Event: How to Survive the Apocalypse


The Centre for Youth Literature (State Library Victoria) is planning a fantastic Young Adult event.  Learn how to build and destroy characters and worlds in a day of workshops with favourite Young Adult authors Jay Kristoff and Lili Wilkinson!

Event Date:  2 July 2016 – 12:00-6:00 pm
Author Presenters: Lili Wilkinson and Jay Kristoff
Cost:  Free event – Bookings required

Author workshops*.  Venue: Conference Centre, 12-2pm

Workshop 1 – Jay Kristoff: How to build and destory worlds
Workshop 2 – Lili Wilkinson: How to build and destroy characters

* These workshops are designed for a teen audience, aged between 12 and 20. Proof of age will be required on the day. Workshops are a parent-free zone!  Tickets to the workshops are limited to only 30 places per workshop.

If you miss out on the workshops, there are plenty of tickets available to attend the panel and film screening (capacity 200), open to all ages.

The panel discussion and audience Q&A with Jay Kristoff and Lili Wilkinson will be held in the Village Roadshow Theatrette, 2.30-3.30pm.

Finally,  in the Village Roadshow Theatrette, 4.00-6.00pm
The Maze Runner film screening with audience participation, 4-6pm. The Maze Runner is rated M for a mature audience.

Periodic table of story telling – story starter activities

The Periodic Table of Storytelling  is one of those special treats that comes through your feed and gets your mind buzzing with ideas of how it could be used with students.


As well as being pretty funny, the table covers most of the major story types and character arcs, making it a great tool for engaging students in creative writing.

Each story element has an identifier, name and is grouped under one of the following categories – structure, setting, modifiers, plot devices, heroes, villains, archetypes, character modifiers, meta tropes, production and audience reaction.

Ideas for use with students

  • Give each student in the class one story element, making sure that all categories are represented. (You could make coloured cards for each element).
  • Ask them to form small groups (3-4) and collaborate on a story that incorporates all their individual story elements. This could easily be a homework assignment or even a competition with time limits
  • You could mix up the activity by asking them to write in different genres or mediums – film, play, poem, short story, tv show etc.
  • To make this an individual task, give each student three cards and ask them to include all three elements
  • You could also use these story elements to describe the books you’re reading. This would be a great way to build a shared vocabulary for understanding story and transferring knowledge of one story to other narratives
  • The story elements could be a prompt for a library creative writing challenge – how many story elements can you get in your story? or even a weekly writing challenge with one element as the focus each week
  • Put story element cards into a box and students choose one (or more) to prompt a free writing task

These kinds of forced association activities are a great way to get kids (and adults!) thinking creatively. If you have any other ideas or find something that works well for your students, let us know.

Hemingway – like the author, like the app

Hemingway is an easy to use editing site which helps make your writing simpler and more direct. Much like its namesake, author Ernest Hemingway, the site champions simple verbs, short sentences and no adverbs at all.

Cut and paste the text you want to edit into the website home page and hit the edit button to see your work highlighted in different colours. Yellow for hard to read, red for very hard to read, blue for adverbs, pink for complex verbs (with suggested simpler options) and green for passive phrases.

Although it can be frustrating when your best efforts don’t remove the highlighting, the app shows you what to look for when you’re editing. It would be a great tool to use with groups of students to model the editing process and how decisions about language can change the impact of your writing.

At this stage, the app doesn’t let you save and seems designed to gauge interest in a paid desktop app. But in the meantime, Hemingway is an interesting tool for writers at any level.

Create word clouds and analyse text with Textal

Word clouds are a good way to visually represent the frequency of words in a piece of writing. While there are plenty of apps available that will automatically generate word clouds, a new app for IOS devices aims to make word clouds even more useful. Textal turns a text passage into a word cloud and also includes some interesting tools for analysing word usage.

A Textal cloud can be created using the text from a web page, a Twitter feed or one of the sample books provided. There’s also an option to simply cut some text from another app and paste it into Textal. Like most word cloud apps you can choose different fonts and themes (though there are no fancy shapes like Tagxedo). You can also choose to set the number of words displayed in your cloud. Once you create the cloud you’ll be presented with a pretty standard word cloud, with the most frequent words displayed in the largest text. Check out our sample Textal word cloud of #vicpln tweets here.

