They Are Everywhere Among Us, Their Work Not Yet Done

Pushed this up in the order for those who might’ve missed it.

Incoming transmission, through the filaments…

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Shared Worlds Photos (Wofford College, Spartanburg SC)

(The wonderful Holly Black deconstructing Hansel & Gretel for the Shared Worlds students.)

A couple of deadlines are taking up my time, but I wanted to post the link to the photo set for Shared Worlds.

Shared Worlds is a unique two-week writing camp for teens. We’re in our second year, and it’s a wonderful blend of learning, fun, and, of course writing. The students build their worlds in the first week and write stories in them the second week. This year, guest writers included Tobias Buckell, Will Hindmarch, Holly Black, Darin Bradley, Ann VanderMeer, and moi. They did a lot of hard work, which I’ll talk about in blog posts later this week–as well as the excellent faculty.

A few sample photos…

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Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens

I love botanical gardens, so it was a happy confluence when I noticed a sign for the Daniel Stowe Botanical Gardens at an exit off of I-85 on my way to the Charlotte airport after Shared Worlds. I had three hours until the flight, so I stopped at the gardens for a good forty minutes. Such gardens often strike me as somewhat fanciful, even fantastical, in the confluence of whimsical elements. This garden was interesting because of the high number of water features.

It was a doubly delightful detour because it turned out I could drive on from the gardens to the airport, and the whole drive–to the gardens and then on to the airport–was through just lovely, scenic countryside and small towns. Next year, Ann and I will definitely want to explore the area further.

Anyway, here are some photos, with the whole set on flickr.

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Shared Worlds Chapbook, Design by John Coulthart, Text from the Students

Although I will be blogging generally about the teen writing camp Shared Worlds (for which I serve as assistant director) over the next few days, I thought I would start out with something specific: the Shared Worlds chapbook that collected their artifact and bestiary writing exercises in saddle-stapled form. With great support from the teaching assistants and Cathy Connor in IT, we were able to create and print this nice memento of the students’ experience within about four-days–largely due, of course, to John Coulthart’s expertise and experience.

The exercises only capture a little snapshot of what the students were up to–and they produced a lot of cool stuff, including their full story in week two–but we thought it important to give them something to take away from the camp. In the back of the chapbook, we included space for autographs. So after we surprised them with it on the second Friday, the students were able to go around and have everyone sign it, too. (See photos below.)

John did great job with the images, and as you can see one student, Noah, even included diagrams as part of his artifact entry.

The two exercises were really about leveraging and stretching your imagination. On the first day each student got an “artifact”–an object that they had to recontextualize in their shared world, which meant they had to by the end of week one, with their worlds fairly complete, to turn in two to four paragraphs on how that object fit into their milieu. It could be something owned by or of significance to a character, a piece of a country’s history, or just about anything. Part the point, given that many of the artifacts are pretty mundane, ordinary things, is to show the students that anything in the real world can be fodder for their fantastical writing. Some students even used their artifact paragraphs as the basis for their complete story in the second week.

The bestiary exercise has them pair up and write about their partner as if that person were a fantastical animal, using their powers of observation (in a nice way) to tell the reader something true about that person. This exercise served as a nice way to get a fanciful author’s bio for each student in the back of the chapbook. (It’s also part of a longer series of exercises Ann and I do as part of adult workshops.)

Here, then, are a few relevant photos, with more on Shared Worlds generally tomorrow.

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Shared Worlds–Photos on Facebook and Elsewhere

(Ann with the students, this past Saturday)
Frankly, the last week is a blur. I forgot how much time and energy you spend on a workshop like Shared Worlds, and how patient you have to be about doing things like blog posting and other stuff on your plate.

The photos below show Holly Black from the first week, the students with Holly, them in class, with Ann, and presenting their worlds. I’ll have more text soonish, on Amazon and elsewhere, and you can also check out my mobile uploads to Facebook here.

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Cat Texture (provided by Jackson)

Some relaxing cat texture for your Friday. Thank you, and good night. I must gets off the intratubes.

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The Fantastical Capybara: An Interview with Melanie Typaldos About Her Caplin Rous

Update: Caplin Rous’ FACute, answering many questions.

My first encounter with a capybara was sad and strange: I saw one in a cramped cage at a county fair as a teenager. In amongst the rides, the shooting galleries, and the weird food, just this tiny cage and this incredibly peculiar creature that I’d never seen before, or even imagined existed. It had unbelievably beautiful eyes. Ever since then, I’ve been fascinated with capybaras because they seem so fantastical and they also have this gruffly wise look to them. (I only wish I had found some way to rescue that first one from what couldn’t have been a great life.)

Recently, I had a dream about capybaras, and, astoundingly, a capybara named Caplin Rous, responded in the comments! This led to further investigations, and the discovery that Caplin Rous lives in Texas, and that Melanie Typaldos dons the Caplin Rous (Rodents of Unusual Size, if you remember your Princess Bride) persona for her website devoted to her capybara. Not only that, Typaldos has just released a kid’s book called Celeste and the Giant Hamster, which does include appearances by a capybara. (The book is well-written, clever and interesting–definitely worth buying.)

It seemed only natural, given the topics that crop up on Ecstatic Days, to interview Melanie Typaldos about Caplin Rous, as wonderful a capybara as I’ve ever seen. The answers about capybaras may surprise you, including what sounds they make! It’s just a great interview.

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Moomin: Building a Steampunk Maker Time Machine in Ten Easy Steps

(If you’re unfamiliar with Moomin, check out the official site and the wiki)

Drawn & Quarterly has just released the fourth reprint volume of the Moomin cartoon series by the amazing Tove Jansson–and it starts out with a classic step-by-step introduction to the Steampunk Maker process. Note that Moomin papa is even wearing a Steampunk-appropriate hat. Truly, Jansson was ahead of her time…

#1 – Assemble your parts from the guts of other, broken machines.

#2 – Allow yourself a discovery phase based on what you’ve assembled.

#3 – Understand that a vital element of chance will enter your process.

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