Buckle in, because this is a long one. I’ve been stewing on this since the announcement was made last week. In the midst of a pandemic where people turned to the arts for entertainment and levity and catharsis, the government wants to make students pay more for creative arts. In the midst of worldwide protests against racial inequality and police brutality, the government wants it to be more expensive for students to study ethics, social studies and political science. As attention is drawn to a broken legal and corrections system, they want to make it more costly to study law. As many gather in the streets to protest ongoing injustice and long-term impacts of colonialism, the government wants to discourage young people from studying history. In the midst of ceased production of many regional newspapers and further funding cuts to independent media like the ABC, the government wants students to pay more for communications. There’s many reasons to be angry. But now that I’ve cooled off a little and looked closer at what exactly has been proposed, here’s eight reasons you should be opposed to these changes to university funding.
This is the final week of my interview series, and after having featured a debut author, and YA and MG writers both established in their careers, it seemed like the series would be incomplete without a successful self-published author too. I hope you've enjoyed hearing about many different aspects of Australian reading, writing and publishing.
Ashley Capes is a novelist and teacher based in Melbourne. After initially publishing his work via small US-based publisher Snapping Turtle, Ashley now self-publishes his speculative fiction novels and novellas, earning a consistent part-time income from his writing. He’s also a high school teacher of English, Media Studies and Music Production, and a published poet. Wearing all of those hats, Ashely caught up with me to share his wisdom.
Ann-Marie is Deputy Principal of a public high school in NSW, having previously worked as Head Teacher English. She has approximately 18 years experience teaching English to high school students, including HSC marking, and has a passion for reading, analysing literature and sharing this with young people.
Sue is Head of Library Services at Haileybury’s Brighton campus in South East Melbourne. Haileybury is an independent school, and the Brighton campus has about 1300 students from Early Learning Centre through to Year Twelve. Sue has worked in libraries for over 30 years, the previous twelve of those in schools.
The month of January for me has been a month on pause: time visiting family in the city, holidaying overseas, finding this year’s routine back home, and of course, cranking up the air conditioning and washing pool chlorine from my hair. Today I watched a video of people in the snow in New York, but outside my window I can hear the unmistakeable rumble of a much-needed summer storm. It’s just one more sign of how the Australian experience is different to that of our English-speaking friends in the Northern Hemisphere.
December 31, 2015 marked the last day of my “Australian authors only” challenge, but I’ve begun 2016 with three more Australian books. It’s not a self-imposed reading requirement anymore, and I do have several books in my “to read” pile that are from overseas. But it’s a sign of how positive my experience was: there was no sigh of relief, only a moment’s acknowledgment that years go fast, and maybe I don’t spend enough time in mine reading.
So without further ado, here’s what I learnt.
There are movements out there working hard to promote the work of quality Australian writers. The 2015 challenge began as a random goal that I set for myself. I’d been looking at agent websites and found a few titles that caught my eye, and I realised that here I am, an Australian writer looking to break into the market, and I barely knew any Australian writers who weren’t on the HSC list somewhere. But as the challenge progressed and I started tweeting my reviews, I also began looking around for other recommendations of what to read next. I found #loveozYA, a wonderful movement that hasn’t given me a bad recommendation yet. I found Australian Women Writers, using the #aww2015 hashtag. I found many other teachers in the English Book Reviews for High School facebook group. I found other blogs like Bianca Hewes and the Readings blog. If you like the feel of paper between your fingers better than the push of a button on an ereader, Dymocks bookstores now have a separate Australian Fiction section. All over the country, people are reading, loving, sharing, recommending, reviewing, blogging, tweeting, shelving and teaching. I just hadn’t taken enough time to notice.
Multicultural and diverse voices are a great strength of Australian literature. Early on in the year, I joked about getting a map of Australia and pinning the locations that I had read about. We’re a big country, and I did metaphorically travel to every state or territory (except ACT, but I can just drive there). But our diversity doesn’t stop at the coastline. In 2015 I read books set in England, Iceland, America and the fictional Kingdom of Cello. I read about second-generation Lebanese-Australians, backpackers of every nationality, Indigenous Australians, many mixed-race characters and some whose physical appearance was never described. Protagonists ranged from seven to eighty-seven, and were from every socio-economic background. One character had a prosthetic leg, another had Asperger’s, another was mute. These books reflected the diversity that I see every day in the Australia I know, but more than that, they revealed to me so much of Australia that I haven’t yet experienced.
