The Nosy Crow conference is approaching, and as the date nears, all sorts of preparations are being made for the day. And as this is a Nosy Crow conference, that means there’s cake to think about.
For last year’s conference, we promised – some might say foolhardily – to make cakes, with our own fair hands, for EVERYONE who’d attend: over 150 cakes, individually baked, iced and decorated. And I am pleased to say that we did not yield: between Kate and I, the cakes were baked, with a little help from other members of Nosy Crow, and the heroic Tracey Corderoy, who was staying with Kate on the night before the conference.
And having achieved this feat during our debut conference, it seems that it would be miserly not to repeat it. So this year, once again, there’ll be hand-made cakes for everyone in attendance.
But – not wanting to miss an opportunity to needlessly up the ante – there’s more! This year we’re also taking REQUESTS.
If you have a particular favourite flavour of cupcake (and you’re coming to the conference…), let us know in the comments underneath this post, and we will endeavour to make it! I mean, we’re not talking about Heston Blumenthal levels of culinary expertise here (my repertoire doesn’t really extend beyond vanilla, chocolate, or lemon flavours), so there are no guarantees that you’ll get what you ask for, but I’m a firm believer that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, so we’ll do our best. Really what we’re asking for here are SUGGESTIONS for good flavours of cake. And if all else fails, there’ll STILL be the chocolate, vanilla, and lemon ones.
Firstly, we’ve decided to extend the period for our early bird discount, so for a little while longer you’ll be able to buy tickets at this special rate before they raise to the full price. If you’d like to come along, don’t delay!
And that’s not all. The even better news is that, perhaps unwisely, Kate and I have also decided that we will make cakes for EVERYONE coming to the conference. Yes, seriously. We’ll be finishing the day with hundreds of cakes (along with a glass of wine), handmade by us… it IS a Nosy Crow event, after all.
If you haven’t already bought your early bird ticket, you can do so with the very straightforward form below, or at the Eventbrite page for the conference, here. You can also read the full program for the day here – if you have any questions, leave a comment below this post or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get back to you. The event is taking place on Saturday, September 21 at St Bride Foundation on Fleet Street – we hope to see you there!
Yesterday we posted a clue (the picture at the top of this post) about today’s blog – no prizes for guessing it’s Little Red Riding Hood-related… Well, the wait is up! And for the full story, here’s Little Red Riding Hood’s mum to explain more:
If you watch all the way to the end, you’ll see that she has one last thing she’d like to tell you – the recipe for her cake! So here’s how to make the cake that Little Red Riding Hood cooks for Grandma:
If you didn’t quite catch all that, do not fear! In true Blue Peter fashion… here’s one I made earlier. Follow the instructions below for a perfect Victoria Sponge.
Little Red Riding Hood has put chocolate on her cake, but you can do whatever you’d like with your own (I’ve left mine plain) – the great thing about this recipe is its versatility.
If you do attempt Little Red Riding Hood’s recipe, we’d love to see the results! Send us a photo on Twitter or by email and we’ll send app prizes to the best ones.
We have a new designer starting at Nosy Crow today – Zoe Bennett, who’s providing maternity cover for Giselle. She’s made a truly excellent first impression with these brilliant Crow biscuits – between these and the cake pops that Mary made on her first day, the culinary stakes are getting pretty high around here… In fact, our general cake consumption has become so excessive that there is now an entire Pinterest board devoted to some of our baking output.
I hope you’ll join us in welcoming Zoe to the nest – it’s great to have her here!
We are very pleased that Mary has joined us today as our new Publishing Co-ordinator. Mary will be working alongside me supporting our sales, marketing, PR and production functions and being an all round office angel. She joins us from illustration agency Artful Doodlers where she has spent the last four years. Welcome to the nest, Mary!
PS – Mary has made us the most amazingly appropriate cake pops, as you can see in the photo above!
Alice and Shelly, with the second (maybe third?) cake of the day. Apologies for the typically lacking photograph…
It’s the end of my first week at Nosy Crow and I have loved every minute. Of course, you all know this already but the Crow’s Nest is an extremely good, creative and fun place to be. And in amongst reading all my lovely new books, talking to all my lovely new authors and artists (THANKYOU for making me feel so welcome) and keeping my wits about me in my first scheduling meeting, I have learnt many, many things.
