Displaying symptoms or true colours

For just over a year now I have been participating in the weekly flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch. I enjoy participating for a variety of reasons, including:

Challenge: I enjoy the challenge of

  • thinking of something to write
  • telling in story or scene in the 99 word total
  • applying it in some way to my blog’s focus on education

Variety: I enjoy writing in various forms and genres and the fiction is a pleasant change from the informational writing that I am primarily engaged with at the moment

Practice: The requirement to tell a story in just 99 words means that I need to:

  • choose my words carefully to make my meaning explicit
  • decide what can be told, what can be implied, and what can be omitted
  • think of alternate ways of expressing an idea or describing a situation or character

rough-writers-web-compCommunity: The Congress of Rough Writers: I have made connections and online friendships with a wonderfully supportive and encouraging group of bloggers, whose numbers are constantly growing.

 

Feedback: The feedback that I receive in response to my flash fiction pieces and the posts in which I embed them gives meaning and purpose to the writing. I enjoy the in-depth discussions which quite often occur in response to the blog’s content and the additional thinking that I often need to do as a result. While it does distract me somewhat from my longer-term writing goals, the immediacy of the feedback is encouragement to continue and I am always appreciative of it.

There are many other reasons and benefits of participating in the challenges. The above are just a few. If you have not yet considered joining in the fun, now might be the time to do so.

This week Charli Mills wrote about a vivid dream that compelled her from her bed in order to capture it on paper before it escaped. She says that

“Characters sneak into our dreams, our waking moments and tease us. We write to find out who they are.”

Thinking about the character from her dream led her to consider symptoms, and the way that symptoms reveal more of who they are.  She challenged the Rough Writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story to reveal a character’s symptoms. 

Many of my responses to Charli’s challenges have been written to find out more about Marnie, who reveals snippets of her life, as if in flashbacks or dreams, at various ages. You can read what we already know about Marnie here.

“Symptoms” seemed perfect for revealing a little more about Marnie. A child such as she would display a great variety, an important one of which would be her attempt to hide those symptoms from others.

Here then is the next part of Marnie’s story, which follows on from the bullying episode shared last week.

 

 Symptoms

The children suddenly appeared: one bedraggled and muddied, the other exuding authority.

“Brucie tripped her. On purpose!” declared Jasmine.

“Come on, Marnie. Let’s get you cleaned up,” said Mrs Tomkins. ”Then we’ll see about Brucie.  Is your mum home today?”

Marnie looked down and shook her head.

“Will I help you with that jumper?”

A jumper? It’s too warm . . .” Her thoughts raced.

Marnie turned away. As she pulled up her jumper, her shirt lifted revealing large discolorations on her back.

Over the years Mrs Tomkins had seen too many Marnies; too many Brucies; never enough Jasmines.

 

Sadly, children like Marnie and Brucie are very real and very familiar to many teachers.

A few weeks ago I shared a post by Julieanne Harmatz on her blog To Read To Write To Be. I always enjoy reading Julieanne’s blog because it helps me walk right back into the classroom, in my mind. The Student Z she described in that post has many “symptoms” in common with other students I have worked with over the years.

This week Julieanne shares ways she provides authentic opportunities for using digital technologies in her classroom. One of the ways is student blogging, and Julieanne linked to a post written by one of her students, Zoe. I was very impressed. I’m sure you will be too.

In the post Zoe shares information about, and links to, her favourite song and singer. She says it is her “favorite song because it teaches you why not to bully.”

The song is a rap version of “True Colours” with additional original anti-bullying content written by 12 year old MattyB to support his younger sister who is excluded and bullied because of her “symptoms”. I have not linked to the song here because I would like you to read Zoe’s blog and listen to the song there.

I was so impressed by Zoe and MattyB, both showing traits of strength and of being an “upstander”, as described by Mrs Varsalona in the comments on Zoe’s post,  that I decided to find out a bit more about MattyB.

Here is the story of how MattyB and his family wrote the song to support MattyB’s sister Sarah.

