Introducing My NaNoWriMo Project: The Melody Of Life

I’ve always loved writing, but this is the first time I’ve ever participated in anything like NaNoWriMo. It’s always been short stories here and there, the odd poem, attempts at novels (but never getting past a few chapters) for me. I usually write when I’m inspired to, which has worked out well in the past, but I’ve decided to take my writing more seriously and develop a more structured approach.

I’m hoping NaNo will really help me with that.

1. What inspired the idea for your novel, and how long have you had the idea?

I get ideas from the most random places -memories of summers gone by, crazy sleepovers, dramatic arguments,  falling out and making up, best friends and worst enemies, cooking pancakes, talking for hours and hours, singing, laughing, running away on long walks, sharing stories and secrets with friends whilst the sun flickers on my favourite spot by the river. Hiding from the rain, late night games of dreaded ‘truth or dare’, ukuleles strumming under a starry sky.  Voices blending together.

Running through the woods in the dark, away from my friends to write poetry under the trees, sitting on the stairs watching music videos and creating artwork. Riding my bike down the road.

This idea just sprang out of nowhere and grew in my head until I was too attached to throw it away.

2. Describe what your novel is about.

*alarm bells* This question has to be every writer’s worst nightmare, right?! Or am I the only one!? *panics*

In answer to this question, I am going to give you my crudely written synopsis which you have full permission to dislike (its horrible, even though it took so many attempts to get right). Here goes:

Fourteen year old Dante has never met his Dad and his life revolves around caring for his disabled Mum, who was severely injured after an explosion whilst reporting in war-torn Syria.

He spends his time in a world where everything is perfect, a world where the absence of his father and the state of his once brave, strong mother doesn’t matter.

Then one day he meets the mysterious Sahra, a Syrian refugee, and she, unlike anyone Date has ever met, understands.

Together, they set off on a journey, both physical and mental, the find out the truth about the things that are missing in life. For Dante, it’s the idea if being a normal teenager again, a normal son. For Sahra, it’s being able to stay in the country that she loves without being threatened by death, it’s peace in her home nation. 

3. What is your book’s aesthetic? Use words or photos or whatever you like!

A Journey // Emptiness // Friendship // Truth // Identity // Culture // The Past // Warmth // Family // Emotion // Memories // Music // Mystery // Science

4. Introduce us to each of your characters!

Dante – is fourteen years old, fatherless, responsible for the care of his severely disabled journalist mother and living in a dream world where everything is perfect.  Although he is imaginative, but he is also very lost and confused. He finds it hard to make friends and is shy. 

Sahra – is a sixteen year old refugee from Syria. Mysterious and wise beyond her years, she helps and joins Dante on his journey to discover the truth about the things missing in his life. However, Sahra also has troubles, she longs to return to her beloved country and wishes to help her home nation escape from the clutches of war. 

Autumn – Dante’s single mother. Once a strong, passionate female journalist who specialised in reporting in war-torn countries, she is now severly disabled after being the victim of a large explosion in Syria. 

Paige – A girl of Indian heritage that Dante and Sahra meet on their journey. She helps them understand the truth about filling in the missing gaps in their lives. Very musical. Beautiful singing voice. 

Leonardo – an Italian boy who eventually leads Dante to his Father. 

There will be other, less important characters, but those are the main ones.

5. How do you prepare to write? (Outline, research, stocking up on chocolate, howling, etc.?)

As I said before, I have a very laid-back approach to writing and I’m quite inexperienced with novels. For this project I am outlining my plot (!) very roughly and working hard on my characters.

6. What are you most looking forward to about this novel?

This novel is going to be super emotional and descriptive, very musical and beautiful and colourful. I can’t wait to weave all of those adjectives into my writing!

7. List 3 things about your novel’s setting.

A Journey – so this novel wont be set in one place, it will be a journey, a progression through many diverse locations.

Inside The Characters Mind – Dante spends most of his life living in a fantasy world that he has conjured up with his imagination and that helps him cope with the absence of his Father and the condition of his mother. At least that’s before he meets Sahra, part of the journey is her coaxing him out of that and into real life. So we get to spend a lot of time exploring his psychology!

