December 11, 2014

By Katherine

Your sister is screaming for you to get out of the bathroom; your dad is attempting to get the car packed; mom is hurriedly getting the kids dressed and in the car and grandpa just wants to crawl back into bed. Everything is up in the air as the whole family is headed out for a large family party. Sounds like a film right? (Think Home Alone). Every holiday season, and it doesn’t matter which one, is often filled with craziness in one form or another. But if you’re like me, it’s not the insanity of people that’s the problem; it’s the happy holiday aspect. Cheerful snowmen, saintly Santa’s, smiling reindeer, at some point it just becomes too much. When this happens, I need to be reminded of three important facts: 1) The undead are always present in fiction, even during the holidays (since when do ghosts take a vacation?); 2) Mysteries are just as much fun at Christmas – and often much spookier; and 3) sometimes I just need to see the big picture in order to appreciate how important friends and family are. Here are some of my personal favorites. Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens is a true gothic holiday classic. Now don’t let the author freak you out, Dickens wrote quite a few short stories – which I think Christmas Carol fits into – which are quite fast reads. In this work, Dickens spends his time discussing such profound ideas as what to do when a ghost (or three) is haunting you; how to survive on the austral plane in your pajamas (remember your robe) and how you handle your own past being thrown into your face (answer: you’ll have to read it to find out). By all means, enjoy this rather short story, and if you get a chance, compare it to a few different films versions and see how they compare. Dickens isn’t spooky enough for you, then I would recommend The Dead of Winter By Chris Priestly. After the death of his parents, Michael is invited to spend Christmas in a country house with an unknown guardian. Upon arrival however, he soon realizes that things are not what they seem when the only greeting he receives is from a woman who disappears into the marshes. Trapped within a desolate house, Michael must unravel the lies and secrets, if only for his own survival. For those of you who can see the parallels to The Woman in Black, by no means let that stop you from enjoying a dark tale. Remember, ghosts don’t stop for the holidays. (And if you get the chance, watch the film Woman in Black with Daniel Radcliffe and see the MTC play in March!), you’ve gone through the whole dark, horrific versions of Christmas, shall we try something a bit lighter (and more modern). Take a look at Let it Snow: Three Holiday Romances. Maureen Johnson begins with Jubilee, a teen who experiences one tragedy after another, only to find love in a place she did not expect. Next, John Green introduces us to Tobin, a young man who thinks watching cheerleaders is a good night out, only to have fate step in with a wake-up call as to what love really means. The final story in this trio, written by Lauren Myrcale, takes a failure to communicate and turns it into a realization that life is interconnected in ways that only fate could explain.


Well, the weather outside is frightful, and any fire is truly delightful and since you have nowhere to go (now that the shopping is finished), it can snow all it likes. So take a breather, curl up with a good book and your favorite warm drink by the fire (or candles as needs must) and let it snow, let it snow, let it show. J Have a fabulous haunted holiday!


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December 8, 2014

By Madeleine

Last year I was very excited about a video blog series based on Pride and Prejudice called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. After this series ended, the creators Hank Green and Bernie Su soon followed with the mini series “Sanditon” starring Georgiana Darcy from LBD as well as Emma Approved, which was very successful as well. Emma Approved, like LBD, was another transmedia creation—the characters had twitter accounts, and there was a blog where Emma and others gave advice as well as describing the different outfits of the characters and which online clothing stores you could get them from. (I admit I picked up a couple of the character’s clothing and jewelry pieces that caught my eye.) The chemistry between Mr. Knightley (Brent Bailey) and Emma (Joanne Sotomura) was fantastic and there was plenty of excellent banter. The cast was wonderfully diverse. The scheming Caroline from the Lizzie Bennet Diaries even makes an appearance. I managed to get some friends addicted to both series as well. (You’re welcome, friends.)

