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Shanti

India

I'm an Indian/New Zealand writer who loves reading, writing, playing music, blogging and spending time with my family. I believe in spontaneous cartwheels, forgiveness, and blank pages.

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Shanti (India) published:

diwali night

FREE WRITING

it's time for light
right?
we lie under that shimmering haze of our own creation
smoke
letting our eyes fill with
flames
and our ears with
bangs
like being in the middle of a war, an arson, a horrible
place
made better because this is a
choice
it's the festival of
lights
lights to welcome, lights to redeem, lights to
explode
like that mess of human
ambition.

above, the stars wait, certain that one day they will be less invisible...

Seeking Peer Reviews

about 1 month ago

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Shanti (India) published:

write reasons

PROMPT: Why I Write

Why I Write, take two: 2017.
There are possibilities simmering within me. I write because I long to unleash them, examine them, release them; let them clarify and muddy the waters of my being; let them roll the pieces of my longing like dice; let them stretch the thin places where who I could be meets who I am, and challenges it to a duel.

2016:I write because words fit together
when my life doesn't.
I write because I have...

Seeking Peer Reviews

about 1 month ago

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Shanti (India) reviewed:

The smallest things

PROMPT: Talking to “You”

I really love this. You focus on the details that matter and show your characters so well. This piece is in such a good place, I don't feel like I much to say.

about 1 month ago

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Shanti (India) published:

holes of memory

PROMPT: Talking to “You”

You are hungry, I think. You have not been fed for a long time. You have collapsed into an echo, into more empty space that human.
But you don't know what you are hungry for. A few days ago--days as empty as that greedy space within you--you thought you wanted food. But that has passed, in waves of dizziness and that ethereal sense of elongation, like you were being stretched in some unimaginable way. Now, you might be hungry for...

Seeking Peer Reviews

about 1 month ago

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Shanti (India) reviewed:

One Hundred Years of Culture

PROMPT: Interview Competition

I love this interview. Your grandmother seems like a woman who is full of life and your reflection is insightful. Thanks for sharing! I feel like my interview is sort of useless now...

about 1 month ago

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Shanti (India) published:

The Rules of Rohan

PROMPT: Interview Competition

Shanti: Hi Rohan. First of all, can you tell me what you consider to be the three most important things about yourself?
Rohan: Probably sports, humor and [long pause] and justice.
S:What kind of humor?
R: I think humor is an important thing. Like practical jokes are funny and puns.
S: Do you consider yourself an interesting person?
R: I'm pretty sure everyone considers themselves interesting. I guess I'm an interesting person because I'm interested in stuff, and I try...

Seeking Peer Reviews

about 1 month ago

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Shanti (India) published:

the hunger of hares and other burning beings

PROMPT: Omniscient Lens

The hare emerged into a world that was smouldering.
Not literally, of course.
Well, somewhat literally. But the hare did not have good vision. It could not see the smoke dissipating several kilometres away, the bodies around it charred and broken. It did not know how these bodies died: a brief ambush, a thwarted escape, hope, dead and gone.
Hare's don't care about such things. They only want food.
Humans want food too.
Like the hare, Mesan was oblivious to...

Seeking Peer Reviews

about 1 month ago

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Shanti (India) reviewed:

Rescue

PROMPT: Flash Fiction Competition

To separate this out a bit and give the reader space to breathe, you may want to consider some paragraphs. I really like your transition at "then it all stopped" but it could possibly be even more powerful and interesting...

2 months ago

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Shanti (India) reviewed:

lucid dreaming

FREE WRITING

This is a very lovely poem. The image of swimming against the current is great; maybe a few more details about where/how you're being a spectator could help in the second stanza. The last four lines of the second stanza...

2 months ago

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Shanti (India) published:

fruit for wielding, witchlike

PROMPT: Flash Fiction Competition

“But Mother! You're telling me the secret.” My hands are rounded, the gifted apple smooth within them.
She is calm, a bearer of truth. “I'm giving you this horror, this choice, which is no secret, daughter. This is why we live here, away from everyone. They hate our bodies, full of magic and death.”
“And still they hire us?”
“Well, they have money and we have power. Do you want it too?”
I have always longed to be like my...

Seeking Peer Reviews

3 months ago

Published Work

diwali night

it's time for light
right?
we lie under that shimmering haze of our own creation
smoke
letting our eyes fill with
flames
and our ears with
bangs
like being in the middle of a war, an arson, a horrible
place
made better because this is a
choice
it's the festival of
lights
lights to welcome, lights to redeem, lights to
explode
like that mess of human
ambition.

above, the stars wait, certain that one day they will be less invisible than they are now
tomorrow, perhaps, when the smoke has dissolved
and someone else is choking.

Why I Write

write reasons

Why I Write, take two: 2017.
There are possibilities simmering within me. I write because I long to unleash them, examine them, release them; let them clarify and muddy the waters of my being; let them roll the pieces of my longing like dice; let them stretch the thin places where who I could be meets who I am, and challenges it to a duel.

2016:I write because words fit together
when my life doesn't.
I write because I have been told
that I have a story to tell
and I tell myself that story every day.
I write because I can't
not write.
I write because I want to connect
the disparate pieces of world
eating up my life.
I write because writing is
always
an option. I like having options.
I write because I want to
touch my stories, as if
they're real. When I write my
stories are real.
I write because I love to
write.
I...

Talking to “You”

holes of memory

You are hungry, I think. You have not been fed for a long time. You have collapsed into an echo, into more empty space that human.
But you don't know what you are hungry for. A few days ago--days as empty as that greedy space within you--you thought you wanted food. But that has passed, in waves of dizziness and that ethereal sense of elongation, like you were being stretched in some unimaginable way. Now, you might be hungry for company. But that isn't quite right either. You're hungry...you're hungry for memories, perhaps.
You read a story once, a story where the main characters ate their own memories in a rush of joy, like a drug. But your memories were not consumed. There's a hollow within you, space that means you cannot remember when you last ate, and that is why you are hungry. You can't remember when you last spoke to someone else, and that is why you are...

