Tag Archives: Writing

A Kingdom for a Koala flash fiction

A Kingdom for a Koala

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a koala in a kingdom. You can create a character out of Norah’s koala and give it a Vermont adventure. Or you can make up a story however you want! Can you pull off a BOTS (based on a true story)? Go where the prompt leads!

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Koala

Since the prompt was prompted by a tiny koala I’d sent as my proxy at the inaugural Carrot Ranch Writers’ Refuge in Vermont, I thought I’d better join in. And since Charli is busy out of State this week, she’s given us two weeks in which to respond so there’s still plenty of time to join in with your own koala story if you wish.

Here’s mine. I hope you like it.

A Kingdom for a Koala

“Bring me a koala!” The king bellowed, sending servants scuttling.

His zoo was complete with all, except a koala. The omission stoked his anger daily. He wouldn’t accept that his destruction of eucalypt forests had decimated their population.

From the shadows came a tiny voice. “What will you give for a koala?”

“Anything!”

“Your kingdom?’

“Yes, my kingdom! Anything! Just get me a koala.”

“I have a koala. First, your sceptre and your kingdom.”

Blinded by rage and desire, the king complied.

The koala removed her mask. The king gloated pre-emptively.

“Throw him into the dungeon. Free the animals!”

Thank you blog post

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

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

School Days, Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

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.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Book Club Mom Barbara Vitelli, fellow book lover, librarian, blogger and fiction writer. We’ve been following each other’s blogs for a few years now. I enjoy reading Barbara’s book reviews and have read the occasional book as a result of Barbara’s recommendation. In fact, I’m currently listening to The Other Wes Moore One Name Two Fates, a memoir and New York Times Bestseller that Barbara reviewed. What a fascinating story with a strong theme of ‘that could have been me’ and how circumstances influence life’s outcomes. What makes the audiobook even more special is that Wes reads it. A great recommendation, Barbara. Thank you.

Barbara also dabbles in fiction of her own. I’ve been enjoying her serialised story A Man and His Phone, the most recent episode of which can be read here. If you haven’t already met Barbara, I suggest you pop over to her blog and say, ‘Hello’.

Before we begin the interview, I’ve invited Barbara to tell you a little of herself:

Barbara Vitelli is a mom of four children and works part-time as a Reference Librarian at her local library. She also runs a blog called Book Club Mom, home to book reviews, indie author profiles, bookish talk and some occasional original fiction. Before settling into semi-rural suburban life in Pennsylvania, she lived in New Jersey, upstate New York, Washington, D.C. and Virginia. Maybe someday she will publish a novel, but in the meantime she’s happy to work her way through the many great books already out there.

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

Welcome, Barbara.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

I attended elementary school, junior high and high school in Madison, New Jersey, college in upstate New York and business school in Washington, D.C., all in the United States.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

I attended all public schools through high school.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

After college, I earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration and my major was Finance and Investments.

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

My first job out of college was as a secretary for an air conditioning and refrigeration trade association outside of Washington, D.C. My only goal at that time was to get a full-time job with benefits. I was thinking about graduate school, but I needed time to decide. After a year, I switched jobs and worked for a Sheraton Hotel chain in the Washington, D.C. area. I worked there for 5 years while I attended graduate school at night.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I attended Kindergarten in the same school as my next older brother and one day at recess, the school bully pushed me into a muddy puddle. I had to point out the bully to one of the teachers and the offender was promptly sent to the principal. The bully was a boy in my brother’s class and we worried that he’d take it out on my brother. Nothing happened, though!

What memories do you have of learning to read?

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

We all started to learn to read in Kindergarten, although I mostly pretended to know, “reading” books that my mother and father had read to me so much I had them memorized. My favorite book was A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You by Joan Walsh Anglund.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

I remember using big fat red pencils and paper with wide rules and dotted lines in the middle. I liked learning how to print and write cursive. I still like writing cursive!

What do you remember about math classes?

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

I remember learning my times tables in third grade and when I got into fourth grade, learning long division. In high school, I loved Algebra because I liked solving problems where everything worked out on both sides. I wasn’t a big fan of Geometry, but I got through it. I took no math in college, but I had to take Calculus in graduate school – that was a struggle!

What was your favourite subject?

I didn’t have a favorite subject in the lower grades, but my favorite subject in high school was French (despite my love for Algebra). I even thought about majoring in French in college (I also considered Music and Peace Studies), but in the end I majored in English because I like to read. Now, besides reading, my favorite thing to think about is marketing. If I could do business school over again, I would pick that as my major. Finance and Investments was the hot major at the time (think Michael Douglas and Charlie Sheen in Wall Street) so I just went with the flow. 

What did you like best about school?

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

 As a young girl, I liked the beginning of the school year when all our supplies were new. In junior high and high school, I liked that but I also liked the social side of school where I played sports, was a class officer and was in a lot of clubs. I was a little less active in college and focused more on a smaller group of friends and activities.

