Monday, December 8, 2008


Teaching opportunities come up in the most interesting places. My cousin has a couple sons who are in love with the Victorian notion of the middle ages. They want to take up archery, so my cousin invited me over for lunch and a fast tutorial on archery. I strung a couple bows and introduced her to the equipment. I learned that Siamese kittens are fascinated by bowstrings.
I suppose some might question why I would include marital arts in an A&S Challenge. I'd answer that I'm exploring the art of teaching. The subject of the teaching is less important than its means of presentation. At least that's my story and I'm stickin' with it.
After seeing my canvas quiver (made of scraps 10 years ago) she was inspired to make similar quivers for her kids -- with embroidery! Hmmm. I might have to think about that idea.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Teaching ballads

I didn't teach a class at Midrealm Bardic Madness, since I didn't want to commit to driving in Chicago in bad weather. (What a wimp!) Turns out the weather was great.
I did participate in the "Teaching ballads" challenge by writing a piece describing the signs of the zodiac and the labors of the months to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star", one of our best-known teaching songs. (It was an acrostic, spelling ASTROLOGICAL!)
I'm not expecting a call from the Pulitzers for it, but it was an interesting challenge.
Can I remember the zodiac in order now? Mmmm... nope. Sigh!
Thanks to Master Cerian and the Barony of Tree-Girt-Sea for a wonderful event.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Another persona class

October 18 was the day for "Creating the Creative" in Nordskogen. It was a day intended to introduce beginners to the SCA, and to encourage oldsters to try new things. I got to saw a rock in two for the first time.
I taught "Meeting your persona" again, using PowerPoint. There were more than 30 people there, ranging in SCA experience from an hour to 25 years. The response was great, and the folks who stayed after to chat were delightful.
Now I need a new subject. Letters? Plants? Or the one that's really needed -- how to evaluate sources for your SCA research? Boo0-ring! But necessary.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Meet your persona II

Falcon's Gate, the SCA group at the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point invited me to talk with them about persona development. The building at the university has electricity, so instead of lugging 30 books, I took my projector and showed pictures of the books and tools that I find useful for such research. I locked the doors so I could let my "heavy-handed teacher" persona push my research mantras: 1. Ask the right question and ask the question right; and 2. Write down where you got the information.

I wish I could say that I recite these mantras when I'm in the library doing the work. Usually I think about them when I reeeeally need to know where I got some little tidbit of information. Pulling this class together made me realize that a class on evaluating sources might be very useful. If I had a nickel for every rehashing of the old "medieval cooks used spices to hide the taste of bad meat" myth I could afford to take the time off work to develop such a class.

This class was just for UWSP folks. I put UWSP library call numbers on the bibliography, for heaven's sake. I also demonstrated WorldCat, which made that task simple. In a couple weeks I'll revise it for folks in the Twin Cities.

Fear not! I also made a big pitch (with the aid of Emelye and Amra) for the A&S 50 Challenge. What I could have done in the 13th century if I'd had a projector connected to the Internet!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another one-on-one

It's going to be a while before my next formal class, but sometimes a teaching opportunity just comes along.
The overdress I've been wearing for [mumble] years is based on pictures in the Maciejowski Bible. It has convertible sleeves, which may be worn on the arm or off, as the weather changes. All I've had for a pattern was the picture, but I managed to get a very functional garment by simply not sewing up the front of the sleeves. (I think I can do better, but this one works well, and looks like the pictures.)
At a recent event, I was asked about the dress by a lady who'd pretty well managed the headwear. We exchanged notes, so watch for another 13th-century Northshielder in a convertible gown.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Meet your persona

Interlibrary Loan librarians, batten down your hatches and warm up your computers. Persona researchers are comin’ to town!
The class on “Meet your persona” at Warriors & Warlords drew about 17 people – some brand new and some with quite a bit of Society experience. That may not sound like many compared to a Pennsic class, but the enthusiasm level made up for the numbers. I’m so glad I made a handout, because people really wanted the books I recommended.

Have you explored Library Thing? It’s an online cataloging tool that’s been doing the public interface/community thing longer than WorldCat has. The books on my handout are tagged 'persona' in LibraryThing.
I started putting up only SCA-type books because I wanted to be able to access my catalog from any computer and maybe quit buying duplicates. (hah!) When I put up the first batch I discovered that I had books in common with a friend in Milwaukee (Hi, Merouda!) and one in LA. Some of the books have reviews (by SCA folk, not by people trying to sell you the book). I’ve tagged the ones I recommended for the class “persona”.

Of course I talked up the A&S 50 challenge. It’s just the sort of thing some were looking for – an opportunity to grow their persona.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Persona woes

The Muses are toying with me as I plan this class. This will be held at Northshield's big camping event, Warriors and Warlords. There's no library handy, no internet connection (no electricity) so I'm on my own to make persona development come alive. And since poor old Kudrun has decidedly different ideas of what "persona" means than the SCA has, it'll be Karyn who teaches this class, using Kudrun as "Exhibit A".
They don't call it the A&S 50 Challenge for nothing! 8-)

Friday, June 6, 2008

A little one-on-one

There's a new blog in town. Amata and I consulted about her A&S 50 project. She plans to read 50 books that will illuminate her persona's life and times. She'll be sharing the books and reviews at Another Rokeclif participant has been doing some great persona research, but it hasn't resulted in a name yet. I also helped Pierre de Champagne find a name.
All this is good preparation for my next class, on July 12 at Warriors and Warlords. I plan to offer tips on finding and/or developing a persona. What happens there will depend on who takes the class, but I'll have lots of great questions to consider... including a few that I haven't answered for myself yet. There have been some wonderful ideas on the Yahoo listserv. Thank you for contributing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Catching up

It is time to catch up. It was almost a year between the time the challenge was issued and the time I learned of it and decided to join. In that time, I accomplished the following:

June – an article for Mead, Meat & More on the virtues of the dandelion.

August – an article on sage for Mead, Meat & More. This is the Kingdom of Northshield’s quarterly journal for cooks and brewers.

September – a book on the voyages of St Brendan. For Her coronation, Queen Eilis requested classes and A&S displays appropriate to early Irish culture, a time and place far removed from modern times (AD 1278). Wracking my brain, I could come up with only one thing old-fashioned enough to meet the Royal request. I wrote a version of the story of St Brendan’s voyage to the edge of Paradise, bound it into a book, read the story to interested persons at the event, and then presented the book to Her Majesty. It was delightful to study history rather than the present for a change.

December – a presentation called “Medieval Songs You Already Know”. Many times I have wished to call the Period Police to arrest people who bring modern music to bardic circles. There is an abundance of period music sung during the month of December, so I worked to document those pieces which had become familiar through seasonal repetition so that more people could knowingly enjoy songs from our time.

February – taught two related classes at the Hromnice Day celebration in Shattered Oak. The first was a celebration of contrafacta, both in period and in SCA. I (Karyn) celebrated our roots in the world of fandom and fantasy, as well as our roots in the historical middle ages. The second was a hands-on how-to class in doing contrafacta. And yes, I unabashedly called it “Filk”.

Also February – an article on the properties of thyme for Mead, Meat & More.

March 29 – a class called “So you want to buy a psalter?” Kudrun explained some of the features one might wish to include if one commissions a psalter, and some of the pitfalls of purchasing one ready-made. Copious illustrations accompanied the lecture.

April 26 – Karyn and Kudrun had to collaborate on this one – a comparison of the use of numbers in each of our worlds. This was for Bardic Madness XVIII, Northshield’s performance arts event, which had the theme “numbers”. Since I’ve always been reluctant to do mathematics without mechanical aids, this was quite a challenge. I had a wonderful learning experience, though I still can’t multiply well. I must do more with this material!

Also April 26 – Since I had called a meeting of the Northshield Choir, and its director was bogged down in college studies, I taught the choir a song (Quem Pastores Laudavere from a 1410 manuscript), and we performed it in Wechselgesänge style. This is the first time I’d ever led a choir, so it was tremendously exciting and scary. The Cambridge Singers are NOT threatened in any way.

May 3 – I dusted off “An Alphabeticall Bestiary”, in which Kudrun sets out to describe one animal for each of the 24 letters of the alphabet. That I mention 55 animals and a tree is further proof that numbers and I don’t get along well. This was not brand new material, so I only give myself partial credit for it.

May 25 – The Shires of Silfren Mere and Heraldshill collaborated on an event called “Ages of War”, which took as its theme the Great Italian Wars of 1494-1559. Using the science of humors, Kudrun speculated that these dreadful wars were probably caused be great excesses of choleric humors in the Sforza household. The whole bloody mess could probably have been prevented if Ludovico Sforza’s cook had fed him lampreys and lettuce instead of barbecue. How Kudrun (living in 1279) might have heard of these future wars was unanswered, but Karyn would never have made such wild speculations. Maybe.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A challenge has been issued for artisans to create 50 new works or explore 50 new fields of endeavor before the 50th anniversary of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Since I have wanted to put together a summary of current scientific thought, I thought that this challenge would provide an opportunity to set things down in permanent form.

I do not fancy myself a crafter. Heaven knows, if I need something done I have People to do it. Singer sees to my wardrobe needs, and Hoover tries to keep things neat. Bette, the cook knows her job, though I do occasionally have consult with her. The Amana sisters who manage the laundry are quite competent. Though the stablemaster is not the neatest individual, my horses are well cared for, and the carriage and wagons are well greased. Neville is an excellent castellan, and Titivillus is learning to be a better steward, though I wonder if his fondness for salmon isn't rendering him less ambitious than he might be. His efforts to reduce the insect population of the manor have been slightly less than effective, and may be the subject for a separate post, once Hoover manages to repair the damage from his latest foray into catching flies.

My staff allows me to spend more time in researching material for this cyclopedia, and teaching it at various gatherings of interested folk. It is to that endeavor that I shall turn my attention in this forum.

It is my intention to present fifty classes or articles during this challenge. What shape this will take is uncertain. Mayhaps I can share a bit of information here about each subject. Since I have presented several classes already, before committing to the challenge, I will begin with those, and see how things go from there.

The next post must wait until I flog the gardener and bring in the current crop of hay.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The beginning

Since blogging is the thing to do in both my real life (SCA) and my job life (my libraries) it's about time for me to get started.
As soon as I have an opportunity, I'll tell you about my plans for the A&S 50 Challenge. Until then, just think great things about the 13th century.