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AND The 2020 Carrot Ranch Writing Rodeo’s Third Event Winner Is:

Masha Ingrao announces the winners of the third Flash Fiction Rodeo and Carrot Ranch trips over the reblog! Go here to read the full details:

2020 Rodeo

The results of the 2020 Flash Fiction Rodeo are riding in week by week in the order of each contest. We hope writers had as much fun as the Rodeo Leaders and Judges. We got to play within the western theme this year and had plenty of challenges!

Rodeo Contest #1:

In Folk Tales and Fables, Kerry E.B. Black asked participants to spin a yarn as long as the Rio Grande in 99 words.

This year’s winner is Colleen Chesebro!

Honorable Mention goes to Norah Colvin, Liz Husebye Hartmann, and Mike Vreeland. Congratulations!

Each Rodeo has different independent judges. Judging is done blind. Thank you to Kerry E.B. Black for managing this contest and to her judges, Debra R. Sanchez and Beverly V. Blickenderfer!


Why Wolf Howls at the Moon by Colleen Chesebro

Long ago, the Moon Spirit danced upon the waters of the lake. When she met the spirit of the Wolf, they danced together on the shoreline.

One night, Moon Spirit said, “I must return to the ebony sky and take my place alongside the stars.”

Bereft, Wolf gobbled up Moon Spirit’s reflection as it floated on the waves. “I wish I could keep Moon Spirit’s magic with me forever,” he cried.

To this day, whenever wolf drinks from the lake, he cries to the Moon Spirit hoping she will return so they can dance upon the shore once more.



Snow White and the Seven Gunslingers by Norah Colvin

The huntsman made the all-too-common mistake of revealing everything before enacting the deed. Snow White kicked him in the shins and escaped into the forest.

Exhausted, she chanced upon a cottage. It appeared abandoned, so she went inside and soon fell asleep on one of the seven beds. She was startled awake by a septet of menacing, heavily-armed gunslingers.

When she explained her predicament, the gunslingers were outraged. “He’s a bad one, and she’s the worst. Stay here. We’re onto it.”

She heard them say as they rode out of sight, “Hi ho! We’ve got a job to do.”


Sky Rider’s Happily Ever After by Liz Husebye Hartman

Rapunzel was a rodeo champ by day, a sky watcher by night. Nobody could beat her barrel riding and calf roping. Stormy nights, she’d climb the Tower Mesa, hear thunder roll, knowing someday she’d join that rodeo.

It got so she spent both nights and days on the Mesa, losing interest in regular rodeos. Family couldn’t call her home, but took comfort, watching her lengthening golden hair glinting in the sunlight.

Along came Pepe LeGume, with his offer of magic beans for her golden tresses. She took the offer, cut her braid, and rosed her lasso to that magic vine.


Flem and the Rattlesnake by Mike Vreeland

Flem, Unlike most cowhands, was toothpick thin, bow-legged, and always smiling. Never once did he lose his cool, even when he found a large rattler in his bedroll. Instead, he cajoled the snake, letting it sleep next to him for warmth. 

Their bond grew.

One day, cutthroat robbers were after Flem. With nowhere to hide, the snake swallowed Flem whole, shook its rattles, and frightened off the thieves. 

After a bit, Flem crawled back out.

“Thank you immensely, Snake,” he said, sharing his hearty meal.

The moral of the story: Sometimes it’s okay to have Flem in your throat.



The Ride by D.L. Finn

We’ve made this journey on horses every year for our wedding anniversary. The only stop was to admire the beauty of the sunset before setting up camp by the gently flowing creek. This was our place. I know you’ll be there waiting for me. That’s why I brought your horse. We’ll ride as spontaneously as we did in youth, with the winds tangling our hair and the carefree laughter running freely. I won’t leave you until you have to go, my love. Then, I’ll return home comforted, knowing that we can stay there for eternity when my time comes.


The Tale of the Two Horse Women by H.M. Hallman

“These women morph into horses, and that’s why they aren’t to be owned,” the chief warned his son. 

“But father, what if someone owns one?” 

“Young Feather, no one has caught one,” the chief said. 

Young Feather couldn’t sleep. The moon was high. He walked to a river and slumped against a tree. He noticed a dark mare drinking from the river. The horse transformed into an eighteen-year old woman. 

He snuck over to see her. 

Startled, she said, “hello.” 

“Don’t fear. What is your name?” 


“Can we be friends?” 


Now, he would protect her and others.


Is He Really That Big by Sue Spitulnik

“Tanner, what’s your lasting memory of high school?” Jake asked.

“Sheriff Bullhorn’s dog that was so big he couldn’t fit in the car without the seat removed. He’d sniff around town at night and catch me every time I tried to kiss Betty Lou. Rodeo weekend when the dog got locked inside so he didn’t scare people was my only opportunity all year.”

“And what if the Sheriff caught ya?”

“The dog was a good warnin’ system, that never happened.”

“And now you’re married to Betty Lou?”

“Sherriff’s a good father-in-law but that huge dog’s still squeezin’ between us.”


Down That Lonely Trail by Bill Engleson

I could’ve circled ‘round, I guess. Kept goin’. Avoided Gopher Flats entirely. Nasty little watering hole. Didn’t even know if Belle still lived there. She’d been a bit of a tumbleweed in her time. Me too, I suppose. Flipped a coin. 1885 Liberty head five-dollar gold piece. One of my last. Didn’t matter which way it landed. I needed Belle. Someone who knew me. So, I came in from the south. Tied up the Roan outside the Gopher Union. Musta been midweek. Quiet night. The kid came up behind me. Bullet got me in the throat. Loved ya, Belle.


Cay-ote Killer by Clesea Owens

Swirled campfire gunsmoked ’round old Ernie’s head. His eyes shone in the firelight, two August moons ‘gainst a desert sky. “An’ that,” he whispered, “whers th’ last any cowboy heard o’ The Coyote Killer!”


“Ah’ll be!”

The talk still swam ’round the camp like Loui’zana fireflies when a shadow fell ‘cross the nearest cactus; when a howl yipped ‘cross the open sky. “Aowhoooooo!”

Scramblin’ to horse, rock, cactus; no man dared admit what he clearly saw: a baying, skulkin’, fur-dressed man, jus’ like what Ernie’d said.

An,’ like’n old Ernie said, no man lived to tell it still


The Barrel Racer: A Fable by D.L. Williams

The mare blinked against the billowing cloud of dust. 14.38 seconds, the time to beat, and she was last to go. She approached the gate. “Just this run,” she thought, “before I win.” The thunderous pounding of her own hooves echoed in the mare’s ear, vibrating the ground like mini earthquakes. She rounded each barrel with the speed of a twister before returning across the timer. Beaming, she turned towards the clock to bask in her winning time. The numbers flashed red: 14.39 seconds. She lost. The mare trudged from arena, tiny puffs of dust languishing at her feet. 


Seven Sisters by Saifun Hassam

Eleanor and her little girl Jessie lived for a few months in Saguaro Township. Jessie was four, her legs crippled by a high fever on the wagon trek to Arizona. 

Jessie loved to picnic by the giant saguaros near the horse corrals. One day Eleanor saw an apparition. Seven beautiful maidens chanted and danced, fantastic quill patterns shining on white buckskin dresses.

Within the circle, Jessie was dancing! Heart pounding, exuberant, Eleanor danced with her! 

That night, Eleanor gazed at the glittering stars of the Seven Sisters. Her heart was full of gratitude and hope for Jessie’s new life.


The Origins of a Cowboy by Floating Gold

“Mommy, where do cowboys come from?”

Barb turned around and smiled. She was aware of Tommy’s bedtime trickery but took the bait anyway.

Sitting back down, she told her son about the first-ever criminal who kept stealing apples. No one was fast enough to catch him. Then, one day, in a billow of smoke, a man with a lasso in hand descended on a horse from the clouds. He chased the thief all through the Arizona desert but finally caught him thanks to his rope and the speedy stallion.

“But what came first – a cowboy or his hat?”


Packin’ a Punch Without a Fist by JulesPaige

Lucy was fit as a fiddle and head of this crew, after all she’d grown up ranching. Some of the new hires on this cattle run didn’t think a woman should be giving orders, and wouldn’t follow her directions. That just wasn’t fair. One night, she couldn’t take any more of their bull. Lucy got up on her high horse without getting in the saddle and quietly said I’ll start firing any poke who won’t work!” Then quoted Dr. Seuss; “You have brains in your head, feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose!”


The Journey by Darnell Cureton

She evaded the posse that was looking for her. Colored mayor Edith Fowler, low on food and water was determined to make it to Gold Rose County. She set her horse free and emptied the contents of the chest her buggy pulled behind the animal. With two days of a four day journey left, she set out on foot in the darkness. A worn blue cotton shirt, denim overalls, and old boots were the only barrier from biting desert bugs as the moon illuminated her way. The promise of a new life and love awaited if she made it. 


The True Story Of How Butch Cassidy Rode Off Into The Sunset by Doug Jacquier

The old train robber, with a face that looked like it belonged on Mt. Rushmore, loved all those Hollywood movies about Butch and Sundance dying in a hail of lead. He didn’t want anyone knowing that he’d returned to Utah to write in peace, without having some hired detective on his tail or that crazy Sundance always wanting to do one more job. His style was spare and clear and full of insight. Before his death from a rattle-snake bite at 103, his books sold well under various pseudonyms but his favourite was always the Pinkerton-taunting Perce P. Cassidy.


Tall in the Saddle Tale by Frank Hubney

One man can’t do much unless it’s Billy, but even he didn’t do much good.  Evil was his expertise at least until he overreached and felt the end of a rope.

But if it weren’t for Billy we wouldn’t have Todd, broken, good-for-nothing, who nonetheless stood up and took that bullet for the mayor, Billy’s bullet. His body blocked the door knocking the revolver from Billy’s hand.

Nor would we have Sarah who aimed her rifle ten feet from Billy’s head. Even Billy knew she would shoot having been married to her for longer than Sarah cared to remember.


The Deal by Tina McFarlane

Travis couldn’t believe his luck. “Well, I’ll be damned if she ain’t a beauty. How much?”

“Ten dollars. Just want the cursed thing off my farm.” The old man spit in disgust.

Travis stared at the horse’s black coat, shining in the sun.

“We got a deal?”

“Uh, yeah.” Travis fished the bills from his pocket. As he rode away, a figure dressed as a merchant emerged from the cabin. He smiled as he watched the old farmer wither and die.

Thinking he just made the purchase of a lifetime, Travis never noticed the fields as they turned black.


Shoot First, Aim Later by Darlene Foster

The Kid was always shootin’ off his mouth. Calling Tiny Bradshaw a lily livered chicken meant trouble. The cowboy Clyde saddled up. He rode into town as Tiny strode out of the saloon and down the street. He saw the Kid come from the other direction. “Shit!” Clyde jumped off his horse, ran into the church and up to the belfry. He aimed at Tiny. The Kid drew but Tiny was quicker. Clyde took a shot. The outlaw lay dead. The kid wasn’t moving either. Clyde buried his son the next day and hung up his six shooters forever. 


Rodeo Contest #2:

In Double Ennead Syllabic Poetry, Colleen M. Chesebro asked writers to wax poetic in a new 99-syllable form she created for Carrot Ranch. This one was not easy and hats off to all the participants!

This year’s winner is ANNOUNCED.


Some Places Have No Names by Kerfe Roig

summering storm, becalmed
grey hiding the sun
that surrounds everything until it dissolves–
cacophony lurks, comes
galloping unheard–

what will replace what is
not there? return breath
to wandering, release the held spirits to
be dreamed, scattered into
wishes unneedful

of understanding or
explaining—all is
deadlocked, lingering on the edge of almost–
as yet unattached to
outcomes or designs



Masked Terror by Reena Saxena

the dark shadows of fear
plains in deep valleys
are prominent above designed contraptions
living in terror – tears
again percolate

down those parched, shrinking throats
struggling to stay out
of the way, of an unseen monstrosity
paralysed in panic
as shadows loom large

on erstwhile bonds, buckling
down under pressure
of unmet expectations, knowing full well
it’s either an embrace
or life – choice is yours


If This Be… by Bill Engleson

Let’s gather in the woods,
weep, and not forget
the burning wagons and the still smoking skies
swirling above the plains,
death choking the air.

If this be travelers,
Dixie refugees
from Jim Crow, beaten, stripped, flesh-whipped, burned alive,
is this humanity?
Is this who we are?

And within these scorched woods,
wind and time smolder,
ashes of flesh congeal in the bloodied mud:
a saga to be spoke,
hung against the sky.


Plains Speaking by Doug Jacquier

Plains, wider than a life,
as distant as death,
white-knuckle riding in hell-driven dust storms
followed by deep peace, and
still a sacred home.

Plains, stolen from others,
who live in exile,
earning from slots where they once hunted bison,
looking for the peace that
their ancestors owned.

Cowboys, your stories of
hard-driving glories
should conjure the spirits of those gone before,
and celebrate all ages
that’ve ridden here.


The Rodeo of Life by Sam “Goldie” Kirk

And I jump on the horse
to gallop through the
wide meadows of absolute grief and sadness.
The blood on my lips sweet.
Winds envelop me.

“Laugh! Don’t cry,” they all say.
Voices rattle in
the head of mine, leading deeper down the hole.
All I need is quiet.
Dusk envelops me.

Glad I am when I run
and don’t think at all.
Day in and day out we face the foul music.
Would you run away with
me? Envelop me.


Nes Season by D.L. Finn

Is it finally here
When magic has blown
From Summer into Fall in one cooling surge
The night’s longer and the
Sky hides behind clouds.

Blooming blossoms retire
Trees bathed in scarlet
Pumpkins flavor and decorate the season
Apples are abundant
Harvest is flowing.

Gray squirrels collect nuts
Black bears fatten up
Yes, nature’s preparing us for winter’s chill
When Autumn’s blessings are
Blissfully embraced.


Nature’s Saga by theindieshe

Plains dusky and dreary,
Shrouded deep in death,
White lies of greed defiling the oasis,
Its bounties defiled and
Still and mired in lust.

Crimson sky now mellowed,
Its dreary aglow,
Turned wide expanse of aquamarine waters,
A dull caesious hue,
That silently surfed.

Nature’s untold saga,
Taking what it gives,
For we failed to treasure the bounties bestowed,
It will set the wrong right,
To wash off grey blight.


Rain by Saiffun Hassam

Wildfires scorched green forests
From summer to fall.
Leaves and ashes were swept into streams and creeks.
Charred, forlorn, barren earth
Under winter snow.

Winds stir, soughing, rustle.
Cumulus clouds from
The ominous thunderous skies; light zig zags;
Rivers cascade greening
World, yellow parched earth.

Rain on high chaparral;
Redstone buttes; foothills
Spring with yellow brittlebush, and blue lupines;
Cholla spines; prickly pear;
Dusk: Saguaro blooms.


Evening Classes by JulesPaige

Embers slowly fading
Heads, settled resting
We look up to the constellations and try
Reading weather patterns
For the cattle drive

We hear our slow breathing
Allow awe to fill
Every nook and cranny of our weary souls
Tumbleweeds whisper soft;
listen to the wind…

Laugh with the prairie wind
With clouds passing in
The magic purple sky that holds ancient stars
Their wise ancient quiet
Dusk offers guidance


Cattle Drive by Sue Spitulnik

Line those cows single file
Stream crossing coming
Get the leaders to plunge and the rest follow
No white water danger
Grazing fields ahead

The ladies run to food
The horses’ sense rest
The dinner wagon slops hot meals and coffee
Everyone satisfied
Dark comes, fire burns

Coyotes howl ownership
Cowboys rarely laugh
In the starlight night, they trade short shifts of sleep
Always protecting the
Quiet munching cows


The Commission by Geoff Le Pard

I’m just a simple bloke
Who’s kept in the dark;
Then I’m to ‘write a poem about some stuff’
As if that is my thing
And is rather rude.

Again, it’s not a joke,
It isn’t a lark.
Lovers dancing round the moon? That’s just such guff.
I’d rather have to sing
On stage in the nude.

Now it’s to be bespoke.
I’d need to be Clark
Kent’s alter ego for this. I’ve had enough.
I’m off so please don’t ring;
Or I might be crude…


The Lonely Cowboy by Marje @ Kyrosmagica

The cowboy has no friends,
Riding through the plains
Death on his shoulder, his horse gallops and neighs
Kicking up stones of white
And on he must ride.

He lives and breathes this day
Lassoed in his fear
He wipes his brow contemplating fierce outlaws
Then eats his beans and waits
For the moon to rise

He’s a lonely drifter
No gal by his side
There ain’t no cute young’uns for him to cuddle
The stars give him comfort
And guide his way home.


Chasing the Moon by Eloise De Sousa

Alabaster skin that
draws the shadows in,
she thunders through the distant Gemini twins,
chasing the rattled stars,
scattering my dreams.

Galloping; froth mounting,
flared nostrils find north,
through whispered threads of darkness where clipped glimpses
spill their secrets from the
Zodiac above.

Once darkness eats daylight,
my heart lies in wait-
each hoof beat drumming into my velvet skin-
her lunar imprint’s grace,
to admire again.


A Child Appeared by Myrna Migala

Snow cold so pure and white
Falling, falling, on
A town; look up a shimmering star so bright.
Bethlehem sees Winter
Night of holiness!

Forever and ever
A world will rejoice.
The joyous birth of happy festivity
A Birthday! Remember.
Everyone! Cheerful!

The world now indeed is
Coming together —
Bitterness fades; disagreements set aside.
All this and more because
A Child has appeared.


Never Again by Josie Holford

Heart sick of traitor Trump
And his posse of
Me-diocre incompetents, grifters all
We must remain firm. Let’s
Forget about nice.

We know that we must drum
The Trumpian ilk-
Springtime for Hitler – out of America
Decency, matter.

We need to ensure that
He plus enablers
Are so thoroughly driven beyond the pale
They never again stain
Our America.


Within a Kiss by Kyra Jude

It starts like a whisper
Supple and discreet
Hints of pleasure pining in euphoric winds
Each moment long and tense

What spells bind eyes to lips
And bear the soul’s taste
How does a gaze say words, the tongue never could
Words of need, words of want
And lips meant for love

Snow may fall, cold then warm
These love-lips twist on
A sweet taste of bliss, moaning deep with desire
Like vast stars in winter,
Night is kissed to life.


Dawn’s Memories by D. Avery

Greening, graying, moss cloaked;
transitory world,
shout from beneath moldering leaves; from rock, sprout;
spreading shoots take root in
my dreams recalling.

Living, loving, laughing—
innocent again.
Lark song breaks the day, calls the sun, warms the rock;
green and gray are lovers,
sing dawn’s memories.

Death wanders in disguise
whispers shades of white
and dances in autumn’s ecstatic colors.
With the lark we sing still
when recalling dawn.


