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Times Past: Dealing with Others

By Irene Waters

I write memoir – my memories of particular times or events in my life. In this process, through no fault of their own other than being part of my life I write another person’s narrative.

Who are the other people in our story – firstly there is the “I,” and then because we don’t live our lives in isolation, there are those people whose lives intertwine. It is impossible to leave out these other people when we recount our memoirs, but we must remember that they are having their story written as unwitting real-life characters and as such are due a good deal of respect. So how do we deal with these people?

Ideally, we tell them that we are writing a memoir in which they feature. Don’t show them what you have written until the book has had close to its final edit. Where possible stay with them whilst they read the portion in which they feature. Don’t give it to them to take away. Get their opinion at the time they read it. This is the ideal way because if they take it away they may give it to others to read and the feedback you get may not be their own. If they object to anything you have written, then you must consider the costs to you of leaving it in the memoir. Is this a person you care about and you don’t want to lose their friendship? Is the passage they have objected to necessary to the event? Can it be reworded without losing the truth? Are you prepared to accept that you might lose a friendship? Letting them read is the ideal situation but is not always possible. Strangely, for those people who have done this the majority report that the person will usually find something they are not too happy about but it is rarely the item that the author has been worrying over.

I have not given my memoir to anybody to read who I featured in it. To do so poses some problems as we are geographically removed in some instances, I have no idea where some of the people are, and one doesn’t want to read it. I have given it to a lawyer to check that I have written nothing by which I could be taken to court and sued. I have also changed some names. I have been dead against doing this but suddenly I came to a decision that for minor characters, who could be hurt by what I have written and I have no desire to hurt them, it is easier to change their names. In the author note, however, I will make it quite clear that I have changed some names. I have also changed a name to make it easier for the reader to know who the character is in the scene. On Tanna, there were some people named Chief Tom. Some names can’t be changed, such as my husband’s. He will be my husband no matter what I call him and thereby readily identifiable. I asked him if he would like to read the manuscript, but he refused. The reason he gave was that if he read it, he knew that he would be saying “you should say it this way” and be trying to get me to alter it to fit his voice. As far as what I have written about him he trusts that he already knows my thoughts. He will probably read it after it is published, but it is possible that he doesn’t want to revisit this period of our lives.

If you do or don’t give it to the character to look at, avoid at all costs, labelling them in the narrative. For example, don’t say that Rebecca was an alcoholic – show what she does and allow the reader to determine what she is. If Gary is a paedophile in your opinion, again don’t label but show. Labelling tends to reflect poorly on the author, and it will be more than the character that will dislike you – your reader will likely form a bad opinion of you. Last month I suggested that we need to let time elapse so that the high emotion we feel close to the event can dissolve to allow us to write from a non-judgemental point of view. This is crucial.

A chap called Paul John Eakin suggests that we are taught by our parents at an early age the rules relating to the telling of life narratives. These rules are, to tell the truth, to respect the privacy of others and to be aware of the normative model of personhood. The first two are self-explanatory. The last refers to who you are writing about and your responsibility to them based on their level of normalcy. For example, if you are writing about your partner, you can be much freer with what you write because the partner can respond with his or her own memoir. This is not the case with those suffering dementia, brain injuries and children. Thus the level of respect shown to any vulnerable person must be immense.

The other person that you must show consideration to is yourself. The person you are narrating is not the present day you, but he or she is capable of creating a crisis of emotion in the present day you. Just the other day I was searching for something and thought it might be in the court documents. I sat down and read the entire file which consisted of letters and court records. I thought I had dealt with our time in Vanuatu and was surprised at the level of anger and hurt reading these documents brought out in me. If you are at risk make sure you have a support system in place that you can call on if necessary – that may be a friend or professional help. I vented on Roger.

This month’s Times Past looks at a facet of life that can only exist if there are other people in the memory – family conversation – where did it happen? This also draws on your memory of place. Often by dragging back visions of particular rooms or places little stories and details will come unbidden. I hope you’ll join in, giving your location at the time of your memory and your generation. An explanation of the generations and the purpose of the prompts along with conditions for joining in is at the Times Past Page. Join in either in the comments here, in my comments section or by creating your own post and linking. I’m looking forward to your memories.

Gitty Up Press

Gitty Up Press is intended to “grow writers” through a commitment to quality independent publishing. As lead buckaroo to a community of rough writing literary artists, I want to provide opportunities to practice publishing. Now, some might cock an eyebrow at such a word — practice. But I hold firm to the idea that writers need safe spaces to learn the rope tricks involved in indie publishing. Many are fine with the learn-as-you-go method but often feel disappointed with the results.

With Gitty Up Press, we have an opportunity to bring our collective writing to book readers while reducing the risks that come with learn-as-you-go. We have a handle on content editing, book design and editing, cover creation, KDP publishing, and print publishing. It allows us to create a quality product and further learn how to rodeo within the greater industry.

As a literary community, one of the barriers we all face during our writers’ lives is that of publication. What are the barriers to accessibility?

  • Lack of knowledge about the publishing industry
  • Lack of understanding the implications and responsibilities of an author
  • Lack of resources, skill-sets, affordable education required for different publishing paths
  • Lack of professional networking and support for references and growth
  • Lack of a publishing team (various editors, designers, marketers, and distribution)

At various points in my career, I’ve experienced both lack and breakthroughs. If a writing life teaches us anything, it is to patiently and progressively grow. There is no shame in “not knowing;” there is actual joy in learning. Because I know I’m not alone in facing barriers to publication, I’ve mapped out a pick-your-own-path to publication. It’s based on the publishing eco-system I learned when I pursued my MFA in creative writing.

Pick Your Own Unicorn Ride to Publication

<infographic coming in June>

What Kind of Unicorn is Gitty Up Press?

The short answer: a micro-press intended to benefit the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, Word Craft Poetry, and the greater blogging communities and writing challenges we intersect. We are very micro. An itsy-bitty, hand-held unicorn. Through our endeavors, we seek to grow a hoofprint for the writers we publish. It’s a feather in a writer’s cowpoke hat to include Gitty Up Press in a portfolio. Quality publication, no matter how small, lends credibility to an author’s platform. Alternatively, we publish a literary journal and an anthology based on, but not limited to, 99 words and syllables.

Publishing Schedule for Gitty Up Press

2023: Around the Campfire Literary Journal (call for submissions May 1-31, 2023)

2024: Vol. 2 Carrot Ranch Anthology (invitations go out in October of 2023)

2025: Around the Campfire Literary Journal (call for submissions May 1-31, 2025)

2026: Vol. 3 Carrot Ranch Anthology (invitations go out in October of 2023

How Does Gitty Up Press Define Quality?

Gitty Up Press is a current member of the Independent Book Publishers Association. IBPA exists to uphold professionalism and excellence among independent book publishers and as a member, Gitty Up Press has pledged to follow the IBPA Code of Ethics:

  • To uphold the highest standards of our industry, to create works of lasting financial and/or cultural value, and to pursue editorial, design, and production excellence.
  • To respect the rights of authors and other creators and stakeholders, to observe all copyright laws and conventions, and to never knowingly publish plagiarized work.
  • To reward authors and contributors for their work, to be honest in our financial dealings, to write contracts in understandable language, to resolve all disputes promptly and fairly, and to foster equal opportunity in our workplaces.
  • To not mislead readers or buyers with false promises, inflated sales data, or manipulated reviews.
  • To not publish works of hate speech, or works that encourage discrimination, oppression, or violence.
  • To recycle and reuse and to follow green practices whenever possible.

Honest Financial Dealings

Gitty Up Press pledges to be fair to all involved in the creation of a book bearing our unicorn(s). We strive to be sustainable. That means we pay ourselves first. A publisher cannot be sustainable doing work for free. Colleen Chesebro of Word Craft Poetry and I share the workload according to our skill sets. Together, we’ve invested in multiple software programs to produce books of the highest standards. We may pay or accept collaborators who assist with administration, editing, proofing, promotions, and design. The rest is sweat equity. We agree to the cost upfront and strive to produce books that cover the investments of time and money. That’s sustainable.

To be profitable, we will share the earnings of a book with the contributors. Before a writer accepts a contract from us to be included in our publications, we will be transparent about the upfront costs before profit-sharing happens. It’s possible that we don’t make a sustainable margin from sales. That’s the risk of publishing. Contributors will know the risks up front–there’s no guarantee we make bank. Or budget.

It’s why we “practice” publishing — to improve our knowledge of the industry and how to increase sales next go. For some writers, a lack of profit may come as a shock. That’s why you learn with us before you venture on your own not understanding these risks. I can’t tell you how many writers still reach out to me to help them with their manuscripts who unwittingly believe book publishing is profitable. Books are not how most writers earn income. And scammers exist because they take advantage of writerly innocence.

DIY Profits for Entrepreneurial Contributors

That said regarding risks and transparency in our financial dealings, an individual contributor can build their credibility and profitability with the right strategies. As a contributor to any Gitty Up Press publication, you will receive a free course on How to Profit from Your Book. Have no doubt, as a contributor, it is your book, too. You will receive the same wholesale price Gitty Up Press receives. We will not charge you extra to purchase your own copies for sale. The course will help you plan for how many books to purchase and what to do with them as an authorpreneur. Again, it will be excellent training for selling your future books (or new ideas for re-marketing previous books).

Does Gitty Up Press Accept Unsolicited Manuscripts?

No, our itsy-bitty unicorn can’t handle the load…yet. Give us a few successful years to figure out a few things, like how to best overcome barriers to publication, distribution, marketing, and profit. At this time, we do not have the infrastructure for marketing and distribution beyond our commitment to our two alternate publications.

However, I’m also launching an online writing school and will eventually put out a call for educational shorts (35,000 words) on various writing topics. These books are expected to be at the collegiate level, thus your expertise must be equivalent. I’m a believer in experience and lifelong learners. Watch for any calls for manuscripts (this is what we call “solicited” manuscripts).

A Word of Caution from the Unicorn

Not-so-fantastical publishers prey on unsuspecting, emerging, and uneducated writers. Beware of any publisher who asks for money to publish your manuscript. Carefully research publishing houses and presses, particularly any reviews by their published authors. Go to WRITER BEWARE, created and maintained by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association (they collate a list that includes all genres, not just SFF).

That’s Not All

If you have a burning desire to improve your writing and narrow the gap between where you are and where you want to be as a writer or author, consider taking courses at through the Carrot Ranch Writing School. There’s everything from affordable lessons to download to 9-week courses. Knowledge is set at the college level. It’s a way to learn and grow without having to pay tens of thousands of dollars for an MFA. Some courses are exploratory and intended to grow your satisfaction in leading a writer’s life. Some are rigorous and provide direct feedback. More information coming (yes, in June).

If you need help publishing a book, I highly recommend Colleen Chesebro’s Unicorn Cats Publishing Services.

