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Saddle Up Saloon: A Whole New World

As writers, we come up with worlds in our heads and commit them to paper. Even fiction that ostensibly takes place in our own world must contain fictional characters and elements that make it differ from our own.

Today at the Saloon, we’re going to sip our brews and chat about how people (and characters) make the world just as much as the world shapes us.

The Importance of Diversity in Characters and Worldbuilding

The world is rich and alive with many different people and many different backgrounds. If everyone were the same, we’d have no fun at all. There would be no discovery of others, no real friendships. To make characters in books come alive, they must be distinct, have different goals and needs, and sometimes they must be in opposition to one another.

When we think of diversity of characters, we often think first of racial and gender diversity. These are very important (and discussed in more detail in the next section), but they are not the only ways to incorporate diversity into your work. Here’s just a brief list of important diversity elements that can make your characters more distinct and real.

  • Race
  • Gender (and attraction)
  • Age (think about how much popular media includes real characters of multiple generations – I’m only coming up with Orange Is the New Black right now, and it was chock full of interesting characters!)
  • Class
  • Ability and disability
  • Religious affiliation or lack thereof
  • Country of origin (distinct from race, even if it’s hard to separate in American culture)
Look – even this Pexels picture meant to represent “Diversity” has no obvious Age, Class, or Ability diversity. Just because it’s not obvious doesn’t mean it’s not diversity!

Remember, if it takes place in any world with humans, you can include elements of diversity. Even in places, you think diversity would be impossible to include, you can; just look at Othello, if you want proof!

Diversity in Today’s Book Climate

If you take half a look at writing Twitter, Instagram, or a plethora of other online writing circles, diversity is a big push right now. It ranges from encouragement to read authors from underrepresented backgrounds to insistences that books must contain “X” amount of diversity.

You’ve read it. I’ve read it. We’ve felt the gamut of feelings from “That’s a great idea!” to “That made me feel attacked.” While none of us will ever be perfect, the climate as it stands can be very daunting.

A rule of thumb is to be more careful when you get closer to a subject. Do more research, and have more sensitivity readers. If, like me, you are white, and you want to write a book with a non-white main character set in the modern world, you definitely want to have sensitivity readers and do a lot of research. At the same time, if I wrote that book, it would be a disservice if I pretended like I was an expert on the subject when I didn’t have that life experience.

While most of us probably will stick with mains similar enough to ourselves that we won’t have that issue, I encourage you to try and push yourself with one character in your next work. Use the opportunity to learn new things, then write a piece that will expand your boundaries.

A Whole OLD World

Whenever you’re writing a fictional world, no matter how dissimilar to our own, your book will still be read by an audience steeped in our own world. No matter how dissimilar the histories of our worlds, anything written for humans to read will be read within the context of our own world.

Photo by Tatiana Syrikova on

If you write a world in which women are in power and men are not, it still is read in the context of a world in which men have long had most of the power. The switch of political power will still remind any reader of this fact. A book written in such a world could be very thematically interesting, or it could feel very ignorant of the element it switched. How you speak of the issue is just as important in a very different world as it is in our own.

About the Author

H.R.R. Gorman often doesn’t feel diverse, even if other people say he is. He loves writing, history, and science, often in erratically changing orders. If you want to know more about this white-trash-turned-excessively-bourgeois maniac, you can go to or read the old “Into the Past” columns here on the Carrot Ranch!

Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino June 2022

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

“Holy cow, Kid! Look’t the saloon! Shorty’s got it fixed up real nice. I
like how the stage is center stage.”

“How now, Pal? What’s that cow doin in here?”

“Really? The Saddle Up Saloon’s a part a Carrot Ranch. Ranches have cows.
Asides, what’s yer beef? Yer kid goats has been through here, not ta mention Frankie’s horse
Burt, an thet hoglet a yers.”

“This is udderly dif’rent.”

“Well, here’s Shorty. Take it up with her.”

“Hey Kid. Hey Pal. I see you’ve met Tildie. This cow is trained to pull the
handle on the slot machine.”

“Slot machine? Never woulda bet there’d be gamblin in the saloon.”

“Not gambling, Kid, just takin a chance that folks will want to play with a
different kind of story prompt. See, everyone wins with this slot machine. But I need you two ta run Cowsino Night here at the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Run Cowsino Night? You betcha! Um, what zactly is Cowsino Night?”

“That’s right, you two had already disappeared when I pulled the lever for
the first one. Just make sure Tildie pulls the handle. Then encourage folks to use all three images to write a story.”

“99 words?”

“More or less, Pal. On Cowsino Night the challenge is to use the story spine
to structure a story. Words count, but we’re not counting words. Responses go
in the comments.”

“Souns like a good time, Shorty. We’ll be happy ta hep out.”

“Every first Friday of the month.” 

