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Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino September 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.

“Well, yer a week late Kid. Jist hope ya ain’t a dollar short.”

“Don’t need a dollar. The Cowsino’s part a the Saddle Up Saloon, an the Saddle Up Saloon’s a part a Carrot Ranch. No need ta pay, Pal.”

“Thet’s right Kid. Folks kin play thet slot machine fer free an as many times as they like.”

“It’s a guaranteed winner!”

“Still, ya must a lost track a time or somethin Kid. Why’d ya miss pullin the arm a thet slot machine last Friday?”

“Jist did, is all.”

“Did ya go somewhere’s?”

“I dunno, it’s hard sayin.”



Once upon a time…

“Last week?”

“Yeah, last week. Every day led ta anuther. Until our writer ended up stayin over ta housesit an take care a the puppies an chickens. Because a that she was all discombobulated, knew it was the weekend an all but missed that it were a new month. Because a bein outta place an outta sorts, she ended up readin a fair amount, got lost in books. Because of that, she weren’t jist outta place, she was outta time an that long weekend went by quickly.

“Then what happened?”

Finally ever’one ended up in their own homes an that’s when our writer finally recollected that we don’t exactly write ourselves. She needs ta least push the buttons.”

“Sometimes you push my buttons Kid, but I reckon it’s okay. Better late then never.

“Alright folks, have a look at what’s rolled aroun fer this month’s Cowsino story spine prompt. Share yer stories in the comments below an be sure ta read an comment on others’ stories.”

“Have fun!”

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

A Study in Brevity: Crafting Flash Fiction & Syllabic Poetry

There is one thing that flash fiction and syllabic poetry have in common and that’s the brevity of words. Because we’re limited by the number of words (or syllables in syllabic poetry) we must choose concise words to convey our meaning.

I call these words figurative language. I use the same literary devices when writing flash fiction as I do when writing syllabic poetry.

Figurative Language

Figurative language should enhance the meaning of your prose and poetry by making connections that allow the reader to infer their own meaning. Here are a few literary devices that will strengthen your writing:

Analogy: This is when you compare similar attributes shared by separate things or ideas. You do this by using a simile or metaphor.

EX: A coyote running across the arid desert after its prey; the base runner dashed for home plate, kicking up dust in his haste.

A simile is when you compare things that are different. Usually the words, like or as, are used.

EX: A happy memory is like an old friend who welcomes you home when you need it most.

A metaphor implies a comparison between two different things. You don’t use the words like or as, in this case.

EX: He stinks of infidelity. This doesn’t mean there’s an odor. Instead, the sentence implies the guy is a cheater. This creates a visual image in your mind of a person who is disloyal.

Irony: Choosing words to hint at the opposite of their usual meaning. The difference between appearance and reality.

EX: The whipped butter felt as soft as a block of ice. Clearly, in this case, looks can be deceiving.

Personification: Assigning a human trait to something not human. EX: The wind whispered through the dry grasses. The wind can’t whisper because that is a human trait. Yet, the description gives the reader a sensory image they won’t forget.

Assonance: The repetition of vowel sounds, such as when two or more words close in proximity, repeat the same vowel sound, without repeating consonants; sometimes called vowel rhyme.

EX: Sally sells seashells beside the seashore (repetition of the short e and long e sounds).

Alliteration: Words that start with the same sound (not just the same letter) used in repetition in a series of words within a phrase or verse line. Usually, the sound is a consonant, and the words are not next to each other. Alliteration does not depend on letters but on sounds—think tongue twisters!

EX: Kim came home to clean the chaos in her closet. (Kim came, is dependent on the same sound, not the consonant letter it begins with).

(From: Chesebro, Colleen M., Word Craft: Prose & Poetry: The Art of Crafting Syllabic Poetry (pp. 15-16). Kindle Edition).

So let’s apply those literary devices to writing syllabic poetry. Are you new to crafting syllabic poetry and don’t know how to start? Let me show you two syllabic poetry forms to get you started on your poetry writing journey.

Let’s start with an American form, the cinquain. The cinquain is a five-line, non-rhyming poem featuring a syllable structure of 2-4-6-8-2. Choose words that create drama that builds into the fourth line. The turn occurs on line five, the most important line. This is where you change your focus away from the drama in some interesting way. Cinquain poems need a title.

