September 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

September 24, 2015

September 23From the coping mind of a messy desk comes this: I’m an author.

I need to make this declaration. Ever since I left my job in 2012, I’ve recreated my career into one of a literary writer. Except it’s not a bring-home-the-bacon kind of career, yet. For bacon, I work with a handful of business clients on various marketing jobs. It’s a point of contention when the Hub tells me I’m good at marketing. I try to explain that I’m good at marketing because I’m a writer. He’s hinted, pushed and fussed for me to find another marketing management job.

Sure. It would bring home the bacon, but I’ll eat dandelions before I do that. I’m determined. What I do every day is to work as an author. Yet I feel disinclined to claim the title. If it is my role, my work, my intention, shouldn’t I say so? It is my profession, my calling, my pursuit. I manage my own marketing the way any professional would when planning a business. Of course, what I want to market are my books. They are not published, yet.

It doesn’t diminish my work as an author.

This is the messy part of building an author’s platform before one is ever accepted as an author. As a marketer, I know that there are two things I can control: the quality of my product and my service to others. Writing, researching and craft-related learning is all about managing the quality of my product. Service to others, customer service, is the management of relating to others in the profession. Both are my work.

Some of you might raise a cliched eyebrow over my boldness to say I’m an author. I’m declaring that I am right now, dictionaries, associations and elitists be damned. I am an author. With no published books. How is that possible? Well, it goes back to my understanding of marketing and my business background.

When entrepreneurs have an idea for a product or service, they begin to develop both the idea and the marketplace for it. It is common in business for people to take years to build enterprises, yet before doors open or annual profits accumulate, they are recognized as business professionals from the start. Many future business owners join Chamber of Commerce or networking groups before they are in position to do business.

Why should it be different for authors?

It isn’t. We build platforms the same way entrepreneurs or future business owners build platforms. A writer’s platform is the same thing as a business’s marketing platform: it’s branding, community, credibility and audience. We know we have to build a platform before we publish, so if we are building such, why are we reticent to declare author-hood in the midst of the process? We writers can get messed up in our ideas of being artists, counterfeit, hobbyists, amateur or comparing ourselves to the glorious best-sellers for success.

Comparison is not a bad thing if you use it to identify where you want to be in the next year, five years, or ten. Use it as a stick of measurement or as proof that your venture is possible. That’s the entrepreneurial spirit! Define your own measures of success and investigate how others did it. Create a reasonable — to you — timeline. Don’t try to be someone you are not. Be your own brand — loud and proud, or quiet and humble. Be you. Declare your intention.

My intention from the day I decided to leave my marketing job has been to write and publish novels. My intention is to be a successful author. Success to me is publishing books I want to write for readers who want to read them. My secondary goal is to market well enough to eat more than hand-picked dandelions from my yard. Many will say it’s a fool’s dream. Never before have so many claimed to be authors. Everyone and their third cousin writes. Never before has there been such a broad market, an over-saturated market, a market divided between traditional/Indies and print/digital.

So what; it’s the marketplace and the truth is that people are reading. Look for opportunities, for openings. Be ready to claim your spot. This isn’t a Ms. Universe contest; it’s a vocation. No one is going to hand you a crown one day. If you want to be a professional then start seeing yourself as one.

Instead of focusing on the chaotic market, the messiness of it all, the doomsayers, focus on your intention. My target audience exists. Finding them will be work, is work, but is part of building my platform. It’s part of what it means to be an author in our time. I measure my humble numbers and they are nothing to post to Wall Street, but they are my metrics. I look for meaning and adjust. I watch for responses to the shifts and I adjust again. Being a marketer is like being a watchmaker. The gears do work, but you have to get it all aligned one piece at a time.

Being an author is writing and marketing.

I write flash fiction, newsletters, business reports, articles, essays and posts. But what makes me an author is that I write books. Here’s where I’ve been frustrated with myself, and I’m sure every entrepreneur and business person alike has reached this point: the product is not yet quality enough to sell. I have two complete manuscripts that I could self-pub tomorrow. But I know they aren’t ready for those who I believe to be my target audience. I’ve slacked on my rewriting the way someone might show up for work but under perform. This made me feel guilty until I began to re-read “The Craft of Revision” by Donald Murray who embraces an enthusiasm for revision. I realized that I need to think like an author. To think like one, I need to act like one.

I declare that I’m an author, and revising becomes my profession. I can control the quality. I’m an entrepreneur progressing development; a business person networking to a target audience for opening day.

Marketing takes time. I so badly want to see my words in print, but writing also takes time. Worrying about “becoming” something I already work at doesn’t help when I encounter doubt. So I continue to develop my prototype. I look to expand my venture through literary connections. The greatest one is here at Carrot Ranch. Originally my website was for marketing clients. In 2014, I declared myself a literary writer and launched flash fiction challenges.

