Forensics Tips: 2017 Edition

Last year, I wrote a post entitled Debate Team: What I’ll Do Better Next Year with advice for next year’s me. Well, I guess you can say that it worked, because when ISKL’s SEA Forensics Tournament came back around this year, our debate team won bronze! 

Our entire school did really well–as a school we won 3rd place for participation overall, and most of us made it to semifinals if not the final rounds. I made Oral Interpretation finals (though I didn’t place, just like last year) and our very talented Solo and Duet actresses Lexi and Yzzy placed in their events! I’m so proud of how far we’ve all come as a team.

forensics team 2016

The 2016 Cr3w

Ah, yes. Advice.

I’d better address some of the tips I gave last year, then move onto advice for the coming one.

I can get a couple points out of the way pretty easily: bring colorful pens  and prepare for the crappiest topics first. Aight–first off, regular old pencils worked just fine for me this year. I actually didn’t use anything other than my 0.7 mechanical from Tesco, so that point’s a no-go. Also… it doesn’t really matter what order you prepare the topics in, so long as you have a good grasp on all of them by the time the competition rolls around.

Also, POIs. They were my weakest point last year, but I feel like I did a lot better this year. The only real way to get better at these is to 1) know your topics really well, and 2) practice with your team. Getting a feel for pointing out logical fallacies or defending your own points just takes time and practice.

smile squad

Alright. Onto forensics advice for next year’s competition. 😀

1. Prep, prep, prep! It was an issue last year, and while we did a much better job this year, we still weren’t entirely on top of the ball. Hindsight is 20/20, and I can definitely see where we needed to do more planning. More Christmas Break work, more weekend Starbucks meetings, actually getting on Skype *coughAndrewcough*. We still ended up doing prep on the van ride down–though none of us actually minded–but it all turned out okay. Next year, though, we need to try not to cut it so close again (so as not to have a Politicians repeat.)

2. Stats, stats, stats! Another repeat point from last year, but oh-so-important! We had way more stats this year (special thanks to Malcolm Gladwell and the CIA World Factbook!) but once again–we could have had more. Applicable examples are crazy important, and they’ve consistently been a weak spot for our team over the years. We’ve gotten so much better at this–we’re quoting MIT studies and country GDPs!–but there’s always room for improvement.

3. Be confident (without banging on the table.) My teammates know this point is pretty much only for me–but when you get up to the podium, don’t be nervous… and at the same time, don’t just try to channel your inner fury and pound on the table, even if you’re trying to highlight the force of the word “demand”. (Ahem. Sorry about that, Hong Kong.) Nervous habits suck, and I’ve been known to get pretty sick before debates out of anxiety, but remember that your teammates have your back, and your opponent is merely a dissenting voice to the truth that you speak. I came out of this year’s competition with the ability to work under pressure and a bucket-load of confidence; and that has made all the difference in how I carry myself, at the podium and away from it.

4. Memorize contentions! I still can’t believe that we didn’t fully memorize our contentions the first year of debate. We just sort of went, “eh, we’ve got the main ideas down, we’ll just wing the specifics in the prep room.” This time around, we memorized each contention and quizzed each other on them regularly. Waiting for our topic in the prep room? Quick, what’re the three prop arguments for drugs? Sitting around the lunch table? Same thing. I can still list off most of our contentions, and it’s been a week or two since the competition! We did so much better by doing this; it’s non-negotiable for next year.

5. Use prep time wisely! I remember the prep time in 2015 going by quite fast, which is funny–this year, we’d be nearly done prepping, look up, and go, “oh, we still have like 20 minutes left!” It was great. One of the keys to this success was probably grabbing the quiet study rooms in the library instead of the tables outside–those were really nice–but a big thing I remember saying before the competition was, “we need to communicate better during prep,” and we did just that. When we prepped, we didn’t just stare at our separate papers and develop points ourselves–we bounced ideas off of each other, practiced our opening lines (well, I did, anyways), and played Devil’s Advocate to help each other get ready for the opposing team.

We also had two rituals at the end of every prep session: prayer and reciting a quote from The Great Debaters. Prayer gave us all God’s peace and strength; and the quote just made us feel like we could conquer the world!

Who is the judge?

The Judge is God.

Why is he God?

Because he decides who wins or loses, not my opponent.

Who is my opponent?

He doesn’t exist.

Why doesn’t he exist?

Because he is merely a dissenting voice to the truth that I speak.

Heck yeah. Still one of my favorite quotes to this day. 🙂

da super crew

Forensics laser tag and Nando’s is pretty great.