“Yeehaw! Let’s git writin ever’one!”

“Yep. Be sure an read an comment on one ‘nuther’s story spines in the comments below.”

Rules of Play

  1. Use the three pictures that spin to a stop as inspiration or subjects (use in any order).
  2. Write seven sentences following the Story Spine (you don’t have to use the phrases of each step):
    • Once upon a time…
    • Every day…
    • Until…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Because of that…
    • Finally…
  3. Share your story here at the Saloon (post on the story/comment board below).
  4. No links to other places. Play the slots as much as you like (you can write more then one story).
  5. Say howdy to those playing with you! Be friendly and have fun!

If asked, Pal & Kid will deny that they spill from the pen of D. Avery. They claim to be free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch and built the Saddle Up Saloon. If you or your characters are interested in saddling up to take the stage as a saloon guest, contact them via

Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

Howdy once again! It’s been a wild ride but this here’s the final post for Anyone Can Poem.

I’d planned to use this last post to wrap up everyone’s free verse poems from last month; problem is, no one came round to share ’em.

Instead, we’re a-gonna wrap up everything we done did learn over all the past year o’ poeming:

  1. March, 2021. This was whare it all began. I asked you to take yourself on a relaxing date. While moseying around with such a stunning partner, you then needed to “word dump prosaically.”
    This was a way to loosen up any of y’all who was feeling nervous about writing.
  2. April, 2021. Next, naturally, we tried mimicryParodyPastiche.
  3. May, 2021. I introduced haiku -sort-of. I’d always meant to come back to this beautiful form and do it right proper, but it is what it is.
  4. June, 2021. This month was one o’ my favorites! We all tried limericks.
  5. July, 2021. After expressing mah pet-peeve of messed-up meter, I suggested we mess up meters.
  6. August, 2021. Continuing with meter, we ‘fixed’ some famous poems.
  7. September, 2021. This ‘un discussed the need for concise poeming.
  8. October, 2021. To further improve our poetry, I said to “pick impactful, meaningful words and phrases that put the reader in the moment.”
  9. November, 2021. I delivered a healthy baby boy, and suggested we try an Acrostic Poem.
  10. December, 2021. We faced the greatest poetic challenge of all: free verse. I’d meant for this ‘un to be a two-parter, but had to take a break on completin’ the second part till…
  11. April, 2022. The follow-up on where we’d gone with free-versing.

An’ now we’re here. We’ve spent a year working together so y’all can be right cozy with writing a poem. I have no more challenges for you, excepting that you go through them steps anytime you think, I can’t write poetry.

I’m telling ya: YES, YOU CAN. Anyone can poem.

And, as always, you can send me any poem you’re struggling with. Just use the form at the bottom o’ one o’ the old challenges. I’m happy to help.


©2022 Chel Owens

Saddle Up Saloon: April 15, 2022

Welcome to the Saddle Up Saloon where we feature interactive characters, real-life authors & poets, the occasional Carrot Ranch announcement, and a Cowsino story game every first Friday of the month. You can learn about the craft of creative writing, introduce your own characters to the Kid & Pal crew, discuss the writer’s journey, and be part of making literary art accessible to anyone.

Yeehaw! This Buckaroo Has Some News! by Charli Mills

This is a day when dreamers get to show something tangible. I get to play with writers weekly, teach young adults to write, and read regularly, therefore I move comfortably through the clouds and veils of imagination. After all, I lead an imaginary ranch (Ranchers are real and Carrots grow in good soil) and have a pet hodag named Primrose (she’s a regional cryptid). I have no problem mapping my vision in the night sky with a North Star shining bright, no matter what circumstances frame my life. I am a writer on a journey.

Dreams take as long as they take to manifest. The magic that becomes something substantial begins as an inspired idea. Like my mentor, Elizabeth Gilbert, I wholeheartedly live a creative life. For me, writing has never been about a destination, but a way of living. I look for signs and wonders all the time to affirm my path because it hasn’t been easy and few understand why I find it joyful. Carrot Ranch is my sandbox and all of you are my writing (and reading) besties. Even when I’m swamped or discouraged, I know this community will believe in my wings. I believe in yours, too!

But when something comes to fruition and can be announced, I bounce! I’m giddy and ready to burst to tell you the news that will impact our writing community. It’s kind of like getting new socks and turquoise boots in the mail — signs that the dream is real, unfolding, and collective.

Let me set the stage and tell you a quick story.