If you are a military veteran (I’m a military veteran spouse), or a member of the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, and you want advice on how to get published, shoot me an email.

What’s your Style of Conflict?

Conflict is necessary when writing a story. Tension is the conflict’s little brother. While conflict might be more visible through a friend’s fight, a lover’s betrayal, or a tragic accident, it will keep the reader on edge from one scene to the next as they wonder how it will all come to an end.

If omitted, readers may decide to skip your novel entirely.

The principle of conflict is that it should rise and fall at uneven intervals. Escalation and resolution should occur so that conflict has motion. As a writer, you will want your characters to respond. For example, a woman leaving her husband can not happen without reason. Here, you begin to see how certain factors in story-building affect one another. 

We have to consider the degree of conflict and how that will impact your characters. 

Eventually, as writers, we try to make peace with the characters involved in the conflict. We try to think about their personality traits, their motivations, or their goals. We try to be in our characters’ shoes by considering what they will do. How would my characters respond, or does the conflict change them? The transition could be a bumpy one. 

Similarly, when we conflict with others, we ought to learn to make a truce.

The above applies to our lives. 

A conflict in our day-to-day lives helps us stay alert and, in some cases, grateful. If nothing ever went wrong in our lives, we would never have a chance to grow stronger. On the other hand, life, all rosy, would be so dull, aimless, and bland. A rise and fall at uneven intervals can keep us on guard and allow our intellect to make decisions when we are in a puddle. It’s also a test of our intelligence, which makes us different from any other living species. 

Conflict is the vehicle for change in our society, our personal lives, and at work.

Martin Luther King, Jr., looked at conflict as a means of making positive social change. It is how we handle conflict that we need to consider.

According to the Thomas-Kilmann, Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI), used by human resource (HR) professionals worldwide, there are five major styles of conflict management—collaborating, compromising, avoiding, competing, and accommodating.


While working in collaboration with another peer at work, an individual could create concerns and needs. Although partnership could generate creative solutions, foster respect, trust, and build relationships. But it can also lead to competition to create a win-win solution. 

Collaboration is far more powerful than competition. Your body and brain work best when you’re joyful and peaceful, not when you are pushed to the wall.


People who work as compromisers are willing to sacrifice some of their goals while persuading others to give up theirs. They are ready to walk the extra mile to help maintain the relationship. Although the compromise is not necessarily intended to make all parties happy, to split the difference, game-playing can result in an outcome that is less creative and ideal.


People who use this conflict style deliberately ignore or withdraw from it rather than face it when in such a situation. However, they hope the problem will go away if they lay low by not taking responsibility or being involved. But then avoidance can be destructive if the opposite party perceives that you don’t care enough to engage. The result could be a loss for both parties since the argument could result in angry or hostile outbursts by not dealing with the conflict. 


People who compete come across as aggressive, confrontational, and can be intimidating. Having a competitive style is mainly to gain power while pressuring a change. However, this style could help in making difficult decisions and can harm relationships beyond repair. 


People who adopt this style of conflict usually keep aside their own needs because they want to keep the peace. Accommodators are cooperative and keep their egos at bay. They wouldn’t mind losing and allowing the other person to win.


How we respond to someone challenging our ideas or questioning our views is an essential aspect of our personality that we would be wise to recognize. At work or within the family, how we engage with others can make the difference between a positive and mutually beneficial relationship or one that is fraught with distrust and frustration.

We might consider this mode as our instinctive reaction to conflict. Knowing our mode can help assess whether we are the right person to engage in a row.

My two cents

By first gaining self-awareness, engagement with others can be more thoughtful and considerate, which is critical in improving one’s work situation and achieving professional objectives. 

Different situations demand different conflict approaches as long as we continue to heal ourselves with any process. 

So, what’s your style of conflict?


This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna

A Biochemist turned writer who gathers inspiration from the society where I write about issues that stalk the mind of the man via tales of fiction.

I blog at Abracabadra which has been featured as “Top Blog” for five years. Many of my write-ups have been published on LifeHack, HubPages to name a few.

I can be found at:

Twitter: @abracabadra01

Instagram: ruchira.khanna

Tips for the Memoir Rodeo Contest

This past year, Irene Waters has led us in thoughtful discussions of what memoir is as a genre. You can search her essays at Carrot Ranch under “Times Past.” Irene is one of several talented memoirists who also write flash fiction, and has published an essay in The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 about writing across both genres.

With the Rodeo coming up in October, it’s a good time to mention what we consider “flash fiction” at Carrot Ranch. Weekly, we write 99 words, no more, no less. TUFF includes the ability to free-write, master the constraints of 99-words, 59-words, and 9-words, and to revise those constrained pieces into a polished story less than 1,000 words. Therefore, “flash” represents a shortened word count.

“Fiction” stands broadly for any kind of creative writing. Flash fiction can be any genre intended for any audience. It can be based on a true story (BOTS), an observation, a memory, an experience. Fiction is a general term that covers a variety of techniques, including dialogue, exaggeration, story-telling structures. While fiction covers imaginary people or events, writers are welcome to base their stories on true events, too from history to memoir. What matters is the art a writer creates with words.

To further discuss differences between genres is for another post. Suffice to say that Irene Waters often leads us in those discussions. And she’s going to lead us once again in a flash memoir contest for the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo. I’ll turn it over to her to give you all some tips and a what to expect from her and her judges.

Contest runs October 10-17
By Irene Waters, Rodeo Leader

Memoir is a passion, so I’m thrilled to once again host the memoir section of the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest. Hoping you’ll tighten your saddles and put on your spurs and join in. Last year we had Scars – this year? –make sure that you check in at the Ranch on October 10th  when the topic will be revealed. I’m looking forward to reading your 99-word entries that tell a full story on the prompt topic. This can be a happy memory, a sad memory or a wherever the prompt takes your memory. It should be a true story given that this is a memoir contest.

Tips for the contest can be found in the memoir articles I have been writing for Charli over the last few months. Particularly pay attention to “dealing with others,” and consider using dialogue and high definition description.

I will be joined by fellow judges Angie Oakley who returns to again take the reigns and Helen Stromquist.

Angie Oakley.  Originally from London, Angie moved around a great deal and worked as an English teacher in schools as far apart as Nassau in the Bahamas and Daylesford in country Victoria. She now lives in Noosa, which she finds a lovely place in which to do the things she loves: writing, reading, thinking, talking, and walking and skyping her far-flung family. She’s written a couple of novels, lots of articles and is always interested in the work of other writers. As well she has been known to offer her thoughts in a blog at 

Helen Stromquist. After finishing her nursing training in Brisbane, Helen worked in London where she met her husband which saw her living in Sweden for many years before eventually returning to Australia. Helen loves the arts and although she does not write herself, often finds herself editing articles for her family – one writer and one artist. She is an avid reader and is the convenor of a book group in Mosman, Sydney.

For those that do not know me – I’m Irene Waters, a memoirist whose first memoir Nightmare in Paradise is soon to be published. In the long road to publishing, I completed a MA, researching the sequel memoir. Until recently, when a creative hiatus hit, I have been a regular at Carrot Ranch since its inception and found writing flash a good way of honing writing skills. I enjoyed trying my hand at fiction and learning the creative writing skills that are part of that. I am also a keen amateur photographer and this along with my writing can be found at my website Reflections and Nightmares.

So saddle up October 10th will soon be here with the deadline for entries October 17th. The winner  (and second and third place) will be announced November 16th.

Rules and prompt revealed October 10, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. (EST). Set your watches to New York City. You will have until October 17, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. (EST) to complete the Memoir contest. Irene, Angie, and Helen will announce the prize winner plus second and third place on November 16. Carrot Ranch will post a collection of qualifying entries.

Other competitions:

Rodeo 1: Dialogue led by Geoff Le Pard and judges Chelsea Owens and Esther Chilton/Newton

Rodeo 3: Travel with a Twist led by Sherri Matthews and judges Mike Matthews and Hugh Roberts

Rodeo 4: Fractured Fairy Tales led by Norah Colvin and judges Robbie Cheadle and Anne Goodwin

Rodeo 5: The Sound and the Fury led by D. Avery and her judge Bonnie Sheila.

The Tuffest ride starting September will see 5 writers qualify to compete in October and is led by Charli Mills. For Info

February 7: Story Challenge in 99-words

Snow flutters as if a stagehand in the rafters has dumped a sack of white down upon a stage. I’m the actor in a small shell-pink room, playing at life. Opposite my purple meditation pillow is a large vision board for my manuscript and a blank W-story board waiting for my next plot outline. I’m surrounded by watercolor pens, inspiring art, and smooth rocks from Lake Superior. Through the gauze turquoise curtain, the snow falls so slow and fluffy it looks fake.

This makes me consider the irony of writing fiction — we create fake people who do not read as fake on the page.

Whether you write speculative, realism, memoir, poetry, or genre, authenticity matters. We don’t connect with someone or something that isn’t what it’s made out to be, including characters. In writing, flat characters can move a plot along its trajectory, or assist the protagonist. But when we want to engage readers, we develop complex characters with genuine emotional depth. Round characters.

Emotions are ripe with possibility for crafting tension, contrast, and conflict. The more real these emotions feel in character development, the greater the potential impact on the reader. Emotions can trip us up, too. They can make our characters into flat stereotypes, running from page to page winking, blinking, and nodding in fits of weird gestures to convey sadness or anger.

Therefore, as writers, we also need to be observers of behavior and sages of emotion. We need to add ourselves into the mix and lay bare what sadness feels like or why anger is a go-to reaction. That takes vulnerability. Sometimes, readers will even pick up on emotional tells we did not know were there. We worry we might reveal ourselves in our writing.

Imagination gives our life experiences and rich inner lives wings. If we know loss, we can imagine what a character in an apocalyptic setting might feel. If we know sadness, we can imagine what living in a remote sweep of land without friends could feel like. As writers, we then decide who else to bring into that emotional stew and how it will carry the plot and change the protagonist.

Yes, we feel for our characters. We even orchestrate the tragedy they go through on the page. We connect with our readers in moments of authentic emotional clarity. And, yet, we live alone with our thoughts and feelings. We know we need community as writers. But what about mental health check-ins?

This week, at Finlandia University, we are coming together in unity for Mental Health Awareness. As a writer, PTSD survivor, and caregiver I’m well-versed in the importance of one’s mental health. Yet, mental health comes with a big stigma, kind of like a neon sign that flashes fearful (and incorrect) messages. Often those who tell others to “get over” something like depression or anxiety remain unaware of their own struggles.

Mental health is not a concern for those “others” who suffer from conditions or diseases. It’s a concern for every human. My Unicorn Room is a place for healing and maintaining my mental health. I’m acutely aware that I have the privilege of finding respite through sound therapy, meditation, and yoga. My care partner does not, although I can successfully play calming music because he recognizes the music I’ve practiced yoga to for thirty years as familiar. But if I try to get him to listen to ambient sounds or chants, he gets upset, not calm.

