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Get ready for a treat — today’s tour is going to take you to Spain where Rough Writer and Victorian historian, Luccia Gray lives, teaches and writes. She has some terrific tips for writing flash fiction.
Lucy is the author of the rich Eyre Hall Trilogy that picks up Jane Eyre’s story. She has a broad grasp of the characters and the era. In her essay, All About Jane Eyre, Lucy connects the past to the present. This represents the depth of knowledge and passion she has for a beloved Victorian character that has become hers, too.
In The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1, Lucy joins as a new writer under a section editor Sarah Brentyn created. Thirty writers took to flash and produced a unique anthology. Readers’ Favorite gave it a 5-star review, and the reviewer even wrote his own 99-word contribution to describe Vol. 1:
“A fascinating book packed with bright ideas and worthwhile material. I was greatly entertained by the stories and essays and so taken with the idea that I thought I would give it a go with a 99-word review.
Stories of ninety-nine words, no more, no less, little gems from the Rough Writers of the Carrot Ranch. Like wild flowers in an early morning meadow glistening with dew and I, a butterfly or bee, flitting from bloom to bloom, immersing myself in a kaleidoscope of experiences which pass through my mind like an ever-changing dreamscape. Stories of love and loss, victory and defeat, struggle and gain from the pens of talented authors with backgrounds as diverse as their stories. A brilliant idea that has created an astounding anthology, one that you will return to time and again.”
~ Charles Remington for Readers’ Favorite
The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 is available through distribution in 17 countries worldwide. Buy direct from our Print on Demand distributor at Book Baby.
Join us next week as we return to England:
On Family Day in Canada, Rough Writer, author, photographer and Lover of Life, Ann Edall-Robson welcomes us to her place in Alberta. She writes books and blog posts, flash fictions and novels, “Capturing moments others may never get to experience.” Learn how Ann first came to Carrot Ranch and adopted flash fiction into her writing process.
Previous stops on the tour:
Geoff Le Pard writes like a Time Lord — he speeds across the horizons of creativity, returning week after week with short-stories of humor, humanity and memoir. The author of multiple novels, he’s also a contributor to Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1. He takes us to the UK to reflect upon flash fiction and horizons. Join us each Monday as a different Rough Writer takes us around the world.
The mesh forms a barrier, although not completely. Screens block some particles, but not those small enough to get through. Looking through the mesh of a window, the screen remains unseen unless it becomes the focus.
Writers explored this permeable obstruction. The word itself holds different meanings. All was open to interpretation.
The following stories are based on the November 16, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use the word mesh in a story.
Awaited by Allison Maruska
Today has been long awaited.
I move slowly down the long hall towards my destiny, the place where my past and present mesh into a single moment. I swallow, as if that will quell my nerves.
Spectators are waiting. For some, today is a long promise finally fulfilled. It’s strange to think that, as the reason they’re here has nothing to do with them. The real reason isn’t among these faces. She’s vibrant in my mind’s eye, though. She’s eternally beautiful there.
A moment before my time, the official’s voice breaks through.
“May God have mercy on your soul.”
No Deterrent by Kim Blades
It was a ten foot high, heavily barbed, wire mesh fence. Supposedly a barrier to disincline would be intruders.
It worked for a while. Forty four nights in total.
Forty five nights after the formidable fence was constructed, a couple of local thieves with wire cutters worked for twenty minutes to cut out a doorway in the barbed mesh.
They laid the mesh ‘door’ on the grass and proceeded to enter the property that backed onto the river.
They stole a lawnmower and the light fittings on the back verandah.
The thieves didn’t bother to replace the mesh door.
Blaggards and Traitors by Jack Schuyler
Big Richie blew a stream of smoke across the desk and Carlson coughed through his gag.
“My network’s a fabric, Carlson, a mesh of thieves and blaggards.”
Carlson’s eyes watered and a tear dripped from his ruddy cheek.
“But for traitors, I’ve no tolerance. What use does a snag have but to unravel the whole garment?” Richie slammed a handgun on the desktop.
Carlson struggled desperately against his constraints.
“I’ve no choice Carlson, a snag’s got to be cut from the mesh.”
He raised his gun and Carlson let out a final whimper before being severed from the mesh.
Why Flies Hate Blair Toilets by Anne Goodwin
Why do you hate us, humans? Because we visit your kitchens with dung on our feet? That’s our culture, dammit. We mean no harm.
We were as excited as you were: brand new latrines! No more long commutes from heap to heap under the scorching sun. We followed the smell around the corner, dipped down the pit for a feast. Stated, we soared towards the light. Bam! Blocked by wire mesh.
We cannot retrace our flight path to the entrance. Evolution taught us to trust in light. Why do you hate us, humans? Why shorten our already short lives?
Mesh Fly Screen by Michael
When we first went to visit the town, we were to spend the next eight years in the hotel we stayed in during the height of the summer had no mesh fly screens. The Manager showed us to our room and then proceeded to catch the flies finding our open door too good to resist.
With her fingers, she hunted them down, squeezed them and threw them out the door as more happily invaded us.
It was one of the few down sides to living in the country, mesh screens were a rare sight, but myriads of flies were common.
“Don’t we form an extraordinary mish-mesh?” Her fingers twisted into the smooth dark curls at the back of his neck.
“Don’t you mean mish–mash, my love?”
“No, we don’t mash. That’s what steel forks do to potoatoes, violently pummelling them into submission. That’s not us at all. We mesh.”
To prove her point she threw her free arm over his chest and wrapped her leg around his bare calf.
“Our mish-mesh will keep everything bad out.”
“And everything good in” he added, slipping his hand into hers.
They clutched at this dream as they clung to each other.
Mesh by FloridaBorne
“She don’t mesh with nobody!” Audra’s father complained. “Must be yer side o’ the family.”
“Horace, you moron! She’s just like yer Aunt Clara with gettin’ scholarships!”
“She ain’t int’rested in boys!”
“My sister was pregnant at 14,” Audra said. “I’m going to college!”
“Yer 16. Yer ma birthed you at 13, her ma birthed at 14. What’s wrong with you, girl?”
“Wrong is having 4 daughters with 2 children each, and living off welfare,” Audra said. “Try forcing me to be with a man and I’ll call child abuse!”
“Best ta let the renegades go,” her mother sighed.
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
The kid hoisted the bag of slop in the dumpster. It hit with a splat and he toweled his hands with his apron.
Mesh popped up. “Oh. Hey Brooke, I didn’t see, um, you okay?”
“Yeah, it’s just…” She blew a cloud of smoke to the sky, wiped her face into the shining smile that raked in the tips. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
“I swear to god if Paul touches my ass again…”
“You should say something. He owns the restaurant, he doesn’t own you.”
“Is that like some Hindu Indian wisdom?”
“No, it’s common sense.”
The Call to Adventure by Colleen Cheseboro
Abby sat up in bed. There it was again. A strange buzzing sound echoed through the room. The ability to understand the languages of all creatures had also given her excellent hearing. She could hear a pin drop a mile away. Today, this sound shouted for her attention.
