Family Lines

stories for you

Month: March 2018

Apple of my eye

Child writing with a pencil and paper.For the past several months, I’ve been giving writing workshops to children. Every Sunday afternoon, students in Grades 4, 5 and 6 learn about formatting essays, figurative language and other aspects of writing. Last week, I taught them about clichés. However, some of the sayings I thought were commonplace, aren’t so much anymore.

Clichés are those sayings that are repeated so often that they’re meaningless. We’ve heard expressions like abandon ship, fit as a fiddle, walk a mile in another’s shoes, etc. a lot and the words don’t affect us anymore. I tell my students that their favourite authors don’t use clichés, they think of new ways to describe things.

In Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, J. K. Rowling paints a picture with words without using clichés. Here is an example:

Nearly Headless Nick (a ghost), Harry noticed, was still holding Sir Patrick’s rejection letter.

“I wish there was something I could do for you about the Headless Hunt,” Harry said.

Nearly Headless Nick stopped in his tracks and Harry walked right through him. He wished he hadn’t; it was like stepping through an icy shower.

The obvious cliché would be to write that Harry felt like “a ghost passed through him.” Clichés distance readers from the story – writers need to connect readers with actions and events that they can imagine too. Rowling knew most readers wouldn’t have had experiences with ghosts passing through them. However, we all know what an icy shower feels like.

I asked my students what Apple of my eye meant. They shouted Apple sitting on books.out that it was about owning iGlasses / smart glasses. I said no, that wasn’t it and waited for the correct response. Other comments ranged from liking Mac computers over PCs as well as iPads. No, that’s not it either.

When I was young (30 years ago), no one called anyone the apple of their eye. Nevertheless, I still knew what it meant – being someone’s darling. I was surprised that the expression is disappearing from our vernacular. I didn’t think I was old as the hills yet but I guess only time will tell what other clichés go the way of the dodo bird.

Past present

White flower border with the saying: Writing your memoirs gives your past, a future.

Blast from the Past

Me presenting at Blast from the Past. Some of my early writing, I’m talking childhood, is embarrassing and not at all noteworthy. I don’t know why I’ve been holding on to it but last week, I got the chance to share my Grade 3 prose. The Writers’ Guild of Alberta put on Blast from the Past and I was one of nine readers chosen to read our early scrawling’s.

 In my Grade 3 diary, my first entry is: I like hotdogs. And…that’s all she wrote.

I wrote that with a pen in the shape of a tube of lipstick. It was the start of keeping a journal, which I still do today. I also thought it was the start of a prolific writing career because after those three words, or four if you count hot dogs as two words, I started to record a novel. Yes, record. Writing about hotdogs took way too much effort so I decided the path to becoming a bestselling author was to speak into a tape recorder (it was the 80s).

I called my novel The Vampire Tree. I don’t remember the plot or even what a Vampire Tree is but I was ahead of my time. The Vampire Tree was twenty years before Twilight and The Vampire Diaries. My book had a character named Bunny and because it was fiction, she hated hotdogs. Why I remember this part so well is that my two younger sisters discovered chapter one on tape and laughed at Bunny and me. That was enough to kill The Vampire Tree and it remains buried, never to rise again.

After abandoning prose, I decided to take a stab, literally and figuratively, at poetry. Here is another Grade 3 masterpiece, complete with misspelled words.

A piece of paper with a poem about brushing your teeth that I wrote in Grade 3.

A Grade 3 poem, complete with misspelled words.

Hi, my name’s Kieth.
I live inside of teeth.
I like to eat
Lots of sickly sweets
I like to hear
That groning spear
That rushes by the throat
By the owner Miss Toat
When that thoothbrush comes
I am a dead Jones
That does not make me happy
No no no!

I have many more poems and stories from my earlier years but I’ll keep them for my own entertainment. What kind of childhood memories make you laugh?

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