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January 17: Flash Fiction

Collonades of bare trees cluster like ruins jutting from the snow. For such a forceful start to early winter in the Keweenaw, I’m surprised at how little snowpack we have this year: only 70 inches compared to 137 inches by January last year. It seems a cruel jest to abruptly end a pleasant autumn in early October with fierce storms, plummeting temperatures, and blizzards only to fizzle.

Of course, as I type, snowflakes dance like tiny fairies outside my window, taunting me. Snow or blow away, I want to tell them. This middle ground of gray brings me no joy.  I want to see my colannades gleaming white as the engulfed snowscape I know my dome can be. Can they hear me, these frozen water crystals of endless form?

Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”

Nature’s genius imbues that inner space from where we write. If ever the Muses existed, they come to us on the wind, the wing, or leap into our walking boots from a sprig of moss. Imagine a Muse biting your ankle like a midge, a tiny irritant like sand to an oyster. You scratch at an idea, and before you know it, you write a pearl.

Thoreau knew this itch. Every observation he made about humanity flowed through a filter we classify as nature writing. Nature’s influence on literary art is ancient. The first storytellers who painted on rock walls from Sulawesi, Indonesia to Chauvet, France depicted animals. Nature features heavily in Hellenistic poetry, and the Greeks developed philosophies that explored humanity in nature.

Even Shakespeare’s writing felt the bite of nature’s midge. Charlotte Scott digs deeper into the impact nature had on the bard’s ability to use nature to reveal human psychology. She explains (a fascinating 2-minute video):

All my heroes write the spines of mountain ridges or the flows of Walden Ponds and Tinker Creeks. Even my favorite cultural icons like Sherman Alexie wield big stories built from vast landscapes. You can’t have a book set in the American West without it being influenced by the natural world that defines the West. From Edward Abby to Louis L’Amour, Annie Dillard to Terry Tempest Williams, Tony Hillerman to Laura Ingalls Wilder, my reading immerses me in a shared passion for nature.

Robert Jordan, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Brandon Sanderson all write fantastical places that capture otherworldly natural settings to convey epic stories. A lack of nature still influences us because we can’t help but notice its absence. I’ve long been captive to natural wonder, but understand not all writers or readers are.

Not everyone nature writes.

Probably my least favorite writing comes out of the American center for literature — NYC. Many novels, bestsellers, in fact, leave out nature’s influences in favor of intellect, as if wilderness was the human mind. I can’t help but feel such writing is empty. How can we explore the human experience outside the natural world in which we all live?

What does the nature writing Muse mean to us as writers if we don’t all dance beneath dappled tree limbs?

It’s important to understand what “sense of place” means. It doesn’t have to be about nature or influenced by a roaring sea or rushing waterfall. It can be a cityscape, a bunker, an underground world carved of steel, or a conversation. No matter the setting, it serves as the space we imagine the characters and story that unfolds. It roots the reader.

Beyond setting, writers also cultivate a sense of place from which our voice emits. Voice belongs to the writer. Voice is not of the narrator, protagonist, or characters. Voice is you. Voice is me. Voice captivates the reader on the page, giving recognition to those who follow an author because “of the writing.”

If you think you want to write and be read by those who appreciate your writing, then you want to cultivate your voice. The best way I know how to teach this is through nature writing. I know where my voice comes from — it’s gritty with red sand, deep as Lake Superior, and fits in my traveling bag, melding all the places I’ve trod, birds I’ve seen, and rocks I’ve collected.

I can’t say that’s where your voice comes from, but if I show you how nature influences me, then I can teach you to listen for morning dew, feel the nostalgia in an open campfire, and spot yourself among a moth in flight. From those experiences, you’ll understand what writing from a sense of place means. You’ll strengthen your voice.

This is the most exciting experience I could ever share with other writers, and why writing retreats factor into my vision for success in life lived immersed in literary art.

Back on Elmira Pond, I offered a free room and retreat to any writer who wanted. Six came. The first writer arrived from Seattle and stayed for 10 days. Her first experience of Elmira Pond was in winter. She wanted to walk on the ice, something I had not thought to do, which means I get to grow from encountering different perspectives, too.

Since that time, I’ve wandered and dreamed of retreats around the world, wanting to share Mars and New Mexico, Lake Pend Oreille and Lake Superior, England and New Zealand, the Keweenaw in winter and the Arctic in summer. My vision is vast. Where shall I begin?

Vermont. After all, that’s where the nature writers began, the ones who influenced the writing of the West. It’s like the motherland to my western roots, calling me home to a place that’s in my DNA. A place I am returning to this summer. I’m thrilled to announce the first Carrot Ranch Nature Writing Retreat held in Vermont for two different sessions: July 12-15, and July 17-20. What I have long dreamed of, is happening!

You all know Kid and Pal’s wrangler, D. Avery who writes weekly Carrot Ranch Yarns. She’ll be our host, providing her A-frame summer sanctuary, director for outdoor activities, and a nightly campfire. Writers will have access to trails, kayaks, and the best of New England nature.

And you know me, lead buckaroo of this outfit. I’ll be guiding three writers each session on a journey of discovery. More than an immersion in nature writing and voice, writers will explore the inspiration to create and the knowledge to craft and plan. Each session is four days (three nights) with lodging and meals included (except for one night out in town). That means, I’ll be cooking, which is a secondary art form of mine.

