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SADDLE-UP SALOON; COLLEEN’S DOUBLE ENNEAD CHALLENGE NO. 8

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

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

Check out the poems from last month HERE

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

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

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

With the first day of Autumn quickly approaching on September 22nd, my thoughts naturally turn to pumpkin spice, hot apple desserts, and warm cuddly blankets. Think about how this season interacts with our five (or six) senses: taste, touch, sight, smell, and hearing.

“Your five senses help you take in information from the world around you. These senses are also a powerful tool to use when you’re writing. They help convey a message to readers by providing a strong image in their heads.” Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/article-5-senses-in-poetry

For example, think about Autumn and describe it using your five senses:

  • Taste: pumpkin spice, mulling spices, apples, pears, harvest foods, etc.
  • Touch: wet rain, cold fog, warm sunlight, soft blankets, bonfires, etc.
  • Sight: leaf piles, fall color, red gold and orange leaves, wheat sheaves, corn stalks, bales of hay, pumpkins, etc.
  • Smell: wet, moldy, wet leaves, decayed leaves, pumpkin spice, baked bread, etc.
  • Hearing: autumn rains, cool or stormy winds blowing, geese honking in migratory flocks, etc.

My example follows:

"Lady Autumn"

welcome Lady Autumn— 
wet dew on grasses,
foggy sunrise awash over the fenland
sunshine between shadows,
chilly to the touch

red-tipped maples glitter
embracing the Queen 
of all seasons, trouping their finest colors
like burnished leaves displayed
in a royal crown

nothing gilded can stay
every leaf must fall
for a vivid autumn is death's finest hour
cold rain despoils the bracts
death, decay follow

© 2021 Colleen M. Chesebro

This month, write a double ennead poem dedicated to Autumn. Pay special attention to sensory words.

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

Now have fun and write some double ennead poetry!

September 16: Flash Fiction Challenge

September silence settles over the Keweenaw with misty rain. Pockets of tourists remain but the din of extra folks cruising the peninsula subsides. The woods exhale, the waves churn, and when the clouds part in the cool of night, the Milky Way burns bright.

With the equinox (fall in the northern hemisphere and spring in the southern) lining up next week, I felt the call of the wild to bring balance to all my professional pursuits. A camping trip was in order, a return to the sandy side of the Keweenaw.

Packing my car required a choice — camp kitchen, tent and comforts or kayak? Alas I could not fit it all. Comforts, by the way, include an array of layers for fluctuating temperatures, pillows, camp chair and firewood. My kayak stayed behind this trip with a promise to glide the Bete Grise sloughs before autumn leaves fall from their trees.

My friend, C, joined me at the old mink farm in Schoolcraft Township where a rustic campground offers ten sites along Big Traverse Bay not far from the desolate black sands of Gay. On an arc of golden sand, we set up at campsite #1. A family occupied #4, and the memory of a summer visit still warm in my veins lingered at #5. It was a quiet campground weekend, perfect for rituals of release.

C is a grief counselor who sits with people’s deepest losses and excruciating emotional pain. She led community workshops at her Ripley Falls Home of Healing before the 2018 Father’s Day flood and landslide hit her house. It’s livable but far from restored. Her backyard is filled with rubble from the landslide. When she was ready to begin workshops, the Pandemic hit. We’ve experienced parallel disasters, hers natural and mine veteran caused.

Together, we’d form a weekend retreat for two to release the trauma of homelessness and open up to the hope for a better future. We both live with uncertainty instead of stability on the home-front and yet we both work to help others find purpose in healing and writing. We needed to find our own healing path.

On Friday, after my last class at Finlandia for the week, we arrived to sunshine, wind, and crashing waves. We set up camp and I got into a battle with the ants. That entire spit of sand must be an ant metropolis! I struggled to find a flat spot to perch my tent without getting swarmed. Finally, we found a truce and I pitched my tent in the trail to the beach. Once settled, I headed to the waves. The frothy rollers reared up and the sun shone through like a lens. I tried to wade but water pummeled my legs with sand and riptides rippled beneath my feet.

That night we ate kale salads and cauliflower soup next to a fire that danced in the wind. Our campsite had a deep metal fire ring on a sandy knoll out of the trees and we watched it closely. The brighter the stars got, the less the wind blew. Finally, we had nothing but embers and shooting stars. We expected rain the next day and we decided to read in our individual tents until it eased.

We woke up to sunshine, not a rain cloud in the sky. That’s Lady Lake Superior’s doing. Hard to predict her impact. She was calm and inviting that day, showing ripples in the sand beneath her water where she had danced forcibly the day before. Many ripples held small stones. I bobbed in the water and then floated above the curious little pieces of quartz and sandstone. Leg cramps drove me to seek the warm sand of shore and I reluctantly left my mindless float.

Sand flies found my ankles until I buried my feet in the sand. Ants ran every direction in a frenzy of gathering food. I began to wonder if their scurrying meant a rough winter ahead. But like most things in my life at this moment, I’m trying to stick to the here and now. What is coming will unfold with or without worry. It was sunny and ants were foraging. Nothing to be concerned about. With curiosity, I watched them.

Later that day we held our ritual of release, naming emotions and circumstances to let go. We chanted with a singing bowl, and C’s dachshund howled, the higher our pitch. We smudged with sage and built cairns of our tiny collected rocks. We journaled and fixed beans for dinner, burning birch bark letters of release. Then the rain came. We retreated to our tents. Despite the beauty of the day, I found it difficult to shake the sadness.

Raindrops.

Raindrops.

Raindrops.

Each a meditation. Each a prayer.

And then a cotton candy sunrise broke through the mist and clouds. The rain stopped. The Lake let out misty breath caught by a warming sun of pink and gold. The sadness lifted but I felt no joy. Just emptiness. Until the Big Black Horse arrived.

At a particular moment, I decided to walk not to the beach, but rather to the road. I had heard the gronking of sandhill cranes and followed their call, hoping for one last sighting before they left. C and her dog still slept. The other campers had left, maybe the night before when the rain came. No one was around. No one. Then the distant rumble of a truck. I could see a trailer hitched and surprised it was not an RV but a livestock hauler. When I woman stepped out of the truck, my heart soared.

To me, it was a Captain Marvel moment. The one where Carol Danvers decides to rise…again. I took it as a sign to rise and claim my joy. I had released and now I was about to receive. A new door opened. In fact, I asked if I could help open that door. To the trailer, that is. She said yes and I helped her with a new horse and an enthusiastic golden retriever pup. She was experienced and courageous, taking the horse to the lake for introductions. I followed with the pup.

Meanwhile, C woke up and ventured to the beach. She told me later she saw a most beautiful sight — two women, a Big Black Horse and a dog. She wanted to wake me up, thinking I needed to see this vision. She had her phone so she filmed it for me before realizing I was one of the women.

Charli Finds a Woman with a Big Black Horse

There’s a reason the Indigenous call horses “big medicine.” You have to build trust with a horse. The woman I met was dedicated to that, leading her horse to water, walking her in the sand, familiarizing her with new territory. Eventually, she mounted the Big Black Horse and and walked the campground. I secured her dog in her truck, told her to honk when she got back if she needed a hand loading her horse. And off they rode.

I was beaming. Horse medicine is a always a good sign to me.

It’s been a good week at school. I danced for one of my classes. They laughed. I promised them a “sun” day on Monday. Weather Predictors are predicting sunny and 81 degrees F. I’m scheduling class outside on the green to read or work on research on their laptops. I will give them yoga and poetry (Joy Harjo) breaks! My other class shared their 99 word stories. It was interesting to note that the number one fear students expressed was that they “did it wrong.” I’m teaching them that recognizing their differences from the norms is the beginning of realizing their unique voice.

Tomorrow, I’m wearing a dress (again) and starting to get used to it. We get stiff when stuck in patterns. We need stability and framework but we also need flexibility and freedom to grow. I might dance again. Twirl my skirt. If I do, this is the song, I’ll be stepping out to:

September 16, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a Big Black Horse. It can be a horse, a metaphor or an interpretation of KT Tunstall’s “Big Black Horse and a Cherry Tree.” Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 21, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

A Wild Ride by Charli Mills

Clods of dirt flew. A big black horse thundered through the apricot orchard, a small child perched bareback, her knees drawn up to his withers, tiny hands grasping long mane.  A woman in a kerchief ran, bellowing like a calf separated from its mother. Saucy, the Australian Shepherd with one blue eye, zipped past the woman and caught up to the horse, nipping at his hind hooves. The dog turned the horse around at the one lone cherry tree planted at the orchard’s edge. He trotted smooth as butter back to the barn. The woman wheezed. The child grinned.

