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Calling Home

Family. That word conjures up images or thoughts. For some, they think of those they live with, others may think of parents or loved ones outside of their household, while some immediately focus on children and grandchildren. There are living family members, and those we’ve grieved. Whomever or whatever comes to mind, family has a lasting impact. 

Our world has undergone an unthinkable health crisis with the COVID pandemic. Lockdown kept us in the safe confines of our homes with social distancing imposed, as fellow columnist, T. Marie Bertineau, shared in her column, isolation was not the hardest part, to which I agree. My retired parents are social and enjoy their daily outings. This apple fell far from that tree. I worried that they wouldn’t be able to sustain a lockdown as well as I could. 

Anna with her abuela.

In the early days of the shelter-in-place, I remember thinking how grateful I was that my grandparents were no longer living to endure this crisis. They each battled enough in their lifetimes: wars, illnesses, poverty, and racism. Days rolled into weeks and weeks turned into month after month of uncertainty. Soon, I found myself longing for the wisdom of my grandparents. 

My abuela would have undoubtedly helped us stretch our pantry items into delicious and comforting meals so we wouldn’t have to leave the safety of our home for groceries.

Anna dancing with her abuelo.

My abuelo, a WW II veteran, would have remained updated with what was being reported globally, nationally, and locally.  He would have advised his seven children, nine grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren on what he gathered from various sources of media and perceived to be the truth.

My paternal grandma was a single mother of eight, having outlived two of her children and a spouse, a grandmother to twenty-something, countless great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren, and now, great-great-great grandbabies. She would have reminded us that this too shall pass, but not without some lasting effects. She would have said that fear is always an option, but not to expect something beautiful to come from living in that state. Similarly, my grandma would have reaffirmed that no one is invincible, and ignorance never wins. The entire family would have had homemade sets of masks sent to them. Most of all, my grandparents would have expected our family to look out for one another and our neighbors. 

Anna with her grandma.

I recall going into summer longing for some respite, but seeing hate and racism take center stage. As I stated earlier, these were the things my grandparents endured as Mexican Americans. In an instant, I saw the fear in my children’s eyes as local protests clogged city streets and freeways. Then, unexpectedly, we received word that my mother-in-law died. She was just here and then she wasn’t. My husband lost his mother, and my children lost a grandparent. I knew abuela would have pulled out her prayer candles and kept them flickering from morning until night. 

Throughout the pandemic, I learned how easy it is to become mired down in doom and uncertainty. It is strange how these events can change everything that we thought we knew about ourselves and our family. This was not the time to run, but instead, be still and listen. My comfort with being distant was no longer acceptable. I could hear my grandparents telling me to connect. 

Anna’s parents’ dog ready to answer the evening call.

My children and I have made it an evening ritual for the past year to video call my parents to see them, their dog, and so they can see their grandchildren. Our calls are so expected now that even their dog meanders around them in the evening anticipating the ring of the phone.

Placing a call to my parents on speaker as I drove or accomplished another daily task, was how our conversations previously occurred. They often worked when I phoned them, and it was easier for us to converse without stopping our daily grind. Now, we all sit and actually take the time to see one another, albeit through a screen. Initially, I thought the connection was for my children and my parents, but I make them laugh and I look forward to that each day. That heals my soul too. 

I wholeheartedly feel the pandemic has some lessons in it for humanity. As an educator, I teach my students about social awareness by looking inward first, then using that self-awareness to bond with one another. As a strong family of classmates, we are then able to bless our greater community with our unconditional love and respect. I realized I gleaned that outlook from my grandparents and how they approached life, despite adversity. 

It’s been decades since I hugged my grandma, and over a decade since I laughed with my abuelo. Next year, will mark ten years since my abuela left us. I would love a phone call with my grandparents again. The pandemic has reminded me that despite the years, I still remember their wisdom and what it felt like to be in their presence. I miss my grandparents tremendously and the days of being called their grandchild.


Photo Credit: J.Rodriguez

Anna Rodriguez is a wife, mother, and elementary teacher. She is completing her first contemporary novel set in California’s Central Valley. Family and friendships are important themes for Anna’s work because of the influences they have had on her life. When Anna is not writing or hanging out with her family, she can be found reading or searching for music to add to her eclectic playlist. She will complete her MFA in Creative Writing in the summer of 2021.

Twitter: @solwithinanna

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy Clark Farley!

“Kid, who’s thet feller jist come in? I don’t think he’s from aroun’ here.”

“Well, I’ll be a six sentence gun-of-a-son. That’s Clark Farley.”

“Some sorta writer, Kid?”

“Some sort fer sure. Thinkin’ he might be sortin’ it out. Let’s talk to ‘im. Howdy Clark! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Well are ya er ain’tcha?”

“Pardon?”

“Wondrin’, are ya er ain’tcha a writer?”

“Well, I have written a Six Sentence Story every week since sometime in July 2015. Six Sentences is where I met your writer.”

“Whut?!”

“Easy, Kid, ya know it ain’t never been a ‘sclusive relationship. Writers kin carry on with all sorts a dif’rent characters an’ dif’rent blog hops. Wouldn’t ya say, Clark?”

“Ahem, well yes. As I have a first class jones for serial stories, I have a large number of characters at any one time.”

“Yer a serial writer? Seriously?”

“Yes, I have concurrent stories. Of late I’ve written Six Sentence Stories as installments of two serial stories, ‘The Whitechapel Interlude’ and ‘The Case of the Missing Fig Leaf’.”

“Six Sentence Stories agin… what d’ya injoy most ‘bout Six Sentence Stories?”

“They happen every week! Interestingly enough, most of my novel length stories, such as ‘Almira’ began as a Six Sentence Story.”

“Ain’t surprisin’. Ever’ acorn contains a tree.”

“Our writer’s grown some stories there. She say’s yer a hoot ta write with, Clark. D’ya participate in any other blog hops er writin’ prompts?”

“Yes. The TToT (Ten Things of Thankful) and, until relatively recently, Finish the Sentence Friday.”

“Them story lines a yers, all them characters… got favorites?”

“My favorite right now is Almira and ‘The Case of the Missing Starr’.”

“Why thet one?”

“The characters became real enough to tell me the story. I listened and typed.”

“Yep, we kin relate ta that. Some of us fictional characters make it real easy fer our writers. Think sometimes we work harder an’ you know who. We run a saloon an’ never git a chance ta set an’ injoy a bev’rage.”

“Shush, Kid, this ain’t ‘bout you. Clark, ya said ya been writin’ Six Sentence Stories an’ even growin’ some of ‘em inta novel length stories. Thet’s some word wranglin’ right there. What d’ya find most challengin’ ‘bout writin’?

“Starting. Writing isn’t hard, starting the process on any given day, very much can be. I wish I’d been the one to originally say, ‘I love having written’.”

“Well it soun’s like yer givin’ it a good go, writin’. Which come first, the writin’ er the bloggin’?”

“I’d say I’m a blogger first.  I’ve been blogging since June 2009. My lack of skills prompted me to write, as immersing myself in a story is a painless way to practice.”

“Kin ya tell us more ‘bout yer blog?”

“Thought you’d never ask, Pal. The Wakefield Doctrine (the theory of clarks, scotts and rogers) is a perspective on the world and the people who make it up. The Doctrine has proven to be remarkably predictive, coherent, useful and fun. The core idea is determining how a person relates themselves to the world around them, i.e., as an Outsider, a Predator or a Herd Member, allowing a body to know way more about a person than one might imagine.”

“This like one a them personality profiles?”

“I suppose, or an insight into your personal reality. The core premise of the Wakefield Doctrine is that we are, all of us, born with the potential to experience the world as any of the three. At a very early age we settle into one (and only one) and grow and develop our social strategies, coping mechanisms, quirks and picadilloes, aka personalities. While we have only one ‘predominant worldview’ we never lose the potential of ‘the other two’. Sometimes our secondary or tertiary aspect is significant.  The Doctrine is concerned with the character of the relationship between the individual and the world around them. For reasons best labeled serendipitous, the three categories of Outsider(clarks), Predators(scotts) and Herd Members(rogers) yields a degree (and quality) of insight into a person that is, kinda, impressive.”

“That’s some deep shift. Yer no ordinary writer! If yer blog is ta do with this theory of clarks, scotts, and rogers, what’s yer bloggin’ goals?”

