Once Upon a Rodeo Time

Written by Charli Mills

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

September 18, 2018


From the remote reaches of northern Idaho, the Carrot Ranch Weekly Challenges launched in March of 2014. From around the world, Norah Colvin accepted the first challenge from Australia. She’s held a special place at the Ranch ever since.

Norah cultivates the kind of growth mindset that marks a life-long learner. But she’s also a teacher. Norah frames her entries in posts that focus on education, giving her readers new points of learning or discussion. Last year she launched readilearn (a sponsor of the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo, so be sure to check out the site).

You can always expect to learn something new from Norah, and her Rodeo Contests is no exception.


Rodeo #4 Fractured Fairy Tales
By Norah Colvin

Do you love fairy tales? Chances are, unless you are a parent or grandparent of young children or an early childhood educator as I am, you may not have encountered a fairy tale for a while. Well, I am about to change that by asking you to fracture a fairy tale for the fourth Carrot Ranch rodeo contest.

What is a fractured fairy tale you ask? It’s a story that takes a traditional fairy tale and adds a new twist. Sometimes the twists are dark and sometimes humorous. Sometimes they are dark and humorous. They may even be sinister or subversive but rarely patronising or preachy.

A fractured fairy tale usually takes a character, setting or situation from a well-known fairy tale and presents it from a different angle or point of view. Sometimes characters from different fairy tales appear together. A fractured fairy tale is never simply a retelling of the original story with characters painted black and white. In a fractured tale, the lines and colours blur. But the characters or situations are recognisable.

Roald Dahl sums it up well in the introduction to Cinderella in his book of Revolting Rhymes.
I guess you think you know this story.
You don’t. The real one’s much more gory.
The phoney one, the one you know,
Was cooked up years and years ago,
And made to sound all soft and sappy
Just to keep the children happy.

In preparation for the contest, you may like to re-familiarise yourself with some traditional fairy tales, and read some fractured ones; for example:

Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs as told to Jon Scieszka by A. Wolf
The Wolf the Duck and the Mouse by Mac Barnett
The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
The Little Bad Wolf by Sam Bowring

Tara Lazar, author of Little Red Gliding Hood, has some helpful suggestions in this PDF.

Details about the prompt will be revealed on October 24, and you will have one week in which to respond. Judging your stories with me will be award-winning novelist and short story writer Anne Goodwin and children’s picture book author and illustrator Robbie Cheadle. Both Anne and Robbie were co-judges with me last year, and I appreciate the generosity of their support again this year.

Anne has already published two novels Sugar and Snails and Underneath, both of which I recommend as excellent reads. She has a book of short stories coming out soon and a third novel in the pipeline which I am eagerly waiting to read.

Robbie has published five books so far in her Sir Chocolate series of picture books. Her books are unique with their wonderful fondant illustrations. She also recently co-wrote While the Bombs Fell with her mother Elsie Hancy Eaton, a memoir of her mother’s wartime experiences.

The three of us are looking forward to reading your fractured fairy tales next month.

Here’s one from me to get the ideas rolling.

No Butts About It

Dear Editor,

I hereby repudiate rumours the Billy Goats are spreading. They accuse me of bullying, but they show no respect for me and my property.

All summer while I slaved to secure winter supplies, they gambolled frivolously. When their grass was gone, they proceeded to help themselves to mine.

I’m usually a neighbourly fellow, but when they come every day, trip-trapping across my bridge, scaring away my fish and eating my crops, it’s too much.

When asked politely to desist, the oldest one butted me into the river.

I ask you: Who is the bully?

Misunderstood Troll

Rules and prompt revealed October 24, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. (EST). Set your watches to New York City. You will have until October 31, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. (EST) to complete the Fractured Fairy Tale contest. Norah, Anne, and Robbie will announce the prize winner plus second and third place on December 07. 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
Rodeo 2: Memoir led by Irene Waters and judges Angie Oakley and Helen Stromquist
Rodeo 3: Travel with a Twist led by Sherri Matthews and her judges: Mike Matthews and Hugh Roberts.
Rodeo 5: The Sound and the Fury led by D. Avery and her judge Bonnie Sheila.

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

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  1. cindy knoke

    I have always loved fractured fairy tales~

    • Norah

      Great, Cindy! Will you be joining in?

    • Charli Mills

      I’m learning they have a name, Cindy! This will be a fun contest to read, as well.

  2. Miriam Hurdle

    The first one I watch on stage was Into the Wood. I loved it!

    • Norah

      Ah, Miriam. So you know what this contest will be about. I hope you join in!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I don’t know, Norah. I didn’t enter any post this month, nothing qualifies me to enter into the contest. I’m trying to get my book done before I get exhausted!

