A Look Back: Infinite Fictions & Youth Publishing Projects

Every year in June, there is a distinct feeling of Last-Day-of-School-ness in the air. It’s bittersweet, but here at Story Planet, we choose to focus on the sweet by celebrating a year’s worth of incredible programming, and the publications and productions that were made right here by our up-and-coming creators!

Now that our programs have wrapped for this school year, we are looking ahead to another packed calendar of homework help, publishing projects, filmmaking, stop-motion animation, storybook creation, and all the fun, fascinating outcomes that pop up in between. Ultimately, Story Planet is a place where kids can develop their unique voices and find a platform to share those voices. Seeing a concrete publication – a final cut, collection of short stories, stop-motion animated video – is a huge moment of pride for the kids who created it, and something that all of us at Story Planet live for!

So all this week, we will be taking a look back at a year’s worth of story making in all forms. And we want to say thank you to all our generous sponsors and enthusiastic supporters for bringing life to Story Planet day in and day out!

Infinite Fictions & Youth Publishing Projects

Story Planet Matters from Story Planet on Vimeo.


“The best thing about the process of creating this book, in addition to learning new skills, was becoming friends. It was hard not to develop friendships, because all of the characters in our stories were versions of ourselves, and when someone knows your characters, they know you. The characters were our way of dealing with life because stories are life. Stories are our way of creating ourselves and telling the world who we are and what we think. Stories give our lives meaning and colour, so that we are more than just creatures with a pulse. Stories give us feeling.”
Infinite Fictions, by Upcoming Writers from Another Reality


Over eight months, a group of Toronto teen writers gathered to workshop their writing and compile an anthology of their original fiction. The collection came to life thanks to the generous support of the Toronto Community Foundation and the Ontario Trillium Foundation, as well as the guidance of Coach House Books.

It is now a living, breathing publication that can be purchased at the ITA and located in the stacks of the Library and Archives Canada, proving to our students that everyone has a voice that deserves to be heard!

Many of these authors are still meeting at Story Planet weekly, and have welcomed a group of new writers to the workshop. Together, we’re looking forward to developing our next publishing project with these budding authors and our wonderful partners!

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Upcoming Writers from Another Reality doing a book signing at the launch of Infinite Fictions.

 

 

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Scott Ladley

photo-18Joining us all the way from the American Galaxy is Scott Ladley, a former fish-monger and 826 volunteer, who is now known to Story Planet as a videographer, ESL teacher, and all-around cool guy. Scott is a real renaissance man of this solar system, pitching in at Homework Help and investigating alien landings, not to mention doing a bit of filmmaking in between. He always arrives with a smile and a high five and loves listening to stories as much as telling them. We’re so lucky to have Scott and all his enthusiasm in our orbit! Learn a little bit more about him here:

  1. Favourite Planet to live: I’m beginning to discover my front and back porch? I put a question mark because, having moved here this past winter, I never saw them as destinations but rather things I sprinted over in a cold shiver or gazed past with a longing desire. I grew up on the farmlands and backroads of central Pennsylvania, so my porch in Leslieville helps me slow down a bit of this big city life in Toronto.
  2.  Favourite book or the last great one you read: After I officially gave up trying to read and understand a TTC transfer pass, I read George Saunders’s collection The Tenth of December. These were great stories but as soon as I got my PR card, I knew I had to read Joseph Boyden’s The Orenda. Although it’s quite a higher degree of seriousness than what I’m used to, there’s way more violence, social clout that comes with reading it in public….and it’s a step in my quest to be as cool as CBC’s Jian Ghomeshi.
  3. Favourite writers: Pardon my all-American lineup…what can I say? Bill Watterson (comic strips require GREAT writing), Jason Fagone, Ron Suskind, Chuck Klosterman, Michael Lewis, Frederick Exley, Jacob Tomsky, Ariel Levy, Dave Eggers.
  4. Favourite thing to do on Earth: Gotta go with frisbee golf. It doesn’t even have to be a “course”, but chasing plastic discs through the woods with a good friend is pretty close to perfect.
  5. Favourite Earth food: My four years in Seattle cemented coffee at the top of this list. I worked at Pike Place Fish Market 12 hours a day yelling at strangers and hawking seafood…coffee was in my bloodstream nonstop! If I ever saw a dollar amount for what I’ve spent on this absolutely spectacular liquid crutch, I may shed more tears than a 5 year old on his first day away from his mom. During my more serious ultimate frisbee playing days, I would’ve said bagels or something silly like peanut butter, cheese, or salsa (I have the palette of a teenager) but not anymore. I’m a big fan of the programs at Story Planet but I’ll shoot it to ya straight and say there’s a small side of me that’s there just for the Black Hole Brew.
  6. Favourite moment/memory from your experience here: The group from Carleton Village that created aliens for 3D printing at Maker Kids last week is a recent highlight for sure. I suppose it’s a sign of the times but their disillusion with iPads and 3d printing was crazy to me. I could’ve watched the printers alone for three hours. But really, they didn’t allow the technology to distract their creativity which was the best part of that workshop–brainstorming their stories.  Every question I had about their “Fearless, faceless Alien Striker from Mars” had a spectacular answer. An example:

