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face your fears girl umbrella
Why were they leaving her? Where were they going?

Illustrator Angelica Devers, 12, for Face Your Fears by Jem Burch, 12.
Published November/December 2015.

A note from William Rubel

...and first, an apology

I'd like to open today's Newsletter by thanking all of you who have stuck with us in our shift from print-only to monthly digital plus print annual, and through all the travails of our subscription systems over the last 6 months. We are painfully aware that almost everything that could go wrong has gone wrong since the changes of the early Summer. We are also aware that some of you have been having (and are still having) trouble logging in to the website, and that at the same time there have been issues with getting in touch with us due to some really unfortunate errors in the customer service information published. I am speaking with our programmer on Monday. I believe we have thought of a way to simplify the login process, without forcing everyone to go through the whole process again. I extend my deepest apologies to those of you who have been frustrated by difficulties in getting through to our fulfillment house and/or by the login process. I'll have an update on this next week.

Orphans, foundlings and the power of fiction

Look at this amazing drawing!  This magnificent illustration, one of two made for Face Your Fears, captures the sadness, uncertainty, and confusion of the moment that Katherine and her infant sister were abandoned on the steps of an orphanage by her parents, who told her, "we'll come back for you..." What strikes me about the illustration by Angelica Devers is the look on the girl's face.Though clearly a young child, her expression shows her to be an individual in the world and clearly on her own life path -- which is what each of us are, whatever our age.

Jane Levi, who is one of the people who brings you Stone Soup, lives in London. A couple of years ago, she curated an exhibition at London's Foundling Museum, which commemorates the Foundling Hospital, a historical charitable institution for abandoned children. Those of you who have read Jacqueline Wilson's Hetty Feather series will know a lot already about these London foundlings! Some of you might also be familiar with the Messiah, a piece of music written by the German-born composer Frideric Handel (1685-1759). Handel was a patron of the Foundling Hospital. One of his gifts to the institution was the copyright to his Messiah, which at that time meant that when a musical group wanted to perform it they had to pay the Foundling Hospital for a copy.

Writing orphan stories is tricky because the theme is such a cliché in children's literature. The children who lived at the London Foundling Hospital, like the children in Jem Burch's Stone Soup story, were children who were not exactly orphans, as their parents were not dead. The foundlings were given up by their parents, often single mothers, who could not afford to care for them. The core relationship in the story of these foundlings from long ago was the love of mothers that was so strong they broke their own hearts to give up their children to an institution known for its superior care. They gave up their children to give them a chance at a better life than the one they could offer. One of the most powerful exhibits at the Foundling Museum is the display of 'tokens' left by parents with their children. These were small objects like buttons, coins and scraps of fabric left by mothers with their babies, that convey their love and hope for the future of their children.

I had a neighbor who adopted a boy from El Salvador from a family for whom this child was one mouth too many to feed. The family thought that it would be better for this boy to grow up in America with a new family. One of the powers of fiction writing is that you can use fiction to explore complex problems like this. What does the mother or father who gives up a child feel like? What does the child, grown up, come to think of the decision of their parents? Can you imagine being a parent giving up your child? Can you imagine being a child who has been given up for adoption?

There are many ways to write a story. One form of story telling, which was one of the earliest forms of the novel, is the "epistolary" story. This is a story told through letters. The story featured in this week's Newsletter, Kisses from Cécile is a story about letters. I think using letters as a way of telling at least part of an orphan story could be a way to offer a sense of what characters are feeling in their deepest being.

Good news on print

On the good news side we have worked out a way to bring back print issues (though not yet a regular print subscription). In next week's Newsletter I will have a publication date for the January issue. By the March issue we should be able to have individual issues available in print on the first of the publication month. 2018 issues, as well as any back issues we have remaining stock of, will be for sale individually for those who wish to order them in our Stone Soup Store.

We have also just received additional copies of the Stone Soup 2017 Annual, as well as the anthologies we sold out of.

Keep on creating!

I hope you all have made the transition back to school and work happily. For those of you who experienced the fires in Southern California last December and those of you in the Eastern United States and elsewhere experiencing the extreme cold it is probably a good time to put the finishing touches on stories and diary entries. We tend to forget important details as time passes. Of course, any of you living anywhere in the world where there have been extreme events, weather-based or otherwise -- please transform the experiences into stories and art, and send them to Emma!

Until next weekWilliam

From Stone Soup
May/June 2002

Kisses from Cécile

By Marie Agnello, 12
Illustrated with a photograph of some of Cécile's letters

Do you think that it’s possible to love someone you have never met? Is it possible to love someone who lived and died before you were even born? Cécile Cosqueric, a sixteen-year-old girl living in Paris, France in 1919 is whom I’m talking about. I believe her life was meant to touch mine. I am a twelve-year-old American girl, living in Atlanta, Georgia in the year 2002. Cécile is not a famous girl, nor is she a relative of mine. Cécile is actually an ordinary girl. If I have never met her, then how can I know her?

Right now, I hold in my hand a letter—a fragile, discolored envelope, aged by time. This letter could fall to pieces in my hands if not held gently enough. A beautiful, flowing script graces the front, created by a hand well practiced. A pen dipped in an inkwell has addressed the letter, yet another giveaway to its age. The postmark is my clue as to exactly how old this letter is, and it’s the postmarks that also help me put the letters into order. You see, I hold in my hand just one letter. But on the table in front of me are seventy-five letters!

A letter is hard to come by in today’s world. I am an ordinary girl living in “the new millennium.” Letters are no longer a popular form of communication. Since there is no need for letters, I have probably only written five in my entire life! E-mail is today’s replacement letter. E-mail is easy and convenient. Why write a letter when it is so time-consuming, and not quickly received? E-mail is instantly received, and easily disposed of. Just a click of the delete button, and the computer will ask, “Are you sure you would like to delete this?” After the “yes” button is clicked, the e-mail is completely deleted, lost in cyberspace and never to be read again. The thought of writing seventy-five letters is so contrary to the “You’ve got mail” culture of today. The thought of saving seventy-five letters is even more contrary. Who would save the letters for so many years? Who were these letters sent to? .../more

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