Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #8

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

December 26, 2017

TUFF Winner at Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsTo many writers, 99 words may hardly seem enough to tell a story. And yet, week after week I witness writers achieve compelling, emotive and imaginitive stories in 99 words. Some are complete story arcs, some are snapshots of a moment, and some are character-driven. Much can be accomplished in flash fiction.

Contest #8 in the Flash Fiction Rodeo asked writers to show the bones of their story development, cut it to the strongest point, and build it back up into a complete story using TUFF: The Ultimate Flash Fiction. TUFF mimics what it takes to write a novel. It’s a process that begins with a 5-minute free write, reduces the draft to 99 words, 59 words, 9 words and then concludes with a 599-word flash fiction.

As a contest, TUFF asks entrants to be vulnerable. First drafts (free writes) are not often what any writer wants to share, especially in a situation that involves judging. As the judge for this contest, I was not looking for raw brilliance in the free write but rather at how the writer developed his or her story from the initial idea. This contest is a bit like looking over the shoulder of a writer to watch the process unfold.

Nonetheless 21 writers answered the call and entered the contest (several others entered as challenges). The Rodeo was the hearo’s journey for writers, and TUFF was to be their elixir. Many were skeptical, and yet of those who completed the final task discovered that they could discern a shift in their writing by following the process.

Once I realized I had over 24,000 words to judge, I decided not to ask anyone to assist with the daunting task. TUFF is an idea I’ve been developing ever since I created Wrangling Words two years ago, and the contest was a test drive. It offered my first experience to see how others would use the process. I was delighted with the results, and proud of every writer who entered or challenged.

Writers allowed their process to become visible. Some used the free write to think out loud. Some went immediately to a story and part way through began to grasp at “what next?” until a lead appeared and they followed. Some used  the sequence of constraints to cut away the ideas, while some added new ideas to the story. The creative process in its diverse expressions showed up.

TUFF felt like a chance to sit down at the desk with a writer.

In the end, I judged blind, copying entries without submission information. I scored each entry according to the originality of the initiating idea, whether it read like a journal entry, a philosophical questioning, an early telling about the story in mind, or a rough draft. Next, I examined how each writer used the reduction in word count to draw out, pare down or add to the initial idea. Then I looked for  transformation through the process to reveal a story that moved, surprised or compelled me. Each final story was to complete all three acts and highlight a hero’s journey.

There’s many reasons this contest was tough! Yet all the entries stood up to the test and emerged, giving their writers the elixir of accomplishment.

The winning entry stood out from beginning to end. At first, it reminded me of an artist’s sketch. This writer drafted an impression, and then drilled down, focusing on one character’s fear and the curiousity of why the regulars did not know one another. The final 599 word draft came to life with the vibrancy of a finished painting. Congratulations to Liz Husebye Hartman for her crafting of “The Sun Shines on the Half-Moon Café.”

The three honorable mentions each had a different transformation of the hero: one who concludes his solution needs re-setting (“A Life of Their Own” by Irene Waters); another who finds a unique and fitting revenge (“Revenge is Dee-Lightful” by Ritu Bhathal); and an incredible journey of a violent death turned zephyr (“Transcendence” by Christina Steiner). The first two also achieve humor, though Irene relays a fantastical tale of teeth and Ritu gets back at office bullies with a terrific-horrific prank. Christina began with a writer’s pondering and the story she finds as an answer moves both hearts and minds.

WINNER: The Sun Shines on the Half-Moon Café by Liz Husebye Hartmann

They walk into this unassuming café on the edges of the college town, filled with regulars in zip-back uniforms, hard hats, worn fashion jeans, polyester suits from the 60’s with a wig that matches the poodle on her skinny-assed lap, leather and studs and shiny, pimply forehead, ponytail and hairnet and wiry, farmer tanned arms, and hopeful tweener trembling smile, and walk out with the same smile, the same relaxed drop of shoulders, laughing and bending to hear murmured ends of conversations. All are welcome here.

99-Word Flash Fiction Based on Free-Write

The usual crowd had gathered at the Half Moon café. Shelly tosses her head to glimpse the pale farmer’s tan peeking below Josh’s white t-shirt as he bused the tub of dishes to the kitchen. He notices and smiles. Helen tugs the waist of her zip-back uniform, refilling Emil’s coffee cup, also noticing. The door jingles as a youth in leather and studded wristbands sidles in. Emil snaps his newspaper once, tightening his jaw. The usual crowd, but none can remember having been there before. The man with bulging eyes enters, locking the front door. Only Helen registers alarm.

59-Word Flash Fiction Based on 99 Words

Shelly ogles the busboy lugging the dishtub to the kitchen. His t-shirt lifts, revealing his muscled farmer’s tan. She parts her lips. He blushes. Helen smiles, refilling Emil’s coffee. A pimply male enters. Emil snaps his newspaper once. None can remember having been here before. The man with no neck enters and locks the door. Helen registers faint alarm.

9-Word Flash Based on 59 Words

Waitress Helen saves the day, vanquishing slimy memory monster.

599 Word Story in 3 Acts

The usual crowd was gathered at the Half Moon café. Faded awnings snapped in the cool October night and condensation slide down the tiny restaurant’s wide front windows.

Shelly, in her booth, flips her hair back to catch a glimpse of kitchen staff, Josh. His honestly-earned farmer’s tan flashes below his white t-shirt as he lugs a tub of dishes to the kitchen. She parts her lips. He blushes and smiles.

Helen, behind the counter, tugs the hem of her zip-backed uniform, smiling at the two. She refills Emil’s coffee cup. He grunts thanks.

The door jingles as a youth in leather and studded wristbands sidles in. Emil snaps his newspaper once, tightening his jaw.

“Welcome to the Half-Moon café,” Helen lifts her coffee pot in greeting.

He slides onto a cracked red stool, three spaces away from Emil.

“Cherry pie?”

He bobs his head, “Hot, à la mode, please.”

The café settles into a homey silence, broken only by the clank of washing dishes and rustling of newspaper. Leather Boy flips his spoon on his tongue, to get every morsel of pie. Helen gathers her tray with two open bags of Morton’s iodized and starts refilling in the booth at the far end of the café.

It was the usual crowd, but none could remember being there before.


The door jingles and a gust of cold air pushes its way in. A squat man follows in a floor-length brown raincoat. He turns and pulls the door closed behind him, snapping the lock shut.

Only Helen registers nascent alarm. She sinks down into the far booth, clutching her tray.

The man is hairless, eyes bulging behind thick glasses, with no discernible neck. He turns and glides toward the counter, his coat scraping across the black and white tiles. Shelly wrinkles her nose, disgusted, then leans back, dazed, against the back of the booth as he passes. Leather Boy twists on his stool, dropping his spoon with a clatter. Emil crumples his newspaper, opens his mouth to scold the boy, then takes in the newcomer. He freezes, as well.

Josh peers through the kitchen’s serving hatch, wiping his hands on his apron. His mouth gapes open and he grabs a chopping knife from the counter. He steps back and around to the swinging door to the dining room.

The newcomer gurgles happily. His glasses drop to the floor as his eyes stretch on two independently-moving stalks. He lifts a stubby hand in the air and flicks a finger down. Leather Boy and Emil slide off their stools and fall, heads cracking together.

The newcomer pauses, his eye stalks searching the far corners of the café. Something is different this time. Where is Helen? He enjoys Helen’s memories so much.

Josh bursts through the swinging door, sliding over the top of the counter, landing just behind the newcomer, eyes averted. Perhaps he’s retained some memory, too? He slashes downward with the knife, splitting the stiff raincoat.

Helen is ready. She dumps the first bag of salt on the creature’s quivering shoulders. It spins, hissing. A dark red mouth gapes where its neck should be. She screams and throws the second bag inside the gap.

***Sun sparkles through the windows of the Half-Moon Café. Josh slides next to Shelly to share a piece of cherry pie à la mode, while Helen pours him a cup of coffee. Emil pounds his cup on the counter for a refill.

“Keep your shirt on, old man,” says Leather Boy as he strides in the front door.

Helen looks up at him and smiles, “’Morning, Lawrence!”


HONORABLE MENTION: A Life of Their Own by Irene Waters

John blamed Killmousky. Jane blamed Robodog. I blamed life and those little quirks of fate that occur on a daily basis. Whoever was to blame was irrelevant. The facts stood – Killmousky had run out from under the car crossing Robodog’s path. It was no-one’s fault that Robodog hated cats. He was hardwired that way. On seeing Killmousky Robodog gave chase. John, who was holding his lead, was dragged after him, losing his footing and falling flat on his face. John’s teeth were the final victims in the drama, whether it was nerve damage or jaw damage John could no longer eat Jane’s delicious meals. This was disastrous for their relationship as she got her self esteem from John’s compliments. “They’ll have to come out.” John thought he could see the dentist counting the dollars. “We’ll put in a mechanical set of false teeth.” “Is that really necessary?” “Absolutely. That will cover nerve and jaw damage if they can work by themselves.” “But

99-Word Flash Fiction Based on Free-Write

John lay sprawled on the ground, his mouth bleeding. Egor stood smiling at him. Killmousky was nowhere to be seen. A week after the dog had chased the cat John found he still couldn’t eat.

“What’s the point of me cooking?” Jane asked.

“Is it nerve or gum damage?” John asked the dentist.

“Impossible to tell. What we’ll do is give you a set of mechanical choppers. That way no matter what the cause you’ll be able to eat.”

John agreed with reservations.

“Great food Jane.”

“Good, but can you turn those things off? Chewing constantly is not pretty.”

59-Word Flash Fiction Based on 99 Words

“That damned dog chasing the cat did my teeth in. I can’t chew.” John explained again.

“What’s the point of me cooking then?” Jane was close to tears.

“You need mechanical dentures, then you can eat.”

That night John ate. Jane was happy at the compliments she received for her cooking. Afterwards, John fruitlessly searched for the off switch.

9-Word Flash Based on 59 Words

A fall led to mechanical dentures. Where’s the off?

599 Word Story in 3 Acts

John only saw a flash of fur. Egor gave chase, yanking the lead and landing John face first on the concrete pavement. Gingerly John moved his jaw. “Bugger you” he swore at the dog. Egor stood smiling at him, oblivious of the damage caused. Killmousky, the cause of the disaster, was nowhere to be seen.

“It’s been a week now and you still can’t eat.” Jane’s voice had a plaintive ring. “What’s the point of me cooking?” The desperate begging in her eyes along with the deep frown lining her forehead confirmed for John that Jane desperately needed his praise of her cooking. She needed it for her self-esteem, for making her feel that she was a worthwhile person, a good mate.

“I’m missing your food and I’m losing a lot of weight. I’ll have to go to the dentist.” Jane smiled happily, rubbing up against him for a kiss. Despite the pain, he complied.

“Is it nerve or gum damage?” John asked the dentist a week later after his mouth had been stretched in all directions, poked and prodded and finally x-rayed.

“Impossible to tell. We can do further investigations that might give us a definite diagnosis but my guess is you have a choice of two treatments. One treatment actually, as the other isn’t covered by your medical fund. It’d cost you 50,000 buckaroos minimum. The best and cheapest treatment is to have all your teeth removed and we’ll give you a set of mechanical choppers. That way no matter what the cause, you’ll be able to eat.”

“What if I don’t do anything?” John thought of all the fluoride he’d consumed and tooth and gum scrubbing he’d undertaken so he’d never have to have teeth removed. The thought put him into a panic.

“Hope you like puree then mate.” Why did the dentist have to be so jolly. Bugger the dentist, bugger Egor and Killmouski, and bugger Jane’s need. He’d happily try puree for a few months. Reluctantly, John agreed to having all his teeth removed.

The extractions weren’t as bad as he’d anticipated. The dentist numbed him so he barely noticed them coming out. The three D printer had photographed his teeth before their removal and by the time the last tooth was out, and his gums a pulpy blood clot, the denture had been made. It was a clever device. To turn it on he just had to look at food and it started to chew. Avoid looking and it sat still. Thinking about food and seeing it in his mind’s eye could also start it. John was now looking forward to going home and trying it out on Jane’s food.

Jane had prepared a feast. Everywhere John looked there was food. His new choppers were chattering they were chewing so fast. He shoved food in so they weren’t clacking on themselves. “This is delicious Jane,” he got out between bites. John felt more than a little sick. His stomach had not had any solids for two weeks and here he was chomping his way through a salad, gnawing on the spareribs and nibbling the apple crumble. Finally, Jane put the leftovers out of sight but still he chewed. He tried thinking of the beach but saw instead the fish he’d last caught on his trip to the seaside. He tried thinking of Jane but could only see the love bite he’d last given her when he bit down on her neck.

“Find the fucking off switch John. Constant masticating is not pretty.”

