Worry Pets

As you know, squiders (har har), I keep a Pinterest board with various craft project ideas on it (it’s here, for the curious) and occasionally, the small, mobile ones and I do some of them.

This week we made worry pets.

Aren’t they adorable? From left to right, we have WorWor, Wor, and Hans. (We’re still working on naming.)

They were really easy–we got all three done in an hour, even with “help,” and the small, mobile ones could do a lot of them by themselves (putting on the eyes, pouring in the pellets, handsewing the closure).

And they’re pretty great in general, very soft, pleasing weight to them, excellent for calming. (One of the small, mobile ones is on the spectrum, which is why we made them in the first place, but I’m finding mine to work for me as well.)

So, hey, if you’re looking for a quick, fun project that gives you something that’s actually useful, I’d recommend this one. The tutorial is here.

I’m pondering making everyone capes for the fall. Everyone likes capes, right?

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First Class is Up!

Happy Tuesday, squiders! I hope you’re all having a lovely day! (I am because I just got a short story acceptance, hooray!)

We’ve been gone on a road trip (but thank you for all the lovely likes and comments on the foundational book posts I set up before I left–and I did want you to know that I found Alien Secrets yesterday. It was on a different bookcase than expected, but other than that it was pretty dang obvious. Whoops.) but I’m back now.

(We went on another National Park tour, this time hitting Mesa Verde, Petrified Forest, Sunset Crater National Monument, Sequoia, King’s Canyon, and Yosemite. Lovely trees, sequoias. I’ve had a fold-out of one from National Geographic on the wall next to my computer for years, and now I’ve seen that particular tree in person.)

Right before we left, though, I put my nose to the grindstone and got my SkillShare class done.

I know we were all skeptical, but it happened.

I have a membership to a chain gym called the Row House (I rowed in college and have occasionally rowed with the local adult team, but like many other things in life, having small, mobile ones makes things more difficult) and for some ungodly reason they got rid of the 6:30 am class (perfect timing! I go while the spouse is still home and then he can go to work immediately after I return) and so now my choices are 5:15 (butt early, though about the time you’d be on the water if you were actually rowing) or 7:00 (done too late for spouse to get to work). Or, in theory, later in the morning, but then I am responsible for the small, mobile ones and have to put them somewhere.

Alas, the 5:15 normally wins.

(I am hoping they bring back the 6:30 once school starts but am starting to give up hope.)

The good thing about working out at 5:15 is that I am home by 6:15, and the small, mobile ones don’t normally roll out of bed until about 7:30.

Perfect time for filming, it turns out, except that it’s still a little dark out so lighting is a little problematic.

Long story short (too late), I had a lot of early mornings to myself right before we left, so I got everything recorded and/or filmed, and got the class uploaded the morning we left.

So, I wanted to share it with you! I’ve got two links–the first will let you watch the class for free. I’d love it if you do–I won’t get paid for it, but more eyes on the class will help it become more visible in searches, which will be helpful overall.

The second link will offer you a free month of SkillShare Premium (very nice, I did it back in November, and you can do any class you’d like, as many at a time as you’d like, and not hard at all to cancel before they charge you) and get you to the class. I get paid for the class this way, you get free classes for a month, but I understand that commitment is difficult and not everyone is up for it.

The class is called Story Writing: Premise vs. Plot, and explores what premise and plot are, how they’re used, and what the differences are between them.

Free link

Paid link

I’m starting to work on the next class, which will be on tracking story ideas so you can find them later. I think the next couple will probably focus on story ideas, since that will be the first book released.

Almost done with the submission nonfiction book now, so a reminder that if you want to beta any of them (and/or their associated workbooks), just let me know!

Anyway, good to be back! Please look at my class! I’d love feedback so I can improve things for the next class.

(Although I need to buy a new or fix my microphone because it fell apart in the middle of recording and I had to duct tape it back together, which is working with varying levels of success.)

Foundational Books: Winnie the Pooh

This one works somewhat backwards from normal because I, like many people in my generation, came into Winnie the Pooh through the Disney movies/TV shows. We had a VHS of the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh that I watched to destruction, and I was a great fan of the New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh television series.

(Seriously, it was a fantastic show and I wish they would re-release it in some form so I could show it to the small, mobile ones.)

I loved the characters, the way they’re all willing to help and go on adventures in their own ways. I liked that they’re so rarely going against each other as a source of conflict, and I liked how each character is given the opportunity to push beyond whatever their core element is, to grow as the situation demanded.

(Tigger has been and shall always be my favorite, but I am also fond of everyone else. Rabbit’s probably my second favorite.)

When I was 15, my grandmother, who knew of my great love for Tigger (I have never been subtle in my preferences, and at the time had several t-shirts and stuffed toys of the character, and we’d been to Disney World the year before and I’d managed to find Tigger for a picture), gave me a lovely hardback edition that’s a combination of Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner. It’s fabric-bound and has golden bees engraved on the cover.

I still have it. And the small, mobile ones and I are into The House at Pooh Corner now.

The original stories are refreshing, each chapter a standalone adventure that never gets too scary or sad, peppered with little bits of silliness and a sense of love and friendship, especially between Christopher Robin and Pooh, or Pooh and Piglet.

It’s a nice thing to share with my family.

I know A.A. Milne came to resent the Pooh books, and Christopher Milne was never comfortable with the fame that came along with them, which gets into the argument about creation vs. creator that we see a lot, but the stories themselves are sweet, and I appreciate that they show that it’s okay to love your friends and to help them when you can.

(Also, if you’ve not read A.A. Milne’s The Red House Mystery, I highly recommend it. Apparently the only mystery he ever wrote, which is too bad.)

Read the Winnie the Pooh books, squiders? Thoughts on the books versus the animated versions? Favorite A.A. Milne book/play?

