Book Group Selections 2008 – 2011

Book Group Guest – Jaime Brown

 Book Group hosted Jamie Brown, then a senior student from LCGS. Jamie was in the process of writing a 30,000 word novel titled ThiesS, featuring werewolf characters. We touched on building a narrative by creating a plot outline, and developing characters that relate to each other.  He has gone through some of the editing process and is re-working the ending at the moment. The question is, do we stitch up everything at the end; do we leave some things unsaid, or go for the cliff-hangar…

Jamie led the group on his, and our, writing journey – defining a short-story. Everyone at Book group this week likes to write, so he had a captive audience. He showed us a couple of great websites accessing National Novel Writing Month, which has categories for younger writers. This occurs in November every year.

National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing November 1. The goal is to write a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30.

Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It’s all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly.

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After discussing fantasy books again, we took a closer look at fantasy maps. Josh logged in to one of his favourite internet sites – tvtropes – for information about fantasy maps. This site is a place to find ‘tricks of the trade for writing fiction’. Take a look at this interesting place.

Type in ‘fantasy maps’ in the search box and you are away. Keep going and find reviews about bad/inaccurate geography in narrative films – it is called ‘You Fail Geography’. Some of the inaccuracies are hilarious. Being the devil’s advocate I asked if accuracy was important in fiction stories – book or film. Yes it does because a crabby fan base might result! We all didn’t necessarily agree though, it is fiction after all.

We talked more about the mapping cross-over into on-line games which are narratives that are already written or have three dimensional fantasy lands, towns and cites. Online games and  also take part in graphic depictions of real places. Could there be bad geography to be found there as well?

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Mrs. Hussey came to talk about her love of reading and her passion for ‘who-dun-its.’ Things were very different when she and her sister began borrowing from Libraries as young girls. The environment was very restrained and quiet, but it didn’t stop them from becoming avid readers. Because the who-dun-it’ is so very different from the academic work she does as a teacher it is the perfect foil for relaxation – although she likes all reading. She talked about authors and series of books – some of her favourite authors come from Scandinavian countries, and the books series is something which all members of the group know about. Sometimes books are read out of sequence, because that is how publishers translate and get books on the market from non-English speaking countries.  We had a discussion about the places where books are set, and how that exposes aspects of national identity. Some literature and film explores isolation, for instance. We also talked about how small the world is. Mrs. Hussey once arranged a session for her students with the author Christopher Koch who lived at Trevallyn for a time. He wrote The Year of Living Dangerously.  Her students gained so much by meeting the author. Authors are even more accessible now with stimulating interactive web-sites. They visit schools and are contactable by e-mail. We thanked Mrs. Hussey for sharing her time with us. It was great to get to know her reading story.

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This week we focussed our discussion around the ‘big’ characters in narratives of all kinds. Some of the group have experienced Avatar, a film in popular culture that we thought could be any film about imperialism (thanks Josh!), but it doesn’t have ‘big’ characters that might endure like Hercules from the Classics or Oliver Twist or even Aslan from The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, Winnie the Pooh, Harry Potter or Luke Skywalker!  We wander everywhere in Book Group and this week the discussion was very animated.

Funnily enough we went on to talk about the ‘series’ again, as we did with Mrs. Hussey last week, but focussing on the character traits of the main players – Will from the Ranger’s Apprentice series and Jasmine from Emily Rodda’s Deltora Quest series.  Will is a small ‘Robin Hood meets a CIA investigator’ type of character. You can visit the official Ranger’s Apprentice website at to see a book trailer for Halt’s Peril, the just released book in the series. It is very popular in our Library. It was generally agreed that some of the books in the series can be read as stand alone texts, whereas the Deltora Quest  needs to be read in sequence. The Quest of course is a fantasy journey and we talked about the characters Leif and Jasmine. Emily Rodda referred to video games and created Deltora as a fantasy place before creating her characters, which is interesting considering where our earlier discussions at Book Group have taken us this year – fantasy maps and fantasy places. Next week we will discuss Alice in Wonderland. This story has been re-organised in popular culture again. Feel free to come along.

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Book Group this week.

I only had some vague notion about the term ‘fan fiction’ and now have lots of questions after the Book Group discussion this week. We all learn so much from each other. This is the journey to Fan Fiction.

Our topic was the Romance genre, and we basically debunked the proposition that Romantic literature has a central love story with an emotionally satisfying and optimistic ending. What about Romeo and Juliet (also a wonderful Australian Ballet production in 2011)? The group decided it took a lot for the families to stop fighting, so it was optimistic in end, but it wasn’t satisfying because the hero and heroine paid with their lives. Everyone leapt in with the Shakespearean examples straight away!

We had a discussion about books and television, anime and manga narratives that create tension between the heroes and heroines, and the frustration of reading or seeing that tension – but perhaps there wouldn’t be a story without it. A good example from television is the series Bones – where they never get together! And that tension is exploited in movie and television trailers.

Is there a hierarchy in romantic fiction? The group decided yes, with examples from the bottom of the ladder. Twilight got the wooden spoon because it just doesn’t seem believable. How can Edward be smooth like marble but shine like diamonds – diamonds are faceted.  Again we noted how how  genres are inter-related – such as Fantasy and Romance.

Book-groupers decided that the top of the Romance hierarchy is any story that is close to real life, and totally credible and that found us talking about Fan Fiction where you are part of the story – your life is inserted into the story. There is the example of Lost in Austen which the students have studied at school, but there are many examples and web sites – Muggle Fan Fiction for Harry Potter lovers, Star Trek for trekkers and a broad range of manga sites. You can write the story, transpose your life into the story or become a character in the story.

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This week at Book Group fantasy fiction and science fiction author Paul Collins came to talk in the Library as part of his school visit. Paul Collins is a prolific writer. To date, Paul has published over thirty chapter books, around thirty non-fiction hard covers for the education market, eleven anthologies, two collections of his own stories, edited the MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, over 140 short stories and over twenty novels. His recent short stories have appeared in Penguin’s Kids’ Night In, volumes one and two, The Best Science Fiction Writing ─ A Fifty Year Collection, and 30 Australian Ghost Stories for Children. You can find out more at his website.

Because so many of our Group are writers it was a wonderful opportunity to hear from an established author and get some inside hints about the publishing industry. We now know about deadlines, kill fees, print on demand, and print runs. We found out about the creation of book covers. Paul recommended starfileonline as a great site to access photos for placing in sections of book cover submissions, before the artist has the idea accepted. When the publisher accepts the cover the real artwork replaces the photo. This saves time for everyone. And guess what! Boys generally don’t read books with girls on the cover, but girls read books with both.

Knowing how much young readers (and mature readers) love fantasy it was interesting to hear about his role as co-editor in the Quentaris Chronicles. This set of Chronicles is not like a series of books, but is generated from the creation of a ‘shared world’ – where two or more editors get together to write the guidelines for a fantasy world. Before you begin to write you must create the world – map it. This is something we have talked about in Book Group, so it was fabulous to have this different take on the creation of a fantasy place. When the editors write the guidelines, other authors can submit novels about the same place and the same characters. As a writer, you cannot stray from the guidelines, and are essentially hired to write the book for publication. Wow!

He introduced us to the magazine Oz Kids in Print published by the Australian Children’s Literacy Board, and donated a copy to the school. Our students can submit poetry, book reviews and short stories for consideration, and it is beautifully packaged as a ‘glossy’.

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