Category Archives: Bloggers

The Digital Generation

EVIE Photo_Use.JPGOur guest blog today comes from Evie Prysor-Jones, who we met a few weeks ago at City University. As her MA in Publishing Studies at City University comes to an end, Evie (@Evelyn_PJ) is trying to spend less time reading young adult fiction and more time actually studying. She is a frequent tweeter, blogger and ponderer of the world at large and is pursuing a career in children’s publishing.

I was once told the Internet was in my blood. This thought terrified me not only because it reminded me of some twisted Charlie Brooker program, but it also seemed like an awful responsibility. If the Internet is in my blood surely I should know everything, know how to do everything, and have a built-in navigation system in my brain. My frequent wanderings around London have disproved that theory at least.

This comment, that I’m sure was meant to be off-hand and not designed to instigate a tirade of panicked thought, got me thinking about how much digital technology is in my life now. I have a smart phone, tablet, eBook reader and a laptop, and I NEED them all.

Sure, they look clever, but can they change a light bulb?

Sure, they look clever, but can they change a light bulb?

Most people of my age can swipe, type and discover things with alarming precision and speed. But I’m starting to worry this efficiency is wiping our common sense.

For example; recently my friend and I were on one of our many London strolls (due to our lack of inbuilt Google Maps) and decided the cold was too much for our shivering bones and we would get a taxi. She fumbled with her freezing fingers for the ingenious app on her smart phone that could tell her where the nearest black cab was. While she was tapping, I did something crazy – I stuck out my arm. It is getting to the stage where we expect technology to do everything for us, and when it doesn’t, we’re left stranded in the foolish position of realising the shortest route from A to B did not require a “slide to unlock.”

EVIE 02

If this is happening to people of my age now, people who do actually remember a time before the Internet and mobile phones, then what is going to happen to those being born into it? In Hanna Rosin’s article The Touch-Screen Generation, she calls people like me ‘digital natives’. We pick up how to use technology very quickly because we’ve grown up with it to some extent. On the other side of the spectrum are ‘digital immigrants,’ who are coming into the swipe-and-tap world as complete strangers. But I am only the first generation of digital natives and I’m starting to worry that as time goes on, the next digital natives are going to be more digital than human.

Children are incredibly fast at picking up how to use things. Show a child once and suddenly they are swiping and tapping their way to taking over the world. Whilst I don’t believe digital means the end of books, and certainly think children can have just as much fun making mud pies outside, there is no point denying that digital is here to stay. And it’s us, the current generation of adults that are responsible for what digital products these techy toddlers are getting access to. It is our responsibility to create products which encourage children to do something creative.

EVIE 03

Wonderful products like the Toca Boca digital toys (I especially like the Toca Boca Tea Party app), and websites like Hot Key’s own Story Adventure encourage children to use digital platforms to create their own entertainment. They get to have fun, they get to play and they get to access exciting content in brand new ways. It gets them thinking, inventing and most importantly, using their imaginations. This is critical, because if we expect the next few generations to solve problems and handle chaos, we better make sure they know how to think for themselves.

Creative thought is a survival skill in today’s society. I still stand by the belief that the best way to ensure we remain human is through a combination of playing with new technology, spending time with people and being chucked outside to make mud pies. Being a ‘digital native’ doesn’t necessarily mean you are just ‘digital’. You can have a million devices and still be a creative individual too. Perhaps having the Internet in your blood is too exclusive, but having technology at your fingertips is nothing to fear, you just need to think about it.

The trick of film adaptation

HopeKempHope Kemp is a student, filmmaker, and occasional book blogger.

A lot of people are often very skeptical about their favourite books and novels being transformed into motion pictures, or are very cynical about films ‘not being like the book at all.’ You only have to look at the forum boards on IMDB to see reams of complaints: Baz Lurhmann’s choice for Jay-Z to score the upcoming ‘The Great Gatsby’ remake, who knows what the issue is for this week. But I think we need to be more open minded. No — a film is never going to be exactly like your idea of the book, maybe not even close, but they are two different mediums after all. For example, Danny Boyle’s 2008 interpretation of ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ is nothing like Vikas Swarup’s novel Q&A (yes, they even changed the name!) but both are brilliant as their own separate forms.

