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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Kay_Nielsen_-_East_of_the_sun_and_west_of_the_moon_-_soria_moria_castle_-_he_took_a_long_long_farewell_of_the_Princess

Yep, our February ‘theme’ was the 19th century Norwegian fairytale collection put together by zoologist Peter Christen Asbjørnsen and folklorist (there’s a title) Jørgen Moe. East of the Sun, West of the Moon is just one of the stories contained within, but it’s also the title of the most common English collection, and it’s the one we have. The artwork used is by Danish illustrator Kay Nielsen, and they’re some of the most famous, beautiful and evocative fairytale illustrations we can think of, so it was a pleasure to incorporate them.

Should you wish to, you can read all the stories from the collection online here, which is well worth a few of anyone’s hours. The very shortest story in the collection is minuscule indeed, and you can read it here on our Instagram page.

The illustration used on the envelope is from the story The Three Princesses in the Blue Mountain, and on the bookplate, the girl riding the polar bear is our main character from East of the Sun, West of the Moon itself.

As with all fairytales, the collection’s European roots mean that there are many crossovers and influences between these tales and others you may have heard, or grown up with, and the infinite variations on the same themes that come with the telling and retelling of these stories and tropes make fairytales one of our very favourite genres to visit and explore. They’re the backbone of so much of all fiction (some would say, of all fiction), and the way we choose to read and understand them can tell us so much about the social and cultural world not just that we live in, but that we inherit.

The Crow and I grew up entranced, and sometimes terrified by, the wonderful Storyteller presentations of several European fairytales – if you’ve never seen these, they feature the best beloved John Hurt, and the magical puppetry of the Jim Henson workshop (best known, of course, for Labyrinth). If you pop over to this link, you can find the episode concerning the tale of The True Bride, which is clearly a strain of the same story (Wikipedia tells me it’s the German version of it, which seems logical). We also hugely recommend making a vat of tea and perhaps some biscuits or carrots or whatever you nibble whilst consuming entertainment, and then losing yourself in the entire Storyteller series, which is all available up there. Truly, important stuff.

It won’t have escaped regulars’ notice that East of the Sun, West of the Moon is also the title of the a-ha album we’ve listened to the most during the making of recent boxes, and in light of that here’s a bonus, a daft and poor quality little YouTube clip of the title song because grainy, quiet, daft a-ha are our favourites.

We are asked so often to find magic, to find escape, to find imaginative reads for our subscribers, and the hunt often starts with these oldest tales, from wherever in the world we can find them, and the many ways they’ve strained through time into novels, children’s and adults’ alike, good and bad, thrilling and cautionary. This book is the tip of the iceberg of one of our greatest human traditions, and it also celebrates the collection and preservation of these stories, which, in a tiny way, is also, we like to think, what Prudence and the Crow is all about.

Speaking of which, as February’s been a short month and it’s nice to give people a chance to get a recurring subscription that comes out after the first of the month, we’ll be keeping recurring subscriptions starting with a March box open until 4th March, so, should you wish to join us thus, or to buy a one-off, 3, 6 or 12-month gift subscription for someone, do head over to www.prudenceandthecrow.com and sign up!

Finally, we launched the PatCReadingList Project this month – to further knowledge about what’s been read in schools in our ship-to countries over the last thirty years, we’re calling for recommended reading lists, recollections and core course texts in various ways: hop over to the post for a detailed explanation of what, where, why and how-to! We’ve had some wonderful responses, and the more the very much merrier (esp. Americans – we’d love more from you!), so please do join in, definitely do share the post around (shareable Facebook post here) and, hopefully, we’ll come up with some interesting things to share right back in the future.

We wish you a beautiful and delightful March, for that is what’s next. Happy Leap Day!

~Prudence (and the Crow)

 

The #PatCReadingList Project!

20160227_174256Calling all teachers, students, parents! We’re launching a new project, and we’d love your help sourcing old reading lists! If you’re curious, please read this whole lengthy post to find out more!

Here at Prudence and the Crow HQ, we spend a lot of our time working with people’s reading likes and dislikes, loves and hates, filling in gaps, adding unexpected delights, and stretching boundaries. We use a huge range of references and personal knowledge to do this, but we’re finding there’s one thing we don’t always know, and the more we don’t know it, the more interested we’ve become.

We don’t know what you read at school.

