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Happy October! Welcome to a new Carrot Ranch #DoubleEnnead monthly poetry challenge. Every third Monday of the month, I’ll be here at the Saloon with another challenge to help get your poetic juices flowing. Each month, we will explore a different theme or image to inspire our poetry. Take your time, there’s no hurry! You have an entire month to write your poem.

HINT: You can find this post again by typing double ennead challenge in the search box to the right of the Carrot Ranch banner. That will bring up the most recent challenge post. ❤

Check out the poems from last month HERE

The word Ennead means nine, and a double nine is ninety-nine! Carrot Ranch is famous for 99-word flash fiction. Now, the ranch has its own syllabic poetry form written in 99 syllables!

The Double Ennead comprises five lines with a syllable count of 6/5/11/6/5, (33 SYLLABLES per stanza) 3 STANZAS EACH = 99 SYLLABLES, NO MORE, NO LESS! Punctuation and rhyme schemes are optional and up to the poet.

We’ve been writing 99 syllable poetry for a few months now. Explore your own 99 syllable structure. In other words, you don’t have to abide by the syllable structure above. Just make sure that your poem comes out to 99 syllables! Have fun and experiment. I did!

Image by Bany_MM from Pixabay

October is my favorite month of the year! Halloween is just around the corner. As a child, I loved this holiday and still do today. I think the attraction was the opportunity to switch identities for one night a year. At Halloween, you could be anything you wanted simply by changing your appearance.

If you could assume any form or persona, what would you choose?

What is a Persona Poem?

Scott Sigil shares his definition: “A persona poem is a poem written in first person from the perspective of someone or something other than yourself. When writing a persona poem, the poet embodies a figure from history, or a fictional character, or even an inanimate object, and writes imagining what that person or thing might say if they had the chance to write a poem.” (Persona Poems by Scott Sigil)

Let’s celebrate Halloween together by writing a persona poem in the style of a double ennead. Be creative! Let your imagination run wild! Have fun!

My example follows:

"A Wise Woman's Companion"

the veil thins when dusk falls
Samhain spirits rise
now, the purveyors of death walk among us...
maybe crones in disguise?
black magic lives on

they burned us at the stake
not believing our truths, only lies
bad luck, or animal-shaped spies?
my coal-black color determined my death

my reputation's ruined
by superstitions,
ancient mythologies, and false statements...
My one redeeming feature—
black cats have nine lives!

© Colleen M. Chesebro

This month, write a double ennead poem where you assume a persona. It can be Halloween related, or not. Remember, your poem must have 99 syllables in total. Have fun!

  • Post your poem on your blog or in the comments if you don’t have a blog by Friday, November 12, 2021.
  • Include a link back to this challenge in your post. (copy the https:// address of this post into your post).
  • Read and comment on your fellow poet’s work. Feedback from other poets is how we grow our poetry writing craft.
  • Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so.
  • I’ll visit, comment, and share your poetry on social media!

Chloe & Sophie assert that no black cats were harmed in the creation of this poem!

Now have fun and write some double ennead poetry!

October 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

The west-facing wall of my Unicorn Room holds two important developmental tools of my craft. A three-foot by three-foot cork board displays a visual representation of the plot and character arc for my thesis novel and a similar-sized white board shows the bones of a story in progress. One is a Vision Board and the other a W-storyboard. Above the W, purple vinyl letters on shell-pink paint read, “No mud, no lotus.”

This quote, the title of Thich Nhat Hanh’s book on mindful living, reminds me to embrace the mud required to write books from within the depths of my mind, heart, and soul. Some might mistake my long process for perfectionism. That is not what I seek in my writing. I aim for truth which takes years of diving into the mud, trusting the lotus to bloom.

Not everyone writes the same way. Some barely process at all and yet, make wonders of surface material. I think of writers who naturally observe the details of people and write stories — drama, horror, comedy — with flair and ease. Others write with intellect, emotion, or both. Some dabble when the mood strikes. Many follow the story that begs for release.

No matter planner, pantser, or plantser, every writer encounters mud.

Planners do exactly what it sounds like they do — they plan. I hold an image of my eldest in mind. From an early age, she planned her life in lists. She journals and monitors data. When she was 12, she convinced me to track the number of infant and mother mortalities in the graveyards where I collected stories. She wanted to track and discern. Today she works for a science data organization, planning communications between scientists and media. She plans before she writes with the precision of a Dungeon Master.

Pantsers are the free-spirited writers chasing the lead of a story by the seat of their pants. Pantsers live in perpetual media res. They don’t know the beginning or the end, they write what comes to them and follow what unfolds. They don’t know the plot; that’s what they are writing to discover. They love their characters and fall in love with the dozens more that step out onto their pages. They don’t whip the WIP, they ride it into the sunset.

Plantsers combine the elements of planning with the discovery of free-writing. Some plantsers outline from the beginning and others track their plot as it unfolds. Every writer eventually comes to terms with the reality of needing both attributes. Planners have to draft their plans and pantsers have to frame their drafts. Both will come to a tentative, “The End,” and require a Revision Plan. It’s revision that confounds many writers. But we aren’t there yet.

We are talking mud because it’s time to embrace the suck, which is warrior slang for accepting the friction that comes from facing the unpleasant inevitable. Writers face the mud when planning or pantsing stalls. No matter your best laid plans or your pages of drafting, the story will get stuck. It’s part of the process. We anticipate mud this time of year because it is NaNoPlaNo. Time to plan (yes, Pantsers, this includes you) for National Novel Writing Month.

This year, Carrot Ranch will be a NaNoWriMo Mentor. Once a week, I’ll offer tips and encouragement to participants, which will be useful for all writers beyond the month-long event. I’ve started The Congress of Rough Writers group at NaNoWriMo and if you want to join, you need to send me your official member handle at the site. If you have never NaNoed before and want to go for it, I’ll help you get started. Email me at I’m a huge fan of the event and organization. NaNoWriMo is an incubator, global community, and the best writing tool for drafting (yes, Planners, this tool is for you, too).

The reason I have a Vision Board and W-Storyboard mounted on the wall opposite from where I meditate and commune with Unicorns is because I want/need kinesthetic tools for my craft. I interact with both boards, involving my body in the mind and heart process of writing. I also create music playlists and dance when I’m stuck mentally. I believe in mudding tools.

99-words is a tool, too. NaNoWriMo is sixteen 99-word stories a day. It takes five minutes to draft 99-words, so roughly it will take an hour and a half to write 1,667 words a day. That’s speed drafting, which happens on the good days. Count on three hours of writing on the slowest days. NaNoWriMo teaches you the value of stick-to-it-ness. In 30 days you will have gone from 99 words to 50,000.

The best way to deal with the mud is to plan for it (settle down, Planners; stop whining Pantsers).

I may as well say it. “Hi, I’m Charli Mills and I’m a recovering Pantser.” My deep processing and pantsing inclination seemed a match made in Muse Heaven but not so. They languished, lost in the wilderness of never-ending-stories. I’ve learned to use planning for my deep processing and to allow pantsing during dream time (pre-writing phase) and scheduled drafting stints. My profs were right — never again will I draft a novel without a Plan. My MFA program introduced me to tools and I will share some of them with you. I encourage you to explore each one, try them on, and keep what fits. I’ve created my own hybrid of planning starting with the simple and ending with the complexity of combined plot and character arc that I can map on my W.

NaNoPlaNo (Planning for Drafting)

A few other resources can help you in the planning phase, or be used as references throughout your drafting. One is TV Tropes. We’ve used this resource at Carrot Ranch to develop wickedly fun and unexpected prompts during the TUFF challenges. It details genres you didn’t even know existed. It’s a great way to jumpstart plotting or character development. The other is a Name Generator. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in the mud because you can’t come up with a quick name for the character who just walked onto the page.

I’d like to welcome any writers from Finlandia, especially those in Helsinki Slang, the university writing group. I’ll be planning weekly NaNoWriMo Write-ins with our fabulous campus library and providing a Zoom Room for any Carrot Ranchers who want to write-in, too. If you have NaNoWriMo questions, you can add them to the comments and stories below. If anyone in the community wants to answer, please join in! We all embrace the power of diverse perspectives and lived experiences at the Ranch.

And before we embrace the mud, please note the extended deadline. I will be on the North Shore of my beloved Lady Lake Superior for a week in Two Harbors, Minnesota with a dear Minneapolis friend who has a condo. I get to teach classes via Zoom and sit by the fireplace in between hikes, train rides, agate hunting, and working on client projects. I’m currently wrapping up a book I’ve been researching and editing since June and have two days to finish it. And I survived my first mid-term grading period.

Life is good, though muddy at times.

“Without suffering, there’s no happiness. So we shouldn’t discriminate against the mud. We have to learn how to embrace and cradle our own suffering and the suffering of the world, with a lot of tenderness.”

~ Thích Nhất Hạnh

October 14, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story embraces the mud. What is the mud, real or metaphor? How does it transform a character or place? What happens? Go where the prompt leads!

EXTENDED DEADLINE Respond by October 26, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Face Down in the Mud by Charli Mills

Max howled when her ankle buckled, sending her face first into the Keweenaw mud. Rain pounded. The trail morphed into a rivulet. She refused to drown in a mud puddle. She pushed up; her upper body still Marine-strong. That blasted leg. Useless foot. Unreliable ankle. Her second howl had nothing to do with unhealable soft tissue. Without her unit, without a purpose, life sucked. Embrace the suck. She managed to rise to one knee, the other leg mired. When her dad emerged from the woods, her relief was genuine. Even if he was wearing a wet pink gauze skirt.



If you are quiet, you can hear the whispers.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Family Garden II by Duane L Herrmann

Reckendorf Friedhof is different from American cemeteries I know. Here, each family owns the plot and one person is buried per grave in most cases. That is not so there. There, the grave is rented for a period of twenty years. Anyone can be buried in that grave who you allow in the twenty years. If rent is not paid, someone else can rent the grave. All inhabitants of the grave are listed on the stone. Bodies decay naturally. Remaining bones can be moved to the bonehouse, at the side of the cemetery. Such cemeteries do not need expansion.


Un Cuarto Con Vista by JulesPaige

All that was left of the ‘vanity,’ Great Aunt Something
Or Other left her – No real value, just took up space
Left to collect dust in the corner of the room
The Dust Bunnies claimed it for their own and multiplied
As did her stress for trying to figure out what to do with it

Looking in the mirror, she saw her Great Aunt’s face
The lips kept moving without making any sound
So she sat on the cushion stool, stared, waiting
then hearing the faint whisper of music
She saw the lovers waltzing at the Grand Ball


A Reunion by Paula Moyer

Jean had been coming to family graveside services at Memorial since she was nine. The first was her father’s mother. Now, sixty years later, she just couldn’t remember the coordinates for them all. She stared at the sea of monuments. Nothing.

So at the cemetery office, she handed her list to the receptionist, who gulped. Both sets of grandparents, her parents, four uncles, two aunts, and now four cousins.

“All?” A stern look over her glasses.


Disapproving silence.

“I’m from out of town. I forget each time.”

Many look-ups.

“Having a family reunion. They should all be there.”


Whispers in the Cemetery by Jane Aguiar

One summer at midnight, I went to the church compound to steal tender coconuts. I was stealing tender coconuts, filling a jute bag, and taking a sip of beer. Suddenly, I heard someone whispering in the cemetery. With the jute bag, ran towards the cemetery. Someone was whispering, “One for me, one for you.” I dropped the jute bag right there and drove straight home.

The next day, I informed my friends that there was a ghost in the cemetery and realized that it was not the ghost but they were Louis and Dominic distributing the stolen cashew seeds.


Whispers by Charli Mills

Jane swung, pumping her legs to gain height. The wooden swing her father hung grew in the red oak her great-grandfather planted as a teenager. Jane never knew Romeo Tonti, an immigrant, but when she reached high enough she heard him whisper through the rustle of leaves. Jane learned the family recipe for spaghetti – use fresh rosemary – and how to splice a crab apple into a honeycrisp tree – for pollination, nipotina. Her mother proclaimed to the other soccer moms that her daughter was a cooking and gardening prodigy. He father would smile and wink. He heard the whispers, too.


Comfort Cooking by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Bok choy and thin-sliced carrots, a bit past their freshness date, sizzled in the pan. She sniffed the aromas of sesame oil, lime, and Moroccan baked tofu. The sharp scent of sliced onion softened, long layers relaxing, rolling and shining over her cooking spoon.

Red pepper and slivered greens for sharpness and color, to be added at the very end. Peanuts in a bowl.

To her left, a tall pan of jasmine rice steamed, rattling for attention. She adjusted the temperature and resettled its lid.

“What’s missing?” she whispered.

Memory whispered back, “Lemon Pepper, just a dash. And me.”


Windy Night by Michael Fishman

Bux raised his head and sniffed. He jumped off the bed, let out a quiet huff and padded out of the bedroom.

Carl grabbed the remote and paused the DVR. He leaned over and whispered into Jean’s ear.

“And you tell me this because?” she said.

“Well, forewarned is forearmed, and I think it’s—”

Jean’s face wrinkled. “Oh, Carl, what is wrong with you?”

“I think it was dinner.”

“My cooking doesn’t do that to anyone!” Jean said as she pulled the covers over her head.

Carl thought he heard a laugh but he wouldn’t bet on it.


The Aging Wind by Bill Engleson

I hear the wind whistle through the trees,
a soft and gentle whoosh through the air
venturing down my spine to my knees,
blossoming in the late evening glare.

I find myself drifting into twilight,
floating as the breezes vacillate,
twisting here and there in the darkened night,
ready to accept my coming fate.

Here in the shadows of my timeline,
ancestors whisper their each and every name,
who was begat from whom, where I align,
each step along my genealogical frame.

And though there are limits to my rhyme,
All I am seeking is solace in my time.


Whispers Remain by Rebecca Glaessner

People come out changed, or not at all, says the whispers.

Called me in ta’ fix a drone. Remembered thinkin’ their workers looked mindless, till one leaned in, showed me circuitry boosts I never could’a imagined.

Wondered, why me?

Then they hired me full time, ta learn their subatomics, an’ I keep gettin’ a sense there’s more, ‘sif regular scientists hit a wall they won’t never figure.

Them that disappear, there’s papers says they wanted to. I got my own papers now, says my skills are needed off-world.

But I’m stayin’.

Human scientists need help takin’ that wall down.


Whispers by Norah Colvin

She watched from the side, longing to join in, fearing being ignored. Or worse, banished. Determined to beat her shyness, she’d shuffle one step forward, then the old insecurities would immobilise her, reminding her she didn’t belong. One foot forward. Stop. Another foot forward. Stop. She was almost there when the game paused, and they looked directly at her. She froze. They feigned whispers hidden behind hands. She didn’t need to guess. She ran and hid behind a tree, wishing for invisibility. “I’ll never belong!” Soon one face appeared, then others. “Please come and play with us,” they chorused.


Aloysius Saves the Day by Nancy Brady

Aloysius heard the whispers of his people. He didn’t eavesdrop on their conversations, but his hearing had become more acute since his adventure in the fountain.

His hearing was augmented by violets, which clung to his fur that fateful day. Months later, Aloysius still could hear the slightest sound any of his family made.

Lily, the youngest child, decided to run away from home because she was mad at her parents. Lily packed underwear in her backpack, walked to the corner, and cried.

Aloysius came to Lily’s rescue, sitting with her, comforting her, purring, and finally leading her home.


Whispers by Frank James

Kelli and Mary gossiped about George going home for cheating.

“The bell girls,” Mrs. Ugholtz shooed them to class.

At lunch, they chatted whispering in ears. Mrs. Ugholtz said exiting, “No need for secrets.”

They finished skulking to the bathroom.

Mary exclaimed, “Ugholtz. What about Richard?”

“In Juvie,” Kelli chirped.

Mary replied, “Barbie did Buff’s homework because of football.”

Kelli whispered, “I heard it.”

Toilet flushed. Mrs. Ugholtz stepped out, “George’s mother’s ill. Richard toured university. Barbie inspected Buff’s homework. Seven demerits!”

The girls cried.

Mrs. Ugholtz scowled, “Those who spread rumors speak louder of themselves than the scuttlebutt.”


The Breaking of Trust by Christy Gard

She danced and twirled around him liking and hating the dance at the same time. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence, but an occurrence that happened enough to create shame, guilt, emotions that were not hers to own. She tried speaking to others. To talk about the pain ripping at her soul. She tried to yell, to cry in desperation with gleaming razors and blood-soaked palms. But others turned away told her it was a lie, too much, to bear, to it kept hidden the darkness. So, it turned into a whisper that floats on the wind of her soul.


Just Another Life by Richmond Road

A call to arms. Another land
Ideals I did not understand
Unknown soldier. Unknown truth
Ideals are not bullet proof
A fallen hero. Fallen son
Lost to what could not be won
An epitaph to bold and brave
Here etched in stone upon my grave
Words of praise, of noble fight
Not words that I would ever write
Don’t search these graves. Don’t ask the dead
Search within your souls instead
No heroes here. Please move along
Go back to where you come from
There is no honour, only fear
Death the only message here
I was a soldier, was a fool
Do you see honour? More fool you.


Whispers by FloridaBorne

God whispers, “No one dies.”

I ask, “Why was I given life?”

Love whispers, “This is an interlude.”

“Time’s twists and turns aren’t the journey?”

My eyes glisten and tears threaten to overcome my rational mind. Were anyone to know God speaks to me, I would surely be taken to an asylum.


The face staring at me is not happy.


“Your fiancé awaits.”

“I would rather die than marry that fat, old man!”

“It is that, or be disowned.”

In 1886, a rich woman of 15 learns she is nothing more than a slave to her station.


Battles by Reena Saxena

What I call a whisper is too loud for some
My breath blows away living beings

I can’t hear below twenty decibels
my heart murmurs away all life

My breath blows away living beings
I cannot contain my own power

my heart murmurs away all life

It makes its beats felt sometimes

I cannot contain my own power
What I call a whisper is too loud for some
It makes its beats felt sometimes
I can’t hear below twenty decibels

I see you quivering, blabbering,
Blaming, shaming
Yet I don’t try, and I can’t
stoop low to match smallness


Whispers by Anita Dawes

Death closed its hand
Beneath the whispering autumn leaves
The old head stones tell of loved ones
I wonder, are some souls on fire?
Do they all lie at rest
Do they whisper of dancing under the sun?
Kissing under moonlight
Do they come back
Whispering in my brain
Of life beyond these cold stones
As yet, none have whispered
Of angels, golden harps or seeing Christ
Before you think me mad
I don’t hear disembodied voices all the time
There is one that stays with me
A female voice, telling me life goes on
Right there, beside you…


Eloise by Annette Rochelle Aben

Pilar shook as she clutched at her hoodie. It wasn’t the temperature it was the atmosphere. With every step she took in the October darkness, she thought she heard another faint voice.
Get out
This is my home
You are not welcome here
Her head moved like the beam of a lighthouse as she searched for a face. But there was no one in sight. Only dead trees and rocks,
She ran when another voice moaned.
I died here
It was a BIG mistake to visit the Halloween attraction on the grounds of a former mental hospital.


Tales Come True! by Simon

Stories of missing kids escalated over city for centuries. Words of Horrific murder, ruthless torture was still in the air.

Wells, didn’t care, young blood, sought adventure has visited, despite of all stories.