Textal lets you choose basic font and theme options, and clouds can be created from text, a web page or Twitter. In this case we’re creating a cloud of VicPLN tweets.

It’s when you tap on a a particular word that Textal begins to get really useful. This will display statistics about the frequency of word usage, the relationship of this word to other words, the overall word count and the number of unique words used in the document. The word cloud is also created online (though statistics aren’t available unless you open the cloud in the Textal app). Each Textal word cloud also has a unique QR code to make sharing easier.

Textal provides a breakdown of the number of unique words used, the popularity of your chosen word and the relationship to other words.

Textal is a relatively new release and is currently only available on Apple devices. At this stage it looks like it also requires access to a Twitter account (though it doesn’t auto post without your permission). This may make it difficult for students to use unless you have a shared class Twitter account.  Despite these possible drawbacks, Textal is definitely a useful tool for helping students analyse word usage in their writing and visualising the frequency of words they have used.

Download Textal from the Itunes store

Create interactive stories with Inklewriter

Many of you would remember the Choose Your Own Adventure series of books which were incredibly popular in the 1980s and 1990s. These novels gave the reader the option of choosing a path through the story and the narrative unfolded in a different way depending on the option selected. This style of fiction was then replicated in some of the early text based adventure games on home computers, however these games tended to be frustrating to play and hard to make. But now writers can easily produce interactive narratives with Inklewriter.

Inklewriter is a non-linear story writing tool which lets you define options for your reader after each section of your story. These options then link to different story sections, so you could end up writing many different stories within the one piece. You can define options which could be as simple as making a character turn left or right, or a much more complicated situation like a conversation with many different options. Pictures can also be added to the story and your writing can be shared.

Inklewriter is quite easy to use and helps you build different story options. You are presented with a first paragraph, and then you can define choices for the reader. Each option links to a new paragraph or can also be linked to an existing paragraph you’ve written. Even a simple story can actually become quite complex once you add a few options, but Inklewriter shows you when you have any loose ends from each story that you need to tie up. In this way, your reader will (hopefully) never get stuck.

This tool would be perfect in creative writing classes or even in other subjects like History, where students might explore the different options available to historical figures. When creating an interactive story students will have to examine the motivations of their characters carefully. It could also lead to some really good discussions about narrative structures, pacing and conversation. Here’s a quick story that we wrote that explains what Inklewriter is all about. It’s not Shakespeare, but hopefully it gives you a bit of an idea of how it works.

The Inklewriter website has some quick tutorials to get you started, and you can begin writing without creating an account (though you will need to create an account to save your work). You can click on Start writing or Read a story to get started. While Inklewriter is still in beta at the moment, it does seem to be quite reliable and is a really interesting option for creating digital, interactive stories.


Story Scrapbook

Today author Tristan Bancks tells about the development of his new app Story Scrapbook, a tool to assist with the creative writing process.

I write books for children and teens: Mac Slater Coolhunter, Nit Boy, Galactic Adventures and My Life & Other Stuff I Made Up. I use visual, aural, textual, web-based and interactive tools to prompt and inspire my writing process. Story Scrapbook is a new (free!) story brainstorming app based on my cross-media creative process that brings writing alive for children and teens. I developed the app with revolutionary new media developer Ben Train to assist us in co-writing a story.
The app, for Mac and PC, allows users to bring together text, images, video, music, sticky notes and Google Maps on virtual scrapbook pages. A simple idea about a kid with the worst case of nits in world history or a killer magpie or a boy with a dream of going into space becomes ‘real’ when it is brought alive using multimedia tools. There are no more, ‘I don’t know what to write about’ complaints or one-size-fits-all story starters on the whiteboard. Students can explore their own interests and brainstorm their own unique stories using an engaging, contemporary tool that they understand.
As a child, if I read a book or watched a movie I would feel inspired to create my own story for screen or page. Story Scrapbook will, hopefully, inspire other young readers, writers and creators to do the same. And not just those who learn textually or have been born with a creative ‘gift’.
Since the launch of the Beta version in May I have been touring Story Scrapbook to festivals and schools from Sydney to Brisbane and out to Armidale, creating collaborative stories on smartboards and having students trial the app on individual computers in workshops. They have provided feedback on their likes and suggestions and have been instrumental in the ongoing development of the app. Feedback has been resoundingly positive.

