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Berries deserve music. After all, their sweet-tartness plays a tune upon our taste buds. For writers, how might the two pair? Perhaps it’s like wine and cheese. Perhaps not.
With writers, inspiration can go many directions. Something like berries and music can result in an orchestra of flash fiction.
The following are based on the August 10, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) include music and berries.
Meddling by Kate Spencer
“Dennis tells me Erin is getting married,” said Jim, dropping the grocery bag onto the counter.
“Oh Veronica must be thrilled,” said Gladys. “She’s had her daughter’s grandiose wedding planned for years.”
“Apparently Erin’s all upset about it. She and Jason want a simple ceremony on Blueberry Hill where they met.”
“And so they should,” huffed Gladys grabbing her purse. “SOMEBODY had better get over there and remind Veronica that all she really wants is for her daughter to be happy.”
“I found my thrill, on Blueberry Hill,” crooned Jim and headed for the study with an impish grin.
Price of Silence by Kerry E.B. Black
I asked her to stop singing, but she wouldn’t. Studying grew impossible while my sweater-stealing dorm-mate belted out pop tunes, hummed arias, or whistled nursery songs. No amount of begging inspired her silence.
As a botany student, I knew what must be done. I gathered berries and made the drink, a fragrant tea. Tea soothes the throat of a singer, and the serendipity of it pleased me. She studied philosophy. I provided a way for her to experience a closeness with her idol, Socrates.
Play a Little Tune by Hayley .R. Hardman
Bert’s blueberries were not doing so well this year. The too wet summer was the cause. He had been trying everything to make the blueberries happy as they were his biggest sellers and God knew he needed the money. Finally, he decided to take his violin and play for them though it broke his vow to never play again. As the first notes rang out, tears marked Bert’s cheeks. He played and played till he couldn’t anymore but the magic of the music seemed to work because the blueberries grew and became the best crop he had ever had.
Blow a Raspberry! by Anne Goodwin
Another invitation popped through the door. Blow a raspberry! It couldn’t be clearer. Or easier – even babies manage that. Practising before the mirror, he vowed to do his best.
Meandering between the stalls, his mouth watered. Cranachan with oats, whipped cream and whisky. Raspberry sorbet and ice cream. Raspberry-tinged cider and non-alcoholic cordial. The buzz of bees and equally cordial conversation. Summer’s heat tempered by a light breeze.
Checking in beside the stage, the steward looked at him askance. “Where your pipes, laddie?”
The Scottish word for lips? Alas not: every other contestant had bagpipes tucked beneath their arms.
Farmer’s Market (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
Crowds jostle, fish tossers call, children beg for ice cream, candy, a Starbucks. Pike Place Market bustles and hums, smelling of flowers, fish, peaches, damp. Gulls scream and music threads through it all. Jane wanders the stalls, assimilated.
Two dollars gets her an iced bottle of tea and a basket of blackberries. With no way to store them, she’ll have to eat them all. Back out on the cobblestones she finds a seat on the curb, in the sun, near the busker with the violin, finds another dollar for his case.
In the words of the Bangles – Sunday, Fun Day.
Berry Syrup by Ann Edall-Robson
It’s the season of harvesting produce and picking berries to create all kinds of goodness to enjoy over the long winter months.
What you make with your berries is as versatile as the various types of fruit you have available. Every year produces different quantities and selections. Wild berries seem to have the best flavour; but they take the most amount of time when it comes to picking and cleaning. A local farmer’s market is a good source for your choice of berries.
Choose your fruit, turn on your favourite music and make some of our yummy Berry Syrup.
Squish by Michael
Squish, squish, squish those grapes
Feel that juice between your toes
Drop your feet in one two three
There’s wine to be made so squish, squish, squish.
And so, the song went as we walked in single file around the barrel, the juice oozing out, our feet turning red from the stain of the juice swirling round our ankles.
It was a job, it kept me in cash for the holiday season. But I have to say I was so sick of that boring song all day every day. The free bottle prize at the end was small compensation.
Flames of Memory by Bill Engleson
The air this morning is a smoky hymn, a thin grey hum of haze hanging from the horizon like a tract of flimsy flypaper.
Though she knows this choking vapour has floated in over the straight from the interior of the Province and that it’s the residue of fiery loss, of dislocation, she is mesmerized by its fugue of gloom.
She has always loved fire.
“Many have lost their homes, their livelihood,” I remind her.
“I know that,” she snaps, “but…what would Grandma say if she was here…it’s the berries.”
That crazy old lady also loved a good fire.
The Mulberry Tree by Jeanne Lombardo
This is how my little story ends.
A cup of tea in an easy chair. A slide into memory as a corona of flame licks at a burner on the stove.
The mulberry tree in the scruffy yard on East Las Palmaritas Street. A tinny song from the radio wafting through a window. “I want to hold your haaand…”
I balance under the canopy. Lift one foot and reach, reach, reach for the purple bounty. And slip.
The ground rushes up. The last thing I feel is my small chest expelling its wind.
And I go up in smoke.
Ripe for the Picking by Irene Waters
“I said bring your bog boots.”
“Should’ve told me I’d need clothes for the Arctic as well. I may have listened to you then.”
“It’s summer. Not that cold. Don’t be a wuss.”
“It’s not the cold that’s getting me. It’s these huge bloody mosquitos.”
“Ah!” Johanna fumbled in her back pack and pulled out an item that looked like a memory stick. She flicked its switch to on. “Music for female mosquitos. They won’t come near us now. See those yellow berries.”
“Low to the ground. Cloudberries. Musky, tart, exotic, and elusive. An enigma.”
“Just like you.”
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
My sister sits with her feet propped up on the dinner table. She tosses blueberries into her mouth, one after another, recklessly, how she does everything. Without rinsing or worrying about E Coli or choking hazards.
It’s a mystery we’re related. Mona flies into each day, bobbing to the music in her head, trusting things will work out. Not me, I wash everything—hands, food, teeth—compulsively.
Mom and Dad return from their walk. Dad steals a blueberry and one of Mona’s ear buds, bobbing along like a goof. Mom settles beside me. She asks how homework is going.
Early Berries by Kerry E.B. Black
Erin and Marlin squeezed berries at each other, laughing as the early sun bronzed their noses and cheeks. Erin considered her stained fingers. They stuck together and tugged when she peeled them apart. “Don’t get the juice in your mouth, Marlin. It’ll make you sick.”
Marlin’s laughter rivaled the lazy music of the bees. “Who’d want to drink this mess, anyway?” A berry burst within his grasp, erupting pulp and seeds. “I do wonder what they taste like.”
Erin chewed the inside of her cheek. “Me, too.”
Marlin touched his tongue to his palm. “Sweet.”
Erin ran for help.
Squish by Pensitivity
Please join me in a little game reminiscent of our days in Lincolnshire and the local radio station.
How many songs or pieces of music can you name with ‘berry’ or fruit in the title?
Strawberry Fields Forever
Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
One Bad Apple
I heard it through the Grapevine
The Banana Boat Song
The Lemon Song
Little Green Apples
My favourite cheat is The First of May (Date, get it?)
Then you could always ask for cover versions by the 1950s group
The Rockin’ Berries.
Mulberry Stew by Norah Colvin
Branches hung heavy with berries in reach of even the youngest child. They ate more than they bucketed; but there were plenty, including for birds singing in higher branches. Mum had forbidden them. “Mrs Wilson’s poorly. Don’t disturb her.” But they couldn’t resist. They scampered the instant she called.
“Where have you been?” She eyed the purple stains.
“We …” the youngest began to sing.
“Nowhere,” they shushed with hands concealed.
“What were you doing?”
Her lips twitched. “Hand them over.”
Later they pondered together how she knew.
When Dad got home, they’d have to face the music.
What’s Raspberry Picking Without Music? by Joe Owens
This was the first time Ed had picked berries in so many years. The dream job pulled him to the other side of the country and away from his family and traditions. Still, something seemed strange about this berry patch he remembered so well. Try as he may he couldn’t place what it was.
Two hours later while emptying his smaller container into the larger one he began to sing. His mother, sister and cousin peeked out of the berry bushes to listen as he crooned a song sung by his grandfather years before.
“That’s my boy!”
Laying By by D. Avery
“Thank you for the coffee in bed, sorry I’m so lazy, it’s just that morning sounds have become such sweet music to me.”
“That’s okay, Mom, we don’t mind, do we Dad?”
He grunted his assent and lingered with his own coffee after Hope left to tend her chickens. “Everything okay, I mean, you ain’t got your traveling itch again do you?”
“If you must know, I plan on traveling to that spot over the hill where the blackberries are, fill some buckets, and then come back, scratches and all, and make jam… Stop worrying, I love it here.”
