Category Archives: Writing

Home is Where the Heart Is

The most recent writing prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a hometown. It can be your hometown or a fictional one. Who is there? When is it set? What is happening? Go where the prompt leads!

Since then, a song has been playing in my head on a relentless loop. It wasn’t the song chosen by Charli. She chose Bruce Springsteen. The one that played for me is from my younger years and I’m going to share it with you now in the hope that I can shake it free.

You’d think with two weeks to respond to the prompt, I’d have come up with something worthwhile. Instead, I struggled. Maybe that’s because I don’t have a strong sense of ‘hometown’.

Unrelated to Springsteen’s My Hometown or Tom Jones’s Green Green Grass of Home, this is my response. I hope it tells something in some small hometown way.

Home is Where the Heart Is

The playlist his children organised looped a soundtrack to his questions — retirement and grandchildren afforded time and reason — to resolve. Why did they flee? Why darkness? Telling nobody? Taking nothing? Disallowed of memories to share? He’d never felt he was completely whole. This hometown jaunt should patch the space within. But nothing matched the picture painted in his mind; no road sign, store name, building or a tree. Concrete covered sandy roads where once they played. Then a breeze swirled round a feeling of forgiveness and of freedom and he turned his mind and car to heart and home.

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Ice Cream Meltdown

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the word meltdown. You can use it to describe an event or emotional reaction. You can create a new meaning or explore the word origin. You can Go where the prompt leads!

When I thought of children in relation to Charli’s meltdown prompt, my first thought was of ice cream melting. Why not go literal? Children can find joy in an ice cream, especially on a hot day. They can also have a meltdown if it misbehaves and melts too soon or falls from the cone to the ground, irretrievable.

This past eighteen months of social restrictions and lockdowns have provided many opportunities to develop patience and resilience. At the same time, they have caused a multitude of frustrations and meltdowns, especially if toilet roll supplies edged dangerously low. However, it is surprising how the majority pull through the inconveniences and, perhaps less surprising, how quickly a few have gone into meltdown.

Ice Cream Meltdown

“Stop blubbering while I answer this. Hello.”

“Good morning. Sounds like someone’s not happy.”

“The ice cream’s melted.”

“An ice cream meltdown. Kids will be kids.”

“Yeah. Our fifth lockdown this year. We’re homeschooling. Again. My FIFO hub’s trapped in woop-woop. I can’t visit mum in hospital cause she’s interstate even if hub did get home. And no power now for three days. Our freezer food’s spoiled, and he’s whinging about ice cream. When will the lines be fixed?”

“Sorry. You’ve got the wrong number.” I hung up. The boss can fire me. No way she’d buy raffle tickets.

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The Feather #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features feathers. It can be a single feather or more. Where did the feather come from? Does it hold meaning to the character or story? Go where the prompt leads!

I don’t know if you ever did this when you were young, but I and my siblings and/or friends used to. We would attach meaning or significance to otherwise insignificant events or occurrences, such as seeing images in the clouds or finding a coin or ‘special’ shell or rock in the sand or on the path. Anything could intrigue and we would create stories to explain why we were the chosen ones for the particular find or revelation. I guess it was a way of giving rein to our imaginations and, perhaps, an attempt to make our ordinary lives seem extraordinary. I guess most children do this in the land of dress-ups and make-believe.

This is where Charli’s prompt took me this time. I hope you enjoy it.

The Feather

‘It’s not just a feather. It’s the feather.’

Which feather?’

‘The one from the beach that day.’

‘Which day?’

‘Remember when we went to the beach and there was a flock of birds that looked like they were having a conference but when they saw us they flew away and one dropped a feather that landed on top of our castle. We knew it was a sign, they were telling us something.’

‘That’s just silly childish stuff.’

‘It was a sign. The birds need our help. The bulldozers have arrived. They will destroy the habitat. We must stop them!’

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Rainbow Cat’s Outdoor Adventure

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a cat named Rainbow on an outdoor adventure. Rainbow is any cat of any identification. What would draw a cat outside? Go where the prompt leads!

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time Charli has challenged us to write about a cat named Rainbow.

In February 2020, she challenged us to write a story about a library cat named Rainbow who escapes. That prompt was followed up with another the next week to write a story that includes the open road.

I quite liked the idea of a library cat named Rainbow. I believe in the importance of access to libraries for everyone — be it a school, local or national library. A rainbow library cat gives the feeling of a place that is warm, welcoming, comfortable and magical.

I support the organisation Students Need School Libraries and am perplexed and dismayed by the current trend to close school libraries. I don’t understand how we can develop lifelong learners if they don’t have access to the tools to help them research what they want to know as well as books to read for enjoyment. Research tools include books as well as digital resources.

I also support the wonderful organisation Library For All, an Australian not for profit organisation with a mission to “make knowledge accessible to all, equally” through a digital library of books that is available free to anyone anywhere in the world. The focus is on providing high quality, engaging, age appropriate and culturally relevant books to children in developing countries and remote areas. I am delighted to have donated more than ten books to the collection, two of which are already published. While the digital books are available free, print copies can be purchased from Amazon.

I thought that, if you haven’t already or may have forgotten, you may like to read my original two stories in response to Charli’s previous prompts. To save you going back to read them, which you are welcome to do of course, I include them here for your convenience. Click on the title to read the post.

This is my response to the first prompt:

The Library Cat

The library cat is fatter than fat.

She sits by the door on the welcome mat.

She greets the readers as they come in —

Nods her head with a welcome grin.

Sometimes she’s in. Sometimes she’s out.

She’s especially quiet when a reader’s about.

She sits so still you can see her purr

When the reader strokes her rainbow fur.

She’s heard every story there is to be told.

Even the classics never grow old.

But read her stories of adventures rare

She twitches her whiskers, “I’ve been there.

No need of a cape. Reading books is my escape.”

This is my response to the second prompt:

Looking for Love

Rainbow Cat clawed through the rubble. One by one she pulled out the survivors — Little Red Riding Hood, Little Miss Muffet, The Gingerbread Man; even Wolf who promised to behave.

Where are we going?” squealed the Three Little Pigs as they piled onto the bus.

“Where children will love us, like before.”

For many, this was their first time beyond the covers of a book. As the bus roared down the open road, they peered through the windscreen and out the windows, dreaming up new adventures yet untold.

Spontaneously, they burst into a chorus of On the Road Again.

After writing the first Rainbow Cat episode, I developed it into a picture book manuscript. It has undergone a few revisions and suffered a few assessments, but so far no luck with publication. It needs more work still. One day …

This time, I thought I’d go in a slightly different direction with a new cat named Rainbow and an outdoor adventure unrelated to the others. I hope you like it.

Rainbow Cat’s Outdoor Adventure

Right on cue, the tabby sprang into the yard as the children tumbled out, scattering to various activities. Some stopped for cuddles before choosing. One picked it up, determined it would be his for the day. Preferring to be master of its own decisions, with a wriggle and a scratch, the cat leapt from arms into pots of liquid colour. The fingerpainters squealed as they became the canvas for the unintentional artist. Rainbow hands grabbed the cat scratch-scrambling on masterpieces spread to dry. The cat hissed and bounced away to safety as the children chanted, “Rainbow cat! Rainbow cat!”.

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Saddle Up Saloon; Chattin’ With Norah Colvin

I had a great chat with my fellow Ranch-hand, writer and educator, D. Avery over at the Saddle Up Saloon at the Carrot Ranch. We discussed my favourite topics – children, education and writing. Not your usual saloon fare, eh? A bit dry for Kid and Pal too.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

“Hey Kid. Kinda quiet ‘round the Saloon. Ain’tcha got anythin’ lined up?”

“Nope. But as ya kin see, Pal, there’s a few folks in jist relaxin’ an’ chattin’ over a bev’rage a choice.”

“Yeah, I see thet. Look there, is that Norah Colvin?”

“Yep. Says she’s waitin’ on a buddy a hers.”

“Reckon thet buddy is here. Why it’s—”

“D. Avery? Them two’s buddies? What a they have in common?”

“Well, they both know their way ‘roun’ the Ranch.”

“Reckon, but Norah Colvin’s respectable an’ all, an’ our writer’s so…”

“Jist serve ‘em both Kid an’ leave ‘em be.”

******************************************************************************

Hello Norah! I’m so glad we have a place where we can finally hang out together. But it seems Kid is wondering that we’re buddies.

Hello D.

Buddies! I like that. Buddies is not a term commonly used in Australia, so I think this is the first time I’ve ever…

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Writer in Residence

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. Has the office changed? Can we return to normal after big changes or time away? Go where the prompt leads!

As a teacher who also loved to write, I used to love inspiring and nurturing a love of writing in my children. The desire equalled my love of reading and of picture books. We wrote together every day (they wrote, and I wrote at the same time). We often wrote collaboratively, authoring stories, songs, and poems together before they wrote their own. They wrote independently and of their own volition, especially in free time. I, and they, would often say, “That would make a good story.” I loved reading and responding to the messages they wrote to me in a daily diary that gave me a window into their lives and the things that were important to them.

To encourage their writing, there was always a great variety of paper, pens and other essential equipment available to them. While I didn’t ever have a desk such as I describe in my flash fiction (it is fiction, you see), I can just imagine how they would have loved it and how they would have imagined themselves at it while writing in the office (writing corner). I hope you can imagine it too.

Writer in Residence

The large old oak writer’s desk with multiple drawers, pigeon holes, an ink well and leather writing mat faced the room.

Upon it, a multitude of cups stocked with pencils, pens and other writing and drawing tools sat ready. The pigeon holes held a magnificence of paper and cardboard, and the drawers essentials like scissors, glue, rulers, lettering guides, clips and stapler. It was a writer’s paradise — perfect for the daily Writer in Residence.

The children loved it. Especially when they were Writer for the day with freedom to organise, reorganise and create to their heart’s content — growing writers.

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Unleashed #Flashfiction

Leashed flash fiction prompt

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story being leashed. Is it literal or metaphorical? Who or what is leashed. How does it set the tone? Go where the prompt leads!

I know the term leashed, and consequently unleased, refers specifically to dogs, and that is how Charli used it. However, I am not particularly familiar with dogs, either leashed or unleashed, so decided for the metaphorical interpretation of being held captive and, conversely, set free.

I usually try to conjure a story about children or education, or possibly an idea that I may be able to work into a publishable picture book manuscript one day. However, I didn’t realise I’d done that this time. Until I had.

I was thinking of slinky toys and the practical joke that uses a (fake) snake springing out of a can. I combined the two ideas, thinking how awesome it would be to release (unleash) a whole lot of slinky toys at the top of some stairs at the same time. When I finished writing, I realised that I’d repeated my thoughts about schooling and education once again. I even wondered if it had a theme similar to The Nightingale by Hans Christian Andersen. Let me know what you think.

Unleashed

It began harmlessly with a mini-slinky party favour in a birthday bag. The sparkles mesmerised Jamie as it tumbled end over end down the driveway or stairs. Soon it became an obsession. Swapping favours at birthday parties, pleading for them in supermarkets, Jamie hoarded them in a can carried everywhere. The obsession progressed from sparkles to numbers as the can filled. Eventually, no more slinkies would fit. As Jamie pressed and squeezed, the recalcitrant can tipped. Slinkies erupted, springing to life. As they danced away, sparkling in the sunlight, Jamie was captivated. Even slinkies need freedom to be themselves.

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Tiny Flying Insects #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes tiny flying insects. Think about how the insects shape the scene or add to the action. Go where the prompt leads!

Like many, I have a love-hate relationship with tiny flying insects. I love some. I hate some. Well, perhaps hate is too strong a word. I dislike their presence but appreciate their contribution to the environment, whether it be as decomposers or valuable food source.

My love list includes:

  • butterflies
  • bees
  • ladybirds
  • dragonflies

My not-so-much list includes:

  • cockroaches
  • flies
  • mosquitos
  • midges

These two groups probably lie at either end of the continuum with thousands more in between.

