September 7 Free-Write

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 7, 2018


(Thank you to all the brave writers who gave this round a go! There are still four more chances to enter so get familiar with the process below. A new 24-hour prompt will be revealed September 13, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. EST. It will close at 11:59 p.m. EST September 13.)

The clock started ticking at 12:00 a.m. (EST). That’s midnight in New York City when September 7, 2018, begins.

No fee to enter!

This is a free-write flash fiction contest to qualify five writers to compete in the October TUFFest Ride event during the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. A free-write requires you to draft quickly.

You can revise, edit or polish. But you only have 24 hours which is not enough time to let a first draft set. We know that. We are looking at your free-write skills, your bravery to write freely according to a prompt.

**If you have a correction to make to a submission, you can submit a second one with a note to disregard the first. However, you may only do this is the contest is still live within the 24-hour period.**

Judges will examine how creative a writer can be within both time and word constraint. Charli Mills, Cynthia Drake and Laura Smyth all of Hancock, Michigan will judge all TUFF contests. Your free-write must follow all five rules to qualify.


  1. You must use the revealed prompt: “Papa’s bar”
  2. You must enter using the provided form below or email with your full name and entry
  3. You must write your story in 297 words (exactly, not including an optional title)
  4. You must enter by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on September 7, 2018 (use the form provided below or email your full name and entry to
  5. You must be willing to compete in the 2018 October TUFFest Ride if selected

If you qualify, you will be among five winning writers to further compete for first, second and third place in the TUFFest flash fiction contest you will ever enter. The event equates to bull-riding in a cowboy rodeo. It’s a chance to show your versatility of flash fiction writing skills. Five writers will compete:

  1. October 1: Writers tune into a live video posted at Carrot Ranch Facebook Page for the announcement of who will be selected the Fab Five from the September entries. These five writers will have five days to do a new free-write.
  2. October 8: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 99-word challenge to rewrite their free-write. They will have five days to write.
  3. October 15: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 59-word challenge to rewrite their 99-word story. They will have five days to write.
  4. October 22: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 9-word challenge to rewrite their 59-word story. They will have five days to write.
  5. October 29: The Fab Five tune into a live video to find out which three advances. The remaining three contestants will have 24 hours to write a final 495-word story from their TUFF exhibition.
  6. November 2: First, second and third place announced. All five contestants will win a prize (yet to be determined, based on sponsors).


Go with your gut. At Carrot Ranch Literary Community, we play with 99 words, no more, no less every week. We’ve learned that our first instinct to a prompt might be strange or uncomfortable. The natural tendency of a writer is to water down that reaction — to write safely. Don’t. Be brave and go where the prompt leads you.

Be creative. Along with going with your gut, take a creative approach. If you are literal, you might write too stiffly. But do poke a literal response if that comes to you. Ask yourself how you can turn it upside down and create a surprising twist. Also, you don’t need to use the exact phrase (or the quotation marks unless you are using dialog or showing irony).

Be professional. We are all adults here, and adult content is a part of literary art. However, think like a professional literary artist whose job is to write. If you think shocking readers gives you an edge, think again. We live in a world desensitized by global crassness, violence, and inhumanity. Shock value is cheap. Instead, craft a clever twist, show intelligence and the ability to interpret the global theater. Make your readers think.

Write with emotion. You also want to make your readers feel. Characters give us all the opportunity to experience life beneath the skin of another. Literary art can share imagined experiences from what it is like to attend school at Hogwarts or be a polar bear. Invite your readers to feel these unique perspectives. Avoid stereotypes.

Breathe! When you control your breath, you control your mind. Yes, it’s a competition. Yes, it’s only 24-hours. Yes, you have a lot on your plate. But you have the right to be here. You are a creative writer — so breathe, read the rules, write, count your words, and enter. No matter the outcome, you were brave enough to write!

You can use Microsoft Word or use to determine 297 words.

There are no entry fees, and five winning writers will each win a cash prize. Please thank our sponsors:

Openings Life Coaching
SmythType Design
Solar Up

ENTRY FORM (or email


If you missed this free-write, you have more chances to enter. You can enter more than once. Next qualifying free-writes will reveal secret prompts:

  • September 13, 2018 (12:00 am – 11:59 pm)
  • September 19, 2018 (12:00 am – 11:59 pm)
  • September 25, 2018 (12:00 am – 11:59 pm)

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  1. Norah

    What an interesting prompt, Charli. I’ll have to try to get those brain cell working at high speed. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      I’m curious to see if anyone picks up on who “Papa” is! All ideas welcomed, of course. This is challenging.

