Tag Archives: creative writing

New start – second week at Melbourne High School

Photo courtesy of Jose Cuervo Elorza on Flickr

As far as new starts go, this one feels good. Not one to go with the flow of things usually, change for me is often like a dentist’s visit I want to avoid. I admit the first few days weighed a little heavily with new procedures, finding my way around, new names and the loss of friends and familiarity of my old school, but one day into the second week and I’m really enjoying the experience.

Today we had 2 interesting visits in the library. At lunchtime Adele Walsh, Program Coordinator for the Centre for Youth Literature, came to talk to our Reading Group about The Inkys’ shortlist. (Sorry, I have forgotten the name of the lovely person who accompanied Adele and also shared her experiences of the listed books). Some people talk about books in a way that makes you want to drop everything and read all of them simultaneously, and this was one of those times. When you can talk about books without sounding like an academic, and without relating plot or analysing characters (without mentioning teenage angst!!), then you have the students listening with interest.

After school my head of library had arranged for Simon Shaw from Apple to come and talk to teachers about iPads as tools for learning and teaching. I’ve been to sessions about iPads before, and Simon’s session was probably the best one I’ve been to. There was no hard sell, just a focus on how teachers could do what they already do only better on the iPad, and a range of impressive apps, plus a hands-on session using iMovie. It was good to see a decent turnout too.

Wednesday I will be running an after-school session on Google apps. I have a serious problem when faced with ‘presentations’ and hope to improve with more practice. The research and preparation I do is excessive. Basically, I find it difficult to select a realistic portion of what’s possible. I’m sure the ridiculous amount of research is a procrastination technique. Finally, yesterday, I decided on what I might talk about and what I would exclude. At the moment this is all sitting on a page in my wiki – and looks awful. When I have time I should put this into a slideshow. If you’re brave, here it is. It’s not exhaustive but I wanted to showcase a range of tools. It’s difficult to prepare things like this when you have no idea of what your audience knows or expects, but hey, whatever.

Tomorrow lunchtime I will be meeting with the group of boys I’ll be working with as part of the Creative Writing group. I have inherited this group from my predecessor, and I’ve heard people refer to this group as the Competition Writing group which is an obvious clue in terms of what they do. I had a quick chat to the school captain who is a leader of this group today – lovely boy. I assured him that I didn’t want to change anything they were already happy with, but what did he think about also creating a blog so they could have an audience for their writing. Happily, he thought this would be a good idea. I’m really looking forward to working with these boys; I’m sure there is much passion and talent amongst them. In terms of the blog, I thought it might also be a space for any of us to share anything and everything about writing. Just now I received a Facebook update from the Facebook group, ‘The Wheeler Centre for books, writing and ideas’. I want to include this in a post to encourage the boys to join the group, and to show them what Facebook can provide besides chat.

The Wheeler Centre Facebook group also put me onto Australian Poetry, a Wheeler Centre resident organisation which is celebrating National Poetry Week with a different theme every day this week. There really are so many wonderful programs happening locally, and it will good to share these.

Well, that’s it from me. Just checking in after week 1 in the new job. My blogging has been slow lately, and this has a lot to do with the unsettling leadup to leaving one school and venturing into another. At this point I feel that I will have the opportunity to get involved in some interesting projects, and look forward to telling you about it all.

Have good days!

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Michael Gerard Bauer joins our writing project

mgbphoto1a

This is cross-posted on my English class blog and fiction blog.

A little while ago I wrote on my English class blog about my hopeful expectation that Michael Gerard Bauer would accept my invitation to join our creative writing project after we listened to Lemony Snicket’s The composer is dead.

It’s a brilliant, witty and hysterical story narrated by Lemony Snicket himself. The entire production is fun – the story with its personified musical instruments presented as murder suspects (boisterous trumpets proclaiming loudly and with a certain arrogant rudeness), its alliteration (’we conquered the concert’; ‘battered the band’), and its playful use of language (the percussion instruments ‘percussed’, and ‘employed xylophoniness and cymbalism’).

Similar to Peter and the wolf, the story skilfully weaves plot around descriptive information about the orchestra. The boys seemed transfixed by the story, although the musical interludes may have been a bit much for some.

As a creative writing exercise, the boys will be writing their own story –

The … is dead

based on a group of inanimate objects who are suspects in a murder mystery.

