Lizzie Bennet Diaries: transmedia story telling

In this guest post Centre for Youth Literature Program Coordinator, Adele Walsh talks about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – an amazing example of transmedia story telling.

When you think of Lizzie Bennet, most see a tome of Pride and Prejudice or Jennifer Ehle slowly coaxing a smile out of Colin Firth in the last scene of the BBC adaptation. Since April last year, the two hundred year old character has undergone a radical makeover in the form of a hugely successful web series.

Hank Green, one half of the Nerdfighting duo with brother John Green, and head writer Bernie Su, have created The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a web series that lovingly references the classic text while reflecting life today and social media trends. LBD, as it’s known, has also created a staggeringly engaged online community.

It’s a perfect example of highly successful transmedia at work – a series of web tools that integrates the elements of narrative to create unique content based on existing (and out of copyright) properties.

Remaining loyal to the structure of Jane Austen’s work, Hank and Bernie have followed the same narrative arc, but have adapted characters and motivations so they make sense today and fit the medium. For instance, there are only three Bennet sisters in LBD – Lizzie (our fearless vlogging protagonist), Jane (timid but lovely) and Lydia (irrepressible and endearing). Mary makes an appearance as a cousin with Kitty as the family pet. Every change to the original is done with love and humour, it never mocks its source material.

Marriage proposals are now job offers, estates become large corporations and as for the shocking Wickham/Bennet development….well, our lips are sealed.

Green and Su have also integrated different social media platforms to develop characters and events from outside Lizzie’s perspective. Each character has a Twitter account composed by the series’ writing team where they interact with the public and each other. Jane works in fashion so her outfits and inspiration are posted on her Tumblr and Lookbook accounts.

Jane Bennet on Lookbook

Lydia starts her own web series to have a share of the spotlight but what starts out as an exercise in narcissism becomes something else entirely. Lydia Bennet has never been as beloved as she has in this form of Pride and Prejudice. The appearance of the characters (and cast) at last year’s VidCon brought real and imagined worlds together in a way that tickled the funny bone and imagination of the LBD audience.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries appeals to new and established audiences. Many of the teens and adults who have gravitated to the series have no pre-existing knowledge of the story so every new episode is a revelation. The dialogue, acting and variations in the story give viewers familiar with the novel a new experience which often challenges them to think about characters in a different way.

The series also encourages audience participation. Viewers are actively involved in the characters’ lives – giving Lydia advice (or warnings…) in YouTube comments, chatting with characters on Twitter and pestering creators to hurry up and introduce Darcy!

One of the most interesting spin-offs from LBD is the fan group, The LBD Seahorses. Before Lydia’s fall from grace, fans couldn’t agree which tragedy would ruin her in a contemporary setting. Pregnancy seemed to be the frontrunner. The question was then asked, “What would Darcy even do to help the situation?” To which someone replied, “He’d offer to carry the baby for her.” “Oh, so he’s going to become a seahorse?”

And so the niche group was born.

LBD Seahorses group on Twitter

While it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, and not all LBD fans love it, the group is a great example of how web based media evolves. In a recent Lizzie Bennet Q&A session there was even a shout out for this fan group.

The creators couldn’t have anticipated the audience driven art, discussions and interests inspired by the series. The actress who plays Jane often styles her hair using ideas from the World War II era prompting questions about how she does it.  Jane posted on Pinterest and made video tutorials so now fans are wearing elaborate hair styles like Victory rolls and milk maid braids.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries project is slowly coming to an end. This week celebrates the 91st episode and (almost) a year of continuous, free narrative-based content. Who would have imagined that a series of 3-5 minute videos and social media channels based on a classic reimagined text would so firmly capture young people’s attention?

Hank Green and Bernie Su did.

The big question is which classic will they tackle next?

 

Bookish

Bookish website

Bookish is a new book recommendation and e-commerce site competing with the likes of GoodreadsLibrary thing and Amazon. Although some question the effectiveness of these sites, Bookish promises a different experience based on the resources and expertise available to publishers driving the project.

Bookish is a collaboration between a group of major publishers  claiming their recommendations engine, with input from real editors, is the best yet. With publishing heavyweights like Penguin, Random House and Scholastic on board, the site has already collected an impressive list of contributors, 400 000 author profiles and 1.2 million books in their catalogue.

At this stage, Bookish is leaving the social aspect of recommendations to established sites like Goodreads although they do link to Facebook. Their focus is editorial content – delivering magazine style essays, articles, news and reviews written by authors and professional editors.

