Rodeo #2: Memoir Winners

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.

November 16, 2018

By Irene Waters

She Did It was the prompt for the memoir ride in the Rodeo.

The four judges were given a judging sheet: was it a complete story, grammar, and spelling, structure, use of language, adherence to memoir rules (not accusing, showing the bad- not telling, reflection and was it believable) and then a subjective score worth 35% of the marks.

I couldn’t have asked for better judges with Helen, Angie, Gil and myself all being diligent in reading and evaluating the pieces.

Reading memoir is quite different from reading fiction. As a reader of memoir, you have a pact with the writer that you will believe the facts being told and this, makes the focus of your reading change. You read to gain understanding, to see how someone has coped and how it has changed their life. Memoir also touches our emotions and shows us ways of dealing with our own condition. It may give the inarticulate a way of both expressing how they feel whilst showing them that they are not alone. One memoir will affect multiple readers differently and the same reader differently at different points in their lives.

All the entries were of a good standard. Only one was disqualified as it went under the word limit of 99 words. A number of entries did not give their work a title, or they called it the prompt “she did it.” A tip for future competition entries – give your work a title. It isn’t counted in the word count, and it is a chance to impart some additional information to your reader and makes it easier for the judges when collating the results.

We were impressed by entries that put you in the scene with wonderful description such as Rebecca Cunningham’s: “Twenty-nine anemic Earl Grey tea bags sat dried to the top lip of the sink” – I have lived in that place. Sherri Matthew’s: “For weeks I searched for him in the crowd until one Sunday, I found him.” What woman doesn’t relate to this? Nez Hewitt’s anxiety of returning home from vacation fearful that her dog would no longer love her. Again, I relate – I too have had those worries. There were humorous entries, emotive entries, topical entries and all had great merit. One, however, stood out and takes the first place prize.

Because That’s How Things Were Done Back Then.

Because boys can’t help it? Because she let him? Because of Babycham? I don’t know why she did it. I don’t know what ‘it’ is.

Because “You made your bed, now lie in it!” Because the neighbours. Because abortion’s a sin. My friends think the wedding’s at eleven but it’s really half past three.

Because my mother’s smile is wooden. Because I hate hairspray. Because my auntie caught me faking bellyache, I shuffle behind my sister to the altar steps.

Because I’m not allowed to question. Because weddings need bridesmaids. Because hypocrisy’s the shotgun that slays my parents’ shame.

This entry was my first choice, equal first for another judge, third for another and rated well with the other. Angie Oakley wrote, “A great deal covered, powerful use of repetition, no wastage, and much said about culture, and the way lives were ruined.”

Gil Hinsby said, “I really like this one and the structure and style of writing made it interesting but needed second reading. It probably would have been a better flow without the line My friends think the wedding……….marked it down for that and still got top three.”

I particularly like the reflection of why things were done in a past time. There was no condemnation – it was just the way it was. The repetition of ‘because’ was powerful and the imagery evoked of the child who didn’t want to be bridesmaid was vivid.

Congratulations Anne Goodwin. $25 is coming your way.

In second place was

This Time

His angry words still rang in her ears as she climbed the unfamiliar staircase:

“Come one step closer and I’ll punch you in the face.”

She had heard these words before but had always swept them and the apologies and promises under one of the many rugs in their beautiful home.

This time, however, they had drilled a deep hole into her heart and the last dribbles of love she felt for him were seeping onto the bare floorboards of this tiny apartment.

“When can I move in?” she stammered softly.

“Whenever you like, madam.”

“Now. Right now, please.”

Helen said, “This was an emotive piece. I felt for the abused and it evoked admiration for the actions she took. Felt her desperation through the use of expressive language.” I loved the sentence starting “this time….”

Angie said, “Strong ideas, economically expressed.”

Congratulations Juliet Nubel who wins the e-book of The Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1.

In third place was

Red Sky at Morning

She stood by last night’s bonfire. Flames leapt high, our drunken faces and dancing limbs in hideous relief, like Dante’s inferno on the shore of this northern bay.

Driftwood burns to cool embers. We flee to our tents to couple, or sleep it off.

Night shifts, heavy indigo to thin green, cool breeze shredding night to red dawn.

She slips off her shoes, shucks off sweatshirt and jeans, no zip cracks the morning silence. Wasted thin by her disease, she steps into the water to die on her own terms. She did that.

That part I want to remember.

Angie said, “A great deal said in few words, and some beautiful language choices. “Night shifts…red dawn.  Consistent and powerful voice. Well structured.”

I loved the language choices and the high definition scene that was painted. I was unprepared for the sadness at the end which made it all the more poignant.

Congratulations Liz Husebye Hartmann who wins the e-book of The Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1.

I would love to mention every single piece and hope you will read them at Rodeo #2: Memoir. I will, however, end with each judge’s own personal favourite.

