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November 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

Storm windows form an extra layer against the cold like thermal underwear in winter. It’s that time of year when my global positioning triggers EOSO — early-onset-snow-obsession. I recently entered a short story contest dedicated to the theme of snow. I wrote, “I live in a snow globe where a dome of clouds hunkers…” Storm windows buffer my watch over the ever-falling snow glitter.

And they went up this morning with whacks and thunks. When your house has lived through 120 years of storm window seasons, a rubber mallet helps to pound the frames into place. My son-in-law popped by this morning to finish up a few before-winter-hits house projects because winter already hit.

Already, I feel less of a draft with the extra panes. I wonder, when were storm windows invented? We have the original 120-year-old windows with glass imperfections that can warp the view outside. Who were the people who lived here before, and were they window-gazers? As writers, as creatives, as dreamers, we stare out of windows.

“Give me a window and I’ll stare out it.”

~ Alan Rickman

“In the old days, writers used to sit in front of a typewriter and stare out of the window. Nowadays, because of the marvels of convergent technology, the thing you type on and the window you stare out of are now the same thing.”

~ Douglas Adams

“My favorite journey is looking out the window.”

~ Edward Gorey

“Set wide the window. Let me drink the day.”

~ Edith Wharton

“If you want the people to understand you, invite them to your life and let them see the world from your window!”

~ Mehmet Murat ildan

“I was just sitting on the train, just staring out the window at some cows. It was not the most inspiring subject. When all of a sudden the idea of Harry just appeared in my mind’s eye.”

~ J. K. Rowling

My friend, Paula, drove six hours from Minneapolis to stay with me this week while drafts of cold wafted through the windows before the second layers went up. She came to stare out windows, winterized or not. My vision for home and Carrot Ranch converges — this house at World Headquarters is the Roberts Street Writery. A place to stare out of windows.

Paula calculated that we’ve seen each other three times in seven years. Before that, we saw each other daily, working on a management team together. Paula is a leader of leaders. Specifically, she is an independent certified Dare to Lead™ facilitator trained by Brené Brown.

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

~ Brené Brown

As writers, to own our stories is to cultivate our authentic voices, the one distinction that will define our writing and keep our output original. We know all about vulnerability. To write is to be courageous.

My friend dares to step out to the frontlines of a VUCA world, to train leaders for uncertain times. When I first read the definition for VUCA, I thought perhaps it was a bit harsh, but then, look at the state of American politics this week and how much has shifted and polarized over the past two years. Look at crises around the world and our connectivity to it all. VUCA is a dim prospect to consider.

In a way, my friend installs storm windows, teaching leadership skills for a turbulent world.

Entrepreneurs are like artists. Or artists are like entrepreneurs.

“When I say artist I mean the one who is building things … some with a brush – some with a shovel – some choose a pen.”

~ Jackson Pollock

The Roberts Street Writery is a place where my friend could unplug from her busy uncertain world and slow down to dream about building her leadership consulting business. She arrived at the Keweenaw snow globe on Monday, Veteran’s Day. She joined a group of us from the Vet Center for dinner at the Pilgrim Steakhouse (they generously offered free meals to veterans that day). She joined one of my local writer friends, Donna, at the Continental Fire Company to co-judge a Rodeo contest and met my friend Cynthia at the Ripley Falls Home of Healing. We toured Finlandia’s facilities for workshops, shopped Copper World in Calumet, and had coffee at Cafe Rosetta. She told me it felt like there is more air here.

Carrot Ranch Headquarters is a place where artists and entrepreneurs can collect their thoughts, breathe, and find respite. It’s also a place to find an intact community. Paula writes about her visit in Good Times and Perfect Strangers. The benefits are reciprocal. The Keweenaw experiences new ideas, art, and exchanges. Roberts Street Writery guests experience what they need for rejuvenation. My friend is my fourth guest (our very own D. Avery was my first).

We have much yet to do to get the house the way I envision it for guests, but it is fully functioning and everyone enjoys its character. We have a queen bed in the Rodeo Room and a twin air mattress for the Unicorn Reading Room. After the first of the year, I’ll be hosting Silent Reading Parties and Write-ins. They will be live literary events simultaneously at the Roberts Street Writery and online. More details to come mid-January.

If any Carrot Rancher wants to get away to the Keweenaw, the Rodeo Room is open to you for up to three nights at no cost to stay. In the future, I hope to establish an actual Artist in Residency and seek travel support locally or through grants. But that’s likely a few years out. Like with everything we do, this is a simple first step.

If you are interested in coming to stay at the world headquarters for Carrot Ranch, shoot me a message. It’s an exchange: you get respite and a place to write, my community gets to meet a writer. I can set up readings from private to public, take you on a media tour, and let you experience all the Keweenaw has to offer or space for staring out windows.

This term, I’m studying plot and continuing to master x-ray reading. I’m plowing through I novel I detest, which is good. I’m reading carefully to understand how the author constructed it, what rubs me the wrong way, and why critics highly regard it. I’ll withhold final judgment until completed, but it has ruined my I’m-so-excited-to-read-every-day vibe. It’s work.

The other two novels offer more story, although one has horrible characters. Mind you, they are well-crafted characters, but shallow, racist, sexist, selfish characters. The third book has a great narrative drive and a protagonist (a book conservator). But the point of my opinion is that not all readers are a book’s target market. As an MFA student, I don’t get to read my pleasure. I’m reading as an author, and each book is teaching me something about the craft and industry marketing.

I’ve talked before about plotters and pantsers (writing by the seat of your pants). I firmly believe a book writer must be both, but how and when is a matter of learning to work to one’s strength. I identify as a pantser, but professionally, I’m striving for plantser, an intentional combination. I’m excited to be learning more about how to plot.

This week, I learned a way to craft a chapter like it were carpentry. Author Gabriel Garcia Marquez described in an interview (Writing Craftsmanship, Films on Demand) how the writer is to hook the reader by revealing the what but not the how. He gives an example of an opening that makes a reader wonder if the character gets killed. Our curiosity often breaks the spell to flip to the last page. Instead, Marquez advises, state right away that the character gets killed and then hook the reader line by line with the story of how.

One of my professors also linked to Kurt Vonnegut’s Shapes of Stories! We already know that one. But it is a useful technique to think of every story you are familiar with (from fairy tales to books read) and name their shapes. This exercise teaches you to identify plot. You can also answer these questions in brief when you read:

  1. How is the plot introduced?
  2. How does the plot develop?
  3. How does the plot climax?
  4. What is the plot’s resolution?

Know the difference between premise and plot. Think of a premise as that the what-if setup — what if an orphaned boy was capable of magic and had to go to a secret school to master his skills? How Harry Potter does that and all the things that happen next are elements of plot.

My professor pointed out that often, early in writing, we have a great premise but no plot. Premise is not plot. It gave me an a-ha moment. I love to write for discovery. But that doesn’t mean I discover the plot. Therefore, it’s good to master quick plot-mapping skills (through learning to summarize book plots) so that you can plot while you pants. Plantsing.

And if you are the opposite, carefully plotting, make sure you also take time to write without the framework to see what you might discover. You can pants in between plotting. Plantsing.

I know we have stared out windows before, but let’s have some fun with storm windows as a phrase or device in our stories this week.

November 14, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using storm windows. It can be literal on a house, but also consider other portals, even spaceships or submarines. Can you make it into something new or build a story around something historical? Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 19, 2019. 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.

NOTE: Contest winners from all the flash fiction contests during the 2019 Rodeo will be announced on November 28, 2019.

Snow is the Mother of Invention by Charli Mills
Trudging snowy streets in blizzard conditions, Regis arrived home. He flipped a spring-loaded mechanism at the side of each lens of improvised goggles. In place, the outer lenses prevented moisture from coating the inner ones. Tiny nozzles spayed an anti-freezing gel that kept the outer frost-free without harming his eyes. “Eureka,” he shouted, startling the crows in his bare maples. He hopped, skipped and slid, crashing through the basement door, grasping for any handhold. Empty-handed he sprawled across the floor. Regis pushed himself up and whistled cheerily. Storm windows for the nearsighted might be his best invention to date.

Water Walkers

In the Anishinaabe tradition, Water Walkers are the women who do the work of the water. They collect water from one place, relay the water in a copper pot, and return it to another. Water Walkers pray for the water, contemplating its life-giving force. They sing with gratitude and respect. Modern Water Walkers unite all people and all nations to protect the water for the next generations.

Writers from all walks used Water Walkers as a title or phrase, offering new stories and different genres to expand the concept.

For a personal account of the 90-mile three-day 2019 People of the Heart Water Walk and 99-word stories inspired by the experience, see the article in KeweenawNow by Charli Mills.

The following stories are based on the November 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes Water Walkers.

PART I (5-minute read)

I Am Water by Ann Edall-Robson

I remember the rumble of the rocks and the quiver of the earth below. The same memory that took me into darkness; but it did not stop me from breathing. Hope in my heart moved me onward beneath the lifeless blanket. A continual hunt for an escape route. Always in search of new orifices to travel. The rocks are on the move, again. A pinhole of light encourages me to push, gushing upward. Released. Victorious! A breeze dances across my soul. Carefree and unchecked I tumble over rocks that once were my jailer. I am water. I am life.

