Featured Explorer: Carina Nasturzio

One of our fabulous interns (and unofficial photographer!) is Carina Nasturzio, and we are so lucky to have had her bright and happy presence with us this past year! Read below to learn more about this awesome explorer!
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1. Favourite planet to live: Mars, but Earth is pretty neat too
2. Favourite book or the last great one you read: The Kite Runner, Room
3. Favourite writers: Marjane Satrapi, Lidia Yuknavitch, Emma Donoghue, Juni Ito
4. Favourite thing to do on Earth:  Make art, explore, and pet dogs
5. Favourite Earth food:  Popcorn
 
6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience at Story Planet:  At one of my very first workshops, a student gave me a note telling me how nice I was and how she was happy we met.  Sometimes I’ll read it when I need a bit of motivation, or just need some cheering up!
7. Most important thing you learned as an intern at Story Planet:  That what we do really makes a difference.  I’ve seen shy and timid students open up and be creative in the span of one hour, and you can tell that the workshop really touched them.  It’s heartwarming to see, and I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to see it.

Featured Explorer: Catriona Spaven-Donn

At Story Planet, we work with some of the most amazing, inspiring, and truly wonderful humans on the planet, and we’d love for you to learn more about them too!

We would like to introduce you to one of our stellar new volunteers, Catriona Spaven-Donn. Catriona is not only a fabulous volunteer who has been helping kids and youth around Toronto through other organizations, she’s also a super cool human with many talents who has also travelled to Toronto all the way from Scotland.

Check out her responses below!

1. Favourite planet to live: Living on Earth is pretty cool – we can be in urban environments with huge streetcar and library networks as well as loads of choices of places to eat and shop; but then we can also be in other habitats. Earlier this year, I lived on an island 4000 metres above sea level where it was sometimes difficult to breathe and the high pressure brought tremendous lightning storms. So far, I’ve found that Planet Earth is full of places to visit, people to meet, stories to tell, and adventures to embark upon.

2. Favourite book or the last great one you read: This year, I worked at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, which is the largest book festival in the world, and I was lucky enough to hear many great writers present their work. There were sold out events for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Zadie Smith, both of whose novels I have very much enjoyed reading. But rather than the sit-down talks with famous authors, my favourite events happened in the Imagination Lab, where we set up cushions and tables with crayons and arts and crafts for infants and children. There, I discovered Britta Teckentrup’s wonderful world of collage and peek-through story books while working with Grade 2s to produce our own artwork. Her children’s books, such as ‘Tree’, which follows a tree and its woodland companions through four seasons, are creative and educational, with a special focus on nature and wildlife and exploring this planet we call home.

3. Favourite writers: I’ve already mentioned a couple of my favourite fiction writers, but I also read other genres like poetry and travel writing. As you can tell from my Britta Teckentrup recommendation, I love books about nature. Kathleen Jamie is a Scottish poet who writes about the Scottish landscape, which makes me feel very connected to where I grew up in the countryside outside of Edinburgh, and also in the mountainous, windswept wilderness of the Scottish Highlands.

4. Favourite thing to do on Earth: Unsurprisingly from all you’ve read about me now, I love reading and traveling! I love going on adventures and exploring hidden away spaces, and scribbling words or taking photos while I’m at it.

5. Favourite Earth food: Anything chocolate mint flavour (but sadly also dairy-free due to dietary restrictions) and tortilla chips and humous. I’m all about the snacks!

6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience at Story Planet: For one comic-making workshop with Grade 4s and 5s, seeing the character we created collectively come alive in the students’ comic panels was really exciting. I enjoyed sharing ideas about glass-eating monsters and unicorn best friends, but the best moment was one earnest comic-maker shouting out to me at the end, “I’ll miss you!” It’s great to know that Story Planet is so valued in the classrooms we visit – and it also means we’ll just have to keep going back so they don’t miss us too much!

Featured Explorer: Shawna Lee Campbell

At Story Planet, we work with some of the most amazing, inspiring, and truly wonderful humans on the planet, and we’d love for you to learn more about them too!

We would like to introduce you to one of our stellar volunteers, Shawna Lee Campbell. Shawna is not only a wonderful volunteer who has connected with kids all over the GTA, she is a published children’s book author, artist, and all-round lovely human.

Check out her responses below!