Since I made the first post, it seems the “classic literature vlog” genre has multiplied exponentially! Bernie Su created a new series in August called Frankenstein MD, which followed Victoria Frankenstein as she fought to succeed in the male-dominated field of medicine and science. There are now several other creators who have created cool new transmedia twists on old classics. And a lot of them are being created by girls, which is amazing as I am all for girls being inspired to create their own content. What’s more, these girl creators take full advantage of the opportunity to update the stories for modern times and change sexist story elements.

Frankenstein MD

Frankenstein MD is a comedy/gothic horror and it is the latest series from Pemberley Digital (the creators of Pride and Prejudice, Sanditon and Emma Approved), based on Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Victoria Frankenstein is very close to graduating from medical school and she is already determined to make great discoveries in medicine and science. She lost her mother at a young age and faces a lot of adversity in the male dominated fields she has chosen. Victoria decides to start a science show where she performs experiments on camera with her med school friend, Iggy DeLacey. (Be warned, in one episode there is a real dead cow eye!) The two of them are often getting in trouble with Victoria’s mentor, Dr. Abraham Waldman, by bending the rules while working in their university’s lab. When tragedy strikes, Victoria becomes more and more obsessed with bringing dead tissues to life. Victoria gets more and more focused on her experiment and starts to neglect her friends and family. Victoria’s real issue is not that she is ambitious, but that she doesn’t consider the responsibility that comes along with doing something of such great scientific magnitude. The series fittingly ended on Halloween of this year.

Green Gables Fables

Anne of Green Gables and the other Anne books will always be one of my favourite series, even though the last one, Rilla of Ingleside, makes me cry a lot. When I found out there was a vlog series based on Anne of Green Gables, called Green Gables Fables, I hunted it down immediately. In this American-made series by Mandy Harmon (who directs and plays Anne), Anne is a foster child who moves to a farming community in rural Saskatchewan rather than Prince Edward Island. Many of the book characters have had mentions and appearances, such as Anne’s “bosom friend” Diana Barry. She met Diana online and while Diana lives in Regina they still visit each other and keep in touch. I was delighted with the portrayal of one of my favourite parts in the book—when Anne has a tea party with Diana that goes horribly awry. Anne has butted heads (and made up with) Miss Rachel Lynde, one of the town gossips. She is an off-screen character but her twitter feed is pretty amusing—whoever runs it uses just the right tone to convey her personality. Some of the sweetest scenes are with Matthew Gilbert—he was always one of my favourite characters because of his special connection to Anne. The maddening and charming Gilbert Blythe finally made his first appearance in October. In a recent video, Anne makes reference to making friends with another YouTuber named Cecily Cardew, which is actually a plug to a new vlog that is based on The Important of Being Earnest. I will definitely be checking that out!

Classic Alice

Classic Alice does the “classic literature vlog” a little differently. Alice Rackham is an English major who prefers reading to clubs. Her idea of a fun night is dissecting a lengthy novel. When she receives a B- on a paper from a prof who tells her that she doesn’t seem to be able to understand literature beyond mere analysis, she thinks that maybe she needs to start taking some risks to connect with novels at a more visceral level. Her best friend Andrew Pritchard (his friends call him Pritchard) decides to use her exploits as footage for a documentary for film school. She decides that the best way to begin is to live her life in accordance to a novel that she has never read. She decides on Crime and Punishment, but has a difficult time deciding what crime she needs to commit. Obviously she does not want to murder anyone like Raskolnikov in the novel, but she wants to do something a little more drastic than her initial idea of stealing nail polish. Pritchard thinks up a crime which is definitely not murder but could still get her in serious trouble. And of course, things end up getting out of hand pretty quickly. Alice and Pritchard have the “clearly into each other but are still just friends” kind of relationship and it is fun to watch their dynamic play out. The series is ongoing and Alice has made it through a few more books such as “Pygmalion”, “Macbeth” and “Rip Van Winkle”. One of my favourite things about this series is the in-world music podcast Alice’s friend Cara hosts on Soundcloud every week. Alice and Pritchard also do an in-world weekly debate on Soundcloud called Pens vs. Lens, where they talk about books that have been made into movies.

Peter and Wendy

The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy is based on the Peter Pan story by J. M. Barrie, which was first a play and later novelised. You might recognise Kyle Walters (who plays Peter) as Edward from Sanditon. 27-year-old Wendy Darling, her two brothers John and Michael, and their friend Peter Pan have lived in Neverland, Ohio their entire lives, working for the town newspaper, The Kensington Chronicle, owned by their family. Michael, the youngest, is a bit of a slacker and is in charge of the mail. John, the middle child, assists his father by making sure everyone hands everything in on time. Peter Pan works as the comic writer. Finally, Wendy contributes columns. She starts a video blog called “Dear Darling” in which she gives advice to her viewers. Wendy feels like she is in a rut and wants to leave the familiar behind to expand her horizons out in the world. However, her and Peter’s affections for each other are a little more than those of a brother and sister and it complicates things, as Peter doesn’t see why anyone would want to leave Neverland, and as you might guess, doesn’t want to grow up! In this version of the Peter Pan story, Peter does have a fairy friend, Tinkerbell, and she is just as much of a troublemaker as the original. Extra cool—you can actually read the Kensington Chronicle online. There are some interesting entries that explain the presence of fairies in this world. The series did a successful crowdfunding campaign and there will be a second season. In the meantime, there are still regularly posted fun extra videos, like reviews of Doctor Who (Dayeanne Hutton, who plays Harriet Smith in Emma Approved, makes an appearance in one of the these) and interviews with people from various areas of show business.

Jane Eyre

The Autobiography of Jane Eyre ran from February 2013 to June 2014. It was created by Kalamatea Productions which is made up mostly of university students from different schools in British Columbia and takes place in and around Vancouver. The series sets itself as being in the same universe (Jane professes herself a fan of Lizzie’s vlog). Jane is similar and different in a lot of ways to Lizzie. While they both share a love of books and tea, Jane clearly envies how Lizzie is surrounded by a circle of loving friends and family whereas she has had a much more difficult, tragic, and isolated upbringing. I came to a greater understanding of her motivations as well as just how lonely she is—while she is a smart girl, her need to belong and connect leads her to some poor decisions (though not all bad!). In this adaption, Jane has finished her degree in nursing and then realises that being a nurse isn’t really what she wants to do. On a whim she decides to agree to become a nanny for a precocious girl named Adele, the daughter of the mysterious and mostly absent Mr. Rochester, CEO of Thornfield Exports. When Jane has her mid-story estrangement with Mr. Rochester and falls into the laps of three kind siblings, it is obvious just how much she has needed real friendship, a support system, and a purpose in her life, as well as how much she grows when she finds these things. Kalamatea Productions has another project in the works called “All’s Fair Play”.

Nothing Much To Do

If you’re in the mood for some Shakespeare, there is an adaptation of “Much Ado About Nothing” called Nothing Much To Do. This series was created by The Candle Wasters, who are made up of four girls from New Zealand. To watch this series I recommend going to the Nothing Much To Do YouTube channel and clicking on “The Story” playlist, as the series has a lot of different characters, several of which have their own channels. Beatrice moves in with her cousins, Hero and Leo, for her last year of high school when her mom gets a job in Australia. Her dad decides to go with her, and her parents give her the option of coming with them or staying in New Zealand. Hero and Leo’s moms are on a belated honeymoon to Italy for six months. Beatrice and Hero decide to start a vlog and of course, that’s when their lives really start to get interesting. Beatrice used to be friends with a boy named Benedick but these days they each spend their time thinking up the best insults for the other one. Hero starts seeing a boy named Claudio, but someone decides to start stirring up trouble between them. Some of the funniest videos are with two freshmen named Dogberry and Verges, who are clearly fans of the BBC show Sherlock and decide to start doing their own detecting—they start off looking for a missing cat and stumble upon something a little more sinister and dramatic! The series just ended in November and The Candle Wasters are working on a sequel called Lovely Little Losers (based on Love’s Labour’s Lost), with old and new characters. Another Shakespeare adaptation worth mentioning is Kate the Cursed, based on The Taming of the Shrew. The creators were only in high school when they made it but there are great performances and writing in this short series. (And they are Canadian!)

