November 4: Flash Fiction Challenge

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

November 4, 2021

Hail the size of popcorn kernels announced the second return of a local event — Lady Lake Superior has turned on her snow-making machine. Late as she is, she’s back. Hail softened to flakes big and downy as chicken feathers. A couple of inches covered rooftops. My weather app can’t predict lake-effect snow, but to its credit, technology attempts to keep pace. Officially, we have recorded two inches of snow.

The Big News, however, is that 41 North Film Fest has returned after a pandemic hiatus. I had never been to a film festival before going to the one hosted at Michigan Tech University. Typically, these cinematic events feature independent films from a diversity of filmmakers.

Maybe I can blame our film noir columnist, Bill Engleson. His latest Tales From the Silver Screen is a compelling reason to study story through film. Cinema gives us a dual-lens approach to issues and art through perspective and originality. Take the film, All Light, Everywhere by Theo Anthony. He connects the development of cameras and weapons to policing and justice. Yet, he also set out to create a beautifully artistic look at ugly social issues.

It might not be noir, but a film festival is a comprehensive cinematic statement on the current condition of the world from cats to artificial intelligence. It is art, expression, absurdity, awareness. And with the snow, it is coming to my town.

What does film have to do with NaNoWriMo? Inspiration!

National Novel Writing Month challenges writers to draft daily for thirty days. While many hope to achieve the 50,000-word count by November 30, the real magic happens when writers realize they can cultivate a daily practice of their craft. Even if one doesn’t hit the big goal, the understanding of limits is just as valuable. It’s important to learn if you are a binge writer (hand raised) or a daily sprinter. It’s practical to learn your daily or weekly word count.

It’s vital to learn what fuels your inner writing engine. I’m talking Muses and Inspiration. No writer can spew stories without absorbing life. All artists require a full well.

“In filling the well, think magic. Think delight. Think fun. Do not think duty. Do not do what you should do—spiritual sit-ups like reading a dull but recommended critical text. Do what intrigues you, explore what interests you; think mystery, not mastery.”

~ Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

Inspiration is linked to your passion. What excites you? Take your inner writer kayaking, hiking, snowboarding, or wind-surfing. Go watch people. Find solitude in nature. Visit a museum, art gallery, or food market. Watch a performance, listen to live music, or take dance classes. Play in the snow, the sand, the attic. Play.

This week, in ENG I, I created a 41 North Film Fest playlist of shorts, trailers, and interviews to capture a taste of the film festival. While they watched, they had to jot down moments of inspiration — a reaction to what they saw or heard. They then had to write a 99-word story from that spark and will share it in class. Then they will work in small groups to discuss how they can expand their story into 450-900 words. Next week, they will peer critique their longer drafts and have one more opportunity to finalize their short story.

Even if you arent in my class or writing a marathon 50k words this month, pause to reflect upon your own sources of inspiration. You can share them in the comments. For your story, come along to the film festival with me!

November 4, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a film festival. It can be a small-town indie fest or the Festival de Cannes or anything in between. Who is in the story? An audience-goer, filmmaker, actress, or something unexpected? Through in some popcorn for fun. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 9, 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.

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

Film Fest Debut by Charli Mills

Whiskers tickled Barnyard Betsy’s arm. She patted her lead horse, Magic, her hand shaking. Two country souls about to debut at a big city film festival. BB had never attended a “fest,” but this movie was different. An independent documentary. Instead of her horses acting, a filmmaker caught the relationship between movie wrangler and herd. The promoters wanted BB and Magic to meet movie-goers. Terrified she’d have to put on one of those sparkling sausage casings of a dress, she was relieved they liked her idea of looking authentically Nevadan. The crowd roared when Magic pooped on the carpet.


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  1. Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

    Charli, I’m already disorientated with the time change here in the UK last Sunday, and then your Thursday post pops into my inbox early Thursday afternoon, when I don’t usually see it until Friday morning. I suppose I’ll cope.

    Love your horse doing what horses do on the red carpet. I hope someone collected the result to fertilise their garden.

