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June 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

My hand races across the page and I sketch the scene unfolding — Suomi dancers in blue aprons and kerchiefs over white-blond hair circle around, stepping in time to violins. To my left I’m vaguely aware of the large brick structure that once served as a high school and now classrooms to Finlandia University. Its bricks offer a backdrop of ghostly students, sons, and daughters of copper miners.

A shadow crosses my sketch, and a person asks, “Are you an artist?”

“Yes,” I answer glancing from dancers to page. I scribble a bit more, shade less, and turn the page to capture another scene.

“Can I see?”

I pause. The spell has broken, I’m now firmly aware of the rush of sights and sounds beyond the dancers. I’m at the Hancock Tori. The local farmers and craft market. A jewelry maker hawks carved stone beside me and a Calumet couple cut fresh microgreens for $3 a bag. My neighbor Cranky displays her collection of antique hand-crank sewing machines. Across the green from us, painters set up tents with scenes of Lady Lake Superior.

“Sure,” I say, handing over my sketchbook.

The man holds my raw art committed hastily to blank pages recycled from a dump on the East Coast. His eyebrows scrunch, and he shakes his head. “It’s just words,” he says.

I’m a literary artist. A writer. A novel-drafter. A publisher of weekly collections and annual anthologies. I flash, and I write for the long-haul of longer trains of words. I’m a story-teller, a story-catcher, a story-forger. I am an artist, and I sketch with words.

Years ago, in high school, I had a mentor who told me to carry sketchbooks. I had no trouble catching the wingspan of a hawk or the gurgle of a spring. Deer didn’t give me odd looks if I stared too long at their rumps or horns, figuring out how either end could feature in a tale.

But when I was among people, I felt self-conscious of observation. I didn’t enjoy thinking about the length of someone’s hair in relation to the tone of their voice. I became more adept at capturing emotions and motives than looks. I was too shy to sketch in front of other.

Now, I roll my eyes at the man’s comment and offer to read my scribblings. I really do look at people and write without looking at the page so it can be a mess of ink, jumping outside of lines, slanting and scratching out words, interjecting new ones. I clear my throat and read:

Suomi Dancing

A blonde quartet draw bows across time and strings of old-world violins. They remake the songs of midsummer in Finland. No longer homeland, home is here, Finlandia, USA.  Voices rise, the blue cross on white flag rises, the Juhannus pole rise. It’s summer solstice and young girls in blue dresses with matching kerchiefs circle around the adults from out of town and suomi-dance with joy. Around and around they skip and step. Holding hands, they dance inward and back out again. Just like celebrations back home, a thread of culture unbroken dances lively beneath a copper country sun. Hey!

He smiles. Nods. “Cool,” he says.

We’ve discussed names and what we call ourselves as writers many times before at the Ranch. Artist is the latest evolution for me because it captures the spirit of all I write and arrange, as well as my vision for Carrot Ranch as a literary art community. Artist might feel weird for some writers, but we are — words are the medium we use, it’s what we paint and sketch.

A few days ago, collecting updates from Cynthia at ground zero at Ripley village, she realized with delight that her three friends were all writers. She said earlier that day her artist-artists were with her. The poet among us frowned and said, “Wait, artist-artists? Like, we aren’t real artists?” We all laughed, knowing we weren’t being excluded.

I’m happiest sketching freely. I carry a waterproof sketchbook for trips to hunt agates. I carry several in my purse, one in my car and have a stash in my desk next to the chocolate. Sometimes I meditate, give three cleansing breaths, then sit in my own stillness and catch what is around me. I listen for stories. I stare awkwardly at people’s clothes and gestures, but if I remain quiet and calm people don’t notice the way a nuthatch ignores a birdwatcher.

Sometimes, I know someone has a good story, and after coaxing them into telling me, I boldly whip out my sketchbook and say, “I’m writing this down, and make a few notes.” I captured the story of one of the Ripley firemen that way:

From Kitten to Fish

Bill wades into the muck to grab the flopping silver steelhead. Disaster all around and he can’t bear to see this fish die, gasping in the muck. The flash flood has wiped out the spawn. Had Bill been fishing in his boat, he’d have a great catch. Today he’s in waders and his volunteer fire department t-shirt. He thinks about keeping the fish for dinner later but sees the state patrol and thinks he better wade out to the flooded creek instead. A flash of a camera and the newspaper headline cheers the firemen for rescuing kittens and fish.

He really did save a steelhead trout, and the story is sad, although I chose to give it a lighthearted tone. In reality, Bill (whose name is not Bill, but I told him he’d recognize his tale by that name) saved a large steelhead stuck in the Ripley mud. All these floods in our local creeks washed out the spawning salmon, and the smelt are done for, which may take years to recover.

Not to mention most of our beaches are closed due to sewage and e-coli. I’ve vowed to stop licking rocks when I hunt! Already I’ve developed a different way of wetting Lake Superior rocks to see their best colors and definition. I take a small bowl to the Tori with me and keep a pool of water for dipping.

Visitors to the Tori enjoy the #CarrotRanchRocks stories, and I have a set of educational rocks to teach people a bit of geology. Then I read some 99-word literary art. Two of my tent-mates are rockhounds. One is going to take me out in his Jeep, the other gifted me with his art so I could assign stories about his etchings. This community doesn’t grip me — it holds me up.

