Writing Exercise #5

Object Exercise (2)                                                                           

Begin by making a decision that, over the next few days, an object that will be the inspiration for this exercise will present itself to you. When it does, write a piece stimulated by that object.

The writing may be about the object itself, something or someone connected with the object, where it came from, your acquisition of it… or anything else about it that stirs in you.

Do not rush into this exercise. When I’ve set it for homework in weekly writing classes, some students have reported the inclination to rush around looking for an object to write about. However, the challenge here is to allow the object to call out to you, so to speak, to encourage you to go beyond the obvious.

Don’t worry that nothing will present itself. It will, and you will intuitively know when the moment has come to start writing.

Spelling Bees

When I was in third class, we had a spelling bee each week, which I enjoyed immensely.

Ninety-six of us children (no exaggeration, I swear!) stood around the edge of the classroom nervously waiting to begin. Because the room was so long – two rooms, with the concertina-type wooden partition folded back – we couldn’t hear from one end to the other. Sister Xavier stood in the middle and Missy moved around the circle to be sure we each heard our words properly.

Sister gave us one word each in turn and, if we spelt it correctly, we remained standing and waited for our next challenge. If we were incorrect, we sat in our usual seat, and so it went on until the winner was the only one standing.

I loved spelling and did well in these exercises. I was often one of the last few spellers, then one day I was one of the last two. Sister Xavier said the word ‘business’ and I spelt it ‘biseness’. I was disappointed, but proud to be so close to the top of such a big class. The next week, I was again one of two still standing when the other girl spelt her word incorrectly. I went to sit down, thinking I’d won.

‘Stay there’, Sister said, and she gave me another word. I spelt it correctly and again began to move towards my seat.

‘We’ll keep going’, Sister said, ‘until you make a mistake’. She continued to pummel me with words, and the more difficult they got the more determined I was to not make a mistake.

The class was on high alert. The words kept coming and I kept spelling them.

‘I give up’, she said, and turned to walk to the front of the room. Then she turned back, ‘I’ve got one more for you’, she said. ‘If you get this one right, you can have an early mark.’

An early mark didn’t help me much because I had to wait for the bus, but I was baited. Then came the word, ‘incomprehensibility’. I had never heard it, let alone know what it meant or how to spell it.

I swallowed hard, and told myself to go slowly and spell one syllable at a time. That hadn’t worked with ‘business’, but it might with this word – it was the only strategy I had, and this was about more than getting out of school early.

‘in-com-pre-hen-sib-il-ity’, I said in measured tones. Sister Xavier saluted, and there was a collective cheer. I left the classroom to wait alone at the bus stop to the sound of clapping and foot-stomping led by the two teachers. I knew the principal wouldn’t be happy with my teachers for allowing the commotion, and would be livid if she knew they were involved.

As shy as I was, this was one of the highlights of my school days…


What words hold significance for you? Why?

Share your thoughts in the Comments section…


Next Blog ~ School Frustrations And Triumphs

Exercise #4

Object Exercise (1)                                                                          

Sit ready to write, either at your computer or with a notebook and pen. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to clear your mind.

When you feel ready, open your eyes and take in your surroundings.

Allow your gaze to rest on one object, then start writing a piece about that object and see where it takes you.



Library Visits And Other Curiosities

My childhood was a world without computers, television, videos and DVDs. With few books in our home, I had a thirst for stories. I longed to visit the town library, and dreamed of the books that were waiting there for me… but getting those books wasn’t so easy.

The library was one room, which seemed huge to me. It was upstairs in the School Of Arts building in the main street. On Fridays, when my mother took me to help her with the weekly shopping, I’d step through the front door into the stairwell in the hope of breathing in the scent of the conglomeration of old books. I looked up the stairs lustfully, knowing the aroma would be stronger and the books more real if only I could rush up and into the room.

Mum’s voice brought me back to reality. ‘Come on, Kate. We can’t get the pram up there.’ There was never a suggestion of leaving the pram downstairs, because ‘someone might steal it’. And Mum couldn’t wait with the pram while I went alone, because in the library ‘children must be accompanied by an adult at all times’.

My only other option for getting up those stairs and into the room of words, was to convince my father to take me on Saturday mornings. This posed another difficulty, because he followed the horse races and was afraid of missing useful information if he took his ear from the radio while scratchings were being announced. Besides, he saw library books as a distraction from the more important school books. On the rare occasions I managed to coerce him to take me, he paced just inside the room signaling to me to hurry. Mostly, I didn’t get to choose books – I just grabbed the first four I saw, regardless of their appropriateness or my interest, for fear of running out of time and missing out altogether.

I read these books regardless of what they were – over and over again in the first couple of days – and then waited patiently for the next possible library visit. I was disappointed when the books were returned while I was at school, because I knew there was no intention to take me to select more at any time soon.

I wasn’t allowed to read the magazines my mother scrimped and saved to buy, and remember only glimpsing Grandma’s magazines on the one occasion she took me into her usually out-of-bounds sunroom. We sat on two stacks of the magazines, while she flicked through the top few from the third stack, looking for a recipe to cook for dinner. I felt special, like I’d been led into a secret passage, and will cherish that memory until the day I die.

The other source of intrigue for us children was the old traveller’s trunk, which housed Mum’s treasures. Among these were her assignment books from high school and teachers’ college. This trunk was rarely opened and only ever by Mum. Then we watched in awe and sat on our hands to avoid succumbing to the temptation to touch the sacred pages. As a young student, I was fascinated by the idea of my mother as a child in school uniform and then later as a teacher. She was so different from the nuns who taught me, even though one of them was her second cousin.

Do you remember your first visit to a library?

Share your thoughts in the Comments

Next Blog ~ Spelling Bees