August 15: Flash Fiction Challenge

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.

August 15, 2019

Raspberries, plump, and red hang from canes my daughter planted. It’s my patch now, and I savor the connection. Reminders fill my home, memories of my daughter’s love for this grand old copper-mining house on Roberts Street. The walls she painted yellow, russet, and teal. The worn patches on the maple hardwood floor mark where her two huskies slept. The kitchen holds warmth where we shared meals.

Paint cans wait for me to dip a brush in Easter Grass yellow-green and Inspire purple-blue. I’m not covering up the memories but adding layers of my own. I’m plucking the fruit my daughter planted, and I’m making sweet jam. The peace of home fills my every fiber. When you have not had a home of your own, you appreciate how luxurious space can be. I’m in no hurry to claim and decorate and fill. I’m enjoying the space to just be.

A new desk also waits for me. It’s a Flexsteel, marbled-wood beauty with matching bookcase and filing cabinet. Already, I’m setting up my files in both desk and bookcase drawers. I ordered dark purple hanging folders and beautiful files with realist paintings of botany on parchment. It matters what surrounds me. I’m slow to bring in new belongings, quick to say no to household purgings of friends, and satisfied to make do with much less. What I take in must have function, joy, and meaning.

Much that we have in storage in North Idaho will not see the Keweenaw. My purge list is longer than my keepers. We fixed the truck, including the death wobble, but then the Hub decided he didn’t have enough funds for the trip. Thankfully, we got him to listen, to look at the paper with costs. He did make a few calls to get quotes on delivery, and it could be within our range to do if we save up by next spring. I feel no urgency, though there are boxes and items I’d want as soon as possible.

Having a home has mattered more than belongings, so I feel content with a sparsely filled house. It feels like potential.

Right now, I’m all about potential. I’m a grad student. This week, I started my online MFA at SNHU, and every course I take adds to the ascension of my novel. I’ve written four manuscripts, hoping that I’d learn from one to the other. And I have! But I felt stuck, not knowing where to turn my attention to improve my craft skills. I can distinguish misinformation from quality sources, but even good information gets buried. Where to start?

And I want quality feedback to grow my skills and discipline as an author. One way or the other, you have to pay for that standard — hire a top-notch editor in the publishing industry of your choice; pay to attend national writing conferences; sign up for online or in-person workshops; hire a writing coach with credentials; go back to school.

When I worked for wages, I took time every year to attend writing workshops. It furthered my motivation, and I always learned something new to apply to my craft skills. When I left my career to write full-time self-employed, I paid for an expensive ($2,000) multi-day workshop. Like many writers, I’m a self-learner capable of finding the information I need.

Eventually, I won a scholarship to a writing conference and laid out the groundwork for building a literary community. And I wrote four complete manuscripts. What I mean by complete is that they started and ended with lots of wordcount and self-editing in between. I even hired an editor from NYC for several revisions of one manuscript.

Then I scrapped it when life got hairier than Sasquatch’s feet. I rewrote it, mid-crisis. Shopped out the new beginning to trusted alpha-readers, received encouragement, and honest assessment.

One reader reminded me that our first novel isn’t always the book that makes it to print.

Remember, I used alpha-readers. These are readers I trust. These are people who are more than friends; they are also qualified to give feedback I  trust. Beta-readers differ in that they are people you often don’t know but who read the genre you write and offer feedback on how well your manuscript would be received in that genre.

Trusted opinions don’t mean they are my thoughts, too, but I agree that our first novel isn’t always going to be the one that makes it.

We live (and publish) in interesting times. Independent publishing gives second life to first novels. Some might argue that a green manuscript should stay in the desk drawer. Others believe you have to start somewhere. I actually enjoy reading the progress of an author. And I’ve gone back to the first novels of some of my favorite authors and recognized even the masters were once green.

The point is — don’t stop, but publish according to your goals.

My goal is lofty, I know. I want to traditionally publish. I’ve waxed and waned on that idea and even came to the conclusion that hybrid authors are successful (those who publish both traditionally and independently).  My dilemma was, though, how do I get better? I knew it was investment time.

You can invest sweat equity, but without paid feedback, the return will be hit and miss. I had sweated enough. It was time to write novels smarter. When the opportunity came up to pursue an MFA, I snapped like a hungry trout. But I thought carefully about it, too. Were there online programs I could invest in, and would I have the motivation to go at my own pace without instructor feedback? If I’m going to get an MFA, do I go back to college, do a low-residency, or go online?

