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Every Word Counts

Anne Goodwin, Rough Writer & Author, joins the Rough Writer Around the World Tour from the UK. She has practiced the craft of flash fiction at Carrot Ranch for four years now and is the author of two novels (Sugar and Snails, Underneath) published by Inspired Quill

By Anne Goodwin

A couple of months ago I was privileged to attend a meeting of a local writing group in their “invited author” slot. As well as speaking about my own writing and journey to publication, I was asked to set a writing exercise. Given that I’d inadvertently begun both my published novels with a character descending a staircase, it wasn’t difficult to find my prompt, to which the writers responded admirably. But, as a practitioner of the 99-word story, I thought I could give them a little more by modelling writing less.


Join Carrot Ranch every Monday to explore the writing and blogs of Rough Writers from a different country. Next week we head to Canada!

Raw Literature: Underneath

Brave and subversive, like gazing upon the surface of a pond

Essay by Anne Goodwin, a member of the Congress of Rough Writers and author of “Underneath,” her second novel.

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I didn’t realise I was obsessed with staircases until I put the first paragraphs of my two novels side-by-side. While, viewed individually, both are effective introductions to the respective stories, it’s rather embarrassing to find I’ve twice begun a book with my narrator descending the stairs at home. How has that happened, and why?

The opening scene of my debut novel, Sugar and Snails, developed late in the writing process, following multiple drafts with at least a dozen different attempts to get it started with a zing. In contrast, my forthcoming second novel, Underneath, was much more straightforward with the opening scene present from the start. Although the phrasing has been amended in the process from raw to ready, the idea behind the words has remained stable since the very first draft. In concept, if not in language, it’s literature in the raw.

It’s always interesting to see where our minds take us in response to a creative writing prompt, such as the weekly Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge. Sometimes, I discover another angle on a theme that continually captivates me; sometimes, I surprise myself by following an unfamiliar path. But what do I know? Like the staircases in my novels, what looks like a route untrodden could be one I’ve taken many times without noticing I’d been there before.

This potential to uncover our unconscious preoccupations can make writing raw literature scary, and sharing it with others a brave act. In my years of secret scribbling, although I loved writing, I could never have called myself a writer because I couldn’t open myself up to the feedback we all need to improve our craft. This fear of revealing myself went deeper than a lack of confidence. I’d say I felt ashamed.

Diana, the narrator of, Sugar and Snails, is also ashamed of who she is, stunting her psychological growth so that, at forty-five, she’s retained the emotional mentality of an adolescent. In the novel, she’s challenged to confront her fears of rejection by sharing her secret with her friends. We too act bravely when we bare the inner workings of our minds through exposing our raw literature to others’ scrutiny. Despite having posted my 99-word stories almost since the beginning of the project, I still feel a little nervous some weeks delivering my contribution to the ranch.

What makes us ashamed of our imperfections? In fiction, it’s a character’s flaws that make her interesting; wouldn’t a writer’s quirks do the same?

Our shame might arise through past experiences of being told, directly and indirectly, that our thoughts, feelings and opinions are wrong. But it makes no sense to evaluate ideas and emotions this way; only our actions can be judged as good or bad. It’s not so difficult, however, to make a child or adult with the right combination of vulnerabilities feel unworthy. It’s called bullying.

In Charli’s engaging posts introducing the weekly flash fiction prompt, she often reminds us (such as here) of the potential for silencing inconvenient voices and the importance of safe spaces in which those voices can be heard. In the current political climate, it’s crucial that we resist the pressure to keep quiet. Writing is part of that resistance, so that in sharing our raw literature we’re not only being brave but, in giving voice to diversity, we’re being subversive.

So what does that say about my staircases? Well, I’m not alone in my fascination with stairs: some will remember that Stairway to Anywhere was the theme of the first flash fiction compilation of 2015. In my novels, stairs symbolise the transition from one state to another, and possibly back again.

In the opening of Sugar and Snails, Diana is stalled between the first and ground floor rooms of her house, between the bedroom, and her shattered hopes of a satisfying sexual relationship, and the cupboard under the stairs where she keeps the knife she will use to convert her emotional pain to physical. The question arises as to whether she can regain the promise of that better life represented by the top of the stairs. But this novel is also about decision-making and choice. Reflecting on a childhood memory of the stone steps outside her first school, with separate flights for boys and girls, stairs signify what is lost when one can follow only one of two options.

For Steve, the narrator of Underneath, stairs denote a more disturbing transition from an ordinary man to a criminal, a jailer who keeps a woman imprisoned in the cellar. For a while, he moves, albeit shakily, between these two worlds, caring for his captive while reporting for work as a hospital theatre orderly and taking the train to visit his mother, who suffers from dementia, in a nursing home. Yet, as implied by the title, his descent takes him to a deeper level than Diana’s, not only physically underground, but into the darkest corners of his own mind.

It might not be much more than an artefact of the dynamics of his family of origin being played out within an ordinary house, but there’s also a significant staircase in Steve’s boyhood memories. With his mother’s bedroom door firmly closed, he tries to distract himself from his loneliness by counting the geometric figures on the stair carpet, which he calls Saturns, reaching 257 and still his mother doesn’t leave her room.

If two novels weren’t sufficient to write out my staircase obsession, stairs also play a part in my current WIP, and hopefully my third novel,  Closure / Secrets and Lies, although fortunately not (currently at least) on the first page. Here, if I’ve done my job well enough, they’ll serve as a transition in the reader’s perception of Matty, one of three point-of-view characters. An extremely deluded patient in a long-stay psychiatric hospital, I hope initially readers will find her amusing and endearing. A secluded staircase, where, in need of cash, she “lifts her skirt for the man with the hairy arms”, reveals the vulnerability behind the cheerful persona. Like the narrators of my two published novels, Matty moves back and forth between different states – for her, funny and fragile – until the final crisis.

I don’t know whether stairs signify something deeper in my psyche; perhaps you’ll spot something that is not yet obvious to me. It’s this that makes me think that fiction is both more and less exposing than memoir: more because there are no facts to block what emerges from the unconscious; less because, if it makes me uncomfortable, I can always fall back on the fact that I made it up. Like gazing upon the surface of a pond, our writing reflects our inner selves back at us, revealing our idiosyncratic preoccupations in its repeated motifs and themes. It’s not often, however, that the surface on which we see ourselves is as smooth as a mirror. Like ripples on water, our reflected features can be distorted. That’s when the fun begins.


Like Steve, Anne Goodwin used to like to travel, but now she prefers to stay at home and do her travelling in her head. Like Liesel, she’s worked in mental health services, where her focus, as a clinical psychologist, was on helping people tell their neglected stories to themselves. Now that her short fiction publication count has overtaken her age, her ambition is to write and publish enough novels to match her shoe size. Underneath is her second novel; her first, Sugar and Snails, was shortlisted for the Polari First Book Prize. Anne lives in the East Midlands and is a member of Nottingham Writers’ Studio.

Catch up on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.


He never intended to be a jailer …

After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and Underneath by Anne Goodwinpersuades Liesel to move in with him.

Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.

Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?

Published internationally 25th May 2017 in e-book and paperback:


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

Raw Literature: Spring Review #1

January 4, 2017 we kicked off the new year at Carrot Ranch with an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers. What marks us as literary artists is not poetry or prose, it’s not genre or length of writing. What marks us as literary artists is creativity with the written word. After three years of writing with diverse writers from around the globe and across genres, I was curious about how we create in our chose medium.

It’s interesting to explore the whirring behind such inventive minds, and understand that the term raw literature applies broadly to what we do as much as what we first write. So far, we’ve had ten writers talk about what raw literature means, why writing is a creative process and how literature impacts other areas of life. It’s a dialog that could continue indefinitely and the conversation grows as we ponder what another has said.

That is why I’ll periodically pause for reviews of previous essays in the series. There’s good pondering and inspiration you don’t want to miss. This week we’ll catch up with the first three essays from guest writers.

  1. Sherri Matthews introduced the guest series with Memoir and What Lies Beneath, and reflects on her initial idea for a memoir. It’s a deep and introspective path to recreate life moments with words on a page. She writes, “But I am not writing a memoir for personal catharsis, nor to air the family’s dirty laundry, wreak revenge or set the record straight.  It’s an itch I can’t scratch, the baring of my soul in a gut-ripping, blood-letting, snot-flinging exercise in pursuit of the real story.”
  2. Sarah Unsicker has temporarily hung up her writing hat to serve constituents as State Representative of Missouri’s 91st District. What an historic time for a woman to be elected to office in the US. While she might not be writing creatively in her new role, it’s influence remains. She tells us in an interview for Rough Writer for Congress, “Literature helps people consider different situations in life with more empathy and understanding.”
  3. Geoff Le Pard jumped into the conversation with a lawyer’s regard for definitions. In Natural or Explicit, he explores the meaning of raw and goes beyond definitions to what it means to feel exposed, writing, “For any work, if we truly want to get that rawness, newness, freshness, we should be prepared for some hurt and not be scared to expose our vulnerabilities.”

Be sure to join catch up with us some more the next two Tuesdays. Join the conversation or consider adding to the continuing dialog. What does raw literature mean to you? How do you view yourself as a literary artist and what do you do with your first efforts? If you are launching a new book, consider writing an essay in this series as part of any blog tours you might be doing. You can share how your published work began as a literary artist’s first raw attempt.

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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

Raw Literature: From Raw to Ready


Essay by Anne Goodwin, a member of the Congress of Rough Writers.

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Every other Sunday, I don my red fleece jacket and drive to an office in a Derbyshire village, where I pick up a radio and, after a cup of tea and a chat, set out on patrol. I’m part of a team of volunteer rangers supporting the day-to-day running of the National Park, each bringing our individual skills, interests and quirks to the collective task. Although the English countryside remains predominantly white and, thanks to funding cuts, the organisation has been subject to re-organisation throughout the almost ten years and I’ve been associated with it, there’s a commitment to diversity and peer and management support. While it’s not always fun traversing the moors in sleet or driving rain, or confronting a cyclist or dog owner who thinks the bylaws don’t apply to them, it’s something I believe in and generally enjoy.

I feel something similar when I ride up to the Carrot Ranch every week with my response to the weekly flash fiction challenge. There’s a sense of belongingness and supportive leadership, balanced with the flexibility and freedom to respond, within the constraints, in our own way. Even when it’s a struggle to find those 99 words, it always feels worthwhile. Sometimes, as with my regular walks that start and finish in the same place but may take me places I’ve never previously encountered, I’m surprised by what I find both in my own stories and in those of the other contributors.

