The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: adaptation

prideandprejudice-adaptationsPreviously: Audience Connection (4/6)

There are many notable changes within the Austen-verse that provide opportunities for discussion.  Where the focus of the original story is that of the Bennet sisters marrying to advantage in spite of their disadvantageous social hierarchy, the modern retelling chooses to focus on the female relationships both friendly and familial.  Darcy isn’t introduced directly until past the half-way point of the series, the attention is firmly on Lizzie, her sisters and her co-collaborator Charlotte.  Class and wealth remain important themes throughout but the agency of the female characters is heightened through the benefit of the feminist movement.  Charlotte becomes the CEO of a company due to her impressive skills and endeavour, Lizzie’s ability to connect with the audience results in a range of choices Austen’s women could not imagine, and Lydia finds herself saved and yet irrevocably changed by her experiences.  Unlike Austen’s women who could only manoeuvre within very specific spheres, Su’s women proactively expectation and find value in themselves outside of their relationships with men.  You can’t help but think that Austen would approve.

Differentiating this adaptation is its refusal to walk down the well-trodden path of the marriage storyline.  If Austen were alive today she wouldn’t be invoking stories simply about the marriage options of her characters, she would exploring class, wealth and opportunity in a modern age.  Lizzie Bennet, graduate student in communications, allows Elizabeth to be represented in the irrepressible way that makes us love her, retaining all her good and bad qualities while being germane to today’s time.

Regardless of the means in which Lizzie’s perspective is told, her tendency towards inaccurate storytelling is depicted equally.  Throughout the videos, her depictions of characters are tempered, or supported, by the perspective of others.   The immediacy of the first person narrative via webcam brings a fresh dynamism to the two hundred year old tale.  While the need for all characters to speak into camera strains the bounds of logic and credulity by the end of the series, it does create an intimacy with the audience – a short cut into the thoughts of the plucky protagonist – where a voiceover may have been instituted in the past.   Read the rest of this entry »

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: audience connection

audiencePreviously: Transmedia (3/6)

From the outset, the minds behind the Lizzie Bennet Diaries sought to create and support rich engagement and activity within the audience. The videos hosted on Youtube were the focal point, however the transmedia elements were integrated seamlessly alongside the release of the story.

From the beginning the writing and transmedia teams were integrated to ensure the highest engagement of audience across multiple platforms. Social networks like Tumblr, Facebook, This Is My Jam, Twitter etc. were craftily enfolded into the story, depending on the interests of different characters. Jane, reconceived as a fashion intern, posts pictures of her daily outfits alongside hair styling tutorials on Lookbook and Pinterest. The uncommunicative Darcy is very rarely a presence on any of the networks, whereas the flighty Lydia prefers the immediacy of video. Every platform was used in a way that is authentic to the characters, resonating greatly with the audience. Through the Lizzie Bennet Diaries well known characters can be explored in a different context to bring new life to the narrative.

Many of the teens (and adults) who have gravitated to this series had no pre-existing knowledge of Austen’s story and as such each new episode was a revelation. The dialogue, acting and variations in story allow more knowledgeable viewers to enjoy the series in equal measure.  In many cases it encouraged those familiar to re-examine characters in a different way. Read the rest of this entry »

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: transmedia

transmediaPreviously – Context (2/6)

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a perfect example of highly successful transmedia. A series of web tools that integrate all aspects of the narrative, and creates unique content based on existing (and out of copyright) properties.

Transmedia Victoria defines transmedia as “…the combining of multiple creative practices on a diverse range of platforms or artforms to deliver a cohesive, multi-sited, experience.”  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries does this and more by utilising multiple websites to tell the characters’ stories. The Q&A videos with Lizzie allow for greater participation and community development in the world of the Bennet sisters.

Austen is a perfect conduit for the transmedia model as her work has so often been translated and adapted into a myriad of forms. The rich characters, universal emotional beats and social commentary allow room for variations in place and time. For example, although ‘Lost in Austen’ and ‘Bride and Prejudice’ took liberties with Pride and Prejudice, they still hit the same narrative markers, translating the story for a different era and culture. While there have been modern takes on Elizabeth and Darcy’s journey towards understanding and togetherness, it has never been told in this way before – using multiple online platforms.

Hank Green (creator) stated his preference for “… simple, powerful ideas” and it was his idea that kicked off this project.  Co-opting Bernie Su as a creator, they have used the strength of Austen’s storytelling to explore the benefits of transmedia, with character and story always at the fore.

Next: Audience Connection (4/6)

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: context

1.4 LBDPreviously – 1: An introduction (1/6)

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD) launched on Youtube in April of 2012 in twice-weekly instalments, each episode with a run-time of approximately four minutes. A modern take on Austen’s most beloved work, LBD recreates twenty-year old Elizabeth Bennet from the 1813 novel into a present-day twenty-four year old graduate student in communications. As part of her studies Lizzie and her best friend, Charlotte conceive the video series as their response to a class project.

The structure of Pride and Prejudice and its characters lend to some effortless translation. Bingley becomes Bing Lee, injecting diversity into the cast along with his sister, Caroline. Charlotte Lucas is recreated as a fellow grad student and Girl Friday, Charlotte Lu. The Bennet parentals never appear on screen – their presence is felt second-hand via the story elements retold as costume theatre. This serves two functions; limiting the number of cast members necessary, and signalling to the audience that their protagonist’s perspective might not be completely correct.

The female characters aren’t the only ones that have undergone changes for the time period. Whereas Bingley’s weakness in the original stems from his sisters’ use of him as a puppet, in LBD his malleability stems from uncertainty in his career direction. Wickham becomes an even more frightful character as he uses his charm to weave an inextricable hold over the youngest Bennet sister, preying on her vulnerability.

The storyline is firmly rooted in the 21st century with the hundred episodes detailing Lizzie as she and her sisters learn to understand themselves and each other better. Some creative licence was necessary in order to streamline the narrative arcs. Five Bennet sisters become three with Mary and Kitty making chuckle-worthy appearances as the emo cousin and the family pet respectively. The wit of Austen’s work was retained with the use of more modern concepts of sarcasm, snark and parody. Costume dramas enable events taking place elsewhere to be retold to the camera in Lizzie’s bedroom. Read the rest of this entry »

The Centre welcomes Rebecca Henson

Bec_20160706We are pleased to announce the appointment of Rebecca Henson to the position of Reading and Literacy Development Manager, responsible for the Centre for Youth Literature (12-20) and Children and Family programs (0-12) at State Library Victoria.

Rebecca brings strong leadership ability and good strategic planning skills which she has developed working in educational publishing over a career spanning 20 years. Most recently this has been at Cengage Learning Australia and Macmillan Education Australia where she was Publishing Editor and Senior Publisher, respectively.

Rebecca has led project teams ensuring that project and business objectives are met and helped team members build skills and develop their capacity. Her experience in educational publishing and focus on literacy across a range of projects will bring an interesting skillset to the position, especially as the Library develops its services and programs for young learners alongside the Vision 2020 project.

We look forward to welcoming her to the Library when she starts on Thursday, 28 July.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: something old, something new

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every person in the English speaking world has been exposed to some version of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Whether it’s the epistolary neuroticism of Bridget Jones, the lovingly crafted and loyal 1995 BBC TV series, or the Bollywood influenced musical numbers, Austen’s most loved work has continued to make itself relevant in the two hundred years since its release.

Never out of vogue, Pride and Prejudice has been retold in a range of mediums from the merging of a horror, mystery and suped up romance, to dramatic adaptations on stage and screen, and even a jaunt into picture book territory (Mr Darcy, as a duck) in the past two decades.

In 2012 the world of Meryton and Netherfield merged with that of the internet in the form of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Hank Green and Bernie Su co-created The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD) in a way that lovingly references the classic text, reflects current society and social media, and created a staggeringly engaged community around their series.

This series of blog posts (6) explores the transformation of Pride and Prejudice into The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and will cover context, transmedia, audience connection, adaptation and classroom applications.

Next: Context (2/6)

Shift Alt Story; an introduction to digital storytelling online course for teachers and librarians starts 22 August. If you would like to learn more about transmedia, fan fiction, gaming and other formats teens use to engage with story online.

So long, and thanks for all the fish

I’m sad to announce I’ll soon be leaving the Centre for Youth Literature, with my last day here being Friday 20 May. It has been an honour to work for an organisation that champions the benefits of reading for pleasure, and supports the voices and views of young adults. I am however, very excited to have the opportunity to shift into supporting and advocating for LGBTIQA young people, working with Geelong’s Adolescent Sexuality Project (GASP).

