The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan (P3 of 3)

Suddenly I find myself awake, my mind already returning to last night’s thoughts.

I’ll send a note down to my house for Mother and Ni. Then I’ll go.

I have enough food for a couple of months, if I’m careful, and enough water for almost that long.

Does it matter though? Actually speaking? It won’t change anything.

The light from outside of my tent is faint, from the moons only.

I drag my bag outside of the tent, rifle through my belongings until I find the notebook I brought. I find my pen in the bottom, and hastily pull that out as well. I scribble a note to Mother and Ni, careful not to write over existing letters and words.

I scrounge around on the top of the wall, searching for loose rocks. I eventually find one, and though it is small, I secure the note to it with a bit of string. Before I can talk myself out of it, I drop the rock over the wall.

“Iran, please forgive me, and get this note to my mother and Ni.” I can only hope the god of mercy will understand.

Now that I have told them I will not return, I pack up all of my belongings, save the rope. I pull up as much as I can, coiling it on the wall next to me. I reach down and cut the rope.

I untie my harness and remove my backup rope from my bag.

I lay down on top of the wall and pull my shoulders and arms over the edge away from home. I search the surface of the wall for a place to insert a camming device, luckily finding one not far down from the top. I attach a carabiner to the camming device and begin working the rope through it.

I fashion a new harness and tie a loose sliding knot not far above it. I will have to climb down the wall to the end of my doubled rope, and then I should be able to lower myself along the rope to the ground. The only problem is that I won’t get my rope back.

On a whim, I take a piece of twine from my pack and a good sized rock from the top of the wall and tie the rock to the rope. Once I get to the bottom and remove my harness, the sliding knot should slide down with the additional weight of the rock. Then I can keep my rope.

I throw the remaining length of the first coil over the wall.

I pull my pack over my shoulders and prepare myself for the descent. Once I feel ready, I lower myself over the edge of the wall, finding grips with my feet.

Slowly I begin climbing down. My arms, legs, and hands ache and throb as I descend. Acteonil, Cayne, Naiyah, Vilmariy, four moons I saw earlier tonight, shine brightly in the sky, along with Morik, Favonius, Shelaght, and Odhrin. They provide some illumination to my work, though it is scant compared to when N’Zembe burns hot and white-blue above me.

The wall is endless, my rope is long. It feels as though I will never reach the ground. I long to quit climbing, but to do so could be dangerous. If I fall now, I could bang against the wall and hit my head. I already have a concussion, another hit could be deadly.

Everything hurts. There will be no relief until I reach the ground. I can’t see the ground below me, and the wall mere inches from my face is in deep shadow.

Finally my rope feels tighter. It hangs above me, attached to a carabiner some distance above, though my eyes cannot focus on something so small in the dark, even without a concussion. I look at Odhrin, a dark blue and gray disc, and it splits into two, the images swimming close together and further apart. I turn my attention back to the wall in front of me, my head throbbing harder than before.

I close my eyes and remove my hands from the wall. I slide downwards, but don’t fall. A grin splits my face, and I take my feet from the wall as well. I move downwards more quickly now that my weight is propelling me, but not so fast that it scares me.

I drift down, down, down, and yet I still can’t see the ground! This wall is clearly intended to be impassible, or that’s how it seems.

Why build these walls? Why all the death outside them? Was the world out here ever bright and filled with life? Could it ever be so again? I wonder as I fall far enough that Shelaght, Odhrin, and Morik are out of sight, blocked by this wall. Is there anything or anyone out there in that dead land? Is it possible for anyone to survive? Will I survive?

The thought shocks me. My heart beats fast. If my eyes were open, they would be glazed over. It’s too late to change my mind and do anything but wander aimlessly through this dead world, waiting for death to come to me, too.

My life has no purpose, what does it matter if I survive? Mother and Ni might miss me, but at least they still have purpose in their bright, life-filled existences. I have nothing to live for. My dream was for nothing.

I put my hands over my closed eyes, blocking out the throbbing, trying to hold out against the onslaught of hopeless thoughts. Endlessly they swirl through my mind, nothing I try to distract myself with changes that.