A Pitiful Plague by Debby Gies

Shout loud at what it is.
Words and actions in
My head ring clear of the assault on mankind.
Open your eyes and ears.
A call for kindness.

Stifling in ignorance,
Poison fills the mind.
This hate virus infects and sheds viral ash.
Soil, rinse, spin, and again,
The story repeats.

The cure for this madness,
Some will fail to learn,
Only love and kind words can conquer this plague
For a fresh breath of life –
Love thy fellow man.


Pain, Inside and Out by Norah Colvin

Hoofs pound across the roof
Hunting a way in
pillow muffles but still they thump so loud
Relentless drenching rains
r all around

Hoofs pound inside my head
Brutal throbbing pains
Lightning lasers pierce my eyes I cry dry tears
The torture does not cease
Blinding like a rage

Hoofs pound inside my chest
Warning it will burst
While my clammy skin pours sweat in waterfalls
Pain grips my heart and shreds
What remains of me


Noted Notes by Kerry E.B. Black

Gray mists obscure the moon.
Still howl coyotes.
Laugh as though their voices mean nothing to you
while I remain quiet.
Dusk appears again.

Perpetual cycle-
here and yet not hear.
Examine sacred writings with words whirling,
and I without glasses
read a different text.

Ghosts groan from all corners,
begging to be seen.
Walk through their funeral finery unscathed.
Sinking, I sob, silent
into dust again.


Song of Monson by Kitty’s Verses

Over dark, rainy nights,
Thundering clouds, the
Quivering silence of soul brushes against ,
Unforgettable rim,
Of recollections,

As each drop pit patters,
Crossing multitudes,
Plummeting through images it settles on rim
Of dainty bud coaxing,
To open its layers,

Bud and soul pondering,
Nature plays awhile,
Circumspect to open their oft hidden layers,
Song of monsoon calling,
Beauty to reveal.


The Party of Life by H. R. R. Gorman

Celebrate for the next

Day is not assured.

Carouse while you can, and we’ll remember when

We’re old and don’t want to

Party ’til we drop.

Pass the bread of pleasure

Down the table with

Impish delight – regale in togetherness,

Celebrate with shared eyes

Gray we’ll be one day.

What a fickle thing is

Memory! Recall

The good as well as the embarrassing thoughts,

For the food of the gods

Is a good time had.


Gathering Pluck by Marsha Ingrao

Gray glances glimmering
Howls a coyote’s
Laugh at his dry humor, mellowing his soul
Silky muslin in
The dusk fades into night.

Tanglewood hills beckoned
Hushing trembling hearts.
Inky evening shadows descended welkin
Leaves crunching underfoot
Cemented resolve

Chill enveloped courage
Distant coyotes
Barked against the silvery moon breath frozen
Arms sheltered out the cold
“Will you marry me?”


Rodeo Contest #3:

In Git Along and Start Writin’, Marsha Ingrao combined a western classic song with the three-act storytelling structure.

This year’s winner is Doug Jacquier.

Honorable Mentions go to Bill Engleson, Liz Husebye Hartmann, Susan Spitulnik, and JulesPaige.

Thanks to Marsha’s judges, Norah Colvin and Irene Waters!


New Bride in Wyoming by Doug Jacquier

Molly’s nerves were a-jinglin’ driving the buggy back to the ranch. As a new bride fresh from the city, she tried to be a real country wife for Earl, cooking and milking the cow, and she tried to use Wyoming words whenever she could.

When Earl came in, she said ‘I got you a present’.

‘Well, that’s real nice, Molly. What is it?’

‘A dog to keep you company when you’re on the trail!’

She opened the bedroom door and out strolled a Dachshund.

‘And you didn’t think I was listening when you said ‘git a long little’ doggie.’



McCall by Bill Engleson

No gitin’ around it, I was one of them strays you’d stumble over in the street. I’d sozzled my way to Cheyenne, up in the Wyoming Territory. That’s where Aggie found me.

“You poor saphead,” she said, holdin’ me to her bosom.

After she’d took her pleasure with me, and me with her, she expressed her fury at Bill Hickok. He’d left her high and dry. I swore my revenge on her honor. I found him in Deadwood one August morning. Spied on him for days. Liked the man. Played poker with him. But a blood oath’s an oath.


Just a Numbers Game by Liz Huseby Hartmann

“It’s a numbers game. We drive these dogies from Texas to wherever…”


“They should be home, sucking their mama’s teat, not choking on range grass, not dying on the trail. We only get paid for what’s delivered.”

“That’s others’ misfortune, not ours.”

The two cowpunchers looked down on the tiny cattle ranch, waiting for cloud cover on this late Spring night.

“Never signed up to be no murderer, nor a rustler.”

“Can’t be a bleeding heart in this business.”

“This ain’t the 1880’s, it’s the 1980’s!”

“Learn to eat range grass, then. Roll on, pardner.”

Stealthy, they crept.


Walking the Canal Path by Susan Spitulnik

I was a-walking one morning for pleasure

along the paved canal trail

when in dog poop I stepped

made me madder’n hell

but I scraped off my shoe

continued walking along

admiring gold and rust-colored leaves

wonderin’ why so many had changed

and yet some were still green

soon coming towards me

was a man and his dog

the man carried a blue bag full

of the dog’s smelly droppings

I stopped them to say thanks

for being so neat and tidy

then I stepped aside

to get out of their way

and went splashing into the canal



Remarkable Ramblin’ by JulesPaige

A-walking one morning, I spied some stray dogies. An’ wanted to make them my own. Now I’m not a cowpoke that is oft to steal another man’s brand. These musta strayed far from their herd.

It’d been a tough winter for me. I figure raisin’ these dogies might help me sing a new cheery song. 

I was a singin’ to sooth ’em.  But my heart weren’t true. I felt kinda blue.  I asked ’round to see were they come from. T’was a ranch called Noteworthy. I returned ’em to high praise! And was offered a job! Yippie Ki Yay!



Jail Break by Douglas Goodrich

Out of breath, I escape around the corner with Mr. Waddles in my arms. I covered his beak, for fear his clucking might give our spot away.

“I’m going to get you out of here.” I assured him. “Mr. Mitchell? I know you’re over there. Get out here now! With the Chicken”

Mrs. Baker is too smart for me to try and fool, so I reveal myself.

“You should be ashamed! You haven’t an idea the trouble you’re in. Get with the rest.”

Waddles and I hurried by, knowing I’d try again, next field trip to the petting zoo.


Tracker Maury by Saifun Hassam

Kris Maury of LeMar Ranch was a skilled tracker. To the north was Coulson Wilderness. One morning, the cowboys hit the trail to round up the North Creek herd. Chuck-wagon and herding dogs kept pace.

“Whoopee ti yi yo!” the cowboys yelled.

On the lookout for wild animals, Kris was more alert at North Creek. His sharp eyes caught a cougar crouched on immense boulders. Kris slid slowly off his horse, his rifle in hand. His border collie Maxie growled. The cougar and her three cubs disappeared.

Kris threw back his hat. “Git along, Maxie, afore misfortune gits us!”


Untitled by Frank Hubeny

Pete remembered his dying father-in-law’s warning, “Wyoming will be your new home, but beware of that swamp. It’s alive with filth.”

Although their ranch was adjacent to the swamp, Pete made it prosperous. For too many years he heard the hauntings, but he tolerated them. Then something snapped in him. Perhaps it was because the owners of the swamp went bankrupt. Perhaps he saw one too many spooks wallowing there. Perhaps he heard one too many tales from the locals.

Regardless, Pete bought that swamp and took his father-in-law’s advice to its logical conclusion. He drained the putrid mess.


Where’s Jean by Hugh Roberts

On walking back into the store, Eddie whistled a tune. With a spring in his step, life seemed trouble-free. Then panic set in. Where was Jean? He’d left her here outside while he visited the store’s bathroom. At only three-foot, eleven inches tall, Jean was the love of his life.

Looking around, he spotted a sign. ‘Lost Property.’ Maybe Jean was there? Eddie’s misfortune soon turned back to smiles as he spotted Jean behind the lost property counter.

“Jean!” he shouted. “Thanks awfully, madam,” he beamed, as the lady in lost property handed him back his pull-along shopping trolley.


Untitled by John Hughes

Just passin’ through, podner, but your post and contest captured my attention. Good ol’ Leonard Slye. Quite the career and life. I watched him and Dale faithfully on tv in the 50’s.

When I was a kid I’d go to bed and sleep listening to the Sons of the Pioneers on the radio. Cool Water, Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds, etc. I loved all the old western movies, in black and white. Tom Mix, Ken Maynard, Bob Steele, Hopalong, Roy, Gabby Hayes, et al.

Those were the days. “Whoopee ti yi yo, git along little dogies.” It’s your misfortune and none of…


Rodeo Contest #4:

In Wanted Alive, Sam “Goldie” Kirk offered a poster prompt on a familiar wanted western theme in 99 words.

This year’s winner is Shiloh Carozza.

Honorable Mentions are D. Avery, Sue Spitulnik, and Norah Colvin.

Thank to the judges, Geoff Le Pard and Darlene Foster.


Incriminating Evidence by Shiloh Carozza

“Reach for the sky!”
“Teacher says the sky is the limit.”
“Shuttup. Gimme your paper.”
“But I drew this!”
“Gimme it. It’s better than mine.”
“But it looks like me, not you.”
“Here, you take mine. Trade pictures with me or I’ll shoot!”

