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mercredi 19 octobre 2016

Kai Strand: some thoughts about the first Skype interview (by some of my students)

Today, some students wrote a post in honor of Kai Strand who did the first Skype interview with them.
Thanbk you so much to them and to Kai!

Last Thursday, the 10th grade OIB class got to know the American writer Kai Strand whom they met during a Skype interview. It was a neat opportunity because most of us had never done a Skype interview before with a writer. Kai Strand was very nice to us and answered all our questions in great detail. We had prepared the interview during a lesson the week before by preparing all of the questions we wanted to ask, and analysing an excerpt from one of her works. On the day itself, we all picked a question to ask Kai and one by one we went to the teacher's desk to ask Kai our question. Here are some of our questions:

Where do you get your inspiration?

Do you intend to convey a message in your books?

Are you influenced by other writers?

I think what surprised us the most was when she told us that writing was just a part-time job for her. She explained to us that there was a moment in her life when she was a full-time writer, though she stopped doing it because she said it was easy to lose yourself when you are a writer. It was really great to see how much she is passionate about her work. Thus, it was a real pleasure for us to ask her our questions. It’s a shame we could not ask her more! I think we were all grateful after the interview for the time she spent with us. Thanks again Kai for the interview!
Article by Kostia.

Other students’ messages:

It was really cool to meet you, Kai, it was a pleasure!!! I learnt so much about you and your writing and authors in general! Thank you very much, Incredible experience!!

Bassma: The answers to our questions were clear and detailed, Kai sometimes gave us extra anecdotes that we hadn’t even thought of!

Dara: I really enjoyed this experience, I felt it was a great opportunity for our class to meet a real life writer. She answered our questions very clearly and used accessible language. She was very nice. Thank you Kai :)

Allan: Really interesting interview, learnt a lot from what Kai said, unforgettable experience, cannot wait for the next interview! Thank you Kai!

Lila: It was awesome to be able to meet an actual author and to be able to ask her questions I was always curious about. Kai was lovely and enthusiastically answered our questions!

Mathilde: It was such a pleasure meeting you. Your answers were very clear and developed and you really seemed passionate about your work! Thank you for taking the time to speak to us!

Zoé & San: Everyone should be able to have a similar experience once in their life! Thanks for your enthusiastic and wise answers, thanks for letting us enter your fantastic world!

New guest writer! Eric Price will be my students' next guest speaker!

It is a great honor to share this post with you! Thank you Eric for being such a wonderful person!