We had a great run this year, and I couldn’t be prouder of everyone. We worked our tails off, and boy, did it pay off. This team will always hold a special place in my heart, and our trip to ISKL this year was one full of memories I’ll always treasure. We’ve come so far–here’s to hoping we’ll go even farther, whether on the debate team or off into the wilderness of Texas. 😉

And if you’re a budding debater reading this for some advice, I have seven words for you: stay organized, stay logical, and stay awesome. Debate is a game–albeit a sometimes stressful one–and the best way to play it is with a clear head and some insatiable wit. Ignore the dissenting voices and go for it!

da real db8 crew

Bronze medals!! No doubt one of my proudest moments ever. I love these guys!


A Ravenclaw’s Guide to Finals Week


The weeks of tea, late nights, frantic note-taking, and falling asleep on random people in the common room is over. I finally finished taking my Sickeningly Awful Testing exam (SATs) and let me tell you–our entire house is beyond relieved. When they say Ravenclaws are intelligent, they’re not lying. But that also means there’s a ton of pressure on everyone to get Es on our exams, since we’re supposedly really clever. Well, clever doesn’t always mean intelligent (I didn’t feel very confident on the Arithmancy sections, but then again I never have excelled in that area), but when everyone around you is studying like their life depends on it, you tend to get some death glares when you’re caught scrolling through Reddit. So I studied too and did fairly well on everything.

However, as one of the Ravenclaws who falls more under the “creative” label of our house rather than “clever,” I didn’t always make the greatest study decisions. I stressed out and ended up cramming a lot during the end instead of preparing well, so as a result I lost sleep and didn’t take care of myself really well. So here’s a reflection to help any exam-takers (whether you’re attending a magic school or a regular public one) the next time you have a big test coming up.


1. Start studying as early as possible. We had people in year 7 studying for NEWTs like two months before their tests, and a few of my room mates started cracking open to older sections in textbooks to start reviewing a few weeks later. It’s always, always better to start studying as early as you can. Next year, I’m planning on taking really detailed notes and studying on a regular basis to keep up my memory. (Especially American Muggle Studies… Professor Sasse gives awful tests.)

2. Figure out what actually helps you to study–not what people say will help you study. I grew up taking lame “study skills” classes once a week before I transferred to Hogwarts, and they all tell you the exact same things. “Make flash cards, listen to recordings, watch videos, read the text book, take good notes…” That’s not bad advice, obviously. It’s just advice that literally everyone has heard before. And that’s a problem, because the fantastic truth is that every single person is an individual and studies differently.

What does that look like for me? Well, I study better alone, at a clean desk, with a mug of tea. The way I study to remember the information is usually re-writing the material into detailed notes and making flashcards for things I need to memorize. Others study better with other people to keep them on track, or they might do better re-reading the textbook cover to cover. Some like to make colorful charts or find online videos and songs with the information they need to remember. Experiment a little and find something that makes you feel the most confident and knowledgeable. If you’re walking into tests truly worried about how you’re going to do, you’re doing it wrong.

3. Make a plan. This might be something that mostly helps me, because I’m a very list-oriented person, but making a schedule or list of all the things you need to study is really important. If you just say, “Oh, I need to study for Potions,” and then you sit down at your desk with your book and cauldron, you’re going to have a pretty foggy idea of what studying for Potions actually entails. Pay attention to what you’ve been struggling with in class, and take that list into your study session. Practice and study what you normally forget, and give yourself permission to skip over things you already know pretty well. You can come back to them if you’re still worried, but start with the hard stuff and then move on once you’ve got it down.

4. Actually stick to the plan. Here’s where you have to hold yourself accountable to actually sitting down and using the study methods you know work for you. This step is about getting rid of distractions and actually making time to study.

I tend to be distracted by a lot of internet-related things: Tumblr, Facebook, DeviantArt… In the past, I’ve actually gotten someone to change my passwords for me so that I don’t log in at all. It’s very annoying, but very motivating. Turning off internet or blocking access to certain sites is also really good. I use a Chrome extension called StayFocusd, which will give you a certain number of minutes to browse blocked sites and will then shut you out from them when time’s up.

Additionally, just getting away from the distractions is the best option. Whenever I’m on a computer, distraction is inevitable at some point–I like having my notes on paper so that I can take them somewhere computer-free to study. The best way to get rid of distractions is for me to sprawl out on my bed with a textbook, my notes, and some colorful pens; do whatever you need to to get away from procrastination temptations–which leads me to my next point.

5. Location is key. Some people study best in their room, surrounded by books and other comforts of home. Others like to study at their desk where they usually do homework. Sometimes a simple change of surroundings will get you in the mood–perhaps moving from your desk to your dining room table. Other times, though, you need a drastic change of scenery. Whenever I’m feeling particularly unproductive, I like to grab a few friends and go to Hogsmeade to get a mug of butterbeer and sit down to study. Coffee shops and cafes are perfect study environments.