However, it is undeniably true that there are some truly terrible adaptations of beautiful novels made. Sometimes there is poor acting, directing or technical faults, and some filmmakers seem to loose the true message of the story they are intending to tell (Peter Jackson’s hideous version of Alice Sebold’s ‘The Lovely Bones’ and Frank Oz’s seemingly anti-female remake of Ira Levin’s feminist novel ‘The Stepford Wives’ spring to mind). However, these misconceived features can still make a great topic of debate and conversation (I personally was not impressed at all this year’s release of ‘The Hobbit,’ hate me). Plus, there’s always the hope of a better remake.

Screen Shot 2013-03-08 at 10.41.12

Last Summer I decided to start working on creating my own independent films, starting with the short film ‘Junky.’ The film is based on the first autobiographical book (of the same name) of eminent Beat Writer William S. Burroughs. The Beat Movement was a period in post World War Two America of literary, social and cultural change, Burroughs is often regarded as one of its fore-founders. The work ‘Junky’ was first published in 1953 and focuses on the author’s longstanding, tumultuous battles with alcohol and narcotic drug addictions. With my film, I chose to focus on the unconventional and isolated childhood of William Burroughs, using the prologue of the novel as a voice over.

So, would you be interested in reading JUNKY after watching my film?

 

Dressing Up for World Book Day

Hi, I’m Little M and I share a book blog with my mum called We Sat Down. I love reading and horse riding. I play on the Year 8 netball squad for my school. I have a yellow labrador and when I’m older I would like to work with animals (e.g. be a vet).

World Book Day was one of my favourite days in primary school because we could dress up as any character from our favourite book. I loved it. There were also prizes for the best costume and sculpture/scene from a book.

I can remember that I went as Hermione Granger from Harry Potter twice. I also went as Saucepan Man from Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree.  I dressed up in frying pans and colanders for that one. The teachers were not impressed.

When I was in Year 4, I went as Mildred from The Worst Witch. I made a satchel out of card and fabric.

World Book Day 2009 - Worst Witch

I also designed and sewed Tabby, her cat. It took me ages.

World Book Day - Mildred's cat designed and sewn by Little M age 9

In Year 5, I went as Marley from Marley and Me. And then in Year 6 I went as Joey from War Horse.  I designed and made the whole horse: the head, the legs, the back and tail. It involved drawing, cutting, painting, gluing, stapling, ripping and thinking. It took ages. But in the end it was amazing and I won!

Wordl Book Day 2011 - War Horse side

For the prizes, there were £10 book tokens but the year I won we didn’t have them. I was so sad. Instead, I got 10 house points which didn’t help our house at all because we always lost.

Now in Year 8 I wish that we could have World Book Day like that. My amazing English teacher and our school bookclub are going to do something at lunch on World Book Day. There will be a small book sale (secondhand) and some recommendations on books you might like to read.

If I dressed up this year for World Book Day I would go as Tris from Divergent (by Veronica Roth). I’d go in black clothes – or grey!

How are you celebrating World Book Day this year? Are you dressing up? Let us know in the comments below!

Well, I’ll be cursed!

GabbyHello, I’m Gabby – fifteen and already a self-confessed read-aholic. Apart from being a stereo-typical teenager when it comes to addiction of Supernatural books, I also love the genre of adventure and action, but to be perfectly honest, anything will do! One day I hope to be a writer or publisher so I do what I love best everyday – reading and writing!

Gargoyles? Nope, it’s not going to work. Or at least that’s what I thought when I first picked up THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE CURSED by Page Morgan. As readers, we’ve seen everything from sparkling vampires to drop dead gorgeous demi-gods and even smirking spies. So gargoyles? No. How could someone make the concept of evil, demon looking creatures (normally seen snarling at you with open mouths and incredibly pointy teeth) protecting two girls in frilly skirts from equally evil and rabid hellhounds even possibly attractive? Well, let me tell you, Page Morgan just did.

