Martin has been busy updating Lightning Bug, including a great new page with a bunch of writing exercises.
He's also started a blog called Scuttle Bug. The plan is to get some guest contributors to write posts about writing - from the planning stages to the end result. He already has a few writers lined up, including yours truly, I'm going to write a post about characterisation in a few days. The first one is already up, by Martin about mind-mapping for story planning. Hopefully, like Lightning Bug (which gets hundreds of visitors ever day and has had lots of positive reviews and reception online) the blog will end up being a great resource for a range of writers and educators.
Because Martin is just across the table from me, I asked him a few questions, which turned into the interview below.
Why did you update Lightning Bug?
Because of feedback I received from school groups, home educators and writers about making it easier to navigate, plus suggestions about the general look of the site and resources they wanted.
Who is Lightning Bug for?
Lightning Bug is for everyone! For already confident, literate writers and those just starting out. Plus there's stuff to help anyone who has to write write a story for school if they're not really into writing.
Who is using it now?
It's really popular with homeschooling networks. School and university groups. And I get lots of nice feedback from individuals, from Masters Students to younger kids who have found it by themselves.
Have you had an opportunity to use it in the classroom?
Yeah and the kids respond well to it and use it as a homework resource. One of the kids from North Fitzroy Primary School came up with the writing topic this month for Firefly.
How would you recommend a first time visitor should use the site?
Depends what stage of writing they're at. If they're really just beginning, they could go to the 'what sort of writer are you?' page. If they're looking for story ideas they could go to the develop a story idea or writing exercises page. There are ideas for breaking writer's block on the finding inspiration page. If they have a story already they might like to submit it to Firefly.
What made you build Lightning Bug in the first place?
To help young adults engage with story writing, because it's such an effective way to express a point of view and because I'd seen it in action in classrooms. But also I wanted to design a story writing resource that catered to adults as well, and I wanted to find a way of marrying the skills that I'd gained from a professional writing and editing course and what I'm learning studying Education, plus all the years I spent working in information technology. Carlos Fuentes said 'Writing is a struggle against silence.' I think it's really relevant for young people, who need to find a voice to speak for themselves, to struggle against the fact that sometimes no one seems to be listening. To learn to express yourself articulately and with originality is like finding a key to the adult world.
What inspired the 'What kind of writer are you?' page? That's really quite a unique approach, isn't it?
The Thinking Hats of Edward De Bono. For particularly young authors who are less confident about their writing abilities, it shows that you don't have to be a particular kind of person to be a writer. If you're sporty, you can still be a writer. Steven Herrick, who now writes verse novels, used to be a football player at school. There's ideas for people who are more visual, or for kids who like science or maths.
Why a blog?
Because it's another way to help engage reluctant writers and encourage regular writing which is a key to develop as a writer. It's also a way of discussing and engaging with ideas about writing and technique, like the mind maps. I'm hoping that the blog will help broaden Lightning Bug as a concept, with a more active involvement from the Lightning Bug audience. I'm hoping it will get young writers more involved with using it as an active resource (not just a static piece of reference material). It also makes it more accessible for some writers. The only way to be involved before was to send a story through to Firefly once a month and some writers just aren't confident enough for that yet. Ultimately I'd like the comments to provide some forum for discussion and maybe sometime down the track some of Lightning Bug's users might want to contribute some articles of their own to Scuttlebug.