Tag Archives: short stories

That’s what friends are for

At this time of year, minds and hearts turn to friends and family, and contemplations of what we can do to make the world a better place. When we think of global events, we may feel overwhelmed, wondering what possible effect our actions could have. But when we focus on our own circle, any positive difference we make can effect changes of which we may never be aware. That’s the ripple effect, and that’s what friends are for.

I belong to a very supportive online community whose encouragement helps to keep me going.

With my focus on education, particularly early childhood education, and their work mostly targeting adult audiences, I struggle to find ways of supporting them and their creative pursuits during the year, other than the usual shares on Twitter and Facebook.

However, come Christmas time, what’s to stop me doing a little more?

love of reading to young children in early childhood education

In a recent readilearn post, I acknowledged authors and illustrators of children’s literature whom I was fortunate enough to interview throughout the year. You can read that post here. I was also delighted to be invited by Christy Birmingham to write a guest post about them for her blog When Women Inspire.

SMAG Society of Mutual Admiration and Gratitude

In this post, I acknowledge and promote recent works published by my SMAG community; lovely people who support me both here and over at readilearn. SMAG is an acronym for Society of Mutual Appreciation and Gratitude. The community is open to anyone. All that is required is friendship. If you’d like to add the badge to your blog, I’d be honoured. If you’re not sure how to do so, you can find instructions here.

I know I won’t catch all my SMAGgers, but I’ll do my best. If I miss you, I apologise. Please add your details in the comments.

I hope as you read through my list your will find some books to add to your own collection or to gift to another for Christmas, or holiday, or anytime reading.

Carrot Ranch

My first acknowledgement goes to Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch Literary Community.

Participation in the Carrot Ranch weekly flash fiction challenges inspires many of the posts shared here. The support of Charli, Lead Buckaroo, and the team of Rough Writers has been a constant source of encouragement.

Congress of Rough Writers Anthology Vol 1

While we eagerly await the publication of Charli’s two novels-in-progress, she has compiled an anthology of flash fiction submitted to the weekly prompts. The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Volume 1 will be available soon. I am rather delighted to say that some of my writing features in the Anthology. (Check out books by other Rough Writers featured on the Books page.)

Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin's books

I very much enjoyed Anne Goodwin’s debut novel Sugar and Snails, and was not disappointed with her second novel Underneath, released earlier this year. Anne is also a prolific writer of short stories, many of which are available from her website. An anthology (Annethology) will be available soon. I’ve yet to read a story of Anne’s I didn’t like.

Sarah Brentyn

Sarah Brentyn's books

Sarah is a micro-fiction expert. She packs a whole lot of story into just a few words. I described her first book Hinting at Shadows as a box of chocolates – bite-sized pieces of dark delight; once you’ve tasted you can’t stop! Her second anthology On the Edge of a Raindrop, just released, holds equal promise.

Robbie Cheadle

Robbie Cheadle's books

If you haven’t yet checked out Robbie Cheadle’s Sir Chocolate Books you really must. Robbie’s unique style of illustrating her stories with fondant creations will make your mouth water.

The Sir Chocolate Books series of stories were written by Robbie and her son Michael. The rhyming stories are supplemented by the inclusion of recipes and links to YouTube videos.

Debby Gies

Debby Gies books

Debby Gies writes memoir; stories from her life and her heart; stories that will resonate with us, inspire us, make us laugh, and make us cry. When I read Have Bags Will Travel, I couldn’t believe how much of my experience she was sharing.

Debby has numerous books in her collection, including her new release Twenty Years: After “I Do. I’m sure you’ll find at least one to take your fancy.

Christy Birmingham

Christy Birmingham Versions of the Self

Christy Birmingham’s book of poems Versions of the Self is an exploration of the emotions experienced in relationships and the personal growth that occurs through them.

D. Avery

D. Avery Chicken Shift For the Girls

D. Avery’s books of poems make excellent reading. Chicken Shift combines philosophy, humour and utter nonsense by contemplating answers to the old riddle “Why did the chicken cross the road?” Who would have thought there could be so many responses? – Only D.

For the girls explores responses to a diagnosis of breast cancer and what it means personally and to others. It’s a must read for anyone whose life has been touched by cancer. There are few of  us who haven’t supported a loved one as they work through their emotional, as well as physical, response.

Sally Cronin

Sally Cronin's books

Sally Cronin is a prolific author of both fiction and non-fiction. Her most recent publication What’s in a Name? Stories of Life and Romance Volume 2 is a book of short stories in which she explores why we find the names of some people memorable.

Sally is also an amazing support for writers and all things writing. I was delighted to be recently featured in her series Posts from my Archives here and here. Thank you, Sally.

Susan Scott

Susan Scott Aging and Becoming

This year Susan Scott published Aging and Becoming – A Reflective Inquiry, which she cowrote with Susan E. Schwartz. The Susans reflect on life and its effects on the physical, mental and emotional experience as we age. Throughout the year, Susan shared excerpts on her lovely Garden of Eden blog.

Not just books

Pauline King has many lovely crafts and artworks for sale in her Contented Crafter’s Gift Shop.

Robin Etter-Cleave plays Notes from Squire Street on her melodic alto flute.

For an early childhood teacher, a readilearn subscription makes a thoughtful gift. Contact me for details.

For other suggestions, check out last year’s list here.

Apologies again if I have missed your current publications. Please know that each of you is greatly appreciated. The purpose of writing is to connect with readers. If you “like” or share a post, that is wonderful. If you leave a comment and engage in conversation, that is even better still. Thank you.

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

Books make the #1 best gifts!

The love of reading is gift

I am notorious for gifting books. I’ve written about this before in Guess what you’re getting for Christmas and other posts. It would not surprise me if you are also a notorious gifter of books. Perhaps that could be our super power: The Book Gifters!

Reading is empowering. A book is a gift that continues to give, long after the occasion has past. It’s effects cannot always be measured.

books-life-memories

In this post, I suggest some books you may like to purchase for special people in your life. And why not treat yourself with one or two as well?

Most, but not all, are fairly recent releases. A few are long-time favourites.

Most, but not all, are written by people I know personally or through blogging. You might recognise their names from comments on other of my blog posts. A few are long-time favourites written by people who inspire me.

I have read most. The only two not read (the books of short stories) are very, very recent. However I am happy to recommend them as I am already familiar with some of the stories, and the writers’ work  from their blogs.

Disclaimer: These are books that appeal to me. They may not appeal to you. The important thing in choosing books for others is in finding something that they will like.

The list is not exhaustive. It is just a beginning to provide a few ideas that you may not have considered. There are many other wonderful books that could just as easily have been included.

I have arranged my list in this way:

For children:

Picture books (including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry)

Early chapter books (for readers of about 7 to 12 years)

For adults:

Books of short stories

Novels

Memoirs

Books for teachers and parents

If you follow the links you will be able to discover more about the writers and their other work.

For children:

Picture books – Fiction

picture-books

Lauri Fortino The Peddler’s Bed This heart-warming story demonstrates that a kindness given can encourage kindness in others. You can read a lovely interview with Lauri on the readilearn blog here.

Tara Lazar Little Red Gliding Hood In this fun fractured fairy tale, Little Red Riding Hood needs a new pair of skates. The only way she can acquire them is by winning a skating competition. But which fairy tale character will be her partner?

Galvin Scott Davis Daisy Chain This is a beautifully illustrated, animated and interactive, anti-bullying book app, narrated by Kate Winslet.

Non-fiction

non-fiction-picture

Rebecca Johnson The Insect Series This series of ten little books, each about a different insect, combines both fact and fiction with stunning close-up photographs. You can read a lovely interview with Rebecca on the readilearn blog here.

