A note from William Rubel
Our best to you all for Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year! Thank you to those of you who have contributed to our 2019 Annual Drive! Your support is appreciated.
I am writing this from London on Christmas evening after a very long and lovely dinner at Jane’s brother’s house. We had a feast! Of course! But, at some point during the meal my friend Augustine who is a Samburu Kenyan blacksmith with four wives and 19 children—yes, there are different cultures—texted me that his family were in the midst of slaughtering 73 goats for a massive feast. Think of that! A feast for an extended family that is so large that it takes 73 goats to feed it.
Jane and I are leaving London tomorrow for Cairo where on Saturday, when you are reading this newsletter, we will be visiting the pyramids—so Jane suggested we feature “Building the Pyramids,” a story from Stone Soup published in 2016. The story opens with a well-imagined and historically accurate image—that of “the smell of hot bread”—rising to “Lomea’s nostrils.” While the Great Pyramid, built 4,500 years ago, was built of stone, it is also possible to say that it was built with bread as bread (and beer) were the standard wages for pyramid workers.
Timmi Ruth did a very good job researching the historical period of her story. But also to her credit, she doesn’t let her historic research dominate the piece. In fact, like the best writers working in the area of historical fiction, her story is engaging and is supported by research, but not dominated by it.
I have recently been listening to lectures by the American author Joyce Carol Oates. Her advice for those of you interested in writing historical fiction is to sketch out the the story—and even go a long way toward writing it—before doing the research into the historic period you have set your story in. This Is good advice. Your job as a writer of fiction is tell a story. Joyce Carol Oates says historical accuracy is important because if you get your details wrong—like having characters in Medieval Italy eating pasta with tomato sauce, which would be before there were tomatoes in Europe—it undermines people’s faith in your story. On the other hand, when you are writing your story, it is unlikely to really matter what was served for dinner. So if I understand what Joyce Carol Oates is saying, look up what people ate or what they wore and other details like that after you have written your compelling story. In a sense, in this approach to writing historical fiction the historic research is part of the finishing up and rewriting. Now, every author is different, so this is not an absolute rule. But I think it is advice that keeps you, as an author, focused on your job, which is storytelling, and leaves the writing up of deep historical research to historians.
If you enjoy historical fiction, then I suggest reading our Stone Soup Book of Historical Fiction. And of course, as always, if you have a work of historical fiction already written, please submit it to Stone Soup so editor Emma Wood can consider it for the magazine. And if you have something in the works, upload it to our submissions page when you are done.
There are only a few more days left in 2019. Finish the year by joining our group of donors and supporters!
We are proud of all the kids whose work we publish in our magazine, our books, and on our website, and we are proud of the work we do at Stone Soup to publish and promote children’s creative work.
When you give to Stone Soup, you become a publisher of writing and art by kids right alongside us. Our first issue was published in 1973, and 46 years later Stone Soup is still here. We remain as excited about children’s creative work now as we were then, and as committed as ever to making sure the voices of those under 14 are heard.
Join us to support the kids of today in their creative journey. You can read more about our 2019 fundraising target and key projects on our website's Donate page, and help us even more by sharing the link with others.
Highlights from the past week online
Don't miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com!
Abhi, 11, reviews The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. Read why Abhi says the author wants you to figure the book's setting out on your own, and why Abhi was disappointed by parts of the book.
From Stone Soup September/October 2009
By Timmi Ruth Kline, 7 (Jones, OK)
Illustrated by Megan Snide, 13 (Dublin, OH)
Lomea ran out the door as soon as she was done with her chores. She raced across the hot, gritty sand just as the sun began to set. As she ran she looked up, and what she saw brought her to an immediate standstill and robbed her of every ounce of her breath. It was the pyramid, majestically rising, half-finished, out of the sand against the setting sun.
She rubbed dust out of her eyes. She paused to take in the new and exciting sights and smells. She saw the rock ramps set against the pyramids for the transportation of the stone blocks. Lomea was startled, but awed and inspired, by the caw of the lone vulture circling above her head. Suddenly, she heard the sound of small feet fast approaching. She turned around and saw her younger sister, Hemufe, coming towards her with open arms.
“Lomea! Lomea!” the four-year-old squealed excitedly. “I just fell down a dune but I got up, and I didn’t cry!” the little girl yelled triumphantly.
“Good, good,” Lomea said distractedly, thinking of how it wasn’t fair that girls couldn’t take part in building such a marvelous wonder. She felt sweat trickling down her forehead and her lips cracking in the heat. She heard the grinding of the stone blocks against the ramps.
Lomea knew that building the pyramid, listening to the overseer yelling every day, and experiencing the aching hands from pulling the stones up the pyramids with ropes would be extremely tiring and difficult. She also believed it would be worth it. It would be amazing if you could look at the beautiful wonder, what would surely be the pride of all of Egypt, and know that you had taken part in making it a reality! .../MORE
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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.