Monday, Monday, So Good to Me…

cover of class anthology 2015


Today, I celebrated my last lesson for 2015 and it was with the class I have been teaching the longest – the Writing for Pleasure and Publication class, Monday mornings at Mordialloc Neighbourhood House. As I write this, I listen to a favourite song from one of my favourite groups from the 70s – Monday, Monday by the Mamas and Papas.

This poem by a student has captured our Mondays well:

Heather Yourn

Monday grinned happily
Another fun morning ahead
with happy Mordy writers
splurging to music before
gentle teasing and laughter.
Chatting over morning tea
Then homework proffered hesitantly
unaware of their talent.
Monday wished those 2 1⁄2 hours
Could last all day

A hint of sadness tinged the air this Monday, because Amelia, a longtime student couldn’t attend. Health problems for the 86 year old beginning to affect her mental and physical capabilities and there is doubt about her attendance next year.

Sadly, times are changing for some of the others in the class, although we all put on a brave face.

Monday Class Xmas 2015

Tori will be leaving us next March after coming to the class for 15 years, starting when she was 20 years old. Her mother, Lyn made a special effort to visit today and share their plans for the future, which includes a move interstate. I compile annual anthologies for all my classes and surprisingly this year, Tori produced more work than she usually does – serendipity or synchronicity??

2015 anthologiesjpg.jpg

At 35 years of age with multiple disabilities, Tori now needs a special machine at night to ensure her lungs and heart keep working while she is asleep. Lyn, who is an activist in the disability sector explained it is time  to put ‘succession plans’ into action.

She has been a sole carer for the last three and a half decades, and aware of the possibility of future health problems (she broke her ankle last year and it took 6 months to heal) she is working with her two sons and daughter who live interstate to renovate a house for herself and Tori.

Lyn gave us a large box of Lindt chocolates (yummy, yummy!) to share and a Christmas card, Tori had written. They both wanted to explain how important the writing class has been to their quality of life.

We are writers, but also a ‘family’ and have shared personal sorrows and joys, failures and triumphs. Most importantly we share a lot of fun and laughter. We were all touched to hear what a difference Mondays have made to Tori and I know Mondays won’t be the same without her.


Various people have come and gone from the Monday class, but the people there this morning have been together many years. Even Michael, a relative newcomer has been attending for three years.

He came not long after his car accident and ABI (acquired brain injury). I remember his first day when he only managed to write four lines and had no idea about email or computers. Now he is an accomplished writer, with poetry his favourite genre  published online!

Michael filling out assessment form 2015
Michael filling out an evaluation form – that cheeky grin promises something unpredictable!

Michael is accompanied by a carer and over the years they have changed, but we’ve been impressed with their writing ability. The carers participate in the ‘splurge’, the 15 minute stream of consciousness writing to prompts at the start of each lesson. At first some were reluctant, but I insist the one label we all share in the room is ‘writer,’ and if you join us, you write!

Many delightful words and talented pieces uncovered/discovered when people just write without self-editing or over-thinking.

I’m not sure if Heather (87) and Ceinwen (95) will be back next year, although both absolutely love writing. Heather lives in Mornington (over 30 kilometres from Mordialloc) and picks up Ceinwen from her retirement village at Patterson Lakes (12 kilometres from Mordialloc) to bring her to class. Even with the freeway the couple of hours roundtrip is a big ask as the pair of them struggle with arthritis and failing eyesight. Hip and cataract operations the norm nowadays for people of ‘a certain age.’

If they do decide to have Mondays off I’ll miss Ceinwen’s delightful reminiscing of Wales and England and detailed observations of Australia.

The Colour Green
Ceinwen Watson

How I love to walk across
The meadowland and fields of green
Sit beside the babbling brook
Green moss clinging to the rocks.

How I love to walk
Through country lanes
Spy green caterpillars on dock leaves
Amongst green hedges

How I love to walk along
The dirt road to the village church
Ivy sprouting tiny green shoots
Around the old oak tree’s shaded leaves.

I look for the four-leaf clover
To place in my Bible
A green reminder to keep me safe
During the coming year.

The tall fir trees in the forest
Perfumed pine reminding me
Robin Hood and his merry green men
Merged with Sherwood Forest

Today, beside the shiny green-leaved
Palm trees circling the lake
I feel settled and joyful
The retirement village and me
Reflected as one in the water.


When Ceinwen cut the delicious Christmas cake she’d brought, it was accompanied by a whisper that it may be her last Christmas with the class. A bittersweet celebration indeed.

Inspirational smile chirstmas 2015.jpg

However, worrying about the future took a back seat as we played The Storymatic six trillion stories in one little box – which one will you tell?

