Real Memoir Imaginary Flash And Not Your Typical Anthology

Welcome to Sherri Matthew’s Summerhouse in the UK: this week’s stop on the Rough Writers Tour Around the World.
Sherri discusses the role that flash fiction plays in her memoir writing in both an entertaining and informative way.
After you read Sherri’s post, pack your bags and get ready to travel. Next stop will be with me: from the UK in the north to sunny Queensland in the south. See you then!

A View From My Summerhouse

Summerhouse in Spring (c) Sherri Matthews

When I moved house last October, I said goodbye to my Summerhouse.  That is, to the wood and nails of it.  To the little wooden house painted blue , strung with pretty bunting and lights which no longer belongs to me.

My Summerhouse wasn’t just my writing space; over the years, it was home to a nest of bumble bees in the ground below, several spiders and their cobwebs spun in dusty corners, and a hedgehog who took up residence at the back.

I miss it, but I smile through my wistful nostalgia when I look at the photos, because I know that it is the virtual essence of the Summerhouse that remains.

My Summerhouse is imaginary now, a virtual meeting place, but it is no less real, filled with you, my lovely people.  A community created by the footprints you leave with…

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Learning to be friends to combat bullying – Readilearn

With today 16 March being the National Day Against Bullying and Violence and next Wednesday 21 March being Harmony Day in Australia, now is a good time to think about what it means to be a friend, what bullying is, and how to combat it. Of course, any time is a great time for developing friendship skills, but these special days help to raise awareness.

The purpose of the National Day Against Bullying and Violence is fairly clear in its title. Harmony Day is for celebrating cultural diversity. “It’s about inclusiveness, respect and a sense of belonging for everyone.” That sounds very much like friendship to me.

The development of social skills, including the friendship skills of getting along, can not be left to chance. The skills must be actively encouraged and taught. Children must learn what behaviour is friendly, what is not friendly and what is bullying.

The teaching of these skills and behaviours should not be left to one or two days of the year but integrated into the teaching program. In fact, the best way to encourage friendship and discourage bullying is through the implementation of policies that foster respect and accept

Continue reading and see new teaching resources from readilearn: Learning to be friends to combat bullying – Readilearn

What makes a bully a bully?

Charli Mills flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch about balloons

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writer to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a hot air balloon. How does it add to your story? Go where the prompt leads.

balloons, celebrations, happy times, smiling kids

Balloons are almost synonymous with fun and celebrations. They come in all shapes and sizes to decorate parties and other events. A child with a balloon is usually a child with a smiling face – until the balloon bursts, pops or escapes.

What do balloons and bullies have in common, you may ask? I’m sure there are many ways balloons could be used for bullying.

With this Friday 16 March being the National Day Against Bullying and Violence, I decided to write a story that could be shared with children and used as a stimulus for discussing bullying, bullying prevention, and what it means to be a friend. I hope you like it.

Surprises for Marnie

Brucie loved surprising Marnie on her way to school each day.

Marnie expected that Brucie would meet her, but she never knew where.

On Monday, he jumped from behind a bush screaming at her.

On Tuesday, he stuck out his foot and tripped her.

On Wednesday, he snuck up behind and pulled her hair.

On Thursday, he popped a balloon in her ear.

On Friday, he surprised Marnie by not surprising her at all.

But, after she’d put her bag away, he pulled it out and emptied its contents on the floor.

“Whose mess is this?” demanded Mrs Brown.

bullying, being mean, hurting, pulling hair

What do you think? I have put the story together with some teaching suggestions in a resource to add to the readilearn collection.

The story has the potential to initiate discussion around issues and questions such as the following; for example:

  • What is a friend? What do friends do?
  • What is a surprise? Are all surprises good?
  • What is bullying? Are some people always friendly? Do some people always bully?
  • How do you think Marnie responds to Brucie’s “surprises”? How does her body feel?
  • Why would Brucie bully Marnie?
  • Do you think Marnie tells anyone about what Brucie is doing? Why wouldn’t she tell?
  • What should you do if you see someone being mean or bullying another?
  • Have you ever been bullied?
  • How did you respond? What would be a better way to respond?
  • What could Marnie have done to get Brucie to stop?
  • Have you ever bullied anyone?

These are just a beginning. The Bullying No Way website has some great resources to assist you in educating children about bullying and its prevention.

Bullying is defined as

“an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm.”

The important words here are:

ongoing, repeated, misuse of power, causing harm

Single or isolated acts of unkindness or aggression are not considered bullying.

