Monthly Archives: November 2019

The 2019 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo Winners

November 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

The winners of the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo contests are announced!
In this post, Charli Mills discusses each contest, introduces the judges and the judging process, and includes a link to the page on which you can read all the finalist and winning stories. Is yours one of them? (One or two of mine get a mention — I’m over the moon!)

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

For those who rode in last month’s 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo, this is the date you’ve anxiously awaited. I use the adverb with understanding. This past month, I’ve entered my writing in two contests and submitted it to two literary journals. Waiting for notification can induce anxiety, angst, and doubt. Know that every writer experiences the rollercoaster ride of doubt. Artists combat resistance. Maybe you didn’t participate in the Rodeo because the word contest unnerved you. This is Carrot Ranch, a safe place to write, a fun literary community where you can find kindred spirits, a weekly challenge that displays 99-word stories. A contest invites danger; it sparks resistance.

If you haven’t yet read Stephen Pressfield’s War of Art, it’s worth the read. Some of it will make you cringe. Some of it will make you determined. He’s an author who understands the artistic battlefield. He writes:

“Most of…

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Raymund and the Fear Monster by Megan Higginson

Fighting the Fear Monster – reblogged from readilearn

Most of us have fears that can become monsters if we allow them to get out of control. Learning how to manage them and put them in perspective is essential for mental health.

In this post, I introduce you to Megan Higginson, author of the newly released picture book Raymund and the Fear Monster.

About Megan Higginson

Megan Higginson loves to write and illustrate stories of monsters, aliens, and mind-blowing places and asking questions like, ‘What if?’. Megan Higginson is also an artist, speaker, street library ambassador, a Books in Homes Role Model, dyslexic book worm, a mother, a qualified youth worker and education support worker, and a retired horse whisper. Megan believes in living an amazing life even with a chronic illness and encouraging kids and adults not to give up. She hopes her stories and illustrations will help readers to look at their life and the world around them with new eyes.

Megan is the author of, The Sock Thief which was included in The Creative Kids Tales Story Collection Vol. 1 in 2017, and An Angel to Watch Over Them (shortlisted) in the anthology Three Dummies in a Dinghy and Other Stories of Life in 2018. Her stories, Freya and the Fear Monster and Super Moon and Fairy Dust in The Creative Kids Tales Story Collection Vol. 2 in 2019. Three Seconds, Truck Stops and Log Trucks (shortlisted) in Papa’s Shoes and Other Stories of Life 2019. She loves to write stories of monsters, aliens, and mind-blowing places. 

About Raymund and the Fear Monster

A tale of courage and overcoming fears when the odds seem to be stacked against you.

At the top of an enormous mountain is a dark and gloomy forest. In the dark and gloomy forest lives a monster who roars and growls and makes terrible noises. Raymund lives in a small village at the bottom of the enormous mountain. Raymund is scared of many things. But, most of all he is afraid of the night, and the monster that sends him running to hide under his bed. How will Raymund face his fear, discover what it means to have courage, and defeat the huge and hideous monster that smells like fish guts, rotten eggs and smelly feet?

Continue reading: Fighting the Fear Monster – readilearn

young love #flashfiction

Young love #flash fiction

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - romance

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a romance. Focus on the relationship between two people. Build tension and end on a happy(ish) note. Go where the prompt leads!

I have been otherwise occupied the last couple of weeks, working to publisher deadlines that took precedence over my own, and haven’t been able to join in. I couldn’t let this one pass. I hope you like it.

True love

Although he’d written love notes and brought flowers nearly every day, he’d caught her unawares when, one morning, he whispered, “Will you marry me?”

His eyes glistened with hope, but she hesitated. She’d not encouraged him, not that way. How could she have anticipated this?

Crouching to look him in the eyes, she said, “Thank you for the compliment, Josh. You’re very sweet, but I can’t. I’m sorry.”

His lips quivered as he asked, “Why not, Miss Ruby?”

“Josh, I’m already married,” she said, showing her rings.

He was downcast momentarily, then suddenly brightened. “You could get a divorce?”

Thank you blog post

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

classroom Christmas lessons and activities

Classroom Christmas lessons and activities – reblogged from readilearn

It’s almost Christmas again and here in Australia we’re on the countdown to the end of the school year and our long summer holidays. Whether you’ll be enjoying a long break or a shorter break over the festive season, here at readilearn we’ve got many ready-to-teach lessons and activities to support your teaching in the lead-up to Christmas.

Get an early start with these lessons and activities

You will get most benefit from some activities if you begin them a few weeks before the finish of term.

Friendship Trees, one of readilearn’s most popular Christmas activities is best begun three to four weeks before school closes for Christmas. Children make their own friendship trees which are then placed on display in the classroom.

Each day children write anonymous messages of affirmation or friendship to each other and place them in the trees. At the end of term, children take their trees home and read the positive messages contained within.

The trees help to develop self-esteem, confidence and friendship skills and are perfect for those last few weeks when temperatures soar and children can become edgy with excitement for the holidays.

A 3D Christmas tree makes a beautiful focal point of the classroom Christmas display. Children cooperatively construct the tree by contributing leaves made by tracing or printing their hands. It is a visible recognition of the value of teamwork and will be admired (and envied) by many. It makes a beautiful background for photographs of individual children to be given as gifts to parents or other loved ones.

Continue reading: Classroom Christmas lessons and activities – readilearn

teaching and learning with nursery rhymes

Teaching and learning with nursery rhymes – reblogged from readilearn

Nursery rhymes are often a child’s first introduction to our literary heritage. Parents sing nursery rhyme lullabies to soothe their babies to sleep and play nursery rhyme games to entertain them in their waking hours. All the while, children are learning the rhythms and tones of our language, developing vocabulary, ideas and imagination. When children learn the repetitive patterns of nursery rhymes, they are also developing their memories.

Australian author Mem Fox is often quoted as saying that

“Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.”

While I am aware that others question the existence of research to back up that statement, I think most teachers would agree that children who have been spoken to, sung to (including nursery rhymes) and read to before school will find literacy learning much easier in our classrooms. Success with literacy learning often correlates with success later in life.

Already on the readilearn website, there are resources to support your literacy teaching using the nursery rhymes Humpty Dumpty and Little Miss Muffet. More are in development. While some nursery rhymes may be considered to have questionable origins, those origins have no place when teaching them to children. The benefits flow from having fun with the rhythms and rhymes of language.

Teaching literacy skills & developing creative thinking with Humpty Dumpty

The Humpty Dumpty suite of resources includes:

Continue reading: Teaching and learning with nursery rhymes – readilearn

appreciating and exploring poetry in lower primary classrooms

Appreciating and exploring poetry in lower primary classrooms – reblogged from readilearn

Poetry is a wonderful tool for learning language. When children listen to or recite poetry, they are learning the rhythms and sounds of language, exploring ideas and how to express them, expanding vocabularies, deepening understanding in nuances of meaning, and having fun with thoughts and their expression.

Children are exposed to rhythm and rhyme from their earliest days through nursery rhymes, chants and songs as well as the text of picture books. It is important for children to have opportunities for appreciating and exploring poetry into and throughout their school years. The Australian Curriculum places poetry firmly into the literature strand of English teaching each year. But it is not necessary to relegate poetry just to a poetry unit of work when stipulated by the curriculum. Poetry, rhymes, chants and songs can be easily incorporated into the daily class program.

Michael Rosen, who you may know as the author of Going on a Bear Hunt and who I previously introduced to you in this post, shares some recommendations for teaching poetry on his blog. Although the suggestions were written for a year one teacher, I think the suggestions could be extended out to other years. Following his recommendations would more than cover the expectations of the Australian Curriculum, and what a wonderful way to turn children (and yourself) onto poetry.

I’m only sharing a few of his recommendations here. Please visit his website to read the others.

Michael Rosen’s suggestions for teaching poetry

  • Get as many poetry books into your classroom as possible. Encourage the children in pairs to browse, choose and read.
  • Read poems to them every day, use vids of poets (check out Michael Rosen’s YouTube channel) , use national poetry archive. Writing poems with no poems in your head is too big an ask. Fill their heads with ‘What poetry can do’ ie loads of poems.