Palace wasn’t horrifying, delicious foods, erotic woman, proved the tales were fake.

Wells, decided to spread the word, wasn’t this discovery worth sharing to the world?

Wells, couldn’t open the door. Woman turned to ashes, delicious foods turned to worms.

Wells… whispered the palace, tingling skin, chills shivered up his spine.

Floor torn open, stone pellets tore his skin, his screams explained the tales, once again!


The Whisper by Joanne Fisher

I lay in the dark trying to sleep, when I heard a hissing. I looked to my left and thought I could faintly see two pale points of light, like two eyes watching me. I was completely frozen with fear.

“Hello.” whispered a voice.

“Who’s there?” I asked fearfully.

“Just go to sleep.” the voice whispered again, and the soft hissing began once more and got closer.

I lay there unable to move, as my eyelids got heavier and also now voiceless, knowing I might never wake up again, and there was nothing I could do. Everything went black.


I Told You I Was Ill by Doug Jacquier

The cracks appear in the plaster
and they start to match up with your mind,
because the foundations have slipped.

You ask not for whom the telephone bell tolls
because it never tolls for thee.

In the silence you can hear Death whispering
and your doctor says ‘take these’.

Your children, with their clever minds and dumb hearts,
are deaf to your rhythms and your reality
and suggest you take up yoga.

If only you knew one thing you were sure was true,
for now and for ever,
instead of watching the cracks spreading
in all of the plaster.


Seeking Peace by Sue Spitulnik

The two men sat on a strategically placed bench shaded by a majestic maple. Each leaned forward with their elbows on their knees, looking down or gazing up at a pink marble headstone, remembering. The older one wore a Vietnam Veteran ball cap. The younger one, an Afghanistan. His prosthetic legs shouted disabled veteran. They took turns talking, just above whispers. They could hear each other, but certainly, no one else would have been able to. Ending the conversation, the older touched the younger’s arm, “My daughter died doing what she wanted.” Michael cried, releasing unfounded but real guilt.


Free Will Choice by MyrnaMigala

Shhhh! Quiet, don’t say a word; listen now.
Be very still and with your mind; ask HIM!
Feel the calmness, the peace;
you can almost hear the whisper.
“Here I am.” It speaks. Give ear to the whisper.
The voice that says, “come!”
The battle begins, the distractions, our mind wanders, and we all know why; next, we hear that eerie, dark, sinister voice, shaky almost sing-song. We listen, we hear the call to our mind the word…M I N E!
Forgetting that peaceful moment, we wake and carry on with the voice that called us to them. MINE!


Forest Floor Magic by Donna Matthews

“I’m so bored!” Jack lamented.

“Oh, yeah?” I murmur back, lost in my thoughts, as I etch out my latest doodle idea.

“Listen to me!” He nearly shouts.

I look up, eyes unfocused on his distressed little face, taking in the slight pout of his bottom lip.

A wide-open day and he was bored!

“Grab your boots,” I declare.

Entering the hush of the woods, I feel him relax next to me. He kneels and explores pieces of the forest floor; pinecones, rocks, acorns, lichen. As he stuffs them in his pocket, I know they’ve whispered their ancient magic.


Voice Calling by Ann Edall-Robson

Craggy tips awakened by the sun. Visible after the wind pushes the blanket of unfriendly clouds away. Mother Nature confirming her beauty is for those who patiently wait in their search of the early morning sky. She continually baits ones visual appetite for more. 

Moments seem like hours before the simmering palette begins its play among the snow dusted rocks. A powerful vision emerges, eyes comprehend the massive loneliness before them.

And there is a voice calling. Wind moaning, whispering, baring the soul of the stoic rocky crevices. Telling tales of past sunrises relived in stories of the moment.


The Jetty by C. E. Ayr

The rock-built jetty is so peaceful in winter, just the lapping of the waves, the whispers of the wind.
It is different in summertime.
Although few sun-seekers venture out here from the beach, the sounds drift.
Children laughing or wailing, boys arguing over ball games, girls squealing in mock surprise, I hear everything.
Occasionally a youngster clambers out to explore, usually with Dad, sometimes with a friend.
And shrieks with excitement at the clusters of crabs, or voracious fish, that can be seen down crevices, feeding in unlikely places.
Then I smile to myself.
Because only I know why.


Seashore by Saiffun Hassam

I sit on that craggy rock near the seashore. I come to listen to sand dunes whisper stories of buried cities, of shipwrecks, of fishermen seeking shelter from stormy seas.

The rock seems like a sphinx, silent and hardhearted. It rumbles and I hear its memories of how the sun and wind and water have shaped the Earth.

Sea diatoms, seashells, sea fans, and sea urchins whisper news from across the oceans of oil spills, polluted waters, crumbling coral.
When glaciers melt, their whisperings build into wild and terrified screams as they are torn apart by a warming climate.


Dialects by D. Avery

My people are few in number. These English built over their bones, grew their crops in our fields.

Now these English at Patuxet have, for the first time, plenty of food and are sharing their harvest and the fowl they got with the Pokanokets, who roast deer and heat pottages. Both Bradford and Massasoit need me to interpret. Massasoit’s people number twice the English. All are fed and entertained. It is a good time for Massasoit and Bradford.

Wind whispers in the dry cornstalks. Red leaves rustle and drop. These sounds come to my ear in my own language.


Sardines by Hugh W. Roberts

Does a game of Sardines hold secrets Richard doesn’t want his husband to know anything about?

“I hope he doesn’t find us,”

“So do I,” whispered Richard. “We’re in big trouble if he does.”

“Why? What’ll he do?”

“God knows,” murmured Richard, “but it won’t be nice. Now, be quiet; I hear footsteps approaching.”

“Richard!” yelled Adrian as he entered the empty bedroom.

Creaking sounds from the wardrobe grabbed his attention.

“Oh no, I think he’s going to find us,” whispered Richard just before the two doors of the wardrobe opened. “Quickly, hide.”

“Richard! Found you. But who are you talking to?” challenged Adrian.

“Keep your eyes closed, and he won’t see us,” whispered Richard.


Pig In a Pond by D. Avery

“Why ya whisperin’ Kid?”
“Whisperin’ ‘cause I’m a pony.”
“You know, a little horse.”
“Jeez. Why’re ya hoarse, Kid?”
“Been hollerin’ fer my hoglet. Tryin’ ta git Curly ta come home.”
“She’s still hangin’ out with them beavers?”
“Yep. Swims in their pond, heps with their dam, even dives down an’ gits inta their lodge with ‘em.”
“Tell ya what hurts me most, Pal. I walked down there an’ she slapped the water with her tail ta warn the beavers I was there.”
“Thet little curly tail couldn’t a made much sound.”
“Jist a whisper. Still hurts.”


Whisperin’ Waters A Change by D. Avery

“Kid, mebbe hollerin’ ain’t the way ta git yer hoglet ta come ta ya.”
“S’pose Pal.”
“Look, Kid. Ya were always wantin’ this hog ta be yer fur-baby, even though she ain’t got fur; made her a pet but not much of a pig. Well mebbe she ‘dentifies more as a beaver.”
“Mebbe. Beavers is real smart, like her. But Pal… I cain’t say goodbye.”
“She’s right there in the pond.”
“But that tail slappin’…”
“Yer gonna have ta regain her trust Kid. Meet her where she’s at.”
“In the pond?”
“Respect her beaver-being.”
“I’ll be a beaver whisperer.”


Saddle Up Saloon; Robbie Cheadle in the Author’s Chair

“Pal! It’s our first real Author’s Chair segment! With Robbie Cheadle!”

“Robbie Cheadle? She’s a prolific writer, an’ in many genres. Whatever she shares, it’s sure ta be good. Here she is now.

Howdy Robbie. Welcome ta the Author’s Chair here at the Saddle Up Saloon stage.”

“Hello Pal, hello Kid. It’s good to be here.”

“What’re ya gonna read?”

“Today I’ll be reading Part 1 of Chapter 1 of While the Bombs Fell. I wrote this fictionalised memoir of my mother’s life growing up as a small girl in an English town during World War II. My mother, Elsie Hancy Eaton is a contributing author.”

“I am ready for questions and comments.”

“Thank you Robbie Cheadle!”

“Folks, be sure ta engage in the conversation ’bout Robbie’s readin’. Ya could git yer name drawn and win a book. Congratulations Liz Husebye Hartmann fer bein’ our winner from the last Chair!”

Robbie Cheadle is a South African children’s author and poet with 9 children’s books and 1 poetry book.

The 7 Sir Chocolate children’s picture books, co-authored by Robbie and Michael Cheadle, are written in sweet, short rhymes which are easy for young children to follow and are illustrated with pictures of delicious cakes and cake decorations. Each book also includes simple recipes or biscuit art directions which children can make under adult supervision.

Robbie has also published 2 books for older children which incorporate recipes that are relevant to the storylines.

Robbie has 2 adult novels in the paranormal historical and supernatural fantasy genres published under the name Roberta Eaton Cheadle. She also has short stories in the horror and paranormal genre and poems included in several anthologies.

Follow Robbie Cheadle at:




Find Robbie’s books: (paperbacks and ebooks)

Amazon US (paperbacks)

Amazon UK (paperbacks)

October 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Take a walk in the cemetery with me. Come on, it’s October, a time of seasonal transition in both hemispheres, and I’m itching to catch stories. Gravestones contain the tales of people who once lived where we do. History for those who can read between the rows of marble and lines etched in stone.

Many writers tingle at the mention of a local bookstore. Others revere libraries. Me, I’m a cemetery geek through and through. And what could be better than a local National Park offering a tour of the dead and buried? A tour led by a local historian and fellow graveyard geek.

Meet Ranger Lynette of the Keweenaw National Historic Park.

Full disclosure: Ranger L is my hero. She not only researches, she gathers stories and allows them to haunt her the way writers work with characters. I could sit late into the night and listen to her collected stories of the Keweenaw.

