All You Need to Know to Rodeo

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 30, 2018

Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges are on hiatus until November 1. Just like hands on a ranch, we’re going to take a break from our regular chores to challenge and show off our skills. We’re going to have us a rodeo! A flash fiction rodeo.


Judging for TUFF began after the final September Free-Write. These writers were in it to win it. A free-write is a scary contest to enter because it makes a writer feel vulnerable, but vulnerability is exactly what a writer has to push past to write deep, to meet the muse, to follow gut instinct. Drafting is all about trusting the spark of creativity.

We will post a video on October 1 (right here in the blog feed) to announce the five writers who will advance to compete every Monday. They will write a new story to a fresh prompt, then each week revise according to word count and a technical challenge. After the final constraint, three writers will go on to compete for first, second and third place.

All five are winners and each will receive at least $25 by the end of the contest.

All writers are welcome to take up each Monday TUFF challenge. You can play along from the safety of home. Learn more about the TUFF process under Flash Fiction. It’s a powerful tool that can help you revise a story, scene chapter, novel, synopsis, and more.


Beginning October 3, a new Flash Fiction Contest will debut in the Rodeo. Each one will remain open until 11:59 p.m. (EST) the following Wednesday. That gives writers plenty of time to enter. Be sure to read the rules. Follow the word count exactly (use Microsoft Word or Punctuation is often “counted” so check your work using one of those two official word counters.


One of our local sponsors, Continental Fire Company, is an evening venue for events. The building is a historic firehouse from the 1800s. Later it became the first location for Michigan Tech University. The owners embrace their location’s rich history. And that will factor into the bonus contest. They are looking for three old-time radio spots.

CFC will select three entries to develop into radio ads that they will produce and use. Three winners will each receive $25 and a clip of their ad when produced. This exciting opportunity is how we can incubate our literary art and find creative uses for it. Details and rules post Sunday, October 21 when the contest opens. History details and online sources will also be shared. The contest will close along with the final scheduled Rodeo #5 on November 7 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).


If you don’t want to enter a contest, you can submit a challenge in the comments or on your own blog post. We will only publish qualified contest entries in collections because it becomes too daunting of a task to track down all the challenges. So, to be clear, if you want to be included in the collection, you must enter the contest. It’s free, so why not?


You can enter all six contests for free! No fees and first place wins $25. Our sponsors make this possible.


Set your clocks to New York City (that’s EST).

Our live readings and TUFF prompts will be posted by 7 p.m. EST. Submission deadlines will take into account when each video posts. TUFF challenges have 5 days to respond (until the final 24-hour challenge).

Rodeo contests start at 12:00 a.m. EST on Wednesday and close the following Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. EST.


Judging and compiling entries into collections take time. Winners will be announced each Friday by order of contest after the events close. Each contest will post its winner announcement date. We will also post the collection of qualified entries that same day.


Qualified entries are those that meet the contest rules. Pay attention to word count. If a contest calls for 99 words, and you submit 96, your entry will be disqualified and not included in the collection. This might seem harsh, but it is a contest, so take it seriously. But have fun, too!


This simply couldn’t happen without the leadership of Geoff Le Pard, Irene Waters, Sherri Matthews, Norah Colvin, and D. Avery. Each of them works hard to make you sweat, stretching your skills. They, along with their judges, have a difficult task to pick a winner. Be sure to read their rules carefully. And show them some gratitude for what they do to make this Rodeo fun and challenging.

Next year, they will each mentor new leaders. The following year, those mentees will go on to develop their own contests, and the third year they will, in turn, mentor new leaders. This allows writers from our literary community to take on leadership roles. If you are interested to know more, contact the Lead Buckaroo.


Thank you for participating in a vibrant literary community where we get to play with words, meet other writers in meaningful ways, and progress our own writing goals. You are Carrot Ranch!

Now go saddle up and get ready to show off your skills. Best to you all!

Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges return November 1.


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  1. syncwithdeep

    The real game starts.. Good luck to all who braved to write.. Wishing the five bulls a tough write????????????

    • Charli Mills

      Yes! Time for the full games to begin! Thanks for joining the “tough” start! You are a bull writer, Deepa!

      • syncwithdeep

        Thanks again Charli

  2. Annecdotist

    Exciting! One question: do you plan to post the five weekly TUFF entries? Would be good to see how the winners tackle the stages.

    • syncwithdeep

      Hehe.. Will I be one among the five?? If yes, will post for sure????????

    • Charli Mills

      Yes, Anne, I’ll post their entries each week so everyone watching can see how they are progressing. Writers can play along from home, too, and challenge themselves.

  3. syncwithdeep

    Whether or not i am one among the five, i am going to write the prompts. It sounds challenging to write something from 99 and ending with 9

    • Annecdotist

      I hope to do the same, Deepa. I have been intrigued by this process since Charli first mentioned it about a year ago but never got around to giving it a role. Perhaps this will provide me the impetus I need.

