Storybird Studio: Creative Ideas for Educators

by Storybird on November 20, 2014

This week we launched Storybird Studio, a new suite of classroom tools for educators. In conjunction with this launch we are also kicking off a new series of guest posts to help educators discover creative ways to use Storybird with their students. Are you an educator who uses Storybird? We want to hear from you! Connect with us on Twitter, or drop us a line via email.

Storybird Studio Lyn Hilt

Although it’s not the beginning of a new school year, it is the beginning of something new. So we thought that this post by longtime Storybird user Lyn Hilt was a good place to start. Lyn is a former K-6 principal and now works as an elementary instructional technology integrator/coach in Pennsylvania. Here, she shares a creative approach to using Storybird as a school administrator, welcoming the community with her hopes for the new year.

My Wish For You

As many schools do, each year we have an opening assembly to welcome faculty and students back to school. I usually snag a few hundred photos and shoot some video of the first days of school, throw everything together in a quick iMovie and share with the school community at this event. I had already completed about 75% of this year’s back-to-school movie when I decided to try something different this year.

While driving home one day a few weeks ago, I began crafting a blog post in my head, as many bloggers often do. This particular post included a list of things I wished for my students for the coming year. I decided, then, since we are focusing heavily on helping our children develop a love of reading this year, to write a story for our students and staff to present at our opening assembly. I wanted to model my love of reading and writing and share a creation with them! I used Storybird. I was rather pleased with how it turned out, and I hope our school community enjoyed when I shared it this afternoon. It was fun seeing my book on “the big screen.” :) Hopefully other teachers and students will write some original stories to share as well!

Wishes for a New School Year, by lhilt on Storybird

My message this year focused on my desire for us to work together as a community of learners: the importance of working in a respectful, responsible, and safe environment in order for all of our needs to be met. I told them how proud I was with their ability to be flexible and embrace changes in our schedules. In addition to our focus on reading, I described various ways our students could serve in leadership roles throughout the school this year and stressed the value of teamwork and collaboration. I am grateful for the opportunity to address our school community in this manner, and I am looking forward to another fabulous year together!

Originally published on Lyn’s blog, Learning in Technicolor.

Storybird Studio logo

Storybird Studio

We’re excited to announce the release of Storybird Studio, a free suite of easy-to-use creative, administrative, and social tools for writing, reading, and storytelling.

Studio brings the best of our platform to the 300,000+ schools, libraries, and clubs who use Storybird and easily adapts to the needs of any grade level, curriculum, subject, or teaching standard.

Three different writing formats help students unlock their creativity:

• Our new longform chapter books, aimed at mature writers/readers
• The award-winning picture book, ideal for younger students
• Poetry, a fast, fun idea generator suitable for all ages

These tools sit atop a powerful dashboard that makes it easy to on-board members, assign projects, give feedback, and monitor activity—all in a private setting. And Storybird Studio works in the browser, making it accessible on any device without the hassles of app downloads, installations, or management.

With Studio, we’re aiming for a creative writing/language arts sweet-spot: inspiring and fun for writers; fast and powerful for teachers; endlessly expansive for readers; and plain ol’ beautiful for everyone in-between.

Folks seem to agree. Peter Richardson, a popular ed-tech blogger who was one of our beta testers, said: “The new tools make Storybird THE option for creative writing in schools.” (A quote quite possibly better than chocolate.)

Mostly, though, Studio represents our commitment to teachers and librarians looking for 21st century literacy tools. We’ll be adding to it regularly with new features, ideas, and support, including a blog dedicated to educators.

Sign up and give Studio a try. Or visit our FAQs to get your questions answered. And tell us what you think! We love seeing what folks say on Twitter, and we’re always  looking for great stories to share about how educators are using Storybird.

Storybird Studio logo

How to win NaNoWriMo with Postmodernism

by Guinevere on November 11, 2014

We’re eleven days into November, which means that for those participating in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, you should have a third of your novel, or about 17,000 words, in rough draft form by now. Hyperventilating yet?

