Helen Laycock

All posts tagged Helen Laycock

When three buses come along…

Published March 5, 2017 by helenlaycock

bus-104907_1920

I think that all writers would agree that we do it – writing – purely because we love it, and also, perhaps, because we are a little bit obsessed by it!

However, it’s always an added bonus to get a bit of recognition:

It’s wonderful when someone tells you that they have enjoyed reading the words you have written; it’s fabulous when you find a new review of one of your books, or read an encouraging comment on a writing or social forum… but what especially floats our/my boat is when you/I receive the email that says,

We would love to publish your work.’

It doesn’t happen that often, but, like the old bus cliché, I recently had three concurrent publication conversations.

17097306_1317827568277459_3697667099805185446_o.jpgThe first was with Rebecca, the editor of The Caterpillar. This is a wonderful magazine for children full of poetry, stories and art.

John Hegley chose The Caterpillar as one of his ‘top ten poetry books’, and many, many big names have been published in it.

The first time I submitted a batch of children’s poems to Will (the other editor) and Rebecca, they weren’t the ‘right fit’, but, encouragingly, they asked me to submit again. By return email, I sent a batch of poems which were different in tone from the first, and they chose ‘Wind’ to be published in the Winter edition. (See earlier blog post)

                         Spring Edition

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Imagine my surprise when Rebecca contacted me again recently to ask if they could use another from the selection I had sent to be included in the Spring edition.

Marmite’ has just been published.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few weeks back, Maverick publishers had put out a call for picture book submissions. This is an area I have never really considered, but I thought I’d send a couple of ‘story poems’, anyway. In all honesty, I expected to hear nothing. Then I received a totally unexpected email:
I especially enjoyed reading Turning Up The Heat as I felt your tone, rhyme and humour were all very strong. I love the idea of a dragon who is afraid of fire and I believe the story would lend itself well to illustrations. My only qualm was the end – at the moment it feels very sudden and rushed. It did not give Smoky his moment to shine as a hero and lacked the jubilation of Smoky saving the day, as well as his fear being accepted by the surrounding characters. You are under the word count at the moment so don’t be afraid to expand the ending a bit more to give your story that rounded finish. If you choose to have another look at Turning Up The Heat then I would definitely be interested in seeing a new draft.’

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They also gave me an email address to jump the queue…

Well, I reworked the ending and re-sent the poem.  It was taken to an editorial meeting, and while they loved the new ending, the outcome was that having a character with a quirk which becomes an asset is a little too predictable. Out of 4000 yearly submissions, they only publish 15… but it was very exciting to be considered.

Coinciding with both of these was another invitation to have a poem published by Popshot Magazine. They had asked for poems written for the theme ‘Future’. This is what Jacob, the editor, wrote:

After extensively whittling down the shortlist over the last week, it gives me great pleasure to let you know that your poem — To the unborn — has been chosen for publication in our forthcoming ‘Future’ issue. Thanks so much for sending it in for consideration; it’s an absolute beauty of a piece and we can’t wait to immortalise it in print.

My poem  is to appear shortly. It has been slightly tweaked from the original which involved a couple of emails to and from Jacob with alterations. Again, I was thrilled to be involved with such a prestigious magazine. Here’s what it’s about:

‘In June 2008, the idea for a poetry & illustration magazine materialised as a result of picking through the literary shelves of the now deceased Borders. There was a feeling that the world of poetry was driving itself into an elitest and fusty no-through road, and we wanted to do something about it. Combining illustration with poetry in a neat and beautifully designed format, in April 2009 the first issue of Popshot launched, thumping its chest and quoting Adrian Mitchell’s ‘Most people ignore most poetry because most poetry ignores most people’. With black pages, a sans serif typeface, and filled with vibrant illustration work, the magazine didn’t look like a poetry magazine and we were thrilled with it.

Some favourable press swiftly followed with the magazine being picked up by Dazed & Confused, placed on The Observer’s Cool List and named as one of ‘the fresh breed of literary magazines’ by The Independent. Shortly afterwards, Prospect named Popshot as ‘the new face of British poetry’ after it became the first British poetry magazine to achieve major international distribution into 18 countries. With the launch of Issue 7, we started talking about the introduction of short stories and flash fiction into the magazine, as well as poetry. In October 2012, with the arrival of our eighth issue, Popshot relaunched as ‘The Illustrated Magazine of New Writing’ firmly positioning itself as a literary magazine that champions new writing across the globe.

