Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Home » #FFRODEO

Category Archives: #FFRODEO

Git Along an’ Start Writin’

Seep yourself in rich western history, then gather up your doggies and enter this free writing contest, number three in the Rodeo lineup!

Marsha Ingrao - Always Write

Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest 2020

Rodeo #3: Three-ActStory

We live for stories, and as writers, we craft them in the written word. A story is about Something (plot) that happens to Someone (characters), Somewhere (setting). Even if it is only 99 words long.

Crafting the Story

Act I, the beginning, the story rises. If a story is about someone, we have to feel something for that character. 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…

View original post 1,293 more words

TUFF Flash Fiction Contest Part Three

How are you doing TUFF rodeo writers?

You should be familiar with your 99-word story by now (Part One), and hopefully, you have spent some time exploring your story from different points of view (Part Two). TUFF is The Ultimate Flash Fiction and those of you daring enough to enter this progressive contest are spending a month on a single story taking it from draft to revision.

Part Three is your final tool in the process. It’s the tightest word reduction of your story: 9 words. That’s not a typo. The word count isn’t missing a double-digit. It’s nine words that you can count on your hands, presuming you didn’t lose any fingers riding bulls at your last rodeo.

Why so few words? This is a tool to arrive at the heart of your story. It’s the hook to interest a reader. Think of taglines from movies:

  • In space, no one can hear you scream. (Alien)
  • 3.7 trillion fish in the ocean. They’re looking for one. (Finding Nemo)
  • One dream. Four Jamaicans. Twenty below zero. (Cool Runnings)

Novels have taglines, too. Often they stand out as a quote above a book blurb on a cover. It can be the hook for a query letter or a zinger for promotional materials.

  • Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free. (An Ember in the Ashes)
  • Winning will make you famous. Losing means certain death. (The Hunger Games)
  • She had six husbands, money, and one lover too many. (The Long Goodbye)

If you are writing a book, a tagline becomes your guide. You can print it off and tape it to your computer monitor, reminding you what your book is about.

Like with TUFF Part Two, this step is meant to be a tool to help you get to the heart of your story. And, yes, there is a twist.

THE PART THREE TWIST

Write THREE 9-word taglines that capture the heart of your story:

  1. Pick the strongest aspects of your story and write it in 9-words.
  2. Next, pick the aspects you left out, and write another 9-words.
  3. Write a final 9-words that summarizes the conflict or tension.

You will have one more TUFF step after this one. It will be your revision, the reason you are given tools to rethink your original story. You will submit all steps, using the submission form in Part Four by November 1 (11:59 p.m. EST).

We are not accepting challenges, only contest entries. Weekly challenges continue every Friday at CarrotRanch.com/blog.

Please read the rules thoroughly. And join us tomorrow for Marsha Ingrao’s Rodeo Contest when it goes live.

CRITERIA:

  1. Your story must include western romance themes or tropes. See TVTropes.org for ideas wild west and romance to see how much fun you can have with this combination.
  2. Even though the story calls for you to mix two tropes, you are free to add more tropes or write in your genre of choice.
  3. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  4. You must turn in TWO 59-word count reductions of your story (one in the original POV, and one in a different POV).
  5. You must turn in three 9-word count reductions of your story into three different taglines.
  6. Your second 99-word story should show transformation through revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process offer new insights for the final version?
  7. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  8. 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. However, we want to see a raw draft in the first 99-words, and a polished, edited draft in the second 99-words.
  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 November 1, 2020 (entry form posted October 26).
  6. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after the winner is announced on December 1, 2020.
  7. Use the entry form posted on part four of this contest Monday, October 26, 2020.

JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to send to the judges. Because we are committed to blind judging, please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog until after winners are announced. TUFF judges are familiar with this format. Life Coach and Grief Counselor, Cynthia Drake, uses TUFF with her clients. Poet, Editor, and College Professor, Laura Smyth, uses TUFF in her classroom. Both are returning judges and will be looking for transformative writing that results in a memorable story using western romance tropes. The top winner in each contest will receive a virtual badge and $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

Carrot RODEO #2: DOUBLE ENNEAD SYLLABIC POETRY

Free Writing Contest!

Introducing a new form from the Cattle Queen of Syllabic Wrangling, Colleen Chesebro! Gather up your syllables and get to counting!

Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry

Welcome to the Carrot Ranch Rodeo! This challenge is sponsored by the Carrot Ranch Literary Community at carrotranch.com and run by lead Buckaroo, Charli Mills.

Almost everyone knows my love for syllabic poetry; especially haiku, tanka, cinquain, and more. Woo HOO! I’ve got something special wrangled up for this challenge!

For this year’s rodeo, I’ve created a special form called the Double Ennead. The word Ennead means nine, and a double nine is ninety-nine! Carrot Ranch is famous for 99-word flash fiction. Now, the ranch has its own syllabic poetry form written in 99 syllables!

The Double Ennead comprises five lines with a syllable count of 6/5/11/6/5, (33 SYLLABLES per stanza) 3 STANZAS EACH = 99 SYLLABLES, NO MORE, NO LESS!

The Carrot Ranch Double Ennead

Carrot Ranch Rodeo is calling all poets round up all the word players, now's the time to ride let's wrangle syllables and build…

View original post 1,487 more words

TUFF Flash Fiction Contest Part Two

Welcome back TUFF, rodeo writers!

