Education Information 2013 Seminar

This is part of my presentation delivered under the title Reshaping Your Future at the Education Information 2013 Seminar co-hosted by the Australian Society of Authors, Australian Publishers Association and Copyright Agency

I’m not even going to try to define the term ‘digital space’. It’s not because I can’t (though I can’t), it’s not even because it keeps changing (which it does), it’s because to different publishers it means different things. In fact, for a single publisher it may mean different things for different projects. When I get asked to provide material for a digital version of a book, or even for a wholly digital project, it can mean anything from a pdf of the print version for a CD-ROM or DVD to a complete, whizz bang interactive animation – and everything in-between.

It’s not one model fits all and it can’t be. Our education system mirrors society – we have the haves and the have-nots. So while it would be great if all school students had iPads to watch the amazing animations and videos and interactive games and puzzles that we create, the truth is that many of them don’t. For some schools, a lone interactive whiteboard sits idle, still wrapped in plastic.

In fact, just a couple of years I was in a school in Melbourne’s northern suburbs and was amazed to see that among the books being used for helping teach children how to read was one titled, When We Go to the Moon. Yes, it was looking to the future when humans would one day fly to the Moon.

While the education revolution built fantastic facilities for classrooms and libraries, I can’t help thinking they left out the most important part, the educational resources that really could lead to a revolution – a learning revolution.

But I digress. To say that the digital space offers opportunities is stating the bleeding obvious. How does one grab those opportunities?

Well, a writer has to be versatile. They have to be able to create ideas to engage students across various platforms. They may have to write a script for a short animation one moment, a quiz with bells and whistles (literally bells and whistles) the next moment, and more traditional instructional text the next. All for the same project. But fear not. For in this respect, nothing has changed. We have always had to be flexible and open to change. In the 17 years that I’ve been writing educational books and other materials, the ball park has changed many times.

My first books were not unlike those I read at school: each page with a chunk of text and a black and white photo. Then publishers told me they wanted the books to look like magazines – more visuals and small blocks and boxes of information. Then a few years later publishers wanted the books to mirror website pages (even adopting some of the terminology). So educational writers have always had to be versatile and flexible to survive.

But none of those changes were as dramatic as those we face now: dealing with the elaborate, multi-tasking, multi-dimensional way young people take in information. And when I say young, I mean really young. It starts pre-school.

For writers, it also means coming out of our shells – out of our garrets – and watching how students take in information, how they communicate, how they become engaged – and applying what we discover. For ex-teachers, it does not mean remembering how you taught, even if it was just two or three years ago. Two or three years is an eternity in the digital space.

We have to understand budgets. We have to know what’s achievable for what cost? There’s no point writing an Oscar-quality short animation for a project that has a budget somewhat south of the cost of a steak sandwich.

This means talking with publishers (face-to-face). They’re not that scary. And working together. Because, let’s face it, they are as puzzled as we are at what to do – and how to do it. Let’s be thankful of one thing. Unlike the publishers, we don’t have to directly work out how to make money out of the damn things.

Clearly, we have to redefine ourselves. We are no longer writers of books, we are writers of content – just as book publishers are now publishers of content. We have to be aware of the whole gamut of digital options, and to be able to provide them.

The future is bright. Opportunities abound. But these opportunities will not come to those locked in the past. They will come only to those writers willing to make the effort, to continue learning and exploring and asking questions. Those willing to try new things.

Nicolas Brasch
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Ballarat Writers & Illustrators Festival

In case you’re interested, the annual Ballarat Writers & Illustrators Festival is coming up. It is the only writers festival dedicated to children’s and young adult writing – and attracts many professionals in the field. Here’s the website link if you’re interested http://www.ballaratwriters.com/?page_id=2256

Hope to see you there!

Nicolas Brasch
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CBCA Notable List

CBCA Book of the Year: The Eve Pownall Award for Information Books Notable Books list

Congrats to all.

Author Title Publisher
Blaxsland, Wendy I Can Cook! Chinese Food Macmillan Education Australia
Brasch, Nicolas Australia’s Electoral Process Macmillan Education Australia
Brasch, Nicolas Community Maps Macmillan Education Australia
Cox, David The Road to Goonong Allen   Unwin
Darlison, Aleesah
Ill. Andrew Plant
Warambi Working Title Press
Do, Anh   Do, Suzanne
Ill. Bruce Whatley
The Little Refugee Allen   Unwin
Gouldthorpe, Peter No Return: Captain Scott’s Race to the Pole Hachette Australia
Grant, Neil   Williams, David (Eds) From Kinglake to Kabul Allen   Unwin
Lester, Alison   Tulloch, Coral One Small Island: The Story of Macquarie Island Penguin Group (Australia)
Queensland Art Gallery Surrealism for Kids Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art
Siers, Robyn   Tregoning-Lawrence, Heather Forever Yours: Stories of Wartime Love and Friendship Department of Veterans Affairs/Australian War Memorial
Toft, Kim Michelle Tick Tock Tick Tock What’s Up Croc? Silkim Books
Wheatley, Nadia (Ed)
Ill. Ken Searle
Playground Allen   Unwin
Wignell, Edel
Ill. Mark Jackson
Bilby Secrets Walker Books Australia
Wilkinson, Carole Fromelles: Australia’s Bloodiest Day at War Black Dog Books

Nicolas Brasch
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Writing workshops

I am holding three all-day writing workshops this year on Sunday 22nd April, Sunday 22 July, and Sunday 21 October. They will follow the format of the workshops I held at the Victorian Writers Centre over the past three years (more details on the format below).

The workshops are open to writers of all levels, of both fiction and non-fiction, and of all genres.

The workshops will run from 10.00 am – 4.00 pm and the cost of all three will be $297.00 (includes gst). They will be held at The Wheeler Centre (next to the State Library), Melbourne.

For those of you who have not attended one of my all-day workshops in the past, they involve the following: 

  • At least two weeks before each workshop date, each participant will email me a piece of work (up to 2000 words)
  • I will forward each piece onto each participant, and each participant will read everyone else’s piece.
  • On the day of the workshop, each participant will have their writing critically reviewed by all participants including myself. This process has proven very successful and popular.
  • Writing exercises will be given in class, based on common problem areas as identified in the review process.
  • Individual exercises may also be given to be completed between sessions.

I am limiting the number of participants to 12. At this stage, preference is given to those who book to attend all three workshops.

If you are interested, email me at nic@writer.com.au and I will send payment options details. It is a first-come, first-served basis, so the first 12 people to pay will be the participants.

If you have a friend who you think may be interested, or who you want to book with, feel free to send them the link to this blog.

I look forward to hearing from you.

 

Nicolas Brasch
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Early Christmas Present

I received an early Christmas present this week.

I have been directing a play (which I also wrote) for the Grade 6 kids at the local primary school to perform at their graduation.

After their performance, the principal invited me on stage to present me with a gift. Fair enough I thought – and I got a lovely olive tree. But that’s not all. The principal announced that to recognise my work running a few writing and storytelling workshops, and for doing the play each year, and giving them copies of my books when they come out, they were going to inaugurate the annual Nicolas Brasch Award for writing which each year would go to the Grade 6 student who showed the most promise in writing stories. I had to present the award to this year’s winner. The award comprised a medal with my name on it, and a certificate headed The Nicolas Brasch Award for Writing. I was somewhat embarrassed. But at least if I drop dead now, I know my name will live on.

Merry Christmas all!

Nicolas Brasch
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