The Crow and I went to the same secondary school, although, as we were in separate halves of the year, we studied different things from each other, so we’re aware this is a big question, and that just because things are on a list, doesn’t mean everyone had the opportunity to study them, and, further, that just because you’re meant to study something, doesn’t mean you did! However, this is where we’re starting.

Further, we have little idea about, for example, Canadian school reading. We have loads of wonderful subscribers in Canada, and we’re interested in developing our familiarity with literature you might have focused on, or at least been aware of, at school. This goes for everywhere we ship to – currently the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, EU countries, Norway and Switzerland. No matter the language, we want to know what books you might have met!

How can you help? Firstly, if any teachers, parents, students have website links to school reading lists, that would be ideal. In the first instance, core recommended reading lists would be brilliant. Secondly, if you have, from any such academic place, or home school curriculum, your reading lists, whether for GCSE English, for ‘things you’re expected to read before you’re twelve’, for ‘wider reading’, for SATs, for the International Baccalaureate, for whatever exams you’ve sat, or teach, we’d love it if you could share them with us, whether typed or scanned.

Because, in the first instance, we need to narrow it down a touch, we’re looking for this information in relation to the last 30 years, so any recommended reading lists for children aged 5-18, from any of the listed countries, from 1986-2016.

We’ve set up an email address specifically for this project (and ONLY for this project, please do not send any subscription box/subscription account-related queries to this address, for they will not be answered!) – please send, either as links, Word document or PDF attachments, or in-email text, any reading lists, or lists of works of fiction those between the ages of 5-18 were/are directed to read between 1986-2016. (I know, I haven’t told you the email address yet, that’s at the end after I’ve reiterated some more!)

We need to know the following with your submission:

– Country of list origin

– State of list origin (if in a place that has states! If not, postal district or county is great.)

– Age group list is directed at

– Class list is directed at (if, say, reading list for Key Stage 3, or for GCSE Drama

– Year list is relevant to

An example would be, “1996 Wider Reading list for GCSE English Language (14-16 years old).” followed by the list of books.

We do NOT need any personal information from you, whatsoever – this isn’t about collecting individual data, but rather more general data to give us a broad context of understanding for what we do. We may in future look to do some more specific work in light of what we find out (I’m excited to see how much we have in common, and I have a few theories that I’m eager to test), but at this stage, we really do simply want to collect as many reading lists from as many years, ages, states and countries as possible!

You’re welcome to submit a personal recollection of books from school if you don’t have a specific issued reading list, as many or few as you like, an example of which might be:

[UK: England]

1998 – Harper Lee – To Kill A Mockingbird, Shakespeare – Macbeth, Alan Bennett – Talking Heads – GCSE English Literature
1993 – Nina Bawden – Carrie’s War, Robert C. O’Brien – Z For Zachariah, Year 7 class reading

So, if you can help with books-suggested-by-educators from the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, EU countries, Norway and Switzerland between 1986-2016, here’s what you do:

Submit your reading list by email to: patcreadinglist@gmail.com with the subject line [COUNTRY] Reading List. Delete the word ‘COUNTRY’ and replace it with the country/ies your list is from.

In the body of your email, please put the information requested above (country, state, school class, age and year), and, of course, don’t forget to attach/include the reading list!

In due course, we hope not only to improve what we do, but to share our findings, write up some interesting bits and pieces, and widen the discourse about reading in education. We have a few ideas for follow-up questionnaires and so on, but one step at a time!

Finally, if you could share this post, we’d greatly appreciate it – we’re looking for as wide a selection as possible. You can also see and share this post on our Facebook page – as you know, Facebook has a very special way of choosing how visible things are, so every like and share contributes to the success of this project!

Thanks for reading, and, if you can, for helping! We’re looking forward to finding out more! ~Prudence (and the Crow)

Last Night I Dreamt…

young_daphne_du_maurierA couple of words on the January ‘theme’, because it’s always nice to join the dots. Our ‘cover star’ on the inner envelope this month was, as you may have deduced (or will simply now know, if you’re still awaiting arrival, which you may well be, in which case, er, spoilers!) Daphne du Maurier. Born in London in 1907, she died a Dame, in Cornwall, in 1989.

A prolific and fascinating writer, du Maurier’s most famous novel is likely ‘Rebecca’, a much-requested and much-loved regular feature in our questionnaires, which we always enjoy sending out, and if you’ve never read it, it’s the one with the opening line, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”, which is the answer to a good many pub quiz questions. Never out of print, Wikipedia gives me the incredible fact that the novel sold 2.8m copies in its first 17 years of publication.

