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Norah Colvin wandered onto a Ranch four years ago and discovered the joys of flash fiction. She brought with her a unique perspective, writing flash fiction with children in mind. Although some of her stories express the carefree spirit of children, often she tackles heavy issues, including bullying. With years of education knowledge and classroom experiene, Norah has become the Teacher at Carrot Ranch — a Rough Writer who remains curious to look up the meanings behind prompts and to share thought-provoking posts on topics that demonstrate what it is to cultivate a growth mindset.
We join Norah this week in Australia, and her fellow Aussie, Irene Waters next week on the Rough Writers Tour Around the World.
Among the writers who work with the 99-word flash fiction format at Carrot Ranch are those who collaborate as a group to further this literary form. These writers are the The Congress of Rough Writers willing to craft anthologies, lead community workshops, and host world-wide writing contests.
Join in each week with Carrot Ranch’s Flash Fiction Challenge and ride with the Rough Writers as a Friend. You can write with us or read our latest feats of brevity.
The following writers form the core of Carrot Ranch’s literary community and mount words on the page the way Buffalo Bill Cody’s riders once mounted horses in daring feats and fearless equitation. If you like their flash fiction, look for their blogs, articles, and books. And marvel at the global reach of 99 words.
Thirty writers began with 99 words; this is not your typical anthology. Now available in in print and digital:
We are the Rough Writers:
Anthony Amore, Southern Rhode Island, USA (Vol. 1)
D. Avery, USA
Georgia Bell, Toronto, Ontario, Canada (Vol. 1)
Kerry E.B. Black, Pennsylvania, USA
Sacha Black, England, UK (Vol. 1)
Sarah Brentyn, USA (Vol. 1)
NEW: Robbie Cheadle, South Africa
NEW: Colleen Chesebro, Colorado, USA
Norah Colvin, Brisbane, Qld, AU (Vol. 1)
Ann Edall-Robson, Airdrie, Alberta, Canada (Vol. 1)
NEW: Bill Engleson, Canada
Pete Fanning, Virginia, USA (Vol. 1)
C. Jai Ferry, Nebraska, USA (Vol. 1)
Rebecca Glaessner, Melbourne, Vic, AU (Vol. 1)
Anne Goodwin, England, UK (Vol. 1)
Luccia Gray, Spain (Vol. 1)
Liz Husebye Hartmann, Minnesota, USA
Urszula Humienik, Poland (Vol. 1)
Ruchira Khanna, California, USA (Vol. 1)
Larry LaForge, Clemson, South Carolina, USA (Vol. 1)
NEW: Deborah Lee
Geoff Le Pard, Dulwich South London, UK
NEW: Lisa Listwa, USA
Jeanne Belisle Lombardo, Phoenix, Arizona, USA
NEW: Elliott Lyngreen, USA
Sherri Matthews, Somerset, UK
Allison Mills, Houghton, Michigan, USA
Paula Moyer, Lauderdale, Minnesota, USA
NEW: Joe Owens, USA
Amber Prince, North Texas, USA
Lisa Reiter, North Yorkshire, UK
Christina Rose, Oregon, USA
NEW: Reena Saxena, India
Roger Shipp, Virginia, USA
NEW: Susan Spitulnik
Kate Spencer, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Sarah Unsicker, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Irene Waters, Noosaville, Qld, AU
Sarrah J. Woods, Charleston, West Virginia, USA
Susan Zutautas, Orillia, Ontario, Canada
When Americans like me think of famous female rulers, we tend to imagine the queens of England: either of the Elizabeths, perhaps Victoria. Elizabeth I, especially, holds a place in people’s hearts because of her speech to the soldiers when facing the Spanish Armada.
Of similar hardcoreness, though for very different reasons, is a female monarch from a world and a millennia away: Wu Zetian (武则天) (or other names such as Wu Hou, depending on what time period of her life you’re talking about). Empress Wu was the only female ruler of China in the recorded 3000 years of its dynasties, from the first Emporer Qin to Emperor Puyi. Sure, some women were powers behind the throne and used puppet Emporers to perform their schemes, but Wu was the only one to do it outright.
And, if the non-contemporary tales about her are to be believed, she did it with a trail of blood. Writers said she killed her infant daughter in a ploy to gain leverage over the previous empress and have her executed. They claimed she poisoned people, some of them her own family members, and had many people executed in order to have her way. By a combination of scheming, murder, and religion, Wu Zetian took the throne for herself.
That trail of blood story, however, is a little strange. Some scholars, as mentioned in this Smithsonian article, mention the suspiciously similar tales between Wu Zetian’s rise to the throne and what a genuinely horrible woman did many years earlier. There are no contemporary records of the murders, but no one can say whether it was because Wu had them all destroyed or (my personal opinion) they were fabricated later.
Why make up these lies, though? After Wu Zetian’s son, the “true heir” as son of the last male emperor, rose to the throne, it became important for him to quash chances of rebellion. In order to prevent rebellion, emperors and their bureaucrats would need to malign any usurpers, of which Wu Zetian obviously was one.
Not only that, but life in China’s royal courts was already volatile at best. With empresses, concubines, eunuchs, brothers, uncles, and other schemers skulking about, the emperor had to be vigilant. Backstabbing was the norm, and executions to stay in power or gain power were commonplace. Emperors not only quashed rebellion by stifling positive memories of Wu Zetian, they reduced the chances of women “stealing” power from the man they considered the rightful ruler.
Whether for good or ill, recent interest in Wu Zetian has prompted research into her reign and a new look at who she was and what she accomplished. These efforts, of course, are told through a modern lens and can see Wu Zetian without the lens of monarchical maintenance getting in the way. One of her most lasting contributions was her establishment of China’s famous meritocracy, wherein especially talented people – even those not of the noble class – could take an examination and rise high within the power structure. This test, or at least one similar to it, was used to recruit bureaucrats and ministers until the end of the Qing dynasty in 1912.
Wu Zetian peacefully (on a large scale if not on the small, imperial family scale) held together a huge nation, passed policies to increase agricultural output, and contributed to the arts by commissioning works such as biographies of famous women and books of poetry. It is possible that these biographies and poetry were intended to compliment her order that children lament the deaths of their mothers just as they lament the deaths of their fathers. While it could be seen as a move against sexism, others have seen these efforts as ways to legitimize her reign, since women were considered deontologically incapable of reign prior to her.
It’s quite possible we’ll never be able to really know whether or not Wu Zetian floated to the throne on a veritable river of blood, or if she used her pen and quick wit to get there. The records of her time period are plentiful enough that she couldn’t be erased, but sparse enough that exactitude cannot be expected. In all likelihood, it was a combination of the two. However it happened, Wu Zetian has something on that aforementioned Queen Elizabeth I: she didn’t just fall into power on accident.
She owned it.
For more information, there are several articles available online. Here’s a few free-to-access articles I found interesting and on semi-trustworthy sites.
Smithsonian Article – Caution: this site has a ton of pics, so it loads SLOW
BBC Article – Short, but interesting
China Culture – A random site out there, but it fits a lot of what I already know about Wu Zetian
About the Author: H.R.R. Gorman is a PhD chemical engineer with expertise in biotechnology and making drugs. Following science, H’s greatest passions are writing and history. 他也正在学习中文. If you want to know more about this white-trash-turned-excessively-bourgeois maniac, you can go to https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com/.
Ho-ho-ho, or rather ha-ha-ha. 2018 seems to be getting the last laugh at me, but I’m punching back. I didn’t fall off the ends of the earth, but I did take a nasty spill down our steep basement stairs.
Good news is that I didn’t break a leg. Bad news is that I won’t be dancing for a while. Wait, I don’t dance. However, even writing or trying to sleep is excruciating and I can’t drive or walk. Friends are graciously helping me finish holiday errands, loaning me a cane, and taking me shopping with a motorized scooter. I’m laughing at the thought of trying to drive one already. I’d be more comfortable on a horse!
All week long, I had been collecting your stories for Cora Kingston and squealing with delight. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to have writers join me in making historical fiction mud pies. Unfortunately, I hadn’t caught up on comments before the accident, so I’ll be doing that from the couch where I’ll be popping Advil and sipping hot cider.
It’s the end of the year, and those who know me won’t be surprised to hear me say it’s time to review our visions. I don’t mean the sugar plums dancing in our heads. I mean the vision each and every writer holds dear. Sometimes we hold it so close that we don’t give it wings to fly.
So that is the challenge until Flash Fiction Challenges resume January 3. We are also delaying the announcement of winners for the Bonus Rodeo until after the New Year.
Let me explain to you why I think visions are golden. Visioning is stating your North Star. Without it, you are a hunter with aimless goals. Dissatisfaction often comes from a lack of clear vision. You might seek the prize, but for what purpose? Why are your passionate about what you do? A vision imagines success, and a North Star guides you. You aim your goals toward it and use it when you get lost.
“When the vision is clear, the results will appear. Keep your mindset positive as you work your plan, flourish, and always remember why you started.” ― Germany Kent
Why do you write? What are your expectations, dreams, and goals?
