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January 27: Flash Fiction Challenge

January 27Rain has come early. Like a great science experiment it transforms snow into white fog and ice into silver slush. A woman driving northbound on State Highway 95 hit a patch of slush and spun her lumbering SUV out of control. When the tires caught the snow bank, the vehicle flipped twice, landing briefly upside-down before coming to a rest upright and askew to the railway bed. She had been going about 60 miles per hour; the speed limit.

I didn’t hear the accident, yet sensed it. No squeal of tires, no crunch of metal. Just a silent spin and double somersault, and those who saw it held their breath and pulled over. At that very moment the vehicle landed in three feet of grimy roadway snow, I turned from my computer and was stunned to see an SUV off the highway, other cars braking, some stopping, drivers running to get to the vehicle.

I yelled loudly for the Hub who didn’t even ask what was going on. He clearly heard my tone. I met him downstairs, breathless. “A car’s gone into the ditch.” He nodded, put on his shoes and a hat to keep off the rain. Without discussing it with me, he reacted by instinct. He knows me. He helped her out, talked to neighbors, waved at those who slowed down to ask about injuries through rolled down windows, and then he escorted her to our home. I already had a fresh pot of coffee going, hot water for tea and I set out brownies.

It’s what a community does.

And that’s not all. Those attached to our community in the capacity of civil service showed up — Idaho Highway Patrol, Emergency Medical Service, Volunteer Fire Department, Sandpoint Towing. In and out men in boots and emergency gear or uniforms traipsed, apologized for wet shoes. I offered coffee, tea. She sat in my rocking chair by the fire, ice on her broken nose, cup of tea at her side. She filled out paperwork, answered questions, let EMS examine her head. She laughed at the irony of surviving the accident only to break her nose trying to get out of the vehicle. She was in shock. We kept her warm, talked to her and eventually one of the responders took her home.

The internet technician who arrived days later was more curious about the obvious disturbance to the snow across the road from our mail box than our continuing connectivity woes. Connection, however, is paramount to me.

Though I live in a small community I don’t often see my neighbors or go to town. Lack of internet connectivity forced me to open up secondary offices in the community brew and beer houses. Just in time for no internet, my magazine editor gave me new assignments. I want to stay home, hide out and work within my routines. Then I realized what was really bothering me — I didn’t want to be disconnected from my writing community. It truly is the hub of my work.

Some writers worry about the time spent on social media as if being social were a bad thing. Going to town reminded me that it is not, and I like my new magazine gig that has me interviewing my local community. My interview style is to collect stories and that requires a degree of sociability. And I like it, despite my introverted desire to stay home. Being an introvert does not make one unsocial. Not only is my online community important to being social, it forms an important part of my writer’s platform.

Community is my foundation. All else pushes out from that hub like spokes on a wagon wheel.

Ever since I began decoding the writer’s platform, I had been trying to figure out how to visually show others the importance of community, especially when some writers began to wonder if it was a guilty pleasure or a time-waster. I knew it was neither, but I couldn’t make it “fit” my brick and mortar design for a writer’s platform. As I thought of community, I was reminded of a marketing model from the wellness segment called the “world view.” It’s a core, surrounded by a thicker layer and then a thinner crust.

Then the hub, spokes and wheel idea came to me.

Community is the hub; it’s our core. From the community, spokes of opportunity open up to reach the wheel that drives us in the writing market — readers. While I don’t have a developed visual, I’m working on it! First comes the breakthrough idea. Community is essential and the more organic it is the better. No, I don’t mean we need USDA labels or unadulterated ingredients. An organic community is one that occurs naturally. It’s the kindred-spirits, the shared-values bloggers, the like-minded who gather to write, read and discuss. We might be from varied backgrounds, genres and experiences, but we find common ground in our process, ideas and words.

From this hub of community, important spokes come into play. Like the woman who crashed, our community quickly responded with emergency services. That’s a spoke. For writers in a community, a spoke might be finding advice or trusted beta-readers. It might be an unexpected spoke of realizing that the genre you write is beloved to someone one of your community members know. Another spoke might be the sharing we do for each other in mentioning posts or books on our own sites. Yet another is collaboration, whether it is a Blogger’s Bash, judging a contest or sharing work in an anthology.

All these spokes reach out from our community and touch readers we don’t yet know.

January 27, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about how a community reaches out. Who, or what cause, is touched by a community “spoke”? Do you think communities can impact change and move a “wheel”? Why or why not? Explore the idea of a community hub in a flash fiction.

Respond by February 2, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

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Community Adjudication by Charli Mills

“String ‘em up,” one of the returning gold-miners shouted. Others laughed.

Ben, the grizzled trader who’d been buffalo hunting with the Pawnee since 1846 shook his shaggy head. “Now that ain’t fair. A man deserves due process.”

Cobb agreed. The old frontiersman understood democracy better than did most of these farmers who liked the idea of wielding deadly force over miscreants. Cobb stood and towered over them all. “Gentlemen, I wrote a proclamation to our Territorial Governor to petition for our right to adjudicate minor crimes.”

Heads nodded.

“But we won’t be hanging anyone in our community,” he added.

