Tips for the Memoir Rodeo Contest

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

September 4, 2018

This past year, Irene Waters has led us in thoughtful discussions of what memoir is as a genre. You can search her essays at Carrot Ranch under “Times Past.” Irene is one of several talented memoirists who also write flash fiction, and has published an essay in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 about writing across both genres.

With the Rodeo coming up in October, it’s a good time to mention what we consider “flash fiction” at Carrot Ranch. Weekly, we write 99 words, no more, no less. TUFF includes the ability to free-write, master the constraints of 99-words, 59-words, and 9-words, and to revise those constrained pieces into a polished story less than 1,000 words. Therefore, “flash” represents a shortened word count.

“Fiction” stands broadly for any kind of creative writing. Flash fiction can be any genre intended for any audience. It can be based on a true story (BOTS), an observation, a memory, an experience. Fiction is a general term that covers a variety of techniques, including dialogue, exaggeration, story-telling structures. While fiction covers imaginary people or events, writers are welcome to base their stories on true events, too from history to memoir. What matters is the art a writer creates with words.

To further discuss differences between genres is for another post. Suffice to say that Irene Waters often leads us in those discussions. And she’s going to lead us once again in a flash memoir contest for the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo. I’ll turn it over to her to give you all some tips and a what to expect from her and her judges.

Contest runs October 10-17
By Irene Waters, Rodeo Leader

Memoir is a passion, so I’m thrilled to once again host the memoir section of the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest. Hoping you’ll tighten your saddles and put on your spurs and join in. Last year we had Scars – this year? –make sure that you check in at the Ranch on October 10th  when the topic will be revealed. I’m looking forward to reading your 99-word entries that tell a full story on the prompt topic. This can be a happy memory, a sad memory or a wherever the prompt takes your memory. It should be a true story given that this is a memoir contest.

Tips for the contest can be found in the memoir articles I have been writing for Charli over the last few months. Particularly pay attention to “dealing with others,” and consider using dialogue and high definition description.

I will be joined by fellow judges Angie Oakley who returns to again take the reigns and Helen Stromquist.

Angie Oakley.  Originally from London, Angie moved around a great deal and worked as an English teacher in schools as far apart as Nassau in the Bahamas and Daylesford in country Victoria. She now lives in Noosa, which she finds a lovely place in which to do the things she loves: writing, reading, thinking, talking, and walking and skyping her far-flung family. She’s written a couple of novels, lots of articles and is always interested in the work of other writers. As well she has been known to offer her thoughts in a blog at 

Helen Stromquist. After finishing her nursing training in Brisbane, Helen worked in London where she met her husband which saw her living in Sweden for many years before eventually returning to Australia. Helen loves the arts and although she does not write herself, often finds herself editing articles for her family – one writer and one artist. She is an avid reader and is the convenor of a book group in Mosman, Sydney.

For those that do not know me – I’m Irene Waters, a memoirist whose first memoir Nightmare in Paradise is soon to be published. In the long road to publishing, I completed a MA, researching the sequel memoir. Until recently, when a creative hiatus hit, I have been a regular at Carrot Ranch since its inception and found writing flash a good way of honing writing skills. I enjoyed trying my hand at fiction and learning the creative writing skills that are part of that. I am also a keen amateur photographer and this along with my writing can be found at my website Reflections and Nightmares.

So saddle up October 10th will soon be here with the deadline for entries October 17th. The winner  (and second and third place) will be announced November 16th.

Rules and prompt revealed October 10, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. (EST). Set your watches to New York City. You will have until October 17, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. (EST) to complete the Memoir contest. Irene, Angie, and Helen will announce the prize winner plus second and third place on November 16. Carrot Ranch will post a collection of qualifying entries.

Other competitions:

Rodeo 1: Dialogue led by Geoff Le Pard and judges Chelsea Owens and Esther Chilton/Newton

Rodeo 3: Travel with a Twist led by Sherri Matthews and judges Mike Matthews and Hugh Roberts

Rodeo 4: Fractured Fairy Tales led by Norah Colvin and judges Robbie Cheadle and Anne Goodwin

Rodeo 5: The Sound and the Fury led by D. Avery and her judge Bonnie Sheila.

The Tuffest ride starting September will see 5 writers qualify to compete in October and is led by Charli Mills. For Info

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  1. syncwithdeep

    That was informative with the links provided. Thanks charli

    • Charli Mills

      There’s much interest in memoir and 99-words is versatile enough to accommodate all genres.

  2. Ritu

    Looking forward to it!

    • Charli Mills

      I think Irene has a wild ride coming for us!

      • Ritu

        Sounds like it!!

      • Sherri Matthews

        I’m tightening my saddle already! 😀

  3. robbiesinspiration

    I am looking forward to your prompt, Irene.

    • Charli Mills

      Me, too!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      It will seem simple at first but a lot of thought will have to be put into it if the tips are followed Robbie.

  4. calmkate

    it all looks intensely exciting … looking forward to the prompts and hoping I have the time to join in!

    • Charli Mills

      The way it’s set up, each prompt would be about the same pace as the weekly challenges so hopefully, that will be doable!

      • calmkate

        yes I hope so Charli … it was very manageable previously but I’ve had two major life changes since then so I’m juggling quite a bit 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        The challenging balance is what we write and what we live. I don’t think we ever end the two-step in between.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Hope you have time to join in Kate. I know what you mean with the juggling – I have had to give up even trying to keep the balls in the air at the moment but look forward to reading the responses to the prompt.

      • calmkate

        being off air hasn’t helped … now I have heaps of reading to catch up on .. then posting 🙂
        Hope you survive whatever is happening for you … is it the publishing phase?

  5. dgkaye

    This sounds like a lot of fun. I’ll be here Oct 10 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Good to have you in the Rodeo, Debby!

      • dgkaye

        Thanks Charli 🙂

      • dgkaye

        Thanks Irene. 🙂

  6. Norah

    This lead up to the rodeo is getting exciting. I wonder what Irene’s prompt will be. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      It’s like Cowboy Christmas (D. shared a book with me called Chasing the Rodeo and cowboys talk about July with all its rodeos as Cowboy Christmas). It’s the anticipation! 😀

      • Norah

        I like that – Cowboy Christmas. 🙂

      • Charli Mills


      • Sherri Matthews

        Love it! 😀

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Not long to go Norah – soon all will be revealed although the prompt will seem simple and perhaps easy to follow the tips and do it in 99 words – lets say I’m glad I’m judging and not trying to write. Looking forward to the responses.

      • Norah

        It will be fun, Irene. 🙂

  7. Sherri Matthews

    Can’t wait for your prompt, Irene! 🙂 <3

    • Charli Mills

      I’d say this is your specialty, but you are a master of many genres, Sherri! But this one is your love!

      • Sherri Matthews

        High praise indeed, Charli…wow…thanks so much for your faith in me! 🙂 <3


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