“There are all kinds of courage.” Words by Professor Albus Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Courage is the word, that comes to mind when one is asked to describe this passionate, ambitious, talented 13-year-old writer, Ashiana Mohammed.
Mr. Rishi Ramsingh, Standard 5 teacher, El Dorado North Hindu School shares, “Her first act of courage was learning to find her voice in Standard Five and once she did, it was like watching a flower blossom. No challenge became too great. She became an admirable leader in Standard Five and shepherded her peers in writing along the way.”
“She then found a new challenge and the courage to go global – the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay competition. This took her away from her comfort zone and into a new genre of writing and her courage brought her gold!”
The Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition (QCEC) received a record-breaking 26,322 entries in 2022 from every Commonwealth region. It is the world’s oldest international schools’ writing contest, established by the Society in 1883.
Each year, entrants write on a theme that explores the Commonwealth’s values, fostering an empathetic world view in the next generation of leaders and encouraging young people to consider new perspectives to the challenges that the world faces. Themes have included the environment, community, inclusion, the role of youth leadership, and gender equality.
Trinidad and Tobago cupped Gold, Silver and Bronze awards at this 2022 competition, Ashiana being one of the Gold Awardees in the Junior Category.
Let’s Deep Dive with Ashiana Mohammed
“I have a myriad of adjectives crashing on the edges of my mind, each one fighting for a spot on the page. After careful consideration, I would pick Ambitious and Meticulous. I chose ambitious out the wave of words since it encapsulates my pure passion for becoming an author. I would overcome any obstacle in my pathway to bring myself closer to my gleaming goal. As for meticulous, the adjective is an insight into my writing process. I diligently scrutinise my every line so I can create the story just as I see it in my mind. I give my story my whole-hearted dedication and vision as I write. The words are truly facets of my personality.”
Her passionate dance with literature
Writing is never a task for this creative genius, who shares, “the words flow effortlessly from my fingertips as I am driven to complete a story. Whether I’m researching how my favourite authors developed their plots, what new books are being released or even concocting my own storylines, writing is on my mind. Writing brings me such boundless pleasure that leaps off the pages as I design intricate plots and weave my stories. I enjoy seeing my thoughts play out on the page as I bring a story to life. I give every character my precise attention and meticulously curate each and every word that I use. While writing, it feels as if I’m breathing life into another world, created from my fingertips. Each character in my story captures a part of my personality adding emotion as they fight against my antagonist. I find beauty in the reaction of readers and the emotion that my writing ignites.”
“I have a fiery passion for writing. Fluttering along the corridors of my mind are words, words I have collected from the books I devour daily and most of all my own words that form fantastical imagery that brings me such fulfilment, when strung along a blank page to become a story. When the small embers of an idea tattoo itself upon my thoughts, it quickly erupts into a raging fire and I am compelled to put pen to paper. I have been told that my stories are like no other and my style is very much one born from the myriad of authors and teachers that have influenced my writing flair.”
“With each birthday and Christmas wish, new books filled my shelves, adding to my growing collection. Each and every book, ranging for horror to fantasy to classics, holds a special place in my soul. I have gathered titles such as Creepover, Chronicles of Narnia, Merlin, Nancy Drew, Aru Shah, Keeper of the Lost Cities, Percy Jackson and, of course, Harry Potter.”
Planting seeds of success within the digital world
In September 2020, Ashiana and her classmates entered the doorway of standard five, with a teacher they hardly knew, in the midst of a global pandemic. This virtual classroom became their academic walls to which this crucial year of development planted their seeds of success. They prepared for the SEA exam without stepping foot into a physical classroom until exam day.
Thrilling her standard five classmates with astonishing tales of folklore and fantastical creatures, Ashiana Mohammed’s name became synonymous with creative writing at her primary school. It was there, at El Dorado North Hindu School, her teacher, Mr. Ramsingh, sparked her intrigue of storytelling in their online classes. This devoted teacher was able to recognise her talents and pushed her so she could truly soar. Week after week, she spun her tales online in dramatic narrative flair to the delight of her friends. After each story, the students would tell her that she should become an author.
“My passion for writing was set aflame here in Standard Five. My classroom was trapped inside a mere computer but there, in that digital world, my gift was unlocked. It brought me uncontainable joy to craft stories, triggered by intriguing prompts. My stories circled around my beloved genre of horror. I discovered my thirst to tell stories when I read my essays to an audience. I always felt a surge of joy to find the impact that my writing brought to others. Undoubtedly, my Standard Five teacher Mr. Rishi Ramsingh, unveiled my powers of writing and wielding words. He inspired so many of my ideas and I strived to make every essay greater than the last.” Ashiana placed in the 99th percentile in SEA 2021 and was awarded Most Outstanding Female Student, earned the Creative Writing prize and was named class Valedictorian.
Entering this auspicious competition
Achieving her goal of entering the halls of St. Augustine Girls’ High school(SAGHS), her mother’s alma mater, was an absolute dream come true. “Since starting SAGHS, I have developed a love for foreign languages such as French and Spanish balanced by my enjoyment of Science. I love Literature and writing poetry in my spare time. I am also a member of the Literary & Debating Society at SAGHS.”
In April 2022, she received an email from the Dean about the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition and knew that she could not pass up this amazing opportunity to showcase her passion for writing. The Essay Competition asked entrants to explore the positive impact that can be achieved through dedication and selfless commitment to our Commonwealth.
Ashiana entered her submission in the Junior Category entitled The Kingdom of Cane in response to the prompt – ‘Imagine you are a grandparent in 2022. Tell your grandchildren a bedtime story about an inspirational person.’ “Immediately I knew that I wanted to showcase Trinidad in the 1950’s in order to portray the inspirational impact of my East Indian heritage and the indentured labourers who paved a pathway for future generations.”
“My heart fluttered as I opened the email titled ‘QCEC Result’, my eyes fell upon the words ‘Gold Award 2022’. In that moment, I felt fulfilled as a writer! Such a prestigious competition had given me my first international award. The power of my words had been recognised and that brought me incredible ecstasy!
Charting her destiny
Winning a Gold Award in the Queen’s Commonwealth Essay Competition brought Ashiana one step closer on her path of becoming a published author. One of her deepest desires is to attend Oxford University’s esteemed writing program. “As an avid reader, a passionate poet and a whimsical writer, I see a clear path shining before me. The job that would bring me immeasurable satisfaction is that of a novelist, a published author and a celebrated writer. It would present the grand opportunity to build a career out of my passion, my true calling.”
“Like the authors that have added their spark to my writing, I too would enjoy the sight of my very own books, crisply printed and beautifully illustrated sitting atop bookshelves. It would bring me uncontainable ecstasy to write a horror series and have my books published by a renowned agency as well as translated in foreign languages so readers of various cultures can all share the love of literature.”
“I would certainly wish that my novels can inspire other aspiring authors to find their voices as so many books have done for me. Once my books have found a place in readers’ hands and hearts, then I would know that I have achieved my goal. One of my deepest desires is to be part of a world filled with readers.”
Ashiana’s passion extends to developing the minds of our young leaders. “Some children never gain the chance to read and therefore cannot find the supremacy of their own voices. If every child was given a book, new opportunities will arise for each and every one of them.”