Tag Archives: author

Writing for an authentic audience, being real. Thanks Isobelle Carmody.

Nick and I are very excited about the way our Year 9 blogs are developing. But before I go any further – Isobelle Carmody has visited us in a guest post!! Isobelle has been very gracious and has taken the time to write down her thoughts for our boys. I would like to share her entire post with you:

I was never much for diaries, and then I read the Diary of Anne Frank, and it was so vivid and real and it felt so true, that I have on and off again over the years, tried to write diaries. I was never very good at them, perhaps because I was the only audience and it seemed to me that I poured the best of myself, the truest words I could write, into my books. You might smirk at this, given I am captive in the fantasy genre corral (save when I can jump the fence and go for a midnight roam in the other paddocks or even out into the wild, where there are no rules or fences). But I don’t see the best fantasy as escapism. I see it as an attempt mostly to try to look at human existence from the outside. To get outside of ourselves, because reality always feels like I am too close to the mirror to see properly. You know when someone shows you something and they hold it too close?  For me right from the age of 14 when I first started to write, I was striving to get some distance, some breathing and thinking space, and fantasy and science fiction allowed this. For me it is a very philosophical genre – it allows me to grapple with the great questions of human existence. Why am I here?  What is the nature of existence?  Am I (are we) FOR anything? Why are humans capable of such wonderful and dreadful extremes of behavior? etc
When Ms Sheko asked if I would like to post on your site, I came to visit to see how I would fit in there. I was immediately taken by the techno-beetle, and then that lovely quote from Thomas Mann had me hooked. It was also timely because having resisted blogging as I resist all new things that force me to pay attention to the world and hence to neglect the worlds I am building in my imagination, I was asked by the State Library blog for a month Inside a Dog. I was intrigued and agreed before I could stop myself. So, ten days and five posts in, I am really fascinated and interested in the process, because it seems to me like a diary and yet it does have an audience and feeling that, it causes me to treat the material I want to talk about differently. Unlike books, it does exactly what Mr Fairlie talks about in your site – it allows me to try out ideas on paper (well, cyberpaper) for an audience that may or may not read me, but they might, and so I have to take their presence seriously. It allows me to find out what I think about things- that in fact is what I think all writing should be about. Writers figuring out the world for themselves.So, good luck to all of you and take full advantage of this site. It really does help you to think better.

Oh, and if any of you would like to visit me, either send me a friend request on Facebook or better still, come visit me this month on Inside the Dog– it is a lot less unsavoury than it sounds. Here is the link to the latest blog and you can read down and back from there. There are lots of other fabulous blogs too, and you gcan get to all of them.http://www.insideadog.com.au/blog/short-story-pt-1

best wishes

Isobelle Carmody

I particularly love this section of Isobelle’s post

I am really fascinated and interested in the process, because it seems to me like a diary and yet it does have an audience and feeling that, it causes me to treat the material I want to talk about differently. Unlike books, it does exactly what Mr Fairlie talks about in your site – it allows me to try out ideas on paper (well, cyberpaper) for an audience that may or may not read me, but they might, and so I have to take their presence seriously.

Having an audience, even a potential one, apart from the teacher and outside the classroom, sets the boys in a completely different space. I know that because I’ve been writing blogs for a few years, and although I’m never sure who will read my writing, I have a sense that somebody out there might, and so I write for that somebody. That’s entirely different to writing a prescribed piece of writing you know your teacher will read – not for pleasure, but in order to give a mark.

Amazingly, Nick has already seen evidence of this awareness in our boys within a very short time –

They are all really experimenting with voices. I love the difference in voice between the first and subsequent posts. They very often go over the top, and mimic what they think is an adult voice. This is so much better than what they usually produce, which is the voice they think is the ‘right’ one (bland and devoid of personality).

I’m overwhelmed by what is happening in these blog spaces within such a short time. The boys have demonstrated some excellent philosophical thinking. In the second task they have reflected on what constitutes learning, whether this happens in or out of school and about their ideal learning context. They have been reading each others’ posts and have started to have meaningful discussions. This is a far cry from the banal commenting which is often associated with teenage social media environments. This is high quality writing, reflection, evaluation and interaction.

Most of all, the boys are feeling their way into their blog spaces. They are starting to feel comfortable in their blogs and are finding their authentic voices. As Nick has observed, the quality of their writing has increased noticeably. Some are using images to complement their writing. It hasn’t taken long at all.

Who says deep learning isn’t possible within social media?

Take a look at the boys’ blogs, their online conversations. Please come in here and leave a comment.

Michael Gerard Bauer joins our writing project


This is cross-posted on my English class blog and fiction blog.

A little while ago I wrote on my English class blog about my hopeful expectation that Michael Gerard Bauer would accept my invitation to join our creative writing project after we listened to Lemony Snicket’s The composer is dead.

It’s a brilliant, witty and hysterical story narrated by Lemony Snicket himself. The entire production is fun – the story with its personified musical instruments presented as murder suspects (boisterous trumpets proclaiming loudly and with a certain arrogant rudeness), its alliteration (’we conquered the concert’; ‘battered the band’), and its playful use of language (the percussion instruments ‘percussed’, and ‘employed xylophoniness and cymbalism’).

