One more Web 2.0 idea for your Teacher’s Toolkit

What does a poor teacher do when circumstances force her to return to online learning at the start of the drama unit? Create a Web 2.0 tool, of course.

I spent weeks planning my unit on Macbeth prior to the winter break only to be sidelined by the spread of Omicron. At my school, we long ago decided that since Shakespeare was meant to be watched and not read, we would begin with the movie and pivot to study important scenes and passages after that.

Last year, I discovered the PBS version of the play starring Patrick Stewart and was blown away by it. The movie is available for free on the PBS site, but only so many viewings are allowed each month. In class, I can show the video to my students, racking up maybe 10 viewings (2 classes watching over 5 days), but at home, sending students to the site to watch, I am looking at more than 300 views in a week, which helps to push the quota and shut down the availability.

My only other choices for cinematic quality movies (not stage productions) are the Fassbender version–featuring a nude Lady Macbeth–and the Polanski version–which shows Macduff’s son in full-frontal nudity and soldiers raping Macduff’s servants in the background of the scene that seals his family’s fate. Needless to say, neither is suitable for viewing in a grade 10 classroom. Unlike when we watch face-to-face with the Polanski version (or the Zeffierelli version of Romeo and Juliet just after they consummate their marriage), I can’t skip over these scenes if I ask them to watch at home.

Time constraints were another issue. We lost two days while the government pondered what to do with the situation (under the guise of pivot prep days) and (as would happen later) another two as snow days at the end of the two weeks, meaning that I lost almost a full instructional week when time was scarce to begin with. It is for this reason I made the shift to teaching Macbeth using Web 2.0 tools.

To put it simply,

Web 2.0 was coined to indicate all of the interactive tools available online. These tools “enable users to create, share, collaborate and communicate their work with others, without any need of any web design or publishing skills.

Using YouTube and Google Docs, two Web 2.0 tools, I created my drama unit as follows:

  1. Students were given copies of the organizer.
  2. We watched videos of important passages and/or scenes on YouTube (links in handout for easy access).
  3. Students were given 5-10 minutes to annotate the passage (we learned how to annotate early in the semester).
  4. We took up the answers to the given questions.
  5. I made notes on a master copy that I later shared with students.
  6. Students completed a Google Form diagnostic quiz after each act to test their understanding of what was discussed as we took up the questions on the organizer.

This took us 6 days (+/- one day) of classes to complete. The nice thing was that it killed two birds with one stone: not only did we watch the important passages, but we also went back to make sense of them.

The reason this worked so effectively was due to the work done on the context of Macbeth prior to beginning the play, which included watching the Animated Macbeth (also on YouTube), looking at character relationships, and act-by-act breakdowns of the play. Because students began this task knowing the specifics of the play, it was okay (I think) if we didn’t watch the whole play (which we couldn’t without breaking copyright or my responsibilities as a teacher).

Here is the link to the Google Doc I shared with students.

For more ideas as to how to integrate Web 2.0 tools in your classroom, buy 22 Practical Ideas: Web 2.0 Teacher’s Toolkit by Elise Abram on Amazon.

Elise Abram is an educator in the GTA. She is the owner and operator of EMSA Publishing.

Children’s author donates to Watarrka Foundation

Congratulations to children’s author Jan Lillefjære on the publication of his latest book, Åse and the Honeybees. This marks the fifth children’s picture book Jan has published with EMSA Publishing. Other titles include Tales from Lofoten, The Curious Misadventures of Ase the Bear, Matylda Goes on a Walkabout, and Kakadu. Each of these books follows the adventures of adorable forest animals.

Recently, Jan Lillefjære was featured by the Watarrka Foundation, a non-profit whose goal is to “deliver programs that support a sustainable environment, education, healthy lifestyles and independent livelihoods for Aboriginal communities in the Watarrka region.” Jan has pledged to donate the proceeds from the sales of his books and related merchandise to the foundation, which is both generous and admirable.

To buy any of Jan’s books, please click on the book title in the above post.

Read “Children’s Book Author Generously Donates to the Foundation.

Visit the Watarrka Foundation‘s website to learn more about this excellent charity.

Discover more about author Jan Lillefjære on his website.

3 Books supporting Children’s Mental Health

To purchase a Heddy doll, please contact admin@emsapublishing.com. Dolls are $25.00 plus shipping.

EMSA Publishing announces a new series for children to support mental health.

