Jacqui Halpin Parmesan the Reluctant Racehorse

readilearn: Introducing Jacqui Halpin – picture book author – Readilearn

This week, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Jacqui Halpin – author, founding member of Write Links (a local group of published and unpublished authors and illustrators of children’s books), a former nurse and tuckshop convenor.

Jacqui grew up in Brisbane where she still lives with her husband, one of her three adult children, and a cat called Loki. While writing and editing, Jacqui likes to sip tea from fine china and eat copious amounts of chocolate. She says she should never be allowed in a bookshop with a credit card in her possession.

Jacqui writes picture books and short stories, some of which appear in anthologies by Stringybark Publishing and Creative Kids’ Tales. She co-wrote and independently published her elderly father’s memoir, A Long Way from Misery.

Today Jacqui is talking with us about her first picture book Parmesan The Reluctant Racehorse, humorously illustrated by John Phillips and published by Little Pink Dog Books in October 2017. Jacqui’s second picture book, Where’s Lucky?, based on an orphaned swamp wallaby joey at a wildlife shelter, will be published in mid-2019.

Parmesan is a delightful story of a thoroughbred racehorse who should be winning races and earning lots of money for his owner. However, Parmesan thinks he’s a dog. Instead of training with the other horses, he’s off with his doggy friends doing doggy things like playing fetch. His owner is not happy. If Parmesan isn’t ready to run in the Spring Carnival, he’s getting rid of him. Parmesan’s trainer is worried. He knows Parmesan won’t be ready, but as they arrive at the Spring Carnival, he thinks of a brilliant way to get Parmesan to run around the track. Parmesan’s triumph proves you can be a winner and stay true to who you are.

Welcome to readilearn, Jacqui, we are looking forward to getting to know you better.

Thanks for inviting me.

Jacqui, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I always liked writing stories and poems at school, but it wasn’t until I read picture books to my own children  Continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Jacqui Halpin – picture book author – Readilearn

Every word counts #roughwriters #blogtour via @Annecdotist – annethology

The Congress of Rough Writers Anthology 1

Today my very own printed copy of the Congress of Rough writers’ Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 1, edited by Charli Mills, arrived in the post. How exciting! Have you got yours yet?

Anne Goodwin gives you all the details for purchasing in her contribution to the Rough Writer Tour Around the World.

Carrot ranch tour

Read Anne’s post to find out how she came to be one of the Rough Writers.: Every word counts #roughwriters #blogtour via @Annecdotist – annethology

Out of the fire comes hope

fireweed Charli Mills Carrot Ranch flash fiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills wrote about fireweed. She describes it thus:

“the purple and pink flower that grows like a tall spear in a tribe of flower warriors. After a forest fire, mining reclamation, road grading or any kind of soil disturbance, fireweed grows back first from seeds born of despair. It’s a phoenix flower, a soil nourisher, a defier of the odds when life is bleakest.”

She then went on to challenge writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes fireweed. You can use it as the plant, a flower, a metaphor or as the name of someone or something. Go where the prompt leads. Burn bright when you write.

I don’t know of Charli’s fireweed, but I do know that Australia is home to a great variety of plants that are dependent on fire for regeneration. While large tracts of land destroyed by bushfires is devastating, a return to traditional land management practices of the indigenous peoples may see an  improved system.

There is an oft-repeated quote by German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

While that may be true of Charli’s fireweed and much of Australia’s flora, I’m never convinced of the applicability of the saying to every situation, or of its power to lift one up when feeling personally devastated. What does not kill may require a good dose of determination and strength for it not to annihilate the spirit.

While thoughts of how to approach Charli’s challenge were swirling around in my head, notification of a new post by The Wordy Wizard popped into my inbox. At the top of the post was this quote by  J.K. Rowling from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

 “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”

The addition of these words of J.K. Rowling to those of Friedrich Nietzsche, for me, complete the thought. Without acceptance there is denial and an inability to move on, with acceptance we can begin to repair and renew.

Intermittently, over the past four years while I have been responding to Charli’s flash challenges, I have written about Marnie, an abused child who was able, with determination and support of caring others, to overcome the impact of her dysfunctional upbringing and make a better life for herself.

Just as we look for green shoots of hope in the blackness of a bushfire’s destruction, we must look for signs of hope and renewal in those who have suffered.

Bono quote about why he's a megalomaniac

While at times the negatives of children “burnt” by dysfunctional home lives, poverty, poor nutrition, lack of mental stimulation, and other factors that appear to obliterate potential can seem overwhelming and insurmountable, it is important to see within every child that seed of unlimited possibility and hope that needs to be nurtured.

Marnie’s teacher Miss R. saw it in her. In one story, “Miss R. handed her a rose from the vase saying, “You are that rose. You may be surrounded by thorns, but the beauty of the rose is inside you. Remember that always. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Perhaps it would be just as apt to describe her as fireweed, “a defier of the odds when life is bleakest”. This is where Charli’s challenge took me this time:

Burning with hope

Miss R. avoided the staffroom’s negativity, popping in, like today, only if necessary. When she glanced over instinctively on hearing her name, regret flooded immediately.

“Annette, we were just talking about you and that weed–from that noxious family–you know, Marnie-“

She bristled, failing to withhold the words that exploded, singeing all with their ferocity.

“Just look at yourselves. If Marnie’s a weed, she’s fireweed. Better than you will ever be. She’ll beat her odds and succeed, despite your belittling words and unhelpful opinions.”

She left the silenced room, believing in her heart that her words were true.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Note: The feature image after the bushfire by freeaussiestock.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

 

 

readilearn –Learning sight words by reading and writing in context – Readilearn

Learning lists of sight words is an activity familiar to beginning readers, their parents and teachers. There’s no denying the importance of being able to recognise words by sight, and the aid it is to reading fluency and comprehension. Yes, comprehension. Due to the constraints of short-term memory, it is difficult to think about meaning, when working memory is employed in attempts to figure out individual words.

Many lists of basic sight words are available, but there is a consistency to the words included and their number, generally varying between one and two hundred. Many of the words do not have a regular letter-sound correspondence and cannot be “sounded out” using knowledge of phonics. They are also words that have meaning only in context and cannot be “pictured”. The words make up a high percentage of those appearing in texts for beginning readers and so are often referred to as high frequency words.

Children are often given lists of words to take home and learn with the assistance of parents. Not all parents know how to encourage children to learn the words and it can be a battle if children struggle to remember them. If you are sending children home with words to learn, it is important to provide parents with strategies as well as what they need; for example:

Provide the words on strips or in small booklets with the word written on one side and a short sentence with a picture on the other for checking.

sight words sentence strips

Provide one set of words. Spread the words face up on the table. Ask the child to find the word; for example, put. This is easier at first as other letter/sound cues can be used. Later, as the child is

Continue reading: readilearn –Learning sight words by reading and writing in context – Readilearn

The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 or Flash Fiction: My (Small) Part In Its The Journey. #Carrotranch #congressofroughwriters #anthology

Carrot ranch tour

I am so excited to be in the company of many wonderful writers in this first anthology of flash fiction by Rough Writers at the Carrot Ranch. Geoff Le Pard is one of those writers and kicks off the promotional Around the World Blog tour. Hop on board to meet others of the talented writers and find out to purchase your own copy of the book.

TanGental

In my fourth ever post I tried my hand at flash fiction for the first time. This…

Dogged

Harry dropped his gaze to avoid looking at Sally. No point; she didn’t know he existed. He looked at the dog.
Milton looked back; he scratched his ear before lowering himself into a squat.
“No. Christ. Not here.”
Milton held Harry’s gaze as he shat on the pavement.
“Great” Harry stared at the sticky turd. He patted his pocket. No bags.
Harry glanced up, wondering if he could leave it. To his horror, Sally was a few paces away. She held out her crisp packet. “Here.”
“What?”
“For that.”
As Harry cleared up, Sally rubbed Milton’s head. “Cute dog.”

99 words, inspired by Charli Mills over at her Carrot Ranch. When I look at it, I’m struck by the following:

  • there’s poo
  • there’s a certain attempt at humour
  • ditto cuteness
  • but it’s…

View original post 872 more words

respect not fear

Out of respect, not fear

As an early childhood educator, I believe that children need to be respected. It is only through being shown respect, that children learn to respect. It is not learned through fear. Sure, fear may generate what appears to be respect – compliance, conformity, obedience. But inside, feelings of discontent may simmer until, at some future time they manifest in a variety of unpleasant ways.

Children also need to respect, and not fear, each other. I frequently write about the need to develop a welcoming and supportive classroom in which children feel valued and respected. They need to understand the diversity that exists in our world and learn to accept, appreciate, respect and embrace it. Fear is often the result of the unknown, so by getting to know each other better, that opportunity for fear, at least, can be erased.

In a previous post Watching ink dry, I wrote a story about a child being singled out and humiliated for an inability to keep between the lines in a handwriting lesson. An interesting discussion developed in the comments about nuns–teaching nuns, which surprised me. You see, although that particular situation wasn’t one I personally experienced, I did have in mind one of my teachers, who happened to be a nun, as I wrote, but I made no mention of it. I really didn’t think the attitude I portrayed was reserved for nuns during my childhood.

Within a few days of publishing the post, I visited the optometrist where the assistant, without prompting of any kind, (I have no idea how we got onto the subject) told me about nuns who repeatedly humiliated her at school. I then told her about my story, but not my real experiences which were quite similar to hers. I added this to the discussion, and so the conversation grew, prompting Charli Mills from the Carrot Ranch to entertain the thought of “Nun” as a flash fiction prompt.

black and white flash fiction challenge

She did shy away from it in the end, fearing, I think stereotyping nuns unfairly. Instead, she challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features something black and white. It could be a nun in a zebra monster truck, a rigid way of thinking, a bird in a tuxedo — be imaginative and go where the prompt leads.

But it was too late for me to consider the fear, or perhaps to feel the fear and resist doing it anyway. I’d already started recording my black and white view, coloured from years under the rule of those nuns in their black and white habits (literally and figuratively).

One memorable event occurred when, handing out history test results, the teacher (a nun) distributed everyone’s but mine. She then made a big show of trying to find it while telling the class what a dreadful result it was, and that she must have put it aside out of disappointment. Though I am quite tall, she did her best to make me feel small.

Funnily enough, when I experienced a similar situation at a writers’ critique session over the weekend–one of the writers had everyone’s story but mine–I was able to accept his apology and not relive the earlier trauma, even though it was brought to mind.

Perhaps I’m more like the nuns of my childhood than I’d like to acknowledge. Perhaps I find forgiveness no easier than they. So, apologies to all the lovely nuns, whom I am sure must exist, this poem is not for you. It is a reflection of my black and white reflections on my black and white experiences. I’m not sure that I expect you to enjoy this one.

nun praying

The nun’s prayer

Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

I have no need for counting sheep,

I count the girls that I made weep.

 

Lord, I ask Thee, help me please

To do my job with greater ease–

Bless them even when they sneeze,

And keep their skirts below their knees.

 

I know the task should be not hard

And I should never drop my guard

But if they’re ever marred or scarred,

It puts a mark upon my card.

 

And while she dreamed her cunning schemes,

Her girls were strangling silent screams.

 

Circle picture book by Jeannie Baker

To finish on a more positive note, which is more my way, on her Big Sister Blogs this week, Maria Parenti-Baldey shared a post of wishes creatives have for children. Those wishes are opposite to those of the nun in my disrespectful poem. One of my favourite quotes is that by Jeannie Baker whose books I have previously written about here and here and here.

According to Maria,

Jeannie Baker wished for every ‘single’ child ‘to love and be loved’. For children to have a supportive home, a peaceful environment and ‘to be creative and not be criticised’. To go to school with time to ‘exercise their curiosity… use their imagination’ and find and make things. Jeannie wanted children to think for themselves, play outside and engage with nature with feelings of awe and wonder. Some children experience a fear of nature – ‘Nature deficit syndrome’. ‘What one fears, one destroys. What one loves, one defends.’

I thought it was a perfect quote to round out my post. I wholeheartedly agree with her wishes–they match my dream.

Please pop over to Maria’s post to read what other creatives; including, Leigh Hobbs, Gus Gordan, Mark Wilson, Anna Fienberg, Kyle Hughes-Odgers and Deborah Abela, wish for children. Great wishes, every one.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading, I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

 

readilearn: The significance of the Chinese New Year – a guest post by Mabel Kwong

Chinese New Year is an important Chinese festival celebrated around the world, not only in Asian countries, but in many countries where there is a large population of Chinese people or their descendants, including Australia. Maybe it is celebrated where you are too.

This week I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Mabel Kwong, a writer and Chinese Australian. Mabel explores and writes about the topics of multiculturalism, cultural diversity and identities. She feels that the more you get to know others of different backgrounds and each other’s cultures, the more you learn to see things from different perspectives. In her spare time, she is a keen photographer and video gamer.

In this post Mabel shares with us some background information about the Chinese New Year as well as her personal experience of Chinese New Year celebrations when she was growing up in Malaysia and Singapore.

Chinese New Year celebrations in the classroom

Mabel has written the post in such a way that it could be read to a class of children. Indeed, we have worked together to prepare it as such, and it is now available as an estory, free to everyone—there is no need even to register—in Chinese New Year Cultural Studies resources.

Continue reading: readilearn: The significance of the Chinese New Year – a guest post by Mabel Kwong