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by Tomas - 0 Comment(s)

Beyond the the lessons offered in the classroom, the complex social world of school is a rite of passage for many. Everyone's experience is different, and can range from affirming to harrowing. Luckily, there is bound to be a book or a movie that will speak to your experience. Whether you are just starting a new school, a seasoned veteran or just reminiscing, these materials may add further nuance, or comfort, to your experience.

Fatty LegsFatty Legs, a true story, is one of a growing number of books that shed light on the traumatic impact of the Residential School System in Canada. Set in the 1940s, in an Inuvialuit community in the Arctic Circle, Fatty Legs tells the story of Margaret, a young girl who desperately wishes to attend one of the church-run schools that had been established in a town. Her enthusiasm for learning is soon matched with a need to survive, as she struggles to maintain her identity within a system designed to destroy it.

Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time IndianThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is indeed based on author Sherman Alexie's childhood experiences. The story follows Junior, who after an explosive encounter with one of his teachers, leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend the nearby all-white farm town highschool. Equal parts humour and heartbreak mingle in this story, along with the two worlds that Junior occupies.

Chocolate WarA classic YA story, before such a category even existed, The Chocolate War definitely falls within the harrowing category. Through the simple act of refusing to take part in the annual chocolate sale, Jerry Renault unexpectedly throws the entire system of the Trinity Catholic Boys School into chaos, and pits him against both the local student mafia and instructors, who maintain and depend upon this system.

SmileDramaThese two graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier present two coming-of-age stories that are sure to resonate with anyone who has ever been in middle school. After a traumatic visit to the dentist, resulting in a horrifying combination of corrective surgery, headgear and retainers, eleven-year old Raina struggles to lead a 'normal' school existence. Drama follows the theatrics on and off the stage as our hero Carrie takes part in her school's production of Moon Over Mississippi.

Deathly HallowsHarry Potter and the Chamber of SecretsReally, what more needs to be said now about the Boy Who Lived... and also managed to graduate from the most famous school of Witchcraft and Wizardry?

Freaks and GeeksIn my humble opinion one of the best depictions of school life, Freaks and Geeks also launched the careers of several cast members (James Franco, anyone?) and its creator, Judd Apatow.

Napoleon DynamiteGentlemen BroncosWith Napoleon Dynamite and Gentlemen Broncos, Director Jared Hess offers two decidely quirky takes on the social order of school, of both the home and institutional variety.

In addition to these Fictional stories, the Calgary Public Library also has a great selection of non-fiction titles that can help you navigate the sometimes arcane and confusing rituals of the educational system.

Drama YearsSurvive Middle SchoolMajor in Highschool97 things to do before you finish highschoolHighschool hazingWhere should i sit at lunch?

Of course, this barely scratches the surface of what is out there, so let us know what titles you would recommend!

Over the moon?

by Tomas - 1 Comment(s)

Maggot Moon

The 45th anniversary of the moon landing came and went recently, but you can be forgiven if you missed it. Here on Earth, there’s been no shortage of tragedy and conflict that overshadowed this anniversary. Of course, 45 years ago, the story wasn’t so different, and the moon landing was deeply wrapped up in it.

In the 1950s scientific research that was developed for military purposes was put towards the goal of space exploration, primarily by the two Super Powers that emerged following the Second World War. From the launch of Sputnik to President Kennedy’s promise to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, the ‘space race’ was another field of competition in the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Maggot Moon, by Sally Gardner, is set in a fictional country much like this one, but with a twist. The world that 15 year-old Standish Treadwell lives in exists as a ‘what if’ scenario… a bleak totalitarian world that resembles what might have been had the outcome of the war gone a slightly different path.

