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Winner of Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #2

Little & Laugh

By Geoff Le Pard

The time has come to talk of many things. Well, only one really. Who won the second of the fantabulous Flash Fiction Rodeo contests hosted by the dynamic, the charismatic, the organic, the titanic Charli Mills.

I had the privilege of setting the contest criteria and, following a theme that echoes down the years from my childhood, I wanted to find the funny in you all. Someone once said, ‘Life is Poor, Solitary, Nasty, Brutish and Short’. Clearly that person needed to have a go at flash fiction; they needed to join the dance at Charli’s Rodeo; they needed to stop looking at their shoes. I mean, feet are funny but shoes? Serious stuff, people.

I’m not a criteria kind of guy. Some of my fellow competition setters had all sorts of rules and stuff. Me? MAKES US LAUGH in between 289 and 308 words. Not hard, huh?

Well, you pretty much all said it was hard. And yep. You’re right it can be. But you tried. 28 of you gave it a shot. A couple of you can’t count but hey, maybe that was the joke. One dudeish kind of guy had a go, flopped the word count spectacularly with a piece of hilarious spam and left us wondering if he (or she, or maybe I shouldn’t be speciesist and genderist and stick with they or it) should at least get an honourable mention.

But this is a serious competition. I mean Charli collects rocks; she might start throwing them if I don’t behave.

So, I fed my fellow judges lime jelly-babies and peanut butter oysters and we set too. Those delightful judges – Barb Taub and Lucy Brazier – had their own unique take on the entries. We battled, and we bartered – I’d allow number 19 if they stopped bighting the heads off first. Eventually we shortlisted three. And then we got really mucky. We dived for more oysters and eventually an arm appeared above the broiling ocean holding a winner…

 

The Bus Stop

By Colleen Chesebro

In 1971, I was a sergeant in the U. S. Air Force, stationed at Korat Air Force Base, Thailand. The Vietnam War raged around me.

Each morning I took the bus to the base. The voices of my military superiors echoed, reminding me to be careful. Saboteurs were everywhere. The Viet Cong traveled freely between the borders. Last week a sergeant had been stabbed on his way home. I trusted no one.

I strolled into the bus stop like I owned it. Crouched in the shadows, was an old man. He stared at me and our eyes locked. He spoke in Thai, “Sawadi ton chaw.”

My fear erupted. I said defiantly in English, “Fuck you, old man!” I gave him “the finger,” my feeble American attempt to intimidate him. The old man stared at me with razor-sharp eyes.

I worked with Thai civilians and knew they would help me. I explained the incident to a group of my friends. The workers exchanged glances as their eyes creased in laughter, saying, “The old man said good morning to you.”

Now, I understood. I knew if I was to survive I had to learn the language and the customs of the people.
“It is Thai custom to show proper respect for our elders,” they chorused. “When you see the old man again, bow and say the same thing to him that he said to you.”

The next morning at 0500 hours, I set out. I was guarded but kept my wits about me. There in the shadowy recesses of the bus stop, crouched the old man.

I approached him with a smile and bowed, saying, “Sawadi ton chaw.”

The old man regarded me with those sharp eyes I had noticed the day before. In the clearest English I had ever heard, he said, “FUCK YOU,” and gave me the finger!

 

Charli asked us to say why we chose this entry; we judges talked about that. Actually, we barely said anything. We were stumped as to what to say. See, that’s the thing with humour. If it works, it works. There isn’t really a mechanic. In so far as we articulated (ha! Have you met my judges? Articulated, indeed! Hector; browbeat maybe but something as civilised as articulated?) why it was funny it was because we knew something was coming, the set up was delicious and when it did appear we all barked out a laugh. It worked. Sorry if we can’t say more, but we can’t.

Charli then gave us the option of promoting, as highly commended, our own favs. We had whittled our list down to three, and we loved the above, so we were loath to go outside of those three. So here are the other two finalists. Well done; spankingly good pieces, both. Why did we laugh? We did. End of. Keep it up.

 

The day my phone turned into a needy surrealist and developed an obsession with otters!

By Sam Catchpole

When I set my phone the task of writing poetry, I never expected it to reveal a secret life full of angst, rich plotlines and otters…
“I hate it when people think they know me
I have been thrown away
It does not matter
I hate it when you don’t think of me
I have just noticed the otter
It seems that there is no such thing as Tuesday”
That could have been extremely depressing if it hadn’t turned suddenly, into a surrealist, near future expose on a world with otters peering at you from behind the impending destruction of Tuesday.
“During that moment you can tell me how you feel
Yes it was meant for you but I am not
Soon I will be honest with the otter”
It would seem that I have been lying to the otter. But what about and why? Was it about the destruction of Tuesday, which really can only be a good thing. Why would anyone lie about that? Maybe it was something else, something I was not sure that the otter could handle. Maybe I was concerned that the otter would indeed tell me how he felt…
I had to find out why I lied to the otter!
“I don’t know what you are
Otters and I have gin and tonic
I am just so ready for a new wildcat”
That explains it, the otter didn’t know about the new wildcat. Everyone seems to have gin and tonic though so I think the honesty went well. I am not so sure about the wildcat however…
“The otter is definitely the best sort of dragon
We need a better wildcat
Don’t forget to check out the other angry bears”
I think the otter should possibly lay off the gin…

 

Flash Suit

By Dermott Hayes

Bullying, Salvatore resolved, can never defeat me but resolve can be a tough and exacting master.
The politics of envy makes people mean and desirous of everything they don’t have and want, particularly when someone has it who they believe don’t deserve it as much as them.

