John Yorke Into the Woods podcast

Had to share this fantastic podcast of an interview with John Yorke, covering effective use of structure in story, creating compelling characters, tips for subtle exposition and cliffhangers. It’s not often I listen all the way through an hour-long podcast but this was excellent – really informative. Well worth a listen.

Kay Leitch
Treasure This
Co-Founder of Electrik Inc

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Publishers Open to Submissions

Is 2017 the year you’ll complete your novel/children’s book/picture book…?
Start the new book-with-scenery-pixabayyear with some positive aspirations: here is a great list from Bookfox, of children’s and young adult publishers (mostly) open to submissions. Well worth a browse.

Make 2017 the year you do it.

Happy New Year and happy writing
to you all!

Kay Leitch
Treasure This
Co-Founder of Electrik Inc

 

Posted in advice for writers, Children's books, children's publishers looking for submissions, creative writing, electrik inc, Kay Leitch, Publishers looking for submissions | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

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.

dragon-big-silhouette

 

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,findley-elephant
Though we had lots of things to do.
(It always pays to be polite
When dragons want to play with you.)

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…

fikndley-tomato

 

 

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.

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

 

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

dragon-and-sky

 

 

 

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

You 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.

findley-grinning-june-2016-copySnowflakes 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 seenfindley-blockfindley-7-months

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kay Leitch
Treasure This
also published on electrikinc.wordpress.com

Pictures by Kay Leitch, Vicki Boyd; images from Pixabay

 

 

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Wolf Winter

I am going to put up some fragments of my work over the coming months on a new page. 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
Also published on 
electrikinc@wordpress.com

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The Magic of Storytelling

Who doesn’t love fairy tales? Fairy tales witch reading 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  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…”

Each rooted in magic. for fairy tales blog 1I 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 Manga

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. 🙂

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. Symbolism 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.

fairy tales fineryI’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
Author of   Treasure This
Founding member of Electrik Inc

pictures courtesy of pixabay.com

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How to Write a Bestseller

I’m 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. Also published on electrikinc.wordpress.com

Kay Leitch
Author of  Treasure This
Also published on electrikinc.wordpress.com

Posted in advice for writers, creative writing, Dean Koontz, How to Write a Bestseller, Jonny Geller, Kay Leitch, secrets of writing a best seller, Treasure This, writing, writing as a career, writing tips, writing tips for children's authors | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Make Profit Selling Your ebooks

More good news for established authors. Wuthering Ink – wutheringink.com – is a new Australian portal, set up by author and writing teacher, Sue Woolfe, along with other authors: Bem Le Hunte, Libby Hathorn and Louise Katz.

Macmillan Publishing Solutions in India built the website, and they take 10% of profits. Woolfe also takes 10%. The rest goes to authors. Woolfe says she hopes to find a way to work with traditional publishers, and has no plans to demand exclusivity. Authors are free to publish and sell their work through any outlet they can.

While Wuthering Ink is for established authors only, rather than independents, it’s still good news. Publishers take a disproportionate amount of profit from ebook sales, leaving them open to accusations of – dare I say it? – greed. Yes, I dare. 🙂  Perhaps if they were less greedy and treated the people who pay their salaries with a bit more respect (without writers there would be no publishing industry. Why don’t they get that?) authors wouldn’t feel the need to use worthwhile portals such as wutheringink.com.

Anything that gives more power (and profit) to authors is great by me.

Kay Leitch
Author of  Treasure This
Founder of  Electrik Inc

Posted in authors' earnings, Make Money Selling Your Ebooks, Uncategorized, Wuthering Ink | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment