Category Archives: Creativity

Real Memoir Imaginary Flash And Not Your Typical Anthology

Welcome to Sherri Matthew’s Summerhouse in the UK: this week’s stop on the Rough Writers Tour Around the World.
Sherri discusses the role that flash fiction plays in her memoir writing in both an entertaining and informative way.
After you read Sherri’s post, pack your bags and get ready to travel. Next stop will be with me: from the UK in the north to sunny Queensland in the south. See you then!

A View From My Summerhouse

Summerhouse in Spring (c) Sherri Matthews

When I moved house last October, I said goodbye to my Summerhouse.  That is, to the wood and nails of it.  To the little wooden house painted blue , strung with pretty bunting and lights which no longer belongs to me.

My Summerhouse wasn’t just my writing space; over the years, it was home to a nest of bumble bees in the ground below, several spiders and their cobwebs spun in dusty corners, and a hedgehog who took up residence at the back.

I miss it, but I smile through my wistful nostalgia when I look at the photos, because I know that it is the virtual essence of the Summerhouse that remains.

My Summerhouse is imaginary now, a virtual meeting place, but it is no less real, filled with you, my lovely people.  A community created by the footprints you leave with…

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Raw Literature: Asperger’s, Voice and the Search for Identity

I’ve been reading a lot of posts about Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism lately. It’s a topic about which I need to increase my understanding. If you’re like me, you will find this post by Sherri Matthews helpful.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

By Sherri Matthews

The first few pages of the children’s book, ‘Are you my Mother?’, both captivated and troubled me as a girl. The story tells of a baby bird who hatches while his mother is away from the nest looking for food.  The hatchling flies the nest to look for her, but he has no idea what either he nor his mother, looks like.  He asks everything from a kitten to a boat, ‘Are you my mother?’, but to no avail.  Then he starts to cry.

Thankfully, unlike the baby bird, I didn’t have to search for my mother. But I questioned my identity when, after my parent’s divorced and I no longer lived with my dad,  I was told to use my stepfather’s surname. In 1970’s Britain, I was the only one of my friends from a so-called broken home; I understood it was to save…

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readilearn: The importance of reading aloud – a guest post by Jennie Fitzkee – Readilearn

Every day is a great day for reading aloud to children, but with the celebration of International Read to Me Day on March 19, now is a great time to give some thought to the importance of reading aloud in preparation for the Day’s celebrations. by arming yourself with a basket of books to read.

To help put us in the mood and assist our preparations, Jennie Fitzkee is here to tell us why reading aloud to children is important.

Jennie, a passionate and inspirational teacher, has been teaching preschool in Massachusetts for over thirty years.  She is considered by many to be the “book guru” and the “reader-aloud”.  She is also a writer and her work is often posted by The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art.  This is what Jennie says of teaching:

“I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience.  Emergent curriculum opens young minds.  It’s the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting.  That’s what I write about.”

Jennie is highlighted in the new edition of Jim Trelease’s bestselling book, The Read-Aloud Handbook  because of her reading to children.  Her class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.  Their latest quilt is currently hanging at the Massachusetts State House in Boston.  In 2016, Jennie was one of seven teachers in Massachusetts to receive the Teacher of the Year Award.

I’m sure you’ll agree that there is much we can learn from Jennie.

Welcome to readilearn, Jennie. Over to you.

Continue reading: readilearn: The importance of reading aloud – a guest post by Jennie Fitzkee – Readilearn

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crows ravens bullying and kindness

What’s there to crow about?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a raven. It can be in nature or used to describe humanity as a metaphor. Follow the bird. Go where the prompt leads.

While ravens and crows may have their differences, as an Australian, I can be forgiven for having difficulty in telling them apart. As this article about the Australian Raven in Birds in Backyards says,

“There are six members of the family Corvidae found in Australia: five native breeding species and one infrequent self-introduction. Three are called crows and three ravens, although there is really little difference. Most Australian species are similar in size and colouration, and can be difficult to tell apart.”

In fact, when I attempted to find photographs of crows and ravens, I found the same photograph labelled ‘crow’ in one location and ‘raven’ in another!

I provide this information only so you’ll understand why I refer to crow rather than the raven of Charli’s prompt.

You see, Charli’s prompt reminded me of this video in which a crow shares its bread with a mouse.

I wondered why the crow would make such an effort to share with a mouse. Don’t crows usually eat mice?

I was reminded, then, of the Aesop’s fable The Lion and the Mouse in which a lion, surprised at the idea that a mouse might one day be able to help him, forgoes a meal and releases the mouse. The mouse returns the favour one day by freeing the lion when it was ensnared by hunters.

However, in the fable, it was the potential prey who helped the predator in an act of kindness.

