Category Archives: Transmedia Storytelling

What do we really know after all?

Charley has just begun to plot her next adventure, a journey forward from Leonardo’s time to a period where the world was unevenly wakening to what it means to be fully alive, fully human. In the early to mid-17s, most of humanity (at least in the Western world) was still firmly in the grips of the Inquisition, superstition. This was pre-Revolutionary America or France, where the Rights of Man (but not Woman) had yet to be enunciated.

But hope and change were in the air.  The thrill of examining another moment in time where brilliance and genius could bubble up, where scientific thought,  and debate were leading us to new innovations that would help define our own post-modern world, is about to draw our girl Charley back into adventure like a moth drawn into flame.

As we start to look at the time of Voltaire, Diderot and the kings of Divine Right in France, there is another pioneer and “brainiac” of the period whose flame has been dimmed by history because–gasp–she is a woman. If Charley has any say about it, la Marquise Emilie du Chatelet is about to get her due.

Meanwhile, a look at the satirical brilliance of Voltaire, Emilie’s consort and intellectual partner, from a modern musical theater performance adapted from his novel, Candide, ou l’Optimist, from a 2011 blog post on my Pass the Talking Stick blog.

What do we really know, after all?

I went to see Candide last night – a musical opera based on Voltaire’s famous satirical novel (“All is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”) set to Leonard Bernstein’s music. It was a fabulous production by The Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C.

Bernstein decided to undertake the adaptation in 1953 upon the advice of his friend, playwright Lillian Hellman. At the time, Hellman was one of many artists, scientists and intellectuals under investigation by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities, the noted McCarthy hearings against alleged Communists. Hellman was one of many artist victims of this modern day witch hunt. Voltaire’s 1758 satire of the institutions that held enormous sway over public opinion in his time – from the Catholic Church to the emperors, from physicians to philosophers – were intent on trying to impose their dogma, and control on the public. Even when the facts didn’t line up with teachings – the inconvenience of the Inquisition being a notable breach of Christian spirit, for example – it was all for the best!In a contemporary parallel, some politicians of our day insist that our country’s Founders had God and right on their side in the original framing of the U.S. Constitution — and that they are the special people who can read he Founders intentions correctly and prune our laws of anything that the framers and their successors didn’t really intend, except those parts that don’t suit their current ideology. No hypocrisy there!

As the French themselves are fond of saying, Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.
What struck me about the “philosophy” behind Voltaire’s mocking words was how the best knowledge of his day had much of the science wrong. The best medicine then promoted bleeding (leeches) to cure disease, the auto-da-fe to “purify” religion, and Optimism as a philosophical explanation for every Job-like tragedy that befell the world and poor Candide, including earthquake, war, plague. What do we “know” today that will lead the scientists and philosophers 300 years from now to conclude that our best practices are equally misinformed?

It would seem that skepticism – questioning what is generally accepted as fact – is actually a healthy approach to counter the conventional wisdom. Candide’s teacher, Professor Pangloss, tenaciously holds to his optimistic philosophy (“All is for the best in this best of all possible worlds”) despite suffering these personal trials and tribulations: war, poverty, beatings, earthquakes, Auto-da-fe (the Inquisition’s infamous public heretics “trials” which inevitably ended up in conviction and public execution), hanging and, finally, destitution. Equally, today, we might be skeptical of the absolutists who claim to “know” what is best for our country, for our children and for our future.

Fortunately, technology, communication, transportation and a healthy public debate in our democracy promote ever greater tools to engage in public skepticism. Through the Internet, television, social media, ever-more transparent government and the free press, Americans now have more power than ever to question, debate, learn and challenge the status quo.

Still, it is tempting to stay out of the debate and “cultivate one’s garden”, as Candide concludes at the bitter end of his story. By this time, Candide’s one true love, the Lady Cunegonde, has lost her station, her beauty, her youth and her wealth. To engage in the conversation – to challenge conventional wisdom publicly – may leave one subject to ridicule or worse. But, as in Voltaire’s time, satire can be a biting tool that, on the face of it, seems to endorse the authorities whose knowledge is “beyond question” while mocking their hypocrisy.

A musical highlight of Candide is the lovely Cunegonde’s famous comic soliloquy, “Glitter and Be Gay”, lamenting that a lady of high nobility stripped of her title, wealth and family should become the sexual object for everyone from Catholic Cardinals, to the City of Lisbon’s wealthiest and most influential men in exchange for baubles and expensive clothes. True to the teachings of Professor Pangloss even in the most horrific circumstances, Cunegonde searches for the best in the situation.

 The aria is here performed by the incomparably gifted actress Kristen Chenoweth. Her high E-flat is a Wicked feat!

Is Reading the Goal, or a Means to an End?

How can story get their attention?

How to hold their attention?

