Author interviews and farewell Fiction Focus

It has been a short week for those of us in Melbourne schools with a public holiday to celebrate the running of the Melbourne Cup. The work days this week have been: 1. spent deciding on how best to utilise the Kindles we have bought for the library and 2. looking at authors and writing for some of our literary students. 

I am sorry to say that one of my mainstays when it comes to keeping up with YA literature, the Fiction Focus blog, has written its last post. This was a terrific site and so useful to all who work in the YA or children’s literature area. Funding cuts seem to be so random and ill-advised at times but if you feel like you would like to register your disappointment please visit the blog to leave a comment.

It was from a post on the Fiction Focus blog that I found out about the newspaper in the US , the Albany Examiner, that has been publishing a series of profiles on contemporary YA authors. The latest is an article about Australian author Melina Marchetta. In the US Finnikin of the Rock is the most recent release. There have been  five previous writers in this ongoing series. They are: Andrew AuseonAlly Carter, Kristen Cashore, E. Lockhart and M.T. Anderson.

I, along with two students at my school, was fortunate to be able to met author Michael Grant last night. He came along to speak to students from some of the nearby schools. He is a very dynamic character and seemed totally at ease talking to the students present.  A good post can be found on the Booktopia blog (Michael Grant, Author of GONE, HUNGER and LIES, answere ten terrifying questions) He was funny, articulate and offered some interesting ideas about writing to those present.

I have also been reading some fascinating author interviews that range from the 50’s until today. These were done for the Paris Review.

The Review focused on original creative work and innovatively, at the time of its founding, letting the authors talk about their work themselves. The Review’s Writers at Work interview series offered authors a rare opportunity to discuss their life and art at length; they have responded with some of the most revealing self-portraits in literature. Among the interviewees are P.D. James, Elie Wiesel, Margaret Drabble, V. S. Naipaul, P.L.Travers,Seamus Heaney, Ian McEwan, Ray Bradbury, Les Murray  and Peter Carey.

Aside from “hearing” how the author liked to write and about the impetus for their works, I also became fascinated with the little examples of manuscript pages that you could view for each of them.


More on E-books – 10 options

Today I have been looking at more e-books. The sites I looked at were mostly offering text downloads and many offered free options. This is not a complete or definitive list but they are the ones I like, were easy to access and I especially liked those that could add something extra eg annotating and commentating and some offer more for a reading group discussion/study. Our students all have laptop computers and I would confidently say they also all have a smaller mobile device – most often in the form of  iPods or iPhones. I am not saying they all like to read off their devices but it is becoming a much more common occurrence. There are also  those who are not great readers of hard copy books who do prefer the electronic format. I have recently been given a kindle to use and it is really very easy to read from and a convenient size for carrying around. There is so much becoming available and our school library must look at how best we can connect our students to reading and literature. E-books are one answer.

The Book Glutton video: This video offers a short overview about how BookGlutton works: how to find and read books, how to use the community features and how to set up your own profile. It was updated for 2010

  • BookGlutton Read books online then annotate and/or discuss them with others. You can sign up for an account and make some decisions about what you’d like to read and who you’d like to read it with. You can either choose a book from our public domain collection, or choose a group that’s reading something you like. Then you just jump into the reader.
  • DailyLit This is a free service that brings books (also free) (particularly classic books in the public domain) as excerpts, into your inbox in convenient small messages that can take less than 5 minutes to read. This is not just an option for your computer, it also works perfectly well on whatever PDA you may have. Sometimes there’s a small charge for the e-book (usually a modern book) but there are plenty in the free category.
  • Google Books Google are working on an agreement that will offer access to 3 categories of books. 1. Out-of-copyright books: This agreement doesn’t affect how out-of-copyright book are offered. Book Search users can read, download and print these titles. 2. In-copyright but out-of-print books Out-of-print books aren’t actively being published or sold so it can be hard to find copies held in a library or used bookstore. When this agreement is approved, every out-of-print book that they digitize will become available online for preview and purchase, unless its author or publisher chooses to “turn off” that title. 3. In-copyright and in-print books: In-print books that publishers are still actively selling. This agreement expands the online marketplace for in-print books by letting authors and publishers turn on the “preview” and “purchase” models that make their titles more easily available through Book Search.
  • International Children’s Digital Library The ICDL Foundation’s goal is to build a collection of books that represents outstanding historical and contemporary books from throughout the world. Ultimately, the Foundation aspires to have every culture and language represented so that every child can know and appreciate the riches of children’s literature from the world community. The simplest way to use the ICDL is to just read a book. Pick one of the featured books from the home page or search for books using one of the search mechanisms. The reader can then read – for free and anonymously. You can also create an account to keep a bookshelf of books you like and set various personal preferences.
  • Internet Archive Text Archive Download free books and texts. The Internet Archive Text Archive contains a wide range of fiction, popular books, children’s books, historical texts and academic books. This collection is open to the community for the contribution of any type of text, many licensed using Creative Commons licenses.
  • Planet eBook Classic literature in PDF format.. Free eBooks to download
  • Project Gutenberg Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart, the founder of P/G, invented eBooks in 1971 and continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and related technologies today.
  • Project Gutenberg Australia   This site produces books in electronic form and makes them freely available to the public in accordance with Australian copyright law, usually in plain text. Hosts a number of specialised Australian collections, including a Library of Australiana, Australia’s Greatest Books., Australian Explorers & Australian History.
  • Read Easily Uses Project Gutenberg and is aimed at the visually impaired, this web site allows you to change the fonts and colours to make the books more legible.
  • World Public Library Use the eBook Finder to find the PDF eBook you are looking for and download free books and texts. The World Public Library Association Collection shelves more than 750,000 PDF eBooks in more than 100 languages. The mission of the World Public Library’s Acquisition Department is to add new eBooks 24/7 to the shelves. The Internet Archive Text Archive contains a wide range of fiction, popular books, children’s books, historical texts and academic books. This collection is open to the community for the contribution of any type of text, many licensed using Creative Commons licenses.

