Book Camp, Day 3

Something entirely new. That was today’s lesson. An adaptation seeks to create something entirely new–not out of nothing but out of things that already exist.

Baking

We can make apples into virtually anything: pie, cobbler, cake, cookies, sauce, jelly, butter, tart, bread, sausage, juice, smoothies, and on and on. Can you leap to something entirely new?

As I prepared for book camp, I searched the web for novel apple foods. Listen, y’all make apples into e-ve-ry-thing. I downloaded a recipe for chilled apple soup and one for creamy pumpkin apple pasta sauce. Both would at least be new to us. But what could we possibly make that might be truly new?

I searched for apple pasta. My search returned spiralized apples, apple-pumpkin sauces, and apple-tomato sauces. But I did not find a flour-based pasta made with apples.* There were recipes galore for adding herbs, spinach, beet or carrot juice, or squid ink. So, of course, we tried.20180613_162811And we asked ourselves a question: What might we have to deal with as artists when we break the mold and make something entirely new? Here are some of the kids’ answers:

  • judgment
  • criticism
  • and failure.

I agreed. We might get pushback from others. Critics saying we didn’t know what to do or how to do it. People telling us to stay in our own lanes. But there are other things too:

  • critics wowed by something unexpected
  • greater demand for our work
  • people copying the work in admiration
  • and people seeing themselves represented for the first time in a meaningful way.

Risking failure and criticism opens the door to…more.

We made that pumpkin-apple pasta sauce with great ingredients. As one thirteen-year-old put it, “It tastes like vomit. It is vomit!” Perhaps in other hands the recipe could work well, but we found only criticism and failure and waste of ingredients.**

That apple pasta, though. It is less than perfect and more than beautiful. So many hands kneaded the dough. We rolled it. Little hands folded the dough and cut it into long strips. Some narrow, almost broken. Others wide and sturdy. Patted with flour and curled into a nest. It was a risk. Five young artists, young bakers, had never before made pasta and emerged from the day with apple-flavored lengths of delight.

Hamilton

I asked the kids, is Hamilton: An American Musical a brand new thing or not? They answered as I would. Yes. And no.

Musical theatre is not new. Hip hop and rap are not new. Using hip hop and rap in musical theatre is not new. Alexander Hamilton himself–definitely not new.

But Hamilton used hip hop and rap to tell a story about something other than hip hop and rap. It employed performers of colors to portray historical figures who were white.

Hamilton was not a brand new thing. But it so was. Miranda faced all the risks and rewards incident to doing a brand new thing.

What each of us must decide for ourselves is whether to create something conventional or something out of the box. Do we want to accept the risks of the brand new thing or tell the same stories in the same ways, bake the same pies with the same apples, sing the same love songs with the same beats.

Writing

Today the kids began their adaptations in earnest. They had chosen their source materials and their formats. Today they worked on core story elements–the ones they need to keep–and the elements they would distort, change, rearrange, or introduce.

Not every creator wants the brand new. For those who do, the risks can be enormous or may be tiny. But the risks ought never be the deciding factor for the creator who seeks a new creation.

Apple Pasta

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup applesauce

Whisk together wet ingredients. Mix in flour with hands. Form into a soft ball. Knead  vigorously 12 minutes on a floured surface. Let rest 30 minutes. Divide the ball into quarters. Roll out one quarter to your desired thickness, then fold and cut in strips. Flour each strip to prevent sticking. Repeat with the other three quarters of dough.

If using immediately, boil for 2-3 minutes. Drain. Enjoy!

If saving for a later time, flatten the noodles and stack them. Seal the bunch in an airtight container. When ready to use, boil for 10-12 minutes or until cooked to desired doneness. Enjoy!

*Please do not send me to all the sites you happen to know with perfect apple pasta recipes. It’s too late. We already finished. Plus, you missed the point.

**Please do not offer helpful hints to improve the pumpkin-apple pasta sauce. It tastes like vomit. It is vomit.

Book Camp 2018: Day 2

Day 2 began with chores and the daily routine. Being the lone counselor has its advantages!

On day 1, we looked at what makes an adaptation. Today we drilled a bit down to what works and what doesn’t. We followed this core idea through baking and Hamilton, but then the kids decided what they would adapt.

Baking

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We engaged in an apple pie experiment. Each kid selected their own apple at the store. We ended up with New York Ruby Frost, Fuji, Red Delicious, and two Honeycrisp. I chose Ambrosia.

Back at home, I had prepared a few changes to the pie recipe, cut the paper apart, and put the pieces in a bag for choosing.

  • leave peels on apples
  • omit sugar
  • omit cinnamon; add thyme and rosemary
  • crumble on bottom; crust on top
  • omit butter
  • twice the sugar

We allowed ourselves a standard crust, made by the thirteen-year-olds. It was made per recipe. Meanwhile, we rotated through the kitchen trying to make little ramekin pies with our differences.20180612_141549The ten-year-old got the apple peel instructions, and he was thrilled! Poor thing, he’d never had an apple pie with tough peels. He just knew he got to skip a step.One eleven-year-old omitted sugar and the other doubled it. The omitter substituted honey, and the doubler was ecstatic. The thirteen-year-old butter omitter substituted banana to make her crumble. The other thirteen-year-old added thyme and rosemary to the recipe. His leftover apples were abandoned by all. I built my ramekin pie with the crumble on bottom with severe doubts that it will be crumbly.20180612_191912

Hamilton

When Lin-Manuel Miranda created Hamilton, he changed parts of history. The most difficult for me: his friends weren’t at his wedding, at least according to Ron Chernow. But the opportunity to return to the original friendship song and to continue the thread of Aaron Burr versus the remainder–golden and waiting and right there.

In Hamilton: The Revolution, Miranda writes about Philip and Angelica both having more siblings than their songs would have you believe.

But the best example for the young writers in the house: the folks who confronted Hamilton about the Reynolds payments were not Jefferson, Madison, and Burr.

Miranda changed details to fit the effect he desired. Whether that was a rhyme, a clever twist on a familiar song, or the double duty of recognized villains–the changes matched Miranda’s palate.

Making Connections

Today’s experiment was forced. I gave a limited number of changes to the bakers. Because it can be hard to think outside the recipe. It can be daunting to imagine something different from what already exists. Later this week, the kids will make their own baking (and authoring) adaptations. This gentle prod brought them a bit closer.

Adaptation Planning

The kids decided the source material they would adapt and the format in which it would be adapted. Yay!

We talked about copyright and ownership. It’s a common discussion during book camp, because ownership means creativity can continue. The kids learned that for private home educational use, we can use any source material. We do not intend to publish the adaptations or share them beyond our own little circle, and we are learning. We talked about the need to ask permission, and in many circumstances the need to purchase rights, to adapt another person’s work. Then we looked at some examples of works in the public domain that may be adapted without legal ramifications.

Fort Night!

Yes, I know it’s not spelled that way. But then again, I’m not arming the children with axes and sending them out to their enemies either.

I’ve never felt more left out of my own home! The fort has subsumed the four biggest bookcases.20180612_194749.jpg