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Here's What Happened to Frozen Hearts

It is difficult for me to begin this post, but, I think, all the more necessary for the challenge. Something I have been turning over in my head, yearning to share with you. It never felt like the right time. But I believe (I think, I hope) that it is now.

Perhaps some of you lovelies - the earliest of readers, those who have stayed through all of the months (and now - how shocking this is - years) that Six Impossible Things has grown - will remember Frozen Hearts. The story of a girl spun of words, a boy with a wand and a broken smile, a kingdom plagued with endless, helpless snow.

Frozen Hearts was first novel I penned, the one I had planned to self-publish nearly three years ago now.

I began this blog as a starry-eyed 13 year old with a deep-seated yearning to write, whatever it took. The whole purpose of Six Impossible Things back then was to speak of Frozen Hearts - indeed, as I scroll through my archives, I can't help but smile at the anticipation, the exhilaration, the excitement of the readers of old. Some of your names still populate the comments section and my email inbox today. Some of you have never stopped asking where Frozen Hearts went - even as its presence on the blog dwindled. Some of you, the very earliest of readers, still remember the characters. Still speak of them as old friends.

At thirteen - and then, later, fourteen - years old, my deepest goal was to self-publish Frozen Hearts. This is what I shared with all of you. This is what I worked for, far into the night around schoolwork & real life. Frozen Hearts was, to put it simply, the greatest goal.

Only then I started feeling sad for no particular reason. I began having panic attacks every day.

I was diagnosed with depression & anxiety.

I spoke of that process on the blog too. And still, all of you were here to support me. Even as Frozen Hearts was pushed further & further away from Six Impossible Things, you lovely readers stayed. And I cannot thank you enough for that.

But here is what I have not said, what you do not yet know:

I never stopped working on Frozen Hearts during that dark period. Though I did not speak of it on the blog, though I stopped updating you on my word count, the antics of the characters, how the publishing process was coming along - still, in the darkness & the sharpness, I kept penning it. Kept spilling words onto the paper.

Before my diagnoses, Frozen Hearts was a dream.

Now it was a sanctuary. A lifeline.

I often speak of the words that changed me, the ones I clung to in my lowest moments. The ones that, quite literally, saved my life. But I think I don't share Frozen Hearts enough in these terms. It is true - when people did not know how to speak to me, when no amount of positive thinking or vitamin supplements could make the clouds lift, when I woke up from nightmares not of monsters, but of panic attacks - all this time, the words were there.

When the rest of the world, it seemed, had given up on me, Frozen Hearts never left.

I am sixteen now and still learning. Still growing. I am a very different person than the wide-eyed thirteen year old who began this book and I am a different person from the one who threw herself into words to hide from all of the aching.

I have not touched Frozen Hearts' manuscript in nearly a year. And somehow, I am just fine with that.

I went back and read the book before I wrote this post, and the darkness of some passages nearly shocked me. The memories, too - so many of them, both good and bad, tied into word choice here and character there, as if an era of my life clings to this book, as if a part of my soul has bound itself to the manuscript.

Frozen Hearts was and is a huge part of me, and of Six Impossible Things. I think, perhaps, that it always will be.

But I am still growing, and this is why I have chosen to leave it behind for now. Frozen Hearts comes from a time in my life when I did not know the meaning of healing, of recovery. It afforded me a home, my only protection from a world that seemed bent on jabbing my wounds over and over and over.

But it also symbolises a time in my life when I did not know how there could possibly be any light in all of the darkness.

These days I wake up and thank the sky for the words I want to feel okay again. These days I still feel sad far too much, and my hands still tremble when anxiety overwhelms me, and I have been diagnosed a host of new disorders since the first two.

But I want to get better. I want to get better so badly that I am willing to do anything for it.

Frozen Hearts, I am realising, is a part of me that no longer needs to exist. My seasons are changing. The windows are opening. I am ready for this book to be part of a memory, a past life filled with bittersweet fondness. It is a part of me that I will always be thankful for. And it is one that I think it is time to let go of.

There are new projects afoot, coming sooner than you know. The kind that fully represent who I am now, this fleeting snapshot of a life that I will look back on in too many years and barely recognise.

But I am learning to embrace this quiet allegro, this present tense that moves too fast and not fast enough. I am learning to record the moments that I can, and then to tuck away everything else and turn to face the future. To stand unburdened with the past and unafraid of what is to come.

Frozen Hearts is in the past tense now. For me, and for all of us.

But in its wake rises so much more radiance. So much present tense.

I am excited to see what it holds. And even more: I'm excited for all of you to step into this new wonder with me.

Festival of Lights // The Diwali Story

it began, as all the best stories do, with:

once upon a time.

once upon a time

there was a prince, the strongest in all the lands. &, more importantly, the most loving. he was called Ram.

& there was his wife, the loveliest in all the lands. &, more importantly, the most courageous. she was called Sita.

& they loved each other so deeply that life & death called a truce just to watch them dance.

they loved each other so deeply that, when Sita was kidnapped by a murderous demon, the trees stopped growing & the skies stopped singing & Ram let out a sound so stunned & sorrowful that the earth could hardly bear to listen.

& Ram beseeched the monkey god Hanuman to help him find Sita, & they both wandered the mourning lands, searching & searching & asking all those they saw if Sita was anywhere to be found until at last - at last - at last -

here she was: in the clutches of the demon king Ravan.

