Writing Sucked

By Alex Zhang 
iWRITE Youth Club Member & Published Author

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​​There once was a boy called Alex,
Who thought writing was a chore.
It was tiring, frustrating, hopeless,
And most of all, it was a bore.
He hated it with a passion,
He thought it was a waste of time.
Why think of really good poems,
When you struggle even to rhyme?
But one day, everything changed.
His parents had had enough.
They said, “Fool, silly, enter this thing!”
So Alex wrote down a poem with a huff.
Alex entered that contest,
And forgot about it for a while,
But then one day he got an email,
And what was inside made him smile.
It said, “We’d love to feature you,
Alex, your poem is great!
If you ever want to join us,
Send an email; don’t hesitate.”
Of course, that’s not what it said,
But he had won himself a name.
Alex joined this wonderful group,
And he was never again the same.
He actually liked writing now,
As he wrote and he wrote with delight.
And so, my gracious audience,
Ends the magical tale of iWrite.

The Video Game Turned Reality: A Review of Tomb Raider

By Alyssa Reid

iWRITE Youth Club Secretary & Published Author

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​Director: Roar Uthaug
With: Alicia Vikander, Dominic West, Walton Goggins, Daniel Wu, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, Nick Frost, Hannah John-Kamen, Antonio Aakeel, Alexandre Willaume, Tamer Burjaq, Adrian Collins, Kennan Arrison.
Release Date: Mar 16, 2018


This review contains spoilers.

The thing about video games, I’ve learned, is that it’s always about making sure everything that can go wrong will go wrong. And it is with this mentality that the screenwriters composed the 2018 action film entitled Tomb Raider.
It’s a rather enticing name, if I do say so myself—even if, by the time the credits roll, little has been stolen except a few lives. And, to be fair, that was stolen by the tomb itself.

Alicia Vikander is the woman behind a strong, female lead; she’s exactly what audiences came to see. Of course, as Laura, she is more agile and clever than those above her, as protagonists are; however, amid her stubbornness and bravery, she refrains from any choice quips about her gender. She allows Laura Croft to be defined by her own actions, and some lead to her finding herself trapped inside a coffin-enclosed mystery that her father once tried to lock shut.

On a more technical note, the cinematography was beautiful. Sweeping shots follow Laura as she dashes across Hong Kong docs; a shaky camera dashes through a sinking ship with her; and a steady hand walks across the tomb room with the characters. In a world where so many aspects of life are captured by screens, the storytelling through a film must be immersive; and immersive this is.

The CGI is coupled expertly with this; terrifying waves crash over the Endurance, the ship. Although the shots from guns can arguably look cartoonish and fake, it’s not something that has a high level of complaint for me.

There is also the element of coloring: Laura and her father’s memories all consist of similar hues: normally grayish tones with highlights of pink and green. It creates a faded look, but one that is reminiscent nonetheless.

The film was written expertly. Croft, a broke orphan and enthusiastic boxer, seems to have a way of getting in trouble—as seen when she joins a “fox-and-hound” bike race (where herself, as the fox, has to outbike many other competitors as green paint attached to her bike marks her trail) and ends up running into a police car.
And so begins the story of how Laura Croft ends up thrust into a world far more ancient than anything she believes exists and more mysterious than her father’s unfortunate disappearance.

“I’ll be back before you know I’m gone,” her father can be heard saying in Laura’s memories. They have a universal symbol; the kissing of two fingers before outstretching them to the other.

The film blends both faith and fantasy; blends religion and reality. Mathias Vogel, the “bad guy” ready to leave a myth-torn island, just wants to get the tomb of the privately infamous Queen Himiko so he can leave it, and Laura is with him; they both know there is no supernatural substance when regarding the myth of the Queen who was so demonic she killed people by touching them, who was so cruel that every story of her rein “ended in rivers of blood.” Her tomb is real, and that is it.

And even the finding of her father, the great Richard Croft, who firmly believes the Queen is alive and trapped in her coffin, does not sway Laura.

“Ladies first,” Vogel tells her when the tomb entrance is opened. And so Laura goes down into a cave that legend says she should never come back out of.

They make their way through various challenges where various crew members are lost along the way.

And they wait. The tomb is opened. Nothing happens, until it does.

The means for the end of the world lies in a cavern designed to keep people in, but Vogel, holding the key to all of that destruction, has other plans. Laura chases after him, the man who now walks towards leading the demise of the world. She’ll fight for this.