When the KNHP advertised fall tours of Lake View Cemetery on the fringes of Calumet, I felt a jolt of excitement. I knew October was going to be a busy slog into the long winter, so I decided to take a guided evening stroll among 35,000 buried stories. The cemetery is so large that our tour clocked over a mile of walking.

We began at the veterans section where one stately memorial honored soldiers of the Civil and Spanish Wars and a block of granite acknowledge the burials of other soldiers with missing markers. Ranger L pointed out the marker of Louis Schweigert. Behind his white marble veteran’s grave were the plots of most of his family. Except daughter Caroline, who remains buried at Schoolcraft Cemetery on the other side of Calumet. On June 17, 1873 the seven-year-old girl was found murdered, leading to several accusations and one questionable confession by a teen nephew who later claimed he did not do the foul deed. To this day, her murder remains a mystery. I find it sad and curious that she is interred alone elsewhere. I foresee a headstone hunt in the abandoned cemetery next spring, and archive diving over winter. Ranger L has been researching the murders of women in the Copper Country.

Justice whispers on the wind through the cemetery trees.

Lake View is divided into two cemeteries, one Catholic and one Protestant. Immigrants on both sides abound. The copper mines attracted families seeking work and a better life. That life didn’t always turn out. For the first time, I paid respects to the victims of the Italian Hall Disaster.

Copper mines took advantage of workers and families lost homes when mining accidents claimed the lives of husbands. The company owned everything — the land, the ore, the houses, the stores. Miners went on strike for fairer conditions in July 1913. By Christmas, children were suffering the impact of the strike and Big Annie gathered other women who had fought along side their men to host a Christmas party for the children at the Italian Hall. Mothers and children from various faiths and countries attended. When a thug yelled, “Fire!” a crush of women and children fled and perished in the stairwell. This disaster still hangs over the Copper Country.

Stories from cemeteries are not all horrific, though. We can learn much through the observation of icons. Hands, for example. It’s common for one spouse to hold hands with another on a grave marker. Have you ever noticed different cuffs? One is a wife, the other a husband. Today, we could have same cuffs on a grave which society would have denied. Some hands, like the one below, reveal secret handshakes. Today, we could engrave fist bumps.

Someone took great pains to decorate a marker with pebbles from Lake Superior (and ,yeas, I examined all the rocks eagerly). Ranger L referred to such markers as folk art. Today, cemetery associations forbid home-made gravestones, including hand-carved slabs of Jacobsville Sandstone.

Some cultures included porcelain photographs on gravestones. They are not common to the cemeteries I’ve studied out west, but Lake View has several.

Veterans are often buried in family plots beyond the military section. I keep an eye out for the bronzed or marble markers. I feel a sense of relief when I see a person lived beyond their combat era. Those who died in combat compel me to look up their units and battle records. Of course, I’m always keen to find military graves of women.

The occasional beer can shows up and I wonder if the resident chipmunks had a party while gathering acorns or if a friend left a cold one.

Cemetery humor is a must for breaking up the sadness of life and the spookiness of wandering among the dead. I laughed when I saw the last name of Geist so proudly proclaimed. Is this where they buried Polter? I hope not! Moving on I noticed the curious coverings on more modern graves. Ranger L explained that families often “winterize” graves, urns and solar lights. I also look for character names. Bessie Bloy is a great name, don’t you think?

Stories are the hallmark of any cemetery. Ranger L’s astute sleuthing uncovered not only the grave of a Titanic survivor, but that of one buried at sea. The story goes, Anges Edwards of Cornwall had a grown son working the mines of Kearsarge (near Calumet). Recently widowed with two sons at home, one a boy, the other a young man of 20, she sold her home and bought passage on the Titanic. She awoke when the ship struck the fateful iceberg. The stewards told her to remain in her berth but curiosity drove them to go up deck. She and her boy were placed in the third lifeboat. She begged for them to let her older son come with her. The boat was hardly full and when lowered, other men, giving into their instinct to live, climbed or leapt into the lowering boats. Her son, Joseph Nicholls, died that night. His marker rests beside hers.

As we neared the end of our tour, Ranger L pointed out a tombstone with a book that read, “Mother.” I took a writerly interest in the feature although it likely symbolizes that Mother’s book is complete.

The final whisper of the evening came from the living. An elderly man reached high into a tree to pluck seed pods. Curious, I asked him about it. He broke apart the pod to reveal the seeds of hophornbeam (ironwood). He told me that he plants tree seeds where the mines left behind barren poor rock. I found that an interesting act, to plant something one would never live to see. An act of faith. Appropriate ending for our tour. Thank you for joining me!

October 7, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes whispers. It can be beautiful or creepy and any genre. Where are the whispers, who are they from, and what do they say if they say anything at all. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 12, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Whispers by Charli Mills

Jane swung, pumping her legs to gain height. The wooden swing her father hung grew in the red oak her great-grandfather planted as a teenager. Jane never knew Romeo Tonti, an immigrant, but when she reached high enough she heard him whisper through the rustle of leaves. Jane learned the family recipe for spaghetti – use fresh rosemary – and how to splice a crab apple into a honeycrisp tree – for pollination, nipotina. Her mother proclaimed to the other soccer moms that her daughter was a cooking and gardening prodigy. He father would smile and wink. He heard the whispers, too.


Across the Water

You will be surprised to find what’s across the water.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Can They See Me? by Michael Fishman

Crisp October morning. Steam fog rises and swirls like smoke over the marsh. The wispy veil slowly moves across the water following the sun’s lead while a group of Canada Geese, hidden in the cattails and bulrush, honk and bark.

I see faces in the swirling steam. Faces of loved ones long gone. Can they see me?

The sun rises, the air warms; the steam fog slowly melts.

If I knew it to be true that we see those who have moved on in an afterlife, I’d close my eyes and lie down now.

I miss you that much.


A Matter Of Life And Death by Hugh Roberts

Holding on to Richard, Adrian looked out across the water.

“I told you I’d come back as a cat,” laughed Richard, “so I’m not keen being by the water.”

“But we promised we’d come to Brighton beach, ride the carousel and look out across the water on this date every year. Why wouldn’t we come this year?”

“Because it’s still too soon. Grief left empty-handed when you opened the door and let me in, but the answer to your future lays across the water.”

“But I can’t swim.”

“Who said anything about swimming to your future?” echoed Richards’s voice.


The Middle of a Lake by Donna Matthews

They find themselves in the middle of the lake.

Just that morning, they were arguing again over the stupidest thing…a dirty cup left in the sink. When did their conversations become so hard?

Now, here they are…quiet…lines in the water and lost in their separate thoughts. This unspeaking worse than fighting.

Her reverie’s broken by a sudden drop in temperature and wind on her face. Looking across the water, the sky darkening a deep green, a storm approaching. She chuckles at the irony of this mirror of nature on her marriage. Bring it, she thinks…she’s done with this silence.


The Wind by C. E. Ayr

I arrive at the headland, exhausted.
The wind-driven snow in my face has made the trip long and hazardous.
These hills can be dangerous even in calm weather.
Across the water I see the lights of home.
Where she is, with the children, my love, and my life.
Not far by boat, but I am on foot.
Another fourteen miles hard trek.
Suddenly the wind lifts again, and I am instantly alert.
My hunter’s senses are keen.
Something is not right.
Bad tidings sweep across the bay.
The sound of misery.
The scent of fear.
The smell of blood.


Short Story to Rouse Your Imagination by Myrna Migala

Arriving finally at the shore of a large lake, the children were excited. “We can see all the way across the water,” they said!

“Look, see that home. It looks so tall and scary.”

“There is a footpath, and we can walk all around the lake to the other side; what an adventure. We will pack a lunch and go tomorrow.”

They followed the path the next day; within a few hours, they were in front of that large home, now looking across the water to where they came.

“Look! Across the water, there is that scary house again!”


Across the Water by Sue Spitulnik

Who is it
Looking across the water

The fisherman searches for a set of concentric circles
Showing him the fish

The boater gauges the choppiness
Whether he’s in for a rough ride or not

The new skier enjoys smooth glass
It’s easier to maneuver behind the boat

The child jumps in delighted and unafraid
Not caring about the temperature

The skin diver goes below the surface
Enjoying the beauty and quiet

The bird takes advantage of the bugs
Hovering at dawn and dusk

The Vietnam veteran stares at the surface
Remembering bamboo straws that allowed submerged enemies to


Styx and Stones by Liz Husebye Hartmann

His nails were dark and sharp, spreading before him as he stretched first one paw, then the other. He backed further under the Juniper hedge.

She should’ve stayed home, not taken the canoe across the water.

He’d felt the storm coming, and had refused to board with her. She’d laughed, secured her furs for trade, and pushed off, waving her paddle before turning toward the far shore.

Rain was relentlessly cruel. Thunder pierced his sensitive ears. Waves crashed cloudy red, tumbling pebbles.

 Nightfall, pressing in, might calm the storm. He’d wait here for her.

 She always came back home.


Down East by D. Avery

When her husband left she was most concerned about retrieving the boat. 

She hasn’t run the boat for years now, has her groceries delivered dockside every other Thursday. Told Jeb she’d understand him being late because of rough weather, but if he ever showed up early or out of the blue she’d tan him. 

She’d be polite when he delivered, just; said ‘thank you’ then ‘have a good one’; his signal to go. Jeb didn’t even cut the engine.

Was Jeb of course that found her, sprawled on her rocky shores as if still looking beseechingly across the water.


Her Lover Returns by Joane Fisher

Her love was across the water. She walked along the beach counting the days until his return. One day word reached her that his ship sunk and was lost beneath the waves. She grieved, wishing for his return.

One night on the beach she saw him: his hair was now seaweed and his skin was a pallid green thinly stretched over his bones, but it was definitely him.