1. Favourite planet to live: Our magnificent Earth of course!

2. Favourite book or the last great one you read: The Little Prince wins my heart.

3. Favourite writers: Lucy Rose and Mike Norris!

4. Favourite thing to do on Earth: Travel, paint, write, mermaid, hike, hoop, breathe, laugh, sleep.

5. Favourite Earth food: Shawarma

6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience at Story Planet: My favourite workshop I’ve done is the Alien Has Landed workshop. The moment that stands out for me the most was the fifth grader who felt the spacecraft had been appropriated from a Northern Indigenous community by aliens. Her perspective was incredibly insightful and intelligently articulated. She was able to back up her ideas with specific details about the spacecraft and reference to factual details of Indigenous culture and Northern landscapes. It was a fascinating experience listening to her ideas.

Featured Explorer: Kris Bone

At Story Planet, we work with some of the most amazing, inspiring, and truly wonderful humans on the planet, and we’d love for you to learn more about them too!

We would like to introduce you to one of our stellar long-time volunteers, Kris Bone. Kris is not only an awesome volunteer who has helped inspire kids all over the GTA, he’s a published writer, comedian, and overall cool human.

Check out his responses below!

1. Favourite planet to live: Earth is nice (so far), but I hear that Venus has some great restaurants.

2. Favourite book or the last great one you read: The People of Paper, by Salvador Plascencia! It’s a magical little book about luchadors who are secretly saints, origami so deft it can replace human organs, and a no-holds-barred fight between the author of the novel and a small village that he created. It’s the book that keeps me writing when I start getting tired and considering taking up plumbing or becoming an undertaker.

3. Favourite writers: Hunter S. Thompson, Andre Alexis, David Foster Wallace, Erik Larson, and that gorilla who paints.

4. Favourite thing to do on Earth: It’s a three-way tie: Reading, napping, and writing.

5. Favourite Earth food: Mars bars, ironically.

6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience at Story Planet: I was part of a workshop a few years ago with a group of second-grade students. The facilitator, in talking about characters in stories, asked the group if they thought characters always had to be boys or girls–could they think of other things that could be characters? One little boy put his hand up and declared that “animals, animals could be characters!” The facilitator agreed. A girl in the second row put up her hand and proclaimed that “donkeys could be characters!” Again, the facilitator agreed–donkeys are rare but wonderful protagonists. Then, one boy near the back put his hand up in the air and waved it around–he desperately wanted to contribute. Our facilitator looked over at him and asked him what he thought. The boy said: “It could- it could be a cinnamon donkey!!”

I have rarely laughed so hard as I did that morning, and I think about it often (but maybe not for the reasons you’re expecting). That boy was right! A cinnamon donkey COULD be a character! Who am I to say otherwise? When we’re writing stories from our imaginations, why couldn’t a cinnamon donkey exist?

When I write, now, I often remember that boy when I find myself thinking that something shouldn’t or couldn’t happen in one of my stories. My characters can, and should, do everything–why not? And maybe, one day, I’ll find a way to work a real live imaginary cinnamon donkey into one of those stories, too.

Featured Explorer: Anna Fitzpatrick

At Story Planet, we work with some of the most amazing, inspiring, and truly wonderful humans on the planet, and we’d love for you to learn more about them too!

We would like to introduce you to one of our stellar long-time volunteers, Anna Fitzpatrick. Anna is not only a dedicated volunteer who is adored by children all over the GTA, she is a fabulous Toronto writer and journalist, and overall great person.

Check out her responses below!

1. Favourite planet to live: I only have experience living on planet earth, but Sailor Venus is my favourite of the Sailor Scouts so I’ve always gotten a good vibe about there.

2. Favourite book or the last great one you read: Judith Viorst’s Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

3. Favourite writers: All the young writers I meet through Story Planet, of course! For grownups, I love Shirley Jackson, Jack Handey, and Monica Heisey

4. Favourite thing to do on Earth: I’m addicted to Duolingo, an app that helps you learn new languages. They’ve yet to add Martian, so for now I’m just practicing Russian.

5. Favourite Earth food: Love me some mashed potatoes

6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience at Story Planet: Once in a story writing workshop we were coming up with a character, and one of the students suggested it be “Tall like Miss Anna.” I felt so seen.

Christopher Harris

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there existed an imaginative and creative world named Story Planet. Orbited by the love and dedication of its inhabitants, Story Planet has been home to some of the most amazing creatures.