In addition to sketching, teaching rocks, reading stories and selling books at the Tori, I’ve set up several activities in literary art. Once we get dates settled, I’ll be renewing Wrangling Words at the Portage Lake District Library. I offered this literary program at other libraries, and I thoroughly enjoy working with libraries. Susan Sleggs, one of our Rough Writers, is also giving a Wrangling Words presentation to her writer’s group.

My writers retreat at the Ripley Home of Healing is on hold. My nature writing workshops might be, too because McLain is cut off. But my presentation at Fort Wilkins in Copper Harbor is still a go July 16:

Copper Country History in 99 Words, No More, No Less
Join local author Charli Mills in a presentation of her flash fiction with a focus on local history. Participants will also learn the literary art of flash fiction and get to craft one of their own, using prompts from Fort Wilkins.
If the signs align, and they seem to be heading east from west, I have a special presentation to give around a Vermont campfire. I think cider and yarns might be involved.
We write, we sketch, we evolve.
When I started Carrot Ranch, I intended to have a landing page for marketing clients. I was still freelancing for major outlets on topics of business and marketing, traveling to give workshops to community food systems to set up marketing communications and branding. Looking back, I see that as fast as the Hub was unraveling, my desire to go all literary was rising.
I freelanced until May of 2016, writing my last magazine feature: Sandpoint Magazine Summer Issue: “Dog Town.” By the close of this month, my employer of 17 years will no longer contract with me as their publications editor and writer. It seems momentous, but I’m ready for that break. My GM left last year, and only one of my former staff remain of the department I built. My closest friend from the remaining management team is also moving on, and it seems a chapter has closed.
So how do I sketch my life from this point?
My latest evolution is to return to leading workshops, which I love to do. I’ve pondered the whole “marketing and editing” issue as I don’t want clients like I’ve had in the past. I’m done with that phase of my life. When authors contact me to market their books, I politely decline. Marketing is a huge task, and it’s part of the professional development of an author. Even if you get picked up by the so-called “Big 5” you will still have to develop your own marketing strategies.
To that end, I started developing an e-zine last year, called Marketing Mavericks. If you’ve ever heard of guerilla marketing (for small budgets and time allotments), then my take is similar. It’s specifically for authors with the ambition to market and sell. I’ve narrowed my niche to strategies and branding for authorpreneurs and entrepreneurs. The e-zine will be by subscription. I’ve also started writing for my book marketing hero, Rachel Thompson. You can catch my #NaNoProMo article or read thru the #BookMarketingChat she invited me two a few weeks ago: Author Marketing Strategies.
After my pitch to 1 Million Cups last month, a local incubator for entrepreneurs from Michigan Tech University contracted with me to teach entrepreneurs how to pitch for an upcoming event. I had my first coaching session with the small group on Monday and taught them the power and shape of stories, including the hero’s journey. It’s evolving, turning over yet another new leaf.
But it doesn’t change what Carrot Ranch is all about — a safe space to play with words, to craft stories, to interact with other writers. The weekly flash fiction challenge is the base of what I do to make literary art accessible. From there, any willing writer can join the Rough Writers in an anthology project. Vol. 2 is massive and magnificent! I’m in the throes of editing all I’ve arranged. You writers continue to amaze me.
We’ll Rodeo again in October. I’ve been uncertain what to do with all our entries. When I thought it would be “no big deal” to put them into an e-book, I had no idea how many words it would turn out to be. I know writers from last year’s contest want to read the volume, and I want to use it to raise the prize purse for this year. I’m contemplating a sale on a PDF through the Ranch. I’ll keep participants and leaders posted.
I’m doing some limited developmental editing and brand work. I’ve edited some scientific papers and content for a local web developer. I’m best at the developmental stage, I’m not a copy editor, but I can recommend some. You’ll be seeing some pages and ads going up. These are directed toward clients I’m interested in securing, so don’t think there’s any expectation on you — you are who I fondly call “my writers.” You are the story-tellers, the story-catchers, the novelists, the flash fictioneers, the memoirists, the sketchers. You are who the Ranch benefits. I want to make that clear.
I want to share my vision work with you, too. Part of my work with the entrepreneurs is to craft their visions and concepts into stories and pitches. So you might recognize part of TUFF! They are crafting their visions according to a process I shared. My writing partner in the UK has also completed this process. She did it brilliantly! In two weeks, the entrepreneurs will return with their vision in 99 words, which becomes a 59-word mission statement and a 9-word tagline. You are welcome to try this, too:

A Vision of Success (99)

Writers high-fived across the string of comments, appreciating craft and creativity in their sandbox, 99 words at a time. Carrot Ranch, an imaginary place made of real people from around the globe. A tribe. Buckaroo Nation. Authors and entrepreneurs arrived too, looking to forge brands and learn how to tell stories around investor campfires. Readers found literary art in small bites palpable to a modern diet of busyness. A buckaroo wrangled the words and published collections, hosted rodeos for writers, and flashed her way to write novels about veterans, history and earth science. The vision for the future rocked.