(Follow the story…Offerings)
From the Obscuring Mist by Kerry E.B. Black
A merry band of trick-or-treaters skipped along the sidewalk, elbows locked, voices raised in wolfish songs and merry laughter. Parents followed, lugging the kids’ sacks of sweet loot.
Fog curled from the valley, obscuring autumn leaves gathered along bone-white fences underplanted with berry bushes. Nearby, an owl hooted.
From the obscuring mist another costumed group emerged. The small ones added their voices to the wild song. Their caregivers’ lips sparkled with adult distractions- drinks and elicit kisses.
The youth embarked on promised adventures with their new companions. As the children sampled other-worldly treats, the others gathered their innocent souls.
Can You Hear the Music by Robbie Cheadle
The small blonde boy sat at the piano, his little face white and pinched with determination. He ran his fingers lithely over the keys, the music flowing directly from his heart to his fingers. The audience sat and watched. Their faces agog with astonishment at this tiny child’s huge talent. One plump lady tapped her foot in time to the prolific flow of notes. Only one face showed anxiety and concern. His mother’s face was tightly drawn as she thought about his obsessiveness. Nothing could distract him from his playing this morning, not even his favourite berries with ice-cream.
Music and Berries by FloridaBorne
“What’cha doin’?” six-year-old Jennifer asked.
“What’er you listenin’ to?”
“Debussy,” I sighed.
“It’s weird,” she said, picking her nose.
My home was small but freshly painted, had a nice flower garden, and…manners. A child that age should know to ask for tissues!
“Where is your mother?” I demanded.
She pointed at a woman slumped over the filthy couch on her front porch. “She was ‘sleep when I woke up.”
“When did you last eat?”
Good. A reason to contact abuse and get more riff-raff out of our neighborhood. While she devoured lunch, I’d make the call.
Tart by Jack Schuyler
“I like the ones that aren’t ripe yet,” Max picked a purple and red berry from his bucket and popped it in his mouth. His face puckered into a smile, “It’s so tart!”
“Don’t eat all the blueberries,” Mamma said picking at the bush next to him, “we haven’t payed for them yet.”
Max shifted guilty eyes her way and sat down. Tart turned to sour in his mouth. A jay tittered its song from a post at the end of the row. If I were a bird, he thought, it wouldn’t be naughty to eat too many berries.
Grim Harvest by Liz Husebye Hartmann
Lilimor slipped out the back gate, trotting to the meadow as fast as her little legs could carry her. She’d wanted to arrive at sunrise, before anyone noticed she was gone.
Rounding the hill, she crowed in delight at the sparkling field of dewy wild strawberries. She plucked one and tasted the sweetness of afternoon sun and magical, cool nights.
Squatting, she strung berries, tiny as her pinky nail, onto a thread-thin stem of meadow grass. Her mother would be so pleased to have these with her morning smørbrød.
‘Twas then she heard the fiddle, beckoning from the waterfall.
Forbidden Fruit (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
“Save the seeds,” Nancy Jane said, berry juice running down her chin and cleavage.
“Nah. To make Otoe dice. Fun game.”
A canopy of trees dappled the sun where bluffs and a thicket of buffalo berries barricade this hidden spring. Nancy Jane bathed here. Naked. No wonder she laughed when Sarah protested hiking her skirts to ride horseback astride.
Sarah sank her teeth into the small black fruit with a golden center, wanting to laugh. If she did, Cobb might hear. Perhaps a trick of the mind, but she swore she heard strains of his fiddle nearby.
Solo Honeymoon by Diana Nagai
Untying her swimsuit top, she reclined in one of the many chaises which lined the white-sanded shore. She felt daring, being half naked in public, but when in Rome, right? Laughter and splashes composed a summer’s cadence, producing an atmosphere of leisure.
A shadow eclipsed her sunlight. Opening her eyes, she took in the Greek god standing above her. With her best attempt at the local language, she accepted the cream and liqueur smothered berries.
The handsome waiter offered a lingering smile making her glad she didn’t refund the honeymoon tickets. Emboldened, she flirted and smiled back.
Strawberry Wine by Rugby843
Washing the berries in the old sink, she felt like singing. Thinking of the previous night, she dreamily sang “Strawberry Wine”. It was true, not a fantasy, that he loved her. She could still feel his touch on her lips, the scent of strawberries on his breath. It started as a friendly picnic and ended as a beginning.
She washed them thoroughly but left the stems. It was much easier to feed someone a strawberry with the stem attached. Whipping the cream, she planned it well. The wine would be the appetizer, feeding him berries and cream the dessert.
Berry Befuddled (Janice vs Richard #17) by JulesPaige
Carla Scott was visiting Janice when Longhorn called.
Richard had been back to Janice’s home with some nasty
intent. He must have lost some focus on his reality. He had
taken and eaten berries from her bushes, But had a violent
reaction, and vomited in the kitchen sink. Although he had
attempted some clean up – Richard left fingerprints, as well
as shoe prints in the garden… and he left a trail.
This was music to Janice’s ears. Though there might still
be a long row to hoe, at least maybe there was going to
be a soothing Coda soon.
Hedgehog and Mole by Michael at Afterwards
“Do you like berries Mole?” Hedgehog asked, emerging from the thicket to the sound of Sparrow’s morning music.
“Oh yes, especially plump and juicy ones!” Mole replied licking his lips.
“Then follow me” said Hedgehog, “I know a place where the juiciest berries grow!”
Hedgehog led Mole to a clearing where the bramble bushes strained under the weight of the dark fruits.
“I can smell them!” said mole excitedly, “Oh Thank you hedgehog!”.
As Mole devoured berries hedgehog crept slowly away, passing Fox at edge of the clearing.
“He’s all yours” Hedgehog snarled “I expect payment in full tomorrow.”
Plum Crazy by D. Avery
“Is Shorty plum crazy? What’s she want us gathering buffalo chips for? That what she uses fer charcoal?”
“No, Kid, she wants berries. So let’s go git some buffalo berries.”
“Hmph, buffalo berries. Shorty makin’ pies agin? I reckon with buffalo berries it’ll be like a cow pie.”
“They’re not chips.”
“Hey, while we’re at it, let’s git some horse muffins too.”
“Kid, will you ever stop fiddlin’ around?”
“Heck no. Shorty wants music too, so I’ll jest keep on fiddlin’, thank you berry much.”
“I hope Shorty is plannin’ on fermentin’ some of these berries.”
“Yep, wine not?”
Science. It’s what brought my eldest and her spouse to the Keweenaw, where Michigan Tech has been a public research university since 1885. She’s now Director of Research News, writing and directing science stories for several academic publications, including the university’s research blog, Unscripted.
While I’ve had rocks on the brain since arriving — a common Keweenaw affliction — I’ve been pondering the relationship between arts and science. As a literary artist, science fuels my imagination. Yet science relies as much on creativity as it does data. As a geoscientist and dancer, my daughter understands this dynamic and writes about the intention of Unscripted:
“…This is a place where metaphor and methodology meet. Where curiosity inspires conversation, art, and science. We write the research you can’t find on news wires, capture science in action, and speak frankly about the work we do. Often succinct, we’re not afraid of an in-depth exploration either. Yeah, Unscripted is a university research blog—and then some.”
Metaphor and methodology. It’s like finding a mineral in its matrix with a spectacular inclusion at the juncture. As writers, we work to balance what drives our rawest ideas with the structure of craft. And like scientists we don’t go at this alone. We share research, theories and ideas. We encourage that curiosity to drive both art and science.
Tonight, I’m in a weather warp. Rain pummels my umbrella and I’m chilled in a sweater. Half-way up the hill I realize the “path” we chose is actually a broad rain gutter. At the top of the hill we’re greeted at the door with amusement and the comment, “Not from here, hey?”
(Note: “hey?” is an inflection not a question, a Keweenaw colloquialism.)
“Hey! No, we just relocated.”
“You’ll like it here, hey?”
We already do. The stress of the past year fades each new day, even though we face medical mountains and home hurdles. We have a safe pad at the home of Michigan Tech’s News Director and her Park Ranger/Bubbler/Baker/Solar Man. We’re exploring options to use the RV to get homed, setting up VA appointments and growing the Ranch. You might have noticed the banners for Carrot Ranch changed here, on Facebook and Twitter. That’s part of the growth that has been delayed by a year of wandering on wheels.
Branding is both art and science. The art appeal is subjective — it always is, so don’t take it personally if someone likes or dislikes your art, it’s not a true measurement. However, I like the art and what it conveys: we are a literary community. Ann Rauvola, my long-time friend, colleague and CR designer uses her skills, her scientific knowledge of color and collage to create the art. I’ll let you in on a design secret — the banner is a fusion of three photos. But the shot of the bird and horse? Hey! That one lucky shot from an afternoon of photographing the interplay between blackbirds and Elmira Pond ponies.