Bookish represents an interesting commercial model for publishers to position themselves as an alternative to community based book recommendation sites. Whether Bookish stays impartial, only time will tell.

Slightly addicted to fiction

Judi Jagger, the current Western Australian Children’s Book Council judge, has developed her own blog. It is a must read for anyone interested in children’s and YA literature. Judi explains how her blog came to be:

Slightly Addicted to Fiction was born on a wet Saturday afternoon in mid November. It has sprung from the Fiction Focus blog that I started while working in Western Australia’s CMIS as joint editor of the print journal Fiction Focus. When I moved away from the city, the late and much-missed Jill Midolo arranged for me to maintain the blog from home; a dream job.

Although I always knew it was too good to last, the sudden loss of funding for the FF blog still came as a shock. One minute I was maintaining a blog that had secured a global readership, the next minute I wasn’t.

The blog itself hadn’t ceased, just my role. The many comments of support that flowed in were both affirming and humbling.

For a day or two, I did nothing. Then I put my toe in the Twitter water and hastily withdrew. Too ephemeral. Tweeting the Prime Minister’s Literary Awards was fine, but I longed to set them in the context of other awards on the blogging record. So an impulsive decision on that wet Saturday afternoon saw me set up my own forum. Once a blogger…

On Slightly Addicted to Fiction, I will continue what had been a successful formula: news about literature-related matters. I will continue the weekly links, expanding them into a broader context to encompass news about literary and children’s and Young Adult fiction.

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I have also ventured back on to Twitter with a new identity (@readingjay) and am loving the cleverness of paper.li that publishes a daily newspaper http://paper.li/readingjay that magically selects interesting posts from the people I follow. Each day it produces an attractive publication that regularly surprises me with its useful content. Blogging and Twitter: the ideal couple.

Readership of Slightly Addicted to Fiction is building slowly but it is something I feel compelled to do, with or without a large audience.

My former CMIS colleagues have a heavy workload and are doing a great job maintaining the first blog. I see the two as complementary and together will provide a useful resource for schools to keep their finger on the pulse of the literary world.

What was a job has become a hobby, but remains my passion. Slightly addicted to fiction – it’s an understatement.

Congratulations to Judi on her past and present contribution to Australian and global children’s and YA literature. And may we all be “slightly addicted to fiction”!

Strathmore SC library blog

Aneta Curcija and staff at Strathmore Secondary College library have recently set up their own library blog.

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Like many participants of the Vic PLN course, my colleague here at Strathmore Secondary College, Wendy Moyle and I, learned so much about Web 2.0 tools and how to effectively use them, not just to encourage reading but also to promote our wonderful library.  We wanted a platform whereby we could recommend books through genres and also give students the opportunity to share their reading experiences by interacting with one another and discuss books they loved, hated or were just plain disappointed in.  We also hope to interest Year 7 and 8 English teachers to engage their students through this blog and encourage a love of reading.Â

This blog is fairly new and we are keen to start some kind of initiative with English teachers early next year.  For now we are content with posting book recommendations and interesting links and videos and using fabulous Web 2.0 tools to show our current library displays.  The response has been very positive from teachers and we are yet to hear what students think of it via the comments box.  Hopefully as the blog is promoted more and more, we might get some responses from the kids.  Here’s hoping!

I would also like to acknowledge the library staff at Sacred Heart College in Geelong for their creative way of naming their book genres which has given me the inspiration to do something similar and show that books can be categorised in fun and humorous ways.

Well done on the creation of your excellent blog Aneta and Wendy and I hope that the students and staff at Strathmore become as passionate about the blog as you are.

i.Read

Susan Mapleson, a Teacher Librarian at Christian College (Senior Campus) Geelong has developed a very funky blog for lovers of literature. The i.Read blog is cleverly titled and has been developing nicely throughout the year.

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Susan explains how the blog came about:

I completed the SLAV PLN program earlier in the year and while this is not the blog I started during the PLN program is it the more meaningful and relevant blog I started along with Deb Canaway (the other Teacher Librarian here at the senior campus) during the year and includes many of the tools I learnt doing the program.

We started our blog for the students and teachers at Christian College Senior school and while we have not been overwhelmed with responses, certainly we have had many people access our blog.

It was aimed mainly at our Year 10 English classes who come to the Library usually at the beginning and end of the  term to borrow books. It was another way to interact with the students, promote the Library and recommend books to students as we only review books we have in the Library. Year 10 students had to write a book review as part of their English curriculum and also submit a brief version onto the blog. The positive of this task was that the students got a real buzz out of seeing their reviews online and for many it was the first time they had read and or contributed to a blog.