Carrot Ranch and A Lead Buckaroo’s North Star (59)

Carrot Ranch understands that writers and entrepreneurs need safe space to explore the craft of literary art and harness the power of storytelling. Lead buckaroo, Charli Mills, gave up riding horses to write brand stories. Now she wrangles 99-word flash about history, veterans, and rocks. Flash by flash, she crafts award-winning novels, leads authors on retreat and coaches entrepreneurs.

Tagline: Making literary art accessible 99 words at a time. (9)

June 28, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be “A Sketch of a Romance” or “The Sketch of Aunt Tillie.” Go where the prompt leads you to scribble.

Respond by July 3, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments.

If you want your story published in the weekly collection, please use this form. If you want to interact with other writers, do so in the comments (yes, that means sharing your story TWICE — once for interaction and once for publication). Rules are here.


A Sketch of Rock Creek by Charli MIlls

From the barn, you can see across the draw that is Rock Creek. Wagon ruts remain visible on both sides. David Colbert “Cobb” McCanless built a toll bridge across the deep cut. He arrived at this road station along the Oregon Trail in March of 1859. Family denies that a woman, not his wife came with him, but records show her signature as his bookkeeper. His wife and children arrived from North Carolina in September 1859. The women know what happened when two years later a young Wild Bill Hickok shot Cobb. But no one thought to ask them.



    The pad was a permanent feature on the bedside table.
    Ideas would come in dreams, at dusk or twilight, best to have the means of jotting them down.
    Key words, phrases and settings scrawled in an impatient hand, wanting to get the gist of a story on paper before it faded. How many opportunities missed, or corridors paced when sleep would not come as the demons of the night tormented.
    Poetry or prose, a combination of both, words and experiments with rhyme or a simple rhythm.
    Perhaps not a best seller, but satisfaction guaranteed when it all comes together.

  2. Hi Charli.
    I didn’t have to modify my word count as it just flowed today.
    I can’t see the form though. Am I looking in the wrong place?

    The pad was a permanent feature on the bedside table.
    Ideas would come in dreams, at dusk or twilight, best to have the means of jotting them down.
    Key words, phrases and settings scrawled in an impatient hand, wanting to get the gist of a story on paper before it faded. How many opportunities missed, or corridors paced when sleep would not come as the demons of the night tormented.
    Poetry or prose, a combination of both, words and experiments with rhyme or a simple rhythm.
    Perhaps not a best seller, but satisfaction guaranteed when it all comes together.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I can’t see the form either! I’m on the road, taking our trailer out to clean it and assess storm damage. I’ll fix the form on Friday. Thanks for alerting me, Di! Terrific sketch, too!

  3. Hi everyone here is my contribution to this weeks Flash……

    “And this is the fire escape that we don’t use”….. “because blah blah blah” The woman’s shrill voice cuts through the air above Jason’s head. If he stays quiet, his back pressed against the wall they wont know he’s there, a scraggy youth with a sleeping bag and not much else.
    After they’ve gone he picks up his pencil, adding to the intricately drawn Bees filling the wall in front of him.
    Donna leads the party off down another safer stairwell. She’s seen the Bees, their delicate wings holding up fat Bee bodies. A secret, sad scene. Artist unknown.

  4. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt June 28, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be “A Sketch of a Romance” or “The Sketch of Aunt Tillie.” Go where the prompt leads you to scribble. Respond by July 3, 2018. […]

  5. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge June 28 […]

  6. Jules says:


    That’s a sketchy situation for sure. Wive and Mistresses had quite a bit to deal with back then – and even now.

    (Your link up system/form for the weekly compilation is not engaged…)

    Title of entry is link to my post:
    A Delicate Erasure?

    Stan wasn’t sure what to make of this woman. A Pen-pal
    who was sketchy at best. He knew she was married. Why
    did her husband disappear for weeks at a time. Was the
    gent in the service? Must be hard when there wasn’t any
    family around and young children to raise.

    While he knew it was a copy – the drawing of her hand,
    her wedding band clearly displayed, was placed in an
    envelope for him to open. Had he wanted more?

    Then as Stan got involved with local woman. Written
    exchanges became less frequent. And eventually
    correspondence stopped completely.


    • Jules says:

      Should be wives with an s…
      And for those celebrating the July 4th – Happy Red, White and Blue!

    • Charli Mills says:

      An interesting direction your flash took, Jules. So much said (and erased) in that sketch upon correspondence. Thanks for noting the lack of form! It’s fixed now. Happy 4th to you as well!

    • paulamoyer says:

      Layer upon layer of meaning regarding the “sketch,” writing, and a “sketchy” character. Well done!

  7. Norah says:

    Power to you, Charli. What an awesome project. What a vision. You’re an artist-artist. As in one of the very few Twilight Zones I ever saw, you paint the world you want as you go. Thank you. You paint the way for us as well. We learn from the light you shine into the darkness ahead.

  8. […] June 28: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  9. […] 28, 2018, Carrot Ranch prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be […]

  10. calmkate says:

    Your link up form is not engaged!?!

    Felt the need to retreat from every day life,
    Check in with myself to see what caused strife

    Emotional up and downs yet silence was profound
    Words flowed unstoppable, expression without sound

    Found my true love residing deep within
    Not voicing those words would be a real sin

    Our loving connection is like most romances
    We have moments but then draw even closer

    Soul mates forever, passion can’t be denied
    Weaving words to share what’s deep inside

    Blogging an outlet for those who wish to spy
    On our raw relationship bared for all without lie

    Words ignite emotions and unite!

