Category Archives: Blogging

Never Too Many Cooks: Literary Recipes in a Flash

How is cooking like writing?
One’s a feast for the body, the other a feast for the mind. For some great flash fiction to get your teeth into (including one of mine!) read on:

Open Thought Vortex

By Charli Mills

A chef in the kitchen is not unlike a writer at a desk.

Both feel the heat of what it takes to transform a raw start into an end worth savoring. A chef chops vegetables to maximize flavor and texture the way a writer slices sentence structure to evoke reader response. One chef favors reduction sauces, and another fuses flavors. One writer cranks out cozy mysteries, and another crafts a character-driven epic science fiction.  A chef is a food artist; a writer is a literary artist.

If you’ve ever tuned into a televised cooking show that challenges chefs with secret ingredients, you’ve seen how varied the results can be. I used to provide some of those secret ingredients to a regional chef show at the Mall of America in Minnesota. For over a decade the foodie culture of Minneapolis-St. Paul immersed me in the artistry of food…

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Winner of Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1

I am delighted to announce the winner of my flash fiction contest “When I grow up”. Judging was a tough job, but we got there in the end.
Charli has made a lovely badge for contestants to put on their blogs. Check it out when you check out the winners.
Thanks for a fabulously fun rodeo, Charli.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

When I Grow Up

by Norah Colvin

Congratulations and a special thank you goes to all writers who participated in the first of the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contests: When I grow up. The judging is now complete, and we are about to announce the winner. Could it be you?

In this contest, writers were asked to write a 99-word story in response to the following prompt:

When I grow up. Cast yourself back to six years of age, knowing what you do of life in the present; what would you want to be when you grow up and how would you go about achieving that goal? Tell us in 100 words, no more no less. It can be real or imaginary, serious or light-hearted. Extra points for comparing it to your childhood choice, if you remember it.

Stories were judged on ten criteria including relevance, capturing a…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7

Got murder on your mind? Here’s a chance to work it out; in fiction anyway – contest #7 in the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo #FFRODEO.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Murderous Musings:

When Good Folk Turn Bad At The Rodeo

By Sherri Matthews

Saddle up, tighten your reins and pull on your riding boots. And while you’re about it, watch your back, because wicked wranglings are afoot at the Rodeo. Western or English? Doesn’t matter. Thrown off a few times? Never mind. Devious, deadly or just plain dangerous, it’s time for some murderous musings.

Long fascinated with the dark side of the human heart, I read a lot of True Crime. Not for the gory details, neither for the whodunit: I want to understand the why.

As a memoir writer, I need to explore the true motives driving the story. I wonder how many of us ask ourselves, if truly honest, what might we be capable of if pushed too far? What would be our not so perfect storm?

But it never occurred to me that I could explore this…

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A break in the Flash Fiction routine: #Flash4Storms #WATWB #FFRODEO

Usually at this time on a Tuesday evening (my time) I am posting a flash fiction response to the prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. But not tonight, and for good reason.

The usual weekly Carrot Ranch flash fiction prompt is on hold during the month of October, replaced by the Flash Fiction Rodeo which kicks off today. There are many prizes for both writers and readers. Check out the post for details of how you can win.

My contest runs first with a prompt about childhood ambitions. It will go live at the Ranch, and again here, on Thursday. I do hope you will join in.

You may have read my contribution to the We Are The World Blogfest with the story I posted on the weekend, #WATWB The Teacher Helping Hurricane Harvey’s Youngest Victims – And How You Can Help / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl The story tells of  a teacher from Texas who created the online Hurricane Harvey Book Club. The Club involves children recording videos of themselves reading books to share with children who, as a result of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey, have no access to books. Hundreds of videos were uploaded to Facebook, and the Club is also raising money to help restock classrooms devastated by the storm.

Flash for storms

Hurricane Harvey was just the first. More was yet to come with Irma and Maria following close behind. Fellow Blogger and Rough Writer at the Carrot Ranch Sarah Brentyn, who blogs at Lemon Shark has extended a helping hand to those in need with her own flash fiction challenge #Flash4Storms.

For each flash fiction response to her prompt “Help”, Sarah will donate $1 to hurricane relief. Check out Sarah’s post to find out how you can join in and lend a helping hand.  Let Sarah know in the comments that I sent you, and I’ll add another dollar to Sarah’s donation.

Here’s my response to Sarah’s challenge for a story of 50 words or less on the theme ‘Help’.

Kindness repaid

He was proud, never asking for or accepting help. If he couldn’t do it, it wasn’t worth doing. He’d always be first to help others though. Never too much trouble, there was little he couldn’t do. But, one day, when his world came tumbling down, they eagerly repaid his generosity.

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

Get Ready to Rodeo!

