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February 27: Story Challenge in 99-words

Gather round to hear the tale of the Golden Onions.

No golden onion is the same. It’s the fingerprint of a literary artist. An author’s voice; a style; the secret ingredient of a savory concoction. It evolves from seed to maturity and takes a lifetime to peel back layers to expose the core.

Consider how long it takes a golden onion to grow from seed to cellar: an average of 99 days (okay, that may or may not be true but fits the tale). Compared to other veggies in the garden, onions require a longer growing season. Yet they can offer so much in immature form from sets for future planting to early harvests of green shoots.

Like literary artists, golden onions are ready for the long haul.

The tale goes like this. Golden Onions came into the world to spice up Carrot Soup. Carrots feed the people. Give them eyes to see by and nutrients to feed their families. But Carrot Soup was bland in the beginning. How could it accommodate all the different tastes? And that’s where the Golden Onions came in, each different in its complexity. No Carrot Soup was ever the same either, though each container could be recognized.

Carrot Soup is the end product of writing. There are containers of thrilling soup, fantasy soup, romance soup, poetic soup, dystopian soup, short-story soup, novella soup, mystery soup, and even hungry pirate-romance-adventure soup. These are not the bland soups of who-begat-whom stories. With Golden Onions in the world, Carrot Soup flourished, each onion adding its own unique essence.

I didn’t seek golden onions as an analogy for literary artists; it found me. First, I scoffed. Who’d believe writers are a pungent vegetable? Not just writers, but literary artists? Golden onions? I don’t think so. But then, like dreams, I tended the image. I sat with the symbol and pondered what life it had to reveal. How are literary artists like Golden Onions?

We do take time to mature. Even when we are at our fullest, pulled from the loamy soil, we have so many layers to peel back. We cry, exposed layer by layer. We carry sensitivity because we work with the language of the heart and yet we fortify the heart. It will take us a lifetime to peel down to our core, to master our chosen craft. We may flavor our books for a decade or eons. Our essence can’t be removed.

But do we know our own essence? Who am I as a golden onion? Who are you?

It’s an important question to explore. Note, I didn’t say, to answer. We can’t answer that question without reaching maturity only to spend the rest of our days peeling back layers. We explore our essence, following trails inward as we leave signs of our passing outwardly with each batch of carrot soup.

Let’s talk about carrot soup for a moment — the recipes we write. We can put unicorns or corrupt lobbyists in the mix. We can cut off the tails of sharks or harvest grain from the purest fields. We can add anything to the mix of what we write but what makes my shark-tail-unicorn-lobbyist soup different from yours is my golden onion. The more I understand who I am as this golden onion, the better I can choose my container of carrot soup. The better I understand my container of carrot soup, the better I can feed the people who will think my carrot soup is worth devouring.

That’s the nutmeat of writing as a whole — who I am, what I write, and who reads my work.

I was sitting with symbols and letting them come to me as I contemplated a name for a signature workshop I’m naming. I feel as if this is part of a naming ceremony for a baby that’s ready to be introduced soon. When I went to school for my MFA in Creative Writing, I simultaneously earned a Master’s Certification in Teaching Creative Writing Online. Most of my peers prepared for university teaching and I built an online creative writing school. In life’s unexpected twists, I was hired by a university from the minting of my MFA.

Some thoughts ran to ease — oh, I thought, teaching university English Composition might be the easier path. I discovered I love teaching even in an academic setting. Maybe especially in an academic setting. FinnU has allowed me to develop my own syllabi, weekly lessons, and figure out what works and doesn’t work in the classroom. I’ve been refining my own courses for the Carrot Ranch Online Writing School.

What I want you to know at this point, is that I have a super fun Golden Onions workshop prepared where you can explore your literary artist, your writing goals, and your platform. It will be three weeks long and include college-level feedback. It’s also ongoing, meaning it’s not a finite course. You can take the tools you are given and continue to peel back your golden onion for life or you can sign up as many times as you like for the full peer and instructor experience. I’m most excited about this workshop because it delivers the three puzzle pieces I think every writer wants to find.

Mostly, the online school will target professional writers looking to break through career barriers. What I learned in my MFA program is distillable and teachable without having to go pay tens of thousands of dollars for an MFA. I’ve not marketed since I went back to school and I held off after I was hired by a university. It took all of last year for me to figure out an important layer of my own golden onion.