Abby shivered. The sound continued. Curious, she crept toward the window. Drawing the blinds, she gasped in surprise. It was a bee, crawling on the mesh screen stuck between the glass window.
“Save us,” it hummed.
That would prove to be a tall order for a girl with a bee allergy.
Solit’s Web by Liz Husebye Hartmann
She’d climbed down the drainage tunnel, crawling due east, then straight down. That ladder better not end before the tunnel did. Beau had promised, and he was getting 60% of the take for having the only map to Solit. She had the muscle and the stealth, so it fell to her to do the actual theft.
She snapped on her headlamp. The steel mesh of the spider’s web gleamed below her, easy enough to drop down to, but how was she going to get back up?
Oh well. She’d figure that out, once she’d snatched the queen’s ruby eggs.
Seeing the Elephant by D. Avery
Robert was practically running now.
He would have missed sugar season, but his father would appreciate his help with spring planting. His father wouldn’t ask him, as the man on the train had, about the Battle of the Wilderness.
Soon he’d be eating Ma’s cooking, would tousle the hair of his baby brother, six now, teach him everything there was to know, would have him driving the team, set him up with his own team of oxen. Robert ached to again work the farm, to mesh with the seasons.
Almost home; soon he would set this damn musket down.
Flash Fiction by Irene Waters
The kick in the stomach woke her. “Stop spinning you bastard,” her husband yelled as his arms flailed and his leg moved into position for another punch to the gut. Cassandra moved quickly, shaking him from sleep. Travis awoke with a start; pale, sweating and obviously frightened. “Cassie, thank god you were there.” His eyes were wide with fear as though he could still see the demon of his dream. “The web the spider wove is supposed to catch dreams and filter out the bad ones but she was enmeshing me, making me part of the world wide web.
The Spoiler by Rosemary Carlson
”Why do some people have to spoil everything?” I wondered out loud, as I stared through the mesh of the screen door into the jungle of the yard. I was thinking of the old man at the pier. I had thought, last year when visiting here, that he was my friend. This year, it was clear he wasn’t.
I loved to go to the pier at sunset. The Gulf was so peaceful. The sunset so beautiful. A man was there who I used to enjoy talking to. No more. Now he only wanted to argue. I didn’t know why.
Like a Friendly Spider by Kerry E.B. Black
When as a child I didn’t get along with someone, my mom would say we didn’t “mesh.” An optimistic humanist, I had a hard time accepting this. I’d re-work my approach toward friendship, hoping to integrate into their lives. I’d learn a sport, watch popular films, read trending books. Still, the “mesh” eluded me.
As I grew, classmates changed to fit into intricate webs of friendship.
So I weaved a new fabric, one accepting others’ diverse contributions. Not everyone would want to be a part of my web, and that was okay. I could mesh with those who did.
Pair Unbonding by Frank Hubeney
The puzzle pieces didn’t mesh together. Robert thought something was missing.
One: Robert’s girlfriend, Sylvia, spent the weekend with Paul.
Two: Sylvia discovered Paul already had a girlfriend.
Three: Sylvia’s girlfriends advised her to go back to Robert. “He’ll get over it.” He’s better than nothing.
Robert heard of autistic people who could see the hidden patterns of puzzle pieces. They could fix intractable problems, but Janice wasn’t autistic nor was she motivated to solve such puzzles. Her approach was simpler. She become the missing piece and made a blanket from the others to keep her and Robert warm.
Mesh by Judy E Martin
The metallic clanking appeared to be coming from the kitchen. “PETE, what are you doing?”
Silence, then more clanking with additional thudding. Irritated, Sarah got out of bed, went to the bathroom then headed downstairs for some water to moisten her dry mouth.
“I’LL ALWAYS LOVE YOOOOOOO.” Dear God, not the singing! Opening the kitchen door Sarah’s stomach growled at the aroma of frying bacon, her eyes then drawn to the discarded egg shells, and crumbs from a semi hacked loaf.
“Fanshy a shnack?” Sensing disapproval Pete apologised. “Shorry, I sheem to have made a bit of a mesh!”
Mesh Unit by Bill Engleson
“Not much. Oh, did I mishear you?”
“No, I misspoke.”
I am silent.
I want to remember.
“She’ll put you up,” Terri had said.
“She’s only met me once.”
“Don’t worry. I noticed the spark. You’ll be like lox and cream cheese.”
It was a bitter winter. The Greyhound was having heating issues.
Her dark hair, unfathomably red lips, welcoming arms, met me at the terminal.
“It’s small,” she said. “We’ll have to share…everything.”
“I have little,” I said, “So that should be easy.”
Now, a fuzzy memory.
It’s amazing how moments fly.
Mesh in Shadorma by Lady Lee Manila
their memories mesh
caught in a mesh of crosses
and double crosses
like a shoal
herrings trashed in net
play on fears
reality of nature
form intricate mesh
mesh of power equations
conflicts between them
he and she
her frame mesh with his
his heart beats with hers, in time
like no tomorrow
almost feel her warmth
between them there’s just one soul
be in harmony
together make sweet music
and forever more
Flash Fiction by Susan Sleggs
“Melding two people in marriage is like weaving your personalities into a strong mesh. Today I know your special mesh is as fine as Lilly’s wedding veil. It is my duty to warn you, life will present trials that will stretch the spaces and even create holes. Disputes can be about anything from how to raise your children, to spend money, or deal with your in-laws. I challenge you to never let your mesh get a hole in it. Do you accept my challenge?”
The reverend eyed the bride’s family as the naive couple answered in unison, “We do.”
Meshed by Ritu Bhathal
Sitting together in the backseat, our fingers met and slowly entwined. Our eyes met and a smile spread across our faces.
It had been a big day today. Emotional, but worth every tear I had shed.
After vows had been taken, congratulations had been exchanged, music and merriment, feasting and festivities had finished, the final goodbyes had started.
Looking back, I saw my family waving. Looking forward, his family held their arms open, welcoming me.
It was then I realised that there was no them and us, but two families, forever meshed together because of our love and union.
Bridging the Gap by Reena Saxena
“I can take you to the doctor, if needed.”
This was his first sentence spoken to her after three months. The marriage was shaky. But, Tisha was not willing to give up so easily. It was an ego battle, more than anything else. She was secretly happy that he had been watching her growing unease with the old spinal problem.
“I don’t think it is that bad. A good back rub might ease the tense nerves.”
“I’ll fix an appointment for you with the physiotherapist.”
Shucks! She had managed to break the glass, but the mesh was still there.
Not Today by Sherri Matthews
I knocked once: waited; then again. No sound. I checked my phone. Nothing. I drew a deep breath and knocked again; at last I saw his outline through the mottled glass pane. He hadn’t opened the door yet, but I knew it would be a bad day. Rain fell, steady and cold. He must have heard it, yet he took an age to find his key while I got soaked. I watched him shuffle, shoulders slumped, to the door and I wondered when I would see him sharp and clear again, no longer through shadowed mesh. But not today.
Fleecing Lint by JulesPaige
As a teenager, Holly got local job. Certainly not something
that was going to be a career – working at the corner dry-
cleaners and laundromat. The chemical smell was horrid.
And people literally dropped off their dirty laundry by the
pound. Pockets had to be checked, and stains had to be
noted in case they couldn’t be removed.
A ‘perk’ was cleaning the dryers mesh lint traps. Sometimes
loose change could be found. Holly did not feel obliged to
report these treasures to the owners. She felt she deserved
that can of pop or candy bar gotten from chump change.
The Mesh by Cheryl Oreglia
I admit these baby blues screen me from the more painful realities of life. They are the mesh I stand behind, like bars of a prison, some days I’m looking in, and others I’m looking out. A sacred veil of sorts, or stained glass window that matches the sky, this is the sanctuary from which I view the world. Unlike contacts, I can’t remove them, especially when they fail to serve me, grooming my ignorance, and blurring my wisdom. My mesh is invisible to me, but not to the outside world, an ideological screen interwoven with human fallibility.
Strong Foundations by Nora Colvin
Jamie heard the vehicles; the doors slam; then men’s voices. He looked to his mum. She smiled and nodded. Dad was already there, giving instructions.
“Watch, but don’t get in the way,” he’d said.
Clara arrived, breathless. “What’s happenin’?”
“Carport. Pourin’ the slab,” he answered. “That’s the frame. Keeps it in shape.”
Beep. Beep. Beep. The concrete truck backed into position.
The men quickly spread the mix, then lifted the mesh into place.
“Makes it strong,” said Jamie.
Another load of mix was spread.
“All done,” said Jamie.
Later, in the sandpit, the children experimented with strengthening their structures.
The Volcano by Robbie Cheadle
Craig wanted a volcano island play set. Mom said she would show him how to make one. She bought a wooden board and the makings for paper mache. First, Mom made the basic shape of the volcano out of some wire mesh which she bent into a hump-like shape. Then, they made the paper mache out of water, wood glue and newspaper, torn into strips. Mom showed Craig how to pack the soggy, gluey newspaper over the mesh hump and shape it into a volcano. It took a week to dry and then they painted it. It was impressive.
Between Here and There (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Danni trailed a finger across the mesh. The screened box rested empty, all the dry artifacts now collected. Her vision blurred. The mesh veils the place between here and there. The thought startled Danni. No, the mesh is a tool. She shook off her stupor and focused on the Styrofoam trays that contained shards of crockery, broken glass and rusty square nails. After transporting sixty-seven trays to the lab, she flicked off the lights. In the dark, she thought again about space and time. If material items and bones remain, where does the energy of the spirit depart to?
Flash Fiction by Pensitivity
Dad was the mesh that held us together.
Now he’s gone and the hole he left has grown wider, more ragged, more irregular.
Try as I might to fix it, mend it or patch it, short of replacing the entire thing I was on a hiding to nothing.
But nothing could ever replace Dad.
The fresh and new didn’t fit, so wrapped and warped in their own lives they didn’t know the man who was my father, my rock. Stories had no meaning, no memories.
Now not even the framework remains. It lies broken and discarded, forgotten and empty.
The Porch Between by D. Avery
“Kid, why you got them tools and that mesh screenin’?”
“Feelin’ like doin’ somethin’ nice for Shorty, gonna screen in the front porch where ever’one sets ‘n tell stories.”
“Ta keep mosquitos ‘n such from botherin’ us.
“Ya could, an’ this bein’ fiction an’ all you might even do a real fine job.”
“But Kid, this bein’ fiction an’ all, we can jes’ say we ain’t got skeeters.”
“That a fact?”
“Yep. ‘Cause this’s fiction.”
“Like alternate facts?”
“So no skeeters.”
“And an unimpeded view from Shorty’s porch.”
“Things look good from here.”
“That’s a fact.”
Thanksgiving by D. Avery
“Whatcha got there, Kid?”
“Lemme guess. Got yerself a mess a bacon.”
“Nope, I got carrots.”
“An’ yer gonna roast ‘em, wrapped in bacon.”
“Nope. Jes’ carrots.”
“Oh, boy, here we go. Let’s hear it then.”
“The whinin’ an’ lamentin’ about the dearth of bacon here at the ranch.”
“Dearth, Kid, lack, scarcity.”
“Well, Pal, there is no scarcity. D’ Earth provides. Look at these beautiful carrots I pulled from d’ earth. Here, I’m giving you some.”
“Yep, I’m givin’ thanks. I’m thankful fer ever’one at the ranch, an’ fer Shorty’s raw carrots.”
Essay by Allison Mills, a member of the Congress of Rough Writers, and the Darling Daughter of the Lead Buckaroo
<< ♦ >>
Deep down—way deep down where words melt into heartbeats and cation exchanges—I know I am a dancer. In that regard, I consider myself a writer second. Or perhaps I’m an editor second because I play the role of choreographer as I craft the words of a first draft. In my mother’s words, these stories in the rough are raw literature.
Yes, Carrot Ranch blog extraordinaire Charli Mills is my Mumsy Darling; it’s a nickname my sister and I gave her in high school and the one I still use in my mobile contacts. No surprise, my earliest memories are of her, living room leaps, and Shakespeare. I can appreciate Norah Colvin’s recent post on teaching children the process of writing and the value of a portfolio as Mumsy Darling was my first instructor in storytelling.
The specific memory I can recall is filtered through a home video. Her long auburn hair swaying, Mumsy leads us three children in a wild, dance-run circle to Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet. We spin, leap, throw our arms as only children and their mother can. The suite transitions, we fall to the floor, and ever the writer, Mumsy hears her musical cue for words, “Romeo, oh, Romeo! Where art thou, oh, Romeo?”
Before she can finish the monologue, my logger of father—wearing a cowboy hat and Elmer Fudd t-shirt—walks through the door, swinging his arms as only a man with bull shoulders and cantaloupe biceps can. “Right here, babe!”
The whole scene is improvised. There is an ease to the phrases and pirouettes. It’s raw. It’s a feeling I now chase as an adult writer working in science communication for a university. It’s a memory I use to spark choreography as a dance instructor and performer. To embrace raw literature, I approach my writing as a dance piece.
I get too excited listening to Tchaikovsky to get much rough drafting done, but headphones and music are an important part of my writing process. No lyrics—words don’t beget words for me. I have to tap into a mental and emotional space where I feel the shape and rhythm of words as movement before my conscious mind taps them out on the keyboard. Caught up in the steps, my hands will rise and flick out; at times, deep in concentration and imagination, my whole body steps away from the screen and I’m snapped back to reality by my headphones. Many of my coworkers have walked in on this desk dance; lit happens, people.
For all the touchy-feeling sound of this process, I’m terribly precise. Before my writing flows, I have to soak up so much information—just imagine all the facts a top-tier researcher with new paper can lay out in an hour-long interview—and I sort it first into messy notes and recordings, then weave the highlights into a tight and detailed outline. I work best with templates and a plan, even a rough one, helps me breathe life into a raw story. Sometimes I jump into the petit allegro of the body copy; often I bend the beginning into place and follow through like a traditional barre from plies to grand battements, kickers are endings after all.
Dance improvisation is the closest thing to writing for me. Improv appears extraneous; non-dancers may be surprised to learn how much structure is needed, much as non-writers may not realize how much research and thought goes into raw literature. A dancer builds up muscle memory, so that as she choreographs on the fly, her moves come smoothly and with practiced grace. Sometimes the steps are repetitive or off-beat, but you can’t rework what you don’t practice. A writer pens words every day and sometimes coughs up a phlegmy first draft for the same reason.
Practice does not make perfect; practice just opens up more opportunity and makes it easier to clear out the crud. Cutting and polishing are the precise tools of editing; raw literature is the material, crafted from intuition.
While rawness comes with some roughness, genuine expressions beat rote and memorized masks. I channeled this recently in a fusion improv I dedicated to my family and where we’ve all come since our living room ballets. I planned out the structure and agonized for months on what story to tell. On the night of the show, though, I realized it’s only a dance. It’s only a rough draft. Let go.
(See Allison’s solo at 4:55 and you’ll understand what comes of her raw choreography in a piece she dedicated to her family.)
Allison Mills is a Science and Technology Writer at Michigan Tech. A through and through geek, Allison writes university research stories. She studied geoscience as an undergrad at Northland College before getting a master’s in environmental science and natural resource journalism at the University of Montana. She moonlights as a dance instructor, radio fiend, and occasional rock licker. She writes features from fruit flies to sulfurous volcanic emissions. Read her published articles at Michigan Tech, and for all you sci-fi geeks and writers, follow her at Unscripted where science rolls off the tongue in discussions about campus research. Allison wrote, Welcome to Superfund, a multi-media masters project, including podcast journalism, environmental writing and map-making. She dances with the troupe, 47 North Belly Dance, and tweets at @aw_mills.
Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carrot Ranch is a community of literary writers from around the world. Those who began as regulars to the weekly flash fiction challenges are among the current Congress of Rough Writers. The group name is a nod to Wild Bill Cody’s Wild West Show that was also made up of global participants who amazed audiences with daring feats of riding. Our writers amaze readers with literary writing feats. The group name reflects the theme of a western-style ranch, which personifies the roots and western writing of Carrot Ranch’s Lead Buckaroo, Charli Mills. The collective writing, however, is as diverse as the individuals who encompass the Congress.
One Rough Writer took a break from writing raw literature to run for Congress. Sarah Unsicker, one of the earliest members of the Rough Writers, ran a successful campaign as a Democrat for her state’s legislature. On November 8, constituents elected Unsicker as State Representative of Missouri’s 91st District. While all of us at Carrot Ranch wish her the best in her new role, we are also curious as to what she’ll be doing.
Already, Unsicker, is preparing for the life changes election will bring to her. As a lawyer and mother, Unsicker has already practiced walking between the different worlds of career and parent. In fact, she wrote a flash fiction in August of 2014 that responded to “a multiverse situation,” which could be based on her experience as a lawyer-now-parent moment.
The Crosswalk by Sarah Unsicker
We wait together for the walk signal. She is dressed smartly for court; I push a twin stroller in marker-stained jeans. I ask what kind of hearing she has.
“Pretrial,” she says, “a bail hearing.” I recognize the client from her description. He was homeless and couldn’t afford health care. She looks as nervous as I remember feeling.
“You’ll do fine,” I say, confidently. This case will start her short but successful career.
My gaze rests on the pearls my husband gave me, on the suit that hangs in my closet. I again contemplate the cost of child care.
Off the literary page, Unsicker is preparing for the transition to elected life. As a State Representative, she will work in Jefferson City, Missouri four days a week between January and May. Because the state capital is two hours from her home, Unsicker will set up a temporary second residence. Her work commute will begin on Mondays after she drops off her kids at the school bus stop. She’ll return to her family on Thursdays.
If you read between the lines in Unsicker’s flash fiction, you’ll catch glimpses of a character’s longing to be a part of social justice. Unsicker says she’s always been interested in politics, and felt frustrated in recent years by her state’s legislature. She ran on a platform that supports children and families; one that tackles ethics reform in government. A job she is capable of accomplishing. Her beliefs and experience as both a mother and lawyer shaped her political platform:
“Sarah believes every person deserves dignity and respect. That the mom receiving welfare should have as much power to be heard as the CEO. Sarah believes that everyone plays the best game they are able with the hand they are dealt, and we have a responsibility to make the playing field more equitable.” From Sarah Unsicker for State Representative, 2016.
When Unsicker gets to work at Missouri’s state capital, she’ll review correspondence from her constituents and prepare for committee work. Committees are how government bodies function to address a myriad of issues. She will work on the rules (administrative oversight) committee, fiscal review committee, and the special committee on innovation and technology. Unsicker will await news of her appointment to which committees on which she’ll serve and do the bulk of her legislative work.
President John F. Kennedy made a famous statement during his 1961 inaugural address: “My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Any citizen who steps up to serve the nation at the sacrifice of his or her known way of life is leading by example. It’s not easy for a wife and mother to put aside her own activities, including gardening and writing fiction, and leave the comfort of home. Unsicker once addressed the unsettling thought of possible life disruption in a flash fiction prompted by “a crack.”
Crack of Thunder by Sarah Unsicker
I lay in bed, refusing to wake up. I enjoy this quiet morning, even with the toddler kicking me in the back. Eyes closed, I see a quick flash of light.
Am I hallucinating? The world bright for a moment, then suddenly dark. The flash does not happen again. Is this the beginnings of a brain tumor? After that quarter-second, the world is back to normal. Quiet, dark, toddler in the back, nothing has changed. Or has it? Am I cracking up?
I hear a distant crack, a rumble of thunder. Everything is, once again, right with the world.
Unsicker knows the work ahead of her will be daunting; she’s an elected Democrat facing a newly elected Republican President and Federal Congress. Yet, it’s heartening to know that among our local, state and federal representation we have a process by which we, as concerned citizens, can still be heard. Unsicker witnessed the negativity of the last few weeks, as candidates slung mud at one another in their bids to get elected. While negative campaigns might work, the elected officials have to work through that negativity to find real solutions facing their residences, states and nation.
The elections might be over, but now is not the time for any citizen to sit back. Acceptance doesn’t mean inaction. Just as Unsicker is rolling up her sleeves to do the work for her state, she advises other citizens to participate. Anyone can correspond with their state representatives (and federal elects, too). She encourages people to write letters, make phone calls and try to form relationship with their representatives. “Keep telling them what’s important. Show up for committee hearings,” she says.
