Past the Pirates and on to the Talking Tree

"Father Christmas and the Pirates" is a letter from Father Christmas written and illustrated by Leone Annabella Betts
“Father Christmas and the Pirates”
A Father Christmas written and illustrated by Leone Annabella Betts

For those of you who like to follow the progress of my Father Christmas story-letters… I wanted to write this quick post to let you know that I’ve now finished the first of this year’s new printable letters, “Father Christmas and the Pirates”. (Yay!) It should be available for you to print from September 2013 onwards, when you’ll be able to find it on this page of the Rooftop Post site.

I should add that I’m very happy with it; the story has turned out pretty well and I’m pleased with the illustrations. As you may know, I’ve developed a very particular illustrative style for the Father Christmas letters – slightly child-like and attempting to look spontaneous, as though Father Christmas himself sat down and painted the little pictures as best he could. They’re what I would have wanted when I was a child.

The letter is written as though Father Christmas is on his way around the world on Christmas Eve. Over the years I’ve completed many similar letters telling stories from his sleigh, but this is the first time I’ve built a story around pirates. As with all my Father Christmas letters, I’ve tried to strike a tone which is exciting without being scary, so that children of all ages can enjoy it. Of course, I’m never sure exactly who each letter will be most popular with – boys, girls, older children or little ones – and it often surprises me who likes what most. As far as “Father Christmas and the Pirates” goes though, I’m thinking slightly older children may like it best, for after all it’s two pages long, rather than the usual one. Anyway, if you’re printing it this Christmas, I hope it goes down well in your house… and that you enjoy it too.

So what’s next? Well, I’ve now moved on to the first “before Christmas” letter of the season. It’s called “Father Christmas and the Christmas Tree” and I suspect it will become a favourite. It’s a particularly magical one – and I have to say I loved writing it. It takes you right into the heart of everyday life at Christmas House, with magic around every corner and in creating it I completely lost the afternoon. Time flies when you’re at the North Pole!

Printable backs for Father Christmas letters by Leone Annabella Betts.
Printable Backs for the Father Christmas Letters

As with all the printable letters, “Father Christmas and the Christmas Tree” will be addressed “Dear little friend” so that you can print it straight out, but for anyone wanting that personalised touch, the nice folk at Rooftop Post have created some printable name tags. They look gorgeous if you roll up your letter and tie it with ribbon. (Which is certainly what I’ll be doing for various little members of my family!) If you are folding or rolling your letter, you might want to remember to print a pretty design on the back of the letter too.

Once I’ve finished the letter about Father Christmas and his talking Christmas tree, I shall be moving on to another one for before Christmas. This time, I expect I’ll go for something about Rudolph. I mean everyone loves to hear about him, don’t they? I shall have to have a think about what he’s been up to this year. Wish me luck!

Starting the First Christmas Letter

Well, it’s that time of year again. The sun may be blazing through the window and the summer may be well underway, but the Christmas letters call.

I have been asked to do both “before Christmas” and “Christmas Morning” letters as usual and I thought this year, I’d start with the latter. For anyone who is new to my Father Christmas letters and has no idea what I’m talking about, I create two kinds; one to be given to a child in the run up to Christmas and another to be opened and read when he/she wakes on Christmas Day. Apparently, the letters for before Christmas are the most popular but the Christmas Morning ones also have their fans and I’m told they’re particularly liked by families whose children open their presents after lunch.

I gave a good deal of thought as to what kind of stories Father Christmas should tell this year – I always try to make sure each letter is about something new – and I’ve decided that this first one will be based on a Christmas Eve run in with pirates.

Why pirates? Well, I like them – and so do most children. I also like parrots and all the best pirates have one. In fact, I’m thinking it’s a a pirate parrot who may actually cause problems for Father Christmas and his reindeer, somewhere over a make-believe sea.

A Couple of Days Later…

Father Christmas and the Pirate Parot - In Progress
Letter in Progress

After a bit of thinking and note making, I’ve now drafted the letter and begun the work of putting it into Father Christmas’ curly handwriting. It looks like it will have to be two pages rather than one, as the story I want it to tell just won’t fit into anything shorter.

