The Little Bang

Kendra Kandlestar fans will be familiar with the magical cloud ship called the Big Bang, which was introduced in The Shard from Greeve.

I had a lot of fun designing and thinking about that ship. But I always knew something was going to happen to the Big Bang near the beginning of the new Kendra Kandlestar book—in fact, the plot demanded it. I wrote that scene months ago.

So here I am, this week, working on a new section of the book when I suddenly found myself wishing that I had the Big Bang available to whisk away Kendra and our other intrepid heroes. Alas, there is no way to get it back! But then I remembered that Ratchet and Oki never sit still for long and all through these past weeks, when I’ve been following the personal journey of Kendra, those two rascals have been building a new version of the ship. They affectionately called it the Little Bang.

At first, I thought it would be a very simple vessel, something more like a hot air balloon. Then I realized that Ratchet and Oki just wouldn’t quite do that. As usual, I was having troubles writing about the ship, so I decided to do some very simple sketches first. Here they are . . . Oh—and you’ll see a few other ramblings on this page of my sketchbook as well. Just the usual brainstorming for another part of the book.

Sketches for the Little Bang.


Celebrating children’s literature with Summer Dreams and pink pajamas

Summer Dreams 2012This weekend I appeared at the 9th Annual Summer Dreams Literary Arts Festival in Vancouver. The weather was gorgeous, the performances were great, and I ended the afternoon dressing in pink pajamas. This was entirely the fault of Tiffany Stone. She called me onto stage and said I could dress up to help her with her pirate poem. I was expecting an eye-patch and maybe a crow? NO. Apparently, this poem is about how pirates like to dress in pink pajamas. You can see the photo below (I figure I might as well post it, as my “friends”  [Dan Bar-el] have already threatened to do it anyway!).

Other than the “pajama” incident the day turned out to be a lot of fun, as I got to hang with many of my peers and pals. In addition to Tiffany, local children’s authors James McCann, Jacquie Pearce, and Christianne Hayward (from Christianne’s Lyceum) all performed. Young authors from the Lyceum read out from their stories as well—pretty brave!

As for my performance, I have to thank my wonderful fiancé, voice-over actress Marcie Nestman, for giving it a lot more “shazam.” Marcie and I did a bit of “reader’s theatre,” in which we performed some of my favourite sections from Kendra Kandlestar and the Crack in Kazah. Marcie played the roles of Kendra, Gayla Griffinskitch, Winter Woodsong, and Queen Krake, while I tackled Oki, Krimson Kandlestar, and the narrator. Marice’s voice for Queen Krake stole the show!

A big thanks to Pandora’s Collective for hosting the event, and for all the sponsors!

Summer Dreams 2012
Jacques LaLonde open the children’s stage with a “roar,” leading many rousing renditions of his popular dragon songs.
Summer Dreams 2012
James McCann read from his book Flying Feet.
Summer Dreams 2012
Marcie Nestman, shows a picture of Kendra Kandlestar (notice that they are both wearing some pretty funky braids).
Summer Dreams 2012
This is me reading from one of my favourite sections of the Crack in Kazah—with Marcie’s expert voice talents to help along.
Summer Dreams 2012
Jacqueline Pearce uses her iPad to show some of the research and historical photos that relate to her book Flood Warning.
Summer Dreams 2012
James takes a breather between his reading and his high-acclaimed writing workshop.
Summer Dreams 2012
Pink Pajama Conspiracy: children’s authors and editors Kallie George and Tiffany Stone have a chat before Tiffany’s performance—I’m convinced they were plotting the pink pajama incident.
Summer Dreams 2012
The highlight of the day for the children—”Mr. Wiz” in pink pajamas.

The Wizard Who Fell

Uncle GriffinskitchThis isn’t exactly an excerpt from Kendra Kandlestar 5—but almost! This is a story that Uncle Griffinskitch will tell Kendra about half way through the book. Of course, Uncle Griffinskitch will tell it is his own words; this version is the one that you would stumble upon in the history section of the Een Library . . .

* * *

The Wizard Who Fell

Long ago, in the Second Age of Een, there lived an Een wizard of incredible talent. He possessed the power to make the stars dance in the skies and the trees bow along the forest paths. Yet, with this power, came an insatiable hunger for fame and notoriety. Most of all, he desired to be nominated as an Elder of Een and take a seat alongside the other great magic-makers inside the Elder Stone.

But the Elders refused the wizard. “One does not earn a seat on the council by simply being talented,” the Elders decreed. “You have not yet attained Arazeen.”

