HOW I STARTED WRITING
I've liked stories ever since I can remember. My first proper recollection of writing (or 'when I first started') was when I was 14-years-old. I was bored in English class, and wrote a poem called Field of Snow. I asked to read it out at the end of the lesson, and when I finished, everyone clapped. And, as weird as it sounds, that's how it all started.
So I spent the new few years exploring creative writing - writing poems, monologues, and even moved onto songs. I also made YouTube videos for a time (under the name 'itsryanhere') and ended up writing various sketches and parody songs that I posted on there. But I consider when I properly became a writer when I was 17. It was on 24th July 2012, I sat down at my computer, opened up a word document and started writing my first book, called 'Leaton Cooper: No Quiet Life'. Many years later, and I stand by that it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
WRITING MY FIRST BOOK, and a few more...
I spent a year and a half writing my first book, and I'd never felt escapism like it. In doing so I realised that being a successful and best-selling author was my ultimate goal. When I finished that book in December 2013, I sent it off to publishers hoping my dream would come true. But it didn't. In fact, the only publisher who offered to publish it for me asked for over £2,500.
So I tried again. Between January and November 2014 I wrote four more books, including a novella, two parts in a series, and the first instalment of a trilogy. All of which I sent off to various publishers and agents, and all of which, unfortunately, got rejected. Something wasn't working. So I decided to try one more time.
I took a month-long break from writing and experimented with a few different ideas; I needed to come up with something unique, something different, something so ground-breaking that publishers and agents just couldn't ignore it. And on 26th December 2014 (my 20th birthday), I started writing what would later be called The Transition.
THE TRANSITION & MY intro to street promotion
The Transition was the sixth book I'd ever written, and straight from the start I knew it was the best. I'm definitely proud of all my books, but something about it stood out to me. I addressed things I never had done before - morality, judgement, friendship and trust - and tied all of that into a story that I (without sounding boastful) I think is fantastic. When I finally finished that book, I realised that, if any, this was the story that would make me big. But I didn't send it to publishers - not straight away. With the rise in popularity of things like the Amazon Kindle Store, Smashwords and Lulu, it's easier than ever for authors to share their work online. The only issue with that is, the more books there are online, the harder it is for yours to get noticed. I realised I needed to do something different to stand out and get the attention I wanted. So I bought a couple of whiteboards, and some flyers, and I spent a couple of days that summer coming out onto the street to talk to people and promote my book. And I loved it.
MY '100 DAYS' CHALLENGE
When September rolled around again, I had to go back to uni and finish my degree, and street promotion became something I did only when I could find the time. But as my final year at uni came to a close in May 2016, (a year after finishing The Transition) I realised that I wanted to do more street promotion. And having just finished uni, now was the perfect time to do it. So I set myself a challenge. I spent 100 days coming out onto the streets of Leeds to promote it. I had so much fun, met so many great - as well as a few strange - people, and all round it was a fantastic experience. But although my book was doing really well, it's sales alone wasn't earning me enough money to live off, so after the ‘100 days’ I had to quit, get a job, and start adult life.
THE TWENTY PENCE POETRY STORE
I absolutely loved coming out on the street and trying to get my name out there, but with my book not earning me quite enough money, I decided to try something new. I needed a way to keep promoting myself, but just to earn a bit of money in the process. So I came up with the 'Twenty Pence Poetry Store'.Though it would never make me millions, selling my poems for 20p allowed me to spread the word about who I am as an author, and earn some income in the process. And after a while, with some hard work and perseverance, it became my only regular job...
POETRY STREET PERFORMANCE
After selling my poems on the street for over two years, I decided that I wanted to try something 'bigger'. Although sharing my words with people gave me great personal fulfilment, with some of my pieces I felt like their impact relied, not only on the words themselves, but how those words were said. So in October 2018, after putting it off for many, many months, I tried poetry street performance - or 'busking' - for the first time. Though initially I was very nervous at putting myself out there so much, the initial reaction - both within myself and from others - was all positive, and I realised that street performance was the next step for me...
Although selling poems was my first true introduction to making a living from my art, poetry performance has become my biggest passion. I suppose my 'dream' hasn't so much changed as it has evolved; as well as having my books in bookshops one day, I'd love the opportunity to perform in front of huge crowds - think Glastonbury or Leeds Festival. It's a lot to hope for, but I've come a long way already, and I feel like I'm just getting started...