What did you like least about school?  

I generally liked school so I can’t say I disliked anything in particular. But I loved summer vacations because my family and I spent them at the Jersey shore. I had another group of good friends there and I was always excited to finish the year and see them. I was also sorry to see the summer end.

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

School Days Reminiscences of Barbara Vitelli

Without question, the biggest change has been technology. Kids now do a great deal of schoolwork on a screen, rather than writing it on paper. In many ways, technology helps kids do their work quickly and efficiently, but I think they miss out on the thinking part that happens when you write things out by hand. I think this is especially true for working out math problems and writing.

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

On the flip side of my technology comment, I think our schools have done a great job keeping up with technology and making changes to their curriculums to reflect this. These skills, particularly knowing how to use computer programs and do research on the Internet (besides using Google), are required skills in college and the workforce.

How do you think schools could be improved?

I would like to see approaches that encourage resiliency and independence. I think kids need to learn how to better handle disappointments and adversity. Perhaps that’s something that we parents are responsible for, but I think teachers can also make a big impact on our children in this area.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Barbara. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I’m sorry you got pushed over into the mud when you were in kindergarten, and can just imagine how concerned you were that your brother might also be bullied. I love that you didn’t mind school but that summer holidays were your favourite! Like you, I also loved my new supplies at the beginning of the year. There is nothing quite like the smell of new books.

To find out more about Barbara Vitelli visit her blog

Book Club Mom: bvitelli2002.wordpress.com

or connect with her on social media

Twitter: @BookClubMom
Facebook: @BookClubMom

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

Darlene Foster

Susan Scott

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

Coming soon:

Sherri Matthews

Mabel Kwong

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

Carol Taylor

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

 

School Days Reminiscences of Darlene Foster

School Days, Reminiscences of Darlene Foster

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.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Darlene Foster, world traveller and writer of travel adventure books for children and adventurers of all ages. Darlene joined in the conversations about school days from the beginning and was keen to share her own reminiscences with you.

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

Growing up on a ranch near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Darlene Foster dreamt of writing, travelling the world, and meeting interesting people. She also believed in making her dreams come true. It’s no surprise she’s now the award-winning author of Amanda Travels, a children’s adventure series featuring a spunky twelve-year-old who loves to travel to unique places.  Readers of all ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another. When not travelling herself, Darlene divides her time between the west coast of Canada and the Costa Blanca, Spain with her husband and entertaining dog, Dot.

Darlene Foster and her books

Welcome, Darlene.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

Until grade 4, I attended a small rural school in the Canadian prairies, Hilda, Alberta, in which one teacher taught two grades. Then we moved to another rural community, Irvine, Alberta, where I attended a much larger school with separate grades including high school for the rest of my school days.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

These were government schools, which we call public schools in Canada.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

I left school in Grade 11 so did not graduate with my classmates. I did however complete high school via correspondence. I took many college courses over the years and when I turned fifty, I graduated from the University of Saskatchewan with a Diploma in Teaching English as a Second Language, via distant learning. I also acquired a number of Certificates in Human Resource Management and Job Search Facilitation. I believe in lifelong learning and will continue taking courses for the rest of my life.

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

I worked in retail management, recruitment, employment counselling and as an ESL Teacher, all as a result of courses I have taken. I have also taken many writing courses over the years, including university-level courses, which have been very beneficial to me now as a writer.

Darlene Fosters's earliest memory of school

What is your earliest memory of school? 

I remember the first day I walked into the classroom. I thought I was in heaven, all those books and so much to learn. I was like a sponge, thirsty for knowledge. I loved school from before I even started and could easily have been a professional student. Even now when I walk into a classroom for an author presentation, I get that same feeling of awe.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I could read a bit before I started school. I recall my dad reading the comics, which we called the funny papers, in the weekly newspaper with me. That may have been how I started to read. I loved the Dick and Jane readers at school and being able to read a story on my own was so exciting.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

I recall that being able to print was great but when I learned cursive writing, I was delighted. My writing was very neat and tidy for the first couple of years and I even won prizes for it. Then I started to write stories of my own and my writing couldn’t keep up with my thoughts and ideas. It soon became very messy, but I just had to get it all down on paper. It is totally unreadable now. Thank heaven for computers.

What do you remember about math classes?

Math classes were OK but not my favourite. I always had to work harder on math but still got good marks. I do recall enjoying algebra though, while everyone else hated it. Proof that I am a letters person, not a numbers person.

What was your favourite subject? 

It was a tie between English Literature, Social Studies and Drama.

what Darlene Foster liked best about school

What did you like best about school?