🥕🥕🥕

The Cooking Show

Time to find out what’s cooking! Lights, camera, start the stove…

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.

Witch’s Brew with Morgana Blackwing by Colleen M. Chesebro

“Welcome to this week’s broadcast of Witch’s Brew. Please welcome our guest, Morticia LeFay. This barista-witch knows how to mix her infusions!”

“Thank you, Morgana. This week, we’re brewing up a new concoction called Writer’s Essence.”

“Sounds perfect for all the writers out there.”

“That’s right, Morgana. It’s guaranteed to stop writer’s block!”

“How’s it made?”

First, bring a kettle of water to boil. Drop in a pinch of periwinkle, a shot of vodka, and some lemon juice. Let the tincture cool. Next, set your intention. Drink up!”

“Thanks for stopping by witches! To your health, bottoms up! Wassail.”

🥕🥕🥕

Seabright Port Newsletter, June 1963 by Saifun Hassam

“On the first Saturday of June, Seabright Port overflows with visitors from nearby towns. It’s time to check out the Teflon Kitchen Exhibition and run in the 10-mile Teflon Kitchen Race. No one knows how the race got renamed “Teflon Egg Race.” Every year all the posters around town vanish with the visitors at day’s end.

The Seabright Seafood Omelette cooking show draws over five hundred entries. Five of the region’s best chefs are the judges. Fifty people are selected by a random drawing for the contest, more popularly called “The Teflon Stuffed Omelette Contest.” It’s a tough contest!”

🥕🥕🥕

Debt to be Paid by Rebecca Glaessner

Radiation reached his skin through UV-resistant clothes.

“Four-hundred-thirteen billion credits for today’s contestant! If he survives…”

A hidden crowd cheered.

He retrieved his only permitted secret ingredient with a blistered hand.

“What’s today’s contestant chosen for us?”

Blinding light. The crowd gasped.

The glare receded and he staggered forward, balancing a platter, alien delicacies piled high.

“I… think he’s done it!”

Thunderous applause.

“Come. Into the shade. There. Tell us, what’s your secret?”

“I saved… a Moru life… once,” he wheezed, stumbled, “they owed me- Ma! I can finally fix the air-con now!”

🥕🥕🥕

Missed It by Ann Edall-Robson

“What channel is it on?”

“Seventeen.”

“That’s the cooking channel. We want local.”

“It’s being televised on the big network.”

“You sure?”

“Yes! Your channel surfing is getting us no where.”

“Seventeen?”

“We are going to miss it. Their group is on first.”

Flashes of shows popped up on the screen one after another after another.

“Stop. Back up. Whoa! This is the one. They’re at commercial. Don’t go to another channel!”

“And now we return to the teen division. The judges have made their decision.”

“We missed the beginners. Why do you insist on not sharing the remote?”

🥕🥕🥕

Rachel’s Cooking Show by Joanne Fisher

“Welcome back.” Rachel said smiling at the camera. “Today I’m making my no fail chocolate cake. In the last segment I mixed the cocoa, flour, and baking powder. Now I’m going to cream the butter and sugar. A microwave is good for softening the butter, but make sure you don’t melt it…”

They looked at her through the glass window.

“What do you suppose she’s doing?” asked one,

“She thinks she’s hosting a cooking show. A rather unfortunate case.” the other said, as they watched her beating an imaginary bowl. They then moved on to observe the next patient.

🥕🥕🥕

Weighty Tales by Reena Saxena

I couldn’t believe it was her.

The eyes shone bright as ever, but the rest of her was lost under pounds of flesh. Yet, the famous hostess of a cooking show attracted attention.

She starts with a story.

“I dated an overweight guy and wanted him to lose weight. It did not happen, but I married him and got drawn to the world of good food.

So, here’s a dish we devoured on our first date…”

I’d rejected the same rich guy, but ended up being overweight myself. There are weightier matters to think of, while dating a man.

🥕🥕🥕

Annoyed by Simon

What the rock is cooking?

Rock is cooking? is that a dish name?

Rocks don’t cook, yes it is a dish name.

Stares blankly… can we skip that question, what are you cooking for our show?

Cooking a delicious meat to eat.

How do you cook?

Obviously, In the fire?

I mean what style are you going to cook?

A style that needs to cook well.

How do you like it to be cooked?

I like it to be cooked well.

You know what? I quit! Channel, find a new anchor!

Are we stopping a boat now?

God!!! No!!

🥕🥕🥕

Fishermen’s Stew by Liz Husebye Hartmann

“The first part of your feast begins with a kettle of cold mountain water, placed over the fire like so.” Sonja swung the kettle arm over the flames. “Tussen Takk for hauling water from the waterfall, Narn.”

Narn bobbed his head and blushed, then sat back on his haunches.

“It’s best to start with root vegetables, as I’ve done here. They take awhile to soften, so adjust by size of the protein source,” she continued. “What d’you think? When do we add the protein?”

“Later. They’re so skinny.”

Sonja nodded approval.

The tiny fishermen, wide-eyed, sweated in their cage.

🥕🥕🥕

Cooking Show by Robert Kirkendall

“Today we’ll be cooking octopus,” the chef said to the camera. “The key is to cook it quickly on a high heat so it retains moisture and doesn’t get too chewy.” He held his hand over a skillet. “Our cooking surface is now hot, so let’s get it out.”

He opened a basket, then an octopus suddenly jumped out and wrapped its legs around the chef’s face. He struggled to pull it off as he thrashed around the studio, his screams muffled. He finally pried it off and the octopus quickly crawled away.

“But first, make sure it’s dead!”

🥕🥕🥕

Cooked Rat by Doug Jacquier

The famous chef strolled onto the TV kitchen set and, after he’d waved the adoring response of the audience down, he announced he would be showing them how to make perfect ratatouille.

Suddenly, a woman stood up in the audience and yelled, ‘No. Today you’re going to make perfect amends. Sixteen years ago you got me pregnant and promptly disappeared, leaving me to raise our son alone.’

She turned to the young man seated next to her and said ‘Stand up, James’. As the boy stood, she turned back to the chef and said ‘Meet your new apprentice, Gordon.’

🥕🥕🥕

Intercultural Cooking Contest by Anne Goodwin

I hope she doesn’t cook curry, thought Mary, offering the other finalist her hand. The smell!

Please don’t cook beef, thought Manju, greeting her rival with palms joined as in prayer.

Winking at the audience, the compere showed them their separate kitchens. Manju gasped at the oak cupboards, the marble worktops, the built-in stove. Mary gasped at the water pump, the stack of firewood, the grey clouds above.

Defeated by the controls on the cooker, Manju diced raw onion into yoghurt, garnished with coriander. Mary grated raw carrot into cream. Wisdom worth more than money, both felt they’d won.

🥕🥕🥕

Tough Cooking by Kerry E.B. Black

Mostly bare cupboards, yet Rayne needed to feed her hungry family of five kids, plus herself and her husband. She pulled cans of tuna from the back of a low shelf. Butter and cream from the fridge. Peas and herbs from the garden. Rayne imagined herself on a cooking show. In her “basket” she found few luxuries, yet she wished to wow the judges. She whipped up a tuna noodle casserole and sampled the finished product. She smiled and set the table.

“Dinner!”

Family trickled to the dining table, grumbling. “Yuck! I don’t want this!”

“These judges’re tough,” she thought.

🥕🥕🥕

Cake in the Pan by Norah Colvin

Deidre laughed, sang and clapped on cue at her first-ever real live Christmas pantomime, until … the clowns prepared the cake. Deidre knew how to make cakes — she’d made them with her mum. The clowns obviously didn’t — tipping more flour over each other than into the pan, splashing the milk, and cracking in eggs, shells and all. The audience roared as the clowns placed a lid on the pan, shook it vigorously, then tipped out a magnificent cake. When offered a slice, Deidre folded her arms and clamped her lips. A cake made like that could never taste good.

🥕🥕🥕

On Course by D. Avery

It was a marvel what she produced in such a short time and with so little space, just a narrow counter top and a butcher block kitchen island.

