The Book of Dragons

For that is the title of the collection of short stories from which the illustration that graced our March box cometh! It was a delight to revisit such a strange and imaginative, if also rather E. Nesbit-y collection. It’s available to read and enjoy in full and for free here, for which we are immensely grateful.

I think of all the great and lasting novels in her impressive list of works, The Story of the Treasure Seekers, and The Wouldbegoods are the two books Edith Nesbit wrote that had the strongest impact upon me. As a small and only child, the ‘absent parents, large family of banded-together siblings’ trope appealed hugely to me, and, of course, the Bastables’ entrepreneurial spirit was something I found terribly exciting and engaging. I loved how the children were rounded, flawed, objectionable, and sometimes dangerously and anti-socially awful, but by and large, with their hearts in the right place. They weren’t afraid of hard work, and had their own version of London-past that was veritable catnip to my tiny mind. I still have an affection for Lewisham I can’t imagine having developed otherwise, for starters, and, come to think of it, Nesbit’s works are certainly why I have more respect for carpet than for most household objects.

There always seemed possibility, strategy, something to think about, something to do, some way out of even the most appalling situations that befell the children in Nesbit’s works. The Railway Children is many people’s favourite, certainly, it’s the one we see mentioned most often in your subscribers’ questionnaires here at Prudence and the Crow (which surprised me – if you’d asked me to guess, I would’ve thought Five Children and It which would take that place), but for my part, I’m in the ‘floods of hopeless tears’ bit every time I get to the end of it, and, accordingly, these days I simply don’t even start it. But I turn to the Bastables fairly often. My favourite venture of theirs is definitely the one where they start up a newspaper – I recently came across some old childhood papers of mine where I’d tried to imitate this repeatedly with my own fabled characters.

Nesbit herself had a full, if rather turbulent and tragic life, as did so many of our most beloved and prolific authors. I knew very little of her until doing some googling for this post, perhaps as much by choice, as anything – her worlds are so real to me that the more anonymous she seemed, so much the better. In this day and age, though, I’m so used to following my authors online, to knowing how they look, how they react, how they write, what they love, that I thought I might break through that imaginary wall. It was worth doing, and I shan’t attempt to summarise, but, as so often, Wikipedia will give you a good headstart if you’re curious.

Nesbit’s driven storytelling, firm grasp of magical worlds and great sense of practicality amidst adventure continues to inspire and delight me whenever I return to her works. I enjoy reading them now as much as I ever did, and find I have an appreciation of her directness of language (and of her present-narrator, my best-beloved of literary devices) that only increases, however much more I’ve read in between revisiting her tales.

I wonder sometimes how well-travelled her books are outside the UK. Certainly amongst people I knew who read (to my mind, reading amongst children was not nearly as common as it is now, not, at least, in my school), Nesbit’s stories were a staple, and the BBC TV series of Five Children and It was a marvel to us all, but I don’t know if I hear of them read as widely Stateside, or, indeed, in translation. We’ve had one or two American subscribers respond with extensive joy on receiving, say, The Treasure Seekers, and say they’ve not come across the stories before, but, of course, one or two are just that, and trends take a little more development! We’d love to know, here, or on Twitter, your favourite E. Nesbit tale, or, if you’re a current Prudence and the Crow subscriber and would like to receive one of her books some time, do drop us a line through our Contact Us page on the site, and we’ll see what we can do!

We hope you’re enjoying the first breaths of spring, and that you’ve got something lovely/horrible/mindblowing/amusing/whateverdoesitforyou to read for now. The April envelope design is my favourite to date, and I’m very excited for that blog already, but, until then, Happy Now! ~Prudence

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Read Books, Whilst the Sun Shines! (Obviously in Australia, you’re free to cosy up for the winter.)

Prudence's August Reads

Prudence’s August Reads

And, what a quarter it’s been since I last wrote longform to you all! So much has happened, so much has changed…but in essence, nothing at all has changed, either. Which is, it must be said, just how we like it – enough change to keep life interesting, enough continuity to be cosy.

