Category Archives: Flash fiction

Flash fiction What does your daddy do

What does your daddy do?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter. Who is she, what did she do, and where? Go where the prompt leads you!

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - safebreaker's daughter

In her post, Charli linked to the song The Safebreaker’s Daughter. After taking us on a deep mapping journey around the streets of her home, Charli contemplated what might occur should the safebreaker’s daughter turn up on one of those streets and wrote 99 words to share her thoughts. Please pop over and read if you would like to respond to her challenge as well.

As I have spent most of my life in the classroom, as usual, and not surprisingly, that’s where the prompt took me.

As teachers in public schools, we work with children from many different backgrounds, family configurations and status. The children of parents who ‘earn’ their living by not-so-honest means must also attend school. Unless those parents are the ‘wealthier’ white-collar criminals and seemingly respectable until caught out, many of the children attend public schools. Most teachers, at some time, will have worked with children whose parents engaged in practices outside the law or may have even been incarcerated. Sometimes we know. Sometimes we suspect. Sometimes we have no idea.

It is more than likely that the safebreaker’s daughter would have attended school and at some stage, as most children do, written about her parents and their work as part of her social studies. As we’ve just celebrated Father’s Day here in Australia, I decided to place the safebreaker’s daughter in a class writing about their father’s employment.

What Does Your Daddy Do?

The children drew portraits and wrote profiles of their fathers’ work. Some had accompanied their father to work and related first-hand knowledge of laying bricks, wearing a fireman’s helmet, sitting in the manager’s chair, or distributing medication to patients. Then it was Patsy’s turn. She read:

“My Dad

My dad goes to work at night. He is a cleaner. He works when everyone else is sleeping. He wears black jeans, a black shirt and a black hat. He wears gloves so he doesn’t leave fingerprints where he has cleaned. He usually cleans up banks and jewellery stores.

The end.”

 

My Dad - a childish story

Note: The burglar illustrating Patsy story is an alteration of an Image by Joe Alfaraby from Pixabay.

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Old World - So Last Century

Old World — So Last Century

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge old world

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writer to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about old world charm. It can be nostalgic or irreverent. You can invent an “old world,” return to migrant roots or recall ancient times. Go where the prompt leads you!

Born mid-way last century and unlikely to see the middle of this, from this angle anyway, I have to admit that I’m of the ‘old world’. The young ones think I’m ancient.

When my daughter, now an adult herself and ‘old’ to younger eyes, was but a child, she often asked me to tell her what life was like ‘in the olden days’ when I was a child. She even asked what the dinosaurs were like!

Although she teased, it has become entrenched in family lore. (Most family members have been obsessed by dinosaurs at some time — perhaps in the hope of locating ancestors?) But perhaps the juxtaposition is not that unlikely if one has not yet developed an understanding of the evolutionary timeline.

I’ve always appreciated the quote, often mistakenly attributed to Einstein, that says the only reason we have time is to prevent everything happening at once. There is another that questions whether, if a tree was to fall in the forest and no one was there to hear it, would it make any sound?

Could it be that for children, until they develop a sense of time, anything that has occurred outside of their memory, prior to their birth, seems to have happened all at once in that long ago, old world time.

The first children to have been born this century are already reaching adult status but it is difficult for them to imagine life before mobile phones, text messaging, iPads, social media, the internet, instant information, streaming and video games, let alone television. Even for some of us who experienced those ‘olden days’, it can be difficult to remember just what it was like.

This video of children reacting to rotary phones may help you recall.

How did we meet up with friends when we didn’t have phones, never mind mobile phones? What did we do when we were waiting for an appointment or an event and we didn’t have our phones for entertainment? What did we do when we wanted to know something and we weren’t at the library, beside a set of encyclopedias, or someone knowledgeable? No wonder our parents answered our questions with statements such as; “Because it is” and admonished us for asking too many questions. No child should ever have their questions shut down now with answers just a button away.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of momentous events such as the Moon Landing, Woodstock, and my final year of school. I may not have roamed with the dinosaurs, but how life has changed since then. My story reflects back on time in that ‘old world’. I hope you like it.

So Last Century

“What did you play on the iPad when you were little, Grandma?”

“There weren’t any iPads when I was little.”

