Sunday, October 23, 2011

iPoems & Other Flash Fictions

I just posted to U & D, my Wabanaki studies blog, an announcement of new works by two of my favorite Native authors, Joseph Bruchac and Sherman Alexie.  If you are at all interested in contemporary Native American literary works, please check out Alexie and Bruchac: New Texts.

As a result of writing that post, I learned that an iPoem is a format created by Narrative online magazine.  The guidelines are interesting - this is a format for the digital age. Take a minute to read the five examples provided.  My initial supposition that this was an "about me poem" could not have been more naive (and less native).  Cool that Sherman Alexie got it all! 

While I am at it, let me remind you of other interesting short formats that attract today's students:
  • the iStory, like the iPoem, can be easily viewed on an iPhone screen.  Narrative specifies that an iStory be "a short, dramatic narrative, fiction or nonfiction, up to 150 words long" (Guidelines).  I first met this form, a subset of flash fiction/sudden fiction/microfiction, at Wondermark, where it took the form of The Machine of Death.  Although I would not share that book with middle school students, I might share it with high schoolers.  Or I would make up my own constraint for submissions.  A contest has been entered, for example, or a text message has been received...  It is fun also to set your own word count: exactly 150 words is a problem-solving activity!  50 words is another commonly found limit.  There are book length collections of short-short fiction, but students really do not need too many examples.  This seems to me to be a great use of blogs or wikis for posting and commenting.  
  • the six-word story is a somewhat of a classic story form.  Hemingway has perhaps the most famous, but many literary authors have penned one.  There are collections online to serve as student models (Six Word Stories, Wired archive - edit this one! ).  Daniel Pink has written a column about it, suggesting that this format can expand the mind, or at least that it is a 21st Century format.  Here is a lesson plan suggestion that ties the form to informational text/video text.
  • a story in emails [alt. version: a story in texts] is a fun format found at times in The New Yorker. Short and sweet, fitting on 1- 2 pages, 2 columns, it tells a story entirely from emails written by a character in the story.  I love this recent example, "Dear Mountain Room Parents" by Maria Semple.  I think back to my "postcards from the novel" project and regret that I did not have students display their postcards (6 in all) as a collection, rather than randomly.  What a great way to retell a story while at the same time conveying comprehension of character and theme. 
  • and on the topic of The New Yorker, it is always fun to stir imaginations by taking the caption off of a great "story cartoon" - create your own contest.  The below cartoon, from the Oct. 24 magazine, would be great for this project.  Think of the tasks you can embed in this activity: establish reference/allusion, define the irony, identify setting, narrator, establish mood.  This is a great mini-lesson in many literary terms (get that out of the way early in the year...). Students can, of course, also be challenged to tell the beginning, middle, or end of the story in a flash format.  How much fun would it be to have those texted and emailed to you, to the entire class, or to an Evernote page!

The New Yorker, Oct. 24, 2011

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