Category Archives: growth mindset

Marnie's graduation of dreams and nightmares flash fiction

Of dreams and nightmares

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme “follow your dreams.” Bonus points for throwing a badge into the tale. Go where the prompt leads.

The prompt led me back to Marnie, a character about whom I have written a number of flash stories, as I try to figure out who she is and what her world is like. We know that she was both neglected and abused at home and bullied at school. One special teacher Miss R has been her confidante and champion over the years, instilling in Marnie an inkling of self-worth and giving her the will to survive. This story takes us to her graduation day.

Of dreams and nightmares

Marnie snuck into the back row. The ceremony was underway. “Follow your dream” and “What is your dream?” were displayed on the large screen above the stage. As each graduating student took the microphone to share their dreams for the future, images of past achievements were projected onto the screen. Marnie should have been there too: but what could she share? Who would listen or even care? Only Miss R. Marnie craned her neck for a farewell glimpse, then left as quietly as she had entered. Once she had escaped her nightmare, perhaps then she could begin to dream.

You can read more of Marnie’s story here.

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Rough writers tour around the world

Jump on board the Congress of Rough Writers Round the World Tour

Do you remember the moment you fell in love–the moment the passion ignited, and you knew life would never be the same again?

I remember the moment my love affair with flash fiction began. Like many love affairs, it took me by surprise, lifting me up with its power to seduce, challenge and excite in a whirlpool of emotions.

That moment occurred exactly four years and one week ago when, on 12 March 2014, I published my response to the first flash fiction prompt posted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write the aftermath of an avalanche of any kind from any perspective.

Flash fiction was new to me. I’d written short stories, children stories, poetry, songs, and educational books and resources, but never flash fiction. However, I do love a challenge and had been anticipating having a go at flash fiction after Charli’s announcement a few months prior.

This is my response, my first ever attempt at flash fiction:

Avalanche

The trickle began; imperceptible, unheeded and ignored.

Needing more attention, the volume swelled and quickened pace.

Still no attention was forthcoming so the surge became more urgent and incessant in its plea.

“Slow down! Stop me!”

To no avail.

The avalanche engulfed her.

Heat flashed through her body, from feet straight to her head.

Heart pounding loudly, “Let me out of here!” it pled.

With reverberations magnified in each and every cell,

the heady swirl became too much –

she trembling choked. “I’m dying?”

But no:

B-r-e-a-t-h-e   s-l-o-w.

B-r-e-a-t-h-e   d-e-e-p.

R-e-l-a-x.

S-o-o-t-h-e.

B-r-e-a-t-h-e . . .

The panic abates.

I was just one of five to respond to that first prompt. Four of those writers, including me of course, are still regular visitors to the Carrot Ranch, are members of the Congress of Rough Writers, and are contributors to the Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 1. That’s pretty awesome, I think.

Carrot Ranch Anthology with 5 star review

Watch the trailer here:

Over the years, the number of Congress members has grown to thirty-two and the number of participants in the Flash Fiction challenges swells to more than fifty some weeks.

from little things big things grow

What an amazing achievement: from small things, big things grow. Charli’s vision has not wavered from the outset. She held to her path through all manner of life’s storms. Battered but not beaten, she persisted when lesser mortals would have caved. She continues to welcome, encourage and support all writers with her vision to make literary arts accessible to all. With the publication of this anthology, a digital compilation of entries in the inaugural Flash Fiction Rodeo now in production, and Anthology Vol 2 in the pipeline, she shows what is possible through vision, determination and growth mindset.

During the four years I have been participating in Charli’s challenges, I have learned a lot, not only about writing, but about life. The warmth and encouragement of the community of writers that have gathered around Charli is uplifting. The synergy and combined effect of all our stories, written and shared in a safe environment, raises us up together to walk on each other’s shoulders.

In 2015, I wrote this about what I had learned from writing flash fiction. The learning continues with my own “yet’ mindset.

Carrot Ranch anthology a brilliant idea

About the Anthology

Thirty writers began with 99 words and forged literary feats. Vol. 1 explores the literary art of flash fiction, beginning with the earliest compilations at Carrot Ranch and later pieces based on a new flash fiction prompt. This is not your typical anthology. It continues with longer stories extended from the original 99-word format and essays on how flash fiction supports memoir writing. Based on the experiences at Carrot Ranch, the concluding section of Vol. 1 offers tips to other groups interested in using the flash fiction format to build a literary community.

