December 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

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 28, 2017

Ice crystals lace silver threads of intricate patterns across glass so thin I feel surrounded by frozen cellophane. Any minute I expect ice-spiders to skitter across the glass, adding more crystalline webbing. All I hear is the distant hum of a neighbor’s snowblower, chewing mounds of white drifts, recreating front lawns into winter parking lots.

Then snow crunches and squeaks, alerting me to the return of the Huskies to the top of the deck. The door handle is so cold I fumble several attempts to open it. Two dogs with enviable fur puff through the door, their breath froze in the moment, driftless and white. Everything is white, and this porch is officially below zero (Fahrenheit).

We all rush into the welcoming warmth of the kitchen, quickly closing the seeping snow and leaving the unseen ice-spiders to spin their webs until it warms or the earth shatters.

Lady Lake Superior holds us captive like a Winter Queen in a Fairy Tale. On her blustery days, she forces the lake upon us and I imagine drowning in snow. On Christmas Eve we drove out to a friends and family party, a local Finnish family’s tradition for so long that it’s become generational. Our gracious hostess, an artist of local renown, served us food as if she had painted a canvas or raku-fired pottery.

Many people came and went that night as we lingered close to the table with magic abilities to refill platters of meatballs, spinach puff pastries and bowls of salmon spread. My own offering of smoky twice-baked potatoes dwindled and our hostess proclaimed them delicious. It boosted my spirits to receive a nod from one artist to another.

My art, words upon a page, lately feel frozen, ink stuck in the nib. Tis only a season and this too shall pass. Yet like the hunter, I can’t stop. Maybe the rabbit hunt results in a small mouse, but that sustains me until I snag the rabbit. It’s possible I might cross paths with an elk, and as a hunter, I know that will only happen if I go out on the trail frozen and snow-blown as it is.

That evening I met a delightful artist in her 80s. She lives at the end of the Keweenaw at Copper Harbor. We spoke about mentors and how every artist needs one. She told me about her aunt who was trained back east and highly regarded. She was plucky. At age 15 she rode a bus to apply for a copy-writer job in downtown Chicago, lying about her age. She told me many stories that night, still feeling the tug of writing after decades of painting, and concluded, “Artists are weird.”

I laughed. I think the drive to create also drives us to take risks and experiment. Recently the New York Times published an article, “Why Trying New Things  is So Hard to Do.” If artists are weird, then it’s because we go against the genetic code and try new things. As you can see, week after week, literary artists at Carrot Ranch can try to write one thing in a new way.

Flash fiction is an exploratory tool. Maybe it makes us weird, but it’s a response to the passion to create and tell stories.

After a jolly Christmas Eve, we left while Lady Lake Superior thrust her might upon the land. Have you ever been in a torrential downpour? Snowflakes pummeled existing drifts like pouring rain. To stand in pouring snow was awe-inspiring; to drive in it was terrifying. It fell so fast it covered all hints of the road and made looking out the windshield like staring into strobe lights. All I could see out of the corner of the windshield was the faintest hint of deeper piles to indicate the edge of the road.

Once back at the house in Hancock, I asked my kids how they navigate in such conditions. They both responded that you learn not to look forward but to the side to find the road’s edge. I had it right but found it frightening to drive snow-blind. Perhaps that is what it’s like to write — we navigate the page blind to all but one edge we follow.

If the stars ever return to the sky, when Lady Lake decides to pull back from dominating the terrain, I know I have one up there — my wishing star. Even covered, I know it guides me. And I think of this star on the cusp of one year to the next because I believe in activating my wish. You might call it a dream, but it’s not a goal — goals are what you set to attain your dream.

Pretend ice-spiders exist for a moment. Pretend Lady Lake is real and in a giving mood. She parts the veil of gray clouds to let the electric particles dance in sheets of apple-green and orchid-purple. The sky displays a light show and stars burn like diamonds on black velvet. She momentarily resets the night sky until one star, your star, shines brightest. She grants you a wish:

“Star light, star bright,
The first star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.”

Don’t think, don’t blink, write it down now!

This wish holds meaning for you. Perhaps it’s obvious. Maybe you have to ponder its symbology. It’s a wish made when you thought anything possible. Now I want you to think about your calling as a writer, a literary artist, an educator, a philosopher, a traveler, a missionary. Pick or add what resonates with you. If you could call yourself anything, what would that be?

You now hold two hints to your vision.

Did you know that visioning is a process? It’s a business process and entails more than wishing upon stars. It sets a northern star in the sky over an organization to lead the way. Goals are like arrows aimed at this star. At times when you are not sure what is next for you, realign to your star, your vision. Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, I trained with Ari Weinzweig and his team from Zing Train. From him, I learned how to train trainers, give great service and include visioning as part of planning.

