2010: The Year of the Cell Phone Novel


“Keara, Ethan, wake up! Quick!” the urgent sound of their grandfather’s voice cause both Keara and Ethan to sit bolt upright.

“Why Grandpa Jim? Why did you wake us up? Is it morning?” Keara always full of questions peppered her grandfather with this series of questions.

Grandpa Jim was moving quickly around the room gathering clothes and shoes for each of them so they could dress quickly. Since Grandpa Jim usually moved at a slower pace, both children knew something important was happening.

“A fisherman from the village was just here, he found a whale tangled in a fishing net. If we cannot help the whale, it could die.” (Excerpt from “Set Me Free,” Said the Whale, a cell phone novel by: KJL)

If the Classics don’t seem to get your students excited about reading and writing, why not try a cell phone novel?

Recently while reading, “I ♥ Novels:Young women develop a genre for the cellular age”—a New Yorker article that discusses the rising popularity of the cell phone novel genre throughout Japan—I thought it would be fun to look for kid/teen-friendly English language cell phone novels…

My search quickly brought me to the kids section of the website textnovel—“a social network for authors and readers of serial fiction and the first English language cell phone novel website, allowing members to write and read fiction with their cell phones or computers, using text messaging, email and online tools”. What I like about the site is that it not only welcomes users to contribute stories, but that it encourages them to rate stories, become fans and leave comments—digital literacy skills that are increasingly important for students (and teachers) to cultivate in a hypermedia and social media age.

With a new year (and new decade) around the corner, how about teaching a cell phone novel in January?

If you’re looking for ideas on how to incorporate this new genre into your unit of studies, take a look at the m4Lit Project—a cell phone novel project and research study based out of South Africa that aims to support student leisure reading and writing in both English and isiXhosa and to understand whether cell phones can be used as effective tools for developing literacy and a love of reading amongst teens. While browsing through the project site, make sure to visit the cell phone story Kontax—“about the adventures of 4 cool teenagers”.

Happy texting!

Anna (@bon_education)

P.S. For more ideas on how to incorporate cell phones into your classroom, take a look at the post Using cell phones as teaching and learning tools.



4 Responses to “2010: The Year of the Cell Phone Novel”

  1. 1 Matthew Reeves January 21, 2010 at 2:04 am

    It’s nice to see another new article regarding Cell Phone Novels.

    First I’ll introduce myself. I’m Matt, and I’m a novelist on TextNovel. I’m very happy to see you mention it. However, I think there needs to be some corrections.

    TextNovel’s stories are not all cell phone novels. In fact, the very story you mention does not claim and is not a cell phone novel.

    To be a cell phone novel, one must:

    1. Write in a short style of writing (its free to the author how he/she decides to write the story, but its usually kept short and sweet).

    2. (Usually) Write the novel on a cell phone (although, some popular cell phone novels have been written on computers)

    3. Intend for the work to be read on a cell phone

    Most stories on TextNovel are actually just average fiction. Only a handful of authors there are actually attempting to write cell phone novels.

    I’m one of them.

    My story, “Once Upon A Christmas Wish…” is a good example of the format and style of a cell phone novel: http://textnovel.com/stories_list_detail.php?story_id=2395

    There is also “Secondhand Memories” by Takatsu, another good example.

    If you are thinking of getting middle school students and high school students interested in reading and writing a cell phone novel. You’ll have better chances with stories like mine and taka’s, then books that follow the traditional format. You want to hook your students, and grab their attention. You want something they’ll relate to and is easy to follow and read. The goal is to get them to like reading.

    Hope my comments helped. 🙂

    If you have any questions, feel free to ask.

    I certainly would love to see teachers encouraging students to read more and write.


  2. 2 readinggal January 29, 2010 at 9:43 am

    Rock on! Thanks Matt for 1) clarifying that not all stories on Text Novel are in fact for mobile phones and 2) providing a link to your story!


  3. 3 Small Off February 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    nice article, glad to able to visit your blog. I have been looking for useful information like this. I wait for other useful information.

  4. 4 Alex February 25, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Hmm, as far as I know every story that has appeared on textnovel.com can be accessed via a blackberry though the site itself isn’t set up to feed to every mobile format. The cost to set that technology up is apparently quite prohibitive.

    I’m curious to see how the coming iphone Vs Googlephone Vs Microsoft platform war pans out as the winner will see the most app’s created and therefore ultimately the creation of reduced price software for host sites like textnovel.

    As far as claiming the high ground on what constitutes a textnovel and what doesn’t well, there’s bound to be cultural differences.

    You know in Japan a rock band gets known by the way it looks in magazines. If they look good then fans buy their CD’s or download etc. In the West a band gets known and sells if it sounds good and it’s that kind of cultural difference that will play out with textnovels as well.

    At the moment there’s plenty of young women writing stories on textnovel.com that are heavily Twilight influenced whilst in Japan if a girl writes a story about her abusive father and it’s scandalous or shocking, it gets tens of thousands of readers.

    There are going to be differences between cultures in the use of personal technology… its still early days. Better to let things play out organically than to claim the high ground Matt.

    Alex aka batfink68

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