Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Magician's Nephew, craft project - rings and pocket.


I co-host a kid’s book club. One of my responsibilities is to come up with an activity and/or craft that goes along with our book of the month. Sometimes I’ve found great idea from a simple Google search. After all, we’ve generally stuck to the classics, or books that are commonly taught in classrooms. I’m actually more surprised when I can’t find anything good. It goes to show how spoiled the internet has made me. I expect it to plan everything for me. 

When recently, I didn’t find anything I liked for the book “The Magician’s Nephew” by CS Lewis, I needed to come up with my own craft idea. I decided, since I take so many ideas from other blogs, I should share what I came up with. Only fair.

What I decided to do was to have the kids make their own green and gold rings. First, I thought we’d make them from air drying clay, but the selection at my local craft shop was disappointing. So I wandered into the jewelry making section, and found this neat wire. Even thought I expected it to be more difficult to work with, it would also look way cooler, and that counts for something.

I’ve learned it is always a good idea to test out a project before doing it with a group of kids, so my girls and I tried making rings the night before our book meeting. It was much more difficult than I’d expected. My hat off to jewelry makers who use this stuff. I’d picked a think wire, 16 gauge I think it was. I thought we’d just measure the little fingers, use wire cutters, and pliers to bend. But the pliers also stripped all the beautiful color off the wire, defeating the whole point. So I ended up wrapping the wire around this peg, and precutting the rings, then just passing them out and letting the kids stretch or smoosh them to a good personal fit. 

Now, in the book it is clear that you shouldn’t touch the rings when you don’t want to go into another world, so we needed a pouch or pocket to keep them in. I like felt for kid sewing projects because it is inexpensive, colorful, and super easy to work with. You can leave raw edges without worry. For my sample I sewed a lion on the front of the pouch for decoration, but brought along fabric glue as well, which turned out to be what most of the kids chose to use to add embellishments to their pouches. 

I did need to call on other mom reinforcements when a lot of the kids all needed help threading their needles all at the same time, but otherwise the project went well, and the kids seemed to enjoy their little treasures.
I told them that when they read a book, any book, it is like they are going into another world, so they should put on their outgoing ring (the gold one if I remember correctly). When they’re all done reading and ready to return to our world, they can put on their green ring.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Paper Books vs. Ebooks


I had a moment of epiphany today. I was reading a book on my Kindle, but I sadly had to stop to do other things. As I put book down, I thought to myself, “I love my Kindle.” 

That thought stopped me. Literally. I stood still for a moment. I was one of those people who thought, sure, an e-reader might be convenient, but it will never be like reading a REAL book. I like the way real books smell and feel. How I know how far along I am in the story by how thick the stacks of pages are in each hand. I love all that stuff. 

So this sudden spontaneous thought about loving my e-reader took me off guard somewhat. Do I really love it that much? What do I love about it? I like it. It’s light and has great battery life. It’s easy to use, but it doesn’t smell like old paper or anything cool like that. 

Then the epiphany. I’m really enjoying the story I’m reading. (Redshirts by John Scalzi if you’re curious). That’s what I love. That’s what I suspect everyone who says they love real books means. What I really love is a good story. 

For so long, all the stories we loved came with that certain feel of a book in your hands. The smell. The pages flipping. It created a whole bunch of positive associations that are powerful. The go back to childhood for most of us. I remember hiding in the bushes on the side of my house, or under my bed to read a book in peace when I was a kid. Good memories. For so long now I thought I loved books as a physical thing. Turns out, I just love the stories. I love the stories enough that the physical thing they’re attached to became loved right along with the stories.

There are a lot of people who don’t think they could ever enjoy reading on an e-reader. I even fell into that thinking myself. I’m so happy to realize that the format isn’t all that important after all. I think it’s very good news for stories, because technology doesn’t go backward.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Is There Life Out There? - and Revisiting Older Stories

Skiing penguin

Ernie waddled to the edge of the iceberg, looking out over the endless ocean. Next to him other penguins dove into the water, and others jumped back onto the berg, but he took no notice of any of them. His mind danced along the horizon, teasing him with imaginings of what lay beyond.

“What are you looking at?” It was Blackie, a friend who’d come up beside him.

“Hum? Oh, nothing, I just... Hey Blackie, have you ever thought about what’s past the ocean?”

“What do you mean, like the breeding rocks?”

“No, beyond that. Have you ever wondered what else is out there?”

“There isn’t anything else. Just look.”

“I heard about a place where it’s so warm that ice melts, plants grow really tall, and there are all types of strange creatures. Wouldn’t it be incredible to see a place like that?”

“Who told you that crazy stuff?”

“Well, one of the fish who goes to the north in the summer said that...”

“You’re talking to the fish? Oh come on Ernie, even if it were true, what would a fish know about it. He’s messing with you.”

“No, no, he met some of the other creatures there. No, I believe him. They swim a lot farther than we do. How do you know there isn’t anything else? Have you ever gone that far?”

“It doesn’t make sense. We would have heard about it before now if there were a place like that. You’re a trusting guy. You should stay away from those fish, they’re playing a mean joke on you.” Blackie shuffled away, shaking his head.

Ernie looked out again, trying to see as far as he could. Was he a fool to listen to fish? It didn’t matter; he needed to believe there was more.

########

I wrote this for an online daily writing contest. . . oh gosh - so many, many years ago. But I still kinda like it. I like the optimism and curiosity of the main penguin, Ernie. What I never cared for is the ending. For a long time, I knew the ending was bad, but I didn't know why. Now, it is obvious to me that the problem is there really is no ending. This is a beginning. It sets up the character and his desires. Then it stops. I've been thinking lately that it would be fun to finish this. Give Ernie his adventure. I even checked out some books about penguins from the library today to read up on what might be a plausible way for him to get started on his journey.

I suspect, however -deep down, this may actually be a procrastination tactic I've created because I'm stuck in my novel.  Today, I planned to give myself a few hours of dedicated writing time. I didn't need to do other things, I'd let the kids have the run of the house, do whatever they wanted. I would write. Ya know what I did? I cleaned. I hate to clean. Hate. And I took a nap. I didn't sleep well last night. That's what I told myself. I couldn't write while I was so sleepy. Right? I would do so much better after a nap. Then it was time to start dinner. Oh darn - out of time.

Pitiful. Embarrassing and pitiful. 

So here is what I'm doing now. I'm making some quick notes on my ideas for Ernie, then I'm setting that aside. Giving him a real story will be my reward for finishing my novel. Finishing is a big problem for me in general. I'm to the point where I don't really care if it's good. It just needs to be finished.

Do you ever catch yourself self-sabotaging? What are your clues, and how do you get yourself back on track?