Category Archives: Publishing

Disturbing the Beast – revisited

Boudicca Press - logotype image and web link
Discover the new work here…

Update: 30th September 2018…

Congratulations to the Boudicca Press team for hitting their Kickstarter target with a whole week to go! Brilliant.


We recently featured the work of Boudicca Press, in promoting new writing for women and in their current process of coagulating new pieces to publish under the banner of Disturbing the Beast.

Disturbing the Beast is a collection of weird fiction stories by some of the best women writers in the UK, featuring Kirsty Logan, Aliya Whiteley and other talented up-and- coming writers. It’s the debut collection from the new literary press, Boudicca Press, who celebrate the strength, courage and literary talents of women.

Great news. Disturbing the Beast Kickstarter launches 3rd September: Weird fiction
stories from some of the best women writers, including Aliya Whiteley, Kirsty
Logan and more.

Distrubing the Beast - cover image from Boudicca Press
The cover image for great writing! Support the work here…

The anthology will be funded by a Kickstarter campaign which launches on Monday 3rd September 2018 with a target of £2500.

Submissions, however, are still welcome from women writers until Friday 14th September. It is intended that the ultimate publication date for the work will be early in 2019.

See more here.

 

Boudicca is keen to unearth challenging subjects in a healthy and respectful way, something that they feel is not often considered in mainstream, contemporary literature. The work is intended to celebrate women’s voices in the weird fiction genre, in a publishing industry where they feel women are under-represented.

Do support this great women’s writing initiative and look for Boudicca Press and Disturbing the Beast on Kickstarter, from Monday 3rd September 2018.

 

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Bologna, books and biglietti

Animal illustrations for the Book Fair in Bologna...
Dining in Bologna at the Children’s Book Fair 2017…

 

 

 

 

 

 

“We hopped on the bus near the Ospedale Maggiore di Bologna, having purchased our biglietti for Euro 1.50, and found we could ride the autobus, through the medieval cobbled streets of the city, in any direction for ninety minutes”.

Our Partnership team were in Bologna, Italy last week. We were attending the Children’s Book Fair to meet with publishers, authors and artists, and to soak up the atmosphere of world class creativity and dynamism that is the book trade for children in Italy.

Being regular attenders at the London Book Fair, it was noticeable that, although the giant Amazon had a media stand at the week in Bologna, there was nothing like the all pervading presence they seemed to have in London earlier in the year.

Indeed, for the retail giant Italy is still a market in development. We noted that “…Amazon’s Prime service offers one-day delivery of a million products in 6,000 Italian towns and 2-3 days for the rest of the country“.  Read more here… Source: Italy24 web pages.

Bologna Book Fair 2017 image
Bologna Book Fair detail…

With a significant Amazon building and development programme in Italy under way, the diversity and complexity of the other international publishing presences in Bologna, from traditional publishers to independent writers, artists and agents, was a sign that the trade in Italy is perhaps conditioned and delivered still in a very traditional way. Affording much opportunity for disruptive innovation in retail distribution we suspect.

As a micro-publisher, establishing our own tentative foothold in the Italian market, what was stunningly noticeable was the available space and ease with which new graphic artists, illustrators and designers could display their work.

Whatever language children are reading in, the quality of the illustrative art applied to the story enhances and opens that bridge to the imagination. It is as important as the ‘book’ itself, or the page layout or font choice, we would argue. The simplest narrative story can become an exciting page turner with the addition of wonderful artistic creativity. There was much of it evident in Italy last week.

Entering the exhibition halls at the event in Bologna Fiere was like stepping into a giant gallery. With a fantastic display of artwork in the principal foyer, annexed to a series of giant display boards for the young and independent artist to display samples of their work. Although the book trade is about business, the Italian approach led with free form creativity and individual design expertise in a way that we felt was unusual in the English book trade.

Some simple highlights for us during the week

Illustration by Marco Bonatti image
Illustration by Marco Bonatti

 

 

 

 

Marco Bonatti

We enjoyed the informal display of Marco’s work. He produces character with a gentle style, with which to enhance any children’s story, we felt. Engaging, friendly but equally up to the illustration of a more challenging narrative.

Based in Desenzano del Gardo, Italy – you can find Marco Bonatti’s work on the web here.

Katie Rewse

Katie Rewse image
Katie Rewse, using blue to effect…

Katie both studies and lectures in the Arts at Bournemouth University. She also runs Seablue Designs, a wonderfully evocative title for her business, which encompasses oceanic themes and a subtle and diverse range of blue in her work.

Katie’s palette, even informally displayed,  is striking when seen from a distance, which is what caught our eye, but is equally as powerful on the page when feeding a child’s imagination.