Learning new things and the teachers. My grade three teacher, in particular, was amazing. She taught us about other countries by getting us involved. When we learned about Mexico she gave us Spanish names, cooked Mexican food for us and brought in colourful serapes and sombreros for us to wear. She instilled in me the desire to travel and see the world. She also encouraged me to write my stories down. I will be forever grateful to her.

I was an odd child and actually enjoyed taking tests. When we moved, the school season had already started by two months and I had started grade 5 at the old school. I was so excited about going to what I considered a much more modern school. It was a day the class was taking a provincial pre-packaged test and there wasn’t a package for me. I was devastated that I couldn’t take the test and actually cried. The other students thought I was crazy as they would have happily given up doing the test.

Darlene Foster reminiscences of school days

What did you like least about school? 

Physical Training. I was never good at sports and was always the last to be picked for a team. I came up with all kinds of excuses not to participate and was often sick on P.T. day. And those awful bloomers we had to wear! One wise teacher gave me the job of being the scorekeeper, which I enjoyed.

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

Since it has been a long time since I went to school, they have obviously changed, a lot. They have changed since my own kids went to school. The biggest change is the use of technology of course. I love those whiteboards that act as a computer screen. They are like magic. There is much more positive reinforcement and focus on diversity and individuality today. I like the fact that school is less formal and more relaxed. We couldn’t even wear pants (trousers) to school and had to wear skirts even on -40C days. Now they even have pyjama days!

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

As a writer, I often visit schools to do readings and I am very impressed with schools today. The students are so eager to learn and proud of their accomplishments. There seems to be an emphasis on reading and creative activities which is so good to see. Children respond to learning if it is fun and there is no reason for it not to be. Personally, I would love to be a student in today’s schools.

Darlene Foster reminiscences of school days

How do you think schools could be improved?

I do think teachers are often overworked. It is a demanding job and one in which you have to be on all the time. Many get burned out which is too bad as it is often the most dedicated that do. Perhaps hiring more assistants or having smaller classes would help. It is such an important job as these kids are our future.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Darlene. It’s a pleasure to have you here. I especially love that you are excited about learning and particularly being a life-long learner. I enjoyed reading your positive views about schools today.

Find out more about Darlene Foster

On her website: http://www.darlenefoster.ca/

On her blog: https://darlenefoster.wordpress.com/

Or her Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/Darlene-Foster/e/B003XGQPHA/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3156908.Darlene_Foster

Connect with Darlene on social media

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DarleneFosterWriter/

Twitter:  https://twitter.com/supermegawoman

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/darlene6490/

Books by Darlene Foster

Purchase your own copies of Darlene’s books from Amazon.

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

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

Coming soon:

Susan Scott

Barbara Vitelli

Sherri Matthews

Mabel Kwong

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

 

 

School Days, Reminiscences of Joy Lennick

School Days, Reminiscences of Joy Lennick

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.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Joy Lennick, author and poet. Joy joined in the conversations from the outset, sharing snippets from her war-time schooldays. Intrigued to learn more, I invited Joy to join in with a post dedicated to her own reminiscences and she accepted. I’m certain you’ll find them as interesting as I do.

Before we begin the interview, I’ve invited Joy to tell you a little of herself:

From a young age, I was never happier than when reading or writing (and perhaps dancing!). I was evacuated with my two brothers to live on a mountain (Hare) in Wales, being half Welsh on my mother’s side, and grew to love Wales. My education was completed in Pitman’s College, London, from the last year of the war. At fifteen, I became a shorthand-typist, and worked for an agency in the East and West ends of London, which I really enjoyed.

After marriage just before the age of 21, and living in London for a few years, the Suez Crisis debacle flared up and petrol was so short and the atmosphere so “war-like,” we set sail for Canada, where we lived and worked for eighteen, unforgettable, months.

Returning to the UK due to home-sickness…in 1960 I had my first son, followed by No.2 in 1962 and No.3 in 1968. I contracted but beat cancer, so was very lucky. We then ran a green-grocery/grocery store for several years. After its sale, and the children went to school, I returned to work in the city as secretary to the two editors of Kaye & Ward, an old established publishing company in the city. (My dream job!)

The next chapter saw us buying a small hotel in Bournemouth as we both enjoyed cooking and people. We turned a dark, mean place into a thriving business, I lost a stone (yippee) and gained a few muscles, and we thoroughly enjoyed the whole business, even though it was hard work.  Tastes were changing and the hotel was old. We needed more cash than we had to make it more comfortable, so – with regret, sold it and returned to Essex to live. And that is when I learned about “Serendipity,” and became a writer, quite by chance.

A letter from Kogan Page Ltd of London “commissioned” me (?!) to write a book for them, subject to approval of the first two chapters. I couldn’t wait! “Running Your Own Small Hotel” was approved. I had been recommended by one of the editors I’d worked for who had read some of my poetry and an article I’d had published. The book did well and went to reprint. There was even an exciting “Authors’ party,” and I updated two of their books and wrote a second called “Jobs in Baking and Confectionery,” which also sold well.

