Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » Flash Fiction Challenge » May 9: Story Challenge in 99-words

May 9: Story Challenge in 99-words

Purple crocus and glories of the snow burst across the sodden mat of brown grass and maple leaves stretching from house to house on Roberts Street. Grit and fine dirt cover front lawns, curbs, and streets.

It’s a dirty transition.

Yet, spirits rise along with the sun. On the Keweenaw, we have missed our blazing star of daylight, oft-hidden beneath clouds or fog. Mause has rediscovered sleeping in sunbeams and I’ve opened my sun porch for the first time since September. I feel like I’m emerging from a time warp.

Mother’s Day in the US came early, the second Sunday in May falling on the 8th. Next weekend is my Svalbardian daughter’s birthday, and the following is mine. My son and DIL invited me to their home in Wisconsin to spend the weekend. May is rich beyond measure with sunshine, flowers, and the promise of cake.

Moms, as a topic, is complex. We all have one, and yet our relationships, proximity, and stories differ. How we craft moms in stories is endless. Who do we have in mind when we craft moms into our writing? Do we idealize, vilify, or seek to understand moms? What books have you read that feature a mom you adored, or one you abhorred?

Sometimes, moms remain like ghosts in the background of our main characters. I often think of the ghosts of my maternal line and wonder how DNA or generational experiences have shaped who my mom is, who I am, and who my daughters are. Do we regard maternal lines because history has little to say about women? Or do women pass down secret knowledge unbroken between generations?

In women’s circles, I’ve introduced myself as “Daughter of…” It feels empowering and yet maddening that I can only go back a short way. I’m Charli, daughter of Marie, daughter of Donna, daughter of Mayme, Daughter of Maria de Abreu. Maria, or Mary as she later anglicized her name, passed down her auburn hair and a warning to her descendants — don’t step foot in the church.

By the time the story reached me, the facts proved to be fiction. No matter the reason, I believe the warning is the point of the embellished tales. Recently, I began studying the DNA to suss out an explanation. Last week, I realized Ancestry had created a new DNA feature. Without samples, they can determine what percentage I receive from each parent of my ethnic heritage.

My eldest and I have tried to unravel the mystery of our red-headed Portuguese grandmother, Maria de Abreu Chado Ferreira. She married a Portuguese Brazilian on her home island of Madiera. She may have been born in a fishing village, Camara de Lobos (Chamber of Sea Wolves). But when she left, she had no more ties to family. Despite her distinct name, I’ve had trouble finding her in any records. Her daughter, Mayme Ferreira, married my Bumpa, Marcus Bundeson, the son of poor Danish immigrants.

Theoretically, the union made my Grandma Donna half Portuguese and half Danish. Yet, according to the new Ancestry DNA split view, I inherited one percent of my Portuguese DNA from my mother, who oddly enough, also contributed four percent Balkans. Balkans? I don’t even know how to process that. Nothing in my family tree hints at a Balkans heritage.

Or maybe, the hint is in the distrust of the church for the women of my lineage.

Trying to understand the Balkans connection I discovered that many Sephardic Jews persecuted in Spain and Portugal fled to the Balkans, and later immigrated to the Azores, where Madiera is among the Portuguese islands. Could Maria de Abreu be a descendant of crypto-Jews, those forced to convert during the Portuguese Inquisition? Searching her surname I discovered it is believed to be of Jewish origin. Was that why daughters were not to step foot in a church?

It’s disconcerting but I also found every Portuguese surname in my family tree to be among those recorded in the Portuguese Inquisition. What I don’t have is connecting evidence. Within a week, I inquired with an organization researching the hidden lineage of Sephardic Jews and they are looking for records on Maria’s past. Will it explain her auburn hair?

When I read about the near-genocide of Sephardic Jews in the Balkans region during WWII, I realized those could have been unknown cousins who had survived multiple inquisitions. I laid my head on my desk and cried. It might not be my mother’s story but it is the story of someone’s mom. Many moms. We are the survivors of moms who survived, and back and back and back.

May we go forward with new stories of moms.

This week, we are going to create mom selfies. Think of it as a 99-word image or impression. Take a story snapshot of a mom in repose, action, or study. Think of how you craft an image, allowing readers to slip into the character’s skin, or keep her at a distance. Use memory or real-time. Explore different genres. Use elements of imagery or flow of dialog. Challenge your craft skills this week and experiment.