After a life shakeup (one of many to follow), I decided to make lemonade and go for the dream of living a creative life as a writer. No more dabbling. In 2012, I resigned from my marketing career. My staff and I cried. My boss and I cried. I kept clients on the books as a contractor and left for Idaho after spending the summer exploring my novel on the shores of Lake Superior in Wisconsin. I wrote. I started Carrot Ranch as a way to connect with other creative pilgrims on the writing path. I wrote. I lost a house, a sense of home, and slowly, painfully, a husband to mental illness and cognitive breakdown because of his military service. I didn’t stop dreaming the dream of writing with others for the good of us all — meaning, if I found ways to make this writing life work, I wanted others to find their ways, too. I gained an MFA, knowledge, and an unbelievable opportunity to become Indiana Jones (my ideal of a prof — outdoor adventurer interested in history, teaching college, and dressing in a dapper fashion unafraid of the mud). I gained a sense of self no matter where I am. I gained roots from the shared communities of others. I gained acceptance that dreams take time, plans will blow up and reconfigure. I never lost hope.

Carrot Ranch has been the community to give me roots in many places. Because of that, I’m always dreaming of ways to connect writers, readers, and places. Writing — yours and mine becomes a conduit. You might be in your familiar place, but your writing zips you across the globe and into the hearts and minds of others far from you. That’s the superpower you have as a writer. These events I’m going to share with you, I could do on my own. But what’s the fun in that? I’d rather bring my community along and share OUR writing. I’m serious when I call our weekly collection “literary anthropology” (which appeals to my inner Prof. Jones). It’s taken several years to bring all this to fruition, but let me announce…

  • Ghost House Stories: a call for writers to submit 99-word stories in response to historical data and newspaper articles, published throughout the year in the Ghost House Farm newsletter and distributed at farmers’ markets.
  • Carrot Ranch Stories Fundraiser for the Keweenaw Storytelling Center: We are sponsoring a refurbished vintage candy vending machine painted by local Carrot Ranch artists, featuring dispensable 99-word stories to be sold for a dollar to support local literary art.
  • Fort Wilkins Story Readings: Carrot Ranch story collections read to tourists in Copper Harbor to encourage the attendees to collaboratively write one, too.
  • Writer in Rustic Residence: open to any Carrot Rancher who wants a week in the Keweenaw, writing, encouraging literary art, and promoting their book(s) or work written while visiting. The cabin is rustic and will be “tested” this summer.
  • Red Rabbit Art Studio and Carrot Ranch Art Walk: Thanks to a Canadian friend I met in Vermont, I got the idea to pair art and authors. TOJ is a Carrot Rancher poet from local workshops and a magnificent visual artist. Over the summer, participating writers will write 99-word stories to pair with pieces of art to be displayed late September on a fall nature walk through the northwoods and along Lake Superior.

These events and opportunities are meant to show you the ways we can interact in the world through literary art. You have a broad audience for your 99-word stories.

As fun as these engagements are, the ways we have to share our writing is not actually the “big reveal.” But I wanted you to see all the activity going on behind the barn doors at Carrot Ranch.

When I studied for my MFA, I also studied for a Masters Certification in Teaching Creative Writing Online. While I wrote my thesis novel over two years, I also developed components of an educational platform. However, I got hired by a university to teach composition, which was a delightful surprise, but forced me to reflect on my vision. I readjusted, re-dreamed, mulled over the possibilities. I realized I had been rudderless for a while just to survive school and circumstances.

A few close friends were willing to listen to me process, even sit by their fire and think out loud. I finally finished a client project in December and swore that was the last client I’d have. It gave me clarity on a few decisions I had to make and a way forward on my writing path. Then, a friend and colleague put a bug in my ear.

Colleen Chesebro and I are both former Montanans and current Michiganders. I’m in the upper mitten and she’s in the lower, so together, we naturally make a pair. She writes poetry and I write fiction. She also writes fiction, saying that 99-words has improved her writing, and I understand my poetic writing better because of her guidance. I’m a dreamer who can plan and she’s a planner who can dream. She’s organized, and I like to think I am. I’m a maximizer and Colleen’s an activator. I edit and she paginates. We both believe in high quality and professional standards in our literary craft.

The bug in my ear had to do with ways we could collaborate, and she added unicorns to the conversation. Our communities intersect and we’ve even had the chance to work on client projects together. Colleen has mad skills in her self-publishing toolkit. We’ve both been interested for several years in a formatting program that would make the work easier and more beautiful. In fact, I slipped over to the dark side of the Apple after my last PC died. In part, I chose Mac to run Vellum.

When I found out that Colleen was interested in Vellum, we started talking more about self-publishing books. After my MFA program, I know that one of the successful author careers is the amalgamation of publishing paths. My profs who were published by commercial houses, also self-published and collaborated with other authors. When we worked with our client, we discovered a great work flow, complimentary skills, and shared enthusiasm for our literary communities and writing lives.

We did a thing.

Well, we discussed a thing. At length. Colleen asked good questions. I asked my Small Business Development rep a bunch of questions. We researched. Colleen prolifically read up on the programs we considered. We shared models, ideas, and finally found the “big magic” EG talks of. Then we had more questions. We made decisions. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to do this!