See Katie’s work on the web here.

 

 

 

Natasha Durley

Natasha Durley, pattern and proportion…

Another graduate of Bournemouth University Arts faculty, Natasha produces images of plants and animals that are bold in structure and colour, but which are always seemingly ‘anatomically’ sound and proportionally framed.

We liked her structured pattern work particularly, standing out as it did from many of her contemporaries on display in Bologna.

You can find Natasha’s award winning work on the web here.

 

 

 

 

Alessandra Fusi

Allesandra Fusi - a traditional style - image
Allesandra Fusi – a traditional style?

An artist and animation specialist, resident in Bologna, Alessandra has exhibited her work across not only Italy, but also Europe and the USA.

Her pen work was superb we thought, creating striking black and white images for her clients.

Alessandra has an ability to portray character through her artistry, but holds her style very much in the traditional fairytale mannerism, to which she expresses an enduring fascination.

You can see Alessandra’s work on the web here.

(All artist featured images captured from the Bologna Children's Fair ad-hoc display boards in 2017. Copyright remains entirely with the individual artist).

It was the artistry and illustrative energy that was the touchstone experience for us in Bologna this year. Although we were able to build a number of new partnerships and projects for 2017/2018, it is the imprint of ‘the image’ that will stay with us, particularly the energy of the work typical of the artists we have championed above.

Historical linearity in illustration:

We were looking, on behalf of another project before our departure for mainland Europe last week, at the history of children’s book illustration. The Digital Bodleian in Oxford have a wonderful new web resource featuring a number of historic children’s books and games.

You can trace a linear development between the Bodleian web holdings, many dating from the beginning of the Nineteenth Century, through to the modern day.

Not only in their stories about children, but also how the imaginative landscape is pictured, focused on illustration as we are in this article. Innovation was the driving force even then.

Colouring instruction - 1824
Colouring instruction – 1824

 

 

 

 

 

We particularly liked the game Choriama, dating from 1824, which serves as a ‘youth’s instructor’ in the drawing and colouring of landscape. The work being made up of a number of individual landscape sections, which can be folded and re-folded to create new topographies of play. See more at the Digital Bodleian here.

 

A Round of Fun - education and art? - image
A Round of Fun – education and art?

We also warmed to depictions of  A Round of Fun. Pleasant illustrations of classroom activity where imagination and fun, with guidance , are the focus of the day’s activity. Is this not how school should be?

This work, in the Digital Bodleian, was created in England but was printed in Germany. See more of the Round of Fun at the Digital Bodleian on the web here.

Our whole Digital Bodleian experience, looking back, has been resonant with echoes of  our contemporary take on the Book Fair in Bologna.

Creative and imaginative illustrations, some classical and others traditional in feel, the many with a modernist take on old themes – the whole utilising the practised hand of the artist, European production skills and education marketing.  A creative journey from the Nineteenth Century to now, following enduring first principles.

Our biglietti:

We are already booking them for the 2018 event! Perhaps we may see another blue crocodile?


Editorial note on Italy:

Italians, in a recent report, the Bloomberg Global Health Index of 163 countries, lay claim to being some of the healthiest citizens in the world. Despite the prolonged downturn in the country’s economy and with up to 40% of the young unemployed.

It is the proximity to high art and culture, as well as a high vegetable and fruit diet, that must be responsible for the continual flowering of Italian artistic endeavour surely?

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Distances travelled and a New Year

We are always excited about books and book production in the conversationsEast office. In 2016 we seemed to have a very ‘bookish’ year all in all.

We enjoyed a visit to Seven Stories in Newcastle to look at the development of an author and the creation of the written artefact through the work of Michael Mopurgo. See more here.

We also happily supported the a new issue of Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica, an endeavour delivered across the globe from the print works of Kronecker Wallis in Barcelona, Spain. Revisit the work here.

In 2017 the conversationsEAST team have sworn an oath to finally deliver their draft arts journal, artSUFFUSION, and to expand the range of contributors to our pages in the hope of stimulating interest in arts, culture, history and all the other things that occupy our minds during the working day.

As we were unpacking another delivery of books in the intervening quiet days betwixt the festive holiday and New Year, we were pondering, as we tackled another Open Office document and posted several WordPress pages onto our servers for clients. How far have we come in terms of print production?

The Italians took a long look at the subject, the now pre-historic hot metal typesetting process, in 1960.

Source: See the movie on YouTube

Whilst some time later, nearly sixty years in fact, an American production giant revealed how the introduction of micro-processor and the refinement of mechanical processes enabled tens of thousands of printed copies to be created within three short days.