As the creator of Out of Time, I work across media. My novel is in its second draft now, drawn from the original screenplay. I started tweeting the story–line-by-line as is the most conventional practice in #TwitterFiction–until our heroine, Charley, took over the narrative. Her solution to tweet storytelling was to ask questions of the experts, to invite others to help advance the story, and to ask a lot of questions. In fact, it is her curiosity is one of her most  ingratiating character traits.

As a transmedia storyteller, I recognize that reading is not every teen’s cup-of-tea. Interestingly, there is a hot debate going on about this right now. it seems that boys are reading less-and-less. There is some argument to be made over what stories boys are most likely attracted to, and how those different from girls’ interests. Some would say that boys a more likely to engage in action-oriented narrative nonfiction, while girls are attracted to stories about relationships–whether in fiction or nonfiction. And if more YA fiction features female protagonists, does that automatically deter close to 50 percent of the teen universe from reading?

In my world Out of Time, I encounter a paradoxical problem: girls are far less likely than boys to pursue the studies in science, math, engineering and technology–the so-called STEM fields–that will prepare and qualify them for the best, highest paying and most in-demand careers. Whether the STEM application is for engineering bridges in repairing our infrastructure or building apps that run the next Uber, or design the first successful SpaceX rockets, girls are less likely to pursue studies that will launch them into career orbit.

Naturally, my protagonist Charley is a girl. Her interest in building Leonardo’s time machine–and acquiring the skills and knowledge to make it happen–is, apparently, a rarity in girls but, through the story, perhaps she will inspire the next generation of girls to pursue their own passions to create, discover, design, build and make work…in whatever their passion might be.

So I hope to test if story, and a smart, sassy girl as a role model, can’t inspire some girls to follow Charley’s lead. BUT, since this is a story, I am also hoping that boys will be interested enough to read and follow her adventures–in whatever medium most engages their interest.

If this passion is ignited through reading a novel, so be it. If film is the more engaging medium, I say, let’s go for it. For today’s young people, if you’re not on social media, you practically don’t exist. Video games? Plans for a video game and an app are in the cards. Underlying the whole narrative is a personalized learning platform, where young people can engage, through the story, in following their own interests to learn more across disciplines.

If Leonardo da Vinci could dream it, kids engaging with learning on Out of Time Media can pursue it.

wangb2013

Snapshots of Life, FASEB Exhibit, National Institutes of Health; Credit: Bo Wang, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

For an artist, this transdisciplinary learning might mean combining art and anatomy. A kid inspired to be a doctor could, likewise, come to appreciate art through the study of biology. For a musician, hearing the music of the cosmos. When it comes to a politics buff…well, one could glean a lot about present-day governing and politics from Machiavelli or Lorenzo di Medici.

Did you know they burned books in Leonardo’s day? The original bonfires of the vanities were supposed to “purge” society of the evils of worshiping material possessions. They were really intended to keep people ignorant of wide advances in art, culture and science. While the printed page was still a newfangled invention in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries (and railed against as leading to the downfall of civilization!), knowledge and human advancement could not be stopped. The world could not go back into darkness. Similarly, today’s plethora of new media can be expected to lead to a Renaissance of learning to open new worlds of discovery that we can only imagine.

Whether boys–and girls–read from books would seem to be besides the point. They will–we will–always engage with stories, in any medium, because they allow us to connect to each other, to explore new worlds, and to reach for the stars.

 

Finding cliche and going beyond, or The Art of Writing for Tweens

Listen-Shel Silverstein

“Listen to the Mustn’ts by Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends (credit: A Mighty Girl)

Excited that my intrepid new story editor Mari Lou is an expert on Middle Grades (MG) fiction. That, for the uninitiated (and me, among them!) is how publishers categorize novels geared towards 8-12 year olds, in particular. Notable classics in this genre: A Wrinkle in Time, Matilda, and The Giver, which was recently released as a feature film. Some would also place Harry Potter in this category–at least for the early books in the series.

Quite a category, and one where my own kids–and I, quite frankly–have spent many happy hours fully absorbed in story.

Where to place Out of Time in the pantheon of publishing for children has been an active matter of debate for months now, since before competing in the When Words Count Retreat Pitch Week competition. Originally, I felt the story was for teens and solidly within the Young Adults (YA) category. This matters vastly for publishers, parents and readers for widely varying reasons–from what section of a bookstore (real or virtual) displays the book, to whether parents find it appropriate reading for their kids (especially at younger ages where parents pick out and pay for the books), to how readers identify with the protagonist.

Because Out of Time is told across genres–book, screenplay, social media and, notably, Web site–the picture is far from clear. As one very obvious example, kids under 13 cannot have Twitter accounts or Facebook pages of their own, and these are places where I hope to spur social storytelling adventures. Is there a workaround in the realm of gated social media gardens that mimic Facebook without subjecting younger children to what can feel like the wild, wild West of Instagram and its like?

