I just completed my second day at a local centre where I’m doing some art therapy work with a group of teens.

I’m breathing a sigh of relief that my participants have embraced our project to build and design characters through prop-building and costume design, which, let’s face it, isn’t exactly what you think about when you think of art therapy.

One of main projects is do design and “build” character kits. I showed photos of my own kit in a previous post, and below are some photos of the starts of my participants’ kits.

They may not seem that exciting yet, but I wanted to capture the different stages of the process, and step 1 is painting the kits themselves. Most of these aren’t completed yet—they still need to be weathered and decorated (or more so than they already are). It’s all part of a process . . . over the next few weeks, these will be transformed into vampire hunting kits, apocalypse survival kits, dream stealer kits, and you-name-it kits.

It’s so fun to see the students’ ideas coming to life in this form. I’m starting to think of this whole project as “art therapy through cosplay.”



I’m currently working as an artist in residence at a local centre, focusing on some art therapy projects with a group of teens. I don’t normally work with that age group (my books are for a lot younger kids), but the organizer was looking for something a little different and thought I would be a good fit.

Rather than working in the traditional fine arts (painting, sculpting, etc.), I’m leading the group in an exploration of characters through prop building and costume design. This is similar to a recent residency I did at an Elementary school, except this particular project involves fewer participants and some more elaborate projects.

One of things I want to do in particular is have each participant design a character survival kit. I was inspired to do this after a visit to the Ripley’s Believe It or Not museum on Jeju Island in Korea. There they had on display a “vampire killing kit.” At the time, my wife said building such a kit would make for a great class activity—and she was right!


So, I decided to build one myself to test out the project. My kit is for a character in a book I’m writing—the character in question is an apprentice wizard and her spell kit includes various items that are particularly important to her.

I found the box at the craft store, added some specific adornments and then painted it to look like it’s been through the wringer.


As for the stuff inside, well, I gathered it from all over the place and spent hours painting, concocting, and gluing. Once I was satisfied with the contents, I lined the box with floral foam and wedged everything inside. Here’s the result:


Of course, one of the fun parts of such a project is coming up for all the labels for each item in the box. Here’s a list of my contents:

1: Ring of Whispering
(for contacting the apprentice’s master)

2. Jellied Eye
(plucked from a Revellian monkey)

3. Key
(unlocks Master’s book of Charms & Spells ~ this is a duplicate, made in secret)

4. Fingernails (clipped from a Gresswydian girl, aged 12)

5. Blood (syphoned from an Allegrian princess)

6. Ash (scooped from the nest of a Morindian fire dragon)

7. Venom (extracted from a Snardassian ice snake)

8. Cursing Dust (stolen from the ancient tomb of a mummified queen of Dossandros)

9. Fang (taken from a Zelantean wolf)


* * *

I hope the participants will have as much fun making their kits as I did. I can imagine all sorts of kits being developed: Zombie Survival Kit, Steampunk Engineer Tool Kit, Robot Maintenance Kit . . . you name it!


Last year, I spent a day a week from November to December working with a class at Lord Tweedsmuir Elementary to help the kids contemplate, design, and illustrate heroes, setting them up for a project to write a story starring those characters.

I returned to the school last week to see the “Hero Gallery” that was put on display throughout the school. Each display consisted of a poster board that showed the process of creation and some of the different elements that went into creating the characters. I loved the fact that the project celebrated the process—not just the polished, finished work, but the messy sketches and brainstorming. In addition, it was great to see the swatch of a hero’s cape or the key that a brazen character might use to unlock the door to adventure.

It was so much fun to see the kids, who all leapt from their seats and came flooding over to see me. I felt very much missed (and loved).

I took countless photos of the exhibit, but here’s just a smattering . . .





I like assigning my students story prompts with built in problems. Otherwise, it can be a whole lot of pages of characters stretching as the sun comes up, brushing their teeth, going to breakfast, running to school, hearing the school bell ring go BRIIIIIING! and onwards and onwards. (If you’ve ever taught creative writing for any length of time, then you know this story all too well).

The Danger Island story idea revolves around the idea of a constrained location that has experienced an overpopulation of . . . something. So, imagine an island that has been infested with the creature you fear the most—snake, spider, lizard, etc. Then imagine that you’ve just been shipwrecked on it!

For this activity, I actually don’t assign the students the critter they are the most afraid of (though that would certainly be one way of doing it). What I normally do is bring in a bag of rubber creatures and have the students blindly pick. This is not only rather a fun moment, but also makes the danger seem that much more real to the students.

With their creature beside them for inspiration, the students then craft their maps, which gives them their basic settings and inspiration for the story. How will their characters survive?

Below are some of the photos of the activity in progress and then some final maps.




Even though I visit Korea often, it’s been several years since I’ve visited the vast Gyeongbokgung Palace complex in Seoul. This trip, I decided to go there with my wife to show her one of the important centrepieces of the Joseon dynasty.

Even though most of the original structure was destroyed during the imperial rule of Japan in the first half of the 20th Century, most of it has been beautifully reconstructed.

Here’s a few of the pictures from our visit . . .

A pair of stone tigers flank the magnificent front gate.


You can also see a ceremony involving the guards who are wearing traditional garb.


I simply adore the architecture of the palace. The elegant curves of the rooflines offer many romantic vistas as you explore the complex.


Many figures from the Oriental zodiac surround the royal throne room, including this monkey.


Here is a better overall view of the throneroom.


This is the magnificent ceiling of the throne room.


Here is the banquet hall, situated amidst a pool of semi-frozen water. If only it had been gently snowing!gyeongbok-banquethall

There are many Korean totem poles (called jangseung) in the folk village area of the complex. Traditionally, they are placed on the perimeter of a village to ward of evil spirits.


Of course, I am fascinated by doors, doorways, and all things to do with doors—locks, keys, hinges . . . you name it. I captured many of them during my visit to Gyeongbokgung Palace!

Here’s a few of my favourite pics . . .




Kendra Kandlestar is participating in a promotion for middle-grade readers; where you can download a series of digital books either for 99 cents—or for free!

Just visit the blog of my colleague, Andrea Pearson for all the details:

The Multi-Author Middle-Grade Book Promotion starts January 4, 2016 and ends January 7, 2016.

As both an author and creative writing teacher for children, I’m pretty passionate about literacy. There have been many studies to prove the educational advantages of having a large home library (whether real or virtual).

So . . . here’s your chance to load up your child’s e-reader!


After wrapping up a creative writing camp in Yangpyeong, my wife and I have taken a few days to explore Korea. Even though I have been here several times, this is only my wife’s second time.

We spent a marvellous New Year’s Eve in Seoul, exploring the Jongno district, which is full of neon lights and spectacles on the best of times, let alone December 31st.



Afterwards, we decided to escape the hubbub and descended down to Cheonggyecheon, which is a beautiful public walkway that weaves along the stream. It’s sunken down below the sidewalks, so helps you feel like you’ve escaped the city. I’ve been along it many times before, but never on New Year’s Eve—I was absolutely amazed by the sights.

To begin with, the display of lights was truly magical. For a while, we just walked along in a trance.



Then, of course, Marcie began . . . well, being Marcie. Which means having a lot of fun playing and posing with all the displays.




Well, I guess I did, too! Next, we came across a section where families and couples were building paper lanterns, writing messages on them, and setting them down the river. These were so pretty to watch as they floated gently down the stream. There was no two ways about it—we wanted to make one.

And so we did . . .


In a future post, I’ll write about our trip to Gyeongbokgung Palace.




At the CWC winter camp in Korea, I led a unit on creating interesting heroes. Part of that character-building activity is coming up with gadgets and tools for characters to use.

In an earlier workshop, the students made keys for their characters (to help spark the beginning of an adventure), so for this workshop I decided to have the kids work on a costume bit . . . a pair of goggles with special abilities.

If you think about it, there are a lot of books and films that make use of special lenses. In the Wizard of Oz, the characters have to wear glasses that will protect their eyes from the brilliance of the Emerald City (it turns out the lenses are green, so just add to the mystique of the city). In the Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians series, the characters (called oculators) use a variety of lenses with different powers. Even the new Star Wars movie has a character (Maz Kanata) who uses goggles to help her “see”. I also have a pair of goggles in my own Kendra Kandlestar series; the inventor character (Ratchet) has constructed something called “foggle goggles” to help him pilot his airship through the fog. Of course, the goggles don’t work (they keep . . . er, fogging up).

There are also many books that employ the device of a “seeing stone” to help characters look up on the world in a different way—these books include The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, Coraline by Nail Gaiman, and Winterling by Sarah Prineas.

So, I bombarded my students with all of this inspiration, and had them design their own goggles by using a standard base and then adding switches, gears, levers . . . well, you name it! Here are some of their creations:





cwc_sign03My wife and I are currently in Korea, teaching at a creative writing camp for young writers, hosted by CWC. One of the first activities I’m working on with the kids is to help them design keys so that they can have a strong spark for their stories.

I brought the keys with me from Canada, along with a bunch of items to help with the decorating process. I’m always amazed at the creativity of kids. Just check out some of the designs!


I’m nearing completion of my project for the BC library system’s 2016 summer reading club. I’ve completed most of the individual illustrations and have now cobbled them together to complete one overall composition for the poster.


The graphic designer will be choosing the font and adding in the text and other required elements. I layered the composition in Photoshop so that individual elements can be nudged here and there to help accommodate the text.

I can’t wait to see the final, printed version!

I’m still fine-tuning some of the individual illustrations. I had a request to show the portal passport vehicle transform into a balloon, so here’s my current rendition:




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