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Mama, Let Your Kids be Brave

Imagination and the Importance of Bravery

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When my oldest was little, I did my best to keep her playtime devoid of all conflict. “No!” I would say emphatically, “Don’t be meant to the bad-guy car! We love him. We should always be kind.”  I was afraid that if I let her shout, “You’re a bad guy! Go to jail!” while she played, she would shout those same words to her brothers and sisters. Thus, by decree, there would be no conflict, no stress, no violence, and absolutely no bad guys during play time. It must be peaceful, happy, full of baby dolls, with the occasional train ride in the countryside.

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Poor first child. To first children everywhere, let me apologize on behalf of your well-meaning mothers. You have borne your adversity well (by bossing everyone around the way we did).

Over the next several years, a transformation took place in our home. We had more children. Lots of them. With lots of children came changes that greatly impacted playtime:

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  1. We had some boys. Boys like tea parties too, but have a slightly different take on the game (think monkeys in a tea room).
  2. I couldn’t hear everything they were playing anymore. I listened in, but many moments were lost under a blanket of noise. I also lost my ability to micromanage (Hallelujah and Amen). If they played without fighting, I was thankful, and unless I heard genuinely concerning themes or words (“idiot” or “shut up,” or “murder”), I let them be.
  3. The younger children’s play was informed by their older siblings. They had a greater pool of ideas to draw from. Faraway lands, colorful characters, and dangerous mythical creatures were added to the imagination trove. New (and louder!) slabs of creativity piled onto the foundation that was laid by the years of playtime before them.
  4. My younger children were more confident. (This is an understatement!) They not only had two parents that loved them and accepted them, but a whole house full of siblings to go before them: over fences, up the maple tree, into the neighbor’s raspberries. Their bravery came out in their play. Instead of the fun, but limited, “Let’s go to the store,” and “We’re puppies,” they also played, “Knock down the evil giant!” (Much to the dismay of their friends’ parents, oops. Sorry, not sorry.)

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Simultaneously, I began to change. I began to value bravery, the courage to stand up to evil, and justice. I realized how important it is for men and women to be bold in their faith and not shy away from argument or adversity. I began to see that the types of play that scared me when my oldest was little (“Get the bad guy!”) were her way of expressing differences between right and wrong, righteousness and evil. She was brave! She valued justice! It was fantastic. And I had discouraged it.

Imagination is practice for real life. Who do we want our children to be when they grow up?

ricardo-cruz-DCqvWkXF74Q-unsplashAs Christians, my husband and I want our children to be like Christ. Christ loves the weak. He is kind. He gave up his life for people who didn’t deserve it. He is also a terrifying king who has victory over His adversaries. The Book of Revelation even depicts him with a sword coming out of His mouth. A sword, not a ribbon stick.

It’s true that we don’t want our children to be cruel. After all, kindness is a fruit of the spirit. I also love a rollicking game of “let’s be puppies.” But when your children make up stories about the evil one-armed tiger trapping the helpless platypuses in a rainbow cage, let them talk some smack. Don’t scold them for being hard on the bad guys. Don’t reprimand them for boldly sharing the truth with their teddy bears. Give them opportunities to be brave, because standing for righteousness takes practice.

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Speaking of practice, how brave are you? It’s struck me recently how it’s not enough to encourage
bravery in the lives of my children. I need to cultivate it in my own life as well. Am I trying to please people or God? Am I afraid of standing for truth because my friends on Facebook will look down on me? Am I jumping on political bandwagons because I think it will make me seem more compassionate? Am I letting my emotions lead instead of testing everything against scripture? On that note, am I reading the Bible? All of it, not just the comfy parts?

Let your children be brave. Let them fight epic battles with their stuffed toys. Let them climb impossible mountains in the back yard. Encourage them to put on the whole armor of God, so that “they may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”rene-bernal-f0rdHx5P8sQ-unsplash

 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Ephesians 6:10-18

News

Star Gazing

Twinkle Twinkle Little StarI guess it’s time for an update! The sound of crickets has permeated this website for far too long. Sorry, crickets, but you’ll have to stop singing for a few minutes while I explain myself.

Here’s how I’ve been tackling picture book writing:

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Engaging in the great wide world of Twitter. Twitter writers of all genres have proved surprisingly supportive, often following just because I’m a writer. I started out with 0 followers and now, after several months of engaging, talking, laughing, and being generously added to writing threads, I have over 1,600 followers (update: over 2,000). My new-found secret to Twitter is this: be nice, have fun, and enjoy people. Writer hashtags are #writingcommunity #writerscommunity #writercommunity #writerslife and #kidlit. I also love checking in on #kidlitart.