Just don’t ask them to tell you why they deserve it because they become all bitter at attempts to deny them something they now claim as a natural right.

That’s why irony seemed an unlikely saviour but Salvatore was determined to recruit Irony Man to help his cause in his struggle against the bullies.

Irony Man is a modest superhero who dresses like a dandy with the whimsical character of a Limerick poet. His laconic demeanour, fancy clothes and manicures would set him aside.

“So you want me to make myself the object of their destructive derision?” Irony Man, clad in an emerald tweed tailored suit, asks Salvatore.

“Well, yes, or at least make them appreciate the inherent contradictions in their own position,” Salvatore suggests, “so they recognise its true intention and their own negative delusion.”

“I see,” says Irony Man.

Three weeks later, Salvatore’s on the receiving end of yet another lesson in, apparent communal intimidation, according to the report, when his shoes are stolen.

On the night of the High School Prom, Salvatore arrives, bouquet in hand, for his Prom date.

She arrives, in a Cadillac, with her father.

The bullies turn up and glower.

Only until the latest glare of a new arrival makes them squirm.

Irony Man is in a brilliant shining suit.

‘What the fuck?” asks Salvatore.

“I did what you asked,” Irony Man offers.

“How, for fuck’s sake?” asks, Salvatore.

“It’s a mirror suit,” says Irony Man, ‘anyway, I buy all my suits from Goodwill.”

 

NOTE FROM CARROT RANCH:

Congratulations to all the writers who entered! You dared to stretch your writing and braved the first Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Each participant has earned the following badge, which you may copy and post on you blog, social media or print out and frame. It’s a badge of honor. And now you can say, you have had your first rodeo! You wrote well.

We want to share all the contest entries in a collection. We’ll be contacting each of our contestants and challengers to seek interest and permission to publish a digital collection in January. Writers retain all copyrights to their work.

We’d appreciate your feedback! We want to make this an annual event that is fun, engaging and supportive of literary art. Please take a a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey. Thank you!

Winner of Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1

When I Grow Up

by Norah Colvin

Congratulations and a special thank you goes to all writers who participated in the first of the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Contests: When I grow up. The judging is now complete, and we are about to announce the winner. Could it be you?

In this contest, writers were asked to write a 99-word story in response to the following prompt:

When I grow up. Cast yourself back to six years of age, knowing what you do of life in the present; what would you want to be when you grow up and how would you go about achieving that goal? Tell us in 100 words, no more no less. It can be real or imaginary, serious or light-hearted. Extra points for comparing it to your childhood choice, if you remember it.

Stories were judged on ten criteria including relevance, capturing a child’s voice and originality. Extra points were awarded if the story included a comparison with the “real” childhood choice. (For a full list of criteria, please refer to the original post here.)

First of all I give a huge vote of thanks to my fellow judges Anne Goodwin, Rough Writer and author of novels Sugar and Snails and Underneath, and Robbie Cheadle, Rough Writer and author and illustrator of the Sir Chocolate Books series of picture books.

With thirty-eight entries to read, it was no mean feat for we judges to select a winner. Most entries met the requirements of surface features; such as, word count, story structure, grammar, spelling and punctuation. Most stories were relevant to the prompt, and many captured the voice of a child in an interesting and original way. It was difficult to differentiate, so congratulations must go to everyone who joined in by writing in response to this prompt.

Although we didn’t expect it to be so, it was the extra points awarded for a comparison to the childhood choice that enabled us to choose the winner.

And the winner is (drum roll)!

#34 Father Christmas by Hugh Roberts

“Father Christmas.”

“Father Christmas?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because I want to give toys to all the good boys and girls he can’t get to because there’s no snow.”

“But Father Christmas’s sleigh can travel anywhere. Harry.”

“Really?”

“Yes. It doesn’t have to be snowing. Can you remember last Christmas when it rained? He still got here.”

“Yes, you’re right. Maybe I’ll be a doctor then?”

***

27 years later, dressed as Father Christmas, Doctor Harry Gibson gave out the presents at the Desert Trail Orphanage Christmas party, before saving the life of three-year-old Afua Zambo, who was suffering from malnutrition and measles.

We felt that what set this entry apart from others is its combination of the past and present to tell a complete story: the child grows up to fulfil the childhood ambition. If he couldn’t be Father Christmas, he wanted to be a doctor. He managed to combine both in a rather surprising way. While perhaps seeming to lack some sophistication of language, the first part of the story, told completely in dialogue, captures the voice of the child in a way that is both credible and cheerful.

Congratulations, Hugh, on being selected as the winner in the inaugural Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #1. Charli will be in touch about your prize.

Highly commended

Since our task was so difficult, Charli suggested that each judge be allowed to pick one other entry that appealed for whatever reason. We jumped at the chance, though were again hard-pressed to choose just one.

Anne’s Pick:

#36 Morning Ritual by C. Jai Ferry

My mama was a princess. In the pictures, she wore a long white gown and flowers in her hair. Now she uses her leftover princess magic when she puts makeup on, her fingers gliding over her skin, barely touching her face at all. But they do. Her breath jerks and her eyes water, but her fingers still spread the paint over her cheek until the dark rainbow marks disappear. Daddy calls them his special love bites. Mama adds a rosy pink color to her cheeks. I shake my head. I don’t ever want to wear makeup when I grow up.

Anne says, “Here is a child trying to make sense of her family, not able to name what’s happening (domestic abuse), nor criticise either parent, she knows what she doesn’t want and has an authentically magical sense of how to avoid it. It’s very subtly handled and has left a deep impression on me.”

