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December 6: Flash Fiction Challenge

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If winter on the Keweenaw Peninsula of upper Michigan were a masterpiece, then the sky works in collaboration with Lake Superior. Together they manipulate air temperatures to create color and texture. You might be surprised to learn that Lady Lake prowls on land during the winter. I don’t mean waves that batter her shores — she’s an artist hovering in the air, twisting her waters into a scattering of icy snowflakes, mist, or battleship-gray clouds.

Today’s collaboration features patchy blue sky milky as glacial till. After a furious night of banshee-snow, Lady Lake has calmed and sorts her art into glowing pink remnants of moisture that look like clouds made of shell. Soon the sun will dip, but it won’t grow as dark as you might expect. That’s the gift of living in a snow globe — all that white from below to above captures light.

Colorful Christmas lights make the neighborhood festive. We humans add our own imprint upon the natural winter art of the region, expanding the collaboration. I’m surrounded by an ever-changing canvas.

Is the nature of art collaborative?

It’s like the philosophical question — if a tree falls in the woods and no one is around, does it make a sound? Sure, it might reverberate, but if the vibrations don’t hit an eardrum, the sound is not heard. Art requires one to produce and another to receive. I suppose an artist can appreciate his or her own work, but the sharing creates a dynamic. In such a way, artist and reader/viewer/listener/beholder work in collaboration.

As a writer who’s share work, you’ve probably experienced comments that observe something in your story you did not intend. And yet the reader points it out. To some, this interaction can feel disconcerting. But we don’t have to own (or defend) the alternate perspectives. We can embrace it as an expansion. As a collaboration of sorts.

Like another philosophical question — which came first, the chicken or the egg? — I also wonder which came first — art or the inspiration?

When did you first become inspired to craft stories or imagine the lives of characters? Likely you read or were read to. I remember Mrs. Couch reading to us every day in first, second and third grade. In fourth, fifth and sixth grade, Mr. Smith read us YA sci-fi. In seventh and eighth grade, Mr. Price required us to write weekly spelling stories.

Growing up in a buckaroo culture, I heard stories swapped with regularity and recognized that the tellers had a rhythm and often delayed an element of surprise for humorous effect.  I read comic books, Laura Ingalls Wilder, classics, Ian Flemming, Louis L’Amour, and discovered romance novels.

And everywhere I stepped I was acutely aware that others had passed this way before me from the Washo people to the likes of Kit Carson and nameless pioneers. History told it’s own stories if you knew how to read a cemetery or discarded artifacts of another era.

Somewhere in the mixture of all those influences, I found inspiration to write stories I imagined. Mostly, I get strong impressions about people who lived where I do now because I’m curious as to why they came to some of the remote regions I’ve known.

When does inspiration become art?

Often, these near-winter days, I watch the dense gray bank of moisture that rises up from Lake Superior. I get a better view when I cross the Portage Canal and look back toward where the Lake nestles below the ridge of Keweenaw hills with start white birch and leafless maples. I image Lady Lake “soaking up” before she creates a storm across the sky. As writers, artists, we do that too — we soak up.

Then we let it out. Lady Lake can change wind directions so swiftly that I can see the snow shift out one window and yet still blow the opposite direction out another window. To me, that’s a master who can blow all those details and craft their shapes in multiple ways at once. Drafting is often like spewing snow.

Yet, the masterpiece is not complete until after the snow. Wind can reshape drifts, temperature can crystalize snow and suspend icycles, sun can sparkle, and sunsets can add color. Writers return to the storm upon the page make it into something different, something new.

Inspiration also comes to me from those who create in different mediums.

Growing up, Greek mythology, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones inspired me (hence my fascination with the hero’s journey). I could recognize artistry and felt drawn to it — I once spent my entire month’s earnings on a hide painting a traveling artist painted when I was 14. Music moved me. I played the radio, records, 8-tracks, and cassettes all the time, and thought the greatest invention in the world was the boombox.

Johnny Cash, Regina Gigli (the print artist I cleaned house for), John Beata (the cowboy foreman I rode for who trained horses like an artist), and Bob Parker who hand tooled a leather scene of my horse were my go-to’s for inspiration. But I never dared to think I could collaborate with any of them. Not that I had a chance to work with Johnny Cash, but I knew plenty of dancers, musicians, poets, crafters, and artists.

Somehow I thought I had to do my art on my own. My guilty pleasure was to “feel” a song and let it color a story I wrote, or admire a painting and imagine it’s likeness in a character. One writer would post a story and ignite a spark of an idea. Last year, one Carrot Ranch writer invited others to add to her Boots flash fiction in what emerged as a collaborative murder-mystery.

