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Self Portrait
"Self-portrait" (acrylics) Alyssa Wu, 12 (Pleasanton, CA) Published in the September 2020 issue of Stone Soup

A note from William

Labor Day sale! 15% off Stone Soup print and digital subscriptions, as well as books—including our newly published Three Days till EOC by Abhi Sukhdial. Use the code LABORDAY20 at the checkout.

Now that you are all back at school, we have a few administrative details to share on the new programs we began for lockdown and are continuing through the end of the year.

Writing Workshop and Book Club
The Writing Workshop resumes next week on Saturday, Sept. 12, at 9 a.m. PDT with a workshop on metaphor. The class is for students ages nine through fourteen. Our schedule from now on will be to run Book Club in that same slot on the last Saturday of each month and Writing Workshop on all the other Saturdays (apart from Thanksgiving weekend).

Having run the programs for free since the spring, we will now be asking for a small fee for the classes from non-subscribers, which I am sure you will all understand. We will also need everyone to register via EventBrite. Once you have registered, you will receive joining details for the Zoom calls. All the details and registration links will be posted on the relevant page on our website, Stonesoup.com.

We are scheduling the performance we’d discussed with the previous attendees for the last class in December. This public reading will include work from all the classes since March, as well as new work from the second season.

Creativity Prompts and Flash Contests
We thought that since you are going back to school, it would make sense to reduce the frequency of the creativity prompts and flash contests. We also need to make sure our small staff has enough time to complete the additional work that comes our way in the run up to the end of the year! Thus, the flash contest is now monthly—first week of the month—and we are sending out a weekly, rather than daily, report. We are preparing a questionnaire to get your opinions on various Stone Soup activities, including the flash contest and daily prompts.

Refugee Project
Laura Moran, the Refugee Project coordinator, has been corresponding with the Kakuma camp in Kenya for months. Kakuma is the largest refugee camp in the world, with nearly 200,000 residents. The camp is operated by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). We have just been approved as an educational organization authorized to work with the camp authorities. Thank you, Laura, for your persistence! We had a Zoom meeting this week with the UNHCR education officer, and several others at the Kakuma camp, including the headteacher of the girls primary school funded by Angelina Jolie. We are developing a program with that school initially, with the intention of expanding to other less well-funded schools over time.

We will now be meeting with people at the Kakuma camp on a regular basis to develop our partnership. Jane Levi and I also met with our website designers on Thursday to discuss building out a section of the website for submissions from refugee students. This portion of the website will have its own identity within the larger Stone Soup website. We look forward to soon being able to share with you works from refugee students that have been sent to us over the last year. Sincere thanks to those of you who are supporting this project. Your donations are making this important work possible.

William’s Weekend Project
Kateri Escober Doran’s “Locked out of Kindergarten” and Alyssa Wu’s self-portrait are the two creative works featured in today’s newsletter. Both of these works are extraordinary. I hope you will spend some time with each.

Alyssa’s self-portrait shows us a girl on the cusp of becoming a woman, hair done up in a bun like a dancer and wearing a black top with a striking bird print. The black hair, black eyebrows, black eyes lined with black eye liner, black ear studs, and the black top gives this portrait a fantastic energy. The portrait projects itself in front of the vibrant green background. And the birds! A magnificent print, striking in its simplicity, and so effective.

If you don’t feel confident drawing or painting, then use photography to develop your creative vision. Pick up your phone or camera. Dress yourself with a striking outfit. Then, either work photographing yourself in a mirror or work with with a mirror and your hands or work with your phone or camera to take a portrait of yourself. You can use a selfie mode and also photograph yourself in a mirror.

“Locked out of Kindergarten” by Kateri Escober Doran was the winner of our 2019 Personal Narrative Contest. I have just re-read this story. It is everything that Stone Soup is about. Congratulations to Kateri for this well-remembered and well-written evocation of being in kindergarten—not yet on the first rung of the ladder to life.

After you read this story, which I hope you will do right now, I’d like you to close your eyes for a few minutes, let the memories flow, and at least start your own narrative about something that happened to you when you were much younger. Kateri offers insights into the thinking of a child much younger than she is.

As writers, one of your tasks is to create characters who offer insights into human behavior and emotions. Try to get back to a memory of you when you were younger and thinking in ways that are different from how you think now. Besides recording a memory that is likely to grow less precise with time, this is good practice for creating characters that think differently than you.