Use a syllable counter as you compose your poetry. I use the Syllable Counter at See my cinquain example below:

Day Dawns

pink blush—
fairy makeup
smudges morning’s gray clouds
dew sparkles against the grasses

© Colleen M. Chesebro

In the cinquain above, I described a morning sunrise. True to the form, I pivoted in line five. My last two-syllables are where I turned away from the beauty of the scene and added the word “thunder.” This gives a hint that not everything is as it seems in the idyllic scene I described.

“Pink blush—fairy makeup” is personification. I’ve assigned human traits to the color of the morning sky.

If Japanese poetry intrigues you, start with the haiku. Haiku consists of three lines following the short-long-short, 3-5-3, 2-3-2, (5-7-5 traditional) syllable count. Usually your haiku should contain approximately twelve syllables. We write haiku about nature, the seasons, a beautiful moment in nature, an emotional experience while in nature, or change. Haiku are untitled, and this form requires a Kigo (season word). Haiku does not rhyme. Do not use metaphors or similes in haiku.

(When you’re first learning how to write haiku, feel free to use the 5-7-5 syllable structure until you’re ready to embrace the shorter formats.)

When we write haiku, we’re sharing an encounter between nature and ourselves as a human. We describe our experience at that exact moment. These are the moments that stand out and grab our attention in unexpected ways. Remember, haiku are untitled.

clouds stitched together
against the blue cloth of sky
solstice heat rises

© Colleen M. Chesebro

In the haiku above, I describe the clouds, and how they look against a blue sky. That’s personification! Notice my choice of words. I also used a kigo or season word, solstice heat which we know occurs in summer. Blue cloth of sky wasn’t enough to define a season because we could describe the sky in those terms any season of the year.

Break your haiku into two separate word images:

lines one and two: clouds stitched together against the blue cloth of sky

lines two and three: against the blue cloth of sky, solstice heat rises

This is a great way to check your haiku when you’ve finished writing. Combine the first and second line of your haiku. Does a mental image appear? In this example, you can see the clouds contrast the color of the blue sky. Remember the brevity of words.

However, when you take the second and third line and combine them, you receive another mental image. Now you see the solstice heat shimmers against the blue sky. The summer solstice occurs in June.

The idea in crafting haiku is to write about two contrasting or somehow similar images, and to connect them in unusual ways. Haiku are all about images. How does the haiku make you feel? Have you created emotion without telling your reader how to feel?

That’s it! You’re ready to craft syllabic poetry! Join me for #TankaTuesday on

Copyright © 2022 Colleen M. Chesebro – All rights reserved.

Colleen M. Chesebro lives in East Lansing, Michigan in the United States.

Colleen grew up in a large city in the Midwest. Keen on making her own way in the world, she joined the United States Air Force after graduation to tour the world and find herself. To this day, that search continues.

Today, she’s a Michigan Poet who loves crafting syllabic poetry, flash fiction, and creative fiction and nonfiction. Colleen sponsors a weekly poetry challenge, called #TankaTuesday, on, where poets learn how to create traditional and modern forms of syllabic poetry.

Colleen created Word Craft Poetry as an uplifting community where poets can learn the basics of writing Japanese and American syllabic poetry by sharing their own poetic inspiration on their blogs through the challenge written in one of the following forms: haiku, senryu, haiga, tanka, gogyohka, haibun, tanka prose, renga, solo renga, cinquain, and its variations, Etheree, nonet, shadorma, Badger’s Hexastich, and Abhanga. Poets receive positive feedback from their peers, who inspire each other to stretch their creativity.

When she’s not writing poetry or crafting short stories, you’ll find Colleen digging in her garden, or playing with her two unicorn cats, Chloe & Sophie, or spending time with her husband and friends. Most days you can find her writing poetry on, or preparing books for publication at Unicorn Cats Publishing Services.

You can follow Colleen’s blog at Word Craft Poetry and follow her on Twitter at @ColleenChesebro.

Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino August 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.

“I sure am glad ta be back at the Ranch Pal, jist in time fer another Cowsino! Always feel like I won the lottery when I see that slot machine whirlin out story prompts.”

