Lady of Shalott/ Mariana Mashup

In my last post I was talking about teaching ballads and trying to find ways to make it interesting. The majority of the class loved the creative task and of course I joined in. Below is my example plot outline for the creative writing task- a mashup of Lady of Shalott and Mariana:

Plot Outline

  • Sir Lancelot meets Lady of Shalott at a banquet in the castle Camelot
  • He really likes her, but has to leave on a quest to slay Pentagon the Dragon

    Pentagon the Dragon: the most feared dragon in all the land.
    Pentagon the Dragon: the most feared dragon in all the land.
  • He tells the Lady of Shalott that he will write to her everyday
  • They part ways, both feeling elated that they have found their one true love
  • Sir Lancelot’s journey is harrowing. The towns are abandoned, the villagers have left in fear of the dragon and its trolls who patrol the area and steel turnips and chickens
  • Sir Lancelot starts to panic when he realises the post office is no longer in operation, how will he send his letter to his dear lady?
  • Meanwhile, days pass by and the Lady of Shalott continues to sit in her tower and weaves her tapestries which are becoming famous in the South Shire
  • On the dawn of the fifth day, Sir Lancelot hears the beautiful song of the bluebird, a sound that was thought to have been silenced by the dragon and its trolls
  • Sir Lancelot decides to use the skills of Bertie Bluebird to deliver his message to the Lady of Shalott.
  • After much explaining andfluffing of feathers, Bertie flutters away in the wrong direction

    Bertie Bluebird
    Bertie Bluebird
  • Meanwhile, Mariana (another fair maiden) was about to feast upon cheese, apple and bread when a bluebird flew into her room
  • Mariana tried to shoo the bird away but realised it had a piece of parchment attached to its leg
  • It read: My dearest love, I think about the day and the beautiful emerald dress you wore. It is this that keeps me going and I long to see you upon my return. With affection, Sir Lancelot.
  • Elated, Mariana thinks back to the other day in the market when she caught the eye of a young lord. Never in her wildest dreams did she think it was the famous knight, Sir Lancelot!
  • Weeks went by and the two passed letters back and forth Lancelot winning her heart with tales of bravery and compassion
  • The Lady of Shalott grew restless, she couldn’t understand why Sir Lancelot hadn’t written, she started longing for the outside world and the markets of Camelot
  • Unbeknownst to the Lady of Shalott, the gold thread that she bought in the market weeks ago was cursed by the old lady who lived in the boot by the river
  • The Lady of Shalott got into her boat and sailed across the moat into Camelot
  • Mariana, looking out of her window and thinking about her dreary life saw a small boat sail by
  • By the time the Lady of Shalott arrived on the banks of Camelot she had died, her soul now trapped in her tapestry in the tower, encased in the gold thread
  • Sir Lancelot, who had ridden all night to get to return to his love happened upon the boat and to his horror saw the pale, beautiful face of the Lady of Shalott
  • Angered by her death he vows to find out who killed her and why and he immediately sets off to consult with the Knights of the Round Table
  • Meanwhile, Mariana is sitting by the window looking out at the moat wondering what all the commotion is and wondering who that handsome man is on a white horse.

“My life is dreary, he cometh not” she said

Mariana in the moated grange  (Image from
Mariana in the moated grange (Image from

I’m not going to lie, sometimes English Literature can be depressing.  We might consider certain texts classics and ‘must reads’ but the fact remains that some of the most famous and important texts of our time are in fact filled with sorrow.

Trying to make these texts interesting to a bunch of teenagers can become tricky, especially when a large portion of the class are not native English speakers.  Keeping things relevant, exciting and engaging is often the bane of a teachers life, but it’s also a highlight when we find something that does inspire creativity.

Two texts I’m using at the moment are The Lady of Shalott and Mariana. It wasn’t until we were discussing them that I realised just how depressing these ballads are. Both women are shrouded in melancholy and one of them dies; they are completely hopeless. Not exactly the poster women for feminism and independence!

