September 18, 2017

Highlighting Young Producers by Twisting Fate

Categories: Connected Learning, Digital Learning
animated characters drawing

“What if Lord Voldemort had never become Lord Voldemort? What if he found the love of his life before everything started?”

Twist FateSo teases the description of Knilesly’s short story, “The Queer Quill.” As one of the winners of the Twist Fate challenge earlier this year, it is a featured story in the recently published collection, Twist Fate: Teens Spin Classic Tales. Available as a physical book for libraries and contributors and freely downloadable, Twist Fate is a powerful collection to read through.

With thousands of entries on popular youth media communities DeviantArt and Wattpad, the images, stories, comics, and poems included in the Twist Fate published collection, illustrate the possibilities of youth production and online communication. Organized into four thematic sections — Betrayal, Vengeance, Survival, and Belonging — the Twist Fate selection speaks back to popular fairly tale, manga, and YA canons. As launching points for these new works, existing stories are largely in place for the teenagers in this collection to highlight their own interests, passions, and panache as producers.

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More than simply a static collection, I am most excited about how each story functions as a portal into online collaboration. “The Queer Quill,” for example can be found both in the published book and as an online story. In this online form, the processes of peer feedback and the metrics of readership become clearer. A comment from Wattpad member TwoSpponfulsOfSugar emphasizes the enthusiasm that surrounds nearly every entry in the Twist Fate challenge: “thank you for blessing Wattpad with this wonderful , wonderful story! >.< see?! all you need is love! i was all heart eyes while i was reading this, its so heartwarming!”

Communities, Feedback and the Unexpected

Feedback and growth as writers was found both in the localized communities of DeviantArt and Wattpad as well as from the expert panel that judged the entries. Each submission in the book was read and reviewed by a panel that includes published authors and artists. Full disclosure: I also served on this panel (I think as resident pedagogy geek); To be fair, I’m just as thrilled as most of the contestants at being able to read their work and learn from the awesome team of judges and advisors throughout this process! In addition to several online meetings, the judges collaborated via email and read through and discussed the entries that ultimately were included in the book.

While all of the judges knew some of the existing stories that contestants were remixing, many of them were from worlds and narratives that some of us were unfamiliar with. And some — too — were worlds I was surprised to see young people dabbling with. Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for all things Bowie in 2016, but tootalu’s Goblin Queen image was a personal favorite. At the same time, ThatOneFangirl108’s “Striking Back” made me take King Fu Panda way more seriously than I ever expected I would!


The Goblin Queen by tootalu.

From the Dark Knight to the Emerald Empire, the worlds that Twist Fate spans are impressive and — as a reader — initially overwhelming. There are a lot of interests captured in a collection that comes from just two popular online communities.

Reading Within and Thinking About

If you’re a regular DML Central reader, this book isn’t for you. This book was written for the localized communities of writers, artists, and fans of YA literature that frequent the spaces of DeviantArt and WattPad. Yes, some of you might identify as the kinds of fans that are also inhabiting those spaces. However, just because the selected texts that made it into this collection weren’t written for you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it. I highly recommend you read through this collection.

The more than 250 pages of short stories and images may seem intimidating at first glance, but dive in: there is bound to be something that twists your perceptions of traditional narratives. From antagonists finally getting their heroic light to a powerful subtext an original author omitted to reimagined romantic relationships, Twist Fate helped emphasize both new possibilities in fictional worlds and the importance of continuing to listen to and learn from the young producers driving these spaces.

Likewise, this book points to the power of the online ecologies that young people inhabit. Educators may have a handful of students that are passionately innovating within varied contexts. However, Twist Fate makes clear the thriving communities that we must better help connect students to (if they don’t already know about them). As Mimi Ito writes in the forward for the collection, “This challenge is an effort to connect and recognize the abundant creativity and learning that teens are engaged in through Wattpad and DeviantArt, showcasing how these sites are platforms for powerful new forms of learning to educators, parents, and others who might not already be tapped into this neverland.”

Reading the work of youth and peeking into their creative processes in the online spaces that funneled the work of Twist Fate has been a true pleasure. I am looking forward to following the work of several of my new favorite authors and artists beyond this competition. As you dive into this collection, feel free to tweet your responses and to dive into the conversations that are awaiting your voices online.

Banner image: “New Queen” by Moryapanima