She commandeered the small kitchen, flour clouding the roiling tempest of her activity. Then, while the oven did its transformative work she swabbed the surfaces and restored calm as she stowed the dishes and debris from her preparations. Snapping a table cloth over the butcher block, she displayed her confections. There was Black Forest cake, lava cake, and even rocky road ice cream. The butcher block was an enchanting desserted island.

🥕🥕🥕

A Hare-brained Idea by Sue Spitulnik

Normally Michael had other band members along when he drove the Veterans Music Van to the VA. Today he needed silence to brainstorm. The Irish Dancers needed money so they could attend a competition. How could he get enough people involved so it wouldn’t be a hardship on any wallet? His mind wandered to his stomach. He hadn’t eaten breakfast. Food! What if they had a cook-off? Each group he belonged to could make the same meal using their own recipes. Voting for favorite dishes could be done with dollars. Cooks would get ribbons, and the dancers the money.

🥕🥕🥕

Able Canning-Celebrity Chef by Bill Engleson

“Louie, caught your new show last night. Breakfast with Bernie.”

“That was episode two…you missed the pilot. What did you think?”

“No, I caught the pilot. Porridge! He ate porridge, Louie.”

“Bernie’s all about healthy breakfasts.”

“Last night he ate Gruel. Gruel is porridge.”

“No, it’s porridge-lite. There are innumerable porridge possibilities.”

“I don’t know. Shoulda went with Able Canning. The Dark Web’s feasting on his cooking show.“

“We looked into it.”

“It’s got fantastic numbers. Excellent audience participation.”

“Yeah. Once. Then they become filet mignon.”

“Earth’s overpopulated.”

“True enough. Still…”

“Food for thought, Louie. Food for thought.”

🥕🥕🥕

It’s What’s for Dinner by Michael Fishman

Everyone wrote about the zombie apocalypse, but no one really believed it could happen.

Surprise!

I won’t bore you with viral genetics; I’ll just say that as SARS-CoV-2 continued to mutate over 103 years, the infected – 94% of the population – didn’t suffer the same as their ancestors, but instead became zombies.

A world of 10.8 billion zombies, all of them interested in different culinary traditions because there’re only so many ways to cook human flesh.

***

“Huuhnee, please turn on TeeVee?”

“Uhh kay, sweetie.”

“If you dish not cut it, chefs. Youuu wuhl be chopped. Open baskets now.

🥕🥕🥕

The Cooking Show Bombs by Charli Mills

Carl chewed on his bottom lip. The basket revealed to him contained squid, maple syrup, goat cream, and volcanic black rice. The crowded rotunda erupted as the host of the MOA Cooking Challenge explained the secret ingredients. Sharon, fellow chef-restauranteur in downtown Minneapolis, gave Carl the side-eye. The squid. How in the world…? Ink. Black. Rice. Cream. But goat? He released his lip and ran to the pantry nearly colliding with Li Sun of the Golden Dragon Sushi Bar. She’d be his competition this round. Sharon froze on stage, flummoxed. Then, security rushed the stage. Saved by a bomb.

🥕🥕🥕

Chef of the Hour by FloridaBorne

Jill yawned. Her best friend Kara had free tickets to “Chef of the Hour” and wanted company.

Four chefs battled for the $10,000 prize each week? Boring.
Why was there one empty station?

“Jill Jones,” the host said. “You’re our monthly mystery chef. If you can beat out these three, you’ll win $50,000!”

She walked to the station, and waited for the bell. Thirty minutes later, she’d perfectly created her mother’s chicken pot pie recipe. An hour later, she’d won!

Kara ran on stage, expecting a hug.

Jill glared at her. “Was the deception worth losing your best friend?”

🥕🥕🥕

GBBS by Nancy Brady

Weekly, Julia watched mesmerized as twelve amateur bakers were whittled down to the best baker during this reality cooking show. Each baker was tasked with making baked goods based upon the theme.

There were three timed challenges: the Signature Bake, a special themed recipe that the contestant was comfortable preparing; the Technical Challenge, which consisted of one of the judge’s tricky recipes. Ingredients and minimal instructions were given to each baker, prepared, and then blindly judged; and the Showstopper, an over-the-top concoction.

Julia was most impressed with the unique flavor combinations, the imaginative designs, and each baker’s baking skills.

🥕🥕🥕

Baking Her Way to Fame by Ellen Best

After watching The Great British Bake-Off, Sarah decides to self-tape her efforts to launch a cooking show. The next Nigella, she mused Mary Berry of East Anglia. She planned and tried recipes for days hoping to perfect a bake that would stun and make her go viral on Instagram or Tick-tock. Eventually, Sarah settled on simplicity after all, just how hard can a limoncello cream stuffed choux balls wedding cake, a Croquembouche be.A new apron couldn’t disguise the abject failure of her bake. She now is a star on tick-tock as ‘The Comedy Baker.”

🥕🥕🥕

Hosting Facts and Fictions (in the Early Iron Chef Kitchens) by JulesPaige

“Allez! Cuisine!” or “Go! Kitchen!” was the instructional lead of a favorite cooking show “Iron Chef”. Katsuta Shigekatsu was an actor who played Chairman (Takeshi) Kaga. Kaga loved musicals; starred as leads in the Japanese theatrical company Gekidan Shiki as ‘Jesus’ and ‘Tony’

Mark Dacascos (born in Oahu, Hawaii) hosted the American version and was introduced as Kaga’s nephew. The only thing they had in common was that they were both actors. Apparently Mark did do the opening flips for that cooking show. Dacoscos could still flip in 2009 at the age of forty five! But could they cook?

🥕🥕🥕

More or Less by Myrna Migala

“Deciding what recipe to donate for the recipe book; while encouraged to give our very best!”

“My opinion, share your mother’s muffin-tins “tatoe-bacon” recipe, and while your add it, whip a batch for the freezer for an occasional snack.”

“Good idea, since the ingredients are not written in stone, more like less of this and more of that, I’ll note the measurements.”

Mix 1lb of hash brown frozen shredded potatoes
one grated onion
one cup bacon-bits
two cans evaporated milk
three eggs
1/2 cup of flour
salt and pepper to taste
pour into muffin-tins bake at 375

🥕🥕🥕

A Tiny Flaw by Ruchira Khanna

To the lightly roasted course semolina, add one cup of lukewarm milk.

Allow it to cook on a slow flame.

Once it’s semi-solid, add half a cup of granulated sugar.

Give it a vigorous stir before turning off the gas.

Now, I’m going to serve the audience.

I said with a wide smile as I approached them with serving bowls garnished with sliced almonds.

With fingers crossed, I watched them take a spoonful of my sweet dish into their mouth.

They ejected the morsel in unison.

“Major flaw!” one declared.

“You’ve put salt instead of sugar.” the other screeched.

🥕🥕🥕

Light Charcoal Action by Annette Rochelle Aben

There is something special about charcoal-grilled hot dogs. Frank made sure he rolled them for even browning. He loved to use the grill. The taste of the food, along with the oohs and ahhs from hungry diners made his day.

Poised and ready for the first taste was Zeus, a patient, playful Rottie! His head followed the action of his master’s hands in syncopated rhythm. It was as though he was willing Frank to drop something on the ground.

Aware he was being watched, Frank laughed, “Gee, Zeus, I didn’t realize I was putting on a show here!”

🥕🥕🥕

Pot Luck (Part I) by D. Avery

“Whatcha cookin’, Kid?”

“Makin’ beans fer Ernie an’ Wanda’s potluck gatherin’ Pal. Problem is, I got wind that Pepe’s also makin’ beans. An’ so’s Shorty. I cain’t no way compete with Shorty’s beans.”

“Is it a competition?”

“No. Jist a frien’ly gatherin’. But my beans is dif’rent. Folks’ll compare ‘em ta the other beans.”

“An’ they’ll notice thet each bean dish’s dif’rent, each good in its own way, reflectin’ the maker’s hist’ry even. Folks’ll be glad ta sample ‘em all. Kinda like the buffet a flash fiction responses thet Shorty puts out ever week.”

“So it’s all good?”

“Yep.”

🥕🥕🥕

Pot Luck (Part II) by D. Avery

“So whut’s some a the others bringin’ ta the table, Kid?”

“Wanda’s makin’ her fire-in—the-hole chili. Ernie is a course makin’ his special cookies. Frankie says she cain’t deliver on cookin’ but will bring olives.”