Source: See the movie on YouTube

We thought the passage of time and socio-economic difference was wonderfully reflected in the the comparison between the be-suited operators of the Lino-type machines, half man, half machine, seemingly embedded in their mechanisms as their typing materialised from hot metal reservoirs, into hard gobbets of text, for onward transmission to other people and process.

The contrast underscored by the modern, casually dressed and processor driven work environment of a contemporary print house. We noted the lack of people populating the production landscape in the latter. The ‘white collar’ aspects of the book now taking place remotely, no longer a craft skill in an industrial setting.  A true sign of our times?

Whatever changes 2017 brings, a happy New Year to our readers from the conversationsEast team.

 

 

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British Art at Yale – a discovery…

Following on from our recent article on book binding in Barcelona, we seem unable to escape our thematic journey on-line towards the bound artefact.

As booksellers and literacy project specialists we are especially interested in the concept of the book as a seasonal highlight, as to be expected at this time of year. The conversationsEast team were very pleased to see book-binding as part of the programme of the recent Chelmsford Ideas Festival for instance.

This month we were pleased to discover the web pages of the refreshed and rebuilt Yale Center for British Art. Remarkable in that such a concentration of artefacts, academic depth and insight into our native art history should exist in Chapel Street, New Haven, Connecticut.

The opening lecture for the Centre, post-renovation, was Artistic Bookbinding in the Twenty-First Century, delivered by the American book historian and conservator James Reid-Cunningham. See more below…

The lecture, The Poet of Them All, concentrates on a remarkable collection of Shakespeare editions in miniature from the holdings of the Yale Centre and in concert with collectors Neale and Margaret Albert.

The richness, skill and indeed, even fun, of such collections is beautifully captured in the Reid-Cunningham lecture. The expressive art and craft skill of the binder in the twenty first century is also visually well expressed in the discourse. In an age of electronics it is sometimes easy to forget the power, even magic, generated by the carefully crafted, masterfully bound book. Whatever its size.

There is much to enjoy across the whole of the Yale Center for British Art. Research at the Yale Center benefits from concurrent funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, encouraging a wide programme of lectures, study and talks to disseminate the findings of the Center. As you would expect from such a world centre of excellence.

We particularly liked the Center’s new education programme Visual Literacy: Rethinking the Role of the Arts in Education. Using the great visual resources the Center holds to create interest in and higher utility in reading. Art becomes the book, becomes the writer!

See the trailer for the work below…

Visual Literacy: Rethinking the Role of Arts in Education from cyra levenson on Vimeo.

Giving  books is a great idea over the festive holidays, getting the family into an art gallery or museum is even better. We visited Seven Stories in Newcastle earlier in 2016, so we know you can achieve the same ‘Yale’ effect without a visit to Connecticut.

Unless you travel on-line that is? Happy Christmas to our readers.

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Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica – a reissue

isaacnewtonportrait
A portait of Isaac Newton by Godfrey Kneller (1689)

Article update: 12.11.2016

1,076 backers pledged 56,504 euros to help bring this project to life, exceeding the original campaign target  of 35,000 euros. Brilliant.


This must be the Enlightenment project of the year.

On the eve of 2017, the 330th anniversary of the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia (Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica), a small publishing house in Barcelona, Kronecker Wallis, are dedicated to issuing a new version of this master work.

Design and detail are the watch words of this small creative team, who are recruiting backers for the project on the pages of Kickstarter.

With only nine days to go of the campaign, as of the publication of this short article, why not take an intellectual punt and pledge a very modest amount to receive a copy of this great piece of literature, science and the art of book binding?

If completed this is the Christmas present to die for for those interested in the aesthetics of the book, the history of science and a love of independent, small studio making.

Discover the Principia and Kronecker Wallis on Kickstarter here.

About the book?

The book will be set in Lucas de Groot‘s font The Serif, created in 1994. To get the finest reproduction the publishers have chosen Munken Polar paper, giving a high quality white tonality to the page and a natural feel. Paper weights of 100 grams for the inner pages and covers produced in 260 grams.

the serif font example image
Buy The Serif office fonts here…

 

The binding is what really sets this book apart. We wanted its “wrapping” to be visually appealing and different. Therefore, we have opted for visible binding that leaves the spine bare, displaying a part of the books that usually remains hidden. This type of binding also helps us when reading the book, as it allows us to open it wider‘.

Source: Kronecker Wallis Kickstarter page

The text is set from the 1846 first American edition, edited by N.W. Chittenden. You can see this text here.

principia page layout image
Page layout image from Kronecker Wallis…

You can make a Kickstarter pledge from as little as 5 Euro’s, a tiny investment in a project of such aesthetic magnitude.