Our biggest change was in terms of packaging – we’re enjoying the new envelopes a lot, and they seem to be, on the whole, doing a much better job of keeping everyone’s bits and books in ship-shape, although, as always, we’re always sure we can improve! The stripey bags are so much fun, although, as I’ve been the one packing them up thus far, I’ve ended up flinging Maoam across the room in a fit of fingers and thumbs at a couple of points each month!

Obviously the biggest impact on our little business came when we were unexpectedly featured in Buzzfeed’s 15 Subscription Boxes You Should Definitely Try Out piece – we were so infinitely grateful we’d just undergone a considerable internal restructure (read: I’d finally sorted out the cupboards we keep everything in) so we were able to accommodate our glorious influx of new subscribers with surprising ease. One of my favourite things about running PatC, which still surprises me every time, is just how many people ‘get’ what we’re about – I love, love, love meeting all our new subscribers, reading the questionnaires, discovering new books myself, and learning so many tales of literary love, hate and curiosity. The Crow and I started PatC because I so desperately wanted something like this to exist myself, and couldn’t find it, and it thrills me daily that there are so many others out there who seem to have felt the same!

We do want this to be more, though, and this is still, despite being well into our second year, only the beginning. We have plans. We can’t tell you much more, because, as every writer knows, you should never tell your story to someone you’d like to read the book, but there’ll be content and community to it, if that’s the sort of thing you like. And if you don’t like, never fear – you can always just get a random book in a box, and we love you just as much.

On another note, we continue to receive all kinds of requests, from bloggers to mainstream print press, requesting (or, in a couple of cases, flat-out demanding) sample boxes and/or photographs of boxes. We’d like to reiterate that we don’t do sample boxes ever, for anyone, however many copies of whatever it is that you sell. Anyone is welcome to purchase a box, fill out the questionnaire, and review/unbox/critique/recommend as they wish, and we are exceptionally grateful to each and every one of you out there who’s done so, but our entire point is not the box, nor the tea, nor the whatever-else-we-put-in…we really are about the books. We always do our best to match you with your read, and, within the bounds of what you tell us about yourself and what we can find, we endeavour to occasionally ridiculous lengths to join the dots for a happy picture. We can’t send samples, because there’s no human who wants to read a book on the other end. We can’t photograph someone else’s box and expect it to mean anything, or to honestly reflect a potential PatC-er’s expectations. The point of PatC is the match, not the box. Special mention to Glamour magazine, who, earlier this year, after a few back-and-forths, did their own photography to meet their print requirements and understood this point well.

I am always, always happy to consider interview/quote/thinkpiece requests submitted properly through our Press Information link, in the usual place at the end of our site, and we love the social media and blogger contributions we’re tagged or included in, but we aren’t interested in chasing subscribers. We have only ever advertised with the wonderful IGGPPC (and once on Facebook, but that was more a statistical curiosity at the beginning – it really wasn’t very helpful for what we’re doing!).

Speaking of the IGGPPC, their annual camp is about to kick off! There are loads of awesome activities, seminars, crafts and challenges to consume, complete and compete in, and you can find out all about it here. Registration is over, but everything is available to all over the next week or so all the same! (Those of you in troops already: Troop Lumos, present and correct!). And if you missed it during last year’s camp, you can see the Crow and I do a ‘Branding and Setting Up a Shop’ seminar here on YouTube. Why I’m wearing that visor, I can’t quite recall! Anyway, we’re all in and we love the IGGPPC and can’t wait to unlock achievements aplenty!

Whilst we’re rounding up, here’s what I’m reading at the moment: Clover, by Susan Coolidge, the joyous follow-up to What Katy Did Next, featuring easily my favourite character from all the novels. The Life of Ian Fleming, by John Pearson, because Fleming was a fascinating man and this is a strangely beautiful old hardback I picked up the other day. Poul Anderson’s The Winter of the World because I was about to send it to someone when I realised it was one of my own books I’d never actually got around to reading, and had mixed it up in the wrong pile (this happens a lot).