A science part of branding is consistency. The change was meant to be subtle, and yet I didn’t do it until I could upgrade all three banners. This is in preparation for a launch of Patreon in preparation for a launch of an annual rodeo in preparation for a launch of the first CR anthology in preparation for work on the next. Whew! Timing is everything and a misstep, or a house loss, can really throw a monkey wrench in the workings. It’s why I’m grateful to have this Keweenaw stability to actualize the literary community vision.
Why, you might ask? That’s a legitimate question.
My process is both art and science. The latter coming in the form of research — historical or natural. The art flows from the writing. Like the Unscripted researchers, I want that conversation and connectivity. Art and science is best shared, and we do learn from and inspire one another. As a platform for my writing I can be the lone cowpoke or a lead buckaroo. A community of writers is dynamic, and together we make a bigger footprint in the writing world. My long projects are, well, long so collaborative short projects keep me going. I hope you find something here, too that gives you purpose in being here.
At the heart of the community is taking time each week to interact, play and think. You all make me think. And I like thinking.
Which is why I walked up a rain gutter to listen to a scientist speak on the world-class mineral collection at Michigan Tech for a program called Science on Tap — a pub crawl with scientists. Four more blocks in the rain and we arrive to hear a second presentation on the shipwrecks of Lake Superior and here’s where science bent my brain. First, an oceanographer stands before us declaring the Great Lakes “inland seas.” He explains ocean currents and government funding; how he has to explain science to a current administration not keen on it.
Then, he tell us we can see with our ears.
I’m all ears. Show me…And he does. Through a series of slides he shows us photos taken at sunset, elongating shadows. He points out optical illusions, and how to see beyond. Then he shows us slides of Lake Superior where it’s so deep it’s always dark in her ice water mansion where thousands of ships have wrecked. You can’t see those depths with a camera, but with sonar you can create a picture of light and shadow. Sound makes an acoustic image of many historic wrecks on the lake (cue Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of Edmunds Fitzgerald).
“Superior, they say, never gives up her dead…” And it’s estimated that more than 30,000 lives have been lost in this lake. This is why the scientists do not sound map more recent wrecks like the Edmunds Fitzgerald — not only is it an iron ore ship busted in half on the deep floor of Lake Superior, it’s also the grave of 29 men with family who yet live. In our collective psyche, we all think of Lightfoot’s song in this region, the scientist even admits to owning the musician’s collection of albums. Where science doesn’t go out of respect for the recent dead, our imaginations do. Art and science help each other to see.
Scientists have sent down dive teams on other wrecks they’ve discovered through the sight of sonar. In 1895, divers identified one of the wrecks as a coal ship struck and sunk by a steamer in thick fog. Four crew died in that wreck and the legs of one can still be seen poking out from spilled coal of the shattered hull. During WWI, the French worked on secret mine-sweepers in Thunder Bay (Lake Superior on the Canadian side). Two ships were lost in a November blizzard on Lake Superior without any clue of where. Two captains and 76 men disappeared. The search with sonar continues.
As writers we create images with words to tell these stories, to show these stories. Sound is often a sense overlooked in the craft of creating that image. It’s intriguing to think of how sound can map an action, character, tone or scene. Can we use sonar, sound navigation, to make a flash fiction? It might be difficult, but the art and science is there to push us to try.
August 3, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) use sound to create a story. Just as you might “see” a scene unfold, think about how it might sound. Even one sound to set the tone is okay. Go where you hear the prompt lead. Feel free to experiment.
Respond by August 8, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published August 9). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
A Grating Sound (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Gears ground when the all-terrain vehicle powered up the slope. Danni heard Evelyn shout, “Giddy-up, Mule! Haw! Haw!” The revving engine faded, and a drone of voices washed over Danni like white noise. She studied the sonar graphs, puzzling over the dark features buried four feet below the Kansas clay. Trowels scraped, volunteers called to one another and the porta-potty door slammed intermittently. Danni focused. The active noises blurred.
“I’m a gardener!” A high-pitched voice like nails on a chalkboard.
Danni grit her teeth hard enough to hear enamel chip. A child. Who brought a child to her dig?
Crystalline waves slap behind my knees. A copper sun sinks slowly toward the horizon, extending sunset from about 8 to 10 p.m. The best time to catch the waves at Calumet Water Works, a public park and beach on Lake Superior, is around 7. If the waves roll just right, they act as a lens to the tumbled rock beneath the surface of clear water that has not a trace of sediment, algae or vegetation. Pure water, fresh water from ancient and icy depths.
Agates bring me here like a junkie looking for a hit. Just one more rock.
Beachcombers walk the long evening in either direction: dogs stroll and children in rubber boots and neon swimsuits dart along the shore like tropical fish. Serious rock-hounds lug buckets and agate scoopers, quickly scanning the wave-saturated edges for glints of agates among the red and black basalt, broken and tumbled smooth into goose eggs. The agates and other stones of interest are marble-sized or smaller, each year decreasing in population. Agates have no mating cycle in geology.
How to find an agate: go to where they are found and look. Rock-hounds can’t tell you how to develop an eye for them, but you can learn tips: look for luster, look for quartz. What does that mean exactly? If you were in your yoga pants and rock shoes, and me in mine, we’d go to the edge together and I’d pick up several rocks of white to show you — this is dull, like a teacher’s stub of chalk. It’s limestone. But it could be chert if it’s glassier, like this one. See? That’s luster. Chert is silica, but fine grained and opaque.
See that one, glinting white as a wave recedes? That’s nice. No, not gneiss… I mean, it’s nice and all, pretty, but it’s not that secondary metamorphic rock. Let me see. Hmm, yes, it’s a granite, has quartz but that’s not the quartz we’re looking for. The shiny you see is mica. It’s a mineral that forms in flakes. The black spots are hornblend. Sometimes you can see pink crystal faces and that’s feldspar. This is granite. Not gneiss, not schist. Don’t take schist for granite.
Ah, here’s a possibility, a white robin’s egg just rolled up with that wave. Catch it before it rolls back down! Let’s look at it. Nope. Toss it back it’s calcite. Lots of calcite and zeolites on this beach. They are silica, too. Quartz is silica. Different heat and pressure results in different grains (crystals) or lack of them, smooth like glass. Calcite is softer and has less luster than quartz. Here’s one: see how translucent it is? If we were lucky and this were an agate you would see distinct rings or bands. I found one white agate with a delicate banded eye of apricot. Exquisite but the size of my thumbnail.
My daughter — she picked up this massive caramel agate of banded chert the size of a fat fig. She’s got an eye. She and her hubby also have matching geology degrees. He has his masters. Seems like the more a geologist masters the more he says, maybe. As in, maybe that’s Thompsonite. I find lots of pretty maybes that glow when wet but dull when dry. Kind of like writing — when it’s fresh with wet ink it’s an agate of a scene. Dry it becomes a maybe page.
We’ve only learned about luster, quartz and white rocks to look for tonight. I forgot to mention that you should look for odd shapes, the not-quite-marbles. If dull they could be fossilized limestone of honeycomb coral. I have a terrific eye for fossils, maybe because I rock-hounded on Mars and in Nevada and Montana where inland seas left fossilized coral beds. I once found a coral fossil the size of a economy car. A gold mining company had left it behind in an abandoned pit because fossils aren’t currency.
The Industrial Age drove the copper miners to seek the webs of shiny copper formed in and on quartz of the Keweenaw. They dug deep and long, mining since the Cliff Mine founded in 1836. No one can say for certain why the copper formed here. Perhaps alien spiders spewing webs of copper or God’s game of where-did-the-Almighty-hide-that-mineral? Junkies have come to this beach before me, looking to get a rush from the naturally sluiced rocks found here, chasing down their origins.
Rock-hounds say the motherlode of agate is off the shore and if you’re serious you should buy scuba gear. I’m tempted. Maybe I can snorkel. Oh, look — this one is covered in fiery copper strands as thin as silk, the color of the last spill of molten metal from the sun on water. The copper is subtle. It’s hard to say what to look for; hard to say what to write. But the more you show up to the beach and the page, the better your chances of finding a crystalline wonder. Develop your eye for it. And don’t mind the slap of cold waves or the constant grind of rocks. It’s natural.
July 27, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the word crystalline. It can be used in typical forms or in creative ways (like the name of a town). What meaning does it hold for the story or character(s)? Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by August 1, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published August 2). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!
Clearly a Party Site (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Danni crouched and considered the crystalline structure of the rock in her hand. The lab had scoured Kansas clay from its coarse features. Pink. Granite. Not the Woodland sandstone hearth she had expected to find at this depth. What did it mean? She glanced at the identified bones – beaver, deer, elk.
“Dr. Gordon?” One of the Lawrence students approached, sweaty after a humid day of trowel-work. “Wanted to invite you to a pig roast this weekend.”
“Yeah, my uncle’s a pit-master”
“A pit…It’s a pit not a hearth! Ha! We’ve discovered a thousand year old BBQ site!”
