Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Reading, writing, and drawing stories

In this third installment regarding the project that has consumed Joaquin for almost three months (bringing me along with him, of course), I’d like to direct all spotlights to the excitement it’s been to see him so involved in different aspects of literacy and storytelling.

This summer we’ve read a hard book, listened to it, created a well-sequenced and complex story, written scenes for it, and as a new step in our history: Joaquin has learned to make and use a storyboard to visualize and document his stories. Let’s begin…

Reading A Game of Thrones

Joaquin on the library floorMay 15 · We got a gorgeously illustrated edition of the book from the library and Joaquin couldn’t wait! Right away he sat on the floor and started browsing through the pages. He’s in love with the map of Westeros and decided that he must make a map of the world for his story as well.

Reading began tonight and dang, it’s hard! The first chapter felt dense and I felt like I had to rephrase every paragraph for Joaquin to comprehend. George uses three different word variations for the concept of horse—words that I, a non-native English speaker, have never had any need to know.

May 21 · Despite my attempt to dissuade Joaquin from reading this particular book (offering The Ice Dragon instead), his motivation made us push forward. We breezed through The Ice Dragon and tonight I celebrate the fact that Joaquin was able to read, comprehend (with a little help), and narrate back a full chapter from AGoT!

Writing begins

May 22 · This weekend it was officially decided: Joaquin will really make his own TV show inspired by the story that is consuming him right now. We’ve talked plenty about plans for all the details required: costumes, stages, actors, geographical locations represented in a cool map, green screen space, video effects, soundtrack, etc. But he hasn’t gotten quite into developing the crucial backbone to the project: Story and characters.

I know this type of projects usually has taken off at home when I’ve gotten involved, and after several days of dreaming it was clear that he needed some nudge to get started writing the story or at least his beginning scenes. We’re both morning creators, so I offered to video-chat with him while he’s at school.

screenshot of our writing session over facetime

That laugh is him celebrating his evil plot plans which crack me up: GoT has so many aspects, it’s so much fun to see which ones he’s using in his story. Right away: Father-son serious and deadly dispute. One of the main characters will be shaped by his story of paternal rejection and judgment over being physically different. Thoughts around my most recent topics of research suggest this soul is incarnating and developing right on target. Ha! ha! ha!

The plot has evolved so rich, it begs for a storyboard

Jul 15 · With twenty-something blocks of plot Joaquin has written and constant ideas arising at breakfast and throughout the day, I suggested to him to start visualizing, sequencing, and carving the story details with a storyboard.

Since I’m introducing this concept for the first time, on day one I took the sketchbook and did the drawings while we discussed the specific way how we both picture the sequence of scenes Joaquin has written for the first block of the story.

Jul 22 · Several times last week I invited Joaquin to take over the storyboard drawings but he refused insisting that he couldn’t do as good a job as me:

three figures leaving Tardarfive figures going home'Enough Raphael!', the king protestsking drinking winebear smelling flowersupset man decides to arrest shoppersmale bear scolds a sobbing female bearunhappy bear in a jail cellcharacter writing with an inked feather

But since Pumpum’s character costume has been so delayed, today I suggested I should work on costumes while he worked on the storyboard. He agreed, did an amazing job, and decided he could do this on his own. He wants to discuss ideas with me before drawing, of course, but he’s no longer dependent on my never-better-than-his artistic abilities.

Storyboarding and loving itUsing plastic insects as models for his drawingDrawing in the background with Sochi in the foreground

Aug 2 · Joaquin has made great progress on the storyboard. I adore the expressiveness and color of his artwork:

a bear asks 'where are my fighting clothes?'Count Schalsmer, a vampirefour insects on the movea frowny woman says 'No, not like that!'a frowny woman demonstrates: 'It's like this'two figures; one withhands tieda soldier holding a sword over a man's headthe king demands: 'put them as prisoners!'the king says 'You're dismissed'backlit silhouette of a beara pouty bear gesturesa bear apologizes gesturing with hands on his chest

I also got him Shotlist, an app in which he’s entered every scene’s drawings, scenarios, props, and other details. By now we’ve completed detailed plans for 16 blocks of the 28 Joaquin has written for Season 1—did I mention his intention is to film several seasons?—and since a lot of the conversation (now that the story is getting very tight and connected) concerns scenarios and ambitious plans for animations and special effects, I thought maybe we should start working on that next week. He’s excited (and so am I)!

. . . . .
Additional celebration: Between reading and listening (hello APD!) to the audio book while driving, Joaquin and I are at page 204 out of 843 in this riveting story. I’m immensely thankful to “George” for such great contribution to my child’s self-directed education.

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