Illustrator Anna Dreher, 12 for Frustration, Happiness, and Pure Amazement by Isabella Widrow, 12. Published November/December 2015.
A note from William Rubel
Mushrooms! Chanterelles! Delicious and commonplace wild foods for the taking! How I love foraging. Berries, fruits, mushrooms, watercress, wild lettuce, dandelions—it is rare that a week goes by when I don’t bring something back from a walk. All these wild plants and more can provide creative inspiration, and some of them even something to eat. Now, I want to say right away that you must learn about wild foods and think very carefully about the conditions you found them in, before eating anything you pick. The rule for all wild foods, especially mushrooms, is the same: “In case of doubt, throw it out.”
Mushrooms come in many colors: red, yellow, orange, grey, black, brown, white, and even green. I think of mushrooms as the flowers of the forest floor. The carpet of yellow chanterelles depicted in Anna Dreher’s drawing is realistic—but this is also the find of a century! I’d be talking about such a find for years afterward.
When you collect wild foods, whether those are apples from a city tree that overhangs a sidewalk, watercress in a neighborhood stream, or dandelion from a lawn or piece of disturbed ground in a parking lot, you bring home a story. For this weekend, I’d like you all to at the very least take a walk in your neighborhood. You can expand your quest beyond edible plants and fruits to include flowers. (I am not talking here about picking from your neighbors’ yards, or from rare collections of special plants, of course!) Keep your eyes peeled for herbs, fruits, and flowers that are growing in the public part of streets and lots. You will be surprised at what you find once you start looking.
But to write about what you bring home, to talk about the bouquet of yellow flowers from wild lettuces—something I am pretty sure you will find in bloom right now—you need to be able to recognize what you find. Novelists and story writers, like historians, often have to do research to support their stories. When you write about mushrooms or plants, it is helpful to be particular. “We walked through a forest” is less evocative than “We walked through a pine forest.” Just being able to say “pine” helps readers visualize the shape of the trees, imagine walking on trails covered in needles, and smell the unique smell of pine.
So go out foraging this weekend. Ideally, go with someone who has some knowledge of plants and fungi, and check with an adult before you pick anything. Look closely at what you find, and learn about it. You can draw the plants you find and press leaves and flowers to dry them. And you can write about it. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of capturing everyday experiences in writing. Finding wild foods and flowers to pick and bring home is a completely different experience from going to the grocery store to pick up fruits, vegetables, and a bouquet. Everything you forage yourself comes with a story. I want you to record this weekend’s foraging stories; then, when you are writing fiction, think back on this exercise to find something you can use to bring life into your fictional story.
Until next week
Seeking new bloggers and reviewers!
We love the book reviews and blogs that we have been publishing lately. We see this work as being on the same level as what’s published in Stone Soup. The blogs let you, our Stone Soup writers, write in genres and styles that don’t quite fit into Stone Soup the literary magazine. We are always looking for more bloggers, so if you are interested, please submit a sample of what you have in mind by going to our online submissions page. I’d like to encourage teachers and homeschooling parents to submit sample pieces too; we are also looking for adult bloggers.
Up to this point the online book reviews and blogs have been free for anyone to view. We have just submitted the work order to our programmer to fold the book reviews and blogs into the Stone Soup paywall which will limit the number of free views. By doing so, we are saying to you reviewers and bloggers that your work has value and that it is an important part of the work we publish.
The 2018 Stone Soup Annual is nearly ready
The 2018 Stone Soup Annual is in production and will soon go to the printer. Sarah Ainsworth has made the selections of reviews and blog posts to be included in that volume. Impressive work. Congratulations to all our artists, writers, reviewers and bloggers! Thank you!
Highlights from the past week online
Don't miss the latest content from our Book Reviewers and Young Bloggers at stonesoup.com!
Are you excited about Halloween? Thinking about your costume? Do not miss Antara's post with 4 incredible ideas for Halloween costumes you can make yourself. We particularly love the jellyfish (though they are all terrific)!
As we move into fall, we also look back at summer with some colorful, inspiring pages from Claire R's summer journal.
Plus, we have another guest post from an adult blogger, this time art history student Sarah Lynn talking about 'No Boundaries', the beautiful work of art by Christian Goh, age 9, that we used as our May 2018 cover.
From Stone Soup
Frustration, Happiness, and Pure Amazement
By Isabella Widrow, 12
Illustrated by Anna Dreher, 12
How I Found Chanterelles
Rain splattered against ice-cold windows, and fat, foggy, clouds hung low. I was in my dad’s twenty-one-year- old Honda Accord, zooming along the highway. It was four-thirty, and I had just gotten out of the two-hour Chinese School that I attend every Sunday.
My dad, sister Mia, and I were on our way to a place in the middle of nowhere to find… mushrooms. Chanterelles, to be exact. My mom would’ve come, except she was at work.
I sighed. My little sister’s chattering did not sound good with Madonna’s remix that was quietly coming out of the ancient speakers. Mia Widrow was six years old, and if you (like most of my friends) think she’s cute and polite, I have two things to say to you. One: Mia isn’t really cute and polite (well, at least with me), and two: looks can be deceiving.
We soon pulled into a small trailhead and parked our car. Last time we had come to this place we had found one and a half pounds of chanterelles. We hoped for better luck this time. An orange gate blocked the path, and tall fir trees crowded around the trail. The bones of a dead deer lay to the left of us, and to the right a heap of trash.
“This is it,” my dad announced loudly.
Soon an elderly couple came into our view. Their faces were tired but happy, and they were carrying baskets of chanterelles. Wow! I thought. It looked like there were maybe fifteen pounds of those mushrooms. My dad chatted with the couple for a few minutes, but I wasn’t paying attention. If we could find that many chanterelles, gosh, I could only imagine how happy I would be. . .../more
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