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New Barns Raised at the Ranch

Carrot Ranch is growing. If you look around you might see some gaps and unsightly piles of lumber. Growing can be inelegant. Mud-work, I call it. It always begins by digging in the mud. Soon, I’ll wash off the foundations, nail some clean boards and you’ll see barns taking shape. By the time the barns open you might raise your eyebrows in surprise or kick up your heels in delight.

Think of me as the buckaroo with a hammer in one hand, a writing quill in the other and eternally distracted by migrating birds, ancient bedrock and stories waiting to be caught. I recently commented to another writer that one day my tombstone will read, “…but I haven’t told all the stories, yet.” This made me think I could stash pencils and paper at my grave, inciting visitors to write 99 words. If I were to leave a legacy, that would satisfy me greatly. It’s not the words published, but the hunt for them, and stories never cease.

99 words at a time allows me to write beyond the range of my novels I’ve cultivated for the long trail ride. Yet 99 words also becomes a tool to refine those longer stories, to explore their characters and scenes, to process research. When this Ranch hung its shingle to challenge writers to wrangle 99 words, no more, no less it was to spark creativity and cultivate connections. Out of that beginning grew a literary community.

If you think of writers who enjoy word play or word craft, then literary art is our common ground. Flash fiction became the sandbox for playing with literary art in a constrained and yet open way: 99 words, but according to where a prompt leads each writer. Anytime someone says they didn’t think they stayed with the prompt, I clap! That means someone felt more driven to pursue a creative idea than sticking to a “rule.” Carrot Ranch is a safe place to practice, bend or even break literary rules. It’s exploration. It’s creativity. It’s community.

Coming from rural places and the cooperative industry, I believe in the difference a small and engaged group of people can make. The barns raised at Carrot Ranch are to expand the reach of this literary community, and to build upon the 99 word challenges with new innovations to push creativity and word craft. The barns are also places to house the abundance of writing from those who wrangle words here. What you will notice are changes to pages, new events, a book launch and a Rodeo.

The Ranch schedule remains the same with enhancements:

  • Mondays: Admin day with #MondayBlogs participation on Twitter
  • Tuesdays: Ranch Business/Guest Authors (essay and advanced flash fiction topics follow for 2018)
  • Wednesdays: Weekly Challenge Compilation posts
  • Thursdays: New Flash Fiction Challenge posts

Guest authors can sign up for the 2018 schedule January – September. There are 38 open slots. Essays will continue to include Raw Literature (about the creative process and early creations in writing) and Platform (about marketing tactics for authors or bloggers). A new essay opportunity is to write a Peer Book Review on a fellow Rough Writer (or Friend who joins us in writing at the Ranch).

In 2018, Carrot Ranch will challenge flash fiction writers to push their craft with Advanced Flash Fiction. If you are interested, you can sign up for the 6th Sense Challenge, History Challenge, or Ultimate Flash Fiction Challenge. Each will be explained on an upcoming new page this month (Submissions). If you are interested in being a guest author at Carrot Ranch in 2018, email me at:

Carrot Ranch will use the remaining 2017 Tuesdays for Ranch Business. We have an exciting season kicking off, which will become yearly:

  • October: Flash Fiction Rodeo (8 contests, 8 first-place prizes, 0 fees) Tuesdays & Thursdays
  • November: First 4 Winners Featured, Anthology Vol. 1 launches, #NaNoWriMo
  • December: Final 4 Winners Featured, Anthology Vol. 1 Book Parties & Blog Tour, #NaNoProMo

If you want to participate in blog sharing, #MondayBlogs is how Carrot Ranch shares other blog posts on Twitter. Each writer who participates in the weekly challenges with blog links have those links embedded in their flash fiction’s title. I share the compilation with your blog links across a broad platform of active Facebook Groups and at the Carrot Ranch Facebook Page.

Weekly Challenges will continue. If you ever get a burning idea for a prompt, leave it in the comments with your story. I might use it to prompt my own blog post that week, too. Facebook decided to change its format, which has hampered how I save stories for the compilation. It’s caused a hiccup during a busy time, but it’s just hiccup. I’m setting up the compilation differently. It won’t appear different, but my process will change.

IMPORTANT: The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo in October will replace the weekly flash fiction challenges for that month. The last one will be September 28. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

I’m excited for the Flash Fiction Rodeo! This is the big show, the one we built the show barn for and it is led by 8 of our own Rough Writers. My first rodeo was at Bolado Park Arena when I was three. After I married, I hung up my riding boots and followed the ink trail.

This might be your first rodeo, but let me tell you it’s going to be a fun and wild ride! Our fearless leaders have events you’ll not expect. This is not your ordinary flash fiction contest. If you’ve never entered a contest before, here are three compelling reasons why you should enter one:

  1. You have 8 contests to choose from (enter one, two or all)!
  2. There are no entry fees (it’s free, and you might win a $25 prize)!
  3. It’s Carrot Ranch & the Rough Writers (you know we don’t bite)!

Next Tuesday we will introduce the Leaders and their Contests. Each Tuesday and Thursday in October (Oct. 5-31) a new contest will debut at Midnight (EST). Each one will have its own set of rules, deadline and platform — some will be at Carrot Ranch, at least one will be on Twitter, and another will use Submittable. Winners will be revealed at Carrot Ranch each Tuesday Nov. 7-Dec. 26. An All-Around Winner from among the eight will be revealed Jan. 2.

In January, we’ll begin development of Vol. 2. The anthology features the writing of The Congress of Rough Writers. On Oct. 3 Carrot Ranch will have a kick-off party for the Rodeo and announce the new inductees to the Rough Writers. If you’ve been writing here and thinking about answering the open call, email your interest to me at:

The saw dust will clear and the barns will soon be up! Save the date to celebrate:







  1. C. Jai Ferry says:

    I just squealed so loud at all the lovely goodness in this post that I woke the dog…and the raccoons…and the deer… The Great Horned owl was already awake 😉

  2. This is so exciting, Charli. I am really looking forward to this event.

  3. C. Jai just woke me up. Heard a squeal, a dog barking, scurrying ‘coons, snorting deer. Figured something, besides, myself, must be up. By gosh, it’s a barn! A barn has gone up, and a rodeo arena too. You have certainly been busy, Charli Mills. Very well done!
    (Check the date on the kick-off poster)

    • Charli Mills says:

      There’s your barn, D.! I can’t wait for the bulls to get corralled and unleashed. Ah…! Blasted raccoons changed my date! I’ll get ‘er fixed. Thanks for the alert!

  4. Right Proud

    “Dang, the Kid is missing out on all the excitement.”
    “Who ya talkin’ to?”
    “Oh, hey Aussie. Talkin’ ta myself. Been doin’ that since the Kid went back east. Did ya see all a Shorty’s doin’s?”
    “I sure did! I am so pleased for Shorty.”
    “Yep, Shorty’s done herself right proud.”
    “I expect there’ll be a crowd ridin’ through, checkin’ out the ranch, gettin’ ready for the rodeo.”
    “Reckon so, Aussie. It’s gonna be somethin’. I’m jest worried ‘bout there bein’ enough carrots to go around.”
    “Sometimes you’re as green as the Kid. There’s always carrots, carrots for all.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Carrots for the people and tell a yarns, too! 😀

    • Norah says:

      There’ll be carrots and stories a plenty. I’m goin’ around in circles trying to keep up with Shorty. She’s kickin’ up enough dust – I’m near blinded. Sure is exciting, though. It’ll be brilliant when she stops hammering and the dust settles.

      • Yep, a veritable cyclone, that Shorty. My strategy is not to try and keep up or keep track but to try and keep outta the way. The whole story is so brilliant my eyes hurt. Hammer on nails ringing’ like bells. Sawdust swirling’ like ticker tape.

      • Norah says:

        Keeping outta the way is a grand plan. If only you could see where she was for the dust! 🙂

  5. julespaige says:

    Oy…what have I gotten myself (and my muse) into? He he…a very good thing I am sure. I don’t do facebook though, and I’ll have to investigate that other barn you call Submittable.

    There are lots of buildings and barns on the same farm and it is the differences of every member that help to keep it together!

    (PS…I’m still a tad nervous…not knowing all the details…but heck life is an adventure isn’t it! And while I may not have ridden a horse in a long while – I still betcha I can ride…but give me a compfy saddle and a gentle mare will ya?)

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yeehaw, Jules! I know you and your muse will ride well, roping, spurring and wrangling verse. And no worries, you don’t need to be on FB. Carrot Ranch will reach out to these platforms to find writing cowgirls and cowboys who haven’t tried their stories at the Ranch yet.

      My contest at the end of the Rodeo will use Submittable. The reason is to give practice to those who might not do contests because Submittable seems intimidating. If it’s free and fun, then perhaps more writers will feel comfortable using it again. I always want this to be a safe place and yet I also want people to feel challenged!