Of course, God-and-the-market willing, Out of Time can grow into a series. Now that Charley has unlocked the secrets of time travel, there is nothing to keep her from fulfilling her wish: to meet the “superheroes of history,” as she calls them. Like many such series, there is the potential for readers and fans to grow up with the book’s heroes, much like kids who mature alongside Harry, Ron, Hermoine and friends.

What’s Cliche about Kid-Lit?

Cliche is, perhaps, the wrong word here. It is more like defining the set of circumstances that launches a character on the journey that will lead her to her destiny. What Joseph Campbell calls “The Mythic Journey.” Think of Harry’s magic-wielding adventures in vanquishing the monsters that arise along the path of growing up. Or the obstacles Katniss must face to protect her sister, her friends, and her District from the machinations of The Capitol.

For Charley, I have identified these two qualities that force her out of the relative safety of her conventional upbringing and out of time and into the dangerous unknown:

  1.  Listen to your heart.
  2. Believe anything is possible.

As I work on redrafting this story, these are themes to revisit over-and-over. Interesting to strip down the story again to its skeleton and rebuild on a stronger foundation.

Ultimately, Charley must find a world where she is free to be herself, and supported in her quests.

And after all, isn’t that a dream we should vision into being for all children, everywhere, and throughout time?

Calling all readers to ponder. Do you have a favorite story of childhood where you could see your own hopes and dreams take wing? What were these, and what impact did they have on you?

Eager to read your stories in comments below.

 

 

The Out of Time Media Web site can

Pitch Week Coda: Finding Inspiration for Rebirth

LiveFuller_webRI am in rustic Rochester, Vermont, a contestant in Pitch Week II. I am deep in the throes of this midsummer nights competition–in the running for the publishing trifecta of a book deal, agent and publicist.

As part of the contest, I am presenting my vision for a rebirth of learning based on the resonance of my story Out of Time–a plan for every child to achieve his fullest potential. A renewal in modern society of transdicisplinary learning has the potential to spawn the same impulse towards innovation, illumination and flowering of genius that characterized the Renaissance: Live Fuller.

The gist: a revival of Renaissance/Humanist learning and discovery based on modern science of how children learn, grow and thrive offers a chance for every child to discover, nurture and be supported in finding her own source of genius.

I contend that stories have the power to evoke such potential for self-discovery and inspire children to find and explore their unique talents and potential to contribute to the world. And Out of Time, in all its forms–novel, screenplay, interactive storytelling, and digital learning tool–can be the portal.

During the course of the week-long publishing competition, I have the great good fortune of staying in the Ralph Ellison room at the When Words Count Retreat. Of course, Ellison work was influential during the Harlem Renaissance—a 20th century flowering of thoughts and ideas for a particular community long oppressed. Not a coincidence, as far as I’m concerned.

As I scan the works of the author of The Invisible Man, I read the back book jacket of his collected stories, Flying Home.

I find his words evocative:

“Back in the thirties, when I was a music student in the South, I was moved to great agonies of empathy by three novels. One of these was Wuthering Heights, another was Jude the Obscure and the other was Crime and Punishment. While I was reading these works I felt such a compelling identification with their respective heroes that I literally suffered through their every trial and exalted in their every triumph. . . . I missed none of the bolder actions and there are still memory traces of them in my throat which were put there by the poignant and tragic developments of these fictions. . . . And the fact that they could so take me out of myself and transport me to a more intense world of feeling and acting, yes, and thinking, intrigued me more than I realized at the time.”

At its best, reading—and fiction in particular—has this magical power to move us to “great agonies of empathy.” And what better to teach our children—in our world of widening divisions and fissions on a global scale—than the pleasurable agony of knowing we all share the same dreams and fears, the same flesh and blood, and the same capacity to draw together through our shared experiences?

Can story create resonance that allows children to jump into learning and find that same source of inspiration? Once that seed is planted, can we, as a society, water it, nurture it into full flower, and then let it grow?

It is to this idea that I dedicate Out of Time: that we all embrace the goal to “live fuller”, to wake up to a world in dire need of revival. More than any time in recent memory, today’s complex and interconnected world requires a Renaissance of ideas, inspiration, creativity and problem solving.

And it is the coming generations that will be charged with undertaking that renewal–or witness our demise.

Now is the moment to plant the seeds of empathy, watch them take root, and strengthen our capacity to draw together in mutual understanding and compassion for ourselves and others with all our strengths and foibles.

Can a story Out of Time spark a movement?

The Story, the Competition, and Bringing It All to Life

This is cross-posted from the EdTechWomen Blog — http://edtechwomen.com/blog/2014/6/12/outoftime

Out of Time – The Story, The Competition, And Bringing It All To Life

 

 

 

By Margaret Roth

There are many roads that can be taken on the the journey to inspiration and creation. For Robin Stevens Payes, her journey began literally on road. As a mother of three children and science interpreter, she spent a lot of time on the road, listening to stories and tales of drama unfold from the driver’s seat as her children explored their school-age years. This experience was not only treasured time with her children, but for a writer immersed in contemporary science, this was a complete study in teenage psychology.

