Off to the Land of Kiwis + Hobbits!

Scrawled 19 March, 2015, stored in Life, 6 Comments

Hey everyone!

I’m frantically trying to type this in an airport like 20 minutes before I’m supposed to be hopping on a plane, so do forgive me if I sound rather frantic, but oh my goodness, I AM GOING TO NEW ZEALAND!!

My family hardly ever travels together – mostly because my parents travel all the time for work and I go a lot of places for school/contests/awards/etc. – but on the rare occasion that we do, it’s pretty amazing, and this is no exception. :D I’ve never been to New Zealand before, but my parents say it’s ridiculously gorgeous. Lots of lovely mountains and glaciers and wide open spaces (which, ahem, translates to close to zero triggers for panic attacks. Have I mentioned how much I love my family?).

Also: WE ARE SEEING HOBBITON. I REPEAT, WE ARE SEEING HOBBITON.

Can you hear my little fangirl heart palpitations? ;)

I need to wrap this up, because we need to get on the plane like right now, but I have my Hobbit book and I am so ready for this. :D Not quite sure whether we’ll have internet access there, so I’m signing off the blog for 10-ish days (I still have my computer for FH work, but that’s about it!).

Hopefully I’ll be back with lots of fun stories – I’ll see you guys soon!

love,
Topaz


I Just Won A(nother) Scholastic Award!!

Scrawled 18 March, 2015, stored in Writing, 7 Comments

Hi lovelies!

This week has pretty much been a blur of studying and tests and therapist appointments and trying frantically to tie up all the loose ends before spring break starts in two days (AND YOU GUYS WILL NEVER GUESS WHERE I’M GOING GAH I’M SO EXCITED TO TELL YOU TOMORROW).

And so, in the midst of all the madness, I must confess that I didn’t actually realise I’d won another (!!) national Scholastic Art & Writing Award until somebody congratulated me on Tuesday.

(I know. I know. I am so absolutely terrible. If I don’t get an email and a Twitter mention and a calendar notification and a post-it note stuck to my forehead, I totally forget I ever entered a competition. But hey, if it helps at all, I didn’t figure out I’d won a silver medal last year until somebody mentioned it in passing… a week after the results had come out. *kicks self*)

This year it’s another award for poetry – a gold medal, which asdfghjkl; incredible! I’m so insanely, ridiculously excited about this, you guys. Some of my absolute favourite people have won Scholastic awards – including, I might add, fellow Teacup Trail editor + wordsmith extraordinaire + general wizard, AnQi, who also won a gold medal this year! Go on, shower her with confetti and chocolate. I’ll wait. ;)

If you’ll recall, last year I got the chance to travel all the way to New York – and I’m not even joking, I’m still flailing over that – for the awards ceremony in Carnegie Hall as part of my epic sojourn across the US of A. (Hush. Three states totally counts as a sojourn. Also, I just really like that word. ;)) I’ve entered the ticket lottery this year as well, so fingers crossed I get to go again! :D

I’m kind of beautifully overwhelmed by the onslaught of publications + awards lately. Life has been quite kind to me on the writing side of things, I must say. I’ll see you guys tomorrow – I hope you’re having an absolutely wonderful week so far. x

love,
Topaz


Me Me Me Monday (36)

Scrawled 16 March, 2015, stored in Life, 3 Comments

Hey everyone!

I have the tendency to forget to share these things with you, so before anything else: I guest posted at the absolutely lovely blog Oh, the Books! over the weekend. You can check out my post right here – I talked about the relationship between readers and characters, and I quite like how it turned out! (PS: you guys get brownie points for guessing which character I was referring to in the last paragraph. Old readers of YA Asylum should find this easy. ;))

Apart from that, this weekend was rather uneventful – spring break is upon us next week, so all my teachers are piling on the homework, and, as a result, I spent much of the past two days in the house (and the rest of it at a friend’s house, working on a project!). I have an abysmal amount of tests this week as well, so that should be… interesting. :P

Today kind of sucked, though, because I came this close to having a panic attack in PE class (which is basically the absolute worst place to be in that state of mind). I had to take the medicine my therapist had given me to calm down. It actually worked quite well, so that’s very good, but still, I’ve been on edge this whole day. It doesn’t really help that one of the side effects of the pill is tiredness – I have SO MUCH HOMEWORK and SO MANY TESTS and just. Ugh. I really want to curl up and sleep for like 24 hours. :(

So wish me luck staying awake long enough to get some amount of studying done tonight! I’ll see you guys tomorrow – I do hope your day today was a bit better than mine. xx

love,
Topaz


Friday Poetry: “Matchstick Angels”

Scrawled 14 March, 2015, stored in Writing, 11 Comments

Hey lovelies!

Friday at last! I really don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see the weekend come along – it’s been such an off week for me, and I’ve kind of had to drag myself through it. (Also: it does not help that for some reason I have really bad writer’s block, which is so weird, because that rarely happens to me. Ugh.)

I seriously need your feedback on this one, though, because I’ve been tweaking it for the past four hours and at this point I have zero idea what constitutes good poetry anymore. (It is also 1 in the morning, so that may or may not be part of the issue. ;)) This happens to be the first poem I’ve written in like two weeks, due to said writer’s block, so my skills may be slightly rusty – but as always, I would love to hear your suggestions + thoughts.

Enjoy, everyone – I’ll see you on Monday! x

love,
Topaz

Matchstick Angels

old heartache, you rise up out of the echoes.
I know you. I’ve memorised your skyscraper eyes,
your patchwork sins. sometimes stars die.
sometimes first loves do, too. darling, you and I,
we lost ourselves in the wildfire – but
here you are again and I’m thinking there might be
something left for us in the ashes.

it’s a familiar melody: police sirens screaming
like drunken love songs, and you and I are
dancing in the arms of fallen angels. feel the
comets slipping like matches through the cracks,
and darling, we’re scavenging once more.
I’m relearning the maps across your fingers,
the dictionaries in your lungs,
the ring-ring bicycle bell of I love you
and I hate you
and where did we go wrong?

perhaps our poetry has changed, but don’t you think
the graveyards could miss a few angels tonight?

we both have wandering hearts, darling, but
my cinders keep tracing a path back to a boy who
smells like smoke and tastes like the home I thought
had burned down. old heartbreak, old heartache –
the matches. the fire. the ashes. the ring-ring bicycle bell
of tying yourself to a burning stake.

second chances are few and far between, but
I think I know when it’s time to stop running.

here you are again, darling, and
we are not dictionaries or stars or bicycles or love songs,
but sinners and saints, whole and human and
something so much bigger than the ashes we left behind.


Adventures in Zombieland: Forward Motion (At Last!)

Scrawled 12 March, 2015, stored in Life, 12 Comments

Hey guys!

In keeping up with my effort to stop apologising so much, here is an explanation (lacking, you will notice, in the words I’m sorry!) for the missing post yesterday: firstly, my wifi was absolutely terrible and therefore the playlist I’d made refused to upload to 8tracks; and secondly, I’m a notorious perfectionist and it wasn’t the best one I’ve compiled. I’ll still be sharing it with you guys after some tweaks have been made, but that will be next week!

For now: let’s talk about what’s been going on lately on the mental health front.

After all the therapist visits last weekend, we finally narrowed it down to one team (that is, a therapist and a psychiatrist). I’m actually really, really happy with who we chose – they seem very competent, but still kind and empathetic with everything that’s happening, which is great.

I also got the Official Diagnosis (which, by the way, totally requires capitalisation. Don’t even argue with me on this one! ;)) from the psychiatrist. The medical terms for the two conditions I have are major depressive disorder, which we already knew, and generalised anxiety, which we were kind of suspecting. So I guess it’s not really that big of a surprise… but still, it felt a little weird seeing it written up in my health record and stuff. Makes this whole thing seem a lot realer, I guess.

