Book Review: Here At The Gate

Here at the Gate, by Christine Campbell, is a brilliant book. It follows the journey of self-discovery for the protagonist, Mhairi, but what it really does is take you on an adventure all of your own.

The blurb:

Mhairi had worked hard to build herself a normal, stable life, but there had always been a dark fear inside her. No matter how happy she was, it was always there… It was as though she was standing outside a high-walled garden, barred from the secret of her past by the wrought-iron gate. She could see all the bushes and trees, the rhododendron and hydrangea. She could even smell the roses and the honeysuckle, but then the gate would swing shut and she was outside and it was dark…

She needed to remember what she had spent a lifetime forgetting.

Here at the Gate

I was curious to read a book from Christine from what she wrote on her blog. Her posts were always well-written and insightful, and I was not disappointed with this novel. I bought the paperback version, which was of excellent quality. And the cover art is stunning, too.

At first, I wasn’t sure how well I would relate to a mature Scottish woman and I took at as an exercise of challenging the way I saw the world. It was much slower paced, and more focused on families and relationships than I am. It was a good challenge.

The further through the story I got, the more I could relate to Mhairi. She needed control, craved security, and would do anything to protect herself and her own.

She wasn’t willing to face her past.

I cried while reading this story – both good and bad tears. Her pain was strong, but so was her spirit. Through the strength of this character, I was able not only to see the world in a different – slower – light, but also to reflect on my own pain and loss; and my own strength.

Thank you, Christine, for this beautiful read.

You can buy Here At The Gate on Amazon, and other retailers.

Celebrating Yourself with Poetry: Biopems

At work yesterday, one of my students said she’s doing Biopems at school. When I asked her what they were, she said she didn’t know (with a slightly sheepish look) and so we turned to Google.

how to write a biopoem

We found these instructions for a Biopoem,with an example of Rosa Parks, and she wrote one about herself. When she was done, she was able to look back on the poem and think, “Wow. I’m kinda awesome.”

I liked the biopoem so much that I offered the activity to my next group of students. One had already been doing them in school, and my other students had a go.

It was interesting to note that every single student found line seven the hardest when writing about themselves – the line that asks for their accomplishments; their achievements; what they are proud of about themselves.

Some sites simplify this line to ‘who gives’, but I think it’s more of a challenge to consider your accomplishments. To make it personal, I interpreted the line as, ‘anything you’re proud of, even if it’s not something that other people celebrate’.

Shining our own light only helps others to shine brighter.

Anyway, I could feel the downward spiral beginning this morning so I decided to pause in my painting and have a go at a biopoem:

Zenobia – 

Spiritual. Creative. Pensive.
Human of Shadow.
Who loves equality, open-mindedness and our world.
Who has felt depression, frustration and peace.
Who fears loss, closed-mindedness and that we will never change.
Who follows her heart, trusts herself and inspires others.
Born in Kanpur, India and living in New Zealand.

– Southcombe.

Write a Biopem, and leave it in the comments, or write it on your blog / social media and leave a link. I’d love to read them.

Why Wordless? +Picture Book Release Date

I love wordless books. I was first introduced to one as a child, with the book ‘Zoom’, by Istvan Banyai, which I found fascinating. Prior to this, I had seen books as a vessel only for written stories – though perhaps with the odd illustration here and there.

I began to appreciate photography books more, but I saw them as nothing more than an image gallery in a more intimate format. There wasn’t a strong narrative that ran through; there was no complication and resolution; there was no story.

Enter ‘The Arrival’ by Shaun Tan. The illustrations are stunning, and just a little bit surreal. The story keeps you guessing and keeps you engaged. I not only gained a new appreciation for wordless stories, but also a broader appreciation of art.

For many years, visual art was my main medium for storytelling. Even in my painting, I’d considered exploring narrative within, and between, works. I still do. In the past two years, I began to explore writing. I’ve written two novellas, and had a feeble shot at some short works. Now, with a bit of experience in both writing and painting, it’s time to bring two of my passions together.

I’m working on ‘What Stars Are Made Of’, a wordless picture book, this month.

‘What Stars Are Made Of’ will be released on Wednesday, December 17th, 2014.

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