The tie-in to our unusually cinematic postcard is that du Maurier, either famously or surprisingly, depending on whether you already knew it or not, wrote the short story, The Birds, which inspired Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic film of the same name. If you’d like to hear a marvellously 1950’s dramatisation of du Maurier’s short story, I highly recommend the Escape one, from 1954. A fine and wintery tale of fear and panic for a chilly January night. You may wish to close the curtains whilst you listen, if you’re near, well, any birds.

Her novels span the historic, romantic, gothic and pre-modern, but her short stories are even more interesting (to me, at least), and varied. The Guardian kindly reprints her bizarre and long-lost tale, The Doll, which contains lightly disturbing scenes and (mostly implied) sexual content you might not immediately associate with her name. I rather enjoy happening upon collections of her short stories, and it’s always a pleasure to send them out – they appeal to such a wide variety of genres, and contain true gems of atmosphere, imagery and language.

There’s so much more to know and read about du Maurier, I won’t pretend to offer anything more than a starting point here, but she offers a most fascinating and, in true 20th century authorial style, controversial figure. If you’ve yet to enjoy her work, try the links above, and, if you subscribe with us at Prudence and the Crow and would like to read more of it, just drop us a line through our Contact Us page with your name and thoughts, no matter the genre you’re signed up for, and we’ll update your preferences so that at some point, one of her finest will wing its way to you!
All the best for now, and we hope to bring you more of these slightly-themed, slightly-interesting posts as we go along, to make your box last a little longer each month!

Yours,
~ Prudence (and the Crow)

 

Tales of Yuletide Joy

pclogomainGreetings and salutations, all! We are here, at last, with our festive winter plans, and, hopefully, some clarifications for you, thanks to the art of the long-form blog.

Things to be covered herein: What a recurring subscription is, when you can buy one. What you can buy between now and January 13th. Purchase and posting dates. Our special Yuletide offer, the return of the popular ‘just the book’, for anyone who needs a Secret Santa/stocking filler. Gift certificates.

Yep, there’s a lot to talk about!

  1. Recurring subscriptions. These are currently closed until January 13th. A recurring subscription is one in which PayPal automatically bills you the cost of your box on a certain date every month. Should you wish to purchase a recurring subscription for yourself, but also want to start now, you’re very welcome to purchase a one box for December and January, and then subscribe when we re-open the ability to do so for February – we’ll continue your subscription straight on from there.
  2. Right now at Prudence and the Crow and until Jan 13th you may purchase a One Box, 3-month, 6-month or 12-month box. You may do this for yourself, or for a friend/relative/partner/other human/probably don’t get your dog one. Do remember that we’ll need your friend’s name and address to be able to send it to them, rather than your own default PayPal one.
  3. Last purchase date for a December box is 5th December. All boxes purchased after this will be/begin with a January box. See further down for info on purchasing January boxes as gifts. All US/Canada/Australia/NZ December boxes will be despatched on or before 14th December. European ones will be sent by the 15th. UK ones will be posted by the 21st. These be the last posting dates as set by Royal Mail.
  4. On 27th November we will be opening our Yuletide offer, ‘Just the Book’ once more! This little bundle will be a random vintage paperback, beautifully wrapped with a handwritten gift card, along with one of our library cards in its card holder. These cost just £6, inc. UK P&P. The book is randomly selected from your chosen genre, so this is not a suitable gift for smallest children or people who have very strong opinions on their books – the regular PatC box option is where we take the recipient into account! This offer closes on 5th December. All books will be sent by 19th December.
  5. Gift certificates! On 6th December, for 24 HOURS ONLY any 1, 3, 6 or 12-month box purchase from us comes with a free physical gift certificate, which will be printed, hand-signed and stamped, encased in a fine envelope and posted out to you (in a second envelope) or your recipient (there’ll be a special form for this) right away in time for actual gifting over the festive period. From 7th December onwards, you will receive a printable PDF gift certificate to fill out, or email on, yourself.
  6. Phew! That’s all for now. Have a handy timeline of our winter business at PatC:

NOW – purchase a 1, 3, 6 or 12-box for/starting with December for yourself or a friend.

27th November – the ‘Just the Book’ offer will go live. Links will be posted in all the usual places.

