September 26: 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.

September 26, 2023

A blade of grass grows from one of two hanging baskets in my front yard. In years past, I’ve grown petunias or moss roses in those baskets. This year, well, I hung the baskets.

Another transition is upon us as the earth spins and the weather shifts. In my small bubble of the world, I can enjoy a pristine blade of grass that grew to shine as the featured plant in a flower basket.

For centuries, likely for thousands of years, humans have pondered blades of grass and recreated their image in our depths. From Wadsworth to Whitman, the human soul becomes the one thing growing in my flower basket.

How amazing is that? How amazing, a blade of grass.

Said a Blade of Grass

Then the autumn leaf lay down upon the earth and slept. And when spring came she waked again—and she was a blade of grass. And when it was autumn and her winter sleep was upon her, and above her through all the air the leaves were falling, she muttered to herself, “O these autumn leaves! They make such noise!

Kahlil Gibran

Another poet goes deeper and portrays the interconnectedness between nature and art. Brian Patten compares a poem to a blade of grass (you can read the poem in the Blue Ridge Journal).

How long have humans been living and we still can write something meaningful through nature images? And we continue to feel so compelled; we long to create as much as we need to communicate. In the reverse, it also improves our sense of well-being when we go outside or view art.

This coming Saturday, September 30 the Keweenaw Interactive Art Walk is set to invite yoopers outside to walk a path through an art show that features 20 local paintings (by TOJ) paired with 20 stories by writer from Carrot Ranch. The full experience includes art activities to encourage people to paint and craft with words. This is the fun we can have when we collaborate with artists and audiences. A sense of play can grow our craft, too.

Consider Gibran’s “Said a Blade of Grass.” What can you learn about your own writing by imitating his? In my first college-level creative writing class, Dr. Stottlemeyer had us students write an imitation of a passage by Hemingway. The lesson stuck with me for three reasons. First, I learned how Hemmingway’s strategy to “write tight” made his stories feel punchy. I appreciated how the author spread the flesh thin on the solid bones of story. Second, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life writing tight. I liked the feel of it; a kidskin glove to my dominant writing hand.

The third reason the imitation activity made a lasting impression on me distills to one word — play. The assignment reminded me of Mad Libs, the game you play with a group of people replacing sentence components for hilarious results when read with the new words. Word games that instill a sense of play can be our best teachers.

If technology and time cooperate this weekend, I plan to launch a Virtual Art Walk on September 30. It’s meant to invoke play and the encouragement to get outside and connect our art to nature. To feel the inspiration of breeze in our hair, the whispers of a story from moving water, and the impulse to capture something beautiful, tragic, or both in a sunset. While I can’t supply you with paints and brushes or colored pens, I will include DIY art activities with suggestions for alternatives. Look for the post on September 30 or October 1.

Meanwhile, go play with a blade of grass!

September 26, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a blade of grass. What can you compare it to? Or in contrast? Is it a character prop or a story linchpin? Go poetic, go any genre or tone. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 7, 2023. Please use the form below if you want to be published in the weekly collection. The Collection publishes on the Thursday 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.

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19 Comments

  1. restlessjo

    Love that piece by Gibran. I need to read more of him. Meanwhile your art walk sounds great fun and I’ll try to be back on Saturday.

    • Charli Mills

      I was thinking the same thing, Jo, as I read Gibran. Even if you miss the launch of the Virtual Art Walk, it will remain until up until we get ready to publish a commemorative booklet.

  2. Jules

    Charli,

    Continued success with all of your projects. I linked up with the New Tanka Tuesday. There is a ton of info at the bottom of my post at my blog. The title is the link:

    Food for Thought

    blades of green yard lawn
    kin to aquatic grasses
    cooked rice in my bowl
    has this wild grain been blessed
    by the Inari ?kami

    Food travels from different parts of the world to be tasted and consumed by those with desires for something different, old or new. Recently I picked up a package of Thai Brown Rice (thin noodles, the package says; product of Thailand). Perhaps Mae Khwan Khao has blessed the rice in my bowl. Could this ‘giving’ goddess be a friend of (the Japanese god, ‘kami’) Inari ?kami. Curiosity about a grass blade, brought me new knowledge.

    © JP/dh (JulesPaige)

    • Charli Mills

      That’s great, Jules! The new Tanka Tuesday (https://tankatuesday.com/) is a great way to learn and practice syllabic poetry. Thank you for sharing where your curiosity led you!

  3. Michael B. Fishman

    I like wordplay a lot and one of the most fun times I had online was years ago on an old Gather (and later Facebook) group where we would play an Exquisite Corpse story game. It was a blast to see where the story rolled to.

    (Hopefully none of us ever have difficulty accepting blades of grass)

    • Charli Mills

      Michael, I missed that one on Gather! I sure enjoyed that platform while NPR operated it. Wordplay lights up my brain. I share in your hope, too!

    • Liz H-H

      Hey Michael, was that anything like the Gather Island tales? Watch our for flying Blancmanges, and Roarke on the dock to greet arrivals.
      I really miss Tracy.

      • Michael B. Fishman

        That was it! Those tales were a lot of fun! I miss Tracy, too.

  4. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    “Hey, Pal. I see yer contemplatin a blade a grass.”
    “It ain’t somethin folks tend ta do, Kid. We tend ta see grass plurally.”
    “Kinda like the forest an the trees? A whole made up a multitudinous individual parts?”
    “Somethin like. Reckon turf’s a interweavin a grass like the weekly collections is wove t’gether from individual stories. It’s powerful stuff, Kid.”
    “Reckon so, Pal. An strong resilient turf comes from a variety of grasses growin t’gether.”
    “Yep, growin t’gether. But ever now an agin it’s good ta focus on jist one blade.”
    “Why?”
    “Cuz each one’s a miraculous creation.”
    xxx
    “Pal, we got a union? Shouldn’t fictional characters be strikin with the writers and actors out in Hollywood?”
    “Thinkin we should strike up the band fer ‘em, Kid. They’re takin a stand ‘gainst creativity bein exploited by so-called Artificial Intelligence. It’s beyond AI replacin human creatives— it’s also bout AI manipulatin folks’ art an images, even likenesses. Ferever!
    “Artificial turf ’s green; blankets the ground; might even feel good unnerfoot. But it don’t feed the cattle. It don’t photosynthesize. It don’t decompose an feed the soil.”
    “It ain’t a miraculous creation.”
    “Thet’s right Kid, not one blade of it.”

    • Liz H-H

      Here here!

    • Charli Mills

      Some deep thoughts to contemplate. Artificial does not feed; it does not reciprocate or expand life. It copies, and sure, it might create efficiencies or increase production, but it is not living. I’ve missed the Daily Show since the Hollywood writer’s went on strike, but I respect Stephen Colbert’s decision to pause the show until the strike is over. I believe he’s a member of the writer’s union. It’s an issue that has stealthily entered technology and I don’t think we are aware of all the ramifications. And, I don’t think it’s a technology worth its risks. It doesn’t improve the lives of writers; it harms them. It doesn’t improve creativity because it does not tend living images the way storytellers and dreamers do. It ain’t no miraculous creation. Ah…but the blade of grass…

      • D. Avery @shiftnshake

        Thank you for offering up that blade.
        Yeah, the days of clicking “accept” and trusting the small print may be over. But I don’t want to go there right now.
        Glad if you appreciate these two yarns, but be warned, Kid ain’t done yet. See ya’ll in the collection.

    • Charli Mills

      Truly, Liz, you wrote from the luminous spaces where AI can’t go, or comprehend transitions. Such evocative language: “Samhain-sharp sun leaches its brittle length to liminal pale.”

    • Charli Mills

      Such a captivating concept to capture a dreaming world: “Sometimes a mouse just wants to pretend that imaginary worlds are real.” Yes, I want to imagine this happens beneath the grass, too.

      • Nicole Horlings

        Thanks, Charli ????

  5. Norah

    Beautiful post, Charli. Even the image of your hanging basket with just a blade of grass. It reminds me of many of my own pots that sport blades of grass when I’ve failed to raise the seeds I’d planted. Such poetry in your imaginings. I look forward to stopping by the Virtual Art Walk. I hope the in-person event was as successful as you anticipated. I’m pleased we have a little longer (until the weekend) with this prompt. Although mine’s written, I don’t mind some tweaking time. 🙂

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