Category Archives: Writing

When ideas mesh

Have you ever had that moment of inspiration when two ideas mesh and you know you’ve found the answer? I’m certain you have. It’s creativity. It’s energising. It’s like bubbles in a can, popping all over the place, bursting with exuberance, needing to express; and there’s no keeping it in.

Writing is like that for me. Writing or teaching. Writing and teaching!

Except for when it’s not.

I can think and think and think and struggle to find an idea. But as soon as the two (or more) right ideas come together, there’s an explosion, and I just can’t wait to get it down, or try it out.

It’s what I love about creating teaching resources. I think: how can I best explain this concept, what will children enjoy most, how will they best learn? Fizz! And I’ve just got to do it. I love the creative outlet. Without it, life’s just, well – dull.

I like to think that what I write is different; that my teaching resources differ from the millions of repetitive worksheets that are written to keep children busily unengaged in the learning process. I imagine myself using them, and having fun with my class. I like to think of other teachers using them to encourage children to think creatively, critically, logically, imaginatively, and learning through discussion with their teachers and peers. But do they? I like to think.

Do you hear that self-doubt? Like so many creatives, I find self-promotion difficult. I struggle to put my work out there for fear it might not be good enough. Each new step requires blinkered determination, focus, and practice, practice, practice to strengthen self- belief that wavers at the first hint of a breeze.

But did you see that? I called myself a creative. Should I? Do I have the right? I always say that one thing I loved about teaching was the opportunity it gave me to be creative. Though I may think I was creative, does my thinking allow me the label?

A few years ago, I gave myself some good talking-tos, took some deep breaths, and attended a writer’s group. Sure, they were the creative types – picture book writers and junior fiction writers. And me. Well, I was aspirational, but had a number of educational publications behind me and was working on my own collection of teaching resources.

In turn, around the circle, we were required to introduce ourselves to the group, sharing what writing we were working on. I could have said I was working on picture books and junior fiction. I have several stuck away in drawers for future development, many with rejection slips to prove I was aspiring. I’d been collecting rejection slips since long before many of these writers were born. I must admit that none of them were recent though, as I’d been more involved in other things, including educational writing.

When it was my turn, I took a deep breath, and stated that I was involved in educational writing at the moment. “Oh,” said the leader. “Educational writing. That’s so formulaic.” And she quickly turned to the next person. Well, if that didn’t burst my bubble. The confidence I’d struggled to muster to even attend the meeting was felled in one swoop.

Not only was she wrong, (well, I believe she was wrong), her attitude was wrong, and her response to an aspiring writer was wrong. She asked no questions, gave no opportunity to discuss why my work may be considered creative, or what other more creative writing I might engage in. She obviously considered I had no business being there among the “real” creatives.

Similar difficulties can be experienced by children in school. People are quick to judge, assess and dismiss on perceptions of background, ability and potential. It can be difficult to stay strong and persistent when the brush of other’s biases paints you inadequate. Without a strong framework and inner fortitude, the will may crack and crumble at the first sign of tension.

Surely, one purpose of education must be to build those strong foundations in order to avoid wreckage in the future. Just as for buildings, we start from the bottom, building on a strong base, adding more to each layer. There’s no starting at the top, or even the middle. Each new layer must mesh with the one before.

Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) use the word mesh in a story. Mesh is both an object and a verb, which you can freely explore. You can play with its sound, too. Go where the prompt leads.

I immediately thought of the mesh that is embedded in concrete to give it inner strength, to hold it together when under pressure, to prevent it cracking and crumbling. What a great analogy for both personal core strength and a foundation of a great education. How could I resist?

Here’s my story. I hope you enjoy it.

Strong foundations

Jamie heard the vehicles; the doors slam; then men’s voices. He looked to his mum. She smiled and nodded. Dad was already there, giving instructions.

“Watch, but don’t get in the way,” he’d said.

Clara arrived, breathless. “What’s happenin’?”

“Carport. Pourin’ the slab,” he answered. “That’s the frame. Keeps it in shape.”

Beep. Beep. Beep. The concrete truck backed into position.

The men quickly spread the mix, then lifted the mesh into place.

“Makes it strong,” said Jamie.

Another load of mix was spread.

“All done,” said Jamie.

Later, in the sandpit, the children experimented with strengthening their structures.

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

P.S. If you are a teacher of children of about 5 to 7 years of age in their first three years of school, I’d love your feedback on readilearn, my collection of early childhood teaching resources. Please complete the survey here and share this post with other early childhood educators you know. I am keen to receive honest feedback about the site’s visual appeal and usability, as well as suitability of resources. Thank you. 🙂

Readilearn: Introducing Kim Michelle Toft, author and illustrator

Kim Michelle Toft

This month it is my great pleasure to invite Kim Michelle Toft to the blog. I have been an admirer of Kim’s work for many years. Not only does she do the most marvellous and unique silk paintings to illustrate her work, her books inspire children, and adults, to share her passion for protecting the ocean and its inhabitants.

I have previously written about Kim’s work here, here and here. In this post I am talking with her about her innovation of the familiar Christmas carol The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Kim’s book The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas is a celebration, not only of the season, but of the beauty of our world and its gift to us. Our gift in response is to care for and preserve it. As well as information about all the animals featured, it includes a stunning six-page foldout poster as well as information about the original carol.

Welcome to readilearn, Kim. We are looking forward to getting to know you better.

Thank you for having me.

Kim, you tell your stories with words and pictures? When did you know you wanted to be a storyteller and share your stories with others?

I started drawing when I was 4 years old. I would spend hours on my own, drawing. My mother would buy me small Golden Books and take me to see all the Walt Disney movies. I knew then that I wanted to have a career in art. I started writing and illustrating my picture books when my daughter Casey arrived, 26 years ago.

Continue reading: Readilearn: Introducing Kim Michelle Toft, author and illustrator

Never Too Many Cooks: Literary Recipes in a Flash

How is cooking like writing?
One’s a feast for the body, the other a feast for the mind. For some great flash fiction to get your teeth into (including one of mine!) read on:

Open Thought Vortex

By Charli Mills

A chef in the kitchen is not unlike a writer at a desk.

Both feel the heat of what it takes to transform a raw start into an end worth savoring. A chef chops vegetables to maximize flavor and texture the way a writer slices sentence structure to evoke reader response. One chef favors reduction sauces, and another fuses flavors. One writer cranks out cozy mysteries, and another crafts a character-driven epic science fiction.  A chef is a food artist; a writer is a literary artist.

If you’ve ever tuned into a televised cooking show that challenges chefs with secret ingredients, you’ve seen how varied the results can be. I used to provide some of those secret ingredients to a regional chef show at the Mall of America in Minnesota. For over a decade the foodie culture of Minneapolis-St. Paul immersed me in the artistry of food…

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Winner of Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1

I am delighted to announce the winner of my flash fiction contest “When I grow up”. Judging was a tough job, but we got there in the end.
Charli has made a lovely badge for contestants to put on their blogs. Check it out when you check out the winners.
Thanks for a fabulously fun rodeo, Charli.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

When I Grow Up

by Norah Colvin

Congratulations and a special thank you goes to all writers who participated in the first of the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contests: When I grow up. The judging is now complete, and we are about to announce the winner. Could it be you?

In this contest, writers were asked to write a 99-word story in response to the following prompt:

When I grow up. Cast yourself back to six years of age, knowing what you do of life in the present; what would you want to be when you grow up and how would you go about achieving that goal? Tell us in 100 words, no more no less. It can be real or imaginary, serious or light-hearted. Extra points for comparing it to your childhood choice, if you remember it.

Stories were judged on ten criteria including relevance, capturing a…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7

Got murder on your mind? Here’s a chance to work it out; in fiction anyway – contest #7 in the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo #FFRODEO.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Murderous Musings:

When Good Folk Turn Bad At The Rodeo

By Sherri Matthews

Saddle up, tighten your reins and pull on your riding boots. And while you’re about it, watch your back, because wicked wranglings are afoot at the Rodeo. Western or English? Doesn’t matter. Thrown off a few times? Never mind. Devious, deadly or just plain dangerous, it’s time for some murderous musings.

Long fascinated with the dark side of the human heart, I read a lot of True Crime. Not for the gory details, neither for the whodunit: I want to understand the why.

As a memoir writer, I need to explore the true motives driving the story. I wonder how many of us ask ourselves, if truly honest, what might we be capable of if pushed too far? What would be our not so perfect storm?

But it never occurred to me that I could explore this…

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Flash Fiction Rodeo #6

Another contest in the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo. This time it’s a lot of bull. Are you in?

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Bucking Bull Go-Round

By D. Avery

Luck of the Draw, Resilience of the Rider

Bull riders are “today’s gladiators,” willing to risk injury and death for their ride to fame. Can you imagine straddling an angry, snorting 1800-pound animal that wants nothing more than to shake you off and perhaps gore and trample you, too? What must it be like to prepare for that, to face down fear as you approach the chute and settle atop this beast that you will dance with in the arena? What are people’s motivations to confront such a challenge, to set upon it and not only hang on for dear life, but to ride it with as much grace and finesse as possible, showing courage and skill in equal measure? Carrot Ranch’s Bucking Bull Go-Round event is a flash fiction approximation of rodeo’s most dangerous event, bull riding.

At the Professional Bull Riders’ (PBR)…

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readilearn: Introducing Pamela S. Wight, author of Birds of Paradise – Readilearn

In the author spotlight this month is Pamela S. Wight, a fellow blogger, writer, and teacher of creative writing. I enjoy the stories of life Pamela shares on her blog Rough Wighting, and also enjoyed reading her adult novels. But it was the story of how this picture book Birds of Paradise came to be, a picture book 35 years in the making, that really captivated me. I knew I wanted to share it with you. Before we start talking about the book, though, let me introduce you to Pamela.

yellow bird Pamela Wight

Pamela Wight has joined the ranks of authors who are, as she calls it humorously “bi-genre” or “ambi-writers.” Think of Ian Fleming, who yes, wrote the James Bond books, but also switched genres and wrote the children’s book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Before A.A. Milne wrote the Winnie-the-Pooh books, he penned a popular whodunit entitled The Red House Mystery.

Wight wrote two books of romantic suspense, The Right Wrong Man and Twin Desires, before fulfilling her lifelong dream of publishing her children’s story Birds of Paradise about two special sparrows.

About the story:

Birds of Paradise

Sweet sparrows Bessie and Bert grow up as differently as night and day. Bessie is fearful of the dangers inherent in being a bird. She’s scared to leave her cozy branch. But Bert relishes flying in the sky and

continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Pamela S. Wight, author of Birds of Paradise – Readilearn