Friday, February 26, 2016

Polymer Clay Book Tutorial + A Review of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Have you ever read a book that you just can’t stop thinking about? You may have finished the story a few hours ago, a few days ago, even a few months ago, but you keep finding yourself drawn back to it.

It happens to me. Not very often, but sometimes. See, I have this weird idea that stories shape me as a person. The bad books remind me of how I don’t want to be. The good books show me what I should strive for. And the great books? The great books show me myself: both as I am and as I can be.  
That being said, Great Books are nearly impossible to find. When I am fortunate enough to stumble across one, I hold on to it like Gollum holds onto his precious.

The most recent Great Book I’ve found is A Monster Calls. It was created by two brilliant writers: Patrick Ness, who wrote the book, and Siobhan Dowd, who had the idea for the story, but died of breast cancer before she had time to write it out. 

Only great matters, matters of life and death, can make the monster come walking. And the monster has come for Conor O'Malley. He wants Conor to tell a story. But how can stories be important when other, far more important things are happening? How can stories matter when his mother's treatments aren't working? But stories are wild things, and they hold healing and power that Conor never imagined.

And so it comes about that the monster has come to tell Conor three stories: A tale of saving an evil queen, a story about a selfish healer, and the account of a man that nobody sees. And when the stories are finished, the monster wants a story in return, but not just any story. He wants Conor's story. THE story. He wants to know about the nightmare. He wants Conor to tell the truth. 

If you’ve never read anything by Patrick Ness, then I need to explain something to you: His writing style is like nothing I have ever seen in a modern writer. He, unlike so many authors, knows how to write thoughtfully and honestly. He can spin a story that will rip your heart from your chest. But then, rather than grinding it into the dirt, he fills it with hope and truth and puts it back. And it hurts. How could it not? But you walk away from his stories with an ache in your heart and a lopsided smile on your face because you just found a book that actually meant something.

This is especially true for A Monster Calls. Here we have a story about a little boy whose mother is dying. That’s nothing special. It’s a story-line that’s been done a hundred times. But never like this.

A Monster Calls doesn’t try to make things look different than they really are. It doesn’t show a mother with cancer and try to say that it’s all going to be okay because she has hope and fight. It doesn’t ignore the fact that sickness changes a family, or that sometimes people unwittingly distance themselves from others who are in pain. And it doesn’t give easy, rainbows-and-butterflies answers to these problems. But it also doesn’t make the world look darker than it really is.

As somebody with Lyme, it's nice to read a book that handles the issues of anger, grief, and pain in an honest way. When the monster comes walking for Conor, it doesn't try to explain away any of Conor's rage or loneliness or any of the ugly things that come along with illness and suffering. Instead, it tries to help him find a way to deal with them. And, as the monster helps Conor through his mother's sickness, it also helped me with mine. Maybe this book was my monster come walking. 

This is usually when I give you a recipe inspired by this book. But I’m not going to do that this month. A Monster Calls is an important story to me, so I wanted to be able to carry around a reminder of it wherever I go.

Also, there was no food in this book. Sorry. Just killed the mood, didn't I? 

Anyway, I decided to make a mini version of the book out of clay. Here, take a look:

Want to know how I made it? It’s easy: 

What you'll need: 
  1. A knife. Giving a maniacal laugh while holding it is optional.  
  2. A brush.
  3. Mini book cover. You simply go onto Google, find the cover you want, copy to Word, and pare down to whatever size you want it. I like mine to be 1.5 inches tall by 1 inch wide. I also like to print out a back cover with a favorite book quote. 
  4. Gloss mod podge. I use this kind because it is water-resistant, which is nice if you want to use your book as a key chain. 
  5. Polymer clay. I use Sculpey, but I wouldn't think that it matters very much. You will need white clay (for the pages), and any other color that will match your paper book cover. 
  6. An eyepin and a lobster clasp. 
1. Gather supplies:
You'll probably want to do this on a place mat, unless you're okay with getting glue and clay on your work-space. I won't judge. 
2. Roll out your white clay. Get it as thin or thick as you want, keeping in mind that this will be the pages of your book. Place your book cover on top of the clay. 
 Use your knife to cut the clay out into the same size as the book cover.
3. Select your clay color for the book covers and spine. Roll out and lay your book cover and book back on top. I chose silver as my color because I thought it would look pretty. When I rolled it out, the clay split partly and I ended up with this: 
Do you see it? It's the Millennium Falcon. Or a stingray without a tail. But I'm going with the Millennium Falcon. 
4. Cut a rectangle around the two book covers, making sure to leave extra space for the spine. Take this rectangle and carefully wrap around your white clay: 
5. Now use your knife to cut small lines along the white clay. This will make them look like book pages: 
6. Push your eyepin into the top of the book. Pull it out, coat with mod podge, then push back into the hole: 
Wipe excess glue off the top of the book. 
7. Bake book in oven per instructions on your clay packet. Unless you want your book to have an ancient papyrus look, you'll want to keep an eye on it, otherwise it might burn.
8. Once the book is done baking and has hardened and cooled completely, take it back to your workstation. Paint glue onto the back of your book covers, then stick them to the clay book. I used Elmer's glue before I remembered that mod podge would have worked just fine. It's the Lyme, I swear.
9. Once the glue has dried, paint mod podge onto the front, bottom, top, and sides of the book. Do this in even strokes and try to keep the layer fairly thin. Once dried, flip the book over and seal the back with mod podge, too. 
And there you have it! Your very own mini book. They're adorable, like all mini things (except for newborn kangaroos. Those things are creepy). You can use them as key chains, zipper pulls, attach them to your purse, or just set them on your book case.
In case you're wondering why the covers don't match, I can explain: I made the mini book using the cover for the non-illustrated book. I ordered the book online and requested the non-illustrated version. However, I ended up getting the illustrated version, so now they don't match. It's throwing off my groove. Thankfully, the back cover matches: 
This is one of my favorite quotes from the book. You never know quite where a story will take you, just like you never know for certain where your life will take you. It often runs off in directions that you don't expect it to, and sometimes it goes off in directions that you don't want it to. What are you supposed to do then? 

