Tag Archives: Writing

Fractured Fairy Tales Contest for the Carrot Ranch Rodeo

Once Upon a Rodeo Time

As promised, here’s some information to start your thinking in preparation for the fractured fairy tale flash fiction contest in the Carrot Ranch Rodeo next month. (Try saying that five times real fast!)

Please note: The correct date is Oct 24, not Oct 17 as shown below.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

From the remote reaches of northern Idaho, the Carrot Ranch Weekly Challenges launched in March of 2014. From around the world, Norah Colvin accepted the first challenge from Australia. She’s held a special place at the Ranch ever since.

Norah cultivates the kind of growth mindset that marks a life-long learner. But she’s also a teacher. Norah frames her entries in posts that focus on education, giving her readers new points of learning or discussion. Last year she launched readilearn (a sponsor of the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo, so be sure to check out the site).

You can always expect to learn something new from Norah, and her Rodeo Contests is no exception.

INTRO

Rodeo #4 Fractured Fairy Tales
By Norah Colvin

Do you love fairy tales? Chances are, unless you are a parent or grandparent of young children or an early childhood educator as I am, you may not…

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reading magic - read, talk, play, laugh, have fun

A sprinkle of this, a pinch of that, and poof! It’s reading — magic!

ArtbyJonz ©Norah Colvin 2015

My children were early readers. Both began reading real books well before their fourth birthdays. Of course, the timing, whether early or late, matters little now that they are adults. What matters is that they are readers who read competently and confidently for a range of purposes including for information and pleasure. They are readers by choice as well as purpose.

The ability to read is something that most of us take for granted. Many have no recollection of learning to read, only of being able to do so all of a sudden, as if we just could, by magic.

But, as with any spell, there are certain essential ingredients that make the magic happen and others that inhibit the process. Creating readers of choice and not just purpose is the real magic. Creating non-readers is the effect of a spell in reverse, of a bad mix of ingredients, that sadly occurs all too often.

Bec reading to herself at 12 months

Bec reading to herself at 12 months

My children were readers of choice long before they could read anything for themselves. I wouldn’t say I set out to “teach” them to read. In fact, I didn’t at all. I set out to encourage in them a love of books and writing. Their learning to read was a by-product of sharing the love of words, language and reading.

The magic ingredients for developing readers:

  • Talk
  • Play
  • Read
  • Write
  • Love
  • Fun

I loved having time with my children. Being with them, watching them grow and develop was special, the best and most magical of days. They taught me as much or more about love, life and learning as they learned from me.

Talk

From their earliest days I talked to them, explained things to them — what was happening, what we were doing, and how things worked. I pointed things out and told them what it was called, what it was doing, what it was used for, or how it worked. When we were out and about, I’d point out signs and explain how I knew to stop or where to go. I avoided “baby” talk and always used appropriate everyday language.

Play

We played and had fun together, using our imaginations to create our own games. Sometimes we played simple board games and completed jigsaw puzzles. Whatever we played, talk always accompanied it.

Nor and Bec reading the family book

Reading to Bec at about 12 months old.

Read

I read to them, every day, not just one but many books. As I read, we discussed details in the illustrations and made predictions about the stories, sharing our thoughts. If a word was presented in a large or colourful font, I’d point to it as I read it. We’d laugh at the funny stories and cry at the sad and discuss all the story events. When they could read, they’d read to me, and we took turns reading together until they were early teens.

Write

When they first started to talk, I made books with pictures and words from their growing vocabulary. I labelled items in their rooms; for example, bed, shelf, window, door.

I made books about things we did with photographs and text. A book about our family made for my daughter’s first birthday was one of the favourites when cousins came to visit too.

The environment

I provided my children with an environment rich in language, books and opportunities for thinking. I’d read and write with them and to them, and they’d see me reading and writing for myself as well.

When son Rob was little, I didn’t yet know what I now know about the development of language, reading, and thinking. He taught me much that was later confirmed by my studies.

Rob reading to his toys at age two

Rob, aged two, reading to some of his toys.

When he was only two, Rob would line up his toys on the couch, sit in the middle, and “read” to them. He would almost recite the stories from beginning to end. He already knew that the words in a book remain the same each time they are read — an important concept for beginning readers to grasp. When he was only three, he’d jump into bed beside me in the early morning after Hub had gone to work, prise my eyes open, and read to me! Magic!

Daughter Bec was born twelve years after Rob. Meanwhile, I had returned to college and studied the development of reading and language. I was amazed to find that we had unwittingly created the essential mix of ingredients for his learning to occur

Naturally, armed with experience as well as understanding, I did things pretty much the same for Bec — talking, reading, writing, playing, having fun and enjoying time together.

Bec sharing one of her favourite books.

Bec sharing one of her favourite books.

When she was five, Bec was invited to participate in a study of children who learned to read before starting school. Of the children (maybe half a dozen) involved in the study, Bec was the only one the researcher considered to be really reading. She was reading fluently, with comprehension and at a higher level than the other children.

Some of the children were able to recognise isolated words, but not read them in continuous text. Others had been taught letters and sounds using flashcards and stopped to ‘sound’ out every word. They hadn’t become real readers.

Bec was not subjected to reading “lessons” as the other children had been. She was immersed in an environment that encouraged a love of learning, language and literacy.  The other parents had a need for their children to read as if their value as parents depended on it.

While I had an expectation that Bec would read, I was confident that she would come to it in her own time. My credibility as a parent was not tied to her ability. Having said that, both children (adults) are now very successful in their chosen fields, so I must have done something right. Or perhaps we were just lucky that we chanced upon the magic mix of ingredients.

I do wish that all parents would include a sprinkle of language and a pinch of reading mixed with love and fun into their children’s lives every day. It would contribute greatly toward eradicating illiteracy.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills: magic

What got me thinking about reading, and magic in particular, is the challenge by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes magic. It can be a supernatural force, a moment or idea, or use it as a verb. Go where the prompt leads.

The ability to be transported into other realms is pure magic. The ability to share this magic with others is bliss.

Mem Fox has more to say about that in her lovely book for parents Reading Magica book I always include when selecting gifts for first-time parents.

Reading Magic by Mem Fox

Here is my response to Charli’s prompt. I hope you enjoy it.

A Sprinkle of This and a Pinch of That

“Whatcha doin?”

“Makin’ a spell.”

“What sorta spell?”

“A magic spell.”

“Can I help?”

“Sure.”

“Whadda I do?”

“Put stuff in the pot.”

“What sorta stuff?”

“Gotta read the recipe.”

“What’s it say?”

“Ya gotta read it.”

“I can’t.”

“Oh. Okay. I’ll help. Look, it says …”

Mum stopped at the door to the kitchen. “Wha— What are you doing?”

“Nothin’,” mumbled the older.

“Makin’ magic spells,” grinned the younger, covered in flour from head to toe.

“What sort of magic spell?” asked Mum, wishing for her own magic spell.

“Take us to outa space.”

“Can I come too?”

Thank you blog post

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

 

readilearn: Meet the author-illustrator team for Turtle Love – Renee Hills and Anna Jacobson

Do you love turtles? I find these magnificent creatures of the sea fascinating. Although I already owned a collection of picture books about turtles, I couldn’t resist supporting local author Renee Hills publish her first picture book Turtle Love, illustrated by Anna Jacobson, through Pozible at the end of last year. I was delighted when I received my very own copy of this beautiful picture book with its warm and empowering story that engages young children and invites them to be proactive about the welfare of other creatures.”

Synopsis

Turtle Love is about Jacob Gordon Lachlan Brown who lives on perhaps the most interesting and beautiful beach in the world. The flatback turtles agree. They come every summer to lay their eggs. But life is becoming more difficult for the turtles because the big ships that load coal are stirring up sediment and this affects the seagrass that the turtles eat.  And this beautiful beach is where they MUST come to nest. Why don’t the flatback turtles go somewhere else? What can Jacob do to help them?

The text explores themes including the impact of man-made coastal developments on the habitat of other species; how to advocate for threatened creatures and the right of all living beings to have a safe place to nest and live. As a bonus, the book contains a story within a story, a mythical explanation for the beautiful coloured rock landform on the beach where the turtles nest.

About the author

Renee Hills has been writing ever since she won a prize for an essay about the future when she was a country North Queensland kid. After graduating and working briefly as a teacher, Renee honed her writing skills as a print journalist, editor, and self- publisher.

Continue reading: readilearn: Meet the author-illustrator team for Turtle Love – Renee Hills and Anna Jacobson

flash fiction story about cranes

Cranes – That’s stretching it!

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills wrote about the different species of crane that inhabit North America and included an image of the stunning crowned grey crane.

crowned crane as part of the Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge

I was fascinated by the story of an ornithologist and a crane and, when she challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story defining “the charisma of cranes”, I wondered why my mind drew a blank. I struggled to recall ever seeing a crane.

Charli’s additional information that “For centuries, cranes have inspired art and philosophy” and her suggestion that, “You can write a crane story or create something new out of the phrase. Go where the prompt leads”, didn’t make it any easier.

I consulted my favourite book of Birds of Australia. It listed only two cranes. One I knew of as the Brolga. The other, the Sarus Crane, I hadn’t heard of.

An online check confirmed the two species. The Brolga is famous for its dance and features in many Aboriginal legends and dances. At over 1 m tall and with a wingspan of 2.4 m, it is one of Australia’s largest flying birds. The Sarus Crane is rare and lesser known.

To my embarrassment, I also discovered that the Brolga is the bird emblem of my home state Queensland and appears on its Coat of Arms. Information about the Coat of Arms tells me that the Brolga is one of Queensland’s most distinctive birds and “symbolises the native population”.

Follow this link for information about the importance of the Brolga to Indigenous Australians and a video of an Aboriginal story.

More familiar to me are the cranes that dot the ever-changing city skyline as new buildings creep skywards.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, I’ve avoided the birds and employed two other meanings of crane. It might be stretching it a bit, but I hope you like it.

