Category Archives: Stories

Introducing Andrew King author of the Engibear series – Readilearn

Today, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Dr Andrew King from Brisbane Australia. Andrew is an engineer, teacher, and writer of the popular Engibears series of picture books, designed to introduce children to engineering through friendly characters and story. Each book focusses on a particular aspect of engineering and, through examples and accompanying activities, is designed to encourage children to try engineering — to “Dream, Design and Develop”.

Dream, Design and Develop

Engibears have been part of Andrew’s family for many years. They were created while Andrew played and shared stories with his children.

Andrew thinks he is very lucky to be working with Benjamin Johnston, a Sydney-based architect and illustrator. Ben’s fantastic illustrations have brought Engibears and Munnagong, the city in which they live, to life.

Andrew is passionate about the role that Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (the STEM subjects) will play in our sustainable future and equally passionate about the importance of STEM education. He regularly talks to students about engineering, and facilitates student-centred engineering activities and programs.

His kids think he enjoys building shelves in his spare time. However, Andrew really enjoys spending time with his family, playing bass guitar, walking his dogs and trying to play golf.

The Engibear series includes three books; Engibear’s Dream, Engibear’s Bridge and Engilina’s Trains. In the most recent, Engilina’s Trains, Engilina, Engibear and Bearbot are back to build transport for the future – a new maglev train that will run from Munnagong to Billaburra as fast as a plane. During the project, they discover an old steam engine which leads them on an interesting journey and creates an unexpected link to the past. It’s an interesting story of trains, teamwork, technology and time.

Now let’s meet Andrew. Welcome to readilearn, Andrew. We are looking forward to getting to know a little more about you and your books.

Thanks for inviting me.

Andrew, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Andrew King author of the Engibear series – Readilearn

Carrot Ranch Round the World Tour, Pennsylvania, USA | Jules in Flashy Fiction

And now for the next stop on the Congress of Rough Writers Tour Around the World. We are with Jules Paige from Pennsylvania, USA.

Jules has a unique ability to respond to a number of prompts and challenges in one. She even did six in one blow! What a feat. Read on to learn more about Jules and her writing process.

Meanwhile Back at the Ranch….brought to you from JulesPaige – because “words are like Jewels on a Page” Jules from Pennsylvania, USA Writes for “The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 1 World Tour.

I was going to write about my first piece for Carrot Ranch until one of my unnamed characters did some forest bathing. I was struck by a comment from our Lead Buckaroo on my piece entitled ‘The Rescue’ that I wrote in February 2018. Charli says: “A lovely escape and a fine mashup, Jules. I’m impressed at the depths you go to mine language, prompts and even comments. That’s literary art!”.

I’m drawn to what I call ‘mashing prompts’. One, two, five… sometimes I get carried away. But I managed to stuff The Rescue? a whole whopping 99 words with two prompts from one writing site, a photo prompt from another, the Unicorn prompt from Carrot Ranch as well as a quote from another piece I wrote that someone else liked as well as a comment I posted on another friends site.

That’s six inspirations woven into one very short piece of fiction.

Continue reader: Carrot Ranch Round the World Tour, Pennsylvania, USA | Jules in Flashy Fiction

Pop over to the Carrot Ranch, too, to see what the Lead Buckaroo has to say about one of the “bright jewels of the Buckaroo Nation.”

stories for discussing individual differences, diversity, inclusion, friendship

Celebrating individuals in your classroom using stories – Readilearn

While a classroom is filled with a group of unique individuals, it can be easy sometimes to get caught up in treating them as one, with one set of needs, expectations and rules. Everybody do this, everybody do that—a bit like Simon Says but not always as much fun.

It is useful to pause sometimes and celebrate the uniqueness of individuals in your class.

International Children’s Book Day and Hans Christian Andersen‘s birthday on 2 April provide excellent excuses for reading and celebrating children’s literature, as if we needed any. We can also find stories that help us celebrate individuality.

The Ugly Duckling Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen was a prolific writer of fairy tales, many of which are well-known and have been made into movies. One of my favourite films as a child was about Hans Christian Anderson with Danny Kaye in the lead role. I was particularly touched by the story of The Ugly Duckling which Andersen told to a sad young boy whom no one would play with. You can watch the scene here.

The story is a great starting point for discussing individual differences,

Continue reading: #readilearn: Celebrating individuals in your classroom using stories – Readilearn

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.

 

Thank you blog post

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

What makes a bully a bully?

Charli Mills flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch about balloons

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writer to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a hot air balloon. How does it add to your story? Go where the prompt leads.

balloons, celebrations, happy times, smiling kids

Balloons are almost synonymous with fun and celebrations. They come in all shapes and sizes to decorate parties and other events. A child with a balloon is usually a child with a smiling face – until the balloon bursts, pops or escapes.

What do balloons and bullies have in common, you may ask? I’m sure there are many ways balloons could be used for bullying.

With this Friday 16 March being the National Day Against Bullying and Violence, I decided to write a story that could be shared with children and used as a stimulus for discussing bullying, bullying prevention, and what it means to be a friend. I hope you like it.

Surprises for Marnie

Brucie loved surprising Marnie on her way to school each day.

Marnie expected that Brucie would meet her, but she never knew where.

On Monday, he jumped from behind a bush screaming at her.

On Tuesday, he stuck out his foot and tripped her.

