Tag Archives: Paula Leyden

Writing and more writing

It has been so long since I blogged. No excuses available.

But in the meantime I was delighted to be part of two short story collections – Magic! which was edited by Siobhan Parkinson, beautifully illustrated by Olwyn Whelan and published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. My story is called Finbar the Furious: The Ogre who could do no Wrong. I loved writing it and being part of this collection. Thank you Siobhan!Magic!

The second collection is Once Upon a Place, a Laureate na nÓg  and the brainchild of Eoin Colfer. This was published by Little Island and wondrously illustrated by PJ Lynch. My story in the collection is called Beautiful Dawn. Again, I felt privileged to be a part of this book. Thank you Eoin!

Once Upon a Place

Since then I have been working on another book for children, this time, unlike The Butterfly Heart and The Sleeping Baobab Tree which were both set in Zambia, it is set in Ireland. More specifically set in Kilkenny where I now live. I have for many years resisted writing books set in Ireland as I still feel something of a stranger to the country. However I have now lived here for thirteen years and am starting to get used to it… So, I thought I would give it a try. I am hopeful it will come out in the early part of next year. Not going to talk about it much till it becomes a reality – but a couple of the characters in it somewhat resemble creatures like this one below..

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So .. now back to other writing. Firstly to a work in progress – this time for adults and co-written with my partner Tom O’Neill. We are almost there with this one.  (Tom, by the by, has a book that has been accepted for publication by Dalkey Archive Press – very, very exciting!)

Then on to another work in progress – also for adults – that might take longer… not as much progress as I would like with this one. But a start made.. and a start is better than a non start..

So, there we go.

Hay Festival Kells

I feel very privileged that this year I was invited to participate in the Hay Festival in Kells. I am not usually nervous about the ‘performance’ side of writing – schools, writing workshops, festivals etc. – but for some reason I was nervous about this one.

white rose

Turned out there was no need. The Hay Festival staff and volunteers in Kells were, one and all, wonderful. So welcoming, helpful and efficient. They made it all feel so easy. And the white rose at the end of each session was a lovely touch.

I enjoyed the two different sessions I ran – one which was storytelling and reading and the other which was a writing workshop. The workshop was challenging as I had all ages there – an age range I think of about seventy years. But I think it all worked. In the space of an hour there is really not a whole lot you can teach anyone about writing – as I said to the organisers the most I could aim to do was to fan a small breeze across a writing spark that was already there in every one of the people who attended. I hope I managed to do that.

The town had a lovely feel to it over the festival – a strong sense of involvement from everyone living there. The people who took writers and performers to their sessions were all volunteers from the community, and many of them doubled up as informal tour guides to the town. Mine did anyway! Shop windows were full of books and posters, the pharmacy proclaiming that there was ‘No Hay Fever in our Hay Festival’, Granny Lil’s Sweetshop offering free Cross Stitch Lessons, the opticians with books by Seamus Heaney and Dervla Murphy in the window and much much more.

So, thank you the Hay Festival, thank you to Kells and thank you to those who came to my sessions – I loved meeting you.

spire

For Telling us how to Milk a Snake

On the day of the CBI Awards Ceremony I received this email from Ms. Mackey’s wonderful class in St. John’s  School in Kilkenny. My own children went to this school and I hold it dear to my heart.

I got the email while I was waiting, with trepidation, for the awards ceremony to begin. What more did I need than these 29 awards!? And then on top of this to get the Special Judges Award, my day was made.

Dear Paula,

CONGRATULATIONS!  You are the winner of 29 AWARDS. Emoji Ms Mackey’s Class would like to award you for the following reasons …  EmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmoji

Title of Award:  For Writing the Most Adventurous Stories

Presented by:  Nicholas Mullins

Title of Award:  For Being an Amazing Author and a Great Person in General

Presented by:  Louise Dullard

Title of Award:  For Writing Two Fantastic Novels and For Playing Games With Us

Presented by:  Tamas Sebok

Title of Award:  For Putting Us on the Edge of Our Seats

Presented by:  Leah Anderson

Title of Award:  For Writing the Best Children’s Books

Presented by:  Jamie Doran

Title of Award:  For Writing Books That Fill Children’s Hearts with Wonder and Joy

