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1. Writing Process: How a Photo on Facebook Influenced JIGSAW JONES: THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE

Illustration by R.W. Alley, from the upcoming Jigsaw Jones book, THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE.

Illustration by R.W. Alley, from the upcoming Jigsaw Jones book, THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE. That’s Jigsaw with his father and grandmother.

-

When writers are fully engaged in their work — not just writing, but actively (or unconsciously) thinking about the writing — it tends to create a state of unique receptivity. Everything we see, hear, read, or smell becomes fodder for the work. A face we see in a coffee shop becomes exactly the face we need for a minor character. Someone’s small gesture — the way a girl crosses her arms and squeezes the skin of her elbows when she’s nervous — soon worms its way into our writing.

We have our antennas up. We’re sticky like flypaper, catching the signals in the atmosphere. I’ve heard it described as a time of being particularly “spongey,” a state where writers are especially absorbent, like quality paper towels. The song in the elevator becomes the key song in the book, and so on. The whole world feeds into the writing in unexpected ways.

I suppose I was in that sticky/spongey condition when I began casting about for ideas for a new Jigsaw Jones book. After a while, I figured out that it would revolve around a note stuck inside a book, found at a Little Free Library (because I love them). Without disclosing too many spoilers, the found note would lead some to believe that aliens were coming from outer space. Spoiler #1: They are not. Coincidentally (or not), Jigsaw and Mila’s teacher, Ms. Gleason, has been talking about the planets in class. Spoiler #2: She was even planning a surprise Skype visit from a real, live astronaut.

I was eight years old on July 20, 1969, sitting before my television watching grainy, black-and-white images of Neal Armstrong walking on the moon. At the same time, “Star Trek” was the most popular show with my older brothers. “Lost In Space” was also on television, feeding that fascination. The idea of space, the final frontier, has always loomed large in my imagination.

Below is a photo of the only twelve people who have ever walked on the moon. This is what the astronauts looked like:

main-qimg-3e7704f73540feed95e7449f21e402d1

Notice anything about them? Go ahead, study hard; this might take some time. Hit the buzzer when you are ready.

BUZZZZZZZZ!

Yes, correct, they are all white men! Good work. I don’t recall questioning it at the time. But times do change, and many things do get better, even though it doesn’t always feel that way. Even so, this concept of what an astronaut looks like had been planted deep inside my brain. It just . . . was. Then one day the internet coughed up this image on my Facebook feed:

Black+Female+Astronauts

Beautiful, perfect. This was just what I needed. One of the tricks with plotting mysteries is to run counter to assumptions, gender or racial or otherwise. The reader leans one way, you go the other. Also, politically and personally, I want to celebrate the diversity in our world. I want to jar readers a little bit, perhaps. Remind them to rethink those assumptions. Or, maybe, help them see themselves reflected from a new distance . . . under a new light . . . maybe even a world away.

From the book:

A gasp filled the room.

We were meeting a real live astronaut.

“Hello, boys and girls!” the astronaut said.

I heard Lucy whisper, “Major Starmann is a woman.”

“And she looks like my mom,” Danika said.

 

Rough sketch from THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE (Macmillan, August 2017).

Rough sketch from THE CASE FROM OUTER SPACE (Macmillan, August 2017).

 

NOTE: One of the primary missions of this blog is to provide readers with a glimpse behind the scenes into the writing process and a writer’s working life. If you go to the Jigsaw Jones page and scroll through, you’ll find links to many other “Stories Behind the Story” posts. This new book will come out in the summer of 2017, along with the repackaging of four more titles that are currently out of print. I’m happy about that.

 

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2. Weekly Sketch Roundup

Every day I post a sketch to social media, this is my favorite this week!

Saturday night #DadLife

To see more visit http://www.studiojjk.com/dailysketch.html

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3. Magic Spells for Improving Your Craft

Here is a little something I wrote for Puddle Jump Collective about magic and art-making:



My twins just read the Harry Potter series -
seven books and one play.
My whole rabble of wildebeests is now running through the house with pointy sticks, saying, "Wingardium Leviosa!" and "Expelliarmus!"
Aside from the bad parenting of letting children run with pointy objects, 
I myself would not mind a wand for a few things in life. 