I’m going to be doing a course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy with the therapist, which is basically the most tried-and-true form of therapy for depression + anxiety, so it should be interesting to see how that goes. And also I have a medication I need to take in case I feel a panic attack coming on – I must say, it’s definitely a relief to have a bit of a safety net. So far nothing’s happened, but I’m keeping the pills with me. Better safe than sorry, no?

These past two weeks have been pretty low, but on the whole we appear to be making much bigger steps than before. I’m still going to be seeing my regular counsellor bi-weekly, but that’ll be more to check in – the majority of the work is going to be done with the therapy + medication.

So we’ve emerged from the standstill at last! It’s so wonderful to actually have some good news to share – hopefully things will continue to look up over the next couple of weeks. :D But until then: look forward to Friday Poetry tomorrow, and I will see you guys soon! x

love,
Topaz


“Midnight Letters” Published in Glass Kite Anthology!

Scrawled 10 March, 2015, stored in Writing, 8 Comments

Hi everyone!

It’s been a very rough couple of days, as you guys know, and today was really no exception… but hey, there is some good news to add some cheer to the week! I’ve had the absolutely lovely privilege of seeing my name in another publication – this time, an anthology of gorgeous poetry, prose, and artwork.

I’m so proud to say that a poem I wrote entitled “Midnight Letters” is featured in the newest issue of Glass Kite Anthology (which, can I just say: have you ever heard of a cooler name than that? I think not!). It’s one of my personal favourites and was previous featured on the Survivors Blog Here website, so do drop by and give it a look if you have the time – as well as, of course, the other wonderful pieces featured.

Without further ado:

Click here to settle down with your copy!

Glass Kite Anthology totally blew me away with its debut issue, so when I saw that submissions were open for the second one, I knew I had to give it a shot. I’m so incredibly excited to be part of this venture, and I think you guys are going to love it just as much as I do. (Also, full disclosure: it contains a piece with a character whose last name is Winter, and I probably should not be as excited about that as I am. ;))

Please do enjoy, lovelies – I can’t wait to hear what you think!

love,
Topaz


Me Me Me Monday (35)

Scrawled 9 March, 2015, stored in Life, 2 Comments

Hi lovelies!

Oh goodness, I feel like I’ve apologised far too much on Six Impossible Things over the past couple of weeks, but here I go again: I’m so sorry for missing Friday Poetry last week. Life just seems to be pressing down on all sides – I’m finding it harder and harder to schedule time for blogging and writing poetry and, you know, being creative in general.

So please do forgive me if I’m not as constant with posting over the next few months. I suppose I just need to focus on getting better and figuring out my mental health before I can start blogging in full capacity again.

I do want to talk to you guys about Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, though, because they were absolutely phenomenal. I got to see them perform twice (+ interview them, of course), and they’re even better in real life than they are on video. As one might imagine, I suppose. ;) We so rarely get these kinds of performances in Singapore, so it was ridiculously cool to be able to see them.

And the interview itself was quite awesome in its own right. You’d think, being famous poets and all, they’d be a lot less down-to-earth, but they’re so wonderful and approachable – I know I definitely gained a lot of insight into how they work and what inspires them. So I absolutely can’t wait to see the transcription of the interview and start writing the article for our school newspaper – I’ll be sure to give you guys the link (or at least post some excerpts) so you can read it later too!

Anyway. I’m kind of running out of laudatory adjectives here, so on the rest of the weekend: Saturday was a blur of therapists, mostly. It’s exhausting to have to recount what feels like every single detail of the past two years over and over again, so it was, unsurprisingly, a pretty emotionally draining day. Two pieces of good news, though: firstly, we got the official diagnosis and medicine I need to take and everything written up in my health record; and secondly, I believe we finally narrowed it down to one therapist! We’re finalising it this week, but I have to say, it’s a pretty big relief to be making such big steps.

