A note from William
Juneteenth—Black Lives Matter. With every new police murder of an unarmed black man, and images of police attacking Americans who are exercising their constitutional right to protest government actions, it is clear that for many Americans, their city police can feel more like an occupying army than a civilian police force there to help.
Every American who is in a position of power to do something can no longer hide. This includes Stone Soup. Of course, we have published work by African American students over the years. And in our internal discussions we are often saying how we would like more work from African American students, but like so many small organizations with their heart in the right place, just staying in business takes up all our focus.
We are aware that a big problem is that African American students opening the pages of Stone Soup see this as another “white space.” It just won’t feel instantly welcoming. We have some ideas for how we can address this problem, but we need some outside advice. We would like to create a predominantly African American advisory board to work with us to develop long-term sustainable programs that will turn this around so that all Americans, and all students of African descent wherever they live—Europe, Asia, Africa, the Americas, Australia, Oceania—will see enough students who look like them in our pages to feel it is a welcoming place for their creative work. You may write to me directly if you are interested in helping us get this advisory panel off the ground. Thank you.
New order form! The biggest news at Stone Soup this week is that we finally have an online order form we are proud of. This form is a long time in the making—and will give you a hint of what is in store for the entire website.
The new form makes it much easier to see what you are ordering. It also tells something about Stone Soupfor people who are new to it. If you haven’t subscribed, please use our new form—and tell your friends. All of these new, free, COVID-19 programs: the daily prompts, the writing workshop, the book club, and the daily blog posts, are are funded through subscriptions. A couple of us still work without pay, so your subscription will make a difference to all of us, and what we can achieve. All subscribers get All Digital Access, and print subscribers also get a beautiful magazine delivered to their house 11 months of the year. Subscriptions start at only $4.99 per month. Thank you.
Summer school: The joint Stone Soup and Society for Young Inklings summer program started two weeks ago and is going strong. New dates will be announced shortly, and right now there is space in the June class being taught by our own Stone Soup team member Laura Moran, called The Art of Creative Nonfiction: Anthropology at Home. This class is a late addition, and to be honest, it looks like people have been a little bit afraid of it. So. Here is what I can say. Laura Moran, who runs the Stone Soup Refugee Program and the Wednesday Book Club, is a PhD anthropologist. Her specialty is actually refugee children. She is teaching a one-week summer program starting in a little over a week. Students will be using their own experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic as the basis for their writing. What students learn in this class will help them with developing characters in their stories. The class explores the sometimes ambiguous line between nonfiction and fiction.
Photograph and story by Anya Geist: The Newsletter is long, already. I am out of space to give justice to the photograph and story and to say all that I would like to say. I spent a lot of time and a couple of trips to New Jersey in the late 1990s working with Nelly Toll, a woman who survived the Holocaust hiding with her mother in a city that was then called Lvov and was then in Poland. Nelly’s father and brother went into hiding someplace else but were apparently found and murdered, as they were never reunited. During the period we were in close contact she hired a police artist to make a picture of him so she would have that memory. During hiding, Nelly’s mother had Nelly make paintings and stories as one way to deal with time and the stress. Within the next few months I will go back to that archive of material I worked on with Nelly to share with all of you.
Please read Anya’s story below, and also spend time with her multi-layered photograph of a menorah-like candlestick with Christmas tree in the background. I find her photograph to be unusually calming. The candlelight so present. A window of light through which we see into another world.
When I was growing up in Los Angeles, one of my parents’ closest friends was one of the Jewish children who was sent from Germany to England during the war (on the so-called kindertransport), so this situation from Anya’s story feels very alive to me. One of the biggest conflicts I had with my father (he died a few years ago when he was 93) was that he was always saying that “It could happen again. It could happen here.” The “it” being another Holocaust. This annoyed me so! But what we are seeing today, and not just in America, is that, unfortunately, he was right. People forget where intolerance can lead.
So, all of you reading this newsletter today, whether you are a student or an adult, please have empathy for those who are different from you. And remember that if you do not speak up when the police come for your neighbor, that it will be too late when they come for you. This could be something that you could talk about together as a family using Anya’s story, plus the daily news, as the catalyst.
Weekend project: Let me change the mood! In the Friday Writing Workshop, one of the students (thank you, Enya!) read a lovely piece about a bird on her nest and what the bird was seeing and thinking. It was delicately written. I suggest that you go outside and find a place where you can sit and just be. That could be in your yard or even sitting on the sidewalk in front of your house. Settle into the time and place and see what you can see. I have suggested this in other Saturday newsletters. Observe the ants, sow bugs, butterflies, bees, birds, squirrels, or perhaps just look at the trees and plants moving in the breeze. Sit for a while, at least a couple of minutes. And then, start writing. I suggest you either write from the perspective of what you are observing, or you write as the observer. Either way, I want you to let yourself get far away from the troubles that we are in so that you can bring the wonder of nature, the calm of late spring and early summer into your work to enable readers to find some peace in their hearts.
As always, if you like what you write, please go to our website and submit it so Emma can read it when she returns from maternity leave in July–not far away now!
Until next week,
Winners from Weekly Flash Contest #11
Weekly Flash Contest #11: Make a “blind contour” self portrait. A blind contour is a drawing where you do not look at the paper while you are drawing, and once you have put your pencil or pen on the paper, you don’t lift it again.
The week commencing June 8 (Daily Creativity prompt #56) was our 11th week of flash contests, and our second art contest. We set the fun challenge of making a blind self portrait, where you put pencil to paper and draw your portrait in a single line without lifting it again, and without looking at the paper. It is an even harder task than it sounds! We had so much fun looking at your entries, even though there were slightly fewer than usual: perhaps our artists are shyer than we thought and didn’t want to share their results . . . (I know the Stone Soup team wasn’t keen on sharing theirs!) We congratulate all the brave souls that put pencils to paper and sent us their portraits. We think they are great, and that everyone will enjoy comparing the beautiful lines of the portraits with the photos of the winners below. Well done to all of them, and to our two very honorable mentions.
Isabel Bashaw, 10, Enumclaw, WA
Zoe Campbell, 10, San Francisco, CA
Story Kummer, 13, St. Louis, MO
Olivia Titus, 11, Houston, TX
Sophie Yu, 12, Houston, TX
Michelle Dollar, 11, Monticello, FL
Ruby Xu, 10, Annandale, VA
Check out the winning blind portraits (and all our past flash contest winners and their work) at our Flash Contest Winners’ Roll page.
Highlights from the past week online
Don’t miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com!
Another funny cartoon by Natya, this time imagining what the lottery during COVID-19 looks like.
Francesca, 10, wrote a few haikus about her time in self-isolation.
Abhi wrote and illustrated a short graphic story called “The Boring Friend.”
Have you ever read the classic book Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens? Enni, 13, reviews it on the blog.
Check out some of the work produced during the last writing workshop, which was about writing more than one voice.
Aditi, 11, wrote a poem called “The Virus” about coronavirus.
In “Hide and Seek,” Adam, 13, writes about a moment from his young childhood that he remembers in the present day.
Patrycja, 13, reviews the book Which One is Malala? by Renata Piątkowska, which is about activist Malala Yousafzai.
“Very Unusual,” a poem by Tracy, 11, is from the point of view of different items that have experienced strange usage patterns during the time of coronavirus.
Jaz, 14, writes some thoughts about what she hopes the future has in store for her.
From Stone Soup June 2020
Story and Art by Anya Geist, 13 (Worcester, MA)
MARCH. MARCH. The sounds and sights of the dozens of uniformed men who walked beneath our fourth-floor apartment were tormenting. The street, located in a nice part of Warsaw, Poland, used to be so pretty. Flowers would bloom in the spring, and in the summer we would play on the stoops. In autumn, the leaves would dance to the ground in the crisp air. In winter, the snow came. It fell in beautiful heaps, covering the frozen ground.
Now it was spring. The street was drab and ugly, and Hitler’s flags hung from every building. I ran to the window, my three sisters flocking behind me. I poked my head out the window.
“Who’re they?” I wondered of the men on the street.
“Ayden! Get away from the window!” Papa snapped in a low, urgent voice.
“Why?” I wondered. I was only nine then.
“Just do it.” My sisters and I pulled away from the window.
“How about the four of you go to your bedroom. Bring a game,” Mama suggested. “But stay there. Papa and I need to talk.” I groaned. It was awful to have to share a room with three younger sisters, and my parents had been promising that we would move. At this point, however, it was impossible for Jews like us to move anywhere. We reluctantly went into the room and shut the door.
We were in there for the majority of the afternoon. We tried eavesdropping, but it was to no avail. Eventually, Mama and Papa came to let us out. Over the supper table, we learned of the news that would change our lives.
“Ayden, Rachel, Leah, Sarah,” Mama said. “We have something to tell you.”
Papa continued. “Hitler is making it unsafe for us here. We must leave. And to do that, we must split up.”
His words pounded in my head like a gong. Unsafe? How could we be unsafe here, on this street where I’d lived my entire life? How could we split up? Where would I go?
“Mama and I are going someplace safe, but we can’t tell you where. Girls, we are sending you to friends in England. Ayden, we must smuggle you to Switzerland . . .”
Switzerland? Why did I have to be separated from my sisters? How would I survive? The table swirled in front of me, and Papa’s voice became muffled.
“. . . in a curtain. Understand, Ayden?”
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.