I think it’s natural for creative impulses to rise and feed others as much as it feeds our intended interest. Like Lady Lake, we soak up. And we share.

Last night I was listening to an interview with Hozier, an Irish musician. He was influenced by the 1960s civil rights movement in America, and its impact on his own country. His latest song is not only one that honors those who influenced him but also features the voice of an American blues singer who knew the very protestors in his song. What a collaboration!

“It’s not the song, it’s the singing!” What that makes me think is that it isn’t the art but the making of it. It isn’t the story so much as it is the catching of it. Art in action and the more people involved, the more powerful. I don’t mean in its creation but in it’s sharing and influencing and making new.

Consider Hozier’s first song. It moved a young Ukraine ballet dancer, and this video of collaborative art went viral:

And when I say collaborative, I’m talking more about the natural space of artistic influences. Hozier didn’t know about this dance project. I think the record label got snippy about it at one point, but in the interview, Hozier was humbled by the interpretation and use of his song. So much that he did collaborate with Sergei Polunin on a new song.

We are like Lady Lake and the sky. Every week we soak up, share and form a collective voice on a single topic. Creativity knows no bounds.

There’s something open and uplifting about art expressed without boundaries, taking influence from other artists and mediums. This week, we are going to turn toward graffiti, an expression of art on the street. How can we take it to a story in 99 words?

December 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti. It can be an artist, art or the medium itself. Get out your can of spray paint and go where the prompt leads you.

Respond by December 11, 2018. Use the comment section below to share, read and be social. You may leave a link, pingback or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

A Sign (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni traced graffiti on the grain-car. What did it mean? A message? A name? Traffic stalled on both sides of the tracks where it crossed the highway. She didn’t want to think about Ike who had been ahead of them. Better to study the graffiti and let Ronnie find out what happened. She wasn’t in a hurry to know.

“Danni?”

She stiffened and asked, “Who got hit?”

“An elk.”

Danni blew out the air she’d been holding in. “Ah, damn elk.” Ike had made it across then. Maybe the graffiti was a symbol of gratitude to live another day.


134 Comments

  1. Liz H says:

    Mavis Staples in this Hozier song–a collaboration that results in chills, and a tear or two!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. […] Carrot Ranch a post about winter lake snow storms and artistic collaboration led to a prompt about graffiti. “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti. It can be an artist, […]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Artist

    “Ms. Higginbottom, you do recall that I’m the principal?”

    “Bob, I’m not calling.”

    “Graffiti can’t be tolerated. And you know this boy has problems.”

    “And suspension’s a solution, Bob?”

    “What can be done, Ms. Higginbottom?”

    “Pull him from Health and Geography. Put him in Art, Theatre Workshop.”

    “Health and Writing are required courses!”

    “I see more of him than those teachers do, they send him to the office so often. He’s going to have to repeat them anyway, so let him learn to like school first. Channel his artistic ability.”

    “You’ve already made the schedule changes, haven’t you?”

    “Yes.”

    Liked by 16 people

  4. Paint the Town Spaghetti Western

    “Shorty’s repeatin’ herself.”
    “What?”
    “We was prompted with pasta a while back, found out they’s at least 39 dif’rent kinds.”
    “What are ya talkin’ about, Kid?”
    “Graffiti, ain’t that some kinda pasta?”
    “Here’s a dictionary Kid. Read it.”
    “Graffiti: ‘writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surface in a public place’. Illicitly? Shorty wants folks ta write dirty?”
    “Read some more Kid.”
    “Illicit: ‘Forbidden by law, rules, or custom’. Oh. Shorty jist wants folks ta break the law.”
    “Kid, Shorty jist wants folks ta write-wildly, freely, openly. “
    “Put it out there?”
    “Yep.”

    https://shiftnshake.wordpress.com/ranch-yarns/

    Liked by 9 people

  5. calmkate says:

    wow you are on a roll here Charli … your writing is indeed blossoming or is it snowing!

    Liked by 3 people

  6. […] Written for Carrot Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction Prompt – “Graffiti”. […]

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Annecdotist says:

    Lovely account of the compensations of being snowbound half the year, Charli. It’s still autumn here and I’d forgotten about that extra light.
    And I’ve always loved it when a reader has found something in my writing I haven’t knowingly put there, as long as it’s positive, of course.
    My graffiti flash Not in tablets of stone comes with The Annethology Christmas message. Obviously it’s not the kind of message you might expect!
    https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/1/post/2018/12/the-annethology-christmas-message-just-say-no.html

    Liked by 5 people

  8. denmaniacs4 says:

    Paint by Numbers

    “So, you start with a title?”
    “Often do.”
    “And this time the flash is about…graffiti?”
    “Yup.”
    “Know much about the subject?”
    “Can’t say that I do?”
    “So, what follows the title? I mean, how does your brain work?”
    “Well, I’ve got an arty sounding title. It suggests…that paints involved.”
    “Good. What comes next?”
    “Fine-tuned google research. Learn the language. Like…tagger.”
    “Tagger?”
    “Artist. Then…a twist. Picture this, a tag team of jungle artists. A Tiger tagger and a Giraffe graffiti artist…a Girafffiti Tiger, so to speak. Political animals, eh! Exposing trophy hunters…”
    “Sounds good. You better start writing.”
    “Okey dokey.”

    http://www.engleson.ca

    Liked by 8 people

  9. Here’s mine Charli, though not very original I’m afraid

    It was an eyesore, and Harold didn’t know what he could do about it.
    He was too old and unsteady on his legs to sort something out himself but his neighbour George came up with an idea and agreed to split the cost as it affected him too.
    Jim and Chris were identical twins and had a gift with paint and colour. The two boys were happy to help, and at the end of the day, with £50 in their pocket, Harold had a piece of modern art at the bottom of his garden instead of a dirty concrete wall.

    Liked by 11 people

  10. […] Prompt and pic via the Carrot Ranch […]

    Like

  11. […] was written for the Carrot Ranch Prompt, Graffiti!  I love North Carolina more than you could realize, but the Old North State has sometimes found […]

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Somehow, I found this one even tougher than that doozy a couple weeks ago with the mashed potatoes + superheroes! Glad to see Miracle of Ducks featured again, too.

    This week’s meager contribution:
    **Writing on the Wall**

    I washed the filthy language from the overpass. I swear, the internet is ruining today’s youth and ruining hearts and minds.

    A the driver crossing the overpass rolled down his window. A man pointed at my pressure washer then asked, “Ain’t leaning over the side there dangerous?”

    “State don’t like swastikas on the overpass. Obvious reasons.”

    “Looks mighty dangerous to me. Wouldn’t want to fall, would you?”

    I caught the threat in his voice, and turned down the pressure washer. As he drove off, I took down his tag number.

    Adults these days… rotting the minds of the youth.

    hrrgorman.wordpress.com/2018/12/07/writing-on-the-wall/

    Liked by 10 people

  13. Hi Charli
    Just like last week (into the darkness), this Ff was a challenge for me.
    But as happens so often, I found a phrase in your posting that “unlocked” my mind:
    “art expressed without boundaries”.

    So keep writing these wonderful blogs — they are inspiring! Thanks!

    Saifun

    Liked by 2 people

  14. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (12/06/18): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti. It can be an artist, art or the medium itself. Get out your can of spray paint and go where the prompt leads […]

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Liz H says:

    One to start our weekend out right?

    Zuzu’s Petals

    Hannah couldn’t stand it any longer: So many sad faces, mouths turned down with refusal after refusal, so bad that no one dared a joyful and barbaric “Yawp!” a la Whitman, or even a comic, life-saving “Yopp!” as Horton had heard it.
    [Continue ]

    Happy Friday, All!

    Liked by 3 people

  16. […] Know that this was written for the December 6th Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Like

  17. tnkerr says:

    A Quick story about the artist of some prehistoric Jornada Mogollon rock art located in Otero County NM. Just really old graffiti… Right?

    The Petroglyphs at Three Rivers

    Istaqa was a sentry. The night threatened to be as cold as it would be long. He was not vigilant. He spent the night carving pictures of goats on the rocks surrounding his post. Come morning he would show the goats to Chosovi’s father. Chosovi would be his wife if Istaqa could present her father with sufficient goats, and a rifle.

    The goats were a symbolic transference of wealth. The rifle was a true symbol of peace between their families. No warrior would arm his enemies.

    Istaqa already had the rifle and by morning he would have enough goats.

