The Friday Morning Jelly Explosion, or ‘How to make edible zombie brains’

‘Tis the season…for Drama Club to do an assembly. A zombie assembly.

Let me explain: last Summer, Drama Club made a zombie film, written and directed by one of my sixth formers, and, despite me then painting their faces to look like zombies on Open Day, when we showed the film (and when parents and prospective parents also come have a look-see what we’re up to), we were asked to do an assembly on it for the new 1st years, whom hasn’t seen it.

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Cover#4: Adelaide’s Pop Psychology from ‘Guys and Dolls’

Our school play (musical) is ‘Guys and Dolls’, which is a darling of a show with incredibly upbeat numbers and period styling as it’s set in the 50s, and is one I produced back at University … unfortunately in the days just before social media and digital cameras.
One of the two pairs of romantic leads is Adelaide, the ‘comedy’ female lead. She has a brilliant number called, rather unimaginitively, ‘Adelaide’s Lament’, where she is reading a pop psychology book that explains that her constant cold is actually a psychosomatic response to having been engaged for fourteen years but not actually getting anywhere near the altar. This is clearly a sore point for her, despite her comically chirpy outlook, as she’s already written to her mother about her five kids and her husband’s promotion. The lyrics are a delight: here’s a version of it (at 6.18) with the scene leading up to it beforehand…

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We won a Prize!

This actually happened a month or two ago, but I’ve only just remembered to post it.

In September, I won Basekit’s ‘Site of the Month’ with my design for a fashion journalism portfolio.

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How to make an ‘old book’ cover for your Kindle (or, a guide to how to accept a Kindle into your heart)

I am reblogging this old post from my old blog, http://booknewsatblackboardfiction.wordpress.com (yes, what a huge mouthful, and how content-specific, hence this new blog), which I originally posted on 26th December 2011 – Boxing Day. This was a delightful Boxing Day pursuit, as you will see. I thought it best to move it seeing as people keep asking me for it, and it’s far too time consuming to give them the old blog address 😉

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So… I got a Kindle for Christmas. My darling and savvy other half decided that, as I’m in the business, you know, actually publishing for Kindle, I should actually have one.

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On-the-spot project: DIY ‘stained-glass’ panels and a lot of colouring in

Staying with friends one evening, and suddenly having time on our hands, I suggested we make faux stained-glass panels for their WC door – seeing as it’s lacking in them currently as they wait for their real stained-glass windows to be made (a towel over the door doesn’t quite cut it in the style stakes, and the rest of their house is so lovely).

As they’re a couple with a very young baby, and with a penchant for the natural world…and there being a large supply of chubby, inviting, felt-tipped pens at hand, we thought some naively colourful ‘natural’ scenes would go down well: a tall woodland and mountain scene on one, and a coastal scene (my mythical Cornwall) in the other. In both, a beautiful, layered sky, as the house they bought has the most amazing stained glass seascape, complete with galleon, in the front door (which sadly I don’t have a picture of.) I made any large expanses of colour into layers also, so that a variety of shades could be used, and, more practically, so the colouring pens wouldn’t run out too quickly. Thick lines were meant to replicate the leading in real glass windows. ‘Magic’ markers that had a colour-changing tip added texture to simple blocks of colour.

We made the panels out of simple sheets of A4 paper, turned widthways, and traced the outline of the missing panels. Then I went wild with the black marker while they coloured in. The result was pretty.

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‘stained-glass’ panel 1
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‘stained-glass’ panel 2 – unfinished
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The first panel in situ – see how it shines!

We actually started colouring the second panel over breakfast. There were three of us working on it, and another one dribbling nearby. I’m seriously wondering if there isn’t a business in 4-foot long colouring books?

Busy June 5: online English course design

One of the gifs for ‘The Adventurer’s Guide’ – see end of post

5) course design. For the distance learning organisation I work for, I am in the process of updating the Literature IGCSE and A-Levels that are run, due to changes in the texts studied. With an update of the online platform we use to one that supports more media features, I’m starting to think outside the written page and move toward designing additional resources that are audio, and perhaps visually, based.