1. There is an awful lot of cake.
2. There is an awfully large expectation of cake baking. I have pointed out this wasn’t in the job description. I cannot bake. This might be a problem.
3. Kate does NOT like Lady Grey tea. She particularly doesn’t like it when the Lady Grey tea bags accidentally get mixed in with the Earl Grey ones. Please note that this is a bad, BAD thing.
4. There is something called “Dropbox”. I have never heard of this before but apparently it’s a server and file management system. “Pah!” I thought. “How hard can it be?” Until Adrian said, “are you aware of the DANGERS of Dropbox?” And by the way he said it, I just knew that he was talking in capitals. Quite frankly, I’m terrified. If anything goes missing or is in the wrong place, I would just like to say right now that it wasn’t me. I wasn’t even there. Honest.
Now, where did I put that Mary Berry book for beginners . . . ?
To celebrate, true to Nosy Crow form, there was cake: Claudia Roden’s orange cake, made by me, though it’s actually a Tom signature cake.
It’s essentially, as far as I can see, a sort of custard held upright by ground almonds:
6 nice eggs, beaten with
250 grams of caster sugar to which you add
2 tablespoons of orange blossom water and
250 grams of ground almonds and
1 teaspoon of baking powder and
2 whole unwaxed oranges (or an orange and a couple of satsumas, or the equivalent in any orange-coloured citrus fruit that you happen to have waiting for the kids’ lunchboxes) that you’ve boiled for 90 mins and then whizzed up (without the water) in a food processor.
Cook in a buttered-and-floured tin at 175 degrees centigrade for an hour.
Actually, there was another cake (chocolate and raspberry), brought by Michelle from Imago that she got in the Borough Market branch of Konditor and Cook. We had that with prosecco at the very decadent hour of 4.15pm, because Giselle goes then on a Wednesday to pick up her little boy (because that’s the kind of family-friendly company we are).
Anyway, we had a happy birthday, and it was sort of great to look back on the 2 years of our existence. Thanks so much to those of you who regularly come to the Nosy Crow site.
This is a moody picture (thank you, Leen and Instagram) of Dom and Joanne Owen, who does freelance marketing for us, with the cake as we gathered for the publishing meeting that day:
And this is a less moody, less competent picture, taken by me, of the office feeling rather bigger and buzzier than it was when the four of us gathered for our first day of public existence two years ago:
Everyone in the Nosy Crow office is celebrating – with tea and cake of course!- in the most Dickensian place around. Not only did Dickens live on Lant Street (where the Nosy Crow office is) when he was a teenager while his family spent time in the Marshalsea debtors’ prison (Lant Street is off Marshalsea Road), but now almost every street around us is named after the author, his works or his characters. We have Little Dorrit Park, Copperfield Street, Weller Street and Pickwick Street… and the Charles Dickens Primary School is on the corner. (You can see where we are here.)
Kate recently read and blogged about Claire Tomalin’s biography of the great man himself.
The closest we get to a Dickensian story (though, admittedly, it’s set a few decades after his death at the every end of the 19th Century) is our just-published Twelve Minutes to Midnight by Christopher Edge. It’s got quirkily-named characters, like Montgomery Flinch, engaged in a high-drama plot involving the residents of Bedlam Hospital (the Bethlehem hospital in the Dickens’ quote below) in a wintry London setting.
Christopher Edge says, “Dickens always struck me as being like two people crammed into one: an incredible writer and a brilliant performer. I though it would be interesting to imagine one half of him as a thirteen year-old girl!”
In his blog post about the publication of Twelve Minutes to Midnight, Christopher quotes Dickens:
“I chose next to wander by Bethlehem Hospital … partly, because I had a night fancy in my head which could be best pursued within sight of its walls and dome. And the fancy was this: are not the sane and the insane equal at night as the sane lie a-dreaming? Are not all of us outside this hospital who dream more or less in the condition of those inside it every night of our lives?”
You can read the first chapter of Twelve Minutes to Midnight below.