“She did thet last time. Ate one a Ernie’s cookies an’ spent the rest a the night in a starin’ contest with one a her olives.”

“Ha! Yep.
Heard Logatha’s bakin’ up loaves a brown bread. What about you Pal?”

“Think I’ll roast corn over the fire.”

“There’s always a good fire ta set aroun’.”

“Thet’s where we share our stories.”

🥕🥕🥕

The “Big Three” and AMC

Before I was born, my mom had a poor AMC Spirit that she ran into an even poorer bull, totaling both the car and the animal in one fell swoop. She told it to me as a horror story with the moral of “why you don’t go too fast” just before I got my license. When she first regaled me with a far gorier version than I relayed to you, I didn’t realize what an absolute piece of history she had violently combined with beef. AMC Spirits (or, really, any AMCs) are now either cult collector items or actual trash. The picture below is of a car very similar to the one she owned.

’79 AMC Spirit. AMC Promotional Media. I’m assuming it’s fair use to put it up here, given the owners of the picture don’t exist anymore.

Whether the vehicles really are trash or treasure, the creation and eventual fall of American Motors Corporation (AMC) is a bizarre and very American story. Buckle up, buckaroos!

It All Began With Refrigerators

Well, it began with refrigerators… sort of.

Back before the great depression, there were lots of car manufacturers. If you think about Grapes of Wrath (my Goodreads review is linked), you’ll remember they drove a Studebaker. You’ll remember things like Hudsons. So where did they all go?

The Great Depression ate the small car companies. The “Big Three” (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) survived because… well, because they had the most cushion to ride out on when the depression hit. They had the best ability to deal with the new union requirements, and they had the most extensive dealership networks.

Three companies, however, made it through in a creative way. In 1937, Nash and Kelvinator merged – and only one of them made cars. Kelvinator made refrigerators, and they bought Nash. Though it was a risk, given all the other dead car companies, it turned out to be a pretty good deal since the motor company’s survival meant it could churn out vehicles for the government during WWII. In 1954, the now-struggling Nash Motors part of Kelvinator also merged with Hudson Motor Car Company. This new car compilation became American Motors Corporation, or AMC. From 1954 until “the fated end”, AMC was destined to struggle, with fewer resources at their disposal, against The Big Three.

They gave ’em hell.

Mitt George Romney

Upon the merger of Hudson and Nash, there needed to be a new leader of the new AMC. That turned out to be George Romney. And yes, indeed, he’s the dad of that other, slightly more famous Romney.

Official picture of George Romney, third Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Made for the US Government, so it’s public domain. Look at that chin – if that’s not the father of Mitt, I’ll be damned.

Romney was at least wise enough to realize that two flagging car companies weren’t set up to compete directly with The Big Three, and he had to find a niche market. As cars were getting bigger and chugging more gas in the 50’s and 60’s, Romney realized there was a market for people who didn’t need a big car and perhaps didn’t have the money for a land yacht. He pushed the new AMC toward a focus on small cars, basing the design and decision on one of Nash Motors’s extant models: the Nash Rambler. The Rambler was the first car in the US to qualify as “compact” (though it wouldn’t qualify under today’s standards), and it was well-known as a reliable but cheap vehicle. It didn’t just takeover the compact market: the Rambler created the market.

In 1962, Romney decided to enter politics and stepped down from AMC so he could accomplish his new goals. Given that he eventually rose to be HUD secretary, he evidently did well.

But that doesn’t really matter to us, because we’re just here for the cars. The problem with Romney stepping down was that someone else, someone who didn’t share the same vision, stepped up to the plate. Abernathy, Romney’s successor, decided he needed to take AMC from the “cheap car” image and blasted non-existent capital at things like the Ambassador line. Though the car sold, development costs churned through the small company’s resources, and some point to this need to save face was the beginning of the end. Others, however, think Romney was wrong to shove the company into a “cheap” hole – who knows, at this point?

The Invention of the Crossover

I desperately wanted to talk about the Gremlin, which happened in the 70’s, but that’s not had the lasting impact of one desperately innovative vehicle: the AMC Eagle. The first true crossover.

Promotional poster/handout for the AMC Eagle. It’s a promo poster for a defunct company, so I assume it’s fair use?

That’s right: AMC invented the crossover. They invented the thing that’s only now dominating markets, even if they didn’t have the term “crossover” yet to depend on. It was way ahead of its time, and yet the Eagle came out too late to save the company. After changing direction so many times, the company’s budgets were spent and there was nothing they could do. They flailed around a bit doing things like selling out to French manufacturer Renault. While the merger seemed beneficial, both ended up losing in the end.

While the financial side of the market just tanked, the Eagle just absolutely stunned in terms of influencing markets. The Eagle was borne of a last-ditch death throe to take the best of 4-wheel drive and off-road Jeep capabilities with what was still AMC’s best category: the economy car. They added things like front suspension to keep the ride smooth and feel like an ordinary sedan. The car did well in the rally scene, as well.

The Eagle still enjoys a cult following, despite the 1988 end of manufacturing. Some say it was a decade ahead of its time, others 3 decades. Regardless, the car was influential to designers and buyers everywhere. It definitely spurred the direction of the automobile market, even through today.

Why There are Jeeple (“Jeep People”)

1970 the company CEO Roy Chapin decided to buy Kaiser Jeep (Kaiser Jeep was, like Nash and Hudson, a conglomeration of smaller car companies that survived the depression). They took control of Jeep and looked forward to government contracting, which Jeep specialized in at the time. Though AMC had control of Jeep, they let the cars develop almost independently in terms of technology. While AMC itself struggled for capital, Jeep continued to run with its solid axle format and used its original military design, giving it the distinctive look and feel we know today. The Jeep Wrangler, started in 1986, was a big success.

1986, however, was too late to save the company. In 1987, Chrysler purchased and put out to slaughter the AMC brand. It kept, however, the nameplate and distinctive designs of Jeep.

That makes Jeep, though a subsidiary of Chrysler, the last descendant of the small car companies. There’s all sorts of loyalty from Ford and Chevy people to their chosen brand, and there was surely loyalists of Nash, Hudson, Kaiser, and Willys-Overland (Jeep) that carried in to AMC. There were probably AMC fans in and of themselves. Now, there’s only one outlet for that love to go. Some Jeeple (“Jeep People”) may not even realize that their devotion to the cars may stem from a parent’s unrewarded loyalties.

Sometimes, I like to fantasize about what could have saved the company, but there’s only one real answer: the end was fated from the very beginning.

AMC Logo, 1970-1987. Public domain where I’m writing, though there may be copyright and trademark issues in some countries.

For More Information

I’ll be honest: while I searched around the internet for various nonsense about this topic, nothing I looked up was truly surprising. If you want a super-deep-dive version of this alongside crude jokes and way, way more reading and research, I suggest this YouTube video from Regular Car Reviews. It’s 2.5 hours long, so you’ll probably need more than one sitting, but believe me that it’s great.

About the Author: H.R.R. Gorman is a PhD chemical engineer with expertise in biotechnology and making drugs. Following science, Dr. G’s greatest passions are writing and history. If you want to know more about this white-trash-turned-excessively-bourgeois maniac, you can go to https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com/.

Saddle Up Saloon; Linkin’ Inklings

“Kid, is thet…”

“Yep. We got ranch hand and columnist Sue Spitulnik ta take the stage. Howdy Sue!”

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

“I fer one am real glad ta see ya Sue. What d’ya got fer us t’day?”

“I’d like to share another stage, Pal. I’m here to invite Carrot Ranchers and any writers to take part in Inklings.”

“I ain’t got an inklin’ what thet is.”

“Inklings is a weekly online writing “critique” Zoom meeting, open to the public through the Lilac City Rochester Writers (NY state).”

“Think I mighta heard Shorty goin’ on ‘bout thet group.”

“Well, Charli Mills recently gave a great presentation to this writing group. She talked about the need for three bios and how to tweak them for specific purposes. Of course, my group was impressed with her. She was impressed with our organization and the questions people asked. It was a win-win and I got to introduce my mentor/friend.”

“So how does this work, Sue? You say anyone can take part?”

“Yes. Inklings is hosted every Tuesday from 8 PM to 10 PM EST by David Woodruff. As president of LCRW, I attend regularly. Authors take turns sharing the screen and reading small bits of their WIP work aloud. Then other attendees express what is working and what isn’t. We do our best to not do line edits as we are usually working with first drafts.”

