Tag Archives: best children’s books

Electrik Inc – the power of five

Electrik Inc celebrated its third birthday last month with an important decision – to welcome on board a new member. We already had someone in mind we very much admired, an indie publisher who, like the rest of the team, completed her apprenticeship on Bath Spa’s Writing for Young People MA some years ago. To our delight she agreed to join us. Time, then, to introduce our fifth inkling star … Drum roll, please … Here she is to tell us a little about herself; author, editor, publisher, artist and singer – Julia Draper.

J.L.

Julia Draper

Julia Draper

I have been writing for squillions of years. Despite having a twin brother (whom I love, BTW), I was a funny lonely child; I always felt as if I was on the edge of a circle of people looking in wistfully, wanting to join in but not really knowing how. I think I’m still like that, happier watching and noticing than being watched and noticed. Maybe it’s a common enough writer’s syndrome. I completed the MA in Writing for Young People in 2004/5 and since then have been on a mission to build a little following of readers who like what I write. I love drawing, art, beaches, fish and chips, trees, singing church music, accents (I don’t have one and wish I did). I hate plastic bags and chewing-gum. My ambition is to have an illegible signature and to go back to the Outer Hebrides.

I’m thrilled and honoured to be joining Electrik Inc. There is so much expertise in the group that hopefully we all bring as much as we take. And as my three lovely boys will tell me, I spent a lot of time when they were younger telling them that you only get out what you put in. 

Indie publishing is where it’s at, folks. Beats working in a benefits office, tightrope walking, selling double-glazing and serving carrots to people who don’t want to eat carrots. We have an obligation to make self-published books as good as they possibly can be. That way the status of the profession is raised and it becomes more respected and valued.

The Paupers of Langden My book is called The Paupers of Langden and was published in February 2014. I had huge fun illustrating it and designing the cover, less fun doing the formatting; plates were thrown. It’s been very well received and has a great review in the August 2014 issue of Books for Keeps plus a load of five star reviews on Amazon. There’s a spoiled princessy princess, a plucky servant, some seriously nasty posh people and a murder plot. And a horrible disease you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemy. Actually, you might, in all honesty.

I’m currently working on the sequel, which is called Green Gold.

Julia Draper

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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

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‘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

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David Almond’s Desert Island Discs

‘A book is a series of secrets exposed…’  A wonderful comment from the celebrated children’s author David Almond on Sunday’s Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4.  If you missed it and you’re either a children’s writer or a lover of children’s books do listen.  You can catch up here:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01r50yy/Desert_Island_Discs_David_Almond/

David was talking about the experience of reading with his daughter Freya when she was small and the shared joy and suspense of turning the page.

For me the comment applies equally to the process of writing.  It does sometimes feel as if the story has been sent from another realm and the secrets unfold by themselves.  Here’s David on the process of writing Skellig, his first children’s novel:
“With Skellig it did seem to write itself, it was weird.  And at times I almost had to write it from the side of my eye – you know, I couldn’t look at it too closely.  So I almost had to, not ignore it, but just allow it to happen there.  It was such a strange book to write… There is a sense when you are writing well – and it also came when I began writing for children – that there’s a kind of world of myth and story which is just beside us and at times you are allowed access to it.’

David Almond is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa University.  We Inklings were in training there, before his time sadly, but his work made an impact.  Fired by the magic of reading Skellig I wrote a song and sang it in class, much to the shock of fellow writers.  The Seagull’s Song was later set to music by composer Sarah Watts and published in a children’s choir book.  Magical moments do sometimes catch you when you’re not looking.

Jenny Landor

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Time to write

Shhhh! Listen carefully and you’ll hear the tap tapping of fingers on keyboards, the rustle of paper, printers chugging and the sound of whizzing and popping as ideas come to life. We’re all finishing writing books at the moment, which is why we’re so quiet. I’m fizzing with excitement about the other Inklings’ stories — children will be in for such a treat! And the second book in the St Viper’s School of Super Villains series is close to completion. But more about this later. We mustn’t disturb the stories. See you soon.

Kim

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Electrik Inc gets physical

And so, one morning in May  little more than nine months after the electrik inklings dreamed their dream in the Jazz Café  a second piece of magic happened…

BAM!  Their workshop doors burst open and a bright, shiny new story, in a stunning lime green jacket, marched out and made its way noisily into the world.  ZAP.  KAPOW.  FWOOSH!  How the inklings buzzed and cheered as straight away, one – two – three – four bookshops not far from the Jazz Café welcomed the story in and settled it comfortably on their shelves.

