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October 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

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All those years, driving up the North Shore of Lake Superior to the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area, I missed Great Lakes Candy Kitchen. Was it the smell of smoked fish lingering in the air of Knife River that hid the sweet scents of vat-stirred confections? With a bit of sleuthing, I realize that the candy kitchen and I missed like two Great Lakes freighters passing on a moonless night.

For ten years, my family camped along the Gunflint Trail with our tents, dogs, and red Coleman canoe. I savored the North Shore drive that hugged the craggy coast of Lake Superior on the Minnesota side. Knife River, twenty miles north of Duluth, was our first official stop. Smoked salmon. The smell would fill our Expedition and our mouths watered until we found a way-stop where we’d picnic and watch the waves crash to shore.

I never saw the candy kitchen.

Turns out, the last camping trip we ever took as a family was in 2007 when we camped in northern Wisconsin instead because we were taking our eldest to college at Northland College. That same year, the third-generation candy-makers from the Iron Range opened their shop on the scenic North Shore. We never returned to the North Shore, shifting our camping and Lake Superior outings to the Chequamegon Bay. By 2012, I was living the dream — writing my first stab at a manuscript from the picturesque communities of northern Wisconsin. That was the year I discovered bobbing in the waves of Lake Superior, something not possible on the North Shore.

All along, Lady Lake has wrapped me up in a siren’s call, luring me from my mountains of the West.

A good friend later purchased a timeshare at a North Shore resort outside of Knife River. Where my timeline dropped off, hers picked up. She’s only known the North Shore with the candy kitchen, and I only knew it without. Until last week. At first, I was shocked that my kids and I had no idea such delectable chocolates and sea salt caramels existed. Although the family has been in business for three generations, they didn’t open this location until after 2007.

And, you don’t have to visit in person. After the busy season, they shift their sales to online (November 1 — what a way to kick off NaNoWriMo).

The North Shore had felt like wilderness to me, all those years ago. I suppose it still is, but I had no idea about Madeline Island or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan until later. Now, it feels overly commercialized. There are few public beaches and most are state parks. Unlike Michigan, Minnesota has outlawed the collection of rocks and agates along what few pebble beaches it has. However, my friend has purchased time in a condo she shares with other owners on a rotating schedule, and her place faces due east — sunrises and splashing waves.

It was cozy to sleep on my camping pad in front of the gas fireplace with one of the huge picture windows cracked to let in the crisp air and sound of the surf. We shared good meals, and I had my first-ever Bloody Mary. I got to hike along Gooseberry Falls, look (not touch) agates along the beach at a state park, and watch eagles wheel overhead as if to welcome one of Nibi’s friends to the other side of the Big Lake. The full moon rose over the water, painting a silver path. I got to taste some of the best chocolates ever, share good food, and coat my nails in cherry bonbon glitter. And, the car I rented was upgraded at no extra cost to a Mini Cooper! It was a fun trip and yet good to return to my community and classroom.

The weather has since shifted. I feel the cold in my bones and a call to hibernate during the dark of the year. I remind myself that it is sunny Down Under. Somewhere there is warmth and light. It will return. Time to prepare for snow. Time to take a deep breath and steady the resolve for NaNoWriMo.

I’m not a participant this year, but I will offer NaNo Mentoring. I will cheer your efforts, listen to your woes in the official NaNoWriMo group for Rough Writers, and offer tips. When it comes to mentoring, I’m aware that all writers are different. It can help you to absorb this truth. Why? Because writers often compare themselves to others or expectations. This week, before NaNoWriMo starts, whether you are participating or not, write a love letter to your inner writer.

Acknowledge your hopes and dreams. Recognize your efforts. Look for growth in your craft. Count your celebrations, big or small. Give your inner writer some love. Be generous, kind, and accepting.

All writers suffer from doubt. In fact, the very first article in my MFA program was all about writers and the imposter syndrome. Read the article before you craft your letter. If you feel scared, recognize the truth that writing matters to you. If you feel you are behind, different, or not good enough, recognize the lies of self-doubt. Every week at Carrot Ranch, don’t we see how beautiful and compelling variety is? If you must compare yourself, do it in a healthy way. Learn what you admire in other writers. Study the craft. Read (listen to the spoken word or watch films) to learn how stories are felt and shared. Let your inner writer grow.

That’s the best way you can prepare for any writing project as big and intimidating and thrilling as NaNoWriMo. And if this isn’t your year to tackle it, so what? It isn’t mine and I’m volunteering to be a cheerleader to those who are! So join me in that endeavor. And if you are committing to the big NaNo Event, don’t fret if you discover that your capacity for daily word count is less than what is required. Either you will binge when you have longer stretches of time, or you will learn what your daily limit is.

