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June 18: Flash Fiction Challenge

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When my eldest was a toddler, she’d express her excitement by clenching her fists close to her head and vibrating her entire body. Ever get that feeling? I want to clench, squeal, and vibrate every evening as the Roberts Street “Littles” emerge — a menagerie of baby critters. Somehow, the word’s gone out that my fairy gardens and below deck are safe places to leave off little ones, including two baby chipmunks, two fledged robins, a baby gray squirrel, a baby bunny, and a juvenile frog. They are so cute, my body hums.

Pre-summer evenings linger at the 47th parallel on the tail-end of the eastern time zone. Throughout June and most of July, last light remains past 10:30 p.m. It’s deceptive when we BBQ in the “evening” and realize it’s 9 pm. Of course, my personal time clock is wonky — I come to life in the evening and write or study most productively until 3 am. It’s a joy to watch young life unfold in my yard before sunset the way I imagine some people enjoy sunrises.

My former boss was a sunriser. She’d get that vibration about her every new place we went for conferences or work-related travel. It was bad enough that she was parsimonious (her favorite word), cramming her senior managers into as few hotel rooms as possible. I’ve even slept with my boss. Slept. I joked that I was going to turn her into HR, and from across the room, HR laughed with me. We were a close-knit management team, and I wouldn’t trade the lessons of that period of my life. My boss was a true servant-leader and taught me the value of building platforms that benefited communities. And sometimes, that meant sharing a room, bed, and sunrises.

One particular sunrise I remember was on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota (that Lady Lake of mine gets around). We were on a work retreat, and it was close enough to autumn to be cold in the pre-dawn morning. No one else would go with our boss to the lake to catch the sunrise. She had figured out the precise point to see dawn slip over the lake’s eastern horizon. By the time she laid a hand on my shoulder, I could smell coffee brewing. We filled a thermos and grabbed two mugs. Everyone else slept. We walked along a narrow and craggy trail to a place where we could sit on the bedrock and wait for the sun to appear. We shivered, huddled around our coffee, and were not disappointed.

When I watch the sunset over the western horizon of Lake Superior, I feel like that sunrise over a decade ago reflects back to me. I’m on the opposite side now, in tune with what harmonizes in me.

Earlier today, I met with a representative at the Michigan Small Business Development Center. It’s a resource of the US Small Business Administration, a government organization that supports entrepreneurs and small businesses. As a professional writer (meaning, this is my source of income), I’ve contracted a patchwork of services. Every author grapples with the reality that books alone will likely not make a living. I say likely because there are exceptions, superstars, and specific strategies to that truth of authorhood. Some exceptions include moderate success within a lucrative commercial genre (this requires multiple books). Superstars are the likes of J. K. Rowling and Stephen King. Specific strategies include shrewd studies of market trends and writing books to fill readership gaps (rather than writing the books you want to pen).

Mostly, professional authors find secondary sources of income. One professor told me he publishes books and “assets” (and, obviously, he teaches). Assets are value-added products that enhance your book — e-book, audio recording, a graphic novel based on your book, a series of podcasts, figurines or jewelry based on characters or props, music based on your book, character drawings. In addition to products (books and assets), professional authors teach — universities, online courses, webinars, workshops, retreats — or speak at conferences for a fee. Some work the book club angle and sell packages of their books and access to Q&A with the author. Some sell international book rights, others option their books for movies or Netflix series. Some offer services — agencies, PR, editing, coaching, marketing. Some supplement income, working odd jobs or temporary gigs in between writing and publishing books.

Whether you make it to superstar status or you work the secondary sources of income, authors do more than pound away at the keyboard and publish books.

This is what I’m working with the SBA to develop — a way to recognize the hard work of any path a writer takes and define what steps next for personal growth and professional development (if that is your path; it doesn’t have to be). Imagine being a writer who writes every single day — that’s commitment! But this dedicated writer has no interest in creating products or offering services, which leads to others not counting them as a “real” writer. I’ll be creating something that honors such a writer in addition to recognition for annual growth. It’s based on a program I used to apply for as a marketing communications manager.

Earlier in my MFA, I got excited (not quite full-body vibrations) about the possibility of coaching. However, after creating plans in my course, I realized it’s hard for me to offer individual services. I’m a high-energy person, and I put a lot into anything I do. Coaching would wipe me out. I realized it’s why I was struggling to work as a writing contractor. What I’m going to build will be more like mass coaching with a platform where I can invite other writers to coach and teach, too. I can get focused, manage my time, grow the literary outreach to expand beyond libraries and veterans to include more diversity and greater involvement from the community. The SBA is helping me build a business plan that is both sustainable and supportive of the writing community. I can incorporate the lessons of my sunriser boss to lift up others to make the writing world a better place. And I get to define my role in that ecosystem as a professional author.