With this inspiration, and not to mention set of first-hand observations, Robin began crafting Out of Time, the story of Charley Morton, a teenage girl whisked back in time, by a science fair project gone-all-too-well, to the workshop of Leonardo da Vinci on the journey of a lifetime. As Charley explores the world of Florence with Leonardo, her idol and mentor, she must find a way home, all while finding herself.

Over the last 15 years, this story has transformed itself. First written as a screenplay, Charley’s story is now a transmedia science fiction, time travel, adventure novel, and is a finalist in the When Words Count Retreat Pitch Week, a juried competition for authors of promise. As a finalist, Robin is competing for a book deal, national publicity campaign, and all the support necessary to make Out of Time the next breakout book for teens.

As Robin is eagerly preparing for her journey to Vermont next week for the competition, EdTechWomen checked in via e-mail to see how things were shaping up for the next stage of her adventure.

MR: Out of Time, both the novel and your journey, is absolutely fascinating. Tell us about your plans and where you see this all going.

RSP: From the scientific, technological, and historical scope needed to tell the story, and the breadth of Leonardo’s genius, emerged the idea to create Out of Time Media, an online learning platform, to turn the process of reading Out of Time into an immersive, multimedia, multimodal, learning experience.

Using the story as the foundation, coupled with Leonardo’s curious and wide-ranging intellect and Charley’s inventiveness, brains and grit, educators will be able to create a dynamic transdisciplinary and blended learning program through the Out of Time Media experience. There are so many possible points of student engagement on a vast array of topics, from the physics of time to geo-history to military engineering to Renaissance cuisine.

While the online learning platform is still in the works, pending funding, and the right STEAM-Ed visionaries, partners, and investors, the plans for this transdisciplinary learning through story project continue!

MR: As a former middle school teacher myself, there are so many ways I can see this being used in the classroom. Tell us some more about the kind of learning experiences you see Out of Time allowing educators to create for their students?

RSP: There are a number of classroom activities and projects that I can see emerging from a reading of the novel, and a myriad of ways Out of Time Media can support teaching and learning in the classroom. Out of Time creates a world, Renaissance Italy. Instead of memorizing straight facts for a just another novel unit, the story allows students to reconstruct the way people lived, the conditions that encouraged the flowering of a rich intellectual, social, and artistic ferment that allowed for the emergence of so many great geniuses, whose work still impact our lives today. They can study the role of the Roman Catholic Church in that period and how the Pope and the di Medici rulers of Florence were often in a struggle—not just for power, but for a way of life.

MR: You are obviously extremely passionate about story. How has that impacted Charley and how do you see her story impacting classrooms?

RSP: Learning is made more resonant through story when lived and imagined by readers through the eyes of strong and compelling characters. Out of Time Media brings them together in one online place, where flipped learning, social learning and storytelling invites learning beyond STEM, and STEAM to a new level of broad MASTERY.

Davinci_formula

My commitment to the importance of MASTERY is the reason why as part of the online learning platform, I plan to break out experiences and resources into Learning Departments.

These Learning Departments will include transdisciplinary learning opportunities, that combine areas of inquiry that Leonardo himself pursued in his large and compelling body of work, and that might engage someone interested in mathematics to pursue musical theory and composition, or an artist to study anatomy. This will allow students to explore their interests using the narrative of the novel as a roadmap.

MR: Out of Time is a huge project, with so many different aspects, and so many amazing ideas. What was the greatest challenge you faced over the last two years as an entrepreneur and what did you do to overcome this challenge?

RSP: As a writer, creative, and solopreneur, it has sometimes been lonely to hold onto the vision for Out of Time and bootstrap it into being. I have been fortunate to get feedback, support and encouragement along the way from groups like EdTechWomen. ETW’s invitation to participate on the “At the Helm :: Women’s Impact in EdTech” series at SXSWedu in Austin this year was an honor and an amazing experience!

I value these interactions, and the connections that have enabled me to keep Out of Time moving—and suggest improvements along the way.

MR: What is the number one piece of advice would give to others to aid their journey to success in our field?

RSP: Persistence, patience and unwavering belief in your idea, product or project are important as the educational technology field matures. Technology offers the potential to revolutionize teaching—and provoke resistance and lagging adoption based on lack of training, cost, and waiting for “the next big thing” to emerge. This has been true since the days of the mimeograph and the overhead projector (here I date myself!), and promises to get more challenging as new players, some with deeper pockets, enter the field.

MR: As I know that the competition is coming up fast, what can others do to get involved with Out of Time and to show their support?

RSP: I need your support to show the judges the power and potential of Out of Time and Out of Time Media as learning tools. The more I can show that others support my work and this story, the better chance I will have during the competition!