THE BEAUTIFUL & THE CURSED

Apart from the obvious fact that this book boasts the highest number hot fictional guys I’ve ever seen grace the pages of one book, it’s still one hell of a story. The book perfectly blends the right amount of gritty, realistic fighting, convincing supernatural plot lines and intense romance whilst giving you the most enjoyable history lesson of your life.

Because it’s set in 1899, some of the vocabulary used back then doesn’t directly translate into the 2013 English dictionary. But, in a weird way, that’s one of things I loved most about the book. I had to look up the words like, a landau (which is a horse drawn four-wheeled carriage by the way) which I didn’t necessarily know before. This serves to both educate and contextualize the story you’re reading, definitely giving it more atmosphere and cranking that intensity level up a notch (because you actually know what vehicle they’re being attacked by demons on).

HotKeyIllustrations - Gargoyle

But even if you’re not a history geek like I am, a good number of kick-ass fight scenes make up the book. And the best thing? The girls get some good punches in there as well. There’s nothing better than reading about a girl laboring along in a dress, trying to wield a sword that’s far bigger than her whilst taking out a massive rabid dog and then actually succeeding. Girl Power. But even then the scenes are very accurate and in a good amount of detail, meaning you can imagine exactly how the fight played out.

HotKeysIllustrations - Silhouettes

The Supernatural is another main element in the plot line, and if you’re reading this then you’ve probably read at least one supernatural book where the facts didn’t quite add up, or was so unoriginal it was making your eyes bleed. But not this book. In fact, it was quite bizarre in a way because I felt that even though most of the supernatural beings involved in the story were not Page Morgan’s originally, they felt like they were. I almost believed she had come up with them herself, the book is that easy to get lost in. As soon as I’d finished, it had me flicking to the back of the book for the page that would give me the joyous news that a sequel was in the making like an aggravated Harpy. And then it had me re-reading sections for days to come.

Now, believe it or not as a reader, I’m very hard to please. I either really love or really hate a book. But I think I can safely say you all know where I stand on this one. So if you want a hair-raising, forget-about-collecting-your-kids, kick-back-and-don’t-move-until-you’ve-finished kind of book, pick up THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE CURSED. You won’t be disappointed (and you definitely won’t move until you’ve read the very last page).

eBooks — The Good Things!

GeorgiaWaltersHi! I’m Georgia- I’m nearly thirteen, and an avid reader, writer and blogger. I love to read any kinds of books I can find, mainly adventure, horror, and crime. I read and review books as a hobby, and hope to get a job as either an author or something in the publishing world one day. I blog about books at this address: www.booksandwritersjnr.wordpress.com.

A big thanks, firstly, to Hot Key Books for letting me do a guest post on their brilliant blog. It was hard to decide what to write about but I finally decided to write about ebooks; the good things about them and the future of them, as most people just point out the bad things.

Real books are brilliant–it’s so great to walk around book shops, to hold a book in your hands and turn the pages. However, ebooks arrived a few years ago, and the market for them totally blew up (in a good way, of course!) with the introduction to the Kindle. As sad as it is to see fewer bookshops on the streets, e-Books are pretty great inventions. Most people focus on the bad things, but there are many good aspects too, here are a few:

  •  If a friend recommends a book to you, no matter where you are or what time it is, you can download and start reading that book easily.
  • Although e-Readers and iPhones use electricity, they save paper (and trees!).
  • Also, they are easier to transport than a real book (especially if it’s a big one like Under My Hat, the collection of witchy short stories).

Above all of those reasons, though, I think that the best thing about ebooks is the invention of interactive books, like the Maggot Moon and A World between Us iBooks, for example.

