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August 31: Flash Fiction Challenge

Tapping out the word “g-r-a-m-m-a-r” I recall a teacher’s joke from the past: your Grammer would be appalled at your grammar. The mnemonic humor clung to the idea that one’s grandmother, or “grammer,” would disapprove of misspelling the word grammar. Problem is, with my colloquial western accent, drawled by many California buckaroos, my grandmother was my gramma, thus the joke backfired. It didn’t aid my memory; it confused it.

Every time I see the word grammar, I think the final “a” is incorrect because I think Gramma would be appalled… I personally don’t know anyone who calls their grandmother Grammer. There must be an easier way to recall the spelling of misspellable words.

Poking around an old mining house in Mohawk during an estate sale, I found a 1917 The Merrill Speller. Worn and and claimed by a flowing signature, this education book once belonged to Lawrence Barsky of 211 Gratiot Avenue in Copper City, Michigan. For a silver half dollar, how could I resist? Copper City is a town of 200 people on the Keweenaw Peninsula, near Calumet.

Would I be able to find the student who once doodled a medieval looking B in his speller?

After finding several alternatives of Barske, Barskey and Barke, I almost gave up. Then I found a forum listing a genealogy for a Brisky family from Copper City! Like a misspelled word, I misread the last name (seriously, Lawrence, you should have dotted your “i”).

According to the 1920 Federal Census, Lawrence Brisky was born 6 Aug 1912 in Copper City, Michigan as the youngest of eight children. His parents, John and Veronica, were Croatian immigrants. His mother was 39 years old when she had Lawrence. His father was a trammer in a copper mine. A trammer used brute strength to push the ore carts to the shaft. The mines viewed Eastern Europeans as human beasts of burden. Consider that for a moment.

And then think of young Lawrence, doodling the B in his speller.

Ten years later he was no longer in school. It was the copper mine fate for him. Hid father was dead and his brothers worked the mines. At age 27, Lawrence was far down state from the copper mines. On February 27, 1940 he married Eva Rodosevic. According to the 1940 Federal Census record. Lawrence only complete 7th-grade. He had a machining skill and worked a trade in Detroit, Michigan. He died in 1995 in Tennessee.

Besides the the clear instruction on spelling words like statue (not to confuse with stature or statute), I found the life of a young copper mining boy in a primer at an estate sale. I wonder how the book stayed in Michigan but the man escaped? I wonder how his father died in 1922 while Lawrence was yet in school?

Margaret Meade once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” Did copper miners change the world? Most definitely. I’m not sure that’s the change Meade meant. I think she was referring to small groups of like-minded people working together for a common good.

Carrot Ranch is a literary community. It’s my writers platform, but one I created into a sandbox, an imaginary ranch where literary artists can play. It’s open to any writers. The challenges are meant to be fun and safe space to jam with words. It’s intended to be a brief challenge weekly, although writers are welcome to linger. At the heart of this community are The Congress of Rough Writers.

For the next month, there’s an open call for new Rough Writers. What does that mean? If you participate at the Ranch through the writing challenges, your material qualifies for consideration in the literary community’s anthologies. It’s more than a round up of responses; it includes new and varied creative writing. The Rough Writers share their books, blogs and writing through the platform at Carrot Ranch. It’s a way to co-create greater visibility for community writers and for community readers to discover new authors.

Want to be an official Rough Writer? Send me, the Lead Buckaroo, your interest through email: I’ll answer questions and let you know what comes next. I’ll be updating the Rough Writer page and others throughout September. The only requirement is that you have been writing here as that’s the material we use to build our anthologies.

In November (date yet to be determined) Carrot Ranch will publish the Rough Writer’s first anthology, Vol. 1. In anticipation of the book launch, Carrot Ranch will host a Flash Fiction Rodeo during the month of October with eight different writing contests. I’m looking for eight leaders to create a fun and unique contest prompt and create small teams of three (leader included) to judge each contest. Got an idea? Send me an email: I’ll give you more details on what to expect as far as commitment.

