Tag Archives: Carrot Ranch flash fiction

Living for fame, posthumously flash fiction

Living for fame posthumously

Would you sell your soul to the devil to be rich and famous in life, or would you be content with fame after your death?

While most of us might say that it’s not fame or fortune we seek, many spend untold energy and funds on marketing our writing, hopeful of reaching a few extra readers and recouping a few of those hard-earned dollars.

Most of us would say we have no desire to go down in history like some of these whose works were unknown or unrecognised in life, but lauded after death; including:

  • Edgar Allan Poe (Writer)
  • Emily Dickinson (Poet)
  • Franz Kafka (Writer)
  • Galileo Galilei (Scientist)
  • Henry David Thoreau (Philosopher)
  • Herman Melville (writer)
  • John Keats (Poet)
  • Oscar Wilde (writer)
  • Stieg Larsson (writer)
  • Vincent Van Gogh (Artist)

and others you can read about at ScoopWhoop here and here, and also on Toptenz here, where the suggestion is made to never give up because there is no way of knowing what lies ahead.

However, this article by Daniel Grant writing for the Huffington Post and this one on Quora both address the question of an artist’s posthumous fame and agree that, if you weren’t famous in life, you’re unlikely to be famous in death. Perhaps we’d better go for the fame and fortune while we live.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - unremembered

Why am I thinking about posthumous fame? It’s not that I’m thinking of dying and then being discovered anytime soon. No, it’s as a result of the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week.

Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone unremembered. Is it a momentary lapse or a loss in time? Play with the tone — make it funny, moving, or eerie. Go where the prompt leads you!

This is how my story plays out.

Unremembered

A recluse, unremarkable and forgotten in life and unremembered in death, she’d lived in her own world hidden behind overhanging branches and overgrown gardens. Unseen for so long, newcomers didn’t know she existed, thinking it was simply undeveloped land.

One day, developers came and pushed down the trees and cleared the undergrowth. They paused at the sight of the tiny wooden structure their work revealed. Unsure how to proceed, they investigated. Though not art enthusiasts, they knew that what they discovered was something special. When the work was curated and exhibited in galleries worldwide, she was never unremembered again.

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Unpacking the Greatest Gift - Comparatively Speaking

Unpacking the greatest gift — comparatively speaking

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - greatest gift

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the greatest gift. Answer it as if it were a question, or show what it could be. Go where the prompt leads you!

 

 

 

 

As usual, my mind jumps all over the place trying to find somewhere solid to land.

For example:

Do you remember learning the comparative and superlative at school?

great                    greater                 greatest

But what could be described as the greatest, indeed the greatest gift?

Muhammad Ali had no trouble in declaring that he was the greatest.

And ever since reading Charli’s post, I haven’t been able to get Whitney Houston out of my head.

According to liveaboutdotcom, Whitney Houston“has been cited by the Guinness Book of Records as the most awarded female performer of all time.” It appears that those awards were not enough. Perhaps had she been able to find that love, it would have been her greatest gift

Then there’s a chant I used to hear in the playground. A group of girls would gather and one would call out, “I am the greatest”. Others would respond, “No you’re not.” Then everyone would do a handstand. And so, it would repeat. I think whoever held the handstand the longest was entitled to call, “I am the greatest.” If only it were that easy.

I am the greatest - playground game

If one was to be the greatest at anything, would that be the greatest gift?

I’ve often said that a love of reading is one of the greatest gifts that a parent can give a child.

the love of reading is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child

It is one of the greatest gifts not only for the joy that reading can give, but even more because the ability to read is empowering. It enables one to fully participate in what societies have to offer, to navigate one’s way through our complex environments and seek knowledge for oneself.

If it is but one of the greatest gifts, what are the others, and is there one that is greatest of them all? Is it the gift of life? Of unconditional love? Of being accepted as you are? The most expensive car? The biggest house? The largest inheritance?

Was winning the World Heavyweight Championship the greatest gift for Muhammad Ali? The greatest number of awards wasn’t the greatest gift for Whitney Houston.

I think it’s too difficult to intellectualise. I’ve gone back to the concrete thinking of six-year-olds for my answer.

The Greatest Gift

The class was aflame with a mix of sadness and excitement.

“She’s is leaving.”

“She’s gunna have a baby.”

“I’m gunna bring her a gift.”

“I am too.”

On her final day, the children jostled to give first, hopeful she’d love their gift the best.

“Mine’s bigger than yours.”

“Mine’s better.”

“Mine’s the greatest.”

The children gloated and nudged each other as the teacher opened the gifts.

“How perfect.”

“This is great.”

“Thank you, everyone.”

Finally, Tommy edged forward. His hands were empty. He looked shyly into his teacher’s eyes and whispered, “I’ll miss you, Miss. You’re the best.”

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What's grit got to do with it flash fiction

What’s Grit Got to Do with It?

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - true grit

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true grit. You can use the phrase or embody the theme. Who or what has true grit? Go where the prompt leads you!

Grit is a combination of many things including perseverance, determination, resilience, persistence, doggedness. It’s an ability to overcome the small obstacles that litter life’s path without allowing them to overwhelm and prevent a way forward.

Teaching requires grit. Along with the enormous expectations and responsibilities of the role, there are the needs of many little people to be met. Most days teachers cope admirably, but some days can offer a little more challenge.

One of our roles as teachers is to help children develop grit, to have a go, persevere, be persistent and resilient. In any class, there will be children with varying degrees of grit. There will be those who are just a little more needy, requiring a little more encouragement and support. Most days they might cope admirably, other days may offer a little more challenge.

As John Denver sang, “Some Days are Diamonds. Some Days are Stones.”

Some days may be just a little grittier than others and we might need a whole bucketful of grit to make it through.

A Bucketful of Grit - flash fiction

A Bucketful of Grit

“Miss, Jimmie’s crying.”

“Thanks for letting me know, Susan,” she smiled through gritted teeth.

What now? Couldn’t she just finish her tea for once? Something trivial, no doubt. Better go see, just in case.

She met a small posse escorting Jimmie across the playground. Their imploring eyes begged her sympathy.

“What’s wrong, Jimmie?”

“I, I —”

“He got grit in his eye, Miss.”

“Let’s see. Ah, yes. Better take him to First Aid.”

The children moved off as one, except George. He turned and held out a bucket.

“What’s that?”

“You told Jimmie to find some grit. Here ‘tis!”

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Flash fiction What does your daddy do

What does your daddy do?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the safebreaker’s daughter. Who is she, what did she do, and where? Go where the prompt leads you!

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - safebreaker's daughter

In her post, Charli linked to the song The Safebreaker’s Daughter. After taking us on a deep mapping journey around the streets of her home, Charli contemplated what might occur should the safebreaker’s daughter turn up on one of those streets and wrote 99 words to share her thoughts. Please pop over and read if you would like to respond to her challenge as well.

As I have spent most of my life in the classroom, as usual, and not surprisingly, that’s where the prompt took me.

As teachers in public schools, we work with children from many different backgrounds, family configurations and status. The children of parents who ‘earn’ their living by not-so-honest means must also attend school. Unless those parents are the ‘wealthier’ white-collar criminals and seemingly respectable until caught out, many of the children attend public schools. Most teachers, at some time, will have worked with children whose parents engaged in practices outside the law or may have even been incarcerated. Sometimes we know. Sometimes we suspect. Sometimes we have no idea.

It is more than likely that the safebreaker’s daughter would have attended school and at some stage, as most children do, written about her parents and their work as part of her social studies. As we’ve just celebrated Father’s Day here in Australia, I decided to place the safebreaker’s daughter in a class writing about their father’s employment.

What Does Your Daddy Do?

The children drew portraits and wrote profiles of their fathers’ work. Some had accompanied their father to work and related first-hand knowledge of laying bricks, wearing a fireman’s helmet, sitting in the manager’s chair, or distributing medication to patients. Then it was Patsy’s turn. She read:

“My Dad

My dad goes to work at night. He is a cleaner. He works when everyone else is sleeping. He wears black jeans, a black shirt and a black hat. He wears gloves so he doesn’t leave fingerprints where he has cleaned. He usually cleans up banks and jewellery stores.

The end.”

 

My Dad - a childish story

Note: The burglar illustrating Patsy story is an alteration of an Image by Joe Alfaraby from Pixabay.

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Old World - So Last Century

Old World — So Last Century

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge old world

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writer to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about old world charm. It can be nostalgic or irreverent. You can invent an “old world,” return to migrant roots or recall ancient times. Go where the prompt leads you!

Born mid-way last century and unlikely to see the middle of this, from this angle anyway, I have to admit that I’m of the ‘old world’. The young ones think I’m ancient.

When my daughter, now an adult herself and ‘old’ to younger eyes, was but a child, she often asked me to tell her what life was like ‘in the olden days’ when I was a child. She even asked what the dinosaurs were like!

Although she teased, it has become entrenched in family lore. (Most family members have been obsessed by dinosaurs at some time — perhaps in the hope of locating ancestors?) But perhaps the juxtaposition is not that unlikely if one has not yet developed an understanding of the evolutionary timeline.

I’ve always appreciated the quote, often mistakenly attributed to Einstein, that says the only reason we have time is to prevent everything happening at once. There is another that questions whether, if a tree was to fall in the forest and no one was there to hear it, would it make any sound?

Could it be that for children, until they develop a sense of time, anything that has occurred outside of their memory, prior to their birth, seems to have happened all at once in that long ago, old world time.

The first children to have been born this century are already reaching adult status but it is difficult for them to imagine life before mobile phones, text messaging, iPads, social media, the internet, instant information, streaming and video games, let alone television. Even for some of us who experienced those ‘olden days’, it can be difficult to remember just what it was like.

This video of children reacting to rotary phones may help you recall.

How did we meet up with friends when we didn’t have phones, never mind mobile phones? What did we do when we were waiting for an appointment or an event and we didn’t have our phones for entertainment? What did we do when we wanted to know something and we weren’t at the library, beside a set of encyclopedias, or someone knowledgeable? No wonder our parents answered our questions with statements such as; “Because it is” and admonished us for asking too many questions. No child should ever have their questions shut down now with answers just a button away.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of momentous events such as the Moon Landing, Woodstock, and my final year of school. I may not have roamed with the dinosaurs, but how life has changed since then. My story reflects back on time in that ‘old world’. I hope you like it.

So Last Century

“What did you play on the iPad when you were little, Grandma?”

“There weren’t any iPads when I was little.”

“What?”

“We didn’t even have computers.”

“What? How did you watch movies? On your phone?”

Grandma laughed. “No, we couldn’t watch movies on our phones. They didn’t have screens. And we couldn’t carry them in our pockets either. We went to the cinema to watch movies. When I was really little, we didn’t even have television.”

“Wow! What did you do then?”

“Lots — played games, read books, made our own fun.”

“Can we play a game?”

“Of course, love.”

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Sweet Strawberry Jam flash fiction

Sweet Strawberry Jam

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction challenge Sweet Jam

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sweet jam. It can take you to the kitchen or the smokey room of a back-alley bar. What makes it sweet? Go where the prompt leads you!

Although my mother was a great one for preserving and making jams from surplus fruits and vegetables, I never followed her example. I recall her pressure cooker filled to the brim with sweet sticky concoctions which were then sealed into Vacola jars for storage and future use.

Mulberry, fig, quince and tomato are just a few of the jams I remember her making. They were always a favourite heaped onto fresh white bread. Sometimes so much jam was applied, someone would sarcastically ask, “Would you like bread with that?” to which the only appropriate answer was, “Only if I have to.”

But we didn’t just spread jam on bread. Mum would use jam in some of her favourite sweet recipes including a coconut tart, raspberry slice and jam drops, all of which we children devoured as quickly as she could make them.

Although I didn’t take up the challenge of making jam, I’ve always enjoyed a word challenge. Even at school, I liked being asked to write a sentence to show the different meanings of the same word; for example, ‘bow’. I much preferred the creative aspect of such activities to simply filling in a missing word which usually had only one right answer and was a no-brainer.

The word jam and its variety of uses appealed to me in this way and I’ve jammed a few into my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

Sweet Strawberry Jam

Overhearing a conversation about the jam session at Lorna’s that night, Ailsa assumed the email was buried in spam which had jammed her inbox recently. She collected her Vacola jars and headed for the motorway. Discovering the traffic jam too late, she had no choice but to wait. The jam drops prepared for supper eased the monotony. At Lorna’s, she jammed her car into a tight spot and rushed inside. The living room was jam-packed, and music indicated a different kind of jamming. Setting down her Vacola jars, she leaned against the door jamb. “Sweet strawberry jam!” she breathed.

And how could I not have a post about jam without a reference to that Newbeats’ hit of the ‘60s I Like Bread and Butter.

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Apples for the teacher

Apples for the teacher

My entire life has been focused on education, both in school and out. As explained in my poem Education is, I don’t consider education and school to be synonymous. While some learning may take place in school, education encompasses much more than that. It occurs through living and is lifelong.

While my views have always challenged the traditional approach, I haven’t always found other like-minded educators in my personal circle. When I do meet others with a similar passion for children and learning, I feel exhilarated and renewed, excited by the prospect of what could be.

Recently, on Facebook, I viewed this video by Prince Ea, musician and motivational speaker.

The video led me to the Innovation Playlist and Ted Dintersmith. I knew I had found others of similar mind when I saw that the first video on the Playlist was Do Schools Kill Creativity by Sir Ken Robinson, which I shared last week (and previously here, here and elsewhere). What joy!

There is much to explore on the Innovation Playlist, and I have only just begun. If like me, you believe traditional schooling could do with some improvement and are heartened by good things that are going on in many places, I highly recommend you take a look.

So far, I have watched Ted Dintersmith’s movie Most Likely to Succeed and am currently listening to his book What School Could Be. His book is a fascinating expose of schools in the United States of America. In one school year, he visited schools in every State discovering innovative “teachers doing extraordinary things in ordinary settings, creating innovative classrooms where children learn deeply and joyously.” His findings are inspiring and reassuring that schools can do more than prepare children for tests, they can prepare children for life. It is a fascinating read. If you live in the US, you will find something about schools in your own State. If you live outside the US, you will find something to inspire you.

For a quick overview of Dintersmith’s book and findings, read this article published in Education Week last year What’s Actually Working in the Classroom?

This discussion between Ted Dintersmith and Prince EA provides an insight into their motivations for improving education.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - poisoned apple

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a poisoned apple. Let’s explore dark myth. Deconstruct the original or invent something new. Negotiate the shadows, shed light, but go where the prompt leads you!

An apple is often used as a symbol for the teacher, and we talk about ‘an apple for the teacher’. Rather than write a fractured fairy tale, of which I am fond, I thought a poisoned apple was a perfect analogy for what happens when the focus of schooling is on test scores rather than children and learning. Let’s see what you think.

apples - which would you choose

It’s an institution

They arrived with bright eyes, open hearts and curious minds. As they entered, each was handed a shiny apple full of promises. They took their places and followed instructions. In unison, they bit off small portions of their apple and chewed to the beat of the enormous metronome suspended above. On cue, they swallowed but, with insufficient time before the required regurgitation, were unable to digest any components. Before they had finished, the taste was bland, swallowing difficult and regurgitation almost impossible. On exiting, their eyes were dull, their hearts closed, and their minds shrivelled, poisoned by false promises.

The antidote

They arrived with bright eyes, open hearts and curious minds. As they entered, each was handed a shiny apple full of promises. No instructions were given. Each was guided in making their own discoveries. Some investigated flavour, nutritional benefits, and created award-winning recipes. Some explored seed propagation, discovering ways of increasing productivity and limiting food scarcity. Some peeled the apple and inspected it layer by layer to determine its innermost secrets. Some cut it in half to reveal and release the stars within unlocking unlimited potential and the secrets of the universe. All were filled with wonder and learning.

«»

I conclude with a video in which Prince EA speaks to his teacher and explains to him why he is not a failure and why what happens in the classroom does not inspire learning. He includes one of my favourite quotes by Kahlil Gibran. What’s to not like?

Kahlil Gibran Children

 

Thank you teachers

To all the wonderful teachers in my community, I thank you for your hard work and dedication, and the positive difference you are making to the lives of so many children and their families. You make the world a better place.

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