    • susansleggs says:

      Well said Kate. We do share our souls in our writing. For me reading others work makes them friends. Thanks for sharing.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Form engaged, now, Kate! A bit of a hiccup… A beautiful and poetic flash with a rousing cheer at its conclusion. Words are full of fire and connectivity!

    • Jules says:

      T’was it not the great Bard who said ‘love thyself’ –
      all parts – those that conform, rebel and have a little bit of elf…

      • calmkate says:

        lol not heard that one before Jules!

      • Jules says:

        hmmm… could be psycho babble or even religious. I found this though:
        “No other person, other than you, has the right to hurt you or disrespect you or show you down. When you love yourself, and understand your value, you are confident about yourself and this way happier in a relationship or without it.” So love thyself and everyone will love you back.”

      • calmkate says:

        ah that is far easier to understand and in full agreement with my sentiments … thanks for digging deeper Jules 🙂

  11. […] 28, 2018,  Carrot Ranch prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be […]

  12. “This ranch is yer ranch, this ranch is my ranch, from the cookhouse griddle, ta the windswept prairie!”
    “Jeez Pal, yer outta tune.”
    “Wrong again, Kid, I’m in tune, in tune with this here ranch. Don’t it jist produce an’ provide! Yep, Shorty sure works fer us.”
    “Works fer us? Ain’t Shorty boss?”
    “Hardest workin’ boss a ranch hand could ever work for, Kid.”
    “Yer right, Pal.”
    “All we have ta do is play with words, an’ we don’t even Have ta do that.
    “I shovel shit.”
    “An’ yer full of it. Now git ta work an’ go play.”

    • Don’t Take Yer Guns Ta Town, by A. Kidd

      The scene an old west town, façaded building lined dusty street, wooden sidewalks, indifferent horses tied up outside the saloon where cider flows like whiskey which flows like water. Trouble simmering like the shimmering high noon sun.
      An over-eager wannabe steps out of the saloon to face the notorious Nemmy Cyss. Who would draw fastest? Whose aim would be true?

      “No! Kid, what’re ya doin’? Yer not s’posed ta be drawin’ sixguns!”
      “Well, Pal, I know it seems sketchy but Shorty said ta draw an’ so I figgered…”
      “No, read agin, Kid, yer ta sketch. With words.”
      “Oh. Shoot.”

    • Jules says:

      Gotta just love Kidd and Pal.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Loved the opening lyric, even if Kidd was outta tune — not outta line! And A. Kidd sketched a scene complete with the best-ever nemesis name. 😀

  13. Odd Rancher Out

    “Why’re ya askin’ me what the ranch looks like, Kid?”
    “I wanna sketch the ranch. Ain’tcha been here yer whole life? Who else should I ask?”
    “Ya could ask anyone includin’ yerself, Kid. We all see it. How ya see it is how it is.”
    “Huh. Reckon we all see it kinda the same. On account of it bein’ so ironic.”
    “I think ya mean iconic.”
    “Yeah. It’s a hoot though, ain’t it Pal? Folks from aroun’ the world can come here an’ be a buckaroo, git their old west on. Be literary oddests.”
    “Artists, Kid.”
    “Never mind.”

  14. modestnook says:

    This is art! Lovely read.


  15. […] June 28- Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  16. Annecdotist says:

    Another extremely rich post, Charli, with exciting prospects for your continually expanding creativity.
    Interestingly, I read and other posts this week about using the discipline and mindset of life drawing to enhance description of characters in fiction. Seems eminently sensible, although I’m not sure I’ve taken it to heart!
    With my end of the month roundup of my reading I couldn’t resist sketching the reader’s mind, which isn’t quite what you are looking for perhaps, but I’ve gone were the prompt led me:
    Have your reading preferences changed over time? #amreading

    • Jules says:

      Yes, we are each others readers and characters – when we read we feed –
      until we hold our own pens…

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sometimes, I think other mediums can add to our writing. However, I remember my best friend Kate always signing up for different art classes and creating disasters! We used to laugh over it. It can be distracting learning new skills, but it can also teach us about observation. I’m glad you went where the prompt led you, Anne. I find the stories more interesting and surprising that way.

  17. […] This post is in response to Charli Mill’s Flash Fiction Challenge. To learn more about the challenge, click here. […]

  18. Parinitha says:

    Hi Charli, Thanks for the wonderful prompt. Here’s my take

  19. Hello Ranch! ! I love this time of the year and going to all the art festivals. If you are near, I highly recommend Black Swamp/Wood county Arts Festival coming up. . . So much to see.

    Beneath the halo of A street-lamp by Elliott Lyngreen

    Carry-out selections for gas and cigarettes. My tri-fold exposed wrinkled bills. The usual revved reveal, a thinly sucked muse setting Combos at the counter. And then again as we exit.

    Not begging for change, yet offering trade, “I would never just beg, but I gotta hat or …. ” He trailed further than his rusty Sketchers. Enough to interrupt, “I would man, but spent last of my cash on these smokes.”

    She pulled, “let’s jet this freak scene..” We discussed buying Combos instead of fuel.

    Perception slithered the Art festival with my New York shirt; which has paint stains.

    • a thin sketchy muse

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Elliott! Always good to see you at the Ranch with your cosmic writing, sketching to the stars and across art festivals. I’m excited for the Copper Harbor Art Festival. It’s always cold on the tip of the Keweenaw, but such a magical place and magnificent artists. I love how your character reveals paint stains. Artists carry markers of their art!

      • I defintely like the idea of writing Drawing pictures. If i could draw, i dont know that i would write too much. Good to read of the activity here. You are a true pioneer. [I left some details, like how the muse was with family.] Thinking of Exploring these flashes now. Would rather just be exploring. You find amazing places and folks!

      • Charli Mills says:

        I think art is all about exploring! Go make discoveries, Elliott! 🙂

      • It sure is!

  20. susansleggs says:

    Charli, You are an inspiration. With everything on your plate and now Cynthia’s troubles and McClain cut off, you still make the time far all of us ranch hands. Thank you for the shout-out in your essay this week. I’m sure my Vet’s group will have fun turning their writings into 99 word flashes. I love the word authorpreneur. You will have to submit it to Webster’s. The way your community is working together to help those in need is also an inspiration. How uplifting. Here’s my take for the week.

    Sad Regrets

    The devastating, but expected call came just before six-o-clock, her father was dead.
    The Uber could only get within two blocks of the extravagant condo high rise because downtown streets were blocked for a jazz festival.
    She entered the building with feelings in check and said her goodbyes. The music drew her to the balcony where a large sketch book lay on a table. She sat and opened it.
    Sketch after sketch of the street below from each year of the festival. She was in each one, but had never been there. Regrets swept her; she should have been.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Susan, I’m excited for your vets group and what you are doing with them. You show great leadership in sharing with them what you have learned and how they can, too. I love the word authorpreneur, too but can’t take credit for it! I agree that it should belong in Webster’s. Oh, wow, your flash really tugged at my heart. Those images, sketched year after year, show a longing to be connected and one she realizes too late. Beautiful writing!

      • susansleggs says:

        Thanks Charli. Too often we don’t know what we have until it is gone.
        My Vets group is used to writing 30 minutes free write from prompts. Getting them to condense it to 99 words will be the fun part.

      • Charli Mills says:

        The constraint adds another layer and yet it also opens a creative flow. I hope they enjoy it!

  21. […] June 28: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    • robbiecheadle says:

      I really liked your piece this week, Susan. I left a comment on your home site too.

  22. denmaniacs4 says:

    In the most limited of ways, I have riffed off your post, Charli, and also channeled a great Canadian humorist, Stephen Leacock, who wrote Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town in 1912…

    Rainy Day Sketches of a Very Small Village

    There are two tables and five chairs on the General Store porch.

    The location affords a front row seat on not much.

    I relish looking at not much.

    A delivery truck departs.


    Our community eats a ton of chips.

    I certainly do my bit.


    There’s no late June morning sun.

    Sprinkles nip the air.

    “It’s like autumn,” she moans.

    “So, you want to leave?”

    “Too cold to people watch. Let’s go home. Check on Trump.”

    I grimace, say, “Can’t beat cold weather people gawking. You go. Besides, Trump aggravates my hemorrhoids.”

    “That’s ridiculous.”

    “Maybe. Tell them that.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Bill, I’ll have to investigate Stephen Leacock and his sketches. I think you are becoming a great Canadia comedian. Perhaps a backward gift from Trump!

  23. Liz H says:

    Charli, I read your blog and prompt, just before heading out on a morning walk and an iced coffee by sunny, breezy, 95-degree Lake Como. Opened up a Truman Capote novelette (Breakfast at Tiffany’s, set in the 1940’s, pub in 1958), and marveled at the brilliant sketch-work of Mr. Capote’s work. Or perhaps your thoughtful post primed the pump and made me mindful and grateful. 🙂

    Hope to be back later in the week with a response!

  24. gordon759 says:

    As might be expected an historical tale, of a an amazing collaboration between two of the greatest Victorians.

    A Hospital Sketch

    ‘I will bring a sketch’, he said.
    The train left Bristol, maximum speed, the genius on board could command anything. But now he would be tested to the limit.
    ‘A hospital, prefabricated, weatherproof, well ventilated, easily heated’, designed by the time he reached London. By Bath he had the idea, by Swindon he was drawing, in London he rushed to her house, papers in hand.
    “Mr Brunel”, Miss Nightingale.”
    “Perfect, this is more than a sketch. When can you have them ready? The ship sails in six weeks.”
    “They will be ready in five.”
    They saved hundreds of lives.

    Yet another true story. After seeing conditions in the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale returned to London to get the supplies she needed for her hospital in Scutari. This included prefabricated hospital buildings, she wrote to Isambard Kingdom Brunel asking him to design them. As soon as he received the letter he went straight to London, designing the hospital on the way.

  25. […] 99-word story was inspired by Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge to: in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a […]

  26. Here is my contribution for the week…hope someone enjoys it 🙂

    Beware the Man in Gray

    The man in gray traveled alone. Always alone. He never stayed long in one town and never carried more than his sketch book and pencil that never seemed to whittle down to nothing no matter how many sketches he made. News traveled fast in these parts. Stories about the man in gray in the dead he leaves in his wake. Women in Empty Gulch saw him coming first and hollered for their children. Shutters slammed shut as he made his way through town. The miners quaked watching him sit down under the oak tree and open his sketch book.

  27. Hi Charli,
    I always enjoy the wealth of details in your posts. This one turned into a “mural” of sketches in my mind, particularly when you described the Suomi dancing, the farmers and crafts market, and when the observer/writer/artist/ became the observed!
    My ideas for the response to the FF prompt came from those sketches, and from “artist-artist”.
    Thank you!
    My response to the FF prompt:


    Diamante loved the morning solitude of the square sunken garden in the ancient temple. He lit the ceremonial fire and chanted ancient prayers. The few remaining stone pillars, benches, urns, and cisterns inspired him to plant jasmine, lavender, climbing clematis and honeysuckle, golden showers and tube roses.

    The village women, quick to notice the artistic array of colors, and fragrances, planted fruit saplings around the temple. The men repaired the leaky well. The teacher and children tended to the garden once a week.

    Humming birds frequented the garden now. Diamante began to sketch again the scenes of village life.

  28. Eric Pone says:

    The Sketch

    Ducky stared at the paper and slowly drew out the neighborhood as he remembered it. He included the storefront the gang used for cover. He drew the small storefront church that was next to it. And he included the trees and other details that struck him. He also drew the little girl who had died in his friend’s arms from a drive-by shooting. “They actually targeted a child…”He got up and lit his first cigarette and thought through what he was considering. He looked out at the harbor and considered the thousand who would die with that nuke.

    • paulamoyer says:

      Wow! So disturbing and so well done!

    • This beautifully captures the dark, sad reality of death and the ways people process it. I enjoyed it very much.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Eric, you got so much into this sketch! It begins observationally, then shifts at the point of the little girl and we see the deep and complex emotions behind the motives. Great writing!

      • Eric Pone says:

        I have been using your writing method of starting with a lot of content then rewriting it until you get to the crux of what you are trying to say. It is time-consuming but my writing has improved. Thank you noticing!

      • Charli Mills says:

        Eric, that’s excellent! We get told to “revise” but often not how. I’m glad that technique is working for you. It does show!

  29. […] For: June 28: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  30. Reblogged this on ladyleemanila and commented:
    Charli’s challenge 🙂

  31. floridaborne says:

    I’m writing about one of a writer’s worst nightmares


    Eulogy for Aunt Tillie (99-word Flash Fiction)

    I remember Aunt Tillie affectionately although she preferred my sisters Sally and Connie more. I think she liked me more once I began wearing glasses. Aunt Tillie was a bit silly, even odd. She always wore dresses and slippers. She loved food, especially collard greens and haddock, but food had to be served on a platter. She loved puppies and kittens, too, but her favorite pet was her guppy, Freddie. She would watch him swimming around all afternoon long. She was an accountant. Bookkeeping was her life, but she was happiest when reading books, her favorite being “Atlas Shrugged.”

    Nancy Brady

    • Jules says:

      Welcome to Carrot Ranch! Character sketches and sketchy characters all have a place here. Hope you enjoy some of the other reads.

      You keep mentioning ‘Atlas Shrugged’ – I may just have to borrow ‘it’ from my library 😉

      • It is my favorite book, ever. I have read the novel countless times (20, 30, more?), but I have to admit that I don’t always read all the way through one of the chapters. There is plenty of philosophy throughout, but the mystery behind the disappearing men and women, the romance of the main characters, and even the parallels of today’s reality make it relevant and compelling reading. The first time I read it was late in my senior year of high school, and I finished it in about 7-10 days. The first 50-100 pages are the introduction to many of the characters. Yeah, if you can’t tell, I really, really love this one and I am overdue to read it.

      • I remember really liking that one in high school but couldn’t do a re-read a few years back. I did read Ayn Rand’s non-fiction books on writing. I don’t think she suffered from self esteem issues.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Welcome to the Ranch, Nancy! Great use of details in your flash. I enjoyed the narrator’s reflection on her aunt and you presented it well in a sketch.

      • Thanks Charli for the warm welcome. I wasn’t sure exactly how to proceed, but with Jules help and instruction, I managed to ‘double down’ and write a sketch of Aunt Tillie. I hope to participate more in the future.
        I have enjoyed reading many of the crops by these carrot farmers…nan

      • Charli Mills says:

        I’m so glad Jules helped you! She’s a welcoming Rancher. I look forward to what you grow here.

  33. […] To see more of these 99-word flash fictions or to find out the rules of Carrot Ranch prompts, see […]

  34. paulamoyer says:

    Charli, your blog and your prompts continue to be so evocative. Thank you for the presence of Carrot Ranch.

    Escape Cave

    By Paula Moyer

    Sixth grade, spring of 1964. Another homework assignment, staring Jean in the face. She couldn’t make herself do it. It would never be good enough for Mrs. O’Neal.

    The box of crayons – “64 colors.” The pad of sketch paper, a hobby store gift. Both sang to her, and soon Jean was drawing. The thing almost drew itself.

    The cavern appeared in sketch after sketch. An inverted “V” opened to a secret place with pastel walls, alternating blues and pinks. Oh, secret, soft cave. Safe cave.

    If only this place were real, Jean thought. Mrs. O’Neal would never find me.

