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Special Collection Flash Fiction Challenge

When I was twenty, a group leader at a retreat asked me, what are your goals in five years? One year? Thirty days? Then he asked, what would you do if you had five years to live? One year? Thirty days? What I wrote down were two different lists. I never forgot the lesson that day. Now, if you asked me, I’d respond with one list. Death is not easy for any of us to contemplate, and yet we will all die. We must live as if we know that because this life, people, and love are so precious.

To me, Carrot Ranch is the ranch I always dreamed of having. Sure, I thought there would be more horses and cattle, but I’m happier with writers and readers. The greater writing community is a colorful bazaar full of wonders and books and writers swilling ink. The branches of smaller and intersecting communities provide shade on our path and a place to gather and be. This literary community fills my creative well and my heart.

So, when I heard the news that one of our familiar pens and watering holes was grappling with the age-old challenge of dying, I felt stilled and sad. But then, hope rose on the wings of what it means to live and connect with one another. I’m in awe of the compassion of this collective of writers, of the bravery to step up and declare what matters when many would shy away. I’m humbled by how quickly his community responded.

Our dear friend, mentor, and prolific writer, Sue Vincent is facing lung cancer. If you don’t already follow Sue, you can do so here and learn of her story first-hand. Unlike me thirty-some years ago, Sue doesn’t have to reconcile her lists. She does what she loves, and finds it an honor to prompt the stories of others. In her, I find a kindred spirit, a lifelong learner and lover of people. Sue Vincent is a force of good in this world and proof positive that stories matter.

And you are all a part of that force for good, too. Whether you write horror, humor, or hefty words, you do good to share your stories, to use your voice, and to connect with others different from you. Writers are the bridges of cultures, the harbingers of better days, and the ambassadors of truth through fiction (and BOTS). You also care deeply for one another.

On Monday, Carrot Ranch will launch an event to celebrate Sue Vincent and her writing. There will be a “99” writing contest from February 1-19 with a suggested donation that goes directly to Sue. We want to make it a big deal beyond our trees of the writing woods, therefore it carries a $100 grand prize. There will also be a parade of sorts, a chance to gather together with Sue to share and reblog her posts in February. Be sure to tune in Monday for the full announcement. I’m so proud of all who have arranged this event, and volunteered to help. I’m proud of all of you whom I know will push this out far and wide to celebrate one of our own beloved writers.

February is going to be different at Carrot Ranch. Don’t let it throw you. I’ll be cloistered away, working on my thesis submission. I’m grateful to the community for carrying on.

Here’s a schedule for you so you know what to expect:

  • January 28 Special Collection Challenge to Honor the work of Sue Vincent
  • February 1-19: Sue Vincent Classic Rodeo Contest and Parade of Reblogs (announced Monday, February 1 at
  • February 3 No Collection
  • February 4 Special Host: D. Avery
  • February 10 Special Host Collection
  • February 11 Sue Vincent Reblog Parade (no challenge)
  • February 17 Special Sue V Collection posted
  • February 18 Special Host: D. Avery
  • February 19 Contest ends
  • February 23 Special Host Collection
  • February 24 Regular Challenges Resumes
  • March 22 Winner and Runners Up Announced

You might say, February will be special. Please join in because this is about all of us and our legacy as writers.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

~ Rumi

This 99-word story prompt will be posted and presented to Sue Vincent on February 17. If you want to be included in this special collection, respond through the form.

January 28, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life as a river of consciousness. Think about the possibilities of the prompt. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by February 11, 2021. 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.

Life as a River of Consciousness

She stood on a rounded rock in the middle of the river, contemplating her next jump. Summer saw the flow subside from its earlier spring torrents. She noticed how the river had changed from last season, and the one before. Her life seemed perpetual as the water. She longed for stillness, awareness, so she didn’t hop to the next exposed rock. Instead, she stood in the river of consciousness, allowing life to flow through her until a dandelion seed tickled her nose and she sneezed. Her small droplets became part of the waterway, her one life one with all.



  1. ellenbest24 says:

    I am sad, the lady and I met in the foyer of the Westminster hotel in London. Both at the UK blog awards

  2. ellenbest24 says:

    Count me in.

  3. This is not an entry as such but, along the lines of the prompt, I wanted to introduce the concept of ‘an ocean refuses no river’, as hypnotically expressed by Sheila Chandra, whom I have had the privilege to hear live. This is a quiet space and headphones experience preferably. Tragically, in 2009, Sheila began experiencing symptoms of what was eventually diagnosed as Burning Mouth Syndrome, as a result of which she is unable to sing, speak, laugh or cry without suffering intense pain. She has thus been rendered effectively mute. As a result of her illness, Sheila has retired from music but writes, including ‘Organising for Creative People,

  4. Sue Vincent says:

    I cannot say how deeply moved I have been by this, Charli, or by how many people have already put so much thought and care into doing this.
    It makes a huge difference.
    The Rumi quote is the perfect reminder too. We are often too ready to hide behind the proverbial stiff upper lip or the self-deprecating smile. Love is exactly what life is about… and learning to accept it for yourself not always easy…

    • Charli Mills says:

      What moves you, Sue, moves us all, and yes, love is the binder. Rumi continues to offer the kind of insights I believe we get when we seek who we are and what the world is about in our writing. Wallace Stegner, one of the first to teach creative writing (it was believed it couldn’t be taught) says that fiction is how we search for our truth. To open up such paths to others is fulfilling. I hope your lip is floppy and smiling today! We love you!

      • Sue Vincent says:

        Thanks, Charli. There is a lot to that idea. Lloyd Alexander wrote that, ““fantasy is hardly an escape from reality. It’s a way of understanding it, ” and I think that applies across the board with fiction, giving us a safe place to explore parts of life and living we could not otherwise approach. And, at the same time, we are able to explore ourselves and how we deal with these situations.
        I know how much writing has helped me during the rough times too.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Ah, yes, I would agree with Lloyd Alexander and argue that it’s worth upholding fiction as a vital part of humanity.

  5. Reblogged this on Pattys World.

  6. I’m looking forward to playing my part for this wonderful event, Charli. Sue has touched many writers’ lives, some of whom (like me) always hid behind their screens because they were too shy or scared to share their work online. Writing prompts like #writephoto, and the 99-word flash fiction challenge has changed my life and bought me into contact with many wonderful people, some of whom I have had the great pleasure of meeting in person. I’m honoured that one of those people is Sue and that she welcomed me into her blogging community and inspired and encouraged me to keep writing.
    Thank you so much to both of you.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hugh, I’m sure your words will be a balm to Sue. I’m so pleased we can encourage one another. I appreciate how you speak openly as a dyslexic writer, letting me relax about my own dyslexia instead of feeling like I have to hide it. Each of us in turn inspires another when we can be inspired to speak from our authenticity. And Sue has had a tremendous impact on our lives. Thank you for being a vital part of the team!

  7. […] For more details, visit Charli Mills (Head Rodeo Person) recent blog post – Special Collection Flash Fiction. […]

  8. “The branches of smaller and intersecting communities provide shade on our path and a place to gather and be.”
    This line was so visual. The strong supporting branches of Sue’s blog, of yours, provide nurturing shelter for others to sprout and grow.
    And Rumi. Yes.

  9. So much wonder in this world. Great initiative!

  10. edwardky2 says:

    Reblogged this on Ed;s Site..

  11. Pete says:

    Wow Charli, I wrote mine and then came a back to read yours, which is gorgeous!

    I also went to Sue’s site and spent some time there. Happy to be a part of this.


    When I was a boy the river taunted me with its winding possibilities. I skipped stones over its glittering surface, paddled furiously against its current. Sometimes we meandered together, it seemed, in search of bigger and better things.

    Upon my return, we’ve both changed. The banks have given way to the stream’s rebellious erosion. Wide and straight, the water rushes over felled trees, rocks, carrying bits and pieces of earth to greater bodies.

    I no longer throw stones. I don’t push upstream against the current. I’d rather let the river whisk me away, off to bigger and better things.

  12. Anne Goodwin says:

    Your post and ff is a fine tribute to a fine writer. What a lovely way to celebrate Sue’s life, words and work.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Anne. No matter where we are in life, we can always evolve and celebrate. I appreciate that you will be one of the judges, too!

  13. […] This 99-word story prompt from Carrot Ranch will be posted and presented to Sue Vincent on February 17. If you want to be included in this special collection, respond through the form HERE. […]

  14. […] This 99-word story prompt from Carrot Ranch will be posted and presented to Sue Vincent on February 17. If you want to be included in this special collection, respond through the form HERE. […]

  15. […] Mills has a special Flash Fiction prompt, this week, that introduces a month of differences in February. A flash fiction challenge, […]

  16. Ritu says:

    Thank you for hosting this, Charli. Sue is a very special person, with one of the biggest hearts in the Blogosphere, and I know there are many who will rush to take part in this. <3

  17. I so loved this. Thanks, Charli for the space to show each other how much we care and love them. You touched all are amazing.