Often, when you follow your North Star, the excitement can be palpable. Yet the possibilities of how to get there can be overwhelming. Sometimes, it shines down on us, and we are in the worst place to manifest its promise. But circumstances are always shifting, like it or not, life is in a daily flux between sunrises and sunsets. What’s important is that we set our North Star and follow its guidance. Right now, mine is starting to hum. And I’m ready.

June 18, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes good vibrations. What is unfolding? Is someone giving off or receiving the feeling? Where is the story situated? Gather some good vibes and go where the prompt leads!

Respond by June 23, 2020. 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 closed. Find our most current weekly Flash Fiction Challenge to enter.

Liberation by Charli Mills

Gran’ma’s mama was an Okie from Muskogee, a fruit-picker in Tres Pinos, California, where Steinbeck Country ended in hayfields, orchards, and coastal mountains. She died young – 36 – cancer from unbridled use of pesticides in the 1930s. Gran’ma married a bull rider, a real bull shitter, too. They chased the tails of rodeos and ranch work across Nevada and back to Tres Pinos too many circuits to count. When he finally died of liver cirrhosis, Gran’ma shocked us all and married a Moscogo. White hand in black, they held the good vibes of Juneteenth, understanding the long wait for liberation.


68 Comments

  1. It is wonderful about the baby animals, Charli. I have managed to get my latest manuscript over to Esther and now have time for a bit more fun prompt writing.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. […] June 18: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] This was written with the prompt good vibrations provided by the Carrot Ranch June 18 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  4. denmaniacs4 says:

    Summer, 1966

    The sweet river water flows. The small G.E. transistor catches bits and pieces of the local station’s airwaves…”the way the sunlight plays on her hair…” and it does, glancing off the light blond strands that dangle just above her left breast.

    “Is that where…?” I ask.

    “The tick? Yes,” she says.

    “We should have come back here earlier,” I lament.

    “You’re the one who left.”

    “I did. And I shouldn’t have.”

    “It might not have mattered. It was destiny.”

    “You were destined for me,” I say.

    “That’s sweet…but…”

    “Don’t say it….” I dream…as “the sunlight plays on her hair…”

    Liked by 6 people

  5. […] Flash Fiction Challenge: Vibrations in 99 words […]

    Liked by 2 people

  6. […] behind your imagined door? It is all about choice, isn’t it? MLMM Tale Weaver : Tickets Carrot Ranch June 18, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes good vibrations. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Jules says:

    Charli,
    Keep doing what makes you happy! ((Hugs))

    I did imaginative fiction here:
    Resonance
    (reverse haibun with tanka in 99 words)

    opportunity
    in that empty train car waits
    imagine what fills
    that vibrating space like birds
    taking flight – here’s my ticket

    Wynn Woo had never traveled by train before. While he was no longer a younger man, there were still many surprises left for him to encounter. All he had to do was open the door step inside his train compartment. The Steward said he would return in the evening to set the Pullman Bed down. While meditation usually calmed him, it was difficult to keep his eyes from the window and the rolling landscapes filled with free flying birds.

    ©JP/dh

    Liked by 7 people

    • Liz H says:

      Love this piece of exotic adventures down the tracks!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jules says:

        I may have to make a page up for Wynn Woo… though he may forgo returning… from where he came. …

        KAERU, spelt K A E R U rather than “ea”, is the Japanese word for a frog. … KAERU also has a second meaning in Japanese: to return (帰る). There is a play on words in Japan, whereby frogs are considered a symbol of prosperity, that wealth and fortune will return (kaeru) wherever there is a frog (kaeru).

        Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thanks, Jules, and you, too! I appreciate the way your poetry flows into the story, particularly, I like the impact of “here’s my ticket.” And then we go for a ride with Wynn Woo.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. TanGental says:

    The boys are sharing some downtime this week…

    ‘Can’t you sit still, Morgan?’
    ‘I am.’
    ‘You’re not. Your foot’s twitching like you’re wired to the mains and everything is vibrating. I can hear my own teeth.’
    ‘My gran was convinced the devil was in her dentures.’
    ‘I don’t want to know.’
    ‘You do.’
    …….
    ‘Go on.’
    ‘She’d a new plate made and the first evening heard voices.’
    ‘She was a loony?’
    ‘The neighbour’s radio. Something to do with a harmonica…’
    ‘Do you mean harmonics?’
    ‘Do I?’
    ‘Yes.’
    ‘Caused vibrations, apparently.’
    ‘Fascinating. Will you stop vibrating?’
    ‘They’re good vibrations…’
    ‘Morgan, please don’t start singing….’
    ‘I’m picking up good vibrations…’

    Liked by 9 people

  9. I love the image of your daughter feeling the excitement and great to hear about the good vibrations coming from your course. My 99-word story is in honour of World Refugee Day (which it happens to be today) and the good vibes I’m still feeling from the upsurge in the Black Lives Matter movement – with a touch of humour about good grammar:

    https://annegoodwin.weebly.com/annecdotal/12-recommended-reads-for-world-refugee-day

    Liked by 4 people

  10. Norah says:

    How sweet is your fairy garden as it vibrates with the whisperings of its tiny visitors. I’d love to be there among them.
    Charli, I am so thrilled to hear that your path towards your North Star has become more solid and your steps more sure. It is very exciting and I wish you a smooth journey from here. I like that you are encouraging all writers, whether professional or not, to be considered writers. You are egalitarian and work so hard for the betterment and recognition of others. You raise yourself by lifting others. You go, girl! You deserve every success.
    I enjoyed you flash. Your compassion for all of humanity comes through clearly.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. […] This was written in response to this week’s prompt at the #carrotranch.. […]

    Liked by 1 person

  12. […] was written in response to this week’s prompt at the #carrotranch. Apparently the reference has something to do with pop music, however my […]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. gordon759 says:

    Here’s my contribution, a curious true historical tale.

    https://gordonlepard.wordpress.com/2020/06/21/a-dream-of-airliners/

    It’s amazing what men dream about.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (06/18/2020): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes good vibrations. What is unfolding? Is someone giving off or receiving the feeling? Where is the story situated? Gather some good vibes and go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Liz H says:

    A bit of fantasy and fairy tale for you!

    Growing Pains

    Janina sat on the stone wall of the spring-fed pool. Behind her, her father’s castle clashed with loud music, shattering glass, and women’s high-pitched giggles. Her fourteenth birthday; she was sick of it all.
    Slipping out a door, she’d dashed to the ocean-side pond, losing her shoes and muddying her hem in the marshy grass…
    [Continue ]

    Liked by 3 people

  16. susansleggs says:

    Hi Charli,
    How exciting for your Ranchers to share your readiness to take literary art to a wider audience. I for one, am excited for you and appreciate tagging along. I would enjoy your deck with all the babies around. We watch the parent birds feed their young at our birdfeeders and marvel at new life.
    I had no idea you were in the eastern time zone. More new information.
    Seems a few of us thought of new babies this time…

    Meeting the Granddaughter

    Michael said, “I’m sorry. I need to stop at the next rest stop.”
    Tessa reached for his hand, gave him a sideways glance, and asked, “Are you all right? I can feel you shaking. Besides, we just stopped.”
    “Believe me, I know. I don’t know if I’m excited to meet your granddaughter, or scared, but I need to go again.”
    Tessa laughed aloud. “I thought only women had nervous bladders.”
    “Don’t pick on me,” he laughed. “I haven’t held a baby since I was in high school and I want this to go well.”
    “You’ll be a fine Grandpa.”

    Liked by 3 people

    • Liz H says:

      Very sweet! I’ll bet there are lot of new grands and great grands waiting hard for the opportunity to hold the new little one. This brings a bit of that, here…

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Sue! Thanks for being a part of the excitement. We all get to grow. Right now I don’t know if I feel like the awkward baby things trying to figure it all out or like Michael, but it seems like a new phase.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Hi Charli
    Good to know your writer’s goals are continuing to bloom, full of good vibrations for the future, so to speak.
    All the best.

    Sharing comments I posted on D.’s blog: Art Showin’
    “Hi D. and Charli
    Way behind in my blog reading!
    your blogs got linked in my mind –
    Art Showin’ — Fabulous!
    Good Vibrations — absolutely Good Vibrations from the art & artists.
    Thanks to Kid and Pal!

    will post comments on Charli’s blog.”

    Thinking over FF.
    Saifun

    Liked by 3 people

  18. Your North Star shines strong and true, Charli! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Marsha says:

    Hi Charli, Here’s my entry. https://tchistorygal.net/2020/06/23/flash-fiction-the-repo-property-had-potential-and-good-vibrations/ It’s quite a challenge to limit to 99 words, but fun.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. Shaken, Not Stirred

    “Really, Kid? Ya come limpin’ in here, all bruised, an’ yer blamin’ our writer?”
    “She decided ta write that ma hoss threw me.”
    “Thet’s outta character fer a Carrot Ranch hoss. Why’d it toss ya?”
    “They was a rattlesnake.”
    “She brought a rattler ta the Ranch?! Not cool. Folks gotta feel safe here.”
    “Desperation, Pal. Realized time’d run out on the prompt, thought ‘bout the vibration of a rattler’s tail. I’m jist collateral damage.”
    “This ain’t even well writ. An’ she give up her day job? She’ll go hungry at this rate.”
    “Mebbe not. Claims rattler tastes like chicken.”

    Liked by 3 people

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