Thanksgiving 2020

November 28, 2020 at 8:57 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Pretty much always has been, because, well… FOOD. I love the food. I love the deep fried turkey, I love the dressing (which I call stuffing even though it’s never stuffed in anything because you don’t stuff that which you deep fry), my cranberry sauce (which is apparently somewhat unique and more of a salsa or relish, a blend of: wholeberry cranberry, cranberry sauce, orange marmalade, apple cider vinegar, chopped onion, chopped cilantro, chopped jalapeño, and a sprinkle of orange peel). For dessert, I prefer my marble pumpkin cheesecake over pumpkin pie, some years I’ve made Pumpkin Rolls — another bite of perfection. And I’ve always loved that above all, Thanksgiving is about being thankful to God for what we already have and the burden of gifts are not involved.

This year, our history studies coincided perfectly with the holiday: We studied William Bradford, the Mayflower, and the Pilgrims.

William Bradford: Pilgrim Boy by Bradford Smith is a gentle middle grade chapter book that tells the story of the Puritan governor William Bradford. From his childhood with his grandfather, through his schooling, to Holland, and across the sea to lead a new colony to religious freedom. Understanding his story helps flesh out understanding for King James, the King James Bible, British politics, and early America. Without knowing William Bradford, do you really know what the Pilgrims were thankful for?

During the weeks I read this aloud, Kiddo was reading a book called Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphrey, published by Beautiful Feet. We caught one error in the book, at the beginning the writers seem to be confused about Mary Tudor and Mary Stuart. We revisited our Rhyming History of Britain and memorized a few stanzas to ensure Kiddo didn’t remember the wrong information. It helped to clarify how James VI of Scotland became James I of England. Memorizing rhymes is one of our favorite activities (so much so that we spent November 5th celebrating Guy Fawkes Day memorizing the infamous poem… Remember, remember the fifth of November, the Gunpowder Treason and Plot…).

I read The Landing of the Pilgrims as a child, I really love the old Landmark Books and make a point of collecting them, and this was another one I made Kiddo read on her own this time. I find at this age when I can assign independent reading, instead of me reading out loud less, we just cover twice as many books per topic.

My husband read The Adventures of Myles Standish out loud and we both marveled over the beauty of the timeline across the bottom of Harness’s lovely biography (so much so, we started stocking up on other biographies in the same series for the future).

P.J. Lynch’s The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower might be one of my all time favorite Thanksgiving books. The illustrations are simply beyond gorgeous and take my breath away. Lewis Buzbee talks about children’s picture books in The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop and how they’re meant to be read over and over again, by children and adults alike… this is one of those books, a perfect work of art I am pleased to own and revisit. I paid full price for it (something I rarely do, as the majority of my books are bought used), and have no regrets.

Thanksgiving Day, Kiddo insisted on dressing like a Wampanoag child. She was very disappointed that not a single article of clothing her dress up basket included authentic Wampanoag attire. Instead she’s wrapped in a touristy Navajo blanket sent to us for our donations to some reservation school or another. (My mother spent much of her childhood near the Navajo and they are the one tribe we feel a familial attachment to despite a lack of native blood. I grew up singing bible school songs in Navajo, as she was taught.) I know some in the world would consider this cultural appropriation at the worst or at best possibly roll their eyes at us, but we study these things and she dresses up out of the highest level of respect, empathy, and intrigue. This is childhood, children learn through stories and play.

By afternoon, she’d shed half her costume and settled into the life of Squanto while I read the Mayflower Papers over dessert.

Education is a lifetime pursuit and I’m thankful for the opportunity to share my love of learning through the discipleship of homeschooling.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Ryan Swindoll Interview

November 28, 2019 at 3:53 am (Interviews) (, , , , , , , , , )

You did the cover art for Lost Legends, it’s beautiful. Have you designed other book covers?

I’ve designed a handful of covers, yes! I got my start in print design for Grafted Life Ministries, branding the books in their catalog. When our fearless anthologist Adam D. Jones’ recruited me for The Lost Legends, I took the plunge into fiction, so you might say this is my genre debut.

