Never underestimate the power of books !

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To a special friend…

 


“Let us pick up our books and our pens,” I said. “They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”
Malala Yousafzai


 

Of all the papers that speak about books, there are seldom those addressed to authors or writers. Generally speaking, a paper will advertise the latest publication or the first book of a new author.  

Anyone would tell that the bond between the author and the readers is obvious, hence such obviousness may also trigger the prevalence of certain gaps that need to be reminded to writers.

Once my first book was published, I was excited expecting my readers’ comments , hoping they would share more than encouraging words. In fact,  there’s been a common expression that came in the various feedback notes. It was about emotions. Yes, emotions that readers felt and discovered through my chronicles.

I was impressed and sincerely humbled as I never imagined that simple chronicles could spark such personal and intimate state of the heart.

As if people reminded me of what mattered the most through pages and chapters. “You allowed me to feel emotions I thought I had forgotten”. I assume that says it all about a book.

Whether we deliver a novel,  chronicles, essays or short stories,  we deliver a part of our intimacy to the eyes of the reader; at that point, we better be real and true. The bond between a writer and his audience is one of trust and honesty.

I learned a lot from these newly found friends (my readers), they showed me how high they put the bar of expectations for this book and eventually the next ones to come.

I rushed to my book shelves, did sort through these,  filing  those who procured me emotions during their reading. I tagged them as “my emotions books”; those I would read again with the same pleasure as in the first time.

If it is tempting to use a seductive style, or draw audience’s interest to appreciate how good writers we are; however if we cannot deliver our emotions, there are chances people will start fast reading through pages or simply abandon the volume as I did to the books that never procured me any emotion.

Delivering a book is a responsibility, a great one, our readers’ trust based on a very simple and human attitude: emotions !

Michel ©  

A Book! Creating a Story! A Story about Real Life!

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We are all storytellers, but if we are first storytellers,
and second humans, we run the risk of manipulating
our lives to create a story, rather than living out
our lives and sharing where we’ve been.

Darrell
Vesterfelt (Unblogger)[i]


 The first time someone mentioned I was a “writer” it really made me feel very strange. I never imagined I would be called “writer”. It has been over three years I started blogging for the fun, for myself, mostly because I love writing.

Nevertheless the idea of writing was persistent to the point it haunted my thoughts before I got myself into putting words about stories, these real life stories that happened to me.

From simple events to observations, taking advantage of every day’s commuting to work back and forth, interacting with coworkers in my field, and much more.

I rarely worried about finding a topic to write about. Life is such an amazing place where every second has its own story. My preoccupation being instead answering that essential question of how true my story was, and what it related to things I have lived for real.

I must admit I was very new to the world of digital writing. Most of my teachers during the various courses I attended wrote papers, some had their own blogs, and a few wrote and published books. It seemed to me the bar was too high to consider such activity.

Among the few researches I made, I purchased  a book about blogging, it was “the” trigger for my very first paper. A paper I wrote but never published. That book “Unblogger” by Darrell Vesterfelt spoke of why people would blog or write a book. A very different approach from the lot of many other authors, Darrell spoke about real life events, such events becoming stories he wrote and shared with his audience.. “Unblogger” sparked this entire adventure that has being ongoing since 2011.

One of the most challenging matter I was confronted to: deciding in which language I would like to write.

Living in a bilingual speaking country, I wished to share my papers with both French and English natives. After a couple of articles in French, someone asked me if I would not start writing in English as well.  To my worries about syntax and good writing style, a friend, who is an experienced writer and published author shared her own challenges about writing skills. She said, I remember “Write no matter what! We all do mistakes! You will never know how good or bad it is unless you write and publish your first paper” she then added, “Remember, if your subject is captivating, readers will be tolerant towards your writing” So I did, I did write and I did publish my first paper in English, it was read by 50 people, a couple of positive comments, I had all what it took to go on.

The main difficulty I was facing, and still it is, that regardless of the language I speak and know enough well, my grammatical and writing structure remained French. What a nightmare it felt when rereading myself to find a French translated text. It  lost the entire essence of the meaning. I knew it would confuse readers more than ever.

Back to square one! That is when ones regrets for not paying attention to the English teacher who provided all creative efforts to teach me grammar and syntax. Bless you Mrs. Daphne ! You were so patient with me, I owe you so much, even if I was always late submitting my assignment or being late in your class. I owe you for those little tips you wrote on the margin of my papers (filled with red ink), they taught me a lot, yes, I kept these very preciously since, on a file !

We all need to write, we all need to keep our memory alive. That is what writers do, aren’t they? Writing is first to indulge yourself, have fun. Fame and success can wait, but feeling good about yourself is of essence.

One of the movies & the books that influenced my passion for reading (and after for writing) is definitely Ray Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451”. How powerful is a book, how more powerful is a writer!