Come, join in the Flash Fiction writing rodeo. Eight different challenges, eight prizes, tons of fun! Starts next week at the Carrot Ranch.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Norah Colvin writes in the upcoming The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, Vol. 1:

“Flash fiction is a form of short writing. In its various forms, it may be known as, for example, micro fiction, sudden fiction, or six-word stories; the length may vary from as few as six to as many as 1,000 words. Brevity is a constraint, and writers attempt to pack as much story as they can into few words. Each word must count. There is no room for ‘darlings’, let alone a need for them to be killed.”

Carrot Ranch is hosting a Flash Fiction Rodeo with eight different contests throughout the month of October. It’s free and includes first place prizes in each category of $25. The best of all eight winning entries will be dubbed the All-Around Best Writer of 2017 Flash Fiction Rodeo and win an extra $50. You can enter…

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Sucked out or sucked in

We often hear stories of swimmers being sucked out to sea by dangerous riptides and of the heroic efforts of lifeguards to save them. In Australia, life savers are volunteers who generously give up their time to help ensure the safety of others. According to this article from news.com.au,  most drownings in Australia occur in ocean rips; many because people are overconfident of their ability to recognise them. Though surf life savers who patrol our beaches clearly identify areas under surveillance, many beachgoers choose to swim outside the flags, believing they will be safe, that it won’t happen to them.

With summer on its way and warmer weather already (or still) here, people, including my grandchildren and their parents, are heading to the beaches for our spring school holidays. I urge everyone to stay safe and be wary of those unseen rips. I also offer a huge word of thanks to the generous volunteers who safeguard our swimmers.

swimmer

This news report, which aired on Saturday evening, explains some reasons for their generosity:

“Life is just that precious. If we can’t see you, we can’t help you.”

“We get paid nothing, but it’s worth it.”

“It’s about the community giving back to the community, and you know, helping out.”

dear life savers

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills is talking about riptides. She has sucked me along in the current with her challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a riptide. How can it be used to move a story? It could be a stretch of turbulent water or a pull of another kind. Go where the prompt leads even if you find it unexpected.

In her post, Charli repeats a line, reminiscent of a song of which I was unaware:

“I run down to the riptide”.

Each time Charli reaches the riptide, she opens a hatch of treasures and possibilities, of ideas and achievements with which she could swirl away. Me? At the mention of riptide, I was thinking of being sucked in and drowning, of being carried away from safety. But to be picked up and carried to a land of possibilities may be more enticing with more opportunities to explore. There may be more to currents than the ocean’s deadly pull. Let’s see where this one goes.

Where else but education?

For teachers, it’s important to not get carried away by the latest fads with their deceptive surfaces hiding dangers in their depths. Many teachers flounder in overwhelming workloads, unrealistic expectations, and defective advice. They lose sight of the shore and get dragged out to sea where, sadly, many drown.

It is also important for teachers to know where the (figurative) waters are safe for children, and where there are just enough ripples to challenge them, strengthening their grit and confidence.

Children themselves need to know how to interpret the waters, to avoid the dangers so that they might enjoy what is on offer. Standing on the edge in fear while others are having fun may spark “if only” thoughts of dissatisfaction. Jumping recklessly in too deep may be just as disastrous.

The same is true in life. If we don’t have a go, how will we ever know if success is possible?

readilearn

I jumped into blogging just over three years ago, tested the waters and developed my swimming skills. I thought I was doing okay. A little over a year ago, I dived in deeper, perhaps a little recklessly though it didn’t seem so at the time, with the launch of readilearn, an online collection of early childhood teaching resources. I sometimes feel that I am treading water, struggling to hold my head above the surface and avoid the rip that threatens to suck me under. I knew it would be a learning journey. I just didn’t realise how much I needed to learn.  Belief in what I’m doing and hope for what the future may hold, drives me forward. I swim, hoping to find the current that carries me towards my goal rather than away from it.

So, I’m thinking about the child on the beach, feeling the drag of the water underfoot, unsure of whether to enter or not. No dangerous undercurrents here. I hope you enjoy it.

Sucked in

The older ones squealed, dropped their towels, and raced for the water. The little one toddled beside Mum, each laborious step prolonged by distractions of beach debris, flapping gulls, and footprints in soft white sand. Mum’s eyes flitted between him and the two in the waves. Thankfully, guards were on duty. When they reached the water’s edge, he baulked, shook his head, and plopped backwards. Gentle waves lapped his feet, then tickled as they sucked out the sand. Mesmerised, he chuckled. His siblings joined him. When they offered their hands, he accepted, stepping joyfully alongside them in the shallows.