“My love!” he croaked, holding out his arms. She hugged him, but his embrace was so tight she could hardly breathe or break free as he dragged her under the waves.


Is He Dead or Alive by Miss Judy

The cottage was cozy and warm, the porch perfect for unwinding. A wine and cheese gift basket welcomed her. Exhausted, Carrie was glad to be in her homeaway home. She understood her mission, knew her target, nothing left to be done tonight.

Grabbing a glass and the wine, she retired to the porch. Lights flickered across the water but not his. Had he arrived? Lulled by the quiet and warmed by the wine, Carrie fell asleep.

BANG! flashes of light shattered Carrie’s sleep. Across the water his house was ablaze. She has to know, “Is he dead or alive?”


The Tradewater by H.R.R. Gorman

Across the water is a country of luxury. My family loads our keelboat with goods and drags a raft of timber behind us. Across the river we float, trickling down to the exotic city where we trade.

Our family trades logs for some silk, corn for new shoes, and furs for sugar. We sell the raft to lighten the load back upriver.

I ask Pa, “Why do they trade their riches for our poor goods?”

Pa pushes the keel. “They live in a desert. To them, we’re the rich ones, but we’re all rich once we’ve shared our treasures.”


Crossings by D. Avery

When Epenow was taken across the water he saw how the English are. He used their words, spoke of gold so the English would return him to Noepe where he escaped. Epenow is their enemy. He became sachem of his people.
Epenow saw that I know the English too, was wary about how I was with Dermer.
Another English ship came. Many people were murdered. When Dermer returned afterwards Epenow mortally wounded him. I was taken captive and placed with Massassoit.
Now a ship harbors near Patuxet. These people, though weak, will be my strength.
I will become sachem.

*Epenow, of the island of Noepe (Martha’s Vineyard) had been kidnapped and taken to England in 1611, four years prior to Tisquantum’s abduction.


In my mind, I’m there by Anne Goodwin

Across the water, there is no hunger. Across the water, there is no pain. Across the water, there is justice. Across the water, there is peace.

I’d build a boat, but the waves would break it. I’d start to swim, but I’d be food for sharks.

I turn my back against the water. Dressed in rags, I face another arduous day. Sweating, toiling, aching, weeping; if I paused, I’d starve to death.

In my mind, the water freezes. I don my skates and fur-lined coat. With a smile, I glide to freedom. In my mind, there is no fear.


New Worlds by Rebecca Glaessner

Across the water, something glistened. Had he finally found it?

Racing, stumbling through waves, he slipped. The water dragged him under. He kicked and thrashed for an age.

Ever sinking, tired now. He’d searched for nothing.

A voice, otherworldly and infinite, reached him beneath the river’s roar, “fight, human.”

One final moment, through agony, he gave his last, then stilled.

He gasped, heaved painfully. Air?

He’d finally found it, waiting nearby, whole worlds glistening within. He touched it. It thrummed, infinite, otherworldly. Impressed? Shoulders squared, he disappeared with it, leaving his world behind.

After-all, he hadn’t fought for nothing.


Water Initiation by Charli Mills

Seele’s initiation to Monitor Creek came in the summer of 1975. Hot asphalt burned the tender pads of her feet. Town kids rolled truck innertubes along the highway, Seele trailing reluctantly. Her Aunt Bonnie suggested she make friends. Did these local kids have iron feet? The cool rushing water soothed until Seele pushed off the edge to follow the others. Rapids grabbed her innertube, swelling over a jumble of hidden rocks, spinning her backward, and slamming into boulders. Rubber bounced, plunged, and rose. At the bridge they all got out. Seele couldn’t wait to go across the water again.


Rainbow Flotilla by Norah Colvin

She wrote a message on each piece of paper and folded them into tiny boats. At the lake, she launched them from the bank, then watched the rainbow flotilla sail across the water. Curious ducks investigated, capsizing one or two, but the rest sailed on. A turtle popped up, knocking one off-course. It smashed on the rocks, but the rest sailed on. A dragonfly alighted on one, enjoying the free ride as the rest sailed on, finally reaching the other side. A child fished one out and opened it to dry. He read the message, then smiled and waved.


Wood Ducks in the Golf Course Pond by Paula Moyer

There they are, year after year, Jean said to herself as she pondered the wood ducks. On the other side of the fence at the end of my block. The golf course pond was where, each spring, a mother wood duck brought her hatchling into the water. And there they glided, across the water as smoothly as skaters on ice, the little caravan of mother and ducklings. She had her “ducks in a row.” Under the water was the messy part, legs churning, making it all work. Just like me, Jean thought. The mess is underneath.


Kolaba Fort, Alibag by Reena Saxena

Silly me! I led my colleagues to a fort in between the sea, without checking high tide timings.

And there we were …. stuck in the fort for the entire day, because we couldn’t go across the water to reach shore. Luckily for us, there was a feast on in the temple inside. They served us lunch at a nominal price.

The waves still looked daunting at 6 pm. Again, the locals came to our rescue and a 10-year old helped us navigate the waters to reach the shore.

What a blissful feeling it was to touch the ground again!


My Magical Creeks by Duane L Herrmann

My tiny piece of land has two creeks that join together. They are damned upstream, so they don’t always carry water. Sometimes one, or the other, or even both, have water. It ‘s magical when they do. When there is enough water, it gurgles over the rocks causing the creek to sing. Because this isn’t constant, it is more magical and special than otherwise. I would like to listen for hours, but always there is work to do. I have a path across one with two large, flat rocks. When water is running, I easily step across the water.


Poe-ssion by Kerry E.B. Black

Quaint and curious volumes to ponder
Yet across the water I wander
To find my friend’s lost love Lenore

For he so lost in dreams does linger
That it has quite stilled his fingers
And he writes wise words no more.

‘Tis a fate I can’t abide,
For in his tales I do reside
And hope his muse to restore

In his harried footsteps flounder
Looking for the bard profounder
In the night’s Plutonian shore

Sadness overtakes my searching
A Reaper Grim in gutters lurching
And a Raven quoth, “Nevermore.”

So much more my woe.
My beloved Poe.


Across the Water by FloridaBorne

The son of a Native American and a French-Canadian fur trapper continued his father’s trade, wandering through the wilds of Canada. In Roxton Pond, Vitaline Bernier became smitten with him, marrying the man who impregnated her.

He rarely visited and she only lived long enough to have three children.

There are many Bernier’s buried in the church graveyard. Vitaline is not among them. He never returned after her death.

His son left home at the age of 14, and worked on a cargo ship bound for destinations far across the pond, for Vitaline’s children were never a welcome addition.


The Near End by Jane Aguiar

Our boat inverted unknowingly, we were thrown into the water, darkness came before my eyes and not a single word uttered.

Husband tried to save me, but the water was pulling me away. I held my breath, so that water from the nose and mouth would not get into my stomach, even tried to paddle.

I tried desperately to get across the water, but I started to go under the barge that was anchored. My heart sank, when I saw the end near. Even in that situation, my eyes got wet in the water and I closed my eyes.


Theory of Species X by Simon

It’s dangerous across the water, don’t go to land.

No it’s not. I have practised, I can breath on ground too, it isn’t dangerous.

What if it is?

I’ll survive, we fight monsters everyday undersea, our next level of survival is going to be on land.

You are going to die.

No, you are.

Across the water, it discovered itself. It took different forms, it faced hell and heaven. Today, it took a form of Human, you, me, and everyone around us, is because of that species, challenged itself to change the world.

Theories are not stories, isn’t it?


Beyond the Horizon by Bill Engleson

I do not see the mountains I must cross.

I know that they are there, beautiful obstacles that I will need to traverse to reach my destination.

Even before I set out on this journey, my eyes see only the dream.

The dream to be there.

I will embrace the journey, feast on every stone, every creature along the way.

I am as prepared as could possibly be.

My affairs are in order.

My mission is clear.

My first step will be to walk across the water.

I will begin at the shore.

Once there, I will be free.


Reflections by Doug Jaquier

For us,
all things seem possible when we look across blue water,
planning a thousand buoyant courses.

We do not weigh our stamina against the undertow
nor the wind strength against our craft;
we have enough gods
to warrant speculation.

But there are those who stand upon the solid shore
who are already at the end of their worlds
and our imagined journeys
are their fated drownings.

For them,
sailing into the blue
seems a truly godless journey.

So they sit watching us,
like hermit crabs,
waiting for us to set out,
and picturing life inside our empty shells.


Grandmother by Saifun Hassam

A heron flew across the water. In the early morning, mist drifted among pine, birch, and wild honeysuckle along the creek.

I paused on the weathered, rickety narrow wood bridge across the water. The creek was clear. A few weeks ago, heavy rains turned the waters into a roiling muddy flow. I took a risk on those days, walking on that precarious bridge. The yearning to go across the water was all too powerful, to visit my grandmother’s empty cottage. She was dead now. Her life linked me to other shores, India and Africa. Would I ever go there?


A‘Wake’nings’… by JulesPaige

A ring across the water, circular trips mostly.
Two in manmade lakes.
One where three rivers met.
Curious tours for Ah-ha moments.
Three of the paddlewheel boats out of four –
One was turned into a diner theater –
Permanently docked – the actors
Making moves across the stage
While wait staff made rings around
The tables – for the service of patrons.
Making their own history, memories for me.

Four different states
Settled perhaps by four different sons
(Or daughters… all had mothers).
All have different pages in history,
Different openings to lead and guide.
So it was for those hosted rides…


Across the Water by Robert Kirkendall

The family drove through the mountains then the highway straightened as they approached the seaside town. Their young son was on the edge of the back seat eager to get a better view through the windshield. He felt anticipation as they moved closer to their destination.

