Carrot Ranch is a community of literary writers from around the world. Those who began as regulars to the weekly flash fiction challenges are among the current Congress of Rough Writers. The group name is a nod to Wild Bill Cody’s Wild West Show that was also made up of global participants who amazed audiences with daring feats of riding. Our writers amaze readers with literary writing feats. The group name reflects the theme of a western-style ranch, which personifies the roots and western writing of Carrot Ranch’s Lead Buckaroo, Charli Mills. The collective writing, however, is as diverse as the individuals who encompass the Congress.
One Rough Writer took a break from writing raw literature to run for Congress. Sarah Unsicker, one of the earliest members of the Rough Writers, ran a successful campaign as a Democrat for her state’s legislature. On November 8, constituents elected Unsicker as State Representative of Missouri’s 91st District. While all of us at Carrot Ranch wish her the best in her new role, we are also curious as to what she’ll be doing.
Already, Unsicker, is preparing for the life changes election will bring to her. As a lawyer and mother, Unsicker has already practiced walking between the different worlds of career and parent. In fact, she wrote a flash fiction in August of 2014 that responded to “a multiverse situation,” which could be based on her experience as a lawyer-now-parent moment.
The Crosswalk by Sarah Unsicker
We wait together for the walk signal. She is dressed smartly for court; I push a twin stroller in marker-stained jeans. I ask what kind of hearing she has.
“Pretrial,” she says, “a bail hearing.” I recognize the client from her description. He was homeless and couldn’t afford health care. She looks as nervous as I remember feeling.
“You’ll do fine,” I say, confidently. This case will start her short but successful career.
My gaze rests on the pearls my husband gave me, on the suit that hangs in my closet. I again contemplate the cost of child care.
Off the literary page, Unsicker is preparing for the transition to elected life. As a State Representative, she will work in Jefferson City, Missouri four days a week between January and May. Because the state capital is two hours from her home, Unsicker will set up a temporary second residence. Her work commute will begin on Mondays after she drops off her kids at the school bus stop. She’ll return to her family on Thursdays.
If you read between the lines in Unsicker’s flash fiction, you’ll catch glimpses of a character’s longing to be a part of social justice. Unsicker says she’s always been interested in politics, and felt frustrated in recent years by her state’s legislature. She ran on a platform that supports children and families; one that tackles ethics reform in government. A job she is capable of accomplishing. Her beliefs and experience as both a mother and lawyer shaped her political platform:
“Sarah believes every person deserves dignity and respect. That the mom receiving welfare should have as much power to be heard as the CEO. Sarah believes that everyone plays the best game they are able with the hand they are dealt, and we have a responsibility to make the playing field more equitable.” From Sarah Unsicker for State Representative, 2016.
When Unsicker gets to work at Missouri’s state capital, she’ll review correspondence from her constituents and prepare for committee work. Committees are how government bodies function to address a myriad of issues. She will work on the rules (administrative oversight) committee, fiscal review committee, and the special committee on innovation and technology. Unsicker will await news of her appointment to which committees on which she’ll serve and do the bulk of her legislative work.
President John F. Kennedy made a famous statement during his 1961 inaugural address: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Any citizen who steps up to serve the nation at the sacrifice of his or her known way of life is leading by example. It’s not easy for a wife and mother to put aside her own activities, including gardening and writing fiction, and leave the comfort of home. Unsicker once addressed the unsettling thought of possible life disruption in a flash fiction prompted by “a crack.”
Crack of Thunder by Sarah Unsicker
I lay in bed, refusing to wake up. I enjoy this quiet morning, even with the toddler kicking me in the back. Eyes closed, I see a quick flash of light.
Am I hallucinating? The world bright for a moment, then suddenly dark. The flash does not happen again. Is this the beginnings of a brain tumor? After that quarter-second, the world is back to normal. Quiet, dark, toddler in the back, nothing has changed. Or has it? Am I cracking up?
I hear a distant crack, a rumble of thunder. Everything is, once again, right with the world.
Unsicker knows the work ahead of her will be daunting; she’s an elected Democrat facing a newly elected Republican President and Federal Congress. Yet, it’s heartening to know that among our local, state and federal representation we have a process by which we, as concerned citizens, can still be heard. Unsicker witnessed the negativity of the last few weeks, as candidates slung mud at one another in their bids to get elected. While negative campaigns might work, the elected officials have to work through that negativity to find real solutions facing their residences, states and nation.
The elections might be over, but now is not the time for any citizen to sit back. Acceptance doesn’t mean inaction. Just as Unsicker is rolling up her sleeves to do the work for her state, she advises other citizens to participate. Anyone can correspond with their state representatives (and federal elects, too). She encourages people to write letters, make phone calls and try to form relationship with their representatives. “Keep telling them what’s important. Show up for committee hearings,” she says.
And those of us who write can continue to voice alternative perspectives through literature. Unsicker understands how the process of writing allows individuals to access feelings and ideas. One premise at Carrot Ranch is that a weekly prompt by which writers respond can offer readers a way to explore the collective responses that vary in perspective. Literature has the power to offer new ways of seeing an old problem or experiencing a different culture or lifestyle. Unisicker says, “Literature helps people consider different situations in life with more empathy and understanding.”
Thus begins a new Congress for this Rough Writer. On behalf of Carrot Ranch, we are all whoopin’ and hollerin’ for Sarah Unsicker’s successful candidacy. We know her to be a thoughtful and compassionate writer and expect her to lead with intelligence and integrity, standing up for all people in her state. We leave you with a final flash fiction from writer-turned-representative. This particular flash is based on a character Unsicker developed in a longer work in progress. We hope she one day returns to her creative writing, but in the meantime, she has constituents to nourish.
Filling the Heart With Calories by Sarah Unsicker
Baking filled in the hole in Cecilia’s life where family was missing. It comforted her when she was lonely; it was the warm hug she fed herself every morning; it reached out to embrace friends when words would not suffice. The smell of the bread she baked every full moon filled her empty house and chased away memories. Kneading sweet buns, she fought those forces that had left only ghosts to share the house. The crescendo of smell of the chocolate chip cookies that she baked for the neighbors muted her need for grandchildren. Yes, baking nourished Cecilia’s soul.
Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Occasionally, the Lead Buckaroo, will profile those who create raw literature. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay or profile idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at firstname.lastname@example.org.