In between working for my local junior school, part-time, I then ran a modest, while successful poetry club, and wrote a few poems and articles, which were published. I also received a few rejection letters…par for the course!

Fast forward too many years, and we retired to Spain, I joined The Torrevieja Writing group and won the first Torrevieja International Short Story competition with a Time Traveller tale called “Worth its Salt,” then was a writing judge for two years.

Next came a memoir: “My Gentle War” which went to No.1 in Kindle’s Social History and Memoir category. A true sea adventure story: “Hurricane Halsey” followed, then my only novel “The Catalyst,” covering one of the terrorist bombings of a train in London in 2005, but with fictitious characters. I also wrote several stories which were included in WordPlay’s anthologies – later called Writers’ Ink (our off-shoot Ezine is called INK SPOT). Then came “Where Angels and Devils Tread,” a collection of short stories written with author friend Jean Wilson; and a modest collection of jokes and humorous poems written with my husband, Eric: “The Moon is Wearing a Tutu.” I also edited husband’s book “A Life Worth Living,” and updated “From the Prairies to Paschendeale,” for a friend. I am at present working on a book about the “Dombrowski family.”

I took a Creative Writing class for the U3A for several years and am in the “Chair” for Writers’ Ink here in Spain.

Joy Lennick and her books

Welcome, Joy.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

Where did you go to school?

1937: Dagenham Infants school

1939: Twynrodyn Junior School

1941: Hunters Hall school

1943: Eastbrook senior school, Long Eaton senior school, Derbyshire

1944: Neath senior school

1944: Pitman’s College, London.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

All Government schools, except Pitman’s College, London, which was private.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

Highest level: Pitman’s where I received various certificates for hand-writing/typing/shorthand and commerce.

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

I started as a shorthand-typist, became assistant secretary and then secretary. Also assisted husband in running a greengrocery/grocery shop and became a hotelier.  I was then a Dinner Lady/School assistant and did voluntary work with the elderly before writing professionally.

What is your earliest memory of school?

My earliest memory at Infants school was writing my name in sand on a shallow tray and playing the triangle and the tambourine in the school band.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I was immediately fascinated by the letters and words on a page and took to reading straight away. I read anything and everything: ingredients on cereal boxes, comics, etc., and was always lucky enough to be given books for my birthdays. I joined the library in MerthyrTydfil and devoured books from age seven — Hans Christian Anderson and the frightening Bros. Grimm, et al.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

As for writing, my father was a keen letter-writer (positive views on many subjects to the local newspaper) and wrote beautiful Calligraphy which I greatly admired and wanted to emulate. He kept stamps and made a few admirable displays with delicate work around each stamp. I was proud to be told I had a “good hand!” and of my hand-writing certificate. Shorthand later made it a bit scruffier…

What do you remember about math classes?

I had a problem with maths. Adding, subtracting, decimals and fractions was coped with OK but  if I was thrown a maths ‘puzzler’ I’d freeze…I coped fine when we had our shop, and did the accounts when we ran the hotel as it was comparatively straight-forward, but I much preferred English.

What was your favourite subject?

Most definitely English, and because of the very nature of war — between the years 1939,when it  began and 1945 when it ended, there were, periodically, huge disruptions in my schooling,  especially when the siren sounded. At such times, we were read to and had to ‘Read quietly!’ by ourselves, which I found a joy. I also loved composing stories and enjoyed spelling. I even wrote a silly play which was acted on the stage. Poetry also pleased my young ears. I was particularly fond of Hiawatha because of the delightful rhythm. I couldn’t take to Shakespeare when young but loved it later when, at the ripe age of 66 I finally took and passed the English Literature exam – much to the amusement of my younger peers…

Joy Lennick at age 4

What did you like best about school?

I made friends quite easily, despite being shy and was a chatter-box, in spite of the annoying habit of blushing if a boy spoke to me. In fact, I blushed a lot as I was often unsure of myself, but always enjoyed having friends at school. There was so much to learn, and I have always been a curious person. I was lucky in that I was never bullied and got on with most children, and was also fortunate with  the teachers, except for my maths teacher at Pitman’s who had no patience with my many questions…Miss Jones, my English and Games teacher at Pitman’s was my favourite.

What did you like least about school?

To be fair, the mores of the times were dictated by the state of the whole world, as very little was as ‘normal’ as in peace time. Some children were killed or injured and lost loved ones and air raids disrupted many classes, especially in London, Coventry, Norwich and many other towns. We children went back-wards and forwards to home and Wales several times in between the bombing for long weekends and holidays. And when I attended Eastbrook senior school in Dagenham, the bombing increased and the whole school was evacuated to Long Eaton in Derbyshire. It must have been a nightmare for the teachers to keep to a curriculum!