“Jane I’m taking Egor for a walk. Hopefully Killmousky is about.”


HONORABLE MENTION:  Transcendence by Christina Steiner

What happens if you meet a violent death. Will you leave, go to heaven or hell or is there something in between. Your life wasn’t really finished on earth, someone else finished it for you. Do you get to stick around and do the things you always wanted to do but didn’t have the guts. How would it happen, what would happen. Where would you go, be. What format would your new body less conscience take?

99-Word Flash Fiction Based on Free-Write

There was this moment of instant clarity. The bullet hit Candice and killed her. In seconds her life flashed before her. She collapsed. A feeling of lightness came over her. The body was gone. She metamorphosed into a zephyr of tiny particles with coherent thoughts. Her navigational skills were out of control. She hid in a crevice to gather her thoughts. “I can learn,” she whispered to no one. Her lightness was pleasant. Slowly she mixed with the other particles around her, gaining skills by doing so. The world opened to new possibilities. Candice could go anywhere, do anything.

59-Word Flash Fiction Based on 99 Words

The bullet killed Candice. What happened was unexpected. Lightness came over her. She became air particles, but it took time to learn the navigational skill. Practice made perfect. After some hesitations, she figured out how to function as a zephyr. Finally, Candice had the courage do the things she always wanted to do but couldn’t in her physical life.

9-Word Flash Based on 59 Words

Sudden death transported Candice to a whole new existence.

599 Word Story in 3 Acts

He had held his gun pointed at my middle. I knew he’d kill me. I’d always known it would end up this way. I’d stayed around anyway with tainted hopes of reconciliation.

When the shot echoed on the porch, I’d already had my life’s revue. For just a moment I sat on the bench in front of our house, and then my body slacked and hit the floorboards with a hollow thud.

All that doesn’t matter. That day wasn’t the end, just a new beginning.

An exhilarating lightness came over me. Having shed my body, I floated unrestricted by gravity or weight. But I didn’t know that right away. Instinctively I gathered my particles and slipped into a crack under the porch roof. As I huddled there, my husband threw the gun to the floor. I recognized a flicker of regret on his face before he fled.

Silence crept around the porch. Lowering myself back onto the bench, I realized, I’d morphed into a zephyr. My tiny particles mixed and moved with other particles on the porch. Are these particles zephyrs like me, lost souls whose lives ended and floated in the troposphere of this earth? I had no inkling.

It didn’t take long to figure out my navigational capabilities. I could explain it this way: my entity separated and merged like a magnet with its own DNA.

I learned to move about the earth slowly or rapidly, riding the winds or the liquid waves. My particles, obeying my will, aligned themselves like a string of beads or a cluster of grapes.

Heat or cold had no influence, there wasn’t physical pain or discomfort anymore, just a perpetual contentedness. In time I’d figured out the intricacies of my being.

I visited many places I’d missed in my former life. I perched on top of a snow-covered pine tree in Alaska next to an eagle … snuggled up to a homeless man in New York City but couldn’t warm him … invaded the ear of a giraffe in Kenya and made him wiggle his ear.

One day, I cumulated on top of a road bomb in Iraq. That was rather tricky. I didn’t know the outcome. It took a while for my particles to assemble again, but I discovered that only a violent demise meets this fate of mine. My scattered particles bumped into the soldier’s and danced a confused tango, trying to connect but couldn’t. For a moment my complacency vanished. When the dust settled so did the particles. After that incident, I developed this theory that the DNA needed to match 99.9 percent to merge with another floating soul whose magnetic field was within mine. I dreamed about it. Maybe then there could be pleasures. And sorrows could be shared. An enticing thought.

Then it hit me. Even in my present state, I could do things, prevent things. There’s always a moment before incidents or accidents happen. With a colorful fall leave entrapped in my zephyr, I stopped a little girl from running into oncoming traffic. I slithered into a killer’s nose, the itch prevented him from pulling the trigger and gave his victims time to flee. I’d found my new calling.

I hardened to accept the emotional turmoil of living humans. Not a powerless observer anymore I interfered in zephyred ways.

One day I returned to the porch and contemplated about my killer. The experience he brought upon me is infinitely more interesting than the life I led before. My husband is awaiting his execution in the electric chair, I expect, he too will become a zephyr.


