September 26: 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.

September 27, 2019

From his post in the Eagle River Lighthouse, a young surfman spied a double-stack steamer through his binoculars. It was dead in the water, listing sideways and he couldn’t see the ship’s name. The maple and birch leaves must have started to turn because it was September 16, 1901. Autumn colors and gales hold hands in September. It can be warm and muggy one day, blustering with cold rain the next. In between, mist hovers and chlorophyll dissolves to expose brilliant oranges and yellows. Concern might have wrinkled the surfman’s brow. A gale with steady eight-foot waves will even stop the modern US Ranger from going out to Isle Royale. Today’s lake freighters will plow through autumn gales but change their course, wary of the Keweenaw. The western edge is unfriendly when Lake Superior orchestrates a gale.

That day, 118 years ago, communication systems fainted at the mere mention of winds, so fragile were the lines to weather. The surfman had no communication with the ship. It was not flying any distress flags, but it was no time or place to have cut the engines. Did they fail? Did something precipitate the quiet listing, such as the ship’s load shifting or another below decks emergency? The winds whipped, the waves roared with a pushing surf, and colored leaves blew from the shoreline trees. The American flags along the Keweenaw were flying half-mast on September 16, 1901, while President McKinley laid in state, assassinated two days earlier. No other signals indicated distress. The surfman watched from his post as the ship rolled over whole and disappeared.

For days, uncertainty cast doubt upon the sole witness. Boats launched to rescue survivors and found nothing and no one. No other ships experienced difficulties with the September 16th gale; it had not been particularly forceful or noted for rogue waves. With communications down, and trips taking days or weeks to complete, it was hard to determine if a ship was yet missing. Newspapers and the nation were focused on the tragic death of the president, not on speculation over what one young surfman at a remote Lake Superior post might have seen.

Then debris began to emerge, most of it wood, including the black and yellow masts that caused alarm — could it be the famous steamer known by those colors? A few bodies emerged, wearing lifevests clearly marking the ship’s identity. As feared, it was the Hudson. 288 feet long, her steel hull never appeared. It took mere days for Lake Superior to bash her wood parts and release the debris to surface and shore. A lake not known for giving up her dead, the surfmen must have felt surprised that a few escaped. None survived. Lake Superior held tight to the crew of 25, including the ship’s master, Angus J. McDonald.

But that is not the end.

There is a maritime legend to consider. In the 1940s, a tug coming around Keweenaw Point encountered a rusty, mud-slimed ship. It plowed toward them, and the tug had to veer to avoid a collision. Thinking the ship in distress, the tug captain boarded it. While it was solid beneath his boots, the apparitions that appeared were not. The ghosts warned him to get off as they were the crew of the Hudson and doomed to relive their sinking every year for eternity. The date was September 16.

That’s not the end, either.

Two Great Lakes shipwreck hunters located the Hudson, using sonar equipment they built. They had narrowed their search to 32 square miles, which in regards to the size of Lake Superior, was a relatively small area. In July of 2019, they found the Hudson in deep water, its bow plowed into the bottom of the lake. Eerily, the Hudson remains intact as if she could rise and float the way the tug captain described of his ghostly encounter. On September 16 of this year, the explorers who found the wreck attempted to see if she remained on her historic day of sinking. They were unable to determine.

It’s not the ghost stories or the maritime history that captivates me. I’m drawn to the Keweenaw shipwrecks because of those unremembered. Immediately, my imagination flashes to the surfman who witnessed the ship capsize. What a sight! And to have no one believe you for days, how would that feel? Who were the people who waited for those 25 men to return to Detroit? One account claimed that the ship’s master was “wedded” to the Hudson. What did that mean? And if the ship were doomed to relive its sinking every year, why? And who was that tug captain anyhow?

The best way for me to answer these questions is a combination of research and writing. You all know my favorite format for writing — 99 words, no more, no less. I start my research with Wreck Reports and other records my maritime historian friend collects. Her interest is in the surfmen who risked their lives to save those in peril on Lake Superior. Over 30,000 lives have been lost on the Great Lakes. That’s a lot of unremembered sailors and such. Alas, I must wait for the initial documents and can do nothing more but imagine the whipping winds and the shock of the sight, a ship rolling over.

This past week, my coursework prepares me to begin training in the infamous MFA workshop process. As writers, we can feel intimidated to receive feedback. Receiving criticism on our writing is not easy but is necessary for improvement. It’s not the writer who is critiqued, but the work. Authors make common mistakes, and we are learning what to look for when critiquing our peers. An amusing but informative primer from the Science Fiction Writer’s Association blog pinpoints such problem areas with humor specific to sci-fi. However, all writers can learn from it’s evolving list. The same site also offers guidelines for critiquing work for publication.

This training will inform the bedrock of workshops we’ll one day have online at Carrot Ranch. In addition to my MFA, I’m also studying for a certificate to teach creative writing online. While that fruition is a ways off yet, another endeavor at the Ranch is right around the corner — next week, the Flash Fiction Rodeo begins.

Leaders and judges from last year might feel unremembered, but that was not the intent. So much has happened between last Rodeo and this, I simply did not plan as I had in the past. D. Avery, Sherri Matthews, Norah Colvin, Geoff Le Pard, and Irene Waters and their judges did a fine job last year. Their creativity and critique are much appreciated. This year, a group of local judges will manage their duties at a Roberts Street Writery event. Judges will converge over a shared meal and relaxed environment to pair up on four different contests to pick a top-prize winner and two runners up. I’ll be the tie-breaker judge in all events.

The purpose of the Rodeo is to provide writers with an opportunity to showcase your best skills. It’s also a chance for those who have not entered contests to get their feet wet in a safe environment. This year, I intend to provide a brief critique to the top ten contestants. It’s a way for me to practice, and an opportunity for writers to gain an insight into the effectiveness of flash fiction writing. 40 critiques, even brief, is as much as I can manage. As I did last year, I’ll publish all the contest entries in collections.

Another difference: This year, writers can only submit one entry. Why? Because it is a contest. I want us all to learn how to first critique our own work. I want you to take enough time to let your first draft sit. Sit, don’t submit. Then read it over after a day or two. You’ll be surprised at how you’ll read it differently. Read it out loud. How does the language flow? Is it complete? Is it correct? Polish it up. A contest is different from a challenge. Focus on your best draft. If the prompt leads you to multiple drafts, you will have the opportunity to submit extras as challenge responses. Or, if you don’t like the idea of a contest, submit as usual, but indicate Challenger in the box that will ask you Contest or Challenge. Challengers will be published weekly through the submission form as usual.

Top prize offered is $25 in the form of US dollars or an Amazon gift card or as a donation to the charity of the winner’s choice. The Rodeo is meant to be fun, and also a step up from a weekly challenge. I hope you all enjoy the next four weeks. The Flash Fiction Rodeo begins October 3 and ends Oct. 29. We’ll run on the same schedule — contests announced on Thursdays, ending the following Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. The only difference is that I’ll be more punctual! After all, I have to step up, too.

Now, let’s play one more week before the Rodeo commences.

September 26, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone unremembered. Is it a momentary lapse or a loss in time? Play with the tone — make it funny, moving, or eerie. Go where the prompt leads you!

Respond by October 1, 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.


The Night After Lake Superior Swallowed the Hudson by Charli Mills

“And she rolled over like a lapdog!” First-mate of the Eagle River Life-Saving Station hooted. He slapped Charles on the back, blowing pipe smoke in his face.

Charles coughed; his lungs weak from a bout of pneumonia after attempting to reach a floundering fishing boat last month. “Saw it, I did.” He glowered at their jovial faces and stalked off, rounding the dark corner of the station, nearly colliding with the white-bearded keeper.

“Wreckage will rise, Charles. The teasing will cease. Let them laugh for tonight. It’s the best they can do for those unremembered beneath this cold-hearted sea.”

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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Vendor Contenders”

    “Pal, where’s Shorty?”

    “What’re ya up ta, Kid?”

    “Circlin’ the chuckwagons fer the rodeo. I already talked ta a couple a folks who’s willin’ ta set up shop an’ feed the contestants an’ spectators.”


    “Well, Pepe LeGume’s gonna serve up his world famous beans with sourdough tortillas fer one. An’ ol’ ornery Ernie’s gonna come down outta the hills an’ serve his liquid corn.

    “Thinkin’ this ain’t a good idea, Kid.”

    “What could go wrong? These products’ll provide the courage ta do what’s gotta git done. An’ I’m gonna serve carrot sticks.”

    “Well thet’s good.”

    “Wrapped in bacon!”

    • Charli Mills

      Bacon-wrapped carrots, yum! Hmm, maybe sourdough fry bread for the beans. Not sure about the liquid corn. While writing, not editing/

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        “Told ya Kid, so you go tell LeGume he an’ his smellavision ain’t needed.”
        “Hmmf. Anyways Pepe is busy a on another project now. He an’ Ernie’s workin’ out a bean based beverage.”
        “Jeez. Why?”
        “Growin’ beans is better fer the soil than corn fer one.”
        “Valid. But ya mean ta tell me they’s up there distillin’ beans?”
        “Yep. Ain’t that a gas?”
        “Gotta bad feelin’ ‘bout this.”
        “Come on Pal, what could go wrong? Hey! What was that? It weren’t thunder!”
        “An explosion! Look’t thet cloud spreadin’ over from Ernie’s hill.”
        “Eww, I kin smell it from here.”

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        “Shorty!!!! Shorty, we gotta bad situation. There was a bean explosion. Do you have a hazmat team? An EMT squad?”
        “Kid, Pal. Breathe.”
        “No way. It stinks!”
        “Okay, but remain calm. Safety first. Pal, ride up and see that Ernie and Pepe are okay. Of course they will be because they are fictional characters and this is a safe place.”
        “What about me, Shorty?”
        “Kid, get out your quill.”
        “Am I gonna fan the cloud away?”
        “That’s up to you. You’ll have to write it away. We cain’t have that dark cloud over the ranch. The rodeo is comin’!”

      • Charli Mills

        Come up for a breath of air and pondered, what stinks?

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Pal helped Ernie and Pepe git back ta the Ranch. They was ok, as Shorty predicted, but Pepe LeGume, all facial hair burned away from the blast, yep, even his eyebrows, looked jist like a bean. An’ ol’ ornery Ernie also got blasted with jist a few thin strands a hair like corn silk left on his head.
        As fer the brown cloud, well, the gales of November came early, blew that thing clean over the Ranch. It finally stalled right over the White House in Washington D.C., where it remains, its stink unnoticed amongst the existing swampy smells.
        by A. Kidd

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Rodeo Shift

        “What’sa matter, Kid?”
        “Dang it all, Pal, I jist wanted the rodeo ta be somethin’ ‘memberable. But Pepe’s smellavision never caught air. An’ now Ernie an’ Pepe’s laid up so there won’t be any food concessions. Feelin’ bad, Pal. Wish some a these wild ideas could be unremembered. That bean cloud jeopardized the Ranch’s safety.”
        “Calm yersef Kid. The Ranch was never in danger. Carrot Ranch’s always a safe place.”
        “Even durin’ the rodeo?”
        “Yep. Gotta play ta win, but yer a winner fer playin’.”
        “I still wanna hep out.”
        “See thet shovel?”
        “Jist do yer shift, Kid.”

      • Charli Mills

        In this case, great gales are welcome! Lots of shifting but always shoveling to do. It stinks sometimes but we stick together even when our friends look a bit blown up. Kidd done good.

    • Norah

      I’ll say no to the beans, but accept the carrot sticks wrapped in bacon with gratitude. Thanks.

    • Susan Zutautas

      Hot diggity dog … I’ll have some of those carrots. Everything tastes better with bacon!

      • Charli Mills

        Definitely! ????????????

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “If Not You, Who Will Pay, Pal?”

    “The rodeo is big, Pal. Gotta think big.”

    “Thinkin’ you oughtta slow down, Kid, run yer ideas by Shorty.”

    “Shorty’s busy, she’ll be happy I’m heppin’ out. Wait till she finds out Pepe LeGume’s gonna broadcast the events, gonna make it so the folks at home’ll feel like they’s right here at the ranch.”

    “Really? How’s thet?”

    “Pepe’s workin’ on smellavision. It’ll record the sights, sounds and smells a the rodeo!”

    “Bull shift!”

    “Zactly, Pal. An’ hoss shift, an’- ”

    “What stinks is this so-called smellavision. LeGume chargin’ fer it?”

    “About that… Was wonderin’ if ya’d hep pay, Pal.”

    • Charli Mills

      Smellivision might not be the best promotions, not with bulls rounding up in the corrals!

    • Norah

      Smellavision – exactly one reason I said no to the beans. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Good idea, Norah. But that cloud is spreading out over the Ranch, and might catch a current to Australia.

      • Norah

        Hehehe. I’ll duck for cover when it arrives. 🙂

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Love the way you write dialogue. You’ve got a great ear for dialects!

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thanks. I’ve come ta love these characters.

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        I can tell! They’re quite lively. 😀

  3. pensitivity101

    Hello! How are you?

    There were warm smiles and hugs all round, general chit chat and catching up over a period of about fifteen minutes.
    It was so lovely to see them, they said so.
    It had been such a long time, and how were the family, the dog, the new house?
    How was their health, were they enjoying retirement?
    Parting company, any familiarity faded and frowns replaced their polite smiles. They knew so much, yet they couldn’t be placed.
    It’s the old story. Minds are searched, family faces summoned from the deepest depths. Who were they exactly? Damned if I could remember.

    • Charli Mills

      Di, your construction is balanced between the coming and going of company with the twist of who unremembers. Lovely!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Charli!

    • Norah

      I like it. So many times we can ‘bump’ into someone we are supposed to have known, but like others they were unremembered.

      • pensitivity101

        I know!!!

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Lovely, and a little bit heartbreaking. Great use of the 99 words!

      • pensitivity101

        Thanks Joshua. Nice to see you here. 🙂

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Reena!

  4. Sherri Matthews

    What a story and exciting times at Carrot Ranch and Roberts Street Writery! Thanks for the mention, Charli, I was honoured to take part where I could. Looking forward to this year’s Rodeo. But first, I’ll sail by soon with my flash, nothwithstanding any shipwreck 😉 <3

    • Charli Mills

      Smooth sailing, Sherri! Thank you for all your continuing support of the Ranch. See you out on the fair seas! <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thanks, Charli…indeed! <3

  5. Becky Ross Michael

    I was certainly drawn in by the opening essay. Although from Michigan, I had no idea that over 30,000 lives have been lost on the Great Lakes!

    • Charli Mills

      Isn’t that a staggering number? The statistic comes from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.

      • Becky Ross Michael

        I know it well and have visited the museum several times.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s my favorite maritime museum.

  6. Joshua G. J. Insole

    Back again! Sorry I missed the last few — busy schedule! Hope you’re all well. Here’s mine for this week, it’s called ‘Visit’:

    Gusts of wind moaned through the skeletal trees, scattering the burnt-orange leaves across the graves.

    “That time of year again, Frank?”


    “Same as last year?”

    “Same as every year, Harry.”


    The wind wailed between the headstones, shrieking like a ghoul.

    Harry cleared his throat. “Well… maybe they forgot?”

    “Twenty-seven years in a row?”

    “I—well, maybe not…”

    “Yeah, maybe not.”

    The gale was picking up speed now. The town’s citizens would be battening down the hatches.

    Frank was changing, too. Becoming. Tattered skin and rotten flesh were stitching themselves together again.

    “This year,” he said, “they’ll remember.”

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Joshua! Feel free to come and go at the Ranch. Your Visit takes a chilling perspective from the ones transformed. I like the initial hesitancy as if the inevitable could be avoided. Chilling!

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Thanks, Charli! I had a lot of fun with this. I love all things ghostly! Any excuse to play around in this genre. 😉

      • nightlake

        This one was interesting and inspiring. Thanks!

    • Norah

      How sad to be unremembered. I like the ghostly viewpoint. It was an interesting change of pace.

      • Joshua G. J. Insole

        Thanks, Norah — it was very enjoyable to write! 🙂

    • Liz H

      Delightfully eerie!

    • Charli Mills

      You did take a deep dive, Kaytie! Well crafted 99 words.

    • Liz H

      Lovely! You remembered and honored the forgotten ones with this~~ <3

      • kaytiebeth

        Thank you. That means so much!

    • susansleggs

      Well done. And ditto what the others have said.

  7. Jules

    Charli –

    Being remembered is hard when you don’t have any facts to begin with. Why is it so hard to ask questions or be believed when you want to know or tell something.

    I’ve gone with a haibun:
    Father Figured…

    Father Figured…

    Each with their own thoughts, maybe they remembered? But they chose not to share. That created blank spaces in Harper’s young mind. He couldn’t even remember what story they might have told as to why his father wasn’t coming home. Did they even try to say that the man had gone with angels to heaven?

    Harper only had a hole in his heart. Questions weren’t asked because no one else brought up his father’s name or even showed old photographs. He would remember whatever he could.

    a life ends early
    grave hours pass without telling;
    their stories are lost


    • Charli Mills

      That is sad, Jules, to not have the details to remember. My friend who is the maritime historian, she told me today about how she often meets the grandchildren of some of the lost sailors, hungry to know “what happened.”

      • Jules

        I was just visiting a lighthouse, there was a memorial to all those lost at sea…and there were coins on the top of the monument.

      • Charli Mills

        Passage for the River Styxx? Historians and genealogists often leave a stone, but I hadn’t heard about coins for lost sailors.

    • Norah

      This is lovely, Jules. I think, knowing a little of your history, you have a good understanding of the hollowness of this situation.

      • Jules

        (Thank you.)

      • Norah


    • nightlake

      Harper would probably be left wondering if his father was insignificant or a very bad person. Maybe he is better off not knowing the details. A nice haibun.

    • Joshua G. J. Insole

      Those last three lines were quietly profound. Lovely writing!

      • Jules

        …age and experience brings wisdom?
        Thank you.

  8. tedstrutz

    Good story, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Ted! Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Charli Mills

      I love a good what-if day! Fuel for the imagination, Joelle!

      • floridaborne

        Some days I wonder if imagination is the 6th sense because I feel blind without it. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        Imagination has to be one of the senses beyond the five.

