Category Archives: Janine Amos

Authenticity

I’ve returned from an exhilarating weekend of stories at the international Storytelling Festival Beyond the Border, St Donat’s, South Wales. Listening to oral stories is, for me, important and enriching and makes a fine change from the written word. Some of my highlights at this year’s festival were:

Ben Haggarty keeping his audience spellbound on Sunday morning in an open- air cliff top setting. He dressed all in black and told tales of the devil, very well suited to his commanding tone and presence.

Ben Haggarty enthralling the crowd.

Ben Haggarty enthralling the crowd.

On Saturday, luscious Italian Paola Balbi wore red, her rich voice and swaying hips adding colour to her stories of medieval naughtiness. Beowulf, from The Telling Theatre of Denmark was part-theatre, part-telling: spare, virile and unmistakably Scandinavian. Eerie percussion accompanied Grendel’s passage amongst the trees, through the squelching bog, into the feasting hall and the Danish tellers Andersen and Ejsing used their words with all the precision of a singing sword.

The Telling Theatre's magnificent 'Beowulf'.

The Telling Theatre’s magnificent ‘Beowulf’.

I chatted with Dorset storyteller Martin Maudsley about sharing stories and how a storyteller can take ownership of a traditional tale. They craft and embellish it until, by twists and turns, it becomes something new and exciting, unmistakably their own, in much the same way as a writer strives to find their ‘voice’ on the page. The resulting performance/creative piece has an honesty and truthfulness which audiences can’t help but respond to. All in all, the message is: be yourself, write from the heart and find a voice that’s truly your own (we knew that anyway, but I guess it’s always good to be reminded).

The importance of authenticity was also flagged up by Melvin Burgess in the talk he gave to MA students and tutors at Bath Spa University this summer. He spoke about his process of interviewing ‘real people’ as part of his research for novels such as Junk, Nicholas Dane and Kill All Enemies. Many of the characters in these books are so powerful because the author has taken time to understand the people behind the stories, and the bittersweet voices of Gemma, Tar and Billy are some of the most authentic I’ve read.

JA

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, Children's Publishing, Creative Writing, Janine Amos, Uncategorized

Walking on Gold at The Roman Baths

Signing books at the Roman Baths

Book signing at The Roman Baths

One of my happiest mornings this month was spent at The Roman Baths with a roomful of children scribbling away furiously. Some wore tunics, some wore togas: all were bursting with exciting ideas for an adventure story inspired by Bath’s Roman coin hoard.

Curator David Baker set the scene with Roman coins to handle, pottery, jewellery and a list of common Roman names.

Once we got started on our stories, the air was filled with a hum of creative energy. There were some fantastic ideas for dramatic beginnings with some truly wicked-sounding baddies. Story middles raced along, packed with twists and turns of the plot. And we agreed that surprise endings – or happy ones – were our favourites, and the ones to aim for in our writing.

I hope I’ll be reading everyone’s finished story soon on The Roman Baths website – and I hope you’re enjoying reading Walking on Gold!

Janine Amos

Co-founder, Electrik Inc

electrikincTM

1 Comment

Filed under children's books, Janine Amos, Literacy, Parents and Teachers, Uncategorized

‘Walking on Gold’ is here!

They’ve arrived! My first copies of Walking on Gold, all ready for the Bath Children’s Literature Festival, which opens on Friday 26th September. Bath Festival of Children’s Literature

Walking on Gold publicity picIt’s exciting after all these months of writing and editing to finally have the finished book in my hands, and it’s come a long way from the first draft that I began when I was sitting on a windy cliff, very like the one Effie climbs in my story.

Now I’m busy planning lots of writing workshops with local schools – and one on October 5th at The Roman Baths Museum, in their amazing Education Room. Its window looks over the misty, green Great Bath– a perfect place for beginning a writing adventure….

At The Bookseller Children’s Conference last Thursday, John Lewis (The Bookseller’s charts and data editor) reported that the UK children’s publishing market was up by 10% in the first eight months of this year – making it the fastest growing book sector, with most children’s categories showing growth. The Bookseller’s Y/A Book Prize was launched: the first ever prize for Young Adult books in the UK and Ireland. Y/A books published between 1st January and 31st December 2014 are eligible – the winning author will receive £2,000.

The Frankfurt Book Fair, traditionally the trade’s ‘grown-up’ fair and now only days away, is signalling its interest in children’s publishing, too. For the first time in its history the Fellowship Programme, designed to create networks between young publishing professionals, is choosing to focus on Y/A and children’s literature. The Book Fair says it is sending out a “global signal” about its commitment to children’s and Y/A publishing, recognising this sector’s “dynamic development.” 2014 Fellowship Programme

The 2014 Fair is also acknowledging the growing importance of independent author-publishers, with a two-day International Self-Publishing and Author Programme Frankfurt Fair self-publishing. And in 2015 the Fair will be expanding the exhibition area it is devoting to self-publishers 2015 Frankfurt.

Seems it’s an excellent time to be a children’s author – and an independent one, at that.

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting the Bath Children’s Literature Festival this week, do come along and say Hello!

Janine Amos

Co-founder, Electrik Inc

www.janineamos.com

Walking on Gold

electrikincTM

 

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, Children's Publishing, Janine Amos, News and Events, Uncategorized

Walking on Gold: Electrik Inc reveals more fantastic fiction

It’s like discovering hidden treasure and having to keep it a secret.  That’s how the Electrik Inc team felt when they first read Walking on Gold, the new novel by children’s author and Bath Spa creative writing lecturer, Janine Amos.

Aimed at 8-12 year olds, the book is the fourth novel to grace Electrik Inc’s independent publishing list and will be published in paperback and as an ebook on October 1.  Among the first lucky readers will be children attending the Bath Literature Festival where Janine will be presenting ‘Buried Treasure!’, a children’s writing workshop organised in association with The Roman Baths on October 5.

Walking on Gold coverWalking on Gold is a gem of a read with an intriguing archaeological twist.  The story concerns young Effie, a city girl who is transported to a wild and remote island, her mother’s childhood home.  The roaring sea and howling wind are strange at first but she soon begins to love her new home, especially when she accidentally uncovers an ancient golden brooch.  But there are family secrets as well as buried treasure on the island and when things go wrong, Effie needs all her determination to save everything she cares about.

Apart from having an exciting and moving plot, the novel manages to mix gritty realism (particularly in its handling of family relationships) with a writing style that is both magical and lyrical.  No surprise to learn that Dylan Thomas is the author’s favourite poet and word juggler.  Janine’s own Welsh heritage shines through, as does her passion for archaeology. She regularly takes part in archaeological digs herself, which you can read about here on her website.

Janine digging for treasureAt this year’s Bath Children’s Literature Festival Janine will be teaming up with The Roman Baths and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, taking inspiration from Bath’s Roman coin hoard.  There’ll be Roman coins to handle and props and activities to help children get started on a writing adventure of their own.

Janine, who co-founded Electrik Inc and gave the group its name, has worked as a children’s commissioning editor in London, Bath, Berlin and Chicago and is already a successful author with books translated into 14 languages.

Walking on Gold can be ordered online via Amazon and will be available at local bookshops to coincide with the Festival.  Janine will also be signing copies after the children’s writing workshop.

