Australian Author of Children’s Books and Teen Books: November 2012

Friday, November 30, 2012

Room to Read Cambodia

After months of work by school students across Australia we have raised $20,000 to build a school library in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

I am over the moon with this result. The Stubbies World Change Challenge was made possible through the generosity of Stubbies Schoolwear, the enthusiasm of super-charity Room to Read and our greatest renewable resource, the power of kid.

A few months ago I made a short video on Room to Read's Students Helping Students program. We documented a school class raising almost $600 in a single day to buy books for kids in Cambodia. The video threw down the challenge to other classes around the country to do the same.

After seeing the video, Stubbies Schoolwear donated $10,000 toward the building of a library in Cambodia and the bar was raised. We needed to raise another $10,000 to complete the library's funding.

Dozens of schools got involved raising large and small amounts through Sponsored Silence challenges, Book Swaps and Sponge Throws. Wyvern House at Sydney's Newington College raised over $3000 toward the cause.

Now I have library hunger and I want to help fund another one. Let me know if you'd like to help!

Super-size thanks to the following for making this amazing collaboration happen: Marie Najjar from Public City for driving the project, Jennie Orchard and Katie Kohlbeck from Room to Read for their dynamism, Josie Mileto at Stubbies Schoolwear/PacBrands for funding the video and part-funding the library, the film's generous cast and crew, the remarkable Sonia Woods, Chris Hauritz and students at OSPS and, of course, the kids, teachers, librarians, publishers and Twitterers who supported and raised funds.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My Totally Awesome Story

A fun morning spent working with my sons on stories. We used Pat Flynn's new creative writing book for kids, My Totally Awesome Story as a jumping-off point. It's an original take on a writing book with exercises completed by a reluctant writer, Duane, telling stories of his adventures with his best friend, Meatball.

Duane is constantly undermining and challenging his very patient teacher. She sets the writing exercises and makes comments throughout on Duane's humorous adventures through motorbikes, football and first love. The comedy takes the edge off the worthiness of a creative writing book, so it makes for the best kind of teaching / learning.

I managed to freewrite the beginning of a story for the second My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up book, too. So good results all around. (Thanks Pat.)
And here's a Lego-fied 'live-action' illustration for my six-year-old guy's freewritten story about the farmer with the very, very, very fat cow.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Story Scrapbook Teacher Review

Our Story Scrapbook app was comprehensively reviewed in the latest edition of EduTate, the magazine of the Tasmanian Association for the Teaching of English. Here is the review by English Teacher / Grade 7 co-ordinator at Montrose Bay High School, Jo Longbottom.

When TATE invited Tristan Bancks to visit various schools in the South, staff at Montrose were expecting something along the lines of the classic author visit: a reading, perhaps some exaggerated tales and mythological musings about the author’s beginnings in the literary world. As treasured as that classic structure may be, Tristan provided something quite different when he exposed his writing process to his audiences, and shared with us a fascinating writing tool that he has developed in partnership with Ben Train, a new media developer and advocate of creativity in education.

Tristan introduced Story Scrapbook, an application that can be downloaded to Macs or PCs, to teachers who attended his afternoon session at Ogilvie High School in July. The idea behind Story Scrapbook is to build inspiration for story writing. The application allows you to collect sounds, maps, text and endless images from the internet around a particular theme and stick them into your virtual scrapbook. Sticky notes and text inserts allow you to either comment on those materials or include your own writing. Tristan demonstrated for us how he could use it to collect materials related to his latest novel Galactic Adventures: Kids in Space in order to inspire his writing. The application is freely available through Tristan’s website:
Story Scrapbook as Brainstorming Tool
Funnily enough, Story Scrapbook is spreading like wildfire around MBH, and predominantly not as a story-writing starter. We’re finding that our students engage strongly with the simple and colourful design of the app, and that we’re able to use it as a literacy tool for a variety of disciplines. At its most basic level, Story Scrapbook is a research tool, and one that allows students to reflect on their research in an engaging and creative way. In Grade 7 English, we have used the application to complete different tasks in response to Blueback by Tim Winton, including “character hunts”, creative diary entries, poems and research tasks. The layout of the application allows students to build an entire “virtual scrapbook”, which could include a number of tasks completed in response to a particular unit of study.

Story Scrapbook can be used across primary and secondary schools. Young students pick up the basics of it very quickly, and very much enjoy being able to cut pictures from the internet into whatever shape they desire with the various “snip tools” available through the application. Due to its versatility, Story Scrapbook serves as an innovative differentiation tool, as it allows teachers to quickly adapt task requirements for individual learners.
Story Scrapbook in Action
Story Scrapbook is a “beta” application – which means it’s the first generation of the app. Unfortunately, this means that there are a few bugs in the system. Forewarned is forearmed and, in my view, none of the bugs are problematic enough to prevent us from making fantastic use of this app in the classroom.

1. Story Scrapbook is not yet available for use on iPads or tablets, but should soon be available in future versions.

2. You do need to download the app, which can be tricky on networked computers. An HTML version of Story Scrapbook is also on the way – which means that you will eventually be able to access the app through a webpage, rather than downloading it.
Story Scrapbook as Character Development Tool
3. My students have noticed that when you use the markers to draw on the scrapbook page, the app does not save this. However, if you save an image of the work the markers will be saved for the image that you produce.

4. Every now and then the app freezes, and we’ve found that exiting out of the application and then re- opening will sort this issue.

[NB from TB: Most of these issues have been addressed now. ;-) )

Tristan has provided resources on his website to assist first-time users, and welcomes feedback about any problems that users are experiencing.