“What happened to your eye, son?”
“A bully shot me with a rubber band, sir.”
“He wanted my homework. It was a self-portrait.”
“That’s awful mean. Did you tell your teacher?”
“Yes, Sheriff Brown, but I want him arrested.”
“Arrested? How do I know what he looks like?”
“He looks like this.”



Wanting for Patience

“Just sit; be quiet. Your constant chatter’s killing me.”

“That’s hyperbole, Grampa, chatter can’t actually kill.”

“We’ll see. Got that precocious vocabulary, can’t even read.”

“Not yet.”

“Uh-huh. Breakfast: All American—”

“What’s that?”

“Breakfast with all the food groups; eggs, bacon, toast, home fries.”

“That’s just starch and protein.”

“Uh-huh, all American. Just listen. Western—”

“What’s that?”

“Omelette, has onion, pepper, ham—”

“Is there an Eastern?”

Pouring coffee and providing paper and crayons, the waiter complimented the grandfather’s patience.

“I’m reaching for it, Mister.” While the green-eyed boy jabbered, his grandfather drew a wanted poster until their westerns arrived.


The Loss of Innocence by Sue Spitulnik

Cleaning out my parents’ house I found a poster I had made when I was little. The caption said, “Wanted, Alive Not Dead.” It was my Dad I wanted alive. He was a cop, and being too young to understand I thought he was dangerous, not his job. I remember him coming home in uniform and saying, “Reach for it, Mister.” I would put both arms up in the air, he would grab me around the middle, swoop me off the floor, and then hug me as if he might never see me again.

Finally, I understand his actions.


Squirreled Candy by Norah Colvin

“Reach for it, mister, and you’re dead!”
Henry meant it. He hadn’t squirreled his penny candy away to let others help themselves to it. Every night, more disappeared. He’d wanted to catch the culprits alive and receive restitution, but they’d become too greedy.
His wanted posters hadn’t helped. A stake-out was the only way.
Night after night he tried to stay awake, but every night he failed and every morning, more candy had disappeared … until now.
The startled intruder dropped the candy jar and disappeared into the darkness.
“I’ll get you next time!” Henry fired after the squirrel.



Surprise Package by Mel BeeCee

Sam drove stage coach across the wasteland between Arizona and Nevada.  On this run, Sam was carrying a special cargo destined for some rich lady in Juniper.  As the stagecoach turned the bend in Rock Canyon, Sam heard the words “Reach for it mister!”  Sam found himself staring down the bore of a Winchester 1873, with One Eye Red holding the trigger.  Sam cursed.  Sam tossed the package to the outlaw.  As Red rode away, Sam smiled.  He wondered what Red would think when he opened it.  Because it contained the taxidermied corpse of the rich lady’s favorite cat.


Untitled by Anonymole

Mysti hung down into the crevasse, her arm outstretched, her suit restricting her movement. Just below her thermally gloved fingertips, her brother clung to a ledge of red rock. They’d been exploring reports of a lava tube along the Valles Marineris. Her brother ignored her warnings and entered the cave. Ten steps inside, the floor gave way and a gaping crack swallowed him. She unlatched her supply belt.
“Reach for it, Mystir. It’s right there,” she pleaded over comm.
“It’s been a great adventure, Mys.”
“Don’t you give up, I need you alive.”
He shifted his grip and reached.


Wanted Alive by Frank Hubeny

The Robinson gang liked to string up bad guys except those in their gang. They hung good guys, too, but good guys were better used as assets in the mine. It made financial sense to keep them alive as long as they obeyed.

Billy did not obey. He attacked the mine operations and became a legend exposing their corruption. They posted a reward for Billy’s capture alive.

If they got hold of him, they’d tie his hands forcing him to reach for the sky while they publicly whipped him every evening. He’d die eventually.

No one turned him in.


Thief by Saifun Hassam

Jared broke camp, ready to ride to Hawks Canyon. Isabel DuMond stepped into the clearing. Piercing icy blue eyes, hand sure and steady at her Colt.

He could not underestimate her. She was lightning fast; accurate; deadly. He knew her when he was an honest vaquero riding sage and pinyon ranges before he turned horse thief.

He drew his gun. His wrist shattered. She was a fraction faster. A lariat tightened around his arms. He was returning to Laredo.

Isabel headed up Hawks Canyon. She knew Jared’s corral of stolen horses was there, among the tumbleweeds and cedar pines.


Once Upon a Time in the Old West by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“That’s gotta be the worst ‘Wanted’ poster I’ve ever seen.”

“It’s from your description!” Pablo tilted his head, defiant.

“I know it’s close to Halloween,” Goldie softened, “But what we need is realism.”

Goldie hadn’t been the same since her return from the future. She’d met a West Coast Surfer (whatever that was) and had clearly lost her mind. She’d insisted on the list of numbers and letters to call.

“I know he’s here,” Goldie sighed.

Then he came, on a pale horse riding, looking exactly as she’d described.

“Oh shit. It’s the Apocalypse!” Trembling, Pablo drew his six-gun.


Start Early by Kerry E.B. Black

We start early on the ranch. Lots to do before that old sun sets. Muck out stalls, turn out the herd, gather eggs. Grooming, cleaning, and milking. Never ends. Not really. A new day starts it all again.

Yep, early. My first memory’s dumping slop in the hogs’ trough. Now my back’s bent and my fingers are twisted. I groan when I bend, creak when I move, but there’s joy in a job well done.

Especially when it comes to raising young’uns. We teach ‘em to stand tall, work hard, and when they have a goal,

Reach for it.


They’ll Be Putting Up a Poster for Me …(but they won’t catch us) by JulesPaige

Waldo wed my gal. Domestic bliss weren’t her thing as much as it wasn’t mine. Jist neither of them two families really knowed their kin folk. They’d caught Waldo and Sissy in the hay loft sleeping, which was jist ta git outta chores. Her folks thought a shotgun wedding was best. Which dun’ give me an idea. I’d roll into the ranch on my Harley, while everyone else was cattle russlin’. I’d roll up round the barn an’ call ‘er out. “Reach for it Missy!,” I’d say! She’d hug me, kiss me, toss ‘er apron and we’d be gone!


Untitled by Doug Jacquier

The green-eyed monster smacked his blood-red lips, breathed noisily through the triangle where his nose used to be and smoothed his dyed black hair. ‘If you think you can imagine a scarier Hallowe’en costume, reach for it, Mister.’ Impassively, I donned my mask. Revealing an orange comb-over, white piggy eyes embedded in a fake tan and a red baseball cap, I said ‘People love me. And you know what, I have been very successful. Everybody loves me.’ With that, I mounted my hobby horse and rode into the sunset, knowing it was just a matter of bidin’ my time.


Untitled by FloridaBorne

At the age of 70, she’d seen enough killin’ to know the boys marching into European trenches would never be the same — if they lived to tell about it.

Fifty two years prior, she’d moved into a home outside Raleigh, North Carolina, with her new husband when Lincoln’s war came to their doorstep.

For decades, no one but God knew a widow’s only child was fathered by a union soldier, nor how she’d blown off that corporal’s head the moment he was at the height of his pleasure.

Her grandson’s called her a coward. Perhaps if they knew…


The Kid Next Door by Bill Engleson

He’s a cute kid, I suppose.

Had more than his fair share of wear and tear.

Moved in last winter. My neighbour’s basement suite.

Jules usually rents to students. Turns out the kid’s mom is a student.

You know, divorced and reinventing herself.

Don’t see her much. The kid, however. He’s a going concern.

Met him in late February.

Just before COVID took us to the dance.

Surprize snowfall, so I’m out shovelling. Kid reaches through the hole in the fence. Toy pistol, pajamas, t-shirt, says, “Reach for it, mister!”

What are you gonna do, eh!

I dropped dead.


TUFF Rodeo Contest:

In TUFF Love, Carrot Ranch’s Charli Mills asked participants to revise an original western romance through a 99-59-9-99 word process with each step requiring a different craft twist.

This year’s winner is Liz Husebye Hartmann.


Untitled by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Original 99-word Draft: UNTITLED

Anton shrugged out of his jacket, kicking off his boots, and with them, the urban muck of cow shit and cheap whiskey. Padding into the foothills in bare feet, he wrinkled his nose, drawing his lips back from canines that glinted moonlight.

His departure had been delayed. Had she already left?

Trees morphed to low brush as he climbed higher, tearing buttons from his shirt, slipping off his jeans, to reveal his sinewy, tawny body. He panted, called to her, low in his throat.

Pausing, his hope faltered.

Startled, joyful, he rolled, as her canines grabbed his careless neck.

TUFF PART Two: 59-word Story with Original POV

Anton abandoned the mining town, shucking jacket, boots, shirt, finally slithering out of his jeans. He wrinkled his nose, padding across stone, toward the foothills; the town’s stink still clung to his tawny, sinewy body.

He hoped the smell wouldn’t drive her away. Had she already left? He growled, heart breaking.

She landed on him, canines at his neck.

TUFF PART Two: 59-word Story with Different POV

Audra watched his dark shape slink to the foothills, shrubbery shaking with his ascent. He’d much to learn in his new skinwalker form, but what a fine form it was. She could wait.

He called, deep and low, anxiety unmasked, still stinking of the mines.

Audra bunched her shoulders, canines bared. She was ready to pounce, ready to fuck.

TUFF PART Three: Three 9-word Taglines for Your Story    

  1. Skinwalker flees western filth, finds love in the foothills.
  2. New to skinwalker world, he seeks his kindred soul.
  3. The body is willing, Can he survive the love?

TUFF PART Four: Final Revised 99-word Story with Prop

Anton abandoned the mining town, shucking Stetson, boots, and shirt, finally slithering out of his jeans. He wrinkled his nose, padding across stone, toward the foothills; the town’s stink of cheap whisky clung to his sinewy body.

Audra watched his dark shape slink to the foothills, shrubbery shaking with his ascent. He’d much to learn as a new skinwalker, but he intrigued her. She could wait.

He called, deep and low, anxiety unmasked. Had she already left?

Audra bunched her shoulders, canines bared. She prepared to pounce.

The time-traveling photojournalist followed at a distance, then lowered his camera, blushing.



Anyone who participated in the 2020 Flash Fiction Rodeo can download and use this icon to show that you can “Write and Rodeo”!

Thank you to all our Rodeo Leaders, their Judges, and our Participants! See you next year when the Flash Fiction Rodeo returns!

February 13: Story Challenge in 99-words

Despite winter, my sun porch is warm.

So warm, Mause and I are crashed in a pile of concentrated sunbeams. She sprawls across the floor as if the intensity has disentigrated her bones; a puppy puddle. I slump in a lawn chair packed into what is usually winter cold-storage. It’s early February and instead of cabin fever from endless gray skies and constant lake-effect snow, I’m mainlining vitamin D from a blazing sun warming a bank of south-facing windows.

Sipping coffee, I sigh. My afternoon snack — a bagel with cream cheese and a smear of lingonberry jam — tastes indulgent. I only buy lingonberries during the winter solstice season in anticipation of making a big batch of Swedish meatballs. They were so good, I made two batches, one for a Yule party and another for a decadent meal with Todd. The remaining lingonberry jam has become part of afternoon coffee or midnight tea, depending upon my day.

The snow and the jam are receding, and I feel sad. Sad because I know I won’t buy more lingonberry jam until next winter solstice and I’ll miss the unique tart flavor. I’ll have to find another treat. Sad, also, because the snow has not been right this year. It echos the changing weather patterns of the Great Lakes Region, as expressed in the Pulitzer Center’s Connected Coastlines report:

Duluth is perched mid-continent at the western tip of Lake Superior, and many residents are stoically proud of the harsh winters that define the place. “It keeps the riff-raff out,” they assure each other. But in recent years the weather has become almost unrecognizable. According to Kenny Blumenfeld, senior climatologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, winters tend to be warmer, snowfall is getting heavier, and summer thunderstorms bring more rain. The disruption begets uneasiness; people who have developed coping mechanisms for extreme cold and plenty of snow now don’t know what to expect.

~ Stephanie Hemphill, April 29, 2020

As much as I’m enjoying my bones soaked in unseasonable sunshine and a break from daily scooping, I wonder what this all means. But then I remember that I’m asking the wrong question. I shift and think what is happening. It’s a recent practice I’m cultivating as a Hag (a woman in the second half of life and my choice of symbol based on my studies with Sharon Blackie in her Hagitude program). Dream tending has led me into familiar depths and my mentors remind me not to ask for meaning but to ask for understanding. I’m yet a student, an apprentice, a learner. I’ve yet to a-ha the difference, but nonetheless, I’m practicing the question, what is happening.

My journey thus far has led me to depth psychology (not to be confused with my recent commitment to positive psychology for the sake of addressing mental health in my veteran community). I’m having fun and enlightening and confounding conversations with my son. When I called to talk to him about the positive psychology workbook I bought to use with my Warrior Sisters, he was delighted. He uses his Masters in IO Psychology in his work for Epic. He says his specific role as a BFF to accounts is like that of a coach, using positive psychology.

However, he wondered if depth psychology was outdated Jungian theory. He encouraged me to explore and understand its roots and current place in the field of psychology. It turns out, IO psychologists like my son are in a different world of psychology. His work does not include psychoanalysis. Depth psychology is modern, current, and relevant; it’s a completely different field and yes, it is based on Jung’s work in symbols as a foundation. The reason I’m so drawn to depth psychology is its familiarity.

Depth psychology, according to Susan Rowland, is writing.

For years, I’ve tried to understand and articulate what we are doing here at Carrot Ranch in a collective way. Yes, the weekly challenge is about making literary art accessible, but what is literary art? According to Pacifica Graduate Institute (where Susan Rowland teaches), “Depth Psychology is an interdisciplinary endeavor, drawing on literature, philosophy, mythology, the arts, and critical studies.” Literary art is the process of going deep. Depth psychology defines the deep as psyche. According to Jung, the mind has two distinct depths: the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious. Further, the Hagitude program I’m absorbing explains the unconscious as the Sacred. The Sacred is Nature. We can experience the Sacred by snowshoeing or kayaking or walking outside or we can experience the Sacred through the realm of dreams — the imaginal.

All these terms swirl about in my head like a friendly flock of chickadees. What I know from experience is that when I write, I go deep. This is what I began to understand as raw literature; the result of writing from the deep places of one’s mind. What if inspiration is the call of the psyche for each of us to remember who we are? According to depth psychologists, this is the purpose of dreams — to remember who we are and to access the Sacred. It makes me wonder if all along, my desire to serve others in a literary community has been to reconnect to Nature. When I learned about the existence of a Masters Program in Psychology and Creativity, I was struck by how it aligned with the forces that drive me: “…deep purpose, enlivened creativity, and devoted service.”

Holy smokes. That’s exactly what I want Carrot Ranch to foster in others. The mission is to make literary art accessible in 99 words. I better understand what I’ve meant by accessibility. I want writers to engage with creative writing in such a way that it gives us purpose, engages our creativity, and leads us to serve humanity through what we write. I want this for all writers not just experienced writers, or educated writers, or whatever limiting label we can apply. Writing is a tool of exploration and I’ve known that tool to be healing. I’ve never wanted Carrot Ranch to be “the best of the west” or “serious writers only.” Writing our individual stories weekly is an exercise in accessing our personal unconscious; submitting our personal stories to form a collection is a creation of our collective unconscious.

Literary art is also read and here is where we serve humanity with deep reflections. The collections have always been inclusive. Because raw literature does not require mastery of writing craft. We practice going into the deep and bringing something back. Every story does that no matter how well one articulates a sentence or punctuates dialog. Every story reflects some aspect of the prompt. And going where the prompt leads is daring to go into the psyche. When people read the collections, its not the “best” stories that make the impact; it’s the impact of the whole because it speaks from and to the collective unconscious.

We are modern-day mythmakers seeking to understand our world one prompt at a time.

A world in peril. Through depth psychology I have also come to understand that Science without the Sacred is out of balance. Science deals in signals, hard facts and empirical evidence. The Sacred deals in symbols. Nature is the Sacred. Humans exist because nature exists, not the other way around. The more advanced we become through industry and technology, the more energy we consume. Energy consumption is marvelous — it gives us lights to see by, warmth for our homes, healing for our hospitals. But energy consumption has a shadow. Climate change. The greater our reliance on energy consumption, the greater the shadow grows. We need more than science. We need the sacred. We need nature.

Reconnecting to the Sacred, transforming the Self — this is the work of tending dreams and writing fiction.

My deep dive is done for now. My smear of lingonberry jam is gone. Until next time. Sweet dreams and deep writing!

February 13, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a smear of jam. Is it across a slice of toast, a white shirt, or something unexpected? The jam could be the focus or detail that ads a twist. Who are the characters with the jam and where are they situated in space and time? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by February 18, 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.

January 23: Story Challenge in 99-words

Optimism needs care and feeding. It’s as fragile and mighty as a chickadee faced with enduring heaps of winter snow. They dart from one bare tree to another in search of the seeds they need to sustain them. Where they go on snowy days, I do not know. Optimism can slip away like that, too. A seed here, a seed there, and then hard times force me to shelter, forgetting the hunt for sustenance.

Is optimism necessary?

My answer is yes. Optimism gives me hope for the future despite the past. Optimism gives me roots in the here and now; a practice of mindfulness. When I think of possibilities, I can overcome problems. Like where to find seeds in sparse times. Optimism is why I believe in unicorns.

I created a Unicorn Room because I needed space for optimism. I craved a sanctuary where I could breathe, stretch, talk to the Ancestors, and map novels. If unicorns exist they exist in the form of possibilities worth seeking. First I painted the room pale pink, then I filled it with things to brighten the shine of optimism.

Magic unfolded in the way of synchronicity. Unicorns emerged. The first miracle of the room was completing my MFA. The second came when I overcame a spinal injury to cultivate yoga again. During dark times when optimism flitted dim like a hunkered chickadee, I learned to breathe through it and sit with my fears. When optimism rose, so did synchronicity. My room now houses treasure like a magic wand from my dad who is a mountain man (apparently he’s discovered Amazon from his remote high desert ranges). And a glass globe from Africa to ward off the evil eye. Not that I had been thinking about such things, but the gift is from an octogenarian whom I admire greatly. She once danced with Katherine Dunham and in a voodoo troupe with a python. My unicorns are highly protected.

When I think of the magic of unicorns, I consider the words of an American author an activist:

“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit.”

Helen Keller

I want to explore and discover and never stop learning. My over-arching goal in life is to be happy. Optimism can be cultivated and shared. Though the Vet Center has abandoned our local veteran community, I made sure my Warrior Sisters stayed connected. This year, while no offers to help us have emerged, I’ve purchased materials to spend the year focusing our veteran spouses’ group on developing an optimistic mindset. It’s something these long-haulers of caregiving to Vietnam veterans know about naturally. They are resilient. But they also deserve to be lifelong learners, too.