The classic literature vlog is a pretty cool genre to have developed in recent years. These adaptations might make you want to reread some of your favourite classic books, or if you haven’t read a lot of classic literature, they might make you want to start. Maybe they’ll inspire you to make your own filmed version of one of your favourite books! You don’t need a big budget or a Hollywood director, and the great thing is that classics become public domain after a certain amount of time so you don’t have to worry about getting into any legal trouble. If you are part of the school play every year but still need another outlet for the same kind of creativity, or you just want to try your hand at acting/directing/writing/etc., go for it! If you want to check out any other classic literature vlogs, there is a helpful compiled list on Tumblr here.

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November 28, 2014

by Vicky,

Series have filled the bookshelves of libraries for decades, and it seems as though they have never been more popular in teen novels than now. It's hard to name a popular book right now that isn't part of a trilogy, quartet or other kind of series. It's like the standalone novel (a book that is not a part of any series) has become the wallflower at the school dance who no one wants to talk to. Novels like John Green's The Fault in Our Stars, while popular, seem to fade into the background when compared to the popularity of series like Divergent, The Hunger Games, or Pretty Little Liars.


So why is this? Why do the series seem to be so popular while standalones fade into the background? There could be any number of reasons. For one thing, series offer readers a chance to see their favourite characters over and over again - often both on the page, and on screen. Readers get hooked on a character, and they just can’t seem to put the book down. Also, reading a series offers us a chance at repeating our wonderful first experience with these new and exciting characters, but without the downside of a repetitive plot.

Still, though, I have to say that I am one of the few who prefers the standalone novel. It’s the dilemma of the series that gets to me. Why isn’t it going the way I want? When is the next book coming out? That movie adaptation was completely wrong!! These questions are just a few of the ones that run through my mind when I get attached to characters and their stories.

I can’t tell you how long I had to work through my frustration over waiting for the second installment in the Abarat series, by Clive Barker. And I still haven’t read it because of another couple of those awful series questions: Will the characters be the same? Will I still enjoy it after all this time? I know the longer I wait, the worse it will get – and I’ll have to re-read the first book again anyway – but I just can’t bring myself to do it; I’ve built it up too much in my head.

But that’s the problem I have with series, and why from now on, I’ll stick to the standalone. (But, of course, no one can take my Harry Potter books away from me.)

So do you like to read series or standalone books, and why? Or does it not matter to you, and you just read what you like? Comment below and let us know what you think!

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November 14, 2014

By Alan

To those of you participating in NaNoWriMo right now, I salute you.  To those readers who think I’m just spewing out a silly string of syllables, let me introduce you to National Novel Writing Month.  Every November hundreds of thousands people of all ages undertake one common goal:  to each write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. 

Daunting?  You bet.  Every year I tell myself I’m going to rise to the challenge, and every year I come up with a cornucopia of excuses.  This year’s list is particularly bad:  my computer is on the verge of dying; a million new video games are coming out; and I’m leaving the province for several days.  And that’s just to start.  But in spite of all these reasons not to do it, I decided this year is the year.  As of this writing I’m 10% of the way there.

For aspiring writers NaNoWriMo is an extremely useful exercise.  Many writers, and I’m no exception, can get caught up in the thought that every sentence needs to be perfect the first time it hits the page.  The result is that people will start a project and get discouraged that it isn’t turning out as well as they had hoped, and often abandon the project in the process.  By choosing to write so many words in such a short time frame you are choosing to accept that this draft of your story isn’t going to turn out to be a polished masterpiece.  Between you and me, mine is terrible, but by ploughing through I’m learning so much about what it means to actually commit 50,000 words to the page.