The wizard was enraged. He was not interested in Arazeen, the mystical Een concept of enlightenment, in which one discovered inner wisdom and peace. No, the wizard was too obsessed with his stature. He decided to take another path in order to impress the council.

He was soon in luck, for it came to pass that a golden Phoenix came to take roost in the mountains south of Een. When the wizard heard of the magical bird, he decided to seek it and snatch one of its eggs. He was certain that such a feat would cause great sensation. Surely, the Elders would not be able to refuse him!

And so the wizard travailed to the south, across the River Wink, through the shadows of the Shivering Wood, and into the towering Mountains of Thune. For several days he climbed those treacherous peaks, and at last he found his prize. There, lying amidst a nest of ash, was the most beautiful egg he had ever seen. It glowed red, like a hot coal in the fire, but the wizard, in his greed, did not consider this. He reached for the treasure, only to have it burn his hand so severely that he leaped back in pain and surprise. But one cannot leap back from a mountain precipice—and so the wizard fell, tumbling countless fathoms and crashing into the rocks below. His bones were shattered, his body broken, and there he lay in anguish and agony.

Now the arrogant wizard might have died there, but for his old master, the sorceress who had trained him as young Een. Powerful in her own right, she had dreamt of her former pupil’s precipitous fall. Hurrying to the Mountains of Thune she discovered the mangled form of the arrogant wizard. Employing all of her magical arts, she nursed the wizard back to health—and yet he would never be the same again. Left hunched and crippled, the wizard who had once imperiously strutted the streets of Faun’s End was now forever doomed to hobble them bent nearly in two, as if permanently captured in a state of obeisance.

Now, the wizard began to lose his arrogance. For many months he closed himself from the world. He meditated beneath the night skies. He whispered to the moon. And he sent his dreams on the wind. He learned to cope with his pain and shame, and at last, in his humility, he began to understand the mysteries of Arazeen.

Then the day came when he was called before the Elders of Een.

“You looked to the mountain tops for a treasure,” the Elders declared. “But the true treasure was buried within you.”

And so the wizard became an Elder of Een. Despite his bent and gnarled body, he undertook many adventures and became a worth hero of Een, that tiny land tucked between the cracks of here and there.

A king of many moods

Below is the final inked drawing of an important character who will be introduced in Kendra Kandlestar 5. I’ve shown some sketches of him in a previous post.

This character has evolved a lot since my initial concept for him. I originally envisaged him as a kind and benevolent figure. But it turns out that he is an Een of erratic disposition, often given to bouts of madness and anger. You’ll get to meet him first hand, of course, when the new book is released.

King of the City on the Storm

He’s back . . .

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a sketch I was working on for an important scene in Kendra Kandlestar 5. In that original sketch I had envisaged Kendra being attacked by a formidable foe I referred to as “Three Tusks.” While I haven’t dropped Kendra’s encounter with Three Tusks from the text, I decided that the Unger in this sketch looked far too much like Kendra’s old pal, Trooogul.

That’s when I realized that this character was Trooogul. So, when it came time to ink this illustration, I changed Three Tusks to Trooogul. Here’s the final result:

Trooogul and Kendra during the attack on the city.

Why is Trooogul attacking his old comrade, you ask? Well, to find out the answer to that question, you’ll have to wait to read the book. And, yes. I’m working on it!

At least you should be happy that Trooogul is back to play a role in this final Kendra Kandlestar book. I’ve had a few complaints that his role in The Crack in Kazah was just too small!

Paint the scene (with words!)

Elephant in the Room.

Ah, writing. Sometimes it feels like you tugging on a tiny little tail . . . only to discover that on the other end of that tail is an enormous beast.

Has that ever happened to you?

Well, yesterday I posted some of the poems written by my students at the writing camp I was leading in Seoul, Korea, for CWC. Today I thought I would publish the results of our “Paint a Scene” activity.

I LOVE this activity. It’s one of those that can grab you and lead you down a road and the, next thing you know, your engrossed in a much bigger piece.  This activity begins with each participant reaching into a bag to choose a slip of paper with a colour written on it. They you write a short descriptive paragraph, focusing on the chosen colour. The goal is to bring as much of that colour into the paragraph as possible. HOWEVER, you can only use the actual colour word once. And, of course, you have to do this all within about fifteen minutes.

It’s a challenge, but I think my students did a marvelous job, as you can see by the below tales. These are after they had a chance to do a round of edits, so they aren’t quite as raw as the first drafts. However, all of their central ideas came out in that first fifteen minutes. After that, they just had to “tame the beast,” as it were . . .