According to her Goodreads bio, Dorothy Parker was: “
I do not hate writing.
You will not find me among the harvesters, breathing a sigh of relief that the work is done, the fields are empty and the yields are in. Dorothy likely said what she did as a jab because some authors like the ego-boost of a book without appreciation for the pen-work. And yet, I know how muddy writing can be.
You can be a writer and still hate elements of the job. For 11 years I had a job I loved more than any other, yet some days I loathed the stresses that came with it — competing deadlines, miscommunications, budget constraints, office politics. Do you ever feel stressed by writing?
At times I can go too deep; dive into a pool without a bottom or stay under longer than I have breath. Or I bring up scenes to the surface of the page certain they are brilliant agates only to realize as they dry they are ordinary stones in need of polish. Sometimes I write with cascading emotions in mind and it reads back flat. Mostly my writing stresses emerge with revision coupled with the fact that no matter how much book knowledge one might have about writing a novel, the experience of taking on a long-term project is all hands on keys.
I love writing. I write every day. I stare at raptors circling overhead, listen to waves crackle pebbles on shore or plunge my hands into warm dishwater and think of writing. I pre-write in my head the way a gambler might count cards. It’s ongoing, quick, automatic. Writing one WIP leads to breakthroughs on another. Forcing a 99-word paragraph to summarize an essay helps me break free of a plodding structure. I often wonder if friends cringe when I comment on Facebook because I want to write something meaningful. I’m terrible at small-talk, prefering to discuss deep perspective and share observations. I want to hear from your soul, not your shallow memes of the day.
Maybe my epitaph will read, “She has finally written.” Written is past tense, done, over. I am writing, and will do so until the day I have finally written my last breath.
The reason I’m pondering my writing is due to the introspective work of preparing literary reflections for a Michigan literary artist grant; a Zion National Park Artist in Residency; a new page at Carrot Ranch called, “Support Literary Arts;” and a near-completed Patreon. The latter I’ve been developing since February, and one of the Rough Writers has taken to
nagging encouraging me to finish it. This is not easy work and could fall under the “I hate writing” category. But it’s not writing artist statements or impact essays that I don’t like; it’s my own battles with insecurity. Am I enough? No matter what the black dog might want to answer, I have to stand on affirmative ground — I am a writer. I am writing. I am enough.
Could my writing be better? You bet! We never stop improving craft. Don’t think for a moment there will come a day when rainbows fly out your fingertips and happy muses sing choruses with each page-flip of your book. Writing is grand, but writing is hard. I love to dive deep. I don’t want to have written, yet. I want to keep writing, and writing as many things as I have creative spark to craft. Completion of projects and strategy for sharing them is part of the process, but the writing, ah, the sweet writing will not stop.
A confession and a first look. Confession first — I write many projects at once and I believe it would drive other writers daffy to know my process. I began to feel self-conscious about my process, thinking maybe I was doing it “wrong.” Then I reflected on my work history and college experience. My processing pattern has been with me a long time and when I have time and space for it, I achieve spectacular results. After starting college at age 28 and taking “How to Succeed at Studies” and “Math for Dummies” classes, I graduate magna cum laude with a published honors thesis, two novels WIPS as independent studies and as co-editor of the college lit magazine. I don’t write this to boast, but to remind myself that at one point my process looked crazy because I had so many different plates spinning.
My greatest joy is that I’m writing on my own terms. If I were to focus or apply different terms, I might hate writing. And I don’t want to hate what I love.
Now for a first look at the essay that will be a part of the Support Literary Art page at Carrot Ranch. It serves a secondary purpose of providing easily grabbed content for opportunities like the Michigan grant. It’s followed by a flash fiction I wrote about the essay to show you how I often use flash in my every day writing process.
Write raw. Write on. Polish hard. Love what you do, and do what you love.
Value of Literary Art
Often we believe artistic expression flourishes in paint and piano keys. If we broaden the idea to include words as art we think of poetry. If we consider literature, the greats come to mind: Chaucer, Hemmingway, Cather. And right now, you might be debating my opinion on “the greats.”
What is literature, and can we ever define who is in and who is out? Basically, literature is written works recognized as having important or permanent value. A writer who crafts with words and attempts repeatedly to achieve that designation of value is a literary artist. Therefore literary art is the pursuit of studying and writing literature. Raw literature results from the drafts and processes of this pursuit.
Art is subjective, and we diminish its awe with containment. We also contain artists who create to please. Why do we want to please? Most likely to be successful with our art and hopefully make a living or at least a satisfying hobby. Who wants to be the family member who “scribbles atrocious poetry” or the “weird neighbor who writes until 3 a.m.”? Therefore we contain our attempts and hide away until one magical day we think our skills finally equal our imaginations.
Artists, especially writers, can feel isolated and shut-down by containment. When we express, we feel liberated. We desire to connect to others through these literary expressions. So how do we pursue our work as literary artists and not feel contained in the process? How do we grow our rawest forms of literature, take time to develop what it is we’re creating and avoid critique too early? Literary artists need safe space to practice craft, read stories by peers and discuss progression beyond skill mastery and deconstructionism.
In the beginning, Carrot Ranch was one writer’s platform. Out of a need to connect with other literary artists, the site evolved into a dynamic literary community with participants engaging at will in weekly flash fiction challenges. Carrot Ranch is a giant virtual sandbox for writers of different genres, experiences, backgrounds, interests and countries of origin. Literary artists can jam like musicians do. It’s liberating, and the safe exploration leads to breakthroughs in personal projects, new ideas and improvement in craft technique. This is a shared literary platform.
Carrot Ranch is not an exclusive writers club, such as those focused on shared goals. Exclusivity perpetuates the isolation many literary artists experience. And large social media writers groups that include more writers to connect and share links are often too large for creatively play with words and craft. The community at Carrot Ranch serves this gap, and focuses on literary art as common ground between diverse artists.
Literary artists need safe space to play with words, craft story ideas, explore characters, describe settings, investigate research, and discover what the art has to reveal. Art only reveals itself in doing and interacting. With these raw literature attempts, 99-word nuggets of creative expression opens doors that remain closed to literary artists in isolation. It allows the literary-curious to dabble in the art for fun, or gives seasoned authors a break from intense long-term literary projects.
What does literary art look like at Carrot Ranch? It’s short-form micro-fiction, for certain. It’s playful, encouraging and provocative dialog about the art created or its process of creation. The literature at Carrot Ranch includes weekly collections of flash fiction thoughtfully arranged to express and explore a topic. It also includes the works of individuals: novels of multiple genres, short stories, essays, poetry, articles, book reviews, substantial blog posts, and creative works for educators.
The greatest value in literary art is that it opens minds to unfamiliar experiences. In a divisive world full of information, it’s the word-crafters who remind us of the humanity in it all. Literary artists inspire, agitate, reveal, imagine and reflect the good and bad within us. Literary artists give meaning to life. Consider the words John Lennon wrote:
“When I was five years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”
You might say literary art is the pursuit of happiness.
Literature at Carrot Ranch (99-word Version)
Words seep from behind paint and piano keys to declare art of their own. Hemmingway achieved mastery in six words. We take stabs at the canvas 99 bits at a time. We (literary artists in chorus) defeat isolation in a sandbox, jamming like John Lennon’s friends, pursuing happiness.
Carrot Ranch, a collaboration of word wrangling to craft, explore, reveal. Safe space to write without dinosaurs deconstructing early efforts or long-hidden chapters. A place where words wriggle free to crawl among brain folds, loosening shadows to dawn’s first light. Where teachers learn from 5-year olds what universal truth could be.
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can fall many ways, and how you land can make for interesting stories. Ever hold your breath as you watched a landing progress? Find your landing is misunderstood? See a cat fall without gravity?
Our writers have crafted the answers into stories of flash fiction. Some, you might say, are flash falls. Certainly what you read will surprise you. After all, flash fiction writers know how to spin a mid-air twist with a well-landed word or line.
The following are based on the July 13, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an unexpected landing.
Mission Impossible? by Jules Paige
It was the cat. Becky knew something wasn’t Kosher. Blinking
was she conscious? The cat had not landed the way a cat
should, well at least most of the time. Cats usually land on all
four of their padded feet from generally any height. But there
wasn’t any real gravity here …was there? Just where was here?
The spaceship battle had taken a nasty turn. Some of the crew
had been beamed out. Along with some other life forms. The
large feline tabby had not landed feet first when transported.
Just what ship was Becky on? Friend or foe?
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
“Malik, what is this?”
“What do you mean? It’s fifty-eight white sheets. Rush order.”
“And the hoods?”
“Why do you ask so many questions?”
“Malik. These are costumes. For the men who’ve landed in town to protest the removal of the statue at the park.”
“Why have statue for loser? Only here.”
“Malik. This is serious. They don’t like us. They call us terrorists.”