“Why, to write the perfect Wakefield Doctrine post.”

“Now I’m wunnerin’ if thet doctrine a yers heps yer writin’.”

“The Wakefield Doctrine is grounded in the notion of three ways a person can relate themselves to the world around them, as would an Outsider (clarks), a Predator(scotts) or a Herd Member(rogers). For unknown reasons, the characteristics of the experience of the world (and the people who make it up) from these ‘worldviews’, is totally on the mark. The three worldviews are gender, age, and culture neutral. If you said, ‘Hey! A clark, a scott and a roger are all in a car approaching a (very) recent traffic accident, how would each behave?’, it wouldn’t matter whether they were male or female or old or young or Romanian. They would, beneath the external shape of behavior, respond like Outsiders or Predators or Herd Members.

So, for writing, especially cross-gender (i.e. male author writing a female or female writing male character) there is possible a fundamental accuracy in predicting responses and reactions to novel situations.”

 “Huh. Might have ta study up on thet.”

“Clark, d’ya find it at all odd to be innerviewed by fictional ranch hands from a virtual word wrangling ranch?”

“Have you read any of my writings? Lol… no, serially, some of my best friends are virtual.”

“Ya sure got a passel a characters in yer varied stories, Clark. Do ya have fav’rites?

“They’re all my favorites.”

“Which a them’s most likely to sit up at the bar here an’ injoy a beverage?”

“I think that’s depend on what is going on in their ‘lives’ or, narrative permitting, what they believe is happening in their respective worlds.”

“Well don’t look now, but I think one a them jist walked in.”

“Ian Devereaux! What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same, Clark. What, you’d rather be here with hayseeds in a saloon than with me at the Bottom of the Sea Strip Club and Lounge?”

“If you must know, these characters are interviewing me. But don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten your serial Ian.”

“Me, I’m just searching for a reason for it all. But, please, don’t tell my client, she thinks I’m trying to find her ex-husband’s murderer. Funny thing about missing persons… figuring out the ‘why’ is way more useful than the ‘where’. Everyone’s got a where.”

“Jeez, Ian, yer so Guy Noir!”

“And more, Pal. I have to go now… Mysteries to solve. Don’t mind the heel-clickin…kinda want to get back through the right door. ”

“Uh, yeah.”

“That shouldn’t be considered a judgement on your existence. As imaginary settings go, you got yourself quite the nice gig here. Only one way in, a thousand backdoors, and the help are working for love not money.”

“Ya got thet right. Good luck with yer case, Mr. Devereaux. An’ Clark, it was real good gittin’ ta know ya an’ show ya off here at the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Yep, we wish ya luck with all yer writin’ Mr. Farley. Mebbe you’ll try a Carrot Ranch flash challenge one a these days, 99 words, no more no less. Yer sure ta recognize some a the ranchers that come by.”

“The pleasure’s been all mine Kid and Pal.”

“Well Kid, thet Clark Farley was quite a character.”

“No, Pal, he’s real. Ian was the character. One a many.”

“What I meant was— oh, never mind. Hey Kid, I think the mic is still on.”

“Oh shift, not again, here I’ll jist

Clark Farley can be found on his entertaining and interesting site, The Wakefield Doctrine. In addition to his fun stories and serials, Clark is one of the most asterisking commenters out there. One of the three gentlemen in the photo is not only a clark, but is the Clark.

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 shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Announcing the WINNERS of the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic

When the Rodeo came to town, Rough Writers from around the world answered the call. You came, you sat in the saddle, you rode the bull, and you joined the parade.

Most important, you were inspired by our wonderful friend, Sue Vincent. Sue has been battling terminal cancer, and we’re thrilled that she is around to see the winners (though I admit I cheated and let her know the top winner a little early). Participants were allowed and encouraged to donate to help Sue and her family, but we believe the photo she provided as the prompt was worthy of any prize. Her photo prompted 63 wonderful 99 word stories and 99 syllable poems; if the average picture is worth 1,000 words, then we can be certain her prompt is way above average!

The Sue Vincent Rodeo Challenge Prompt

When speaking with Sue following the contest, we learned that everything YOU have done has been an immense help. You’ve helped Sue get essential equipment – such as a wheelchair – that has helped her in these days. As she continues to blog, like an absolute hero, the donations and help you’ve given through the Rodeo has given her the comfort and items she needs to keep going. Her family has also seen how important she is in the online community, which is something that can often seem mysterious and vague to people not directly involved. Ultimately, everyone who participated gets the big prize: you did something amazing, and you stepped up to the plate. The quality of your love, kindness, and creativity has made way for great things.

Even at the very first step, all the judges recognized the quality of the entries. We wish everyone could win the prizes ($100 grand prize, books for the runners up), but TUFF calls were made and we at last have our decision. Common themes judges picked out was “home” and “family”, which I think is fitting of the image.

These entries were checked by H.R.R. Gorman for word or syllable count, anonymized, and sent out to the first set of judges: D. Avery, Sue Spitulnik, and Sherri Matthews. The top fifteen entries were then passed to our second set of judges, and they had the job of choosing the top entries. From there, we determined…

WINNING ENTRIES

Judges Anne Goodwin, Geoff Le Pard, and Charli Mills met to discuss the peer-reviewed finalists on Zoom. Each winning story had a beginning, middle, and end. Each poem had a theme, movement, and rhythm. The judges discussed how 99-word stories and 99-syllable poems have the capacity to go beyond setting and imagery about a photo prompt. What stood out were stories and poems that not only felt complete or thematic but also held elements of surprise, whether irony, humor, or use of language. Ultimately, judges agreed on the ranking for the top three placing stories and each selected a personal favorite.

THIRD PLACE: Mornful Song
by Chel Owens

Warm, the scent of yesteryears;
A smile escapes her scowl
As hushing rushing heatherings
Dance ‘gainst the moorish howl.

Warming scent
Hush rush
Dance moor howl

A curlew calls his neighbors near
They answer, happily
A song of sunshined solitude
Surrounds her, willingly

Curlew’s call
Sun shine
Will ing ly

Aloft, then, flies the feathered throng,
No longer bound by fears.
Aloft, she soars; leaves life behind -
Behind, with yesteryears.

Judges’ Comments: Of all the finalist poems, judges appreciated this one best for going beyond descriptive imagery of the photo. The language is lush and rhythmic, and the poet used the syllables, “sun shine” and “will ing ly” as a bird’s call. Judges hesitated over the title – either it was a play on words for morning or a typo. Given the play with words and sounds within judges decided the title was clever.

SECOND PLACE: A Home, Someday
by Chel Owens

My grandma told of wondrous things: tall poles with whispering green papers; rock mounds a person could never climb; and cold, white flakes that sparkled in moonlight. I used to sit, mouth and eyes full wide, trying to see what her silent eyes remembered.

I saved her words; soaked them up.

Now, while my own grandchildren lean against the thick portholes of our transport ship and gaze at distant nothing, I tell Grandma’s memories. I tell of evergreens and mountains. Of snow.

I tell them of the home we left in search of another.

For their own grandchildren.

Someday.

Judges’ Comments: Judges noticed the unusual descriptions of evergreens, mountains, and snow as if the narrator and audience do not know these objects. This concept thrust the piece into the realm of story beyond a setting. The story structure narrows until the reader is left with a single word, “Someday.” It blends hope with despair for the plight of this uprooted family. The last sentence in the first paragraph caused some confusion regarding the narrative view. The judges agreed it could be a stronger story without that sentence. Overall, it remained memorable.

FIRST PLACE: Seeking Peace
by Norah Colvin

They stopped on a verge overlooking the valley.

“It’s beautiful, Dad. And so big. You said it was small.”

“Not small in size, son. Small in mind.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Folks round here didn’t want your mum and me getting married. They threatened to keep us apart. Cruel words were spoken. We left and never returned.”

“Why’re we coming back?”

“Your mother asked us — to make peace. Before it’s too late.”

“Like it is for her?” His voice trembled.

“Yeah.” He rubbed the boy’s head.

“Will we?”

“We’ll know soon enough.”

He inched the car towards the village.

