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A note from William

Thanksgiving best from everyone at Stone Soup! It is a calm Thanksgiving this year, but to be honest, I am enjoying the weekend with my daughter and my garden.

Open House!
You are all invited to our first-ever Stone Soup open house
on Tuesday, December 1
at 4 p.m. Pacific / 7 p.m. Eastern.

For the first time, the whole Stone Soup community—adults and kids—comes together Tuesday for our open house. It’s a free event, but you do need to register through EventBrite. Please register. The whole Stone Soup team is looking forward to meeting you!This first open house is about you meeting us and also you meeting each other. It is the first of more community-wide events that we have planned into 2021. But more on that at the meeting.

All of us at Stone Soup will be at the meeting, along with our board of directors. We will introduce ourselves, and those of us who work on Stone Soup will briefly talk about our accomplishments in 2020 and our plans for 2021. We will keep our remarks short as we want there to be plenty of time for the adults and kids attending get to know each other. Bring questions to ask. If Stone Soup has meant a lot to you, then you may want to be prepared to talk about you and Stone Soup.

This open house is taking place in the context of Giving Tuesday. One parent has just joined us as a Stone Soup patron and given us a $10,000 50% match. So, one purpose of the meeting is to answer questions about giving to Stone Soup, to help us bring in new patrons to achieve this match—and our larger fundraising goal for the year.

The best way to prepare for the open house is to watch the interview between Anya Geist and Lena Aloise that is posted at the top of this newsletter. Anya is a former Stone Soup author and artist, as well as a brilliant photographer—and now that she is in high school, a Stone Soup intern. Meanwhile, Lena is one of Stone Soup’s current stars. She is an Honor Roll winner, Flash Contest winner, and a creative force at the Saturday Writing Workshop. Anya and Lena are both good examples of what Stone Soup is about: introducing young people to the best of their peers, standing back, and watching them bloom.

William’s Weekend Writing Project

Take inspiration from Lena’s piece for a recent writing workshop on nature writing, “The Plum Tree,” for Thanksgiving weekend's writing project. You can read it below. Lena’s prose is exquisite. The paragraph that starts with “There was a plum tree up on the hill, surveying her lower domain with a watchful, protective eye . . .” includes prose that is so beautiful it gives me goose bumps. Two of the most remarkable aspects of Lena’s story are how she so quickly establishes a caring relationship between the two characters, and between us and the tree.

Note how effectively Lena uses personification—the literary device whereby you give nonhuman creatures, in this case a tree, some human ways of being. When Lena speaks of the tree’s “boughs reaching towards . . .” she animates the tree. She gives it life. Gives it a sense of purpose. Also, I think because we can imagine ourselves making the same gesture as the tree—reaching—Lena draws us into imagining we are one with this very alien being.

Another example: Lena writes, “The tree sat there, calmly, waiting for the worst.” Effortlessly, we are drawn into the story’s imaginative space. We are standing there with this thinking, feeling tree, waiting "for the worst.”

For your nature writing this weekend, I’d like you to spend some time quietly observing a piece of nature. Which, given the circumstances, can be observing a pet. Let your imagination do its work so that the characters in your story, whether a dog, or a tree, or wind, take on the warmth of life. And as always, if you are happy with your work, consider sending it to Emma, our editor, to consider.

Until next week—on Tuesday, we hope, as well as next Saturday in the newsletter!

Highlights from the past week online

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

Jane, 12, wrote a poem about the way COVID has stolen the sense of normalcy.

We published a travelogue documenting Mahati's pre-pandemic trip to Whittier, Alaska. Learn more about the unique community by reading Mahati's post.

Nora, 12, reviewed The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer. Find out why Nora enjoys the fairy-tale-with-a-twist book series so much.

"How cool would it be to live inside a book?" Pragnya asks at the start of her review for Kind of a Big Deal by Shannon Hale. Read what Pragnya thinks of the book where the main character finds herself lost within the books she reads.

Becca traces her experiences of Yom Kippur throughout her life, ending with this year's very unusual celebration. Read Becca's post to learn what her take-away is.

Lena Aloise, 11
Harvard, MA

From the Stone Soup blog
November 2020

The Plum Tree

By Lena Aloise, 11 (Harvard, MA)


He was happiest early in the daytime, when the sky was painted over crimson and violet, when the crisp breeze flushed his cheeks a rosy red, when the birds sang their soft melody, whimsically conversing. Nowadays, there was nothing that brought him more pleasure than such a beautiful silence and he was content to be alone, for the most part. Human company depressed him.

There was a plum tree up on the hill, surveying her lower domain with a watchful, protective eye. She sat on her throne of grasses, boughs reaching towards an infinite expanse of sky, bearing leaves of olive green and sagging under the weight of her indigo fruits. She bore the look of not a queen, but a mother, like the ones he had only read about in story books. He could not help feeling a twinge of jealousy, looking upon the spherical children that she loved so dearly. Why could not someone hold him with such tenderness? It brought him such anger that one day, he walked up to the tree with his hatchet, planning to end its happiness.

The tree sat there, calmly, waiting for the worst.

He threw his blade to the ground and sunk to the ground, leaning up against her trunk, tears spilling from his eyes. Her branches touched his hair and the wind murmured words of consolation.

From that day forth, the tree acted like the mother he had lost. He told it everything and she listened, in a way that only a mother could. She did not speak words, but was alive and growing. She cared about him and was a constant presence throughout the rest of his childhood.

And when her fruits were picked at the turn of the season and when the boy was a young man, she lovingly bid them farewell.

Because that was what mothers did.


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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