      • Norah

        You need to do what is important to you, Miriam. If you get your book done this month, you may still enter the weekly contests next month. 🙂

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I thought I have to write at least one post with 297 words to enter the contests. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, Miriam — the 24-hour Free-Writes are only for the TUFFest Ride. The Rodeo is made up of multiple contests, each run by different leaders at the Ranch. Every Wednesday in October, a new contest will open up that is free to enter. All writers welcomed. Each one runs for a week. Winners are announced contest by contest after the entire Rodeo ends. The TUFFest Ride is the only one that has a pre-qualification. I hope you’ll join in all the Rodeo has to offer!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Thank you, Charli. I’ll do some in October, hopefully the pressure of the final touch of my poetry book will be off by that time. Thank you for the clarification. 🙂

  3. Ritu

    Already got ideas rolling around in my head!

    • Norah

      That’s fabulous, Ritu. I look forward to your entry.

      • Ritu


    • Charli Mills

      Fractured thoughts! ????

      • Ritu

        Totally fractured! ????

  4. Norah

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    As promised, here’s some information to start your thinking in preparation for the fractured fairy tale flash fiction contest in the Carrot Ranch Rodeo next month. (Try saying that five times real fast! :))

    • Charli Mills

      Ha! Fractured fairy tale flash fiction contest — that’s a mouthful, Norah!

  5. Abhijit Ray


    • Norah

      I look forward to reading your entry in October, Abhijit.

    • Charli Mills

      This will be a fun contest!

  6. Kelvin M. Knight's blog

    Fractured sounds like fun, Norah. Great post.

    • Norah

      Thanks, Kelvin. Will you be joining in?

      • Kelvin M. Knight's blog

        I would like to, yes. And I have pencilled the date in.

    • Charli Mills

      Fractured fun! I like that you’ve penciled in the date, Kelvin.

  7. floridaborne

    I have a set of books from the 1940’s with the original fairy tales. They were rather gruesome. Little red riding hood isn’t saved, she’s dinner.

    Looking forward to trying this.

    • Norah

      That does sound rather gruesome. I’m thinking you’ll have some great ideas!

    • Charli Mills

      The original fairy tales were twisted. I’ve only read a few, and I’m not sure when we made them “happy endings.” This contest will be interesting!

  8. sarahsouthwest

    love a fractured fairy tale! Looking forward to this…

    • Norah

      Great, Sarah! So am I!

    • Charli Mills

      Glad you are looking forward to the fractured fairy tale flash fiction contest, Sarah!

  9. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    What a Grimm event. Have you come across The 3 Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig? In my opinion “fractured” fairy tales are wonderful, another means of continuing the tale. What does damage to the tale and its characters is Disney. But I digress.
    Good on ya, Norah. This is rich.

    • Norah

      I have come across that story of The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, but I haven’t read it in ages and have forgotten (not lost) the plot. I look forward to reading your fractured tale, D.

    • Charli Mills

      I knew you’d be up for this Grimm event!

  10. TanGental

    Oh goodness, my head is spitting out nonsense… was Pinocchio’s dad really the carpenter – what if he has a dna test and finds he’s beech not oak? Hansel and Gretel have planning problems because they’ve dammed the magic river with their cottage. What if the gold from the giant comes from an illegal African mine and Jack is arrested for dealing in stolen precious metals… or the seeds from the beanstalk create havoc the next summer by creating a forest of sky high vegetation blocking out the light… ooo this is going to be so good.

    • Norah

      Oooh, Geoff. You have a crop of ideas brewing there. If anyone is short of one, I’ll send them over to you. I’m so looking forward to reading your story. 🙂

      • TanGental

        Yep I’ll happily supply free nonsense to anyone who asks…

    • Charli Mills

      Geoff, your curiosity fractures a million fairy tales! I’m wondering how many recognizable characters, tales, and twists you can get into a single fractured fairy tale flash fiction?

  11. calmkate

    oooh sounds like I might have got back air just in time 🙂
    Going back to see if I can catch that last one …

    • Norah

      I do hope you join in the contest, Kate. It doesn’t run until October though, so wait until then for the prompt and to submit your story.

      • calmkate

        great, plenty of time for the ideas to percolate 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Percolate away, Kate!

      • calmkate

        oh you’ve picked well Charli, they all sound very creative 🙂

  12. syncwithdeep

    Fractured fairy tale.. Sounds interesting.. Fingers crossed

    • Charli Mills

      It will be fun to give it a go, Deepa! Look at Geoff’s response above — he’s on fire with ideas.

    • Norah

      I wonder if you can work crossed fingers into your response. 🙂

      • syncwithdeep

        Hahha.. Sounds great

  13. Liz H

    Another much-loved source are the cartoons “Fractured Fairy Tales” featured on the Rocky and Bullwinkle show (1959-64), set in Frostbite Falls, Minnesota.
    I was doomed from the very beginning, I tell ye!

