Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Blog

Support Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Contact

1+208-627-6056
Text or email anytime.
wordsforpeople@gmail.com

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 5,992 other followers

Archives

Follow me on Twitter

Bloggers Bash Fan

Bloggers Bash

S.M.A.G. Kindness Among Bloggers

S.M.A.G., Norah Colvin, @NorahClovin

Proud Member

For Early Childhood Educators

readilearn, Norah Colvin, @NorahColvin

Subscription at readilear.com.au

Weekly Prompts Resume November 2

The Flash Fiction Rodeo begins next week! When I was old enough to know the rodeo season, I’d start to get excited by the flurry of activity. Working buckaroos had to get their chores done, their best western shirts pressed, and their show tack ready.

I learned young how to soap a saddle. The ones in our tack room were seventy-five to a hundred years old, and yet their age only made them all the more beautiful. They were stamped by famous saddlers in the San Fransisco Bay area. I used to marvel at the different artistry as I rubbed in the soap, going in small circles with an old but clean cloth  — basket-weaves, florals and Spanish embellishments told the story of our heritage passed down from the vaqueros of the Californios.

All the ranch-hands, owners and countless children in between gathered to show their skills. A ranch owner might take pride in his fine stock. A ranch hand savored the competitive opportunity to show his who was boss on the back of a bull or bronco. A daughter wanted to show she could throw a rope and race a horse as hard as any brother or buckaroo.

I’ve always liked the word buckaroo. It’s genderless unlike cowboy or cowgirl. It’s also specific to a region and its heritage. Before Sutter found gold in his Californ-i-a mill causing the ’49er stampede, the Californios of Spain (and then Mexico) operated huge land grant ranchos, raising beef, saddle horses and vineyards. Most ranchos settled near the missions. I was born near Mission San Jaun Batista where my father’s family had run cattle since 1852. My mother’s family diversified, running turkeys and growing hay and apricots. I was born a buckaroo.

This meant I was indoctrinated into the San Benito Rodeo and Saddle Show early. It’s still held annually at Bolado Park near my hometown of Tres Pinos. Until I was seven, I lived on my mother’s family’s turkey ranch. Today it’s a golf course, the vision of my Papa Sonny who was as big and boisterous as our ancestor Cobb McCanles. I spent most my early life on the back of a horse at the Law Ranch, now called the Paicines Ranch after its original rancho name. One grandfather was its foreman and the other would later buy it and fail to develop it into another golf course.

I doubt either grandfather would make me a welcome guest there today, but I knew those hills, valleys and vineyards well. My first horse, Acorn, went blind and thereafter ran with the cattle herd. When I think of the Law Ranch, I think of my horse walking in circles to find his way through the vast green valley with the herd, his black main and tail long and tangled like a mustang’s and his dark red coat dusty.

Another horse came to me from that ranch, my best friend Captain Omega. Co was also dark red with black mane and tail. He bucked me off the first time I rode him. I got back in the saddle and we settled that argument. Before my bay horses, I rode the red sorrels my family favored. Often my grandfather waited at the stockyards until some fine horse-owner decided to dump an expensive horse with phenomenal breeding but bad habits worthy of dog food. My grandfather would pay the cheap stockyard prices, train up the horse and show off its breeding and skills at the Rodeo.

It was on the back of one of these sorrels I won my first trophy. It was called Best Girl’s Outfit. It meant I had to have the gleaming tack, thus why I  learned early to soap a saddle. We made all our own reins, and I can still remember how to braid rawhide the way vaqueros did it for hundreds of years, but I can’t remember the button patterns. What we lacked in silver, we made up for in fancy buttons and horse hair weaves. To win the trophy I had to sit in the saddle straight, walk my horse to the end of the arena, turn him around and run him back. I wore a chocolate colored Stetson, turquoise and pink frilly western shirt, jeans, roughed boots and white gloves. I was three.

The Rodeo has me waxing nostalgic for a heritage I can’t extract from my blood no matter how far from it all I am. I’m sure my three-year-old self could out ride me today! But I can definitely out write my three-year-old self. If you want a buckaroo soundtrack for the upcoming Flash Fiction Rodeo, 2017 Carrot Ranch FlashFiction Rodeo Playlist. Songs 24, 25 and 26 are heritage specific. Song 20, True Grit, is my anthem minus the need to “find a man with true grit.” More like this little girl found her own grit within. I’d change that line to “when you find writers with true grit.”

That’s you, that’s me. Writers with true grit. You remember that as you prepare for the Rodeo. It’s about having the courage to push into your writing, to do something that makes you afraid, to be bold. Write into that.

With the Flash Fiction Rodeo (check out the details on the Events Page) the weekly challenges will wait until November 2 to resume. For those of you not interested in a contest and liking the challenge of a prompt, you can still follow along. Instead of entering the contest, you can submit a response that won’t be judged for top prize. If you do, I’ll ask if that’s what you intended because entries are not in the comments or on your own blog. You’ll need to use the form or the platform (Twitter) outlined in the contest. There will be one on Tuesday, and one on Thursday each week Oct. 5-31.

Be sure to check in Oct. 3 for Rodeo Fest. You’ll get a chance to hear me reading from The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, Vol. 1 and can enter a random drawing for books, chocolate or rocks by leaving a comment on the Oct. 3 post before 10 am, 2 pm and 6 pm.

I have some soaping to do, and the last two compilations will post before the Rodeo begins. I hope you are as excited as this buckaroo is!

September 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

Tendril by tendril the plants pull themselves sun-ward. Leaves bob on light currents of air, hiding fragile white blossoms. The plants thicken to the point of hiding the slender iron trellis they cling to. They’ve grown so equally green, I can’t distinguish one plant from another. Nor can I tell when the white blossoms have fruited. This is not a patch of raspberries or sun-gold tomatoes. I await a harvest of peas.

The late summer day when the plants drooped, pulling the trellis out of alignment, I knew. I recognized the heaviness of harvest.Ever since that transition from growing, climbing green to drooping, gifting green I have haunted the pea patch. It’s not easy to spot the first pea, but once you train your eye to see, you see the full magnitude of pea harvest glory. It’s a bit like practicing flash fiction.

When I first began writing various short forms, I did so because it sparked my creativity. After that, I began requiring my team to write a specific creative form of 25 words before our meetings. We didn’t have time to linger over creative writing so most meeting days, I announced to the department that we would meet at the Round Table in ten minutes. I reminded each person to bring their project updates, meeting agenda and their cinquain. Often, team members scribbled their 25 words in the final five minutes of preparation.

As a prompt, a flash fiction of 99 words doesn’t take long to write. When I was leading Wrangling Words at the Bonner County Library, I gave participants five minutes to write. Many wrote several hundred words! The first time I gave the prompt it was 10 minutes and the stories were much longer than I anticipated for our group activity. So I know it’s possible to write 99 words in five minutes. Is it ideal for those who gather here? Perhaps not.

But what does flash fiction have to do with spotting a hidden pea harvest?

Draw the similarity between learning to spot green peas and learning to write tight prose. I view it as training. When I first spot a hanging pea pod, suddenly I see more. My brain understands the cue. When you practice flash fiction, you train your brain to tell a story in 99 words. You might still write 200 and cut, or only write 70 and add, but your brain gets better at recognizing its target.

