The year 2020 has shown us that the world can be a scary place. Feeling afraid in a scary world is okay. It’s a normal, healthy response. Here at Duke TIP, though, we’ve had a unique perspective from which to watch this year unfold, a perspective that’s allowed us to see another kind of response, one that says, “When things in the world seem bad, I will work to make them better.”
We’ve seen it in TIPsters like 12-year-old Abhimanyu (Abhi) Sukhdial, who recently celebrated the publication of his first novella, Three Days till EOC.
Abhi, a 7th grader from Oklahoma, found himself perturbed over another great challenge of our time: climate change. The slow, steady warming of our planet poses a dire threat to things like biodiversity and water and food supply, and scientists say it will contribute to devastating global sea level rise and increased instances and intensity of hurricanes and other extreme weather events.
These hard truths, coupled with heartbreaking news coverage of wildfires raging in the Amazon and California alike, weigh heavy on the mind, especially the mind of a bright young student like Abhi. What makes Abhi so special, along with countless other TIPsters like him, is the way he channels those feelings of uncertainty and concern into something good, something to make a difference in the world.
For him, that something is his recent novella Three Days till EOC. It’s set in the year 2100. And the plot goes a little something like this:
The thing most essential for all life, water, is itself wiping out life on the planet. As the ice sheets have melted decade after decade, the Earth has been pushed past it’s cataclysmic tipping point, and now there are just three days until “EOC,” the end of civilization.
Among the last thousand humans remaining on our doomed planet is climate scientist Graham Alison, who must travel back in time to persuade leaders of the past to change their behaviors to prevent the current reality from ever happening. This gripping work of climate fiction won Stone Soup Magazine’s 2019 Book Contest and is available for purchase now.
“Not only is this idea [climate change] true and backed up by scientific facts,” Abhi said, “but writing Three Days till EOC is in my opinion a great way of showing the potential future of our planet…if we don’t do something about it.”
Using writing to bring attention to an important issue was a natural response for Abhi, who’s had a passion for storytelling since the second grade, when he started submitting stories for the National PTA Reflections Arts Competition.
He wrote about himself embarking on a thrilling adventure. And he wrote about his Dadaji (Hindi for grandpa) who fought for the Indian Army during World War II, going back in time to try and save his life. Recently, he penned a story about three miners who discover a town of aliens living underground. And he even keeps a running—and constantly growing—list of his writing ideas in a Word document.
In fourth grade, Abhi began writing book and movie reviews for the Stone Soup blog.
“They weren’t easy, but they were super fun, and I loved seeing my name on the blog site when they finally finished posting my reviews,” he said.
When Stone Soup Magazine announced a long-form book competition, it felt like an opportunity tailored to his skillset and passions. But that didn’t mean the writing process for his first novella was a breeze—more like a whirlwind of writing, re-writing, doubting, brainstorming, and re-writing some more. A unique challenge of writing this particular story, Abhi said, was making the story thrilling and entertaining while still encouraging readers to think seriously on the topic.
“I just sat at my desk thinking and thinking, yelling at myself, and trying to find out how the story goes,” he said. “While writing the first few drafts of this book, I realized there was so much more I could add to give it more flavor, so once again, I sat at my desk, thinking of ideas, and then starting to revise and add new characters and inventions.”
At the end of three months of hard work, Abhi was proud of his finished product but so mentally drained that he actually forgot about it after submitting to the Stone Soup’s contest. The eventual news that he had placed first, meaning Stone Soup would also publish his work, came with a feeling of confusion, surprise, and finally happiness.
“I like how everybody can now see my ideas within a nice-looking book, and that’s what I’m most happy about,” he said.
His book published, and a first-place finish under his belt, Abhi now looks back on how far he’s come and hopes that readers of his novella take away an important message.
“I want them to realize just how horrible climate change can get, and how you shouldn’t stall taking action, because your future families will get impacted because of it. One family can impact an entire generation of kids to come. Your choices matter. Your legacy and reputation matter. Not taking action on climate change has far more serious consequences than just skipping or missing a day of school.”
For TIPsters like him who aspire to write stories of their own, Abhi offers three main tips to consider before getting started:
- Spend a lot of time planning out your idea. Like a lot. It’s tempting to just jump into writing, but if you start writing without knowing your full idea, you will get lost in the story and get more frustrated with it.
- Don’t write your story in chronological order. Let’s say you’re really excited to write the end of your story, and you don’t want to slog through the beginning and middle to do so. Well, then just skip to the end and start writing the ending! If you have a part in the story stuck in your brain, and you badly want to write it, just do it. The writing will just be a slog if you have to write all the way through just to get to your favorite part of the story. Trust me, this is a lifesaver.
- Expect to revise. A lot. Your first draft probably won’t be very good, and you will absolutely have to revise it. Or if you’re like me, just plan the whole idea out. This saves a lot of time and frustration. But you will still have to revise. I wish I could say there is a way to get out of revising and rewriting, but unfortunately, no.