Declarations boost my determination. Intention is where we begin. And we all have to remember that there is an expanse of time and work, tears and joys, confusion and clarity, between beginning and ending. We write in between the two.

Why this ramble from my messy desk? As some of you know, I was derailed this year in my publishing goals. After a confident launch of my first manuscript, I am going to admit to you all, I’ve not sent it to a single publisher or agent since the two I met with in LA. I have felt disappointed in myself. Then my best friend needed me at her side as she died, and I went. Grief has been a bully and it got me weeding instead of writing. It clouded my emotions and I began to doubt my validity as a writer.

But you know what I discovered? I was right to let my first manuscript sit. I have excellent feedback to make changes that really are not as big as I initially feared. I also have let enough time slip by that I have learned improved approaches for revision. I’m finding renewed enthusiasm to fill my gaps in my third novel. I’m discovering that my skills at project management can serve me when I shove my doubts aside. I let grief get too chummy with doubt and it took a toll on my progress.

And most of my doubts hinge on, “I’m not really an author.” So I’m claiming that I am. I will act like an author, plan my business like an author, market like an author, write like an author. And one day it will be so in the eyes of others.

So I am progressing. This declaration does not need to make sense to anyone but me. A declaration feels powerful to the one making it. It’s empowering.

I think about a declaration that Cobb McCanles must have made on July 4, 1860. History records that he was an educated and persuasive orator. It won him two terms in North Carolina as Sheriff. In Nebraska, historians write that citizens sought his spirited speeches on the Fourth of July. What many forget, or fail to record because of complexities, Cobb McCanles and his entire family left North Carolina in 1859 because of secessionist views to which they denounced. His parent and two sisters along with their families, removed to Eastern Tennessee, known to be a Unionist stronghold for the region. Cob, his brother Leroy and their families resettled in Nebraska.

1860 was a year of fierce divisions and unrest in the US. States, political parties and families were so divided that militia and reserves began to train for war and newspapers espoused aggressive rhetoric. War was bubbling; a presidential election kindling the brew. I know Cob spoke at the Johnson County picnic July 4, 1860 from accounts that say so. I know his views from reading family letters, his father’s poetry from that time and the history recorded in Eastern Tennessee in 1902 by those who remained loyal to the Union even though Tennessee succeeded and joined the Confederacy. But I’ve been frustrated not to have his speech recorded.

Then I realized, Cob would have stood to empower his views, to convince others of the importance of this country as a unified whole. Without a doubt, I can imagine Cobb’s declaration as clearly as my own.

September 23, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) declare an intention in a story. Is it one person, a character speaking up or speaking out? Is it a group or a nation? Create a tension before or after the declaration. It can be private or public, big or small. Does it have power to those who state it or hear? What does it change?

Respond by September 29, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Mary Silently Stands by Charli Mills

“Momentous crisis commands great effort.” Cobb’s voice boomed over the celebratory gathering of prairie homesteaders.

Mary stood with the children, letter in hand. Her father wrote with pride that ten of her nephews trained with militia sworn to defend states against federal tyranny.

“We are a territory, daughter of America. Liberty’s interest is ours. Freedom’s policy is ours. We are United!” Huzzas ensued.

Would Cobb’s nephews fight hers? Would her father inform on Cobb’s? Her house divided, yet her husband bellowed with conviction.

“I’m the Union’s man!”

And I abide with my husband, Mary thought when the crowd roared.


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  1. Sarah Brentyn

    Sent from my iPhone (Do be nice and excuse any typos since I’m typing on my phone and/or it might have auto corrected something. M’kay?)


  2. Sarah Brentyn

    Oops! Sorry! My phone is possessed! It’s updating and causing all sorts of problems. I think I just sent you an email by accident.

    Since I have you here, Happy first day of autumn. ????

    Sent from my iPhone (Do be nice and excuse any typos since I’m typing on my phone and/or it might have auto corrected something. M’kay?)


    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! So glad I’m not the only one with a possessed phone! I had a possessed computer and hit publish when I meant to hit preview. It’s been one of those nights, but this is the finished product. Happy autumn! I awoke to frost-blighted squash plants so it must be so. Happy spring to our friends down under! It’s their turn for blossoms.

      • Annecdotist

        That explains why the link didn’t work from the post that appeared this morning in my inbox – it felt very strange, especially as I was all fired up by what you had to say about marketing, but I won’t clog Sarah’s slot for that.