They entered the outskirts of town and he tried to look past the buildings as they got closer to the coast. They drove ahead and he finally saw the ocean. He looked across the water gratefully as his view stretched as far as his eyes could see, unlike the valley where he lived.


Smooth Sailing by Annette Rochelle Aben

It was the summer of 1968. The year the Detroit Tigers won the pennant and the year our family bought a pool for our backyard!
The pool store threw in a variety of pool toys as a bonus, one of which was a six-foot Styrofoam surfboard. Temptation got the better of us and as long as our parents were at work…

We used the deck to hold it in place and with a running start, we’d jump onto the board. The force sent us sailing into the opposite pool wall. Oh yeah, we were never bored on that board!


In the Clover by Nancy Brady

Aloysius, the white cat, was running alongside the black horse. The horse leaped over a fence; Aloysius jumped through the slats, and they continued across another open field nearing a swiftly flowing stream.

The horse easily jumped across the water, but Aloysius stopped on the bank.

Aloysius didn’t particularly like getting wet (and what cat does?), but there was no way he could make the lengthy jump the steed did. He didn’t want to use his blue jay feather to fly though.

Standing in green clover, Aloysius wished there was a bridge, and in the wishing, a bridge appeared.


Jist Skatin’ By by D. Avery

“Kid! Where ya been? Was worried ya weren’t gonna make it this week.”
“Havin’ the same worry, Pal. Findin’ this anuther tough prompt.”
“Hmm. Figgered ya’d sail with this un, Kid. Or kayak, or swim, or even ride yer hoss across.”
“Yep, they’s plenny a situations could arise. Coulda had the creek rise, mebbe involve Ernie or Curly. But none a that feels right. Have been down ta the creek though, where it pools unner the trees.”
“An’? Catch a story?”
“Nuthin’. Jist set there watchin’ water bugs a-sparklin’ in the sun, skatin’ an’ scurryin’ across the water.”


Jist Skatin’ By by D. Avery

“Shift, Pal! The creek is risin’!”
“Thet’s okay Kid, they’s plenny a room fer thet. We’ll be alright. The Ranch is a safe place after all.”
“Curly’s stuck on the far side.”
“Gary Larson’s Far Side? Seems fittin’ fer Curly.”
“No, Pal, she cain’t git back across the water. Come help!”
“Cain’t cross or won’t? Look’t Kid. She’s over there takin’ up with a fam’ly a beavers.”
“Dam! That’s why the creek’s a-risin’.”
“Yep. Yer hoglet’s heppin’ them beavers make a pond. Thet’s good fer all.”
“But… d’ya think she’ll come back? Or has she b’come a lodge member?”


Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

Whew! Welcome to Anyone Can Poem, the time when we scare away the I-can’t-coyotes and embrace the I-will-wallabies.

Yes, our rodeo has wallabies.

Thank you to all the amazing poets who responded to my challenge to murder their children -erm, to remove their unnecessary or superfluous words.

Now, after taking out extra adverbs, adjectives, and grandiose language; we will spend this month filling our poetry with the best words.

How do you choose the best words? Easy.

  1. Decide what your poem (or, intended poem) is about. What moment do you want to capture; what feeling do you want the reader to feel; what action do you want to encapsulate?
  2. Which form (metered, rhymed, free verse, specific syllable count) do you feel works best with your theme?
  3. Take time to free-write descriptors, actions, feelings, colors -WHATEVER about the poetic moment.
  4. Pick your favorites from Step 3. Form phrases. Make it poetic.
  5. Form those pieces into a ‘final’ poem.
  6. Take the poem, line by line, and check if the words you picked are just showing off. Check if they are flowery. Make sure they are not fluffy bits of wallaby fur only intended to look cute.
  7. Instead; pick impactful, meaningful words and phrases that put the reader in the moment.

Let’s say my answer to #1 is chocolate. I want to capture the delectable moment when a piece of chocolate melts across your tongue and drips down your throat. Ah, the anticipation! The sensation! The bliss!

For #2, I choose to write it free-verse.

#3, Free-write: chocolate, rich, tasty, moist, mouthful, bliss, gurgling tummy, slip down, melt, rich goodness, milk chocolate, smooth, tantalizing, anticipation, square….

Now, I pick my favorites (#4) and smash them into a poem (#5):
Milky mouthful slips and drips
Across my licking, moist tongue
Come to me, my choc’late bliss

Slip down down down to my gurgling tummy.

Oh, dear. I have some removal to do of extra words (#6). While I’m at it, I’ll change or add better words (#7):
Milky mouthful slips and drips Rich and silky milky slice
Across my licking, moist tongue -Simmers on my tongue
Come to me, my choc’late bliss -Melting down; oh, choc’late bliss!

Slip down down down to my gurgling tummy. Anticipation, come.

Hmm. Looks like it wanted to be formed after all. In terms of word choice, what do you think? Did I pick impactful or unnecessary? What would you edit or suggest?

Now, as always, it’s your turn. Go through the steps. Edit and refine. Then, send me what you’ve got or share it in the comments. You can also share what you’ve got at any point along the steps, for pointers. I’m happy to help.

And, above all, have fun!


©2021 Chel Owens

September 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

I might as well be floating on water. The day that unfolded was the kind of perfect pool day you can find anywhere in the world when stars, weather, and serendipity aligns. This was a happy chance of a day and I’m buoyant.

Remember last week when I showed up early for the Angeline Boulley presentation because I was so excited? Well, the actual event happened today. And it exceeded my expectations. Today was a good day to be a writer.

First, I dismissed myself early from class to give them privacy to complete teacher evaluations. It was a novelty to be the one cutting out early. One of my students, a natural at creative writing, gathered the evals and delivered them. ENG I received an early lesson in analytical essays to prepare for a late-in-the-lesson-plan decision to watch a movie next week, Indian Horse. We learned about Orange Shirt Day (September 30) and I wanted my class to be prepared in case Ms. Boulley or any of our Anishinaabe community arrived wearing orange. It sparked a discussion about residential schools and I decided that we could watch Indian Horse and use analysis to compare the movie to the Fire Keeper’s Daughter.

After class, I hung out in my office to work on emails and grades. I had a brief meeting with my SBA rep and we set up accounting processes for Carrot Ranch. A big step for the future. It seems that writers are familiar with big steps and long waits. That’s how it goes. We might long for linear time to unfold according to our expectations but what happens with our work, happens when it happens. We take care of details when we can. Carrot Ranch is open for business, has a Tax ID number, but not ready for business yet! The Thirty and new workshops begin in 2022.

The sun lingered warm in a blue sky over red-tinged autumn leaves. I enjoyed the warmth of sunshine as I walked the campus to a small chapel with outdoor picnic tables. One of our school’s PhDs who teach English full-time was reviving a university writing group that had gone dormant with the pandemic. The group is called Helsinki Slang and we are expanding to include staff and even local writers. We discussed ways we can make our writing experience rewarding and accountable. Some may join us here at the Ranch! Talking to students interested in writing felt like sunshine on my soul.

When the event time neared, I was ready! And Ms. Boulley was delayed. If you’ve ever had to cross the Upper Peninsula, you’d understand that our roads are long. We decided to do the book signing afterward and let people gather in the Finnish American Heritage Center. Waiting allowed the jitters to set in, but I chatted with friends from the surrounding communities, including one of the Grandmother’s from the People of the Heart Water Walk. Then, Angeline Boulley walked in, strong and confident, dressed in black with a felt hat beaded in Ojibwe style woodland flowers, including orange.

The honor of introducing Ms. Boulley was mine, a gift from my University for being the instructor who was teaching her book. I wanted to get it right —

We can honor the heritage of people and place any time we gather. I’m here to welcome Angeline Boulley to our place of rich lineage. Welcome to Anishinaabe Homelands, to 1854 Ojibwe Ceded Territory, to the U.P. of MI, to the Keweenaw Peninsula, to Hancock, to Finlandia University, to the Finnish American Cultural Heritage Center.

September 30, 2021

I think I got most of it right. I think I got it in the order I meant. I did look at her directly to make the welcome. After that I babbled. I felt breathless and realized I was reading a passage from her book because I was in full fangirl mode, raving about how masterful her writing is. I’m grateful to have a generous community who allowed me this lapse of professionalism. One friend snapped a photo of me and when I saw it, I realized I had forgotten to remove my mask to speak! I honestly don’t recall much of that moment.

Ms. Boulley took to the stage with grace and shared her writing story. You can find much of what she said in this article Tribal Business News, including that she accepted a seven-figure offer after a 12-publisher bidding for her manuscript. The next day the film rights to a Netflix series sold to Higher Ground, the organization founded by Michelle and Barack Obama. Besides the gobs of money, Ms. Boulley also got rights to call shots on development which is not something authors get. It mattered to her, though, that Native American artists, film crew, and actors be vetted by her to include broader diversity. Ojibwe artist, Moses Lunham, created the stunning cover of her book.

What Ms. Boulley spoke of during her presentation was perseverance and belief in your own skillset as a storyteller. She came up with her story idea when she was 18, but sagely points out that she had to live a life first. It took her ten years to write her book. She worked in government and became the Director of Indian Education, living in the D.C. area. In her job, she successfully wrote grants, which she equates to writing narratives. After she wrote her first draft, she began to focus on improving craft elements. In an MFA program, this is what we call working a Revision Plan. She then began applying for mentorships and was accepted into one, high quality feedback.

Now, Ms Boulley is on deadline to complete a second novel in ten months. The difference, she explained, is that ten years taught her about novel writing. Every writer goes through education whether formal or not. Authors don’t magically emerge one day without a long history of work and learning. Ms. Boulley was 55 when she published the book she thought up at age 18.

After the presentation, people lined-up for her book signing. Again, the sun shed its warm light on us all. I was last in line, listening to snippets of conversation. She signed my book and I asked her if she wanted to go have drinks or get some food. She said yes! I texted T. Marie Bertineau who had just left and told her to meet us at a local Italian restaurant, and someone from a local book club asked to join in so we made it a party!

The way I figure it, we all need to eat and it was too perfect of a day to not go eat with the two authors whose books I’m teaching in my two classes. Both Indigenous women. Both correcting the course that has traditionally shut out Native voices. Dinner was long and slow, the night magical. I got to find out what an author buys with “book money” — a hot red BMW with vanity plates proclaiming, Daunis. Ms. Boulley’s protagonist.

It’s time to cool off after a hot day in the Keweenaw!

Also, congratulations to editors, Colleen M. Chesebro and JulesPaige, and to all the poets set to publish October 1 in the inaugural Word Weaving poetry journal, Moons of Autumn.

Hot new release on Amazon!

September 30, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story uses the phrase, “across the water.” It can be any body of water distant or close. Who (or what) is crossing the water and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by October 5, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

Water Initiation by Charli Mills

Seele’s initiation to Monitor Creek came in the summer of 1975. Hot asphalt burned the tender pads of her feet. Town kids rolled truck innertubes along the highway, Seele trailing reluctantly. Her Aunt Bonnie suggested she make friends. Did these local kids have iron feet? The cool rushing water soothed until Seele pushed off the edge to follow the others. Rapids grabbed her innertube, swelling over a jumble of hidden rocks, spinning her backward, and slamming into boulders. Rubber bounced, plunged, and rose. At the bridge they all got out. Seele couldn’t wait to go across the water again.


The Author’s Chair

The author’s chair is available. If you dare to sit.

Writers responded to the prompt, and what follows is a collection of perspectives in 99-word stories arranged like literary anthropology.

Those published at Carrot Ranch are The Congress of Rough Writers.

Stories from the Author’s Chair by Sue Spitulnik

I went out of curiosity, to hear what the veterans wrote about their experiences.
Each author sat in the special chair to read a piece of his writing. An Army officer recounted delivering coffee in the dead of night to frightened young rookies in look-out towers. An Air Force pilot related seeing a plane crash, then having to walk around the wreckage to go fly his own mission. The Marine lowered his gaze, described the sounds, smells, and angst of the front line, and carrying his wounded buddy to the medical tent.
I wondered who had the worst nightmares.


Ghost Writer by Ann Edall-Robson

This is my chair. It is my favourite place to come. It’s where I sit in the sun or hide from the weather under the eaves. The view from here and the noise of nature always make my heart sing. The songs let me soar with the lofty clouds to grasp the words no one else hears. Capturing them on scraps of paper I kept tucked in my pocket for just such moments.

My chair is old, but I see it still beckons to those who need to connect to their words. I wonder if they feel me nearby?


Author’s Chair by Saifun Hassam

At the yard sale, Nancy found an ornate garden chair, its metal frame painted bright blue. Nancy placed the chair near the old but still serviceable wood table in the garden near forest green hosta, ferns, and variegated rainbow-colored coleus.

When her best friend and indie author Trish saw the chair, she immediately thought of a garden tea party scene for her new historical fiction novel. Saturdays turned into a scrumptious garden party for their friends, to read and share ideas for their novels and poetry.

The garden chair settled into its new home. Proud to be a ghostwriter.


Strategic Support by JulesPaige

Just one seat, that old chair…
When words cease to flow
Who can we blame for our lack of skill to write
When the night brings us fright
And we trip, face first

If we could get to it
Those legs strong and true,
To lend us strength to hold us with love and care,
That one chair, near glass with
A view to change sight

To lift and warm our soul
Ease on to that pad
Sit still with calm peace, that slow warmth to grow strong
‘Blank page you will not win’
That must be the cry


Author’s Chair by Michael Fishman

A lumbar support is strapped over wooden cross rails; a cushion covers an unforgiving seat.

My author’s chair hates me.

I know what you’re thinking, but I’m not too cheap to buy an author’s chair. I just don’t consider myself an author.

The chair mocks me.

I’m lying down reading and from the corner of my eye I see the chair angled toward me. “C’mon,” it taunts. “Sit.”

I blink; it appears closer. “Whatcha gotta say?”

I shake my head.

“Got a story, Mr. Writer? A rhyme?”

As it scrapes across the floor toward me, I lose my mind.


Arthur’s Chair by Bill Engleson

He was one of those kids who needed steadiness. OCD? Maybe. He was a finicky little critter from the get-go. First day, grade one, he had to have a chair and desk right next to the teacher’s desk.

Miss Filbert.

She’d been teaching a while, but Arthur was a new one on her.

“Wouldn’t you be happier sitting next to a friend, Arthur?” she asked.

He shook his head.

Wouldn’t budge.

She was a smart lady.

“Fine,” she said, “We’re desk buddies.”

Thing was, it worked for Artie.

Gave him the confidence to stand his ground.

Or sit it.


Imposter Syndrome by Norah Colvin

When Dave revisited his junior school, he smiled to see the chair in its usual spot.

“Get down,” his big sister had said. “You’re not allowed on there. It’s only for authors.”

“I am an author,” Dave said, holding up the book he’d made in class.

“Not a real author. Real authors have real books published by real publishers, and their feet touch the floor. Anyway, it’s time to go.”

This time, when Dave sat in the chair, his feet touched the floor. The audience hushed as he opened his real book and began to read. Imposter no more.


Author’s What? by Duane L Herrmann

“An Author’s what?”


“What a curious idea. Sometimes a student had to stand facing a corner in the front of the room, otherwise, students seldom came to the front.”

“They didn’t?”

“Not unless they were in trouble.”

“That’s harsh, man!”

“We didn’t want to be in the front with everyone staring at us. I had to do it once, in third grade, to give a report, and I was sure glad to get that over with!”

“Did anyone read outloud?”

“Aside from our reading group in class, which I hated, only the teacher.”

“Only the teacher?’




The Author’s Chair by Joanne Fisher

“So you want to write books?” the figure asked.

“Yes.” the author replied.

“What you need is the Author’s Chair. You won’t be able to stop writing.” the figure said. A brown leather chair appeared.

“That’s what I want. How much for it?”

“Only your soul.” The author laughed upon hearing this.

“It’s of no matter. Go ahead and take it!” the author urged.

“Fine.” The figure disappeared.

The author sat down and began writing and found he couldn’t stop. He wrote many works, but died of thirst, hunger, and exhaustion from never being able to leave the Chair.


Tree of Life by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Stepping from the top of one tree to middle of the other, she slides toward the trunk, tests each step. Bark snaps and spirals; it’s a long way down. Desire stays true, the guiding song.

Ascending, though the needles hurt, she’s careful to avoid new shoots. The snap of sap both glues and sparks; it draws her upward toward her mark.

Tree sways in an onshore breeze. Lake promises sweet and ease.

Sky opens wide, near Red Pine’s peak. She builds her nest, to wait and seek.

Eagle soars and tips his wings.

She is learning all new things.


It’s Not the Destination, But What Happens on the Way by Anne Goodwin

Bracken scratches my ankles as I traverse another false summit. For years, I’ve hacked through forest, trod on tarmac, scrambled over boulders, meandered through meadows, lost my way and rediscovered it, but still can’t reach the top. Yet it’s called to me since childhood, as I farmed in the valley below. “Come, scale the mountain, and sit on the gritstone throne.” The closer I get, the more it eludes me, but glimpses tantalise, urging me on. Until, pausing to slake my thirst, I see marvels reflected in the pool. “Relax,” say the waters. “There’s a wondrous view from here.”


Anticipated Success by Lindsey F. McPherson

The agony of thought, struggles of imagination, threat of criticism, prospect of praise, disturbs my creativity. I always associate the flash fiction competition with the smell of grass, hot dogs and rhythmic jazz music, all necessary for a good festival. On stage, the rainbow-coloured author’s chair is both inviting and threatening, depending on the quality of imagination that trickled into my fingers.

My blood thunders, tentatively I sit. I see family and friends anticipate a successful performance. I’m wide-eyed, bugged-out nervous. Polite applause confirms my failure for the fifth year running. “Never mind’ mother quips, “there’s always next year.”


The Trinity by Annette Rochelle Aben

Wandering through an estate sale, Michelle hoped they had an old wooden roll-top desk. If it had a matching chair, all the better.
Dan was constantly rearranging items as other items sold. It was his goal to see that everything would catch the eye of the right person.
He had barely moved the Remington typewriter to a more prominent place, when he heard a gasp. Michelle couldn’t believe her eyes. There was her roll-top desk with a matching chair!

She handed him a check for all three. After all, a writer needed a desk, a chair, and a typewriter.


Author’s Chair by Anita Dawes

My authors chair is in a pub called The Drum.
It has a blue plaque with his name on, H G Wells
A man before his time, no pun intended
He sat inside with the likes of Lewis Carrol and others
Discussing their latest ideas
I would love to have been there as he wrote notes
about what became my favourite film
How many would queue to sit in that chair
I would in a heartbeat
Push that crystal stopper from his brandy decanter
be on my way
Don’t look for me, I’ll be a while…


Author’s Chair by Reena Saxena

It’s a kind of pilgrimage for her.

They say the author’s soul still resides on that old leather chair, and blesses writers who dare to sit on it. The agent charges a whopping sum for taking people there, and allows no refunds.

A piece of eternity is on her palms, as she touches the worn out chair. Magic flows – she just knows it’s hers – very familiar, very comfortable and she sinks in the seat, never to rise again.

The agent is horrified.

Her frozen smile seems to mock him – “Are you offering a refund now? I won’t take it.”