I love to hear positive stories like this, don’t you?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

38 thoughts on “Displaying symptoms or true colours

  1. Bec

    Hi Nor, sorry I am coming to this post late! This was great. Poor Marnie. I’m glad we know she has a happy ending when we are getting these glimpses into her traumatic childhood. The video was really beautiful – what a lovely pair of siblings.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Hi Bec, No apologies required. Thank you for popping over now. You are always welcome.
      I’m sorry I’m painting such a dismal story of Marnie’s childhood. I’m not sure why. I guess I’ll work it out sometime. I’m not sure if I should stop and choose a more positive character, or keep going with Marnie. But I think there is more of her story to be told. I don’t want to make everyone depressed though.
      They are a lovely pair of siblings.
      I know another lovely pair of siblings! 🙂

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  2. Pingback: Carrot Ranch’s Weekly #Flashfiction Challenge via @Charli_Mills | Versus Blurb

  3. TanGental

    Marnie has it brutally tough; as Anne asks, whither Marnie, whither Mrs T. There’s a great richness to your flash, Norah, a sheen that adds layers – we have three characters we care about -Jasmine too needs our support as will Mrs T. Speaking from my little experience, the fun comes when you feel a link to previous post, which stems from the prompt; Charli ahs this spooky way to knowing how t trip the switch.
    Oh and do I love Zoe and mattyB. I’ve just tweeted a link to her blog for 1000speak – they may already have it. It’s a gem. Not much wrong with a world with kids like that coming through. Sarah too. So long as we nurture them – which happens to be the next month’s 1000speak prompt… such a neat segue!

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    1. Norah Post author

      Well done for finding the segue! I’ve just had a peek at Charli’s word of the week and it’s juxtaposition – that’s a nice seque there too!
      I agree with you about Zoe, MattyB and Sarah. They all need heaps of positive feedback and encouragement to ensure they keep those positive vibrations going! They certainly make the world a better place, and I’m happy to be in that part of it, along with my blogging friends and 1000speak initiative. We need to keep each other uplifted. There’s enough to make us feel otherwise if we let it.
      Thanks for your great encouragement with Marnie’s story. It is giving me a lot of pleasure developing it. Your support, and of all the other wonderful friends who comment, keeps me going with it. I really appreciate your comments. 🙂

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  4. Pingback: Walking with Symptoms « Carrot Ranch Communications

  5. Sherri

    I love the way you pull so much together into your posts Norah, and especially love how you share about the Rough Writers and why you enjoy writing flash fiction. I read on Charli’s post that you are one of the original, if not THE original Rough Writer! That is amazing and I’m so glad that you and Charli met and then we all fell in behind and now here, we are! I was so nervous writing flash fiction at first, being a memoir writer primarilly, but the weekly challenges set by Charli have helped my writing in so many ways, ways you so effectively describe here. I also love your flash as I continue to follow Marnie’s story and that of Jasmine helping her. It is so sad what goes on behind closed doors and how so much bullying still goes on. In the end I couldn’t write a bullying post, for so many reasons. So I thank you for all you have highlighted in your ‘anti-bullying’ series. The story behind Matty B and his sister is so moving. You are an educator with heart, and a wonderfully kind heart at that, educating us in so many ways. Thank you Norah, so much for that 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Sherri. Your words do much for my spirit. You and Charli have both commented on my ability to educate. I haven’t thought of my posts as that – more of a sharing and exploration of ideas. I learn as much from each comment as I do from creating the post, sometimes more. It is certainly a process of self-education; and flash fiction contributes powerfully to that.
      MattyB’s song for his sister Sarah gives me goosebumps and the video packs a powerful wake up call to those who discriminate. How could you not love that little girl. How proud must their parents be?
      You have thanked me, Sherri. I have much to thank you for. The Society of Mutual Admiration and Gratitude (SMAG – I think I’ll have to make a badge for our blogs for that!) to which we belong is a very important part of my life. Thank you for sharing in it. 🙂

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      1. Sherri

        Yes, their parents must be so very proud. And I love that Norah… SMAG!! I will wear my badge with pride! Rough Writers Rock! Have a lovely evening my friend, been great chatting with you as always 🙂

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  6. Marigold

    There’s so many things for me to take away from this post. Bullying, what a teacher can do, inspiring stories…
    and a place to join in flash fiction. I couldn’t write my weekly short story last week (I had *gasp* run out of ideas!) so I need to join in something that really challenges me to produce something every week. Thanks Norah!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Marigold, you would be so welcome over at the Carrot Ranch. Charli posts a new challenge every Thursday. It would be great to have you join in! 99 words can’t be too hard to write – can it?

