Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Zombelina -

I have been keeping a low profile this week, firing off the odd e-mail here and there to bookshops and the like.

Instead, my energies have been thrown towards the development of a new project which has coincided with the collection of "spooky stories" I have been writing.

The project is quite simply " Zombelina", the sad story of a lonely Toymaker who wishes for a companion and makes a life size doll which he then brings to life with the help of a witch and a second hand spirit. Compared to all the other stories that I have written, this one is very dark and bereft of even the slightest bit of humour - so I don't quite know how its going to sit with the other material.

Because there are a lot of things in the pipeline for "Zombelina", which for the moment I am going to keep to myself, I have decided to start a new blog to track the progress of the story right up to Zombie Aid 3 and beyond....

Here are a few verses just to get your interest....

In the light of the moon, she stood tall above him, the smell of old leather and hops filled the air
She watched as a cloud of stale breath exhales gently
Excitement and thrill seemed to grip her intently

His unshaven face and the dirty complexion, contrasts with the snow as he lay on the ground
Her mouth filled with fresh flesh of newly killed meat
As she gorged all alone on the side of the street.

Her heart like a pocket watch, frantically beating – the minutes passed by as she feasted in rage
She’s only halted by footsteps behind her
And voices of drinkers that suddenly find her.

As I said its not really for kids - but it is a damn good story.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Hairy Plug Monster learns Telesales.

Following my brief flirtation over the previous week and at Blackpool - the next two days were spent trying to convince independent booksellers to at least give me their email addresses so I could send them an information fact sheet.

" Hello my name is Leighroy Marsh and I am a children's author based in Stockport, (quick breath - but no pause)..I have just published my first book which has been compared with The Gruffalo and the Cat in the Hat and I wondered whether I could send you a quick email with more details on it"

Thankfully the majority of the booksellers, were fairly receptive to my cheeky approach, although I was surprised to find a few booksellers with a fairly elitist attitude,

" I haven't heard of it, so it cant be that good", ....hmmm

Unfortunately there is nothing more you can say to people like this, especially if they don't want to pass over their email address.

After initially exhausting the first 200 shops on my google search for booksellers in England, I returned to my database of Waterstones booksellers and have started to patiently and alphabetically collate telephone numbers and addresses, and again ring them up.

Having my book in 9 of their stores has helped and with the offer of SOR from Gardners, it should be a bit of a no brainer for the managers.

Time will tell.

Anyway after drawing

Sunday, 14 March 2010


After almost feeling like a real author the previous week, the last 5 days were a bit like " the day after the lord mayors show". I had bookings for Tuesday and Friday, but with not much else in between.

Monday was International Womens Day, and so I decided to take a day off and head out to the countryside with Yulia, before returning home for a rather large tea with the girls. I have realised that, when there are people in the house it is almost impossible to focus on writing - as I am easily distracted. It would be nice to have a shed at the bottom of the garden just like Roald Dahl where I could hide for the day with a flask of tea and a pouch of tobacco, but I suppose I am just going to have to wait.

Lynne had arranged for me to return to Blackpool on Tuesday morning for several readings throughout the day. The first was at Boundary Library where I read to two schools, and received praise from the teachers and kids....( it goes without saying that Golden Arm was unanimously requested for an encore - with The Hairy Plug Monster hardly getting a look in when Lynne held a ballot amongst the pupils). We made our way across town to Bispham Library where we managed to cram another two classes into the children's section and gave another hours performance before taking lunch.

It was fun working with Lynne as I realised that over the course of the two days, we had developed an understanding which meant that the performances had strong continuity and the pauses were not too long. She was also able to advise when my voice became too quiet or was lost amongst the high ceilings.

Following on from a prawn cocktail we then moved across to the newly built, state of the art Devonshire Primary School, which is possibly the "coolest school" I have ever been to. Huge wide corridors, minimalist design, rooftop gardens and playgrounds, hexagonal assembly halls and an inspirational library all made for a memorable visit. We were performing in the "Studio" where they even had a story-telling chair.

At first I said I need to earn the right to sit in it, and needless to say, the kids demanded that I sat in the chair after entertaining them for half an hour- before scaring them senseless. Raaaaaaaaagh!!!!

The day came to a close with a reading at the Revoe Library, where they even had worked on a collage of Hairy Plug Monsters to promote the reading to a small group of older children as part of the after school "Chatterbooks" club.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

World Book Week - My Diary,

What a fantastic week, World Book Week turned out to be..It almost feels that we are there...well almost.

On March 1 I kicked of the tour with a visit to Armitage School in Ardwick Manchester and had a really enjoyable morning reading to the pupils and was the same format as before, starting off safe with a reading of the HPM before hitting them right between the eyes with Golden Arm. I have noticed that three stories and questions fills about 30 mins, and it was possible to visit at least 5 classes in the morning...with the elder children being treated to a reading of Commander-in-chief-of the-World. ( Which raised a few eyebrows amongst the teachers). Unfortunately there was also a booking at the school with a drama teacher, so use of the hall was restricted as was reading to the Year 6's...regardless it still went well....I couldn't help smiling as one of the year 4 girls, asked me :

"how famous are you?, cos I've never heard of you" I walked into the classroom, and at the end she surprised me by asking for an autograph

March 2nd and I had my first library session for the week in Warrington, where I managed to find the central library with only seconds to spare. In I raced, and immediately set about my repertoire with gusto. Honor Giles (the story teller and Lymm Festival Coordinator) came down to "check out my wears" and to see if "I could walk the walk" with regards to the material being suitable for a festival, and hopefully I made the all the excitement I forgot which school came to visit - but Chris Everette - The Children's Library Coordinator did manage to get some pictures which I will post as soon as they are forwarded on to me. After another successful reading we moved over to Padgate Library, only to find that they had booked the school in for Thursday instead of Tuesday. C'est la vie..