My feet brush against something solid. I place them against it, flat. It does not waver. I stand and open my eyes.

Faint, dark images swim before me, vacillating. I pull off my harness without untying it and place my pack over it. For now I need to rest, then I can retrieve the rest of my rope.

I lay on the ground, not bothering to pull anything out of my pack. I rest my head on it and curl into myself. The pounding in my head rises to a deafening crescendo and I struggle to sleep, exhausted though I may be. Finally, finally, I succumb to sleep, overtaken by exhaustion.

When I awake again, it is early morning, N’Zembe peeking over the distant black horizon. I force myself to sit up and look around.

A few green shoots surround where I slept, in stark contrast to all the death around it. Everything beyond that is uniform, as far as I can tell with my unstable view.

I pull my bottle out of my pack and sip it slowly. Even though it is warm, I do not want to drink it too quickly. I don’t drink much, either. I rummage through my food choices and eat a small portion.

Through my jumbled thoughts I realize I cannot rest uncovered during the day. Fears of heat stroke rush through me and I clumsily raise my tent with the walls toward the rising sun and crawl inside.

I lay down, feeling helpless and worn out.

If there is green here, maybe there is more that I couldn’t see from the top of the wall.

I eventually drift off.

I spend the next week or so resting a lot and consuming the bare minimum for survival. By that time, I seem to be recovering at least somewhat from my concussion.

A lush green carpet has sprung up around my tent, but the rest of the world is still black and empty. It puzzles me; I cannot for the life of me figure out how or why anything grows here but nowhere else.

“I should see if anything else grows out there,” I say aloud. It’s early morning and the sky is tinged a darkish blue with a rising circle of white along the horizon.

I eat and drink then pack up my tent and bag and rope. It takes a few minutes to get all the rope together, but I do get it back as I had hoped.

Shakily, I push myself to my feet and slip my arms into my bag’s straps. I look around. The black extends endlessly around me until the ground meets the sky. But the ground near me is covered in green shoots.

I place one foot in front of the other and repeat endlessly until my feet ache and my legs complain.

I look around, all is black around me. The wall rises up behind me, imposing even from this distance. I haven’t traveled far, but it was a long and hard walk under the hot sun.

I raise my tent and sit under it. I eat and drink and then rest.

The next morning is the same. A circle of green shoots surrounds my tent but nothing grows anywhere else.

As before, I pack up and head out. Walking, walking, walking. Taking step after step after step until I can bear it no longer. Day after day after day.

N’Zembe beats down on me and I long for shade. If only there was a tree. Or even a bush I could lay next to for a bit. Anything. Anything but this endless dead land with no escape.

The wall is a thick line obscuring the horizon, but appears small from this distance. I’m so, so far away.

Sluggishly, I pull up my tent and lay under it. I sip from my bottle slowly. Soon I fall asleep from exhaustion.

I wake up in the middle of the night to the gnawing of my stomach and the dryness in my throat. I open my pack, keenly aware of how little I have left in supplies.

I’m going to die here. I don’t have enough food or water to go back now. I shiver. There’s no green out here either, I can’t find more food or water.

Shakily, I take a sip from my bottle and lay back down.

The thought echos through my head, keeping me from sleep. I’m going to die, I’m going to die, I’m going to die.

I turn on my side, beginning to sob. Leaving the walls was a mistake. Climbing the wall at all was a mistake. I wish I didn’t know, hadn’t seen.

Eventually, I collapse into sleep, though I’m not even aware of such a reality until I find myself waking up. I just lay there, paralyzed as my thoughts from the night before resurface, clawing out of my subconcious. They spiral, circling through the same few thoughts inescapably.

I’m going to die… Why did I leave? Why did I have to see? Everything’s dead, and soon I will be… I miss Ni and Mother… They probably think I’m dead… I’m going to die… I wish I had never thought of climbing the walls…

I forced myself to eat and drink a little. I looked out of my tent at the dead, black earth.

Somehow, a new thought crept in, pushing the hopelessness aside at least for now.

How did this happen? Why is everything dead? I squint, trying to think of reasons.

A different, startled thought, “I haven’t prayed!”

