Tag Archives: authors

2 Year 9 classes, a teacher, a teacher librarian, a couple of Australian YA authors and lots of blogs

This is a progress report for our blogging Year 9s (2 classes). Let me first say that I am loving, loving the learning that’s happening with this cohort. Following Michael Gerard Bauer‘s guest post, ‘I blog therefore I am‘, Nick and I were wondering how to respond and which direction to take. We loved the fact that Michael had tuned into what the boys were writing about. Michael has been generous to my students before – several years ago at my previous school. He has a brilliant way of speaking directly to the students in an informal way, combining humour with a serious message. Nick and I wanted the students to respond to his post, and to develop a theme in a post of their own. We decided to pull out Michael’s final message to the students:

So I encourage you to keep up the writing boys. Words are powerful, amazing and life changing things. Don’t pass up this opportunity to find your own and share them.

I like the idea of teachers modeling what they want their students to do, and happy that Nick agreed to both of us writing our own posts about the power of words. In doing this we lift the barrier between teacher and student, and we also let the students see a little of ourselves. I was also toying with the idea of introducing hyperlinked writing to the boys. I’ve written about the importance of hyperlinked writing before, and since then I’ve read an excellent post by Silvia Tolisano about it. Jenny Luca has referred to Silvia’s post in her own recently.  I believe it’s something we should take seriously – it’s the way we read online so all the more reason to incorporate hyperlinked writing in our set of literacies. Modeling is a good way to make a start. And so Nick and I both wrote posts using hyperlinked writing.

Nick’s post was entitled ‘Find the right words’, linking back to the earlier theme of ‘you are what you know’ and highlighting the idea of learning not just for school but ‘for the person you want to be’.

At school, we are constantly engaged in the getting and using of knowledge, and the main thing that makes this possible (even more so than an iPad!) is language.

Nick talked about poetry and revealed that he looked to

‘poets to reveal to me the ideas about life I sense in my gut, but don’t always have the words for myself.’

In his final paragraph Nick asked the students to

respond to Michael Gerard Bauer’s clarion call to embrace the power of language. Reflect on what this means to you. Perhaps think of a time when choosing just the right words was important.

The students were asked to read my response to the theme of the power of words, and to comment on three other posts, and see what kinds of ideas their classmates came up with.

More than anything else, I love the way we are all entwined in ideas which have been shared and developed – 2 year 9 classes, a teacher, a teacher librarian, a couple of Australian authors and the 2 classes of student blogs housed in the teacher’s blog. It really does become a form of diary, but not that of a solitary person, on the contrary, a shared document which traces the collaboration of ideas and dialogue as they develop over time.

It’s words, and it’s also so much more than words.

Please read some of our students’ posts (their blogs are linked on the right hand side of the main blog. We would love to hear your comments and ideas.

WORDS from Everynone on Vimeo.

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Have you learned to share?

parrotsharing

Photo courtesy of Eliselovesprada on Flickr

Marie Salinger just shared with me an excellent blog post written by Andrew Douch, No learning for unauthorised persons.   Andrew expresses his disappointment in the fact that many teachers are reluctant to share what they create for their students’ learning. I recommend that you read the entire post.

In my comment following Andrew’s post, I mention that my role as teacher librarian automatically puts me in the position of finding and sharing resources, and that I don’t see why I shouldn’t share outside my school, or even outside my country. Since forming a personal learning network on Twitter, Facebook, Delicious, Diigo and similar networking platforms, I’ve realised that what I share with others is a drop in the ocean compared with what I receive. If only all teachers would experience this.

My blogs and wikis are also a way of sharing ideas, resources and discussions which would otherwise only be shared with a couple of colleagues or not at all. It seems that blog authors find all manner of things useful and edifying, and write about these. I’ll often share resources this way, or even re-post from someone else’s blog if I think it’s worth passing on and giving my two cents worth.

More problematic is the sharing of material which I’ve read in a hard-copy publication. Currently, I’m reading the current edition of Fiction Focus: New titles for teenagers published by Curriculum Materials Information Services, WestOne Services, Department of Education and Training, Western Australia. It’s a teacher librarian’s treasured resource, providing excellent critical reviews of adolescent fiction, as well as reviews of resources of professional interest to teachers. I’m also reading the Centre for Youth Literature Newsletter published by the State Library of Victoria.

