Becoming a published writer is usually a long process, involving years of practice and the experience of life that normally comes with age.
At her book launch at McNally Robinson on Fri. Jan. 20, however, MJ Bockarie showed that skill with words and storytelling can come even at an early age, as the crowded event indicated.
She may be just 14 years old, but MJ Bockarie is already an accomplished writer, with many online stories to her credit.
Now she has written Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological adventure story based on the condition that her book is named after.
Stockholm Syndrome is based on a song by the musical group One Direction, as well as on research into the psychological phenomenon behind the title, according to the author. She began her research in 2014 and put her writing on Wattpad, an online forum for writers around the world.
The premise of the book is a psychological connection that can happen in hostage situations when captives develop feelings of empathy for their captors, a process that can take as few as three or four days.
Bockarie used this concept as a basis for her novel, which features a kidnapping victim who comes to sympathize with the people who have captured her. Part of the intent of the book is to “inform people about Stockholm Syndrome,” as the author notes.
She has already started to write a sequel which will likely help to clarify and expand on the idea that hostages and their captors, members of religious cults and their leaders, or battered wives and their abusers can connect with each other in ways that might baffle people on the outside.
In keeping with her age, the author wrote the book at a young adult level, although adults are also likely to be able to identify with the contents.
Her favourite part of the process, she says, was the editing stage and receiving the actual copy of the book.
The result of this work and planning is a book that reaches far beyond Winnipeg and the writing community, here or in other parts of the country.
International connections are important to the story; the author’s family is originally from the west African country of Sierra Leone, and she has pledged to give 25 percent of what she earns from sales of the book to education programs for girls in that country, where many of them are illiterate and are frequently pregnant by the time they are 14 or 15.
The evening began with an African drumming group to set the mood and to make an early connection with the author’s intent for the proceeds from her book. After that, the evening proceeded much like similar events, with a short reading from the book and a long lineup of people waiting to meet the author.
If the book launch on Jan. 20 was any indication, MJ Bockarie has a good future as a writer. The results of her work could help to inform and entertain people in Winnipeg and beyond while benefiting girls halfway across the world.