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Very god
SSar's Beast
Quizzimajig stolen from danyadeer who stole it from cinicolives who stole it from triptoe who stole it from lislislis. Talk about pedigree.

If I were a stone, I would be a: small stone, somewhere on a city street, where river stones are not usually found.
If I were a tree, I would be a: hazel tree (it has hazelnuts and it has druidic significance)
If I were a bird, I would be an: owl. Most definitely. Probably a European Scops owl (is that the right name? Must go look it up) because they're small and silver-brown-ly exquisite.
If I were a machine, I would be: a robot just clever enough to climb stairs.
If I were a tool, I would be an: etching knife.
If I were a flower/plant, I would be: tundra grass.
If I were a kind of weather, I would be: a sky overcast with clouds so pale it hurt to look at them, threatening rain, full of a sense of time and place. Or golden rain.
If I were a mythical creature, I would be a: gargoyle, with wings and the face of a dog, and a grin aged several centuries.
If I were a musical instrument, I would be a: harpsichord. Mostly played nowadays through the simulation of an electronic keyboard.
If I were an animal, I would be a: puppy dog, I'm afraid, though I'd prefer something more glamorous, like a flying fish (cheilopogon pinnatibarbatus)
If I were a color, I would be: burnt orange
If I were an emotion, I would be: wonder
If I were a vegetable, I would be a: tomato, feeling like I don't belong
If I were a sound, I would be: an unexpected echo
If I were an element, I would be: one near the back of the stove, air, the element of surprise, or Cu.
If I were a car, I would be: a Volvo Estate with a couple of dents but otherwise in good condition
If I were a movie, I would be: something I haven't seen yet
If I were a food, I would be: dolma or maybe aloo naan
If I were a place, I would be a: step at the bottom of a stair leading up to a bridge
If I were a material, I would be: fake velvet
If I were a taste, I would be: carbonated water
If I were a scent, I would be: lemongrass
If I were a religion, I would be: transcendent
If I were a word, I would be: symbol or sign
If I were an object, I would be a: hat
If I were a body part I would be: a shoulderblade
If I were a facial expression I would be: a twist of the mouth
If I were a subject in school I would be: mathematics taught by an enthusiast
If I were a cartoon character I would be: James from Team Rocket. (Please?)
If I were a shape I would be a: rhombus
If I were a number I would be: the square route of -1, i
If I were a month I would be: September
If I were a day of the week I'd be: Monday
If I were a time of day I'd be: noon
If I were a planet I would be: Jupiter
If I were a direction I would be: Magnetic South
If I were a piece of furniture I would be: a letterbox
If I were a sin I would be: pride (one of the seven deadlies?)

Zali is in the Herald. Zali is in the Herald. ZALI IS IN THE HERALD! IN CANVAS! *dies*


Inspired by a love of literature, Ros Ali has built a reputation for producing award-winning writers. JAN CORBETT sat in on one of the most inspiring classrooms in the country.

As high school girls have always done when the first rays of the summer sun start warming the asphalt, the young ladies of Epsom Girls' Grammar are sitting on the grass or tarseal in large groups, talking about whatever teenage girls talk about, and hitching their skirts to just below the level of decency to expose their lanky limbs.

The conditioning from my college years when this sort of sunbathing tested the principal's sensibility and was summarily banned, has me expecting the teacher beside me to send them off to detention. Instead Ros Ali breezes airily past them, wondering only how they stand the discomfort of sitting on the ground, stopping only because a student approaches to ask about a poem that is needed for the next class.

As one of her former prizewinning students recalls, Ali wasn't the sort of teacher to fret about whether her girls were dressed in the correct uniform or observing the school rules. Her focus was on whether her students were learning.

She leads on past the library to the shaded classroom where for eight years she has been teaching the unteachable: writing. Writing, that is, in the broader sense of the word - composing poetry, prose, and now opinion. The classroom is lined with portraits of great writers and memorable quotes, such as "The universe is made of stories, not atoms," from American poet Muriel Rukeyser, and "Writing free verse is like playing tennis with the net down," from Robert Frost.

From the moment these fifth formers take their seats, Ali fires into action. She challenges them on the difference in meaning between simple and simplistic and then on whether they believe writing can be taught (answers later), flashes up examples of writing on the overhead projector and has them analysing the techniques, the genre and identifying what is good about the piece and what should have been edited.

So good is she at this task, which she says she knows little about, that her students have been winning enough writing competitions for Epsom Girls' to have the reputation of the school that produces great writers. Most recent have been Mia Gaudin, who in August last year won the Bell Gully National Schools' Poetry Competition, and Ally Palmer, second in the BNZ Katherine Mansfield Young Writer's Award for her script titled Oh. Palmer was one of five from Epsom Girls' who finished in the competition's top 18, meaning they all have their work published in the anthology. "It's an important competition for us in terms of standards and the significant goal it offers the kids," Ali says.

Three years ago another of her students, Susan Johnston, won the Katherine Mansfield, and another, Chloe Gordon, who plays Sascha Macefield in television's Mercy Peak, was a two-time winner of the Sunday Star Times short story award.

Yet Ali is a hesitant profile subject and is uncomfortable about being singled out for attention, insisting her writing programme's success is as much to do with her talented students, her colleagues, and the nourishing environment of the school, which celebrates good writing with prizes.

When the writing course was launched by a former teacher, it did not contribute towards any specific qualification. Now the flexibility of the NCEA means it does. That has boosted class numbers, but it means it has also become more assessment-focused, which Ali regrets.

"I hope we can find the balance between assessment and expression," she says. That she has students whose portfolios reach beyond the course requirements is proof to her that the programme must be working.

Ali left school in the sixth form wanting to become a writer. So she entered nursing and wound up teaching. An unlikely route to a literary career, you might think, but she reasoned that before she could write she needed to remove herself from her privileged North Shore milieu - father a doctor, mother a drama teacher - and experience the desperate side of life.

While her friends were out partying on a Saturday night, she was rushing trolleys through the emergency corridors of Middlemore Hospital. Blood and guts was one thing, but she felt she couldn't start writing without more formal education.

At the time the idea of a nursing degree was just taking hold, but she had some trouble convincing the health department that English could be part of it. She passed many long nights on duty alongside patients on respirators, with a volume of Dickens in her hand.

When it came time to complete her masters degree in early 20th-century literature, a friend suggested she fund it by enrolling at teacher's college. These were the years when the government paid teachers to train. Only at the end Ali discovered that if she didn't go teaching, she would have to repay $1500 - an enormous sum at the time. So she applied to teach at Epsom Girls' Grammar, and apart from the years raising four children with her doctor husband, that is where she has worked ever since.

"I could face the accusation of staying safe," she observes. "But you're constantly guilty as a mother and you have a responsibility to your students." So working close to where the family lives helps to take the pressure off.

The demands of teaching meant her writing ambitions had to wait. "I don't write," she says. "I've never had time. I would love to think I could one day. But that absolute compulsion?" Her thoughts trail off. It's as though after eight years of teaching it, a writing career is further out of reach.

She feels strangely intimidated by her talented students, particularly the prize-winning ones who name her as their mentor. "Working with young people who are really talented is off-putting," she laughs. She has never been to a creative writing course for fear of having to read aloud what she has written.

Looking back she regrets rushing through her degree while working, concentrating on assessment rather than enrichment. So when she was asked to take over the school's writing programme her focus initially was enrichment.

The programme was an optional extra and did not count towards School Certificate, so attracted girls truly intent on developing writing skills. An avid reader of the classics and the contemporary - a book a week, plus poetry - it is Ali's love of literature, language and ideas that radiates from her diminutive frame and shines out of her piercing green eyes. To her, teaching writing is about erasing the elitism that can be attached to it. "We all have a voice," is one of her constant refrains.

Her classes are driven by debate - there are no right or wrong answers, just constant questioning from Ali to bring her students to the level of insight about what makes a piece of writing work. The discussion wanders over more than just writing, but the politics of pursuing an arts career over a scientific or commercial one. As she points out to her students, writers don't earn much, but it's important to follow your heart. Although she tells the class 'passion' is an overused word, her passion is for poetry. Sylvia Plath is a favourite. But her tastes are eclectic.

"Don Quixote I loved to bits," and she will re-read it "to capture the language."

Her love of Yeats, Blake, and Auden is equal to her love of Black American novelist Toni Morrison, whose photograph shares equal billing in the classroom with William Shakespeare. Ali strives to expose her students to multi-cultural writers.

Like all writing teachers she encourages her students to write about what they know best, which is usually themselves. Being teenaged girls means they regularly turn their unhappiness, self-consciousness, uncertainty about boundaries and their fears into prose. Occasionally, she is confronted with suicidal writing. Lately she has noticed more writing about helathy eating, set against the background of the genetic engineering debate.

"I worry that the standard of expression is changing," says Ali, and wonders, "is it because we have a changing population?"

Next month she will publish an anthology of her students' writing, called Silver Road, the name of the road leading to the school. "These are talented girls here. Their voices should be shared."

But back to that fundamental question. She asks her Year 11 class if they believe writing can be taught. From the gaggle of pony-tailed 15-year-olds come two revealing replies. One, that writing is like dancing. You can be taught the steps but if you have no feel for the rhythm, no thrill fom doing it, then you will never be a great dancer. The other reply is that they want to write well to impress her.

Her view? "I don't know if you can teach the great writers. I do think you can encourage people to express their views and play with language."

I have a couple of new accessories. One's a knee-length tough-minded synthetic black jacket - and SSar so loved the jacket that she gave to it a full summer day of defiant wearing - and a lovely tall glass flower. It feels like a wand.

My ankles are becoming cluttered again with various things - there's Josh's chain of metallic beads, Jen's dolphin pendant, Pip's Wellingtonian trinket bead, and an old bracelet Rebecca once made. I like that. I wear friendship bracelets until they fall off, simply beyond repair. If you give me a pendant, I make a cord for it. Other than that I wear none of the bracelets I myself make. Only those that are given to me.

Was listening to the Cars' first CD and found myself a little sickened by the sexual references that pervade it. Okay, if the first song means what I now think it means, no thank you; and I never liked "You're All I've Got Tonight" but now I hate it. "I don't care if you abuse me again" - hello? But they're a brilliant band. I love what they do with percussion. Having no musical knowledge I can't describe exactly what it is they do do but I know it's good. And it seems strange to me that they should produce intelligent songs like 'I'm In Touch With Your World' and 'Bye Bye Love' whereas the rest of that CD is so one-track-minded. Ah well.

I could allow myself to be depressed by identity crises. I feel like I'm being driven, if not insane, at least a little upset. I wish I could figure out who I am.

Choice of action: Call to self strong memories of moments of just-right-ness, as when hanging over the train tracks discussing a fallen penny.

(Thank you, Pip.)

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Yes, memories of just-right-ness are very precious, doubly so when they're competely inexplicable to outsiders... :)

I'm jealous of you now, and your wondeful Zali and fantastic writing class. If only we'd had one at my school. They run Professional Writing at the school at which I work, but it's supremely boring - all newspaper articles and nonsense, packed full of students who think it's an easy class they can bludge their way through.

Congratulations on your jacket. Sounds splendiferous.

We don't have a real writing class at my school and in high school all we have is journalism and it sucks.

Ah, anytime.

"Having no musical knowledge I can't describe exactly what it is they do do but I know it's good."

I know exactly what you mean. That sentence made me grin. (Why do I always feel like I'm leaving feedback when I comment on here?)

Flying fish are fancy?

Ha! You mentioned my flying fish. (cheilopogon pinnatibarbatus)

Re: Flying fish are fancy?

I saw a model of one in a Te Papa exhibit when I was down in Wellington. Yes, flying fish are great. If I needed another email address I'd have, "wish_a_flying_fish@?server?" - that would be my preference.

I thought tomatoes were fruit... thus, of course, enhancing the feeling that they don't belong. ^!^

Yes, Mor, of course I have kidnapped your smiley.


*feels redundant*


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