Tag Archives: John Green

Rest, recharge, and ready for another term!

National Gallery of Victoria (Städel exhibition)

I don’t know how non-teachers survive with so few holidays.  I’m not feeling guilty about teaching holidays though because that’s what I do, and I work hard, so if you’re not a teacher and feeling resentful, why don’t you do a teaching degree?

Seriously.

Teaching is one of the most satisfying careers. Yes, it can be frustrating, infuriating, depressing, tiring, all-consuming – but it’s definitely a privilege to have a hand in shaping young minds, the shapers of our future.

For me, working with people who love shaping those young minds is more than satisfying. Some of these educators are at my school, and many are elsewhere, and I’m grateful to them wherever they are.

Photo courtesy of Jane Hewitt on Flickr (Great quotes about learning and change)

I’ve really enjoyed these two weeks of holiday, and  balanced a nice mix of everything I need to recharge – enjoying the company of good friends, catching up with news and exchanging stories and ideas; going out into various parts of Melbourne in the winter (Melbourne has its own Winter style which I really like); appointments(!); domestic chores (not fun, but inevitable); reading and thinking, reflection and re-evaluating, shifting perspective, gathering strength and resolve, making plans for the new term ….

Amazing that I managed to pack in so much in the two weeks, including (possibly too many) musical concerts, for example, the Goodbye Hamer Hall concert in which my younger son played in the Melbourne Youth Music orchestra, the Tim Burton exhibition at ACMI, and I also went to see the European Masters from the Städel Museum in Frankfurt. AND I still had a lot of me-alone-time.

I finished reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson – a young adult novel written by John Green and David Levithan about two separate Will Graysons whose chance meeting changes their lives – and I’ve also started Seth Godin’s Linchpin (incidentally, Seth has just shared a free e-book) and Ali Shaw’s The girl with glass feet. I hope the reading doesn’t stop but somehow school projects always spill into the evenings and reading only begins just before my eyelids glue themselves shut.

The Tim Burton exhibition made me want to drag all the students out so they could be inspired by Tim’s prolific and imaginative illustrations. I could see so much potential for students writing, drawing, animation, sculpture, photostory, film-making – so many possibilities. I think the exhibition inspires because it shows early work back as far as school, and makes you want to have a go at all that zany creativity yourself.

So, what is my direction for third term? Well, apart from existing partnerships with classes, I want to trial more of my Writing Prompts. I want to give Howard Rheingold’s expert crap detection program a go, as well as teach some serious critical thinking.

Apart from stuffing my literature blog with new reviews by different members of my community, I’d like to take some of the ideas from Joyce Valenza’s Reading Wiki and run with them. There’s so much in this reading wiki too, and this one is bursting at the seams with resources for teacher librarians.

Plenty to do, and I’m even starting to get a little excited. I hope that you all have a great term, and for those of you in the middle of things, be inspired and re-inspired!

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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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John Green at the State Library of Victoria

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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