1. The dishes.  (A den full of four hungry wildebeests and their keepers can be very full of dishes)
2. The laundry. (Again with the den analogy.)
3. The writing and the art.
Wouldn't it be fun to flick a pointy stick 
and magic oneself into a brilliant writer and/or illustrator?
 
So, really, where is that magic spell?  
Wouldn't it make everything easier?
So, I once had the opportunity to hear picture book illustrator Renata Liwska and her husband Mike Kerr speak at a SCBWI conference in Seattle.
Wide eyed and wonderstruck,
I wanted to know the tricks and magic spells
that would turn me into a picture book illustrator exactly like Renata Liwska.

Ever do that?

Well, maybe not. But I did. 
So, we all of us watched thirstily as Renata and Mike unpacked for the talk.
They pulled out a motherlode of black sketchbooks and laid them in a mountain in front of us.
Each sketchbook was filled with perfect illustrations. 
Perfect! Pristine in skill and finish! 
How was there not even one scratched out, loopy mess up in the entire collection? How?

Renata is soft-spoken, humble, and has such a kind smile.
Her husband Mike pointed to the pile of books and told us Renata's magic spell:
"This!"

Sketch every, every day.

That's it? 
W-w-w-work? 
Just work?

Where's the magic in that? 
 
Two years later, it's beginning to sink in.It isn't an instant change, but each drop in the bucket is a spell of sorts.
 
Each drop is a growing of your eyes and ears and hands,
every sketch is an observation, a study of the world,
each page is a honing of your vision -
and therein you find the transformation! 

So, my friends, let me share some magic spells for improving your craft in a nutshell:  


1. Show up. Every day.


(Writers also call this "butt-in-chair.")

2. Sketch. Sketch. Sketch.


(Or insert your passion here. Bake cakes. Practice soccer. Juggle fruit.)

3. Write. Write. Write.


(Especially important for aspiring authors.)

4. Read. Read. Read.


(Observe and learn from the world relating to your craft. If you want to be a picture book illustrator, by golly, read picture books like a sieve!)

5. Repeat.

6. Every, every day.

Once more:


  


And the thing is?
The more I do it, the more I love this daily rite.

It's like magic.


{Excerpt first published Tuesday, August 30 on Puddle Jump Collective.}


Books!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George
Withering-By-Sea by Judith Rossell
Half Magic by Edward Eager
The Magic Half and Magic in the Mix by Annie Barrows
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Strega Nona's Magic Lessons by Tomie de Paola

Books on Writing and Art:




Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly by Gail Carson Levine
Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing by Karen Benke
Spilling Ink by Anne Mazer & Ellen Potter, illustrated by Matt Phelan
Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Animals
20 Ways to Draw a Cat by Julia Kuo
Let's Draw a Story by Sachiko Umoto























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4. Amigo

Amigo. Byrd Baylor. Illustrated by Garth Williams. 1963. 48 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: His mother said, "Come Francisco, my son. Tell me why your eyes are sad, my little one."

Premise/plot: Amigo is written in verse. It is historical fiction--about a boy longing for a dog. His family can't afford an actual dog, but, his parents encourage him to tame something wild, something that can take care of itself, something like a prairie dog. So Francisco sets out to tame a prairie dog, and, he knows just what he'll call it: Amigo. That's half the story. Amigo is a prairie dog that is curious and longs for adventures. He's drawn to humans, and he longs to tame a boy. Amigo picks out just the boy to tame, and, surprise, surprise, it's Francisco. Readers in on both sides of the stories can predict where this one is heading. It's cute.

My thoughts: I'll be honest: I bought it for the art. The illustrations are by Garth Williams. I thought if the text was nice, it would be an extra bonus. But really, I was just happy to see more of Garth Williams' work. I did enjoy the text. Do I think it's the most wonderful, amazing story ever? Probably not. I would have enjoyed more prose and less verse. But it's not awful.



© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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5. Marie Assénat

Marie Assenat

Brooklyn-based French illustrator, Marie Assénat, creates paintings and drawings that have a charming and naive essence. Although her characters are often humorous, her work has a sophisticated flair that has led to collaborations with Le Chocolat Des Français and the French Open. Whether it’s a GIF of a dancing poodle or a painting of a roller skating kitty, her drawings are bound to put a smile on your face.

Marie Assenat

Marie Assenat

Marie Assenat

Marie Assenat

 

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6. My tweets

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7. For the love of...Beans! An interview with Jennifer Holm about Full of Beans

In Full of Beans, Jennifer Holm pulls me into her story from the very first page:
"Look here, Mac. I'm gonna to give it to you straight: grownups lie.
Sure, they like to say that kids make things up and that we don't tell the truth. But they're the lying liars."
Holm creates a character full of sass and resilience--he isn't afraid to tell it like it is. Grownups lie, life is hard, friends are key. I'm also really looking forward to talking with kids about how Beans grows and changes throughout the story.

I'm fascinated by the way that Holm pulls modern kids into a time and place so far away. Life wasn't easy for Beans--the Great Depression has the Florida Keys and all of America in its grip. Jennifer Holm was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about Full of Beans, her research and what struck her during the writing process.
Jennifer Holm
Beans' voice rings so distinctive and true. How do you get into character as you write?

Beans was always such a clear character to me. It sounds silly, but I could totally hear him in my head. I mostly try to get outside to get in the writing zone—away from my desk and computer. For some reason, if I’m taking a walk or jogging, the ideas come more easily.

What are some images of Key West from the 1930s that show how hard life was during the Great Depression?

The website Florida Memory from the state library archives has an incredible collection of historical photographs. At the height of the Great Depression, Key West was in dire straights. The majority of the inhabitants were unemployed and on public relief. This photo from 1935 shows garbage cleanup in a Key West neighborhood:
Garbage cleanup in Key West, 1935
As part of President Roosevelt's New Deal, the Federal Emergency Relief Administration created a plan to revitalize Key West, renovate houses and hotels and turn it into a tourist destination. These before and after pictures of a school teacher's house are amazing. My great-grandmother grew up in a house like that.
Home of a retired school teacher before renovation - Key West, 1935
Home of a retired schoolteacher after renovation- Key West, 1935
What are a few of your favorite sayings from this time period? Did you make them up get them from your research?

I love the phrase “mind your own potatoes.” That just says it all.

All of the sayings except for one were rooted in the time period. My daughter, Millie, made the lone modern contribution with her own personal phrase: “What in the history of cheese?” It’s become a household saying around here.

What was something astonishing you learned doing your research for this book?

The whole leprosy storyline sucked me in pretty fast. It seemed quite far-fetched at first when I started to track down some of the rumors, but the more research I did, the more I discovered. In retrospect, the idea that people would hide family members who had leprosy (Hansen’s Disease) was very understandable. There was no treatment available at the time and quarantine was how the public health service managed the disease. People with leprosy were commonly “sent” (exiled is a better word in my opinion—there was not much choice involved) to leper hospitals, a notable one being in Carville, Louisiana. Even children were sent away. It was quite a heartbreaking situation all around.

Can you share one of the recollections of a family member that helped you bring this story to life?

My favorite memory was shared with me by a distant cousin. She had grown up across from the cemetery—which is in the middle of an old part of the city. The houses in Key West are made of wood and built quite close together. She told me how when she was a child and there was a fire, all the neighbors near the burning house would take their belongings – from pots and pans to pianos – to the cemetery for safe keeping. They would just kind of camp out there because it was the only place that wouldn’t catch fire.

That's pretty amazing, and shows how fire was such a threat in this community. This photo from the Great Fire of 1923 shows just how vulnerable the wooden houses were:
Remains from the "Great Fire of 1923" - Key West, Florida
What connections do you make between the hard times Beans and his friends faced in the Great Depression and challenges kids might be experiencing today?