“I agree Kid, we’re some lucky ta have the Saddle Up Saloon where ranchers kin take the stage an the Cowsino where ranchers kin try their luck at the slot machine.”

“It ain’t luck, Pal. Ya gotta play ta win, an any playful practice at writin kin only build yer skills.”

“I reckon yer right bout this writin prompt Kid.”

“Whoa! What’re the odds a you agreein with me not once but twice! This is my lucky day. Think I’ll step up ta the slot machine an see if a story drops out.”

“Good luck Kid. Yer gonna need it.”

“Thought we agreed this ain’t about luck. Okay, let’s see… tree, ketchup, bear…

Once upon a time trouble was brewin fer B.B. Bearkly.

Every day he went into the trees ta see the forest ‘cause that’s where folks told him he needed ta be.

Until one day he went too far an lost his bearins.

Because of that the wheels of his 4-wheel drive monster Smartcar stopped turnin.

Because of that he had to walk, walk, walk, though he was still lost.

Because of that walkin he got all fit an then content too, out there in the woods an he decided ta stop tryin ta catchup ta all them folks who told him how he oughta be.

Finally he knew where he was an didn’t never wanna leave an lived happily ever after out among the trees.

“What d’ya think Pal?”

“Eh, I think yer lucky Shorty likes ya. Ya sure this has verisimilitude?”

“Versimilitude, Pal? Really? It’ll truly do an I jist hope others come play too.”

“Me too Kid. Folks, leave yer stories down in the comments below. We’d love ta read em an chat with ya!”

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

Active Reading for Writers

When writers read we’re not only escaping into an entertaining story, we’re honing our craft. Or we can do, if we pay attention to the scaffolding alongside the finished product. How do we do this? How do we read as writers without turning an activity we’ve loved since childhood into a chore?

Somewhere between a stark star rating and a polished review is the sweet spot where our critical eye and pleasure-seeking tendencies coincide. By considering some of the same elements we’d address in our writing we can progress beyond a simple hit/miss to feed our creative process. Here are a few ideas of how we might do this.

Read anything and everything

We need to become experts on the genre we write in but that’s no excuse to neglect other styles. Authors of literary fiction can learn about pace and plot from thrillers. Science fiction writers can see how to build tension into intimate relationships from reading romance. We can gain as much from books we don’t like as from those we relish, especially if the book we scorn is commercially successful. What makes it popular with readers? Can we apply that to our writing?

Notes in the margin

Simply reading with a pencil in hand or a readiness to use the highlight function on our ereader can help us galvanise our critic. Pick out choice words and phrases, analyse why some work and others fall flat. Notice the inconsistencies and repetitions an editor has failed to rectify. Notice when the text surprises us, what we’d like to emulate and pitfalls we’d want to avoid.

Consider the three act structure

Does the author pull you in from the opening sentence or does it take time for you to connect? How do they keep your attention through the middle section? What stops you putting this book down? Is the ending credible? Predictable? Satisfying? Approaching the end of a novel I am reading, I often ask myself how I would wind it up.

Create a checklist

Draw up your personal checklist of factors that you deem essential to a satisfying story and check the books you read against this list. For example, some might be willing to sacrifice character depth in favour of intriguing world-building or poetic language. Or take one factor, perhaps one you’re currently struggling with, and study how other authors tackle it.

Write reviews

Reviewing is part of literary citizenship but it does take time. I think it’s worth investing that time at least occasionally because transforming your thoughts into a blog post or similar can help you work out what you think. But short reviews, like the 99-word story, are also beneficial in striving to capture the essence of the book.


If these suggestions seem too simplistic, why not take a literature course for a deep dive into how stories work? If they seem too burdensome, then ditch them: the bottom line is to read, read and read some more. I know some authors worry about losing their own authentic voice by reading others’ but I’ve never found that. On the contrary, I often get ideas for my own WIP when I’m sitting comfortably in my reading chair lapping up the words.

What are your tips for reading as a writer? Comment below!

About the author

Anne Goodwin is the author of three novels and a short story collection with small independent press Inspired Quill. Anne reviews every book she reads and posts about reading and writing on her blog Annecdotal.

Saddle Up Saloon: Cowsino July 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.


“What’re ya so excited bout Kid?”

“It’s the first Friday a July Pal, Cowsino Night! Ever first Friday we git ta pull the handle a Shorty’s slot machine an let the stories run wild.”

“Stories come outta thet machine?”

“No, Pal, the stories come outta the folks that come by ta play. Jist use the three images ta spark a story an leave it in the comments fer folks ta read.”

“In 99 words?”

“Nope, it doesn’t have ta be 99 words, more like seven sentences that follow the story spine. The rules is listed down below.”

“Sounds like a lot a fun, Kid.”

“Yep. Fridays is fun days here at the Saloon. So far we’ve had H.R.R. Gorman, Ruchira Khanna, an Sue Spitulnik take the stage ta tell us bout dif’rent aspects a the writers’ world.”

“But on Cowsino Night the stage is fer anyone who’s inspired ta write, prompted by these three images.”

“Yep. So pick up yer pen, folks, ya kin create as many stories as ya want. We’ll read and talk with ya in the comments.”

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

Looking Back, Growing Forward  

We all are one, yet so different from each other.

Our present is shaped based on our past, and our choices shape today. Memories keep us company on dull days. They can either choose to make us edgy or excite us. 

All individuals have a story to tell. This story could be a laugh-out-loud incident or a tear-jerker one or inspire the listener. 

Either way, it’s unique since your emotions are entwined around it. 

Why don’t we give ourselves some ‘me-time’ and pen it down? 

Aah! the things writing can do!

  1. Overcoming Trauma
  2. Discovering your inner self: Dialogues with the Soul
  3. Journaling into a creative story

Overcoming Trauma

We are such intelligent souls that we faced the brunt when life threw lemons at us. Many of us got bruised along the way. 

No doubt, we got hit by the lemons, but eventually, we learned to make lemonade out of it and fought our battles.  

This applies to going back in memory lane and penning down our journey where we overcame a physical, mental or emotional trauma. Now, our fight could inspire many out there. So, with that mindset, suit up and go back into those dark, grimy lanes, which can make you nauseous. Surprisingly, when you pen down those details, you too will heal from it. Writing has such magical power that it can outlive a magic wand. 

“You learn more from failure than from success. Don’t let it stop you. Failure builds character.” — Unknown. 

Discovering your inner self: Dialogues with the Soul

The title was inspired by the poem, A Dialogue Between the Soul and the Body by Andrew Marvell. Here the poet describes the conflict between the human body and the human Soul. Each attributes its troubles and sufferings to the other. 

Now, I don’t want to highlight the exchange of words between the enslaved Soul versus the bolts of bones. 

Instead, let’s ponder the exchange of dialogues between our minds and the intellect when we deal with emotional, mental, or physical pain. 

Our mind is known as the pirate, which can cause turbulence within ourselves. Thank heavens’ our intellect takes over and helps with the reasoning for the latter to curb its thoughts. 

There must have been junctures in our lives where our intellect has had dialogues with the Soul. The consciousness then signals the body to act accordingly. And those are the turning points in our lives. 

Pen them! 

“Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today.” — Will Rogers.

Journaling into a creative story

Every story has a sweet and a sour element to it. After all, it’s the life that all humans are living. 

You have been brave enough to dig up all your past’s emotional and mental debris. You can either choose to add a fictional character or give it your name. 

Give it wings and let it fly. 

Life has given us the tools to achieve wellness within and around us; however, it’s up to every individual how they can piece it together. 

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

― Maya Angelou

About the Author

Ruchira Khanna is an indie author and an energy healer. She draws inspiration from the issues that stalk our minds and she addresses them through her tales of fiction. Her characters undergo a contemplative arc she hopes her readers will, which is why they classify each of her novels as, “one that will make you ponder.”

Challenges On The Move!

See you all Monday, January 24, 2020! New day, same challenge! 99 words, no more, no less.