Robbie’s Pick:

#37 When I grow up by Jack Schuyler

“Being a doctor is a privilege,” Dad’s been talking for a while now. Sitting in the back seat, I watch him drive and listen. “Helping people: that’s something you can be proud of.”

In the passenger seat, Mom’s listening too, and smiling.

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” Dad’s eyes find mine in the rearview mirror.

I hesitate, “What do you do Mom?”

“I used to be a writer,” she smiles at me. “I even wrote a book once.”

“That’s what I want to do,” I say looking through the window. Outside, the world flies past.

Robbie says, “Very clever. A piece that speaks volumes through the few well-chosen words. The child identifies with his mother, who is obviously the carer and the one that the child regards. This is despite the father’s position as a doctor and his pride in his work.”

Norah’s Pick:

#16 Time Traveler (Too Many Questions, Child!) by Liz Husebye Hartmann

Unseen, I observe.

Red shorts, shirtless, she digs tiny toes into the sand. A mutt stretches nearby, ears pricking as the girl narrates the world under her dirty hands.

“There’s a hole there…gonna dig it up. How far does it go?”

“I’ll flatten this mountain, make a road. Why so many ants?”

“Buster, don’t sit on the highway!”

Buster shakes his ears and rolls, belly up.

“Why didn’t Buster growl at you?” she looks fiercely up at me.

“We’ve met before,” I smile, plop down in the sand.

I forget what I came to tell myself.

“Can I play, too?”

Norah says, I like the way this started from the point of view of the adult-self observing the child-self. We then went into the child’s voice as the child narrates her play, with disconnected thoughts, as occurs. The narrator then indicates that she came back to give advice to the child but realises that play and being in the moment is more important. As an appreciation of childhood, it appealed to me.”  

We hope you enjoyed reading our picks and see in them the positives that we saw. Remember though, reading is a very personal experience.

NOTE FROM CARROT RANCH:

Congratulations to all the writers who entered! You dared to stretch your writing and braved the first Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Each participant has earned the following badge, which you may copy and post on you blog, social media or print out and frame. It’s a badge of honor. And now you can say, you have had your first rodeo! You wrote well.

We want to share all the contest entries in a collection. We’ll be contacting each of our contestants and challengers to seek interest and permission to publish a digital collection in January. Writers retain all copyrights to their work.

We’d appreciate your feedback! We want to make this an annual event that is fun, engaging and supportive of literary art. Please take a a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey. Thank you!

Save

Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #8

TUFF: The Ultimate Flash Fiction

by Charli Mills

What if I told you that writing flash fiction will get you to where you want to be? Would you scoff, or consider the possibility? Would you think I’m handing you a magic elixir? Ah, an elixir. Let’s pause a moment and talk about the hero’s journey.

If you answered the call to participate in the Flash Fiction Rodeo this past month, you answered the same call every hero hears: the one the hero reluctantly answers. We think of heroes as Thor or Wonder Woman. Yet, the hero’s journey calls to us all. Winnie the Pooh and Frodo and Mary Tyler Moore are all heroes. It’s about the path:

  1. The call: the opening scene in which the hero is called out of the ordinary world.
  2. The test: the story develops conflict through tests, challenges, temptations, allies and enemies.
  3. The cave: the story leads to a crisis, the hero’s darkest hour in the abyss of ordeal.
  4. The transformation: survival transforms the hero who begins the journey home.
  5. The return: the hero returns to the ordinary world with the elixir of knowing one’s own transformation.

For many writers, the Flash Fiction Rodeo was a call to go outside one’s comfort zone. Even those writers who wanted the challenge pushed themselves to write more than one response or enter multiple contests. You were all stirred by the call. You are Heroes of the Rodeo. You faced tests, found glitches and helpers, made new writing friends, discovered stories within you.

Your crisis is personal, but I know you had one — doubt, fear, panic. Our inner critics chide, Who are you to enter a writing contest?  The Black Dog rips our confidence. Even when we boldly go forth, we fumble a word, forget a rule, or worry that a form went to the bottom of the bull pen. Maybe your crisis rose from a topic that stirred a painful memory. Maybe your crisis eroded your time and forced priorities. Whatever it was, it is yours, and you overcame it.

You survived the Rodeo.

Contest #8 delivers your elixir. Yes, it’s called TUFF, a play on the acronym and the idea that it’s a tough challenge. It’s five steps, five flash fictions! Yet, it is a tool, a gift to you that you will understand because it will resonate with what writing flash fiction has already taught you.

So far in this Flash Fiction Rodeo writers have reflected back to childhood, poked at the hardness of scars, laughed when humor elicited fear, cast a magical spell with a new literary form, signed up for a twittering social platform to write publicly, braved the unknown with a bull draw, and contemplated murder despite being good people. This Rodeo was a rough ride, but you stayed in the saddle. You wrote.

Trust the surprises you made along the way. If you found yourself writing about a topic, or in a format or on a platform previously alien to you, you likely found a nugget of satisfaction. I’ll tell you something about flash fiction — it’s the constraint that shifts the gears in your mind to problem-solving speed. The 99-word format we challenge weekly at Carrot Ranch becomes satisfying because our brains recognize that we are going to solve a problem (write a story) and 99-words is the tool.