“Soun’s friendly enough.”

“It is! I usually read my weekly 99 word flash. Even those can be improved when others see/hear them. As we say at the LCRW Inklings website:

What if there was a place you could meet your fellow writers virtually? What if there was a place where you could read your draft work to others, without having to edit it or spend hours using a spell checker? What if there was a place you could help other writers with their work… no prep necessary? Now there is. Every Tuesday 8 PM

The group is different from other groups because we focus on what the writer has left out that makes the story clear to the reader. As writers, we know what our characters are thinking and doing, but sometimes we don’t share enough details for the reader to get what we are trying to convey. This group shares thoughts of whether the writer has accomplished their goals.”

“Sounds good, Sue.” 

“It is. Barbara Helene Smith says ‘The weekly Inklings sessions provide excellent feedback on my submissions, but I also learn even more from the comments on the other contributors’ works. Join us on Tuesday evening at 8:00 and become a better writer.’ And Rick Taubold has found the group to be very helpful; ‘It has offered diverse perspectives on my writing that are hard to come by otherwise. The various comments have given me good insights on how to improve my storytelling.’

I know for me, listening to all the comments with an open mind has helped me improve my own writing because I have become more aware of what to do to engage a reader and keep them wanting more. And participants do not have to be members of LCRW.”

“Really?”

“Really. Some of us are regulars and members, but we get other participants. Inklings and can be found on Meet-up. That’s where the Zoom link for the 2-hour sessions is. You must join the LCRW meetup group to be able to click on the events tab, and then the Zoom image to get the meeting link. But there is no other obligation.”

“So we kin jist go ta   https://www.meetup.com/lilaccity-rochesterwriters/   ta join in?”

“That’s all, Kid. And you get camaraderie and feedback on your WIP.”

“Wow! Thanks fer sharin’ Sue.”

“Thank you Kid and Pal!”


I
f asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

September 9: Flash Fiction Challenge

My class discussion flopped today. Despite preparation in class and posting discussion questions in advanced, none of my ENG I students prepared. It was a stark contrast to ENG II where the discussions have been thoughtful, deep and my students brave in offering up stories of their own to share. I think if I had showed up with pliers to pull teeth, the class would have been easier.

At first, I thought I might respond with a pop quiz to see if they are even reading the book. A few students displayed knowledge of the story. But pop quizzes feel punitive. I realized, I’m the teacher and I need a different tool. Maybe they aren’t engaged, or maybe they don’t know what is expected of them in a discussion group. That job falls to me.

This is the same class who groans over flash fiction. On Tuesday, none groaned. A few even appeared eager. And I can already see the difference between

Next week we are going to watch Brené Brown’s classic TedTalk on vulnerability and I plan to use it as a practice discussion. Plus, the message might help some get over their reluctance to speak up. For the next book discussion, I’m going to require each student to read one passage (of their choosing) and say why they selected it. We’ll see how it goes. I’m still learning, too! And I understand feeling vulnerable as a new college prof.

Since we can all use a little Brené Brown inspiration in our lives, here’s a refresher on vulnerability.

After class today, I drove to a friend’s house who is also a writing client whom I coach. She’s an authorpreneur working on several creative projects at once and wants to have accountability for her progress. She also knows that she doesn’t know everything she needs to be successful. I thrive on coaching people with a vision. Many people find vision work too vulnerable and prefer stumbling around in the dark. If you don’t know what success and the work is to get there, then you don’t have to be accountable for a lack of success. I get it. It scares me to share my vision work because if I don’t do it, everyone knows I failed. But I believe less and less in failure. (Thank you, Norah Colvin, for introducing me to the growth mindset that says, “not yet.”)

Everything becomes possible when you can say, “not yet,” until you can declare “done it!”

When I was in school, learning effective ways to teach creative writing, I didn’t think I’d make it to a university campus. Maybe, I thought, after I published a few books. Even though many colleges are hiring adjuncts (a fancy academic way of saying faculty hired on contract), they still want to see university classroom experience. I get that, too! My learning curve as a newbie is huge and some days I get butterflies in my stomach riding that arc.

I’m learning technology, systems, access, resources, and responsibilities. I’m finding out that I’m responsible to track academic success and alert the college about struggling students, yet, intuitively, I was already doing that. Now I know there is a formal process. I had already set up a meeting with a struggling student and planned to coach him to get back on track. It is not failure to delay or get lost. Yet, it takes courage to get back into the game.

By January, I plan to embark on a journey with a motivated cohort of writers I’m calling The Thirty. Thirty writers will participate in a group coaching experience for a year to practice craft, strategy, critique and platform construction in real time with real submissions and real feedback. This will be the foundation of an education platform I want to build with writers from our community. Carrot Ranch will remain a place of mentoring and fellowship but also give me a launching pad for my next career move.

But I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I’m working on small steps and incremental development. I’ve always believed that we should love what we do and do what we love. I also find it exciting that when we follow our vision, we evolve and what we love becomes more accessible. I don’t believe we ever change dreams; I believe we refine dreams as we grow.

My ENG I class is reading The Fire Keeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. The author has a fantastic story of perseverance as a writer. You can listen to her here:

Coming off my learning curve this week, I’m going to make a left turn with the prompt. I had been thinking about an event I loved when I worked in the natural food industry in the Twin Cities. The Mall of America, known regionally as the MOA, hosted a live cooking show where local celebrity chefs competed to prepare a series of dishes using a fully stocked pantry and unexpected food ingredients, like beef tongue or purple cauliflower or quinoa. It was always great fun (accept for that one year the MOA received a bomb threat and the chefs and hosts were whisked away to a safe room while the rest of us contemplated our lack of social standing, left to be potentially blown to bits, though nothing came of the threat and the show resumed).

Anyhow, after a week of prompting my students, I’m feeling inspired!

September 9, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the cooking show. It can be any cooking show, real or imagined. Who is there? What happens? Make it fun or follow a disaster. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 14, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

The Cooking Show Bombs by Charli Mills

Carl chewed on his bottom lip. The basket revealed to him contained squid, maple syrup, goat cream, and volcanic black rice. The crowded rotunda erupted as the host of the MOA Cooking Challenge explained the secret ingredients. Sharon, fellow chef-restauranteur in downtown Minneapolis, gave Carl the side-eye. The squid. How in the world…? Ink. Black. Rice. Cream. But goat? He released his lip and ran to the pantry nearly colliding with Li Sun of the Golden Dragon Sushi Bar. She’d be his competition this round. Sharon froze on stage, flummoxed. Then, security rushed the stage. Saved by a bomb.

🥕🥕🥕

Not Everyone Fits

Inspired by Ellis Delaney’s song, “Not Everyone Fits,” prompted by “prom dress” from within a creative circle of songwriters. Prompted music prompted literary art. We break free.

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.

Ess-sense by Doug Jacquier

Not everyone fits a prom dress
Not everyone fits a compress
Not everyone spurns a temptress
Not everyone earns their distress
Not everyone wears a nightdress
Not everyone cares to undress
Not everyone has a headdress
Not everyone has the right address
Not everyone has their wounds dress’d
Not everyone is super-stressed
Not everyone gets some redress
Not everyone feels they’re repressed
Not everyone is a seamstress
Not everyone is a mistress
Not everyone is a waitress
Not everyone is a priestess
Not everyone is a tigress
Not everyone has to digress
But everyone needs a hand to press.

🥕🥕🥕

Dress Code: Fancy by E.A. Colquitt

Kara was stuck. The only dresses in the approved shop were a trip hazard. And dinner jackets just felt so restrictive! By day, they barely stood the school blazer, throwing it off as soon as they got in.

Around the house, Kara just wore superhero costumes. They longed to inspire their peers, as their namesake had them. But how?

Mum was unfazed. ‘What’s the problem?’ she asked. ‘It says fancy dress.’

So, masked-up, Kara flew off to prom. Those knee-high boots with hidden jets easily vaulted the venue’s ha-ha.

No flowing cape, though. It’s not exactly à la Mode.

🥕🥕🥕

An Unexpected Guest by Joanne Fisher

“My name is Gruu’nuh. I wish to look pretty and go to prom.” Gruu’nuh announced after emerging out of a portal in Samantha’s bedroom floor. Samantha was going to say that prom was for students and guests only, but she looked up at the towering figure with claws and writhing tentacles, and well, who was she to say no?

Nothing in the house would fit Gruu’nuh, so Samantha draped material over her and stapled it together. Satisfied, Gruu’nuh applied lipstick to her many mouths and eyeliner to her clusters of eyes. It was going to be a memorable evening.

🥕🥕🥕

Dressed for the Prom by Norah Colvin

She surprised them when she emerged, resplendent in formal gown, announcing, “I’m going to the prom.” With a smile as wide as a rainbow after rain, she twirled for them to admire her from every angle. Gorgeous, they agreed, though it was a little wide in the shoulders and a little long in the hem. The neckline would be revealing without underclothes. Someone suggested the beads were overdone, that one or two strands would suffice, but the decision was made. As soon as Billy arrived in the limo for big sister Maud, she was ready. What was keeping him?

🥕🥕🥕

If the Dress Fits by Duane L Herrmann

“Dad! NO! DON’T!!” Tuzulia shouted as her father went into the dressing room.

“You said you would be the ugliest person in this dress,” he replied. “I want to find out.”

“Oh, Dad,” she moaned and slumped in the chair by the door. Why had she opened her big mouth? Though she knew her father would do something incomprehensible; she never anticipated this!

“So,” he announced later, stepping out. “Who’s uglier in this prom dress? You, or me?”

“You,” she moaned.

“Now,” he asked gently. “Which one do you want to try on?”

🥕🥕🥕

Not-so-haute Couture by Nancy Brady

Steve surprised Julia by asking her to the winter semi-formal. In high school, this didn’t mean a gown, just a dressy dress. When she asked, he told her the same thing.

Julia never went to prom; nor had a prom dress, but Julia was always worried about dressing inappropriately for events.

Julia wore her best short dress, but she was the only one. The other women wore gowns, but Steve didn’t seem to mind. He stopped and kissed her on the way in. It was her first kiss; he tasted like cherry, and she stopped worrying about her dress.

🥕🥕🥕

One Size Does Not Fit All by Joanne Fisher

Max (short for Maxine) had always been a tomboy. Now into her teenage years others assumed she would finally become more feminine, but she continued to defy expectations by always wearing jeans and t-shirts and keeping her hair short, but now it was time to attend prom.

After going around clothes shops and trying on dresses, Max knew it wasn’t her every time she looked in the mirror. Her father remarked: “Not everyone fits a prom dress” when he saw her frustration. So Max went to the prom in a tux instead. No one was the least bit surprised.

🥕🥕🥕

Sumita by Saifun Hassam

Dress? Sari? Sumita was adamant. She was not going to the prom dance. She thought of her music class at the temple that same evening.

Growing up in Chicago, Sumita enjoyed many things American and Indian. When it came to music, she loved Indian devotional music.

She went to her music class, playing ragas on her sitar. She came home to find a gorgeous bouquet of star lilies for her. It was from Paul. He wanted to learn to play the guitar to the sounds and rhythms of Indian music. Could he join her next Saturday at the temple?

🥕🥕🥕

Haunted Prom Dress by Simon

Group of college students walked into an abandoned hotel for thrill.

One of them opened a room and there was a prom dress, bright and shiny. Amazed with what he saw, he tried to call his mates.

Before he does, he disappeared!

The moment he opened his eyes, he was wearing the dress.

His plea for help, scared his friends away, since then he is missing.

The investigations found a simple note

“Not everyone fits a prom dress, the one that fits will disappear”

The missing guy screamed, nobody heard his plea, all they saw is hung prom dress.

🥕🥕🥕

Red and White Dress by Anne Goodwin

The bodice crushed my bosoms. Which would burst first, the seams of my dress or me? But I refused to wear that ugly smock for my homecoming. They could keep it for some other unfortunate girl.

Through the taxi window, nothing looked familiar. As we stopped at a palatial building, Sister Bernadette began to pray.

“Am I to go into service?”

A man descended the stone steps to meet us, his gaze on my breasts. I hoped he’d mistake the leakage for a white spot in the pattern of my dress.

“Welcome to Ghyllside.”

The asylum? I’d been tricked.

🥕🥕🥕

Promenade? by Connor Dickinson

9am, Friday 4th July. I’m Cinderella’s lost slipper.
IT girl Melania indulges a tarty-red-number. Then weighs me up, ‘Who would want that porker?’
I’M LAYERED. Yet humiliated threadbare. Our Queen’s classless jibes. Her King dumbwitted: screwed.
Hailstones marble.
God, am I unworthy? I’m prettier, voluptuous perhaps?
Fantasy. A tuxed-Casanova, spins me. The dance floor explodes purple- organza-Catherin-wheels.
4pm. Door opens. I tremble. Damn, another false alarm.
4.55pm. Hopeless. Mother outlaw’s suitors after 5pm.
I hang?
Execute me please?
4.59pm. Chubby Clare Rogers trundles in panting, pounding Gallow-boards.
‘That beauty.’
I nearly die. Relief. Gracefully hooked off the rack.

🥕🥕🥕

Something Old, Something New by Sue Spitulnik

Becca asked Tessa, “Is there any chance you still have your sparkly white prom dress from high school?”

“It’s probably in a closet at my parents. Why?”

“Michael frequently mentions how you looked in that dress, and he’s carried the picture all these years.”

“Really? You must realize there’s no way it’ll fit.”

“But I’ll bet we could use the skirt fabric layers to make a new bodice, even with sleeves if you want, and add a different skirt. Michael would be thrilled.”

“Won’t it be too formal?”

“Not if I design it right,” she said, sketching her visualization.

🥕🥕🥕

Forgetting by D. Avery

A June night. Prom night. ‘A Night to Remember’. “You’re beautiful,” he said.

An August evening. “I’ll do the right thing. I’m working full time… we’ll live with my mom.”

A September morning. She would have been at college. It was a small wedding.

The baby came in March. “He’s perfect,” he said. “He looks just like his father,” his mother said.

Another August evening. He held the sleeping baby while watching baseball with his mother.

“I’m going out for a bit,” she said.

“Home run!” they shouted, waking the baby.

She left her prom dress and son behind.

🥕🥕🥕

We Might Have Danced by Bill Engleson

We might have danced in the morning,
We might have breathed the sweet early air.
We might have flown like an eagle soaring.
We might have landed almost anywhere.

Maybe you think that we knew it all,
that there was nothing else left to learn.
But if we listened to our hearts love call,
We might have found a new fire to burn.

We might have danced in the evening light.
We might have breathed the cool night air.
We might have put up more of a fight
If we hadn’t been wearied from all that wear and tear.

🥕🥕🥕

The Fitting Challenge by Fiery Females

“It tastes heavenly, but this is not the traditional recipe.” The mix of approval and disapproval in her expression is priceless.

“I tweak recipes everyday, because I don’t like food from graveyards. Those recipes were invented and perfected by people long gone. Food needs to be alive like me – thinking, changing, evolving and just the right fit for today’s moods.”

My aunt looks disgusted with “food from graveyards.”

“We need to respect our heritage.”

“By all means, I do improvise on heritage. Just don’t ask me to fit into old dresses or old lifestyles. You will always be disappointed.”

🥕🥕🥕

The Inevitable by Charli Mills

A deputy pounded on Faith’s door. Time to flee. When evacuation orders came, Faith rushed.

Living in the Tahoe basin, she memorized a fire-safety plan she never believed she’d use. Nervous remote workers had fled earlier. For weeks, impenetrable smoke curdled blue sky. Her weather app displayed a gas-mask for air quality. Neighbors passed a rumor that the Nation would deploy the Army. Who would let Tahoe burn?

Climate reality answered with unstoppable flames jumping HWY 50 and the Pacific Crest. Faith double-checked her mental list shoved into a car.

The prom dress from 1985 she hung to burn.

🥕🥕🥕

Mother Teaches by Myrna Migala

“Mom, Dad look and see that house you often admired its yard. It’s for sale! You would often say the grass was ever so green.”

“Yes, dear, but the grass always looks greener on the other side.”

“Huh, what does that mean?”

“It means some people are never satisfied with their own lives and wish for what they should not desire. They even believe that God makes mistakes.” Mother continues. “When/if they arrive on the greener grass, they might find out where they were was the best fit after all. Always trying to fit in can be boring.”