This writing game I picked up in a shop in St Kilda by pure chance. It can be ordered online, but for a considerable higher price than the $14.99, I paid.

I usually save it as a fun way to finish the term. The box of cards offer characters, themes, settings, plot twists and objects – you choose several cards and start writing. There are several wild cards too if you become stuck, but we’ve never had to use them.

The cards are  fantastic prompts that’ll have you writing stories out of the ordinary. The stories written today were amazing and amusing.Our selections listed below. Why not extend your imagination and see what happens?

  1. office worker, blind date, glasses, forgiveness, pet is behaving strangely, person locked out
  2. nurse,class reunion, overly large gift,reckless enthusiasm, this time its bound to work, person who’d been stood up
  3. logger, stranger in town, lucky underwear, confession, no place to hide, person who knows something other people don’t
  4. superstitious person, police investigation, stairs, birthday, not enough money, person who’ll do whatever it takes to pay the bills
  5. firebug, first night in new home, fear of getting old, something wrong with water, grandmother’s ashes, man with a tattoo
  6. bad driver, a time machine malfunctions, gun, at last, love, a rumour is going around town, a person who can’t remember an important word
  7. rescued child, woods, ice, stuck, sudden return of forgotten memory, person who can’t wait any longer

I guarantee the combinations found in the cards will help you move away from cliched stories!


After we’d shared our masterpieces there was a ‘show and tell’ of sorts. Last week Ceinwen had written a story involving a character receiving a telegram. ‘What’s that?’ asked 23 year old Michael.

kaye holding telegram 2015Kaye's telegram 1942

A picture’s worth a thousand words and here is Ceinwen with a telegram received on her wedding day during WW2. Afterwards, her husband Arthur became a POW on the Burma Railroad and was considered missing for 18 months, so it’s not surprising Ceinwen treasured this keepsake reminding her of a happy day.

Ceinwen also brought in an autograph book she received for her 12th birthday to collect signatures of famous entertainers and others from her time in theatre before and during the war. When in the airforce she was seconded to the entertainment unit because of her singing and acting ability.

kaye's autograph book 1932 when she was 12jpg

We had to explain to Michael, Tori and Sanna who George Formby was and why the signatures and little verses in Ceinwen’s book were a precious reminder of a bygone era. There is a resurgence of ukulele playing with a large group meeting at Mordialloc Neighbourhood House so some of Formby’s routines may be popular again.

George formby and girlfriend bery'ls signature
Michael filling out an evaluation form – that cheeky grin promises something unpredictable!


Our writing classes so much more than just writing – the stories we share of our real life adding to our understanding and appreciation of each other and history!

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The verses in Ceinwen’s book:


A Tragedy
She frowned on him and called him mister
Because in fun he merely kissed her
And then in spite, the following night
The naughty mister, kissed her sister!

Beauty and wealth remain but for a day
But virtue lives for ever in the mind
In her alone true happiness we find.

The inner side of every cloud
Is bright and shining
I therefore turn my clouds about
And always wear them inside out,
To show their lining.

I’ve heard from two past students that they will be returning next year, and I’m hopeful that it is not the final class for some of those present today. However, whatever happens in the future, I’m blessed to have wonderful memories of Mondays at Mordy this year and in the past. Blessed and humbled to know the beautiful greetings for Christmas and the warm hugs are genuine and heartfelt.

To Mairi – A Sonnet
Heather Yourn
As we contemplate the ending of a year,
spent each Monday with a group of friends,
under the guidance of a mentor dear,
who to our writing, her mastery lends.
We wonder at the plethora of work
of poetry, prose and stories short
most serious, but some do cause a smirk
and others incomplete by error thwart.
We’re filled with gratitude and deference
to one who weekly spends many an hour
in preparation for a splurge or homework theme
her indebted pupils to empower.
Your encouragement, while oft we fail,
We do humbly with this sonnet hail.

To be the subject of a poem – in a form recently taught – how wonderful – ’Tis the season to be merry indeed!


Prompts as Inspiration – Writing Classes help Creativity and are FUN!

“Writing will fill your heart if you let it… will fill your pages and help fill your life.”

Julia Cameron

caroline's orchids 2

I received The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron as a gift from a student after my husband John died. The student empathised with me, understood the effect John’s death was having on my writing ability, even the desire to write. Philip lived with schizophrenia and depression – he understood trauma and grief well, albeit  from a different perspective than mine.

He turned up early one morning with a much-loved, dog-eared copy of The Artist’s Way saying, ‘This helped me through a tough patch.’  He thrust the book into my hand and left like a gust of wind. My surprised thanks followed him down the driveway. ( Still in pyjamas trying to shake off the exhaustion of yet another sleepless night, I wasn’t in a fit state to receive visitors!)