On October 3, the complete Rodeo line-up will publish. We’ll post our last flash fiction compilation on October 4. The challenges and essays will take a break in October, replaced by a contest each Thursday and Tuesday, starting October 5 and ending October 31. Winners and compilations for each of the eight contests will be revealed every Tuesday, beginning November 7 through January 2 when the All Around Flash Fiction Champion is announced.

Winners and a selection of runner ups will be included in the Rough Writer Anthology Vol. 2. The community will begin developing the second anthology in January. The idea is to continue to host a Rodeo each October and launch a book in November.

Flash fiction challenges will continue to be the anchor event at Carrot Ranch. It gives writers a fun outlet, serves as a safe space to explore and share writing, create visibility for community literature and generate material for collaborative projects. If you want to engage in the community but you don’t want to commit to being a Rough Writer or you are one of our lovely readers, you can still contribute. Have a prompt idea? Challenge the buckaroo! Send me an email: with your weekly flash fiction challenge prompt. Any time I use a prompt from the community, the contributor will earn a prize — it might be a book; it might be a rock; it will be fun!

Now is the time to get your grammar sorted out and saddle up to ride at the Ranch!

August 31, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller. It can be one who spells or a primer like Lawrence once had. You can deviate from the primary meaning if magic catches your imagination. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 5, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published September 6). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Note Pinned to a Copper Mine by Charli Mills


“…tract. The word is contract, Father.”

John followed the word with his finger, stating, “Contract.”

“Good! Not to be confused with contact. That means to get in touch with.”

John tousled his son’s dark hair. “When did you get so smart?”

Lawrence beamed a smile, one of his front primary teeth missing. “Since you bought me this Speller!” He held up the brown cloth covered book.

John nodded. “ I need you to help me read more.”

Lawrence nodded and continued, “…contract required for trammers or we strike.”

John folded the note. “Don’t tell Mother. Keep learning, son.”



  1. Bread. A human staple, made of flour and water, usually prepared by baking. It is one of the oldest prepared foods known to man (I use that word inclusively), evidence of bakeries go back some 30,000 years. Imagine. Bread not only plays an essential role in religious rituals (bread and wine) but I would go as far to say sliced bread is the bedrock of modern culture. Well that and Spanx.

    I think the most interesting aspect of the word bread is the etymology. Let’s take the word “companion,” from Latin, com “with” and panis “bread.” Meaning a true companion is one you break bread with and hopefully on a daily basis. Sadly my companion is temporarily “comnopanis” or “without bread” because his doctor, clearly a sadist, has removed bread from his diet.

    Entire post: Living in the Gap: Comnopanis

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Cheryl! What a tasty post, kneading the word bread. This made me laugh, although I can feel the underlying pain: “Sadly my companion is temporarily “comnopanis” or “without bread” because his doctor, clearly a sadist, has removed bread from his diet.”

    • If u have never done this before, I went 2 years without any carbs or sugars… all meats and veggies. completely changed my biology and energy. One for the better, the latter not so much.. Stay with it you will see.

      • Thank you for the encouragement! I am feeling better and more energetic, somewhat hungry when I can’t find a substitute for cheese and crackers! Wine works.

      • Peanut butter always sticks best fir me . . Were all unique. Im think im allergic to sugar. Oh the joy of ibs age

      • Charli Mills says:

        Is that like the Paleo way of eating? We are all so different in how our body’s react but finding that energetic sweet spot is good. I used to fast every January and people would ask me after a month if I felt better. Nope, I need cake and steak! lol

      • Charli yes I do believe it has been called that, in that sense that we are all different I am sure it has been called other names, or diets as well, but still can be the same thing. I spent my 20s going thru these ‘diets’, reading things about ‘soluble’ and ‘insoluble’ fibers, and how yogurt cures everything, and folks swearing that apple cider vinegar relieves heartburn… which felt like i drank battery acid. Worst idea I think i read. Mostly elimination diets, which are geared toward eating one thing for like a week straight and then changing to something else to see what triggers your system. Which helped me manage and get an idea (like Turkey) of what to avoid completely. But this one diet absent carbs and sugars left me so emaciated and I was eating like every couple hours just to be able to get to some food again…. It is strange tho how it would seem to start working and I thought I was onto some revelation of what ails and then it would return to making me sick again. So……. yea I just pretty much suffer with cakes and steaks!! =]

    • Deborah Lee says:

      I’ve given up bread (for the most part) in an effort to cut sugar. It is HARD, which is an indicator of the addictiveness and basic crap that gets added to it. Now homemade bread…I wonder…

      Nice flash.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Cheryl, for the compilation, I took some editing liberties to cut your flash down to 99. Let me know if that’s okay! It’s linked to your full post. I had to slice your bread! 🙂

  2. […] If you want to participate in the 99 word prompt, here’s the link: […]

  3. […] August 31: Flash Fiction Challenge August 31, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller. It can be one who spells or a primer like Lawrence once had. You can deviate from the primary meaning if magic catches your imagination. Go where the prompt leads. […]

  4. julespaige says:

    Charli and Community:

    I like that the child is helping the father. Illiteracy is still present. And I have read some wonderful news stories about older adults learning to read. Since Grammar is not my forte I’ve gone in the other direction by summing up what’s happened with Janice and Richard. The white hat’s haven’t won yet…
    (the title should be the post link)

    Power Player (J v R 18)
    (Janice vs Richard #18)

    Detective Longhorn was working to try and find Richard.
    The creep who once had Janice under his spell. Richard
    admitted to killing the vagrant who was in the alley behind
    Janice’s residence. Richard had been in her home; disabled
    her fake barking dog tapes, placed a red dress in her old
    wardrobe, and sent her a new cell phone with a frightening

    Whose spell was Richard under? Whatever glue was
    holding Richard together, had slipped. Richard got sick
    in Janice’s kitchen after eating berries from her garden and
    left some clues. Yet this criminal was still being elusive!


    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Jules! You know, I once trained to teach illiterate adults. It was rewarding volunteer work. I haven’t seen a program for assisting with adult illiteracy in a long time. Has it lessened or gone invisible? Another great installment of Richard v Janice, though it’s Longhorn who seems to command a presence in this story.

      • Hopefully it has lessened although I still see advertisements here for adult literacy courses. Unfortunately though we are now not teaching our children to spell and I think grammar has almost left the classroom. Certainly people are now entering uni without basic English skills and our Uni at least was offering English to students just so they could write a passable essay.

  5. Opine Range

    “Whatcha thinkin’, Kid?”
    “Nothin’. It’s a pretty open ranch, though, ain’t it?”
    “Yep. Fairly free range. Why ya askin’?”
    “Shorty left a note. She’s gone to town agin, says here she’s gone to pick up some broads.
    “Huh. You uncomfortable with that, Kid?”
    “Well, no… yeah, but… What?”
    “Kid, put it in context. Shorty ain’t likely pickin’ up broads, not that there’s anything wrong with that. She ain’t the greatest speller, ya know. She’s most likely gittin’ boards at the lumberyard.”
    “Not a ferry?”
    “Jist same ol’ Shorty. Gatherin’ materials to build up the ranch.”
    “Nothin’ wrong with that.”

  6. […] Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch […]

  7. denmaniacs4 says:

    Hi Charlie,

    I can’t say with full confidence that I can defend my contribution this week…should it come to that.

    House of Words

    Lenny liked to dance around logic. “The way I figure it,” he would say “language is a building block for any world we want.”

    Lenny knew I was a concrete thinker. He might be palsy walsy with nonsense but I needed facts, reason.”

    “Okay, my friend,” I said, “We have no money. Winters coming on. We need a dry shelter.”

    “Yeah,” he agreed, “We surely do. It ain’t gonna happen, Donnie. We’re disposable. We aren’t even refundable.”

    “So, any ideas?”

    “Language. We build a spellter.”

    “Sorry. What the heck is a…?”

    “Spellter! Why, it’s a house built of words.”

  8. Nina’s Spell
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Lillian wiped her hands on a towel. “You’re magical, you know?”
    Nina crinkled her nose. “Whatever do you mean?”
    “Everything you touch, everything you do, is permeated with love, even when people receiving your help doesn’t deserve it.”
    Nina tapped her finger on the tabletop. “Everyone deserves love.”
    “I don’t think so. If I were treated as badly as you are, I don’t think I’d be as gracious. Certainly, I wouldn’t help them.”
    Nina sighed. “People fear difference, worry they’ll catch it or something. I mean to show the palsy’s not contagious, but kindness is.”
    “That’s your spell, then.”

  9. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, This is all so very exciting. There is much afoot at the Ranch and I am happy and willing to be a part of the stampede. I have sent you an email with offers of help. Of course, I wish to be a Rough Writer. Who wouldn’t?
    I can’t wait to see the anthology. The plans for the contest are exciting and I’m looking forward to being a part of it.
    How amazing to come across that Speller. I’m not surprised you purchased it. Maybe it was left in the family home when he left, as many of our, especially school, books were. I don’t imagine a spelling book to be one of those prized possessions that one just couldn’t part with. But they are certainly interesting from an historical point of view. And good on you for seeking out information about its previous owner and writing your flash around it. While I’m happy for you to have done so, I did miss the women from Rock Creek and Danni this week. Never mind, it just increases the anticipation for the next instalment. 🙂
    I’m so looking forward to being a part of this new iteration of the Carrot Ranch. Baby, you ain’t seen nothing yet!

    • Norah says:

      Hi Chari, I’m back with my offering this week The title, or in this case headline, is almost as long as the flash! MISSPELLING SPELLING DISASTER AVERTED: NEW SPELL RELEASES OLD FOR A SPELL I hope you enjoy it. A little bit corny, but oh well. That’s me. 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      You are a wonderful Rough Writer and a rock of this community! I’ve been jumping over boards and flinging sawdust, and can finally see progress. It’ll be dazzling provided I keep my dates straight and my boards and broads defined. 🙂 It feels joyful, though messy because I know the finished product will have this community’s mark upon it. That speller probably was set aside as you suggest. I guess I felt the need to recall its value and remember a the life of a man who once lived in this new location of mine. I missed the women these past few weeks and wonder at the males showing up to the page. I’m waiting for some Keweenaw women to show themselves! Hang on, we’re gonna ride!

      • Norah says:

        Thanks Charli. 🙂
        Things do tend to get a bit messy at first. And then they sort themselves out. Kind of. And then get messed up again. That’s the ways it goes. I’m looking forward to a whole lot of messin’. It is interesting the women have quietened a spell. They’re probably just waiting for the right moment to make their voices heard.

  10. Annecdotist says:

    Interesting developments at the ranch, Charli, and I look forward to contributing if/when I understand what it all means! I love old books, but before I zoomed in on your image, I thought it was a chocolate bar. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a spelling book before, apart from those slim notebooks we were encouraged to write in ourselves.

    My contribution takes a character and situation from a novel I think will be of interest to you (although set in a different country it features female pioneers and has almost the same title as Rock Creek):

    Two historical novels about love and land appropriation in Scotland and Australia

    • Chocolate bar? Bad eyes, or projection?
      Ye old spellers are more American I think, and often included maxims and morals of the day.
      You sure used your 99 to advantage, with the white on black slate. Thank goodness that is olden times, right?

      • Annecdotist says:

        Projection, probably, although I’m not that much of a chocolate addict. Glad you liked that line, it was one that came unexpectedly that I wasn’t sure about initially.
        Of course it’s all changed, don’t teachers use whiteboards nowadays?