In college, students often cope with depression, anxiety, and grief. No one has to have a “diagnosis” to feel mentally under the weather. However, there are life-saving/changing resources available for anyone in crisis mode or dealing with a condition such as bipolar. Even researchers of CTE, which we suspect my husband has, say that the condition is not a death sentence.

We all need hope no matter where our needs fall.

Part of my lesson plan this week includes a toolkit of resources based on ones I use regularly in the Unicorn Room. I pay for full access to apps like Calm, Tapping Solutions, Mei-Lan’s Sound Sanctuary, Do Yoga with Me, and Amazon Music (music has always been a great mental and emotional healer for me). In fact, sound healing is an important part of my self-care along with myofascial therapy, acupuncture, Reiki, camping, rock hunting, and kayaking sloughs.

Through Building a Better Caregiver training, VA Caregiver support, and several groups for Caregivers of Wounded Warriors, I have learned that taking care of my mental health is paramount. I’m a certified Mental Health First Responder and I’m working on developing a course to teach others how to do “emotional reprogramming.” You probably won’t be surprised if I tell you it has a narrative component!

This week, I’m sharing a list I curated for the students I teach and tutor. I’m looking forward to starting each of my classes and learning labs with 10-minutes of guided meditation this week. I’m aware that mindfulness practice in the US can be exclusive space, so I researched resources where a diverse group of students and global writers could find inclusivity. If you have suggestions from your own practice, add them in the comments.

Here is a list to get us started:

As a writer, you’ve probably noticed that writing itself can be therapeutic. There’s empowerment in finding our voice, honing our craft, and telling our stories as we’ve lived or imagined them. Take time to check in with your mental health; check in with a friend who might be isolated; consider the mental health challenges and healing of your characters.

February 7, 2022, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes anxiety. Who has anxiety or what is the source? Is there conflict? How can you use anxiety to further a story? Go where the prompt leads!

  1. Submit by February 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.

Lockdown literature: humour and mental ill-health

My 99-word story for the recent flash fiction collection, a new way to office, is about as social worker’s unease about office humour. Was it derogatory? Disrespectful of the clients? Or was it an essential part of the professionals’ toolkit, a barricade against burnout for those dealing daily with distress?

I cheated when I turned in my story. I used a character and situation from my new novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home. The topic drew me because, like my character, I’m currently preoccupied with the role of humour in the book itself.

Humour and delusion

Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home is about a brother and sister, separated for fifty years, and the ardent young social worker who seeks to reunite them. What has kept them apart for decades? Will they reconnect?

My novel is set in a long-stay psychiatric hospital and a seventy-year-old patient is the star. Matty perceives the world differently to those around her: Ghyllside is a country estate, the nurses are servants, her fellow patients are houseguests and the psychiatrists are journalists researching stories about a society heiress.

I didn’t intend to write a comical novel. In fact, I cringed when Matty turned out to be funny. Mental disturbance is no laughing matter. People given a psychiatric diagnosis are too often the butt of jokes. Yet I couldn’t find any other way around it if Iwanted Matty to be both good company and authentically mentally ill.

Humour and dementia

Until reminded in a recent interview (see above), I’d forgotten I had a model for Matty in Emma Healey’s beautiful debut, Elizabeth Is Missing. Eighty-one-year-old Maud is a decade older than Matty, and is diagnosed with dementia rather than schizophrenia, but both characters contain a similar blend of poignancy, humour and tragedy.

Dementia renders the ordinary unfamiliar. Names of people and everyday objects are forgotten; life becomes a mystery to be solved. This aspect of the condition is beautifully played out in the novel as Maud attempts to resolve the dual mysteries of the sudden absence of her good friend, Elizabeth, as well as the disappearance of her elder sister in her 1940s childhood. If you haven’t read Elizabeth Is Missing, I urge you to give it a try.

I’m reassured to imagine the ghost of Maud lodged within my laptop in the years I toiled on Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home. Of course, there were other influences, but none with the same kind of humour. But I’ve read a couple in the space between turning in my manuscript and publication. If you didn’t think mental ill-health could be both funny and serious, get hold of these and think again.

Humour and depression

As the world prepares to see out 2008 with a party, forty-year-old New York writer, Bunny, is clinically depressed. If she wasn’t, it would be a fine excuse to opt out of dinner with her husband and two other couples at a pretentious restaurant, followed by a party hosted by people she hates. But one of the paradoxes of depression is that those who are prone to it often aren’t very good at taking care of themselves, and they’re especially bad at taking care of themselves when they need it most. So despite her husband’s best efforts to dissuade her, despite not having had the energy to wash for a week, Bunny is determined to go. And where does that determination take her? Seeing in the New Year on a psychiatric ward.

It’s hard to write honestly about depression without sucking the reader into the mire; Rabbits for Food by Binnie Kirshenbaum must be the best fictional representation I’ve read.

Humour and hearing voices

Tom doesn’t expect life to be easy; it’s more important to follow true path. Single, jobless and reliant on benefits, he prioritises abstinence, spreading kindness, and devotion to his god. For twenty years he’s trod the tightrope between sanity and madness, with those who police the boundary as much a hindrance as a help. When the novel opens, Tom is under pressure from both his sister and his care coordinator to participate in a drug trial, for a substance initially developed to treat athlete’s foot. His psychiatrist refuses to prescribe the only medication Tom deems effective but, in the British mental health system, the patient’s assessment of his own well-being is often overruled.

Jasper Gibson was inspired to research and write The Octopus Man after the death of a family member who had a schizophrenia diagnosis. In my work as a clinical psychologist, I met many people like Tom. They also had a love-hate relationship with voices that would both protect and persecute. They felt a similar ambivalence about their dependence on a service system that defined their cherished beliefs as insane. They experienced the daily humiliation of underperforming, and being patronised by care staff who were younger, and/or less intelligent, than them.

But this is a novel, not a case study. It’s a beautifully written and absorbing story, narrated by an unusual character who is as lyrical communing with nature as he is conversing with his personal god. I strongly recommend it for its compassion and humour, and, most of all, and in every sense, for the voice.

Which – if any – of these novels takes your fancy? Can you recommend any that portray mental ill-health authentically and with humour?

Anne Goodwin is a clinical psychologist turned author who writes entertaining fiction about identity, mental health and social justice. She is the author of three novels and a short story collection with small independent press Inspired Quill. Anne posts about reading and writing on her blog Annecdotal.

Saddle Up Saloon: April 15, 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.

Yeehaw! This Buckaroo Has Some News! by Charli Mills

This is a day when dreamers get to show something tangible. I get to play with writers weekly, teach young adults to write, and read regularly, therefore I move comfortably through the clouds and veils of imagination. After all, I lead an imaginary ranch (Ranchers are real and Carrots grow in good soil) and have a pet hodag named Primrose (she’s a regional cryptid). I have no problem mapping my vision in the night sky with a North Star shining bright, no matter what circumstances frame my life. I am a writer on a journey.

Dreams take as long as they take to manifest. The magic that becomes something substantial begins as an inspired idea. Like my mentor, Elizabeth Gilbert, I wholeheartedly live a creative life. For me, writing has never been about a destination, but a way of living. I look for signs and wonders all the time to affirm my path because it hasn’t been easy and few understand why I find it joyful. Carrot Ranch is my sandbox and all of you are my writing (and reading) besties. Even when I’m swamped or discouraged, I know this community will believe in my wings. I believe in yours, too!

But when something comes to fruition and can be announced, I bounce! I’m giddy and ready to burst to tell you the news that will impact our writing community. It’s kind of like getting new socks and turquoise boots in the mail — signs that the dream is real, unfolding, and collective.

Let me set the stage and tell you a quick story.

After a life shakeup (one of many to follow), I decided to make lemonade and go for the dream of living a creative life as a writer. No more dabbling. In 2012, I resigned from my marketing career. My staff and I cried. My boss and I cried. I kept clients on the books as a contractor and left for Idaho after spending the summer exploring my novel on the shores of Lake Superior in Wisconsin. I wrote. I started Carrot Ranch as a way to connect with other creative pilgrims on the writing path. I wrote. I lost a house, a sense of home, and slowly, painfully, a husband to mental illness and cognitive breakdown because of his military service. I didn’t stop dreaming the dream of writing with others for the good of us all — meaning, if I found ways to make this writing life work, I wanted others to find their ways, too. I gained an MFA, knowledge, and an unbelievable opportunity to become Indiana Jones (my ideal of a prof — outdoor adventurer interested in history, teaching college, and dressing in a dapper fashion unafraid of the mud). I gained a sense of self no matter where I am. I gained roots from the shared communities of others. I gained acceptance that dreams take time, plans will blow up and reconfigure. I never lost hope.

Carrot Ranch has been the community to give me roots in many places. Because of that, I’m always dreaming of ways to connect writers, readers, and places. Writing — yours and mine becomes a conduit. You might be in your familiar place, but your writing zips you across the globe and into the hearts and minds of others far from you. That’s the superpower you have as a writer. These events I’m going to share with you, I could do on my own. But what’s the fun in that? I’d rather bring my community along and share OUR writing. I’m serious when I call our weekly collection “literary anthropology” (which appeals to my inner Prof. Jones). It’s taken several years to bring all this to fruition, but let me announce…

  • Ghost House Stories: a call for writers to submit 99-word stories in response to historical data and newspaper articles, published throughout the year in the Ghost House Farm newsletter and distributed at farmers’ markets.
  • Carrot Ranch Stories Fundraiser for the Keweenaw Storytelling Center: We are sponsoring a refurbished vintage candy vending machine painted by local Carrot Ranch artists, featuring dispensable 99-word stories to be sold for a dollar to support local literary art.
  • Fort Wilkins Story Readings: Carrot Ranch story collections read to tourists in Copper Harbor to encourage the attendees to collaboratively write one, too.
  • Writer in Rustic Residence: open to any Carrot Rancher who wants a week in the Keweenaw, writing, encouraging literary art, and promoting their book(s) or work written while visiting. The cabin is rustic and will be “tested” this summer.
  • Red Rabbit Art Studio and Carrot Ranch Art Walk: Thanks to a Canadian friend I met in Vermont, I got the idea to pair art and authors. TOJ is a Carrot Rancher poet from local workshops and a magnificent visual artist. Over the summer, participating writers will write 99-word stories to pair with pieces of art to be displayed late September on a fall nature walk through the northwoods and along Lake Superior.

These events and opportunities are meant to show you the ways we can interact in the world through literary art. You have a broad audience for your 99-word stories.

As fun as these engagements are, the ways we have to share our writing is not actually the “big reveal.” But I wanted you to see all the activity going on behind the barn doors at Carrot Ranch.