By now, you’ve figured out you have an entire month to work on your flash fiction entry to TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction). That might lull you into complacency. It might tempt you to disregard the contest until the very end (October 26 when the submission form goes live with the final part). Let me convince you otherwise.

Mastering TUFF in its flash fiction form teaches you the skills every fiction writer needs. We all have to draft and we all have to revise. TUFF can be a tool to work on your story with progressive word constraints.

Last week, in TUFF Part One, you drafted a 99-word story. Do. Not. Touch. It. A raw draft is a raw draft. Let it be. What comes next are the tools of your writing craft. Use the next two constraints to revise your final 99-word story. You can write that final 99-word revision 99 times if you’d like. But you can only turn in one, of course. This is where we start exploring and experimenting — with 59-words.

THE PART TWO TWIST

For this week’s addition to the TUFF contest, you will write TWO 59-word stories, reducing your original draft. In one 59-word story, reduce it using the original point of view. In the other 59-word story change the point of view.

It’s the same story, just smaller. You are tasked with picking and choosing the strongest elements from your 99-word draft. This makes you consider what is working, where your story’s focus is, and how to tell it.

Here is an example:

Saving Grace by Charl Mills (99-word draft)

Grace looped her right leg into the padded hook of her sidesaddle. Her long skirts without hoops nearly touched the ground. With war coming to New Mexico, camp guards eyed her skirts critically. If Grace felt threatened, she straightened her back and spoke her family name. But it wasn’t to her grandfather’s quarters she rode. A man in riding boots met her behind the row of soldiers’ tents. Rory O’Bannon. Her lips parted. He approached her skirts, reached beneath to touch her left ankle. She nearly swooned. Though her skirts were big enough to hide ammunition, she smuggled love-letters.

59-word Same POV

Grace rode sidesaddle into camp. Without hoops, her skirts hung low, catching the critical eye of guards. She straightened. “You dare touch the General’s granddaughter?” They let her pass. Before tea with Grandpa, she rode past the soldiers’ tents. Rory O’Bannon reached where guards dared not. He touched her ankle and her lips parted. Her skirts smuggled love letters.

59-word Different POV

I had to elude the guards with my contraband. Everyone knew who I was, but with war coming to New Mexico, suspicions grew. They couldn’t know I was meeting a Confederate soldier. Dressed in Union colors, Rory emerged from the tents near the woods. His touch beneath my skirts electrified me. I headed to Grandfather. My love letter delivered.

Notice how I used or omitted different details in each. That’s how you can use the POV tool. Often writers instinctually write in a POV that feels familiar. Maybe it’s what you read, or common to your genre. When you switch POV, the closeness to the character changes. First-person is more intimate but also limited. What I found interesting is that when I switch POVs, I had different ideas about the story pop into my head. You can use the 59-word constraint to explore different ideas, different POVs, or even different craft elements (notice that I added dialog to one of the reductions).

You can play with this story all month! Don’t touch the original draft, change up the final revision. And if you are just getting started, that’s fine — everyone has until November 1 (11:59 p.m. EST) to enter. There is no entry form yet. This is your time to process and be working on your final revision, using the reduction tools. Use the 59-word reduction as often or as differently as you want, but be prepared to only turn in TWO different 59-word POV reductions of your original draft.

Have fun! Check back next week for TUFF Part Three.

We are not accepting challenges, only contest entries. Weekly challenges continue every Friday at CarrotRanch.com/blog.

Please read the rules thoroughly. And join us tomorrow for Colleen Chesebro’s Rodeo Contest when it goes live.

CRITERIA:

  1. Your story must include western romance themes or tropes. See TVTropes.org for ideas wild west and romance to see how much fun you can have with this combination.
  2. Even though the story calls for you to mix two tropes, you are free to add more tropes or write in your genre of choice.
  3. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  4. You must turn in TWO 59-word count reductions of your story (one in the original POV, and one in a different POV).
  5. Your second 99-word story should show transformation through revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process offer new insights for the final version?
  6. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  7. 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. However, we want to see a raw draft in the first 99-words, and a polished, edited draft in the second 99-words.
  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 November 1, 2020 (entry form posted October 26).
  6. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after the winner is announced on December 1, 2020.
  7. Use the entry form posted on part four of this contest Monday, October 26, 2020.

JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to send to the judges. Because we are committed to blind judging, please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog until after winners are announced. TUFF judges are familiar with this format. Life Coach and Grief Counselor, Cynthia Drake, uses TUFF with her clients. Poet, Editor, and College Professor, Laura Smyth, uses TUFF in her classroom. Both are returning judges and will be looking for transformative writing that results in a memorable story using western romance tropes. The top winner in each contest will receive a virtual badge and $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

TUFF Flash Fiction Contest Part One

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon, Writers!

Yep. You’ve landed in the right spot if you are looking for the 2020 Flash Fiction Rodeo. Kid and Pal hit the trail, taking some well-deserved time off from running the Saloon. They hope to return next month, every Monday, with fun literary events and character interviews. If you have the daring to let your characters be interviewed by characters that refuse to believe they fall from the ink in D. Avery’s pen, then this month is a good time to get into the line-up. Contact Kid and Pal at D. Avery’s address averydede.1@gmail.com.