It’s a long and rich article, but you too can join us in our journey to optimism by learning more about positive psychology. I’ve never been interested in the Pollyanna kind of fake optimism because the authentic mindset is real. It’s work to cultivate, but worth the effort. After all, there are unicorns of possibility at the end of the mindfully constructed rainbow.

Even the earth holds onto hope. If Greta Thurnberg demanded of me an answer to what I’m doing about climate change, I’d take her to meet my Anishinaabe friend, Kathy Smith (holding the Water Walkers’ Eagle STaff). To witness a tribe regain their teachings is like watching a buckaroo saddle up a horned horse. It seems like magic but it is really the hard work of optimism to follow the path of caring for earth like kin.

We need to find our way back to center as humanity, seed by seed. In a brilliant book that reminds us of the power of hope, Celeste Ng (pronounced “ing”) has released her latest novel, Our Missing Hearts. Recommended by my mentor, Sharon Blackie, I didn’t hesitate to select the novel for my current ENG 103 class at Finlandia University. Listening to Celeste’s beautiful writing on audiobook has become an optimism tonic for me weekly. I’m also blessed with some deep thinking and feeling students this semester.

I’m buoyant with possibility in the uncertainty of right now.

A note that might bring relief or joy to some who blog — I’m lifting the no-links ban on the Challenge posts. It fizzled as an experiment. Please keep in mind, not all writers at Carrot Ranch are bloggers and I do not consider this space to be a blog but rather a literary community. There are intersections between the Ranch, the Keweenaw, and the publishing industry at large that remain unseen but give us all possibilities for connecting through literary art.

If you are going to share your links, please add meaning through thoughtful discourse. This is not a blog hop. Do not get your pants in a bunch if others do not go to your blog (this is not a blog hop). We have a strong and loyal readership at the Ranch who genuinely enjoy the stories and many have indeed found their way to your blogs and books. You are well-served to promote outside this community to find new readers (especially your specific target readers) through your participation here. For example, if you are published in the collection, add that to your author credibility and use it to bring new readers to your blogs or websites.

Keep our community space accessible and optimistic for all literary enthusiasts. Our weekly challenges are meant to cultivate a weekly creative writing practice and our collections remain fascinating curations of endless creative expression. It is a simple but optimistic premise for writers. We make literary art accessible in 99 words. Go write, read, and shine!

January 23, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that is optimistic. Feel free to explore optimism in all its forms from a positive mindset to toxic positivity. Is it a heartfelt story or a devious one? So much wiggle room for the optimistic writer. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by January 28, 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.

October 10: Story Challenge in 99-words

Monday, October 10, 2022, is the second Indigenous Peoples’ Day in the US. Social justice organizations around the world are recognizing the harm of colonization and cultural genocide on Indigenous populations. My classes are tasked with reflection on what it means to belong to a place. How do we overcome othering and welcome the contributions of groups, nations, and regions around the people?

Today, I walk in the company of my bone, spirit, and land ancestors. I think about belonging through kinship and presence. Today, I am present to the water. It is the third day of a 92-mile People of the Heart Water Walk.

Nga-zhichige Nibi onji. When I get tired, when I have less sleep and more responsibilities, when it’s my turn to carry the water, I say, “I will do it for the water.” My t-shirt speaks our petition and commitment. My skirt flows so the land of Turtle Island recognizes me as a woman, a vessel for water. Water is life and women are the water bearers.

This is my fourth Water Walk, although I did different work for the water in 2020 because of Covid. Actually, I seem to do different yet similar work each year. I’m learning to go with the flow. We are communal organizers, working as a collective of women under the sacred teachings of the Anishinaabekwe from Keweenaw Bay. We walk through their Ceded Territory. The Keweenaw. My Rocky Spine.

For the first time, I wear a traditional ribbon skirt. My friend, writer, and quilt artist, Sue Spitulnik, designed and created the skirt with material we found in a quilt shop in Ithica, New York. She appliqued two chickadees over colorful ribbons. The joyful birds represent kinship and friendship; they express joy in totality. I feel uplifted, wearing my skirt, Water Walker t-shirt, and hiking boots.

This year, Finlandia University took on the role of feast hosts our first night. I’ve been talking about the walk to my students as we read the Fire Keeper’s Daughter. When I was asked to write something about the Water Walk to our Finlandia community, this is what I wrote:

The People of the Heart came together after the devastation of the Father’s Day Floods to form community around the sacredness of water. We don’t really have organizers, but we look to the Anishinaabekwe to guide us collectively in their teachings. We all do the work for the water, and like water, we flow where needed. The Water Walk is a sacred ceremony open to all faiths and people. Women lift and carry the water in a copper vessel from one point on the journey to the next. A Water Walk is the only time an Eagle Staff walks behind (the water). Men or women can carry the Eagle Staff; only women can carry the Water. Women wear skirts so the land recognizes us in our work. Nga-zhidchige nibi onji (I will do it for the water). Finlandia holding a feast, anyone donating or preparing food, all of this is part of doing the work for the Water.

Many social injustices center around Water and we walk to speak for the Water, for those harmed by toxins in the Water, for our Land Ancestors, and for those not yet born. Water is life.

The People of the Heart Water Walk takes place over a three-day weekend aligned with Indigenous People’s Day. In the beginning, IPD did not yet exist. We chose fall because we walk narrow, busy, and scenic byways that cut across Anishinaabe Ceded Territory, and traffic is lighter. We educate people along the route with the images of the attached brochure. We walk 92 miles in three days, passing off the vessel from one woman to the next. We walk in relay but the Water never stops until we bring it to a ceremonial close of the day (or, reach our final destination). We feast and rest with the communities living where we walk. Typically, we gather pre-dawn and start walking as the sun rises.

Anyone can join the Water Walk at any time. Come for an hour, a day, all three days. We have a system of leapfrogging walkers in relay with vehicles and I can take walkers back to their vehicles. I commit to all three days, assigning my ENG 103 C and 104 B classes to attend Finlandia’s Indigenous Peoples Day event and using the Water Walk in writing and reflection lessons. We are reading Fire Keeper’s Daughter in ENG 103 and The Four Pivots in ENG 104 and the Water Walk is a way to deepen our understanding of culture, Ceded Territory, and social justice. I hope our students, faculty, staff, and trustees can join us as we feast and rest and share community. We welcome everyone’s prayers.

Chi Miigwech to Finlandia University!

C. Mills 2022

We are fortunate to learn from the Water Walkers who walked with Grandma Josephine. She was a grandmother who founded the water protectors movement along with other women from the four directions of Turtle Island (North America). We learn as we walk. Like writing. Practice makes progress, not perfection.

You can learn about our Water Walk and traditional protocol in this brochure we distribute along our route:

I invite you to ponder how precious water is today.

October 10, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that expresses the idea, “for the water.” You can find inspiration in water protection movements. Is it a celebration or a dark dystopian warning? Consider your place and the bodies of water that have shaped you. Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by October 15, 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 on social media.

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

Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino October 2022

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

“Welcome back ta the Cowsino, ever’one. It’s the spot where ya git anuther chance ta practice yer writin chops without leavin the comfort an safety a the Carrot Ranch Literary Community.”

“Thet’s right, Kid. The famous story spine slot machine is in the Cowsino, at the Saddle Up Saloon, jist over the line from Carrot Ranch.”

“Atchally, Pal, I think it’s me an you that’s over the line. The Saddle Up is a part a the ranch, a waterin hole an restin place fer all our ranch hands an even their characters. But what ‘xactly is this story spine?”

“I first heard a story spine back in January 2020, in one a the challenge posts. In thet post lead buckaroo, Charli Mills, says the story spine kin be anuther draftin an problem solvin tool fer writers.”

“Reckon I’ll click HERE ta re-read that post an find out more.”

“Reckon thet’s a good idea. An in thet post is THIS LINK ta Aerogramme Writers’ Studio where teacher, author, and the Artistic Director of Synergy Theater Kenn Adams tells bout Story Spine, which he created in 1991.”

“But it’s basically jist a structure ta contain yer story?”

“Yeah, Kid, jist a way ta plot yer rersponse ta the three pictures thet come up on the slot machine. Ya kin switch the order a the pictures an the story ain’t gotta be zactly 99 words, not at the Cowsino.”

“An folks play as much as they like? Post their stories there in the comments; read an comment on other’s?”

“Yep, it’s a lot a low stakes fun. The rules a play’s listed below.”

“Well, then folks, look’t them pictures an play yer hand. We’ll catch ya in the comments.”

Rules of Play

  1. Use the three pictures that spin to a stop as inspiration or subjects (use in any order).
  2. Write seven sentences following the Story Spine (you don’t have to use the phrases of each step):
    • Once upon a time…
    • Every day…
    • Until…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Finally…
  3. Share your story here at the Saloon (post on the story/comment board below).
  4. No links to other places. Play the slots as much as you like (you can write more then one story).
  5. Say howdy to those playing with you! Be friendly and have fun!

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and built the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via

Peer Critiques                                                        

I met my husband in 2001 and soon started telling him about a family saga story I carried in my head. I talked about the details often but concluded I hadn’t figured out how to tie the story together. Finally, in 2013, while listening to live music one evening, the idea appeared, the visions flowed, and I excitedly told him, “I figured out the common denominator for my novel.” He responded, “Then stop talking about it and go write.” Little did he know that’s all I would do and talk about for the next two years. I wanted to write and had my spouse’s backing, but I had no formal training. 

    During those two years, I joined the Rochester (NY) Veterans Writing Group and Lilac City Rochester Writers. When I mentioned I had no college-level writing experience, people told me it didn’t matter. I beg to differ because it was only then that I started learning about peer critique, head hopping, point of view differences, ellipsis, the various types of editing a manuscript needs, and multiple revisions.

