In order to celebrate the release of Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow by Siobhan Curham, Walker have organised a blog swap. Throughout August a number of bloggers are hosting guest posts from our peers. Something to give us an insight into an issue we might not otherwise have come across. To step into their mind and empathise. I encourage you to visit other posts across the month to expand your experience.
Today I’m hosting Alba with her post on Acts of Kindness. You can read more from Alba on her blog Alba in Bookland here.
Acts of Kindness
One thing I love about the football World Cup is how it manages to bring people from all over the world together. Last month, we decided to organize an office pool in which you would select several teams and earn points every time one of your teams would score or win a match. Quite simple. But then in the middle of it, a colleague had a brilliant idea: let’s also collect acts of kindness.
So every day, we would check the news all over the world to find those little acts. It was amazing to see how this world event had affected the daily life of so many people, all from different nationalities and backgrounds and brought them a little happiness.
We even started printing our favorites and putting them in our office board, so everyone could read them. They definitely sparked more than one smile and even a few tears between our colleagues. So today I decided to share with you three of these acts of kindness:
1) How a deafblind fan is enjoying the World Cup thanks to his friends. Here is the video, if you haven’t seen it: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-44657259/icymi-how-a-deafblind-fan-is-enjoying-the-world-cup
I actually studied sign language in university and met such vibrant and active people in the deaf and deaf blind community. We used to have weekend excursions to different places in Barcelona and it was always such a especial moment to be able to sign for the deaf blind so they could experience new places too. So this video definitely brought a lot of nice memories back. I should start volunteering again.
2) Mexican and Colombian supporters lift Egyptian fan in wheelchair so he can see screen in fanzone. Here is the photo, if you haven’t seen it: https://www.thesun.co.uk/world-cup-2018/6553124/world-cup-mexico-colombian-egypt-disabled-fan/
3) Japan and Senegal fans help to clean up World Cup stadiums. Here are the photos, if you haven’t seen them: https://edition.cnn.com/2018/06/20/sport/senegal-world-cup-stadium-clean-up-spt-intl/index.html
And a special mention to the fans that created the pride flag with football shirts to let Russian LGBT community know ‘they’re not alone’ (https://www.standard.co.uk/sport/football/worldcup/world-cup-2018-activists-in-moscow-create-pride-flag-with-football-shirts-to-let-russian-lgbt-a3885161.html)
I hope these kind images brought a smile to your face too. And remember, acts of kinds cost nothing but are worth a lot.
Thanks for sharing these wonderful positive stories Alba. I often think of the more negative side of football so it’s great to see how a common interest can bring people together. Definitely relevant to my job as an Occupational Therapist.
Fourteen-year-old Stevie lives in Lewes with her beloved vinyl collection, her mum … and her mum’s depression. When Stevie’s mum’s disability benefits are cut, Stevie and her mother are plunged into a life of poverty. But irrepressible Stevie is determined not to be beaten and she takes inspiration from the lyrics of her father’s 1980s record collection and dreams of a life as a musician. Then she meets Hafiz, a talented footballer and a Syrian refugee. Hafiz’s parents gave their life savings to buy Hafiz a safe passage to Europe; his journey has been anything but easy. Then he meets Stevie…
As Stevie and Hafiz’s friendship grows, they encourage each other to believe in themselves and follow their dreams.
An uplifting story of friendship, unity and hope that highlights the important and topical issues surrounding young carers and young refugees.
I really enjoyed Siobhan’s Moonlight Dreamers and Tell it to the Moon (which I’m just about to loan to a friend’s daughter) so I think this will be a fabulous read. Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow is out now.
The Moonlight Dreamers and its sequel Tell it to the Moon follow four girls: Amber, Maali, Sky and Rose on their quest to follow their dreams and find themselves. I really enjoyed these tales of friendship and, for me, they were reminiscent of films I love such as Now and Then, and Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants. Many friendship stories follow girls who grow up together, or go to school together but it was refreshing to see that there is friendship outside these confines. These were both really charming and enjoyable stories and perfect reads for feel good vibes.
I have been lucky enough to interview author Siobhan Curham and her four characters to find out a little more about how the Dreamers came about and where they are shooting for next.
How did you come up with The Moonlight Dreamers Club?
I was really tired of being picked on by the numbskulls in school for being different. Just because I have two dads, who happen to be gay, and just because I like to dress in vintage men’s clothes, it doesn’t mean I deserve to be picked on. I don’t understand why being different is seen as such a bad thing. Being the same as everyone else is so boring. I came up with the idea for starting a secret society called The Moonlight Dreamers because I wanted to meet other people who didn’t want to fit in; other people who craved excitement and adventure. And I was inspired to do so by my hero, Oscar Wilde.
Why do you like Oscar Wilde so much?
Because he was proud of being different. He came out at a time when it was really hard to be openly gay – he even went to jail because of his sexuality. He lived life on his terms and he was a great writer. I have a collection of his quotes that I always use for inspiration. It’s impossible to pick a favourite one, but one of my favourites is this: ‘Be yourself, everyone else is already taken.’
