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Raw Lit: For the Love of Rocks

By Charli Mills

Anyone who hangs around Carrot Ranch long enough will know that I have a thing for rocks. No matter where I go, the crust of the earth beckons me for a closer look. I love rocks.

I also love stories, and words, and crafting fiction.

The beauty of art exists in what we can create and how we can couple dissimilar ideas into vibrant unions. #CarrotRanchRocks is one such creative pairing — it’s where literary art meets geology.

I’ve anchored the project on Facebook to take full advantage of the searchability of the hashtag because it will be the unifier between rock-hounds and readers. Rocks in the program will each have a unique serial number along with the hashtag.

These rocks will serve as prompts. Participating writers will craft a 99-word flash fiction, featuring the rock in the story. Here’s an example I wrote from one of my own rocks in my private collection:

Copper Country Stunner by Charli Mills (Keweenaw Peninsula)

When Mabel waltzed by with bare feet and capris rolled high, all heads turned. Conversations on beach blankets halted. Men with walking sticks and ice-cream buckets paused. Children kicking at waves stopped as she sauntered past and peered into the crystalline waters of Lake Superior on a calm August day. Even the dogs stopped yapping.

Mabel was a Copper Country stunner, a legend among locals at Calumet Water Works. No matter which way she swung her fifty-year-old hips, they all stared at the copper nugget swinging like bling from her necklace. They all wanted to find one like it.


Found at McLain State Park
August 2017
Copper embedded in rhyolite and quartz with signs of copper corrosion. From the private collection of Charli Mills.

NOTE: The photo, serial number, where and when found, and details are ones I’ll supply.

Key points of communication include a byline with location. While the rocks (and Ranch lead buckaroo) hail from the Keweenaw, our writers are from around the world. That’s an important point of connection. Details also include the serial number for identification, where and when the rock was found, and it’s identifying details.

Something I love about rocks reminds me of what I love writing into a story for — discovery. I recognize an interesting rock and a good story. I want to know more. But when I find out what a rock contains, like a completed story, I want to share it. I can share through the #CarrotRanchRocks project.

Beyond passion, discovery and sharing, #CarrotRanchRocks also build the platform for our writing at Carrot Ranch. One component of platform building and marketing is to identify and reach a target audience. It’s short-sighted to think of readers as only readers. Like me, they have interests.

And it’s likely that those who love rocks will love this union of literary art and geology.

The rocks also act as an icebreaker. When I go to book events this summer, I’ll have rocks to pass out like unique calling cards. Rocks will give me an edge, an entry point by which I can talk about Carrot Ranch and our writing. It’s an example of what I call “maverick marketing” — to think of strategies that are unique to your own love interests.

You can read more about the program on the new page under Literary Outreach. You can like and follow the Facebook page @CarrotRanchRocks.

A big shout-out to JulesPaige who inspired me to think about rocks as art and calling cards; to C. Jai Ferry who took me hiking in the Baraboo Mountains last fall where I discovered #Baraboo Rocks; and to the first writers at Carrot Ranch to earn #CarrotRanchRocks badges for taking on a box of rocks as prompts — Colleen Chesebro and Michael Fishman.

UPDATE: I have a budget to send rocks to two writers a month, although I can issue photographs as prompts, too. If you are interested, use the contact form to connect with me. I will supply all the details (and rocks or photos of them); you write a flash fiction to go with each rock. Most of the rocks I want to hand out at book events, but the ones I send to writers, they can distribute as gifts or leave in a public space (like art rocks).

And, yes, it’s okay to say I have rocks for brains. I’ll take it as a compliment!


  1. Ritu says:

    Well that’s an interesting concept!!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha! Yes, it’s different! If we use the ideas and activities that bring us joy, it can often lead us to our readers, too. I’m going to collect rocks anyhow. May as well make them part of my art. 🙂

      • Ritu says:

        And why ever not!
        Whatever we are passionate about can create amazing words! Our love and enthusiasm makes something that maybe mundane or boring to another usually, shine!
        Enjoy your collecting!

      • Charli Mills says:

        Exactly! And it’s in that vein of joy that we can connect with others. I’m so excited for summer book events except I realized I’ll be lugging around books and rocks! 😀 I might have to find some lightweight passions one day.

  2. Annecdotist says:

    Your brain rocks, Charli, with another interesting development. Though probably not for me, although I’ve been learning about gritstone and graphite.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks, Anne! Although I might wrangle you into writing a gritstone flash to pair up with a granite…That could be educational! 🙂

  3. Love your story, Charli, and so interesting that you have a passion for rocks. I enjoy looking at rocks and have a small collection on my kitchen windowsill that my grandsons thought worthy of display. I don’t know much about them or how to identify them, particularly with serial numbers. You’ve made me think about what brings me joy and including it in my art. I’ve never been much of a collector, but I’m passionate about humor.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Molly, I love that you display rocks in your window to bring joy to you and your grandson. I grew up in a mining town and where there are mines, there are interesting rocks. I learned to catalog artifacts from a Forest Service archeologist when I was a teen, so my serial numbers are based on that system (sort of). Your humor definitely reflects the joy you have for it. And humor is easy to pack around than rocks!

      • You are right about humor being lighter than rocks. I’m too lazy to maintain a collection of rocks, let alone catalog them. 😉 So interesting that you have kindled this passion since a teen.