Keep on writing. Your writing vision belongs to you, and you alone. Strategies, tools, time, and energy will come and go like seasons. But your inner writer will remain. Remember the “power of yet.”

October 28, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a candy kitchen. You can interpret the phrase creatively or stick to the traditional. Is it sweet? Ironic? Any genre will do. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 2, 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.

Ranch Candy by Charli Mills

Red paint smeared across a box flap declared, “Bailey’s Candiey Kichun.” Jolene eyed the boss’s daughter who’d set up shop on the cookshack table. The crew sauntered in, and Bailey explained confections and prices. Bittersweet chocolate chunks sprinkled with dried garlic. A dime. Butter rolled in coffee grounds. A quarter. Balls of bread softened in pickle juice. A nickel. Change and delicacies exchanged hands.

Bailey wiped the table and gathered her mama’s plates. “Well, ain’t you gonna eat your candy?”

Hank said, “Jolene don’t like us eatin’ sweets ‘fore breakfast.” Everyone nodded vigorously.

“Why, Hank Barret, that ain’t so.”



  1. What a glorious getaway. I’ve been to a popup boiled candies store at the Queen Victoria market here in Melbourne. The variety was stunning and utterly delicious, much like the stories we share here.

    I’ve completed NaNo once, and that manuscript will never see the light of day BUT in doing so, I promised to compete it and proved to myself that I could trust me. My promise was fulfilled and it gave me the confidence that I could follow through, and 4 years later, I’m looking at the draft of a manuscript that will be published in the next few years, it’s solid, it’s bigger than my nano work, and I’m utterly excited.

    NaNo is an invaluable experience.

    As for the prompt, I’ve once again pre selected an image, and the ideas are churning. These weekly challenges excite me too, no matter how big of a hurdle they offer, I’ve promised myself I’d respond each week, and knowing that I can trust myself to just get it done, is a powerful feeling.

    Liked by 7 people

  2. HI Charli, it sounds like you had a wonderful time away. A candy kitchen sounds interesting. I can’t think I’ve ever seen one other than in the UK.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. Looks like you had a great trip, Charli, and the comfort of home to return to. Somehow I need to match this prompt to a review post on novels about celebrity. Maybe that’ll work, given I’ve never heard of a candy kitchen. Looks like a glorified sweet shop?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. restlessjo says:

    Ending on a smile! What a great cheerleader you are, Charli. Love that second shot and the shimmery moon one. Wonderful times. Wishing you many more.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Love, love all your encouragement. Thank you ♥️

    Liked by 4 people

  6. And Eat It Too

    “Kid?! What’s with all this candy? Kitchen’s a mess.”
    “I’m a mess, Pal. Workin’ things out through culinary art.”
    “Well Shorty says cake’s always a good beginning to a fine ending. But what else is goin’ on with this cake?”
    “This pile of chocolate covered pretzel sticks is a beaver lodge. An’ here’s a pretzel dam mudded over with chocolate. This here, with the V out behind it in the blue icing, that’s a beaver, see the black licorice tail?”
    “I see it Kid. And this one with the skinny little tail?”
    “Made outta pink licorice— that’s my Curly.”

    Liked by 7 people

    • “Kid, shouldn’t ya be tendin’ ta yer literary art? Mebbe writin’ yersef a encouragin’ letter?”
      “I don’t think so Pal.”
      “Come on Kid. Time ta run with the wolves. Or at least the Writers”
      “Cain’t focus on anythin’ Pal, not with my puglet out swimmin’ with the beavers.”
      “As Dylan sang, If pigs swim free, why not me?, or somethin’ like thet. Curly’s embraced her inner beaver, bravin’ new waters. It’s inspirin’.”
      “Cain’t git over my puglet flyin’ the coop.”
      “‘Ain’t no excuse ta chicken outta writin’, Kid. Heck, pigs’ve flown b’fore at Carrot Ranch! Anythin’s possible.”
      “Reckon so.”

      Liked by 7 people

    • Aww how beautiful of Kid. I can imagine the mess, but all the love too. Seems like there’s a theme of love to the Candy Kitchen pieces so far.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Ann Edall-Robson says:

      Kid and I would do well together making a mess in the kitchen.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Norah says:

      I love Kid’s cake. I’d like a slice of that. And his literary work as well.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      It’s hard, watchin’ them puglets grow, rebel with tail-slapping. But Curly has heart and a cause. Kid can feel proud. Nice cake decoratin’ skills.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. […] by a Carrot Ranch flash fiction […]

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Taking It In

    When the bread crumbs disappeared, Hansel and Gretel had no choice but to press on. And why follow a trail back to where they were unwanted? Hungering for a loving home, hungering for a mother, hungering also in their tight bellies, they were not wary when they found the candy house. Surely the smiling crone was kindly and sweet.
    But the bone littered kitchen was the heart of this house. Hansel was a caged bird, his hungry heart drumming fear.
    Gretel saw it all. To this day she recalls that crone as she bakes bread for her own children.

    Liked by 7 people

  9. Here’s my piece for this week, in which a pedantic Australian Grandpa does his brave but futile best to stem the tide of Americanisation of Australian English with his absurdly-named grandson. Any resemblance to the author’s life is purely coincidental.

    Grandpa holds out

    ‘Grandpa, can I have a soda?’

    ‘No, Jayddyynn, I only have soft drink. You may have some of that.’

    Jayddyynn’s eyes roll and he follows with ‘Grandpa, can I have a cookie?’

    ‘No, but you may have a biscuit.’

    ‘Grandpa, have you seen my cellphone?’

    ‘Yes, you showed it to me once. If you mean do I know where it is right now, the answer is perhaps I might know where your mobile phone is located.’

    ‘Grandpa, you’re the weirdest person I know. Do you have any candy?

    ‘Jayddyynn, you know very well this is a no candy kitchen.’

    Liked by 10 people

    • I remember being berated for using US terminology as a kid.

      Our own kids use multiple accents and pronunciations freely though. As long as people know what they’re talking about, they can talk however they like.

      Jayddyynn however… what a life. Poor kid.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I put pathetic kids names up there with tattoos as sad attempts to be ‘different’.

        Liked by 3 people

      • I understand the frustration about names, sometimes they become an unnecessary burden. But tattoos? I’ve got a gorgeous piece (my only tattoo as yet) on my back of an open book with Da Vinci’s quote “the noblest pleasure, is the joy of understanding” flowing out of it amongst strands of magic. Words are a part of me, and I love that it’s always with me, and my pride in my art isn’t hidden, it’s celebrated. And my hubby has full sleeves with Chinese characters amongst Chinese artworks that say things like “love, hope, courage, discipline” etc and he gets to carry that gorgeous art with him. And on his back he has our childrens’ newborn footprints with their names in a flowing script and our wedding vows on his calf with a cross for his faith in something greater. We’re not so bad now are we, Doug? 😉 I do understand your frustration with tattoos though, despite all that; putting our private selves out there as a way to prove to the world that we’re individuals, it shouldn’t feel needed, I can see why tattoos aren’t always supported.

        Liked by 4 people

      • Rebecca, let me clarify that I am not anti-tattoo and I don’t think all people who are tattooed are weird. I am a cleanskin myself but my wife and almost all of our offspring and their spouses have taken to the ink in many different ways and to different extents. What makes me sad is when people don’t think through the consequences e.g. when relationships change, employment prospects etc or when either the inkee or the inker is illiterate eg, ‘Born Too Loose’. 🙂

        Liked by 4 people

      • Yeah, those are some rough choices! It’s getting easier to get Tatts covered now though, and I’m grateful you’re not “anti-tatt” too. 😉 Love can make us do some crazy things though! That “in-love” phase has seen many a name tatted and covered over the times, for sure.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Ann Edall-Robson says:

      Made me smile. I wonder if it is considered being able to speak a second (or more) language when one can verbalize and intertwine words from other countries, and know their meaning?

      Liked by 5 people

    • Norah says:

      Doug, that is so clever. I love it. Sweet, some might say. 🤣

      Liked by 3 people

    • This made me smile. And now I’m remembering some struggles with the language when visiting New South Wales some years ago.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Jules says:

      I’ve been watching a show with Brittish English… some differences.
      but nothing that can’t be figured out.

      Children’s names on the other hand… reminds me of Lear who named his children ‘King’ (the son changed his name) and the daughter was ‘Chrystal Shanda…’ when she married she didn’t have to worry anymore.

      Liked by 3 people

    • ceayr says:

      Painful name, if it’s real, Doug, and fun story.
      The sad thing is that even here in France the language is becoming Americanised
      Le Smoothie makes me scream!

      Liked by 3 people

      • There are many names out there just as painful for the unfortunate sods that have to carry them until they can change it. As for Framerican, I think the cultural war was lost when le weekend appeared. 😉

        Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Yay! The grandson called it soda (not pop). It’s a regional difference in the US. Clever breakdown of English. Is this the American (language) invasion? Can’t say we are to be fully trusted with our use of English. 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  10. floridaborne says:

    Rough week and I’m beat. Not posting anything on my blog today, so I’ll put my contribution here:

    I first entered an Ethel M candy store in 1988, at high-end San Rafael mall, where the best dark chocolate coconut candy on Earth awaited.

    I was living north of San Francisco at the time, traveling 25 miles to work near the Marina, and passing San Rafael to sit in a traffic jam. If you’ve never watched the incredible sunrise over a San Francisco fog, you won’t understand why I looked forward to being stuck on the Golden Gate Bridge for 20 minutes.

    Ethel M still exists. Like California, I can no longer afford to live within that dream.

    Liked by 11 people

  11. […] 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 theme “Candy Kitchen“ […]

    Liked by 5 people

  12. […] October 28: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a candy kitchen. You can interpret the phrase creatively or stick to the traditional. Is it sweet? Ironic? Any genre will do. Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 1 person

  13. petespringerauthor says:

    My family and I have continued a tradition my parents (since passed) started many years ago. We hold a family reunion every three years. Since my three older brothers and I got thoroughly spread out across the country over the years (one of us in each of the four continental time zones), we see different parts of the country. My Minnesota brother planned our most recent reunion this summer on the shores of Lake Superior in Twin Harbors, MN. We had a lovely afternoon at Gooseberry Falls, and I recognized some of the other places you mentioned.

    Liked by 6 people

  14. I apologize on behalf of the state for the rock collecting ban in state parks. We hope you forgive us and revisit again! Hopefully the upgrade to the Mini Cooper helped.

    Thank you for the second to the last paragraph. Just the thought of Nano and the accompanying self doubt (and worse) is more difficult than the actual writing.

    Liked by 6 people

  15. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction October 28, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a candy kitchen. You can interpret the phrase creatively or stick to the traditional. Is it sweet? Ironic? Any genre will do. Go where the prompt leads! Respond by November 2, 2021. MLMM Sat Mix Same but Different Your ‘Same Same But Different’ task is to take the five challenge words and NOT use them in your writing. That’s right, you need to dig out your thesaurus and find a synonym for each word instead. Your words are: Live; aware// Smile; grin // Green; raw // Fair; frank// See; notice Imprompt; Quickly Eve, eve// People now treat Halloween as major holiday. Why should kids have all the fun? With All Hallows E’en on a Sunday this year, tonight will be wild and crazy. I was told a story about a woman who, mad as hell, stormed into her boss’s office with a list of complaints, and found him dressed as a giant bunny. I don’t know… What frightens you? I didn’t answer that question. I just wrote about fiction, about the eve before and a woman named Eve… who knew Jack. […]

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Jules says:


    I liked your flash. Creativity aught to be rewarded. But well… sweet just ain’t sour is it?

    I went a tad dark because I mashed three prompts at my site. There is a link about the real ‘Stingy Jack’ who is the not so sweet guy of whom our tradition of Jack O’ Lanterns comes from…

    Sour Grapes?

    The Candy shops’ new owners were not aware that just down the block lived Stingy Jack. The man rarely came in and when he did, he was frank about just wanting the smallest of pieces. Only Eve from the kitchen knew him better. But she would never repeat that she noticed his raw pain. She remembered seeing him with a happy grin – that was when his wife was alive.

    His Mrs. was the owner of the shop. One eve, before Halloween – through the kitchen door – a burglar. Just wanting coffee ended up taking her life. Jack died then too.

    © JP/dh

    Liked by 9 people

  17. denmaniacs4 says:

    Sweet Dreams

    Jean had been raised in a very spartan family.

    “No fun, we absolutely have no fun,” she told me the day we first met at Woolworths.

    They had a little coffee shop down in the lower section as many of those old-time department stores had.

    She ordered a chocolate shake.

    Three chocolate shakes.

    “I’ve heard of them,” she said. “Always wanted one.”

    “You have three,” I said.

    “I know. There is so much more that I want. That I’ve never had before.”

    “The good life?”

    “ Yes! A sugar bed, fudge furniture, candy kitchen, and a chocolate shake house.”

    Liked by 10 people

  18. […] prompt from Carrot Ranch this week is to, in 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a candy kitchen. In […]

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Ann Edall-Robson says:

    There will be no NaNoWriMo for me this year. I am in a state of “get ‘er done” for three of my projects. Annnnd, it is soon to be the Christmas season which is where I let my brain wander for this week’s prompt.

    Sweet Traditions
    By Ann Edall-Robson

    She lived close to her childhood home, and the drive unless the weather said otherwise, could easily be made in a few hours. Her mom had telephoned to say it was time for a weekend bake and make for Christmas. Spending the weekend helping to create holiday goodies would be a treat after the gruelling hours preparing her latest book to send to the beta readers. Opening the door to her parent’s kitchen the aroma of Peanut Brittle and Peppermint Patties announced the candy production line had started. A sampling of both had her taste buds doing a jig.

    Liked by 6 people

  20. Norah says:

    Lovely post, Charli, though I have to say, I didn’t recognise it as your writing at first. I thought it must have been a guest and wondered why we weren’t told in the beginning. It was only when I was half-way through that I realised it was you and had to go back and re-read. Funny, eh?
    I’m so pleased you can still gather your pebbles. How sad it would be if you couldn’t. Perhaps worse that missing the candy store.
    I love your flash. Such creativity and imagination, on both seller’s and the customer’s side. It is a good thing they are not permitted sweets before breakfast.
    I appreciate your suggestion of writing a love letter to our inner writers. Mine could do with a bit of love at the moment.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Norah says:

      Here’s my story:

      Marshmallow Waves
      The cooks bustled about my kitchen making sweets to gift.
      “I love homemade gifts,” she said.
      “Especially when we get to share,” he said, sampling largish crumbs of fudge and coconut ice.
      “Marshmallow is amazing,” she said. It mixes up so light and fluffy,”
      “What’s in it?”
      “Sugar, water and gelatine.”
      “What’s gelatine?” he asked.
      I dared not tell the vegetarians, but he searched for information on his phone.
      “We can’t eat that,” he spluttered. “Gelatine’s made from animal bones!”
      The marshmallow mix, so light and fluffy, was binned. Not even a taste for me, although I’m not vegetarian.

      Liked by 2 people

    • Charli Mills says:

      Oh, that’s funny, Norah! I was unrecognizable in voice. I had on Off-Charli day. 😉 I’m glad we have good collectible rocks here and no candy kitchens! Write a love letter because that writer has been tenacious and gracious and always growing. Well, you made me laugh too but in the way you intended — gelatine would be a hard sell in a candy kitchen of modern era kids.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Norah says:

        It might be more that I’ve had an off-day or more, Charli. Yeah, I probably need to write that letter. The writer is feeling very discouraged and unloved at the moment. I’m pleased you laughed at my story. It really was quite funny and we all had quite a laugh about it. I was surprised they didn’t know and had no need to think about it myself.


  21. […] on the Hansel and Gretel flashes I wrote in response to the “candy kitchen” prompt from Carrot Ranch. While it is where the prompt led, it does not feature a candy kitchen. But the stepmother wanted […]

    Liked by 2 people

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

    Liked by 3 people

  23. […] Carrot Ranch Challenge:In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story inspired by “Candy […]

    Liked by 2 people

  24. suespitulnik says:

    Hi Charli,
    Your time on the North Shore sounded marvelous. I’m glad you got to get away for a few days.
    One of my favorite candy shops is in Seattle. Dilattante Chocolates. Many memories of visiting there. Rebecca and Doug brought back another fun memory of Seattle’s public market. The fishmongers throw fish past unsuspecting shopper’s heads. Fun to experience and also a great place to buy dinner.
    On to the prompt…

    Candy Making Day

    Tessa’s mother had made homemade holiday treats for as long as Michael could remember. His mouth watered thinking about them. Recently his clunky wheelchair and inability to reach things kept him from helping during production. Not this year.
    When Michael walked into the candy kitchen, Jenny did a double-take but didn’t comment as she smiled up at him. At the end of the day, they had made chocolate and maple-walnut fudge, peppermint patties, and peanut brittle.
    Michael was beaming. “Guess I’ve been missing a lot by not standing.”
    Jenny hugged his solid torso. “‘Bout time you figured that out.”

    Liked by 5 people

  25. […] Carrot Ranch Prompt (10/28/2021):  In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a candy kitchen. You can interpret the phrase creatively or stick to the traditional. Is it sweet? Ironic? Any genre will do. Go where the prompt leads! […]

    Liked by 2 people

  26. Liz H says:

    First day of Nano, and I’ve combined Carrot Ranch prompt with Nancy Stohlman’s FlashNano prompt. Here’s a 99-word flash of the longer story that resulted. Hope it pleases (and teases)!

    Happily Ever After

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Liz H says:

    “Bone littered kitchen” (shudder!)
    That hit the old-school fairy tale spot. And that final line hints at some happily ever after.

    Liked by 3 people

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

    Liked by 2 people

  29. […] This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features a candy kitchen. You can interpret the p… […]

    Liked by 2 people

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