    • Anne Goodwin is bringing Matilda Windsor home

      It’s a Matilda Windsor film fest on my blog today with a splurge of videoed interviews (and you’d have to be extremely bored to watch them all). But there’s a kind of film fest in the follow-up novel, although it might not make so much sense in my 99-word story:

      Matty’s virtual film fest

      Their flu sweeps England like their dastardly Armada. Matty must emerge from retirement to help raise morale. Her recitals would banish fear and despondency, but cinemas and theatres are closed.


      • Liz H

        Yes, the world has changed. Kudos to Matty for staying loose enough to roll with it!

      • Charli Mills

        Great opening line, Anne. It places Matty’s mind in her past but we know it is the latest pandemic. I also love that she is 99!

    • Charli Mills

      Wait, the UK changes time a week before the US? There’s got to be a punchline in here somewhere, Anne. We changed over yesterday. And yes, I was out the gate in between my class and first film. Disorientating all around but like horse apples on the red carpet, fertilizing!

  2. Myrna Migala

    I do believe I am in a better place, but it will still take me some time to figure out where I have been. They tell me I was in the hospital with covid 19, which seems to be some sort of surreal place, real but not real at all.
    I want to write about it because I heard things that God wants me to share but I don’t know if it is just my imagination or something important.
    Thanks for reading at least my thoughts for today. Here is a sample of what I am trying to say, these words are words that are trying to escape my mind where I was held captive under the guise of Covid 19.
    Do they make sense to anyone? “Time is a little bit of always”
    Thank you for being a friend to someone who needs to know I have one.

    • suespitulnik

      Myrna, I do hope you are on the mend and will be feeling better each day. I’m sorry you were so sick you aren’t sure where you were. How frightening. I understand “Time is a little bit of always” to mean that each person has their time of living, but it is just a tidbit of always and forever. And who knows what forever is. Take care.

      • Charli Mills

        Interesting answer, Sue, and thank you for taking the lead with kindness.

    • Charli Mills

      Hospitals must seem like a surreal workplace for those who face the pandemic daily, providing care for patients regardless of beliefs. Hope you are on the mend, Myrna.

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    True Grit Shift

    “Pal, this fella’s here ta make a film.”
    “Yes, I want to capture the true-grit work of ranching.”
    “Thet so?”
    “Says he wants ta see real cattle. Ya know, fer the moo-vie.”
    “Well, there’s some longhorns from an earlier prompt. An’ unicorns a course. See Mister we don’t zactly wrangle cattle here.”
    “What kind of a ranch is this?”
    “This here’s a virtual ranch. We wrangle words. But if’n ya got a flash cam’ra, mebbe ya kin catch thet on film.”
    “Don’t you have roundups?”
    “Sure. Ever week. Shorty roun’s up ever’one’s stories.”
    “This is unreal!”
    “Thet’s ‘bout right.”

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      At Eleven

      “Phew. LeGume here?”
      “Was, Pal, but now he’s gone with his wind. Went ta check on Ernie, who’s been in a bit of a space odyssey from his gardenin’ an’ bakin’. Where’s that film fella at?”
      “He was wundrin’ an’ wand’rin’, lookin’ fer inspiration when Frankie stumbled inta him. I said somethin’ ‘bout her havin’ a good eye, an’ he asked her ta take him ‘roun the ranch ta see the sights.”
      “What a sight. Hope she ain’t leadin’ him in circles.”
      “She’s got Burt.”
      “What hoss’s the film fella on?”
      “It’ll be a must-see film.”

      • Charli Mills

        Gone with his wind! Bad bean remake! Aw, Blackjack made an appearance. Didn’t see that coming…

      • Jules

        Fun reads… adore the puns.

    • Charli Mills

      Love it, Kid!

  4. denmaniacs4

    The Lost Love Film Festival

    Delbert Waverly never recovered from the loss of his first love.
    He was six.
    Lorraine Petski was seven.
    They spent Grade One together…with thirty-two others.
    And Miss Campbell, of course.
    Then the Petski’s moved away.
    Far away.
    Further than a six-year-old could find.
    Eventually, Delbert went to a therapist.
    Out of that came the suggestion to create a Lost Love Film Festival.
    “Delbert,” the therapist noted, you are one of many. Including me. What say we seek out those who have lost loves, ask them to film their heartbreak, and, voilà, have a film festival?”
    “Your nuts,” said Delbert.