      • Charli Mills

        I edit between the draft and the preview and when I meant to update the preview for changes made, I hit publish…then promptly panicked and removed it! It was like being caught half-dressed! 😀

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Absolutely love your post and that flash is amazing. I can feel the energy of the crowd in conflict with Mary’s thoughts. Perfect that the letter she received is not just referred to but still in her hand. Great detail.

        Agree with Anne. The marketing part of the (first AND second) post are wonderful.

        Haha! “It was like being caught half-dressed!” 😀 It’s just like that! That stupid “publish” button is directly under the “preview” button. Why?!

      • Annecdotist

        Ah, Sarah, this is one area where Weebly beats WordPress – although, on further reflection, with the Publish button right next to Save I have once published an unfinished post.

    • Sarah Brentyn

      Um. So I thought my phone sent an empty email (which it apparently did) to your email, not to your blog! I’m slightly mortified but also kind of fascinated. How did this happen? Technology is creepy sometimes.

      Speaking of creepy, here’s my flash for this week: 😉

      • Charli Mills

        Technology can bee creepy and invasive! 😀 Off to read!

  3. udosdottir

    Maybe it is because I am not a native English speaker, and there is something to that vocabulary that I don’t get. But of course you are a writer and an author! And I don’t get why you would need a traditional publishing house to confirm it for it to feel real. (Actually, listining to Neil Gaiman talking about this, having been published probably won’t make it feel more real. He – who we all would have no doubt calling an author – confesses to still having moments in which he thinks he is a fraud, and ought to take a “real” job. Apparently this will never stop.)
    And you have plenty of published items. Every single of your blog posts is a published item. And you have a big audience, obviously, who like to read your writing. – That is more than many other writers can claim (while still being writers.)

    But if course I do get a lot of what you say. I am sitting in the same boat. And this post spoke deeply to me. I usually identify as an artist, not as a writer. So it is much easier for me to toss aside this burning wish to be published.
    But I, too, struggle with this self-labelling. My main influx of money doesn’t come from my art, or from my writing (though an increasing bit, I am proud to say, and I am self-published) but from selling art materials. So usually I wobble around mumbling things like artist and retailer in no specific order when I am asked what my work is.
    Money is such an important thing in our society, it stands in for appreciation and worth in general it seems. Things we do can have moral, ethical, social, intellectual worth (and mroe) but occupations that mostly lie there are usually introduced by the word “just”, (Like “I am just doing house work and paint in my shed in my free time.”….) and is thus rendered worthless. All that counts towards credibility seems monetary success. But I think that is wrong, I think everyone who takes a moment to think about it knows this is wrong, and we should take up the struggle and make a conscious effort to not fall into that trap. Both when it comes to how we think of ourselves, and how we judge others.

    So: Of course you are an author and writer, because you write and because it is important for you and because you said it is your calling. And you should not have to write an apologetic essay to justify it. Say it out loud, put it on your business cards: You are an author. And don’t forget to introduce yourself at parties as an author. Because you are.


    • Charli Mills

      You understand the heart of what I’m saying! I’ve read about other authors like Neil Gaiman who felt that it wasn’t until the “tenth book” that they felt “real.” Yet, in taking ourselves for real, we shift our own perception. Yesterday, I felt so strong. I dealt with two clients, managed chores, spent time with the Hub and I wrote. Each thing I did, I did knowing I’m an author. My self-talk of “trying to be” or “working at” was holding me back. I needed to find a strong center. I know about that mumbling. I mumble when people ask what I do because it only seems legitimate if I can whip out a signed copy of 10 best sellers. And the money aspect! My grandfather spent the final ten years of his life developing a plan that never worked. Yet he proudly called himself a businessman and didn’t die in shame because the plan didn’t come to fruition. At his funeral I heard so many people talk about his many business accomplishments and about his gift as a visionary. That’s who he was. He lived his calling and people saw him as a business man with extraordinary vision. He believed in my writing enough to also leave me his two unpublished manuscripts, one we worked on together. Thank you for understanding what I needed to say! Cheers to you, too!

  4. paulamoyer

    This flash comes from Ironwood, Michigan. We are on our way to see my son Drew (nickname to be created) and Charli’s daughter Radio Geek. This scenario occurred just a little bit before husband-of-Radio-Geek was born:

    Intention for Minimal Intervention

    By Paula Moyer

    “No pain meds. No way.”

    Jean’s second baby due any day. She sat in the pediatrician’s office, setting up the baby’s medical record. She reviewed her plan with Dr. Olson, who would never give birth. He rarely saw it, either.

    Dr. Olson put down his pen. “But, but …”

    “I know what this is like, Dr. Olson,” Jean tried to reassure.

    “But this could be difficult.”

    Jean’s eyes met his. “I hurt my back when Sam was a year old. It was worth than childbirth.”