“Begin with the end in mind,” Ari advises (you can read more in his book, A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building Great Business).

If you set goals, to what end? How will you know what success looks like? You probably already do this, but like your wish, it feels private and fanciful. But Ari calls visioning “positive futuring.” It’s a way to innovate and inspire the action you take. Zing Train is a division of Zingerman’s Deli (yes, a small college town deli cultivates business leaders). In 2007, NYT called them “The corner deli that dared to break out of the neighborhood.” And I’ve reworked the training I received and used in my own workplace to encourage writers to do something with that wish: vision.

Three years ago in the December 24, 2014 prompt I shared the following peek at my own vision:

Recalculations help redefine goals. Why set goals? Because if you have dreams, goals become a way to navigate to them. Your vision is like the north star, guiding you along the way. My vision is big and includes much more than successfully publishing novels. It includes creating literary spaces both physically and digitally–places to learn grow, create and recalculate. Collaboration is part of the vision.

Carrot Ranch fosters a literary space to practice craft, communicate ideas and read stimulating writing. Rough Writers are regulars or founding contributors, and Friends are our readers and commenters. We have many friends who pop in once in a while when inspired and others who faithfully read. Together we create a community that honors what literature is about–progressing the imagination to describe, define or experience life. Literature thrives in an open environment.

Join the dream. An open invitation to the Congress of Rough Writers & Friends:

  • Help develop a Carrot Ranch Anthology (expanded shorts based on flash fiction, for example). It can be a fun way to explore collaboration and indie avenues from crowd-sourcing to publishing.
  • Help develop a Christmas project for next year (what trouble can we write Rudolph into with his visits around the globe).
  • Research a possible text or workshop based on how flash fiction can build skills and that college classes or writing groups can use.

Three years ago, I had no idea that my husband’s behavior was sign of cognitive demise, that my best friend had incurable cancer or that we’d ever leave Elmira Pond. I was expressing to the early writers at the Ranch my wish to do more than write my books. I wanted a literary community, writer collaboration, the opportunity to explore independent publishing, a fun event at the Ranch, and a way to teach flash fiction as a skill-building tool.

Here’s where I get goosebumps. Despite unexpected circumstances, my vision stayed constant. Carrot Ranch thrives, my books have progressed, we have our first anthology of flash fiction in Kindle, I know tons more about independent publishing and it’s altered my goals, Rudolph morphed into a Rodeo, and I now teach Wrangling Words as a community outreach course and will debut TUFF workshop in February. Retreats on Elmira Pond took me to bigger waters where I dream of one on Isle Royale and another on a cruise to New Zealand.

I’m dreaming big! Are you? Let it all out — in a journal, in an email to someone or no one, in a story, in a conversation. Dream out loud. Wish. And craft a vision for your northern star.

Like flash fiction, visioning has magical results; but also like flash fiction there’s science behind focusing an intention and writing down goals. Dr. Gail Matthews, a psychology professor at the Dominican University in California found that you become 42 percent more likely to achieve your goals and dreams, simply by writing them down on a regular basis (“The Power of Writing Down Dreams and Goals” by Mary Morrissey).

As the year turns, set your goals pointing to a bright and shiny vision. Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

December 28, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a wishing star. It can be central to the story or used in a different way. You can have a character interact or not. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 2, 2018 to be included in the compilation (published January 3). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Shoveling Midnight Snow (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Wolves padded across the snowy field, mere shadows dappled by moonlight. Danni gripped the shovel and paused. As loudly as her own boots crunched the tight snow, the wolves passed in silence. Had she not turned to shovel the path to the barn she would have missed the pack. Before the last one merged with the cover of night, he stopped and cocked his head. A shooting star rolled across the sky like a snowball down a hill. Before Danni could make a wish both star and wolf vanished. Would her wish still count? Come home to me, Ike.


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  1. Norah

    What magnificent writing, Charli. Your opening paragraphs describing the cold and the snow left me gobsmacked – such beautiful imagery. I can but imagine for I have no experience of such cold and snow. It seems beautiful to me, but treacherous too. I’m so pleased you survived the drive home, guided by those edges, creating another analogy to writing. Let there be no end to it.
    It was reassuring to re-read your vision as expressed in 2014, and to see that you have remained focused on that north start, even when your physical journey drifted off-course, and your emotions took a beating. There’s really no wishing in it. It’s all hard work, determination, grit and a not yet philosophy that keeps you focused. I don’t foresee an end to the vision or the journey, just a greater expression of who you are and what you wish for, gathering momentum like that “shooting star rolled across the sky like a snowball down a hill”. You’re that shooting star brightening the darkness, shining light on possibilities, and guiding our journeys. Thank you for envisioning and creating Carrot Ranch, a safe place for writers of any persuasion.

    • Norah

      Hi Charli, Here is my wishful thinking contribution: – not quite as light as I’d planned. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, Norah, you have taught me so much, including the value of having that not yet mentality. It has helped when the gaps seem wide. Hopefully no end to the analogies! I have fun looking for how life and writing intersect. I wish I could, I wish I might, share some snow and cold with you tonight! It is beautiful, best observed from inside, though spurts of snow activities can be invigorating. As it snows, I think of all your bird chatter. Dreaming…We are stars shining light together in a vast universe. Let there be no end to our starlight! Thank you for shining your light on the Ranch. <3

      • Norah

        Well, it is good then, that we learn from each other, each contributing a little more to make the other complete. I would have loved some of that snow, as you would have loved some of my warmth. The birds will return to you soon, I’m sure – when the snow thaws. I like thinking of us as stars shining in the universe, our lights twinkling brightly hoping we’ll be the one someone will make a wish on tonight. Whether by starlight or candlelight – I love writing at the Ranch. As long as my candle is lit, or my star twinkles, you’ll find me there. How dark would the days be otherwise?

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Lady Lee!

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Outside the window snow fell, snow flew, snow blew in all directions, silently, and it felt like in this room they were figures in a snow-globe. Her bedroom now her hospice room, the ventilator pulsed time towards the inevitable yet still uncertain end; none of them had been here before.
    Finally the snow stopped, the clear and cold night sky sparkling, so many stars that to stare up at them was like being in a snow-globe, mesmerizing and oddly comforting. Through a lens of tears one figure thought she saw a falling star, falling up, so bright, so distant.

    I had written a longer version of this earlier for another “star” prompt. ( I think I like this 99 word version better.

    • anuragbakhshi

      So poignant, yet filled with hope. Happy new year.

    • Charli Mills

      This: “Her bedroom now her hospice room, the ventilator pulsed time towards the inevitable yet still uncertain end; none of them had been here before.” A snow globe works so well as an analogy not because of the weather, but because those who had not been in that situation before did feel isolated in what was happening. Well done.

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Shorty’s Blues?

    “Pal, ya ever hear about Shorty bein’ a country singin’ star?”
    “Think it’s true?”
    “Dunno. Don’tcha have ta qualify? Like ya gotta have ‘sperienced yer truck breakin’ down, yer dog dyin’, deferred dreams, an’ general pain an’ heart ache an’ such as life hands ya.”
    “Oh. Well Shorty’s got a beautiful blue-skied ranch, the best rodeo on the bloggin’ circuit, an dreams abloomin’ like cactus.”
    “An’ us! She’s got a fine bunch a ranch hands.”
    “Yep. Reckon she ain’t got the right name for singin’ stardom anyway. “Shorty” ’s kinda runna the mill.”
    “Spins a good yarn though.”

  4. reocochran

    I enjoyed your story, Charli. I think people in business use Vision Boards. My youngest daughter has made three years in a row, written words, pictures and steps to attain each year’s goals. She exceeded her goals, too.
    I am glad to follow you and read, being a guest and commenter but not contributor. ???? Thank you. ?

    • julespaige

      Happy New Year!

    • Charli Mills

      There are many different expressions of visioning work in business, and I think it’s fun to do. Good to hear your daughter has had success with her vision boards. Thanks for stopping by the Ranch! You’re welcome to join us anytime in any capacity.

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Broken Dreams

    “Kid! Found ya. Ya weren’t in the bunkhouse.”
    “Cain’tcha see I’m lyin’ out here in my sleepin’ bag enjoyin’ the stars? Jeez, Pal.”
    “Really. An’ mebbe I’m even wishin’ on a star.”
    “Kid, ya cain’t jest be wishin’ an’ dreamin’. Ya gotta git up an’do! I swear ya ain’t never gonna amount ta nuthin’, jest layin’ aroun’ wishin’ at stars. Git up Kid. Make yer dream happen!”
    “I had done achieved it, Pal, till jest now.”
    “Yep. I had wished ta lay out here enjoyin’ the stars in peace an’ quiet. Now I’m wishin’ ya’d go away.”

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha. Now THAT’S a relatable dream 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Wishing you and the Kid and characters in your head and heart much peace and star gazing this year!

  6. Annecdotist

    It’s lovely how you’ve fulfilled your dream, Charli, and pulled so many of us along with you. And despite the hardships you’ve encountered along the way. A real hero’s journey.
    I agree it’s good to dream big and then build in the practical steps to make it reality. Not sure about wishing star, though. I’m already feeling severely challenged by the challenge, but let’s see.