And those of us who write can continue to voice alternative perspectives through literature. Unsicker understands how the process of writing allows individuals to access feelings and ideas. One premise at Carrot Ranch is that a weekly prompt by which writers respond can offer readers a way to explore the collective responses that vary in perspective. Literature has the power to offer new ways of seeing an old problem or experiencing a different culture or lifestyle. Unisicker says, “Literature helps people consider different situations in life with more empathy and understanding.”
Thus begins a new Congress for this Rough Writer. On behalf of Carrot Ranch, we are all whoopin’ and hollerin’ for Sarah Unsicker’s successful candidacy. We know her to be a thoughtful and compassionate writer and expect her to lead with intelligence and integrity, standing up for all people in her state. We leave you with a final flash fiction from writer-turned-representative. This particular flash is based on a character Unsicker developed in a longer work in progress. We hope she one day returns to her creative writing, but in the meantime, she has constituents to nourish.
Filling the Heart With Calories by Sarah Unsicker
Baking filled in the hole in Cecilia’s life where family was missing. It comforted her when she was lonely; it was the warm hug she fed herself every morning; it reached out to embrace friends when words would not suffice. The smell of the bread she baked every full moon filled her empty house and chased away memories. Kneading sweet buns, she fought those forces that had left only ghosts to share the house. The crescendo of smell of the chocolate chip cookies that she baked for the neighbors muted her need for grandchildren. Yes, baking nourished Cecilia’s soul.
Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Occasionally, the Lead Buckaroo, will profile those who create raw literature. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay or profile idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at email@example.com.
No matter how many gather, each will look at the destination or event through an individual lens. The result is that each take is different, even slightly.
For a writer, a lens is a powerful tool by which to show a story. This week writers considered the lens to prompt 99-word stories. The ensuing snapshots and lenses are the result.
The following are based on September 21, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using a lens.
Flash Fiction #1 by Gordon Le Pard
He looked out at the horizon and saw nothing, “Nonsense” he thought as he walked over to his excited colleague bending over the strange device, he looked through the little lens. There was a tiny ship – with the cross of Spain on its sails. Moving it he saw more, the Armada had arrived!
Moments later the beacon was lit, within hours the English fleet was at sea.
The Spanish thought they had the English trapped in Plymouth harbour – but at dawn the Royal Navy launched their first attack. The defeat of the Spanish Armada had begun.
Author’s Note: The first telescope was probably invented in the 1570’s by Leonard and Thomas Digges, but kept secret because of its military importance. I have placed one in the hands of one of the men keeping watch for the invading Spaniards in 1588.
New Glasses by Larry LaForge
Ed sat at the small table. The youthful technician smiled from the other side. “Great choice,” she said while fitting the frame over Ed’s nose and around his ears. She made a few tweaks before removing it.
“Would you like glass, polycarbonate or high-index plastic lenses?”
Ed thought for a second, but the technician continued before he could speak.
“Of course, we strongly recommend anti-scratch, anti-reflective, and anti-UV coatings.”
Ed could hear a cash register ringing in his ears with each option.
The technician smiled again. “What are your preferences?”
Ed didn’t hesitate this time. “Let’s go with anti-expensive.”
Off Script by Jules Paige
Odd how the new pair didn’t seem to be correct. It is always
a trial at the optometrists to say which view is best when they
are flipping those lenses in front of your face. But this new pair
made a piece of typing paper look like a trapezoid. And the place
that made the new spectacles didn’t want to redo the glasses,
especially if the prescription wasn’t right. Sure enough there had
been a ‘technical error.’ I knew I wasn’t going to get used to no
matter how long I wore them. Three days had been too much!
Miracle Surgery by Paula Moyer
The lens in Jean’s right eye was dying – she saw two stoplights even with the left eye covered. At 48, she was a young cataract patient, but for Jean, nearsighted since childhood, nothing was more predictable.
One surgery day, Sam drove Jean to the hospital. In recovery, she looked like a pirate, jaunty with her patch. At home, she slept the afternoon away.
That night, when Sam removed the patch, Jean looked at the clock across the room. All the numbers, both hands, crystal clear.
“Oh, my.” Her only words.
Old lens out, new corrective lens in. A miracle.
Different Perspectives by Kerry E.B. Black
The doctor handed me a script. “The ophthalmologist in Monroeville is gentle.” I thanked her, cradling my six-year-old daughter’s hand, stretching a smile across my worry.
She blinked up at me. “Do I need glasses, momma?”
The ophthalmologist’s staff administered a drop in her trusting eye. She screamed against its burn, thrashing in the seat. Doctors asked for help restraining her flailing fifty pounds. Tests ended inconclusively, leading to more tests until the doctor and I sat with my girl.
“I find nothing wrong with her.”
I sunk with relief, but my girl cried. “I wanted glasses.”
Two Eyes by Jeanne Lombardo
Father McHugh’s Irish brogue echoed through the vault. He was at the altar, the crucified Christ above him. I didn’t need to see him to know that.
Light streamed through the stained glass windows, illuminating the dusty-rose walls of the nave. So soft. So pretty. I wondered what the inside of a cloud looked like.
I looked towards the altar. Everything had looked newly sharp the day before, as if God had drawn lines around everything. Now Father was all fuzzy again. I squinted. I felt for the new glasses on my face.
My fingers jammed into my nose. I’d forgotten them at home.
The Aftermath by Geoff Le Pard
‘How did it go?’
‘Interesting. In a Chinese sense.’
‘I thought it would be awkward. But it was good.’
‘So you’re pleased you went?’
‘I think so. Funny really. You go to a funeral not expecting much yet all these ghosts appear.’
‘I suppose that’s what you get at a cemetery.’
‘Ha, I guess. Funny though, meeting old contacts. It’s like a mirror being held up. No, more like a magnifying glass, a lens. You think you know yourself but seeing old faces makes you see yourself differently. A different close up.’
‘And none the wiser.’
Unwanted Find (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Danni turned the rock until she found its fit. An edge poked out between her thumb and forefinger. Sharp like a knife. Retrieving a hand-lens from her pocket, she examined the edge for signs of knapping. Most likely it was crafted as a hide-scraper. Before she could toss it, Ike and Michael returned from fishing the river.
“What you got there,” asked Ike.
“Just a chipping,” she said.
Ike plucked it from her hand. “Huh. Looks like a brain scooper.”
Danni would have smiled at the jest if Michael hadn’t been glowering at her. “Grave robber,” he mouthed, silently.
The Whole World by Anne Goodwin
“Are you serious? Whoever’s first to circumnavigate the world gets everything?”
“If you both agree,” said the Sage.
My brother nodded. The crazy kid doesn’t even have a pilot’s licence. I like to win, but I’d rather it were more of a challenge.
After twenty-three hours, my eyes stung. Rubbing them, blinking, nothing changed the view: my brother with a gold medal swinging from his neck.
The Sage placed his hand on my shoulder. “You did well, but there are other ways of looking at the world.”
My brother waved. And went back to running circles round our parents.
The Shore of a Lake by Ruchira Khana
“Wow!” she exclaimed.
He made an “ugh” face as he continued to read his book on the shores of the Lake Tahoe.
“What!” she said irritatingly, “Did you even bother to give a second glance?”
He pulled down his shades partially and gave a brief look, “The water is muddy so why to give me the trouble!” he admitted.
“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Now if the beholder is a grumpy old man, beauty does not care to show her true self” she said while continuing to click the picture of the pebbles amidst the mud.
Flash Fiction #2 by Gordon Le Pard
He carefully screwed the lens onto the simple wooden box. The sensitive paper was already inside. He gently placed it in front of the window and waited.
Ten years earlier, on his honeymoon, he had tried to draw using a camera, and failed. But the lovely pictures on the screen were entrancing, he had thought there must be a way of capturing them – scientifically.
Later, his daughter peered over his shoulder at the little picture of the window.
“How did you draw that papa?” she asked.
“I didn’t, light drew it.” He coined a word, “It’s a photograph.”
Author’s Note: This is completely true, William Henry Fox-Talbot worked for over ten years in trying to fix the images he saw in a Camera Obscura. In the 1830’s he succeeded, the first true photograph was taken of a window in his home at Laycock Abbey in Wiltshire.
Pictures of Rock n Roll Disease (An ode to The Killjoys) by ElliottLyngreen
Kinda want to test the science to thr other side of the lens.. just cuz He still leans, slumps against.. infintely; covered with sweat and mud as if it took everything.. to reach. Yes Eddie; we all backed it away.. Amongst stained arms..slumps..,..So cast in shadow. in its light. where it sooo hyperextended @simultaneous_reflections of that _string. Cut/finally the shades raised.. Yes. Tremendous curtains fling. Shredded, slumps, “thank you Eddie V.” That’s how it’d be. From this end, the bended lenses.. boomerang with fumes, images, that photograph, and the concert REACH!ed… Touched… #heynanana_heythatssomething
What You See by Norah Colvin
They saw him for what he wasn’t and what he lacked, not for what he was and what he could be. Their ill-fitting garments failed to clothe, and their unpalatable diet failed to nourish. If only they’d zoomed in upon his potential. Instead the wide-angled lens showed a panorama of disadvantage: an excuse for failure to fulfil his needs or enable his possibilities. A lens in proper focus may have seen a burning curiosity, a rich imagination, a wisdom older than time, and a heart in harmony with the universe. Instead they considered the negatives not worthy of development.
A Different Lens (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
Jane is looking idly around the Metro stop when she sees it.
Here she stands with everyone else, scrolling on her phone, her second-hand boots and Patagonia windbreaker and messy updo indistinguishable from anyone else’s. No way to tell that the thirty-eight dollars in her wallet is her very last, that her bus card is low-income, that the tall Americano she’s sipping is her first such splurge in a month.
Amazing. She’s pulling it off, looking like everyone else, with their Starbucks apps and credit card bills.
How many of these people are, secretly, no different from her?
Captured by Pete Fanning
The lens captures a death. Grainy footage, shaky, a crack of gunfire. The video is shared. Judged by the public. Two narratives develop. Sides are chosen.
Good. Bad. Wrong. Right. Justice served. Justice sought. Book. Gun.
The mirror captures a lens in hand. Pouty lips, a flash in the glass. The image is shared. Judged by the public. Two narratives develop. Sides are chosen.
Ugly. Hot. Pig. Cute. Slut. Nice.
The lens captures a crying mother. A headstone, trees brimming red and yellow in the distance. The image is shared. Heads shake in disbelief.
Rest in Peace.
Musings of a Photographer by Diana Nagai
People accuse photography is a trick. Artists use filters and perspective to alter reality. The results displaying distorted truths. People claim the human eye can see far more details and nuances than a camera’s lens.
But is the naked eye a myth? Don’t people use their own filters? Black, white. Atheist, Muslim. Female, male. Their own perspectives? Young, old. Mine, yours.
So, what is reality and can anyone ever really find truth?
Is the real trick to try someone else’s filter, to imagine another’s life perspective? If we don’t, are we left with only the negative?
Putting Away the Portrait (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
After tea, Mary pulled down the portrait of Cobb. She knew Monroe watched her from across the room, but he said nothing. She walked to her bedroom and laid down the portrait on her bed. Visitors didn’t see her dead husband the way she did. She knew him to be strong-willed, but fair. He’d been sheriff most their married life. Just because he was not elected, he appointed himself adjudicator on the wild prairie. It kept his family safe. Her safe. His neighbors.
How could she see that it was Cobb who wouldn’t be safe? Shot like some outlaw.
Three by Bill Engelson
Dobbs was feeling hurried, even though time had stood still.
The twelve horsemen had circled Union City. Hank Taylor guessed they were probably tethered in a draw south of Union City.
“What is keeping them?” Aggie asked.
“Even a nest of snakes want to live,” Hank mused. “They’re taking all the time they need.”
“Not a nest,” Dobbs said. “One twitching headless snake. Waiting for the head.”
“Maybe,” said Hank.
“No maybe about it. They’re waiting for Caldwell. He’s their brain. Without him telling them who to bite, they’re just a waiting mangle of gutless bone and poisoned flesh.”
It’s Merely Life by Ann Edall-Robson
Everyday there are happenings, visions and sightings that make us suck our breath in. They make us smile, laugh, say “Wow!”, cry and crumble to our knees in response to what we see. Not once, even when we go in search, do we expect to have anything give us the profound affect of what crosses our path. From the unexpected to the well placed, the view through the lens of a camera and the human eye jolts us into a thought provoking world of pondering and expressions. It’s not special. It’s not one of a kind. It’s merely life.
Rough Writer and author, Anne Goodwin, appears as a guest blogger at Carrot Ranch Monday, August 10, 2015. She’ll discuss the shrinking violet’s response to book marketing and how she coaxed her own reluctance to market her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, into a blossoming campaign.
Considering that Anne is entering Week Four of an impressive schedule of guest-blogging and other book-launching activities, it is easy to surmise that she’s stepped out of the shrinking violet role and into one that recognizes the importance of an author’s role to getting one’s book into the hands of readers.
Anne Goodwin writes fiction, short and long, and blogs about reading and writing, with a peppering of psychology. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was published last month by Inspired Quill. Catch up on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.
Be sure to visit her all her guest posts for Week 4! And buy her book!
Norman MacLean wrote, A River Runs Through It, and set the landscape for writers to follow the flow. He wrote, “I am haunted by waters.” What is it about rivers that call to a person? Not all rivers flow; others flow with the unexpected — gold, blood, memories. A river can impact the moment or embody life. Writers explored many rivers and different characters in their midst.
The following stories are based on the February 25, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a river and a person (or people). These are flashes of MacLean’s famous line that “Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.”
Ripples in the River by Norah Colvin
Marnie paused on the bridge and gazed into river.
“My life began here,” she thought.
. . .