So, how do you make these woeful texts interesting to teenagers and, in particular boys?

Both ballads offer an insight in to these women, we never really know who they are pining after, only that a man is at the root of their sadness.  We never know who Mariana is waiting for and why he never makes it. So, I decided it was time to find out…

The task for my class was to write a story from his perspective that would offer some reason for his delay, the additional challenge was to somehow include information from the Lady of Shalott too. It could be a reference to Sir Lancelot, Camelot or the lady herself.

A collection of notes
A pile of stories

The stories were an excellent read and the class offered up some rather interesting reasons for Mariana sitting and waiting- “my life is dreary/ He cometh not”

  • The man suffered memory loss;
  • He was imprisoned;
  • He became obsessed with the Lady of Shalott and forgot Mariana;
  • It was a game of hide and seek that went very, very wrong;
  • A modified memory from Merlin….

As usual I joined in the activity and got a little carried away with my idea. It involves a bluebird, miscommunication and a letter delivered to the wrong address…


Gendered Sentences- Do I Sound Like a Man?

Image from Disney/Pixar
Image from Disney/Pixar

I recently started writing a short story with a split narrative. I decided that I’d differentiate the characters voice by their sentence structures, this seems to be working. I’m still typing away and working on the story, but after reworking what I had already , I think the concept of gender by sentences is working.  But, I’m a girl, so how do I know if my male characters stream of consciousness is authentic?

Here is a small section of the story so far, please read it and if you have any suggestions please let know. Feedback is welcome.


You didn’t see me when I walked in to the bar. You had your back to me, your hair falling down it. That’s what I remember, your hair.  I walked in with Blake; we wanted a few quiet drinks to celebrate making it through another week.  I couldn’t take my eyes off you.


You told me that you noticed me the minute you walked in; apparently it was my hair that caught your eye. I didn’t notice you until you walked past me because I had my back to the bar and I couldn’t see everyone coming in. That was unusual for me, I usually liked to people watch and play, ‘guess the nationality’; as soon as I saw you I had you picked as American. It was the plaid. Fiona and I had an in-depth discussion about the word plaid, we even googled it and then got caught up in yet another discussion about cultural differences and stereotypes.


The bar area was crowded; Blake suggested that we move away. I had spied a table right across from you and your friend. It was the only free space left so it wasn’t difficult to get Blake to follow me. I tried to act all cool, I even walked past you to try to catch your eye. Blake thought I was seeing if there were any free spaces further on. There weren’t.


Fiona needed to go to the bathroom so I stayed to guard the table, I usually hate it when I’m left but this time I wasn’t too fussed because I had my back to the main area of the bar. I hate feeling like I’m some kind of target; the minute I’m left alone I seem to become a magnet for the ultra slick and greased up.  Fiona leaving, gave me the chance to check you out. You seemed so sure of yourself.  When you caught me looking at you I didn’t know what to do, but it didn’t matter because you smiled. “Hey, looks like we’ve both been abandoned by our friends” you said as you moved over to my table, “May I keep you company?”




Gender by Sentences

I recently started writing a split narrative, something I’ve only ever done once before. It’s challenging, but I’m enjoying writing from two perspectives. The thing I’m finding the most difficult is making sure that the voices sound different, I’m writing from a female and male perspective. I want to try to avoid any clichés, I’m trying to make this piece as honest and real as I can.

I gave my (incomplete) draft to a friend to read because I wasn’t sure I was separating the voices enough- it needs to sound like my characters, not me. Once she’d read it, she started asking me lots of questions- what’s going to happen? how will the female voice react? what happens to the friend? how will the male voice respond? I couldn’t answer any of her questions- I don’t know, all I do know is that boy meets girl….where it goes from there, I guess I’ll find out.

Once we had established that I didn’t know where this story would end we spoke about the differences between men and women and how to convey it through prose. We decided it would come down to sentence structure. He would talk in short, direct sentences. She would talk in complex sentences weaving a couple of threads together. I’m currently revising my (incomplete) draft to include these ideas, and I like it so far.

I realise that you actually can’t confine a gender to a sentence type, there is a tapestry of differences, but when it comes to prose…gender by sentences may by the way to go.

Bouquet of Pencils
A bouquet for any gender ?

Romantically Challenged (Part 1)

(Photo credit: mozzercork)

Lisa really did not need the magazine to tell her that she was romantically challenged. It’s bad enough being the only single girl in the crowd, and even worse when her friend kept nagging her and actually succeeded in setting up a blind date for her, but it only happened once.

“So are you interested in anyone at the moment, any prospects on the horizon, Lisa?” She had said the other day, what she always said every time they got together. It seemed that now she had Mike, it somehow made her the qualified matchmaker; sticking her nose in when it wasn’t wanted.

“Umm, no not at the moment, but then I’m not really looking for a guy right now.”

“Well we will have to get you a boyfriend then, won’t we?” Julia said as if it was something you could just go and buy like a handbag, but ‘the Mike’ was the ultimate handbag in Julia’s opinion.

“Look Lisa, you’re obviously not trying hard enough, you need to get out there. That’s what I did and now look at me, I couldn’t be happier, Mike’s a great guy.” Julia was always going on about how great her relationship with Mike was, as if he was some kind of god.

“Ok, look Lisa, I know one of Mikes friends who is single, he’s a nice guy so I’ll arrange a blind date, I think you and Paul will really hit it off. He works with Mike and he is just your type.” How does she know what my type is, thought Lisa as she sat there with the phone cradled between arm and ear.

“Umm, thanks Julia but I really don’t need you to do that, I can manage on my own- and- hey maybe I’m happy being single, and I really can’t deal with entering a relationship right now, I’m happy just as I am.”

“Now don’t be silly I know that you’re utterly miserable so I’ll arrange a date and get back to you with the details ok? Great, I’ll talk to you soon.” And with that she hung up the phone, giving Lisa no time to realise what had just happened, but she knew there was absolutely no way out of it

“Just as well I’m not asthmatic,” she mumbled under her breath as she arrived. There were small lamps on each of the tables giving off a dull intimate light, but not exactly romantic given that the air was thick with smoke. The bar was really busy considering it was a Wednesday night; she decided to sit near the door, giving her the best view for monitoring the door. She could plan her getaway if necessary.

She sat alone waiting for Paul to arrive, but the longer he took the more her foot was tapping against the table leg. Her hair fell softly upon her face, her body bent forward as if trying to hide something from the prying eyes of the other customers. Lisa had never felt so uncomfortable before, she shouldn’t have agreed to go on this blind date, but then again she didn’t really have any choice in the matter- and that was always the way it was with Julia, dead set in her ways. For all she knew Paul could have walked in, taken one look at her and left. Not that she really cared but she hoped he would at least have the decency to stay a little while. Just as Lisa was about to leave a rather odd-looking man, small and mouse-like wearing an aged brown jumper and beige cords entered rather timidly. With a sinking feeling Lisa knew that this was Paul.

A day in the life…

The delightful Eko alarm clock - it's only 4in...
A new day begins(Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Oh, these covers are so fluffy. That was a good sleep. Today is definitely going to be a great day for writing, I can feel it. I’ll just hit the snooze button to allow myself time to mentally prepare for the day ahead….


Right, let’s get this day started! Time for breaky. What shall I have? Oooh, I bought that yummy bread the other day, the oh-so savoury one. I wonder how they make it taste so much more savoury than any other bread? Marmalade!


This toast is sooo good. I wonder what’s going on in the world? I’ll just have a sneaky peek at Facebook, Twitter, then the newspapers and Stumble- but only until I finish my cup of tea….


Oops! I should really get dressed and get this day started! Stupid stumbleupon, so addictive. But I maybe should have stopped after I finished my first cup of tea, and I didn’t really need the second one either…Oh well. Shower time!


Oh, I love my new desk. Can’t believe I managed to build this great thing myself. This is going to be my first proper day of writing at the almighty desk, I already feel totally inspired. Ok, let’s get the notebook out. I should start by reviewing what I have so far.


Not bad. I have a pattern which should be easy to follow. Now I just need to carry on where I left off……………maybe I should look up animals for inspiration…If I were an animal what would I be?


Lunchtime! Geez, I’ve worked up quite the appetite. Researching is hard work. Mmmmm, cheese sandwich….


Should make myself a cup of tea and sit at computer, this thing’s not going to write itself!


Maybe, instead of looking at a blank screen I should go through my photos and find an inspirational photo to set as my desktop.


I’m happy with that, I love looking at boats, it’s so calming.


Maybe if I rearrange my furniture, a kind of de-cluttering of the brain so to speak…..


Afternoon nap time!


Cup of tea time…Tea, the greatest invention ever. Ever!


Check Facebook, Twitter. Maybe I should sign up to Pinterest…


Oh, of course, why didn’t I think of this before? I should create a book dummy, to see how many pages I have left. Genius!


It’s just for me, doesn’t matter if it’s a bit sloppy. I’ll cut out all my text and place it on the pages and see what kind of layout I could have and then how many pages I have left to fill…glad I found these 32 page templates makes it easy to see.


Ha! Looks so cool, imagine if I managed to finish this today, it would be one more project complete. I know what I should do- draw! I might do little drawings on the pages…


Ok, ready to write.


Not bad. I’ve finished writing two sentences about another animal. I should maybe create a list of other animals and their traits so that tomorrow is more productive. Maybe should have done this at the beginning, but when the inspiration hits, there’s no time to be sensible.


I wonder if people have checked out my blog, might check out the site stats. Someone in Australia checked it today, must be my mum. Thanks mum!


Might as well compose a blog post, some writing is better than no writing.


Ooh! Chicken!  I know, to maximise my time, I’ll marinate my chicken now and then write a post. Garlic, lime, coriander, chill…yum! This is going to be good.


Blog, blog, bloggity, blog….


Cook chicken- nom, nom, nom…..


What’s on TV?


Ah, suppose it’s bed time, maybe I’ll read for a bit…


Must go to sleep, I have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow. Must get my book finished….



Oh, these covers are so fluffy. That was a good sleep. Today is definitely going to be a great day for writing, I can feel it. I’ll just hit the snooze button to allow me to mentally prepare for the day ahead….

Hurricain: The Truth Revealed.

My blogging drought is over. Many people make excuses about their absences from blogging. I’m not going to do that. It’s pointless, we all know that whatever I say will just be an excuse and it certainly won’t be original.  Instead, I’m going to tell you why had to lie low…my secret is out.

The truth is revealed...
The truth revealed…

All my life, I have worked tirelessly at keeping my secret safe. However it seems that I am no match for my Year 7 class, who recently made the discovery.

It all started a few months ago…

One day in November I attended a workshop about effective use of iPads. It meant having to miss a day of teaching, but  us teachers do what we can to keep our audiences interested. So off I went to the workshop, and enjoyed it very much. It wasn’t until my return when I realised that something was amiss.

I was standing outside my classroom, coffee cup in hand, as I do in between classes. My usual pose, and also as other superheros will attest to, a good way of surveying the public. I was awaiting the arrival of my Year 7 class, who came as usual in dribs and drabs. Only this time, instead of yelling out and waving ‘Hey Ms. Cain’, they looked at me, wide-eyed and whispered to each other. It was at that point that I knew something wasn’t right.  The air was electric. They were clearly excited.

Suddenly it was a barrage of questions: “So, where were you?” “We heard you had to save the children” “Is your real name Hurricain?” “Can we call you Ms. Hurricain?” “Do you wear a cape?” The questions just kept coming, so I raised my hands, asked them to stop and then began to tell them my story. My real story, the truth about Hurricain….