Well, as Conor's mother explains: You be as angry as you need to be, she said. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise....And if you need to break things, then by God, you break them good and hard. 

But when you're done breaking things, you need to get back up. Instead of trying to ignore things or lie to yourself and say that there is no monster, that there is nothing wrong, you need to tell yourself the truth. Tell yourself your story, your true story, and face your monster. And then take Ness's advice:

Go. Run with it. Make trouble. 

If you haven't yet read A Monster Calls, I would strongly recommend that you give it a try. When was the last time you read a book that took hold of your heart and helped you as a person? I'd love to hear of it! 

Related articles: 

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  1. Cool! Now I'm going to try making a mini book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy with those pretty black covers :D (By the way, I love the novel teas!! And the little quotes on the end of each tea bag :D)

    1. That's such a good idea! I love those new covers. Excited to see how they turn out. =)

  2. Really, Hannah, you are not helping my tbr list right now. I must have this book now. It sounds amazing. There is nothing more magical than when a story directly applies to your life or speaks to you in some special way. I'm glad this one did that for you.

    You can cook and make crafts. That's not even fair. I try to cook food and it tastes weird. I try to make crafts and my creations beg me for death. *shrugs* What can I do?

    1. Haha! I'll try not to talk about any more really good books until you catch up. =)

      Well, the upside to not being able to cook is that other people will generally do it for you. Always a silver lining. =D

  3. Gorgeous craft! I love clay :D It's just so fun to squish!

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

    1. I know, right? I admit that I squished it much more than necessary. =)

  4. What a great idea, and (it seems) so simple--thank you for the disclaimer about not leaving the clay to burn; I have a back track record with our oven...

    As for books that have helped me as a person, I had two series come to mind. The first is The Healing Wars trilogy by Janice Hardy. I read The Shifter years ago, then re-read all the books when I did not have use of my hands during a severe bout of tendonitis and carpal tunnel. The main character of The Shifter is a girl who physically takes pain from others. She pushes the pain healers who are equipped to handle the pain and dispose of it into pynvium stone, but sometimes she has to hold onto the pain and learn how to function despite it. Reading the book was an incredible lesson for me, agonizing because I could relate, humbling because of how she conducted herself, and encouraging to see a different side to pain. It taught me how to deal with my pain. You may really be able to relate to it too, Hannah. I highly recommend the trilogy.

    The second book series that changed me is the Defiance trilogy by C.J. Redwine. Though the first book is good, the second one amazed me. It's a Hard Read, but oh so worth the uncomfortable growing that happens if you take the time to ruminate on it. Deception deals with living with guilt, immense, overwhelming, staggering guilt. Reading that book helped me develop as a writer, to know how to write traumatized characters but also provide a beautiful ray of hope throughout their character arcs.

    1. Wow. The Shifter is definitely a book I'm going to read. It sounds unique and beautiful, not to mention relevant. I also have pain in my hands (very similar to carpal tunnel, actually), so I'm sorry to hear that you're struggling with that, too. But it's great that that book was able to help you out!

      Now I'm off to go look at those two trilogies you mentioned. Thank you for the thoughtful comment!

    2. Janice Hardy is brilliant. She founded Fiction University which houses a wealth of writing help as well. I cannot imagine what you're going through; mine is actually much better, only flares up when I write or paint a lot (both of my favorite hobbies, gah). I was a sniveling wimp for the six months it was agonizing, though.

      You're welcome! I love swapping amazing books! I shall have to check out A Monster Calls as well.

  5. What an amazingly talented dudette you are, Hannah! :) I love this, though I don't think I'd be patient enough to pull it off :\ I haven't read this book, but it's going on my list right away... (So, you're creeped out by baby kangaroos, huh? Interesting... :D)

    1. Lol! Thank you. Glad to hear you'll give this book a peek. It's amazing. But you already know that, because you read my post. =)

      And yes, there's just something about newborn kangas that creep me out. Maybe it's the lack of fur.

  6. That may be the cutest book ever. If I had friends, they'd all get these for holidays.

    1. Aw. Thanks! I'll be your friend! And you don't even have to make me little books. Though that would be awesome. =D


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