Now it’s time to challenge you to go where you want to go…as a writer, as an entrepreneur, as a creative person. TUFF is your elixir. TUFF teaches you that each flash fiction you write takes you closer to transformation. Call it creativity, an insight, an a-ha moment or a breakthrough. TUFF will return you to your ordinary world as a writer, author, educator, business professional, parent, creative with the elixir meant for you. Like your writing crisis, your writing breakthrough is personal. But it will happen.

Use this format any time you are struggling to write a scene, chapter or novel. Use it to write the various blurbs for your book synopsis. Use it to write out your goals, mission statement or vision for your blog, business or career. It’s a tool and it’s now yours. However, until November 6, it’s also the final Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest.

Submission Guidelines

Using the form below, write about a hero’s transformation after facing a crisis. Each step is its own flash fiction, but it is the evolution of a single story.

The Rules

  1. Use the form for all five steps to write about a hero’s transformation after facing a crisis.
  2. A hero is anyone or anything going from normal to a crisis to a transformation.
  3. Each step is a revision of the same tale, beginning with a free write and ending with a complete three-act story.
  4. In step one (free-write) time your writing to 5 minutes even if it’s incomplete.
  5. Enter the free-write unedited.
  6. You may edit steps 2-4.
  7. You must edit step 5.
  8. The final story has three acts: beginning, middle and end.
  9. Entries must be original (no cheating on the free-write; you’ll only cheat yourself out of the elixir).
  10. Entries due by 11:59 pm EST November 6. Enter each step in the form all at one time.

You have one week. Pace yourself.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED. WINNER ANNOUNCED DECEMBER 26.

CHALLENGE OPTION: Due to length, challengers are asked to use the form. Be sure to write (CHALLENGE) after your title. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

Judging

Charli will be joined by two Michigan authors over coffee, during a continuous Keweenaw snowstorm. Judges will consider the following criteria:

  1. The original idea expressed in the free-write.
  2. The process by which the writer uses steps 2-4 to work that original idea.
  3. The completion of the final story based on the original idea and the flash fiction process to get there.
  4. The unedited free-write reads like a draft.
  5. The final story shows insight, polish and has a beginning, middle and end.
  6. The interpretation of a hero (epic or common), crisis and transformation.
  7. The final deadline met: 11:59 pm EST November 6

Winner Announced December 26. All who stayed in the saddle and wrote for the first annual Flash Fiction Rodeo are heroes! Your journey is nearly complete. Thank you for your courage to express and share literary art with and among others.

Complete schedule of winner announcements:

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7

Murderous Musings:

When Good Folk Turn Bad At The Rodeo

By Sherri Matthews

Saddle up, tighten your reins and pull on your riding boots. And while you’re about it, watch your back, because wicked wranglings are afoot at the Rodeo. Western or English? Doesn’t matter. Thrown off a few times? Never mind. Devious, deadly or just plain dangerous, it’s time for some murderous musings.

Long fascinated with the dark side of the human heart, I read a lot of True Crime. Not for the gory details, neither for the whodunit: I want to understand the why.

As a memoir writer, I need to explore the true motives driving the story. I wonder how many of us ask ourselves, if truly honest, what might we be capable of if pushed too far? What would be our not so perfect storm?

But it never occurred to me that I could explore this through fiction. This memoir writer doesn’t write fiction, of any kind.  I can’t; I shan’t; and I won’t. But Charli Mills had other ideas. “Oh yes you can,” she said with a knowing look in her eyes. We’ve never physically met, but I’d know that look anywhere.

So I gave it a go, playing it safe at first with a touch of fiction based on a true story – a BOTS, I came to learn. Bashing out 300 plus words was the easy part; telling the same story in 99 was not.

But with practice it got easier and soon I was hooked.  And then the unthinkable happened: characters appeared from nowhere with ideas of their own and there I was, writing flash actual fiction.

Today, I continue to relish the delicious freedom I get from writing these bite-sized bursts. Coming up for air from my memoir, my fictional characters lead me away from the confines of memoir’s truth, allowing me to freely explore their world of darkest revenge, immorality and twisted justice.

This, I now understand, is why most of my flashes contain murderous undertones. What better way to blow off writing steam? I can’t remember what I was dealing with in my memoir when I wrote ‘Homemade Cider’, but I have told my husband he has no need to worry:

Homemade Cider by Sherri Matthews

They had shared their hopes and fears; heck, they had even shared husbands.  Now, as the two elderly women sat on the porch swing, a faded, hand-made quilt stretched across their bony knees, they said nothing. Only the crickets strummed their twilight song.

“I wish I had known,” sighed Mave at long last, shifting beneath the quilt.

Ellen rubbed her eyes and yawned.

“I didn’t want you to worry.”

“But you needed my help…”

“You were busy.  Anyway, Bob helped me bury him under the apple tree.”

Mave grinned. “Well at least he’ll make great compost…nothing beats homemade cider.”

###

I asked Charli to share her flash fiction process and how it’s helped her explore the ‘why’ in the murder of Wild Bill Hickok, the subject of her work in progress historical fiction novel Rock Creek:

‘London historian and biographer of Wild Bill Hickok, Joseph Rosa, claimed that the Rock Creek incident of 1861 remains among the most debated gunfights in the American West. At the heart of the debate are two questions writers often ponder — who is the villain and why?

My family handed me a myth growing up. The story goes that the first man Wild Bill Hickok ever shot was my third great-grandmother’s brother; my Uncle Cobb McCanles. Talk to any Hatley, Green, Paullus or McCandless and they’ll curse the villainy of Hickok, tearing the man down as a coward, shorter than history makes of him.

