Eleven-year-old Laysha Elena Martinez has al­ready pub­lished her sec­ond book

Woonsocket Call - - Front Page - By JONATHAN BIS­SON­NETTE jbis­son­nette@paw­tuck­et­times.com

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.

Pho­tos by Jonathan Bis­son­nette

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.

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