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September 23: Flash Fiction Challenge

“Maple leaves turn red first.” One of my Warrior Sisters pointed across the Houghton Canal to a ridge of woods flashing autumn colors. I’m not familiar enough with the North Woods to repeat the assertion, but it reminds me of something an organic farmer once told me in Minnesota. “White flowers emerge first.”

Whether you live where spring has sprung or fall has descended, we have crested the equinox.

The Keweenaw is my community. My home. Home is turning colors and though uncertain about what transitions come next, I’m ready. Ready as a birch tree. Recently I hiked Quincy Hill, pausing to catch my breath and thoughts alongside a pair of birch. As I palmed twin trunks and leaned forward, the trees flexed. Strength comes with flexibility to withstand the winds. I felt solid on my peninsula, holding on, swaying, and trusting what comes of roots.

Here is where I plant mine. I’m a California Girl, long gone from the state that still holds nine generations of my family. I’m a Montana Transplant far from the Queen City of the Rockies. I’ve lived in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona and Nebraska where my third great grand-uncle got himself shot by Wild Bill Hickok. My feet are in Michigan, and sometimes in Vermont.

I’m from everywhere and nowhere. So I follow the People of the Heart.

In Michigan, that means the Good People, the Indigenous, the Anishinaabe and the Finns. Two cultures who know their roots and their mother tongue. In Vermont, I follow the old roots of mountain people who know who they are and live in accordance with nature. Ultimately, that is always where I feel at home — in nature.

For practical purposes, I’m sorting out possibilities on the Keweenaw. One is that I can buy the Roberts Street House from my Wounded Warrior who can’t stay still any longer. I told him this was the last move for me. I’m done rambling about. I’m not a young tumbleweed anymore. I have students, an office, miles of rocky shoreline, friends, veteran community. I have a Ranch and a determination to have writers in residence when the leaves turn red. I have intentions to return annually to Vermont. Maybe see down under, one day. Catch a flower when my leaves fall.

Now is muddy but mud makes bricks and bricks build stories. I’m at peace and feel joy in my heart.

Today, I coerced college students into a discussion, promising them early release if everyone participated and answered the questions. If not, I told them what they already know — I can fill up the time, talking. They all participated and came up with the insight that heavy topics in literature are bearable — even enjoyable to read — when the protagonist balances conflict with perseverance. They also learned I’m not great with dates on a calendar.

Thinking I had the date right, I dressed with intention, wearing a stunning pair of Anishinaabe earrings, a dark green dress, tights and bronze shoes. I had been asked to introduce Angeline Boulley, a great honor. I carefully crafted an introduction to recognize the 1854 Ceded Territory of the Ojibwe. My only mistake was the date. She’s presenting to our University next Thursday.

Linear time was not made for the likes of me. But I manage.

It wasn’t a bust. My Warrior Sisters met at the canal-side home of one of ours, enjoying the patio, water and company. I was too nervous to eat much and left early to the presentation that was not yet. Happily, I returned to the patio party and ate more! We watched a loon fly and the Ranger III pass beneath the Lift Bridge. In the video, you can hear us chattering as we film the ship. One of my WS’s tells me that she got caught on the bridge during a lift! Do not underestimate Vietnam Veteran Spouses. These Ladies are my role models. They are resilient and fun to be around.

Typically, the Ranch would be decked out for the Flash Fiction Rodeo. This year, I’m taking a hiatus from the Rodeo to finish unfinished feedback and think through what next. I dream big and broad and need to decide what is manageable, what supports the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, and what services will be my bread and beans. I want to simplify with meaningful opportunities for writers and time for my writing, coaching and teaching.

I’m grateful to our Rodeo Leaders, Judges, Patrons, and Columnists. In the language of my borrowed home, Chi Miiwech! Big thank you! I’m grateful for the Saddle Up Saloon and our Poets. We are growing, not shrinking. But we are growing mindfully. In fact, we have a new installment to offer at the Saddle Up Saloon where characters run the place.

While kayaking, or maybe it was by the campfire, or over a non-competitive game of Scrabble, D. Avery came up with a way to spotlight the many authors we have in and about the Ranch.

In October, we are introducing the Carrot Ranch Author’s Chair. Did you ever get to sit in one in grade school? D. recalls that many elementary school classrooms had a special chair where a young writer would read their work to their cohort. When finished they would announce, “I’m ready for questions or comments.” 