My bedtime read (something savoured, a couple of pages a night) is Arsenic For Tea, by Robin Stevens (Wells and Wong #2) because I have just received First Class Murder (Wells and Wong #3) and can’t believe I’ve got behind. If you enjoy 1930’s English boarding school murder mysteries with a glorious strong female PoC protagonist (and if you don’t, I’m not 100% certain we can be friends, but I’ll forgive you if that’s because you’re super-into Ursula K. leGuin, although really, why should these things be mutually exclusive?), then please, dive in. Great fun and pleasingly befuddling as you’re going along; Robin Stevens is a joy and a delight and is exhibit #1 in my ‘Write What you Know’ gallery, even though, at the rate I’m loving her words and characters, I’d be happy to consume her retelling of the ‘phone book…or whatever the modern-day version of that analogy is.

Also, speaking of strong young female protagonists, I must shout out here that if you’ve yet to get to Tim Clare’s The Honours (link to a very, very accurate Guardian review, emphasis particularly on the relaxed sigh that comes when you realise, a little way into a book, that you’re in the hands of a competent storyteller) then I can’t urge you to do so now strongly enough. It’s been a wonderful year for reading for me thus far, and this book alone will tell you exactly why. I’ve already given two copies to friends and need to buy myself another in order to read it again, and treasure it closely.

I finally got around to reading last winter’s ‘this book is everywhere’ read, Station Eleven, which I only adored once I’d actually finished it, but now rate exceptionally highly. I rather liked not knowing what it was going to be about before I started it, so don’t click the link to the review if you also don’t know, and fancy going in with nothing.

Ah, I could continue with this for quite some time, but I think this must do for now, for it’s time, oh yes, it’s time at last, to get boxing for August! As ever, we’re at prudenceandthecrow.com if you want to purchase yourselves, or friends, a box, and recurring subscriptions will open up once more around the 13th of August, if you prefer that. Should you have any customer queries, once more I ask, please, please use our Contact Us form at the website, for it is the only way we provide individual assistance. Otherwise, we’re herethere and everywhere, and you’re always welcome to come and tell us what you’re reading (or writing!), what we should or could be reading, if you’re coming to IGGPPC camp, how the weather is, and what drinks go with which books (a forthcoming conversation!).

Happy August!

~P (and the C).

Despatches from the Land of Nearly Christmas!

Goodness, what an extremely long time it is since I updated this blog! Prudence here, surrounded by no fewer than three kinds of tea and two cups of coffee. I trust you’re all keeping well?  I thought it was time to do a little update and let you know how everything’s going!

We have been wonderfully, incredibly busy here at PatC HQ since my last update. We’re thrilled by how many wonderful customers and subscribers we’ve got, and sorry to have sold out of subscriptions for the time being, but we do plan to open them up for limited periods again in the future – do keep an eye out in January!

We’ve learnt a lot about what we do and who we’re doing it for – every month we pick up on something new we can do to make things work better – and we’ll be improving things significantly in the months to come, from introducing a new box style that will a) get to us on time and b) get to you on time whilst c) being made in the UK from good quantities of recycled paper, and from restructuring how we do things around the month. We’re also trying to be good and be more strict with our ‘office hours’ – no good comes of 3am customer service, a rule we’ve learnt so often, but always struggle over, because, well, in the middle of the night, you see a query, you want to help! But we must be strong; it’s not always helpful, and it’s easy to end up talking rhubarb when you do this. So, if you don’t get an immediate reply to a query – don’t panic! We’ll be there as soon as we can, we promise. We aim to answer all correspondence within 72 hours.