🥕🥕🥕

Elemental by D. Avery

Since the beginning, These Ones delighted in their individual strengths but the essence of These Ones was harmony. In celebration, they sought to give form to harmony by coalescing their essences. Fire would spark potential, Air would give breath, but it was formless Water that gave form to the colorful soils Earth gave for their bodies. Without Water, these creations would be dust. Like the plants that gave them life, these creations could only stand when filled with Water.
Water prayed as these creations walked the Earth, breathed the Air and tended their Fires. Go in peace, Water Walkers.

🥕🥕🥕

A Walk Amongst Watery Words by Bill Engleson

Somewhere under the earth,
in veiled aquifers,
water waits for birth,
the magic that occurs.

Drawn from the depths,
life sustaining fluid,
purified in steps,
swallow, and we’re refueled.

And though it gives life,
quenches our parched thirst,
it also causes strife
for some, forever cursed.

Locked in arid land,
water walkers sacred soil,
poisoned rocks and sand,
blighted by extorted oil.

Fields opined, “I never drink water.
That’s the stuff that rusts pipes.”
And there was gurgled laughter
cause it takes all types.

Yet, beneath the earth
in hidden aquifers,
water waits for birth,
the magic that occurs.

🥕🥕🥕

Water Striders by H.R.R. Gorman

Skri water walks over to me. “Lookit – those things are on the island again.”

The short-limbed creatures watch me from the shores. I do not bounce as if to play, do not acknowledge them. Instead I reach below the surface to grab a chunk of algae. “I thought nothing lived on land.”

“You know what the elder says?” Skri leaned in close. “She thinks they’re monsters.”

The materially-rich monsters move as if to avoid scaring us. There’s something knowing about them, something intelligent, but they’re absent the holiness of water.

I shudder. Nothing with a soul walks on land.

🥕🥕🥕

The Water Walkers by Joanne Fisher

The abandoned house was so cheap they were practically giving it away. A local told me I shouldn’t have moved into it as the house was too close to the bay and the Water Walkers would come. Water Walkers, apparently, lived under the waves and occasionally took people away. As local legends go, this was a crazy one! I ignored their superstitions.

One night I awoke to find dark figures standing above me. Their wet slimy hands grabbed hold and carried me off to the water. I was screaming when they dragged me down into the depths with them.

🥕🥕🥕

#27 Liquidity by JulesPaige

I walk, carrying my own water. uncomfortably, but manageable. I should have gone before I went on my Día de Muertos errand. I think am my own conversation piece – with a mutt, a crow in a basket and a kitty in my jacket pocket.

I think I’ll have one right here, a little rest by little fresh water spring that draws me closer. Dawg drinks, and looks at me; “Try this!” His eyes say. “Magic water”. Byrd caws…My eyes blink like wipers on a windshield… there is a sparkle poking out from under a rock, a diamond bracelet…

🥕🥕🥕

Water Walkers (“Crater Lakes”) by Saifun Hassam

In early spring waterfalls cascaded from caves high in the Granite Mountains. Creeks filled with rapidly flowing water. In the valleys, underground springs fed the Crater Lakes with an abundance of water. By early summer the lush green mountain ridges turned golden brown.

Mountain goats and deer followed trails of Water Walkers from the ridges down to the Crater Lakes. There were trails of Water Walkers along the ridges, of vanished pueblo dwellers and of more recent pioneers. Ruins of wells dotted the ridges. Nesting blue jays, blue birds and nuthatches splashed in the overflowing water in the spring.

🥕🥕🥕

The Last Laugh by Jo Hawk

They laughed and said I was off my rocker.

I smiled, content to bide my time. I would win the bet, earn the last laugh and gain some cold, hard cash. Summer turned to fall, and autumn succumbed to frigid winter. I set the date to prove them wrong.

“It’s the coldest day in a century,” they complained. I remained steadfast.

The polar vortex froze Lake Michigan’s shoreline, her beaches transformed from a liquid to a solid, firm enough to hold my weight. Warm vapor rose from her waves, and for a moment, I dared to walk on water.

🥕🥕🥕

No Water, No Walk in Life by Miriam Hurdle

“Dad, what is the most powerful of the five elements of nature? Metal, wood, water, fire or earth?”

“If you were deserted in an island, or a drifting boat in an ocean, what is one thing you need to survive?”

“You made a point. I guess it’s water.”

“A human can be without food for more than three weeks, but he can only go without water for a week.”

“Lost at sea could drink seawater.”

“Seawater contains salt higher than human can process and makes us thirstier.”

“Only fresh water helps us survive then.”

“You got it, Son.”

🥕🥕🥕

Water Walker by Susan Sleggs

I am an American. I raised my right hand and affirmed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against any who oppose it. I agreed to follow the orders of the President and all others ranked above me. I have been to war and done things I believe are morally wrong, but would do them again to protect my country. Like my friend’s grandmother, a Water Walker who fights to protect water because it is life, I will fight whenever and wherever I am told because Freedom isn’t free and I’m willing to pay the price.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (5-minute read)

Water Walkers by Charli Mills

My Nakomis shields my body with hers when they pelt us with rubber bullets. They don’t understand why we don’t die like all the others around the globe. They think we hoard a stash of stolen science. We are the Water Walkers, and we speak on behalf of the world’s poisoned water. Scientists can now alter the DNA code of entire families to survive the hydro-toxicity crisis. Only select families, though. They want to know why we aren’t altered or dead. Threatened us to give up our secret. Nakomis says we never held back. We tried to teach them.

🥕🥕🥕

Water Walk by Anita Dawes

Water has a memory
Especially when it comes
to trying to wash the world away
Down some metaphorical drain hole
Flooding seems to drag all water together
It’s hard being reminded that there are many
Taking the water walk to survive
When so many take their hot and cold taps for granted
I remember my grandmother walking out of the house
To the pump room where she would carry her bucket
the three flights to her two small rooms
From preparing food, washing, cleaning house
she would need to take the water walk
I like to walk beside her…

🥕🥕🥕

Women at Work by Anne Goodwin

From a distance, you’d think they were walking on water. Serenely they float in bright-coloured saris, balancing baskets and pots on their heads. Traversing lagoons with gifts for their gods in the temple or visiting friends for chai and a chat.

Come closer and you’ll see something different, as they hitch up their skirts and step down from the banks built of mud. In the fields, crosshatched by embankments and walkways, tender green shoots poke out from ankle-deep water and mud. These women have no time for gossip: rice demands their devotion; their families need rice or they’ll starve.

🥕🥕🥕

Lluvias Monzónicas by TN Kerr

Just up country from the old church, a redbud tree stood alone on a rock strewn hillock, a vigilant sentinel minding the landscape, watching. At least thrice a week Miriam would walk there with a yoke and two large buckets filled with sweet water drawn from the creek. She’d sing and offer water to the tree.

When the lluvias monzónicas came and swept away Miriam’s adobe she went to plead with the redbud tree. She went to ask for shelter. Redbud shuddered with the storm and cooed, “Of course niña. Come close, take refuge, and sleep beneath my branches.”

🥕🥕🥕

Water Walker by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The days were endless, the nights not long enough. She was tired, but too well-rested. She had all she needed to restore her health, but was weary of doing the work to rejoin the world.

Yet there remained moments–lilac’s scent, chickadee’s song, soft cashmere blanket lying beneath her cooling hands–that hinted shucking her failing body, she’d become what, rather than who she was meant to be.

The child with her own smile approached from the dark corner of the room. Thirsty, she received the child’s caress, the sweet water in a simple glass, finally hers to enjoy.

🥕🥕🥕

Erie Kai Water Walker by Nancy Brady

This Water Walker was a member of a tribe who left during the war that was being waged by the British, Canadians, and Americans. While they left, she stayed to protect her home and family. Her bones were discovered later near the shoreline of the lake. She was called Old Woman (Minehonto), and the stream bears her name still.

Even now, Old Woman Creek forms a natural estuary with the lake her tribe called the Wildcat, Lake Erie. Just as she protected her territory long ago, the locals of the Estuary Research Center protect the creek and the lake.

🥕🥕🥕

Anishinaabe and Josephine Mandamin by Susan Zutautas

It was grandmother Josephine’s purpose in life to save, and protect the clean water, and the unpolluted lakes.

She could not do this on her own so she would protest along with other water walkers every chance she got to tell people how sacred water was and how it was a lifeline for all of us. The water was becoming endangered and she was determined to let the people know.

Josephine walked 17,000 kilometers around the great lakes, and she co-founded the Mother Earth Water Walk.

The first Mother Earth Water Walk was in 2003 and still continues today.

🥕🥕🥕

Oo-wa! by D. Avery

“Hey Kid.”

“Hey Pal.”

“Got anything?”

“Ya mean fer the prompt?”

“Yep.”

“Nope.”

“Nuthin’?”

“This’s a tough one, Pal, talkin ‘bout water. I’m comin’ up dry.”

“Kid, yer all wet. It ain’t ‘bout talkin’ ‘bout water. More ‘bout listenin’ ta water. Lookit Shorty there, walkin’ the talk.”

“Yeah, Shorty’s walkin’ tall. Thet’s somethin’, the leader of Buckaroo Nation carryin’ on with the Anishinaabe.”

“Yep, carryin’ Nibi. Shorty took her chuck wagon on the road an’ ended up bein’ a Water Walker.”

“Oo-wa! It’s good work. Was that sacred water Pal?”

“Course, Kid. All water is sacred; water is life.”

🥕🥕🥕

November 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Water is life.

It’s 4 a.m., and I’m brewing a pot of coffee in the Hub’s stainless steel pot. I pour the water into the reservoir, scoop coffee grounds dark as dirt into a filter, and hit brew. Back upstairs, I shower beneath hot water, letting the flow ease the stiffness from my body and revive my senses. I dress in layers to prepare for the biting cold of Gichigami — the Big Sea called Lake Superior. It’s October, and I have no plans to dip a toe in the sea, but I will be spending much of the day along her frigid fall shores. In a skirt.

Skirts feel like a foreign language to me; I’m never sure if I’m wearing one correctly. But I’m part of something sacred, and protocols state that kwe wear skirts so the earth can recognize that we are women. Fortunately, protocols also allow for pants underneath (translation for Brits in case you thought I might go commando, pants as in trousers). I’ve packed extra socks, a first-aid kit, communal drinking water in a 10-gallon cooler, snacks baked or donated by my Warrior Sisters, food for tonight’s feast in a small church basement, and the steel coffee pot.

Forty-five minutes later, I’ve avoided the deer hanging out alongside the road and drive in the pitch dark past Copper Harbor. It’s 5:30 a.m., and I park my car at Astor Shipwreck Park across the road from Fort Wilkins, which is shuttered until next spring. My car companion is going to drive a truck behind two senior citizens who will ride behind a group of women who are gathering this early morning to walk the water from Copper Harbor to Sandpoint Lighthouse in Keweenaw Bay, home of the Anishinaabe. They are meeting us here in the dark, teaching us their protocols so we might unite all peoples to do the work of the water. The Anishinaabekwe — the women — all wear traditional ribbon skirts and good walking boots or tennies.

It’s so dark, we don’t know each other and laugh as we begin to figure out voices. The air is cold, and the weather forecasters predict mixed precipitation. The Water Walkers of the tribe plan to make the 90 mile trip in three days. I’ve been helping with logistics — social media, communications, securing food and shelter. No one is in charge, but without a doubt, the Anishinaabekwe lead us. They hope to break down cultural barriers and teach us to protect the water according to their traditions. Gichigami is their Big Sea. The lands we walk across are ceded territories. To do the work of the water is to take a spiritual journey.

A small motor put-puts in the dark, heralding the arrival of two elderly women in a golf cart. People move and shift in shadows. Terri has the copper pot with Nibi (water), and another person carries the Eagle Staff. I can’t see, but I hear the pitch of excitement in her voice. The walk has begun. We are all asked to place acema (tobacco) in our left hand, the hand closest to our hearts, and say a prayer for the water as we cross over Fannie Hooe Creek and follow the kwe carrying Nibi in a copper vessel. Once the water is in motion, it cannot stop. Kwe take turns conveying the water, and any gender or non-binary can hold the staff. Several young and robust women from the Copper Harbor area will take turns with the Anishinaabekwe.

My friends are among those who have gathered — Cynthia and Laura (rodeo judges, they are, too). I set out with them at a brisk speed. It’s so dark and silent as we walk to Copper Harbor. We chatter and laugh. I start to worry that the pace is faster than I anticipated. My friend, Bon, is waiting at her house along the lake route with breakfast for the walkers. I plan to walk and catch a ride back to my car, but no one seems to know how far ahead the relay van is. So, I turn back and walk alone to my car, my thoughts on my role to support the Water Walkers. I feel like a contrary clown, walking backward.

That was October 19.

I had planned to offer snacks and water. Bon gifted me with the use of her air-pots for coffee and a recipe for omelets on the go. The ones she made for the walkers were a huge hit. I had set up the feast at Bethany Church in Mohawk. I would feed people. The next day, I might fill in where I could, but I knew another person was managing that night’s feast, and the following day, I’d touch base. The Tribal Council was in charge of that feast. I felt like the event was going smoothly, and I’d be needed less and less.

Well, you know what they say about the best-laid plans? Nibi had other intentions.

Fourteen years ago, my daughter was a junior in high school. I had hoped she would attend secondary school at my alma mater — Carrol College in Montana. But she was also interested in another liberal arts college — Northland in northern Wisconsin. We made trips to both places, and the first time I saw Bayfield, Wisconsin, I fell in love with the Chequamegon Bay. For years, we had camped in northern Minnesota, and the North Shore of Lake Superior captivated me. The cliffs and waves of the North Shore are terrifying and majestic. Along Chequamegon Bay, the Apostle Islands buffer the inland sea.

When I first wrote Miracle of Ducks, I set it in Bayfield. I knew that Ike’s best friend, Michael Robineaux, would be from the band of Red Cliff Ojibwa. That’s how he came to me, in the way characters do.

What I didn’t know, until after the walk, is that Bayfield is ceded Anishinaabe lands. Madeline Island, where I studied the W-story structure at MISA, is a spiritual place for the tribe. It’s a sacred water place. In 2012, I seriously contemplated making it my home, the draw of the water had been so strong that summer I had lived there, writing and bobbing in the bay. Instead, I went to Idaho to be with the Hub. My eldest and her husband moved to Missoula, Montana. Our middle daughter moved out west, and we joked that our son would come next. But the water called us back. Gichigami called me home — Lady Lake Superior.

Day two of the Water Walk I learned that it is not about the walk. People peeled off, leaving a small core group. We had to strategize relaying the water, keeping it flowing forward. My focus shifted to the Grandmothers — the two in the golf cart. I felt drawn to carry Nibi and asked the Hub if he’d carry the Eagle Staff. He said no, citing his other knee, which will need surgery. That deflated me. I’ve had three back surgeries, and I’m fit to run a desk. I realized I was not one to walk the water. And I had a role to play. I was doing the work of the water, too. When the Water Walkers crossed the Houghton Bridge, more people joined. I wanted to walk across the bridge, too, but someone needed to drive the Tribal van.

Kwe in skirts with Nibi.

Arranging for police escort was tricky. They wanted to meet the walkers at a certain point and time, but the water doesn’t stop or wear a watch. Neither does the woman carrying Nibi. I stayed in contact with our officer as another woman, and I scouted the route and where we could cross. By the time the Water Walkers caught up, the group had grown to twenty. At that point, I took over the van (“Look Native,” Kathy told me). I parked on the other side of the Keweenaw Waterway, the great canal large enough for lake freighters, and hoofed it back up to the bridge, camera in hand.

The video catches an awkward cultural miscommunication — the Water Walkers recognized me and shouted oo-waa! I did not shout back. Sometimes I’m slow to understand social cues. Later, when I learned more about this vocalization, Kathy told me she likes to go into the woods and shout. Sometimes she gets a call back. It’s the early communication system of the Anishinaabe: “I’m here, I see you, where are you.” But I knew I was seen, I was called to merge with the walkers as they passed me on the bridge followed by the flashing lights of the Hancock Police.

People asked what we were protesting. The police asked if we were carrying signs, and what did they read? One of my roles was to educate people, and I made small handouts to explain the Water Walk. Our message joins all colors, philosophies, faiths, and beliefs — no matter our differences, no matter our political standings, no matter our knowledge of science, one simple truth binds us all — Water is life. Cutting through the bike trails to avoid traffic in Houghton, our Water Walkers passed homeowners mowing lawns and raking leaves. One man dismounted his riding mower and salutes the procession with his hand on his heart. The Grandmothers teared up, touched by the simple recognition.

Our mixed group is called People of the Heart. Kathy and Terri come from the same Lodge where they practice traditional healing. Their teachings clearly state that they are for “all people.” In fact, 500 years ago, the Anishinaabe left their eastern lands to adhere to prophecy. They were to go where the food grows on the water (wild rice, manoomin) — the Northland (north Minnesota, northern Wisconsin, and the upper peninsula of Michigan). There would come a time when the world would need the teachings of the Anishinaabe. The time has come for us to protect our water

Water is life.

Not oil, not money, not the latest iPhone or Unicode emoji. Kathy is not only a Water Walker, but she is also a biologist for the Tribe. For many years, she fought wildfires out west, leading a Native crew. Terri is an early childhood educator for the Tribe. The Grandmothers both serve on Tribal Council and sew. Sewing includes traditional skirts, shirts, and vests with ribbons, embroidery, and beading. The Anishinaabe traditions co-exist with the modern world, and it’s a gift packed with wisdom and experience and wonder. It’s teaching based on responsible use, respect, gratitude, and protection. Water is life, and we are to protect it not only for our generation but for the next seven.

How will decisions made today impact the future? Does policy or pollution threaten those seven generations from now? If we do this today, what happens tomorrow? Imagine if seven generations ago, those in power thought this way. We have become short-sighted. Doing the work of the water means taking time to contemplate its future, our future, a future we won’t live to see, but one we impact right now. Water has no voice. Corporations have personhood, but water does not. Kwe speak for the sovereignty of water, we are the life-bringers, the women with the capacity to carry a baby to term in a sac of water. Corporations have legal rights, but water is life.