 World Public Library video

Useful Links (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Google Lit Trips

google_lit_tripsAnother practical use for Google Earth has been found in these interesting lessons that utilize this application.  On the website named Google Lit Trips  you will find a list of lessons using various texts in which a virtual “trip” has been planned for use in describing events, settings, etc. of a story. 

2 interesting videos as an introduction to Google Lit Trips are presented by Kate Reavey (Peninsula College). Part 1

Part 2


This has the potential to be an excellent resource for teachers who are looking for ways to introduce literature in a different format into their classrooms.  The lessons seem good enough to be used with a class via a teacher’s computer that is hooked up to data projector or it could be used by students at individual computers.

site map
site map

I had a look at the Lit Trips for Elizabeth Honey’s book Remote ManHana’s suitcase by Karen Levine and they also have one for Macbeth. googleLitTrip-remotemangoogleLitTrip-remoteman2

  Looking at the above and, based on my knowledge of how reasonably user friendly Google tends to make the applications I have already used, it leads me to believe that creating your own lit trip would not prove to be too difficult a task.  There is a pdf “how-to” for creating your own lit trip ad it does not look to difficult. I have a small group of students working with me at the moment, reading e-books from DailyLit. One of the titles is Around the world in eighty days. I thought that this would make an interesting project for us to expand on the journey through the book whilst learning about creating something new with GoogleLitTrips. 

In general, this site seems to be an extremely valuable resource with downloadable materials complete with discussion questions and other class activities. I believe that this could be a great tool to help students visualize and learn about the places they encounter in various stories. 

To get started on your Lit Trip journey with characters from famous children’s novels you will have to :

  • Download Google Earth
  • Return to Google Lit Trips
  • Click on one of the grade level links at the top of the page
  • Find a Lit Trip that meets your interest 
  • Start exploring

25 books to read- a list


A lot of people like to send around lists. I have written posts about some of them before. I love the way they start conversations and ideas. I was interested to read this one, 25 books to read before age 25. It was a list comprised by a group of staff for working for The Daily (of the University of Washington). I am supposing that all those writing were younger people and the books were for young adults (from 16-24). The article was written at the end of 2006 so would anything have changed if they wrote the list now? What would you prefer to have on your list? I have read all but 6 titles (indicated), and most were read before I was 25, either at high school or whilst I was at university. 

The list was:

  1. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  2. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  4. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  5. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  6. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  8. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  9. The Historianby Elizabeth Kostova
  10. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  11. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  12. The Quiet American by Graham Greene
  13. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  14. The Stand by Stephen King
  15. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  16. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  17. Invisible Monstersby Chuck Palahniuk
  18. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  19. The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  20. Ishmael,: an adventure of the mind and spirit by Daniel Quinn
  21. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  22. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  23. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
  24. Fast Food Nationby Eric Schlossinger
  25. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

What would I put in this list? I like most that are in the list above.  I thought I would remove the ones I didn’t know and I don’t think that I would put #7 or 24 into my list. This means 8 other titles.

Other books that I like, and they not necessarily are:

  1.  1984 by George Orwell
  2. The Hound of the Baskervilles (I like the crime genre and this is THE classic)
  3. The island of Dr. Moreau by HG Wells
  4. All quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  5. The Sword in the stone by TH White
  6. Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally
  7. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (Blade runner) by Philip K. Dick
  8. Breath by Tim Winton or My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin

I also like Travels with my Aunt (Greene), Kim (Kipling), A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens), Brave New World (Huxley), A Clockwork Orange (Burgess), Lord of the Flies (Golding), The War of the Worlds (Wells), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Adams),  Sons and Lovers (Lawrence), Oyster (Janette Turner Hospital), and The things they carried (O’Brien). It is hard for me to limit myself once I start.

Whilst I was looking back at books I studied in my later schooling years, I realised I had studied very little Australian Literature, except for Henry Lawson short stories. Nowadays it seems to have changed somewhat so that Australian students can read more of their own country’s literature, but it does depend on the choices of the teaching staff. Perhaps we should start a list of 25 Australian books to read by the time you are 25!

I am thinking about using this idea with our students this year, perhaps in book week. Discussing the idea with the others, we are considering the idea of another blog on our library site and give our students a chance to put up their ideas for 18 books before the age of 18 – so it would be books every student should read before they leave school. We could then try to come up with a definitive list for the year and perhaps adapt/edit it each year after.