Activities for kids: Thinking INSIDE the box

boxofwhispers-3dI’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small stuck at home and trying to remain creative! I call this activity Thinking INSIDE the box.

I started delivering this activity to kids in my creative writing workshops after the publication of Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers, one of my most popular books. In that book, a young Een goes in search of a mystical container that holds something all-too precious to her societ

There are many wonderful myths and stories of enchanted vessels. One’s that pop to mind are Pandora’s box, Urashima Tarō’s box, and Aladdin’s lamp all come to mind, and can help provide extra inspiration to the young creators in your house.

What you will need:

  • Paper
  • Drawing supplies
  • The handouts (below)

Bonus:

  • Any kind of wooden are cardboard box
  • Paint and brushes

There are a few different ways to approach this activity. For younger kids, I like to use this very simple handout, which allows them to take a pre-drawn box and simply concentrate on the design, patterns, and colors.

WS-My box

Here are a few examples of student projects:

elc-box30

elc-box32

A box holding all the magic of the sea.

 

For older students, I prefer this brainstorming sheet, which allows them to freeform doodles shapes and designs for boxes, and also prompts them to consider more deeply some of the story-telling aspects of their box.

WS-Think Inside the box - brainstorming

Here are some examples of past boxes designed

cwc_circus_box00

cwc_circus_box04

cbis_box08

Maker-space opportunities

If you have craft containers knocking about your house, wooden or even cardboard, then you can turn your box design into a three-dimensional model. The fun part of this, of course, is that you can FILL the magical container with items!

In my time as a creativity teacher, my students have made quite a few boxes . . .

cbis_box02

familystories2016-memorybox-casten

familystories2016-memorybox-fiona

familystories2016-memorybox-andrew

familystories2016-memorybox-avary

montgomerybox-23

box_eyes

cwc_circus_box05

And here is my model of a box . . . the Box of Whispers. It is pretty big and not only served as a great prop for when I was touring this book, but also as storage for same said books!

Een Museum - Box of Whispers

Writing prompt

In terms of writing, this project provides the platform for an epic tale—I’ve had many students take this prompt and dive into the telling of a character in search of a mythical box (perhaps after it has been stolen)!

However, I always tell teachers that a good bite-sized project is to have students write the single scene in which a character first discovers the box. This avoids students having to dwell or worry about what I call “plot paralysis”—becoming so consumed with a plot that they forget to think about character development and description. By removing overall story plot as a factor to consider, students can just focus on a character in the magical moment of discovery.

(Also, I’m just a little exhausted of trying to convince my students that they don’t have to start a story with the long boring sequence of invents that involves their characters waking up in the morning to the sun shining through the window, brushing their teeth, running downstairs to eat breakfast, running to the bus, running to school, running home after school . . . and THEN they actually something important to the plot starts! If you’re a teacher, you KNOW what I’m talking about!)

Have fun with this project. Stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .

Activities for kids: Let’s get out of this place

zoone_brochure_inside_mockup

I’m posting my latest activity for all of us kids big and small who are stuck at home. Today’s activity: Designing a brochure for an imagined world.

The truth is that when I was a kid, we didn’t go on a lot of vacations. A big reason for this is that I grew up on a family farm and the summer—when most people go on vacation—was the time for us to work really hard and earn the income that would sustain us for the rest of the year.

So, most of my “vacations” were taken through books—either by reading them or writing them.

Of course, reading or writing are great ways to escape NOW, during our world COVID-19 pandemic, but I want to provide a bit more focus with this activity. Who knows, it might turn into a book—or, if you have already written a book or story, this project can be a fun way to view your “world” from a different perspective.

I’ve delivered this activity several times with students at schools or programs I’ve worked at in Canada and Korea, and it’s proven to be a lot of fun.

