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Giving voice to displaced children and young people.

Nest Building (Panasonic Lumix DC-ZS200) By Sage Millen, 13 (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), published in Stone Soup June 2022

A note from Emma

I want to start off this week’s newsletter with some good news and congratulations: Anya Geist’s novel, Born on the First of Two, was selected as a finalist in the 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the Young Author (Under 25) category. We are so proud of Anya and thrilled this wonderful novel is getting some recognition. Take this as a reminder to add Anya’s book to your summer reading list, and to be on the lookout for new copies with the finalist sticker on the cover!

This also reminded me that I have been meaning to share a bit of book news with you all for some time now. In addition to my work as editor of Stone Soup and as a writer, I also work with high school students on their college application essays. And last spring, I published The Complete College Essay Handbook, a practical guide to writing college essays that I co-wrote with my colleague. Writing a practical guide was fun, and also more challenging than I expected. The most rewarding part (aside from being done, hah!) was that putting my process and advice down on paper not only reinforced what I already knew but actually pushed me to refine and improve our process. Writing remains the most powerful I know for thinking through ideas and improving upon them–whether they are the loftiest or the most trivial. Anyway, I am proud of the book and ask you to please consider recommending it to any teenage friends or relatives about to embark on this process, or to any high school English teachers or counselors you may know.

Finally, since the subject of this newsletter has been books, I want to take the opportunity to remind you all that our 2022 Book Contest is still open for submissions. It closes on the 22nd of August. I know many of you began your books weeks ago, but if you are still interested–it’s not too late to start working on one to submit this year. We always focus on the fact that good writing takes time and multiple drafts. And sometimes it does. But sometimes it comes very quickly, and that doesn’t make it less or worse than something that takes more time! “First thought, best thought,” as Allen Ginsberg used to say. More than once, I have written something quickly then revised it and revised it, only to realize after a few months that the first draft was the better version. (I am not against revision by any means; many times, I have had the reverse experience–of completely rewriting in revision.) So, for those of you who are curious and excited at the possibility of writing a book–it’s not too late!

Happy writing!

Anthropology of the Everyday: The Art of Creative Nonfiction, June 13-16 with Laura Moran

Do you like writing about your life experiences? Would you like to learn some techniques for making your nonfiction writing more compelling and creative? In this class you will learn a method of personal writing, sometimes used by anthropologists, that combines storytelling with writing about the details of your own everyday life. Students will practice a variety of Ethnographic Writing techniques, from self-reflection, to gathered observation, interviews, and investigation. Students will also participate in an artist-led activity to create a piece of illustrated artwork of everyday life, designed to accompany their ethnographic writing.

Refugee Project Half Baked Art Collaboration, June 20 & 22

This workshop will allow participants to work on a piece of artwork in collaboration with a student living in Kakuma Refugee Camp, Kenya. The dates for this set of two workshops are 6/20/22 (9-11am PT) and 6/22/22 (9-10am PT).

Michael Chao

From Stone Soup
June 2022

The Hummingbird Whisperer

By Michael Chao, 13 (Rancho Palos Verdes, CA)

It was a lazy day in the month of May when I got that so-memorable phone call from my sometimes-bothersome twin sister, May.

“Michael, hurry, hurry, come over!” screamed my sister, who was practicing tennis with Mom at a nearby tennis court.

“Why? I’m busy!” I shouted back.

“There’s two baby birds on the court. I think they’re still alive.”

My ears perked up, and instantaneously my irritating sister became my wonderful sibling. “I’m coming right now!”

I dragged Dad off the couch and made him drive me to the tennis courts. When we arrived, I saw Mom and May standing over two orphaned rufous hummingbirds, barely a week old. I couldn’t believe my eyes. This was my first time seeing hummingbird nestlings.

They were only about the size of a stick of gum, pink-colored, and naked, with eyes closed. They shivered and ruffled what little down they had, trying to shelter from the ocean breeze. Delicately, I cupped them into the palm of my hand while using my other hand to block the wind.

It was so nerve-racking to hold something so small and delicate. After gently placing the nestlings into a small insect cage padded with tissue paper, I began looking for their nest, hoping to find their mother, who was probably frantically seeking her young ones out.

Along the boundary of the tennis court was a ten-foot-tall chain-link fence with ivy covering it from top to bottom. The ivy had grown thick, and probably hadn’t been cut back in years, which would make finding their home, a nest about the size of silver dollar, an almost impossible task.

But the “needle in a haystack” chance of finding their nest didn’t deter me. I desperately wanted these little nestlings to live. I searched everywhere—every branch, nook, and cranny of ivy along the borders of the tennis court.

After a couple of nerve-racking hours, I finally found the nest. It was located high up near the tree canopy, where neither my father, who is six-foot, three inches tall, nor I could reach. But mother bird was nowhere to be found.

I even tried to stand still and listen for the chirping sounds of their mother trying to call to her babies. Not a peep. The mother had probably given up.

Looking at Dad, I commanded, “I’m taking them home. I’ll raise them.” Realizing I wouldn’t take no for an answer, Dad reluctantly nodded. He was tired. I was excited.


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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