New Territory

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.

November 16, 2016


Carrot Ranch is entering new territory. And it’s a beautiful view!

First of all, prompts shift to Thursday (Friday for those opposite the earth clock from Mars, Utah). The November 17 prompt will be an extended one to stretch across the Thanksgiving holiday in the states. Mostly, because my daughter surprised me with getting time off from work and flying to Las Vegas from Montana. This is a woman who rarely takes time off unless it’s to raft a crazy river, go bow hunting or sailing Flathead Lake. I’m beyond thrilled!

As I informed all the ranchers who gather here, November is my NaNoRanCho planning and reflecting period. The shift to a Thursday flash fiction challenge is part of that. The deadline will continue to be the following Tuesday, which gives me a day for compiling. You might not realize it, but I give thought to the order. Sometimes I don’t see patterns and I follow a general “as submitted” order. Most times, though, interesting patterns emerge that I feel make a stronger statement in a certain order. Or sometimes I break up seriousness with unexpected humor (or the other way around). I immensely enjoy the finished collective product and want to have that extra time to shape it. The compilation will post on Wednesdays.

When the deadline day arrives for the previous flash fiction challenge, Carrot Ranch is going to use Tuesdays to be a regular profile or guest post. This space is to reflect upon the importance of literature from one writer’s perspective. A profile is a post in which I interview a writer and write the post. A guest post is one a writer writes. The theme is like a prompt: what value does literature have within the constraint of a story you want to tell (or I want to tell if I interview you). With this post-election reality, I see more than ever how important literature is to crafting empathy for other; telling the story from multiple or opposing perspectives; developing critical thinking; experiencing literary creativity; starting a dialog. I’m sure you can add to that list, and all interested in submitting or interviewing can take flexibility to include your own writing projects or books.

Coming in 2017, Mondays are for marketing tips. I’m partnering with another social media group to post brief tips to encourage the group’s writers to submit their work or build their platform. Some of you might know I have a specific idea of what a writer’s platform is: branding, community, credibility, target audience. This is based om my experience in marketing and what I’ve learned about the writing industry. I do not believe there is one way to build a platform. However, I do believe writers need to make informed decisions. My goal is to create an hub of information at Carrot Ranch to empower writers to feel confident in their marketing and platform building tactics. I will work with industry experts to post articles and I’ll introduce each post to explain which of the four components the guest is addressing. This is appropriate space for any blog tours for new books, if the author talks about his or her own platform or marketing strategies.

December will continue development of Carrot Ranch as a non-profit and our first anthology. The current Rough Writers are those who have prior material that we are including in the anthology along with exciting new works from several of our writers. Anthologies will continue to build upon the flash fiction we develop here, but they are more developed and reflective than a simple collection of what we write each week. We can grow this in many ways because it is a group effort. Sarah Brentyn has done an amazing job of developing this first one. As a non-profit, Carrot Ranch will also seek anyone committed to serve as a board director. More on that later, but be thinking about it if you are interested in being a part of a grass-roots organization that supports literary writers through flash fiction and marketing support.

Currently, I’m developing questions for my consultant who is helping me create a survey that shows what kind of platform builder an individual writer is. You can help me by asking me questions you have in regards to one of the four categories: branding, community, credibility or target audience (ask in the comments). This survey will be free for all writers and the intent is to generate a graph that shows each person his or her strengths or gaps in platform building. An e-book companion (for purchase) will then break down each component and show how a writer can either maximize strengths or bridge gaps. You’ll never be confused by a marketing post or book again once you learn to identify which component it relates to. Instead of reading books that seem at odds or discourage you as a writer, you can decide if it’s the right message or strategy for you.

So that’s my NaNoRanCho report thus far. I hope you are interested in taking part in the guest post (or interview) opportunities. I will also have a schedule for times (like this next week) where I would welcome a challenge host. You’ll get to create the prompt, write the challenge post, read and engage with participants, and compile the responses. If you are excited to be a part of the Carrot Ranch community as a rancher, email me at Rough Writers are selected from regular participants for each anthology and we are still at book one. Hang with us and you might be a Rough Writer in the future. You are always a rancher her at the ranch when you read, write or dialog and that’s why we say, Rough Writers & Friends. Thank you for being here!

PHOTO NOTE: This is the backside of West Temple at Zion National Park. On the other side of that sandstone feature, which is almost 8,000 feet in elevation, is Zion Canyon. It is surreal to have access to the backside of a place that attracts over 10,000 people a day in the height of season. It’s a sketchy road that climbs three layers of mesas. This flat reveals an ancient history. Stay tuned for the next flash fiction challenge.

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    • Charli Mills

      Thank you!

  1. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Hi Charli, You may be living in the desert as shown from the wonderful image but your plans offer far more than a desert to rough writers and ranchers alike and it is so exciting to be part of this writing community. I will email you. I think it is a great idea to give yourself a day to compile and I will get used to looking on Friday instead of Thursday for the new prompt. It is exciting that the anthology is nearing completion with plans for more on the way. A new look to suit your new location – I for one am excited.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Irene! It’s been like wandering in the desert this year, but the scenery and progress, though tortoises-like, offer excitement and hope. I look forward to your email!

  2. Norah

    You are very busy, Charli! I’m impressed at how far you have journeyed (literally and metaphorically) since I first met you – must be about four years ago. How unbelievable is that!
    I am very interested to find out more about the marketing strategies and information you mention, and will await each with interest. I have been intending to ask you for your thoughts about the hero image on the readilearn homepage, so will do so now. The image was selected by my web developers. While I think it is a nice image, I find it difficult to think about it as branding. I had always intended the image on my Norah Colvin blog to be my branding. The developers told me it wasn’t suitable (not the right size) for readilearn. I am meeting with them next week to discuss items I consider to be unsatisfactory, and would appreciate your thoughts if you have time. (Just to kick-off the branding questions.)
    I’m not sure that many of the other directions in which you are heading are suited to my abilities. I won’t have anything literary to offer. But I may be able to join in with a flash fiction prompt occasionally.
    I am looking forward to seeing all the new developments and wish you all the best.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, Norah! I’m going to break up my answers to you. You ask some excellent questions about branding and I will come back and flesh that out for you. You are a pillar of the literary concept at Carrot Ranch! This is exactly why I want to reinforce that literature is more than a body of work. It’s an activity — reading, writing, discoursing. When I made Carrot Ranch a literary place, really what I craved were the experiences I had in college, We’d read books and discuss what they meant with no emphasis on finding the “right” meaning. Together we often found greater meaning, sharing ideas just as we do each week with the flash fiction. We did the same with our creative writing. You are so important here because you add a dimension of learning and education. You approach the prompt with your education background and focus, teaching us something. And then you give a fantastic creative response, often pushing the form of 99 words into other constraints. All that IS literary! We need to reclaim literature as an activity to explore and exchange the human experience. It isn’t about quoting Shakespeare or Hemming way. It’s what we do in exchanges like this. Besides, I already planned your inclusion to the profile! And you are in the Anthology. You are the One, too! I honor that in you. But I’ll get back to you on the branding. I’m going to craft a practical response for you.

      • Annecdotist

        Well put, Charli, I see Norah as part of the foundations of this show, having introduced several of us to the Ranch, and engaging actively with the community from the education slant.

      • Norah

        Thank you, Charli. I very much appreciate your comment and that you have included me. I always feel like the six-year old child I still claim to be when I submit my non-literary, childish flash. I often don’t feel it stacks up well against the writing of others. But I do enjoy the challenge and, even more than that, the encouragement of the community, led by you. It’s an honour for me to be included in the Anthology. Thank you. I look forward to your response about branding. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Norah, embrace that six-year old child because that is the heart of your “brand” as a fiction writer and it lends credibility to you as an educational materials developer, Because you get the mind and heart of a six-year old! It’s never “non-literary.” In fact, that’s a good discussion to have sometimes — what is literature and why. If it’s only craft, well, how do we get there? It’s like saying only those who can do algebra do math. Those who add can add to the body of mathematics, too!

      • Charli Mills

        Norah, I sent you an email on your question of branding.

      • Charli Mills

        I agree, Anne!

  3. Annecdotist

    Exciting developments, Charli, and I look forward to being part of them.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s a restructure of what I began in Sandpoint and had to leave behind. That was an attempt to bridge an online community with a rural one. This is a shift to focus on the online community. I’m looking forward to your participation, which will be like what you already do! 😉 I’m excited for the guest posts, and expanding the marketing support.