Talk to the descendants of Hickok and they’ll tell you what a fine and upright man Bill was. It’s understandable for families to cheer for their own kin and clearly see the murderous intent in the other. But add historians to the mix and you get more myth and romanticism. Hickok, one historian from Kansas wrote, was a chivalrous knight. A Nebraskan historian responded that Cobb McCanless was a family man cut down in front of his 10-year old son.

No one can definitely answer why. Why did these men clash in a deadly way?

Flash fiction became instrumental to my historical investigations. Writing tight snippets, I considered what it was like before and after Cobb’s untimely murder. These flash fictions became a way for me to explore emotion, reaction, pain and consider who was truly the villain. You’d be surprised by who has murder in mind, and readers like surprises. It’s all in the ‘why’.

The Day After by Charli Mills

“I’m not ready for this.” Sarah had spent the long night alone at the sod house, scrubbing congealed blood from her hair. The stained dress she burned in the woodstove. Several Pony Express riders came by to convince her leave on the morning stage to Denver. Hickok was not one of them.

Leroy settled a trunk with her belongings in the back of the buckboard. “It’s best you come with me, Sarah. Emotions are running hot.”

“Cobb?”

“He’s dead.”

“I know. But…a funeral?”

“He’s already in the ground.”

Sarah’s scalp itched. Triggers pulled in haste left no mourning time.

###

Now to the contest! Write a flash fiction in 109 words, no more, no less and weave a murderous vibe through an every-day setting, either in thought or deed.

Submission Guidelines:

  1. Submit your entry using the Contact Form below.
  2. 109 words, no more, no less, will be counted exactly. Title excluded.
  3. Weave a murderous vibe through an every-day setting, either in thought or deed.
  4. Add your name and email address, but please note, judging will be blind.
  5. Deadline for submission is 11:59 EST Tuesday, 31 October. Any entries received after this date will be disqualified.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED. WINNER ANNOUNCED DECEMBER 19.

CHALLENGE OPTION: If you don’t feel up to entering a contest, please feel free to respond to this in the comments as a prompt challenge. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

Judging

Go where the flow takes you, with bonus points for a twist that shocks the judges:

Mike Matthews, sound-boarder, proof-reader and husband extraordinaire; Hugh Roberts, friend, author and blogger with a deliciously dark flair for short stories; and me, Sherri Matthews.

We can’t wait to read your entries.  Have fun but don’t forget to watch your back: you never know who might be lurking in the shadows at the Rodeo.

NB: As providence would have it, I am in the throes of our house move this week. Huge apologies for my lateness in replying to comments, but I will return before the 31 October deadline.  Many thanks to Charli and Hugh for holding down the fort in the meantime.  

Next up: The Ultimate Flash Fiction (TUFF) by Charli Mills on Tuesday, October 31.

Announcement of Winner

Winner will be announced at Summerhouse and  Carrot Ranch on December 19.

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #6

Bucking Bull Go-Round

By D. Avery

Luck of the Draw, Resilience of the Rider

Bull riders are “today’s gladiators,” willing to risk injury and death for their ride to fame. Can you imagine straddling an angry, snorting 1800-pound animal that wants nothing more than to shake you off and perhaps gore and trample you, too? What must it be like to prepare for that, to face down fear as you approach the chute and settle atop this beast that you will dance with in the arena? What are people’s motivations to confront such a challenge, to set upon it and not only hang on for dear life, but to ride it with as much grace and finesse as possible, showing courage and skill in equal measure? Carrot Ranch’s Bucking Bull Go-Round event is a flash fiction approximation of rodeo’s most dangerous event, bull riding.

At the Professional Bull Riders’ (PBR) website, a bull ride is defined as

A contest of strength, balance, endurance, and effort between the world’s best bull riders and the world’s best bucking bulls. A rider must ride for 8 seconds with one hand in the bull rope and one in the air in order to earn a score. The clock starts when the bull’s shoulder or hip breaks the plane of the gate. It stops when the rider’s hand comes out of the rope – voluntarily or not.”

For the Bucking Bull Go-Round, contestants must first draw their bull:

  1. Enter for a prompt no later than 11:59 pm Friday, EST, October 27.
  2. Entrants will find out what prompt they drew on 12:01 am (EST) Saturday, Oct. 28 on the Flash Fiction Rodeo Event #6 post (this post).
  3. Then the clock starts, with contestant having until 11:59 pm Tuesday, October 31 to enter their stories, which must be in response to the prompt and include their own two unique prompt words, which are actual bull names from professional bull riders’ circuit.

The PBR also states:

The clock also stops if the Rider touches himself, the bull, or the ground with his free arm during the 8 second ride.”

To reflect the no touching rule in this event, you will show your hat in the air by sticking to fiction. Don’t even narrate in first person. While only the writer knows where a story idea germinates, your response should not be any form or function of non-fiction.

The PBR awards scores to both bull and rider.

A bull is judged on his athleticism and difficulty to ride. This takes into account spin (right or left), direction changes (movement forward and backward or side to side), kick in the back end, drop in the front, and body rolls. A body roll occurs when a bull is in the air and kicks either his hind feet or all four feet to the side. The more of these characteristics a bull displays during a ride, the higher the degree of difficulty.”

Your bull is your prompt words, so it is important that writers are aware of how bulls are scored so that they can enhance their own scores. The prompt words are each different and have their own inherent difficulties. It will be up to the writers to demonstrate these moves and their control of the prompt. In this event, the bull is not scored, but a high scoring story includes rolls and pitches, kicks and lunges, or changes of direction, based on the prompt words, even as the writing remains fluid and centered.

