Monthly Archives: January 2012

The importance of Physical books for children

By Victoria Southgate


There is currently a huge shift in publishing towards digital formats and ePublishing, I am a great advocate for technological advances in publishing as it is a major aspect of the VixenUK business model.
The future of publishing must include ePublishing and appBooks but a digital future doesn’t have to be exclusive of physical books.

VixenUK is striding into the future, embracing the digital revolution but at the same time, not losing sight of the importance of physical books especially for children.

Why are physical books important for children?
Children’s development is ruled by discovering the physical world. They do this a number of ways but one that I believe to be of extreme importance is through the means of a physical book

The experience of textures and sounds from the early books, the colours and the voyage of discovery that takes place with each page that is turned, and the sense of achievement at such a simple task is something that has to be enhanced by a physical experience like lifting a flap to find something underneath, turning a page, and the joy of a parent reading the words that guide the child. An experience which I cannot see being matched by technology and a screen.

Children develop their fine motor skills through turning pages and being taught to be careful and gentle, otherwise the page gets ripped. They begin to understand the world around them can be fragile and tactile. They learn by feel.

Have you ever seen a child not touch something? They are programmed to experience through their senses, they pick something up, they feel it and in the early years they taste it, it’s only as we get older that the need to feel something to understand it reduces (though for some it never fully goes away. – for example – I cannot walk through a clothes shop without touching the fabric. That is the way I like to clothes shop.)

So a child without physical books could potentially miss out in other areas of development. (Though I am sure that many would learn the lesson through different means but perhaps much later in life.)
When I was a child, I learned that everybody treats books differently and I learned that you have to respect them. To some people, books are precious items, to be looked after and treasured, to other they are a throw away item, but to all they deliver an experience. For my family, books are precious, they hold memories for the reader and every blemish or worn page tells its own story.
The experience of reading a book that I knew my mother held and read when she was my age, seeing and feeling the difference in the feel of the paper was exciting and mesmerising and were experiences I will always cherish.

I can’t imagine that sense of being trusted enough to be given such a cherished item would be as intense with a digital format book, something that can be re-downloaded into the state it was before. Plus, technology will move on so fast, handsets will change,and the experience and feel of a digital book could not be passed down the generations.

Physical books will always have their place and are extremely important for children’s development and that’s even before we get to the content!


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A Universal Message

A great man, who was diagnosed with motor neuron disease in 1963 and given 2 years to live, concluded his 70th Birthday speech, this year, with this message:


“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist.
Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.”

– Stephen Hawking


A message I think we could all take something from in our day to day lives.


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Finalist in the Local Business Accelerator Scheme

By Victoria Southgate


VixenUK is a finalist in the Local Business Accelerator scheme!

One morning in October 2011 I was reading my twitter feed and @DeborahMeaden had tweeted about a business scheme and that any new start-ups should apply. It took me a minute to decide to click through to the link she had provided and then another 20 minutes to complete and send the application form.

It occurred to me that thousands of people and businesses would apply, why would I get noticed? I didn’t know, but my belief that I have created a superb business spurred me on to fill in the application form anyway.

Over the next few weeks I saw the tweets become fewer as the deadline for applications passed. Christmas was on its way, I had a lot of meetings and discussions to fit in before the Christmas break (which, I had decided, would be a proper break this year! A reward for a year of hard work – I managed it for a week) Christmas was lovely and relaxing and by the time New Year came, I had forgotten about the competition.

I started the new work year with follow-up emails, and conversations and then a new mail popped up in my inbox: Subject: Finalist selection for Local Business Accelerator

“Wow!” I thought, opening it with trepidation… when a brief thought crossed my mind – ‘had I been shortlisted I should have found out before Christmas’. The trepidation had turned to curiosity and then I read the content of the email.

I should have been informed! It didn’t matter, in fact, it was probably a blessing because by not knowing I was able to have a relaxing Christmas and New Year, which means I am well rested and probably better prepared to deliver a presentation to a panel next week.

2012 is looking to be a fantastic year, whatever the outcome!

For more information on the scheme and its supporters go to:

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Ever wondered if you could illustrate a book?

Why not give it a go?


I have started a Flickr page and I am working alongside a Derbyshire poet I have added one of her poems that, I believe, could be a superb children’s book –  it just needs the right illustrations.

If you have never illustrated a book, you probably have doubts as to where to start.

Everyone works differently, so as a general guide:  I like to begin by sketching out the scenes – a bit like a storyboard – and then I work on character sheets so I know that the continuity of characters will flow throughout the book. Then I will choose my favourite scene and really have fun and play. Generally I come up with 4 or 5 different versions of the same scene and then amalgamate the best bits of each… that’s when I have a style for the story.

So what should you upload onto the Flickr page?

That is entirely up to you! I would be very interested to see your working drawings, sketches and book layouts, as much as I want to see a finished scene.

Most importantly HAVE FUN!

Please join the group and have a go.

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If I like your work and working ethics (and you want a job as an illustrator) I may choose, with your permission, to add you as a freelance illustrator.

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Social Networking – 21st Century Communication

Can you remember a time before social networking? Before the Internet was in practically every home? Can you remember the last time you went into a shop which had an old fashioned till? I can…and it wasn’t that long ago!

People used to meet up face-to-face and talked, made telephone calls and went out to social events and clubs to meet new people. We had few friends and many acquaintances, so how has the internet changed the way we communicate?
I believe, it hasn’t changed the amount of true friends we have, but it has made it so much easier to make new friends and to get to know people a lot more quickly. This means that we are more able to weed out the acquaintances from friends in a much shorter time. The quantity of people that we communicate with throughout our lifetime has increased considerably and is far more diverse than could have been imagined a few decades ago. This communication however is diluted. If you meet and chat with someone on the Internet, it’s probable that you have only been typing your conversation. The words we type, only account for 7% of what we are actually saying. The rest of the meaning is given via body language, tone of voice, and facial expression. So how do you get to really know someone when you can only read their words?

I believe… You can’t! At some point you have to meet.

However, this post is about communication. Social networking has changed the way we get to know each other. It has also changed the emphasis of how we write.
As a writer, I find that I am more comfortable in the social media arena. I write because I like to consider what I’m saying, I like to create beauty in words and I like the luxury of editing. If I’m having a text-based conversation, I like having the ability to write and if I deem it to be badly phrased or not eloquently descriptive I can change or delete it.
For me, this comes from my childhood, I was ridiculed for verbalising the wrong word in the wrong context and feeling a fool. I was enthralled by words from an early age and I used to experiment with them until I learned the correct context, most of the time to the sound of derision from my peers. There was many a time I felt ridiculous because I ‘put my foot in it’. So now, I tend to consider the words I use more carefully, so as to ensure the right meaning is perceived by the reader. Is this a deceit? I don’t think so, it merely portrays me as an online persona that my true friends spent years getting to know via old methods in the olden days and today can take only a few months (depending on how often you are socially online).

Therefore, I believe that social networking shows a more truthful persona. People have to consider what they write, which means the standard of writing will be increased in time and stupidity outs very quickly through text.

The Internet can hide a baddy who seeks to deceive, and for this reason, we all must use it with caution and heed safety and security advice, but it also unmasks the rest of us, which in my opinion can only be for the better!

Comments welcomed!


Filed under General publishing