The Small Things

Dear Readers,

We all have a lot going on in our lives that tend to occupy our minds and worry us more than we should allow. There are times when I am so focused on a project that I find it very hard to sit still or focus on something else without feeling guilt or anxiety. The little or big things that go on in our worlds tend to make us oblivious to the larger world that we live in. Your neighbor, a store clerk, a customer, a teacher, a co-worker, or whomever may not know what you’re going through, but even so, they are still in this world with you and may be going through the same problems that are probably even greater than yours. I believe that everyone could use a blessing, a good cheer, or something to make their day and perhaps, lives, a little brighter.

When I was senior in high school, my dance teacher took some of my classmates and me to a very expensive restaurant to celebrate our graduation. Little did we know that the gentleman who was dining alone across from us overheard our conversations and generously decided to pay for all six or seven of our meals. This was of course a wonderful surprise, but I’m talking about making a difference in someone’s day by doing the seemingly small and insignificant things that really matter:

  • Looking someone in the eye and giving them a genuine greeting and genuinely wishing them a good day.
  • Putting back unwanted store merchandise in the correct location.
  • Stopping your car to allow a waiting driver to pull in front of you.
  • Greeting people who you normally don’t notice or speak to.

I know these may seem meaningless or senseless to some, but from being on both sides of each scenario, I can tell you they make a difference. From the sudden gleam in a janitor’s eyes to the feeling of relief that someone cares, I can tell you that it’s worth it. So please, stop and see someone today and try to do so everyday.

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

 

The Continuous Impact of Words

Flyer copyHi Everyone,

As some of you may know, it was such a blessing and joy to have been a volunteer ESL teacher for immigrants and refugees. Although my current full-time job places me in the community every day and allows me to help those in need, I really do miss the impact I had on those I taught. It is an indescribable feeling I get when I am empowering and inspiring others through education and words.

Education of the English language is so high in demand throughout the world and United States that knowledge and efficiency of such impacts how one is seen in society. It’s similar to the popular demand for job seekers in the U.S. to know Spanish or perhaps how a foreigner is treated if they don’t know (or attempt to learn) the native tongue of the country they are in.

So it can be said that not only is knowledge power, but it also equates to respect, status, and so much more. There is, of course, the good and the bad with this. Because knowledge is power, it is often used against others for another’s benefit. For example, many foreigners are taken advantage of financially because of their inability to fully comprehend English. In terms of respect and education, it is often assumed that one’s inability to understand something deduces that they’re incapable of understanding it, that they’re not worth anyone’s time, and that they are not to be taken seriously. My most recent experience was with a client (I’ll call her Aye) from Burma who was so grateful that I was patient with my time and my words—meaning that not only did I take the time to explain information to her, but I did it slowly and in a way she could understand. I was happy that I was able to do my job well, but I wondered about what Aye went through in her past to thank for something I saw as kindness and common curtesy. She then went on to discuss her desire to better her English and then suggested that perhaps I should be an ESL teacher.

Now, although my current relationship with Aye prevents me from teaching her, I thought about how I could possibly be of help to others like her throughout the world who are in need of someone to teach them English. So I decided to start a tutoring service called English World Tutoring that would allow me to teach English online to anyone willing to learn. I was driven by the fact that there are many services in the U.S. for those living here to seek such support, but for those living abroad—maybe not so much.

The challenge, of course, came with deciding the how, the when, the costs, and the budget for making this happen. I’m most certainly not going to quit my day job, but I will conduct these lessons at times that would be most convenient for those not living in the U.S. since they would be my primary target. I purchased a system that is sophisticated, user-friendly, and most importantly: learner-friendly.  And my fees correspond to market rates and my own background of teaching and writing.

Feel free to go to EnglishWorldTutoring.com to learn more or just click the “Tutoring” tab above. So, here I go! I hope this experience will allow me to learn new things, meet wonderful and different people, and continue to impact the world. Wish me much luck and blessings!

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Tutoring Flyer

Interview with Author J.B. Chicoine

 Hi Everyone,

As you can imagine, I’ve read countless of books in my life and there have only been three times (recently four) where I’ve felt a compelling need to contact the author. I recently read the books Portrait of a Girl Running and Portrait of a Protégé, and both novels were so amazing that there was no way I could move on to another without letting their author J.B. (Bridget) Chicoine know. To my great pleasure and joy she responded to my message. Not only did I receive the honor of exchanging emails with her, but I was also able to present Bridget with some questions about herself, her writing process, and her novels, including the most recently published Blind Stitches which is now available on Amazon. I hope you enjoy reading this interview from this amazing author.

Self-portraitPlease tell us about yourself!

First of all, Thank you so much for inviting me to your blog, Ariffa!

To start with, I’m happily married, have two children and two grandchildren. I’m also a watercolor artist. I was born and raised in Amityville, on Long Island, NY. I’ve lived in New Hampshire, Kansas City, and now Michigan—but all that is in my author biography for anyone to read. In all honestly, I like to keep the finer details of my life private. I feel very uncomfortable under the distorted magnifying glass of the internet and social media, but as an author—well, that discomfort comes with the territory these days. And the fact is, I do enjoy interacting with my readers and other authors I have met via the internet.

Looking back, did you ever think you’d become an author?

Perhaps in my adolescence when it felt like anything was possible, but I never pursued it. I married young and had children, which consumed most of my time, and I enjoyed a lot of creative outlets like sewing and painting. Nevertheless, I still had a rich imaginary life, full of interesting characters. I finally wrote my first novel when I was around twenty-eight years old, struggling with depression in a bad marriage. The novel was really awful, but I loved writing as an escape, and it rekindled the fantasy that someday I might be a published author. Not until about fifteen years later (and happily remarried) did I begin my next novel—a viable candidate for publication.

How much has being an author changed your life?

Being an author hasn’t really changed my life—I still carry on much as I always have, but because I’ve had problems with depression and anxiety, writing and publishing has provided me with a healthy creative outlet (a positive obsession, so to speak), so I would say that it has contributed to my overall wellbeing and self-esteem. It has also given me a more balanced view of myself and my creative product—that is, I’ve developed a thicker skin when it comes to criticism, and I have learned that no one can validate my writing—and by extension, me. I still struggle with that, but I feel like I’m getting closer to coming to terms with my objectives as far as my creative endeavors are concerned. Ultimately, I don’t want to be rich or famous, I just want to share and live simply.

Blind Stitches front thumbnailPlease tell us about your new book, Blind Stitches.

Here’s the description from the back cover:

Nikolai Solvay has been dreading his sister’s wedding, but when his father dies unexpectedly two weeks beforehand, his return to New Hampshire promises to rake up his worst nightmares.

Meanwhile, talented young seamstress Juliet Glitch has been putting the finishing touches on the wedding dress. Mother of the bride—former prima ballerina and Russian expatriate—asks Juliet if she ‘would hem her blind son Nikolai’s trousers for the funeral’ … and the wedding.

When Juliet meets Nikolai, he draws her into the whirlwind of his unraveling family that makes her own quirky domestic situation seem normal. Confronted with the Solvay’s delusions and narcissism, Juliet must decide if her developing relationship with Nikolai is worth the turmoil as she deals with her own unreconciled past.

Either way, Nikolai cannot stave off the repressed memories surrounding his mother’s defection from the Soviet Union twenty years earlier. Against the backdrop of autumn 1989, during the Glasnost era, Nikolai’s family secrets crash alongside the crumbling Berlin Wall.

How did you come up with the idea to write it?

Because I am interested in mental health issues, I tend to incorporate them in my stories. In Blind Stitches, I pushed the envelop into absurdity and pinned it on the delusion of a woman who believes her son is blind (I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler). It’s a psychological drama with an overlapping love story.

What kind of readers will Blind Stitches appeal to?

