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November 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

The waves at the tip of the Keweenaw Peninsula are crashing to shore seventeen feet high. A freighter has taken safe harbor in Keweenaw Bay. It’s Veteran’s Day in the US and I’m listening to Mary Gauthier’s “Rifle & Rosary Beads” album as I drive to campus to teach. In the parking lot outside Nikkander Hall, I text my “Sixers” to thank them for their service. One is my SIL, one is D., and the other is a local counselor who serves veteran families.

Sixers are those who have your back. In military lingo, what you can see is reported as if a soldier is facing noon on a clock. Font and left would be ten o’clock. Front and right two. Directly behind a soldier is a blind spot. Brothers (sisters, too) watch each other’s six.

I couldn’t do what I do every day, which is to get up and face the damn day, without knowing I have support. Sixers are top-tier support. I also have the support of my Veteran community, my Copper Country community, my Carrot Ranch community, my Water Walker community, my three kids, and a handful of family, including my veteran cousins. Then there’s the support of my wellness toolbox contained in the Unicorn Room — writing, meditation, ancestors, spirit guides, and rock medicine — and in the hope of kayaking sloughs.

I have an arsenal of support. I need an arsenal. As Mary Gauthier asks in her song, War After the War, “Who’s gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who go to war?”

In return, I give support. My friends and family. My communities. My students. My Warrior Sisters. And my veteran spouse who is at the center of my life’s craziness. It wasn’t always this way. But it’s extremely complicated. PTSD meets cognitive demise elevates my daily living to what the Warrior Sisters and I call “battlecare.” Caregiver doesn’t quite cover what we do as veteran spouses. We are a strange misunderstood invisible overwhelmed clan. Venting to one another, we feel heard and witnessed. We also “get” each other’s situations.

Thanksgiving, for example, has been looming like a black cloud. It used to be my favorite holiday — the menu-crafting, marathon cooking, feasting, playing board games, and eating leftovers for a week. It comes at the dark of the year and fills the home with savory aromas, family, and light. But not this year. The middlest is in the Arctic. The youngest is newly married and keeps a safe distance. The eldest is nearby but refuses to be near her father. His condition scares her. It scares me, too. I have a safety plan, go bag, and daily drive-bys from the Hancock Police. My Sixers and local community can request a welfare check at any time. They have. The Chief of Police is friendly with my husband. He’s military and has a friend who was in the Rangers, too.

Did I mention it’s complicated? Lately, I prefer calling it crazy. When my husband hears me saying it’s crazy in our house, he agrees. “Mause,” he says. It’s not the pup. There are moments he flashes who I used to know. Often, the next moment reminds me we are in an evolving normal. Sometimes he makes me laugh. Sometimes I laugh because it’s all too crazy, like turning on the snowblower because the neighbor woke him up with a leaf blower. Then taking the pup for a three-mile hike with me desperate to figure out how to kill the snowblower belching fumes into the house.

Watching my life fall apart at the seams that no longer hems my marriage is sad. Like deeply sad. Like waves cresting at seventeen feet sad. Sad enough that I want to cry, listening to Mary croon the pain of my veteran community. But then, I turn my thoughts to gratitude. Grateful for strong friends, for the collective wisdom of my Warrior Sisters, and for time with my children, when I get it. I don’t take love for granted. Love is the best thing we can give and receive. It makes me a more loving community member, a more loving teacher, and weirdly enough despite the fear of conditions and circumstances, a more loving spouse.

Letting go has been a major theme for me this year. Finding moments of respite, another. I’ve been working doggedly since starting my MFA that I hardly feel like I finished it, yet here I am teaching, ghost-writing, and even building websites. I’m writing and revising, researching and exploring. If I take a break I have to work up to it and catch up after. That’s not ideal, but I’m aiming to wrap up big client projects, overcome the learning curve as an adjunct, and complete the development of my writing and coaching career. Letting go without giving up is what it means to carry on.

Carrying on is a lot of work but it is not going to be hard forever. Or maybe it gets harder. Who knows? I don’t.

If my life story were a novel, I’d call this the “mushy middle.” It’s when the protagonist has left one shore but not fully arrived at the other and now the waves and wind have kicked up. If you are the author, you might know where your novel starts and ends, but after writing scenes and chapters you have lost control of the story’s form. A mushy middle is not a writing problem, it’s a storytelling issue.