      • Charli Mills says:

        For my 50th birthday, my SIL sent me to archeology field school. After my first thought that she was out to kill me in the Kansas heat, I realized how much I love all the recording details of that discipline. One archeologist said that their job is to make sense out of chaos. Like a writer! It emboldened me to take more ownership of my amateur knowledge of earth sciences.

  4. “Somethin’ ‘bout this ain’t ringin’ true, Pal.”
    “What’re ya talkin’ ‘bout Kid? Ever one knows Shorty’s wild ‘bout rocks.”
    “That’s true. But “budget”? How’n heck kin Shorty have a budget ta send rocks? Why that place is so far off they’s still in the Snow Age, jist dreamin’ of the Stone Age. Do they even have money up there? Ain’t they still usin’ Pony Express fer mail? Who’s gonna pay fer the ponies’ chiropractic treatments fer their rock haulin’ backs? Who’s gonna pay, Pal?”
    “Shush, Kid, listen. Yer echoing off thet rock wall yonder.”
    “I hear it Pal!”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ha, ha! Shorty might have overlooked adding a budget line for chiropractic care, but I heard there’s a new massage therapist in town!

      The Post Office laughs every time I go in — I’m shipping out books or rocks. Now I feel more legit like I have a “program” not just a bad rock habit.

      Speaking of PayPal — I’ll be making some updates to the Patronage. In July, I’m launching new and unique services to counter the loss of my last business clients (sounds so ominous, but also freeing, a bit like letting go a career…). So I’ll make a clearer delineation between what supports the Ranch and what buys me cute boots.

      Thanks for raising the cry!

  5. Wonderful idea Charli! Have ‘liked’ and shared your Facebook page. Corny, I know, but you really do Rock…and I love your passion for rocks! Great flash! <3

  6. okay, help unconfuse me… where do want us to post our rock stories? and you want us to include the photo of the inspirational rock?

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Annette! Thanks for asking clarifying questions!

      This summer, when I go to book events, my “hook” will be #CarrotRanchRocks. Tens of thousands of people consider the Keweenaw to be the ideal rock hunting place in the US. So, it’s a big part of the culture here, which you probably know! I wanted a way to combine my literary art, community, and the love of Lake Superior rocks. This is it.

      I already have the rocks, the record-keeping for the serial numbers, the details, and the photos. If a writer wants to participate, I can send prompts as photos or an actual box of rocks. I will send up to two boxes a month so we can also circulate the rocks outside of the Keweenaw.

      The rocks I keep here, I’ll hand out at book events. By summer, I’d like to have a collection of stories posted on Facebook so those who get a rock can look up their serial number on FB to find the related flash fiction.

      If you have rocks from the UP and want to write about one (or more), I can assign a serial number(s). I would need a digital photo. I use my phone and take a close-up. There are other local writers who might do the same thing.

      You would email me the story and I’ll post on FB.

      And let me know if you get up to the northern thumb of Michigan this summer!

      • floatinggold says:

        I really like mine!
        Is “summer” the deadline for submissions?
        And is it ok to post the flash on our blogs, too, or should this be an unpublished piece?

  7. Super cool! Already saw the page and checked it out over there.

  8. floatinggold says:

    Is it just me or does this rock look like a rabbit’s nose (and surrounding body) ?

  9. Jules says:

    Awe…gee I inspire and I don’t even know it. I’d like to participate. I like the light house and boat in the intro photo. – You could just email me photos.
    I don’t do FB, but you could post what I write there – if I’m also allowed like the regular CR posts to link with my fiction or other sites.

    I didn’t see any special rocks to collect in Mass. When I was up there – but I left some ‘art rocks’ – I’ll make some copies of the photo I took of the three rocks I decorated. I did put FB Lancaster, PA on the backs, though I’ll most likely never see them there. The were locale and historical sketches. Lake William, Main St Cafe, and John Brown’s Bell… Anybody see ’em found?

    When we left the ‘art rocks’ were still where I placed them. They’d been there about a week… I’m not sure if anyone in those parts are into ‘art rocks’.

    I was wondering if and how to set up something on WP with decorated rocks.
    But anything that entails photos… well I’m still not quite there yet.

    Your rock, Looks like a stocking cap with a fraying tassel… Cheers, Jules
    (might come back with a story… )

  10. […] CR Rocks! CPC-L1-001//Found at McLain State Park//August 2017// Copper embedded in rhyolite and quartz with signs of copper corrosion. From the private collection of Charli Mills. […]

  11. Jules says:

    In the submit part ‘afterschool’ should be two words…
    (four prompt mash)

    Marshall Hunter; Usually

    Marshall had to walk to school, the sky wasn’t always lucent.
    But his mother was always happy when reminding him to
    dress in the proper duds. Sometimes he’d look up to spot
    weather vanes, other times he’d look down. It was spring
    when at his feet lay an odd cap; a polished rock.

    Mother would be pleased. He offered her gifts for his after
    school treats. Often he had just cookies and milk, but Friday
    was Jell-o day. And she always had fun ways to serve it
    Then they would take time to create a story for his treasure.


    (I even got the rock photo in at my site post – Whoo hoo!)

  12. […] Rancher Badges. These support you as a writer in any goals or achievements you want to track. #CarrotRanchRocks is now live and if you want to participate, ask me for a rock prompt — I’ll connect you […]

  13. I don’t know how I missed this post, Charli. Just to busy I expect. I love rocks and have a large collection. I would love to participate and can use my own rocks. I have some lovely ones like a sun pyrite and a piece of meteorite.

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