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!

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