    • Charli Mills

      A bit of fun to let go and wish upon a star. Then back to working the reality, no matter what. The hero’s journey promises an elixir, but not what it is. Good to have you along on this journey, Anne. It’s okay to pass on the wishful star. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Di! And wishing you a good year, too!

    • Charli Mills

      A great sci-fi twist on the prompt, Joelle!

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

    • Liz H

      The sky’s the limit on this one…love the perspective!

      • Ritu

        So true! Thank you!

      • Ritu

        Thanks Irene. ????

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ritu! I’m so happy you are stretching your creative limits! Great perspective in your flash!

      • Ritu

        Thanks for the inspiration Charli ????

    • Charli Mills

      Good to you at the Ranch, Bobby! I think many cameras in your story were aiming for a “different” angle. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

  7. Reena Saxena

    The last one appeals to me “Research a possible text or workshop based on how flash fiction can build skills and that college classes or writing groups can use.”

    • Charli Mills

      We are kindred thinkers, Reena! I like flash as a tool as much as I like it as a literary form.

    • Charli Mills

      A thoughtful kind of wishing star, Reena!

  8. Liz H

    You flash brought a tear to my eye, and your beautiful blog this morning fills me with light and inspiration. Despite the dumptruck loads of snow being heaped on some parts of the US, and the Medusan bitter cold that’s turning my state to stone, the solstice has passed, the days are getting longer, and things are looking up!
    I’d decided I needed to set some goals during the next year, but your thoughts have made me realize I need to articulate my dreams, first. Hoping…for clarity. And what gift Carrot Ranch is to those ends!
    To a bright, generative new year!!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      If I were articulate like Liz, I would have said what she said.

    • Charli Mills

      The return of light is often something I hold onto during the cold of post-solstice. It’s so cold it is worthy of the Medusean title! I’m glad you are going to articulate your dreams, Liz and aim those goals. Thank you for being a part of this word outfit. To a brighter and warmer new year full of articulated dreams!

    • julespaige

      Nice fairy tale ending… we could all use some happy endings.

      • notyouraveragemomblogweb

        If we learn from our mistakes and see them as lessons, then we can have our own happy endings.

    • Charli Mills

      There’s such a cozy feeling watching the snow outside (when inside sitting on the radiator). It’s different when you can’t get warm. Great adventure your pondering of the prompt took you to, Heather!

  9. denmaniacs4

    Conversation on the Midnight Ferry-August 1965

    “It’s a wonder, eh!”

    “What is?”

    “Looking up to a glittering sky, a clear night, that one cloud there…see?”
    “I do…”

    “And how it’s shading the moon, and that star…do you know your stars?”

    “Once…a few years back, I knew them pretty well. Our Cubmaster…drilled them into us.”

    “You were lucky.”

    “I suppose. He was a cookie salesman too…stars and cookies. Great times.”

    “Now that’s real luck. Look, there it is again…a shooting star…is that what they call it?”

    “Yeah…a beauty, that’s for sure…I wish…”

    “What for?”

    “Ah, man, I’ll be livin’ in the city. University. No stars, probably.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      August ’65? That’s my star! (Wait a minute, that’s a long time ago…)

      • denmaniacs4

        quite some time ago…

    • julespaige

      That might have been the star I saw when I was a young teen…

    • anuragbakhshi

      Yeah, no stars in the city, but everyone goes there to try and become a star! Happy new year.

    • Michael B. Fishman

      Ahh… 1965… I used to be able to stay up until midnight then. I was just looking at your blog and I want to advise you not to give up not to give up puns. And in keeping with this week’s theme – I’m Sirius.

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Oh, you two punsters!

    • Charli Mills

      I felt like I was right there standing on the ferry deck. A conversation hanging in time, stars can do that to us. So what does a lack of stars do? Ah, well, Happy New Year, Bill!

  10. Pete

    Jimmy sat in his usual seat, working the trivia machine, trying to wrap his bourbon-soaked mind around the lifespans of supergiant stars–how they took a billion years to see.

    Shooting stars. Dead beauty.

    Between drinks, Jimmy felt a fleeting ache under his shirt pocket. A clink of ice in his glass, the stutter of his daughter’s giggle. The splash of Beam, quick blast of Ginger Ale. He wished again to see his wife’s sleepy eyes shining as she nursed the baby. A billion years ago…

    The new drink arrived. The ache had passed.

    Jimmy worked the trivia machine.

    • anuragbakhshi

      How beautiful and how poignant. Happy new year.

