Book

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John Roan Book Week

john roan book week

So it looks like I’m becoming a permanent member of the John Roan community – yup, their lovely Literacy Co-ordinator Angie Smith invited Roshin and me again to spend a day with the Year 9 students during their Book Week last week. As before, I was delighted by the intelligent and insightful questions I was asked after the talk.

The real joy came, though, at the creative writing workshops that we ran later in the day. This was the fun bit as, instead of them listening to me waffle on, Angie, Roshin and I got them to do some writing of their own! First of all we got them to work in groups to describe an emotion without naming it – for example, someone who was nervous might show it by tapping their feet or drumming their fingers. As a writer one of the most important mantras is “show not tell” and this activity was designed to drive home that point. This was a short, fun activity to get them brainstorming ideas and to get the students ready for the next activity.

Here they were each presented with a scenario – a single sentence that they then had to develop into a short story of their own. This was a chance for the students to really get their hands dirty and get creative with their writing. It was also wonderful to see the different and unique ways each student developed their stories – for example, from the same single sentence was born a thriller, a ghost story and a romance! Now that’s what I call creative, and it just shows the talent that each of those students have inside them.

All in all it was an exciting, enjoyable day and I will treasure the short stories that some of the students let me keep as souvenirs. I can definitely see many great writers coming out of the John Roan in a few years’ time!

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BBC News Report…

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I got interviewed by the BBC today.

All right, not really – though the Year 7 interviewers for the Blackheath High School BBC News Report were certainly professional enough to work for the real BBC! I was honoured and delighted when I was chosen as someone the Year 7s wanted to interview as part of the news report, and this morning they welcomed me and asked me about my transition from India to England, when I started writing, what inspired me etc. I was very much impressed by the organisation that had obviously gone into preparing the room, the questions and videoing, and was further delighted by the fact that one of them had even brought along their copy of Wolves Within.

I can honestly say that that was the best interview I’ve ever had, and I look forward to seeing the finished product once they’ve wrought their editing magic!

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From Einstein to Beggars

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So, I was working on my next novel, ‘Doves in Flight’ (the second in my Prism of Truth trilogy) and I was doing some research – Sathi style, of course – and I was looking up the wave-particle duality of light. (Don’t ask. No really, don’t ask). I found this quote by Einstein: “We have two contradictory pictures of reality; separately neither of them fully explains the phenomena of light, but together they do.”

And my brain just sparked. I like to believe that it sparked because it had just had a “Eureka!” moment and not because the first signs of insanity had come knocking at its door (surely I’d know the difference by now…?). Anyway, assuming that the former occured, I suddenly had this idea that Einstein might not have been just talking about light and physics – he might have been onto something bigger.

A lot of the time we are only presented with one version of reality, just one angle of many in the prism that is truth (insert a lot of exaggerated nodding and winking on my behalf here). Whether that information comes from newspapers, blogs or even Facebook posts the viewpoint of the writer has an immense influence on their presentation of a story, and hence on our reading of it. Let’s take an article I read recently about beggars, entitled ‘Beggars holding babies‘, which was interesting because the author refused to accept just one sliver of the truth.

The author describes how he/she used to walk past a woman with a child sleeping in her lap, watching people give her money even though it would only encourage the vicious scam that made children and others who were equally helpless to go out in the scorching sun and beg. Instead of making a better life for the beggars themselves, however, the money sympathetic passers-by bestowed on them would go to whoever controlled beggars in that area. The author knew this and refused to propagate this ruthless begging industry.

He/she also posed a disturbing question: why is the child on a beggar’s lap always asleep – when most children their age being expected to sit still for hours on end would be screaming and throwing tantrums? After investigation the shocking truth was revealed that children (who themselves are either stolen or “on rent” from poor families) are pumped up on vodka or heroin to make them docile (translation: comatose). And often they die as a result.

When you see a woman sitting by the road with a scattering of coins in front of them you probably first think, Oh that poor woman. What a hard life she’s got. Then you see that there is a child on the woman’s lap, and your sympathy doubles. Especially when you see the child is apparently so worn out it doesn’t have the high levels of energy children usually seem to possess. As you reach into your pocket for a particularly worn note, you might not know that it will ultimately end up in greedy hands that definitely don’t spend time begging. As you walk away, happy with yourself for helping out a tired-out mother and her hungry child, you might not know that the child is already dead from all the drugs that have been forced into its system.

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Visit to Portsmouth High

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We have now successfully made our third stop in the Wolves Within book tour, having just this morning visited a fellow GDST school, Portsmouth High. It was an absolutely wonderful visit, beginning with a warm welcome from the staff and girls alike. As before I had the privilege of giving a talk to the Year 7s and 8s, as well a few interested sixth formers.