Reviewing takes more time than you’d think. It’s possible that I’m just slower than others – I certainly seem to read at a slower rate, and blog posts take me hours to write. But I also have a new appreciation for those who do review the piles of books they read each week. Whether self-published or traditionally published (or a hybrid), the one comment I keep hearing from my writer friends is that reviewing someone’s book is worth ten times as much to them as just buying it. There is a reason Amazon has had to crack down on “reviewers for hire” and false five star reviews. Word of mouth is a very powerful marketing tool, and the online review is a form of that. But I’m beginning to understand why it’s so hard to get people to leave their thoughts. It takes time. I used a sort of template for mine and they weren’t in depth critiques by any measure, but still, a set of 2 or 3 reviews would take up the time from when my kids fell asleep at night to when I did. That said, it’s worthwhile. I found many of these books on recommendation pages or other blogs, and I’m so glad I did. As I noted above, I’m not limiting myself to Aus-only this year, but I do think I will continue to make an effort with the reviewing. And I will appreciate other reviewers that little bit more.
In 2015 I also learnt:
That I have a few more favourite writers.
That I unashamedly love YA and am not “too old” for it
That I like verse novels and should teach them more
That I don’t read as much as I thought (or maybe all my time is spent reading for my critique group!)
That without books, I don’t think I’d have much to tweet about.
List of Reviews For those who missed reviews or are searching for one in particular, here’s a list of the books I posted about in 2015:
When a young writer wants to take the next step and publish their work or submit it to a contest, often the first person they will ask for advice is their English teacher. Unfortunately, unless that teacher also happens to be a writer, they may not know where to start either. I've compiled here a list of places that accept submissions from teenagers, but before I get to that, a few things to keep in mind (or tell your prospective writer):
"Previously Published" This is very important to know if you intend to submit your work for publication: most magazines and journals do not take previously published material. If the submission guidelines say "first publication rights" or similar, it means that they will not accept work that has been published elsewhere, including work that has been self-published. Wattpad, tumblr, personal blogs and websites count as "previously published". If you want to submit your work later, do not post it on a public website or blog!
Rejections Rejections are just part of the game. You can't be a writer without a thick skin, and there are countless stories of famous books that were rejected dozens of times before a publisher finally took a chance on them. Students should know not to feel discouraged by rejection letters, many of which might be a "form" letter that doesn't include feedback about their piece.
Response Times Students who are used to getting their assignments back after a week or two may balk at common response times - a month is considered "fast" and some journals can take close to a year to send responses. It's worth warning in advance that it may take quite a long time to get even a simple "no thanks" email. Most (not all) of the markets on this list respond within 3-6 months.
"Simultaneous Submissions" A simultaneous submission means that you've sent the same piece of writing to more than one place at the same time. It's a common practice, because of long response times, and many journals don't mind it so long as you tell them immediately if the piece is accepted somewhere else. Check individual submission guidelines to see if they allow simultaneous submissions. If your work is accepted at one of several places you submitted to, the polite practice is to immediately withdraw it from the other journals - don't send any "Journal X wants to take this story, would you like to make a counter-offer?" type emails; it is considered incredibly bad taste to have a piece accepted somewhere only to turn around and tell them they can't have it anymore.
A Note About Pay Literary journals are mostly staffed by volunteers and unless they have a lot of paid subscribers, running costs tend to come from the editor's back pocket. This means that there are a number of quality journals out there that cannot afford to pay contributors, or only pay a token amount (e.g. $5). Higher pay does not necessarily mean more readers - things like government grants, fundraisers etc can impact pay rates on offer - but as a general rule, the higher the pay, the harder it is to get a piece accepted. Some journals also run competitions with prize money or offer additional pay to a "best of" each month or year. To my current knowledge (September 2015), none of the journals below charge a fee to submit work or enter competitions.
And with that, here's the list: Voiceworks (http://www.voiceworksmag.com.au) Voiceworks is a quarterly Australian literary journal that only accepts submissions from writers under the age of 25. It is exclusive to Australian writers and International Students who are currently studying in Australia. They accept fiction, non-fiction, poetry and art and pay $100 per piece. Voiceworks is committed to helping young writers grow and they send specific feedback to every piece they receive.
Vine Leaves (http://www.vineleavesliteraryjournal.com) Vine Leaves is an Australian based journal dedicated to the vignette, a short form of writing that differs from flash fiction in that its focus is on an element such as mood, character or setting, rather than plot. The journal has a "Blooming Vine Leaves" feature for writers aged 12-17. They pay $5 AUD per acceptance into the journal.
