Ash Mistry and The Savage Fortress

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Sarwat Chaddas Blog

Chepstow Secondary School

I've been working with Chepstow secondary for the last year, running a writer's group with a bunch of students, ranging from Year 7 to Year 9.

There have been some amazing work and I'm very impressed they all survived the journey! I am not known for my delicate editorial comments. Many was a homework that ended up being returned covered in red ink, but all survived, all produced a splendid final year short story, all collected under an anthology. I was very touched they all signed it, I'll hang onto it as I know in a few years time there will be some publsihed authors coming out of this group and I'll need proof to claim my 10% finder's fee.

So, it was great to head up to sunny (and it was sunny) Chepstow and see the gang, now they've all completed the course. But there was more in store...

Chepstow did an ASH MISTRY week! All the brain child of Emma Mellen and the headmistress, Claire Price, they turned that school in Wales into a little corner of India. EPIC! The incoming Year 6's gathered to turn out a mind-blowing performance of the key scenes of the story with special effects, actors and a march of the gods, no less!

Above are some of the actors and musicians and even cooks who took part. My head was gigantically swollen by the end of the evening. I got a chance to talk to some of the parents of the Year 6's and they're in for a major exciting time.

Secondary school is a big deal, no two ways around it. This is where you'll become an adult. It is intimidating. There are exams, and tests and universities at the end of it. You'll have an amazing range of things to study, and homework. Lots of homework.

It will be hard. At times you'll feel it's impossible. You'll have moments when you wonder 'what's the point?' Friends will do better than you and you'll struggle. I've been there. What do you think it's like, writing every day? Not knowing if what you're doing is any good, if any one will like it and hey, you're not qualified for this and everyone else seems to be doing so much better. It's like they were emailed the secret for success and no-one cc'ed it to you.

Well, I'm here to tell you it'll be okay. And you are allowed to fail. No one, and I mean NO ONE, makes it all the time.

Ash Mistry is about a loser. Not a comic loser, just a guy who is never going to shine. He'll never be head boy and he'll never come first in Sports Day. 

That's okay. Most of us won't either.

But Ash never, ever, gives up. If you've read ASH MISTRY AND THE SAVAGE FORTRESS you know even being killed doesn't stop him. If there was a point to writing that books, it was that.

Writing Ash was constant struggling against failure. People said no one reads ethnic heroes. People say that Indian mythology had not appeal, that it was too alien and too complicated. Many of those people were in publishing.

Fortunately not in HarperCollins.

I didn't do it alone. I had people, coachs, to guide me. Sarah Davies, my agent, the biggest and the best. She made sure Ash worked. Then Nick Lake, my editor. He wasn't happy with us dumbing it down. He wanted it to be big, epic, and as wild and as complex as it needed to be. All the past lives of Ash are in there because of him.

But isn't that what it's all about? The not giving up? We saw Wimbledon last Sunday, didn't we? We saw a guy whose school was a scene of a awful, truly awful event. We saw a guy who was, so close, to being another one of those 'could have been but never quite got it together'. 

Look at what he was like in 2005. Lanky, scrawny even. Struggling to play with the big boys and with major stamina problems. Not promising material.

Look at him now.

He didn't just try harder, he tried better. Moved to Spain when he was 15. Trained in Miami (bet that helped when he was playing for 3 hours in 40 degrees last week) and he got better coaching. I think it's not fluke the guy he hugged first was Ivan Lendl.

Don't let failing stop you. Murray has won 2 grand slams. He's played about thirty five. So he's LOST thirty three times. That's if you want to look at it glass half empty.

If it matters to you, failure is nothing. Fail fast, fail often and fail BETTER. If this doesn't work, try it another way. Get teachers, friends, family and anyone else around you to give you tips and clues to make it work. And it will. That is the law of the universe and who amongst us are bigger than that? But do not, ever, stop. 

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