Let’s get down to the tuffest contest in the Rodeo. If you are not familiar with TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction), let me take a sip of this good hard cider Pal left for us and explain. TUFF is a progressive formula that requires a  writer to draft and revise. It begins with a 99-word quick draft. Next, you reduce the draft to 59 words. Then 9 words. Finally, you revise the original draft according to insights gained through reductions to complete a polished 99-word story. As a formula, it looks like this: 99-59-9-99. It’s a challenging format that asks writers to be vulnerable. Why? Because your first draft must read like a raw draft.

We want to see a transformation. We want to experience how you, as a writer, took a single draft and transformed it over a month. Yes, you get a month to complete the process. However, there will be unexpected twists along the way. Each Monday, I will announce a new twist for the next step to test your craft skills and versatility. Be prepared to stretch as a writer.

Let me explain why I like the TUFF process. The reductions force you to think differently about your word choices. It might change the outcomes of your stories. TUFF gets you out of the mindset that there is only one path for a story. As an MFA student, I’ve had to draft fast and hard, yet learn to make meaningful choices for revision. If I get stuck on a scene, I write that scene in 99-words and take it through the TUFF process. It helps me focus on what is essential and to take courage to cut what isn’t needed.

As a short story writer, TUFF can be your money-maker. Every month you can be entering cash-prize contests. TUFF can help you generate material. It can be hard to stare at the blank screen and develop five stories for five contests. But what if you have a great premise? Draft it in 99 words, and take it through the revision process but differently each time according to meeting the criteria of five different contests. You can start with one idea and develop five unique stories to learn to write with versatility.

You can use TUFF to develop a vision and mission as a literary artist or develop your pitch in varying lengths. As you write your novel, you should also be continually revising your pitch and synopsis. Drafting and defining are two different applications of storytelling. They can go hand in hand throughout the greater writing and revision process. TUFF can be a quick spark to these important activities. For an example of TUFF in action, watch my YouTube video, Yellow Roses.

But for now, it’s a contest!

Final entries won’t be collected until after the last part issued on Monday, October 26. Those of you who get started immediately are going to squirm all month, wanting to alter your draft. Don’t. Step away from the raw draft. It is meant to be raw. If you revise and polish it, the judges won’t be able to witness the transformation. And transformation is key. However, if you wait until the last week to do all four parts, your final piece will lack the depth of insight we want to see in the transformation. My best advice to contestants is to pace yourself each week. You can only enter one entry, but you can certainly get TUFF with as many stories as you like. Or, as I suggested earlier, you can play around with the 59-word and 9-word possibilities to take your draft in different directions.

We are not accepting challenges, only contest entries. Weekly challenges continue every Friday at CarrotRanch.com/blog.

Please read the rules thoroughly. And join us tomorrow for Kerry E.B. Black’s Rodeo Contest when it goes live.

CRITERIA:

  1. Your story must include western romance themes or tropes. See TVTropes.org for ideas wild west and romance to see how much fun you can have with this combination.
  2. Even though the story calls for you to mix two tropes, you are free to add more tropes or write in your genre of choice.
  3. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  4. Your second 99-word story should show transformation through revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process offer new insights for the final version?
  5. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  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. However, we want to see a raw draft in the first 99-words, and a polished, edited draft in the second 99-words.
  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 November 1, 2020 (entry form posted October 26).
  6. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after the winner is announced on December 1, 2020.
  7. Use the entry form posted on part four of this contest Monday, October 26, 2020.

JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to send to the judges. Because we are committed to blind judging, please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog until after winners are announced. TUFF judges are familiar with this format. Life Coach and Grief Counselor, Cynthia Drake, uses TUFF with her clients. Poet, Editor, and College Professor, Laura Smyth, uses TUFF in her classroom. Both are returning judges and will be looking for transformative writing that results in a memorable story using western romance tropes. The top winner in each contest will receive a virtual badge and $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

Saddle Up Saloon; TUFF Topics With Charli Mills

Saddle Up Saloon“Kid, seems like yer fine’ly gittin’ yer acts t’gether, even if ya are repeatin’ some a ‘em.”

“Pal, did you know this is the twenty-eighth?”

“Yeah, Kid, I know today’s the twenty-eighth of September. Monday. A new show at the Saddle Up!”

“No, this is our twenty-eighth show since we started the saloon. Kin ya believe it? We’ve had some real fine guests an’ visitors in that time, fer sure.”

“So, Kid, what’s the plan fer this week then? Is there a special guest?”

“Very special.”

“Well?”

“Well, I’m confused, Pal. I have a guest lined up but I ain’t sure if’n it’s Shorty or if’n it’s Charli Mills. How kin I tell the diff’rence?”

“Near’s I kin tell, they’s one an’ the same, both real deal, ‘cept one’s fictional.”

“Oh. Like us.”

“No, not like us. We’re totally made up, but Shorty’s a BORP.”

“Mind yer manners, Pal, say ‘scuse me.”

“Not burp; BORP— based on a real person. Shorty’s the Boss a the ranch thet we hang out at, Charli Mills is the Boss a the Carrot Ranch thet real folks hang out at, virtually. Shorty gits writ in when we need her hep ta keep our story goin’.”

“Hmmph. Seems once agin like our writer don’t quite know what she’s doin’, then has ta drag uthers inta her messes. Whyn’t she jist write Charli Mills in, ‘stead a writin’ in Shorty?”

“Charli Mills is too dang busy, Kid! Havin’ Shorty ta take care a fictional aspects a the ranch frees her up. An’ it allows us an’ our writer ta make things up, which is fine ta do as long as there’s some truth ta it. Does thet clear up yer confusion?”

“Think ya jist added ta it but I’m thinkin’ fer this innerview we better jist have Charli Mills.”

“Looky there Kid, she jist walked in the door.”

“Looks like Shorty.”

“Shush, Kid, thet’s Charli Mills, all right, all the way from World Headquarters! Git her a cider! Howdy, Boss, um, Ms. Mills. Welcome to our, uh, your saloon.”

“Hey there Pal! Kid, is that a hot cider? As in habanero pepper hot, not heated over a campfire hot?”

“Yep, hard cider with a bit a heat.”

“Barnburner. Ahhh, nice.”

“Wow. Charli Mills herself, here at the Saddle Up!”

“Yep. In town for Cowboy Christmas. It’s Rodeo season.”

“Thet’s right, yer a bona fide buckaroo. Reckon this won’t be yer first rodeo.”

“My first Rodeo was 1971. Won a ribbon for sitting tall in the saddle. By 1974 I was tackling goats. Then my parents moved from buckaroo country to logging in the mountains. I worked for real ranches, pushing cattle, mostly. Kinda like Heidi of the mountains but with a horse.”

“Uh, Charli? Thet’s a fine bit a true story an’ all, but… kin ya tell us ‘bout the Rodeo at Carrot Ranch?”

“Oh, the first Flash Fiction Rodeo. Well, that would be 2017. Yep. We all got to say, ‘This was my first rodeo.’”

“What made ya wanna have a Rodeo competition at Carrot Ranch?”

“It’s a ranch, right, Kid? Well, pokes on a ranch practice their skills regularly. A rodeo is a chance to challenge those skills, show off a bit, get bucked off some. But rise from the dirt and be happy you rode with a bunch of others. Some will take the purse home.”

“A purse? Like Gucci? Think Nanjo Castille is sellin’ some Gotchie that’s cheaper.”

“No, not a Gucci, and be careful of Nanjo and his Gotchies. A purse, like prize money. First place in each Flash Fiction Rodeo contest takes home $25. Cash, Amazon gift card, or a donation to a worthy cause.”

“I’m lookin’ forward ta seein’ the contests set forth each Tuesday by yer crack team a Rodeo leaders, Charli. Sounds like a tough competition.”

“All of the contests will be tough, but a fun challenge. And then there’s TUFF. We’ve all learned to get tough, but TUFF is a standard contest that tests the reduction and revision skills of a writer.”

“Whut’s tough? Writin’? Or rodeoin’?”

“Both Pal! We’ve learned to be brave. To put our work out there. Writers have learned to read directions carefully because each Rodeo Leader is different in what skills they are testing. If you get bucked off a bull before 8 seconds, your ride is disqualified. Similar, if you don’t make the word count (or syllable count) a writer gets disqualified.”

“Yer in the arena, not jist ridin’ the range.”

“Yep. So polish up your silver. When I rode in rodeos as a kid, I learned how to polish the conchos on our best bridles and saddles. Writers will want to polish up their stories before submitting. Make each word shine. You got to polish early, let it sit, and polish some more.”

“Soun’s like winnin’ advice, Charli.”

“And don’t be sore if you don’t win. Not everyone draws the best bull to ride, and sometimes the lasso misses its mark. Some judging is more subjective, like art. Doesn’t mean your skills suck. Just means it wasn’t your win. Yet.”

“Not yet. Thet’s a positive mind set thet there.”

“Keep practicing those skills with the weekly challenges. If you see a craft skill a fellow writer uses, like dialog or description, give it a go. Try writing different genres or taking different perspectives. Play.”

“There’ll be the reg’lar weekly challenges at Carrot Ranch while the rodeo’s goin’ on?”

“That’s write. The weekly challenges will continue at the Ranch but I will be taking a hiatus from commenting, saving my voice for running TUFF here at the Saloon each Monday.”

“Yer gonna be runnin’ the Saloon?”

“Yep, Kid. Pal gave me permission to hold TUFF right here. Here’s more info on what the TUFF challenge is all about:

“No foolin’, that’s a powerful tool, that TUFF process.”

“It sure is. For the Rodeo, writers who want to enter have to start October 5. No late-comers to the race. October 5, writers will get their prompt and turn in a 99-word draft by the next Monday, October 12. Then writers will have to reduce their 99-words to 59 by the next Monday, October 19. Then they will reduce that reduction to 9-words by Monday, October 26.”

​“Jeez! A rootin’ tootin’ writin’ workout!”

“Well, that’s not all. On the 26, these writers who’ve hung with TUFF every Monday will then have to rewrite their entire story by November 2. That’s when the Saloon reverts back to you two.”

“So we git a month off. No longer behind bars, so ta speak. But yer gonna be busier than ever, with rodeoin’ an’ TUFFin’ and MFAin’. Whut kin folks do ta hep ya out, Charli Mills?”