My interest in writing books developed around the same time I developed an interest in reading them. As a child, few things interested me less than reading. But around the time I started 7th grade, a few unrelated events happened to change my mind and to begin shaping me into the person I am today.
First, one of my friends started reading Stephen King books. He’d have me read passages, such as King’s abbreviated version of “Hansel and Gretel” from the Forward to The Stand: Complete and Uncut. I found these excerpts entertaining, and eventually I discovered a tattered second-hand copy of The Shinning at the library. As far as I can remember, this is the first book I read for the pleasure of reading, not a homework assignment. I have continued to read three or four Stephen King books every year since then. He’s still one of the authors I admire most; and while I don’t think every story he writes is a gem, he still puts out about a book a year without participating in the “formula writing” that so many big name authors seem to do these days.
My 7th grade Literature teacher also played a major role in my development. She had a passion for books I had never seen, and she introduced me to Washington Irving and Edgar Allan Poe. While much darker than anything I read in primary school, Irving and Poe blended with King to form a perfect matrix for my blossoming love for the macabre. As a side note, I spent these same years listening to Ozzy Osbourne and Alice Cooper and combing the video store shelves for all the horror films I could find—from the Universal classics to the low budget B-movies that may have been filmed in someone’s basement.
So you may wonder if I’m a horror writer. The best answer I can give is sort of. I certainly do write horror, I have a book about the Salem Witch Trials I’ve been working on for several years, but it’s slow going because I want the historical elements to be perfect, especially the dialogue. My published novels, while fantasy, have elements of horror in them. In fact, I think horror, fantasy, and science fiction are genre cousins—possibly genre siblings. And my very first published story was a children’s tale about a haunted bed and breakfast.
This tale, “Ghost Bed and Ghoul Breakfast,” also marked my first serious effort at becoming a published author. As I stated before, I started writing stories around the same time I started reading them, but at first, I mostly wrote plot ideas and vague synopses. As I developed a love for comic books, I tried my hand at writing comics (I even drew the pictures, even though I have zero artistic ability). This helped me with character development, but I eventually migrated away from illustrations and back into narrative. By the time I finished college I developed a proficiency at beginning stories, but I never finished them before I started something new.
One day I came across a flyer for The Institute of Children’s Literature. I had never considered writing children’s stories, but I enjoyed reading YA so I applied and was accepted into the first of two courses I took with The Institute of Children’s Literature. These courses provided the discipline I needed to complete stories. “Ghost Bed and Ghoul Breakfast” began as an assignment for my first course; my first novel, Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud, started as my project for the second course.
I’m a natural introvert, and I don’t mind bragging about how good I am at the lifestyle. As such, I find social media a challenge. Especially the part where I say, “Hey, I wrote these books. If you like fantasy you should check them out.” Or whatever more creative, or less creative, way people have devised to say, “Buy my book.” At first, I followed a lot of authors on Twitter to see what they were doing to promote their book, but it seemed to me most of it broke down to “Buy my book.” One day I got the idea, since I wasn’t learning much from other authors, I’d start following literature teachers, especially at the high school level, to see what they were talking about. I hoped to keep my finger on the pulse of publishing trends by doing this. I never expected to develop a working relationship from it, but that’s exactly what happened.
I’ve had the honor of working with Mrs. Fasquel’s classes for the past two years. As an introvert, my first instinct was to turn her down, but I forced myself to say yes as I’d have the opportunity to work with students very near the age of my target audience. And even though this is face to face interaction, I find it easier than posting to social media. I know it doesn’t make sense, I suppose it’s because I’m dealing with a small group of people, not the thousands that could see my posts on social media.
The experience has benefited me more than I could have ever hoped. I’ve learned what the students like and do not like to read, I’ve honed my writing abilities, I’ve expanded my reading list based on some of their suggestions, and most importantly, I’ve had the privilege to share the joys as a few of the students have achieved their own writing successes.
I must assume Mrs. Fasquel’s students have also found the experience beneficial, or she wouldn’t have asked me back for a third year. This year has me excited and nervous because the students will study a very short excerpt from Unveiling the Wizards’ Shroud. My approach to writing comes largely from Stephen King’s advice. And while I consider the whole of his book On Writing invaluable, the sentence that resonates most for me is: “Good fiction always begins with story and progresses to theme; it almost never begins with theme and progresses to story.” He says basically the same thing, though less directly, about symbolism and other elements of fiction. When I set out to write my books, I wanted to write an entertaining story. I polished them to the best of my ability and with the assistance of my wonderful editors, but I daresay the students may grow to understand the incipit of my book better than I do.

And here are the presentation slides I will use to analyze the incipit of Unveiling the Wizard's Shroud with my students:

dimanche 16 octobre 2016

New Guest Writer! Erin Rhew, author of The Fulfillment series

Before being interviewed by my students on Skype, Erin Rhew has just shared her huest writer's post!
Thank you so much Erin!
Here is her website.

Thanks so much for hosting me today, Marie!!