I’m dating the start of the company from our announcement of our existence, which we sent to the trade press and others on 22 February 2010. In some ways, we didn’t feel quite ready to announce, but our hand was forced by two things. The first was that I had been asked to judge the British Book Awards and had given my job title as “MD of Nosy Crow” for an announcement of the make-up of the judging panels that came out in the week of 22 February 2010. The second was that I’d been messing around with Facebook on the evening of 21 February, working out how to set up a fan page and invite people to it, when I inadvertently sent out a message to my entire address book for a profile that referred to Nosy Crow.
We had, from memory, just three projects signed at the time we announced, and a stated intention to acquire from established talent and from newcomers. We also clearly stated that we intended to create apps from scratch. There were four of us – me, co-founders Camilla Reid and Adrian Soar, and Imogen Blundell – in a single room in an office complex in a Victorian school building.
One year on…
We have three print titles published. In mid-January, we published Small Blue Thing, a debut romantic fantasy that was written by the colleague of the headhunter I consulted when I was thinking I’d get the hell out of the industry. In mid-February, we published Mega Mash-up: Romans v Dinosaurs on MarsMega Mash-up: Robots v Gorillas in the Desert, innovative two-colour combinations of fiction and doodle-book drawing on popular themes by a team who came to us because I’d worked with one of them at Scholastic when he was a designer there.
This year, we will publish 23 print titles for children from 0 to 14, most acquired since February 22 2010. True to our original vision, these are books that children will really enjoy reading: when we acquire a book, we do so with a strong sense of who it’s for. Our books are by established names like Axel Scheffler and Penny Dale and from newer exciting talents. The list – and we’ll be announcing the first six months of 2012 before Bologna – will grow in 2012.
We have one e-book published. Small Blue Thing is our only black-and-white book so far and was the first ebook we created with the support of Faber Factory. I decided that we’d focus our digital aspirations on illustrated publishing and apps.
This year, we will publish 5 straight ebooks.
We have one app published. Last week, we published a cutting-edge story book app, The Three Little Pigs, to quite remarkable reviews (including one from FutureBook, The Bookseller’s digital publishing blog).
This year, we will publish at least two more highly-interactive, cutting-edge, multimedia apps.
From the beginning, we were interested in using websites and social media to communicate with potential consumers – mainly parents in our case – as well as with potential suppliers in the form of authors and illustrators and customers. We launched with a lively website that has evolved over time but remains true to our original plan. We wanted to create something with real personality, that was professional but also warm, honest and informal… and that was updated constantly: we blog several times a week to provide a window into what we do. In our first year, we’ve had a over a quarter of a million page-views from over 20,000 visitors in 129 countries, and, since we’ve had books and apps on the market, visitor numbers have risen sharply. Thank you very much for visiting us.
We’ve sold in our first list via Bounce and have promotions with Sainsbury’s, Tesco, ELC/Mothercare, WH Smith, WH Smith Travel, Waterstones and Foyles. Our books are in shops from museum giftshops to Toys ‘R’ Us.
We’ve been active internationally too. In May, Allen and Unwin begins distributing our books in Australia and New Zealand. So far, we’ve sold rights in our books to Germany, France, Holland, Norway, Finland, Sweden, China, Korea and Israel with more good news lined up for announcement over the next few weeks.
There are 11 of us now. We’ve been able to attract the most extraordinary talent to work with us, from games coding genius, Will Bryan, to picture book supremo, Kate Burns. Most of us are parents; several of us work part-time; and several of us work from home and only come into our (slightly bigger) open-plan office occasionally.
There have been challenges and disappointments, and there will undoubtedly be more ahead! There has been constant, grinding, sometimes dull hard work.
We worry – of course we do – about the book market and our place in the print and digital future that is unfolding. But it’s been fun.
It’s been a good year!
Things we haven’t loved so much about this year:
Queuing at the post-office.
Being responsible for all the boring stuff like printer maintenance.
Cold-calling people without a big name behind us.
Things we’ve loved:
Being able to buy great books from authors and illustrators we want to work with as they develop.
Being able to act quickly and decisively.
Selling our books!
The conversations that have opened up online between us and readers, parents, creators and sellers.
Working with great colleagues in a relaxed and fun environment fuelled by cake.