I crawl out of my tent and kneel on the black earth, raising my arms to the heavens and closing my eyes as I turn my face skyward under the direct heat of N’Zembe.

I think first of Fasa, the giver and protector of life. “Fasa, I call on you now to keep me from the clutches of Saun who has surrounded me on all sides. Please preserve my life! Avun, giver of hope, please come to me. Without you I may give in to death. Irek, preserver and protector, please preserve me. Work with Fasa and Avun to keep me from Saun. I am hopeless, running low on supplies, and worn from my climb and my travels. Please come to me!”

I remain still and do my best to quiet my thoughts. I slow my breathing and relax.

Soon my flesh feels hot from N’Zembe, so I go back into my tent.

I eat and drink a bit more before allowing myself to drift back into sleep. I still fear I might die, but if the gods have heard me, my fears will not be realized.

A few days go by the same as the last. Eat, drink, pray, and sleep.

I notice the tufts of green that I saw as I traveled. With each day when I go out to pray there are more. After a short while there is a carpet of green underfoot and a sprout resembling galos, a fast-growing edible leaf.

Sure enough, a few days after I spotted the sprout, and just as I’m at the end of my supplies, there is a large succulent galos. Just when I need it, it’s ready.

“Thank Fasa!” I shout. “For you truly are the giver of life!”

I turn in a circle, astounded at the gorgeous patch of greenery surrounding me. It tapers off a few yards away from my tent, but the plants that grow within! More galos, the start of some malna, a brelth bush, and a valen tree, a short stout tree offering plentiful shade when it’s grown.

I spread my arms, close my eyes, and turn my face skyward in thanksgiving.

And as if things couldn’t get better, it begins to rain. First a soft drizzle, then light sprinkling, into a full-on downpour!

I put out my water jars and use the rain to rinse my food jars to fill them with rain as well.

I kneel in the rain and turn my face upwards into it, spreading my arms in a prayerful position. “Thank you Fasa, Avun, Irek for saving my life!”

Days pass and the plants bloom and flourish around me, creating a small slice of paradise amidst a black, dead world. I have enough water for nearly a month and food growing around me as fast as I can eat it.

I’m going to survive. I think triumphantly. I’m not going to die!

It is then that I am struck with conviction. Plants grew around me. I can go back. I can bring others out here. I can keep my promise to Mother and Ni.

We can all enjoy this vast world and make it green again.

The End

This is the first part of my novella The Diary of Kaashif Sarwan. The first two lines, “It’s been so long that no one knows why the walls were built. Nobody wants to leave.” were the prompt that inspired the story.

This takes place on Irqulnirn after the apocalypse.

“If Projects Were Children” (Poem)

This is not part of Inside a Writer’s Head, but it is the same flavor as the collection. If you like this, be sure to join the collection giveaway. It’s totally free to enter, you just have to interact with posts on social media.

It’s been a while

since I sat and wrote,

I got distracted

By all I’d spoke

and all else I was

involved in.

I neglected this writing

in favor of

my other offered flavors,

And projects more complete.

Not that it was wrong,

but if my art were

my child, I’d be in deep trouble.

I’m lucky my projects

are not literally my children,

for I have too many

to properly care

For them all.

How I Finished my Poetry Manuscript in 2 Weeks

I chose and gathered together the poems for Inside a Writer’s Head several months ago. I tried a few times after that to organize the collection to no avail.

Part of that was my own fault, for trying to organize the collection while choosing the poems, but I also had no idea where to start.

Cue the guiding hand of the Praxis program. I was only one week into Module one when I started thinking about my portfolio project for this month. I talked with Hannah Frankman, the module one advisor, about my goals for the program and how it played into my longer term goals. I initially wanted to finish and publish Inside a Writer’s Head for my project but was advised that a better project would be to market it.

I had my work cut out for me. It was hard at first, and I had to do some research to get some ideas.

To help eliminate the block I had created, I deleted all the section names I’d added. Then I started reading and moved poems around as I did so. I familiarized myself with the poems such that I got ideas for sequences and poems to put together. As I read through the collection more and moved the poems around more, it got easier.

I amazed myself by finishing the manuscript in one week instead of two.