    Dr. Olson swallowed.

    “This baby will be born with no pain meds. I promise.”

    • Charli Mills

      Yay! I’m so excited you get to see the beautiful pair we share between us! How about Solar Man & Radio Geek? Makes them sound like hipster superheroes. 🙂 Safe travels to you and Dan, big hugs when you get to Hancock!

      Your flash is one of the most empowering moments a woman can take — her own declaration of choices for birth. Modern medical practices can often diminish a woman’s voice, but as Jean shows us, a woman can speak loud and clear and make that doctor swallow!

      • paulamoyer

        Drew and I both like Solar Man! Saw Radio Geek’s great office and the four of us will be going out tonight.

      • Charli Mills

        Where are you going? So glad you got to see her office! Enjoy every moment!

      • paulamoyer

        In response to your question of where were we going, we went to a presentation on an interdisciplinary display, “A World Without Ice” that is about climate change and involves music! The lecture was just to introduce the concept; we’ll see the display later this weekend.

      • Charli Mills


  5. paulamoyer

    I love your flash of Mary and Cobb!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you! I’ve wondered at Cobb’s speeches for years, then it hit me what would be at the core. Now I’m writing those scenes without feeling hindered.

  6. Lisa Reiter

    You wonderful author you. I am book-marking this fantastic post to re-read in my own moments of doubt Charli because you pen the perfect words to describe the positive intention we should all be making. I’ve “acted as if” in worse situations and sometimes it’s the only way to focus on the next best step. Thank you for making me address my own writing intentions with more consciousness – a testimony to the value of blogging and the stimulation and support in generates.
    And grief as a bully. Wow. We both know there aren’t quite words but that’s as close as you can get. Sending love. There’s no compensation for grief but best not joined by loneliness. ??

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Lisa! This certainly rises out of the need to shift my thinking because I stopped taking steps. I wrote this several days ago and wasn’t sure if I’d share it! But “acting as if” for several days now has had a powerful sway over how I approach everything I do — dishes? I’m an author doing dishes, and I plot my characters with sudsy hands. Client needs? I meet them the way an author would. Stuck on a scene? I wrote a flash. Ah, I needed to make this shift. Yes, you understand too well how grief can hold us down like the vulnerable kid on the playground. It does does bully. Empowerment fights back. Feeling your love and returning it to you! <3

      • Lisa Reiter


  7. stephanie710

    I love this, and I have mad respect for what you’re doing to make you’re dream a reality. I’ve often heard self-help professionals tell folks to act “as if”. Act as if we don’t have anxiety, depression, self-doubt, whatever. As you say, why not apply this mindset to our goal of seeing our work in print? I’m with you: I’m an author with no books in print…yet. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! We have to claim it if we want it. You are an author! 😀

  8. Annecdotist

    Congratulations, Charli, on staking your claim so publicly and good timing for me as I’d been thinking this week already about my ambivalence about another aspect of my authorship. I’ve borrowed some of your words about marketing – but did I imagine it or have you deleted part of the post that refers to non-marketeers expectations of their marketing people? – and come up with a market research question that I’d appreciate some help with along with my flash:
    I love how you’ve claimed Cobb’s character for yourself despite the absence of historical record – you KNOW what he’d do, of course. And poor Mary really has no choice. It’s an area you’ve mentioned before, how there was such a divide between families and you can certainly tell it from the heart. I look forward to reading the full published version when the time is right!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Anne! I focus more on marketing than most probably do but that’s why I felt I needed to claim it as part of my author-hood role. Just read your excellent post. Thank you for the quotes! Oh, yes, I did delete that. I felt I was nearing too close to complaining about my clients (not a professional thing to do). What I had wrote was that non-marketing people don’t know what they don’t know (which is why they hire a marketer). That’s also why they develop unreasonable expectations. We all start out not knowing. But not everyone is a learner. Those who don’t care for learning only want their needs met and it can be frustrating when they won’t take time to learn why or how or consider a different approach. I’d say most writers are learners, so learn as you go or seek out someone you know who knows something you don’t. I think I answered your market research question in my comment on your post, but if that wasn’t clear enough, I’ll happily be more specific! I think your Author Talks is a great way to bolster both the credibility portion of your platform and to find more targeted readers through a different tactic of marketing. Lots of KNOWS going on in my comments! 🙂 Yes, I feel like I made that breakthrough and can say I know Cobb declared this. And I loved finding the phrase “cheers and huzzas” in a history book from that era. I know Cobb received huzzas! And, yes, poor Mary in a house divide — husband on one side, family of origin on the other. Thanks!

      • Annecdotist

        I can see what you mean about not wanting it to look as if you were complaining about your clients but I think your point was a useful one for published writers. Most of us would prefer to do the writing than the marketing so there is a fantasy that others will do it for us, or that our publisher isn’t doing enough if we don’t get the results. All writers need to be able to do some of their own marketing and in doing so we discover just how hard it is! Not a bad thing to learn. The day I was making my marketing declaration on my blog, my publisher had sent out 20 individual emails to people who ‘might’ be interested, a time-consuming activity that might be invisible to me I didn’t know just how hard she was working on my behalf.

  9. Pete

    If you’re not a writer then I need a dictionary. Great flash, love the inspirational tone. Felt like I was there!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! It’s an internal thing, Pete. I feel like a writer when I need to feel like a WRITER! Putting a professional spin on it is what made a breakthrough for me. I’m so glad the flash came through! It gave me a huge breakthrough in a tough spot I couldn’t resolve in my novel.

  10. Pete


    Gilbert intended on a firm handshake. Eye contact, like he’d practiced. But one look at the giant on the porch—holding a blade no less—all intentions turned to mush.

    The crunch of leaves diverted the giant from his carnage. “You must be Gilbert.”

    “Yeah, um, yes sir.”

    The giant eyed Gilbert’s withering rose, wiped pumpkin guts from one hand, then gestured with the knife.

    “Gilbert, let me ask you, what are your intentions with my daughter?”

    Gilbert was pale by the time Millie appeared at the door, hair curled and wearing a shiny gown.

    “Dad! No! Just, no.”

    • Charli Mills

      This is perfectly pitched! The “withering rose” makes me think of the deflating spirits of the young man. I’m sure he gets the message! The last line shows the daughter knows her father. My husband used to clean guns on the door stoop when dates showed up. He was friendly, just smiled, talked and cleaned the barrels. His daughters responded the same way.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Poor fellow. I felt for him. Dad’s are hard enough to get around when they aren’t giants with a knife.

    • Sarah Brentyn

      This is great, Pete. Rare that so many went the way of marriage and love with this prompt. Although, declarations and intentions lead the mind that way. 😉

      • Charli Mills

        I’m always surprised! I mean, never again will I expect innocence from unicorns!

  11. Norah

    Great post as always, Charli, but this one has a difference, a ring of confidence. I applaud your stance and back you all the way. You have written two books, with another on the way. You are definitely an author. Marketing, and finding the target audience are probably the hardest parts.
    The research you have done into your family, especially the Cob McCanles branch is amazing. I get that you get Cob and what he would say. You must know him and the family better than anyone else. You have spent so much time delving into their lives. It makes me think of Carol Dweck and her insistence on praise for effort as opposed to achievement. You have made a mighty effort, and I know quite a few readers (I know you need more) who are eager to read your completed story.
    Actually, I was a bit fearful as I was reading through your post, declaring yourself an author. I thought you were going to declare that you were withdrawing your weekly flash fiction challenge to concentrate on your writing. I wouldn’t blame you if you did. Maintaining it is also an enormous effort – the challenge post, all the in-depth responses to every response, here and there, then the compilation, tweets and Facebook posts. Charli Mills, you are an awesome gal. You wear big boots and I don’t know what I’d do if you decided to close up this stall on your ranch. However, I would understand if that was what you needed to do to achieve your goals.
    I love your flash. I needed to do a bit of research into American history to fully understand. I had a vague idea from movies and TV shows watched long ago. The divisions there must run deep as do the divisions in Northern Ireland. But to stand on the line between birth family and adopted family must be difficult. Mary was just as strong in her declaration, quiet though it be to herself, as Cob was in his. Your novel obviously explores much more than just the family and personal histories, dealing with the political and social history of your nation as well. It’s an important publication for more than just yourself.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Norah, for your words and on going support. I’ve really been thinking a lot about effort verses achievement through your various posts on the subject as it pertains to education. It’s something we carry beyond the classroom, too. we think in order to progress we need achievement. We need to honor effort, too. We need to feel confident in our effort before we get to recognize any achievements. Progress will always be fraught with failure and success; doubts and confidence.

      Carrot Ranch is the tangible expression of my platform. It’s a container as much as a launch pad. It’s a place as much as a product. It gives me a visible framework for my efforts. Community is an important part of my platform, so maintaining community is part of the effort. And though it seems I do many tasks in relation to that, I actually have a manageable rhythm. Where I can get bogged down is in making publication choices — there’s no visibility to that effort unless I have a success to share. Because I have no rhythm or schedule, it’s easy to not make the effort. In making this declaration, I feel like I’m stating I’m a professional and a professional would include the unseen difficult tasks in the overall effort.

      Of course, I hope the novel will provide a fuller understanding for those not familiar with the US history, and a deeper understanding for those who do. Yes, it’s comparable to the divisions in Northern Ireland. The declaration is easy for Cobb to make; he’s devoted to his convictions. Mary is devoted to him as his wife. The complexities are many! Cobb is viewed as a southerner (because they come from a southern state) so his convictions are not believed by all. His southern accent speaks louder than his words in the end to the Yankee homesteaders, which is tragic. He’s erroneously remembered as a Confederate sympathizer instead of the Unionist that he was. And then Mary has to confront her husband’s infidelity. She declares for a man who cheated on her. It’s such a richly textured story of human passion and folly! And shows that the divisions were not so black and white, or that the declarations easily made. Thank you for your interest!

      • Norah

        I think you have summed progress up pretty well: failure and successes, doubts and confidence. (That old game of Snakes and Ladders.) I’m pleased that the community is important to you. I feel that I have learned much from what you, and others I’ve met through you, share of goals, progress, achievements, and attitudes to them. I understand the difficulty in making a commitment, and how making a declaration honours that commitment and requires that it be prioritised. It is easier for other issues to push in front and demand attention. It reminds me a bit of Steven Covey’s quadrant of urgent and unimportant. I’m trying to find a rhythm that does justice to every facet of my journey, but I struggle with portioning time.
        Thanks for sharing more about Cob and Mary. They are obviously real people to you now, not just names on a page. Your stories help them step out in 3D for all of us us well. And how true. I don’t believe there is black and white in any issue, only multiple shades of grey. I’m always interested!

      • Charli Mills

        I’ve accepted that there’s not enough time in the day to do everything I want to do, so I’m trying to “work” 4 days a week and then have 3 days for free time which could be writing, researching or exploring the mountains. I don’t know that we find the rhythm, but we keep up the dance!

  12. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    You have probably tapped into an area where we all feel vulnerable and nervous in our declarations. It is interesting how much better you feel having made that conscious shift to being an author. There is no doubt in my mind that you are and have been for a considerable time.
    Sometimes weeding is what needs to be done. It gives you time for recovery and that extra layer of life experience will aid in making your writing a level deeper as well.
    I’m off to think but will return when my flash is on paper.

    • Charli Mills

      I feel like this journey has been a series of declarations. We do feel vulnerable in declaring roles we think we are not yet “proved” in. Effort has been enough proof for me to this point and to get to the achievements I need to honor the effort with a declaration. It will different for each of us, but I think we all recognize the path and where we are on it. Thank you — I like the greater analogy of weeding! Yes!

      • Charli Mills

        I like the tension that is released with the declaration, followed by new tension as we realize it requires a response from another. I think relational declarations can be most intimidating.

  13. julespaige

    Charli –

    Being an amateur only means that you aren’t getting paid,
    not that you don’t have skills or are vagrant in what you do
    produce.. Writers, journalists, authors of differing styles can
    still be very professional even when there is no ‘bacon’ involved.

    I’ve been a poet for over forty years. I’ve even had some stuff
    published. And almost fell for a vanity publisher. I will not pay
    for someone to edit (especially short pieces) that I don’t want
    changed. And I will not pay to enter a contest or for a ‘reading fee’.
    It wasn’t until after the first twenty years that I made a solid
    declaration that I am a poet. Blogging (for just about six years the
    first two on a private place that has since closed up) opened up
    storytelling beyond poetry both in fiction, nonfiction. And confirmed
    my love of writing, learning and reading others material.

    I am a storyteller who writes in many styles. It would be nice to
    have an agent. Even some support from my family… I’m not
    business oriented, and I don’t plan just yet on self publishing
    just yet either, because I still enjoy what I am doing. Not to say
    others can’t have different goals.

    We are who we are. Sometimes we don’t recognize ourselves
    when we look in the computer screen (or on a blank paper page)
    because it isn’t quite the same as a mirror. But there is a definite
    reflection of who we are once that space fills. To all aspiring writers –
    Write on! And well edit if you must 😉

    I’m not sure where to go with this prompt just yet.
    And maybe I might skip it. But I did like finding out about your
    motivation and your family. Cheers and continue success at
    especially believing in yourself ~Jules

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, Jules! That’s the heart of it — we can still be professional in our efforts before we make the achievements of securing an agent, publisher, contract, paycheck, awards, rave reviews, etc. I needed to feel a shift in my own mind. It’s often hard for family to support our efforts without seeing results, or understand that sitting down to the desk is my job, paid now or in the future. We think we wouldn’t do a job unpaid, but that’s what new business owners or developers often do. If I had a business instead of a book, I could secure a business loan and work without profit for three years. Authors don’t typically get that backing. There are competitive grants, but business owners seeking loans don’t have to compete with other business owners to secure the funds. Thus I consider my personal declaration to be one where I’m stating that I’m funding my efforts with the anticipation of seeing future results. My investment is sweat equity, something cooperative businesses do frequently to get started.