For students that are independent learners, support needs to come from all angles for the student to be sufficiently ‘buoyant’. Also, with my move to full-time teaching and my increase in online students, I need to minimise the reliance they feel towards me as my ability to answer their emails becomes less. Audio resources of ‘their master’s voice’ for example could help, with explanations of the other resources, or extra detail that makes them feel like someone is reading the text resources with them. I also have some differently-abled students that would benefit from a different approach to make their learning process smoother.

The other advantage perhaps of visual aids is their ability to go viral – memes, infographics, posters. Combining the audio and visual in a youtube or vimeo video clip could also be an option, although I’m not exactly photogenic for that purpose (when we use Skype, I look a lot like a pink balloon) . I’ll certainly document any interesting findings in the process of making these on here, as it’s my job for the next two weeks.

I’m also meant to be starting to design a creative writing course. Now *that* should be fun. I did a basic, children-oriented one last year, called ‘The Adventurer’s Guide’, as a preliminary project. It was a weekly email-based course that I then archived for later use, and which can still be found at Blackboard Fiction – go here and find the passage behind the bookshelf, or just be boring and click this link: http://www.blackboardfiction.com/theadventurersguide

Busy June 4: prop making

For our school play, which I didn’t get to see because I was ill, I made some props. This was a nice hands-on and hands-dirty project and a bit of a change. I used to make all the props for the plays I produced at college, and I’ve been making odds and sods for school whenever there’s something random we need for a show.

We needed: a pile of pretty cupcakes, a pile of rotten cupcakes, and a cleaver. Everything below was made with things findable in either the pound store or my classroom.

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Pound shop purchases
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Voila – a pile of yummy cupcakes!
Beware though, as the sign says these are full of skewers to keep them together, including the cherries. DO NOT EAT.
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YEUCH! Ugly, mouldy cupcakes.
Effects created with pieces of green scourer, green marker, and tea granules from a ripped teabag, which was surprisingly effective on stage. No one wanted to eat these, even without the skewers.
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Step one: buy a cheap dustpan…
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Step 36, finish covering with layers of tinfoil having cut in half and folded over to make vaguely ‘cleaver’ shape (had to be strong enough to split pieces of velcro that were keeping a teddy’s limbs on, appearing to dismember said teddy. I’m not sure why.)
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And here’s our finished props table. Obviously, stuff we made earlier…

Busy June 2: web design

2) Website Design. And up-and-coming fashion journalism student, whom may or may not be related to me, needed a website for their portfolio.

The brief: a simple portfolio website, including areas for different kinds of published work to allow for all facets of journalistic talent to be displayed. It also needed to reflect the personality of the journalist, and mark itself out from contemporaries wordpress efforts, with fashionable illustration and an expandable design that would allow it to be viewed on a variety of devices . In short: be clearly custom.

Border inspiration for the site

Inspiration for the theme: Angel Adoree’s ‘The Vintage Tea Party Book’

The design: a monochrome theme with illustrated border and flashes of colour in standalone illustrations, done with pencil, ink, and Photoshop, with left sidebar navigation.

A basic workflow model was made, and few initial sketches done of possible illustrations.The ‘winning’ ones were then photographed (on iPhone in fact) and then sent to Photoshop to have the balance restored and proper black and white restored. This works for two reasons: one, it is monochrome, and two, I am lazy.

The border was then made completely even in Photoshop, to allow for the sides of the border to be stretched with more content without destroying the design.

The expandable border with title/logo

Illustrations were added as separate additions to the border, on the right hand side to balance out the navigation bar on the left. Additions were also made to the bottom to create a decorative footer, and to this custom rollover gifs for social media were also added.

The final design – just before tweaking

More illustrations were created for each level of the navigation. Here are a couple of my favourites:

catwalk by e jenkinson and l jenkinson
‘catwalk’ by E Jenkinson, colour by L Jenkinson
'laptop' by L Jenkinson
‘laptop’ by L Jenkinson

You can see how the whole website worked out with content here: www.ellejenkinson.com.


And, I’m pleased to say, the whole portfolio got a great mark! In fact, the website itself even won a prize!