To be clear — in case the IRS is listening because we talked at great length about how to do this financially and where the tax burden would go and how we would protect ourselves professionally — Colleen is an independent contractor. Carrot Ranch is an LLC. We are both sole proprietors so there are no employees involved with either party. We both understand the risk we are taking on and that a profit will take time. We both agree to contribute sweat equity. I can’t do this without Colleen because she has skills that would make this cost-prohibitive. In return, I have industry knowledge, editing, and marketing skills.

Be sure to jump over to Colleen’s post today. She will unveil her exciting new business venture, offering self-publishing services. Her logo is absolutely adorable and befitting of her literary brand, too. She’s someone I recommend to clients. And her contributions to this thing will be immeasurable.

So, I did a thing. Last year, after graduation, I filed Carrot Ranch as an LLC and committed to working with the SBD on an education platform. At school, as a prof, I realized there are gaps in distribution of books to colleges and that I need really good, short craft and literary books for ENG I & II. I also began to question the options for my manuscripts. I need to publish, but maybe I’ll publish a writing craft book for my classroom, education platform, and beyond first.

With renewed vision, I let go of a lot more than I grabbed up. Don’t think I’m adding to a busy plate. I let go of a bunch of possibilities to be a teacher, author, and publisher. Carrot Ranch is my home and if I do the thing I, well, I did, I’d make sure it benefits the community. And it does.

Two weeks ago, the state of Michigan accepted Carrot Ranch LLC dba…

I founded a micro-press. Yep. Holy wah. I founded a micro-press. You’re all probably wondering what the heck a micro-press is. Well, think wee. It’s the smallest of the small presses. It’s an independent publisher. To start, we will publish an anthology later this year. Next year, we’ll put out a call for novella manuscripts and award one author from our community a royalty-based contract. The following year, we will put out a call for a collection of poetry from a single poet. Gitty Up Press will publish craft books to be used in classrooms. In a year, we will consider an online Lit Journal. If I don’t sell my manuscripts in three years, I will publish them through Gitty Up. A micro-press is small and it can’t publish much, but it will serve our collective communities.

Another important feature of Gitty Up Press and Colleen’s Unicorn Cats Self-Publishing Services is our shared commitment to quality publishing. We have joined professional organizations: Independent Book Publishers Association and Midwest Independent Publishers Association and will uphold Industry Standards and adhere to these code of ethics as IBPA members:

Code of Ethics (from

A commitment to professionalism, confirming IBPA’s collective belief that the production of content of lasting financial and/or cultural value is just as important as securing open markets for this content.

As part of the independent publishing community, IBPA members pledge to the following CODE OF ETHICS:

  • To uphold the highest standards of our industry, to create works of lasting financial and/or cultural value, and to pursue editorial, design, and production excellence.
  • To respect the rights of authors and other creators and stakeholders, to observe all copyright laws and conventions, and to never knowingly publish plagiarized work.
  • To reward authors and contributors for their work, to be honest in our financial dealings, to write contracts in understandable language, to resolve all disputes promptly and fairly, and to foster equal opportunity in our workplaces.
  • To not mislead readers or buyers with false promises, inflated sales data, or manipulated reviews.
  • To not publish works of hate speech1, or works that encourage discrimination, oppression, or violence.
  • To recycle and reuse and to follow green practices whenever possible.

It might sound like I’m a busy person taking on more busyness. That’s not it. I’m a dreamer who has had twenty plates spinning while managing chaos on the homefront and traversing several steep learning curves. It’s coming together, not spreading out. I’m dropping 16 plates to focus on 4. Chaos is coming to an end. This thing, this Gitty Up Press, amplifies my North Star. Carrot Ranch has roots, and not too far off, it will have fruit.

The call for anthology submission will go out in May. I have writers to contact from an earlier plan first. We will have clear details for the process, what to expect, and financial transparency.

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

Well, howdy! I’ll bet you’re surprised to see me again. I can say that makes two of us! I’m jest here to let y’all know Kid ‘n Pal will be returning to their old Saddle Up Saloon shenanigans, but on each Friday.

Don’t tell, but I snuck on in here afore them to finish up what we started back in December of 2020. Once we get through this ‘un and a final post on May 6, Anyone Can Poem will be done and done.

(I hear tell a story-generating Cowsino will mosey on in, come the first of June.)

And so, welcome, one and all, to this month’s installment! I originally posted back in January and intended to continue the lesson from December.

Like any good sequel, I’ll do a quick montage of the first installment so we’re all caught up: freeversepoetryisabadideabutwe’regoingtodoitanywayandforstarterslet’ssplityourpoemusingpunctuationandspacingsoitreadshowyouwish.

Way back then, you shared your free verse poem with the sort of pausing you want it read with. Now it’s time to get more nitty-gritty. I want you to look at everywhere you’ve done a comma, semi-colon, period, line break, and new paragraph. Take each of those places, one at a time, and decide how you will permanently create the pause you wish.

Pauses can be forced with what we already have, a’course. They can also be made with looooong, slooooow words, laborious words, descriptive words, shocking words, and onomatopoeia. And sure-shootin’, you can keep a line break or comma if you wish.

If you take the poem snippet I used for an example, we start with
I saw a dove;
it alighted on my hand
and frittered there.

But I don’t want the final version to be split across three lines. Instead, I want
I saw a dove
It alighted on my hand and frittered there.

To be honest, frittered is more of a second-draft word. I came up with rested the first time I typed it up. Frittered is a good word since it ain’t usual ’round these parts and has several syllables. It’s also fun to say; fun to wonder how in tarnation a bird might fritter. To create the pause or s l o w i n g I need around the midpoint of that line, I will need different words besides on my hand and.

Let’s try
I saw a dove
It alighted atop a finger; it frittered there

Hmm. Not bad. But what ’bout
I saw a dove
Alighting on my finger, it frittered there

Get it? Good. Your assignment is to take the lovely poem you shared in December and close up the line breaks with intentional words, a semi-colon or two, or sounds. Lasso the words that will sing the pattern you want.

Fill out the form, below, if you want only me to see it. Fill out a comment if you’re willing to show off.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.

Next month, we’ll do a final polish of your free verse and, as I promised, a final farewell to Anyone Can Poem.

I can’t wait to see what you do!


©2022 Chel Owens

Saddle Up Saloon: Joanne Fisher in the Author’s Chair

“Folks, welcome ta another Author’s Chair. We’re thrilled ta have Joanne Fisher join us this month, all the way from New Zealand.”

“New Zealand! What an Odyssey! Pal, will Joanne treat us ta some a her sci-fi? Mebbe fantasy adventures? More tales a the farm with Jess an’ Cindy?”

“Good guesses, Kid. But here she is, let’s let Joanne tell us.”

“Howdy, Joanne Fisher! Welcome ta the Author’s Chair.”

“Hello Kid, hello Pal. The story I’m going to read is a poem story.”


“It is, Kid, but I am only going to read one poem from my sequence based on The Odyssey, The Return. When deciding on which poem in The Return sequence to use, I decided to start at the beginning (since it’s a very good place to start).”

“How cool! I have a lot of questions already, Joanne.”

“Kid, I’m sure Joanne has a lot to say about the Odyssey and her sequence of poems but ‘member, the point a the Author’s Chair is ta give folks a chance ta hear fer themselves an’ ask their questions in the comments section.” 

“Thanks Pal.”

Penelope Waits

why do I constantly
look out our window
hoping to see your ship
returning to its harbour?
why do I listen for the sound
of your footsteps echoing
up to our bedchamber?
I know you too well
you've gone after
your own desires
& I'm the spider
who waits quietly
the thing with journeys
is that they spiral inwards
to your own dark heart
should you return
you'll find me here
spinning a web
to ensnare you
& every night I unpick it
while hungry men wait below
none of them
have your eyes
or your smell

all the heroes returned
from the wars,
except you
long have I dreamed
of your dark hair, tanned skin,
& sinewy form to emerge
out of the frothing sea-water
& into my arms
but I know you too well
you will come home only
when you are tired
of your journeys
your betrayals
your lies
& after so many threads
I'm tired of waiting
for our lives to begin again
is there anything worth
between us?
Joanne Fisher

You can read the entire sequence here:

“Now folks, don’t forgot, this is all about engagement, so ask yer questions about this poem. I know Joanne would enjoy talking’ about it. An’ remember, names are randomly drawn from among the questions an’ comments. Congratulations ta Norah Colvin who was drawn from Liz’s reading’ last month. Norah, you will receive a copy of T. Marie Bertineau’s The Mason House.”

“Joanne Fisher lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. She writes poetry, flash fiction, fiction, and the occasional article. She has written two unpublished novels, and her poetry has appeared in magazines and journals in New Zealand and overseas. One day she hopes to eventually get round to compiling a second collection of poetry, as well as publishing some ebooks of her flash fiction.”

You can find Joanne at jedigirlblog

Joanne the Geek Facebook page:

Twitter: @joannefisher63

Contact Kid and Pal’s writer, D. Avery, if you want to take a seat in the Author’s Chair here at the Saddle Up Saloon.

Saddle Up Saloon: Anyone Can Poem

Good ev’ning or mornin’! Welcome to our tenth month of poem-ing.

We’ve a rough ride this year -through loosening up, parody, forms, meter, and word choice.