In Real Life – this story will be very real (apart from the bits that take place inside Dante’s mind)

8. What’s your character’s goal and who (or what) stands in the way?

Dante just wants to make sense of his crazy life, like most teenagers. He feels secure inside his imaginary world where everything is okay, but part of him wants to step outside of it, into real life, and that’s where Sahra comes in.

There’s not really a bad guy in this novel, but Dante’s insecurities and doubts about ‘leaving’ that world behind and discovering the truth is a big obstacle for him to overcome.

9. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel?

Dante is a different person. He’s no longer shy and awkward, he no longer lives inside a fantasy, he has friends who are with him in everything and most of all, he has filled the gaps in the melody of life.

10. What are your book’s themes? How do you want readers to feel when the story is over? 

I want them to feel…

INSPIRED – I’m sure everyone can relate to these characters in some way. It’s good to be inspired by characters.

EMOTIONAL – this book will be packed with feels, guys.

CHALLENGED – everyone has a comfort zone that deserves to be stepped out of.

And now, here’s a bonus excerpt that I hope will get you hooked:

There was something different about her, I knew that the moment I first looked into her whirlpool eyes.

I wanted to speak to her, but she seemed far away and I had no idea what to say. The revelation occurred when my ears detected a faint murmur spiralling from her lips, I recognised the rhythm as a recent pop song.

I sidled up to the park bench where she sat. She stopped humming. “You a fan?” I asked, attempting to sound casual.

“No.” her voice was clear and distinct. “I’ve just got a cognitive itch. You get those sometimes?”

“Um, sure. I mean, I guess so.” I hadn’t expected this, maybe just a quick exchange of opinions on some popular boy band?

She rolled her eyes, but maintained a perfectly serious expression. “A cognitive itch,” she began patiently, “is where a song gets stuck in your mind and your brain can’t help but fill in the gaps in the melody, even long after it’s finished. It’s a continuous circle with no beginning or end. Make more sense?”

“Yeah, I can’t quite remember if that’s ever happened to me before.” My brain seemed unable to process the right words.

She frowned and shook her head, as if chasing away her thoughts. “That’s not typical human psychology. Usually you wouldn’t forget an experience like that, it would be ingrained in your mind forever. Your brain is strange like that, it processes and stores the most random of memories. Except they’re not random, of course. Every memory forms a complex tapestry, threads in a story, the story of a life. Everything is relevant.”

She stared straight at me. And I found the courage to smile.

“Sahra.” her smooth, lightly accented voice broke through the moment. Her headscarf tumbled over her forehead and she pushed it back with a small, sparkly smile. I looked at her dark, shining skin and then down at my hands, they were pale as anything in comparison.

“Hi. I’m, um, Dante.” I could feel her black, glittering eyes searching for my face and I bowed my head, suddenly self-conscious.

“So, are you a fan then?” When I looked up, she was staring into the distance, her proud face angled so that the sun shone on her determined features.

“Oh. No. Not really. I don’t really like that kind of music.” I shrugged.

She looked at me for a moment, as if weighing me up. “Why did you speak to me then, Dante?” Her question caught me off guard. Of course she’d wonder that, especially now I’d told her that I wasn’t a fan either. I couldn’t even use that excuse.

“Well….I….er…” I envied her ability to express herself so articulately. “I suppose I just….I guess I….I mean….you know?” I waved my hand about in a gesticulating motion.

A fleeting smile crossed her lips and she let out a small laugh. “What?” I let my hands drop to my sides and smiled back, shyly.

“Oh, nothing. I’ve just got this feeling that you and I will be good friends.”

I could have punched the air.

I didn’t, obviously, just watched as she rose from the park bench and walked away.

I was just about to call after her when I saw a scrap of dusty orange paper lying on the seat. It moved slightly in the breeze. I grabbed at it.

Dante

01131192599

Call me.

I picked it up and breathed in the warm aroma of dusty cinnamon. When had she written it? It certainly wasn’t whilst I was there. Where had she found my name?

I slipped my phone from my pocket and run my fingers over the smooth surface of its screen. My fingers traced the familiar cracks. I switched it on and pressed the ‘call’ icon. I typed in the numbers carefully, check-in and double checking.

Finally I took a deep breath and pressed call. It went to voicemail. The automatic voice on the other end asked me to leave a message.