The other thing we’d like you to know is, we remain just the two of us! We’re not a large subscription box company with a warehouse of books, we’re not backed by financial groups or sponsored by, well, anyone at all. At this point, PatC makes no revenue through anything other than sales of our boxes. We’re two young women who’ve been doing online business for fifteen years, and this is a venture we created from scratch without capital, with only our knowledge and experience. It’s growing beautifully, and we’re so proud of what we do and thrilled by the responses we get every day.

Every box is folded and stamped by Prudence, every single thing in your box is put there by Prudence; every box is wrapped and stickered by the Crow. The Crow does all our photography and coding. Prudence does the Twitter and Facebook; the Crow does Instagram and Pinterest (Prudence is really bad at Pinterest…). Prudence does the post side of things. We share handwriting, cutting-out, book-choosing, gift-making and stock-organising duties, and both do customer service. The only thing we’ve sometimes ‘outsourced’ is the bookbags – Prudence’s mum has done some quite heroic sewing over the last month for us in order to have everything ready for your December boxes!

Also, apart from our little ad with the wonderful IGGPPC, we haven’t advertised externally at all – everything comes from word of mouth, and the loveliest thing of all is to see the groups of friends and family we send to, and to see more and more addresses cropping up in the same student halls, office blocks, streets, schools, cities, towns and villages. Know that we really, really appreciate your conversations in the coffee break, your photos and shares, blogs and unboxing videos!

We really, really love what we do. There’ve been some (extremely!) long nights and some rather heated arguments (“But I just don’t think they’ll like Book X as much as Book Y!” “I think they will!”) but we wouldn’t change a shred of it. Here’s to many more boxes, and, best of all, many more books!

From the picture at the top, you can see this was meant to be more about our Christmas bundle, but I got all excited writing the catchup here! But don’t let me forget – until 10pm GMT on 5th December, you can buy a random vintage book and have it beautifully and seasonally wrapped and sent straight to you, or your loved one, or a vague acquaintance, for just £6 in the UK. To do this, head here immediately! Quantities are limited; some genres more than others, so we’d advise not leaving it too long! Meanwhile, happy December!

We’re Doing A Webinar at Summer Camp – Any Questions?!

wpid-20140618_000935

We’re super, super excited at Prudence and the Crow HQ – we’re going to be hosting a webinar about creating and developing an online business at the IGGPPC Online Summer Camp in August!

We’ve got a few ideas, but, in the camp spirit of Be Prepared, we’re casting the net for any questions / suggestions for inclusion now, so we can shape accordingly!

How can you do this? SO MANY WAYS. Comment here, email us, tweet us (@PrudenceCrow), or fill out our comment form on our Contact Page if you like!

Let’s be more specific: we’ve run several formal and informal online businesses in a few explicitly geeky areas, some which continue, some which we’ve outgrown, some which have reached a logical conclusion. We’ve learnt many, many things in that time, and we’re keen to share them and, hopefully, learn a few things ourselves in the contemplation! When we started out,on mailing lists and eBay and with rudimentary websites, receiving payment in cash-stuffed envelopes from around the world, social media was almost a decade away and promotion was a very different kettle of fish. As the internet has grown, we’ve found many ways to keep up, get ahead, and stay on top.

Here are the broad questions we’re starting our conversation with each other about what we’ll discuss with – have you any more to add? Any specifics you’d like our thoughts on? Prudence and the Crow-specific is welcome, but anything relating to the creation of small business online is too – as I say, we’re just at the drawing board here, and we’d love you to scribble on it 🙂

Starting Points:

– In need of money and feeling sure there must be something you can do with your geek powers to make it?

– Creative, but not sure where or how to start selling your works?

– Already have an online business, and looking to expand?

– Wondering how to create and develop a brand identity?

– International sales…a good idea?

– Customers. Need them? Hate them? Struggling to communicate with them?

– Just plain curious about who we are and how we came to do the things we’ve done?

