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The TUFFest Ride Third Challenge

TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction) could be thought of as a tool. I think of it as a revision process, one that teaches writers through experiencing each task. The TUFFest Ride is a contest by which the Fab Flash Five — Ritu Bhathal, Bill Engleson, Kay Kingsley, Pete Fanning, and Liz Husebye Hartmann — are competing for first, second and third place rankings. They are the five winners selected from 118 entries submitted to five Free-Writes in September. We have other dedicated writers following along, playing from the “safety of home.”

It’s not that TUFF  endangers writers, but the writing process itself feels vulnerable. We can’t teach writing from that place of instinct and imagination without risking the emotion and doubt that lingers within each of us. Editing is crisp, it is clear and known. Editing is teachable, knowable, less risky. But TUFF asks us to shed the safety of editing. Set it aside and write without boundaries. Go where your gut leads you. Explore. Push into the fiction writer’s answers to “what if?” and risk being curious even if it might mean you are wrong.

Last week we learned the purpose of 99 words — a tool of exploration. The technical challenge asked the writers to explore point of view (POV) by either shifting from one POV to another or introducing a different POV character.  Let’s listen to a recording of our Fab Flash Five, as I read each of their two 99-word POV stories:

One of our regulars at the weekly Flash Fiction Challenges, CalmKate, has provided an illustrative example of the TUFFest Ride thus far and one that will help me explain the next task in the contest (or challenge for those of you following).

Rank Dank Mud by Calm Kate

Asleep at last, a brief reprieval from the relentless wind and rain … such a violent storm.

Then about midnight we’re woken by a violent piercing crack, what the … ?

Goodness that was the mountainside sliding downhill, trees, homes, vehicles, road, pets and people. The quagmire is astounding, the sight disturbing. The mind and emotions are numb.

Disbelief resides with distress as we try to get our heads around this monumental mess. No one can describe the sight of mud mixed with trees and torn structures. Buildings, roads and vehicles strewn about in pieces like kindling emerged in mud. Thick dank rank mud. We can’t believe what we see coz it’s just too horrifying to comprehend.

Facilities are out, power, water and sewage are no longer functioning. Groceries are scarce as we all panic buy in bulk. The roads impassable so no idea when help will get through. The shock and fear just too overwhelming to grasp or express.

Then with time and sun the smell settles like an unwanted guest. The debris, mud and waste all rotting in one ginormous compost heap. But there is no bin to contain it … this is our neighbourhood, our friends, colleagues and acquaintances.

All sounds are muffled like they are also stuck in the mud. We are muted, no one dare speak loudly, our tongues are tied. None of us will ever be able to block out that resounding crack and weird sound as the sky came down to meet the earth crushing everything in between.

Other than assure our loved ones that we were safe we don’t use our phones coz there is no power to charge them and what would we say anyway. Everything is the same dull dank colour and the smell blocks all orifices.

🥕🥕🥕

99-word POV #1 (Original) by CalmKate

A violent piercing crack wakes us all.

Goodness the mountain slid downhill taking trees, homes, vehicles, pets and people. The sight is most disturbing leaving our mind and emotions numb.

Everything is strewn about like kindling covered in dank rank mud. Power, water and sewage are out. The shelves are all bare as we panic shopped.

The debris, mud and waste are rotting like compost but this is our community … we are muted as we struggle to comprehend. Having assured our loved ones that we are safe our phones are off for emergencies only. No power to recharge.

99-word POV #2 (Different) by CalmKate

Looking down I can see that my minions need a reminder that they are mortal. To stop taking life for granted, whining instead of being thankful for what they’ve got.

A good old storm with a dangerous mudslide should remind them to be more grateful. I’ll make sure to knock out their utilities and keep them isolated and hungry for a while. Life has got too easy with groceries galore and light at the flick of a switch.

As for those damned devices they’re all so engrossed in I’ll make sure that they have to talk to each other.

What I want to point out in Kate’s writing are a couple of nuggets that emerged in each POV:

NUGGETS:

  • A violent piercing crack wakes us all. (POV #1)
  • Life has got too easy with groceries galore and light at the flick of a switch. (POV #2)

The first nugget exemplifies the power of writing concise prose. If you compare that line to Kate’s original opening, you can see how it still works and carries the tension of the moment. The second nugget could only have emerged through exploration. Had Kate not explored a different point of view, she could have missed this idea which offers her stories a pivotal point of contrast. Not only is her story one of natural disaster, but now we see an expansion of what can happen because of or in spite of an easy life — the consequences of complacency.

Do you see how 99 words allow you to continue to play in your creative writing without yet having to rein it to editing? You are still writing as you revise and yet you are tightening language, focusing tension, and discovering the cost to character’s lives. There’s no end to the exploration of play in 99 words, and if you take away anything from TUFF, I hope you understand the value of investigation that doesn’t take up a lot of writing time. No one wants to get to the end of 75,000 words and then explore a different POV! Play with it up front. Use the weekly challenges to develop your characters outside your novel to learn new insights.

Now we begin to focus. Now we cut away everything but that which is most essential.

THIRD CHALLENGE

  1. Decide on one POV. It can be the original, or it can be the experimental one.
  2. Reduce the story to 59-words.
  3. For a technical challenge, incorporate a nugget from your opposite 99-word POV (and bold that nugget to illustrate it).

This is a revision challenge. You are not only continuing to distill the original story, but you are also deciding upon a single point of view to carry your narration, and you are adding something you didn’t have in the original free-draft or the POV you chose to keep.

An example can be found in Kate’s illustration above. If she goes with POV #1, she includes Nugget #2. If she goes with POV #2, she includes Nugget #1. Of course, Kate is free to select her own nuggets just as each contestant and challenger will do. The task is to take a nugget from the opposing POV. You might have to change the nugget’s POV if it’s in first person and your story is in third. Or you can take the idea and expand it, not using the exact verbiage.

Contestants turn in their entries by11:59 p.m. (EST) Friday, October 19. Challengers can post or link in the responses. Let me know of any insights you recognize as you continue the TUFFest Ride!

Rodeo #2: Memoir

By Irene Waters, Rodeo Leader

Memoir is a passion, so I’m thrilled to once again host the memoir section of the Carrot Ranch Rodeo Contest. Hoping you’ll tighten your saddles and put on your spurs and join in. [READ MORE…]

Last year we had Scars – this year?

“She Did It.”

Three little words can hold so much meaning and have so many stories that come to mind. For the memoir prompt “She Did It” write a true story or a BOTS (based on a true story) keeping in mind the tips on writing memoir.

THE RULES:

  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the net as this will be the one I use to check the entries. Entries that aren’t 99 words will be disqualified.
  2. The genre is memoir although BOTS (based on a true story) will be accepted.
  3. English grammar and spelling (American, English or Australian) are expected, but as long as the judges can understand the language, it is the story that matters most.
  4. And it must be a story — that is it must be complete by itself not a part of a larger narrative. Give it a beginning, a middle, and an end.
  5. The prompt is a prompt, and the three words don’t have to be used in your 99 words unless you want to.
  6. You must enter your name and email with your entry using the provided form below. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email, contact us at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  7. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 17, 2018. Entries are judged blind, and winners announced November 16, 2018, at Carrot Ranch. Please do not compromise the blind judging by posting your entry before the winners are announced.
  8. You may post a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest, but don’t use the form to enter the contest. Only contest entries will be published.

Above all have fun.

JUDGES (read full bios at SPONSORS)

Irene Waters

Angie Oakley

Helen Stromqvist

THANK YOU FOR YOUR ENTRIES! CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED!

The TUFFest Ride Second Challenge

Welcome back to the TUFFest Ride where five writers — Ritu Bhathal, Bill Engleson, Pete Fanning, Liz Husebye Hartmann, and Kay Kingsley — exhibit their flash fiction riding skills in The Ultimate Flash Fiction. TUFF is a process of drafting, revising, and rewriting a single story by varying word counts.

The TUFFest Ride also includes unexpected technical challenges. Like POV. All authors write their stories from a point of view (POV). It is the position the narrator takes in telling the story. Here’s a simple breakdown, although it is not a simple technique to master:

  1. First person POV: the character tells his or her own story, relating the experiences as they happen. Narration uses the pronoun “I.”
  2. Second person POV: narrates the experiences of the reader as “you” in non-fiction. Not to say it can’t be used in literary art or fiction; it’s just not common.
  3. Third person POV: the character does not relate his or her own story, but relates the experiences of another. Third person omniscient has access to the thoughts and experiences of all the characters. Third person limited only has access to the thoughts and experiences one or a few characters. POV characters allow an author full access to a few key characters while staying out of the skins and heads of the remaining characters.

When an author jumps too quickly from one character’s thoughts to another, readers have trouble keeping up. Editors call this “head-hopping.” Readers need a signal (a page break, chapter break, italics, etc.) to follow the narration that includes multiple POV characters.

Typically, in flash fiction, writers use one narration voice. But how do we know that is the right voice for our stories? The 99-word flash fiction form offers an experimental writing tool. It’s not a big commitment — only 99 words — and a writer can use it to try different POVs. Another possibility, if a writer is still trying to figure out the angle for the story-idea, a new POV can shed light on the story.

A different POV character might be someone mentioned in the story — what is that person doing when the story happens according to narration? Or it could be the POV of an observer. Second person POV could be a narrator telling the character their own stories such as a grandparent relating a child’s tale to the child, or a loved one telling a coma victim their story.

By now, you should know that this week’s TUFF challenge will include POV. The Fab Five (and hopefully some of you playing from home) all have a new free-draft that includes the prompt “mudslide.” All the challenges from here on out use that free-draft story. You are not writing a new story, but you are rewriting the original, and you can certainly go any direction you want with it. Cutting words is an exercise in concision but is not truly revising.

I want you to be brave and revise. I want you to push into your original draft and pull out a 99-word story from it.

The Second Challenge: write two 99-word stories using your original free-draft for mudslide. One continues the original POV. The second uses a different POV or POV character. This is your chance to see how flash fiction can be an exploratory tool.

All of the stories for our Fab Five will post November 1. However, if you’d like to hear their stories, I offer you a reading on SoundCloud. I had, once again, technical difficulties. This time I did get the video recorded but failed to upload it. I’d like a quick shout-out to Frank Hubeney who has often recorded flash fiction readings using SoundCloud as that gave me a secondary option. Hopefully, I’ll have the recording issues worked out by next week!

The TUFFest Ride Reading of Free-Write Entries for Mudslide by Kay Kingsley, Bill Engleson, Pete Fanning, Liz Husebye Hartmann, and Ritu Bhathal:

Rodeo #1: Dialog

By Geoff Le Pard, Rodeo Leader

Writers are notorious people watchers. It’s a small miracle we don’t get done for stalking more often. Part of that idea — thieving we do involves listening to what people say — phrases, the modes of speech, dialect, etc. People convey ideas and feelings with words. [READ MORE…]

So, those pesky rules:

  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit.
  2. It’s dialogue only. Everything inside speech marks, please. (American and British styles both accepted.)
  3. Any genre, time, place, just let us know via words. If you can world build a fantasy, hats off! (Oh, by the way, I bloody loathe the overuse of the exclamation mark. Be very sparing or my prejudices may show through.
  4. It’s a conversation so you need two characters at least. But can you have a conversation with yourself? With an inanimate object? Go for it. There’s a prompt at the end for you to use, but use your imagination. It doesn’t have to be anyone in the picture who’s speaking, does it?
  5. I don’t mind what English spelling or slang you use, just make it recognisably English.
  6. I want emotion, but I want fiction. Not memoir, not a personal narrative and no non-fiction, though dialogue non-fiction sounds a challenge in its own right.
  7. You must enter your name and email with your entry using the provided form below. If you do not receive an acknowledgement by email, contact us at wordsforpeople@gmail.com
  8. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 10, 2018. Entries are judged blind and winners announced November 9, 2018 at Carrot Ranch. Please do not compromise the blind judging by posting your entry before the winners are announced.
  9. Go where the prompt leads, people.
  10. Have fun.

JUDGES (read full bios at SPONSORS)

Geoff Le Pard

Find Geoff’s books at Amazon US or Amazon UK. Follow his blog at TanGental and on Twitter @geofflepard.


Esther Chilton

Whether it’s an edit you’re after, some advice about a market, writing in general – in fact, anything and everything, you can get in touch, and she’ll try and help you. To find out more, visit her blog: https://esthernewtonblog.wordpress.com. Or contact her: estherchilton@gmail.com.


Chelsea Owens

When not cleaning (an infuriatingly large amount of the time), eating, sleeping, parenting, driving, reading her blog feed, budgeting, and cooking; Chelsea breathes in and sometimes out again. She also writes daily on her blog: chelseaannowens.com.


In judging we will apply the following criteria:

  1. Word count: 99
  2. Pure dialogue.
  3. Use of the prompt.
  4. Emotion: does the piece convey feeling? Do you generate a reaction in the reader?
  5. Ideally we want a story, something that makes us think. Where’s this going? What’s happened? Engage us in your tale.
  6. We love any clever tricks, to make us go ‘ah ha’. Include something to make us wonder and up the slippery pole you go.
  7. Just remember, in real life, we don’t say everything, we finish each other’s sentences, we talk over each other. Use that. Make it feel real. Make us hear it, and you’ll be a winner.

And the picture prompt?

Oh come on, it’s me. Wadyaexpect? The inside of Starbucks?

Thank you for entering! The contest is now closed. Winners announced November 9, 2018, at Carrot Ranch.

Let’s Get TUFF and Rodeo!

You can expect spills and thrills at the Rodeo. At last, we launch, late due to multiple technical difficulties following an extraordinarily long day at the Minneapolis VA Polytrauma Center. In the end, a Rough Writer drove all the way from Nebraska to feed me tonight after a day of unintentional fasting. I feasted on kale and sweet potato curry with bok choy and cauliflower rice with C. Jai Ferry (of TwitterFlash and grit lit fame).

Forgive the lateness of this post and the lack of video. My recorder died, and I can not figure out an elegant solution to videotaping on my laptop while also reading the winning entries. And I know that’s what you are all chomping at the bit to learn. I just figured out wi-fi connection at the Fisher House where I’m staying.

First, let me say this was the hardest contest I’ve ever had the privilege to judge. No one turned up with weak entries. The writers who all submitted entries to the free-writes stretched their writing abilities, pushed into the prompt and took risks on the page.

Right after the final free-write, my judges and I began the process of selection. First, we focused on entries that created a memorable impression. Next, we looked at writers who short-listed more than one entry and stories we all selected as judges. We had three clear winners and an agonizing time to decide who took the final two spots.

I want all the writers who submitted to know that each one of you drafted with creativity and skill to convey a story in 297 words. Even if you were not selected, your writing will be posted in a collection on November 1. I hope you will play along.

Finally, at last, the wait is over — please meet the TUFF Fab 5 who are about to embark upon the TUFFest Ride:

UNTITLED BY PETE FANNING (UNITED STATES)

Soon as we got to Nannie’s I hurried to the kitchen to pour a cup of her sweet, cheek-sucking Kool-Aid. I gulped it down and wiped my mouth with my sleeve. Then I set outside to spy on Grandpa.

Grandpa never left his car, an old Dodge that sat under the pine trees out back. Sometimes he’d sleep there, with his head lolled back in the seat, his mouth opened, snoring loud enough to wake Mrs. Wilmer’s dachshunds. But most days he just listened to the radio, sipping on Coors Banquet, banging his fist on the steering wheel depending whether he was listening to a ballgame.

I was tossing my football around when he called out my dad’s name. I dropped the ball and looked around when he honked, “Now come on, Douglas,” he said, “We’ve got a long drive home and no time to waste.”

He waved me over, to that old Dodge that hadn’t moved in my lifetime. The hood didn’t shut, and the tires were flattened to a fold. Still, I plodded over and opened the door, breathing in a gust of spring pollen, summer mold, fall leaves and a sprig of winter pine.

“Shut the door, Douglas. Hurry.”

I reached over and yanked it shut, cans scattering under my feet.

“There we go,” Grandpa said, hands on the wheel. “Gosh, Dougie, I didn’t think you were going to make it home,” he said, taking me in. A chill over my bones, him calling me that. All I knew about my dad sat in a dusty flag-folded triangle on the shelf above my dresser. But Grandpa, even with that map in his head a few roads short of an intersection, I liked him saying it. Besides, the seat was comfortable.

“Yeah, let’s go home.”

###

UNTITLED BY BILL ENGLESON (CANADA)

The tree is always there, taunting us, imposing itself on who we are.

We are the weak link in their chain.

I am the weakest.

I am often left alone.

“He’ll be fine,” he says, as I hear the door close, the slam, the silence, the crunch, feet falling on cracking snow.

I lift the window, look down. Iced air snaps in, smashes my eyes, freezes my face.

I glimpse the shape of them going to the car.

She hesitates. I wonder. Maybe this time.

“Its not right.”

He scoffs, “Christ, Jennie, he’s almost of an age.”

Of an age?

I am almost of an age.

“You say,” she says.

“Fuckin’ right. Where do you think backbone comes from? From you? From your kind?”

She touches the car door handle.

He stomps to the driver’s side.

“GET IN! It’s bloody cold.”

Her gloved hand lingers.

“JESUS! He’ll be fine. It didn’t do me any harm. Ever.”

She opens the car door, gets in, closes it.

The motor grinds. It won’t catch. Another grind. Then it catches, engine firing, exhaust swirling in the winter night.

They drive away.

I stare until they vanish.

His memories come in angry waves.

“Your Grandfather. Tough as steel. ‘The best ones are found as high as you can go,’ he’d say, demand I climb as high as I could to get the best Braeburn. I gave it my all, even when a broken branch shredded my skin.”

He flashes me the underside of his left wrist. I bear witness to the scar he wears like a medal. “See. A little blood. A little souvenir. That’s what life’s all about.”

I have no scars from climbing.

No medals for what I am.

I close the window, crawl into bed.

This is it, then.

###

LARAMIE BY KAY KINGSLEY (GERMANY)

The sun was just starting to rise as I drove east along Interstate 80 as the black dawn gave way to shades of gray and purple that marked the beginning of a beautiful Midwest sunrise.

Cars passed in intervals and my mind drifted mile after mile. I had been driving for 10 hours and decided I needed to stop, fill up and shake off the storm of my past as I drove straight towards its center.

I zipped my jacket up and wrapped my hands around my coffee as I leaned back on my car listening as the pump filled my tank with gasoline. As I had expected, the sunrise was beautiful and for the first time in a long time I let my heart feel a pain I had pushed down since I left Laramie in October 1998.

The controversy surrounding his death divided our town and the nation. When they found him he had been left to die in a field after being savagely beaten. Deciding I would defend him and in turn I would be defending myself, I was ready to have ‘the talk’ with my father.

I had anticipated anger, after all he was a religious conservative man but I hadn’t expected the explosion. His fist flew faster than my head or heart could react and with a broken nose I fell to the floor. That night I packed my things and headed west to California and never saw him again. That was the year life as I know it began.

I spent 20 years living a life of discovery, one I lived for two since Matt never got the chance to. I’ve forgiven my father and now as he lay dying, I make the long drive home. It’s time he knows it.

###

A GOOD RIDE BY RITU BHATHAL (ENGLAND)

Jody sighed and pulled on her helmet, before heaving herself up onto the horse. Nina cantered up to her, her horse slowing down as he neared her.

“It was a good idea, this break, wasn’t it Jod? An early ride totally blows the cobwebs away. I feel so alive here!”

Smiling weakly at her friend, Jody nodded and gave her horse’s rein a little pull, setting her off on a slow gallop.

Being here had given her plenty of time to think, and she had. But it had been a constant bombardment of memories; pictures flashing through her mind, rather like scrolling through the photo album on her phone. And every image centred around one person.

Ben.

The one person she was trying to forget.

Ben the bastard.

Ben the cheat.

Ben the di-

No. She had to stop this. She was meant to be forgetting him, not allowing his memories to become sharper with each day.

“Stop it.”

She looked up to her friend who had caught her up again. “What?”

“Stop thinking of him. I know what you’re doing. And it’s not healthy.” Nina’s blood boiled as she thought of the idiot who had broken her best friend’s heart. “And anyway, I brought you here to forget him! What you need is to find someone to help you forget. Have you seen some of the ranchers here?”

“Seriously Nina, I am not interested, not after all the shit with Ben. I’m afraid one little ranch romance isn’t going to help.”

“Oh, I know, but it wouldn’t hurt, eh… haven’t you noticed how that Jimmy keeps looking at you?”

Nina knew.

The only way this girl was going to get over Ben was by having a long, hard ride, and she wasn’t talking about a horse.

###

WHAT PRICE SUCCESS? BY LIZ HUSEBYE HARTMANN (UNITED STATES)

Once upon a time, summer sunrises warmed deep forest, from chill evergreen to clattering gold, edging our bedroom curtains with the nascent glow of unarticulated adventures. Ceaseless waves, having raked over agate and quartz all night, left hints in bits of driftwood and bobber, and precious white-scrubbed logs from distant islands and Superior storms. Bare feet scrambled over slick green rocks, gathering and grousing over ownership. Pale pirate’s legs wavered under thigh-deep water, ferrying those bones of raft-base to whatever part of the beach each had designated as “my spot.”

My Spot. My logs. My bobber. Ownership begins early, stains our pure blood with ambition. We soon forget that any pirate’s treasures claimed are gifts, not rights. Even Nature’s well is not bottomless.

Once upon a time, we visited the island’s one hardware store, padding from hot sands to cool dark, a single fan humming from a high corner in the converted boathouse. Its proprietor, wind-darkened skin folding like sail canvas around warm brown eyes and a mouth that found humor in our enthusiasm, stretched in dun and evergreen, beckoning us in. His hands were strong, each line traced by the grease from his last job. I breathed in heady inspiration from motor oil, decades of sawdust, and the tang of fertilizer. He led us to boxes of long nails and spikes, vital to our summer rafts.

I made my own raft. Tiny and wobbly, we were twin mermaids. In deeper water, the boys had their exclusive kingdom.

In this time, I roll back my chair and look out over the empty cityscape. My spreadsheets reflect in the office window, silent as the night office. My stilettos lay behind me, being shoeless my one compensation for success attained.

Papa’s bar was high. My memories wave me homeward.

###

Congratulations Pete, Ritu, Bill, Liz, and Kay! You will represent the Ranch in an exhibition write throughout the Rodeo. Each of you have won $25.

Each of you will progress through four TUFF tasks with technical twists that won’t be revealed until each Monday at Carrot Ranch.

Three of you will advance to compete for rank of First, Second and Third place. The overall first-place winner will receive an additional $25.

So, let’s talk TUFF. The Ultimate Flash Fiction is a process, a brain game, to reduce words to produce more. TUFF is about learning to go with gut instinct to draft and to then trust the creation to revision. When you free-write, you have to let go of your inner editor and write. When something feels uncomfortable, that’s a sign of writing deep. Drafting can feel vulnerable.

When writers revise, it’s not always obvious how to go about it. TUFF is a quick revision tool that writers can apply to scenes, chapters, and even entire novels. It’s a way to get at the heart of what your story of book is about. I even use TUFF to coach entrepreneurs to craft the story of their business vision. You can use TUFF to create variously sized synopses.

TUFF begins with a free-write. The first revision is 99 words, the second 59 words, and the third is 9. By the time you go through the constraint process, the story or idea sharpens. That allows you to go write the clearly envisioned story. The process will surprise you! Writers who take the TUFF challenge feel the shift.

However, because this is the TUFFest Ride, the judges and I will be reviewing each week’s entries and deciding how best to test the writers’ skills with an additional technical challenge.

All writers are welcome to play along from the safety of home. You can post your challenges in the comments. Due to the volume of words that the extra challenges produce, I won’t be posting any challenge entries. We will enjoy and discuss them right here in the comments.

Except for the Fab Five. Pete, Ritu, Bill, Liz, and Kay will email their weekly entry to wordsforpeople@gmail.com. Their full entries will be posted on November 1 (please refrain from sharing your entries on your own blogs until the judging is final on November 1).

WEEK ONE: TUFF CHALLENGE

We begin the TUFFest Ride with a free-write. You have five days to draft 297 words to the prompt: mudslide. Your technical challenge is to include at least three of the five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, sound). This is the story you will revise and rewrite as a final entry throughout TUFF.

Begin!

Remember: competitors email entries and challengers post in the comments.

Deadline: October 6 at 11:59 p.m.

All You Need to Know to Rodeo

Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges are on hiatus until November 1. Just like hands on a ranch, we’re going to take a break from our regular chores to challenge and show off our skills. We’re going to have us a rodeo! A flash fiction rodeo.

THE TUFFEST RIDE

Judging for TUFF began after the final September Free-Write. These writers were in it to win it. A free-write is a scary contest to enter because it makes a writer feel vulnerable, but vulnerability is exactly what a writer has to push past to write deep, to meet the muse, to follow gut instinct. Drafting is all about trusting the spark of creativity.

We will post a video on October 1 (right here in the blog feed) to announce the five writers who will advance to compete every Monday. They will write a new story to a fresh prompt, then each week revise according to word count and a technical challenge. After the final constraint, three writers will go on to compete for first, second and third place.

All five are winners and each will receive at least $25 by the end of the contest.

All writers are welcome to take up each Monday TUFF challenge. You can play along from the safety of home. Learn more about the TUFF process under Flash Fiction. It’s a powerful tool that can help you revise a story, scene chapter, novel, synopsis, and more.

NEW CONTEST EVERY WEDNESDAY

Beginning October 3, a new Flash Fiction Contest will debut in the Rodeo. Each one will remain open until 11:59 p.m. (EST) the following Wednesday. That gives writers plenty of time to enter. Be sure to read the rules. Follow the word count exactly (use Microsoft Word or wordcounter.net). Punctuation is often “counted” so check your work using one of those two official word counters.

BONUS CONTEST

One of our local sponsors, Continental Fire Company, is an evening venue for events. The building is a historic firehouse from the 1800s. Later it became the first location for Michigan Tech University. The owners embrace their location’s rich history. And that will factor into the bonus contest. They are looking for three old-time radio spots.

CFC will select three entries to develop into radio ads that they will produce and use. Three winners will each receive $25 and a clip of their ad when produced. This exciting opportunity is how we can incubate our literary art and find creative uses for it. Details and rules post Sunday, October 21 when the contest opens. History details and online sources will also be shared. The contest will close along with the final scheduled Rodeo #5 on November 7 at 11:59 p.m. (EST).

CHALLENGES

If you don’t want to enter a contest, you can submit a challenge in the comments or on your own blog post. We will only publish qualified contest entries in collections because it becomes too daunting of a task to track down all the challenges. So, to be clear, if you want to be included in the collection, you must enter the contest. It’s free, so why not?

IT’S FREE!

You can enter all six contests for free! No fees and first place wins $25. Our sponsors make this possible.

TIMES

Set your clocks to New York City (that’s EST).

Our live readings and TUFF prompts will be posted by 7 p.m. EST. Submission deadlines will take into account when each video posts. TUFF challenges have 5 days to respond (until the final 24-hour challenge).

Rodeo contests start at 12:00 a.m. EST on Wednesday and close the following Wednesday at 11:59 p.m. EST.

WINNERS ANNOUNCED

Judging and compiling entries into collections take time. Winners will be announced each Friday by order of contest after the events close. Each contest will post its winner announcement date. We will also post the collection of qualified entries that same day.

QUALIFIED ENTRIES

Qualified entries are those that meet the contest rules. Pay attention to word count. If a contest calls for 99 words, and you submit 96, your entry will be disqualified and not included in the collection. This might seem harsh, but it is a contest, so take it seriously. But have fun, too!

LEADERS & JUDGES

This simply couldn’t happen without the leadership of Geoff Le Pard, Irene Waters, Sherri Matthews, Norah Colvin, and D. Avery. Each of them works hard to make you sweat, stretching your skills. They, along with their judges, have a difficult task to pick a winner. Be sure to read their rules carefully. And show them some gratitude for what they do to make this Rodeo fun and challenging.

Next year, they will each mentor new leaders. The following year, those mentees will go on to develop their own contests, and the third year they will, in turn, mentor new leaders. This allows writers from our literary community to take on leadership roles. If you are interested to know more, contact the Lead Buckaroo.

THANK YOU!

Thank you for participating in a vibrant literary community where we get to play with words, meet other writers in meaningful ways, and progress our own writing goals. You are Carrot Ranch!

Now go saddle up and get ready to show off your skills. Best to you all!

Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges return November 1.

 

Sound Off to the Rodeo

Some cowboys grow up knowing one day they will ride bulls. Others deny their destiny until the call of the rodeo arena grows too insistent to deny. The same could be said of writers. And no matter how hard she tries to shrug off the inevitable, D. Avery is a mighty fine writer.

D. introduced us to Kid, Pal, Aussie, and Boss through weekly Ranch Yarns that give character to the flash fiction prompts and the Ranch community. Through her writing explorations, she discovered the stories of characters who pushed her to the page, handling difficult issues with empathy, curiosity, and humor. Soon, she’ll release her first collection of fiction.

But first, D. is gonna get us riding bulls for the final rodeo contest in October.

Rodeo #5 The Sound and the Fury: Bull Riding
By D. Avery

Sometimes fear, respect, and awe are the braids of one rope. Sometimes that one rope is all a buckaroo has to hang onto. Sometimes that rope is wrapped around a muscular two thousand pound bull.

That bull will do everything it can to buck the rider off its back and should it succeed in that, will then try to trample or gore the dislodged rider. The bull’s reactions are natural and logical; some would even say athletic and beautiful. That’s why the bull in the bull riding event at rodeos gets scored by judges just like the rider; the bull can earn up to 50 points, the bull rider can earn up to 50 points.

Bull rider Carrson Hiatt says, “The bull, that’s your dance partner for the night.”

It is a very dangerous dance for the human partner. Injuries are frequent and frequently severe. Deaths are not unexpected and not uncommon. Bull riding would seem then to be an illogical thing to do. Unlike roping events or bronc busting it is the only rodeo event that isn’t derived from a traditional cowboy chore. Nobody has ever needed to get on the back of a bull; for that matter, no one needs to run with bulls or taunt them with red capes. But people do.

It is a complicated story, millennia old, of people dancing with bulls, of courting danger. The mystique surrounding el toro is documented in prehistoric as well as modern art; in cultural traditions around the world, the complex relationship with risk-taking and bravado is perpetuated, personally and vicariously, through ritualized confrontations with a bull.

In the U.S. bull riding is bigger than ever and is no longer just a Western event; many riders nowadays do not hail from a ranching background, and for the past twelve years the Professional Bull Riders league has opened their season in NYC, a seemingly incongruous place for rodeo.

What does any of this have to do with writing?

Well as you know Carrot Ranch is holding its second Flash Fiction Rodeo; at the end of October writers from around the world will take part in the second Carrot Ranch bull riding competition.

What is it about danger that fascinates people? What motivates a person to willingly subject themselves to pain and peril? Bring your pen, hang onto your hat, and get ready for a wild write that illustrates the sound and the fury of a dance with danger.

Rules and prompt revealed October 31, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. (EST). Set your watches to New York City. You will have until November 7, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. (EST) to complete the Sound and the Fury contest. Winners will be announced on December 07. Carrot Ranch will post a collection of qualifying entries.

Other competitions:

Rodeo 1: Dialogue led by Geoff Le Pard and judges Chelsea Owens and Esther Chilton
Rodeo 2: Memoir led by Irene Waters and judges Angie Oakley and Helen Stromquist
Rodeo 3: Travel with a Twist led by Sherri Matthews and her judges: Mike Matthews and Hugh Roberts.
Rodeo 4: Fractured Fairy Tales led by Norah Colvin and judges Robbie Cheadle and Anne Goodwin.
The Tuffest Ride starting in September will see 5 writers qualify to compete in October and is led by Charli Mills. For Info

Once Upon a Rodeo Time

(GRAPHIC UPDATED TO CORRECT DATES)

From the remote reaches of northern Idaho, the Carrot Ranch Weekly Challenges launched in March of 2014. From around the world, Norah Colvin accepted the first challenge from Australia. She’s held a special place at the Ranch ever since.

Norah cultivates the kind of growth mindset that marks a life-long learner. But she’s also a teacher. Norah frames her entries in posts that focus on education, giving her readers new points of learning or discussion. Last year she launched readilearn (a sponsor of the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo, so be sure to check out the site).

You can always expect to learn something new from Norah, and her Rodeo Contests is no exception.

INTRO

Rodeo #4 Fractured Fairy Tales
By Norah Colvin

Do you love fairy tales? Chances are, unless you are a parent or grandparent of young children or an early childhood educator as I am, you may not have encountered a fairy tale for a while. Well, I am about to change that by asking you to fracture a fairy tale for the fourth Carrot Ranch rodeo contest.

What is a fractured fairy tale you ask? It’s a story that takes a traditional fairy tale and adds a new twist. Sometimes the twists are dark and sometimes humorous. Sometimes they are dark and humorous. They may even be sinister or subversive but rarely patronising or preachy.

A fractured fairy tale usually takes a character, setting or situation from a well-known fairy tale and presents it from a different angle or point of view. Sometimes characters from different fairy tales appear together. A fractured fairy tale is never simply a retelling of the original story with characters painted black and white. In a fractured tale, the lines and colours blur. But the characters or situations are recognisable.

Roald Dahl sums it up well in the introduction to Cinderella in his book of Revolting Rhymes.
I guess you think you know this story.
You don’t. The real one’s much more gory.
The phoney one, the one you know,
Was cooked up years and years ago,
And made to sound all soft and sappy
Just to keep the children happy.

In preparation for the contest, you may like to re-familiarise yourself with some traditional fairy tales, and read some fractured ones; for example:

Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes
Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs as told to Jon Scieszka by A. Wolf
The Wolf the Duck and the Mouse by Mac Barnett
The Stinky Cheese Man and other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith
The Little Bad Wolf by Sam Bowring

Tara Lazar, author of Little Red Gliding Hood, has some helpful suggestions in this PDF.

Details about the prompt will be revealed on October 24, and you will have one week in which to respond. Judging your stories with me will be award-winning novelist and short story writer Anne Goodwin and children’s picture book author and illustrator Robbie Cheadle. Both Anne and Robbie were co-judges with me last year, and I appreciate the generosity of their support again this year.

Anne has already published two novels Sugar and Snails and Underneath, both of which I recommend as excellent reads. She has a book of short stories coming out soon and a third novel in the pipeline which I am eagerly waiting to read.

Robbie has published five books so far in her Sir Chocolate series of picture books. Her books are unique with their wonderful fondant illustrations. She also recently co-wrote While the Bombs Fell with her mother Elsie Hancy Eaton, a memoir of her mother’s wartime experiences.

The three of us are looking forward to reading your fractured fairy tales next month.

Here’s one from me to get the ideas rolling.

No Butts About It

Dear Editor,

I hereby repudiate rumours the Billy Goats are spreading. They accuse me of bullying, but they show no respect for me and my property.

All summer while I slaved to secure winter supplies, they gambolled frivolously. When their grass was gone, they proceeded to help themselves to mine.

I’m usually a neighbourly fellow, but when they come every day, trip-trapping across my bridge, scaring away my fish and eating my crops, it’s too much.

When asked politely to desist, the oldest one butted me into the river.

I ask you: Who is the bully?

Sincerely,
Misunderstood Troll

Rules and prompt revealed October 24, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. (EST). Set your watches to New York City. You will have until October 31, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. (EST) to complete the Fractured Fairy Tale contest. Norah, Anne, and Robbie will announce the prize winner plus second and third place on December 07. Carrot Ranch will post a collection of qualifying entries.

Other competitions:

Rodeo 1: Dialogue led by Geoff Le Pard and judges Chelsea Owens and Esther Chilton
Rodeo 2: Memoir led by Irene Waters and judges Angie Oakley and Helen Stromquist
Rodeo 3: Travel with a Twist led by Sherri Matthews and her judges: Mike Matthews and Hugh Roberts.
Rodeo 5: The Sound and the Fury led by D. Avery and her judge Bonnie Sheila.

The Tuffest Ride starting in September will see 5 writers qualify to compete in October and is led by Charli Mills. For Info

September 13 Free-Write

CONTEST CLOSED

(Thank you to all the brave writers who gave this round a go! There are still four more chances to enter so get familiar with the process below. A new 24-hour prompt will be revealed September 19, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. EST. It will close at 11:59 p.m. EST September 19.)

The clock started ticking at 12:00 a.m. (EST). That’s midnight in New York City when September 13, 2018, begins. The contest ends by the close of day September 13, 2018, at 11:59 (EST).

This is a free-write flash fiction contest to qualify five writers to compete in the October TUFFest Ride event during the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. A free-write requires you to draft quickly.

You can revise, edit or polish. But you only have 24 hours which is not enough time to let a first draft set. We know that. We are looking at your free-write skills, your bravery to write freely according to a prompt.

Judges will examine how creative a writer can be within both time and word constraint. Charli Mills, Cynthia Drake and Laura Smyth all of Hancock, Michigan will judge all TUFF contests. Your free-write must follow all five rules to qualify.

RULES

  1. You must use the revealed prompt: “cool water”
  2. You must enter using the provided form below
  3. You must write your story in 297 words (exactly, not including title)
  4. You must enter by 11:59 p.m. (EST) on September 13, 2018 (use the form provided below or email your full name and entry to wordsforpeople@gmail.com)
  5. You must be willing to compete in the 2018 October TUFFest Ride if selected

If you qualify, you will be among five winning writers to further compete for first, second and third place in the TUFFest flash fiction contest you will ever enter. The event equates to bull-riding in a cowboy rodeo. It’s a chance to show your versatility of flash fiction writing skills. Five writers will compete:

  1. October 1: Writers tune into a live video posted at Carrot Ranch Facebook Page for the announcement of who will be selected the Fab Five from the September entries. These five writers will have five days to do a new free-write.
  2. October 8: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 99-word challenge to rewrite their free-write. They will have five days to write.
  3. October 15: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 59-word challenge to rewrite their 99-word story. They will have five days to write.
  4. October 22: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 9-word challenge to rewrite their 59-word story. They will have five days to write.
  5. October 29: The Fab Five tune into a live video to find out which three advances. The remaining three contestants will have 24 hours to write a final 495-word story from their TUFF exhibition.
  6. November 2: First, second and third place announced. All five contestants will win a prize (yet to be determined, based on sponsors).

WINNING TIPS

Go with your gut. At Carrot Ranch Literary Community, we play with 99 words, no more, no less every week. We’ve learned that our first instinct to a prompt might be strange or uncomfortable. The natural tendency of a writer is to water down that reaction — to write safely. Don’t. Be brave and go where the prompt leads you.

Be creative. Along with going with your gut, take a creative approach. If you are literal, you might write too stiffly. But do poke a literal response if that comes to you. Ask yourself how you can turn it upside down and create a surprising twist. Also, you don’t need to use the exact phrase (or the quotation marks unless you are using dialog or showing irony).

Be professional. We are all adults here, and adult content is a part of literary art. However, think like a professional literary artist whose job is to write. If you think shocking readers gives you an edge, think again. We live in a world desensitized by global crassness, violence, and inhumanity. Shock value is cheap. Instead, craft a clever twist, show intelligence and the ability to interpret the global theater. Make your readers think.

Write with emotion. You also want to make your readers feel. Characters give us all the opportunity to experience life beneath the skin of another. Literary art can share imagined experiences from what it is like to attend school at Hogwarts or be a polar bear. Invite your readers to feel these unique perspectives. Avoid stereotypes.

Breathe! When you control your breath, you control your mind. Yes, it’s a competition. Yes, it’s only 24-hours. Yes, you have a lot on your plate. But you have the right to be here. You are a creative writer — so breathe, read the rules, write, count your words, and enter. No matter the outcome, you were brave enough to write!

You can use Microsoft Word or use WordCounter.net to determine 297 words.

There are no entry fees, and five winning writers will each win a cash prize.

Thank you to our sponsors:

Openings Life Coaching
SmythType Design
Solar Up
Bill Engleson
Thread Tales Studio

And our Leaders & Judges:

Geoff Le Pard
Irene Waters
Sherri Matthews
Norah Colvin
D. Avery
Chelsea Owens
Esther Chilton
Angie Oakley
Helen Stromquist
Hugh Roberts
Mike Matthews
Robbie Cheadle
Anne Goodwin
Bonnie Sheila

**There’s still time to sponsor the Rodeo**

ENTRY FORM (email wordsforpeople@gmail.com for support)

NOW CLOSED

If you missed this free-write, you have more chances to enter. You can enter more than once. Next qualifying free-writes will reveal secret prompts:

  • September 19, 2018 (12:00 am – 11:59 pm)
  • September 25, 2018 (12:00 am – 11:59 pm)

Travel to the Rodeo

Sherri Matthews has kept her feet in the stirrups at Carrot Ranch while riding hard to revise her memoir. She’s one of our premier memoir writers who also pens a hapless village werewolf character who first debuted here in flash fiction. Her fiction can turn a dark twist as deftly as a rodeo bronc.

This year, Sherri seeks inspiration from travel. It’s not her first rodeo, so as a leader she’s going to shake up her event. Her husband Mike Matthews and friend and fellow writer, Hugh Roberts, joins her in the judging. Here’s what she has to tell you to prepare for her event.

Rodeo #3: Travel with a Twist
By Sherri Matthews

In July, I had the good fortune to spend a week’s holiday with my husband on the Italian Amalfi Coast. I say good fortune, because hubby won it, thanks to a random prize draw. We couldn’t believe it. Who wins those things anyway? Surely it’s a scam? But I can report back that it’s no scam because I’ve got the pics to prove it.

The holiday was as filled with twists and turns as it was unexpected, not least of all thanks to hurtling along Amalfi’s hairpin coastal road in a taxi driven by an Al Pacino lookalike who, for no good reason, suddenly pulled over to check something in the back of his car. Though the beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea sparkled far below us, I couldn’t get ‘The Godfather’ out of my head and hoped we wouldn’t end up swimming with the fishes.

Which got me thinking: how about a Travel with a Twist prompt for the Rodeo?

Think of the story behind the smiling vacation faces many of us find on Facebook. Chances are they’re no more than that, no drama, just a snapshot of a happy moment caught on camera. But what would change our perception of those perfect, happy pics if we knew something nobody else did?  What if the man in the photo had just taken a call from his neighbour back home warning him that his house was broken into? Or the grand-children, all milk teeth smiles and ice-cream sticky cheeks, missing their Mum, who’s away on honeymoon with her new husband?

If travel stories have you dreaming of your own private island with palm trees and sandy beaches and an ocean as warm as a bath (the only kind you’ll catch me in), then go for it. But maybe in your story, it’s a woman travelling in thought when she finds an old photograph from that holiday taken years ago with their husband, who has since left her for a younger model.

Perhaps your holiday is a bus trip to the next town over, just for the day, a scenario that makes me think of one of my favourite films. A story of unrequited love, the characters played by Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins finally meet again on Blackpool Pier after years apart, but it’s too late for their love. It’s early evening, and the lights come on, and everybody claps.  The favourite time of day, Emma Thompson’s character notes, giving the film’s title: ‘The Remains of the Day’.

Wherever you go on your travels, keep the judges guessing to the end. And those judges…? As before, Mike Matthews and Hugh Roberts will be assisting me with what I know will be a hard task if last year’s Murderous Musings entries are anything to go by.

Huge thanks both: Mike, lovely hubby and fellow traveller, my sound-boarder, proof-reader and keen observer of life and writings.  And Hugh, lovely friend, blogger, and author with a delicious flair for writing sizzling short stories, published his first collection, ‘Glimpses’, last year, the second volume of which follows this Christmas.  Hugh also won first place in Norah Colvin’s, ‘When I Grow Up’ competition in last year’s Rodeo.

That’s us packed, then, ready to go. How about you?  Whether near or far, will it be holiday heaven or holiday hell, funny or sad, romantic or dangerous? It might be a BOTS (based on a true story) or wild and wacky from the deepest depths of your imagination. We don’t mind. Go where the plane/train/automobile takes you, but remember, it must have a twist. We can’t wait to find what’s hiding in your suitcase.


Rules and prompt revealed October 17, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. (EST). Set your watches to New York City. You will have until October 24, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. (EST) to complete the Travel with a Twist contest. Sherri, Mike, and Hugh will announce the prize winner plus second and third place on November 30. Carrot Ranch will post a collection of qualifying entries.

Other competitions:

Rodeo 1: Dialogue led by Geoff Le Pard and judges Chelsea Owens and Esther Chilton

Rodeo 2: Memoir led by Irene Waters and judges Angie Oakley and Helen Stromquist

Rodeo 4: Fractured Fairy Tales led by Norah Colvin and judges Robbie Cheadle and Anne Goodwin

Rodeo 5: The Sound and the Fury led by D. Avery and her judge Bonnie Sheila.

The Tuffest ride starting in September will see 5 writers qualify to compete in October and is led by Charli Mills. For Info