I used to joke that writing creative constrains was magic because my marketing team responded by solving project problems with improved innovation. But I know science supports the power of constraints in forcing the brain to go into problem-solving mode. Thus two factors occur when we regularly write flash fiction — our brains think more creatively quicker and we train our brains to adapt to a pattern.

If you are concerned that you’ll pick up the 99-word pattern, fear not. It isn’t as if you can only write in that mode, it’s more like you can use that mode to solve clarity or literary issues with other forms of writing. I’ve marveled over our writers who add in verse, and now I realize that as poets they have other forms their brains use. These patterns are of benefit to a writer and it legitimizes writing short forms as a tool.

Of course, if you are like me in a pea patch, you probably care more about the pleasure the taste of fresh pea pods bring over the idea that you trained your brain to find what is easily hidden. You might enjoy the challenge of word-smithing among others, the fun of creating stories and reading what others create, and the weekly activity. And that’s good! I’m not in the pea patch munching on pods because I read that peas are high in magnesium. I simply like peas. And the fun I have, knowing I get to them before others in my household!

Ah, the competitive nature. It’s not that strong in me unless I know everyone is having a good time. That’s why I want you all to have a great pea-picking time at the upcoming Rodeo. It is a contest and it will bring out the competitiveness in some, the intimidation or perfection in others. Let’s admit that’s all possible. We’ll likely have many writers show up whom we’ve not met before or who aren’t interested in hanging out by the campfire. So let me be clear about goals.

Number one: Carrot Ranch is a fun and welcoming place to practice literary art. Don’t be put off by the word “practice.” In no way do I want to demean anyone’s writing as scribbles of art. When I say practice, I mean it according to my personal philosophy that literary art is something writers master over a lifetime. How do you know you’ve mastered it? You’re dead. Shakespeare mastered all he was capable of mastering by the day he died. It’s not about comparing our work to others. It’s about never stopping to push into what we can create with words. The process is the hallmark of a literary artist, not the finished product. Therefore, let’s have fun while we figure out what is possible with words and how to sharpen our stories. The Rodeo is intended to bring you something different and exciting from our weekly writing.

Number two: Carrot Ranch wants individuals within the community to succeed. Those who regularly gather and are willing to do collaborative projects like the anthologies are part of a smaller group that helps spur on the Ranch. They are the Rough Writers. In return, they get expanded visibility for their own writing. Those who gather for fun, who share our posts and read regularly are the Friends. It’s up to writers to decide. Either way, there are no obligations. However, Carrot Ranch is a place where writers can step out of their comfort zones. A contest is an example. If it becomes achievable here, it can become achievable elsewhere. Success is what you interpret it to be, and the Ranch believes in the value of literary art and your contribution to it.

Number three: Carrot Ranch is growing and we want to celebrate. The growth comes in more ways to support access to literary art — the creation of anthologies, public readings of flash fiction, free adult education classes that use flash fiction as a tool to build a local literary community, inspiring retreats, and innovative workshops. We will be launching our first The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, Vol. 1 late in November with pre-sales in October. A Rodeo is one way to generate excitement about what we do at Carrot Ranch.

Enjoy the Rodeo, use the contests to try different prompts and don’t let intimidation hold you back. Every writer feels doubt. Don’t let it stop you from the joy of what it is to create literary art. Join in, saddle up and write! Remember, the Rodeo replaces the weekly prompt with two weekly contests Oct. 5-31. Stop by the Ranch for a progressive kick-off party on Tuesday, Oct. 3. You might win a random drawing prize so leave a comment on the Oct. 3 blog post. CR FB page will have drawings and live readings from Vol. 1.

Last call for Rough Writers for the next anthology: the one criteria is willingness to participate. We use material from the compilations to build upon, and some of our writers create new work. If you’ve been writing here weekly (even occasionally) send me a quick note. Find out if it’s something you want to pursue. I’ll introduce new Rough Writers at the Rodeo Fest (kick-off party on Oct. 3).

One last note: I’m not perfect. Seriously, it’s worth saying! We all make mistakes and I tend to bring in a bumper crop. So, I fudged my hastags. I’m not a hashtag genius to begin with and I forgot that I had created #FFRODEO for the Rodeo — Flash Fiction Rodeo. When I created the Rodeo Fest promotion I inadvertently created a second hashtag of #CRRODEO as in Carrot Ranch Rodeo. Better editors than my Inner Editor, pointed out the blunder, but by then both hashtags had been shared widely. I’m a flash fiction writer, so having trained my brain for solutions I will simply use #CRRODEO on October 3 for the Rodeo Fest and pretend that’s what I meant.

Be sure to follow along the Rodeo on Twitter at #FFRODEO. May it bring you all a bumper crop of fun!

And if you missed the post on Tuesday, check out the new Flash Fiction page at Carrot Ranch. It includes recipes for preparing flash fiction and introduces something I’ve been working on for a while — The Ultimate Flash Fiction (TUFF), which is a challenge, the final contest in the Rodeo, and the foundation for a new workshop I’ve developed using flash fiction as a tool to teach an integrative writing/editing approach to book revision.

Thank you for your patience as the sawdust clears on all these new barns and events at the Ranch! I’m a week behind on compilations, but whipping and spurring to get caught up in the next few days. I’ll let you know as new pages go up, too! This is the final prompt until weeklies resume November 2. I’m delighted to have you all here!

September 21, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about what it is to gather a harvest. You can use the phrase or show what it means without using the words. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 26, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published September 27). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Harvests Aren’t Gathered for All (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills

Sarah gobbled picked peas from her gnarled hands.

“Get out of there!”

Sarah blushed, gathered threadbare skirts and fled fast as a 91-year-old could muster. She held her head despite the curvature of her back and walked past the angry gardener as if she were on a Sunday stroll. In fact, Sarah realized, it was Sunday.

“You stay out you tramp!”

So much for Christian charity, she thought. Wandering without a destination she passed other gardens in full harvest. At the end of the street named after her father in the town bearing her surname, Sarah turned away, hungry.

###

Not Now, I’m Busy

How can a storyteller get by in a busy, busy world? Busyness can distract us from sunsets and tales exchanged over pints or tea. Some feel compelled to find worth in activity, and some stay active as a distraction. The storytellers want you to slow down a minute. Listen. Read.

Writers tackled busyness on the page, taking  time out from busy schedules to craft responses.

The following stories are based on the September 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a busy character.

###

Getting Busy on My First Date by Sarah Brentyn

His tie was blue. A nice enough color. The geometric design wasn’t all that unpleasant. A bit modern for my taste, but not obnoxious.

I suppose it could have been his shirt, with its burgundy basketweave pattern. But, if I’m honest, the whole thing blew up because of his pink paisley jacket.

I couldn’t tell if he was nice enough for me to look past his fashion faux pas.

When my sister asked how the date with her co-worker went, I shrugged, “I have no idea. His clothes were so loud, I couldn’t hear a word he said.”

###

Sometimes I Feel Like I Am Going Crazy by Robbie Cheadle

In this modern world, sometimes, I feel like I am going crazy.

At work, deadlines, unexpected issues; needing time, needing urgent attention.

An endless cycle.

It sometimes seems relentless, a knot of anxiety in my stomach, as I work through the list of tasks, carefully and exactingly, there is no room for error.

In my dual purpose life, sometimes, I feel like I am going crazy.

At home, husband and children, all needing help, needing time, needing advice.

