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April 20: Flash Fiction Challenge

April 20The prairies that American pioneers crossed in the mid-1800s must have looked like oceans of grass. The vistas were like that of being at sea with no civilization in sight. At night, wagon trains circled the wagons to contain their livestock, share a meal in fellowship and sleep in the safety of community. Here at Carrot Ranch we have a community of helping hands and now a circling of wagons. That I’m not lost on the prairie is a comfort while I gather my bearings from the unexpected in life. This is an amazing community that I’m proud to share the trail with.

We also had a contest recently at Carrot Ranch and just today announced the winners. I’d like to thank Norah Colvin, Geoff Le Pard, Pat Cummings and Sarah Brentyn for their capable judging and commitment to time. It was not an easy ranch duty! We have broke ground for more contests in the future, and our judges will use their experience to guide writers with future guest posts on the topic. The judging was blind, so you can imagine the delight and surprise when Pete Fanning, a regular Rough Writer, was revealed to be the First Place Winner. It must be all the practice he gets in weekly at the ranch. Congratulations, Pete! We did a happy dance for you!

And thank you Norah! I turn over the reins to you this week.


NorahCircles of life

The circle is a powerful symbol used to represent many concepts, including:

  • limitations of boundaries
  • continuity and infinity
  • inclusion, unity and wholeness

In a wedding band it expresses the continuity of love. The wheel represents freedom of movement. Though one continuous line, the circle contains an infinite number of points that can be expanded to include everyone and everything; like in the circle games we play or our comfort zones.

In the classroom we have sharing circles where everyone comes together to share their work, thoughts and ideas. In the circle everyone is equal, with equal opportunity to be seen and heard. Each can see, and be seen by, everyone at the same time. The focus is taken from the teacher and shared equally with class members, creating a democracy.

Venn diagram are circles that overlap, showing what is shared. If we were to represent humanity on a Venn diagram, it would show far more intersection than difference.

The word circle is also used to express different ideas, including:

  • the immediate family is known as the family circle
  • one’s closest friends form the friendship circle
  • to go full circle means you (or things) end up back where you (or they) started
  • a vicious circle occurs when bad things lead to other bad things and there seems to be no way of escaping or preventing further occurrence
  • sometimes we feel we are going around in circles, trapped in the monotonous repetition
  • but if we run rings, or circles, around others it means we do things with greater ease and speed than they
  • we may talk about the vultures circling waiting to take advantage of the vulnerable
  • but when the wagons circle they offer protection and support.

The Carrot Ranch is the centre of a Venn diagram, the intersection where many writers come to sit around the campfire and share stories. Charli Mills, the lead buckaroo, sets the theme and writers respond in a way that suits them.

At the moment Charli is doing her best to avoid those vultures which are circling to pick at her resolve. I’m pleased to say that Charli is running rings around them. But Charli does have a lot on her plate at the moment so the Rough Writers have circled their wagons to help protect and support. Heeding the call by Lisa Reiter, first on the scene, to help out at the Ranch with a few guest flash prompts, a number of Rough Writers have stepped up. This week it’s my turn.

April 20, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a circle in your life. Is it a supportive circle, or a circle that entraps you? What’s its significance? Take you where the prompt leads.

Respond by April 26, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Here’s mine:

Friendship Circle

He was new. They saw it. He felt it. With different hair, different clothes, different words, different – everything, he felt a world apart.

They huddled together, talking in loud whispers. He remained apart, attempting nonchalance but feeling unworthy, dejected, and afraid. Their occasional glances were followed by hoots of laughter. He wished to be anywhere else.

Suddenly the circle disbanded and some of them, the bigger ones, headed his way. He couldn’t move. He’d never get away. The others stood by, watching. He waited for the assault.

“Hey,” said the biggest one. “You’re new here. Come and join us.”





  1. Annecdotist says:

    Great guest post, Norah, and congratulations to the worthy winners – as well as the judges for doing such a fantastic job.

  2. Renee says:

    I love the prompt, Norah! Wonderful writing and a wonderful story to go with it; I think we have all been there. Congratulations to Pete Fanning. I am very happy for him! And thank you for being the supportive circle. Charli is bleseed to have all of you.

