Posts Tagged ‘Writing about animals’

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016


Journalist Joan Morris will discuss “Keeping the Hats on Straight” at the next meeting of the Mt. Diablo Branch, California Writers Club (CWC) on Saturday, November 12, 2016 at Zico Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill.

Ms. Morris will explain how to balance deadlines, manage versatility, and the ever-shifting world of digital-first journalism, among other  challenges.

She is the pets and wildlife columnist for the East Bay News Group, as well as the garden page editor. Ms. Morris founded Our Garden, a demonstration garden operated by the Contra Costa Master Gardeners. The garden offers free classes on Wednesdays from April through October, and donates about 14,000 pounds of fresh produce each year to the Monument Crisis Center.

Born in Texas and raised in New Mexico, Ms. Morris holds a BA degree in Journalism, with a minor in Russian Studies from the University of New Mexico. She joined the Contra Costa Times staff in 1988, and has held a number of reporting and editing positions with the newspaper group.

Sign-in starts at 11:15 a.m. Luncheon 12-12:45 pm, and speaker from 1-2 pm at Zio Fraedo’s Restaurant, 611 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill, CA.

$25 CWC members, $30 guests.

Reservation deadline: noon on Wednesday, November 9.  To reserve, contact Robin at [email protected], leave a message at 925-933-9670, or sign up via PayPal: click “buy now”on the Mt. Diablo website. Expect confirmation only if you e-mail your reservation.

The California Writers Club Mt. Diablo Branch web address is:




Amazing Animals!

Sunday, January 30th, 2011
Watch these amazing animal videos.  Then choose one of these animals.   What’s his/her secret career?  Describe this animal with specific details.  
What are his feelings and his thoughts? 
Use dialogue with other animals to show his character.  
Use your senses to draw us into his story. 
What does he/she want more than anything in the world? 
What stops him from getting it? 
What is his weakness? 
How can he overcome his weakness to get what he wants? 
An Awesome Deer Doggie Video!
 amazing parrot

Children’s Author Passes On . . .

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

So long, great author!

1. Read a book by Dick King-Smith.   Write an original story featuring animals with distinct personalities.

2.  Watch the movie Babe, after reading the book that inspired the movie.  What are the differences between the two?

Does your pet think it’s human?

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Why but of course.  Doesn’t every pet? 

Have you ever said, “Sometimes I think Fluffy (or Scruffy or Sir Elrod) thinks he’s human because . . . ”

The Contra Costa Times would love to hear your story.  Tell them why in 150 words or less.  Make sure to include your full name, your pet’s name, city of residence and a daytime phone number.  E-mail submissions to [email protected] (put “pet submission” in the subject line) or mail them to Ann Tatko-Peterson, Bay Area News Group, P.O. Box 5088, Walnut Creek, CA  94596-1088.  Deadline:  Dec. 10.  Story will run in early January.

Video of dog and deer playing together

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Watch the video below.  Next, write about the adventure in the present tense from the voice of the deer or the dog or the person taking the video. 

Or write an essay comparing the element of play between these two very different creatures and another aspect of life.   Enjoy the video.  I did!

Mistaken Identity

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

The other day I took Zoie for a walk and noticed “my” red-tailed hawk flying low over our house.  Looking for lunch? 

We came inside and heard a CA-THUNK. 

“What was that?” asked my husband. 

We both looked out of the living room windows which over-look the oak trees, the open space, and our deck.  Nothing that we could see had been disturbed. 

“Probably the neighbors,” I said.  So many people around us are either retired or work at home, there is lots of noise and activity around us these days. 

It was time for Zoie to go on the downstairs deck for her good sniffs.  I joined her and glanced down at the small sliver of land we have before it drops off into a sharp hill below.   That’s where Bob perched his beloved plastic $3.99 pink flamingoes. (Sigh) Why?  Partly because he likes them, and mostly to jokingly annoy me.  It sort of matches the fuzzy dice he has hanging from the mirror in his truck.  (Sigh #2)  He USED to have them in his El Camino.  (Sigh #3)  But that’s another story . . .

It was then I noticed that one of the pink flamingoes was lying at the bottom of our hill, leaning against our fence.  Its legs were still standing firmly in the ground at the top of the hill.  Without the fence to stop it, the body of the plastic bird would be in the creek by now.  (Darn that fence . . .)

On its wings were deep gashes . . .    Holes punctured the head. 

I gazed upward and saw the hawk.  “Sorry,” I sent telepathically to him.  “Wish you would have succeeded in carrying it off.  Hope you have better luck with your lunch on your next try.”

Writing Prompts:

1. The dive-bombing hawk at the plastic pink flamingo must have been very disappointed to discover his case of mistaken identity.  When have you ever had a case of mistaken identity?  Ever think someone or something was different from reality?  Write a personal narrative about this happening. 

