This semester has me running all over campus. I only have one class that meets three times a week, but I also took on 15 learning labs as a professional tutor. Each lab is only an hour-long but calls for me to sprint from hall to hall. One zipper was not going to work.
What I mean, is that my fancy leather computer bag with a single zipper was not hefty enough to carry my learning lab binder, books for tutoring, lesson plan binder, and books for class. If you are curious, I have my students reading Suzanne Simard’s In Search of the Mother Tree, Joy Harjo’s An American Sunrise, and the all-encompassing academic style guide, Rules for Writers.
I needed more zippers. This semester called for a serious backpack.
My Osprey backpack includes a padded pocket to protect my laptop from all those books, binders, and pens. It has a main compartment big enough for my learning lab binder and four books. Another compartment expands to hold my lesson plan binder, pens, an emergency battery pack, and a Firestick. Not a firestick for starting campfires; the kind for pre-loading videos, documentaries, or streaming services to enhance my teaching toolkit. Another pocket holds my spare masks, phone, and small Big Boss wallet.
As you can imagine, my backpack, teal as Lake Superior beneath a summer squall, has lots of zippers.
I’ve yet to learn all my zippers. Sometimes, I think it would be easier to manage one zipper (or one class!) but I need the multifunctionality of my backpack. At the end of the day, I appreciate all my zippers and the adjustable shoulder straps. When I have to go up three flights of stairs, I pretend I’m practicing for summer hikes. Then I set down my backpack and listen to the compliments — pretty color, sturdy, nice pack — and I think, Nah, it’s too pretty to take kayak-camping-hiking. Besides, it has too many zippers!
My students are researching. Every Friday we listen to Finding the Mother Tree on audible in class. It not only ensures they stay up with the required reading, but it also provides practice in notetaking. The book is creative non-fiction and an excellent example of how researchers can use stories to share their findings with a broader audience beyond peer reviewers. It’s meant to be inspirational to budding academic researchers.
Sometimes, I alternate Simard’s book with poems by Joy Harjo. If you are not familiar with the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States, let me introduce you to this surprising Indigenous jazzed poet. You can catch her music-infused poetry on Spotify. We also listen to Harjo read from her Audible book sans her saxophone. The point of listening to poetry as we read a book about how trees communicate is to make connections. Both Simard and Harjo explore themes of displacement.
Because Michigan Tech University has invited Joy Harjo (and the Keweenaw Peninsula public) to a reading and presentation at the university’s Rosza Center, everyone is reading An American Sunrise. Everyone, as in five regional colleges, local libraries, high schools, and the general public. It’s a “big read” and exciting to be a part of. You can join us!
Harjo’s theme of displacement is our focus. Helsinki Slang is the name of Finlandia University’s writing club, and this year, in conjunction with the Campus Read, we are hosting a writing contest. It’s only open to our university students, but Carrot Ranch will publish a special collection that Carrot Ranchers can also submit 99-word stories to. Our uni-winner will be a longer essay or fictional account.
Also, a writer familiar to all of us here at Carrot Ranch, T. Marie Bertineau, serves at the university contest’s judge. It’s this sort of connectivity that I enjoy building between our online and headquarters communities. Carrot Ranch has exciting collaborations in the works as we continue to write 99-word stories weekly. In March, I promise to reveal more when I also take time to honor those who kept the Saloon and columns running during the difficult pandemic years.
Remember to post your stories in the form. I’m trying to find efficient ways to acknowledge all submitters, whether you have blogs, social media, or an email. I appreciate the shift to reading the stories as a Collection and visiting any associated blogs. If you like any stories individually, it’s helpful to say why. You can say how it made you feel, think, or appreciate a specific writing element. As we write and submit, we are all daring!
Now, let’s zip up this post and start writing!
February 14, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about zippers. What are the zippers for? What challenges do they present to the story? Go where the prompt leads!
- Submit by February 19, 2022. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Rules & Guidelines.
- Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
- Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
- Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
- Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.