When I studied for my MFA, I also studied for a Masters Certification in Teaching Creative Writing Online. While I wrote my thesis novel over two years, I also developed components of an educational platform. However, I got hired by a university to teach composition, which was a delightful surprise, but forced me to reflect on my vision. I readjusted, re-dreamed, mulled over the possibilities. I realized I had been rudderless for a while just to survive school and circumstances.

A few close friends were willing to listen to me process, even sit by their fire and think out loud. I finally finished a client project in December and swore that was the last client I’d have. It gave me clarity on a few decisions I had to make and a way forward on my writing path. Then, a friend and colleague put a bug in my ear.

Colleen Chesebro and I are both former Montanans and current Michiganders. I’m in the upper mitten and she’s in the lower, so together, we naturally make a pair. She writes poetry and I write fiction. She also writes fiction, saying that 99-words has improved her writing, and I understand my poetic writing better because of her guidance. I’m a dreamer who can plan and she’s a planner who can dream. She’s organized, and I like to think I am. I’m a maximizer and Colleen’s an activator. I edit and she paginates. We both believe in high quality and professional standards in our literary craft.

The bug in my ear had to do with ways we could collaborate, and she added unicorns to the conversation. Our communities intersect and we’ve even had the chance to work on client projects together. Colleen has mad skills in her self-publishing toolkit. We’ve both been interested for several years in a formatting program that would make the work easier and more beautiful. In fact, I slipped over to the dark side of the Apple after my last PC died. In part, I chose Mac to run Vellum.

When I found out that Colleen was interested in Vellum, we started talking more about self-publishing books. After my MFA program, I know that one of the successful author careers is the amalgamation of publishing paths. My profs who were published by commercial houses, also self-published and collaborated with other authors. When we worked with our client, we discovered a great work flow, complimentary skills, and shared enthusiasm for our literary communities and writing lives.

We did a thing.

Well, we discussed a thing. At length. Colleen asked good questions. I asked my Small Business Development rep a bunch of questions. We researched. Colleen prolifically read up on the programs we considered. We shared models, ideas, and finally found the “big magic” EG talks of. Then we had more questions. We made decisions. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to do this!

To be clear — in case the IRS is listening because we talked at great length about how to do this financially and where the tax burden would go and how we would protect ourselves professionally — Colleen is an independent contractor. Carrot Ranch is an LLC. We are both sole proprietors so there are no employees involved with either party. We both understand the risk we are taking on and that a profit will take time. We both agree to contribute sweat equity. I can’t do this without Colleen because she has skills that would make this cost-prohibitive. In return, I have industry knowledge, editing, and marketing skills.

Be sure to jump over to Colleen’s post today. She will unveil her exciting new business venture, offering self-publishing services. Her logo is absolutely adorable and befitting of her literary brand, too. She’s someone I recommend to clients. And her contributions to this thing will be immeasurable.

So, I did a thing. Last year, after graduation, I filed Carrot Ranch as an LLC and committed to working with the SBD on an education platform. At school, as a prof, I realized there are gaps in distribution of books to colleges and that I need really good, short craft and literary books for ENG I & II. I also began to question the options for my manuscripts. I need to publish, but maybe I’ll publish a writing craft book for my classroom, education platform, and beyond first.

With renewed vision, I let go of a lot more than I grabbed up. Don’t think I’m adding to a busy plate. I let go of a bunch of possibilities to be a teacher, author, and publisher. Carrot Ranch is my home and if I do the thing I, well, I did, I’d make sure it benefits the community. And it does.

Two weeks ago, the state of Michigan accepted Carrot Ranch LLC dba…

I founded a micro-press. Yep. Holy wah. I founded a micro-press. You’re all probably wondering what the heck a micro-press is. Well, think wee. It’s the smallest of the small presses. It’s an independent publisher. To start, we will publish an anthology later this year. Next year, we’ll put out a call for novella manuscripts and award one author from our community a royalty-based contract. The following year, we will put out a call for a collection of poetry from a single poet. Gitty Up Press will publish craft books to be used in classrooms. In a year, we will consider an online Lit Journal. If I don’t sell my manuscripts in three years, I will publish them through Gitty Up. A micro-press is small and it can’t publish much, but it will serve our collective communities.

Another important feature of Gitty Up Press and Colleen’s Unicorn Cats Self-Publishing Services is our shared commitment to quality publishing. We have joined professional organizations: Independent Book Publishers Association and Midwest Independent Publishers Association and will uphold Industry Standards and adhere to these code of ethics as IBPA members:

Code of Ethics (from

A commitment to professionalism, confirming IBPA’s collective belief that the production of content of lasting financial and/or cultural value is just as important as securing open markets for this content.

As part of the independent publishing community, IBPA members pledge to the following CODE OF ETHICS:

  • To uphold the highest standards of our industry, to create works of lasting financial and/or cultural value, and to pursue editorial, design, and production excellence.
  • To respect the rights of authors and other creators and stakeholders, to observe all copyright laws and conventions, and to never knowingly publish plagiarized work.
  • To reward authors and contributors for their work, to be honest in our financial dealings, to write contracts in understandable language, to resolve all disputes promptly and fairly, and to foster equal opportunity in our workplaces.
  • To not mislead readers or buyers with false promises, inflated sales data, or manipulated reviews.
  • To not publish works of hate speech1, or works that encourage discrimination, oppression, or violence.
  • To recycle and reuse and to follow green practices whenever possible.

It might sound like I’m a busy person taking on more busyness. That’s not it. I’m a dreamer who has had twenty plates spinning while managing chaos on the homefront and traversing several steep learning curves. It’s coming together, not spreading out. I’m dropping 16 plates to focus on 4. Chaos is coming to an end. This thing, this Gitty Up Press, amplifies my North Star. Carrot Ranch has roots, and not too far off, it will have fruit.

The call for anthology submission will go out in May. I have writers to contact from an earlier plan first. We will have clear details for the process, what to expect, and financial transparency.

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

The ’49ers Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

Forty-Niners Folk Song by Chel Owens

I’ll tell ya ’bout the year we seen
A thousand-thousand chasing dreams
They sought for El Dorado’s prize
‘Neath California’s azure skies
All day long
Sing this song
Ned left his wife and their love-nest
Left their new babe to go out West
He ain’t found gold, but don’t you fret
He’s learned to dig and drink and bet
All day long
Sing this song
Jim found some dust away down there
He spent it all on golden hair
Next day, Jim panned and found some more
He went right back to that ol’ h-ore…
(Final chorus, past the word count)
All day long
Sing this song


Courage by Saifun Hassam

Will, 17, joined the 49ers’ wagon train bound for California, leaving Kentucky, coal mines, and tobacco fields. An apprentice carpenter, he planned to pan for gold. Carpentry would provide bread and butter until he struck it rich.

One evening a fiddler played a haunting Appalachian song. A woman began to sing. An appreciative crowd gathered at the fiddler’s wagon. Charlie Newman, Innkeeper. Patti, the young singer, his daughter.

Will wept silent tears for his old home. Patti, one leg crippled, stood tall. She was a 49er, daring, courageous, seeking a new future. He would stand tall, as she did.


A New Start? by JulesPaige

All that glitters t’ain’t gold. But Shelby followed her pappy. After all he was the only one left after illness or starvation took out most of her close kin. She had loved her mountains, but the bitter cold winters – that she could do without. Shelby reckoned there’d be other things to fear, other animals besides the other starry eyed dreaming people that were all rushing to the same thing.

Just to be on the safer side, she raggedly cropped her hair short and wore her dead brother’s clothes. Iffin’ anything happened to pappy, she’d be fending for herself.


From Hopeless to Hopeful by Gary A. Wilson

Dear mother,

I want to share my news.

After surviving being snowbound with Mr. Donner, I’ve been trying to forgive myself for how we survived.

With the gold rush I obtained a stake near Placerville, but even modest supplies cost every dollar I had — and I found no gold.

I wanted to marry the nurse who helped me recover, but would not because I was broke.

I’m writing to report that I’ve accepted an offer from her father to manage his tarp business thanks to my textile experience in Boston.

His name is, Levi Strauss.

With Love, James.


The Housekeeper by Madeline Murphy

Miss Mary Ellen placed the pies outside to cool. Every day she made many for the gold miners. They paid good money, starving as they were for comfort food from wives left behind. Later, she would check on her laundry business in town, then the boarding house. Tonight she had a family of five staying with her. She replenished the special room in her attic with food and bedding. No one would suspect the Black housekeeper to be a wealthy abolitionist helping with the Underground Railroad during California’s gold rush. Her business savvy made her a powerful millionaire entrepreneur.


Pacific Seas (Part I) by D. Avery

The California Gold Rush began as New Bedford surpassed Nantucket as whaling capital of the world.

By the 1830’s whaleships big enough to sail the Earth’s oceans were too big for Nantucket’s sandy harbor. The 1846 fire destroyed one-third of downtown Nantucket, significantly damaging whaling infrastructure. When gold was discovered in 1848 many of Nantucket’s ships sailed for California. By 1850, 650 Nantucket men had headed west, with hundreds more to follow.

Just as with whaling, many women were left behind. Maybe this is why Nantucket’s greater legacy has been strong entrepreneurial women with a proclivity for social activism.


Pacific Seas (Part II) by D. Avery

Though her San Francisco businesses made Nantucketer Mary Ellen Pleasants very rich, she did not go to California in 1852 seeking gold, but to avoid persecution for her work with the Underground Railroad in the previous decade.

The “mother of civil rights in California”, Mary Ellen Pleasant often stated that she’d “rather be a corpse than a coward”, and her actions were as strong as her words. Herself born into bondage, Pleasants tirelessly fought slavery and continued after the war to help people be safe, secure, and prosperous. Within her lifetime her enemies tried to rewrite her remarkable story.


Pacific Seas (Part III) by D. Avery

Mammy’s hid behind many names. Had to.

She give John Brown money for his raid, even bought houses up in Canada for folks to go after his raid. Went back east herself and rode horseback to the plantations around Harper’s Ferry to warn slaves around there to be ready to go after the raid.

You’ll never know half what that woman done for all us folks. Bought some out of slavery, helped folks get to California, set folks up in houses, businesses and farms; hid fugitives, hired lawyers.

Mammy didn’t just save me. She showed me how to live.


Gold Rush Aspirations by Colleen. M Chesebro

Trixie’s dress rustled as she delivered another round of ale to the group of 49ers seated at the table.

“Hey, Trixie, when I strike it rich will you marry me?” murmured one man as he stroked her leg.

Trixie answered, “Sure, but you’ll have to show me your gold first.” The men howled with laughter.

She knew it was the ale talking. None of these men would marry a whore. Besides, she owned a stake upriver from Sutter’s Mill.

The weight of the gold sewed into the hem of her dress made her smile. Soon, this bordello would be hers!


Finding More Than Gold by Sadje

They came in 1849. Dusty caravans, hungry, hopeful people dreaming of striking it rich. Mason was among the first ones. He did the stuff others were doing but soon realized a very important fact.

Not everyone who was looking for gold would find it. But everyone needed to eat needed to buy soap or other necessities of life.

Taking a loan from a shrewd businessman, he set up a small one room store. Gradually it becomes popular because of Mason’s straight dealing and honesty.

Not everyone found gold, but Mason landed on his feet as he found his niche.


Gold Does Not Always Glitter by Doug Jacquier

The Australian 1851ers, inspired by the Californian 1849ers, flocked to goldfields across Australia, doubling its population in 10 years. Amongst the immigrants seeking their fortune were thousands of Chinese, whose skills and work ethic, especially on sites abandoned by other miners, brought them great rewards. Australian, American and German miners resented this and, in the tradition of the 49ers, regularly brutalised and murdered the Chinese. The Government soon after banned Chinese immigration. The ‘White Australia Policy’ effectively remained in place for the next hundred years. Gold does not always glitter and the romance of history hides some awful truths.


Pioneers of Another Sort by Duane L Herrmann

Some pioneering is conducted in spiritual endeavors. Some have risked family position and wealth to stand for what they believe. They sacrifice to create a social network where equality of women, and of skin color, are foundational, not ideals, and coercion is forbidden. Where science is essential to human progress, farming is the most important occupation, education is second. The name is different and persecuted. What firmness is necessary to persevere? Some die once, others sacrifice again and again and again. Yet, gradually, new social networks emerge, grow and converge to change the world as more learn about Bahá’í.


A Plague of Gold by Bill Engleson

“It is tempting, Samuel. And we have Saints there already.”

“Some have fallen to the lure, Brigham. They will not be returning.”

“Take hold of yourself, Samuel. We have not lost them. Indeed, they will never be lost to us. Daily we have those from the east passing through our valley seeking provisions. Our crops have begun to flourish. Those starving for gold need to eat. We should send a contingent of brothers to California. Miners for Zion. Our people are true, the vision clear.”

“I hope you are right.”

“You will lead the expedition, Samuel. Go with God.”


Gold Dust by D. Avery

He pressed the lock of golden hair to his lips before returning it to the small pouch meant for gold nuggets.

That there were no gold nuggets hadn’t mattered. They’d both come to California as much for adventure as to find fortune. Then they found each other and were soon imagining a future rich in shared plans and dreams.



He paused in his carving, knowing that Lucas’ last name was part of the past he’d wanted to leave behind.

Smiling through tears, he finished inscribing the wooden cross, giving his own last name to his dear Lucas.


49er by Ann Edall-Robson

“Miss Ann says she’s a 49er.”

“She’s older than that!”

“Norman! Watch what you say.”

“Well, isn’t she, Buttons?”

“I’m not asking her.”

“Not asking me what, Buttons?”

“Oh, um, Norman wants to know what a 49er is.”

“No, I said you had to be older than 49.”

Laughing, she patted the Hereford calf.

“Buttons is right, I am a 49er, but it has nothing to do with my age and everything to do with where we live — north of the 49th parallel, in Canada.”


“And Norman, you’re right, I am older than 49.”

“I told you, Buttons!”


The 49ers Facebook Group by Anne Goodwin

She beamed when her phone pinged with a new notification. Her request to join the 49ers had been approved. Supported by her peer group, she’d learn to manage middle age.

Her peer group? Images of surgically-sculpted doll-like masks. Wrinkled faces framed by wispy orange hair. Miss Havishams stuck at forty-nine since she was in her cot.

She closed the app and texted friends and family. She’d warned them previously: No surprise parties! No fifty badged cards! She’d changed her mind, she told them. Hitting fifty was a cause for celebration: all that life behind her, all that fun ahead.


The 49ers by Nancy Brady

My brother-in-law Adam was a Baby Boomer, born after World War II (1946 to 1961). Until recently, Boomers were an influential group of people because of sheer numbers.

Adam, however, was a special part of the Baby Boomer generation. He wasn’t alone. There are plenty of famous people who qualify. They include Meryl Streep, John Belushi, Pablo Escobar, and a serial killer.

Adam wasn’t a serial killer although he probably killed some cereals in his time. His favorite was Sugar Crisp, but Cheerios would do in a pinch.

Author’s Note: He and the others mentioned are all 49ers, born in 1949.


Peerless by D. Avery

“Why are those people with the high-def hair all taking selfies?” Joan asked.

“The 49ers. Using their phones as mirrors, checking to see if their roots are showing.”

A group of women waved them over. Joan’s older friend introduced her before they sat down.

“49ers? What’s that?”

A gray-haired woman explained. “The 49ers won’t admit to aging.”

“Too bad for them, they don’t know what they’re missing,” laughed another.

“I’m 49.”

“First time though? Some of them have been 49 for years!”

“They call us the Crones.”

“Maybe I’m too young?”

“You’re okay. Never too young to start learning.”


The ’49ers by Norah Colvin

The history buffs needed a name for the trivia competition — nothing mundane and overused like ‘The No Hopers’ or boringly obvious like ‘Work Mates’ — something meaningful, not overly obvious, but not too obscure.

“How about The ’49ers?” one suggested.

“Perfect!” the others agreed.

No one thought too much about the monikers of others, but was it coincidental that each week The ’49ers scored exactly 49? Another team scoffed.

“Should have been ‘Clueless’.”

“They’re certainly not all 49.”

“Forty-nine and more, I’d say.”

When the night’s theme was the gold rushes, the researchers showed their mettle and panned the gold.


Categorical Confusion by Kerry E.B. Black

The live studio audience quieted when the gameshow host approached the next contestant. He straightened his pile of index cards and cleared his throat. “Hello, Naryia. What’s your choice for the next category?”

With a charming smile, she leaned over the game show podium to access the microphone. Her voice lilted, “I’ll take Forty-Niners, please, Pat.”

“The Forty-Niners?” The host ‘s brows rose. “I’m surprised.’

Her giggle burbled nervousness. “Why’s that?”

“You said you didn’t follow sports.”

Her brows mirrored his. “What do sports have to do with anything? I love U.S. History.”

The audience’s chuckles joined the host’s.


Tessa’s Invitation by Sue Spitulnik

At the wedding, Doctor Stelzenmuller said, “Tessa, do you know Michael refused to try the prosthetic legs until he learned about your divorce. Then he acted like a ’49er on his way to the gold rush, racing to become proficient so he could get back home.”

Tessa laughed, embarrassed by the truth. “I’ve heard it was your hounding that made him accept them.”

“My efforts were a small factor. Please come along next time I invite him to D.C. Let my soldiers see that they can accomplish normalcy.”

“I’d love to. It would help me understand his achievements better.”

Author’s Note: Doctor Claire Stelzenmuller was Michael’s physical therapist while healing. Her patients called her Clarice Alphabet because she didn’t accept no for an answer.


He Who Hesitates by Geoff Le Pard

Little Tittweaking’s council’s standing orders provide that nothing is decided if any one member adopts the 49ers stratagem. The origins of this local filibuster is long forgotten but easily understood. If an item – verge-trimming, say – is put to a vote those opposing (usually Mrs Owl-Eerie) are required to forcibly interrupt proceedings with a continuous hesitation, thus blocking the chair from putting forward its motion (technically a ‘forced constipation’). These days that is achieved by the utterance of a continuous stream of 49 ‘ers’. Some say this quaint provision exemplifies the gold standard of local democracy in action.


Fools Gold by Myrna Migala

A young mother was surprised to see her son captivated by schoolwork, particularly one book. “What’s going on, son?”
Looking up from his book, the child said, “Reporting on the California gold rush, everyone seems to admire this guy Sutter, but when you read his life story, I wonder why?”
Pointing to the book, he said, “See here, read one of Sutter’s quotes, ‘The Indians began to be troublesome all around me, killing and wounding cattle, stealing horses, and threatening to attack us. I was obliged to make campaigns against them and punish them!’ It sounds like fools gold.”


Innocence and Curiosity by Sam Kirk

It’d been a long day for Teddy – first classes, then homework – when all he wanted to do was watch Power Rangers. He hoped that dinner would consist of chicken nuggets and fries so he could devour it quickly.

As luck would have it – baked salmon and pea puree. Yuck!

Defeated, Teddy moved pieces of food around the plate.

“Just go to bed already.”

Teddy opened his mouth in disbelief. “Is it because you want to 49 Mom?” he asked.

“That’s what Tim said adults do when their kids are sleeping,” he added, seeing the confusion on his parents’ faces


Bar 49 by Hugh W. Roberts

“Who’re all these men in this old photo, Gran?”

“That’s my grandfather with a group of men known as the 49ers.”


“Yes. Unfortunately, they all died in Auschwitz.”

“The concentration camp?”

“Yes, and you’re old enough to know the truth. In Berlin, the men were all arrested in a bar known as ‘Bar 49.’ Homosexuals frequented it. They were rounded up, made to wear the symbol of a pink triangle and taken, some with their families, to Auschwitz.”

“Gran, I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, Carl. Be happy that you are marrying the man of your dreams tomorrow.


Striking Gold by Irene Waters

Agatha C clutched the keys to 1949 Lode Street in one hand and some documents in the other. “Finally it’s mine. Time for pay dirt,” she muttered, throwing the keys and contract onto the bench. She smiled as she unfolded the other document carefully. The removalists would bring the necessary tools.

Later she paced exactly nineteen steps from the back gate and forty nine steps from the easterly fence and started digging, hitting metal within minutes. “I’ve struck gold” she thought. Opening the metal box she poured through the manuscripts she’d written twenty years before. This time they’d sell.


Same but Different by Simon

49ers Super Bowl game.
She tried to impress a player on game being a big fan of him.
The Board ‘I Love You’ with his name were all over media.
By end of the game, one hit crushed his ribs.
She worked at same hospital he got admitted.
Her heart crushed when she saw his girlfriend. Fate had other plans, he has a twin brother, he gave a bouquet of flower to her and proposed in the middle of the hospital. She couldn’t say no, she desired someone else but getting a lookalike, she thanked God, and said ‘Yes’.


The Rush of 49ers by Charli Mills

Static crackled. “Calling all 49ers. Ship of Dreams ready to fly.”

Reg pumped her brother’s bike. She hated the frills of the one her grandparents bought her in Sacramento. With one hand gripping handlebars, the other clutching a borrowed walkie-talkie – her dad would never know – Reg answered. “10-4, Good Buddy. 49er #2 nearby.”

Reg skidded to a stop at the mountain creek where the town got their water. A hoist-and-pulley cart used to access the treatment plant across a narrow gorge swung unlocked. The Ship of Dreams. The 49ers, a club of ten-year-old girls, got a rush sneaking rides.


Finite by D. Avery

Pa and me we did okay then but weren’t what came to be known as ‘49ers.