An endless cycle.

I feel like a monster, driving them on, helping them meet the demands of their high-speed, high-tech lives.

###

The Real Job by Allison Maruska

The fryer beeps its obnoxious repetition. No one addresses it.

“Keri! Get that!” Phil yells from the back.

“I’m busy,” I mutter while shoving burgers into the warming drawer. At the fryer, hot oil hops out with the cooked fries, hitting my arm. “Ow.” I wipe it on my shirt.

“See, honey? That’s why you have to study hard in school, so you can get a real job. One that won’t burn you.”

It’s a woman in line, talking to a child and pointing at me.

I turn away, hiding my eye roll. Yeah, this isn’t a real job.

###

Super Secretary by Anne Goodwin

“Mr Johnson called. Frantic he can’t make his appointment. He wondered if you’d see him at six.” Elaine wrinkled her nose. “I said you finished at five but he said you’d seen him after hours before.”

“Tell him okay.” The guy was too vulnerable to wait another week.

“And that rescheduled team meeting. I can’t find a slot that suits everyone until next month. Apart from Friday.”

Friday: her day off for writing. But writing wasn’t her real work. “We’ll do it Friday. If you can book a room.”

Elaine smiled. Perhaps the meeting rooms would be fully booked.

###

Busy by Robert Kirkendall

Silvio the waiter moved from table to table taking customer’s orders and answering their many questions about the menu. He then ran back to the kitchen, quickly arranged various plates of food onto a serving tray, and ran back out with the tray on his upturned palm. He adroitly sidestepped other servers and bussers on his way to table.

“Waiter!” an obnoxious customer screeched.

Silvio halted and looked down at the customer contemptuously.

“What’s this fly doing in my soup?” the customer demanded as he pointed down at his soup bowl.

Silvio glanced down at the bowl. “The backstroke!”

###

Never Too Busy for Fun by Norah Colvin

After days of endless rain, the chorus of birds and bees urged them outdoors. Mum bustled about the garden; thinning weeds, pinching off dead flowers, trimming ragged edges, tidying fallen leaves, enjoying the sunshine. Jamie, with toddler-sized wheelbarrow and infinite determination, filled the barrow, again and again, adding to the growing piles of detritus. Back and forth, back and forth, he went. Until … leaves crackling underfoot and crunching under wheels, called him to play. Jamie giggled as armfuls scooped up swooshed into the air and fluttered to earth. Mum, about to reprimand, hesitated, then joined in the fun.

###

Tommy’s Nap by Chris Mills

Mary tucked the blanket around six month old Tommy, and his sleepy eyes fluttered like butterfly wings. She needed several hours to catch up on chores.

Laundry was an avalanching mountain peak. Dust bunnies taunted from corners and fled. Dirty dishes called her name, as did toilets, tubs, floors and sills. She flipped mattresses, turned mattresses, chased dust bunnies from under mattresses. Spotted mirrors reflected her weary gaze.

Tommy slept. Mary swept. To-do lists became all-done lists, and the house was just the way she wanted it.

Tommy the teenager walked out of his room and asked about dinner.

###

Jumping Around by FloridaBorne

Plane Crash? I told my doctor not to get married on the 25th of this year, or take flight 25 to Hawaii.

When I’m around, people hurry up and die.

I lived 25 miles north of Barneveld, Wisconsin when a massive tornado jumped past my house and annihilated the center of their town.  I lived 25 miles away from San Francisco in the 1979 Earthquake.  Then, I was in Florida when Hurricane Irma took a giant leap to the left and we missed the hurricane force winds by 25 miles.

That’s it!  I’m done with psychiatrists. They never listen!

###

No Time to Stand and Stare? by Anne Goodwin

A shorter walk today, and no dawdling. Busy busy, lots to do back home.

The squiggle on the path broke her rhythm. Even here, in its natural habitat, an adder was a rare sight. She’d disturbed one once, only a mile away, but it slithered into the bracken before she could distinguish the diamonds on its back. This one seemed to be posing. How close could she get before it reared its head and spat?

A gift. A blessing. She’d stay as long as the snake did. A poor life, if she lacked the leisure to stand and stare.

###

Busy (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee

The sun is warm on her face in the cooler air, light penetrating her closed eyelids, turning them incandescent orange. The smells of autumn: decaying leaves, rich earth. Her books make a surprisingly comfortable pillow, lying on the grass on the small quad. Bit of heaven.

A shadow falls across her. She cracks one eye open.

“Brittany,” she says flatly.

“Jane, that calculus is killing me. I need help.”

Jane closes her eye again and points behind her, somewhere. “Math lab’s that way.”

“You’re not doing anything.”

The eye again, a bullet. “Looks may deceive. I am very busy.”

###

Busy by Irene Waters

Dahlia and Rhonda sipped their coffee as they chatted not glancing in Bee’s direction. Yawning, Dahlia swung her legs onto the table. “I’m tired.”

“Why? What have you been doing?”

“Nothing. You almost finished Bee?”

“No. I’ve got tables to set, flowers to arrange and the speaker wants the projector stuff. I’ll have to organise that. Would you set the tables for me? The sooner I get home the better. I’ve got the dogs to walk, dinner to make, the kids to pick up before I come back .”

“Sorry Bee. Too busy. Gotta go. See you tonight. Coming Rhonda?”

###

Houseproud by Pensitivity

The last of the shopping had been put away, and the house was as neat as a pin.

She’d done all the washing and ironing, and prepared dinner in the kitchen.

No time to relax though, just a shower and then off to visit.

She got to the hospital and her mother’s bed was enclosed in a curtain.

The family emerged from behind it.

They looked tired.

‘Where were you? She was asking for you.’

‘I was busy. How is she?’

‘It doesn’t matter now. She died half an hour ago.’

Being houseproud is a heavy burden to bear.

###

Busy-Bee by Kalpana Solsi

Aunt Charlotte being a very fastidious person, I am on tenterhooks about a slip.

The brownies and cookies are baked to perfection. Darjeeling tea is ready to be brewed. The expensive crockery is laid on the table. The curtains match with sofa upholstery.

How did I miss this? I station the wooden-stool and hitch my dress high to climb despite feeling giddy. I am busy cleaning the ceiling-fan. The landline-phone springs to life.

I lower myself huffing, losing my balance to fall on the phone. I just pick the receiver.

“Okay Aunt”, I mumble.

She has cancelled her visit.

###

Busy With a Purpose by Reena Saxena

I returned home one evening to find newspapers torn into neat little vertical strips, and piled into a heap. Somebody had perfected the technique to get pieces of a similar shape and size, and taught others how to do it. The effort was laudable, as there was no lofty purpose behind doing it. The doers were just learning.

They were three cute kittens, whose mother had chosen us to look after them. They did not own any tools, other than their teeth and nails. I saw them expand the efforts to other needed skills.

Hats off to the spirit!

###

Flash Fiction by Kerry E. B. Black

“What’re you talking about?” The woman’s cheeks darkened and her voice raised. “The white buffalo. What have you done with her?”

Maurya wiped the spray from her cheek and ignored the taunts from the towns folk. She walked into the mushroom cave. A circle of fungi had formed, but hoof prints smashed the closest mushrooms into the compost. Maurya moved her hands in a warding symbol.

“I think I know where she’s gone.”

