Romeo’s Achilles’ Heel: a literary comparison of Achilles and Romeo 

I often find that I use
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as a comparative reference when teaching the Iliad. It’s useful most notably in its tragic structure: while the Iliad isn’t classed as a tragedy as it pre-dates Aristotle’s Poetics, which lay down the observed rules of tragedy, it has many features typical of tragedy, and in Plato’s ‘Republic’ he refers to Homer as ‘protos didaskalos‘, “first teacher”, of the tragedians. Continue reading “Romeo’s Achilles’ Heel: a literary comparison of Achilles and Romeo “


The Fresh Prince of Latium


In 3rd year Classical Civilisation, I’m just about to start teaching Roman history in a topic I’ve called ‘Settlement, Kingdom, Republic, Empire’, and starting with The Aeneid in an abridged version – after all, they’re only 13ish.

Continue reading “The Fresh Prince of Latium”

Liminal London – a journey through space and imagination. With some book suggestions.

Hello and Merry Christmas to everybody! I hope you’ve had a lovely time. My own has passed in a kind of sofa-chocolate-turkey-stuffing-films-with-family haze, but today we left the house and went for a walk. It took a lot of effort to leave the house, and about five separate plans were scrapped before, quite by accident, we ended up walking along the disused railway lines in Crouch End.

Continue reading “Liminal London – a journey through space and imagination. With some book suggestions.”

Poetry Night – I Think I’m Achilles

So…I’m allergic to alcohol.

This comes as not an entirely unseen or unwelcome surprise. I’ve never really reacted to the jolly stuff terribly well, and I’ve had some pretty horrible experiences, both physical and mental, with drink and those who drink. Having a medical reason, I’m finding, makes not-drinking a hell of a lot easier however, as most people seem to immediately worry when you tell them you’re not drinking, worrying that you won’t be ‘any fun’ or that you’ll stop their fun. I’m not about to stop anyone having fun. I’ll just have a slimline-tonic-and-lime-ice-and-a-slice if you’re going to the bar.

Continue reading “Poetry Night – I Think I’m Achilles”

How *to* read poetry :) (or, I didn’t read it so fast this time)

Another go at the ‘reading poetry aloud to strangers’ game, and this time far more successful.

This time, I read Andrew Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’ and my 16-year-old response to it. (I have promised to actually write something for the next one in Oct…which I’ll try to do but I’m promising nuffing.)

Continue reading “How *to* read poetry 🙂 (or, I didn’t read it so fast this time)”

‘The (New) Merchant’s tale’, or ‘How Not To Perform Poetry’

Tonight, convinced by a student who is rather a fan of my writing, I went to a poetry open mike night.

Continue reading “‘The (New) Merchant’s tale’, or ‘How Not To Perform Poetry’”

ePublishing picture books!

Well, it works…

Writing Essays by L E Jenkinson
The original .ppt slide.
Using iBook Author to create the iPad version of ‘Writing Essays’

Having written my book ‘Writing Essays’ in a rather unconventional way – using Powerpoint, in fact, because of its flexible image and textbox manipulation, I found it initially difficult to self-publish. I couldn’t easily convert the file to ePub as the normal route is to convert .doc files. The idea of ‘floating’ images, changing the layout each time the reader changed the text size, also didn’t appeal as the pages all have very fixed layout. The only possible route was to save each slide as a mid-res .jpg (a saga in itself!) and paste each one individually into a Word .doc with no borders, page breaking between each image. It took forever. For print, this was fine, but for eReader – initially Kindle – removed the possibility of searching the text of the document. I intend to use the same method to create the next book as it’s most important that it works as a printed paperback, but in the future I also want to be able to publish picture books as eBooks, so iBooks is quite a decent alternative.

Getting to grips with the formatting tools is quite easy – they’re pretty standard, similar to Word, if you’ve experience of ePub formatting, although I’m having to reformat the style of the pages so that they’ll work on the different page dimensions of an iPad. Luckily, I can copy from the .ppt and paste into the iBooks Author document – useful for the images –  which means I can easily re-organise the sections of each page, although if I want to allow text to be searched I need to copy it into a text box and reformat it to match.  However, what’s even more fun is that it’s really a whole new edition. For iPad, I’m looking to include some whizzy things next, such as section tests, mp3s explaining sections of the book, and moving images of Bert. I’m hoping this will add to the multi-platform saleability of the book itself, perhaps even allowing for the website to be integrated into it. For my educational purposes, that’s pretty exciting.

More as I work out the rest of the exciting iBooks Author details…

ePublishing picture books?

ePublishing picture books. In these exciting times, everything’s possible. But, as easy as it is to say, and to imagine, it’s actually a shockingly difficult thing to do. When you consider that ePubs and Mobis have run-on text that allows them to have the text resized and to work on several different sizes of screen, and picturebooks, well, don’t, you start to get the idea. How could you format the document so that the images stayed static? How could they fill the page? What about double-page spreads? And text?