“Folks at the Ranch can help by acting community-like throughout the challenges, commenting on stories and links and comment. Visiting with each other. Not every one. But if every submitter commented on a few, everyone would be included. It’d help me out.”

“Could jist shut the place down, close it fer the rodeo time.”

“I can’t shutter the Ranch. This here place is my North Star. I want to make literary art accessible, especially to those silenced or working to express their voice. I write women’s fiction to give voice to those forgotten on the fringes and frontiers. The Ranch is my real-live place to gather voices around the campfire of storytelling.”

“Not gonna lie, Shorty, I mean Charli, I’m glad thet Carrot Ranch will go on reg’lar with the weekly challenges even through the Rodeo competition. Thet’s comfertin’ somehow. Good ta have it stayin’ the same.”

“The routine will remain constant over October but over the years the Ranch certainly has evolved. 99-words has become our signature like a cattle ranch that built a herd of black baldies from Angus and Herefords. We have a purpose and we are a community.”

“It sure is. What’re the highlights a the Ranch fer you, Charli?”

“Best thing about the Ranch, for me, is the surprising diversity of stories week after week. It’s like storytelling anthropology. The same prompt triggers different responses and writers each use imagination and creativity unique to their voice. I love the way the collection comes together as a whole. When I share or read them, people are amazed at the capacity of creative response in 99-words linked together. That’ the magic of what we do here.”

“It ain’t all magic, Boss. It’s a magical place but thinkin’ it must be tough bein’ the lead buckaroo.”

“It’s all sweat equity at the Ranch. I chuckle when someone refers to the Ranch like a group or organization. It’s a community, but we aren’t staffed. Just me shoveling stories in the back of the barn. That’s why I’d like to encourage the community to interact. Not take up time, but to really think about their writing and the reading of others. Have a discourse. Be supportive. Encourage the growth of literary art as a light in dark times.”

“Well thet soun’s like a fine time, somethin’ fer ever’one.”

“Hey, Charli, did you know when you started the ranch that Pal lived here and that Ernie was up the creek making moonshine?”

“I smelled the mash and suspected, Kid. Invited them to come out of the shadows, share some swigs and stories. And you showed up, under Pal’s wing.”

“Yep! Charli, how real is Carrot Ranch?”

“Carrot Ranch is a fictional spread where real writers gather. It has a headquarters on the Keweenaw, surrounded by the waters of Lake Superior. It even has a Rodeo Room for guest writers in residence and a Unicorn Room where Zoom readings, storyboarding, and magic happens.”

“I been wunnerin’. Is Carrot Ranch the same as Buckaroo Nation?”

“Buckaroo Nation is the tribe that ceded the lands the Ranch works. The tribe has built a legacy totem of stories from prompts that bind us. Anyone who feels connected to the ranch, all the Rough Writers, the Poet Lariat, the Columnists, the Rodeo Leaders and Judges, the weekly, or occasional challenge writers, the readers and lurkers – they are all part of Buckaroo Nation. It is what they want it to mean to each of them.”

“I love thet Buckaroo Nation is a community of folks from all over the world.”

“That’s right Pal. Stephanie Davies, an Australian figurative illustrative artist, created this totem pole to represent all the folks who are a part of Buckaroo Nation, all the folks that help make Carrot Ranch the literary community that it is.”

C691FE84-23D3-49B7-85DA-1EA792643B8D

“Whoa! That’s amazing!”

“Yep. Tellin’ ya, Kid, thet’s jist another thing makes me pleased an’ proud ta be a part a the Ranch. Charli, you should be proud. This place sure has evolved, as ya said. What d’ya think Carrot Ranch’ll be up ta five years down the road?”

“Five years from now the Ranch will have built its Roberts Street Writery. That’s where headquarters is. Folks from Buckaroo Nation will be meeting around retreat campfires, or visiting headquarters for Residencies. I’ll have finally published one of my manuscripts and have a frame to dust on my MFA.”

“Reckon it will too. This community has kept goin’ despite certain goin’ on’s in the larger world. What d’ya see fer the Ranch in fifteen years?”

“Fifteen years from now, the Ranch will still be collecting storytelling anthropology. Those trained through the Writery will be bringing literary outreach to every corner of the world, sparking literary revolutions among those seeking to express their voices, share their stories. It’ll be a 99-word revolution, a literary art virus, a call to dignity and kindness and appreciation of art.”

And then Charli Mills downed her cider, thanked Kid and Pal, and returned to her thesis, knowing she has a busy month ahead of her. But even with all her chores and responsibilities her eyes sparkled like silver spurs, for the Rodeo, Cowboy Christmas, is a part of her vision for Carrot Ranch. She knows the weekly round-up will nurture her writerly soul. And TUFF, the ultimate flash fiction writing tool, will be center stage at the Saddle up Saloon Mondays beginning October 5 even as the other Rodeo events are posted by their leaders on Tuesdays.

Pal & Kid could use some help too. While they will have some down time from the  Saddle Up Saloon during October, they could be looking ahead. Almost anything goes. Got something to share? Take the stage! If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact them via averydede.1@gmail.com.