In today’s world we do not write any more, we keep ourselves busy in creating “How to” guidelines and users manuals. If kids learn to read at school it is more to read these guides rather than unleash their imagination, the imagination through writing!

Until our next chat.

Michel ©  


 

[i] Unblogger: Discovering the power of story in a how to world

When new technologies can make rules of writing fun to learn!

Collage Écrire


When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself,
‘I am going to produce a work of art.’
I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose,
some fact to which I want to draw attention,
and my initial concern is to get a hearing.”
—George Orwell


It is a well-known thing that most people have difficulties to write proper syntax, people tend to use the easiest way in writing, that is not always the best manner to express clear ideas and intelligible communication.

Some complain that young people do not write properly anymore, others will put the blame on new technologies that brought a new sort of language only young people know how to use that defies all rules of writing.

I could not agree more about the quality of writing nowadays, in most languages (at least those I know and use), but on the other hand it would be quite odd if we still used the Shakespearian English or the 16th century French syntax. I guess that would be enough unusual.

Language and writing walked us through our timeline history, from the drawings of Lascaux caves (maybe before that too) to the various expressions humans created to adapt to these times of their history.

I am not a big fan of new technologies especially when promoters make these sound as the must have solution to all kinds of issues in today’s needs, I adopt a technology when and if it provides a real value to empower people to take control over their needs in education, in learning, or in a better wellbeing. In other words, technologies must absolutely serve people and not the other way. The reason I am repeatedly pinning this idea resides to the fact that we are, today, drowned by messages from all over the places telling us what to do and what to use; messages becoming intoxicating to people’s minds and their faculty of deciding what is best for them.

The story I wish to share is simple. Simple because I learned so much about trusting young people about solutions in learning using these new technologies, and also – I confess – about writing rules!.

The project consisted to engage young people into a storytelling journey about their summer vacation. The final project being presented to their parents of course. They had ideas, they had creativity and they had the unique desire to make something that would wow their parents. They did not have sophisticated equipment, so after a quick overview of the inventory of tools, it looked limited to an Internet access and a couple of smartphones in addition to their laptops. My role for this social activity was to assist and eventually provide ideas, the entire work was their own responsibility.

This fun excursion turned to be an amazing lesson for me about rules of writing and a new dynamic approach in Project Management (PM) (the young people’s PM way!)

They decided to create a common online document where each would contribute with his or her own vacation story, adding pictures or location maps about the various places they visited with their parents.

I was curious to see what they meant with common document, as adults we would have preferred working each one on his own and spend time to polish our work and make it look the best possible, less caring about the collective team work.

One of the kids set an online web page, during their discussions on sharing tasks, I heard the word Wiki various times. I confess I had a very vague idea of what a Wiki[i] could be. I was very amused to look at them planning their activities, working on drafts, some started writing, and others were doing some searches on the Web. None of them was working alone, except each person’s own story, looking for every one’s locations, places, copying pictures, writing the legal disclaimer (I smiled with great pleasure to note how serious they were taking this aspect). Time was flying so rapidly but none would feel bored or eager to break to get home, I had to push them out of the room reminding them they also could enjoy spending time in the outdoors. The Wiki (I was still feeling this was a kind of toy or game) was getting shape, content and enriched with many photos, great titles, etc. My rational adult mind, was continuously wondering about how they would all contribute to that project as they planned. When time came for each to write down his own part, I was really surprised noting the manner they organized work. Authoring first, review second and proofreading last! Yes! Proofreading!

Could we tell how much time we need to get our projects managed with such level of efficiency?

There was a team: The content review team! Who looked at every person’s contribution, sitting with the author reviewing the grammar, the spelling most common mistakes, and the syntax! I could not believe my eyes! Young people showing me a real case study of project management and good clean writing!

The most amazing part happened when they were reviewing together the writing quality, speaking of redundant words that weren’t necessary, about consistency, used the right verb’s conjugation, grammar and punctuation rules… From a helper I turned into a learner, a true learner from these persons who took so seriously their tasks. When I asked questions about punctuation and the use of verbs, every time I was answered with clear and simple to understand explanations. So yes I was taught a lot about concision about making my writing better, remembering my dear English teacher, Mrs. Daphne who was so helpless to make me use the rules of grammar and punctuation properly, these children succeeded where she gave up on me I guess.

I also learned about the many possibilities of using a Wiki, such simple tool that enables a contributive working environment, but most of all I found that learning even the rules of writing could be fun using one of these social new technologies.

When the project was completed, we had a premier among ourselves, making sure all was as expected, and then came the day we had to gather parents and friends for The Presentation. They did plan a dynamic link to those who could not make it to the meeting on that special event (do we plan such things in business events? Just asking!) In fact all was set so no parent would miss such important moment.