In the future we would like to have our staff also contribute to the blog and find more ways to encourage students to leave comments.

Congratulations Sue and Deb for creating a vibrant and attractive blog. Now that the blog has a good body of work, it will be easier to promote it in the new year.

International Children’s Digital Library

A library for the world’s children. Isn’t that a wonderful thing? The International Children’s Digital Library is just that.

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It’s Mission Statement reads:

The mission of the International Children’s Digital Library Foundation (ICDL Foundation) is to support the world’s children in becoming effective members of the global community – who exhibit tolerance and respect for diverse cultures, languages and ideas — by making the best in children’s literature available online free of charge. The Foundation pursues its vision by building a digital library of outstanding children’s books from around the world and supporting communities of children and adults in exploring and using this literature through innovative technology designed in close partnership with children for children.

The ICDL Foundation is a non-profit corporation.

Some of the resources on the site include:

  • Simple Search
    Search for books in a fun graphical environment using our most popular categories.
  • Books by Countries
    Search for books by continent by spinning an interactive globe.
  • Advanced Search
    Search for books using a compact, text-based interface with our full category hierarchy.
  • Keyword Search
    Search for books by title, author, or keyword, in dozens of languages.
  • Recently Added Books
    Read the books just added to the ICDL collection.
  • Award-Winning Books
    Access books that have won awards worldwide.
  • Using the Library
    Get ideas about how you can use the library – as a child, parent, teacher, librarian, or any other reader.
  • White Ravens List
    Explore the database of exceptional children’s books selected by language specialists at the International Youth Library.
  • Full Book List
    See all the books in the ICDL and sort by title, author, illustrator, language, and publication date.
  • Author & Illustrator List
    Access a complete list of the authors and illustrators whose books are included in the ICDL.
  • Featured Books
    Take a look at some of our readers’ favorite books.
  • Collections
    Browse the books in our special collections.
  • Exhibitions
    Browse exhibitions of books on a particular theme – activities included.

The site is obviously a work in progress and relies on donations to expand its offerings, however it is an intriguing and worthy project.

Promoting reading

Australian publishers such as Penguin and Allen and Unwin are now providing some really great content on their websites for YA readers.

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Between the lines blog is Penguin’s offering while Allen and Unwin’s Teen page is their home for YAs.

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These sites are fantastic for promoting reading as they contain:

  • book trailers
  • author blogs
  • opportunities for students to review books and have the reviews published online
  • sneak peek
  • enewsletters
  • news

and more. All of these resources make it easier to promote reading to students. I would love to hear what other publishers are doing.

Out of this world – a Prezi

Heather Stapleton, the Library Technician at St Joseph’s College Geelong has created an excellent Prezi. She explains why she developed the Prezi:

The following Prezi has been created to support the Year 9 English unit on Science Fiction. The boys study The giver in this unit and are also required to read a sci-fi novel of their choice. The latter can be difficult for some of our reluctant readers so I thought I would do a trial run with a Prezi presentation. The boys are familiar with PowerPoint and use it regularly so I wanted to present the book suggestions in a different way and not risk ‘death by PowerPoint’. The book selection caters for a wide range of reading abilities and interests.
Science Fiction is a genre that is very rich and varied. I have loosely grouped the selections in sub-genres but many of the titles crossover. The presentation was done this way to assist the boys and act as a guide for them to find a book of their own choosing.

Best viewing of this Prezi is Fullscreen in manual mode. To achieve this press the play button and once it loads move your cursor over More and click onFullscreen that appears above. Press the arrow keys to move through the presentation at your own pace. To improve the quality of the YouTube book trailers reduce their size by using the scroll button on your mouse. You can also use your mouse to pan and zoom freely within the presentation.

The Maze runner book trailer featured in this presentation is an Animoto creation by Sarah Ehlers. This could be an excellent activity for students.

Thanks Heather for showing readers your excellent Prezi and the motivation behind its development.

Supporting learning through reading lists

Librarian extraordinaire Dr Joyce Valenza has (yet another) great idea for supporting and encouraging reading in her school.

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By developing this wiki with reading lists, information on texts, study guides, rubrics, book trailers, book reviews, directions and general requirements, students in years 9-12 (and their parents) have a head start on the year’s required reading for English classes.

What a terrific way for students to be prepared for the year ahead. As always, Dr Valenza’s wiki is an example that we can use as a basis to develop our own ideas for supporting our students’ learning.