Category Archives: Writing

Whispers #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot RanchCharli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes whispers. It can be beautiful or creepy and any genre. Where are the whispers, who are they from, and what do they say if they say anything at all. Go where the prompt leads!

This is my response. I hope you like it.

Whispers

She watched from the side, longing to join in, fearing being ignored. Or worse, banished. Determined to beat her shyness, she’d shuffle one step forward, then the old insecurities would immobilise her, reminding her she didn’t belong. One foot forward. Stop. Another foot forward. Stop. She was almost there when the game paused, and they looked directly at her. She froze. They feigned whispers hidden behind hands. She didn’t need to guess. She ran and hid behind a tree, wishing for invisibility. “I’ll never belong!” Soon one face appeared, then others. “Please come and play with us,” they chorused.

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Rainbow Flotilla #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story uses the phrase, “across the water.” It can be any body of water distant or close. Who (or what) is crossing the water and why? Go where the prompt leads!

This is my response. I hope you like it.

Rainbow Flotilla

She wrote a message on each piece of paper and folded them into tiny boats. At the lake, she launched them from the bank, then watched the rainbow flotilla sail across the water. Curious ducks investigated, capsizing one or two, but the rest sailed on. A turtle popped up, knocking one off-course. It smashed on the rocks, but the rest sailed on. A dragonfly alighted on one, enjoying the free ride as the rest sailed on, finally reaching the other side. A child fished one out and opened it to dry. He read the message, then smiled and waved.

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The Adventures of Grandmasaurus — an interview – #readilearn

Today I am delighted to introduce you to the author and illustrator of The Adventures of Grandmasaurus and The Adventures of Grandmasaurus at the Aquarium Rescue Centre published in Canada by Common Deer Press. While most interviews and reviews I share are of Australian authors and illustrators, it is a pleasure to have this opportunity of introducing you to author Caroline Fernandez and illustrator Shannon O’Toole, both Canadian.

About Author Caroline Fernandez

Caroline Fernandez is an award-winning Canadian children’s author. She lives, writes, and bakes in Toronto, ON.

About illustrator Shannon O’Toole

Shannon O’Toole is a Toronto based illustrator, painter and elementary school teacher. She has illustrated Stop Reading This Book!, The Adventures of Grandmasaurus series, as well as The Math Kids Series published by Common Deer Press. Her playful illustration work is inspired by the unique and humorous characters in her life. Aside from illustrating books for children, Shannon has exhibited her artwork in galleries across Ontario. When she is not drawing, Shannon can be found curled up with a cup of coffee, watching old movies.

About The Adventures of Grandmasaurus at the Aquarium

Grandma is at it again! Moonie and I just want to enjoy our class trip to the Aquarium Recue Centre, but Grandma has other plans.

When dust makes her sneeze and turn into different Mesozoic Era marine reptiles it’s up to us to track her down, stop her funny business, and make sure we still have time to finish our field trip reports.

The first Adventures of Grandmasaurus — my review

Continue reading: The Adventures of Grandmasaurus — an interview – readilearn

Imposter Syndrome #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads!

I always loved writing with my children at school. It was such a buzz as they put their stories and ideas on paper. They loved making books of their stories and reading them to their classmates and other classes. In fact, to anyone who would listen. I always provided them with as many audiences as I could as, isn’t that the purpose of writing — to be read? They would take their books home to read to their family and pets. Sometimes I would type up their stories and compile them into an anthology for them to take home and share.

In my class, we were all writers, all authors. Sometimes, older siblings felt they had to share their ‘superior’ worldly knowledge and burst their happy balloons. My story is about that and about the fact that sometimes a belief in oneself is more important than what anyone else thinks. I hope you like it.

Imposter Syndrome

When Dave revisited his junior school, he smiled to see the chair in its usual spot.

“Get down,” his big sister had said. “You’re not allowed on there. It’s only for authors.”

“I am an author,” Dave said, holding up the book he’d made in class.

“Not a real author. Real authors have real books published by real publishers, and their feet touch the floor. Anyway, it’s time to go.”