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Getting Stronger Now

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionWorking out like Rocky Balboa in the gym is the pinnacle of an underdog getting stronger and achieving a goal. Rocky’s theme song makes us want to do jumping jacks. But for what purpose? Not all stories of getting stronger are about the physical body.

In fact, not a single flash fiction in this compilation addresses physical fitness. A greater theme might be seen in the power of the mind to overcome fear or circumstances. And creative interpretation opens the door to ideas of getting stronger, such as that of an odor.

June 18, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about getting stronger.

Resolve by Geoff Le Pard

‘Let’s put them on the grave, Mum.’

Mary held the bunch tight, unable to move. That aroma; it couldn’t be her father’s aftershave. She sniffed the flowers; not them. ‘Can you smell anything?’

Penny nodded. ‘Grandpa. It’s getting stronger.’

‘But how…?’

‘Because he’s here, Mum.’ The girl took the flowers from her mother.

Mary straightened up. He hadn’t left her. He’d always be here, if she needed advice. Thank heavens, she had let Penny bring her.

‘Thanks, Dad,’ she whispered.

‘Come on, Mum.’

Behind a cloud, Peter watched Milton spear another can with his horn. He loved Old Spice.

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Steps! by Ruchira Khanna

Rebecca is lying with water trickling down her eyes as she hears her infant’s cry from the other room. His tone makes her heart ache as he is hungry, but her body refuses to get up.

Her mind and body are battling an agony and her tears are a proof that a mother wants to be near her little one.

Days are rolling by, and she continues to pop in the pills with the hope. Her tenacity and perseverance have finally led her to lift her ailing body and take slow and steady steps to see that precious smile.

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Getting Stronger by Irene A Waters

The barrow slowed and stopped. Now was his chance. He could hear his mother calling so mustering his reserves to escape and with all the strength he gathered he gave a king kick to the groin “Take that you bastard.” The unicorn suddenly appeared by his side as the darkness turned to light.

His mother entered the room in response to the shouting.

“I thought I was going to die” Jack said

“Luckily we have two lives – our awake life and the life we have in our dreams.” She hugged him tight.

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Ready to Ride by Charli Mills

Hickok stood holding the reins of an unsaddled roan. He watched what looked like a barn-fly bobbing on the prairie horizon until it waxed into a frothing mount and rider. Hickok flexed his gloveless hands. If the Pony ever paid him he’d buy a beaded pair with fringed gauntlets. His roan nickered at the approaching relay, anticipating the mail saddle that would soon pass to his back. Every morning when Sarah gathered eggs by the corral, Hickok galloped the roan through several maneuvers. Today he’d get the chance to show her he was more than a pretty stock tender.

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The Warning by Sherri Matthews

It didn’t take long for the rumours to spread like wildfire around the office.

“Did you hear the news?” gushed Christie as she ran over to Jan’s desk. “Mr. Chapman is leaving! He got the sack!”

Jan stopped typing and kept her gaze steady as she looked up at her. “Really? That’s a shocker!”

Christie dashed off to spread the news, leaving Jan stunned in thought. No more Mr. Chapman, no more grabbing behind closed doors. She had warned him enough times but he hadn’t believed her.

Turning back to her keyboard, Jan smiled broadly as she began typing.

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Getting Stronger by Anne Goodwin

The governor granted his permission, but nothing more. No budget. No staff. When she saw the wasteland he’d assigned her, she almost gave up. Brambles thick as trees. Boulders too heavy for a sole woman to lift.

The prisoners skulked in their cells, smoking. The screws laughed when they unlocked the door to let her out. Laughed when they let her in again, exhausted, caked in mud. Laughed when the slugs gobbled up her seedlings. Yet she and her plants were growing stronger. She smiled. Once she’d harvested the cannabis, there’d be a waiting list for the gardening class.

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A Ladder Away by Amber Prince

He glanced up at the towering line of steps and gulped. His dad always climbed it with ease and now stood atop of their roof probably doing amazing things. Billy wasn’t sure what was done up there because he had never made it to the top. He never made it past the fifth step without fear gripping his body and having to climb back down with sweat slicked palms.

Today he wore gloves. Billy took a deep breath heeding his dad’s advice, “Never look down.” One step. Two… seven… finally victory was his as he patted his dad’s shoulder.

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Compelled by Pete

I used to cry myself to sleep at night, only to be haunted still by Old Father Martin’s dull eyes in my dreams. But one morning in class it changed, and when he gripped the yardstick I stood stock-still, my lips curling into a smile.

“Miss Baldwin?”

I didn’t even blink. And I felt my resolve strengthening when Old Father Martin yanked me to his desk. His calloused hands tore at my wrist as he spoke in that disgusting, spit-clucking way, cursing and trembling with each whack of the stick. And with each whack I laughed a little harder…

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Progress by Norah Colvin

Day one

Timid. Needed help getting things out of bag to put in drawer. Sat towards back of group. Drew knees up under chin. Hunched over. Sucked thumb. Twisted long tangled hair under nose. Rocked.

Day twenty-six

Responded in roll call! Sat with ‘friend’. Legs crossed. Back straight. Smiled – briefly. Someone looked! Screamed, “Stop looking at me!” Dissolved in tears. Again. Retreated under desk. Again.

Day fifty-two

Initiated conversation!! Hair combed!! Nose not running!! Brought toy for show and tell. Responded with one- or two-word answers. Small, dirty, pink unicorn. B laughed. Erupted, but went to desk, not under!

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The Speech by Larry LaForge

Edward’s knees wobbled as he stood facing his classmates – and his lifelong fear. His throat was dry; his heart pounded.

He swallowed hard, feeling sick to his stomach. All his preparation seemed for naught.

Edward anticipated ridicule and harsh judgment if he excused himself yet again.

Nearing panic, a strange and wonderful calmness suddenly enveloped him, as though a great burden had been lifted.

This was the moment Edward finally accepted himself.

The words he prepared came out, although his presentation was well below the class standard. Edward realized that didn’t matter.

He knew he’d never again be speechless.

(A 100-word version of the above story is posted at LarryLaForge100Words on Flash Fiction Magazine:
http://flashfictionmagazine.com/larrylaforge100words/2014/06/23/the-speech/.)

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Quiet Pride by Paula Moyer

Jean could hardly believe it. Her B.A. had almost finished itself in four years. No muss, no fuss – a change of major and a divorce notwithstanding. Commencement and a diploma capped it off.

Her M.A., though – 15 years, four changes of programs, and life in between – including remarriage and two children. For reasons that would puzzle her later, she did not plan to attend this degree’s ceremony.

After all the effort – exams, classes, graduation reading, “starred” papers. The last paper – finally turned in.

With her one-year-old snoozing in the backpack, Jean strolled through the art exhibit. Graduation day, indeed.

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Teetering On the Rocks by Sarah Brentyn

He heard the clinking. It was a sound he knew well. His stomach tightened, heart raced. Consciously taking a deep breath, another, he walked into the kitchen where his wife was mixing a martini.

She held it out to him and winked. “It’s strong.” He cringed. “I can make a rum and coke. Or a gin and tonic,” she offered.

“That’s okay.” Shaking, he reached for the glass. The mouth-watering alcohol smell reached his nose. He flashed back to the bar two weeks ago. The family barbeque in June. Last night.

Walking to the sink, he dumped the glass.

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Strong Mind by Kalpana Solsi

She picked up the book and read, ’there’s more power in the mind than in the body’.

She began her hand exercises proceeding to the leg exercises and finally concluding with the breathing exercises taught by her yoga teacher.

Maryann touched the metal body and a chill went down her spine.

Nurse Peggy entered the room and gasped.

MaryAnn was six feet away from her bed and on her feet standing upright albeit the aid of the walker.

MaryAnn had ‘travelled’ this distance after a month’s stay in the hospital after the accident.

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New challenge posted every Wednesday on Carrot Ranch Communications.  All writers welcome!

April 2: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionAlready this is our fifth flash fiction challenge! It’s exciting to see both returning writers and new writers weekly. By now, I hope that those of you who have discovered 99-word flash have benefited from practicing this form. Last week’s responses are posted in “Flash Fiction: It’s Just the Wind.”

Flash fiction can open up creativity–in addition to clever, chilling and funny flash, I’ve also read several comments that include word play. Thus a sign that flash creativity is alive and well.

According to Writers Digest (.com), “And no matter what you write, stringent word limits can challenge and sharpen your skills in ways that can improve even your long-form work.” The concision of flash is poetry-like and although I’m not a poet, I have found that practicing short form makes my longer prose tighter and full of imagery.

You can write any genre in flash which can help you explore a new genre or develop a new idea in a genre you already pursue. Some genres even have organizations that encourage flash, such as the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, which accepts submissions of flash fiction in 500 to 1,000 words. Even if science fiction is not your genre, the organization accepts different genres and pays $50 for published flash. Something for you to consider.

Last week we had a poem in 99 words that deftly interpreted the prompt. Feel free to take such poetic license especially in April as America celebrates, Poetry Month. Scholastic offers resources and links for poets of all ages and levels if you are interested in exploring poetry.

One of our regular writers, Paula Moyer, posted an idea for a prompt. That’s the kind of interaction between writers that I’m hoping this weekly challenge will foster. So if you have ideas, too, just let me know! Here is our prompt  for the week.

April 2, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that quotes from a song’s lyrics ( could be a classical aria, a rock & roll song, anything). Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, April 8 to be included in the compilation. My contribution follows and I hope yours does, too!

Virgil Kane is My Name by Charli Mills

I says to my wife, there goes them no-good McCanlesses. Me, I’m out plowing the field them Yankees trampled after murdering Cap’t Morgan. Stoneman’s cavalry. Bah! Bunch of thieving turncoats, I say. “You leave Tennessee,” I shouts at them. Their wagons creak but they say nothin’ to me. Old man Cobb McCanless slumps in his wagon seat. Hope he feels a fool having to flee Tennessee. He was my school teacher once. Old man Cobb. A poet. Virgil Kane is my name and I rode on the Danville train. Until Cobb’s sons came and tore up them tracks again.

Based on lyrics from “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”

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Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.