Show—and spread—the love:

  • Follow the Out of Time Blog
  • Tweet your support to @OutofTimeMovie
  • Use the hashtag #FriendsofOOT
  • “Like” Out of Time Media on Facebook
  • Share the Out of Time website and videos
  • Spread the word to friends and family
  • If you are an educator, or know one, who might like to get their class engaged in “making history” in a Twitter chat with Charley M and Friends @OutofTimeMovie, let me know that in comments as well!

I’m also inviting all readers of the EdTechWomen community to vote in the comments for which of two cover designs (pictured above) we’ve created they’d prefer for the book. And by the way, major kudos to my designer Melissa Brandstatter for her artistic vision and grace in accepting multiple challenges along the way to make Out of Time compelling visually, as well as wordily (Can I say that? I think I just made that up!)!

Please help me share the power this experience will be for students and help get Charley and her friends out into the world! They can not wait to share their story!

MR: This competition is coming up so fast! How are you feeling?

RSP: I am excited and nervous! I will be competing against five other very talented authors—none of whom I have met yet. It feels a little like I imagine competitors in American Idol or any of those talent competitions feel when they’ve gotten into the finals—the stakes are high and the eyes of the world are on them.

But I am keeping my eyes on winning as a way to get Charley’s story out to readers and dreamers everywhere who fancy themselves mastering worlds—real or imaginary—and making a difference in the lives of their family, their community and their world.

And then the real work begins—helping create an environment for learning that is consistent with the way things work in the real world. Because in life, one doesn’t do Biology for an hour, then Spanish, then History, then PE — all those things cross over, informing not just our brains but our lives. And we’re learning all the time! So why not make it relevant?

And because I believe every young person has their own form of genius to grow into, having the right inspiration to do it can make all the difference between learning to live and living to learn.


RobinScreen Shot 2014-03-08 at 11.30.41 AM Stevens Payes, author and creator of the young adult time travel adventure Out of Time, writes often about health, research, science and psychology for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) award-winning Sara Bellum Blog and other NIDA and NIH publications on the neuroscience of addiction. She was founding editor-in-chief of LearnNow, the Web portal introducing parents and educators to the science of learning. She most recently wrote about empathy for the neuroscience research Dana Foundation Web site and for the Dana blog about teen learning about drug abuse via social media based on a case study about the Sara Bellum Blog published in February, 2013, in The Journal of Social Marketing. Payes is founder and principal of WordsWork Communications, a social marketing firm applying cutting-edge communications to bring research to life.


EdTechWomen has previously recognized Robin Steven Payes for her excellent work in edtech through our SXSWedu Session “At the Helm :: Women’s Role in Edtech” and we are proud to continue to support her. Please show your support for this amazing woman by actively sharing her story and helping her novel Out of Time become the engaging, STEM-infused, multimedia, and cross-disciplinary teaching resource that it is destined to be for our students!

Robin Stevens Payes, author and creator of the young adult time travel adventure Out of Time, writes often about health, research, science and psychology for the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) award-winning Sara Bellum Blog and other NIDA and NIH publications on the neuroscience of addiction. She was founding editor-in-chief of LearnNow, the Web portal introducing parents and educators to the science of learning. She most recently wrote about empathy for the neuroscience research Dana Foundation Web site and for the Dana blog about teen learning about drug abuse via social media based on a case study about the Sara Bellum Blog published in February, 2013, in The Journal of Social Marketing.Payes is founder and principal of WordsWork Communications, a social marketing firm applying cutting-edge communications to bring research to life.

Out of Time Competes for Publishing Trifecta

cropped-subpage_mast.jpgWhen Words Count Retreat Pitch Week II Competition, June 16-21

Robin Stevens Payes, author and creator of transmedia time travel storytelling novel, Out of Time, is among six finalists competing in the coming Pitch Week competition sponsored by When Words Count Retreat, June 16-21.

Out of Time tells the story of Charley, a thirteen-year-old science smart girl whose ambition is to meet Leonardo da Vinci, her Renaissance idol. But first, she must unravel the physics of time travel and build a transport to withstand the pressures of time. She builds what she thinks are Leonardo’s plans for a time machine and finds herself rocked by a world not her own. Her problems: being pursued for witchcraft and heresy and getting back in time to win the Da Vinci Middle School Science Fair.

Help Charley hack time travel!

Follow, Like and engage with Charley and her friends on social media. You can advance the interactive story and get involved in the adventure—and help build an audience that will bring Charley’s adventures to life.

Beyond the novel, help us build excitement for the interactive story through social media:

·       Follow @OutofTimeMovie on Twitter (https://twitter.com/OutofTimeMovie)

·       Like Out of Time Media on Facebook (www.facebook.com/outoftimemedia)

·       Check the Out of Time Media Web site (www.outoftimemedia.com)

As a writer and parent, author Robin Stevens Payes created the story after years of driving carpools and listening in on the conversations of her three children and their friends as they discussed their dreams, their worries, and the latest iteration of who did what to whom. This is the realization of that listening tour in story: a universal spin on growing up where time is still relative and dreams can turn into reality.

