January 16: Story Challenge in 99-words

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at CarrotRanch.com. She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

January 16, 2023

Over the weekend I met a lady in the shadows. She was a small silhouette set upon murky material. She was simply known as, “The Lady;” a restorative work of textile art.

Artist and creative adventurer, Beth Jukuri, displayed her collection of story textile panels at the Gallery on 5th in Calumet, the historic center of the Keweenaw Peninsula (island) of Upper Michigan. I met a kindred spirit who creates and kayaks.

Beth’s collection is called Art Therapy. She explains in her artist purpose that she can’t share her pain in art but she can reveal her recovery. As a fellow survivor of childhood sexual abuse, it’s not often I get to meet another woman who refused to be silenced by her childhood experience. We connected immediately in a deep way.

Perhaps that’s true of any strangers who become close within minutes because both are equally willing to be authentic.

Meeting Beth boosted my inspiration and she reminded me why I started Carrot Ranch in the first place. To connect with other writers sharing the writing journey; to play and practice a creative craft that captivates us. She renewed my vigor to make the Ranch a place where anyone can access literary art and forge a weekly practice of creative writing. Beth reminded me how much I appreciate the weekly Collection for its endless expression of creativity.

In Beth’s collection, The Lady emerges brighter, bigger, and more dynamic as the panels progress. In one story panel, The Lady is joined by another and both have empty heads. Beth explains how that initially bothered her as if nothing was in their minds until she realized nothing was influencing their thoughts. These ladies were open-minded.

You can learn more about Beth Jukuri at her blog and read about the adventures of her local group of women who hike, bike, ski, snowshoe, and kayak. Don’t be surprised if I show up among them!

I was thinking of ladies in the shadows and what more we could draw from the idea in the way of stories. Also in the art gallery was a portrait of Big Annie who led the miners’ strikes of 1913. The Women of the Copper Country by Mary Doria Russel tells the story of Calumet’s Joan of Arc. The portrait also shows how she bore the burden of immigrants and the men who descended into the dark shafts. I was further delighted to find out that one of my new favorite artists was the mastermind behind Annie’s portrait.

Art inspires art inspires art.

I’m glad I got to go on an artist’s date before returning to school at Finlandia University. While I anticipate a tamer schedule and less stress this semester, I also dove into my syllabus and restructured the flow of my course. I felt creative in how I will teach college students to write. I’m also working on courses for an online writing school in the works. Encouraging others to find their place in the writing life and grow as writers is as vital to my soul’s purpose as is my writing.

Tonight is morning already and while I can’t afford to revert to my night owl ways, I’m full up on the richness of inspiration and impending possibilities. My syllabus is uploaded, my week’s lessons are in place, and my creative work unfolds. Week One of the semester begins.

Go chase Lady Shadows and bring back your stories!

January 16, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a lady shadow. Who is this person and why do they lurk in the shadows. What is the tone and setting for your story? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by January 21, 2022. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Wednesday following the next Challenge. Stories must be 99 words. Rules & Guidelines.
  2. Writers retain all copyrights to any stories published at Carrot Ranch.
  3. A website or social media presence is not required to submit. A blog or social media link will be included in the title of any story submitted with one.
  4. Please include your byline with your title on one line. Example: Little Calves by Charli Mills. Your byline can be different from your name.
  5. Please include the hashtag #99WordStories when sharing either the Challenge or Collection posts on social media.

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

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  1. Norah

    How invigorating, Charli, to meet someone and make a deep connection so quickly. It’s very affirming to do so. I love that Beth’s empty-headed women were actually open-minded. How different perspectives can either obscure or reveal the underlying truth. I’m excited that you feel ‘full up on the richness of inspiration and impending possibilities’, it will quicken your step (you may even skip) with the lightness of hope for what lies ahead. I think 2023 is going to be a good year.

    • Nicole Horlings

      I also loved that bit about the women.

      • Norah


  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    You sound good, Charli! I love that meeting Beth boosted your inspiration and reminded you of your Ranch and its purpose. You remind me of the importance of an artist’s date.
    You also remind me of when I stepped out of the shadows and into the warm glow of Carrot Ranch to “forge a weekly practice of creative writing”. It was just one step but a life changing one somehow. I delight every week to be published here among old timers and first timers and to see our stories so thoughtfully and respectfully curated. Thank you for all you do and for all that you share.

    • suespitulnik

      Dede, I thank you for putting into words what all the RanchHands think. Becoming a part of this community changed my life too, for the better.

  3. Nicole Horlings

    “Art inspires art inspires art.” What an absolute truth. It reminds me that a good writer is also a reader. I love the weekly writing challenge for honing my skill in cooking up new stories, and the weekly collection for adding fuel to my inspiration stove.

  4. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Gol Dawn Kid

    “Dunno bout this one, Pal.”
    “Whut don’tcha know Kid?”
    “Dunno if we should be writin bout shady ladies. Ain’t sure Carrot Ranch has a shady lady. Wanda, but she won’t like if I put her in a flash.”
    “Change the names ta pertect the not so innocent. But prompt don’t say shady lady. Says lady shadow.”
    “Oh. Well, that’s kinda spooky.”
    “Could be, if ya aspire ta apparitions. Feel like we discussed hauntins one other prompt. Figgered out they was spirits a unwrit characters lookin ta be released ta the page.”
    “This could turn inta a real writin exorcise.”
    “Kid, this prompt ain’t necessarily bout haints an ghosts.”
    “Yep, reckon it’ll lead inta as many directions as there’s ranch hands.”
    “Jist don’t want ya misleadin the other ranchers. An ya do realize, thet by doin yer thinkin out loud here in the comments a the challenge post, ya still gotta come up with a story ta git published in the collection— this here don’t count.”
    “I know Pal. But this leads ta that. An mebbe some folks injoy ma thinkin.”
    “Hmmf. So, what’re ya thinkin?”
    “Thinkin I’ll jist wait fer that shadow lady ta come ta the light.”

    • suespitulnik

      I enjoy listening (reading) to Pal and Kid thinking out loud. They often help me think about other aspects of a prompt that I hadn’t thought of mself.

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Same. But it’s nice to hear someone else say it. ????

  5. Jules


    Not all childhood abuse is the same. Sometimes just being ignored and religated to the shadows is abuse in and of itself. Coming out the shadows with a clear mind and being able to think beyond others expectations is a light bulb burning bright over one’s head, moment.

    I think I’ll think on this a bit. Shadows can be a good place to be sometimes, for safety. Always good though to find some light and share it with others.

  6. suespitulnik

    I admire your openness and honesty. I’m not as brave about sharing personal facts as you are. I am happy you connected with Beth, and she helped you light up your North Star. We all benefit. As Dede said, you sound good and excited. Anyone’s path you cross will feel the energy too, because of how you teach. I hope your students realize how lucky they are to have been assigned to you. Good luck this semester, and may the President and Dean mind their own business.

  7. Jennie

    Art therapy comes naturally to children. It’s how the expresses themselves. Grown-up, take notice.

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