The town elder tottered to loom over Maurya. “Since it’s your place that lost her and your mind that knows where she’d be, you’d better find her.”

###

Busy Bee by Etol Bagam

Thursday morning. Wake up.

Migraine.

Get up. Wake up the kids. Have breakfast. Get kids ready to school. Walk them to school.

Work from home. Automation won’t work, do it manually.

Stop to go to the doctor.

Come back to a meeting. Work non-stop until 3:25.

Bring suitcase down for hubby.

Pick up kids at 3:30.

Have lunch!

Drive kids to sports practice.

Stop at dry cleaner.

Back home, iron hubby’s shirts.

Shower.

Fix dinner. Do the dishes.

Help hubby pack for his trip.

Read a bit. Go to bed.

And that migraine is still there until end of day Friday….

###

On the Go by Michael

She was too busy for idle chit chat. It was go, go all day. Those around her found her exhausting as she never stopped, preferring to get the job done as she’d say to them.

Her head down bum up attitude gave no room for getting to know her. She nodded in acquaintance to her co-workers, she ate alone and never took her full dinnertime.

She found it hard at Christmas when they did stop to celebrate as she had no connections to anyone.

It came as no surprise to anyone that she had no one at home either.

###

The Energizer Corey by Joe Owens

Corey took a deep breath as he pushed out the last words for this seventy two minute stop. Now it was off to the Explorer’s Lounge for the Newlyweds Match game where couples would try to see how much they knew each other. He had hosted the Voice of the Ocean, a Sled Dog Puppies petting session and a bingo game, but his day was not nearly half over.

“How do you do it?” Junior Cruise Director Caitlin asked.

“Never stop. Get your plan in mind, pick the fastest route between and don’t stop when you’re tired!”

###

Busy as a Beaver by Susan Zutautas

Mr. Moose saw a busy beaver working on his den
He walked up to him and offered a hand to lend

They cut and moved logs and stopped for a break
Thank you Mr. Moose I wouldn’t have been able to get all these in the lake

Munching on some berries
Talking away was merry

Until Mr. Moose explained the fire on his land
And how everything was now just a pile of sand

This made Mr. Beaver shed a tear for him
And offered for Mr. Moose to move to his land

Thank you my new found friend

###

Buckeye Blane, Beaver Bureaucrat by Bill Engleson

“So, kid, open wide, flash me them orange sharpies.”

“Yahhhhhhhhh!”

“Kid, they’re beauties. Credit to beaverdom…”

“Yahhhhhhhhh!”

“Just about done. Hole punch bought the farm. Okay. Crunch! Great. Once more…We’re done. Take a break.”

“Yawoooooie.”

“Know the feeling. Know it well. Anyways. You got the job. Land Manager Apprentice.”

“Yawoooooie.”

“I can see you’re thrilled. Okay, your basic job will be to clear deadwood.”

“Oooooyawooo!”

“Specialized beaver work, kid. We leave the healthy trees…take out only the dry rot.”

“Ooooowooooyaaa!”

“Goes against beaver lore, I know. Compromise. Humans give a little: we give a little.”

“Yaaaawooowooooie!”

“That’s the spirit.”

###

A Team of Busy Bees by Liz Husebye Hartman

She bends over unkempt juniper shrubs and a beetle-laced Japanese plum, scissoring with vigor with long-bladed hand shears. Down the boulevard, a few trees show tawdry highlights of orange and gold.

“I’d best get busy,” she grumbles, “While the leaves are still up, and not all over my lawn.” She snips here, shapes a curve there, and gradually uncovers dahlias, planted in the gap between shrub and front stoop. They straighten and smile, proud of their cache of hidden pollen.

Later, she rests, sipping iced tea, as grateful bumblebees, buzz and fill their leg sacks with summer’s final bounty.

###

Monastic Preserves by idylloftheking

“You could say I’m a connoisseur. Have you ever tried Trappist beer?”

“No, sir. I don’t drink.”

“Of course, of course. Where do you get your berries?”

“That’s not something we like to share, sir.”

“Of course, of course. I suppose I can’t have just one more jar?”

“They won’t cooperate, sir.”

###

Monastery Jam by Charli Mills

Thimbleberries scattered across the floor. “Brother Mark! How careless..!”

Mark shuffled to fetch … a broom? Dust bin or bowl? A rag? He stood like the garden statue of St. Francis. His mind calculated each solution rapidly.

“…just standing there. Look at this mess. And leaves me to clean it. Never busy, that Brother Mark. Idle hands, you know…”

Mark blushed to hear the complaints. Father Jorge’s large brown hand rested on Mark’s shoulder. “Let’s walk the beach.”

Waves calmed Mark’s thinking. “I didn’t know if it was salvageable.”

“Brother Mark, your mind needn’t make jam of every situation.”

###

Cerebral Buzz  (Janice vs Richard 19) by JulesPaige

Richard looked as if he were sitting still. In truth, his mind
was busy calculating what to do next while his body recovered.
After visiting Janice’s home – and eating the berries from her
garden – He must have also ingested something else. While
he was blind consuming berries he must have not looked
carefully enough at the weeds that bore similar fruit that was
really just for the birds.

Richard doubted that Janice had planted those weeds just
to poison him. And he had gotten ill, leaving a mess in her
home – the home he had wanted to make his…

###

Busy by Rugby 843

When my kids were little they were well behaved. A visit to the doctor’s office wasn’t a problem. We usually brought something along to keep them busy–books, paper and pens, etc. Nowadays I see tables and chairs, video screens and coloring books to entertain children waiting for appointments.

At home we had a “busy box” toy that served us well, but I’ve seen much more elaborate styles such as the ones pictured above, at crowded offices. Some parents might think this is a prime place for germs, but washing their hands before and after use should solve that problem.

###

Parent/Teacher by Pete Fanning

Liam’s father sat hunched over the desk. “Why ain’t you giving out homework?”

“Well, eight hours is a long day for a seven-year-old. In fact, studies—”

“Studies. Here we go.” His arms flailed. He brimmed with aggression. Mrs. Tan pressed on, a little less sure now. No wonder Liam was lashing out.

“Well, concerning Liam’s classroom behavior.”

The chair squeaked. “What? I’ll set whup his ass if he’s acting up.”

Mrs. Tan managed to cover her gasp. She pulled close Liam’s folder, smoothing the edges of if only to keep her hands busy.

“No, he’s really working hard.”

###

Father by Jack Schuyler

I never thought of my Father as a busy man, or as absent in any way. Mother would praise him for giving us food, shelter, and luxury, but such adoration fell silent against stony determination. I remember every day straining to hear the opening and closing of our front door, anticipating his arrival because I loved him. But the sound rang mostly in departure, and love was only a word I pretended to know the meaning of. And when he died, it was not love that pulled at my heart, but an emptiness that had been there all along.

###

The Mom by Ruchira Khanna

“Sam hurry up! it’s time to leave for school.”

“Yeah” came a response amidst the wide yawn.

“Did you put your lunch box, water bottle in your bag?”

“Yeeees!” he muttered.

“Sam eat your breakfast! Why are you daydreaming? The school bus will be here any minute!” she stressed.

Sam rolled his eyes, and he could not contain himself, “MOM! Let it go!” he shrilled.

Mom paused.

Took a deep sigh as she placed her hands on her hips, she responded, “I am aware dear. But someone has to delegate it, and that ugly task falls upon me!”