Heddy and Harry the hedgehogs and Luna the Unicorn have mental health conditions that affect their mood, thinking, and behaviour. Heddy is sad, and she doesn’t know why (depression). Harry has a lot of energy (ADHD). Luna is afraid of storms. With a little help, they all learn how to overcome their conditions to live happy and productive lives.

It is the hope that children will see themselves in these cute and colourful characters, know there is help available to them, and that they can control their fears and anxieties rather than letting their fears and anxieties control them.

Book 1–Heddy is Sad

Heddy is sad, and she doesn’t know why.

Heddy the Hedgehog is challenged by sadness. She is grumpy, has negative thoughts, and she blames herself. But Heddy is not alone.

Heddy is Sad is an excellent book for educating children, youth, parents, friends, and caregivers how to support a loved one in need.

Book 2–Harry has too much Energy

Harry’s doctor tells him he has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. At first, he is scared by what that might mean, but then he realizes that his ADHD comes with some awesome abilities.

All too often, we focus on the negatives that come with a diagnosis of ADHD. It’s time that changed, and we begin to focus on the positives. Harry has a lot of Energy is an amazing book for helping children, youth, parents, and caregivers who have first-hand experience with ADHD to see the upside to this unique condition.

Book 3–Luna is Afraid of Storms (coming soon!)

Luna the Unicorn has a debilitating fear of storms. At first, she is afraid, and she hides under her covers, but all of that changes one day.

We’re Growing!

Image Credit: Open Clipart Vector | 27422 | Pixabay

EMSA Publishing is pleased to welcome Brittany Abram, our new graphics specialist.

Brittany is a student of media design, and In-Design and Photoshop expert with an eye for aesthetics and graphics.

She will be working to produce beautifully-designed, next-level covers and interior formatting.

Welcome, Brittany!

Fun and Funky Interior Formatting

Here are a few samples of my latest creations. 

A. Skull chapter display was created for a book about vampires.

B. Clock hand–a great way to showcase that the book is a time travel story.

C. Simple YA format with chapter numbers and titles.

D. Simple YA format  with chapter numbers and drop-caps.

E.  Simple YA format chapter numbers and titles.

The sky’s the limit!

Custom headers designed to highlight your work, genre, and/or title along with interior page formatting starting at only $35.00!

Contact me at admin@emsapublishing.com to talk about your custom header and for a quote.

 

15 Free Book Promo Sites

Author and EMSA founder Elise Abram writes about her experiences selling her latest novel, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice in a post sharing 15 promotional sites she’s found on which you can post your books for free. Check out the list at http://eliseabram.com/15-free-book-promo-sites/

                                        Image made on placeit.net

I’m on the book promo path again. Newly edited, my last book, I Was, Am, Will Be Alice will be on sale for the month of January 2017 for only $0.99. I threw a lot of money behind it for advertising in the summer when it was released, so this time I’m reluctant to put any new money into the project. To that end, I went searching online and found 15 amazing and free book promo sites. I signed up at all of them, hoping it will help my prospects, and I want to share them all with you.

Without further ado, here are 15 free book promo sites (in no particular order) you can use to help promote your book. Note that I am writing this blog post in advance of seeing my book advertised and having any sales, so I cannot vouch for some of these sites except for the fact that they allow you to upload your book for free… [more]

To Self- or Indie-Pub? The Pros and Cons

Self-publishing your books is easier today than ever before. Sites like Amazon and KoboBooks allow authors to post directly to their online sales catalogues. Other sites, like CreateSpace and Lulu, are one-stop shops that allow authors to post their work and have it distributed to affiliate sites including Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. The question is, should you self-publish because you can, or should you give her manuscript to an independent publishing house to do it in your stead?

If you’re unsure which way to go, this might help you decide:

You may need an independent publisher if you

  • aren’t tech savvy

An independent publisher will accept your manuscript in Word format and complete the formatting and uploading for you.

  • aren’t artistically inclined

Many independent, hybrid publishers will include the cover art for your book in your contract, which means you will have a professional-looking cover with which to showcase your work.

  • need some clout in the competition world

A number of contests, competitions and grant-awarding institutions won’t accept self-published novels as contenders. Signing with a publishing house, no matter how small, adds a bit of prestige to your work.

You may want to self-publish if

  • you want to maintain control

Indie-publishers have contracts preventing you from changing or posting your work for sale for the duration of the contract. This means you must be willing to give someone else control over your intellectual property for one to several years, depending on the contract.

  • you want to vary the price or “sell” it for free

Though most indie-publishers are small Internet businesses, there are still overhead costs for running them. Unless you want to run a brief giveaway for a few eCopies of your book, chances are an indie-publisher won’t comply with a “free” sale for the duration of the contract.