    • Charli Mills

      I had forgotten about “Fractured Fairy Tales” and just got a jolt of memory, watching Rocky & Bullwinkle at a daycare after kindergarten. You’re doomed to write one to honor Frost Bite, Minnesota!

      • Liz H

        Frostbite Falls…located just northeast of Lake Woebegone…

    • Norah

      I’m not aware of those stories, Liz, but it’s great that you mentioned them to remind others who may be. Thank you.

      • Liz H

        They’re up on Youtube, for sure!

    • Sherri Matthews

      I’m sure I remember ‘Fractured Fairy Tales’ and the Rocky and Bullwinkle show in California in the 90’s, Liz. Nickelodeon? Were they re-made or re-runs? Not sure…but I do remember my children loved them. Me too… 😉

      • Liz H

        Would be reruns in the ’90s, methinks. The writers were of a rare and twisted talent! 😀

      • Sherri Matthews

        Haha…definitely! Thanks for clearing that up for me, Liz, glad to know I’m not completely losing the plot! 😀

  14. Sarah Brentyn

    This looks too fun! I may try my hand at it again this year but actually submit it instead of posting for fun. These fractured fairy tales are a favorite of mine… Eek!

    • Norah

      I hope you do enter, Sarah. You’re a master at fractured fairy tales. 🙂

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Thank you, lovely lady. Perhaps I will give it a go. 🙂

      • Norah

        I’m looking forward to a read. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      This one is a good match for you, Sarah! I’d love to see you enter.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        There are quite a few that look interesting… I love this on but there are some others I might try my hand at. Either way, it’s going to be a great rodeo again this year!

  15. robbiesinspiration

    I am looking forward to reading all the lovely fractured fairy stories, Norah and Charli.

    • Norah

      It’s going to be fun, Robbie. I’m pleased to have you along as a co-judge again.

    • Charli Mills

      I look forward to it, too, Robbie!

  16. dgkaye

    Oh this does sound like so much fun! Which event shall I choose? Will I choose them all? We’ll soon find out! 🙂 xx

    • Norah

      I hope you do join in them all, Debby. I think you’d do a great fractured fairy tale, and you’re certain to enjoy Sherri’s travel tales. All the events sound exciting.

      • dgkaye

        They sure do Norah. I shall try my best! 🙂

      • Norah

        That’s all any of us can do, Debby. 🙂

      • dgkaye


    • Sherri Matthews

      All Debbie, all lol 😀

      • dgkaye

        LOL 🙂 <3

    • Charli Mills

      All, and the cry goes up to Debby — All! 😀

      • dgkaye

        Lol Charli! 🙂

  17. Sherri Matthews

    Oh Norah, what a wonderful contest you’ve dished up for us! I can’t wait to give this one a go. I remember Revolting Rhymes, the incomprarable Roald Dahl enjoyed in many a reading session with my children. But I especially love your flash, having just returned from Norway where trolls roam just about everywhere, and just goes to show that some trolls have definitely had a lot of bad press. So exciting..so much to think about! 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      This fractured dark humor reminds me of a certain Fred! Norah will get us all thinking up such great twists.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Haha…funny, that! 😀 And yes, she will!!! <3

  18. roughwighting

    Sounds enticing and fun. I gather the stories are not for children? Do we know the word count yet?

    • Charli Mills

      The contests will release on each Wednesday complete with rules. You can expect a certain word count given what we typically write. 😉 All genres welcome — we won’t publish this for children, but that doesn’t mean you can’t write the flash for a younger audience. Hope you join in!

  19. Jacqui Murray

    This sounds fun, Norah. I don’t do writing prompts as I usually have a huge TBW (to be written) pile that awaits me. I’ll see what others write!

  20. Jennie

    Of all the fractured fairy tales I have read, and I’ve read many, Mo Willems “Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs is the best!

  21. Miriam Hurdle

    Thank you so much, Norah for the clear instruction and examples of the fairy tales and fractured fairy tales. Tara Lazar’s tips are very helpful.
    I love the tales by Anne and Robbie. Thank you for giving me excellent examples.
    I’ll have my entry in soon! >3

  22. Miriam Hurdle

    <3 <3 <3 <3 for Charli, Norah, Anne, and Robbie!

  23. Miriam Hurdle

    Reblogged this on The Showers of Blessings and commented:
    Round up your favorite fairy tales, throw them into the pot, churn, stir, spin them around, and turn them into one piece, or take our one piece of the mixture and see what it looks like!
    Join the fun with the great prompt from Norah Colvin, <3


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