Category Archives: Writing

Meet author Diana Harley and her springtime picture books

Meet author Diana Harley and her springtime picture books – #readilearn

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Diana Harley as we discuss her three beautiful picture books that are perfect for sharing at springtime, or any time.

Here at readilearn, we have quite a fascination with minibeasts, especially butterflies, and have quite a variety of teaching resources that focus on them. Naturally, we are attracted to other resources which encourage children’s interest in minibeasts and the environment.

Diana Harley, Australian picture book author

About Diana

Diana Harley is a writer, author, poet and playwright living and working in the Bega Valley of NSW. Diana has written a number of fiction and non-fiction books for children, has had two adult poetry anthologies published and has won numerous awards for her poems and short stories. Many of her poems and stories have been included in various anthologies.  She has done a few blogs and two of her short plays have been produced and performed in regional NSW. She has run writing workshops for both adults and children and enjoys getting writers writing! She is a chocoholic, loves wedgetail eagles and reading is her favourite hobby.

About the books

Continue reading: Meet author Diana Harley and her springtime picture books – readilearn

First flight #flash fiction

First Flight #flashfiction

It’s almost spring here in the Southern Hemisphere. The garden is dressing up in blooms of many colours and filling the yard with the sweet scents of wattle, jasmine and other flowers. Bees busily collect the pollen, butterflies flutter from one flower to another, the butcherbirds sing joyously from the treetops, while the cockatoos noisily crack the wattle pods and prune the tree.

Things are starting to feel fresh and new again and encouraging me to emerge from my recent writerly hibernation. While, for the previous six years I’d hardly missed responding to a weekly flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch, I’ve not joined in for the past few months due to the demands of other work responsibilities. I finished that work a couple of weeks ago but have found it difficult to shake off the cobwebs and give creativity some air again. Perhaps spring and this week’s (extended) challenge provides the impetus for doing so.

In the current prompt, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone that flies. What is significant about the first? Go where the prompt leads!

When thinking of a first flight and spring, how could I not think of butterflies?

butterflies in the classroom

One of my favourite things to do with my children in the classroom was to have a butterfly house and observe the magic of all the life stages from egg to butterfly. It was wonderful to have this special little piece of nature up close in the classroom where we could see what you don’t always get to see in the world outside.

Every day we would watch, fascinated, as the caterpillars munched their way through leaf after leaf, growing bigger and bigger. We eagerly awaited the moment they would form themselves into ‘j’ shapes, alerting us that they were about to pupate.

We were amazed at how quickly they shed their last skin to reveal the beautiful chrysalis they had become. Then we would watch and wait until they were ready to emerge as butterflies.

We knew when it was almost time as the chrysalis would become transparent and we could see the wings through the case. When they finally emerged, we would give them time to spread and dry their wings before releasing them into the garden for their first flight.

The growth of a butterfly is a great analogy for creativity or the development of an idea or project. Sometimes a lot of hard work has to be expended before the idea is ready to take flight and the beauty becomes a reality.

Here is my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you like it.

Dear Butterfly, Love Caterpillar

Dear Butterfly,

You make the impossible seem possible. You inspire our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams. How can I be like you?

Dear Caterpillar,

Dreams create possibilities but now you are exactly who you were meant to be.

Dear Butterfly,

Life is monotonous. Everyone does the same thing, day after day. Shouldn’t life be more than this?

Dear Caterpillar,

Nothing happens overnight. Patience, determination and persistence will reward you in the end.

Dear Butterfly,

I’m tired. I can’t do this anymore. I think I will sleep forever. Goodbye.

 

Wake up, butterfly. It’s time to spread your wings and fly!

 

Another angle

butterfly clipart image

venkatrao, A butterfly flying with a dotted path over a hill background https://openclipart.org/detail/69967/1278212857

I thought I’d also share a poem that I wrote many years ago in response to an inspector’s visit to our school. As the title says, it is not really about a butterfly and was written long before I became the Butterfly Lady at another school.

I had always believed, and still do, that the children are the most important thing in the classroom and that we do our best for them every day. The teacher next-door wasn’t of the same view. We were in a large teaching space with our own areas separated by some cupboards arranged between us.

She spent a lot of time sitting at her desk, barking at the children to pay attention to her words. She had little of interest on display in the classroom and even less of the children’s own work. It was quite a contrast to my own space which was filled with activity, colour and children’s work.

When the inspector’s visit was announced, she suddenly decided to decorate her room and display children’s work. I was so flummoxed by this, that I was almost tempted to do the opposite. I believed that if what I did on a daily basis wasn’t good enough for the inspector, then it wasn’t good enough for the children either. I resisted the urge to tear everything down in protest (which might have been considered a flight from the situation) and wrote this poem instead.

Before reading it, I want you to know that the teacher and I were both teaching (perhaps I use that word lightly) year two and she was considerably younger than I.

Not Really About A Butterfly

Look at you now.

You put on your show.

Your butterfly colours are warmly aglow.

 

It’s hard to imagine

That not long ago

You were a mere silent pupa

With nowhere to go.

 

You flit and you flutter,

Cry, “Hey, look at me!”

And all turn their heads,

Wondrous beauty to see.

 

But where have you come from?

And how can this be?

 

Before . . .

Not one head would have turned.

There was nothing to see

— just a little green ball,

curled up on a tree.

 

Is it dishonest

to change rapidly?

Thank you blog post

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interview with Ashling Kwok about her picture book Lola and Grandpa

Let’s meet Lola and Grandpa in an interview with author Ashling Kwok – #readilearn

Today, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Ashling Kwok, author of the delightful new picture book Grandpa and Lola, illustrated by Yvonne Low. This interview with Ashling is part of a Books on Tour promotion.

About Ashling Kwok

 After graduating from University, Ashling went on to become a journalist and magazine editor, before setting up her own freelance writing company. Over the years, Ashling’s work has appeared in a number of newspapers and magazines, and she is a regular contributor to a variety of online publications. When she is not dreaming up new ideas or working on her latest book, Ashling can be found scouring local bookstores, marvelling at all the wonderful books being created by talented children’s authors.

About Yvonne Low

Yvonne is an illustrator, writer and award-winning artist.  She enjoys playing with words and colours and is particularly inspired by nature.  Her work is whimsical, often has a dash of humour and always tries to tell a story.  She works mainly in pencil and watercolour, but also dabbles in acrylic, pen and ink, pastel, digital media and Chinese brush painting.

About Lola and Grandpa

Lola and Grandpa is the story of a young girl and the tender, loving relationship she shares with her grandpa. When Lola’s grandpa passes away, she struggles to cope. However, as time passes Lola starts to remember all of the special times they shared. She can see her grandpa reflected in all of the things around her and realises that even though he is no longer physically with her, they will always remain connected.

What I like about this book

I knew I would love Lola and Grandpa as soon as I saw the bright cover filled with the sunshine from the ‘o’ in Lola’s name. The words and images dance across the pages, reflecting the joy felt by Lola and Grandpa as they spend their Sundays together. We can’t help but feel the warmth of their love and wish, as Lola does, that these times would last forever. The wisdom that Grandpa shares with Lola — “Time slips away, my angel, but love and memories last forever’ — is as reassuring for us as it is for Lola.

Continue reading: Let’s meet Lola and Grandpa in an interview with author Ashling Kwok – readilearn

On an Aussie Easter Egg Hunt with Little Bilby and Yvonne Mes

On an Aussie Easter Egg Hunt with Little Bilby and author Yvonne Mes – #readilearn

Today, it is with great pleasure that I introduce you to Yvonne Mes and her delightful new picture book Little Bilby’s Aussie Easter Egg Hunt.

About Yvonne Mes

Yvonne Mes is a children’s author and illustrator from Brisbane. Her latest picture book is Little Bilby’s Aussie Easter Egg Hunt. Other picture books by Yvonne are Oliver’s Grumbles (Yellow Brick Books) and Meet Sidney Nolan (Penguin Random House).

Yvonne coordinates Brisbane based writers’ group, Write Links, reviews children’s book for KBR (Kids’ Book Review) and runs No Nonsense Critiques. She buys more books than she can read, comes up with more ideas than she can write or illustrate and has more children than she can manage. But she does try very hard, and best of all, she is NEVER bored.

About Little Bilby’s Aussie Easter Egg Hunt

Near bush and scrub and oceanfront, they tiptoe on their Easter hunt . . .

A group of baby bilbies are on an Easter egg hunt. They find all kinds of eggs – a kookaburra’s egg, a turtle’s egg, a cassowary’s egg – before the little bilbies finally find what they’ve been looking for: Easter eggs to share with all their friends.

This colourfully illustrated picture book showcases the diversity of Australia’s egg-laying animals. Each spread reveals an egg in its natural environment and asks the question ‘Whose egg could this be?’. After turning the page, the egg is matched with the animal it belongs to.

Why I like this book

Little Bilby’s Aussie Easter Egg Hunt, gorgeously illustrated by Jody Pratt, is a fun story that is sure to delight young children as they go on an Easter egg hunt with Little Bilby, finding eggs that belong to others before they find the eggs that they can share.

If they are not already drawn in by the sparkles on the front cover, children will love the rhythm and rhyme and join in with the repetitive text as they seek and find eggs belonging to Aussie egg-laying animals, kookaburra, turtle and cassowary.

Continue reading: On an Aussie Easter Egg Hunt with Little Bilby and author Yvonne Mes – readilearn

First Cow in Space flash fiction

First Cow in Space #flashfiction

I’m sure you all know the nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle about a cat playing a fiddle and a cow jumping over the moon.

I love using nursery rhymes with young children. They are a great way for them to learn the sounds and rhythms of our language, develop their memories and just have fun with nonsense. I’ve never considered it important for them (or me) to know the background of the rhymes. We can leave that to more serious students of literature.

The rhythm and rhyme of nursery rhymes encourage children to join in with the recitation and commit them to memory. Their memory for the rhymes can be used as a step into reading. I’ve written before about nursery rhymes, both on this blog and on the readilearn blog here and here. I have also some written some literacy lessons based on nursery rhymes that are available in the readilearn collection, including Let’s read and write with Little Miss Muffet, Humpty Dumpty — a story in five sittings and The Accident — Humpty Dumpty’s Fall.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about Clarice. She can be any Clarice real, historical, or imagined. What story does she have for you to tell? Go where she may lead!

You may well wonder what that prompt has to do with nursery rhymes. But Charli always says to go where the prompt leads. It usually leads me to children and education in some way. This time, and with a huge apology to all the Clarices out there, it led me to a cow in a nursery rhyme. Why should she be called Clarice? I don’t know, but I thought the first cow in space would be quite an imaginary historical figure. I hope you like my story. I’m certain, if given a chance, children would come up with their own wonderful innovations too.

First Cow in Space

“We are here today with the first cow in space, whose identity, until now, has been kept secret. Will you please welcome [drum roll] Clarice Cloverdale.”

[Applause]

“Clarice, please tell us about your adventure and why your identity was undisclosed for so long.”

“It was simply a non-disclosure agreement. That contract has now terminated so I’m free to tell.”

“Go on.”

“We were all tired of playing second-fiddle to Cat. Dish and Spoon ran away so Dog had no alternative but to make me the star. Needless to say, I was over the moon. The rest is history.”

[Applause]

Thank you blog post

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

The Library Cat Flash fiction

The Library Cat #Flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a library cat named Rainbow who escapes. Use this situation to write what happens next. Where does this e=situation take place, and who else might be involved? Go where the prompt leads!

I haven’t joined in the prompts recently for a variety of reasons — other priorities mainly. However, I couldn’t resist this one about libraries and stories — two things of which I am very fond.

I think a cat, especially a rainbow cat, would make a wonderful addition to any library, especially one packed with great children’s literature. I can just imagine the children reading while the cat devours every word.

Of course, I had libraries, books, stories and children in mind as I wrote my story in verse —aimed at a younger audience, of course. I hope you enjoy it, nonetheless.

 

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.”

Thank you blog post

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

Wife Carrying Contest - Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction

The Strong One #flashfiction

Wife Carrying Contest - Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a carried wife. Why is she being carried? Who is carrying? Pick a genre if you’d like and craft a memorable character. Go where the prompt leads!

In her post, Charli

  • explained differences in genres
  • introduced us to Sirrka, a remarkable 99-year-old American of Finnish parents
  • told us of the Finnish wife-carrying contest, which prompted the flash fiction prompt
  • assured us that we are ‘always evolving’.

Please pop over to the Ranch to read Charli’s post and other responses to the prompt.

I agree with Charli that we are always evolving.

When I started writing this blog six and a half years ago, my intention was to write about education. Whenever I responded to one of Charli’s prompts, I attempted to embed my story in a post that focused on education or child development. I was mostly successful.

However, not all prompts, such as this wife-carrying challenge, lend themselves easily to education, though I could certainly do it if I tried with a story about children in school learning about Finland and Finnish customs, for example.

Since I also write posts about education for my second blog at readilearn, which I republish here, I have decided to allow myself a little more flexibility with my responses to Charli’s prompts. From now on, with my word for this year being ‘prioritise’, I will focus more on writing a story than embedding it in a post.

This is my story for this week. I hope you like it.

The Strong One

“You’re strong,” she giggled as he piggy-backed her around the playground at lunchtime.

“You’re strong,” she murmured as he lifted her over the puddle outside their graduation dance.

When he carried her over the threshold on their wedding day, her eyes sparkled with words unsaid but understood.

When they heard of Finland’s wife carrying contest, she smirked. “We could do that. You’re strong.”

He indicated the sleeping children. “When they’re grown.”

When cancer ravaged her body, she soothed, “Stay strong.”

When he and their sons carried her from the chapel on her final journey, he’d never felt so weak.

Thank you blog post

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

author Dimity Powell discusses her picture book Pippa

Fly away with Pippa and her author Dimity Powell – reblogged from readilearn

Have you ever wished you could fly? Or perhaps wished for a chance to explore but were held back by rules and restrictions?

I always thought it would be marvellous to be a bird, soaring above the earth, looking down upon its beauty. Oh, the freedom it would bring. Looking out at the world from a plane’s window is, for me, the nearest thing. But for Dimity Powell’s latest endearing character Pippa, flight is a reality.

About Pippa

You see, Pippa is a pigeon, and, like all pigeons, Pippa was born to fly. She wants nothing more than to spread her wings and go exploring. However, her parents aren’t sure she’s ready and fill her head with fears and days with restrictions to keep her close at home. It works for a while. But, one day when her parents are otherwise occupied, Pippa discovers she can fly, and that’s where her adventures, explorations and discoveries begin.

Pippa is a delightful new picture book that is bound to win hearts and spread joy. Award-winning author Dimity Powell describes her book thus:

Pippa is a light-hearted adventure tale about striking out alone, following your dreams and desires and experiencing what it’s like when you get there. It is a tale that acknowledges the sometimes-suffocating affection parents have for their offspring, which can temper and frustrate a child’s sense of freedom and adventure, and suggests that it’s okay to take risks from time to time. Although the adventure may be perilous, it is still worth experiencing for you never know what glorious discoveries lie ahead.

Pippa is small, determined, stubborn, and wilful, just like many other six-year-olds. And, like many youngsters who’ve wanted more than they can handle, when she finally does return to her flock, she realises that when it comes to true security and contentment, it’s family that matter most.”

About Dimity Powell

I previously introduced Dimity to you in her popular guest post Libraries: A wonderous universe to explore and in an interview about her  picture book At the End of Holyrood Lane for which she was recently awarded the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Crystal Kite Members’ Choice 2019 Award, Australia and New Zealand region.

Dimity likes to fill every spare moment with words. She writes and reviews stories exclusively for kids and is the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review. Her word webs appear in anthologies, school magazines, junior novels, as creative digital content, and picture books including The Fix-It Man (2017), At The End of Holyrood Lane (2018) and Pippa (2019) with more to follow in 2020 and beyond.

She is a seasoned presenter both in Australia and overseas, an accredited Write Like An Author facilitator and a Books in Homes Role Model Volunteer in Australia.

Dimity believes picture books are soul food, to be consumed at least 10 times a week. If these aren’t available, she’ll settle for ice-cream. She lives just around the corner from Bat Man on the Gold Coast although she still prefers hanging out in libraries than with superheroes.

Dimity’s inspiration for writing about Pippa

Continue reading: Fly away with Pippa and her author Dimity Powell – readilearn

Winners are grinners #flashfiction

Winners are Grinners #flashfiction

During the month of October, the third annual Flash Fiction Rodeo was hosted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch.

The Rodeo consisted of four contests; one held each week during the month.

The contests were:

Modern Tall Tales

This contest required a 99 word (no more no less) tall tale that exaggerated something that happened to someone somewhere. It had to be exaggerated to the point it couldn’t possibly be true but could be humorous, sensational, or melodramatic from any genre.

Pro-Bull Mashup

In this contest, the 99 word (no more no less) stories were to use all three bull names (Bodacious, Nose Bender and Heartbreak Kid) as names, places or things. The stories were to combine two genres: game show and pirate but could include any tone or mode.

Three-Act Story

A 99 word (no more no less) story told in three acts with a recognisable beginning, middle and end was the requirement of the next contest. The story had to be about someone, set somewhere and in which something happens. It could include any tone or mood and be in any genre. No specific prompt for the story was given.

TUFF Beans

For this contest, the story had to include beans. Writers were instructed to submit four versions of a story: a first 99 word story, a 59 word reduction, a 9 word further reduction and then a final 99 word final.

I was both surprised and delighted to find that I was placed second in the Modern Tall Tales contest and first in the TUFF contest. You can read my stories along with other finalist and winning entries where they are collected on one page for your reading enjoyment in the 2019 Rodeo.

Congratulations

I congratulate all the other winners and finalists, and indeed everyone who entered the contests. By having a go and constantly striving to improve, we are all winners in the end.

Thank you

I am also very grateful for Charli’s ongoing encouragement and support and to the judges who generously gave their time to read all the entries. You can read about the judges and the judging process here.

Challenges

While writers were invited to submit only one entry into each contest, if they wrote but chose to not enter or if they wrote more than one response, they were invited to post their stories as challenges. Some of the stories submitted as challenges make mighty fine reading and you can read them all by following these links:

Modern Tall Tales Challengers

Pro-Bull Mashup Challengers

Three-Act Story Challengers

TUFF Beans Challengers

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - winners

For this week’s prompt, Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about winners. Who are they, what’s the mood, and what did they win? Express emotion or subdue it. Go where the prompt leads!

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

Every Child Wins A Prize

Melissa goggled at the toy-laden shelves.

“Only $2 a ticket,” the vendor encouraged.

Melissa indicated a music box on the top shelf.

“You won’t win that. It’s just a ploy to get your money,” grumbled Mum.

“You won’t know if you don’t try,” he winked.

Melissa turned to Mum. “It’s my money.”

Mum humphed as Melissa parted with her coin.

The man fanned the envelopes, favouring one. “Take it,” he whispered.

Melissa ripped the envelope open and passed him the card.

“What did I win?”

The man handed the music box to Melissa.

“Prizes are for triers,” he smiled.

Thank you blog post

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

The 2019 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo Winners

November 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

The winners of the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo contests are announced!
In this post, Charli Mills discusses each contest, introduces the judges and the judging process, and includes a link to the page on which you can read all the finalist and winning stories. Is yours one of them? (One or two of mine get a mention — I’m over the moon!)

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

For those who rode in last month’s 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo, this is the date you’ve anxiously awaited. I use the adverb with understanding. This past month, I’ve entered my writing in two contests and submitted it to two literary journals. Waiting for notification can induce anxiety, angst, and doubt. Know that every writer experiences the rollercoaster ride of doubt. Artists combat resistance. Maybe you didn’t participate in the Rodeo because the word contest unnerved you. This is Carrot Ranch, a safe place to write, a fun literary community where you can find kindred spirits, a weekly challenge that displays 99-word stories. A contest invites danger; it sparks resistance.

If you haven’t yet read Stephen Pressfield’s War of Art, it’s worth the read. Some of it will make you cringe. Some of it will make you determined. He’s an author who understands the artistic battlefield. He writes:

“Most of…

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