It’s November already and we’re starting the countdown to the end of the year, but there are many more things to celebrate before we welcome in the new year.
The month starts off in a wonderful way by celebrating reading with Australia Reads from 1 – 12 November. I don’t think there can ever be too many days to celebrate reading, literacy and literature.
The Australia Reads Kids digital event on Monday 9 November at 10.30 am is free for all Australian schools. For other events, including interviews with authors and digital story readings, check out this list. Events most days. The site also has some suggestions of great books for children at different year levels.
The week culminates on 12 November with the Reading Hour, when everyone is asked to drop everything and read! What a great excuse to spend more time reading and sharing the love of literature. You can read to yourself or read to the children.
You can join up at the Australia Reads website to take the pledge too (and even make your own logo, as I did):
“I will read for an hour on Thursday 12 November. I will read books in any shape, form or size. I will read, whether with bumps, letters, pictures, sound. I will read to myself or someone else.”
Outdoor Classroom Day on 5 November is a perfect time for taking children outdoors to learn and explore. The day is “a global campaign to celebrate and inspire outdoor learning and play.” This year’s theme is Love the Outdoors.
A few weeks ago, I announced the start of this year’s Rodeo. I hope you were able to participate in one, two, or maybe even all three of these special events I mentioned in that post. Heck, maybe you are being selected as one of the winners as we speak.
This week, it is MY turn to jump on the horse, grab it by the horns… Oh, wait –
When I first volunteered to host this contest, I was thinking of all the other obligations I would have to attend to in the month of October. Admittedly, I was worried that I might not be able to fulfill all of my duties. If I am struggling, chances are that some of you might be, too. Mindful of your valuable time and your potentially overwhelmed minds, I decided to keep this contest easy. After all, this is meant to…
I’m not overly familiar with campfires, and spooky tales are not a favourite genre. I remember a few stories about apparitions from my childhood and they gave me nightmares for a long time. I am pleased to be unlike Cole Sear in the Sixth Sense in that I am unable to see dead people. A few times when I thought I might, it totally freaked me out.
Additionally, there aren’t many spooky picture books, so as a teacher of young children I was not exposed to a great many spooky stories. There are the Funnybones stories by Allan and Janet Ahlberg which are delightfully humorous and not at all scary and, of course, Casper is a friendly ghost.
Needless to say, I hadn’t ever tried to write a spooky story, so Charli’s prompt raised the possibility as a now or never event. Here’s my attempt. I hope it works, even just a little bit.
Out of Time
Darkness fell as Martin hastened home. He hated passing the cemetery, especially at Halloween. Sometimes he crossed the road, but this night he was out of time. Hairs on his arms prickled and shudders crept up his spine as he passed the open gate. A light flickered inside. He tried to not look, to not be drawn by the group gathered around a campfire, beckoning, ‘Join us.’ Martin hunched further into his jacket. ‘Next year then?’ Their ghoulish laughter chased him down the street into the path of a speeding car.
‘Back so soon. Couldn’t wait? Mwahaha!’ they chorused.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.
Coming ready or not!
Here’s the fourth and final part of the Carrot Ranch 2020 Rodeo TUFF contest. How are you going with your story? There’s still time to complete all stages if you’re not done yet.
Good luck, writers!
Did you stay in the saddle for the full ride? Or are you here to slide under the fence, last minute? Either way, Rodeo Writers, you’ve TUFFed it out and we have arrived at our final challenge.
TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction) is a progressive form that takes you from draft to revision through several word reductions — 99, 59, 9, 99. Each step has had a twist along the way as the TUFF contest has unfolded:
The final twist in the contest involves an additional trope. The first draft included the tropes for western and romance. Tropes are elements that define a genre or theme. In this contest, we have used tropes as themes. Now, we will add a final trope as a prop.
Today we are talking with Elizabeth Cummings about The Sweetest Lollipop Lady in the World from the Verityville series. This interview is part of a Books on Tour promotion.
I previously introduced you to Elizabeth when I interviewed her about her heart-warming picture book The Forever Kid.
About Elizabeth Cummings
Elizabeth Mary Cummings was born in Manchester, educated in Scotland and has lived in Australia and New Zealand for many years. Starting her professional life as a primary school teacher, Elizabeth’s teaching career has taken her into many different roles, including teaching in both the public and independent sectors, working with refuges, special needs and foreign language teaching. When she moved to Australia in 2008 Elizabeth developed and ran a successful language business before releasing her first picture book in 2015 (The Disappearing Sister- a sibling’s account of anorexia nervosa). Her stories often take a child’s perspective to explain the world and reflect on important life experiences including themes of resilience, grief, equality, the natural environment, kindness, empowerment, anti-bullying and mental health. Elizabeth set up her independent publishing company in 2015 and is also published by Big Sky Publishing.
About the Verityville series
Have you wondered about what other people do? The ordinary, everyday people – the people that make our lives the way they are, those who help us, care for us, look after our town and do the little things that make a difference to our lives. Have you ever caught a little glimpse of their little routines or the daily habits? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be them?
In Verityville there are many amazing folk, all going about their daily business, making the town what it is. Their work and their efforts make Verityville a marvellous place to be, full of wonder, friendship and adventure!
Come take a trip to Verityville and meet some of the wonderful people who live and work there!
Little tales for little folk about real life in a veritably fabulous place…Verityville.