Luckily, with ePublishing being an in-development ‘science’ as it were, this problem is starting to be approached by enterprising PoD publishers, App designers. For example, , trusty photobook PoD printer, has some interesting instructions for publishing picturebooks for iPad, the most logical recipient of a picturebook if you’re going to do something as odd as make a *picturebook*, aimed at, you know, *children*, available on a *digital device* (no, it doesn’t entirely hold with me either). These instructions – which are not exactly the simplest, I warn you – explain how to create what is basically a photobook but which will fit an iPad screen and allow for all-important double-page spreads. You can read the instructions here.

However, if you already have an iPad, it’s an altogether much easier process, apparently, if you use the wealth of apps that have suddenly appeared to allow you to do this, especially the much-lauded (and simply-named) Book Creator by RedJumper . Look at the screenshots. It makes the whole process look ridiculously easy, and not a code in sight.

Create Book by Red Jumper
Create Book: all too easy?

Create Book and the other apps also have the ability to add ‘Physics’ to e-picture books. I think that means they do whizzy things, like talk, or move, or they’re *interactive*, you know, because children have no actual patience with real books. (Yes, I’m still not won over yet.) Still, fun to play with with your kids.

Oh. No iPad?

Get stuffed then.

Luckily, an interesting rumour has surfaced today that Apple will announce this Thursday their intention to create – or maybe even their already-built creation – of an eBook creator that will be to ePublishing what GarageBand is to demo and podcast creation. Although this is mooted to initially only be applicable to the lucrative ‘interactive education text’ market, this would certainly open a whole wealth of opportunities to the self-publisher – or services like my own that help others self-publish – if they were to embrace both text and picture eBooks. Clearly a move in Apple’s Great Game with Amazon over the eBook market, it still seems like this type of program would immediately overtake the existing eBook publishers/converters, like the excellent Calibre , which would be, well, really good.


My reaction is to say Come on then, Apple, let’s see what you’ve done, and can I have a copy please?

Hell, we live in exciting times! Fingers crossed you don’t have to have an iPad…

cover#3 Time Is Money

Pfft. Sometimes self-publishing is annoying, like when, after a week’s wait, your .epub is rejected because there’s something you forgot to do. (Actually, this doesn’t happen very often, but happening once is bad enough.) Using’s ‘publish free books’ ability, I rushed out a free excerpt from ‘Death and Stationery’ without checking that the title matched the text (I left ‘Death and Stationery’ in the title, before ‘FREE story: Time is Money’, which is wrong because it is, in fact, a different book.)

The original cover was a quickie that made it clear that the download was only an excerpt from the collection, and that it was FREE – over a fade-out of the original cover, the title proclaimed this, rather loudly:

the original cover for 'Time is Money'
The original cover for ‘Time is Money’. Not massively exciting.

Going back to make a new revision, I thought, ‘why not?’, and took the chance to create a new cover for it.

I’m lucky in that I have quite a decent stock of images ready to make covers from, all of which I’ve taken myself – if something interests me, I’ll snap it either on my camera or my phone, forget about it, and then delight in it when trawling through old files. For the cover of ‘Time is Money’, I wanted something fresh and airy, and originally thought of a predominantly white background, a close up of a man’s chin, blur around the edges to focus on his stubble. It’s the beginning image from the story. However, I don’t have a picture like that, and I didn’t have time to accost someone and make one. Instead, I found a beautiful and unusual picture I’d taken at a tube station near me a few months ago.

I meant to capture the owl at the top, used to scare away pigeons, and the nice repeated shapes and brick tones of the stairwell, and managed to also capture a shadowy figure coming up the stairs. There’s a tube and a shadowy figure in the text. Perfect.

I still wanted to have white space, and the window at the tops allows for that amply. The font this time should be Baskerville, the same as the original cover, in order to keep some sort of link between the texts, rather than advertising that on the front. I played with the layout of the text slightly, overlapping the dots of the ‘i’s. The author, rather than being at the bottom where it would take away from the image, is tight with the title. The black ‘frame’ outline of the original photo was something I wanted to keep. Here’s the first version:

'Time is Money' cover version 1
‘Time is Money’ cover version 1

Once uploaded, however, I found that the bottom image just didn’t come across when the cover was miniaturised/thumbnailed. I tried a re-cropped version that looks far better, and which has the added bonus of highlighting the first word of the title.

'Time is Money' final cover version
‘Time is Money’ final cover version

Now the shadowy figure is more prominent – not my original plan, but being central does go easily on the eye. The figure is even more alone.

Read the story to find out what on earth I’m talking about.