Brucie is obviously engaging in bullying behaviour as he repeatedly abuses Marnie causing her physical as well as psychological (fear, anxiety) harm.

Marnie is reluctant to talk about the situation for fear of making it worse.

Children need to learn that there are safe people they can talk to about incidents that occur, and they also need to learn strategies for responding to unkindness and bullying.

When discussing bullying situations, it is important to not label a child as either victim or bully, but to describe the behaviour. Behaviour can be changed but it is often difficult to remove a label once it has been applied. What we need most are supportive schools that fosters acceptance and respect.

I have previously discussed bullying in Stop bullying now!, Safety in friendship, Targeting prey, and Bully for you.

Karen Tyrrell Songbird Superhero and Battle of Bug World empowering books for kids anti-bullying

I also interviewed Karen Tyrrell, Australian author of empowering books for children and adults, about her junior fiction books Song Bird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World that, along with Stop the Bully, have important messages for kids about bullying.

One of my other favourite books about bullying is Willy the Wimp by Anthony Browne.

What are your favourites ways of discussing bullying with children?

Thank you blog post

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


Raw Literature: Asperger’s, Voice and the Search for Identity

I’ve been reading a lot of posts about Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism lately. It’s a topic about which I need to increase my understanding. If you’re like me, you will find this post by Sherri Matthews helpful.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

By Sherri Matthews

The first few pages of the children’s book, ‘Are you my Mother?’, both captivated and troubled me as a girl. The story tells of a baby bird who hatches while his mother is away from the nest looking for food.  The hatchling flies the nest to look for her, but he has no idea what either he nor his mother, looks like.  He asks everything from a kitten to a boat, ‘Are you my mother?’, but to no avail.  Then he starts to cry.

Thankfully, unlike the baby bird, I didn’t have to search for my mother. But I questioned my identity when, after my parent’s divorced and I no longer lived with my dad,  I was told to use my stepfather’s surname. In 1970’s Britain, I was the only one of my friends from a so-called broken home; I understood it was to save…

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readilearn: The importance of reading aloud – a guest post by Jennie Fitzkee – Readilearn

Every day is a great day for reading aloud to children, but with the celebration of International Read to Me Day on March 19, now is a great time to give some thought to the importance of reading aloud in preparation for the Day’s celebrations. by arming yourself with a basket of books to read.

To help put us in the mood and assist our preparations, Jennie Fitzkee is here to tell us why reading aloud to children is important.

Jennie, a passionate and inspirational teacher, has been teaching preschool in Massachusetts for over thirty years.  She is considered by many to be the “book guru” and the “reader-aloud”.  She is also a writer and her work is often posted by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  This is what Jennie says of teaching:

“I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience.  Emergent curriculum opens young minds.  It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting.  That’s what I write about.”

Jennie is highlighted in the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, The Read-Aloud Handbook  because of her reading to children.  Her class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.  Their latest quilt is currently hanging at the Massachusetts State House in Boston.  In 2016, Jennie was one of seven teachers in Massachusetts to receive the Teacher of the Year Award.

I’m sure you’ll agree that there is much we can learn from Jennie.

Welcome to readilearn, Jennie. Over to you.

Continue reading: readilearn: The importance of reading aloud – a guest post by Jennie Fitzkee – Readilearn

Thank you blog post

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

crows ravens bullying and kindness

What’s there to crow about?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven. It can be in nature or used to describe humanity as a metaphor. Follow the bird. Go where the prompt leads.

While ravens and crows may have their differences, as an Australian, I can be forgiven for having difficulty in telling them apart. As this article about the Australian Raven in Birds in Backyards says,

“There are six members of the family Corvidae found in Australia: five native breeding species and one infrequent self-introduction. Three are called crows and three ravens, although there is really little difference. Most Australian species are similar in size and colouration, and can be difficult to tell apart.”

In fact, when I attempted to find photographs of crows and ravens, I found the same photograph labelled ‘crow’ in one location and ‘raven’ in another!

I provide this information only so you’ll understand why I refer to crow rather than the raven of Charli’s prompt.

You see, Charli’s prompt reminded me of this video in which a crow shares its bread with a mouse.

I wondered why the crow would make such an effort to share with a mouse. Don’t crows usually eat mice?

I was reminded, then, of the Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse in which a lion, surprised at the idea that a mouse might one day be able to help him, forgoes a meal and releases the mouse. The mouse returns the favour one day by freeing the lion when it was ensnared by hunters.

However, in the fable, it was the potential prey who helped the predator in an act of kindness.

