Wands of Wonder

Just before Christmas, I helped lead the annual Winter Camp for the Creative Writing for Children Society of Vancouver (better known as CWC). I always enjoy this two-day event; the kids are full of energy and enthusiasm and we concentrate on pure creativity rather than the strict mechanics of the writing process. The other teachers included James McCann, kc dyer, Kallie George, Shelley MacDonald, and Alison Acheson.

The Shard from Greeve and Kendra Kandlestar's wand.Well, this year I decided to have my kids build wizard wands. Anyone who has attended one of my presentations knows that I love props. Over the years, I’ve built or procured props for many of the magical items in my Kendra Kandlestar books, including Kendra’s wand and the Shard from Greeve.

So, with boxes and bags of supplies in tow, I delivered a presentation on the use of wands in fantasy and film and then turned my classroom into a workshop of wonders. Phoenix feathers and fireflower petals floated through the air while magic orbs and twinkling star beams scattered across the floor as my Wiz Kids set to work.

You can check out the photos below of some of the creations. I wish I had space to show all the wands—over fifty were built over a two-day period!

The best part of the class, in my opinion, was the duels that came afterward. Once the students were done constructing their wands they had to write a rhyming spell. At first I wanted my students to duel each other—spell versus spell. This didn’t work quite as well as I had hoped; the kids just didn’t seem to have much energy in the activity, so I changed it up and had them duel me.

Now our activity was really cooking! The students were desperate to cast all sorts of spells on me (most of them involved me eating ketchup and eggs, the two most vile substances on earth). Each Wiz Kid then came up to attack me with their rhyme. Of course, they were prepared, piece of paper in hand, and I had to defend by taking their rhyme scheme and reflecting it back to them, just off the top of my head. The rest of the kids then got to vote on who won each duel.

I was so pleased the way it all worked out—though, after two days of rhyming, I don’t mind telling you that my brain was fried.

Mr. Wiz

Worksheets

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Yoda cookies, most yum

For those of you who like to search between the cracks of here and there, I’d like to wish you all a belated happy Old Meryn’s Eve for yesterday! Each year my goddaughter and I decorate Christmas cookies—and while we did not do any Kendra cookies, we did do some Yodas!

I actually specially-ordered a Yoda cookie cutter from a company in Florida, but it turns out it was better just to use a regular old star and cut off the bottom two points. It makes a perfect Santa Yoda!

Yoda Cookies

Yoda cookies

Merry Eenmas?

I’ve been getting a few questions lately asking if and how Eens celebrate Christmas. One regular commenter on this blog even suggested that Eens would call it “Eenmus!”

What a wonderful name! However, Eens don’t celebrate Christmas as we know it. Their biggest celebration in the year is Jamboreen, which is held on the Summer Solstice (the longest day of the year). I like to think of Jamboreen as Halloween in June; it involves costumes, eating, dancing, a magician’s match, and all sorts of merry-making.

The Eens also have a winter festival. It goes by a number of names, including Auld Meryn, Auld Meryn’s Eve, or Meryn’s Eve.

The Eens did not always have this holiday. After all, you must remember that winter can be a difficult time for Eens. They are tiny folk, after all, and what is a tall drift of snow for you and I might be an insurmountable hill for an Een. They are a timid people and in the ancient days of Een they did not look fondly upon enduring the longest night of the year, which happens on the Winter Solstice (December 21st or 22nd ).

Then, one particularly cold winter, a new tradition started amongst the Eens. Here’s how the legend goes . . .

Long ago, after the passing of Leemus Longbraids and the first Elders of Een, there lived an old sorceress by the name of Meryn Moonsong. She lived alone, in a cave near the Wishing Falls and she was rarely seen for it was said she loved the dark.

Now Meryn was old; so old in fact that some said that in her youth she had even known Leemus Longbraids and his six brothers. Most Eens Kendra Kandlestar.were frightened of her, for she wore patched and ragged robes that hung loosely from her crooked body. She also had a hat with a wide rim and a tall point; this cast her ancient face in constant shadow. As for her braids, these poked out from beneath the brim of her hat like a nest of snakes, this way and that way, as if each one was ready to strike.

Then came the year when the Elders of Een gazed upon the heavens and predicted that the Winter Solstice would be the darkest even known, without so much of a glimmer from moon or star. The Eens fretted—and some even blamed Old Meryn for the coming darkness, thinking that she had cursed the skies, she loved the darkness so. The bravest of Eens even dared approach Meryn’s cave, but there was no sign of the old witch.

The Winter Solstice arrived and, sure enough, its darkness was beyond compare. The Eens huddled in their bed, cold and fearful.

Then there could be heard a clink and a clatter and when the Eens looked out their window, who should they see but Old Meryn. Her robes were indeed patched, but with bright colors of red and green, and she danced upon the crust of snow, nimble as a fairy. A circle of bells decorated the brim of her hat and at the end of each braid there hung some bauble or trinket, each twinkling like a winter star. And Hat.she sang in her ancient voice a spell so magical and old that afterwards some said it must have come from the long-forgotten Elves. And in this way, Old Meryn scattered the clouds; the dark clouds cleared and the moon smiled upon the Land of Een.

Then the Eens danced, and enjoyed a draft of Eenberry nectar. And when the Een children awoke the next morning, they found tucked in their boots small parcels of delicious treats and delightful toys.

Old Meryn was never seen again. Some wondered if she had even come at all, and that perhaps the night had just played tricks on their eyes. They wondered if the presents in the Eenling boots were but part of the prank.

Boot.But Flavius Faun, who lived in the Land of Een in those days, declared (in his Faunish way), “Why, sure as me whiskers, Auld Meryn did vanquish the dark. So we ought to rejoice, and ‘member her spark.”