* * *

By Angela Cho

One day, blue took over the world. The ground and the sky were the same color as if a young child had poured paint all over his paper. The ocean’s harsh waves nosily smashed the stones. Above it were seagulls and jays making their journey across the empty sky. Not even a speck of cloud was to be seen. Marina, dressed in turquoise T-shirt, short jeans, and necklace made of seashells walked along the shore, being greeted by the dolphins, whales, and all sorts of water creatures. Her sapphire eyes sparkled under the burning sun, which presented freshness to other people. She soon arrived at her village, where all her friends and family remained. In the tall building, she lived on the highest floor, where the ocean and the sky could be seen with just one glance. Like the sea, the world didn’t seem to have an end to it.

* * *

By Catherine Lee

Filly peered past the door, watching customers come and go in the gigantic candy store. A dark-haired woman walked out, passing Filly by while handing a little boy—probably her son—a lollipop. The man with odd magenta hair, who had also passed her and entered the store some minutes ago, had a strange taste for candy, she noted. He was gesturing to a jar of scorpion and cricket lollipops, especially beaming with glee when he pointed to coral-colored ones. She had never seen anyone who actually bought them. The man walked out with the bright-colored package and eyed Filly strangely. Filly froze, took a deep breath, and fingered her pink sunglasses, just in case they fell off. It might look a little peculiar, wearing pink sunglasses in winter. But what could she do? Filly was having the aftereffects of an eye infection; her eyes were still puffy red from it, and she didn’t want to look weird.

Unfortunately, she did.

Filly took a deep breath, closed her eyes, and walked into the sweet shop, hoping that she wouldn’t look too out of place. Walking to the farthest place from the door, she hoped to find something that no one would’ve bought before. She stopped, turning the curb she had memorized by sight. She opened her eyes, and gasped.

Everything, all the walls and the ceiling, let alone the sweets, were one color. The bright scarlet walls were covered with blooming carnation and roses. She could even see blossoms of the cosmos flower so real that Filly leaned over to touch them. Everywhere in the space were sweets, all of them the color of strawberries, neatly assorted into the containers, all the covers so bright. Cotton candy, peach-flavored bubble gums, rose-scented chocolate, eyeball candies with light red whites—Filly thought that all kinds of salmon-colored candies were made to fit this room.

* * *
Chloe Kim

Memories once splattered with vibrant colors are now overwhelming me to the point where they are now becoming ever more white. The once thoroughly-filled pages of my brain are now left with battered plain sheets; ones enough to say they’ve been used, but entirely puzzling for not a single word is written on them. And as I endeavor to re-write those sentences, everything around me betrays and hinders me from doing so. Endless walls surrounding and invading me are filled with nothing but old nail marks, scratched with pain. I can feel the sweat and cold tears of those who wanted to escape. The long, colorless faces who visit me with newly-washed gowns make me want to forget, rather than remember. The barren window are only painted with pale clouds, and questions are flooding me. The calmness, so quiet that it is deafening, fills me with chaos. Flakes of snow slowly fall down from the ceiling and crash into my head. They all crowd around me, closing in, until I suffocate to my death.

* * *

By Hannah Lee

I was feeling dizzy and the sky seemed yellow. As I swished side-to-side, sunlight shone down on me, burning my eyes. Falling down, my short hair swayed like dried grass. A butterfly flew by my side, its delicate wings dancing along with the wind.

Grasping the warm dirt beneath my hands, I felt the heat of the sun on my back.

“Daisy!” I heard somebody call my name. I tried to respond, but was feeling too faint to do so. I closed my eyes, the light of the sizzling sun warming my eyelids.

* * *

By Raphael Cho

I am walking in a forest, where brown branches wave their hands, trying to greet me. I, Bron, set near the tree and think how its color matches my hair. Also, I’m thinking about my friend in one of the Ivy League Universities starting with B. Imagining cutting an enormous tree and making furniture and building a house with my dad. In the middle of the work, he always says “Your eye color looks same as your hair.” I can see a squirrel squeaking and jumping all around the tree like he is being chased by a gigantic grizzly bear. I set up and walk home along a wooded road.

* * *

By Yeonjae Song

“Count to ten and you’ll be fine Scarlett,” I say quietly as looked into her tired bloodshot eyes.

“One . . . Two . . . Three.” And she falls asleep.

“Everyone, get your butts moving. Where’s the energy that we need for this?” I commanded the other doctors around the operating table.

I stop breathing and I can see hot sparks leaping in front of my eyes when blood starts to pour out of Scarlett’s arm. Being a surgeon, doesn’t mean I can’t be afraid of blood.

“Are you okay, Mr. Rouger? You look a little flushed,” asks one of the nurses.