If you do and the bindngs are completed, have a great Christmas festive holiday when your package arrives.

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The rise of children’s literature in the 18th century.

 

We round out our short theme on children’s literacy and literature, with a focus from the North of England, with a short consideration. Where did children’s book publishing come from?

Matthew Grenby, Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies in the School of English at Newcastle University, has written a short piece on the creation of, development of and stimulus to children’s literature by 18th Century personalities.

Part of our work, with sister projects, is as booksellers and publishers. It has been interesting to reflect that we are in a continuing tradition, dating back to the 18th Century.

When we are talking to our partner publishers, or delivering projects overseas, it all feels rather contemporary. But good writing and creative, imaginative work for children is what led us to the work in the first place. It is a timeless pursuit for every cohort we supply and engage with over the years.

Matthew Grenby writes…

”The rise of children’s literature throughout the 18th century.

By the end of the 18th century, children’s literature was a flourishing, separate and secure part of the publishing industry in Britain. Perhaps as many as 50 children’s books were being printed each year, mostly in London, but also in regional centres such as Edinburgh, York and Newcastle.

By today’s standards, these books can seem pretty dry, and they were often very moralising and pious. But the books were clearly meant to please their readers, whether with entertaining stories and appealing characters, the pleasant tone of the writing, or attractive illustrations and eye-catching page layouts and bindings.

Early writing for children
This was new. At the beginning of the century very few such enjoyable books for children had existed. Children read, certainly, but the books that they probably enjoyed reading (or hearing) most, were not designed especially for them.

Fables were available, and fairy stories, lengthy chivalric romances, and short, affordable pamphlet tales and ballads called chapbooks, but these were published for children and adults alike. Take Nathaniel Crouch’s Winter-Evenings Entertainments (1687). It contains riddles, pictures, and ‘pleasant and delightful relations of many rare and notable accidents and occurrences’ which has suggested to some that it should be thought of as an early children’s book. However, its title-page insists that it is ‘excellently accommodated to the fancies of old or young’.

Meanwhile, the books that were published especially for children before the mid-18th century were almost always remorselessly instructional (spelling books, school books, conduct books) or deeply pious. Yet just because a book seems dull or disciplinary to us today, this doesn’t mean that children at the time didn’t enjoy it. Godly books of the sort produced from the 1670s by Puritans like John Bunyan are a case in point.

James Janeway’s A Token for Children (1671-72) gives what its subtitle describes as ‘an Exact Account of the Conversion, Holy and Exemplary Lives and Joyful Deaths of Several Young Children’. These children lie on their deathbeds, giving accounts of the sins too often committed by children – idleness, disobedience, inattention to lessons, boisterousness, neglecting the Sabbath – but tell those assembled round them that salvation awaits all who renounce such wickedness, and they explain how happy they are to be going to their eternal reward. Hardly fun, we might think, yet memoirs and letters, as well as continuing sales over more than a century, testify to young readers’ genuine enjoyment of these descriptions of heroic and confident, if doomed, children.

Winter Evening content Image
Detail of Winter evening…
The 18th century
In the first half of the 18th century a few books that didn’t have an obviously instructional or religious agenda were published especially for children, such as A Little Book for Little Children (c.1712), which included riddles and rhymes ; and a copiously illustrated bestiary, A Description of Three Hundred Animals (1730), the second part of which was published ‘particularly for the entertainment of youth’.

But the turning point came in the 1740s, when a cluster of London publishers began to produce new books designed to instruct and delight young readers.

Thomas Boreman was one, who followed his Description of Three Hundred Animals with a series of illustrated histories of London landmarks jokily (because they were actually very tiny) called the Gigantick Histories (1740-43). Another was Mary Cooper, whose two-volume Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book (1744) is the first known nursery rhyme collection, featuring early versions of well-known classics like ‘Bah, bah, a black sheep’, ‘Hickory dickory dock’, ‘London Bridge is falling down’ and ‘Sing a song of sixpence’.

Tommy Thumb content Image
Detail of Tommy Thumb…
The father of children’s literature
But the most celebrated of these pioneers is John Newbery, whose first book for the entertainment of children was A Little Pretty Pocket-Book Intended for the Instruction and Amusement of Little Master Tommy and Pretty Miss Polly (c.1744).

It was indeed a pretty book, small, neat and bound in brightly coloured paper, and Newbery advertised it as being sold with a ball (for a boy) and a pincushion (for a girl) – these toys were to be used to record the owner’s good and bad deeds (by means of pins stuck either to the black side of the ball or pincushion, or the red). Newbery’s books perfectly embodied the educational ideas of John Locke, who had advocated teaching through amusement.

