Honey bees work the pollen from the nodding heads of the sole Lemon Queen in my garden. Only one grew — a volunteer — but the sunflower has over twenty heads. Soon, the petals will shrivel, drop to Roberts Street, and seeds will form to feed the winter birds. So many gifts grew from a determined single seed that fell to a mosaic of garnets. Rocks, flowers, and veg frame hope and potential.

Growth is good.

In the hallways of Finlandia University, I passed a corkboard display to explain the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. I smiled, passing the colorful artwork and encouraging message, aware that I’m walking the right halls. I lugged an armload of binders and notebooks having learned something new — I can better use technology for homework assignments.

Bees must strategize to collect pollen from different flowers. Sunflowers must be easy pollen picking. Hummingbirds are buzzing, too. Soon they will make a long migration to winter grounds. They flit among my petunias and one even poked at lobelia. I can’t imagine much nectar in such a tiny flower, but I admire the tenacity to try. Just as I respect my students who are beginning their own journeys to collect pollen and discover who they are in the world.

I don’t think they like flash fiction. And I say this with a chuckle because I know that a few might be converts by the end of the course, many will be relieved to have survived it, and others will carry forward all the writing lessons they need in building blocks they can re-use. I’m beginning to enjoy the sounds of groans, opening notebooks, and the silence of pens across paper. I can’t make them listen to me. I can’t make them engage with all the resources I provide. But I can make them write in class.

Despite the unpopularity of my favorite form of literary art, I do think they are opening up to the novel I selected for them to read (Fire Keeper‘s Daughter by Angeline Boulley) and they are all deeply thoughtful when they reflect in their journals. They have much writing to do in English I and I hope to show them the connections between craft and writing elements and the connection of academic writing to the world they navigate and the similarities of voice between essay and fiction writing.

As an instructor, I look to impart the material through different modalities. It was something I did as a trainer, too. Basically, we all learn through our senses, primarily visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. In education, we refer to these as the VARK learning styles, but in the workplace, many experts argue that people have more than a single preference. When I was learning to teach, my profs emphasized that we all learn better if given multimodal learning opportunities. It’s my belief that writers need to write to learn. Thus, my passion for the 99-word format.

However, many experts also point out that writing can’t be learned from writing alone. There must be engagement and a feedback loop. My students receive classroom lectures with my colorful and connected drawings of graphs on the board to “see” how craft elements and story structure works. Then, they “hear” the stories and craft elements in works I read aloud and then go back to point out the structure and elements at work. I give them written, digital, and auditory resources. Picking up a pencil and making them draft three flash fiction in 15 minutes is a kinesthetic act.

If I had a big van, I’d take them to Lady Superior with me and let them roam, explore and write descriptions or dialogs with the rushing water. I’d take them hiking and have them find a tree to interview. Most definitely, I’d load them up and take them to the Red Jacket Jamboree to experience a live radio show. On Sunday, I got to go listen to Ellis Delaney perform live.

What a delightful singer-songwriter and beacon of joy! During the show, I found out that Ellis participates in a weekly songwriting challenge among a group of music artists. I was wiggling in my chair with excitement to listen to her speak about the impact of inspiring and supporting one another through their art. Her song, “Not Everyone Fits” was written to the prompt, “prom dress.” As a non-binary person, the prompt was far from her life values, but she turned it into a powerful song. After the show we briefly connected and I asked if she had a link to the song. She expressed excitement over what we do here at Carrot Ranch.

The artists will save the world.

If ever we need art — and the thoughtful interaction and inspiration it creates — it is now. Gather up all the pollen you can, and write, write, write!

September 2, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to the theme, “not everyone fits a prom dress.” You can take inspiration from Ellis Delaney’s song, the photo, or any spark of imagination. Who doesn’t fit and why? What is the tone? You can set the genre. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 7, 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.

The Inevitable by Charli Mills

A deputy pounded on Faith’s door. Time to flee. When evacuation orders came, Faith rushed.

Living in the Tahoe basin, she memorized a fire-safety plan she never believed she’d use. Nervous remote workers had fled earlier. For weeks, impenetrable smoke curdled blue sky. Her weather app displayed a gas-mask for air quality. Neighbors passed a rumor that the Nation would deploy the Army. Who would let Tahoe burn?

Climate reality answered with unstoppable flames jumping HWY 50 and the Pacific Crest. Faith double-checked her mental list shoved into a car.

The prom dress from 1985 she hung to burn.

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