A Single Strand of Lights

The holiday season has come around again, and hope is in full bloom. Just like clockwork, the annual transition from L-tryptophan to Christmas fudge has set off a flurry of sights and sounds. Cars in the Keweenaw are topped with evergreens, drivers rushing home to deck their halls. Holiday music plays in rotation on local radio stations, and church bells chime on schedule. Along the waterfront, a frosty tree gleams a cool blue while downtown, wreaths and garland twinkle at every turn. There are ribbon-wrapped spruce tips and green Grinch cutouts. Why, there’s even a King Kong-sized elf scaling the exterior facade of a boutique hotel. Yes, there is a swell of hope in the air, set aglow by strands of Christmas lights.

In my small town, a little further up the road, the spirit of the season greets me, although a bit less lavishly. It begins with an artificial tree at the tip of Main Street. Each year at the end of November, the tree arrives on the back of a trailer. We watch as volunteers maneuver it into place and string the power cord. Along the lane, wooden light poles are wound with a single strand of multicolored lights—the old-fashioned bulbs, maybe C9s. Growing snowbanks serve as garland. Beyond that, it’s up to the residents to top off the job.

The sights of this town remind me of my childhood. They speak to me of a collective spirit, the kind I knew in my youth. Back then, there was a towering spruce in my hometown’s centre. It was strung with lights by volunteer firefighters and draped in snow by Mother Nature. It grew next to the firehall where every December, Santa held court beneath a wooden arch and welcomed us each with a brown paper sack of sugary treats.

I remember those visits to that firehall as if it were yesterday. My older sisters were placed in charge. We’d dress after supper in a clamor of snow boots and secondhand coats, hats and damp mittens, then tumble out the back door, panting. Our boots trekked the snow-blown path around the corner, down the side of our narrow home, past the slider window with a single strand of Christmas lights taped to ranch casing. The center of the strand was often drooping; the tape would give way. But did I mind? No, not at all. Those lights were a symbol. They filled me with hope. As long as they were lit, that’s all I needed.

I can still hear the crunch of snow beneath our feet, the wsk wsk of coat fabric as our arms swung to and fro. Our noses numbing. Our breath ascending in transparent Os. It all fanned my growing sense of hysteria. “I can’t wait to see Santa!” I would squeal. Then you better hurr’yup, my oldest sister might say. I would scurry ahead, the route filling my well. There were homes lit like runways and windows glowing with electric-orange candelabras. We caught glimpses of glistening trees between drawn drapery panels and full views of those beyond sheers. There were wreaths on porch doors—a touch our home did without—and the occasional Nativity scene, the Baby Jesus in the center tugging at my heartstrings. 

When we’d reach the firehall, the windows were lit, the line long. It snaked around the checkerboard floor. So many kids. Raucous ones. Shy ones. Wealthy ones. Poor ones. We all lined up together, one collective body, eager to see Santa; a queue comprised of the innocence of youth. We, coughing and sneezing, our noses dripping. And he, our idol, anticipating a long night, perhaps a cold in the days to come. But he welcomed us all nonetheless, sat us on his knee, asked for our wishes. And we gushed. Did he know whose Christmas lists would be fulfilled? Did he consider those who might wake to disappointment? I certainly did not, for I believed in the power of Santa. The power of Christmas. The power of hope. And as I neared his side, in those years of naiveté, my wishes were doable. My neighbors’ wishes were doable. There was nothing beyond reach.

When at last it was my turn, I would climb aboard his crushed velvet-clad knee. “Ho! Ho! Ho!” he’d bellow. “And what do you want Santa to bring you for Christmas?” What does a child say to this man? On the spur of the moment? In his grandeur? With his red suit and curly white beard? This Santa-star. This celebrity. A saint known round the world! And so I’d sit, transfixed by his tall, black boots. Oh, those boots! With their single buckle. Their shiny leather—or was that pleather? Their squared heels which would soon set foot on my rooftop! What were my wishes from year to year? Was it an Easy-Bake Oven? A Crissy doll? A Mrs. Beasley from Family Affair? The world was ripe for the picking as long as I had the hope! And I did.