    • Deborah Lee says:

      What D said: Nice use of the white on black.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hopefully, after a spell, the developments at the Ranch will be clearer. Ultimately, a platform to enjoy, explore and share a love of literary art. For authors, bloggers and teachers, perhaps extended visibility. Chocolate was a likely guess, as it has that milk chocolate color. School primers were important across American frontiers, as were slates. Funny how today we do teach opposite — black markers on white board. I always enjoy your review pairings and flash.

  11. […] Prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller. […]

  12. […] Carrot Ranch August 31, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller. You can deviate from the primary meaning if magic catches your imagination. Go where the prompt leads. Respond by September 5, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published September 6). Rules are here. All writers are welcome! […]

  13. Spellbound

    Until words or actions revealed their affliction, the spellbound weren’t always easy to detect. The dark power of hatred grew daily, spreading to more and more people. It gathered strength, consuming even as it was consumed. The counter-spell must be found before it was too late. To fail was unthinkable.
    Desperately they searched, unsure of what the solution could even be. Magical potions? Arcane rituals? Mystical incantations? Finally the realization dawned; the spell of hatred can only be overcome by loving words and actions.
    The whole earth is my birthplace and all humans are my siblings.*
    This they believed.
    *Kahlil Gibran

  14. Weather Cast

    The spell of summer was broken, its blue skies faded and grayed, awash on cloud-strewn winds. Trees champed and tossed their manes as the winds reared and galloped. Leaves and small branches came unberthed, wildly skittering and wheeling about, finally ending in twisted, dreary piles, pelted by unrepentant rain.
    With nightfall, diminishing winds mustered petulant gusts to usher the last of the clouds away, until, weary, the wind murmured quietly in the silver cast treetops. In the crisp light of a full moon, the night sky sparked and shivered.
    Somehow fall had come; somehow another spell had been cast.

  15. […] take for Carrot Ranch August 31, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller. You can deviate from the […]

  16. […] for the 99-words-challenge on the Carrot […]

  17. Great post i really enjoyed it 🙂 and thanks a bunch for following WeeNotions. The support is great! 🙂

  18. Here is my contribution to this week.

    Just Keep Writing by Elliott Lyngreen

    “Can we start over,” she asked, thinking all undone with thoughts on creating papers.

    “If we only we could record thoughts, images, and compile ideas straight into a complete work. But we have to write it,” I said back in a way that, like an idea, only comes to us as it was intended or began or set out to be.

    Again she asked, “can we start over? I don’t want to be the odd one out. … No more that’s terrible, read that.”

    Story was in her. Wanting her to spell out, I said, “just keep going.”

    • Norah says:

      What a wonderful idea. I love this: “If we only we could record thoughts, images, and compile ideas straight into a complete work.” If only. But then we wouldn’t have the enjoyment of writing.

    • Charli Mills says:

      The process eludes us or overtakes us, and still we write through it. The thought form is so pure and we ink it on paper, tap its heart with keys until it finally (if ever) breathes on the outside of the mind like it did inside. Yep. Just keep writing!

      • Mine is organization. I wish I had a secretary to work my writings into what I just dont have the wherewithal to make them. My favorite thing to do is edit and improve, but darnit i wish it would come out like the finish product cuz I just do not have the time or energy sometimes to figure out and organize whatever it was i was thinking when some mess spilled on out lol

  19. […] week at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, Charli Mills hosts a flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a speller. […]

  20. Deborah Lee says:

    You’ve been treasure hunting! I love finds like Lawrence’s speller. Synchronicity, that I read this post a day after going through a storage shed full of antiques and vintage stuff for some family in New Mexico who are hard-put to travel here and do it themselves. A cast-iron wood stove, one of those old connected schoolroom desks, a settee and chairs from 1750, brought West over the Oregon Trail, original board games still in their boxes…it was full of treasures.

