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September 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

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Tendril by tendril the plants pull themselves sun-ward. Leaves bob on light currents of air, hiding fragile white blossoms. The plants thicken to the point of hiding the slender iron trellis they cling to. They’ve grown so equally green, I can’t distinguish one plant from another. Nor can I tell when the white blossoms have fruited. This is not a patch of raspberries or sun-gold tomatoes. I await a harvest of peas.

The late summer day when the plants drooped, pulling the trellis out of alignment, I knew. I recognized the heaviness of harvest.Ever since that transition from growing, climbing green to drooping, gifting green I have haunted the pea patch. It’s not easy to spot the first pea, but once you train your eye to see, you see the full magnitude of pea harvest glory. It’s a bit like practicing flash fiction.

When I first began writing various short forms, I did so because it sparked my creativity. After that, I began requiring my team to write a specific creative form of 25 words before our meetings. We didn’t have time to linger over creative writing so most meeting days, I announced to the department that we would meet at the Round Table in ten minutes. I reminded each person to bring their project updates, meeting agenda and their cinquain. Often, team members scribbled their 25 words in the final five minutes of preparation.

As a prompt, a flash fiction of 99 words doesn’t take long to write. When I was leading Wrangling Words at the Bonner County Library, I gave participants five minutes to write. Many wrote several hundred words! The first time I gave the prompt it was 10 minutes and the stories were much longer than I anticipated for our group activity. So I know it’s possible to write 99 words in five minutes. Is it ideal for those who gather here? Perhaps not.

But what does flash fiction have to do with spotting a hidden pea harvest?

Draw the similarity between learning to spot green peas and learning to write tight prose. I view it as training. When I first spot a hanging pea pod, suddenly I see more. My brain understands the cue. When you practice flash fiction, you train your brain to tell a story in 99 words. You might still write 200 and cut, or only write 70 and add, but your brain gets better at recognizing its target.

I used to joke that writing creative constrains was magic because my marketing team responded by solving project problems with improved innovation. But I know science supports the power of constraints in forcing the brain to go into problem-solving mode. Thus two factors occur when we regularly write flash fiction — our brains think more creatively quicker and we train our brains to adapt to a pattern.

If you are concerned that you’ll pick up the 99-word pattern, fear not. It isn’t as if you can only write in that mode, it’s more like you can use that mode to solve clarity or literary issues with other forms of writing. I’ve marveled over our writers who add in verse, and now I realize that as poets they have other forms their brains use. These patterns are of benefit to a writer and it legitimizes writing short forms as a tool.

Of course, if you are like me in a pea patch, you probably care more about the pleasure the taste of fresh pea pods bring over the idea that you trained your brain to find what is easily hidden. You might enjoy the challenge of word-smithing among others, the fun of creating stories and reading what others create, and the weekly activity. And that’s good! I’m not in the pea patch munching on pods because I read that peas are high in magnesium. I simply like peas. And the fun I have, knowing I get to them before others in my household!

Ah, the competitive nature. It’s not that strong in me unless I know everyone is having a good time. That’s why I want you all to have a great pea-picking time at the upcoming Rodeo. It is a contest and it will bring out the competitiveness in some, the intimidation or perfection in others. Let’s admit that’s all possible. We’ll likely have many writers show up whom we’ve not met before or who aren’t interested in hanging out by the campfire. So let me be clear about goals.

Number one: Carrot Ranch is a fun and welcoming place to practice literary art. Don’t be put off by the word “practice.” In no way do I want to demean anyone’s writing as scribbles of art. When I say practice, I mean it according to my personal philosophy that literary art is something writers master over a lifetime. How do you know you’ve mastered it? You’re dead. Shakespeare mastered all he was capable of mastering by the day he died. It’s not about comparing our work to others. It’s about never stopping to push into what we can create with words. The process is the hallmark of a literary artist, not the finished product. Therefore, let’s have fun while we figure out what is possible with words and how to sharpen our stories. The Rodeo is intended to bring you something different and exciting from our weekly writing.

Number two: Carrot Ranch wants individuals within the community to succeed. Those who regularly gather and are willing to do collaborative projects like the anthologies are part of a smaller group that helps spur on the Ranch. They are the Rough Writers. In return, they get expanded visibility for their own writing. Those who gather for fun, who share our posts and read regularly are the Friends. It’s up to writers to decide. Either way, there are no obligations. However, Carrot Ranch is a place where writers can step out of their comfort zones. A contest is an example. If it becomes achievable here, it can become achievable elsewhere. Success is what you interpret it to be, and the Ranch believes in the value of literary art and your contribution to it.