This time, when Dave sat in the chair, his feet touched the floor. The audience hushed as he opened his real book and began to read. Imposter no more.

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Cake in the Pan #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the cooking show. It can be any cooking show, real or imagined. Who is there? What happens? Make it fun or follow a disaster. Go where the prompt leads!

This is my response. I hope you like it.

Cake in the Pan

Deidre laughed, sang and clapped on cue at her first-ever real live Christmas pantomime, until … the clowns prepared the cake. Deidre knew how to make cakes — she’d made them with her mum. The clowns obviously didn’t — tipping more flour over each other than into the pan, splashing the milk, and cracking in eggs, shells and all. The audience roared as the clowns placed a lid on the pan, shook it vigorously, then tipped out a magnificent cake. When offered a slice, Deidre folded her arms and clamped her lips. A cake made like that could never taste good.

👩‍🍳

This story is inspired by a true event. However, the only thing I remember is being horrified at the way the clowns put everything into the pan, including the egg shells, and turned out a cake. In writing, I tried to get back to what an expanded memory may have included. I hope it has worked.

The thought of being horrified at everything going into the pan in which the cake is to be cooked is now quite funny, as I know there are quite a few recipes made that way; including one of my favourites to make with children. If I was to ever be in a cooking show, this is what I’d make. And there’s not even an egg in sight.

Moon Cake

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons cocoa powder

5 tablespoons butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon bi-carbonate of soda (baking soda)

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 cup milk

2/3 cup miniature marshmallows

Utensils

A cake pan

A cup measure

A mixing spoon

A tablespoon

A teaspoon

Method

1.         Preheat the oven to 180° (350⁰F, Gas mark #4)

2.         Put the flour, sugars, salt and cocoa in the cake pan. Mix them carefully. You will have the light brown moon sand.

3.         Use the mixing spoon to make a big crater in the middle so the bottom of the pan shows through. Make another medium-sized crater and a little crater.

4.         Put the baking soda in the medium-sized crater.

5.         Pour the melted butter into the big crater.

6.         Pour the vanilla into the little crater.

7.         Pour the vinegar onto the bi-carb soda in the medium-sized crater. Watch it become a bubbling, foaming volcano.

8.         When the volcano stops foaming, pour the milk over the moon sand and carefully mix it all together until it looks like smooth moon mud.

9.         Scatter marshmallow rocks over the surface.

10.       Bake it for around 35 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the centre comes out dry. Let the cake cool in the pan.

This recipe is available in different formats on my website readilearn and there are also some suggestions for science discussions while making the cake.

Enjoy a slice!

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Dressed for the Prom #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to the theme, “not everyone fits a prom dress.” You can take inspiration from Ellis Delaney’s song, the photo, or any spark of imagination. Who doesn’t fit and why? What is the tone? You can set the genre. Go where the prompt leads!

While prom is not ‘a thing’ here in Australia, our graduating students have formals and semi-formals, we all know what it is from television shows and movies.

Dressed for the Prom

She surprised them when she emerged, resplendent in formal gown, announcing, “I’m going to the prom.” With a smile as wide as a rainbow after rain, she twirled for them to admire her from every angle. Gorgeous, they agreed, though it was a little wide in the shoulders and a little long in the hem. The neckline would be revealing without underclothes. Someone suggested the beads were overdone, that one or two strands would suffice, but the decision was made. As soon as Billy arrived in the limo for big sister Maud, she was ready. What was keeping him?

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Flying Pigs #flash fiction

The phrase ‘when pigs fly’ means that something is impossible, it will never happen. The phrase is an adynaton — don’t you love that word? I just learned it — an exaggeration, hyperbole. I seem to think I heard the term many times growing up, though I can’t recall about what in particular. Maybe it was life in general.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-related. The idea can be a tale, poem or memory. You can use the phrase as an expression. Go where the prompt leads!

The first thing I thought about when reading Charli’s prompt is a hilariously delightful picture book by the fabulous author-illustrator Mo Willems: An Elephant and Piggie Book Today I Will Fly!

