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March 8: Flash Fiction Challenge

A bag of colorful balloons adds festivity to any day. Snowflakes the size of downy feathers float from the omnipresent gray cloud, and all I want is to blow up colorful latex and toss color to the sky. Can you imagine the sight? Red, blue, green, purple and yellow globes of color floating among the snowflakes and bouncing lightly from drift to drift.

Despite a snow-locked land and a frozen shore, my mind and body respond to longer days of light. Not even the clouds can prevent its penetration. For five luscious days, the clouds backed off to hang over Lake Superior, and the southern sun-porch warmed up enough for noon coffee. On the sixth day, snow returned, and my teeth chattered as I tried to capture the joy of sitting in the sun. It was of no use, and I retreated back to the rooms with storm windows and radiant heat.

From my desk, I watch the snow and dream of balloons.

I’m in a festive mood because Carrot Ranch is celebrating four years of flash fiction challenges. Evidently, I drink coffee and talk a lot about the weather. Here’s how I opened the first challenge on March 5, 2014:

In northern Idaho, rain is falling on packed snow. It is a good day to hunker over the keyboard with a mug of hot Yuban coffee. But no matter your weather or drinking preference, I hope you have stopped by Carrot Ranch to pick up a prompt.

That day from a different northern climate, I let go a balloon with a message, hoping someone would answer. It was lonely drinking coffee and tapping keys. I wanted to recapture the camaraderie had felt back in the ’90s while I attended college for a degree in creative writing. I missed the passionate discussions in classes, where we sought hidden meanings in the language of authors. I missed sharing my writing for feedback from classmates I had grown to know and trust. I missed dreaming of the well with kindred spirits.

Many times since I tried to recreate those moments from college. I kept in touch with classmates and professors. I read. I attended literary workshops and joined writing groups. For a brief time, I found a close fit on a social media site called Gather. Started in 2005, the site encouraged discussion. I found groups where I could write fun and quick literary challenges, and I created lasting friendships. Several writers, I employed through my work as a marketing communicator for a natural food co-op, and Gather is where I met Ann Ravoula, a designer who worked with me to build an award-winning regional publication. She’s also the designer of our Carrot Ranch logo, Rough Writer log, and the cover for Vol. 1.

Gather instilled in me the idea that visual and literary artists could come together in meaningful ways. Unfortunately, social media site went the way of profiteering and became more about affinity marketing than social interaction. Affinity marketing sites are ones that force social interaction through a reward system. The idea is to boost traffic so the site owners can sell more lucrative ads. It killed the organic interactions and people left, no longer enjoying the experience.

In 2014 I wondered if I could create a writing challenge on my own website. Two years earlier I had left my job to write a novel. I wrote for business clients and felt isolated from my literary writing. I wrote about marketing and small business for magazines and newspapers, but I had no continuity among literary writers beyond the one month a year that I joined NaNoWriMo. Even there I felt isolated, not knowing anyone else, and the closest regional group was over 100 miles away.

My website was a placard for writing, and Carrot Ranch was the name of my communications business. But the website never generated business — I do that through a network of colleagues and clients, using email and cell phone. I wondered if I could shift some of my marketing knowledge to writers through blog posts, build up relationships and convince writers to play weekly with a literary art form called flash fiction.

Four years ago I launched the ballon, and five writers showed up: Susan Zutautas, Paula Moyer, Norah Colvin, Ruchira Khanna and Jason Kennedy. I knew Susan and Ruchira from social media connections. Paula is family (her Solar Man is married to my Radio Geek). Jason knew Susan (or they were both Canadian).  And Norah showed up with a gift in hand — a Liebster Award. I had no idea what it was but delighted that I wasn’t alone to meet my challenge.

From this humble start, I came to identify “the thing” I had been missing — a literary community. The question was, could we build one through practicing flash fiction together? Four years later I’m happy to report that the answer is yes. In fact, Norah helped me collect my thoughts on the topic, and she wrote a chapter on Building Community in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. When we wrote that book, and I worked with 29 other writers to bring it to fruition, I realized that we had been strangers until we wrote together.

And that’s a beautiful realization.

Carrot Ranch evolved from communications to a literary community. We make literary art accessible — we write, read and discourse. You’ve probably noticed we keep the feedback positive. In Vol. 1, Norah repeats the message:

Be positive, be polite, be encouraging.

It’s not stated anywhere explicitly, but my philosophies on writers feedback originate from three sources:

  1. Servant Leadership: a philosophy and set of practices that enrich the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world.
  2. Appreciative Inquiry (AI): a change management approach that focuses on identifying what is working well, analyzing why it is working well and then doing more of it. The basic tenet of AI is that an organization will grow in whichever direction that people in the organization focus their attention.
  3. StrengthsFinder (from Gallup): developing your strengths to do what you do best every day.  The pursuit of meaning — not happiness — is what makes life worthwhile. Knowing your strengths and using them is meaningful.