Day three dawned long after I had. Three mornings in a row, I rose at 4 a.m. to fix four pots of coffee, refill the water jug, pack snacks, and fix breakfast on the go for the Water Walkers. I have relaying down by day three. Our support vehicles leap-frog ahead half a mile. My warm car is ready for walkers to take a break. We are operating lean — one kwe to carry Nibi, one person to carry the Eagle Staff. Once the sun comes up, several other women walk in support, and we continue the half-mile to a mile relay. The water moves forward, not stopping

The Grandmothers have accepted me, and they laugh and joke, waving their mugs my direction for more coffee. They take my succession of snacks, loving bologna sandwiches the best. Kathy calls it “Indian steak.” In America, it’s the comfort food of the poor. I know bologna well. When we were broke down and homeless in Gallup, we shared all the poor food I knew growing up with the Natives in New Mexico. Never had pinto beans tasted so good as when shared by others who know life’s struggles and yet still smile and give all they have to give. At feast the night before, the Grandmothers claimed me, and the Hub says the Navajo wanted me, too. Kathy says, “The Dine can not have her,” and we all laugh.

It’s a wonder to me, a moment of serendipity, that Michael Robineaux came to me as an imaginary character for a novel years before I’d come to be known to his people. When I felt the draw to Lake Superior, I was called by Gichigami to know her fully, to know all nations touching her shores. Oo-wa! I am seen. This time I understand enough to call back. Oo-wa! I see your humanity, too. We are one. The water unites us.

At dawn on the third day, I found a snowmobile bar open and willing to let us use the restrooms. By then, the whole UP had heard of the Water Walkers with news coverage. All the kwe used community connections and news media to get the word out. Somehow, an officer with the State Troopers missed all that. He pulled over Terri’s truck that drove behind the Grandmothers like an honor guard. In her absence, I slid in. The Grandmothers are all-seeing from behind. They watch the walkers, the water, the staff, the land, and the sky. They speak up when they need to and stay silent to let the younger ones experience for themselves. We need all generations in unity.

We need all peoples, all nations. Water is life.

One of the walkers asked me to walk Nibi. I didn’t think I could. But I tried. She said she’d walk with me, carrying the Eagle Staff. This kwe, whose dog was dying as we walked, focused on life, not death. This strong woman wanted all of us kwe to spend time in contemplation, carrying Nibi no matter our levels of strength. As I faced the Water Walker coming my way, I confessed my fear — it’s the same one that hits me when I submit my writing — it’s not enough, I’m not enough. Old recordings, debilitating doubt, lies we believed. I focused on the truth. Water is life. I grabbed the copper bucket, I did not look to the left, I did not look to the right, I walked forward. At my own pace.

I’m surrounded by women dancing circles around me in skirts and shawls. Why was I ever averse to skirts? They flow like water, skirts to skirts, shawls to shawls, women encircle the work, doing the work of water. I carry Nibi in me. Gitchigami rises overhead in a thick bank of clouds pushing away the storm that was supposed to hit us during the walk. Water kept us dry. Eleven eagles greeted us at the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community border. We walked the Anishinaabekwe home. I walked the water. I am a Water Walker. I am kwe. This time the story caught the story-catcher.

Lead Buckaroo walks the water.

November 7, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes Water Walkers. It does not have to be in the Anishinaabe tradition; in fact, it would be more interesting to see interpretations from across all nations and walks. It can be a title or used as a phrase. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 12, 2019. 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.

NOTE: Contest winners from all the flash fiction contests during the 2019 Rodeo will be announced on November 28, 2019.

SUBMISSIONS CLOSED. SEE OUR LATEST CHALLENGE.

Water Walkers by Charli Mills

My Nakomis shields my body with hers when they pelt us with rubber bullets. They don’t understand why we don’t die like all the others around the globe. They think we hoard a stash of stolen science. We are the Water Walkers, and we speak on behalf of the world’s poisoned water. Scientists can now alter the DNA code of entire families to survive the hydro-toxicity crisis. Only select families, though. They want to know why we aren’t altered or dead. Threatened us to give up our secret. Nakomis says we never held back. We tried to teach them.

Day of the Dead

Lurking in the shadow of Halloween is a Mexican holiday memorializing ancestors and influenced by the Catholic feast of All-Saints Day. Today, many popularize the Day of the Dead with its unique sugar skull art and skeletal face paintings.

Writers from around the world might not be acquainted with the actual holiday, which is distinctly Mexican, but Halloween seemed a good day to see where such a prompt might lead.

The following is based on the October 31, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead.

PART I (10-minute read)

Traditions by Annette Rochelle Aben

When we were little, most children prepared for trick or treating, while we built altars. Dear Angelitos were invited into our homes on October 31st. Bringing all spirit children together with earthly children.
The next day, All Saints Day, we were welcoming the spirits of all our adult family members. They celebrated with us joyfully for we were all together again.

We gathered at the cemetery on All Souls Day recognizing the connection of family and friends between those on earth and those in heaven.

In my world, there is no death. Only transitions. Because, I grew up, Mexican.

🥕🥕🥕

Day of the Dead by Faith A. Colburn

We played their music—Moonlight Serenade, In the Mood, Begin the Beguine, Benny Goodman, and Count Basie. Dad liked roses, so we bought some and poked them behind our ears, pinned them in our hair. We sprayed the room with Mom’s favorite, White Shoulders. I broiled big T-bones, shucked oysters, baked lemon meringue pie. We ate by candlelight. Sis made Manhattans and we sipped them between dancing the Latin Walk, and jitterbugging, swinging around the livingroom like we knew what we were doing. By midnight when we played Sentimental Journey, it almost felt like they were dancing with us.

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Visitation by Joanne Fisher

“Grandma?’ Cindy said surprised.

“Cindy! It’s wonderful to see you again.”

“You’ve been gone for over 15 years, and now you’re standing in my kitchen.”

“It’s the Day of the Dead, sweet child. I’ve been in your thoughts recently, which is why I’m here.” Grandma replied.

“I remember you telling me you talked with the fairies, and I’ve been talking with them too, but Jess thinks I’m going crazy.”

“The entire town thought I was crazy, so be careful who you tell, but you’re not crazy my child.”

Then Grandma was gone again. Had she been really talking with her?

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Una Visita Con Los Muertos by TN Kerr

It was dark and I clutched the hand of mi Abuelita as we picked our way over the lichen covered grave markers in the cementerio viejo, where our ancestors lay buried. Abuelita was fearless.

“Stand with your own dead,” she told me, “look death in the eye when it comes for you. Be strong and be brave. Celebrate life. It is the only way to defeat death. We all die anyway, but it is not the end. It is just something different.”

My grandmother had passed when I was ten. We had taken this walk together every year since.

🥕🥕🥕

Bridging Culture by Charli Mills

Stage lights bounced to the beat of the music and Carmen danced with her college friends. Halloween landed on a weekend and that sent the entire engineering department to blow off steam in town. The floor was sticky with spilled beer and Carmen’s ears rang. She grabbed her roommate; said she was getting a breather. Outside, she walked downhill to the waterway. From her pocket, Carmen retrieved one of the sugar skulls she had made to delight her American friends. She held it to her heart, cast it into the water, and prayed to the memory of her father.

🥕🥕🥕

Full Bags, Dying Heart by Norah Colvin

From his room, Johnny watched the parade of monsters and ghouls wending from door to door. They laughed and giggled, whooped and cheered, clutching bags bulging with candy.

“Get inside,” she’d admonished.

“Why?”

“It’s the devil’s work. Dressing up like dead people. It’s not our way.”

She’d dragged him inside, shut the door and turned off the lights.

“We don’t want those nasty children knocking on our door.”

“But, Mum. It’s Graham and Gerard and even sweet Sue …”

“Enough! Get to your room!”

He watched, puzzled—How could it be devil’s work? They were his friends having fun.

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Visitation by Goldie

“Trixie, get up! It’s the Day of the Dead!” – Bart exclaimed, pulling a blanket off his sister.

He has heard so many stories throughout the years, but was never allowed to participate in any of the festivities. This year, he was finally old enough. He turned ten in August and his mother agreed that this year was going to be “the year”.

***

“Is that… Dad?” – Bart asked Trixie.

“Yes, it is” – she replied.

“Why doesn’t he see me?”

“Watch this” – said Trixie, pushing the mug off the table onto the floor.

“They’re here” – he said with a smile.

🥕🥕🥕

The Day of the Dead (“Trissente Sea”) by Saifun Hassam

With great tenderness and sorrow the village women prepared the dead young mother and her baby girl for burial. Along the Trissente seashore the spirits had kept watch. The baby was still in the thin shawl wrapped around her mother’s shoulders. She was not from their village, but it did not matter. Diamante lit the sacred fire in the ancient temple to pray for her peaceful passage to the world beyond.

In the burial gardens, mimosa trees closed delicate leaves in prayer. The women wept softly. The wreck of a small barque washed ashore. Where had it come from?

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Reunited by Sally Cronin

She had loved her stepfather, and he had always treated her as his own. She understood and respected his wishes when it came to the headstone when her mother died. But now he was gone too, and rather than be buried in this plot, he had chosen to have his ashes scattered in the memorial garden.

She reached out and touched the new headstone that had replaced the original and hoped that her mother and father would now be at peace.

Georgina Walsh
1890 – 1942
Beloved wife of
Lance Corporal Herbert Francis Walsh
Killed in action November 2nd 1918.

🥕🥕🥕

Send ‘Em Off Right by Kerry E.B. Black

Emptiness fills her, oxymoronic. Leaves drip like tears to cover Bella’s skirt as she sits before the fresh tombstone. She wishes they’d bury her in elegant decay.