Now, we’re facin’ the roughest bull ride this side o’ the Mississippi: free verse.

Writing freely, without a form, is like opting for bareback riding on an unbridled stallion. You really oughter not; and, if you’re that determined, you really oughter know what you’re doing.

But this is Anyone Can Poem! I’m not here to warn against such idiocy; I’m here to teach you how to look good doing it!

First, let’s make sure you’re registered for the right event. What is a free verse poem?

Free verse is an open form of poetry, which in its modern form arose through the French vers libre form. It does not use consistent meter patterns, rhyme, or any musical pattern.


It’s different from blank verse, which is taking a metered form and intentionally not rhyming. Free verse is also different than mishmashmess verse*, where you write whatever you want to and how.

Most free verse arises from an emotionally-moving experience we feel compelled to express in a poem. We awake at midnight, remembering our first (lost) love. We taste the first warmth of springtime against our skin during a morning walk. We fall head-over-heels for another person. We savor the agony of heartbreak when he or she doesn’t reciprocate.

Then, we pull the floating snippets of emotions down to the page. We feel that the words must not rhyme or conform to a pattern in order to express what we felt.

That’s great! I’m here to step in about now; pause the stallion-riding, and offer up a few pointers of why you have the inexplicable feeling that you’re actually seated backwards and wearing a prom dress and heels.

It’s simply because your free verse poem tricked you. It told you it needed to be mishmashmess when, in fact, it still needs form. -Not a bridle, per se; but definitely an arena within which to ride, and definitely a movement to the animal on which you sit. See: a lost-love poem must read like a beating heart. A nature poem about walking through springtime must read like a walking gait. New love must use long, slow-moving words like thoughtfulness and consideration at the start but short, exciting words like heat and touch as our feelings heighten.

So, please take your free verse poem. Go on: take it.

Now, I want you to shape it exactly the way you want it to read by changing the formatting.

If you wrote I saw a dove it alighted on my hand and frittered there, do you really intend that as a run-on sentence? Or, do you read it as:
I saw a dove;
it alighted on my hand
and frittered there

Or, maybe you even read it as:
I saw
a dove.
alighted on
my hand and
frittered there.

Use commas, semi-colons, periods, and hyphens to create small pauses. Use line breaks and new paragraphs to create longer pauses and new thoughts.

Then, share what you’ve done via the submission form (where only I will see it and respond) or in the comments section below (where only everyone may see and respond).

Go ahead. It’s easier than you think. And, it’s the first step toward a free-verse poem you’ll love. I promise.

Submissions are now closed. Find our latest challenge to enter.


©2021 Chel Owens

*I made up the term mishmashmess verse. Don’t look for it.

Saddle Up Saloon; Picture Promptin’

“Pal, you’re not ready? What’re ya doin’? Jeez, I figgered a picture prompt’d be purty easy from our end.”

“You’d think, Kid. An’ I think I figgered out thet the reason our writer writes is she cain’t take a decent pi’ture. I’m lookin’ through her photos an’ ain’t seen a one thet’s worth 99 words, let alone a thousand.”

“Well if ya do git a picture prompt up, it’s up ta participants how many words ta use.”

“See thet Kid? Her dang photo album is full a stuff like this. What’s the story?”

“Reckon that’s fer folks ta figger out fer themselves. Is that the prompt?”

“Well, let’s jist see what else is in here… hmm. Mebbe things is lookin’ up.”

“Mother tree, Pal! Ya pine-ally found a picture might inspire folks ta write a flash or a poem. Pal? Pal, where’d ya go?”

Elder Tree by Pal N. O’Roun   (99 words)

Trees’ stories are one of their many gifts. Go to them carrying questions and go without words and you might hear their soft voices.  

Why is this great pine the tallest tree in the woods? The parallel mounds and sinkholes and the age of its neighbors suggest that maybe this pine was young and limber when a fierce storm went through long ago. 

This pine has long witnessed giving and taking. It knows only life, in all its forms and seasons. This tree has withstood, still stands.

Let this tree whisper to you the song of your own heartwood. 

“Oh. Wow, Pal, ya even translated it from yer dialect.”

“Yep. Now folks, if I kin do it, you can. Just go where ever thet picture prompt leads ya. We look forward ta yer stories; please share in the comments or with a pingback ta yer post.”

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

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Ann Edall-Robson

“Kid, thought I told you ta bring some order ta the saloon! The stage is a mess. Look! Thet’s a mouse!”

“By gosh it is, Pal. Looks like the order I brung was Rodentia. Mus musculus, a house mouse. Course ya’d think it’s be Mus saloonacus.”

“Enough Kid, yer bein’ ridiculous. Git thet mus— mouse— outta here an’ git our guest in here.”