A vision can be outrageous! You can have a vision to be an astronaut and still succeed as a writer. How? Write a sci-fi novel where you get to immerse yourself in the world of astronauts. You can have a dream to be a New York Times best-seller. Before you get there, you have to look at what success is on that journey. That’s why you set a North Star.
I’m going to share with you a process I use with entrepreneur and author clients. It’s my holiday gift to you along with encouragement to make space for visioning work over the next two weeks.
Part 1: Preparation
- Pick your topic. Be clear about what you are creating and why. What do you hope for an outcome? Focus on what you are creating, launching, or seeking to accomplish.
- Pick your timeframe. Visions typically span two to ten years. Five years is a good place to start. Your vision answers “where do you see yourself in five years.” This is not “how” — that’s strategic planning. Dream about what success looks like in a specific timeframe.
- Brainstorm for 10 minutes a list of “prouds.” Like contests you’ve won, or moments you overcame, or projects you finished, or reviews you received. Let good moments pop to mind. The idea is to build a base of positive energy and high-quality experiences.
Part 2: Discovery
- Write the first draft of your vision. Take between 15 and 30 minutes. Set a timer; this is a time constraint which prevents you from becoming bogged in the process. The most creative visions occur within 30 minutes. Believe in the process.
- Go for greatness. Think, MLK, “I have a dream…” Think big, specific, scary and exciting. Get past the 59 reasons why it won’t work.
- Write from the heart. Effective visioning happens from the inside out. Go with your gut, with what pours out. Ignore the inner critic.
- Get in the future. Imagine yourself there. What details stand out? How do you feel? Where are you at? What does your office look like?
- Write quickly. Use the hot pen technique where you can’t stop writing once you start. Don’t set down the pen or stop tapping keys.
- Get personal. Blend the personal and professional into a single, holistic vision. Include your passions. Grab the details that make your vision the dream that gives you jitters.
- Write it as a story. Use a date as a prompt and describe the story that is unfolding that day. Describe the many great things going on that make it clear that your long-term vision has come to be the reality you planned and believed it would be. Give details.
Part III: Revision
- Review and redraft. Let it sit a few days. Come back to your draft with a 30-minute review session. Read it out loud. Don’t erase what you wrote. Copy it and then cut and revise. Follow your gut. Don’t remove what sounds too bold or overly ambitious. Often, that’s what makes your vision special. Make it sound and feel inspiring. If it doesn’t make you feel stressed, you haven’t pushed deep enough.
- Get specific. Don’t say “founded a company” say where you located it, when and how many clients you have, how many products or ideas you’ve sold. Say which awards you’ve won. State how much of your income will come from your business. State how others recognize you in your industry. What do clients or customers say? Imagine them.
- Edit your vision. Work on the language, clean up the content and write a sharp vision in 99 words. But don’t cut the specific details or bold proclamations. Length is not an issue, but again, do this edit in 30 minutes.
Part IV: Polish Your Shine
- Seek input. Use only trusted sources to share your vision and ask for insight or feedback. The idea is to improve the vision, not kill it.
- Create your North Star. Once you have your vision, create a 59-word mission statement to set your North Star to guide you to your vision of success. Next, craft a tagline in 9-words.
Just like you, I’ll be working on my vision for writing and publishing. These are my visions for Carrot Ranch:
A Vision of Success (99)
Writers high-fived across the string of comments, appreciating craft and creativity in their sandbox, 99 words at a time. Carrot Ranch, an imaginary place made of real people from around the globe. A tribe. Buckaroo Nation. Authors and entrepreneurs arrived too, looking to forge brands and learn how to tell stories around investor campfires. Readers found literary art in small bites palpable to a modern diet of busyness. A buckaroo wrangled the words and published collections, hosted rodeos for writers, and flashed her way to write novels about veterans, history and earth science. The vision for the future rocked.
Carrot Ranch and A Lead Buckaroo’s North Star (59)
Carrot Ranch understands that writers and entrepreneurs need safe space to explore the craft of literary art and harness the power of storytelling. Lead buckaroo, Charli Mills, gave up riding horses to write brand stories. Now she wrangles 99-word flash about history, veterans, and rocks. Flash by flash, she crafts award-winning novels, leads authors on retreat and coaches entrepreneurs.
Tagline: Making literary art accessible 99 words at a time. (9)
Originally, when I encouraged writers to join me in annual vision work, I shared a vision that included small and intimate writing retreats. 2019 will see that come to fruition. It won’t be at my beloved Elmira Pond, but it will happen at D. Avery’s beloved Vermont Lake. Save the dates for two sessions that have room for three writers each: July 12-14 and July 16-18. More details to come.
