From 118 entries, five writers were selected to take the TUFFest Ride. A few brave challengers have also followed the paces, taking the ride each week. The point of TUFF is to experience the shifts that occur in our writing when we revise. The process forces us to change our first drafts to meet the diminishing word constraints. In making those changes, we further explore our story and make discoveries and decisions. Lastly, we infuse the heart of our stories with emotion.

Here’s a quick look at the shortest stories from last week — each one is nine words and expresses a different emotion [set in brackets].

9-WORD SUMMATIONS WITH EMOTION by Kay Kingsley

Sapling nurtured, love grows an Oak death can’t fell [strength]

Unanswered dreams denied by fate suspended our love eternally [sadness]

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9-WORD SUMMATIONS WITH EMOTION by Ritu Bhathal

Mudslide. This could not be happening again – could it? [Fear]

Fear aside. They need me. I’ve got to help. [Courage]

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9-WORD SUMMATIONS WITH EMOTION by Pete Fanning

Whether fire or rain, they danced through the pain. [Happy]

Two souls, one dance. Muddy shoes, singing the blues. [Love]

9-WORD SUMMATIONS WITH EMOTION by Bill Engleson

Her spectre blazes in my brain, dangling in time. [wonder]

Mudslide! Low Tide!! Suicide! I have done your will. [resignation]

9-WORD SUMMATIONS WITH EMOTION by Liz Husebye Hartman

Everybody had opinions, but the mudslide called it in. [acceptance]

Dahlia embraces freedom as New Stuttgart is washed away. [disapproval]

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This Rodeo contest challenged the judges, too. How does one judge the process of drafting and revision? We looked for tenacity, the ability of a writer to push into his or her piece. All five writers exhibited this trait that the masters consider more important than talent.

Often it is tenacity, not talent, that rules the day.”
~ Julia Cameron

“Fish,” he said softly, aloud, “I’ll stay with you until I am dead.”
~ Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.
~ Albert Einstein

And that’s what TUFF called these five writers to do. Pete Fanning, Kay Kingsley, Ritu Bhathal Bill Engleson, and Liz Husebye Hartmann wrote tenaciously. Each week they met a challenge and overcame the doubt that dogs all writers. They wrote. And from the perspective of the one who got to read their writing weekly, I marveled at how each writer pushed through. TUFF creates a process for revision so that exploration and discovery still happen between first draft and second.

Too often, writers go from first draft into editing. By using the ultimate flash fiction constraints, writers can workshop their revisions before getting to the mechanics of editing, thus creating deeper and richer stories. It’s easy to learn to edit because it has specific rules. Creative writing, on the other hand, requires experience and the willingness of a writer to be vulnerable and uncertain.

In the words of one of our judges, reading the Fab Five’s stories and TUFF processes was “delicious!” Indeed, it’s been a month at a story smorgasbord, getting the privilege of watching the chef’s serve up flavorful dishes. But now as we go back for seconds, we only have room to pick three. Please congratulate our two Honorable Mentions in the TUFFest Ride:

  1. Honorable Mention: Liz Husebye Hartmann
  2. Honorable Mention: Ritu Bhathal

That means Pete Fanning, Kay Kingsley, and Bill Engleson have 24 hours to craft a second revision of their original mudslide story in 495 words (that’s five flash fictions as we define the 99-word form at Carrot Ranch). Email entries, following the same process with earlier challenges by noon EST Tuesday, October 30. On Friday, November 2, we will rank remaining TUFF writers as first, second and third place.

Also on Friday, TUFF Judge Cynthia Drake will be dancing her first solo with her troupe 47 North Belly Dance at the Continental Fire Company. The show is a fundraiser to help her with ongoing cost to rebuild her home following the devastating landslide on June 17. I’ll be reading some of my flash fiction based on her story and that of community healing.

The Continental has generously sponsored the Rodeo and all our prize categories, and they continue to be local support of literary art. We are hosting a unique Old-Time Radio Rodeo that employs tough (99-59-9 words) with radio script. It’s a portfolio opportunity to get a story professionally developed into a real-live, on-the-air, radio spot. I hope you’ll give it a go, especially those of you who have experienced TUFF.

The ride is almost over. Stay in the saddle! And congratulate all our Fab Five Flash Writers for a job well done this Rodeo.


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