Foundational Books: Everything by Louis Sachar

I was originally just going to talk about the Wayside School series, but here we are.

Did you guys read those? They’re each a collection of short stories that take place at Wayside school, a school that, instead of being 30 classrooms next to each other on the ground, is 30 stories tall, one classroom on each floor.

(There is no 19th floor.)

(Except when there is.)

The stories themselves are vaguely horror, with evil teachers doing crazy things and weird kids with weirder traits. They mostly take place on the 30th floor, with the same class, so you get to know the kids and their quirks and there’s continuity throughout the series.

And there were a couple of books in the series about weird math, which I may or may not have enjoyed a dangerous amount.

The Wayside School books are an interesting mix of clever and weird, so when Holes came out, I remember being surprised that it was by the same author. I think I read some of Louis Sachar’s non-Wayside books previously, but they didn’t make much of an impact.

Holes, however, is brilliant and I love it a lot. And apparently so did everybody else since it won the Newberry and the National Book Award.

I remember being deeply invested in Stanley as a character, and being impressed with how interconnected each character was to each other, either in the present, or in the past. I think it’s probably the first book I read that had so many levels of story present.

It’s also not a terribly depressing book, despite some of its subject matter. I almost feel like that’s more effective, that if you make everything dark and gritty and horrible it just puts people off and makes it harder to see the lessons the story is trying to teach.

What do you think, squiders? Did you read the Wayside School series or Holes? Or was there another Louis Sachar book that fit your interests better?

Foundational Books: Alien Secrets by Annette Curtis Klause

Woo, squiders, it took me a while to figure out what this book was. I mean, I remembered the book itself–I read it probably a dozen times as a kid. I remembered the main character’s name.

I did not, apparently, remember the title of the book properly, nor could I find it in my basement stash (which is where the books I took from home ended up). Hooray for the Internet, I guess.

(But where did the book end up, then? Questions, questions.)

Alien Secrets is a 1993 children’s science fiction novel by Annette Curtis Klause.

This was probably one of the first science fiction books I read that was really, truly science fiction. (That wasn’t related to Star Trek, at least.) A lot of the books we read when I was a kid was your standard collection of Caldecotts and Newberry winners–things like Maniac McGee, Number the Stars, Caddie Woodlawn, Bridge to Terabithia, Where the Red Fern Grows–all wonderful books in their own rights, of course.

The closest thing I think I’d read before was A Wrinkle in Time, which is arguably science fiction, but it’s not mainstream science fiction, with spaceships and aliens and all that jazz.

At this point it’s been a long time, and I don’t remember the story too well (and with my copy currently MIA, I couldn’t flip back through it to remind myself). The main character Puck (not her real name, never is) makes friends with an alien on her way to meet up with her parents, who are on another planet. Said alien has had an important artifact stolen from him, so there’s a degree of mystery to the story.

Now that I’ve looked the book up on the Internet, I can see that there’s wildly varying views on it (Publisher’s Weekly, for example, did not care for the book’s pacing), but, for me, this was an important book, and helped cement my love of science fiction.

Read Alien Secrets, squiders? What book do you feel got you into science fiction and/or your favorite genre when you were a kid?

Foundational Books Intro

Good morning, squiders! I wanted to introduce a series I’m going to be doing over the next few weeks (and then on and off afterwards) where I go back and look at books that have been meaningful to me throughout my life for one reason or another. (Series will be included altogether rather than separately.)

(And I think, at least at this point, we’re only going to talk fiction. Nonfiction has its place and time, and while it can be extremely beneficial, it’s not really the same. There is a reason humanity needs stories, after all.)

Some we’ll probably have touched on before, here and there, and things, at least at the beginning, will probably skew towards children’s and middle grade books, but hey!

I think it’s really interesting to go back and look at the books and the media that have had the greatest effect on a person, to see what they learned and how that shaped them into who they are today.

And if you guys have had similar experiences or different experiences (with the book in question or just in general), I’d love to hear about them as well!

Halfway Through the Year

Madness!

(Thanks to everyone who offered encouragement about both PowerPoint and my class in general on Tuesday. You’ll be happy to know that I did finish the class and now just need to record the audio and get the thing posted.)

(Even thanks to Rick, who expounded on the value of using an overhead projector. :P)

Where is the year going? It’s half gone. It’s half gone and I am not being nearly as productive as I would like to be.

May was a wash, of course, due to certain unfortunate circumstances that we’re still dealing with, and June hasn’t been much better around the small, mobile ones being out of school (and some of us having been too eager when signing people up for summer camps). February was my surgery, and there was the car accident in March (insurance guy is not currently calling me back, go figure).

I think, maybe, around mid to late July things will start to calm back down.

But, I mean, is anyone ever exactly where they plan to be in terms of productivity for the year? Maybe. Maybe there are people out there who are better at estimating how long it takes to do something and how much time they’re likely to have to do said thing.

It’s not all bad, though. I’ve gotten things done.

  • I finished my serial story, which I’ve been working on since 2009.
  • I have edited almost all my nonfiction books (on the last one) and have made all associated workbooks/journals.
  • I finished the dummy of my first picture book and have done some editing on it.
  • I’ve written a few new short stories, one of which was published on June 1 (here).
  • I’ve been working on getting critiques on books that are in the revision stage (expecting one back sometime in the next few weeks, yay!).
  • I’ve been working through a writing class that I bought ages ago and have a decent start on a new novel.
  • I’ve been writing drabbles in established universes for fun and practice.

So not terrible. Not where I wanted to be–I did want the nonfiction stuff ready to do a few months back–but it’s not nothing. And we’ll keep on trucking, and everything will eventually get done.

(And then we’ll start new stuff and the process will be neverending.)

How’d the first half of 2019 go for you, squiders?