 

There’s Nothing Like A Penpal! #IGGPPC and How We Fell In Love With A Geek Community Again

Greetings, everyone! Prudence here. When we began putting Prudence and the Crow together, there were so many inspirations. So many things we wanted to encompass, so many feelings we wanted to encapsulate. Right up there was the feeling of getting post from someone who’s made an effort to put together post that you’ll actively enjoy! The idea behind our curated vintage book-providing service is that it’s with you in mind – the longer you subscribe with us, and the more we get to know you through social media and so on, the more accurate our bookshopping for you can be! Of course, we’re always happy to send completely random books to subscribers who enjoy that, and no contact is required at all to get the most from that service – we have some customers who specifically say they’d rather not let us know anything about what they usually read because they’ve come to us to branch right out, and that’s fun as well, but for others, the ongoing relationship is all part of the fun.

And that, that is a lot like the old art of Having A Penpal. I had a lovely penpal when I was about eight years old, who lived in the UAE. She wrote me incredible long letters about her life, her school, her family. Everything was so very different from my life, and so utterly fascinating, of course, but as I grew older, and she grew older, we wrote less frequently and less still – our cultures were so far apart, and the means to access them to share just didn’t exist in the early nineties, so I would tell her about TV I liked, but couldn’t share it with her, and vice versa…she would tell me about music she enjoyed, but couldn’t send it to me to experience. We couldn’t have things in common, then, and, alas, I didn’t have the skills to keep up the conversation, and so we fizzled. I still wonder how she is. We did exchange the occasional card, in later years, and, I confess, I still hope to get one from her again one day!

But the point here is – there’s never been a better time in history to have a penpal from across the world! It’s so easy to share interests, to meet through something/someone/somewhere/someplace you love, as a fan, a student, as a professional, whatever! And there’s also never been a nicer time to receive physical post, for so much of our communication is electronic and transient. That’s not to say that physical is better, but the option is a wonderful thing. And it’s so easy to point someone to, say, Cabin Pressure, and within moments you can introduce someone to what was, for years, a little British radio sitcom, but what is now (rightly, marvellously) regarded as one of the most accomplished pieces of British comedy in a generation. Then you can play Yellow Car together via Facebook Messenger, even if it isn’t quite fair when one of you is in Wisconsin, and the other in London! You can have so many shared jokes and entertainments, and all at the touch of a few keys.

When the International Geek Girls Penpal Club launched last year, I was in there like a shot. I’ve participated in at least ten rounds, and met some incredible people. I’ve made penpals I know I’ll write to – whether truly, or via email – forever, simply because we get on SO WELL. When you sign up for a round with the #IGGPPC, you list your top five current geek loves, whether that’s the works of Neil Gaiman, Ancient Greece, Sherlock Holmes, crochet or the films of Ingmar Bergman or whatever, and the marvellous people at IGGPPCHQ will hook you up with a fellow geek with as much in common as possible, and off you go! You know you’ve likely already got something you both love to share your enjoyment of, and then also you’ve got all those differences in country, town, life, pets etc that make having friends such a worthwhile pursuit!

Plus, even if you aren’t sure about the idea of having a regular penpal right now, there’s the magnificent forum, with active conversations going on about everything from recs for inexpensive fountain pens (my Lamy, btw, is one of my favourite things ever) to Ms. Marvel to fanfic to the films of Tim Burton. There are regular blogs and vlogs on a variety of topics, meetups all over the place and as if that wasn’t enough, you can participate in swaps and challenges from candy swapping to daily Instagramming. Honestly, everything is awesome. Nothing is too geeky to bring to the table, and you can bet that somewhere in the world, there’s an Iggle who’d love to share that love with you! In a year of hanging out there, and on Twitter with many an Iggle, I’ve yet to see a cross word exchanged, or an issue had. My experience of it has been gloriously fluffy and fun, and it makes me so incredibly happy to be part of such a thing, especially when the internet so often loves nothing more than to fall hard for criticism and the dark side.