But Newbery has become known as the ‘father of children’s literature’ chiefly because he was able to show that publishing children’s books could be a commercial success. This may have been because he made most of his money from selling patent medicines, and by publishing for adults

Nevertheless, his children’s book business flourished, and, following his death in 1767, it was taken over by his descendants, surviving into the 19th century. Newbery was a great innovator too. He produced the first children’s periodical for example, called The Lilliputian Magazine (1751-52), a miscellany of stories, verse, riddles and chatty editorials.

And his most famous work, The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes (1765) has a good claim to be called the first children’s novel. It tells the story of a poor orphan, Margery, who makes a career for herself as a teacher before, like a less glamorous Cinderella (with no fairy godmother, balls to attend, or glass slipper), she marries the local landowner who she has impressed by her honesty, hard work and good sense.

Pretty Pocket Book content Image
Detail of The Pretty Pocket Book…
A rapid expansion of children’s literature
The reasons for this sudden rise of children’s literature have never been fully explained. The entrepreneurial genius of figures like Newbery undoubtedly played a part, but equally significant were structural factors, including the growth of a sizeable middle class, technical developments in book production, the influence of new educational theories, and changing attitudes to childhood.

Whatever the causes, the result was a fairly rapid expansion of children’s literature through the second half of the 18th century, so that by the early 1800s, the children’s book business was booming. For the first time it was possible for authors to make a living out of writing solely for children, and to become famous for it. Children’s literature, as we know it today, had begun”.


This article was originally published by The British Library. You can see the original web version here… http://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/the-origins-of-childrens-literature

You can find a wider, more detailed survey of the history of children’s lierature at the British Library here… http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpsubject/literature/chillit/childhist/childhistorical.html

The material in our article is made available under the Creative Commons License. You can see the licence detail here… https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/  No amendments to the copy have been made, only hyperlinks have been added.


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Michael Morpurgo at Seven Stories

Newcastle - Shining City image of the Tyne
Newcastle, shining city in the North…

Continuing our theme of ‘Northern Energy’, we were in Newcastle upon Tyne this week and, on Friday afternoon, took time to visit Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books. They have an important exhibition and research project into the donated archive of the writer Michael Morpurgo. Below is what we thought.


”Michael Morpurgo Exhibition 2 July 2016 – Sunday 2 July 2017, Newcastle UK. A Lifetime in Stories.

Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children’s Books introduces an exclusive exhibition drawn directly from Michael Morpurgo’s extensive archive donated to Seven Stories in 2015”.  


Seven Stories summer 2016 events Pic-m
View, print or download the Summer 2016 events guide for Seven Stories here…pdf

Through one of our our sister projects, Books go Walkabout, an international delivery system to get authors, illustrators and poets, and their books,  to corners of the world previously unreached, we have an abiding interest in children’s literature as you would expect.

The Seven Stories Morpurgo exhibition is certainly about a fantastic canon of work dedicated to the young imagination. However, the research team have extracted illustrative and delightful insights into, and evidence of, the writing process, using the archive generously donated to the Centre by Michael Morpurgo in 2015.

What the display and featured narrative does offer, in the broadest terms, is an insight into the creative process, the research and writing of a book, much of which in this Seven Stories gallery has taken place before the arrival and dominance of the word processor.

Not only an exhibition in praise of the work of Michael Morpurgo, but an illustration in itself of what can be achieved with a simple notebook and a pen or pencil. The imagination does not need an elecrical socket and plug to thrive apparently!

Some key exhibition elements:

Michael Morpurgo was born in 1943, and his early life was beset by sadness and conflicting tensions. It was interesting to see the detail of Michael’s school, home life and reaction to his early experiences in the British Army. This thematic thread of war and militarism can be traced through the exhibition, as in Michael’s life. His mother’s grief at the loss of her brother in the Second World War was an equally powerful emotional driver for the writing.

In 1962 Michael met his future wife Clare, and it was the summons home by his mother, with the pretence of an imaginary illness, that offered the opportunity for them to get married, against the prevailing condition that cadets of the Royal Military College Sandhurst must be single. A signal turning point in a creative life which solidified his pacifism, well evidenced and illustrated by this exhibition.

Wombat Goes Walkabout Pic-m
Comment on or buy this book from Amazon.co.uk here…

His first short book, published in 1974, was It Never Rained, an interconnected narrative about five children.  By 1999 Mopurgo was ready to publish Wombat Goes Walkabout, with wonderful illustrations by Christian Birmingham. A great story about digging holes and how a wombat can save the day.

