Showing posts from March, 2014

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 31 -Embracing Challenges

Today is an ideal day for some reflection. For today marks the end of another journey. -A journey that commenced exactly a month ago with my involvement in the Slice of Story Challenge for March. I have participated in this challenge since 2009.  It is said that it is the journey not the destination that is important and participating in this month long writing challenge provides ample evidence that is indeed true. Each and every year I make discoveries, for part of this journey involves exploring self. I have also been able to learn of common incidents reading the words of fellow writers. These incidents have allowed me to contemplate and connect, despite our far flung locations. 
Each year I gain an enhanced appreciation of the happiness that resides in the present moment. It is so important to celebrate the simple pleasures of ‘right now.’  When we learn to do this we cease borrowing from the bank of future hope.  I have also made discoveries, -words, phrases, ideas and the optimism…

Slice of Life Story Challenge -March 30 Italian Adventures Await

Tomorrow, my wife, Vicki and I have the good fortune to be flying to Rome, via Singapore. After 5 days exploring the eternal city, we travel to Priaiano on the AmalfiCoast for a week, before ending our break with a week in Cefalu in Sicily.
I consider myself most fortunate to be able to travel in this way. I do not take it for granted. My parents could never afford to travel this way. Holidays were few and never exotic when I was a child. I recall three occasions when we went ‘away’ during my childhood.  -None of them more than two hours from home.
My Dad only traveled overseas as a consequence of his involvement in W.W.2 and my Mother, only left her home state once in her entire life. She took a bus trip to Canberra with her mother to visit her sick aunt. She was an adult when this trip took place. She crossed state borders just that one time.  Dad, rarely talked about the places he visited during the war years, and it was easy to understand why.
So, travel adventures are embraced wit…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 29 -Escaping The Clip Joint

Vicki always claims that a haircut makes me look like a boy again.  That would be a remarkable transformation if it were true. It’s not. I know the truth. But, gee it’s nice of her to boost me like that.  Still, yesterday’s haircut did in a strange way reinvigorate me. I always feel a bit perkier following a haircut.  Her comments do however thrust my mind back through my haircut history. I have hurtled back to my childhood when haircuts were not associated with positive outcomes... 
I grew up in a small town in the hills outside Melbourne. Among a small assortment of shops in the main street, there was a men’s hairdresser. It was the kind with the traditional striped barber’s pole outside, and the smell of Californian Poppy wafting out the door. The shop was quite small, with a single barber’s chair smack bang in the middle of the floor. A few tired sporting and fishing magazines were piled in a corner where you sat waiting for your turn in the massive chair.  A calendar and a tired m…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 28 -Cutting Remarks

I had a haircut today. Nothing unusual in that. What makes this fact worth reporting is that my hairdresser, Leni has been my cutter of choice for 27 years! She knows my locks so well. I trust her. She snips and styles in a manner that sets me at ease. Having a haircut can be problematic. Sometimes it’s a fine line between haircut heaven and haircut hell.
I was amazed to discover recently that women enact up to thirty different hairstyles in a lifetime. A man on the other hand, just tends to gradually lose hair.
Leni always asks the question, ‘Are we going short today Alan? Do I need the razor? My answer is always the same. ‘Maybe, next time Leni. Today, just a trim.’ And so it begins...

We talk about the weather, travel plans and our families. We talk about not retiring, but easing back on work. The conversation is easy. The cutting remarks make the time passes quickly. I enter as a lion and leave trimmed, tamed and less hirsute. As a hairdresser, Leni remains a cut above the rest.

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 27 - May I Quote You On That?