2016 was a disaster. 2017 was about seeking stability. 2018 was implementing some big changes toward achieving that stability. All along, my vision hung in the sky, and no matter what happened, I followed step by step. You will appreciate having a North Star because life’s circumstances have a way of tripping us.
2019 will be a prosperous year, or so I’m declaring. There will be some big life changes for me but the struggles of the previous year have prepared me. My novel continues to hammer into shape, and I remain hopeful on that account, too. Vol. 2 stalled out after our Father’s Day floods and diagnoses for the Hub, but I will recommit to getting what we started finished this year.
Once you have worked your vision, set quarterly goals that you can measure (and use the Rancher Badges to encourage achievement). It’s good to revisit your goals every three months to help you stay on track or readjust. Every month, do a quick planning and use a Daily Activities plan to direct your most important priorities and balance writing with career and life.
Also, if you have any clever ideas for challenge prompts in 2019 (like, “break a leg”) now would be a good time to discuss them.
Whatever your year-end holidays or non-holidays look like, I wish you all peace, joy and the prosperity to see your writing dreams through to fruition. I’ll be checking in with you all from my couch!
When I was younger, I feared I’d run out of ideas to write. Now that I’m older, I know I’ll run out of days before the well of story ideas runs dry. Each week, I continue to marvel at the creative responses to a single prompt framed within 99 words, no more, no less. And each of those stories become beginnings.
Imagine taking all that creativity and harnessing it to one wagon. Now that’s a trail drive, and that’s the power of The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. Thirty-three writers banded together and created a compelling work of literary art.
The anthology extends far beyond that of a collection. It’s several side-shows and behind the scenes action. It’s not homogenized, but rather a mixture of different perspectives, experiences, and imagination. It’s the creation of a community.
Every writer contributes to the whole. It’s like a meadow full of wildflowers. It’s not one flower that creates the stunning visage — it’s the combination of all parts. To work with the creative expressions of thirty-three writers has been a thrilling experience.
The Rough Writer Tour Around the World has offered a glimpse at how far ranging the literary trail at Carrot Ranch has become. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting to meet different Rough Writers on their own turf. Here’s a recap in case you’ve missed any trail stops:
Geoff Le Pard (UK) Anne Goodwin (UK) Ann Edall-Robson (CA) Sacha Black (UK) Luccia Gray (SP) Sherri Matthews (UK) Norah Colvin (AU) Irene Waters (AU) Susan Zutautas (CA) JulesPaige (US) Lisa Reiter (UK) Urszula Humienik (PO) Ruchira Khanna (US)
I’d like to thank all the writers of Vol. 1 for contributing to a community effort that provides a platform and growth opportunity for all involved. As a first work, several professional book reviewers have given the book high praise. It’s earned a 5-star review from Readers’ Favorite and a silver award for Literary Titans.
Vol. 2 follows and is currently in the works. It’s going to blast a new trail, going beyond where Vol. 1 left off and includes more writers. And readers can expect more unicorns. I got to speak about both Vol. 1 and 2 in a recent interview with Literary Titans which you can catch here.
Never doubt that literary art matters.
American author, Susan Vreeland wrote,
“Where there is no human connection, there is no compassion. Without compassion, then community, commitment, loving-kindness, human understanding, and peace all shrivel. Individuals become isolated, the isolated turn cruel, and the tragic hovers in the forms of domestic and civil violence. Art and literature are antidotes to that.”
Through writing together on projects of creative expression, we are on the trail to happiness. We ride the trail of peace.
Happy Trails, Writers!
Ruchira Khanna’s writing bridges two worlds (India and America) just as her latest book tackles what the immigrant experience is like, coming to the US for school, jobs, new friends and love interests, but yearning for parents and home-connections, as well. Her book, Breathing Two Worlds portrays the experience through language and story-telling.
Voyagers into the Unknown, Ruchira’s earlier fiction novel released January 2016 hit # 1 as Hot New Release in Amazon India and #8 as a Best Seller. Again, she melds a multitude of cultural experiences into an enjoyable, world-perspective read.
It’s been a joy to watch her author career unfold. Today, Ruchira hosts at her blog Abracabadra, sharing the anthology she contributes to as a Rough Writer.
Next week, our tour wraps up at the Ranch.
Lisa Reiter is one of the Rough Writers whose calling is not fiction. She writes about her experience writing flash fiction as a memorist. More than that, she explores the topic of perfectionism, giving sage advice to all writers who might struggle with perfecting drafts. She frames her story with a memory of worming cats. For a few laughs and a delightful and informative read, visit Lisa at her blog as we return to England on our Rough Writer Tour Around the World.
