Kids Love Runes or How Politics even drifts into Elementary School

Showing picture books I brought along.

Showing picture books I brought along.

Every year I love participating in the Young Writers’ Workshop at Travis Heights Elementary School. 20 professional writers teach various workshops to 3rd-5th graders. I teach a class called “Take a step back in time..But beware! Watch where you step! Ogres, dragons, and evil knights await!”

 

This year, as usual, I shared the runic alphabet and some kids took delight in writing their stories in runes. Amazing.

Kids working

Kids working

I also give them a Story Element sheet with categories like Hero or Heroine (knight, princess, peasant); Place (castle, deep forest, deserted city); Person with Special Powers (could be good or evil: druid, magician, wise healer); Monster or Monstrous Creature (werewolf, green knight, dragon); and Faithful Animal Companion (deer, board, swan).

A story with a nice drawing

A story with a nice drawing

This year was special because one kid chose as his place Trump Tower, and as his monster Donald Trump.

The student's Story Category Sheet

The student’s Story Category Sheet

In his story, the Illuminati are tasked with dealing with the monster Trump who keeps wanting to build a wall. I have to say the story was pretty clever! But I was also a little sad. In a school with a majority of Hispanic kids, Trump’s pronouncements are clearly trickling down into family discussions at home and worrying our beloved neighbors in our city.

The bad guy's pronouncement

The bad guy’s pronouncement

These kids are so creative and reflective–it has been an honor and pleasure working with them!

Drain the Fens OR How the Anglo-Saxon World is Always Relevant

A parody twitter account.

A parody twitter account.

It’s wonderful to see how folks take Anglo-Saxon politics and apply it to the world today. No matter your political strip, I hope we can all agree that a historical long view–and a sense of humor–are good things! Be sure to check out more tweets from Donaeld The Unready. My favorite? Drain the Fens.

“Women Preserve the Past For Those in the Future”

“Women preserve the past for those in the future.”~ Susan Signe MorrisonAuthor, Grendel’s MotherWords on Wings Award Recipient

“Women preserve the past for those in the future.”~ Susan Signe Morrison, Author, Grendel’s Mother Words on Wings Award Recipient

I didn’t even know what a meme was until a couple of years ago. Now, Literary Classics has created a meme from material from my book.  They did this for all the top award winners, including Grendel’s Mother.  I hope you enjoy it!

 

Fun to be in the Spotlight….Or should I say Seal-Oil Lamplight?

Snakey and Lambykin, from my 3rd grade storytelling days.

Snakey and Lambykin, from my 3rd grade storytelling days.

WHEN DID YOU FIRST KNOW YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER AND WHY?

In 3rd grade, I would bring my stuffed animals with me to school. My teacher let me perform little spontaneous plays with the stuffed animals as characters and me supplying the voices. I guess that was when I knew.
Laughing in the front yard

Laughing in the front yard

 

When Grendel’s Mother received an award, Literary Classics interviewed me. That was months ago and I’d almost forgotten about it. Now it has been posted. The segment above comes from that exchange which you can read in its entirety here.

 

When I went to Las Vegas for the award ceremony, we had a fabulous time! Here are photos from that event.

And then…

The fun never ended…

And then…

“Grendel’s Mother” wins Top Honor Award!

Literary Classics and Children's Literary Classics International Book Awards and Top Honors Book Awards youth book awards

Literary Classics and Children’s Literary Classics International Book Awards and Top Honors Book Awards youth book awards

I was so excited to go to Las Vegas this past week for the Literary Classics awards ceremony. Grendel’s Mother won the Top Honors award for Young Adult literature.

The award, Words on Wings Book Award, “recognizes distinguished fiction for a young adult audience.”  I was thrilled to receive the award, needless to say.

The pool with shark tank at the Golden Nugget

The pool with shark tank at the Golden Nugget

 

The ceremony, held at the Golden Nugget Casino and Hotel, was wonderful. We got to swim in a pool with a shark tank!

 

 

Best of all, all the other awardees in different categories were utterly delightful! So nice and friendly.

And Dianna Young Fuchs, the Executive Director Literary Classics, was utterly supportive, fun, and charming. In addition to a Networking Presentation and Round-Table Discussion, she arranged for us all to do readings and sell books at the Vegas Valley Book Festival. I was delighted to meet the delightful parents of my dear colleague, Eric Leake, there! Eric also gave me lots of tips on visiting Vegas.

I was especially happy that John and Jim could join me.