Standish is caught up on the machinations of the totalitarian ‘Motherland’ whose ambitions to reach the moon are pursued at the expense of its citizens. In the book, the moon landing is similarly a symbolic accomplishment for the government, a demonstration of its technological and military prowess. As an escape Standish and his only friend Hector fantasize about launching their own rocket. Bypassing the moon altogether, they set their sights on “Juniper”, an imaginary planet which embodies their desire to transcend the terror of their world, in favour of a new one full of possibility and hope.

http://www.maggotmoon.com/

Maggot Moon

5 Characters More Miserable Than You

by Christine A - 0 Comment(s)

Lately I've noticed that no matter how funny or fantastic my choice of book may be the main character always has a rough life. That's my favourite story really: boy (or girl!) from nowhere makes good. Who doesn't love a story about someone overcoming adversity? So in the following descriptions I've included an Adversity Check List, letting you know just how unhappy the protagonist is...

Doll Bones by Holly BlackDoll Bones by Holly Black

√ Poor
√ Abandoned by One or Both Parents
√ Physical Hardship

12-year-old Zach escapes into fantasy because he’s unhappy at home. His dad abandoned the family to pursue dreams of fame and fortune. Zach hadn’t seen him in years. Now he's back and thinks he’s going to tell Zach how to live his life. He doesn’t want a son who plays with dolls, so while Zach is at school he throws all Zach's action figures in the garbage. Zach is so upset by the loss of his fantasy characters he can’t talk about it, not even to his two best friends until they all start having nightmares about a creepy bone china doll. It tells them her human soul is imprisoned in the doll and that the friends must go on a quest to return her to her grave... or else! The trio decide they will go on a real life quest no matter what the danger or how far it leads them from home.


Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie RyanThe Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

√ Poor
√ Horror (Zombies!)
√ Orphaned by One or Both Parents
√ Unrequited or Thwarted Love
√ Physical Hardship

This book is Divergent meets The Walking Dead. The world as we know it ended seven generations ago when humans tried to conquer death. Our quest to live forever brought about an undead plague that destroyed our civilization. 16-year-old Mary, our heroine, lives in a tiny village in the heart of a vast, dark forest, surrounded by a chain link fence that keeps the “Unconsecrated” dead out and the living imprisoned inside. Her life is further circumscribed by her community’s archaic traditions enforced by the Sisterhood. The Sisterhood determines who you marry, where you can live, even how many children you can have. Things seem pretty bleak until one day a redheaded girl from the outside world appears at the gate. She’s immediately captured by the Sisterhood and despite Mary’s efforts to free her, the outsider disappears...

Far Far Away by Tom McNealFar Far Away by Tom McNeal

√ Poor
√ Persecuted
√ Orphaned by One or Both Parents
√ Unrequited or Thwarted Love
√ Physical Hardship
√ Horror

Mr. Johnson became a shut-in when his wife ran off with another man, leaving his shy son Jeremy to financially support them both. Jeremy has a special ability though--he can hear ghosts. One famous, ancient ghost becomes his surrogate father, encouraging him to study hard, get into university, and hopefully live happily ever after. When Jeremy falls for the local Amazon, Ginger, they play a little prank on the neighbourhood baker leading to Jeremy's ostracism by the townspeople and his capture by a serial killer.

Immortal Lycanthropes by Hal JohnsonImmortal Lycanthropes by Hal Johnson

√ Ugly
√ Persecuted
√ Friendless
√ Orphaned by One or Both Parents
√ Physical Hardship
√ Horror

A shameful fact about humanity is that some people can be so ugly that no one will be friends with them. It is shameful that humans can be so cruel, and it is shameful that humans can be so ugly. It would be easy to paint a sob story here, but I am trying to remain objective. So: Myron Horowitz, short, scrawny, and hideous, had no friends. From page 1 of Immortal Lycanthropes

As you’ve probably figured out, Myron gets bullied a lot but luckily it turns out Myron is an immortal lycanthrope. A lycanthrope is not a werewolf, but rather a were-mammal that can assume human form. This is an exciting and strangely hilarious story that actually ends all in one book—no waiting 5 years for the series to end!