This is the third of the Carrot Ranch 2020 rodeo weekly contest, and what a wonderful contest it is, designed by the lovely Marsha Ingrao. I am honoured to be one of her judges and look forward to reading your stories.
If you’re not sure about how to write a three act story, the video by Kurt Vonnegut that Marsha has included in her post could not make it any more clear.
Good luck, writers!
We live for stories, and as writers, we craft them in the written word. A story is about Something (plot) that happens to Someone (characters), Somewhere (setting). Even if it is only 99 words long.
Crafting the Story
Act I, the beginning, the story rises. If a story is about someone, we have to feel something for that character. When we care what happens next for or to this Someone, we come to the middle.
Act II shifts to fear, according to the Greeks. We can interpret this as the emotion that drives the writer and reader to worry about what happens next. Or be curious about what comes next. The driving emotion doesn’t have to be fear, but the middle holds an important shift or build-up of tension or expectation. The story is in motion.
You should be familiar with your 99-word story by now (Part One), and hopefully, you have spent some time exploring your story from different points of view (Part Two). TUFF is The Ultimate Flash Fiction and those of you daring enough to enter this progressive contest are spending a month on a single story taking it from draft to revision.
Part Three is your final tool in the process. It’s the tightest word reduction of your story: 9 words. That’s not a typo. The word count isn’t missing a double-digit. It’s nine words that you can count on your hands, presuming you didn’t lose any fingers riding bulls at your last rodeo.
Why so few words? This is a tool to arrive at the heart of your story. It’s the hook to interest a reader. Think of taglines from…
A discussion about whether children should be expected to complete set chores is always peppered with a variety of viewpoints.
I don’t remember having set chores when I was growing up, but there was always the expectation that we kids (ten of us) would do a bit to help out. Some of the tasks included sweeping, doing the dishes, hanging out or bringing in the washing, going to the shops for items such as bread and milk, selling the produce from Dad’s vegetable garden around the neighbourhood or looking after the younger siblings.
Some of the chores were more enjoyable than others and, I must admit, I was often chore-deaf when I was reading a book, which was most of the time. I must also admit that I didn’t always complete the chores to Mum’s satisfaction, particularly sweeping. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t seem to sweep up all the dirt. She would often say that I had given it a ‘lick and a promise’. I probably thought, but never aloud (hopefully), that maybe if she wanted it done well, then she should perhaps do it herself.
I must also admit that some things never change. I am still not fond of housework and would rather be reading or writing than sweeping (or vacuuming and mopping) anytime, and often as I complete (I use this word lightly) these chores, I am reminded of Mum’s words. Next time, I think. Next time.
I, of course, have gone with the lick and a promise of a BOTS (fiction based on a true story). However, before I share my story, I’d like to share with you another post I recently read that has some relevance to the topic.
Jim wondered (not really seriously) if we should ‘pay’ children to not do the things they don’t like doing; for example (if I’ve understood him correctly), I could have been paid to not sweep. Because, if I was being paid to not sweep, my dislike of not sweeping would increase. If the payment was gradually reduced, then removed altogether, perhaps I would so much want to sweep (the opposite of what I was being paid for) I wouldn’t be able to help myself. Since I wasn’t ever paid to sweep (at home – there was no pocket money), I am unable to even consider the difference it may have made. (You might want to read Jim’s post to untangle my faulty thinking from his.)
I’m not sure it would work, but if anyone wanted to pay me to not do housework to test this theory, I’d certainly be willing to give it a try.
Anyway, here’s my story, in memory of my Mum whose words continue to influence my thinking if not my actions.
A Lick and A Promise
Lisa dropped her bag, discarded her shoes, and darted down the hall.
“Where are you off to, miss?” called her mother.
“You’ve got chores first.”
“Did them this morning.”
“Did them? Ha! Was no more than a lick and a promise.”
“But, Mum. I’m up to the last chapter.”
“No buts. You’ll do your chores before anything else.”
Lisa muttered as she stomped to the broom closet.
“And don’t give me any more of that lip or you’ll be reading on the other side of your face for a week.”
When I’m an adult … Lisa promised herself.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.
Frequently on the blog, I bring you interviews with authors or news of new picture books. Today, I am delighted to let you know of a new anthology that is now available for pre-order. It will be available for purchase on 1 November and will make a special Christmas gift, or anytime gift, for children up to twelve years of age. I am extra-delighted about this one because one of my stories is included in it.
About the anthology
Tell ’em They’re Dreaming is an anthology of Bedtime Ballads and Tall Tales from the Australian Bush, published by Share Your Story under the leadership of Australian author Michelle Worthington. I previously introduced Michelle to you in an interview about her picture book Super Nicholas.
The 36 poems, stories and ballads were selected from submissions to a competition conducted earlier this year.
The clever prologue by David Perkins Forgetting How the Banjo Works is a fitting introduction to the stories and poems to follow. A tongue-in-cheek poetic tribute to the poetry of one of Australia’s most famous bush balladeers Banjo Paterson, it is fun, funny and perfectly captures the spirit of Australian ballads and the Australian ability to laugh at ourselves.
In addition to my ballad about a bully bullfrog, the anthology contains works by other authors I have interviewed, including Marg Gibbs and Karen Hendricks as well as Michelle Worthington,
It also has stories by other already-published authors including: