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December 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

December 30Mile marker 490 on Idaho State Highway 95 marks the spot where industry once built a town called Elmira. Throughout my two blogs, I’ve explored what remains of the town, mostly an iconic 1910 schoolhouse. I’ve guessed that the industry was logging or railroads based on what brought people to settle this area.

Last month, I got a writing gig with a new online magazine called, Go Idaho. It’s not yet live, but it will live up to its promise to be a magazine about amazing people and places in my state. You can sign up for the VIP List and I hope you subscribe. It’s an innovative magazine that forgoes advertising and generates revenue through subscription. And, it pays writers. I’ve freelanced for 22 years and watched the industry shift from robust regional publications to watered down global internet.

Yet, I still believe in the value of quality writing. Companies still need copy-writers who understand consumer engagement; readers still want good stories to read; and we all recognize top-shelf writing with appreciation. Making a living as a writer is not exactly the career path any school counselor would promote, but any industrious writer can make it work. You have to find a niche (business background, regional access, past experience, interests), an outlet and fair payment. If you are all about the literary writing, seek artist grants in your town or region, set up a plan to submit to contests with prizes or polish your work to submit to paying literary outlets.

Do the groundwork and keep writing.

Living way up north in the Panhandle gives me a regional writing niche. Funny thing is, my book editor got me in touch with the magazine editor, so be open to who others might know. It’s a perfect fit to my Elmira Pond voice, journalism profile background and content writing for internet. Your perfect fit is out there, too. Same goes for publishing a book. First you need to know what you want to achieve, then you have to find the right publishing partner. I believe that many rejections writers experience are due to poor fit. Get to know that agent or publisher or editor and study what interests them.

It’s why I know Elmira was a railroad and logging industry town — it fits the terrain.

One of my assignments for Go Idaho is a series about places and the traces of cultural diversity in its history. Naturally I began with Elmira. For fun I called up people (random neighbors) and asked each to complete the sentence, “They say Elmira was a ________ town.” I was trying to find the myths and compare it to historical record. For example, I’ve heard that Elmira was founded by Italian immigrant railroad workers. My neighbors gave me even juicer myths and history gave me a surprise. I will continue to write this series and have already explored Swede Island and have a spring trip planned to discover a Chinese burial ground known to some locals.

The magazine gig and a new client project has made me a naughty novel writer. I set my revision aside for a rest at Thanksgiving and, yes, it’s still resting. My goal this year is to discover something in between revision obsession and revision avoidance. Right now, I’m coming out of a holiday break that I can’t claim was adventurous, productive or reflective, but it was restful. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get industrious again.

Where to begin? Assessment. The turning of a new year is always a good time to reflect. Not all writers set goals, but I tend to be goal-oriented. I also have a vision for what “success” looks like for me as a writer. In fact, I shared that vision last year and mentioned my interest in hosting writing retreats in northern Idaho. Whether you have set goals, an idea of what success means to you, or you simply reflect on what has come to pass and what next, now is a good time to take stock.

2015 was not the year I expected. However, I didn’t let the setbacks derail me. In taking time to assess at various points throughout the year, I found it wise to shift priorities. Next week, after Longboarder returns to a more boisterous home and friends and I have in all my client submissions, I plan to plan. We have our first Anthology to craft and publish; Carrot Ranch is expanding to a live monthly writer’s support program at the local library; my Rock Creek revision deadline is the end of January; and I need to continue to source writing income.

Vision. Goals. Plan. Assess. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.

And above all, write. Writing is a combination of drafting, researching, arranging, revising, reading, inspiration and perhaps other activities such as plotting, people-watching, imagining, exploring. Writing is a hearty stew, not a single ingredient. And these days, if you publish — magazines, blogs, books — you need to add promoting to the mix. I’d like to get back to my platform building posts. Target audience is the biggest gap I see in our book publishing industry, and it’s a tricky one to deal with whether you publish independent, small press or with the big pillars.

Humans are industrious. Sometimes our industry is driven by greed — the desire to make money and be powerful through wealth — and sometimes it is driven by compassion — the desire to help others. I’m sure industrious people have a plethora of reasons for their efforts. Cobb McCanles came to Nebraska in March of 1859 and built a toll-bridge, dug a new well for pioneers, settled four ranches, operated a Pony Express relay station, traded with indigenous tribes, ran a stage coach stop, kept a wife and family and kept a former mistress. He was definitely industrious. The west often afforded such opportunity. In part, it’s what frustrated him about the southern economy based on plantation expansion and support of a slave trade. Only a few made wealth. Out west, a hard working man could make a living.

So could immigrants who came to America, believing in better opportunities for those clever and hard-working enough.

You see that picture up above for the flash fiction challenge? That’s a train of railroad cars all carrying steel rails for maintenance. I’ll give you the hint that Elmira was, and still is, a railroad maintenance hub. I see those rails parked outside and I think of the gandy dancers of men that once worked in teams to realign the rails before modern machinery. Were they Italian? Did they settle Elmira? Ah, you’ll have to read my story at Go Idaho!

December 30, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an industrious story. It can be about an industry or the efforts of a person or group of people. What does their industry reflect? Does hard work pay off? Are there risks or accidents?

Respond by January 5, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Prairie Industrialist by Charli Mills

Sarah knelt on the bank above, handing Cobb tools he needed. He waded the icy creek and directed the digging. The timbers he squared himself.

A small and curious crowd gathered. A few of the buffalo hunters pulled whiskey and crouched alongside several Ottowas. Many traded at the store. Her store. Well, Cobb’s store really, but she was running it.

“What’s he doing?”

Sarah looked up at the ranch wheelwright Cobb hired. “He’s building a toll-bridge to make a safer crossing at Rock Creek.”

“First spring flood’ll wipe it off the face of the earth.”

“Cobb’s a solid builder.”


Re-creation of the bridge Cobb built over Rock Creek at Rock Creek Nebraska State Park:



  1. Pete says:


    I blame the entertainment industry.

    And my parents.

    Sure, I was a cute kid, but was that my fault? Why I was groomed by producers and agents, abused by talent scouts? Called my parents by their first names, supporting Linda and Clark until the old trust fund went dry by the time I was axed from a hit show because puberty hit and the pimples and voice weren’t so cute.

    Where did that leave me?

    In rehab, that’s where.

    But now, finishing my tell-all memoir with a bomb, I know that I’ve finally found my revenge.

    The book industry.

  2. lucciagray says:

    Hi Charlie! Great Flash. Never give up! Do things as best as you can and you always win. Give up and you lose! I love the way your flashes take me across to ‘rough’ land and sturdy people. It reminds me of ‘When the West Was Won’ hard-working, industrious people with a dream 🙂
    You’re right. It goes for us writers, too. Love this line: Vision. Goals. Plan. Assess. Rinse. Lather. Repeat. It’s tough but I agree with you, it’s the only way.
    I’m afraid my flash is more ‘pessimistic’, sometimes younger generations become laid back and assume they’re entitled to a comfortable life… It’s often hard for parents to transmit a work ethic when there is abandance…
    ‘I’ve sold the shop.’
    We both turned to stare at our mother.
    ‘It was turning out losses.’
    Cutlery fell noisily onto the plates, alongside the calamari.
    ‘We’re starting another business.’
    Jaws dropped.
    ‘It’s 1st January, and we need to move on before it’s too late.’
    Eyes bulged.
    ‘I’ve bought this tapas bar.’
    I glanced around and coughed.
    ‘There’ll be jobs for the two of you.’
    My sister frowned, ‘What jobs?’
    ‘We’ll make it work this time.’
    ‘I’m not waitressing!’ protested my sister.
    I looked around at the bottles of Pinot Grigio and raised my glass, ‘I’ll drink to that!’
    Happy New Year! May your wishes come true in 2016 🙂
    But remember it’s going to cost you loads of hard work!

