Tag Archives: desert

The Hero of Your Own Journey

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that “rethinks the hero.” Define the hero, comparing or contrasting to the classic definition. Break the mold. What happens to the hero in the cave? Is it epic or everyday? Is there resistance or acceptance? Go where the prompt leads!

If there’s one thing that writers can do is write their characters out of any situation. What many of them wish they could do is write themselves into a publishing contract. Whatever we choose, we all must be the hero of our own journey.

Nearly every class has a clown who becomes the hero for students by adding a humorous diversion that reduces the stresses of the day. The same student may frustrate the teacher by disrupting the class and not taking the lesson seriously.

While I was never the class clown—I wouldn’t have enjoyed the attention and would never have been considered funny—I always liked to consider alternative possibilities and was sometimes accused of not taking things seriously enough while fending off accusations of the opposite by others. You’ve probably noticed similar in my writing. What can I say? I’m a Gemini.

Both writers and class clowns think creatively, which is perfect for World Creativity and Innovation Week which begins this Thursday.

Not so much in the younger grades in which I mainly taught, but in the older grades, students are often provided with hypothetical situations for which they are required to provide survival strategies. I’ve gone for the opposite of the literal cave, as Charli suggested, but still the literary cave.

I hope you think my class clown/writer has used their creativity to solve the teacher’s survival puzzle. If only it were that easy.

Survival Hero

“Consider this,” said the teacher. “You’re stranded alone in the desert. Your vehicle has broken down about 15 kilometres from your destination. Your visit’s a surprise so you’re not expected. There’s no internet service and your phone is dead. You’ve packed water and a little food in a backpack. What else should you take to be the hero of your own journey?”

The students huddled, discussing options.

“Compass,” suggested one.

“Pocket knife,” said another.



“A pencil.”


“I’d just add an ‘s’ — change that desert to dessert and she’s sweet.”

“You’re our hero,” the others agreed, laughing.

Note: ‘she’s sweet’ is an Australian saying for everything’s okay.

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Desert surprise

When you hear the word “desert”, what image does your mind conjure up?

Is it of endless sand dunes such as those of  Rub’ al Khali (“Empty quarter”) of Saudi Arabia?

Or is if of something a little less desolate?

This week at Carrot Ranch Communications, Charli Mills writes about a desert close to where she is staying in her temporary, though seemingly endless, state of imposed homelessness.

The desert Charli describes, in eastern Washington, is “flat and prickly” with “trees (that) are better described as shrubs and any ground cover growing out of the black sand has thorns.” She describes the “sagebrush with soft leaves of silvery blue and twisting trunks of brittle gray bark.” The images created by these descriptions is vastly different from those of endless sand dunes.

A desert is usually described as an arid area where there is little rainfall and conditions do not favour  plant and animal life. As much as one third of the earth’s land surface is arid or semi-arid. This is also true of mainland Australia with its ten named deserts which mostly lie in the centre.

Last year I was fortunate to visit Uluru and Kata Tjuta which are in semi-arid areas surrounded by desert in Central Australia. I have put together some images of the area to show the variation that occurs in the semi-arid landscape.

Thinking of the word “desert” (noun – arid area) also brings to mind its heteronym “desert” (verb – leave), which has its own homonym meaning deserved e.g.” just deserts” and homophone “dessert”. These words are often confused by both readers and writers with pronunciation and spelling indistinguishable out of context.

I have combined these different meanings to respond to Charli’s flash fiction challenge to in 99 words (no more, no less) write about a surprise from a desert. While not specifically about education, I also acknowledge the power of a teacher’s influence.


They reminded her constantly what an inconvenience she was; that she’d never be anything; that she was simply trash like the one who birthed, and dumped her. Somehow she’d never believed them: their truth was not hers. She’d shielded her inner core with a shell over which their words flowed but could not penetrate. Not caring whether they ever knew, she’d prove them wrong. A favourite teacher inspired an interest in food science. As soon as possible she escaped to apprentice with master chef Jules. After years of determination and hard work, she opened her own patisserie “Just Desserts”.

Thank you

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