2.  Write a short story about a mistaken identity.  It could be a comedy, a tragedy, a mystery, a romance or even a science fiction piece. 

3.  Create a poem with that theme.  Remember a poem is not just prose set up into poetry format.  Take out all the unimportant words and replace them with images and concrete words that show and don’t tell. 

4.  Write a newspaper article about a case of mistaken identity in journalistic form. 

How do all of these types of writing differ?  Which one is the easiest for you?  The most difficult?

Of Yacking Squirrels and Squawking Jays

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

As I read in my easy chair, with Zoie asleep in my lap,  the squirrel I talk to all the time jumped off of our roof, rushed onto the tree that overlaps our deck, and chattered wildly at me, tail twitching and flailing all the while.  

Zoie awoke, jumped off of my lap.  Worry spread over her face; her eyes were full of sadness.  “Get up, Mom!” she seemed to say.

 With a sigh, I obeyed and headed for the kitchen window.  There, on the bird feeder, perched ANOTHER squirrel, chomping away on the bird’s seeds.    

“What do you think you’re doing?” I said to him, running outside and flailing MY arms about.  He lit out and the yacking squirrel in the back yard shut up.   

I came back inside, repositioned myself in my comfy chair, and picked up my book again.  Zoie curled back into my lap for another nap.   As I submersed myself back into the world of fiction, several blue jays flew onto the tree and squawked in tandom.

“What is going on out there with the animals?” asked my husband. 

I said, “Bob they’re telling me that the squirrel is back on their feeder.  Go chase him off.” 

Sure enough.   Bob disciplined the naughty animal, and as soon as  the misbehaving little guy jumped down, the jays zipped their beaks.  

Just gotta recognize the early animal warning system.

Writing Prompts:

1.  When have you interacted with nature?  What happened?  Describe it.  How did you feel?

2.  Create an opportunity to communicate with wildlife.  Write about your experience.

3.  Create a fictional world with animals as the main characters.

4.  Create a short story or poem with an animal as a character or inciting incident for the plot. 

5.  Write about an animal memory from your past.  Recreate details and senses to make your readers feel like they are there.

Dogs and their Squirrels: Relationships 101

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

As I wrote on the computer in my office, a squirrel on the deck rail outside my window chattered, squealed, hopped up and down, and made a scooping motion with his paw underneath the railing.  What was going on below?  I stood up for a better view. 

Beneath the squirrel on the deck floor lay Zoie, my thirteen-year-old Yorkshire Terrier.  Sunning herself, apparently unaware of the squirrel and his antics above, Zoie’s eyelids were halfway closed, in peaceful relaxation. 

 Oh, poor Zoie.  She was more deaf and blind that we had realized.  She was taking no notice whatsoever of the commotion above her. 

 Later, I told my husband of what happened and he sympathized with our dog. 

However, the next day Zoie’s actions clued me in to her unique relationship with this squirrel.  

 Again, I noticed the squirrel back at his post, ranting as though a predator was stealing his nest.  Again, I stood up.  But this time, Zoie faced him, a few feet away.  She didn’t move a whisker.  She stared nearly at him – – but averted her eyes just enough to make him aware he wasn’t her focus. 

 And she was smiling.

 Good girl.  Very good girl. 

Writing Prompt:  Animals are smarter than we think they are. 

1.  Write about an animal and his/her relationship with another animal.  Show through their actions their feelings. 

2.  Write about an animal you have known and what you’ve learned from this relationship. 

3.  Use an animal relationship to inspire art, poetry, or a story that features animal communication.


Writing and Good Books

Monday, February 1st, 2010

Thirty-five marvelous middle schoolers attended our Young Writer Workshop at the Concord Library on Saturday.  The talent and enthusiasm generated by those kids energized me all weekend long!  What a fabulous group of kids!  They wrote personal narratives and short stories, we played games, discussed books and writing, and hopefully they will be motivated to enter our Young Writers Contest (guidelines at lower right). 

Several kids and some of their parents requested more workshops.  Keep posted here for more information. 

Need a fun writing prompt/story starter idea today?  Visit this great video!  After seeing this, I wanted to write about these two characters.

1. You could write a short story from the point of view of the dog, the orangutang, or in third person. 

2.  Perhaps the video will inspire a poem about these animals.  Remember, poems don’t have to rhyme. 

3.  Have you ever known an animal to make friends with another animal in an unusual way?  Write about this experience. 

Feel free to share any ideas or questions you may have here on this blog. 

Great books to read: 

Historical Fiction    Hattie Big Sky   by Kirby Larson

Historical Fiction    Al Capone Shines My Shoes  (second in the series)  Gennifer Choldenko

Mystery                The Big Splash  by Jack Ferraiolo

Mystery                 Paper Towns    by John Green 

Fantasy                 Savvy      by Ingrid Law