“A rider is judged on how in control he is during the ride. This takes into account how well he matches and counters the bull’s moves, how centered he is and how fluid his movement is during the bull ride.  Extra points may be awarded for style, such as spurring (marking out the bull; the rider lifts his legs up by the shoulders of the bull and returns them) which demonstrates complete control.”

In this event style is closely linked with control. Style is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Style is when the rider has mastered the moves of the bull and now is showing moves of her own. Style is when the whole ride looks easy and smooth.

So that, with a lot of borrowing from the Professional Bull Riders’ Association, is a definition of an actual bull ride and judging. Actual life can also be fraught with bucking snorting challenges and bone jarring kicks and twists. Perhaps you have faced your own trials and dangers in other arenas, have already experienced eight-second eternities that would either break you or make you. In this event, just as in bull riding, just as in life, you may or may not feel that you got a good draw, but like the professional bull riders, you will draw on your skills and experience to steady your nerves and meet the challenge. Because in life, and in fiction, meeting challenge and facing fear aren’t chosen so much as lived, confronted as responsibility, obligation, necessity, and even possibility. What has been your toughest ride? Take inspiration from those moments or situations that make you hold on and dig in despite an uncertain outcome, where no matter how your ride ends, you get cowpoke credit just for putting your butt down on the bull’s back. Draw one of these bull names and work it into a flash fiction that shows challenge and daring.

Submission information

CONTESTANTS MUST COMPLETE 2-STEPS:

FIRST: enter name and email no later than 11:59 pm (EST) Friday, Oct. 27 to draw a prompt. If you missed the contest, you can take the challenge with unclaimed Bull Names (see list). NOW CLOSED.

BULLS & RIDERS (WRITERS) POSTED:

# Writer Bull
19 Etol Bagam Snake Eater
32 D. Avery God’s Gift
10 Charli Mills Lip Tricks
28 Bill Engleson Uncle Charlie
31 Diana Nagai No Refund
25 Jeanine Western Wishes
15 Susan Budig Poison Ivy
34 Lisa @The Meaning of Me Beer Goggles
17 FloridaBorne Chocolate Thunder
5 Frank Hubeny Perfect Storm
29 Judy E Martin Big City
38 Irene Waters Free Loader
14 Geoff Le Pard Two Telegrams
35 Khadija Chunky Monkey
16 Kim Blades Crystal Deal
4 Hugh Roberts Bad Rumor
2 Chris Mills Squirt Gun
27 Norah Colvin Fairy Tattoo
30 JulesPaige Drop Zone
33 Christina Steiner Perfect Poison
24 Colleen Chesebro Pearl Harbor
20 Theresa Gober Pork Chop
26 Jillian Green DiGiacomo Ugly Time
6 Liz H Houdini magic
13 jackschuyler High Tide
3 Bobby Fairfield Yellow Jacket
8 Kati MacArthur Cowtown Cartel
37 Kerry E. B. Black Law Dog
12 Michael Acid Rain
36 Nancy Beach After Party
1 Elliot Lyngreen Young Gun
9 Deborah Lee Sleeping Deacon
39 Robbie Cheadle Bad Medicine
23 Michelle Buck Final Fantasy
11 Joe Owens Maze Runner
52 Ritu Bhathal War Dance
47 Ann Edall-Robson Blueberry Wine
44 D. Wallace Peach Voodoo Child
18 FOR CHALLENGERS Wild Onion
40 FOR CHALLENGERS Crash Scene
41 FOR CHALLENGERS Cat-man Do
42 FOR CHALLENGERS Panic Attack
21 FOR CHALLENGERS Pandora’s Box
7 FOR CHALLENGERS Trick Treat
22 FOR CHALLENGERS Shiver Shake

SECOND: use the prompt assigned to complete the contest by 11:59 pm October 31.

Entrants must use form in this post to enter their stories. READ THE RULES. It’s more than using your Bull’s Name and the rules explain how to use the name.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED. WINNER ANNOUNCED DECEMBER 12.

The Rules

  1. Must enter your name to draw a prompt by 11:59 pm (EST) Friday, Oct. 27.
  2. Stories are to be 107 words in long in eight sentences.
  3. Stories are to include the two words drawn as your prompt (you may change the order of the words and they do not need to be adjacent).
  4. Write a fictional story that involves facing a challenge or fear.
  5. Stories are to be fiction only; no personal narrative, memoir, or non-fiction of any persuasion. Spur on a story!
  6. Go where the prompts lead, or buck, or twist. Hang on to your hat!
  7. Enter completed flash fiction for the Bucking Bull Go-Round by by 11:59 pm October 31.

 CHALLENGE OPTION: If you don’t feel up to entering a contest please feel free to respond to the challenge in the comments section of this post: BULL NAMES POSTED SAT. OCT. 28. You can pick from the list for the challenge. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

Judging by Nurse Crotchett, Ms. Critchley and D. Avery, all wild readers from the East.

Judging Criteria

  1. Word and sentence count; 107 words, 8 sentences
  2. Control; Story reveals effective moves based on the prompt words, even as the writing remains fluid and centered on the prompt theme
  3. Style; Deft handling of prompts, smooth writing, effective use of story devices.

Next up: Murderous Musings! by Sherri Matthews on Thursday, October 26.

Announcement of Winners

Winners will be announced on Carrot Ranch on December 12, 2017.