Jenny Landor

Co-founder, Electrik Inc

electrikincTM

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, Janine Amos, Jenny Landor, News and Events, Uncategorized

Commissioning Illustrations

I’ve been having a lovely time lately working with illustrators both near and far. Commissioning artwork can seem daunting to the uninitiated, so I thought I’d post a few lines with my top tips:

janinebooksChoosing your artist
As soon as I saw her samples online, I knew that Sophie’s quirky cartoon style and subtle palette would be perfect for my website. We began with a long face-to-face meeting which was important since she’d be capturing ‘me’ – and she certainly did, even down to the earrings. I think the picture of me writing on a mountain top is probably my favourite – or perhaps the one where I’m being rained on by books. www.sophieburrows.com

I used Dave Bain, another Bristol illustrator, for my Dancing Hare logo, after I’d seen his designs for the RSPCA. Again, meeting in person over a coffee or two (breaking one of the first ‘rules’ they taught me at Oxford Brookes: keep all artwork away from anything wet) helped to work out what we were aiming for. www.davebain.com

janineMaria Forrester, who created my fabulous cover artwork, lives 100 miles from me and we haven’t yet met, although I feel as if I know her through the many emails we’ve exchanged. I researched artists’ portfolios long and hard before I found Maria – I wanted someone who could capture the archaeology in my story. As the montage above shows, Maria used lots of interesting textures and techniques – rubbings of fossils and coins, drawings of grasses, watercolour, acrylic paint and even clingfilm. www.mariaforrester.co.uk

Communication

Illustrators are on your side – they want to get it right just as much as you do. It’s easier if you can meet up but not vital, as long as you manage to build up a relationship, as my experience with Maria shows. I’ve worked with artists in many parts of the world and distance has never been a barrier as long as they know why you’ve chosen them and understand what you want from them.

Illustrators don’t object to making ‘tweaks’ but they’re not mind readers. This means you need to have thought long and hard about what you want before you start talking or emailing. Put it down in writing (that’s your job, after all!), attach visuals if you can: photos, scribbles, even fabric swatches, and refer to examples of their work in the style you’re asking them to replicate.

Contract
Yes, every time! It’s always important to record your agreement in writing – with dates for: delivery of roughs; deadlines for approval; delivery/approval of final artwork; agreed fee (plus the agreed fees for rejected artwork at rough stage and at final delivery, just in case). You also need to specify in writing how you’d like the artwork supplied e.g. jpeg/dimensions.

Check out http://www.theaoi.com/ for their really helpful Guide to Commissioning.

All the illustrators were very generous with their time and attention to detail and were great fun to work with. Thanks, everyone, looking forward to next time.
J.A.
http://www.janineamos.com

Leave a comment

Filed under children's books, Children's Publishing, Janine Amos

BELIEVE IN BOOKS!

storiesstockings2jpg

Do you believe in books?

Children are reading fewer books than ever, with increasingly more time spent on games apps, Youtube and text messaging. Sadly, many are becoming non-readers. After reading this report in theguardiancom, we are campaigning to persuade Father Christmas to include a story in every child’s stocking (ebooks as well as physical ones). We need your help to make this happen.

If, like us, you believe in books, help spread the magic – please like this post and share with everyone you know.
Thank you.

4 Comments

Filed under Believe in books, children's books, Janine Amos, Jenny Landor, Kay Leitch, Kim Donovan, Stories for stockings, Uncategorized

Super Stories for Stockings

As special advisors to the children’s book department at the North Pole, we have been campaigning for a story to be included in every child’s stocking. I know a nine-year-old has written to Father Christmas asking for St Viper’s School for Super Villains because I’ve been asked by an elf to write a personal message inside the cover. I’ve seen Kay’s book Treasure This  on the present conveyor belt too. Here are some other brilliant stories we’ve suggested to the book-buying elf team.

Inkling ideas for bookworms

Kim Donovan, author of the series St Viper’s School for Super Villains.

Every Christmas Eve my son and I dust off Father Christmas by Raymond Briggs and read it curled up together in bed. The book is in comic-strip format and has well over a hundred exquisite illustrations, showing the reader everything Father Christmas does from the moment he wakes up on December 24th to going to bed on Christmas Day: making cheese sandwiches for the journey, filling the sledge with presents, riding through fog, tripping over a cat in someone’s house. We also see him being a grumpy old man, which is a nice change from the standard jolly Father Christmas character. The book is full of humour, the illustrations are delightful and my son seems to appreciate the story more with each passing year. A special 40th edition copy has just been published.  As Father Christmas says, “Happy Blooming Christmas to you, too!”

