Category Archives: Jenny Landor

Ploughing for inspiration

As a city girl, growing up first in London and then industrial Luton, I never dreamed that one day I’d spend more time in wellies than heels – and become a farmer! But that was where my career led me for more than a decade. In a beautiful corner of rural Essex I learned to drive tractors and spent each autumn ploughing the heavy boulder clay from dawn to dusk, and sometimes into the night. Acre after acre.
img004
The experience turned me into ‘a watcher’, mindful of any tiny change in the landscape. And it forged a deep spiritual connection, especially with the other watchers who sometimes showed up … The deer, for instance, who scattered at the sight of a human figure, yet never seemed bothered by the to and fro of our monster machines as they strained across the fields.

The Watchers

Autumn has drawn a foggy curtain
Over the farm by the church,
Trading rich summer gold for burnt coppers
Scattered and spent among the leaves.
 
In the fading gloom
A tractor driver traces patterns
Across the ploughed land.
Absorbed in mechanical rhythm he moves,
Away from the church, towards the wood,
Away from the wood, towards the church,
Changing the face of the earth
With every pass.
 
A noise disturbs him
Jangling off-beat and out-of-tune.
Resigned and weary he climbs from the cab
To fumble in the mud
And remove a rusty horse shoe
Hooked up in the harrows.
How many bouts to go?
How many have been here before?
 
Later, turning into the homeward stretch,
With just enough light to see,
He is startled by two deer
Watching close by
Like statues – strange, silent and beautiful,
Unperturbed by his roaring machine
As it strains across the heavy clay.
And in that dusky moment
His heart misses a beat,
Filled with splendour so measureless
He holds his breath
Knowing it will slip away.
 
The last rays melt behind the spire.
As he reaches the lane, he yawns,
Thinking of supper and a good night’s rest.
The seedbed is ready, the pattern is complete.
img005
Poem by Jenny Landor
Illustrations by Julia Draper
Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Electrik Inc, Jenny Landor, Julia Draper, Poetry, Uncategorized

Autumn fun in a nutshell

Apples, blackberries and pumpkins… Nature’s grand autumnal finale always triggers in me a kind of elation no other season can match. Ever since childhood, it’s been my favourite time of year. The shortening days, tinged with melancholy, the smell of ploughed earth and the prospect of bonfires are definitely part of it. And I still can’t resist kicking up the leaves – especially under the horse chestnuts where the greatest treasure of all might suddenly gleam up at me: the perfect conker.

img003

Preparing for combat

Last week saw the celebration of one of the country’s most traditional games at the World Conker Championship in Southwick, Northamptonshire. Organised by the Ashton Conker Club, the contest has been running for fifty years. It attracts thousands of visitors and teams from the around the world who fight it out like gladiators, armed only with a nut and 12 inches of string. All of which prompted me to add the following piece of fun to our creative archive. Someone once told me that it isn’t just about good hand-eye coordination and the desire to conquer. You have to psych your opponent out …

Just a game

Okay, now here’s the thing
It’s a nut on the end of a knotted string.
You hit mine, I SMASH yours …
Yes, let’s go play out of doors.
This is my favourite,
See that gleam?
It knows it’s on the winning team.
Good question; how can I possibly tell?
I partly oven-baked the shell.
Ha! Only joking.
Are you ready?
Three fat misses!
My turn, hold steady.
No, the sun wasn’t in your eyes.
That’s the rule, you had your tries.
What’s wrong?
Oh, please.
Don’t go bonkers,
It’s just a simple game of conkers.

william-the-conker-1

William the Conker leading his minion hordes.

Poem and photo by Jenny Landor
Illustration by Julia Draper

1 Comment

Filed under Creative Writing, Electrik Inc, Jenny Landor, Julia Draper, Poetry, Uncategorized

C S Lewis and The Inklings

One of the first books I ever owned as a child was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C S Lewis. Lucy, the youngest of the four Pevensie children – my age and clearly the heroine! – won my heart, especially when no-one would believe her about the existence of Narnia. I re-read the book several times over, and whenever I crept with her through the fur coats to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe collectors editionthat icy world gripped by permanent winter, it sent tingles down my spine. It became a sort of touchstone for what I was looking for in a good story. Though I grew up disagreeing with some of its themes, as an eight-year-old the religious symbolism went right over my head. Aslan shaking his golden mane to bring back spring was, for me, about the magnificence of nature. What the book provided was a sense of wonder at the ordinary world. I made dens in my own wardrobe and lived in a land of make-believe dreaming up stories about seemingly mundane everyday things that turned out to be extraordinary. The iconic lamppost had worked its magic.