Interview Competition

The Rules of Rohan

Shanti: Hi Rohan. First of all, can you tell me what you consider to be the three most important things about yourself?
Rohan: Probably sports, humor and [long pause] and justice.
S:What kind of humor?
R: I think humor is an important thing. Like practical jokes are funny and puns.
S: Do you consider yourself an interesting person?
R: I'm pretty sure everyone considers themselves interesting. I guess I'm an interesting person because I'm interested in stuff, and I try not to--key word, try-- conform to everyone else.
S: What stuff are you interested in?
R: The three things I said, I guess. I'm particularly interested in sports, but I also enjoy subjects that make logical sense so that it clicks.
S: Why do sports appeal to you?
R: I think it is a thing, even if you're on opposite teams on a sport, you feel a bond, like the competition and having a common interest and stuff. And I...

Omniscient Lens

the hunger of hares and other burning beings

The hare emerged into a world that was smouldering.
Not literally, of course.
Well, somewhat literally. But the hare did not have good vision. It could not see the smoke dissipating several kilometres away, the bodies around it charred and broken. It did not know how these bodies died: a brief ambush, a thwarted escape, hope, dead and gone.
Hare's don't care about such things. They only want food.
Humans want food too.
Like the hare, Mesan was oblivious to the carnage a few kilometres away. She had eaten a few sallow lentils the day before, but stomachs never rest, and neither did her baby, as hungry as the hare but less logical.
It was her five hundred and third day of being alone. She had not been keeping count, but the echo of it followed her: almost two years, almost two years, sang her mind, two years of bare existence, two years of aching and longing and still nothing...

Flash Fiction Competition

fruit for wielding, witchlike

“But Mother! You're telling me the secret.” My hands are rounded, the gifted apple smooth within them.
She is calm, a bearer of truth. “I'm giving you this horror, this choice, which is no secret, daughter. This is why we live here, away from everyone. They hate our bodies, full of magic and death.”
“And still they hire us?”
“Well, they have money and we have power. Do you want it too?”
I have always longed to be like my mother. I have never wanted to poison anyone, including myself.
But the apple is easy to swallow. Sweet, even.

Flash Fiction Competition

fruit for wielding, witchlike

“But Mother! It’s a secret.” My hands are rounded, the gifted apple smooth within them.
She is calm, cool, resilient. She has borne this truth for a long time. “Horror is no secret, my daughter. Why do you think we live here, away from everyone? They would kill us otherwise.”
“And still they hire us.”
“Well, they have money and we have power. Do you want it?”
I have always longed to be like my mother, inheritor of my grandmother’s legend. I have never wanted to poison anyone, including myself.
But the apple is easy to swallow. Sweet, even.

Writing Small

friction and other fricatives

Their breaths form a matchstick, something volatile and cheap. It only takes a moment of friction. Death is a hiccup, a release, a flame consuming fragile wood far too fast. They were something, and now they've just forgotten. Should that be frightening? He forces his lips against her corpse, again.

Writing Small

friction and other fricatives

Their breaths form a matchstick, something volatile and cheap. It only takes a moment of friction. Death is a hiccup, a release, a flame that burns out faster than you would expect. They were something, and now they've forgotten. Should that be frightening? He forces a kiss on her corpse.

Writing Small

friction and other fricatives

Their breaths are a matchstick, something volatile and cheap. It only takes a moment of friction. Death is a hiccup, a release, a flame that burns out faster than you would expect. They were something, and now they're not. Should that be frightening? He bends to kiss her corpse again.

the making of memory

i hold the things i need to remember
    tight in the embrace of my teeth
interrupted by the inside of my lip
    i hold them tight and don't let go
        because forgetting tastes like the inside of my body
    like something i don't want to know

and when i have remembered
    have fulfilled responsibility like
    pick up your little sister
    buy the photo
    we need toothpaste

my body still swells in the place i held the memory
    like i don't want to let go

and maybe all my scars are like that
    the dots of bleach along my shins the
    diagonal pucker along my neck the
    bubble behind my thumb the
places where a memory (an experience)
        has grabbed hold grappled healing grasped hot
made the memory indelible

and i perpetuate it.

i grip the inside of my lip between my teeth
 

Truths and Untruths

into the woods, the world, the words

I wish a lot of things
Into The Woods opens and closes with 'I wish', that magical phrase, an idealisation of the world you live in, a promise to yourself. I wish I could change the past. I wish I could change the future. I wish I could change myself.
But these are five things I wish I knew when I was fifteen, because I know things now, many beautiful things. (and ugly things)

  • Watch Into the Woods, because you're going to love it. You will get over Hamilton, but Into the Woods will last at least until today.
  • Cherish your friendships, but don't be afraid of them changing
  • Doubts are okay. Doubts are normal. Doubts are part of life. And they pass, sometimes, and they stay sometimes, and yes, either way, it's okay.
  • Wear skirts. Make skirts. You have a glorious future as a skirt wearer.
  • Books are vital, but life is not a book. Life is a first...

rain races

I run fastest when it's raining
when the breath is pulled out of me and i must
follow the strands it leaves
    or else drown
when i am reminded that i'm water
and everything is collapsing around me
and in the water i weave
and fall
and pound ever faster
forgetting that i have a body
i run fastest when it's raining
when i'm covered in mud and seeping
when i'm absorbed into the sky
and still moving
like a wraith who has not been told
that she is not real
when the water is my skin and i
am a sink
and the drowning is real
and i seek air still, still air when i am moving
and something ahead is within reach
and it's raining
i run fastest when it's raining.

Zoom Out

Disruptions

The ring is tight on her finger, like it's holding on. The silver, textured and twisted, contrasts with her smooth skin. She wishes her skin weren't so smooth. Since her marriage, she's been made to sit still, look pretty, stay silent.
She can't stand it. One day, she even went to the kitchen, asking to do dishes or something, something to relieve the monotony of it all.
She sits now in the drawing room. It's as polished as she looks, and she wonders if the teak chairs and mahogany chess table long to stretch and grow like she does.
The drawing room looks out on the gardens, and fields beyond. It's a massive estate, one she would have dreamed of once. There's a rabbit on the lawn, and she wonders, as it rushes into the bushes, if it feels as out of place in the trimmed landscape as she does.
Clouds are coming. They gather over the whole south of...

Into the Woods

a bloom of breath

It's a promise of perpetuity
swells like lungs
    but the breaths are slow, for human time
is not it's time
I like the promise, the assurance that I can come back
    in a hundred years and trust that it will be here still.
it's a palm and it opens  
    expectantly
to touch the rounded dome's embrace
it cradles many
    and blooms like breath in cold air
and nourishes me
 

Living Locales

her sultry stare

The city's mucus dribbles over my feet. I skirt around the sewer. My goal is to go deep within Jakarta's internal anatomy, to be a surgeon that can split it apart and discover its' secrets--but the land doesn't seem to want me to. It is determined to unleash its bodily fluids over me, like a dog shaking itself when it comes in from the rain--not belligerent, but decidedly unpleasant.
It's like the humid breath, delicate perfume of ayam goreng, blinking showers, and narrow arms of the streets want to demonstrate to me how powerful and lovely they are--but keep me away from their intimate innards.
I've only been here for a few hours, but I won't let Jakarta be a tempestuous lover. She may be hot, and loud, and fragile in all the right places, the woman you see on the other side of the bar, conversing loudly about politics, but looking worried when you don't expect her to--but I...

Mystery Writing Competition

where the petals drip

The daisies are everywhere. They look like constellations; a thousand spinning specks of white on my way to school. I've never noticed so many before. Each one has a yellow centre, about the size of my thumbnail, fringed with a rind of white eyelashes.
I don't think there have ever been so many before; but maybe I wasn't noticing. I've noticed everything recently. If I notice everything, maybe I'll know everything; why I keep crying, why my parents aren’t sure if I’m okay.
As I walk to school, I notice the music of laughter from the primary school a few streets away; the scent of blood on the horizon like a promise of magic—has  an Ibleen been captured?—and the taste of ash, probably from fires on the island. And everywhere, of course are the daisies, lining the footpath, decorating lawns, carpeting the football field.
When I arrive at school, the hallways are filled with daisies. It must be the new trend....

Mystery Writing Competition

where the petals drip

The daisies are everywhere. They look like constellations; a thousand spinning specks of white on my way to school. I've never noticed so many before. Each one has a yellow centre, about the size of my thumbnail, fringed with a rind of white eyelashes.
I don't think there have ever been so many before; but maybe I wasn't noticing. Since Wednesday the 12th of May, last month, I've begun to notice everything. If I notice everything, maybe I'll know everything; why I keep crying, why everyone keeps asking if I'm okay.
So I am aware as I walk to school. I notice the music of laughter from the primary school a few streets away; the scent of blood on the horizon like a promise of magic--has an Ibleen been captured?--and the taste of ash, probably from fires on the island. And everywhere, of course are the daisies, lining the footpath, decorating lawns, carpeting the football field.
When I arrive at school, the...

Mystery Writing Competition

where the petals drip

The daisies are everywhere. They look like constellations; a thousand spinning specks of white on my way to school. I've never noticed so many before. Each one has a yellow centre, about the size of my thumbnail, fringed with a rind of white eyelashes.
I don't think there have ever been so many before; but maybe I wasn't noticing. Since Wednesday the 12th of May, last month, I've begun to notice everything. If I notice everything, maybe I'll know everything; why I keep crying, why everyone keeps asking if I'm okay.
So I am hyper aware as I walk to school. I notice the sibilant shimmer of laughter from the primary school a few streets away; the scent of blood on the horizon--has a whale been captured?--and the taste of ash, probably from fires on the island. And everywhere, of course are the daisies, lining the footpath, decorating lawns, carpeting the football field.
When I arrive at school, the hallways...

Synchronized Sounds

a song of sisters

soft sounds, sharp sky
whispers, secrets, promises
that's what she holds
salt, too, salt water, stinging tears
that's her grace to me

silk is what threads us together
simple, slender
and so resilient

that, and a promise

i shall stay

Timeless Counsel

Shut up

Once, I was told to talk less. Then I was told it again. And again, and again, and again, by many people.
Now, I tell myself to talk less. When I remember.
See the words come out of me, in bubbles, in bursts, in flows, and it's all too often rambly and hard to understand.
But what's worse is that I don't let other people talk. It's unjust; and ultimately, it hurts me too.
I have been told all my life that my words are valuable. I know this, and I love what I write and say even if--when--it's wrong. Because that's just how it goes. But not everyone needs to know all my thoughts. That's just how it goes. And I desperately need to hear others words, so I don't live in a bubble.
I don't want to be self obsessed. I want to say things that matter. More than that, I want to hear things that matter.
Sometimes,...

Collective Voice

losing water

we are lost. we've told him a thousand times, but he is relentless; so there is nothing but sand on our toes, the swish of waves, too far away; and the air, poisoning us step by step.
once, he had a chain to drag us by. it linked our arms that shouldn't be, so that we were one mass; so not even one dancer could escape. now though, there is no choice but to stay together; we need each other to survive.
and we will survive. somehow.
we are walkers now, and how it hurts. our bodies are all wrong. we should not have legs and knees and hair. we should have water.
the water is so close, but too far; unreachable. we hold each other as close was we can, bodies grating because this is not right. he tries to have us, but we do not let him. we hold each other tight. we hold each other. that is...