Things I Didn’t Know About Being A Writer

I think most new writers start out a bit naïve about the process. When you look around, books just seem to sell. A big named author releases a new novel, and BOOM, it’s a bestseller. No one ever mentions all the behind-the-scenes mayhem that contributes to that bestseller or how many rejections that person received before he or she hit it big.
The first thing I didn’t know about being a writer was the process of publication. I just thought I’d write the next great American novel (as each writer aspires to do), and it would be published. Wham-bam! Just like that. But noooooo, there is a long hard road that must be hoed on the path to publication. First, a writer must send a query letter to prospective agents or publishers. And wait. Note: Waiting is the theme of a writer’s life, which is tricky for someone with ADD. Sometimes the rejections are instantaneous, and sometimes you receive them a year later. You think, “If only this person would READ my book, they’d love it.” And then, angels sing the day you get a request from someone to see more of your work. Elation fills you as you think this one may be “the one.” More waiting—sometimes as long as 6 months. And then there is the rejection—the heart wrenching, soul-crushing rejection. The person actually read your book and still said no. It’s a knife to the heart. But the day comes where someone says, “Yes,” and you jump up and down, squealing like a maniac, in the middle of a pet store. Or was that just me? ;)
I don’t think I realized how many people aspire to be authors. There are so very many of us. Thankfully, the process of publication has shifted. People have options for their books—traditional, small-press, self-published, and any combination therein. Some choose self-publication and end up with small press contracts. Some choose small press and end up with traditional contracts. While others choose self-pub or small press and are happy to stay that way. And some dabble in all—like Jennifer Armentrout. There are also new ways, besides querying, to receive contracts. #PitMad on Twitter and other similar contests are new avenues by which an author can get his/her work seen. I think it’s a special time for authors with this smörgåsbord board of opportunities and options.
Writing itself is a fairly solitary process. But after having been through it, I realized just how much support a writer needs. First, I needed a support team to help me get my writing done. I call them the Dream Team! They kept me on track and motivated while I wrote and then later as I queried. When I cried over rejections, they told me, “Stay the course! It only takes one ‘yes.’” I also needed help from my critique partners: Mary Waibel, Meradeth Houston, Michelle Pickett, T.C. Mckee, and Deek Rhew. Since they are all writers as well, they could help hone the more industry necessary portions of my piece (reduce adverbs, maintain a consistent POV, etc.). Once my book got picked up by a publisher, I received the help of professional content and line editors who shaped and molded my story into something better. And when the time finally came for marketing and promoting, I really needed other authors, bloggers, and book reviewers to help get the word out about my novel. So, what starts as a solitary endeavor grows into the work of an entire village.
Here’s a little slightly off-topic-but-still-related story: I didn’t know writing could lead you to your soulmate. Deek started out as my critique partner. I received one of his short stories to critique as I am the resident “grammar nerd” of our group. Editing his piece began a friendship that, over a period of time, grew into something more. Now, we’re married. Without writing, I would never have met him. So, being an author can change a person’s life in a myriad of ways! You never know where “the one” might be hiding! ;)
I think the biggest thing I didn’t know about being a writer is how much time I would need to devote to marketing and promotion. Even the traditional publishers are leaving most of the marketing work up to the authors. Gone are the days of authors being given high-powered publicists with their hands in cookies jars around the world. Now the authors themselves must do that work. It takes away from writing time. Whereas I used to sit and write for a solid hour, I must now promote for 30 minutes and write for 30 minutes. My process is slower. I’m not churning out the stories as I once did. Time flits away from me like a fairy I can’t seem to catch. I feel stressed, always behind. But at the same time, I’ve met amazing people. I’ve created lifelong friendships and invested myself in amazing people.
If you have written a book and are looking at any level of publication, I encourage you to pursue it. It’s worth the sacrifices. You’ll grow and change in ways you never imagined. And more importantly, you’ll never have to say you didn’t try. Always chase your dreams!

vendredi 14 octobre 2016

Guest Writer: Cathi Unsworth, author of Weirdo

I met Cathi Unsworth at Impressions d'Europe, a literary festival, in Nantes last year and asked her if she would like to join a school project with international section students. She immediately accepetd and as we were both very busy last year, everything is starting this school year!

