Category Archives: author

Neil Gaiman on copyright, piracy and the web

@WackJacq tweeted a link to this video (thanks!)

Neil Gaiman explains his shift in thinking about copyright and web piracy in terms of literary works.

It makes a lot of sense, and I’m happy Neil took the time to give his personal take on the new publishing and sharing/mixing potential on the web. As he says, people were discovering him through his pirated books, and the result was that sales increased a great deal; “you’re not losing sales by having stuff out there.”  We need, as Neil says, a whole new way of looking at copyright. What is shared online raises an awareness and brings people to find things they would normally not have found.

As Neil says, that’s an incredibly good thing.

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under author, Books

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!

 

6 Comments

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

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under author, blogging, Literature, media

Conversation with the author

THis is partially cross-posted from my English class blog, http://englishwfc.wordpress.com/     with the addition of what happened since the post was written.

I’m teaching collaboratively in a year 7 English class. Since we’re studying Allan Baillie’s Little Brother, I thought I’d muster up enough courage to email the author himself, in the hope that he’d join our ning and interact with the students. What better way to create an authentic learning situation?

Well, guess what!? Allan Baillie has joined! He is part of our ning! I tell you, a day that moves like any other day, when frustration mounts, as it has a habit of doing – receiving an email reply from the renowned Australian author himself really turned things around for Maria and me. We were so thrilled!

Not so thrilled were we when we couldn’t find a trace of any such excitement on the boys’ faces. What? Are you kidding? Here we are organising the author himself for your information and enjoyment, and you can’t even stretch your face into a half-smile? What’s going on? Besides typical adolescent disengagement with anything that isn’t a game or related to free time or sport or TV.

Still, today was productive. A few days ago, Maria prepared the boys for questions by developing what would have been for any other class (I’m sure) a rich discussion leading to rich questions. Only it was like squeezing water from a stone. Seriously. And yet, these boys are never as predictable as we think they are, and today they happily entered their questions into the ning, demonstrating thoughtful and responsible online behaviour. We were proud, and we told them so.

I think for us, as teachers, it’s a lesson about the fact that the boys will never be as excited or appreciative as we are. How can we expect them to be? And I think, as we look into the ning activity, we can see that so much has happened – not even looking at the invisible activity which goes on in the background in the form of brainstorming, discussion, etc. – and in the end the ning is a transparent receptacle of this development and these breakthroughs.

Well, last night, I received an email notification to say that Allan Baillie had answered one of the students’ questions. Then another, and another, and soon most of the boys had received a reply to their question. I was so pleased! I think the boys should be too.

It’s very special that our boys are receiving individual answers to their questions. Here is an example:

Dear Mr Baillie,
I have read the book, Little Brother and I really liked the book. When I read it I felt like I was in Cambodia! I have one question, how did you feel when you were in Cambodia at the time of the Khmer Rouge?

Allan’s response:

I was Cambodia in 1969 and I visited some Frenchmen running a rubber plantation.
They slapped a revolver in my hand and took me on a night hunt in the plantation. They warned me about careless shooting because we were going into an area controlled by a few bandits. Harmless, they said, and charming. The bandits were just sick and tired of the corruption of the government. Called themselves Khmer Rouge. We stopped and I shot four coconuts.

I hope that this little exercise will be a lightbulb learning moment for the boys. We’ve been discussion the thinking behind the writing and creation of characters, and now that they’ve had a conversation with the author himself, I hope they’ll understand the power of the story, and the man behind the story.

2 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, author, learning, network literacy, networking, teaching, Web 2.0

John Green at the State Library of Victoria

CIMG7754

Amazed is how I would describe how I felt at today’s author talk. I kept thinking, the response from the audience is more like what you would expect for a rock star or a popular comedian.  John Green, author of YA books such as Looking for Alaska and Paper towns,  bounded into the Village Roadshow Theatrette at the State Library with the energy and enthusiasm that his online followers would know, and was greeted by an impressive and prolonged cheering.

And this is where he is perhaps more like the rock star, or at least the comedian, because John Green doesn’t just write books, he relates to his readers as a person, and he does this through a number of online exploits – a blog and videos, amongst other things.

