September 19 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 19, 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 25, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. EST. It will close at 11:59 p.m. EST September 25.)

The clock started ticking at 12:00 a.m. (EST). That’s midnight in New York City when September 19, 2018, begins. The contest ends by the close of day September 19, 2018, at 11:59 (EST).

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.

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: “long drive home”
  2. You must enter using the provided form below
  3. You must write your story in 297 words (exactly, not including title)
  4. You must enter by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on September 19, 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.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Openings Life Coaching
SmythType Design
Solar Up
Bill Engleson
Thread Tales Studio
The Continental

And our Leaders & Judges:

Geoff Le Pard
Irene Waters
Sherri Matthews
Norah Colvin
D. Avery
Chelsea Owens
Esther Chilton
Angie Oakley
Helen Stromquist
Hugh Roberts
Mike Matthews
Robbie Cheadle
Anne Goodwin
Bonnie Sheila

**There’s still time to sponsor the Rodeo**

ENTRY FORM (email for support or to submit special formatting)


You will have one more chance to enter! You can enter more than once. Next qualifying free-writes will reveal secret prompts:

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

Five winners will procede to the TUFFest Ride and announced October 1 at Carrot Ranch.

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  1. Annecdotist

    Yay, found my seed, now off for a walk to look for the 297 words to make it flower.

    • Kelvin M. Knight's blog

      Enjoy your walk, Annecdotist, may your feelings blossom into 297 beautifully petalled words.

      • Annecdotist

        Thanks, Kevin, some of my petals might be a bit prickly, but I’ve submitted my story now. Good luck with yours.

      • Kelvin M. Knight's blog

        With 12 hours to spare – that’s not bad going! I’m having doubts about mine on third rejiggle ????

      • Annecdotist

        Well, not really 12 hours to spare, as I had other things taking me away from my desk!

    • Charli Mills

      Good planting, Anne!

  2. Kelvin M. Knight's blog

    Interesting. Thanks for the prompt, Charli. Good luck everyone!

    • Charli Mills

      Enjoy the long drive, Kelvin!

  3. syncwithdeep

    interesting Charli. I have come up with something different that hit my heart seeing this prompt.

    • Charli Mills

      Good for you going after what hit you in the heart, Deepa.

  4. syncwithdeep

    submitted my post via form and email. Thank you Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Got it, Deepa!

      • syncwithdeep

        Thanks charli.. Somehow i am happy, i was able to attempt the four prompts so far.. And 297 is a leap for someone like me who sticks to less than 60 words..

      • Charli Mills

        You should be proud of how well you are stretching as a writer, Deepa! 🙂

      • Annecdotist

        Let’s hope you get the chance of a bigger leap to 495 words, Deepa.

      • syncwithdeep

        No way.. I am going breathless . Somehow most of my flash fictions are less than 50 words. Sometimes less than 90..

  5. calmkate

    ooh exciting stuff as I prepare for that long drive home from the ranch 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Enjoy the drive, Kate!

      • calmkate

        ah do wish I could just drive over and meet you Charli, that would be truely delightful!

      • Charli Mills

        That would be lovely, Kate!

  6. Kay Kingsley, The Memory Cellar

    Just submitted my entry. Thanks for the prompt, Charli and company. My flash wrote itself this week.

    • Charli Mills

      Got it, Kay! That’s a wonderful feeling to be in the flow.

  7. Juli Hoffman

    Reblogged this on Roundabout Forty and commented:
    Another fun prompt! This one should lead to some great stories!!!
    Thank you, Charli, at the Carrot Ranch!
    xo Juli

    *Contest ends by the close of day September 19, 2018, at 11:59 (EST).

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Julie!

  8. Jules

    I’m in. Wishing all the rest who enter the best.

    Sometimes it is TUFF to edit. But I think I got my point across 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      It real TUFF with only 24 hours because you can’t really give your brain the break it needs between drafting and editing. But that’s the point! It’s supposed to be draft-mode. TUFF!

  9. Parinitha

    Hi Charli,
    I want to check if we can publish the story on our blog simultaneously while we also share it via email for the contest?

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, you may post your entry on your blog, Parintha.

  10. Liz H

    Dropped down a another one, and sending via the email cuz nervous writer. Talley ho, Gang!

    • Charli Mills

      Got it Liz! Carry on!

  11. Ritu


    • Charli Mills

      You are riding hard!

      • Ritu

        Here’s hoping I can stay on the saddle until the end of this month at least!

  12. tnkerr

    Mine’s in. Love driving at night.

    • Charli Mills

      Ah, a good subject for you, then.

  13. floridaborne

    Oooh… I had a LOT of fun with this one!

    • Charli Mills

      I like it when you have fun with a prompt, Joelle!

      • floridaborne

        It might end up being a book for next year’s NaNoWriMo. Who knows? 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        That would be a good start!

  14. Juli Hoffman

    Done! My favorite prompt, yet!!! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      It always fascinates me what different prompts stimulate.

      • Juli Hoffman

        Yeah… I often look at these prompts, think how of the direction the prompt is leading…then go in the most random direction I can find. Writing with ADD…ooh…shiny. Squirrel!!! LOL

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Wrangle those squirrels and bring home an ending and it’s all good.

  15. Colleen Chesebro

    Charli, I didn’t hear from you this morning… did you get my entry? I’m sure your busy as all get out. This was a fabulous prompt. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Got it, Colleen! On top of all, the gales returned to Lake Superior and I just had to go hear them roar! Getting it all wrangled now. Glad you enjoyed the ride! <3

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Oh, the gales of November are coming! Batten down the hatches! ??????

      • Charli Mills

        They arrived!

  16. Parinitha

    Hi Charli,
    Have you announced the Fab Five from September who are contesting the Tuff Writing now? I couldn’t find out this info from the Facebook page.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Parinitha,
      Yes, it is posted at: I had technical difficulties and couldn’t get video. Your entry was excellent and we had so many fine writers show up with 118 entries total. I hope you’ll continue to enter the other contests going on, too!


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