I’m anxious, overwhelmed, and sad, as many of you probably are in these uncertain times. I wanted to do something nice. So I’ve made my short story collection “Vixen and the Time Portal” free this week on Kobo. It’s short, and fun. I hope it brings you joy.
I’ve seen several posts on Twitter of folks looking for ideas of what to do with their kids while they are all stuck at home together. This has also come up in some of my homeschooling groups as people have friends who normally use brick and mortar schools are asking for advice. The homeschoolers feel like our moment has come! We have insight that can help!
First, I’d say – don’t feel like you have to be doing something educational at all times. The world is stressful right now. If you or your kids need time to decompress, or are unable to focus then you need to just deal with your emotional health. That might be enough for now.
If you are looking for fun things that are also kinda educational to pass some time – I have ideas:
- Reading. As above, don’t feel like this has to be ‘learning’ type reading. Its okay and good to read for fun. Audiobooks are also great. I get most of mine from my local library via their app (that also includes ebooks). Check out your library system’s website. I bet they have way more remote and digital services than you knew about. Our also has kanopy.com which is streaming movies and documentaries.
- Art and Science kits. We subscribe to several kiwico.com crates. My 12 year old loves her Tinker and Doodle crates and the older one gets Eureka, but she’s less of a builder so they are hit and miss with how much she gets into them. There are lots of other options. Look around on Amazon for topics they are interested in, or Thames and Kosmos is another one my kids have liked.
- Just use normal art supplies you have around anyway. Youtube is full of great and often free drawing and painting videos. Also maybe a good time to learn to crochet or do some other craft with the help of Youtube. If there is an art of craft they are interested in, someone has probably made Youtube lessons about it.
- Other good video stuff: We like Crash Courses on Youtube (science, history, and a bunch of other topics) all fast and fun. BrainPop is also a lot of fun but can be a little pricey for the subscription. They do have a different free video each day though. Tons of topics and very well made. We also watch CNN10 which used to be called Student News – it’s a 10 min news summery each day and while that can get a little heavy they usually work to balance the bad with more upbeat positive stories of people doing good things too, and they always end with a funny (or trying to be funny) pun segment.
- Board Games! I feel like there has been an explosion of amazing games over the past several years so this is hard to give specific suggestions, but some we have enjoyed are: Timeline (put cards in order of when each event happened in history), Evolution (make your creature the one that survives), Elemento (chemistry), Kloo (Spanish), we also had one that was about the Egyptian Gods and also required multiplication practice that they would even play just for fun, but I can’t find it right now. The point is, just pop your interests into the search bar at an online game store (or on Amazon or Ebay with the word game included) and see what turns up. Like reading, this doesn’t have to be overtly educational either. Exploding Kittens is one of the long time favorites here. All games encourage problem solving.
- Puzzles too if they enjoy them. They make puzzles about everything. We have the periodic table, human skeleton, various maps, and the tanks of WWII, among many others.
- Coding. There are probably a lot of resources online for this. All I really know about is Scratch from MIT, but there is probably a lot more out there and varies based on age of your kid. Khan academy might be worth checking out as well. They could be on the computer and learning too.
- We use Math Mammoth and their website has a few free online math games. Additionally, their small, individual subject workbooks also include a long list on online games and resources for that subject. They were always a nice fall back if the kiddo was sick or tired and not focused enough for workbook work, but still got some math in that day.
- Cooking – great life skill obviously, but also reading a recipe is learning, using fractions for measuring, etc.
Okay. Believe it or not this was all just off the top of my head, so I have probably left off a lot. If I think of enough additional things, I’ll write a new post. Find out what they are into – what they want to learn about, and help them do it!
If you have specific questions you think I could help with, leave a comment. My kids are in 11th (yikes!) and 7th grades this year and have homeschooled the whole way through. It’s been awhile since they were small, and if anything there is probably even more available out there than we had, but I can try to remember back to help out if needed.
In the meantime, try to walk the tough balance of enjoying the time you have together and not bothering each other too much. (And maybe don’t play the Pandemic board game, especially if anyone in your house is sick. We did that once a couple years ago when my youngest had the flu and she is still a little scared by the experience. )
This was my second year attending Fog Con. It’s a smaller Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror literary convention in Walnut Creek, California. It’s just delightful. While the books above are the only physical books I left the con with I have a much, much, much, longer list of titles, authors, podcasts and a few games that I will be looking into in the coming months. It was hard to restrain myself in my purchases but I have literal stacks of books falling over because I am out of shelf space. Will I avoid buying more? – HA! of course not. But I’ll be looking mainly at ebooks for a bit.
The most fun part is meeting these amazing authors and listening to them talk about writing, fan over the stuff they love, and learning so much. It’s a small enough gathering that several times I would go to a panel and listen, sometimes figure out that, hey! that person wrote that book I like so much! Then at the next panel I went to, they were sitting next to me in the audience.