Cathi Unsworth is a novelist, writer and editor who lives and works in London. She began her career on the legendary music weekly Sounds at the age of 19 and has worked as a writer and editor for many other music, film and arts magazines since, including Bizarre, Melody Maker, Mojo, Uncut, Volume and Deadline.

Her first novel THE NOT KNOWING was published in 2005, followed the next year with the award-winning short story compendium LONDON NOIR, which she edited, and in 2007 with the punk noir novel THE SINGER. Her third novel, BAD PENNY BLUES, inspired by the unsolved 'Jack the Stripper' murders of 1959-65 was published in 2010 to great critical acclaim. Her 2012 book WEIRDO, a tale of teenage trauma and female transgression set on the Norfolk coast was shortlisted in many 'best of the year' lists including the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year and named Book of the Year 2012 by Loud and Quiet Magazine and

Her latest work Without The Moon, based on two true crimes that occurred during the dark days of February 1942, may well be her best yet.

As well as working on her books Cathi has appeared on TV and radio including reviewing for BBC2's The Culture Show. She regularly takes part in live events, has given screen talks at The Barbican in London and performed spoken word gigs organised by Tight Lip and The Sohemian Society.

Her webiste:

It is a great pleasure and an honor to welcome her as a guest writer on my blog!
Thank you so much Cathi!

Her post:

Hello everyone, my name is Cathi Unsworth and for as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a writer.

I was fortunate enough to have been brought up in a house full of love and books – both my parents were teachers and avid readers themselves, keen to pass on the joy of words to my brother and I. So I grew up with my head in a book, escaping into different worlds – the guinea pig’s eye view in Michael Bond’s The Tale of Olga Da Polga, those of the dogs in Dodie Smith’s The Hundred and One Dalmations, and of a glamorous suburban sorceress in Beverly Nichols’ The Wickedest Witch In The World, whose leading character, Miss Smith, I still think about when I put my make-up on each morning.

Looking back at it now, the allure of these worlds was that they were different from mine and I longed to be able to step through the pages and follow the characters I loved. I must have realised that the only way I could ever achieve this was to have a go myself, as I think I tried to write my own first book when I was about six, or thereabouts. The story was about the wooden horses on a carousel who came alive and escaped into the wild, and my mother still has the little booklet I made for her with my drawings, feverishly copied from my stack of pony books, illustrating the tale.

I carried on writing my ‘books’ throughout my teenage years. Most of them were probably a mirror of the paperbacks I was still consuming in large quantities, but, looking back, I was learning from them the rules of plot, structure and dialogue as much as I was learning from my English teacher at school. I loved my drawing equally and went from school to Art College, first in the town where I grew up and then to London to take a course called Fashion Journalism, where I learned how to write for magazines.

Part of the course involved working in industry, and I spent two weeks at a weekly music paper, who took me on as a writer after an exciting spell on the news desk. Now I was writing for a living, and continued to do so on magazines for the next 14 years. Along the way, I met and interviewed some people who helped me start my career as a novelist. When I was given the job of compiling the books page for a magazine called Bizarre, I set about interviewing all the people I could whose books had meant the most to me.

One of them was a very kind man called Ken Bruen, who was a novelist and a teacher. I couldn’t believe he could fit all this work into the hours of the day, but he gave me the greatest advice that any budding novelist could have received, which is what I’d like to share with you all today.

Ken’s advice was simple. Write two pages a day, every day. If you keep that up, he said, you’ll have written the first draft of a novel in six months. Make the story revolve around something you are interested in and either know a lot about or want to learn more about, and use all the strange situations, funny dialogue, and incidents that have stuck in your mind throughout your life to give the characters their realism. Once you have invented the characters, they will help you with the plot, as you will find they often have a way of taking things over for you.

I consider Ken to be a bit of a magician, because everything he said came true and I did write a novel in six months. It then took another two years to get published, which taught me something else. Writing is about hard work and perseverance as much as imagination and the thrill of inventing a whole world on the page.