“Actually Pal, this mouse, Mus, is our guest. Mus is a character from one a Ann Edall-Robson’s children’s books, Mus; A Mouse Adventure. Thing is though, I’m not sure Mus’ writer or mother knows he’s here. He doesn’t always listen.”

“Hmmf. One a those characters. Well, when yer here yer a guest, so we’d best feed the little fella.”

“Way ahead a ya Pal. Pepe is in the back cuttin’ the cheese fer Mus.”    

“Ugh. Kid, I thought Ann Edall-Robson wrote poetry an’ fiction an’ sech that reflect her real life ranchin’ heritage.”

“Yep, an’ she also publishes non-fiction an’ photography that keep the old ways alive. An’ she writes children’s books!”

“Sure is versatile, thet one. I know I injoy her column here at Carrot Ranch, Quiet Spirits. Well, Kid, we best take good care a thet little Mus until Ann can come by an’ collect ‘im.”

“No problem, Pal. What’s the worst thing that could happen?”


“Relax, Pal. That feline won’t make a beeline fer Mus. That’s just ‘nuther a Ann’s characters. Meet Barn Cat Buttons, aka Baby Boy Buttons.”

“Whoa. Thet cat character seems so real.”

“He is Pal. Ya kin hear Ann talk ‘bout him here.”

“Ya sure it’s okay ta have thet barn cat in here? He’s always pushin’ the edge; might cause trouble.”

“Barn Cat Buttons’ll be all right. He knows right from wrong.”

“Oh, jeez, Kid, now there’s a white face calf in the saloon. Ann’s?”

“Yep, that’s Norman. I’ll bet Barn Cat Buttons is responsible fer Norman bein’ here. Reckon Ann’ll be lookin’ fer him. Heck we’re all lookin’ fer Norman. That book should be out soon.” 

“I’m beginnin’ ta wonder about Ann Edall-Robson. Think it’s more’n coincidence thet her characters has got attitude?”

“Well, they also have common sense Pal. But whyn’t ya ask her yerself? Here she is now. Howdy Ann Edall-Robson!”

“Good day to the two of you. It’s so nice to see you again, Pal and Kid. Sorry I’m a little out of breath. I have been all over looking for this crew of mine. I see Buttons is involved, so that does explain a lot.

“Buttons. Buttons. Buttons.”

“Oh geez, you found us. You sound just like the Wise One when he’s about to tell me something ‘wise’.”

“How did you all get here?”

“Well, you see…”

“I don’t want a story Buttons, I want the truth.”

“Okay, okay. It’s like this…We were all hanging around the barn when the Wise One came along…How does he do that, you know just show up?”


“Right, how did we get here? Like I said, we were hanging around the barn and the Wise One tells us we are supposed to get ourselves in gear and head on over to the favourite watering hole to meet up with you so we can all discuss planning Norman’s shindig.”

“Miss Ann.”

“Yes Mus.”

“Buttons has been looking after all of us, even me. He even made sure my momma knew I was coming here with him. He’s real nice. Not like that cat I met that said he was my friend and wasn’t. You know, the one you told the story about.”

“I’m happy to hear that Mus. But it doesn’t explain why you are all here bothering Pal and Kid when you should be back at the ranch watering hole. Buttons?”

“Oh, that watering hole! The one down by the creek near the barn.”

“Yes Buttons, that watering hole. How did you end up here and not there?”

“Well, the Wise One said, ‘favourite watering hole’, I knew it just had to be this one. He’s talked about coming here to have a beverage while he reads what other writers have left on the Saloon shelf to read. And he said that Pal and Kid are real nice and welcoming.”

“Oh Buttons, of course this is one of his favourite places, mine too. But I don’t think it’s quite the place for characters to come in and make themselves at home.”

“But they can see us and they talk to us just like you do!”

“Mmmhmmm, yes they do. How about, if Pal and Kid don’t mind, we have a beverage and visit a bit about Norman’s shindig?”

“Does that mean you are going to do what I always hear you doing when we are at home?”

“And what is it you hear me doing at home?”

“Talking to all us characters while you make words and squiggly lines on paper.”

“That’s called brain storming.”

“Whatever you say, Miss Ann, whatever you say. I think you and the Wise One are a lot alike, except you’re here and he’s not.”

“Buttons, mind your manners.”

“Yes m’am.”

“Well, Kid, it looks like Miss Ann has got them characters a hers reined in. Let’s go see what she kin tell us ‘bout Norman, the latest book in her Barncat Buttons series.”

“I can tell you that  Norman is available to pre-order from Ann’s website until November 28, 2021, Pal. You can order either a soft cover or hard cover book. Pre-orders will be shipped by post by December 3, 2021. Norman will be available on Amazon starting December 1, 2021.”

“Why thank you fer thet Miss Ann. Jist in time fer the holidays, a gift fer the kids.”

