Tag Archives: Writing

Charli Mills reminiscences about school days

School Days, Reminiscences of Charli Mills

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

First to share her reminiscences is Charli Mills, lead buckaroo at the Carrot Ranch where she challenges writers with a weekly flash fiction prompt and an annual flash fiction rodeo. She believes in the power of literary art to change lives and that it should be accessible to everyone. She encourages writers to find their voice in a supportive environment where everyone is welcome.

I have known Charli for almost as long as I have been blogging and was among the first to participate in her flash fiction challenges when they began five years ago this month. I have rarely missed a week since. Charli’s support and encouragement of my writing and my work has been unfaltering, even when she was experiencing her own tough times, and I am extremely grateful for it. I don’t know how well I may have maintained my yet mindset without her.

Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow Charli to tell you a little of herself:

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, is the award-winning goat-tying champion of a forgotten 1970s rodeo. Now she wrangles words. Married to a former US Army Ranger, Charli is “true grit” although shorter than John Wayne. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and gives voice to women and others marginalized in history, especially on frontiers. In 2014 she founded an imaginary place called Carrot Ranch where real literary artists could gather where she hosts a weekly 99-word challenge. She’s pursuing her MFA with SNHU, writing novels, and leading workshops to help writers with professional development.

Welcome, Charli.

Now let’s talk school. First of all, could you tell us where you attended school?

Sacred Heart Catholic School (Hollister, California), Sunnyside Elementary (Hollister, California), Diamond Valley School (Woodfords, California), Douglas High School (Minden, Nevada), and Carroll College (Helena, MT).

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

Sacred Heart was a private Catholic school, and so was Carroll College. I achieved kindergarten at one and a BA at the other. The other three were public schools. Diamond Valley was located next to the Woodfords Community of the Washoe Tribe. Our county was too small in population to warrant its own high school and the mountains cut us off from the nearest California option at Lake Tahoe so we were bussed into Nevada to Douglas High School, which was a horrible experience as we faced much prejudice as the “Alpine kids” even though not all of us were Native American.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

To date, I’ve earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English –Writing. However, I’m in the application process to pursue a Masters of Fine Art in Creative Writing.

What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

At Diamond Valley, in 7th-grade, Mr. Price made us write a spelling story once a week using the “prompt” of words from our spelling list. My stories were long and he encouraged me to write them longer. Then he asked me to read my stories aloud to the class every week, and I have loved reading my writing ever since. In high school, I struggled unless writing was involved. Ms. Bateman hit me hard with editing, but also taught me how to improve. She invited me to be on the newspaper team and I was the youngest member. By my senior year, I was co-editor. After high school I waited tables, worked road construction, and wrote for a daily newspaper, dreaming of going to college to be an archeologist and an author. Ten years later, I enrolled in a writing degree when my three young children started school. I often joked that I went back to kindergarten with them. My freelance writing took off while I was still in college. I never did become an archeologist and I worked 20 years in marketing before pursuing my author dreams, but my first novel will feature a character who is an archeologist. It’s all connected to my days at Diamond Valley School, and the skills I honed at Carroll College.

What is your earliest memory of school?

My earliest memory of school is being in trouble. I was highly imaginative and evidently, the nuns did not appreciate my drawings in textbooks. We lived on a ranch outside of Hollister California and my mother worked in town. She’d drop me off at a sitter’s and I’d walk to school every morning with the daughter who was in kindergarten, too. She never got in trouble. I recall wondering why I was so different and why the nuns didn’t like my freedom of expression. At Carroll College, I took an art appreciation class and wrote a paper on my theory of Greek influences on modern pornography. I worried I was going to get in trouble again for expressing my ideas, but the Jesuits loved it. I thought about sending that paper to Sister Margaret at Sacred Heart, explaining that I turned out fine, using my imagination.  Not sure she would agree!

What memories do you have of learning to read?

Books captivated me! I wanted to crack the code and would sit and pretend read. The nuns said I couldn’t read so the next grade placed me in remedial reading until the teacher caught me “pretend” reading a chapter book. She realized I wasn’t pretending. How I learned to read mystifies me. I couldn’t grasp the components, but I could read. Math was similar. I had the answers but struggled to show the work. Spelling escapes me but writing flows. Learning was always a frustration in school, yet I was always curious and even now I love to learn.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

Again, learning the actual mechanics of writing was frustrating, but any time teachers let me be creative or pursue curiosity, I could write volumes. Like reading, I just wrote. It wasn’t until high school when Ms. Bateman got a hold of me and drilled grammar into my head, and explained editing as a process. But I also felt it shut down my creativity. I didn’t learn until later how creativity serves as a bridge between my right and left brain. Once I understood that, I’ve made it a point to allow creativity to thrive in my work and writing.