    Liked by 7 people

  18. An interesting prompt Charli. Made me think of graffiti through the ages and the evolution it has made in modern times but in reality it is the same as prehistoric graffiti – we all want to make our mark.
    You had me with heart in mouth with your story. Huge sigh of relief even though the poor elk copped it.
    Mine this week https://irenewaters19.com/2018/12/08/the-cultural-world-of-forgotten-people-99-word-flash-fiction/

    Liked by 5 people

  19. […] 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti. It can be an artist, art or the […]

    Liked by 2 people

  20. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction December 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti. It can be an artist, art or the medium itself. Get out your can of spray paint and go where the prompt leads you.// Respond by December 11, 2018. […]

    Like

  21. Jules says:

    Still busy as we all are this month… I hope to catch up next week. I had a party (hubby’s work) last night and we are having our own this evening.

    I went with some history; If you go to the post that’s where you will find more info and a photo of stylized graffiti of Lady Liberty.

    Finding Liberty?

    Over water to the separated land, visitors came to see the expressed art in the form of graffiti, which stood for about twenty eight years. Only when the wall was finally taken down could families connect again to some normalcy.

    Some artwork of the west side of the Berlin wall has been preserved. Most of it was by anonymous artists. If given the opportunity to express hope to a divided people what could be expressed. One piece of wall projected a series of an American viewpoint. Lady Liberty who once welcomed strangers seeking freedom. Many hope She still does.

    ©JP/dh

    Liked by 6 people

  22. susansleggs says:

    I too love the view of sunshine, then snow, the ice crystals and the ensuing decorations a good storm can leave on the waterfront. Winter is a beautiful time for those of us who like it, or at least embrace it. I hope all had a good Thanksgiving and welcome to the new names I am seeing. I know tattoos are high priced, pre-planned art, but not necessarily enjoyable in some cases….

    Body Graffiti

    The ballet dancer lay motionless on the stage allowing the music to draw me in. After a few bars he raised into a standing position with undulations I couldn’t imagine a body being able to accomplish. The music quickened and he leaped along with the beat then twisted and rolled across the stage as it slowed. His torso and legs were waxed bare, and his leggings matched the color of his skin. His perfected physique was a delight to view in so many different positions. Alas, he cheated himself because the dark blue body graffiti distracted my mind’s eye.

    Liked by 6 people

  23. […] December 6: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Coincidentally my music monday post this week was Hozier, whom I adore. The man can write beautiful, meaningful music and has a pair of pipes.

    Love your flash, Charli. I could feel the relief when she knew it wasn’t Ike who had been hit.

    Here is my flash for the week: https://saschadarlington.me/2018/12/08/the-rat-ass-nutcracker/

    Liked by 3 people

  25. […] Carrot Ranch December 6 Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Like

  26. Hey Charli! 🙂
    Here’s my take on the challenge:
    https://thedarknetizen.wordpress.com/2018/12/09/flash-fiction-discovery/

    Happy reading! 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

  27. Norah says:

    Such beautiful descriptions, Charli. You paint clear images with your magic word brushes. What a wonderful way to describe artistic collaboration and then to draw us all back to the weekly collaboration right here on your Ranch, that owes its success to those who drop by to read, write, stay or drift on. The welcome sign is always up for anyone who chooses to join in with positive intent.
    I breathed a sigh of relief with Danni too. I’m sure she wasn’t pleased that the elk had been injured, but better the elk (for her) than Ike. Hopefully, the graffiti is a good omen. Perhaps it will bring out the best in writers here at the Ranch also.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Norah says:

      Hi Charli, I just scraped enough time to scratch up a story but not a post. Here’s my story:

      The Meliorist
      He opened his bag and glanced about — nobody in sight. A faint glow emanated from single street light further down. A cat meowed somewhere close but the hum of traffic was too far away to deter. The can warmed in his hand as he shook it. He hesitated, then removed the cap. Pressing his lips together, he began spraying, high first, then low. Only when a car horn sounded did he pause. When his cans were spent, he melded into the night and slipped away. In daylight, commuters paused to admire his work and contemplate its message of hope.

      Liked by 3 people

  28. […] Carrot Ranch Challenge, December 6, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti. It can be an artist, art or the medium itself. Get out your can of spray paint and go where the prompt leads you. […]

    Like

  29. Graphic Artists

    Angela was going to the museum to see the new collection of graphic artists. That is, until she got stopped by the train. It was a good thing she wasn’t in a hurry because the train was barely moving.

    As Angela sat there, she noticed all of the graffiti-covered boxcars and car carriers. Someone certainly had talent with spray paint; how did anyone find the time to paint them, she wondered. Intricate and detailed designs graced the sides of nearly every car. Although they may have been gang symbols, Angela realized she was enjoying an art collection on wheels.

    Nancy Brady

    Liked by 2 people

  30. Here’s my entry for the week Charli: https://jagahdilmein.wordpress.com/2018/12/10/the-masterpiece/

    Just realized that the challenge was back. Hope I didn’t miss much. I too was busy writing about my Turkey travels last month, even wrote a short book about it 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  31. papershots says:

    BTW, I love the image you found for this challenge. It reminds me of Greece, where there’s lots of wonderful graffiti on the walls of many cities and towns.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Street Artists

    Angela was going to the museum to see the new collection of graphic artists. That is, until she got stopped by the train. It was a good thing she wasn’t in a hurry because the train was barely moving.

    As Angela sat there, she noticed all of the graffiti-covered boxcars and car carriers. Someone certainly had talent with spray paint; how did anyone find the time to paint them, she wondered. Intricate and detailed designs graced the sides of nearly every car. Although they may have been gang symbols, Angela realized she was enjoying an art collection on wheels.

    Nancy Brady, 2018

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Ann Edall Robson says:

    Classic Graffiti
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    “99 words,” she says. “Graffiti,” she says. My mind goes to rail cars painted with obscure words and hieroglyphics. Nothing surfaces to write about. But wait, there is graffiti with an old school twist! Sidetracked for a few hours, the memories prevailed throughout one of the best movies of all time. A classic to be watched over and over – American Graffiti. Drive-in theatres were still the rage. It’s where I saw it for the first time. A must-have addition to the VCR collection with Wolfman Jack spinning the vinyls for an amazing soundtrack. Now, this is graffiti!

    http://www.annedallrobson.com/99-words/classic-graffiti

    Liked by 2 people

  34. […] For me, with the prompt provided by Carrot Ranch Literary Community. […]

    Liked by 2 people

  35. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (12/06/18): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about graffiti. It can be an artist, art or the medium itself. Get out your can of spray paint and go where the prompt leads you. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  36. Liz H says:

    Different idea, different mood:

    Noteworthy Collaboration

    Stepping back, Nora tipped her head, listening to the bright voices within the subterranean waterfall. They wove in and out, considering the words and images she’d already painted on the cave’s rock wall, and stopped on a questioning note, awaiting further input.
    [Continue ]

    Liked by 3 people

  37. Kate says:

    ‘Tis the season where my kitchen transforms into a wonderland of butter, flour, sugar and spice. Little brown men, snowflakes and Christmas trees pop out of my oven on a regular basis. I’m quite rusty at writing, but I couldn’t resist combining this week’s ‘graffiti’ challenge with gingerbread.

    Gingerbread Art

    “Ger, you’re the best artist I know,” said Janet dropping the gingerbread showcase pamphlet on the kitchen table. She picked up a photo of the graffiti-laden Kelburn Castle in Scotland and handed it to Gerry. “You can do this.”

    “Sis, I only paint with oils, not icing.”

    “And I don’t see the difference; both are messy. Look, all you need to do is duplicate their Picasso-like mural onto my gingerbread.”

    “Not interested,” he said opening the fridge door.

    “I’m baking the castle and Julie’s helping create the garden paths, trees, yurts and-”

    “Julie?”

    “Yeah, Julie.”

    “Okay. Count me in.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Kate says:

      I just realized the original story had 100 words, not 99. Here is the 99 word version. Sorry folks!

      Gingerbread Art

      “Ger, you’re the best artist I know,” said Janet dropping the gingerbread showcase pamphlet on the kitchen table. She picked up a photo of the graffiti-laden Kelburn Castle in Scotland and handed it to her brother. “You can do this.”

      “Sis, I only paint with oils, not icing.”

      “And I don’t see the difference; both are messy. Look, all you need to do is duplicate their Picasso-like mural onto my gingerbread.”

      “Not interested,” he said opening the fridge door.

      “I’m baking the castle and Julie’s helping create the garden paths, yurts and–”

      “Julie?”

      “Yeah.”

      “Okay. Count me in.”

      Like

  38. […] Painted Faces Source:  Flash Fiction Challenge Prompt: Write a story about graffiti. Word count:  99 […]

    Liked by 1 person

  39. A moving and powerful collaberation…art breeds art and it is a beautiful thing to witness, isn’t it? Love your Elk’s message, Charli 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Here is mine Charli: https://bakeandwrite.co.za/flashfiction-sir-chocolate-and-the-graffiti-artists/. I will pop back later to read posts. Thanks for the awesome idea I have written a whole new Sir Choc book

    Liked by 1 person

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