  9. Norah

    That’s an incredible story about the wreck, Charli. And then the tug boatman’s sighting and what he was told too. I’d love to know more about him as well. What a shame the Hudson wasn’t able to be located on Sept 16 this year. I wonder where it was.
    Thanks for the links to articles about accepting and giving critiques. I’ve put a story forward to my writing group to be critiqued this week and I need to critique others too, so it’s well-timed for me.
    Your story captures the excitement of the sighting and the frustration at the disbelief. So many mysteries that deserve a story (or two) to be told.
    The rodeo sounds good. I think the way you are doing it this year is interesting, and I like the way the contests are meant to challenge us to put our best work forward. I’m sure the competition will be strong. I wish the judges well. It’s not an easy task. And I wish all writers success with their writing, whether they win or not.

    • Norah

      I’m back with my story:

      A recluse, unremarkable and forgotten in life and unremembered in death, she’d lived in her own world hidden behind overhanging branches and overgrown gardens. Unseen for so long, newcomers didn’t know she existed, thinking it was simply undeveloped land.
      One day, developers came and pushed down the trees and cleared the undergrowth. They paused at the sight of the tiny wooden structure their work revealed. Unsure how to proceed, they investigated. Though not art enthusiasts, they knew that what they discovered was something special. When the work was curated and exhibited in galleries worldwide, she was never unremembered again.

      Thanks for reading.

    • Charli Mills

      Hi Norah!

      It pleases me that you found good timing with the shared articles on critique. It’s interesting, what I’m learning in my MFA program. A good workshop with critique, or even a critique group, operates on the premise that the person creating the environment be experienced and well-read, allowing for participants to reach their potential. Feedback should encourage, yet be tactful and truthful. The second premise is that participants should receive training in a feedback process with the leader acting as a role model. And lastly, everyone involved should agree that creative writing can be improved. I think these distinctions are important. Anyhow, I’m receiving my training now! Let me know if those articles helped.

      I’m curious about that tug boat captain, too! My maritime historian friend did not know that ghost story but she’s going to reach out to others in her network who collect eerie tales about the lake and report back. I wonder where the Hudson was, too on September 16, although likely it was right where it plowed into the bottom of the lake. They said it was windy and hard to aim the camera so far down.

      Your story gave me chills (in a good way)! The repetition of “un” words creates a lovely lyricism of language. The discovery creates a pleasant surprise and an unexpected happy twist that feels like vindication beyond the grave.

      Thank you for your support of the Ranch!

      • Norah

        It is interesting that you are learning about critique, Charli, in a professional forum. I’ll have to read back over my own advice that is included in the Anthology and see if I still agree with it. 🙂 I’d be interested to know how it fits with your new learning.
        I agree with the distinctions, for how can we ‘rate’ a piece of writing without knowledge of its genre, intention and audience. I think tact combined with truth is important. If we just say nice things, how can a writer improve? And of course, there is always room for improvement. It’s a yet growth mindset.
        I do hope your historian friend is able to expand on our knowledge of the tug boat captain. What you have stated is probably the truth of the ship, but …
        I wonder if there will be a possibility of vindication beyond the grave. If there is, I hope I find out.
        Thank you and the Ranch for your/its encouragement and support of me. 🙂

      • Charli Mills

        I still agree with your advice, Norah. Creating community is critical to creating that safe environment where growth and play go hand in hand. It’ll be interesting as I go through this process, how it will all gel in the end. But then, it’s never the end when we grow.

  10. denmaniacs4

    A Mere Image

    She lifts the arm.

    “There, Mr. Sam, that’s right, draw it down your right cheek. Through the foam.”

    The razor in the right hand slides along the stranger’s face.

    There is a scent.


    “That’s right. Careful not to nick.”

    The hand jerks. A gash. Blood mingles with the foam.

    She grabs a tissue, dabs the face. “That’s not so bad. You have to be more careful. Perhaps I should finish it for you.”

    Her hand embraces the razor, shaves slowly, bypasses the pinkish tissue, finishes, wipes the face with a warm cloth.


    Her hand caresses the face.

    • Liz H

      Such tenderness—touching!

    • Charli Mills

      Bill, your title is a sensitive play on words and holds to the tenderness of emotion in your story. I like how you disembody the action “the hand,” “the face.” It’s a construction that mirrors the unremembering you show.

  11. denmaniacs4

    I must be of two minds today, Charli…

    In the Shadows of Time

    Who do we remember?
    What comes to mind
    when we think of the lost ones?
    Not the main actors on the stage of life.
    Perhaps the stagehands?
    The lighting technicians?
    The audience members far up in the gallery?

    Was this the message Ford was getting at?
    Tom Doniphon?
    The Man Who Shot…?
    The Confederate General on his marble steed?
    Sir John A.?
    Our George Washington.
    We remember who we see.
    We remember the stars.
    The lights.

    There are those we forget:
    a lost love among many,
    a slight fancy,
    a memory somewhat out of sync
    with now.

    • Charli Mills

      Feeling the literary flow, eh? Great form and flow. You are showing your prowess with the 99-words, Bill.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad you are excited, Ruchira! Thanks!

