Tag Archives: learning

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 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