Maybe it’s all been a slow fade. Maybe there’s no such thing as normal (hint: there isn’t). But it’s been a long time since I’ve had words for how to describe the mundane of my life (hint: it hasn’t been mundane). I’ve felt more stalled than fulfilled.

And yet…

Between my homeland in the West (California/Nevada), Montana, Iowa, Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Elmira Pond in Idaho, the Coeur D’Alene Wilderness, eastern Washington, Mars, New Mexico, Kansas, Wisconsin (yes, twice), and the rocky spine that is the Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan, I disappeared.

Do tumbleweeds remember having roots or were they always poised to ramble? If someone had asked where I am from, I’d answer, “It’s complicated.” But I’m starting to feel less ephemeral. More permanent. Rooted? No, more like one who can move among the roots. Part of a network, community, forest. Connected.

What looks like disappearance is actually transformation. After all, the catepillar doesn’t disappear in the cacoon. It transforms and emerges a butterfly. Silica in the magma makes a variety of rocks when the lava cools and disappears. Crystals and copper later emerge in veins of silica-rich quartz. I’ve decided I’m more like a rock than a tumbleweed. I’m not aimless.

Of course not, I have a North Star. No matter where I’m at in my journey, I have guidance.

My North Star shines over many. It twinkles with imagination, aligns with intellect, embodies regions of stories, connects generations of women and Indigenous through unbroken oral traditions, provides paper and pens, and writes 99-word stories. My North Star calls me to write and be a pathfinder for other writers. Carrot Ranch is my North Star.

No matter where I’ve been (and I’ve been to Mars and beyond), I could navigate by the Ranch. When I went to school for my MFA, I navigated my studies beneath my Star. No matter the circumstance of my life as a veteran spouse and caregiver, Carrot Ranch has guided my steps.

North Stars evolve, too but like a butterfly, it still is the catepillar. Like the quartz rock, it’s still silica.

Why does Carrot Ranch exist? In the beginning, it was to make literary art accessible 99-words at a time. I wanted to connect writing to art and to state that anyone could have access to literary art. Breaking down barriers is vital. Encouraging writers to step up is needed.

I don’t think Carrot Ranch, the North Star, is transforming. I believe it’s shining brighter and clearer. 2022, and Carrot Ranch exists to make the craft of creative writing accessible to those who dare. “Craft of creative writing” is clunkier than its pretty counterpart, “literary art” but it clarifies a commitment to craft and includes fiction, poetry, memoir, essay, and storytelling/spoken word. “Those who dare” recognizes the journey of each individual who writes at Carrot Ranch.

All journeys are equipped for joy. Joy is like grief; once you’ve experienced it, it stays with you. You can’t appreciate the height or depth of each without knowing both. This past weekend, I got to experience a joy project that embraces collaboration and it made me feel solid and fixed beneath my North Star. People who come together to express joy through writing, dance, music, spoken work and visual output find their source.

The Movement of Joy reminds us that we can tap into our creative expression of joy moving with others. In this online workshop, we explored three questions:

  1. What is joy?
  2. When did you find joy?
  3. When did joy find you?

Spoken word artist, Marquis “Ten Thousand” Burton, led us through several prompts, such as “What does joy smell like?” Warm apples and cinnamon, horse and saddle leather, rain on rocks. I remembered that I found joy on the back of a horse. Joy found me when I realized I can write creatively with other writers, week after week. Carrot Ranch is a ranch because it expresses the joy of my buckaroo heritage, painful as it was. When you focus on joy, all else falls away.

Then the music starts. Time to dance! Here’s the Joy playlist made up of all the Movement of Joy participants over the past few years (yes, it’s a pandemic project). Song #174 is my contribution. When you dance to any song on this list, you are dancing to someone’s expression of joy. What song would you add to the list?

In October, the Movement of Joy will be at Michgan Tech, and I will work with the organizers to get Finlandia University involved and pitch adding 99-word writing to the workshop. Wouldn’t that be joyful? Between the end of April and October, there will be much going on at Carrot Ranch Headquarters.

Speaking of Headquarters, it’s important to note that Carrot Ranch thrives in the traditional and modern lands of the Ojibwe where Anishinaabe Water Walkers cross the rocky spine protecting water in ceremony. Its important that we start recognizing the indigenous lands beneath our feet. And remember the movement of joy in our own backyards.

This is my love song to, with, and from the land where I now live:

It might be rocky on the Keweenaw Peninsula, but the soil is rich. Beneath my North Star, summer awaits with its promise of sunshine, snow melt and black fly bites — and many opportunities for Carrot Ranch to spread the joy of creative writing. Right after finals at the end of April, I get the chance to interview author Mary Doria Russell live at the Keweenaw Storytelling Center. I’m working with the incredible women’s yogini and storyteller, Tracy Chipman, to bring her readingsand teachings to our region.

My intent is to connect local and online communities in innovative ways to share our writings. I have numerous collaborations in the works that will call for submissions to community projects. From collection readings to vending 99-word stories from a vintage cigarette machine to pairing art with stories to writing ghost stories to online improv, this is going to be an exiting summer. Fingers and toes crossed, we might even get our first Carrot Ranch Writer in Residence offered.

And like cheesy late night commercials on TV — that’s not all.

The Carrot Ranch rebrand is progressing and I’m over the moon to say I figured out the fonts. That might seem lame but fonts matter. Originally, I worked with a designer who had license to CR fonts but fonts come and go on programs. I’m no longer part of Adobe (I use the professional version of Canva) but never mind because the compatible fonts I was using on WordPress disappeared. Now that I’m building the website from scratch, I took time to resolve the fonts.

Now that I have a heading, subheading, and text font that can be used across platforms, I refreshened the palette for Carrot Ranch. I’m a brand nerd and this foundational branding is serious play for me. I’m keeping the iconic banner because it’s a work of art, but have new colors to make it pop.

Once I updated the brand kit, I created a logo for the Carrot Ranch LLC designation which will house all the programs from the community to coaching to publishing. More to come on what that means. Transformations are not overnight endeavors! For now, enjoy the brand elements unveiling (with one element hidden for another few weeks).

While I prepare for the renovation and innovations taking place at Carrot Ranch, you will see pages or elements or content disappear. It’s time for the catepillar to cacoon. Don’t be alarmed. All story collections will be archived and moved to the new site. The Congress of Rough Writers page will be simplified and open to all who write here. I’m also building pages that I hope you will find useful, such as a DIY Revision Plan.

Thank you for your patience as the cacoon liquified the catapillar to prepare for the butterfly. It coincides with my own transformation to find permanency where I have landed and fallen in love with the land and water. I’m reaching out for joy and fulfillment.

In other news from the Keweenaw, winter returned. It can disappear anytime soon!

March 28, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about disappearance. It can be an event, act, or subtle theme. Who or what disappears? Does it fade or explode? Can it be explained or experienced? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by April 2, 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.
  2. Carrot Ranch only accepts stories through the form below. Accepted stories will be published in a weekly collection. Writers retain all copyrights.
  3. Your blog or social media link will be included in your title when the Collection publishes.
  4. Please include your byline which is the name or persona you attribute to your writing.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99Word Stories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts in social media.

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

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