The Carrot Ranch Author’s Chair will be a regular feature at the Saddle Up Saloon. Anyone can volunteer to take part; anything can be read, including previously published or prompted pieces. Pick something that is important or memorable for you. Send the text, audio or video recording, and some background to the piece to D. Avery ( for posting on a second Monday at the Saloon.  

We want to encourage reader interaction and invite the community to ask questions of the featured author. A week after posting, we will randomly draw a name from those who asked questions to offer a free book from the Carrot Ranch Community. Shorty will pick the book and mail it to the winner (this is also a way to support our published authors). Kid and Pal will introduce the featured author. We encourage you to send a voice recording (YouTube or SoundCloud). Get signed up with D.!

In October, I have a heavy load of client work, updates, midterms (to grade!), and a week on the Northshore of Lake Superior (Minnesota). If anyone is interested in being a guest challenge host, let me know ( Otherwise, I will have a two-week challenge mid-month.

To prepare for the Carrot Ranch Author’s Chair, we are all going to take a seat this week.

September 23, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 28, 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.

And Still They Are Missing by Charli Mills

Louise pressed her back against a cottonwood tree, dipped her pen into the ink jar and wrote in her journal. “Silver vanished before the snowmelt and now the mountain aspen turn gold.” Her pen paused. Ink pooled. What else to say? The miners hauled more ore. Investors traded stock. Silver’s mother waited for her “Lord” to return from England. Rumors circulated that Bigfoot carried off Louise’s best friend. No one looked. Only Lord Chalmer’s disappearance made headlines in The Argonaut. One day, Louise vowed to sit in the author’s chair and give voice to the girls sentenced and silenced.



  1. What a glorious day to watch the boats and enjoy each other’s company. Dressed just as gloriously too I’d imagine! I have countless alarms because time doesn’t sit well with me and our little family either.

    I’m intrigued by the author’s chair idea, I can see it growing into a productive and engaging aspect of the Ranch. Looking forward to what emerges.

    As for the prompt, my mind instantly went inward, toward the personal. I’m stuck this week, my WIP stalled because I’m exhausted, and I’ve given myself permission to step away from it for a few days until I feel better. So the chair that usually channels my characters, is not a place of positivity right now. It’s daunting.

    Maybe a sci-fi twist can assist!

  2. Norah says:

    Hurrah for Louise. I think she has a great role model in Charli Mills. I’m so pleased you feel grounded and have no need for further roaming. Your roots have dug deep and strong. A tall tree with a strong trunk and beauty in its branches has ensued with flowers about to blossom with fruit ready to ripen for picking. Way to go (or is that stay?), Charli.

  3. Author, Author!

    “Pal, who’s Arthur?”
    “Why d’ya ask Kid?”
    “Shorty’s wantin’ folks ta write ‘bout Arthur’s chair.”
    “Thet’s ‘author’ Kid, as in writer.”
    “Oh. They’s writers all over the ranch.”
    “Thet’s right Kid, an’ they’s invited ta take a seat in the author’s chair— share a piece a their work.”
    “Soun’s like a hot seat.”
    “No, Kid, it’s a friendly exchange. A chance ta share an’ engage with one another as readers an’ writers.”
    “Like we do ‘roun the Carrot Ranch campfire ever’ week?”
    “”Cept jist one author’ll be featured at a time.”
    “Cool! Cain’t wait ta see who signs up.”

    • denmaniacs4 says:

      Hmmm! Arthur gets around, it seems.

    • Ha, well played, Kid and Pal. Did you know there’s a hill in Edinburgh called Arthur’s Seat? Now I know why. 🙂

    • “So Pal, anyone readin’ this is eligible ta be in the Author’s Chair?”
      “Yep. Kin read anythin’ they’ve writ; mebbe somethin’ we’ve seen b’fore or somethin’ we ain’t. Mebbe somethin’ thet’s been reworked somehow. But it ain’t got ta be Ranch related. Kin be from a WIP, a forthcomin’ book, an older book, or no book.”
      “Someone jist sharin’ somethin’ they wouldn’t mind talkin’ more about.”
      “’Zactly Kid. But the talk’ll mostly come from other folks’ questions an’ comments.”
      “Seems ta me folks that write injoy talkin’ ‘bout writin’.”
      “Yep. Thinkin’ the Author’s Chair’s gonna be a good ride.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      Maybe one day we go to Arthur’s Seat to read! Thanks for this new ride at the Saloon.