    • Charli Mills

      Maybe because it’s October, I’m feeling the haunting of lost ships. Thanks for your take!

  12. H.R.R. Gorman

    I’ve not had time to dedicate to blogging and responding as I’d wish recently, but I wanted to say that I love reading about your MFA journey. I’m so glad that it’s going well, and I enjoy seeing what things you’ve gotten up to recently.

    I’m looking forward to the Rodeo – I loved it last year, and I’m hoping to get at least the one entry off! I have a question, though: do you mean 1 entry per prompt, or do you mean choose to respond to only one of the prompts as part of the contest?

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you, H.R.R.! That’s a good question — one entry per contest. Enter one, enter all. I’m also entering a contest this month, for my college’s literary journal. I’m starting early to have enough time to revise and polish. That’s what I’m encouraging at the Rodeo this year.

  13. Jennie

    Reading your stories is a great pleasure. Thank you, Charli.

    • Charli Mills

      That makes me happy, Jennie! Thanks!

      • Jennie

        My pleasure, Charli!

  14. D. Avery @shiftnshake


    I just stopped. Our arguing raged like the gale winds that pummeled us broadside. How could he? How could he have a fiancé waiting in port? I refused to move unless he forswore that woman. For hadn’t he already chosen a life on the waters? Wasn’t he wed to me?
    He had his engineers doing all they could but I refused to respond, for his desperation was to make it to land- to her. No. Let her be unremembered.
    High rolling waves consummated our vows. Now every September we celebrate our anniversary. He and I will never be forgotten.

    • Liz H

      A powerful sea witch for sure.
      Or one Superior…

    • Charli Mills

      Whoa! You caught a glimpse of her, that’s for certain! She would feel scorned to find out he was not wed to the sea. Love the twist in perspective!

  15. reading journeys

    Hi Charli

    What a great blog!

    The sunken ship reminded me of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The City in the Sea”.
    Also Hugo-award winning sci fi & fantasy writer NK Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season.” One of the characters Syenite raises an ancient obelisk from the seabed. A terrific writer.

    And thank you for those links to sci fi articles – they’re very helpful to me in reading/summarizing the sci fi (and other) novels I read! I’ve read stories by Bruce Sterling – another terrific writer.

    I have to say a special thank you: I’m now reviewing novels by indie authors at I learnt about it here at the Carrot Ranch. And writing FF has helped me to write the reviews in the format required by the editor of readersfavorite.

    Thinking over ideas for “unremembered.” I may end up “entangling” two timelines and characters from my past FF. Pierre Yandeau, contemporary marine scientist and archeologist.
    And Diamante – teacher and scholar from an ancient coastal people, long vanished, the “unremembered. ”


    • Charli Mills

      Hi Saifun,

      I’m so glad you mention Edgar Allen Poe’s poem because that is actually one I had not read. “No rays from the holy heaven come down…” Oh, yes, he captures the murky tone of the dead sea bed.

      You are doing so well — expanding your reviews to a professional venue, studying literary art as both writer and reader, and finding usefulness in the 99-word artform. Good job!

      I like your idea of tangling the paths of two different characters in your repatoire.

  16. Liz H

    Here’s my effort, based on a dream and a day and a Carrot Ranch Prompt


    I dreamt last night of snow.
    It lay,
    A thin blanket over vibrant late summer.
    Silent white, still as death,
    Satisfying in its containment.

    [Continue ]

    • Charli Mills

      That combination is alchemy in the making, Liz!

      • Liz H

        Strange brew, eh?

  17. Jim Borden

    thanks for the guidelines on how to give and take criticism, both quite useful skills. my mind is spinning with something to come up with for this week’s flash fiction!

    • Charli Mills

      They are two different sets of skills, but learning one helps to learn the other and both serve the writer. I hope your mind spins out a tale, Jim.

      • Jim Borden

        I agree Charli, they are different skills, and I think learning to give useful feedback is the harder of the two. Sad to say that I could not think of something for this week’s challenge…

      • Charli Mills

        Sometimes it doesn’t happen and that’s okay!

  18. magpie477

    Often laughter, which seems inappropriate, can be someone’s only way of coping with tragedy or trauma. The wise keeper has seen this before. Wonder how many of the surfmen laugh to mask “there but for the grace of God…”?

    • Charli Mills

      That’s a good observation. These men went out in rowboats to save sinking ships and often died in the process. Laughter would have been a coping strategy. I have a sense that young Charles is an unusually serious young surfman.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Padmini!

      • Susan Zutautas

        Yes, me too Anne.

    • Charli Mills

      To not have to suffer this would be a great service to humanity, Susan. I’m glad you are ready to saddle up for the Rodeo!