The sight that greeted me when I first walked into the hall warmed my heart: the waiting girls had their heads buried in books, and I was treated to unbridled enthusiasm when I later mentioned Biff, Chip and Kipper books, Enid Blyton and Harry Potter to them. I knew then that we were all on the same wavelength! After the talk the girls asked intelligent, insightful questions and I was awed and humbled by the fact that one girl had already finished writing a novel, and another had just started her first novel after writing many short stories. Both were aged only 11 or 12. It made me wonder just how much talent is hidden among such a wonderful group of young girls.

All in all a very fulfilling and inspiring visit, and my heartfelt thanks to Marie Bartlett for setting it up, and all the other staff who made me feel so welcome on the day. Public speaking doesn’t come easily to me, but all your support made it seem effortless!

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    Visit to The John Roan

    john roan author visit

     

    On the 8th December we made our second stop on our Book Tour at The John Roan School. I had a great time talking to the Year 7s and Year 8s there about WW, which included fielding some… let’s say, unusual questions like “What laptop do you use when you write?” and “Do you have to go to a specific place to write, like JK Rowling goes to Hogwarts?”

    I also had the privilege of answering questions about writing for a lot of budding creative writers – it was a really pleasant surprise to see so many students who were interested in writing and wanted actual advice about how to go about it. Angie Smith, the Literary Co-ordinator at John Roan, has my eternal gratitude for inviting me to talk to the students, and I am already looking forward to going back during Book Week to spend a day with the Year 10s.

    My gratitude also for the amazing article Angie wrote about my visit and how it inspired the Year 7s and 8s. Click here to read the article.

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      Hello… and Leglessness (surely that’s too many s’s?)

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      Hello everyone. I have news – I’ve decided to stop being a slob in my blogging and start writing posts on a regular basis. (Someone please go and start a stopwatch to see how long I’ll last.) In the spirit of the blog name “Shivon Sudesh the Random” I will, indeed, be sharing the odd things that sometimes go through my head – and will occasionally even make sense to you readers. So please read on for some randomness…

       

      If you’ve ever been to Kerala (south-west India and the setting of ‘Wolves Within’) you may have seen a queue that stretches across several streets and wondered at the reason for it. Unlike anything you might have encountered before, though, this queue wouldn’t be for Boxing Day sales or for the newest ride at Alton Towers.

      Instead, it would be for alcohol.

      The average Keralyte’s hands start shaking from withdrawal as early as 7 o’clock in the morning, which consequently means that you can see these queues begin to form as early as 7.30. And when the sun starts its descent and bids farewell to the earth, these men (because face it, it’s mostly men) also bid farewell to that which separates a human from an animal.

      Psychologists have named that elusive something the “loss of higher cognitive function”; something that can be a source of amusement and/or annoyance when your friend is drunk and you have the responsibility of making sure that they make it home safely, but in a different context can have much more sinister implications.

      People lie on the side of the road, waiting to get trampled over by a passing lorry. They go home to their family and literally put their spouse and children through hell. They wake up the next morning with absolutely no idea or concern about the harm they’ve caused themselves and their loved ones. If we go by the portrayals in the movies, Malayalis drink when they are happy, drink when they are sad and then, just for luck, drink when they’re bored. And I don’t mean sipping a social drink, but gulping down entire bottles of alcohol in a matter of minutes.

      That concludes my rant for today, but it does make me wonder what it says about the future of Kerala. My parents – ace psychiatrists that they are – often say that people who are rolling around in the road drunk or shouting at their wives and children should be videoed and then showed the video when they are sober again. Who knows, maybe the drastic difference in their behaviour drunk and sober might give them a moment’s pause the next time they’re about to hit the bottle.

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      Author Visit to BHS

      Blackheath High School, London,  where I studied from Year 6 to 13, offered me an opportunity to talk to their Year 7 students as an author, about ‘Wolves Within’. The girls were an absolutely lovely audience, and still loved Enid Blyton and JK Rowling, which was good to see! Thank you so much to Mrs Lyndsay Lardner for organising this visit and the girls for being so wonderful and enthusiastic! I had so many questions like when the next books are going to be released, whether it was going to be made into a movie etc. as well as suggestions about making it into a series of animated episodes (I have already employed one of the Yr 7s as the manager of this particular endeavour – you know who you are!). Thanks in particular to those who asked about the next two books before you’d even read the first – I can’t express how thrilling it was to hear that. Hopefully I’ll be returning for the next two books, and will get to see everyone again.

      Visit Blackheath High School website for more: http://www.blackheathhighschool.gdst.net/30/latest-news

       

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