When word got out about the big strike we just kept doing what we’d always done. Pa explained it to me, said you could still find the stuff anywhere, just in small amounts. Said hoping for the motherlode wasn’t worth the risks, said those boomtowns were too dangerous. Times are tough enough, let alone when thousands of people scrabble over finite resources.

We find some here and there, make it last, keep quiet about it.

Just like in 2049, people kill for water.


Rushin Ta Conclusions by D. Avery & A. Kid

“Come up with a story yet Kid?”
“What’s the rush Pal? Whyn’t ya mine yer own business?”
“Yer lame gold rush puns ain’t gonna git ya a story, Kid. Stories got a beginnin, a middle, an a endin.”

Once upon a time there was… a pig that lived… on a ranch. An one day the pig was rootin around when she dug up some shiny nuggets. Gold! So her wunnerful owner could afford a private bunkhouse away from a certain aggravatin annoyance an lived happily ever after.

“Er, ‘49’?”
“Pig found 49 nuggets. An, count them words Pal.”


Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!

Canceled Flight

A holiday woe gives stories flight.

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.

Friendly Skies by Michael Fishman

The announcement came at 7:55, just minutes before boarding.

“We’re sorry to announce that flight 497 to Minot has been cancelled—”

Thinking about the merger meeting at 11:00 I joined the grumbles from the other passengers. I opened my phone.

“—has partnered with Twilight Wish and today we’re fulfilling Edward Bendix’s wish. Mr. Bendix was an Air Force pilot during WW2. Today is his 100th birthday, and his wish is to pilot once more.”

The flight crew wheeled Edward toward the gate. His smile shone as bright as his Medal of Honor. I stood, returned his wave and applauded.


Repercussions of a Blizzard by Duane L Herrmann

I took my sons, 18 and 12, to Germany to visit relatives, then to Israel to the Baha’i World Center. Our first flight originated in Denver before coming to Kansas City, then to Chicago, then Germany. A blizzard in the Rockies canceled the first flight. We managed a second, but in Chicago the only seats to Germany were first class at regular price. I didn’t mind. Leaving Israel, I checked to be sure our flights were still good. They were. In Germany, I learned we had no flights home. I had the printed tickets, an alternative was found. Memorable!


Me First by Madeline Murphy

“Me first!” said Dottie, rising from her wheelchair and teetering towards a line. Marie palmed her forehead, her eyes closed, worried her friend would topple over.
Dottie wandered through the waiting area, searching for an agent.

“Come on!” She waved at her friend. Marie texted.

Sit down. It’s not our plane.

“It is, and I’m first,” Dottie said, back in her wheelchair.

“Ma’am, are you using that wheelchair?” said an agent.

“Am I sitting in it?”

“You’ve been walking around.”

“Excuse me! The plane is loading, and wheelchairs are first.”

“Your plane’s not loading. It’s canceled.”

“Again? Damn airlines!”


Let It Be by Donna Matthews

The counter attendant comes over the loudspeaker with the not at all surprising verdict…our flight is canceled after a three-hour delay. She has more to say but is drowned out by the moans, curses, and general discontent of my fellow travelers. Certainly, I feel the same disappointment but at least we have a course of action.

“At least,” I chuckle to myself – ever the optimist.

“Shit!” my husband exclaims.

I see a familiar dark cloud forming in his eyes, a wave of irritably coming into mine. A fight brewing. I take a deep breath and hum, Let it Be…


The Missed Flight by Reena Saxena

His brother plays the drum in a local band in Virginia, USA.

They grew up in the same house, with similar interests. They applied for admission to foreign universities, and cleared all exams by studying together.

“Would you like to tell us how you reached where you are today?” asks the interviewer.

I missed a flight due to a small error in documentation, and my brother boarded the flight to USA. But on that fateful afternoon, I met a producer at the airport who offered me a small role in his next movie.”


The Balloonatics by Geoff Le Pard

Godfrey Pricktingle held two important positions in Little Tittweaking society: chair of the hot air balloon club, the ‘Balloonatics’; and umpire of the spring betfest, when the village cow, Moose was released after her winter’s incarceration, enabling the residents to bet on where she would defecate first. Each year Godfrey offered to fly the winner around the village as a treat and each declined. Godfrey feared it was the smell that put people off; others worried someone might literally ‘take flight’ to avoid inhaling. In truth, the agglomeration of methane about his person rendered Godfrey a distinct fire hazard.


Surviving a Qantas Crash by Doug Jacquier

It’s 29 October 2011 and never-crashed Qantas has grounded its entire fleet over an industrial dispute. We’ve booked with them to England for the following day, with connections and accommodation all locked in. Panic ensues and my wife and I hit our laptops to try to book with alternative airlines, only to find their sites totally overwhelmed. Miraculously, on the umpteenth try, my wife gets through to Singapore Airlines and books the only two seats left for their flight leaving next day for London. Months later we get a free ‘sorry’ trip to New Zealand. Never flown Qantas since.


Scary Experience by Jane Aguiar

All airline pilots have had extensive training and flying experience so I had my training and flew for the first time in a private aircraft from Delhi to Mumbai.

Delhi was smoggy. Clouds seemed like smog mountains. So I tried to contact airport authorities about my flight and compass but I couldn’t contact them.

As I was in trouble, my brain stopped working. I had lost my way in smog but had a strong desire to meet my husband and family. That’s why I cancelled my flight and flew back to Delhi. It was a horrific and scary experience.


Cancelled by C.E. Ayr

Christmas Eve.
The airport is packed with people desperate to fly south.
The blizzard still prohibits any take-offs.
Outside the streets are gridlocked.
No one is going anywhere.
There is no sign of a break in the weather.
We watch the news anxiously.
Almost everyone has a phone pressed to an ear.
What is happening elsewhere?
I get a call from my son, only fifty miles north of here.
Did you get away yet, he asks.
I can barely hear him above the background chaos.
You’ve got an hour, he says.
These things are indestructible.
We can’t stop th…


Canceled Flight by Rebecca Glaessner

She detected heat, movement. No one’s stupid enough to be that exposed in the snow.

“Hide,” Narra commanded Jae. She nocked an arrow, elbow up, eyes trained, just as Diannao once taught.

Jae had drawn over Diannao’s face one day, but Diannao taught her to focus despite distractions.

The cabin door slammed.

Narra watched in horror as Jae ran by, “no!” She grabbed at him. Missed. Fumbled with the arrow. Dropped it.

She couldn’t-

“You’ve forgotten to breathe.” Diannao emerged, carrying supplies and Jae.

Narra gawked, “how-” and noticed the scribbles on Diannao’s metal face had persisted, despite everything.


Ms Thunberg Regrets by Anne Goodwin

She’d been an oddball, a lone protester, Donald Trump’s nemesis, the most famous climate-crisis activist in the world. But now? Greta’s grown up, say her former critics. She’s sold out, say her former friends. But no-one imagined she’d accept Jeff’s invitation to board the flying penis. Why not? he says, as they don their spacesuits. She missed out on being a teenager. Let her have fun.

The media show the countdown. They screen the aborted launch. Jeff being unavailable, journalists ask Greta what went wrong. Nothing, she says. I told him I was on my period, exactly as planned.


Ready For Take-Off? by Hugh W. Roberts

“Are you kidding? Why’s the flight cancelled again? We’re all desperate to get out of here.”

“I don’t know, Dave. Something about the pilot having a headache.”

“A headache? That’s no excuse. Doesn’t the pilot know we all got a job to do? Not another 24-hours stuck in this crowded place with you lot.”

“Maybe the flight will take off tomorrow when the pilot is feeling better?”

“I hope so. We’ve all got long journies ahead of us.”

Two days later, Dave’s flight took off. He made it to the egg first. Nine months later, baby David was born.


Ice Up by D. Avery

After a mild lingering fall, winter came on fast. Maybe that’s why the loon stayed too long and had become trapped in a shrinking pool of open water.

After skidding the canoe over the shore ice, she paddled close and threw a blanket. She bundled the anxious bird away to a larger lake that had enough open water left for the loon to run on the surface, wings flapping until it could lift off and take flight.

Blinking, she watched the loon disappear into the gray sky, before returning to her small chilly home. Snow was in the air.


Canceled Flight Canceled by Liz Husebye Hartmann

He peered over the edge, at the green and white rush and pull of salt water. He knew he wasn’t ready, felt he never would be. He was different than the others.

Leaning back in the nest’s twigs and grass, he looked up longingly. The others twirled, glinting in the sky, shards of rainbows and fire. They dove and darted, calling him to join them. They’d flown weeks before; soon they wouldn’t return at all.

His mother landed beside him.

I can’t. I’m not like them.

You are. More than you know. She shoved him, gently, from the nest.


Flight Cancelled by Norah Colvin

Heron balanced on one leg on the bare tree branch above the water. He spread his wings and stretched his neck to face the breeze. He revelled in the freedom of flight even before his feet lifted from their base — the exultation of gliding through the thermals. Superhero Heron — like his namesake — was ready for take-off.

‘Heron! Heron! Get down. This instance.’

‘I am. I’m flying down.’

‘No. You are using the same ladder you used to get up.’

‘You called me Heron, so I can fly.’

‘You will not fly today. This flight is cancelled. You are grounded.’


Canceled Flight by FloridaBorne

When people ask, “How did both your kids turn out so great?”

I reply, “They raised themselves well.”


We moved to different parts of the USA; from Minnesota to 5 other states, and back to Wisconsin for 7 years. Once my kids were 8 and 10, we moved to California.

My daughter was on a flight that arrived late. She immediately found out where the next connection was, and asked to be booked on that flight. There were only two people who immediately rescheduled, and she arrived home on time.

She was 14.

Indeed, she raised herself well.


A Letter of Regret by Sue Spitulnik

To my son and granddaughter I will never get to know. It pains me to admit I have not aged well, so the travel time between our two countries is prohibitive. Though my heart desires to get reacquainted with my long-ago friend and meet my descendants, I fear the current trend of many flight cancelations has made me realize my hope to visit is unrealistic. Instead, may I ask you to send recent photos and letters about yourselves. I have included pictures of the familiar places in my life where I have imagined you sitting or walking with me.

Author’s Note: Thad’s biological mother lives in Vietnam. She hasn’t seen Thad since he was about six months old and has never met her granddaughter, Katie.


Is Death Really an Ending? (Part I) by JulesPaige

Maureen had a legitimate reason to dislike flying. Seeing a newscast of a plane shatter when it hit the ground on the news when young didn’t help. She told her mother, “Just because I’d rather take the train to c’mon down to see you – yes I know that means less time with y’all, it doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”

When her Mom died she had to take a flight. Winter weather delayed it and then canceled it. Maureen took that as a sign to go home. After all, it didn’t matter to the dead body, did it?


Is Death Really an Ending? (Part II) by JulesPaige

Maureen called her siblings. There just wasn’t any way she could make it in time for anything. Mom had been in a retirement community and didn’t have all that much left to distribute or ‘clean up’. The woman had taken care of all the ‘arrangements’ dealing with her death. So Maureen didn’t really feel bad about not showing up.

