geist's debut novel Born on the First of Two!

Don't miss the latest Book Club Report from Laura Moran, which details the group's meeting with acclaimed author Lucy Worsley!

Young Blogger Ismini Vasiloglou, 12, wrote a glowing review of Tristan Hui's novel The Other Realm, which won the Stone Soup Book Contest 2020.

Anya GeistFrom Stone Soup
December 2021

An Excerpt from Born on the First of Two

By Anya Geist, 14 (Worcester, MA)

Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale. The girl’s breathing was labored and fast, the way it always was when she had this dream, this memory. It was a strange dream; it seemed to linger in her mind, tickling its edges like light in her peripheral vision. She’d had it for as long as she could remember, but she never became quite used to it; every time it came to her in her sleep, she found herself unsettled.

The sky was light blue, and the sun radiated its warmth down on the Earth. Birds chirped contentedly in verdant, leafy trees while bees hummed along as they flew from flower to flower, careful not to damage the soft, delicate petals.

The girl—then just a baby—sat on the ground just beyond the shadow of a small cottage, running her hands through the cool, glossy grass. She laughed at its touch, the way it slid along her chubby palm, and gazed up at the sky in wonder at the occasional fluffy cloud that drifted through on the mercy of the breeze, sweet air pumping its way into her lungs. She wanted to go up there. She wanted to be in that dazzling blue and run her hands along the clouds. She giggled merrily at this gorgeous day.

Here, the dream-memory became fragmented, shattered visions stabbing her mind.

The sky became dark, dominated by threatening clouds that seemed to reach up into space and cast jagged shadows over the June day. The birds stopped singing, and the temperature dropped.

She could feel the warm air leaving her lungs, cold, thick air forcing its way down her throat instead. It was searing, like a block of ice. She gasped for breath, rasping and wheezing, unable to cry as numbness spread through her, jamming into her arms and legs.

Continue reading here...

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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