Janine Amos at  janineamos.com

There are so many wonderful children’s books to choose from. . .

For children who like fairy tales, I’d recommend The Snow Queen, vividly retold for confident readers by Sarah Lowes, Barefoot Books. This little version of the Hans Christian Anderson tale about friendship and courage is illustrated by Miss Clara, a French artist with a gift for the magical. There are other books in the series – The Princess and the Pea and The Twelve Dancing Princesses  − all perfect reading for a cold winter’s night.

For something much more contemporary, Frank Cottrell Boyce’s novel Millions is a miracle of a story: what happens when millions of banknotes fall from a train right into the arms of Damian Cunningham, Year 5. This fast-paced adventure, told in Damian’s voice, is both funny and sad; it will have you laughing out loud and crying too, and I can guarantee that after reading it you’ll never see the school Nativity Play in quite the same way again. Millions really will please anyone from 8 to 80 – Cottrell Boyce’s “dream-reader” is an adult and child reading together, one of the very best ways to spend Christmas I reckon.

Jenny Landor

Some stories have a magical quality you can’t quite put your finger on … For a rip-roaring yarn which adds that X factor to Xmas, look no further. Geraldine McCaughrean, one of the most acclaimed and original storytellers for children, gives Christmas a real twist in Forever X, a novel for ages 10+ which will enchant and surprise grown-up readers too.

When the Shepherd family car breaks down at the start of their summer holiday, they are forced to stay in the nearest B and B, a bizarre place where December 25th happens every day of the year. Despite Holly, the resident elf, and grandfather F-C’s efforts to fulfill wishes, the drama here isn’t all tinsel and candy, especially when the police and the mysterious Mr Angel arrive…

Funny, moving and brilliantly plotted, the story explores family relationships and gets to the bottom of what Christmas is really about. Read about Geraldine’s books here and check out another favourite, The White Darkness, a gripping and romantic survival adventure which, by contrast, has a decidedly wintry setting. Peter Pan in Scarlet, the official sequel to J M Barrie’s original, will delight too.

Kay Leitch, author of Treasure This

If you happen to see Santa sitting chuckling over a book before Christmas, he’s probably reading ”Who Could That Be at This Hour?” by Lemony Snicket (the first in the “All The Wrong Questions” series). And if you like your mysteries to have quirky humour, wit and a sense of the ridiculous, you’ll make sure this book finds its way into your stocking too. This series has all the usual fun, twists and turns we’ve come to expect from Lemony Snicket, along with more curious characters such as the enigmatic Ellington Feint, librarian Dashiell Qwerty, and Moxie Mallahan the journalist. Lemony’s secret assignment centres around finding a statue of the Bombinating Beast, presumed stolen… but perhaps not actually stolen…  and as usual Lemony shows himself to be much smarter than his chaperone, S. Theodora Markson, who is the best there is… or perhaps not…

A nice mystery, neatly tied up at the end… or maybe not…  which means you’ll probably want to read the other three in the series. Great fun and a delight to read. Just remember – the map is not the territory!

Another favourite of mine is One Boy and His Dog by Eva Ibbotson. A bit of a modern classic, this is simply but beautifully written and, sadly, was the last one Eva Ibbotson completed before her death. Hal has always wanted a dog and his overly house-proud parents humour him by hiring one – Fleck – for a weekend, thinking Hal will tire of the idea. As anyone who has ever loved an animal knows, you don’t tire of them in a few days – you fall more deeply in love. Hal is devastated when Fleck is taken away and returned to Easy Pets Rental. This is the story of how he runs away and tries to get Fleck back, with the help of his friend Pippa and four other dogs. An emotional journey for characters and readers alike and a very satisfying read.

electrikincTM

1 Comment

Filed under Janine Amos, Jenny Landor, Kay Leitch, Kim Donovan