Revenge Is Dee-Lightful byRitu Bhathal

Having finally made that decision, and acted upon it, Dee sat back and thought about what had just happened. For years she had suffered at the hands of Nicola and her cronies. Not only her but so many of her colleagues. They spent so long finding ways to bring people down, she decided to take matters into her own hands and give them a piece of their own medicine. And boy, had it worked! There was no chance of them messing with her anytime soon! It was just a shame that no one knew it had been her who engineered that change in them…

99-Word Flash Fiction Based on Free-Write

Dee was sick of being the butt of office jokes. Just because she wasn’t one of the chosen ones, she suffered the immature pranks played on her throughout the day. Her, and a few others too. But this time, she’d had enough! No more hiding coffee cups or sniggering behind people’s backs. As she removed the toilet rolls from all the stalls in the ladies, she giggled to herself. That chocolate flavoured laxative, crumbled into Nicola’s special Hot Chocolate tin would do just the job. Oh, they wouldn’t come up smelling of roses this time… Quite the opposite, actually!

59-Word Flash Fiction Based on 99 Words

Dee had had enough. She took matters into her own hands and decided to exact her revenge on the Mean Girls in the office. Amazing what a packet of laxatives and no available loo roll could do to the confidence of a bunch of bullies! No one knew of her part in the commotion, but she felt liberated!

9-Word Flash Based on 59 Words          

A quiet, but smelly victory for the bullied one.

599 Word Story in 3 Acts

Ever since she had joined the office, Dee’s life had been a total misery by a group of women who ruled the floor she worked on.

Nicola was a beautiful but nasty specimen who homed in on anyone who looked less than perfect. Along with her cronies, she took great pleasure in mocking those blessed with a heavier figure than hers, or ladies who weren’t interested in spending most of their salary on designer wear, preferring the convenience of high street stores instead.

Dee was a quiet, bookish sort. She wasn’t interested in sticking her nose into other people’s business, but when she noticed that it wasn’t just her that was getting the ‘Nicola-treatment’, she felt compelled to do something.

But what to do?

She wasn’t the confrontational sort. Dee was the kind of girl who preferred to talk things through, get to the root of a problem, but Nicola was most certainly not a woman of that ilk. After a particularly heinous comment directed at poor Sarah, the slightly chubby girl sat next to her, who was already paranoid about her weight considering she was getting married soon, Dee had stood up for her.

And all she got was a look of disgust from the coven and the head bitch, sorry witch. It resulted in them deciding that a new target was in order – Dee.

They’d hidden her coffee mug several times, played childish pranks on her, and once they even took her glasses from her desk, leaving her squinting at her screen, trying desperately to complete a quote that her boss needed by the end of the day.

Nicola thought it was hilarious to stop by at the end of the day and casually drop her specs onto her workspace. “Oh, I found these in the ladies! Wasn’t sure whose they were, then I realised only one person here has the bad taste to buy their frames from the Pound Shop!”

Suffering the beginnings of a severe migraine due to the added pressure on her eyes, Dee was unable to come back with any retort, but a sympathetic glance from Sarah eased her discomfort.

Watching them giggling over their fancy travel mugs, filled with some special high-end hot chocolate, made from cocoa that Nicola had ordered specially from Peru, an idea seeped into Dee’s mind.

The next day, she entered the kitchen area, on the pretext of getting her morning coffee. It was just past 8 am. There was no chance of Nicola or any of her groupies being in this early. Dee took a container out of her handbag. It was filled with a brown powder.

She decanted it quickly into the pretentious pot labelled ‘Nicoa’s Hot Choc – Don’t Touch!’

Later in the day, just before the cocoa break was due to commence, Dee slipped to the ladies’ toilets, and surreptitiously emptied the three stalls of any toilet paper.

It didn’t take long.

The groans, the sprinting to the loos, the moans, and oh, the smell!

Four women, having ingested one of the strongest laxatives available – chocolate flavour of course – fought for the stalls, and then lamented the lack of tissue.

It was a sheepish bunch who exited the toilets, thankful to Dee, who went in, and ‘rescued’ them with rolls of toilet paper, a liberal squirt of air freshener, and the offer of some of her Primark brand perfume.

She sat at her desk, looking over at the sheepish faces of the coven.

Now they were the ones being laughed at.

And though no one else knew, Dee felt a new confidence grow within her.



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 your 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.