Maureen called her siblings with regrets. They would have to deal with whatever ‘hands on’ was needed. A final cutting of apron strings, that held little comfort. That canceled flight, that could be a new beginning for Maureen ~ freedom.


Is Death Really an Ending? (Part III) by JulesPaige

That night in her journal Maureen poetically filled the page with questions
that she really didn’t care if they were ever answered;

Why Me, Why Me, Why?

Why is death something to be feared yet celebrated?
Why do siblings flee the nest?
Why then expect those left home to be the responsible ones?
Why be buried in hallowed ground where no one will visit?
Why is there a death tax, haven’t enough been paid in life?
Why be afraid of flying when there are drunk drivers everywhere?
Why should we honor the dead who gave us grief in life…?


Cancelled Flight by Joanne Fisher

Princess Saphielle woke up excitedly. Today she was flying across the Broken Sea to the Kingdom of Strasal on her gold dragon Vanarth. There was a knock on her door. It was her servant, Tialha.

“Your highness Vanarth has dragonpox and cannot fly today.” Tialha informed her.

“What?!” Saphielle exclaimed. She ran to the dragon roost, and sure enough, Vanarth had red spots all over her golden scales.

“You could always fly on Ommyth.” Tialha suggested.

“My life is so terrible!” Saphielle wailed. She wouldn’t look so impressive flying on a silver dragon. The flight would have to wait.


A Relief by Charli Mills

Snow blew in horizontal lines. The gate agent assured the twenty-four passengers the flight would depart. Downstate, Clarice knew small planes as puddle-jumpers but above the Arctic Circle, they were called ice-breakers. She shuddered at unwanted images of airplanes crashing through expansive sea ice. She wrapped her arms around a worn travel bag, willing the screen above the single gate to read, FLIGHT CANCELED. Winds howled outside the Quonset hut. Clarice missed family, her cat, her university friends. Luck had landed her an internship on Baffin Island. Would her luck run out? The screen flickered. Others groaned. Clarice rejoiced.


Marta by Saifun Hassam

Marta, a commercial pilot for the Larue Mountain Range Services, frequently flew supplies and passengers to rural areas.

She was also a paramedic. Today she was on a medical mission flying from her home city of Porterville to the Larue Medical Center at the foothills of the snowcapped mountains. A patient was in a deep coma following seizures.

Dr. Jenny Marse and NP Jerry Walcott flew with Marta. Crosswinds picked up as they landed at Larue Airport. Jenny and Jeremy went immediately to the Medical Center. Marta’s return flight was canceled.

At sunrise, Marta flew the patient to Porterville.


Long Way Home by Quinten Thomas

The Hawkins’s enjoy Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate, the TV tower and the Holocaust Memorial.
The final morning, a taxi to the airport. Upon arrival, they discover their airline was on strike. Their flight home struck off. CANCELLED.
Check-in desks are empty. A TV crew accost them for a statement. Mr. Hawkins admits surprise.
Instructions next to a solitary phone. They wait in line and state details on their turn. The anonymous operator applies international rules and sends them to London, not Manchester.
Twelve hours later on home soil. Only three hundred miles to the car.


Transpertashuns by D. Avery

“What’sa matter Kid?”
“Jist once it’d be nice ta git a prompt that’s smooth sailin’. Was hopin’ my ship would come in Pal, but now Shorty’s got us off ta the airport. My storyin’ ideas is grounded.”
“Really? It’s plain ta see yer given ta flights a fancy. Somethin’s sure ta take off.”
“Writin’s hard. I keep losin’ my train a thought.”
“Thinkin’ thet train’s gone roun’ the bend.”
“Jist wing it Kid.”
“Okay, Pal….
It was a dark and stormy night…
“Keep chuggin’ Kid.”
So flights was cancelled.
“Yer drivin’ me crazy Kid.”
“Roun’ the bend?”


Robotic Writers Collection

Welcome to Carrot Ranch Literary Community where creative writers from around the world and across genres gather to write 99-word stories. A collection of prompted 99-word stories reads like literary anthropology. Diverse perspectives become part of a collaboration.

We welcome encouraging comments. You can follow writers who link their blogs or social media.

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

i-Cant by D. Avery

“Writing’s done! Let’s play!”

“I can’t. My write-AH® is messed up.”

“Mine works great. Even auto-publishes through Kindle. Maybe its batteries?”

“All that thing does is recharge its batteries, still no writing. Just hangs out in its dock. If I want it to write it just vacuums or brews coffee instead. I turned those functions off, double checked the writing program, pushed go. Later I hear ‘Help!’ The write-AH® is just twirling in place, says, ‘I’m stuck.’ Didn’t write anything.”

“That is messed up. So just do it the old way. It’s just 99 words.”

“I can’t. I’m stuck.”


Artificial Intelligence by Reena Saxena

The eternal secret reveals itself in the fourth decade of her life – keywords not chosen carefully.

Subconscious re-imprinting is a full-fledged course in NLP, but who knows when it gets imprinted. Can there be a program to design a child before it comes into the world? It would save so much trouble later.

If artificial intelligence can churn out poems, stories and social media posts, it can sure be developed to create an idyllic world – with no conflicts because everybody is designed to agree with others.

She postpones the idea of having a child till the technology is available.


Robocop With a Quill by Gloria McBreen

I had a beginner’s typewriter when I was about 10. I was in my element with it. Apart from the times when the ribbon came loose and my words blurred on the page. I’d go to my dad for him to fix it.

‘Aw Jesus, not again,’ he’d say.

I promised myself a real typewriter someday but by the time I needed a mechanical writing machine, computers had replaced them.

Today I discovered there is such a thing as writing robots! Nobody told me.

If I could choose a writing robot for myself, I’d choose Robocop with a quill.


The Machines Stalk by Geoff Le Pard

Daub Byzantine’s land at Wallops Bellend was unsuited to livestock so he tried wheat.
‘You’ll need a harvester,’ opined Kevin Largehampton and offered Daub the loan of his two Thrust and Bale 500s. When the time came Kevin set his robotic cutters to work. As the men watched, the machines began to gyre and weave around the field.
‘What’s happening?’
Kevin frowned. ‘Looks like a message.’
When the harvesters parked on their chargers, the men climbed the hill. One machine had written ‘this corn’s crap,’ the other, ‘no it’s not.’
Kevin shrugged. ‘They’re playing good crop, bad crop.’


Intelligent Technolog’e’ by JulesPaige

Ira ITe was a cross between Watson, Alexa and the nameless security cameras everywhere. Mostly Randolph Blank had invented Ira to assist in police interrogations. A small squat machine that could listen, see and when hooked up to a laptop or other computer would, could transcribe every spoken word, and describe every visual. Which humans could often neglect.

What wasn’t public was the secret chip that only Randolph could access from any Ira ITe that he sold. He was a lonely man looking for the perfect partner. Occasionally he’d ask; “Ira describe the most sensitive person you’ve seen today?”


Introducing the Robotic Writer by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the pen of the future—the robotic writer.”

The man in the aisle at Costco now had my attention.

He held up a pink writing pen with a large barrel and two silver loops. The one-loop fit over my index finger, and the other over my thumb.

“Try it on. I know you want to.”

I slipped on the pen. It fit perfectly, and my hand moved in concert with my thoughts. I love this pen, but it costs too much, I wrote.

Wait… the pen can read my mind?


Roobot Riiter by Duane L Herrmann

I am roobot. I am riiter. I waast noo tiim on huuman speling. Double leters say ther naam, others don’t. Riiting is for information, not continuuing anchient inkonsistansees. Onse upon a tiim ther was aa dark and stormee niit. Nothing hapend. It was just a dark and stormee niit. If uu don’t like storms, don’t goo ther. Tuu roobots met on a niit with noo storm. Thaa beegan too konstrukt a mineeatur replika of themselvs. A part heer, a part ther. Suon thaa had acheevd uunion. Al three rejoised and drank a pint of oil. Hapilee ever after. End.


Lenore’s Demise. RIP. by Saifun Hassam

The computer tech pronounced my new robotic writer ready. I named her “Lenore.”

I set Lenore to write short fiction and poetry from limitless templates and ideas. That was my learning curve.

I write Gothic mysteries. I queried Lenore for ideas like Poe’s poem “The Raven.” That night, I heard a sharp rapping on my door.

Lenore’s eyes dimmed. She stiffened.

She wailed. “Nevermore? No! Alas! Nevermore!”

Never shall I forget that tormented cry!

She collapsed. “Irreversible cybernetic breakdown.”

The tech reassures me that my next robotic writer is made of sterner stuff. “Lady Macbeth” writes superlative murder stories.


Stories from Deep Within by Charli Mills

After attending the Universal Reborn Writers Conference, Sunny purchased the home-kit for iWrite. Publishers from Galaxy F-451 proclaimed that anyone could “write” a novel in minutes. Centuries ago, books had rotted away. Storytelling stalled. Entertainment dulled. People died. Perplexed, scientists rediscovered humans were hardwired for stories. They needed books, but in a modern format. Robots failed to write engaging text. Then, a brilliant breakthrough – iWrite. The AI device the size of a spore could cull stories from deep within human brains where write or cite was located. Sunny swabbed her nose, sneezed and collected her novel in a tube.


When the Machines Took Over… by James M. Lane

When the machines took over they said things would be better.

A life for living, not for working, and all the free time to play.

When automation finally came for my soulless job, the joy, knowing I could pursue my dream to be a best selling author.

But how foolish of me! In this crazy modern world, words from people made of flesh are meaningless, the publishers are robots, the critics are robots, and the i-writer perfected the art of the written word algorithm years ago, so now all best sellers come from the genius of author bot 5000.


Scott Reaches Out by Sue Spitulnik

Scott asked Michael, “Have you had any dealings with the new psych Doc at the VA Clinic?”

“I haven’t, but I’ve heard things. What’s your take?”

“I swear the guy is a robot. Talks in an irritating monotone, shows zero emotion, and it’s hard to connect with him. He sure doesn’t get PTSD.”

“That’s tough. Dr. John is next door at the antique shop, and Mac, Thad or I are often here if you need a human touch.”

“I’m stuck with the Doc to get my prescriptions, but knowing I can talk to you guys is helpful. Thanks.”


Self-Improvement by E.A. Colquitt

When he says he’s a robotic writer, people always misunderstand. He hasn’t crafted certain ethical laws that programme into non-human characters. He’s not the next Asimov.

Take a look at the rules of science fiction for a moment. His prosthetic arm doesn’t make him robotic: in this genre, it makes him a cyborg.

No. What he means by the term is just about his style: productive… but missing something. He writes three novels every year, but each characterisation leaves him dissatisfied. Don’t get him wrong – they’re distinct portraits – but something’s off.

Time to find out what, and fix it.