Plain Kate by Erin BowPlain Kate by Erin Bow

√ Ugly
√ Poor
√ Persecuted
√ Friendless
√ Orphaned by One or Both Parents
√ Physical Hardship
√ Horror

Katarina Svetlana is an orphan with mismatched eyes, barely surviving in the eastern European village of Samilae. Despite her unfortunate circumstances, Plain Kate has an extraordinary skill: the ability to carve exquisite amulets which the villagers say will ward off evil and bring good luck. But once illness and hunger scourge the land, they start calling Plain Kate “witch-blade,” taking her artistry and unattractiveness as evidence she is a real witch that must be burned in the town square. After a neighbour tries to murder her with an axe, Kate gives the mysterious sorcerer Linay her shadow in exchange for her heart’s wish. This book was written by Canadian award-winning author Erin Bow.

The Drink the Wild Air Writing Retreat

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

Ever wanted a weekend where you could focus solely on your writing away from all the distractions of normal life? Drink the Wild Air is a weekend writing retreat that offers teens that opportunity. Not only can you spend the weekend working on your own projects, but the camp offers two exciting workshops taught by instructors and camp facilitators Kim Firmston and Lisa Murphy-Lamb with a third workshop and instructor to be announced shortly. There will also be opportunities to explore the wintery outdoors and get to know other teen writers.

The camp runs from February 21st-23rd at Kamp Kiwanis (just outside of Bragg Creek) and is a sister retreat to WordsWorth, a more extended camp that allows teens an intensive week of writing courses and outdoor activities. As someone who worked as an instructor at WordsWorth 2013 this past summer I can testify to the magic of the place, magic that will no doubt be a part of the experience at Drink the Wild Air this year. If you win our free pass to attend Drink the Wild Air you will be given the opportunity to become part of a very rich, friendly and supportive writing community. As director for both WordsWorth and Drink the Wild Air, Lisa Murphy-Lamb facilitates an environment that inspires tremendous growth in the young writers who attend it. She hires instructors who not only provide unique and diverse courses, but who are invested in the community of teen writers they encounter and eager to share wisdom with them outside of class. The community of teens that I met last summer were not only a very diverse, and creatively accomplished bunch, but also very welcoming and inclusive. I watched two teens that were new to the program, and a bit shy, be absorbed into this community and become more confident by being a part of it.

If you’d like to find out a bit more about Drink the Wild Air and the two courses being offered for the retreat visit their website and make sure you enter our fiction contest Just Write to have a shot at going! You have until the 25th to get those entries in to us!

Jani Krulc and the Flywheel Reading Series

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

Last week I told you a bit more about our third place prize, a prize pack of books, but included in that is a chance to read at the Flywheel Reading Series, which I'll tell you a little bit more about. Also, I'd like to introduce you to Jani Krulc, a local author who has generously offerred her time for our second place prize, a one-on-one consultation with her.

Jani Krulc is a well-known figure within Calgary’s literary community. Her first collection of short fiction, entitled The Jesus Year, was released by Insomniac Press back in April, a brilliant book in which much of the tension in the stories comes from what is left unsaid between the characters. Jani has an MA in English from Concordia University and was a past fiction editor for Calgary’s experimental literary magazine filling Station.

Jani will be meeting with our second-place winner to talk with them about the story they've submitted with encouragement for what's already working well within the writing and where there's room for improvement. She will also be happy to answer any writing-related questions our second-place winner might have.

When speaking about her own teen writing Jani says, "I wrote some poetry as a teenager, but my interest was always in fiction. I wrote realist short stories throughout high school and used those stories to get into the creative writing program at the University of Calgary." Jani also has the following piece of advice for all you teen writers out there: "Read as much and as widely as you can and take risks with your writing - experiment, mimic your favourite authors, have fun."

