Tag Archives: Kay Leitch

When The Dragons Came To Play

(For Findley – born 19.04.2016)                                                              

The dragons came again today.
They came in style, as dragons do.
I thought they’d come to eat us up,
But they just wanted to meet… you.dragons-at-sunset

The sky was filled with dragons’ wings
And spiky scales of every hue.
Their amber eyes saw everything,
And glittered when they looked for you.

And the wind in the trees went woooosh, woooosh, shhhhhhh
When the dragons came to play.

findley-6-months-copyThey’d heard you were the bravest boy,
You seldom slept or seemed to tire,
But smiled at everything – and laughed
When they came breathing trails of fire.

Legend foretold your bluest eyes,
Sprinkled with magic, three times blessed.
And dust of stars within your heart
Meant you would master any quest.

And the wind in the trees went
woooosh, woooosh, shhhhhhh
When the dragons came to play.

 

They mentioned they had come before,
To barbeque us all, but when
They saw you smiling up at them
They turned and flew back home again.

They wondered if you’d like to go
Up to the mountains – you could fly
Straight to their lair on dragons’ wings,
And ride across the morning sky.dragon-silhouettejpg

They’d make some toast with just one breath,
Play hide-and-seek behind the sun –
There were so many of their games
That you could try. You’d have such fun.

And the wind in the trees went woooosh, woooosh, shhhhhhh
When the dragons came to play.

I said we would consider that,
Though we had lots of things to do.
(It always pays to be polite
When dragons want to play with you.)

findley-elephant

 

They said they’d take the greatest care,
That they would never let you fall.
They’d play some dragon games to see
How brave you really were, that’s all…

They promised not to breathe on you,
Would bring you back in time for tea.
I thanked them very much, but said
I’d like to keep you here – with me.fikndley-tomatoAnd the wind in the trees went woooosh, woooosh, shhhhhhh
When the dragons came to play.

One dragon tapped his claw and hummed
A little tune. He looked quite nice,
Until I asked him if he knew
You had the gift of Fire and Ice?

The dragon’s scales turned pasty grey,dragon-and-sky
And ice?” he stuttered, blinking fast.
I nodded. You sat there and smiled.
“Good grief, is that the time?” he laughed.

 

findley-grinning-june-2016-copyYou traced a pattern on your hand.
A snow storm came, icicles grew.
The dragon’s breath puffed white with frost,
His ruby tail turned wintry blue.

Snowflakes swirled, the north wind howled,
Dark clouds gathered, spitting rain.
But then you sighed a little sigh
And everything was calm again.

“It was an honour meeting you,”
The dragon bowed; soared to the sky.
A thousand wings beat after him
Into the sun. We waved Goodbye.

dragons-nto-sun2

And the wind in the trees went woooosh, woooosh, phhewwwww
When the dragons flew away.

 * * * * * * *
dragon-every-hue

This poem was inspired by Findley, the smiliest, happiest baby that dragons have ever seen.

findley-blockfindley-7-months

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kay Leitch
Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

Pictures: Kay Leitch, Vicki Boyd; images: Pixabay

 

 

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Filed under children's books, Creative Writing, Electrik Inc, Kay Leitch, kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com, Poetry, Story Telling

Wolf Winter

We have decided to showcase some samples of our writing on a new page called Our Work. These samples can be anything from stories for children or Young Adults, experimental or traditional pieces, poetry… 

I wrote Wolf Winter as part of my MA portfolio, when my tutor Nicola Davies, who writes fantastic books about animals and the natural world, suggested I put myself into the head of an animal and try to see things from its perspective.

 

 

wolf winter image. FREE pixabaydotcom copy

WOLF WINTER

My fur is grey against the gleam
Of snowdrifts in a frosted wood
And all the day I burn for food.
I rest and run.

Dusk falls cold on glittering snow.
I dig a hole, I crawl beneath,
I lie there shivering to my teeth.
I warm and sleep.

At dawn I cross a frozen lake.
I sniff the air for scent of food,
Some passed by days ago – no good.
I ache and burn.

I wonder where my brothers are.
Too long without them; different pain.
I seek the sky and howl again.
I prowl and search.

I sniff around the water’s edge
Where reeds have hardened into spikes.
My breath comes trailing spumes of white.
I wait and turn.

The doe is damaged, stumbling, slow.
I smell her long before she knows
Or even sees me, and I close.
I tear and eat.

The evening brings my brothers’ trace.
I scent their passage on the rain,
I tip my head and howl again.
I wait and wait.

I watch the deep violet sky.
A white moon rises. Now the snow
Is smooth and silvered where I go.
I pad and prowl.

Then high upon the mountain trail
Beyond the frozen waterfall,
I hear a distant answering call.
I run and run.

Kay Leitch
Originally published on kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com
Treasure This

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The Magic of Storytelling

Fairy tales witch readingWho doesn’t love fairy tales? From that lyrical “Once upon a time”, which tells us we’re entering another realm, to the “Happily ever after”, which we all seek, children and adults alike. Of course there are fairy tales with unhappy endings, too – but you won’t see many of those on Disney.