Sunday was a lot more relaxed. I went downtown and bought art supplies + notebooks + chocolate (what? It’s always essential!), and then met up with some friends and went out for lunch + a movie. In the afternoon I hung out with my dog and caught up on commenting on new blogs, since I’ve been slacking off way too much with both of those things (and may I just say: the followception game SHOULD NOT BE THIS MUCH FUN).

Coming up this week: another publication announcement (eek!), a playlist on… something or the other (er, I haven’t really decided on that bit yet – suggestions, anybody?), and an instalment of Adventures in Zombieland (my thoughts on finally having a written diagnosis + next steps).

How was your weekend, everyone? Let’s catch up in the comments. x

love,
Topaz


A Non-Update

Scrawled 5 March, 2015, stored in Life, 6 Comments

Hey guys,

Ugh, I’m so sorry, I’ve just been having such a terrible couple of days. I wanted to post something a bit more substantial today, but with the way things are going so far, looks like I’m not going to be able to muster up much of that.

Here, have Sarah Kay’s TED talk instead – perhaps that will work as a replacement. (And a teaser for what’s coming tomorrow. That is, if I can just get myself out of this state and enjoy it.)

I’ll see you guys tomorrow with Friday Poetry + updates on how the interview with Sarah and Phil goes. I’m sorry for the filler post and the repetitiveness, everyone – I do hope your day was a bit better than mine.

love,
Topaz


Adventures in Zombieland: Triggers, Therapists, and A(nother) Diagnosis

Scrawled 4 March, 2015, stored in Life, 5 Comments

Hi everyone!

Lots of ups and downs today. I started out absolutely and completely happy (mostly because yesterday was beyond wonderful), and I was hoping that would last for awhile, because you know how rare those kinds of days are. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be – my state of mind sort of got worse and worse as the day went on and I don’t even know what is going on with my brain right now. It’s not in dangerous territory or anything, but it’s one of those times where I just feel really inadequate for no particular reason. :/

Many things to update you guys on, though – it’s been some time since we last did Adventures in Zombieland, so, firstly and most importantly: I HAVE IDENTIFIED SOME TRIGGERS AT LAST!! If you recall, I’d been struggling with that – my counsellor and I had been combing back through all the panic attacks and the sadness and everything else and trying to figure out if there was a common thread, and, hallelujah, we’ve finally found a few!

It seems there’s an alarming prevalence of three things when it comes to panic attacks: very loud noises, very bright lights, and very large crowds. I hate crowds in general, as I’ve said before, but I’d never connected them to the panic attacks (and, er, now that I’m thinking about it, it’s kind of obvious, really. Oh well, I suppose I’m allowed a few oversights when it comes to such choppy waters, no?).

I’ll probably write up another post going into more detail on this, but it’s slightly surprising how quickly I’ve been able to adjust my radar to look out for and avoid those things. Although it doesn’t always work out (case in point: the Chinese New Year parade), I do hope it’ll decrease the volume of panic attacks – or, at the very least, help me figure out when one is about to happen so I can get to a safe space and calm down ASAP.

As yet, no triggers identified for the sadness itself, and we’ve run through quite a few possibilities – it seems to be totally random at this point, which is so not helpful. :P

Back to the panic attacks, though: there may be something more than depression afoot there. My counsellor has informed me that these things are mostly connected to social anxiety rather than depression (and that I am, apparently, exhibiting symptoms of that, as well). She hadn’t been sure enough about it to talk to me earlier, but now… well. It’s looking more likely that I have both.

So that’s just great.

Again, still not entirely certain about that, but as with all things, we’ll see. And in the same vein, I’m being “transferred”, which is a nice way of saying that whatever this is, it’s too specialised for what my current counsellor deals with and I have to go see another therapist. She gave us some recommendations, so I’m going to do interviews – trial runs, so to speak – with two therapists, one tomorrow and one on Friday.