Similar to Peter and the wolf, the story skilfully weaves plot around descriptive information about the orchestra. The boys seemed transfixed by the story, although the musical interludes may have been a bit much for some.

As a creative writing exercise, the boys will be writing their own story –

The … is dead

based on a group of inanimate objects who are suspects in a murder mystery.

Well, to our absolute delight, Michael generously agreed, and very quickly wrote a brilliant and witty piece which I’m going to share with you now.

Police Investigation Report by Chief Inspector Iva Noclue written by Michael Gerard Bauer.

It started out as just another routine investigation, but all that changed when I opened the fridge door.

The body was there lying before me. It was wrapped in plastic, naked, plucked and headless. It was obviously the work of a madman. I examined it more closely: female chicken, size 20, possibly from Ingham, and judging by the aroma – marinated.

You have to deal with some sick people in this job.

I immediately set out on the trail of the killer. I threw open the chiller door.

‘Freeze!’ I shouted. Luckily everyone already had.

I approached my first suspect. He claimed he was a famous rap singer called Ice Tray. I didn’t like his attitude at all. He was cold and hard and refused to answer my questions. He seemed very set in his ways.

I decider to move on. I found my next suspect lurking at the back of the freezer.

‘You, what’s your name?’
‘Really? Why? Did you see something?’
‘What are you talking about you idiot?’
‘I want to know what made you scream. Did you witness the murder? It was Ice Tray wasn’t it?’
‘No you fool. That’s my name, Ice-cream. Strawberry Ice-cream. But what’s this you say about a murder?’
‘That’s right sister. There’s one dead chicken downstairs. You see or hear anything suspicious? Notice any strangers hanging about?’
‘Yes as a matter of a fact I did. Yesterday a whole family of eggs moved in down there.’
‘Right. Was that was before or after the chicken bit the dust.’
‘How would I know if I’m not the murderer?’
‘Good point. I’ll work it out myself. Hmmmmm let’s see, what came first, the Chicken or the Eggs? This could be a tough case.’

I left the Freezer but not before I arranged for Ice Tray to come to the Station the next day for a more thorough interrogation.

My investigation continued. I questioned all the Eggs but they refused to crack. (Just between you and me I think some of their brains were scrambled – or possibly fried.) Then I grilled the Cheese but got nowhere. Next came the Honey. She was a real sweetie but she couldn’t tell me anything either. I was getting nowhere so I decided to offer the Bread a hundred dollars to help me find the murderer. He refused. Said he already had plenty of dough.

My chief suspect was still Ice Tray but there was another guy who made me suspicious – wouldn’t tell me his real name. First he said he was called Vegemite, then he reckoned his name was iSnack2.0 then it was Cheesybite. I decided I’d run those aliases through the computer when I got back to the Station.

Only when I was about to call it a day did I noticed the trail of what looked suspiciously like blood spots. They led me right to a tall red haired chap who went by the name of B. B. Q. Sauce. Of course he claimed he was innocent like the rest of them. Said it was just a nose bleed or something. But then B.B. told me something that got me interested. He said he’d seen Chicken getting friendly with some unsavoury characters recently, said he often saw Chicken mixing with Avocado or Chicken with Mayonnaise or Chicken with Salad and once he’d even seen Chicken with Sweet and Sour sauce!

The case was getting more and more complex and rumour had it that Gladwrap was involved in some sort of big cover up. Then, just when it looked like I’d never get to the bottom of the Chicken case, there was a major break through.

I was interrogating Ice Tray the next day under the hot lights at the Station when to my amazement, he went totally to water. I figured that was as good as a confession so I locked him away in the freezer and threw away the key.

I never did work out how Ice Tray actually committed the murder. I mean it must have been quite difficult with him not having any arms or legs or eyes or ears or brain or any visible means of support or movement, but you could just tell by looking at him that he was obviously a cold-blooded killer and a hardened criminal.

Ice Tray – his heart might have been made of ice, but I saw right through him from the start.

Our boys have been collectively brainstorming possible characteristics for their group of inanimate suspects, but as you can imagine, first time round, it’s challenging.

Thankyou so much to Michael for taking the time and donating his creativity so that our students can learn from an expert, so that they feel special, and appreciative of the privilege they’ve received.

As I’ve said many times before,

technology makes possible the connections between people which would otherwise not have occurred.

This is a great example.

John Green at the State Library of Victoria


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


George Orwell’s blog

tombstone of Eric Arthur Blair

What would you say if I told you that you could read a 70 year-old blog? Anachronistic, perhaps? Well, you can. George Orwell, born Eric Arthur Blair, has risen from the dead to blog – so to speak. His diaries between 1938 and 1942, beginning August 9 this year and continuing into 2012, will be posted day by day, exactly 70 years after Orwell penned the original entries. This definitely adds a new dimension to the posthumous diary. And what a brilliant fusion of original ‘log’ of the past and the modern-day, Web2.0 version of the ever-popular diary.

The Orwell Prize
outlines the project

Orwell’s ‘domestic’ diaries begin on 9th August 1938/2008; his ‘political’ diaries (which are further categorised as ‘Morocco’, ‘Pre-war’ and ‘Wartime’) begin on 7th September 1938/2008.
Continue reading George Orwell’s blog