With The Lost Legends, it delighted me to explore the classy aged appeal of art deco in the unusual visual context of folk magic. I think the cover evokes the same eclectic feel that characterizes the stories inside.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t plug Adam’s newly released novel Marshal Law, which I also designed. The cover takes inspiration from science fiction westerns, but without the photorealism or lonely protagonist look so common in the genre. We wanted a fresh direction for the cover that provoked the imagination.

As a writer, I’ve heard you usually prefer writing science fiction; what inspired the The Problem With Elves and Tavernfall?

One of the boons of writing science fiction is that it need not be future-specific. When Adam approached me about contributing to his fantasy anthology, I saw a personal challenge to blend the setting of medieval magic with stories of alien encounters.

“Tavernfall” was born of a simple thought experiment: what would a medieval era conspiracy theorist have looked like? Not (merely) the town drunk or the madman in stocks, but the scholarly type. What could they have said to convince you that, say, all of human history was secretly the plot to the Lord of the Rings? I pulled out my old college notes in history and theater, and the story practically wrote itself.

I found writing “The Problem with Elves” more difficult. It began with a literal dream I had about an alien abduction, wherein they forced me to listen to a timeshare presentation. It was hilarious, but lacked substance. When I stumbled upon Grandmother’s mysterious epitaph, “Never throw out a rotten egg–I never did,” the whole story opened up. I was able to follow the protagonist’s relationship with Grandmother to its unconventional end. And we got fart magic out of the deal. Sweet.

You have two short stories included in Lost Legends, do you find short stories to be easier or more difficult to write than longer fictions?

I do find short stories easier, but all of writing is difficult. It just takes a long time.

What other things do you have publication?
Nothing yet! But working on a science fiction novel about an alien family that crash lands on a robot world, and the trouble that ensues because the robots don’t know the first thing about children, biology, or toilets. I have no idea how I’m going to market it.

You have a great sense of humor, have you always been clever and funny, or is it a skill honed over time? What were your favorite books as a child and how do you think they contributed to your wit?

I’ll never forget reading The Boxcar Children and getting far enough into the book series that the primary author changed–and all of a sudden, characters were “chuckling.” I remember reading on the toilet and thinking, “These people never chuckled before, and now they’re chuckling twice per page.” I never read another boxcar child after that.

I’m sure that answers your question.

Stephen King wrote in On Writing that writers should read a lot to keep their technical and creative tool box full. What are your favorite “tool box” books?

I enjoy James Scott Bell’s book The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and Exercises. Easy to scan, read, or dive in.

Of your stories in the anthology, are there any you anticipate seeing spin off into other work?

I’ve heard rumors. If I could wish feature-length stories out of the anthology, I’d want to see more of the world in “The Luck Stone,” “Death of a Young Mage,” “The Door,” and “The Candlemaker.” Each story felt like a peep into a much larger world.

If The Lost Legends were to become a Netflix Original or Amazon Prime series, who would your ideal cast be for The Problem With Elves?

Gaten Matarazzo of Stranger Things fame would be a ringer for our fourteen-year-old protagonist. Grandmother is more difficult, but for some reason I like the idea of Octavia Spencer in the role. Good with her eyebrows, I think.

With your obvious artistic ability and creativity, do you plan to create bookmarks or other such “swag” to go with copies of the book that fans could buy?

At our release party, I distributed limited edition “I survived The Lost Legends release party” bookmarks, with quotes from the book attributed to the after-party, like “We were lit, all of us, and especially me.” If fans want to buy swag, I see no reason to deprive them.

What are you thankful for this week and how are you celebrating the holidays?

I am certainly thankful for my health, which falls under constant threat from having young boys. I’m also thankful for said boys and the endless inspiration of their wonder. And my wife, who listens to my monologuing. And my God, who also listens to my monologuing, and surprises me with a treasury of meaningful discoveries when I write.

I think I’ll be celebrating the holidays with a dismembered turkey, a nap, and a writing deadline. Should be fun!

Permalink Leave a Comment

Dickens on the Strand is Coming Up!

November 24, 2012 at 2:54 am (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Do you have tickets yet?  If not, win some at Half Price Books in Humble!

Permalink Leave a Comment