One of the great things about the publishing industry is how many people leave it.
They leave it, in that they leave big publishing companies and corporate life, and then they become experienced, highly-skilled and very creative freelancers.
Steph is our Head of Design, but that doesn’t stop us, and her, working with a range of different freelancers.
One freelancer that Nosy Crow has got very friendly with is Nicola Theobald, who’s worked at Random and Orchard and who’s been working on some of our fiction covers. Here she is (on the left) with Kirsty choosing foil for the cover of Adam Frost’sDanny Danger and the Cosmic Remote, the first book in a series that she’s desiging for us.
2. Kate’s notebook, open for the energetic but incompetent sketching to which she resorts when talking about covers, something that strikes despair into the heart of every designer she’s ever worked with
3. Cake. Almond and apricot. Very delicious. Made by Kirsty for the occasion.
This post is a few days after the event (mainly due to technical problems with the camera), but Wednesday was an important day in Nosy Crow’s evolution. It was the day that the first book we’ll publish, Small Blue Thing, came off the press!
It was such a momentous day that Imogen visited the Clays factory with the author Sue Ransom and her family to see the first finished copies come off the binding line. This was very exciting for everyone: for Sue it was the first book she’s ever had printed and published: and for Imogen it was the first book she’s ever put into production.
Whilse we were at Clays, we were fantastically well looked after by Andrew Cochrane and Max Roche who showed us round, answered our questions, and provided a lovely lunch (although one sadly lacking in cake, which is pretty essential to all Nosy Crow celebrations). So thank you Clays, and everyone else (copy editor, proof-reader, jacket designer, photographer) who was involved in this big day.
Here at Nosy Crow, we love a festival almost as much as we love cake, and this week Kirsty and Camilla were down in London’s fashionable Hoxton Square for the StarLit festival.
StarLit is run by the Shoreditch Trust and is a scheme designed to get children having fun reading, writing and drawing. Working with publishers, bookshops, Booktrust and corporate sponsors, the scheme matches up classes with specific books, who then spend a month getting to know the titles with their teachers. The festival is the culmination of all their work, when the classes get to meet the creator of their particular book.
With over 2,000 children, and 70 authors, illustrators and poets taking part, it is an ambitious and valuable scheme, and clearly hugely enjoyed by both the children and teachers involved. Kirsty and Camilla saw events with Deborah Allwright, Thomas Docherty, Bruce Ingman and Philip Ardagh (pictured, and who had his audience almost literally rolling in the aisles!). Andy Stanton, Viv Schwarz, Malory Blackman, Philip Reeve and Michael Foreman were amongst the many others involved.
Dylan Calder, StarLit’s organiser, is starting a similar scheme, called Pop-up, next year, which Nosy Crow is very much hoping to support.
Here we are in our new home (left to right: Deb, Imogen, Camilla and newbies Steph and Kate B, hereinafter referred to as KB). Adrian was out seeing a man at the Department of Industry and Kate (W) took the picture, which explains why it is so shockingly badly composed, and why Camilla in particular looks microscopic.
It’s interesting: it’s really only when you tell other people – in this case Steph and KB – what Nosy Crow’s been up to that you get a real sense of how far we have come in just over six months.
Anyway, there was cake, there was chat… and then we were heads down to work – only 15 weekdays until the Frankfurt Book Fair after all!
Here’s Camilla with top freelance designer, Sarah Goodwin, and very fine Benji Davies’ artwork for _Bizzy Bear: Fun on the Farm that the massively efficient Benji has delivered several weeks early. Bizzy is shaping up to be a tremendously appealing character, and these are really simple, sturdy board-books with big, bold novelty mechanisms.
It’s all good.
The sharp-eyed among you will also spot lavender and honey cupcakes, because it’s lavender time in London and so why not?
We spent part of today storyboarding an app. This kind of process really points up (a) how different creating an app is from creating a book and (b) how transferrable our children’s publishing text+image+paper-engineering/audio training and experience is to the exercise, particularly when combined with Deb’s digital thinking. Also, it is fun.
In a landmark moment, Deb brought in her first cake today (banana loaf, pictured) so we feel that she is truly at one with the Crow.