Number three: Carrot Ranch is growing and we want to celebrate. The growth comes in more ways to support access to literary art — the creation of anthologies, public readings of flash fiction, free adult education classes that use flash fiction as a tool to build a local literary community, inspiring retreats, and innovative workshops. We will be launching our first The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, Vol. 1 late in November with pre-sales in October. A Rodeo is one way to generate excitement about what we do at Carrot Ranch.

Enjoy the Rodeo, use the contests to try different prompts and don’t let intimidation hold you back. Every writer feels doubt. Don’t let it stop you from the joy of what it is to create literary art. Join in, saddle up and write! Remember, the Rodeo replaces the weekly prompt with two weekly contests Oct. 5-31. Stop by the Ranch for a progressive kick-off party on Tuesday, Oct. 3. You might win a random drawing prize so leave a comment on the Oct. 3 blog post. CR FB page will have drawings and live readings from Vol. 1.

Last call for Rough Writers for the next anthology: the one criteria is willingness to participate. We use material from the compilations to build upon, and some of our writers create new work. If you’ve been writing here weekly (even occasionally) send me a quick note. Find out if it’s something you want to pursue. I’ll introduce new Rough Writers at the Rodeo Fest (kick-off party on Oct. 3).

One last note: I’m not perfect. Seriously, it’s worth saying! We all make mistakes and I tend to bring in a bumper crop. So, I fudged my hastags. I’m not a hashtag genius to begin with and I forgot that I had created #FFRODEO for the Rodeo — Flash Fiction Rodeo. When I created the Rodeo Fest promotion I inadvertently created a second hashtag of #CRRODEO as in Carrot Ranch Rodeo. Better editors than my Inner Editor, pointed out the blunder, but by then both hashtags had been shared widely. I’m a flash fiction writer, so having trained my brain for solutions I will simply use #CRRODEO on October 3 for the Rodeo Fest and pretend that’s what I meant.

Be sure to follow along the Rodeo on Twitter at #FFRODEO. May it bring you all a bumper crop of fun!

And if you missed the post on Tuesday, check out the new Flash Fiction page at Carrot Ranch. It includes recipes for preparing flash fiction and introduces something I’ve been working on for a while — The Ultimate Flash Fiction (TUFF), which is a challenge, the final contest in the Rodeo, and the foundation for a new workshop I’ve developed using flash fiction as a tool to teach an integrative writing/editing approach to book revision.

Thank you for your patience as the sawdust clears on all these new barns and events at the Ranch! I’m a week behind on compilations, but whipping and spurring to get caught up in the next few days. I’ll let you know as new pages go up, too! This is the final prompt until weeklies resume November 2. I’m delighted to have you all here!

September 21, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about what it is to gather a harvest. You can use the phrase or show what it means without using the words. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 26, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published September 27). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Harvests Aren’t Gathered for All (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Sarah gobbled picked peas from her gnarled hands.

“Get out of there!”

Sarah blushed, gathered threadbare skirts and fled fast as a 91-year-old could muster. She held her head despite the curvature of her back and walked past the angry gardener as if she were on a Sunday stroll. In fact, Sarah realized, it was Sunday.

“You stay out you tramp!”

So much for Christian charity, she thought. Wandering without a destination she passed other gardens in full harvest. At the end of the street named after her father in the town bearing her surname, Sarah turned away, hungry.

###


212 Comments

  1. Frank Hubeny says:

    Nice story about Sarah.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. C. Jai Ferry says:

    You are an amazing and inspiring woman. Your harvests are awesome!!!

    Liked by 6 people

  3. Bullshift Kid

    “Kid!”
    “Dang straight.”
    “Shorty heard you were back.”
    “Shorty herds words. Course I’m back. Wouldn’t miss the rodeo for nuthin’.”
    Well, come on. Let’s saddle up, Kid, do some ropin’ an’ wranglin’.”
    “Cain’t. Busy.”
    “But-“
    “But I got too much to do now I’m back. I gotta corral the bulls and check the chute for the Buckin’ Bull Go-Roun’.”
    “Aw, come on, Kid, that’s a ways away.”
    “An’ I gotta help harvest carrots, make sure theys harvested for the rodeo crowd. You go on without me.”
    “Nah. Reckon I’ll have ta look after you.”
    “Write on, Pal, write on.”

    ###

    Well Maybe

    “You enterin’ any a the contests, Kid?”
    “Nope, gonna jest enjoy the spectacle.”
    “But ain’tcha jest itchin’ to git in the saddle?”
    “Well, yeah. But I done told you, I’m busy. Jest gonna watch.”
    “You know Kid, seems like yer pretty good about doin’ what ya say you’ll do. But it also seems like ya ain’t very good about not doin’ what ya say ya ain’t gonna do.”
    “Ain’t ridin’ this one.”
    “Uh huh. Then let’s go harvest us a drink.”
    “Ain’t drinkin’.”
    “Uh huh.”
    “Well, maybe jest one.”
    “Jest one, Kid, while we check out the rodeo events.”
    ###

    Liked by 16 people

  4. A lovely piece of flash fiction, Charli, but so sad! It all sounds very exciting and I would love to write for the anthology. I have undertaken a local exercise of this nature and it will be my first one. I am learning a lot from it.

    Liked by 7 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Robbie. Sarah’s life calls me to use the magnifying glass of flash fiction to consider all she endured. As a Rough Writer, you’ll certainly have the opportunity to be part of the process for Vol. 2. I am learning a lot, too!

      Liked by 5 people

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

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] September 21: Flash Fiction Challenge September 21, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about what it is to gather a harvest. You can use the phrase or show what it means without using the words. Go where the prompt leads. […]

    Liked by 2 people

  7. julespaige says:

    Charli and Community –

    I’ve got a little visitor today – but I managed to get this written and posted.
    I’ll be back to glean the fields here later… enjoy:

    Harvesting Humor

    They know what hard work is. Though for them work is life,
    That isn’t really that hard. They might bend some of their
    own rules for the ‘English’ – but generally they are a very
    peaceful people. One business, one of many of buggy rides
    for the tourists – the Amish driver of the team, explained that
    most of what this group was seeing, the feed corn and alfalfa
    would be harvested for the animals.

    A bit of humor was harvested this trip. The team of draft
    horses had the same name of a couple visiting from England.
    Dick and Debbie.

    ©JP/dh

    Note: This is not a BoTS this is more Memoir…. Since it actually happened this month! 🙂 Our driver said in all his years giving tours this was the first time this had ever happened for him!

    Liked by 11 people

  8. denmaniacs4 says:

    Last Harvest

    When she saw the wasps come, when they swarmed the orchard, she knew she had, once again, failed to gather the golden plums.

    He had been her gleaner, ever ready with a basket, his wobbly wooden ladder that he kept under the porch, the strain of the short walk along the slight incline of the path that had always been there, three generations old, and the climb, the climb, and that sudden deadly fall two years ago, crashing to the earth, resting there amongst the dropped plums, the waiting wasps.

    She missed him so.

    And those lovely golden plums.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    Liked by 14 people

  9. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (09/21/2017): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about what it is to gather a harvest. You can use the phrase or show what it means without using the words. Go where the prompt leads. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Okay, this happened because I was searching for the right term for harvesting peas… :-O

    Kaiju Harvest

    Godzilla and King Kong sat at the edge of the airfield, munching happily in the sunshine. Fighting was hard work, and they were grateful the film crew had broken for the day.

    Kong brushed at a hawk circling his head, “I know that we shuck corn.” Turning the slender capsule in his hands, he licked its bottom.

    Godzilla grabbed another capsule and snapped off its wings. “And we snap beans.” He bit the end, and pried it open.

    “So what are we doing here?”

    “I believe it’s like shelling peas.” He deftly scooped out screaming people with one claw.

    https://huldermn.wordpress.com/2017/09/22/kaiju-harvest/

    Liked by 12 people

  11. WaltPage says:

    Please delete this comment 😦

    Like

  12. Pete says:

    Tina in HR is about to fire us both for unethical behavior when Kurt lolls back his head and sobs. It works, his bit about how since Sue left him he’s an empty vessel—the man says empty vessel—until Tina relents.

    Kurt keeps sniffling until the elevator, where we start our descent. Then he brags about how he said, “empty vessel” three times without a crack.

    But I’m done. With Kurt. With pranks and games. The bar. Harvesting nighttime hops and barley for a Friday morning hangover. Maybe Kurt is an empty vessel.

    Damn, Maybe I am too.

    Liked by 15 people

  13. Alexis Donkin says:

    Harvest was my word for 2017 so I had to FINALLY jump in.

    **Realized**

    Wandering through tall grass, my hands brush the tips. The breeze blows through my hair. In the distance children laugh, playing as adults prepare to celebrate.

    The wheat is cut and gathered. The berries picked. Lambs are slaughtered – a wether roasting on the spit.

    I mosey to the long table, groaning under its abundant spread. I stop across from the single full seat.

    “It’s not what you expected, is it?” he asks quietly.

    Blinking, I sit down across from him. In that moment, I see the trees fade, overtaken by white sage and saltbush.

    “No. It’s not. It’s better.”

    ***********
    Thanks for doing this. It was a joy to write. 😀

    Liked by 16 people

  14. […] Carrot Ranch; September 21, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about what it is to gather a harvest. You can use the […]

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Harvest Tours

    “At Harvest Farms, we believe in recycling and reusing, and we compost year round.”
    He appraised the gaits of the elderly tour group as they went ahead into the facility. There were sure to be titanium joints, probably pacemakers, definitely hearing aids. The door closed.
    The next tour, a busload of young recidivists, would be harder. It always was but even without the hardware, it’s where the profits were. Their organs and tissues brought twice the price as those of these old people.
    After work he drank heavily, with the full knowledge that he was devaluing his own liver.

    Liked by 15 people

  16. Saving all my stories for the #CRRODEO. Now im really extra-cidered.. =] Bday party. Football. Family. Green River. WOTF. Heres what i got this week for the Ranch.

    GO BLUE. God Bless

    Give us Harvest by Elliott

    Give us the body. The one with palms read. Stigamta. Stalactites. Give us souls the holy trophy. We are under a tree writing the victory while the rest are still racing. Well, then give us hearth and home. At least. And we’ll continue our story of angst and feast. What was buried in the forests? Underneath our skins? Give us blood. What cures the itch of black plague? Sun shines low and north winds return us, lumineers, in knee high socks because they give to us – harvest. We manifest as artists and the new renaissance. We eat. We dance.

    Liked by 12 people

  17. Poor Sarah. My heart aches for her.

    Here’s mine. It offers traditional and esoteric harvests.

    Gentle Harvest
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    Death walked the hospital halls like shadow until she found Jane’s glowing soul. She listened to her life whispered in rattles and gasps before Death assumed a comforting form. For this soul, she became Jane’s beloved Grandmother. She stroked the patient’s sweaty hair from her forehead until her twitching calmed. Her voice reverberated with love. “Jane?” The patient’s eyelids fluttered. Pain and fever stole vision. Death hummed a childhood song, one Jane had sung with her Grandmother when they had brought in crops and sipped iced tea after. By holding hands, Death made her harvest and guided Jane home.

    Liked by 16 people

  18. […] This week Charli Mills over at Carrot Ranch Literary Community has given us the topic of harvest for the 99-word challenge. You can join in the fun here: https://carrotranch.com/2017/09/22/september-21-flash-fiction-challenge-2/ […]

    Liked by 1 person

  19. I managed to find my sense of humour again this week, Charli. Harvest is a great topic. https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/2017/09/23/carrotranch-flash-fiction-challenge-harvest/

    Liked by 7 people

  20. […] I’ve written this story for the Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch.com. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  21. […] Here’s my story for Charli’s Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch.com. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  22. cadencerage says:

    Hi! I’ve just ‘discovered’ your website, and I must say I’m loving the sense of community here.

    Here’s my piece:
    https://cadencerage.wordpress.com/2017/09/24/harvest/

    Please forgive the unconventional approach, this is just how my brain works. Thanks for the great prompt!

    Liked by 10 people

  23. Stephen Marsh says:

    Love the story about Sarah. Touching.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. […] This is my first participation in the ‘Flash Fiction Challenge’ from the Carrot Ranch  […]

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Solveig says:

    Today, or last night I decided that it’s now or never. So I wrote this little story just now 🙂 http://solveigwerner.com/2017/09/24/innocent-harvest/

    Liked by 7 people

  26. Chris Mills says:

    Ripe for the Harvest

    https://docs.google.com/document/d/1g-aXU7EpSCvBrHLRNDhoGLQ47ELhSNyQU97Sy-EoWSE/edit?usp=sharing

    Charli, sorry about what I’ve done to your prompt, but my muse stopped by, and I made the mistake of letting him in.