5th December – the ‘Just the Book’ offer closes, and it’s the last day to order/start with a December box.

6th December – You can purchase a January box, or buy a 3, 6 or 12-month  bundle to start with a January box. It’s Physical Gift Certificate Shopping Day! Links will be posted everywhere.

7th December – 1st January – you may continue to purchase January boxes. If you purchase for someone else, you will be automatically the proud recipient of a digital gift certificate you may print or forward to the recipient as you wish.

24th December – 2nd January From midday on the 24th, the Crow and I will be officially closing our metaphorical office doors and taking a break from customer service until midday on 2nd January. We will not be checking email or social media. If you should have any customer service issues during this period, please, please, please use the Contact Us form on our website to ensure that we receive your message and, on our return to work, can get back to you ASAP.

13th January – Recurring subscriptions will re-open, and January despatch week will begin, and yay!

That is it! Also, don’t forget, we do have a FAQ that you may wish to peruse before making a purchase or asking us anything.

We hope you are all as bright and well as can be this uncommonly sunny November day, and we’ll keep you posted with everything we’re doing along the way!

~Prudence, and the Crow

 

 

 

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).

January at PatC HQ!

Some books!

Greetings, all! What a wonderfully wet and windy January we’re having here…just perfect for curling up with a hot drink and a good book!

Part of our resolution for PatC this year was to try and do at least a monthly update because, well, it’s good to talk, isn’t it? And we’ve so much to share, and we love how much we get to connect with you all in the book-selecting process, and figure it’s only fair you get to connect back a bit, should you so desire! So, here’s what we’re reading, loving, listening to and doing this month:

Prudence is reading The Boy in Darkness, by Mervyn Peake again, because it’s the best thing she read last year and it made her heart sing with glee. It’s one of the Crow’s long-held favourites, too.

The Crow is reading A Natural History of Dragons, by Marie Brennan because Prudence bought it for her for Christmas.

We are both very positive on the Taylor Swift front and have had 1989 on repeat. Last year we pretty much only listened to the Lorde album whilst boxing; this year it seems that has competition. Prudence got a new digital radio that doesn’t break every ten seconds for Christmas and, when not listening to music, is obsessive about listening to Radio 4 Extra (or, BBC7 as she still calls it) which is, for all its broadcast of the best archive comedy, sci-fi, literature and plays, is worth the licence fee in itself. Or not, as the case may be, because you can listen worldwide online, and we could not recommend it more if you’re a fan of basically anything BBC have ever done.

We’ve not managed to go to the cinema since Mockingjay came out (despite a burning desire to see Paddington!), but we have been catching up with Elementary (oh, Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu <3), and Prudence was most excited to watch A Hard Day’s Night for the first time in years on iPlayer the other day. If you’ve not seen it, or not seen it in a while, do, go, view. Hilarious, and the music hasn’t aged a day.

We are also card-carrying (seriously, there should be cards) Wittertainees – are there any others of the persuasion in our midst?

In actual business news, we continue to try to streamline and perfect things – do know that we are always trying to make your box experience ace, yes you, yes your box!, and we still put frankly disproportionately large amounts of thought and care into each one! This month we are super on it, prep-wise, for Prudence’s Christmas break involved a lot of folding, and have some excellent things going on. Of course, we also have some wonderful vintage books to share…

The new boxes have done extremely well, and we’ve had some excellent feedback about them, so this is good to know! We’re hoping to stick with this design for now, and will evaluate again in a couple of months to check that, as ever, we’re doing the best we can!

Don’t forget to follow and share things with us in the places one might follow and share things – find our online homes on our social media page, here.

But I nearly forgot! To celebrate your reaching this part of this post, one very exciting thing. On Tuesday 13th January, if you haven’t already got one, you have a chance to sign up for a recurring subscription with us! We’ll be opening subscriptions up again for not more than 24 hours, at prudenceandthecrow.com. Tell your friends and check often – we don’t know when next we’ll be offering them again! We will continue to offer our fixed-term up-front subscriptions both before and after, but if you like the idea of a monthly payment subscription, then’s your chance!

So! What are you reading this month? This year? Any resolution-reads? Anyone determined to tackle a classic, a series, an always-meant-to book? Any recommendations for things we must get around to?

We trust you’re all as bright and well as can possibly be, and that 2015 brings us all some joy, somewhere, somehow, at the very least in the pages of an old, loved book.

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?!

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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 🙂