      I know you can ride! And yes, there’s a gentle mare and comfy saddle waiting for you. 🙂

  6. I am so so so excited about all of this! Just what I need to kick my tail into a fresh place. Can’t wait!

  7. Christy B says:

    Wow there is so much on the go here ~ Yahoooo! 🙂

  8. Glad to be in the saddle for the rodeo and the hoopin and hollerin’. Thanks for all your hard work Charli in creating a vibrant growing community. Looking forward to meeting the new inductees.

  9. Ruchira Khanna says:

    Charli you have been such a supportive anchor to this whole venture. Your sweetness, your kind words has made me walk the literary path. And the place where I am standing now I am filled with gratitude for you, and your selfless ventures.

    Cheers to a fun tomorrow as you continue to paint our present so colorful

    Looking fwd to this competition.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ruchira, it’s been a joy to ride with you. I’ve marveled at your growth as an author, cheered to have you in the anthology and look forward to the harvest for our community. Thanks for sticking it out with me! Cheers to lots more colorful stories! It’ll be a fun competition!

  10. dgkaye says:

    Wow, tons of goodies goin on Charli! My plate is so full this fall, but I think I might hop on down to your ranch in the new year. 🙂 x So many friends here.

  11. My goodness you’re going to be a very busy gal. Sounds terrific, keep posting all the details to the Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club Charli. I’ll be sure to share! xx

  12. Norah says:

    Charli, I don’t know if it was just my imagination getting stuck with those pencils, paper, and 99 flash stories at your graveside, but I feel I’m on the slow horse here at the back of the mob. I need a breather to take it all in. So much excitement. What fun! I am so thrilled that your vision is finally starting to take shape, and I am grateful to be a part of this wonderful supportive community that you have built from the ground up, straw by straw, stick by stick, brick by brick, into a very solid ranch house. It’s not the barn. It’s the real thing. Congratulations on your achievement. Through all the mud that was slung your way, you stayed strong, persistent, optimistic and determined. You show what can be achieved when you use those lemons to make lemonade and quench the thirst of everyone else as well. I think you have enough juice to fill Lake Superior. (Did I just mix my metaphors? Oh well, so be it! Variety is the spice of writing.)
    Now back to your graveside. No, I don’t want to go there just yet, but I’m thinking to the future, maybe in another hundred years, when a curious historian with a desperate need to know stumbles across your stone and uses the pens and paper set there by you, to fill in the gaps that are untold in your life story. How perfectly fitting. What fun she’ll have digging into the real woman you are.

    • Norah you may think of yourself plodding at the back of the pack, but you sure take it all in from there. And then I always want to say, “Yeah, what she said”, because you say it so well. I just showed up last spring, but have always noticed and appreciated the stolid presence and judicious pacing of Shorty’s reliable posse. I’m thinking’ the ranch survived tough times and now grows because of the Wonders from Down Under. And yes, this is all just wonderful to see dreams deferred finally bearing fruit. (Berries?) Charli is at least as strong and determined as her own characters.
      Go Charli, go!

      • Norah says:

        That’s very kind of you, D. You may be a spring chicken but you sure scratched about the surface and below when you got here. I’m so pleased you used your initiative to cross the road and join in with your delightful poetry and philosophical musings and fun stories. Pass the bowl of berries and give Charli an extra helping.

    • You can see everything from the back of the herd…

  13. Been feeling a lull in my creative process; do I keep working on stuff I already have and poured over too much that it is too incomplete; or, start some of the new things that have been entering my mind?? Maybe this will spark the circuit to charge one way or the other. Looking forward to the exciting new challenges!! and contests!! And experiencing a Rodeo!! It is time to get up on the horse =]

  14. Annecdotist says:

    It’s just grows and grows (sometimes above our heads but we do eventually catch up)! So glad you’re getting where you want to be.
    I’ve been musing on branding for the fainthearted for some time and I’ll happily take a slot for Platform next year if that seems appropriate.

  15. So much happening here at the ranch. Going to be a wonderful few months. 🎉 The Rodeo Fest banner is awesome. Nice job!

  16. Kate says:

    Charli, I’m with Norah and need to catch my breath to take in all that is happening at the Ranch! You’ve created a lively community and creative ways to keep us all engaged and excited about our writing efforts. Congratulations! I confess I’m a bit nervous – there are new challenges to conquer and many to choose from. I hope I don’t get lost in the choosing. 😉

  17. […] Charli Mills at her welcoming Carrot ranch are having a right all blogging knees up in October – Carrot Ranch New Barns Raised At The Ranch […]

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