Presented by:  Laura Ryan

Title of Award:  For Giving Us Stories That Come To Life

Presented by:  Mark McBride

Title of Award:  For Writing Unusual and Funny Books

Presented by:  Courtney O’Dwyer

Title of Award:  For Writing My Two Favourite Books Ever

Presented by:  Nicole O’Leary

Title of Award:  For Writing Such Amazing Novels and Giving Us Such Enjoyment

Presented by:  Josh Curran

Title of Award:  For Writing My Favourite Books

Presented by:  Candice Keating

Title of Award:  For Being a Truly Magnificent Writer

Presented by:  Ayianna Piggott

Title of Award:  For Writing The Best Books in The Entire Galaxy

Presented by:  Marata Evelyn Sida

Title of Award:  For Being the Best Author in The World

Presented by:  Ryan Walsh

Title of Award:  For Being The Best Author and for Making us Feel Happy

Presented by:  Jordan Wall

Title of Award:  For Having a Great Imagination

Presented by:  Alex Molloy

Title of Award:  For Having the Best Books in the World

Presented by:  Anthony Walsh

Title of Award:  For Giving Away the Most Chocolates and Sweets EmojiEmoji

Presented by:  Tom Byrne

Title of Award:  For Writing Books that Our Class LOVE

Presented by:  Amy Hennessy

Title of Award:  For Coming into Our Class and Telling Us Amazing Stories

Presented by:  Sinead Hayes

Title of Award:  For Telling Us How to Milk a Snake

Presented by:  Niamh Hayes

Title of Award:  For Making Children Laugh

Presented by:  Orla Doheny

Title of Award:  For A Great Imagination and for Writing Fascinating Stories

Presented by:  Ioana Burghelea

Title of Award:  For Being My Favourite Female Author

Presented by:  Chelsea Comerford

Title of Award:  For Taking the Time to Come and Visit Us

Presented by:  Naoise Ryan

Title of Award:  For Making us Feel So Excited and Happy When You watched Our Plays Based on The Sleeping Baobab Tree

Presented by:  Stephen Power

Title of Award:  For Being Someone We Can Look Up To and Admire

Presented by:  Jack Brennan

Title of Award:  For Giving Us Chocolate Emoji

Presented by:  Daniel Valadkevich

Title of Award:  For the Best Writer in The World

Presented by:  David Kulaga

No one else has ever won these awards. That’s how special we think you are.  You have made a huge difference to our lives.  We have not met many authors.  You are the one that stands out to us.  We will remember you even when we are as old as Nokokulu.   We love that you always listen to us and take our questions seriously.  We love the ideas that you have and the way you tell stories to us in your books and when you’re in our classroom.  WE LOVE YOU!  EmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmoji

We began this morning by saying a prayer for success.  We would be so happy if The Sleeping Baobab Tree won an award.  Anyway we have decided that it doesn’t matter what the fancy judges think, you are definitely the best writer in our opinion.

Best of Luck, Paula.  We have all our fingers and toes crossed for you.  We hope to hear good news soon because we are getting very uncomfortable.  You will always be the best to us.  EmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmojiEmoji

Ms Mackey’s Class

P.S We hope to see you before school ends so that we can present you with your trophy!!!!!!!

CBI Special Judges Award 2014

Perfectly delighted to have been awarded the Special Judges Award in the CBI Book of the Year awards. A big thank you to CBI, to everyone I know and love and congratulations to all of those on the shortlist and to Marie Louise Fitzpatrick for her overall Book of the Year award.

What the judges said about The Sleeping Baobab Tree :

• Special Judges’ Award: Paula Leyden for The Sleeping Baobab Tree. The judges said, ‘Combining robust character development with vivid descriptions of the Zambian landscape, Leyden skilfully creates an evocative and atmospheric narrative that explores themes of friendship, family and human rights.’

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Happy Days

Yesterday was a happy writing day.

Robert Dunbar in the Irish Times had this to say about the Sleeping Baobab Tree …

Finally, with Paula Leyden’s The Sleeping Baobab Tree , we travel to Zambia for a mind-opening novel featuring twin sisters, the boy next door and his formidable greatgrandmother: a car journey involving all four provides a wonderfully sustained piece of comic writing in a novel that nevertheless engages with serious contemporary themes.

But as for the “best”? My Honour Award for fiction would go to the Paula Leyden title, which, as some duplication is allowed, would also carry off the book-of-the-year award. 

Now. I know this is one person’s opinion – and as I said in a previous post, the shortlist is a strong one and I am a newbie so my expectations are low – but I am thrilled to be on the list and his comments warmed my heart. I especially loved that he was amused by the book ..Thank you Robert!

Then, a review of Tom O’Neill’s book (Tom is my partner) Fionn and the Legends of the Blood Emeralds by Mary Esther Judy of Fallen Star Stories

FIONN AND THE LEGEND OF THE BLOOD EMERALDS
author: Tom O’Neill
HeroicRealm.com (2013)
ISBN: 9781909483279
Dark McLeans’ Uncle Connie has been struck down by a mysterious illness: an illness of alarmingly rapid progress with no obvious cause or treatment; an illness that is killing him. Dark is now in a race against time to find a cure. Their sinister neighbour is shadowing Darks’ every move, his friends are abandoning him and Dark is losing hope and courage. Each night, Dark ventures into a nearby fairy ring in desperation. Perhaps the Old People know of a cure. Each night, Dark is told a tale….. a tale of a young man called Matha who, long ago, was on a similar quest to his own; a tale of Fionn MacCumhaill and ancient journeys, of bards and battles and a magical land. As time is running out for Uncle Connie, Dark begins to understand the true meaning behind his uncles’ words: “They walk among us.”
Tom O’Neills’ previous book, “Old Friends: The Lost Tales of Fionn MacCumhaill” was thoroughly gripping. 

This one is even more. This one is simply spell-binding, packed with lyrical story-telling, raw and complex emotional impact and evocative characters and setting. The flow of the contemporary story into the mythical is smooth, and the correlations drawn between the two stories create an ebb and flow that pulls the reader into the tale. Each chapter is genuine, believable and intriguing. The power behind the words is tangible and will keep you awake well into the night reading on…. and casting your vision out into the night wondering what is actually going on out there in the trees and hills. A wondrous adventure that blurs the lines between reality and mythology. Just loved it!

Crawling with ghosts

This post  could not, in all honesty, be called a written post. No writing needed. What follows is a series of pictures drawn by Ms Mackey’s 4th and 5th Class in St. John’s Kilkenny. They have done such great work on both The Butterfly Heart and The Sleeping Baobab Tree that I wanted to post some of it on here. These pictures are based on lines that they liked from the The Sleeping Baobab Tree.

Brilliant work! Lovely class! Great teacher!

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Writing yourself

I am assuming it is true for all authors, but know that this is true for me: a lot of me has gone into every piece of writing I’ve done. I am not sure how it could be otherwise.

I tried once, as an exercise, to see if I could write something in a genre and style unlike my own – just to see if I could do it. I could, with difficulty, but the result was highly unsatisfactory and when the laptop courteously enquired as to whether I wanted to save it I said no.

Both The Butterfly Heart and The Sleeping Baobab Tree tread on ground familiar to me as a child growing up in Zambia. Writing them has freshened up warm and rich memories and brought them back into the forefront of my mind. I am grateful for that. The other pieces of writing I have been working on are a novella set on Death Row in South Africa prior to the abolition of the death penalty and a full length novel set in South Africa again in the late eighties. Both of these delve into more recent memories of mine and writing them enabled me address the memories and find a place for them.

With the as yet unpublished  full length novel,  called Turn Left at the Camel Thorn Tree, the story allowed me to look at the question of belonging (it’s alternate name being Who Here Belongs) and a sense of place. Having lived in many places and never truly been of those places, it is a question that intrigues me.   And I use the word intrigue advisedly, as it does not distress me – just interests me. I feel privileged to have lived in all of the places, including here in Ireland.

With the novella, called No Shoelaces,  the issue is simpler. The novella attempts to take readers into the belly of a place manned by people whose only function is to keep people alive until it is time to kill them. Scheduled date and time. Luckily the place in question now houses a Death Row museum in South Africa. But not so in many other parts of the world. America springs to mind. As does Pakistan which recently ended a five year moratorium and announced plans to execute the 400 prisoners who the government says are under sentence of death. Other groups put the number as high as 8,000. A popular move in Pakistan, something no doubt that Nawaz Sharif is well aware of, but in my view a huge step backwards for the country.