Helen had two that she rated highly – Changing worlds by Saifun Hassam for the wonderful last line that packed a punch and Tasters Choice by Jules Paige for its poetic qualities.

Angie Announcing the Marriage by Geoff Le Pard because “Lots of ground covered economically. Showing, not telling yet making a deeper connection with the way women’s choices were limited by the culture and the circumstances. Original.”

For Gil My Aunt Remembered by Nancy Brady, Showtime by Kerry E.B. Black and  Because (our first place recipient) were the ones Gil chose because “What these have in common was they all felt real, emotional and complete. They really told a whole story in so few words, resonated with me, the characters came to life, the stories showed emotion and had some lovely lines.” As for me, I found something to commend in each and every entry.

Congratulations to all entrants. It was an honour and a pleasure to read all your entries. Thank you to my committed judges. It was a pleasure working with you and finally a big thank you to Charli for hosting the rodeo for the second year. We look forward to next year’s event.

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  1. Ritu

    Huge congratulations to the winner and runners up!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ritu!

      • Ritu


  2. Liz H

    Thanks to the judges for the opportunity and recognition, and for explaining the criteria–gives us something to shoot for for Rodeo Three! I’m looking forward to curling up to the Anthology under a warm blanket and a sleepy kitty.

    And congratulations to Anne and Juliet for your beautiful, nuanced pieces. Always a pleasure to read, here at the Ranch!

    • Charli Mills

      I agree, Liz — always good reading here! Irene does a good job of explaining memoir and how the judges processed. We learn with each Rodeo.

    • Sherri Matthews

      Huge congratulations, Liz…richly deserved.

      • Liz H

        Thanks, Sherri!

      • Sherri Matthews

        Very welcome, Liz! Moved me greatly, and others too, your beautiful writing… x

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Congratulations Liz. Lovely writing. I’m glad you appreciated the process and the comments. Look forward to reading yours in Rodeo 3.

  3. calmkate

    Congratulations to all the winners, those mentioned, the judges and the entrants … really appreciate knowing about the process and the comments as this will help me to improve my memoir writing … thanks Irene!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Kate! And I’ll check with Irene when she returns (she is in Egypt right now). Did you get a confirmation from her (or me)? Send me an email and I’ll sort out what is going on with your entry.

      • calmkate

        Egypt … lucky mummy!
        Sorry Charli think it came out wrong, it’s my weird sense of humour … I have it scheduled for tomorrow night on my own blog but as it is very personal I still have time to welsh out … maybe that’s why it wasn’t published.

  4. calmkate

    Ouch my “Memoirs” one is not included but it was 99 words … does this mean it was disqualified for some other reason?

    • floatinggold

      I was wondering if maybe there will be a follow up post with all the entries?
      Silly me – I have not saved any of my Rodeo entries, and I look forward to them being published here so that I can reclaim them.

      • floatinggold

        Thanks Charli. I saw the page for Rodeo #1, but the second one eluded me.

      • calmkate

        haven’t seen the others reposted but the majority of memoirs was … there is a link above and it’s great reading!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I felt sick to my stomach when I read that you hadn’t saved any of your work. Everything should be filed for future reference – you never know when it might come in handy. Hope you have found the published memoirs now.

      • floatinggold

        I wasn’t writing on my personal computer, so I deleted the file once I submitted the entry. Charli usually replies with “I got it” and a copy of my submission, so I learned to rely on that. But most definitely, I have learned my lesson.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        That’s good. I have back up after back up of my work and when a manuscript gets near completion I even keep a memory stick on me and leave another at my mother’s place. I don’t do that for short stories but I do have multiple copies of them.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Kate I am sorry yours was missed. I have written to Charli to try and work out what happened. Only one was disqualified but it wasn’t yours (unless you write under a pen name.) I will investigate and get back to you.

      • calmkate

        no it was my fault Irene, I couldn’t access the submission process so emailed my entries directly to Charli … she remembered that she missed a few that had been directly emailed to her … let her enjoy her holiday. Can’t be changed now 🙂

      • calmkate

        she said she has added mine and the other forgotten ones … just meant less for you lot to judge 🙂

      • calmkate

        lol I have posted it on my blog anyway, it’s called “memoirs” … not very original I know 🙂

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        It is better than no name. At least you know it is your true story. Will read it either on your site or Carrot Ranch.

  5. Sarah Brentyn

    Congratulations, all! ???? Anne, Juliet, and Liz…well done! Fantastic flash. This was an amazing prompt that I’m sure was not easy to judge. To the honorable mentions (and everyone who entered) congrats to you, as well.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Sarah!

    • Juliet

      Thank you Sarah! ??

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      I agree Sarah – it wasn’t easy to judge which was why a fourth judge was brought in at the last minute. All the entries showed merit and it was an honour to read them.

      • Sarah Brentyn

        I imagine. All these are wonderful. Your prompt brought out some beauties. (And we have talented writers here. Just saying.) 🙂

        So sorry I missed this one, Irene. I was really looking forward to it. Missed all of them, actually, except the first. Life. What can you do?

        Good to see you!

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        I understand all too well Sarah. Life has to be lived and sometimes something has to go. Good to talk to you too.

  6. reading journeys

    Congratulations to Anne, Juliet and Liz — powerful stories written with power and impact!

    And what a wonderful shock for me! Thank you, Helen, for the honorable mention of my story. Totally unexpected — Still taking it in!

    Congratulations to all who entered.
    And to the judges and Charli: Thank you for your hard work & inspiration!


    • Charli Mills

      It was a delight to see your writing called out by one of the judges, Saifun!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Thanks for entering Saifun adn congratulations. That last line of yours hit a chord.

  7. floatinggold

    CongratZ to the winners!

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Goldie!

  8. tnkerr

    Really fine writing on display at this rodeo.
    I like hanging out with you guys.

    • Charli Mills

      Excellent writing all around at the Rodeo. Glad you are here to ride with us!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Yes Carrot Ranch brings out the best in writers and the Rodeo is a wonderful place to showcase it.

  9. Annecdotist

    Thank you, Irene, Charli and the judges! The words “I’ve won a memoir competition” sound extremely strange on my lips and, given our past conversations, Irene, I imagine you were equally surprised when you found out who had written that flash. Even so, of all my entries across the contests, this was the one I was most pleased with, so glad you liked it too.
    Congratulations also to the runners-up. Juliet’s piece is really moving and my stomach flipped when the perspective shifts and I realised she wasn’t with her abuser but leaving him. Liz’s piece too: I didn’t see that coming and it’s clever with the double twist as we first discover the woman died – and wouldn’t we all want to die on our own terms – but then that note of ambiguity in the remembering.
    I’m still taking it in, but I doubt you’ve converted me to memoir, Irene! I think the virtues you describe can also apply to fiction and even though we know it isn’t true, we choose to temporarily believe.

    • Juliet

      Thanks for your kind comments, Anne. Much appreciated.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      Ha! No, don’t convert Anne. But congratulations anyway on this well written story.

    • Charli Mills

      First, I was surprised that you entered, Anne…! But I was not surprised that you won. I agree that the virtues apply to fiction as well and prefer that application. But this is a good example to writers that the conventions of a fiction writer can be applied to memoir.

      • Annecdotist

        I was surprised I entered too! But having shied away from the contests last year, I resolved to join in them all. And I thought this prompt might steer me away from my usual darkness but of course that would’ve been a step too far!

      • Charli Mills

        Funny where prompts lead us.

    • Sherri Matthews

      Huge congratulations, Anne…you won a memoir competition! A powerful read, well deserved and well done!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Congratulations Anne. I was surprised you entered more than surprised you had won. You have a wonderful way with words and that came out in your entry. I’m not going to convert you to memoir Anne, but more and more I see you owning your own story even if they told through fictional characters that no doubt have more than you in them.

      • Annecdotist

        Thank you, Irene. Most of my other attempts at memoir seem somewhat flat, so I was pleased with this. I still maintain however that we don’t need to share our stories publicly to own them.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        You should be pleased with your story. As to owning – we probably agree to differ. Those stories I fictionalise I find are the ones I don’t want to own – haven’t dealt with, am ashamed of, too private etc Anne can you send me a link to buy your new book as an ebook please.

  10. Juliet

    Dearest Riders,
    What a lovely surprise to discover today that my little piece had won second prize in Irene’s Memoir Challenge. I hesitated for many long minutes before pressing the ‘submit’ button but I knew deep down that I had to send my words out there to be seen and heard.
    Thank you to all the judges for reading and enjoying my text and for your kind comments.
    Thanks too to my fellow Ranchers for your words of encouragement.
    And congratulations to Anne and Liz. Your pieces are extraordinarily moving. I loved them both.
    Maybe it’s time for me put my feet back in the stirrups and return to Charli’s Place regularly. I have missed you all…

    • Annecdotist

      So glad you pressed submit. And do come back to us here at the Ranch.

    • Charli Mills

      Juliet, I’m glad you mustered the courage to hit submit and share your story. You wrote it with power. You are welcome in the saddle here any time!

    • Sherri Matthews

      Your memoir is a brave and moving read, Juliet, so glad you pressed the ‘submit’ button. So lovely to see you here again…saddle up and let’s ride, you’ve been greatly missed! <3

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Congratulations Juliet. I’m sure glad that you hit that button. It was a powerful story that takes a lot of courage and many never take that step. Love to see you back at the ranch.

  11. Juli Hoffman

    Congrats to the winners!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Judges and writers have set the bar high. Congratulations and thank you to all!

  13. pedometergeek

    Congrats to the winners, and congrats to all who entered. Can’t wait to read them all.

  14. Norah

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    Results for the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #2 Memoir are in. “She did it” was the prompt; and she did it, she won, but do you know who it was and what she did? Check out the results at the Carrot Ranch and join me in congratulating the winners, the runners-up and all contestants. Well done, everyone!

  15. Norah

    Congratulations, Anne, Juliet and Liz. What wonderful pieces that express deep emotion.
    I grew up in a time when what Anne describes was very familiar – the shame, the embarrassment, the guilt and the secrets. How times have changed in just a few short years.
    What Juliet describes is more familiar now. It would have been much more hush-hush back then and not many women had the opportunity to start again, alone.
    Liz’s story is heartbreakingly real but with some comfort drawn from knowing that she did it on her terms.
    I haven’t read all the other stories yet but am looking forward to doing so. Congratulations to everyone who entered (this one was too hard for me) and to the judges for a superb, and what must have been a difficut, effort. Well done, everyone!

    • Juliet

      Thanks Norah ????

    • Charli Mills

      Memoir does give us the opportunity to reflect on experiences back in time and over time. Thank you for summing that up so nicely, Norah. Were you surprised to see that Anne had entered? 🙂

      • Annecdotist

        I’m sure she was. although we did have a brief blog conversation about not yet finding our inspiration for this one.

      • Norah

        I was and I wasn’t, Charli. I know Anne loves a challenge and I have read some of her submissions to Irene’s “Times Past” prompts, but I also know that it’s not a genre with which she feels a great deal of comfort. I was extremely delighted to see that she had won though, and what a fabulous entry it is. Anne is a very skilled and creative writer and I very much enjoy her style.

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Thanks Norah. It was a hard competition to judge with all stories being of great value. They are an honour to read.

  16. susansleggs

    Congratulations to all the winners. A special thanks to Irene for explaining memoir so concisely. I now see the piece I entered didn’t fit the guidelines. My take away from the Rodeo is don’t try to write something different, write on the same subject you think others will, but do it better. A good lesson for next year.

    • Charli Mills

      Susan, I still think you should push into writing what you think is the heart of your own story whether it’s different or not. I enjoyed the “Georgia portion”!

      • Annecdotist

        I agree with Charli, Susan. Whether memoir or fiction, you’ve got to write the story that speaks to you. And I checked out your entry, and I liked it too. Why didn’t it fit the guidelines, I wonder?

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Susan your story fitted in to the prompt perfectly. Angie said of your story ” A neat family story.” I think it showed nice reflection and how easily something converts into family lore. It actually scored quite well so don’t think you went outside the box (which by the way is non-exixtent).

      • susansleggs

        Thanks Irene. You give me confidence.

      • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

        Confidence is something I think most writers struggle with. I know I do. Keep at it Susan – you are doing perfectly fine and I’ll look forward to reading your book one day.

      • Charli Mills

        We all take a risk in writing and it can dash our confidences, but we also grow from it, too!

  17. luciesmoker

    Congrats to Annie , Juliet, Luz and all.

  18. Miriam Hurdle

    Congratulations to all the winners and the hard work of all the judges, especially Irene!!

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Thanks Miriam. My judges were truly diligent and each found their own subjective favourite whilst on the other criteria removing themselves from the piece. I have to give them a big thank you. As a memoir writer Miriam you know that each of us have a story that is important but that this story will speak to different people at diffent times in thier lives.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Yes, I think judging the memoir is harder than other genres that have more mainstream criteria. Well done on your part, Irene!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome, Irene.

  19. Sherri Matthews

    What a wonderful contest, Irene. Huge congratulations to Anne, Juliet and Liz and all the honourable mentions. A hard judging task, indeed. Thanks also for the mention, Irene. Well deserved winners, one and all, beautifully written memoirs <3

    • Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

      Thanks Sherri. All the stories had merit. The first three place getters scored well with all judges. Others touched some judges more than others. None left every judge unmoved.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thanks, Irene. I am so glad I didn’t have to judge this contest, it must have been very hard. My travel contest wasn’t easy at all. I loved every story here and it’s great we can read them all in the collections Charli has put together.

    • Charli Mills

      Sherri and Irene, I appreciate how thoughtful you and your co-leaders and judges have been! As we see the collections unfold, it was no easy feat to judge. I agree that the memoir collection is moving.

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thanks, Charli…it’s an honour to read every story 🙂 <3

  20. Colleen Chesebro

    Congratulations, everyone! Lovely writing all around. <3

  21. Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

    Congratulations to Anne, Juliet and Liz and all the honourable mentions. Sadly in competition there can only be a few winners. This doesn’t mean that the other stories weren’t good. Far to the contrary. I encourage everyone to read the entries.

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Irene, and for pointing out the worthy attributes of all the selections!


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