I’ve dipped in and out of other writing communities over the decade and a half I’ve been writing seriously. I’ve also attended courses and purchased feedback from more experienced writers and tutors on my work. Generally, I’ve found that the type of support available differs according to the stage of writing and/or the writer’s experience: for beginning writers and for the production of first drafts (or raw literature) we’re encouraged to play, but when we come to honing it for publication and dissemination to a wider readership we’re handed the rule book.

Of course, you might be thinking, if you want people to read your stuff, it’s got to be right! I’m not disputing this at all. Publication implies a certain standard; what’s not clear is how to set about achieving it, or even what that standard might look like.

The survival of the creative writing industry depends, to a large extent, on the myth that we know what it means to write well. There’s a plethora of advice available, and a lot of it’s extremely useful to the novice – I laugh about it now, but I still recall that lightbulb moment of discovering show, don’t tell. But there’s a gap. If you’re an intuitive writer, someone whose work grows organically in unpredictable ways, who perceives writing as an adventure, you’re faced with a choice: either be the leopard that changed its spots and succumb to rigorous soul-destroying planning, or face a lonely hit-and-miss journey through the mist.

Planning is useful, but right at the start? That might work for some, especially those who wake up one morning and decide I’m going to be a writer never having written a creative word since schooldays. (Do these individuals exist?) But many, like me, have been scribbling away since childhood. We can produce raw literature in our sleep – in fact, that’s where many writing projects originate – but we need guidance in how to make it palatable to others. Unsure what that how to should look like – even after going through the process of publishing a novel people seem to like – I scour other parts of me for a useful analogy.

Just as I was a raw writer before I was a published author, I was a raw walker (although I’d never have called it that) before qualifying as a volunteer ranger. (Note to those more familiar with the raw national parks of most countries, in Britain this role doesn’t imply an intrepid explorer with a gun in her backpack.) To get to the stage of being trusted to escort the public on guided walks, I was trained in navigation, first aid and knowledge of the countryside. These skills might have parallels in the writer’s toolbox, such as my treasured show, don’t tell, but it’s in my development in the role since getting my badge and tramping the moors alone where I might look for clues as to what’s needed to progress from raw to ready-to-read.

I was very nervous when I first set out on patrol alone and perhaps overzealous in my need to get it right. What enabled me to grow in confidence – and, hopefully, skill – has been the supportive framework in which I can do it my own way, forging my own path – both literally in finding my favourite routes and symbolically in pursuing my own interests – and making my own mistakes. Instead of bemoaning my poor knowledge of geology, wildlife and plants, I’ve developed a niche in reading the literary landscape through its links to the novel, Jane Eyre, something that never occurred to me when I first applied to volunteer.

While useful as a metaphor, there are two crucial differences from my writing journey. Firstly, my freedom and flexibility within the role of volunteer ranger is limited by accountability to the national park authority whereas, as a novelist, can choose to please myself until signing a contract. Secondly, while it can be both scary and embarrassing to get lost out on patrol, I’m much more vulnerable when I mine the emotional depths for my writing. I wonder if psychotherapy, which I’ve experienced from both sides, might get me closer to what I’m struggling to articulate.

There are multiple models of therapy but, for the purpose of this post, let’s divide them into two types. One trains and supports clients to adopt the type of attitudes, thoughts and behaviours believed, based on research and theory, to promote well-being among people in general (for example, CBT); the other uses a “containing” relationship in which clients develop an idiosyncratic story of how they can be the best version of themselves within the limits of their own lives and circumstances (for example, psychoanalytic psychotherapy). The former might have its parallel in the literary sphere in planning; the latter in pantsing. Perhaps you can guess what type of therapy I sought for myself!

If that analogy holds, can we identify some elements of exploratory psychotherapy that might apply to a model of the journey from raw literature to ready-to-read? Here are my raw ideas on the issue; I’d be most interested in yours.

  1. The process is difficult to describe.
  2. It takes time, and a lot of it.
  3. It’s different for each individual patient/client/writer.
  4. Change occurs within the context of a relationship.
  5. No-one can tell you how to go about it, because no-one can get right inside your head and see how your mind works.
  6. It’s a process of trial and error.
  7. It’s a journey without a clear destination.
  8. It can be subversive.
  9. It’s a journey of both the intellect and emotions.
  10. It takes us to unexpected places.


Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was published in July 2015 by Inspired Quill and shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, is scheduled for publication in May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger and author of 70 published short stories. Catch up on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.

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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

Showing Someone Around

ShowingEach week, I’m struck by the diversity and quality of responses to Charli’s regular flash fiction prompt. But there’s something extra special about reading the responses when you’re the one who set the challenge. You can’t help feeling nervous playing host at someone else’s ranch and I wondered whether my prompt on showing someone around would engage writers. It wasn’t until the responses began being posted that I realised there was part of me that had assumed, because I’d given the theme some thought, I knew what was coming. Of course I didn’t! Every 99-word story both surprised and delighted me as the Rough Writers and friends heeded the call to show each other around their imaginations. We met characters who knew more about a property than they admitted, and houses sheltering secrets within their walls. We saw communities that had been broken by neglect and a place where neglected lives find harbour. There was playfulness, in child and X-rated versions, alongside a serious look at life. Read on to be amused, spooked and moved by the stories, as I hand back to Charli to show you around.

