Monthly Archives: April 2014

Flash fiction: Revival

The challenge from Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications on April 23, 2014 was to:  In 99 words (no more, no less) describe the climate of a story as it changes to reflect a character’s mood or to create a sense of what is to come. This is my response to the challenge. I hope you enjoy it.


Her motivation and inspiration was as parched as the cracked red soil beneath her feet. The days were hot and lazy: nothing to do until the rains came. One long languid day followed another. With no work to be done on the land, time did not pressure creativity. Without pressure, there was no rush, no will. The bright blueness of the skies, usually joyous, now oppressive. An occasional cloud or flash on the horizon made empty promises. Finally the winds whipped the clouds into a frenzy, reigniting her creativity as the relentless soaking rains awakened the dormant earth.


Please let me know what you think.

Going on a treasure hunt!

we're going on a bear hunt

A few weeks ago I had the great pleasure of taking my two gorgeous grandchildren to a performance of Michael Rosen’s “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt”. To say we enjoyed it would be an understatement. We had a rollicking good time.

The performance involved a lot of audience participation including spraying the entire audience with water from the “deep cold river”; an event which left everyone slightly wet, screaming with anticipation and laughter, and genuinely having a wonderful time interacting with this fabulous text.

We were already familiar with the text, of course, and had read it, recited it, acted it out and played a board game which has been made to accompany the text. None of this really prepared us for the delightful stage performance; but these pale in comparison with a telling by the master storyteller himself, Michael Rosen.

Michael Rosen’s website is a veritable treasure chest with much to explore and delight.  From his home page you can visit his blog which he describes a as a place where he’ll

“post up some thoughts and ideas – especially on literature in education, children’s literature in general, poetry, reading, writing, teaching and thoughts on current affairs.”

You can also check out a full list of his publications. He’s very prolific!

After attending the performance of “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” I shared with my grandchildren the video of Michael Rosen performing the story, which is also available from his home page. They loved it and we watched it “Again!”

Then I showed them the video of Rosen performing his fabulous poem Chocolate Cake. We watched it four times! Artie, who is four (and a half) was joining in with the telling the second time, and by the fourth time was copying many of Michael’s actions as well as facial and vocal expressions. Artie laughed along with the story and excitedly called other members of the family to watch it with him.

The next time Artie came to visit he was performing his own version, “Lollipop”, with similar actions and both facial and vocal expressions. His younger sister also had to have her turn telling the story. It was delightful and convinced me, though I needed no convincing, of the power of a great performer to turn children onto the fun of language, of playing with words, of performing, and of composing writing of their own. Creativity ignited!

If you haven’t yet watched Michael perform Chocolate Cake, I urge you to do so. You are in for a treat. I’m certain you will not be able to watch it without a smile on your face.

Michael is so passionate about making poetry come alive for children, he has made many videos on his website freely available to teachers for use in their classrooms.

In his article “Teachers write to me saying, ‘What about poetry?’”, Michael begins by saying,


He then goes on to present many fun ways of engaging children with poetry, none of which involve word study or comprehension exercises. He makes suggestions for performing, writing and talking about poems; and says that

“The best and most important thing you can do with any poem that a child writes is either get it performed or ‘published.”

and offers suggestions of how to do just that.

Another thing he says in that article, which was the inspiration for the title of this post, is


I couldn’t agree more.

This is just a brief sample of the riches to be found on the Michael Rosen website. There are so many videos of Michael’s performances available that I have not yet watched them all. Please let me know your favourites and I will make sure I watch those too.

Thanks Michael Rosen. We can learn so much from you while we are having fun!

Ho ho ho! (Q.E.D.)

In comments to one or two previous posts on my blog, suggestions were made that I should tackle the issue of Santa. I wasn’t prepared to do that at the time, and am still not. (I didn’t do much of a job of it as a parent.)
However I came across this post by Michelle Sowey, and I think she tackles it quite well. Being a philosopher, she deals with it much better than I would.
Although it’s not Christmas yet, it’s never too early or too late to start thinking about issues like these.

