Game Design Class: Adventure Maps with Legos

[Bracketing this with a note that I didn’t send to the parents: the trickiest thing for me with the 4th / 5th grade after school game design class is classroom management; I’m not used to trying to keep 9 kids working productively in a small classroom, esp. at the end of a school day when they’re restless. A few of the kids are QUITE high energy.

Once the Legos came out, they were all so excited that all hope of an organized class went out the window. Which is fine, but it does mean I have to reset my expectations of how much can be done in any given stretch. Over and over!

But it’s good for me too — I’m putting a lot of thought into how to keep this fun for the kids, and it’s making me rethink how much of that fun I manage to incorporate into my college classes too. Keeping learning both engaging & productive — not easy!

I’m having my college students do a critical review podcast or YouTube video this semester, in place of one of their papers; it’s an experiment, but so far, they seem more engaged with it than paper-writing, and it’s certainly an important contemporary means of engaging with the cultural conversations around literature and media.]


Game design class, a quick update on class #3 — we worked on creating individual worlds this week. The plan was to start with Legos for inspiration, and then move on to drawing adventure maps; the Legos were a little bit too much fun, and most of the group was just starting to do maps when the hour ended. We’ll bring the maps back next week to work on them some more!

But they had a great time with the big bin of Legos, and came up with a really diverse set of worlds — most of them stayed in the classic D&D adventuring mode, with monsters and danger spots, but Malcolm had a world of vehicle drivers competing and Diana worked hard on her lovely forest setting (with a complicated hinged base). They were very excited to show you the photos of what they built!

Next week, we’ll elaborate on our overall ‘world maps’, and then use graph paper to create a grid of a ‘dungeon’ — a set of rooms for adventuring through. They should’ve come home with a little dice bag to hopefully help them keep track of their dice; with the bag, a D6, and the D12, they should be all set for a two-or-more-person adventure.


[My personal favorite was the world of fire (all the adventuring parts) and ice (separated by a barrier, with a chill out area for the adventurer to recover in). So creative! There was also a super elaborate set-up with a cave and at least four different areas, which is pretty impressive for 45 minutes of building time.

I’m also amused / bemused that Anand had absolutely no interest in the Legos — he just never got into them, which I don’t get! I adore Legos. But he dove into drawing his adventure map, and completed a great sequence (with no interest in coloring it in either), so now I’m going to have to think about what to have him do at the start of next class when the others are drawing theirs.

Anand’s done more RPG gaming than the rest of the class, I think, and is also a few months older than many of them, so I might have him try acting as a TA next time around — walk from table to table and engage with them on their maps, help them brainstorm ideas. Hm.]

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Chicago Authors Book Feast tickets available

Quick note that non-members can buy tickets and attend the Chicago Book Feast event next week, Tues evening 10/22:

The ULCC Library Committee/Literary Subcommittee is pleased to host its inaugural Chicago Authors Book Feast featuring these established and emerging writers from Chicago’s vibrant literary community:

Susanna Calkins | Murder Knocks Twice
Rita Dragonette | The 14th of September
Stuart Dybek | Paper Lanterns
Jonathan Eig | Ali: A Life
Robert K. Elder | Moby Dick: Illustrated by Gilbert Wilson
Julia Fine | What Should Be Wild
Bryan Gruley | Bleak Harbor
Claire Hartfield | A Few Red Drops
Rick Kogan | Sidewalks II
Eric Charles May | Bedrock Faith
Mary Anne Mohanraj | The Stars Change
Lori Rader-Day | Under a Dark Sky
Renee Rosen | Park Avenue Summer
Marcus Sakey | Afterlife
Donna Seaman | Identity Unknown
Martin Seay | The Mirror Thief
Scott Turow | Testimony

Books will be available for purchase and can be signed by participating authors during the opening cocktail reception with light appetizers from 5:30 to 6:00 pm. Our program runs from 6:00 to 7:00 pm and will feature an introduction of each author and how their work has been influenced by living in Chicago. The evening will close with informal conversation, book sales, and signing.

The program price is $40 per person inclusive and the Club’s cancellation policy is in effect. The Club will adhere to a “business casual” dress code for this event — no athletic wear, jeans or t-shirts. Please share this information with your guests. If you need additional information, please contact Club Services at 1.800.443.0578 or

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Many updates for Feast and events!

Feast production & event updates, many! Kickstarter ordering is officially closed! Kickstarter backers (THANK YOU), please do update your shipping addresses if needed, as we’re going to be shipping out SOON.

1) LOS ANGELES: First and most time-sensitive — if you’re going to be in L.A. on Halloween weekend, I’ll be there for World Fantasy, and will be delighted to hand-deliver signed books to you! The convention is at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott, so we can meet for a drink in the bar, and I can hand you a book!

Some will be available in the dealer’s room at WFC at the Book Universe table (along with The Stars Change and Perennial), but Kickstarter backers should contact me if they’d like to pick up their copies, so I’ll be sure to set your copies aside. And ditto for anyone reading this who’d like to pre-order a copy; just let me know.

Kickstarter pricing ended last night, so books will be at the World Fantasy sale price of $37.95 (hardcover) and $22.95 (trade paperback, no photos in book). (Normally $40 / $25).


2) SPRING 2020 LAUNCH: As for the main launch in March, I’ve now paid the thousands of dollars of shipping cost (eep!) for 2000 copies of Feast (Mascot Books edition, not Kickstarter). This is to get it from the book production facility overseas to the warehouse in America. They will literally be coming on a slow boat from China, arriving sometime in mid-January.