Spine Out (http://spineout.com.au/) Spine Out is an Australian website aimed specifically at a YA audience (12+). All work published on Spine Out is from school students in Australia. They accept creative works of all kinds, including fiction, non-fiction and poetry, but also music videos, cartoons and short films. I was unable to find any back issues on their website and the most recent edition (as of September 2015) was from March. Contributors are not paid.
Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things (http://emberjournal.org/) Ember is a US-based literary journal aimed at fostering a love of reading and writing in young people. Their website states that they accept work for "all age groups" but strongly encourage work from writers aged 10 to 18 and writing for a middle-grade or young-adult audience. They accept poetry, short stories, flash fiction and creative non-fiction. Ember pays 2c per word or $20 per piece, whichever is more. It is published semi-annually. The majority of their responses are "personal" (i.e. with feedback).
One Teen Story (https://www.oneteenstory.com/) One Teen Story is a US literary magazine that publishes one story per month. Of the twelve stories published in a year, four are from teen writers. They accept short stories between 2 500 and 4 000 words directed at a Young Adult audience (13+). They pay $500 but only accept one story a month, so competition is fierce.
Cicada (http://www.cicadamag.com) Cicada is part of a "family" of US-based literary magazines aimed at different age groups, the best known of which is Cricket. Cicada is the Young Adult member of the family and takes submissions by writers aged 14 to adult. From time to time competitions are held specifically for young writers (i.e. adults over a certain age cannot enter), but it is unclear whether Australian writers are able to enter these. Pay varies, but their rates for general submissions are some of the highest I've seen. Cicada accepts non-fiction, fiction, poetry and comics.
Young Adult Review Network (http://yareview.net) Another US-based journal, YARN is aimed at Young Adults 14 and up and accepts work from writers of all ages. They are looking for poetry, fiction, essays and interviews. YARN is published online and does not pay contributors.
Cast of Wonders (http://www.castofwonders.org) A UK-based podcast website, Cast of Wonders targets a 13-17 year old audience and specifies in their submission guidelines that they are interested in work from younger writers. They pay £5 per story, which they then post as an audio reading in 20-30 minute "episodes". They are seeking writing between 3000-4500 words in length but do accept shorter works and work up to 7500 words.
Other journals that do not specifically request young writers, but have been known to publish them:
When I enrolled in my Masters at university, I was a little frustrated by how prescriptive it was. I wanted to be a novelist, after all, but I was also required to write poetry, take a subject dedicated to blogging (turns out that was useful, thanks Ben!) and one for scriptwriting. If it hadn’t been a requirement of my degree, I would never have picked scriptwriting, because writing for film didn’t interest me. As it turns out, there’s a lot of gold in the scriptwriting world. Here are five things I learnt that can be easily applied to short stories and novels.
#1 It’s about the audience
As my study guide from that time so delicately states: An audience doesn't care about your pain and your suffering. They care about their own. They are human beings after all. Your pain and suffering is only useful to an audience to the extent that it can assist them in addressing their own pain and suffering. Unfortunately, taking the particular pain of one person, especially when the writer is so close to the subject matter, and turning it into a universal statement that speaks to countless people is a hard act to pull off.
There are forms of writing where it is about you (e.g. memoir), but generally speaking, you need to think about what the audience will enjoy and how you can make your ideas interesting to them. This does NOT mean you should jump on the bandwagon of whatever form or genre is popular right now. It just means that your primary purpose is to entertain, not to lecture. No one cares about your opinion until you can prove it in a good story. So, write what you know, but your experiences and interests are just a starting point. You need characters we can relate to, emotional experiences, and universal themes.
#2 Plan. Lots.
Before I was even allowed to start writing my script, I had to present a premise, a plot outline, a breakdown of how my story followed The Hero’s Journey, answers to questions about my story, and a scene-by-scene summary. At the time, this annoyed me. In hindsight, it saved me a lot of editing.
There’s an ongoing argument in the writing community about “plotters vs pantsers” and ultimately, if you spend an appropriate time editing it probably doesn’t matter too much. But if you can look at your plot outline and ensure that you have logical progressions of events, motivated characters, tension that gradually builds to breaking point etc then you’re less likely to write yourself into a scene you can’t get out of or produce a story where nothing happens.
