A note from William Rubel
Refugee project update
I’d like to welcome Margie Chardiet, a former Stone Soup reader now working for the Oakland, California, writing program Chapter 510, as the newest member of the Stone Soup team. Margie is starting out with us working on the Refugee Project. She has started developing contacts with people working with resettled refugees and with people working with refugees in camps. Updates will follow over the next few months.
As I was reading the March issue, I was reminded of something that I have been wondering about lately. Is Stone Soup a magazine by kids for kids? Or, is Stone Soup a magazine by kids for everyone? Reading the current issue confirmed for me that there is no question about it: Stone Soup is for everyone who reads fiction, poetry, and looks at art.
If we were to take the photos and ages off of the Stone Soup material, you’d you be hard pressed to identify Stone Soup as being a magazine by kids. As I was reading the March issue I just wanted to shout out, “Guys! Subscribe!” I’ll put it his way: regardless of your age, by not subscribing to Stone Soup you are denying yourself a lovely pleasure.
To remind you, print is available on a monthly or annual basis. So, order for a month, get your issue, and if you don’t want another, then cancel. Stone Soup is great for kids too. Subscribe today. (Please note that print subscriptions are currently only available in the US and Canada, but watch this space for exciting news on that front in the coming weeks.)
Here is Editor Emma Wood’s introduction to the March 2019 issue:
This issue includes the winners of our concrete poetry contest; the winning poems are both beautiful visual works in their own right and inventive, singular texts. However, it is the combination of both shape (the form) and text (the content) that made these poems stand out. I hope when you sit down to write any work, but especially a poem, that you think about its form: Will it have stanzas? Will the lines be short or long? Will you use any rhyme or other sonic devices? These decisions are as important as what you end up writing. In addition to the concrete poems, there are many incredible photographs that I hope will encourage you to pick up a camera (or a phone), as well as stories and poems engaging with the theme of selfhood and belonging.
I’d like to say something more. Holding this issue in my hand it was really clear that the issue is more than the sum of its parts. The design of the magazine, the selections Emma has made and the way she has organized them creates something very powerful. For example, the fabulous first prize-winning concrete poem, “Steam,” by Sabrina Guo, stands on its own, as does the evocative photograph “The Bridge,” by Marlena Rohde, in which you see one of the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge disappear into the fog. But Emma brings them together on facing pages to they can speak together.
Sabrina’s elegant concrete poem is in the shape of a teacup. The literal subject of the work is the steam rising from the spout of the boiling teakettle. However, as with any literary work—the work itself is about more than one thing. This work seems simple, but isn’t.
“Octopus,” by Marco Lu, the second-place winner, is a tour de force of alliterative verse. Alliteration is when several words in a row begin with the same letter—as in “tender, twisting tentacles.” This is a form of poetry that has ancient roots in English verse. One of the first and most famous examples of this is in the wonderful poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight from England in the 1300s. For the adventuresome amongst you read the first few lines of the poem in its original English along with the glossary that J.R.R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, added to make it more possible to read. Even if you can’t understand all of the words in the opening lines you will see the ancient roots to Marco’s alliterative voice. The unfamiliar character “Þ” (called “thorn”) is pronounced “th,” so the first word, “SiÞen,” is pronounced “Sithen,” which means “since” or “after.” There are many modern translations of the poem. A good family out-loud reading project.
We all hate the aspect of contests that rigidly orders the winners. We are always struggling with this at Stone Soup. “Moonlight,” the third-place winner, by Ashley Xu, is a brilliant, evocative, lovely, extraordinary work. “Moonlight paints / the water white, rippling / like autumn frost on a window/pane, the texture of lace . . ..” But, of course, this is concrete poetry so these words join with others to make the shape of the full moon, and the poem, complex, continues beyond the shape of the moon’s face.
William’s weekend project
Aditya Sing’s collection of stories, “Unmasked,” is brilliant. This is a group of five incisive short short stories (pieces of flash fiction) that draw on the author’s life and experiences—but go far beyond simple autobiography. The works are varied. And insightful. We had a flash fiction contest last year and so have previously spoken about this genre. For today’s weekend project I want you to pick up your March issue, turn to page 6, and read his collection. If you have a digital subscription, then go to the current issue and and read his work. If you don’t subscribe and are still under your four free articles for the month, then go to the page and read. Then, with his works still fresh in your mind, pick a subject and write. Keep your pieces—you can think of them as sketches—to between 150 and 300 words. As always, if you are excited about what you write, upload it to our submissions page so Emma can read it.
There is so much to talk about in this issue, but I don’t want to overstay my Saturday welcome. In addition to our beautiful, evocative, March 2019 cover, the watercolour “London” by Keira Callahan, and this week’s terrific featured photograph, “Profile of a Guardian,” by Hannah Parker and story, “School,” by Christine Chang, I would like to also call out the dramatic photograph of a flowering shrub, “Blurred Love,” by Daania Sharifi. Is love always blurred? Hannah Parker’s photograph “Encased in Ice,” of plants covered in ice, is a work that embraces a monochromatic palette, an idea you may want to explore in your own photography. Ava Horton’s “Trapped in Glass” is a multidimensional work that, like “Blurred Love,” is a photograph of an object—in this case a starfish—but invites viewers to think more abstractly. Lastly, I want to mention Olivia Cadham’s extraordinary exploration of identity in her poem, “Some Days”; and the fabulously well-observed description of a hike with a stray dog, “Figadindi,” by Dennis Losett. I’d like to leave you with the first sentence to our featured story from the March issue, which, I will say, will evoke a familiar feeling in many newsletter readers—but that nobody would ever write about reading Stone Soup!
“The fluorescent light of the classroom made it even harder to concentrate on the fine black print that consisted of nothing but endless boredom.”
Until next week,
Contests and partnership news
Last week we announced our new spring contest—to write a short story for dramatization and broadcast as a podcast episode, in partnership with the By Kids, For Kids Story Timepodcast. We hope you are all getting to work on your climate change stories to enter into the contest! Remember, all the details are on our contest page here.
We are very excited this week to share the news with you that the latest episode of the podcast is a retelling of the original “Stone Soup” folktale! You can listen to it in two places:
If you like what you hear, take up the hint in the story, and share it with your friends!
Highlights from the past week online
Don’t miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at Stonesoup.com!
Nina reviews one of the books from our list of Stone Soup Classics. “Raise your hand if you like art. Yes? Good. Raise your hand if you like adventure. Excellent. Now raise your hand if you like books. Spectacular! As it happens, there is a book that can satisfy all of those things—From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg. A blend of mystery, adventure and a little history, From the Mixed-Up Files is instantly recognizable as a classic book for the ages.” Read the rest of Nina’s thoughts on the Book Review page.
Also, check out the poem from the March issue we posted on Instagram.
Stay tuned for some exciting posts next week!
From Stone Soup March 2019
By Christine Chang, 10
The fluorescent light of the classroom made it even harder to concentrate on the fine, black print that consisted of nothing but endless boredom. My mind tried to make sense of it. The book was written long ago; the 1800s? It reminded me of when a good friend of mine pretended to travel back in time with me. My nose wrinkled at the thought of her. I remembered Alice being fierce and stubborn. Just like I didn’t pay any mind to the words of this book, Alice never listened to me. I groaned just thinking about it. She was like a pestering bee. Going away but always returning. Alice had the eyes of an eagle and the ears of an owl. And, apparently, the instincts of a bee. She had those funny front teeth that jutted out at anything that didn’t seem right.
Against my will, my eyes scanned the pages: “Meg, being oldest, seemed to think she could order us about . . . ”
Those words hit me like the harsh wind outside, and, as the realization slowly sank in, I felt the air sucked out of me. But why had she let me boss her around? It may have given me pleasure at first, but in the long run, it definitely drove us both out of our minds! I felt lightheaded. Gears seemed to turn in my mind, contemplating this theory. A broken piano key seemed to finally strike the string it had missed up until now and echo through my body. My ears rang. My hands trembled. The whole world spun around me, blurring my vision and clouding my head. If you looked inside my body, you would see a fogged-up window with many attempts to rub the mist off. My eyes skimmed a whole page in my book, but the echo of that dissonant piano chord in my ears was so loud, it diverted my attention so I couldn’t hear the words in my mind.
For a moment, I wished I could really travel back in time and fix my mistakes. When had I started to boss her around? One year ago? Two? Since we’d met? No. It didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was that I had done it, and now I’d have to fix it—without time travel. I racked my brain for ideas. I didn’t want to straight out say, “Did you notice I boss you around a lot?”
I came to my senses. I’d just have to stop bossing her around. Plus, now I’d have to reread a whole page in my book that I had missed, but it was too late. My teacher clapped her hands, and I was behind on my book—and my friendship. …/more
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.