Instead, winds pick up, whispers of promise, and sends them skipping to the next row. A parade approaches, dark-suited, broad-hatted, walking sticks and polished shoes. The leaves dance around their feet as a crow-like preacher eulogizes.

Handkerchiefs catch tears until an old man with an antique trumpet plays. Slow and sad turns uptempo, then jubilation.

An apparition swathed in black tulling calls to Bella. “That’s how we send ‘em off right, child.”

🥕🥕🥕

Birth From Death by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Karoline felt the ache in her back radiate around to her front, the pressure increasing. She breathed deeply, willing her belly to unclench. Thinking herself safe to hike alone, she’d fled her family, their sole skill for processing grief in quarreling.

She longed for her deceased mother’s soothing hands, now that the birth was imminent. A child born too soon, her back labor excruciating, she prayed, “Mother! Help me!”

A whisper of mist stroked her belly, turning the child.

At sunrise, Karoline suckled her babe at her breast, wondering whether to return home, or continue refuge with Mother Nature.

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Familiar by D. Avery

“Who could that be at the door?”

“Well, it is Halloween.”

She opened the door to a group of children.

“Oh, my. What lovely costumes. You look just like my son when he was young. And you look like my best friend did. Lorraine’s here too, as a kid, before the accident. Honey, come see!”

He stood beside her. “I know, Dear. My heart attack, remember?”

“Oh, right.”

“We’re all here for you.”

“So, what do you think?”

He shrugged, with his familiar half smile. It was up to her.

“Alright.”

She stepped out into the cool dark night.

🥕🥕🥕

Day of the Dead by Susan Zutautas

Hey Joe, Day of the Dead will soon be here, and I am looking forward to the festivities. It will be nice to see my loved ones that are left.

I’m not sure that I’ll recognize anyone, but I’ll go with you, it’ll be fun.

You know that they’ll have all our favorite dishes there, don’t you?

Ah yes, the aromas from the foods are quite appetizing. Only wish we could sample them.

Joe, how many people do you think will be here?

If you count all the live people in town and us dead ones, quite a few.

🥕🥕🥕

PART II (10-minute read)

Night Munchies by Bill Engleson

I stay in on nights like these.

Perhaps it is the late October chill.

Perhaps not.

Still, it is a far cry from my youth, from those cemetery rambles, the half-eaten moon growling out its cannibal cries, the twisted wind blowing through our sullied skin, our meatless bones.

I do peek out though.

I relish the sight of them playing at death, their homemade horrors, strips of flammable paper costumes, their clustering together like pups at a mother’s tit.

Will they come to my door?

If they do, surely, I’ll invite them in.

Sweet tasty creatures that they are.

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Untitled by FloridaBorne

First, he lost his eyes to diabetes. For a chemical engineering manager, it meant the end of his career. When his kidneys failed, he endured it without complaint. The fall from his mountain of pain began when hypoglycemia induced hallucinations.

“Which one of you is my son?!” he demanded of a seven year old guiding him into the hospital restroom.

“It’s me, daddy. I’m holding your hand,” his son gently replied.

Peace came on the dialysis table, December 31, leaving behind the body of a once vibrant man.

The death of one year, birth of another, has two meanings.

🥕🥕🥕

Uneasy Retirement by Anne Goodwin

He’d been at peace till his granddaughter died; it wasn’t his fault but he was the one at the wheel. Soon after, the others came calling, their deaths accidental too. They came without teeth, ears, noses or fingernails; scorched genitals, soles of their feet.

He’d been good at his job, no question: give him a month and they’d beg to confess. Though some thought they could beat him, return to their Maker without ratting on friends. He termed such foolishness suicide: thankfully the General agreed. Now they haunt him with unfinished business; it’s an infinite day of the dead.

🥕🥕🥕

Shine a Light by Joshua G. J. Insole

Dusk dissolved into the hungry night. Night fed into dawn. Dawn became day.

In the space of 24 hours the planet had undergone a revolution. The cold light of day shined upon the smoking ruins and gore-strewn streets, revealing the new world.

Watery grey light washed over the city. The horrors that had been obscured by shadow were now unflinchingly illuminated. That which had been denied or debated was held under the microscope. Stony truth thudded down.

She picked up her satchel and set off, listening to the moans of the dead sighing through the streets like a gale.

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Decent Substitutes by Susan Sleggs

On a recent summer trip through the southwest US Annie admired the many brightly painted ceramic skulls she saw in gift shops. They seemed to be happy, not scary. She wondered why so many people collected them, skulls weren’t her thing. After getting home she read for the first time the definition of the Mexican Holiday, Day of the Dead. Now it all made sense and she wished she had bought some for her parents and brother-in-law’s grave sites. She decided to paint flowers on three flat stones and leave them for her loved ones next time she visited.

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Dia de los Muertos by Allison Maruska

She tells me this is Dia de los Muertos, the day of the dead. It’s not an altogether new concept; I’d seen the decorations, the bright skulls meant to honor loved ones departed before us.

She thinks adopting the celebration will help me move on.

I don’t want to disappoint her, so I play along. I set pictures up. I hold her hand. I pray. We’ll visit the grave tomorrow. We even have sugar skulls to leave there.

She doesn’t need to know I have my own plans to ensure the Monster pays.

My baby will rest in peace.

🥕🥕🥕

# 20 Official Check(ing)? by JulesPaige

Before going down in the basement to learn more about my scarecrow friends, I thought it might be a good idea to pay my respects to the Seedsman family plot. The more I thought about it, I liked the idea. “Hey Dawg, hold up…,” I bent down to scratch behind one of his black and grey ears…”I know just what to do with Margo’s flowers. Come November second we’re going to bestow them to the little cemetery. We’ll visit with the birds at dawn. You don’t want to go at midnight!” Dawg, shook affirmatively. “Nope, neither do I.”

🥕🥕🥕

Catching Up by Reena Saxena

It took two nights after work, to put together the Halloween costume. Lily liked it, and is off to her round of Tricks or Treats.

I lay the table with some special treats, and put my feet up in front of the television set. There is a horror show on, keeping with the weekly theme. I sit up as I see Lily’s costume on the screen. She didn’t tell me she was going to a live TV show.

And then… the screen crashes, costume discarded. Only the face behind it isn’t Lily.

Some spirits just never let you go…

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Survival by Ann Edall-Robson

I long to hold you close. Burying my nose in your essence. Trailing my fingers across your features hidden in the shadows of the evening. Our lifelong affair is destined to go nowhere. You have made me suffer through teary, reddened eyes while I saturate my hanky. Our contact is finally allowed when the season turns cold, and what is left of you, still waits for me. Then, and only then, do the tears stop. The day you no longer irritate my senses. The day I am freed from the clutches of my allergies. The day of the dead.

🥕🥕🥕

Day of the Dead by Anita Dawes

A day of celebration, joy, painted faces
Sweet scent of marigold
Calling the spirits to join in the moment
Food, drink, sweet candy
after their long journey
For three thousand years the dead have been returning
To dance with their families once more
Many will keep the candy skulls in their home all year for good luck
While others visit the graves placing picnic blankets
To sit a while remembering happy days together
Halloween fits in here,
with the dead allowed to return on the 31st of October
We often forget it’s not just about candy
It’s about love…

🥕🥕🥕

Erring Ideas Part 1 D. Avery

“Day of the Dead, huh? Is’at ‘cause the excitement from the rodeo’s dyin’ down?”

“It’s gonna git pretty lively at World Headquarters, Kid. Now comes the judgin’.”

“Whooee, that’s right. Mebbe Pepe can help. He’s headed up there ta World Head Quarters now.”

“What? Kid, why’n tarnation is LeGume goin’ ta HQ?”

“It’s a place a higher learnin’. Pepe wants ta air some ideas.”

“Kid, Shorty’s got enough on her plate, she don’t need this character around. The quality a his ideas is questionable. An’ now the Keweenaw’s air quality’ll be questionable too.”

“She’s the one platin’ beans Pal.”

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Erring Ideas Part 2 D. Avery

“Pepe’s figgers there’ll be bio-engineerin’ eggsberts aroun’ them universities. Wants ta see ‘bout crossin’ a ostrich with a chicken; git big eggs ever’ day, good fer cookin’ fer crowds.”

“Why not an emu?”

“Hey Aussie! He who?”

“Emu.”

“Bless you.”

“Kid, an emu is Australia’s big bird. Cross an emu with a chicken.”

“An’ with a cow, call it a emoo. An’ while we’re down there we kin cross a pig with a platypus. Eggs an’ bacon in one go.”

“Oh, Kid, and a kangaroo. They can deliver the eggs in their pouch.”

“Et tu, Aussie? Yer killin’ me.”

🥕🥕🥕

October 31: Flash Fiction Challenge

It’s the day before the Day of the Dead. As a kid, Halloween was my favorite holiday. Living on the California and Nevada border meant a two-day celebration. You see, Nevada Day is also October 31. We could talk at least one parent into driving us “Alpine County” kids across the border on the night of October 30 because that’s when Nevadans do their trick-o-treating. It was only a 20-mile drive.

The next day, we got to dress up again because we partied at school. Yes, we partied at school. Bobbing for apples, games, even the older grades setting up a haunted house in the gymnasium. If that wasn’t enough, the Forest Service Station in my tiny hometown also hosted a party. But that was after every child in Alpine County paraded through Markleeville in full costume. Businesses competed to hand out the best treat bags. Then we marched on down to the Forest Service garage, where they roasted hot dogs and handed out hot cider. Once we warmed up, we ran around town in our costumes, trick-or-treating every house to the delight of the old-timers who rarely got so many visitors.

The refrain “trick or treat” still reverberates in my heart, a joyous sound. We never tricked anybody. It never occurred to us to do that because we were so happy to get candy and compliments for our clever costume ideas. We whooped and hollered loudly between houses, and in the dark stretches where there were no lights, we told ghost stories to scare each other. I didn’t know about zombies. Tommy Knockers from the old mine shafts or Water Babies from the Washo tradition kept us properly spooked.

One time, an older girl from a different town wanted to go up to the cemetery. I didn’t like the idea because the cemetery was special to me. It contained stories and curious people and beloveds. I was one of few children who lived in town, and as an only child, I sought out the company of old-timers. They fed me cookies, taught me about afternoon tea and coffee at any time of day. They knew where the old shafts were, and who was buried in the abandoned cemetery on the hill. They even told me where the old road to it was.

I’d go up to the cemetery to find and read every marker I could. Some had toppled. Some I had to scrape free of lichen. And some were simply gone, only depressions and snow-damaged wooden railings remained. Three of my favorite old-timers were what we’d call shut-ins today. They were also siblings, and despite their memories of burying their parents and another sibling who drowned as a child, I could not find the family graves. That’s what led to me reading and locating all the markers.

Curiosity drove me to ask about the other children buried up there or to find out about names I recognized from places. Grover’s Hot Springs was a state park near Markleeville, and the cemetery had elaborate graves marking the Grover family, including a 10-year-old girl. Yet, no one in the area remained who was a Grover decadent. Over the years, I also found many other abandoned graves, cemeteries, and even two burial grounds of the Washo. It took listening to stories, exploring, and learning to read old records. By the time I was 16, I had served on a county board to save the cemetery records and to record the archeological sites around my town.

So that Halloween, when the older out of town girl insisted we all go to the “scary” cemetery, I felt uncomfortable. It was not a scary place for me. I still laugh at the memory of climbing the hill in our costumes, crawling under the barbed wire fence that kept out the summer cattle, and shining a light across the familiar chaos of titling and toppled gravestones. When the light caught green eyes glowing in the dark and illuminated a black cat perched on a granite marker, the group screamed in pure terror and fled. I stayed behind laughing, petting the stray cat I knew well.

The Day of the Dead begins October 31 and goes through November 2. It’s a Mexican holiday, but one I’m sure that echoes the sentiment of other cultural days set aside to remember and pray for ancestors and those who have passed on. It’s a prayerful day, not one meant to incite fear. Like those kids that Halloween decades ago, fear is of the unknown.

Sugar skulls are a memento left behind at a grave during the Day of the Dead. Sugar was an ingredient readily available in Mexico and could be easily crafted into a skull treat left behind to remember a loved one or ancestor. Today, they can be made of other materials and are often elaborately and colorfully decorated. Some celebrants even dress up with faces painted like sugar skulls, which fits in with the Halloween tradition of dressing up in costume.

Tonight, the Hub is on his own to greet neighborhood trick-o-treaters. I look forward to future times when I’m not buried beneath coursework and responsibilities, and I create some fun outdoor decorations. I’m heading out to 41 North Film Fest at the Rozsa Center. I plan to read in between films this weekend. It’s like an intense artist date, screening thought-provoking films crafted as visual stories, and meeting directors and screenwriters. What a way to spend the Day of the Dead!

October 31, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about the Day of the Dead. It can be the Mexican holiday, a modern adaptation of it, a similar remembrance, or something entirely new. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by November 5, 2019. 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.

NOTE: Contest winners from all the flash fiction contests during the 2019 Rodeo will be announced on November 28, 2019.

Submission closed. Join us for the next prompt.

Bridging Culture by Charli Mills

Stage lights bounced to the beat of the music and Carmen danced with her college friends. Halloween landed on a weekend and that sent the entire engineering department to blow off steam in town. The floor was sticky with spilled beer and Carmen’s ears rang. She grabbed her roommate; said she was getting a breather. Outside, she walked downhill to the waterway. From her pocket, Carmen retrieved one of the sugar skulls she had made to delight her American friends. She held it to her heart, cast it into the water, and prayed to the memory of her father.

TUFF Beans Challengers

It wouldn’t be a Flash Fiction Rodeo without a TUFF contest. The Ultimate Flash Fiction asks writers to write and revise a single story by reducing it to its sparest form and then rewriting it again in 99 words. TUFF goes from 99-59-9-99 words with one story. The process challenges writers to rethink their stories and revise. The final output shows a transformation from the original idea. It takes courage to rewrite original stories and TUFF introduces a tool to help.

The following are challenge submissions for fun.

The Calypso Triplets by JulesPaige

99-word first draft: The triplet Calypso sisters liked to call the biggest pot they had a cauldron. It wasn’t always easy figuring out what to cook for dinner. They were very independent and had very different tastes.

Amy wasn’t fond of split-peas it was just too mushy. Bernadette wasn’t impressed with any bean that increased flatulence. Connie pretty much ate anything, but she didn’t like cleaning the cauldron.

Breakfast was a challenge too. Amy liked full brew coffee, Bernadette decaf and Connie just liked to keep the grounds for the garden. However they all agreed that sharing an apartment was cool beans.

59-word reduction of first draft: The triplet Calypso sisters liked to call the biggest pot they had a cauldron. Amy wasn’t fond of split-peas it was just too mushy. Bernadette wasn’t impressed with any bean that increased flatulence. Connie pretty much ate anything.

Lunch was often a soup mixture of Green, Red Kidney Beans, Black Eyed, Borlotti, and Haricot Beans. Bernadette kept Beano handy.

9-word reduction of first draft: “Excuse me’s” peppered the lives of the Calypso sisters

99-word revision of first draft: The triplets tried to live a very healthy lifestyle. They didn’t want to become ‘has been’s’. So they attempted to be good vegetarians, which required much of their protein to come from a variety of beans.

Amy enjoyed experimenting with soy based tofu. Bernadette thought most beans were bland and needed herbs and spices. Connie pretty much ate anything.

Connie let her sisters do all the cooking. They didn’t need to know that she stopped at the Golden Arches for a burger now and then. What they didn’t know was just one less ‘explosion’ they’d have to deal with.

🥕🥕🥕

Movie Talk by Bill Engleson

99-word first draft: “It’s a saying. Means you’re cookin’, doing what needs doin’. ”

“I don’t know. I think you’re wrong.”

“Come on. Everyone knows it. It’s as common as saying…big fish eat little fish.”

“That one I know. But this one, Man, I think we ought to look it up.”

“Don’t have to look it up. Hell, it was in the Godfather a couple of times. Sonny said it and Moe Greene, you remember him, waking up with that horse’s head in his bed?”

“That wasn’t Moe Greene.”

“Doesn’t matter. My bad. But both Moe and Sonny said, “I made my beans…”

59-word reduction of first draft: “Come on. It’s as common as the saying… a hole in the head. Means you’re cookin’ doing what needs doin’. ”

“Think you’re wrong.”

“No, I’m not. Hell, it was in the Godfather. Sonny and Moe said it different times.”

“Moe…the one with the horses head?”

“That was another guy. Anyways both Moe and Sonny said,” I made my beans.”

9-word reduction of first draft: It’s gangsterese, right, to say, “I made my beans.”

99-word revision of first draft: I thought, beans. I like beans. I like slow cooking them. A bonanza of dishes is possible.

Charli mentioned Chili Con Carne, eh. A childhood favorite food. And while I’m thinking, I decide, okay, I’ve got two tales in the hopper. How about a third?

I’ve done this before. Recently. Played with a prompt. Like a teasing cat with a silly mouse in its paw.

To honour Leo Gorcey’s, Slip Mahoney, I seek out a one syllable b word.

Balls?

Bras?

Beads?

Then I watch the news.

Fires in California.

That horrible human trafficking story from England.

Beans, indeed.

🥕🥕🥕

Yellow Roses by Charli Mills

99-word first draft: Yellow roses climbed sun-bleached lattice where silage soured the air like beans. A teenaged boy in hot-pink satin shorts watered roses with a milk bucket. His grandfather once mulched with cedar chips, but having none, the teen used manure. A setting sun bruised the horizon with a purple haze. His father pulled up and the leaking exhaust of the rusty truck lingered like stale smoke. “Get that bucket to the barn, boy.” The teen nodded. He had the patience to grow his grandfather’s roses in the desert. One day, he’d leave and take his yellow roses with him.

59-word reduction of first draft: The teen grew yellow roses in the desert and cultivated a plan to escape silage and endless beans. Wearing hot-pink satin shorts to irritate his old man, he watered roses with a milk bucket. The setting sun bruised the sky. He could almost smell his grandfather’s pipe and cedar mulch, but the rusty rattle gave away his father’s truck.

9-word reduction of first draft: He’d escape the beans, taking yellow roses with him.

99-word revision of first draft: Yellow Roses of Saigon

“Get that bucket to the barn, boy.”

A teen in hot pink satin shorts rose from watering his grandfather’s yellow roses. Exhaust leaking from his old man’s rusty truck choked the sour air of dairy cows and beans. The setting sun bruised the sky like a beating from his father’s fists. Putting the bucket down, the boy pruned cuttings from the bush. He could almost smell his grandfather’s pipe. He turned to face his father. “I joined the Army, Dad. Me and my roses leave tomorrow.”

“Fool.” His father spat into the sand. “Yellow roses won’t grow in Vietnam.”

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Untitled by D. Avery

99-word first draft: They ran out of milk and eggs first. When the hay ran out and her milk had run out they ate the cow. When the hens had picked every scrap of anything edible from the hay and the scraps from butchering they ate them. They’d been out of meat for days. Still it snowed.
He went through the barn again, she went through the cupboards again, but there was nothing except a sack of beans for planting come spring. But by the calendar, spring was long overdue, and still it snowed.
Her children were starving. She opened the sack.

59-word reduction of first draft: Still it snowed. He went through the barn again, she went through the cupboards again, but again there was nothing, nothing left to eat except a sack of beans intended for planting come spring, seeds for future harvests. But by the calendar, spring was long overdue.
As snow fell she fed her children unsweetened boiled beans, bitter but filling.

9-word reduction of first draft: Her starving children found the plain beans sweet enough.

99-word revision of first draft: “Those are seeds. There’ll be nothing to plant.”
In normal circumstances his logic would hold. They’d kept the cow for milk until all the hay was gone, kept the chickens for eggs until their feed was gone. Then the meat from those animals had run out. They’d boiled every scrap into soup. Snow fell though calendar spring was two months past. Her children were starving. Her logic would prevail. She made him promise. Her children would eat those beans, the last meal she would prepare for them. But it would not be the last time she would feed them.

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Stinker of a Ranch Yarn by D. Avery

99-word first draft: “Ello, Keed, how have you bean?”
“Pepe LeGume! It’s tuff times, but I’m all right. You?”
“I am so very happy, Keed. You see dat post? No, not dat fence post, de post dat ever body read. I am mentioned in eet. So. I am real, no?”
“Reckon ya could pass fer real.”
“Keed, I been passed so much. Now I find dees ranch, I jes’ want to linger here and smell de roses.”
“Phew. I think ya dropped a rose.”
“Keed, I am going to cook beans for ever’body. Weeth bacon.”
“Fer real?”
“How you say? Darn tooting.”

59-word reduction of first draft: “Pepe, this might be a tuff question fer ya. How’d ya end up here at the ranch?”
“Keed, I am from south of the border, that ees, da border of Quebec. I snuck in weeth dat lead buckaroo when she crossed Quebec and Ontario returning to her headquarters in the Keweenaw.”
“LeGume! Yer a bean stalker!”
“Ees magical, no?”

9-word reduction of first draft: Legume blew in after the Writers Refuge, lingers still.

99-word revision of first draft: Beans are magical. Not Jack’s magic beans, not the magical fruit that’s good for your heart; something more is encased in those symmetrical shells.
The magic of plants and cycles is revealed to young children who can easily observe a plant unfold from the hard bean; can plant them, watch them grow, flower, and bear more beans.
A great source of protein, traditions and stories are revealed through the preparations, memories stirred, savored, and shared. Beans are the humble communion of gatherings and of campfires, the places where friendships are forged and where magic unfolds like a favorite story.

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The Last Will of Sven Andersen

It’s amazing to consider how prolific Geoff Le Pard is as an author. He turned on the fiction faucet in 2006, and it’s been blasting ever since as fast as icebergs melt. I read his first novel, Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, several years ago, snort-laughing and waiting for the next installment of Harry Spittle’s life. Well, I’m pleased to say, it has arrived with the third installment quick on its heels.

Without further ado, I’ll turn the Ranch over to Geoff to tell you all about his latest book:

The Last Will of Sven Andersen

By Geoff Le Pard

The first book I ever finished was Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, a comedic coming of age tale of the hapless Harry Spittle, then aged 19 as he struggled with the three challenges facing a teenage boy in the deepest countryside: how to earn money, how to spend as little time as possible with his irritating family; and how to someone willing to have sex with h,im. When I wrote it as part of a Masters in Creative Writing I envisaged it as a stand-alone novel that would be driven by the characters and their dilemm,as and decisions. But as the book writing process progressed I became sucked into the plot and the weird and wonderful adventures Harry took me on. Wind the clock on five years and I’ve now committed to paper both a second and third book in the series. And guess what? It’s the characters that dominate. Without their personalities shining through who’d want to carry on? It’s because the characters were the reason, front, and centre for writing the first book that book two crept up on me and kept saying ‘write me’. They tapped on their toy-box demanding an outlet and here we go, a full-fledged series. Characters, huh? Who knew they’d take over your life quite so much?

It has led to a change in approach to things such as editing too. I am now more confident in my characters that I want the Beta ,reading to come later in the process.

All of which of course doesn’t mitigate the fact that there are many times when I misunderstand them and they tell me in no uncertain terms to, change tack because they just wouldn’t, do/say X. Now though I’m less likely to make those mistakes and I’m certainly less likely to argue if I do. I think we, my characters and I, know who’s right.

BIO: Geoff Le Pard started writing to entertain in 2006. He hasn’t left his keyboard since. When he’s not churning out novels, he writes some maudlin self-indulgent poetry, short fiction, and blogs at geofflepard.com. He walks the dog for mutual inspiration and most of his best ideas come out of these strolls. He also cooks with passion if not precision.

BOOKS:

The Last Will Of Sven Andersen

When Harry Spittle, nearly qualified as a solicitor, is approached to write a Will for old acquaintance Sven Andersen, he is somewhat surprised but rather pleased. That pleasure sours after he finds that the Will Sven actually signs is very different to the one he has drawn up, with Harry as the executor. Disappointment turns to horror when he discovers that Sven has been winding up his late father’s criminal empire and a number of not very nice people are interested in the Will’s contents.

If he is to remain in one piece, able to continue his career in the law and save his on-off relationship with his girlfriend Penny, who is unfortunately under suspicion of murder, he needs to find out what’s happened to the money and distribute it according to Sven’s wishes. The trouble is Sven has not only hidden the assets but also the identities of those who benefit. Harry will have to solve a fiendish puzzle Sven has left behind with the help of his sister Dina before his world comes crashing down. With so many people depending on him, Harry knows it’s time for him to grow up – it’s just that he really, really doesn’t want to.

Set in 1981 to the backdrop of punk, Thatcherite politics and an upcoming Royal wedding, this is a book for those who like their nostalgia served with a side of humour and a dash of optimism all wrapped up in a compelling mystery.

Pre Order Here

Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle

It’s summer 1976 and hotter than Hades. Harry Spittle, nineteen, is home from university, aiming to earn some money to go on holiday and maybe get laid. He expects he will be bored rigid, but the appearance of an old family friend, Charlie Jepson, his psychopathic son, Claude, and predatory wife Monica changes that. As his parents’ marriage implodes, Harry’s problems mount; before he knows it he’s in debt up to his ears and dealing in drugs. Things go from bad to worse when he is stabbed. He needs money fast, but now his job is at risk, his sister is in trouble and he has discovered a family secret that could destroy all he holds dear. Will Harry have to join forces with the local criminal mastermind to survive the summer and save his family? Can he regain some credibility and self-respect? Most importantly will he finally get laid?

Dead Flies will be free from 30th October 2019 to 3rd November 2019

Smashwords

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Amazon.com

 

My Father and Other Liars is a thriller set in the near future and takes its heroes, Maurice and Lori-Ann on a helter-skelter chase across continents.

Smashwords

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Life in a Grain of Sand is a 30 story anthology covering many genres: fantasy, romance, humour, thriller, espionage, conspiracy theories, MG and indeed something for everyone. All the stories were written during Nano 2015

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Salisbury Square is a dark thriller set in present day London where a homeless woman and a Polish man, escaping the police at home, form an unlikely alliance to save themselves.

This is available here

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Amazon.com

 

Buster & Moo is about about two couples and the dog whose ownership passes from one to the other. When the couples meet, via the dog, the previously hidden cracks in their relationships surface and events begin to spiral out of control. If the relationships are to survive there is room for only one hero but who will that be?

Smashwords

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Life in a Flash is a set of super short fiction, flash and micro fiction that should keep you engaged and amused for ages

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Smashwords

 

Apprenticed To My Mother describes the period after my father died when I thought I was to play the role of dutiful son, while Mum wanted a new, improved version of her husband – a sort of Desmond 2.0. We both had a lot to learn in those five years, with a lot of laughs and a few tears as we went.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

 

Life in a Conversation is an anthology of short and super short fiction that explores connections through humour, speech and everything besides. If you enjoy the funny, the weird and the heart-rending then you’ll be sure to find something here.

Amazon.co.uk

Amazon.com

Geoff Le Pard’s Amazon Author Page

Rodeo #4: TUFF Beans

With Pepe Le Gume on the prowl at Carrot Ranch, I might regret prompting anything with beans. But beans hold a special place in my heart. I grew up on pinto beans, cowboy beans. A special treat was refried beans. I never had navy bean soup or chili beans or baked beans until I was an adult. Chili was a con carne served over pasta, soup was sopas, and whoever heard of maple-sweetened beans in buckaroo country? Now that I’ve had Vermont beans, I understand Pepe’s appeal.