    I crafted a flash here:

    The old gods had stood sentinel over the Grand River for as far back as I could remember. The water that cut through the forest of towering trees emptied into the icy depths of Lake Michigan downstream.

    In winter, ice froze her glassy surface. In summer, the quiet drone of insects filled the air as they danced on her waves. Teeming with fish, the crystal waters surged with the pulse of life, never-ending in an eternal circle of life and death.

    For me, this ancient river had no beginning and no end, only the steadfast current of living.

    I hope you’ll visit my post where I created a Double Ennead poem as well (99 syllables).

  18. […] This is my contribution for a very special challenge for a very special person, Sue Vincent. You can find out more here […]

  19. One of the reasons I absolutely love carrot ranch is we have each other’s back esp in times of adversity. #gratitude
    Sue, you’ve been in my prayers, and you can beat it!!
    My take on this beautiful prompt that made me contemplate on my life!

  20. I will make sure I use the form this week. Thank you for hosting and holding this rodeo/parade for Sue. <3

  21. […] Special Collection January 28, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life as a river of consciousness. Think about the possibilities of the prompt. Go where the prompt leads! Respond by February 11, 2021. Please see this post on ways to support Sue Vincent. […]

  22. Jules says:


    This is amazing to help Sue Vincent. I believe I’ve known Sue for a very long time… I’ve written to many of her Write Photo prompts and enjoy her writing and poetry.

    Your piece reminds us of how we are always a part of everything. 🙂

    I went where the prompt lead:
    Off Balance

    Too many adults weren’t talking. Too many changes were taking place at one time. Her river of consciousness had divided to conquer the fragile sanity that only a child who is kept in the dark after a parents’ death can muster.

    Willing herself to be in a place of comfort, she sat comfortably in her grammar school art class until the teacher asked why she wasn’t in her reading class. The magic bubble burst, hope dissolved like candy floss on the tongue.

    Reality slammed her back where her body sat like a mannequin. Reality was cold, bitter and harsh.


    I’ve also posted a piece today at her Write Photo prompt.
    A trio of Hexastitch. A unique syllabic form.

    Continued success with your course work!!

  23. […] Special Collection Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  24. Jim Borden says:

    what a wonderful tribute to Sue. Sue has been remarkably strong and open during her battle; her blog is a testament to the power of the human spirit…

  25. […] Prompted from Six Sentence Story Word Prompt at: […]

  26. Prior... says:

    Hi – cheers to your beautiful honoring of Sue – thoughts and prayers for her family
    and I am doing fiction right now but wish everyone well as you join in this wonderful way to honor a writer and blogger who invested in many people.
    I will also think of Sue from Trent’s blog and then of course other posts here and there –
    she brought much to the blogosphere and Charli and others – this is beautiful

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

  28. denmaniacs4 says:


    I stand on the bank of the river.
    It winds through my starving soul,
    the water, cool, clear, dream-like,
    as I float on its sea-bound roll.

    I stand on the shore of the river,
    pebbles, pools, and sandstone knoll,
    as a broken limb of arbutus
    drifts by in the currents control.

    I wade knee-deep in the river,
    stand in a soothing shoal,
    bend, as one will in a river,
    take hold of my new walking pole.

    I drift in the flow of the river,
    no destination, no particular goal.
    Full fealty to the river,
    Allegiance to my inevitable toll.

  29. Myrna Migala says:

    Recently discovered the cross that Sue Vincent has been graced with, and all my prayers are with her. I am so sorry I have been behind with so many here with sufferings and joys they live with. I tried to write and did submit my entry, will post it on my blog sometime today. Please forgive my neglect.

  30. […] I tried a Double Ennead as Colleen’s Contribution. To participate, here’s the link:  CARROT RANCH I also wrote the same in the requested 99 word (no more, no less) […]

  31. Myrna Migala says:

    This is Myrna again, sorry about my confusion regarding the submission form here. I was so taken while writing I submitted the 99syllable instead of the 99 word story which I now have on my blog at

  32. […] Author’s Notes: It’s a Friday. From Where I Came 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 with the prompt of “life as a river of consciousness.” […]

  33. This is truly the greatest spirit of the blogging community, Charli! I’ll be back next Monday to follow up on it.
    Congratulations on doing your thesis and many wonderful writings to come. <3

  34. TanGental says:

    You are a star Charli Mills. Sue is a deserving recipient of your love and largesse in creating this.

  35. dgkaye says:

    A fabulous parade production. Sue does so much for the writing community it’s a lovely giveback. <3

  36. […] is what Charlie Mills at The Carrot Ranch has to say “On Monday, Carrot Ranch will launch an event to celebrate Sue […]

  37. […] lot of thought has gone into Charli Mills’Special prompt, here, for Sue […]

  38. Hi Charli,

    Prayers and the very best in life for Sue Vincent.
    And the very best for you, as you pursue your MFA, in the coming weeks.

    As always, a great deal to reflect upon in your post.

    Looking forward to the Special FF collection — always impressed with the diversity of FF by the Carrot Ranch Writers.
    And the contest — A challenge for me, to write, to stretch the mind, the imagination.

    My FF for this week’s prompt comes from my past FF stories, an amazing experience when I think of the brief time I’ve been at the Ranch! And I’ve ended up writing two FF stories, a rare event! Please feel free to use either one or both if possible.

    Thank you, Charli, for this great inspiring Carrot Ranch.


  39. Kate says:

    Charli, your post and contest are a lovely tribute to a fine writer. My thoughts are with you, all the writers and Sue. My ‘river of consciousness’ became the river’s string of consciousness.

    I am a river born from the rattling-cold mountain streams, a peaceful current sliding around rocks and meandering amongst the trees, on my way to the sea. Silver-coloured fish hide beneath my surface while armored turtles plod covertly along my bed. Iridescent and blue, playful dragonflies swoop over my waters catching their prey and howling coyotes come out at night and frighten the gentle deer away. People rarely visit me, but when they do, they usually come alone or in twos. They always sit and listen to the gurgling of my waves, while I give comfort to their souls.

  40. Marsha says:

    Charli, you offer your community hope and a way to give back and honor Sue, whom they love and admire. So many people have shared comments about how they know Sue and what this means to them. I read about this on Geoff LePard’s website and reblogged his post. I will definitely support everyone’s efforts here. So I’ll be back Monday. I enjoyed all the short stories. I love that Norah and D. are digging you a tunnel. There will be a light at the end of it, and you will finish all of the many things pulling at you right now. Thank you for your kind heart and your power to organize and inspire. 🙂

  41. […] The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic begins tomorrow, February 1st. There is a request for donations that will go directly to Sue and her family, and Charli Mills has graciously set up a PayPal functionality on the Carrot Ranch post that will give the cash directly to Sue. […]

  42. Norah says:

    What a beautiful flash, Charli. We all belong to life as a river. Each one swirls into view for a moment in time, then dips under and becomes one with all again. “It” wouldn’t be without the contribution of each.
    What a different month February will be at the Ranch. You have gathered an amazing team around you who show the true meaning of empathy and compassion. I wish Sue and her family all the best.
    May your fingers tap that thesis out in double-quick time. I’m looking forward to hearing it’s done.

  43. […] This poem is in response to a prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary Community […]

  44. This is all beautiful. I’ve shared this on my author page, and I’d like to enter the rodeo as well. Since I’m blind, could you please describe the photo? If you don’t want to do it publicly, my email is Thank you.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Photo description: A body of water reflects a blue sky laced with wispy clouds. It’s a river, and so still that it looks like a mirror. Where it curves between low green hills, a golden sunset sits on the horizon separating water from sky.

      Thank you for sharing the post, Jo. Is there a way I can make the photos on my website user-friendly for those visually impaired? Carrot Ranch is about accessibility to literary art and when I learn about barriers, I want to find solutions.

      • Thanks so much, Charli! What a beautiful description! Describing photos like that is the perfect way to overcome barriers. Alt-text is another way, although I admit I don’t know much about it. The automatic description generated by alt-text would have been a poor substitute for your vivid words anyway, something like “Photo may contain water and clouds.” 🙂

  45. […] Be sure to join in the February 1-19: Sue Vincent Classic Rodeo Contest and Parade of Reblogs (announced Monday, February 1 at […]

  46. Jennie says:

    Hi Charli! I reblogged my favorite Sue post in her honor and of course gave credit and attention to The Carrot Ranch…BUT was I supposed to reblog it under your blog and not mine? Know what I mean? This non-techy gal might have messed up. Do I forward my post to you or what? I think this is wonderful for Sue! I just might be brave enough to submit a 99 word entry, too.

    • Jennie, I’m finally getting to reading and commenting on this post and as I’m probably a couple days ahead of Charli, I will go out on a limb and suggest that a parade is a parade! This is all about Sue and getting reblogs and shares out there; anywhere anyhow is all good.
      But this is definitely the place for the special collection responses.

  47. Hi Charli. I submitted my story, but I couldn’t find a place to make a donation. Can you help a technologically challenged gal out? I was almost through college before computers became a thing. I’ve been told that’s no excuse, that there are senior citizen techies out there, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Also, do I share my own story on my page to help advertise the rodeo, or do I wait till Sue has seen it? Sorry for all the questions.

  48. […] also the Sue Vincent Special Collection Challenge of January 28, 2021: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life as a river of […]

  49. Jules says:

    OK I have Submitted the poem
    On my way to submit the Flash Fiction piece.
    I did not post either piece.
    I did however place my order for two different Sue V books this morning 😀

  50. Jules says:

    OK I have Submitted my Flash Fiction entry.
    I did not post the flash fiction entry.

    I might be back to add an additional piece just for the comments area.

    Some vistas are just awe inspiring 😀

    • Jules says:

      I submitted these entries in the wrong place… – They are the contest entries. I am going to submit them there so you can delete them from this collection. ~ Thanks Jules.

  51. Reblogged this on Allusionary Assembly and commented:
    This is a wonderful project hosted in honor of a special person.

  52. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life as a river of consciousness. Think about t… […]

  53. […] This 99-word poem was written in response to Charli Mills’ Special collection Challenge at Carrot Ranch.  […]

  54. […] January 28, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life as a river of consciousness. Think about the possibilities of the prompt. Go where the prompt leads! […]

  55. […] is what Charlie Mills at The Carrot Ranch has to say “On Monday, Carrot Ranch will launch an event to celebrate […]

  56. […] January 28, 2021, Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge prompt is special. This 99-word story prompt will be posted and presented to Sue Vincent on […]

  57. I certainly do not want to miss this challenge, but was beginning to doubt whether I was going to get a response. This is where the prompt led:

    The Hunter

    The pale winter light was already waning when he began following the buck.
    Only the frost sparkled moon witnessed his pursuit through the deep snow, farther and farther into the woods.
    The buck loped across the frozen river, looked back over its shoulder from the tree line. He followed. Midway he heard a chuckling sound beneath him and he chuckled too, suddenly realizing the joke.
    Letting go his rifle, he slogged his way to where the deer had disappeared. Soaked and freezing, he nestled into the snow.
    Looking at the river of stars overhead, he chuckled again. Another river.

  58. A little late to the party this time around but here’s mine.


    When I was small, and Dad took me fishing there, the river entered my consciousness. Forever. When I was a young man and dead fish started floating past, I was conscious this was not right. I agitated and was fed con-science, from a government that needed the taxes from the factories. When I was a father, my children got sick from the river; swimming ended and we drank only rain tank water. Now I’m a grandfather, and the river is a drain, my conscience won’t let me lose my consciousness, and I leave that heritage to my family. Forever.

  59. And here’s a fish story from a different angle. This is autobiographical, about my first husband and me. I lost him to a rare form of Lou Gehrig’s disease. I will mourn him for as long as I live, but I also rejoice because part of his soul lives in me.

    They sat on the riverbank, the waning sun on their shoulders, poles in their hands with limp lines in the still water, their laughter light on the air.

    “A tug, a tug,” she said.

    He took her pole, his hands over hers. “Gentle … gentle …”

    They lifted the trout, shining, dripping–he held it below the gills while she felt its curves, its muscles rippling. Then he quickly slipped it off the hook and let it drop with a splash; it disappeared into the stream of life. He touched her cheek tenderly; his wet hands smelled of fish.

  60. […] week’s 99-word flash fiction challenge on Charli’s Carrot Ranch, will be presented to Sue Vincent as part of a celebration event for Sue and her […]

  61. Gloria says:

    Much love to Sue. A challenge of a different nature indeed!
    It takes me quite a while to brainstorm the prompts, and I don’t think I’ve ever done a photo prompt. But I will give it a shot especially for Sue!
    Here’s my river of consciousness flash.

  62. You know, Doug–I was thinking. My daughter is in Scouts. I could see your story about the fish in the river published in Boys Life, or even in one of the outdoorsy magazines for adults, or the newsletter for an advocacy organization. Something to consider. 🙂

  63. […] Mills hosted a Special Collection Flash Fiction Challenge in support of a gifted poet and writer, Sue Vincent, who is facing a difficult challenge in her […]

  64. I’ve entered, an interesting prompt and lovely to be able to join in the special collection for Sue. Here it is:

  65. Anne Goodwin says:

    My river meandered here just before the deadline! I’m celebrating three of Sue’s posts about landscape we both cherish:
    On Beeley Moor

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