How are belonging to The Moonlight Dreamers and belonging to a religion comparable and different?
Being a Moonlight Dreamer and being Hindu both make me feel happier and more secure in myself and my life. Both of them bring me loads of joy. They’re different in that my faith feels like a more personal thing, something I often do on my own – either meditating or praying to my favourite goddesses. And the Moonlight Dreamers is a more of a social thing – and usually way more noisy – especially when Rose gets going! I feel so blessed that I’ve been given such awesome friends.
Why is the idea of finding a soulmate so important to you?
I’ve always been a true romantic. Even when I was a little girl, I loved making up stories in my head about marrying a prince and living happily ever after. I love the idea that everyone has a soul mate out there waiting to be found by them. The trouble is, when I feel like I’ve found mine I turn into a jabbering wreck! I wish I could be as confident as Rose or Sky – or just not care about love, like Amber. But sadly, I’m a stumbling, stammering disaster area when it comes to boys I like! I say and do the most embarrassing things. I’m starting to worry that even if I did meet my soulmate I’d make him run away – or die laughing … and not in a good way!
If you ever imagined having a sister what would she have been like?
After my mum died, I really wished I had a sister – or brother – who knew exactly what I was going through and could share the pain. Whenever I imagined having a sister I’d imagine someone quite like me – like, into poetry and nature and travelling and stuff. But then I got Rose as a step-sister and that blew all my imaginings out of the water. When I first met Rose I hated her so much I was really glad I’d been born an only child! It’s so funny now, thinking of how much I hated her back then. Now I’m a Moonlight Dreamer it feels like I’ve got three sisters – and I wouldn’t change them for anything.
What did you really think when you saw the invite to The Moonlight Dreamers Club?
I was a little bit weirded out by it but thankfully I was so intrigued I replied anyway. And I really liked the look of the girl in the vintage store who put the invite in my bag. She really intrigued me. It’s so weird thinking that she’s now one of my best friends! That was a really important lesson for me – that if something seems weird or scary but it makes you a bit excited too, you should go for it. My life has changed so much for the better since replying to that invite.
If you ever imagined having a sister what would she have been like?
I have three sisters. My Moonlight Dreamers are my soul sisters – the best kind of sisters. The kind you’d tell anything to and even lay down your life for. And I’d lay down my life for all of them, no question – even though Sky’s been pissing me off a bit lately, since she’s found true lurrrve.
What does The Moonlight Dreamers club mean to you?
Everything. My girls keep me sane – something my parents on their Planet Celebrity, definitely do not!
How did you come up with The Moonlight Dreamers?
I love encouraging young people to believe in themselves and their dreams as this was something I really struggled with when I was a teen. I gave up on my writing dream and dropped out of uni because – coming from a poor family on a council estate – I didn’t think I had what it took to make it in the middle class world of writing. Thankfully, I found the confidence to overcome my doubts and fears and now I want to stop other people from making the mistakes I did. I created the Moonlight Dreamers because I wanted to show how hard it can be to navigate your journey into adulthood but, with the help of friends, a hero like Oscar Wilde and some self belief, anything is possible. In the second book, Tell it to the Moon, I really put the characters to the test because it was equally important for me to show how sometimes dreams don’t come true – but if you keep the faith, something even better might happen. This is exactly how it’s been for me in my life. Disappointments, difficulties and unachieved dreams have always led to bigger and better things.
What’s more important – Dreams or Belonging?
What a great question! Would it be cheating to say, they’re both equally important? It’s so important to have a sense of belonging – in your own skin and in the world – but sometimes, when that’s missing, a dream can be what saves you and ultimately leads to that feeling of belonging. I think maybe they go hand in hand.
What’s next for the girls?
I would love to write a final book about them when they’re seventeen / eighteen. I’ve loosely sketched the idea out in my mind – Amber on an Oscar Wilde inspired gap year, Sky going off to uni, Maali in her final year at school and still, no doubt, searching for her soul mate, Rose blazing an entrepreneurial trail and causing a riot somewhere. It would be great to see the Moonlight Dreamers start to make their way out into the world as adults. I’m also considering writing a screen adaptation because so many readers have told me that they’d love to see it filmed … and offering to help with the casting! I’d love that too – it would be a dream come true.
Huge thanks to Siobhan and the Dreamers. Count me in the ‘would love to see the books filmed’ camp too. Thanks to Katarina from Walker for sending me Tell it to the Moon (which publishes this month). Moonlight Dreamers had already called to me and was already on my TBR pile. Opinions are, as ever, my own. Have you read the books? Tell me what you think?
Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.
When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.
But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.
From this young debut author comes a beautifully written and lyrical story of friendship, discovery, myths and magic – perfect for fans of Philip Pullman, Frances Hardinge or Katherine Rundell.
Released in Hardback in the US on Nov 1st 2016.
Kiran Millwood Hargrave is a poet, playwright and novelist. Last year she graduated from Oxford University’s Creative Writing MA with Distinction.