I have loved working with the Centre for Youth Literature for the last five years, and I will be taking so many great memories with me – most of which involve meeting and working with wonderful people, both in person and online. The youth literature community is beautiful, with so many people passionate about getting great books into the hands of Australian teens. It has also been a privilege to work with, and publish writing by, so many talented young readers – superstars, the lot of them.

Inky Awards judges

L-R: Inky Awards Judges Lauren, Angus, and Vinhara, with Jordi Kerr

In the last 5 years the Centre for Youth Literature has:

  • Run 519 in-person sessions, with over 30,000 total attendances
  • Had three-quarter of a million visits to our digital community
  • Grown our social media community by over 9,000 people
  • Had 129% increase in Inky Awards teen voting
  • And, in the last 3 years, we’ve worked with 176 writers and speakers… a quarter of whom were teens.

It’s an exciting time in the world of youth literature, with powerful grass-roots movements like We Need Diverse Books and LoveOzYA. It’s also an exciting time for the Centre for Youth Literature with the redevelopment of Inside a Dog, and redevelopment at State Library Victoria that will include establishing a dedicated space for young learners.

To celebrate my farewell, and as tomorrow (17 May) is International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOT), here’s my personal favourite LGBTIQA YA reads:

  • The Flywheel by Erin Gough
  • Ash by Malinda Lo
  • The Sidekicks by Will Kostakis
  • Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
  • Pink by Lili Wilkinson
  • If You Could Be Mine by Sarah Farizan
  • George by Alex Gino (Middle Grade)
  • Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
  • Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
  • Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
  • Clariel by Garth Nix
  • Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (Older Readers)

To find more great reads check out GayYA and Australian LGBTQ YA, and if you’re looking for resources and support, I highly recommend Minus18.

Best wishes, and happy reading,

(soon-to-be-former minion of the one and only Inky).

OzYA Shakespeare’s Way

Today marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. If you’d like to commemorate the bard with a YA twist, here’s a few adaptations and “inspired-by”s from Australian storytellers! (Click images for full size.)


Teaching Notes:

The Tempest: Undine – Penni Russon

Othello: Wildlife – Fiona Wood

Much Ado about Nothing: Faking Sweet – J. C. Burke

How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You – Tara Eglington (no teaching notes available)

Hamlet: Hamlet – Nikki Greenberg (scroll down to download a pdf file)

Hamlet – John Marsden

The Understudy’s Revenge – Sophie Masson  (no teaching notes available)

Macbeth: Macbeth and Son – Jackie French



Position Available: Reading and Literacy Development Manager

For all who are interested:

Reading and Literacy Development Manager

  • Full-time
  • Ongoing
  • VPS 5 – salary circa $86,493 per annum + superannuation

About Us

State Library Victoria is the state’s premier reference and research library, the hub of a state-wide information and communications network, and a gateway to the world’s information.

About the Role

This position manages the Reading and Literacy Development team and ensures the delivery of key programs and services including the Centre for Youth Literature, family reading promotion and literacy development initiatives. It is responsible for developing a coherent strategy for reading, literature and literacy engagement for State Library Victoria, and also for creating and building the relationships and partnerships which support this work.

Applicants should have a strong commitment, experience and understanding of both reader development and literacy promotion, and to the continuous learning of all members of the community.

How to Apply

For a Position Description and to apply, please visit the job vacancy here, on the Victorian Government Careers website.

We promote diversity and practice equity – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are encouraged toapply.

Applications close 5pm on Monday 9 May, 2016.

Inky Awards Ambassadors and Resource Kits

Inky Awards


2016 marks a decade of the Inky Awards. The Awards, which recognise high-quality young adult literature, are judged entirely by teen readers.

‘The Inky Awards are a great opportunity to give teenagers books to read that other teenagers have approved of.’ 
-Oliver, 2015 Inky Awards Judge

These are the books teens love, chosen by teens, so we want to make sure that everyone knows about them! Our Inky Awards Ambassador Program is designed to encourage schools to program events around the Inky Awards and to support them as they do so. Ambassador schools will:

  • – act as the local hub for all things Inky
  • – be responsible for uniting their local reading community
  • – work with the Centre for Youth Literature to run key events that tie in with the Awards

But even more importantly the Ambassador Program, like the Awards themselves, has been developed with teens in mind. Ambassador Schools have selected a team of teen ambassadors who will develop, market, and produce their Inky Awards events. These teens will be working closely with the Centre for Youth Literature to deliver a high standard event that showcases their love of books, and create a space that unites their reading community.

Our flagship Ambassador Schools for 2016 are: Read the rest of this entry »