My fascination with these tiny creatures can be easily evidenced on readilearn, my collection of teaching resources for the first three years of school, where there are numerous resources devoted to minibeasts, especially bees, butterflies, and ladybirds.

Keeping caterpillars in the classroom and watching them progress through their life stages until metamorphosing into adult butterflies was one of the children’s and my favourite things. It is a wonderful way to enable children to see nature close up and develop an appreciation for these tiny creatures and their contribution to the environment. It encourages them to look more closely and with more wonder when exploring the outdoors.

It would be easy to write a story about one of the tiny flying insects that I love and more of a challenge to write about one that I love not-quite-so-much. However, I have previously written a story about a fly for an (imaginary) audience of young children. I share a 99-word synopsis of that story in response to Charli’s challenge. Let’s see what you think of it.

BBQ the Fly

Named for their favourite thing, BBQ’s parents farewelled their son on his first independent foray.

“You can! Avoid the can!” they called. BBQ had trained relentlessly, perfecting every manoeuvre — walking on ceilings, buzzing people and, especially, dodging the dreaded spray.

BBQ’s antennae zeroed in on a backyard barbecue where he chose a juicy sausage for his ritual dance. He had just extended his proboscis when a swarm muscled in. Through the crowd, one of his compound eyes caught the glint of something metallic —a can!

He retracted his proboscis and escaped just as the spray downed the unfortunate swarm.

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Hit the Road Jack #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” You can interpret the phrase any way you like — road trip, goodbye, or story. Go where the prompt leads!

I’ve written a nonsense story loosely based on young children as much as on characters from nursery rhymes. Anyone who has tried to get to the truth of a ‘situation’ with young children will recognise the complexities and difficulties involved and realise how quickly it can all be resolved with a distraction. I’ve used an interpretation of the phrase rather than the phrase itself. I hope you enjoy it.

Nursery Rhyme Nursery School

“What’s upsetting you, Jack?”

“Mary won’t let me play.”

“Why are you contrary, Mary? Didn’t Jack build this house?”

“He broke it too!”

“Don’t blame me,” said Jack. “The alligator smashed it.”

“What alligator?”

“The doctor’s. He trampled everything.”

“Don’t blame me,” said the doctor. “Polly said come quick.”

“Because … ?”

“My dolly got burnt from the kettle.”

“Who put the kettle on?”

“I did. But don’t blame me. Jack bumped me.”

“You were hogging pies.”

“You were sticking your fingers in them.”

“Look, everyone! Humpty’s cracked!”

“Who pushed him?”

“Jack?!”

Jack was gone. He’d fled the scene.

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For Earth Day #Flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about earthing. Put a character’s hands, feet or body and soul into the earth. Who needs recharging? What happens between the interaction? Go where the prompt leads!

The prompt coincided with Earth Day which, celebrated on 22nd April each year, is the anniversary of the beginning of the environmental movement in 1970.

In her post, Charli says, ‘Earth Day is a good time to talk about earthing. Also known as grounding, earthing describes interacting with the earth barefoot and bare handed.

It made me think of childhood days of playing in the dirt and making mud pies. As long as we were having fun, we never minded how dirty we got. I think now that maybe Mum may not have been so thrilled.

There’s nothing like children for being totally absorbed by something they enjoy and for making the most of opportunities that arise.

This is my response to Charli’s prompt. I hope you enjoy it.

For Earth Day

“They’re very quiet,” said Dad.

“For a change,” said Mum.

“Suspiciously quiet,” said Dad. Mum didn’t stir — no way she’d abandon her match-3 game mid-level to investigate.

“Hmpf,” said Dad, marking his page. He slid into his slippers and shuffled to the door.

“What’re you doin’?” he yelled.

Two small mud-spattered bodies frolicking under the sprinkler in his freshly-prepared garden bed froze.

“Nuthin’,” said one.

The other gaped.

“Sure don’t look like nuthin’,” said Dad. “Git yerselfs outta there.”

He killed the sprinkler and fun in one.

“We thought you made it for us—”

“—for Earth Day.”

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