It’s frustrating for me to read these excellent resources and not share them online. What may normally occur is that we read them and take out ideas and resources for our own practice, or at best, email a few teachers if we think there is something of interest for them.

So what’s problematic? Well, it’s common practice to re-post online content written by someone else because you can give a synopsis and hyperlink to the actual resource; you don’t have to do more than give a quick summary of the original post since the reader can go directly to the source for more detailed information.

Not so in this instance. I would really like to feature some of the articles in these publications, but how much should I say? I don’t want to overload my readers, and I can’t presume they will obtain the hardcopy publications. I’m not sure if the publishers will consider my efforts a breach of copyright.

For example, there’s an excellent special feature in Fiction Focus, Wow websites – book inspired web wonders, which links to Young Adult fiction websites which

use high quality art and web design to create spaces and interfaces that reflect the character of the fiction that they represent,

providing

spaces for young readers to do what they have always done: play, discuss and imagine…

I applaud the promotion of such websites because I’ve realised that reading becomes an experience when adolescent readers become involved in the art, interactive activities and games, author blog and videos. Providing such websites increases the chances of hooking young people into reading fiction.

themortalinstruments

Here are the links to author websites provided by this article:

P.B.Kerr’s site, Quertyuiop

Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap series

Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series

Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series

Charlie Higson’s Young Bond series

Robert Muchamore’s Cherub series

For Picture Book authors, there are links to the following websites:

Shaun Tan

Matt Ottley

Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror   Gothic feel site

Darren Shan

The Bad Tuesdays

Scott Westerfeld’s new Steampunk-inspired website

The selected works of T. S. Spivet by Reif Larsen

The CMIS Fiction Focus blog include more extensive links to more blogs and websites of young adult authors and illustrators.

Fiction Focus also has an excellent article on Steampunk,

a sub-genre of fantasy and speculative fiction. At the core of steampunk is the notion of altered history (often Victorian and London-Victorian at that) combined with technology that is historically impossible, and therefore all the more intriguing.

There are great links included, so you can see my dilemma – I’d like to share all these wonderful resources with people, but I really think they should subscribe to the magazine, or even, the magazine should go online. CMIS has also given us a taste of Steampunk in their blog which is worth adding to your RSS feed reader, but I can’t resist including all the Steampunk blog links given here as well.

Brass Goggles

The Steampunk Home

The Clockwork Century

Steampod (podcasts)

Antipodean Steampunk Adventures  with an Australian slant

The Antipodean League of Temporal Voyagers

Do read the Fiction Focus blog post about Steampunk.

And guess what? From May 2010, the Centre for Youth Literature Newsletter will be going online. Yes!

 

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Filed under 21st century learning, author, blogging, Children's books, Education, Literature, networking, Teacher librarians, teachers, teaching, technology, Web 2.0

Have we understood picture books yet? What is YA literature?

shaun tan

Shaun Tan and Markus Zusak, two of Australia’s favourite and most talented authors/illustrators, have received international acclaim by winning in two of the major categories at the Deutsche Jugendliteraturpreis, Germany’s most prestigious awards for children’s and YA books.

zusak

Shaun Tan received first prize for the Picture Book category for his Tales from outer suburbia and Markus Zusak won the Youth Jury prize for The Book Thief.

bookthief

According to Tim Coronel in Publishing Perspectives, the award jury commented on Tan’s book that

 ‘the way that pictures and words work together in this carefully designed book is perfect.’

The Youth Jury also commented on Zusak’s story that 

‘many individual stories of the experience of youth in the Second World War have been written, but none match up to the narrative of this book.’ That’s a serious recommendation, especially from a German judge, considering the enormous output of literature on this subject.

tales from outer suburbia

The whole problematic issue of picture books and their audience continues to generate debate. In our school library, the picture books shelf conceals many illustrated stories worth deeper analysis in the classroom, but few will remember this as they pass them by.

Shaun Tan describes his picture books on his website:

They are best described as ‘picture books for older readers’ rather than young children, as they deal with relatively complex visual styles and themes, including colonial imperialism, social apathy, the nature of memory and depression.

red-tree

Understanding Shaun Tan’s thinking behind his picture books is a key to understanding just where Tan’s books belong. Michelle Pauli has written a very interesting article about Shaun Tan in The Guardian. Although Shaun’s books depict ‘a surreal world of bizarre animals, skew-whiff buildings, dreamlike landscapes and invented languages’, his books are far from fairy tales or pure fantasy, and that is because ‘Tan’s worlds, however fantastical they may appear on first glance, have their own internal logic. It is what he describes as “groundedness”, and he regards it as crucial to the success of the stories’.

