The past month or so I haven't been able to do much writing. Was feeling very tired, had a few viruses and some emotional trauma that really ground me down. School holidays have been a much needed oasis to recalibrate and get back to my writing life.
I have been working on a novel for the second year now. The working title is Silver City and it is about a 14 year-old girl and her life in the city of Srebrenica during the Balkan War.
I have written about 10 chapters that were synthesising the research I had undertaken reading first-person accounts from Srebrenica. Each chapter was in a sense stand-alone, with no continuity. Character names were changing, character arcs were changing. I was getting to the point where I had no clarity about what I had written and what I needed to write.
It was time to take stock. I paused with writing and wrote a synopsis, figuring out the story arc and what I was aiming for. I have been using this resource to write a synopsis and have found it so helpful with all of my books.
Now for the hard part: to go back to the beginning and undertake revision, joining this chapters into a narrative that read like a book.
This is what I've been doing for the past week. Every day I have been revising for two hours or more. Today I finished revising chapter 6. So I now have six chapters, a proper extract that is readable like a book. Total word count so far is 29,010.
I'm feeling quite content with my progress so far. Hopefully in the second week of holidays I’ll complete revision for all the chapters I have and then can focus on finishing my draft.
I'm feeling such a sense of relief and accomplishment at my progress.
If you're wondering what my novel is about here's a blurb:
"Seka Torlak is like any other regular 14 year-old-girl: she has her first crush, falls in love, and struggles with making new friends after her best friend moves away. What makes her unique is it all happens during the Balkan War while her city of Srebrenica is under siege and she faces starvation, shelling, and sniper attacks."
And if you want to read some an an extract of my work in progress published in The Bronzeville Bee click here.
The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling by Wai Chim
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a beautiful novel that explores the reality of being a young adult with migrant parents and cultural bias about mental illness. Anna knows that something is not right with her Mum. She lies in bed for weeks at a time and experiences uncontrollable rage at others, but Anna has no words to deal with it. She struggles to be a good sister to her younger siblings and a good daughter, not leaving much time to be herself. When she meets Rory she gets an inkling of what a regular teenage life is like but as her mother's condition worsens all is put under threat.
Chim writes so beautifully about the reality of being caught between two cultures as Anna tries to be the good daughter and sister, and the misunderstandings of mental illness in migrant communities. The shame and embarrassment that makes it a taboo subject and means that treatment is harder to come by.
Chim doesn't take the easy way out in displaying the reality of mental illness and its toll on the sufferer and the family. The last pages of this book made me cry. I absolutely adore this book and it is such a great addition to the loveozya cannon. It needs to be taught in schools to demystify mental illness and open up conversations with young people.
I also love the way she depicts relationships between young people and validates the relationship between Rory and Anna as real and true. Rory is a beautiful character and their love story was so tender and heart-felt. But where this book shines the most is in the way she writes about families and she has created such real characters in Baba, Anna's father who is working so hard to provide for his family, Lily-her younger sister who is so smart and full of ambition, and her younger artistic-loving brother Michael. Their struggles and interactions ring so true, there is so much love, even when there is so much pain. A beautiful book and a spellbinding read.
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It's been four months since the publication of my memoir Things Nobody Knows But Me. Writing this book was my life's work, getting it published was my legacy, and honouring my mother's life as a Bi Polar sufferer was my dream. Taking a moment to reflect on the amazing reception this book has received, which is even sweeter in light of the fact that this baby clocked up five rejections before finding a publisher. Living out my motto "try, try, try again."
Amra Pajalić is an award-winning author, an editor and teacher who draws on her Bosnian cultural heritage to write own voices stories for young people, who like her, are searching to mediate their identity and take pride in their diverse culture. She writes memoir, young adult and romance under the pen name Mae Archer.
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