Now, researchers have examined the evolutionary development of fairy tales http and found many to be much older than we thought. Thousands of years older.

Sara Graça da Silva, a social scientist/folklorist with New University of Lisbon, and Jamshid Tehrani, an anthropologist with Durham University, have conducted a phylogenetic analysis of common fairy tales, using a technique that traces linguistic attributes back to their origins. The origins appear to be much older than modern linguists and anthropologists believed.

The part of the report that caught my attention was: “they started with 275 fairy tales, each rooted in magic, and whittled them down to 76 basic stories…”

for fairy tales blog 1Each rooted in magic. I loved that. I don’t know about you, but I find all creative writing to be rooted in magic. That doesn’t mean it has to be about spells and fantasy. All sorts of magic can be yielded by a blank page and a quiet afternoon – though maybe not so quiet if you count the barking dogs, beeping mobile and husband yelling, “I said dinner’s ready!”

I’ve found that, like in so many fairy tales, what we end up with in our own writing is not what we started with, after all the editing and changing and rewriting is done. But, hopefully, we retain the core of the story we’re trying to tell. That’s where the magic is.

Physics teaches us that a pure element cannot be destroyed. I think fairy tales are literary creativity in its purest form and no matter how we rewrite them, edit them, disinfect or Disneyfy them, they will endure. The core remains. Stripped to its core element, the fairy tale is pure story.

Here’s how one core element changed over the centuries: Cinderella started life as Yeh-hsien, believed to have been written down by Tuan Ch’eng-shih in mid 9th century China. In the original version there was no fairy godmother; a magic fish helped Cinders. In Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s version, a hazel tree helped her, the ugly sisters cut off their toes and heels so their feet would fit the shoe, and their eyes were pecked out by doves. Can you imagine the collective fits of apoplexy at a Disney editorial meeting if they read that story board? I’d love to see it. 🙂

Cinderella Manga

 

Yeh-hsien went on to be called Zezolla by Giambattista Basile in 17th century Naples, then Cerentola. Joseph Jacobs called her the Cinder Maid. Charles Perrault (end of 17th century) introduced the fairy godmother and the pumpkins and mice… And what story do you think the film Pretty Woman depicts? Same core, different clothes.

If Sara Graça da Silva and Jamshid Tehrani are right and fairy tales are more ancient than we thought (Wilhem Grimm also believed this), then these core stories are even more embedded in our psyches than we thought. Which is great news for all story tellers.

Fairy tales teach us much more than the ultimately unchanging human condition – they hold good lessons for writers too: keep structure and plot simple. Remember, “character is destiny”, and be aware that rhyme, rhythm and poetic sentence structure are important. fairy tale pic 2Symbolism is universal. The words “once”, “long ago”, “far away” and “for ever and ever” can give us instant access to the reader’s unconscious, especially children.

I’m delighted that, as a storyteller, I’m carrying on an ancient tradition and, yes, I believe it is rooted in magic. As writers, we can take these cores and dress them in whatever finery we choose. And that feels magical, too.

Kay Leitch
Treasure This

 

Pictures courtesy of pixabay.com

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How to Write a Bestseller

Electrik Inc is always on the lookout for good advice that helps us hone our writing skills. I loved this Ted Talk video with literary agent, Jonny Geller, about what makes a bestseller, and what agents/publishers look for in new writers. Think about his comments when you’re editing your own work because everyone wants to sell their books and the more we get right, the better it is for our readers as well as our bank balances.

There are lots of how-to-write-a-bestseller tips, from Dean Koontz to Matthew Sparkes writing in The Telegraph on how scientists developed an app in 2014 that analysed best sellers. The findings were very interesting but guaranteed success remains elusive. And so the advice is just that: advice. Remember, what works for one author may not work for you.

I especially like how Mr Geller looks for the “space between the sentences” in any piece he reads. There is often a temptation for writers to give too much description, too much information… I’m always advising my clients to trust their readers to fill in some of the blanks themselves.

Mr Geller’s five-word sentence example is excellent too – a fun way of learning the importance of varying sentence length.

Personally, I would add story to the list. Not the plot or pacing (though they’re important too), but the story: is it strong enough to hold the reader. I always think of that in my own writing. Will the reader care enough to keep reading to find out how this story unfolds – and ends. For me, story is vital. Of course great characters, tight prose and sharp dialogue help, but if I don’t connect to the story, I lose interest. Whether I’m assessing manuscripts, reading for a publishing house or writing my own novels, I keep that in mind.

Jonny Geller also mentions how it all comes down to us, the reader. That reading “makes us better people”, that original writing is so often harder to place because publishers find original material “very hard to market”. Yes, some of us have figured that out already. 🙂

The five things Mr Geller looks for are:

The bridge: does it take us from the familiar to the new?

Voice: the unique sound of the writer, which is nothing without the next part:

Craft: writing is difficult. Amateurs and professionals alike do draft after draft to get it right. Does it have resonance? Will it reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible?

The gap: the space between the sentences. The gap the writer leaves for the reader to inhabit.

There’s lots more. Jonny Geller has a natural style that’s easy to listen to without feeling you’re being lectured. Check it out.

