Reading Challenge: Summer Camp 2023
It’s 7:03 am on Sunday, August 20, I’m just a couple of days back from camping in the woods of Vermont, and I’m fighting off a crummy tummy. This is not exactly how I wanted the Summer Camp Reading Challenge to go, especially after I had such a wonderful Summer Camp as a writer. And yet, here I am.
I’ve already read countless articles for the prompt I sponsored, plus well over 100 articles I saved on my Reading List as the event went on, but I’m not counting those for this. So, let’s go.
Or, well, before we go, allow me to publicly thank all the folks who have included some of my Summer Camp work in their own Reading Challenge articles. I am a person who struggles constantly with imposter syndrome, so to be mentioned as often as I have been—and with such kindness and thoughtfulness—is a real blessing. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Three Four of My Favorite Prompts
I know we’re only supposed to pick three prompts for this here challenge, but there were four waves and I don’t want any of them to feel left out. So here are my favorite prompts from each wave, and three articles from each that I had fun reading.
Favorite First Wave Prompt
Somewhere in your world describe… a culture that has suffered under the rule of a stronger nation.
I wrote about Leprechauns for this one, building out a culture of halflings I’d long wanted to tackle and fleshing out a bit of backstory for The Blood of Seven Queens. Here are some favorites by others:
This was a great read, and a fantastic reminder that sometimes we need to explore the darker corners of our worlds, and our worlds’ histories, in order to fully flesh them out.
Doll-like, child-like halflings that live life in gilded cages.
I love that a couple of distinct concepts are merged here: creepy dolls, child assassins, and the plight of the enslaved. The combination makes for a 100% original and incredibly rich bit of worldbuilding.
“the journey beyond the dam,” a phrase in the middle of this, would be a fantastic title for a short story or novel. Beyond that, I just love that Serukis shared something with us that was absolutely in-progress. That feels so true to the spirit of Summer Camp. I look forward to seeing where the Dam Merfolk fit into the broader world of Etrea in the future.
Favorite Second Wave Prompt
Somewhere in your world describe… a character driven by wanderlust or the desire to explore.
Here I wrote about Alice of Wonderland, who will be one of the primary antagonists in my upcoming trilogy of graphic novels. “Antagonist?!” I hear you saying. “Chris, don’t you mean protagonist?”
No, I do not.
At any rate, here are three cool responses to this prompt from other folks:
This whole thing is great, but I especially love the way it's organized and the information Rin fits neatly into the sidebar. I love, love, love that there’s a section of Author Commentary, as well. Lots of cool ideas to be inspired by here!
Sapha makes things that make me smile. And if you know me, you’ll understand why the response to the “Sexuality” prompt for Minitron was my favorite part of this well-done piece.
I love that web browsers have built-in translation software these days. While I know I’m not getting exactly the experience the author intended, the translation button allows me to read so many articles I wouldn’t otherwise be able to read. Such was the case with this great piece by Johe.
Favorite Third Wave Prompt
Somewhere in your world describe… a children’s tale or song based on a real event.
I had a lot of fun with this one myself, writing the song “Twister, Twist Her,” along with the story behind it. This wasn’t a prompt I ever would have thought of myself, but I’m so glad to have this bit of lore to build upon going forward.
Here are three responses from others that I got a kick out of:
Days of Creation
A historian's attempt at writing and illustrating a picture book to teach kids about the origins of the gods, long before they became husks.
Stormbril created a whole, gosh-darned flippable book here—and it’s good! That’s what I love about his work the most, that it’s not just the flashiness of great design but that the design is made to highlight well-written prose.
Not to be outdone, Emily Armstrong actually recorded the song she wrote for this prompt! I do not envy the judge of this here category, no sir!
Baku and the Bad Shatter
The children's song "Baku and the Bad Shatter" recalls the only Horn 3 Shatter recorded in the Zone. On that day, the baku revealed themselves by spiriting away all the children of the Zone to protect them from the manifest of nightmares in the Pit.
Kitoypoy’s contribution to this prompt was also fantastic. It includes art by several different artists, which really lends a whole ’nother layer of authenticity to the the experience. The variety of the art helps make this feel like a song that’s been around for a while—one that lots of folks have strong feelings about and associations with.
Favorite Fourth Wave Prompt
Somewhere in your world describe… an important public announcement that one person addressed to many
This one finally gave me an excuse to write an article I’ve been hinting at for years, ever since I first started writing on World Anvil: The Seven Wonders of the Post-Apocalyptic World. And here’s how three others responded to the prompt:
A new Dark Lord has arrived
His Majesty is forced to share grave news with his subjects: the Lord General Enélien Cenlys has been found to conduct human sacrifices and other horrors during the war, and upon his arrest, he declared himself a Dark Lord before fleeing. ignominiously.
My favorite thing about Amélie’s articles is that she never forgets about the little details, the things that really make an article come together. It may seem small, but the inclusion of a signature at the end of the letter just takes this to the next level for me.
Mark of Exile
The Mark of Exile is a sacrament of the Chivalric Codex by which the ValuSelu Pact is bound. It marks a dishonored object, land, or person.
Read an article by either one of the fine folks behind Ethnis and you’ll understand why they’re such beloved parts of the community. Here, in “Mark of Exile,” Ademal breaks down each section into manageable, readable chunks—perfect for the kind of crazed consumption we’re all doing here in the month after Summer Camp and the month before many of us head back to school or back to less laid-back work schedules.
I love how economical Barron is with his words here, how this article gets in, gets out, and gets its job done. That feels like the epitome of what Dimi was trying to get across to me in an early comment during this year’s Camp. Also: I’m so inspired by the way Barron and Ademal build and bounce off one another!
Goals for the Back Half of 2023
I’m writing this section first, on the morning of Thursday, August 3, because I miss the structure of Summer Camp already and I’m terribly overwhelmed and saddened by all the stuff I “need to do” before I can get back to what I want to do.
Here are some things I want to do with my worldbuilding in the next six months:
- Rename the goddess Eden, because having the world be named after her keeps leading to too many extra words of explanation. And since I’m working on a graphic novel, where word counts must be carefully considered, a renaming project to avoid confusion feels like the right thing to do.
- Complete a revision of my world map, which I started before Summer Camp began.
- Take the Free Cities of Nunya and break that country down into administrative regions, similar to what I’ve already done with Oz and Wonderland.
- Ditto the above for the Democratic Republic of the Reek.
- Create regional maps for each of the countries in Eden and plot out where settlements and landmarks are.
- Revise and add to my organization system to accommodate new regions created above.
- Brainstorm ethnicities to get rid of the mono-culture feel of each of my species.
That’s a lot, and there’s probably more, but I feel lighter in my heart and head for having written that down now.
The key goal for the next six months is to build out the parts of the world that I need to be able to refer to as I write and illustrated The Blood of Seven Queens. A lot of what I need is already done, but throughout Summer Camp I found myself adding bits that will be super-helpful as I flesh out the story. And so, I’m anxious to get back to doing that again.