The Philosophy Club

(Or, This Festive Season, Teach Your Children to Believe Responsibly)

Ho ho ho! Illustration by Ask Alice

Currently circulating on social media is this letter from a couple of well-intentioned parents to their questioning son, who is looking for the truth about Santa Claus. Not wanting to deprive their boy of his innocent credulity, nor wishing to tell him outright lies, the parents take the circuitous route of explaining Santa as a metaphor for a bunch of desirable qualities like love, hope and happiness.

Mom, are you Santa?

I can understand why many parents choose not to disenchant kids at an early age. It’s endearing to see children take delight in their fantasy worlds. It’s lovely to watch them immerse themselves in works of fiction and let their imaginations run wild in creative play. What’s more, fictional characters like Harry Potter, Santa Claus and the tooth fairy are common reference points for the majority of children in…

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The magic effect – why children need books

Nor and Bec reading



Children can be read to from the moment they are born, if not earlier. Preferably earlier!

One of my favourite picture book authors and passionate advocate for reading to children is Mem Fox. I own, and have given as gifts, many of her wonderful books. I have attended her seminars and been mesmerised by her reading from her selection of stories. “Read more!” the adults beg. There are no children at these literacy seminars. This time it is a treat for only us: parents and teachers, literacy educators all.

Currently Prince William, Kate and baby Prince George are visiting Australia. I was delighted to hear that they were given a gift of books by Australian authors, including some by Mem Fox. Over the years I have given many of Mem’s books as gifts; and kept just as many for myself!

 Reading magic

One that I have given to many new or expectant parents, as I consider it a “must read”, is Mem’s book “Reading Magic – Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever”.

I would love to quote the entire book for you, but it is better you read it for yourself. I will provide you with this quote from the foreword as a taster for the richness to be found inside.

“It stands to reason that if we’re able to raise happier, brighter children by reading aloud to them, the well-being of the entire country will ramp up a notch. Children who realize in their first few weeks and months of life that listening to stories is the purest heaven; who understand that books are filled with delights, facts, fun, and food for thought; who fall in love with their parents, and their parents with them, while stores are being shared; and who are read aloud to for ten minutes a day in their first five years, usually learn to read quickly, happily and easily. And a whole lot of goodness follows for the entire community.”

Mem's website


Mem’s website, too, is a treasure trove just waiting to be explored by writers, teachers, parents, children and children-at-heart.

You can listen to Mem read from her selection of books on the Current Read Aloud page. She reads three different books each month. Currently the books are Possum Magic, Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! and Goodnight, Sleep Tight. Be quick to listen to these, though, as they will change at the end of the month. But never mind, there’ll be another three to enjoy next month!

Mem even gives a read-aloud lesson! Now there’s no excuse! As she says,

“. . . let’s get on and change the world, one page at a time.”

Yes, Mem, let’s!


What are your favourite read-aloud books? What did you enjoy as a child? What do you enjoy now?

Flash fiction – Innocence shattered

Here is my contribution to the seventh flash fiction challenge from Carrot Ranch Communications. I hope you enjoy it.

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a biography for a character, alter-ego or you. 

Innocence shattered

She hurled it with such force that had it been his head, as she had wished it was, it too would have smashed into smithereens, just as the figurine had.

“You ab-so-lute monster!” she screamed.

She fell to the floor, sobbing uncontrollably.

All her life she had thought it was her; something wrong with her; she that was wanting.

But it wasn’t her. It was him. His wanting. His vile taking.

The repulsive visions made her want to turn inside out and eradicate any trace of connection.

Her ignorance had offered no protection; and now no solace.


I welcome your comments.

This is nice

If you haven’t yet visited Brain Pickings by Maria Popova, this week’s newsletter is a great place to start.

Maria Popova describes herself as “an interestingness hunter-gatherer and curious mind at large”. She gathers up all sorts of things that you didn’t know you were interested in, until you are.

Brain Pickings — “is a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, and more”.

I’m sure you will find something of interest to you!

This week’s offering If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice to the Young on Kindness, Computers, Community, and the Power of Great Teachers  provides ideas, quotations and excerpts from speeches made by Kurt Vonnegut at college graduation ceremonies between 1978 and 2004.

Here are just a few that I found particularly interesting or appealing. Please visit Brain Pickings for a more complete synopsis.