    • denmaniacs4

      Edit alert!

      The Lost Love Film Festival

      Delbert Waverly never recovered from the loss of his first love.
      He was six.
      Lorraine Petski was seven.
      They spent Grade One together…with thirty-two others.
      And Miss Campbell, of course.
      Then the Petski’s moved away.
      Far away.
      Further than a six-year-old could find.
      Eventually, Delbert went to a therapist.
      Out of that came the suggestion to create a Lost Love Film Festival.
      “Delbert,” the therapist noted, you are one of many. Including me. What say we seek out those who have lost loves, ask them to film their heartbreak, and, voilà, have a film festival?”
      “You’re nuts,” said Delbert.

      • Doug Jacquier

        Why do I suspect Delbert is you in disguise, Bill? 🙂 Love that last line. Perhaps you could re-work the therapist’s idea to have a Tennis Film Festival, as in Lost Six Love. 😉

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Sweet Lorraine… she must have been quite something.

      • Charli Mills

        Perhaps, nutty, but space for lost love could appeal to many, Bill.

  5. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Reel Deal

    The guys from the shop noted that the El Camino was not in front of their new favorite pub. Neither was Marge Small’s pickup.
    “Where’s Marge, Nard?”
    “Movies? On beer night?”
    “Nick, Nick, Nick, every night is beer night.”
    “Yeah, but this is Friday friggin beer night. What’s got into Marge?”
    “That big goomer she wrestled with here last Friday, that’s what.”
    “Marge likes guys?”
    “She likes this one.”
    “But. We don’t know him.”
    “He’s actually taller than Marge. And. That El Camino? His.”
    “Oh. Okay then. Nard?”
    “I pity the movie goers sitting behind those two.”
    Ernest agreed with Marge that her truck would be more comfortable than his El Camino so she drove to the movie theatre. Ernest went to get Marge’s door for her but was too slow.
    Though sore where his date’s truck door struck him, Ernest Biggs felt special buying tickets for two and escorting Marge Small into the theater. All eyes were on this stunning couple, each tall and of ample girth.
    Marge agreed with Ernest that TV at his place would be more comfortable than the theatre. Marge got the door for Ernest who held their buckets of popcorn.

    • Doug Jacquier

      Love where this is going, D., and looking forward to many more episodes.

    • Charli Mills

      So it begins, or a beginning of sorts for Ernest and Marge. Have fun exploring these characters and their stories!

    • Jules

      Nice backround.

  6. Rebecca Glaessner Author

    I went to an indie film festival once, in Footscray – an outer Melbourne suburb, surrounded by a hoard of all those modern, world changing type-people. I loved it. I don’t remember the films, it was a few years ago now, but I remember crying and laughing and feeling utterly shocked and moved. I also remember the tiny glittering lights in the dark and the hush as emotion filled the room and the curtains withdrew and the connection we felt as our awe was shared amongst a room full of strangers.

    I have no idea how to write this into my world though. I’m interested to see what the muse conjures. Time for some brainstorming!

      • Doug Jacquier

        At the top of your form here, Rebecca. Loved this: ‘The scope is immense, incomprehensible, story after story driven by no discernable characters. So much beauty.’

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Thanks so much Doug, your praise is humbling. I do love a good AI with a heart story. Glad you enjoyed it too!

      • Liz H

        And the soundtrack to go with this film might be John Lennon. Imagine! Liked this hopeful flash very much!

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Thanks Liz! That’s a fabulous choice of music. I’m a wee one, and first discovered Imagine through A Perfect Circle’s cover. What a breathtaking song, both versions, all versions. A wondrous vision.

    • Doug Jacquier

      Just for you and your memories, Rebecca. Franco Cozzo Furniture, Norda Melbin an’ Footerscray.

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Ahaha yes! And I meant to edit my comment but the film fest was in St Kilda, but Franco Cozzo furniture was on every news radio broadcast for a long while. There’s an market in Footscray that I’ve been to though, huge Asian community there, the most amazing foods.

    • Charli Mills

      Rebecca, I had not been to a film fest until I moved here and I fell in love with everything you describe in your experience. I also enjoyed listening to strangers talk about the films in between. I’m so glad you push yourself when a prompt challenges you because you wrote a stunner this week!

      • Rebecca Glaessner Author

        Thanks Charli! It’s a fantastic feeling to encounter a craft challenge and overcome it week after week.

      • Charli Mills

        It’s building good writerly muscle and flexibility!

    • Doug Jacquier

      Clever piece and get well soon.

    • Charli Mills

      Good to see you, Joanne! I hope for a good turn of circumstances for you. Great flash!

  7. Jules

    I don’t think anyone should have to be put into a” sparkling sausage casings of a dress.” But then I was never a fashionista 😉

    I doubled up with this haibun:

    Film Flam?

    The small town boasted that unique films would be shown. Not quite a film festival. But classic noir, independent and other short films would be on the screen in the barn that was turned into the viewing room. The flat floor and folding chairs were the least of the obstacles. It was a challenge to find a seat with a good view. And the acoustics weren’t great either. Dad always said you get what you pay for.

    die hard fans
    deal with obstacles
    its their choice

    The room was cold. Couldn’t hear, or see. This place wasn’t for me.

    • Doug Jacquier

      Brings back memories of every country hall I know. 🙂

      • Jules

        I saw ‘Hair’ (clothed) as a High School production in the 1970’s. A school auditorium is only slightly better than a barn. But then some newer high schools our way have theaters to rival some Broadway stages because of some generous donations to the building of such.

    • Liz H

      Reminds me of college movies in the gym. We brought our pillows, flipped that chairs to make a comfortable enough seat, but I’d never last through opening credits at my current age. 😀

      • Jules

        Hey senior discounts are a valuable ‘ass’et!
        Now of course some fancy places will serve you at your seat. All the little theaters have reclining seats with cup holders too.

        I can’t even remember the last real movie I went to… but I remember seeing the first Star Wars on a huge screen. And we snuck up to the closed upper level and sat in the front row of the balcony!!! That was fabulous!!

      • Liz H

        You rebel you. I like it!!

    • Charli Mills

      It sounds atrocious, Jules! Which is what I was aiming for from a cowgirl’s perspective. Of course, she would have preferred a barn film fest despite the obstacles.

  8. TanGental

    Hi, I’m back, being silly I’m afraid…

    The Little Tittweaking Film Festival

    Little Tittweaking nestled in the bosom of the countryside, happily anonymous. When Colonel Daub Byzantine retired to the old vicarage, he and Maple Byzantine hoped to join a lively community. They were wrong.
    ‘What shall we do?’
    ‘A film festival. Everyone can make their own.’
    The other residents weren’t sure, but mucking in was expected.
    ‘Just supply your films by the closing date. We’ll do the rest.’
    It was therefore with some surprise that the Byzantines received the entry forms covered in a variety of dusts, condensations and mucuses .
    ‘Not everyone sees films like you do, Daub,’ lamented Maple.

    • D. Avery @shiftnshake

      “They were wrong.”
      A most effective succinct summary sentence.

      • TanGental

        Ha. Yes it is!

    • Liz H

      Some folks prefer non-verbal communication. Ugh!

    • Charli Mills

      Your silliness is greatly appreciated, Geoff! Not exactly inspiring films to be found in Little Tittweaking.

    • Liz H

      Oh my! My vocabulary lesson for the day, but at least in a fun set-up! 😀

    • Charli Mills

      Complete with cultural guide? Why, this is like a film festival, Doug!

      • Doug Jacquier

        Yeah, seemed to work better than subtitles. 🙂 I recall an Australian film many years ago subtitled in French and a famous Australian artist, Rupert Bunny, being translated as Bugs Bunny on the screen.

      • Charli Mills

        Ha! I enjoy reading missed translations.

    • Charli Mills

      Changing with the times and everybody wins!

  9. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Leaving’ A Trail

    “Ain’t seen ya at any a the film showin’s Kid. Have ya least checked out the trailers?”
    “Trailers? Them film folks is campin’ out?”
    “Not camper trailers. Movie trailers. Kinda like a visual blurb, get ya innerested in a film.”
    “No time fer any a that Pal. Saloons don’t run themselves ya know. Well, ‘cept when Chel and Colleen take the reins.”
    “Yep, some fine poetry servin’s then. How’s the Author’s Chair?”
    “Got a couple a great writers lined up fer November an’ December. Hope folks come by second Mondays ta engage an’ ask the authors ‘bout their writin’.”
    “Yep, the saloon stage is fer the entire Carrot Ranch Literary Community. Folks kin take a seat in the Author’s Chair, kin be innerviewed, or even have their characters come in fer a chat. Jist ‘bout anythin’ goes at the Saddle Up.”
    “Zactly. If someone has a idea or a hankerin’ ta take the stage all they have ta do is run it by our writer D. Avery.”
    First Mondays- Anyone Can Poem with Chel Owens
    Second Mondays- Author’s Chair volunteer
    Third Monday- Double Ennead Challenge with Colleen Chesebro
    Fourth Monday- Interviews & Showcasing
    Fifth Monday- Photo Flash Challenge

    • Jules

      Oooh… a Photo Flash Challenge thet’s new!
      But then fifth Monday’s are like Blue Moons…

      • Jules

        Ah… I did write on that one… The agyier ya get, the more you remember to fergit!

    • Charli Mills

      The stage at the Saddle Up is becoming a big deal, like a regional film fest, D. Might need the red carpet on of these shows.

    • Charli Mills

      Congratulation, Robert!

    • Charli Mills

      Nice work, Liz. Not only a distillation of story, but character POV, too. It works well, and the motive is clear.

      • Liz H

        Thank you. Sometimes it works out!

  10. Michael B. Fishman

    I sympathize with Magic. Large crowds to that to me as well.

    • Charli Mills

      Ha, ha! Some of us can’t be on the red carpet and that’s okay!

    • Charli Mills

      Triumph in an awkward situation. Well done, Jane.

      • Jane Aguiar

        Thank you so much! ??

    • Charli Mills

      You still make it to the film on time, C.!

  11. Hugh W. Roberts

    2-inches of snow and a film festival? That sounds like a great way to get the winter season started, Charli.
    And I love how you asked us where the inspiration for our stories came from this week. For me, it was a Tweet I saw.
    Enjoy the popcorn.

    • Charli Mills

      The snow fizzled, Hugh, but the film fest was great. So much to process and ponder (I need more popcorn — it’s been a while). A tweet! Thanks for answering! I’m always curious.

  12. suespitulnik

    Traveling, and barely made the deadline…

    The Best Birthday Ever

    Tessa inspected the birthday card sentiment, printed hotel confirmation, flowers, and film festival tickets. She was smiling but tears were ready to run down her cheeks.
    Michael came up beside her, wrapped an arm around her waist, and kissed her cheek. “I thought you would enjoy going to the film festival.”
    “I’m thrilled, because I didn’t think you would even consider it.”
    “Now that I’m out of that wheelchair we can enjoy ideal seats which makes it worth going.”
    “I think you’ve given us both very special gifts.”
    “I’m happy it’s you I’ll be walking next to.”
    “Thank you.”

    • Charli Mills

      Good job with both writing and meeting a deadline while traveling. No easy feat. But look at Michael go!

  13. pedometergeek

    The Dream

    It seemed like the worst week in Alicia’s short life. Nothing went right, and she was depressed.

    Returning home, Alicia skipped dinner, chugged her sleeping tablets with wine, conked out, and began to dream.

    Alicia received an invitation to a private film festival; the limo arrived minutes later.

    Swiftly, Alicia was transported to a darkened theater. The film showed scenes from her life, both good and bad. She was surprised that she made an impact on other people, changing their lives.

    Alicia awoke with a changed attitude. She might have bad days, but her life was worth living.

    ~Nancy Brady, 2021

    (Nothing like the last moment. Sorry, Charli.)

    • Charli Mills

      Oh, wow, Nan. That’s moving.

  14. Charli Mills

    Great uncertainty where film and a first date begin and end. Clever writing, Paula.

  15. Charli Mills

    Film Fest intervention. Well done, Donna.

  16. Charli Mills

    I think I know “The End” on this story Denise!

  17. Charli Mills

    You pulled the heartstrings in this one, Hugh (the story, not the post).


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