Just for giggles, I wrote to Brigham Young University because I know that Brandon Sanderson teaches creative writing there. I also checked out grad schools with MFA programs across the country. And I looked online. I like the SNHU online MFA best, but I kept looking. In the end, I simply liked the program and the support they offer to students.

I didn’t want to go back to college on campus and disrupt my life after finally coming home. I don’t need the in-person connection of a low-residency because I get that through my own workshops and literary community. So online it was.

Let me tell you, four days into my journey, and I’m walking on clouds of whipped cream sweetened with apricot jam. This structured learning is precisely what I needed, and it tastes like mana! I didn’t even realize how much I was struggling to articulate some of my needs as a writer until I began interacting with my instructor, peers, and course material.

I’m in awe of how much technology has improved the overall experience of online schooling. And both my professors this term rock — experienced, eager to be part of the learning environment, and committed to the hard work and thrill of being a professional writer.

This week, we are studying genre and how it predicts craft skills. We are comparing craft to writing skills, and reading the opinions of greats, such as Ursula K. Le Guin. I’m reading Wallace Stegner’s thoughts in his book, On Teaching and Writing Fiction. I have two video discussions to write and record tonight, and three books to read in addition to weekly assignments. All coursework informs how I will advance my novel (my thesis).

Learning is looking a lot like rebuilding a home — what I take in must have function, joy, and meaning.

August 15, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sweet jam. It can take you to the kitchen or the smokey room of a back-alley bar. What makes it sweet? Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by August 20, 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.


Not a Typical Sweet Jam (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills

Boiling quinces filled Danni’s kitchen with a lively scent, something between citrus and pears. Something remembered. In the canner, she prepped a hot bath to disinfect her jars and lids. She opened the sack of white sugar, ready to make sweet jam. Michael raised an eyebrow, continuing to look as skeptical as he did when he helped her pick the lumpy fruit.

“How’d you hear about these quince things?”

“The joy of being a historical archeologist. I read old books and journals.”

“Huh. Nothing from my Anishinaabe roots.”

Later, spread thickly across slabs of sourdough, Michael updated his history.

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  1. Liz H

    Is it raspberry season up north already? They are so good with the hot summer sun and the cool Superior nights!
    Sounds like your MFA program has just the right ingredients to cook and can something to keep you-all nourished through the snowier months! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thimbleberries, too, Liz! And they are prolific this year. The deer and bear are happy (but not in my patch).

      The MFA courses will light my fire this winter! I’ll have jam and sourdough bread and lots to read and write and discuss. Oh, bring it on, winter snow!

  2. Colleen Chesebro

    I think I’m really back for sure this time, Charli. So much to do. I’m thrilled for your new life path. Sounds like life has settled in for you and the hubs. I’ll add my story later. Enjoy school. I’m right there by your side. <3

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you Colleen! How are you settling into your new place? Come with me to school! It’s fun!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        OMG!! I wish I could. I have two Associates degrees and would love to be a full time student. LOL! I know you will be busy, but I hope you share your journey. I feel like I’m lacking in outlining and just general story/book construction. So, I read and try to learn along the way. Of course that makes my writing slower but what do you do? LOL! Hugs to you, Charli. We’re settling in well now. <3

      • Charli Mills

        Right off, we were told to read, read, read. I think we all know that as authors and writers. We immerse ourselves in our craft to learn. And yes, it can slow us down. But I do think literary writing is a long apprenticeship. I enjoy watching authors grow and stretch their skills. I felt like I needed the level of feedback I’ll be getting, both on my studies of what I read and on what I write. Already my profs are stretching my brain matter! In good ways.

        Have you checked on your VA education status, lately? I know there have been changes and more help for covering tuition. SNHU has a military support team for veterans, military, and families.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Yes. I’m right up on the 10 years that I had to for further education on Ron’s 100% disability. I’ve checked numerous times, but couldn’t afford the books and the rest of the tuition that the VA paid. Crap… I’m 61 years old. You reach a point where more education doesn’t make sense. I’ll keep teaching myself the best I can. <3

      • Charli Mills

        Either way, Colleen, we stay curious and we never stop learning! <3

  3. Jim Borden

    wow, you’ve got a lot going on! I wish you the best with your online courses and with your manuscripts and with your new home. very exciting!

    • Charli Mills

      It’s all coming together, Jim. I’m excited to be in a learning environment, as well as a home.

  4. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Danni brings it all home in this one. Love that last line. Wild raspberries here too, and have picked my brother’s and father’s cultivated patches. My favorite berry. No, blackberries are my favorite, they’re next up. Purple finger time.
    I just left some sweet jamming (Wham Jam) and have a full weekend of jamming ahead of me. Here’s hoping I find time to respond. I think Ilene is already chirping at this one….