So it’s no exaggeration to say The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was one of the books that turned me into a writer and led me to become a member of Electrik Inc. We refer to ourselves as ‘inklings’, a fun nickname which isn’t only about digital ink and indie publishing, the group’s purpose. It also conveys a sense of magic just around the corner; that goosebump moment when your imagination is on the verge of something fabulous. How strange then to discover that the great C S Lewis himself was also an Inkling – along with his friend and drinking buddy, the author of a vastly different yet equally remarkable fantasy series, J R R Tolkein …

‘The Inklings’ were a small literary circle, mostly academics of Oxford University, who met every Thursday evening in Lewis’s college rooms to read aloud and critique the books they were each writing. Like us, they were a fellowship of friends as much as writing colleagues. Among the group was the lawyer, philosopher and author Owen Bardfield, and it was to his daughter, Lucy, that The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was dedicated.

The Eagle and Child, St Giles, OxfordRather more informal meetings took place in The Eagle and Child which became a favourite haunt every Tuesday for many years between 1939 and 1962. On a recent trip to Oxford I decided to visit the pub to pay homage. It’s a must for Narnia fans. Built around 1650, The Bird and Baby, as it’s also known, is a warren of small wood-panelled rooms that feel a bit like the compartments of an old-style railway carriage. ‘The Rabbit Room’, where The Inklings met, is at the back and the walls are full of memorabilia. Most intriguing of all is a framed letter signed by eight of them and addressed to the pub landlord, Charlie Blagrove. ‘The undersigned, having just partaken of your house, have drunk your health,’ it declares.

Part of framed letter signed by The Inklings

Part of a letter signed by The Inklings on March 11, 1948

It’s probably safe to assume that a few beers had been consumed at the time of signing. Lewis’s handwriting looks especially wobbly. The document is dated 11th March 1948, the year he completed The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. We’re told by his biographer that he read it aloud to his friends. And apparently, Tolkein loathed it.  The creator of The Lord of the Rings was meticulous in the way he crafted Middle Earth and didn’t approve of Lewis’s jumbling of different mythologies.

Were feathers ruffled at The Bird and Baby? As an Inkling used to forthright editorial debate I couldn’t help imagining the conversation…:‘My dear fellow, you’ve got a lion, a witch, a magical wardrobe, various fauns and centaurs, a pair of talking beavers, even an appearance by Father Christmas. It’s wild beyond belief. Simplify, that’s the ticket. Give Narnia some rules, for heaven’s sake.’

A jowly photo of Lewis stares down in the Rabbit Room. I could almost hear him harrumphing into his pint. ‘At least it’s about ordinary children. Your protagonist lives in a hole, has pointy ears and hairy feet!’

The Eagle and Child pub signI must have been intoxicated – not by drink, honest! Simply by being in Oxford, that most hallowed of literary places – but, I swear, as I left and headed along St Giles something about the pub sign was different. The child, who at first glance, looked like he was being abducted by a horrible huge bird, was actually smiling … Whatever you think of the world view underlying Narnia (I’d much rather help build Philip Pullman’s ‘republic of heaven’) it’s nevertheless a fairy tale that expanded the imaginations of a generation of children like me.

The lamp light shines on, creating new inklings.

Wishing you a wondrous spring.

Lion

(Wikimedia commons) Photo by Trisha Shears

 

Jenny Landor, Co-founder

11.3.2016

electrikincTM

 

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under best-selling books, Electrik Inc, Jenny Landor, 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

Spring makeover for Electrik Inc

Pip spring cleanSpring has sprung early at Electrik Inc thanks to the design team at The Curved House. They swept in like a new broom sprucing up our blogsite, installing a bright new banner, sorting out the clutter and generally making sure everything worked. We’re delighted with the result and our mascot, Pip, is very happy to be centre stage championing ‘Our Books’. A big thank you to Kristen Harrison and Rowan Powell.

And congratulations to The Curved House on their own new ‘make a book’ project for children. The creative agency have established a new division, Curved House Kids, and are busy creating books which primary-aged children can either illustrate or write themselves. What a fantastic idea! Check out their website here.

And while we’re on the subject of promoting reading and literacy, we’d like to thank everyone who supported our Stories for Stockings campaign just before Christmas.  It created a great buzz with the magic spreading far and wide all the way to Japan via more than 100 facebook shares.

Jenny Landor, Co-founder

electrikincTM

Leave a comment

Filed under Jenny Landor, Literacy, News and Events, Stories for stockings, Uncategorized

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