Space is limited to three writers each session. The full retreat, meals, three nights lodging, and a one-on-one consultation on your personal project (manuscript or marketing) will be $750. For any writers through this community, I’m offering a discount ($650) and the next month to sign up. After that, I start an ad campaign.

You are all the first to know that Carrot Ranch Nature Writing Retreats have begun! I want to thank D. for her place and patience (this took a year to set up, and I had to cancel an exploratory visit last summer). I’m thrilled to be sharing her campfire. D. and I share a special connection through our naturalist author-heroes, and we’ve both come to realize the West got its cool from Vermont.

And bonus points to any long-time Rough Writer who remembers what color my boots will be on retreat (I’ve been dreaming of this development for a long time).

Now let me invite you on a stroll through the colonnades of the three worlds — the built world, the world of humanity and society, and the wondrous natural world.

January 17, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes colonnades. It can be natural, architectural, or a metaphor. Take a stroll and go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 22, 2019. 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.


Seeking a Moment of Silence (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Danni nudged Blackjacked and entered the long colonnade of aspen trees. The elk path cut straight through the grove as if it were an engineered road. White bark gleamed like a classical structure. Danni mused that her archeology career never ventured overseas. There was too much history in the West for her to explore. Overhead the leaves fluttered on long stems but held a reverent silence. What could be better than a ride to clear her mind? A sanctuary of nature to ease her anxiety over Ike’s choice to leave. Only here could she ride her horse into church.


  1. Norah says:

    Turquoise – your boots will be turquoise. Can’t wait to see! (had to be first. :))

  2. Norah says:

    I know what you mean about a sense of place, of stories being influenced by the landscape. As it is in the American West, so it is in Australia. I think the novels of Patrick White define this for me, especially with his epic Voss. But many other Australian writers define it equally well.
    You challenged us all to find our voice, our place, where we come from, where we write from. I probably don’t need to say that I write from the classroom, be it a schoolroom or nature’s room, from the heart of a child and the heart of a teacher with the heart of a parent woven in. It is from a different place than yours, but I hope it is just as clear and just as genuine.
    Oh, how I’d love to join you in Vermont, to dine with you and chat around D.’s campfire. I don’t think it will be possible this year but I’ll wish it might be so. This is so exciting. You have shared your dream of writers’ retreats for so long, I’m ecstatic that it is now a reality and envious of those who will attend. I wish you all enormous success.
    I like Danni’s church. I think I could reflect and pray in nature’s sanctuary with her.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Australia is a landscape I’d love to explore, and I’m grateful to the writers who can bring it to life. Australia in my mind was always the land depicted in The Man From Snowy River, a poem that could be one from the West, too.

      Yes, Norah, you know your voice and where it resides — the classroom! You construct a classroom every time you write, yet I’ve also seen your fiction writing expand beyond a classroom to capture the voice of those who don’t always get heard in the classroom — the Marnies and teachers from last week’s flash. Your voice gives voice to what compels you most about education.

      D. and I will have to Skype with you from the campfire one night, Norah! It would be so incredible if you were there. Let’s hope this is a beginning, and in the future Carrot Ranch can go farther abroad, perhaps experiencing nature writing in the land down under. Dream big, or go home, lol!

      I like Danni’s church too. Very open and welcoming.

      • Dream big AND go Home.
        Go ahead; go abroad, go far afield, you’ll not find a finer place than VT. Sayin’. And it sure is good to see the Ranch is rollin’.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Better yet — dream big AND go home! The world is my home and I have lots of rooms to visit.

      • Norah says:

        It would be fun to Skype with you and D. and the other lucky writers. Perhaps you could do a session with Zoom that anyone who wanted to, could join in with. What fun that would be.

        I’m pleased my voice is recognisable. Sometimes, though, it feels like I am crying into the wilderness and I should change my tune. I always was a bit flat, perhaps another tune would suit my voice better. 🙂

        I can’t wait until you visit me for a writer’s retreat down here. There are two other ranch hands not far away – Irene and Kate – and maybe another I can’t think of at the moment. 🙂 Getting you out here would be cheaper than getting us all over there.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Zoom is a great idea, Norah! I could set that up so anyone from the community could join in with a special campfire conference.

        You might feel like your voice wanders in the wilderness but that’s because you are braving a new trail. Give others time to catch up because you are leading the way. 🙂

        And Rebecca Glaessner. She’s working on her big sci-fi project and has three littles in hand so we don’t see much of her these days. We enough for a campfire!

    • Norah says:

      Hi Charli,
      I’m popping back with my response ‘Never Give up’. Here’s the link:
      and here’s the story:

      Never Give Up

      The solid grey wall stretched without end, both left and right —impenetrable, no way around, no way through. Perhaps a way over? Even from that distance, it appeared unscaleable.

      He removed his backpack and rested his head upon it as he lay, gazing upward. He sighed heavily. He’d trekked so far believing this was the way. How could he have been so wrong?

      He closed his eyes and drifted into a deep sleep. Refreshed, upon awakening, he decided to continue rather than retreat.

      As he drew closer, the wall separated into columns spaced perfectly to allow an easy passage.

  3. Will you hold a retreat closer to the West? 😀 This is a GREAT idea!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Definitely, Chelsea! This is the beginning. Before I left Idaho, I had a Montana Ranch lined up in Miles City, a mining town cabin in Philipsburg (Montana), and a castle in Sandpoint (Idaho). I also scouted places in southern Utah and New Mexico when we tumbled through. And it’s on my bucket list to have a retreat on the actual ranch where I was born in San Benito, California. My writing partner lives in England, and I’m definitely getting to Australia and New Zealand before I’m buried in my turquoise boots. I’ll be setting up weekend retreats in the Keweenaw with a dream of doing a longer one on Isle Royale, the most remote National Park in the lower 48. There. I just gushed my dream retreat places. But it starts in Vermont in 2019.

      • It sounds wonderful!! I live in Utah, so could go to any of your dream retreats -given enough time and enough chances a doting relative might bequeath me some money. 😉

      • Charli Mills says:

        I’d love to coordinate with the creative folks in Kanab to get a retreat there and play in the backcountry of Zion. Part of the Big Dream is to sell enough Carrot Ranch publications to offer scholarships. We successfully sold enough to send one Rough Writer the Bloggers Bash last year. I’ll always offer the lowest discount possible to Ranchers. Start workin’ on a patron relative! 🙂

  4. MrChrisF says:

    “Respond by January 15, 2019. ” — perhaps you mean the 25th? 🙂

  5. An lovely idea, Charli. I am sure this will be a worthwhile undertaking for all involved and who participate. Your prompt was not what I expected after reading your post.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Robbie! I’ve dreamed of this for so long. And D. can tell you that my first schedule was way overwhelming and my menu full! She’ll keep me grounded and no one will go hungry. Ha! I fooled you on the colonnades!

  6. calmkate says:

    I can hear the excitement in this post, congrats on making your dream a reality Charli!

    Lucky those who can make it … fancy meeting up face to face and sharing such knowledge and fun 🙂

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’d be over the moon if I could travel about in a Carrot Ranch caravan meeting writers face to face. I’m excited about the possibility. Maybe in the next year if I continue to get me and the Hub stabilized in the Keweenaw I can start offering the free in-house writer’s retreat again. I loved doing that.

      • calmkate says:

        oh Charli you have so much to offer and we could all grow as we do in smaller ways writing our 99 word challenges but to meet in person and have that one on one tuition would be priceless!
        I pray your worthy wishes come true soon 🙂

      • Charli Mills says:

        Thank you, Kate! It would be priceless for me, too.

  7. Huh. One of my favorite mornings in this place of Writing Retreat is looking up from my cup of coffee and the bald eagle flying by at eye level. Other mornings I join the loons and have coffee at their level in a kayak. In my kayak, I also visit with mink, beaver, snapping turtles . Sayin’. And yes, Ms. Mills is referring to Stegner, Abbey, Frost, Mosher, and more. Place. This is my Home and is held very dear. I am thrilled and honored to host Charli Mills and her writers in this very special place. It has sustained Me and has fed my writing and now that Carrot Ranch has turned that spigot, more will pour. I am a private person. I will share this place with Charli and you. We are writers after all.

    • So generous of you to share it, D. I’m sure it’ll be wonderful in your wonderland.

    • Charli Mills says:

      D., I am so appreciative of you opening your magnificent lake home where eagles and writers dare. Loons, too. Coffee with the loons — is that coffee with you and me, or the feathered kind? You honor my Big Dream being the first (of many) Vermont retreats. Unless the loons object. It’s going to be fun!

    • susansleggs says:

      An eagle yes, but I have never heard or seen a Loon in person. Charli says I can SHOUT that I will be one of the ones joining you in the A-Frame. It pays to live only a few hours away, have a supporting husband and a dream to follow. It will be hard not to wish away the spring. So EXCITED. Thank you for sharing your abode.

  8. Ritu says:

    Oh wow! The retreats sound amazing! I wish I was closer!!!

  9. This sounds so amazing! I am holding out hope one writing adventure will happen somewhere closer to me in Europe so I can attend 😉

    • Charli Mills says:

      England and Svalbard are on the Dream Big list of retreat locations, along with Australia and New Zealand, Kay. Close enough? 😀

      • I had to google Svalbard to know where it was lol I am in Germany so England is not too far away but I agree with dream locations like New Zealand and Australia, both of which I have always wanted travel to. I am not counting out joining somewhere in The States as I try to find any excuse to come back home for a visit if time allows. I will, in the meantime, be dreaming of the adventure yet to come at at D. Avery’s place. It sounds amazing!!

      • Charli Mills says:

        This is the kickoff to adventure, Kay! Ha! Yes, Svalbard is a bit out of the way, but my daughter lives there. England would be great. I think Colorado will be next because of research I have to do there and I want to get the Hub to Raton (New Mexico) while he can still enjoy it.

  10. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge January 17 2019 […]

  11. […] If you want to participate, here’s the link: […]

  12. floridaborne says:

    Wish I could go. Sounds like it will be well worth the cost. Planes and I have not been getting along well lately.

    • Amtrak. Montpelier.

    • Charli Mills says:

      One day, in the big picture, Carrot Ranch will be able to offer travel scholarships. We managed a small one last year so I know we can do it. It’s also why I started Patronage here. It’s helped with administrative costs but it was also to lay the foundation for retreat travel scholarships. One day, it’ll all come together. Oh — and I’d love to do around the country writing retreat on Amtrak! Wouldn’t that be fun?

      • floridaborne says:

        There’s an Amtrak stop in Palatka for passengers, which is within driving distance of me. There’s an Enterprise Rent a car place for people who want to see beach, and a regional airport for those lucky enough to know someone who loves to fly a plane. Palatka has some nice hotels on the riverfront that cost less than the hotels in St. Augustine (40 minutes away) and Daytona Beach (an hour away). If you eat at some of the local “haunts,” it will cost you as much for 3 meals as it does for one in the city. It would make a great winter retreat.

      • Charli Mills says:

        No snow, right? 😀 That makes it a great place for a winter retreat!

    • Charli Mills says:

      Net, you laid open the generational strife surrounding the “peculiar institution” that built prominent colonnades. Not all who stroll were free.

  13. […] Carrot Ranch, Flash Fiction: January 17 […]

  14. How exciting that your dream is coming to fruition, and in partnership with such a stalwart of the ranch. Too far for me, I’m afraid, but I’m sure you’ll all have a marvellous time.
    Re nature writing, while I deeply admire and envy yours, I don’t agree it’s necessarily the foundation of our fiction. Yes characters have to be grounded but I’m more interested in what happens between people and within their individual hearts and heads. That said, I’m having flights of fancy about a second short fiction collection entitled Being Somewhere to complement Becoming Someone!
    And as to winter, there’s been little sign of it here in the UK until today when snow is forecast – although it’s reached the roofs in mainland Europe, perhaps that’s why we’re leaving the EU.
    Is it me, or are these prompts getting harder? I thought I’d get mine out of the way or I’d be plagued by it all weekend! I’m hoping ranchers will pop over to read In the orchard along with reviews of two Irish debuts
    Any feedback welcome!

    • Charli Mills says:

      I like your idea, Anne, of a follow up — Being Somewhere. Yes, I know that place is not a dominant force in much of fiction, especially literary fiction. I think it used to be, considering the Ancients and their philosophies, Shakespeare and probably up to the first Industrial Revolution. Definitely, books coming out of NYC focus more on heart and head.

      I’ve always been a “western writer.” Landscape functions as a character in writing from the US West. Some simplify and say westerners write outdoors; easterners inside. One critic noted: “Eastern writing tends to be compatible with Freudian thought, whereas Western writing “seems to lie within the sphere of Jungian influence” (Milton, The Novel of the American West).” I’m wondering what you would make of that statement? Does it explain my interest in the Hero’s Journey?

      Anyhow, it’s the sphere from which I come, and one hesitation that held me back all the years I dreamed of leading nature writing retreats was that no one else would be interested in how experiencing the outdoors could influence one’s writing and voice. But D. encouraged me! And I figured even if it was just me, D. and a clutch of loons on the lake, I’d love every minute of it.

      You found a diversion among the colonnades, influenced by one of your debut Irish novel reviews. I also think the white structures pair well with your pondering on blue covers.

      • I have been thinking lately about a book we read in grad school, The Magical Child, by Joseph Chilton Pearce. The Earth Matrix is, I believe, the foundation and the well for creativity and for well-being. Don’t know if you have to write about the outside, but you have to get outside for sure. Right, Ranger?

      • Charli Mills says:

        Yep! Gotta get outside to stir up what is within.

      • Interesting idea about the Freud/Jung divide. I’ve never been drawn to Jung although, to be fair, I’ve never given him much of a chance. In the UK it would be Klein I think, but I’ll have to dig deeper to fathom how that impacts on our writing.
        But I think you are far from alone in being interested in nature writing – it seems to be having a resurgence in the UK at least. And, as the wellspring of your writing, you’re right to nourish it. As I said, I’d like to be able to do it better, but it’s more peripheral for me. I’m very excited for your new venture and if it were in the UK I’d certainly join in.

      • Charli Mills says:

        I’m glad to hear that nature writing is having a resurgence in the UK. I’ve dilly-dallied on what one thing to push forward this year and I went with the one that excited me the most but felt the least plausible. Yet, recently, I see retreats growing in popularity, and for some weird reason (I’ll have to research it) book festivals are taking off as hubs of a creative revival. Maybe I’ll be in good timing on something. I’d not miss you if I got to the UK. I’ll expect you to catch me up on Klein.

    • That was a blooming good flash. I am always amazed at how you get from your reviews to your flash, though I suppose one thing often does lead to another. There’s the beginning of a scary conversation over there at your site. I sure hope skim reading (really, what is that?) doesn’t become the new normal and lead to skim writing.

      • Thank you, but I often find it easier to go with the book, especially with a prompt like this that doesn’t immediately connect with me. I like to present it as a homage, but it feels more like cheating!
        As for skim reading, I do do it now and then but find it very unsatisfying – but I don’t think we’d ever get away with skim writing, which is all to the good.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Interesting D., but I think skim writing has led to skim reading. I’m a bit archaic in the writing room, having experienced newsrooms, print publications, and intelligent publicity campaigns in marketing. I also experienced the change to writing skimmable content and wrote for some of our nation’s biggest newspapers, following a specific formula dictated by the publishers. The idea was that Americans had become busy readers. But now I wonder if this style of writing, which was meant to keep print media alive during the turmoil of the digital age beginnings, had an impact on how readers read. It’s a good article to read and the concept is scary, but they do drive home the importance of deeper reading and propose that readers of the future will need both skills:

      • Interesting article, Charli, which I’ve only just got round to reading. But there must be many areas where there still isn’t enough skim writing, or writing that is unnecessarily wordy – one example is letters between departments in health care where a form would be more efficient.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Ha! Good point, Anne.

    • Liz H says:

      Such beauty and passion in this flash!

    • Jules says:

      Anne, Your flash reminds me of so many great beginnings – where either the hero or heroine has to go it alone with a child to raise. And the freedom that always seems to be in a precarious balance.

      Thanks too for the book reviews. I enjoyed them as well.

    • Jules says:

      I left a comment but it disappeared. Odd that – thanks Anne.

  15. What exciting news, Charli, and so generous an offer from you and D. Avery to share the natural surrounds and so much writing knowledge for such a reasonable price. We are about to go from minimal snow cover to a whopping 1-2 feet of snow with a huge storm on the way for Sunday. We will have colonnades of snow banks! A sense of place is exactly what my writing coach and I discussed this week and when I added more details about the surroundings the essay I wrote came alive and was so much better! It wasn’t the ‘church’ that Danni experienced but it still sparked joy for me and I hope it will for my readers when I publish it. Have you read ‘The Stranger in the Woods’? It’s a book about a true hermit who lived in the woods for 27 years in Maine. Fascinating! He had strong opinions about writers from NYC.

  16. […]   I wrote this for the January 17th Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  17. tnkerr says:

    I started this by writing about cloistered gardens, but all too quickly I ran out of words. Somehow I began channeling Dante. This is not what I had intended but it is what came out.

  18. tnkerr says:

    You guys are going to have a great time at the retreat! Soak it up, it sounds great!

    • Charli Mills says:

      I’m looking forward to the campfire readings and the chance to be with writers in the woods. I should also add NC or eastern TN t my Dream List of retreat places, too. I will definitely get there to do research in Boone and surrounding area. Thanks! I feel like I’m already soaking it up!

  19. […] is a first – I wrote a poem for the Carrot Ranch Challenge for January 17th, Colonnades.  I must say that, as a Southerner, I simply had to go this route.  If you’re interested […]

  20. Wow, what a cool opportunity! Maybe one day when I have money and enough vacation days, I’ll be able to go! I’m very glad you’ll have this cool time.

    Though I have to admit that I didn’t know about the boot color until I read Norah’s comment… shame on me!

    **Front Porch Sittin’**

    Master’s shaded
    By colonnades.
    I pour sweet tea
    And lemonade.

    But just last night
    My mama crept
    From field slave house
    To where I slept.

    “Take this,” she said,
    Offering a bag.
    Inside was a hex
    Cast on heart of stag.

    “Hush honeychild,”
    My mother cried.
    “Crush this heart and
    Your daddy’ll die.”

    I pour the tea
    In nice tall glass.
    I think about
    What mama asked.

    Master sits in
    Colonnade’s shade
    Beckons me stay
    For ‘work’ unpaid.

    I squeeze the heart.
    From shady spot
    My master drops
    To Hell so hot.

    • Charli Mills says:

      H.R.R. your poem reads like dark Americana mythology. But it also makes me feel the heartbreak of a slave who is also the childer of the “master.” You and Net both took on the evils of slavery in such unique ways but adding to what you each revealed.

      • I saw colonnades and thought of the plantation house, then I read Net’s and decided I had to have something compatible and yet with a different flavor. Without his flash, I totally wouldn’t have been able to make this poem as good as it is!

      • Liz H says:

        Nice teamwork with you and Net.
        We are here together to inspire and support through our writing!

      • Charli Mills says:

        It’s a great example of how we inspire each other creatively and yet makes each piece our own.

    • Jules says:

      Remember to hit enter after you put your link in so it turns ‘red’ other wise we have to copy and paste your link… which I did so that’s where I’m going to read your piece 🙂

  21. […] was written with the prompt of colonnade from the January 17 Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills of Carrot […]

  22. […] Flash Fiction Challenge at Carrot Ranch […]

  23. denmaniacs4 says:

    Charli, I wandered out of the woods on this one into the soul (or sole) of the most unnatural creature I could imagine. If only it was my imaginings.

    Semi-Colonnaddled-Donnie’s Secret Diary

    Alone at Christmas this year. I’d never been so alone in my life before. How sad is that. The fake newsy floozies expected a pity twitty…er…tweet.
    Maybe I mentioned it in passing.
    Melania did a bang-up job of decorating the East Wing this year.
    Redder than in a Vlad wet dream. I wonder what he did for Christmas. I should give him a call. Was he alone as I was?
    Last year, the East Wing was a beaut. Talk about a White Christmas.
    I hate being alone. Pelosi’s Shutdown has made Washington a morgue.
    I think it’s personal.

  24. This is the weird place the prompt went to.

    Journey’s End

    Do you see those three balsam fir trees, those green colonnades holding up the sky, making a temple of the earth they stand on?
    Do you wonder how they got there?
    You might remember three sisters that took from an abandoned suitcase hope and their best dream to sustain them on their journey.
    As the three sisters let go of fear and worry and idle wishing they grew strong, resilient, and wise.
    You don’t have to believe they became trees. They’ll still hold up the sky, rejoicing as you walk the earth your own way, dreaming your own dream.

  25. Re: Treat

    “Here ya are Pal!”
    “Shush, Kid, I’m seekin’ a moment a silence.”
    “Oh. Like Danni.”
    “Yep. Think we’s the same denomination.”
    “Yeah, it’s a poplar one.”
    “Yer a pain in the aspen Kid.”
    “Punny, Pal. Uh, Pal?”
    “Yeah Kid?”
    “Pal, what’re we s’posed ta do when Shorty’s off east cookin’ bacon at D. Avery’s fire?”
    “Same as always Kid.”
    “Don’t know why we cain’t go too.”
    “Shorty needs us ta look after the stock.”
    The stock on this Ranch kin virtually take care a itself.”
    “Yer jist worried about yer pie hole ain’tcha Kid?”
    “Shorty’s cookin’ sure’s a treat.”

  26. Temple Building

    He found them outside, each with shovels, each pink cheeked, strands of black hair stuck to damp foreheads. “What are you two up to?”
    “Come see what Mommy and me made Daddy!”
    Hope led him around the mound of plowed snow where the bank dropped away. Once he’d crawled through the entrance tunnel he could almost stand up.
    “Is that a skylight?”
    “No Daddy, just a vent. Mommy’s gonna build a fire and we’ll cook dinner.”
    While his wife and child continued carving out their snug snow house he stacked snowballs and shaped two elegant colonnades at the entryway.

  27. Hi Charli,
    Reading thru your blog and the FF & comments, I felt I was at a retreat & campfire! Perhaps more so, because of D’s blog, “Raw Lit: from Mite to Might” .

    I really like your approach to literary art — that it is writing, reading, discoursing, exploring. The FF writing has given me a very enjoyable way of exploring ideas and writing, yet keep reading as my North Star.

    I first saw and heard a loon in the English Bay, Vancouver, BC –an environment that is at once natural and urban. An unforgettable “voice”.

    So, in a convoluted way, all that helped me to write today’s FF!Thank you!


    • Charli Mills says:

      Saifun, I’m so pleased you can follow your North Star of reading and feel it shining over the writing you do, too. I truly believe literary art is supported by those actions that connect people and explorations that give us all insights.

      I remember my first loon trill, too and it’s a magical moment. Nothing quite like that call. And in British Columbia! Seems a beautiful place for the experience. Thank you for sharing!

  28. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (01/17/2019): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes colonnades. It can be natural, architectural, or a metaphor. Take a stroll and go where the prompt leads. […]

  29. TanGental says:

    Wow Charli, this retreat sounds so inticing. And if you need somewhere in England to host one, just ask. All we need to do is get you over here. Your prompt is a tricky one. I had to look up exactly what a collonade was and found a rather glorious one nearby that I didn’t know about – West Brompton Cemetery- which I will try and visit tomorrow. Serendipity or what. Logan and Morgan are on the case and will respond soon.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Geoff, I’ve followed your blog long enough to have an impressive list of “What to See When in England.” I’ll need a scouting trip first! I’ve been threatening Sherri with visitation for a while and have to make good on that. You, Ritu and Sacha in London, Anne near the moors, Sherri and Hugh down south. I have lots to see. And I still have sharing a bacon roll with Dog on my Bucket List. Serendipity leads the way–even when Logan and Morgan follow, it’ll turn out good.

  30. Liz H says:

    It starts with a flash of the sunrise…to be continued at a later time (cuz deadlines!). (Title given here is the one I want to use, messed it up in the form…Oops!)

    A Colonnade of Aspen Trees

    They must pass through the colonnade of aspen trees as sunrise cuts through at the height of a small Greek woman.

    She was that woman, barefoot, in a thin silk shift, a blue bowl of fresh oranges from Thessaloniki in her hands.

    So the prophecy said.
    [Continue ]

  31. Here’s my take on this week’s prompt.

    Chester is not impressed

    Chester stomped inside, removed his mittens, and blew on his hands. He barked, “Woman, get me a set of hand warmers!”

    Ruth emerged from the kitchen and said, “You look like the abominable snowman!”

    “It’s brutal out there, and I’ve still got two hours of shoveling left.”

    “Just look at the tunnel of snow from here to the road. Isn’t it grand?”

    Chester scowled. “I’m not impressed. Feels like Mother Nature took a two foot dump on me.”

    “But don’t you think the snow banks look like colonnades?”

    “Only you can take snowmageddon and make colonnades out of it.”

    • susansleggs says:

      I can hear Chester’s blustery voice. Well done.

    • Liz H says:

      Lol…Easier to see the romance when you don’t wield the shovel. 😀

    • Charli Mills says:

      Chester having a bad snow day! But I do appreciate the snow tunnel with its imagery of colonnades. Appreciative from indoors! Lady Lake protected us from the storm. She reserves us for her personal porcelain throne and keeps Mother Nature dumping elsewhere. Great flash, Molly.

      • Haha! You made me laugh with your reference to Lady Lake’s ‘personal porcelain throne.’ I agree that I can appreciate a snow tunnel with colonnades much more from the inside looking out. Thanks, Charli.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Last night, the City came by with their parade of equipment — a flame-blower to melt ice, a steel blade, and a chipper. The latter throws broken up ice colonnades into dump trucks, which follow three at a time. Then a grader blades what is left. I the morning everyone wakes up to squared snowbanks, removed tunnels, and a road a foot shallower. Night owls like me get to watch! And all I could think of is that they are like the army of scrubbing bubbles from a toilet cleaner ad long ago!

    • Jules says:

      When my hubby travels… for work – the shoveling is left to me. Thankfully that latest prediction of snow headed north. Two days ago it was 9 F this morning it is almost 60. So all that rain we got last nigh is just making the creek rise.

      • My husband commutes 3 hours/day to his job so he is not only gone for 12 hours each weekday, but exhausted when he gets home. Now that I’m retired I have the time to do the clean up and I’ve done most of it so far this winter. Getting pretty good with the snow blower! And luckily most of the snow (exception last weekend) has been light and fluffy. He was home to help with the snow that was like shoveling sugar thank God! We’ve had a similar yo-yo in temps. Yesterday it was 5 degrees and today it is supposed to be over 50 and pouring rain. This is when winter gets really hard to take….

      • Jules says:

        It was so much easier when my hubby only had a ten minute commute. It’s about an hour now. But he used to have to travel out of the country… now just within the states (mostly). And sometimes when the weather is good I get to go with. Too many years to his retirement… Not sure about how life will be when that happens. Just another adjustment.

        Sounds like it would be nice if your hubby could do some work from home. But that isn’t always possible.

  32. […] to Charli Mills’ Carrot Ranch January 17: Flash Fiction where “colonnade” is the theme for this week’s 99-word story and to Sue […]

  33. susansleggs says:

    Charli, Nature has been a natural accompaniment to my writing because it has been in the forefront of my daily life though I can’t say as I have ever “read around the campfire” so I am thrilled that I will be getting to do it with you and D. at the retreat. It pays to live within a days drive. Can’t wait. On to the colonnades…….

    Standing in Respect

    The funeral home parking lot was full of cars which hid the numerous motorcycles stashed in the back corner, but their large American flags flapping in the wind gave them away. I had to go look; The Patriot Guard was in presence. To enter the building I had to pass between the colonnade of men, standing at attention, on duty protecting a fellow veteran, a fellow biker and a friend. The haunted looks in their eyes wasn’t for the current grief, it was from a long ago senseless war. I know, they were my friends too. Damn Viet Nam.

  34. Supports

    “It’s an epic occasion,” Lloyd announced as Ernest and Marge wedged themselves into the booth. “Gotta send Ilene off with a hearty breakfast.”
    The diner that was in the same half dead shopping plaza as the community school served breakfast 24/7, perfect for commemorating Ilene’s first day of evening classes.
    They walked her from the diner to the lackluster painted over storefront that veiled the higher learning within.
    “Ok. Thanks. See you around campus.”
    “Wait Ilene.” Ernest posed the others then had Ilene take a picture of them standing in front of the community school.
    “We’re your colonnades.”

  35. […] {Flash Fiction Challenge January 17 2019} […]

  36. […] I am with not one but three responses to the Carrot Ranch January 17, 2019, prompt: “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes colonnades. It can be natural, […]

  37. I’ve recently done some nature writing on my blog inspired by the beautiful botanical gardens on my work doorstep. You’re right, nature has much to offer in terms of writing material. Good luck with all your endeavours you are such a busy lady! x

    • Charli Mills says:

      Marje, those gardens at your workplace are awe-inspiring! What a perk to have them so close to work. Like a garden, retreats are one of the beds I’ve been seeding!

  38. […] Carrot Ranch Jan 17 January 17, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes colonnades. It can be natural, architectural, or a metaphor. Take a stroll and go where the prompt leads. […]

  39. Jules says:


    Again you packed a punch in this prompt. And I had to ponder it a bit.
    Please see the post for the other two prompt links and photo inspirations.
    I went spelunking in four parts – each 99 words:

    “Asylum of the Obscure”

    Part 1
    The colonnades were not like those built to honor the ancient Greek Gods. I couldn’t tell if they were older or younger. They just were. Rising out of fissure at the end of the long tunnel I was spelunking. Had the others gotten so far ahead that I lost sight of where they were. And I turned off all alone lost in thought to make a discovery that I might not be able to share. While I was prepared for the coolness of the caves, definitely I was not accustomed to breaking out in a cold sweat of worry.

    Part 2
    I was alone in an uncharted cavern. The odd colonnades were illuminated by a calming radiance from the center of stone circle. I briefly paused to check my compass and to discover that both it as well as all the other electronics I carried had ceased to function.

    Time stood still. Literally, or at least my watch had stopped. There was an odd beauty, a hum of business that I couldn’t quite get a handle on. Like bees always just outside the periphery of my vision. Once I thought that, the faint aroma of sweet honey reached my nose.

    Part 3
    Although there were several paths, up and down, I was drawn to one colonnade. I wanted to touch what appeared to be some kind of script. I felt rather like a jackass, having gotten separated from the group. And yet how could I retrace my steps without finding out more?

    Forward motion was all I could think about. I placed my hand on an interesting stone and another portal opened into a fantastical garden. Some of the trees tried to lean away from me. One with odd purple fruit seemed to be making me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

    Part 4
    I looked back to the colonnade where I had entered. The portal that had opened, was no longer there. The branch containing the purple fruit seemed closer, within easy reach. I was overcome with a strange hunger. If this was going to be my last meal, I might as well enjoy it.

    With that first bite, my hunger was sated. While I closed my eyes my mind opened. I was reading, seeing the birth of universes, civilizations and I was given the opportunity to travel beyond the limits of my body. While not pressured, how could I possibly refuse?


  40. Foreseeable Destiny

    In the vaulted space beyond the grand colonnades the prophetess grew impatient with the plebeians. How dare they entreat her to wash her hands!
    “And where’s your Destiny Doll? Don’t leave Granma’s gift outside.”
    The voice of the prophetess rumbled from the temple as if from a deep cave. “Destiny has been swallowed whole by an earthquake. Only a great prophetess can save her.”
    “Marlie! Now!”
    The prophetess foresaw trouble. The colonnades were reduced to table legs as she scrambled out of the desecrated temple.
    Even with her great powers it was ill advised to clash with the Titans.

    This little girl recently reappeared for a six sentence story and apparently wasn’t finished. ( )

    She first showed up here at Carrot Ranch as a warrior.
    ( )

    • Charli Mills says:

      This child has the right mix of imagination and attitude! Wonder if she’s going to turn up with other drawn characters or run amok on her own?

  41. […] Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes colonnades. It can be natural, architectu… […]

  42. […] have yet another response to the Carrot Ranch colonnade prompt. This little girl recently reappeared for a six sentence story and apparently wasn’t […]

  43. […] Written in response to theCarrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge January 17 2019 […]

  44. Congratulations on the huge step Charli. I so wish I could have come for this, but just too far 🙁
    Here’s my entry for the week. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to read other people’s stories for a couple of weeks because I’ve been tied up with a project, will try to correct that soon, promise 🙂

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  46. […] This piece was written in response to the latest Carrot Ranch prompt […]

  47. Pete says:

    Molly and I walk in to the kitchen, where her little sister is drawing at the table. “Hey giant,” she says. “Look at this one.”

    I take in the carnage. “Um, wow, this is very…realistic.”

    She beams. “Do you notice the legs dangling out of the serpent’s mouth?”

    Molly sighs. “Ava, I thought we were going to draw mountains. Beaches. Sunshine. Rainbows.” She tosses a hand. “Something besides death and dismemberment.”

    “Look under the collapsed colonnade, you can even see the—”


    I mouth “colonnade” to Molly, who puffs out her cheeks. “Fine, put it on the fridge.”

  48. Marsha says:

    What an exciting plan for a retreat, Charli. I have such a hard time writing the sense of place. I’ve been watching Poldark on Amazon Prime. At the end of the season was a documentary discussing the author’s work. Graham wrote so vividly about Cornwall, that it was almost a character.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Ah, yes, Marsha, Graham’s ability to characterize Cornwall came from his immersion in the place and its people. It’s mastery to achieve a setting that is considered a character. A lofty goal for any writer to achieve such storytelling. To experience a retreat with both guided and free time is one way to connect with the sense of place.

      • Marsha says:

        Thanks for your comment, Charlie. I wish you all the best at the retreat. Wish I could be there. There must be more to describing place than immersion because I’m immersed here, but my descriptions are weak. What books do you recommend? Is there a way to extend your retreat electronically to those that can’t attend physically?

      • Charli Mills says:

        Marsha, I recommend reading The Writing Life and Tinker at Pilgrim Creek, both by Annie Dillard. The key is to feel the immersion. I’ll ponder how to make a digital retreat. I have another idea for you, too if you want to shoot me an email:

  49. […] Carrot Ranch Literary Community Flash Fiction Challenge for January 17, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes […]

  50. […] was written for Carrot Ranch, thanks, Charli! If you haven’t visited the wonder of Carrot Ranch, a supremely supportive […]

  51. […] This 99-word story was written (late) for the Flash Fiction Challenge over at the Carrot Ranch. […]

  52. […] wrote this for Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge. This is my first attempt. This week’s prompt is […]

  53. […] Colleen Chesbro’s weekly challenge. Nor am I squeaking another flash in under the wire for the Carrot Ranch prompt and nor am I looking ahead to the Six Sentence Story prompt (which, by the way is […]

  54. […] Carrot Ranch Challenge, January 17, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes colonnades. It can be natural, architectural, or a metaphor. Take a stroll and go where the prompt leads. […]

  55. I have been a little absent from the ranch but I’m so thrilled Charli that the retreat is to come to fruition. Like Norah it is not going to be possible for me to attend – this year but you never know what the future holds. I will be with you, D. and the three extremely lucky ones in spirit. Hopefully I will be back at the ranch for the next prompt.

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