May 9, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a mom selfie — a story that creates an image of a mom. No one mom looks alike or fits a maternal mold. Who is she? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by May 15, 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.


  1. restlessjo says:

    Oh, Charlie! This is too emotive a subject for me. I can only go back to daughter of Nancy, daughter of Emily. Before that I have no clue about my ancestry, and even less on my Dad’s side. We cannot right any of the wrongs of the past and more wrongs are continuing to be made every day in our world. Where does this leave me? An unhappy bunny, mostly.

  2. Gloria says:

    That’s amazing stuff Charli. You really delved into it there.
    It’s an interesting story about the DNA tracing from your Portuguese grandmother – and such a beautiful name!
    Because my brain doesn’t retain geographical information too well, I had to look up the Balkans to see where it is in the world. My lesson of the day!
    Mmm…does the inherited warning, ‘don’t step foot in the church’ have anything to do with the Balkans heritage I wonder!
    Very intriguing Charli.
    I have my mam, but she didn’t have hers. She abandoned them and their grandmother took them in.
    It’s a terrible pity that our stories will only go back so far. I can’t tell stories about my Dad’s mother either because she died before I was born. I depend on stories from my dad (who’s dead 3 years now) and from my uncle. I wish I’d written everything down. You’ve given me a lot to think about now. 🤗

    I should record stories about my Dad’s mother and my Mam’s grandmother and hope that they’ll be passed down for future generations.
    With social media and blogs etc, perhaps all our stories will be available for years and years to come.
    Imagine Charli, your great-great-grandchildren will know so much about you because of your blog.
    Really enjoyed today’s post. I’m locked in the past these days while I’m writing up my #100DaysOfOldDays project.

  3. Looks like you’ve had fun researching your heritage, Charli. Now a request for clarification: I’ll bend the rules anyway (!) but when you say selfie do you mean in the original sense of a photo taken of oneself or the recent usuage which seems to apply to any photo of a person?

  4. denmaniacs4 says:

    I resisted writing a 99-word tale for a few hours. In the night, restless, I went back to an earlier time…an imagining…

  5. Jules says:

    Charli – a few years back I had a workman in my home. We began talking about faith. He said his wife’s Latino grandmother lit candles in the closet on Friday evenings. Though Catholic now, I believe her family were also ‘Conversos’ or crypto-Jews who had to hide their true idenity. The only thing that was kept as a ‘family tradition’ from the generations was lighting those candles. No one in that family knew why it was done. I’ve also known other families of Latino heritage who don’t know why but they keep a Mezzuah (the container that holds the Jewish home protection prayer) on their door. Again they didn’t know why. It was another unexplained family tradition.

    In one of my seiral stories I had done some investgating that where I discovered ‘Red hair… is rare ‘…in Iceland: The frequency is highest in Ireland and Scotland. Therefore it seems quite fitting that the most red-headed Icelander is chosen during Irish Days in Akranes. Only 6 to 8 percent of Icelanders are naturally red-haired.’

    The Jews though do go back to 1695, but by The 1930 census listed no adherents to Judaism though there were just a few listed in the census in 1940. There is more info at the Wiki page about why. I only used some of the information for my one of charactors.

    I can only go back four generations on one side. It seems when my family left Italy – they didn’t want anything to do with the ‘Mother Country’. I only have rumors that I may have some very distant French relations.

    I’ll have to think about what fiction to create for this prompt. ~ (((Hugs))) Jules

  6. Jennie says:

    What an emotional upheaval when searching for Maria’s past. Women are strong, and they give us strength to more forward. I find that empowering. Best to you, Charli. One day I will tell you about my grandmother….