Judges’ Comments: This author nailed a response to a photo challenge with the opening line, taking the reader from photo to story with an economy of words. This is a smart strategy when you only have 99 words or 99 syllables. We step out of the image into the lives of a father and son. The dialog is clear, sharp, and tells the story of loss and hopeful redemption. The judges appreciated a place not small in size but small in mind. That single concept conveys much. A well-crafted story with emotion and purpose takes ownership of the photo.

JUDGES’ PICKS

ANNE’S PICK: A New Day Dawns
by Colleen Chesebro

snowy crags pay homage
to the land spirits,
Landvættir—guardians of the terra firma
earth, air, fire, and water
jointly bound as one

where the ley lines converge
strength and energy
exist in a parallel space, winter-worn
bronzed leaves on barren trees
watchers of the truth

birth, life, death, and rebirth,
earth magic abounds
reflected in the adumbrate clouds of spring
for keepers of the land
another day dawns

The elemental imagery pulled Anne into this peaceful poem about the circle of life. Although not normally drawn to the spiritual, she liked the prioritisation of landscape over people. She hadn’t heard of Landvættir, although guessed it was Icelandic, but that didn’t spoil her pleasure. She liked the simple language and thus queried the use of ‘adumbrate’ in this context.

GEOFF’S PICK: No Place Like Home
by Willow Willers

They had spent the last five years searching for the perfect place to settle. Travelling to several planets and even one other galaxy but nothing suited.

So their hearts lifted at the sight of the valley. The elders raised their hands pronoucing "This is the perfect place, protected by mountains with it’s own water supply. Even a few remaining buildings."

A voice from the back chirped up.. "That’s where we started from, I can see my house" There was hush, a sharp intake of breath. "As we have always said" their elders smiled. "There is no place like home"

Geoff appreciated the author’s humour, a challenge in a 99 piece where a story has to be crafted, too. The sweep of the story, travelling galaxies before finding their new resting place was nicely done as was the punchline. Geoff felt the ending could perhaps have been tighter had the piece finished at ‘I can see my house’. And the unfortunate typo of ‘it’s’ rather than ‘its’ in the second paragraph lost the piece points in the eyes of the others, leading to it missing being placed. It emphasised the importance of checking your work, especially in small pieces. But overall, well done.

CHARLI’S PICK: Wind and the Wilderness
by Chengir

“I’m hungry and hate this kind of weather,” Radess complained bitterly.

“Are you kidding?” Boydann protested, “This is the best. The leaves have begun to fall and now there is less to hide behind. You just have to be patient.”

Radess wasn’t convinced. “Like that hunter who shot at us last year?”

“Okay, there was that.”

Sighing, Radess twisted his head. “Still, the only way to eat is to hunt.”

“True enough,” Boydann answered. The two vultures spread their enormous wings and slowly lifted themselves into the wind. They floated on the buoyant currents of air. . . and they waited.

The vultures got to Charli. Despite the technicality that vultures are scavengers, Charli delighted in the element of surprise. She also appreciated that this story stepped into the photo rather than describe it. She could see them spreading their wings within the image. She forgave the author the use of an adverb in the opening sentence. Humor, pacing of dialog, and story made this one worth noting.

Sue Vincent

Sue has been an inspiration in this little corner of the internet and in the Silent Eye school of myth and mysticism. She’s a kind, wonderful person who has opened many people’s hearts and minds to mystery, fun, and beauty. For years she has contributed a haiku almost every day at midnight, and many people love and enjoy them.

Sue is a poet, photographer, and wordsmith who you can find on her blogs The Daily Echo and/or France & Vincent. Take a look at her blog, if you will – you’ll be sure to find something to entertain you. She (and her compatriot, Stuart France) has published several books, which you can examine here.

If you want to know more about Sue’s battle with cancer, the team here at the rodeo encourages you to see a couple of her posts, especially this one and this one.

We hope you had a good time with the Rodeo, Sue, and we wish you luck on your adventure. We’ll miss you for sure, and we thank you for your work, your legacy, and your heart.

The Judges

ANNE GOODWIN is the author of two novels and a short story collection. Her next novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, is scheduled for publication in May 2021. A former clinical psychologist, Anne is also a book blogger with a particular interest in fictional therapists. 
Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com

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

CHARLI MILLS, lead buckaroo at Carrot Ranch Literary Community, completes her MFA in May 2021. She writes 99-word stories weekly and uses the format to teach storytelling to combat veterans, researchers, and rural entrepreneurs.

D. AVERY plays with words, sculpting stories and poems, at Shiftnshake.

SHERRI MATTHEWS is a non-fiction writer with published articles in magazines and anthologies. She blogs at A View From My Summerhouse and at her memoir column at Carrot Ranch, an international online literary community. A keen walker and photographer from the UK, Sherri raised her family in California for twenty years. Her work in the legal and medical fields came in handy for her caring and advocacy role as Mum to an adult child with Asperger’s Syndrome. Today, Sherri lives not too far from the sea in England’s West Country, hard at work on edits of her debut memoir. Writing stories from yesterday, making sense of today, giving hope for tomorrow.
Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/aviewfrommysummerhouse
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/WriterSherri
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/sherri-matthews/60/798/aa3

SUE SPITULNIK writes about veterans’ and spouses’ issues on her blog.

H.R.R. GORMAN is a PhD chemical engineer with expertise in biotechnology and making drugs. If you want to know more about this white-trash-turned-excessively-bourgeois maniac, you can go to https://hrrgorman.wordpress.com/.

Read the entire Collection here.

Saddle Up Saloon; Colleen’s Double Ennead Challenge

Welcome to the Saloon and the first Double Ennead Monthly Poetry Challenge. Every third Monday of the month, I’ll be over here at Carrot Ranch with another double ennead challenge. Each month, we will explore a different theme or image to inspire our poetry. I hope to see you in the Saloon!

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.

Why write poetry?

When a writer embraces the ability to convey complex images and emotions in just a few lines, they have learned to strengthen their writing. In the same way, flash fiction helps us hone in on the words to tell our story, syllabic poetry does much the same by forcing us to find the best word and meaning. This brevity of words leads to more concise writing.

Syllabic verse is any kind of poetry defined by the number of syllables in each line. In English, syllables must have a vowel sound. For example, the word “apple” has two vowel sounds, which divide it into the syllables “ap” and “ple.” Depending on our accent, we pronounce some words with different accents on the syllables. For example, the word “fire” and “poem” can be read with either one or two vowel sounds.

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. You can use sodacoffee.com as a syllable counter. There is also howmanysyllables.com, which is my favorite because you get access to synonyms as you’re composing.

Our Inspiration:

Credit: https://pixabay.com/users/dreamyart

Use the image above to compose your double ennead poem. Remember to count your syllables.

My example follows:

rosy morn, winter kissed—
fields incandescent
bursting with the glory of a brand new day
the wheel of the year turns
another month gone

From the sun's fiery glow
lilac shadows fade
while frost browned grasses sing anthems to the wind
wild black-headed geese soar
far away from home

Beneath the frosty rime
roots tremble with growth,
awaiting the thaw and the warm rains to come
seeds loiter in the depths
dreaming of the spring

©2021 Colleen M. Chesebro

Poetry is based on your perceptions. While I described what I saw in the image, you might feel and interpret the image differently. Follow your inner voice for inspiration.

  • Write a double ennead poem based on the image 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!

To See What You Create!

Saddle Up Saloon; Howdy, Colleen Chesebro!

“Kid, ya told me ya got Colleen Chesebro comin’ in this week.”

“Yep. Pretty cool, huh?”

“Yeah, but…”

“But what, Pal?”

“Well, I have ta ask, ‘cause we’re fictional characters an’ sometimes we git fictional characters in here at the Saddle Up as guests, so, I jist was wunnerin’… is Colleen fer real?”

“Of course she is, Pal. Jeez, why d’ya have ta ask that?”

“Well, mebbe she’s real, but I jist find her unbelievable.”

“She is fantastic, if that’s what ya mean.”

“Kid, I cain’t figger her out. Colleen Chesebro is a ex-military faerie whisperer? D’ya s’pose she’s got like a split pers’nality or somethin’?”

“Maybe you oughtta split, Pal, ‘cause here she is now. Jist shush an’ be polite fer g’ness sakes. Howdy Colleen! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.”

“Colleen Chesebro! I kin ask her m’sef.”

“That’s enough ‘bout what she’s done, Pal. Shush now. I wanna know more ‘bout what Colleen’s up ta now.”

“Hello Kid. Hello Pal. Kid, if Pal has questions for me I don’t mind. I certainly don’t want to remain “unbelievable”.  Ask away, Pal. Maybe I can convince you I’m for real.”

“Ha, Kid! Thank you, Colleen. Well, were ya really in the military?”

“Yes, Pal, I served in the Air Force.”

“Thought so. But I tend ta think a ya as a writer an’ a blogger.”

“I’m glad you do, Pal! But it was the Air Force that taught me how to be a multi-tasker. With writing and blogging, you are always doing a few things at one time—writing and sharing to social media, commenting, encouraging others, and sharing your thoughts. I wear many hats in my world. I work hard splitting my time between the things I love, like writing poetry, and the things I don’t love, like cleaning and doing laundry! LOL!”

“Huh. Did ya write when ya was in the Air Force?”

“Yes, I was a Chapel Management Specialist, and an Administrative Specialist— a paper pusher! I also learned bookkeeping and kept the books for the different Chaplain accounts, ordered supplies, and set up the altars for services.”

“Holy— chaps? Or chapel did ya say?”

“Said chapel Pal. At my first base, Moody AFB, GA, I was the Chapel Historian. I updated the official records of happenings for the Chapel each year. I also created the different programs for the many different church services held at the Chapel.”

“Write on!”

“You bet I did, Pal. My next assignment was at Luke AFB, AZ. In 1980, I helped write the first regulation for the USAF women’s dress code during pregnancy. I was enlisted, so an officer’s name signed off on the regulation, but I wrote it. That’s the way it was in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Women were enlisting in the military in droves by then. The men didn’t know what to do with us.”

“Huh. So ya’ve been a writer fer a while, in a way. When ya got outta the Air force did ya write fer a livin’?”

“My subsequent civilian jobs found me working in accounting. Through the years, I was a bookkeeper for a builder in California, an oil company in Montana, a ranch in Montana, a law firm in Montana, a tax and accounting firm in Montana, and I even worked for a bit in the accounting department in a hospital in Montana. Before I retired, I dabbled in selling home and auto insurance. I left when I discovered I was rotten at selling. LOL!”

“Well, thet ‘splains some shift, don’t it Kid? The syll’ble countin’? The ‘finity fer the Ranch?”

“Reckon it does, Pal. Colleen, did ya write much afore joinin’ up with the Air Force?”

“I’ve always dabbled in writing and poetry, KId. It was escapism for me and still is.” 

“Yep, kin relate a might. Colleen, ya been busy in many ways lately. Ya jist traveled from Arizona ta Michigan. Heard tell these are strange times. As ya traveled, what’d ya spy with yer Poet’s eye?”

 “From Arizona, all the way through Illinois, huge swaths of the western and midwestern landscape were dotted with silver wind turbines. I thought about what it would be like to be an alien landing on our planet and seeing these three-armed machines. Like the gods, we’d harnessed the power of the wind to do our bidding. Would they recognize us as magical beings? See where my mind always goes? LOL!”

“Are ya referrin’ ta yer faerie an’ magic innerests?”

 “Yes. I am, Kid. When I started blogging in April of 2014, I didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to do with my writing.”

“Yeah?” 

“Then, not long after I started blogging, I had an interesting experience. On a warm November morning (we lived in Pensacola, Florida then) I set out on one of my normal morning walks. Near the side of the road, I observed what I perceived to be a bird, flapping around in the bushes. Upon closer observation, I realized it wasn’t a bird at all! I stared into the green eyes of a faery hovering over the swamp. Yup… you heard me right. A faery! At least, that’s how my mind interpreted the event.”

“I read thet in yer book Faeries, Myths & Magic.”

“Yes. It was quite an experience. It gave me pause, but, seriously, looking back now, I know I saw a faery elemental.”

“We believe ya. We got chapfaeries keepin’ an eye on things here at the Saloon.”

“So you know about this. Faery elementals are nature beings based off earth, water, air, or fire. This tiny being was possibly an undine or water elemental. Although, she did fly, so good chance she was a sylph, a being of air.”

“Soun’s like ya done studied up on these things.”

“Yes, I have!”

“Were ya skeered Colleen?”

“No, Kid. I felt no animosity from this experience. Instead, this experience ignited my interest in the fey and all things magical. It literally was an eye-opening, almost spiritual experience. Since then, I’ve connected with another part of me I’d never explored before. I felt like the lotus; my life experiences the petals that opened me to new realities, like faery-craft, and other pagan interests.”

“Cool! I also have an in’rest in pigs an’ sech, Colleen.”

“Pigs and— ? No, Kid, pagan. I’m a pagan and a Buddhist, which led me to my love of syllabic poetry. There is something special about haiku and the other forms that fill a place in my heart. I think it’s the brevity of words, expressed in a few syllables, which holds so much meaning. I find the composition of these poems almost like a puzzle. You must find the right words and syllables to convey the perfect meaning.”

“Yep, yep, we git thet. Not fer nuthin’, Mz. Colleen, but we got a Poet’s Tree out back. An offshoot from the ‘riginal one back et the Ranch.”

“I know. You both write buckaroo-ku. What exactly is that?”

“Um, well, if we were ta look back in the archives, we’d prob’ly find thet it’s not real clear.”

“Yep, Pal’s right. It’s murky-like. I think most times it’s adhere’d ta some syllable count, an’ most times it’s ranch set, but oft times it’s jist whatever falls from the tree.”

“That’s nuts!”

“Yep. It’s what we do. But yer a bit more disciplined ‘bout yer poe’try. A reg’lar Metrist.”

“(Told ya Kid, thet’s thet mil’try backround. Hup, hup!)”

“An’ I told ya ta shush Pal, be polite.”

“Ha! You two! I am a military metrist. And a pagan and a Buddhist.  So sure; meanwhile, back on the blogs… I found a haiku challenge to participate in. When I first started blogging there weren’t any poetry challenges but this one. After that I created Writers Quote Wednesday, where bloggers could choose a quote and write about a theme I’d suggested.”

“Didn’t Marsha Ingrao jist take thet over?” 

“Yes, because I’m so busy! Thank you Marsha!”

“What’s yer mainstay, Colleen?”

“Well, by 2016, I decided to begin my challenge, Tanka Tuesday, and it’s still running strong today! Between my interests in faeries and poetry, well… that’s how I became a “word-witch!”

“So is thet what yer blog’s about now? Word witchin’ with the Tanka Tuesday challenge?”

“Well, there’s that and a whole lot more at Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry.  Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry is an uplifting community where poets can learn the basics of writing Japanese and American syllabic poetry by sharing their own poetic inspiration within a weekly poetry challenge called Tanka Tuesday. Participants submit their poetry written in one of the twelve forms: haiku, senryu, haiga, tanka, gogyohka, haibun, tanka prose, renga, cinquain, and its variations, Etheree, nonet, and/or shadorma.”

“Yep, thet’s a pop’lar challenge. An’ a good place fer folks ta learn an’ try new forms. There’s clear d’recshuns an’ links.”

“Exactly. And it’s a community. Poets receive positive feedback from peers who inspire each other to stretch their creativity. Participants and readers return each week to celebrate the weekly poetry stars and to buy books from the Tanka Tuesday Book Store.”

“Soun’s good. Think our writer’s ‘casion’ly showed up there.”

“She has, occasionally. This is an open challenge, and everyone is always welcome to join in.”

“Yer Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry blog has a lot to it Colleen. Folks should poke aroun’ over there. They might learn somethin’ an’ have some fun.”

“Thank you, Kid. I also have an author blog at colleenchesebro.com where I share my poetry, flash fiction, and more personal writings.”

“Yer blogs must keep ya some busy! What’s been yer proudest moments as a blogger?”

“My proudest moments on my blog are watching the poets in my challenge grow in their poetry writing abilities. I take great pride in hearing that some of them have entered and won contests or been accepted in literary journals, including the fact that many have written their own books of poetry. These challenges give us the writing practice we need to perfect our writing craft. How cool is that?”

“Very cool, Colleen!”

“My dream is to continue offering a quality poetry challenge to everyone, no matter what stage of experience they find themselves in. I also hope to create a yearly poetry contest with prizes. In addition, I would eventually like to create a yearly literary journal or anthology to give poets another opportunity for publication.” 

“She remind ya a someone we know, Pal?”

“Yep. Sure does, Kid. Colleen, ya’ve really grown them blogs a yers since startin’ out. What else ya cultivatin’?”

“I’ve written a book called, Word Craft ~ Prose & Poetry: The Art of Crafting Syllabic Poetry. This is a beginner how-to book on how to write the various forms of Japanese and American syllabic poetry that I feature in my challenges. I’m in the editing stage now. I hope to have this book published by April 2021.”

“Oh, we sure are lookin’ for’ard ta thet, Colleen.”

“They’s more too, Pal!”

“What ya talkin’ ‘bout, Kid?”   

“Big news Pal!”

“Whut?”

“Colleeen is gonna have a reg’lar spot at the Saddle Up!”

“No way!”

“Yep. Way.”

“Yahoo! Colleen, whut kin folks ‘spect?”

 “Well, do you remember the Carrot Ranch Rodeo from last October? I created a special syllabic form for the ranch—the Double Ennead, which is a 99-syllable poem.”

“We ‘member. It was kinda a tough challenge.”

“No, Pal, not TUFF; Double Ennead. Syllabic poe’try ranch style.” 

“Yes! 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.”

“You’ll love it, Pal. 99’s a palindrome. Git it? Pal-in-drome?”

“Shush up Kid, let ‘er finish.”

“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!”

“Yep, there she goes, always accountin’. Least now we got the back story ‘bout thet.”

“Now you shush, Pal. So what’s that got ta do with the Saddle Up Saloon Colleen?”

“I’ll be hosting a monthly challenge on Carrot Ranch where poets can experiment with this form in a fun setting at the Saddle-Up Saloon. It should be great fun! I promise, it will not be as demanding as the Rodeo contest.”

“Yeah! How ‘bout next week Colleen? We kin git outta yer way ever third Monday. Let folks have anuther chance ta play an’ practice writin’ craft, 99 words at a time.”

“Yes! I am really looking forward to it.”

“Folks, next week bring yer quills ta the Saloon. Colleen Chesebro will be our recurrin’ Guest Host. She’ll be pervidin’ an extra writin’ prompt challenge, her own Double Ennead form a syllabic poetry.”

colleenchesebro.com

wordcraftpoetry.com

Amazon Author Page

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 shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon: Quizzical Trivia

“Hey Kid. Another manic Monday. What ya got lined up fer this week?”

“Hey there, Pal. This week thought we’d run a quiz show outta the Saloon. Folks kin play along an’ answer the questions.”

“Thet soun’s like a trivial pursuit, Kid. Thinkin’ ya jist give up pursuin’ better options.”

“Mebbe, or mebbe you could be more open ta tryin’ new things. Oh, that could be a question: Who’s the ornery one, Kid or Pal? Naw, too easy, it’s clearly you.”

“Hmmf. Okay, here’s one: Which a us is most likely ta make a mess a things, Kid or Pal? Nope, cain’t use thet, it’s way too easy, don’t wanna assault folks’ ‘telligence.”

“Seriously, Pal, let’s get a quiz t’gether. Folks like qizzes.”

“Folks hate quizzes! Ya might trigger some a ‘em, Kid, stress ‘em out.”

“It’s jist fer fun, Pal. Like ya said, trivial. An’, it’s a open blog quiz.”

“All right, what d’ya got?”

1) Who did Wanda leave Ernie for in her debut scene?

a. Pepe LeGume

b. Pal

c. Will

d. Slim Chance

e. All of the above

2) When Ernie was running his still again, making ‘Corn-U-Cope-Ya’ll’, his homebrewed antiseptic lotion with aloe, who was hunkered down sewing masks en masse?

a. Pal and Kid

b. Kid and Doc Ranger

c. Nanjo Castille and Monreal Dorb

d. Shorty and Aussie 

e. None of the above

3) Where did Kid hide the Rainbow cat?

a. In the barn

b. In the poet tree

c. Under a hat

d. At the Saloon

e. All of the above

4) Where is Carrot Ranch World Headquarters?

a. Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington D.C.

b. Beijing

c. Reno, Nevada

d. Hancock, Michigan

e. Wannabe, Wisconsin

5) A chapfaeries are…

a. western fairies who wear chaps and just want to be the center of everything

b. little cowboy in chaps

c. mischievous and fun fairies that got loose in the saloon

d. the creation of Keweenaw artist Toj

e. all of the above

6) Frankie, the mail carrying character that was appropriated from Charli Mills, rides a horse named…

a. Clarice

b. Loggatha

c. Tip

d. Burt  

e. None of the above

7) There is a poet tree at Carrot Ranch and a second one at the Saloon, grown from a rooted cutting. Where is the third (known) poet tree?

a. Roberts Street Writery

b. World Headquarters

c. Charli’s backyard

d. All of the above

8) When Tip and Top Lemmon aren’t helping Kid and Pal with ranch chores, what do they do for fun?

a. They dance

b. They prance

c. They dress up in stilettos

d. They glisten

e. All of the above

9) The Saddle Up Saloon has featured which of the following?

a. karaoke, sort of

b. visual artists

c. writer/blogger interviews

d. fictional characters

e. Five at the Mic readings

f. recipe sharing

g. book promotions

h. friends of yours

i. all of the above

10) If you want to see more of something or if you have ideas for the Saloon, including being a guest yourself, you can:

a. Leave a message for Kid and Pal in the comments

b. Contact their writer at shiftnshake@dslayton.com

c. Send a message via Frankie

d. Tie a note to Curly’s tail

e. All of the above

“Okay. Thet quiz’ll do. So, how ya gonna collect the answers, Kid?”

“But it’s jist fer fun, Pal.”

“No way, ya gotta have a answer sheet an’ ya gotta correct the responses.”

“Okay, anyone who wants kin either put their answers in the comments, jist the number an’ letter an’ if they don’t wanna be public, they kin keep track themsefs.”

“Ya gotta let folks know how they did, Kid. Are there prizes fer top scores?”

“But it’s jist fer fun.”

“Hmmf.”

“Okay, after a bit I’ll put the answer sheet in the comments. But anyone who gits through our schtick  is a winner, Pal. So if yer a winner, guess what yer prize is? A guest spot at the Saddle Up Saloon! Jist notify us that yer a winner at shiftnshake@dslayton.com an’ we kin set somethin’ up. Congratulations in advance an’ thanks fer playin’.”

*************************************

“Phew. How’d ya think that went Pal?”

“Eh… it might not be yer lamest, Kid, but close. We’ll see. Mebbe folks do like quizzes. An’ mebbe you should try plannin’ more.”

“Gotta git people ta take the stage, Pal, otherwise it’s more a me wingin’ it. Anne Goodwin’s comin’ back soon, an’ Colleen Chesebro, an’ Ann Edall-Robson.”

“Kid, I think the mic is still on…”

“Shoulda asked, ‘which character’s best equipped fer a pop quiz?’ It’s Pepe, git it?”

“The mic?”

“Hey, Pal, how about a pet show? Mebbe stupid human tricks. We kin ask folks ta send us a picture a somethin’ their pet has trained ‘em ta do. Like Charli Mills now snuggle-naps on Mause’s command.”

“Mebbe, Kid, but check the mic.”

“What? Yeah. Let’s try that. But it cain’t work if folks don’t hep out an’ send a picture a them an’ their pet. Curly’s got me trained real good, yep, she snorts an’ I’m at attenshun, seein’ what she wants. I fetch purty good fer that little pig.”

“Kid. The mic.”

“Oh! Shi—”

fffftt

Seriously folks, let’s git some photos sent ta shiftnshake@dslayton.com so’s we kin feature a Stupid Human Tricks Pet Show or somethin’ like thet. Tell us who or what else ya might like ta see featured at the Saddle Up. We ain’t goin’ anywhere’s soon, so ya might’s well join us.

Saddle Up Saloon; Chattin’ ‘Bout Story Chat

“Hey Kid, look who jist come in. Isn’t thet?”

“Yep, it sure is.”

“Back fer more?”

“Yep. She’s gonna take the stage ta do some sharin’ ‘roun’ the writin’ community.”