Before I can even answer, another doctor practically shouts in my ear,  “Mr. Rouger, the patient is loosing too much blood!”

I look at Scarlett and am alarmed to see that her cheeks are losing their rosiness and becoming pale. I point at the nurses to fetch the rubber cylinder ready for the donor blood and I focus back on Scarlett.

I am wearing brown glasses that make the blood look less horrifying, but I can’t focus on the surgery anymore. Scarlett’s arm is broken at its joint and pulled out of its sockets and she looks like a cracked doll covered in a dark gooey crimson paste.

I grab two pieces of her broken arm bravely, and just as I do, the smell of rust and iron rushes over and clings on to my nose for dear life. The tomato lasagna I had for lunch threatens to come up and I have to breathe in deeply to calm myself down. I take off my glasses and wipe my nose with my gloves, just before I realize that the gloves w are dripping with freshly produced blood; dull slimy red, staining my blue mask and green smock.

My body goes stiff and I run out of the operation room, all the while trailing drops of dark brown blood behind me, on the squeaky clean floor.

* * *

By Yeonsoo Song

It was full of life. The rich forest emitted soothing, lush warmth. The grass beneath was tickling Vertella’s feet. Grasshoppers sang, frantic frogs hopped up and down in the air. Above them were leaves hanging onto the apples not yet ripe. Vertella was wearing a flowery dress and a grass-woven hat. Her emerald eyes twinkled with delight as she caught sight of her favorite snack inside her picnic basket: kiwi. Vertella leaned against the moss-covered tree trunk and started to knit a scarf that could contain the vibrancy of life around her.

* * *

By Young Taek Hong

The world started to turn black. The number of thieves, robbers was increasing. There were burning buildings and ashes floated all over the place. Also, there were many crimes being committed. Whenever a person left their house, the shadows of evil fell upon their backs. The criminals shouted for freedom. Judgment was not occurring properly as if there was no rule in this world. Innocent people were the only victims of this darkness. People were crying and praying for a light to shine.

* * *

Oh, last but not least . . . here’s mine. I decided I would engage in this activity along with them (after all, sometimes it’s good to stress along with them). The only colour left in our bag was “orange.” Thankfully, this is also my favourite colour . . .

* * *

By Lee Edward Födi

Wrapping a finger around a curl of her carrot-top hair, Dahlia cast a gaze at the spectacular evening sky. It seemed as if it was on fire, streaked with brilliant cadmium and thin ochre clouds. She trudged down the steps of the porch, its tangerine paint long since blistered away by the relentless sun. Her eyes lingered upon the long-expired copper-coloured fields as they glowed in the last of the day’s fiery light. She ambled past the row of drooping peach trees; the setting sun made their dry branches gleam like burning brands. At last she came to the river. It had dwindled to a trickle now, but what was left of it shone like a streak of lava. Maybe this is what death is, Dahlia thought. At the very end, just before it erupts into a fiery inferno, it is a beautiful vista, so deceivingly bursting and blooming with the colour of life. Orange.

Some poetry from Seoul

Brainstorming for poetry.

Just wrapped up “Boost” camp for Teen-aged writers in Seoul, Korea, on behalf of CWC. They produced some fantastic creative stories—but I think some of my favourite pieces were the short “exploratory” exercises that we did.

One of these exercises were to take a single object or setting and write three separate poems about it: A Descriptive Poem, A Point of View Poem (in which the author imagines him/herself as the object or setting) and a Metaphor Poem (in which the object or setting serves as a metaphor for a feeling).

A few of my favourite poems are below. Tomorrow, I’ll post some of my favourite examples from our “Paint a Scene” activity.

* * *

CANDLE (Descriptive Poem)
By Angela Cho

A flare of red and orange
Tiny but tremendous
Cold but cozy
Making silent hisses
All through the night
Sweating beads of wax
Its twisting body
Shrinking every minute
But lightning the night with hope.

* * *

CLOCK (Descriptive Poem)
By Catherine Lee

Ticking, swinging,
Telling the time
Cuckoos twitter
Every hour.
Beside the fireplace,
The grandfather will sit.
On your wrist,
The child will rest.Whether you are
Young or old,
The most lasting
Will be the clock.

* * *

MIRROR (Metaphor Poem)
By Hannah Lee

A mirror is your second shadow,
Copying every move you make.
A simple shake of your head,
A twist of an arm,
A mirror is passing time.
It lets you see the world
With many angles,
But does now let you keep it.
A mirror is the truth of our world,
Reflecting only what it sees.