  35. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt June 28, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be “A Sketch of a Romance” or “The Sketch of Aunt Tillie.” Go where the prompt leads you to scribble. Respond by July 3, 2018. […]

  36. Jules says:

    Here’s my second entry… Yeah someone had to go there… and it was me!
    But if you go to the post link… you will not be shocked!

    Enjoy: Raw Draw

    Emma had enjoyed art classes in High School. So taking
    one in college seemed the right thing to do. It was after
    all the easels were set up and the charcoal sticks were
    distributed that the professor called in the model they were
    to sketch. This was a preliminary exercise that was not
    going to be graded. Any style would be accepted.

    In waltzed Randy. Emma knew him from watching him
    practice soccer on campus. She however was not expecting
    him to disrobe… while all the students were adults. Young
    Emma wondered if she was the only one blushing.


  37. […] the week (though I’m considering doing so more often!).  This week I once again chose the Carrot Ranch prompt, […]

  38. robbiecheadle says:

    It sounds like your life is changing quite quickly, Charli. It can be like that. Mine is too. Terence is flying to the UK for a job interview in two weeks time and we are possibly leaving South Africa and our families behind next year and moving to the UK. I am very excited as I love English history and literature but it is a bit scary to leave behind my Mom, Dad and three sisters as well as my sister-in-law and Mom-in-law. Life is a series of changes, isn’t it?

    • susansleggs says:

      Life’s changes can be daunting, especially when leaving family behind. I’m sure you will turn it into an adventure if it happens. With modern technology it isn’t quite the separation it used to be.

      • robbiecheadle says:

        Thank you, Susan, you are right that technology certainly helps.

    • Wow, that is a big move. Good luck to you and your family, and good luck with your book.

    • Jules says:

      I had to move with my hubby for his job… twice. The first time to a place without family… and then as our family grew… other family retired here – and of course the added family of in-laws through marriage.

      Unfortunately some family is still too distant. Good luck with your move and your book!

    • Annecdotist says:

      Big change ahead, Robbie. But we all like cake here, so you should be okay ; – )

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, Robbie, those are big transitions — exciting and scary all rolled into one big move. Yes, life is a series of changes and it’s freeing to get to a point of acceptance. But oh-so-hard to accept! I hope things go well for Terence in a few weeks. I’m wishing the whole family well!

      • We have a lot of family in England too and my Mom and Dad will come for the English summer [I don’t think they could manage the winter]. The opportunities for the boys are so much greater in a first world country. That is my big motivation. I love those boys of mine.

      • Charli Mills says:

        You are a good Mum, Robbie! I remember my heartache at leaving Montana, but Minnesota offered our kids greater opportunities, which they thrived on, making it worthwhile. It’s not an easy decision, but it will be good.

  39. robbiecheadle says:

    PS I am 7 000 words into my new YA book and I am so excited about it. Putting all you amazing advice in place and am hoping you will be available to give me developmental editing when I finish.

  40. I love what you wrote here–the writing and sentiment were beautiful!. I love how you “sketch.” It’s never occurred to me to carry a notebook around for that.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Sascha! Once I got over feeling self-conscious about openly watching people and sketching stories, I got hooked on it.

  41. […] Written for Carrot Ranch’s June 28 Challenge […]

  42. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (06/28/2018): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be “A Sketch of a Romance” or “The Sketch of Aunt Tillie.” Go where the prompt leads you to scribble. […]

  43. Liz H says:

    (Somehow, I put all this on last week’s challenge re: All is not lost. Go figure…)

    Here’s my go. Based on a number of prompts and a long, soupy heatwave that only just broke this morning, it resulted in a bit of extra silliness. Hope you all “see” what I sketched out here. 😉

    An Urban Truth

    He shambles out of the park, swaying side-to-side, shyly dominating the Midtown sidewalk. Sun glints in his blonde-bronze pelt, furry toes squashing—or shall we say “squatching”?—his platform flip-flops…
    [Continue ]

    • Jules says:

      Like the TV show reference. Though I didn’t watch it as the years passed.
      I think I like Baba Yaya. Smart woman.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I see, I see! It actually all ends up in the same bucket. Kind of like this eclectic neighborhood you describe, Liz.

  44. […] in response to Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge June 28. The objective, as always, is to write a story in exactly 99 words, inspired by the weekly word […]

  45. Here’s my entry for the week Charli, about an unprovoked attack on an unsuspecting victim.

  46. […] Carrot Ranch Entry […]

  47. weejars says:

    An all-too-true snippet from me this week…

    • Liz H says:

      Oh dear! Your page is marked as a protected site & I have to get permission to enter. 🙁

    • Liz H says:

      Nice one, Sarah!
      With so much material to cram down teacher ed students’ throats, they don’t spend much time on show-don’t-tell.
      The instructor, sadly, also ends up doodling even as (s)he lectures. (Guilty as charged)

    • Ha! That is too true. (I usually doodle dogs.)

    • Jules says:

      I had a prof like that in college. Always on tangents. We had to learn from the text to pass the tests. Nothing from the words that fell from his mouth helped the class at all.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I used to doodle fat ponies though it was supposed to be a horse. Good use of the doodle to draw a point about education, Sarah.

  48. […] prompt this week […]

  49. susansleggs says:

    A happy sketch based on a joke I read.