  4. Sherri

    Charli, I almost missed this post for some reason…wow, so glad I didn’t! This is wonderful, all of it. The view from where I’m standing looks pretty darn good, and I’m not just talking about the gorgeous photograph 🙂 I have so many questions about building a platform as you know, I don’t know where to begin. The survey will be a wonderful tool to gain that individual guidance. I would love to know what kind of a platform builder I am…right now, I am barely clinging on with what I’ve got… I know we’ve talked about branding before, as in my ‘View From My Summerhouse’, as a memoir writer. But that target audience? How will I get my memoir out to the wider reaches? My goal is traditional publishing as you also know…but I’m not there yet. And yes, count me in for guest posts, interviews, all of it. I will be in touch… thank you! Exciting times ahead for Carrot Ranch’s Rough Writers and Friends! <3

    • Charli Mills

      It’s good to share that view with you, Sherri! I’m hoping the survey will be insightful and help writers decide where to start, better understanding why. Community is definitely your foundation, as it is for many of us in this community! However, the other components and how we build and why can make community platforms look different from others. Traditional publishing relies heavily on credibility in the states, and I would think in the UK, too. What is credibility, then and how does it connect with community? For a memoirist writing a book that will connect to readers, being a blogger who can engage her community is one form of credibility. Another (especially in traditional publishing) is quality of craft. That requires getting good feedback, taking the time to revise and polishing those pages again. Yet, in the states, credibility is also how well one is known. For example a female newscaster just published a memoir and I’m sure she did so with ease because not only is she recognized from television, but she featured in one of our future president’s controversies. Instant credibility, which might seem like fame. Yes. Fame sells books more so than an unknown. Unfair, but a reality. How can an unknown become known, then? Make a list of top-tier columns, literary rags or viral-potential blogs and study who is publishing personal essays. In the US, this is THE ONE: If you publish an essay in Modern Love, agents come looking for you! Right now, you can work on getting to that level by noting what blog posts resonate with your readers, writing flash fiction to practice the art of delivering big emotional packages in few words and publishing in smaller publications. Also consider small presses (talk to Anne) and look up agents who represent memoirs similar to yours (in tone and scope, not necessarily story), learning what kind of clients of manuscripts they are looking for. So credibility is key to build now. Target audience is important and tricky. Start by imagining your ideal reader of your book. Write a description. What does he or she read, listen to in music, like to eat and what sort of activities would this reader do? Then start looking at books or articles this reader would read. That’s a good way to build a list of where to publish essays. Your community can help you, too — feedback, ideas about your ideal reader, market research and when the exciting time comes they can be your best authentic promoters. And if this seems big and overwhelming, keep in mind it’s the “big picture.”Just as you revise so many hours or pages a week, commit one or two hours a week to building your platform plan and then putting it into practice. Of course, you have a friend to help you! <3

      • Sherri

        Charli, thank you so much for all this. I’ll be back to answer in full tomorrow! Big hugs my friend! <3

      • Sherri

        Ha…since when did tomorrow mean a good week later? Ugh…I honestly don’t know where the days go! Thanks for bearing with me Charli, and again, having re-read your really great response, I’ve managed to clarify a bit better in my mind what I’m doing now along the lines you mention here. Some, but not all. I haven’t submitted any work to literary presses or other blogs lately, not since Fish Publishing for which I was long listed for my short memoir piece Call of the Peacock. I plan on submitting again in January, but with a different piece. But I find it hard to work on my memoir, blog and also write other pieces, I just seem not to have the time…and I think I’m a slow writer. But I’m beginning to understand better how reaching that target audience works and how to expand upon my blogging community. Credibility is big, and being well known too, although I hope to find someone who will give a newbie a chance! But I am going to start putting together a better and more solid game plan for marketing taking your excellent advice and starting now. Looking forward very much to learning more about all this and yes, I will contact Anne too. Thanks again Charli…watch this space!!!

  5. Sherri

    PS Also meant to thank you so much for the link to Modern Love…I’m going for it as soon as I can. Time to start shooting for the moon…right?! You’re a star my friend 🙂 <3

  6. Wanda Luthman

    Hi! I’m so glad to find you. I am a children’s author with 4 published books under my belt and a new one coming out next month. However, I struggle with marketing. Not that I mind marketing, I just don’t understand how to do it. I also do not have a large budget. I am looking forward to learning more from you. You have a beautiful location!

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