Poetry and Spoken Word Competition

Mother is Ocean

https://youtu.be/F6yFudG5aeM

Transcript:

Mother like waves
                                sucking the sand from
                beneath my feet
                                leaving me floorless
(but ready)
 
Mother like salt
                                stinging my wounds
                my shape, my mistakes, my anger
                                leaving me raw
(but healing)
 
Mother like sun
                                twisting my cells
                leaving me burnt
(but warm)
 
mother like wind
                                whipping my hair
                                attacking my face
                                stinging my legs
                leaving me breathless
(but laughing)
 
Mother is sea
                                opening your arms
                                chilling my bones
                leaving me tingling
(but delighted)
 
 
 

1 Photo, 20 Words

Widest

There is shape to
this mystery
open your eyes wide
wide, and wider
and listen to the universe
sing softly
 

heartbeat questions


is it your lungs that breathe
or your hope?
does your brain dream
or is that clinging tendrils of  wandering soul?
is it that your pulse,
or is the beat a constant love?
i dream and i breathe and i hope and i ache
and i love, or try to
yet still, I do not know the answers
to your questions.
 

Beyond Reason

an enormity of unknowing

is it your lungs that breathe
or your hope?
do you dream angrily
or scream too tentatively?
are you shimmering
or am i shaking?
can i know you
or are you a sylvan secret

 

WILD

painfully alive

a thrill, a race of air through my veins
and it's something like comfort
that i can still feel this afraid

it's in these moments i know i am wild

when i am falling
(tumbling through air into unknown)

when i am fleeing
(dashing, angry, sharp)

when i am hurting
(when the tears sting more than their cause)

this is wildness
that our bodies know what to do
when we don't

Op-Ed Competition

Hamilton and Nuances of 'Diversity'

In June, I started listening to the soundtrack of the Broadway musical Hamilton. Created by (now mega-famous) Puerto Rican American Lin-Manuel Miranda, it followed the story of someone that has limited, if any, relevance to my life: American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. I'm an Indian-New Zealander, and had never heard of Hamilton (let alone the Founding Fathers). But the music was catchy, clever, and undeniably brilliant.
The reason I started listening to Hamilton was because the internet was screaming about it "Diverse! Diverse! Diverse!" As a rather 'diverse' person myself, I shelled out thirty dollars for the soundtrack and began listening.
There are two aspects of Hamilton's diversity which are immediately obvious. Firstly, anyone listening to the soundtrack will notice a large variety of musical styles, including rap/hip-hop, R&B, and British pop [1]. These styles are not usually used in traditional large-scale musicals, and are part of what made Miranda's first musical, In The Heights, so popular.
The...

Op-Ed Competition

Hamilton and Nuances of 'Diversity'

In June, I started listening to the soundtrack of the Broadway musical Hamilton. Created by (now mega-famous) Puerto Rican American Lin-Manuel Miranda, it followed the story of someone that has limited, if any, relevance to my life: American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. I'm an Indian-New Zealander, and had never heard of Hamilton (let alone the Founding Fathers). But the music was catchy, clever, and undeniably brilliant.
The reason I started listening to Hamilton was because the internet was screaming about it "Diverse! Diverse! Diverse!" As a rather 'diverse' person myself, I shelled out thirty dollars for the soundtrack and began listening.
There are two aspects of Hamilton's diversity which are immediately obvious. Firstly, anyone listening to the soundtrack will notice a large variety of musical styles, including rap/hip-hop, R&B, and British pop [1]. These styles are not usually used in traditional large-scale musicals, and are part of what made Miranda's first musical, In The Heights, so popular. The...

silky starts

a silky start
is on this morning's agenda.
i'm trying to figure out what it means
as i eat breakfast
peanut butter and grapes on toast.
shininess perhaps?
so i wear a silver ring and a shimmering sequined skirt.
or maybe i must be smooth
so i practice speaking in the mirror
'so, i'm shanti, slenderish, spilling, spinning, silly--'
and generally not making much sense.
maybe it's about being safe and satiny.
so my shoes are splendidly practical, with sparkling soft fish details
a saturated dawn; a smoky breakfast; a preperation of sorts
i'll figure it out as i go.
 

Beyond Reason

an enormity of unknowing

is it your lungs that breathe
or your hope?
do you dream angrily
or scream too tentatively?
are you shimmering
or am i shaking?
can i know you
or are you a sylvian secret?

////

 

I Remember

I remember the water

I remember the water.
I remember the ditch, filled with floating rafts I had made with my siblings. I remember perching about the river with my siblings, plotting, dreaming, laughing. I remember seeing the eddy swirl. I remember crossing the river, up to my hips, holding on to my father and daring to get to the other side. I remember the glacial embrace of the lake. I remember salt crystallising on my skin as the sun set on New Year's Eve. I remember the outdoor bathtub, over a bay of dolphins. I remember longing, a thousand times to be a mermaid. I remember jumping from the wall, and knowing that I would have to leave. I remember holding my brother up as the riptide tried to steal us. I remember the fear that raced through me, the prayers, the hope, and eventually a return, my feet on the shore. I remember the black water in Delhi; I was afraid of...

Op-Ed Competition

Hamilton and Nuances of 'Diversity'

In June, I started listening to the soundtrack of the Broadway musical "Hamilton". Created by (now mega-famous) Puerto Rican Lin-Manuel Miranda, it followed the story of someone that has limited, if any relevance to my life: American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton. I'm an Indian-New Zealander, and had never heard of Hamilton before (let alone the founding fathers). But the music is undeniably brilliant.
It whisks through a range of styles, most of which I wasn't familar with: Hip-hop, British rock, and more that I wasn't able to recognise probably. The reason I started listening to it, though, was because the internet was screaming about it "Diverse! Diverse! Diverse!" As a rather diverse person myself, I shelled out thirty dollars for the soundtrack and started listening.
A quick Google search for "Hamilton diversity" renders a myriad of results. "The most beautiful thing about [Hamilton] is...it’s told by such a diverse cast with a such diverse styles of music" said Renee Elise...

