Posts tagged ‘writing’

When Dad was Wrong

Most of the time, my father was right …

Even if I didn’t realize it till later. Or much later.

Even if he took whatever it was more seriously than I thought it was worth.

FullSizeRender (2)

But there was one time when he was just plain old wrong.

I was a teenager, and my job was to work in the family rental property over the summer. Didn’t get paid in money, but I got a boatload of new clothes come school time. At any rate, my friend was having a party at her place (her dad was an ATF agent, so there was just clean fun). I went to Dad a couple weeks ahead of time and got permission to go, and to drive two of my friends. They had been giving me free rides all over the place, so Dad complimented my desire not to be a mooch friend. Yes, he used the word mooch. He told me I could have the car for the night.

However, when the day arrived, it was also carpet-laying day in the rentals.

Dad had never laid carpet before, but he was confident.

Would we be done in time for me to still take my friends to the party?

He was sure we’d be done by early afternoon. Absolutely positive. Absolutely, absolutely positive.

This was summer, so it had been several weeks since we’d had any friend time like this. I was excited and talked Dad’s ear off about it all day. Probably drove him nuts, but he was a good sport.

But come about 3:00, it was clear we were not even going to be done in time for me to give my friends a ride to the party.

Could I go call my friends and tell them I couldn’t give them a ride? (Dating myself, here. It was days long before cell phones…I would have had to drive to the diner two blocks away and use a pay phone.)

Nope. He wouldn’t let me even do that.

I realize now, even more than I realized then, that it wasn’t really the sort of job you could leave in the middle. And I realize that Dad had overestimated himself on a job he’d never done before (and no YouTube to learn from).

And I realize now that he was (internally) frightened about what the failure of the rentals would do to the family finances.

However, he was in the wrong. When we FINALLY finished and got home, Mom told me my friends had called an hour earlier, and she told them they should go ahead to the party without me. I was so furious over ditching my friends that, in my self-righteousness, I stomped around the house like a crazy woman as I showered and got ready for the party.

He didn’t didn’t punish me for my attitude. He didn’t even say a word.

Don’t get me wrong, my Dad was a good man, a strong man.

But there was a reason why, even before this, if he said something would take a certain amount of time, I would double the time and add an hour. He was no good at time.

And there is a reason why now, at the age of 50, I want to have a writing career, yet I am afraid. If I get a contract, there will be a deadline on that contract. A legal deadline on that contract.

What if I misjudge my capabilities and agree to a deadline I can’t meet? I already mostly don’t meet—self-imposed deadlines. I am like my Dad in this way.

Yet, I am also like my Dad in another way. I will not make a decision out of fear. As he did when he purchased the rental property, I will follow my dreams.

I will learn the art of fiction writing, as he learned to lay carpet.

As Dad moved from idea to landlord, I am moving from hobbyist to “real” writer.

I will write. And, eventually, I will sign a writing contract. (traditional or self-published)

And … hopefully … I will meet said deadline.

Blessings,
Voni

PS … Also like my father, I will make—and be forgiven for—parenting mistakes.
Because LOVE. Right, Leah?

FLASH FICTION: Christmas at Ground Control

Mission_control_center

He tapped the steering wheel in frustration at the slowing traffic.

Astronaut Shelly Fender had been in space for 461 days, fifteen hours, seven minutes—he glanced at his watch—and thirty-four seconds.

They’d miss the window to get her back to earth for Christmas with her little boy if he didn’t get into mission control posthaste. He was the flight director, and today was the last window of opportunity before Christmas.

Just ahead, a cow was walking nonchalantly down the freeway. He screeched his tires to avoid it, swerving a bit before coming to a stop in the shoulder.

Not one cow. A herd.

Ah … an overturned cattle truck up ahead.

Traffic would be a mess for hours. He punched numbers into his phone.

Ten minutes later, he heard a helicopter approaching.

It would be an unconventional commute, but that kid would not miss another Christmas with his mama.