“Thet’s what the Saddle Up is all ‘bout. Howdy, Marsha Ingrao! Welcome back ta the Saddle Up Saloon!”

“Hello Pal. Hello Kid.”

“What is it ya wanna share, Marsha?”

“At my blog, Always Write, I’ve started a new feature called Story Chat.”

“Story chat? Like, ya chat ‘bout stories?”

“Yes! When an author’s story is accepted, they get free editing and then their story appears on Always Write with their byline and bio. Then readers from a wide audience comment and speculate. The author joins in the discussion with the readers.”

“Thet sounds kinda unique.”

“That’s what Hugh of Hugh’s Views and News said!”

“Yeah?”

“Yes. The birth of Story Chat started with a conversation between Hugh Roberts and me. I had asked him to write a guest post for me. It was near Halloween and he asked if he could share a scary short story he had written but never published. The idea evolved as he, the people commenting and I chatted about his story, “People Under the Stairs“. It was so much fun and the chats built on each other. I promised I would do another post a few weeks later summarizing the comments and drawing the ideas into a conclusion. 

I sent Hugh the post before it published and he responded, ‘This is going to make such a wonderful post. I don’t believe I’ve seen another blogger do something like this, so (as far as I’m concerned) it’s unique. Of course, I’ll also share it on my blog.

The only problem I see in asking other bloggers to send you stories that have previously been published is that those stories will already have comments attached to them, so you could be asking readers to double up their comments. Far better, I think, in asking if anybody would like to share a new story with your readers so that not only will they be putting themselves and their work in front of a new audience, but that you’ll do a follow-up post about the discussion(s) the story generates.’

When Hugh said it was unique, I figured I would try posting Story Chat as a monthly event.”

“That was October. Ya doin’ it?”

“Yes, Kid! Story Chat is happening! Either I contact an author or one contacts me through the response form on the Story Chat page or posts. I read their story and if I think it has potential, I add photos or artwork, edit it if necessary, and publish it. I use social media to extend its life and ask that the author reblog it and do the same if they use social media. After three weeks of promoting the story through social media, I gather up all the comments and weave a story around them connecting their quotes with a pingback to their websites as well. That way hopefully both the commenter and the authors receive some traffic from the post. Finally, I post the links for the contributing author’s story and follow-up chat on my Story Chat page and send them a contribution widget to post on their website.”

“’Soun’s like a good deal all the way ‘roun’, Marsha.”

“Yep, sure does. So how’s it goin’?”

“Interestingly, the first month went by very quickly and I did not have a volunteer author for October. So I polished up a chapter of an unpublished book, Carrot Ranch-style, and published it. While it wasn’t as successful as Hugh’s story because I was the sole generator of interest, it did very well, and like Hugh’s, is still getting noticed. In both stories, readers squeezed out a much more robust story as they dug for underlying motives. What I really loved about Hugh’s story was that he was so vulnerable in the comments and shared how his mother’s dementia had inspired the story. It was so touching. That doesn’t happen with every Story Chat, so that was really special.

Before October ended, Cathy Cade sent me her story, “Out of Character” through the response form. I also contacted Anne Goodwin and she agreed to send me a story, and then Geoff Pard sent his story through the response form as Cathy Cade had done. Three days ago I received another response from an author who saw Hugh’s link and she has a story. So currently, if this last story looks good, I have stories ready to go until April. I am constantly on the prowl for a great author who wants to let me publish his or her story.”

“It says at yer site thet there’s a secon’ post after the story’s been posted an’ discussed.”

“Yes, Pal. The Summary.The summary consists of a 9-word summary, and an analysis of the readers’ and the author’s comments.Then the author has the opportunity to publish it as is or use the discussion to make changes.”

“Take ‘vantage a the feedback, like.”

“Exactly.”

“Did you use the discussions to revise yer October story?”

“That’s a good question, Kid. The story came out of a full length, unpublished book. It made me think deeply about motive, which I will definitely use if I go back and rewrite the book and publish it.”

“Reckon an author could find the discussion ‘bout their writin’ informative an’ give ‘em added insight fer revisions.” 

“Yes, an author can use the discussion and feedback in many ways. Or just enjoy the company!  Donna from Retirement Reflections says:

I love this post, Marsha — the highlighting of one blogger/writer and the inclusion of so many more. I look forward to other entries like this!

And your friend Charli of Carrot Ranch had this to say:

You give an author exposure, and readers a chance to develop thoughtful responses. Literary art happens between the space created between writing, reading, and discussing.

 There are more testimonials at Story Chat.”

“Sure soun’s like yer off ta a good start with this feature, Marsha.”

“I have been thrilled so far at the response to Story Chat. A lot of it rests with the author themselves and the kind of publicity they give it. Hugh is still promoting not only his story but the call to other authors. The result is that people are still coming to read his story three months after publication!”

“Whoa, thet’s somethin’.”

 “Yes, exactly. If every author took that much interest and promoted as he does, I predict that Story Chat will have a huge following within a year. I don’t expect every author to be as skilled and diligent in promoting as Hugh. However, his great example is teaching me what I can teach others about marketing. He also raises the expectations I have of myself.”

“Yep, Hugh’s always been a bit of a teacher an’ a preacher, in a good way, when it comes ta bloggin’.”

“Marsha, what d’ya hope an’ dream fer Story Chat?

“I hope that Story Chat will become something that new and experienced authors see as another venue to get their work to the public. It is a short story of 500 to 1,000 words, so there is a lot of flexibility. They can do anything with the story after it publishes, so who knows, maybe it would win prizes in a contest or end up in an anthology. With all the feedback, it could be a winning story. That would be exciting, wouldn’t it? Most of all, I want people to have fun with Story Chat and look forward to each month’s publication like they would a cherished magazine or the next episode in a Netflix series. I hope it is a chance for bloggers to meet each other on a deeper level than just pressing LIKE!”

“Amen ta thet. Folks, this here’s the schedule so far fer Marsha Ingrao’s Story Chat at Always Write.

The schedule’s at her site too, a course. Click on over there an’ partici-pate either as an author or as a reader. Thinkin’ yu’ll git somethin’ outta the ‘sperience either way.”

“Thank ya fer comin’ by an’ sharin’ this opportunity Marsha. It was a pleasure ta have ya take the stage agin.”

“Thank you, Pal and Kid.”

Wanted: Authors! #Story Chat

“Look, Pal, ya kin git a badge fer gittin’ published at Story Chat.”

“Awesome Kid. Bet they start showin’ up all aroun’ the Blogosphere.”

Marsha

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 shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Year-End Break

Happy Holidays to one and all, no matter what or how you are celebrating this year!

Last night, I bundled up and stepped out into a howling snow-gale, making good on my Solstice intention to walk every day. Wind whipped snow from every direction, burying my neighborhood in drifts. I walked down the middle of the back alleyway and when I turned toward Roberts Street, tall maples cast shadows against the house lights.

We never know when creativity will call us. In the middle of the street in the middle of a blizzard, I played with the shadows, walking up and down trees, crossing over on branches. When I returned on my walk, I laughed at my own tracks. It looked like booted elves had danced in the road. Just one elf. Me.

I continued to have fun and made a large peace sign in the snow covering my driveway. Sometimes we don’t need to share our art with the world. Sometimes we create and let the storm obliterate our moment of inspiration. Yet, the part of us that wants to share creation, we act thoughtfully on the what, how, where and when.

This end-of-year closes a chapter in my calendar book and I like to reflect on what was and deliberate on what will be. This is my visioning time of year and I take my vision play seriously. If you are serious, you might be interested in a download of my course, Writers Vision Planting.

If 2020 doesn’t blow up 2021, I have plans to graduate with a completed thesis. We do not receive a grade for a thesis — either the program accepts it, or not. My advisor has five weeks to give me feedback and she’s cautioned me that second drafts are not ready. She says it took her six months to get her accepted thesis ready for submission. I will do what it takes but anticipate shifting from student to professional.

My MFA has a dual path. I’ve also been training to teach creative writing online. I’ve crafted a plan with feedback from my profs, and I want to break it into phases. So I’m taking a year-end break to dream, think, play, and plan. Oh, and write my second draft. There’s always that!