I’ll then be paying again to get some copies shipped to me. You’d think I could split the order and send some here and some to the warehouse, for efficiency’s sake, but it’d be an extra $2K or so to do that, just because they’re not set up for that kind of thing. Sigh. Going to try to keep it to a few hundred dollars instead.

Ah well. More unanticipated costs here, there, and everywhere. But on the other hand,¬†Farah¬†just sent me a lovely note about her copy of the book, so that’s at least one happy customer, which bodes well for future sales. Fingers crossed.

(I am learning a LOT in the process; I do still want to do more books with Serendib Press, but big print runs of full-color hardcovers are a major project and serious financial risk, so may not do a lot of those! Ebooks. Ebooks are lovely.)

When it’s time to get books over to me in Chicagoland, we’ll be ordering them in cartons of 14 hardcovers each, and it’ll come via UPS ground — I thought media mail, but this hybrid publisher has stopped using media mail because too many books were damaged in transit. So by mid-February, I think, barring disaster, in good time for launching at FogCon in early March. Look, it’s a schedule! We’re keeping to it. Yay!


3) EVENTS: Next week,¬†Pem Hessing¬†and I are going to sit down and start working on the launch calendar in earnest. There’ll be some local events before that, though — please note the two FREE cookbook classes coming up in the next week at¬†Oak Park Works:

Monday 10/21, 6-7:30, FREE
Saturday 10/26, 12 – 1:30, FREE

They’re free, but do require registration, link in comments. I’ll have cookbooks and curry powder available for sale there, and some milk toffee and passionfruit marshmallows to taste!


4) COOKING CLASS: There’s also a fun event coming up soon, a cooking class at SugarBeet, where I’ll be teaching people how to make hoppers: plain, egg, and sweet coconut. I’m going to make some curries (probably one chicken and one eggplant) and sambols (coconut and caramelized onion) in advance, to accompany the hoppers.

Bring a friend or partner; you’ll make yourselves a delicious brunch, accompanied by mango-passionfruit mimosas. Print books not included, but I’ll have some books available for sale (and $10 off!), if you get inspired, and you get to take home some fresh-roasted curry powder too. What a great date!

I’m not sure how many spots are left, so register quick!

Sunday 10/27, 10 – 12, $45.

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These women.

These women.¬†Cee Gee¬†came over and told me all kinds of things about fundraising that I didn’t know (Carollina, you need to meet her sometime soon re: Maram), and Karen Murphy has agreed to take on Managing Director of the SLF (!!!), and¬†Stephanie Bailey¬†is here right now opening Feast boxes to make sure we have enough books for shipping, after first making me go through my task list and take actual note of what is urgent, as in must-do-right-now-MA, and don’t-you-dare-start-another-project, and¬†Heather¬†is off in Ann Arbor, sending e-mails to the Kickstarter backers to confirm their addresses…

Kel, you were right, what you said at WisCon. I was in desperate need of a tribe. And I’m not saying they all had to be women, or mamas, but so far, the mama tribe has been an amazing enhancement to my life.

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I finally have energy to work again

I had an utter failure of will at 5 p.m. tonight (after working straight through from 7 a.m. or so). Even though I had so many things on so many deadlines (it’s an intense couple of weeks here), I just nope’d right out of it all and took a long hot bath (with bubble bath! and candles!) and then followed that with catching up on six hours of superhero TV + Grey’s Anatomy. This is not typical of me! I think the combo of fighting stupid little colds & work travel eating time just got to me.

It’s an hour past my bedtime, but I finally have the energy to work again, but after dealing with one urgent e-mail, I think I had probably best go to sleep.

Huh. 7 minutes until we stop taking orders for Feast Kickstarter stuff. That’ll be interesting! Maybe I’ll stay awake long enough to watch it tick over to midnight.¬†

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A Gluten-Free Cookbook Question

Here’s a gluten-free cookbook question. For the little ebook of Vegan Serendib, I basically took a sampling of recipes from Feast. For the little ebook of The Marshmallows of Serendib, I actually did a baker’s dozen of completely new marshmallow recipes — Feast itself only has a basic recipe.

I’m trying to make sure that the new little gluten-free sampler is not just all the same things that are already in Feast (because after all, most of Sri Lankan cooking is actually gluten-free already). It’s a little tricky, planning it so that it’s useful BOTH to people who already own Feast, AND to people who might pick it up on its own.

For the gluten-free version of Feast, I’m sort of inclined to do a combo approach — some new recipes that aren’t in Feast (some of which are a bit more fusion, like the grilled Sri Lankan shrimp that I put in everything, including Caesar salad), but also some classics, so that people have a good baseline for Sri Lankan cuisine generally.

Does that approach make sense to folks?


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FINAL REMINDER for Kickstarter Pricing!

FINAL REMINDER and YES it’s time to think about holiday gifting already: Kickstarter-discounted pre-orders for A Feast of Serendib and assorted goodies close TODAY at midnight CST. Eep. Time to start roasting lots and lots of curry powder, making marshmallows and milk toffee (need to put Kevin to work cutting)…

My new Sri Lankan cookbook, A Feast of Serendib, launches on March 6, 2020, but we’re doing a long, slow pre-launch of the special Kickstarter edition in the interim. Right now, we still have discounted Kickstarter pricing available for pre-orders, along with Kickstarter goodies — you can pre-order here:¬†
If you’d like to support the development of more mostly Sri Lankan recipes, I’d love to have you join the cookbook club — for $2 / month, you’ll get recipes delivered to your inbox (fairly) regularly:¬†
And here’s all the foodie social media:
Serendib Kitchen blog:
Serendib Kitchen Instagram:
Serendib FB Group:
Serendib FB Page:
Thanks for your su

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