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

There is no comparison between my schooldays and those of my three sons. Only one was bullied because he was more studious and wouldn’t join an unruly gang. Fortunately, the headmaster sorted it out. All three received a fair and satisfactory education. I have no grand- children to comment on present conditions but do have friends who were teachers. They both complained about the increased paper-work, which – apparently – is an ongoing problem for teachers today.

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

From my ten years working as a Dinner Lady and reading/poetry assistant in a junior school, I’d say that, over-all, today’s children are in pretty safe hands, education-wise. The technological strides forward are amazing, and I’m personally pleased to see more musical appreciation and tuition being introduced in some schools

How do you think schools could be improved?

It’s no secret there are a lot of problems in the world, generally – of course there always have been – but because of technology and the immediacy of news reaching eyes and ears, it is often exaggerated in our minds. Too much paper-work still seems to overload some teachers, and I wish there was more emphasis put on caring for each other. Not all parents are equipped for the job they undertook…(as my husband says: ‘You have to pass a test to drive a car, but any idiot can have a child…’ Religion should be discussed broadly, but taught and practiced in specific schools,  not mainstream, although children should be helped to accept and live and let live, when taught about caring.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Joy. How disruptive your schooling was as a result of the war. You seem to have overcome any obstacles that it may have created. It’s been a pleasure to have you here and get to know you and learn about your school days and your achievements.

Find out more about Joy Lennick

Website: https://joylennick.wordpress.com/

Contact her at joylennick@gmail.com

Or connect with her on social media

Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Writers’ Ink

also a member of Authors/Bloggers Rainbow Support Club on Facebook

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Ritu Bhathal

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

Darlene Foster

Susan Scott

Barbara Vitelli

Mabel Kwong

Sherri Matthews

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

 

 

School Days Reminiscences of Ritu Bhathal

School Days, Reminiscences of Ritu Bhathal

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.

This week, I am delighted to introduce Ritu Bhathal, author, poet, blogger, teacher. Ritu and I follow a similar group of bloggers. We seem to pop up alongside each other, commenting on a number of blogs and writing flash fiction at the Carrot Ranch where Ritu’s contribution is often poetic. I think that we are both teachers, have a love of children and learning, and similar views about education draws us together. Ritu decided she wanted to be a teacher at an even younger age than I did. Teaching (and writing) was our destiny. If you haven’t yet met Ritu, I’m sure you’ll be pleased to do so now.

Ritu Bhathal and her book of poetry

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

Ritu Bhathal was born in Birmingham in the mid-1970’s to migrant parents, hailing from Kenya but with Indian origin. This colourful background has been a constant source of inspiration to her.
From childhood, she always enjoyed reading. This love of books is mostly credited to her mother.
The joy of reading spurred her on to become creative in her own writing, from fiction to poetry.
Winning little writing competitions at school and locally gave her the encouragement to continue writing.
As a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and teacher, she has drawn on inspiration from many avenues to create the poems that she writes.
A qualified teacher, having studied at Kingston University, she now deals with classes of children as a sideline to her writing!
Ritu also writes a blog, a mixture of life and creativity, thoughts and opinions, which was awarded first place in the Best Overall Blog Category at the 2017 Annual Bloggers Bash Awards.
Ritu is happily married, and living in Kent, with her Hubby Dearest, and two children, not forgetting the furbaby Sonu Singh.
Having published an anthology of poetry, Poetic RITUals, she is currently working on some short stories, and a novel, to be published in the near future.

Welcome, Ritu.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

I went to school in Solihull, Birmingham, in the UK.

Ritu Bhathal's first school

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

The school I attended from 3 all the way to 17 was an Independent private girls’ school.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

I completed my B/Ed (Hons) English & Drama (3-7 years) degree at Kingston University in Surrey, UK.

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

Ritu Bhathal decides to be a teacher

My degree shows what my intention was – to teach. I ended up in retail, a bank and then a marketing company, before finally getting to the job I always felt I was created to do. The reason I decided teaching was my vocation was because of the head girl at our school, Jo Duck, when I was 7. She came to our class to do work experience, and that was when it clicked that teaching was a job, something I could choose to do!

What is your earliest memory of school?

Ritu Bhathal discusses starting school

My earliest memory is the classroom where I first started school, in Miss Wilson’s class, as a 3-year-old. It was a huge room, filled with so many activities, books and toys, and a lot of love. I distinctly remember this beautiful wooden playhouse that was our home corner, and that we all had a bit of a ‘thing’ that something creepy lived behind it. Obviously, all that was behind it was a wall, but at 3, your imagination can play games! And the fact that I spoke no English when I started, apart from Hello! Apparently, I learned quickly, and within a week, my mum says my pidgin English would sail through the air at home, as my Punjabi faded away… And I haven’t stopped speaking it since! But never fear, I haven’t forgotten my mother tongue!

