Our second day of camp started with some activities on the Sharp stage in preparation for our field trip to the Morgan Library. The library is having a special exhibit on Alice in Wonderland, in honor of the book’s 150th birthday. We acted out scenes from Alice in Wonderland, including the famous Mad Tea Party scene.
Then it was time to meet our author of the day, Sage Blackwood, who came to discuss her fantasy novel Jinx. Sage told us a little bit about what it’s like to be from a town of only three hundred people! She also showed us her own drawings of Jinx, and showed us the book’s original cover, which we compared to the final version. We learned that Sage likes to combine legends, news stories, and her own experiences into ideas for her novels. Sometimes, Sage starts her novels with a blank notebook and fills with it with bubble charts about the characters, the setting, and the plot. For example, she will map out a character’s strengths and weaknesses, and then use those traits to bring him or her to life.
When it comes to writing our own stories, Sage taught us a simple equation: Character + Problem = Story. To practice this theory, we each took a post-it and wrote on it a superpower we wish we had. We wished for abilities like teleportation, mind-reading, talking to animals, and flight. We then had to brainstorm some problems that would arise from having these superpowers. What if you read someone’s mind and heard bad news or classified information? What if the animals you spoke to said they wanted to eat you for dinner? What if you could fly and ended up upsetting birdwatchers?
Then we created a character: a 12 year old boy named Dexter who was raised in an orphanage by ocelots. Each of us then gave Dexter a superpower and a problem. There was one story where Dexter turned into a mouse and become prey for the ocelots, and another where Dexter flew too close to a plane. It was a good exercise to get us thinking about how to write fantasy stories. Then Sage signed our books and took a photo with us.
We had a quick lunch before it was time to go on our first field trip. We rode the subway to the Morgan Library, where we met our tour guides, who took us through the Alice in Wonderland exhibit. On display were photos of Alice Lidell, who inspired Lewis Carroll to write the book; the book’s original manuscript; sketches and illustrations for the book; and clips from a silent film adaptation of Alice. Our guides told us a little bit about the history of the novel, and about the author, whose real name was Charles Dodgson. It was so interesting to hear that such a wacky book was inspired by a real person!
We then looked at the original illustrations for the book, which we used as inspiration for our own stories about Alice in the modern world. We imagined that instead of checking a watch, the White Rabbit checks his iPhone, and that instead of falling down the rabbit-hole, Alice follows the White Rabbit into the Subway. It was amazing to think that 150 years later, Alice in Wonderland can still inspire us!