If you know a thirteen year old—or have ever been one—this story is your story! So engage Out of Time, and learn along with Charley and friends.

Remember: you make the future possible!

 

Out of Time Makes Finals!

Pitch Week III is coming, the writing competition sponsored by the When Words Count Retreat in Vermont. And our entry for Out of Time was selected as a finalist. Okay, so we’re an alternate. But no matter how you phrase it, we’re in!

Looking forward to meeting my fellow contestants at a “Meet the Judges” week in July, wherein we get feedback and support, then put through our paces to prepare for the competition in September.

When Words Count Retreat

Emily Dickinson Room

And with perhaps a different vista outside than the low-visibility February landscape.

When Words Count Retreat

Baby, there’s snow outside!

While Out of Time will only get to pitch before the judges at this event if two other contestants drop out, fear not, friends and fans! We will automatically be finalists for the next round, Pitch Week IV, coming up in June 2015. Grand prize? A writer’s dream: publisher, agent and publicist.

Better get writing–the novel in its final format, all tied up with a bow and cover to show, is due by July 15, come rain, sleet or snow. And who knows–this year, anything could happen!

Feelin’ the love…

#TwitterFiction 2014: the Festival

The Twitter Fiction Festival has begun. Charley is tweeting daily, although not with much enthusiasm for the form. I am following the hashtag #TwitterFiction on TweetDeck, but #TwFictionFestivalhonestly, for all its vaunted potential, I find the content disappointing. Although Twitter, Andrew Fitzgerald (@MagicAndrew) and other organizers have held out for pushing the envelope on its uses, including making the most of the social aspect of the medium, the majority of authors seem to be marking the celebration by simply tweeting out their novels/screenplays/short stories line-by-line. What could be less fascinating than dribbling out a 10,000 word tome 140 characters at a time?

For @OutofTimeMedia, the challenge has been to attract a sizable enough regular following to encourage regular conversations between my characters and an appropriate audience. Since Out of Time is time travel fiction aimed at young adults, that means attracting the eyeballs of teens–who don’t regularly pay attention to anything they don’t have to…unless it’s something they personally feel passionate about. To legions of Harry Potter fans, if J.K. Rowling started tweeting as Harry, she’d undoubtedly start a Twitter landslide. If Katniss Everdeen jumped in online, fans would go ga-ga.

But pre-publication, this is a tougher sell. I am mid-creation, somewhere between half- and two-thirds through writing the novel. That means my story, despite its unveiling on multiple platforms (an example of an emerging trend in #transmedia storytelling, with an emphasis currently on kid-vid as an anchor), still lingers in the pre-naissance twilight. But more on this trend to come.

Charley and I soldier on nonetheless, and are slowly, but surely, attracting eyeballs and activity to the open-ended tweet-story–where you direct the action and the outcome. Check out a recent slice of the convo.

@braddo @OutofTimeMovie convoWhat’ll it take before the story gains online traction? First priority: publication. Get the actual story out there. Second up: take it to school. High hopes that bringing the opportunity into classrooms, around discussion of how stories are universal…how creating a story leads to strengthening writing skills through research, planning and organization (good old pre-frontal cortex action!)…how they build empathy and compassion in readers who come to care about the characters and identify with their journey…how, for teens in particular, building identity is Job #1…and, in particular, providing strong female role models around STEM learning and careers…all these benefits may accrue from participating in an online tweet storytelling adventure.

But more about all the benefits of learning through story to come.

Meanwhile, tweet some fiction with Charley M & Friends at www.outoftimemedia.com. Are you up for the journey? Pack your bags…we’re taking a ride back in time. Where will Charley and her friends go? Who, among the superheroes of history might they meet? What will they see, hear, smell, taste or touch? What do you want to learn?

The adventure is in your hands @OutofTimeMovie.Tweet on!

 

The Out of Time Backstory

Creating a Story Tweeting Adventure

OOT_masthead_final

I am a consultant in social marketing specializing in education and health. I am also parent to three great kids. I drove a lot of carpools back in the day and relished spying on the candid conversations playing out in the back of the car.

My passion is storytelling and, because moms are invisible, I relished jotting down the backseat banter. As my kids grew up, I marveled at how their language, ideas and attitudes transformed along with their bodies and brains. It was a complete anthropology lesson in teen social psychology that, as a mom, I found exasperating, but as a writer and science interpreter: priceless.

The result was a flight of fancy from childhood—out of time. I crafted a screenplay, Out of Time, whose protagonist, Charley, is a 13-year old middle school girl and self-styled Renaissance Genius, à la her Florentine Idol, Leonardo da Vinci. Through the marvels of her science fair invention, Leonardo’s plans for a time machine, Charley hurtles back 500 years to meet the Master and becomes stuck, a Washington Nationals Fan in the Duke di Medici’s Court.