In talking about ‘writing yourself’ I am not for a moment talking autobiography – it is just that the adage ‘write what you know’ holds true for me. It is quite simply just easier. And more real. I for one am going to stick to it.

Writing and David Bowie

Watched a brilliant documentary the other evening on David Bowie entitled Five Years. What was consistently striking about it was his dedication to his craft and the fact that he constantly evolved and changed what he was doing. Musically he never stood still – as evidenced by the extraordinary variety in his music throughout his life right up to his recent release The Next Day.

David Bowie Five Years

David Bowie Five Years

Like him or hate him there is a lot to admire about him and a lot to be reminded about as writers.

Number one is discipline. The discipline to sit down and write, to research, to promote, to learn more  about the craft – but above all to write.  To use the time that you have (and this varies for everyone, it can be snatched moments between work, children, daily life or it can be unfettered time) in the best way. It is a mega cliché but time passes and once it has gone it has gone – so you owe it to yourself as a writer to use it well.

Number two is to make sure that with each project you take on you extend your abilities, move yourself on – go forward. This is no different than in any type of work or occupation if you are lucky enough to be working in an area that allows for this – take yourself to the next level. Make it better. Stretch your brain. Never be satisfied. In writing we can do this as it is self directed, it is up to us as writers to manage what we do and how we do it.

Number three is cooperation – and this is different for musicians than for writers. The evolution of a song is very different to the evolution of a novel. Writing is a solitary occupation – but it does not have to be lonely. Being part of a writers group is one way of cooperating – or getting the corners rubbed off you! Sharing your writing with a partner, your children, writing friends, illustrators is another. This is not for everyone. I know of writers who work till its done and then let it out into the light. I am not like that – I like feedback, I think it improves my writing.

And Number Four is I suppose be true to yourself. To do this you have to know yourself, but when you do be true to who your are. Because it shows.

Now I just have to go and remind myself to listen to my own advice – far easier to give advice than to follow it.

The Sleeping Baobab launched

Only getting round to putting up a few pictures of this now. Was a lovely launch – great crowd and they all seemed merry! Lots of family there, plus members of my writing group Gemma Hussey and Jean Flitcroft, plus members of my young writers group from the Kilkenny Vocational School, a spectacular cake made by Nicky Read of Nicky’s Cakes and all taking place at the wonderful Stonehouse Books. A big thank you to Liz, Tara and Claire for all the work, and to Palmyra Restaurant for the delicious food. Best hummus I’ve tasted. Also great to see Dubray Books well represented at the launch with their children’s book club, and The Book Centre as well! As I have said many times we are blessed with our booksellers. Conor Hackett, the Walker Rep in Ireland was down from Dublin – thanks Conor for making the trip and for being part of such a wonderful publisher.

I was lucky to have Tom my partner there – author of Old Friends,  and all our children – Amy, Christie, Kate, Aisling and Maurice, as well as my parents and a great representation of the O’Neill clan. Christie, as you will see from the pics, did the reading – far better than I could have done. Greatly appreciated. And Gemma spoke as well before I mumbled my thanks! So, a big thank you to everyone who was there – and to the two visitors to Kilkenny who wandered in from the street wondering what the hubbub was about and then bought a copy of the book! An unusual memory of a visit to Ireland, the launch of a book set in Zambia.

Cake

Christie 2Jean Gemma and PaulaKilkenny Vocationalkate IzzyLaunch 1

The Wondrous Kilkenny Bookshops

What is not love about the Kilkenny bookshops? Stonehouse Books, The Book Centre and Dubray books all with beautiful window displays of The Sleeping Baobab Tree! How privileged am I, as an author, to be living in a city like this? And not just bookshops – but bookshops staffed by dedicated and passionate booksellers. Couldn’t ask for more.

In brilliant company in Dubray Books, Kilkenny

In brilliant company in Dubray Books, Kilkenny

And a fearsome lion at work in The Book Centre

And a fearsome lion at work in The Book Centre

Sunny Stonehouse Books

Sunny Stonehouse Books

Dubrays in Market Cross centre

Dubrays in Market Cross centre

The Book Centre

The Book Centre

Stonehouse Books, Kieran Street (launch venue)

Stonehouse Books, Kieran Street (launch venue)