The imaginary travel brochure

What you will need:

  • Paper — you can use either blank paper or use the template I’ve provided
  • Drawing supplies: Pens, pencils, colored pencils, fine-liners, markers—your preference!
  • Optional: glue

The goal of this project is to make a three-panel tri-fold brochure, which you can do simply by folding a letter-sized piece of paper into thirds. That gives you three panels on one side of the brochure, and three on the other. You can do your brochure double-sided on a single sheet of paper, or if you are worried about your paper being too thin, and markers bleeding through, then just do this project on two separate pieces of paper, which you could always glue together afterward.

travelbrochure-template-folded-flat

travelbrochure-template-folded-standing

There are no real rules to how to fill out the pages, but I recommend:

SIDE 1

  • Panel 1 (the cover): Cover art and title, such as “Come Visit . . .”
  • Panel 6 (the back cover): Contact information.
  • Panel 5: More information about the world the brochure is advertising—I like doing a “did you know” section here.

Travel Brochure.indd

SIDE 2

  • Panel 2: General information about the world, showcasing key points of interest.
  • Panels 3&4: A bigger piece of artwork, such as a landscape of the world, or a map.

Travel Brochure.indd

Of course, I highly recommend brainstorming the content and working on some rough copies before worrying about the final version. You can use your own blank paper folded into thirds, though if you want some content blocks to work with, then you can download my template HERE. You can also download and print out the template with the instructions, just in case you want something sitting in front of you to look at.

If you do print out my template double-sided, you may have to experiment with how your printer works—certain devices seem to flip the second page the wrong way!

Come visit these imaginary worlds:

I always have this rule in my creativity classes: If I ask YOU to do it, then I’ve also done it. So, here are two brochures that I’ve made! One is for The Land of Een, which is featured in my Kendra Kandlestar book series. The other is for the multiverse that appears in my Zoone series–because Zoone features so many different worlds, I decided to do that brochure a little bit differently!

een_brochure-side01

een_brochure-side02

zoone_brochure-side01

zoone_brochure-side02

Finally, here are some brochure examples done by past students.

Foodlandia:

Betty-travelbrochure01

Betty-travelbrochure02

Rainbow Island:

Camille-travelbrochure01

Camille-travelbrochure02

Land of Cute:Jimmy-travelbrochure01Jimmy-travelbrochure02

Ocean Kingdom:

Linda-travelbrochure-01Linda-travelbrochure-02

I’d love to see what kids come up with! If you post them on social media, please hashtag #imaginarytravelbrochure and tag me (I’m @leefodi on Instagram and twitter).

In the meantime, stay safe, stay well, and stay tuned . . .

 

All the things worth worrying about—and the things that are not

secret_of_zoone_coverI’ve been a little anxious lately in advance of the release of my new book, The Secret of Zoone, worried about ALL THE THINGS. Will the book sell? What if it “fails?” This is my first book with a big New York house. What if this is my only shot, and I blow it?

Then, yesterday, I had an uplifting and grounding experience when I visited Meadowridge School to deliver a presentation and workshop.

First of all, there were so many joyful faces, so many kids dressed in beautiful, colorful clothes for Lunar New Year. One of these kids was a student who took my creative writing class last year. I can’t believe I bumped into her in such a giant school! She called me from down the hall, then came and hugged me. She was with her mom, who insisted that we take a photo together.

Afterward, I delivered my presentation and workshop to some pretty enthusiastic fans of Kendra Kandlestar. One girl came with her hair in Kendra’s seven braids and a boy came as Professor Bumblebean (and he talked like him throughout our workshop session, too!).

meadowridge2019_kendrahair.jpg

It was pretty overwhelming to receive their outpouring of love for Kendra. Their joy as we workshopped together was palpable. We wrote “visual stories” and were having so much fun that I lost track of the time—and I guess they did, too, because we went right through recess (there’s no bells at the school).

meadowridge2019_presenting.jpg

Then, as I was packing up all my dragon eggs and other magical items I had brought to inspire the crew, I noticed a book on display on the library bookshelf. It was a book written a few years ago by another student under my mentorship. It was so cool to see it so prominently featured there, and I thought how it must inspire all these other kids who come to visit the library.

meadowridge2019_briansbook_mythofgryph.jpg

As I drove home, I contemplated, not for the first time, what it means to be a children’s author, and how strange it is to release something into the world that you then completely lose control of. These kids have a relationship with Kendra Kandlestar that transcends ALL THE THINGS. They could care less how many other kids have read it, how many copies it has sold, or if it was written a kajillion years ago.

I don’t know if these kids—or any kids—will love my new characters of Ozzie, and Tug, and Fidget in the way that these kids love Kendra, Oki, and Captain Jinx. But there will probably be a few. And that is humbling.

 

 

Touring libraries in Korea

Touring libraries in Korea

In a previous post, I described the “Storytelling Carnival Camp” that in taught in South Korea with Stacey Matson and Dan Bar-el. There was no rest for the weary after this camp—we immediately whisked off on a short tour of libraries.

Supporting literacy

The tour was put together with the help of the Canadian Embassy in Seoul and The Creative Writing for Children society. It is part of an ongoing effort to help build a cultural bridge between Canada and Korea and to help support literacy initiatives there.

Day 1: Yongin International Library

First stop of the tour was this palatial library in the city of Yongin. Actually, perhaps palatial isn’t quite the right word—the brand-new building is more like a stadium, and I mean that in terms of not only how it looks, but in its size.

In fact, at first we thought we must have the wrong place. How could we be visiting a library in a sports arena?

Turns out, it is just a magnificent and cavernous recreation and community center. There are all sorts of facilities in this facility—including a massive library.

When we first arrived, the place was empty, leaving me with a lonely, hollow feeling. All those unattended books! We were escorted to our presentation room and began setting up our computers and slideshows. Soon, families began streaming in.

librarytour2018_yongin_library

This turned out to be the most ostentatious of our events, with even local dignitaries attending. We could never quite figure out if it was the mayor of Yongin or the premier of the province.

We delivered our introductory presentations, then afterwards broke into three groups to deliver focused writing workshops. I decided that the focus of my tour would be to lead brainstorming sessions inspired by my book Kendra Kandlestar and the Box of Whispers. I discussed with the students different enchanted vessels in mythology, such as Pandora’s box from Greek mythology and Urashima Tarō’s box from Japanese lore. Then I led an interactive session in which we designed our own boxes, imagining what each of them held, how they were opened, and who would find them.

librarytour2018_yongin_lef_presenting

librarytour2018_yongin_lef_brainstorming

librarytour2018_yongin_bookbrainstorming01

librarytour2018_yongin_bookbrainstorming02

librarytour2018_yongin_bookbrainstorming03

After the workshops, the library held a book sale. Even though the attendees were well versed in English, many of the kids asked me to sign their books in Hangul, the Korean alphabet. Here’s a photo of the sheet showing the kid’s writing down their names, so I would have something to copy. (In truth, I do this no matter the language I’m signing in, because even the most innocuous-sounding names can sometimes have surprising spellings).

librarytour2018_yongin_lef_signingsheet

librarytour2018_yongin_dan_signing

When we finally exited our rooms, it was to find the library simply teeming with families. What an awesome sight. There were kids draped on stools and cushions, reading, playing, and basically enjoying the library.

Day 2: Mapo Community Library

The next day took us into the heart of Seoul, to a quieter, humbler library found on an unassuming street. This library is sponsored by a local university and we found the kids here to be quite tightknit, coming from the same neighborhood within the city.

They had pre-read my book Kendra Kandlestar series, which made it a lot of fun to talk and work with them.

librarytour2018_mapo_sign.jpg

Since the kids were a little shy in asking questions, I took a poll to determine their favourite characters from the books.

Here are the official results:
Kendra: 5
Oki: 4
Jinx: 2
Uncle Griffinskitch: 2
Rumor: 1
Ratchet: 1
Undecided: 4

Poor Trooogul. Never got a sniff.

Mapo Community Library had a real cozy feel to it; you can tell it’s a type of haven, full of quiet nooks and corners for the neighborhood kids to come hang out in and talk with the warm and friendly staff. I wasn’t able to get many pictures here, just because of how the schedule went, but it was definitely a memorable environment.

Day 3: Sonpa English Library

The final day of our tur took us south of the Han River to a more distant neighborhood. This library is in an old water management system building that has been converted for community use. It is a beautiful space, however, with workshop rooms and a main presentation area.

Dan, Stacey, and I each delivered introductory presentations and then were lined up for a group Q&A. This was really quite fun. The library organizers had been worried that the kids would be too shy to ask questions, but they weren’t. I remember one question in particular: “What is your ultimate goal?”

