What will humanity be reading in a century? Will paper books still be read? Visionary author Margaret Atwood is the first to contribute a secret story to Future Library, a unique 100-year artwork.
Designed by Scottish artist Katie Paterson, Future Library is a real place, created for Oslo, Norway. Part of this project is a forest of 1000 trees, planted in Nordmarka, near Oslo, which will mature in 100 years to provide paper on which to print this unique anthology. A room in Oslo’s new library, made from trees from the same forest, will store these future books. Until 2114, visitors to this room can wonder at what kinds of fiction, poetry, non-fiction, and stories the library will encompass, and create these potential works in their minds. Imagine growing a book over a hundred years!
A different author contributor will be honoured each year. When asked, Atwood declined to reveal anything about her story, because secrecy is “part of the deal.”
“I am very honoured, and also happy to be part of this endeavor. This project, at least, believes the human race will still be around in a hundred years! Future Library is bound to attract a lot of attention over the decades, as people follow the progress of the trees, note what takes up residence in and around them, and try to guess what the writers have put into their sealed boxes.”
In this video, Margaret Atwood calls any book “a communication across space and time.” As a longtime fan and admirer of Atwood’s writing, I just wish I could live to read her story.
The first week of school is over. Routines are starting to gel, kids are on their best behaviour and starting to make friends. Teachers are breathing a sigh of relief. It’s the honeymoon period for elementary teachers. This glistening doorway of opportunity, lit by September magic, will not stay open long.
Invite all the kids in, before that dull ‘day-to-day feeling’ arrives. Hook them with creativity. Kids love to be stimulated and challenged to imagine. They want your teaching to take them places they could never go on their own. Surprise them and help them stretch their minds, and they will know you are on their side when things get harder.
With this goal in mind, here are a few book suggestions for September:
Steal Like an Artist. Long books on creativity can be counterproductive. This short book by Austen Kleon is full of art, poetry ideas and inspiration for teacher-artists, or anyone who wants to live more creatively. I recently reread it and find it excellent for visual, material, dramatic and literary artists.
Kleon suggests that you take whatever artistic thing you do to procrastinate and do more of it. He gives practical advice for artists like ‘learn about money,’ and describes ethical ways to draw inspiration from the work of others. One of his big projects is Newspaper Blackout, a website which begat a bestselling poetry book.
You could have a lot of fun doing newspaper blackout poetry with your students. How? Students take fat markers and strike out words on a newspaper page, until the remaining words form a poem. The result might be a simple message like “Eat your vegetables!” More sophisticated students could juxtapose the title of the original article against their ‘secret’ message. For example, they could take an article about war and block out words to reveal “give peace a chance,” or “support our troops.”
Shel Silverstein’s Where the Sidewalk Ends appeals to boys and girls. It’s not new material but his poem, “Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out,” is a guaranteed giggle. I introduce it by telling kids how my Dad used to recite it to me when I was little. “Sylvia Stout,” is a good model for student ‘chore’ poems or poems about garbage. With Green Philosophy paramount in modern schools, it’s time for young Silversteins-in-the-making to write recycling poems. If you like his style, there are videos of many of his poems and songs available on YouTube. “I’m Being Eaten by a Boa Constrictor,” is fun to sing with young children. Just be careful, not all Silverstein material is safe for school. Ever heard “Never Bite a Married Woman on the Thigh?”
Make your own crazy character mix and match flip book. Have you ever played this game? Fold over a small stack of paper and staple to make a booklet. Make two scissor cuts to divide the book in three, top-to-bottom. Students draw the head of a character or creature in the top box, the body in the middle and the feet at the bottom. Students open the booklet to the next page and pass it to the next student. This student continues by drawing another monster, athlete, animal or character, aligning the head, body and legs in the correct box. This process continues until all pages are filled and the books are returned for sharing, flipping and discussing. This little art and creativity project can be a jumping off point for writing “What if” stories or just a fun get-to-know you activity. Enjoy!
‘What if’ story starters:
What if you woke up with the legs of an Olympic runner?
What if you had the chest of a fish and could breathe under water?
What if you had the body of a bird and could fly?
What if your head was an octopus, legs and all?
What if you woke up with a hairy gorilla body?
What if you woke up with the pitching arm of a pro baseball player?
This one is just for writers. As a writing book junkie, I procrastinate by reading about writing. What better way to goof off and still feel productive? In my home office, I have a bookshelf of reference and writing advice books. Other titles I’ve purchased as ebooks or borrowed from the library. I’m not proud of my addiction, but it puts this next statement in context.
Elizabeth Lyon’sManuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore, is the best book on fiction editing I have ever read. Reading it feels like having an editor at my side, pointing out potential flaws and providing techniques for reworking and deepening the second draft of my novel-in-progress. The chapters on polish and proofreading are short compared to those on style, craft and characterization. This is no grammar book for beginners.
If you want to do more substantive editing before you submit your work to a professional, this book is an excellent reference to read, and reread. The checklists at the end of each chapter help diagnose weak points and prioritize the complex processes of rewriting: adding, subtracting and re-imagining to enrich voice, style and emotion.