  4. denmaniacs4 says:

    Arthur’s Chair

    He was one of those kids who needed steadiness. OCD? Maybe. He was a finicky little critter from the get-go. First day, grade one, he had to have a chair and desk right next to the teacher’s desk.

    Miss Filbert.

    She’d been teaching a while, but Arthur was a new one on her.

    “Wouldn’t you be happier sitting next to a friend, Arthur?” she asked.

    He shook his head.

    Wouldn’t budge.

    She was a smart lady.

    “Fine,” she said, “We’re desk buddies.”

    Thing was, it worked for Artie.

    Gave him the confidence to stand his ground.

    Or sit it.

  5. Gloria says:

    Oh, the Carrot Ranch Author’s Chair will be brilliant. I’ll sit back and observe first. Learn a thing or two before taking part.
    I’m comfortable writing and sharing, but reading my work aloud is a whole new ball game! I know I know…😬

  6. I enjoyed reading your update, Charli, and I am glad you are enjoying life and settled. I like the idea of the authors chair. I recently recorded the whole of chapter 1 of While the Bombs Fell in three parts. I’ll email Ms D. Life has been very hectic for me as Michael was very ill post an operation last week and was admitted to High Care. It was a scary time, but he is okay now. Love and hugs to you.

  7. I love the idea of the Author’s Chair and, also, of “growing mindfully”. (If only we would apply that last part to our daily lives, eh?) 🙂 Will be on the lookout for the authors and their literary chairs. Happy Friday!

  8. I was so focused on the stillness of the water in the video that I jumped when the ship’s horn blew LOL!

    I liked this line very much: “Strength comes with flexibility to withstand the winds. I felt solid on my peninsula, holding on, swaying, and trusting what comes of roots.” There’s a Buddhist monk whose books I enjoy and he’s compared our bodies to a tree. When anxious or upset or emotional it’s like the upper branches and leaves of a tree fluttering wildly. But the trunk is strong by focusing on our trunk we can withstand the emotions.

    There were parts of this post that made me feel a little sad. I hope everything is all right.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, yes, the horn! I love hearing the horns because it’s such a “big ship” sound. Still a novelty to me. The water was peaceful that day. I’m watching out for our first gale and will share how the water changes.

      What you describe as a Buddhist view of trees makes sense. The limbs and leaves can flail and even break in the storms, but the trunk withstands and can regenerate what might get lost. It’s kind of that transition for me from feeling the emotions in the limbs to the trunk.

      The storm has been brewing and it is what it is. I can’t help his flailing in the wind, this sad condition of age melding PTSD and TBI into its own perpetual storm. It’s trunk time for me. And I will trust that it’s going to be okay. Sadness gilds the leaves but creates a strange kind of beauty in its honesty, too.

  9. […] at Carrot Ranch the September 23, 2021, prompt is to, in 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an […]

  10. The Gift

    “My surprise is this secondhand chair?”

    “Overused and underappreciated.”

    “No, Dear, it’s a nice chair; used but—”

    “I wasn’t talking about the chair.”

    “What inspired you to get me this chair, of all things?”

    “It’s an author’s chair.”

    “So, it’s valuable?”


    “Belonged to somebody famous, a well-known writer?”

    “Not yet. But someday. Is it comfortable?”

    “Very. A good fit. Tell me though, what makes this an author’s chair?”

    “Your butt.”

    “My butt?”

    “It’s time. I’ll fix up the boys’ old bedroom. Your new commute will be from the coffee pot to this chair.”

    “To this author’s chair.”

  11. The author’s chair sounds like a great idea. It will be good way to see other works by people who contribute to the Ranch’s prompts. I look forward to seeing them.

  12. […] Carrot Ranch September 23, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by September 28, 2021. (Chair image supplied by CR) […]

  13. Jules says:


    I like your piece. Too many are left in silence, their stories unknown. When I was away I got to watch an old WWII landing boat chug up the Ohio. The VFW post gave out flags to children and also had their own celebration after.

    I went sidesaddle on this prompt doing a little mashing with a Double Ennead and another prompt.