  19. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    Exciting to be moving on to a new phase of your course. Giving and receiving criticism is quite a skill.
    As to the Rodeo, I think you’re wise to restrict the entries to one per person, Charli, and I hope you and the judges have fun analysing them in the real world. It’s quite a task to critique forty stories, even super short ones, although you probably do more than that in the comments on an ordinary week.
    The inspiration for my unremembered flash comes from reviews of two novels about young people potentially forgotten in hellish institutions, last week’s attachment theme and my dystopian novel WIP:

    • Charli Mills

      I might be slipping into overachiever mode, Anne. My profs have us practicing and so I thought the 40 critiques would be super-practice! I’ve workshopped in undergrad writing classes and at weekend events, but I’m excited to be “training” in the skills. I have insight, but I’d like to master the vocabulary to communicate what makes a piece effective. I’m using a suggestion you gave last year as a judge and narrowing the selections to the top ten, then inviting a group over to read and discuss and select. Always something to learn! And that’s the point of dystopian novels — to learn from the story.

      • Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

        Great to have the chance to try on all the goodies on your course but don’t overdo it! We don’t want you burning out.

      • Charli Mills

        Kind of like overdoing it in a sweet shop! I’ll be mindful.

  20. Sarah Brentyn

    I cannot believe it’s time for the Rodeo again. Excited to see what this year will be like. Sound like you’ve got a great Rodeo planned! ??????

    • Charli Mills

      I know! How did that happen?

      • Sarah Brentyn

        Time is galloping away… ????

      • Charli Mills

        It’s almost next Rodeo already!

  21. susansleggs

    Charli, Thank you again for sharing your classes with us. I think I will print the links you mentioned and make hand-outs for my local writing group. They are not kind when critiquing.My month away has made me glad I’m home so I can focus on the rodeo. Let’s ride!

    Was It a Dream

    We hoped for more soldiers to arrive, not so we could go on R&R, but so there would be enough men to fight back when the next firefight happened. The night was quiet. I got about four hours sleep. When I woke, there was a replacement guy sitting three feet from me. I was about to introduce myself when bullets started flying. We both went flat to the ground. When the shooting stopped, he was dead and I wasn’t. I never learned his name so can only remember that he was there. I don’t think it was a dream.

    • magpie477

      Thank you Susan, this resonates…both in the need for kind and constructive criticism and in the chilling message. My husband, a Vietnam vet, survived only because he left the trench to relieve himself…when he returned the other guys were dead.

      • susansleggs

        I’m glad your husband made it home.

      • Charli Mills

        That must pain him to remember.

    • Charli Mills

      Welcome back, Sue! I’m still reading your “kicks” from Route 66. I’ve enjoyed the ride and saw your car got carried home, too! My son has a mini and I love riding in it.

      Critique must build up. What good does it do anybody to tear down with unkindness? Maybe your group has gotten into bad habits, modeled by one or two people who have no business spreading poison. Or maybe its ignorance, maybe they believe harshness improves writing like suffering. Many MFA programs behave that way and I researched how SNHU does workshopping because I wanted to stay clear of the negativity that I think blocks access to literary art. I hope you can make some shifts armed with those articles.

      Wow, you came back with a powerful flash, a realistic glimpse at what makes survivor’s guilt so lasting.

      • susansleggs

        I’m just getting back into the daily routine. It’s nice to be home with an expanded outlook on this big country. I gained knowledge and perspective that will surely show up in my writing.

      • Charli Mills

        Let experiences inform what you write (that is what fuels “go where the prompt leads). You have already enriched your writing by taking such an expansive trip to see first-hand.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Leanne!

    • Charli Mills

      Dream-writing! Thanks, Joanne!

    • Charli Mills

      I once read a comment by another writer who said they write dark to let the light in. Good for going where the prompt led you!

  22. Sherri Matthews

    Hi Charli, flashing by in time for once…thanks again for a great challenge and here’s to the Rodeo! <3

    A Rose Like No Other

    ‘Look at this…’ Barbara handed the photograph to her son. ‘Remember Rose, our neighbour with the lemon tree, when you were little?

    ‘I do…nice lady,' smiled Nick. 'Still in touch?’

    Barbara shook her head and sighed. ‘She was ill, years ago. I wrote but never heard back. I’m not sure she’d remember us now…’

    A letter arrived one morning from America. Rose’s daughter, who had tracked Barbara down, to tell her of Rose’s passing.

    ‘Mom talked of you often, how much she loved your letters even when she couldn’t reply.’

    Barbara, like Rose, would remember their friendship forever.

    • Prior...

      Sherri – this was a blast of hope — and shows our assumptions can be so wrong at times ??????????

      • Sherri Matthews

        I’m so glad that came cross. Wonderful to read your comment here, hanging out at the Ranch! Thanks much, Yvette 🙂 <3

      • Prior...