Ever since that night, the Eens commemorate Meryn Moonsong on the Winter Solstice. They feast, dance, and costume their braids, tails, or wings with ornaments. And the children will awaken the next morning to find their boots stuffed with treats—but whether it is their parents or the spirit of Old Meryn, none can say.

‘Twas the Night before Yoda Yulefest . . .

I hosted my second annual Yoda Yulefest party yesterday. It featured Santa Yoda cookies, Star Wars Christmas music, Star Wars Christmas decorations, and a reading of ‘Twas the Night Before Yuletide. I rewrote the classic in honour of Santa Yoda, and the piece was performed with much gusto by kc dyer during the evening festivities.

I’ve had a lot of requests to post the story, so here it is, in all of its geekific glory:

‘Twas the night before Yuletide, not a sound to be heard
From a geek, from a dork, not even a nerd .  .  .
The sabres were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that Master Yoda soon would be there.

The Padawans were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of green aliens danced in their heads.
With a sigh and a smile I took off my geek cap
Put down my old comics and prepared for a nap.

Sabers hung by the chimney with care.

When out in the galaxy arose such a boom,
I sprang from the bed in a fast, nerd-like zoom.
Away to the window I flew like The Flash,
Tore open the blinds like an X-wing crash.

The stars glimmered above in a marvellous sky,
Giving lustre to objects that soared up so high,
When, what to my spectacled eyes should appear,
But a tiny green space ship and a Jedi so near.

Yoda cookies

My nerdy senses suddenly reached their quota,
And I knew it a moment, it must be old Yoda.
With his friends from a galaxy far, far away,
Their names he called out, in a voice clear as day:

“Now Luke, now Leia, 3PO and Obi-wan,
On Anakin, R2, Chewbacca and Han!’
To the dunes of Tatoonie, to the swampy Dagobah!
Let’s flee these sorry geeks before some foofaraw!”

As nerds whimper before a big bully’s fists fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, break down and cry,
So up to the house-top wee Yoda did soar,
With a galaxy of wisdom, for all to adore.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard from above,
The coo of an alien, like the sound of a dove,
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney old Yoda then came with a bound.

He was dressed all in red, from his feet to his ears,
And he looked tho’ he must have lived nine hundred years;
A bundle of sayings he had on his tongue,
Ready to dole out to the old and the young.

Santa Yoda.

His eyes — how they twinkled!  His ears twitched so merry!
With his little green cheeks, he looked just like a fairy!
His droll, wrinkled mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the fuzz on his head was as white as the snow.

The cane he held tight in his gnarled little claw,
He then started to dance without fumble or flaw.
With his very broad belly and round little face,
He looked far more jolly than old Jedi Mace.

He was truly so small, but suddenly I thought,
This is Master Yoda, and size matters not.
He looked at me then, with a wink of his eye,
And said, “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Then he smiled and passed on just a few more words,
Of support for all the world’s dorks and the nerds,
And laying his finger at the base of his chin,
Went back up the chimney, without any din.

Unburdened of thoughts, he climbed into his vessel,
And launched into the sky, like the Falcon ran the Kessel,
But I heard him exclaim, right before his ship flew,
“Good tidings to all—and may the force be with you.”

Yoda.

Fold or fold not . . . there is no try

I’ve continued to geek it up with my students in recent classes with more Origami Yodas, so I decided to post some more photos of the most recent creations of my favourite Jedi Master. These of course, are based on wonderful book by Tom Angleberger, The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, which I’ve been continuing to teach to all the kids in my creative writing classes.

Origami Yoda.

Origami Yoda.

Origami Yoda.

Origami Yoda.

One of the wonderful outcomes is that Tom Angleberger himself commented on this very blog about my students’ Yodas. Since then we exchanged a few emails and, just yesterday, James McCann and I interviewed Tom for the Authors Like Us podcast. The interview won’t be ready for posting until January, but it will be worth the wait. Half way through the interview, James’s dog (Conan) jumped up on the coach, where my laptop was open, and stepped on my keyboard—hitting the exact key to play the Star Wars theme song. I kid you not.

Well, I could go on and on about this interview and how much of a joy it was to talk to a fellow Star Wars lover, but I’ll save it all for when we post the interview.

Coming up this weekend is my second annual Yoda Yulefest party. Can’t wait!

Just One More Book ~ They’re Back

Just One More BookMy favourite podcast, Just One More Book, has returned with a special episode. It may just be a “one-off,” but I’m hoping they come back permanently.

If you’ve ever listened to Just One More Book, then you know it’s a podcast with hosts Mark and Andrea Blevis (and now their two daughters, Lucy and Bayla) and, in their own words is about “the children’s books we love and why we love them.”

Just One More Book has been a wonderful supporter of my Kendra Kandlestar books, and I’ve actually had the Blevis can pre-read my manuscripts for the second, third, and fourth installments. Their feedback has been thoughtful, critical, and ultimately invaluable. I’ve now gotten to the point where, as I’m writing, I imagine Lucy and Bayla listening to my words. As a writer it keeps me on my toes. I sure don’t want to disappoint those two thoughtful and creative girls.

Kendra readsIf you listen to this most recent episode of Just One More Book, you’ll hear some of their initial feedback to Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah (they say it’s their favourite Kendra book since the first one!).

I should also mention that Just One More Book has been very inspirational when it came time to develop the podcast I run with James McCann, Authors Like Us. If it wasn’t for Mark and Andrea’s model and advice, we would have never gotten it off the ground.

In any case, Just One More Book went on hiatus over fourteen months ago when Andrea was diagnosed with breast cancer. Let’s hope they do come back permanently—and there’s one way YOU can help make that happen. Get those fingers racing over to their episode page and leave a comment. Of course, you can also subscribe to Just One More Book on iTunes.