Category Archives: Stories

sketchy perceptions

Sketchy Perceptions

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction prompt sketches

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be “A Sketch of a Romance” or “The Sketch of Aunt Tillie.” Go where the prompt leads you to scribble.

My thoughts were a bit sketchy. This is what I came up with. I’d be interested to know your perception.

Sketchy Perceptions

He sketched the outline with chalk then filled in the details, outside-in. Curious passers-by gathered as the image emerged. Was the artist a paid entertainer or busker earning a buck? Some pushed coins into children’s hands to add to the chalk-drawn cap. When satisfied with his work, the artist stood in its centre and tossed the cap and contents high. As they fell, he spread his arms and disappeared into the painting. Perplexed on-lookers reported different perceptions. Many said he plummeted into darkness. Some said he flew on gold-tipped wings. Others described him simply as absorbed by his art.

It is easy to make snap judgements about others and situations from sketchy information, even at first sight. We do it all the time as we try to make sense of what we perceive, evaluating it against our existing knowledge and beliefs.

I have strong beliefs about education and how children learn so can quickly judge whether I will agree with the content of articles or not. However, I don’t confine my reading to articles that I know will support my beliefs. I read articles from a variety of viewpoints to gain some understanding of others’ positions. If I don’t know what they think, how can I interrogate those thoughts and evaluate them against my own, perhaps even reassess my beliefs? I would rather be informed than base my ideas upon sketchy information.

This week, I had the pleasure of reading two articles in popular media which reiterate things I have written about a number of times previously.

The title of an article by Angela Mollard in my local Courier-Mail intrigued me: We should be ashamed of how we treat teachers. The media is often quick to criticise teachers, blaming them for almost all of society’s ills, it sometimes seems. I wondered at the intent of this article. Mollard wrote that, although she is the daughter of a teacher, sister-in-law of a teacher, and friends with many teachers, she had no idea of a teacher’s life until she read the book Teacher by Gabbie Stroud. I am yet to read this memoir, but it is now high on my TBR list.

Mollard says, “She (Stroud) writes of the sacred bond between teacher and pupil, of advocating exhaustively for their needs, of loving them even when they were abusive and damaged and victims of the most heartbreaking of family circumstances.”

Mollard follows this by telling us that “Ultimately, Stroud gives up being a teacher. She’s broken by the profession but she maintains that she didn’t leave teaching, it left her”, and describes her book as “a clarion call to educators to change a system that values standardisation over creativity, curiosity, progress, self-belief and autonomy.”

Oh, yes! I applaud. I know many teachers who feel the same way.

Mollard then goes on to say that if parents want inspirational teachers for their children, they must be inspirational too, that they must stand beside and support teachers and do what they can to lighten their workload so more help can be given where it is truly needed. If you are a parent, please read the article for her suggestions. I have sketched out just a few of her ideas here.

If you can do only one thing for your children, it should be shared reading is the title of an article by Ameneh Shahaeian and Cen Wang in The Conversation. To any regular readers of my blog, the idea behind the title will be very familiar. It gladdens me when I see others promoting such good advice for parents.

However, in the article Shahaeian and Wang surprised me with the question, “is it really book reading that’s beneficial or is it because parents who read more to their children also provide a lot of other resources, and engage in a range of other activities with their children?

Does the question intrigue you as much as it did me? Shahaeian and Wang share the results of a longitudinal study they carried out to find an answer. Please read the article for their conclusions and suggestions for parents.

I’ve provided you with just the sketchy outlines of both these articles. If you are interested enough to read them, I’d love to know what you think.

Thank you blog post

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

 

there'll be good days like this, all is not lost

Days like this

Not the End of the World

Ever have one of those days? You know—it seems the world is against you, and everything you do goes wrong. Maybe you oversleep and in your rush, you fumble, make mistakes and get even later. You hurry to the stop as your bus pulls away. You flop down reviewing life’s punishments, and some jackass walks by telling you to “Smile, it’s not the end of the world.” What would he know? You open your phone and scroll: trivial drivel. Then this one story blows your insignificancies away. You phone your appointment, apologise and reschedule. All is not lost.

All is not lost Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge

I wrote this in response to the challenge that Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch set for writers this week, to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “not all is lost.” It can include recovery from disaster, an unexpected insight after a fall, or however the phrase moves you. Go where the prompt leads.