What memories do you have of learning to read? 

I can always remember having school reading books to take home, and the series that always stays in my mind involved a griffin and some pirates! Books were always key in my life. My mother is also a keen reader and her passion rubbed off on me. My first set of books were the original Noddy series by Enid Blyton, which I was given at 4, after having my tonsils out. I still have them.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

I don’t know when I specifically learned to write, but the whole process involved lots of fine motor activities, and I know I had crayons and paper from a very young age. I was proud of being able to master my full name, Ratinder!

What do you remember about math classes?

Maths as a subject, is not my favourite. I used to say I can’t do maths, but that’s not very growth mindset, so to this day in my forties, I say “I cannot do maths, yet!” My biggest memory of maths, aside from the squared paper in the books was a male maths teacher joining our school, and not being able to cope with the chattering that happened in this fully female class!

What was your favourite subject?

English and Drama were my favourite subjects, for obvious reasons! Reading and writing was always a pleasure, never a chore, and acting, oh, I loved to create personas that were totally unlike the real me.

What did you like best about school?

Ritu Bhathal discusses her well-rounded education

Honestly, I can’t pinpoint one thing. I feel blessed that I had a really positive experience at my school, and I feel proud to say that I left with friends for life and a wholly rounded education.

What did you like least about school?

P.E.! I am not a physically motivated person, and though I didn’t mind games lessons, they were definitely not my favourite!

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

Ritu Bhathal discusses schooling

There has been a huge change in education and schools since I attended. Being a part of the education system as a professional, I feel I can say that. A lot of standardised testing from a young age has put additional pressure on children, and I really think that this pressure is what ends up creating the angry teens we seem to have more of nowadays. Teachers try so hard to make school fun, but the tick boxes we have to adhere to, really strip the enjoyment for us as well as the children.

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

That is a really hard question because I don’t think there is a blanket answer. Some schools are better than others at giving children a rounded experience of life. Some are more concerned with tests and results.

How do you think schools could be improved?

I think this answer doesn’t lie with the schools, but with the government. They really need to learn from the Scandinavian Education system, where the emphasis is on learning through play for the first few years, and formal schooling that starts at 7, when a child is more ready to learn in a classroom environment. And scrap the SATS! I speak from experience here as I have seen both my children go through the SATS and the upset it caused them at 7 and 11. In Finland, where my brother is bringing his family up, my nephew is 4 and the age of children I teach. What he can do at that age, in more than one language, astounds me, from his general knowledge, motor skills, numeracy and literacy! UK – please take note!

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and your professional perspective on education as it is now, Ritu. I’m not surprised to hear that English and Drama were your favourite subjects and I applaud your recommendation to the UK Education Department. We need our Australian Government to take note too.

Find out more about Ritu Bhathal

Website: http://www.butismileanyway.com

Goodreads author page: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/56854412-ritu-bhathal

Or connect with her on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RituBhathal
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ritubhathalwrites/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/butismileanyway/
Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/bhathalpadhaal/
Mix: https://mix.com/butismileanyway
Tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/blog/ritusmiles

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ritu-bhathal-48941648/
Bloglovin: https://www.bloglovin.com/@ritubhathalpadhaal

 

Poetic Rituals by Ritu Bhathal

Purchase your own copy of Poetic RITUals via this link

myBook.to/PoeticRITUals

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

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

Joy Lennick

Darlene Foster

Susan Scott

Mabel Kwong

Sherri Matthews

Chelsea Owens

Pete Springer

Colleen Chesebro

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

 

Would you like strawberries with that

Would you like strawberries with that?

Tomorrow, 5 June is World Environment Day. The theme for this year is Air Pollution. According to the World Environment Day website, nine out of ten people breathe polluted air — a frightening statistic. While the most polluted cities may be far from where we live and the effect of our individual actions may seem negligible, the site recommends ways in which we can help reduce air pollution. I’m sure you already do many of these:

  • Use public transport or car sharing, cycle or walk
  • Switch to a hybrid or electric vehicle and request electric taxis
  • Turn off the car engine when stationary
  • Reduce your consumption of meat and dairy to help cut methane emissions
  • Compost organic food items and recycle non-organic trash
  • Switch to high-efficiency home heating systems and equipment
  • Save energy: turn off lights and electronics when not in use
  • Choose non-toxic paints and furnishings

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge strawberries and mint

While not specific to this year’s theme, I thought the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week was a perfect match for World Environment Day. Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes strawberries and mint. The combination evokes color contrast, scents, and taste. Where will the combination take you? Go where the prompt leads!

Growing plants, particularly those that produce edible delicacies, including strawberries and mint, is a great way of introducing children to the importance of caring for the environment. Both strawberries and mint are easy to grow and require little space.