Social media makes the element of storytelling more intriguing, so when a friend suggested I take my screenplay public, anticipated Hollywood agents and directors lining up to option the story notwithstanding, the idea of tweeting it and incorporating followers’ voices into the storyline seemed intriguing.

The result is @OutofTimeMovie, a new social experiment to encourage friends and followers on Twitter to interact and direct Charley M. & Friends on adventures through time.

We’ve set up a profile on Twitter where Charley has already begun narrating her tale.

Charley’s adventures with friends and frenemies in multiple “time zones” over half a millennium was seeded by a decade or so of those aforementioned carpool conversations. What happens next will grow out of your participation in the tweet-adventure.

Screenplay Storyline

A couple of too-smart teens get carried away while doing a school science fair project: constructing a time machine. Charley Morton and Billy Vincenzo’s detective work engineers a time machine using modern technology and science to create a working model–and then, are stunned when it works. Armed with nothing more than an iPad, cell phone, rigged up solar battery, Legobot pieces and sour gummy worms, Charley finds herself in a strange world where nothing follows the rules of life as she knows it.

In the process, this posse of 21st century teens learn more than they bargained for, jumping into a time of social, intellectual and religious ferment in contrast to their modern lives, and shocking early Renaissance sensibilities with their relaxed attitudes towards authority, religion, and women’s place in the world.

Charley finds herself continually censored for pursuing her passions—culinary, scientific, technological and musical (ranging from a search for the best spaghetti pomodoro (tomatoes not yet having made it to Florence from the New World-Columbus just circling),  to playing Words with Friends on her iPhone to playing violin with Lorenzo di Medici’s orchestra)—while Leonardo discovers a girl with learning far in advance of his own discoveries, but Charley is endangered by forces beyond her understanding, including the Dominican Friar Savonarola, originator of the famed bonfires of the vanities who deems Charley and her “magic-possessed” friends a threat to the minds, hearts and souls of the people of Florence.

Making it social: drop a Tweet

That’s the foundation; now we want you to get involved. Please follow along in the adventure or, better still, jump in and “Drop a Tweet”!

How? Simply tweet questions, replies, instructions or twists to their adventures to the characters (listed below). Or ask them to describe what they see, hear or smell along the way. Charley has already consulted a pediatrician who’s joined in the tweet chat (@jackmaypole) by asking him whether time travel might bring on motion sickness. Check out Dr. Jack’s response.

She’d love advice from technology mavens on how to stay connected to the present with her iPad or iPhone, since satellites obviously weren’t circling the planet in 1492 (in fact, Columbus was…barely).

And, teachers in every subject area from science to art to music could suggest a rubric for Charley and Billy’s science fair report, how discovery of the Higgs Boson has implications for time travel, whether Charley’s talent on the violin would match the abilities of a professional orchestra in Lorenzo di Medici’s court, or sharing historical context for Leonardo da Vinci’s role under the di Medici’s, or whether advance knowledge of the future (gravity, flying) might change da Vinci’s legacy.

I plan to post a series of short video updates (aka: serial story tweets) to recap the story for new followers, and as catch up for those who may have missed episodes.

Five simple story rules for driving Twitter action:

1.    Tweet as yourself; the characters will respond or change action if, and at the time, your direction fits into the narrative.

2.    Please use only these fictional characters to anchor the story. Will consider introducing a new character if it makes sense as the story develops

3.    Will work on developing only one storyline at a time (past, present or future) to have time to experience the scene, create a narrative line (setup-hook-inciting incident-plot point(s)-challenge-resolution). Will jump into new adventures after these criteria have been satisfied in the time/place involved.

4.    Strive for historical accuracy (please research the time period): consider actions, interactions and dialog suited to time place, and historically accurate figures.

5.    Appropriate use of technology (time travel and other) is encouraged.

 Characters

Charley Morton, 13-year old girl, dreamer, violin player and self-styled modern day Renaissance genius who loves all things Italy and Leonardo da Vinci.

Billy Vincenzo, 13, Charley’s science fair partner, class “nerd”, crush on Charley.

Beth Jacobs, 13, social butterfly, smart but would rather be popular, Charley’s BFF (not!) and rival for Lex Campbell’s attention.

Lex Campbell, “hot” new guy at school, plays on baseball team and dreams of being recruited for major league team out of high school, major crush.

Kairos, 15-year old who appears mysteriously at Charley’s Dad’s office on Take Your Child to Work Day. He can travel across time to show up anywhere, any time. Origins unknown. In 1492, he is Leonardo’s apprentice, and sits to model for his art.

Elisabetta, 13-year old in 1492 Florence. Works in di Medici palace and takes the impetuous Charley under her wing to protect from palace intrigue.

Gwen Morton, Charley’s mom, concert violinist with National Symphony Orchestra and music teacher.

