Literary cats provide their own special kind of assistance

By Vita Forest


Meet my cats.

There is Isaboe (black and white, freckle on her nose, likes to chew cardboard boxes and wears a mask.  She is named after the kick-ass heroine from Melina Marchetta’s Lumatere Chronicles).

And there is Zadie (one month younger than Isaboe, but larger and fluffier.  White, currently shedding fur.  Everywhere.  She has a long elegant tail like a feather boa and is rather chatty – chirps and hums as she follows me around.  She is named after the novelist Zadie Smith).

Here they are when they were a little younger and could share the top spot in the cat tower.

Yin and Yang cats

Yin and Yang cats

But let me take you back to last Saturday…

I awoke at 6.30ish and thought I may as well get up (the kids were still asleep and I wanted to fit in some report writing).  While I made a I made a cup of Earl Grey tea, my phone beeped and I saw that a friend from school was also up and about.  She was bemoaning the fact that due to the good weather, she could not start on the school reports as her kids’ cricket would not be cancelled.  Another friend texted from bed, What are you doing!?  Been out dancing and partying.  She was not going to start hers anytime soon. Just about to start, I let them know.

I carried my tea to the table and spread out my piles of Maths tests, report outcomes, notes and lists of children’s names.  Then the cats came to help.

Zadie lay across the Measurement tests.  Isaboe sat expectantly on the class list.  The non-furry children slept on.  I managed to pull out a pile of tests and began grading them.  My phone beeped again.  Another friend had arrived at school with her takeaway coffee to get to work on reports.  It was 7am.  What were we thinking? another texted, she was sleeping in too.

I put down my phone and returned to the tests.  Zadie’s ears pricked up at the sound of the paper clip being removed from the paper.  She started to bat it across the table, flicking it under the sheets of report outcomes, which she then had to scatter to find the paperclip.  I found it for her and threw it across the room.  She bounded after it.

Isaboe blinked at me then curled up neatly again with her tail wrapped along the length of her body.  I sorted tests, I wrote grades for each student for outcomes in Number and Algebra, for Measurement.  Zadie leaped up on the table again and dropped the paperclip near me.

Dogs play fetch with sticks, Zadie uses paper clips.  I threw it again and texted my friends about my “helpers.”

“Go back to bed!” advised one, “The cats are trying to tell you something!”

“Bring them into school!” said another, “They can help me!”

After a few rounds of batting the paperclip along the length of the table like a hockey puck and skidding across the floor to collect it when I threw it for her, Zadie decided enough was enough and sprawled across the Maths tests I had spread in front on me.



Then I heard a door open and Max burst onto the scene.  Lucy also appeared, rubbing her eyes.  They grabbed the cats and gave them a good morning cuddle.  Papers shuffled and fell on the floor.  Cats leaped from the table, children’s voices argued over what we should have for breakfast.

At least I had made a start…

Maths tests are super comfy

Maths tests are super comfy


Melbourne Micro-story

By Vita Forest

I was here

I was here

Above is my submission for Chart Collective’s “I WAS HERE True micro-stories set where you stand” initiative.  I made the meme yesterday, adding some appropriate theatrical bling by way of a photo of an old dance costume of Lucy’s.

There were a lot of restrictions on this piece of writing (which I like as you may know).  These included:

  • the stories had to be true
  • they had to be set specifically in Melbourne
  • and the real doozy – they could only be up to a total of 300 characters long (that’s right, not words, but characters. 300 words is hard enough).

This last rule meant I did many drafts, and then cut and cut and cut, until I distilled my memory into only three typed lines.  There could be no lazy words, no padding.  This post is already about three times longer than the text could be…

If chosen, they will be printed on posters and displayed near the site where they took place.  I really love this idea, reading stories directly related to the place where you are standing.  They were submitted anonymously, so you have the inside scoop if mine gets picked.

Maybe I should start an online Sydney equivalent – a blogging event about places in Sydney.  Let’s call it Sydney in Sixty (that is 60 words).  Have a go, then reply to this post and send me the link.

What have I learned from blogging? Reflections of a newbie blogger.

By Vita Forest

Having fun with Diptic - how do you make your illustrations?

Having fun with Diptic – how do you make your illustrations?

As a teacher, I spend quite a bit of time reflecting on how lessons went, how successful programs were, how effective certain strategies are with my students.  I thought I would apply the same logic to this blog.

I started this blog in July for a number of reasons:

  • to have a place to do some writing.
  • to make myself write regularly.
  • to explore and experiment.
  • to connect with other people.

This is what I have learned so far…

  • some discipline.  I committed to writing at least one post a week and have done that.  Instead of writing being something I did when everything else was finished, and if I had any energy left, I have prioritized my writing and built a kind of routine.
  • it doesn’t have to be perfect.  James Clear has written some very good articles about creativity and the fact that you need to do a body of work.  Sometimes it won’t be amazing, but producing something regularly is much more effective than waiting for inspiration to hit. I have become more fearless and open and hit that Publish button with relish.
  • sometimes it’s good to have constraints.  (Actually make that all the time).  Whether it’s word limits, time constraints, or a very particular designated topic in a blogging event, limitations of some kind seem to bring focus, and paradoxically, they free up the mind from the paralysis of the open-ended. (So far I have participated in two blogging events, producing An unfortunate meeting with a fairy and He loves me, he loves me not… )
  • unexpected topics have a way of cropping up.  I thought I had to have everything mapped out, but sometimes I start writing about one thing and it turns into something else.  And that is OK.
  • how to make visuals I get to create my own images (mainly photos doctored in Diptic).  This is another way to be creative that I hadn’t expected.
  • feedback and community are fantastic.  I have now completed two novels.  I send them out (occasionally) and wait indefinitely to get any response from agents or publishers.  Sometimes it has been positive, but more often its impersonal, months later and in the form of standard rejection letters.  Blogging is a way to instantly connect with people from all around the world, and I really appreciate people taking the time to read, Like and respond to my work.  It’s so helpful (and I have to say I get a buzz out of it!)  Maybe one day, someone will publish my novels, but until then, I’m loving the blogging.

Now I’m going to try and transfer some of my newfound discipline to the rather tedious and often soul-destroying task of sending out my second novel to agents and publishers.  Because nothing will happen if I don’t DO something.

So that is what this newbie blogger has learned so far.  How about you?  What have you learned from blogging?