I was asked by a teacher yesterday, If she could take a look inside my writer’s notebook. I agreed. I am always prepared to share. After all, that's what writer’s do.
When she handed it back to me, she thanked me for sharing, and then commented on some of the quotes, she had noted while scanning the pages. ‘Where did you find these quotes? She asked.
I told her that I source them from everywhere I go. Some of them I hear, many of them I read on my regular reading journeys through books, the Internet, Twitter, and Facebook.
As we talked, I began to consider why I gather such material.  As writers, we are gatherers and collectors. I believe I harvest these words because they inspire me to greater efforts. I harvest them because they remind me of my responsibilities as an educator. Some of them are just plain funny and I embrace the opportunity to have a good laugh. Some quotes are collected because they contain vital messages I can share with others. Occasionally I am to apply them to…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 26 -The Scourge of Bullying

I watched a report on television tonight regarding the scourge of bullying and its effect on children. Bullying has always been around, but it has become even more pervasive with the growth of on-line bullying, where the tormentor can often hide. It is also extremely difficult to get those who manage social media sites and chat-rooms to take action in such circumstances. They absolve themselves from responsibility. This only adds to the trauma of the victims.  The report did not address the important issue of parental responsibility and monitoring of children’s online lives. This would appear to be an area of critical importance in dealing with this issue.
The development of resilience is another aspect tied to bullying. How do we deal with bullies? How do we bounce back from such set backs? How do we cope? How do we minimize the impact of such negative behaviour?
We have all been the target of some form of harassment in our lives. It’s hideous to be victimized in this manner. We carry …

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 25 -Initials On A Pencil Case

I have spent quite some time thinking about the mammoth pencil cases students carry throughout the school day. It has inspired the following poem.
I have used the narrative conversational style employed so effectively by two of my favourite poets, Michael Rosen and Roger McGough. I wanted to create a  possible conversation between two students over some words scribbled on a pencil case.
These are my raw words, lifted straight from my current notebook. I shared them last week with the young Adelaide poets with whom I worked. I was road testing the words I guess. I was seeking their reaction. I am still reworking them. The words need to be polished and refined. I will add and subtract. The more I read these words aloud, the more likely I am to create words that flow easily. I don’t want them to feel like lumpy custard as they move over my tongue.

Initials On A Pencil Case

What’s that on your pencil case? Right there in the corner In tiny letters Does it really say I ‘heart’ JB Does it really? W…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 24 -The Twitchy Fingered Woman With A Pressing Need

It was a small moment in the course of my morning. I stood at a pedestrian crossing on a busy main road. I stood as an anonymous individual among a group of other anonymous individuals. Temporary statues silently waiting for the traffic lights to change, so we could safely cross the busy roadway ahead of us. Ten people waiting patiently for the lights to change. Ten people waiting for the traffic to stop zooming past. The lights are activated by the pressing a button positioned on a steel pole adjacent to the walk way. The pedestrian crossing stretched across the lanes of traffic. This defined zone becomes a temporary safe walking area only when the lights decree. Everyone in the group rightly assumed the first person to arrive had placed a request for the green light and had pressed the button as is the usual practice in these situations.
As we waited in silence, another person arrived. -A woman, in a dark coloured coat. Person eleven. She gradually worked her way through those alrea…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 23 -Time, Memories And The Ghosts of Childhood

In childhood time often moves quite slowly. It stretches away into the distance. We are suitably dazzled and distracted by the immediate moments that surround our lives. We embrace moments, new and exciting. -Moments requiring our undivided attention. When you are in the midst of these childhood years you are too close to the action to ever realize that time is passing.
I recall summertime in my own childhood. It seemed to last forever. Those holidays presented opportunities for a myriad of adventures. Time was relegated to the background. We were immersed in the now. The inevitable return to school was an intrusion on endless summer fun. Returning to school was not on the radar. We were too busy for such thoughts.
What we see, what we feel in childhood is often more acutely felt. An increased sensitivity is often attached to those early memories. They are emotionally loaded. We were not merely sad, we were devastated. We were never just happy, we were over the moon with joy. This is wh…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 22 --Saturday Reflection On A Week Of Poetry

