No one ever told me to dance as a child. I learned to groove from as young as I can remember. I wasn’t good at making any memorable moves as wiggled from head to toe in my parents’ small living room with the homemade coffee table—my dance partner. I trotted, turned around, and around that table, while Johnny Horton took me places.

Urged on by the music, I entered a cave where different worlds existed beyond. There were horses, of course. I spent the majority of my young childhood on a ranch. Covered wagons. Kids of many ages. And kind adults who liked to teach. Dancing took me into stories.

Nothing formal ever came of my groovy ability to dance in circles to conjure characters and settings and adventures. I was never a prodigy with fiddle or clogs. In kindergarten, the nuns made it clear art was not in my future. In first grade, I got pulled from class because I couldn’t read although they later discovered I could read chapter books. At 56 years old, I’ve not yet published any of my manuscripts. I’m no writing prodigy, either.

So what if dancing circles to 8-track tapes gave me vivid images? If you talk too much about your imagination, people take notice. Like my frog. I had a frog I’d carry around in my cupped hand. Apparently, I was the only one to see the image. Most people didn’t dance circles in their living rooms. But I was committed to this frog and carried the image everywhere. Finally, one adult figured out a remedy. My grandfather grabbed my imaginary frog, threw it on the ground, and stomped it with his cowboy boot. I accepted Frog’s death and never carried it again.

By the time I was twelve, I knew I wanted to be a writer. The challenge of taking images from the imaginal to animate in my imagination was easy for me. When I was still young enough to be playing Barbies along Markleeville Creek in the 1970s, I understood my friend, her little sister, and I could create and share images between us that our Barbies could embody. But it became socially taboo to share images the older we got as if we were supposed to forget image-making-sharing or forever go insane. I sucked at playing the clarinet. We had no dance schools in the mountains. Colors refused to take form for me. But I could write stories.

Stories in form bored me. However, stories I could imagine compelled me to read books voraciously. I was never without a book. But to write stories meant I had to overcome my confusion over punctuation and spelling. Once my 7th-grade teacher got me writing five, ten, and then fifteen pages of spelling stories each week, I knew I was hooked. I had never been a good student, and there I was entertaining my classmates weekly when Mr. P invited me to read my latest out loud. Words became like dancing but inwardly.

Recently, questions struck me. Did I always want to be a writer? Why do all the other arts pull at me, too? What is it that calls me to write? Then, I recognized that all I ever wanted to be was a Dreamer alive. That seems a contradiction to me — is the Dreamer awake or asleep. Yet, life surges in both the dreaming and waking worlds. Thus, images are living. Dream Tenders work with living images, but so do artists of all kinds, including writers of all sorts. Our craft is what we hone to translate from the imaginal into the waking world.

We are writers, therefore we delve into all the complexities of layering plot with motive, populating new worlds with deep or superficial characters. We craft with words, punctuation, syntax, poetry, structure, and form. To be alive, a book must breathe images onto the page for readers to catch. It’s enough for the image to convey meaning. The work becomes living. Shakespeare’s not dead, yet. Writers are Dreamers able to bring living images to life for eons.

Next party you go to, proudly state your superpowers.

For now, let’s dance! This week we are inspired by the idea of a dance-off amidst all the year-end celebrations. Let’s work with images of unity. The world needs more Peace on Earth. I’m willing to dance to that image!

December 12, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a dance-off. Who has come together in dance for what purpose? What are dancers wearing? What kind of music? Bring some unity to people through the act of coming together, each getting to step to their own groove. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by December 18, 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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