Kiran was born in London in 1990, and now lives in Oxford with her mad artist boyfriend and mad writer friends.
A huge thanks to Kiran for such a wonderful and open interview.
I’m very lucky to have already have read The Cartographer’s Daughter, however, in the UK it’s called The Girl of Ink and Stars. Can you tell us about the process of titling the book initially and in different countries?
The original name was The Cartographer’s Daughter – I chose it as a homage to Philip Pullman’s The Firework-Maker’s Daughter which was one of my favourite books growing up. Chicken House (my UK publisher) decided the title should reflect the fact that Isabella is very much defined by her own terms, and so we settled on a title that places focus on that. When I sent a UK copy to Pullman he wrote back saying how he loved the title and hoped the US had left it alone (unlike his) – I didn’t mention that it was actually the UK who had changed it! I love both titles though, and it’s been fun seeing how the book is marketed and packaged so differently. I wish I’d chosen shorter titles – it makes tweeting nigh-on impossible.
How do you feel the title of a book can influence readers?
Hugely. It’s a bit like a first line in that it sets the tone for the book. I started out writing poetry, and titles have to work hard for you – I don’t think novels should be any different. My favourite titles are either really short, like Skellig or long, like The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.
In real life female friends fight and Isabella and Lupe are no different. Have you ever had a fight with a friend that has affected your life in such a major way?
Yes. In Year Nine at secondary school my best friend decided she didn’t want to be friends anymore. She’d heard a chinese whisper rumour about something I’d confided in someone, and on a Tuesday before gym class (can you tell it traumatised me?!) she took me aside and said she didn’t want to be friends with a liar. It set a whole chain of events in motion, from the rest of that friendship group taking her side, to my whole class effectively stopping talking to me. It was the most alone I’d ever felt. I self harmed and acted out and generally lost my way a little. It still makes me feel a bit sick to think of.
Then I got fed up of crying in the toilets at lunch time and started hanging out with another class in my year. In that class was Izzy, who is still my best friend and who my main character Isabella is named after. She’s also going to be my maid of honour when I get married next year! I did make up with the first girl and friendship group eventually. Things got easier, but in the case of that particular person we’ve not talked for ages. People move on.
Also, which gift given to you by a friend do you particularly treasure?
Recently, my friend Jessie made me a black-out poem from the first page of an old copy of The Water Babies for my birthday. It’s a beautiful object and I love that she took the time to do that. I always treasure books, and my friend Sarvat got me a copy of The Girl Who Circumnavigated… by Catherynne M. Valente which was a game-changer for me.
Maps are obviously an important part of the story. What inspired that?
Growing up, we had this huge, heavy, hardback atlas that my brother and I would heave out and open on a random page. Then we’d make up stories set in the places we landed. So maps have always been a way into stories for me. I also find it fascinating how the first cartographers managed to envisage the world like that – as one of my characters says, ‘to leave space for where [they’re] about to be’.
My parents, especially my dad, have an almost childlike wonder and enthusiasm for how things work. My dad is a geologist and he still stops the car by the side of the road to pick up a rock and tell us what it is and how old. I’m not that enthusiastic, but I am interested in how and why things are the way they are, and maps are an important part of how humans have visualised our place in the world.
Also, how are your map reading skills and tell us about a time you got lost.
In a recent interview I said my map reading was terrible, but since realised that is an unfair reflection on myself. Whenever I go away with friends they put me in charge because I’m pretty good. That said, one of the scariest moments of my life was getting lost in a forest in La Gomera with my family. It’s this beautiful, wild national park and there aren’t many signs. We’d been walking for hours, had run out of water and not seen a soul. We eventually got rescued by German tourists who had a satellite phone. It was one of the seeds for the story, imagining a girl on an island before Google Maps!
I read that you ‘Never meant to write a book’. Now that you have please tell us there are more to come.
Yes, of course – now I can’t imagine doing anything else. I’m editing my second story, and writing a third and fourth. I have no intention of stopping. Writing’s a compulsion now, I feel irritable and useless if I haven’t written for a while.
I also read that you wrote ten drafts – what tips can you give about the editing process? What have you learnt working with editors that you will take into your future independent editing practice?
You have to be open to the idea that other people sometimes see your manuscript more clearly than you, without compromising on what you think it should be. As long as edits are in line with your final picture, try them and see. I made major changes to GOI&S and they are often the things people are most complimentary about.
This was the first story I ever tried to tell. I have no manuscript languishing in a drawer, and I’d only written poetry before it – all my mistakes were made (and hopefully corrected!) within the landscape of this book’s world. I threw everything I had at it. It was an exercise in self-indulgence. It used to be double the length. My major influences for the first draft were The Firework-Maker’s Daughter, The Border Trilogy by Cormac McCarthy, and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and boy – that confusion showed. I made error after error and I’m so grateful to my agent and editors for seeing through all that. My next books know what they want to be.
One copy of The Girl of Ink and Stars and Five Bookmarks
Good Luck everyone.