In the video, it is the predator showing kindness to potential prey. Finding a motive required some divergent thinking. This is what I came up with as a start.

Crow and Mouse

“Caw, caw,” called Crow in the morning from atop the tree.

“Caw, caw,” called Crow at midday from the neat vegie patch.

“Caw, caw,” called Crow, perched high on a wire, at the end of the day.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man in the morning, shaking knobbled fists.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man at midday, stamping his feet.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man, clattering his pans at the end of the day.

Sneak, sneak went Mouse from his hole in the wall, to the kitchen and back, unnoticed by Man who was noticing Crow.

And so it repeated, day after day.

Until, one day, Man grew tired of shooing Crow and loaded his slingshot with a rock. Mouse, ready to sneak, saw Man take aim. Mouse ran–across the floor and up Man’s leg. Man stumbled. In so doing, he dropped the rock upon his toe. He hollered. Crow heard the commotion and flew away, cawing his thanks to Mouse.

Man saw where Mouse hid. He fetched his hammer, nails and a board.

Just in time, Mouse escaped–down the stairs, through the garden and into the woods. In the darkness, Mouse trembled.  All his life, he had filled his belly with three good meals a day from Man’s kitchen. Could he fend for himself? He looked about this unfamiliar world. When the quiet was interrupted by a flap-flap-flap, he ducked for cover.

Too late–he’d been spotted.

“There you are,” cawed Crow, placing a piece of bread on the ground in front of Mouse. “Thank you for your kindness. One good turn always deserves another.”

What do you think?

Stories, stories, everywhere

I had fun writing the story and it reaffirmed for me that potential stories are everywhere, not only for adult writers, but for children too. I think children would love to discuss the video of the crow and the mouse and would ask many more questions and come up with more inventive stories than I did. What a fun writing prompt it would be. Children could also compose dialogue for the animals and act it as a play.

Of course, this story is much too long to qualify for Charli’s flash fiction 99-word requirement. For that I thought I’d go back to school with a chance for the bully Brucie to learn some kindness. The timing is just right with the observation of National Day for Action Against Bullying And Violence on 16 March, and both Harmony Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March.

In this article from ABC News, I discovered that clever crows are learning from magpies to swoop in order to protect their nests. It also seems that they never forget a face. Perhaps they are no happier to see bullying than we are.

This is my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you like it.

Nothing to crow about

Brucie had to get there first to stake his place at the very top. He didn’t slow on the still-wet grass, and only momentarily to laugh at Jasmine who slipped as he brushed past. From his perch, he smirked at the disappointed faces below.

“Caw!” said a crow, alighting alongside.


It didn’t shoo–more came.

Brucie shouted, waving his arms.

The crows shuffled closer.

Brucie thrashed wildly.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Jasmine banged a cricket bat against the frame.

The crows flew away.

“Are you okay?” asked Jasmine.

Brucie nodded, then let the others play.

The crows never returned.

Thank you blog post

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

writing in the lower primary classroom using the language experience approach

readilearn: Writing in the lower primary classroom – a guest post by Marsha Ingrao – Readilearn

Providing children with fun and purposeful activities for writing is one of the best ways to encourage a love of writing, to replace the drear with enthusiasm.

In this post, I introduce guest author Marsha Ingrao who shares suggestions for bringing joy to your writing lessons through the Language Experience Approach.

“The Language Experience Approach (LEA) is a literacy development method that has long been used for early reading development with first language learners…It combines all four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.”

Professional Learning Board

Although Marsha retired from public education in 2012, her passion for education remains and she continues to educate through blogging, speaking engagements and volunteering for Kiwanis and the Chamber of Commerce. Her classroom experience ranged from teaching kindergarten to fourth grade. She left the classroom to work as a consultant for the county office of education first in math, working with migrant education, then in history and language arts. She is author of Images of America Woodlake, a history of her local Woodlake area, published by Arcadia Press.

Welcome to readilearn, Marsha. Over to you.

Because LEA employs all four branches of language arts, listening, speaking, reading and writing, it is perfect for teaching writing to pre-school and primary students as well. With the thrust in the United States for non-fiction reading, the language experience approach becomes the perfect avenue for teaching writing to young children.

To make the language experience approach applicable to all young students, adult assistance is required.

The “How To” Essay

Beginning in pre-school, we tackled one of the hardest types of writing, the “how to” essay. Holiday traditions are the perfect avenue for this

Continue reading: readilearn: Writing in the lower primary classroom – a guest post by Marsha Ingrao – Readilearn