The following is based on the April 27, 2016 prompt: in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on the theme of showing someone around a property. Guest prompt by Anne Goodwin.


The renter’s revenge by Anne Goodwin

Oops, should’ve warned you about that low beam. It’s not normally a problem, though one friend got concussion, but that was yonks ago.

Don’t worry about the damp in the spare room; it dries out completely in summer. Though I should mention my grandson developed asthma after sleeping there.

Oh, those? Yeah, for the rats; you stop thinking it’s cruel after a few sleepless nights with them scurrying through the loft.

Well, nice to meet you too, and sorry it’s not the kind of place you’re looking for. I hope nothing I said put you off.


The White House by Ruchira Khanna

“You must be familiar with most of the rooms, but I thought ‘give you the latest update on some changes.” he commented with a warm smile and friendly vibes as he moved across the hall while ushering her around.

“Time changes everything,” she remarked as she followed him around while appreciating the developments. “You and your lovely family preserved this house while making it your abode for the last eight years.”

He embraced the comment while she chuckled on her life as she followed him while reliving her past wherein she was the First Lady and now the President.


Standing Stones by Sarah Brentyn

“And here,” he grinned over his shoulder, “is where they held their fertility rituals.”

Giggles rippled through the crowd. Hell, he loved this job. Taking tourists around the stone circle, watching them open-mouthed and wide-eyed.

“I’ve saved the best for last,” he stopped near a flat stone and dropped his voice. “This is where the aliens…”

“Okay, Brother. Enough!” She stepped out of the group, long black hair shimmering, eyes flashing, head held high. “You have had your fun. Come home. The Goddess is not pleased.”

“Damn,” he kicked at the ground.

She grabbed his arm and they disappeared.


Realeasing joo-lie first by Elliott Lyngreen

Tom’s blood drips from his forearm under pinch-bug parking lots’ hum exhausting.

Travis and Mark bring Algebra One stuck at full volume into the centre.

“Whhaat-happen dude?” sweeping off phenomenal noise up to rides.

Sternly, “gave skeebs what they wanted.”

“Crazy…” —

Surreal intentions fade. Tom solidly perfects Mark squinting to that ooze; fast forwarding some driving through knee-high corn and flurries streaking lightspeed.

“…crossed the border seven times!” seethed about braiding Stateline Fields with peeled warmspells, “you-guys Kmart shortcut?.. heard ya first!”

“Can’t believe it’s snowing over there?” Travis’ nerve-tips split ends.


Perdition by Bill Engelson

“Dobbs, fancy a drink?” the Banker asked.

I was tempted and not a little thirsty.

Outside, hyenas were on the prowl.

“Why not,” I said.

He found two glasses and poured us some whiskey.

“Take a look out my window, Dobbs.”

I stared through the dirty glass.

The feverish daytime street had blackened into a shadowy tableau.

Screams of drunken debauchery screeched in the air.

Shots rang out.

“THIS…this was MY town once. My people had a good life. A hard life, maybe, but they prospered. So did I.”

“And now?” I asked.

“Caldwell has sucked out our soul.”


Lay of the Land by Larry LaForge

“There’s a gazebo and a huge garden,” Ed said. “It’s got some trees, but there’s an opening.”

Ed’s golfing partner was mortified. His errant shot went directly toward one of the nicer houses surrounding the course.

Ed continued to console him. “No worries. Just step over the Chrysanthemums. It’s level around that side, so you should have a good lie for your next shot. The wind blows toward the green from there. It’s mostly downhill to the pin, about 120 yards. Easy nine iron.”

The shaken partner smiled when he finally realized something.

Ed’s been there—apparently many times.


The Visit by Jane Dougherty

“It’s certainly isolated,” he said approvingly.

“Exactly what we’re looking for,” she agreed. “And the garden! It’s gorgeous.”

They wandered through tangles of roses along mossy brick paths and the scent of honeysuckle, hardly noticing the passing time.

“Estate agent’s running late,” he said, “I’ll give him a call.” He gave up after a few futile attempts. “No signal.”

She hugged herself, suddenly cold. The sun had set. He pointed.

“That must be him!”

She looked in the direction of his pointing finger. A black silhouette striding. Something was not quite…Her hand flew to her mouth.

“Oh my God!”


Foreclosure by Pete Fanning

On a sunny Sunday just before two, the doors opened by way of the bank-owned key from the lock box.

They came in pairs, poking around in closets and bedrooms, asking about square footage. A faint warmth clung to the living room. Notches and dates climbed the kitchen doorjamb. A tree house in the backyard and a faded Child Finder sticker on an upstairs window. Plenty of space, but no interest.

At four, the realtor left her card on the counter and locked up. She thought paint might help. Anything to help the house let go of its family.


Foggy Friend by Kerry E.B. Black

Helen followed the frog as it hopped beneath plants not-yet grown into their foliage, fascinated by the little thing’s movements. New to walking, Helen toddled, entranced by her new friend. For its part, the amphibian seemed to wait until the child caught up, leading a merry tour about its home.
Her lips formed rosebuds when it went afield. “Foggy.”
Mud squelched around her Robeez, holding with greed.
Helen tugged but freed only her foot. She left the shoe to continue after her willing quarry, a memento for a mother who should have kept better track of a darling girl.


You Call This What? by Gulara Vincent

Miami, 2002.

‘Come through.’

A spacious rotunda room was immaculate. Even the air felt sterile and controlled. The space commanded our full and undivided attention.

‘We have individual cubicles on each floor.’

I looked up and there were pale grey doors everywhere.

‘Do they stay there alone?’ A human rights defender from our delegation broke the silence. He was towering over seven other delegates, distinguished Azerbaijani judges and lawyers.

‘Federal inmates are kept in isolation,’ the American colleague explained.

‘I’d speak up more often, if Azerbaijan had facilities like this. You call this a prison? This is a holiday!’


A House with a Pool by Ula Humienik

“This house has a lovely outdoor pool,” said the woman dressed in a cardboard brown suit as she led Alice outside.

Alice looked at the zomp-colored water in the pool. She was suddenly transported to her 16th birthday. The one where her breast fell into the cake when she was blowing out the candles and she was so embarrassed because she’d invited that boy she’d always had a crush on. The same boy she had sex with for the first time a year later at this very pool.

“I’ll take it.” Alice didn’t take her eyes off the water.


Gotta Start Somewhere by Jules Paige

We decided to look for a small starter home before we
married. And that is what we found. “Balloon Construction”
means no insulation in the walls. Because at one time the
over eighty year old bungalow on a “Postage Stamp”
(very small) lot was heated by the coal stove in the basement.
Heat rose up through the hollow walls.

The two bedrooms were barely able to fit a double bed and
a single dresser. Each bedroom had one closet that had been
added on and took up precious floor space. For eighteen
months we called that building our home.


Secret Room by Ann Edall-Robson

“I don’t want to go in there? It’s old and decrepit.”

“No it’s not. You’ll see!”

Brandi grabbed her best friend’s hand and pulled her through the open doorway of the old house.

“i’m not going up those stairs.”

“You don’t have to. We’re going under them.”

She opened the door. Reaching up on the beam for the flashlight she new was there. Brandi turned it on and opened a second door.

“Oh Brandi! How did you find this room? Look at these old things. The toys. The books.”

Brandi smiled. “We tell no one. It is our secret.”


Let Me Show You by Irene Waters

The agent brought two men,one  woman and a dog.”Can you show them around Pippa?” he asked the store’s owner. “You know the business.” Pippa complied showing them the store, the residence and the land that completed the package.  The man, John, made her squirm, reminding her of some slimy men she’d met in the city. He expected her to fawn over him. She didn’t need to sell it that badly. Why her when she was paying an agent? Before leaving the dog killed a chicken.

Subsequently they returned and informed her they’d bought a turkey farm. Inwardly she smiled.


New World by Norah Colvin

Thinking it much too quiet, Sally excused herself from the conversation.

She peeked through the door. A sheet was draped from the top bunk to the curtain rail. The drawers were stacked staircase-like, their contents piled high in the corner. Emily, adorned in crown and cape, watched Jessica, in cowboy boots, fossick in the overturned toy box. Max sat nearby reading to assorted stuffed animals. All three sensed Sally’s presence simultaneously.

“Mum! Look what we made!” beamed Jessica. Sally suppressed her initial reaction: mess.

“Come in. We’ll show you! This is our cave. This is our mountain …”


There’s Close and There’s Too Close by Geoff Le Pard

Rupert hopped from foot to foot. ‘Well?’

To Mary he was like a child asking a parent for approval. ‘It’s fine.’

‘You don’t like it? The bedroom? Too small?’


‘The kitchen?’

‘Really, it’s good.’ It was delightful so why wasn’t she saying so?

‘I’ll tell the agent to keep looking.’ He turned and ran his finger along the built-in bookcase. ‘Shame really…’

Looking at his slumped shoulders and thinning hair she saw, not just her half-brother but their father. He turned, surprising her. ‘I’m determined to move close. You’re my only family now.’

She nodded, her question answered.


The Grand Tour (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee


Jane stays in the basement, not risking lighted windows. Sleeping bag on worn carpet. A decrepit coffee table holds her few books, framed family picture, battery lantern, makeup, a camper’s mirror. A tattered world map is thumbtacked to one wall. She gazes at it, and dreams.

No electricity. No cozy kitchen smells, no warm lamplight. No heat. But no wind or rain, either, the sprung La-Z-Boy was already here, she pays no rent. Just stay invisible.

And Troubles, abandoned as well, she thinks. She hugs him, gets doggy kisses.



The Shrinking Violet’s 6-point Guide to Promoting Your Novel

me at jesmondWhen Anne Goodwin rode up to Carrot Ranch with her first flash fiction challenge, I knew she was competent in the saddle — Anne knows her craft. With 61 short stories published, it’s no surprise Inspired Quill picked up her debut novel. However, like many skilled writers, Ann was reluctant to promote her work. In her guest post, Anne addresses how she mastered the launch of her debut novel.

Anne Goodwin, Guest Blog:

I’ve enjoyed Charli’s posts on writer branding, even as I bristled at the idea of considering myself, or my output, a commodity. Yet now I have a genuine product to sell in the form of my debut novel, some of Charli’s expertise must’ve rubbed off on me, because I’m determined to do the best job I can in getting my book to readers. This is very much an idiot’s guide cobbled together from the things I’ve done, or wished I’d done, in the process, and is particularly targeted at the anxious writer who balks at the idea of self-promotion (i.e. most of us, at least in the beginning). I can’t guarantee that following these steps will result in phenomenal sales. I can’t guarantee that it will remove all discomfort from the process. But I do believe that by confronting and managing our anxieties as outlined here we can be confident we’ve given ourselves and our books the best possible chance of success.

1. Cultivate your communities
This isn’t about forging friendships to flog your books. Not only is that slimy and cynical, it’s probably ineffective. But, on the other hand, there’s no point being a shrinking violet. Your relationships, both on and off-line, are an important conflict between you and your readers. This doesn’t mean, as an introvert (as many writers are), you’ve got to transform yourself into a socialite. It’s more a matter of not neglecting those ordinary human qualities of generosity and friendship. I’m not a great networker, but it turns out I have sufficient social capital to generate a mammoth blog tour that’s now in its fourth week and two launch events with forty or more people at each. If I, with a little thought and preparation, can achieve that, just think what Charli Mills, lead buckaroo of the Congress of Rough Writers, could achieve with all the goodwill she’s generated through her support of other writers.

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2. Edit your way to a book you can be proud of
Let’s assume you’ve written the best book you possibly can and have secured a publisher or made the decision to self-publish. Isn’t it strange that, no matter how many edits you’ve gone through already, as soon as publication flips from an impossible dream to impending reality, you notice all kinds of new problems with your novel? Now’s the time to bring all those niggles to light and address them, not only for the obvious reason of enhancing your readers’ enjoyment, but also because anything that makes you feel awkward or apologetic about your words will be a barrier to promotion.

So, whether you’re publishing yourself or traditionally, you need to make full use of your editor. Their role needn’t only be to point out what they think can be improved, but to help you sort out any areas with which you aren’t one hundred percent happy. In my own experience, my editor’s suggestions enabled me to look more critically at my novel and make cuts and amendments to sections where she hadn’t felt it necessary to wield her virtual red pen. My editor was also able to reassure me about sections I thought were perhaps a bit iffy; if you trust your editor (and if you don’t perhaps you should find another) it’s a marvellous boost to the ego to receive her enthusiastic endorsement of your words.

3. Work through the limitations
A thorough edit should lead to a text you can be proud of (at least for the moment; many authors report still finding fault with their novels years after publication). Yet perhaps there are still aspects that make you cringe when you think about it making its way in the world? You might worry that you’ve tackled a controversial issue in a way that might upset some readers. You might fear that certain experts will criticise the shallowness of your research. You might be anxious about the overlap between the events in your novel and your own life: will people misconstrue your fiction as autobiographical or will you struggle to keep the personal personal in discussing your book? You might just be concerned that your mother, your hairdresser or your next-door neighbour will think it’s a load of crap.

It’s important not to dismiss such concerns; if you deny or belittle them, they’re more likely to hold you back. Discuss your feelings with trusted friends, your editor, other writers, a therapist. Go to events and observe how more experienced authors manage these areas in relation to their own work. For example, I found it extremely helpful to watch local author, Eve Makis, respond to a question about Armenian history (featured in her novel, The Spice Box Letters) from a reader with an Armenian background (and to discuss the parallels with my own novel afterwards with a close friend).

Your book, especially if it’s fiction, is not the definitive take on a topic, and nor is it meant to be. (It just feels like that, because you’ve spent so much time absorbed within it.) Readers are free to take from it what they wish – and that’s a good thing. But it’s worth addressing your anxieties about creating the perfect book so that you can allow it to be different things to different people.

4. Identify your potential readership
Make a list of everybody who might be interested in reading your book – and I mean everyone! Don’t limit yourself to people you can be fairly sure will like it, or like you enough to pretend they do. Think big and, at this stage at least, don’t let thoughts about the awkwardness of contacting them get in the way. Potential readers include, but are not limited to, anyone who knows you, in whatever role (not only writing), or has known you in the past; people who read your genre; people local to you or to your novel’s setting; and, for an “issue” based novel like mine, communities with a personal interest. I’ve been surprised by pockets of support in places I didn’t expect it but, two and a half weeks post-publication, I’m still knocking on doors I thought would be easier to open.

5. Identify ways of connecting with your readershipblog tour week 4 correct
If you’ve done Step 1 and cultivated your communities and Steps 2 and 3 to produce a book that people will be happy to champion, you will have a lot of people who genuinely want to get the word out. But going beyond your immediate circles takes a little more courage. To get author and expert endorsements, you need to make contact well in advance of publication and to risk (as with those initial submissions) them telling you they don’t like your book. To get reviews, you need to approach reviewers in a courteous manner and accept that they’ll tell the world what they don’t like about your baby, as well as what they do. If you’re self-published, or with a small press like me, it’s amazingly difficult to get your books into bookshops, but often worth approaching your local favourites to give it a try. If they won’t stock your books, they might host you for a signing session, although with the big chains, even this is proving difficult. Some libraries are more amenable, however, especially if you’re doing author events. Don’t forget the local media, both print and radio. They are always pleased to celebrate an achievement, especially if you can demonstrate some connection with the area. I’m expecting to be in my local newspaper this week, in time for a library event the following Tuesday. I also had a feature in a newspaper that had previously published my short stories as part of a regional competition.

6. Make those connections in as pleasurable away as possible
You won’t be able to do everything, so you need to prioritise. If you’re time poor, you might feel it’s not worth your while to write lots of guest blog posts, as I’ve done. On the other hand, if you enjoy writing articles, or want the opportunity to develop your skills in this area, it might be something to invest in. For the things I found tedious (e.g. contacting a local printer to produce some flyers for my launch events) or scary (having a slot on local radio) I focused on the learning opportunities afforded rather than enjoying it or doing it well.

If you’re particularly daunted by the whole thing, perhaps you should go for quick wins to build your confidence. A launch party is great fun, even for shrinking violets, and I was touched how far my guest had travelled and how pleased they were to have been invited to mine.

Making it pleasurable for your supporters is bound to pay dividends. Write good content for those guest posts (obviously, this one is an aberration). Respond promptly to any queries and thank them for their contribution, however small. Because after all, a writer needs her readers. And you might want to do the whole thing again with your next book.

What strategies have you found most useful in promoting your work? What has been most difficult?

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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.

Rough Writer to Visit Carrot Ranch

blog tour week 4 correctRough 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!

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August 5: Flash Fiction Challenge

August 5Dusk dims visibility along the three-mile stretch between Samuel’s and home. I’m watching a rising blue moon over the Cabinets to the east, feeling satisfied from a Friday night fish, chips and clams dinner at the gas station. Best food and fuel around.

The Hub slows down. “Do you see the buck?”

He’s got the gaze of a sniper and the eyes of a 20-year old with perfect vision. He could have been a pilot. Instead he jumped from airplanes, an Army Ranger, then learned to turn wrenches on powerplants that drive aviation. 30 years later and he still has quick reflexes. Without over-braking, he slows down and we both watch the white-tailed buck trot into the obscurity of tall dry grass in low light.

We missed the other buck.

Well, not exactly missed him because we hit him with our red Ford Fusion, our James Bond car if you’ve seen Casino Royale. Neither one of us is licensed to kill anything. True, we have fishing licenses, but we fly-fish with barbless hooks, catch and release. Hitting a deer on the road is deadly for all involved.

As with most accidents, it happened like a flash of lightning. You wonder, was there really just a bolt of white electricity that reached from heaven to earth? Did we really just hit a deer? Did it fly into the air and scramble away? Oh, dear. The car, the insurance rates, the poor animal…is he okay?

Suddenly, dinner isn’t settled in my tummy. I’m sick with grief for the buck. I feel as though I reached out with my own fist and punched it senseless. I feel guilty. Responsible. And I wasn’t even driving. Riding shotgun, I’m often the early warning system, navigating my husband through a series of safety questions. Did you see that turn signal? There’s a curve up ahead, what’s your speed? Are you watching for deer? Moose? Elk? Do really think you can drive like Mr. Bond?

It’s human, this rush of emotion. In fact, it’s even common to want to rescue an injured deer along the road, according to an editor at the Tahoma Literary Review:

“One particularly surprising theme I’ve noticed gaining in popularity is ‘I ran over a deer (or other animal) and have decided to nurse it back to health.’ The idea here (and it’s not a bad one) is to create a metaphor for the protagonist’s desire to rescue his/her life by rescuing another’s. Unfortunately the premise of the story is common enough that an editor may turn it down just on that basis.”

What felt like an exceptional experience, smashing our hood and fender on the rump of a buck, turns out to be nothing more than a commonplace theme that fatigues literary journal editors. Oh…the editor sighs…another struck deer story

But wait, Mr. Bored Editor. I have a gun.

Shock value? Does that get attention? It must. Last week writers ripped stories from the headlines and even common stories were led with shocking titles. It’s become so prevalent, these headlines, that even innocuous stories are using them to get attention. Consider the headline for the woman who makes dinner: “She went to the grocery store, bought food and you won’t believe what happened next!” The reason news headlines stand out is because they rely upon shock factor.

Does that mean our stories, books or novels need to shock? Put the fear of somebody’s god into another? Show gallbladders and guts on the first page? Guilt parents into sleepless nights? Spank a character silly? And all because editors are tired of common themes?

Here’s a thought. Apply imagination. Ultimately writers know how to retreat into both head and heart space, taking with them the everyday occurrences of life, and mixing it into a concoction that includes what-if scenarios, what-should-be-but-isn’t, characters with ability, characters with disability, ideas, emotion, places we’ve been to, and places we’ve never seen except within our own minds and dreams.

It’s not that we need to shock readers; we merely need to surprise them and for a purpose. Offer meaning. Get readers to understand the implications of themes that touch our lives. Really, those common themes are why classics have universal capacity. But authors of such classics have applied imagination. Go deep beneath the surface when you write and find your voice. It will be the one thing you have over a sea of writers all writing about the same things.

Voice will serve you better than shock value.

This week’s challenge is two-fold:

  1. August 5, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write the common premise: “I ran over a deer (or other animal) and have decided to nurse it back to health.”
  2. But before you write, daydream. Do something out of your normal routine for 10 minutes. Go outside, sit and stare into space. Rest in a meditative yoga pose. Lock yourself in the bathroom. Mow the lawn, or do the dishes. Let your mind wander to the story and daydream before you write it.

In the comments, state if this exercise had a profound effect or not. I look forward to your imagined commonplace stories. And as to our buck, we did go back and found no blood or deer. We hope he is merely sore and has an uncommon story to tell his herd. Our car, well, it may get totaled. We find out tomorrow.

Respond by August 11, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Be sure to check out the updates to the Bunkhouse Bookstore. We have three Rough Writers in the midst of launching novels: Anne Goodwin (Sugar and Snails), Geoff Le Pard (My Father and Other Liars), and Luccia Gray (Twelth Night at Eyre Hall). All three books are worth a read and a resounding yee-haw!


Good With Animals by Charli Mills

“Sylvia, darling, off to the store.” Mae pumped the gas pedal with her worn slipper until the truck engine rumbled. Lights on, she drove the backroads, carefully.

The store was closed. She had no money, anyhow. Mae drove back, watchful for deer. One smashed the front grill and lay panting on the pavement.

“Hush, now. I’m good with animals.” With a winch, Mae loaded the deer and returned home, dragging it to a barn stall of soft hay. She flicked on the light, illuminating hundreds of eyes.

Returning to the house, Sylvia asked Mae, “Did you get cat food?”


February 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

February 11An engine lurches and mutters to a halt. It’s so dark outside, the night is like obsidian, but I see dim headlights and a bobbing flashlight as a man tries to open the hood to the engine of his logging truck. The Hub puts on shoes and a jacket to go outside and help a stranger broke down in the night.

My friend is a retired Navy photographer. She tells people she had it easy. “Not like you,” she says to the Army soldier seated in front of her. He’s completed two tours of duty in Iraq and is reluctant to admit he has trouble sleeping. My friend pokes acupuncture needles in both his ears to reduce “stress.” No one mentions the P-word that can mar a soldier’s career. Yet the auricular acupuncture offered regularly, helps. My friend volunteers every other Wednesday at Fort Snelling and has not missed a day in seven years.

I hired a dynamic young woman to take over the education and outreach at my organization. At her first community outreach meeting, which she would take over eventually, she listens to a donation request made by the friend of a woman who is pregnant and battling breast cancer. “Please, can the co-op help her buy some healthy food.” I look over at my new hire and know I made the right choice. Tears stream down her face as she nods, yes.

Online, I follow a local social media group for news on jobs or postings for trades. A woman posts the comment, “I have a question please. Am I the only one on these Facebook sites that finds it offensive when people sadly have a tragedy in their lives.” I want  to answer, I hope you are the only one! How can another person’s tragedy be offensive? Why is it, not all people can feel compassion.

What is compassion?

Although my handy-dandy (American) dictionary defines compassion as “sorrow for the sufferings or trouble of another or others” it also defines pity with the same phrase. However, the important differentiation is that compassion is  “accompanied by an urge to help” whereas pity “sometimes connotes slight contempt because the object is regarded as weak or inferior.”

To me, the woman with the question felt pity for “people [who] sadly have tragedy” because she felt contempt for how they asked for help or handled their donations. A person in need is not an inferior human. Even a person who makes mistakes or misjudgements or lacks compassion (like this woman with a question) is not inferior.

Compassion is kind. It is merciful. It is loving. It is not withheld for the privileged few. It can even extend to horses and peat moss and all of life.

Rough Writers, Norah Colvin and Anne Goodwin, introduce us to two words that extend from compassion. Weltschmerz: “world pain” or the grief we feel at how the world keeps falling short of our expectations.   Meliorism: having a belief that the world can be improved by the actions of humans. Anne sums up the interaction of the two words:

“Both are useful: weltschmerz enabling us to care enough about what’s wrong and meliorism driving us to try to do something about it.”

That is what compassion looks like in action. Yet, another compassionate action is taking hold — #1000Speak. It is a call for 1000 voices blogging for compassion on February 20. When I think of compassionate bloggers, I think of another Rough Writer, Ruchira Khanna who writes an inspirational blog with daily mantras at Abracabadra. Imagine a concerted effort by bloggers in one day to write with words that make a difference in the lives of others!

This is what it looks like in a video created by Tamara Woods who encourages us to “break the internet with compassion”:

So this week we will tackle stories that reveal compassion. In addition to our compilation, I will link to it in my own #1000Speak post on February 20. When spreading your own stories or posts, use the hashtag for greater visibility.

February 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that demonstrates compassion. You can explore weltschmerz (enabling us to care enough about what’s wrong) and meliorism (driving us to try to do something about it) if you want to explore those specific terms. Consider posting on February 20, too.

Respond by February 17, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


Her Worth by Charli Mills

The old mare hung her head low, lips quivered above grass-forsaken dirt, ribs protruded beneath a swayed back. She was broken.

“How much you want for her,” asked the Fed Ex driver.

A lean cowboy scrawled his signature for his box. “That nag?”

“That our wine?” A beautiful woman stepped out onto the deck.

The cowboy winked at the Fed Ex man. “There’s a beauty worth buying.”

“Can’t afford that one. How much for the horse?”

He knew his boss would ask how a starving mare got into the back of his van, but already her ears had perked.


Ranch-keeping for Rough Writers: I’m working on how to communicate my ideas for the collaboration. Bear with me as I seek my words. And, I can use an Amazon widget for the bookstore, but it’s an affiliate thing so I’m trying to verify that I would be helping you in book sales, not robbing you! That would be embarrassing to this buckaroo. But I like the idea of populating the page with the ability to purchase the books rather than link to Amazon. Is there anyone with a preference or who is not selling on Amazon?

Look for my first Rodeo post tomorrow! I purchased a real bull-riding photo (as if that’s going to help my cause for publication). Of course, I still believe in me lucky charms if you care to step over Elmira Pond Spotter and take a peek at my peat.