    Liked by 9 people

  27. […] week at Carrot Ranch Literary Community, Charli Mills hosts the Rough Writers and Friends flash fiction challenge. This week’s prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about what it is to […]

    Like

  28. Deborah Lee says:

    My heart breaks for Sarah. It takes a village, but villages don’t always take care of their own.

    But the peas! It takes me back to being a kid, when I was supposed to be weeding the garden. My dad would catch me sitting between the rows, munching on raw peas. He’d start to get mad, but would always sit down and join me.

    https://99monkeysblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/24/harvest-jane-doe-flash-fiction/

    Liked by 8 people

  29. rogershipp says:

    Providence Is in My Hands

    Slowly and steadily Steven maneuvered the one-wheeled cultivator through the freshly tilled earth. After each carefully calculated pass, he methodically removed every stone and pebble the tines had exposed. For this year’s harvest there could be no impediments.

    Picking up the malodorous bucket and his father’s haversack from the top of the preceding row, Steven continued to mimic the planting ritual he had seen his father do in years’ past.

    Systematically pacing off ten-foot increments, Steven knelt, laid the head of a sun perch, and encircled it with the three sisters.

    As new head-of-family, providence was his to command.

    https://rogershipp.wordpress.com/2017/09/24/providence-is-in-my-hands/

    Liked by 10 people

  30. Norah says:

    Hi Charli, I’d love to be in that patch of peas with you and Sarah, shelling and eating to our hearts’ (and bellies’) content. Actually, I guess I am in a way, reaping the rewards of belonging to the Carrot Ranch Literary Community and engaging in weekly flash fiction practice. There’s a lot going on at the Ranch. You are sowing some pretty fine seeds that will grow into amazing things. I am very happy to be a part of it, though I have to admit things are a bit hectic for me at the moment and I’m miles behind in my reading and commenting. I am looking forward to the contests which begin next week and am pleased to be leading the troupe into the ring. What fun! So much to look forward to. Thank you for the wonderful support you offer to we writers, and congratulations on seeing your efforts begin to bear fruit. Well done!

    Liked by 5 people

  31. A. E. Robson says:

    The prompt, write about what it is to gather a harvest, immediately took me to the place that I am passionate about, writing about and sharing – our western heritage, the farmers, and the ranchers.

    But alas, 99 words were just not enough for me to work with. The result was many more words; however, 99 of them became very important.

    The Farmer, The Rancher
    by Ann Edall-Robson

    “The outsider sees it as a glamorous life until they take the time to do some digging and find out we spend most days racing Mother Nature. Sometimes it’s to get the crops planted and sometimes it’s to get them harvested. Calving doesn’t wait for sunny days and neither does fall round up when an early snow can blizzard its way across the range. We are not immune to floods, wildfires, and droughts, so why do we do this ritual year after year? It’s simple, it’s what we do. It’s part of us. It’s our life. It’s our livelihood.”

    http://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/the-farmer-the-rancher

    Liked by 9 people

  32. Annecdotist says:

    Interesting musings about harvesting, Charli. I so agree that our brains quickly develop a template for the crop – so much so that, after I’ve been reading all harvesting, it’s hard to resist taking that frame of mind onto other people’s land. So I really feel for Sarah in your flash. So cruel her neighbours will let her go hungry and they have food to spare.
    I hope I don’t miss the rodeo next week but I’m assuming that your October 3rd will be 4th here – which easily confuses me!
    My brain having settled into composing the weekly 99-word story, I hope it will adapt. Here’s the link to the latest:
    Two novels and a memoir about caring for babies
    http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2017/09/two-novels-and-a-memoir-about-caring-for-babies.html

    Liked by 9 people

  33. […] Charli Mills’s 99-word Flash Fiction challenge with the theme of ‘Harvest.’ Click here for full […]

    Liked by 2 people

  34. […] hope you enjoyed my take on this week’s flash fiction challenge over at Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about what it is to gather a harvest. You can use the […]

    Like

  35. […] Response to Carrot Ranch’s September 21 Flash Fiction Challenge: Gather a Harvest […]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wonderful Flash here. I was thinking this is amazing how choice/select words can ‘fill in’ the unwritten details. I have a perfect sense of the service and the gathering. This ‘old matriarch’ must have impacted many.

      Like

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