Foreign Correspondent Competition

Desperation, dust and drought: a Kenyan Crisis

    In Kenya, it seems that there is nothing but emaciation. There are narrowed eyes in thin people, bony livestock eating slender grass--and the fields are nothing but dust. 
    75% of Kenya's 46.1 million people (1) are farmers. Now, 2.7 million people need food aid. (2) This is because of a severe drought--one that has continued for three years thus far.(3)
    23 of Kenya's 47 counties are severely affected by lack of rainfall. The already cash-strapped government is expending 105 million dollars towards relief, but it's not enough. Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's president, has declared the situation a 'national disaster' and has appealed to the international community for help. (4)
    Think the word drought, think the word desert, desperate, hungry, thirsty, poor--and does the word Africa come to mind? Quite probably. That's how these countries are shown to the global North, poor black people, helpful white people--and the occasional dictator, coup, or terrorist attack.
    But...

Foreign Correspondent Competition

Desperation, dust and drought: a Kenyan Crisis

    In Kenya, it seems that there is nothing but emaciation. There are skinny eyes in thin people, bony livestock eating slender grass--and the fields are nothing but dust. 
    75% of Kenya's 46.1 million people (1) are farmers. Now, 2.7 million people need food aid. (2) This is because of a severe drought--one that has continued for three years thus far.(3)
    23 of Kenya's 47 counties are severely affected by lack of rainfall. The already cash-strapped government is expending 105 million dollars towards relief, but it's not enough. Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's president, has declared the situation a 'national disaster' and has appealed to the international community for help. (4)
    Think the word drought, think the word desert, desperate, hungry, thirsty, poor--and does the word Africa come to mind? Quite probably. That's how these countries are shown to the West, poor black people, helpful white people--and the occasional dictator, coup, or terrorist attack.
    But why...

This I Believe

shaken

I believe in learning.
I believe in trusting.
I believe in breathing.
I believe in exploring.
I believe that all human beings are a mess of contradictions, and yet I still judge them.
I believe in God.
I believe in mercy.
I believe in the land beneath my feet.
And it's this last belief I want to draw close to me right now. I take it out of it's shelf, where it's been abandoned for many years of casual certainty.
Last week, my house shook. Literally. I thought it was the cat, purring too enthusiastically. I thought it was my sister kicking the floor. It was not. It was an earthquake.
Once upon a time, a place that I called home had an earthquake. Houses fell. People died. I wasn't there. I heard the people complaining of the shock and the fear and the potholes.
I called it 'first-world-problems'. They were valid, but inconsequential to non-existent Indian building codes (this...

Foreign Correspondent Competition

Desperation, dust and drought: a Kenyan Crisis

    Here, there is nothing but emaciation. There are skinny eyes in thing people, bony livestock eating slender grass--and the fields are nothing but dust.
    75% (1) of Kenya's 46.1 million people (2.) are farmers. Now, 2.7 million people need help getting food.(3.) It's been this way for three years. (4.)
    23 of Kenya's 47 counties are severely affected by this drought. The already cash-strapped government is expending 105 million dollars towards relief, but it's not enough. Uhuru Kenyatta, Kenya's president, has declared the situation a 'national disaster' and has appealed to the international community for help. (5.)
    Think the word drought, think the word desert, desperate, hungry, thirsty, poor--and does the word Africa come to mind? Quite probably. That's how these countries are shown to us, poor black people, helpful white people--and the occasional dictator, coup, or terrorist attack.
    But why is Sub-Saharan Africa so poor, so dry? As Gabrielle Walker explains in her...

Becoming Human

falling for you

Your mournful echo
    calls me from across the valley
and i want to go to you
    to feel your smoothness
embrace your cool beauty.

You have called me
    since i was a child
and i'm still
    in love with you.

You withdraw from me
    in the icy winters
become
    quiet and still
forget about the days
    i have spent
   with you, longing for you.

Yet your ice is beautiful too
    slender, fragile
and i want to hold you but
    it would ruin you
and i can't have that.

Now it is spring
    and your call is booming
filling me with love, life
    and tomorrow i shall go
to you, oh waterfall
    of my heart.
tomorrow your threads will wind around me
and draw me closer
and all will be right
in the world.
 

Open Prompt

Moon of the Curse


The moon looked bigger than usual against the daylight. It’s condemning me.
***
Look, I didn’t mean to curse it. I was just distracted, see? I wanted to make the moon glow brighter for Linde. I was going to say “Your presence makes the moon glow brighter.” Those were supposed to be the trigger words for the spell. The moon was supposed to glow brighter for that one instant, leaving us free to kiss under its benevolence.
I knew I shouldn’t have gotten a cat. It was all the cats’ fault. It was the night before I was meeting Linde. It was midnight—because look, it’s not easy being a novice magician. We don’t just do spells like you people all think. We have to research magic, tunnel into the library, write essays. I had only just finished my work, and had then turned my mind to thoughts of the less mundane: Linde’s shining black tresses, her smooth skin, the...

Signing Off

Behind

To the friends I left behind in 2016
You are not bad people. You are not cruel people. I do not hate you. But we are no longer friends. Do you want to know why?
This is the year when I started asking questions. A lot of questions. I've always been a curious person, but this was on an entirely different scale. Who am I? Where do I belong? Am I making the right choices?
Of course it's hard to answer these questions definitively. That's not really the point of asking. But there  was a question that I really struggled to answer. Do you know what it was?
Why am I friends with you?
Sometimes, you just fall into friendships, because you think someone is cool or pretty or kind, and maybe they are. But sometimes you realise that that person makes no effort to know about your life, to know about you, and the only time they talk to...

My December Competition

Promised Darkness

December is the season of light. Or...it's supposed to be. But December does not mean light, for me. December is a time of darkness. 
A dark morning. A girl wakes up. She runs through the shadows.
The darkness is quite literal. The sun creaks into the sky late, and slips beneath the horizon with a sigh of relief by 5:15. Each morning I inhale thin streams of shadow, every evening I blow out thick globular bubbles of black, dark lurking promises that crowd my sleep.
As she runs, the fire edge of dawn comes also. She can see a little more easily now.
At the beginning of December, there is darkness in tests and papers, concerts and exams, the messages that I must achievescorewellgradescollege.Then this block opens, and it is holidays, and there is--well, not light, but a darkness I  know well, and can trust. December suddenly forgets about school, and remembers to watch movies, make cards, assemble presents...

