Chrissy Kett is a London-based writer whose background is in musical theatre, having trained at The Italia Conti Academy of Performing Arts. She has performed in venues such as Sadler’s Wells and The New Wimbledon Theatre, and has toured the UK extensively.
Over the last fourteen years she has also gained extensive experience in teaching, directing, choreographing, and facilitating workshops for all age groups. She continues to teach 4 – 18-year-olds at The Kett School of Speech and Drama, and she also enjoys delivering “Bringing Books to Life” and “Poetry in Motion” dance workshops for West End In Schools. Along the way, she has discovered that the pride that comes with helping a student develop their skills is far greater than the thrill of being on stage.
Having spent many years performing and teaching other people’s work, she decided it was time she wrote some material of her own. She sat down, drank some coffee, and got to work (she finds that not much work gets done without coffee).
She was slightly surprised when she finished her first novel, and even more so now that she’s writing the third of the trilogy, but looking back, she’s realized she’s been telling stories ever since she was small (or smaller – she still hasn’t reached five foot). Perhaps she didn’t realize it at the time, because she tended to act them out rather than write them down. Kids at school always wanted to play in her imaginary worlds at break times, and the adults always wanted to listen to her stories at Christmas (fully-staged performances in the lounge, obviously).
She now writes poetry, children’s and YA fiction, and was thrilled when her verse Centennial Christmas won The Sloane Square Carol Competition. She would like to thank all of the WriteFluence team for giving fledging writers a voice, and the inspiration to keep on writing (even when there are days when none of her imaginary friends will talk to her and she finds herself staring at a blank page).
When she’s not teaching, she can usually be found in coffee shops, writing and sipping a latté. When the UK comes out of lockdown, she can’t wait to get back to writing and people watching, with coffee in hand.
Speaking of lockdown, for anyone working with children and young people, mental health awareness is of the utmost importance, and is something that Chrissy feels very passionately about.
In 2010 she worked for Ape Theatre Company, for a Theatre in Education tour delivering both performances and workshops for KS3 based on Road Safety and Anti-Bullying. She has also been the face of a “CyberMentors” campaign: “Don’t suffer in silence.” Her short story holds young people at the front of her mind as she takes a sharp look at the UK’s “tick-box” approach to learning.
We asked Chrissy a few questions to get to know her better. Here’s what she had to say:
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I have been writing since…
I have been writing since I was ten years old, and my primary school challenged us to write a short story. I still remember the hours it took me to type out “The Fairy Who Couldn’t Fly”, and the feeling of pride when it was ready to share. I went on to perform the story at the St Alban’s Speech and Drama festival, where the adjudicator asked if he could take my story home to read to his granddaughter. It was such a thrill. If you’d like to read it, the full story can be found at http://www.chrissykett.com. The next year, we were asked to write poems and my verse “Thunder and Lightning” was one of the winning entries published by Poetry in Print. I then went on to pursue a career in the performing arts, but looking back, I owe my love of reading and writing to the fantastic educators at Newberries Primary School.
My favorite author(s) and book(s)?
This is difficult as there are so many to choose from. If I had to mention a few of my favorites (in age order), they would probably be… Early Years: “Tiddler” by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Why? It’s a charming story, filled with adventure, about a little fish who tells big stories. Also, I have some fantastic memories of delivering a “Bringing Books to Life” workshop, based on this book, for West End in Schools. Middle Grade: “Matilda” by Roald Dahl. Why? I love Dahl’s work; full of magic, wit, charm, and fantastic characters. What’s more, my students love it too. “The Butterfly Lion” by Michael Morpurgo. Why? Morpurgo’s writing is so emotive and engaging. My students really connect with the themes and drama within this beautifully crafted tale. YA: “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins. Why? It might seem a cliché to mention this extremely successful trilogy, but I just love the world Collins creates, and Katniss is a great protagonist.
My journey as a writer:
I’m just starting out on my journey as a writer, and I’m very grateful to the team at WriteFluence for giving fledgling writers the chance to share their stories. My background is in musical theatre, and I’ve been performing and teaching for many years. I am used to writing performance poems and drama scenes for my students, but it wasn’t until I won The Sloane Square Carol Competition, for my verse “Centennial Christmas”, that I had the confidence to take myself seriously. I’m currently working on the third book of my dystopian YA trilogy, whilst entering competitions to build my profile prior to contacting literary agents. My ambition, like many writers, is to find representation, and one day, to get my trilogy published.
Why should we read you?
I feel that my short story might approach the theme from a different perspective, whilst taking a sharp look at the UK’s “tick-box” approach to our education system. My favorite genre to read / write *It depends what mood I’m in, and where my creativity and inspiration leads me. On my website http://www.chrissykett.com, you can find a selection of my work. Some of my poetry for children is comic, and inspired by my favorite films, books and events. I also have poetry collections for adults: “Spotlight” is inspired by the arts, and “Coffee and Croissants” is a collection of the sort of pieces you might like to read when having a moment of peace in a café. At the moment, I’m mainly writing YA fiction, with dystopian themes. I love twisting reality, or making a small change and then seeing how far that concept could distort the world we know.
What advise would you give young and aspiring writers?
I’m at the start of my journey, so I certainly can’t give advice from an experienced point of view. What I will say is that it’s never too late to start writing or to change direction. You might not have a degree in English Literature, but that doesn’t stop you having something worth saying. It just means you might have a little more to learn along the way. I’ve got loads to learn, but WriteFluence has given me the confidence to keep going. I greatly love the Stephen King quote: “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.” I always tell myself this on those days where nothing is flowing. Some days it’s going to feel like hard work, but keep on pushing, and you’ll create more that you ever thought you could.
Here’s an excerpt from Chrissy’s winning story Perfectionist’s Poison that’s now published in Wafting Earthy:
My heart thuds as panic clutches my chest. I don’t want to watch this. But I must. I have no choice but to sit here and witness a ceremony so repulsive that my stomach churns before it’s even begun. “Megan Adeomi.”
The name is announced, and I hear the inevitable sobbing. I follow the sound, looking to the rows behind me. There. I spot her among the hundreds of other students, as she stands and shuffles to the end of her row. She starts the long walk to the stage, as we try to ignore the thud of her footsteps, and the gulping sound as she chokes on her tears. I drop my gaze before she passes me. Terrified to gaze at the pain lurking in her eyes.
Instead, like a coward, I look at everything else. Anything else. My eyes sweep around the assembly hall: black walls, white chairs, and black marble floor of the stage, all swirl amid rows of black and white uniforms. Students appear as waves in a sea of perverse perfectionism. Not one colour besmirches the canvas where students are duplicated with robotic accuracy. All the same. All judged by the same criteria. All punished by the exams written by the same men who do not know us, and never will.