 “But I say with all my American ancestors, “If what Jesus said was good, and so much of it was absolutely beautiful, what does it matter if he was God or not?”

If Christ hadn’t delivered the Sermon on the Mount, with its message of mercy and pity, I wouldn’t want to be a human being.

I would just as soon be a rattlesnake.”

“But in our personal lives, our inner lives, at least, we can learn to live without the sick excitement, without the kick of having scores to settle with this particular person, or that bunch of people, or that particular institution or race or nation. And we can then reasonably ask forgiveness for our trespasses, since we forgive those who trespass against us. And we can teach our children and then our grandchildren to do the same — so that they, too, can never be a threat to anyone.”

“I recommend that everybody here join all sorts of organizations, no matter how ridiculous, simply to get more people in his or her life. It does not matter much if all the other members are morons. Quantities of relatives of any sort are what we need.”

“By working so hard at becoming wise and reasonable and well-informed, you have made our little planet, our precious little moist, blue-green ball, a saner place than it was before you got here.”

“When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”


Which ideas of Kurt Vonnegut do you find interesting?

With which do you agree or disagree?

Flash fiction – White flowers

The sixth flash fiction challenge from Carrot Ranch Communications:

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes white flowers.

When Charli posted this challenge, I was thinking of writing about my Mum’s white flowers. At the time I didn’t expect that she would pass away before I had it written. After losing her my mind has been otherwise occupied and I have struggled to think beyond those two words “white flowers”. However, tonight I decided to write a brief tribute to my Mum who peacefully went “to Heaven” on Friday evening.  We will say our farewells to her tomorrow. So, it’s not really flash and it’s not really fiction but it is on the topic and is 99 words.

peace lilies

These white flowers in the pot at my door remind me of you.
I bought them for you, to remind you of home, when you moved, with reluctant acceptance.
Peace lilies.
Your beautiful peace lily flourished in the warmth of the sunny spot beside your favourite chair; the favourite chair that you took with you to your new home; that transported you to Heaven. You were ready.
Now they reside with me, in the pot made by his hands; a fitting spot.
You will rest with him in his plot, together again, now at peace, forever.
Love you, Mum.

Flash fiction – Vagaries of time

The fifth flash fiction challenge from Carrot Ranch Communications:

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that quotes from a song’s lyrics (could be a classical aria, a rock & roll song, anything).

This is my contribution. I hope you enjoy it.

Vagaries of Time

She rubbed the grimy pane, squinting to peer inside.

It was all boarded up now with chairs stacked haphazardly on tabletops and piled in corners decorated with cobwebs.

On one side stood the jukebox covered in dust.

Suddenly she was back in his arms, their bodies pressed tightly together, swaying to Mick singing “time is my side”. They thought they would be young and in love like this forever.

“Hmmhmm! You okay, Miss?”

“Yes,” she stammered, embarrassed.

She stumbled down the steps, smiling as the words in her head became Van’s “precious time is slipping away…”

Thanks for reading. I welcome all feedback.

Liebster Award acceptance responses


Recently I nominated a number of bloggers for a Liebster Award. Out of the thirteen I nominated, six chose to share their thoughts by answering the questions I asked. Considering the percentage of responses that are often received to a survey, I think this is a great result.

Below I have presented the questions that I asked and collated a summary of each response. If you wish to read each respondent’s answers in full, please visit their blogs. I’m sure you will find much more of interest.

You may notice that not all respondents have answered every question, and that one respondent has chosen another question of her own. That’s okay. I gave them permission to do so!

Remember, these were open-ended questions with no wrong answers and everyone did a marvelous job in answering them. I am very grateful to each for sharing the depth and openness of their thoughts. I think we have much to learn from them, and from each other. This is a list of respondents with links to their blogs.

Anne Goodwin  annethology  annecdotal Anne Goodwin’s Writing Blog

Nillu Nasser Stelter, Fiction and Freelance Writer

Nicole Hewes Cultivating Questioners

Charli Mills Carrot Ranch Communications Words for People!

Caroline Lodge book word

Nanny Shecando


1. What do you value most in life?

Anne Goodwin

Authenticity; ambivalence; fairness; mutual respect.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

the ability to choose how I live my life. Freedom is everything.

Nicole Hewes

moments of possibility and opportunity, where the world seems open and the choices seem infinite

Charli Mills

living in such a way that I look for beauty all around me and find good even when life’s path gets rocky

Caroline Lodge

my daughter

Nanny Shecando

the chance I get everyday to make the most of it. That I can do whichever I chose to do.


2. What activities do you enjoy and why?

Anne Goodwin

Reading and writing; walking in the countryside; choral singing and growing (some of) my own food.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

lazy afternoons in the park with my family; sinking into a bubble bath with a good book; singing when nobody is listening and dancing when nobody is watching

Nicole Hewes


Charli Mills

Activities that connect me to living in the moment: gardening, cooking and writing about the birds outside my window

Caroline Lodge

Reading and writing, and talking about both with other enthusiasts.

Nanny Shecando

any activity that allows me to be creative


3.What is something you wish you had more time for?

Anne Goodwin

I don’t think we can do everything (that’s what fiction is for – the chance to live other lives) and I’m reasonably happy with how I portion out my time.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

reading and writing; other creative pursuits

Nicole Hewes

travel, try new recipes, read more books, and to spend with my friends and family

Charli Mills

I’ve found that by taking time to stare at a sunset or falling snowflakes, I have all the time in the world. It’s what I do with it that matters.

Caroline Lodge

it’s not so much time as ability to fit all the things I love in my life

Nanny Shecando

read more books


4.What is one change you would like to make in the world?

Anne Goodwin

a shift in emphasis from a culture of greed to one of equality and compassion

Nillu Nasser Stelter

more understanding for each other, first within our own countries and then across country boundaries; clean water for all!

Nicole Hewes

change our society so that equal educational opportunity could actually exist, so that everyone could have access to basic resources, and so that money and special interests wouldn’t dictate the media

Charli Mills

contribute to world change through one beautiful book at a time; honor the hero’s journey within us all and to actualize everyday beauty

Caroline Lodge

World peace; access to books for everyone

Nanny Shecando

people holding themselves accountable for their actions


5.What is something you would like to change about yourself?

Anne Goodwin

I’d like to be more laid-back; a published novelist

Nillu Nasser Stelter

I’d like to care less about what other people think about me.

Nicole Hewes

I would like to be a tad more outgoing and a little less independent

Charli Mills

To stop worrying whether or not people approve of what I do.

Nanny Shecando

to practice a, “you’re full of greatness so long as you tap into it and utilise it” mentality


6.What surprises you most about your life – something good in your life that you hadn’t expected, dreamed of or thought possible?

Anne Goodwin

taking part in choral concerts of major classical works along with some pretty decent singers and a full orchestra. It’s a real emotional hit

Nillu Nasser Stelter

The ease of transition from single person to family life; how tiring and rewarding it would be.

I have evolved from a child with a mass of insecurities to someone who is comfortable with herself.

Nicole Hewes

Being in a relationship with a partner with a worldview quite different from mine who challenges my views and assumptions and is incredibly kind, supportive, and loving.

Charli Mills

an upheaval in my life would open the door for me to step into that writer’s life. It isn’t easy, but it is what I’ve dreamed of doing and I’m doing it.

Caroline Lodge

That it goes on getting better, that I go on learning, that there are so many amazing people in the world and I know some of them.

Nanny Shecando

that I am able to be so happy, comfortable, confident and secure in leading the life that I do.


7.What ‘big” question do you often ponder?

Anne Goodwin

The fact that our species has invested so much energy and creativity in the technology of warfare and so little in strategies for living in peace with our neighbours.

Nicole Hewes

Why our differences continue to lead to such polarization and why empathy can be so selective.

Charli Mills

How do I listen to God’s calling and live in the light?

Caroline Lodge

How can articulate and intelligent people inflict direct and indirect suffering upon others?

Nanny Shecando

life vs the state of dreaming. How can we really distinguish which is which? How do we know if what we perceive to be real is actually so?

8.What sorts of things amuse you?

Anne Goodwin

my husband’s dreadful punning jokes. And I quite like dark humour exemplified by the ditty Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from The Life of Brian

Nillu Nasser Stelter

Slapstick comedy and Ally McBeal; innuendo; the children

Nicole Hewes

comments that my second graders make in our classroom; when the ridiculousness of an idea is exposed by positing the same thinking in another situation.

Charli Mills

Silly little things

Caroline Lodge

Unintentional meanings in things like the sign “uncontrolled pedestrian crossing” in London.

Nanny Shecando

the daily conversations that I get to share with the kids.


9.What do you like to collect?

Anne Goodwin

Slugs from the garden

Nicole Hewes

copies of student work that blows me away with its insight or hilarity (I have a “smile file” where I keep these items). I also like to collect quotes and articles and stories that suggest that gender roles are actually shifting and gender stereotyping is altering. And pasta recipes

Charli Mills

Stuff from the ground that’s old–rocks, fossils, arrowheads, purple glass.

Nanny Shecando

books and old sheet music


10.If you could talk with anyone and ask them to explain their ideas and/or actions, who would it be, and why?

Anne Goodwin

I’d ask the women who doled out white feathers to men out of uniform in the First World War why they thought they had the right. If I couldn’t time travel, I’d ask our Prime Minister, David Cameron, why he isn’t ashamed that a rich country like ours has spawned so many food banks.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

both my grandfathers, who have both sadly died

Charli Mills

I’d love to talk to my 5th-great grandfather and ask him why he left North Carolina. He was a poet and wrote such sad verse about leaving those mountains as an old man.


11.What is something you can’t do without?

Anne Goodwin

My glasses, voice-activated software

Nillu Nasser Stelter

feeling connected

Nicole Hewes

a good book on my person at all times

Charli Mills


Caroline Lodge

my daughter

Nanny Shecando

a notebook and pen


12.What is something important you learned about life, and how did you learn it?

Anne Goodwin

That, unlike a work of fiction, we can’t scrub out the bits that don’t work and start again.

Charli Mills

A life of truth is not an easy one.

Nanny Shecando

you don’t get anything unless you ask for it


13.What is your earliest memory?

Anne Goodwin

I distinctly remember standing on the steps leading up to the front door of our house, replying “two in August” to a passerby who’d asked my age. However, this being one of the stories my mother liked to tell about me, and knowing what I do about the fallibility of autobiographical memories, especially those from early childhood, I doubt its authenticity, and regard it as my mother’s memory, not mine.

Nillu Nasser Stelter

Probably my gran singing ‘Nanu maru nak’ (my nose is small), a Gujarati nursery rhyme, to me, but I often question whether my memories are real or reconstructed, so I can’t be sure.

Charli Mills

One of my earliest memories is of a black cat that I coaxed into being a pet on a ranch where I lived the first seven years of my life. That cat made me feel safe

Caroline Lodge

Someone threatened to steal my little sister. It was an early experience of a quandary: if I went to get adult help she might get taken, but could I make sure she was safe on my own. I was scarcely 3 and she was newborn.

14.What sorts of things irritate you? (Caroline Lodge)

Caroline Lodge

There are lots of things, and one of them is the pervasive idea of favourite books and writers in tweets and blogs. It’s such a simplistic, reductionist concept that I try to avoid it. I added this question, just so I could indulge in a favourite whinge.


The responses reflect the richness of our humanity, both the commonality and its diversity. Which responses strike an accord with you? With which do you differ?

Please share your thoughts and keep the conversation going.






Flash fiction – It’s just the wind.

The fourth flash fiction challenge from Carrot Ranch Communications:

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the phrase, “It’s just the wind.”

This is my contribution. I hope you enjoy it.


Her crumpled body pressed tightly into the corner; she willed herself a part of it.

He was coming to get her.

His tendril-like fingers scratched the window pane, prised up the screen, tore down the blind, demanded entry.

With her eyes clamped shut, the images took charge: too terrifying to forget, too horrible to remember.

He’d never let her be.

His powerful hands pummelled the door, jangled the handle, wrenched it free.

Hands blocking her ears failed to exclude the menacing howl.

“There’s no escape.”

Her screams found voice.

“Hush,” they soothed the quivering mass. “It’s just the wind.”


Thanks for reading. I welcome all feedback.