My December Competition

Promised Darkness

December is the season of light. Or...it's supposed to be. But December does not mean light, for me. December is a time of darkness. 
A dark morning. A girl wakes up. She runs through the shadows.
The darkness is quite literal. The sun creaks into the sky late, and slips beneath the horizon with a sigh of relief by 5:15. Each morning I inhale thin streams of cool shadow, and in the evening I blow out thick globular bubbles of black--everything that will lurk around me as I sleep.
As she runs, the fire edge of dawn comes also. She can see a little more easily now.
At the beginning of December, there is darkness in the tests and the papers, the concerts and the exams, the messages that I must achievescorewellgradescollege.Then the box opens, and it is holidays, and there is--well, not light, but a darkness I can trust, pressure I delight in. December suddenly forgets about school,...

Names, Names, Names

Christenings

A breakfast joint: PrintDrink and Eggs
A new smartphone: can1ree
An eyeglasses store: Clear Lee
A dog pound: Caged for you
A highway: MR-S1
An island resort: Noonlight (unapologetically stolen from Terry Pratchett)
A new constellation: Palm'arc
A pet polar bear: Hyacinth Rex
A nail polish color: Steel Dawn
A new butterfly species: Tasilitus Papilionis
(and my own bonus ones)
A hacker collective: FIXX
A clothing brand: Softara
A celebrity child: Contest McWinning
A new day of the week: Kiresday
A prayer of blessing: Oistan Birel
 

10 Words

an alliterative advent assesment

sharp & steady & surprising & sunlight & safe & sparkling & satiated & smiles & staying & space

The Peace of Wild Things

horizon promises in the new day

i find
    solace
in the dark morning
    (dogforesthorizon and the dawn is coming)
the aching sunshine
is coming
    and the orange moon
(theguardian of thenight)
is hiding again
           in
                air
                    and
                        daylight
here is a web
of morning
told in the
    so/
delicate    
        /lace of
            the first sunlight
reminding me that
aloneness is wonderful sometimes
    and it's going to be
okay

Unnamed

Glory Rises, and Everything Evokes the New

it's the colour of
a morning with no responsibilities
the colour of a shiver
the colour of growth and eyes that wink
it's a footstep into daring uncertainty
veils streaming through polar sky
a kiss that hasn't happened (yet)

it's the colour of the water where crocodiles lurk
a venus flytrap that is mere longing to bite
a bejeweled arch at dawn in a forgotten palace.
it's the colour of leaves breathing
in autumn sunshine.
 

Walking

Atlas

She walks with the weight of the world on her shoulders. It's a big atlas, leatherbound, a relic of a different era. For today, it's all the world she needs. Each step thumps the ground, echoing across the marble. The footsteps speak: they say that she knows where she's going, she wants to get there, she's in no hurry. Step, step. The sunlight around her hums, and the air is clear, easy to walk through. The burden is one she's chosen. She reaches the table, and swings the atlas around her neck and onto the table. It makes a thwop sound. The girl steps closer to the atlas, as if she can walk into it's enormous pages, and starts plotting where she will walk next.

Novel Writing Competition

Trips, Falls, and a Journey

From Lighter Places, Chapter Two.
Though I’m ready to go in a few minutes, it takes a while to herd Hom and Timothy, my younger siblings, onto the scooter
The scooter was a gift from my dad, who came to visit this summer. My mum tactfully arranged to go on a ten day trip to northern Thailand for her work. My parents got divorced without too much hate, but avoid each other like the plague. Usually, our maid Ratana, looks after us, but Dad had his annual leave from his hotel business in Singapore, so he could come see us.
I think he gave me the scooter because he felt guilty. That makes sense, right? He doesn’t see me all that much, and the scooter is an extravagant, useful gift. It’s a 150 cc Suzuki, and purple, which is not a colour I like but whatever. The one useful thing I did in the holidays was drag myself through layers...

Novel Writing Competition

Trips, Falls, and a Journey

From Lighter Places, Chapter Two.
Though I’m ready to go in a few minutes, it takes a while to herd Hom and Timothy, my younger siblings, onto the scooter
The scooter was a gift from my dad, who came to visit this summer. We didn’t go anywhere except for a broiling week at the beach. My mum tactfully arranged to go on a ten day trip to northern Thailand, to check out a team there who’s trying to stop the illegal smuggling of girls. They got divorced without too much hate, but avoid each other like the plague. Usually, our maid Ratana, looks after us, but Dad had his annual leave from his hotel business in Singapore, so he could come see us.
I think he gave me the scooter because he felt guilty. That makes sense, right? He doesn’t see me all that much, and the scooter is an extravagant, useful gift. It’s a 150 cc Suzuki, and purple,...

Unnamed

Glory Rises, and Everything Evokes the New

it's the colour of
a morning with no responsibilities
the colour of a shiver
the colour of growth and eyes that wink
it's a footstep into daring uncertainty
veils streaming through polar sky
a kiss that hasn't happened (yet)

it's the colour of the water where crocodiles lurk
a venus that just wants to bite
a bejeweled arch at dawn in a forgotten palace.
it's the colour of leaves breathing in autumn sunshine.
 

Novel Writing Competition

Trips, Falls, and a Journey

From Lighter Places, Chapter Two.
Though I’m ready to go in a few minutes, it takes a while to herd Hom and Timothy onto the scooter
The scooter was a gift from my dad, when he came to visit in the summer. As usual, we didn’t go anywhere, except for a broiling week at the beach. My mum tactfully arranged to go on a ten day trip to northern Thailand, to check out a team there who’s trying to stop the illegal smuggling of girls, so my dad could come for that time. Usually, our maid, Ratana looks after us, but he had his annual leave from his hotel business in Singapore, so he could come see us.
I think he gave me the scooter because he felt guilty. That makes sense, right? He doesn’t see me all that much, and the scooter is a great way to get around. It’s a 150 cc Suzuki, and purple, which is not...