The book and subsequent ones I’ve read by Julia Cameron, kept me engaged with writing and more importantly teaching writing. I needed to have an income, to make my plan to give my teenage daughters a choice of  educational opportunities, a reality. To regain enthusiasm for teaching writing meant I had to regain the passion for the written word and the energy to write!

Julia’s book did the trick and the rest, as they say, is history. I’ve been teaching for over fifteen years and have become more expert at creating prompts or ideas to help people write in class regardless of whether it is fiction, non-fiction, poetry or memoir.

Here is my piece of flash fiction, or slice of life and a poem from the prompt

The scraping sound got louder…

“Mum… Mum,’ Anne’s voice rose an octave on the second ‘mum’. I hurried into her room. ‘What’s wrong?”

She’d been complaining of a headache earlier and I wondered if some other pain had manifested. I wasn’t expecting her reaction.

‘Shh, shh. listen…’


‘Listen to that…’

‘To what?’

‘The scraping sound – there’s possums in the ceiling.’

I froze, strained to hear the noise, silently praying it wasn’t possums. I remembered the stories friends related about dealing with possums taking up residence in the roof and groaned.

‘Shh,’ Anne hissed, ‘do you hear it.’

Sure enough the scraping sound got louder. ‘Those three little possums nesting in the jasmine weren’t there this morning.’

It was my turn to shush and signal Anne to be quiet. Scratch… scrabble… silence. The scraping inconsistent and intermittent. I stared at the offending corner of the ceiling, tried to envisage the colour-bond roof and eaves. Where could a possum get in?

Scratch… scrabble… silence.

‘Mice,’ I said, ‘it’s a mouse – there’s not enough room in this extension for possums to get into the roof. This part of the house has a flat roof.’

‘It’s too noisy for a mouse, mum.’

‘No it’s not, they climb up the inside of the walls – probably where your room adjoins the old part of the house – they use the lathes like ladders.’

Scratch… scrabble… silence.

‘Your Nana always said mice in the ceiling wear hobnail boots.’

The ceiling fan whirred and hummed. Doves cooed outside.  Anne smiled, and resumed working on her laptop. I returned to the kitchen to finish baking for my writing classes, but the scraping noise triggered fear – not of mice in hobnail boots, but of a rat gnawing through electric wire – or perhaps plaster.

I’d ask Mark next door to check the roof – just in case. An electrician, heights or small spaces never phased him. Since John died, he’d often come to our rescue. I sighed and stirred the cake batter with more vigour than intended; mixture splashed onto the bench. Rats indeed!

A conversation from years before in the school canteen sprung to mind. Carolyn Plattfuss regaled me and other mothers on duty with details of a frightening experience. One day, although her baby was asleep in his cot, she had an overwhelming urge to check he was all right. She tiptoed into his room just as plaster started to crumble and fall from the ceiling in the corner where the cot hugged the wall. The lumps missed the now crying baby by centimetres.

Carolyn rushed to the rescue as two large rats fell, coupled together and squirming; they landed in the cot scattering plaster debris. Carolyn grabbed her son with  trembling arms and raced from the room. She slammed the door, but  had the presence of mind to jam a towel underneath the door before ringing pest exterminators, who caught and removed the rodents.

I shuddered. Standing silent and still, I craned my neck towards Anne’s bedroom; holding my breath I listened.

Scratch… scrabble…scratch…

Mice having fun on the lathes? Please let it be so. I picked up the phone and dialled Mark’s number. Maybe he’ll be free tomorrow to go up into the roof and check. Until then there will be little sleep in this house tonight!

Aurora snuffled at my legs, wagging her tail, hoping for a treat. Love you to bits, I thought, but sometimes it would be helpful if you could morph into a cat!

Scratch… scrabble… scratch

mouse-rodent ar128700024529531

Night Visitor

Mairi Neil

Oh, little mouse, I sit here sewing,

The children are in bed.

I was seeking relaxation,

Now I’m listening to you


You’re scrabbling in my roof, I hear your feet

Against the ceiling.

Are you on a family outing –

Is that a baby I hear squealing?

Now you’ve run into the kitchen

And put on your hobnail boots.

There’s scraping noises

From the chimney

You obviously don’t mind the soot.

Is that a clatter and a bump?

Perhaps I’ll get a cat –

I’m sure I hear a gnawing

Little mouse,  are you a RAT??

Students came up with a variety of possibilities for scraping sounds and everyone had several stories of different genres about mice, rats and possums – including me!

window open and a cool breeze, window blind scraping intruder at the window man on roof painting and preparing spouting possums on a tin roof exhaust pipe loose concreter/plasterer working tree branch on door

They utilised various settings – why not ‘have a go’ too? Have some fun exercising your creativity.