Charli Mills, Series Editor, Publisher & Lead Buckaroo
Sarah Brentyn, Editor & Contributor

The Congress of the Rough Writers (contributors):

Anthony Amore, Rhode Island, USA; Georgia Bell, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Sacha Black, England, UK; Sarah Brentyn, USA; Norah Colvin, Brisbane, Qld, AU; Pete Fanning, Virginia, USA; C. Jai Ferry, Midwest, USA; Rebecca Glaessner, Melbourne, Vic, AU; Anne Goodwin, England, UK; Luccia Gray, Spain; Urszula Humienik, Poland; Ruchira Khanna, California, USA; Larry LaForge, Clemson, South Carolina, USA; Geoff Le Pard, Dulwich South London, UK; Jeanne Belisle Lombardo, Phoenix, Arizona, USA; Sherri Matthews, Somerset, UK; Allison Mills, Houghton, Michigan, USA; Charli Mills, Hancock, Michigan, USA; Paula Moyer, Lauderdale, Minnesota, USA; JulesPaige, Pennsylvania, USA; Amber Prince, North Texas, USA; Lisa Reiter, UK; Ann Edall-Robson, Airdrie, Alberta, Canada; Christina Rose, Oregon, USA; Roger Shipp, Virginia, USA; Kate Spencer, British Columbia, Canada; Sarah Unsicker, St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Irene Waters, Noosaville, Qld, AU; Sarrah J. Woods, Charleston, West Virginia, USA; Susan Zutautas, Orillia, Ontario, Canada.

From the back cover:

Witness great feats of literary art from daring writers around the world: stories crafted in 99 words.

Flash fiction is a literary prompt, form, and tool that unites writers in wordplay. This creative craft hones a writer’s skills to write tight stories and explore longer works. It’s literary art in thoughtful bites, and the collective stories in this anthology provide an entertaining read for busy modern readers.

Writers approach the prompts for their 99-word flash with creative diversity. Each of the twelve chapters in Part One features quick, thought-provoking flash fiction. Later sections include responses to a new flash fiction prompt, extended stories from the original 99-word format, and essays from memoir writers working in flash fiction. A final section includes tips on how to use flash fiction in classrooms, book clubs, and writers groups.

CarrotRanch.com is an online literary community where writers can practice craft the way musicians jam. Vol. 1 includes the earliest writings by these global literary artists at Carrot Ranch. Just as Buffalo Bill Cody once showcased the world’s most daring riding, this anthology highlights the best literary feats from The Congress of Rough Writers.

The Congress of Rough Writers Anthology Vol 1

In case you haven’t got yours yet, here’s where to purchase

The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 is available through distribution in 17 countries worldwide. Buy direct from our Print on Demand distributor at Book Baby.

Preferred Seller:

The-Congress-of-Rough-Writers

Also available from:

Amazon Global Digital
Amazon Global Print

Be sure to check out other stops on the Congress of Rough Writers Tour Around the World.

We have already visited

Sherri Matthews UK

Luccia Gray in Spain

Sacha Black in the UK

Ann Edall-Robson in Canada

Anne Goodwin in the UK

Geoff Le Pard in the UK

Next week we will visit Irene Waters, another Australian. (You’ve travelled so far, we want you to make the most of your journey!)

The tour continues through April and into May. Be sure to not miss a stop along the way.

 

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How important is perfection?

Are you a perfectionist? If so, in what areas?

I think it would be difficult to be a perfectionist in everything, indeed, in anything.

I have never considered myself to be a perfectionist, though others have occasionally labelled my attitude to work that way. I do have certain standards that I like to meet, and I always strive to attain them, to do the best I can. I concede that my expectations of spelling, grammar and punctuation correction may tend towards perfection, but if I can, why would I not? Of course, the occasional imperfection will slip through. It is difficult to catch all when we are editing and proofing our own work. However, if I spot any, I will quickly change them, embarrassed that I let them escape.

There are many areas in which I am far from a perfectionist – especially housework. I’ll do what needs to be done, but only if I must; and my idea of need may differ vastly from yours. I am often reminded of my mother’s words when I’d completed a household chore; for example, sweep the steps, when I was a child. She’d comment that I’d given it a “lick and a promise”. These days, housework rarely gets more than a promise, a promise I’m not good at keeping.

As a teacher of young children, it was not perfection I was looking for in their work, but for the best they could do. I expected their work to reflect their development. If they were capable of the calculation, spelling or of using the correct punctuation, I expected them to use it. Opportunities to revise answers and responses were given and improvement was encouraged.

I’ve hedged around this topic a few times in posts; such as, Is contentment compatible with a growth mindset? The end, Phrasing praise and What is failure.