In order to do this, I put my other projects on hold so the poetry collection would be ready for this month.

I also scrapped my initial plan of designing the cover myself. I knew it would take me more time than I had to play around with options and create a design I was happy with.

I reached out first to Alexandra Wagner, a Praxis participant in my cohort. She said she would be unable to complete it by the time I needed it. I asked for suggestions of who to work with and found Jacob Beman. He has a website where he sells clothes with designs he created, and I liked the style and nature of his work. He agreed to work with me and did a really great job on my book cover. I reviewed his work here.

Three things allowed me to have a self-publishing-ready poetry collection: Focused work, a deadline, and finding the right designer.

If you can focus on the project you intent to complete instead of jumping project to project you will surprise yourself how quickly you can complete it.

The deadline for completing the project seemed really tight and super hard to meet. I pushed myself to finish quickly and surprised myself with the speed of my work. If I hadn’t had the extra push to finish the collection before November, it would have taken me longer. If it had been less urgent, I wouldn’t have been as focused or as driven to complete it as quickly as I did.

Find a designer whose work you could see being a great fit for your vison of your book cover and who is excited to work with you. Both of those make for a great experience working with that person and lead to you getting a result you love.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. For $5 you get early access to part three of the Diary of Kaashif Sarwan and another post later this month as well. There are other rewards at every tier, so be sure to check it out!

Inside a Writer’s Head Giveaway!

I’m going to giveaway free e-copies of Inside a Writer’s Head. This post will likely be edited as I refine the nature of the giveaway.


On November 28th I’m going to use a random number generator to determine who will receive free e-copies of Inside a Writer’s Head in the form of an epub or pdf. There will be one winner per 30 entrants. I will also select one winner out of every 15 entrants to receive a preview of Inside a Writer’s Head containing four poems in the collection and poems that didn’t make the final cut as a pdf.


Ways to enter:

Like and share this post on Facebook and like my Facebook page.

Like and retweet this post on Twitter and follow me.

Like this post on Instagram, follow me, and tag two people in the comments.

Like this blog post you’re on right now, follow my blog via email or WordPress account, and share this post on Facebook or Twitter. Send me the link to your post in the comments or alyssachantelwright@gmail.com with the subject line Giveaway Entry.


For each of your entries, you will receive a message confirming your entry along with your entry number. These numbers are in the order in which I saw the entry and added it to my list of who entered where. Your confirmation is for your sake and mine to help me keep track of who has already entered.

I may add more ways to enter later on if this gets more popular or I find a better way to track entries.

Module 2, Week 2, Project Update 2

The other day I shared that I had run into a problem with my project, specifically with the video for last week.

Yesterday I finished my edits and successfully exported and uploaded the video!

I have an older computer, and it was not cooperating with OpenShot long enough to export my video. I had to shorten it quite a bit before it exported the whole video. I cut out a lot of fluff while still getting my point across. Now that I’m aware this can be an issue, I can pay attention when I export this week’s video and not submit it late again.

Because I had this problem, I spent time solving it instead of working on other aspects of the project, such as sharing more on Twitter and devoting more time to writing my blog posts. The last couple days felt a bit thrown together, and I want to spend enough time on each post that it doesn’t feel rushed and like I didn’t give it 100%.

This week I shot the new video on choosing a self-publishing service to go with the written guide I wrote. I also posted on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter everyday.

I started out making the images I post with Vintage Font, which worked really well, until the app wouldn’t let me save my design. I hit their ten free design limit and they wanted me to get a paid version. It was really expensive for what it is, so I deleted the app and went on the hunt for an alternative. I’m not trying to sell the design I make, I just want to create designs for Instagram that I can share other places using images I own. I wanted something free and simple to put text on my photos.

Unsure what to do, and having been unaware of Vintage Font’s paywall, I reached out to my friend Justine. She’d made some text images for me before, so I asked her about it. She suggested Font Candy. That has worked great the last couple days, and hopefully it continues to do so. If it doesn’t, I’ll include that information and the new choice in an update.

I’m planning to do a giveaway of the Inside a Writer’s Head ebook, so be sure to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and like my Facebook page.

