When I was five-years-old my class listened to the story of how Heifer International began with a cow named Faith. When asked how we would help the world, I announced I would have a job with my dog. Ginger could pull my red wagon through our Ohio farm neighborhood to serve lemonade and cookies.
I’m now a grandmother of five children and The RUFF Writers Project of New Sun Rising is a grandmotherly revision of that idea through sharing the joy of stories—with maybe a few cookies along the way.
“RUFF” in this case means “Relationships Use Facts and Fantasy” as family members come alongside children—and if possible a spoonful of help from teachers and afterschool leaders–to engage in conversation, art and writing.
Writing always begins with a rough draft. In this case the word “RUFF” also represents “Relationships Using Facts and Fiction.” This project has an underlying message to “go off leash” from technology to connect across generations to read and reflect and then write “RUFF” drafts of the little stories that may be polished over the years into essays, poems or children’s picture books.
- The RUFF Writers art and writing kit, with cardstock pages, plastic protection sleeves and accessories to turn a folder into a book cover, is to provide a keepsake of art and “RUFF” draft stories of meaningful engagements at home as well as settings that include hospices, hospitals and personal care homes.
- The RUFF Writers: Words + Pictures AIU3 Act 48 credit workshop with Jane Miller, Leslie Kunkel, Blackhawk Middle School art teacher, and guest authors and illustrators is planned for Summer 2021. The workshop setting provides practice time in writing, art and graphic design under mentors to produce a children’s picture book.
- The RUFF Writers: ReVISIONS is an exhibit of books by Western Pennsylvania authors and illustrators that is available to travel to libraries in Western Pennsylvania that includes photography by Linda Mitzel (The Fallingwater Cookbook) of therapy dogs, cats and rabbits and a revision backstory by the author or illustrator. Local events will include opening receptions as well as opportunities to connect with area animal shelters or 4-H Club programs to include story time with therapy dogs or rabbits
- Web Support, Scholarships and Educator Stipends: The RUFF Writers web site, when finished will hold an archive of pdf pages that are simple art activities, along with pages adapted for reproduction from the art and writing kit. It would include scholarships for talented high school students to attend workshops side by side with teachers as well as stipends for attending teachers.
The majority of financial support, $15 of each $20 donation, provides the art and writing kit at production cost for families in at risk communities including hospice, hospital or homeless settings. The remaining $5 of each $20 donation is designated for expenses related to the ReVISIONS exhibit
The RUFF Writers Project also plans to give back to the people and organizations that provided the initial support by providing thank you links to up to 24 (the typical number of blocks in a bed-sized quilt) organizations on the web site. On-line book buyers could choose the recipient of the donation to be tracked with each kit order. This would be tracked for a year and anticipated to award in November 2021.
Each order of an art/writing kit will also provide a donation to Heifer International, as well. As important as it is to nourish our children through our stories and the ones we read to them, our greatest gifts provide basic needs. I learned that as a five-year-old from a story I heard 60 years ago about a man who had a “job” with his cow.