“By itself, just to draw crazy creatures has limited appeal – if I had to give up one thing it would be the wild imagination. When the work becomes too detached from ordinary life it starts to fall apart. Fantasy needs to have some connection with reality or it becomes of its own interest only, insular. In The Lost Thing, to have creatures flying around is unsatisfactory without the context. It works because it exists in opposition to the world in the rest of the story.”

the-arrival

The fact that we still cling to narrow categories, such as ‘picture books’ and ‘Young Adult’ not only confuses readers but also pre-judges and precludes books from taking their place in the world of serious literature. Yes, many people understand and appreciate the complexity of Tan’s picture books and graphic novels (The arrival), but many more won’t give them a second chance when they see the children’s book award sticker or don’t even see them at all if they’re displayed in the children’s section of the book shop. As Tan says,

One bookseller in Australia took the children’s book award sticker off The Red Tree as he felt he could sell more that way, and sold an extra 30-40 copies a month. It’s about simple things like font size – people think they can judge the age a book is for by the font size and assume that it’s for little kids if it has a big font, but that’s silly. I don’t worry too much about those things as the creator because I figure that the books will find their own audience and sometimes I like the idea that they can give adults a surprise pleasure.

It’s interesting how readers feel there must be a definite meaning within the symbolism of Tan’s books. Tan himself avoids being pinned down to a single interpretation.

Tan is reluctant to delve too deeply into the “meanings” of his fables. Towards the end of The Lost Thing he writes, “Well, that’s it. That’s the story. Not especially profound, I know, but I never said it was. And don’t ask me what the moral is.”

If artworks cannot be pinned down to a clear and definitive interpretation, then picture books of Tan’s calibre are surely written and illustrated with the same infinite possibilities in mind. How could an artist have predicted, for example, all the interpretations that would come out of his or her painting? One thing is for sure – so-called children’s books, such as those by Shaun Tan and Markus Zusak, are fertile ground for rich discussion.

This has been cross-posted at Fiction is like a box of chocolates.

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Filed under art, Children's books, debate, reading

How far will an author go?

How far will an author go to fuel a readership?

Will he go as far as to don a soft-toy unicorn head to get people to read his book?

Well, John Green will and has. He and his brother, Hank, have created an internet video gameshow which he explains here:

Okay, so here’s how this works. First, play the video. Then, click on the answer you think is right, and it will lead you to a series of more questions and answers about my books. (That is, unless you have somehow turned off youtube annotations, in which case it won’t work at all. But it should work.)

And in case you’re thinking this is just a cheap trick, a quick trick to boost book sales, think again, and look first at the many, many hours John invests developing a relationship with fans. Writing his blog, for one.

Updated every single day except for Saturdays and Sundays and some other days, John’s blog frequently explores the following issues: Conjoined Twins, place in literature; Dental surgery, discomfort of; Suveys, benefit of as procrastination tool; Tennis, getting beaten by wife in; Young adult literature, purpose and definition of; Books, enjoyment of; and Writing, perks and drawbacks of.

Creating one Vlogbrothers video after another with his brother, Hank. How’s that for devotion. And it works. As I’ve previously mentioned in another post, John has a phenomenal readership and fan base. But apart from that, he writes well. Really, really well. And apart from his unashamed nerdiness and quirky sense of humour, John has a way with honesty. Here’s a recent blog post which gives you an idea of what I mean. The post is called ‘A book reader’s apologies’. John says he’s written hundreds of book reviews in Booklist Magazine, but after reading a blog post by Shannon Hale – book evaluation vs self-evaluation - which asserts

that contemporary reviewers often place way too much emphasis on whether they “like” a book–as if the only thing a book can do is be likable

made him rethink his convictions in a couple of his book reviews. This is what I like about John; he’s not afraid to be up front with his readers. This is, as far as I’m aware, a relatively new phenomenon (if you can call it a phenomenon). Firstly, authors ‘showing their face’ to readers outside of their books (and book signings or public appearances) – online, and using blogs, videos and the such. I’m really enjoying this. Take, for instance, James Roy’s blog, or Scott Westerfeld’s blog, or that of Justine Larbalestier. These are not people just talking books, these are just people -who write books – talking!