In the meantime, I want to encourage you all to find moments to celebrate, rest, dream, and plan for what next. D. Avery, Ruchira Khanna, and H.R.R. Gorman will see you through the New Year. D. will be at the Saddle Up Saloon, December 28 and January 4. Ruchira and H. will post their columns December 29 and January 5. We have lots lined up for Carrot Ranch in 2021! The Saloon will continue every Monday, featured columns on Tuesdays with three new writers, including Hugh Roberts, T. Marie Bertineau, and Anna Rodeiguez who is in my MFA cohort.

Weekly challenges resume January 7, 2021. And Mause comes to live with us January 10!

Saddle Up Saloon; Rodeo ta Radio!

“Hey Pal.”

“Hey Kid. Yer face is scrunched. Yer thinkin’.”

“Wund’rin. Wund’rin where Shorty’s at when she ain’t aroun’ the Saloon or the Ranch.”

“Shorty’s always aroun’, Kid. But when she ain’t she’s at World Headquarters as Charli Mills.”

“Puts me in mind a Clark Kent and Superman somehow.”

“She’s a super woman, alright Kid. An’ her superpower is story tellin’.”

“But why does World Headquarters have ta be way up there in the Keweenaw, Pal?”

“Mebbe all thet water is groundin’. Mebbe there’s all kinds a stories up there, pilin’ up like snow.”

“An’ mebbe there’s other artists an’ storytellers up there. Mebbe this here’s one of ‘em. Howdy Rebecca Glotfelty! Welcome ta the Saddle Up Saloon.” 

“Hello Kid. Hello Pal.”

“Are you a storyteller Rebecca?”

“I sure am. I started out as a filmmaker and I wanted to help other people share their stories so I started a nonprofit called Real People Media – which has the mission to help people share their stories. And right now, we’re getting ready to open the Keweenaw Storytelling Center in downtown Calumet.”

 “A storytelling center!”

“Yep! A 7,800 square foot facility in which stories will be shared via the literary, visual, performing and media arts. We have an exhibit gallery, puppet theatre, 100 seat performance space and soon a throw back soda fountain. (It’s always fun to chew the fat around a soda fountain?)”

“Whoa. An’ right up there by Carrot Ranch’s World Headquarters. Mebbe the Keweenaw is the story tellin’ capital of the world!”

“Well, we hope to make it the capital of the Midwest at least. We provide exhibit opportunities for visual artists and performance opportunities for oral storytellers, singer-songwriters, and other performance artists.  One of our major programs is The Red Jacket Jamboree-— that’s an old-time radio variety show which shares, songs, stories, history and music from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

“Thet soun’s familiar Rebecca. Reckon we ranch hands been givin’ voice ta our stories at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community. I ain’t s’prised you an’ Charli Mills found one anuther up there.”

“I’m so happy that we did.  I had been following Carrot Ranch online for the past year and had been looking for an opportunity to collaborate in some way.  Last December I ran into Charli and several other local writers at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts at a performance of Selected Shorts. I think it was a friend of Charli’s who handed me one of Charli’s essays about winter in the Keweenaw and I thought it would be perfect for The Red Jacket Jamboree Christmas episode that was coming up.”

“Whoa! So Charli Mills told a story as part a yer Red Jacket Jamboree radio program?”

“Yes, and another Carrot Rancher, Michelle Wright too. Last December we recorded two one-hour holiday episodes. Michelle shared her story during  ‘A Billie Holiday Holiday’ and Charli participated in ‘Christmas in the Keweenaw’. All our shows are recorded on stage in front of a live audience. These shows, which air this month on WNMU Public Radio 90, were recorded at the Rozsa Center for the Performing Arts on the campus of Michigan Tech University.”

“Cool.”

A Billie Holiday Holiday aired last Friday and Christmas in the Keweenaw, featuring Charli Mills, airs on the 20th. If you’re not located in the broadcast area, you’ll be able to live stream the show during the broadcast.

“We caught the Billie Holiday Holiday show! It was a lotta fun an’ we learned stuff too. Copper Country folks sure seem ta injoy the local hist’ry.”

“Yet they seem connected. Must be the stories… And Michelle did a great job, thought thet was a real fine story.”

“I’m glad you were able to do that Kid and Pal. For those that missed it, the Holiday show can still be heard. We’re sending the secret link to stream both these episodes over Christmas week to anyone who makes a minimum donation to Real People Media’s end of the year fundraiser.  $3 for two hours of fabulous entertainment. It’s a deal! Practically a steal.” 

“Dust off yer wallet, Pal, that’s all I want fer Christmas, ta hep out the Storytellin’ Center an’ ta listen ta some a our own share their stories with Rebecca.”

“Rebecca thet all soun’s like a lot a fun. What d’ya injoy the most ‘bout yer work with Real People Media ?”

“Oh, that’s a hard one. Because I’m super excited about opening the storytelling center to the public and helping to make Calumet a destination for the storytelling Arts. And I can’t wait to host storytellers from all over the country.”

“Pal, don’t that soun’ akin ta Charli Mills’ vision fer her Carrot Ranch Literary Community?”

“Yep, an’ ta the Roberts Street Writery. Beginnin’ ta see thet World Headquarters is takin’ root in fertile ground. Rebecca, this storytelling center soun’s great. We def’nitely wanna hep out Real People Media an’ their projects.”

“Thank you. More immediately, Real People Media just got a grant for The Voice Box Sessions. It’s an artist development series for young singer-songwriters and performance artists.  High School students work with professional artists to improve their performance skills. Every month we’ll be hosting a new singer-songwriter who will perform a set, share their experience as an artist and then for the next 45 minutes kids will take the stage. We’re creating a warm and welcoming environment for these young artists. So I’m really excited to bring this program to Calumet.”

“Thet’s awesome!” 

“But I have to say, Pal, working with the cast and performers on The Red Jacket Jamboree has been incredible. I love to collaborate and this show is all about collaboration. It’s a whirlwind performance. We have one rehearsal the day before the show, and then the dress rehearsal and then the performance.”

“Soun’s intense all right.”

“It’s a fun challenge, Kid.”

“What’s been yer greatest challenge since startin’ out?”

“Well, I started Real People Media ten years ago, so there’s been many challenges in that time. The biggest challenge continues to be raising funds to make it all possible. I’m the main fundraiser, although our board is now taking on more of that responsibility. But I’m the grant writer, the producer, the principle writer of the show, the marketing director, the janitor— you name it.”

“Whoa. What don’t ya do ‘roun’ there?”

“Remarkably, our incredible stage band kind of fell into place. Jerry Younce is our incredible guitarist and music director. He’s just incredible. He pulls the best out of everybody. And Bill Carrothers is one of the top jazz pianists in the world. And he lives in the U.P!! How lucky is that!! Harry South is a young bass player who lives in Negaunee and we rotate between different percussionists. All so talented. Actor Ralph Horvath has been with us since day one and I can’t imagine him not being a part of the show. Marty Achatz, Poet Laureate of the U.P. is the show’s co-host. His voice lends so much to the show. And then there’s host Lena Dorey— need I say more?”

“Soun’s like a great crew. Thinkin’ thet Keweenaw might be a artists vortex a some sort.”

“I get to work with great people, and in a beautiful place.”

“Reckon yer in a historical buildin’?”

“Oh yes. There’s been challenges with the building as well. But that’s another long story. Family Dollar said they would donate the old Woolworth’s building to us via email on Feb. 4, 2019; on March 7 of that year, ¼ of the roof collapsed. They said they would tear it down instead. We said, no donate it to us, and $70,000 to repair the roof. They said ok and that is what happened. We got the deed on July 17, 2019. We repaired the roof, tore up 15,000 square foot of flooring – sanded (one pass only) 7,800 square feet of wood floor, took down pegboard, put up drywall, etc.”

“Whooie, thet’s a lotta work, but what wunnerful programs!”

“The renovations are not complete but the center is operational (we recorded our last episode of the The Red Jacket Jamboree there end of September). It will be awhile before the theatre is walled in. For now we have a portable wall defining it.”

“Thet’s great yer in there though.”

“Yes, but due to the rise in COVID cases we are not open to the public and won’t be opening until the beginning of the new year. We just continue to have our window displays and shows on the radio at this point. Next up we’re opening an Exhibit called ‘Around the World in 80 Hats’.  We hope to livestream events from the Center early in 2021. But who knows. COVID makes planning difficult!”  