Those of you who braved TUFF, now have a writing elixir — you can overcome any challenge you meet on the path to literary art.

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. STAY TUNED NEXT WEEK FOR A COVER REVEAL!

Please take a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey if you haven’t had the chance. We appreciate your feedback which we will use for next Rodeo.

JANUARY 2, 2018: We announce the All-Around Winning Flash Fiction of the 2017 Rodeo. A recap of our contest winners:

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  1. Norah

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    And the results of the TUFFest Contest of all in the Carrot Ranch #FFRODEO are out. Congratulations Liz Husebye Hartman for TUFFing it out to win the contest!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Norah!

      • Norah

        My pleasure, Charli. 🙂

  2. Norah

    Congratulations, Liz, on your win. I didn’t expect an alien/monster. Congratulations also to the runners-up Irene, Ritu and Christina for your great stories – what a collection! Well done, everyone.

    • Charli Mills

      I know! I went from thinking the character was struggling with memory to the full realization of why. Liz worked it out, using TUFF. All the entries were enjoyable to read and interesting to note how the process was used.

      • Norah

        I admire the work of all the writers who entered, particularly seeing as I didn’t get there in the end.

    • Ritu

      Thanks Norah!

    • Charli Mills

      You surprised me, Irene! While the pets had humorous names, I thought it unlike you to have two characters named John and Jane. I should have recognized your humor. 🙂 Congratulations to you and Liz, Christina and Ritu. And a big hand to all the writers who entered TUFF.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Now that is interesting Charli. I hadn’t thought about that and names are a part of fiction I enjoy playing with. I’m wondering if it is a freudian slip and my characters are modelled on a real life John and Jane. Not the story – just the characters. TUFF was a great competiton.

  3. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Congratulations Liz for your winning entry and to Ritu and Christina also. Great stories. I’m honoured to get a mention also. Charli that was a huge amount of reading so thank you for your dedication. It was probably really interesting to see the change from free write to 599 words. It was a great challenge to take part in.

    • Charli Mills

      It was fascinating! And I hand it to all of you who entered for being such willing subjects to test TUFF.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        It was an interesting process to trial and of course when it comes to marketing it is exactly what you have to do. Get a blurb of around 350 words, another at around 100, another of 3 sentences and one of 3 words. After doing TUFF I can see the value of doing this in the early stages of manuscript formulation. I’ll certainly try it again.

  4. Ritu

    Congratulations to Liz, Irene and Christina!
    And Wow! Charli! Thank you for the honourable mention! I feel proud to be mentioned among so many amazing talented writers!
    Off to share!!!!

    • Charli Mills

      You did a fabulous job, Ritu! I was delighted to learn that entry was yours. Oh, you made me laugh! What I also appreciated was how you worked the process, too from an idea of a story to drafting it.

      • Ritu

        Charli, I loved doing it, and I have even passed your TUFF challenge idea on to our year 6 teacher in school.She teaches the 10-11-year olds in school. I think something like this could be adapted and help stretch the creative minds of children too! They don;’ get to be imaginative enough nowadays. It’s all too academic!!!!

  5. jumaogutu

    I really love this

    On Wed, Dec 27, 2017 at 7:55 AM, Carrot Ranch Literary Community wrote:

    > Charli Mills posted: “To many writers, 99 words may hardly seem enough to > tell a story. And yet, week after week I witness writers achieve > compelling, emotive and imaginitive stories in 99 words. Some are complete > story arcs, some are snapshots of a moment, and some are charac” >

  6. jumaogutu

    I really love this. Let me share it to my circles

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, and yes — please share!

  7. TanGental

    Well done all. This was beyond me so I’m really impressed

    • Charli Mills

      I was worried it would scare off all the writers! It’s not easy to expose how one processes, but certainly is informative. I hope it becomes a useful tool.

      • TanGental

        well done for having the courage to let it fly

  8. D. Wallace Peach

    This post was so fun to read. All of the stories were wonderful and left me wanting more. Congratulations to Liz for the fabulous story. I loved the sensory details that brought me right there! Congratulations also to Irene, Christina, and Ritu for your honorable mentions. I’m so glad I didn’t have to judge this one. Thank you, Charli, for this amazingly fun rodeo. 😀
    Happy New Year to all!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Diana! I enjoyed every entry I read. The Rodeo was a lot of fun thanks to all who led and participated. Thank you for being a part of the action in the arena!