As you can see from the picture on the left, I’ve so far as designed the letter head, made a start on some of the little illustrations around the sides and written out page one. It always surprises me how long the actual writing takes… maybe I’m just too used to typing these days! As usual, I shall be filling the margins with more little pictures to compliment the story. Oh, and for those of you who like the little spiders – I shan’t forget to add them. They go on last though, when I know what space I’ve got left.

The pirate parrot has worked very well and I have had great fun writing him. The pirate captain has also turned out to be an amusing character so all in all I’m very pleased. In fact, I think this letter may become one of my favourites. Of course, the best thing about writing all the Father Christmas letters is imagining the children who will enjoy them. I hope this one brings a lot of pleasure.

I’m going to end this post now and get back to work but before I go, I’d like to say a quick thank you for all the kind messages those of you who have had my letters have sent me in the past. I keep them all.


This letter – Father Christmas and the Pirates – is now available to print online.


Father Christmas Letters: Changes for 2013

As those of you who’ve had my letters for aeons already know, I write new ones for Rooftop Post every year.Snippet from top of Santa letter for 2013What you won’t know (unless you’ve read it somewhere on their website) is that this year, there’s a difference. This year, they have decided to stop selling personalised letters in favour of providing printable ones that can be given to any child. They will also be free.

While suspect not everyone will like this idea, personally, I think it’s fantastic. Of course, I do worry a little bit about my copyright – I mean what’s to stop people copying and distributing my letters at will once they’re online? But having thought long and hard about it, in the end I said to myself, Leone, giving stories away is a good thing and most people wouldn’t dream of abusing it. And as for the one or two who do… well, I know Rooftop Post (not to mention British copyright law!) will do the best they can to protect my work, so I’m not going to let it bother me.

So there you have it. I’ve agreed that from September 2013 onwards this year’s illustrated story letters from Father Christmas will be available to download and print from What’s more, I’m going to chart my progress in writing and illustrating them right here on my website, just for the fun of it. For now though, all that remains for me to say is thanks for visiting and if you’re interested, I hope you’ll come back and check on my letter writing progress very soon.

Who Am I?

Leone Annabella Betts in 2012So, who am I? Well, not in a metaphysical sense obviously. Actually, I’m adding this post on the advice of a friend, but I find it rather difficult writing about myself. Other subjects, no problem, but when it comes to me I’m never sure quite what to say. Still, I suppose for the sake of this site I should give it a whirl.

My full name is Leone Annabella Betts, but I tend to use “Leone Annabella” instead of the whole thing. People are always asking how to pronounce my first name – it’s Italian and to an English speaker it would sound like: “lay-own-nee” with the emphasis is on the central syllable. I’m actually English, though my very early years were spent in France near the French-Italian border, then up until the age of fourteen I lived in Wales. As a student, I also spent time living in the Middle East. Consequently, I speak a couple of different languages and tend to dwell on the similarities between us all rather than the differences. I have tendency to think globally and I love the fact that we are living through a time which sees human beings increasingly connected to each other. In the main, I am positive about our future and think that ultimately, the human race will become better, wiser and kinder… provided we manage not to destroy ourselves in the process.

In work terms, there is a giant bleed between what I do for a living and what I would do anyway, even if I couldn’t get paid. I paint, I write, and I have my own small business. I like books, films and storytelling of all kinds. I believe in being busy – I think it staves off depression and increases a general sense of self worth.

What else? I don’t know… I don’t like selfishness and I destest liver and onions. Nepotism worries me. I have a small number of very good friends who are like family. The best of these is my co-writer, Keith Dando – independent, talented, funny and endlessly upbeat – without him I’d be lost. If I was asked to sum up what I think is most important about life in one sentence, it would be, “Be kind”. I learnt that from my mother – a fantastic woman from whom I believe I inherited all my creativity and then some. Thanks Mum. That’s it – that’s all I have to say!

Leone Annabella Betts, October 2012
Leone Annabella Betts, October 2012