The planning process isn’t just about knowing where you are going. It’s about identifying problems with structure, contradictions in how your imaginary world works or how your characters behave, and ensuring that you have a complete story arc and character arc.
Premise, theme, moral, message. Lajos Egri popularised "premise" but it doesn’t really matter what word you use. The point is, a story needs a purpose. What are you trying to prove? Why should your audience care? What universal theme do you explore that gets their interest and helps them to empathise with your main character?
There’s a formula for premise that looks like this: Value ascendant over its opposite value for a reason.
That’s a mouthful, right? To write your own premise, fill in these blanks: ___________ is better than (or defeats) _________ because ______________. In the first two spaces, you want two values that contradict each other. Good and evil. Love and hate. Honesty and corruption. The “good” value doesn’t always have to be the one that wins, but readers tend to like stories where our moral code is reinforced.
Egri lists a number of possible premises in the first chapter of his book, The Art of Dramatic Writing. If you’re struggling to come up with an idea of what to write, have a look through them and think about a story that might prove each of those lessons. If you already have an idea, answer the questions: what opposing forces are battling one another in your story? What lesson do you readers learn?
#4 Flaws don’t just make a character interesting; they’re essential to their arc.
We like characters with flaws. They’re more relatable, more human. This is a well-established fact and you’ve probably already been told to let your characters fail sometimes or give them a trait that isn’t as appealing. You need to balance this with qualities that make them likeable; otherwise people won’t care what happens to them.
But it goes further than that. The flaws that you give your character should exist for a reason, they should impact his/her story, and they should be addressed by the end. In scriptwriting, everything had a formula. The formula for character arc was this:
Act One – There is a flawed Hero who sets out to achieve something Act Two – The Hero’s flaw gets the Hero into trouble and stops the Hero from achieving their goal. Ultimately, the flaw gets the Hero into fatal trouble and the Hero is forced to address the flaw Act Three – The Hero overcomes the flaw, freeing him/her to pursue his/her goal
Notice how it is the flaw that gets the Hero into trouble and the Hero cannot achieve their goal until the flaw has been overcome. “Fatal” trouble can be taken more metaphorically, but the idea is that it has to hurt. A lot. It should be impossible to move forward without facing the truth and some kind of self-improvement.
#5 Drama happens in positive and negative shifts
If you go back to your premise, you should be able to identify the two values that are “battling it out” in your story. A one-sided battle is boring and usually it’s finished quickly. Of course your reader is going to want – even expect – a particular outcome, but getting there is the fun part.
Maintaining tension is a game of “almosts”. You want your character to almost win, but not quite. The you want them to almost lose, but not quite. Harry Potter didn’t destroy Voldemort in the first book, but he stopped Voldemort from getting the stone, and that was enough to keep a generation reading through the sequels. Harry almost died in the battle, which also helps.
Look at your plot outline and see where the power shifts. If your premise is about proving that good is greater than evil (because ________), then there should be alternating beats where good is winning, evil is winning, good is winning again. If you think about your character’s goal, it should look like they will achieve it, then that they will fail, then that they might achieve it again. And of course, to generate tension, the stakes can be getting higher each time, the battles should be getting harder, and the time can be running out.
As a rule, writers hate rules, and of course there are always exceptions. But I’ve found these 5 principles to be good rules – the kind that give you something to work with, rather than constraining you. I hope you find them helpful.
In the time since I last blogged, the following things have happened:
A sociopath became fanatical about his religion and held over a dozen people at gunpoint in Sydney for a full day. I woke up the next morning to learn that two of those people had been killed (and the gunman).
Before I went to bed that night, news had come in of a shooting at a school in Pakistan where 132 children were killed.
HSC results (for NSW students, the biggest and final exams of their high school days) were released
That list might seem odd and unrelated, and truthfully, I don’t really know how to make sense of it all together myself. How do we lead lives that swing so quickly, not only from secure to horrific, but back to joyful again? How is it that these kinds of events seem to change us, yet today I lived an entire day that was no different to a day I might have lived a year ago?
After my facebook feed was exhausted with links to “Gabrielle’s year” things, family and friends started doing another one that is meant to look like a newspaper with the “headlines” of people’s lives this year. I noticed how the number of happy headlines far outweighed the number of tragic ones, the inverse of a real newspaper. Perhaps that’s because we tend to share our happiness on social media far more readily than our sadness, or perhaps it’s because we tend to “like” and comment on things that show our friends being happy. But for me, I think it’s just because my friends and I are really lucky. We don’t send our kids to school with the very real fear that they might be shot before we see them again. When a siege happens in the city I grew up in, it takes up the entire news broadcast because we’re all horrified by the idea that that sort of thing can happen here. The enemies we’re acclimatised to are different – heart disease, dementia, domestic violence, drunk drivers.