About Carrot Ranch

Carrot Ranch is a literary community committed to providing all writers access to literary art regardless of backgrounds, genres, goals and locations. Common ground is found through the writing, reading and discussion of flash fiction. The weekly online flash fiction challenges promote community through process, craft and exploration, and regular participants form a literary group called The Congress of Rough Writers. Their first anthology, Vol. 1 publishes in 2017. Carrot Ranch offers an adult-learning program called Wrangling Words, available to all communities where Rough Writers reside.

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #5

9X11 Twitterflash

By C. Jai Ferry

We’ve Passed the Halfway Mark!

We’ve made it to Challenge #5, and we’re still alive and writing, so for this challenge, let’s see how you do with some rather unnatural constraints.

Carrot Ranch writers are used to the challenges inherent in writing a 99-word story. Flash fiction requires a delicate balance between brevity of words and richness of story. Becky Tuch at The Review Review offers the following perspective on flash fiction:

Part poetry, part narrative, flash fiction—also known as sudden fiction, micro fiction, short short stories, and quick fiction—is a genre that is deceptively complex. […] Distilling experience into a few pages or, in some cases a few paragraphs, forces writers to pay close attention to every loaded conversation, every cruel action, every tender gesture, and every last syllable in every single word.

[The link above also offers some great insights from experts in flash fiction on how to write these stories]

The current challenge embraces the idea that every word matters by using a medium where every character matters: Twitter. Twitter gives you just 140 characters to convey your message (unless you’re one of the lucky few to have been granted the new 280-character limit), but of course adding hashtags (e.g., #FFRodeo) to enable people to find your tweets limits the number of characters even further.

The Challenge: #Twitterflash

In this challenge, you are tasked with writing a complete 99-word story using Twitter. The story—real or imagined (or anywhere in between)—can be on any topic and in any genre, as long as it is exactly 99 words (not including a title, if you choose to use one). Easy peasy, right?

Not so fast…

We do have some additional parameters:

  • Every story must be made up of 11 sentences of exactly 9 words each.
  • Each individual sentence should be tweeted, one at a time, for a total of 11 tweets (plus one tweet with the title, if you choose to use one).
  • Just to add some kick to the rodeo, every tweet must include two hashtags: #FFRodeo and #Twitterflash

Social media has become a finicky friend for the modern-day writer, and we hope you use this challenge to generate engagement with and amongst your followers and fellow writers. Although the judging will not consider the number of likes/retweets you generate (#itsnotapopularitycontest), we will be looking at how effectively you combine your wordsmithing skills with the Twitter platform—namely, we want every tweet to be truly tweet-worthy*. #MakeEveryWordCount!

*How the judges define tweet-worthy: Does the tweet make you pause (in a good “hey-this-is-cool” way)? Would you be curious? Would you want to read more? Would you retweet it? Would you follow the author in Twitter based only on this tweet? Would you read other (past) tweets by this author?

You’ve got 10 whole days to work on this challenge, which ends on Sunday, October 29 at 11:59 pm EST. Not a tweeter yet? Now’s your chance to join Twitter and gain some friendly and supportive followers. Not convinced? You can take this as a challenge instead and forgo the Twitter platform.

The Rules (#pleasebearwithus)

  1. To participate, start tweeting your story.
  2. The complete story must be exactly 99 words (not counting the title): 11 sentences with 9 words in each sentence (from first word to concluding punctuation mark, expressed or implied).
  3. Every tweeted sentence of the story must include both #FFRodeo and #Twitterflash in the body of the tweet. Additional hashtags can be included, space permitting.
  4. Sentences cannot be changed or adjusted once tweeted (i.e., no do-overs), but feel free to get feedback on where your story should go next from followers, friends, postal workers, your half-sister’s ex-in-laws’ dog trainer… Twitter is social media, so #besocial and #havefun.
  5. Because the Twitter timestamp only shows hour/minutes, please wait at least two minutes between each tweet (#veryimportantrule) to ensure that the judges read your story in the correct order (note rule 6 for exceptions). Other than the 2-minute rule, sentences can be tweeted in a short time span or spread out however the author prefers within the challenge timeframe.
  6. The numbering of sentences within the tweets is not required, but if you have enough free characters, please number your sentences (#savethejudgessanity). If numbering is included in every one of your tweeted sentences, you can ignore rule 5.
  7. Abbreviated words (e.g., 2 for to, bc for because) can be used as long as the meaning remains clear; these words still count toward the 9-word requirement.
  8. Entrants are encouraged to include any punctuation necessary for clarity; punctuation can be omitted to save Twitter characters if necessary, but the meaning must remain clear to judges/readers.
  9. Sentences must be in the actual tweet, not in a graphic attached to the tweet. Of course, feel free to attach graphics to any of your tweets because we humans like eye candy, but the judges will only consider the text within the actual tweet.
  10. Do not attach any “buy links” (i.e., links to places where people can buy your work) to the 11 sentences tweeted for the story, but feel free to share such links outside the challenge parameters (e.g., sharing buy links as a twelfth tweet for people who have enjoyed your challenge writing). #wesupportwriters
  11. Although there are absolutely no theme or genre restrictions, Twitter is a public forum, so tweet accordingly. Please write responsibly. We don’t want anyone to get banned (or worse) from Twitter. #dontwakethetrolls
  12. Multiple entries are allowed, but the entrant is responsible for ensuring that multiple entries are clearly marked as such.
  13. The nature of this challenge means that judging will not be completely blind. That being said, all entries will be copied in their entirety (as a story) into a master list and stripped of identifying information before being shared among the judges for evaluation purposes.
  14. Judges (and fellow Carrot Ranch writers and wranglers) may like/retweet your sentences and stories. These interactions are purely promotional and social in nature and in no way indicate, suggest, or imply that the judges endorse your story as a winning story. Judging will not begin until after the submission window closes.
  15. All decisions by the judges are final, and neither the judges nor anyone associated with Carrot Ranch are responsible for what happens on Twitter, including but not limited to delays, data errors, missing tweets, and trolls.
  16. Finally, if you’ve been bestowed with the new 280-character limit on Twitter, we kindly ask that you use only 140 characters for this challenge. #pleaseandthankyou