I’m in a mushy middle because I don’t know what my story is at the moment. Is it too late for me to have a college teaching profession? Will I ever publish any of my manuscripts? Will anyone sign up for coaching? Will I get to offer workshops again? Will I stay married? Stay tuned.

What if you are in the throes of a first draft (hint: NaNoWriMo) and the middle is oozing all around you and you feel like you’ve lost the point? Go back to basics. What is your story? Do cause and effect drive the action? This is your plot. Does a character transform? How and why? This is your character arc.

One reason a novel gets mushy in the middle is because of the backstory. In the first draft, we discover. It matters to us, as the authors, what happened to our protagonist at the age of nine years old. We need to find out her favorite food, his greatest dislike, and their deepest secrets. But pages and pages probably don’t fit into The Story our book will become. Don’t fret. You need as much material as possible to begin the revision process.

Remember that planning I talked about several weeks ago? Pantsers, you don’t get to escape it. And planners, you might be wondering why the best-laid plot has gone awry. Pull out of the story mush and flash-plan. Have fun with 99-word possibilities. What if your character… What if your story… You don’t have to commit pages to play with possible scenarios. Just 99-words. You can also summarize your book in 99-words. Practicing your pitch or book jacket blurb (back of the book) is a good way to gain a different viewpoint on your story.

Here are some Mushy Middle resources that got me through my MFA:

After class, after thanking my Sixers and Warrior Sisters for their service, after all, they carry the burdens of those who went to war, I held class. Listening to my students in peer critique groups warmed my heart. They make me want to workshop for the rest of my life with writers. Students helping students, writers helping writers, what a wonderful world. The gale winds blasted Nikkander Hall. I got caught squatting in a classroom not assigned to me. I assured the other instructor that we’d be out by the time her class arrived. She left and we chuckled. I said, “Someone finally noticed.” I’m used to invisibility and leveraging it to my advantage. Why not? I’m only trying to do good. My class deserves the space required to workshop. I like the feeling I get went I’m looking out for others in a way that will improve their lives.

That’s the thing about service. About veterans. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it can be dangerous, unfair, and even unjust. But it’s not about the individual. It’s about serving something bigger than ourselves. That feeling brothers (sisters) in arms get when facing battle. That feeling that sparks a veteran spouse when advocating for the quality of life for her wounded warrior. That feeling when we shelter another in the storm. The importance of doing what it takes to carry on.

It wasn’t always crazy. I came across a story Todd wrote in 2011. Before we knew anything was wrong. I want to honor him, this Veteran’s Day by sharing his story in his own words:


To get to the Battalion you had to pass RIP (for enlisted E-5 and below) ROP (E-6 and above) Not sure on that one but it doesn’t matter because I was an E-1 which put me cleary taking the RIP route. Anyhow, we get there and get issued our camoflage fatigues and wait for the rest of the Battalion to come back off block leave for Christmas. Then we PT’d twice daily. We did hand to hand in the pit. Ran/crawled through the ‘worm pit’/obstacle course. Which was sawdust dumped into a dugout pit, with barbed wire staked over the top of it. Except for times when it was really cold, it was flooded when we ran it. RIP instructors would piss in it before we made our run, just to mess with our heads. We learned our knots and all the other Ranger necessities before we we were shipped off to our companies. Of course we met Battalion standards for the Run and road-march. Run five miles in under 40 minutes and roadmarch 12 miles with full combat load in under three hours. Upon arriving at B Co. we immediately deployed to Texas for a month.

Todd Mills, Ranger Airborne 1st BN 75th INF B Company 1981-1985

In letting go of how things used to be, I’m embracing new adaptability. For Thanksgiving, I’m making all of Todd’s favorites. We might have some students over. We will watch football and A Christmas Story. We will call the kids. Call our parents. Take Mause on a long walk along the Masto Hitto Trail where she can run and flush grouse. On Friday, I will go spend the day and night with my eldest and her husband at their farm. They will wait to celebrate Thanksgiving until then. My daughter says it will give her a day after work to clean and relax. Maybe some of their friends will join us. Definitely, we will play board games and play with their two new farm puppies, Uther and Oberon (Utie and Obie). In December, after classes end, I will go spend time with my youngest and his wife. I’ll check in on Todd. He’ll sleep, walk the dog, maybe go to the range. Maybe I’ll join him, and maybe it will make him happy. Who knows? But I will try. I will let go of expectations. I will adapt and carry on.