Uncluttering the Mind to Be Creative

Creative writing is defined as writing fiction or poetry with imagination and contrasts academic writing. As a creative writer, we imagine our character to gallop over the green pastures or drag his feet in the dry brown desert. To be able to take long firm strides over the mountainous terrains, or glide over the waters like a speed boat.

Your mind is a garden, your thoughts are the seeds, you can grow flowers…..or weeds.

But that requires an uncluttered mind where we have neatly piled all our emotions just as we stack clean clothes versus the scattered dirty laundry.

That allows a single-pointed mind, and a writer can be in her character’s shoes and capture just the right kind of emotions.

Writing is like housework. For that, the mind should be tidied up just like our bed every morning before we sit down to write. It should be crystal clear for those cells in that organ to create something extraordinary for our character. If we cannot differentiate between fiction and our real-life, we will end up writing a memoir unknowingly, of course.

If our mind is hungover from yesterday’s dialog between a friend or a relative, our plot would unknowingly revolve around that scenario. We have limited ourselves to our environment and missed out on a classic scene, which our mind dared to explore. Due to the circumstances, it wandered around our troubled spots and penned those down instead.

Mind and Intellect can go hand in hand, but the mind ought to first spruce up to listen to the Intellect.

A mind without thoughts is no mind, but to tidy up our thoughts is the key.

But how do we unclutter that damn mind to begin exploring the unexplored?

Unclutter Mentally and Physically

Meditate

The learned suggest we meditate. Continue to breathe with closed eyes while keeping your mind over your breath. This activity is like rinsing your mind with fresh Oxygen as you continue to breathe, which helps curb the erratic thoughts. Can you imagine how soothing it would be?

The scenario is like the ocean waves crashing on the shore, washing off any footprints left behind by humanity.

Attached is a guided meditation.

 

Journaling

Writing down thoughts can help your mind stop churning and begin to release them. An individual can choose to write what pains her since most of the time, people are aware of their foul mood, but don’t know its reason. Journaling helps to work through current challenges, helping one get rid of mental blocks. As a doctor drains a wound, write out all those toxins on paper, and those words will glow in gold once your heart is lighter. So, find a comfortable spot, grab your pen and paper, and get going. Journaling is meant to be a stream of consciousness activity, so you can choose to set a timer or just free flow.

Some prompts that an individual can choose to write is:

“What makes you feel happy?”

“What is hurting, and why?”

“What do you believe in most?”

“Write a letter to your future self?”

“What is your past that still hurts you?”

“List the things you are grateful for?”

 

Walk

Walks amidst nature can help turn your mind outside and help calm the chaos in mind. It’s just like distracting a child who is throwing tantrums. This activity enables an individual to relax as she continues to take deep breaths while she is striding through the open space. Such walks not only help clear the mind but also help burn some calories. On a side note, it gives many ideas even if you choose to call yourself a plotter or a pantser.

Uncluttering is simple; the only thing needed is having the awareness to do so. Once that is in check, one can shape the character or the plot as your creative bugs allow you to do so without anybody’s interference. You are at liberty to either project your characters’ mental growth or take them to a dark place.

I’ve tried all the three methods above and can vouch for it.

As a writer, I write about issues that stalk the human’s mind via tales of fiction, making my readers tag my work as, “Books that make you ponder.”

My contemporary romance novels and short stories have allowed my readers to go to a beautiful place and take home a message. That has helped them ponder their true nature and enjoy my characters’ growth as they endure through the journey that I have created.

My work can be found at www.ruchirakhanna.com


This post comes from Rough Writer Ruchira Khanna

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

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

I can be found at:

https://www.facebook.com/RuchiraKhanna01

Twitter: @abracabadra01

November 28: Flash Fiction Challenge

For those who rode in last month’s 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo, this is the date you’ve anxiously awaited. I use the adverb with understanding. This past month, I’ve entered my writing in two contests and submitted it to two literary journals. Waiting for notification can induce anxiety, angst, and doubt. Know that every writer experiences the rollercoaster ride of doubt. Artists combat resistance. Maybe you didn’t participate in the Rodeo because the word contest unnerved you. This is Carrot Ranch, a safe place to write, a fun literary community where you can find kindred spirits, a weekly challenge that displays 99-word stories. A contest invites danger; it sparks resistance.

If you haven’t yet read Stephen Pressfield’s War of Art, it’s worth the read. Some of it will make you cringe. Some of it will make you determined. He’s an author who understands the artistic battlefield. He writes:

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance…Resistance by definition is self-sabatoge.”

(Pressfield, Steven. The War of Art. Black Irish Entertainment LLC. Kindle Edition.)

It is not easy to overcome resistance. Each and every one of you who finds your way to the Ranch to read, write, or join a discussion is participating in the three pillars of literary art. It matters not that you are here every week, but as the host, I can attest to the growth of those who are regular participants. When writers are new to the weekly challenges, I hope they stick around long enough to experience the magic of writing to a constraint within the bounds of a safe space. The Rodeo is a series of contests meant to challenge you to overcome your resistance.

My hat is off to each contestant. Take a moment to congratulate yourself for overcoming, for resisting, for showing up, and for delaying gratification. The challenges are fun — we get to see our work in concert with others. However, contests select and eliminate. We may not be gratified this time. Even if we win, doubt will still try to whisper in our ear. Winning or losing never offers comfort. So why seek out contests and selective submissions? To overcome the impulses of resistance and to learn. Growth requires an awareness of how our writing compares to others.

Comparison can be the ultimate discomfort for any artist. It produces a host of nagging emotions that range from inferiority to full-blown jealousy. A winner can feel like an imposter. In fact, in the first term of my MFA, we discussed the imposter syndrome as a common affliction of graduate students. Understand that this mindset shows up for contests, too. However, comparison can be productive. Let’s discuss how because it’s important to growth as a writer.

First, acknowledge any negative emotions. Practice kindness. Elizabeth Gilbert, in her book Big Magic, tells us that fear will come along for the ride of everything creative we attempt. Consider her mega-success (she wrote Eat, Pray Love), and yet she still feels fear. Resistance. Her advice is to invite fear along for the ride but never allow fear to take the driver’s seat. You can practice this every time you enter a contest, submit to a journal, or seek an agent or publisher. Invite fear along, recognize its emotional presence, but do the driving yourself.

From this frame of mind, accept any bludgeoning thoughts that tell you, “Hers is much better than mine,” or “His sucked; how could the judges be so blind?” Accept them as signals for comparison. Pause. Compare in a productive (and kind) way. Take a deep breath and ask, “How does her story differ from mine?” This exercise will teach you to learn how to compare and contrast in such a way that you begin to notice how craft skills are used. There is no right or wrong between your writing and someone else’s. The better you can get at identifying craft skills in other writing, the better you can adapt those skills to your own toolkit as a writer. Try to go a step farther and see what the judges selected. Instead of feeling hurt, set that real emotion aside and go deeper to identify one new writing attribute to try.

Originality will always be your ace card. No one has experienced the life you have. How can you express your sensations, experiences, concepts, and observations in your writing? That’s your voice. Cultivate your voice and you will cultivate originality. I see this truth played out week after week at Carrot Ranch. You go where the prompt leads because it will lead you to your voice. That intuition is what you learn to follow. You can always revise, but let originality lead the way.

The most original stories are not always the most sensational. I think mainstream media tricks us into believing that hooks have to be startling. What surprised me most about the entries to the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo was how prompts lead to greater originality. One of our contests was unprompted (Three-Act Stories) and instead of broadening originality, many writers resorted to sensational ideas for stories. Funny thing is, this diminished the impact because what was meant to be shocking risked becoming cliche. Let that sink in a moment. Writing about a hard social issue or injustice is not necessarily brave; writing about it from your own point of vulnerability is.

Your voice matters. Dare to follow that sensational (or common) lead into your own swath of experiences, blow past the tropes with something only you could write. If you take on a shocking topic, use it in an original way or say something new about humanity.

The most fun we all seemed to have with the Rodeo (judges and contestants combined) was with the Pro-Bull Mashup. Using three words from the source of pro-rodeo bull names and two niche genres (pirates and game shows) created a tight constraint and yet yielded much playfulness. In opposition to no prompt, multiple prompts pushed creativity. That’s an interesting consideration. Currently, I’m working with a 94-year-old WWII veteran in a writing group and he told me that as a child he read the entire dictionary. If he gets stuck writing, he turns to a page in his dictionary and uses a word to prompt an idea.

A standing ovation to ALL of you who entered TUFF Beans.

TUFF does its job and that is to force a writer to revise. I’ve known that my greatest weakness as a writer is revision. One of my best professors from undergrad days used to say, “Your manuscript doesn’t begin to sing until the thirteenth time.” Reality as a career writer was that I wrote to deadlines. I had to learn to write and edit simultaneously, gather momentum from interview transcripts, find original ways to include research with relatable analogies and write to my audiences for specific publications. As a marketing communicator and a freelance profilist, I got good at my work.

However, as a literary artist, I have had a tough time breaking those habits of simultaneously editing and drafting. I can write fast, and come up with original angles. But the more I pushed into my literary art and the more I grappled with manuscript revision, I felt like I had gaps in knowledge. Part of going back to get my MFA is to identify what it is I don’t know. What am I supposed to do each subsequent revision? Thirteen — how do I get to a singing manuscript when I can’t get past five revisions? I’ve developed tools like my storyboard. And I came up with TUFF to help me identify my blind spots in revision. I admit that I fear to make changes — what if I screw up the original thrust of creativity? How do I plot when my stories are character-driven and landscape-oriented?

TUFF and 99-word stories are tools as much as they are works of art. Many in my community use TUFF to craft business statements, explore narrative therapy, or generate manuscript revisions. Other organizations use it in ways I hadn’t considered. Offering it as a Rodeo contest is bringing it home to where it all began. When I see writers use the constraints to shift their stories and revise their original drafts, I feel giddy with excitement. TUFF provides its own lessons through the process. Our TUFF judge is a local life coach who loves using the tool with clients and business teams.

This year, I worked locally with our team of judges as I build up our Carrot Ranch literary presence in the Keweenaw. Here’s a bit about me and my home crew.

Charli Mills came to the Keweenaw from everywhere out West. As lead buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, she makes literary art accessible 99 words at a time and writes stories about the veteran experience and those marginalized by history. The Rodeo is a chance for her to encourage writers to push through creativity with courage.