Yes, strange and wonderful things are happening in the name of fiction. What about the Digi-novel? The  Digi-novel combines book, movie and website.

Anthony Zuiker, creator of the “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” U.S. television series, is releasing what he calls a “digi-novel” combining all three media — and giving a jolt to traditional book publishing.

“Just doing one thing great is not going to sustain business,” he said. “The future of business in terms of entertainment will have to be the convergence of different mediums. So we did that — publishing, movies and a website”.

 Is convergence of different media the way of the future? What do you think? Is the relationship between authors and their readers changing for good?

This post also appears at Fiction is like a box of chocolates.

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Melbourne Writers’ Festival

The Melbourne Writers’ Festival 2009 has something for everyone. Here is the line-up for under 18s.

Randa Abdel-Fattah | Tony Birch | Ezra Bix | John Boyne | Isobelle Carmody | Paul Collins | Kate De Goldi 

Briohny Doyle | Anthony Eaton | Elizabeth Fensham | Archie Fusillo | Raimond Gaita | Morris Gleitzman | Andy Griffiths

Jack Heath | Lia Hills | Simmone Howell | Michael Hyde | Danny Katz | Paul Kelly | Kon Karapanagiotidis | Chrissie Keighery

Joey Kurtschenko | Margo Lanagan | Justine Larbalestier | Julia Lawrinson | John Long | Geoff Lemon | Melina Marchetta

Andrew McDonald | Mischa Merz | David Metzenthen | China Mieville | Kirsty Murray | Joanna Murray-Smith

Richard Newsome | Mandy Ord | Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli | Bruce Pascoe | Alice Pung | Hannie Rayson | Gary Simmons

Alicia Sometimes | Shaun Tan | Penny Tangey | Tony Thompson | Urthboy | Scott Westerfeld | Chris Wheat | Gabrielle Wang

Read about more details here.

This is an excellent opportunity for schools and school librarians to engage and extend young readers.

We hope the program will assist to enrich your own reading experience, and promote the ways in which writing and reading are engaged in our schools.

  

Here is an opportunity to learn more about your favourite authors, as well as discover new talents:

We have an array of talent for your enjoyment and edification, and I hope you’ll spend some time with both our better-known authors, as well as with those who are on the rise. As in past years we’ve mixed the new with the established so that you can tell your friends and colleagues that you saw them here first!

Go to the website for more detailed information.

This is great timing for Book Week, August 22 – 28. There’s a good reason why Melbourne is the City of Literature. An excellent opportunity to take books and reading out of the library and amongst the people.

Just discovered that there is a Melbourne Writers’ Festival blog. You may be interested in the possibility of being among the first to see Neil Gaiman’s Coraline on film.

Join us for a very special Melbourne Writers Festival fundraising event, which will be –

  • Introduced by Shaun Tan (award-winning creator of The Arrival)
  • Screened at Cinema Nova, 380 Lygon St, Carlton on Tuesday 21 July 2009 at 6.30pm sharp
  • Raising money for the MWF Schools’ Program  

Coraline is created by cult author Neil Gaiman, directed by famed stop-motion animation expert Henry Selick, and voiced by the talents of Dakota Fanning, Teri Hatcher, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French.


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Reading in the margins with others

goldennotebookproject

I’ve been involved in a discussion lately about different types of reading. Most people have agreed that reading a novel is very different to reading a website or anything else online. Some people think that deep thinking and understanding are becoming extinct since reading online has distracted a large part of the population. People are concerned that online reading is superficial, and that commenting revolves around less than challenging subject matter.

Well, today I discovered a very interesting project which combines serious literature with the trappings of online interaction. It’s called The Golden Notebook project.

Doris Lessing’s The golden notebook was digitised by HarperCollins. The book was allowed to be reproduced in digital form in its entirety without any cost.

Here is some information from the website:

What is this?
It’s an experiment in close-reading in which seven women are reading the book and conducting a conversation in the margins. The project went live on Monday 10 November 2008.

Why are you doing it?
It’s part of a long-term effort to encourage and enable a culture of collaborative learning.

What do you hope to learn?
We don’t yet understand how to model a complex conversation in the web’s two-dimensional environment and we’re hoping this experiment will help us learn some of what we need to do to make this sort of collaboration as successful as possible.

How come only the seven women can comment in the margins?
Good conversations are messy, non-linear and complicated. The comment area, a chronological scrolling field just isn’t robust enough to follow a conversation among an infinite number of participants. Seven may even be too many. [Note: the forums are open to everyone and we do hope that readers beyond the initial seven will join the fray there both as regards the text and the process. We really want to know what you think works and what doesn’t.

The seven women authors are profiled on the homepage. Towards the bottom of the page you can see recent comments, pages with the most comments, and recent discussions.

A reading schedule is included

We’ve developed a reading schedule; so for the next six weeks, you can follow along with the readers and discuss the same passages that they’re dissecting.

The blog, a collaborative one amongst the women, is fascinating. Here’s part of a post on reading by Nona Willis Aronowitz

For me, what is inspiring and magnificent about reading is the sense of communion with one single other human mind. No other artform, I think, is so direct, so unmediated, so simple. There’s no need for lighting, makeup artists, camera operators or directors. There’s no studio or network calling the shots. No orchestra or actors have to interpret the work. I don’t even have to be in the presence of the artist’s personal handiwork. A scattering of printed characters on a page or a screen and I am in the presence of another person’s creation.

Here’s a short section from Naomi Alderman’s post

A recent story in The NY Times asked if stories have a future. If we’re blogging, texting, doing rapid response communicating, who cares about the narrative, tortoise slow and painfully digressive? Naomi’s comment that she needs to come up for air now and then from TGN to overcome the characters’ depressive tendencies makes me wonder WHY DO WE READ? What do we get from books; what are we getting from Lessing? I have just moved from NY to Portland, Oregon with 140 book boxes, the collected treasures of a life spent in books. In each box I am finding approximately one book per 30 worth saving. Looking at them all with fresh west coast eyes, I’m not sure what these books have given me. I can tell you what they’ve taken away: an ability to live a good life OUTSIDE of books.

I’m thinking about the possibilities of a pared down project for students. How would this look?

Fascinating… fascinating….

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Reading Victoria

Reading Victoria is a program for adults run by the State Library of Victoria which encourages reading as a creative activity, expands choice and promotes interaction amongst readers. That’s what the website says, and I’m thinking – here are three essential aspects of reading that would work as a point of departure for reading promtion in schools. Creativity, choice and social interaction – all good reasons to get stuck into a book.

One of the offerings is ‘The Bedside Books Club’, a quarterly book club throwing open discussion of ‘the great, the awful, the perpetually unfinished and the can’t-wait-to-start books’. These categories are tantalising – the invitation reads ‘Have you ever wondered what books other people have on their bedside table?’ Can anyone think of other categories? I think the quarterly get-togethers, where everyone brings a book they’d like to suggest in light of the topic, would work well with teachers or even parents, and could be a way of fostering a reading culture within the school. Featured in the meetings are such delights as an author talk (Alex Miller – Journey to the Stone Country, 2003 Miles Franklin Award winner); a presentation by Mark Rubbo, Managing Director of Readings, about ‘What’s Hot in the Shop'; and guest reader, Genevieve Tucker, author of the blog, reeling and writhing. This sounds great, and we can still all go to it on Tuesday 14 October, 6-7.30pm at Mr Tulk cafe, State Library of Victoria. Wouldn’t mind going there myself.

The 2007 Summer Read is a compilation of readers’ top 5 books out of a shortlist of 20 recently published Victorian books. Discussion and voting is over, but the book information is still up. We really do live in a literature-rich state, when you consider the number of novels, short stories and non-fiction titles which are set in Victoria or are by Victorian authors. What a great promotion and idea to take away for school reading programs.

The Summer Reading blog treats readers to blogging by shortlisted Victorian authors. I intend to set aside time for this! It’s a treat being privy to the thoughts of such interesting people on a variety of topics and literature. Recent bloggers include Dorothy Porter, Paul Mitchell, who talks about how he became a writer. Craig Sherborne, author of Hoi Polloi, raises an interesting point about blogs: ‘They are quasi diaries and memoirs that may one day, soon enough given their popularity and conversational nature, replace books as the means for publishing autobiographical narrative; and their readers can be in constant communication with each other.’ There are others but I haven’t scrolled down any further yet. The blog also features reviews and opinions posted by the community of readers.

Celebrity Victorian readers also share their thoughts on their favourite books. Find out who reads in the bath, who reads in the Botanical Gardens, and who reads in their mother’s apricot tree. Where do you read?

We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to take part in Reading Victoria, and I think that some of these ideas would work well in promoting a reading culture in our schools.

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