“Terrorists Cleaners, now that is a good one, no?”
“Haven’t you seen the news?”
“News. I don’t have time for news. I’m always here, washing.”
“They march. They spread fear.”
“Then they are terrorists, no?”
Landing by FloridaBorne
He lifted a slender finger, pointing toward a log cabin at the edge of their landing site. What strange beige creatures and only half his height. The indigenous population scattered into the woods, their screams amusing.
“What is this place called again, love?”
“This continent calls it Earth,” she replied.
He furrowed a grey brow. “No understanding of the universal balance. Class zero planet. Recommend eradication and repopulation.”
“Negative,” she frowned. “The universal mind says this is designated as a prison planet for incorrigible souls.”
“What happened to Mars?”
“They destroyed that in a war.”
“Next stop?’ he sighed.
The Bag Lady by Rugby843
Gripping the seat in front of her, she thought she was going to be sick. How many people actually use those bags they put in the seat pocket? She shut her eyes tight, willing nausea to go away.
The stewardess announced, “keep your seat belts fastened, and your head down!”
It was just a short jump from LA to San Francisco, looking down at land the entire trip! How could this be happening?
Panicked, she felt a huge bump, then another. She kept her eyes closed, not daring to see what happened.
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to San Francisco”.
The Tree House by Susan Zutautas
Meg was determined to find out today what was in the treehouse. When she saw Johnny going up there she called to him. “Wait for me I’m coming up.”
“No, there’s not enough room, and it’s too high.”
We’ll see about that, Meg said to herself.
Once inside she thought, wow what a cool hideout, and took a seat on the floor towards the back.
“Meg you’re gonna have to leave, my friend’s coming up, and there’s not enough room.”
“I’ll just move back.” Pushing against a burlap curtain, out of the treehouse she fell, landing on the ground.
A Tune...by Ruchira Khanna
Victoria came running from her room towards the noise.
She was startled as she gave silent stares.
After a few gulps, she inquired, “Are you okay?” as she extended her hand towards the victim who was laying under a pile of musical instruments.
“Yes, I am.” Pete uttered as he grasped her hand to get out of the mess. Continued to justify, “I was trying to tune them for the big night when I lost control and had this unexpected landing.”
“That was a productive fall. You composed a tune there!” she tried to sound convincing.
Unexpected Relationship by Diana Nagai
Meghan adjusted her oversized sun hat as she descended into the Olympic stadium. She scanned the crowd for a familiar face as she recalled the previous year when she landed a client who irrevocably changed her. A man who stirred unexpected feelings within her, but also enriched her life beyond attorney-client privilege.
Hearing her name, Meghan located the source, an athlete bouncing from one foot to one carbon-spring foot and back. This veteran, who had brought the good (love when she wasn’t looking) and the bad (trauma from service), had overcome so much.
Meghan waved back, feeling hopeful.
Ready for Landing by Norah Colvin
“Are we there yet?”’
“Not yet, Honey. Look. This is us. This is where we’re going. Another couple of hours. Watch a movie. Then we’ll be almost there.”
Mum replaced her mask and earplugs. Soon there’d be others to entertain Flossie while she relaxed on the beach or caught up with old friends.
She hadn’t realised she’d drifted off until Flossie’s insistent, “How much longer?” awakened her.
“Must be soon,” she flicked on the flight tracker.
“Please fasten your seatbelts for landing.”
“Yep. Almost there.”
“DIVERTED” flashed on and off the screen.
“What! Where?” She squinted. “Home! Why?”
First Steps in the Air: 1840 by Gordon Le Pard
The men looked at the strange contraption and smiled, they didn’t laugh as that would upset Sir George.
“Climb in there Thomas.” He said, pointing at the small boat with wheels. Thomas grinned at his companions as he sat down and held the tiller.
The men took the ropes and pulled, the machine trundled across the grass, getting faster and faster, then –
The men stopped, open mouthed, the machine was flying.
As the world’s first glider landed Thomas staggered out white faced, he wasn’t laughing now.
“Please sir, I want to give notice, I don’t want to fly again.”
First Steps in the Air: 1910 by Gordon Le Pard
“I saw light under the wheels, it left the ground.”
Geoffrey grinned, “Then let’s see if it will fly properly.”
He turned back to the aeroplane, a complicated construction of wood wire and fabric. Buttoning up his tweed jacket he climbed up and nodded at his assistant.
The propeller swung and the engine started. He opened the throttle and the aeroplane bounced across the field, suddenly the bouncing stopped, he looked down, he was flying.
He rose to about fifty feet, then turned slightly.
Suddenly he had a thought – I got up here, but how do I get down?
Ground Crisis by Kalpana Solsi
The geography of Leh had many an experienced pilots short of anxiety bouts. But for
Captain Sharma this was a cake-walk.
A co-pilot greeted him,”Juleh”.
Inhaling the fresh mountain air, he checked his messages.
He sat down with a thud.
The landing and maneuvering of the giant metallic bird in a tough terrain proved to be
easier than handling his domestic crisis. His larynx ran out of fuel. The air pressure in his
eardrums had dropped low. His better half was leaving him with a bitter taste. Alimony
compounded with fear stared bleakly at him. She had enough proofs.
Flying Lessons by Michael
Chook looked at his hopeful young. They were perched on the top rung of the old henhouse attending what Chook hoped was their first and last flying lesson. He clucked, standing tall, breast puffed out giving each of them the look of his superior experience.
Two clucks and each chicken, in turn, took flight. Gladys landed on her head, Mavis on her beak, Phyllis on her bottom. Chook looking dejected decided it was going to be a long day.
He paced about as they dusted themselves off.
Their clumsiness astounded him. He was glad he didn’t lay their eggs.
Nice to Meet You (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
The bus stops suddenly; Jane barely catches her book midair. She throws an annoyed glance the driver’s way as she rebraces her feet against the floor, gripping the strap harder.
The bus lurches again, sending her flying along with her book. Strong hands grab her, keep her from slamming headlong into the pole. Her head clears to the realization she is sitting in some man’s lap.
Her face burns. The man’s hand moves from her hip to the middle of her back, pats reassuringly. “No worries. This might be a sign I should buy you a cup of coffee.”
Torment by C. Jai Ferry
We were together six months, so tight from day one. I knew we’d be together forever.
Then a million knives struck my heart—both our hearts. We mourned our daughter.
When his fist landed in my chest, he was still hurting. I couldn’t breathe. He’d kill me, he said, then himself.
The cops asked how it started, what I did. I wanted to explain, make them understand. He was in pain. But they just wanted facts.
I needed him gone. But now his life’s ruined. What have I done?
I love him. I just wish I’d never met him.
The Coming Storm (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
Wind gusted and cottonwoods along the creek groaned. A nightfall storm closed in. Sarah hadn’t meant to stay so late in the company of Nancy Jane, but venison stew and friendship offered made Sarah linger. How long since she’d had a friend?
A branch cracked and Sarah screamed, escaping the limb’s descent. A man hollered at her to get out of the trees. Topping the gully, Sarah recognized the young stock-tender who rarely spoke. Hickok led the way as trees began to snap.
Hickok’s dugout provided an unexpected landing from the raging storm. And an unanticipated reaction from Cobb.
Landing by D. Avery
He did not want to take the old man fishing. He had few enough days to relax, dreaded the criticisms that would roll around the boat like rattling cans.
In the cove they drift cast.
Here we go, he thought. “Fine.”
“You deserve a day off. You work hard.”
Then quiet except for one-word utterances, “Nibble.” “Hit.”
Nothing stayed on the line. The old man told about their first time fishing this cove. “We got ‘em that day.”
He had only been four, but he remembered.
Today no fish were landed. “Can I buy you dinner, Dad?”
Flash Flood Warning by Anthony Amore
A rising wall of black water hits hard, enveloping and sweeping fast away all the carried things they lugged from the parking area three quarters of a mile up canyon.
The roaring rush scoured laughter and relaxation with silenced desperation and raging fear.
A father holds fast to his baby and a bending tree.
A mother is found but not a teen boy who reached deep for his cousin and two others.
Nine lay dead.
The experienced steady themselves and prepare to accept the worst.
A rescue worker vomits seeing feet protrude from a deep bank of muddy debris.
Words on the Stairs by Geoff Le Pard
‘I don’t know, Paul. I really don’t.’
Penny listened to her parents from the shadows on the landing, her face pressed to the balustrade.
‘It can’t do any harm to ask him to find out if your niece is alive, can it? I mean if it’s another dead end, that’s it and if not…’
Penny noted her father’s tone; almost pleading. He wanted Mary mum to continue. Her mother’s voice, in contrast, sounded flat. Emotionless. Penny stood and walked downstairs. She held her baby sister in her arms. ‘We want to know mum. And you do too. Don’t you?’
The Diver by Bill Engleson
The high board is a steep climb. Always. But I can do it. I’ve done it a zillion time.