Having a parent lose their job and the fear of having to move is something that kids of any era can relate to. In our own family, we have had a lot of up-and-down times. Kids always know what’s going on even if the parents aren’t discussing the problems with them.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share with us about Key West, your research and your wonderful story.

The review copies were kindly sent by the publisher, Random House Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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8. GKIDS Acquires Swiss Oscar Contender ‘My Life As A Zucchini’

This festival favorite is headed to North America thanks to GKIDS.

The post GKIDS Acquires Swiss Oscar Contender ‘My Life As A Zucchini’ appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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9. खेल, पदक और पहलवान की मानवीय संवेदनाए

खेल, पदक और पहलवान की मानवीय संवेदनाए Yogeshwar Dutt not keen to collect upgraded silver medal, wants Besik Kudukhov’s family to keep it ओलिंपिक ब्रॉन्ज के बदले सिल्वर नहीं चाहते योगेश्वर . बोले जीतने वाले जिस रेसलर की हादसे में हुई मौत, उसी का परिवार रखे पदक पहलवान का नाम सुनते ही दिमाग में एक […]

The post खेल, पदक और पहलवान की मानवीय संवेदनाए appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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10. कमज़ोर और बेबस


कैसे मैं करूँ यह बयान
उसके आँसू पवित्र थे,
बनाए जो टूट टूट कर,
ज़िंदगी के वो चित्र थे,

गिनती थी साँसे हर पल,
खुशियाँ गम से सींचती थी,
किस्मत को देती थी दोष,
खुद ही रेखाए खींचती थी,

आदमी पर इल्ज़ाम लगाकर,
हर मौसम, रोना आता था,
हर मुश्किल उसपर आती,
बेबसी ही उसका छाता था,

दूसरो को कमज़ोर बताकर,
आगे बढ़ जाती थी,
खुद को वो ज़ोर बताकर,
तालियाँ हज़ार पाती थी

हर वृक्ष के तले वो,
गाती थी गाने तन्हाई के,
होंठो मे रखती थी शोले,
दिखावे के और रुसवाई के,

प्रेम की बातें अनगिनत,
पर इल्ज़ाम दूसरे का,
पीने की इच्छा है खुद,
पर जाम हो दूसरे का,

'तुम क्या जानो मुझे',
ये वाक्य बस आम था,
दिल मे बसा ज़्वलामुखी,
ज़हर ज़ुबा मे तमाम था,

आख़िर बराबरी कर ली,
मुखौटे हज़ार लगा कर,
ताकतवर है वो आज,
खुद को कमज़ोर बना कर,

जो भी देखते थे,
लोग इंसान बुलाते थे
पर उसकी आदतों से उसे,
कमज़ोर, बेबस पाते थे ||

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11. व्यक्तिगत स्वच्छता और स्‍वास्‍थ्‍य

व्यक्तिगत स्वच्छता और स्‍वास्‍थ्‍य Importance of Cleanliness / Personal Hygiene ”व्‍यक्तिगत स्‍वच्‍छता”  दो शब्‍दों से मिलकर बना है ”व्‍यक्ति”  एवं ”स्‍वच्‍छता” हमारा  स्वास्थ्य हमारे स्वच्छ हाथों में है… hand wash पर तो बहुत बातें हैं पर कुल मिला कर हमारा स्वास्थय हमारे हाथों में ही है. व्‍यक्तिगत स्‍वास्‍थ्‍य में शरीर की स्‍वच्‍छता,  दॉंतों की सफाई, नाखूनों […]

The post व्यक्तिगत स्वच्छता और स्‍वास्‍थ्‍य appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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12. Cartoon – Heavy rain in Delhi caused traffic jams

Waterlogging  in Delhi due to  heavy rains Cartoon – Heavy rain in Delhi caused traffic jam पिछ्ले दिनों गुडगांव में भयंंकर ट्रैफिक जाम हुआ था और आज भारी बारिश के चलते दिल्ली ही मानो डूब गई. चारो तरफ पानी ही पानी नजर आ रहा था और रेंगते हुए वाहन !! वही अमेरिका से आए US Secy […]

The post Cartoon – Heavy rain in Delhi caused traffic jams appeared first on Monica Gupta.

