Monday, 19 March 2012

warren's bologna prizewinner movie

This video gives a great demonstration of the worthy winner and highly commendeds in this first Bologna Ragazzi Digital Prize. All three are blindingly wonderful.  

Sunday, 18 March 2012

bologna ragazzi prize for dreams, numbers & farts

I've at TOC Bologna where I've thoroughly enjoyed being a judge of the  
2012 BolognaRagazzi Digital Prize - the first one ever. More on this later but here is our press release announcing: Winners and Honorable Mentions

March 18, 2012 Bologna Italy. The Bologna Children¹s Book Fair today
announced the results of the first BolognaRagazzi Digital Prize, a global
initiative designed to recognize excellent and innovation in children's
storytelling apps.

An independent jury considered 252 entries by 179 publishers from 25
countries. The overall winner and two finalists will be announced at the end
of the TOC Bologna conference on Sunday March 18th 2012.

It was a difficult choice. Among the 253 entries were many strong titles
that could have made the short list, and there were many very good products
that fell outside the narrative-driven criteria.  The jurors were seeking
innovation and interactive features that complemented and extended
storytelling. The jurors hope to consider a wider range of digital platforms
in the future as well as the opportunity to recognize the broad spectrum of

After looking at the entire pool of entries, the jurors issued the following
statements. "It is clear that many children's authors and publishers are
starting to catch on to digital techniques. We saw repeated examples clever
and imaginative work.  The jurors stated: "these are not books and they
can't really be compared to books." They also stated "we recommend that
future contests consider a wider range of digital platforms, besides just
the iPad in search of a broader spectrum of innovation."

Despite coming from separate continents, the three winners shared a common
attribute. They provided children a rich, engaging experience while not
losing their connection to storytelling, writing and illustration. The
jurors were especially concerned with how the interactive media complement
these elements.

The Winner:
Dans Mon Reve by e-Toiles Editions from France
This is a surreal and poetic app, updating the traditional heads bodies and
legs format in a way that can only work on multi-screen. It leaves space for
a child¹s imagination and provides a setting for collaborative play, all
while breaking away from the page-by-page way of thinking.

Honorable Mentions:
The Numberlys by Moonbot Studios LA LLC, USA
Anyone who doubts that power of the multi-touch screen for storytelling
should see this hugely impressive feat of design.  Despite providing a
critique of totalitarianism; it somehow manages to provide a rich language
experience in a way that promotes social play by offering games that two
children can enjoy together.

Quem Soltou o Pum? (Who Let the Fart Out?) by Atendimento Editora Schwarcz
Jurors said: This a wonderful example of using basic interactive techniques
with wit and intelligence, while telling a story that any child knows very
well: how to deal with a messy dog.  Many apps feature children as narrators
with varying success --  here it works beautifully.

The jurors were Warren Buckleitner from Flemington, NJ USA Editor of
Children's Technology Review, André Letria from Lisbon, Portugal; an
Illustrator and Publisher; Chris Meade of London, England Director of
if:book UK, a think and do tank exploring the future of the book, and
Cristina Mussinelli, Milan, Italy of the Italian Publishers Association.


At the Bologna Bookfair Tools of Change conference today I chaired the session When Worlds Collide: The Intersection of Book, Games and Online Communities for Kids

A conversation exploring theory, technology and tools behind interactive stories and online communities for kids.
with two co-founders of companies doing fascinating work.  
Wired wrote about one of their games that ”…big developers of eBooks should take a look and see what they can learn from this story — it is more than touch points. The inter- activity is woven into the plot, making it a real adventure.”
CHRISTIAN  DORFFER co-founder of MINDSHAPES is creating an ambitious community for pre-school children called MAGIC TOWN based on providing a safe online environment where children can encounter stories by the world's best (and most popular) writers. They've raised big money and done deals with the major publishers. Christian's focus on the developmental needs of young people and how best to provide these and Erik's skills and experience of shaping the elements of a game are hugely relevant to the need to find a grammar for new kinds of storytelling. 

How do we identify literary, book-related quality in apps and multimedia without falling back o old assumptions of what is 'booklike'?This was a big issue in judging the prize where, for instance, the amazing UN JEU, based on a groundbreaking abstract picture book for very small children, was deemed a game not a book app, yet it has a creative spirit that feels playful in a children's book-like way. No apologies for focusing this year on narrative based work, but we need the opportunity to celebrate the category-busting work  - and not forgetting literature made directly by writers and published free on the web. This is why if:book UK has decided to support and promote the International New Media Writing Prize, working with Bournemouth University. 

I think we're moving towards a completely different way of defining what we do across different forms and media, in relation to the quality and style of engagement generated by what might be a book, film, game, story, community or... whatever. 
These worlds don't need to be on a collision course; they are beginning to notice each other, learn from each other and create together. 

The start up business brain walks into an established sector and aim to think of a product that hits the spot. Likewise the writers of tomorrow and today can begin to explore a theme or story - and do that publicly if their wish - before deciding what form or business model will suit the final work once it's fully cooked....which leads to the big question of whether the traditional narrative arc of beginning middle and end is really appropriate for the way we lead our lives now, or for the platforms that now exist for distributing our thoughts and stories. The tedium of so many movie plots with formative years leading to car chase and happy ending makes one wonder if we've used up all the permutations of the seven stories long ago. 

Let stories, games and communities intermingle, innovate and thrive!