At the end of that special day, I was, not only impressed, but sincerely and honestly humbled. Of all what I learned in prestigious schools, of all the amazing courses I took and intended to use in changing today’s Education, nothing taught me better than these young people thorough their own attitude and determination!

I confess it is the first time I saw with my own eyes how simple ideas, can, with the support of technologies and lots of fun, bring tangible solutions to today’s education needs, with a bonus as I learned a lot more on the art of better writing!

More than ever, I am certain that the true solution for a renewed education will come from the people who want to learn! The base showing to the top what the real needs are and how people want to learn.

Michel – January 26, 2015


 

[i] Wiki: A wiki is a web application which allows collaborative modification, extension, or deletion of its content and structure. In a typical wiki, text is written using a simplified markup language (known as “wiki markup”) or a rich-text editor. While a wiki is a type of content management system, it differs from a blog or most other such systems in that the content is created without any defined owner or leader, and wikis have little implicit structure, allowing structure to emerge according to the needs of the users. It was named by Ward Cunningham, who remembered a Honolulu International Airport counter employee telling him to take the “Wiki Wiki Shuttle” bus that runs between the airport’s terminals. According to Cunningham, “I chose wiki-wiki as an alliterative substitute for ‘quick’ and thereby avoided naming this stuff quick-web.”

Source: Wikipedia

Education through Storytelling, Reaching out Students!

00 storytelling

Image courtesy:
Storytelling as Medicine


“There are books full of great writing
that don’t have very good stories.
Read sometimes for the story…
don’t be like the book-snobs who won’t do that.
Read sometimes for the words–the language.
Don’t be like the play-it-safers who won’t do that.
But when you find a book that has both
a good story and good words, treasure that book.”
― Stephen King


How much it was pleasant for us at school when the teacher started a new lesson with the magical words: “There was once…” or some similar words. It had a captivating powerful effect where the teacher had the full class attention.

And how disappointing then it was when the bell rang ending this little moment of magic, but it was making us excited waiting for the next lesson with that same teacher, whom we used to call “The cool teacher!”

Since childhood we are told stories, real stories, but often fantasy stories, heroes stories, fairies stories, stories where it is natural for us who listen to feel in the core of the action, not to say always as the main character of the adventure.

It is however sad when graduating to higher classes there are less stories and more “serious stuff” as if stories were not serious stuff!

I can still remember my math class when for the first time I discovered trigonometry and solid geometry, the teacher knew this would be the challenge of his life to introduce such abstract concepts into the heads of young teens, so it was through a story that we discovered the whole and amazing adventure of such science, from when it started with the Egyptian through the many steps on the timeline of human history until it reached the Enlightenment age of the 18th century at the hand of Leonhard Euler who put the foundations of the modern trigonometry. I assure you if it wasn’t a captivating story I would have never remembered the various milestones and above all still remembering the fundamentals of trigonometry until now!

How desolating it is to hear, today, students saying to me “But what do I need all this for?” or when at the end of the school year most students throw away their text books smiling at me with the so known smile to an aging person (Me) that “we don’t keep things we don’t need anymore!” Duh!

They are not to blame, simply because they never learned the story of every single thing they received from their teachers at school… How often I felt the condescending smiles of colleagues when I shared about storytelling to my student in multimedia, the story of colours, or typefaces (I used to tease fellow teachers asking them what was the difference between a serif and a san-serif typeface or what were the primary colours… I really enjoyed their faces staring as I was speaking Klingon) yes because we also learn about colours and typefaces in Multimedia!

An amazing well-known story from the creator of Tintin the reporter whose adventures captivated generations of young people and adults. HERGÉ[1] (The author) never travelled to any country, yet he told stories of around the world, he even inspired the future of space adventure when he described the laboratory of the space ship that took Tintin and his friends for their first step on the moon (Destination Moon).

People need the imaginary and love stories they can find themselves in as actors or better as heroes, our popular heroes Superman, Batman and all the others who kept generations in their dreams of the fantastic! Making their heroes also people from the ordinary able to do amazing things for their kind. Education is what people need the most to attain their dreams, connecting both has never been as important as in our days. Our history must continue so the coming generations will be able to continue our passage in humanity’s timeline.

How much of a story teller are you? How many stories do you tell to your students every day? Yes they need to learn and capture knowledge, but how nicer would it be the way they like, we can be sure they will remember their stories of knowledge forever…

Michel – December 19, 2014


[1] Georges Prosper Remi: (22 May 1907 – 3 March 1983), known by the pen name Hergé, was a Belgian cartoonist. His best known and most substantial work is the 23 completed comic books in The Adventures of Tintin series, which he made from 1929 until his death in 1983. He was also responsible for two other well-known series, Quick & Flupke (1930–40) and Jo, Zette and Jocko (1936–57). His works were executed in his distinct ligne claire drawing style.