In the video, it is the predator showing kindness to potential prey. Finding a motive required some divergent thinking. This is what I came up with as a start.

Crow and Mouse

“Caw, caw,” called Crow in the morning from atop the tree.

“Caw, caw,” called Crow at midday from the neat vegie patch.

“Caw, caw,” called Crow, perched high on a wire, at the end of the day.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man in the morning, shaking knobbled fists.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man at midday, stamping his feet.

“Shoo, shoo,” shouted Man, clattering his pans at the end of the day.

Sneak, sneak went Mouse from his hole in the wall, to the kitchen and back, unnoticed by Man who was noticing Crow.

And so it repeated, day after day.

Until, one day, Man grew tired of shooing Crow and loaded his slingshot with a rock. Mouse, ready to sneak, saw Man take aim. Mouse ran–across the floor and up Man’s leg. Man stumbled. In so doing, he dropped the rock upon his toe. He hollered. Crow heard the commotion and flew away, cawing his thanks to Mouse.

Man saw where Mouse hid. He fetched his hammer, nails and a board.

Just in time, Mouse escaped–down the stairs, through the garden and into the woods. In the darkness, Mouse trembled.  All his life, he had filled his belly with three good meals a day from Man’s kitchen. Could he fend for himself? He looked about this unfamiliar world. When the quiet was interrupted by a flap-flap-flap, he ducked for cover.

Too late–he’d been spotted.

“There you are,” cawed Crow, placing a piece of bread on the ground in front of Mouse. “Thank you for your kindness. One good turn always deserves another.”

What do you think?

Stories, stories, everywhere

I had fun writing the story and it reaffirmed for me that potential stories are everywhere, not only for adult writers, but for children too. I think children would love to discuss the video of the crow and the mouse and would ask many more questions and come up with more inventive stories than I did. What a fun writing prompt it would be. Children could also compose dialogue for the animals and act it as a play.

Of course, this story is much too long to qualify for Charli’s flash fiction 99-word requirement. For that I thought I’d go back to school with a chance for the bully Brucie to learn some kindness. The timing is just right with the observation of National Day for Action Against Bullying And Violence on 16 March, and both Harmony Day and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on 21 March.

In this article from ABC News, I discovered that clever crows are learning from magpies to swoop in order to protect their nests. It also seems that they never forget a face. Perhaps they are no happier to see bullying than we are.

This is my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you like it.

Nothing to crow about

Brucie had to get there first to stake his place at the very top. He didn’t slow on the still-wet grass, and only momentarily to laugh at Jasmine who slipped as he brushed past. From his perch, he smirked at the disappointed faces below.

“Caw!” said a crow, alighting alongside.


It didn’t shoo–more came.

Brucie shouted, waving his arms.

The crows shuffled closer.

Brucie thrashed wildly.

Bang! Bang! Bang! Jasmine banged a cricket bat against the frame.

The crows flew away.

“Are you okay?” asked Jasmine.

Brucie nodded, then let the others play.

The crows never returned.

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writing in the lower primary classroom using the language experience approach

readilearn: Writing in the lower primary classroom – a guest post by Marsha Ingrao – Readilearn

Providing children with fun and purposeful activities for writing is one of the best ways to encourage a love of writing, to replace the drear with enthusiasm.

In this post, I introduce guest author Marsha Ingrao who shares suggestions for bringing joy to your writing lessons through the Language Experience Approach.

“The Language Experience Approach (LEA) is a literacy development method that has long been used for early reading development with first language learners…It combines all four language skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.”

Professional Learning Board

Although Marsha retired from public education in 2012, her passion for education remains and she continues to educate through blogging, speaking engagements and volunteering for Kiwanis and the Chamber of Commerce. Her classroom experience ranged from teaching kindergarten to fourth grade. She left the classroom to work as a consultant for the county office of education first in math, working with migrant education, then in history and language arts. She is author of Images of America Woodlake, a history of her local Woodlake area, published by Arcadia Press.

Welcome to readilearn, Marsha. Over to you.

Because LEA employs all four branches of language arts, listening, speaking, reading and writing, it is perfect for teaching writing to pre-school and primary students as well. With the thrust in the United States for non-fiction reading, the language experience approach becomes the perfect avenue for teaching writing to young children.

To make the language experience approach applicable to all young students, adult assistance is required.

The “How To” Essay

Beginning in pre-school, we tackled one of the hardest types of writing, the “how to” essay. Holiday traditions are the perfect avenue for this

Continue reading: readilearn: Writing in the lower primary classroom – a guest post by Marsha Ingrao – Readilearn

Grandma's books - the magic of storytelling

The magic of storytelling

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Telling stories to and with young children has many benefits. Including other things, it helps to develop:

  • relationships with the storyteller and other listeners
  • language – vocabulary, language structure, imagery
  • understanding of narrative structure as it applies to fiction and non-fiction accounts
  • curiosity about one’s family, the immediate environment, and other places
  • empathy for others
  • interest in books and reading
  • imagination

There is something very special about telling, as opposed to reading, stories. The telling can be more fluid, more interactive, and change with the mood and with input from teller and listener. The distinction between teller and listener can blur and roles can change as the story flows.

Sometimes it is the routine and the relationships that are more important and more memorable than any one story. For example, a parent telling stories as part of the bedtime ritual, stories told by a visiting grandparent, aunt or uncle, or even stories told in the classroom. Jennie Fitzkee often tells us about the magic effect of her storytelling sessions in her preschool classroom on her blog A Teacher’s Reflections.

What were the dinosaurs like?

Story telling doesn’t require any special talents, or even an especially exciting story. When my daughter was young she would often ask for a story about my childhood. (She loved hearing about the dinosaurs!) Stories such as these can occur at any time during the day, though storytelling times may need to be scheduled in a school day. A special treat for me as a young child was when, after dinner, Dad would sing us the story song asking, “Who made Little Boy Blue?”

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes boots. Whose boots are they, where do they go and what is their significance? Go where the prompt leads.

I immediately thought of a Grandmother, a storytelling expert, whose boots signified when a magical storytelling session was about to begin. I hope you like where the story leads. In fact, it can lead wherever you wish–

Grandma’s boots

Jess peered out, waiting, hoping, to glimpse Grandma arrive. Rainbow stars exploded outside her window just as the doorbell chimed–missed it again. Disappointment faded as she flung herself into Grandma’s enveloping arms. Grandma’s soft kisses promised secrets through scents of far-off places and unfamiliar things. Grandma’s boots sparkled, announcing story time. Jess and Grandma snuggled into their special chair. Clasping hands, they whispered their story-time chant. The chair shuddered and lifted off the floor. The roof opened and, quick as a wink, Jess and Grandma were whooshing across the sky to somewhere, “Once upon a time and faraway…”

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watching in dry flash fiction feature

Watching ink dry

Sometimes we think change occurs at an incredible pace. Other times it’s too slow–like watching paint dry. But what about watching ink dry?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink. It can be artistic, writerly or something completely off-the-wall. Go where the prompt leads.

Where would I go? To school–where else?

In my first year of school we wrote on slates (no, not on stone tablets as my children may tease).

In subsequent years, we wrote in exercise books and special handwriting books with lead pencils (which contain graphite rather than lead).

As we moved up through the grades, we still used pencils for most work, but were also introduced to pens with nibs which we dipped into inkwells recessed in our desks for handwriting or “copybook” lessons. It was important to get just the right amount of ink on the nib–too little and the nib would scratch but not sufficiently to make a readable mark–too much and the ink would run, blot and smudge.

In upper primary, we graduated to fountain pens for our copybook work. It was just as difficult to get the right amount of ink, even with the cartridge variety. Should we err and make a blot on our copybook, it was treated as a most serious offence. Luckily, our trusty blotting paper was at the ready to soak up any excess. We always had to begin writing at the top and continue down the page. There was no going back and inserting or altering something at the top, unless we were absolutely certain the ink was dry, lest we smudge the writing with our hand.

Although ball point pens, commonly called biros in my circles, had been invented–as early as 1888 according to this history, would you believe–we were not allowed to use them in school for fear our handwriting skills would deteriorate. They had their own set of ink issues too–some would fail to write, other would supply too much thick ink. Others would leave ink all over hands, or leak in pockets or bags.

Over the years, ballpoint pens improved in quality and have now replaced dip nib pens except for specialist writing, and fountain pens are considered more a luxury item. Now the concern is that the use of digital devices; such as, computers, tablets and phones will have a harmful effect upon children’s handwriting skills. I wonder were there similar concerns when papyrus replaced stone tablets; and what those concerns will be in the future, should handwriting have a future.

I didn’t wish to “blot my copybook” by responding to Charli’s prompt with a story unrelated to education or children. I hope you enjoy it.

A blot on whose copybook?

Ever so carefully, she dipped the nib in and out of the inkwell. Her tongue protruded, guiding the pen as she copied the black squiggly lines dancing across the page.

“Start at the top. Go across; then down. Lift, dip…,“ the teacher droned.

“Start at the top!” The cane stung her knuckles, sending the nib skidding across the page.

“Now look what you’ve done!” The teacher grasped the book and held it aloft, sending ink in rivulets down the page. Her thumb intercepted one, smearing another opportunity for humiliation across the page.

“Girls, this is what not to do!”

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