So if you aren't lucky enough to win our Drink the Wild Air pass, or a consultation with Jani, don't worry because you still have a chance to win our third-place prize, a pack of books and the opportunity to read for 5-10 minutes at the March edition of filling Station magazine's Flywheel Reading Series. Flywheel happens on the second Thursday of every month at 7:30pm at Pages Bookstore on Kensington, one of our much-beloved independent bookstores. Flywheel is known for showcasing the work of talented local writers, but also hosts book launches for accomplished authors passing through town. This monthly reading series is piloted by local poet Natalie Simpson and has become a hub of the writing community, where writers of various levels gather together to socialize and listen to great literary talent. If you're a little bit unsure of your ability to perform your story, have no fear, I (Emily Ursuliak) am willing to provide coaching on doing a great reading, and I'll be there to support you on the night of the reading and introduce you to some really friendly, talented writers. Think of this as your introduction into Calgary's literary world.

Ok, that's all for now. I'll be posting in a couple of days about some great books and websites that should help inspire your writing.

Teen Writer's Toolkit: Getting Started

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

So, you've found out about our Just Write contest and you're really excited to enter, maybe you've even settled on which one of the prompts you want to write about, or maybe you're going to be daring and try to incorporate both into your story. You're sitting there with your notebook open, pen hovering, or maybe you've just turned on your laptop and your fingers don't seem to want commit to the keys. You stare at the blank page before you for longer and longer, cold dread begins to ooze into your guts, your tongue feels thick and dry in your mouth. You can't seem to look away from that blank page, and you can't seem to begin to fill it and the harsh glare of its empty whiteness burns into your retinas. Ok, that was a bit melodramtic, but you know what I mean. It can be really hard to get started sometimes can't it? Well guess what, I can help you with that. The cool thing about getting to help out with this contest and write blogs about it is that I actually am a writer, and I feel like I have some helpful stuff to share with you since I'm a bit further down the road than you. But enough about me, let's get to those tricks I mentioned:

1. Make writing special for you.

What do I mean by this? Bribe yourself. I'm not kidding. What's my way of bribing myself? Well I posted a picture of all the "bribes" I've bought myself over the years just to the left here. I buy myself really nice notebooks that I often get from indie bookstores (Pages Books and Shelf Life carry some spiffy ones) but if you don't want to spend too much cash you can often find nice ones in dollar stores. I keep all of my writing books too. I sometimes like to imagine myself at eighty re-reading my writing books and thinking What on earth was I talking about?!

I couple my fancy writing book with a pen I really enjoy writing with. For me it's a fountain pen; I like the scratchy noise it makes as it flows across the paper. But maybe you have a pen that you already really enjoy writing with. Always write with that one. Just think about it, does some half-crumpled piece of looseleaf you found on your desk and a crummy pen that doesn't work properly seem appealing to write with now? Of course not. Also taking yourself on writing "dates" can help too. I take my writing book out to a nice coffe shop sometimes if I'm getting stuck. Having things like notebooks and trips to cafes makes you eager to start writing instead of dreading it.

2. Freewrite. Freewrite, freewrite, freewrite!

This is the trick I use the most. Freewriting just means that you aren't directly working on your project, rather you're writing about it. Often it takes the form of brainstorming, you throw some ideas out there like spaghetti and see what sticks to the wall. Sometimes for me it almost takes the form of "writer's therapy" where I complain about how terrible the new scene I wrote is, and I rant about that until I feel better and then eventually solutions begin to present themselves. The key to freewriting is to, well, be free about it. Write really fast and don't worry about grammar or spelling. Don't even stop to think. Sometimes I've come up with completely different angles to approach things from just by scribbling madly about it for ten minutes.

So there you are. Two tools to help get you started. I'll be posting about Jani Krulc and the Flywheel Reading Series next week and also be giving you another installment of the Teen Writer's Toolkit. So go find your note book and Just Write! (See what I did there? How I wittily worked the name of our contest into the sentence? That's how you know I'm a pro and not some hack.)

A Thank You to Our Local Authors

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

As you've already heard, one of our prizes for the Just Write contest is a bag of books by local authors and literary organizations who graciously made this prize possible by donating their work. I wanted to not only thank these writers for their generosity, but also to introduce them and the books they’ve donated.