Jerry Morton, Charley’s dad, contractor for Homeland Security, and clueless about teenage girls.

Mrs. Schreiber, science teacher at Da Vinci Middle School

Leonardo da Vinci, Renaissance genius, needs no further introduction.

Lorenzo di Medici, Duke of the Republic of Florence and part of the powerful family that includes Popes, Bishops, arts patrons, military innovators and enlightened citizen-politicians

Giralamo Savonarola, Dominican friar, preacher, and self-ordained prophet. Originated the bonfire of the vanities to burn as “sin” all art, wealth, books and religious tracts. Repeatedly denounced Lorenzo’s “despotic” rule and pursues any sign of “idolatry” or “witchery”.

Settings: Home/School, the present

Takoma Park, Maryland – Suburban Washington, D.C., Da Vinci Middle School, Takoma Park Public Library

Renaissance Italy, 1492, Carnival time

A rural field outside Florence, Italy, di Medici Palace, Pitti Palace and Piazza Signoria, the central square of Florence

Here’s some of what’s happening on Twitter:

Tomatillo convo 2014-01-27 at 2.13.56 PM

 

How to Tweet a Story with Charley M. and Me

In presenting at last weekend’s amazing CO14 MOOC (for Connecting Educators Online 14) about my multiplatform storytelling for learning project, I was asked by several people to explain how tweet storytelling works.

I must admit this from the outset: I have no idea. Why? ‘Coz this is such a new form of interactive storytelling that no other author, to my knowledge, is yet treating #TwitterFiction as a crowd-sourced form of storytelling (btw, thanks @magicandrew, for coming up with the idea).

Still, when it comes to @OutofTimeMovie as an social media story, I do know I can’t make it happen without YOU!

What I can tell you for sure is this: Charley Morton, the 13-year-old heroine of this emerging time travel adventure story, Out of Time, fancies herself to be a modern-day Renaissance genius like her Florentine idol, Leonardo da Vinci. She’s busy constructing what she suspects were Leo’s designs for a time machine, only da Vinci had neither the science nor the technology to build it.

Charley abroadBut Charley does. She and her friend Billy are undertaking the project for the Middle School Science Fair, and they’re running into problems that perhaps you can help them solve. Charley’s tweeting about the snafus, among other things. And she would be tweeting much more if it weren’t for homework and her mom making her practice her violin, ALL THE TIME. (Something about 10,000 hours! Really. Check out that magic number 10,000 to see why some grownups think it’s so important.)

So Charley is very curious, and loves learning. Just about anything you might want to talk about/ask her about her time machine project/her friends/ambitions/or her not so satisfying middle school social life is fair game.

She’s busy tweeting about life. And a bunch of folks have been tweeting back, like @drkent, talking about how time travel can be musical!

TIME TRAVEL MUSIC

So really, in these tweep conversations, sky’s the limit. What would you like to know about building a time machine or planning to meet all the superheroes of history? After all, that’s Charley’s goal.

To start things off, here are the top 10 questions about Charley and her obsession with time travel:

  1. Where in the history of the Universe, does Charley think she’s gonna start this adventure, and why?
  2. What’s up with her Science Fair partner, class geek Billy Vincenzo?
  3. Who is Kairos and why’s he got such a weird name?
  4. What’s her deal with spaghetti pomodoro?
  5. What’s Charley’s least favorite thing about herself?
  6. Who are her friends, and what do they think of her mad scheme?
  7. What if she meets Leonardo da Vinci–what then?
  8. Does she really practice her violin 10,000 hours, or is that just something she says to get her mom to stop asking her?
  9. What’s she gonna wear for time travel?
  10. Renaissance history: who cares!

Suggest sights you’d like Charley to visit–in Renaissance Florence for starters. Like, her friend Lex, the hottie and baseball star of her middle school, threw out:

“Hey Charley, if you get to Italy on this mad voyage, check out the Mona Lisa and see if she’s really smiling.”

Only problem: the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre Museum in Paris, not Florence. The French King François I, a patron of Leonardo’s, supposedly appropriated it for France a long time ago. Still, Charley does bring up Mona (or La Giaconda, as she is more formally known) with Leonardo–spoiler alert–when they finally do meet up.

Interested in what old Leo had to say about that? Tweet us.

And a few things Charley would love to hear about from you:

  1. Where would you go in time if you could travel anywhere you wanted?
  2. Do you like to read or see movies with science fiction and fantasy themes?
  3. What are your favorite things to do and learn about?
  4. Do you and your BFF ever fight? How does that usually work out in the end?
  5. Do you tweet? Would you like to join the @OutofTimeMovie tweet storytelling team? Find details here: http://outoftimemedia.com/calling_all_tweeps.html

Any questions for us? We’d love to hear from you. Write us in the comments about any of this stuff. Or follow @outoftimemovie and tweet us and join in the adventure!

Time Traveler Color