Joining an SCBWI critique group. These people are gold. Contributing to and learning from this group has me excited every month. I’m finding that critiques helpful no matter what kind of feedback I receive. The advice I agree with helps me revise my manuscripts, and the advice I disagree with helps me firm up my goals.

 

Submitting three stories to my first ever contest.  I entered the “Kindergarten rocks” contest put on by the Institute of Children’s Literature. Finishing and submitting my manuscripts was a bit intimidating, but I left feeling more accomplished. Even if I don’t win, I’ve gained valuable experience. The webinar announcing and critiquing the winners is free for writers who entered and $7 for anyone who didn’t submit an entry.

 

Joining the 12×12 Picture Book Challenge by Julie Hedlund. The challenge is to write twelve picture books in twelve months, but the community is what keeps people signing up year after year. Writers of all experience levels encourage each other in the art of picture books via a forum, a monthly webinar, and a Facebook group. Thinking I couldn’t afford it this year, I applied for a scholarship, which I didn’t win (another great learning experience, and possibly cringe-worthy). Then I received a surprise Christmas check and I was back in business!

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Asking boatloads of questions. The biggest one I have in mind right now is: Where do I fit as a children’s writer? What are my goals? Do I want to stick with one style or vary? How quickly should I pursue publication? Do I want to pursue agents? What kind of agent do I want to pursue?

Writing. This one seems obvious, but honestly, it can be a challenge. I’m full of all kinds of ideas, but fleshing them out feels intimidating sometimes, especially when the standard word-count for picture books is 500 words or less.

Star-gazing. Lately I’ve felt like I’m staring into the ocean at night, just staring, and wondering what on earth I’ve gotten myself into. I know there’s an island out there, somewhere, but the path feels dark and threatening and this menacing pile of wood sits here next to me, telling me to build it into a boat. My answer to this? I look up. “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing.” (Isaiah 40:26) I know an endlessly powerful Creator who knows and cares about the answers to my small questions. I only need to follow Him, one faithful step at a time.

Furry Thursday

Furry Thursday, No. 9

Can you guess the animal based on the clues?
Smash up science and English parts of speech together with this guessing game!

adjectives: odd, furry, aquatic, poisonous, shy, perplexing, fascinating, sonic
verbs: waddle, swim, dive
nouns: burrow, bill, beaver tail, hodgepodge
biomes: aquatic

Think you know which animal?
Click here for the answer!

Simplified definitions:
Adjective: a describing word, placed before a noun (or pronoun)
Noun: 
a person, place, thing, or idea
Verb: 
an action word
Biome:
the type of environment where living things make their homes, a habitat (ex: desert, rainforest, tundra)
herbivore:
plant-eater
carnivore:
meat-eater
omnivore:
eats both plants and meat

Furry Thursday chipmunk

Freewrite Wednesday

Freewrite Wednesday: President or Dessert?

Ready to free your writing? Let’s do a freewrite together!

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Would you rather be the president of The United States of America (and choose your cabinet) but never eat dessert, or not be the president and eat as much dessert as you want?

Help to get you started:
Why did you make your choice? If you chose to be president, what would you do with your new position? How would life change for you? If you chose dessert, why did you choose to not be president?  Which desserts would you eat?

Set your timer for 10 minutes and write, write, write!
Have an especially meaningful freewrite? Share it in the comments or on my Facebook page.

About Freewrites: A freewrite is exactly what it sounds like: free! Use a freewrite to practice channeling thoughts from your mind to the paper. Never done a freewrite? Learn more in my Guide to Freewriting 

Poetry Tuesday

Poetry Tuesday! August 21

Hello! Welcome to Poetry Tuesday: the day we dip (or dive) into the lovely world of poetry!

Each Tuesday from June 19 to August 21, 2018, I’ll share a Poetry Activity, a Poem Study, plus an Advanced Poetry Lesson. Feel free to enjoy one, two, or all three of these fun resources! (Click on the title links)

Poetry Activity (for kids, adults, and everyone in between): Concrete (Shape) Poem

Poem Study Eletelephony by Laura Elizabeth Richards

Advanced Poetry Lesson: Sonnets, Week 2

Poetry Tuesday

Poetry Tuesday

Poetry Activity: Concrete Poetry

Hello! Welcome to Poetry Tuesday: the day we dip (or dive) into the lovely world of poetry!

Interested in poetry?
Write a concrete (shape) poem in this activity for kids, adults, and everyone in-between.