Merry Christmas Blessings,

Voni

Picture credit:  https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mission_control_center.jpg

The Gathered Waters

The Gathered Waters He Called Sea

Waves_in_pacifica_1

The pounding of the ocean waves, pummeling the shore…

The deafening whoosh of the waterfall…

The rush of the mighty river…

The babbling of the brook…

The stillness of the gentle lake on a summer day…

The laughing splash of the swimming pool…

The “Ahhhh” of a cool draught of water…

The quiet of the trembling drop clinging to the limb…

The plop as it lands on my nose.

Kenhardt

 

Picture credits: 
Waves: “Waves in pacifica 1” by Brocken Inaglory – Own work. Licensed under GFDL via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Waves_in_pacifica_1.jpg#/media/File:Waves_in_pacifica_1.jpg
Water Drop: By Lourie Pieterse (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Flash Fiction: Misbegotten

Detective Jensen nearly slammed his notebook to the forest floor. The forensic tech would take hours combing the misbegotten turquoise van for the merest possibility of clues.

Brain spinning, he thought of the grisly murder at the townhouse. What woman did such a thing?

Where was she? Not here.

But she obviously knew enough to distract them with the stupid van.

Wait! The van didn’t have clues. It was the clue.

…And someone close by restored vintage vehicles. Always had a slew of them hanging around his property.

“Charley!” The forensic tech jogged over. “Where’s your wife?”

He blanched. “I don’t know.”

Jensen quirked an eyebrow, looking steadily at the man.

I’m a little bit famous

…Okay, just kidding. But my friend and writing critique partner, Kelly Liberto, did interview me on her blog today.

Stop by here to check it out, then see what else she’s up to.

While you’re here, please check out what’s under my flash fiction tab! I’ve been writing and not blogging lately, but I’ve not been too much of a slacker. 😉

Blessings,

Voni

Flash Fiction Friday: That’s All It Took?

Balloon ride

THAT’S ALL IT TOOK?

Flash Fiction by Voni Harris

He was nervous.

That’s why he slopped the dollop of mustard down the front of his shirt. Went perfectly with the already stinking baby spit-up from his last client’s baby.

He’d shouldn’t have stopped at the sidewalk vendor on his way out to his car, even if it was destined to be a late dinner. Now there was no time to change before he met her.

Fortunately, there was an extra shirt in his car.

Unfortunately, it was his yellow shirt with large dots of many shades of green. Perfect for alumni events, with jeans. Not so perfect with his blue pin-striped suit pants.

Better than smelly baby spit-up and a mustard blotch. He quickly switched shirts at the side of the road. Glancing at his watch, he saw he was cutting it close, and he needed to impress tonight. She was looking for romance tonight; she’d made that clear.

He pulled up outside her office. She gave his clothes a quizzical look through the window, then waved and came lightly running out to the car with a smile, full skirt flowing behind her. He got out and walked around to open the door for her…

…just in time to knock her off the curb and send her rolling onto the lawn.

“Are you okay?” he asked, reaching to help her up.

She dusted the grass off her backside.

“Perfectly fine,” she answered, then frowned. “However, my shoe is not.” She held it up for his inspection. The heel of the left shoe was rolling in the gutter.

“Sorry about that,” he mumbled, embarrassed.

“That’s okay.” She opened her voluminous purse and pulled out a pair of flats. “I came prepared.” She slid onto the car seat and slipped on the flats, tossing the heels in the back seat.

Great. Just great. This date was supposed to knock her socks off, not break her shoes!

He closed her door for her, then walked around and started the car. She teased about his clothes, chattered about her day, and there had never been a faster 45-minute drive. With her in the car, even the pot holes after they turned onto the dirt road didn’t annoy him.

This was a woman he intended to impress and keep impressed.

 

They pulled up in front of a barn and parked. She took one look at the sign and squealed. “A hot-air balloon ride? Seriously? I can’t wait.”

Score!

She dug a ponytail holder from the depths of her purse and pulled her hair back to combat the wind while he walked around the car and opened the door for her.