I only mention these transitions to you so you’ll understand some elements I’ll be adding to Carrot Ranch. I want to reiterate that Carrot Ranch is a place to play, practice, and grow (or peel) your onion. This is the mentorship level, the gathering place of literary artists and raw literature. The school will be an income endeavor, offering college-level training in peer critique and understanding of the commercial and independent book industry. I’m excited. I’m nervous. I’m progressing like a slow-growing onion in the field.

Next month, technology gods appeased, I’ll be updating the website, alerting you to some publication dates, and launching the school in its first reveal. It won’t change the challenges or the collections. We hope to have more community offerings at the Saloon and opportunities to publish your work. We will continue to explore our literary art weekly and a school is an option that may or may not appeal to your onion. Just know it’s coming.

Now, let’s go make some literary art!

February 27, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a golden onion. Any golden onion. One planted or harvested. An onion chopped for a meal. How can you use an onion as a prop in a character’s hand? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 4, 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.


  1. denmaniacs4 says:

    I gotta say, Charlie, that I went sort of spiritual, it being Sunday and all…

  2. restlessjo says:

    You amaze me, Charli. Every time!

  3. I’ve never heard of a golden onion before. Here we have brown onions, red onions, spring onions…

    • Charli Mills says:

      Joanne, you can be any color of onion you wish! I began looking for patterns in my dreams and the golden color happens frequently and usually in association with creativity. It’s my pick of color. What color do you want to be? Do you dream a repetitive color?

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Golden onions are my favourite for cooking, but we call them yellow onions, for me they are and will always be golden.

    • Charli Mills says:

      Why be yellow when you can be golden? 😀 Yes, I’ve cooked with sweet yellow onions and I favor them too, but Golden Onions found me so golden it is!

  5. Jules says:


    When you talk about onion layers I think of Shrek… We’ve all got layers!!
    I smashed some prompts and there is info at my post here;
    A Friendly Chat …

    Continued success on all your projects 🙂

  6. Gloria says:

    Sounds intriguing, Charli.

  7. A tricky prompt this week, still very inspiring, I hope you like my take on it 🙂

  8. Gloria says:

    Mine is a true story!

  9. Pete says:

    The Day the Monster Truck Mama Was Born

    Steve sat doubled over in the sweltering porta potty, still wearing his helmet, cursing as a country song blared over the speakers. Outside, nearly ten thousand people grumbled impatiently for the main event.

    Golden Onion he thought. What kind of fool eats an entire deep fried onion before the biggest performance of his career? Scratch that, two golden onions. Now, as his monster truck idled in the dirt, the crowd began chanting his name.

    Steve’s mother tapped on the door. “Steve?”

    “Go away.”

    “Okay, but sweetie? These people want a show.”


    “So… I’m going to need your helmet.”

  10. Norah says:

    Thank you, Charli. Your post really made we chuckle – when it was supposed to – and I needed that today. I’ve had a long (productive) day and a couple of rough (not productive in the best sense) days ahead. I love the analogy of the golden onion, of peeling back the layers and finding our true essence. When you added the onions to the carrot soup, I thought it was just perfect. Both are root vegetables, planted firmly in the ground – a solid foundation, one could say.
    But as I proceeded through your article I became, first, impressed, and then inspired. What a fantastic idea – a golden onion course. I love it, and hope to do it. I may not be one of the first to do it, but do it, I will. Now bring on the onions and the carrots!

  11. This story came on the comments from my own story:

    My Golden Surprise

    I don’t know what I’d do without my yellow surprise.
    I peel it back and it’s pearly white smile slowly emerges in front of my eyes.
    Layer by layer I can begin to smell it’s delicious aroma fill the air. My eyes water in anticipation at what deliciousness soon will appear.
    Then suddenly in my excitement I begin to slice and slice. I butter my bread. Salt and pepper it too. And begin to make sandwiches for me and you.
    Purple, red or white can’t compare.
    Go ahead try it, if you dare, my yellow onion!
    99 Words

    By D. J. Huggins-Green
    March 4th,2023@12:16a.m.
    Mingo Jct., Ohio

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