Why I Write

write reasons

I write because words fit together
when my life doesn't.
I write because I have been told
that I have a story to tell
and I tell myself that story every day.
I write because I can't
not write.
I write because I want to connect
the disparate pieces of world
eating up my life.
I write because writing is
always
an option. I like having options.
I write because I want to
touch my stories, as if
they're real. When I write my
stories are real.
I write because I love to
write.
I write and it's right
like a whole hole has been consumed
within me.
I write.
 

Rewilding

Scerist

Scerist: 1.the edge of sun illuminating distant mountains "There was scerist at 6:30 am today"
            2. Seeing scerist "I'm sceristing"
            3. The light that fills your soul as you resonate with the sight of scerist. "I was tired then, but I felt scerist and it revived me"
also: sceristing, sceristed,

Flash Fiction Competition

Leaving Home

I just wanted him to forgive me.
But it started raining, and he backed away, cowering. No-one wants to understand this power. 
I longed to walk home, but I had no way to tell if I had a home, a direction to go.
Why did the gods give me this gift? I wondered. Why did the demons curse me in this way? 
I couldn't stop the rain that followed me. I couldn't stop loving him. I couldn't stop the ocean of fear that consumed my every step. I kissed home goodbye, and left with the rain weeping over me.

1 Photo, 20 Words

Widest

There is shape to
mystery
open your eyes wide
wide, wide, and wider
and listen to the universe
sing softly
 

Overheard in the hallways

"Get your act together and buy me a diamond ring!"
"So they're actually dating?"
"- I said to him that I wanted to audition for chairs, but he said that he wouldn't be taking challenges today, which is so unfair because I practice more than she does anyway."
"He sprinted the fastest"
"I'm so nervous about it it. I'm probably gonna fail. Wanna go-"
"-outfit is so cute. I wish-"
"-but it's not like this is a height-based thing anyway, so it just seems unfair."
"I have history next period, but-"
"What are you up to this weekend? Because I have a lot of homework but I might-"
"We won!"
"The difference between the consumer and the cost is the natural price"
"I just can't."

Enumeration

Things that hurt me

1: Getting my nose pierced
2: Leaving my parents for six months
3. The blisters on my heels when I had three more days of walking 
4. Seeing my sister crying
5. Keeping on running when I want to faint
6. Hearing anyone disparage my appearance, but especially my mother. 
7. Lying
8. Piano lessons, until they ended. 

7 Cubed

Wedding Day

"Will you come with me, darling?" my father asks me. I look at his proffered hand, longing for me to walk with him up the aisle. 
I remember what else his hand has done: made terrible pasta, wrapped my birthday gifts, helped me with algebra homework. That hand has clasped my shoulder too tightly after a race, slammed doors, torn my books, broken my heart. I left the hand because I couldn't bear it's alternating love and anger. 
But here I am, and it's my wedding day, and my life, my love is waiting. It's time to forgive both the hand and it's indecisive owner, time to trust again. 
(Book: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson)

Book Review Writing Competition

Of Wicked Things and Broken Fairytales


And they all lived happily ever after.
                But did they really? What happens after Beauty and the Beast’s love has conquered all? After Cinderella has run away with Prince Charming? After… Sleeping Beauty wakes up?
                A Wicked Thing, by Rhiannon Thomas, is a twist on the fairytale Sleeping Beauty. It’s about a princess named Aurora, who wakes with a stranger’s lips on hers, her family dead, and the kingdom she knew gone. She’s expected to solve all of the kingdom of Alyssinia’s problems with her marriage—but why is she expected to marry a stranger? It’s subtly feminist, very political, and has amazingly complex characters. I loved the themes of choice and fate, the characters and their characterisation, and the exploration of fairytale politics.
                I think that most teenagers are trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, how they fit into the larger world and the smaller unit of their family. I know...

Book Review Writing Competition

Of Wicked Things and Broken Fairytales


And they all lived happily ever after.
                But did they really? What happens after Beauty and the Beast’s love has conquered all? After Cinderella has run away with Prince Charming? After… Sleeping Beauty wakes up?
                A Wicked Thing, by Rhiannon Thomas, is a twist on the fairytale Sleeping Beauty. It’s about a princess named Aurora, who wakes with a stranger’s lips on hers, her family dead, and the kingdom she knew gone. She’s expected to solve all of the kingdom of Alyssinia’s problems with her marriage—but why is she expected to marry a stranger? It’s subtly feminist, very political, and has amazing characters. I loved the themes of choice and fate, the characters and their characterisation, and the exploration of fairytale politics.
                I think that most teenagers are trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives, how they fit into the larger world and the smaller unit of their family. I know that...

Enumeration

Things that hurt me

1: The number of shoes I'm wearing right now.
2%: What I'm afraid I'll get on my statistics list
3: This is the number of siblings I have.
4: If days could be rated, this is what I'd give you, ToDay.
5: The number of days I'm supposed to go running in a week. The number of days I haven't. 
6: This is how ashamed I feel when I pretend to be someone I'm not. 
7: Some days, I feel like I have fewer than seven friends, because I don't know how to tell if someone is a friend or not. 
8: 8/10, 80%, and the asterisk on my keyboard. 16 divided by two, two the power of three. The number of fingers I need to type anything that's not a space. Eights make me happy. 
9: This is how many cats who have been my pets have died. 
10 km: some days, this is how far away I want...

History Alive

Noor Jahan

I am Noor Jahan
and I want to be khan
but here I am, locked up in a palace
and it's not time to be jealous. 

How did this all start?
Well, let me introduce the cast. 
My husband, the emperor, king of the world. 
My father, a general and advisor, entitled and bold.

Me in-between, longing for power
but my dreams went sour.
While Jahangir lazed, I got going
Minted coins with my face
got the Mughal empire moving.