Well, to our absolute delight, Michael generously agreed, and very quickly wrote a brilliant and witty piece which I’m going to share with you now.

Police Investigation Report by Chief Inspector Iva Noclue written by Michael Gerard Bauer.

It started out as just another routine investigation, but all that changed when I opened the fridge door.

The body was there lying before me. It was wrapped in plastic, naked, plucked and headless. It was obviously the work of a madman. I examined it more closely: female chicken, size 20, possibly from Ingham, and judging by the aroma – marinated.

You have to deal with some sick people in this job.

I immediately set out on the trail of the killer. I threw open the chiller door.

‘Freeze!’ I shouted. Luckily everyone already had.

I approached my first suspect. He claimed he was a famous rap singer called Ice Tray. I didn’t like his attitude at all. He was cold and hard and refused to answer my questions. He seemed very set in his ways.

I decider to move on. I found my next suspect lurking at the back of the freezer.

‘You, what’s your name?’
‘Ice-cream.’
‘Really? Why? Did you see something?’
‘What are you talking about you idiot?’
‘I want to know what made you scream. Did you witness the murder? It was Ice Tray wasn’t it?’
‘No you fool. That’s my name, Ice-cream. Strawberry Ice-cream. But what’s this you say about a murder?’
‘That’s right sister. There’s one dead chicken downstairs. You see or hear anything suspicious? Notice any strangers hanging about?’
‘Yes as a matter of a fact I did. Yesterday a whole family of eggs moved in down there.’
‘Right. Was that was before or after the chicken bit the dust.’
‘How would I know if I’m not the murderer?’
‘Good point. I’ll work it out myself. Hmmmmm let’s see, what came first, the Chicken or the Eggs? This could be a tough case.’

I left the Freezer but not before I arranged for Ice Tray to come to the Station the next day for a more thorough interrogation.

My investigation continued. I questioned all the Eggs but they refused to crack. (Just between you and me I think some of their brains were scrambled – or possibly fried.) Then I grilled the Cheese but got nowhere. Next came the Honey. She was a real sweetie but she couldn’t tell me anything either. I was getting nowhere so I decided to offer the Bread a hundred dollars to help me find the murderer. He refused. Said he already had plenty of dough.

My chief suspect was still Ice Tray but there was another guy who made me suspicious – wouldn’t tell me his real name. First he said he was called Vegemite, then he reckoned his name was iSnack2.0 then it was Cheesybite. I decided I’d run those aliases through the computer when I got back to the Station.

Only when I was about to call it a day did I noticed the trail of what looked suspiciously like blood spots. They led me right to a tall red haired chap who went by the name of B. B. Q. Sauce. Of course he claimed he was innocent like the rest of them. Said it was just a nose bleed or something. But then B.B. told me something that got me interested. He said he’d seen Chicken getting friendly with some unsavoury characters recently, said he often saw Chicken mixing with Avocado or Chicken with Mayonnaise or Chicken with Salad and once he’d even seen Chicken with Sweet and Sour sauce!

The case was getting more and more complex and rumour had it that Gladwrap was involved in some sort of big cover up. Then, just when it looked like I’d never get to the bottom of the Chicken case, there was a major break through.

I was interrogating Ice Tray the next day under the hot lights at the Station when to my amazement, he went totally to water. I figured that was as good as a confession so I locked him away in the freezer and threw away the key.

I never did work out how Ice Tray actually committed the murder. I mean it must have been quite difficult with him not having any arms or legs or eyes or ears or brain or any visible means of support or movement, but you could just tell by looking at him that he was obviously a cold-blooded killer and a hardened criminal.

Ice Tray – his heart might have been made of ice, but I saw right through him from the start.

Our boys have been collectively brainstorming possible characteristics for their group of inanimate suspects, but as you can imagine, first time round, it’s challenging.

Thankyou so much to Michael for taking the time and donating his creativity so that our students can learn from an expert, so that they feel special, and appreciative of the privilege they’ve received.

As I’ve said many times before,

technology makes possible the connections between people which would otherwise not have occurred.

This is a great example.

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Science and fiction – The Human Genre Project

The Human Genre Project

is a collection of new writing in very short forms — short stories, flash fictions, reflections, poems — inspired by genes and genomics.

Starting with just a few pieces at its launch in July 2009, the collection will grow and develop over time.

The Human Genre Project is an initiative of the ESRC Genomics Policy and Research Forum, part of the ESRC Genomics Network, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and based at The University of Edinburgh.