Perhaps, in the end, it is no mystery that the girl who was an expert with the bow would grow up to save hundreds from an imprisonment camp with that same weapon; that she would fight to the death for the man she thought was probably dead; that she would end up saving the world with little more than her own hands.
Despite her dislike of the supernatural and, for her, unbelievable, her story slots in nicely with other hero-like tales. She was a nobody, thrust into a world far different than the one she once knew, and now, she has to fight to know what she never could have imagined.

This is why, I believe, we enter theatres of all kinds: to learn something. Perhaps we learn the importance of family, or strength, or bravery; perhaps we learn that, no matter our pasts, we all have a greater responsibility to those who may never appreciate us or may never care. Perhaps some of us go to reaffirm the belief that myths are myths; but some of us learn that myths, no matter the amount of truth in them, affect us in ways we never could have believed, either: in fights, in bike rides, in adventures far beyond our wildest imaginations.

And perhaps, in the end of it all, Laura Croft becomes something of a myth herself.

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Dungeons and Dragons, Written by a Semi-Beginner to Dungeons and Dragons

By Annie Jones
iWRITE Youth Club Junior Officer & Published Author
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“Can I do a stealth check?” Andrew Nanna asked. Mr. Center looked at him, confused. “On… What?” he replied. “I want to sneak to the back of the cave,” he explained impatiently. Mr. Center said, “Nanna, there’s nothing in the cave with you guys. You don’t have to sneak up on the wall. It hasn’t noticed you yet, so I don’t think it’s ever going to.” The room full of boys erupted in laughter. Well, not full of boys. There was a girl (me) who laughed along with them. Finally, someone said, “Can I do a perception check?” He rolled the die and got… Drum roll… a 3 out of 20. Mr. Center said, “To you, the cave looks big and dark.” The next kid goes and rolls a 1. “OK, that cave is looking big and dark.” I raise my hand, “Can I do a perception check?” I reach for the dice. “Thank goodness! Go ahead,” he says. I drop the die onto the table. “16, plus my intelligence score adds 2, so 18.” Mr. Center goes into storytelling mode.

“Jack starts to walk into the cave, but Annie throws out her arm and says, “Stop!” Everyone grumbles, but she lights a torch and waves it in front of the group. In the light of the torch, you see a thin, glimmering tripwire across the entrance to the cave. Jack backs away. You were all about to set off the trap. Alright, activity period is over. Time to go to class!”

At my school, we have activity periods where we get to choose what activity you want to do. I chose Dungeons and Dragons, and even though it had come out in 1974 (the year my parents were born) I knew nothing about it. And to make matters worse, I was the only girl in the group. Granted, I had told Mr. Center, the head of the activity, that I didn’t mind that (which I didn’t), but still. All of the D&D guides online used fancy words like, 1d20 Constitution saving throws or +2 charisma modifier. How was I supposed to know what all that meant? So I’ll be giving you the rundown in my D&D basic guide.


First and Foremost, how do you play? Well, you have your party, which is the people you’re playing with, and the Dungeon Master, or DM. Mr. Center is my DM. When you start a game, your DM might say,” all of you are in a tavern, minding your own business, when you overhear some dwarves talking about how they need someone to guard their wagon through the forest on a 3-day trip.” You can ask your DM, “can I walk up to the dwarves and say I’ll guard the wagon.” You walk up to the dwarves and your DM tells you what the dwarves say. The DM is the god of your D&D world. He tells you where you are, who’s with you, and what’s happening.


But you aren’t in this D&D world, are you? You aren’t in a tavern with dwarves. That’s where your character comes in. You have to design your character and their abilities to take your place in the game. First, you choose your character race. The races are Tiefling, Dragonborn, Half Orc, Elf, Half Elf, Dwarf, Gnome, Halfling, Human (at least, those are the basic races. Beginners should limit themselves to these). Next, you choose your class. I won’t list all of them, but some examples are sorcerer, warlock, ranger, barbarian, and rogue. Your class adds to your character’s abilities. If you are a sorcerer, you typically don’t have heavy melee weapons and instead rely on your spells. Barabarians are just the opposite. It helps to pick a class that works well with your race (i.e. barbarian half-orc, ranger elf), but it can also be fun to mess around with a contradictory character and write a more interesting story for them.


Once you choose your class and race, there are a lot of varied things you have to do, so check with your DM if you are a beginner on cantrips and proficinecies and things like that, but you really don’t have to know every single term to play for the first time. But something you definitely have to know is how to use the dice. Say you are being attacked by a cougar and want to use your “Acid Splash” spell. You ask the DM if you can do it. You have to roll the die to see if the spell works and if you miss.If you roll an 18 (and it isn’t a freaky magic cougar) that cougar will die. If you roll a 3, you miss and the panther gets back to trying to eat you. Pro tip: have someone else with you in combat. One bad roll and you’re dead without some backup. If you’re fighting something more challenging that takes a lot of hits to defeat and you’re swinging a sword at it, you also have to factor your strength score into the damage it makes. If you have a low strength score, it won’t damage the monster as much.