It has been decades since I’ve paid a visit to that beloved firehall. And certainly decades since I’ve sat on Santa’s knee. I find the years have molded me, mellowed my hope. I look upon holiday wishes differently now, my perspective matured. Though my family finds comfort in the season, I am keenly aware there are those whose stockings won’t be hung, whose trees won’t be lit, whose holidays may fall prey to financial hardship. As a matter of fact, I’ve learned that as children, my siblings and I were mere steps from that scenario ourselves, our Christmases always teetering on the brink. But somehow, we were sheltered from that reality. Our parents managed the undoable, maybe with a little help. Somehow there were gifts. Somehow, turkey. Somehow, Christmas joy. Was it their hope that fueled the magic? Or was it ours?

Perhaps it was that single strand of lights taped in our living room window.

Photo by
Natalie Carolyn Photography

Born amidst the copper mining ruins of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, T. Marie Bertineau is a member of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community of the L’Anse Reservation, migizi odoodeman. In addition to her Carrot Ranch column, you’ll find Marie’s work online with Minnesota’s Carver County Arts Consortium; in Mino Miikana, a publication of the Native Justice Coalition and Waub Ajijaak Press; and in the annual journal U.P. Reader. Her debut memoir The Mason House (Lanternfish Press, 2020) was named a 2021 Michigan Notable Book by the Library of Michigan and is a recipient of the Stuart D. and Vernice M. Gross Award for Literature (Saginaw Valley State University). Married and the mother of two, she makes her home in Michigan’s Keweenaw.

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.

Semester Break

I’m going on a vision quest to reconnect to my North Star. It’s been a week. It’s been a year. It’s been five years since I left Idaho, and I can finally read posts from Elmira Pond Spotter. Some of you might not even know about Elmira Pond Spotter, but that was my online journal where I explored the writer’s life around an old and deep tamarack bog in North Idaho. On March 9, 2016, I was excited to welcome the return of the migratory fowl, eagles, osprey, and kingfishers who lived seasonally on or around the pond. Abruptly, it was to be my final post.

At the time, I was writing weekly columns for a stunning new Idaho-centric magazine, editing a publication I had developed for a client, and had landed a lucrative contract to write a feature for Sandpoint Magazine. Ten days later, I was in Missoula Montana to host one of the first satellite BinderCon writing workshops, working with NYT Best-selling Author, Laura Munson, and rising writing powerhouse, Stephanie Land. I was revising my novel after feedback from agents and my editor to set the story by my pond.

I had no idea at the time the drastic changes that were coming.

In 2012, I left my marketing management career to pursue my writing dreams and believed that was the biggest transition I’d face in my adult life. I had consulted and led countless brand communications workshops, enough to feel confident that I could start my own marketing communications company. Two years into the work, I realized I didn’t need a company. I was content to work as a contractor. But I had this great company name, a logo my longtime graphic designer developed for me, and a burning desire to connect less with marketing peers and more with creative writers. was born as a website in May of 2012. However, it wasn’t until March 2014 that I initiated the shift to a literary focus with the first-ever Flash Fiction Challenge. Norah Colvin, Ruchira Khanna, Susan Zutautas, and Paula Moyer showed up. Norah invited her British writing friends, Geoff Le Pard and Anne Goodwin. Before I realized what was happening, a writing community formed. By 2016, I had a writing partner in the UK (Sherri Matthews), an anthology in the works with Sarah Brentyn and our community, and a growing appreciation for all that the art of 99-words could be as writing practice and tool.

Life has its ups and downs. None of us ever escapes circumstances, disappointments, or even death. We don’t like to talk about mortality or grief and yet grief often drives us to write — to process the pain, memorialize the loss, or offer something beautiful that grew from the mud. In 2015, my best friend, Kate, died. A month before her death, I contemplated traveling alone, without her on trips. I took a birthday cruise on Lake Pend Oreille. By March of 2016, I was carrying that grief with me and pushing deeper into my writing. Todd had been displaying worrisome behavior for over two years and was clearly not holding down a job, which was unlike him. With my friend and husband heavy on my mind, it tempered the success I was having. Such is life.

Soon after I returned home from Missoula in March of 2016, my world began to topple. First, I received a response from an investigation into the new magazine I was writing for. The original editor, someone experienced and highly regarded, had left for personal reasons. I began to suspect the publisher was not being honest. It was a gut feeling. I had reached out to my book editor for a way to contact the former magazine editor and once I contacted her, our suspicions deepened. She had not left for personal reasons. She had a colleague in state government and they were looking into the publisher. It was enough to distract me from pond spotting migratory fowl.

