Exercise #3

First Memory                                                                             

Go back in your mind to the scene that you think of as the earliest one that has stayed with you. Jot down everything you remember about the event. Where were you? Was anyone else there? Who? What were the sounds, colours, textures or movements around you? Was there conversation? If so, who said what? Can you smell anything? And so on…

Explore the memory in as much detail as you can, and write it as though you’re sharing it with someone special.

My Mother’s Precious Little Book

One small book beckoned to me from my mother’s bookcase, and she occasionally let me read it under strict supervision. There was no lazing in the sun on the verandah with this book of children’s rhyming poetry, a treasure from her childhood or her teaching days perhaps.

When I asked her if I could take it to school to show my friends, the answer was an unequivocal ‘No’. I left it a while and asked again. Another negative answer and I was too afraid to ask a third time, but the desire grew stronger. In a moment of madness, I slipped it in my school bag and rushed to the bus stop praying she wouldn’t notice it missing.

While the teacher was writing on the blackboard, I put the book on the desk between me and the friend who sat next to me, and started to turn the pages to show her the beautiful verses within. A word or one of the little sketches grabbed her attention, and she reached out to stop me from going on. In a split second the page was ripped from the edge to the staple in the centre.

Heat rose in my cheeks and there was the sting of tears, but my friend appeared to be pleased with herself. After school I realised why – for weeks she’d wanted me to walk home with her instead of going on the bus, and this episode with Mum’s book gave her the means to make that happen. The threat was there as soon as we were released from the classroom. ‘If you don’t’, she said, ‘I’ll tell on you about the book.’

My fate was sealed. We went straight home so I wouldn’t be late, but we were so busy running and laughing we didn’t give time another thought. We waved to each other and I skipped down the path to the front door. I quickly returned the poetry book to its home, making sure to tuck it under other books so it wouldn’t draw attention. Then I waltzed into the kitchen and opened the ice-chest looking for cool water.

‘You’re early’, Mum said, and I stiffened as though the cold air escaping from the huge blocks of ice had frozen me.

‘Bus was early’, I lied. I jerked back into action and scurried from the room without a drink.

When my father arrived home, there was whispering in the kitchen. Then he appeared in my bedroom doorway, a dark frown furrowed into his face.

‘I’ve done my homework’, I said cheerily, hoping to mollify him.

He moved slightly. ‘But you lied to your mother about the bus’, he said.

It was then that I saw the belt in his hand and knew there would be buckle bruises on my legs the next day.

My favourite book wasn’t mentioned and I kept away from it from that day onward. I often wondered if Mum worked out what I’d done and saved me from another whack with the belt by staying silent, or if she was blissfully ignorant of the book’s horror trip to school that day.

The last time I visited her at home before she died, she handed me the book. ‘You may as well have this’, she said.

The cover and some of the pages were missing, and it was tattered and discoloured. Overcome, I looked up at her.

‘Kids’, she said. ‘I should have given it to you when you wanted to take it to school that time.’ There was a knowing tone in her voice.

I managed to get out, ‘You knew?’

‘Of course I knew…’ She patted my arm and left me to my thoughts.

I wanted to go after her, to ask which kids she meant, but something held me back.

The remains of the book are beside me as I write. It’s more than fifty years since the day that first page was torn and the book still holds the same charm for me as it did then.


What book was special in your childhood?

Share your thoughts in the Comments section…


Next Blog ~ Library Visits and Other Curiosities

Exercise #2

Favourite Place                                                                           

Take the reader on a journey to your favourite place. This may be a physical place, but it does not have to be – think as laterally as you wish.

Repeat this exercise over and over, and be surprised by the range of possibilities.

Practising this exercise will enhance your ability to write a sense of place and hold the reader’s attention through the experience.

Elusive Books In Childhood

Books were scarce in my childhood. I don’t remember having stories read to me as a toddler, or owning any books myself in the earlier years. At first, I thought this was because reading wasn’t valued, but that wasn’t entirely the case. The fact is that money was also scant, so there wasn’t much opportunity to bring books into our home.