But how do we decide when good enough is good enough and that we have put in as much effort as the task requires? I know there are many who agree with me about housework, but what about other things; maybe like, hanging a picture, following a recipe, parking a car, making a payment, checking copyright, or painting a room?

I recently watched a TED Talk by Jon Bowers entitled We should aim for perfection and stop fearing failure. Bowers provides some different perspectives on the topic of perfectionism, challenging an adjustment to thinking.

He begins by discussing typos. We’ve all made them, haven’t we? The seemingly innocuous typo can give us a good laugh at times. But it can also do a lot of damage.

Bowers tells us that “one little typo on Amazon’s supercode produced a massive internet slowdown that cost the company over 160 million dollars in the span of just four hours”, and “an employee at the New England Compound, which is a pharmaceutical manufacturer, didn’t clean a lab properly and now 76 people have died and 700 more have contracted meningitis.”

Bowers says,

“When did we come to live in a world where these types of typos, common errors, this do-your-best attitude or just good enough was acceptable? At some point, we’ve stopped valuing perfection, and now, these are the type of results that we get. You see, I think that we should all seek perfection, all the time, and I think we need to get to it quick.”

traffic

He talks about the need for perfection when behind the wheel of a vehicle. How many lives are lost daily through inattention, through lack of perfection?

credit card

He talks about the need for credit card manufacturers to demand perfection. How would it be if even 1% of our credit cards didn’t work properly?

book

He says that “if the Webster’s Dictionary was only 99.9 percent accurate, it would have 470 misspelled words in it.  If our doctors were only 99.9 percent correct, then every year, 4,453,000 prescriptions would be written incorrectly, and probably even scarier, 11 newborns would be given to the wrong parents every day in the United States.”

He goes on to make many other statements that I’m sure will get you thinking too. At less than 11 minutes in length, the time commitment is far less than the potential learning gain.

When I watched this video, I was contemplating my response to this week’s flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Charli shared a “possibly spam” email received as an entry into the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest #2: Little and Laugh. You can read the email in Charli’s post, which also includes the challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fictional story about The Real Nanjo Castille. (The spammer).

I thought the email to be a little too clever to be real spam, too many clever word choices, phonetic spellings, and our favourite: bitchcoin, that could be purchased for ten dollars, $20 or £20. And the poor writer has an identity crisis, not sure whether to spell his or her name Nanjo or Najno.

I wondered about how the performance of this child in school might be viewed and what profession might be suggested as a goal.

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

A job for Nanjo?

The parents waited.

Start positive, she reminded herself.

“Nanjo has a wonderful imagination.”

They smiled.

“Very creative too, especially with spelling and punctuation.”

They exhaled.

“Has trouble understanding money though, and his knowledge of number facts is non-existent – “ she hesitated, then continued quietly. “I can’t think of any employer who’d have him.”

“Pardon?”

“I mean, employment, suited to his – ah – special skills.”

She cracked.

“I’m sorry. Your son is unemployable. His spelling and grammar is atrocious. He can’t even spell his own name, for god’s sake! I don’t think he could even get a job as a spammer!”

Make sure to check the results of Contest #2 at the Carrot Ranch. I’m not the winner. Nor is it Nanjo. Could it be you?

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

Introducing co-authors Brenda Miles and Susan Sweet – Readilearn

Brenda Miles and Susan Sweet

This month I have great pleasure in introducing you to two fine authors, Brenda S. Miles and Susan D. Sweet, who co-wrote the wonderful picture book Cinderstella: A Tale of Planets Not Princes.

With both World Space Week and International Day of the Girl Child just a few weeks away, I couldn’t think of a better book and authors to spotlight this month. This year’s theme for World Space Week is “Exploring new worlds and space”, and the theme for International Day of the Girl Child is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.”

princes and parties

Cinderstella sees no prince in her happily ever after. She’d rather be an astronaut exploring space. Challenging the role of girls as portrayed in traditional fairy tales, Cinderstella determines to take control of her own destiny and be what she wants to be in a universe of unlimited possibilities. The story encourages girls, and boys, to take an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and break the limits imposed by gender stereotypes and biases.

Continue reading: Introducing co-authors Brenda Miles and Susan Sweet – Readilearn

Inspiring creativity – celebrating Dot Day – Readilearn

inspiring creativity - dot day

Next Friday 15 September is International Dot Day, a day for celebrating and promoting creativity, courage and collaboration.