We would like to introduce the incredibly sweet-tempered, kind and caring, Christopher Harris. Chris, our Research and Outreach Coordinator, is the captain of Story Planet’s Exploration Team. A team of valiant explorers who have undertaken the vital task of reaching out to schools in Toronto in search of groups of young Earthlings who would love our creative help getting their stories out into the universe. The connections that the Exploration Team are building are the foundation of all Story Planet does and Chris and his team make sure that these connections are thoughtful, respectful and responsive from the very first contact. We here at Story Planet cannot be more grateful for his astronomic contributions and his overall generous and caring disposition that makes our little planet shine bigger and brighter.

We asked Chris to answer a few questions about himself to help paint a brighter picture for those who have not met him yet. Check out his responses below!

Introducing Chris

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1. Favourite planet to live:

The only place I’ve ever wanted to live is Earth, specifically Northeastern North America. I am proud to be a cog in the Super Computer churning out the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything.

2. Favourite book or the last great one you read:

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – it remains the only book I’ve ever been able to read more than once .

Last great book I read – Fifteen Dogs by André Alexis. Also, East of Eden, which I read years ago, has a portentous beauty that blinds me with its magnificence monthly.

3. Favourite writers:

David Mitchell, Philip Pullman and Warren Ellis are my favourites – I can’t not read anything they’ve ever wrote; Haruki Murakami and I have a tempestuous relationship and he always leaves me with odd feelings largely revolving around jazz or cats.

4. Favourite thing to do on Earth:

I love cooking, baking, eating, drinking, reading and talking; often times all at once, making me mediocre at them all.

5. Favourite Earth food:

New York Pizza. This is the only correct answer. Ice Cream, in certain circumstances, gets part-marks.

6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience here:

My first day volunteering I fell in love with SP. I was nervous, but everyone, including the students, made me feel welcomed and encouraged my creativity. It was, and continues to be, one of my happy places.

 

 

Keileigh Lowe and Sarah Horobin

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away there existed an imaginative and creative world named Story Planet. Orbited by the love and dedication of its volunteer inhabitants, Story Planet has been home to some of the most amazing creatures. And none have been more wonderful then our new intergalactic interns, Keileigh Lowe and Sarah Horobin! From helping to facilitate the Lift Off after school program to reorganizing the space clutter in our back room Keileigh and Sarah have done it all! We here at Story Planet cannot be more grateful for their astronomic contributions and their overall cheerful disposition that makes our little planet shine that much brighter. Story Planet has searched near and far for space travellers like these wonderful ladies and we hope they call this place home for many more light years to come.

We asked Keileigh and Sarah to answer a few questions about themselves to help paint a brighter picture for those who have not met them yet. Check out their responses below!

Introducing Keileigh:

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1. Favourite Planet to live:

I used to live on Mars. It was nice because only a few of us knew about it, but now that they found that water, I guess the secret is out!

2. Favourite book or the last great one you read:

My favourite book is Weaveworld by Clive Barker.

3. Favourite writers:

Douglas Adams is an awesome writer for fiction, but in terms of non fiction I love reading Stephen Hawking so I can really understand the way the universe works!

4. Favourite thing to do on Earth:

I love visual arts, and I love the nature planet Earth has to offer. When I was growing up my dad and I used to go on hikes and then find a nice spot to paint what was around us. I find that as I have gotten older I tend to put things like that on the back burner, but every once in a while I find the time to go up north to my cottage. Temagami lake is my favourite place in the entire universe (even including Mars), and being able to sit under the stars and see the milky way with as much clarity as a photograph, or paint the sun as it is setting, is a truly magical moment.

5. Favourite Earth food:

My favourite current Earth food would have to be Apiecalypse Pizza as it is the best vegan pizza in the city! (And up the street from Story Planet- wink wink)

6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience here:

It is hard to pick just one. Every time a student shares something with me, whether it is some artwork or a smile I try to log it in my brain so I can remember it for years to come. Mithulaa drew a pumpkin for me for halloween and that was awesome. When Hamsa made his origami jumping creature finally jump and laughed for 5 minutes straight I didn’t think we would ever be able to stop. The staff and volunteers at Story Planet inspire me every day, and the students who come could brighten the day of even the grumpiest person. I feel so incredibly lucky to have found such a special place.

Introducing Sarah:

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1. Favourite Planet to live: 

It’s so hard to pick just one, but if I had to choose, I’d choose Venus. It’s named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty, so I feel like I’d fit right in.

2. Favourite book or the last great one you read:

My reigning favourite is Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close.

3. Favourite writers:

I have a few. Junot Díaz, Jonathan Safran Foer, and Kurt Vonnegut are the first ones that come to mind.

4. Favourite thing to do on Earth:

Anything arts and culture related, really. Watching tv and movies. Reading comics. Going to art exhibits, poetry slams, and concerts. I love being able to see the world with a new set of eyes through these artistic mediums.

5. Favourite Earth food:

Avacados, hands down.

6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience here:

My heart grew three sizes the day I wore a shirt with a smiley face on it and one of the space travellers was so eager to tell me that that my shirt was smiling and it made her smile.

Sean Waisglass

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Sean Waisglass has been an essential cog in Story Planet’s extra-terrific volunteer machine ever since he arrived a few months ago. He popped his head in one day to check out the space and (lucky for us) hasn’t left since!

Sean is a super friendly terrestrial with a killer eye for photography. He is always the first volunteer to respond when we are in a space jam and need volunteers ASAP. His fateful landing on this Story Planet has been nothing short of incredibly helpful and so much fun!

We asked Sean to answer a few questions about himself to paint a brighter picture for those who have yet to meet him. Check out his responses below!

 

1. Favourite Planet to live: 

Earth. I like this big ol’ ball of water and rock.  (2nd choice: Saturn. Curious about what goes on in those rings.)

2. Favourite book or the last great one you read:

Can’t narrow it down, but the one book I’m always cracking open and finding interesting is the dictionary, so maybe that’s technically my favourite!

3. Favourite writers:

I really like reading about people’s lives, ideas, and the way the world works, so I read a lot of non-fiction. Authors like Mark Twain, George Plimpton, Joan Didion, Christopher Hitchens, Jane Jacobs, David Foster Wallace, and Hunter S. Thompson have all written great essays and journalism about everything from culture and sports to politics and identity. There’s a lot to learn about life on this planet!

4. Favourite thing to do on Earth:

My two favourite pastimes are complimentary to each other: riding around on my bike, and taking photos. Both are a great tools for exploring and appreciating all the things the city has to offer, like our waterfront and parks, our various buildings and neighbourhoods, and all the different kinds of people living their lives together here. (You can follow along with me at: instagram.com/seanwaisglass)

5. Favourite Earth food:

I like a lot of the food that comes from the Earth continent known as Asia.

6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience here:

The earnest answer would obviously be a moment when one of the kids at Story Planet and I helped each other learn more about how amazing human language and imagination is. The honest answer would be one of many memories I have of the kooky stuff the kids have come up with during the storytelling Alpha workshops. Like when they made up a villain who lived in a cave and ate meatballs that were actually portals to other dimensions, or a hero who was half snake, half cereal bowl, and had a beard make of electricity.

Scott Ladley

photo-18Joining us all the way from the American Galaxy is Scott Ladley, a former fish-monger and 826 volunteer, who is now known to Story Planet as a videographer, ESL teacher, and all-around cool guy. Scott is a real renaissance man of this solar system, pitching in at Homework Help and investigating alien landings, not to mention doing a bit of filmmaking in between. He always arrives with a smile and a high five and loves listening to stories as much as telling them. We’re so lucky to have Scott and all his enthusiasm in our orbit! Learn a little bit more about him here:

