Carrot Ranch Flash FictionA milestone post–#100 for Carrot Ranch. And this is the 14th flash fiction challenge. Thank you for reading and participating!

Last week netted another compilation of stories as flashy and minute as minnows in a stream. Each week I feel child-like in the wonderment of how stories can burst to life and be told in 99 words. Practicing weekly flash within a dynamic literary tribe certainly charges my batteries.

Literature has three sides. Like an equilateral triangle, each side is valuable: reading, writing and discoursing. When we come together in a literary community we get to participate in all three sides.

And when we practice all three, our production grows stronger. We learn and experiment with new processes; we gain insights from different perspectives; and we discuss ideas that bubble up. It also “fills the well” as Julia Cameron, author of “The Artist’s Way,” would say. It means that we fill the well of inspiration as we empty ourselves onto the page.

Each story, comment and blog reflection sparks my creative side and challenges me to think beyond opinion, pop culture and what is. I can unleash my mind to consider what is possible. Which leads us to imagination.

Albert Einstein is quoted as saying,

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Imagination powers the gears in a writer’s mind. Even the memoirist must imagine how memories transform into moments with meaning. Creative non-fiction writers must imagine what the mundane holds. Think of Annie Dillard in “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” who once described her tom cat with such imagination that she turned grisly reality into an act of beauty:

“I used to have a cat, an old fighting tom, who would jump through the open window by my bed in the middle of the night and land on my chest. I’d half-awaken. He’d stick his skull under my nose and purr, stinking of urine and blood. Some nights he kneaded my bare chest with his front paws, powerfully, arching his back, as if sharpening his claws, or pummeling a mother for milk. And some mornings I’d wake in daylight to find my body covered with paw prints in blood; I looked as though I’d been painted with roses.”

Often I try to think of the most outlandish thing to describe the most simple. It taps into my imagination, cracking open cliches to reveal our own unique voice.  Imagination lets me become something else, lets me see something strange in something common. It pushes my voice to speak creatively as I did in a piece called “Carnival Clouds”:

The thunderheads are rimmed in pink like airy cotton-candy. To the west the sky lightens and to the east the clouds look back-lit like garish signs for carnival rides. I want to ride the clouds like the birds do, to soar on thermals and dip fast toward the pond and pull up again, roller coaster-style.

Writer, Sarah Brentyn, reminded me of the power of imagination in writing in a comment she made: “maybe our next prompt should be unicorns and rainbows.” It was ironic, too because the day she left that comment I had doctored a photo of one of the Elmira Pond horses:

Unicorn of Elmira Pond

So if you are following me, let’s go over the rainbow this week! Let’s snap the halters off our inner unicorns and let them romp through our writing. Feel free as a phoenix in flames to write fantastically, yet also think of how you can use the fantastical to enrich realities.

It can work both ways–the best fantasy stories (like “The Hobbit” or “The Dragon Reborn” series) are grounded in concrete details. Think of it this way–what sound would a unicorn make as it trotted past traffic on a busy city street? What real place might an unreal creature show up?

Or, how can you use the idea of a unicorn in a non-fantasy story? What symbolism does it have? Can it be funny, tragic or ironic? This week, inspired by a burst of creativity, I’ve crafted two stories, one fantastical and one a continuation of historical fiction (about Sarah and Cobb). And both stories include a unicorn.

June 4, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a fantastical element or creature. The element can include a memory, describe something common as outlandish, or it can be pure, unfiltered fantasy. I can’t wait to see what emerges from your imagination. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, June 10 to be included in the compilation.

The Secret Stall by Charli Mills

“I don’t wanna pick blackberries. Too many thorns. ” Libby stuck her throbbing thumb in her mouth.

“Look, Libby’s a baby.” Her brother Joe pointed and their cousins laughed. Libby headed to the barn. The cat was nicer than these five boys.

“Here kitty…” She could hear boy-chatter across the yard. It was dark inside. A shuffle sounded from behind the farm tractor. Careful not to trip over tools, Libby made her way to the back where a glow in the stall revealed a shining horn.

It was attached to a unicorn sleeping on a pile of quilts.

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Innocence Declared by Charli Mills

Sarah stood outside the log cabin, arms folded, watching a blackbird perch on a cattail. Inside Cobb argued with Mary. His wife. Was the man foolish enough to declare his relationship with Sarah was “nothing”?

The word stung. Silence consumed the cabin. Then Mary stepped outside, following Sarah’s regard of the marsh.

“What are you looking at, Girl?”

“A unicorn.”

“Where?”

“There, bedded in the reeds. She’s the color of sunlight with a golden horn.” Sarah pointed at the blackbird.

“I don’t see it.”

Sarah glanced at Mary. “I forgot. Only maidens can see.”

“Are you innocent?” Mary asked.

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Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.

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