  7. Norah says:

    It is interesting to research our mothers and their mothers before them, Charli. I did a little of that research last year for my granddaughter’s tenth birthday. It was prompted by a great picture book called Grandmas are Greater than Great by James Solheim. You may remember my writing about it at the time. I’d like to do that DNA test. I really wanted one of my children to do it, because that would do it for me too, but neither of them were interested at the time. Maybe I’ll discuss it with them again.
    I’m a redhead too, as are both my children. As red hair is recessive, this means that red hair is somewhere in my husband’s ancestry. It’s also somewhere in my father’s. Both my grandchildren have red hair as do both their parents. So you can see, red hair is quite popular in my family. It would be fun, sometime, to find out how far back in both my father’s and my husband’s families we’d have to go to find a redhead. Mum had red hair, as did both her parents. I’m not sure further back than that.
    Enjoy the birthday celebrations this month. We’ve got a couple this month too. Cake sounds wonderful. I’d love a slice right now. Is there a special cake you like most for your birthday? My mum used to make me a marble cake. 🙂

    • Jules says:


      On both sides…hubby’s and mine we had folks nicknamed ‘Red’… I had was a strawbery blond kiddo. And my sons had much red in their blond heads too. My hubby’s mustache when he had one…(before it turned completely white, was red and blonde, while his pate was wavy blonde. 🙂

      Has anyone else seen the play from Gander, Newfoundlland (Canada) about planes diverted there because of 911 (divertied because of the devistation of the NYC Twin Towers) called “Come From Away”… one of the townsfolk was a man whose Jewish parents fled from where ever they were from to Gander, Newfoundland. The father taught the son one prayer but told him to never tell anyone he was Jewish. He never did, not even his wife. But when he heare that one of the stranded passangers was a Rabbi the man went to talk with the Rabbi. They said the prayer together, the Rabbi gave the man his yamukle or skull cap because the man never had one. It is a sad state to be afraid to share your identity and faith.

      • Norah says:

        I have read the story about the 911 plane diversions but haven’t seen the play. That’s a very touching story about the Rabbi, but I agree with you that it is sad to be afraid to share your faith and identity. There is still much that needs to change in our human world.

      • Jules says:

        We have Catholic friends that lived in a neighborhood that was mostly a different Christain faith and they too were discriminated against. I truly can’t understand the theme of ‘Be kind’ but only to your own. Like the play ‘South Pacific’ and the song…that says; “You’ve got to be carefully taught to hate and fear.”

        Yes much change is needed. It seems good change goes slow.

      • Norah says:

        I know what you mean, Jules. It’s very sad. We all come from the same dust and to that dust we will return.

      • Jules says:


  8. Liz H says:

    Wrestled with this one a bit…how do I keep the serial moving and fulfill the guidance of the prompt and prompt conditions? What I wound up with is a kind of psychological selfie of the ‘missing’ mother figure, for Andrew, Eloise, and the Twins.
    Great challenge!

  9. suespitulnik says:

    I had to read this essay to my hubby. The Jewish information was of interest to both of us. I admire how you research so many different topics, for yourself and your characters. My sister was my Mom for the last 50 years after our mother died. I now understand when my school classmates lose a parent and suffer such angst. We found family records we didn’t know we had when cleaning out my sister’s house and added a few more generations back. I’m about as Scott and English as one can be.

  10. First off, early Natal Day Greetings, Charli.
    I am glad I read your blog more thoroughly since it gives me a whole different take on the prompt. Up until then, I couldn’t even come up with an idea to go about how to accomplish this, and I was half tempted to skip it despite a pledge I made to myself to fully participate this year (although having said that, I may have missed one, but I digress).
    We (my husband and I) have done several DNA tests (23andme and Ancestry), and I have convinced family (sisters, sons) to also ‘spit into a tube’ and the results have been fascinating and surprisingly accurate when other relatives (cousins) actually show up as related as I know them to be. I only wish that the technology had been around when my parents were still around so even more information would be added. Both sides have some secrets that attempts at genealogy have not solved, or at least not yet. The longer it goes the less will be answered, I suspect. Nevertheless, now I am off to write. ~nan

  11. When I did my Ancestry DNA thing I was surprised to find there was no Italian in my one, but there was in my brother’s. The Italian is from my mother’s family, but I seem to have missed it. Instead my DNA was completely from Northern Europe. Later the result was amended by Ancestry and included around one percent Spanish. I have no idea where that came from. I did a post on my blog about it a couple of years ago.

Comments are closed.

A 5-Star Readers’ Favorite!

Be a Patron of Literary Art

Donate Button with Credit Cards

S.M.A.G. Kindness Among Bloggers

S.M.A.G., Norah Colvin, @NorahClovin

Proud Member

Stories Published Weekly

Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills


Follow Blog via Email

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,738 other subscribers
%d bloggers like this: