While exploring Tokyo yesterday, I added two more doors to my collection. This first one is quite impressive in size and comes from the Yasakuni shrine.
This door is also from Yasakuni.
As for this door, it’s not normally ones I collect, but I found it in a back alley of Shinjuku and it just caught my attention. I actually passed it by, then went back to it.
I’m not sure where this door leads . . . but I have a feeling it guards more than it suggests by its simple, austere exterior.
I’ve stopped off in Japan on my way home from leading the Monsters & Mythology camp in Korea. I always love to visit new places, especially those with traditional or ancient architecture.
As such, it was with great zeal that I visited Sensō-ji, an ancient Buddhist temple in Asakusa. There were many details to fill me with inspiration.
Anyone who knows me, knows I love to “collect” doors. I found a few more to add to my gallery.
This doorway I came across in Asakusu, where I’m staying. I was amused that it was protected by two stone threshold guardians—and a real one.
More adventures await tomorrow!
This is another new character I’ve been working on for my new project. This character has had a tough past, as you can see by the scar on his face, but he has a gentle heart. I kind of imagine him as part Samurai warrior, part Viking.
The most successful activity at the Monsters & Mythology creative writing camp in Yongin, Korea, was the “monster in a bottle” activity. This was my first time doing this workshop, so I was thrilled that the kids loved it so much.
For this activity, each student assembled a bottle of monster “ingredients.” We had a whole selection of supplies for them to choose from, but we implemented the rule that they could only choose three, which I found made them to be more creative. There were bones, fangs, fur, feathers, and even eyeballs!
Once they had collected the material in their bottles, they had to make labels and tags for them. Then they wrote a series of instructions that explained how to “hatch” and care for that creature. The final step was to write a short story about what went wrong when a character didn’t follow the instructions properly after buying their creature from the Magic Monster Shop!
I’m currently leading the Monsters & Mythology writing camp in Yongin, Korea, and the theme just wouldn’t be complete without tackling the idea of transformation. After all, there are so many famous cases throughout myth, legend, and literature. We have Beauty and the Beast, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and various other stories about creatures of horror, such as werewolves and vampires.
To that end, I gave the students the story starter of a character who transformed each and every midnight into something else. To help inspire them, they completed a brainstorming sheet and illustrated the two versions of the character.
As a second step, the student prepared miniature wooden frames so that they could then mount those illustrations to create a sort of double-sided portrait. The fun part about this is that they painted each side of the frame with a different design to emphasize the two states of their character.
Next, we glued the two illustrations together and attached them to the frames. The results were fantastic, if I do say so myself:
The final step, of course, was for the students to write the legend that went with their character.
I’m especially pleased by the results of this activity as it was my first time doing it. I never know if some of my ideas will actually turn out once I’m in the workshop. Thankfully, this one was a hit!
We had a whole new group of students join us at the Monsters & Mythology camp last night, so we decided to do a fun activity to engage everyone: black out poetry. We used famous myths as the starting point, then had the students find a poem within the words.
This is a fun project that combines a little bit of art with writing. It’s easy too, even for those who are otherwise intimidated by poetry.
One of the activities that we worked on at the Monsters & Mythology camp in Yongin, Korea, is how to write a more exciting battle scene. In order to coax more description out of my students, I had each of them design their own creature and then “battle” them against each other using multi-sided dice.
This turned out to be a very rambunctious affair, as the students rode the emotional wave of battling their monsters, going through all the ups and downs of losing and winning. Some monsters began the rumble with a lot of power, but ended up losing, due to the luck of the dice. Others hung on to the very end, surviving by the slimmest of margins. After the activity, the students were able to convert this emotional fuel into actual battle stories.
Here are some of their monster profiles . . .
Our latest activity at the Monsters & Mythology camp I’m leading in Yongin, Korea, involved creating a monstrous lunch menu.
The students designed their own menu that you might find in a monster’s world and then decorated the take out box to match.
The final step was to write a story in which a monster encountered a problem with its order. As you can guess, monsters don’t really deal with problems in the healthiest of ways . . .
Afterwards, as a treat, I filled up each of the monster take out boxes with the type of snacks that all littler monsters love: junk food!
Earlier this week, I did some sketches on my flight to Asia for a new villain. Here’s a more polished illustration. Still not sure about the overall visual design, so I may end up developing it further. The character needs to look human and “fishy” at the same time.
It seems to me that there are a lot of janitor-type characters who play villainous roles in children’s stories. I think it’s because it’s easy to have them lurk in the dark corners and underbellies of buildings. I guess I’ll be guilty of perpetuating this if I go ahead with this particular character.
I’m hunkered down in Yongin, Korea, for the next week leading the “Monsters & Mythology” writing camp for some young authors aged 8 to 13. During this first portion of the camp, I’ve been leading the students in a rather structured story—sort of a mini “hero’s journey.”
I’ve given students three points of inspiration: a magic door to begin the adventure, a map for a character to follow once he or she is through the door, and a monster to face by the end.
We started with a simple brainstorming sheet to collect ideas:
In the following workshop, we designed and built our own doors. This if one of my favourite activities, as it’s such a great inspirational tool and gives students something physical and real that they can describe in their stories. Here’s a few of their doors.
Next, we designed our own maps, which could then serve as a visual plot outline for the rest of the story. We started this activity by doing a general one in which the kids sent me on a journey through a treacherous world. As you can, they threw all the typical things at me that they know I hate: clowns, ketchup, flying monkeys . . . all the basic things that generally terrify me:
This set up the students for taking a more thoughtful approach to their individual story maps:
Finally, we’ve been working on some individual monster designs. Many of the students chose to represent their monsters in “wanted” posters.
Next up? We’ll be creating our own monster languages!