Rona Altrows

Rona writes fiction, essays, plays and occasionally even songs and has worked as both an in-house and freelance editor for a number of years. She has two books, A Run on Hose and Key in Lock, as well as the children's book The River Throws a Tantrum, was the co-editor of the Shy: An Anthology and has also had her work published in a number of highly-regarded journals, including Prairie Fire, The Malahat Review, and Ryga, and online in Montreal Serai.

Rona donated Key in Lock to us, a poignant collection of short stories. If you’d like to find out more about Rona, or the book she donated to us check out her website.

Dymphny Dronyk

Originally born in Amsterdam, Dymphny has written poetry, fiction and drama for over 25 years. She has a book of poetry, Contrary Infatuations, and a memoir about Alberta potter Bibi Clement, Bibi – A Life in Clay and has publications in a number of magazines and literary journals. With Edmonton poet Angela Kublik, she is also co-owner of House of Blue Skies, Alberta’s newest publisher, and co-editor of the anthologies Writing the Land – Alberta Through its Poets and Home & Away – Alberta’s Finest Poets Muse on the Meaning of Home, both bestsellers. Dymphny was kind enough to donate a copy of Home & Away – Alberta’s Finest Poets Muse on the Meaning of Home for our lucky winner.

Kim Firmston

Kim writes both fiction and plays. She mentors young writers through her work in her Reality is Optional Kid’s Writing Club, at WordsWorth Writing Camp and through the Dramantics Theatre Camp. Her short story, Life Before War, was short listed for the 2008 CBC Literary Award and published in FreeFall Magazine. She was written several plays for children, two of which were performed to a sold-out audience at the 2011 Calgary Fringe Festival.

Kim has kindly donated two of her teen fiction books to us, Touch and Boiled Cat. You can find out more about her at her website.

Jani Krulc

I'll be posting more about Jani next week as she is also doing our one-on-one consultation with our second place winner, but in the meantime I wanted to let you know that not only has she been generous enough to donate her time to meet with a young writer, but she's also given us a copy of her first collection of short fiction, The Jesus Year, to add to our prize pack.

Naomi Lewis

Naomi has written two books of fiction. Cricket in a Fist was her first novel and last year her short story collection I Know Who You Remind Me Of was released and was the winner of the Colophon Prize and was short-listed for the Alberta Reader’s Choice Award and the George Bugnet Award.

Naomi donated Shy: An Anthology which she co-edited with Rona Altrows. You can find out more about Shy and Naomi at her website.

Birk Sproxton

The late Birk Sproxton lived in Red Deer, Alberta where he wrote and taught creative writing at Red Deer College for over three decades. Birk wrote fiction, poetry and non-fiction and is the author of the following books: Headframe, The Hockey Fan Came Riding, The Red-Headed Woman with the Black Black Heart, Headframe: 2, and Phantom Lake: North of 54. He also was the editor of Trace: Prairie Writers on Writing, Sounds Assembling: The Poetry of Bertram Booker, The Winnipeg Connection: Writing Lives at Mid-Century and the short story collection Great Stories from the Prairies.

My thanks go out to Birk’s wife Lorraine, a dear friend, who donated both Headframe and Headframe: 2 to us. The literary journal Prairie Fire recently released a special issue dedicated to Birk and the legacy he left behind and Christian Riegel’s essay on Birk is a good place to start if you’d like to learn more about him.

filling Station

filling Station is Calgary’s experimental literary magazine that publishes inventive fiction, poetry and non-fiction. Entirely volunteer-fueled, the magazine has been in existence for twenty years and has published many highly regarded writers. filling Station has donated three issues of their magazine to our lucky winner. If you’d like to find out more about the magazine, and perhaps even how you can volunteer or get involved, check out their website. It’s also worth noting that the Central library has copies of this magazine available for you to check out or you can pick it up at any independent book store in Calgary.