Sour Grapes by Doug Jacquier

At John’s sale, his office chair is marked ‘Author’s chair $500.’
‘Are you a published author?’
‘Not yet but I will be and then you can re-sell it for a fortune. And it comes with the tapes’.
‘I can’t type so I dictated it. The money’s to pay a transcriber so I can send it off to a publisher and become famous. And then you’ll be rich.’
‘Your book’s that good?’
‘I’m pretty sure it is but I’ve never listened to it, so it might need a little polishing.’
‘I think I’ll pass, Mr. Steinbeck.’
‘You’ll be sorry.’


Chair by Simon

Authors Chair, with it, I’ll be famous, just like him.

You can sit under a tree, but you can never be Bhudha.

A talking chair?

Talking Idiot!

Attitude! can you make me famous?

Do I look like a Genie from magical lamp

You are magical and talking!

You are a Human, use your brain, start writing.

And you?

I will give you great comfort! I’m just a talking chair.

I can see that.

Then why you keep asking?

No use of talking.


Shut up! I’m writing


Author’s Chair by FloridaBorne

It was 1997, the year I stopped working for companies and started my own business.

The old clunker of a desk was far too big for my office, and needed an army to move it. My new desk was lightweight, and easily relocated at a whim.

I plopped into 50 chairs before I found the perfect backrest, seat padding that wasn’t too firm or soft, and arm rests at just the right level.

Then I read the price tag. “$100? For a chair?”

It’s been 24 years, and I’m sitting in that same chair as I write this post.


Queen’s Corner by Kerry E.B. Black

Marshalling troops, in that nondescript corner of the family living room. Caught up in her private battles with deadlines and artistic excellence, she remained miles from the mundane. It’s hard to imagine the wonders she created from such a threadbare throne, yet create she did. Three novels and countless short stories she penned in the days before computers, long-hand translations of mental impressions and fanciful flights of imagination. She answered contest questions to earn spending money, captioned for prizes. Now, we haul the wingback to the rubbish as we mourn her loss.


Seat Of Horror by Hugh W. Roberts

Will Adrian’s birthday gift to Richard spark new ideas or give reasons to be concerned?

“Happy Birthday.”

“What is it?” squealed Richard as he tore off wrapping paper while Adrian took photos.

“You’ll soon find out.”

“A chair?”

“Not just any chair. Stephen King’s chair.”

“Stephen King?” You’re kidding me.”

“Nope. I got all the paperwork of authenticity.”

“I love it.”

“Get writing that first novel you keep telling us you have inside you.”

“Horror! It’ll be a horror story. It has to be horror, what with it being Stephen King’s chair.”

“Don’t let it go to your head. I’ve hidden all the knives and sharp objects but left you a pen,” giggled Adrian.


Purpose Rewritten by Rebecca Glaessner

The alien looked ugly, dying in the dirt, trying to remain human.

It looked like her when she screamed about my room, again. Face twisting like I wasn’t supposed to be there. I screamed back, she slapped me. I laughed.

Actually, she looked like it when I left. Ugly and dying.

I found the alien later and sat with it. It gave me its memories, stories of broken kids.

I let it.

It’s dead now, but I’m not. I found the others.

We got ourselves a space, chairs, tables, where we share the alien’s memories, and rewrite our futures.


Marked by D. Avery

These ones are grateful for their shelters, are proud of what they have built, though their houses are not as warm as our nush wetus. Even Bradford’s home is not as comfortable as Swany’s was in Cornhill. But like Swany, he has a chair and a small table where he marks on big leaves they call paper. Bradford reaches for his bible as Standish reaches for his musket.

I want this magic, these marks the English make and interpret. When I am sachem, Bradford will be obliged to share the secret of marking leaves. I will know this power.


Esprit Egression (Double Ennead *plus) by JulesPaige

In the autumn of life
The inkwell was still
In use by the paper thin skinned hand that now
Shook just a little more
while filling the page

Letters scritchity scratched
Black India Ink
Ran, danced, echoed memories real and
Imagined from the pen
Capturing moments

Until the cold winter
Arrived leaving just
The bare bones to drape on the author’s desk chair
Would fame come now that death
Had taken all else?

Is the pen mightier than thoughts that wield it?
Can we define what haunts the doorways of our trials in this life?
Will what’s left tell?


And Still They Are Missing by Charli Mills

Louise pressed her back against a cottonwood tree, dipped her pen into the ink jar and wrote in her journal. “Silver vanished before the snowmelt and now the mountain aspen turn gold.” Her pen paused. Ink pooled. What else to say? The miners hauled more ore. Investors traded stock. Silver’s mother waited for her “Lord” to return from England. Rumors circulated that Bigfoot carried off Louise’s best friend. No one looked. Only Lord Chalmer’s disappearance made headlines in The Argonaut. One day, Louise vowed to sit in the author’s chair and give voice to the girls sentenced and silenced.


Author, Author! by D. Avery

“Pal, who’s Arthur?”

“Why d’ya ask Kid?”

“Shorty’s wantin’ folks ta write ‘bout Arthur’s chair.”

“Thet’s ‘author’ Kid, as in writer.”

“Oh. They’s writers all over the ranch.”

“Thet’s right Kid, an’ they’s invited ta take a seat in the author’s chair— share a piece a their work.”

“Soun’s like a hot seat.”

“No, Kid, it’s a friendly exchange. A chance ta share an’ engage with one another as readers an’ writers.”

“Like we do ‘roun the Carrot Ranch campfire ever’ week?”

”’Cept jist one author’ll be featured at a time.”

“Cool! Cain’t wait ta see who signs up.”


Author’s Chair by D. Avery

“So Pal, anyone readin’ this is eligible ta be in the Author’s Chair?”

“Yep. Kin read anythin’ they’ve writ; mebbe somethin’ we’ve seen b’fore or somethin’ we ain’t. Mebbe somethin’ thet’s been reworked somehow. But it ain’t got ta be Ranch related. Kin be from a WIP, a forthcomin’ book, an older book, or no book.”

“Someone jist sharin’ somethin’ they wouldn’t mind talkin’ more about.”

“’Zactly Kid. But the talk’ll mostly come from other folks’ questions an’ comments.”

“Seems ta me folks that write injoy talkin’ ‘bout writin’.”

“Yep. Thinkin’ the Author’s Chair’s gonna be a good ride.”


Despite the Let Down

Family is a word that I have pondered the last few months. I asked friends and others about family and was struck by the discussions that evolved. No matter where the conversations began, a childhood story or memory would surface. Our families undoubtedly impact us from the beginning, especially when they let us down. 

It was early in my teaching career that I felt a tremendous bond with my students, a protection like that of a mother. My students were my babies and I worked around the clock to give them everything I could, often dipping into my own family’s funds to provide the best in field trips and classroom supplies for my young students. My love poured out into everything I did, but eventually it wasn’t enough.  

Soon, I received reports from recess and lunchtime yard supervisors that some of my students fought every day. Day in and day out, it proved to be the same group. I spoke to each of the boys involved and began implementing consequences that resulted in daily time outs. It didn’t help. By the start of the next week, the fighting infiltrated the girls’ groups and most of the class was arguing with one another. It was taking up much of our academic time as I noticed glares dart across the classroom at peers. I’d had enough. 

One afternoon, the students cleared their desks, and we had a major class discussion. I began by sharing how heartbroken I was by the fighting they had been doing. A student informed me that they had been carrying it over from the previous school year, as if they expected me to accept that as a sane reason and allow them to carry on. In wholeheartedly sharing that I saw them as my own children, I noticed how still and attentive they got. Big eyes widened and their little ears perked up. 

Our school promoted being Earth protectors. Many of my young students would wander the vast campus and pick up trash, touting their good deeds for our planet. On that particular afternoon, I asked why they desired to keep our campus so clean. I jotted their reasons on the whiteboard for keeping the land beautiful, enjoyable, healthy, and safe for all. Finally, someone shared showing respect and being grateful for what we have.

That year in Social Studies, the students learned about their communities, the world, and their place in each. So, I drew a circle on a piece of paper which I projected on the screen for all to view. I continued to draw more circles and explained as I labeled each outer area. Our class was like a family. Then, we were part of a greater group which was the school community, then our city, state, country, and our planet. Smiles began to appear across their faces when they saw all that they were a part of just by being born into this world. 

Anna’s Social Studies chart.

At that moment, I drew a heart at the center of all the circles and labeled it “You” as I shared that the goodness and peace of each group did not work without the love of each of them. Then I posed the question once again, “Why are you all fighting so much?” By this time, I knew who the main instigators were. 

We sat on the floor in a wide circle as students shared their innermost fears, thoughts, and worries. They were frustrated with how older siblings and cousins had been treating them at home and chose to take that hurt out on their peers. We heard stories of parents traveling often for work or missing grandparents that lived far away. Bravely, a student shared that they were very upset with their parent for arguing with their grandparents, causing them to be apart for some time. Tears were shed while we comforted and supported one another. We made a pact that day to be a family and protect one another rather than hurt each other. We discussed how families fight and let us down and came up with ways to support one another and lead the way for the changes we wanted to see. Without prompting, the students apologized to one another. The remainder of that school year wasn’t perfect because we were a family and arguments arose here and there, but it was nothing like the disrespect we endured in the early days.   

Every year after that, I expand on that lesson and to this day, I have students come back to visit and say they miss our family. Many years later, one former student returned to my classroom, eyeing the small desks, and exhaled, saying, “It’s good to be home; I’ve missed this family.” 

Family does let us down, but as we prepare to enter the holiday season, may we remember that goodness and peace begin within us. Sometimes we need to let go of the family we were born into and embrace the family we get to choose as friends first. 

Photo Credit: J.Rodriguez

Anna Rodriguez is a wife, mother, and writer. She is completing her first contemporary novel set in California’s Central Valley. Family and friendships are important themes in Anna’s work because of the influences they have on her life. When Anna is not writing or hanging out with her family, she can be found reading books in many genres or searching for music to add to her eclectic playlist. She recently earned her MFA in Creative Writing. 

Twitter: @solwithinanna