Sue Fliess The Bug Book This book about bugs is beautifully illustrated with stunning photographs. Written in rhyme, it introduces children to many tiny creatures.

Poetry

book-cover

June Perkins Magic Fish Dreaming This gorgeous book of poems with its focus on nature will uplift and inspire you and your children. You can read a lovely interview with June on the readilearn blog here.

Early chapter books (about 7 to 12 years)

early-chapter-books

Rebecca Johnson Juliet nearly a Vet This lovely series of books tells of the adventures of ten-year-old Juliet who aspires to be a vet, just like her mother.

Karen Tyrrell Song Bird Superhero This story tells of Rosella Bird and her quest to fly. While she battles the bully at school and at home, she is empowered and discovers the joy of flight when she finds her voice.

Bette A. Stevens Pure Trash: The Story Set in New England in the 1950s, this story tells of a Saturday afternoon adventure of two young boys. The Kindle version is free on Amazon until 29 November (today – be quick!). 

Hazel Edwards & Ozge Alkan Hijabi Girl In this story, when eight-year-old Melek is deciding what to wear to the book parade, she is unable to find a super-hero who wears a hijab, so she creates her own.

Robert Hoge Ugly (a memoir) Robert’s story is one of resilience, of survival against the odds, and of making hard decisions. While coping with difference and bullying, Robert shows that strength of character is a trait of survivors. I have introduced you to Robert previously here and here.

Books of short stories

short-stories

Sarah Brentyn Hinting at Shadows This book is a collection of very short stories, each 100 words or less. While each may be a quick read, they will give insight, inspiration, and a greater understanding of what it means to be human.

Hugh Roberts Glimpses Launching on 2 December, available for pre-order “28 short stories that will take your mind on a rollercoaster of a ride into worlds that conceal unexpected twists and turns.”

Novels

novels

Anne Goodwin Sugar and Snails In this mid-life coming-of-age story, Diana Dodsworth has some tough decisions to make as she comes to terms with who she really is. Anne has previously talked about her book on my blog here and here.

Geoff Le Pard Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle This story about nineteen-year-old Harry Spittle, who is home from university for the hottest of hot holidays, will have you laughing out loud at his misadventures.

Terry Tyler Best Seller This intriguing novella is about three writers, all of whom wish to write a best seller. One does; but which one?

Memoirs

memoir

Robert Hoge Ugly (a biography) Robert’s inspirational story is one of resilience, of survival against the odds, and of making hard decisions. While coping with difference and bullying, Robert shows that strength of character is a trait of survivors. I have introduced you to Robert previously here and here.

Lesley and Tammy Williams Not Just Black and White Told as a conversation between mother and daughter, this inspirational story tells of the importance of family, of difficulties experienced by many Indigenous Australians in relatively current times, with a drive to ensure that history is neither forgotten nor repeated.

Malala Yousafzai Malala The Girl Who Stood up for Education and Changed the World The story of Malala, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, is one of courage and of the difference that one person can make in the world. I have previously written about Malala here.

Magda Szubanski Reckoning: A Memoir With a Polish father, a Scottish mother and an Australian childhood, Magda’s story is complex, courageous, compassionate, and inspirational.

Books for teachers and parents

for-teachers-and-parents

Mem Fox Reading Magic This book provides lots of practical advice and support for parents in developing a love of reading in their children. I have introduced you to Mem many times previously, including here and here.

Michael Rosen Good Ideas: How to be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher This very readable book is packed full of suggestions for encouraging curiosity and learning in children (and you!) I have previously introduced you to Michael here and here.

Vivian Kirkfield Show Me How Vivian passion’s for picture books and her understanding of the importance of literacy are obvious in this book that provides great ideas for reading and extending the learning experience associated with many picture books.

Or, for a special early childhood educator, gift a subscription to readilearn, a collection of teaching resources that can be used throughout the year.

special-gift-for-special-teacher-ad

It’s easy. Simply send an email to hello@readilearn.com.au, arrange payment for the currently discounted subscription, and you will be emailed a voucher with a coupon code, unique to your special teacher. Print the voucher and personalise it with your own message before presenting your gift.

Note: The subscription is for 12 months from date of activation, not purchase: a gift that will go on giving all year long.

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I hope there is something in this list that you can add to your gift list.

Thank you

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

 

 

 

Sugar and Snails: On friendship, fact and fiction

sugar-and-snails cover

In this post I am very excited to introduce Anne Goodwin sharing tidbits from her debut novel Sugar and Snails, published just last week by Inspired Quill. It is already receiving rave reviews and I am happy to add my voice to those in praise of it.

Anne and I have been friends for the best part of two years. I can’t quite remember just how we met but I do remember it was on Twitter and that we hit it off almost immediately. I followed up one of our Twitter conversations with a post and we haven’t looked back. We have enjoyed many wonderful discussions on each of our blogs, and the blogs of others. With Anne’s background in psychology and mine in education there is considerable opportunity for a meeting, as well as divergence, of minds.  I learn from her, I think, as much as she learns from me. Or should that be the other way round?

On her blog Annecdotal Anne shares reviews of novels she has read and her thoughts about and understanding of the writing process. I have read some of Anne’s recommendations, including “The Examined Life” by Stephen Grosz, which stimulated a great discussion on my blog, including a first guest post by Anne.

Anne is also a fabulous teller of short stories with over sixty published either online or in print. I must confess I have not yet read all of Anne’s stories but have thoroughly enjoyed each I have read. I think she has a gift for a surprise ending, though she does not employ the technique in every story.  Her style is easy to read with a natural flow of language. Her portrayal of characters shows a depth of understanding that may be attributed to her background in psychology, but the variety of settings and topics displays a much broader understanding of the human condition in different environments and from different cultural backgrounds.

It is my great pleasure to hand this post over to Anne.

Anne

Anne Goodwin: On friendship, fact and fiction

The year I turned fifty, I wanted to do something special, but a party really wasn’t my thing. Instead, I celebrated with a long distance walk: 190 miles across northern England from the west coast to the east. As the route begins only a few miles from where I grew up, I took the opportunity to meet up with a bunch of old school friends the evening before I set off.

About a dozen of us got together for a meal in the pub we used to frequent after school. I’d kept in sporadic touch with a few of the women over the years, but some I hadn’t seen since I was fifteen. Although there was some lively conversation, I spent a lot of the time sitting staring, overwhelmed by how I could detect within these middle-aged faces the teenagers they’d once been, and the pleasure of being back among them.

After hiking across three national parks, meeting up with various friends and family along the way, I reached my destination at Robin Hood’s Bay, exhausted and exuberant. Back home, with a couple of days free before returning to work, I began writing the novel that was to become Sugar and Snails.

Like many writers, I’m an introvert. I relish my time alone. I need to be able to withdraw into the privacy of my own mind to reboot. But friendship is important to me as well. Those two and a bit weeks of reconnecting with old friends served as a reminder of that, and also that, in the right form, sociability can revitalise me too. It felt so important I dedicated my novel to the coast-to-coasters and old school friends.

Yet it wasn’t until very recently that I realised that my novel was itself a celebration of friendship. Of course I’d given my main character friends but, in my head, I didn’t distinguish them from other people who drive the plot forward: a troubled student; her difficult boss; the social worker who found her a place at boarding school at fifteen. Maybe, because Diana herself doesn’t fully trust her friends, I wasn’t able to appreciate them either.

Two of her friends are crucial to the story and, although they never meet, they are brought together strongly in Diana’s mind early on. Attending a dinner party to mark the forty-fifth birthday of her best friend, Venus Najibullah, Diana is asked to pop upstairs to tell Venus’s daughter a bedtime story. In response to the seven-year-old’s insistence on a story about “when you were a little girl going on adventures”, Diana finds herself lost in the memories of Geraldine Finch “the girl who ruled my childhood”.

As with many childhood friendships, Diana recalls an intense connection with Geraldine as the pair absorbed themselves in dressing up for role-play games. But as they approached their teens, Geraldine proved fickle, neglecting her playmate in favour of other friends, unless there was something she wanted. The friendship ends abruptly in what appears to be a betrayal, followed by Diana’s departure for boarding school a few months later. But it would be premature to regard this strand of the novel as about the dark side of female friendship. From the vantage point of adulthood, Diana might come to view this childhood friendship differently, just as the reader might gain a different perspective on learning more about the character of Diana.

Meeting for the first time aged eighteen, Diana is somewhat intimidated by Venus until she discovers they have something in common:

On my first Sunday night at university, I was en route from the bathroom to my study-bedroom in the student halls, clutching a damp towel and my quilted wash-bag to my chest like a shield. My gaze levelled at my fluffy primrose slippers peeping out from under the hem of my stripy galabeyah as I shuffled along the corridor. I didn’t notice the other girl until I’d almost bashed into her: tall, with a cascade of ebony hair and skin the colour of butterscotch.

I made to move on, but the girl blocked my path, looking down her long nose at me from beneath heavy eyebrows: “You do realise that’s a man’s galabeyah you’re wearing?” Her voice was as haughty as the girls’ at Dorothea Beale, with an exotic lilt that brought to mind the rhythms of Cairo.

No doubt I blushed. At boarding school I’d kept it hidden in my trunk. But university promised another chance and, besides, who was going to be able to tell the difference between a traditional Arab shift and an ordinary nightgown? Who, apart from this arrogant girl who was scrutinising me like I was an exhibit in the Egyptian Museum?

I glanced down at the loose cotton gown I’d picked out with my dad at the Khan el Khalili three years before. “That’s what I like about it,” I told the girl. “A dress that’s meant for a man.”

A wide smile softened her features. “Fair enough, although I prefer a dash of frill myself.” It was only then that I recognised her floor-length lilac robe as another galabeyah, trimmed with lace around the neckline, with pearl buttons where mine fastened with bobbles of cord. “I’m Venus Najibullah, by the way. Come back to my room and I’ll make you a coffee and you can tell me how an English girl came by such a thing already.”

Yet, although they become close friends, and remain so for years, Diana can’t tell Venus the full story of her trip to Cairo, fearing rejection if she does. She’s become so accustomed to presenting a false self to the world, she genuinely wouldn’t know how to share the secret of her past. Over the course of the novel, she has to take a risk to discover whether she can trust Venus with a more authentic version of who she is.

When Norah first offered me a guest slot on her blog, I thought I’d write something more closely tied in to the theme of learning. Yet when she showed me the draft of her lovely introduction, I knew this was the right way to go. To both give and receive friendship is something best learnt through experience but, to do so, we have to be prepared to take the risk of being rebuffed.

Norah is a prime example of the wonderful new friends I’ve found through writing, and I’ve been especially touched by the support I’ve received from friends, old and new, online and off-line, as I publish my debut novel. Tonight I’ll be at the second of my book launch parties along with a few blog/Twitter friends I’ll be meeting in person for the first time. Norah can’t be there, but I’ll be conscious of her presence in spirit, as well as that of other dear friends from across the continents. A few of those “old school friends” to whom I have dedicated my novel will be there, however, closing the circle of friendship that is a central theme both of my novel and my journey to write it.

Anne Goodwin author photo

Anne Goodwin writes fiction, short and long, and blogs about reading and writing, with a peppering of psychology. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was published last week by Inspired Quill. Catch up on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.

blog tour week2

 

Thank you, Anne, for sharing your thoughts. I am delighted  to join in the excitement of your publication celebrations. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading Sugar and Snails and am happy to recommend it to others.

Thank you

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