      • Charli Mills

        Anne, I used the TUFF process with a small group of entrepreneurs to craft their visions, mission, elevator pitch, and tagline. It’s an effective way to distill ideas, chapters, and, of course, flash fiction. I’ll be interested to know what you think.

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a good plan, Deepa! The TUFF challenge has an impact that you will notice. We’ll be announcing the five winners tomorrow. Regardless of the outcome should be proud of having met the challenge of each free-write.

      • syncwithdeep

        Thank u Charli

  4. Norah

    This is very exciting, Charli. I’m looking forward to finding out who the TUFF 5 are. Good luck, everyone!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s exciting and I hope all the contestants realize how tough they have made judging!

      • Norah

        I’m interested to find out the numbers – of entries and entrants. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        In my panic last night I forgot the details I had compiled. My notes for my video were right there and yet I didn’t look at them. We had 118 entries by 36 writers. When we selected the best for each prompt, as you know with judging, we didn’t always pick the same stories! However, it became clear we were picking the same writers.

  5. Norah

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    Are you saddled up ready to write in the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo 2018? The contests get underway this week and continue throughout October with plenty of opportunities to join in and the chance of winning a prize.
    Who will be among the TUFF 5 writers? Did you enter? Could one be you.? Or maybe me? Charli reveals all on 1 October. Not long to wait!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for sharing!

  6. floatinggold

    This sounds amazing. I’m assuming everyone who entered wants to be 1 of the 5 chosen ones. However, it’s great to hear that anyone can participate in the rest of the challenges, too.
    This is so engaging!

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad to hear that because I really wanted this to feel inclusive and engage writers in the process. Thank you, Goldie!

  7. tnkerr

    Wow! The dedication and teamwork that allows this to happen are amazing. Good luck to all you intrepid writers and bronc-busters. Thanks to all you leaders, judges, organizers, and hands.

    • Charli Mills

      Agreed! The community and all who participate, the leaders, judges, and sponsors are amazing. Enjoy!

  8. dgkaye

    Looking forward to the fun!!!! <3

    • Charli Mills

      It’ll be a blast! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Sascha!

  9. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Reblogged this on ShiftnShake and commented:
    The fun has begun at Carrot Ranch. It’s Rodeo time! Cowhand Christmas; Buckaroo Bonanza; Ranchers’ world wide write-off! The roughest, toughest, friendliest competition around. All kinds of fun and always absolutely Free.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing!

  10. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    This is a most attractive and organized post Boss. Let the games begin!
    That bonus event and its sponsor sound great. I like that it is tucked into a rodeo week and not at the end. Rodeo for radio; awesome.
    When I first showed up here at the ranch you had just hit the road in Mars taking many moons to end up there in the Keewenaw. Now that you’ve landed it sure is good to see you hitchin’ the Ranch to the Houghton post. The integration of your two communities is a powerful thing for both, for all involved.
    Please have a beer on behalf of Pal and Kid next time you are at the Continental Fire Company. (Huh? Oh…Kid wants to know if there’s a decent amount of bacon on the menu)

    • Charli Mills

      It’s been a journey from Elmira Pond to Mars to Copper Country, that’s for sure. Glad we crossed paths. I’ll toast Pal and Kid next time I’m at the Continental Fire Company and see if they can put some bacon on their scorpion bread. Lots more integrating to do, like connecting Houghton to Vermont, England, Canada, India, and Australia.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Those connections and more have been made. But yeah, Carrot Ranch will go on tour. Keep it real.

      • Charli Mills

        Gotta spread the bacon.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Colleen!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        You’re welcome. <3

  11. calmkate

    Bring on those bucking broncos and let our fingers tap it out, yeha 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      The chutes are open, Kate!

      • calmkate

        yeha … got my spurs and cowgirl hat on ready and waiting Charli 🙂

  12. susansleggs

    Reblogged this on Susan Sleggs and commented:
    This is what I am doing for fun in October….join in and ride along

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for sharing, Sue!

  13. Lisa L.

    So looking forward to this!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s going to be fun!

  14. tracikenworth

    Sounds fun!

    • Charli Mills

      It’ll be lots of fun! And thanks for sharing!

      • tracikenworth

        You’re welcome!

  15. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    The fun begins Charli. All saddled up and rearing to go. Good luck to all that enter, good luck to the ring masters (is that a rodeo term) and particularly good luck to the judges – I know it is a tuff job. Thanks Charli for all that you put into the organisation of this month of contests.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Irene! Ringmasters or rodeo clowns — might depend upon the day. But it will feel like a circus. Thank you for your leadership and contest, Irene!


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