Continue reading: Appreciating and exploring poetry in lower primary classrooms – readilearn

Death - It's just a stage we're going to flash fiction

Death — It’s just a stage we’re going to

The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo is over for another year and the weekly flash fiction challenges have resumed.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Day of the Dead

This week Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead. It can be the Mexican holiday, a modern adaptation of it, a similar remembrance, or something entirely new. Go where the prompt leads!

I would have to say that, here in Australia, we have been rather insulated from the Halloween phenomena until recent years and it was only very recently that I became aware of the Mexican holiday Dia De Los Muertos, which celebrates the dead, remembering them and celebrating with them as if they were alive. What a wonderful way of keeping the memory of loved ones who have passed, alive.

We are not very good about discussing death in our culture, especially with children. Rather than accepted as a normal stage of life, it is kept secret as if to be feared. Yes, none of us want to go before we’re ready, but there isn’t one of us, as far as I know, who has found the secret of living (in this Earthly lifetime) forever.

The Tiny Star

The-Tiny-Star by Mem Fox

Last week I had the absolute joy of attending the launch of a lovely new picture book The Tiny Star, written by Mem Fox and beautifully illustrated by Freya Blackwood. The book is a joyous celebration of life’s journey from the beginning when ‘a tiny star fell to earth and turned into a baby’ until its return to the night sky where it would be ‘loving them from afar and watching over them … forever.’ The book provides a beautiful opportunity for discussing, even with very young children, the passage of time and the passing of loved ones in a way that is sensitive, respectful and meaningful. It is a book, just like each ‘star’, to be treasured. You can hear Mem read the book by following the link in the book’s title above and listen to her discussing the book with illustrator Freya Blackwood in this video.

The Fix-It Man

The Fix-It Man by Dimity Powell

Another lovely picture book that deals well with the topic of death for young children is The Fix-It Man, written by Dimity Powell and illustrated by Nicky Johnston. The book deals, sensitively and honestly, with a child’s grief at the loss of a parent. The child discovers that her father, who is usually able to fix any broken thing, is unable to fix her sick mother. Together the child and father find a way to support and strengthen each other through their grief and come to terms with their loss.

The Forever Kid

The Forever Kid by Elizabeth Cummings

The Forever Kid, written by Elizabeth Cummings and illustrated by Cheri Hughes, is another lovely picture book that sensitively tackles the topic of death, this time with the loss of a sibling. Each day, on the ‘forever’ child’s birthday, the family keeps his memory alive by celebrating with his favourite activity—lying on their backs on the grass telling cloud stories. Families who have experienced the loss of a child may be moved to find their own ways of remembering and celebrating the life that was. (I interviewed Elizabeth about The Forever Kid for readilearn here.)

Flash fiction challenge

So, back to Charli’s challenge to write about the Day of the Dead. While Halloween and the Day of the Dead have similarities (perhaps more to the uninitiated than to those in the know), they are not the same thing. However, my story is probably more like Halloween than the Day of the Dead. Oh well, that’s where the prompt took me, maybe because of the discussion about Halloween not being an Australian tradition that arises at this time every year, and perhaps because, in the 80s (anyone else remember that far back?) we teachers were instructed to not do anything involving Halloween or witches in our classrooms. That has now been revoked and many teachers work a little fun into their program with Halloween-themed activities. (As I suggested on readilearn recently.)

Anyway, here goes.

Full Bags, Dying Heart

From his room, Johnny watched the parade of monsters and ghouls wending from door to door. They laughed and giggled, whooped and cheered, clutching bags bulging with candy.

“Get inside,” she’d admonished.

“Why?”

“It’s the devil’s work. Dressing up like dead people. It’s not our way.”

She’d dragged him inside, shut the door and turned off the lights.

“We don’t want those nasty children knocking on our door.”

“But, Mum. It’s Graham and Gerard and even sweet Sue …”

“Enough! Get to your room!”

He watched, puzzled—How could it be devil’s work? They were his friends having fun.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading.

Note: I would have liked to write a sequel to this where Johnny sneaks out and joins his friends, but I ran out of time. Maybe another time.

I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.