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A Sweet World
"A Sweet World" by Cathu Tu, 12 (Shanghai, China)

A note from William

I’d like to thank Cathy Tu from Shanghai for this month’s striking cover image. It is a sweet world, but it is also melting! As publishers of creative work by thoughtful young people, I think it appropriate today to talk a little about the Swedish youth Greta Thunberg. I am sure that she has inspired many of you to participate in youth school walkouts. I would like to encourage all of you to listen to a few of her talks. She is in the news this week as she attended a big international gathering in Davos, Switzerland. What I want you all to pay attention to is the unusual clarity with which she expresses herself. The ultimate task of all writers is to say what you mean and mean what you say using words that are aligned with your vision. I think Greta’s statements are worth studying for the way she distills complex ideas to their most basic core concepts and then has the discipline to stop. Unlike someone like me, who always talks too much, Greta never wanders. She is always on point.

Your voices in Stone Soup are the voices of artists, poets, storytellers, and playwrights. As with Greta, your voices often speak with a maturity that surprises adults.

I would like to call out one poem and the two plays from the January issue. The poem is Huài shì hǎo shì (“Evil Things, Good Things”) by Sabrina Guo, featured in last week's newsletter. Sabrina is a long-term, repeat contributor to both the magazine and our blogs. This poem about friendship, and much more. Thank you, Sabrina.

Plays! Stone Soup has not published many plays, so we are super lucky that Emma Wood was able to select two fabulous ones for this issue.

Valentine Wulf’s parody of the often frustrating interactions we have over the phone with increasingly automated phone systems is a classic. The play, an excerpt of which is printed below, includes directions for music, so go to YouTube to find the appropriate soundtracks when Valentine tells you to. Parody is a literary genre that requires exaggeration.

Through exaggeration, parody writers arrive at the truth. The dialogue in Valentine’s play is ridiculous, but in its ridiculousness it brings the reader to that same state of utter frustration that occurs on real calls with automated phone systems! Valentine's play so thoroughly and creatively explores the most frustrating aspects of modern phone systems that it should be required reading for phone-system programmers. Funny, clever, insightful. You are all in for a treat!

The other play in the issue is The Illusory Life of Mr. Brite. We included Galen Halasz’s play in our recently published Stone Soup Book of Science Fiction Stories. Order now if you haven’t already. Galen’s play revolves around the idea that computers end up taking advantage of a basic flaw in human behavior: our laziness. “This allowed them to turn people’s laziness against them, trapping them in the exoskeleton and weakening them for life.” Like Valentine, Galen exaggerates to find a truth. In this case, a work of science fiction, Galen extrapolates from behaviors we are all familiar with to ask what would happen if we continue in the direction we seem to be going—relying on computers “for everything.”

Having read Galen’s play, the next time you look up from your tablet and realize that most of a day has passed with you watching a parade of self-loading shows, you will not have the excuse that you were not warned where this could lead.

For a project this weekend, I suggest working on a short play. It can be helpful to list your characters at the beginning. And if you want people to imagine your character being dressed a certain way, then provide the kind of detail when you introduce them, as Galen does. In plays, you tell the story through dialogue. Playwrights vary in the amount of stage direction they provide, if any. Note in Valentine’s play her instructions for music and in Galen’s play his occasional notations of what gestures or tone of voice he expects of the actors performing his work.

We look forward to seeing what you come up with.

Until next week,

Highlights from the past week online

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

On Tuesday, we published a blog by Vivaan about his travels in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Read more about the city, and where you can find “unforgettable views.”

We’d love to see more travelogues like Vivaan’s on our blog. Submit yours through Submittable!

Thursday, we published another chapter of Marco’s series on science fiction. Read “Magic Systems” to learn about “hard” and “soft” magic with examples of each, plus the pros and cons and using them in your story.

NightlightFrom Stone Soup January 2020

I Would Like to Speak to the Manager

By Valentine Wulf, 11 (Seattle, WA)
Illustrated by Daania Sharifi, 13 (Gainesville, GA)

Overture: “Happy Go Lively” by Laurie Johnson. On the left half of the stage is a pristine white office room. On the right half, we see the burned-down remains of a living room, with only a small side table still standing. On the table sits an old rotary phone. The OPERATOR sits in the office, and the CUSTOMER sits on a burnt stool in the living room.

CUSTOMER angrily dials the phone. There is a pause, before the OPERATOR’S phone rings. The OPERATOR picks up the phone with a fake smile.


Hello. This is customer service. How may I help you today?


Hello. Yes, I would like to file a complaint. The toaster I ordered exploded and burned down my house.


Oh no! That’s terrible. First, you will need to give me the 16-digit personal identification code, your four-digit product verification code on the certificate of authenticity that you received with your product, and the official purchase edition number written on your product.


What? What are those!?


You will need to take all of those things and fax them to the number listed on our website.


I don’t have a fax machine. I don’t think anyone does. Also, my house burned down.  .../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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