To all who serve — including the invaluable support of those who serve the veteran community — to all the advocates, warriors, and poets, to the storytellers and teachers, to those who serve their communities and families, you are seen. You are witnessed. Thank you.

For my Warrior Sisters:

Who’s gonna care for the ones who care for the ones who went to war?
There’s landmines in the living room and eggshells on the floor
I lost myself in the shadow of your honor and your pain
You stare out of the window as our dreams go down the drain

Invisible, the war after the war

I get no basic training, I get no purple heart
I’m supposed to carry on, I can’t fall apart
People look at you and thank you for the sacrifice you made
They look at me and smile and say I’m lucky you’re okay

Invisible, the war after the war

But I’m a soldier too, just like you
Serving something bigger than myself
And I serve unseen, caught in between
My pain and the pain of someone else

But I’m stronger than you think I am
I’m right here by your side
I am not your enemy, I don’t wanna fight
There’s no going back in time, I know you’re not the same
But you are not the only one for whom the world has changed

Invisible, the war after the war

Mary Gauthier, War After the War

November 11, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase “carry on.” It can be an expression of perseverance or behaving in a particular way. It can even be luggage you take when traveling. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 16, 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.

Sharing the Load by Charli Mills

Max rested her sea bag against her good leg, the one that survived Iraq. Delta Airlines employees huddled like amateur football players, pretending they had a game plan. Without flinching, Max waited for them to okay her carry-on. She resisted the urge to twitch her nose or wiggle her fingers. A grunt could stand at ease in the worst conditions. A woman with white hair approached Max and loudly asked, “Are you a veteran?” Max smiled and nodded. All it took was for one person to notice and the burden shifted. She got to board with her sea bag.



  1. Oh wow. Your flash piece Charli, and your whole world right now. Just wow. I’m honoured to be present here and to read your words as you work through this mushy middle of yours.

    As for my novel, this is the first draft I’ve written to a loose plot, I’m nearing the climax and I’m yet to encounter a mushy middle this time. A drastically different experience to every other draft I’ve struggled through. Plotting helps. Writing toward an ending helps.

    Life isn’t linear though, it’s full of countless deep, mushy middles, almost everywhere we turn. The peaceful, clear moments are brief. I hope you get to see glimpses of the other side of your current middle. And I’m grateful for the amazing team you have around you.

    Thank you for sharing Todd’s words, for sharing your story week after week, for being honest and vulnerable, for offering us a glimpse into your world, and for always reaching out.

    This prompt and post combined are inspiring imagery full of passion and hardship and hope. I’m eager to get more new words down.

  2. Reena Saxena says:

    Reblogged this on Reena Saxena.

  3. restlessjo says:

    My heart hurts when I read some of your stuff, Charli. You are one amazing woman!

  4. ceayr says:

    Jings, Charli, that is a powerful piece of writing.
    I will try to get back to do the challenge, but for now I share, with no obligation, my tribute from yesterday, the 11th of November:

  5. I have been having a little bit of fun with Marge and Ilene lately. Today’s response follows this scene 144 word d’Verse response
    which follows the Mud response

    “Walking Wounded”

    “I’m sorry Nick’s such a dumbass about your leg Ilene.”
    “Don’t you apologize for him Marge. I can handle Nick.”
    “I’ll say. You’ve had him believing everything from alligator, to bear attack to chainsaw juggling.”
    “Ha! Always says, ‘Really?’”
    “Just tell him you lost it in Iraq; that’d be believable and it’d shut him up.”
    “That’d be a lie.”
    “You lie every time he asks about your leg.”
    “I’m not a veteran. I could never claim to be. It was hard enough living with one.”
    “Yet another man!”
    “Loved that one. But I couldn’t carry on. Too many battles.”

    • “And look at her now, cougar with a cub scout. Hell, Ilene’s prosthetic is older than her boy toy, Lloy-duh.”
      “Shut up Nard.”
      “Marge, you’ve never asked about how I ended up with a below the knee prosthetic.”
      “Figured if you wanted to tell me about it you would.”
      “It’s kind of a funny story, actually.”
      “You going to tell it?”
      “No, it’s too tragic.”
      “Cease mourning past loss. Walking now with present friends, You can also fly.”
      Ilene teared up at Lloyd’s words. “Lloyd… that’s beautiful.”
      And they carried on, drinking, laughing, and telling stories, but not all.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Great interaction between your characters, D. I love the humor mixed with a strong sense of values. Your characters have character. And I laughed because “cougar with a cub scout” gives me hope.

      • Jules says:

        Ya gotta get all these stories together in a book!
        The become more real with each additional story.

    • Norah says:

      I love these complex characters. They try to laugh away the pain that must lie within some of their stories.

  6. Ridin’ Heard

    “Kid, is it true Ernie an’ Pepe are workin’ on a anti-frazzlement product?”
    “Yep. They wanna make somethin’ ta hep folks carry on an’ keep their thinkin’ straight.”
    “Better not be along the lines a Ernie’s Green Garden Gummies. Thet candy ain’t a cure.”
    “Relax, Pal. Aussie steered ‘em in a dif’rent direction. They’re workin’ with a gizmo kin connect ta the whole wide world.”
    “A computer?”
    “Yep. There’s some pitfalls, but push the right buttons ya end up unfrazzled.”
    “Ya end up unfrazzled? Where ‘zactly d’ya end up?”
    “Carrot Ranch! Among good friends.”
    “Hear, hear!”
    “Here yer heard.”

    • With A Little Help From Our Friends

      “Hold on Kid. Computers has been aroun’ fer quite a while. So has the World Wide Web. Pepe an’ Ernie ain’t invented nuthin’.”
      “No, but Aussie helped ‘em discover somethin’. Fact is, Aussie’s helped a lotta folks find Carrot Ranch, made ‘em feel ta home here. Reckon she’s been a real pillar.”
      “Cain’t argue thet. But Shorty broke ground here. Put up the barns an’ bunkhouse an’ all.”
      “Planted the carrots, stocked the cookhouse.”
      “Put out the invites.”
      “Yep, promptly, more or less.”
      “So Shorty’s carryin’ on, creatin’ her own solutions.”
      “Yep. She’s on the write path.”

    • Charli Mills says:

      The anti-frazzlement product — writin’ among friends. Yep. All these characters will stay the course on the write path.

    • Norah says:

      I love that anti-frazzlement gizmo. I sure need it right now (write now). The Carrot Ranch is a great place to hang out – so many supportive friends. I’ve been hanging out here for years and never tire of the yarns.

  7. […] Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction ovember 11, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase “carry on.” It can be an expression of perseverance or behaving in a particular way. It can even be luggage you take when traveling. Go where the prompt leads!// Respond by November 16, 2021. […]

  8. Jules says:


    Everyone has challenges in life. I think you have had more than your share. But then most of us might say we can compete on some level with having to handle what life throws at us.

    Your flash is wonderful. I always try to thank service folks when I see them when I have traveled and they have to been in fatigues or uniform. I read somewhere that some soilders don’t like to be singled out with ‘Thank you’.

    I’ve had family where records were lost, so they didn’t get any benefits. And now I have other younger family that are getting what they can from the system. Even healthy Vets seem to have too much red tape.

    The words in my title are all synonyms for ‘responsiblity’:
    Duty, Restraint, Guilt

    Melekh had to carry on, after she died. After the family blamed him. When he had returned on their request… so she could be with her family. But he had two little girls to raise without her. And his parents could only carry on so long before they retired out of state.

    After a ‘lifetime’ of discomfort, two more marriages, daughters grown and gone, he finally accepted that he didn’t have to live with physical pain and let the Veterans Administration help repair his hips. Who knows what mental anguish he still carried? And then too soon, he died.

    © JP/dh

    • Charli Mills says:

      Exactly, Jules. Too much red tape. It is too difficult to get benefits, even basic ones, let alone trying to correct the harm done. Lost records are more common than you think. It’s complicated, that “Thank you for your service.” If you genuinely mean it and are willing to shoulder the burden the way the woman did in my flash, it will be received with honor. A veteran won’t speak up for themselves, but they appreciate civilian advocates who do. That’s what it is to be a Sixer. Powerful story you wrote. You captured so much of the complexity of a single veteran life.

    • Long suffering, I think the term is.

      • Jules says:

        Yes. But some who knew what needed to be done (healthwise) still didn’t do it when they should have…Not so much from being ‘stoic’ but because (at least the person I knew) had perhaps different expectations of those around them. Hard to explain – they liked being in control, but sort of like a martyr. I don’t appreiciate having had to suffer for someone elses bad choices when they had the opportunity to be corrected much, much earlier. Is that being as selfish as they?
        But as a younger person whose opinions didn’t count…

  9. A poignant post, Charli, written with your usual eloquence. I hope there’s a happy-enough ending coming after your mushy middle.

    What a clever take on the prompt, as we feel for Max carrying on despite disabilities with her carry-on bag.

    Can you believe I had a review post ready a couple of days ago waiting for the prompt, headed keeping going? You might be interested that includes a new novel by Alison Moore.

    Here’s the opening of my 99-word story:

    Footpath closed

    Mile by mile her mood lightens, until the signboard returns the clouds to her mind. FOOTPATH CLOSED. BRIDGE REPAIRS. FIND AN ALTERNATIVE ROUTE. She’d stamp her foot if it weren’t already aching. She can’t trudge for an extra hour.


    • Charli Mills says:

      Anne, it won’t be a storybook happy ending, but happily-writing-ever-after is my aim. And, yes, we often find we need to reroute ! Oh, I did not know Alison Moore had a new book out. Leave it to you to be on top of new releases.

  10. […] The Carrot Ranch November 11, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase “carry on.” It can be an expression of perseverance or behaving in a particular way. It can even be luggage you take when traveling. Go where the prompt leads! […]

  11. Part of me didn’t want to respond to this post because it was very sad and raw and, at times, difficult to digest. There’s so much to question and discuss and say, so I’ll just say carry on, Charli.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Not everyone can sit with the sad and raw, Michael, so I appreciate that you did. Thanks for the carry on. I do. I also laugh loudly and sometimes inappropriately. I find time to play and I regularly hug critters as well as humans. Some days, I need to write from that raw spot.

  12. Hi Charli, I hope writing this post helped you release some of what you are feeling. It is so hard to watch loved ones struggling and it is also difficult to feel as if your are losing yourself to their troubles. I have also experienced this over the past while so I can understand how you feel. Someone said to me one that it is always darkest just before the dawn. Hugs.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Hi Robbie. Thank you for your lived wisdom. Writing is a way to stay true and not lose myself to someone else’s pain. I get to remember what is mine and to find what feels meaningful. I also found your Ennead over at Colleen’s prompt to be a bold expression of living out loud and embracing what beauty a day gives despite judgments and expectations. Hugs back to you!

      • HI Charli, thank you for your lovely words about my poem. You are the person who contributed the most to my writing learning and I am very grateful for the help you gave me. We do have to keep our own identities within our roles as supporters to others problems and pain. Otherwise you lose yourself. Keep going, you are doing so well.

      • Charli Mills says:

        Hi Robbie, that is encouraging to know that I could help in some way on your writing path. You keep on keeping on, too!

  13. denmaniacs4 says:

    So powerful, Charli. All my very best to you.t

    Carry On Old Friend

    I was on my way home from the ceremony. Remembrance Day. Veterans Day to some. Whatever you called it, it’s about not forgetting their sacrifice.

    Halfway home , as I rounded a corner, I came across him standing on the edge of the park.

    “Missed you at the ceremony,” I said.

    He smiled, said, ”Guess you don’t remember. I never made it home…from there.”

    I looked back at him closely. He looked so young. As young as he was back in forty-three.

    “I guess I forgot,” I said.

    “Don’t worry,” he said. “Carry on. See ya when I see ya.”

  14. […] -for the November 11: Flash Fiction Challenge […]

  15. […] November 11: Flash Fiction Challenge « Carrot Ranch In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase “carry on.” It can be an expression of perseverance or behaving in a particular way. It can even be luggage you take when traveling. Go where the prompt leads! […]

  16. As I finished reading your story, I want to extend my arms and hug you tight!!

    Although, you know that I’m just a click away. If I can be of any help!!

    My take for this prompt:

  17. suespitulnik says:

    Hi Charli,
    So many emotions jump to the surface while reading your post. I wish you the best in carrying on, but honestly, I’m not sure how you do it. Always giving of your knowledge, time, and heart to everyone while dealing with such sadness at home. I pray for the oucome that is good for you.
    I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving on all the days you celebrate it.
    Take care my friend. Hugs! On to the prompt…

    Trouble Adjusting

    During a Homefront Warriors gathering Tessa had been unusually quiet. Someone asked if she wanted to share what was troubling her.
    “I’m embarrassed to admit, I’m having trouble adjusting to Michael not using his wheelchair. I know I should be thrilled he’s more mobile, but it seems with him walking everything happens faster. He’s busier now than before.”
    Sally answered, “I’m hearing you say you wish he would make more time for you.”
    “Perhaps that’s true.”
    “I suggest you offer to join him in his activities or carry on keeping yourself busy like you had to in the past.”

  18. Before I post my contribution this week, I want to say that for me the futility of war is always underlined by the innocent casualties, including the impact of damaged people returning from unimaginable horrors and/or unintended consequences. No-one knows that better than you, Charli, and your sixers.

    Late in her life, my mother (who passed away at 95) told us many things about what life was like after WWII for women dealing with men ‘lucky enough’ to return, including a man who was our neighbour in my childhood who’d returned from a Japanese POW camp. She talked almost matter of factly about the complete lack of support from the broader community and from governments compared to modern times.

    This led me to write a story that tried to evoke those times, which is now the featured story of the month on Marsha Ingrao’s ‘Story Chat’. It was also published in the April edition of On the Premises.

    Anyway, I have digressed far too much from the job at hand and here is my contribution for this week.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Doug, I’ve heard stories about women like your grandmother who had no support to deal with their “lucky” WWII soldiers. Support has improved but I don’t think (the US, at least) does a good job with quality of life or access to the improved benefits. If only we considered the consequences before, not after. Congrats on the featured story and thanks for the contribution!

  19. […] This was written with the prompt carry on provided by the Carrot Ranch November 11 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

  20. Here’s my one, though calling it fiction is a misnomer:

  21. Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving and all the best to you and your family. It certainly has been a tough road for you all.

    Here is a different take on the prompt (and I will probably do a more official one), but this is a poem (edited to fit into 99 words).

    Full Circle

    Traveling, we see vultures
    riding thermals.
    Harbingers of death
    circling above.

    There’s road kill ahead,
    probably raccoons.

    Rounding the bend, though,
    a turkey vulture,
    Killed, with wings askew,
    Caught in the act.

    For those above, is it carrion instinct
    to cannibalize its own?
    Or is it a vigil?
    Mourning the loss…
    Of a mate, parent, sibling, or child?

    Do they mourn as we do?
    Grieving from the loss of loved ones.

    They continue to circle,
    Others join in.
    The vigil continues.

    I will never know the answers,
    if they mourn as we do.

    I’d like to think they do…

    ~Nancy Brady, 2021

  22. Charli, the wives who also served, carry the same load as the ones who didn’t serve. I was lucky to have survived my military experience unscathed (physically and mentally). I worked more in the civilian community than the military, so my experience differs from many. Yet, we are the ones who pick up the pieces of our war ravaged men, who nurse them into old age and love them for who they are. How you cope with all that’s on your plate, amazes me. You are a true warrior woman. I’m proud to call you sister. <3

  23. […] Carrot Ranch flash fiction November 11, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the […]

  24. Here’s my link. I’ll be back to read the other entries. <3

  25. Hi Charli

    First and foremost – my prayers for you and your family: for hope, confidence, courage, strength, resilience, whatever you need to carry on, every day.

    And as always, your blog is thought-provoking. As I read thru the blog, I felt a deep sadness, but at the same time, the turning point for me was when you wrote about the gratitude you feel, for so many of the different aspects of your life. It is a beautiful reminder that the “glass of life” is never empty.

    And as always, I also find a great deal of learning in it, about writing, storytelling.

    Thank you for the links to Mushy Middle! I’m not a story writer, and I’ve struggled with writing the recent FF stories. Just reading thru one of those articles (by Jeff Lyons) helped me to “see” how a mushy beginning/middle/ending is a story-telling problem, not a writing skills problem!

    So, I’ve actually thought of two FF ideas for the “carry on” prompt! Not sure how it’ll turn out but FF writing is still a lot of fun for me, even with the mushy problems!

    Thank you, Charli, for sharing so much of your life with us.


    • Charli Mills says:

      The glass of life, Saifun, yes, it is never empty, always refillable. A-ha — you found the key to overcoming the mushy middle — revisit the story. Sometimes we forget about story construction and focus on craft skills. Your two submissions are both fantastic! Thank you for sharing, a toast of our glasses clinking here at the Ranch.

  26. […] 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 “Carry On“ […]

  27. Jennie says:

    Charli, I read this and was overcome at how you describe your Sixers, your Hubby, and ‘how it is’. So, I put it aside and read it again. There is so much here. Thank you!

    • Charli Mills says:

      It is what it is, and yet we can still find beauty in the day and friendship in the world. Thanks for reading so deeply, Jennie. And, I’m really, really enjoying teaching in a classroom!

  28. […]  Carrot Ranch Prompt (11/11/2021): In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase “carry on.” It can be an expression of perseverance or behaving in a particular way. It can even be luggage you take when traveling. Go where the prompt leads! […]

  29. Liz H says:

    Thoughts on Autumn, the changing of seasons. Just like any other relationship, I guess…

  30. Norah says:

    What a flash, Charli. It is so important to be seen, to be witnessed. Mary Gauthier’s song is about the same thing – the need to be acknowledged. Your mushy middle makes you crazy, brings you down and makes you strong. But it’s not like the mushy middle in your novel. At least you can write the ending of your novel as you’d like it to be. It’s not always that easy in life when we have other assistant writers who want their piece of our story too. You are strong to carry on – it’s that yet philosphy – you’re not there yet so there’s no point stopping. I’m thinking of you and sending you hugs as you make duchess potatoes from the mash. Enjoy your season of harvest and Thanksgiving.

    • Norah says:

      And here’s my story. No link this time.

      Such a Carry On
      He had no heart for foolishness. ‘What are you blubbering about? Stop carrying on. I’ll give you something to cry about,’ he’d say, unbuckling his belt. He’d never known compassion so felt no empathy. ‘Grow up. Be a man,’ he’d say, to son and daughter, both.
      His strength, at first attractive, she now considered weak. It broke her freshly-opened heart when he crushed their children, infected with his unlovability. She wished their love would unlock his stone-cold heart, but the key was never found. When he passed, not one eye teared for loss, only for what they’d never had.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Assistant writers, yes, we have collaborators in life, to find that ending of sorts. As you have shown in your soulful flash, Norah. That ending was not mourned. Always thinking, not yet. Have said it many times to students, too! Thank you, I will make Duchess potatoes out of the mashed!

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

  32. Carry On, My Wayward Son

    The phone would ring, and my son, who rarely calls, would be on the other end. “I’m being deployed,” he said. He would follow with the particulars of when, how long, his address, but never where.

    Only later would I know, for sure, where my son was stationed during his time away. The first time it was Iraq for six months. The next three times it was Afghanistan even though they were shorter deployments.

    For this mother, it was a time fraught with anxiety and worry. Yet, I had to carry on, counting the days until he returned home.

    Nancy Brady, 2021

    Title borrowed from the song by Kansas.

    • Liz H says:

      It’s the hardest gift to give our kids, I think: To bury our worry, to not add to theirs, and have faith that things will turn out for the best.

    • That would be so tough, waiting and not knowing.
      PS, that song has been an ear worm since this prompt came out.

      • D, every time I hear the words, “carry on” that song becomes an ear worm for me. I am sure I am not alone.
        It was tough, but fortunately he is no longer in the service; however, I still worry about my kids because I know there is nothing I can do to protect them.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Mamas of soldiers carry on. Some even become the caregiver. By the way, your story was fun to follow after Michael’s.

  33. kathy70 says:

    This is my simple offering this week. Thanks.

  34. […] This is my second take on the prompt carry on provided by the Carrot Ranch November 11 Flash Fiction Challenge. […]

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

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