🥕🥕🥕

Successful Stress by JulesPaige

I didn’t want to fit into a prom dress. Especially the one my mother picked for me. Nor did I really care for the blind date my father had set up. I’d have done just fine if I never attended my High School Senior Prom. In that white eyelet lace halter top, floor length gown. My waist long hair plastered in a ridiculous updo because the hairdresser my mother took me to, said it was all the ‘rage’. Bologna! I don’t think one other gal had such a stupid teased updo.

peer pressured
parent pleasing fail
year end dance

🥕🥕🥕

The Pact by Annette Rochelle Eben

Senior prom, the biggest night of high school life, even bigger than homecoming. Cheryl was in tears. She had just been cast as the female lead for a local community theatre production of Butterflies Are Free. Of course, the production would run her senior prom weekend. It meant that she’d be the only one in her senior class who wouldn’t be at the prom.

Hearing her crying, her friend Annette promised to work backstage on the production so Cheryl wouldn’t be the only one not at the prom. There’d be at least one friend there for Cheryl’s big night!

🥕🥕🥕

Not Everyone Fits by FloridaBorne

I didn’t want to go to my high school prom; I’m a terrible dancer and didn’t have a boyfriend.

My mother would have made a dress for me had I wanted to go, but who wants “mom” driving them to the prom?

When my boyfriend in college invited to the ROTC dance, she made an empire-style prom dress out of black velvet on the bottom with orange satin top. Mom had sewn it using a dollar’s worth of remnants and it was an inch too short.

My dress received lots of compliments from girls wearing expensive Scarlett O’hara dresses.

🥕🥕🥕

Cigarette Smoke and Bad Memories by Ellen Best

On the anniversary, she hung her dress at the window. From her mattress, she watched the morning sun catch the turquoise fabric making it shimmer. She studied it through a haze of thick Cigarette Smoke.

The dress was the cleanest thing in there. The dress still bore the stain of his urine. Time had turned the intricate chiffon bodice a dirty shade of chartreuse.
Such a glorious name ruined as she had been ruined. It wasn’t only the prom he spoiled, but herself, her innocence, and the only connection to family that she had left, her Grandmother’s beautiful dress.

🥕🥕🥕

Why I Didn’t Make It to the Party by Anne Goodwin

“Sorry, can’t let you in.” The bouncer thrust the invitation at her.

Anne checked it over: right date; right nightclub. “You’re joking!”

The bouncer flexed his muscles. “Your outfit contravenes the dress code.”

“What?” Anne knew she looked good tonight, even if she didn’t always, in her faux-silk trousers and high-collared blouse.

“The slippers.”

“What’s wrong with them?” What was wrong with him? If only the embroidered dragons on her pink satin shoes could breathe real fire.

“Let’s go!” Hari took her hand.

Anne’s cheeks roasted. It wasn’t her footwear that caused offence. It was her boyfriend’s brown skin.

🥕🥕🥕

Timeless by Rebecca Glaessner

Despite countless weeks spent on coding and design, she’d almost forgotten the outfit.

School notification; dance-hall activated.

Eyes closed, chest tight, time to upload.

Other students uploaded too, filling the dark virtual dance-hall with a chaos of colour. The guests contrasting with timber decor meant for long-lost tuxedos and ballgowns.

She took a moment to escape above the excitement, drifting in a sleek, flight-encoded, wavelength-shifting jumpsuit.

Someone announced her name, startling her as she landed.

Everyone cheered. Friends embraced her.

She’d won best-dressed.

Breathing deep, she ascended again in a shimmer, and soared, feeling free and utterly glorious.

🥕🥕🥕

The Night Owl by Donna Matthews

5 am, and my alarm is blaring.

Last night, frustrated by my less than stellar morning routine, I decided to start waking up earlier. But now that the moment arrived, what the hell was I thinking?? I didn’t even bother with snooze, just shutting the damn thing off.

Noon, I’m berating myself with a pile of unpaid bills, errands unrun, no workout. What’s wrong with me???

Later, after dinner, I break out the watercolors, inspired by a book I’m reading. Around midnight, I step back to admire the piece. The night owl stares back…two kindred spirits sharing the night.

🥕🥕🥕

A Stitch in Time by D. Avery

“Kid! Thet ol’ Singer’s singin’! Didn’t figger ya fer a sewer.”

“Cuz ya make assumptions Pal, which limit yersef as well as me.”

“Hmmf. What’re ya makin’? Thet looks like a pile a old prom dresses thet yer takin apart at the seams.”

“Yep. Then I’m sewin’ ‘em all t’gether inta a parachute. Curly wants ta keep at flyin’.”

“S’pose thet pig told ya thet hersef.”

“Don’t assume she didn’t. If pigs can fly,…”

“Kid, thet was last week’s prompt. This’s pretty lame.”

“Tough prompt. What else I got?”

“Yer fergettin’ the Lemmon twins.”

“Shift! Mebbe I’ll be back.”

🥕🥕🥕

Bespoke an’ Be Speakin’ by D. Avery

“Here they are! Tip an’ Top Lemmon!”

“Hey Kid. Heard ya was strugglin’ with the prompt.”

“It ain’t a good fit, fellas. Um… Yer wearin’ cowboyin’ duds.”

“We been cowboyin’, Kid. Was ya hopin’ we’d be wearin’ prom dresses?”

“Um…”

“Anyway, growth is good, but it sure makes it hard ta squeeze inta them old dresses.”

“Why d’ya do it? Hasn’t puttin’ on women’s clothin’ made it hard fer ya ta fit in?”

“Women’s clothin’? Clothes is clothes.”

“We’re comf’terble enough in our own skins ta cover our skins with whatever’s comf’terble.”

“So if it feels good—”

“Wear it!”

🥕🥕🥕

The Distance Between Us

Twenty years ago this Friday, I went out for a meal to celebrate my birthday with my family. My eighteen year old had graduated from high school that spring and was looking forward to starting college. My two other children had just started their new school year in 4th and 7th Grade.

We enjoyed a light-hearted and happy evening together.

The next morning the phone rang early. My default was oh no. A thud of dread. When you live in California and your relatives are in England, that ring at that hour will do that.

It was my mother-in-law calling from Los Angeles, panic high her voice.

‘Have you heard the news?’

‘No…’

‘Put CNN on, a plane’s crashed into the World Trade Centre.’

A what? Where? I’m not a morning person. Her words jumbled around my foggy brain.

It was a school morning, but with time to spare before rousing the children. I padded over to the living room, clicked the remote and turned on the TV.

Breaking news from New York flashed across the screen. A reporter was interviewing a firefighter, smoke and flames billowing in the distance. A plane had crashed into the North Tower. I barely had time to register this unimaginable disaster as what sounded like another plane in the background, the engine hum growing louder. It sounded low, too low. Something about it…something ominous. There, in full view on the screen, flying towards the South Tower.

My God, it’s going in…

One might be an accident. But two? Two is an attack.

My hands flew to my mouth. My audible gasp brought my children running. Their world, our world, forever changed. I sunk into the sofa, overcome by what next. And with wide-eyed horror we watched the unthinkable when one tower, then the other, collapsed.

The phone rang again. This time it was my mother calling to wish me a belated happy birthday, as arranged. It was afternoon in the UK, she had been out with a friend and hadn’t heard the news. I broke it to her.

Then I remembered; my brother worked for Virgin Airlines and was piloting a Boeing 747 from Gatwick in London to Orlando, Florida that day. Families with children heading excitedly to Disneyworld.

We figured he was probably half way there by then. Concern for his whereabouts and safety dominated our conversation.

We had no contact after that phone call for three days. Our phone lines and internet went down, I was cut off from them all.  All I could do was hope and pray that my brother, his crew, and passengers were all safe.

When communication was restored, he called me and relayed his story.

He got the call from air traffic control not to enter US airspace under any circumstances. He was not told why, only that he should divert to Canada. He gleaned from London what had happened, and factoring in the amount of fuel they had left, made the immediate decision to turn the plane around and fly back to Gatwick.

Nobody knew what other attacks might be forthcoming. His primary concern was to get everyone safely back home. And that’s exactly what he did.

Turn off satellite communications on board and keep everyone calm, he instructed the crew. If passengers got wind of what was going on in New York, they might panic. Children cried and parents demanded an explanation, but a riot was averted,

Once back on British soil, he gave an announcement to his passengers. Relief and gratitude swept over them. Their holidays at Disneyworld would have to wait. It wasn’t important right now.