  9. floatinggold

    Great job to all on completing such a back and forth challenge. That takes skill! My favorite was “A Life of Their Own” by Irene Waters. The image I got in my head was just too comedic.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for reading. I’m glad you liked Irene’s comedic story.

  10. Marje @ Kyrosmagica

    Reblogged this on M J Mallon Author and commented:
    All the winners of the Carrot Ranch Rodeo including myself with my piece of murderous flash Mr Blamey.

  11. Marje @ Kyrosmagica

    Congratulations to all the winners and particular CONGRATS to Liz for her winning entry and the honourable mentions in TUFF contest 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Marje and I’m so happy you are in the Winner’s Arena!

  12. Liz H

    Thanks you guys! 😮 My mind went way out on this one, and I’m pretty sure the TUFF process was key to not totally spinning out into sheer nonsense. What a great, demanding, polishing tool!

    Thanks to Charli for what must have been very intensive reading while flying solo, also over the holidays!

    And congratulations to Irene, Christina, and Ritu. Amazed at the blessings of creativity and vision of the hero’s journey, and that we got to see it come together right here!

    • Charli Mills

      Well done, Liz! I really did enjoy how you went from sketch to story, demonstrating the artistry. Your hero’s journey is implied as much as stated, and that impressed me, too. That’s a hallmark of flash fiction, balancing what is stated and left unsaid. All the entries were fabulous and a pleasure to read.

      • Liz H

        (Joseph Campbell rolls over in his grave, sits up, and plays Knucklebones with Grendel)…

  13. Alexander De

    Inspiring writing and an intriguing practice that I must try. I appreciate the time that goes into all of this. Glad I stumbled upon Carrot Ranch. Zander

      • Alexander De

        Outstanding!!! Looking forward to diving in and Tuffening up my skills. (I promise not to pun too often.)

  14. Juliet Nubel

    Well done to Liz and honorable mentions Irene, Ritu and Christina. I have just arrived home so will now take off my shoes, put on my slippers and settle by the fire to read your winning stories. ????????????

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Juliet! I enjoyed reading all the entries!

  15. Annecdotist

    Well done everyone and maybe especially you, Charli, single-handedly judging 24,000 words! I’m looking forward to trying this process if/when I finish editing my WIP.

    • Charli Mills

      I’ve been doing some book editing for novellas about that length. By the time I compiled it all, I felt I could rank it. The trickiest part was copying entries without looking at submitters. Anne, I’d welcome you to submit a TUFF process as a guest author when you have finished your WIP. Thank you!

  16. julespaige

    Amazing writers. All – It was a honor to even be ‘read’ along with them.
    Thanks again to all the writers for hours of entertainment, to the judges and especially to our lead Buckaroo!

    • Charli Mills

      I enjoyed your entries, too, Jules and you were right up there with the others. Thank you for leading and enthusiastically supporting the Rodeo. You turned in many amazing stories, too.

  17. Hugh's Views and News

    Many congratulations to everyone that entered this particular contest. I admire you all for having a go. I just could not get my head around it and failed at the first hurdle. You’ve all inspired me not to give up so easily next time.
    Thank you so much, Charli. You did a brilliant job of organising all of these contests, and I salute you and your hosts for challenging our creative writings and making this such fun. I look forward to reading the book that has resulted from this wonderful contest.

  18. reocochran

    I’m so glad you featured all of the first seven winners! Just FYI:
    Rodeo #8 doesn’t have a link for those of us bloggers who don’t always have time to put the letters in with the http:// to get there. . . Thanks, if you get a chance to update or send me a link. . . . ???? Thanks!

  19. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Congratulations to all that exposed themselves in this TUFF contest. Very well done, everyone. Well done Charli.

  20. Colleen Chesebro

    Wow! I’m late to the party but super impressed with the writing! Congratulations to Liz Husebye Hartmann and the honorable mentions. You guys, rock! <3

  21. Judy E Martin

    Well done to everybody for such fantastic entries and to Liz Husebye Hartmann for being the overall winner. 🙂

  22. Sherri Matthews

    Wow, what a fantastic contest and read! Charli, what an incredibly difficult task you had and what a wonderful winner with Liz’s entry. Huge congratulations Liz and also to Irene, Christina and Ritu for their honourable mentions. Great writing one and all! 🙂


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