One person I’ll always treasure is the Silver Award Recipient of the Literary Classics Young Author Award. I really appreciate Dianna Fuchs and her team for creating an award for writers under the age of 21. That inspires so many of us! John was particularly thrilled to meet Sahana who is certainly a role model for him, as he is writing fantasy too. You can buy Sahana’s books on Amazon.

We had a fun time, met wonderful people, and won an award. Who could ask for anything more? John took some beautiful photos on the plane for our return. They look like Monet paintings to me.

Here is a movie of me receiving my award!

 

“Old English is Mine!”: Diversity and Old English

A postdoctoral research fellow at Penn, Nahir studies medieval literature and culture.

A postdoctoral research fellow at Penn, Nahir, who has her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, studies medieval literature and culture.

Old English belongs to us all, no matter what our background or where we come from. This proclamation rings out in a beautiful poem I’m delighted to share with you by Nahir I. Otaño Gracia, currently Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in Comparative Literature and Classics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Why poetry?

“I write poetry to express both the pleasure and frustration that comes from being a medievalist. ‘Old English Is Mine’ is a response to the many ways that medieval English literature and culture are used to undermine diversity. For example, the idea that we can have dragons, orks, and elves in games and stories set in the Middle Ages, but we can’t have people of color because they were not present at that time. One of the most pervasive lies!”

So true! Please read Nahir’s poem and share it with students, colleagues, and lovers of written and spoken word everywhere.

Photos in the fog and mist at her husband's house in Puerto Rico. "Every time I visit, I wake up to the mist and I think it's magical."

Photos in the fog and mist at her husband’s house in Puerto Rico. “Every time I visit, I wake up to the mist and I think it’s magical.”

Old English is mine!

It belongs to me.

And when it’s mine it’s literary,

Because my blood pumps poetry,

Because I cry with the Wife.

And I, like an emigrant,

Am like the Wanderer,

Mourn the loss of the Hall.

I mourn the crumbling walls of my Island.

Old English is mine!

I own it, I call it mine,

because I have as much right to it.

Nahir's photo of La Playuela in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Her father is walking ahead of her and you can see him in the distance.

Nahir’s photo of La Playuela in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. Her father is walking ahead of her and you can see him in the distance.

No matter I’m Puerto Rican,

No matter I speak Spanglish,

No importa que yo entiendo el anglosajón

A través de ojos hispanos y caribeños.

¡Si es tuyo, es mío!

Old English is mine!

It’s multiracial, it’s multiethnic.

And from its first words

Yo, he entendido el grito callado de sus palabras.

And I weep the words y siento la passion

Y entiendo el contexto.

Old English is mine!

Because only a good Old English poem

Could understand la Brega

as good as a Puerto Rican.

Porque yo cargo cada palabra

Como un sueño.

Old English is mine,

And you can’t have it.

And I will hold it in my fist,

And I will say to every person

that Old English is not White,

that the middle earth is not White,

that Europe is not White,

that medievalism is not White.

They were lied to

As surely as they always lie to me.

Old English is mine.

And I have taken it.

¡Y, que se joda lo demás!

Photos in the fog and mist at her husband's house in Puerto Rico. "Every time I visit, I wake up to the mist and I think it's magical."

Another magical photo in the fog and mist at the house of her husband in Puerto Rico. “Every time I visit, I wake up to the mist and I think it’s magical.”

Thank you for letting me share this poem, Nahir!

“Beowulf” Rock Operas, Appalachian Old-Time Music, Tolkien, and Philology

Brother Wolf, Triad Stage, Greensboro, North Carolina (2007). Photo: VanderVeen Photographers

Brother Wolf, Triad Stage, Greensboro, North Carolina (2007). Photo: VanderVeen Photographers

I was recently at Texas A&M University for the Texas Medieval Association conference. A pre-conference symposium and a number of sessions focused on Beowulf, with special attention to adaptations. I learned about Beowulf Rock Operas and even an Appalachian “old time” musical, Brother Wolf. All fascinating.

One of the special treats was a presentation at Cushing Library with its magnificent special collections. An undergraduate, poised and articulate, gave a riveting presentation about her work in the archives. Maddie Keyser has worked on Tolkien and items from their archives belonging to him. She is writing her thesis on her amazing discoveries. You can read about her preliminary research on this blogpost she wrote for the preeminent Tolkien collector in Antwerp. Enjoy–and keep alert for Maddie’s further publications!