That first time was a killer. I was six. My mother, who wouldn’t even stand on a kitchen chair to brush the cobwebs and spiders off the dining room fan, was like a crazed cheerleader, yelling, climb! Climb! CLIMB!
So, I climbed.
I’d already mastered the low board.
Cannonballs. Loved cannonballs.
But not as much as diving.
The jump. The spring. The flight. The spin.
And then, the landing. A bullet… and, surprize, surprize, an Olympic rocket into the pool.
Down at the Beach by Pensitivity
I was terrified.
One minute she was sailing happily through the air over her private obstacle course, the next she’d somersaulted over the groyne and landed on her back.
I couldn’t get to her fast enough, visions of My Baby lying screaming in agony, totally paralyzed.
Heart beating painfully in my chest, I reached the barrier and could see the other side.
Maggie was happily swimming in a little corral none the worse for her adventure and double tuck diving technique.
Me? I was a nervous wreck needing oxygen.
Hubby was in hysterics, saying she did this every day!
Pay No Attention to the Woman in the Parachute by Joe Owens
Sally never expected to be here. She even took steps to correct her errant ways, joining a group formed to assist those with impulse problems.
Yet, here she was with her hands on the opening of a small aircraft tasked with delivering her to the ‘jump off’ point of her first skydiving attempt. While staring at the checkerboard of specks below she thought about the disapproving visage of Mr. Elliot, the group leader.
Her face screwed into a look of terror when she remembered the ‘drop in’ picnic for her group in the park below. There was no escape!
Soul-Bird by D. Avery
Raven, protector, prominent on the totem pole, reminds all to live correctly. Raven who found the first People in a clamshell. Raven who keeps the tide, who balances night and day.
Do not fear this soul-bird even when Raven comes for you unexpectedly. Yes, you will appear as dead to those who might see Raven bear you away; you might feel that you have drowned in the bottomless pools of Raven’s eyes, feel the winging ascent as soft whispers of spirits. Raven will land you on the moon, where you will be warmly received, where you will be rebirthed.
His Sister’s Keeper by Kerry E.B. Black
Mud squelched as Ward knelt beside his unconscious sister. “Please don’t be dead,” he repeated like a prayer. She’d tried to keep up with him, but his agility and speed had outstripped her crippled gait. He’d relished the freedom of flight, enjoyed the thrill of exerting muscles habitually held in check to match her pace, tired of being his sister’s keeper.
Her scream halted his progress and his heart. She’d slipped down the hill. He had rushed to gather her to his chest. Frail, thin, with tendons protruding oddly, Nina groaned. Ward wiped a tear of regret and relief.
Post-seizure by Anne Goodwin
Like stepping back from a pointillist painting: distance gives sensation shape. On a scale of one to ten not the worst I’ve suffered: I might have wet myself but I’m uninjured, and I’ve come round in my own bed. The room whirls, but only slightly, as I get to my feet.
On the landing, my vision blurs again, the carpet a kaleidoscope of colour. Brushing the wall for balance, I stagger towards the bathroom and a reviving shower. Ouch! My shoulder dislodges a framed photo. That’s not my family staring out of the picture. This isn’t my house.
Black Hole by Reena Saxena
Have I landed in Ayn Rand’s Atlantis, like Dagny Taggart? I did not aspire to meet the love of my life, not with my age and appearance.
The mirror in the hallway belied my assumptions. I looked young and ahem … pretty, just like that painting on the wall.
Whhaaaat? My picture in this place ………..?
Instinct drew me to a picture perfect bedroom with lace curtains, and I saw myself knitting. But I prefer reading anytime, anywhere.
Looks like I have landed into a past life, through a black hole. And my folks out there are placing ’Missing’ ads.
Almost Ready to Fly by Liz Husebye Hartmann
After a crackling-hard winter, she was relieved to drag the Adirondack chair out of the shed. Morning sun dappled through the leafy canopy overhead, warm enough to make morning coffee outdoors feasible, but not enough to waken mosquitoes.
This vision had carried her through those brutal months before retirement. Leaning back, she stretched her bare toes into the dewy grass and smiled. Too early for ticks, too!
“I left the nest! God-willing, may all my mornings be blessed like this.”
A nestling sparrow plummeted through the trees and onto her lap. He glared up at her through sparse fluff.
Roosting Time by D. Avery
“Aw, fricassee! I ain’t never seen chickens ‘round the ranch before. We gonna have to herd them too?”
“If Shorty says.”
“Chicken’d go nice with carrots.”
“I doubt the chickens end up in the pot. She already thinks they’s ladies in petticoats for gosh sakes.”
“Wouldn’t surprise me none if Shorty got ‘em to scratch out 99 words in the dirt for her. They’d scratch out some egg-citing tales, alright.”
“Bah, what stories do chickens have?”
“Some speak of the coop, some the road.”
“Shorty says she’s done crisscrossin’ roads for awhile.”
“Yep. That chicken has landed.”
Essay by Irene Waters, a member of the Congress of Rough Writers.
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This writing is raw. Most of my writing that you may have seen to date is raw. By that I mean it is uncooked, the first draft without changes and alterations. The grammar may be imperfect, it may have spelling mistakes, it may be lacking in description and there may be the odd inconsistency. It is done quickly, allowing creativity to flow unimpeded. Blogging raw I find helpful in the creative process. I don’t spend a lot of time on the posts but it kickstarts the flow of ideas, allowing work that I plan on editing and re-editing – cooking it and processing it – to be written to the page.
For a memoir writer there are a couple of other types of raw writing. The first is a type I rarely do and for some, including one of my thesis examiners, my writing is not raw enough. Some think that memoir should be an open cut, exposing bleeding wounds and laying open the scars for all to pick at. Certainly some types of memoir call for this. The misery memoir is a good example. A few memoirs in this group are Mary Karr’s and Frank McCourt’s three books. Although I am now tackling a memoir that will have this type of raw writing, my previous two memoirs have been written purely for the story where true life adventures are related.
In memoir there should also be a distinction between what is private and what is public knowledge. Whilst maintaining honesty the memoir writer should sift through the raw material and decide what belongs purely in a diary and what can be shared with the world. Elizabeth Gilbert said of her memoir Eat Pray Love that it was so finely tuned (no longer raw) that the reader doesn’t get a sense of her. She is unrecognisable. She said that if you wanted to know her, read her fiction work as there, believing that she was anonymous, she did not censor her writing and to her surprise found that more of her showed through in it than in her memoir.
Another type of raw that the memoir writer needs to be aware of and avoid is writing when the emotions are still raw. The passage of time is essential to enable the episode to be viewed dispassionately. The others in the memoir must be treated ethically – for when you write a memoir you also write someone else’s biography. If you write with raw emotion (useful as a therapeutic tool but not for publication) the purpose for writing is often slanted, and may be judgemental, a desire to hurt someone, to pay them back and this may not reflect well on the writer. Rather than sit in judgement, time allows the memoirist to write in a sensitive manner that will show the reader, through the actions of the characters, what manner of person they are.
For me, memoir is the making of identity. Without memoir, such as when a person is suffering from dementia, the person’s identity fades with the worsening of the condition and eventually is lost to them and kept alive only by others who can tell their stories. Depending on what you tell will depend on the identity you give yourself. But I digress from raw literature.
To conclude I will give an example of raw literature from the first draft of my manuscript Nightmare in Paradise.
My fear as to what I might find on arrival at the volcano overrode the abject terror I normally experienced every time I travelled the road over the mountain to the other side. It is also the only time I had been over that stretch of road at speeds far exceeding that which would guarantee a safe arrival at the other end. My head was spinning. Had I brought sufficient equipment with me to deal with anything I might find? What might I find? It just couldn’t be true.
After editing this passage is no longer raw although I feel as though it has more rawness. It gives, I hope, the reader an idea of what travelling to the volcano was like the night one of our tourists, along with a local guide, was killed by a lump of lava from the volcano.
The troop carrier sliced through the dark heat of the night as it sped, at speeds none would attempt in daylight, towards the volcano. I knew I was with other people but apart from Jim, the owner of Tanna Beach Resort I had no idea who was riding in the back with me. No-one spoke, everybody lost in their own thoughts. Mine were a nightmare. A nightmare that allowed the terror I normally felt when negotiating the sharp hairpin bends over the steep mountainside to remain hidden. The visions in my mind were vivid, in full red colour, whilst the reality of where I sat was grey, as though a mist had descended obscuring the others who sat with me.
Irene Waters blogs at Reflections and Nightmares where she focuses on photography and writing challenges. She has written a memoir Nightmare in Paradise which she hopes to publish in 2017. As a memoirist she found that there was little scholarly scrutiny on the sequel memoir. She carried out research on this subject gaining her Master of Arts in 2017. This also saw the completion of her second manuscript. She is now working on a novel way of writing raw memoir.