(I feel a little like a beach ball here, you guys. Or a hopeless case. Or somebody who belongs in an insane asylum. None of the above are particularly pleasant sensations, as one might imagine.)

So yes, that’s the news: one very good development and two not-so-good ones. First therapist meeting is tomorrow – I really have no idea what to expect, considering I don’t exactly have extensive experience in these fields, but I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes!

love,
Topaz


Reflections on Censorship in Kidlit

Scrawled 3 March, 2015, stored in Bookish Love, Life, 10 Comments

Hi everyone!

Oh my goodness, I just had such a wonderful night. I’m smiling so big right now, you have no idea. To get the slightly sad part out of the way first: turns out the screenwriting workshop I mentioned is next Tuesday rather than today. The organiser got a little mixed up and sent over the wrong date, but nevertheless, still monumentally excited for that – I can’t wait!

I did go to the panel today on censorship in children’s literature and YA, and you guys, I am so happy I did. I was kind of debating whether or not I should attend, since it was pretty late on a school night (I’m writing this at about 10:30 PM, and I just got home!). But it turned out to be such a great experience – it’s the first panel I’ve been to, and while I don’t have all that much basis for comparison, I think I can probably say that this was a pretty good one. ;)

Just for some background: the full name of the program was “What Children Shouldn’t Read: A Global Controversy” and the panelists were four international authors who’ve been very active in this scene – some have had their own books banned, some have spoken out for/against book censorship, and all are award-winning and extremely prestigious authors. They covered topics ranging from LGBTQIA+ to violence to sex to drugs to rock ‘n roll (… okay, maybe I got a little carried away there, but you know what I mean. ;))

Seriously, it was so interesting to hear their different, and sometimes conflicting, points of view. For the most part, all the panelists seemed to agree that too much censorship (in kidlit and otherwise) was really not okay – but from there, it all dissolved into differing opinions. One panelist was adamant that she would never allow her children to read literature that promoted violence, while another thought that reading those kinds of books was fine, as long as there was an informed discussion about it. Some authors were sure that the cause of censorship was nothing but pure intentions – parents believing that they could shield their little darlings from the outside world forever – but others were of the opinion that it was mostly just adults projecting their insecurities into what they allowed their children to read.

The discussion continued like that for most of the time: panelists agreeing and disagreeing, audience members speaking up and asking questions, and quite a healthy debate going on. It was so interesting – I rarely get a chance to talk and listen about books IRL, so this was an awesome experience.

I didn’t ask a question during the panel, but afterwards I did get to talk to one of the authors about a topic that hadn’t been covered: mental illness and its prevalence in kidlit. It’s something that, as you guys know, is pretty close to me, so I was interested in hearing her thoughts. Mostly, she was of the same opinion as I was: there needs to be much more talk about mental illness, especially to elementary and middle schoolers; although it’s certainly not as stigmatised as things like sex or violence, there’s still a marked barrier between those with mental illnesses and what’s considered “normal”. Rooting out that issue from the very beginning through open discussion (and making sure mentally ill people are represented in kidlit) is so, so important.

AND GUESS WHAT. Saving the absolute best news for last: remember how Sarah Kay is performing at our school on Friday? Well, it turns out two of the students are actually going to interview her afterwards, and today at the panel, our librarian (who was there as well) invited me to join them!

SARAH KAY, MAN. I CANNOT CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT.

So that is asdfghjkl; incredible!! I’m counting down the days till Friday (and, of course, frantically preparing the interview questions with the other two girls) – and I will, of course, let you guys know how that goes. It’s always lovely when literary events happen in Singapore, and I’m over the moon that we’re getting so many packed into this week! :D

*scuttles off to marathon Sarah Kay’s videos until Friday rolls around*

love,
Topaz