    • Charli Mills

      Sharp writing, Pete. “A clink of ice in his glass, the stutter of his daughter’s giggle. ” Such painful contrasts as Jimmy numbs it all to the life-spans of shooting stars.

    • Charli Mills

      Happy New Year to you, too, Michael!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Henrietta! Happy New Year!

  11. mrmacrum

    As usual, I am not sure which dusty corner I found this little nugget.

    Just in case the link was broken, here’s the cut n paste.


    “Wish I were, Wish I might……… Ah, screw it. This doesn’t work anymore.”

    Crestfallen, Jesus stood on the Mount and stared up at the night sky. Moments passed as he wallowed in self pity. Off to his left, a brighter star than the rest seemed to come closer.

    “Boy, I told you there were limits. “

    “But Dad, how can I turn this planet around if you won’t cooperate?”

    “Well son, I’ll tell ya. No water walking, leper healing parlor trick is going to upstage that damn Free Will clause I enacted ………… Time to pull the plug.”
    Happy New Year everyone!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Brilliant. If we are intent on self-destruction, no God or miracle can help us. Happy new year.

      • mrmacrum

        Thank you. Free Will does indeed put the onus on us.

    • Charli Mills

      There are limits, but perhaps it up to us to think about how we put that free will clause to work. Happy New Year to you, too MRMcrum!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Lisa! And Happy New Year to you, too!

      • lisarey1990

        Thank you. Happy New Year to you too Charli. 🙂

  12. Juliet Nubel

    Another beautiful and thought-provoking post, Charli. You have certainly stayed true to your literary goals of three years ago and now we are all benefitting from your generosity and vision.
    I haven’t seen many stars recently because our skies have been raining for days. But when I do I will think of you and this little old lady below…

    Heavens Above

    “Let them stay healthy, happy and safe.”

    She repeats this twice more then starts reciting the list of names.

    It used to be a short list – ‘Mummy, Daddy and my sister.’

    With the years it has stretched, gathering in a fiancé turned spouse, then children, then their children and their loves.

    Her hands are clasped tightly as she looks at the lone star.

    If you saw her you might think she were praying. But her god has no name, no face, no man-made place of worship.

    She is speaking to the sky, her blue-edged blanket of the universe.

    • Liz H

      “her blue-edged blanket of the universe”
      Gorgeous!! <3

      • Juliet Nubel

        ???? Thanks Liz. That line came from a deep and real love of the sky. We have a special ‘Skies and clouds’ photo share-box in our family. It is brimming with blue-edged blankets. I’m glad you liked it!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I liked it also. It made me think of that safety blanket a child drags around with them – a safe place for her to be.

    • anuragbakhshi

      What an amazingly beautiful last line. Happy new year Juliet.

      • Juliet Nubel

        Thank you so much. Happy New year to you too. ????

    • Charli Mills

      Beautiful flash, Juliet! I feel tucked beneath that blue-edged blanket of the universe on nights I can see it all. Thank you for your kind words. I’m so happy you ventured out to ride the rodeo and found a place for flash fiction in your literary art.

  13. julespaige

    Charli and Ranch Buckaroos and Visitors;

    Busy weekend here… hope to get back to more of last weeks and this weeks sooner than later.

    I have been taught two stories on wishing stars… meteors or the first star of the night… I incorporated both…

    Winter Realities
    Gina was small then, holding some grownups hand while
    they stopped briefly to talk. Maybe they all had been saying
    good-bye after some holiday visit. It was cold. While no one
    else was looking – there it was – a flying wishing star. Later
    Gina found out it was a meteor. And wishing on it hadn’t
    really changed anything, at least not then.

    Present time, years end; A clear night – a huge halo around
    an almost full winter moon. Who could tell what the first
    wishing star had been? It really didn’t matter – wishes only
    come true if ‘you’ follow through.


    (‘you’ in the last sentence should be in italics.)

    • Liz H

      Vision + Action = Dreams coming true.
      Love your image of the haloed full moon!

      • julespaige

        Last night – it wasn’t tight… the faint halo was at least a hand width at arms distance (or maybe two hands) around 10:30 pm.
        “While it may look like a ghostly ring, you’re actually just seeing the light of the moon refracting (or bending) through ice crystals. … In other words, seeing those icy clouds refracting light around the moon means cirrus clouds are present, which might indicate a coming storm.” And we got our storm… about two inches of snow!
        please see:
        LIGHT: enchantment?

      • Liz H

        Cool! Not sundogs, but moondogs, eh? Breathtaking!

      • julespaige

        I had to look up sundog and moondog –
        Yep! Cool.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Great take. Reminds me of that old joke in which this guy keeps praying to God for days on end, wishing that he wins a lottery, till the day God finally appears and tells him in exasperation – Dude buy a ticket at least!