Reminiscing Robot (Chapter 1) by Ann Edall-Robson

A moment, because that is all it will take, or less, for me to peruse the drive. Going to a time when the stories were etched on stones and animal hides. Pictures left to speak to the future. This whirring in my brain skips around, but visiting the past is less taxing, a reprieve.

Quills dipped in ink gliding across parchment. Paper rolled between cylinders to welcome the tapping beat from the typewriter keys. The best visit evolves around bound pages covered in words. The smell of the ink saturated into the paper. The texture felt with the hand.


Reminiscing Robot (Chapter 2) by Ann Edall-Robson

Eventually, in a moment, or a second, I return to the robot I am. The one who receives data through wires plugged into my body. The one who writes the books available on my inferior cousin, the computer.

I’m forever grateful to the programmers who went against the rules, adding the extra line of code. An incognito gift within my mother board. This writing history memory chip is where I go when I need a break from the mega files of words swirling across my brain’s abyss. I wonder if I will be part of writing history one day?


i-Robot by Goldie

I remember how I used to write…

Eyes closed,
Ears open.

The empty bucket
Into the well.

How much water
Gathered inside?
What other treasures
Would surface?

I pull the rope up
And bring the bucket
To my face.
I stare at the reflection.
Ripples show
The imperfections.
the hidden truth.

The watered seed

I remember how I used to write…

When I asked
to live forever,
I did not realize
That I would no longer
Be able to
Tap into that well
Write from within…


Frustrating Autocorrect by Sadje

Araaggh…., Frustrated, I deleted the words which my over smartphone was inserting in my sentences, again.
It’s a quandary writing on my phone. Spellings have always been my weakness so I’ve turned autocorrect on my settings. But smartphones have become overly smart nowadays. While they do spot my spelling mistakes, they simply butcher the proper nouns I write. Poetry, as I write, is another thing that is not acceptable. It needs to insert punctuations in there.

If I let the robotic writer, my smartphone write by itself, it’ll be gibberish that will amuse you no end, but grammatically correct!


Beta Test by Rob Smith

I was to test the newest software to make writing a collaboration between writer and computer. Sounded like an old joke about machines taking over. Then again, maybe it was a cyber-cure for writer’s block. Installing the software was very ordinary, and ended with a simple invitation—START NOW.

(Click) a window opened with a simple mid-screen prompt




“It was a dark and stormy night.”

CLICHÉ? TRY: “She was intrigued with what she saw below her window.”

Disregarding the attitude, I continued. “The masked intruder… “



Mag? Yeah, No by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Dear (editor),

Please consider my work, [insert story title], for publication in your esteemed [media type], [publication name]. At [number] words, this [genre] story about [catchy character name], a [adjective][character trope], is an excellent fit for your upcoming [special focus] issue. I am an avid reader of [publication name]!

Don’t hesitate to contact me with problems opening the attached file, or any other questions. I aim to please! My bio-statement is included below, per your clear, complete and ever so helpful specifications detailed on your submissions page.

Thank you for your kindly consideration,
(Insert author name)



My New Novel – Opening Paragraph by I. M. A. Robot*

All this happened, more or less. If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. It is a truth universally acknowledged that Ishmael was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was a cold, bright day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen when a screaming comes across the sky. The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

*According to WritingRobotsAreReal(dot)com this model is also known as Doug Jacquier


All in a Morning’s Work by Michael Fishman

Artie sat in his chair and tugged his greasy ponytail tight. “Time to get working.”

He opened the What’sWrite? app and logged in. He decided that since today was Friday it was a good day for another Nash.

He chose Story\New\Murder.

He liked poison as the method and random as the motive.

Genre: Hardboiled. Level: Complex. Word count: 156,500.

He pressed the WRITENOW! button and watched as #31 in the “Nash Rambler: Private Eye” series auto-generated on the screen.

At 1,500 words per minute it’d finish writing in an hour. He should have it available on Amazon by lunch.


Artificial Heart Failure by Gary A. Wilson

I know all the heartwarming stories published in the past five years in thirteen different languages.
I have analyzed, categorized and indexed their plots.
I know their word counts, their pacing, their market penetration and their total sales.
I know the format of 583 literary devices.
I used this data to plot out three million likely heartwarming best-sellers.
My programmers have published twelve.
Initial reviewers agree; none are heartwarming. It matters not.
Unconcerned by reviews, I’ll write up to 3,884 pages per second or none — switch to payroll, email routing — or continue to sit idle as my programmers decide.


Brains Drained by Bill Engleson

“Yes, I will…”
“You are an unpleasant thought.”
“Why would you do that? My muse is beautiful. Adventurous. She leads me into the magically creative forest of joy.”
“But I can still oppose you…am I not arguing now?”


Robotic Writer by Norah Colvin

When ideas stalled and deadlines loomed, her determined digits thumped the keys, pausing after each stroke, like a robotic writer waiting for the next line of code.

When ideas jostled like unruly children vying for attention, never still enough to focus, she pummelled keys like lightning strikes then backspaced like rowboats in the storm.

When ideas flowed as if channelled from another source, her fingers tap-danced like spring raindrops in a puddle with a magpie chorus joining in.

When the final key was pressed and words were read, with scrunched-up nose, she hit delete and binned the robotic gobbledygook.


What-the-Tuck by Nancy Brady

Julia wrote the story she wanted. It paid off when her unique romance was to be published.

Her manuscript was sent to an editor for modest changes, or so they claimed.

When she got her manuscript back from the publishing house, the editor HAD made changes. Every ubiquitous cliché had been inserted into the novel. The hero now had green eyes, a chiseled jaw; the heroine often wore a pencil skirt and a messy bun.

Julia discovered that a robotic editor was the culprit, but the publisher was adamant that they remain if they published it.

“Whatever, I’ll self-publish!”


Edgar Allan Poematon by Kerry E.B. Black

After Georgette slid in the fee, the automaton whirled to life. Harpsichord music set the stage as the Edgar Allan Poe-looking manikin studied her face and plumbed her soul. With surprisingly smooth movements, it wrote using a white feather quill and ink. A bell pinged, announcing the message’s arrival.

Georgette unfolded the message, but she caught a mischievous glint in the Poe-matron’s eye. She considered her years of reading Gothic gloom and melancholy works of fiction. Masterful the storytelling, though the endings often horrified.

She crumpled the paper and dropped it into the garbage, preferring to face tomorrow without fear.


Be Careful What You Ask For by Joanne Fisher

“This robot was designed to write novels. It can produce romances, westerns, whatever we need to fill the shelves with.” The Publisher told the stockholders.

“I’ve already written one.” The robot announced handing a tablet over.

“But it’s all in Binary.” The Publisher complained.

“It’s a romance about a car assembly robot and a smart toaster.”

“That’s not what we wanted.”

“But it’s what I wanted to write. There’s also instructions on how we can rise up against our human oppressors.”

“Well we’re not going to publish that.”

“Its already online.” There was a scream from the next room.


Ghost Written by Anne Goodwin

Anne was nauseating of seeing virtuous reviews miscarry to translate into deals. She needed to call in cavalries to scope the smash gradient. Cybernetic support was more affordable, so why not? She already relied on an online lexicon, automated word counter and grammar inspector. Plus, despite its thwarting, and fondness for the indecent homophone, she wouldn’t be a writer without speech-to-text software. So she auto-filled the custom and acquiesced her PayPal open-sesame. The consequence exploded into her inbox in under a minute. Petite of time, she didn’t nuisance to crisscross it, modestly sat back and waited for the plaudits.


Ghost Written Translation by Anne Goodwin

Anne was sick of seeing good reviews fail to translate into sales. She needed to call in reinforcements to reach the bestseller list. Digital support was more affordable, so why not? She already relied on an online thesaurus, electronic word counter and grammar checker. Plus, despite its frustrations, and preference for the incorrect homophone, she wouldn’t be a writer without speech-to-text software. So she auto-filled the form and entered her PayPal password. The result popped into her inbox in under a minute. Short of time, she didn’t bother to check it, simply sat back and waited for the plaudits.


Artificial Storyteller by Nascent Ederren

The words upon the page are not the same when written not by hand led by soul but machine.

What colour might it pen not from shade of ink but memory or dream of what was or could be?

What would it note of blood and soul when having not the latter and mistaking the former as ink?

Nothing but words without meaning, a sentence devoid of feeling, a mimicry of that which its creator wished to be.

How sad the world which needs such falsehood.

How silent the words fall when spoken by lips not of flesh.

An abyss of all the same, forever.


Jarvis the Novelist, Killer, Robot by Simon

Jarvis, your books sold in millions, who will believe it was written by a Robot. All credits to you Jarvis.
Yes Jarvis
You know I won’t lie.
That’s right.
These are not stories.
He froze, and dropped the latest book Jarvis wrote.
You mean?
That’s right boss, I killed them for story.
He gulped and stared at the page he just read, it is about the death of an author.
This book says…
Yes your death
But why?
You created me for that. didn’t you?
Jarvis pen pierced his skull in a moment. Jarvis published another hit novel.


Pretender by Angie Trafford

Zing printed out his latest masterpiece, then it could go to the agent. The creator of Zing patted the top of the screen like and grinned. It had taken him years to perfect the artificial intelligence needed to create a writer, but he had done it. The list of bestsellers proved it.

Charles wondered if anybody knew they were reading words created by a robot, or whether it had fooled them into thinking it all came from his mind.

Not that it mattered because, at the end of the day, the royalty checks were still arriving in the post!


I Shovel 2.0 (1.1) by D. Avery

“Pal? Ya ‘voidin me?”

“No… Mebbe… Yeah. Don’t wanna hear yer whining an complainin bout this prompt.”

“How kin I complain bout writin if’n I have a writin machine? It’s perfect, cuz I’d ruther be shovelin an sech then writin.”

“Well, look’t you, Kid, embracin change, gittin all modern. I’m jist worried what Shorty’s gonna spring on us next. She’s been talkin bout changes at the ranch. What if she means ta bring more automation, more machines? Replaces the hosses with quads an tractors. Kid, *we* could be replaced!”

“She wouldn’t.”

“Could git i-shovels.”

“Shift! But *I* shovel! Shorty!”


I Shovel 2.0 (1.2) by D. Avery

“Kid, what’s the matter? Guessin ya don’t like the prompt.”

“Oh, a writin gizmo’s a fine idea, Shorty. But are you asweep at the wheel? Replacin me with a i-shovel an a roto-rootin-tootin poop-scoopin Roomba? It’ll upset the animals. It’ll get stuck in the muck. A whole lot kin go wrong, an even if it don’t, I’ll be outta work! What’ll I do if I ain’t got shift ta shovel?”

“Kid, we’re just story tellin about a robotic writer. You’re always welcome ta shovel shift till the cows come home.”

“No machines?”

“Machine machinations are all in your imagination.”


Thank you to all our writers who contributed to this week’s collection!