CIMG7763

As a teacher librarian, I’m always thinking about how to engage students in reading, so I started writing a blog which would hopefully seem less like an academic, teachery (just made up the word – still fresh from John Green’s way of talking) thing, and more like something from popular culture that young people would read. When using the blog to talk to students about what’s worth reading and why, the best thing has been the availability of John Green’s nerdfighters.com videos on his Vlogbrothers YouTube channel. They’re very funny, extremely entertaining, quirky, witty and intelligent. Very popular was the video where he filmed himself carrying out a challenge to climb onto a table. John is incredibly afraid of heights, and Justine Larbalestier had dared him (publicly) to stand up on a table for money that would go to a charity of his choice. He did this at home and filmed himself. Now that’s putting yourself out there. And this is, in my opinion, John’s secret. He puts himself out there – through his blog, ning, videos, etc. He doesn’t present an author persona, he actually extends what he writes about by having discussions with his readers about what he thinks, what he believes, and why he does that. And it helps, of course, to be so dynamic, so genial, and so funny.

As a last-minute thing, I asked my 15 year old son if he wanted to come with me. I was really expecting most of the audience to be made up of librarians, so it was surprising to see that most were adolescents.

Today is food for thought. I’d like to incorporate more of what John Green does on my reading blog. He brings to authors a fresh, personal face, not the usual brief biography readers usually get.

Here’s what he says about what makes a good book. My camera isn’t flash, so you’ll have to excuse the poor quality. John says that a book doesn’t belong to the writer, it belongs to the reader. The reader decides the value. He says it’s a good book, in his opinion, if it makes him think, wonder about, and feel; if it has emotional complexity; if it makes him re-examine the map he’s drawn of his world. Good books, he says, have real and lasting value.

What I think makes John Green a successful writer, is that he doesn’t underestimate his readers’ intelligence and maturity. He says that you can’t write a book that is too smart or complex for teenagers, because they are capable of reading critically and thoughtfully. He gives the example of the popularity of The book thief, by Markus Zusak , which maintains high sales.

I’m happy that I managed to get a ticket to the second of two sold-out meetings with John Green in Melbourne. There were many people in the audience from outside of Melbourne, one even who had travelled from New Zealand. John seemed sincerely thrilled that so many had come to see him.

 CIMG7762

My son isn’t an avid reader, but he wanted to buy Paper towns after hearing John talk about the book, and not only the book, but his thoughts and ideas that went into the book. We bought the book, and when Maxim went to get it signed, John made him laugh by saying that he wanted to trade names with him. Good on you, John, for doing such a great job in relating to young people in such a real way.

CIMG7766

If you’re interested, have a look at John’s ning, and the videos that he and his brother, Hank, regularly create.

10 Comments

Filed under author

Shakespeare on Facebook

This made me laugh. Some of my favourite Hamlet statuses:

Hamlet wonders if he should continue to exist. Or not.
Hamlet added England to the Places I’ve been application.
Ophelia loves flowers. Flowers, flowers, flowers. Oh look, a river.

I wonder if other versions exist. This could be a creative writing idea. You actually do need to know about the play to be able to write the statuses.

Photo courtesy of Sakypaky on Flickr

 

Our Head English teacher is using Facebook in the hope that it will allow boys who don’t usually contribute in class to have a voice in front of their peers. How do you explain to cynics your choice of Facebook as a platform for learning?

Adolescents have moved to Facebook for networking and communication. I’ve become a Facebook addict myself. One of its offerings is a non-threatening form of communication with a potentially large group. Another is the satisfaction of belonging to a group. It’s more accepting and democratic than face-to-face interaction – it doesn’t judge you by your appearance, age or abilities. You can choose your own hours. You can stand back and observe, or you can jump in and lend your voice.

Transfer all this to a learning environment, and you have a potentially brilliant scenario. Those who are slower to respond to discussion will not be pushed out. There’s time to think, respond, edit. The teacher can set the stage and then creep back to give control to the students. Hopefully, students will feel more comfortable to ask questions, give suggestions.

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog will know that I believe we should use technology and social media in creative ways to facilitate learning and engage students. Not for its own sake, and never without good reason. Recently my webpage on the school library intranet has evolved into a blog ‘What’s new in fiction?’ I’m so over people saying things like ‘Oooh, a blog! You’re really into all that technology stuff!. Well, no… I’m not. I’m not into it. I’m just looking at what possibilities it has for engaged and creative learning and teaching. Here is a list of things I appreciate about the fiction blog when talking to classes about books and reading:

It evolves nicely; each post introduces a new book, author, series, etc.
I can use casual, relaxed language, with even some humour
I can include pictures (book covers, author photos, etc.) and videos (book or film trailers, interviews, etc.)
Colour, font size, layout make a difference
I can include links to author and series websites, transcripts, extracts, maps, etc.
There is choice in what the students read, how much, when, etc. Compare that to a teacher’s talk;
Authors become real people as students link to interviews, blogs that reveal everyday chat or writing processes, weaknesses, personality, background, musical tastes, etc.

(OK, the above points are not unique to blogs)
Here come the blog-specific points:

The students read and write comments, ranging from the non-threatening two-word comment, to the more elaborate or passionate response;

Reading peer comments is more satisfying than listening to teachers’ views (hence Facebook idea);

Other people in the school community can write a post or book review, eg. non-librarians (leading the students to the realisation that it’s not just librarians who read, and that reading is ipso facto not solely a librarian’s past-time;

These other people could be students of all ages, teachers, teachers who wouldn’t normally be associated with reading by students (don’t take offense, but I’m thinking sport teachers, science and maths teachers, male teachers…)

The combination of different readers, each with their own reading preferences, their own way of writing, provides students with a kaleidoscopic view of what’s interesting to read;

Students take ownership of the blog by writing or commenting, by suggesting content, and the school community becomes involved in what was previously a librarian’s domain.

Reading is actually discussing, arguing, agreeing and disagreeing, thinking, wondering, escaping; and you know all this because of the discussion;

Reading becomes collective, cool, broader (you realise that tastes vary greatly and it’s okay to have your preferences; reading can be student-directed and even fun.

What I regret is that my fiction blog is a closed blog on the school intranet. It serves its purpose, but misses out on further possibilities and connections.

What are your views about using Web 2.0 tools like blogs and Facebook in teaching and learning?

4 Comments

Filed under 21st century learning, author, creativity, Education, learning, Literature, networking, reading, Teacher librarians, technology, Web 2.0

Gaiman gives away ‘The graveyard book’ one chapter at a time

 

Neil Gaiman has given away his new book, ‘The graveyard book’, one chapter at a time, reading a chapter across 9 cities, starting October 1 and finishing yesterday. Fans are also able to access the readings at Gaiman’s website for young readers, Mouse Circus, where the readings are on video.

‘The graveyard book’ was conceived when Gaiman used to take his son into the cemetery to ride his bike, not having anywhere else to ride. The story is about an orphaned boy called Nobody, who is raised by cemetery inhabitants – not the human kind. Gaiman was inspired by Kipling’s ‘The jungle book’, only Gaiman’s protagonist is raised by dead people instead of animals.

Wired.com has filmed Gaiman talking about his childhood and ‘The graveyard book’ – a fascinating insight.

On his blog, Gaiman comments on his videos being free to those who missed the readings, as he talks about his idea of sharing the story:

As far as I’m concerned, the videos exist to allow people who weren’t there to experience the readings, to taste the story, to enjoy it. I’d love it if libraries used them. I’m happy if bookstores use them, or if schools use them for that purpose, in the US or out of it.

Another reader comments on the advantage of the streamed reading:

Watching you read, your face taking on the myriad expressions of your characters, is so much better than just an audio. Stray noises and all. Thanks for giving us the experience.

 For the latest news and articles about Neil, the Universe, and Everything, go and bookmark Lucy Anne’s The Dreaming at del.icio.us.

It would be fun to run sessions for students to watch the video of Neil Gaiman reading his own work, either as a marathon, or splitting it up by chapter. I love the way the book takes on a life of its own, with the author turning the book into an event, and giving of himself, and  with the follow-up videos. Another idea that comes to mind is a student-created video where they read a chapter from their favourite book or a story they have written themselves. They could do a straight reading or add costume and effects.

  

Leave a comment

Filed under author, Literature