RI’S YOUNGEST AUTHOR?
Eleven-year-old Laysha Elena Martinez has already published her second book
CENTRAL FALLS – Inspired by the series of “Harry Potter” fantasy novels that became an international literary and cinematic sensation, 11-year-old Laysha Elena Martinez is hoping that perhaps she could be the next J.K. Rowling with Naomi Cathaway serving as the Harry Potter of future generations.
Laysha is a fifth-grader at Central Falls’ Veterans Memorial Elementary School who recently published her second in a series of fantasy fiction novels for people of all ages about Naomi Cathaway, a feisty but caring young fairy with mind-controlling abilities.
Her first book, “Naomi Cathaway and the First Adventure,” was published in May using the Create Space independent publishing platform. It tells the story of Naomi, who has to find a way to save her parents, friends, and herself from an undead skeleton named Scolden.
The second installment in the series, “Naomi Cathaway and The Golden Touch,” was published on Oct. 29 and it expands the story of Naomi from the 42-page first book to a more detailed 162-page odyssey. In the second book, Naomi and her friends and family discover deep secrets about exactly who they are, why Scolden is so mysteriously evil, and whether he can be changed by a person with a heart of gold.
Laysha is from the Dominican Republic and learned English as a second language. She recalls reading as much as she could every day, often finding words she didn’t understand – most notably “perhaps” – but over time she not only grasped the language, she mastered it. In third grade, she began to
read the “Harry Potter” series of novels, completing the entire seven-book collection by the beginning of fourth grade.
After finishing J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” Laysha decided it was time to try her hand at writing. She would show her work to fourth-grade teacher Jessica Chagnon, who was immediately impressed with the writ- ing wizardry on display.
“She’s a prodigy,” Chagnon said of Laysha. “She’s just an amazing writer, a very conscientious student. When she left me last year to go on to fifth grade, I told her I wanted to continue our relationship and supporting her writing. I’m so amazed … Everyone’s just been all on board with trying to support Laysha as best we can because she’s just amazing.”
At first, Laysha’s writing was simply for fun. But as she realized that it was something she liked – and something for which she was receiving plaudits – she pressed on.
“I didn’t really plan things, then I realized it was going well, I continued going on and tried thinking about surprises or hints of what happens in the future because I’ve seen a lot of other stories do that,” she said. “I remember during the summer we were going on vacation for two weeks, I spent most of the time trying to think about what was happening (with the story). By the time I got back I tried writing.”
To see her works on the printed page and inside the cover of a book – which Chagnon helped to publish – was nothing short of amazing for Laysha.
“I used to see them on documents. I never thought it would actually happen, to see them in my hands. I didn’t think it was mine at first,” Laysha said, with Chagnon chiming in: “We cried the first time, everyone was crying.”
Laysha added that it feels “really good” to see her classmates and peers read the stories that she brought to life. The school’s library has about 10 copies of each novel and they are often rented out by students across all grades. “My friend bought the book and has a copy in her house, she brings it every single day and reads it in front of me,” she added with a smile.
The first installment took Laysha about a year to write, while the second – and three times as long – novel was finished within six months. Laysha credits that to getting in “a flow” when she writes.
And sometimes, that flow can continue at all hours of the night, her mother says.
“I get up in the middle of the night, she’s got a flashlight and she’s writing,” Marleny Acosta, Laysha’s mother, said. “And I say ‘OK, go ahead.’”
Now, Laysha says, she’s about five chapters into her third installment in the series, which she hopes will reach as many as seven or eight editions.
Chagnon said that helping to publish one of her own students’ work into a book available for purchase had her feeling “like a proud momma.”
“As soon as I saw her first work, I said ‘Wow, this kid is amazing!’ She has a grasp of the English language far superior to mine,” she said. “I let her write, I never stopped her from writing, she always had that opportunity. If I had a question, she’d go in and explain it.”
“It’s so cool to see this book come to life … When it finally came through, it was amazing and we’re so proud of her,” Chagnon added. “We had a book signing, every classroom came in and had their books signed, it was really amazing, it was so cool to see it all happen.”
“My students refer to her as my author,” she added with a laugh. “I want to follow Laysha on her journey because I know she’s going to be super famous one day.”
Central Falls School Superintendent Victor Capellan said he was very proud and grateful of the support Chagnon gave to Laysha, adding that he was “extremely proud and extremely glad to see (Laysha) follow this.”
“We want to support her as she pursues this. She certainly has a special talent and we want to nurture that,” Capellan said of Laysha. “She goes her own pace, which is much faster than us. We want to be supportive of this work along with all of her other school work. We’re very proud to have her in Central Falls.”
Both books are available for $7 in paperback on Amazon and “The First Adventure” also has a Spanish edition.
Eleven-year-old Laysha Elena Martinez holds copies of her two books in her ‘Naomi Cathaway’ series of fantasy fiction novels. The Central Falls resident began writing when she was a fourth-grade student at Veterans Memorial Elementary School.