When I Grow Up

by Norah Colvin

Congratulations and a special thank you goes to all writers who participated in the first of the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contests: When I grow up. The judging is now complete, and we are about to announce the winner. Could it be you?

In this contest, writers were asked to write a 99-word story in response to the following prompt:

When I grow up. Cast yourself back to six years of age, knowing what you do of life in the present; what would you want to be when you grow up and how would you go about achieving that goal? Tell us in 100 words, no more no less. It can be real or imaginary, serious or light-hearted. Extra points for comparing it to your childhood choice, if you remember it.

Stories were judged on ten criteria including relevance, capturing a child’s voice and originality. Extra points were awarded if the story included a comparison with the “real” childhood choice. (For a full list of criteria, please refer to the original post here.)

First of all I give a huge vote of thanks to my fellow judges Anne Goodwin, Rough Writer and author of novels Sugar and Snails and Underneath, and Robbie Cheadle, Rough Writer and author and illustrator of the Sir Chocolate Books series of picture books.

With thirty-eight entries to read, it was no mean feat for we judges to select a winner. Most entries met the requirements of surface features; such as, word count, story structure, grammar, spelling and punctuation. Most stories were relevant to the prompt, and many captured the voice of a child in an interesting and original way. It was difficult to differentiate, so congratulations must go to everyone who joined in by writing in response to this prompt.

Although we didn’t expect it to be so, it was the extra points awarded for a comparison to the childhood choice that enabled us to choose the winner.

And the winner is (drum roll)!

#34 Father Christmas by Hugh Roberts

“Father Christmas.”

“Father Christmas?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to give toys to all the good boys and girls he can’t get to because there’s no snow.”

“But Father Christmas’s sleigh can travel anywhere. Harry.”

“Really?”

“Yes. It doesn’t have to be snowing. Can you remember last Christmas when it rained? He still got here.”

“Yes, you’re right. Maybe I’ll be a doctor then?”

***

27 years later, dressed as Father Christmas, Doctor Harry Gibson gave out the presents at the Desert Trail Orphanage Christmas party, before saving the life of three-year-old Afua Zambo, who was suffering from malnutrition and measles.

We felt that what set this entry apart from others is its combination of the past and present to tell a complete story: the child grows up to fulfil the childhood ambition. If he couldn’t be Father Christmas, he wanted to be a doctor. He managed to combine both in a rather surprising way. While perhaps seeming to lack some sophistication of language, the first part of the story, told completely in dialogue, captures the voice of the child in a way that is both credible and cheerful.

Congratulations, Hugh, on being selected as the winner in the inaugural Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1. Charli will be in touch about your prize.

Highly commended

Since our task was so difficult, Charli suggested that each judge be allowed to pick one other entry that appealed for whatever reason. We jumped at the chance, though were again hard-pressed to choose just one.

Anne’s Pick:

#36 Morning Ritual by C. Jai Ferry

My mama was a princess. In the pictures, she wore a long white gown and flowers in her hair. Now she uses her leftover princess magic when she puts makeup on, her fingers gliding over her skin, barely touching her face at all. But they do. Her breath jerks and her eyes water, but her fingers still spread the paint over her cheek until the dark rainbow marks disappear. Daddy calls them his special love bites. Mama adds a rosy pink color to her cheeks. I shake my head. I don’t ever want to wear makeup when I grow up.

Anne says, “Here is a child trying to make sense of her family, not able to name what’s happening (domestic abuse), nor criticise either parent, she knows what she doesn’t want and has an authentically magical sense of how to avoid it. It’s very subtly handled and has left a deep impression on me.”

Robbie’s Pick:

#37 When I grow up by Jack Schuyler

“Being a doctor is a privilege,” Dad’s been talking for a while now. Sitting in the back seat, I watch him drive and listen. “Helping people: that’s something you can be proud of.”

In the passenger seat, Mom’s listening too, and smiling.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Dad’s eyes find mine in the rearview mirror.

I hesitate, “What do you do Mom?”

“I used to be a writer,” she smiles at me. “I even wrote a book once.”

“That’s what I want to do,” I say looking through the window. Outside, the world flies past.

Robbie says, “Very clever. A piece that speaks volumes through the few well-chosen words. The child identifies with his mother, who is obviously the carer and the one that the child regards. This is despite the father’s position as a doctor and his pride in his work.”

Norah’s Pick:

#16 Time Traveler (Too Many Questions, Child!) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Unseen, I observe.

Red shorts, shirtless, she digs tiny toes into the sand. A mutt stretches nearby, ears pricking as the girl narrates the world under her dirty hands.

“There’s a hole there…gonna dig it up. How far does it go?”

“I’ll flatten this mountain, make a road. Why so many ants?”

“Buster, don’t sit on the highway!”

Buster shakes his ears and rolls, belly up.

“Why didn’t Buster growl at you?” she looks fiercely up at me.

“We’ve met before,” I smile, plop down in the sand.

I forget what I came to tell myself.

“Can I play, too?”

Norah says, I like the way this started from the point of view of the adult-self observing the child-self. We then went into the child’s voice as the child narrates her play, with disconnected thoughts, as occurs. The narrator then indicates that she came back to give advice to the child but realises that play and being in the moment is more important. As an appreciation of childhood, it appealed to me.”  

We hope you enjoyed reading our picks and see in them the positives that we saw. Remember though, reading is a very personal experience.

NOTE FROM CARROT RANCH:

Congratulations to all the writers who entered! You dared to stretch your writing and braved the first Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Each participant has earned the following badge, which you may copy and post on you blog, social media or print out and frame. It’s a badge of honor. And now you can say, you have had your first rodeo! You wrote well.

We want to share all the contest entries in a collection. We’ll be contacting each of our contestants and challengers to seek interest and permission to publish a digital collection in January. Writers retain all copyrights to their work.

We’d appreciate your feedback! We want to make this an annual event that is fun, engaging and supportive of literary art. Please take a a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey. Thank you!

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