“What?”

“We didn’t even have computers.”

“What? How did you watch movies? On your phone?”

Grandma laughed. “No, we couldn’t watch movies on our phones. They didn’t have screens. And we couldn’t carry them in our pockets either. We went to the cinema to watch movies. When I was really little, we didn’t even have television.”

“Wow! What did you do then?”

“Lots — played games, read books, made our own fun.”

“Can we play a game?”

“Of course, love.”

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Sweet Strawberry Jam flash fiction

Sweet Strawberry Jam

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction challenge Sweet Jam

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sweet jam. It can take you to the kitchen or the smokey room of a back-alley bar. What makes it sweet? Go where the prompt leads you!

Although my mother was a great one for preserving and making jams from surplus fruits and vegetables, I never followed her example. I recall her pressure cooker filled to the brim with sweet sticky concoctions which were then sealed into Vacola jars for storage and future use.

Mulberry, fig, quince and tomato are just a few of the jams I remember her making. They were always a favourite heaped onto fresh white bread. Sometimes so much jam was applied, someone would sarcastically ask, “Would you like bread with that?” to which the only appropriate answer was, “Only if I have to.”

But we didn’t just spread jam on bread. Mum would use jam in some of her favourite sweet recipes including a coconut tart, raspberry slice and jam drops, all of which we children devoured as quickly as she could make them.

Although I didn’t take up the challenge of making jam, I’ve always enjoyed a word challenge. Even at school, I liked being asked to write a sentence to show the different meanings of the same word; for example, ‘bow’. I much preferred the creative aspect of such activities to simply filling in a missing word which usually had only one right answer and was a no-brainer.

The word jam and its variety of uses appealed to me in this way and I’ve jammed a few into my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

Sweet Strawberry Jam

Overhearing a conversation about the jam session at Lorna’s that night, Ailsa assumed the email was buried in spam which had jammed her inbox recently. She collected her Vacola jars and headed for the motorway. Discovering the traffic jam too late, she had no choice but to wait. The jam drops prepared for supper eased the monotony. At Lorna’s, she jammed her car into a tight spot and rushed inside. The living room was jam-packed, and music indicated a different kind of jamming. Setting down her Vacola jars, she leaned against the door jamb. “Sweet strawberry jam!” she breathed.

And how could I not have a post about jam without a reference to that Newbeats’ hit of the ‘60s I Like Bread and Butter.

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Apples for the teacher

Apples for the teacher

My entire life has been focused on education, both in school and out. As explained in my poem Education is, I don’t consider education and school to be synonymous. While some learning may take place in school, education encompasses much more than that. It occurs through living and is lifelong.

While my views have always challenged the traditional approach, I haven’t always found other like-minded educators in my personal circle. When I do meet others with a similar passion for children and learning, I feel exhilarated and renewed, excited by the prospect of what could be.

Recently, on Facebook, I viewed this video by Prince Ea, musician and motivational speaker.

The video led me to the Innovation Playlist and Ted Dintersmith. I knew I had found others of similar mind when I saw that the first video on the Playlist was Do Schools Kill Creativity by Sir Ken Robinson, which I shared last week (and previously here, here and elsewhere). What joy!

There is much to explore on the Innovation Playlist, and I have only just begun. If like me, you believe traditional schooling could do with some improvement and are heartened by good things that are going on in many places, I highly recommend you take a look.

So far, I have watched Ted Dintersmith’s movie Most Likely to Succeed and am currently listening to his book What School Could Be. His book is a fascinating expose of schools in the United States of America. In one school year, he visited schools in every State discovering innovative “teachers doing extraordinary things in ordinary settings, creating innovative classrooms where children learn deeply and joyously.” His findings are inspiring and reassuring that schools can do more than prepare children for tests, they can prepare children for life. It is a fascinating read. If you live in the US, you will find something about schools in your own State. If you live outside the US, you will find something to inspire you.

For a quick overview of Dintersmith’s book and findings, read this article published in Education Week last year What’s Actually Working in the Classroom?

This discussion between Ted Dintersmith and Prince EA provides an insight into their motivations for improving education.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - poisoned apple

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a poisoned apple. Let’s explore dark myth. Deconstruct the original or invent something new. Negotiate the shadows, shed light, but go where the prompt leads you!

An apple is often used as a symbol for the teacher, and we talk about ‘an apple for the teacher’. Rather than write a fractured fairy tale, of which I am fond, I thought a poisoned apple was a perfect analogy for what happens when the focus of schooling is on test scores rather than children and learning. Let’s see what you think.

apples - which would you choose

It’s an institution

They arrived with bright eyes, open hearts and curious minds. As they entered, each was handed a shiny apple full of promises. They took their places and followed instructions. In unison, they bit off small portions of their apple and chewed to the beat of the enormous metronome suspended above. On cue, they swallowed but, with insufficient time before the required regurgitation, were unable to digest any components. Before they had finished, the taste was bland, swallowing difficult and regurgitation almost impossible. On exiting, their eyes were dull, their hearts closed, and their minds shrivelled, poisoned by false promises.

The antidote

They arrived with bright eyes, open hearts and curious minds. As they entered, each was handed a shiny apple full of promises. No instructions were given. Each was guided in making their own discoveries. Some investigated flavour, nutritional benefits, and created award-winning recipes. Some explored seed propagation, discovering ways of increasing productivity and limiting food scarcity. Some peeled the apple and inspected it layer by layer to determine its innermost secrets. Some cut it in half to reveal and release the stars within unlocking unlimited potential and the secrets of the universe. All were filled with wonder and learning.

«»

I conclude with a video in which Prince EA speaks to his teacher and explains to him why he is not a failure and why what happens in the classroom does not inspire learning. He includes one of my favourite quotes by Kahlil Gibran. What’s to not like?

Kahlil Gibran Children

 

Thank you teachers

To all the wonderful teachers in my community, I thank you for your hard work and dedication, and the positive difference you are making to the lives of so many children and their families. You make the world a better place.

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Move it like a rock star flash fiction

Move it like a rock star

Charli Mill's flash fiction challenge - rock star

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock star. You can feature a central character or write about the feeling like a rock star. Go where the prompt leads!

One of my favourite TED talks is Ken Robinson’s Do Schools Kill Creativity? If you haven’t watched it yet, I recommend it as a very entertaining 20 minutes. I find it both heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.

In the video, Ken suggests that all kids have tremendous talents, and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.” He quotes Pablo Picasso as saying that every child is an artist. Remaining one into adulthood is the problem.

Robinson then goes on to talk about having lived at Snitterfield just outside Stratford, which is where Shakespeare’s father was born.”

He asks, Are you struck by a new thought? I was. You don’t think of Shakespeare having a father, do you? Do you? Because you don’t think of Shakespeare being a child, do you? Shakespeare being seven? I never thought of it. I mean, he was seven at some point. He was in somebody’s English class, wasn’t he?”

Now that’s an interesting thought. I wonder if your English teachers remember you from their classes. Could they have made any of the comments that Robinson suggests may have been made about the young William Shakespeare, including:

“Must try harder.”

or at bedtime, being sent to bed by his dad,

“Go to bed, now!”

“And put the pencil down!”

“Stop speaking like that.”

“It’s confusing everybody.”

It’s quite a thought. Perhaps as writers, we should reveal our school reports that are relevant to our writing careers. How well did our teachers predict our futures?

But we’re not discussing writers in this post. We’re discussing rock stars. I guess most rock stars started out in someone’s classroom too. And that made me think of this inspirational video by Clint Pulver, professional drummer and motivational speaker, who discusses one moment and one teacher who changed his life.

We all hope for a Mr Jensen in our lives to help us realise our full potential.

Movin’ It

Miss Prim turned from the board just in time to see Max land a punch on Michael.

“Ma-ax!”

“He bumped me.”

Miss Prim sighed. “What were you doing, Michael?”

“Noth—”

“He was rocking the desk again.”

“How many times—”

Without direction, Michael removed himself to sit in the corner. Before long, his feet were twitching, his elbows were pumping and his whole body was squirming.

“Michael!”

Everyone looked.

“Sorry, Miss,” Michael muttered.

But he couldn’t keep still.

Years later, when he was a rock star, Miss Prim said, “I knew he’d make something of himself one day.”

«»

I chose the name Michael for my character for three rock stars, only one of whom is still living (the oldest) but all of whom had the moves.

Mick Jagger

Michael Hutchence

Michael Jackson

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School Days, Reminiscences of Chelsea Owens

School Days, Reminiscences of Chelsea Owens

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Chelsea Owens. I first met Chelsea when she pulled up at the Carrot Ranch and joined in the flash fiction challenges. I enjoy her wry wit and sense of humour, some of which you’ll experience in her responses to my interview questions. It was also evident in her four creative and original entries in the Carrot Ranch Rodeo fractured fairy tale contest last year. Since I love fractured fairy tales and it was the contest that I judged, the connection was inevitable.

Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow Chelsea to tell you a little of herself:

I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah in the year never-you-mind. My mother felt strongly about living outside of the state, so we lived for a brief time in Ridgecrest, CA. She really ought to have considered a more scenic area to successfully convince my homebody father of out-of-Utah merits, because the remainder of my life (and theirs) has been back in Utah.

I generally grew up around the Salt Lake City metro area and still live there. Erm, here. I now have 4.5 children of my own, all boys. In the time between eating while doing dishes and sleeping while taking children to the bathroom, I run errands and pretend I’m on top of the laundry. Okay, okay: I also write. I maintain two blogs: A personal one and one on motherhood.

I started the former blog in order to have an outlet for my repressed creativity. The latter is to build an audience and connections for the book I will publish Someday.

Although I began blogging rather ignorant of writers, The World, and my own talents and abilities; I have since found a much more welcoming audience than I’ve experienced at any other time in my life. The blogging community is wonderful, and I so appreciate all the wonderful people I’ve met through writing online.

Chelsea Owens School Days Reminiscences

Welcome, Chelsea.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

Whilst living in California, I spent preschool and half of Kindergarten near our hometown of Ridgecrest. The remaining schools have been in Utah.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

I remember attending preschool at a woman’s house, but all of my education since has been at public schools.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

This is a top-secret answer, since I like for people to assume I’m a decorated graduate of the highest degree. In truth, I locked in enough credits to earn my Associate of Arts degree about a year after birthing my second son.

What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

My work and professions were assorted; their primary function was support of my education. My first job was a secretary for a chiropractor. I also did quality control, data entry, chemicals cataloging, phone surveying, and (most recently) content writing. Since becoming a mother, I have not worked outside the home. I have done some freelance work and help maintain our online dice store.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I remember walking into my second preschool building and what that looked like inside. It’s a shadowy memory of women at tables and shape cards on the tabletop. The building itself was a very small, house-shaped structure on a patch of lawn. Just before moving away from the area, we drove past and my mother told me it had been sold to another business. We told it, “Goodbye.”

What memories do you have of learning to read?

Chelsea Owens School Days Reminiscences 

My mother tells me that I taught myself to read at age four, yet I recall watching billboards out of the car windows and not being able to decipher them. To me, it was much like trying to read Cyrillic or Arabic. I’ve never had a problem with reading or comprehension besides that, although I have mispronounced a few words because of not hearing them aloud.

What memories do you have of learning to write? 

Unlike other interviewees in this series, I do not remember learning to write. I remember writing cursive. My older sister learned in third grade so, naturally, I had to learn as well. My poor relatives had to get through letters of my seven-year-old efforts, proudly bearing a footnote, “written in cursive.” I also did that to them with my trying to write left-handed. I think I only made my parents suffer through letters written with my toes, though.

What do you remember about math classes? 

I love math! I would marry it. I’m not fond of statistics or calculus. I also have an early memory of needing to stay in at recess in fourth grade in order to grasp long division. Really, I would only marry algebra.

What was your favourite subject?

Chelsea Owens School Days Reminiscences

In elementary years I enjoyed recess and P.E. Our school had climbing ropes and I got to monkey up one during our class’ talent program in first grade. Although I did eventually earn The Presidential Fitness Award in ninth grade and then did Track and Field in high school, I resented being graded for my physical activity in 5th-8th grades.

Chelsea Owens School Days Reminiscences

I also liked physics, art, English, algebra, and choir.

What did you like best about school? 

My favorite parts of school were when the teachers introduced variety. I liked new challenges and being able to show off academically.