In the years since, that positioning has developed into a strong reputation for quality writing, with Dazed & Confused calling the magazine “a who isn’t yet who of contemporary literature” and The List claiming that “Popshot looks for the best and finds it.”’

For more information about submissions and competitions, you may like to have a look at my ‘other blog‘: 

I also have two websites which may be of interest:

Fiction in a Flash

Helen Laycock | Children’s Author

From me to you

Published January 11, 2016 by helenlaycock

-STOP PRESS-STOP PRESS-STOP PRESS-STOP PRESS-

 

~FREE BOOKS BY HELEN LAYCOCK THROUGHOUT 2016~

 

Here is my gift to you:

For 5 days of each month this year, I am going to offer a different book of mine free for kindle download. Look out for posts about this promotion. If you would like to return the gesture, then a review on Amazon would be wonderful. Thank you. x

 

JANUARY

Light Bites*

*Details below

FEBRUARY

Glass Dreams

MARCH

Peace and Disquiet

APRIL

Martha and Mitch

MAY

Minor Discord

JUNE

Mr Charlie Chumpkins and The Further Mishaps of Charlie Chumpkins

JULY

Salt

AUGUST

Song of the Moon

SEPTEMBER

Mandrake’s Plot

OCTOBER

A Mouthful of Chuckles

NOVEMBER

The Secret of Pooks Wood

DECEMBER

The Secret of Pooks Wood

January 27th – 31st

FREE BOOK: Light Bites 

 

Take a pinch of humour, a touch of light-heartedness and a drop of whimsy and you have the perfect recipe to be savoured any time, anywhere. Light Bites – a collection of satisfying and uplifting tales.

 

 

 

‘The author writes so well, in such a ‘real’ way that I found myself immersed in each tale.’

‘Her characters are easy to relate to and there is lots of humour that keeps you entertained.’

‘I thoroughly enjoyed every story and would definitely recommend it.’

‘There is certainly something for everyone here.’

‘A very good read.’

‘Utterly delicious’

‘Dahl-esque delight – ridiculously funny, yet intelligent. Weird and wonderful characters – a chocolate box of surprises.’

‘When you read a collection of short stories and come away thinking “I wish each of those was a book in its own right” then you know the writing is good. Ms Laycock makes the absurd seem real. In one of the stories, Harry Potter could have waltzed straight in. Written with a light touch and a dry sense of humour. I loved it.’

‘If you like your stories short, wickedly funny, more than a little twisted and unexpectedly sentimental in places – then this is definitely for you.’

‘Perfect length for a work break or with coffee and biscuits, care needed to not laugh out loud or choke!’

‘The true-life tale of Yiscah (formerly Jeffrey) Smith may serve as the inspiration for UK author Helen Laycock’s knock-about comedy, ‘Occupational Therapy’, a tale from her short story collection, ‘Light Bites’, in which fairy Lily Blue becomes a goblin and lives happily ever after.’

‘This mirthful collection of a dozen cheery tales makes clear that she revels in her present work and causes me to wonder how much her school students must miss her — even now.’

‘I would recommend this collection to anyone who is looking for some “Light Bites” to entertain them.’

 

 

 

 

Oh, nuts.

Published May 31, 2015 by helenlaycock

Oh dear, I’ve abandoned my post again, haven’t I? Gone off and been distracted by…

Squirrel!

Truth is, other people have really good blogs where they give ‘their public’ (mwah, dahling) those pearls of wisdom they’ve been waiting for, intelligent posts about matters literary, or packed full of detail on subjects about which they have great knowledge, or a fiery passion.

*falls into a hazy brown dream…*

(Sorry, I was just thinking about my favourite topic then – Topics, yes, those chewy chocolate bars filled with nuts and raisins.)