The media described the gunman as a terrorist and an extremist, both perfectly accurate words that nonetheless might not have been used if the gunman had looked different. I read about innocent victims and ignorant racists, and thought about how innocent and ignorant might just be different spins on the same idea: uninvolved, unaware, uneducated. I was reminded again that the words we choose are powerful, not just for communicating our own views, but for subtly shaping the way other people think about the topic of conversation. As I read about that shooting in Pakistan, I learned that schools are actually a common target for the Taliban. It's an idea that seems pure evil: targeting your attacks at those who are least armed. But it's also because Malala Yousafzai is absolutely right: education is their biggest enemy. Every person whose life you change may go on to change more lives, but every life you end, just ends. Teach compassion and compassion grows exponentially. Teach nuance, teach critical thinking, teach communication.
Educate and there will be fewer gunmen.
So perhaps when I look back at the events of the past few weeks, HSC results shouldn’t stand out as the mundane or the “return to normal life”. They should be the very thing that highlights the difference between the fear and the festivity. Not because of the HSC itself, but because the students who sat it were required to communicate their ideas, to test the ideas of others, to argue without weapons and to look closely at the world around them.
Back in the early days of my teaching degree, as soon as I had room in my timetable and credit points to spare, I picked a creative writing subject. It was the first class I sat in that didn't follow the traditional "lectures and tutorials" model; instead, it was a workshop. The general format was this: we were given the topic in advance, we'd write and self-edit before class, bring several copies, then sit down with half a dozen people and a case full of red pens, taking turns scribbling corrections, encouragement and suggestions.
I was terrified. It was the first time I had received regular feedback from someone other than the teacher. More importantly, it was the first time I had ever been required to give constructive feedback and have somebody listen to me. What if I got it wrong? What if I told them their story didn't have enough suspense, only to have the teacher tell them that they spent too long on the build up and not enough on the climax? What if I corrected a grammatical error that they'd included deliberately to reveal something about their character? What if it wasn't a grammatical error at all - what was an Oxford Comma again? What if I just didn't get what they were trying to say? Would I be the one who looked stupid?
As it turns out, this was great practice for me as a teacher. I had always known that marking student work came with the territory, but I think I'd expected it to be easy, somehow. That because I was older, more experienced and more educated, I'd have more confidence in offering them feedback. A year or so later, I started doing education subjects that went in to the specifics of assessment and reporting: "sandwiching" criticism between slices of encouragement, pointing out a repeated mistake the first two or three times only, suggesting a possible solution to the problem you've found, using different coloured pens because red is "negative" (someone should tell the new iTunes logo). And I started thinking "why didn't I learn this stuff beforeI took creative writing"?
In the classroom, students spend a lot of time reading good writing - the classics, "literary" novels, award winning books. And when they do, they're being taught to notice what makes the work good. But rarely are students given the opportunity to point out what doesn't work in a story, or to engage with a first draft other than their own. They don't have a clear idea of the work that went in to making those great texts shine. A question for the teachers out there: when reading contemporary texts with your class, how often do you talk about the acknowledgements page?
I remember my Extension II English class in high school. I shared my work with other students oncein the entire year, otherwise trusting my teacher to give me all the feedback I might need. She was a great teacher and helped me to improve my work, but this practice led to a false belief.I saw "feedback" and "criticism" as the job of the one in authority, the expert. In the writing community, that means professional editors and agents. But the harsh truth for a 21st century writer is that publishers and agents don't have the time or resources to work with everybody who has a skerrick of potential. And even if your work does get published, you're still going to be met with readers who have a variety of opinions.
Critiquing other people isn't just about getting good critiques in return; it also has these benefits:
Ideas like "rhythm","pacing" and "flow" are intuitive concepts that are difficult to make rules for. When you stumble over the words in someone else's writing, it's useful to zoom in on that sentence and think about what the writer has done that pulled you out of the narrative.
You practice looking for simple errors, which in turn hones your grammar and punctuation skills for all forms of writing.
You are given a space to own your opinion and to compare with different opinions of the same work. This helps you to realise which kinds of comments are based more on the preferred style of person giving it than the work itself -useful knowledge when it comes to reading your own reviews.