    • Charli Mills

      Wham Jam! I’m not sure I’ll get blackberries, though. They were much slower to grow this year. Purple or pink, berry fingers are good. No telling who will show up while you jam this weekend. You might have to defer the characters to enjoy the ones you’ll be with. Enjoy!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        (so many liberties taken; it’s a multiple of 99, that is 198, because Kid is some pushy. Apologies in advance)

        “Put the pen down Kid, an’ no one gits hurt.”
        “Dang it, Pal, if You Know Who is too jammed fer time ta write fer the ranch, then I’ll do it.
        *Sitting on a log, Bigfoot idly recovered massive amounts of
        toe jam…*”
        “No! Jeez, Kid!”
        “What? Should it be ‘idylly’? Idyllically?”
        “Ideally there’s no toe jam. Folks don’t wanna read about sech things.”
        “Ok, ok.
        *Deep in the great north woods in the southwest corner of
        the northeast kingdom was a well-kept secret; Bigfoot was
        having a party, a musical jam fest! But when it was his
        turn to perform, his big hairy knees turned to jelly. Bigfoot
        was in a jam but his friends helped out. Frog laid down a
        bass line, Woodpecker tapped a rhythm, geese comprised
        a horn section. Finally Bigfoot joined his voice “I get by
        with a little help from my friends…*”
        “Thet’s some better. A might fanciful, but they’s a ring a truth ta it, somehow.”
        “Shush ‘bout that, it’s a well-kept secret. There’s more:
        *Bigfoot got into the music, toe tappin’ then dancin’. Then he slipped on account a toe jam, got a big booboo.*”
        “Kid, you ain’t right.”

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, no … Bigfoot has joined the chorus of characters! You Know Who will never be in the right mind again! Sounds like a happening jam out in the woods. I could do without Bigfoot’s jammy toes, but otherwise could do for the jam session! Friends helping friends on stage.

    • Susan Zutautas

      Fun flash or flashes 🙂 Just as long as they’re not hot flashes.

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha! Trippin’ over toe jam, aren’t we? 🙂

    • Norah

      So pleased that Pal’s a little pushy. He was a-jammin’ with those there jam words. Glad I wrote mine before reading this’n.
      I hadn’t heard of toe jam before and had to look it up. I suppose it’s not so common here in Australia since it’s barefoot weather most of the year round.

      • Charli Mills

        Oh, no, Norah! I hadn’t thought of the etymology of toe-jam, and of, course, I had to investigate. Best I could find it originated as a phrase coined by a South African poet living in England in the 1930s. Leave it to a poet to name gunk between the toes! 😀

      • Norah

        So poets do come in useful for something then! (Just kidding. I love poets and poetry. They help us to see the world in a clearer light.)

  5. Norah

    It’s wonderful to hear you so settled and at peace, while at the same time exhilarated by your studies, Charli. As an educator, this is what I love about your post: ‘This structured learning is precisely what I needed, and it tastes like mana! I didn’t even realize how much I was struggling to articulate some of my needs as a writer until I began interacting with my instructor, peers, and course material.’ It shows the purpose and timing appropriate to the learner and the learner’s needs. There’s a saying for that: “When the student is ready the teacher appears.’ You had to get all these other things sorted to be truly ready. The timing is perfect. Now you can have all the jam you want without interruption. How delightful. I wish you success and a publishable and successful novel at the end.

    • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

      Glad you picked out that quote from Charli and to give it an educator’s endorsement. Exciting times!

      • Norah

        Exciting, indeed. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, yes, I hadn’t thought of that saying but it is so — the teachers have showed up and this student is oh-so-ready! Thank you for sharing your educator’s insight, Norah. And the timing is perfect. All that has been unsettled is settled. I can focus on coursework and my novel and, of course, Carrot Ranch. Thank you!

      • Norah

        How perfect, Charli. Enjoy every magical moment. ?

    • Norah

      My contribution:

      Sweet Strawberry Jam

      Sweet Strawberry Jam

      Overhearing a conversation about the jam session at Lorna’s that night, Ailsa assumed the email was buried in spam which had jammed her inbox recently. She collected her Vacola jars and headed for the motorway. Discovering the traffic jam too late, she had no choice but to wait. The jam drops prepared for supper eased the monotony. At Lorna’s, she jammed her car into a tight spot and rushed inside. The living room was jam-packed, and music indicated a different kind of jamming. Setting down her Vacola jars, she leaned against the door jamb. “Sweet strawberry jam!” she breathed.

      • Susan Zutautas

        Now there’s a lot of jamming going on here Norah 🙂

      • Norah

        🙂 Thanks, Susan.

      • Charli Mills

        That’s one way for an educator to get all the jamming in! But I see, now, that you (perhaps gratefully) missed toe-jam.

      • Norah

        I am happy about that!!!! 🙂

      • Colleen Chesebro

        Jam-ala-rama, Norah! I love all the “jamming!” When my kids were little we used to say, “Get your jams on!” when it was time for bed. <3

      • Norah

        Thanks, Colleen. We used to call our pyjamas jams, or jim-jims or other varieties too. Good fun!

      • Colleen Chesebro

        I enjoyed it, too. ??

  6. Jules

    Charli – I am happy that you are happier! Settling in and moving forward –
    small steps. The journey and the joy. We can only dwell so long on the what ifs… and need to recreate and enjoy what we have. May your garden continue to grow. And may your pen continue to connect your ideas in fruitful ways.

    My piece this week is a series of tanka that are the conclusion of a set. No one has to read the six that came before this one; though the links are at my post.
    Each can be read individually but I think they do make a nice set.

    Please enjoy: Faire de la confiture sucrée… or A Sweet Reunion

    she kept snakes in the
    garden, allowed them free reign;
    they rid her of pests

    he was a lout for leaving
    or a hero in disguise
    at the edge, he stood
    unrecognizable man?
    she stood quietly

    he spoke her name like music
    as the late autumn wind danced
    rooted in the ground
    she stood, tears of joy forming
    then flowing freely

    (of course we used to tell them
    that time stood quite still, waiting…)
    yet time did march on
    to the beat of our drumming
    hearts; running to grasp

    to touch, to reassure and
    taste again sweet jam kisses


    Faire de la confiture sucrée = Making sweet jam

    • Charli Mills

      I’m certainly enjoying what I have. Thanks, Jules. No snakes in my garden, though! An interesting tanka.

      • Jules

        Perhaps if the whole story were together? Boy meets Girl, they have an unplanned separation and get back together… With tanka when you have to use less imagination has to fill in the rest. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        That’s true of 99-word narratives, too — finding that balance between what is left out, what details carry the story into imagination.

    • anuragbakhshi

      That was simply beautiful Jules. Poetry is something I can never gather enough courage to try (apart from my childish rhymes), I find all the forms like haiku, tanka etc. a bit intimidating, to be honest 🙁

  7. pensitivity101

    Here’s mine Charli:

    Wine and Dine

    Steve and Sally let themselves into their flat after an enjoyable evening with friends.
    They heard singing and when then looked in the lounge saw their babysitter cross legged on the floor munching toast between bars. Their two children were curled up on the sofa fast asleep surrounded by crumbs, their faces smeared with jam.
    Jenna grinned at them.
    ‘Great scherry jam!’ she hiccoughed with a giggle.
    ‘Tho’ ya chouldn’t liv it in’t garage……… it migh go orf!’
    Sally burst out laughing as Steve looked in dismay at the slops and what was left of his fermenting blackcurrant wine.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m laughing, Di! My SIL makes homemade wine and I think he’d be dismayed, too. Babysitter sure enjoyed it.

      • pensitivity101

        Dad gave me a half demi-john of elderflower champagne for my 18th birthday. I was singing quite heartily by all accounts!

      • Charli Mills

        That’s a fun memory, and elderflower champagne sounds giddy!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Ha ha ha. They’re going to sleep well tonight 🙂

    • Norah

      Totally love this one, Di. It’s brilliant! 🙂

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Norah. Memories of my Dad’s homebrew in this!

      • Norah

        Makes it all the more special.

      • pensitivity101

        He made some damn heady stuff!

      • Norah

        And you survived! 🙂

      • pensitivity101

        My grandfather swore it keep him healthy through the winter.

      • Norah

        It probably did! 🙂

  8. Sarah Brentyn

    Wow. That is a lot. I am so happy for you, Charli. Congratulations on many levels. 🙂 <3 Best of luck with everything.

    • Charli Mills

      Sarah, I feel like I’m back on a path again, not scrambling through the underbrush. Thank you! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Ritu! Keep your head above the final edits! 🙂

      • Ritu

        I’m treading water, Charli!

    • susansleggs

      “Catering to the easterners” I get it.

      • Ritu


    • Charli Mills

      The clarity is a welcome sight on the path, Ruchira! As are your apples which have me hoping ours are ready soon to make into sweet treats.

    • Norah

      Grandma’s recipe sounds delicious. Yum!

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you, Susan! I enjoyed “listening” to your flash!

  9. Miriam Hurdle

    Charli, I’m so happy for you with your new home.

    I look at some old photos of our home when it was newer to us. I like the spacious look. To late now. Did you make jam at your new home or at your daughter’s home? This year is my first year making homemade jam from the fruits of the trees I planted.

    Hope to come back with the flash. My summer has been filled with different things and trips and medical routines.

    • Charli Mills

      Doesn’t feel spacious at first, Miriam? I hope to keep some of that “new home” space. I’m being thoughtful about what comes in. I’ve learned to make do with much less. I’ve made jam here, but I think we’ll have a jam day out at my daughter’s place, too. Wow — that’s fantastic to get to make jam from fruit trees you’ve planted!

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I was amazed that Steve Jobs’ home had almost no furniture. When they entertained President Obama, his wife had to rent furniture. He like black color, one person gave him 100 block turtle neck shorts, that was all he wore throughout his life.
        Let me dig up my photos of the plum trees the last few months and see what I can come up with the flash.
        Take care, Charli!

      • Charli Mills

        That’s an interesting story about Steve Jobs. I’m not quite that spare, but I do believe in reducing consumerism. I’d love to see your photos!

  10. Miriam Hurdle

    I think the online program is a good fit for you, Charli. You can do it at your own time, morning, afternoon or night time. You can email to the professors anytime and read their responses anytime. You made the perfect choice!

    • Charli Mills

      Up to a point! Yes, it’s not a scheduled class but modules are scheduled weekly and activities, discussions, and responses are due a specific times. What I really like is I can do all of that outside! Thank you for your encouragement that this program is a good fit.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        You’re welcome, Charli. Yes, even though students don’t have to be there in person, the activities are due at a certain time, so the next activities can be carried on.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see your two characters back, Joanne!

    • Norah

      That’s a sweet introduction to jam.

    • Charli Mills

      Who knew Ben & Jerry’s could lead to sweet horror in 99 words? Thanks for finding an outlet for your peculiar dream, Barb!

      • barbtaub

        Thanks Charli. (Not giving up B&J though.)

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha! Maybe it will lead you to a new genre!

  11. H.R.R. Gorman

    So excited for the MFA to get a nice kickoff, and for you to see your dream through! The goal of traditionally publishing does seem an uphill struggle, but all the effort you put in will probably see you succeed. Your writing is already very smooth (as far as I can tell from your blog posts), so I have utmost faith in you!

    I love jam. When I go to the Got to be NC festival every may, I end up buying jams and jellies (though my favorite is the Apple Pie Moonshine Jelly). Despite that, I took a different definition of jam, and I wrote a story that I think needed a bit more than 99 words! Still, the bones are there, and I hope people enjoy it.

    ***Hijacking Euphoria***

    Johnny hopped in. “Gun it, Euphoria!”

    The hot, 375-horsepower Cadillac roared, but she pressed the brakes at a screeching metal sound.

    “Door’s jammed! It got caught on the sidewalk!”

    Euphoria screamed. “What the hell you doin’ to my car!?”

    “It don’t matter! Gun it, or the cops will catch us!”

    She put her long, pink fingernails up to her face. Tears streamed down. “Oh no, my baby!”

    The cops caught up, guns at the ready. They saw Euphoria’s tears and manhandled Johnny out. “Hijacking a car and robbing a bank!? You’re going to jail for a long time, bub!”

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks for the vote of confidence, H.R.R.! I also think, at least in the traditional arena, that networking and connects matter. It’s pretty exciting to join the MFA writers group and see graduates getting contracts. So far, my professors are supportive and if you put in the hard work, they will do what they can to direct it. Already, I’m learning to study craft elements with an eye to using them in different ways.

      One day, I want to taste Apple Pie Moonshine Jelly! That sounds amazing. There are monks further up the Keweenaw who make boozy jams and jellies.

      Euphoria, what a great name for this character. She pops to life, the whole action scene and her meltdown which seems to save her in the end.

      • H.R.R. Gorman

        The boozy jams are great! And thank you for the compliment. 🙂

  12. denmaniacs4

    Jammed Up in Time

    “Well, body’s gone!”

    “Yup. Morrison’s Mortuary…they don’t dawdle. Let’s get to ‘er.”

    “The old guy…he had no family?”

    “None we knew of. No visitors. Nada.”


    “Yeah, maybe. But he had his memories.”

    “You talked to him?”