Chris and I decided to visit the school instead and give an impromptu reading, rather than miss the opportunity altogether - so after gatecrashing a maths lesson, we rounded up 2 year 5 classes and read the HPM and the two Ghost Stories to the unsuspecting pupils. Again they lapped it up and again were left with the shivers.

After the reading I met up with Mum, and we went for some dinner - before meeting up at Orford Library to read again to some Year one classes from a nearby school.....(apologies again because I have forgotten the name). I even brought out Be Careful Ethel, which I had omitted from my "set" because I thought it was a bit tame, but everybody seemed to like it, and the children found it quite amusing.

Wednesday March 3rd was my big trip to the seaside and spend the day with the delightful Lynne Cowat-French, the Children's coordinator for Blackpool Library Services. Our first stop was at Thames Primary School, situated directly behind the pleasure beach and they even had one of the ancient roller-coasters bordering the playground, which must be quite surreal in the summer months.

Thames was originally an old Victorian school, and the acoustics in the hall were superb and added to the suspense. As Lynne was the ex-headteacher for nearby Arnold School, she had organised for them to attend as well, so the small hall looked really packed. Thankfully, they were not disappointed as over the course of the hour, I read the HPM and HPM G2Town, Be Careful Ethel and Golden Arm.

At the end of the reading, Lynne conducted a poll for a repeat performance and the result wasn't really a surprise. The children all wanted Golden Arm again - I was a bit worried that reading it to the children again may not have the same impact, but I was wrong, in fact I was very wrong....even though every one in the room new what was coming, I raised my voice slightly and paused the punchline for about 5 seconds longer......and guess what?

We then went a mile further down the road to Hawes Side Primary School and repeated the performance to another 100 or so children with an encore, and had exactly the same results. I have to admit, I was feeling rather "awesome" knowing that over the week I had perfected a performance formula that enthralls and entertains children for nearly an hour. 4 poems interspersed with the occasional anecdote and an open question and answer session.

I was even treated to lunch with Lynne, before making my way to Our Lady of the Assumption RC School for the afternoon session. Just like before the reading went well although the kids in the hall were taking advantage of the fact that there were no teachers (only supply teachers) and it was left to Lynne to impose a bit of order on the children - saying that though...Golden Arm got their attention with little effort.

It seems all I have to do is say " Who wants to hear a ghost story?"

We did have a walk in session at Palatine Library, scheduled for 3.45 and although I turned up, there was a distinct shortage of children, so in the end I only read to about three children individually before Lynne suggested that we call it a day and go and get a cup of tea.

Thursday 4th March and this time I was at Manley Park in Whalley Range Manchester, for World Book Day, I had been looking forward to this as the booking was made in January and after getting the girls ready in their fancy dress costumes, (Arisha as "Miranda" complete with a home made dress she had designed totally out of socks, while Maya had snakes made out of material weaved in her hair to look like Medusa). I had overlooked the fact that I hadn't got a costume.

This became more obvious, when I arrived at Manley Park and saw that everyone, even the teachers had dressed up - leaving me to think fast on my feet and tell them that I had come as "Charlie Bucket"

The readings at the school had been scheduled for 20 minute slots and I was ushered through about 6 classes in the morning and 2 performances in the neighbouring upper junior school before at least 200 pupils (some of which were bigger than I was).

I knew straight away when the older kids came in that reading "The HPM" and other material wasn't going to cut it so I relied more heavily on The Commander-in-Chief of the World and Golden Arm to bail me out.

It was also strange to note that one of my usual answers I give to people when they ask about why I became a writer got possibly more interest than questions about the stories themselves.

When they ask "Why do all your stories rhyme?" I tell them about spending 25 years as a songwriter and writing over 200 songs - which are all "rubbish" ( this isn't true of course - because a lot of my songs are pretty damn good - but I will save that for another blog) and I tell then that I decided to cheer up and write songs for children, which then turned into stories in a rhythmical form.

Anyway the children at Manley Park were very much interested in my career as a wannabe "pop star" ,

Friday 5th March, after one week of solid readings all over the North West, my final appearance was in the charming village of Tottington just on the outskirts of Bury, where Alison Davies was my companion for the day - joined briefly with Alison Bond in the morning. I started off reading to Tottington Nursery and found that two stories is more than enough for pre-schoolers before being treated to a brilliant rendition of " Baby Sharks" by Alison Bond.

Mid Morning we were joined by year 4's from the nearby Tottington Primary School and without wishing to repeat myself - it was a resounding success....during the telling of Golden Arm I even made on of the kids jump so much that he literally fell over. Proof in anyone's eyes that the story is definitely destined for bigger things..

We then paid a visit to Tottington Primary in the afternoon and gave reading to another 5 classes starting from the nursery - reception and on to years 1, 2 and three.

my efforts were rewarded with the Head asking me to sign 71 books before I left. Amusingly I sat in the staffroom repeating the mantra;

"I must not write popular children's books if I want to go home early on a Friday".

Finally to round off a very busy week in anyone's eyes, I headed off to Waterstones in Bury to give a reading, only to find that there wasn't any children - so after an hour of reading "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" to myself in the corner, and selling a few books to the store owner Rachel, I finally got to go home and pour myself a well earned glass of wine.