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A. Introduction to Concrete Poems

Concrete poems are a special kind of poetry in which the words themselves make a shape! It’s fun, it looks neat, and most importantly, it makes the poem come alive to the reader in a unique way.

Here’s an old example of a concrete poem. It was written by George Herbert, who lived from 1593 to 1633 in Europe. If you turn it sideways, it looks like two sets of Angel Wings! 

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Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
      Though foolishly he lost the same,
            Decaying more and more,
                  Till he became
                        Most poore:
                        With thee
                  O let me rise
            As larks, harmoniously,
      And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me.

My tender age in sorrow did beginne
      And still with sicknesses and shame.
            Thou didst so punish sinne,
                  That I became
                        Most thinne.
                        With thee
                  Let me combine,
            And feel thy victorie:
         For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me.

At the top of the page is a poem that I wrote when I was putting together this activity. It was inspired by a recent mouse incident we had in our basement!

See how it looks like a mouse? Sometimes you have to turn the paper to read all the way around a concrete poem!

B. Writing a concrete poem
Your turn!

1. Pick a simple shape. You can pick your own shape or print out one of these templates:
ball
star
butterfly (advanced)
paw print (advanced)

2. Write a poem about your shape on a separate piece of paper. Even though my poem rhymed, yours absolutely doesn’t need to. Just write words to describe your shape. 

3. Write your poem around the shape!

4. Would you like your concrete poem to be only words and no drawing marks? Here’s a mini-tutorial to help:
a. Trace your shape with a dark marker
b. Place a clean piece of white paper on top of your shape so the shape shows through
c. Write your poem on the white paper, using the shape underneath as a guide

Pleased with your poem? Snap a picture of it and share it in the comments or post it on my

Facebook page so we can all read and enjoy them!

Hungry for more? Check out this week’s…

Poem Study Eletelephony by Laura Elizabeth Richards

Advanced Poetry Lesson: Sonnets, Week 2

Poetry Tuesday

Poem Study: Eletelephony

Let’s read a poem and study it together!

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Not sure how to study a poem? Here are some ideas! Choose one or all of these:

  1. Read aloud and enjoy the poem
  2. Neatly write out your favorite stanza for handwriting practice or…
  3. Copy and paste the poem into your word processor and print it out
  4. Draw a picture about the poem
  5. Circle or color-code the words that rhyme!

  6. Read more about the author’s life
  7. Share with someone you love <3


Eletelephony

Once there was an elephant,
Who tried to use the telephant—
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone—
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I’ve got it right.)
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee—
(I fear I’d better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

~Laura Elizabeth Richards

 

Hungry for more? Check out this week’s…

Poetry Activity (for kids, adults, and everyone in between): Concrete (Shape) Poem

Advanced Poetry Lesson: Sonnets, Week 2

Poetry Tuesday

Advanced Poetry Lesson: Sonnets, Week 2

Let’s write some poetry!

This Tuesday and last we’ve been writing sonnets!

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A. Introduction to Sonnets:
Why on earth would you want to write a sonnet?

I’m so glad you asked! It’s easy to hear the word “sonnet” and the phrase “iambic pentameter” and be thoroughly unimpressed. So here’s a list of why sonnets are a fantastic poetry form:

       Why sonnets?

  1. Because Shakespeare. Shakespeare wrote pages and pages of sonnets, all in this magical meter called iambic pentameter (which I’ll explain later). Shakespeare, who wrote bucket-loads of plays, knocking the socks off theater-goers in England in the 15-1600’s, is still entertaining us today even after his death (although I’ll keep my socks if-you-don’t-mind).
  2. Because writing sonnets will help us appreciate sonnets. There are countless sonnets out there to enjoy. They also connect us to poets of the past and help us recognize the nuances of their creativity.
  3. Sonnets are like a puzzle to solve. They are the poetry version of  a crossword puzzle or a word search, except that you get to express yourself as you try to find just the right words that fit.
  4. They’re fun! You’ll have to experience this one for yourself. So, are you ready to dive in?!