The balloonist came walking over. The man rocked back and forth on his heels as he greeted them. “Sorry to give you bad news. I was hoping this wind was going to die down by the time you got here, but it increased instead. It’s too heavy for us to go up tonight. We’ll have to reschedule.”

He looked up to see her face fall, and his stomach fell to his feet.

“I’m sorry.” he told her, grinding his toe into the dirt.

“Not your fault.” She deliberately put a smile on her face. “Nor yours,” she told the balloonist, who smiled back in relief.

She turned to look at him. “Now what?” she asked.

He hoped she didn’t just write off the whole date. “We could go on to the restaurant. I was a little worried we wouldn’t make our reservation, anyway, and it’s quite a drive.”

“Let’s do it!” They waved to the balloonist as he drove away and slid into their seats.

That’s when the car refused to start. It wouldn’t even turn over. He got out, muttering a prayer, and looked under the hood. He saw the problem and hooked the loose wire back up.

The car still wouldn’t start.

He got out of the car again. That is when he noticed the pool of liquid under the gas tank; one of the pot holes must have caused the obvious hole in the tank.

At least they came across a field of wild flowers as they walked around, waiting on the tow truck. A girl seeking romance had to have flowers, right? He picked her a mess of them and hoped she’d not notice that he’d forgotten to order a bouquet for the night.

Sitting between him and the tow truck driver on their way back into town, she rubbed her arm where she’d been stung by the bee he’d unwittingly picked along with the flowers. Loud and twangy country music on the radio kept them from any conversation, but she did he reach over and take his hand.

They left the car at a repair shop near the restaurant and walked down the street, still holding hands.

That’s when they were deluged by the storm the wind had been blowing in. They took off jogging and pushed into the restaurant soaking wet.

The maitre d’ inside looked them up and down and gave a self-satisfied smile as he tapped his notebook. They’d missed their reservation time after all.

They ran to the restaurant next door. The wait was over ninety minutes. She tapped his arm, “It’s getting late at this point. McDonald’s is across the street.”

McDonald's

McDonald’s. I am such a clod.

But he couldn’t take her home hungry after all he put her through. He sighed in agreement, and they ran through the rain once more.

McDonald’s. So this is where our perfect date ends up.

Fifteen minutes later, she took a huge bite of her burger as she ran her fries through a pile of ketchup.

She threw her head back in laughter. “This has been the most perfect date night!”

His jaw dropped.

“I love being married to you,” she said, her sky-blue eyes sparkling.

With no idea what to say, he just grabbed her hand. And held on.

 

The end

 

Blessings,

Voni

 

Word Nerd Wednesday: Why Etymology Matters

Hey, fellow Word Nerds:

There is a discussion ongoing at The Conversation which explains why etymology could be an important part of the language-learning process. I know my love of words is what caused me to dive into the waters of etymology. Why should our children not be allowed the same joy? How we tend to dumb down  for our kids, and shame on us. It’s so much simpler to give a test of word memorization than to take the time to teach WHY a particular word is spelled that way. (Jump + ed, not jumt, as the author points out.) That’s how they will develop skills in both reading and spelling when they come across unfamiliar language. (They can then apply the same past-tense concept to cooked on their own and not spell it cookt) As the article points out, kids love stories, and etymology is basically a short story. I’d love to hear what you think of the article. How were you taught to spell?

With no further ado … Here is the article by Misty Adoniou of the University of Canberra.

Why some kids can’t spell and why spelling tests won’t help

By Misty Adoniou, University of Canberra

A couple of years ago, early one morning, I received an SMS advising “resadents to stay indoors because of a nearby insadent”. I was shocked by the spelling, as much as the message. Surely, I thought, if it was a real message then the spelling would be correct.

Spelling matters. In a text message from a friend teeing up a night out “c u at 8” is fine – but in an emergency warning text from a government agency, I expect the spelling to be standard. But why is it that some people struggle with standard spelling?

Spelling remains the most relentlessly tested of all the literacy skills, but it is the least taught.