The Saturday sky wore a decidedly drab grey outfit and surrounded itself with cool air. It provided no incentive to venture out throughout the day. I did sneak out for a mid morning coffee, but stayed out only briefly. It was an indoors kind of day.
I found myself reflecting upon my week in Adelaide among a host of young poets. My reflections allowed me to better appreciate my five days among these young writers.
They demonstrated how important it is to be brave when it comes to writing. They accepted the challenges I threw their way and many wrote close to the edges. They began to use the language of poetry with greater confidence as our time together grew.
I challenged them to provide their writing buddies, specific feedback that went beyond the usual- ‘I liked it or’ ‘it sounded good’ I asked them to respond to what they saw the writer actually doing. I urged them to inform their partner about what they heard, what they felt (the emotions evoked by the words a fellow poet used). I to…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 21 -Talker On A Plane

Tonight as I moved my weary bones onto the plane to fly home from Adelaide to Melbourne, I felt a sense of great satisfaction from my week as a poet in residence. I had encountered groups of young poets and teachers who breathed life into their words, striving to further develop their poetry. The poetry of these writers was in motion. I felt tired, but it was a good feeling.
Plane delays on Friday nights are not uncommon, so when it happened I just rolled with the adjusted times. When we finally boarded, an hour later than scheduled, I was pleased to hear the pilot announce that it would be a fast flight and we would arrive in Melbourne in 51 minutes. I settled into my seat and hoped some sleep might overcome me. It didn’t.
I immediately became aware of the young woman seated directly in front of me. More accurately, I became aware of her voice. It was sharp, reedy, and agitated. It was also constant. She barely had time to draw breath. A stream of words poured from her as she pursued …

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 20 -Speaking Personally About PERSONIFICATION

I remain eternally grateful to Ralph Fletcher for alerting me to a wonderful book about ten years when he recommended, Suzanna Marshak’s,I Am The Ocean as an excellent text for teaching personification, or as Ralph referred to it –writing through a mask. Sadly, the book is no longer in print, so I greatly value the second hand copy I managed to obtain. The book has become a collector's item, attracting a hefty price.
Over the years I have used this book many times to teach personification. The voice of the ocean is so strong in this beautifully constructed text. Writing in the first person, the author allows the ocean to tell its unique story. The author uses repetition, strong visual imagery, vibrant similes and vivid verbs, to convey a clear image of the sea. The contrasting moods of the ocean are captured in such clarity. Human characteristics are well applied here. This is poetry written across several pages.

‘Once, I wet the toes of dinosaurs, but that was long ago.’  (My favo…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 19 -Strange Visitors From Another Planet

My step daughter, Jane commutes each day to the city on the train for her work. She has begun documenting her travel observations on Facebook. They make interesting reading.
Jane told the story of the small man who entered the train carriage on one recent morning wearing a metal helmet. Another man began shaving. She relates such tales on a daily basis. She has become enmeshed in a kind of Bizarro world, where weird and wonderful characters present themselves for observation each and every morning. They appear to be seeking her out for some form of recognition it seems. Look at me, look at me!
Her stories have activated memories of my travels on the New York transport system. My daily travels on trains and buses allowed me the luxury of some outstanding bizarro experiences. One particular memory stands out however.It took place on the No 38 bus travelling down DeKalb Avenue in Brooklyn’s FortGreene area one workday afternoon.
I climbed on board and nonchalantly sat down. When I looked …

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 18 - Time Spent With Young Poets

Today I spent a second day sharing aspects of poetry with various groups of young writers in Grades 4 and 5 at St Francis Xavier Primary School in Wynn Vale South Australia. We read poetry. We discussed poetry and some of the questions surrounding it. The children raised questions such as: How long does it take to write a poem? Where do you get ideas? When did you begin writing poetry? What is your favourite poem? I shared some different poetry forms and asked them to notice patterns in the poetry. One group examined the poem, Instructions For Giants, by John Rice:
Please do not step on swings parks, youth clubs, cinemas and discos Please flatten all schools Please do not eat children, pop stars, TV soap operas, kind grannies who give us 50 cents Please feel free to gobble up dentists Please do not block out the sunshine Please push all rain over to France Please do not drink the public swimming pool Please eat all cabbage fields, vegetable plots and anything green that grows in the countryside! Please…