Join us next week as we go to Poland to visit Urszula Humienik.
The well has gone dry, writers! We’ve had a terrific run of guest writers who have explored and shared their creative projects and processes through the Raw Literature series at Carrot Ranch. I’m not convinced we’ve run out of creativity to share because the well is deep and we just need to go further.
If you want to catch up on our 2018 series, be sure to bookmark these terrific Raw Literature Guest Essays:
- Raw Literature: Art is the Active Expression of Our Creative Skills by Kate Spencer
- Raw Literature: Riding the Range by D. Avery
- Raw Literature: Me, Too: Sexual Harassment Before It Had a Name by Paula Moyer
- Raw Literature: Seeking the Well by Charli Mills
- Raw Literature: A Writer’s Journey by Rachel Hanson
- Raw Literature: Meet My Other Half by Juliet Nubel
- Raw Literature: Write a New Ending by Cheryl Oreglia
- Raw Literature: Asperger’s, Voice and the Search for Identity by Sherri Matthews
- Raw Literature: The Power of Words by Hugh Roberts
- Raw Literature: Support System by Susan Sleggs
- Raw Literature: Exploring a New Structure by Faith Colburn
Carrot Ranch offers several options for Guest Posts. They publish on Tuesdays and will run until September. That’s when we start preparing for the Flash Fiction Rodeo. You might want to write a guest post for several reasons:
- To build your writing portfolio.
- To expand your writing platform.
- To bring visibility to a book you or another community writer has published.
- To try your hand at an advanced creative writing prompt.
- To get better acquainted with the community at Carrot Ranch.
If you are interested, I’m signing up guest writers for the following:
Raw Literature explores the creative process and early creations in writing. The series is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it.
Platform shares successful marketing tactics for authors or bloggers. Carrot Ranch upholds that every writer’s platform is different according to how it’s built from the basic bricks that include branding, credibility, community, and target audience. This series examines how to use a platform for marketing books or developed content.
New! Peer Book Review is intended to grant space to regular writers and readers of Carrot Ranch to share the books of others in the community. Many of the Rough Writers & Friends are authors, and you can find a variety of good reads on the Books page. Reviews are the best way to support authors, and this series seeks to encourage peers to offer thoughtful book reviews.
In addition to guest essays, Carrot Ranch challenges literary writers to push their craft with Advanced Flash Fiction. If you are interested, you can take these advanced challenges at any time. Post on your blog and link back to Carrot Ranch or submit as a potential guest post.
6th Sense Challenge reminds writers to explore the world with more than the eyes. Writers create visual images for readers through all five senses of sight, sound, scent, touch, and taste. This challenge is to write the same 99-word story five times using one of the five senses. In the final sixth story of 99 words, create a sixth overall sense that combines the best of the sensory elements.
History Challenge encourages writers to dig into the past to find forgotten stories. Possible places to look include one’s own family tree, vital records, scrapbooks, school yearbooks, archived newspapers, town histories, local cemeteries and old house records. The idea is to start with a name and date of a person’s lifespan. Using local libraries, museum reading rooms, state archives or online sources, piece together vital facts and imagine a story. It can be told in one, three or five flash fictions of 99 words each.
Ultimate Flash Fiction Challenge imitates the five steps of writing a book. It’s a progressive, five flash writing activity. Your own results will surprise you and improve your approach to book writing. This advanced challenge welcomes all writers, especially those who write books or want to better understand how.
It’s a five-step process:
- Free write for five minutes;
- Write a 99-word flash fiction;
- Reduce it to a 59-word flash fiction;
- Reduce it to 9-words;
- Build it back up to 599 words in three-acts.
You can submit a post, essay or story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan Zutautas is one of those writers who khookedme with dog stories and delicious recipes. Her writing includes doses of humanity and details that feel true to life. He novel “New in Town” was the first indie book I had read, and I enjoyed it. She opened my eyes to the possibilities of independent publishing, which was not on my radar. When I decided to make the leap from business writing to literary writing, she jumped over to Carrot Ranch with me and has remained consistent despite many ups and downs. Today, she gives us a tour of Orillia, Ontario, Canada. She catches all the snow the Great Lakes can send her! We are definitely connected by the same snowbank.
Join Susan at Everything Susan for her Rough Writer Tour.
Next week, we visit JulesPage, south of Orilla in the US.
Rough Writer and memoirist, Irene Waters, flashes Noosa skies and fiction based on trure stories. Learn how a memoirist came to write fiction of many genres. Irene supports Carrot Ranch in many ways, extending the community’s outreach to make literary art more accessible. In the beginning, she was part of building that community.