Sending a list of words home on Monday to be tested on Friday is not teaching. Nor is getting children to write their spelling words out 10 times, even if they have to do it in rainbow colours.

Looking, covering, writing and checking does not teach spelling. Looking for little words inside other words, and doing word searches are just time fillers. And writing your “spelling” words in spirals or backwards is just plain stupid.

And yet, this is a good summary of most of the current spelling programs in schools today.

So, what should spelling teaching look like?

Finding meaning

Children should know the meanings of the words they spell, and as logical as that sounds – ask a child in your life what this week’s spelling words mean, and you might be surprised by their answers.

If spelling words are simply strings of letters to be learnt by heart with no meaning attached and no investigation of how those words are constructed, then we are simply assigning our children a task equivalent to learning ten random seven-digit PINs each week.

That is not only very very hard, it’s pointless.

More than sounds

English is an alphabetic language; we use letters to write words. But it is not a phonetic language: there is no simple match between sounds and letters.

We have 26 letters, but we have around 44 sounds (it’s not easy to be precise as different accents produce different sounds) and several hundred ways to write those sounds.

So, while sounds – or phonics – are important in learning to spell, they are insufficient. When the only tool we give young children for spelling is to “sound it out”, we are making a phonological promise to them that English simply cannot keep.

How words make their meanings

Sounds are important in learning to spell, but just as important are the morphemes in words. Morphemes are the meaningful parts of words. For example, “jumped” has two morphemes – “jump” and “ed”. “Jump” is easily recognised as meaningful, but “ed” is also meaningful because it tells us that the jump happened in the past.

Young spellers who are relying on the phonological promise given to them in their early years of schooling typically spell “jumped” as “jumt”.

When attempting to spell a word, the first question we should teach children to ask is not “what sounds can I hear?” but “what does this word mean?”. This gives important information, which helps enormously with the spelling of the word.

In the example of “jumt” it brings us back to the base word “jump”; where the sound of “p” can now be heard, and the past marker “ed” , rather than the sound “t” which we hear when we say the word.

Consider the author of the emergency text message at the beginning of this article as they pondered which of the many plausible letters they could use for the sound they could hear in “res – uh – dent”.

If they had asked themselves first, “What does this word mean?” the answer would have been people who “reside”, and then they would have heard the answer to their phonological dilemma.

Where words come from

English has a fascinating and constantly evolving history. Our words, and their spellings, come from many languages. Often we have kept the spellings from the original languages, while applying our own pronunciation.

As a result, only about 12% of words in English are spelt the way they sound. But that doesn’t mean that spelling is inexplicable, and therefore only learned by rote – it means that teaching spelling becomes a fascinating exploration of the remarkable history of the language – etymology.

Some may think that etymology is the sole province of older and experienced learners, but it’s not.

Young children are incredibly responsive to stories about words, and these understandings about words are key to building their spelling skills, but also building their vocabulary.

Yet poor spellers and young spellers are rarely given these additional tools to understand how words work and too often poor spellers are relegated to simply doing more phonics work.

Teaching – not testing

The only people who benefit from spelling tests are those who do well on them – and the benefit is to their self-esteem rather than their spelling ability. They were already good spellers.

The people who don’t benefit from spelling tests are those who are poor at spelling. They struggled with spelling before the test, and they still struggle after the test. Testing is not teaching.

Parents and teachers should consider these questions as they reflect on the ways in which spelling is approached in their school.

Are all children learning to love words from their very first years at school? Are they being fascinated by stories about where words come from and what those stories tell us about the spelling of those words?

Are they being excited by breaking the code, figuring how words are making their meanings and thrilled to find that what they’ve learned about one word helps them solve another word?

Put simply – is spelling your child’s favourite subject?

If the answer is no, then something needs to be done about the teaching.

Misty Adoniou is a Senior Lecturer in Language, Literacy and Teaching English as a Second Language at the University of Canberra. She occasionally presents workshops in schools on the teaching of spelling.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.