    I finished the first draft of my very long novel and thought I was done. Yes, you may laugh, and I’m laughing with you. Talk about being naive, lacking understanding, or being ignorant. I remember giving a trusted writer-friend a dumb look when she asked me who I would have edit it and how much revision was I prepared to do. I had no idea at the time that I wasn’t “done” or that an author could rewrite anything another twenty ways before it sounds the best that it can. 

    In my Veteran’s group, we write memoir or call it historical fiction if our memory doesn’t recount exact details. When we were working on essays for the first book we self-published, we edited each others’ writing by saying, this doesn’t make sense, or if you switched these two ideas around, it would work better. We corrected punctuation and the use of whom versus who, and that versus who when referring to people. We didn’t change the writing but might have asked for more detail or emotions. We acknowledged what happened to the author and were happy to share the experience in story form.

    In Lilac City, we have three peer (fellow member) critique sessions yearly. A member is welcome to submit up to 2500 words per session. Each person who submits agrees to review everyone else’s work. The favored genre or experience of any author is not taken into consideration. Everyone “plays.” It’s been my experience that in this situation, the suggestions given tend to veer to the person doing the critique wanting the author to write the piece the way they would have. The storyteller ignores the fact a piece is plot-driven and pushes for character development. The plot writer generously takes the time to explain how to write an outline so someone can get all the information into a neater package. I have heard comments that a piece was “infantile,” not feasible in real life, too long, uninteresting, or the subject matter was not original. Each reviewer does all types of editing. Personally, I have found the process to do more harm than good because I am not good at letting go of the negative and looking for the positive. Most of us are writers, not trained editors.

    I recently backed out of a weekly ZOOM meeting called Inklings where participants read aloud their work and listeners offered suggestions for overall improvement. There were four “regulars” at the event and sometimes a new face or two. I did learn a lot in the beginning. Sometimes I can recognize a POV “problem” now, but I can also hear three of the people’s comments whenever I read any author’s work. I will say out loud to my husband while reading a novel, “This wouldn’t have made it through Inklings.” Charli attended one evening and decided, though she did get good feedback, that she could use those two hours more advantageously if she didn’t participate. I came to feel the same way.

    On a different note, it took the Inklings regulars about six months to accept and appreciate 99-word stories. When I started sharing them, the listeners wanted more detail, setting, and senses involved. I kept repeating, “99 words.” They finally got it, and I have to admit, they did help improve a few of my “babies” as we called them. In the end, I heard compliments about how I managed to have a beginning, middle, and ending in so few words. I like praise!

    When Charli visited me at the end of August, she explained to the members of Lilac City during a day-long seminar the different types of editors a manuscript should have. A developmental editor, which you can find through an association, looks at the big picture of your book, focusing on the organization of material and structure then recommends revisions based on pleasing the target audience. Next, a line editor addresses the creative content, writing style, and language used at the sentence and paragraph level, which is the “art of writing,” and another set of revisions is needed. Next, a copy editor tidies up the text for conciseness and polishes the information, so it is delivered to the reader clearly. And finally, proofreading is done on the final revision, which should be in the form of a galley copy, so the words can be seen on paper in the chosen printed format. Typos and “old maids” (one word on a page) are easier to spot when in book form.

    I’ve done so much editing and “peer” critiquing in the past eight years that I can spot the one typo in a David Baldacci book. Am I a friend or foe to my fellow writers when doing an honest critique? I’m not sure, but I try not to be a “dream stealer” and tell them they have no writing ability, or their writing ability hasn’t improved since I met them.

    What experiences have you had with “peer” critiques? Have they been helpful or a hindrance? Do you know how to seek out the correct type of critique “peer?” Share your experiences in the comments. And keep on writing, even if it’s only for yourself.

About the Author:

Sue Spitulnik was an Air Force wife from 1972 to 1979, living in multiple states and England. She now resides in her home state of New York with her husband, Bob, and lives close to her children and their families.

Sue has been a participant in the Rochester Veteran’s Writing Group since 2015 and is the current president of Lilac City Rochester Writers group. She has a story published in each group’s anthology. On her active blog,, she publishes flash fiction written to the weekly prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary Community, where she interacts with fellow contributors. 

When she isn’t writing, Sue is creating with colorful fabric in her quilting studio, specializing in patriotic and t-shirt quilts.  

Participating in an Anthology Project

Collaborating to write an anthology can be very rewarding. Seeing your name in print one a story in a book is exciting if you’ve never been published before, even if you have. What does a project like this take to accomplish? That depends on who’s doing it, how it’s planned, and who cooperates.

In 2018 my local writing group, Lilac City Rochester Writers, held a short story contest with a specific word count required and deadlines. It was meant to be a money-making project so each entrant paid $8.00 per submission. I believe there was a group of four readers that decided on the winning stories using a point system. Three cash prizes were awarded. Most of the stories submitted were then organized and the group self-published the anthology.

The outcome was that a few people learned how to use Create Space, and the project netted little money for the group but we sure learned a lot. The book can be ordered from Amazon.

In 2019 the man who founded the Rochester Veterans Writing Group (RVWG) was unable to attend because he went back to college and then his work schedule kept him away. He had mentioned wanting to put our writings into an anthology more than once, so I proposed we gather our stories together, and even if we only had a folder of manuscripts, it would be a wonderful gift to give him. One of our guys went further and said he would do all the formatting so we could self-publish a book. “Book” talk started taking away too much time from our regular meeting format so a second monthly gathering was scheduled to work on the project. We worked as a team: voting on the title and its design, order of stories, dedication, and inclusion of bios with photos. We set deadlines that came and went, more than once. Members kept saying they wanted their works included, but they didn’t submit them. It came down to begging for the final submissions, but the project was completed and published in 2020. You can order this book on Amazon also. There are memoir stories from WWII through present-day and also home front experiences.

In early 2022, with the loss of our WWII vets in the past two years and the gain of new members, a vote was taken on whether we wanted to put together another book. The result was a unanimous yes. Currently, a different member from last time is working on collecting the personal stories for book 2. To show you our progress I’ll share his recent email.

Hello Everybody,

I have good news and bad news. The bad news ain’t so bad because each of you can help in turning that into good news too.

First, the good news:

I have compiled everything you and I have contributed so far—let me know if I’ve missed anything—into book-like form in one Word file. It comes to about 300 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 pages ( couldn’t for the life of me find a way to make the pages 6 x 9 in my version of Word, but I came close to matching the 6 x 9 formatting of the print on the pages).

I have given it all a pretty good first-time edit, and it should be in reasonable shape. I have not given much thought to the order of the stories nor filled in the Table of Contents. You’ll have to leaf through it yourselves to find what you want.

Now, the bad news:

177 of the 300 pages are occupied by stories from one Charles F. Willard and only 105 pages by everyone else. There is a clear imbalance here that badly needs remediation.

Here is the current story count by person:

Sue – 4, Joe – 3, Vaughn – 4, Suzanne – 1, John – 2, Lee – 5

Cindy – 1, Tim – 1, Dave – 2, Chuck – 28

By the way, in this file, I have included the stories from our 11/7/20 Eulogy to Bob Whelan. Your count includes those, so if you see a “1” after your name, that “1” is your only contribution so far.

I know you have more stories in you than the numbers above depict. Every month at our meetings, you show me that you do. (More bad news is: so do I!)  Convert all those stories you have to digital form and send them on to me. This is not a Willard memoir; it is an RVWG collaboration. So please get cracking.

To my fellow editors, Joe, Vaughn Lee, and Sue (Remember? You volunteered. Or was it I who volunteered you?) Please give this a look-see for any glaring issues. Also: Any stories you feel are not appropriate to include? If it’s one of yours, please send a replacement for it. We need content.

I know it is all a big time-consuming job, writing, and editing, so thanks in advance for your collective efforts. 

Here’s the file. Happy writing, happy editing.


As you can see, Chuck is nicely requesting, cajoling, and even begging for cooperation. I’m glad there is a 4 after my name.

My suggestion if you want to put together an anthology with a group is to set deadlines and adhere to them. Or perhaps, say if there isn’t enough submitted in a timely manner, the project will be abandoned. It will save the compiler a lot of angst.

And, Chuck, he gave his family, and I as his “adopted” younger sister, a book about more of his experiences while a C-130 pilot in the Air Force for Christmas last year. I cherish it.

Please feel free to share your thoughts or questions in the comments.

About the Author

Sue Spitulnik was an Air Force wife from 1972 to 1979, living in multiple states and England. She now resides in her home state of New York with her husband, Bob, close to her children and their families. Sue has been a participant in the Rochester Veteran’s Writing Group since 2015 and is the current president of Lilac City Rochester Writers group. She has a story published in each group’s anthology. On her active blog,, she publishes flash fiction written to the weekly prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary, where she interacts with fellow contributors. When she isn’t writing, Sue is creating with colorful fabric in her quilting studio, specializing in patriotic and t-shirt quilts.

Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

Well, howdy! I’ll bet you’re surprised to see me again. I can say that makes two of us! I’m jest here to let y’all know Kid ‘n Pal will be returning to their old Saddle Up Saloon shenanigans, but on each Friday.

Don’t tell, but I snuck on in here afore them to finish up what we started back in December of 2020. Once we get through this ‘un and a final post on May 6, Anyone Can Poem will be done and done.

(I hear tell a story-generating Cowsino will mosey on in, come the first of June.)

And so, welcome, one and all, to this month’s installment! I originally posted back in January and intended to continue the lesson from December.