KAY LEITCH   co-founder of Electrik Inccropped-electrikinc_logo3_colour1.png
Author of  Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

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How to Earn a Living From Writing

Do you want to make money from your writing? I know… silly question. Or is it?

Regular readers of this blog will know I wrote recently that I believe we should write from the heart (December 2015: What Waterstones Can Teach Writers), work on improving our craft, and dare to be ourselves. I still believe that. There are too many so-so books out there, written by authors who’ve spotted a bandwagon and scrambled over each other to get on to it. Well, we’re all trying to earn a living in this world so I’m not going to throw stones…

But when I read Andrew Crofts’ piece in the Guardian online, I saw that he advises writers to “stop writing only what you want to write”. I thought it worth sharing with you because he makes so many valid points about the difference between what he calls “passion projects” (novels you want to write) and actually earning a living from writing. Sadly, there is a difference. Where I advocate “writing what you want and being true to yourself” (i.e. risk staying poor 🙂 ), he takes a much more practical stance and suggests if you want to make enough money to support yourself from writing, you should “gain access to information other people are willing to pay for or provide a service that others need to buy”. Good advice, though it did take him 20 years to hit six figures. But at least he hit it!

As ever, it’s about balance. If you can balance writing professionally, as Mr Crofts does, with projects for other people that earn you a living, then you can afford to do you own “passion projects” that might not make much money but will bring you enormous creative satisfaction. That way, you can have the best of both worlds.

Kay Leitch
Author of   Treasure This
Kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

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What Waterstones Can Teach Writers

Don’t you just love mavericks?

Stephen Heyman writes on slate.com about how Waterstones’ fortunes changed for the better when Alexander Mamut, described by one broadsheet as: “The most powerful Oligarch you have never heard of”, bought Waterstone’s (when it had the apostrophe, but no profit) and put James Daunt in charge.

Waterstones_WDaunt was already a very successful businessman. He founded Daunt Books in Marleybone High Street in 1990 when he was just 26, and ended up running six independent book stores across London, all of which remained profitable even in difficult market conditions. The first thing Daunt did as Managing Director of Waterstones – apart from getting rid of the apostrophe – was to tear up the existing business plan for the failing book store and implement his own, rather unconventional, ideas.

He took power away from publishers and gave it back to the book sellers, promoting what he believed would sell rather than what the publishers wanted to advertise. All those “Best Seller” spots in the window of big book stores didn’t actually mean the books were best sellers. The publishers paid for those spots.

The great thing about Daunt, in my opinion, is that he’s not an accountant, a marketing executive or a PR man. He trusts the book lovers he works with. One thing he said made me laugh out loud: when he discussed his individual marketing plan and how he wanted to shake up the business he loved, he knew publishers would not be happy with his decision to cut their advertising space in his stores. “But,” he said, “we had the advantage of being bankrupt…” Talk about turning a negative into a positive!

He also gave each Waterstones almost complete autonomy over how to arrange their merchandise. So, no more homogeneity, where Waterstones in Glasgow looked exactly the same as the one in Chiswick. Each Waterstones looks different, individual, inviting. The one thing they all have in common is good books, tailored to individual local areas.

What has this got to do with writing and publishing? Everything. Rules are great when they work, and lethal when they don’t. Sometimes we’re so used to following old rules and procedures we don’t realise they’re so past their sell-by date they’re doing more harm than good. Many publishers have been following restrictive rules for a long time: pay lots of money for advertising space in shop windows (take it out of authors’ earnings) … tick. Avoid risks … tick. Ooops, not making so much money – cut authors’ earnings a bit more … tick. Watch the rise of independent author publishers…

I love that as independent publishers we are the mavericks of the publishing world. We’ve stopped trying to second guess anyone, least of all fickle publishers, and write what we want to write. We make it the best we can. Yes, we follow the rules of editing, punctuation and good grammar. Yes, of course we’re aware of the market, but we don’t let it tyrannise us. We don’t jump on band wagons for the sake of a quick buck – we don’t let the bottom line dictate what we write. Where’s the joy in that?

We can’t all be the kind of maverick James Daunt is. But we can learn from him. If you make any resolutions for 2016, make them be to trust yourself, ignore the “rules”, and write from your heart.

Kay Leitch
Author of  Treasure This
kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com

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Filed under Children's Publishing, Creative Writing, creative writing tips, Electrik Inc, Independent Publishing information, James Daunt, Kay Leitch, kaywritesheretoo.wordpress.com, Waterstones

Using a Pen Name and How to Market Yourself

Great post by Frances Caballo in The Book Designer with some good tips on using a pseudonym and how to market yourself. It often makes sense to use a pen name if you want to write in a different genre, but there can be problems marketing yourself as a  new name or brand, especially if you’ve already built yourself up a fan base in one genre.

Still, lots of authors manage it successfully, so I thought I’d pass this on as worth a read, in case any of you are looking for ideas.

Kay Leitch
Author of  Treasure This

Originally posted on kaywriteshemretoo.wordpress.com

 

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Filed under creative writing tips, how to market yourself, Independent Publishing information, Kay Leitch, Publishing, Tips for Authors and Illustrators