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13. The Edinburgh International Book Festival - Part 2

Is now over. Happily, I took advantage of a good bit of it. I told you about the SCBWI events the first week here. For the second week I attended three events. The first was Vivian French's discussion on The Hook of Visual Literacy.

Per the website, "Author and Picture Hooks founder Vivian French discusses how the format can be adapted for classroom use, and the resources available to develop visual communication in children. She is joined by Aurelie Norman from Wardie Primary, Edinburgh, who has worked with Picture Hooks." (Picture Hooks co-founder Lucy Juckes is to the left.) The good works Vivian is doing for illustrators and students here in the UK is truly remarkable. She's changing lives, and I'm so proud to call her a friend and mentor.
     The next event I attended was a panel of illustrators.
Emily Gravett, Alex T. Smith, and Lydia Monks talked about their careers, breaking in, their methods, and their projects. It was moderated by the chair for the Kate Greenaway Award, Joy Court, and was truly enlightening. These are all award-winning illustrators at the top of their field here in the UK.
The third event I attended was Judith Kerr, author of the Mog series and The Tiger Who Came to Tea, which is a classic here in the UK like Goodnight Moon or Where the Wild Things Are are in the US.
She's 93-years-old and a beloved treasure. The theatre was packed! She also happened to be very funny and entertaining.
     What I've found so interesting about the book festival this year is how different the UK market is from the US market. Yes, there is crossover, but the UK is definitely its own sandbox. In fact, I'll be doing my dissertation this fall (in the US it would be called a thesis) on the topic: "Comparing and contrasting the Randolph Caldecott and Kate Greenaway Award winners to identify trends, similarities and differences between the US and UK picture book markets." The book festival was a wonderful addition to my research! There was also this - a twig-woven sculpture of the BFG.

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14. Shadow Moths



I've been rather quiet on the publication (and writing) front of late, but like buses I have two books out within the space of a month. First off is this e-chapbook, which contains two of my short stories - We Make Our Own Monsters Here (a tale of puppetry) and Blood Moth Kiss (nuclear war and betrayal). One may be darker than the other. And, it comes complete with an introduction by Simon Bestwick. I have no idea (wink-wink) how I got such an amazing author to write the introduction for me. For those who don't know - reader, I married him.

It's available from Amazon UK and Amazon US.

Here's a video of the song that inspired one of the stories. I'll leave you to guess which...


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15. Poverty: a reading list

Poverty can be defined by 'the condition of having little or no wealth or few material possessions; indigence, destitution' and is a growing area within development studies. In time for The Development Studies Association annual conference taking place in Oxford this year in September, we have put together this reading list of key books on poverty, including a variety of online and journal resources on topics ranging from poverty reduction and inequality, to economic development and policy.

The post Poverty: a reading list appeared first on OUPblog.

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16. Perfecting Your Pitch

To perfect your pitch, think of it as a verbal query letter.

http://bookendsliterary.com/index.php/2016/07/14/advice-on-perfecting-your-pitch/

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17. Cartoon Network Expands Interactive Property ‘Mighty Magiswords’ With A TV Series

The series will premiere in late-September followed by the launch of an interactive app that allows users to collect their own Magiswords.

The post Cartoon Network Expands Interactive Property ‘Mighty Magiswords’ With A TV Series appeared first on Cartoon Brew.

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18. Finding Our Teacher of Writers Superpowers

What teacher of writers superpower would you like to develop this year?

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19. Recent Reading Roundup 41

It's been a little quiet on this blog over the summer, mainly because I've been busy with various projects for other venues (for example the Clarke shortlist review).  But also, because I've been busy reading.  A lot.  2016 is shaping up to be one of--if not the--most prolific reading years of my life.  Quality-wise, it's also been very rewarding, and though my other writing prevented me from

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20. “Clown”: The KL-series pauses for a while

Those who have followed this series will remember that English kl-words form a loose fraternity of clinging, clinking, and clotted-cluttered things. Clover, cloth, clod, cloud, and clout have figured prominently in the story.