Over the course of four years, I’ve seen the impact of building a literary community through flash fiction on my own writing and that of others. We’ve met each other with care and have built trust, extending it to an environment where writers feel safe to explore and experiment. And we have fun!

Last October we launched a Flash Fiction Rodeo of eight contests. And that was loads of fun, plus eight writers each won a purse. We have a collection of outstanding writing from all the entries, and I intend to publish them in an e-book. I’ve already commissioned a cover, but when I tried to buy the software to design the inside, I realized I needed a Mac. I’m all for balloons, but I’m not going Mac. If anyone has suggestions, I’m open to learning.

Also in motion is Vol. 2. This goes beyond a collection. It begins with new 99-word arrangements from the Rough Writers (our core group from the community) and plays with “serial” arrangements. Think Marvel Comics (at least, that’s what I’m thinking)! You’ll bet we’ll have some BOTS and memoir essays and extended stories. We also have invited our Friends (those who write challenges frequently or lurk weekly) to play with a surprise challenge.

The editing process is intensive — from collecting submissions, working one-on-one with writers on development, working with a Rough Writer editorial team to define and maintain a style guide that represents global writers, working with special content writers, proofing, designing and proofing again. Four years ago I had no idea I’d be doing this, but I knew I longed to be doing meaningful work with literary art beyond my own writing.

From one little balloon, set free with a message — come write 99 words, no more, no less.

Now we are growing and bursting at the barn doors! In business, we say that’s a “good problem” to have. In communities, we focus on servant leadership practices to better understand what makes the community thrive. Going back to our three drivers of literary art — writing, reading, and discourse — I’m exploring ways to stay vibrant, relevant and engaged.

Writing. Our vibrancy comes from our diversity. We come from different locations, backgrounds, experiences, demographics, and genres of writing. I also understand that we each have different reasons for coming to the Ranch. Some seek the discipline of writing prompts; some want to increase their blog interactions; some are looking for the camaraderie. We are all looking to write. Bloggers can share links and writers can submit stories. We also offer Guest Posts.

Reading. We actually have a dedicated readership at Carrot Ranch, outside of our writers. That’s good! I also collect stories to read out loud and arrange into weekly collections. This is an area I want to grow. Readers have the opportunity to discover new writers and their blogs and books.

Discourse. We like to discuss at Carrot Ranch! Well, I’m sure you’ve seen those of us who do. I think we all keep a good balance with those who like discourse and those who just want to share the story quietly. Part of the infrastructure plan is to build a forum at Carrot Ranch. Part of it will be for Rough Writer work or Rodeo planning, and parts will be open to asking questions within the community or start topic threads.

I’m looking for anyone who might be interested in serving as Ranch Ambassadors (spreading goodwill among the writers who gather, so everyone feels welcomed as the response grows) and Ranch Moderators (assist with collecting and arranging weekly challenge responses). Each position will be volunteer (though I may send you books or rocks) and will have a brief description of participation. If you are interested in more of a leadership role and have a few hours a week to spare, shoot me an email

Let me take time to introduce you to the Leadership Team who serve as Rodeo Contest Leaders and as an informal advisory group: Geoff Le Pard, Sherri Matthews, Irene Waters, Norah Colvin, D. Avery, JulesPaige and C. Jai Ferry. They already serve as ambassadors and support the Ranch in areas of extending literary accessibility (memoir, TwitterFlash, education, Ranch Yarns and behind-the-scenes support).

In October we will once again host the Flash Fiction Rodeo. Our Leadership Team will return to the event. We will put out a call at that time for new leaders who want to mentor in 2019 with the Leadership Team. In 2020 they will become the new Leadership Team, and in 2021 they will mentor a new group.

Why? It’s to develop leadership in the literary community through different roles and opportunities. Just as Carrot Ranch is a safe, fun and positive place to write, it’s all that for stepping out of your comfort zone and participating in more meaningful ways among the community.

And if you are rolling your eyes and saying, get to the prompt already — that’s okay, too! We make literary art accessible one 99-word flash fiction at a time. We come to the Ranch to play. Do what feels right for you, further your goals, dream, and by all means, keep writing!

If you like what we are doing here, consider offering Patron Support. It’s not required, but it helps with building and maintaining infrastructure to serve the community and helps cover the costs associated with publishing. Plus you can earn some cool gifts from the Lead Buckaroo.

One last consideration, let loose your own balloon this week. Do something that scares you, but you want to try. Take a risk, and take a step toward the dream you hold. The worst that can happen is that no one sees your balloon. But no one will if you don’t blow it up and let it fly!

March 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a hot air balloon. How does it add to your story? Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 13, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published March 14). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


At the Edge of a Long Winter by Charli Mills

Searching the newspaper before I fire up the woodstove, a classified diverts my attention. For Sale: Party Balloon, Never Celebrated. There’s a number, and I recognize the area code for Montana. I’m across the border in North Dakota, trying to keep warm with seven other oil rig guys in a tin-roof modular on some farmer’s north forty. After my housemates rise to the heat of corncobs and newspaper, I finish my coffee and call.

“Hello?” A woman’s voice.

“Um, yeah, calling about your balloon.”

“Cabin fever. I needed to hear another voice.”

“Oil rigger. I’m lonely, too.”

“Let’s talk!”


  1. Nidhi says:

    Well written post✌👌👍I love to enjoy coffee and pleasant weather too😀

  2. Ritu says:

    Happy four year anniversary Charli!
    You and your balloon have indeed created a wonderful community, and I personally feel that since I started with your Rodeo, my fiction has evolved!
    Hope to hear from you regarding Vol #2!
    I’ll be back with my entry later! 🙂

  3. janmalique says:

    Congratulations Charli! The Carrot Ranch Literary Community is a fantastic endeavour. It’s a warm and friendly place that you feel at home in. I’m glad I found you in my journey. I’ll post my entry later today.

  4. jenanita01 says:

    Reblogged this on anita dawes and jaye marie.

  5. jenanita01 says:

    This has given me something else to think about today!

  6. Annecdotist says:

    Congratulations, Charli, you’ve achieved so much and inspired so many over these past four years and I’m in awe of how your vision continues to grow. Having received my copy of the anthology this week, I’m enjoying settling down to revisit some of those earlier flashes as well as discovering the new extended stories and essays. And I really enjoyed your introduction.

    Sadly, my initial response to balloons is the litter they create. I might write about that or I might find something more jolly to fit the occasion. But if I don’t make it back in time I’m recycling a flash from the first year:

    The prompt was a photo bomb and mine just happens to feature a hotair balloon.

    • Championing breakfasts. Good rehash.

    • Norah says:

      Nice to read the post and story again. Those hot air balloons do look a bit unstable. 🙂

    • Annecdotist says:

      Inspired by a couple of recent fun reads, I’ve written another flash about litter and time travel!
      Sequalling the classics: Dr Jekyll & Miss Blaine

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you for following Norah over to the Ranch, Anne! I’m glad you are reading the anthology and discovering some of its newer elements, too. I read your photobomb flash from the first year with fresh eyes. It does fit this prompt well. And so does litter, actually. Today, in the US, students who protested the lack of political response to mass shootings, released balloons during their walkout of classes. So much possibility for a short-lived piece of latex. Well, I suppose hot-air balloons have a longer lifespan (than new husbands on safari).

      • Annecdotist says:

        We heard about the students’ walkout, but not the balloons (unless I repressed that unpleasant information). There were balloons at the tills of the supermarket I visited yesterday. No idea what they were meant to be marking!

      • Charli Mills says:

        Which unpleasant information did you repress Anne — students, balloons or guns? That’s a recipe for wanting to forget! But I support their efforts. As for your market, perhaps it was for Pi(e) Day.

  7. calmkate says:

    four years and continued growth is awesome Charli, well done!
    Would like to participate in one of your above roles but currently undergoing interviews for a new job … need to see where this takes me first before I take on anything new … been volunteering for years now and need a wage as you will understand.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks, Kate! May it go well for you with your job interviews. That can always be a stressful and exciting time. I’m looking to make Ambassadorship more of a way to participate so it’s less obligatory and more of a hallmark of the Ranch. Stay tuned!

  8. Congratulations Boss. This Ranch of yours, dreamed up and released four years ago, it is off the ground! It is flying!

  9. Second March On

    “Kid, guess what happened on the ranch one year ago today?”
    “Ya stepped in somethin’?”
    “Nope. D. Avery submitted her first ever flash fiction response.”
    “Oh. So she stepped in somethin’.”
    “Then we showed up couple months later, right Pal?”
    “Actually we were here ahead a her.”
    “How kin that be? I mean I git that Shorty, Aussie, Still Waters an’ the rest of ‘em were here, but us?”
    “Yep, we were here all along. Jest didn’t know it yet.”
    “Huh. Guess I don’t git this writin’ thing.”
    “Neither does D. Avery, but she ain’t tucked tail yet.”

    “Speakin’ a tales, there’s a bunch a new folks writin’ ‘round the ranch.”
    “Do tell.”
    “Yep, reckon they come fer the prompt an’ stay for the chomp.”
    “S’pose so.”
    “Yep. They read, write, an’ repeat.”
    “Kid, yer readin’ off the posters.”
    “Folks likely come by fer the same reasons we’re here.”
    “Ya mean they don’t wanna real job either?”
    “No! They jest wanna exchange stories by the campfire.”
    “Hang out by the chuck wagon, eat up Shorty’s vittles.”
    “All the raw carrots a buckaroo could want.”
    “It’s all good, all right. All we want for is bacon.”
    “Shush, Kid.”

    • Norah says:

      Congratulations on your year with us – and those two who for sure have been here in their hearts all along. I love their stories and their yarnin’ and I’m sure those others who stop by to read, write, repeat love them too. It doesn’t take long for any newcomers to be accepted into the fold. There’s room enough for all.

    • Michael B. Fishman says:

      I’ll trade ‘ya my bacon for some more of them raw carrots?