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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 email@example.com.
It can be a relief to wake up and realize, it was only a dream. But what if we are always dreaming? Dreams are the veil between the conscious and subconscious. Perhaps daydreams are the bridge between possibility and practicality.
With dreaming, anything goes. Writers plunged into the prompt, one offered by Rough Writer and author, Ruchira Khanna.
June 22, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves a dream.
Beach Daydreaming by Susan Zutautas
I stare into space
Where no one knows, where I’ve gone
I like to hide in my mind
Sometimes I think of younger years
Sometimes I think of my fears
My favorite dream is on a beach
Lying in the sun and sand
Feeling the heat beating down on me
I feel the sand between my toes
A gentle warm breeze goes by slow
Listening for the waves to crash
The warmth of the water hits my back
The sweet smell of salty sea water
Fills my nostrils and I smile
There’s nothing like an ocean dream
Deep Sleep by D. Avery
The stone dreamt of cold grinding ice and was not afraid; dreamt of twisting transforming heat and was not afraid; dreamt of the crushing weight of oceans, and was not afraid; dreamt of the acidic embrace of mosses and was not afraid. The stone dreamt it was asleep and dreaming that it was asleep and dreaming of timelessness and fearlessness. The stone dreamt that it was the Earth, that it was the universe, that it was a tossed pebble.
She awakened suddenly, slowly, acclimating herself to her limbs, her body, to the return from dreaming of being a stone.
A Writer’s Dream by Reena Saxena
The woman in black finally decided to reveal her identity. I watched with bated breath, as she lifted her veil, and then, I almost stopped breathing for a while. She was not strikingly beautiful, as I had expected, but was a relic of the past.
What had happened in her life, in the interim period? And why was she following me? It was scary, but these are the twists and turns of fate, that keep the story of life going.
I woke up drenched in sweat. Why don’t the characters of my novel leave me alone, when I sleep?
Lost in a Dream (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
Young Sally stirred the bean pot and twittered about lace she’d seen in Beatrice. Sarah saw herself as if in a dream, a memory vividly sketched in mind but dormant for years.
“Beans look ready Miss Sarah?”
Her hands, no longer stiff and aged, trembled at what she knew came next. She heard herself repeat words from 70 years ago. “Check one.”
Sally blew on the wooden spoon, a lone pinto perched in thin liquid. Bread cooled next to churned butter and wild plum jam.
Sarah succumbed to the memory of the day. There never was a last supper.
But I Can Have a Dream, Too by Joe Owens
Erin studied Eric’s speech he had spent so many hours on, checking and rechecking it as her good friend requested.
“It’s great except for one thing. You can’t use the ‘I have a dream’ line at the beginning.”
“There is a very famous speech with that line you don’t want to copy.”
“Doesn’t every speech reuse some words from another?” Eric asked.
“I suppose, but I think you should try again on your opening,” Erin said handing the papers back to Eric.
Two days later Eric began his speech like this: “Dreams are the mind cataloging memories!”
A Dream is Just a Dream by Anne Goodwin
“What does it mean, doctor?” She sat back, wide-eyed, expectant.
Flying cats, talking trains and flowers oozing blood. The ward staff called her an attention-seeking fantasist, but I gave her an hour a week of my full attention and she filled the space with her rambling dreams.
I didn’t want to disappoint her, but none of my interpretations had hit the spot. Sometimes a dream is just a dream. But only in their telling did she seem alive. “I wonder,” I faltered, “did you ever dream of writing a novel?”
She snatched a tissue. At last, we could begin.
Flash Fiction by Pensitivity
The organ blasted out ‘Here comes the bride’.
What was I doing here?
This wasn’t what I wanted or needed.
The pews were full, of people I didn’t know.
Was I in the right place?
I walked alone up the aisle, no-one to give me away.
My groom had his back to me.
His stance was unfamiliar, strange to see a Morning Suit.
Oohs and aahs echoed all around me.
I looked down to see I was stark naked.
Exposed for the fraud I was perhaps?
The music stopped.
So did I.
He turned slowly.
A man without a face.
I Saw Her Again by Drew Sheldon
I ran into her the other day. She looked great. She got divorced and quit smoking a few years ago. I don’t think I’ve ever seen her look so happy and healthy. We talked and laughed just like we used to all those years ago. No topic was off-limits. No joke was too tasteless. She was just as brilliant and funny as I remembered. Somehow I hadn’t realized how much I missed her. Suddenly it occurred to me in all the excitement I had forgotten to hug her. So I reached over to her…
And then I woke up.
Visitations by Sascha Darlington
I feel gentle fingertips caress my temple, wake to his brown eyes fastened on mine, concern etched in them. His breath, hot upon my cheek, once would have been enough.
“Are you getting up?” he asks, a whisper.
“I need a little more sleep,” I say. He nods, kisses my brow. I almost pull him to me, to have him close.
I’ve never told him that sometimes she appears in dreams and her laughter clutches me. I sleep hoping to dream of her.
I think I hear him say: “Please come back to me” before I slide into slumber.
El drac dels somnis by Jules Paige
(Janice vs Richard #11)
Clothed in a neat kimono type wrapper, Janice felt there was
nothing mundane about this dream. She’d been spirited off to
a tentative safe house. There was no going backwards as far
as escaping Richard was concerned. Even with attempting
La gaudiere for the man – there couldn’t be even a partial
Warm air vented from the nostrils of the tree brown dragon
that nudged her, as she patted its’ spine. Janice wasn’t
opposed to staying in this dream and felt herself smile.
The Dragon’s eye swirled into a scenic window of greenery.
It was time to wake up.
Livin’ the Dream (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
Becca pushes out of the consignment shop, not daring to breathe lest it tip the tears poised to fall. A year ago she had bliss. Now she’s selling what left she has of Richard.
That happy life, that wonderful man, it must have been a dream. She would never have been so careless as to lose him if it was real. She would have felt its fragility, would have known not to let him leave the house that day.
But why would anyone wake from a dream like that one, if dream it was?
Same result. Gone, either way.
Dream by Lady Lee Manila
I never believe in dreams
They were just for kids, it seems
Like one of their childish games
But you came and I’m in flames
I’m still smiling with that beam
When I sleep, I dream of you
In the blue sky and you flew
Searching and calling my name
– Believe in dreams
Now I believe in daydreams
Hoping you are my mainstream
And my heart you have inflamed
Dream to be with you I claim
With preference, my eyes gleam
– Believe in dreams
When I sleep, I dream of you
In the blue sky and flew
The Spider by Jeanne Lombardo
Rain-washed light filtering through the glass doors. The snug kitchen dawning with the day. The woman pondering her dream.
She’d been sitting in this kitchen. An egg, perfect in its pure, curved symmetry nestled in a china bowl before her.
She cracked it open. The yolk dazzled. But it was not a yolk. It was a magnificent spider, its body a glinting gold topaz.
In the waking world, she would have recoiled. She would have screamed.
But in the dream she watched, smiling.
Now it seemed a visitation, a hopeful omen, a sign. What did the jeweled spider portend?
Dreaming Well by D. Avery
“There’s people there now, but I’ll clean up after them, check on the well.”
Johanna couldn’t believe her fortune in finding a special remote location for her “gang” to base their retreat ride.
“I’ll take the tractor out there and brush-hog the meadow and grade the lane so you ladies can get in and set up your tents. My, having visitors does keep us young.”
“Okay”, smiled Joanna, reaching for her helmet, “We’ll all be back next weekend, it sounds great, like a dream come true.”
“Yes”, said the older woman, her eyes gleaming, “It’s a dream come true.”
Dawn, Noon, Dusk by idyllsoftheking
When he wakes up, the red light of morning streaming through his window, his heart skips a beat. The sun? Natural sunlight! He rushes out of bed greet it.
When she logs in, she responds to emails in order of panic. No, she assures the recipients of her comforting lies. No, there is nothing to fear. It will hold. Their arcology is the best on Io.
When they crouch down, underneath the sparking and burning wreckage of their glass and plastic castle, they look at each other with undeniable hatred. His dream lives, hers died. Simple. She kills him.
Dream Crashers by Sascha Darlington
You can’t keep dead people and dead dogs out of your dreams. They think they have a right to be there in all of their once alive glory. They laugh and hug or pant and bark and wag their tails and make you believe during your REM state that they are totally alive. For blissful moments, you believe, like it was yesterday, but the sepia tones should be a giveaway. When your dog wiggles her rear end and skips, your chest tightens as consciousness fights for witness: this is a dream and when I wake up, I will cry.
Dream by FloridaBorne
“Mother? Where am I?”
“We’re having a nice hot cup of tea.”
She held her plain white porcelain mug with dainty fingers, and took a sip.
“Why are you wearing a white dress? You hate white.”