    • Charli Mills

      A radiant truism, Jules! Since the coming of Lady Lake to shore we have not seen the moon (stars or sun). I’m wishing on snowflakes now (and I’ll act upon each one).

  14. Liz H

    Because this needs to be said. 😉

    It’s Too Fekkin’ Cold!

    The granite was rough and hot under her bare feet. She squatted by the tidal pool, peering at the life teeming beneath her.

    Kelp crowded in the center, tiny multicolored crabs parting its fronds with their dominant claw, blowing bubbles in irritation at being observed. Near the edge, barnacles glinted under the same sun that sizzled her shoulders and tightened her skin.

    Soon they’d board the plane, back to Winter-socked home.

    There! Behind that collection of miniature mussels! She gently grabbed a perfect star, stood and flipped him seawards, an exchange—a wish.

    She smiled, knowing she’d be back.

    • julespaige

      Wonderful! I like your fish star!
      No joke about our northern cold.
      Just one degree above freezing where I’m at 33 F or .05 C

      • Liz H

        15 below F at 10 a.m. today. I needed to escape!

      • julespaige

        Maybe we can meet up in Aruba? 🙂

      • Liz H

        Wherever the starfish swam to! 😀

      • julespaige

        We ought to see if we can hold some kind of writer’s conference in Aruba? 😉

      • Liz H

        Let’s get Charli in on this, yeah?

      • julespaige

        Oh, Yeah!

      • Charli Mills

        We are dreaming up a cruise around New Zealand! 😀

    • anuragbakhshi

      How absolutely lovely. Happy new year Liz.

      • Liz H

        Thanks! Happy New Year to you, as well!

    • Michael B. Fishman

      I think I stopped feeling cold sometime around last Friday morning and I’m not sure if that’s because I just gave in to winter or because my extremities are numb and I just haven’t realized it yet… Anyway, thanks for the tropical trip and the 99 word warm up. I liked how you worked the wish into the story because it was so identifiable. Is there anyone who hasn’t tossed something into water – a stone, a penny, an heirloom (?) and made a wish?

      • Liz H

        I hear there’s a heat wave in Australia right now,,,maybe they just throw themselves into the surf when they wish for better temps?…

    • Charli Mills

      I think I warmed up reading your flash! Then the bubble burst — she has to fly home to Winter-land. May we have some relief! I’ve taken to sitting on the hot water registers with the cat.

      • Liz H

        That works well…we do what we must!

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      That is, here it is:

      Nashville Dreams

      People come here to where the stars burned bright.

      *Stirring embers of memories, sifting through the ash
      They’re looking for Patsy, looking for Johnny Cash*

      Tourists ignore my singing, walk by my coin sprinkled case, go inside where it’s warm, go inside for ten-dollar drinks, where they’ll tip the band for playing lousy covers, tell them they sound real deal. Like they’d know.

      *They walk by they look right through me, unseen space between the stars
      Just another street bum, all I have is my guitar*

      Cold. It’ll be another sleepless night of shivering, of wishing underneath the stars.

    • Charli Mills

      Nashville fed the Muse, I see. I’m sure that town feeds lots of muses. What a cavern between those with the money to listen to bad cover and those without money and possessing the ability to create new covers if only someone would truly listen.

  15. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    What a beautiful flash Charli. I felt as though I was in there feeling her aloneness in a landscape that she was part of but did not truly belong. Her wish and her desperation I felt keenly. Wonderful writing as was your post. As Norah said your description of your surroundings put us in place and made us feel the cold and marvel at the ice. When I was much younger I followed the principals of Creative Visualisation by a woman called Shakti Gawain and although I don’t verbalise my vision anymore I probably still silently head in the direction of an end outcome. She was of the belief that you visualised the end – where you wanted to be, who you wanted to be and then set goals to make it happen. One of the most important parts of her philosophy was that the end was not set in concrete and if on the journey there you visualised a different ending you then set goals to make that happen. There was no failure for changing the end vision. I agree – Anything is possible you just need the vision. Carrot Ranch has achieved so much this year Charli thanks to your vision which you kept in sight despite all your personal upheavals. Wishing you and all those at the ranch a Very Happy New Year and the making visions become reality.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Irene. It seems like ages ago when I read Shakti Gawain, and it was through that creative visioning that I got into college and pursued writing. I had forgotten that influence! Even the ancient writings in the Bible warn that without vision the people will perish. I think we know this deeply and intrinsically as humans, yet we put down “dreamers” and “only imagination.” There’s something of our potential revealed in those dreams and imagination is a powerful tool. And I agree — visions for the future are not set in stone. I imagined there could be a fun and creative literary community, but Carrot Ranch takes on different attributes from anything I dreamed. Perhaps it’s become a collective vision. As long as we have a place to unleash what we can write — it’s all possible. “No matter what…” was my mantra last year as I followed the north star. Let’s see what this New Year adds to the vision! Wishing visinon into reality for you and everyone else gathered here, too!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Collective visioning is powerful. It will be fun seeing where it takes us at the ranch.