    I couldn’t connect with a speller as in a primer, though. My take went in a slightly different direction.

    Do I qualify as a Rough Writer already, or do I need to email the essay? 😉 I would love to help come up with prompts and with judging. Sounds fun.

    • Good spelling and good reading between the lines.

    • Norah says:

      I love the thought of the finds you made – board games, in boxes; an old school desk, and a settee and chairs from 1750 – that’s even before Europeans came to these shores.
      You must be a Rough Writer! You must come up with a prompt! You must judge. Oh yes, please, do. 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Not an easy feat to haul a settee and chair across the Oregon Trail. To even be among those treasures, wow! Yes, should have known it’s a small step from old rocks to old items.

      Oh, goodness! Yes, I’d love to have you in the Rough Writers! And no essay required. I’ve been thinking of you, Jane and Vol. 2 so we need to connect. Shoot me an email. You just need to be willing to get roped in! 😀

  21. What a wonderful piece of sleuthing you’ve done Charli. You mine to come up with stories – a true historian.
    Exciting times are happening at the ranch Charli. Looking forward to the events and book launch.
    Your flash has certainly shown how it was for a lot of people where the child can read more than the parent. Literacy is such an important part of understanding the world and pleasing when the parent recognises that value.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I like the term mining for stories. Often the hard rock miners in places like Copper Country were illiterate and worked hard to see their children go to school. I wonder, do we forget the value when it becomes more commonly available? And I have leather-bound book envy, by the way! Is that your dictionary in the photo? 😀

      • I think that was the same with many illiterate parents because they didn’t have the opportunity. I don’t know if it is true these days for those that did have educational opportunities and were still illiterate because as parents they didn’t see the value of education. For refugees and migrants I think that attitude of encouraging their children still exist.
        Yes the dictionary is mine – it was my great-uncles before me.
        My brother got the family bible which sat beside it (also leather bound and much older) and the two chairs in the front which were Great Grandfather’s pipe chair (I have) and great grandmothers chair (he has). We are very lucky to have items that have gone through a number of generations.

  22. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (08/31/2017): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller. It can be one who spells or a primer like Lawrence once had. You can deviate from the primary meaning if magic catches your imagination. Go where the prompt leads. […]

  23. What happens when a prompt inspires, and I witness a release of a rehabilitated green heron. Starts with 99, then grows to a full story. I had fun with this one!

    Countdown (First Release)

    Boxes lay along the curved perimeter of the silvery dock. A slender figure darted around them, stacking smaller boxes on medium, turning some toward the shoreline. The healer and her intern had placed three large boxes on the further, forested side, long before the observers had arrived. The dock rocked, slapping the water; the beasts were restless.

    Twelve boxes total, counting the one in her belly pocket.

    The crowd quieted as dawn softened, red to apricot.

    She raised her arms. “Z!” The intern unlatched the largest box and stepped back as a silky black panther padded toward the trees…

  24. […] week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller. It can be one who spells or a …. Thanks, Charli. I love this challenge. Spelling: my forte. But which meaning should I […]

  25. […] Response to Carrot Ranch’s August 31 Flash Fiction Challenge: Speller […]

  26. dnagai says:

    This week it’s personal 🙂 I’ve had to spell both my names over and over!

  27. Pete says:

    Mr. Melvin slipped a shiny record from a flaking cover with the face of a dark-skinned woman. He gently set the needle down and the speakers crackled.

    I put a spell on you…

    I looked up. The music was eerie but enchanting, and the voice within its tangled melody sent an electric wiggle over my scalp to my neck and down my back.

    “Who is that?”

    “Nita Simmons, meet Nina Simone.”

    Her voice grabbed a hold of my insides and wringed me out, filling the room and making acquaintances. When I finally remembered to breathe, it was a gasp.

  28. Charli Mills says:

    Thanks for your patience, everyone! I thoroughly enjoyed the spells you all cast in 99 words. The compilation is at:

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