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  7. Charli Mills

    You have such an amazing way to turn each post into a lesson. I do hope that your long-term goals are to continue to educate us here. Zoe and Matty B remind me of your character Jasmine.

    Marnie’s story continues to unfold. The secretary takes on a bit of that dispassionate acceptance — she’s seen so much and expects to see more. People who feel overwhelmed by what tragedy they see are often susceptible to becoming apathetic. You have brought so many different aspects of Marnie’s story to life.

    Thank you for being a Rough Writer before there was such a thing as Rough Writers! 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      I am very happy to be a member of the Rough Writers’ posse. The enjoyment and inspiration I get from reading your posts, from responding to the challenges and all that implies, and from the dialog that the responses engender on so many blogs is just enormous. I don’t know if I would have continued blogging without the Rough Writers, which means without you Charli Mills. It would have been a lonesome journey. You have roped in so many other bloggers, writer and readers; and what amazes me is how wonderful each is, not a bad apple among them.
      I always appreciate and look forward to your comments. You always find something positive and encouraging to say. It helps a lot – my writing and my soul. Thank you. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m not aware of that book. It sounds like it could be tough read. Should I attempt it? Or maybe I should wait until I’ve done enough with Marnie – don’t want to be influenced.
      I do intend to write a post about my writing goals. My more immediate long term goal (it makes sense to me) is to make a website with educational resources. i have lots of resources written – just need to find an illustrator. Know any?

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Sacha Black

        I do, two actually, one is my mum and one is my brothers mum! Family full of creative bods. do you want introductions – if you email me a few more details when you are ready I am happy to introduce you :). The book is harrowing, be prepared to sob, and its about a child who is abused. So I will leave it there…. and you can choose.

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        1. Norah Post author

          Thanks Sacha. You obviously do have a creative family! How wonderful. Have either of the mums had work published that I could peek at online. I’d be interested to know how they price their work.

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            1. Norah Post author

              Wow! Her work is awesome! As you say, her mind is spectacular! I love the images she has created with “bits” of so many different things – body parts, insects, machinery . . . I could spend ages looking at each one. How exciting that the two of you are collaborating on a book. I’m sure it will be wonderful. I’m looking forward to seeing it. The illustrations are a little more detailed and “arty” than what I require at the moment, but I will keep her in mind. I would like to spend some time looking more closely at her work. It’s amazing. Thanks for sharing it with me. 🙂

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              1. Sacha Black

                I didn’t realise she had illustrations on her site will have to go have a look. Yeah her mind must be a truly spectacular place to think of such intricate creations. I mean how do you even explain her work!! Lol. I wonder if she could adapt her style though to suit your needs? If you don’t find anyone else it may be worth a chat to see if she could do what you needed. Anyways hope you have a wonderful rest of the week 🙂

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  8. writersideup

    I really enjoy your writing, Norah 🙂 That snippet about Marnie got me choked up. I LOVE this whole things with Matty B and his sister (just REALLY wish it wasn’t Rap). So moving.So beautiful 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you Donna. I really appreciate your support and ongoing encouragement for my writing.
      MattyB and his song is amazing isn’t it? I don’t mind the rap so much. The lyrics are a big improvement on lots of other rap lyrics. I always enjoyed the orginal by Cyndi Lauper though.

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  9. Annecdotist

    Poor, Marnie! But of course we already expected as much from the way the adult Marnie wants nothing to do with her childhood home. So what is Mrs Tomkins going to do now? Well, of course you don’t know until Charli provides the next prompt.
    And haven’t you taken part right from the very beginning? I know you were in before me and I came to Charli’s blog through you.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I remember how tentative I was submitting my response to Charli’s first prompt. I wasn’t sure how I would be accepted with other more experienced and published fiction writers, but I soon realized that the Ranch was a safe place with good company and lots of support. I soon lost my flash inhibitions and developed my confidence. I do remember suggesting to you that you join in, and you were hesitant at first as well; but now it seems we’ve been riding this range together (I want to say forever but that’s not quite right) for ages. I’m pleased you joined in. I like riding in Charli’s mob with you.
      And thanks for your comment re Marnie. I’ll have to do a bit of research I think to find out just what happens now with Marnie. Mrs Tomkins would know!

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    1. Norah Post author

      It is sad. I think there are more children suffering abuse in their families than we really like to think. I’m so pleased you haven’t encountered any. My heart bleeds for them when the very places they are supposed to feel most safe and supported, are no safe havens.

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