  16. AJ

    As always Charli, your words create such a beautiful story!

    Well, it has been a long while since I have done this, so here we go…

    A Lonely Wish:

    The darkness suffocated me; even the moon had abandoned me tonight. My eyes never adjusting, my nerves never settling, but I continued on. There was nothing to turn back to, but if I was to be honest, there was nothing to go forward to either. My body begged for rest, but I was afraid to listen. Stopping wasn’t an option, quitting meant giving up, giving up meant…

    I watched the black sky, hoping for a sign, but not a single star granted me its presence tonight. It was as if they had all died as well. I wished anyway.

    • Liz H

      Maybe our wishes, in the midst of darkness, make stars in the sky…?

    • anuragbakhshi

      It’s important to wish, to keep your hope alive, our stars too find strength from that and shine all the more brighter. Happy new year.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      You painted a vivid picture. Hope the wish comes true. The stars are still up there even if hidden by cloud.

    • Charli Mills

      Hey, AJ! Good to see you at the Ranch! You still got it, Rough Writer. In fact, I think you’ve done some distilling while away from the form. Deep, painful story and yet the faintest glimmer of hope. It’s all we need. Wishing you the best with all you’ve been doing!

  17. Ann Edall-Robson

    When you are innocently outed by a teacher, wishing on a star might be the answer when there is more to the story than that we read.

    Wishing Hill Star
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Jen sheepishly looked at her Dad. Busted by the science teacher with nowhere to go but plow right in.

    “He wanted to know where and how I got my descriptions about the sky. Said it was like I was right there. I told him about the hill and how I go there to watch the sky. I said it was the best place in the world because my Grandpa used to take me there to wish on falling stars.”

    Two nights later Jen’s science class lay sprawled on the hill, the black sky exploding with meteors crisscrossing all over.

    • Liz H

      Oh to be on that hillside!

    • anuragbakhshi

      So so cute. I c

      • anuragbakhshi

        I can visualize the class lying there. Happy new year.

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! Love that image of the students sprawled beneath star-shine, Ann. Great use of a kid’s way of thinking, too — busted and having to fess up. But good end result.

  18. susansleggs

    Innocence of Youth

    “Mama, I’ve been reading some of your flash fiction. Why are they all such downers?”
    “Well, flash fiction by definition is a short story and it requires an arc with a problem and a resolution; something with an adrenalin rush to keep the reader’s interest.”
    “But I want to read short happy stories; maybe about puppies. I’m going to wish for that on the next falling star I see.”
    “That would be an admirable wish honey.” I turned away from my ten year old with tears forming, wishing she could stay that innocent for the rest of her life.

    • anuragbakhshi

      I absolutely second that wish 🙂 Happy new year Susan.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, yes, a mother’s wish, Susan. Great juxtaposition of the downers we write of as adults and the dreams of puppies in youthful innocence.

    • Charli Mills

      Fabulous, Colleen! Oh, that last line is the ultimate in what it is to give shivers. A good one, indeed!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Thanks, Charli. I would love to turn this into a short story. Yikes! Like I don’t have enough to write already. LOL! 😀

  19. Alexander De

    Inspiring. Hope it’s okay that I did this as poetry.

      • Alexander De

        Thanks! I’ve done both, but there is some minor glitch… will check again tomorrow.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        D. Hit on Zander in print above and it will take you to his site. It is worth the trip.

        Zander if you copy your address bar (don’t know the technical term or at least can’t think of it at the moment) and paste in with your comment it makes it easy for people to navigate.

      • Charli Mills

        Thanks, D. for supporting our newly roped poet. We want to make sure he keeps riding at the Ranch. And sorry about that Zander — spam gremlins intervened, but your link was rescued.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      There it is, and worth the wait. Don’t apologize for being prompted to a poem, especially that one.

    • Charli Mills

      Great use of poetic form to express a powerful story — a life in 99 words.

    • Liz H

      Cool indeed! Be careful what you wish for, eh? 😉

      • Charley

        Always! Better to work for it. Then you are the only one to blame for what you end up with. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to the Ranch, Charley!

      • Charley

        Thank you! I hope to be back.