But that hard work is all worth it in the end, when you have that first novel in your hand, there is no feeling like it. You have made something from thin air that could last for hundreds of years. You have put into it all the people you love and made them immortal. And you have travelled to places, seen things and met people you could never have in real life – unless, perhaps, you really had a time machine. I can’t think of any other profession that offers this amount of time and space travel as its rewards, not even that of an astronaut.

I think writing novels appeals to people who maybe feel a bit lonely or different from everyone else, like they don’t fit in as well with the world as most of the people around them. That’s why books are such good escape hatches when you are growing up and keep on giving as you grow and learn more throughout your life. Books are friends and companions, sharing wisdom and support, and they will never desert you. To write one yourself is, I think, the most magical thing you can do.

I can’t wait to meet you all through the wonders of modern technology in February and hear any questions you’d like to ask me. Until then, keep reading and writing…

jeudi 13 octobre 2016

First Skype Interview!!!!!!

Today Kai Strand delighted us with an amazing Skype Interview! Some of the students are going to write an article but in the meantime here is a picture! Thank you so much Kai, that was fabulous!

vendredi 7 octobre 2016

OIB parents' meeting slides

If you would like to learn more about the international section projects for this school year, feel free to read this post!


And if you teach and would like to start a project with us, feel free to comment on the post!

vendredi 30 septembre 2016

New guest writer: Katie L. Caroll, author of Elixir Bound

It is a great honor to welcome to Katie L. Caroll who is one of the 8 authors who accepted to write a guest post on my blog.
She will soon share her thoughts with the 10th grade American OIB class at Lycée International Nelson Mandela (on Skype).

Here are slides to prepare the students for the Skype Interview!

And her post!

I often say that my journey as a writer began at a very sad time in my life, shortly after my 16-year-old sister, Kylene, unexpectedly passed away. Then I always amend that statement to say my journey as an author began when she passed away—my definition of writer being someone who writes and my definition of author being someone who writes for their career. The truth is I’ve always been a writer. Before I started school, my family and I wrote stories about a flying billy goat named Sam. In middle school, I began writing for the school newspaper, and I continued writing and editing for my school’s paper up through college.

I was a writer, but it wasn’t my intended career. That is until I was 19 and Kylene passed away. That was when I re-evaluated my life and decided that writing novels was a passion I had to pursue, and then it was only a matter of time before I figured out I wanted to write for teens and kids. As a reader, my wheelhouse has always been young adult literature, so it was a natural fit for my first novel, ELIXIR BOUND. It ended up being fantasy because, on the advice of my father, I wrote my first novel to give Kylene, who loved the Harry Potters books (though she only lived to read the first four), a fantasy adventure of her own.

My editing career began because I needed something to help pay the bills once I graduated from college. I landed a job as a puzzle magazine editor and worked there for eight years. After landing a publishing contract for ELIXIR BOUND, I started doing freelance work for them as a book editor. I’ve loved helping other authors bring new books into the world. I’ve cut back on my editing work since having kids and focus more on my writing now. I’m currently working on a second Elixir book called ELIXIR SAVED and pursuing publication on a young adult thriller called BLACK BUTTERFLY.

One of my favorite things about being an author is working with kids and teens on their writing. I’ve done a bunch of in-person school visits in Connecticut (my home state) in conjunction with a project I worked on called THE GREAT CONNECTICUT CAPER. Each chapter of this middle grade mystery was written by a different author and illustrated by a different illustrator, and all 24 contributors have close ties to Connecticut. Eric Price, who did a big project with the International school last year with his book UNVEILING THE WIZARDS’ SHROUD (a book I edited), contacted me earlier this year and said the school was looking for more authors to connect with. It seemed a natural fit for me to join the project. Talking about my work with students and having them talk about their own writings is very inspirational on both ends. For more about me and my work, you can check out my website at

Thank you Katie for sharing your thoughts!!!!