Since this story is cross-genre (as are all of my stories), it will likely appeal to a wide range of readers. My publicist is marketing it as Romance, but I feel that it falls more into General Fiction, with a healthy dose of suspense.

Portrait of a Girl Running thumbnailI have read both Portrait of a Girl Running and Portrait of a Protégé. I thought both were fantastic! [To my readers: please check out my reviews here and here]. Please tell us what your experience was like writing those novels and what inspired you to do so.

I’m so happy you enjoyed them! I originally wrote Girl Running for my husband, just something fun to do and to keep me actively involved in a positive way while he was working out of state for about six weeks. I had no idea about the “rules” of writing novels, I just wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and loved every minute of the creative process. It was like I could feel my brain chemistry shifting, like the serotonin was plentiful and flowing! What a high! Because he loved the story, and the characters wouldn’t leave me alone, I wrote the sequel. I later rewrote it and it is now Portrait of a Protégé.

I also want to say that Protégé was a more uncomfortable story to write. I knew it would push a lot of boundaries regarding what sorts of relationships people consider appropriate –I think even more so than the relationships in Girl Running. I wanted to see if I could make my reader sympathetic, if not hope for the unconventional. The feedback has varied between repulsion to loving the evolution of the “unconventional” relationship.

What is your writing process?

I usually start with a premise or basic idea based on the simple question, what if? Then it’s a matter of molding a couple of main characters to carry it out—for instance, in Girl Running, I asked ‘what if a teacher and student fell in love?’ Under what circumstances might that work without it feeling really icky? What sort of teenager would attract an adult with principles? How can I bring them together in a relationship with substance without making it a tawdry love affair? With those basic questions answered and a strong feel for the characters, I put them together and see how they would interact. I usually also have a couple of plot points in mind and write toward that general story arc. From there, other characters often pop up and even take over, as did the character Clarence Myles (my favorite character of all my novels).

Do you wait for an idea to come to you or do you search for it?

In my earlier writing (Uncharted and Girl Running), I had been ruminating over the stories for a few years as a happy mental diversion without ever intending to write them down. One night I couldn’t sleep and decided to start writing, and so it was simply a matter of sitting down and typing it out—even so, much of those stories took shape as I went along. In my subsequent work, I sought out and then expounded on a simple idea.

Portrait of a Protege thumbnailWould you ever want any of your novels to be adapted to a film?

In theory, sure! Who wouldn’t love to see their story and the characters of one’s imagination come to life on the big screen! The problem is, a film could never match my imagination. I think the whole process would be exhausting and disappointing and would complicate my simple life. And because my stories are clean (no explicit violence, sex, profanity), I worry that film makers would want to appeal to the general public, which seems to crave the licentious.

Do any of your characters possess characteristics of yourself?

Oh yeah. I especially relate to Leila in Girl Running—she shares my feelings about painting and privacy. And in Blind Stitches, there is a lot of me in Juliet—in fact, I was a seamstress in a small New Hampshire town and based a lot of her observations on my own.

Tell us five interesting facts about yourself.

I don’t know how interesting these are, but I’ll go out on a limb here:

  1. I attended the Fashion Institute of Technology as a teen and commuted to Manhattan. I loved designing but hated the city and quit.
  2. I really like the Talking Heads—one of my favorite songs is Slippery People!
  3. I used to run a bridal shop, in addition to designing and sewing wedding gowns.
  4. I enjoy teaching people about the Bible.
  5. I have no sense of rhythm—I can’t even walk a flight of stairs without tripping.

Where can we go to receive updates on you and your works?

Go to my writing blog (http://www.jbchicoineliteraryworkinprogress.blogspot.com/) or my Facebook author page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/J-B-Chicoine/201323803286390). I also have an Author Page on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/J-B-Chicoine/e/B009SQAR0A). Oh, and I also have a Website (http://www.jbchicoine.com)

When will Blind Stitches be released and where can we buy it?

I just released it a little ahead of schedule, on July 11. It’s currently available in paperback and for Kindle, also through iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/blind-stitches/id897545783?mt=11), and all other e-readers via Smashwords (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/455795). It will soon be available for Nook, too.

Thank you so much for this interview, Bridget! I look forward to reading Blind Stitches! And to my readers: Please leave your comments or questions for Bridget below or feel free to contact her directly. I hope you’ll take the opportunity to check out some of her works!

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

The Naked Queen – A review of the novella ‘Kingdom of the Sun’

Kingdom of the Sun-5Dear Readers,

Please enjoy this in-depth discussion and review of my novella by Kevin Peter.

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“Don’t limit a child to your own learning, for he was born in another time” – Rabindranath Tagore

Knowledge is power’ this centuries old thought has always held weight to support its claim, continues to do so and will be the cornerstone on which our future will be established. The statement has lost nothing in terms of relevance or significance; and what can impart good knowledge in society? It’s education, for education is the constant prerequisite for political development, democracy and social justice. Education empowers all, and education promotes greater participation from amongst the many manmade and naturally occurring differences in humankind.

Now only if the education we were imparting to our younger generation through schools and colleges could fully deliver the message discussed in the lines above. In today’s world, the one thing that unites developed and developing nations is ironically, the voices of dissent with the education sector and the quality of knowledge imparted. And it’s the same thing everywhere, everyone knows that a problem exists and gets together to address the matter in an almost uncanny manner everywhere. There will be meeting and conferences attended by a few educators and a lot of panellists and spokespersons representing the government, there will be keynote speeches, power point presentations, food and recreational breaks, a media op towards the end with a promise to return soon for a revisit of this circus act.

But the woes that afflict education, the falling standards, incompetent & absentee teachers, the out of touch with reality syllabuses, which all contribute towards the mediocrity of the next generation who can’t be employed or can be counted upon to contribute towards the cause of nation building, are all but ignored and remains incurable in spite of the many ‘ideas’ that sprout out of such aforementioned educational meetings.

But this wasn’t the case with our education sector in the past; we’ve had some pretty bright and impressive centres of learning imparting knowledge in such a detailed and disciplined manner that it would leave today’s teaching administrators tongue tied and embarrassed with their supposed ‘modern’ ways. One among the jewels in the advanced centres of learning of the past was the Takshashila University in ancient India. In its hey days it was more famous and known for its teaching prowess than all of today’s top universities put together. It used to host students from all parts of the world who could specialize in over sixty four areas of study ranging from learning about philosophy and literature to warfare, astronomy and decryption of ancient languages. Students who got admitted on merit, once they graduated would pass out as world renowned scholars with in depth knowledge in their elected subject of choice.

In author Ariffa Bevin’s novella, ‘Kingdom of The Sun’, we are introduced to such a Kingdom called Sooryan that was famed for its education and knowledge imparting institutions, a Kingdom founded and built upon the belief that education and its teachers are the key to a successful and triumphant kingdom. Although Sooryan achieves its goal of becoming a powerful kingdom, the principles on which it was built soon starts rusting as they are ignored with the passage of time and the coming and going of new leaders. This inertia soon finds Sooryan facing all sorts of political, cultural and financial turmoil. And with a new queen Delilah who appears to be too blind with power or ignorant of the ground situation and refuses to take the help of the Scholars and the Scholar Apprentices to rectify the rotting education system, the occasion appears ripe for a change. This is when Helena, one of the Scholar Apprentices decided to fight back, takes on the entire establishment and faces the many hardships and pains it bring forth, Helena manages to bring actual change that everyone wanted but lacked the courage or conviction to go and do on their own.

Kingdom of the Sun honours the many educators and administrators toiling away behind the scenes, working tirelessly, facing many hurdles and mounting insurmountable hardships and more often than not for very small victories and successes. And yet they continue to do so, carry on with the many numerous battles, because only someone who cares or tries to bring in change will ever know the supreme satisfaction and happiness that you get when you see your work bring in the change that you set out to achieve.

You need to get past only a couple of pages to realize that it a good place from where the author Ariffa Bevin writes and that her intentions are very much sincere.Bevin’s fantasy world is an allegorical, exposition filled narrative that resembles our world in on so many different levels. The messages, ideas and thoughts that she conveys through her main character Helena are thought provoking and makes you want to question the systems in place today that prevents our younger generation from getting the education that they deserve. Some of the lines clearly denote that this isn’t just another story that the author narrates but is a subject that is very close to her heart and something that she cares for deeply. Helena makes some very specific noise on the impact of unbridled use of technology, especially among the youth and the negative effect that rapid industrialization and globalization has on our society, from making everyday living easy and comfortable to how it has started to make us lazy and lethargic.

I recommend Kingdom of the Sun to anyone who still believes that a single person’s determination and courage can bring about gargantuan change in our society that will benefit all. The story will appeal to all who believe in the power of change; Ariffa Bevin’s sincere voice carries through her choice of words and the world she has created in Kingdom of the Sun and long after you’ve finished reading the book.

Buy From -http://www.amazon.com/dp/162030421X/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

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Author Visitation Part 3: Overcoming Fear of Publishing

blogging-336376_640Hi Everyone,

In the final segment about my visit to my local high school, I would like to discuss my tips about overcoming fear and anxiety of sharing or publishing one’s writing. This post was inspired by one of the students that I was honored to meet. She had asked me this question herself, but I didn’t really get the chance to fully answer it. So here goes-Think about the following:

1)   Your Goal

Think about your goal and purpose of writing. It could be to tell a story (fiction or non-fiction), to express yourself, to get something off your chest, anything. Whatever your objective is in writing, hold on to it and don’t let it leave your head. Now for your heart…

2)   Your Passion

Your passion for whatever you are writing about or for should be the driving force. If you have something that you have to say and want to say, don’t let anything stop you.

3)   Your Anonymity

If it helps, you can always publish your work with a pseudo name or perhaps even be anonymous. Anonymity is a factor for many when it comes to showing off their writing, so they choose this route, and many tend to forget it as an option. If you’re afraid of publishing your work, I would recommend that you start an anonymous blog. This gives you an opportunity to show your work while still keeping a distance from your readers. This will also give you the control to reveal yourself, whether slowly or all at once, whenever you are ready.

4)   Your Acceptance (yourself and others)

With authorship, comes the acknowledgement and acceptance of who you are as a writer as well as who your readers are and will be. You have you to be comfortable and confident of yourself and your abilities, but be humble at the same time. You must realize and accept that although many readers will love your work, many will hate it. You must then decide which of those people you should forget and which of those you should remember.

5)   Your Dream

The best tip that I have for overcoming fear of publishing your work is for you to recognize what your dream may be in writing and publishing as well as where you hope to see yourself in the future and the impact you hope your writing will have. Let this drive your heart and mind to move forward in fulfilling that dream.

I hope this helps those of you who are struggling out there. These tips are based off of my own experience and the anxiety that I had in starting a blog and publishing a book. To those of you who overcame your fear and anxiety, please feel free to share any tips you have as well!

Peace and Love,

Ariffa

Author Visitation Part 2: Student-centered Learning

iraq-81479_640Dear Readers,

In part 2 of sharing my visitation experience at my local high school, I want to discuss a method of teaching that I not only witnessed, but was a part of.  Mrs. Carey, the journalism teacher of the three classes I visited, conducted something called student-centered teaching. She of course has a curriculum, but she has her students give input on how they want the course to look like. She even allows them to provide feedback and give suggestions. Before I visited her classes, I was nervous and even slightly uncomfortable with the thought of lecturing in front of her students. I had even prepared a powerpoint. However, my experience was anything but and the powerpoint certainly was not needed.