      The other aspect to writing is the artistic journey. I understand that journey into craft and finally feeling like a craftsperson. That’s also a personal declaration. I realize not all writers want to be professiion, but it was always my intent. It’s easy to get tangled in the artistic and professional pursuits. Today, professionalism won out. In the future I might seek a master craftsperson’s achievement. But for now, I focus and honor the effort as a professional.

      I greatly enjoy your writing and look forward to more contributions from you! This is not a place of obligation, but inspiration or intent. Use the flash to further something or express a creative idea. But at your leisure.

  14. julespaige

    Coming from a different perspective:

    Objective Lesson

    Cinnamon wasn’t the same age as our class. She waited
    almost a year to start college after High School. Friendly
    enough but when she shoved her writing in our faces for
    free review, we had had enough. It is one thing to cough
    up your background every time you meet someone new.
    The story of hardship was getting old. The intention to draw
    sympathy wasn’t working. Too bad she didn’t get support
    from her family.

    We made it a point to stop eating at the college cafeteria.
    Maybe next semester we wouldn’t have to deal with her.


    The post can be found here:
    Objective Lesson

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! I respond, “at your leisure” and here you are with a story! Thank you, Jules! I like the perspective you chose. It address another subject that has made the blogging rounds — how much is too much information sharing. Again, another personal decision, but as you point out perhaps we pay attention to the impact upon others. I think this is where “find your tribe” comes in and I don’t think Cinnamon found it at college.

      • julespaige

        Little Miss has been picked up, diner made and eaten and I’m listening to a recorded NCIS New Orleans…. My I hadn’t gotten to read your response until after I posted. 🙂

        Too much information is one of the reasons I use a nom-de-plume and don’t do FB. I was invited a few times to join Linkdin or whatever that place is… but I’m not sure how well they would enjoy a fictitious personage.

      • julespaige

        I pressed the wrong button…
        I wanted to add that finding one’s tribe – belonging here at The Ranch is really a blessing. Thank you for all you do for all of us.

        Cheers, Jules

      • Charli Mills

        So many decisions are required of us — to name or not to name is a big one! It’s a type of declaration, too. So glad you found the tribe gathered around the campfire here!

  15. udosdottir

    Not sure whether a pingback will show up here shortly again… Anyway, here is my flash for this week. Not sure it matches the criteria (as per usual) since it is not really a declaration of intention. Nor does it feel like a “real” story… well, it is what I came up with this weekend.

    And for the benefit of those who prefer to read here on site:

    “You cannot see me!” declared my son. His shoes clearly visible from under the curtains. “Where are you?” I shouted to his squealing delight “Maybe under the sofa?” He giggled wildly. Next I checked the curtain without revealing him “he is not behind the curtains… ” The giggles stopped and the little man came forward hurriedly “Here I am! – I’ll hide again, come look for me!”- And I realized children live in a scary world, where they vanish when they close their eyes and can only be magicked back into this world by their mothers declaring” there you are!”.

    • Charli Mills

      Sometimes the prompts lead to other ideas, and that’s fine. What’s important is that it led you to put 99 word on the page. 🙂 Flash fiction can take many structures — a scene, a character glimpse, a perspective and sometime a complete story. I like this interpretation of the prompt– the boy’s declaration followed by the detail of what the parent sees.

    • Sarah Brentyn

      They’re great. 😀

    • Charli Mills

      I love Ed & Edna! For many reasons!

    • Pete

      I could easily see this little series as a blurb in a magazine or paper. Great stuff!

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a great idea! Perhaps syndication, Larry!

  16. A. E. Robson

    Man Up
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Tears streamed down his face as he watched the man walk away with the love of his life. He could do nothing but watch her go with him.

    They had known each other since he was a boy. Eleven years of life spent together.

    They had gone on adventures. They could speak without words. What was he going to do without her? She was his life. She was his best friend.

    Gruff words from his father had told him to man up. He could find another.

    His heart told him no. Another dog could never replace this hurt inside.

    • Charli Mills

      This goes right to the heart! Anyone who has loved a dog that long knows it would hurt like crazy to see her leave. And that phrase, “man up.” Words of a generation used to hardship, trying to prepare the next generation to be tough, too. So much in your flash!

  17. rogershipp

    The Lull before …

    “You are right, son. A man has to stand up for himself. But he does not attack from the shadows.”

    Ruminating on those fatherly words, plans were made for his own Little Big Horn.

    Attacks happened between classes… near his locker… inconveniently by the boy’s bathroom.

    Carefully casing the hall, a plan was devised.

    Just before the start of school. “Mr. Horn, could you stop by my locker just before lunch? I have created a new app in my entrepreneur class for I-phones. Love to show it to you.”

    “Clarence. I’d love to see it.”

    The stage was set…

    • Charli Mills

      Nice twist! I was expecting the narrator to be any other than a bullied school boy.

  18. Ula

    This is a wonderful post, Charli. Congratulations!

    This is so true ===> “No one is going to hand you a crown one day. If you want to be a professional then start seeing yourself as one.”

    My flash this week: (will go live in a few hours)

    • A. E. Robson

      This is great! If you are going to speak your opinions, best know who you are talking to.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you! I got to test drive me new found declaration today with a book buyer who is now a library director. She never batted an eye when I said I was an author with yet unpublished books. She answered my questions and encouraged me to work with my local library, even suggesting how to approach them. I said I was a professional and she responded to me in kind.

  19. Norah

    Hi Charli, with a slightly different schedule this week I am posting a little earlier than usual. Thank you for the opportunity of writing about a declaration Marnie had to make some time, I just hadn’t decided when or how.

    • udosdottir

      A engaging flash about a strong woman and bold stop. I would like to get to know her, I guess. Amazing how much is conveyed in so few words, love your flash!

      • Charli Mills

        Marnie is a character that I always enjoy learning more about. And good to adjust your schedule to be flexible. I’m responding in a house full of Millses! Not what I expected, but being flexible.

      • Charli Mills

        My brain is on overload — I have grand niece and nephew very curious about what I’m doing as the rest of the Mills women are gathered in the kitchen cooking…so I’m trying to compile stories, entertain a 9 and 10 year old and answer questions from family…and I posted your story on FB as “by Norah Roberts”! What a Freudian slip! I hope that means you have a best seller in your future! I did correct when I copied it over! 😀

      • Norah

        Thank you so much for your generous comment. I appreciate your encouragement.

    • udosdottir

      Quite bold a declaration! What a wonderful flash, made me smile on a a difficult day today. Thank *you*!

      • Lisa Reiter

        Thank you. That’s good to know. Hope your day improved xx

    • A. E. Robson

      If you don’t say what’s on your mind, you’ll never know what the answer will be. Great piece.

      • Lisa Reiter

        Thank you too. I’ve decided to be myself when I feel like it. The rest can take a running jump! X

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome back, Cowgirl! But no obligations — join us when you can! 🙂 You can put a further constraint of “quick and easy” on a challenge any time.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kate! Loved your take!

  20. lucciagray

    Hi Charlie. I’d say you’re a writer. You write regularly and well, and you inspire other writers. Sounds like a writer to me! Grief can be a bully. When I think about or face grief, I always remember T. S. Eliot’s words: ‘The purpose of literature is to turn blood into ink.’ We need all our feelings, positive and negative, to write effectively and authentically. I love your powerful flash!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Lucy! I love that quote. 🙂

  21. C. Jai Ferry

    Declarations can be so empowering, but empowerment is not always a good thing (in my stories, that is). 😉 Thanks for the prompt — it really got my writing mojo going this week. And your entire post is inspiring!

    • udosdottir

      Fascinating flash! Love it! Actually gave me an idea…

    • Charli Mills

      With renewed vigor, good things happened — moments of serendipity from making a bold declaration. Ah, yes, anything can go awry on the page. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Wonderful to be so inspired by one another!

  22. TanGental I hope this link works; it looks a bit odd. The flash this week is special and along with heaven knows how many others, of course you’re a writer and an author and an artist and an all round creative god.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Geoff! I just needed to give myself an attitude adjustment. Or a pep talk! 🙂 Link works fine!

  23. Charli Mills

    The tension and humor both come through clearly!


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  6. Well I declare | Norah Colvin - […] I took Nora’s declaration as the basis for my response to Charli’s flash challenge to In 99 words (no…
  7. Hurry Honey | Lady in Transition - […] wrote this story in response to September 23, 2015 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge: In 99 words (no more, no less)…
  8. Flash Fiction “Anytime Soon” | Lisa Reiter – Sharing the Story - […] A quick response to the latest prompt from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. […]
  9. Happy Thoughts Do Not Make Good Stories | C. Jai Ferry - […] the story here yet (because I am still working on it!), but I did use the flash fiction prompt…
  10. Magic II | Ink and Water - […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Prompt for this week: In 99 words (no more, no less) declare an intention in…
  11. Statement of Intent | TanGental - […] Mills’ prompt this week […]
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