Thursday, 15 March 2012

big sky and the space between us

In December I spent time in Australia working on consultation meetings for a Writers’ Strategy for Queensland. Remember those halcyon days when we had strategies about such things in the UK? For Australian literature organisations there are massive benefits to digital tools which can connect communities of readers and authors spread across vast areas, can create appropriate distribution platforms for indigenous oral narrative forms, and  can distribute and promote authors who need an international audience to have any chance of earning a living. Of course there’s a threat to Australia’s small but thriving independent booksellers, but an exciting challenge to adapt to change while remaining true to first principles.

Back in the UK I recently interviewed a cluster of emerging British writers about their perspective on the transformation in publishing that’s taken place over the past few years ago and was shocked at how immersed they still were in a view of literary culture that’s constrained by the technology of printing on paper. 

Creative writing courses and community workshops take on a whole new power in the digital age in which no arbiter can decide from on high who does and doesn’t deserve a wider readership. We can all gain from learning to write better, and while I understand concerns about quality and the pressure for work being rushed into the public domain before its fully cooked, it’s time to embrace at a fundamental level a model for our writing lives which focuses on what the web can do rather than clinging to doing things the way they had to be when a published book was the only vessel for words on offer.

The Literature Sector should be at the vanguard of change, but despite the best efforts of some, many of whom are speaking on March 27/28th at the NALD conference THE SPACE BETWEEN US, the commercial publishing sector feel they own the discussion about the literature of tomorrow, failing to recognise or acknowledge how utterly the space between our words has been transformed.

This year if:book UK will be working closely with the New Media Writing Prize, launched two years ago by Bournemouth University, a spur to encourage more writers to experiment with the new palette of digital possibilities for literature. We don’t need publishers or bookshops or digital start ups to start making work that is genuinely inspired by new means of communication and community. We can find collaborators and tools and business models for ourselves and get stuck in to the really exciting bit: creating compelling, illuminated fiction and poetry, made in the light of how we read, write, see, hear and share now.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

new media writing forum

if:book UK is working with Bournemouth University to promote and develop the New Media Writing Prize, now in its third year. The Prize will be a central element of our work to explore digital possibilities for literature. 
More on this soon, but I'm delighted that Andy Campbell has launched  The New Media Writing Forum (  a new hub for writers who are thinking of - or who are already – combining their work creatively with digital media. 
Here's more from Andy:


Established and hosted by Dreaming Methods in association with Bournemouth University, the New Media Writing Prize and Crisscross (award-winning digital writer Christine Wilks), the forum encourages the sharing of ideas, techniques and resources as well as general networking and discussion.

Members include pioneering digital writers/artists Jim Andrews (, Kate Pullinger (, Alan Bigelow (, Jhave ( and Chris Joseph (

The New Media Writing Forum is free to join and already contains some great articles and links to useful resources. If you’re working with writing and new media, why not check in?

Interactive Storytelling and Games

Writing and Publishing in a Developing Field

Writing for Games

Flash versus Javascript

Duel – A Digital Fiction Thriller

Completely free digital fiction source code and resources

                                     Moon over if:book HQ  

Friday, 9 March 2012


                                      The Vancouver team at work on the 24hr book

Article written for

LEAP, The International 24 Hour Book, was a project produced by Sarah Butler - the author who recently signed a two book deal with Picador - and Ben Payne, Co-Director of the wonderful Ministry of Stories.  It was commissioned by Spread The Word, the literature development agency for London, collaborating with groups of writers and editors in London, Kuala Lumpur, Vancouver and Delhi, co-ordinated by the British Council in Malaysia, the German Book Office in Delhi and W2 Community Media Centre in Vancouver.  

The 29 writers involved worked together on a novel called LEAP, which was both written and set on the leap day of the 29th February 2012.  It was published as e-book, designed by Alistair Hall of We Made This ( the next day, World Book Day.  It’s available as an e-book now for free at  You can also visit the Facebook page to see how the day itself went. 

As well as writing a few pages of it, my role was to run workshops with each cluster where we got to grips with how to share the creative process using the simple tool of Google docs, free to use and available to all, which makes it possible to work together on one document. It was astounding and beautiful to watch writers in India as they composed, seeing a sentence being stretched and kneaded, words appearing and disappearing, growing slowly like yeast, like friendship cake, but tastier, expanding across the page. 

We made the first 24 hour book a couple of years ago with some of the same people and it can be read still at   The brilliant Kate Pulllinger oversaw us;  the structure involved a set of allotments in Lambeth. We worked on our individual gardeners and their stories, then brought them together, like actors improvising, to meet and mingle. The new book, LEAP, has a more linear structure with one main character per city.

Plotting had to be agreed on together before individuals and pairs picked different sections to focus on, with Sarah and others providing a final write through, before handing over to Juliette Mitchell, our editor in chief, and her team who edited the final work. During the day Alistair Hall, who also designed the book, travelled on the Number 4 bus route tweeting in the identity of the lead London character, sending photos of his journey to inspire us.

You can read the results at and download it as an ePub file to your iPhone.  The Kindle version is coming soon. I’m still in the process of reading our collective work, but the process once again gives me confidence that there’s a huge future in collaborative writing, to make whole books and new forms of reading experience. 

Next up if:book Australia is organising its own 24 Hour Book on the 11th June with some exciting writers including some I met when in Brisbane working with Arts Queensland on consultation towards a Writers' Strategy for Queensland. 

Friday, 2 March 2012

24 hour book...

...was a pleasure to work on with writers in KL, Delhi, Vancouver and London.
Thanks to Ben Payne, Sarah Butler and all involved.
to download ePub of

 One of the photos tweeted by Dave Martin as he wandered the route of the Number 4 Bus
London writers eat their way to inspiration