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September 5: Flash Fiction Challenge

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S.M.A.G., Norah Colvin, @NorahClovin

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All across the Keweenaw, there are abandoned apple trees. Crisp fruit pulls heavily laden branches downward. Decades of harsh winters have dwarfed many of the trees, creating gnarly branches. Despite the burden and neglect, the apples remain sweet and crisp. They have true grit.

The first time I saw John Wayne’s classic, True Grit, I swooned from the very start of the movie with Glen Campbell’s song of the same title. The film adapted Charles Portis’s novel about a 14-year-old girl named Hattie who seeks justice for her murdered pa. She hires Rooster Cogburn (played by John Wayne) to get the job done.

The movie is not a love story as you might think by the lyrics (a “girl” finding a “man”). It’s truly a story that examines what it is to be brave in the face of fear. Mattie searches for the toughest man of the law she can find but comes to recognize that she has what traits she sought all along. What Mattie must learn is that we cannot stand on our own — we need others, both fierce and kind.

What is true grit? It’s defined as “True resolve, determination, or strength of character.”

This week, my coursework continues to push into genre and themes. Genre, I’m learning, is not something writers can control, unless, of course, you are specifically writing with genre tropes in mind. As far as literary criticism goes, genre is ever-changing. Romance, for example, once had nothing to do with love and happy endings. Today, genre rules the marketplace because it is the easiest indicator of book success. Want to make a living by writing novels? Romance remains the number one selling genre.

Of course, unless that is the love of your pen to paper, most authors don’t know what genre they want to write. It’s easy enough to differentiate between contemporary (realism) and speculative (fantasy). But start drilling down into subgenres and Amazon categories, and it’s easy to get confused. Theme, on the other hand, is something writers can control. It is the why of your story and less concrete than the who (character), what (plot), and where (setting).

Last NaNoWriMo, I spent the entire month writing over 55,000 words of why. I wrote out of sequence scenes to try and understand the motives of my protagonist and supporting characters. I wrote to better understand the context of theme for my book. I came to realize that as long as a nation believes war is a necessity, there will be soldiers who serve, even if it forever alters them. Veterans need loyal spouses, and veteran families need supportive and caring communities. It’s a price a nation at war exacts from all its citizens. Like it or not, we are all called to serve.

A theme, according to Harvey Chapman at Novel Writing Help, “…doesn’t have to be profound, but must always be true to the  storyteller.” We don’t write books because of genre; more likely we write them according to themes of love, revenge, hope, memories, or any experience that moves us to understand it better. Chapman writes, “We’re all on a quest for ‘meaning’ from a very early age, whether we are aware of it or not.”

Writing books is not easy, and the act of writing often requires us to be vulnerable. This week, I’m finding that deep vulnerability in putting my ideas and writing out to professors and peers for critique. I’m challenged to reflect deeply on much reading and challenged to turn in writing with high expectations. At times, it can feel unnerving. The excitement of exploration slowly erodes as the trail climbs higher and demands a brisker pace. This is when I need to summon my true grit.

A graduate of SNHU, Angela Duckworth, studied grit because she learned that it is a decisive factor in success. You can start by taking her Grit Scale Test. She advises students and writers to organize goals with a top-level one. At Carrot Ranch and in my overall writing life, my goal is to make literary art accessible. This gives meaning to my creative writing. It’s like having a theme in a novel. Both themes and top-level goals are like North Stars. It’s your vision, for you as a writer, and for what each book you write is all about.

Learn more about grit:

September 5, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true grit. You can use the phrase or embody the theme. Who or what has true grit? Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by September 10, 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.

SUBMISSIONS FOR PUBLICATION CLOSED

True Grit by Charli Mills

Jose tended cattle while Angelina refried pinto beans, mashing them in the cast-iron with lard and flour. At night he tooled leather to sell at the market, making coin purses and wallets. Nightly she carpooled with three other amigas from the ranch into Paicines where they cleaned the elementary school, using grit to shine the grout on the bathroom floors. When the winter rains returned, the foreman would drive them all south to the border so they could spend three blessed months with family before returning to work the rest of the year. Only now, there was a wall.


170 Comments

  1. Who or what has true grit? Ooh ooh, call on me, I know.
    Look in the mirror, Ms. Mills. It’s you.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. Norah says:

    I seem to think we may have discussed grit previously, Charli, but what a fitting topic for someone pursuing a Masters and a writing career, while maintaining an active writing community. That’s grit. We wouldn’t achieve much in life with a helping or two of grit. Is that why you call your breakfasts ‘grit’? Analogous for the way to start your day?
    I enjoyed the Angela Duckworth videos. It’s always good to have a reminder to check out goals and the paths we’ve chosen. I was surprised how highly I scored on the grit-ometer. I thought I had answered conservatively.
    The topic (theme) of your flash is very current. There are those who require extra grit to survive.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s very likely we have visited grit previously. I got excited by the Duckworth videos and thought it worth sharing. I’m not surprised at all that your grit showed up on the test!

      Liked by 3 people

    • Me too (scoring higher than I expected). But I found I fluctuated around the level of the goal, ie. I WILL give up on a lot of individual writing projects that aren’t working (although I might return to them years later) but not on the overall goal to write more and better.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Norah says:

      Back again with my bucketful of grit to add to the mix.

      A Bucketful of Grit
      “Miss, Jimmie’s crying.”
      “Thanks for letting me know, Susan,” she smiled through gritted teeth.
      What now? Couldn’t she just finish her tea for once? Something trivial, no doubt. Better go see, just in case.
      She met a small posse escorting Jimmie across the playground. Their imploring eyes begged her sympathy.
      “What’s wrong, Jimmie?”
      “I, I —”
      “He got grit in his eye, Miss.”
      “Let’s see. Ah, yes. Better take him to First Aid.”
      The children moved off as one, except George. He turned and held out a bucket.
      “What’s that?”
      “You told Jimmie to find some grit. Here ‘tis!”

      Liked by 4 people

      • Charli Mills says:

        Ha, ha! At least he’s trying! A fun take on the grit and I enjoyed the message from your post. Teachers play a vital developmental role, but it takes grit to accomplish.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        Thanks, Charli. I’m pleased you enjoyed the story and the message. Funny your use of the word ‘trying’. Mum used to tell us we were ‘very trying’ when we were testing her grit. I think Jimmie had been trying in that sense up until then too. Hopefully the bucketful of grit has released the tension, for the day at least.

        Like

  3. “Up an’ at ‘em Kid. Time ta ride.”
    “Agin?”
    “Yep, agin. Let’s go.”
    “I need sustenance. Shorty servin’ breakfast?”
    “Grits.”
    “Ugh. You’ve groat ta be kidding. I need food that’ll give me the strength ta do what’s gotta git done. By the way Pal, what needs ta git done?”
    “Dang, Kid, why’m I always havin’ ta wrangle you? Ya need goals fer yersef.”
    “My goal is ta have breakfast.”
    “Ya need a big goal.”
    “A big breakfast then. With bacon.”
    “What’s yer long term goal?”
    “Ta eat fer a long time. Ya might wanna git started without me, Pal.”

    Liked by 9 people

  4. Your post — and especially the first video — reminds me of what’s often said of successful writers: “it took 20 years to become an overnight success”.

    There’s a lot of wisdom here, and I like the point about projecting ‘talent’ onto others to let ourselves off the hook. Nevertheless, I have reservations about how much we should push ourselves. I think we can be equally at risk of projecting ‘grit’ onto others who have to work hard simply to survive.

    And people often have strong conflicting goals, especially regarding plaudits versus relationships / living well. Too much hectoring makes me want to embrace failure.

    For me, consistency would have to mean an average output, rather than the same target every day. Some days it’s more productive to take a break, and I don’t believe what works for sport translates directly into creativity. Also, it’s a very American / capitalist attitude to insist you can achieve anything if you work hard enough. Luck also plays a part.

    Phew, didn’t expect that when I began typing my comment still half asleep!

    Anyway, I can see why that song would’ve appealed to you, great reading more about your course and loved your flash. Very deep! And ties well with a review I hope to write today on a novel about migration from Africa to Europe, which will no doubt influence my flash. Or I might write about gritstone! Back later.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. […] A spot of murder to start the day, inspired by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Well done on getting to the Beta REader stage with your book, Charli. I am desperately trying to finish off my Novella too.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hi there! I’m new here (this prompt

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Oops! Sorry for the other comment — the dangers of accidentally hitting enter before completing your message… Apologies! As I was saying, this prompt was recommended to me by another blogger! Here’s my attempt (titled ‘Good Boy’):

    During the days they walked, the man and his dog, searching for food, clean water, and shelter for the evening. They also searched for other survivors in the rubble, but were yet to find anything alive.

    At night, they hid, and took refuge from the things that stalked the twilight for prey. They slept sporadically, huddled together for warmth.

    They shared each other’s food and each other’s company, refusing to surrender that last ounce of hope. They held on to their reminiscences, remembering the good times.

    But they could not erase the awful memory of that blooming mushroom cloud.

    Liked by 7 people

  9. […] Carrot Ranch September 5, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true grit. You can use the phrase or embody the theme. Who or what has true grit? Go where the prompt leads you!// Respond by September 10, 2019. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  10. On her Terms

    She refused to give in to it, to feel sorry for herself and let it take over her life.
    Determined to smile, she’d make jokes about losing her hair and chosing a variety a wigs in colours and styles she’d only ever dreamed to try.
    She sought out others, raising their spirits, encouraging positivity rather than misery and defeat.
    She exuded unbounded energy, forever upbeat, offering a listening ear, hand to hold, or shoulder to cry on.
    When her time came, she met it full on, surrounded by friends and family, and died with a smile on her lips.

    Liked by 7 people

  11. Jules says:

    Charli,

    I’m going to have to make some time for those videos… I’m running behind. Seems like I can never quite catch up on all the reading I want to do. Walls make it hard for true grit and determination to work.

    I went with what came to mind… I did a three parts for: The New Becchino

    Part 1

    Seemed like Ole Ricciardo had a high forehead. He was teaching young Marcell about gravedigging. “You’re early,” he said as Marcell’s long legs seemed to lope towards the open door of his caretaker’s cottage at the far back edge of the large old cemetery. “Takes true grit to do this job. Especially when you’ve got to put someone in an unmarked grave.”

    “Get many of them kind,” asked the younger man?

    “More than the locals think. Mostly ‘cas they don’t wanna know. Them lives, they lived true. All they got left is me and you now. Soon just you.”

    Part 2

    Marcell wondered if Ole Ricciardo had always been bald. Or if the job made him lose his hair? With times being tough one took on the apprenticeship of whatever was available. If grave digging was going to be his lot, might as well be the best at it.

    Even with the shifting of burial practices, most folks seemed to think that six feet under was earned. The paupers field in his old home town held too many who couldn’t afford fancy boxes. Marcell had gotten used to quiet of such sacred spaces. Especially after having to bury his kin.

    Part 3

    Ole Ricciardo sized up Marcell. There was a quiet about Marcell that said he had what it took. The young man had true grit. Had to have had it to come from a war torn town that probably wasn’t going to be on future maps. Ricciardo couldn’t imagine how much could be built over unmarked graves.

    Ricciardo thought he’d end up an unknown himself. After a lifetime of caring for the dead, especially the unknown… It was time to live in a different light. Maybe some sandy oceanside place where nature’s grit would blend with his own salty tears.

    Becchino = Italian for gravedigger.

    ©JP/dh

    Liked by 8 people

  12. denmaniacs4 says:

    In the latter half of 1969, I ambled through two of Canada’s eastern metropolis’, looking for meaning, getting nowhere fast. Two films , out of many I saw, enthralled me. Easy Rider and True Grit. Peter Fonda and John Wayne couldn’t have been further apart politically, culturally. But great films both. I offer this by way of explanation for my slightly facetious offering this week. But really, there is no excuse.

    Grit Storm

    Ainsley Bilge tossed and turned throughout the night. Grit! Grit! What the hell was grit? The question not only bedeviled his sleeping hours; it haunted him through the day.

    He vaguely remembered Gramp’s telling him about Clara Bow, the IT girl back in the twenties. What the hell was IT? He never knew. She was just a girl. A little too flashy for the times, he supposed.

    By the time Gramp’s related the story, she’d become a crazy recluse.

    Her IT Storm drove her bananas.

    Was that his future?

    He had no idea and remained grit to be tied.

    http://www.engleson.ca

    Liked by 8 people

  13. I hear ya, sista!!

    With regards to grit, I also agree with Angela since all my books have a theme. I actually start off with a theme and then build my characters accordingly. Actually sometimes even name them accdly 😛

    I recently published a non-fiction book: viewbook.at/theme

    Will come back with my flash fiction for this week’s prompt.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Pete says:

    George glanced at his fellow soldiers. Most were sleeping, recovering, hocking into spittoons, sprawled and spent against a fallen oak. The 8th New York Cavalry was plum exhausted.

    It the quiet after battle where George found it hardest to hold his secret. Here, in the sweltering humidity of Virginia, it was almost easy to melt away.

    George…

    Virginia…

    Maria…

    She’d enlisted searching for freedom. Having escaped, she found a way to disguise herself. It was a plan so crazy it worked. Now, with a sword and rifle, an equal among white men, she’d found she was an excellent soldier.

