Like all writers, I’ve had many influences on my writing and philosophies literary art. Carrot Ranch is all about making literary art accessible. Why? Because the most joyous times in my life have been when creative writing has no barriers. First I read, and then I began to write.
Literary art took on meaning the first time my seventh-grade teacher invited me to read my spelling story to the class. Every week, the interaction within my imagination between what I read and what I wrote became real when I read aloud to classmates. Eventually, other students began to write stories and read aloud, too.
To me, this was the beating heart of literary art — an imaginative and yet community activity. You can be a writer and never be read. To be a literary artist, you have to give your words to readers and be open to discussions, discoveries and an extension of your imagination to that of others.
Here at Carrot Ranch, we form a community that makes this dynamic, vibrant, week after week.
In college, I studied deconstructionism. That is, we tear down literature that works to see if we can uncover why. But when we apply this principle to budding writers, we often focus on errors and forget to honor raw literature in progress. Carrot Ranch is a safe space to make mistakes, to experiment, to grow, and to evolve as an artist working with words.
When I worked in marketing, I helped build campaigns, departments, and teams. I became a trainer and learned positive ways to build up people to be productive. Some of my business influences include Appreciative Inquiry, StrengthFinder, and ZingTrain. These principles were the opposite of decronstructive literature and writing. They were constructive. They built.
Which is why Carrot Ranch Literary Community is about building up skills, appreciating what the strengths of each writer are, and encouraging individuals to be part of a collective voice where one story ends, another picks up. If the weekly compilations of writers have taught me anything, it’s that we all have varied perspectives and add different creative details.
Creativity Knows No Bounds
While I built a career in marketing, I missed having a creative writing tribe. I missed talking about books with people and longed to ramble with other historians who collect stories as I do. I craved a creative life like the one Julia Cameron maps in her groundbreaking The Artist’s Way. Morning pages kept me grounded in my art and history adventures became my artist’s dates. My belief in the power of creating art is upheld in my other book mentors, Welby Altidor (Creative Courage), Elizabeth Gilbert (Big Magic), and Steven Pressfield (The War of Art).
A few other influential books from my marketing days include Why We Buy, From Good to Great, and Blink.
Just as each of us is made up of many parts, my current philosophies on literary art are rooted in something other than literature and business. Nature. Mountains run ridges through my family lines. My kin comes from the Highlands, Azores, and the Pyrenees. My American ancestors stretch from the Appalachians to the Sierras. The only thing I’ve found to sing lullabies to my soul like mountains is Lake Superior. It comes down to rocks, waters, birds, and wildlife.
Nature writing fed me like candy in college. I gobbled up Annie Dillard, Edward Abbey, Craig Childs, Terry Tempest Williams, Ivan Doig, Norman Maclean, Willa Cather, Aldo Leopold and Tony Hillerman like jelly beans. I trained in the Leopold method of environmental values during a time when I wrote about organic farmers. Rocks, nature writing, and fresh locally sourced food influence what I write and read.
Which brings me to history, the thread of interest that permeates everything. Discovering the past helps me understand the presentn and what direction to go for the future. All of this is literary art to me, and I invite other writers to bring their worlds to mine. Carrot Ranch is rich and vibrant with diverse writers who create literary art, writing, reading and discussing week after week.
Value of Literary Art
Often we believe artistic expression flourishes in paint and piano keys. If we broaden the idea to include words as art, we think of poetry. If we consider literature, the greats come to mind: Chaucer, Hemingway, Cather. And right now, you might be debating my opinion on “the greats.”
What is literature, and can we ever define who is in and who is out? Basically, literature is written works recognized as having important or permanent value. A writer who crafts with words and attempts repeatedly to achieve that designation of value is a literary artist. Therefore literary art is the pursuit of studying and writing literature. Raw literature results from the drafts and processes of this pursuit.
Literary artists need safe space to play with words, craft story ideas, explore characters, describe settings, investigate research, and discover what the art has to reveal. Art only reveals itself in doing and interacting. These 99-word nuggets of creative expression open doors that remain closed to literary artists in isolation. Interaction allows the literary-curious to dabble in the art for fun, or gives seasoned authors a break from intense long-term literary projects.
What does literary art look like at Carrot Ranch? It’s short-form micro-fiction, for certain. It’s playful. It’s encouraging, and provocative dialog about the art created or its process of creation. The literature at Carrot Ranch includes weekly collections of flash fiction thoughtfully arranged to express and explore a topic. It also includes the works of individuals: novels of multiple genres, short stories, essays, poetry, articles, book reviews, substantial blog posts, and creative works for educators.
The greatest value in literary art is that it opens minds to unfamiliar experiences. In a divisive world full of information, it’s the word-crafters who remind us of the humanity in it all. Literary artists inspire, agitate, reveal, imagine and reflect the good and bad within us. Literary artists give meaning to life. Consider the words John Lennon wrote:
“When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
You might say literary art is the pursuit of happiness.
Literature at Carrot Ranch (99-word Version)
Words seep from behind paint and piano keys to declare art of their own. Hemingway achieved mastery in six words. We take stabs at the canvas 99 thrusts at a time. We (literary artists in chorus) defeat isolation in a sandbox, jamming like John Lennon’s friends, pursuing happiness.
Carrot Ranch, a collaboration of word wrangling to craft, explore, reveal. Safe space to write without dinosaurs deconstructing early efforts or long-hidden chapters. A place where words wriggle free to crawl among brain folds, loosening shadows to dawn’s first light. Where teachers learn from 5-year-olds what universal truth could be.
- You can subscribe to our free weekly literary newsletter, The Roundup.
- You can like our Carrot Ranch Literary Community Page @CarrotRanch.
- You can purchase The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 in digital or print at our Book Store or on Amazon.
- You can support literary art at Carrot Ranch as a Patron of Literary Art.
- You can sponsor Carrot Ranch Literary Outreach (free community programs).