6. Don’t stress yourself out! I see this all the time when NEWTs roll around–7th years begin having panic attacks in the Ravenclaw common room staring as far back as March. You’re never going to retain information when your body is pumping adrenaline in a fight-or-flight response; if you’ve followed all of these tips (or even if you haven’t) the best way to study is to just relax and just do it. What’s done is done, and there’s no need to stress over what you can’t do when it’s more productive to plan out what you can.


I wish you the best of luck in your own revising endeavors! You don’t have to be a Ravenclaw to do well on your exams–you just have to have determination and organization. So what are you waiting for? Pace yourself, get organized, and get studying! Oh, and make a cup of tea while you’re at it. It helps more than you’d think. 😉

Future NaNoWriMo Advice: 2015 Edition

Last year, I wrote myself a few pieces of advice to follow to win this year’s NaNo. Funnily enough, I didn’t actually follow much of it, but I decided to write out the best lessons from this year for my 2016-NaNoing self (and anyone else who’s looking for some advice from a three-time-winning veteran!) Here we go!

1. Plan ahead of time, please.

This is a repeat from last year’s advice, but it’s true. Most of the time when I was struggling to come up with things to write, it was because I didn’t have any direction for where the scene was going. I like to let my characters drive the story, but when it becomes too character-driven, things start to lose direction in terms of the plot.

Next year, I should definitely try mapping out a few of the beginning scenes and scribbling a few notes each time I sit down to write. Aimless writing isn’t fun writing, and it’s a pain to edit later.

2. Build your NaNo spirit on the NaNoForums!

Another repeat from last year because it works! I love hanging out on the forums before NaNo and during while we’re all slowly losing our minds. I’m quite easily distracted, so I need to be careful not to browse too long. It’s a great source of motivation, though (as is the @NaNoWordSprints twitter!) Whether you’re in the mood to complain, despair, celebrate, or laugh about your weird Googles (my weirdest from this year was ‘lunar cycles in 1977’) the forums have you covered!

3. Get ahead and stay ahead.

The first few days of November, I actually managed to write a few thousand more words than I needed to. Those words carried me through some of the busyness of the month, and they really helped me. If I can do the same thing next year, I’ll be set to win even earlier! Starting out ahead and then writing nearly every day, even if I only got in a couple hundred words, kept my enthusiasm and excitement higher and my stress levels lower. Getting ahead early on will be key to ensuring victory!

4. Pick a project you’re excited about.

This was my downfall in NaNos 2012 and 2013–I wasn’t passionate enough about my characters or projects. Honestly, it was the same in 2014, too, but I managed to slog through painfully. This year was so different because, even though I felt like I was copping out to write fanfiction, I was actually excited about writing it! I learned what I valued most in writing by discovering that I’d not had it in NaNos past. Deep characters and well-though-out plots and settings are what I love the most, and fanfiction gave me the opportunity to explore these elements that had already been laid out for me.

5. Find a way to keep it new.

This year I had my first ever 6k day (nearly 6.5!) I have in part to thank the folks over at I found their site five days or so before NaNo was over, but I couldn’t get enough. The cool stats at the end of the day? The simple layout? The badges? I was hooked! That new interface really changed things for me at the end. I excitedly pounded out another 1,000 words using the site, and then another.

Some people really like things to stay the same: write 500 words every morning before breakfast, drink some morning coffee, go to work, write a few more words, then do it again. For me, though, I like a little bit of spontaneity and excitement to keep me interested. At the end of the month it was a new word processor. Other times, it’s been Scrivener, a new music playlist, or an entertaining word crawl. Finding new things to keep me going was vital this year, and it’s something I know will be incredibly valuable this coming year as I try to stay motivated–for NaNo and for just trying to write every day!

NaNo2015 Final Graph

Compared to last year, I did so much better. I stayed mostly on track, wrote almost every day, and even managed a 6k day to finish early! Looking at all those crazy people in the Beyond 50k forums, though, I know I can push myself next year to barrel past this year’s record.