Silence descended.  Keeping themselves invisible and trying not to fidget, the inklings waited.  The story was ready.  It was there, within arm’s reach of the first child.  And here he was!  An eight-year-old boy arrived and took the book in his hands.  Buzzz ZZING!  The magic unfolded.  He read it all, cover to cover.  And when at last he looked up…  well, you can probably guess the rest.  This isn’t fiction.  This is a fact.  He hungrily asked for more…

Call me a Luddite, a dinosaur, a crazy misfit.  But it is a matter of great delight to me that the first Electrik Inc book is physical in every respect.  An action-packed romp of a story (written by Kim to keep the boys reading), it’s available not only as an ebook but in printed form  a fabulous paperback with 24 illustrations which local bookshops in Bath have seen fit to put on their shelves.  Physical books in physical shops.  ROAR!

Reading habits are changing fundamentally.  Yes, this old-fashioned bookworm is happy to admit she likes her new ereader very much.  I enjoy its portability and I understand why children and young adults are engaged by the technology, which grows ever more interactive.  I’m also convinced that ebooks are good for print books and will encourage the publishing industry away from its blockbuster mentality towards smaller more diverse presses – commerce and culture more harmoniously balanced.

However.  For all the benefits, nothing on screen  for me anyway  can replace the very sensual pleasure of curling up with a beautifully crafted, beautifully produced paper book.  As a child, when I first began reading alone, it was better than chocolate  the experience inspired me to write.  The weight, the size, the thickness, the glossy cover, the binding, the texture of the paper under my fingers, the sense of knowing where you are in a story judged by the accumulation of pages, the smell, the rustle, the touch…  a physical book engages the senses and lifts the imagination.

While the adult book world goes rapidly digital (one third of Brits now ereading according to the latest study) the children’s book market, especially for younger readers, remains resistant.  One intriguing reason has to do with parental psychology.  According to a New York Times article, even mums and dads who are avid ereaders   ‘diehard downloaders’  want their children to be surrounded by traditional print books.  Why?  Aside from concerns about digital distractions and too much on-screen time, parents see print books as something tactile that can be shared and want their children to have the same rite of passage into the reading world as they had.  For the next generation of readers, or a good many of them, books made from trees will remain treasures.

All of which has to be good news for bricks and mortar stores like those in Bath who are championing local talent from a brand new Professional Independent Publishing group.  Thank you from Electrik Inc to Topping and Co, Oldfield Park Bookshop, Mr B’s Emporium and Waterstones.

Jenny Landor

Electrik Inc

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Electrik Inc; what’s in a name?

Once upon a time – not so very long ago – four electrik inklings sat around a café table in the magical city of Bath Spa.  It was an unusual October day, hot as summer,  and so to stop themselves melting away,  they ate ice cream in the shade of a big purple umbrella.

While people filled the café,  laughing and drinking,  the pool of purple shade buzzed.  The inklings were excited.  They chatted about children’s books and telling stories,  which was what they were especially good at.  Then,  just as they were puzzling over how best to bring more stories into the world,  a piece of magic happened; a moment of electricity,  a zap of collective energy,  an inkling of a grand idea…

We realised we had everything at our fingertips to do the job ourselves.  With years of publishing experience between us,  advances in digital technology and the new social media, why depend entirely on the old publishing framework?  A tiny power shift had taken place;  the formation of a new team involved in professional independent publishing.

The point of the story,  however,  is in the name.  What would we call this crack ‘PIP’ team?  People have assumed that ‘Electrik Inc’ refers to the fabulous new technology which has given writers more control over the publishing process.  But for we four storytellers,  there was another more significant meaning.  ‘Electrik’ is about that magical moment of creative energy when the story comes alive,  the inkling rather than the ink.  It’s about imagination.  Without that there would be no publishing.

High-quality storytelling – whatever format that might take – was our focus,  we decided. And where we could,  we’d remain dedicated to physical as well as e-books,  as with Kim’s forthcoming series.

The switch of the ‘k’ and the ‘c’ wasn’t just a fun trick.  It carried a message too.  The ‘inc’ for incorporated expresses our collective nature,  the joining of creative forces.  We’re professional editors with marketing and production experience working on each other’s stories.  As such we’re growing an exciting new hybrid in the children’s market,  taking the best of traditional publishing (high quality) and self-publishing (agility) and blending the two.

On the day we were formed someone big in the world died.  It’s interesting that his company,  Apple,  (a giant compared to our tiny Pip!) is also stirring up the publishing world and taking on even bigger giants.  When we were writing our manifesto we included some of his words:

“Here’s to the crazy ones.  The misfits.  The rebels.  The troublemakers.  The round pegs in the square holes.  The ones who see things differently.  They’re not fond of rules.  And they have no respect for the status quo.  You can quote them, disagree with them,  glorify or vilify them.  About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them.  Because they change things.  They push the human race forward.  And while some may see them as the crazy ones,  we see genius.  Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world,  are the ones who do.” ~~ Steve Jobs

Go inklings!

Jenny Landor

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