###

The Unsung Juggler by Eugene Uttley

Well, here we are in the middle of it all, the whole symphony of sweeping, spinning spheres.
And we have no telescope powerful enough to see him down there at the bottom of it all.
What’s he doing down there? Why, he’s juggling of course – juggling all the planets and stars.
He’s not God – or a god – I rush to say, though you might think him so to see him doing what he does.
He’s just a guy, you know. A very, very, very busy guy.
He’s the unsung juggler at the bottom of the universe.

###

Dang Busy by D. Avery

“Shorty?”

“Huh? Oh, hey. Wasn’t expecting to see you. What with the Kid gone.”

“That’s nuthin’ ta me. I jist narrate.”

“Yeah, right.”

“So, whatcha up to, Shorty? Looks like you ain’t doin’ nothin’. ”

“Correct. I am not doing nothing, I’m doing something.”

“Oh. Watcha doin’? ‘Cause it looks like daydreamin’.”

“Yep.”

“Shorty, ain’t that nothin’?”

“Nope. I’m writin’. And I’m plannin’ for the rodeo that’s comin’ through the ranch.”

“A rodeo? At Carrot Ranch?”

“Yep. Eight events. Eight prizes.”

“Yeehaw, Shorty! For real?!”

“Yep. You can’t make this stuff up.”

“Well you sure dreamed it up.”

“Yep.”

###

Gone East by D. Avery

“Shorty, is it true?”

“Yep. Gonna be quieter ‘round here. The Kid headed back East after all.”

“What? The Kid seemed happy here.”

“The Kid was happy here. Believe you me, the Kid didn’t wanna go. Even mentioned not wantin’ to leave you.”

“Aw, shucks. So why’n tarnation? Saddle sore? Too much wranglin’?”

“Naw, the Kid was willin’ ta ride the range all day, you know that.”

“Was it the food, Shorty?”

“Heck no. The Kid thrives on what’s dished out here. Did say somethin’ ‘bout bein’ busy, havin’ ta bring home the bacon.”

“Oh. That takes time.”

“Yep.”

###

Save

Get Ready to Rodeo!

Norah Colvin writes in the upcoming The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, Vol. 1:

“Flash fiction is a form of short writing. In its various forms, it may be known as, for example, micro fiction, sudden fiction, or six-word stories; the length may vary from as few as six to as many as 1,000 words. Brevity is a constraint, and writers attempt to pack as much story as they can into few words. Each word must count. There is no room for ‘darlings’, let alone a need for them to be killed.”

Carrot Ranch is hosting a Flash Fiction Rodeo with eight different contests throughout the month of October. It’s free and includes first place prizes in each category of $25. The best of all eight winning entries will be dubbed the All-Around Best Writer of 2017 Flash Fiction Rodeo and win an extra $50. You can enter one or all contests (it’s free). It’s a contest, so enter your best, polished work. Quality over quantity matters.

If the thought of entering a contest makes your palms sweat, this will be a good one for you to get in the saddle. It’s a contest, sure. It’s bigger than the weekly challenges, you betcha. But this is still Carrot Ranch. We are a welcoming literary community, and no writer has yet broken an arm while penning flash fiction. You’ll recognize many of the contest leaders and their co-judges as from among the Rough Writers & Friends. Some are from the greater blogging community. Some are pals.

Hands down, these are good people who won’t tarnish your writing enthusiasm.

If you ever needed a push to try a contest, start with the Rodeo.  If you need a creative jump-start before NaNoWriMo in November, the Rodeo is it. Thinking you want something different from the weekly challenges? The Rodeo will replace the weekly prompt and compilations for the month of October (regular challenges resume November 2). It’s a great event to build your confidence, challenge your craft skills and push into creativity.

It is with great delight that I introduce you to your leaders for the 2017 Flash Fiction Rodeo:

October 5: Rodeo Event #1 is Norah Colvin’s When I Grow Up Flash Fiction Contest. She will ask you to cast yourself back in time to when you were six. The entry is to be 100 words exactly, not including title. She’ll be joined as judges by two other writers from the community: Robbie Cheadle and Anne Goodwin.

October 10: Rodeo Event #2 is Geoff Le Pard’s The Little and Laugh Flash Contest. He’s pushing you to find the fun in flash. The entry is to be 299 words (with a margin of 9 words under or over) and it is to bring a smile to the judges. Geoff is joined by fellow humor writers, Barb Taub and Lucy Brazier.

October 12: Rodeo Event #3 is JulesPaige’s Septolet in Motion Contest. She’s our resident Rough Writer poet, and introduces contestants to a 14-word, 7-line poem. She’s asking you to get magical and will have a couple of fellow poets to help judge.

October 17: Rodeo Event #4 is Irene Water’s Scars Flash Fiction Contest. As a memoirist, Irene also works in flash fiction and often has a dark twist to her writing. We’ll learn more about her contest and her two fellow judges.

October 19: Rodeo Event #5 is C Jai Ferry’s 9×11 Twitterflash Contest. She will test the wordsmithing skills of writers at both the sentence and story levels. Participants will tweet a 99-word flash fiction stories in 11 sentences of exactly 9 words each. She’ll be joined by two fiction writing judges.

October 24: Rodeo Event #6 is D. Avery’s Dangerous Bull Ride Contest. She’ll first have all writers enter their names just as bull-riders do when drawing a bull to ride. No one knows what dangerous prompt each writer might draw. She’s joined by two local east coast judges to complete the ride.

October 26: Rodeo Event #7 is Sherri Matthew’s Murderous Musings: When Good Folk Turn Bad At The Rodeo Contest. She have contestants write a flash with a criminal theme that explores motives. The fabulous Mike and Hugh join her as partners in crime, judging it, that is.

October 31: Rodeo Event #8 is my own creation I’ve been excited to share with you all. It’s called The Ultimate Flash Fiction (TUFF) and will be the final contest in the Rodeo. It’s also the basis for a workshop I’ve developed. It will push participants to create, cut, cut, cut and revise. It promises to be tough but rewarding!

The Ultimate Flash Fiction imitates the five steps of writing a book. It’s a progressive, five flash writing activity. Your own results will surprise you and improve your approach to book writing. This advanced challenge welcomes all writers, especially those who write books or want to better understand how.

It’s a five step process:

  1. Free write for five minutes;
  2. Write a 99-word flash fiction;
  3. Reduce it to a 59-word flash fiction;
  4. Reduce it to 9-words;
  5. Build it back up to 599 words in three-acts.

What if I told you this is how you write a novel?

  1. Draft an idea (plot, free-write, NaNoWriMo);
  2. Write scenes and structure chapters;
  3. Cut scenes and rearrange chapters;
  4. Reduce entire novel to 9 words;
  5. Build it back up, fill gaps, connect emotional arc to action, and complete three acts.

That’s the Rodeo line up! Watch for promotional details and share as you see postings come up online. Check out some of the revised pages at Carrot Ranch (barn building in progress). There’s new artwork that’s fun and capture’s the spirit of the community. Check out the Home page and the new Flash Fiction page with nicely polished rules (thank you, Norah) and the fancy chart for TUFF. A hearty thanks to D. Avery for lending her wit and yarns to the Ranch, as well.

Even the Contact page has a bit of new art. Use it to tell me what you think of the new pages, TUFF or any questions you have about the Rodeo of Flash Fiction Contests.