What tips would you give yourself or someone else for doing NaNo better next year? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! You might just help someone out. 🙂

How to Win NaNoWriMo: An Unofficial Guide

Would you believe that every November thousands of writers around the world sit down and type out approximately 53 AP English essays—or 160 pages—in length of fiction? National Novel Writing Month, usually shortened to NaNoWriMo (or simply NaNo), has been a 30-day writing-intensive event since 1999. Its challenge is simple: write 50,000 words of fiction in the month of November. At the end of the month, winners walk home with 50,000 more words of a manuscript than before and a certificate to hang on their wall; many, though, don’t finish and walk away defeated. The challenge itself sounds simple: just write. That simplicity, however, hides the more complex truth that winning the challenge isn’t just about your typing speed—it’s about preparation, motivation, time management, and willpower. With the right mentality, any writer can cross the 50k finish line! Continue reading

Are You Settling for Mediocrity?

Today, on my first day of school as a high school junior, I realized a rather shocking thing. I’ve settled for being mediocre.

I probably should have realized this earlier. For one, I was allowing myself to feel happy with a lower grade than I knew I could get. I was also handing in things late and just generally not doing what I knew I could do. But I’d justified my less-then-great performance for so long, telling myself that since everyone else was getting a B or even C in the class that my B+ was extraordinary and those over-achieving straight-A-ers were just working themselves too hard, that I soon succumbed: I set the bar lower and lower until one day–today–I took a step back and saw just how little I was letting myself achieve. Continue reading

5 Tips for Being a Productive Writer (and being more productive in general)

As Camp NaNoWriMo begins and Spring Break ends, I’ve been thinking about how to be more productive and write a little more once school is back in session. You might be in the same situation, or you might be out of school holding down a job; you might have other things on your hands. No matter! Everyone is busy with something. The struggle of being a writer is balancing a non-writer’s schedule with writerly habits and productivity.

So how does one get productive and write, even while they’re up to their eyes in other work?

Here are my top 5 tips for staying productive even when there’s lots to do and so little time. For those of you struggling to be productive in other areas (schoolwork, job, etc.) simply replace writing with whatever you’re trying to get done. These tips can be universally applied to just about anything. Continue reading

Debate Team: What I’ll Do Better Next Year

debate irl

This year was the first year I participated in the SEA Forensics Tournament hosted by ISKL (International School of Kuala Lumpur), and I had a blast! I was a finalist in Oral Interpretation (I read a passage from Life of Pi aloud dramatically, complete with Indian, British, and Muslim accents)… and our Debate Team didn’t even make it to quarter finals. It was our first year and we all learned a lot, and I’m not actually upset about it–I didn’t go to win. I went to have fun. Debating is something I love to do regardless of victory or defeat.

That being said, winning is fun. We came close to winning one of our three rounds, so we’re not completely hopeless! I put together a rather short list of things I could do better. So, future Kimberly–here’s some advice. Take it. 🙂 Continue reading

Why I’m Not Chasing My Dreams

I’m one of those people who had their lives pretty much in order. Whenever an adult asked little 6-year-old me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would instantly reply, “I want to be an author.” That’s been my answer for pretty much my whole life. I love to write, and I want it to be my career one day.

Slowly, however, I’ve been waking up to the idea of, “oh, you know, I’m going to have to find another career here at some point.” Continue reading

Introversion + People-Pleasing Tendencies = INFJ Problems

As I type this, I’ve been sitting at my desk in my room for over 3 hours, my favorite music playing, Tumblr open in one tab, various other social media and blog posts in others… I’m in my happy place. I haven’t been away from people for this long in I don’t know how long. It’s so refreshing–but at the same time, I feel guilty. My thoughts continue to drift to my family, the only other people around. Do they feel neglected? Am I being too reclusive? I’m not even being productive, so why am I shut up in my room?

Ah, the problems of being a people-pleaser and an introvert. It’s interesting how this works. Here I am recharged, more energized than I have been in a while, worrying about other people. I don’t even want to be around those other people… why am I worrying? Continue reading

Advice to My Future NaNo-ing Self

Before you ask: yes, I won! I hit 50,042 words (with the NaNo word validator–Scrivener says 50,073) today at about 5:30 pm. SO much earlier than the 10 and 11 pm sprints I’ve made during 2011 and Camp 2013. I’m up a little late typing up this blog, but… this is fun. Not stressful.

As I was flying towards the finish line, stumbling over pretty pathetic prose, wishing it could be over–I started to think of some advice I would give to myself for next year’s NaNo. I’ll have the same crazy schedule revolving around my drama troop for most of the time, the same stress and work level (perhaps a bit more since I’ll be a junior). Next year will be the first year I’ve attempted NaNo one year right after winning another. I didn’t do much for NaNo 2012 (I may have plotted something and written a few hundred words, but I certainly didn’t get past the first couple of days), so this time I’ll have some fresher memories under my belt. However, I know I’ll need some help along the way. So here’s my advice for next year’s NaNo–and for you, if you’re wondering if anyone has some advice for you. It’s advice for everyone! Continue reading