The internet is full of great NaNoWriMo writing advice. Years of great advice, in fact, compiled into handy numbered lists. But you don’t need any more advice. You need WORDS. You need the wisdom of great writers distilled into action items. And none of this Tom Hanks typewriter business, either. If you’re going to make it to 50,000 words this month, you’re going to need to subvert banal literary tropes. You’re going to need shortcut keys to cut and paste. You’re going to need postmodernism.

Win NaNoWriMo with the 4 P’s of Postmodernism

Kurt Vonnegut writing advice

1. Pastiche

In addition to writing brilliant postmodern novels such as Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut also dished out solid writing advice. In an essay he published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ journal, Vonnegut encourages us to write about things we are passionate about:

“I am not urging you to write a novel, by the way — although I would not be sorry if you wrote one, provided you genuinely cared about something. A petition to the mayor about a pothole in front of your house or a love letter to the girl next door will do.”

Now, take that pothole petition and paste it right smack into the middle of your novel. (Very important: make sure it’s after chapter 6 but before chapter 9.) Format the love letter into a footnote and run it along the bottom of chapters 12 through 16. The resulting literary collage will not only add significantly to your word count, it will also effectively check off the pastiche column of your postmodernism checklist.

paranoia nanowrimo

2. Paranoia

David Foster Wallace wrote that “Good fiction’s job is to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” That’s the postmodern equivalent of a blank check to mess with your reader.

Conspiracy theories, nonsensical plot twists, even a little dose of unexpected magical realism can really keep your audience on the edge of its seat. Invite the reader into the labyrinth of your twisted mind and burn all the exits. Then convince everyone that they are being chased.

This is a good option if you’ve written yourself into a corner and can’t find a logical way out. If your writing group complains, erupt in fury and slam your fist down on the well-worn copy of Infinite Jest sitting next to your coffee cup. (Note: this will only work if you have previously distressed your unread copy of Infinite Jest. We recommend dropping it in the bathtub and drying it under the radiator.)

writing is hard

3. Poioumena

There comes a point in any great work of literature when you must quote the ancient Greeks. Or, who are we kidding, the Wikipedia page quoting the ancient Greeks:

“Poioumenon (plural: poioumena; from Ancient Greek: ποιούμενον, “product”) is a term coined by Alastair Fowler to refer to a specific type of metafiction in which the story is about the process of creation.”

Write about writing. Devote 1,500 words today to an all-out written assault on the beast of writer’s block clawing at your ankles. Describe the razor-sharp talons bursting forth from its hairy paws. Use a lot of adjectives. Name the terrifying creature after NaNoWriMo founder Chris Baty. The struggle is real, y’all. Put it into words.

4. Product Placement

They’ve been doing it in movies and TV for years, so it was only natural that product placement would make its way into books eventually. Until recently, however, there wasn’t an effective way to monetize it. Then came ebooks. Now, thanks to NaNoWriMo, you can finally make it rich as an author!

Pack your novel full of references to your favorite soda, have your protagonist rack up frequent flier miles on your airline of choice, and, above all, be sure to frequently namedrop the make and model of the device you’re using to write your novel. Then, simply notify each of the brands mentioned in your novel, sit back, and watch the royalty checks roll in.

Postscript: In reality, the last P of postmodernism is irony. The irony is that it doesn’t start with P. Actually, that’s not irony. That’s just crap luck (cf. Alanis Morissette). Irony is using words to express something where the intended meaning is opposite to its literal meaning. And if you’re participating in NaNoWriMo to make money off of product placement, well, we’re pretty sure that’s the opposite of what’s intended. Or something.

So, there you go. Keep writing. You’ve got this under control. And if, in the end, your novel is unreadable, don’t blame yourself. Blame postmodernism.

November is Picture Book Month

by Guinevere on November 6, 2014

illustration by littlepinkpebble on Storybird

We’re of the opinion that every month is picture book month, but there’s nothing wrong with celebrating a good thing. So in honor of November officially being Picture Book Month (see what we did there?), we’re posting a few of our all-time Storybird favorites. Just click on the book covers below to start reading.


First up, a sweet tale of a boy, his Granny, and the stories they shared.


A hilarious cautionary tale of the dangers of sleep deprivation.


What’s the point of living when the best thing you can find to eat is cabbage root cake?


A silly commentary on the quest for true love—or, whatever, he’ll do.


And since no picture book roundup would be complete without some adorable furry creatures, here you go.

A new Storybird identity.

by Mark on August 13, 2014

 

storybird logo

Meet the new Storybird.

Seventy percent fowl, 20 percent once and future king, and 10 percent derp, our new mascot replaces the much loved icon that has graced Storybird since our launch.

See, we kept running into a little problem:

People confuse us with Twitter everyday. Even though our pudgy budgie predates Twitter’s up-and-to-the-right bird-in-flight, and even though ours is a clever trompe l’oeil made up entirely of apostrophes—we’re pretty keen on standing out from the crowd. “Birds of a feather flock together” has never been our thing. We like being different.

So we bid farewell to our original Storybird logo and went back to the drawing board.

First there was origami bird, inspired by our Art Director Tyler’s son who is currently going through a paper folding craze. We found OB breathtaking, but a bit sharp. Possibly harsh.

Next came the comment bubble/book/bird mark. Working from a brief from our cofounder Kaye, Tyler developed this mark to symbolize community, books, and, natch, a bird. It was clever and extensible, but we eventually abandoned it because it lacked personality.

Personality was, in fact, at the heart of our search. We wanted whatever replaced our inaugural icon to have character. To BE a character.

Enter Sam Dallyn, a UK designer we’ve known for years. We explained our situation to Sam and a couple of weeks later he produced “Owl”.

Owl was cute. Owl sat on a perch overlooking our name. And our name now included an intriguing use of period marks to replace the stems of the “r”.

But Owl felt a bit young for us. We debated this for a week and in the interim Hootsuite rebranded. Owl was out.

We asked Sam to have another go. “More character!” we said. Kaye, inspired by the story of the Swan Princess, asked him to try a bird with a crown.

“Why a crown?”

“Backstory. A crown tells a story.”

“What story?”

“That’s the whole point. We don’t say. We let people fill in the blanks.”

Storybird logo

storybird logo

And so this cheeky little fellow entered our life. We’ve lived with him for a month now, pecking away at different scenarios: our web app, our new iOS apps, posters, book covers. We like him. A lot.

And that little Twitter problem? No longer a problem.

Naturally, we fussed with the typography. Thick, thin, Futura, News Gothic…

storybird logo

storybird logo

Then Tyler pulled out HF&J’s Gotham and made this:

storybird logo

…and we were done.

Despite his origins, our little Storybird is still a bit of a mystery. A bird of intrigue. What is his backstory? Why is he wearing that crown? Does he have a name?

You tell us.

 

 

 

We’re giddy to announce that Guinevere de la Mare has joined Storybird to lead community programs.

Guinevere joins us from Chronicle Books (Chronicle Books!) where she single-handedly built their social media and blog channels into one of the most respected in the industry. She’s overseen their affiliate marketing and outreach programs, including their highly successful Give Books campaign, and is a much sought after speaker, having presented at Alt Summit, Social Media Week NYC, and O’Reilly Tools of Change for Publishers.

A writer and editor, Guinevere is also trained in visual arts and holds a BA in Art History from U.C. Berkeley and a Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies from California College of the Arts. With our focus on art + words, this was the pink icing on the artisanal cupcake.

Guinevere will work with Head of Editorial Molly O’Neill on Storybird’s social media outreach, internal community events, and a global program for writers and artists that rolls out in 2015. Her focus will be to bring the outside world into Storybird, and vice versa, both online and offline. Importantly, she resides in San Francisco, a strategic location for Storybird as it gives her unfettered access to TCHO and Dandelion chocolate and completes the triumvirate with Molly and Nick in Brooklyn near Mast Brothers and Kaye and me in Toronto close to SOMA.