“This Kid wants ta read it! Reckon that’s a load off, ay, Ann, gitttin’ that book out inta the world.”

“It is a great to have finally corralled Norman, Kid. But I am working on two more Barn Cat Buttons Series books. Hoping that one of them will be published in 2022.”

“Yahoo! Keep ‘em comin’.”

“Could I guess thet children’s books is yer fav’rite genre ta write?”

“You’d be half right Pal. My favourite genre, of the several that I write in, would be a tie for first place – Cozy Mysteries and the Children’s books. This might give a better insight as to why I write for children.” 

“Reckon stories is important fer ever’one. An’ you certainly write fer ever’one.”

“It keeps me busy! I have two more books that will be published in 2022, besides the Barncat Buttons book. One is the second Brandi Westeron Mystery, and the other is a workbook to do with Indi writing.”

“Jeez, Ann. Yer doin’ all thet, an’ yer column at Carrot Ranch, an yer flashes at Carrot Ranch… how do ya do it?”

“I like to write! I think everyone likes to write. They may not admit it, and they may not have a book in them, but perhaps, short versions of prose is the place to start. So I created the Five Word Sentence Challenge that uses one of my photographs as the prompt. It is meant to encourage everyone, not just writers, to interpret the picture. Who knows, it might be the beginning of a next best seller. Each week the challenge is shared to various FB groups, including Carrot Ranchers, as well as through a weekly newsflash I send out on Thursdays with the link. To participate, bookmark the link , sign up to receive the newsflash, or follow me on FB.”

“That sounds like a fun challenge! It’s worth checkin’ out jist fer yer beautiful photography.”

“Thank you Kid. Thank you both for looking out for my wayward characters and for the refreshments.”

“You and yours are welcome at the Saddle Up Saloon any time, Ann. Best a luck with all yer projects.”

“Yep. If folks ain’t poked aroun’ yer website an’ read some a yer books, they’s really missin’ out.”

Ann Edall-Robson relies on her heritage to keep her grounded. Reminders of her family’s roots mentor her to where she needs to go. Gifting her with excerpts of a lifestyle she sees slipping away. Snippets shyly materialize in Ann’s writing and photography. She is a lover of life and all things that make us smile. Edall-Robson shares moments others may never get to experience at HorsesWestDAKATAMA™ Country, and Ann Edall-Robson where you can also contact her. Books written by Ann Edall-Robson are available through her website, at Amazon, and various other online locations

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

Saddle-Up Saloon; Colleen’s Double Ennead Challenge No. 10

Welcome to November! We’re almost at the end of another year. Welcome to the Carrot Ranch Double Ennead Monthly Poetry Challenge. Every third Monday of the month, I’m here at the Saloon with another challenge to help get your poetic juices flowing. Each month, we will explore a different theme or image to inspire our poetry. Take your time, there’s no hurry! You have an entire month to write your poem.

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

Check out the poems from last month HERE

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

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

#Ekphrastic Inspiration

Art has a way of inspiring ekphrastic poetry. The idea is to see behind the obvious, possibly using your third eye to pull out more layers of meaning from a particular piece of art. Van Gogh is a favorite of mine because of the softness—a dreamlike imagery portrayed in his work. So, let’s use the image below to inspire this month’s double ennead poem.

Read: Perspectives in Writing Ekphrastic Poetry

Always check your syllables with a syllable counter when composing and writing syllabic poetry. The pronunciation of words is very important to conveying a meaning in your poems. Please use as a syllable counter.

Our Inspiration:

Image Credit: Vincent van Gogh
Painting, Oil on Canvas
Nuenen, The Netherlands: November, 1885
Kröller-Müller Museum
Otterlo, The Netherlands, Europe

Use the image above to compose your double ennead poem. Remember your poem should have 99 syllables.

My example follows:

"Farewell to Another Year"

frigid morn, Autumn kissed—
quiescent fields glow,
tempered with an aura of seasonal flow
the wheel of the year turns
another month lost 

under the sun's frail rays,
hardwood shadows fade,
while frost browned grasses sing anthems to the wind
naked tree limbs tremble,
upright to the end

death's undulations voiced 
leaves fall... orange rain,
bird requiems pay deference to the dead
another harvest done,
spring dreams fill my head

© Colleen M. Chesebro

Poetry is based on perceptions. We will all interpret the image differently. Follow your inner voice for inspiration.

  • Write a double ennead poem based on the painting above.
  • Post it on your blog.
  • Include a link back to this challenge in your post. (copy the https:// address of this post into your post).
  • Read and comment on your fellow poet’s work. Feedback from other poets is how we grow our poetry writing craft.
  • Like and leave a comment below if you choose to do so.
  • I’ll visit, comment, and share your poetry on social media!

Now have fun and write some poetry!