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yup. Kid stepped in something all right and it stuck on D. Avery’s shoe! Glad to have ya’ll along, spinning yarns, reading posters, swapping stories under the stars. It’s your anniversary, too!

  10. Congratulations, Charli. I’m new to the Ranch and so happy you had the vision to get it started. I feel a positive vibe here, and love getting to know the community. I know I am growing each week I participate. Now to set my mind in motion thinking about balloons. Love your image of balloons floating amongst the snowflakes. We had a big storm here in Maine yesterday and it despite my resistance to winter weather this late in the season it is unbelievably beautiful this morning in the aftermath. I can picture the snow covered trees decorated with colorful balloons!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Molly and for that lovely vision! There’s something about late-season squalls that seem more brilliant the next morning. Spring-snows or white-rain we called them out west. Good to share such vivid pictures and positive vibes with you.

      • It’s harder today to envision brightly colored balloons in the snow since we had another huge snowstorm yesterday. This one dumped about two feet of heavy snow on us over a 24 hour period. I suppose now that it’s over, clean up is finally done, and the power is back on, I can stop grumbling and look for balloons. Haha!

      • Charli Mills says:

        That’s a grumble-worthy storm! I hope you get some balloon spotting in this weekend!

  11. […] Source: March 8: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  12. Happy 4 years, Charli and crew!! So glad I found you all. I am sure you have heard this a thousand times but I would like to add to the sentiment, thanks for running such a cool site filled with some pretty great folks and for spending so much time and energy helping all of us develop into better writers! With that being said, here is my entry for the week:

  13. Congratulations also from here. Thank you for the good work. Michael

  14. C M Smile says:

    I don’t think I could handle all that snow you’re gettin’. Brrr… We live in South Central Texas where we get all four seasons in a week (except snow)…sometimes all in one day! A friend lives in Maine and she is still receiving snow!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha! Enjoy your four-seasonal-sans-snow days in love South Central Texas! Are the avocados coming on yet? I can dream from behind big snowbanks! Yes, I understand Maine got another hit. Thanks for stopping by!

      • C M Smile says:

        Hi! I wish I lived closer to one of the orchards to know😕 But, I plan on buying a tree from one of the nurseries then I’ll be able to learn when they start coming in. My pecan trees are barely getting their leaves back though!

      • Charli Mills says:

        Oh, pecans! That would be a great tress to have, too.

  15. […] March 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. Prompt from Carrot Ranch. […]

  16. […] For: March 8: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  17. Congratulations on Four Years! Hidden Memory.

  18. denmaniacs4 says:

    Hi Charli and Carrot Rancheros, congratulations on the four years.

    A Trojan Effort

    The search party had been looking for hours.

    Two kids.

    Lost in the bush.

    We’d found their beater.

    Two flat tires.
    Young love should be luckier. And smarter.

    But they hadn’t been.

    They didn’t stay on the old logging road like you’d expect. Course, we saw the tracks, knew why they ‘d made a beeline into the woods.

    “Big cat,” Harley said.

    “Hunting them?”


    “Maybe the copter will spot ‘em?”

    “Dense in there.”


    Then we heard good news from above.

    “Is that a balloon?” And then, “There they are.”

    Turns out, safe sex can be a lifesaver.

  19. […] weeks Carrot Ranch Literary Community 99 word challenge is now open.  The prompt this week is […]

  20. tintins says:

    Hi Charli, my ‘balloon’ attempt this week :

  21. rugby843 says:

    I may skip this week since I just wrote a tale weaver challenge about an evil balloon. I’ll see if I think of something!

  22. Frank Hubeny says:


    He held his breath. What he thought would happen did not. The enemy came instead from the rear.

    If he were alone he wouldn’t mind so much, but he mispositioned the others.

    Were they the good guys he wouldn’t mind so much either, but he doubted if there were any good guys in this battle. This was alien home territory. They weren’t supposed to be there.

    The others understood all this, too, as the fighting started.

    His world was like a balloon. He wished it were yellow or blue. He wished he had steered it better.

    Then it popped.

  23. […] March 8: Flash Fiction Challenge March 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a hot air balloon. How does it add to your story? Go where the prompt leads. […]

  24. Jules says:


    I’m thinking there are many directions your delicious balloon prompt could go. Just as your own took a different twist… I went with a wish to not be at a ‘kiddie’ party… And the link of the title will take you my post and a link to explanations about the title of the rhyme I used.

    Pop Goes The Weasel…

    There was an art to making balloon animals. It was unfortunate
    that at this party there was a clown making them – those dogs
    giraffes and weasels that wouldn’t live to see the end of the week.
    The squeak and twisting were worse than chalk on a blackboard.

    Just being one of the chaperones, Jess could back away to a
    far corner and think …’Hey how’d ya like to see some magic –
    I can make that balloon disappear?’..if I could just find a pin…
    Jess promised herself that her children would get to take one
    guest to a museum.