If you don’t already know the story, I suggest you acquaint yourself with it with this video. It will only take a couple of minutes.

I remember when I was first introduced to Mo Willem’s work. A colleague came rushing into my room one morning and pushed Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! at me, saying, “You’ve got to read this!’

I would have to say, the book didn’t have instant cover appeal, but she left it with me, and I continued with my preparations for the day. Later, when I sat down to read, I knew this book was something special. I loved it and the children loved it. We read it and read and read it. It had us in stitches. Unsurprisingly, it was a Caldecott Honor book.

After that, we read all the Mo Willems books we could get our hands on. The children brought in those they’d purchased or borrowed from the local library, and I couldn’t resist buying additional titles whenever I saw a new one in a book store I just happened to be passing.

When I visited New York in 2016, I was delighted to find an exhibition of the Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems at a museum not far from my accommodation. I couldn’t go through the exhibition shop without purchasing a book or two or more and also came home with a pigeon and a duckie soft toy. I am, unreservedly, a Mo Willems fan and I have the enthusiasm of my colleague to thank for that. If you would like to find out more, please visit the Mo Willems website.

And Mo is not just for little kids. He is for big kids (like us) and writers too. He has wonderful advice for teachers and writers alike when he discusses creativity, the need to play and the ever-present failure. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Mo, please watch his video on The Joy of Creation. It will inspire you.

In another video on his website, Mo explains how to draw a piggie from the Elephant and Piggie books. The inspiration for my flash came from this video. The flash is also a nod to my favourite ever principal Peter Kidston who not only valued my work as a teacher, he respected it enough to provide me the freedom to teach how I wanted, knowing that the children and their learning was at the centre of all I did. I wrote about Peter in this post.

I hope you enjoy my story.

Flying Pigs

Children’s squeals drew the principal to the window. Ms Irena’s children were running about the yard tossing bits of paper in the air. What were they up to this time?

“We read a book about a flying pig,” explained Ms Irena. “The children decided to make their own pigs and see if they could fly. Then they wanted to see whose would fly the farthest or highest. After, we’ll write stories about our pigs. So, it’s literacy, art, maths and science rolled into one — STEAM!”

The principal smiled. “A flight of pigs. With Irena, even the impossible seems possible.”

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Cacophony #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story, using cacophony. You can use the word or show discordant sound inaction. How can you create literary cacophony with your words? This one might be of interest to poets as a literary device. Go where the prompt leads!

If you’ve ever heard a flock of noisy corellas fly over, you’ll know the true meaning of the word ‘cacophony’.

If you haven’t, then here’s a taste.

But I was thinking that what might be a cacophony to one, might be music to another, for example the sound of children’s play and laughter. And that’s where I’ve gone with my response. I hope you like it.

Cacophony

Children’s voices rose from the street with excitement, until laughter exploded like fireworks, startling a flock of corellas into screeching flight.

Mrs Black in #4 slammed her door and windows tight, excluding the abhorrent noise daring to smother her favourite show.

Mr Judd from #5, pruning his grevilleas, shook his fist and said, “Stone the crows! What’s with all that racket?”

Mr Dredge in #7 dozed on, snoring in decibels way higher than those outside.

But Mrs Twigg in #3 flung wide her window, inhaling the children’s merriment that inspired memories of her own childhood antics so long ago.

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The Open Door #Flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills invited writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an open door. It can be literal or metaphorical. What is behind the door? Who is seeking and why? As the writer, how will you manage the discovery? Go where the prompt leads!

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

An Open Invitation

Actions speak louder than words so, when the door opened, she assumed it was an invitation, even though she’d been told to stay inside. She didn’t need naptime. She was a big girl.

Outside the day sparkled with springtime. Birds chatted as they flitted from tree to tree, inviting her to follow. A lizard peeked from a log, then rustled away in winter’s leaves. She followed, crawling under bushes, into an open space where rocks warmed in the sun. Gum nuts and seed pods, twigs and leaves enthralled until, lulled by the warmth and the dappling light, she napped.

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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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