If you get stuck along the way, Nanowrimo’s Young Writer’s Program has some excellent resources to keep you motivated, including a Dare Machine that generates challenges for you to implement into your story and keep the plot moving forward.  Winnipeg Public Library is also hosting official NaNoWriMo Write In sessions, so when you need a change of space while clacking away on your keyboard, come down to the Millennium Library, Anhang room and set up shop.  The Write In sessions are every Thursday in November, 6:30-9:00 p.m., no registration necessary.  Call 204-986-6779 for more information. 

Once you’ve completed your novel, flaws in all, take heart in the old adage “writing is rewriting.”  Take a well-deserved break and come down to Millennium Library, Anhang Room on December 6th between noon and 4 p.m. for the Thank God It’s Over Party.  Then you start on the second draft, making sure to keep an eye out for all of the bits of writing that turned out to be gems.  There will be more than you expected. 

Like any writer, I’m constantly on the lookout for ways to improve my craft.  There are many, many, books out there about how to become a better writer.  Before I sign off, I’d like to share with you some of the best books about writing that I’ve come across:

Seize the Story:  A Handbook for Teens Who Like to Write by Victoria Hanley

Seize the Story does a great job of discussing many of the underlying principles of good creative writing.  Beyond just discussing writing, the book is filled with examples of writing, both bad and good; and exercises that will challenge the reader to put to use the techniques they learn.

Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

One of the weakest aspects of my writing is my grammar.  I’m notorious for putting commas in all the wrong places.  The trouble with most books about grammar is that they can be incredibly boring.  Eats, Shoots & Leaves is an exception to this trend.  It will entertain you and at the same time teach you how to properly use commas, semi-colons, and all manner of other punctuation.

The Writer’s Journey:  Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler

There is a theory about stories called the monomyth – The idea is that all stories follow a basic structure.  This theory has had a profound influence on many writers, including George Lucas who wrote Star Wars and Dan Harmon who writes the TV show Community.

Christopher Vogler wrote a memo to Hollywood about this theory which influenced movies such as Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King.  He later expanded the memo into an excellent book about the craft of writing called The Writer’s Journey. 

Stan Lee’s How to Write Comics by Stan Lee

Writing doesn’t just have to be about novels.  There are plenty of other forms for the written word:  screenplays, short stories, plays, graphic novels, and poems, just to name a few.  Stan Lee does an excellent job of explaining how the principles of storytelling apply to the medium of comic books AND he goes into depth regarding the unique challenges of comic book writing.   



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November 6, 2014

de Mariève,

Avez-vous connu la guerre? Non? Savez-vous à quel point vous êtes chanceux? Chaque jour, dans le monde, des gens se battent et s’entretuent pour défendre ou obtenir leur liberté. Pour notre génération qui n’a pas connu la guerre, ça peut sembler le dernier de nos soucis. Le 11 novembre, plusieurs penseront peut-être davantage à se procurer le dernier jeu vidéo Assassin’s Creed que de souligner le Jour du Souvenir…

Mais c’est quoi le Jour du Souvenir? Comment est-ce qu’on se souvient de quelque chose qu’on n’a jamais vécu? Le 11 novembre, au Canada, on honore les soldats qui sont allés se battre pour qu’aujourd’hui, justement, on n’ait pas à penser à la guerre. Les jeunes soldats ayant combattu, s’ils ne sont pas morts sur les champs de bataille, sont certainement restés marqués à vie. Il y a des horreurs qui ne s’oublient pas. Les marques physiques et psychologiques sont permanentes. Et saviez-vous que les soldats enrôlés pour la Première et la Seconde Guerre mondiale devaient en principe avoir au moins dix-huit ans, mais que beaucoup ont menti sur leur âge pour faire partie des recrues? D’après les sources du Musée canadien de la guerre, le plus jeune soldat canadien ayant été envoyé pour la Première Guerre mondiale n’avait que 10 ans!

Le 11 novembre, profitez donc bien de votre congé. Mais prenez au moins quelques instants pour penser à nos soldats. Et si vous restez en pyjamas, pourquoi ne pas vous installer confortablement dans un sofa avec un livre sur la guerre? Les romans suivants vous plongeront dans la réalité d’adolescents qui vivent une guerre. Vous apprécierez davantage votre liberté, chèrement acquise par nos courageux vétérans!

