The Centre welcomes Bec Anthony

bec and lha

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Rebecca Anthony who will be joining the team as the Centre for Youth Literature’s Learning Programs Officer. Bec will be responsible for the development and support of the State Library Victoria’s programming for engaging young people with books, stories and writing.

Bec brings to the team her extensive arts administration experience having worked on programming for Future Foundations, Melbourne Day, Melbourne Regatta and Roarhouse. Bec first joined the Library to work with the Centre’s team as the Events Officer for the 2015 Reading Matters overseeing conference logistics and the national touring program.  Earlier this year she programmed the successful Kids Big Book Spectacular which resulted in thousands of young people engaging with the Library and its collections.

Most recently she has worked in the Library’s Community Programs team providing administrative support across their considerable events and programs.

We look forward to welcoming her to the Centre for Youth Literature team full time when she starts on Monday, 15 August.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: classroom applications

ozJpIBL-bdo.showposter_hqPreviously: Adaptation (5/6)

Too often students find the classics unrelatable to their present lives.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries provides a unique opportunity to explore adaption across mediums and time, as well as the opportunity to further understand the richness of effective transmedia storytelling.

Last year it was posited that Jane Austen and the events of Pride and Prejudice depict the author as an unacknowledged founder of game theory so manipulative is she in her characters’ interactions, pairing and development.  This can account for the many ways in which this one book has been successfully adapted in so many forms.

However, the Lizzie Bennet Diaries brings Pride and Prejudice into the here and now in a way where marriage proposals take a back seat to career opportunity, and sisterhood is prioritised over romance.

But how might this be integrated into the classroom?

  • Contrast the depiction of Lydia Bennet in the original text, Lizzie Bennet Diaries and The Lydia Bennet video channel. In the expansion of this character, how has the audience relationship to her altered?
  • Explore the role transmedia has played in the growth of many secondary characters and the world of Pride and Prejudice.
  • The video series depicts Lizzie’s perspective throughout with characters being featured as those aware of the camera, and those that are not. Contrast the ways in which Lizzie’s prejudice and Darcy’s pride are evidenced.
  • Explore the use of costume theatre and how unseen characters are depicted in the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. As a meta-activity, have students adapt a scene from the series into a costume theatre interpretation.
  • Both the original text and the video series begin with “It is a truth universally acknowledged…” how does each medium establish tone with this beginning?
  • Students can adapt a classic text into a similar blog structure (or transmedia alternatives), translating other literary figures into contemporary ones.
  • Contrast an important event of Pride and Prejudice across multiple adaptions e.g. Lizzie and Darcy’s introduction, Collins’ proposal, or Darcy’s letter.

An exciting by-product of the video series was the creative exploration enjoyed by its viewers, with an outpouring of user generated content.  The breadth of the audience driven art, discussions and interests that have derived from watching this series could not have been expected from the creators.

Some examples;

  • The actress who plays Jane often styles her hair using ideas from the World War 2 era, which prompted questions of how to replicate this.  Video tutorials were posted from Jane on Pinterest and now many fans are recreating elaborate hair styles like Victory rolls and milk maid braids.
  • Some viewers edited the video series into the Dizzie Diaries, an exploration of the relationship twists and turns between Lizzie and Darcy.
  • Gifs were created depicting story parallels, repetitions and trajectories. For example, Darcy’s use of ‘illuminating’ or Lydia and Lizzie’s discussion of worth.

Fan responses such as these create the perfect opportunity for students to imagine their own creative response to the series.  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has enabled many individuals to experience the Bennet family through new, or fresh eyes – use this opportunity to generate discussion, prompt predictions and draw upon the reimaged aspects.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a standout addition to the long list of adaptions of Jane Austen’s work. While it started out small, the creators use of their existing audiences, strong vision, crafty use of multi-platforms, a tried and tested story structure and a talented cast to engage and inspire a brand new audience.

The best news?  They’ve done it all over again.  Emma Approved, an adaptation of Austen’s Emma ran from October 2013 to August 2014 and can be found in full on YouTube.
Thank you for reading our The Lizzie Bennet Diaries series – you can find the previous posts here:

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