What did you like least about school?

I had a difficult time making friends in school, even up until high school (age 15). I did not have any friends and was generally ostracized by my peers.

I also have never liked pointless schoolwork, known as busywork.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

My children currently attend a charter school and those did not exist in my childhood. They have a lot more technology in their classrooms like Smart Boards, iPads, and laptops for taking tests on. Their school is attentive to behavioral issues and bullying. My boys have been able to progress a bit more in terms of academics as well, testing to move up a grade in their math classes.

What do you think schools (in general) do well? 

I think the schools around here do a good job at addressing bullying and at answering parental concerns. Some have language immersion programs or opportunities for advanced subjects.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Chelsea Owens School Days Reminiscences

The issue I see as most harmful to the education system in America is that of encouraging everyone to attend college. Like, everyone. This needs to be changed so that people may test and train in technical fields if they wish, especially if they would succeed in that role instead of accrue a helpless amount of student loan debt. Entry level jobs have the requirement of a college degree now instead of a GED or high school diploma. We are simply adding more debt to an already-cynical generation.

In a similar fashion, the public schools are required to accommodate everyone -including those with special needs. This a sore subject and one that I benefit somewhat from, since two of my children receive special education help for behavioral issues. I hold no animosity for children with more severe needs and know that they benefit from being around their more functional peers. Yet I also see most of the school’s resources going toward trying to entertain them all day and I see teachers with increasing numbers of more challenging pupils. Teachers already have a difficult job. I’ve yet to think of an ideal solution and fear it may involve limiting access for those children with needs.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Chelsea. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who enjoyed, and excelled at, both maths and PE. It’s been a pleasure to have you visit and get to know a little more about you.

Find out more about Chelsea Owens on her blogs

Chelsea Ann Owens

I Didn’t Want to Be a Mother

Connect with her on social media

Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/Celinedespions/

Twitter:
@chelseaowrites
@momtherealist

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

Darlene Foster

Susan Scott

Barbara Vitelli

Sherri Matthews

Mabel Kwong

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.
Coming soon:

Carol Taylor

Pamela Wight

Pete Springer

Yvette Prior

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For one day International Day of Friendship

For one day: International Day of Friendship

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - for one day

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the phrase “for one day.” The words single out a special occurrence. What is the emotion and vibe, where does it take place and why? Go where the prompt leads!

For more than one day, I have thought about what to write. I was drawn by the theme of empathy, of walking in someone else’s shoes, of being able to see oneself through the eyes of another, or of having the opportunity to heal past wounds, for one day. But I couldn’t quite get it. It was elusive, until I came across this video of Chris Rosati.

Chris Rosati decided that what he wanted to do most with his life was spread kindness. It led me to consider what the world might be like if, for one day, everyone of us, wherever we are, put aside our differences and spread kindness. Perhaps then, we wouldn’t need to walk in the shoes of another, see ourselves as others see us, or heal old wounds. Kindness would prevail.

Pandemic

It started slowly. First an outbreak in a school in central Australia, barely newsworthy. Then another in South America. A post on social media drew a few views but was largely ignored. When a third occurred in Western Europe, reports flooded news services. Soon, small isolated pockets erupted on every continent, and they multiplied and spread. The touch of a hand, a pat on a shoulder, the nod of a head, a brush of lips, the trace of a smile; all were infectious. The contagion was rampant. Random acts of kindness proliferated, and unbridled bursts of joy exploded everywhere.

A bit too Pollyanna? Maybe. But wouldn’t it be wonderful? And since today, 30 July, is International Day of Friendship, it’s totally appropriate.

Teaching friendship skills was always a big part of my classroom practice and many of the lessons I develop for the readilearn collection of teaching resources for the first three years of school also focus on the development of friendship skills; including:

busy bees ABC of friendship

Busy Bees ABC of Friendship

friendship superhero posters

Friendship Superpower posters

Getting to know you surveys 1

Getting to know you surveys

Extend the hand of friendship

Extend the hand of friendship

how to make a friendship tree

How to make a friendship tree

 

SMAG

Happy International Day of Friendship to all my friends. Thank you for bringing joy to my life.

If friends were flowers I'd pick you

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