 CHALLENGE OPTION: If you don’t feel up to entering a contest or signing up for Twitter, please feel free to respond to the challenge in the comments section of this post: 11 sentences of 9 words each for a 99-word story. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

Judging Criteria

  1. Stories include exactly 11 nine-word sentences. If judges disagree on the number of words included, Microsoft Word will be used as the final word count.
  2. All 11 tweets per story include both hashtags (#FFRodeo #Twitterflash) and are tweeted before the deadline.
  3. Stories include a complete arc (i.e., beginning, middle, and end).
  4. Individual sentences are tweet-worthy and contribute to the story as a whole in a meaningful way.

 About the Judges

  1. C. Jai Ferry has published several collections of short stories. Her narrators are often described as brutally honest and likely needing some form of professional help.
  2. Mardra Sikora (#Twitterguru) is an author, speaker, and advocate who believes in the power of words and uses both fiction and non-fiction to advocate for and with her adult son, Marcus.
  3. Lisa Kovanda writes fiction and non-fiction books, stories, and screenplays in urban fantasy, horror, paranormal, historical, and biographical genres. She is also a paranormal investigator.

Next up: Buckin’ Bull Go-Round by D. Avery on Tuesday, October 24.

Announcement of Winners

Winners will be announced on Twitter and Carrot Ranch on December 5, 2017.

About Carrot Ranch

Carrot Ranch is a literary community committed to providing all writers access to literary art regardless of backgrounds, genres, goals and locations. Common ground is found through the writing, reading and discussion of flash fiction. The weekly online flash fiction challenges promote community through process, craft and exploration, and regular participants form a literary group called The Congress of Rough Writers. Their first anthology, Vol. 1 publishes in 2017. Carrot Ranch offers an adult-learning program called Wrangling Words, available to all communities where Rough Writers reside.

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #4

Scars

By Irene Waters

Welcome to Contest #4 of the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo. This competition is free to enter and carries a cash prize of $25 for first place. Winning submissions will automatically be forwarded to the All-Around Rodeo Winner which carries an additional cash prize of $50. Naturally you can’t have a competition without rules and as each competition leader has devised their own rules I suggest that you read those for this competition prior to submitting your piece. The rules follow the competition topic.

 

The Topic

As a memoir writer and reader I am very aware that it is the situations in life that have a massive impact on the memoirist, those events which leave scars, whether physical or emotional, that are the chosen part of the life to be relayed. As a flash fiction writer delving into fiction, a genre with which I have not previously attempted, I became aware that we draw from real life to write fiction as well as memoir. The more observant we are as writers the greater our ability to convince our readers of the authenticity of our story. The more we remember from our own life informs our writing. In his book, Misery, Stephen King wrote,

“Writers remember everything…especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar.”

In a double length Carrot Ranch flash, or 2 chapters of 99-words each (198 words total), tell a story that shows a scar. It can be memoir, other forms of creative non-fiction,  any genre of fiction or a BOTS (based on a true story).

 

The Rules

  1. Submit using the form below.
  2. Length of entry to be 198 words measured on Microsoft Word or wordcounter.net. Title is not counted in word length. Please be sure of your word count. Entries exceeding the word limits will be disqualified
  3. Flash is considered to be a complete story i.e. has a beginning, a middle and an end. This is a judging criteria.
  4. Entries must be received no later than 11:59 pm EST October 26.
  5. Your entry must be original and in English.
  6. The Judges rulings are final.

 

CONTEST #4 NOW CLOSED. WINNER ANNOUNCED NOVEMBER 28.

CHALLENGE OPTION: If you don’t feel up to entering a contest, please feel free to respond to this in the comments as a prompt challenge. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

 

Judging Criteria

  1. Complete story and structure
  2. Story Length
  3. Relevancy to prompt
  4. Grammar (spelling, tense, punctuation). Allowance will be made for differences in the language styles between countries and for the author to show her own voice.
  5. The Story

 

Judges

Irene Waters blogs at Reflections and Nightmares.

Angie Oakley blogs at Spry and Retiring.

Ellen Stomqvist is an avid reader.

More information about the judges can be seen here: for Angie and Irene.

Contest #4 Leader: Irene Water. For a full line-up of contests, see Events. Next up: 9×11 Twitterflash by  C. Jai Ferry on Thursday, October 19.

 

Announcement of Winner

Winners will be announced on Irene Waters website and Carrot Ranch website on the November 28, 2017.

 

About Carrot Ranch

Carrot Ranch is a literary community committed to providing all writers access to literary art regardless of backgrounds, genres, goals and locations. Common ground is found through the writing, reading and discussion of flash fiction. The weekly online flash fiction challenges promote community through process, craft and exploration, and regular participants form a literary group called The Congress of Rough Writers. Their first anthology, Vol. 1 publishes in 2017. Carrot Ranch offers an adult-learning program called Wrangling Words, available to all communities where Rough Writers reside.

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