& now, all the animals of the world joined Ram & Hanuman in their fight, & the sea lent them her strongest waves, & the earth lent them her crashing quakes, & the sky lent them her unbreakable dawn -

& finally, after a battle of too many aching days to recount here, Ravan was vanquished.

& so Ram & Sita walked home - weary & battle-torn, & still dripping in leftover darkness. & though they were together at last, it is a difficult thing to shed the horrors of war so quickly. & not even the stars shining above them could light their way as they trudged through the murky night.

but as they drew nearer to the kingdom they had left behind, they saw one last miracle flickering on the horizon:

a candle.

& then another.

& one more.

& here it was: their subjects had not forgotten them. they had not been left to fend for themselves.

the light was here to guide them homeward.

& they called it, from the first spark to every anniversary of that night thereafter:

Diwali.

festival of lights.

festival of hope.

festival of love.

festival of goodness.

festival of home. & of coming back with the one you love in your arms. & of seeing only darkness on the horizon. & then, just as you are about to put your head down once more, of the single candle that flickers, bright & resolute:

you're here.

you made it.

welcome home.

so yes. i am a romantic. & i believe in flowers & candles & love stories & happy endings.

& tomorrow we will move forward. & tomorrow dusk will creep up, however uninvited. & tomorrow midnight will pounce on the unwitting sun. & tomorrow the scratching night descends once more, & tomorrow shadows will crawl up again, & tomorrow the darkness will reform its desperate web.

but that is tomorrow.

today?

today there is only the light.

/

(p.s. if you are interested: more on Diwali & Ram & Sita's full story & love letters for more)

For the Love of Fanfiction

So. Let us talk about fanfiction. Ah, fanfiction.

It is a much-debated topic in the literary community. Some people love it and would be happy to write it for the rest of their lives. Some detest it and would rather jump into a pit of rabid, screaming fangirls than go anywhere near it. I suppose you can say one thing about it, though - you can't know what it is without having an opinion on it.

So let us back up a little and ask: what exactly is fanfiction?

I consulted the great and all-knowing Urban Dictionary, and here is what I found: "A piece of fiction within a fandom utilising characters and situations from a pre-existing work including (but not limited to) books, television programs, films, and comic strips."

It's no secret that fanfiction receives much hate. Honestly, though, that's almost baffling to me, because the fact that people seem to be so intent on magnifying every minuscule flaw in one particular genre is ridiculous. Why is society as a whole so bent on sneering at and degrading fic - and, in turn, those who read and write it?

It could be because said readers and writers are mainly teenage girls.

It seems an overarching theme: the young adult genre is widely looked down on, and is it a coincidence that its intended audience is teenagers? The romance and erotica genres - both primarily written and read by women - are constantly degraded. It feels that anything largely enjoyed by a young and/or female audience is largely cast aside by the rest of the world - and yes, with 78% of Fanfiction.net users female and 80% between the ages of 13 and 17, I think we can draw a correlation between this phenomenon and the demographics of the largest fic-sharing website in the world.

But in a society where teen girls are constantly looked down on and pushed aside for what they love, it is so important for them to be able to find solace in something - anything. And, perhaps ironically, they find it in the very things that they're shunned for.

When girls write fanfiction - no matter whether they're bestselling authors or whether they've never picked up a pen in their lives - it ties them to something bigger than themselves. This is not about society's petty disdain for everything to do with the young and female, but rather, about taking something mundane and turning it into something magical. Fic creates paracosms, pockets of wonder nestled into the monotony of everyday life. Wordplay opens doors for young girls to explore further into the worlds they've fallen in love with, gives them a family amongst the fictional people they have grown to adore.

So please listen: fanfiction is not something to be ashamed of. It is not for people who are too lazy or uncreative to make up stories of their own. It is not about denigrating authors. It is not about changing the original stories, but rather, about making sure that no one forgets them.

Fanfiction is beautiful. It's funny. It's intelligent and witty and progressive. Fanfiction is diverse and epic, poetic and complex. It's iconic and satirical and brutally honest. It's critical. It's political. It's heartbreaking. Fanfiction is transformative. And that fact will never change - no matter who it is that writes it.

"Real" adults often pooh-pooh fanfiction, which is why so many teenage girls have abandoned it in pursuit of other, more "intellectual" activities. But why? Is it so shameful to love something so deeply, so hopelessly and unconditionally, that you are compelled to explore further, to break down the walls set by the original creator and take the story in radical new directions?

Is it so shameful to witness the miracle of art and want to be a part of it?

For so many girls, fic is an avenue into the kind of magic that an author only begins to establish. It's about pushing the boundaries of a familiar world. It's about reinventing and reshaping and looking at a story through the eyes of a creator.

Because in a world where young girls are degraded, sneered at, laughed at, and objectified; in a world where the books they read, the music they listen to, the movies they watch are constantly made fun of; in a world where they can do nothing without the persistent fear of being cast aside for their gender and age - fanfiction gives them an avenue to express their voices. Fic is a shelter from the storm around teen girls, a storm that constantly looks at the things they love and turns them into something contemptible.

In short: why is fanfiction so important?

Because being part of a bigger story should never be a taboo.