More than twenty years before she’d stood there, begging for release from torments she could no longer endure; when a gentle voice beside her said, “Beautiful, isn’t it?” and stood there with her in silence a while before asking, “Care to walk a little?”
. . .
Marnie flicked the agent’s card into the water and watched momentarily as it carried away the last remnants of that other existence.
“I wonder if Miss still lives there,” she smiled. “Must say hello.”
New Waters, New Home by Paula Moyer
Oklahoma rivers run dry during a drought. When crossing a river on a highway bridge, Jean had always seen the river’s path below like open lacework over a sandy bed. But here she was with her parents, at the first I-35 rest area across the Iowa border into Minnesota.
She stood at the window in the welcome center and looked down the hill at the body of water below. River or creek? She didn’t know – what she did know was this: the Minnesota creeks looked almost like oceans compared to the Oklahoma rivers.
She also knew: she was home.
River Rat by Sherri Matthews
The small, wooden boats lined the riverbank in a neat row exactly as Ken remembered, waiting for hire by visitors suddenly overcome with the urge to take to the water.
Ken ambled along the path, keeping one eye on the river. Then he saw it and stopped short: the very spot where he and Muriel had picnicked before she had asked him to take her boating.
Of course darling he had said, knowing she couldn’t swim. Faking an accident on the river would be easy.
Ken jolted awake, his hopes dashed as Muriel snored peacefully by his side.
A Wish Turned into a Reality! by Ruchira Khanna
Kate is toddling in the stream and humming along as the cold temperature is rejuvenating her from the daily grind.
“Are you done?” came an urgent inquiry, “Can we go to see that waterfall around the corner?”
She turned towards him, “Nah! not yet. I am loving it to such an extent that I wanna merge into it.” replied with a giggle.
Just then a loud shriek was heard, followed by panic, agitation and soon the voice got drained off.
Her companion was devastated to see her float away,” Jeez! Nature was quick to say Amen to her thoughts.”
River by Sarah Brentyn
He perched on a rock, tilting his face to the sun and listening to the trickling stream. It used to snake through the woods, rushing by this spot. A dip in the earth, full of fresh water splashing up and over boulders like the one he sat on.
At least that’s what they told him. He had never heard the water crashing into stones and trees. Sometimes he thought about what clean water would taste like. He imagined it was sweet, like berries.
The elders knew. They knew the river was drying up and they prayed.
Baptism by Fire and Water by Charli Mills
Lucinda belly-crawled to the edge of the creek. Behind her she heard the metal of her DC-10 bulldozer ping in the heat. Soon the roaring wildfire would engulf the equipment meant to build a barrier. Trees exploded and flaming pitch arced above black smoke like holiday fireworks. The heat was blistering even as Lucinda waded into the creek, dipping her entire head and body in the water. Two moose stared at her, a wall of flame behind them. She whispered a silent prayer. Forgive us our trespasses against this land. Thank you for the water. May it be enough.
River of Life by Kalpana Solsi
Immersing the ashes into the holy Ganges River, the Hindu priest prays to the Sun-God for the soul to make a peaceful transition to the other world.
“Isn’t this a river of death?” piques the Englishman.
“Nay, this river is the life-giver. She flows satiating the parched, germinating the seed of life and dissolves the dead to commence a new beginning. Eventually, all things merge into one”, answers Leila, calmly, in her white robes and freshly tonsured head, a sign of widowhood.
“Faith abounds here”, she says pointing to the swift current.
Leila clutches to a book on re-incarnation.
Attempt #73 by Pete Fanning
“Here’s one!” Carla squealed, holding up a squirming salamander with two fingers.
Emmit looked it over closely. “That’s a good one.”
At dinner they sat up straight and proper, elbows off the table. The katydids winded down the evening. They exchanged glances, stifling giggles. A fuzz of creek sand still covered their feet.
“What did you two do today?” Their father asked.
“Nothing.” They said in unison.
Emmit nodded. Carla whimpered. Her father leaned over to look at her finger. Emmit worked quickly, dropping the salamander into her glass just before his stepmother took her seat at the table.
First Pour by Pat Cummings
Heat rises in waves from the dry bed, pouring like syrup from the base of the reservoir. The front of the dam radiates energy. Sweat runs in rivers from the faces of those gathered for the historic event.
The foreman hooks the top of the dam, nudging its bricks out of the way. All lean closer, heedless of the heat. There is a concerted gasp of awe as they see that first flash of green.
Suddenly, a bright river of molten gold runs down the stepped channel. Flashbulbs! Champagne!
The new mine’s first smelt of ore has officially commenced.
Revival by Rebecca Pantajac
She crashed through the underbrush, branches whipping bare skin. Lifeblood dripped from scratches, soaking the soil, eventually feeding those with which she shared her homes. Heart pounding, she pushed on.
The creatures gained ground.
She clambered out of the tree-line into deep, rushing water and waited…
He conquered the treetops, branch by branch. The creatures would watch in awe, though never catch him. He spotted the cascading water.
A shot rang as he dove over the edge, freefall…
Cool water enveloped the pair as they embraced, panting, washing away their exhaustion and carrying them on toward a new home.
The Water Nymph by Urszula Humienik
Julia arrived at the meandering river. She knew the dangers, but the day was scorching and the cool waters seemed to call to her. She began to undress, and soon felt she was being watched.
She carefully approached the lazy river, and there hidden behind some reeds was a young water nymph. Julia knew what this danger meant, but she was also determined to take a swim that day.
She began to sing an enchanting love ballad to the nymph, who almost instantly began to cry. After listening to the entire ballad, the nymph quietly swam off and disappeared.
Merlin Learns a New Way: Part III by Tally Pendragon
“So, this wedding is in Egypt? On an island?”
“Does that make a difference?”
But the river runs almost dry, a dirty trickle in baked and cracking silt banks. Preparations are mingled with prayers for rain as many feet pass across the bridge to the tiny island in the middle. The nuptial canopies are secured to poles, gauzy cloth billowing around each.
Everyone is gathered, joyful yet subdued …
How can I just do nothing, when weather magic is so easy?
… then the rains come … the river flows freely down each side of the island … and the marriage can begin.
Reunited… One More Chance? by Roger Shipp
Side by side. Each in his own world.
Two poles purposefully pointed toward the ever-popping ripples in the fresh water pond.
A sharp tug. Another. And it’s gone.
One- a run-away at fifteen who has returned home. The other- a fragile, ninety-year-old… lost in macular degeneration. Together now, but separated by forty years and fifteen feet.
Memories. A father tiptoeing in for a look at his son before work… Careful not to awaken him. A son sneaking home from being out all night… exhausted.
Both- blinded by memories of years never encountered.
A sharp tug. Another. And it’s gone.
The Birthday Party by Luccia Gray
He wanted a fabulous birthday party, on a riverboat, with music, food and drink, surrounded by friends and family.
The full moon shimmered on the sparkling waters, but she looked down at the ebony pool wondering what lay beneath.
The full tide smacked the hull relentlessly, rocking her queasy stomach.
One minute she was dreaming of her promotion, and the next she was discovering the terror which lay below the surface pulling her down to the riverbed.
Later, when her great-granddaughter threw a bunch of daisies into the river, she picked it up because many waters cannot quench love.
Stono Ferry by Larry LaForge
“Dude, let’s go. The group behind us is waiting.”
Clayton’s mind wasn’t on the golf game he was losing to his partners. Instead, he stared intently at the plaque on the historic Stono River alongside the course.
He seemed mesmerized by events described on June 20, 1779. British troops approached Charleston. Ragged Patriot militia tried to hold them off at this ferry crossing. Lives were lost in the pursuit of liberties Clayton takes for granted every day.
His struggling golf game suddenly seemed ridiculously trivial.
“Coming,” Clayton said, slowly walking away with his head still turned toward the river.
The 100-word version of this story is posted at larrylaforge100words on Flash Fiction Magazine.
Deep Pools, Strong Eddies by Geoff Le Pard
The little coracle spun in circles, whirlpooling towards destruction.
‘Mary. You were away with the fairies.’
Mary turned off the tap and dried her hands, watching the dirty suds disappear down the plughole.
‘It’s the police. They’re in the lounge.’
Mary nodded. She steadied herself, suppressing the drowning feeling.
‘Mrs North,’ the sergeant looked sombre. ‘As I said, they are human remains but the child is not a relative.’
Mary felt a flood of relief. ‘Who?’
‘We don’t know but from the DNA the child is African and…’ he coughed. ‘We think he may have been a ritual killing.’
Red River by Irene Waters
“We’ve got to pull together to get through before the gate closes.” Ruby yelled to Luke.
“One, two, three. Pull!” They continued upstream pulling together at each gate.
“This is the last one. Hold on tight. You okay? You look blue Ruby.”
She nodded, breathless. “A little tired.” Suddenly they plummeted down a Niagra style drop into the swirling cavern below only to be pumped at speed along a new river which wound through the lush region of alveoli. As they past Ruby smiled, feeling her energy return. “I’m ready for the next run” she said, her colour returned.
River & Person Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin:
The tinkle of running water signalled we’d strayed from our route. By a long stretch. Emerging from the trees, I snatched the map from his hand, struggling to match the pattern of coloured lines with the landscape up ahead. He sat on a rock and bent to unknot the laces of his boots. “We haven’t time to hang about,” I said. The sun already sat low in the sky.
Anger gripped me, until I looked where he was pointing. On a branch overhanging the river perched a kingfisher, regal in its electric-blue coat. Worth the detour, after all.
Ashes by Sacha Black
I heard shrill ringing from sirens in the background.
“I haven’t got long, Ted.”
I stroked the lid of the cask and flashed a glance at the bright red sign on the edge of the bridge.
‘ASH DUMPING PROHIBITED’
I stifled a laugh as a tear spilled onto the bridge concrete.
“You old basterd, you knew I’d hate doing this.”
I longed for him. Ached. I wasn’t sure I could go on.
The sirens were close now.
I opened the lid and spilled the contents into the river.
And I ran like the wind his ashes were drifting into.
Yes, I’ve been talking out loud and no one but the dogs are in the house with me. You might think I’m suffering from cabin fever here at Carrot Ranch–after all, it has snowed, rained and spit ice-balls over the duration of a week. According to my smartphone, I’m in for another seven days of breezy with snow, sun and snow, chilly with snow, followed by a chance of snow.
It’s dull, gray and squishy-wet.
Which leads me to the thought that I don’t want my website to be dull and gray like the late winter weather in the northern Rockies. So, I’m talking to myself as if you were all here with me because when we write, we never write alone. We write for an audience.
Who do I think you are? Well, mostly I think you are writers, dedicated to your dreams and determined to see your writing come to fruition. Some of you might be bloggers or content writers looking to connect. A few of you might be reading because you need a business writer (my hand is raised for the job, if that’s you).
Here’s the situation–a year ago, I thought you were all potential clients for my contract work. What has changed is my game plan. I thought it would be another year or so before I reached the point that I’d be more interested in building my writer’s platform than my freelancing business.
Don’t get me wrong, I still need my client gigs to butter my bread (and at the ranch, this buckaroo likes real butter). But my writing has significantly shifted toward my creative goals. Thus it was time to make changes to CarrotRanch.com.
Whenever you make changes to your platform, you need to talk out loud and justify those changes. If the audience talking back to you is different, then, yes you do need to change. Yet, keep this in mind. What you change in one place must align with all your social media.
Here are some tips for when you have justified the need to make any updates or changes:
- Have a game plan. When buckaroos round up the herd they don’t just ride off into the hills. They map out where the springs and meadows are located, knowing these to be likely spots for range cattle. Likewise, as a writer you need to plan for the best places to write, when to write and how to progress your writing. For some of you, this might be a vision and for others, it will be a written strategy.
- Establish goals. If you have a game plan, the goal is to win, which means something different to each of us. The buckaroo wants to gather all the herd and you want to herd words into a publication. Set goals that are specific and have a deadline. What do you want to win? Answering that will help you forge your goals. I want to build a rock-solid, fully-engaged writer’s platform by the end of 2014.
- Know the impact of changes. You see, without a game plan and goals, changes don’t impact much because you are just roaming around the hills expecting cattle to come to you. Reality is that you need to be strategic with your writing if you want to win something. This means that changes you make will have an impact. Know what they are before you commit to the changes.
- Maintain consistency. You as a writer are your own brand. Be aware of making changes that impact your brand. If I get tired of horses and buckaroo analogies and suddenly change my header to pink pandas, there’s going to be a huge disconnect. It would be like changing the genre of your book mid-way through the writing. That would be weird and would disrupt reader continuity. So think about your brand, always.
- Proofread. Anytime we alter our static pages, we run the risk of making a mistake, including typos or word omissions. Always take time to read over your changes. Sometimes errors get through and the next day our eyesight improves. I always come back and re-read my changes after a day or two. The beauty of online is that corrections are easily made.
So, what changes did I make? Since my game plan has changed, so has my target audience. I thought about what would be useful to change, delete or keep. My home page, “The Ranch” is revised. It offers a brief background so that you know I have a credible history and I’m not just writing about writing. It also includes my two key blog elements (“Tip for Writers” and “Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction”). It also keeps a call to action for any potential clients, but shifts to my creative writing emphasis.
Speaking of creative writing, I renamed the vague page “Inspired.” Now it’s clear that the page and its corresponding tab read, “Creative Writing.” The last changes were to update my “Credentials,” including my photo to match the one I’m using on other social media sites. That’s tightening my brand consistency. Nothing changed about my services or client preferences so those remain. Neither did I change the “Legend of Carrot Ranch,” which is just a fun way to brand my own story about me as a buckaroo writer.
Are you thinking about making changes? You can leave a question or comment. Discussions are welcome.