  3. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, Every time I pop over here I am even more amazed! Congratulations on your new writing gig with Go Idaho! Your industriousness has you powering on ahead. The stories you tell are fascinating. There seem to be many woven into your surroundings, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most are hidden to any other than you. You are the one to seek them out, to turn the soil and bring them to life as you weave your magic with words across the page. You’ll make those stories real and create an interest in them in others. How powerful is the pen! And even more so in skilled hands.
    I really enjoyed your flash showing Cobb’s industriousness. Coupled with the photo it creates a picture of unyielding strength. Although the bridge may be a recreation, I’m sure the original was in service for many years.
    Industriousness is an interesting prompt. Unfortunately effort doesn’t always pay off, or not in the way expected or intended. I’ll have to give this one some thought. Thanks for the challenge and the interesting post.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Norah! I’ll be back to respond more. Longboarders folks just pulled in as I began to type!

      • Norah says:

        I’m hope you’re returning the goods in prime condition! 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        The goods were returned in good condition! 🙂 I do like digging for stories. With so much reflection occurring among SMAG in regards to writing and “being a writer” I think I have to say I’m more of a story-teller, story-catcher. I write because it’s my most comfortable form of communication. And yes, effort doesn’t always pay off the way we anticipate, but it prepares us for what next and those wonderful serendipitous moments. I look forward to where your industrious thoughts lead!

  4. Happy New Year from the new kid on this block! 🙂 Here is mine. I have very little experience writing fiction but I have to just jump in and do it. Very open for comments! Thanks.

  5. In my contribution to this week’s challenge, Ed and Edna question whether some industrious activity is really progress:

  6. rogershipp says:


    No one calls at 2:14 AM.

    Let me correct that. No one used to call.

    Now, it’s home base … another emergency. With them…there are only emergencies!

    Having left extreme sports for a more nine-to-five job (my wife’s idea), we were a happy, somewhat- normal couple (two kids, a gerbil, and three dogs).

    I left my passion as a top-five free-climber with seven first assents to my legacy.

    Now I was on call to climb communication towers.

    Leaning over to kiss her on the cheek, I grab my coat and softly descend the back stairs.

    Normal is so overrated!

  7. A. E. Robson says:

    Happy New Year, Charli. To you and all who visit here, all the best in 2016. It’s good to be back in the saddle again!

    Dreams Don’t Die
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    The smell of fresh baked sweets welcomed the customers when they came through the door. Small tables dressed in crisp linens were adorned with a tiny nosegay of flowers, fresh from the garden. Each table placed intimately around the room.

    This had been their dream until the accident had left him a paraplegic. They heard about funds available to start new businesses for people displaced from their jobs by accidents.

    Their dream traveled a different route. Rehabilitation and hard work had paid off. Now his wheel chair moved easily around the custom kitchen.

    He baked. She served their guests.

    • ruchira says:

      Loved how you showcased the determination and the hardships.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Happy New Year, Ann! Great expression of tenacity. So often we see our “perfect” selves achieving the dreams, but the real test of a dream is if it calls us even through tragedy and hardship. Love those last too lines and how they punctuate what they built.

  8. ruchira says:

    Happy New Year, Charli.

    I had taken a break from the net and writing since family was at home, and all charged up to help you with that forthcoming project and my writing 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Happy New Year, Ruchira! Family is a great break to take. I hope you all enjoyed one another and made lasting memories. Good to see you back at the ranch!

  9. […] story of a brave and industrious man and his family written for Flash Fiction Challenge for The Carrot Ranch where we are to write about an industrious story in 99 words, no more and no […]

  10. Oliana says:

    I finally thought of something…I was brain dead for a few days but by George, I think I found it! thanks for the inspiration!