      • Liz H

        😮 Was there a particular Papa you had in mind? Tell us later, please!

      • Charli Mills

        To be revealed later! 😀 Always go where the prompt leads (not my quirky thinking, but yours, lol).

      • Norah

        Well, that’s interesting. I wonder who Papa is now. I didn’t pick it up. I’m a bit concerned I may have used an Aussie colloquialism in my story. I’ll just have to hope the meaning was clear. I went off track a little so am pleased that all ideas are welcomed. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        You went exactly where it leads you, Norah. That’s what makes prompts interesting! What I had in mind has nothing to do with the judging — I just wondered if any writers would catch the phrase as a reference to one of my writing stars. Hemingway could mix drinks as tight and powerful as he wrote. Papa’s bar is an obscure reference to Hemingway. But the stories that came in blew me away — I’d love to sit at Papa’s bar and read them to the old man!

  2. syncwithdeep

    interesting prompt. Submitted through the form and email. Thank u Charli

    • Charli Mills

      Got it, Deepa! Thank you!

  3. Juli Hoffman

    Reblogged this on Roundabout Forty and commented:
    What an interesting prompt! If you’d like to join, you have until MIDNIGHT tonight, September 7th, 2018 (EST).

    xo Juli

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Juli!

  4. floatinggold

    Made it this time!

    • Charli Mills

      Good job, Goldie!

  5. Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

    Just submitted my entry. That was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be! Thank you for the challenge, Charli and company 😉

    • floatinggold

      Right? I’m used to the 99 word flash by now, but 297? That was hard to knock out.

      • Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

        Right?! It took a lot of strategy (and editing) to loop it all together and stay at 297. Once I got the flow I was able to say what I wanted but I really hope that after the contest is over that we can read everyone’s entries. I would love to see some of the gems people came up with.

      • floatinggold

        That’s exactly what I asked for as well – a posting of all the writing, and I think Charli said she has a plan.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to use strategies! And yes, I’m working at a better system to collect (and share) the entries this year.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        There doesn’t seem to be the glitches experienced last year. I hope it is smooth for all concerned.
        I already can’t remember last week’s prompt or response but have enjoyed the three-fer stretch. It is different.
        The prompts are more spare too, not easy, in fact I thought I heard cackling evil laughter as I read the prompt.

      • Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

        I hadn’t discover Carrot Ranch yet this time last year when the last contest took place so it’s all new to me. I am sure whatever system was devised worked great so I am forward to the big reveal when its time in whatever form it takes 😉

      • Charli Mills

        I think it worked well to get the weekly challenges submitted through the form. We’re all more practiced!

  6. Ritu

    Done Charli!
    You are really pushing us, aren’t you!!!

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Feeling the pressure? You are holding up to it well!

      • Ritu

        A little… But I’m also riding on a huge positive high at the moment.
        And I know I can do this!!!
        Winning is another matter, but meeting the challenge…? Yes! I can do that!!!

  7. floridaborne

    Yay! I did it! And before dinnertime, too.

    Sent it to you via the form and not email.

    Please advise if the entry didn’t come through for some reason.

    • Charli Mills

      Got it! Now go eat dinner! 😀

      • floridaborne

        Thanks. 🙂

  8. Liz H

    Done. My freewrites for this take longer than they should, but totally worth it (to me!).

    • Charli Mills

      Working those writer’s muscles, Liz!

      • Liz H

        Folding into Downward Dog, Child’s Pose, and Writer’s Repose…

      • Charli Mills

        Writer’s Repose — good move!

  9. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Yikes. So I noticed the diagonal trend on the calendar for these dang free writes, backing up into weekdays. Next ones are school nights. Less and less time as we go.Thinking the next ones are going to be a free for all.
    Today I played here instead of going to the bar with friends. What would Papa say?

    • Charli Mills

      Papa would say you need to make up for lost rum time! But he’d approve cider, I’m sure. You have an orderly mind to have noticed the pattern! It looks pretty all decked out in pink pen across September like a slash of tiki bar energy.

  10. tnkerr

    I don’t know if it’s any good or not, but it’s submitted. Hope you like it.

    • Charli Mills

      A good vintage, TN. I was just telling my judges what a tough but fun job they have. The reading is fantastic! I love the creativity this prompt brought out.

      • tnkerr

        I can well imagine that the reading would be exciting for both this prompt and the last one. I can’t wait to read them all.

  11. tnkerr

    Una vez más, un sincero “gracias” a los patrocinadores.

    • Charli Mills

      De nada! More sponsors are coming on board, too!


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