Celebration of the day was initiated in 2009 with teacher Terry Shay introducing his class to the picture book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

The story is of Vashti and a teacher who encouraged her to make a mark and have a go. Lacking self-belief and courage, Vashti was reluctant to participate in art class. When the teacher framed and hung her signed painting of a tiny dot, Vashti was determined to do better. She painted all kinds of dots that wowed the people at the school art fair. What happened when one little boy admitted to Vashti that he wished he could draw will inspire children everywhere to be brave, have a go, and be creative.

For a wealth of celebratory suggestions, visit the International Dot Day Get Started page and sign up to download a free Educator’s Handbook, which includes a lovely certificate of participation which can be printed and personalised for each child.

I have included a link to the page in the new resource Getting creative with dots in which I suggest additional ideas to add to the celebration.

getting creative with dots

The suggestions, of which examples are shown below, can be used in conjunction with International Dot Day, or any day when you feel like going a little dotty.

Continue reading: Inspiring creativity – celebrating Dot Day – Readilearn

The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming Karen Tyrrell back to the blog. I previously interviewed Karen about her book Songbird Superhero for the Author Spotlight series. Karen has now published a second book in the Song Bird Series The Battle of Bug World.

I enjoyed Songbird Superhero, so was delighted when Karen approached me to participate in her blog tour. The fact that the book is about bugs may have something to do with it. As you saw last week, I am a fan of minibeasts, including bugs.

As soon as Karen announced the release of her book, I purchased an advance copy and was able to post a pre-review on Goodreads. This is what I wrote:

I loved Song Bird Superhero and wondered if a sequel could possibly match it. But with The Battle of Bug World, Karen Tyrrell didn’t just match it, she surpassed it!
This fast-paced page-turning story is packed with disasters that even Song Bird is not sure she can fix.
What is that nasty Frank Furter up to now? And what’s with the severe thunder storm hovering above his house? What’s happened to all the bees? And why has Song Bird’s sister

Continue reading: The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

Is contentment compatible with a growth mindset?

I am quite a fan of the growth ‘not yet’ mindset which focuses on a belief in the ability to do and achieve more through persistence and hard work. I have previously written about this mindset in What do you have in mind? and in The power of not yet.

I wonder how compatible a growth mindset is with a complacency or acceptance of the way things are; a “This is it. I can’t do anything about it.” attitude.

When I think of contentment, I think of serenity, tranquillity, a feeling of peace and acceptance. I think of it as a positive state of mind. The dictionary defines it as:

Does this imply that there is no wish for things to be different?

I often talk about the importance of imagination and creativity to inspiring innovation and invention. But do they also require a certain degree of disequilibrium or discontent with the way things are? Is it necessary to find fault with something in order to improve upon it? How many gadgets do you use regularly, accepting their imperfections without a thought of how they might be improved? It is not necessary to have the ability to improve them in order to imagine how they might be improved.

A fun thing to do with children is to get them to think of an easier or more enjoyable way of conducting a routine activity. How about an alternative to the traditional, in Australia anyway, emu parade which has children criss-crossing the school grounds, bobbing up and down to pick up rubbish? How about something to carry their heavy back-packs home? Or something to do their homework? (Oh, that’s right, they’ve already invented parents for that!)  I’m sure children, and you, can imagine far more exciting improvements.

Imagination is the driver of innovation and change. But it also requires action. It is the action that gets us into the growth mindset; perseverance, hard work and repeated attempts. As Edison is oft quoted,

 “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He also said,

“To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

I wonder how my friend Pauline King The Contented Crafter would respond to my title question. While I know she has reached a certain stage of contentment in her life, I also know that she strives to better her craft, and does what she can to make the world a better place. How much need for change or improvement can contentment tolerate?

Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch and her flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about feeling content  got me wondering about this. Charli talked about moments of contentment sprinkled among frustrating events and dreams of change.

It helped me realise that, while they appear to be in contradiction, we need a little of both. We need to be happy with who we are, what we have, and what we have achieved; while at the same time, we need to be aware of what can and should be improved, and some strategies for action. Questioning is important to stimulate imagination, and when paired with creative thinking, innovation can occur. We need the inspiration of just one forward-thinker to lead us into the future.

The same balance between contentment and growth can be seen in children’s play. I have used it as my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

Purpose in play

They worked furiously as if with one mind; digging, piling, shaping, smoothing the sand.  As if on cue, two began to tunnel through from opposite sides, meeting in the middle. Others carved into the surface, forming window-like shapes. Sticks, leaves, and other found objects adorned the structure. Then, simultaneously, the work stopped. They glowed with collective admiration. But Than was not yet content. Something was missing. He swooped on a long twig and stuck it into the top, antenna-like. “For communicating with the mother ship,” he declared. Soon they were all feverishly adding other improvements to their alien craft.

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