*licks lips and wipes dribble off keyboard*

So. Back to business. All I could think about when I started this blog a long, long time ago, was to chat about my own books as I knew those fairly well, and there seemed so much to say. Is this an opportune moment to drop in a shifty little link to my Author Page ? In retrospect, there’s only so much to say, and I think I’ve probably said it all. Now that that avenue has become a cul-de-sac, a dried up stream, a crisp packet licked clean, what next?

Well, Hubby suggested a long, long time ago that as I had so much to say (cheek!), maybe I could blog about it. I think what he was really intimating was that he is no longer enchanted by the tales I weave and offer for his entertainment: I seem to have adventures and mishaps galore, random thoughts and ideas a-plenty, not to mention a good few dreams that I enjoy recounting in great detail.

So, what better place to offload! I have no idea if I have followers. Have I? I don’t think I’ve found that tab on the site, but at least I can pretend I have scores of fans who are hanging onto my every word…

Watch this space (but not for too long. I may well forget to return yet again).

Squirrel!

#thinkofapoem

Published September 27, 2014 by helenlaycock

My lovely – and talented – friend, Liz Brownlee has been made National Poetry Day Ambassador. Have a look at her website and you’ll see why:

http://www.poetlizbrownlee.co.uk/site/welcome/

Poetry is not a dying art, but, for some reason, many people are afraid of it. Yes, some poems are very deep and intellectual, but there are so many that are accessible to everyone. The beauty of poetry, I think, is in the speaking of it. That’s when you hear the choreography of words. How wonderful to experience the sounds and rhythms which dance in your mouth and to be introduced to metaphors which would never have crossed your mind, yet, to hear them, you realise how perfect they are.

To bring poetry to the forefront, Ambassador Liz would like everyone to #thinkofapoem – and to use that hash tag on Twitter with the poem title, or link.

At this point, I thought I would introduce you to one of my light-hearted poems for children, which is included in ‘A Mouthful of Chuckles’, one of my books which you can see shown on the right-hand side.

Weird Beard

Boris, ’twas said, was a hundred years old

with a beard right down to his feet.

Amassed in the hair

was all manner of fare

he’d spilled while attempting to eat.

 

Boris had oathed to dispose of all clothes –

his beard made a wonderful cloak.

It tickled a bit

and was awkward to sit

and muffled his voice when he spoke.

 

Often Boris would slip as his beard made him trip

or entangled itself in his toes.

Reluctant to trim it

or set a length limit,

he’d left it to grow and to grow.

 

The day did not come of a hundred and one,

the story is sad to be told…

for Boris got trapped;

in his beard he was wrapped

and cocooned there until he turned cold.

Yes, it’s a bit dark, but children love a bit of menace!

Poetry can make you laugh, make you cry, unsettle you or stay with you. We can all remember one, so go on, Tweet it!

All good things come in small packages…

Published September 23, 2014 by helenlaycock

I’ve written before about the first little character I ever created for a book – Mr Charlie Chumpkins.

I am little. I like little things. Charlie’s very small, but, like me, perfectly formed – or so I like to think. I like Charlie an awful lot… nevertheless, due to his being so tiny, I had to put him through a few trials – not to be cruel, you understand, just to test his mettle.

*wonders if that is psychopathic behaviour*

Now, anyone of petite stature perfectly understands that while it’s great for Hide and Seek, it can be rather a disadvantage in some situations… supermarkets, for example. One has to be resourceful, nay, acrobatically-gifted, to reach the last box of fish fingers at the back of a high freezer.

(*By the way, I have perfected the art and don’t mind passing on my tip. See end of post for details.)

Anyway, I digress…

It was quite easy to come up with ideas for getting Charlie into trouble in the Big, Wide World. If you’re only inches tall, then there’s potential for catastrophe  everywhere from a pizza delivery to a camping holiday, from a wedding to a hospital visit, from a day at school to a day at the zoo… you get the idea. You name it, Charlie’s been there.

I have finally produced a bumper volume of his adventures which is, in fact, two books combined. Ready for the title?

*takes deep breath*

It’s:

Mr Charlie Chumpkins and The Further Mishaps of Charlie Chumpkins

I enjoyed re-reading it as I’d forgotten a lot (memory like a … what is it?). I thought I’d share a bit here that amused me. This is a chapter called ‘Pest Control’ which introduces the character of Grandma… and her vicious cat, Zimbo:
This is where I inserted a Read More tag.