As with many new media applications for education, Story Scrapbook is a new way of doing old things. The best thing about this application is the way our students responded to it: they approached their various tasks with a sense of enthusiasm, as well as an interest in what Story Scrapbook could help them achieve.
English Teacher / Grade 7 co-ordinator, Jo Longbottom
Thanks for the review Jo!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Writer's Notebook #2 : Get Lost

I used to outline my stories heavily before I wrote them. Once I had done enough freewriting and thinking and considering to feel that there was enough of a story I would outline it. I outlined to avoid that horrendous first draft that meanders and takes side roads and puts you to sleep in the hammock as you re-read it. (Maybe I should lose the hammock?)

After years of writing every day I have realised this: It is the act of getting lost in that first or zero draft and finding your way back, genuinely grappling with the character's predicament, that makes for more interesting, funny, unexpected and authentic stories.

Even if I throw out half or three-quarters of that first or zero draft, the bit that I keep will be more honest because I was prepared to go down into the woods and get lost. And, along the way, I exhausted a bunch of bad ideas, bringing me closer to the good ones.

Suggested Exercise:
Just write. Every day. Five minutes or five hours. Start a story and keep going till its done. Write 500 or 50,000 words. Don't re-read extensively till you're finished. If you need to outline try to hold off till you're a couple of drafts in. And be okay that most of it will be rubbish that first time round. (You have no objectivity till later). All good pieces of writing were bad pieces of writing at some stage.

Get lost. (In the nicest possible way.)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Writer's Notebook #1

For me, the notebook is the heart of the writer's practice. 

I use iPhones to capture Notes and Voice Memos. I use Story Scrapbook app to gather images, video, music, maps etc. I write a lot on a laptop. I have written a book via email with a friend in another country. I listen to drafts using text-to-speech. I like to use lots of other media and platforms to create, visualise and share stories.

But the handwritten notebook is still the thing.

I have piles of notebooks around the house. Dozens of them from years of writing Morning Pages and Anything Goes pages filled with fresh story ideas and raves on things I'm elated about, frustrated with, inspired by or unable to grasp.

Filling notebooks is my way of understanding the world. It's a compulsion. I wrote in them long before I considered myself to be 'a writer' and I imagine I will still be scrawling madly on my deathbed.

The notebook is a place where you can write messy, make mistakes, discover the unexpected, adopt Beginner's Mind and say things you would never say aloud. It is a place where time disappears and impulse is alive and there are no rules and the further you get off-topic the more interesting it becomes. The notebook is the most truly creative place I know.

The Writer's Notebook is a new series on my blog. Each week I will share an excerpt from one of my notebooks or invite another author or illustrator to open up their notebook for us to look inside. There will also be a suggested writing exercise that might inspire you to get scribbling, too.

The notebook is the place where ideas are born and the writer's own, honest way of laying words onto the page is developed, without a screen or keyboard diluting the initial intention.

I hope it's an interesting blog series.


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Writing for Children

‘The most important thing you can do is write a stunning manuscript.’
-       Agent, Catherine Drayton, Inkwell Management

This is true for all writers. Write a stunning manuscript. That is the goal.

But once you've written it, what then? Beyond the ‘great story well told’, what does it take to earn a living as a children’s author, to turn your creative work into a job?

The old model of the writer working alone in a cabin in the woods and sending their manuscript off to a publisher who will promote and share it no longer exists. The writer is now expected to partner with the publisher and support their own work, finding fresh ways to re-tell their story online and in live events, to invite people to experience the story in multiple ways.
This sounds suspiciously like hard work. And it is. The balance between creativity and ‘business’ as a children’s author is delicate and difficult to strike. We are, by nature, playful creatures and feel much more at home searching for dragons in the clouds than projecting income and expenditure and managing multiple writing projects across Education and Trade markets while developing an online presence and speaking in fifty schools a year. It often requires longer hours than a ‘real’ job with no super or holiday pay as a safety net.

Sharing stories and inspiring kids to read and create is a deeply satisfying and, I think, useful thing to do for the world. With the right strategies in place it is possible to walk the line between business and creativity and to build a satisfying career as a children’s author.

On 8/9 December I will be running my two-day intensive workshop, ‘Writing for the Children’s Market’ at the NSW Writer’s Centre. It is a fun and information-packed weekend of creative play and practical insight into making a living telling stories for kids. Hope you can come along.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Story Scrapbook App Updates

It has been a big year for our free multimedia story brainstorming app Story Scrapbook with some major new updates based on user feedback.

The app has now been downloaded nearly 3000 times. I have also toured it around the country, helping kids and teens create stories using images, video, music and maps for inspiration. It has been amazing to see students come alive when creating their work, especially those who are usually reluctant creative writers or find it difficult to begin.

The three major updates based on feedback include...

1. Object Menu Update
There is now a direct link to Google Images in the Objects menu, placing all Objects in one place. Previously Google Images was accessed only via the Web menu.

2. Toolbar Updates
A Text tool has been added ('T' in image below) for adding text to objects. This includes Letters, Sticky Notes and Text blobs.

Coloured markers are now thicker and smoother and the eraser is now much more effective. We have also added a lead pencil marker.

3. Coloured Backgrounds 
Sticky Notes and Letter objects can now be used in an array of colours. Previously they were only 'Sticky Note yellow' and plain white.

Big thanks to Ben Train, the super-smart programmer and designer behind Story Scrapbook. And thanks to everyone for the interaction and ideas on the Story Scrapbook page and at events. Looking forward to a big 2014, continuing to revolutionise this tool and bring the creative process alive for kids and educators.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
© Australian Author of Children’s Books and Teen Books. All rights reserved.
Blogger Template by pipdig