    Esprit Egression
    (Double Ennead)

    In the autumn of life
    The inkwell was still
    in use by the paper thin skinned hand that now
    shook just a little more
    while filling the page

    Letters scritchity scratched
    Black India Ink
    Ran, danced, echoed memories real and
    Imagined from the pen
    Capturing moments

    Until the cold winter
    Arrived leaving just
    The bare bones to drape on the author’s desk chair
    Would fame come now that death
    Had taken all else?

    © JP/dh

    Esprit: sprightliness of spirit or wit; lively intelligence.
    Egression: egress; a going out

    • denmaniacs4 says:

      A beautiful double ennead ode, Jules…

    • suespitulnik says:

      I love the word scritchity…I can hear the pen.
      Great poem.
      It’s sad that fame does often come after death.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Whoa, Jules! 99 words and syllables? Impressive skill Poet Lariat!

      What a fun experience to see a WWII landing boat chugging up the Ohio to a celebration of community.

      • Jules says:

        *My apologies to Carrot Ranch – this perhaps was the first but hopefully the last time I forgot to run my writing through the word counter. So I have added an additional verse at the bottom.
        I am however going to take up the challenge and try and write a Double Ennead in 99 words!

        Above the line is for CR Double Ennead and Wordcraft Tanka Tues.
        Below the line is the addition for Carrot Ranch to comply with ‘99 words’.

        I will resubmit with the added verse… please disregard the first entry.

        Esprit Egression (*plus)

        In the autumn of life
        The inkwell was still
        In use by the paper thin skinned hand that now
        Shook just a little more
        while filling the page

        Letters scritchity scratched
        Black India Ink
        Ran, danced, echoed memories real and
        Imagined from the pen
        Capturing moments

        Until the cold winter
        Arrived leaving just
        The bare bones to drape on the author’s desk chair
        Would fame come now that death
        Had taken all else?

        Is the pen mightier than thoughts that wield it?
        Can we define what haunts the doorways of our trials in this life?
        Will what’s left tell?

        © JP/dh

      • Charli Mills says:

        Thanks for checking, Jules (I did not). I still think the combination would be a feat but you tweaked it well.

  14. All sounding good, Charli, but busy. Hurrah for (your alter ego) Louise.

    Here’s my chair:

    It’s not the destination, but what happens on the way

    Bracken scratches my ankles as I traverse another false summit. For years, I’ve hacked through forest, trod on tarmac, scrambled over boulders, meandered through meadows, lost my way and rediscovered it, but still can’t reach the top …

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s a satisfying busy, Anne. I’m grateful to have a community to be a part of (online, as well). I’m pleased with Louise and the thought of “what if” someone tried to write the stories of missing women in the 1860s Comstock. I’ll let that seed germinate.

      Your flash fiction reveals a wash of joy despite the gritty realities of trying to summit what can be an insurmountable peak.

  15. […] at Carrot Ranch the September 23, 2021, prompt is to, in 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an […]

  16. […] From Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch is this week’s challenge. […]

  17. Whew! There are lots of changes coming your way, Charli. I’m deep into the pages of The Mason House. I’m loving the descriptions, the people, and the Keweenaw. I understand why you want to stay there. I want to write like T. Marie Bertineau! I also love the idea of the Carrot Ranch Author’s Chair. That is a brilliant idea. Keep moving forward! You’ve got this!! <3

  18. suespitulnik says:

    I am pleased to hear you feel grounded and at peace with what the blowing winds will bring. I’m especially glad you have the means to buy Roberts Street now. Reestablishing roots is not an easy thing to do as anyone familiar with the military knows, and you have done just that. I’m proud of you and feel privileged to be along for the ride.
    The author’s chair is a great idea. Now I need a lesson in how to record myself. …

    Stories from the Author’s Chair

    I went out of curiosity, to hear what the veterans wrote about their experiences.
    Each author sat in the special chair to read a piece of his writing. An Army officer recounted delivering coffee in the dead of night to frightened young rookies in look-out towers. An Air Force pilot related seeing a plane crash, then having to walk around the wreckage to go fly his own mission. The Marine lowered his gaze, described the sounds, smells, and angst of the front line, and carrying his wounded buddy to the medical tent.
    I wondered who had the worst nightmares.

