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January 7 Flash Fiction Challenge

A week into the new year, and I’m ready to “do” again. For the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring what it means to be a human being. The reflection was inward, and the parameters were mine. I was “being” like no one was watching. You know, like the saying — “dance like no one is watching.” What fulfills each of us is a design as unique as our thumbprints. I spent time to be with my self-design.

What I did was deep vision work. I didn’t just bounce from cloud-dream to cloud-dream. I distilled those vapors and thought about what elements give me purpose.

Vision work never ends. When we talk about evolving as a person, we are acknowledging how our vision shapes our understanding of who we are in the world. The more insights we often gain, the greater change it brings. The more we understand our vision, the better we get at defining our purpose. Visions don’t change; we get better clarity.

Think of it like this. Your vision is the landscape of the dream that drives your life. We can feel it in our gut and heart. We can see it in our mind’s eye. At first, it looks fuzzy. We have to define outlines of wispy clouds and name what we feel. When we first start playing with our visions, we imagine what our life looks like in five, ten, twenty years if we grow into who we want to be and what we do.

Then, as we continue to accomplish vision work each year, we get better at definition. These are the insights that come to us. A picture emerges from the clouds of dreams. We begin to recognize vision feelings in our every day lives. So, we push into that clarity and begin to see our vision’s thumbprint.

For example, many writers have a clear vision of a moment that defines success — they can imagine what they wear and say and how they feel when they sit on Oprah’s couch to discuss their book. Some writers include that moment in their vision. And why not? Vision work dreams big. Martin Luther King had a vision that drove his purpose, which was so strong it continues to inspire others today.

When we reflect on our vision, we realize that Oprah and her couch are symbolic. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen. But a vision is about purpose, about who we are as human beings as much as it is about what we do or accomplish. Go back to Oprah’s couch. Why are you there? What are you discussing? How are others around you feeling? How do you feel?

This is deep vision work.

I’ve had a dream of winning an Oscar from the time I was nine years old. I really don’t know what spawned the dream other than two things happened that year, and maybe that was enough. First, I got to go to the MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, Nevada, where I had my photo taken with a lion in a building that spared no detail on Hollywood glamor. Second, I had a bit role in the school play and discovered I love being a different person than the scared, awkward, and bullied kid I was.

That year, I watched the Oscars and noticed how the show looked like it was filmed at the MGM Grand Hotel, and the slick actors from films seemed as awkward in person as I felt despite their glamor.

I never told anyone about my fantasy or what I pretended any time I got to revisit the hotel in Reno and walk down the red-carpeted stairs. I discovered writing several years later and realized I could also become characters on the page. However, it popped up during vision work. And do you know what I did with that dream cloud? I blew it away because I thought it had nothing to do with my writing vision.

I was wrong.

Three years ago, I decided to not ignore the Oscar dream. I wrote it down in my ten-year vision. If I encouraged others to dream big, why not do it myself? Then I began to reflect on what it means to me. How it feels. How I feel in everyday life when I get that “Oscar” feeling. How winning an Oscar has anything to do with what I write.

A picture began to emerge. I live a rich inner life, and it is the source of my creativity. It’s not that I want to hide (on the stage or page); actually, I want to use bigger than life personas to express who I am on the inside. Surprisingly, my desire for Oscar recognition has to do with being seen for who I authentically am. It aligns with my top personal value of authenticity, which drives me to live the life I feel best expresses my purpose. That’s me, that’s my Oscar.

Also, I recognized a more practical application. My writing vision has to do with the kind of fiction I want to put out in the world — stories that express love in all its manifestations, characters who overcome adversity, books that uplift readers. I find myself looking for these stories in film to get quick fixes.

My writing Oscar is to write a story that would make a binge-worthy Netflix series.

Do I plan to set a goal to win an Oscar? No. That’s not the point. A vision might use accomplishments to express a person’s driving dreams, but a vision is all about living the fullest life available to you. Goals, the things we do, should take us to our vision. Every year, I will take this time to dive deeper into being. My vision balances who I am with what I do.

It’s not the arrival that satisfies me but the journey. I am a writer with an Oscar in her heart. I don’t need to get a statue; I need to express who I am on the page. Who is that? I’m still learning, but loving the transformative ride.

It’s good to be back to the Ranch and among writers. Look for Kid and Pal’s exclusive next Monday on the new baby critters headed tho the fictional ranch and the real ranch headquarters. Welcome to 2021!

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Periwinkles on the Pack River by Charli Mills

Stones pulsed with a periwinkle heartbeat. Danni walked along the Pack River where the snow melt had retreated to expose banks of smooth stones. Her steps disturbed clouds of tiny blue butterflies that flew ahead to land, folding up wings to expose the buff color of granite underneath. As quickly as they fluttered, they disappeared into the camouflage of their coloring. G-Dog and Detlor burst past her, running to the creek with happy, floppy freedom ears. Blue periwinkles and brown dogs. The day would be perfect if Ike were here. She tossed a stone in his favorite fishing hole.



  1. I haven’t thought about deep work or vision work for years. I used to love this. Perhaps I should get back to it. (Scratch the “perhaps”.) I think we’re all still learning who we are…if we’re searching. 😉 Happy Trails to you, Charli!

  2. Your trip along the river sounds idyllic <3

  3. Great piece, Charli, especially your opening line and of course you pushed all my soppy buttons with the dogs’ ‘happy, floppy freedom ears’. 🙂

  4. […] January 7, 2021 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the contrasting prompts butterfly and stone. It doesn’t have to be a western ranch chore; it can be any routine task. Go where the prompt leads! […]

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

  6. […] Author’s Notes: It’s a Friday. The Butterfly Stone a story. Call it Friday Fact or Fiction. Some stories will be 100% fact (or close to it) while others will be 100% fiction. Most will be a little bit of both. You, the reader, can delight in speculating where the story belongs.Today’s entry is in a category known as flash fiction. There are many other names (micro, mini, nano, etc) and a variety of different lengths (one-word stories, six-word stories, 12-word stories, 100 words, 500 words.) Carrot Ranch is a dynamic online literary community for those practicing their craft, reading stories and discussing the process. Charlie Mills hosts the weekly Flash Fiction challenge which limits stories to 99 words – no more, no less. This week’s challenge is to write “using the contrasting prompts butterfly and stones.” […]

  7. Charli!! Some good to have you back around. We all benefit from the work you do and I’m glad you are wise enough to make time for the work. Loved the flash and the snapshot of Danni and the dogs. Those little blue butterflies- “the puppies”, my brother’s little dogs, had me laughing on our walks last summer when they flushed those butterflies and chased them down the trail, ears flopping. (no butterflies were ever actually caught or harmed)

    • Charli Mills says:

      What a delight it would be to see your brother’s pups chasing a herd of butterflies! I’m chasing a pup and chapters and dreaming of flutterby days when we can gather and travel again.

  8. denmaniacs4 says:

    I See the Sky

    I see the sky,
    a band of blue,
    your sweet-sought dreams,
    a life anew.

    Wing away friend,
    soar to the heights,
    butterfly dreams,
    a life in lights.

    I am the earth,
    the solid ground,
    what I can grasp,
    certainty bound.

    The eastern sun
    will always rise,
    set in the west,
    each day a prize.

    And though I wait,
    weighted by stone,
    it ‘tis my way
    and not your own.

    Each way is best,
    and yes, best yet,
    to life a life
    without regret.

    And so, you write,
    you shape, you mould,
    each thought a word
    a tale well told.

    • denmaniacs4 says:

      Edit! Edit!

      I See the Sky

      I see the sky,
      a band of blue,
      your sweet-sought dreams,
      a life anew.

      Wing away friend,
      soar to the heights,
      butterfly dreams,
      a life in lights.

      I am the earth,
      the solid ground,
      what I can grasp,
      certainty bound.

      The eastern sun
      will always rise,
      set in the west,
      each day a prize.

      And though I wait,
      weighted by stone,
      it ‘tis my way
      and not your own.

      Each way is best,
      and yes, best yet,
      to live a life
      without regret.

      And so, you write,
      you shape, you mould,
      each thought a word
      a tale well told

  9. […] Carrot Ranch Jan 7 FF January 7, 2021 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the contrasting prompts butterfly and stones. The two can be used in any way in your story. Go where the prompt leads! Respond by January 12, 2021. […]

  10. Jules says:

    Good afternoon Charli,

    Retrospection and goals are good to have. Thanks for this prompt, it fit in nicely with my series:

    (93) Damned Family 1p (Jesse Finds Inner Strength)

    I am woman, hear me roar! Yet the butterflies in my stomach twitter uncontrollably. I’ve got to get me some stones, find my own cojones. I stared at the phone. I had to call Mae Norwich. And honesty was the best policy.

    Jesse dialed the phone hoping at first to just leave a message, maybe set up a time to meet at a public place. But at three O’clock Mae was having some quiet time in her office when the phone rang. So she picked it up and calmly responded; “This is Mae Norwich, how can I help you?”


  11. Ritu says:

    Hey Charli! Don’t know why, but lockdown and home school are on my mind constantly, at the moment…😜

  12. Norah says:

    I’m pleased you are working towards greater clarity on your vision, Charli. How awesome to have your book made into a ‘binge-worthy Netflix series’. I see it now …
    I love this prompt. I am biased towards butterflies. I know you are towards stones.
    I enjoyed Danni’s walk. So centering, communing with nature. But where is Ike? Will he be back soon?

    • Norah says:

      I’m back with my story about stones and butterflies. I hope you like it.

      A Butterfly Promise
      Jack scrambled over the rocks to their favourite place for discussing the wonders of the universe and the meaning of life. And death. He took Grandma’s special stone from his pocket, turned it this way and that in the sunlight, and admired its iridescence. ‘Like butterfly wings. Like life.’ Grandma said she’d come back as a butterfly, if she could.
      ‘You shouldn’t have left me, Grandma!’ Jack didn’t try to stop his tears. He blinked when a beautiful butterfly alighted on the stone, tickled his nose and circled his head before fluttering away. “Grandma!” called Jack. “You came back!”

    • Charli Mills says:

      We make good friends, Norah — butterflies and stones! Having exciting elements in a vision helps me slog through the muddy work. As for Ike, his author keeps him in trouble and sends him away.

      • Norah says:

        We do indeed, Charli. Stones to keep us grounded and butterflies to give us wings.
        Ike’s author has a lot to answer for. 🤣😉

  13. […] This was written with the prompt of using both a butterfly and stones provided by the Carrot Ranch January 7 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  14. […] January 7 Flash Fiction Challenge: […]

  15. jgard3 says:


    In the north, a river separates the lands of the living and dead. According to legend, if you skip a stone across its smooth waters to the other bank, the deceased will visit your dreams.

    One day, an orphan took aim and skipped a stone thirteen times. On the last arc it struck a monarch butterfly. Seeing the stunned butterfly drifting toward his shore, the child reached for it, slipped, and drowned.

    Millions of butterflies descended, buried the boy with wings like autumn leaves, and carried his soul south.

    Every spring, they return north to bring his dreams home.

  16. In “Teaching A Stone To Talk” Annie Dillard states that we’ve desecrated the groves and sacred places, “have moved from pantheism to pan-atheism”, and so “Nature’s silence is its one remark”; “The silence is all there is” and this silence is our own doing.
    I wonder who are we then, to presume to teach a stone to talk? We need to learn to listen!
    It isn’t easy work; it requires great attention and practice. But the stone has much to say about patience, endurance, and transformation.
    Look. A butterfly lands whisper-winged on a lichen-cloaked stone. Watch and learn.

  17. What an amazing post. I could totally relate. It’s funny how similar our tales are. I never thought of getting an Oscar, but becoming a famous actor was definitely my dream. Maybe it will happen. The real dream would be to write a book that gets turned into a movie and I get to star in it.

    You put it perfectly – it’s to express myself. To show people the different dimensions of me.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Kindred spirits, Goldie! Do you think acting gives you insight on character development? I’d love to see you in your own movie someday! There are many actors who turned writers to pen the roles they wanted. I think I see a lot of that on Netflix. They are really changing up film and series.

  18. I found this post such a magical read, Charli. Maybe because it had the word ‘dreams’ in it. But I wonder? Can our dreams be about something fictional rather than something real? What do you and others reading this think? I’m on the line that your dreams helps you write fiction, regardless of whether it’s real-life fiction, or something that you may think isn’t possible yet.

    I like the sound of your dream at winning an Oscar and how you would go about winning it. Never say never.

    Have a lovely week.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Absolutely! I think even our “fictional” dreams lead us to truth because they stand for what we want to express about the world and ourselves in it. Even imagining what isn’t yet possible makes it possible. Engineers are fictioneers, too. The imagination is the ability to bridge dreams and the sensory world around us.

      I’ll never say never! 😉

      Thanks, Hugh! It’s been a full and lovely week with a new fur baby. So much love. So many trips outside to potty!

  19. […] tell you the January 7 prompt from Charli at Carrot Ranch, but as always it’s a real fine post that goes with it, worth clicking on over there. Okay, […]

  20. Ann Edall-Robson says:

    Butterfly Lips
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    Where the water once gushed
    Over stones and green shoots
    Wings steady delicate bodies
    Their minuscule feet dancing
    Barely rising from the remains
    Of the escarpments drying life
    Cruel summer heat evaporates
    Yet the Admiral and Swallowtail
    Bewitched with the droplets
    Unseen by the naked eye
    They stay to kiss the mud
    Wetting parched butterfly lips
    Breezes lift their feathery wings
    Sharing fissures with others
    Until they are satiated
    Before the ground
    Becomes baked clay
    And they lift skyward
    Yet, return they will
    To where the water once flowed
    Over the rocks and grass
    To this place of life

  21. The beauty about dreams is that there is no tax on it, and I feel that dreams are a way to manifest our intentions. So, Dream on Charli. I am cheering with you on this.

    My take:

  22. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (01/07/2021): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the contrasting prompts butterfly and stone. It doesn’t have to be a western ranch chore; it can be any routine task. Go where the prompt leads! […]

  23. Liz H says:

    A little darker then I’d planned, but I went where the prompt took me…
    Butterfly Kisses
    He lay, entombed in mud and ice and darkness. He’d lain there so long that fine, tough filaments had grown over his limbs, the bridge of his nose, twining around the desiccated, corded column of his neck. He’d pull the blanket higher, cover the chilled vee of his pajama top…but no…too much of an effort.

    He’d gone too far away.

    Then he heard it, the sweet lilt: the child’s voice. A faraway light broke overhead; he felt her smooth cheek against his own, unshaven and unwashed. Her lashes brushed his cheekbone, once and again.

    Wake up, Grampa.

  24. […] weekly 99-word Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot […]

  25. Hair A the Hog

    “Pal? There anythin’ ta eat?”
    “Where ya been Kid?”
    “Walkin’ the hog.”
    “Uh-huh. Where’d ya go?”
    “How’s he doin’? Still not drinkin’?”
    “Not drinkin’. Thinkin’. Sets there on a big rock. Jist sets. Yer there ya gotta set real quiet too. Ernie says they’re conversin’. Him an’ that stone.”
    “Huh. He ain’t drinkin’?”
    “Not even growin’ corn. But he’s got a garden. Thought Pepe was there. Was them plants. We got anything ta eat? Don’t know why I’m so hungry. I et plenny a Ernie’s cookies. Hey, lookit the butterfly.”
    “Thet’s yer piglet.”
    “That’s what the stone said!”

  26. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the contrasting prompts butterfly and stones. Th… […]

  27. […] Charli Mills is back with a new carrot ranch prompt […]

  28. Anne Goodwin says:

    Happy New Year, Charli! Perhaps not surprisingly, I had a post already prepared on my reading and writing goals, but your reflections on visioning got me thinking more deeply about how the important thing is not the big dream but what’s underneath. I had my heart set on being interviewed by Jenni Murray from Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio Four. And I have my suspicions about why! But for the next six months my focus is more concrete: trying to grow my newsletter list and publicising my next novel.

    My reading and writing goals for 2021 and my 99-word story Petrified:

    • Charli Mills says:

      Happy New Year, Anne! Yes, it’s where the dreams come from that can be enlightening to explore. It also helps us recognize when those dreams manifest in smaller but still significant ways. Concrete goals are good for times when you are on track as you are this year. I’m excited for May and your book debut.

  29. […] Written for the Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  30. suespitulnik says:

    Hi Charli,
    As usual, your essay gave me lots to ponder. I’m not sure I know how to envision my own clear future, too many variables.
    I have always loved critters so a puglet, kids, and a real puppy added to the mix are right up my alley. I feel fun times and lots more stories are ahead. in 2021. On to the prompt…

    Butterfly Rock Garden

    In the springtime, the Homefront Warrior’s group worked quickly under the threat of rain to arrange rocks and then plant seedlings and bulbs for a memorial garden.
    Now it was a sunny, blue-sky August day and they gathered for a picnic near their handiwork. One woman who had little knowledge of plants stood admiring the various colored blossoms with a puzzled look on her face.
    Tessa noticed. “What has you perplexed?”
    “Why did we plant weeds in with the flowers?”
    “If you mean the milkweed, it’s the only thing a monarch butterfly will eat. Look, here comes one now.”

    • I like the idea of that garden. And I agree with you on the pondering.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Sue, what if you dreamed something outlandish and as Hugh mentioned, a dream of fiction? Then revisit it to explore what it means to you. I love your flash, and the planting of the garden. Milkweed is such a wonder! Especially when the monarchs show up.

  31. Kate says:

    I enjoyed your post Charli, showing us the depths to which you go to in your visioning and goal setting. I’m sure I’m not the only one who found it very enlightening. And, in the spirit of being fanciful, here’s my attempt at including a stone, a butterfly and task into a story.

    The Fairy Garden

    “What’ya doing?” Tommy asked, dropping his toy cars beside the sandbox.

    “I’m building a fairy garden,” Lily said, placing small stones alongside her castle.

    “It’s my turn to play.”

    “’Tis not.”

    “’Tis so!” Tommy shouted, kicking the sand.


    “Stop it!” their mother’s voice echoed from the house.

    Frustrated, Tommy sat down on the rim of the sandbox. Finally, he announced, “I’ll build a fairy car garage over here.”

    “Well, okay,” Lily said and gasped, “Look, a fairy!”

    Tommy looked up. “It’s a butterfly, you ninny.”

    “You’re silly,” Lily giggled. “Don’t you know? Fairies are beautiful butterflies in disguise.”

  32. […] brings me to Charli’s January 7 2020 flash fiction challenge. It was to write a story in 99 words (no more, no less) that included a stone and a butterfly and […]

  33. […] write a story about dressing up.“– prompts used for this CW piece.[Source: Carrot Ranch 1, 2, and […]

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