The Challenges of Judging a Children’s Writing Competition

Even though I’ve graded any number of school and university students’ papers, exams and projects, I’ve never enjoyed it. That’s an understatement. I loathe grading!

So why did I volunteer to join a judging committee for a children’s writing competition?

I suppose I felt it was a small way to give back to the larger writing community. I’ve been so lucky to have wonderful generous mentors and friends who’ve taken the time to give me advice and feedback.

In any case, what could be so hard about helping judge a children’s writing competition?

Plenty, as it turned out! Continue reading

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Finding the Right Door

Ethiopia

It’s taken me years to finish my collection of short stories. Now I’m in that lovely but frustrating floaty ‘what-next?’ phase.

EthiopiaIt’s not that I don’t have plenty of projects to work on (two other story collections are in the pipeline) but I’d really like to sink my teeth into something totally new.

EthiopiaAnd I feel there’s some idea lurking out there, not so far away, waiting for me… Something important.

Ethiopia

It’s just a matter of finding the right door….

Ethiopia

Doors to hermit caves in Ethiopia

Inspired by Norm’s Thursday Doors

Need A Creative Boost? Wild Write!

This year I set out to write a ‘Blurt’ – what I now think of as a ‘Wild Write’ – every week. I wasn’t very precise about what I intended, just that I wanted to make the most of a few spare minutes by writing something new (most likely fiction) that I would commit to posting on my blog.

Why?

I was looking for a creative boost.

I needed to find a way to look afresh at my collection of stories and novella. I’d been working on them for quite a while and they had become just too familiar. I was hungry to get into new stories but wasn’t prepared to commit a lot of time to new material as my priority was to finish the collection.

I was nervous! Would I be able to write something quickly that could be made public? Was I crazy to go against the advice of people far more experienced than myself?

“Don’t waste time on a blog,” I’d read. “Focus on your ‘real’ writing.”

“Don’t post stories on your blog as they will then be considered published and no journal will accept them,” was another piece of advice.

But I decided to go ahead all the same.

With just over Continue reading

Left Hand, Right Brain! Ta-Da!

Finally I gave in. My neck pain was so bad that I booked an appointment with a massage therapist.

The therapist told me that my body was out of kilter. My right side was dominating all my movements. The left side was doing nothing.

I checked it out.

I couldn’t even open my locker at the gym (one of those simple three to the right, two to the left, one to the right dial locks) with my left hand. And once my left hand finally found the right numbers, my fingers didn’t have the strength to pull the locker door open. The lock popped out of my fingers and I’d have to start all over again.

As I was making myself work the lock with my left hand, I remembered right-left brain theory: that each side of the brain works with the opposite side of the body, i.e., right brain and left side of the body and vice versa.

So if I concentrated on using my left hand/side, would that act like a vitamin booster for my right brain?

The right side of the brain is the creative side (left is more linear and logical and analytical).

The right brain is the creative brain and is responsible for rhythm, spatial awareness, colour, imagination, daydreaming, holistic awareness and dimension. It controls the left side of your body. The Thinking Business

My right brain could do with a little pepping up, so now I’m using my left hand as much as possible – stirring the soup (OKish), opening doors, chopping and peeling veggies (awkward). combing my hair and brushing my teeth (improving), painting screen doors (bad idea)….

Just wait! You’ll see! Any moment now I’ll be swept up in an amazing creative splurge!

Seeing Strange: The Horse With No Eyes

Notre Dame Cathedral, Vieux Port, Montreal

Notre Dame Cathedral, Vieux Port, Montreal

I’m waiting for a friend in Place d’Armes, the plaza in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Montreal’s Vieux Port.

A great place to wait! So much to enjoy!

Narrow cobbled streets, the imposing cathedral, the surrounding historic buildings (which include Montreal’s oldest building: Saint Sulpice Seminary dating from 1687), a guitarist and singer performing under a shady tree, tourists…and of course, the calèches – the horse-drawn carriages festooned with flowers or feathers.

calèche opposite Saint Sulpice Seminary, Vieux Port, Montreal

Three young kids break away from their parents as they catch sight of the queue of calèches, shrieking with delight. They run across the plaza towards the horses, eyes shining, arms open.

Halfway across, the smallest, a boy, freezes, a terrified look on his face. Continue reading

Waiting: A Writing Lesson From A Samurai Bullfrog

bullfrog

I should be writing. Instead I’m sitting at the water’s edge of the pond, watching an enormous bullfrog.

IMG_8963

He (she?) is sitting there, immobile. He’s waiting. Like me.

Except he’s waiting for insects and I’m waiting for ideas about how to end the story I’m working on. It’s a little story and I’ve spent far too much time on it, but I can’t seem to let it go.

“Better times come to those who wait.” So they say. Not necessarily. It depends on how you wait!

I’ve never been good at waiting. Usually I get too impatient and try push things ahead – which is when something inevitably goes wrong, whether I’m writing or trying to change a hotel room because I don’t like being next to the ice machine. I take the story somewhere it really doesn’t want to go and find myself blocked; I end up in a room with a brick wall two inches from the window.

But there’s waiting…and waiting.

What about active Continue reading

Writing Lessons From Three-Letter Words

From WordPress today, a challenge to write a post without using a single three letter word.

I am never able to resist a tightly restrictive challenge!

As soon as I start, I find three-letter words wanting to jump into every sentence I write. I have to include them: not but and the who can are all (*numbers below refer to these outlawed words)

Is there a writing lesson in this challenge? What am I to do in my writing today if I want to keep to these designated guidelines?

  • stay positive (#1*: “I do want to go….”)
  • agree (#2: no objections)
  • state things simply, in short sentences. Insert a period where this word might normally go (#3)
  • give your writing a punch by omitting this word (#3 again). Instead, stack up clauses using commas.
  • experiment with multiples (#4: some, several, those…)
  •  be vague or personal (again #4: “I tripped over a…”  “I tripped over your…”)
  •  go high-falutin’ (#5: “whomsoever aspires to write a post without using…”)
  •  delete whenever it pops up (#6: is it actually necessary in your sentence?)
  •  find those fancy verbs or employ (!) simple forms of verbs (#7)
  •  divide (#8: “everyone except Marianne…”)