As always, if you are happy with what you create, please go to our website and send Emma Wood, our editor, what you have done.

Stay safe.

Until next week,

Winners from Weekly Flash Contest #22

Flash Contest #22: Write a Story About a Unifying Place

For our last in the current series of weekly flash contests, entrants were inspired by another terrific prompt by Stone Soup reader and contributor Liam Hancock, 13. Liam asked you to write about a unifying place—and it was fascinating so see how you interpreted this. Perhaps not surprisingly, many of you thought of bookshops, libraries, and favorite reading corners as your place of unity, comfort, and companionship; others came up with a stunning range of locations they love for the people and the activities that take place in them. We read some beautiful writing this week and are delighted to share the work of our winners with you on this page. Congratulations to all of them, and to our honorable mentions. You can read the winning entries for this week (and previous weeks) at the Stone Soup website.

“I walk the path I have walked many times” by Morgan Dodd, 13, Portland, Oregon
“Cinema” by Annie Yu, 11, Great Neck, NY
“The Warehouse” by Daniel Wei, 13, Weddington, NC
“Hope” by April Yu, 12, East Brunswick, NJ
“Waiting for Camp” by Selina Lai, 10, Dublin, CA

Honorable Mentions
“The Bookworms” by Ella Wan, 9, North Oaks, MN
“The Library“ by Jason Liu, 11, Sharon, MA
“There are many like you!” by Aashitha “Jeyaganesh,” 10, Edison, NJ
“The Whales in the Metro Station” by Kyler Min, 9, Vienna, VA
“Ireland” by Stella Mae Cobb, 11, Norfolk, CT

Please note that our Flash Contest will continue through the end of the year, but now that school is back in session, we will be holding it once a month instead of every week. The weekly prompt on the first Monday of every month will be the subject of the contest, and you will have until noon PDT on the following Sunday to submit your entries—we are giving you a little more time than before, as we know you have more on with school!

Highlights from the past week online

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

Giselle, 11, wrote a poem inspired by the song “My Shot” in the musical Hamilton.

In “I See,” Mairead, 12, writes a short but well-crafted poem about what she sees during quarantine.

Trevor writes a suspenseful fictional piece for the blog about a character who can summon the help of mammals.

Thee, one of our bloggers, got the opportunity to speak with James Ponti, author of the City Spies series. Read their fascinating conversation on the blog here.

Another note about Thee’s interview—she was able to interview one of her favorite authors because she reached out to us to see if we could set it up. We can’t always guarantee that authors, especially the more famous ones, will have time for interviews, but if you’re an established blogger and you have an idea for an interview, let us know! Sarah, who is charge of the blog, will do her best to work something out.

Kateri Escober Doran

Locked Out of Kindergarten

By Kateri Escober Doran, 12 

Winner of our 2019 Personal Narrative Contest

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!”

Clap, clap! 

“If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands!”

Clap, clap! 

We were dancing on the mat in the kindergarten classroom. Music was blasting from our teacher’s magical silver box, which was sitting in the corner on a little plastic chair. Our teacher, Ms. Winnie, stood facing us while we danced, swaying to the music and clapping her hands along with us.

Clap, clap! 

I loved dancing time. Other than  playtime, it was my favorite time of day.

“If you’re happy and you know it,  stomp your feet!”

Stomp, stomp! 

I turned around to see how my friends were getting along. Ella, instead of stomping her feet, was hopping on one, her waist-length, jet-black hair flapping around her shoulders. Ava, the resident drama queen and aspiring secret agent, spun around and twirled, her light-brown pigtails flopping behind her. We had all pretty much forgotten what movement we were supposed to be making at this point, and we probably didn’t care.

I watched as a familiar figure with curly, dirty-blonde hair came stomping over to us. It was Chloe. She was the oldest kid in the class (she had turned six in November), as well as the first to lose a baby tooth. All of this gave Chloe status in the classroom, and she was in charge. It just seemed to make sense that way. If Chloe told us to do something or to refrain from doing something, we would do what she said; and if she made a decision for us, then we would accept it.

I didn’t particularly like Chloe. But I knew as well as anyone else that she was our leader . . . /MORE


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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