Stay at Pooh's Corner!

I love that you can now stay in Winnie the Pooh's house on "Bearbnb"! Click the image:
From the creator:
You can live like Disney’s Winnie the Pooh in the original Hundred Acre Wood to celebrate his 95th anniversary.

During your stay at the house, you will be taken on a guided tour through the original Hundred Acre Wood, play Poohsticks on the iconic Poohsticks Bridge and enjoy locally sourced, hunny-inspired meals.

I brought Pooh’s house to life taking inspiration from the original decorations of E.H. Shepard, with exposed tree branches wrapped around the house, “Mr. Sanders” inscribed above the doorway, shelves stocked full of ‘hunny’ pots and bespoke wallpaper that I have designed."
I learned about it (and more about its creator) at GoodNewsNetwork.

Shannon Hitchcock Celebrates Appalachian Treasures

The Joy of Visual Storytelling
By Shannon Hitchcock
(with process photos by illustrator, Sophie Page)

      How I approach my life and the craft of writing took a dramatic turn during the pandemic. I realized I was on a hamster wheel—working, working, working, and only happy when I had either just signed a contract, or was in the process of launching a new book. I wasn’t enjoying the process, only the results.
I took a step back. I gave myself permission to sleep later, to pour more creative energy into my cooking, to read not only for research but for pleasure.
My reading focused on Appalachian people and traditions. Though I had previously been a novelist, I signed up for Tara Lazar’s Storystorm and The Writing Barn’s Courage to Create program. I became a student again and played around with writing picture books. I found renewed passion by switching gears. I wrote a manuscript about quilting, which will be published by Reycraft next year.
Picture books require more wordplay than novels. I spent time thinking visually about what an illustrator might draw to complement my words. Probably the biggest gift was the brevity of writing picture books. As the pandemic raged, life in general seemed so out of control that it gave me a measure of satisfaction to focus on projects that were easier to complete.
During our current Covid crisis, I have launched two picture books, Saving Granddaddy’s Stories—Ray Hicks, the Voice of Appalachia and She Sang for the Mountains—The Story of Jean Ritchie, Singer, Songwriter, Activist. Both these books are picture book biographies about mountain people I wanted to honor and introduce to the next generation. I feel an immense sense of satisfaction when I hold these books in my hands and see the way illustrator, Sophie Page enhanced my words with her art. Our books have a folk art feel to them. Sophie is a mixed media illustrator who crafts her images in two and three dimensions using paper, clay, fabric, and wire.
I hope readers of Saving Granddaddy’s Stories are inspired to listen to the stories of the older adults in their lives and to also tell stories of their own. As for readers of She Sang for the Mountains, my greatest wish is they’ll learn more about mountaintop removal and feel a responsibility to take care of our planet.
In a time when there is so much wrong in the world, my picture books have brought me joy. To quote Mother Teresa, “…no one can do great things, but everyone can do small things with great love.”

Just thinking... September 2021

Just Thinking is where I share random thoughts, inspirational quotes, good news and ideas. For instance...

I just love this silly post at BuzzFeed comparing MetGala outfits to book covers.

My friend Vicky Alvear Shecter turned me on (ahem) to this fantastic review of Magic Mike XXL: Magic Mike XXL Is Basically “The Odyssey,” But With Butts. I'm currently using The Odyssey in teaching my "Heroes and Anti-heroes: Creating Graphic Novels class. This is relevant: " stories are stories about doing things the correct way because this is the way things have always been done, about accepting traditions as correct, about achievement that gains validation and praise because it fits into the systems that already exist. Most heroes are dads because most heroes uphold the status quo. The heroes of Campbellian narratives seem to be rebels, but they are usually only the central figure in a story meant to teach us why the king is the king."

The article in the Atlantic is soooo interesting: Colleges Have a Guy Problem. It's being driven by K-12 influences, bottom line. So, what messages are being sent to our young men? We better figure this one out quickly!

I also really appreciated this article from The New Yorker: The Frustration with Productivity Culture: Why we’re so tired of optimizing our work lives, and what we should do about it. It talks about the work-life balance I've been shouting about lately, and how the onus has fallen to the individual to be more productive, when the individuals are tapped out. The onus should be on the companies once more.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this article about passive characters and how they feed into the patriarchy: Active Protagonists are a Tool of the Patriarchy by Kelsey Allagood at Writer UnBoxed.

Olympian gold-medalist and friend Joe Jacobi brings up some great thinking points, right in line with where I'm taking my blog right now, at A Full Deck of Questions on Medium (you can also subscribe to receive his thoughts directly to your in-box.

BTS - We Don't Need "Permission to Dance"

I love the new song by K-pop band BTS - it speaks exactly to what I was saying in my last post.

Their message is the same, as they confirmed when they recently spoke to the United Nations. “Every choice we make is the beginning of change, not the end,” said RM, the band’s leader. Read about it HERE.

Thoughts on Permission

I am constantly caught off-guard by my students who ask "Can I do that project this way?" or "What if I want to try this?" It's usually in reference to how they meet the requirements of an assignment. Of course, I explain the guidelines; but how a student inevitably fulfills those guidelines is really up to them. So what if they want to do it their own way?
     Studies have shown it's the "C-students" who best succeed in life. They are the ones willing to take chances, to push new ideas, to fail. We need people who are willing to go in different directions and try new things if we're to improve the messes we've made of this world!
     Now, certainly, not doing an assignment at all should lead to a zero grade; and doing an assignment differently from the guidelines may indeed lead to a lower grade; but in the end, if the student will learn more or have a better experience from doing an assignment differently, as long as they are putting in the effort, I'm okay with that. (Financial assistance obligations aside.)
     It makes me realize how much we all worry about consequences that aren't really of very much consequence. We all seem so desperate for approval from our parents, peers, bosses, it can compltely stimy the expression of our own voices, our creativity, but especially the evolution of good ideas. I'm not saying that irresponsible actions shouldn't have negative consequences; I'm saying, we overrate the permission we need from others to stay true to ourselves or to seek innovative solutions.
      Even as a faculty member who is not yet tenured, I feel the pressure of needing permission to be the brash, vocal 50+ person I now am. But I also now feel a responsibility to be that brash, vocal person with tons of experience and education to possibly put some good ideas into the world, even if they aren't terribly popular in my immediate circles of influence. Don't I owe my ideas to a future that needs to be better than the world we have now? Don't we all owe our ideas to that future?
     Status quo is what has led to many of the world's problems; and yet, the status quos we tend to treat as immovable, typically do not have very much history behind them. The passage of a generation or two seems to be enough to make folks believe "it's always been done this way." But that is simply not true!
     Cities have been designed around cars only for about a hundred years. Industry has only been pumping pollution into our environment for about 200 years. In the scope of human history, neither is very much time. So, why can't we pivot? Why can't we go in different directions?
     Let's stop asking for permission to maintain the status quo, to abide by behaviors that haven't been around very long, or to compromise our future by thinking we need permission to change it!