Grab your pens, mark the dates and share the promotional icon to encourage others to join the Rodeo! Remember, the party kicks off October 3:

September 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

Something broke loose. No longer tethered to the earth’s trajectory I defy gravity, a reverse shooting star. All the things, all the things gathered, all the things forgotten for later, all the things rise up ready to have their day at the beach. But this is no Bathsheba Beach with white sands and tiki bars. This is after the hurricanes when I feel defiant because life can batter me no more than it already has. My batten-down hatches have survived. I’m no longer afraid.

I run down to the riptide.

Beneath hatch number one an anthology wakes up. It has incubated long enough. Next Monday is THE DAY it uploads to its publisher. Already I’ve printed the proof and discovered its formatting errors. Its writers have peeked at the pristine white pages and pointed to spots where error mars. This is good. Nothing ever hatches in perfection, yet often the creator’s fond gaze misses the flaws. Other perspectives round the view, and I apply the polishing cloth. A missed word here — polish — an incorrect British spelling there — polish — pages out of format — polish — headings mismatched — polish.

If anyone believes independent publishing is a shortcut (to what, I wonder when I see this idea bantered about) they have not published. My experience with publications resides mainly with magazines, newsprint and company material. I served as co-editor for a literary journal once and it took a year, following a seasoned and fast-paced process. An author once asked to use a magazine column I wrote as a chapter in her book, How to Go to College on a Shoestring. I received a copy two years later. I’ve watched friends in the literary community fuss and fizz over formatting and issues I feared to poke with a stick.

I run down to the riptide.

Hatch number two is a home. Forever homeless I might be, and yet I’m secure with the three things homelessness taught me to appreciate: a bed, desk and toilet. The RV developed electrical problems shortly after our arrival with a slide-out sticking and batteries dying. Our SIL’s boss said we could store it at his place in the country, along with our truck which is too large for mining town streets. After six weeks, the Hub has finally resolved the issues. The RV is set up as a guest place in the country, free to the generous person allowing us the space and to any writer who wants an RV retreat to the Keweenaw.

Home is not ours and yet it is homey nonetheless. After a year of crushing my own self-esteem against the injustices of a rental market in rural America and fighting the VA for the Hub’s right to healthcare, we’ve soothed our wounds in a new community. Our daughter and SIL have graciously allowed for us to take the time we need to resolve it all without expectation. And they are true to their word, practicing meditation daily to stay calm in a house full of dogs and parents. It has allowed me to rise from the ashes like a Phoenix and become the Agate Hunter.

I run down to the riptide.

You might say that beneath hatch number three is a can of worms. It’s necessary to access the VA healthcare system. As a paratrooper and US Army Ranger, the Hub jumped into Grenada overloaded with his pack, radio gear and a mortar. Easily it all weighed an extra 120 pounds. On top of that burden, he was shot at like a landing duck. He hit the ground so hard — feet, knees, hips, back, shoulders, head — he bounced. He bounced he hit so hard. He bounced. Reeling in his parachute he saw it riddled with bullet holes. His adrenaline rushed so fast he had no idea if any holes were in his body.

For the next 33 years he lived with the pain of that bounce. Early on, his knees locked up and revealed bone fragments. The VA denied his claim, stating no x-rays from his service dates existed. In fact, the military refuses to release his full medical records. We were young and didn’t care to fight the system. How would twenty-year-olds know what growing older would be like? Over the past ten years the pain worsened. To a former Ranger, he pushes through. But employers don’t like to hire broken men. We learned what beast combat anxiety morphs into.

I run down to the riptide.

Like a treasure chest, I carefully unearth my last hatch. Gems glint beneath. I hold each one, attempting to identify the raw material, gems embedded in ancient matrix. I’m tasked to sand each hint of gem quality by hand. Practice, polish, practice, polish. One day I might master revision to make cabs of books and platform. Carrot Ranch, Rock Creek, Miracle of Ducks, and ones barely showing promise yet.

College did not teach me to write novels, though under guidance I started one, ghost wrote another and published a thesis the length of a novella. Books did not teach me to write novels, though I gleaned good practices. Workshops, retreats and closed writers groups did not teach me to write novels, though they deepened my resolve and kept me on the course. Writing novels did not teach me how, though I mimicked process to keep and discard what did or didn’t work. Writing flash fiction week after week has taught me powerful lessons like facing a riptide and writing a book.

The Superior riptide roars, the result of wind and waves. I don’t run, I pause. What do I know of riptides? I’ve come to this shore to hunt the agates that glow like lumps of red wax, so the experts claim. How many experts does it take to write and edit and publish and market a book? All I know is that for mine, I’m the only expert those books will get, and if I don’t figure out how to find an agate, only the experts will continue to cultivate them. I write. I hunt.

Strategy first. From the eroded and forested bank, I watch the roaring waves, surprised because the day behind me was sunny and merely tickled the leaves. How can it be so windy on the sea-side of the front-line of trees against its force? I spot a lone beach half a mile into the shoreline’s curve. My strategy is to walk farther out that average agate hunters. Discipline next. I take the upper trail through the muffled forest. I measure my pace and walk, knowing others might be tempted to start hunting. I follow the trail to that curvature I spied.

After following trails least traveled, under low-hanging branches and over toppled birch, I skitter down a sandy bank and face the wind and waves. Despite the tumult and cacophony of  rocks tumbling over rocks, the late afternoon sunshine warms my face. I think it wise to avoid the waves, but they don’t avoid me. Crashing five feet out they skim water over my agate hunting shoes. I decide the surf is not as dangerous as it sounds. Testing my theory, inch by inch I allow the waves to surge across my feet and ankles.

The riptide draws rocks like marbles caught in a vacuum. I don’t turn my back on the water. I can see rocks bobbing in waves like discarded apples. The first one to hit me feels like a gentle bump. Rocks in water are like a barking dog you discover to be friendly. Some waves grow so big that they shadow the sinking sun to cause a momentary false sunset. It’s unnerving but causes no harm. I’m alert to multiple factors and yet focus on the hunt, amazed at the size of my catch. Garnets abound. I find pyrite so well-formed in polished granite, I can see its cubed crystal structure. A waxy red agate shines in the intermittent sun.

Satisfied, I continue to walk back to the trail-head, taking the beach. I’ve noticed it’s empty now. The dog walkers, joggers and agate hunters have all left. And something shifts in the riptide. The rocks sucked out like marbles don’t return. Sand fills what was rocky shoreline. Still, I test my solidity and I feel good. It’s not like I’m sinking or getting caught up in quicksand. But I notice something that even expert agate hunters might have missed in avoiding a riptide. It’s like writing, while also paying attention to pitfalls and staying observant to discoveries.

The riptide tumbles lumpy rocks differently.

Curious as to why these rocks are lumpy, I find unusual gems — matrix with knobs of prehnite, rare golden pumpellyite and a copper nugget. Because they are worn unlike the other rounder stones, they remain defiant to the pull of the riptide. Each lump reveals a different gemstone and I’m reminded of how we all have bumps and barnacles. We can polish the gems, and allow expression of the lumpy matrix. This combination of light and dark surprises me, teaches me that not everything has to be so smooth. In life and writing.

September 14, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a riptide. How can it be used to move a story? It could be a stretch of turbulent water or a pull of another kind. Go where the prompt leads even if you find it unexpected.

Respond by September 19, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published September 20). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Lost at Sea by Charli Mills

“That son-of-a-pup! Toughest crew chief ever.” Howard grinned.

Stella hoped the young couple at the café didn’t mind her husband’s sea of stories.

“Didn’t know what a big deal he was. Me fresh from ‘Nam and him a World War 2 hero.”

The woman asked, “How did you know?”

“His funeral. Never saw so many brass. Laid him out with enough medals to topple him!” Howard laughed.

The couple nodded politely. Stella touched Howard’s hand, sensing the riptide.

“Battlefield sergeant he was. Omaha Beach. That’ll tell ya something. Good boss.” Howard’s eyes watered.

The couple shrugged. Nebraska has beaches?

###

Save

New Barns Raised at the Ranch

Carrot Ranch is growing. If you look around you might see some gaps and unsightly piles of lumber. Growing can be inelegant. Mud-work, I call it. It always begins by digging in the mud. Soon, I’ll wash off the foundations, nail some clean boards and you’ll see barns taking shape. By the time the barns open you might raise your eyebrows in surprise or kick up your heels in delight.

Think of me as the buckaroo with a hammer in one hand, a writing quill in the other and eternally distracted by migrating birds, ancient bedrock and stories waiting to be caught. I recently commented to another writer that one day my tombstone will read, “…but I haven’t told all the stories, yet.” This made me think I could stash pencils and paper at my grave, inciting visitors to write 99 words. If I were to leave a legacy, that would satisfy me greatly. It’s not the words published, but the hunt for them, and stories never cease.

99 words at a time allows me to write beyond the range of my novels I’ve cultivated for the long trail ride. Yet 99 words also becomes a tool to refine those longer stories, to explore their characters and scenes, to process research. When this Ranch hung its shingle to challenge writers to wrangle 99 words, no more, no less it was to spark creativity and cultivate connections. Out of that beginning grew a literary community.

If you think of writers who enjoy word play or word craft, then literary art is our common ground. Flash fiction became the sandbox for playing with literary art in a constrained and yet open way: 99 words, but according to where a prompt leads each writer. Anytime someone says they didn’t think they stayed with the prompt, I clap! That means someone felt more driven to pursue a creative idea than sticking to a “rule.” Carrot Ranch is a safe place to practice, bend or even break literary rules. It’s exploration. It’s creativity. It’s community.

Coming from rural places and the cooperative industry, I believe in the difference a small and engaged group of people can make. The barns raised at Carrot Ranch are to expand the reach of this literary community, and to build upon the 99 word challenges with new innovations to push creativity and word craft. The barns are also places to house the abundance of writing from those who wrangle words here. What you will notice are changes to pages, new events, a book launch and a Rodeo.

The Ranch schedule remains the same with enhancements:

  • Mondays: Admin day with #MondayBlogs participation on Twitter
  • Tuesdays: Ranch Business/Guest Authors (essay and advanced flash fiction topics follow for 2018)
  • Wednesdays: Weekly Challenge Compilation posts
  • Thursdays: New Flash Fiction Challenge posts

Guest authors can sign up for the 2018 schedule January – September. There are 38 open slots. Essays will continue to include Raw Literature (about the creative process and early creations in writing) and Platform (about marketing tactics for authors or bloggers). A new essay opportunity is to write a Peer Book Review on a fellow Rough Writer (or Friend who joins us in writing at the Ranch).

In 2018, Carrot Ranch will challenge flash fiction writers to push their craft with Advanced Flash Fiction. If you are interested, you can sign up for the 6th Sense Challenge, History Challenge, or Ultimate Flash Fiction Challenge. Each will be explained on an upcoming new page this month (Submissions). If you are interested in being a guest author at Carrot Ranch in 2018, email me at: wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

Carrot Ranch will use the remaining 2017 Tuesdays for Ranch Business. We have an exciting season kicking off, which will become yearly:

  • October: Flash Fiction Rodeo (8 contests, 8 first-place prizes, 0 fees) Tuesdays & Thursdays
  • November: First 4 Winners Featured, Anthology Vol. 1 launches, #NaNoWriMo
  • December: Final 4 Winners Featured, Anthology Vol. 1 Book Parties & Blog Tour, #NaNoProMo

If you want to participate in blog sharing, #MondayBlogs is how Carrot Ranch shares other blog posts on Twitter. Each writer who participates in the weekly challenges with blog links have those links embedded in their flash fiction’s title. I share the compilation with your blog links across a broad platform of active Facebook Groups and at the Carrot Ranch Facebook Page.

Weekly Challenges will continue. If you ever get a burning idea for a prompt, leave it in the comments with your story. I might use it to prompt my own blog post that week, too. Facebook decided to change its format, which has hampered how I save stories for the compilation. It’s caused a hiccup during a busy time, but it’s just hiccup. I’m setting up the compilation differently. It won’t appear different, but my process will change.

IMPORTANT: The Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo in October will replace the weekly flash fiction challenges for that month. The last one will be September 28. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

I’m excited for the Flash Fiction Rodeo! This is the big show, the one we built the show barn for and it is led by 8 of our own Rough Writers. My first rodeo was at Bolado Park Arena when I was three. After I married, I hung up my riding boots and followed the ink trail.

This might be your first rodeo, but let me tell you it’s going to be a fun and wild ride! Our fearless leaders have events you’ll not expect. This is not your ordinary flash fiction contest. If you’ve never entered a contest before, here are three compelling reasons why you should enter one:

  1. You have 8 contests to choose from (enter one, two or all)!
  2. There are no entry fees (it’s free, and you might win a $25 prize)!
  3. It’s Carrot Ranch & the Rough Writers (you know we don’t bite)!

Next Tuesday we will introduce the Leaders and their Contests. Each Tuesday and Thursday in October (Oct. 5-31) a new contest will debut at Midnight (EST). Each one will have its own set of rules, deadline and platform — some will be at Carrot Ranch, at least one will be on Twitter, and another will use Submittable. Winners will be revealed at Carrot Ranch each Tuesday Nov. 7-Dec. 26. An All-Around Winner from among the eight will be revealed Jan. 2.

In January, we’ll begin development of Vol. 2. The anthology features the writing of The Congress of Rough Writers. On Oct. 3 Carrot Ranch will have a kick-off party for the Rodeo and announce the new inductees to the Rough Writers. If you’ve been writing here and thinking about answering the open call, email your interest to me at: wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

The saw dust will clear and the barns will soon be up! Save the date to celebrate:

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

September 7: Flash Fiction Challenge

Collected beach rocks spray across the dining room table. The most promising specimens I submerge in a bowl of water to illuminate agate banding or pink pools of prehnite.  My rock-hounding days are numbered because Lady Lake Superior grows cold. Instead of an evening of exercise beneath a lingering summer sunset, I take a mad dash mid-day to the beach when I can. My last trip I hitched a ride and combed the beach rocks until my daughter and her husband fetched me.

I don’t really have time to hunt agates; I’m far too busy.

Busy is an affliction. I’d say it’s modern, yet I suspect it’s as old as any form of distraction. When we think of a busy person we think of the executive or young parent. We could say both have important duties. One chases after meetings and deals; the other after toddlers and laundry. We could also say one is a workaholic. Perhaps both. What is the difference? When business becomes a form of mindlessness, it’s a distraction.

“Look busy,” is a phrase I’ve heard often from childhood on up. It’s hard for a day-dreamer to engage in mind wandering when you’re supposed to look busy. I struggle with tasks I call busy-work. When I didn’t look busy at home as a child, often I was given a broom and told if I had nothing better to do I could go sweep. I learned to daydream while doing chores. To this day, if I have a problem to solve in my mind, I clean. When I was in college, I discovered if I rewrote my notes after class and then dusted, mopped or did dishes, I wouldn’t have to cram for tests.

I had the cleanest house ever when I graduated college.

Some people believe the image, though; they believe they are supposed to “look busy.” They don’t problem solve or engage in mind-work at all. Instead they become human flurries of activity. These people, I’ve noticed, are praised for “keeping busy.” It’s an ingrained message and I’m not saying I missed it –it’s just that I developed a way to think while busy. My busy tends to come from the mind rather than activity.

The other day my SIL caught me staring out the porch window. He smiled, catching me un-busy, staring beyond the glass pane. He even glanced to see what I was looking at and upon seeing nothing of interest to warrant such staring he found my behavior amusing. I spared him a moment’s glance and explained, “I’m writing.” He laughed and walked off. Seriously, I was writing. I’ve had a huge breakthrough in my WIP, Miracle of Ducks, and the story was flowing so fast I had to watch it unfold, like an observer.

Stephen King is another writer who stares out windows. In an essay, he writes:

“Sitting down at the typewriter or picking up a pencil is a physical act; the spiritual analogue is looking out of an almost forgotten window, a window which offers a common view from an entirely different angle . . . an angle which renders the common extraordinary. The writer’s job is to gaze through that window and report on what he sees.”

Writers gaze out different windows. Sometimes the view is a different perspective as Stephen writes, and sometimes it’s to see with the inner eye. Of course, being the master of fantasy and thriller, Stephen’s mind wanders to the curious idea of the window breaking. In other words, he posed the question, “…what happens to the wide-eyed observer when the window between reality and unreality breaks and the glass begins to fly?” If you want to know his answer, read his novella, Four Past Midnight.

Stephen understands the busy writer — reality might be typing, staring or scrubbing dinner plates, but unreality is a rich inner world of exploration and discovery. It’s endless with archives of stories, some greater gems than others. When a writer gets busy that mental space thunders like Superior waves, scraping story over story until the writer spots the agates tumbled in the mind. Is it a danger or a joy to become so busy?

I think that’s a valid question for any of us. Does the busyness serve a purpose? Does it provide joy or distraction?

Traveling to VA appointments recently, we stopped at Keweenaw Bay, a small roadside resort on Lake Superior. No matter where we travel in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, we are surrounded by this grand shoreline. Keweenaw Bay is on the northeast side of the Great Lake, and directly south of Copper Harbor. The VA hospital in Iron Mountain is considered one of the most rural VAs in the nation and yet we live two more hours north in even more remote terrain. If wilderness seems a pattern in my life, I won’t deny it.

So here we are near the ends of our nation and a cartoon at the roadside cafe shows a waitress refusing to take a table’s order until they all turn off their cell phones. The line drawing shows no one looking at the menu and everyone instead staring at their screens. It occurred to me that cell phones fulfill a need to be distracted by busyness. How does that differ from escaping into a good book? It seems a book engages the mind, creates meaningful busyness, whereas screen time does not require the mind to actively think.

A hallmark of anxiety is that too many choices make us unhappy. Thus most people will choose to be mindlessly busy because it doesn’t require making choices, or thinking about choices. It makes me wonder if writers are some bizarre creatures who thrive on possibility. Or maybe some writers simply like making the choices for their characters’ lives. I can say my mind winds up and whirs before it settles into the resolution. For me, I think I see what can be and get excited when I find a path that appears to go there. That’s true for me in life and fiction. It’s the a-ha moment.

When I say I’m busy, I don’t mean I have lots of tasks, though actually I do. The busyness right now is the solar flare of my brain excited for the scenes I’m writing, the launch of our first Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch, the open call for new Rough Writers and the upcoming release of the current Rough Writer’s first anthology. Without the worry of homelessness thanks to our daughter and her husband, and with the Hub in a better VA system I’ve let go of much worry and stress.

So pardon my distraction, but I have rocks scattered across my brain and I’m sifting through them all. I feel more than relieved; I feel released. I’ll corner this energy and direct it better, but it feels good to have it back. It feels good to be making breakthroughs and seeing that paths are aligning. It’s a good busy.

If you missed last week’s announcement, I have an open call for The Congress of Rough Writers. This is a literary community for all writers. Everyone is welcome to come and go, to get what they want or need from participation. That participation includes writing, reading and joining discussions. If you want to go a step further and take part in events or anthologies, that’s the work of Rough Writers. It doesn’t mean you get roped in. Even as a Rough Writer, how you participate is up to you. It’s about willingness. If you are willing, shoot me an email: wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

And stay tuned for upcoming announcements about the Flash Fiction Rodeo. It’s more than a contest — it’s eight different contests! The weekly flash fiction challenges will go on break during October. Between Oct. 5-31, a new contest launches every Tuesday and Thursday. Each one has a $25 purse and there are no entry fees. Winners will be announced consecutively during the pre-sale and launch of The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 every Tuesday in November and December. That gives our event leaders and their co-judges time to decide and collect the Best in Show for each category. And it invites the greater community to participate.

September 7, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a busy character. It could be a busy beaver, gnawing birch trees endlessly or an executive on the go. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by September 12, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published September 13). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

***

Monastery Jam by Charli Mills

Thimbleberries scattered across the floor. “Brother Mark! How careless..!”

Mark shuffled to fetch … a broom? Dust bin or bowl? A rag? He stood like the garden statue of St. Francis. His mind calculated each solution rapidly.

“…just standing there. Look at this mess. And leaves me to clean it. Never busy, that Brother Mark. Idle hands, you know…”

Mark blushed to hear the complaints. Father Jorge’s large brown hand rested on Mark’s shoulder. “Let’s walk the beach.”

Waves calmed Mark’s thinking. “I didn’t know if it was salvageable.”

“Brother Mark, your mind needn’t make jam of every situation.”

###

NEXT UP:

Support the Writers at Carrot Ranch

Congress of the Rough Writers, Carrot Ranch, @Charli_Mills

New Rough Writer, D. Avery!

New Rough Writer, Robbie Cheadle!

Available on Amazon

New Rough Writer, Bill Engleson!

New from Geoff Le Pard!

Available on Amazon

New from Jeanne Belisle Lombardo

New From C. Jai Ferry

Skeleton Dance, C. Jai Ferry, @CJaiFerry

New from Anne Goodwin!

New from Ruchira Khanna!

Breathing Two Worlds, Ruchira Khanna, @abracabadra01

Available on Amazon

New from Sarah Brentyn!

Hinting at Shadows, Sarah Brentyn, @SarahBrentyn

Available on AmazonAvailable on Amazon

From Ann Edall-Robson

Moon Rising, Ann Edall-Robson, @AnnEdall-Robson

New from Sacha Black!

13 Steps to Evil by Sacha Black

Available on Amazon

From Susan Zutautas

The Day Mr. Beaver Met a Moose, Susan Zutautas, @susanismyname

Available on Amazon

From Luccia Gray

Available on Amazon