* * *

Until Green Comes Again
By Chloe Kim

I am a Jungle.
Every day, my heart grows barren
As it gets chopped by newly-made knives.
The vessels, straining to stay strong, merely burst;
Scarlet blood splatters onto my long, stretched arms.

Tears flow down my jagged face,
But even those are collected in little bottles to drink.
The empty cheekbones that used to be
Filled with pink, warm flush
Have been taken to those who already have enough,
Sticking my flesh on top of theirs without remorse.

Beautiful children that I have adored,
Girls with ponytails and polka-dot skirts,
Boys with striped trousers and leather boots;
Some have been imprisoned, never enjoying the taste of freedom
Again; others were skinned
To death. Stealing their flesh and fiber
For the people’s good.

I wish I could have punished all
Who have grabbed and stolen
But they are my sons and daughters as well.
Once innocent and followed me with no doubt,
Now invading their mother herself.
The only thing I would do is wait,
Wait for them to give my other children back,
Wait for them until my cheeks are red again,
Wait for them to give all my
Green back to me.

* * *

SKELETON KEY (Descriptive Poem)
By Raphael Cho

Old and fashioned,
Making harmony with others
Can fit or not;
If it fits, magic will be brought.
It could be the only chance for you,
Unlocking your hope and dreams.

* * *

BOOK (Descriptive Poem)
By Yeonjae Song

The satisfying crack of the spine,
Crackle of crisp new pages
Scent of them too—the scent of new adventure,
Awaiting me over the horizon of each line,
Lines filled with wonder and delight
And unexpected wisdom,
Hidden within new realms —
The thrill of anticipation.

* * *

By Yeonsoo Song

I am a pearl.
I wait in eternity.
I wait for the future not promised.
Some may never discover my fascination,
But when I envision my highest ambitions
I have power that will last me
Through the toughest blizzards.
Until my dreams shine,
I stay concealed among the secrets
Of the deepest ocean.

* * *

By Young Taek Hong

I am the ocean.
Some may think I’m comfortable.
Some may think I’m formidable.
Don’t worry;
Feel the world
That I send
And you will know who I am.

Writing with Seoul

I’m leading a writer’s retreat in Seoul for a gaggle of teenaged writers. I usually work with younger writers, so this has been a new experience for me—and I’ve really enjoyed it.

We’ve had some interesting and in-depth discussions about the craft of writing and though I’m feeling a bit worn out (after all, I just wrapped up Galaxy Camp three days ago!), there’s part of me that feels like this retreat is as much for me as it is for them. Today I was able to get in a few solid hours of my own writing time for my new Kendra Kandlestar book, successfully navigating my way through a few sections that have been giving me grief up til now.

It helps that we’re not in a classroom setting. We’ve hunkered down in a suite on the tenth floor of a hotel in central Seoul. You can see the view from our windows. The one photo shows the bustling vista of the city; the other snapshot reveals a city in flux. Behind the construction fences stand some humble and traditional homes where some stubborn residents apparently hold out against the encroachment of Seoul’s ceaseless development.

Seoul View.

Seoul View.

For me, there’s everything I need nearby. Starbucks is a stone’s throw away, as are any number of restaurants.  Here we don’t have to think about the mundane tasks of cooking or cleaning—everything’s been provided and we can just concentrate on our words.

My young peers in this retreat have been producing some wonderful work. I’m pleased to see them taking to their brainstorming journals and welcoming this unique experience. Today, I worked with them to write some poetry. The results have been pretty spectacular in my opinion. Perhaps I can convince them to let me share some of their words on this blog. We’ll have to see . . .

Student  brainstorming

The story in our stars . . .

The storm in the StarsIn the world of Kendra Kandlestar, the Eens look to the stars for portents of the future. This is a particular interest of Uncle Griffinskitch’s, who even has an observatory at the top of his yew tree house so that he can gaze upon the constellations.

I thought designing constellations and connecting them to myths would be a great final activity for the Galaxy Camp in Yongin, Korea. I handed out a pattern of stars (an actual one, showing the layout of the skies of the northern hemisphere) and asked the students to create their own constellation. For the second part of the activity, they wrote short myths to explain the origins of their constellations.

For inspiration, I read out some of the famous Een myths, such as the Legends of Charlo’s Crook, Kojo’s Hope, and the Whistling Wood. Admittedly, none of these myths connected to the stars, but it did help them understand the style of writing a myth.

This was the first time I had tried this activity, and I have to thank Kallie George, who originally developed this workshop and shared it with me. It turned out beautifully!

Galaxy Camp - starchart

Galaxy Camp - starchart

Galaxy Camp - starchart

Galaxy Camp - starchart

Galaxy Camp - starchart