    “That’s kinda what we’re here for. Yeah. Not often. Cranky old cuss.”

    “So, where do we start?”

    “Let’s start slow. Personal stuff. The bedroom, I guess. Box it up neat.”

    “Hey, lookee here. A jar of jam on the bedside table. Odd, eh!”

    “Not so much. Blackberry Jam. Last one his wife ever preserved.”


    “Like I said, he had his memories.”

    • Susan Zutautas

      Sad start and sweet ending 🙂

    • Colleen Chesebro

      Excellent take on the prompt! <3

    • Charli Mills

      Bill, you did a great job of bringing the imagery to life through the dialog. I could imagine the interaction and the pause over the unexpected personal item he hung onto –her last jar. Well told!

  13. reading journeys

    Thank you, Charli, for sharing your experiences, your thoughts.
    Enjoyed reading the blog very much – so many different and yet interconnected ideas.
    I wish you the very best for the MFA and in all the journeys in your life.

    From your blog: “Learning is looking a lot like rebuilding a home — what I take in must have function, joy, and meaning.”

    So, off I went to “” and I’m still wondering how did I find this one by Claude Monet???!!!

    “Try to forget what objects you have before you – a tree, a house, a field, or whatever. Merely think, ‘Here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow,’ and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact color and shape, until it gives you your own impression of the scene before you.”. Claude Monet

    “Learning never exhausts the mind”. Leonardo da Vinci

    Thinking over ideas about the FF.

    • Charli Mills

      What great quotes, Saiffun! I can see how Claude Monet’s advice can be given to writers as well — we interpret the stories as gather their impression upon us and we dab it out on the page. True — “Learning never exhausts the mind.” It makes the mind elastic and vibrant!

  14. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    I’m so pleased that things are looking up for you, Charli: a secure base, an educational adventure – and you’ve got jam on it! We had an ornamental quince I made jam from one year but have since managed to kill, but plenty of other fruit to hit that sweet spot. But my reading’s been taking me to some dark places lately so there’s a sour note to my fictional sweet jam:

    Unethical experiments: The Rabbit Girls & The Confessions of Frannie Langton

    • Charli Mills

      It’s a good environment and took a balancing act to achieve, but we all need that base from which we launch new ventures. I had not encountered quince until I found an old tree along Elmira Pond. It had the prettiest peppermint-striped blossoms. I was reading some of your reviews and sometimes we have to write the sour to contrast the sweet. Thanks, Anne!

    • Liz H

      The secret ingredient? Love.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s sweet to immerse in something we are passionate about, Allison. I’m going to share as much school as I can here!

  15. Liz H

    Here’s the first of two–different takes on sweet and jam:

    [Sweet Jam ]

    Clara’s thumbs tick-tocked the steering wheel’s curve, her eyes intent on any break in the blocked-up freeway traffic. She’d said what needed to be said. She was done.

    Harald, hands tucked under his thighs in the passenger seat, hummed his seven-note tune, over and over again. He nodded as her annoyance grew. It’d only take a moment—the right moment–to change her mind.

    Clara took a chance, swerved onto the shoulder. “Get out!” she roared.

    Harald smiled victory as her car spit gravel and grew small as it sped away.
    Sweet! He knew she’d talk to him again!

    • Liz H

      (Ugh! Sorry about the formatting–all one big hyperlink!)

      • Charli Mills

        Easy for me to fix!

    • anuragbakhshi

      Talk about looking at the bright side!

      • Liz H

        Denial…not just a river in Egypt. 😉

      • anuragbakhshi

        Ha ha ha

    • Charli Mills

      Not even the gravel can convince Harald the error of his denial! Clara is in a jam, but only he thinks it’s sweet.

      • Liz H

        PUN-derful response!

      • Charli Mills

        I’m working on being punnier!

    • susansleggs

      Home-made over store bought any day. Good for Grandma.

      • floridaborne

        There are so many things to pack into a 99 word prompt — showing that no one in the family visits her much except for birthdays, and to have a party. If they visited her enough, they’d know she made her own jam and bread. She’s not a doll on a shelf, to be taken down whenever her family wants. She has her own life, and she’s making it very clear that she will have nothing to do with a family who doesn’t respect that.

        This is why I love the 99 word prompt. It helps as a writer to leap past writing volumes of description and get to the heart of a thought.

    • Norah

      Good on Grandma. She knows what she wants, and she’ll get it too.

      • floridaborne

        Perseverance is critical when you’re a writer. 🙂

      • Norah


    • Charli Mills

      Grandma certainly perseveres (and preserves).

      I hope you do take a writing class one day, Joelle!

      • floridaborne

        I took 4 over the years, and the best (and last one) was an on-line course in 2001. The first was okay, a mail-order course in the 1970’s.

        The worst was an on-campus college course in the mid 1980’s. The instructor liked poetry and that’s what he wanted to teach. The first week, we were assigned to read a book of poetry, and when he asked how we liked it, I said, “I can’t believe a tree died for this.”

      • Charli Mills

        Ha, ha, ha! That instructor was not prepared for you, I bet!

        I’m beyond impressed with my current online courses — rigorous, supportive, and passionate instructors.

  16. Liz H

    Here is the second–perhaps a bit sweeter, especially in the dead of Winter:

    Summer Memory in Winter

    Unexpected, not unprecedented. Lucy opened the cabin door to a wall of snow. Stores, as well as spirits, were running low. Something had to liven the hard tack and rabbit stew, hairy root vegetables and pale wrinkled peas. Evan sat by the glowing fire,
    [Continue ]

    • Charli Mills

      At last, hope is found in a linger pot of summer memories.

    • Charli Mills

      It’s the start of a marathon. Thanks, Anurag!

  17. Prior...

    congrats on the new learning adventure!
    I look forward to gleaning from what you share here.
    loved this so much:

    Learning is looking a lot like rebuilding a home — what I take in must have function, joy, and meaning.

    and I just added my entry to this week’s sweet jam theme – but my mind went to music – because we have a few sweet jams that remind us of milestones

    anyhow, good week to you

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Yvette! I like where you went this week with your flash! Good week to you, too!

  18. susansleggs

    I so admire you for knowing you can improve your writing and finding a way to do it. It sounds like your research for the right way was a class in itself. I am so happy you found the correct path because I know you will share it with us and we will grow our ability too. I think being a student when a bit older is easier and more fun because you want to do it and already know it’s value. We are lucky your caretaking of “The Ranch” remains as part of your daily schedule… From poisoned apples to sweet jam, both can be suspect.

    It’s a Trust Issue

    A month before my wedding, Gran advised, “You will discover marrying into a large family can have its pitfalls.”
    “I already feel like I belong.”
    “Let’s hope that lasts.”
    Years later I remembered those words when a member of my husband’s family stated, “No in-law would know the family history we are discussing.”
    I replied aloud, “I take umbrage with that,” and was ignored, so I left the room.
    A few days later I received an e-mail from the speaker. “I was out of line. Sorry.”
    The words felt like swallowing sweet jam, with a hint of invisible mold.

    • Norah

      As one from a large family, Susan, I can identify with your story and agree that marrying into it can have its pitfalls. However, some choose to remain apart regardless of how welcoming the family may be. It can go both ways.

    • Susan Zutautas

      Glad the speaker apologized even though it was a terrible thing to say to her in the first place.

    • Colleen Chesebro

      Oh, I loved where you went with this. Excellent. <3

    • Charli Mills

      It’s kind of like window-shopping, Sue — when you’ve looked long before you buy, you know what you want. I agree: “I think being a student when a bit older is easier and more fun because you want to do it and already know it’s value.” We all get to taste in the fruit (well, not the poisoned apples). 😉

      I like how you describe a situation of trust and betrayal. Hard to regain even with the sweetness of an apology!

  19. Miriam Hurdle

    Hi Charli, I’m back with my flash. We harvested 1100 plums between two trees. It was a learning curve for me. Now I have an idea of what to do next year with the plums.

    First Homemade Low Sugar Plum Jam by Miriam Hurdle

    “What are we doing with all the plums?”
    “We eat them.”
    “How many can we eat?”
    “As many as we can for breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
    “You picked 475 in two weeks but only ate less than 75. They are getting mushy.”
    “I know. I’ll take them to some meetings to give them away.”
    “Can we sell them?”
    “Are you kidding? How do I do that and who would buy them?”
    “What if we can’t give them away fast enough?”
    “I’ll find some low sugar plum jam recipes and do the first homemade jam.”
    “It sounds like a plan.”

    • Susan Zutautas

      I’ll take some of that plum jam 🙂

      • Miriam Hurdle

        I know, Susan. I gave away at least 800 plums, made five jars of jam and gave away one so far.

    • Charli Mills

      Wow! That’s a lot of plums, Miriam! I do like low-sugar jam (we call it freezer jam) because it preserves more of the flavor of the fruit without having to cook it or add tons of sugar. I’ve even made some with honey. Nice way to take it to a flash.

      • Miriam Hurdle

        Oh, Charli, would you send me the recipe with honey? No hurry, it’ll be for next year.

        I used the cooking with raw sugar recipe this year.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Leanne!

  20. Sherri Matthews

    Sweet jam and home…what could be better? And the structure of a writing course that feeds your literary needs, of course. Your desk sounds beautiful, Charli. Almost two years in since our move and I’m still deciding on how I want the office…a desk I bought second hand in CA, cherry wood I painted white and dusky rose pink for V’s room soooo long ago sits in our workshop, returned from 10 years of storage. Let’s just say, I have big plans for that desk and just the place 🙂 Savouring your space…sorry…YOUR space…is the way. I am doing the same, giving time for the walls and the space inbetween to reveal it’s true beauty. From one sticky mess to another, I will return in a flash 🙂 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Your desk and plans sound intriguing, Sherri. Arranging an office can be a lot like arranging a book as you say, “…giving time for the walls and the space inbetween to reveal it’s true beauty.” Sweet jam can be a sticky mess! <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        It can indeed, Charli 🙂 <3

  21. Colleen Chesebro

    Whew! I made it. My post comes out tomorrow… but here is my flash.

    Sweet Jam

    One of the fondest memories I have of my mother in law was the day we made strawberry jam. The kids washed the flats of strawberries in the sink, careful to pinch off only the green leaves. I dumped the ripe fruit into the pot.

    Arlene never measured ingredients. She didn’t have to. Like a conductor at a symphony, she coaxed the natural sweetness out of the berries cooking on the stove before she added any additional sugar.

    The older girls filled the jars with the delectable strawberry compote. Billy the toddler, dipped his fingers into the sweet jam.


    • Charli Mills

      What a sweet jam in the kitchen, Colleen! You MIL must have been quite the conductor.

      • Colleen Chesebro

        That she was… this was a lovely time when my kids were young. Good memories. <3

  22. Sherri Matthews

    Hi Charli…sorry for being late again with my flash, stuff, you know, harrowing day, but got up early to get this in last minute…as usual! FF is the best way to unleash! Now to breakfast… 😉 <3

    Sweetest Jam

    On Saturday morning, Matt Kline woke up, groaned and rolled over in bed, finding an indent and a crumpled sheet where his wife should’ve been. The angry clatter of dishes from the kitchen reminded him why.

    That, and his wife screeching for him to get his lazy ass in there. Right now.

    ‘Honey…I’m sorry… I drank too much…’

    ‘You sonofabitch; I’m outta here.’

    ‘But honey…she’s nothing to me… '

    The jar landed square on his head. The last Matt Kline knew was the taste of his wife’s strawberry jam bleeding slowly into his mouth.
    The sweetest batch she’d ever made.

    • Charli Mills

      Way to unleash to start the day, Sherri! You know you are up way earlier than me, lol! <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        LOL…thanks to the time difference, my saviour!!!!! <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        PS My flash wasn’t exactly sweet…but it’s what came and you know there’s not much more to be said about that… !!! <3

  23. D. Avery @shiftnshake


    Pull in this driveway here, Marge, this is the place.”
    Marge and Ilene climbed stiffly from the truck and stretched, taking in the weather worn clapboard house. Two gangly apple trees stood guard in the unmown lawn. Ilene investigated the blackberry bushes that grew where the unkempt meadow met the woods.
    “Marge! They’re ripe!” She made her way back to Marge and faced her mother’s house.
    “Well, Marge, I’m supposed to get what I want from the place before leaving matters to the lawyers and realtors. And what I want is to make blackberry jam like my mother did.”
    Marge and Ilene, scratched from the blackberry brambles, fingers stained purple, now stood over large pots of steaming, bubbling blackberry ooze.
    “I don’t know, Ilene, I haven’t done this since my father died. He and I always made jam together.”
    “We’ve got this, Marge.” She stirred, carefully eyed the drip from the wooden spoon. “I always enjoyed helping my mom with jamming but knew it meant the beginning of school. Used to feel like we were putting summer in a jar, to be savored later.”
    “She’d be proud you’re back in school Ilene.”
    Ilene blinked. “It’s ready Marge. Pour.”

    • Charli Mills

      All I can say, is put that summer sweetness in a jar, take it with you, and nibble throughout the long winter. Summer will return and eternally!

  24. Jennie

    Your stories, the prologues to your flash fiction, are as slow and sweet as rocking on a porch in Georgia. I delight in every word.

  25. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Angie!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Donna!

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Paula!

  29. Charli Mills

    THanks, Sally!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chris!

  32. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Tracey!

  33. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Colleen!


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