Camp Paradis de Jean-Paul Nozière
En pleine guerre civile dans un pays d'Afrique, Boris, 14 ans, orphelin d'un père trafiquant de drogue, est confié aux bons soins de Ma et Pa, qui tiennent un refuge pour enfant : le camp Paradis. Pour Boris, chaque nouvel arrivant est un mystère à déchiffrer : Fatouma, Victoire, Serge, Djodjo, tous fuyant leur passé et s'efforçant de cacher leurs meurtrissures.


Derrière les lignes ennemies de Carol Matas
Sam Frederisksen, 18 ans, vient des prairies. Il est mitrailleur à bord d'un bombardier Lancaster pendant la Deuxième Guerre mondiale. Lorsque son avion est abattu par l'ennemi au-dessus de la France, il survit de justesse et parvient à joindre la Résistance française. Victimes d'une trahison, Sam et des soldats d'autres pays sont bientôt capturés par la Gestapo, puis envoyés à Fresne, une prison aux abords de Paris. Considérés comme des espions, les prisonniers sont battus, certains torturés, avant d'être transportés au camp de concentration de Buchenwald, en Allemagne. Dans cet endroit sinistre, Sam découvre les horreurs de la Guerre : les chambres à gaz, la torture et la famine, mais aussi le courage et la détermination des nombreuses victimes.

Envol pour le paradis de Jean-Marie Defossez
Envoyé dans les camps des jeunesses hitlériennes à quatorze ans, lors d'une mobilisation obligatoire, Arthur, qui refuse d'adhérer aux dogmes nazis comme ses parents, de simples cultivateurs, est, malgré lui, envoûté par le rêve de devenir pilote d'avion. L'amitié d'un dénommé Heinz lui permet, au début de son séjour, de porter un regard critique sur le projet nazi. Mais le responsable de son foyer exploitera les moindres méandres de son désir de voler afin de l'amener à se battre sous le commandement du Fürher.

La Mémoire trouée de Élisabeth Combres
Cachée derrière le fauteuil, Emma n'a rien vu de l'assassinat, de sa mère, mais a tout entendu. Rwanda, avril 1994, la folie meurtrière explose. Pas un habitant tutsi ne doit être épargné. Pourtant la fillette survit. Car la vie réserve aussi des moments de grâce, des rencontres déterminantes... L'écriture tout en pudeur de ce roman sur le drame du génocide rwandais lui donne une force magistrale.

Les Petits soldats de Reine-Marguerite Bayle
Hawa a douze ans lorsqu'elle quitte son petit village du sud de la Sierra Leone pour la capitale Freetown. Le 25 mai 1997, la capitale est assiégée par une « armée populaire ». La population civile est massacrée. Commence alors pour Hawa une vie quotidienne faite de souffrance et de violence où elle tente, malgré tout, de survivre. En 1999, un accord de paix est signé et les combattants sont désarmés. Cette même année, l'UNICEF est chargé d'accueillir des enfants-soldats et de les réinsérer dans une vie sociale la plus « normale » possible. Hawa est recrutée pour s'occuper d'un groupe de sept enfants. Elle tente de les sortir de cette violence dont ils ont été les victimes mais, - bien souvent aussi, les auteurs. L'héroïne raconte alors son long combat afin qu'un jour Moussa, Kadiatou, Michael et les autres enfants-soldats de Sierra Leone puissent enfin retrouver un peu de leur innocence.

En fin de compte, peu importe ce que vous choisissez de faire de votre jour de congé le 11 novembre, n’oubliez surtout pas que c’est le Jour du Souvenir et qu’on ne doit pas oublier tous ces jeunes qui se sont battus pour qu’on puisse vivre dans la paix.

Bien qu’elle préfère la voie pacifiste à la guerre, Mariève apprécie énormément les combats qu’ont menés ses ancêtres, particulièrement son arrière-grand-père qui a fait partie du Corps expéditionnaire canadien pendant la Première Guerre mondiale.

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