  25. susansleggs says:

    How happy I am to be a part of this four year anniversary party. Congratulations. Your vision to keep the community alive and strong is awesome. I have found a healthy place to belong. Thank you.

  26. […] If you want to participate, here’s the link: […]

  27. I’m using a MAC now… 😀

  28. 99 Wort Ballons

    “Pal, we oughtta have speech balloons.”
    “Yer jist sayin’ that ‘cause you an’ you know who are so het up about quotation marks.”
    “Says you. Jist sayin’ speech balloons’d be pretty cool.”
    “That could lead ta thought balloons. Ya want people readin’ yer thoughts?”
    “Wouldn’t be too much of an imposition.”
    “Kid, if we spoke an’ thought with those devices, well, we’d be cartoons!”
    “What are we now?”
    “Not caricatures?”
    “Well, mebbe… but that’s where I draw the line!”
    “Keep drawin’, Pal, mebbe ya can make a cartoon.”
    “Druther speak a thousand words.”
    “99 at a time Pal.”

  29. Many congratulations, Charli. I’m new here but this community seems like such a great place to be.

  30. Balloonatix

    “What you doing, Uncle Slim?” I asked as I crossed the backyard.

    “Hiding from nephews what ask dumb questions.” was his first reply. “What does it look like I’m doing, you buffoon? I’m blowing up this here balloon. I’m intending to head off in it across vast, undiscovered plains to destinations never before heard of.” With that he coughed.

    I guess he didn’t want any company, but I did just say to him as I walked off “I’m sure they got a machine to blow up those balloons, Uncle Slim. Why, you’ll be there forever just using your mouth.”

  31. Ringside

    All eyes were on that ring. There was always something, the wrestlers always putting on a show, even whalloping the announcer and referee. But I happened to look just when a wrestler crossed the forgotten dim past the ring, making his way to the locker room; there was just enough light to see that his tights were shabby and dirty, that he was tired, even sad maybe. Seeing that wrestler leaving the lit up ring was like seeing forgotten balloons days after the party, faded and losing air.
    Now I knew. Wrestling was fake, but the wrestlers were real.

  32. […] Carrot Ranch, Flash Fiction Challenge – March 8, 2018. Task: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party […]

  33. weejars says:

    A tribute to a special lady from me this week…

  34. Coulrophobia

    I admired the big red balloon tied to my wrist with a sense of love and wonder, as my father led me by the hand through the magic of the circus. It was beautiful!

    We passed through a group of clowns. My eyes, filled with awe, darted from clown to clown.

    Those eyes!

    My attention was grabbed by Him.
    The painted smile couldn’t mask what lied beneath.
    No one noticed but me.
    He walked slowly, never breaking his stare. Not blinking.
    He pulled a comically oversized needle from his sleeve, leaned over me, not breaking his fierce gaze.


  35. […] Carrot Ranch, Flash Fiction Challenge – March 8, 2018. Task: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party […]

  36. […] in response to March 8, 2018, prompt by Carrot Ranch Literary Community: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a […]

  37. […] Via #DailyPost and #CarrotRanchChallenge […]

  38. susansleggs says:

    Hot Air Balloon Ride

    My boyfriend glumly watched it storm. Why was he so upset we had to reschedule our hot air balloon ride over Letchworth. We had the whole summer. Even our parents called to commiserate.

    Finally, two months later the brilliant sun made spray from the water falls sparkle and bend with rainbow colors visible. The reflection from the gorge rocks glinted so bright we had to shade our eyes. Suddenly others in the basket turned their backs. My boyfriend presented a dazzling diamond ring brighter than the sunshine. Oh my. Yes!

    Our parents treated us to dinner after we landed.

    Note: Letchworth State Park in western New York state is known as the Grand Canyon of the east.

  39. Spring & Everything

    “Why were you at the department store, anyway?”
    Earnest handed Marge a large box.
    “It’s so light.”
    Marge lifted the lid off the box. Three red balloons floated out.
    “Three months together, a whole season. Winter to spring.”
    “Honestly, Earnest, how sweet.”
    “Box ain’t empty yet, Marge.”
    “Well! This ain’t yer mother’s overalls!”
    Turning as red as the tethered helium balloons that squeaked against each other on the ceiling, Earnest explained that the large slinky garment was called a teddy.
    Earnest bumped after Marge, balloons bumping behind him, and yes, he had some other latex. He’d thought of everything.

    This is a continuation of a six sentence story from couple days ago which was a continuation. These two got together with the January 18th boot prompt.