“Sahra. It’s Dante here. I, er, found your note and, well yeah, I’ve tried to call you, but instead I’m just leaving a message ’cause, yeah, you know. You’re probably really busy and whatever reason you asked me to call you, it probably isn’t urgent, but please call me back when you’ve got a minute. Bye”

I spent the seconds after I hung up cursing my inability to speak, but the almost immediately beeping and vibrating coming from my back pocket jolted me out of my gloom and into a state of nervous apprehension.

I answered the phone.

“Dante.” her voice cut me off before I could speak. “A cognitive itch is a bit like life, sometimes you can’t stop filling in the missing parts, the parts that should be there, but aren’t. Sometimes the thoughts that fill your mind and won’t go away are the ones that depict things that are absent in real life. It’s a natural psychological process, so don’t worry. Everything will be okay.”

She hung up.

Did you enjoy that? Are you doing NaNoWriMo?

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Pursuing Your Dreams (The Grand Reveal Of My New Blog Designs)

Everyone has dreams, whether they choose to follow them or not. A dream is a passive thing that floats around in your mind, waiting to be captured. But if you want your dream to become real, you have to take action. *superman pose*

I am one of those people who try hard to achieve their dreams and so is my friend here, Mukta.

Mukta is passionate about design. So guess what!? She set up her own design platform where she offers her creative services to people for free. Design Pique Studios is still quite new and I honoured to say that I have been one of Mukta’s first customers.

Her patience, creativity and ingenuity have blown me away and I am totally happy with my new designs.

I think it’s time to reveal my designs, don’t you?

This is my beautiful new divider.

And this is my new chat graphic/prompt.

 

 

So….what do you think?

 

 

 

Runner Up In A Poetry Competition!?!? + My Winning Entry 🤣

Although I am meant to be a writer, right now I have no words to describe my feelings. Instead I will enlist the ever helpful services of emojis and allow them to do what they do worst best: capture my feelings.

🤣🤣🤣

Imperfection.

Okay, I suppose you get the point. When I heard the news my face went through a progression of successive phases: 🙂 (small, disbelieving smile) ☺️ (large ‘oh my goodness, this is REAL’ smile) 😃 (‘Wow. Wow. I’m in shock, but so happyyyyy’ smile/laugh/scream) 😆 (‘I think I might hyperventilate’ scream/laugh) 🤣 (My ‘action’ scream. *jumps up and down*)🤗 (‘Hey, everybody! I nearly won’ wave) 😊 (I’m so content right now, but so tired. That took effort’ smile).

Hey wait! Was I actually funny there??? *gasps* Gracie, the deadly serious world-change advocate, ‘light in the darkness’? Funny? Ha, I don’t think so. 😉

Okay, enough rambling (although I did quite enjoy that). My posts are usually so well thought out and heavily edited. Written and re-written. I guess this one makes a change. Do you think it could be the excitement in the air? *wafts hand around dreamily* *rolls eyes*

Basically I entered Small but Mighty Writers poetry competition and I was placed as a runner-up! I would like to share with you all my winning piece, the judge’s comments (!) and the story behind the poem.

Here goes:

Defiance On The Wall by Gracie Chick. Dedicated to Wesley Binks*

Remnants of rebellion, echoes still alive
Whispers of a tragedy, carried on the tide
A life lived lonely, lost in a world,
of bitterness, misery, where storms of anger swirl.

A stand against society, defiance on the wall
These words scrawled on concrete, they represent us all
However careless and however cruel,
these words come from a heart that’s torn
It could be mine or it could be yours…

A little soul that wants to care,
But whom’s existence is locked in despair.
No means of escape, no hope to be seen.
No light in sight, no room for dreams.

*more on him later…..

Here’s what the judges had to say about Defiance On The Wall:

Your poem was beautifully written and you used such varied and wonderfully formed vocabulary to really create a strong theme and development throughout. Your rhymes were perfect and not overly used which is often the case. We received a lot of entries and your poem really stood out for us so you should be so proud of yourself. 