Finally, how do you determine that Strength Score? Well, you have 6 different statistics that describe your character’s strengths and abilities. These are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. If you are a sorcerer and casting a spell, you use Charisma. High charisma, stronger spell (same as in the strength example). You determine this charisma by rolling a die. Roll four 6-sided dice and add up the results. This number will be the points for one of your scores. Repeat this for each one, and voila! Just make sure to do this in front of the Dungeon Master so he knows you weren’t cheating.


So now you know the basics of Dungeons and Dragons. It’s a really fun game, encouraging the use of imagination and creativity. Make whatever character you want, with whatever race/class combo you want. As I’ve said, this game has existed since 1974 and in currently in it’s fifth version (if you ever google something related to D&D, put 5e at the end). It’s still as fun as ever and it’s awesome when you’re first trying it out. So mess around a bit, write a cool backstory, and don’t get eaten by an Undead Wolf. I hope this helped.


“Aru Shah and the End Of Time” Review

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At the February iWRITE meeting, Club Advisor Phuong had mentioned about a Hindu mythology book releasing in March. The first of a triad under the label of Riordan Reads, Aru Shah and the End of Time was a book I wanted to read as soon as I heard its title. As soon as I got home, I told my mom about it and the book arrived as my surprise birthday gift! I couldn’t resist but binge-read this 340-page novel over the weekend, enjoying it with samosas and hot chocolate.

Aru Shah and the End of Time is a beautifully woven story. The Indian-ness of its details, like the enchanted vahanas, the animal vehicles of the Gods, and the American sass and attitude of Aru’s commentary blend together to make a stunning story, a book that will never be forgotten! The biting sadness at the realization that Aru had a mother that never seemed to truly love her, her helplessness at being called a liar for her entire life, and the pure, innocent thoughts of Aru in the most perilous of times are just one figment of what makes this book fabulous.

Aru Shah is a girl who can stretch the truth a bit. One day, she finds out that she is a direct descendant of the Hindu mythical heroes, the Pandava brothers. Her soul-sister of sorts, Mini Kapoor, a Filipino-Indian-American girl also has this revelation and the two join hands in a quest to save the world from the Sleeper, a demon whose evil army is asleep (hence the name). He wants to take over the heavens so Boo (Subala the Wise, Aru and Mini’s companion, who ended up in pigeon form – don’t ask how) and the Heavenly Council need true heroes to defeat the menace. Read to find out if Aru will save the world, or if we are all fated to fall into eternal slumber.

This Riordan Reads book is my favorite book of all time! This story of a quest with two Pandava sisters from other misters as protagonists is a book you won’t forget and its carefully crafted characters with their complex personalities are individuals you will want to meet!

This is the best book ever! 10/10 and an amazing read for anyone!

-Eshaan Mani
iWRITE Youth Club Member
& Published Poet/Author

“Rebel of the Sands” Book Review

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“Rebel of the Sands” is a 2017 book by Alwyn Hamilton that made the Tayshas list, a premier list in Texas for YA novels. This was a very enjoyable read that explored an interesting mythos that held its own with classics like “Star Wars” and other space operas. The setting follows tomboy Amani, who never really fit into her poverty-stricken dust town, and was drawn to adventure, mainly by guns (a major part of the desert world’s lifestyle). The setting is unique, while still pulling from beloved stories like “Dune” and old Westerns, with a very Saharan/Arabic influence thrown in. When Amani meets a fugitive boy named Jin, they run off in search of Jin’s friends leading a rebellion against the sultan of the land. I won’t spoil much, but their travels do lead them on some harrowing expeditions, magical places, and teaches them a little about love, too. To sum it up, this is a mix-up of Arabic Mythology, gunslinging Westerns, love, the search for acceptance, and much more.

​Despite covering a relatively “cookie cutter” plot design of adventure, the book executes it flawlessly, with some added twists to keep you guessing, making for a completely original storyline. It’s a great transition from more preteen reads to proper YA fiction. With the added promise of additions to series, I can’t wait for more works by Hamilton to continue the story and find out what happens to Amani and Jin next!4.5-5 stars

 

-Kurt Kauffman
VP of the iWRITE Youth Club
6-time published short story author