  40. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (08/08/2018): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a hot air balloon. How does it add to your story? Go where the prompt leads. […]

  41. Liz H says:

    Weary, contemplative, floating in on a winter breeze…

    Moonlit Balloons

    High on the hill, strands of moon drift, catching on the branch-ends of the Prairie Honey Tree. Barren of leaves, she bows under the fullness of her particular progeny…

  42. […] Flash Fiction Contest […]

  43. Norah says:

    I read your post, Charli, then read all the comments, and almost forgot to comment myself.
    Congratulations on four years. What a distance we have travelled together (literally and figuratively – well, you did the literal miles and all the hard work to achieve what you have). I’m so proud to have been a part of it all since the very beginning, and my, how it’s grown. Your dream has expanded like a balloon, and just like a balloon it has but one continuous side, which, like the universe continues to expand. I’m sure that’s both klutzy in grammar and expression, but tonight I don’t care for tonight we celebrate.
    It’s so wonderful to see your achievements listed in this post, as well as your plans for the future. I can only wish you great success as I get dragged along in your dust.
    Your flash is lovely. What a creative way to get to talk to another when you go stir crazy from being locked inside over winter. I’m sure these two will have a wonderful chat.
    I’ll be back in a day or two with my story. There are already many beautiful pieces shared.
    You must feel very proud when you look out from the window to see the writers camped out on the Ranch, chatting, sharing, reading, writing, knowing that it is your dream to make literary art accessible that has made all this possible. Congratulations on all you have achieved.

    • Hah! Norah, your thought balloons are full and… thoughtful! Your last paragraph made me think of these screens as being a window.

    • Norah says:

      I’m back with my story for this week, perhaps an unusual topic, some might think, to go with balloons: What makes a bully a bully?

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you for being a part of this journey and exploration! I’ve learned from you to cultivate a growth mindset among many other teachings you draw out from the prompts. Yes, we celebrate! And there’s never klutziness among friends. It’s an amazing view to see all the campers at Carrot Ranch, and even more amazing to witness so much literary art from 99 words. <3

      • Norah says:

        It’s been my pleasure, and my journey too, Charli. The literary art continues to amaze me. So much story in so few words. I once wouldn’t have thought it possible. Our stories are growing backwards in number of words but forwards in depth of meaning and often imagery.

      • Charli Mills says:

        What a good way to look at it, Norah!

  44. My flash fiction this week tells the story of how important child’s play is to adults. It may be especially important when we are troubled. This is where the prompt took me.

  45. When the Party’s Over

    “Hmmph. Shorty an’ her dang celebratin’. With balloons? Ain’t seen this much latex since-
    “Come on, Pal. It was a party.”
    “Sure, an’ look who’s aroun’ ta clean up. You an’ me Kid, that’s who. Latex skeeves me out. An’ it’s litter, bad fer the critters.”
    “Pal, yer fergittin’ we’re fictional. Wanna happy ending? Ok, these balloons are made from corn. They’ll bio degrade, feed the soil.”
    “Corn, ay?”
    “Could be a problem.”
    “Jeez, Pal. How now?”
    “Remember Ernie? At Wanda’s still?”
    “Oh. Well, reuse, recycle, repurpose. Distill ends well.”
    “It’s kinda corny, but I’ll drink to it.”

    • Special Celebration Announcement:

      You’ll note that I lacked the wit, experience, audacity to finish the sentence, “Ain’t seen this much latex since- ”

      Submit the end of that sentence here as a reply. If I like yours the best (no criteria or rubric) I will donate an undisclosed amount of money (not a ton) in your honor to Carrot Ranch through that fancy paypal button up there in the upper left hand corner. (Looks like a bar of gold)

      Furthermore, the winner, (if willing), will be featured in a future ranch yarn. This may mean that you get a nickname (unless you already have one).

      Good luck, be careful, and may the best end win.

      (Parenthetically yours, D. Avery)

      • Norah says:

        I’m not sure that I have the experience, wit or audacity either but I was thinking of a particular use of latex and combining it with a submarine and the men who travel inside. Yeah, definitely don’t have the nerve.

    • Norah says:

      Distill does end well. I like the sound of biodegradable latex. May not be suitable for all situations though. 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha! I knew Pal had seen Earnest!

  46. Balloon

    Judy didn’t believe the moon was made of cheese like nursery rhymes described. She was sure it was a balloon.

    Judy liked balloons, especially white ones.
    Their movement through the air seemed effortless. She knew this was because they weighed nothing.

    She so envied balloons. They were light and agile.

    Every Friday night she sat outside in the tiny garden in front of her house and released a round, white balloon.

    Watching as it danced skywards, Judy wished that one day she would be able to get up from her wheelchair and walk as effortlessly as the balloon floated.

  47. tintins says:

    Gosh!!! 🙁

  48. Juliet says:

    Hi Charli and the Carrot Gang,
    Happy four year anniversary to the Ranch and all who write here. It’s a wonderful place to enjoy writing and reading and sharing a common goal -flashing! Thank you Charli for all the work you put into this space.
    And since the addiction won’t go away here’s my offering for tonight.

    Love Is In The Air

    The postcard arrived six weeks later.

    “Dear Lucy,
    Your balloon came to rest at the top of my apple tree. I needed a ladder to take it down and find out who had sent it soaring into the sky, covering many miles before reaching my little village. What a lovely surprise. Please write back.”

    Fifty letters later, the Apple Tree Man rang at their doorbell. Lucy ran to answer, her mother hurrying behind her, as excited as a child too.