Now for the beautiful story behind this poem:

During the summer I really got into these auto-biographical books by an author named James Herriot who was a vet in a Yorkshire town in the 1930s. He shared a story about a boy he once knew and it very nearly broke my heart, but (before it cracked right in two) it also inspired me to write this poem. I’ll just go die now, okay??? See ya. XD

The story was about a young lad called Wesley Binks. He came from a rough part of town and was real trouble, his parents were alcoholics and unemployed and he was pretty much neglected for his entire childhood. He was a big nuisance, playing nasty tricks and stealing stuff, just being a bad kid. No one loved him. 

One day this boy goes into the vet’s surgery with a little dog. Obviously the vet is a little wary of him – knowing his reputation – but he checks the dog over anyway. Upon inspection, I turns out that the poor animal is quite seriously ill. 

Over the next few weeks Wesley is a changed boy, he works hard and is focused on earning the money to pay the vet’s bills and for medicine and special food. He’s kind and respectful and people begin to like him.

The vet does all he can, but the dog does, sadly, pass away. And something in Wesley dies too, maybe it’s hope, maybe it’s his faith in the world. Who knows? Anyways he goes back to his old self, except much worse. He steals cars and gets sent to juvenile prison. No one really knows what happens to him after that.

Years later the vet is speaking to the local policeman, Wesley Binks comes up in the conversation. The policeman makes a remark that went something like this ‘That Wesley Binks was a bad boy, never loved no living thing in his life.’ And the vet thinks about it for a moment and replies ‘I reckon you’re wrong, Mr so-and-so, there was one thing he loved alright…’

So yeah, that’s where the inspiration originates from. This poem (and win!!!) is dedicated to Wesley Binks and all other kids like him. Let them find hope….somewhere…somehow…😐🕯️🕯️🕯️

(Is your heart broken or what!?) Let me know…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Gracie’s School’ Q and A Post + An Exciting Blogging Announcement

In my last post I introduced to you to my very own school, students and classroom. I shared my happiness at being able to fulfill my dream and making it happen through my own determination.  I  also asked you to submit your questions for my school themed Q and A. Well, many of you had lots to ask so read on…and enjoy!

Questions from Mukta:

When and how did you realize you wanted to be a teacher?

I’ve always loved learning and, to me, nothing sounds more like paradise than a place where young people can gather together to learn and share and pursue their passions.

School, and the modern education system, are supposed to provide that service, but I don’t believe they are. The majority of my generation view school as a negative place, a prison, something they’re forced to attend. School should be a place everyone wants to go to.

I am home-educated and the above is precisely the reason I don’t go to school. The reason I decided to become a teacher is because I want to create the school that I dream of, the school I want to go to.

What time do you begin/end teaching?

Nothing is set in stone yet, at the moment I’m being pretty flexible. Usually we start at about 10am and finish about 4pm??? 😀😀😀

Questions from Loren:

When you start a real school, will you want it to be elementary, middle, or high school?

I hope that my school will be a place where kids and teens of all ages can come together and learn. I want it to be an environment where they help and teach each other. I am from the UK so I’m not exactly that familiar with the US education system, we say ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ schools here!

Questions from Melissa:

Are your pupils allowed to direct any of your teaching and follow their own interests or are you quite strict in following your lesson plans?

There needs to be a balance. I do make lesson plans (which I try to stick to), but if I see that my students are interested in or enthusiastic about a particular subject, I’m more than happy to focus on it. I also welcome my students suggestions and ideas. I have certain parts in each lesson where I ask one of my students to lead the activity and I just watch. It teaches them teamwork, leadership and creativity, all equally important lessons!

Questions from The Girl With IronWings

Are you guys going to travel around the farm place and learn things practically or…..?

Yeah, I guess so. It’s important to include a bit of reading, writing, maths and theoretical science, but most of the activities we do are outdoors, hands on and practical. I find that my students learn better when out and about on the farm. For example, we went fishing in the stream and then identified and learnt about what we caught. They loved it! Way more than reading about the affect humans have on natural habitats! 😀 I bet they remembered more of the former too.

How is the teaching going to be – How different from today’s schools? 😊

Hehe. I would say it’s pretty different. Here’s a quick list.

  • All different ages and abilities taught together.
  • We learn about things that are important in life, like knowing and appreciating your surroundings and how to protect them. 
  • The learning (and teaching!) is FUN!!!
  • I try and think about what suits my students individually, what they need help with and what their strengths are. I keep that in mind when making my lesson plans, unlike school with its ‘one size fits all’ attitude.

Also, since it’s about the environment will you be using gadgets?

We have a few gadgets… a camera trap that we’ve used to try and capture the secret lives of wildlife on the farm. We don’t use a lot of technology, just the internet to research things and find information.

Questions from Misabella :

What is your favourite subject to teach?

I’m about to start doing a book club + English and creative writing classes. I don’t enjoy maths very much, just because I teach out of a book and have to follow a set system/curriculum. These ‘environment’ lessons are great, I get to be creative and come up with fun, unique ideas that really engage my students. 😁

Do you find particular methods of discipline more effective than others?

I’ve googled the different ‘methods of discipline’ and would say my style is a mix of them all! I do try to set boundaries, but I also try and be positive and humorous. I wouldn’t say I’m strict, I try to be patient and listen to my students – although that is something I struggle with. I think this is an area I need to look into a bit more – especially if I want to be a successful teacher!

Questions from Tom:

How long do you hope to be keeping up with this school for?

Well, we’re living at the farm over the autumn, winter and early spring so the lessons will probably continue through those seasons. After that my family and I are off on our travels, maybe into Europe, maybe even further, searching for a place to settle down and call home. When we find that place I have no doubt that my school will re-establish itself and begin again, stronger and better than before. 

School is an interesting word, I wonder if it’s Greek?

Well, thanks to your research, Tom, we now know that it is a Greek word meaning ‘lecture place’. It would have looked like this in its original text: skholḗ or σχολή. Great fact! 

 I hope you all enjoyed that little Q and A! I loved sharing my thoughts and ideas on education, I even learnt a few interesting things in the process. If anyone still has any questions, please feel free to comment them and I’ll try to answer.

Okay, now I have an exciting and important announcement to make: I am getting some newly designed features on A Light In The Darkness soon! Not saying anything more, but watch out for a post revealing those. This is me at the moment: 🤐☺☺☺🤐 

Xxx

Welcome To My School: A Tour + Q and A!

If you’re a regular reader of A Light In The Darkness then you’ll know that I am an aspiring teacher and that I want to start my own school one day. Well, it finally feels like that dream is coming true!!!! Allow me to introduce you…

Meet the Students:

IMG_20171011_180705 This is my younger brother Evan, 11 years of age.

IMG_20171011_180618Meet my younger sister Irys, 10 years of age.

IMG_20171011_180627Say hello to our friend and neighbour Jessie May, also homeschooled and 11 years of age.

IMG_20171011_180743Class photo plus our other friend and neighbour Joey, also homeschooled and 8 years of age.

The Backstory:

I am a naturally determined  person and I wanted this opportunity to teach real bad. So guess what!? I made it happen.

I made tons of lesson plans, went on numerous trips to the library (a massive hardship, of course), spent hours cleaning The Lodge and used most of my pocket-money on high-energy brain food as snacks. I was pretty nervous on the morning. I mean, I was teaching other kids, what if they didn’t like it? What if they were bored? Idk!

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Um, lots. The WiFi and electricity in The Lodge crashed halfway through the morning. However, a major crisis was averted and it’s fixed now. (Yay!) . They all loved it (double yay) and Jessie May even said she’d do it every day if we could! We’ve settled for once, sometimes twice, a week plus extra English/writing classes and a book club!!
What Lessons Am I Teaching, Exactly?
The lessons are based on appreciating the environment we live in. We all live on a big farm in the countryside so we are learning about the local wildlife, plants and history. We’re finding out about conservation and how to manage and protect the earth’s resources. We’ll be learning about everything from meteorology and stargazing to cooking and foraging wild foods, from art and writing to reading and researching, from carpentry and pottery to maths and teamwork.
I hope that after this virtual tour you’ve got an idea of what my school’s like. I am SO excited and I finally feel as though I am fulfilling my dreams and pursuing my future. 
I’ve also decided to do a Q and A! So comment below with any questions you may have about the school and I’ll try to answer them. No minimum or maximum amount, just fire away! Thank you in advance, everyone. 
P.s. I hope to post more on this subject. Let me know if you’re interested???