In case you aren’t familiar with the mainstay challenges at Carrot Ranch, D. Avery created Pepe along with a host of characters in her weekly Ranch Yarns. Like beans, once a writer gets a taste for 99-words, you’ll keep coming back for more. We make sure the pot is always on at Carrot Ranch, where we create community through literary art. I want to thank all the regular Ranchers for honing their skills and diving into the contests. I’m proud of all of you for your dedication to writing and growing.

Now things are going to get TUFF. Our final contest of the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo is all about having the guts to revise. As if writing weren’t challenging enough, we also have to know what to cut, what to add, and how to improve our stories. Revision is where the work happens. TUFF is an exercise in getting to the heart of a story and rebuilding it with that understanding. TUFF stands for The Ultimate Flash Fiction. In this contest, you will be asked to write one story with several reductions and a final revision. Your revision should be different from your initial draft. That’s where a writer has to gain courage and insight. TUFF will help guide you if you practice it.

Keep in mind that the TUFF contest is all about process. So far in this Rodeo, writes have tested skills of storytelling, craft, and creativity. Now it’s time to show how you approach revising an initial story idea. Your first 99-words should be a first draft and your final 99-words should be polished and improved. The word reductions in between help you find the heart of your story (59-words) and a punchy line (9-words). Judges want to see how you manage the entire process of TUFF.

And yes, beans are involved.

CRITERIA:

  1. Your story must include beans (go where the prompt leads).
  2. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  3. Your second 99-word story should show the evolution or transformation of revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process lead to new insights that changed the final version?
  4. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  5. It can include any tone or mood, and be in any genre, and don’t forget the beans.
  6. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must meet the word count requirements exactly. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99-59-9-99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 30, 2019.
  6. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  7. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.
  8. Use the form below the rules to enter.

CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED.

2019 JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

Three-Act Story Challengers

A writer uses many craft elements to tell about something that happens to someone somewhere. When told in three acts, a story has a beginning, middle, and end (BME). Rodeo #3 is all about the mechanics behind storytelling in 99 words. The contest has now ended, but you can enjoy the following submissions by challengers. Some are prolific 99-word story writers and had more than their one contest entry. Some just wanted to have fun, telling a tale. In three-acts, of course. Winners of the contest will be announced on November 28, 2019.

Coursework or Coarse Work? by JulesPaige

Acme constantly delivers to Wile, who thinks he will succeed in his quest of catching his nemesis. It is an old story of chasing one’s dinner. Being the mighty hunter. Yet the coyote seems to only have a series of unfortunate events repeat. Most often damaging more than his ego.

We root for underdogs because we desire the right recognition. Dreams though seem to be elusive, like the Road Runner that escapes unscathed. Are our human wants just a different hunger that can only be sated by hard work?

Where’s the fairy tale ending? You gotta write it yourself!

🥕🥕🥕

A Water Story by Charli Mills

The ground above Lake Itasca releases an underground spring. A trickle becomes the 2,348 mile-long Mississippi River, nicknamed Father of Waters. Yet, it is within the wombs of women where life grows in sacs of amniotic fluid – water from mothers. Women bring life.

Scientists document facts about water. They can tell us our bodies use it for cell development and waste elimination. They point out the rapid rate of glacier melt as a phenomenon of climate change.

Men pass laws against women’s bodies and reverse protections for the environment. In the end, who can deny — Water is Life?

🥕🥕🥕

Bare Facts by JulesPaige

Looking through her rearview mirror she spied the driver behind her dangling an unlit cancer stick from his mouth. Her internal thought dripped with sarcasm that he could not hear; My, isn’t that attractive.

Cancer has become a dreaded word. Often becoming the elephant in everyone’s living room. Survivors abound every day due to those skilled in various treatments.

Three males in her family were being treated for three different cancers in the same month. She only knew the full circumstances of her man. And he was going to make it because of early detection and a skilled surgeon!

🥕🥕🥕

And Then the Sun Shone by Liz Husebye Hartmann

The yard was covered, leaves bright yellow, and wet from last night’s rain. Randall shook his head, tipped his cap to scratch his balding pate, and looked up to the sky. No help there. Rainclouds fisted up again overhead.

Marla’d promised to bring the grandkids over for his birthday tomorrow since Sadie had passed. Five years now, and he missed her every day. She would’ve ensured the place was spotless. Dragging the rake to his front porch, he eased into the wooden chair.

He lifted his head as the truck rumbled in.

“We came early to help! Happy birthday!”

🥕🥕🥕

Neighbours by Joanne Fisher

One night a vampire moved into the vacant house next to us. At first we were concerned, but she turned out to be no bother really.

Life went on in our street. The vampire was rather quiet, and kept her house and grounds tidy. We only usually saw her in the evenings flying off to somewhere. Occasionally she would come round to ask for a cup of blood.

Then a hunter came and the vampire was no more. After that a guy who constantly plays the drums moved into the now vacant house. Honestly, I’m really missing the vampire.

🥕🥕🥕

Fetching by Charli Mills

Bare limbs of birch pointed skyward, yellow leaves buried roots. A pup burst through the woods, scattering leaves. A woman ran, red leash in hand, calling, “Maxwell, come here!”

Max chased snowshoe hares down the birch-lined trail, pulling a woman on skis. She laughed and he pulled harder, kicking up a lone yellow leaf.

She wrapped him in a fleece blanket. “Good boy, Max,” she said, her hand lingering on his head. Walking the leaf littered road, a tear slid down her cheek. It had been fourteen autumns since she had walked this way alone. But water needed fetching.

🥕🥕🥕

Beginning, Middle, End by Chelsea Owens

Top Bun was the epitome of a beginning: first to stand in line at the condiments counter, first to graduate in his class, and always top bread at work.

Meat, meanwhile, existed in the middle. Middle child, middle man, middle class -that was him.

Poor Bottom Bun was last. No matter what he tried, he always woke late. He never caught the train on time; if he did, it was behind. The best dance partners were already taken, and even his mother had run out of names when he came out. He was, as one might guess, The End.

🥕🥕🥕

A Quitting by D. Avery

She felt proud. It’d been six months; she was sure she was done smoking for good.

“That was a bad habit I never should have started. Well, it’s done now.”

He blew smoke rings; sipped his coffee.

She could taste food again. She was more mindful of the food she ate, made healthy meals. She lost weight. She felt good.

He complained there weren’t mashed potatoes anymore. He crushed each beer can after draining it. She winced at the sound.

He’s only been gone a week, but she’s sure.

“That was a bad habit I never should have started.”

🥕🥕🥕

Rodeo #3: Three-Act Story

What is a story? We all tell them, and as writers, we craft them in the written word. A story is about Something that happens to Someone, Somewhere. It’s plot, character, and setting. A story has a beginning, middle, and end. Because we are hardwired for stories, we retain data better from narrative. Storytelling is in my blood.

When I was a kid, my mother ran a general mercantile in a town of 99 people. One of those 99 was Eloise Fairbanks, a one-eyed shut-in born in 1908. Her father operated the water mill, and when she was a young woman, she rode the backcountry of the Sierra Nevadas as a telegraph lineman. Weezy, as she was called, would call the store and order a six-pack of Coors. My job was to pedal the brown bag over to her house. She’d holler for me to come in when I knocked, sitting at her kitchen table. I’d sit, too, anticipating what followed the popped tab of her first beer — stories.

See what I did there? I slipped in a little story about stories. It has a beginning and is about someone, with me as the narrator (first-person POV). The Someone is Weezy. She’s from Someplace in time (when I was a kid, the Sierras, my implied hometown). Something happened — she’d tell stories once she got her beer. The end.

According to Greeks, stories happen in Three Acts.

Act I, the beginning, the story rises. It’s marked by pity, or what we would now consider empathy. If a story is about someone, we have to feel something for that character. Literature can teach empathy because writers and readers practice it. When we care what happens next for or to this Someone, we come to the middle.

Act II shifts to fear, according to the Greeks. We can interpret this as the emotion that drives the writer and reader to worry about what happens next. Or be curious about what comes next. The driving emotion doesn’t have to be fear, but the middle holds an important shift or build-up of tension or expectation. The story is in motion.

Act III is when that motion comes to an end. The Greeks called it catharsis. The action falls; the story has arrived at an exit. A good ending is not canned, but one that lets the reader think about the story and the Someone long after the conclusion. A twist is when a writer ends with the unexpected, and it can be humorous or dramatic.

When I teach storytelling to engineers, researchers, and entrepreneurs, I like to show them the science of a three-act story mapped out in a graph. This video is worth watching. Kurt Vonnegut graphs stories, and once you see their form, you’ll also understand how versatile story structure can be.

Now it’s time to craft a story!

CRITERIA:

  1. Write a story that has Three Acts (they do not need to be labeled).
  2. The story must have a discernible beginning, middle, and end.
  3. The story must be about someone, set somewhere, and something happens.
  4. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  5. It can include any tone or mood, and be in any genre, and there is NO PROMPT.
  6. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 23, 2019.
  6. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  7. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.
  8. Use the form below the rules to enter.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED

2019 JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

A 5-Star Readers’ Favorite!

Saddle Up!

Thank you, Writers of Carrot Ranch!

Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills

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