    They now knew love could appear in many different ways. Even on the string of a flying helium balloon.

  49. […] March 8: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  50. […] The Carrot Ranch Literary Community, hosted by Charli Mills, is HERE. […]

  51. Michael B. Fishman says:

    I loved Gather and still miss it (as well as some of the people who are no longer here) and every time I go onto Facebook, where I have many old Gather friends, I think ‘this isn’t Gather’ 🙁 It’s interesting that you mention StrengthFinder because I just had to take that assessment at work so if I didn’t, after all this time, know what my 34 (I think it’s 34?) workplace strengths are, I do now. I haven’t put much stock in the assessment because, you know, it’s work, but after you mentioned it here and related it to writing, I think I’ll go back and re-read my strengths and look at them with an eye to me the ‘person’ rather than me the ‘worker’ so thank you for planting that seed. Before I blabber on about Gather and StrengthFinder I want to say that I really liked this essay and as far as, “Do something that scares you, but you want to try. Take a risk, and take a step toward the dream you hold.”, maybe one day I’ll get there. Here’s mine.

    • You painted a very clear (and dear) picture.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, you knew Gather! It was a special platform, and Facebook does not cut it for recreating that space and creative interaction. So, you know what I was looking for when I wanted to make “literary art accessible.” And it sounds like you took the full StrengthFinder assessment. I find value in looking at the top five. It really opens your eyes and even shifts some thinking when you consider those first five strengths. Over the years, I took the assessment several times. Only once did one of my top five ever shift — no kidding, I lost empathy! It became an office joke, but I have empathy and individualization as my shifting 5/6 strengths. I think it represents that I’m empathetic but also see people as individuals. It’s interesting to think about. I hope you get some good insights. In the meantime, you are welcome to take creative risks at the Ranch!

  52. […] complete story so far including the next installment, Spring & Everything, a  response to the Carrot Ranch March 8 prompt, […]

  53. bowmanauthor says:

    The Reiki Session by Deborah A. Bowman

    “Hi, Liz, how are you?” I asked.

    “Good, Deborah. So happy to do an online session.”

    “Thanks, it’s been a tough winter.”

    “Okay,” the microphoned voice replied. “Let’s get you feeling better.”

    She etched the sacred symbols in the air. We both closed our eyes.

    I was floating, flying, with pink globes all around us. For thirty minutes, my pain went away.

    When we ended, I said, “I was flying! Liz, you were with me!”

    “Yes, I know,” she replied. “Did you see the rainbows?”

    “I did, but the globes?”

    “Deborah,” she laughed. “Those were balloons keeping us afloat!”

  54. […] Ranch Literary Community’s Flash Fiction Challenge, hosted by Charli Mills. Charli’s prompt this week, in her own words, […]

  55. Many congratulations on the fourth anniversary Charli. Here’s to 40 more 🙂


    If I had a hundred mathematically-large-enough


    I’d cram the strings together

    in a woven vest and rise higher


    through rain-gilded cloudscape.

    I’d subsist on vapors, or maybe on sunrise ambrosia –

    till atmospheric pressure (or somesuch scientific phenomenon)

    popped just one


    Then I’d drop more rapidly than I rose:

    the most obsequious, impotent adherent to Gravity and his unalterable law.

    But really, I have to admit

    -as I revisit clouds and ambrosia rays and treetops drawing nearer-

    I was never free

    and soon

    I am right back where I started,

    amidst 99 deflated spheres of red.

  57. […] week’s prompt from Charli at the Carrot Ranch […]

  58. […] in response to Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Check it […]

  59. wallietheimp says:

    Here’s Wallie’s and my response: “The Dragon’s Balloon.”

  60. […] week’s prompt from Charli at the Carrot Ranch […]

  61. gordon759 says:

    I couldn’t pass on such a prompt, so another true historical tale from me.
    A terrible coincidence and a terrible tragedy.

  62. […] Charli Mills from Carrot Ranch Literary Community wrote a very uplifting post about balloons and gave this word as her 99-word flash fiction challenge for this week. You can read Charli’s post here: […]

  63. rogershipp says:

    No Recess for Robby

    “… and one more word, No Recess. Am I understood?”

    That was Ms. Fletcher. “Am I understood? this and Am I understood? that.”

    Robby had learned quickly learned the proper answer that followed… “Yes, ma’am.”

    Third grade was the worst.

    Now there was homework. Snack time was for babies. Recess was earned. (In our class’s case, NEVER EARNED.)

    Robby’s mother was sympathetic. “Hang in there. It’ll get better.”

    Robby’s brother was the problem-solver. “You’ll never win them all, Robby. But winning one can be worth it”.

    Robby walked to school today ‘A Winner’.

    Inside his backpack… a whoopee cushion.