My mother was an ex-teacher who craved books. When I was in primary school, she joined a mail-order book club and purchased one book each month for about three years. She had one small bookcase, and now, as an adult, I realise she cancelled her subscription when the shelves were full.

Her books regularly enticed me to sit on the cold linoleum in the alcove between the hallway and the bathroom, reading the spines and wishing I was old enough to understand the stories on their pages. I revered the royal colours with embossed gold writing, and their solid presence. My grandmother’s books drew me to them in the same way when we visited her.

My childhood reading was largely restricted to occasional library books when I was able to get someone to take me to select them, and the comics in the Sunday newspapers. My desire to read was so great that, when I had access to these books and comics, I’d lie in the sun on the back verandah for hours and read them over and over.

One morning when I was about eight, I took my parents a cup of tea before they were up and about. I sat on the edge of their bed, inhaling the warmth of a togetherness that was rare in our household. The stillness shifted when Mum said, ‘Kate, hop up and get that shoebox from the top of the cupboard for me.’ I dragged a chair in from the sleep-out and then collected an old newspaper from the laundry where it lay waiting to light the kitchen stove or the fire under the copper. I covered the seat of the wooden chair with the paper and stepped up onto it to reach for the box. A headline caught my eye and I was lost to everything else.

I don’t remember what I was reading about, but after a while Mum said, ‘Come on Kate. I want to look in the box before I get up.’

I wrenched myself away from the article and realised I had my arms folded against the wardrobe with the top of my head pushing into them, and I’d been reading the news spread between my feet on the chair. I grabbed the box and handed it to Mum.

Hope flooded my chest when she said to Dad, ‘We ought to get her some books to read.’

‘Books?’ he said. ‘Reading stories won’t get her anywhere. She’s got her school books. They’ll teach her sums and spelling… that’s all she needs.’

The subject was closed… the magic broken… my hopes dashed.

Years later, another bookcase appeared in the lounge room. It housed a set of World Book Encyclopedia for the younger children. Dad acquired these books through his new part-time role as salesman for the company, but they were too late to satisfy my childhood thirst for reading material and knowledge.

When my grandmother died, her bookcase became the third one in my parents’ home. It soon overflowed as Mum’s ‘library’ grew with birthday and Christmas gifts from all of us, to make up for the years she’d managed with just a few books.


Were books scarce or abundant in your childhood?

Share your thoughts in the Comments section…


Next Blog ~ My Mother’s Precious Little Book

The Writer’s Journey

This website is the culmination of years of writing, teaching and other writing activities. Here you will find evidence of my journey so far and witness my writing future unfold.

I invite you to visit often to share my passion for the written word. Enjoy the gems I spread here for you – writing tips, techniques and challenges, and my blog The Writer’s Journey… where I’ll explore various aspects of writing to hopefully enrich your writing experience as well as mine.

Come, take this writer’s journey with me!

For Writers

Writing Tips

This page is where I plan to share the Writing Tips I’ve accumulated through my own writing and the development of the Writers’ Courses I’ve facilitated. The list will grow regularly, as will my blog and other features For Writers on this website.


Writing Exercises

On this page I’ll challenge you with Writing Exercises from the Writers’ Courses I’ve developed and facilitated over the years. New tasks will be added regularly, so you can build on your writing experience and increase your skills and resources at the same time.

Check in often and enjoy the ride!

Exercise #1

Free Writing Beyond Your Desk

Sit down ready to write. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to clear your mind.

Open your eyes and notice what is beyond your desk. Is it a blank wall… a noticeboard… a photograph… children watching television in the next room? Perhaps it’s a window that looks onto a retaining wall in the garden… a tree… or distant hills flooded with afternoon sun casting shadows to the east.

Take in the scene before you, then let your gaze settle. Now you have your starting point, pick up your pen or reach for the keyboard and begin to write as you explore what is before you.

Write for at least five minutes… or more if you can.

Each time you practise this exercise it will be easier to continue for longer.