Wow. Creative writing inspired by science. I love the overlap in disciplines; it would be good to enable more of this at school, where subjects seem to live in separate worlds, as if life were cut up into mutually exclusive areas.

genome

The main page shows 24 different chromosomes: 22 autosomes, which are numbered, and two sex chromosomes, labelled as X and Y.

Here’s the unusual part – when you click on a chromosome, you get the title which takes you to the creative writing piece. This example links from chromosome #8:

The WRN gene on chromosome 8 is responsible for Werner syndrome, which causes premature ageing.

My hair goes grey and falls out, my teeth yellow and decay, brown spots bloom on my skin. I’m thirty-six years old. My world is a room, and a view of the sea beyond it.

I’ve been told that there’s something wrong with me. But I know my physics. I know that in this universe there has to be decay and disorder. I’m normal. I’m entropy.

I try to sip tea but my clawed fingers let the cup fall to the floor. Liquid spills out from its shattered remains and soaks into the carpet.

What I don’t understand is why the rest of them never change. My twin brother could be my son. His teeth are white and even, his hair is as glossy as ever. His skin always has a rosy blush. He comes here regularly to tell me about life outside my room. Life with other people, other women. There seem to be many women. Or perhaps it’s just tales.

But as I sit listening to him and his stories, I realise how they do it. While I stay here, they’re all travelling around. Einstein had a theory about twins; one sits in his small room, watching the sea, and the other zooms to the stars. As he accelerates to the speed of light, time slows down for him, so when he gets back he’s younger than his stay-at-home brother.

I ask my brother, “Where did you park your rocket ship?” I look outside, “I can’t see it.”

The rocket ship looked like a bicycle, but apparently it worked very well, and my brother frequently made trips to the centre of our galaxy.

“I got rid of it,” he replies, “I replaced it with a quantum teleporter. They’re all the rage now.”

All I can see out of the window is a little red car. “That’s it,” he says. “The women like it.” And sure enough a woman gets out of the car and waves at us.

This was written by Pippa Goldschmidt inspired by chromosome 8.

The WRN gene on chromosome 8 is responsible for Werner syndrome, which causes premature ageing.

My hair goes grey and falls out, my teeth yellow and decay, brown spots bloom on my skin. I’m thirty-six years old. My world is a room, and a view of the sea beyond it.

I’ve been told that there’s something wrong with me. But I know my physics. I know that in this universe there has to be decay and disorder. I’m normal. I’m entropy.

I try to sip tea but my clawed fingers let the cup fall to the floor. Liquid spills out from its shattered remains and soaks into the carpet.

What I don’t understand is why the rest of them never change. My twin brother could be my son. His teeth are white and even, his hair is as glossy as ever. His skin always has a rosy blush. He comes here regularly to tell me about life outside my room. Life with other people, other women. There seem to be many women. Or perhaps it’s just tales.

But as I sit listening to him and his stories, I realise how they do it. While I stay here, they’re all travelling around. Einstein had a theory about twins; one sits in his small room, watching the sea, and the other zooms to the stars. As he accelerates to the speed of light, time slows down for him, so when he gets back he’s younger than his stay-at-home brother.

I ask my brother, “Where did you park your rocket ship?” I look outside, “I can’t see it.”

The rocket ship looked like a bicycle, but apparently it worked very well, and my brother frequently made trips to the centre of our galaxy.

“I got rid of it,” he replies, “I replaced it with a quantum teleporter. They’re all the rage now.”

All I can see out of the window is a little red car. “That’s it,” he says. “The women like it.” And sure enough a woman gets out of the car and waves at us.

Pippa Goldschmidt is Writer in Residence at the Genomics Forum. I’ve mentioned Pippa in an earlier post; her writing is often inspired by science.

Chromosome 11 leads to a piece called Photophobia,

an eye disorder in which the iris is partially or completely missing. A person with aniridia frequently has photophobia (sensitivity to light). The mutation is in the PAX6 gene on chromosome 11.

The telomeric tale of the mouse’s tail (chromosome X) is a shape poem.

chromosome

You can find the original painting/collage here and it looks like this:

mousetale

Still in progress, this is a fascinating project, demonstrating the possibilities in the union between science and art.

If you like this, have a look at what inspired it: Michael Swanwick’s Periodic Table of Science Fiction.

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