The reason the IGGPPC is the only place we’ve advertised with to date is because we feel so completely at home with that community, and it’s, frankly, a pleasure simply to see ourselves alongside such great company! And because we hope that, having already established a love of communicating, good post and geekery, people will also enjoy what we do XD

I just can’t speak highly enough for this community, and, if you’ve yet to jump in, then Round 15 -Time Travel-themed! – is now open, and there’s no better time to get your best stationery together and go for it! There’s no more geekish, daft, wise and joyous community out there. I meant to write this post long ago, to celebrate the IGGPPC’s birthday back in March, but I never did get around to it…so…happy June, IGGPPC, and all who sail in you! Thank you for some fabulous friends and conversations and, indeed, customers! We love you all 🙂

 

Cats and Wizards oh my!

Image

The joint #1 loves of our subscribers, that is, and that makes us ever so happy. Also, thrillingly, during one our busiest signup day ever last week (who knows why? We’re just so glad you’re all here!) we had TWO instances of my favourite thing – two apparently unconnected people signing up one after the other, one stating Book X as their favourite book, and the next subscriber choosing that very same book, out of all the books in the world, as their least favourite! The joy of the perfect coincidence? I can’t imagine it’s anything else, but it’s such a satisfactory amusement to me!

A well-filled-out questionnaire does help us considerably with the selection process, and, whilst the whole thing is very much the Secret Ingredient situation one might find with a famous, delicious fast-food company, most of it is simply Prudence and the Crow sitting there wielding one book or another, shouting things like “THIS HAS THE BEST CAT IN IT THOUGH” and the other countering with “THE PLOT OF THIS ONE IS SO MUCH MORE EXCITING THOUGH”, and mostly we have a really awesome time fighting that situation out, over and over again. Obviously, there are a great number of subscriptions where, either we’re super fortunate and able to fulfil a request directly, or there’s such a clear choice that we both chorus a title, as we read the subscription email. Sometimes we’re not super certain, or the recipient seems genuinely to want something random, and that’s a diferent kettle of fish – occasionally Prudence does a bit of detective work and decides whether random might really mean ~random, and that’s when, say, with the sci-fi category, the super-weird stuff might come out, or we might go the other way and opt for a real classic that’s just so beautiful, no-one could be sad to have it!

We have some stock favourites that we’ll send any time we get the chance and feel they’re a good match, and those are the ones that are often the most ‘loved’ books we’ll post out…to me, a pristine book is a gorgeous thing, of course it is, but we love the books that have been thoroughly enjoyed too, the ones with the notes and creases and folds and scuffs, the ones that you could drop in the bath but that you’d promptly scoop out and take emergency measures with. Although – rest assured – we wouldn’t send any that had actually been dropped in the bath, not even if they were the best! It’s mostly that there are some reads we’d bet anyone would want to read over, and over, and over, and how lovely to be able to give someone that handbag copy, the one you can slip into a suitcase for a beach holiday ‘just in case’, or the one you’ll take for a long tube journey because you can bend the pages around without fear, and grasp it in a grimy London paw without fearing for the smearing, or the one you’ll have on a bedside table and read, squinting by the light of a streetlamp sneaking through the curtains, when you can’t sleep and are wondering whether or not those little noises are the sound of a tiny mouse…

…you get the picture! So, thanks for all your many questionnaires, and remember that you’re always welcome to update your answers as your subscription continues – if you’ve lost the link, just pop by our ‘Contact Us’ form at http://www.prudenceandthecrow.com and use the email you signed up with, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can!

And for the record, the current #1 Favourite Book of Prudence and the Crow subscribers is Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere (about which we’re thrilled, for it’s a favourite for us both, too – especially the magnificent audiobook edition), and the most mentioned requests are, as I say, ‘cats’ and ‘wizards’ – although ‘wizards’ are also one of the most mentioned dislikes, surpassed only by ‘romance’ 🙂

We’re thrilled to have you all on board, whatever you enjoy, and hope April has ticked along pleasantly for you! Roll on May, though, for these boxes are shaping up even more beautifully than ever thus far!