1982 saw the release of War Horse, perhaps Mopurgo’s most famous creation. The exhibition offers the visitor a display of many of the notebooks, first drafts, corrections and re-typed double spaced manuscripts that drove the creation of this seminal work.

This series of displays offers, we thought, a powerful illustration of how writing is both a physical and an intellectually layered process, but which requires a gritty determination to see the story through to the final end – publication. It is this revisiting and deterministic approach to his craft of writing that makes a Mopurgo novel so dramatic and engaging we suspect.

War Horse cover image
Before the stage play, before the film…there was the novel.

In the exhibition narrative Michael Morpurgo states that his engagement with a story ‘…can be measured by the size of his handwriting in his notebooks‘. The smaller the hand written text the more intensely the creative muse has gripped him that day.

To an archivist this is vital in determining the writers emotional condition on any particular creative day. As his pen moves rapidly across the notebook page, Michael has left a marker, a measure of intensity, for later researchers seeking to determine his emotional or creative state. Something a plastic keyboard, no matter how powerful the micro-processor it is connected to, could ever offer the interested reader in years to come.

Looking at the Morpurgo ‘war’ material, we pondered on what must be a pivotal issue for the contemporary archivist or researcher. With ready access to technology, publishing processes and cloud storage – how will future archivists and seekers of process engage with material that is electronic and resting, potentially, in a thousand different formats, storage facilities and locations around the globe.

Interestingly, MIT Technology Review has just published an article on the use of computing and data mining techniques to show that there are, it contests, only six basic ’emotional arcs’ in storytelling. These are…

…a steady, ongoing rise in emotional valence, as in a rags-to-riches story such as Alice’s Adventures Underground by Lewis Carroll. A steady ongoing fall in emotional valence, as in a tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet. A fall then a rise, such as the man-in-a-hole story, discussed by Vonnegut. A rise then a fall, such as the Greek myth of Icarus. Rise-fall-rise, such as Cinderella. Fall-rise-fall, such as Oedipus.

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601848/data-mining-reveals-the-six-basic-emotional-arcs-of-storytelling/  Article – Data Mining Reveals the Six Basic Emotional Arcs of Storytelling  Accessed: 09.07.2016

We are intense users of the notebook and pen ourselves, in our ordinary workaday lives, but have to recognise that research and analysis would now be immeasurably diminished without technology. We wondered, travelling through the Michael Morpurgo exhibition, an historical audit trail of the creative mind, what other contemporary children’s and young adult writers take on ‘techno’ is today?

Perhaps this is a Seven Stories seminar series in the making? Pen or Processor, the creative methodology in contemporary children’s literature. We would buy a ticket! (Ed.)

A visual treat:

Towards the end of the exhibition content is a section dedicated to Michael Morpurgo’s artistic collaborators, the artists who have contributed to the written work.

It offers the visitor a fascinating insight into how the imagination is populated by the story, how the psyche is suggested a character and landscape by Michael Morpurgo’s writing. It is also, within the context of this article, a soaring endorsement of the power and durability of putting a hand to paper. Surely no machine can replace the creative evocation of story by the artists below?

The work on display includes artwork from Quentin Blake, Gary Blythe, Peter Bailey, Christian Brimingham and Tony Kerins amongst others. We particularly warmed to the diversity of images in the exhibition that depicted the sea. Whether Kensuke’s Kingdom or When the Wales Came, the original cover art to be seen provokes an imaginative dream of action, wind, water and a tale to be told.

We loved it.

(A list of artists on show…Gary Blythe, Quentin Blake, Loretta Schauer, Gemma O’Callaghan, Michael Foreman, Sarah Young, Sam Usher, Peter Bailey, Faye Hanson, Francois Place,   Emma Chichester-Clark, Christian  Birmingham and Tony Kerins.)

It was wonderful to see this collection of individual artistic work within the context of the Seven Stories Michael Morpurgo exhibition. But each artist has a separate body of work which is lively, imagination capturing and enchanting in equal measure. We hope  you can use the links above to explore this on-line collection ‘gallery of galleries’ too.

Getting to Seven Stories NE! 2PQ :

If you leave the impressive Newcastle Central Station and turn right down towards Quayside, you can turn left along Quayside and walk, past the Pitcher and Piano until you come to St. Ann’s Steps on the left. Ascend them. At the top, look back down the river to the bridges receding into the distance. Turn and  cross the road and right down to Cut Bank on the left, following the river left along for a couple of hundred yards and Seven Stories will apppear on your right.

The journey there, if the sun is shining, can be as uplifting as your visit to The National Centre for Children’s Books. This is a fascinating insight into the work of our national story teller. Seven Stories offers a whole rainbow of experience around ‘the children’s book’, whether a holidaying family looking to stimulate young imaginations, a visit to the cafe and bookshop, or a serious academic look at the sweep of children’s literature.

Editor Notes:

‘Seven Stories was able to support the acquisition from Michael Morpurgo through support from Heritage Lottery Fund’s ‘Collecting Cultures’ programme, which has been awarded to Seven Stories in recognition of the museum’s national role in telling a comprehensive story of modern British children’s literature’.

Source: Seven Stories web site. Accessed 09.07.2016 See http://www.sevenstories.org.uk/collection/collection-highlights/michael-morpurgo

The exhibition is delivered and developed through a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between Seven Stories and Newcastle University’s School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics.

The KTP is possibly the first of its kind between a university English department and an external organisation, and is being funded by InnovateUK and the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC).

You can read Dr. Jessica Sage’s blog for more insights into her exploration of the archive here.


Image: The Shining Tyne 2016: Tim Smith MA, FRSA

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The Programming Historian

Developing our on-line toolkit…

Here at conversationsEAST we are humanists, who work in web publishing with tools and techniques, more often than not devised by others, to create workflows that allow us to share a range of knowledge and experiences with others.

Imagine our delight when the economic historians and project writers in our office  discovered The Programming Historian.

‘The Programming Historian is an online, open-access, peer-reviewed suite of tutorials that help humanists learn a wide range of digital tools, techniques, and workflows to facilitate their research’.

If you are interested in big data, the humanities, research and have but a passing acquaintance with ‘code’, then this is a great bookmark to preserve.

The Programming Historian contains principles and techniques across a range of disciplines and thematic approaches to digital data manipulation and publishing…

‘Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), Data Management, Data Manipulation, Distant Reading, Mapping and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Network Analysis, Digital Exhibit Building, Programming, and Web Scraping. Our tutorials include nearly a dozen lessons on popular DH tools such as MALLET, Omeka, and QGIS’.

The resources available are all Open Source and are published under a Creative Commons license. They are published to the Gold Open Access Standards and are fully compliant with HEFCE publishing requirements for scholars in the UK.

The portal is a volunteer project and is supported from the Rosenzweig Centre for New Media at the University of New Mexico.

‘This project is an attempt to demonstrate what open access academic publishing can and should be. Please tell your librarian to include the project in your library catalogue’.

We have added it to the conversationsEAST digital toolkit management list for future use.

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The Gift of Knowledge?

How it used to be done!
How it used to be done!

At this time of year everyone reflects a little on their progress in the previous twelve months, and more often than not, looks forward to the next twelve, with joy or trepidation depending on personal circumstance.

One factor of life that will not change is the ubiquity of the web and the range of services available for the owners of the right ‘machinery’, or for those who have access to it.

This journal is the product of Fellowship imaginations, but others are looking at the world and re-imagining news, reflection and analysis too. Below are some great ways that you can commit to developing knowledge and understanding, all at no cost…beyond that all important access to machinery!

 

Wonker – a complex news analysis engine:

wonkerLogoThis is a brave attempt to develop and share knowledge and understanding about the critical social, economic and community development conflicts across the globe.

Just getting started, but with a vast task in front of them, Casey and Nick the creators of Wonker, risk burn-out or perhaps even take-over by mainstream news outlets if the concept becomes a raging success. The site currently offers analysis of the ISIS crisis and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict for example.

That said, even if you are a ‘policy wonk‘ already, the site offers a great way to get contextual analysis from outside your own professional field of endeavour. Alternatively, you can use your professional knowledge to contribute to the Q & A style presentation of Wonker.

As with all user contributed content, there are potential questions of political bias, Americo-centrism in this case or even propogandism as the site develops. It is however, we think, a brave attempt to make clear the complicated to either the disengaged or the distracted, one conflict at a time.

See more of Wonker here…

Highbrow – expand your knowledge universe, one email at a time…

Not a new concept on the literate web, but this service is nicely presented for those who have just five minutes a day over ten days to become acquainted with a new field of study, one email at a time.

highbrowLogoIt’s not particularly clear  on their web site, but you are constrained to one ten day course subscription at a time. Presumably to prevent burn-out or ‘knowledge fatigue’?

You can choose your starting date, in order to manage the light work-flow from the beginning. Courses you can choose from cover such topics as art, history, philosophy and psychology, amongst others.

It will be interesting to see the content as it develops over time, as the delivery is heavily dependent upon TED talks at the moment. Worth checking out, either as a refresher in a busy email day, or as context to develop a new interest.

See more of Highbrow here…

Don’t forget The RSA…

If video access to fresh thinking is your mode of learning, then the RSA has a long history of offfering its audience the most topical material from thought leaders of the day.

The RSA can offer you a whole range of video talks and presentations from some great thinkers. The example below is one such. The need for a revolution in education, breaking the political and social bounds of the mind to create new worlds. (Makes me breathless just reading this…Ed.)

Debra Kidd argues for the creation of ‘architects of hope’ for young people. A powerful ambition and an idea well worth spreading. One interesting observation Debra makes is that individuals need to know what they are voting for and how the solutions offered by the political machinery are tinkered with by the self interest of the elected representative.

See the movie on YouTube

See this original video on YouTube here.

Knowledge, context and critical thinking are key. With a tsunami of information crashing over us, the tools and resources above can help with process, we would argue.

See a catalogue of RSA videos here…

Happy New Year.

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Headline photo credit: Bill on Capitol Hill via photopin cc

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Idly drifting betwixt Stanford and Harvard…

 

Imagining the world without the web as an intellectual resource is almost impossible now. All those decades ago, applying for your research and travel grants to gain a foothold aboard ship or achieve landfall in another country, to see and hear academics speak, or to consult texts, is now long a thing of the past.

With the advent of on-line resources comes the inevitable change in publication policy and the context of publication review and update. The two resources below represent some of the best examples of access to classic historical thought and an easy flow into current thinking and research.

This journal is published under a Creative Commons license, our team are strong supporters of Open Source software and other Open Publishing initiatives.  Dive into these resources regularly, they repay repeat visits…

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

An invaluable on-line publication which delivers insightful and contemporary research into philosophical thought and related disciplines. The works included in the encyclopedia are drawn from and embedded with the best practices of rigorous academic review, from…

those persons with accredited Ph.D.s in Philosophy (or a related discipline) who have published refereed works on the topic of the proposed entry. By refereed works we mean either articles in respected, peer-reviewed journals or books which have been published by respected publishing houses and which have undergone the usual peer review process prior to publication.

However, what is interesting, is the editorial board’s commitment to review and updating of texts, which affords the invited authors of the works published the opportunity to amend , annotate or add to their original work as their research or trends in their chosen discipline demand change.

It is the a way of using the web to refresh and renew the encyclopedia in front of your eyes, with an immediacy and currency that is generally impossible in traditional paper and binding formats. It doesn’t replace the book, it supplements it.

You can read more about the Stanford Open Access publication model here.

Some recently changed and updated texts in the encyclopedia include the following.

There’s a great temptation to make it, for the enquiring mind, the only site worth bookmarking in your browser. See if you agree.

The 51 volume work:  The Harvard Classics

Originally published in the early 1900’s by Harvard President, Charles W. Eliot, the works are freely available on-line from Project Gutenberg.

The author of this short piece had a well respected friend who, in the early days of the internet (…the 1990’s now seem such a long time ago) was well read, but who decried the ‘web’ as irrelevant. Pages full of ‘blue links’ was how he described it. Whilst then perhaps an accurate description, it is is a terrible disparagement of the hyperlink.

My response today would be to get him to click through to the Harvard Classics. Whether your interests are in Plato, Milton or Robert Burns there is much to enjoy here.

They who set themselves to give precepts must of course regard themselves as possessed of greater skill than those to whom they prescribe; and if they err in the slightest particular, they subject themselves to censure…

The quotation above is drawn from Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting the Reason, and Seeking the Truth in Sciences by Rene Descartes, found on the Gutenberg bookshelf. A piercing insight into politics and management, as much as to science we think.

You can also enjoy the fruits of the novelist too. Fiction from Walter Scott, Tolstoy and Balzac are freely available. Being tempted to read online offers choice in terms of format. All the works in the Gutenberg Harvard Classics canon are available in your web browser, ePub versions and for your Kindle or downloadable as plain text files.

Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.

G.M. Trevelyan in English Social History (1942), quoted above, perhaps rather cruelly prefigured the future critique in Richard Hoggart’s work The Uses of Literacy (1957).  Hoggart’s thesis was that the ‘massification’ of culture has detached communities and individuals from their traditional ‘urban culture’.

That popular culture had de-classed society and debased, to some extent, the feeling for history or cultural connection across communities. Whilst it is inescapably evident that the internet and access to technology has irrevocably changed society, there is still a demand for classic literature and the wrangling with challenging thought.

We think the modern, Western autodidact doesn’t necessarily spend long days in the community library anymore alas, rather he or she inhabits the web world to educate and inform the mind.

We offer the hyperlinks above as evidence of our argument!

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