Steve Jobs, co-creator of Apple and Pixar, said that the original instructions for the Star Trek video game were:
1. Insert coin.
2. Avoid Klingons
We have tried to do similarly with Story Scrapbook. On the web page there is a Quick-start pdf and an introductory video (see above) but other than that, students are invited to experiment and discover the app for themselves. This has proven a greater challenge for older people and the less computer-savvy but the tool has been created with children and teens in mind.
We are building a community around the app and we are currently developing an HTML5 version, which will allow easy embedding and sharing of the interactive creations. My hope is to build a suite of free or very inexpensive digital creative tools on my website and to continue to inspire and nurture others’ ability and confidence to create.
I would love you to be part of this process by downloading and testing the app, then sharing your discoveries. Find out more and download the app on the Story Scrapbook page.


Congratulations to Tristan for creating such a great tool. He is touring the app to schools in Melbourne from August 6-10. To find out more visit Tristan’s website.


I’ve been checking out Xtranormal for a long time now and think it’s a great way to introduce scripting, digital storytelling and film making to students.

Screen shot 2010-10-29 at 7.26.03 AM

As the website says, “if you can type, you can make movies…”

Screen shot 2010-10-29 at 7.33.53 AM

By selecting a collection and then characters, begin typing and away you go. Being able to select camera angles is a bonus.

As the website says

Xtranormal.com is a web-site powered by Xtranormal’s text-to-movie™ platform—a web-based application used to create short 3D animated movies from simple text-based movie-scripts. The characters in the movie speak the dialogue in the script, and react to performance triggers—icons that are dropped directly into the script, just like smileys in IM/chat. Movies can be shared through e-mail, blogs and online video sharing and social networking sites such as YouTube™, MySpace™ and Facebook™.

Xtranormal has its own YouTube channel and you can get updates from their Twitter account. Xtranormal could be a terrific way for students to interpret historical events or to present an assignment.

I’m thinking of using it for library orientation and as a fun way to introduce professional learning to teachers.

inkpop: the online community of rising stars in teen lit

inkpop is a recent innovation by HarperCollins Publishers. Providing an online community for aspiring authors, members can vote for their favourite stories, which will then be read by the HarperCollins Editorial Board.


The website explains more:

inkpop is an online community that connects rising stars in teen lit with talent-spotting readers and publishing professionals. Our social networking forum spotlights aspiring authors and the readers who provide the positive springboard for feedback. inkpop members play a critical role in deciding who will land a publishing contract with HarperCollins. Whose work will you help rise to the top?

The FAQ page explains:

inkpop invites unpublished, published, and self-published authors to create their own personal inkpop page and post their books, short stories, essays, and poetry for public viewing. There is no word-count minimum for short stories, essays, and poetry, but authors must upload books that are at least 10,000 words in order for them to be read and critiqued by the inkpop community.

Visitors can comment on submissions and choose their top five favorites. inkpop counts the number of times a project appears to be among the five favorites of community members and uses that information to rank the projects. inkpop also recognizes the visitors who consistently recommend the best projects and uses that info to rank the most influential Trendsetters, who play a critical role in selecting top authors.

In short, talent development is a collaborative process at inkpop. Readers are talent scouts and critics who become community leaders in their search for standout projects. In turn, writers get to load up on valuable feedback from a target audience and make their projects the very best they can be.

Please note that users must be over 13 years of age and currently, English is the only language that submissions are accepted in. As per any resource used with students, please check the site out for yourself as the content is constantly changing.

inkpop sounds like a supportive community for aspiring authors. It is great to see publishers creating such resources for would-be authors.


BookRix is a free site that lets you create and publish your own books online. You can upload, e-publish and share your work as well as have it read, reviewed and critiqued.



How does BookRix work? This video answers all of the questions you thought of, and some you probably didn’t.


Do be careful of some content, however, the code of conduct states that

contents which are pornographic, contain vulgar or obscene language or which are annoying or otherwise indecent or which constitute an incitement of masses, insults, deformation or which contain unobjective and false presentations of facts or which are qualified to be unconstitutional, extremistic, racist or xenophobic or which come from prohibited groups are prohibited.

Copyright and other issues are addressed here.

We Make Stories

Book publishers Penguin have developed a website where children can write, illustrate (and add sounds) and publish their own stories.


We Make Stories enables young writers to select a number of different story platforms and even re-write a small section of classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Black Beauty and The Jungle Book. Lots of fun for everyone!