Conche aside, we are thrilled to have Guinevere join our almost 20-person team. We continue to grow our programs and tools to support writers, artists, readers, educators, and families worldwide, and G’s cheeky, artful sensibilities will only help broaden our ambitions and results.

Welcome, lady of the lake.

Photo: Sarah Deragon

Hand-made stories need hand-made cards.

by Storybird on May 18, 2014

Want to tell someone you REALLY love them? Hand cut your cards. It’ll only take two months.

 

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of longform books on Storybird.

Longform is a new story format, ideal for writers and artists looking to serialize their books and build an audience, educators with students looking to master narrative skills, and readers who want to stay engaged with stories and characters over time.

Longform stories can be lengthy novels serialized into multiple chapters or a short story on a single page. They can include art interspersed throughout the story or just on covers. Writers will find them flexible and as easy-to-use as our award-winning picture book format.

Readers love the new format. It’s easy to read on a phone and notifications alert them when new chapters are published. That’s important for professional authors looking to build readership or students getting peer feedback.

We’re equally excited to announce the beta of Storybird Creative Partners and the first slate of authors and stories built atop the longform format. We’re working with ten entrepreneurial writers, artists, and agents to bring readers a wide range of exciting fiction and to study new forms of serialization, distribution, and commercialization. We’ll be adding new authors each season; professional writers and agents can learn more about the program in our FAQ.

Longform is available throughout Storybird but in beta for classrooms. Teachers can experiment with v1.0 now and expect full school integration by summer.

The first chapter of Storybird was written with picture books: 10 million and counting. With longform and our Creative Partners Program, we’re excited to usher in the next chapter and our vision to be the Scholastic of the 21st century—providing the tools and platform for writers, artists, and readers to create and share stories that entertain, educate, and inspire.

Longform Launch Writers & Artists

Alone in a Crowded Place by Bruce Wishart, art by Elizabeth Baddeley

The Archer Chronicles: Lost Boy by J.A. Stone, art by Claudio Cerri

Breaking the Code by deepfried_freak, art by Aleksei Bitskoff

The B.U.L.L.Y Club by figment68, art by Sam Wedelich

Elle McGraw: Teen Millionaire by Kay Cassidy, art by Justine Formentelli

The Endsister by Penni Russon, art by Victoria Usova

The Mystery of Dogwood Cross by Eliza Osborn, art by Ingvard the Terrible

The Shadow Gate by Myra McEntire, art by Alina Chau

Some Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall, art by Katy Betz

The Wrong Side of the River by Wen Baragrey and Natalie Bahm, art by Aleksei Bitskoff

Our response to the Heartbleed vulnerability

by Storybird on April 10, 2014

On Monday April 7 it was announced that an important technology that protects information on the internet had been compromised. The codename for this vulnerability is Heartbleed.

To use a metaphor, Heartbleed is the equivalent of laying the keys to everyone’s homes on their doorsteps. If found, those keys could then be used to enter the home and steal valuable information.

A fix for the problem (known as a “patch”) was announced soon after the news. Major online services immediately began applying the patch so they could hide the keys and stop anyone from entering their homes.

Storybird was among the first responders and made immediate changes to ensure Heartbleed would not affect our members. In fact, you may have noticed some bumpy sessions over the last few days because we were hard at work.

Given our quick response, and after reviewing the problem, we have seen no evidence that Storybird or our members were affected by Heartbleed. However, as a precaution, we have logged everyone out of the system which will require that you sign-back in on your next visit.

We also recommend you change your password—on Storybird and ALL other services you use (make sure they’ve first fixed the problem on their site. If you change your password before they fix it, you’ll have to change it again after their fix).

Also, now might be a good time to invest in a password manager like 1Password, LastPass, or iCloud Keychain. They solve a lot of headaches.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions on this issue.

The National Department of Poetry

by Mark on March 20, 2014

Grant Snider is the American Tom Gauld.