I started the giveaway, details in this post.

Become a Patron to get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or a signed physical copy of the collection!

Project Update, Week 1

The first week is not quite over, which is good because I still have some work to do to reach my goal.

I started the week off strong. Before November even started, I posted my project outline, which has since been edited a couple times. I planned to jump right into my project and work on it for four weeks instead of taking one to refine my plan and three to work on it.

I wanted to expand into Instagram, so I made an account, @alyssac.wright. I had gotten an idea for promoting my poetry collection while driving home one night. I could use an app like Vintage Font to put lines from poems in Inside a Writer’s Head on nature photos! So I spent about half an hour walking around my neighborhood taking pictures of trees, bushes, the cornfield, and a horse.

Since setting up my account, I posted an image every day promoting Inside a Writer’s Head. I also started thinking about ways to promote my blog on Instagram as well in addition to my poetry collection. I did that for the first time yesterday.

I ran into a roadblock after the excitement of jumping into Instagram and committing to post at least once a day. BookBaby didn’t get me my proofs until Monday, so I don’t have a sale page. Additionally, the proofs weren’t right, I found a couple mistakes, so that pushes the release back further. I don’t know when that will be resolved, and all I can do is wait.

I’ve been sharing the posts I made for Instagram to Facebook and Twitter as well. They get some likes on Facebook and Instagram, but nothing on Twitter. I need to rework my approach for promoting Inside a Writer’s Head on Twitter. I still want to share the photos, but I probably need to post more and learn more about the platform. I’m relatively new, and haven’t figured out how to tweet in such a way that people pay attention. That’s on the docket for the coming week, to tweet more and play around with different kinds of tweets to see what works.

I posted my two blog posts about organizing and formatting a poetry collection. I filmed the video on those subjects, and I’m in the middle of editing it now. I will update this post when it’s up on YouTube.

I filmed on Monday and started editing a little bit. I didn’t do a lot, though, and I realized yesterday that I should have spent more time on it. The main thing I did yesterday was edit the video, and I didn’t get very far. I spent most of today doing that too, and I’m not done yet. Now I know, though, to allocate lots of time for this process.

I spent a lot of time on my project so far in addition to everything else I did that wasn’t directly tied to it. I feel really good about what I’ve accomplished so far, and look forward to seeing how much more I can do next week.

Leave any questions or advice about my project or Inside a Writer’s Head in the comments below. I’d love to discuss with you.

Be sure to check out my Patreon. By becoming a patron you can get early access to blog posts, a free e-copy of Inside a Writer’s Head, or even a signed copy of the physical book!

Formatting a Poetry Collection

Before formatting a collection, you’ll need to have it organized. I discuss that in Choosing a Poetry Collection Organization Style and Organizing a Poetry Collection: What I Learned.

I have hand-written most of my poetry, so poems were left-aligned and single spaced. When it came time to type them, I had them all centered. When preparing for self-publishing, I had to decide which way to present the poems. I chose to mix the two, depending on which I thought looked best. You have to make the same choice.

For an ebook, you will leave the margins normal for an 8×11 standard sheet of paper. If you’re self-publishing, as I did, you’ll need to know what file type to save your collection in. Bookbaby calls for a pdf. With Google docs you can also export a document as an epub file.

If you are using a self-publishing service, find out if the cover needs to be separate from the text file or included in it. If you plan to sell/give away/distribute your poetry collection yourself as a downloadable pdf or epub, you probably want the cover image in the document.

For a physical book, you should have some sort of instructions or a template from your chosen self-publishing service. You’ll need to adjust the paper size and the margins in a document editor.

This last part is what I misunderstood and had the most problems with. Adjusting the margins and changing the paper size of your document are not the same thing. In Google docs, go to File > Page setup, and you’ll see this:

The circled box is what you need to change. Depending on the dimensions of your book, you may not need the same option I have selected.

These are the main things you need to think about when formatting your poetry collection for self-publishing. I hope that was helpful.

If you have any questions about formatting a poetry collection or Inside a Writer’s Head, leave them in the comments below!

If you like my blog, please check out my Patreon. Follow me for updates or become a patron for cool rewards!