There were other people too
My first husband, now dead
I was young, intelligent, well read
And those who doubted me, well, they would see what was true.

Once upon a time I coveted the throne
And basically owned it, though I worked alone. 
The imperial seal was given to me
I held court, saw people from sea to sea. 

Then I made a mistake
Sided with Prince Shahryar, though he was a fake
Jahangir was dead, I was locked...

The Most Boring Day Ever

I wake up. It’s dark, because on school days this is how early I have to get up.
Go back to sleep, Shanti, I tell myself. I roll on to my stomach and manage to doze for another half hour but then I’m up, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at six thirty in the morning.
    It’s good that I’m well rested, because today is going to be busy. I have so many exams to study for and I want to read a bit at some point and maybe write a blog post. It’s hard work, conquering all these books and FRQ’s, but I must be prepared. My greatest trial lies ahead: the beginning of AP exams.
    A lot of people would say that I don’t need to study, but valiant knight Shanti ignores these words of dissent. She would not joust without a lance; she will not take an exam without studying.
    My first trial comes at breakfast. Should...

Inventory

The Bag of Elissa

Elissa, 17, Chiangmai, Thailand

School starts tomorrow. I pack my bag, each item weighing a little too much, as if it holds expectations as well as billions of atoms. But I've done this a thousand times, and the fact that I'm going to a place that I don't really like, starting a new school year for the last time, shouldn't change that. 
First, the bag. It's dirty at the corners, because I throw it around too much. It's blue and practical, because I have chosen not to care how it looks. 
Then I put in my laptop. It's one of my most important things, and the programs that I've designed and put on it make it more special to me. It's a matte black dell, with my name embossed on it (that was my siblings gift to me last year) and the keyboard shiny from my fingers typing so many commands into it. 
I find some pens and pencils from...

Universal Knowledge

The Language of Courage

And this, then, is a language that anyone and everyone can understand: one foot in front of the other, a step forward when all you want to do is run far away. 
 

Universal Knowledge

The Language of Courage

And this, then, is a language that anyone and everyone can understand: one foot in front of the other, a step forward when all you want to do is run far away.
 

10 Second Essays

Between Words and Wisdom

One: Is it the words that are broken, the medium they exist within, or you?
Two: Never leave someone thinking that you could have been friends in a different world, for you have the power to make the world different.
Three: The best dreams are the ones tethered only by your very real imagination.
Four:Don't let angry words stop you from sharing again.
Five: Do you live in a world where second place is good enough?
Six: Clouds can shroud you and lead you at the same time, but there is no silver lining.
Seven: You can make your own place of belonging if the world doesn't give  you one. 
 

10 Second Essays

Between Words and Wisdom

One: Is it the words that are broken, the medium they exist within, or you?
Two: Never leave someone thinking that you could have been friends in a different world, for you have the power to make the world different.
Three: The best dreams are the ones tethered only by your very real imagination.
Four: Keep going even if slow and steady will lose you your race.
Five:Don't let angry words stop you from sharing again.
Six: Do you live in a world where second place is good enough?
Seven: Clouds can shroud you and lead you at the same time, but there is no silver lining.
Eight: You can make your own place of belonging if the world doesn't give  you one. 
 

One Sentence Story

The Beckoning of the Shadows

And even though the shadows were beckoning, she walked on through the night, ignoring their seductive music, clutching her flashlight— as if it could kill the shadows— for she knew that the destination of her destiny was waiting for her , and the shadows could not persuade her to step away from the path just barely illuminated at her feet. 

10 Second Essays

Between Words and Wisdom

One: Is it the words that are broken, the medium they exist within, or you?
Two: Never leave someone thinking that you could have been friends in a different world, for you have the power to make the world different.
Three: The best dreams are the ones tethered only by your very real imagination.
Four: Keep going even if slow and steady will lose you your race.
Don't let angry words stop you from sharing again.
Five: Do you live in a world where second place is good enough?
Six: Clouds can shroud you and lead you at the same time, but there is no silver lining.
Seven: You can make your own place of belonging if the world doesn't give  you one. 
 

10 Second Essays

Between Words and Wisdom

One: Is it the words that are broken, their medium, or you?
Two: Never leave someone thinking that you could be friends in a different world.
Three: The best dreams are the ones tethered only by your very real imagination.
Four: Keep going even if slow and steady will lose your race.
Don't let angry words stop you from sharing again.
Five: Do you live in a world where second place is good enough?
Six: Clouds can shroud you and lead you at the same time, but there is no silver lining.
Seven: You can make your own place of belonging if the world doesn't give  you one. 
 

7 Cubed

Wedding Day

"Will you come with me, darling?" my father asks me. I look at his proffered hand, longing for me to walk with him up the aisle. 
I remember what else his hand has done: made terrible pasta, wrapped my birthday gifts, helped me with statistics homework. That hand has clasped my shoulder too tightly after a race, slammed doors, torn my books, broken my heart. I left the hand because I couldn't bear it's alternating love and anger. 
But here I am, and it's my wedding day, and my life, my love is waiting. It's time to forgive both the hand and it's indecisive owner, time to trust the hand once more. 
(Book: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson)

7 Cubed

Wedding Day

"Will you come with me, darling?" my father asks me. I look at his proffered hand, longing for me to walk with him up the aisle. 
I remember what else his hand has done: made terrible pasta, wrapped my birthday gifts, helped me with statistics homework. That hand has clasped my shoulder too tightly after a race, slammed doors, torn my books, broken my heart. I left the hand because I couldn't bear it's love and anger, alternating. 
But here I am, and it's my wedding day, and my life, my love is waiting. It's time to forgive both the hand and it's indecisive owner. 
(Book: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson)

One Sentence Story

The Beckoning of the Shadows

And even though the shadows were beckoning, she walked on through the night, ignoring their seductive music, clutching her flashlight— as if it could kill the shadows— for she knew that her destination/destiny awaited her, and the shadows could not persuade her to step away from the path at her feet. 

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