The rewards are not only in the eating. Children can learn where their food comes from and understand that it doesn’t just appear in plastic packaging on supermarket shelves or in the fridge at home. In caring for a garden, they learn about what plants need and the importance of caring for the soil. They learn to be patient, waiting for the plants to grow and to be ready to harvest. Understandings learned from small-scale gardening, even in a pot, can be applied to caring for the environment on a larger scale. It is never too soon, or too late, to learn.

In my response to Charli’s prompt, I have considered gardening as nourishment for the mind and spirit as well as the body. Because strawberries are a favourite with both my grandchildren who would probably eat strawberries anywhere and anytime, I settled on a story featuring a grandmother and grandchild. Any similarity to this grandmother is non-existent. I hope you enjoy it anyway.

(I included some favourite family strawberry desserts in this post.)

Grandma’s Garden

Jess blew kisses to Mum, then raced Grandma into the garden. She pulled on her boots and gloves and readied her digging fork. Emulating Grandma, she soaked up explanations of magic combinations that helped plants grow. At the strawberry patch, they filled baskets with ripe red berries. On the way inside, Grandma clipped sprigs of mint.

They dipped strawberries in chocolate and garnished them with mint.

“For Jess?”

“For Mum.

“Birfday?”

“Just —”

Jess inspected the chocolate bowl. “All gone.”

“Stawbwee?” said Jess, pointing to the remaining few.

“For Jess,” smiled Grandma.

Jess munched strawberries and Grandma chewed mint.

Thank you blog post

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

 

 

School days reminiscences of Miriam Hurdle

School Days, Reminiscences of Miriam Hurdle

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.

Miriam Hurdle, poet

This week, I am pleased to introduce Miriam Hurdle, poet, blogger, flash fiction writer, photographer, ex-teacher and educator. She blogs at the Showers of Blessings and recently published a book of poems entitled Songs of Heartstrings: Poems of Gratitude and Beatitude.

I first met Miriam at the Carrot Ranch when she rode up and joined in the flash fiction challenges. Since then, we’ve met up in many different places around the blogosphere. Considering she’s been blogging even longer than I; I’m surprised we hadn’t met earlier. We share our thoughts on education and grandchildren, and in fact on anything to do with making our journeys through life the best we can. It is always a pleasure to converse with Miriam.

Before we begin the interview, I invite Miriam to tell you a little of herself:

Miriam Hurdle is a multi-genre writer. She writes poetry, flash fiction, short stories and memoir.

Music has rooted in her life. Being a soloist as a teenager led her to taking voice lessons and to have ongoing singing engagements. She continues to sing soprano in choral groups. Lyrics have a major influence in the natural flow of her melodic writing. She writes memoir in the form of poetry.

She took photos when the films were black and white. Photography is still her enjoyable hobby. Drawing and painting were fun activities as a child. She resumed drawing and watercolor painting several years ago. In her poetry collection, she includes photos and paintings to illustrate the poems.

She earned a Doctor of Education from the University of La Verne in California. After two years of rehabilitation counseling, fifteen years of public-school teaching and ten years in school district administration, she retired and enjoys life with her husband in southern California. She makes frequent visits to her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter in Oregon.

Welcome, Miriam.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

Miriam Hurdle school photo

I went to school from elementary to college in Hong Kong.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

In Hong Kong, there are public schools, government subsidized schools, and private schools. I attended two elementary schools sponsored by organizations and they were tuition free schools. One was a Buddhist organization sponsored school, and we had to take a Buddhism class. I remember the nun chanting in class.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

After I graduated from the college in Hong Kong, I worked for five years, then came to the United States for my graduate studies. I got three master’s degrees – in Religious Education, Counseling, and Educational Administration and a Doctor in Education.

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

I love music since I was a kid. I sang solos in churches as a teenager. As a result, I took voice lessons and had more singing engagement. It would be my first choice to become a professional musician or teach music, but I could only afford to do music as an enjoyment, not a profession.

When I was in college, I volunteered in Far East Broadcasting Company in several programs. I did singing and recorded children’s stories. When I finished college, FEBC wanted to hire me full time, but the job didn’t pay too much.

Many girls chose to be teachers or nurses back in those days. I accepted a teaching job. I taught Chinese as a Second Language for three years in the Baptist University of Hong Kong. I was also a Director of Children’s Department for two years at Asian Outreach where I wrote four children’s books.

In the U.S. I worked as a Rehabilitation Counselor for two years, taught preschool for two years, taught elementary school for fifteen years, and worked as a school district administration for ten years.

What is your earliest memory of school?

My earliest memory was when I won the Abacus Competition in first grade. The second-grade teacher taught abacus. He came to our classroom to present me the award. Another wonderful memory was that my first-grade teacher Mrs. Leung said I was bright. The thought of being bright influenced my whole life.