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

What’s the difference? #WATWB #FF

Charli's cat

News from Charlottesville has flooded the media this week and it is difficult to not be gripped by despair at the hatred that exists and fear for the future.

I don’t usually express my political feelings publicly, other than the important role that education has in developing responsibility and compassion in all, and for all, travellers on our planet.

Education will remain my focus for I believe it is the solution. However, I am writing in this context, as that is the context chosen by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community when setting her flash fiction prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that heals America. Difficult and idealistic, I know. Think about building bonds of trust or stories of friendship. It could be a positive story about America. Bonus points for hugging a cat.

mirror

Well, I don’t know about healing America. I think any healing needs to start with the self. This situation implores us to look at ourselves and see where our own attitudes can be improved. Australia’s history of treating its indigenous peoples is no more admirable. Recognition as people in our constitution was granted a mere 50 years ago.

On the last Friday of each month many writers join in the We Are The World Blogfest which “seeks to promote positive news.” It says, “There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.” Follow the link if you wish to join in with their mission to “flood social media with peace and love.” Or contact this month’s co-hosts  Simon Falk, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Inderpreet Uppal, Lynn Hallbrooks, Eric Lahti, and Mary J Giese.

Charli’s post reiterates the importance of creating connections through trust and friendship. With both these prompts in mind, I share with you some positive messages that shine a light in the darkness that sometimes seems overwhelming. (Apologies to #WATWB. I have broken the 500 word rule.)

  1. On his Science and Education blog, Daniel Willingham, a psychologist who works at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, wrote about Nazis in Charlottesville. He discusses the reasons why people hold onto false beliefs and the importance of education in teaching truths, fighting fake news, and standing up for media sites that get it right. He says,

“Truth is our greatest weapon against senseless evil. Fight with it. Fight for it. And don’t be discouraged.”

2.       Fast Company published Ben Paynter’s article How Charlottesville’s Small Businesses Supported Their Community Against White Nationalists. The article tells of rainbow coloured posters displayed by small businesses in support of equality and against hate. The posters read,

“If equality and diversity aren’t for you, then neither are we.”

Seven different equality symbols are displayed at the bottom of the poster along with the words,

“Minority rights are human rights.”

  1. In the Huffington Post I read How I Handled Homophobia in my Third Grade Classroom by Ilana Greenstein. I agree with Ilana’s position that,

“teaching tolerance and acceptance is not and should not be remotely political.”

After overhearing a homophobic remark made by an eight-year-old student, she embarked on a discussion of family, family composition, and what makes a family. The discussions continued throughout the school year and included other topics such as inequality and stereotypes.

At the end of the year she asked the children to write about the role of president and what they would do if they were the president. The boy who had made the “gay” remark earlier in the year, wrote:

As the president of the United States, I would want to be kind, brave, and nice. I would want to try to end fighting. I can do this by trying to let them be friends instead of being enemies. I also want to stop people saying ‘gay’ offensively. And last I want to stop people saying stereotypes.”

What a wonderfully hopeful statement that supports the importance of education for the whole person, not just cramming them with a bunch of facts to pass a test. Surely the ability to live a life that honours and respects others is the most important test to pass.

  1. On the theme of equality and diversity I wish to acknowledge two wonderful picture books by one of my favourite authors, Mem Fox:

Whoever You Are and I’m Australian Too.

While I’m Australian Too may be considered specific to the Australian multi-cultural situation, Whoever you are is suitable for reading to Little Ones, “whoever they are, wherever they are, all over the world.”

Possum Magic

I was delighted to read that one of Mem’s books Possum Magic has been honoured by the Royal Australian Mint with its very own coin collection. Of course, I had to purchase a set or three, didn’t I? What a lovely celebration of a wonderful book by writer Mem Fox and illustrator Julie Vivas and the importance of children’s literature in general.

  1. I watched an inspirational video on the blog of one of the most inspiring teachers I have met online. Her name is Jennie and she blogs at A Teacher’s Reflections. Pop on over and find out how she improves the lives of all in her care. Here is the video titled Change the World. It’s a perfect fit for this post. I hope you watch it.

I have combined some of these ideas into my childish flash. I hope you like it.

What’s the difference?

She dumped the toys on the floor, then proceeded to arrange and rearrange them in groups. The largest group was of bears, a smaller group of cats, a few lizards, two puppies and an assortment of singles. With a finger tapping her cheek, she surveyed them. First, she dismantled the group of bears muttering about bows, hats and vests.  She hugged Tiger as she separated all the toys. Then Dad appeared with his briefcase.

“Ready?”

“Not yet.”

“What’re you doing?”

“Thinking.”

“Which one to take?”

“I can’t choose,” she said, scooping them up. “I love them all the same.”

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

P.S. I hope I earned bonus points for hugging a cat!