The things you notice in other people's work (inconsistent characters, an unclear message, unbelievable plot points, changes in setting) may not be things you notice in your own work, because you are too familiar with it. Having a critical eye helps you to transition out of "writer mode" and into "editor mode" to improve your own drafts.
If nothing else, critique commitments mean that you are consistently immersed in written language - after all, you are reading every piece you critique.
I know there are English teachers out there who make peer-to-peer editing a much more regular part of their teaching practice than I experienced. For the most part, the emphasis seems to be on what some of us refer to as "SPaG" (spelling, punctuation and grammar).But the benefits of critiquing are not limited to fine line edits, nor are they only for creative work. It's a simple way to boost literacy across the whole school and to see collaborative learning mean something other than group work. More than that, it creates a change in attitude. Students who believe that their classmates are their competitors will miss out on the opportunity to improve themselves and lift the overall grades of their school.
I love the idea that one of the books I'm beta reading might be published. I'd like to be able to see, first hand, how far it has come. I'd find it encouraging to know that the writers who pushed me so hard are out there reaping the rewards of their own hard work. You never know, I might even make it on to an acknowledgments page!
I wrote this a while back for the NUHA blogging prize, but it seemed relevant to a writer's blog so I'm re-posting it. The topic was "in the future, people will cease to own books". Here are (were?) my thoughts.
In the future people will cease to own books. Or they'll own fewer books than they do now. Or they'll own just as many as they do now. I don't know, and I don't think it matters. That might seem surprising - I am, after all, an English teacher and an aspiring writer - but I believe that I can still be those things in a world without books. A musician can still be valuable and popular in a world where vinyl records are collector's items, where cassettes are laughable and even CDs have been overtaken by mp3 files. In the future, perhaps there won't be books, but there will still be literature.
There exists in our society a kind of dichotomy when it comes to technology: both a fevered acceptance of the new and nostalgia for the old. I recently received an internet meme sent from my husband's ipad that commented how "kids these days" don't recognise what the "save" icon on Microsoft Word is supposed to represent. In the staffroom, teachers trawl the internet for their next lesson plan and upload topic quizzes to moodle and edmodo, simultaneously blaming the internet for their students' lack of interest in the classics.
So if there won't be books, what will there be? Obviously ebooks are the first alternative that comes to mind. But just as print newspapers are slowly being replaced by online equivalents, updated hourly and with space for reader comments, the future of writing is not simply a change in physical format. There is a demand for greater interactivity, where the "death of the author" is made explicit by visible reader involvement. There is a demand for user-control, where readers can decide what to read in what order and what to skip over altogether. There is a demand for instant gratification, where readers can have new information (or new stories) in their hands within seconds of it being written. There is a demand for evolution.
Naturally, the expectation is that much of this evolution will occur on the internet. Blogs, wikis and interactive novels are already stepping into those spaces, just as web series are taking up a place in the world of film. However there are also forms of publication that are not permanently linked to the internet, such as interactive ebooks, ipad and android applications, that have a place in the growing alternatives to traditional books. As with internet publication, these models offer an opportunity for cheap, sometimes free, self-publication and mass marketability.
The idea is not without its pitfalls. Internet publication means more opportunity for copyright fraud, less recognition (and usually money) for the author, less regulation and a greater abundance of poor quality fiction to sift through. Sometimes well written gems hide on a blog page while a piece of fan fiction skyrockets to stardom, makes it to print and cashes in millions. It seems desperately unfair, especially to those who have spent several years with editors and agents attempting to get a first novel onto the desk of a publisher. But it also offers a platform for that new novelist to try to make a name for themselves. It offers the reader a chance to sample works that might interest them without having to part with their money or return to the library if they are disappointed. And for the fan or amateur critic, it offers an opportunity to be involved in the editing process or the creation of a sequel.
For the traditional reader or writer, these ideas may seem confronting, almost a violation of an art form. Like digital photography and Photoshop, there will be those who argue that interactive literature is not true literature. Likewise there will probably always be purists who enjoy old media for what it is. But for educators, perhaps rather than seeing this as the demise of books, we should see this as an opportunity for a new era of literature. We are, after all, growing the next generation of writers. Instead of grooming them to be the audience we want, perhaps we should be asking them how they can meet the demands of an audience made up of their peers. The existence of Virginia Woolf did not throw Jane Austen into oblivion. Likewise, if we want the future to be filled with good writing, let's teach people how to write well in the new formats and purposes that they're drawn to.