Like any good sequel, I’ll do a quick montage of the first installment so we’re all caught up: freeversepoetryisabadideabutwe’regoingtodoitanywayandforstarterslet’ssplityourpoemusingpunctuationandspacingsoitreadshowyouwish.

Way back then, you shared your free verse poem with the sort of pausing you want it read with. Now it’s time to get more nitty-gritty. I want you to look at everywhere you’ve done a comma, semi-colon, period, line break, and new paragraph. Take each of those places, one at a time, and decide how you will permanently create the pause you wish.

Pauses can be forced with what we already have, a’course. They can also be made with looooong, slooooow words, laborious words, descriptive words, shocking words, and onomatopoeia. And sure-shootin’, you can keep a line break or comma if you wish.

If you take the poem snippet I used for an example, we start with
I saw a dove;
it alighted on my hand
and frittered there.

But I don’t want the final version to be split across three lines. Instead, I want
I saw a dove
It alighted on my hand and frittered there.

To be honest, frittered is more of a second-draft word. I came up with rested the first time I typed it up. Frittered is a good word since it ain’t usual ’round these parts and has several syllables. It’s also fun to say; fun to wonder how in tarnation a bird might fritter. To create the pause or s l o w i n g I need around the midpoint of that line, I will need different words besides on my hand and.

Let’s try
I saw a dove
It alighted atop a finger; it frittered there

Hmm. Not bad. But what ’bout
I saw a dove
Alighting on my finger, it frittered there

Get it? Good. Your assignment is to take the lovely poem you shared in December and close up the line breaks with intentional words, a semi-colon or two, or sounds. Lasso the words that will sing the pattern you want.

Fill out the form, below, if you want only me to see it. Fill out a comment if you’re willing to show off.

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

Next month, we’ll do a final polish of your free verse and, as I promised, a final farewell to Anyone Can Poem.

I can’t wait to see what you do!


©2022 Chel Owens

March 7: Story Challenge in 99-words

It’s my last day on the farm and I survived the robotic appliances. Namely DJ Roomba — the vacuum shaped like a giant gray cough drop.

DJ comes to life at precisely 11:00 p.m. EST with a pulsing green light, three whirs, and an announcement that sounds like robotic balderdash. After the first night, I learned to be upstairs with the dogs by 11 (after the dogs woke me at 5 a.m. every morning, going to bed early was less of an issue).

Having a robot clean the floors nightly feels like the cartoon Meet the Jetsons has come to life. The quick sequence of thumps and bumps downstairs was unnerving to me, at first. It sounded like someone was in the house. Well, yes, someone — DJ — was in the house. The banging sounded endless.

The next morning, I discovered DJ Roomba had locked me out of the (only) bathroom in the house. Fortunately, the door wasn’t locked, it was blocked with a bamboo floor mat. Once I pushed inside, I found the round vacuum guarding the toilet. What sounded like low growls was a dying battery. I picked up DJ like rescuing a turtle on the road and set the cleaner on the recharge station.

Sometimes, DJ would suddenly spin to life and nip at my heels while I tried to work at the dining room table before redocking. One morning, I heard the Roomba speaking gibberish with a plaintive, “Help,” spoken last. It’s unnerving to hunt for a lost robot. I found DJ on the porch, trying to devour my snowboot. I had to pull the lace out of the vacuum’s maw.

This morning, while talking to one of the goat milkers, I heard the gibberish followed by a cry for help and we were both startled. “It’s the robotic vacuum,” I said. As if that would put anyone at ease. I found DJ lurking under a kitchen cabinet, and I yelled, “Roomba, go home!” A green eye flashed at me and I could see DJ was stuck. Or it was a trap. Again, I pulled out the cleaner and held it like a snapping turtle.

I’m not keen on appliances that talk to me. I prefer people. Is that bias? Am I an electronicist? Is it my fear of the unknown or unfamiliar? I grew up watching Rosie clean for the Jetsons and sass the family she worked for. You’d think I’d be prepared to open my heart and mind to robots.

But I’m not there, yet.

People. I have a great appreciation for the people in my life. And animals. And trees, water, birds, nature. I even feel a kinship with rocks. So what is hard to accept about a robot who cleans my daughter’s floors every night without a paid wage or protest? I will extend a bit of gratitude to DJ Roomba. At least I didn’t have to sleep.

Now, I’d like to offer a huge wave of gratitude to the writers at Carrot Ranch who pulled together to offer our community encouragement and entertainment during the lockdowns of the pandemic.

When we went into our first lockdown globally, we all felt the unease of the times and the uncertainty of what next. I reached out to writers in our community who I thought would be open to writing columns from their areas of interest and knowledge. Kid and Pal (the beloved Carrot Ranchers who remind us that characters are people, too) inspired their writer to create an imaginary watering hole at an imaginary ranch for all the characters we writers imagine. The Saddle Up Saloon was born and took on a life of its own with the help of other writing hands.

I’m so grateful to write among so many talented people who also agreed to engage our community further in difficult times. Much has changed in the past few years for all of us. You’d have to be a Roomba on Mars to not notice. But what hasn’t changed is our need to encourage one another in this writer’s journey we share. I want to thank the writers who took on columns and a Saloon during a pandemic.

H.R.R. Gorman (US) not only delves into the past and what relevancy it maintains for us, but H. is also unafraid to broach difficult situations within our greater writing community. H. led us in a moving living tribute to a dying friend with a special Rodeo Contest and Fundraiser for Sue Vincent who crossed the veil in 2021.

Anne Goodwin (UK) is an expert book reviewer and if you want to stay current on contemporary literature, follow her reviews. She kept us informed on reading choices while also drafting a pandemic sequel to her latest novel, Matilda Windsor is Coming Home.

Bill Engleson (CA) knows film noir and how to relate it to modern times. Known for his tight storytelling in short fiction, which has garnered him numerous literary wins, Bill can also weave a thorough review of films many of us may not know existed.

Ann Edall-Robson (CA) writes to preserve a way of life that honors the quiet spirits of her pioneering ancestors and the Canadian ranching community she calls home. Ann knows cattle, horses, and when to say, “Whoa. Stop. Back up,” to catch stories in photographs. Her work inspires other writers to listen within.

Susan Spitulnik (UK) knows the veteran experience from multiple perspectives. Not only is she currently working on a series about a wounded veteran and his refound love, but Sue also participates in a veteran writing group. She shares her stories with compassion, realism, and authenticity.

Norah Colvin (AU) is an early childhood educator who uses her knowledge to build educational materials at readilearn. She also uses her experience to craft stories with relatable characters, often from a child’s perspective. Norah is The One who showed up at Carrot Ranch in its earliest beginnings to form a global community.

Sherri Matthews (UK) writes compelling memoir as someone who has lived on both sides of the pond in the UK and the US. She understands language and cultural differences and bridges the gaps with profound insight. Throughout the years, Sherri has been an encouraging writing partner, sharing the ups and downs of the writer’s life with me.

Ruchira Khanna (US) is a Reiki Masters as well as a novelist who crafts stories about the choices people make and how it impacts their lives. Often, her characters form a diverse cast of friends and family, seeking to grow. Ruchira fortifies her beliefs in healing through writing. She has also been a writer who stretches her own growth.

Anna Rodriguez (US)was part of my MFA cohort at SNHU and when we partnered on a project through school, I knew I wanted to do more collaborations with her. We share a home-state and similar philosophies about making creative writing more accessible. Anna writes about family and its importance and crafts novels with a diverse cast of characters from her Mexican American roots.

Image showing some straight lines drawn by different coloured pens on a white background

Hugh Roberts (UK) writes openly about his journey as a writer with dyslexia and being a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Anyone familiar with Hugh’s writing knows that he masters plot twists. He shares his experiences, talents, and tips with the greater writing community.

T. Marie Bertineau (US) writes from the Keweenaw, home of World Headquarters for Carrot Ranch. She’s a celebrated Indigenous author whose book The Mason House has won several notable awards. She writes about life in the UP of Michigan, sharing memories of her grandmothers.

D. Avery (US) would prefer the spotlight on Kid and Pal, but no matter how much Kid protests, she is their author. D.’s lively Vermont wit found a home with her creation of a saloon on the edge of Carrot Ranch. Her characters have interviewed the characters of other writers, they’ve invited artists and writers to showcase their creativity, and they’ve created interim prompts and a handy stage for other programming.

Chelsea Owens (US) has a ten-gallon hat and hung her shingle at the Saddle Up Saloon to encourage all writers to try their hand at poetry with the Anyone Can Poem challenge. Her explanations and explorations of poetry in creative writing prompted non-poets and poets alike.

Colleen M. Chesebro (US) writes and teaches syllabic poetry, crafting magic through prose and poems. As a Rodeo leader at Carrot Ranch, she invented a form based on the ennead but counting 99 syllables. She hosted a challenge at the Saddle Up Saloon and will join me next week in announcing some exciting news.

As you can see in this line-up, Carrot Ranch is rich in talent and literary citizenship. I’m so grateful to each of these writers for their time to encourage others during a difficult episode in modern history. They provided insight, encouragement, and inspiration. And we will move into the future — yet uncertain with world events continuing to unravel — as writers moved to make a difference through the stories we tell whether for entertainment or exploration. Next week, I’ll reveal what’s next at Carrot Ranch.

Thankfully, none of these writers have to dock to charge their batteries. But it leads to a thought-provoking what if…

March 7, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a robotic writer. Is it an analogy or a battery-operated i-writer? Is it possible? What will happen if robots write? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by March 12, 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.

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