JAWS Entrepreneurial Fellow reveals transmedia storytelling project

Melissa LudtkeJAWS members attending the Conference and Mentoring Project (CAMP) will be able to talk with JAWS’ first entrepreneurial fellow Melissa Ludtke about transmedia story-making and the story she is telling — “Touching Home in China: In Search of Missing Girlhoods.”

In her early 60s, she took on a new challenge: she decided to learn how to use an emerging digital platform to tell a compelling story she’d been a part of in rural China. She is producing an iBook that lets her mesh video (shot by a bilingual crew she hired in China), galleries of photos, interactive graphics, pop-out text boxes and narrative text across a single platform. When the iBook is launched in September 2015, its transmedia story will be digitally distributed to global audiences through her project’s social media ecosystem.

Ludtke’s iBook videos show encounters of American and Chinese teens that occurred when her 16-year-old daughter Maya, adopted from China as a baby, and her orphanage crib neighbor Jennie, each of whom was abandoned as a newborn in a farming village near Changzhou, China, returned to the towns where they were abandoned as newborns. There, they got to know girls their age who were raised there and those girls became their guides to gaining a sense of what their missing girlhoods might have been.

Ludtke is using digital platforms to develop these girls’ stories across many media dimensions. A complimentary download of the pilot chapter of “Touching Home in China” is on the iBooks Store and can be downloaded here. (Please note: the download takes a while, given video, graphics and photos that are embedded on its pages. Leave it to download. Go do something else. Once the iBook lives in your tablet or computer, it plays instantly.)

A veteran print journalist, Ludtke has worked at Sports Illustrated, TIME, and Nieman Reports. As a reporter with Sports Illustrated, she took Major League Baseball to court to seek equal access for women reporters so that she could do her job as the males did theirs, i.e. by interviewing the players in the clubhouse. From there, she went to TIME, where, as a correspondent, she reported on social policy issues with a focus on girls, women and families. In her book “On Our Own: Unmarried Motherhood in America,” she dug into why and how women, young and older, have and raise children by themselves, and what happens when they do. Until a few years ago, she was editor of Nieman Reports, the Nieman Foundation’s global magazine about journalism.