  11. […] week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about being industrious. She says […]

  12. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I think we on the same journey, but I have taken the side track for this one. 🙂

  13. […] Another go at 99 words of fiction in response to the latest prompt from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. […]

  14. Lisa Reiter says:

    Nice little prompt and great for the start of the year when we might feel the need to get back to working! 😊

  15. Annecdotist says:

    I’m so excited that you’re finding and expanding your niche, Charli. The magazine sounds great, as does your slot at the local library. I love how you’re exploring cultural diversity in the historical record – reminds me of how in Britain we forget that there was cultural diversity among the inhabitants well before the mass immigration from what had been the Empire in the last century.
    I do think, however, finding the right publishing partner for a novel is very difficult and a lot down to chance. The novel I’ve just finished reading and expect to review next month has the author flanking the publisher in the acknowledgements for taking “the brave step of publishing this difficult book” and yet it doesn’t seem difficult at all. The same could be said about my own novel.
    Like you, I didn’t get as far on my novel revisions last year as I’d hoped, but don’t have quite as good an excuse (not that I believe an excuse is needed).
    Love your Flash – Cobb was certainly a solid builder, as are you with both your own writing career and the community you’ve created. I’m honoured to be part of it and look forward to riding with you over the coming year.
    My post is taking a sideways look at the creative writing industry. My Flash is very tentatively following in your footsteps and exploring a historical industry – not quite on my doorstep, but certainly where often to be found – in the manufacture of millstones:

    • Lisa Reiter says:

      Dear Charli. I had meant to comment on the rest of your eloquent post and your ever enthusiastic pursuit of new ideas and writing avenues. Then I got distracted for 24 hours with the Flash prompt and finding a suitable picture.. Well all I can add now is that Anne puts it all so well!
      Yours as ever
      The Memory Muppet over the Pond

      • Charli Mills says:

        Hey there, Memory Muppet! I’m glad you got distracted — that was a wickedly fun flash. Good to see you out and about. I hope things are going well with revision. It’s where I seem to be stuck these days, tho I keep stepping forward. Finding the magazine gig was a good match because I can write about history which ties back to my WIP. The library program is basically my blog live! It’s a monthly flash fiction challenge and a post/presentation about writing. I hope to meet other area writers and provide a ranch-like environment for rural writers of Idaho. One day, we might work together to bring other writers here for retreats. Ah, that’s the dream. And one day, I’ll have books to sell and an infrastructure for it. The other part of the dream.

      • Lisa Reiter says:

        Gotta have a dream Charli as we both know. I think it’s brilliant, taking your blog to the physical community. I tried to take you to my local writing group but.. as we found, they’re only interested in themselves so they don’t take part in my vision for 2016! (I can guarantee they won’t see this comment..!)
        The magazine opportunity sounds wonderful. I’m looking for small things to have a go at this year, realising I need some small rewards and different focus. I am hating my big project the mo. Revisions have petered out and there’s still new stuff to tackle. Too much work and not enough industry here! What was my dream? Totally forgotten so branching out again looking for inspiration – keep the prompts a-coming gal!❤️

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Anne. It’s evolving and sometimes it’s as planned and other times it brings a surprise. I’m enjoying this look into cultural diversity in our history here in Idaho and it’s good to reflect to modern readers the reality of the diverse culture that founded this state. And I’m pleased to go read about millstones. I would be so curious to look them over if they were where I hiked! Cob was certainly industrious. I think he really did want to build something lasting for himself and his family. Sometimes that why we write — to build (or create) something. Yet often, we find satisfaction in the effort and perhaps in the growth mindset Norah writes about. As for finding a match, I think you are right in that books are more “difficult” these days because authors are successfully breaking out of genres. My first two manuscripts defy easy definition. But that’s why I think I’ve had more interest in Rock Creek because it can fit the historical genre even though I write to include the female perspective. I still think authors can find matches in areas of interest, or similar definitions of what is a difficult or edgy or breaking the molds kind of book. And as far as revision goes, I find that even bursts of obsession doesn’t get it done. Perseverance and process. I’m still refining the process part. If you find a good nugget, let me know!

    • Annecdotist says:

      Oops: the author flanking the publisher in the acknowledgements — one of my better non-typos

  16. […] Mills latest flash fiction prompt is thus […]

  17. Bill says:

    Great prompt and story too!


    “Ay lad.”

    “This your first time on Old Hilga, I see.”

    I nodded and covered my mouth to hold the gag caused by the motion sickness.

    “Don’t worry lad, gets bit bumpy on landing but she generally holds up.”
    “’Tis near hundred years since she had a problem landing on this damned rock. That’s when she burned up.”

    “’Twon’t take but a bit for us to suck the water up and head back to earth for the delivery.”

    “Only take 26 months to get back. Don’t you worry, we’ll put ourselves into deep sleep and you won’t even notice.”

  18. […] you can see I had a total writers block on this prompt by Charli where she […]

  19. I struggled with this one. Loads of ideas but no stories.
    Your own story shows one industrious lady. Things are really happening for you and it is only through your sheer hard work that they. They haven’t landed at your feet just by accident. The magazine sounds awesome. What a wonderful writing venue combining your two loves, writing and history plus you get to try out all the local gigs. Your flash shows two industrious people for not only was Cobb industrious I think Sarah was also. I hope that bridge didn’t suffer any damage in your recent rains.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sometimes our efforts feel like that (perhaps I’m thinking of revision efforts) — lots of work, little result. Eventually it does come to pass. That’s the industry of persistence! I’m glad you caught Sarah’s industriousness, too. Hers is subtle but she was a business partner to Cobb. Historians can be more imaginative than romance writers when it comes to Sarah and Cobb. Funny that fiction will show a different side to their relationship. Probably closer t the truth. And yes, I’m excited to be writing about Idaho’s cultural history as well as current places and interesting faces. Most days work feels like play.

  20. […] response to the flash fiction challenge on Charli Mills’ blog, to write a 99 word ‘industrious’ […]

  21. Here’s my last minute story.

    A busy person

    Everyone round here knows her, the kindly lady with the cane. Doesn’t work after her accidents—she’s pursuing a motorist and the transport company for negligence and dangerous driving. People sympathised, especially because of the cats. We never knew how many she looked after until she was evicted. She’d hung on in the old apartment because she’s suing the owner for something or other. The cats slipped through the net of her concerns. She took three with her. Some were caught and destroyed. The rest roamed the rooftops for a while, lost and famished. All gone now. Nice lady.

  22. […] Mills’ Carrot Ranch December 30th Flash Fiction Challenge:  in 99 words (no more, no less), write an “industrious” story.  I confess I was lost in the […]

  23. Sherri says:

    Charli, you are the epitome of industriousness…phew, that’s a mouthful! But seriously, you work so hard and you deserve all the success you can get. You really are so generous in sharing your extensive writing knowledge with us, great advice about finding our fit with writing assignments and also for publishing. I am so excited for you and can’t wait to read your articles in Go Idaho, especially about the history of Elmira. What a great, memory-provoking article to ask of your neighbours! And I’m there with you in the middle of revision obsession and avoidance…let’s hope that 2016 brings that happy medium and the results we seek! We got this, right? 🙂 Love your flash and the photo to illustrate. Amazing isn’t it how some can be so quick to mock at the results of someone else’s hard work. Thinking of that, here’s my flash, no political opinion intended:

    Pizza Delivery

    “I’m starving, when’s our food coming?”

    “I’ve ordered it alright? Have another fag and stop moaning.”

    Joe licked a cigarette paper and lit up just as the doorbell chimed.

    “About time,” he grumbled as Dee plonked down the pizza box. “What took so long?”

    “I dunno, he was foreign, didn’t even speak English…”

    “Bloody immigrants, taking our jobs,” grunted Joe from a mouth stuffed full.

    Dee nodded as she reached for another slice.

    “By the way, you’ve got an appointment tomorrow at the Job Centre. Maybe you’ll find something?”

    “Ha, nothing but crap jobs out there, what’s the point?”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Sherri! Ha, well, I rested well over the holidays, taking an industrious break. 🙂 Back at it tho, always moving forward and checking the trail and stars occasionally. After reading Norah’s post, I got to thinking about the commonality of an growth mindset of those who ride in to write a flash challenge. It seems like we are all so diverse — different countries, backgrounds, generations, genres — yet we all seem to have that open mindedness to learn and share. I learn as much from all of you! And I do believe in finding a good fit. For example, Go Idaho will be significant when I’m trying to nail down a publisher, and can show published history stories. In the reverse, people who read my stories in Go Idaho might be interested to know when I publish a book. Building our writers platform looks like cogs in a watch and the better they fit, the better the timepiece. 🙂 As to that obsession/avoidance of revision…we’ll keep seeking a balancing! Yes! We’ve got this! And Cobb deserves to have his efforts acknowledged. As to your flash — that is painfully true of the US as well. You write dialog well; I can hear the characters come to life in my mind.

      • Sherri says:

        You put it so elequently Charli, I need to start putting more of those cogs into the watch. Your writing gig with Go Idaho will help you tremendously, as you deserve! It’s wonderful to be included as part of your multi-national, growth-mindset community. I am set to head over to Norah’s post 🙂 Time to move forward and get busy, like the bees. Thanks about the dialogue, I’m really encouraged by that, more than you know 🙂

    • rogershipp says:

      The sorry truth… “workers” who are too good to work…

  24. Charli, it looks like you’ve kick-started many of us off on what may be a very industrious year. Good luck with all your planning! When you suggested we write about this theme, my first thought was about bees. And then I thought about bears who can be quite industrious in their quest for some honey to fill up their tummies. And that lead me to Pooh Bear… my only little Winnie and, well you can read all about it here. 😉

    • Charli Mills says:

      This feels like a productive year. Each year I feel like I get a better understanding, better processes, adjust the plan and fruits begin to appear. I hope it’s a good year for us all! Aw, Pooh Bear! Off to read!

  25. […] In response to Charli Mill’s weekly Flash Fiction Prompt: Industry […]

  26. Marigold says:

    Well, I definitely think your (personal) industry is driven by passion and compassion! Well done Charli, for achieving so much! You’ve started this year off on the right foot, I think, so here’s to a productive and rewarding 2016.
    And another great prompt. This one felt very specific to me, so I wrote a flash based on my own experience. I don’t do that too often – I usually find it’s more fun to disappear into other people’s lives than my own, but this time it fits.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Marigold. Indeed, here’s to a productive and rewarding 2016! I’m glad you went with where the prompt led you. Often it’s in those unexpected places that we write into something new, even if it is something known.

  27. […] Flash Fiction for Carrot Ranch. […]

  28. paulamoyer says:

    Dear Charli and fellow Rough Writers:

    Sorry to have missed the boat on the last two flashes. The retail season and sinusitis and husband with bronchitis laid waste to my time. But we had a great visit over the holidays Radio Geek (Charli’s daughter) and Solar Man (my son)! Yes, Sister-Mom and all, the UP’s Super Heroes were in fine form and we had a great time with a pie marathon and other great stuff.

    Here’s to a divine 2016!


    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Paula! Good to see you rebounding from your bout of sinusitis. Glad you got to spend time with Radio Geek and Solar Man. Best time to have. Wishing you a divine 2016, too!

  29. […] December 30: Flash Fiction Challenge December 30, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an industrious story. It can be about an industry or the efforts of a person or group of people. What does their industry reflect? Does hard work pay off? Are there risks or accidents? […]

  30. julespaige says:

    Very late to this party:

    Casting Fortune Aside

    Filippo was the son of a restaurateur who had actually made a
    good name for himself until the older man retired. Who would
    not want to follow such a man? So he bought a small shop that
    served up breakfast and dinner. It had maybe ten tables and a
    small counter that sat eight.

    The son may have had a head for business, but he was not a
    people person. He wasn’t consistent with his staff or polite with
    his customers. I worked for him for about a year, and wasn’t
    surprised when he jumped ship.


    You can find the post here:
    Casting Fortune Aside

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