In her post, Charli tells of her friend Cynthia who normally sleeps outside in a tent, even in the snow, but not on the night of June 16. As Charli explains, “In a few hours, the thunderstorm stalled over the lower Keweenaw and dumped 7 inches of rain. Cynthia, who usually sleeps where a mountain slammed into her house, slept inside that night. She and her daughter woke up when her refrigerator tumbled over. Water filled her stairwell to the bedrooms on the second floor and pushed against their doors in a torrent, preventing escape.”

Though much was lost during that storm and its aftermath, Cynthia did not lose her spirit or her optimism. As she looked around at the devastation, she had thoughts other than loss (as quoted in Charli’s post):

“This is what I saw: beloved neighbors talking with selfless helpers and eating something finally as they gazed over tge work of some long days, people still digging and puzzling in the waterway, laughter ringing, dogs barking, a moon rising… and I was so pleased, so happy, so fulfilled. This is life, this is who we are capable of being. This is who we are. It was such a beautiful scene. It is our new reality. Blessed be.”

All around the world, there are tragedies of enormous proportion: wars, floods, fires, droughts, volcanic eruptions, illness. The list goes on.

What I attempted to show through my flash is that it can be easy to get caught up in the trivialities of our daily lives and forget to look from afar and see how small they are. When our problems seem overwhelming, we don’t need to look too far to see someone in a worse position. For those of you who are truly suffering, I apologise, I in no way intend to trivialise your concerns.

I also intended it as a reminder that we don’t always know what someone else is going through and an off-hand remark to tell them to “cheer up” may not helpful.

It is the same for children in our schools, in our classes. We don’t know what bumps they may be experiencing to make them withdrawn, moody, hostile or aggressive.

To truly understand another’s position we need to listen, put ourselves in their shoes and consider how we would feel. We need to accept that the world doesn’t always work in the way or timeframe we wish.

If we could lend a helping hand, a listening ear, kind words, and an open heart what a more beautiful world it would be.

Just as Cynthia chose to see beauty in the scene around her, it is important to remember there’ll be days like this, that all is not lost.

Thank you blog post

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

Reeling in the fishermen

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fish tale. It can be about fishing from any angle, about those who fish, or what might be caught. Go where the prompt leads.

I cast my net hoping to catch an idea.

Would I share some fish-themed picture books? For example:

The Little Fish that Got Away by Bernadine Cook and Corbett Johnson

The Little Fish that Got Away, written by Bernadine Cook and illustrated by Crockett Johnson

one fish two fish by Dr Seuss

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, by Dr. Seuss

The rainbow fish by Marcus Pfister

The Rainbow Fish, by Marcus Pfister

Would I consider rhyming words?

dish

fish

squish

swish

wish

fish on a dish rhyming words

Perhaps a childhood skipping game?

Fish, Fish,

Come into the dish.

Fish, Fish,

Turn around in the dish.

Fish, Fish,

Touch the bottom of the dish.

Fish Fish, run out of the dish.

Fish fish come into the dish skipping game

Fishy sayings?

something fishy going on around here

Sounds or smells fishy

A fish out of water

A dead fish handshake

Fell for it, hook, line and sinker

Plenty of fish in the ocean

Or maybe a childhood story?

When I was a child, my father fished a lot in his spare time. As well as being a cheap way of feeding his large family, he probably enjoyed getting out on the water in his rowboat for some peace. When the fishing was good, it could be on the menu twice a day, seven days a week. Exaggerations, maybe, but sometimes it seemed that way.

I did accompany him once. Neither of us caught anything edible. I caught a knotty eel, a tiny trumpeter and a desire to never go fishing again. I never have. Catching words is much more to my taste.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, I have gone with a story from my childhood. It incorporates some of the ideas that got caught in the net. I hope you like it.

Reeling in the fishermen

She sat by the window watching as the invisible painter coloured the morning sky. These moments lost in waking dreams, with the youngest of her brood suckling quietly, were precious. Slamming car doors and laughter interrupted the silence but not her thoughts. An occasional word invaded her consciousness…haul, fishing, catch. Wait—her man, a fisherman, was home. The night was not conducive to fishing. She leaned forward. Two dark figures unloaded a ute. They had neither lines nor nets, and it sure wasn’t fish in those boxes. “Fisherman, eh?” she thought as she dialled the local police. “You’re hooked.”

Thank you blog post

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

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.