  • you are willing to make mistakes

You can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs, right? It takes a lot of research, planning, and trial and error to get it right in any field, and the world of self-publishing is no exception. If you have the time to make revisions, post to social media, and figure out what works with respect to advertising, then maybe you want to self-publish.

Whichever way you decide to go, the author is generally the one responsible for the bulk of the publicity and advertising when it comes to sales. Some hybrid publishers, like EMSA Publishing, will assist with this for a cut of the royalties, and at no additional cost to the author. In addition to publishing your book at all major online retailers (including print-on-demand options for paperbacks), EMSA Publishing will

  • provide a copy edit of your manuscript
  • write and post press releases
  • post to social media
  • organize a blog tour
  • keep you informed with respect to what’s happening in the publishing world

most of which are not offered by other independent publishing houses.

If you have a completed manuscript, consider joining the EMSA Publishing family. See the Submissions page for details.

Why you should be writing YA

I have a confession to make: I write YA.

When I set out of my writing odyssey, never once did I consider writing young adult fiction (or YA). But the more I taught teens, and the more I spoke with colleagues teaching English and in the library at school, the more curious I became about it.

And after writing two YA novels and finishing up a third, I have to admit, writing YA feels like coming home.

If you’ve never considered writing YA, here are three reasons why you should give the genre a try.

1. Everyone relates

Every single adult on the face of this earth was a young adult at one point in time. And while I may never have had to compete for my life in a game, or never attended wizard school, I can nevertheless relate. Writing YA forces me to think outside of my comfort zone, to a time when bullies scared me,  and I had to fight my parents for my independence, and I wanted to die after getting a huge, red and white zit on the tip of my nose. Writing YA brings me back to a time when even the smallest failure felt like a catastrophe. Now imagine being at a tender age and a part of a real catastrophe. Facing a major event you don’t understand from a heightened, hormonal point of view can’t help but make for an interesting story.

2. Shy away from nothing

Remember Judy Blume? She was popular in the seventies and eighties because she wrote about sexual awakening, acceptance in the family unit, and questioning your religion. Times have changed drastically since then. War continues to be a threat for some and a reality for so many. Terrorism, cyber-bullying, sexual predators, drugs and date rape are also reality in too many social spheres. YA fiction depicts teens coping in the modern world with issues that might send any sane adult into the corner to weep.  Seeing someone cope with their problems and emerge victorious can’t be anything but empowering for readers of all ages.

3. Writing YA is hard challenging

YA fiction is not a watered down version of its adult counterpart, and writing it is hard. Narratives have to be smart with endearing, quick-witted characters. Worlds have to be immersive. Storylines must be believable. If you take YA on as a challenge, you will go down in the annals of literature with the likes of JK Rowling, Veronica Roth, Jodi Picoult, Johm Green, and James Dashner—no small feat….if you are up to it.

What genre do you write in? Is your manuscript complete? Whether you write for middle-grade (8 – 12), young adults (12 – 18), new adults (18+) or just plain adults, EMSA Publishing wants to hear from you.

2 Reasons Why Self-Editing is Hard and 5 Ways You Can Make it Easier

Having an edited, ready-for-publication manuscript is paramount when searching for a publisher or an agent. Some vanity publishers—like EMSA Publishing—will provide editing in exchange for a percentage of the royalties. Others will provide you with a list of approved editors and ask you to pay from your own pocket for their services. Similarly, when self-publishing, the onus is on you to self-edit and/or hire an editor to get your manuscript up to standards.

In today’s economy, hiring an editor isn’t financially feasible for most of us. Authors are forced to become jacks-of-all-trades as a result, writing, publishing, advertising and editing on their own. Out of that array, editing is perhaps the most difficult to master, especially when it’s on your own manuscript.

Two reasons why self-editing is hard

Reason One – lack of education

Whether your highest level of education is a high school diploma or graduate degree, chances are you were never formally taught grammar in school. This is especially true if only a decade or so has passed since your graduation. I remember, in middle school,  having to parse sentences to pick out the subject, object, predicate, etc. I was never very good at it because I was never formally taught any of the rules. My knowledge of grammar is more intuitive than practical—if it sounds good, it’s probably grammatically correct. When in doubt, I can always look it up online, a luxury I didn’t have in middle school.