B. Sonnet Examples

Sonnet III
Look in thy glass, and tell the face thou viewest
Now is the time that face should form another;
Whose fresh repair if now thou not renewest,
Thou dost beguile the world, unbless some mother.
For where is she so fair whose unear’d womb
Disdains the tillage of thy husbandry?
Or who is he so fond will be the tomb
Of his self-love, to stop posterity?
Thou art thy mother’s glass, and she in thee
Calls back the lovely April of her prime: 
So thou through windows of thine age shall see
Despite of wrinkles this thy golden time.
But if thou live, remember’d not to be,
Die single, and thine image dies with thee.
~William Shakespeare

Sonnet VII
O Solitude! if I must with thee dwell,
Let it not be among the jumbled heap
Of murky buildings; climb with me the steep,—
Nature’s observatory—whence the dell,
Its flowery slopes, its river’s crystal swell,
May seem a span; let me thy vigils keep
’Mongst boughs pavillion’d, where the deer’s swift leap
Startles the wild bee from the fox-glove bell.
But though I’ll gladly trace these scenes with thee,
Yet the sweet converse of an innocent mind,
Whose words are images of thoughts refin’d,
Is my soul’s pleasure; and it sure must be
Almost the highest bliss of human-kind,
When to thy haunts two kindred spirits flee.
    ~John Keats, 1795 – 1821

C. About Sonnets

Note to Beginners: I recommend starting with “What is a sonnet” below. The goal is fun exposure to poetry and a chance to practice writing. Once you’ve got that first set down, try “What is a sonnet (part 2).”

As I explain all the parts of a sonnet, look at the examples above to help you process.

What is a sonnet?

  1. Sonnet means “little song.”
  2. A sonnet has exactly 14 lines.
  3. For simplicity sake, we’ll divide our sonnet into four groups, or stanzas:
    1. Four lines
    2. Four lines
    3. Four lines and
    4. Two lines.
  4. The example below is actually in one big stanza, which is the way William Shakespeare wrote. (It’s actually called a Shakespearian Sonnet. Hmm, wonder where it got that name!) Since we’re beginners, breaking up the stanzas will make it easier.
  5. Sonnets have a rhyming scheme. Within each stanza…
    ~The 1st and 3rd lines rhyme and
    ~the 2nd and 4th rhyme.
    ~The last two lines in the whole sonnet also rhyme.
  6. This rhyme scheme is often expressed this way:
    1. ABAB
    2. CDCD
    3. EFEF
    4. GG

(Are you lost yet? If it’s really confusing, this Youtube video I found explains it pretty well.)

What is a sonnet (part 2)?

  1. Many sonnets are written in something called iambic pentameter.
  2. Iambic words have a short sound followed by a stressed one.
    For example:
    exIST, beLONG, preDICT, aWAY, aBOVE.
  3. A group of words can be iambic as well:
    the ONE, we PLAYED, you KNOW.
  4. From our example:
    “Rough WINDS do SHAKE…” and
    “SomeTIMES too HOT
  5. Pentameter means 10 syllables per line. Every single time.
  6. (What’s a syllable? A syllable is a whole sound within a word. The word “Cat” has one syllable. Apple has two: “Ap-ple”. “Pine-ap-ple” has three! You can usually tell how many syllables a word has by how many time your chin drops when you say it!)
  7. Look at this line and count to ten: Shall I com-pare thee to a sum-mer’s day?
  8. Try reading through the poem and counting the syllables! Each line has 10.


D. Write your sonnet
Do you feel ready to write your own sonnet? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, try four lines and then take a break. You can pick it back up after the break and write the next one!

Pleased with your poem? Share it on my Facebook page or in the comments!

Hungry for more? Check out this week’s…

Poetry Activity (for kids, adults, and everyone in between): Concrete (Shape) Poem

Poem Study Eletelephony by Laura Elizabeth Richards

Fun List Mondays

What Are Four Things You Would Do If You Were the President of the United States (And One You Wouldn’t Do)?

Fun List Monday, August 20

Judging by my inability to answer questions on the spot, I’m guessing I won’t ever be the President of the United States. But who knows? Maybe you will decide to run for office one day! What 4 things would you do if you were elected?

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Write a list with me! Every Monday I will post a fun list. Fill out your list and enjoy it by yourself, share it on my Facebook page or in the comments! Not convinced that lists are awesome? Read about how lists encourage better writing here.

Like this activity? See other Fun List Mondays here.

Story Share Topic!

Story Share Topic: Follow your nose!

Ready for this week’s Story Share Topic?
Join in the fun! Write your story and send it in for a chance to have your story shared on the site!

This Week’s Story Share Topic:

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Write a story about someone who followed their nose!

Perhaps the character followed a strange smell and fell into trouble, or maybe his/her nose sniffed out an adventure! What was the smell? Why did the character want to follow it? What was at the end of the smell, if there was one? What is the problem (conflict)? How is it solved?

To share: Send your story next Friday to Fridaystoryshare@gmail.com

FAQ: If you don’t want to share your story, can you still write one? Absolutely!
Do you have to write a story on this particular topic? Nope! Writing stories is a great creative writing exercise, no matter what the topic. The topic is a prompt to get you started!

Writing with little ones? Read this post about how to include young children in writing activities.