Living the nightmare

The shaft of light reflecting from the mirror jolted her awake.

“What time is it?” She fumbled for her phone. “Hell!” All night she’d craved sleep, then slept through. She pulled on yesterday’s clothes, ruffled her hair and charged out.

People packed the square so tight she couldn’t squeeze through. She craned her neck but, even on tiptoes, couldn’t see. She pushed into the tiniest gap on a ledge, only to be elbowed off. But she’d spotted a cherry picker. She climbed in, pushed a button and up she went; just as the crowd dispersed. She’d missed out again.

Thank you blog post

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

Into the forest with a flash fiction story about forest bathing to continue Mouse and Crow

Into the forest

Since its beginning in 1970, every 22 April is celebrated as Earth Day, a day for appreciating the beauty of our Earth and mobilising ourselves to protect it. Earth Day is credited with starting the environmental movement and is the largest worldwide environment event.

This year focuses on single-use plastic with the aim to End Plastic Pollution. The goals of the Earth Day Network “include ending single-use plastics, promoting alternatives to fossil fuel-based materials, promoting 100 percent recycling of plastics, corporate and government accountability and changing human behavior concerning plastics.”

While governments introduce regulations about the use of plastics, it is up to each of us to monitor and reduce our own usage.

Unless quote from The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

Other Earth Day campaigns include combating climate change, greening schools and cities, and protecting forests, anything to help create a greener, more sustainable future.

Five of my favourite picture books that include these themes are:

The Lorax by Dr Seuss

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss demonstrates the effects of pollution and destruction of the environment and highlights the important role of each person in protecting the environment.

Window by Jeannie Baker deals with the effect of progress on wilderness areas as towns and cities are built. (All book by Jeannie Baker carry strong environmental messages.)

Leaf Litter by Rachel Tonkin helps children appreciate the smaller parts of our world and the way they are all interconnected.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is about a boy who greens a dead part of the city.

One Less Fish Kim Michelle Toft

One Less Fish by Kim Michelle Toft deals with dangers to marine life and suggests what can be done to improve the marine environment.

These are just a few of the many wonderful books available. Please let me know your favourite in the comments.

By the way, did you notice that each of these books is written and illustrated by an author-illustrator?

At the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills celebrated Earth Day this year with a little forest bathing or Shinrin Yoku. Developed in Japan in the 1980s, Shinrin Yoku is about “fostering deeper relationships and positive experiences with forested areas”. Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about forest bathing. You can use the Japanese term, Shinrin Yoku, or you can make up your own ideas about the phrase. Go where the prompt leads.

A few weeks ago, in response to another prompt, I wrote this story about Crow and Mouse.

a fable about crow and mouse in which mouse helps crow and crow helps mouse

I presented the story to my local critique group and received some useful suggestions. One was to have Mouse explore the forest on his own in an attempt to fend for himself, rather than rely on Crow for food. I thought this fitted in nicely with the aim of Shinrin Yoku, and it is to that suggestion I have responded. I’ve changed the setting, for this prompt, from woods to forest. I haven’t quite managed to tell all I wanted in 99 words, which is usual for me, but I hope you like it.

We pick up the story from “In the darkness, Mouse trembled.”

Forest Feast

Unfamiliar sights, sounds and smells assailed his senses. He dived into a pile of leaves.

“Would you mind!” squealed Skink.

“Sorry,” said Mouse, backing into Frog.

“Hey! This is my cockroach,” said Frog.

“Ewww!” said mouse. “Who eats cockroaches?”

Mouse’s belly rumbled.

Skink was eating a slug. Frog had a cockroach. Nothing for Mouse anywhere.

“Try mushroom,” suggested Frog.

Mouse hesitated, then began nibbling.

Flapping overhead sent Skink and Frog for cover. Mouse, oblivious, had been spotted.

Crow alighted and placed a gift of bread at Mouse’s feet.

“Thank you,” said Mouse. “I like bread, but I love mushroom!”

Thank you blog post

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

 

How to worm a cat, Flash Fiction and other ways to tackle Perfectionism.

This week, in the Rough Writers Tour Around the World celebrating the inaugural Carrot Ranch Anthology, we are back in England with the wonderful memoirist Lisa Reiter.
Lisa explains what value worming a cat and writing flash fiction have in attaining perfection. If you need help with perfectionism, Lisa is sure to help.

Lisa Reiter - Sharing the Story

book-cover-with-5-stars2Welcome to my stop on the Rough Writers Tour Around the World as we launch the first flash fiction anthology from the Carrot Ranch on-line literary community. If you’re new here, you might be wondering why a memoir writer is peddling flash fiction? And we’ll get onto that,

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Everything Susan: Rough Writer Tour Around the World

From autumn in Australia, we fly to spring in Orillia, Ontario to visit with Rough Writer Susan Zutautas on the next leg of the World Tour. Susan tells us about her beautiful location and the place of flash fiction in her writing process.

 

Continue reading: Everything Susan: Rough Writer Tour Around the World

Also – just in – The anthology won a silver in the Literary Titan Book Awards April 2018. How exciting is that!