  20. anuragbakhshi

    What a truly magical and inspirational post Charli. Here’s wishing that all that you and my fellow buckaroos wish for in this year comes true, as long as they know what they truly want 🙂 My first story this year, dedicated to this amazing, wonderful community:

    Wishing everybody a brilliant new year!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Anurag! Often, the first part of wishing is figuring out what it is we want. Sometimes, when we sit in the dark with shooting stars we begin to know what that seed of a wish is within us. Wishing you a brilliant new year, too!

    • Liz H

      Beautiful and strange–my favorite combination~

      • janmalique

        Thank you, it is an interesting and fruitful combination.

    • Charli Mills

      They certainly, do! And the very best to you in 2018, Jan! A lovely offering to the New Year of Writing!

      • janmalique

        Thank you Charli! It’s a lovely writing challenge.

      • Charli Mills

        Happy to get us started with a burst of imagination for the year. 🙂

  21. Michael B. Fishman

    What I liked so much about “Shoveling Midnight Snow” is that wolves (at least from my perspective) are so mysterious and elusive. You know they’re there and you know that they’re cool, but you never really see them or get to interact with them, and when you tied the story up with the almost-said wish and the doubting as to whether or not it would come true, and then capped it with the thought of Ike returning, it gave the whole story that same sense of mystery and elusiveness (is that a word?).

    Here’s mine for this week:

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, yes, wolves have that quality. I was hoping to create surprise leading with the word “wolf” and taking expectations elsewhere. I’m glad it worked, and created a sense of mystery and elusiveness (it’s a word!). Thank you for contributing, Michael!

    • Charli Mills

      A lovely chase of words, following the tail of a wishing star, Chelsea!

  22. Ula

    There is so much that resonates with me in this post. I just want to say thank you, Charli, for creating and holding this space for writers. There is so much good that you do. I’m glad you are realizing your dreams.

    I’m still working on my site, but I don’t want to wait any more to join in the flash prompts, so here is my 99-word response:

    The Meteor Shower by Urszula Humienik

    “Let’s go outside, I heard there’s supposed to be a meteor shower tonight. We can make some wishes.”

    “Isn’t it wishing on falling stars?”

    “Oh I don’t know. Meteor shower, falling stars, it’s all the same to me.”

    “Look at that moon! Isn’t it huge?”

    “I didn’t realize it was a full moon tonight. It’s beautiful.”

    “Have you ever howled at the moon?”

    “No. You?”


    “I dare you.”

    “Me? Here? Now?”


    Anne faced the silver sphere hanging low over the property and let out a deep belly howl.

    Something howled back.

    The girls broke out in laughter.

    • Charli Mills

      “Holding space for writers” is such a beautiful way to put it, Ua. Thank you! And yes, I’m here holding space, jumping up and down excitedly to see a flash of you. In a way, the Ranch is like a tavern where we gather and tell stories by the fireplace until we each go our own ways, knowing we’ll meet up again. It’s good to read your writing, and I love the moment of the girls laughing. To me, that speaks of feminine confidence. Lovely!

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome to the Ranch, PipeTobacco! Good to have you wishing upon stars with words.

  23. Sherri Matthews

    Ahh…wish I could have got here sooner Charli. My memoir starts with ‘Wishing on a Star’…as in Rose Royce’s famed song. I’m processing everything you’ve written here along with the train steaming through my brain carrying dreams galore. Make sure you book a ticket for me on both those retreats, cos I’m coming baby, oh yes I am! <3

    • Charli Mills

      That’s your north star, Sherri! You stay focused on that and dream big. You bet you’ll be on those retreats — I’m dreaming it that way, too. Maybe we need to plan over Prosecco. 😀

      • Sherri Matthews

        Ahh…a bottle or a case would that be lol?!!! North star dreaming…and we won’t quit! <3

  24. The Thrifty Campers

    That is one this I have noticed is that artist are very much so out of the box and are know to try things aside from the norm, many times I think is a great trait to have????
    Nothing is better than feeling the warm after experiencing the bitter cold

  25. Liz H

    A blessing in a night sky flash!

  26. Charli Mills

    Reminds me of a shooting star in reverse!

  27. Liz H

    “still tryin’

    to reach Orion”

    Love the rhythm of your poem!

  28. julespaige

    Now this reminds me of so many Ginn or Genie stories where the magical being gets the better of the mortal.

    Very good! And to you and yours brilliance and health in 2018!

  29. Charli Mills

    Your flash makes me want to stargaze with even greater reverence, Jan.

  30. Liz H

    <3 <3

  31. Charli Mills

    Denise, I enjoyed your flash and how easily you set it in another era.


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