But that day took its toll on my brother. I saw a change in him, after 9/11.

I emigrated from the UK to the US in 1986. For many years, handwritten letters were my main form of communication with my family. There were no international calling plans, the internet, emails and face-time. Twenty years since 9/11 and my experience is meagre in comparison to the incalculable carnage and tragedy suffered by too many. Yet, those three days cut off from my family not having any news of my brother is something I’ll never forget.

It is always the not knowing that is the worst, I find.

The two decades I lived in California seem fleeting now. That birthday dinner was long ago, yet my children remember it clearly because of the day after. We all live in the UK now.

To say I am grateful spending my upcoming birthday with them is an understatement.

Sherri’s non-fiction, flash fiction and poetry are published in magazines, anthologies and online at her blog. As a young mum of three, she emigrated from the UK to California and stayed for twenty years. Today she lives in England’s West Country with her family and two beautiful black kitties. Her 2021 entry to Fish Publishing Short Memoir Prize was shortlisted and also received a special mention at Spread the Word Life Writing Prize. She is working hard to bring her debut memoir to publication.

Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

If’n your summer (or winter) has been as busy as mine, I shore do ‘preciate your comin’ back for more poeming.

Still, I didn’t get many volunteers in last month‘s offer to send me your poem needing a bit of meter-tinkering. The offer is open, even if you’re reading this months or years after its posting.

Now, on to more FUN poetry specifics:

If my #1 pet peeve is meter, my #2 is when people write poetry for entirely the wrong reasons and are therefore showing off.

Their work is flowery, superfluous, showy, fluffy, wordy, adverby -in short, too much tell AND show in some of the worst ways possible. Their poem ends up a mash of obscure words and emotional pleas that lack a concise theme.

If a poet is new to The Game, s/he will do this innocently.

If a poet is old to the game, s/he will do so because swaths of followers are wowed by a naïve misunderstanding of what really makes poetry good. What will make it memorable. What makes it timeless.

How do you avoid this pitfall? The same way you do with regular exercises: brutal murder of useless words.

“When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat. This is going to hurt; revising a story down to the bare essentials is always a little like murdering children, but it must be done.”

Stephen King

This is one reason why I believe Dr. Seuss is among the poetic masters. How many words does he use is The Cat in the Hat? And yet, I love it. And yet, with my kids, that book I still get…

This is also why, in intentionally ignoring the other rules haiku must follow, I had us try 5-7-5 for our first form. I am sorry to those who felt stabbed at my casual treatment. It had to be done.

Make your poem concise!

Compact!

To a point -please, please have a point to your poetry!

Easier said than done? Nah.

The way I see it, the most common reason a poet strays too far is because the poem doesn’t feel special enough. We have a misconstrued idea that poetry must be mysterious (obscure), beautiful (flowery), long (wordy), and impressive (vainglorious). It DOESN’T; at least, not in the blundering way we try to get it there.

The purpose of a poem is to capture the feelings of a moment and then use the artistry of words and meter to convey that exact moment and its feelings to another.

So, take your moment; your idea.

  1. Write the moment. Try the first exercise we did, word balloons, free-writing, doodling, or finger paints.
  2. Form the words of your moment more poetically. If you feel comfortable following a form, do so. If free verse appeals, try that.
  3. Follow the first two steps a few times. Let someone else read what you’ve got and tell you what they think you’re writing about.
  4. Next, fix the meter. Even free verse poetry follows a meter.
  5. Last and most difficult, murder the unnecessary.
  6. Polish.

And, I want you to use the attached form to send me what you’ve got at any step along the way. I’m happy to give pointers and I NEVER judge writers negatively. Writing’s difficult enough without worrying about judgment.

If you feel up to it, comment with what you end up with after step 6.

I’m waiting.

—–

©2021 Chel Owens

September 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

Honey bees work the pollen from the nodding heads of the sole Lemon Queen in my garden. Only one grew — a volunteer — but the sunflower has over twenty heads. Soon, the petals will shrivel, drop to Roberts Street, and seeds will form to feed the winter birds. So many gifts grew from a determined single seed that fell to a mosaic of garnets. Rocks, flowers, and veg frame hope and potential.

Growth is good.

In the hallways of Finlandia University, I passed a corkboard display to explain the difference between a fixed and growth mindset. I smiled, passing the colorful artwork and encouraging message, aware that I’m walking the right halls. I lugged an armload of binders and notebooks having learned something new — I can better use technology for homework assignments.

Bees must strategize to collect pollen from different flowers. Sunflowers must be easy pollen picking. Hummingbirds are buzzing, too. Soon they will make a long migration to winter grounds. They flit among my petunias and one even poked at lobelia. I can’t imagine much nectar in such a tiny flower, but I admire the tenacity to try. Just as I respect my students who are beginning their own journeys to collect pollen and discover who they are in the world.

I don’t think they like flash fiction. And I say this with a chuckle because I know that a few might be converts by the end of the course, many will be relieved to have survived it, and others will carry forward all the writing lessons they need in building blocks they can re-use. I’m beginning to enjoy the sounds of groans, opening notebooks, and the silence of pens across paper. I can’t make them listen to me. I can’t make them engage with all the resources I provide. But I can make them write in class.

Despite the unpopularity of my favorite form of literary art, I do think they are opening up to the novel I selected for them to read (Fire Keeper‘s Daughter by Angeline Boulley) and they are all deeply thoughtful when they reflect in their journals. They have much writing to do in English I and I hope to show them the connections between craft and writing elements and the connection of academic writing to the world they navigate and the similarities of voice between essay and fiction writing.

As an instructor, I look to impart the material through different modalities. It was something I did as a trainer, too. Basically, we all learn through our senses, primarily visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. In education, we refer to these as the VARK learning styles, but in the workplace, many experts argue that people have more than a single preference. When I was learning to teach, my profs emphasized that we all learn better if given multimodal learning opportunities. It’s my belief that writers need to write to learn. Thus, my passion for the 99-word format.

However, many experts also point out that writing can’t be learned from writing alone. There must be engagement and a feedback loop. My students receive classroom lectures with my colorful and connected drawings of graphs on the board to “see” how craft elements and story structure works. Then, they “hear” the stories and craft elements in works I read aloud and then go back to point out the structure and elements at work. I give them written, digital, and auditory resources. Picking up a pencil and making them draft three flash fiction in 15 minutes is a kinesthetic act.

If I had a big van, I’d take them to Lady Superior with me and let them roam, explore and write descriptions or dialogs with the rushing water. I’d take them hiking and have them find a tree to interview. Most definitely, I’d load them up and take them to the Red Jacket Jamboree to experience a live radio show. On Sunday, I got to go listen to Ellis Delaney perform live.

What a delightful singer-songwriter and beacon of joy! During the show, I found out that Ellis participates in a weekly songwriting challenge among a group of music artists. I was wiggling in my chair with excitement to listen to her speak about the impact of inspiring and supporting one another through their art. Her song, “Not Everyone Fits” was written to the prompt, “prom dress.” As a non-binary person, the prompt was far from her life values, but she turned it into a powerful song. After the show we briefly connected and I asked if she had a link to the song. She expressed excitement over what we do here at Carrot Ranch.

The artists will save the world.

If ever we need art — and the thoughtful interaction and inspiration it creates — it is now. Gather up all the pollen you can, and write, write, write!

September 2, 2021, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story to the theme, “not everyone fits a prom dress.” You can take inspiration from Ellis Delaney’s song, the photo, or any spark of imagination. Who doesn’t fit and why? What is the tone? You can set the genre. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by September 7, 2021. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form.  Rules & Guidelines.

The Inevitable by Charli Mills

A deputy pounded on Faith’s door. Time to flee. When evacuation orders came, Faith rushed.

Living in the Tahoe basin, she memorized a fire-safety plan she never believed she’d use. Nervous remote workers had fled earlier. For weeks, impenetrable smoke curdled blue sky. Her weather app displayed a gas-mask for air quality. Neighbors passed a rumor that the Nation would deploy the Army. Who would let Tahoe burn?

Climate reality answered with unstoppable flames jumping HWY 50 and the Pacific Crest. Faith double-checked her mental list shoved into a car.

The prom dress from 1985 she hung to burn.

🥕🥕🥕

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