MAGGOTMOONSCREENSHOT

In the Maggot Moon iBook, there are animations that show the reader what it is like to see through Sally Gardner’s and the main character of the book, Standish Treadwell’s eyes. Both are dyslexic, and it’s a great achievement what Sally has done; writing such great, unforgettable books with dyslexia. There are other extras on the interactive book too, like interviews with Sally Gardner, pictures, the ability to tweet quotes from the book, and little snippets about Sally and how she wrote the book too.

MAGGOTMOONSCREENSHOT2

I think that the interactive activities in the enhanced editions of Maggot Moon and A World Between Us help reluctant readers to get stuck into great books. After all, the animations and extras really bring the story to life just as well as the words the writer wrote do! That, I think, is the most special thing about ebooks; they help to involve readers with their extras and accessibility.

What do you think the future will be like for books, and ebooks? Will the paper book cease to exist one day, whilst everybody ends up with an eReader? Although more people are reading thanks to them, I heard some shocking facts about how, in some countries, people have only ever read books on their phone. I really hope that the proper book doesn’t fade from existence… even though ebooks seem to be overpowering them at the moment. As great and innovative as ebooks are, real books will always be the best for me. What about you?

Young Bloggers Week

Lets-Talk_Do-you-Blog

This week on the blog, we’re trying something a little different. Instead of talking about what teens want or the books we’re making for them, we’re going to let the youth of the blogosphere speak for themselves. All week, we’re taking a break from all the adult voices and giving a group of young people space on our blog. When we asked the young bloggers for blogs, all we told them is that their blogs had to be something to do with books — not our books, but books or reading in general. Some of these young writers chose to write about our books, and some didn’t, which is great! We hope you love these posts as much as we do.

Gender, Gender, Everywhere

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock recently, you’ll know that here at Hot Key Towers we’ve been wildly celebrating the fantastic news that Sally Gardner’s MAGGOT MOON has just won the Costa Children’s Book Award. There’s obviously been lots of press about the awards recently, and one of the key things people have been talking about is that for the first time ever, all of the winners are women.

This got me thinking a bit. Would we all have been quite so surprised (even if it is nice surprise) if all the winners had been men? Why is an award’s list dominated by women so newsworthy? There is a general assumption  that Children’s and YA fiction authors tend to be female, but a) I’m not sure that’s really true, and b) if you were to look at the statistics relating to the gender of prize-winning Children’s and YA authors you certainly wouldn’t think so.

A lot of the credit for this blog should go to this Lady Business blog – they’ve done an amazing round-up of all the stats surrounding the main Children’s and YA prizes, and looked at the proportion of male, female and male & female protagonists in prize-winning books, and the proportion of male and female authors who won.

Surprisingly for an industry apparently ‘dominated’ by women, female authors won 56% of the awards looked at, compared to male author’s winning 42% of the time. If women really do dominate Children’s and YA fiction, wouldn’t we expect them to be winning significantly more awards for it?

Male vs Female Authors

When it comes to prize-winning protagonists, the boys clearly lead. 49% of prize-winning books have a male protagonist, compared to female protagonists (36%) and male & female protagonists (15%).

Male vs Female Protagonists

This is a bit alarming to me, but – Strident Feminist and graduate of an MA in Gender Studies though I may be – ultimately I suppose, I have to ask myself whether these gender divides really matter to the people that matter – i.e. the children and young adults reading the books. People are always saying ‘ooh boys won’t read books with female protagonists’ – but can you really say the success of something like THE HUNGER GAMES is down to only girls buying it? Similarly, Hermione Granger was recently voted ‘Best Film Role Model’ (OK, OK, it’s for FILMS but it’s based on a book people) in a poll voted for by children and teens – Harry himself didn’t even make it into the top ten.

Hunger Games

So what do you think? Should we be trying to increase the presence of girls (and women) in prize-winning fiction (heck, fiction more generally) or does it not matter? Also were your favourite characters growing up usually boys or girls – and did you care? Let us know!

All credit to Sara O’Connor, the Lady Business blog and this very interesting article in Publishers’ Weekly for sparking off this debate in my head!