Reason Two – it’s not how our brains work

As a writer, you’re too close to your work. Nick Stockton’s article, What’s Up With That: Why It’s So Hard to Catch Your Own Typos, says writing is a critical thinking task. When you challenge you brain with higher-level thinking, it tends to generalize. You remember where you wanted to take the story and  your brain fills in the blanks, glossing over the errors. It’s hard to edit your own work, not because you can’t or don’t know how to fix the issues, but rather, because you know what should be on the page so well that your brain doesn’t realize it’s not there.

Even with the cards seemingly stacked against you, there are still techniques you can use to help with this aspect of the publication process.

Five Ways You Can Make Self-Editing Easier

  1. Give yourself some wait time.

Put your work away for a day, a week, or a month. If you give your brain time to forget what you’ve written and come at it with fresh eyes, it might help to find issues you missed before.

  1. Read your work aloud.

Sometimes hearing your work will help you to find grammatical problems. When you read, don’t just vocalize your words. Read slowly and really try to listen to what you are saying.

  1. Pay attention to spell- and grammar-check, but be skeptical.

Sometimes, spell- and grammar-check marks correctly spelled words and stylistic sentences as incorrect. While that doesn’t mean it is an actual error, it is worth checking it out. Check online against the rules when in doubt.

  1. Use online applications to help with the process.

Websites like PaperRater that have built-in grammar and style checks can be useful, but take all suggestions with a grain of salt. I particularly like the HemingwayApp site which marks difficult words and sentences, and highlights phrases in passive voice. HemingwayApp will also categorize your reading level for difficulty, which can be helpful to for authors writing for children and teens.

  1. Read your work from the bottom up.

Fool your brain by reading your work backwards, sentence by sentence. This can help you find sentences that don’t make sense, or those with errors in grammar, even though it’s a really awkward way to review your work.

Do you have any other suggestions or sites that will help with the editing process? If so, please share them in the comments below.

Beginner’s Guide to Building an Online Platform

Most of my experience in the world of publishing has been helping friends and colleagues to get their work published, so I never had the need to create a social media presence for what I do. But when I decided to go pro, I realized that my business was going nowhere without an online platform.

Starting an online platform from scratch is a lot of work with little return, at least in the beginning. Nevertheless, in today’s digital market, it’s exactly what I had to do. It’s also exactly what many first time authors need to do, and so I thought I’d share the process with you.

Without further ado, here is my beginner’s guide to building an online platform:

Claim your domain name.

A domain name is how potential fans will find you on the web. You can choose from virtually any name or phrase, so long as it hasn’t already been registered. Many authors choose their book title as a domain name, but I suggest using the name under which you publish. That way you can create a separate page for each book and keep site maintenance to a minimum.

Build a web page.

Take a breath…this isn’t as daunting as it sounds. There are quite a few really good point and click interfaces out there. I like WordPress, but you can also use Wix or Weebly and forward your domain name to your site. Pages you might want to include on your site include synopses of your books including buy links, and a brief biography which lists ways to contact you. While a blog is not mandatory, it’s a good way to pique reader interest, particularly if you blog about writing and the writing process, and/or the subject and genre in which you write.

Claim your social media accounts.

Create a Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, GoodReads, Pinterest, Storify, and GooglePlus account in your name. If your name is taken, try adding the word “author” or “books” to it. Social media is a great way to publicize your work and draw reader attention.

Link your social media for cross-posts.

You can join your social media accounts to post to each other, which is a huge time-saver. By cross-posting, your blog can post to select social media for you, Twitter can post to Facebook and vice-versa. Same with GoodReads. Some websites (like WordPress) will even let you create a widget that shows your last few Twitter and Facebook posts on your website. GoodReads has code that will display your To Be Read list, or the title of the book you are currently reading in a sidebar, all of which can help make connections between you and your readers. Use a scheduling site like HootSuite to enable you to post during peak hours, if you can’t physically post at those times yourself.

Create social media buzz.

Post to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest regularly. I usually make an advertising post about once a week. The rest of the time I’m reposting materials about publishing and writing that I find on the web and that my followers might find interesting. I also post a notification to social media any time I add something to my blog or earn accolades on the web for my work. I reserve sites like Storify, GooglePlus and LinkedIn exclusively to promote posts about my own work.

Follow and friend like-minded people.

Search up hashtags for your genre and content on Twitter and follow a few of the people that post them. Join Facebook groups for writers and lovers of similar genres and content. Interact regularly by liking, sharing, and retweeting. Engage and interact with your followers and friends and they’ll follow suit. Before you know it you’ll be networking like a pro, selling books with little effort, which, after all, is the primary reason you embarked on the journey to create an author platform in the first place.

Do you have any other ideas for beginning writers wanting to set up an online presence? If so, share your tips in the comments below.