    • Jules says:

      My FIL he should rest never spoke of the negative memories of his WWII experiences. We have a niece and nephew currently serving in the Army… and they do not speak of horrors. Though I’m sure they must have seen many. I cannot imagine their nightmares compared to mine. Theirs have to be far worse. I can only wish them some nights of peaceful rest.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Thank you, Sue. I don’t have the means (yet) but I’m exploring what it will take. I have a mind and a will to figure it out. We are all in this ride together and I appreciate all you do to get veteran stories told. A special author’s chair just for them is awesome! Although, yes, hard to say what nightmares they have. I used to think Todd didn’t have nightmares because he only had “back in the Army” dreams that didn’t seem nightmarish. Then, I learned that part of PTSD is the inability of the mind to let go of those experiences. That can be the nightmare part.

      Do you have an iPhone? If so, you can record using Voice Memos (an app on all iPhones). Or you can download an app. We are all going to be on the learning curve with this one!

  19. […] This nasty little story was written with the prompt Author’s Chair provided by the Carrot Ranch September 23 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  20. Of all the lines in this post, my favourite is ‘I’m not a young tumbleweed anymore.’ Thanks for the smile, Charli. I’m joining you there.

    Good to hear you’re taking a step back because of what’s going on around you. I see so many people ending up flat on their faces because they don’t step back.

    This week’s prompt got me writing instantly. It’ll be published on Monday. In the meantime, enjoy the beginnings of this new season.

    • Charli Mills says:

      I don’t tumble in a straight line, anymore, Hugh! 😀 You’re right, taking a step back is self-care. Time to readjust and make sure the mission aligns with the output. You enjoy this season, too!

  21. Liz H says:

    Good for you for taking a break, Charli. I think that it’s often only by shutting our eyes and watching the possible stream past the back of our eyelids that we welcome the Vision Quest in our modern world.
    Damn, woman, you’re smart!

  22. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (09/23/2021): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads! […]

  23. Liz H says:

    Here’s my two cents, from the top of the highest tree I used to be (but maybe again) able to scale:

  24. Loved the video and miss that beautiful place so much!

  25. […] September 23: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads! […]

  26. […] Carrot Ranch September 23, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author. Where is it located and why? Does it have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads! Respond by September 28, 2021. (Chair image supplied by CR) […]

  27. Jules says:


    You know about distractions. Sometimes they lead us to forget to do a single important step. That is what happened in my first entry (which I have corrected and resubmitted). You were so kind not to point that out directly. I have taken up the challenge though, create for you a themed Double Ennead in just 99 words. Please accept my second entry:

    Strategic Support

    Strategic Support
    A Double Ennead in 99 words and 99 syllables

    Just one seat, that old chair…
    When words cease to flow
    Who can we blame for our lack of skill to write
    When the night brings us fright
    And we trip, face first

    If we could get to it
    Those legs strong and true,
    To lend us strength to hold us with love and care,
    That one chair, near glass with
    A view to change sight

    To lift and warm our soul
    Ease on to that pad
    Sit still with calm peace, that slow warmth to grow strong
    ‘Blank page you will not win’
    That must be the cry

    © JP/dh

  28. Ann Edall-Robson says:

    Ghost Writer
    by Ann Edall-Robson

    This is my chair. It is my favourite place to come. It’s where I sit in the sun or hide from the weather under the eaves. The view from here and the noise of nature always make my heart sing. The songs let me soar with the lofty clouds to grasp the words no one else hears. Capturing them on scraps of paper I kept tucked in my pocket for just such moments.

    My chair is old, but I see it still beckons to those who need to connect to their words. I wonder if they feel me nearby?

  29. […] In response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch. In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an … […]

  30. […] for the 99-word flash fiction challenge hosted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Click here to join […]

  31. Here’s mine for this week.

    Sour Grapes

    At John’s sale, his office chair is marked ‘Author’s chair $500.’
    ‘Are you a published author?’
    ‘Not yet but I will be and then you can re-sell it for a fortune. And it comes with the tapes’.
    ‘I can’t type so I dictated it. The money’s to pay a transcriber so I can send it off to a publisher and become famous. And then you’ll be rich.’
    ‘Your book’s that good?’
    ‘I’m pretty sure it is but I’ve never listened to it, so it might need a little polishing.’
    ‘I think I’ll pass, Mr. Steinbeck.’
    ‘You’ll be sorry.’

  32. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s chair. It can belong to any author… […]

  33. […] another one for the Carrot Ranch September 23, 2021, prompt to, in 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about an author’s […]

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