When I studied counseling and child development, I learned that positive reinforcement encourages desirable behavior. In fact, it is also true with adults. Instead of pointing fingers or saying, “don’t do this, don’t do that,” we can praise and encourage desirable behavior or responses.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

We did a lot of memorization in reading. We had to recite the reading lessons in early elementary school. My dad helped with my homework and had me memorized the lessons every week. I learned everything in the current lesson before the teacher taught a new lesson. At the fourth grade, I read my dad’s newspapers. My dad and I traded sections to read. I read the horrible news describing the details of crime scenes, read adult fantasy, comic strips and the Sunday children’s section.

My favorite literature was Aesop’s Fables. I also remember learning English grammar such as the regular tenses as walk, walking, walked, walked; and the irregular tenses as go, going, went, gone.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

There was not a lot of creative writing in the lower grades in elementary school. We did a lot of copying the reading lessons. I guess by copying; we remember writing in a proper sentence structure. In upper grade, I learned how to write a story with an opening, the middle, the climax and the conclusion. I remember how I paced my writing and made sure the climax was at the three fourth of the paper. We had a subject in Letter Writing and learned to write different letters.

I learned to write both Chinese and English calligraphy. For Chinese, we wrote in vertical and right to left progression. For English, we wrote alphabet and spellings. I like calligraphy and I still write in calligraphy style in my handwriting. I bought a calligraphic set to address my daughter’s wedding invitations.

What do you remember about math classes?

We learned math the traditional way and learned the mental math. I did addition and subtraction well with an abacus. Doing multiplication and subtraction on the abacus is harder so I don’t remember how to do them. I won the Abacus Competition in the first grade.

What was your favorite subject?

Miriam Hurdle's favourite subject at school was reading

My favorite subject was reading. I didn’t have books other than textbooks at home. There were bookstands on the streets where I could rent books to read. I remember using my allowance to buy tickets to rent books to read. I love to read comic books also.

What did you like best about school?

I like to be with my friends. My best friend Shirley at the fourth grade was my teacher Mrs. Cheung’s daughter. Mrs. Cheung was also a music teacher for the upper grades. We had a singing contest. I entered the competition and got fourth place. Shirley got second place. Shirley played the piano. I went to her house on the weekends and listened to her play for hours.

I keep in touch with Shirley. When we traveled to London, she and her husband took us sightseeing for five days.

What did you like least about school?

I can’t think of anything I didn’t like. There were forty students in each class. We received two report cards a year; they showed our ranking among the class. I got second to ninth places from first to sixth grade. It broke my heart when I got the ninth place. I can’t remember what happened, but it wasn’t because of any subject.

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

I think the elementary schools in Hong Kong still do a lot of memorization rather than creative learning. My sister and her husband sent their two children to Canadian system International School, and they eventually migrated to Canada. After they got the Canadian citizenship, because of my brother-in-law’s health issue, they went back to Hong Kong and keep the dual citizenship.

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

Since I left Hong Kong forty years ago, I can’t comment about the schools there anymore. But I taught in California thirty years ago, I can comment on the schools in California.

Class size–Kindergarten is 20 students, first to third grades is 25 or fewer students, and fourth to sixth grades is up to 35 students average.

Schools get special funding for English learners to get extra help to learn at their current English levels to catch up with the levels of their classes.

There is special funding to help students from the low-income family because statistic shows that these students have low academic levels.

Many families can afford to send their children to go to preschool. For low-income families, they can send their children to the Headstart program to prepare for the kindergarten.

There are breakfast and lunch served at schools. Low-income families receive free meals for their children. Other children have meals for reduced or full fees. Students can bring their lunches to school also.

How do you think schools could be improved?

At elementary school, there is not enough time of the day to teach all the subject to prepare the students for Junior High or High school. Schools end at 2:30 p.m. for lower grade and 2:45 p.m. for upper grade. For lower grades, teachers teach reading and math in the morning. After lunch, they may teach social studies and physical education. There is no time to teach science. Since the State test at the end of the year doesn’t test science, the teachers give up on teaching that subject.

For upper grade, teachers teach reading and math in their homeroom. Some of them team teach social studies and science so the teacher could do the preparation and teach for more than one class. Students can benefit more learning if the school days are longer.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Miriam. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I learned so much about you. I am impressed by your doctorate degree, curious about whether you learned English at school, fascinated by the thought of renting books and envious of your singing ability.

Find out more about Miriam Hurdle

Visit her website: https://theshowersofblessings.com

Or her Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Miriam-Hurdle/e/B07K2MCSVW?ref=dbs_p_ebk_r00_abau_000000

Connect with her on social media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mhurdle112

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/miriam.hurdle.1

Purchase Songs of Heartstrings from

Amazon Universal Link: http://smarturl.it/SongsofHeartstrings

Amazon UK Link: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07K1S47W9 

Amazon.com Link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K1S47W9 

 

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

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

Coming soon:

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Susan Scott

Mabel Kwong

Sherri Matthews

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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