That one made me think on my feet. I came up with what I thought was a pretty good answer at the time, but I actually can’t remember what it is now. (I just know I resisted the temptation to shout out “WORLD DOMINATION!”)

librarytour2018_songpa-staceylibrarytour2018_songpa-danlibrarytour2018_songpa-authors-q&a

After the Q&A, we each delivered short writing workshops again. In my room there was a board of questions specifically about my Kendra Kandlestar books.

librarytour2018_songpa-book_questions

librarytour2018_songpa-lefdiscussing

By the way, this library had the best bathroom I’ve ever visited. Just check out this urinal:

librarytour2018_songpa-urinal

A real success

All the audiences were super-engaged, despite the fact that English was the second language for most of them. I want to give a big thank you to CWC and the Canadian Embassy in Seoul for arranging and assisting in the tour and another giant shout out to the staff at each library for their warm and generous hearts. Their love of literature and children really shone in each of their spaces.

librarytour2018_songpa-authors&staff

In which a girl with pointed ears and crazy hair gets her own plaque

readinglights_lee_plaque

Last year I received the exciting news that the first book in my Kendra Kandlestar series, The Box of Whispers, would be a part of the Reading Lights literacy initiative, in which plaques featuring children’s books by BC authors and illustrators  are installed on lamp posts near parks, playgrounds, schools, and libraries throughout the city of Vancouver. This week, the actual plaque was installed at Alma Park near 12th & Dunbar on the west side of the city.

The Reading Lights program represents an exciting collaboration between the Vancouver Public Library and the Children’s Writers and Illustrators of B.C. Society. The first set of twenty Reading Lights plaques were installed in January 2016 and another wave is set to come out in 2018.

Check out the official Reading Lights website, where you can view an interactive map of all the plaques installed for both Phase 1 and 2 of the project. You can even download the map to take with you as you go on a kid-lit hunt!

reading_lights_feb2017_map

reading_lights_feb2017_legend

 

Building a dragon egg

I’ve had a bit of time over the past couple of weeks so I’ve taken full advantage of it by, first, having some R&R, second, doing a lot of writing, and, third, by building a dragon egg.

This egg will become a part of the museum of magical artifacts, which I often take on author visits to schools and libraries to help spark the kids’ imaginations. Many of the artifacts are from my Kendra Kandlestar series, or from other books I have in development.

I started with a simple paper cache egg, which gave a base coat of metallic green paint (by the end of this process, I realized that undercoating of paint was completely unnecessary).  I then bejeweled slowly and carefully. Thankfully, I found these strips of jewels, which made this task a little less onerous. I then filled in the gaps with individual jewels.

dragonegg01-painted&jewelling

The jewels weren’t that sticky, so I added coats of modge-podge along the way to keep everyone sticking. A lot of patience was required between drying times.

dragonegg02-modgepodgingdragonegg03-modgepodging

Modge-podge dries clear, so this is what the egg looked like at the end of the bejeweling process. To be honest, I didn’t really have a set plan for this project, and part of me thought I could have just considered the egg completed at this stage . . . it does look rather pretty. dragonegg04-bejewelled

However, it also looks very “made”, so I kept on going, groping on metallic green paint.

dragonegg05-painting

By this stage, I had a very cool looking egg, with what looks like more organic bumps.

dragonegg06-paintedundercoat

Then came the most challenging part of the process, which was trying to get the final paint job just right. I wanted to achieve an overall cohesive tone, while at the same time adding some texture and nuanced color depth. I also wanted the egg to have a graduation of color, going from dark at the bottom to light at the top.

dragonegg07-drybrushing

I mostly accomplished this with some splattering and then a whole lot of dry brushing of other colors, including black, bronze, gold, and emerald green. I’m not sure how much those color subtleties show up in the photos, but they are there when you behold the egg in real life.

Final stage was to spray the whole thing with fixatif at the end. Here some photos of the final . . .

dragonegg08-completeddragonegg09-completeddragonegg10-completedtopdragonegg11-completedtop

Whew! This was actually my practice run . . . I’ve got a much bigger egg I want to build once I get the next break in my schedule. That one will be a little more “deluxe” . . .