    Liked by 7 people

  15. […] was written for Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge. Each week’s challenge is to write to a prompt in exactly 99 words. This week’s prompt […]

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Nobbinmaug says:

    Your story reminds me of my grandmother. She used to cook everything in lard. I don’t how she lived to be 95.

    Here’s mine: https://nobbinblog.wordpress.com/2019/09/06/flash-fiction-his-knees/

    Liked by 7 people

  17. […] week’s writing prompt courtesy of Carrot Ranch’s – Flash Fiction Challenge is to write a 99-word story (no more no less) that embodies “true grit“. You could […]

    Liked by 1 person

  18. traceyr1984 says:

    Thanks for the inspiration. I am always telling my son that it is not enough to be smart, the way to success is hard work. I had him watch the videos so he knows it is not just something his mother says or made up!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. floridaborne says:

    I’m going through a period of time where everything is on hold. That is the hardest part of being a writer.

    When it comes to true grit, perception is everything.

    https://rantingalong.blog/2019/09/06/21059/

    Liked by 5 people

  20. Carrot Tanka

    “It ain’t fair, Pal. I know they’ve gotta git harvested an’ all, but why me?”
    “Shorty needs ya ta pull yer weight by pullin’carrots, thet’s why.”
    “I pull my weight aroun’ here.”
    “Well yer weight done broke a branch on the Poet-Tree, so I’m thinkin’ you bendin’ over in the carrot patch’ll be a good thing. Jist make the most of it, Kid.”
    “Hmmm…

    harvest of wisdom
    raw carrots crunchy gritty
    sun hued skin earth rimed
    grounded orange airy greens
    dark and light are known to you”

    “Kid, how’s it goin’? Pal was concerned.”
    “Pickin’ away Shorty, no complaints.”

    Liked by 4 people

  21. Hi Charli
    You get a “gold star” !!
    Thank you very very much for sharing so much from every thing you are discovering and exploring in the MFA course.

    Grit: food for thought; it’s certainly made me reflect on my life, past challenges ; how did I approach things?
    I like Angela Duckworth’s perspective on grit as a well-organized “pyramid of goals” — the top goal is the one you are tenacious & stubborn to reach.
    Past FF — The Finnish word Sisu (I think) came to mind.

    FF: Thinking about a past FF, about Janice who had a brain tumor; and her husband Tom who decided to stay on, be with her, whatever it took. Grit.

    Saifun

    Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Saifun, I’m so glad grit resonated with you. It helps me to process what I’m learning by sharing! The pyramid of goals is a good way to get focus and could be done for a book, too. Grit is a strong theme among writers and often what we write.

      Liked by 2 people

  22. […] flash piece is partly inspired by this week’s prompt over at Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true […]

    Liked by 1 person

  23. […] Carrot Ranch the September 5, 2019, prompt is to write a story in 99 words (no more, no less) that shows true grit. You can use the phrase or […]

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Gotta have grit to be a writer! LOL
    Here’s my contribution this week. It has a bit of a personal touch.
    https://allisonmaruska.com/2019/09/07/flash-fiction-finish-line/

    Liked by 5 people

  25. […] week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills was to use the title of one of the greatest western’s of all time True Grit in one form or […]

    Liked by 2 people

  26. […] week’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge by Charli Mills was to use the title of one of the greatest western’s of all time True Grit in one form or […]

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Prior... says:

    re: the fiction

    ouch – that “now there was a wall” line came like a punch – and was good.

    and your piece reminded me of a little of Steinbeck’s breakfast scene = with hard times and coffee and camp food

    re: the post share
    thanks for sharing about grit and your own writing and class learning and letting us share your vulnerability –
    and loved this part so much:

    We don’t write books because of genre; more likely we write them according to themes of love, revenge, hope, memories, or any experience that moves us to understand it better. Chapman writes, “We’re all on a quest for ‘meaning’ from a very early age, whether we are aware of it or not.”

    Liked by 3 people

  28. […] September 5, 2019, prompt from Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true grit. You can use the phrase or […]

    Liked by 1 person

  29. […] This was written for Charli’s Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  30. […] up for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week: True Grit. You can play, […]

    Liked by 1 person

  31. […] Carrot Ranch September 5 Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Hey Charli! 🙂
    Here’s my take on the challenge:
    https://thedarknetizen.wordpress.com/2019/09/09/flash-fiction-bunker/

    Happy reading! 🙂

    Liked by 7 people

  33. Prior... says:

    Hi – I added my entry in the form and noticed that some folks add it in comments to – am I right? so here are my 99 words for this awesome theme —
    and wishing everyone a good week:

    Another Hit (99words)
    Marcel
    Sat down
    Stirred his tea
    Pulled off his hat
    Looked around
    Waited for his food
    Meager meal
    ‘Twould suffice
    Rather nice
    Midst of humdrum
    Waiting
    settling down
    hoping for new normal
    Getting closer
    each goal
    Still far
    Yet in view
    Quietly digging
    For GRIT
    making it through
    ANOTHER HIT
    Sitting tall – rather than slouching
    He forced a smile – avoiding grouching
    Food set down
    Sniffed the crust
    “Thank you,” he said,
    then chomped his bread
    Each bite
    Restored might
    Helped insight
    One day at a time…
    adding to
    Hard Knock’s Degree
    Last sip of tea
    assuaged misery
    slightly free

    Liked by 6 people

    • You are right, many of us do put our 99 in the comments, but it is not mandatory. This is the front porch of the Ranch bunkhouse, or even the cowhands’ campfire in the evening; here we can say how cool it is to read rhyme about a Hard Knock’s degree.
      (Here some of us butt in and answer questions when Charli is busy with her myriad duties and deadlines).

      Liked by 3 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Love how this piece reads and the way the emphasized words jump out. It’s a creative take!

      Ah, yes, I’ve been thinking I should do a clarification in my next post. Actually, it’s all about choices, trying to meet different goals for different writers. You can share here, and also add your flash to the submission bucket.

      Thanks! You have a good week, too!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Prior... says:

        thanks and as a newcomer here – the fresh air if flexibility is a huge perk
        I felt that in two ways early on –
        first – when you let people join in with no deadline – so if someone is looking back and has inspiration – they are encouraged to write even if not the current prompt (now that is encouraging writing all the way )
        and then also with the way we do not have to make a blog post to share – also inviting to make it more win win for someone who might need that option)

        and so now I get that there are a few ways of sharing an entry

        oh and one little thing – the suggested read of ten minutes?
        I would say “between 10 and 25” because some of us go slow – these dense little pieces always take me around 20 minutes to go through – 🙂

        Like

    • Norah says:

      Hi Yvette,
      Like D., I’m also going to butt in. I enter my story on the form. That way it is included in the collection published in a separate post without accompanying comments (and people butting in). I also put it in the comments in case people like to read and comment on it in the post. The number of comments probably depends, to a certain extent, on how early you get your story in. You can also link to your post in the comments so that people can pop over to your blog to read. It’s a winner whichever way you do it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  34. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (09/05/2019): In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true grit. You can use the phrase or embody the theme. Who or what has true grit? Go where the prompt leads you […]

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Liz H says:

    For those women who endure working with the road crew, and the men who see it like it is…

    Road Crew

    The road ahead was long, no end in sight. Maybe relief…just over that hill? She couldn’t be sure.

    She sighed, squinting into the midday sear, then looked down at the road under her naked feet. The gravel, poured heavy and sharp from the back of the Transportation Department truck glinted maliciously.

    Those assholes’d stolen her shoes again, their jeers floating behind as they drove out of sight. Practical jokes were one thing, but with sexism in the mix, was it worth the higher pay?

    Bullshit! This was about more than money. Her feet bled as she started to walk.
    [Link to blog post ]

    Liked by 6 people

  36. […] I wrote this for the September 5th Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  37. tnkerr says:

    It’s late and I need to get to sleep but I wanted to get this posted before the deadline. I’ll be back to read later.
    https://tnkerr.wordpress.com/2019/09/09/a-few-good-men/
    Any of you know guys like this? I like to think we all do, whether we know it or not. At least I hope that’s the case.

    Liked by 5 people

  38. […] is my attempt for this week’s prompt from Carrot Ranch. And yes, hiking the Grand Canyon rim to rim is something I think about […]

    Liked by 2 people

  39. […] was written for a challenge over at Carrot Ranch. In 99 words, no more, no less write about “true […]

    Liked by 1 person

  40. Once again my flash fiction isn’t really fictional but ….
    https://susansplace.blog/2019/09/10/this-woman-has-true-grit/

    Liked by 4 people

  41. […] Gritty Gray Hope Source:  Flash Fiction Challenge Prompt: Write a story that shows true grit. Word count:  99 […]

    Liked by 1 person

  42. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true grit. You can use the phrase or embody … […]

    Liked by 1 person

  43. […] This was written with the prompt true grit provided by the Carrot Ranch September 5 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  44. […] September 8: “True Grit?,” in response to Carrot Ranch‘s […]

    Liked by 1 person

  45. […] “The September 5, 2019, prompt from Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows true grit. You can use the phrase or […]

    Like

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