The scent of Earl Grey intermingled with six white fresh-cut roses from her garden. The sun began to drift down…down…down…fiery golds, orange and red becoming muted greys and green while we silently sipped tea together.
Darkness…bone chilling cold…legs pinned…arms pressed under tons of earthquake.
“Mama…I don’t want to die. Not like this!”
“Sleep my child,” Mother said. “Soon you will be coming home.”
Yet Another Day by Kittyverses
It was yet another day. After the death of her husband, their son decided to travel overseas to seek fortune, promising to return soon.
Days turning to months,months to years, all that she cherished of him were the weekly telephonic conversations.
It wasn’t that her son didn’t want to care of her but monetary circumstances prevented him from returning back.
There was a knock on the door, one fine day. Hurrying to open, standing in front of her was her son. Pinching herself to make sure she wasn’t dreaming, she cried in joy, Son! My faith has won.
Dream by Kalpana Solsi
She lay supine on the hospital bed surviving on prayers of children and modern medicines.
She feels her soul separate from her mortal body as Chitragupt calls her name.
“Beware, thorns and stones that hurt you” he cautioned.
“I have experienced pains and downfalls”, she trailing him.
“My Home needs a replacement to be run altruistically. The children would suffer”, she requests.
“They’re my children”, she emphasizes.
Doctors credit her recovery to a miracle.
“Was it a dream or trance?”
“Was it re-birth?”, questions a journo.
She nods, waves at the vanishing Chitragupt.
Lion Fish Vacuum by Anthony Amore
Robert follows the Lion Fish deeper into the reef, spear ready. An invasive species in the Keys, these are legal prey.
Within reach something yanks from behind, tugging; the mask falls from his face. Oxygen evaporates gulping water gasping.
He jolts awake. He’s never been diving in his life. He’s never been anywhere. HIs legs, his arms, they do not work. This was a scene from a cooking show that flickered last night and glowed deep into the vacuum of his hospital room.
Feeding him water from a straw, the night nurse says. “Sleep tight.” He will likely not.
Sharing Dream Time by Liz Husebye Hartmann
She rolls in flickering blue and white, darts between other bodies, slick and shining, touching but not colliding. Breaching, she leaps into the moon, heavy with promised bounty. She swallows silver light, joyfully sated as it fills her center.
Deep drumbeats increase in speed and volume, drawing near. Writhing and diving, she hides from grey and black shadows that slash and shred. In an eyeblink, Moon’s soft rays hang bloody between wicked spearhead teeth.
She wakes, wiping salt tears from her son’s eyes. Repeated night terrors; she no longer knows if he’s sharing her dream, or she’s sharing his.
The Dream Tweeter by Bill Engleson
“She’s finally asleep.”
“You sure? She fakes it sometimes.”
“I lingered awhile. Just watching…if she’s a faker, she’s damn good at it.”
“She tell you the story?”
“That thingee she’s been rambling on about…the dream tweeter, the goblin who steals dreams and then tweets them to God knows where.”
“Yeah, she mentioned him. It?”
“It about covers it. I think she’s been watching too much television…especially cable news. She doesn’t even know what a tweet is.”
“Who does. I mean, what’s the actual point of twitter.”
“Well, by some measure, its purpose is to keep the President sedated.”
Dumbfounded by Michael
I was watching TV when a boy from the school over the road set himself up on my veranda. He thought my place was his study centre. I told him to leave. I thought of child protection and all that involved.
Then there was a noise in my kitchen. Around my kitchen table eating my food were a heap of Year 9 students. I rang the school and the Principal came over. He thought it a great joke. He shuffled them out explaining in the kindest terms it was time to go back to class.
I woke up! Dumbfounded!
Off with the Fairies by Norah Colvin
Each year the school reports told the same story:
He’s off with the fairies.
Needs to pay more attention.
Doesn’t listen in class.
Must try harder.
Needs a better grasp on reality.
Will never amount to anything.
Meanwhile, he filled oodles of notebooks with doodles and stories.
When school was done he closed the book on their chapter, and created his own reality with a best-selling fantasy series, making more from the movie rights than all his teachers combined.
Why couldn’t they see beneath the negativity of their comments to read the prediction in their words?
Writing about The Island before Writing about The Island by Elliott Lyngreen
The outfield was a road; curved. Another couple formed an unoccupied lot, an island which resembled a baseball diamond..
Frontyards were HOMERUN territory.
Relays came from manicured gardens, yard niches, overwhelmed ivy, realms in two-story architecture; swiftly from Murphy, swung to Fearns, divided down to Harold at the sidewalk crosshairs—pitcher’s mound—to goofy Darryl – who tags Stewart with a catcher’s mit.
We knew John Zaciejewski’s garage code; for more gloves, bats, balls…; and his pool.
Dreams never stood a chance for the Major Leagues.
Yet immersed….from wonderous transition, to awake neck hairs softly tingled.
Formed as literature.
I May Be A Dreamer by Geoff Le Pard
Rupert steepled his fingers. ‘My dreams? Goodness.’
Penny sat at her uncle’s feet, rocking her baby sister.
Mary shared a grin with her half-brother. ‘Mine were cliched. Ballerina, show jumper.’
Penny waited. Finally, Rupert said, ‘I didn’t know it then, but finding you. A family.’
‘You had your mum.’
‘Oh and I was happy but now, well, it’s better.’
Penny frowned. ‘Does that count as a dream? I mean, looking back?’
‘A retrospective dream? What do you think Mary?’
‘Why not? Especially if it comes true.’
Penny smiled. ‘We’ll make it a thing. Our thing.’
‘Yes, a family thing.’
Family Resignation by Diana Nagai
The summer sunset held my gaze as I pulled the blanket tighter. My aunt, who had raised me, sat close.
“Are you happy?” she broke the silence.
“I achieved the life I wanted.”
“When did you stop dreaming?”
I tensed at the implication. “Did I? I hadn’t realized.”
“I’ve always been proud of you, you know that. But, you could have been so much more.”
Her words stung. I was happy with who I became. And I still dream, everyday, that my parents hadn’t gotten into the car that fatal night. But out loud, “Yes, auntie.”
Flash Fiction by Carrie Gilliland Sandstrom
I sit in my arm chair like a cat, curled up in the sun. My book lays open but its words cannot capture my attention today. I am pulled under, into a dreamy state by warmth and comfort. I like to play there while the light dances on my eyelids giving my world an orange-red glow. I dream of sandy beaches, cool crystal blue water and a tanned lifeguard named Rico.
Rico walks over to me, eyes inviting and warm.
I ease my eyes open to address my interruption, “Yes?”
“I can’t find my other frog slipper.”
Family Sacrifice by Kerry E.B. Black
The sight paralyzed Ward, a vestige of a nightmare brought to reality. They walked from the fog, cloaked figures wearing crosses that swung with each step. Faces once familiar contorted with fervor and undeterred purpose.
Ward backed to his door, certain they would rip through their clothing to reveal their natures. Wolves, hungry for a kill, anxious to devour the weakest of the pack. Instead of howling, the lead man presented official documents to Ward. “We’ve come for the woman named Nina. Relinquish her, and there will be no trouble.”
Nina. His secret sister. Sacrifice for his family’s safety.
The Anthem by Allison Maruska
I approach the lone microphone on the 50-yard line. Stadium lights shine down, obscuring the thousands of spectators. I clasp my shaking hands in front of me.
“Singing our National Anthem tonight is Cassandra Jenson, senior at Ridgefield High School.” The announcer’s voice echoes off the stands. “Please stand.”
Silence fills the stadium, and I take a breath, remembering my starting pitch. “Oh say—”
“Cassie!” Jordan shakes my arm, pulling me from my daydream. “I got it! I’m singing the anthem!”
“Oh.” I smile, covering my disappointment. We both knew only one singer would get the job. “Congratulations!”
Dreams Come True by Susan Zutautas
Meg was having a hard time finding a new job. She’d been on countless interviews and was starting to wonder if she’d ever find a job. Exhausted from travelling all over the city, she flopped down on her bed in tears. As she drifted into a deep sleep she was thinking the move to this new city might have been a bad idea.
That night her deceased mother came to her in a dream and told her everything was going to be okay.
Meg was woken by the phone. She was offered a position and could she start immediately.
Transmission to Transition by D. Avery
“Kid, you gotta grin a mile long on that face a yours.”
“‘Less I’m dreamin’, Shorty’s back!”
“Yep, I saw. She brought us flowers from the prairie, by gosh.”
“She’s been on walkabout.”
“Walkabout? You been talkin’ with Aussie?”
“Well, it has been kind of a vision quest for Shorty, ain’t it?”
“I reckon so. She’s been runnin’ down a dream alright.”
“Well now what?”
“There’s work involved in a dream coming true, Kid.”
“I know. What can we do to help?”
“Shorty will keep us posted. In the mean time, dream along.”
“Dreamin’ big as a prairie sky!”