The post “Clown”: The KL-series pauses for a while appeared first on OUPblog.

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21. Sending it Back

My sandwich came on toasted rye;
The toast was overdone.
Without much thought, I sent it back
To get a different one.

My husband said had it been his,
He surely would have kept it,
Implying that it was
My obligation to accept it.

Perhaps I should have mentioned
That I like my toast real light,
But serving some approaching burnt
Seemed far from close to right.

When paying money for a meal,
The least that I expect
Is to be presented with a plate
I won’t need to reject.

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22.

Love seeing my fabrics turned into a variety of products. Here is an inspiring page of photos with all kinds of sewing projects....

Jump Into Fun

Animal Party Too

Fly Away

Jungle Creatures

Jungle Creatures

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23. First Impressions: A Tangle of Gold, A Darker Shade of Magic, A Hundred Hours of Night

Title: A Tangle of Gold
Author: Jaclyn Moriarty
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Summary: People from the parallel worlds of Earth and Cello scramble to find Cello's royal family on Earth, but anarchists stand in their way - including, maybe, one of their own.
First Impressions: For me, this would have been better off being the only book. I had a really hard time remembering what happened in the others but all the good stuff happened in this one.

Title: A Darker Shade of Magic
Author: V.E. Schwab
Published: 2015
Source: Local Library
Summary: Kell is one of only two Travelers left - magicians able to step between three different versions of London, with three different magics. When danger threatens his own version of London (Red), he finds himself working with con-woman Delilah Bard from Grey London to save all the worlds.
First Impressions: I was disappointed that the villains were so obvious from the beginning. However, when she turned up, Lila was kickass. I'll be reading the rest of the series for more of her.

Title: A Hundred Hours of Night
Author: Anna Woltz, translated from the Dutch by Laura Watkinson
Published: 2016
Source: Edelweiss
Summary: When shy, anxious Emilia runs away, she does it in grand style, all the way from the Netherlands to New York City. In the shadow of Hurricane Sandy, she'll discover new friends and reserves of strength she never knew she had.
First Impressions: This was pretty damn good! Snapshot of NYC during Hurricane Sandy as the backdrop of upheaval. Her OCD was handled a little too cavalierly though. I couldn't tell if she had a diagnosed condition or she was merely calling her many anxieties OCD.

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24. Presidential Polar Bear Post Card Project No. 214 - 8.30.16


The first day of polar bear school!

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25. Want to support Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa (Defenders of the Sacred Water School)?

On Monday, August 29, 2016, I wrote about the Standing Rock Sioux and the actions they are taking to protect water. Thousands of Native people are gathering there, standing with them. Over one hundred other Native Nations and organizations have issued letters of support of Standing Rock.

Although most of what you see in the news is adults, there are children there, too. On Monday, people at the camp opened a school for the children. They named it Mní Wičhóni Nakíčižiŋ Owáyawa, which means Defenders of the Sacred Water School.

Among the Facebook pages that you should read to keep up with the school is that of Alayna Lee Eagle Shield. Below are links to her public posts.

She is posting many photos, but please do not repost her photos without permission. Because her posts are public, I believe you can share them on your own pages, but please ask permission to use the photos.


  • August 28, 2016: A photo of the daily schedule


  • August 29, 2016: A series of photos of the kids at the school, taken on Monday August 28. Note that it includes a list of supplies they need, but they've since received some of that and are working on a new list.


  • August 30, 2016 at 8:56 PM: More photos, and, an overview of Tuesday's activities that demonstrate this is an Indigenous gathering of people. Maori people are there, too. The children of the school were able to welcome the totem pole that arrived there yesterday from the Lummi Nation. 

This morning I had email with Joseph Marshall III, author of the outstanding In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse. He has been at the camp and will return there. He's taking copies of his book to the school and will ask about sending other books. For now, here's an option: The Standing Rock Sioux tribe's website has a link to donate to their work if you want to do that.

And if you're on Facebook, you can get updates on the Standing Rock Nation's page. 

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