The day I learned the publisher was a con artist with warrants in numerous other states and aliases, was devastating. In all my years freelancing, I had practiced good judgment before taking gigs. He fooled an entire publications team and big sponsors. In the midst of the investigation and group lawsuit to recoup unpaid contracted wages, I had missed an email from our property managers. Looking back, that email was the inciting incident to the next phase of my life I never saw coming.

I never wrote about Elmira Pond again.

No need to revisit the past five, almost six, years. Homelessness, a husband’s cognitive demise, wandering the west. The Keweenaw was an unexpected grace. I found other Warrior Sisters facing problems like mine because of wounded veterans. Todd finally got enrolled in VA benefits and after 33 years, they acknowledged his injury and replaced his knee. They also acknowledged his severe PTSD. We even bought a house here. But he hates it here. Hates the snow. Hates the way people ride snowmobiles down the street. Hates me for “dragging” him here. Hates the way refs officiate every Vikings game. Hate builds a toxic environment.

When I look back at Elmira Pondspotter, I realize hate was a latecomer to our marriage. It’s not the result of injustice, chronic pain, and shitty circumstances, though. It’s part of the demise. It’s a brain struggling against a disease, a person suffering the loss of self and feeling unheard, disconnected, and dismissed. We once had a loving marriage, both of us supporting the other through earlier hardships. We both loved Elmira Pond. I’m struggling to manage this life with a spouse so changed.

And yet, just like back in March of 2014, I still dream. Carrot Ranch has not only stood as my writing community but has served as my anchor when I’ve needed a lifeline. I feel humbled by the awareness that I will not likely ever be as ambitious as I was in 2016. It is harder for me to do less. I get more emotional over new challenges. I was crying last year because I didn’t think I could finish my thesis. I did. I didn’t think I’d finish my MFA. I did. What sucks though, is that I don’t feel accomplished. Some light has snuffed and I want to rekindle it. I want to feel like I did when I wrote bird reports on a little pond in North Idaho. I want to find my joy.

I’ve worked with the visioning process long enough to recognize that I’m feeling disconnected from my North Star. I have so much good to be grateful for and so much to do. But I need to figure out how to integrate all the pieces into a whole life. I need time to reflect and just be without deadlines, student papers, client projects, and weekly prompts. That last one is the hardest to admit. But I couldn’t even get to my own ranch this week and I have final papers to grade, projects to complete, and a thesis to resurrect for submissions. All these responsibilities connect to the writing life I want to lead, but I have to figure out how to be more efficient.

I decided to take a semester break at Carrot Ranch. That way, I can complete the overwhelming tasks I have outstanding and then have time to dream and organize and refresh. Also, as of Friday, I was finally accepted into a VA caregiver program. I can sit for days and just cry with relief that I can get the support I’ve been asking for with skills training, workshops with other caregivers, and, most importantly, my own VA file. If that sounds odd, let me explain. Without a file, no one gives a eff about me at the VA. I’m just a complaining spouse. With a file, I get to voice my concerns and receive both respite care and mental health support. This is huge. On Thursday night we had a traumatic accident in the house. Everyone is okay, but I’m in need of that new support I have.

The Saddle Up Saloon will host an Author’s Chair on December 13, and we will have one more column for 2021 on December 14, and The Littles Christmas Goat will post December 16, including stories some of my ENG I students wrote.

Carrot Ranch will return with 2022 programming, including weekly 99-word story challenges on January 20. I believe in the work of our community to make literary art accessible 99 words at a time. I believe in safe space for writers to explore their craft, voice, and genre. I’ve had much affirmation from my students about the writing process, even some who said they had regained a love of writing in my classes or discovered the power of writing after thinking they couldn’t write. That fills me! Compiling a community’s collection of 99-word stories satisfies me! Reading, writing and researching to produce my create works drives me! Teaching grows me! I have wonderful stardust to collect to redirect the path to my North Star.

Will you use this time to dream and envision, strategize and consolidate? What do you want to do in 2022? What nurtures you?

My love to all of you in this community. No one has an easy path, but we step out together nonetheless. Keep writing!