“It’s a horrible thing. We’re all in it t’gether.”

“Rebecca, we’re real glad ya took time outta yer busy schedule ta share with us. We’d love ta hear from ya agin, an’ git caught up.”

“Thank you Pal and Kid. Don’t forget, your audience can hear both Charli and Michelle telling their stories as a part of the Red Jacket Jamboree radio show. You can hear Charli through a live-streamed radio recording or a minimal donation gets you a link to these shows open December 23-27.”

“Thanks fer takin’ the stage Rebecca. It was great meetin’ ya an’ we wish ya well with all yer projects.”


WMNU Public Radio 90! CLICK HERE to listen to the live stream of the show.
An exciting episode which explores the life and struggles of Billie Holiday through tunes performed or inspired by the acclaimed African American jazz vocalist. 

The show weaves together musical performances, interviews, and radio theatre  which help to convey the African American experience as it relates to the Copper Country.  Host Lena Dorey and Martin Achatz interview archeologist Timothy Scarlett, of MTU and Lynette Webber of the Keweenaw National Historical Park to learn about an archeological dig in Calumet which unearthed clues about the town’s early African American immigrants.  The show also includes dynamic performances by Jennifer Barnett, the Copper Cats, and Younce Guitar Duo. Storyteller, Michelle Wright shares her story on how she found warmth in the middle of a Keweenaw winter.  That and so much more in this upbeat holiday show with just a touch of sass!
Not able to listen tonight?
We’re offering a link to both of these Christmas episodes (From Dec. 23- 27th) to everyone who makes the minimum donation ($3) to Real People Media’s end of the year fundraiser!  Merry Christmas!
Donate Now
There’s nothing like Christmas in the Keweenaw!  Michigan’s magical winter wonderland!   The episode features Jennifer Barnett and the Copper Cats performing some of our favorite holiday tunes including “Keweenaw Snow.”  
Local author Charli Mills share’s her recollections of her first winter after moving to the copper country. 

They’re looking for lyrics for their Karaoke program next week! Free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch, Pal & Kid now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon . Got something to share? Take the stage! If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact Pal & Kid via  shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

Saddle Up Saloon; Servin’ Live Authors

“Ernie! Yer tendin’ bar t’night?”

“Yep, Pal. Kid’s at a table front a the stage.”

“Thanks… um, Ernie, the shelves behin’ the bar are stacked with books.”

“Yep, Pal. You kin git a adult bev’rage if ya want, but I thought it’d be nice ta have books out front ‘stead a bottles. This saloon is fer readers an’ writers ain’t it?”

“Well, yeah, it is, Ernie… it is. ‘Scuse me, I gotta check in with Kid jist now.”

Friends, Ranchers, Readers, send me your steers…”

“Thet ain’t how it goes, Kid.”

“No? Dang, Pal, it seemed a fine speech. Considering the question of the colt of an individual—

“Khruschev, Kid? An’ thet’s s’posed ta be ‘cult’, not ‘colt’.”

“Oh.”

“What’s with all the speechin’?”

“Jist thought I’d use some classic speeches ta practice my oration skills. Cain’t ‘magin’ how stressful it must be ta make speeches or ta read yer own writin’ out loud.”

“Oh. Thet’s right, it’s time fer anuther Five at the Mic. I always injoy seein’ an’ hearin’ the ranch hands readin’ their work up on the stage here. Some a these folks is gittin’ stronger an’ stronger. Shush now, let’s listen to Ellen Best.”

“Thought we was gonna save Best fer last.”

“Shush, Kid, she’s up first with a really beautiful story.”

“Oh, what a lovely love story. A lovely story a love. An’ Ellen did great up there. Ya ever perform on stage Pal?”

“Not on stage, but I sure’ve told some stories ‘roun’ a campfire. An’ think on this, Kid: what we might call litterture begun ‘roun’ a fire; oral story tellin’ is some a the oldest, richest litterture thet ever was. Reckon when Shorty puts out the call fer folks ta join her ever’ secon’ Tuesday, she’s invitin’ ‘em ta the fire. So let’s git D. Avery up on stage next. She might be the only one t’night thet’s actually at a fire; she’s got the woodstove crackling stage left.”

“That right? What’s that hangin’ cenner stage, her transpertation?”

“Shush it Kid. Let her read her story.”

“Was dat topia?”

“Dys-topia? Thinkin’ it were. Also thinkin’ thet satellite wifi ain’t all whut she thinks it is. But she’s by the fire, Kid.”

“Reckon so. An’ any writin’ folks kin jist contact Charli Mills ta meet up with other ranch hands ta listen an’ read at the fire ever’ secon’ Tuesday a ever’ month.”

“Yep. Didn’t have ta tell Australian poet Frank Prem twice; when Charli Mills made a later time so’s ta ‘commodate folks in other time zones he joined in with his wunnerful poetry. Shh, here he is now.”

“Kid, what’re ya doin’, cain’t ya snap yer fingers?”

“Mebbe, mebbe not. Point is, that was real fine. Tellin’ ya, Pal, speeches an’ poems is best heard read aloud by their author.”

“My speechin’ days are done!”

“Frankie? Hey there, Frankie. Have a seat. It’s Five at the Mic night.”

“Frankie, what speechin’ did you ever do?”

“I had call ta talk ta folks when I was head a my local union. ‘Member talkin’ ‘bout language.”

“Yeah? Which one?”

“The messy one. American English. Talked not so much ‘bout language but the words we choose from it. Ya notice folks now say mail carrier when it used ta jist be mailman? An lookit that. Mailman. ‘Man’ is half a too many compound words; don’t even git kicked back by spellcheck.”

“Whoa, Frankie. Stop. Back up. Ya tellin’ us thet yer speechin’ an’ advocatin’ turned terms aroun’?”

“Not jist me, Pal; it kin never be jist one person. But I did speak up when and where I could and should.”

“Way ta go, Frankie. Yer gonna like this next readin’ then. In speakin’ ‘bout her veterans’ group Susan Spitulnik speaks up ‘bout speakin’ up an even makin’ noise.”

“She was awesome. She’s gittin’ real good at this live readin’.”

“Trick ta public speakin’ Kid, is ta make eye contact with yer audience.”

“Uh-huh. So did you git nervous, Frankie?”

“Well anuther trick is ta have a little shot a courage afore hand. Ernie?”

“I’ll pour ya anuther, Frankie. But bravest speech I ever made was just the other night, front of a small but supportive group.”

“Yeah?”

“Yep. It was only nine words; a introduction followed by a admission.”

“How’d it end, Ernie?”

“It’s just beginning, Kid, a first step. Goin’ forward it’s gonna be work and it’s gonna be great.”

“Ohhh… Good fer you Ernie. That was a fine speech ya give, even if we weren’t there. But we’re here fer ya.”

“Thanks, Kid. What’s the hardest thing you ever had ta say?”

I was wrong. Have ta say it a lot, but it never gets easier.”

“Shush, you two. Paula Moyer is on stage now. She’s got a story ‘bout a guy who makes the right call.”

“Thet was tense. An’ then thet explanation. Thet guy was some quick on his feet.”

“Yep. That was quite a story. Whooie, Pal! What a nice mix a readin’s. Folks should know the next gatherin’ with Charli Mills is Tuesday, December 15, jist contact her if yer innerested. An’ ya kin join in but not take the stage here too.”

“Thet’s right Kid. Ya git a choice. An’ now we wanna thank ever’one who steps inta the saloon fer a visit as well as thankin’ those thet take the stage.

Free ranging characters who live and work at Carrot Ranch, Pal & Kid now serve up something more or less fresh every Monday at the Saddle Up Saloon . Got something to share? Take the stage! If you or your characters are interested in saddling up for a wild ride as a saloon guest, contact Pal & Kid via  shiftnshake@dslayton.com.

“Thet went pretty well, don’tch think, Kid? I jist hope folks step up fer the next Karaoke night in two weeks. We got a great response fer the first one, ‘member?”

“Sure do Pal. Folks sent us their lyrics ta familiar songs an’ some folks joined in in the comments. That was a lotta fun. Theme this time is seasonal.”

“Reckon anything goes. Hey, Kid, ya fergot ta turn the record button off. Shift, we’re still live… da— #########################################################