What do you remember about math classes?

Pain and suffering! I never found a saving grace in math because I never found a way to be creative with numbers. In fact, creativity with numbers is frowned upon.

What was your favourite subject?

I loved history because it was full of stories. I’ve been a natural born story-catcher and history seemed to be a part of that. Where I lived was part of the old Comstock Lode and emigrant trails, and I attended school with Washoe students, learning their lore and history. My aunt used to take me relic hunting, and I had a huge collection of arrowheads, trade beads and square nails. I could spot a relic from on top of my horse. I learned to read the human imprint on the land, and when I was 17, I met a state archeologist who legitimized my ability and he coached me to record 11 archeological sites in my hometown area. So, in school, I loved history most.

What did you like best about school?

Charli Mills like skiing best at school

Skiing. In the winter, we skied once a week at the ski resort near our school for winter PE. It was the best! I don’t know of any other school that ever had such a perk. I remember waking up so excited on ski days. The resort was huge and when we were young, six and seven years old, we were sent to the bunny hills and taught to alpine ski. By the time we were pre-teens we were skiing black diamond routes. I remember #4 best. I loved #4! We’d take the #1 chairlift up, and ski over to the #2 chairlift. At the top of #2, we’d ski down a long, steep and remote mountainside where chairlifts #3 and #4 sat perpendicular to each other. After we skied down #3, we’d take the longest lift at the resort, #4 all the way to the top of a mountain so isolated and remote, it boggles my mind today that we got to do this as school kids. Here’s a link to Kirkwood today: https://www.kirkwood.com/the-mountain/about-the-mountain/trail-map.aspx. When we skied, there were only six chairlifts, but you can see how far away #4 was from the lodge. Funny story – by the time I was in 7th-grade and was writing spelling stories, my good friend Gerald shared his dad’s Ian Fleming novels with me. I went from Little House on the Prairie to James Bond! Gerald was my skiing buddy and we used to make the #4 loop together. We’d pretend we were British spies! Ah, it was good to have someone to share an imagination with. I doubt anyone else who answers this question will ever say skiing.

What did you like least about school?

Mean people. Kids and adults can be cruel and I don’t fully understand why – is it cultural? Is it human nature? The level of cruelty could be stunning at times. I think this is what taught me empathy. Bullies taught me to care about others. If I wasn’t the one being bullied, I found I couldn’t tolerate others being bullied either.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

For one thing, I don’t think students are turned loose on ski hills anymore! I think there’s more respect for cultural diversity than when I went to school. Obviously, technology has changed. Diamond Valley is still a small remote school, but it now has an alternative high school, which is a good change. I think bullying is better dealt with now and parents are more involved, perhaps too involved. In the US, the crisis of school shootings is unfathomable to me. Even with all my bad experiences of being bullied and witnessing it, no one was armed. But that mean spirit was always there and now it has access to guns and that is terrifying. Hopefully, education continues to be important as technology changes our societal landscapes, and through education, we can resolve this shameful American blight on our school system. Maybe we need to focus less on gun control and getting more to the heart of abuses of power in our nation. We need to heal from institutions of slavery and Native American genocide. We need less division and more dignity.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

I think schools provide inroads to learning that are valuable to becoming productive and happy human beings. Schools are amazing, really. They have been a part of what is America at its worst and what is America at its best. Schools do well to create environments where real learning takes place.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Most importantly, schools need to be safe. Early on, we need to give children the gifts of education and not the burdens. I think citizens should be involved in their public schools even if they don’t have children. How can we be part of the improvement? I don’t have the answers, but I’m willing to be a part of solutions. I support EveryTown for Gun Safety, and until we deal with the hardest cultural issues in our nation, it doesn’t matter if our schools achieve awards or graduate students who score well on tests.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Charli. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I learned so much I didn’t already know about you.

Find out more about Charli Mills

at the Carrot Ranch: https://carrotranch.com/

and on her Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Charli-Mills/e/B078FV6JGB

Connect with her on social media

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CarrotRanch/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/charli_mills

The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 1

Purchase your own copy of

The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 1

via the Carrot Ranch bookstore: https://store.bookbaby.com/book/The-Congress-of-Rough-Writers

Participate in a

Carrot Ranch Writing Refuge (Keep updated at the Ranch)

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff LePard

Debby Gies

Hugh Roberts

D. Avery

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

what do you love a post about a love of literacy

What do you love?

We use the word ‘love’ to mean care deeply about, as in people, or like a lot, as in food, objects and activities. Questions such as “Who do you love?” and “What do you love?” will elicit very different responses and we generally have little difficulty in distinguishing between the intensity of the feelings. Mostly the whos are more important to us than the whats, and it is easy to distinguish between the likes and the loves, though they can sit along a continuum.

love of vegetables on a continuum

For me, housework sits at the opposite end of the continuum from reading and writing. You won’t find me writing any posts about housework. But you will find lots of posts about reading and writing, especially encouraging a love of reading and writing in children. I find sharing a love of reading and writing to be almost equal in enjoyment as reading and writing for myself. To see children light up with enthusiasm for reading and writing is sheer joy.

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

I have often said that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is a love of reading. A love of reading and writing, and indeed for all learning, is the best gift a teacher can give.

the love of reading and writing is contagious

It is often said that a love of reading is caught, not taught. The same goes for writing. It is important for teachers to ensure that there is time every day to read aloud to children, to inspire them and excite their imaginations with wonderful literature and to provide them with time for expressing their own thoughts and imaginative ideas through writing and any other of the expressive arts.

I have written many blog posts, both here and for readilearn, with suggestions for making time for literature and literacy, but it was the prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch that kept me thinking that way this week.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Valentines

You see, Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about valentines. It can be Valentine’s Day, the exchange, love for another, romance, or friendship. Have a heart and go where the prompt leads!

But, as well as being Valentine’s Day, 14 February is also Library Lovers’ Day and International Book Giving Day.

Why wouldn’t I write about one of my loves — reading and writing? I hope you enjoy it.

Just for the love of it

The teacher closed the book, but the children were abuzz.

“Keep going,” they urged.

“Will they be alright?”

“What will happen?”

The teacher looked at the clock. The minutes had passed like seconds. Was there time?

“Pleeeease!”

The teacher opened the book.

“Yay!” cheered the children, then hushed as the words flowed.

As the story unfolded, their eyes lit up and imaginations sparked. They discussed the story’s intricacies and contemplated outcomes as they journeyed with the author through good and fearsome times. Finally, just as the dragon was about to swoop, the teacher stopped. “Now write! What happens next?”

 

reading is a super power

Here are links to just five of the posts I’ve written about reading and writing:

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

Wrapping up a year of books — the gift of reading

I love poems

Reading is all it’s cracked up to be: 10 tips for an early childhood classroom!

Writing poetry with children

And two more about libraries:

Libraries: A wondrous universe to explore — a guest post by Dimity Powell

Libraries, books and reading = infinite worlds to explore

Thank you blog post

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

flash fiction about analysing in detail works of art

Meaning in each word

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about shards. You can write about the pieces, the item they once were, or who picks them up and why. Go where the prompt leads.

I had an idea I wanted to craft into a story. I’ve had a go. I’m not certain that it expresses quite what I was hoping, and certainly not as explicitly as I hoped. I had wanted it to stand alone, requiring no other explanation or padding and, while it fails, I’ve let it do just that.

Analyse the Detail

The artisan turned each piece to the light, this way and that, fitting and refitting, arranging and rearranging. Finally, it was done. Each piece necessary and perfectly positioned creating the whole— exquisite, harmonious, illuminating—not one greater nor outshining any other. It filled each open heart with hopes of dreams fulfilled.

Another sought to analyse its beauty, the power of its message to explore. He picked out all the pieces one by one and examined each in every detail. Too late he saw that, shattered and alone, not one shard revealed a secret. Only united did their meaning shine.

Thank you blog post

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

 

Don't give up - a yet attitude and growth mindset

Don’t give up – Yet!

Discussions of the importance of having a ‘yet’ attitude or a growth mindset abound, including on this blog. I am very much in favour of the ‘yet’ thinking, as proposed by Carol Dweck.

Basically, it means that we don’t consider our ability to learn as finite. We believe our potential to be constantly expanding. We may not know or be able to do something ‘yet’, but we can work at it and with each attempt come closer to achieving it.

The resolve to maintain a growth mindset can be challenged at times when the going gets tough and there is no obvious solution. It can be difficult knowing when enough is enough and it’s time to move on; or if success is hiding just around the corner or on a slight detour.

I often debate with myself about how to interpret the truth in the messages the universe seems to be sending, weighing up giving up against exerting just a little more persistence and patience. Consequently, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the unplanned theme in my response to the flash fiction prompt at the Carrot Ranch this week.

charli mill's flash fiction challenge - colonnades

Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes colonnades. It can be natural, architectural, or a metaphor. Take a stroll and go where the prompt leads.

What could colonnades possibly have to do with a growth mindset you might think, as would I. But when I sat at the keyboard, without a clue of what to write, this is what developed. I hope you like it.

Never Give Up

The solid grey wall stretched without end, both left and right —impenetrable, no way around, no way through. Perhaps a way over? Even from that distance, it appeared unscaleable.

He removed his backpack and rested his head upon it as he lay, gazing upward. He sighed heavily. He’d trekked so far believing this was the way. How could he have been so wrong?

He closed his eyes and drifted into a deep sleep. Refreshed, upon awakening, he decided to continue rather than retreat.

As he drew closer, the wall separated into columns spaced perfectly to allow an easy passage.

Do you see what I saw emerge? A story about not giving up? Of the importance of adjusting focus when it seems a dead end is reached, when there’s nowhere else to go and nothing else to try? Or is the theme significant to only me as I try to find a way through the colonnades in my path?

As I was writing this story, I was reminded of one I wrote for children using the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty as a stimulus. In a similar way to Charli’s prompts, I was prompting children to think about possible reasons for Humpty Dumpty to be sitting on a wall and causes for him to fall.

The accident - an innovation on the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty

Of course, I couldn’t do the prompting without writing a story of my own: The Accident – Humpty Dumpty’s Fall.

In the story, ‘Humpty looked at the wall. He couldn’t see through it. He couldn’t see over it. And there was no way around it.’ He thought it was ‘no use’. Fortunately, his friend Pomble wasn’t one to give up quite so easily and found a way for them to see over the wall. It was what occurred when Humpty was looking over the wall that caused him to fall. I won’t tell you what happened but, unlike the nursery rhyme, my story has a happy ending.

Thank you blog post

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

lessons and suggestions for teaching writing in the first three years of school

Establishing a writing classroom – Readilearn

Establishing a writing classroom, one in which children want to write, develop confidence in writing and develop the skills to write with accuracy and clarity, begins from the first day of school.

Characteristics of a writing classroom

Nine characteristics of a writing classroom are:

  • purposeful writing occurs throughout the day in all areas of the curriculum,
  • the process of writing is modelled,
  • children’s writing is scaffolded,
  • children write in response to set tasks,
  • children write about topics and in genres of their own choice,
  • the message is paramount,
  • writing conventions; such as spelling, punctuation and grammar, are learned by writing,
  • children’s writing is celebrated, and
  • children enjoy writing.

If children are provided only with writing tasks and topics set by the teacher, they may view writing simply as a task to perform, something to please the teacher, rather than as a vehicle for self-expression or for sharing imaginative and creative thoughts and stories or information.

Opportunities for writing occur throughout the day and should include:

Continue reading: Establishing a writing classroom – Readilearn

Don't Look Back flash fiction story

Don’t Look Back

Looking Back Carrot Ranch flash fiction prompt

The beginning of a new year is often a time of reflection, of looking back on the previous year and of realigning goals for the year ahead. It is fitting then that, for the first prompt of the year, Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a character who looks back. It can be a metaphorical reflection or a glance in the rear-view mirror. Who is looking back, and why? Go where the prompt leads.

Of course, there are many reasons for looking back but, perverse as I am, I’ve chosen to write about someone who wouldn’t look back.

Don’t Look Back

Don’t look back. Don’t look back.

She pulled her coat tight, pressed her bag into her side and leaned into the wind, quickening her pace.

The footsteps pounded behind her, closing in. She knew, even over the wind’s roar, they were coming for her. She breathed in shallow quick gasps.

Don’t look back. Don’t look back. If she couldn’t see them, perhaps they didn’t exist?

Her eyes stung. The wind stole her breath. Her side split.

Lights ahead. Please. Please … almost.

A hand on her shoulder. A deep gravelly unintelligible voice.  She twisted. “Noooo!”

“Miss, you forgot your umbrella.”

Thank you blog post

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

Free books for Christmas by Sally Cronin

Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – Buy a Book for Christmas – The last author to be (self-promoted) and Free Giveaway – Sally Cronin!

Sally is not only generous in her promotions of other authors’ work, but she is also generous to readers. Until Christmas Eve, she is offering five of her ebooks to readers – FREE! Pop over to Sally’s place for details.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Time for some self-promotion…. but I do come bearing gifts!

Here are a selection of my books that are on Kindle and therefore available on Amazon. I do have print versions but because of Amazon and its interpretation of the Inland Revenue rules on VAT…they are now only sold direct and through bookstores.

I am going to share the books and one of their reviews, and offer five of the E-versions to you as a Christmas gift. I have no expectation of a review, but I write books to be read, and it gives me pleasure to know that someone is intrigued enough to want to accept the book.

The offer runs from today 18th December until Midnight Christmas Eve 2018 wherever you live

I am an independent seller on Amazon so don’t do free versions of the book there. All you need to do is choose your book from…

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