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September 7 Free-Write


(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)


  1. Norah says:

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

    • Charli Mills says:

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

      • Liz H says:

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

      • Charli Mills says:

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

      • Norah says:

        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 says:

        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 says:

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

  3. Juli Hoffman says:

    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

  4. […] an interesting prompt! If you’d like to join, you have until MIDNIGHT tonight, September 7th, 2018 […]

  5. floatinggold says:

    Made it this time!

  6. 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 😉

  7. Ritu says:

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

  8. floridaborne says:

    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.

  9. Liz H says:

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

  10. 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 says:

      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.

  11. tnkerr says:

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

    • Charli Mills says:

      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 says:

        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.

  12. tnkerr says:

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

  13. […] September 7 Free-Write […]

  14. […] many of you will know there is a free write competition going on over at the Carrot Ranch here. It’s taking place over the course of September and there is still time to enter. Basically […]

  15. […] the second free write from the Carrot Ranch TUFF competition prompt which is now closed. A fixed 297 words, using the prompt ‘Papa’s […]

  16. […] this theme am I, that I wrote a 297 (3 x 99) word story as a response to Charli’s Tuff prompt “Papa’s Bar”. While this Free-Write contest is now closed (writers have only twenty-four hours to respond to […]

  17. […] was written for the September 7th Free Write on the Carrot Ranch.  Today, Charli Mills and the team of judges announce who is in their Fab […]

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