The structure of my visit was very student-focused. I don’t like to talk about myself too much, so I was relieved when Mrs. Carey told me that it would be a very laid back conversation that was driven by the questions I would be asked. So, instead of standing in front of the students and lecturing to them, I sat amongst them and talked with them. It was of course more comfortable, but it was also much more personal and effective. The students were free to ask what they wanted to know and for those who had other responsibilities, they were free to work on them solely or simultaneously while listening to me.

What I love about this teaching method is that it gives students some control over what they should control: their education. Administers may see students as children, but for the most part, especially when they’re in high school, students know how they want to be taught and what works for them as well as what doesn’t work. The best thing about this method is that it signifies how teaching is indeed a partnership. A teacher may believe they have the best teaching method around, but if it’s not working for the students, then it’s not working. A teacher needs to understand their students and work with their students in order for education to be successful.

So, if student-centered teaching is so great, why isn’t it used more often? Why are policy-makers more interested in result-focused education instead? There are of course plenty of reasons, and I believe one of them to be an issue of control and power. I believe it correct to assume that some feel student-centered teaching to be a relinquishment of power and control for teachers and policy-makers. On the contrary, I believe that if students are spoken to, spoken with, and most of all, if they are heard, the teacher in turn gains much more respect and power in the classroom. The students that I visited were anything but out of control and disrespectful, and this does not mean that they don’t get unruly like all students do. Their education is just a matter of understanding the following principles:

1)   Students have a voice that need to heard.

2)   Education is a 3 way partnership: Teacher and Student, Student and Parent, Parent and Teacher

There are, of course, other successful teaching methodologies, but I believe this one to be one of the best.  To Mrs. Carey and all the other student-centered teachers out there, you’re doing a great job!

Peace and love,

Ariffa

Author Visitation Part 1

students-250164_640Dear Readers,

A little over a month ago, I had the honor of visiting my local high school and speaking with journalism students from three classes. The goal of my visit was to discuss my experience as an author and answer any questions that they may have for me. First off, it was very surreal to be back in that environment. I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed looking at these students and their teacher not only as an outsider but as someone who loves education. It was so fascinating to see what a teacher sees when a student expresses interest or when one or two of them in particular seem to have a certain something that makes them stand out from the rest.

Some of the most common questions I was asked is below:

1)   Is your book a reflection of your life and/or current events in time?

Yes and No. Kingdom of the Sun tells the story about a modern-day kingdom that is struggling with many of the political, economic, social, and educational issues that other countries are currently facing. So, in a way, the book is symbolic of those issues and how I think they should be solved. Particular situations in the novella are mostly made up, while others may or may not be based off of real life events in my life or someone else’s.

2)   Are any of your characters based off of real people?

Many of the Scholars in my book are based off of the teachers that I have had in my life. It is my way of honoring them and all they have done.

3)   Would you like your book to be a movie?

This is another “yes and no” answer. I have seen too many amazing books that have become awful movie adaptions, and it would just destroy me if my book was one of them. I’m sure that almost every author wants to see their work come to life, but for me, I would only want it done if I could have complete control over everything.

4)   What was your writing process?

I told the students that when I wrote poetry, I always started with the last stanza or line before continuing the rest of the piece. With Kingdom of the Sun, I didn’t really have a plan in mind. The words just came as I wrote. The only thing I knew was the messages that I wanted to convey…and that I wanted the first word of the book to be “Uh.” :)

5)   Did you ever think that you’d be an author?

I never saw myself writing a book, so this was definitely not planned. It was due to certain life-changing experiences that made me who I am today and gave me the fire and passion that I needed to write Kingdom of the Sun.

6)   What’s one thing that you would change?

I would have definitely gotten an editor before handing out pre-released copies!

Thank you, Kyle, for reaching out to me and thank you, Mrs. Carey, for the wonderful opportunity of speaking to your awesome students. And thank you to your awesome students for listening to me! Part 2 of this experience will discuss the teaching style of student-centered learning.