On Wednesday, he snuck up behind and pulled her hair.

On Thursday, he popped a balloon in her ear.

On Friday, he surprised Marnie by not surprising her at all.

But, after she’d put her bag away, he pulled it out and emptied its contents on the floor.

“Whose mess is this?” demanded Mrs Brown.

bullying, being mean, hurting, pulling hair

What do you think? I have put the story together with some teaching suggestions in a resource to add to the readilearn collection.

The story has the potential to initiate discussion around issues and questions such as the following; for example:

  • What is a friend? What do friends do?
  • What is a surprise? Are all surprises good?
  • What is bullying? Are some people always friendly? Do some people always bully?
  • How do you think Marnie responds to Brucie’s “surprises”? How does her body feel?
  • Why would Brucie bully Marnie?
  • Do you think Marnie tells anyone about what Brucie is doing? Why wouldn’t she tell?
  • What should you do if you see someone being mean or bullying another?
  • Have you ever been bullied?
  • How did you respond? What would be a better way to respond?
  • What could Marnie have done to get Brucie to stop?
  • Have you ever bullied anyone?

These are just a beginning. The Bullying No Way website has some great resources to assist you in educating children about bullying and its prevention.

Bullying is defined as

“an ongoing misuse of power in relationships through repeated verbal, physical and/or social behaviour that causes physical and/or psychological harm.”

The important words here are:

ongoing, repeated, misuse of power, causing harm

Single or isolated acts of unkindness or aggression are not considered bullying.

Brucie is obviously engaging in bullying behaviour as he repeatedly abuses Marnie causing her physical as well as psychological (fear, anxiety) harm.

Marnie is reluctant to talk about the situation for fear of making it worse.

Children need to learn that there are safe people they can talk to about incidents that occur, and they also need to learn strategies for responding to unkindness and bullying.

When discussing bullying situations, it is important to not label a child as either victim or bully, but to describe the behaviour. Behaviour can be changed but it is often difficult to remove a label once it has been applied. What we need most are supportive schools that fosters acceptance and respect.

I have previously discussed bullying in Stop bullying now!, Safety in friendship, Targeting prey, and Bully for you.

Karen Tyrrell Songbird Superhero and Battle of Bug World empowering books for kids anti-bullying

I also interviewed Karen Tyrrell, Australian author of empowering books for children and adults, about her junior fiction books Song Bird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World that, along with Stop the Bully, have important messages for kids about bullying.

One of my other favourite books about bullying is Willy the Wimp by Anthony Browne.

What are your favourites ways of discussing bullying with children?

Thank you blog post

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

 

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.

“Shoo!”

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.

Thank you blog post

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

Would you like ice with that?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills writes about her daughter’s current lifestyle in Longyearbyen, the world’s most northern town. I thought the town may have been named for seeming to have a long year when the days are dark and sunless. But no, as I found out in this article, 12 facts you never knew about Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost city, it was named after American John Longyear who started the Arctic Coal Company there in 1906.

The article is worth a read for the information it shares. What spoke strongest to me, in these times of horrific shootings, was a sign displayed on the entrances to buildings:

“All the polar bears in this shop are already dead, please leave your weapon with the staff.”

The article explains that, as polar bears are quite common in the area, locals are required to carry high-powered rifles when they are out and about. There is no need for them indoors.

It was thoughts of her daughter’s icy environment that inspired Charli’s challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on ice. It can be an event on ice, a game on ice or a drink on ice. Go where the prompt leads you.

My thoughts went immediately to Elsa in the movie Frozen, based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. In the movie, Elsa has the power to turn things to ice. The song Let It Go became very popular, and for a while I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a little girl dressed as Elsa, or hearing another one singing it. I didn’t mind. I love the song and blue is my favourite colour. I couldn’t help but smile at the enthusiasm with which the girls belted out the song.

Elsa’s ability to turn things to ice reminds me of the curse placed on King Midas to teach him a lesson about greed–everything he touched, including his beloved daughter, turned to gold.

Neither ice nor gold were particularly good outcomes. E.T.’s healing finger would bring better results.

If you had fingers with power to affect everything they touched, what would that power be? Perhaps it is impossible to know in advance all possible repercussions, but kindness would be a good place to start. We don’t have to try to heal the world.  It is best to start small and effect positive changes and heal hurts within our own circles of influence.

Back in the old days at school, we used to kiss small hurts better with a Band Aid. Nowadays, when children may be allergic to the materials used in plasters of any kind, ice has become the “kiss” of choice, with many children believing it to be imbued with magic healing powers.

That’s where I’ve gone with my flash, renewing acquaintance with some of the characters from the Marnie stories again. We’ve met Jasmine and Georgie before here and Mrs Tomkins here.

band aid ice

Ice Magic

Mrs Tomkins was sorting the mail when she noticed two big tear-filled eyes peering up at her–Liam.

“Can I have some ice, please?”

“Where does it hurt?”

“All over.”

She pointed to the chair and got him some ice.

“Now tell me what happened.”

“No one will play with me,” he said, holding the ice to his temple.

“Have you…”

Mrs Tomkins looked up as Jasmine and Georgie burst in.

“Liam. Come on. We’ve been looking for you.”

Liam thrust the ice at Mrs Tomkins.

“Thanks,” he said, smiling. “The ice worked.”

Mrs Tomkins smiled too. Ice magic.

Thank you blog post

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