    (99 Words)

  64. […] been a while since I participated in a flash fiction challenge over at Carrot Ranch, and I especially liked this week’s prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story […]

  65. Wow, I had to scroll a while to get to the comment box! 😀
    Here’s my contribution:

  66. Message in Mylar
    Written by Kerry E.B. Black

    A gold mylar balloon’s string knotted around branch high in a beech tree, secured by a Cub Scout named Stan. It bobbed, a cheerful beacon, a coded message. “Be well,” it said. “You’re not forgotten.”
    His pack-mate friend, Bob, got into huge trouble which resulted in suspension from school and a marathon grounding. Nobody under the age of ten had seen Bob since the prank which flooded the the school, and Stan worried about his mischievous friend.
    Since he couldn’t visit or phone, Stan sent a message as only he could, a cheerful balloon floating outside his bedroom window.

  67. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writer to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a…. […]

  68. paulamoyer says:

    Good post, Charli! Good to see Radio Geek and Solar Man this weekend — they gave good love to my broken ankle!

    Charmed by Jimmy Webb

    By Paula Moyer

    “Would you like to ride in my beautiful balloon …” Jean learned the alto part of “Up, Up, and Away,” dutifully in chorus, but with a different edge. The composer, Jimmy Webb, was from Oklahoma.

    “He’s one of us,” the girls whispered in awe. Other hits came later. He seemed golden.

    But “Up, Up, and Away” went into Jean’s soul. The idea of a guy offering her not just a ride in a car, even a nice one. But … in a balloon?

    “Suspended under a twilight canopy…”

    Jean hummed alto as if she could will him into life.

  69. Rowena says:

    Hi Charli,
    I haven’t been round for awhile and hope I got this one in on time: The Silent Bomb
    Best wishes,

  70. […] in response to the 99-word flash fiction challenge with the theme of ‘Balloons‘ over at the Carrot […]

  71. After feeling sick for the past few days, it makes me realize how much we moms do for our kids without them even noticing. So when I thought of a balloon, I pictured a mother using a balloon to give a hidden message to her child in a very difficult time.

  72. Joe Owens says:

    Good Tuesday to all. Is anyone else looking forward to Spring as much as I? Here is a heart warming little 99 word story to help!

  73. […] I’ve used that experience to write up a “BOTS” (based on a true story) entry for this week’s Carrot Ranch 99-word flash fiction challenge with the prompt of […]

  74. Anna Eplin says:

    Hello, I have an entry this week (and the first one here using my real name!):

  75. […] Charli Mills’ 99 word flash fiction […]

  76. Love your flash Charli. And what a story of grit and persistance and vision…you’ve come a long way baby! You sent that one balloon up and five people reached for it and here we all are four years later. Truly inspiring and I am so so proud and honoured to belong here. And I am so proud of you Charli. Thank you so much for letting your balloon go. I am inspired to do the same everytime I feel the fear. As you say, if you don’t let go, you’ll never know what might happen 😉
    But still my flash turns what…dark? A tad crazy? The title did it, came to me in a flash…and you know what happens after that! Thanks so much for giving me room to play in the literary sandbox 🙂 <3 ( Apologies if any offence by the f word…had to be I think… )

    99 Red Balloons

    Jim screeched his truck out of the driveway, sending his trash cans flying.

    Mandy winced but said nothing. All she could think about was the red cloud heading their way that news reports said was harmless. But Jim didn’t believe it. ‘Pack up, we’re leaving,’ he said as she begged him not to.

    ‘But honey, surely the government would know…?’ she had reasoned.

    ‘Fuck the government, you know we can’t trust a damn thing they say!’

    Deserted neighbourhoods zoomed by as they hit the open road. '99 Red Balloons' came on the radio, but Mandy didn’t dare sing along.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Sherri! It’s been a journey and one you know well as we’ve shared big chunks of it (as in mountains and valleys). I’m glad you found that first balloon and dared to write fiction though you thought you didn’t. Ha, ha…and look at you go…into a zombie apocalypse! Of course it would be dark and crazy. And I’m listening to 99 Red Balloons right now! 🎈 🎈 🎈

    • Norah says:

      You got that right about the government. What’s there to believe? Great story.
      So glad you grabbed Charli’s balloon too, Sherri. There’s a whole heap of us sailing up high at the moment. It’d take a big pin to bring us all down!

  77. […] March 8, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a balloon. It can be a party balloon or a hot air balloon. How does it add to your story? Go where the prompt leads. […]

  78. […] in response to the March 8, 2018, flash fiction challenge at Carrot Ranch […]

  79. Last one to the party? I brought balloons! 😀

  80. Congratulations Charli on your 4 years. It is hard to believe that it has been that long – I think I turned up very close to the beginning. It has been an incredible journey to have joined you on and your vision just sends it every higher in its reach. Just like a balloon. I loved your flash this week – it reminds me of the community you have created here.
    Mine this week

  81. […] This post was written in response to Charli Mills weekly Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  82. LucciaGray says:

    Hi Charli,
    I loved your flash! What an interesting way to reach out and meet someone:)
    I’m afraid there weren’t any ballons, that I know of in Victorian England, although I could have done a time-travel flash, but I didn’t. It takes place in a school, present day. I hope I’m not too late…

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