This is where the insertion of the Read More tag failed. Read the rest of this entry →

A taste of paradise

Published July 4, 2014 by helenlaycock

I’ve never won a raffle, a bingo prize – that smarmy fox in the purple suit puts me right off – or the lottery. Heck, if I had, I would be sitting under a palm tree right now, supping coconut milk. I did once win a bottle of still water on a tombola. Happy days…

I have been quite lucky, though, in writing competitions – though I think it’s fair to say that I’ve notched up more shortlistings than wins. Once or twice I have had a little windfall… the last being very little at £10, but one of the perks of winning is that sometimes a writer’s work gets published elsewhere. Like buses, things can be very quiet for a long time, then wham, bang, slam, it all happens at once.

I already have some work published in the One Word Anthology, a collection of flash fiction and poetry written by my writing buddies in my online writing group, Writers’ Talkback.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/One-Word-Anthology-Talkback-Writers-ebook/dp/B00A5W0OAY/ref=la_B006PGFVL6_1_5?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404483825&sr=1-5

As one of the runners up in the Words with Jam Bigger Short Story Competition, my entry is included in Volume II of An Earthless Melting Pot (Quinn Pub.), newly-available. It’s a great cover! I should get a free copy soon. Yay!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Earthless-Melting-Pot-collection-prize-winning-ebook/dp/B00L5P2868/ref=la_B006PGFVL6_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404483825&sr=1-1

This week, I got word that another anthology was out – The Aspiring Writers 2013 Winners Anthology. This one has four short stories of mine and one poem, all written to the brief given by Ronnie, the competition organiser. Only placed entries got published. This one, I’ll have to buy myself.:(

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Aspiring-Writers-Anthology-Betsy-Riley/dp/1622200179/ref=la_B006PGFVL6_1_13?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404483825&sr=1-13

There is one more anthology in the pipeline, by Thynks Publications. This will be a book of poetry. I’m not yet sure of the title.

I shall keep going with my competition entries. It’s a great way to hone writing skill and I’d thoroughly recommend it to all writers as a useful exercise. As they say, you’ve got to be in it to win it! One day I shall be supping that coconut milk. Or maybe I should just settle for a Bounty.

Diving in

Published June 25, 2014 by helenlaycock

Hello, Blog.

It’s me. I’m back. What do you mean, you don’t ‘recognise’ me? Yes, it’s been a while, I confess, but that’s because I’ve been busy working on Martha and Mitch. Sorry – an enormous photo follows…

Image

This was one of my early books for children – the second I ever wrote, if I remember correctly. I published a kindle version then left it to rot/brew/mature * for a couple of years. *delete as applicable.

I was a little afraid to look at it again #mould, but as my current mission is to create paperbacks of all my books, I had to check if it was really good enough to become ‘real’. What really pushed me was that, after a quiet time of sales, I sold a kindle copy in the U.S. Oh no!

What if it was rubbish? There had always been an irritating niggle at the back of my brain that a few of the passages were a little stilted. I dreaded being confronted by them… much in the way that Indiana Jones must have felt when that big stone ball came rolling towards him.

The test I had to give myself was to re-read it.

If I enjoyed it, I would roll up my sleeves, spit on my palms and do my darned-est to iron out the lumps. After all, a few years down the line, I hope I am a better writer.

Well, well, well… I found that I really enjoyed the story. Who was it that said that a writer never gets bored of editing and re-reading their own work if they’ve done a good job? Or maybe it’s because I have the memory of a goldfish…

I edited and edited and edited. Martha and Mitch was the last thing I thought about before going to sleep and the first thing when I opened my eyes – plus it had a nasty habit of waking me several times between.

So,

  • I simplified the language. Vocabulary that nails it for adult readers is not perfect for children.
  • The author’s voice had been too loud. I added more subtlety whilst allowing a little authorial intrusion.
  • I tightened up everything I could until it was ready to be re-launched, shiny and new.

I handed it over to be proofread and had fantastic feedback, that it was ‘visual’ and would make a fantastic film. Of course, that would necessitate writing it all over again as a script. Now, if I could get George Clooney involved, I’d definitely consider it.

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