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Monday, July 29 – The Astonishing Color of After

Welcome back, bookworms! Can you believe it’s Week 4 already?! August is almost upon us, but we’ve got one last week of amazing authors, activities, and field trips ahead of us. Monday got us off to a fantastic start – read on to learn all about it!

As always, we started with some icebreakers and name games in the Sharp theater. Our Week 4 group is a little smaller than prior weeks, so our campers got the hang of it lightning-quick! Our teaching artist Elia had us pairing the syllables of our names with actions, saying hi to each other as we played catch, and even let us scream a bit to get all the heebie-jeebies out. Then we discussed our expectations for the week, collaborating to establish ground rules for camp.

Then, we moved into our mini-book-clubs! Campers divided into small groups to discuss each of this week’s books and brainstorm some questions and ideas to discuss with the authors. I represented Black Wings Beating, this week’s fantasy adventure story. We had a spirited discussion about the all-important relationship between Kylee and Brysen, the novel’s primary characters, and our feelings about naming conventions in high fantasy. The consensus was, broadly, “too many Y’s,” which cracked me up! But we agreed that high fantasy characters have unusual names in order to establish how the world in the book is a different place from the world we know, and agreed that Black Wings was a rewarding read. We also agreed that we really liked the cool cover.

After that, we transitioned to an activity focused on Monday’s book, The Astonishing Color of After. Elia led us in an activity focused on color, inspired by how Astonishing Color‘s protagonist Leigh equates colors with emotions, both her own and the emotions of people around her. We used oil pastels and created swatches of color, and then decided on moments and emotions those colors represent, or thought of important moments and designed a color specifically for that moment and emotion. Our campers got right to work creating colors, combining different oil pastels into a whole spectrum of astonishing colors!

We then went to lunch at the park to enjoy the beautiful sunshine, and when we got back, we met with today’s author, Emily X.R. Pan! Emily discussed her inspirations with us, how the story that become Astonishing Color originated with her grandmother’s real life experiences. Emily also interviewed her grandmother on a research trip to Taiwan, and incorporated elements from her trip into the novel. Emily also walked us through the winding path Astonishing Color took as she was writing it, how it evolved from a historical fiction story retelling her grandmother’s life, to becoming a realistic fiction/fantasy fusion initially titled Upper Sea, Lower Sky, to the more magical Astonishing Color, the novel we know and love now. It was super fascinating to hear how the story changed, and how Emily essentially discovered the novel in the process of writing it. (We were also excited to learn that she’s hard at work on another novel! She couldn’t share details, but whatever it is, I know I’m excited.) 

Campers asked Emily some amazing questions about her process and different elements of the story, such as the importance of color in the story, and how Emily approached writing about such serious subject material. She shared with us that, while it was a healing process to immerse herself in Leigh’s story, she still cried when she was rereading!

Emily then led us in an “exquisite corpse” writing activity, where each camper contributed a sentence to a story – without reading the sentences that had come before. We got some extremely interesting results, as you tend to do with exquisite corpses. Many dramatic twists along the way. Giant blobs! Alien abductions! Cow romance! Our exquisite corpse stories had it all. After reading our stories aloud, Emily signed books and posed for a photo with us, and that was the conclusion of a perfect first day of camp!

Tomorrow is dedicated to Alex London’s Black Wings Beating. We’ll also be visiting some important characters from the book in the morning…stay tuned. As always, thanks for reading! Watch this space for the latest and greatest from these last days of camp in 2019.

-Maggie

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