        I am so glad to be finding my way around the ranch, Sherri. I have been following your fiction pieces for a while – and a few others – and have to say that there are some talented and kind folks here.
        I am hoping to join in more as the months go on – but in the weeds with some work stuff right now. 🙂

      • Sherri Matthews

        I’m thrilled, Yvette, and thank you for reading my ‘stuff’… 🙂 So glad you’re enjoying flash fiction. Charli has nurtured a wonderful literary community where we are safe, welcome and encouraged always. I hope the weeds clear soon enough for you so you can join in, but the great part is there is never any pressure. I have been away for some while too (as you know, polishing the memoir, life, all that goes with it…) but it’s so great knowing we can keep in touch here and around the blogosphere as and when 😉 <3

      • Prior...

        Hi again mon amie – and I have been doing flash fiction since January 2017 – but only this summer FINALLY made it to Carrot Ranch! ((There are so many challenges and only so much time – eh??))
        and be over to see you at the Summerhouse very soon

      • Sherri Matthews

        That’s great to hear. Oh yes…but we do what we can, as we always say. Always lovely to see you at the Summerhouse anytime, but no pressure at all. Likewise with my blog visits, we get there in the end! Meanwhile, have a wonderful weekend, mon amie and peace coming back to you 🙂 <3

      • Charli Mills

        Sherri’s right — no pressure at the Ranch, just celebration when you do arrive to write and play with 99 words!

      • Prior...


    • Charli Mills

      Across miles and years, remembrance has a way of rising from what feels like being unremembered. Hope. Lovely writing, Sherri. Thank you for flashing! <3

      • Sherri Matthews

        Thank you, Charli…across the miles and years, never forgotten 🙂 <3

      • Charli Mills

        <3 <3 <3

    • Jules

      I had a similar experience with an elder neighbor in another state. When we move… lost touch. But I had sent holiday cards, so her daughter wrote me to tell me of her passing and how much she appreciated getting our cards.

      • Sherri Matthews

        How lovely, Jules. I based this on a true story – a BOTS, naturally. Shows how important it is to keep in touch in such ways 🙂

  23. tnkerr

    Writing this week from the high desert in New Mexico. Limited time and connectivity.
    Here’s what I got.

  24. Prior...

    “Wreckage will rose”
    Reminds me of
    “The truth always surfaces in the end”
    Or as my mom would say
    “Your sin will find you out” which to her meant that she was trusting us as teens but to do the right thing because sin (or missing the mark) would come out at some point so she reminded us to have integrity and know that truth is worry free and a nice place to live in (something like that)
    And the social connections to not being believed was hit upon here! People can be so disheartening –
    Also liked the small details
    The pneumonia – the dark corner to round and colliding with the keeper –
    Really brought us right there

    • Charli Mills

      Thank you for your close reading Yvette. What you say about truth coming to the surface and those messages we grow up with regarding truth mold our character. Yet, I wonder if that’s what frustrates those who have trouble remembering their own life truths. It must feel uncomfortable like the opposite of that worry-free space. And maybe that’s why those who have loved ones living with dementia feel so compelled to “correct” mis-rememberings. Interesting thoughts.

      • Prior...

        thanks for the nice reply – and now I am chewing on what you shared here – also very interesting (and my heart breaks for those who have loved ones With any major impairment – especially dementia) – hope you have a nice week

      • Charli Mills

        You made me think of how our idea of truth shifts with memory loss. I also adhere to Wallace Stegner’s idea that truth isn’t real until we’ve fictionized it. We are all made upp of stories, eh? You have a nice week, too!

  25. Pete

    I barreled into the school parking lot, tires screeching, thumping across the speed bump. Amelia sat slumped on a bench, one sock up, one sagging to her shoe. A teacher stood by her.

    I left the car running. “I’m sorry baby, I—”

    “You forgot me. I can’t believe you forgot me!”

    Three kids, one me. But now, seeing my youngest, face glazed with tears, how even her sock had given up on her. I was a terrible parent.


    She flung herself into me, part hug, part tackle. Like her socks, my daughter was let down, yet resilient.

    • Charli Mills

      Fabulous expression of parental angst over forgetting a child. I also loved how you used the sagging sock to drive the tone of the piece. Smart writing, Pete.

    • Charli Mills

      Thanks, Robbie!

  26. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Angie!

  27. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Donna!

  28. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chris!

  29. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  30. Charli Mills

    Thanks for the inclusion, Sally!

  31. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Jo!

  32. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sascha!

  33. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Anita!

  34. Charli Mills

    Great article over at Hugh’s place about how to get your blog noticed.

  35. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Chelsea!

  36. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Doe!

  37. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Denise!

  38. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Sally!

  39. Charli Mills

    Thanks, Tracey!

  40. Charli Mills

    I enjoyed your thought-provoking essay!


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