I attended panels on Societal Defaults That Carry Into Fiction, Choose Your Own Adventures, How Deep Do We Dig: Research for Writers, Small Scale SFF, SFF Podcasts, The Value of Hopepunk, and I went to a Reading with 3 great authors who made me want to run out and get their horror books even though I usually avoid horror.
I also did a very brave thing for me, and I signed up to attend a lunch get together for a local writing group that I technically joined some time ago, but haven’t actually ever attended any of their meetups. I’m glad I did. I enjoy the company of other writers, they are such interesting people (or maybe just because they clearly love books as much as I do). So now I am also signed up to attend one of their critique sessions and I think the lunch helped make me brave enough to not back out of that. Although I suppose it’s possible it won’t happen, at least in person. We’ll see what state of social distancing we are in come mid April.
Here’s hoping for the best.
And I’m already looking forward to next year’s con.
As I was working on my Doctor Who scarf, I reminisced a bit about why I say that the 4th Doctor is my ‘favorite’. This is a thing I see a lot of Who fans talk about. Which Who is their favorite. For many, it seems, their first Doctor is their favorite. The 4th was not my first though.
I remember my first Doctor Who episode. I didn’t understand anything that was happening because I came into it in the middle. It was the 3rd Doctor, but I didn’t know that at the time. It was a rerun on late on PBS. (Maybe not all that late, but I was a kid and it was late for me.) The Tardis disappeared, and reappeared somewhere else and I thought that was the coolest thing ever. Now I just had to Google to double check I had the right number for the Doctor I remember seeing, and I did, but all the photos were in color. I distinctly remember the episode in black and white. So I had to investigate further. Apparently the 3rd Doctor was when the show moved to color, but back in the day they didn’t think some sci-fi serial show worthy of preserving so the tapes were wiped and reused. All the 3rd Doctor’s episodes have been restored, but some they could only find in black and white. I think it sounds like they have recolored them as well by now but for awhile they just played the black and white versions in reruns because that’s what they had.
Anyway, I was trying to remember when I first saw Doctor 4 and I can’t remember. What I do remember is a little used bookstore we went to a lot when I was a kid in Ohio. There was a whole shelf of these little (and I mean very small, maybe 100 pages) Doctor Who paperbacks. I don’t remember what they cost, but I think maybe a quarter? I didn’t usually have much money but I remember if I was careful I could afford 2 or even 3! of these books when we went. The books featuring the 4th Doctor were my favorites, so I looked for his picture on the cover first when picking out my books. I loved those books.
I don’t think I actually saw that many actual Doctor Who television episodes because I only caught them on PBS in reruns, and they didn’t run them regularly. Or I wasn’t up late enough often enough to see them or I was a kid too stupid to consult a television schedule. Who knows. I just didn’t. But I had those books.
I’m wondering now if those books were just novelizations of the shows, or if they were new stories of their own. I might have to hunt some down for a fun quick read.
I’ve gotten back into regularly working on my novel. Not every day as I would like, but still, I am making progress for the first time in a long time. Starting back on it was tough at first since I didn’t have it all still in my mind and I’m having to do a read through and make notes so I know what needs to be done. The positive side of that is that I like the story again. When I set it aside, I had come to hate it. I was still resolved to revise and edit, because I was getting into a bad place of finishing a first draft, hating it, and starting something else. I realized I would never learn to revise if I didn’t start revising. But the time away seems to have cleared my head and let me see the work differently, and I think I can make it something good. Something fun. That’s a nice feeling.
In addition to the novel, I also came across a novella I wrote a few years ago that I hated when I finished it, and thought it was too much of a mess to fix. rereading it now though, I don’t think it’s so bad. I plan to also revise that one. It’s looking like I’m one of those people that needs to set a story aside when I’m done and take a little time away from it before starting the revision process. I didn’t see this about myself before because I don’t feel that way at all about my short stories. Time rarely changes my opinion on them. Weird.
So one of my 2020 goals will be to revise both the novel and novella and get both to my critique group, then depending on the feedback I get, continuing the revising or editing and publishing.
I have some other writing goals, but I will cover those in another post. This will be a good year of revising for me. Something I haven’t done much of because I tend to give up instead. This is my year of sticking with – and finishing.
I wanted a little logo for my books. I’ve been calling my publishing self Broken Snowshoe after my beloved cat Bob. Despite his many challenges he was always loving and happy and made those around him happy too. I asked my daughter Anna to design me a something, combining Bob and books. This is the logo she created for me. I love it.
Then as an added surprise, for Christmas she made a little clay model of it for me. It’s even cuter! Here’s to creative and thoughtful kids!
Now I just need to finish my books so I have something to put this logo on. Coming soon. . .