Great middle-grade novels: for free or $.99

promographic

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:
http://andreapearsonbooks.blogspot.com/

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!

 

Magical lenses for a magical adventure

goggles_01

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:

goggles_02goggles_03goggles_04goggles_05goggles_06goggles_07goggles_08goggles_09goggles_10goggles_11goggles_12

 

 

 

Legends & Lore from the Land of Een

Legends & Lore - Kindle CoverThroughout the month of October, I was celebrating the ten-year-anniversary of my Kendra Kandlestar series. But what’s an anniversary without gifts? So what makes a good gift for such a momentous occasion?

How about a brand-new never-before-released Kendra Kandlestar book?

FOR FREE.

Yep! You can download “Legends & Lore from the Land of Een” for FREE from your favorite digital provider. Or, you can even download a PDF, directly from the Kendra Kandlestar website.

This book is a companion book to the series. It includes some favorite stories, myths, and tales from the Land of Een. A few fan-favorite characters pop up here and there, too. Most of the material comes from existing stories and notes, things that I had written to help build the world of Kendra Kandlestar, but couldn’t be included in the actual books. I’m glad there is finally a place for at least some of these stories.

This is especially for all those young readers who have kept sending in their letters asking for more Kendra Kandlestar, even after five books. Well, this gift is for you.

The creation of Kendra Kandlestar: Kids respond

This month of October, I’ve been celebrating the ten-year-anniversary of Kendra Kandlestar (the first book in the series, The Box of Whispers, was published in October, 2005).  The celebration culminates on October 31st when I release a new companion book to the series. Kendra Kandlestar: Legends and Lore from the Land of Een will be available as a free download on all digital platforms. Stay tuned for the links!

But back to today’s particular celebration! In previous posts, I’ve discussed the ideas and inspiration for the different elements of the series; today I wanted to celebrate the things that authors have no control over . . . reader response.

I’m very grateful for all of the love that has been thrown Kendra’s way over the past decade. In addition to numerous hand-written letters, Een-mails (very similar to emails; you can send one through kendrakandlestar.com), and notes, I’ve had the joy of receiving all sorts of photos showing fan engagement.

Here’s some of my favorites from over the years, from kids small and big alike!

Dolls and figures
I think one of the things I enjoy the most is when readers reinterpret my characters and turn them into other incarnations!

More Kendra Peg Figures kendrakandlestar_pegfigures

This is a Kendra doll in progress. Check out them ears!

kendradoll

oki_stuffie

Dioramas and models
There are many magical environments and items in Kendra’s world. Here’s some of them brought to three-dimensional life . . .

diorama_ratchetsstump

boxofwhisper_prop

Kids in costume
Of course, Kendra’s hair makes her a great candidate for a Halloween costume. When she was younger, my own goddaughter, Charlotte, dressed as Kendra and came to my book launches. Here’s a picture of her these many years ago . . .

charlotte_kendra_costume

But many kids over the years have chosen to take on the task without bribery from me . . .

kendracostume03

kendracostume02

Kendra Kandlestar costume.

kendracostume01

Fun stuff
Now for the really fun stuff!

This cake was made by my friend Carrie for the recent launch of the final book in the series, The Search for Arazeen:

arazeenlaunch_kendracake

Someone used Oki as the basis for a jack o’lantern:

okipumpkin

And a very big fan (I mean both in the size of her fandom and in her physical age) got an Oki tattoo!

Oki Tattoo

Drawings
Of course, kids have given me all sort of Kendra Kandlestar artwork over the years. I love to see their versions of these characters.

jeannie_kendradrawing

chloe_kendra_christmas

sueah_kendradrawing

graceli_kendradrawing

Sonya's drawing of Kendra Kandlestar.

Charlotte's drawing of Kendra

elc_fanart_yash

elc_fanart_suhavi

elc_fanarts_chanice

elc_fanart_emma&yasmin

elc_fanart_agam

elc_fanart_alexander

elc_fanart_lika

Kendra Kandlestar

Charlotte's drawing of Kendra

There are so many other drawings, cards, notes, and items I could show. Rest assured, I cherish them all, and have kept every single one ever given to me. Thank you so much for loving Kendra and sticking with her long ten-year journey!