Migratory Words

Migratory Words is a writers' collective operating in Canmore, Alberta. The regular group of locals is augmented by visits from iconic Canadian authors, seduced into keeping our company by the grace of our glorious surrounds. Each year, Migratory Words Press releases an anthology of work shared during our fortnightly circles. In 2013, Migratory Words has celebrated five years with a new anthology and a new format. Contributing Authors include Weyman Chan, Sid Marty, Erin Dingle, Carolyn Yates, Charles Noble, Tim Murphy and many more!

Migratory Words was founded by poet David Eso who generously donated a copy of their recent anthology to us. Find out a bit more about David here.


WordsWorth

Our final book donation came to us from Lisa Murphy-Lamb, WordsWorth's generous director, who provided an anthology of the work of WordsWorth students from last year. I'll be posting a special blog post on WordsWorth's sister writing camp, the Drink the Wild Air Writing Retreat in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned for that!

I hope finding out about all of the diverse writers and literary organizations who have donated copies of their books for this prize has made you all the more eager to enter our contest. There's sort of a bonus to all of the prizes and that's that this bag of books, and the other prizes you have a chance of winning, came about because the literary community here is pretty awesome. I put out a call to the writing community to see what I could offer for prizes and they were all too happy to help out. So the bonus is this, even though none of these writers know you, they donated these books to you because they care about you. They wanted to play a part in helping you develop as a writer and that's a pretty big gift, knowing that you're the next generation of a writing community that really cares about each other. So do me a favour if you win these books, come out to literary events because we'd love to see you, and if you see any of these writers thank them, and tell them what their book meant to you. It will mean a lot to them, it really will.

In a couple of days I'll be posting my first in a series of "Teen Writer's Toolkit" blogs to help you get started with your story. Make sure you mark that contest deadline on your calendar: January 25th, 2014!

Page by Page

by Alexandra - 0 Comment(s)

pages staffYou always knew your Calgary Public Library card got you wicked stuff IN the library (free books, free programs, free homework help, free music, free space...) but just the other day we found out about an awesome deal your card will get you OUTSIDE the library too!

Pages on Kensington offers a 10% discount off books to any teen who shows their Library Card at time of purchase! That's ANY book, with ANY CPL Teen Library Card! We understand that sometimes you just can't wait for 400 people to finish reading the hottest title before you get your hands on it, or that sometimes you love a book so much you just HAVE to have your own copy... when those times hit, head over to Pages!

And if you're confused about the part where we said "ANY Teen Library Card", that's probably because you didn't know we now offer several different styles of cards, not to mention the chance to customize your own from photos or artwork (for a pretty penny, but could you ASK for a better cause?)! The best deal in town just got even better!

 

 

 

The boys from Pages love their ya lit!


Roaring Twenties Reads: Vixen and Bright Young Things

by Emily - 0 Comment(s)

If it’s the fashion and style of the prohibition era that fascinates you, the juicy gossip whispered beneath jazz music, or romance sparking at a speakeasy, then this week’s books are meant for you. For all those who are fans of Gossip Girl, or The Luxe, I’ve got you covered. Play some Caravan Palace in the background to get a real 20's atmosphere going!

Anna Godbersen’s Bright Young Things, the first in the Bright Young Things series, follows Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey as they flee from their mundane small-town lives to New York. Letty feels she’s destined to find fame in the big city, while Cordelia believes a gangster living there and sharing her last name may be the father she’s never known. Cordelia soon comes to know and trust Astrid Donal, a wealthy, eccentric flapper, but delving into a world of crime and intrigue brings danger, and perhaps even murder!

Vixen, the first book of Jillian Larkin’s series The Flappers, follows the lives of Gloria Carmody, Clara Knowles, and Lorraine Dyer. Gloria is the daughter of a prestigious family, and her engagement to Sebastian Grey means her future is secure, but the thrill of becoming a flapper is too much to let go of. Her needy best friend Lorraine has become jealous of Clara: to what extreme actions will her jealousy drive her? Clara is Gloria’s cousin, sent to live with them due to a dubious past that she’s determined to erase. The lives of all three become intertwined while the jazz music of the speakeasies howls in the background.