    Who Gets In

    “I’ve never laughed so much at a sketch in my life. The make-up on St. Peter made him look 1000 years old.”
    “Can you imagine some woman with big boobs actually telling him they were her reason to be invited into heaven, because they were God’s gift and he would enjoy seeing them regularly? I wonder if they were real?”
    “And a toilet at the gates of heaven. It didn’t even look odd sitting there or for the Queen to flush it.”
    “And a royal flush beats a pair, so the Queen was granted admittance. Ya gotta love it.”

  50. […] June 28: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    • That’s too funny. I love this one. You took your story in a direction that is similar to mine…making a joke in your cases, and a game in my case although perhaps mine was too subtle.

  51. Here’s my response for the June 28, 2018 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. Hope everyone likes it.

    Sketching Uncertainty

    Isabelle studied her sketch of her newly found mother. It’d felt almost unearthly to finally draw the woman who’d been a mystery for so long. The eyebrows still weren’t quite right, though. There was also too much white space beside her, demanding a sketch of the still-unknown father. She lowered the pencil to sketch how she imagined he looked, but fantasy would look wrong next to reality. She forced herself to start the circle for the face, but stopped half way. In the end she turned the semi-circle into a question mark and put down the pencil.

  52. rogershipp says:

    Traveling the Hayfields with Pop

    Humping down the stairs and around the backyard, Pop, his cane waggling in front being used to scatter the beagle and the three strays more than for maintaining any semblance of balance, was headed toward the chariot… a ‘62 Valiant… and into the hayfields.

    I raced beside him knowing there was no waiting.

    Opening the door, I swung from the roof into the backseat.

    “Wait!” I bellowed. My fingers had not released from the roof before Pop had slammed the door.

    Exasperated, Pop opened and shut the door. Hard.

    “Next time, get’ya whole self in.”

    And off we went.

    • rogershipp says:

      Hope this finds you well, Charli. This writing was the first that I realized what you meant by posting twice! Sorry, I have a few too many rocks in-the-upstairs apparently. Loved the chance to reminisce about my grand-pop.

    • susansleggs says:

      Ah, the memories of time spent with a grandparent. Thanks for sharing.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Roger, good to see you at the Ranch! What a fun sketch, and I could feel the youthfulness of the observer. What a character, Pops!

      Ah, I might be the one with rocks in my head — I hadn’t considered that “post it twice” might be confusing, but it was an attempt to continue to share or link stories here while also using the collection form that makes the collecting effort more efficient for me.

      Glad you had the chance to reminisce about grand-pop!

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

  54. wallietheimp says:

    Wallie and my response! “It’s the Eyes” —

  55. You, Charli, have a remarkable post up there. It’s jam packed. I appreciate the clear drawing of Rock Creek. I can see it.
    Here is what happened with this week’s prompt.

    • Liz H says:

      Three clever takes, in three separate directions.
      That second one made me chuckle–“what it’s like, trying to get a simple answer from a writer.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, D.! Lots of sketching going on. I see your flash bloomed into multiple flowers. And each one different and yet connected in the sketchbook.

  56. Juliet says:

    Hi Jolly Ranchers,
    Rather last minute again this week, I’m afraid, so I haven’t read all the entries yet. I loved your description of how you sketch, Charli. Very inspiring to us all. My offering was inspired by something I saw a few years ago. An extraordinary artistic performance…

    Topsy Turvy

    The audience watched in silence as the artist swept huge strokes of white paint onto the black canvas.

    They were intrigued to see this man on stage. His act was far removed from the befrocked dancing poodles and gangly prancing singers.

    The sketch was taking shape, gradually becoming a beautifully abstract snowy landscape, accomplished in three minutes flat.

    As the clapping began he turned the canvas on its head, revealing the unmistakeable face of Albert Einstein.

    A loud gasp filled the air.

    The artist smiled as his message rang loud: look at things differently and all will become clear.

    • Yep, better than a dancing poodle.

    • Jules says:

      You remind me of the artists that sketch a story with the addition or movement of sand… amazing.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi, Juliet of the Jolly Ranchers! Before I started writing flash fiction, I felt like my sketchbook was more of impressions — like a nose or the curve of a shoulder. But whose and to what point? Flash fiction became more of an incentive to craft a complete story, and now I don’t leave home without my sketchbooks. Your flash conveys what an extraordinary experience you had. Definitely better than trained poodles!

  57. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch. It can be “A Sket… […]

  58. […] “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a sketch or about a sketch.” – a prompt for this week’s CW piece. [Source: The Carrot Ranch] […]

  59. janmalique says:

    What a wonderfully evocative post Charli, makes me want to get back to drawing with pencils.

    Here’s my offering:

    • Liz H says:

      Beautiful and complex, like the main character described. <3

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, I hope you do, Jan! There’s something so captivating about sketching, where with words or other media. It’s very in-the-moment. Perhaps it’s the zen of creativity. I enjoyed the inner workings displayed in your flash.

      • janmalique says:

        I’m learning the art of photography, and trying to combine it with words. Sketching with pencils and ink are other routes. I yearn to unleash the creativity that’s been sleeping for so long.

      • Charli Mills says:

        It all expands your lens for telling stories, Jan. And it deepens that creative well inside.

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