When you research creativity in education, it is impossible not to come across Ken Robinson’s provocative work. His book, Out of Our Minds, published in 2001, revised in 2011, is still fresh and powerful. In part a scathing critique of the factory model of education, Robinson supports individual educators, and acknowledges that many of us are working within the system to support student creativity.
Part of his work is a well-researched attack on academic hierarchy. While he champions literacy, Robinson asks why mathematics and Language should be considered supremely important, while drama and dance are treated like expendable extras. Unless the goal of all students is to become university professors, he argues, this approach is wrongheaded.
Threatened by global and ecological crises as never before, he says humanity is going to need creative thinking if we are to thrive and survive as a species. Globally, the rate of change of technology means children we teach today will work in industries that haven’t been invented, use tools we’ve never seen, and interact in ways we can’t imagine. The outsourcing of well-paid high tech work is only one reason I agree with Robinson’s arguments. As adults, today’s children will compete globally to earn a living.
‘Back-to-basics’ teaching focussed on rankings and standardized testing is not preparing students for employment. According to Robinson, business leaders want “thoughtful, creative, self-confident people… who are literate, numerate, who can analyze information and ideas; who can generate new ideas of their own and help to implement them; who can communicate clearly and work well with other people.”
Before you ask how writing poems is going to help with that, consider Robinson’s definition of creativity. He suggests we should recognize more forms of human intelligence than those measured by I.Q. testing or the SATs. For Robinson, these outdated tests only reinforce modern society’s harmfully narrow view of intelligence. He claims the unemployed high school dropout and the underemployed college graduate were both let down by the education system, because neither discovered their creative potential.
Human beings think and exert intelligence in diverse ways depending on the medium of our creative work.
When people find their medium, they discover their real creative strengths and come into their own. Helping people connect with their personal creative capacities is the surest way to release the best they have to offer.
Robinson calls for a celebration of diversity in human thinking which will alter societal attitudes to ability and disability; and also help humanity adapt to exponential population growth, unpredictable technological change and growing environmental concerns.
He calls creativity “applied imagination,” and “a process of having original ideas that have value.” This value cuts across all domains from pure science research to filmmaking.
Robinson’s chapter, “Being Creative,” provides practical tips on how to boost innovation through technique. All people are born imaginative, but this ability can be enhanced or squelched by one’s environment. Unlocking the “constant promise of alternative ways of seeing, of thinking and of doing,” is essential. Educators, parents and community leaders can do a lot to foster diverse talents, instead of feeding the myth that creativity is just for ‘special people.’
There is a saying among teachers in my school that ‘gifted teaching is just good teaching.’ Robinson’s book reinforces this idea. We must interact with all our students in ways that bring out their gifts and talents, and be open to exploring domains that allow them to think, whether they think best through drama, dance or mathematical equations. It’s a tall order and no educator can do it on his or her own, but informing our teaching practice with a philosophy that nurtures creativity is an excellent place to start.
I will be reading a published story “Wild Caving” and my poem “Fallow God” from the Urban Green Man Anthology at Can-Con (Spec Fic Convention) in Ottawa, Canada on Oct 5-6. If you plan to attend, I will also be involved in the NaNoWriMo panel. I hope to see you there! EDGE is holding an online book launch for the Urban Green Man Anthology starting October 2 at noon (CST). Go to www.bittenbybooks.com Oct. 2-3 and interact with the authors online. I’m going to try to log in around 3 pm CST each day. What time is that in your city? Here is a link to a time and date converter. This should be great fun for readers who can interact with authors from all over. If you have always wanted to try an online book launch, I think it would be interesting to drop in and see how it’s done. Take care and happy reading, Maaja
The Green Man is an archetype of renewal and fertility, associated with forests and the European countryside. You might see his carved face disgorging sculpted stone leaves or hear legends of the Green Knight. He is at home in churches, forests and at the ever popular Green Man Inn.
This new anthology, edited by Adria Laycraft, takes the Green Man archetype into the modern landscape where he is reinvented, relevant, reborn. To me, the urban green man is a shot of hot sap to reawaken our true natures and shake us out of complacency.
Evergreen by Susan MacGregor The Gift by Susan Forest Sap and Blood by Martin Rose The Green Square by dvsduncan Awake by Peter Storey Breath Stirs in the Husk by Eileen Wiedbrauk Green Apples by Rhiannon Held
The Grey Man by Randy McCharles Mr. Green by Gary Budgen Whithergreen by Karlene Tura Clark Cui Bono by Eric James Stone Fallow God by Maaja Wentz Green Man She Restless by Billie Milholland
Purple Vine Flowers by Sandra Wickham Exile by Mark Russell Reed Without Blemish by Celeste Peters Waking the Holly Kin Eileen Donaldson Deer Feet by Michael J. DeLuca Buried in the Green by Heather M. O’Connor The Forest Lord by Sarina Dorie
Greentropy by Calie Voorhis Abandon All… by Goldeen Ogawa Green Salvage by Miriah Hetherington The Ring of Life by Nu Yang Cottage on the Bluff Michael Healy Johnny Serious Satyros Phil Brucato Fun Sucker by Suzanne Church
Greener Pastures by Micheal J. Martineck Green Jack by Alyxandra Harvey Green is Good by Karen Danylak Neither Slumber Nor Sleep by Kim Goldberg