  3. Brilliant! Circles are symbolic of many different things and ideas. Fantastic prompt, Norah. Can’t wait to see what everyone does with this one. 💕

    • Norah says:

      Thanks, Sarah. I’m looking forward to seeing what others do too. I’m wondering where it might take you. 🙂

  4. Pete says:

    Thanks to all, you can imagine my surprise this morning! And yes, it’s definitely this community that has helped my writing! Good luck to Noah and his dog, looks like they’re off to a great start!

  5. denmaniacs4 says:

    The Banker

    Our mounts settled in, Aggie Runacre safely boarded, I took my leave, stuck to the dusky shadows and made my way to the Bank.

    Three taps on the side door and the Banker bid me enter.

    “You’ve taken your good time, Dobbs.”

    “I always take my time.”

    The banker had aged. His skin was grey. There were crescents of fat framing his eyes.

    “Three fine men and one child have died because of your delay.”

    “The circle of life is not my responsibility,” I said.

    “But this circle of death is, Sir. And it must come to an end.”

  6. Norah, I’m so glad you jumped on your horse, circled over to the ranch and are giving a helping hand. I know Charli appreciates, as do all of us. The prompt choice is awesome and so rich with options to write about. It will be fun reading what everyone comes up with.

  7. Lisa Reiter says:

    Awesome prompt Norah. I will be going round and round in circles thinking about this one! Love your flash and it’s happy ending – that wasn’t the school I went to!

    Congratulations Pete on being a winner and superstar writer. I look forward to reading your story some day 🙂

    • Norah says:

      Thank you, Lisa. It was a challenge riding along in your shadow, but with Charli’s wonderful guidance, hopefully I got there. If you click on “Events” and the “Contests” in the menu bar, you can access and read the winning stories. It’s a worthwhile thing to do! 🙂

  8. olwenmhughes says:

    Widdershins, widdershins make your wish! This is the way round the tall henge company and I do so want to get to where I started; wish or longing? What’s the difference? I return again and again to the place and the feeling and the colours, deja vu. How long does spirit dance? Go the wrong way wround to be the wright way – magic mayhem. End is start. Amen.

    • Norah says:

      So often when we are trying to get somewhere, we just keep going around in circles until we end up where we started. That’s definitely a sense of deja vu.

  9. Norah, I hope things work out with blessings for you soon. I am sorry you are going through all of these trials.

    Lisa, thank you for the prompt.

    This is my response. I posted it to my WordPress account, too. It diverges from what I’ve previously posted here, revealing my penchant for horror.

    Circle of Salt
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    I saw it in a movie; a circle of salt protects people from fiends. They can’t cross the line.

    So I huddle in the center of an uninterrupted seasoning ring watching the door. I hug the doll Mother gave to me. She’s dressed in a white gown with a teal sash, precisely like the one I wore at Mother’s wedding.

    When he comes, he won’t be able to cross the line. I’ll be safe. No person would do what he does. Only a monster could.

    When he opens the door, wind scatters the crystals. He laughs. “Yum, a margarita.”

    • Norah says:

      Oh dear. That is definitely a touch of horror. She thought she was protected, but the wind blew her only hope away. Just goes to show you can’t always believe what you see in the movies! You have communicated the tension well, building up towards the end. I can only imagine the horrors about to occur. I’d be closing my eyes or turning off the movie at this point! Well done.

    • Pete says:

      Loved this take!

  10. I meant congratulations to Norah and best wishes to Charli. (Sorry, it is late.)

  11. olwenmhughes says:

    I wrote my story a couple of posts back (thanks Kerry!) but, as a newcomer was just guessing where to leave it! I will, um, get more useful as I go on….

    • Norah says:

      It takes time to get to know the layout of somewhere new, Olwen. You are welcome to cut and paste your flash fiction story into the comment box, or link to it on your own blog if you have one. New writers are always welcome at the ranch. The prompts for a 99-word story are posted on Wednesdays with responses required by the following Tuesday. Rules are here if you wish to check them. Thanks for popping by.

  12. […] is standing in for Charli at the Carrot Ranch, and the prompt she has chosen for this week’s 99 word story is circles. Since this is also Earth Day, my circle is an […]

  13. I have searched the internet and cannot as of yet find a site anything like this one. I look forward to the prompts and the challenge of working on story-telling or writing. But i enjoy the flash and the little idea compressed into these.

    Thank you for reading.


    100 inches

    Outside. Beyond the museum of voices he dont mean anything. Horrible at stories. Details. But this 100″ diameter, diamond glare flashed around, 100 stars swirl. 100 cameras film. 100 goosebumps. 100 eyes. and 100 ears hear. 100 voices simultaneous… Like 100 screaming falling trees… he hears. What 100 inspirations, together, what 100 ricochets path to where we are everything…. like 100 riders. 100 horses. 100 warriors. 100 ships full of the destiny of stories each imploding, each overlapping like wagons circling his 99 words; achieving yet imaginings then envelope; 1 additional sweet whispering surrounding silence – ‘we are not alone’.

    • Norah says:

      You are right, Elliott. There is nothing else like this wonderful blog that Charli has set up, and this great community of writers she has formed and inspires. It’s great to see you joining in again. Your statement “we are not alone” embodies the sentiment that Charli establishes through her website and blog, linking and supporting writers from around the globe. Each “additional sweet whispering” is welcome to come in out of the silence and join in.

  14. Norah says:

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    This week I had the honour of writing a guest post and flash fiction prompt at the Carrot Ranch. I was writing around in circles.
    If you haven’t already popped over to see, I’d be thrilled if you did!
    Here is a taster and link.

  15. Gulara says:

    I never follow the prompts because I am yet to write a flash fiction, but i must admit I am tempted! A great prompt and reflections on the circles of life and love. So pleased for winners and what a wonderful cast of judges.

    • Annecdotist says:

      Take the plunge, Gulara, it’s fun!

    • Pete says:

      Do it…Do it…Do it….

    • Norah says:

      You are receiving a lot of encouragement, Gulara. You would write wonderful flash, I am sure. Thanks for reading and commenting so positively on the prompt. I look forward to your response should you decide to join in.

      • Gulara says:

        I’ve already written a few, but then stop myself from putting it on paper because to me it sounds like a cliché! 🙁 Maybe got to start somewhere even if it ends up not especially original. Thanks for all the encouragement, Norah.

      • Norah says:

        It was new to us all at one time. I’d never heard of flash fiction before I joined in Charli’s prompts. It’s always a challenge, but fun coming up with something too.

      • Gulara says:

        I just did it. Thanks for all the encouragement and support 🙂 As always, your kindness helped no end.

      • Norah says:

        I am honoured that your first flash fiction attempt was in response to my prompt. Thank you. I am delighted.

      • Gulara says:

        You have such a kind and encouraging ways of speaking, Norah. I felt no pressure and lots of encouragement. I’m hooked now 🙂 Can’t wait for the next prompt!

      • Norah says:

        Oooh, that’s exciting, Gulara. I’m so pleased you have decided to join in. It is a lot of fun and provides a different avenue for expressing our thoughts and sharing our messages.

    • Ula says:

      I agree. Just do it.

  16. Thanks to Nora, congrats to Pete, and best wishes to Charli!

    Traffic circles are common in many areas of the world, but are very rare in my little corner of South Carolina:

  17. Annecdotist says:

    Interested in how the past shapes the present and how we need to circle around our memories of formative experiences, going over them again and again. I’ve given an example of how that might make the structure of a novel, but my flash is about how this might be manifest in therapy.
    Thanks for a great prompt which chimes so nicely with the ethos of the ranch.

    • Norah says:

      Great flash, Anne. I like where these circles took you: through a novel to explorations of life and therapy. Thanks for joining in with the prompt and for your encouraging words.

  18. Pete says:

    Incredible post, Norah, way to keep things humming along smoothly. You’re post made me think, darn it. Anyway, here’s mine.

    Standardized Test

    The hollow circles glared at Dakota. They teased him, danced, interlacing together like Olympic rings. He tapped his pencil, scraped dull on his scrap paper, now smudged with doodles. A stick man. Then his guitar. Of course he needed a band.

    “Five minutes.”

    Fireworks exploded in Dakota’s head. Dad hovering over his left shoulder, Mom on the right. Inside his head a drum solo thundered, followed by the screech of tires, sirens, an exchange of gunfire from the movie last night.

    “Time’s up.”

    Pencils slapped desks. A murmur of relief filled the room. Dakota flipped over his empty circles.

    • Pete says:

      YOUR post. Grrr…

    • Norah says:

      Oh dear! I’m pleased your paper didn’t finish as blank as Dakota’s. I can see those doodles on the paper. Sometimes they can help draw the ideas out, other times they remain as hollow as our thoughts. Thanks for joining in with an interesting take on the circles prompt and a brilliant piece of flash, even if Dakota didn’t get that flash of inspiration. Interesting too – I was picturing those Olympic circles as I tried to conjure up something to write. Thanks for joining in with my attempt to get you thinking. 🙂

  19. ellenbest24 says:

    Congratulations to everyone here. I just read Free the winner of the flash. It was excellent as were the others. But a round of applause to Pete and Charli, Norah you are doing great. Oh! I like it here. 👋👋👋😜

  20. Norah says:

    Thank you for taking the time to read the stories, Ellen. I agree. Pete’s story is excellent, as are other submissions. I’m pleased you feel so welcome here. Thanks for joining in.

  21. susanzutautas says:

    Happy to see you Norah lending Charli a helping hand. Loved your take on the prompt. Here is mine for this week.

    • Norah says:

      Thanks for your kind words and for joining in this week, Susan. I love your circle surprise ending. It’s not at all what I expected.

  22. […] This flash fiction is also in response to the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  23. Ula says:

    I went full circle and got to a dark place. I guess that’s how the story goes sometimes.

    Nice to see you taking the reigns, Norah.

    My flash:

    • I am curious, and please take this positively… but why was the T (trauma) not colored? Was that on purpose? All the other letters “for” have an adjective color but that one. Maybe its unable to be colored. No answer needed, just my thoughts anyways. Love the color for M. Excellent flash.

    • Norah says:

      That is dark, Ula. But as you say, sadly, that is how the story often goes. It’s a very emotive piece. The pain is tangible. Thanks for joining in on my prompt.

  24. […] Colvin, one of my favourite bloggers, wrote a guest post last week for the Carrot Ranch,  where bloggers come together and share flash fiction on a regular basis. I’ve been reading […]

  25. Gulara says:

    OK, I did it. Thanks for all the encouraging comments 🙂

    • Norah says:

      I’m so pleased you joined in, Gulara. This is a wonderful take on the prompt and leaves me with a warm feeling and much to ponder. Thank you.

  26. […] April 20: Flash Fiction Challenge April 20, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about circle in your life. Is it a supportive circle, or a circle that entraps you? What’s its significance? Take you where the prompt leads. […]

  27. julespaige says:

    I’m a tad behind on my reading (from last week yet…as well) but I didn’t want to miss this prompt:

    Keeping Traditions Alive

    Around the tables for the holidays that’s what matters most.
    For the children to see the adults supporting each other.
    Maybe this hostess only does the big dance twice a year…
    Some got the date incorrect on their electronic calendars…
    so they missed out. They’ll catch the next gathering.

    The day of single handedly cooking, running the appliances
    at full throttle, the trash bin filling three times as normal,
    the mix of fine china and paper plates, borrowed chairs, lively
    conversations, contributions to the table by everyone – Then
    gifting the departing with copious bags of leftovers… That’s
    the good life.


    Post link here:
    Keeping Traditions Alive

    • Norah says:

      Lovely, Jules. Thanks for joining in. It sounds like a very special family with much to celebrate. Good times like that with special people is definitely the good life. Well done. Thanks for joining in with the prompt.

  28. A. E. Robson says:

    The fear that mounts within at the dreaded feeling of being lost. It happens easily. It’s consuming.

    Going in Circles
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    I’ve been here before. That can’t be. I know I’m on the right trail.

    Stop. Think. Where’s the sun?

    Breathe. Slow. In out. Calm.

    Where’s that damned sun? It wasn’t supposed to be cloudy.

    Sit. Breathe. Think. I need to go West. Follow the setting sun to the road. Where is that damned sun?

    What next? Stop. Sit. Breathe. Think. Relax. Don’t panic.

    The tree! Moss growing at its base. Always North.

    O.K.! Breathe. Move. No sun. Keep focused. Regroup thoughts.

    Keep going. Keep moss in sight. Don’t need sun.

    Not lost. No more circles. ​

    Road in sight.

    • Norah says:

      Thanks for joining in, Ann. That fear of being lost is certainly something I can identify with. You did a great job of creating the tension, and then the relief at finding the road. Well done.

  29. […] Carrot Ranch Communications April 20 prompt: April 20, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a circle. Is it a supportive circle, or a circle that entraps? What’s its significance? […]

  30. Deborah Lee says:

    Great prompt! Circling the wagons, such a community image that brings up! You’re in my thoughts, Charli.

    • Norah says:

      Thanks for joining in, Deborah. I like that the choice has been made to break one destructive cycle and step into a circle of friends. Well done.

  31. […] week Norah Colvin is helping out at the Carrot Ranch with a guest post and the following flash fiction […]

  32. Lisa Reiter says:

    Coughing and spluttering to the finish line.. “Now the day is over” –

    • Norah says:

      I’m pleased you made it, Lisa. Thanks for giving me nightmares! Great horror story. Brilliant writing.

      • Lisa Reiter says:

        Couldn’t come up with a positive theme despite the positive prompt! Xx

      • Norah says:

        Well, we all go where it leads. Yours took us on a scary walk through the woods!

      • Lisa Reiter says:

        Hoping you’ve had fun this week Norah and not chasing your own tail! This has been a challenging prompt for some of us! Xx

      • Norah says:

        It has been fun, Lisa. I really enjoyed reading the responses. While I do read them all every week, this week I felt a greater sense of responsibility for them. I thought nobody would respond. I’m pleased my fears were not realised. (Not like that water bottle!)

      • Lisa Reiter says:

        I felt exactly the same – it’s with a sense of pride you hand the baton on 😂💃🏻🎉

      • Norah says:

        It is. I’m looking forward to laying a little lower this week though. 🙂

      • Lisa Reiter says:

        It’s a useful reminder of the time and commitment needed to run a weekly event! I think a group sharing that responsibility is very social. 😄💕

      • Norah says:

        I agree. I’m in awe of Charli’s ability to maintain the pace. She’s amazing!

  33. […] week, from the Carrot Ranch we have this prompt – Norah Colvin guesting for Charli […]

  34. […] set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Today I am breaking with tradition as I wrote the prompt this week and included my flash with […]

  35. […] In response to Norah’s prompt for Charli’s 99 word flash. […]

  36. TanGental says:

    Why my pingbacks don’t work I don’t know; maybe I’m officially spam. So here is my take. Fraid to say circles creeped me out a little hence the off kilter commentary to the flash.

    • Norah says:

      Great post and flash, Geoff. I love this discussion between Penny and Mary. Homework discussions do tend to take us around in circles and we end up where we began. I didn’t think your post was out of kilter at all. Thanks for joining in.

  37. […] following stories are based on the April 20, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a circle in your […]

  38. Sherri says:

    Love your prompt and flash Norah…nothing worse than feeling left out and alone. Embraced by that all-important circle of friends. And thank you for the call to encircle Charli with that very same friendship…true community, true safety, true comfort. I’m so sorry I wasn’t able to get my flash in on time, I really wanted to, but alas, it was not to be. Now I will head over to the compilation and read everyone’s wonderful contributions. Big hugs to you both Charli and Norah…thank you! <3

  39. Bec says:

    Hi Charli & Nor, it’s nice to be over in this part of the SMAG world! And I always enjoy looking in to this wonderful network of supportive and kind people. I hope all is well, Charli. I love the symbolism of the circle, Nor, and your FF. The end was very warming! I would like to hope this happens more often that the thought-narrator’s expectation. Maybe if we put the kids in charge of the world..!

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