  1. Favourite Planet to live: I’m beginning to discover my front and back porch? I put a question mark because, having moved here this past winter, I never saw them as destinations but rather things I sprinted over in a cold shiver or gazed past with a longing desire. I grew up on the farmlands and backroads of central Pennsylvania, so my porch in Leslieville helps me slow down a bit of this big city life in Toronto.
  2.  Favourite book or the last great one you read: After I officially gave up trying to read and understand a TTC transfer pass, I read George Saunders’s collection The Tenth of December. These were great stories but as soon as I got my PR card, I knew I had to read Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda. Although it’s quite a higher degree of seriousness than what I’m used to, there’s way more violence, social clout that comes with reading it in public….and it’s a step in my quest to be as cool as CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi.
  3. Favourite writers: Pardon my all-American lineup…what can I say? Bill Watterson (comic strips require GREAT writing), Jason Fagone, Ron Suskind, Chuck Klosterman, Michael Lewis, Frederick Exley, Jacob Tomsky, Ariel Levy, Dave Eggers.
  4. Favourite thing to do on Earth: Gotta go with frisbee golf. It doesn’t even have to be a “course”, but chasing plastic discs through the woods with a good friend is pretty close to perfect.
  5. Favourite Earth food: My four years in Seattle cemented coffee at the top of this list. I worked at Pike Place Fish Market 12 hours a day yelling at strangers and hawking seafood…coffee was in my bloodstream nonstop! If I ever saw a dollar amount for what I’ve spent on this absolutely spectacular liquid crutch, I may shed more tears than a 5 year old on his first day away from his mom. During my more serious ultimate frisbee playing days, I would’ve said bagels or something silly like peanut butter, cheese, or salsa (I have the palette of a teenager) but not anymore. I’m a big fan of the programs at Story Planet but I’ll shoot it to ya straight and say there’s a small side of me that’s there just for the Black Hole Brew.
  6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience here: The group from Carleton Village that created aliens for 3D printing at Maker Kids last week is a recent highlight for sure. I suppose it’s a sign of the times but their disillusion with iPads and 3d printing was crazy to me. I could’ve watched the printers alone for three hours. But really, they didn’t allow the technology to distract their creativity which was the best part of that workshop–brainstorming their stories.  Every question I had about their “Fearless, faceless Alien Striker from Mars” had a spectacular answer. An example:

    What’s that for?
    Well that’s his belt
    Right, for his pants, every alien needs to hold up his pants. Smart thinking.
    He doesn’t need pants, the belt buckle is a secret button that makes him invisible.
    Right, so wouldn’t people ask him why he has a belt with no pants?
    He also has the special power to confuse people!

    Giving students a forum to create things simply for the sake of creating is invaluable. There’s so much of life that will tell them to do things for a million and a half reasons–not many of them will be ‘for the fun of it’. Story Planet is a place for creativity, confidence, and for-the-fun-of-it learning. Kids need good people to run and be at these places. I’m grateful to have the time and go-ahead from you guys to help out and even create photographs and film for the work!

Katharine Reszetnik

KatharineRPortalIf you’ve ever visited the ITA on a Monday or Tuesday morning, chances are you are already best buds with Katharine Reszetnik. She is one of those people whose sunny attitude and infectious cheerfulness brighten any room. She is as comfortable striking up a conversation with the ITA’s frequent flyers as with new travellers embarking on their first intergalactic voyage. Always ready for a challenge, and eager to find new ways to help out, Katharine is a wonderful ambassador for Story Planet, and we are so grateful to have her on our team!

Here is how Katharine answered our Story Planet Questionnaire:

1. Favourite Planet to live: My favourite planet to live on would be Neptune because in Roman mythology Neptune is the god of the sea and I absolutely love the ocean!

2. Favourite book or the last great one you read: I have two top picks for books I have read this year: Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and Brain on Fire – My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan. Gillian Flynn’s work is a fast-paced murder mystery that has you fooled until the last chapter, written with astonishing detail and an enticing and edgy voice. Susanah Cahalan’s memoir is an interesting reflection on a rare autoimmune disease. I loved it because it crosses into both the scientific world as well as a creative and artistic one – just like Story Planet! Plus it is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and set in my hometown Summit, New Jersey!

3. Favourite writers: My favourite author is Margaret Atwood, no competition. Every word she writes carries purpose and action…her writing is illuminating and visceral and I can’t get enough of it! This year I gobbled up some of her older novels including The Handmaid’s Tale, Bodily Harm and Alias Grace.

4.  Favourite thing to do on Earth: My favourite thing to do on Earth is dance! Boogie, shimmy, disco, limbo…you name it I’ll jiggle to it! Sitting down, standing up, doesn’t matter I just wanna wiggle!

5. Favourite Earth food: Favourite Earth food is raspberries – they’re sweet, pink, delicious and fuzzy, what more could you ask for in something the size of your thumbnail?

6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience here: My favourite memory from Story Planet is from my first Alpha Workshop when one young girl was reading me the beginning of her story in which her class was  transported to a magical planet. She suddenly stopped mid-sentence and asked me how to spell my name. When I asked why she wanted to know she replied, “Because I want you to come with us!” It seems somewhat trivial but it made my heart tingle and I will never forget my hypothetical travels to that fantastical world.