Cynthia May Drake lives at the Ripley Falls Home of Healing, having lived in the UP for 30 years. She creates retreats and coaches clients to reach their spectacular potential. She regularly practices the 99-word and TUFF formats to resolve life conundrums, which has her fired up to be a literary judge for the Rodeo’s TUFF contest.

Marie Bertineau, born amidst the copper mining ruins of northern Michigan, is the daughter of an Ojibwe mother and a French Canadian and Cornish father. Her memoir, The Mason House, is set for release in September 2020 by Lanternfish Press of Philadelphia. She enjoyed the opportunity to work with Carrot Ranch on the Rodeo contest.

Tammy Toj Gajewski is an educated artist who recently retired from 24 years in prison where her nickname was Sgt. Carebear. She has written poetry and stories her whole life and is working on her book. She moved to the UP over 25 years ago and loves rock hunting, foster parenting, and dogs.

Bonnie Brandt came to the UP for MTU education and never left. As the daughter of a math teacher, she reads voraciously and belongs to a book club. She lives for the pun. She loves kayaking and cooking. She often will be reading even in summer!

Paula Sahin visited Carrot Ranch Headquarters during judging and joined in a session at the Continental Fire Company. She is a leadership development consultant trained by Brené Brown and manages Inner Wisdom Coaching and Consulting. She has a serious passion for learning and development.

Donna Armistead is a native of Florida and has taught dance and theatre in the Copper Country for over 30 years. Finally emerging from research mode to write a novel inspired by the lives of her Georgia ancestors, she is honored to have been invited to assist as a judge for the Rodeo.

Word Press allowed me to capture each entry and save according to IP address so that I could initially judge blind. I screened entries according to the rules and selected ten finalists in each category. I was looking for entries that met the criteria according to my perspective. I then shared criteria with my judges and let them use their own perspectives. None of the contests were purely technical. A few were more technical than others, but there remains an area of subjectivity. Judges do not all initially agree but everyone is allowed to voice their reasoning. Consensus was reached and three top places were awarded in each contest.

Each of the ten finalists will receive a submission critique. When I used to work with Paula Sahin, she coached me in ways to build strong teams. Together, we worked in senior management and helped our organization develop feedback loops that contributed to the productive growth of employees. As Carrot Ranch has grown, I’ve applied much of my previous career to our literary community, focusing on writers’ strengths and appreciating their use of originality and craft skills. With entry to my MFA program, I wondered if I could meld my positive feedback preferences with that of writing workshop critique.

One of my professors told me after a workshop exercise that I was one of the best line editors he had encountered. Editing is not my natural inclination (remember, I said my weakness is revision). What I realized is that by mindfully practicing positive feedback every week at Carrot Ranch, I had grown my skills. And yes, I’m working toward a brand of productive critique techniques to teach and use with others. I’m in my baby-steps phase, but by offering critique on contest entries where criteria are stated, I get to practice. Those receiving feedback get useful insights.

Be patient with me, though! Today is Thanksgiving in the US and it’s my second dinner, meaning I went to Wisconsin last weekend to fix Thanksgiving for my son at his request (Mama Bear can’t refuse an offer to feed people), then returned to the Keweenaw to fix dinner for my daughter, SIL, Hub, and friends. When on terms with an MFA, there is no such thing as a break. And somehow I thought it was a good idea (back in September) to announce winners today! I will not be immediately responsive, but I’ll be back at it on Friday when I’ll send email winner announcements.

Over the next four weeks, I will email a batch of critiques according to the order of contests. By the end of December, all 40 critiques will be delivered, just in time for my term finals.

I’d like to thank the Patrons of Carrot Ranch — your contributions maintain a dynamic community making literary art accessible. I have no staff. I have a small team of Ranchers who contribute as patrons. The work behind the scenes is my privilege. I’m grateful for all of you at Carrot Ranch Literary Community. It’s my life’s work to encourage others to write, read, and heartily discuss creative writing. It helps us all overcome resistance to our art and pursuit of it. I love what I do.

Thank you for your support of the Flash Fiction Rodeo. I hope you found it scary, fun, enlightening, and anything else you need to keep you on your writing path. Please take the time to read the 2019 Winners Page where all contest finalists, their entries and awarded top three places are displayed. Last year’s Rodeo Pages are all compiled into one 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo. To celebrate or commiserate winning, our prompt challenge follows.

November 28, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about winners. Who are they, what’s the mood, and what did they win? Express emotion or subdue it. Go where the prompt leads!

Respond by December 3, 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 are located at 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo.

Challenge submissions closed. Find our latest Flash Fiction Challenge.

Keep Trying Until You Win by Charli Mills

Martha posed her best winning grin to the reporter, spitting dirt as she smiled. The bulb flashed so brightly it turned everything to white blotches. Blinking, and wiping at the mouthful of arena dirt she received after the goat clocked her a second time, she looked for Auntie Bess. The old woman was leaning against the railing beyond the chatter of family and fans. Ducking the swipe of a hankie, Martha joined her Aunt.

“Why’d ya win kiddo?”

“Cause no one else would go after that stinkin’ goat three times. Figured, I keep trying ‘til I got him tied!”

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.”

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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.

🥕🥕🥕

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).