Chalking One Up For Positivity

Who knew a few pieces of chalk and a positive message could make such a difference?

This is one of the best things I’ve seen in ages. 

It’s cheerful, and simple, and sincere, and it’s just so beautiful. 

In the midst of these bleak and socially-distanced times, these messages are a delightful trend that is bringing heartfelt encouragement to communities. 

This story comes from ABC News, Australia. 

Chalking One Up For Positivity!
#StayingHome #StayingPositive #positivemood #PositiveVibesOnly

Image by Wortflow from Pixabay

Stories!

A most welcome initiative from Audible to help entertain cooped up kids of all ages.

Audible has released a whole bunch of audiobooks for kids and families absolutely free, called Stories.

There’s an extensive range of books for kids of all ages, from ‘Littlest Listeners’ to teens, and some excellent literary classics, too! 

What a fantastic opportunity for beating the lockdown blues! It’s great to see one of the big companies taking the initiative to offer something to help us all out by feeding our imaginations and entertaining our families. 

An Audible membership is not required, so anyone can use it.  As it is browser based, no credit card or personal information is needed to listen.  It works on phone, laptop and tablet.

Completely free #audiobooks for kids and families to #ListenTo while #stayinghome – fantastic! Thanks, @Audible!

A Punny Thing Happened In My History Class Today…

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

I’ve mentioned here before that I enjoy a good pun. Today, to my delight, one of my students came up with a pretty good one, so I responded in kind.

It happened in history, where my students were mapping the three arenas of WWII.

Student A: Syria. Sy-ri-a. *grins* Are you…syyyyyyrias? 
Me: Hey, I was just dam-ask in’…
Student B: That’s SO bad. 

Well, we laughed hard. And then student A explained it to the rest of the class, and they laughed too.

Poor Student B, though. As Student A explained, he put his head on the table and moaned, “It’s like having my dad in the room… twice!”

Still, it it wasn’t enough to stop him from piping up a little later.

Student B: Did you know that it wasn’t just Darwin, Broome got bombed too? 
Me: Yes, the Japanese swept right across north-west Australia…
Student A: Haha! That’s genius! 
Student B: No. NO. That’s awful! 
Me: I didn’t expect you to bristle like that. 
Student B: I’m leaving. *walks out of the room*
Student C: Where’s B? 
Me: *just as B is walking back in* I made a joke and he flew off the handle. 
Student B: No. *walks out again*

It was a fun moment which we all enjoyed, but it also made the facts the students were working with more memorable. Once we’d had a laugh, they all just kept on working.

Opportunities like that don’t happen all the time, but when they do, they are welcome.

Humour is such good medicine, and it makes excellent social glue. It was wonderful to be able to laugh together during a week when the world seems far more uncertain and a lot less enjoyable than it did a couple of weeks ago.

I’m thankful that my students have the confidence to express themselves in my classroom, and that they do it in ways that are clever and fun. It really is a huge blessing to be able to have such great rapport with my students, and these kids make it easy to keep going to work every day.

These anecdotes were retold here with the permission of the students involved.

Why Friday the 13th Is A Good Day

Far from being unlucky, Friday the 13th is a day that I have reason to enjoy.

Happy Friday the 13th!

I suppose most people are superstitious about something, but for me, this one is a matter of perspective.

My fictional black cat, Friday, leapt into existence on a Friday the 13th. From that first creepy story, he grew into a creature with a mind of his own — like all cats, really— and a killer sense of justice that springs into action whenever someone is behaving very badly. With a twitch of his tail, magic happens and horrible people get what’s coming to them in the most macabre ways. It’s all very satisfying… but of course, punishing people fictionally is like that. 

I so wish Friday was real. There are days when I wish I had someone like that to deliver a dose of poetic justice to someone who particularly deserves it. “This looks like a job for Friday!” has become a catchphrase between my best friends and myself, which comes in quite handy at those times when you can’t express how we feel about someone or a situation as honestly as we might like to. 

I don’t really believe in luck, and I certainly don’t think certain days or black cats are bad luck.

I enjoy Friday the 13th because it reminds me that sometimes great things grow out of chance ideas. And, it’s fair to say, it beats most Mondays hands down. 

Friday appears in Curious Things and Curious Times by Joanne Van Leerdam. Widely available in all online stores in paperback and ebook.

‘The Seafarer’: An Anglo-Saxon Poem

I really enjoy the story of Beowulf. I read it with my Year 9 students in English, and we explore the ways in which the poetry and storytelling are similar or different to the ways in which things are done now. 

That’s why I was excited to learn of the existence of The Seafarer, another AngloSaxon poem of similar vintage, which was almost lost to history for all time.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

It, too, is written in Old English, and uses similar devices of imagery and poetic narrative to those found in Beowulf, such as kennings and alliteration. This poem, though, reads more like a dramatic monologue than an epic heroic adventure, and is far more religious and deeply spiritual than the secular, wildly fantastic and, at times, quite superstitious story of Beowulf. 

What treasures these stories and poems are – snippets of the past that have survived the centuries despite the best efforts of warring tribes and religious authorities alike to destroy everything that stood between them and the power they sought over Britain and her people. 

You can read a translation of the poem in today’s English at The Anglo-Saxon Narrative Poetry Project website

You can read Dr Oliver Tearle’s thoughts on the poems at the Interesting Literature blog. It is to this blog that I owe my thanks for drawing my attention to the poem. 

Things I Am Thankful For Tonight

After two ridiculously hot days –40C or 104F–and a busy first week of the school year, my fibromyalgia pain is going nuts.

It’s currently 11.35pm and still warm out, even though a cool change came through a few hours ago and dropped the temperature by ten degrees in as many minutes. It’s also pouring rain – and I’m not going to complain about that!

I am lying in bed listening to the rain, hoping my pain meds will work quickly, and trying to focus on positive things instead of feeling miserable.

So, in no particular order, here is my list of things I am thankful for tonight:

  • Pain medication
  • Ceiling fans
  • Cool changes
  • Rain
  • Three seasons other than summer
  • My bed
  • Total adoration from Abbey the Labby
Abbey the Labby: so clever, she’s on Facebook.

Jokes That Fall Flat In Church #2973

Other person: I need a broom.

Me: I didn’t ride mine here today so I can’t help you.

Everyone else: *crickets*

They love me, really.

Great Gift Ideas for Writers

Christmas is just around the corner, but these gift ideas would work just as well for birthday gifts, or just to say “keep going!” when the writer in your life needs a little encouragement.

Notebooks. Bookstores, stationers and newsagents carry a range of different notebooks to suit any budget.  There are beautiful notebooks available, from leather bound journals to new-fangled clever notebooks that enable your device to take a photo of a note and import it into Evernote or OneNote as a fully editable note. You can get plain, dotted or lined pages, so there are plenty of options.  Any writer, journaller or blogger is going to enjoy using a notebook given out of love. 

Things to write with: the gist of a nice pen shows you respect their craft. However, so does the gift of a pack of their favourite ball point, gel or felt tip pens in their preferred colour ink. Some writers use a favourite brand of pencil. 

Sticky notes. The humble sticky note is a fabulous tool for planning, plotting, sequencing, tracking character trajectories, and keeping track or writing ideas. There is a huge range of colours, and sizes available, but there is also quite a range in quality. Sadly, the cheapest ones tend to lose their stick rather quickly. A range of lined and plain notes in various sizes and colours, and some page flags and place keepers might be just the ticket. 

A gift voucher from a stationers or office supply store is basically a free ticket to a treasure hunt In writer’s heaven. Some people shy away from vouchers as gifts because they seem impersonal, but a writer will think this is a perfect gift. 

Coffee or Tea. Writers seem to thrive on coffee and tea. A gift of freshly roasted beans or a favourite blend of tea will always be appreciated. Vouchers or gift cards from a favourite barista or coffee shop will likewise be welcomed by anyone whose writing thrives on caffeine. 

Writing snacks. Fuel their writing with a box or basket of their favourite chocolate, nuts, candy, pretzels and trail mix. 

Writing time! Often, writers are limited by the demands of life. A voucher that promises uninterrupted writing time while you mind their kids, walk their dog, cook dinner for their family or clean their house for them is a great way to show your love  and appreciation for them.  Keep in mind, though, that if you choose this option, you need to keep that promise or you will have a very sad reader on your hands!

Book promotion credits. One of the things that authors often struggle with is having the time and resources to promote their books. A gift of book promotion for a month or more is sure to be well received and very much appreciated. Book Squirrel offers a range of promotion options tailored for Indie authors at very affordable prices.

My Go-To Christmas Movie.

One of my Christmas traditions is watching my go-to Christmas movie: ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’. 

It combines the genius of Charles Dickens with the genius of Jim Henson’s Muppets, featuring Gonzo as Charles Dickens, Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, and Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. It retains key dialogue from the book and adds some delightful character development and interactions, and complements both with an original soundtrack that includes some delightful Christmas songs.

As far as movie adaptations go, this is one that stays faithful to both the storyline and the spirit of Dickens’ classic novella

It’s charming in the right places, and Victorian and Gothic enough to be spooky when it needs to be. It still delivers the crucial message of Dickens’ attacks on Utilitarian thinking and selfishness, encouraging the audience to focus on the value of people and family rather than on making money and treating others as though they are worthless unless they can work. 

It’s great entertainment for the whole family, and even when Scrooge is awful, the Muppet cast is entirely adorable. 

The Most Beautiful Reading Experiences

More than a year ago, I began my book review of Eric Tanafon’s fabulous historical paranormal fantasy novel ‘Robin Hood: Wolf’s Head’ with this paragraph: “Every now and then, as a reader, I experience an incredible moment of revelation when I take in an expression or image of something that is so powerful, it takes my breath away.” 

There is something incredibly magical about that moment when a writer’s words take my breath away. It doesn’t happened as often as one might like, but it has happened to me twice in the space of a week. 

Once was when reading Cortney Pearson’s steampunk mystery ’The Perilous In-Between’. The second was when reading Bridget Collins’ historical fantasy novel ’The Binding’. 

All three books are exquisitely written, full of incredible imagery, rich and imaginative world building, and powerful writing that make the reader’s emotions and mind soar. 

Proudly, two of those books are by independent authors, published without the support of big traditional publishing houses and the budgets that the other enjoys. But if you picked up all three, and read them, you’d be pushed to know which was which if you were using the quality of writing or production as your yardstick.  You’d only know by looking for a publisher’s imprint. 

It is true that there are some rubbish books produced by independent authors who don’t bother having their work edited, proofread or produced properly. It is also true that there are also some rubbish books published traditionally. I’ve picked up a few books in my time that have, in all honesty, made me wonder exactly how they got published at all. Other people may think they are wonderful — and they are welcome to them. 

And that is exactly my point. What makes a book ‘brilliant’ is highly subjective, and people will have many and varied reasons for the choices they make. Even so, the assumption that traditionally published books are of superior quality is becoming less and less valid as time goes on. 

It’s fair to say that independent publishing has come a very long way, and the industry has become quite proficient in setting and achieving very high standards. 

If you’re not reading Indie authors, you’re missing out on both discovering some incredible talent and reading some brilliant books. 

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