Spring unfolds like discordant popcorn. The daffodils did not wait their turn and flashed tones of yellow before the purples and pinks of hyacinth. Crocus raced the glories of the snow and they bloomed simultaneously. Stunted tulips gave up height for budding. It’s a disarray of ephemerals and I’m perplexed by the abnormal sequence. It’s a new and hasty song trapped bulbs made up in an extended snow prison.

Other signs of spring remain familiar and sequential. Shrinking piles of gritty snow continue to melt, and water plummets from the rocky spine of the Keweenaw. At night through the chill of open windows, I hear an amphibian invasion of spring peepers. It’s as if winter said, “Wait for it…wait for it…wait for it…” and then BOOM (or, BLOOM) and the frogs cheered. I’m struggling not to garden this year and hope that next spring I don’t pop inharmoniously because I waited.

I remind myself daily that the frogs and flowers will come again. It’s okay that someone else will love my gardens. I will make new ones.

This week, my focus turns inward as I prepare to take a four-day birthday retreat camping solo at my favorite state park (McLain’s). I’m looking to get my creative mojo back. It’s something all writers experience and I’ve allowed my own lapse after a difficult decade (I was going to write, “year” but it’s been a pile of years). Like the irregular bursting of flowers, I’m anticipating lots of creative explosions this coming weekend inspired by rocks, mergansers, campfire dinners with friends, a dance show, dinner in town for my free Geminani’s B-day meal, a day alone with my creative writing, and a cemetery field trip followed by a free day of nothing but research on what the gravesites revealed.

If that doesn’t jumpstart the creative juices, I’ll keep writing until they fire on all imaginative synapses. As Steven Pressfield reminds writers in his book, The War of Art:

“Start before you’re ready.”

Steven Pressfield

I’m going to hit the creative writing with all I’ve got no matter all that is going on. And much of what is going on is good, like diamonds emerging from all the pressure. This summer promises more excitement than I’ve felt in a long time, including work on a new anthology for Carrot Ranch. It’s all coming together even if I look like a mess of spring flowers out of tune. By summer, beauty will emerge from the transition.

This week, we are doing something different! Oh, of course, we are still doing it in 99-words, but the prompt is inspired and unusual. Marsha Ingrao graciously invited me to participate in her Story Chat. My genre is women’s fiction but I had this story idea that wouldn’t stick to any female characters so I thought Story Chat provided me an opportunity to write male characters for a change. Really, the idea was nothing more than a premise cobbled from several sources — a friend who used to lead a Puppies Behind Bars program for prisoners; disabled veterans I know; and the idea of what if they met through the dog.

What Story Chat provides is in-depth feedback. An author posts a short story and readers respond with questions, analysis, and critique. Not everyone agrees but responders gain understanding from reading each others’ feedback. The author gains insight for future revision. And I’m all about the revision process! Any insight is informative. When it comes to final revision, every author has to decide how to manage feedback and why. Later, I will revise according to feedback, and a potential home (I think it’s imperative that writers have an intended target audience or purpose for their published pieces).

If you have an interest in learning in-depth analysis and how to use it for revision, I invite you to read the comments (including my teaching points for the process of revision). For the purpose of this week’s challenge, you can read the short story “As Far as a Prisoner Can Go.” Your task is to tell the same story but differently. That may sound ambiguous, but it’s what we writers do. All the stories have already been told. Not all the storytellers have yet told them in their own style, voice, genre, tone, or perspective. Take all the liberties you want! Improve it. Wreck it. SciFi it. Romance it. Darken it. Tickle it. Make the story your own.

May 16, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about when a newly released prisoner meets the disabled veteran who adopted the puppy the prisoner trained behind bars. The prompt is based on the short story I wrote for Marsha Ingrao’s Story Chat. Yes, rewrite my story in your words, 99, no more, no less. Go where the prompt leads!

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

  1. Submit by May 21, 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.

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