    What’s that for?
    Well that’s his belt
    Right, for his pants, every alien needs to hold up his pants. Smart thinking.
    He doesn’t need pants, the belt buckle is a secret button that makes him invisible.
    Right, so wouldn’t people ask him why he has a belt with no pants?
    He also has the special power to confuse people!

    Giving students a forum to create things simply for the sake of creating is invaluable. There’s so much of life that will tell them to do things for a million and a half reasons–not many of them will be ‘for the fun of it’. Story Planet is a place for creativity, confidence, and for-the-fun-of-it learning. Kids need good people to run and be at these places. I’m grateful to have the time and go-ahead from you guys to help out and even create photographs and film for the work!

VOTE FOR KID AUTHORS!

We are thrilled to announce our Big Idea cracked the Top 25 in the CST Inspired Minds Learning Project – all thanks to your votes!

Round 2 opens TODAY and runs until Monday, June 16 at NOON! We need you, and everyone you know, to vote for Story Planet’s Picture Book Kid Authors so we can receive up to $20,000 toward turning kids into published authors!

Here’s how it works:

The HOW: 

  • Follow this link: http://learningproject.cst.org/ideas/25
  • Learn about Story Planet’s Picture Book Kid Authors workshops.
  • Register your email, Twitter, and Facebook in order to vote 3 times daily!
  • Confirm your registration through email.
  • Vote 3 times daily! 
  • Share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter!

The WHY:

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Thanks for voting!!!

 

Mad Libs – What a ______ (Adjective) night!

A huge thank you to all of our wonderful attendees and volunteers at this year’s Mad Libs Story Battle! And a big thanks to our wonderful host, CBC’s Tom Power, and our fantastic judges Carrieann Leung, Jessica Westhead, Evan Munday, Vikki VanSickle, and Rachelle Delaney!

The fundraiser was a real hoot and a roaring success! We are so honoured and touched to receive your ongoing support, and look forward to launching another inspiring round of programs and workshops here at Story Planet!

More photos will be up on Facebook soon!

MadLibs

 

Alien sightings throughout Toronto!

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This spring, an alien ship not on the radars of the Intergalactic Travel Authority
crash landed outside Pauline Public School.

The ITA reached out to the bright, young minds of students at a number of schools
in Toronto for assistance investigating alien activity throughout the city.

Visit our Tumblr to learn more about the investigation,
and contribute your own theories!

Where did this alien come from? Why did it choose to visit Earth?
And will this alien return?

 

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Sign Up for Essay Bootcamp on May 31st!

Attention young scholars of the universe: We understand your scholastic semester is coming to a close and Story Planet is here to help you make a smooth literary landing.

Sign up for our Essay Bootcamp on Saturday, May 31st from 10am to 2pm where you will receive one-on-one tutoring on your final essays from the sharp minds of our volunteers. (Students in grades 9-12 are eligible to sign up. And it’s FREE!)

Please contact joe@storyplanet.ca to sign up. Essay Bootcamp 2014 flyer

 

May, MadLibs, and a Mother’s Day Tea Party!

Happy May 1st, earthlings! We understand it’s an exciting month in this corner of Earth known as Toronto, as the rain washes away winter and lovely little green sprouts start popping up everywhere. We remember our first spring here in Bloordale Village and couldn’t believe how excited you earth dwellers were to sit outside, even when the fresh air still gave your bare skin goosebumps (that’s what you call them, right?)

Well, we figured it was the perfect month to have a few events now that we’re all done hibernating. So, here’s the skinny:

MadLibs, our annual fundraiser, is back on Thursday, May 29 at Mercer Union (but you knew that already). The big news is that we’ve lined up our celebrity judges (drumroll please…): author and educator Carianne Leung, writer and editor Jessica Westhead, novelist and publicist Evan Munday, children’s book author Vikki Vansickle, middle grade novelist Rachelle Delaney, and last but certainly not least, actor and performer Steffi D! Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter for more info on these fabulous folks!

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We’ve also been told that May is a special month for mother’s, and we couldn’t be happier to help you celebrate them! On Sunday, May 25, we welcome author Lynn Thomson to the ITA for an afternoon tea party and reading from her new memoir, Birding with Yeats (House of Anansi). Thomson tells the story of learning about bonding over birdwatching with her son, sure to warm the hearts of mothers everywhere.

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That’s all for today! Now get out there and enjoy the month – we know we will!

 

 

 

Queer Friendly Kid Lit: What’s out there?

416ubJN7rbLThanks to a fantastic article from The Atlantic on Disney’s long-standing incorporation of LGBT issues into the films and operations of the production company, we’ve been thinking about queer friendly kid lit. And we weren’t surprised to learn that a lot of people are thinking – and writing! – about it too.

One book we’re proud to carry in the ITA is Francesca Lia Block’s Weetzie Bat (published in 1989!), a teen reader’s stylized introduction to issues surrounding homosexuality. But there are so many others out there, like Stephen Chbosky’s classic The Perks of Being a Wallflower for the young adult crowd, and children’s books And Tango Makes Three and Daddy’s Roommate.

Over the last few years, more and more authors are publishing young adult novels that not only approach but delve deeply into the experience of growing up with a queer identity. Here are just a few worth sharing with teens and parents to help make having the conversation about LGBT issues more frequent and balanced. Tell us in the comments if you’ve read more!

Modern Makeovers for Judy Blume Covers

untitledThough a good book never goes out of style, a sprucing up of a cover is sometimes all it takes to breathe new life into an old classic. Such is the case for the incomparable teen novels by Judy Blume.  Publisher Simon and Schuster have recently enlisted the help of Toronto based artist Debbie Ridpath Ohi to help give Blume classics such as, “Blubber” and “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” a slick new look, sure to catch the attention of tweens and teens everywhere. The latest creations ooze with vibrant elegance, much like the characters in her stories.  Each cover is simplistic but bold, using bright pops of colour and playful objects to compliment the title; a loose font reminiscent of any adolescent diary entry.

It’s not easy these days to be a successful novel that doesn’t begin immediately with a massive action sequence or have a blockbuster film version in the works.  This is where Blume’s works’ separate themselves and, dare I say, bloom.  Her books are meant to be savoured, not devoured, and reflect the more realistic, ebb and flow-like movements of the teen experience.  The covers themselves symbolize a similar thought, using bright colours over blank space to suggest the simultaneous ups and downs, highs and lows, and drama and boredom that make up the awkward teenage experience.

Though some of these books have made their debut as early as the 1970s, Blume’s work seems to transcend time by writing about topics every teen from every generation has dealt with. This literary face lift, due out later this month, is sure to bring Judy Blume novels to the attention of a new generation of young readers, and sure to keep the immortality of her words alive for years to come.

Check out the article here:

http://www.thestar.com/life/parent/2014/04/10/judy_blume_books_still_resonate_with_todays_youth.html

P.S. Check out this excellent conversation between Judy Blume and Girl’s star Lena Dunham, touching on many topics including the importance adolescent reading has had on their own writing:

http://nymag.com/thecut/2014/01/judy-blume-lena-dunham-curate-reading-list.html?utm_campaign=SocialFlow&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=referral

What you can learn from the TPL’s new Hoopla streaming service (Hint: A LOT!)

You know what they say – having fun isn’t hard when you have a library card! Here in Toronto, our library cards are unlocking so much more than traditional books lately. 3D printers and filmmaking equipment are recent additions to the collection, and just yesterday, the TPL introduced Hoopla, a movie and music streaming service.

TPL cardholders can access an archive of more than 10,000 films and 250,000 albums, and families will be delighted by a wide selection of animated and feature film favourites like Babe and Billy Elliott and educational videos, from language learning to beginner’s yoga.

But what struck us at Story Planet is an extensive selection of documentaries – for all ages! We’ve done a bit of the legwork and picked out five favourites to help you get started, but we’d love to know which docs you’d recommend for our Story Planet students and staff.

1. Dear. Mr. Watterson (2013) – An inside look at the creation of Calvin & Hobbes, the “best comic strip in the history of the universe.” (That’s the documentary talking, not us…necessarily.) 

2. The Sci-Fi Boys (2006) – Peter Jackson, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ray Bradubry…the list goes on! This doc peeks behind the fourth wall of special effects to reveal how it’s done and who’s doing it.

3. Under the Boardwalk: The Monopoly Story (2011) – Have you played Monopoloy? Have your parents played Monopoly? Have your parents’ parents played Monopoly? Probably. Find out why! 

4. Kings of Pastry (2010) – It’s probably a good idea to stock up on sweets before settling in with these pastry greats. But if you have an aspiring chef in your family, this doc is a visual feast that will surely inspire (and probably make you hungry.) 

5. Afghan Star (2009) – Pop culture is returning to Afghanistan after years of unrest, but it’s still dangerous to be a performer. Afghan Star is Tolo TV’s American Idol-style singing competition and this doc follows the four young finalists who risk everything to become their country’s next music icon.