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Once Upon a Rodeo Time

(GRAPHIC UPDATED TO CORRECT DATES)

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

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

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

INTRO

Rodeo #4 Fractured Fairy Tales
By Norah Colvin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Butts About It

Dear Editor,

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

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

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

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

I ask you: Who is the bully?

Sincerely,
Misunderstood Troll

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

Other competitions:

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

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

September 1 Free-Write

CONTEST CLOSED

(Thank you to all the brave writers who gave this round a go! There are still four more chances to enter so get familiar with the process below. A new 24-hour prompt will be revealed September 7, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. EST. It will close at 11:59 p.m. EST 9/7/18.)

The clock started ticking at 12:00 a.m. (EST). That’s midnight in New York City when September 1, 2018, begins. The contest ends by the close of day September 1, 2018, at 11:59 (EST).

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

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

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

RULES

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

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

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

WINNING TIPS

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are no entry fees, and five winning writers will each win a cash prize. Please thank our sponsors:

Openings Life Coaching
SmythType Design
Solar Up

ENTRY FORM (Closed)

Write again!

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

  • September 7, 2018 (12:00 am – 11:59 pm)
  • September 13, 2018 (12:00 am – 11:59 pm)
  • September 19, 2018 (12:00 am – 11:59 pm)
  • September 25, 2018 (12:00 am – 11:59 pm)

Are You Ready to Rodeo?

To a buckaroo community, the annual rodeo was a chance to show off skills of the trade: reining a cow-horse, throwing a loop and dallying a rope, wrestling a steer to the ground, and tying a goat. Yours truly was the Goat Tying Champion of a long-forgotten rodeo.

I still remember the smell of horse apples condensed in the stalls where all the ranchers and buckaroos boarded their horses during the three-day event. My red hair sported gold yarn bows at the end of each braid, and I had a brand-new felt hat the color of a chocolate lab.

I’d been practicing with the migrant children down at the barn. We could all toss a goat with the same ease our fathers and uncles could take a steer to the ground — it was all about mastering leverage. After practice, we’d eat pinto beans and tortillas. Someone would pass around a homemade jar of pickled jalapenos. The cowboys all laughed as we kids tried to act tough.

My grandmother grew and pickled jalapenos every summer so by the age of six I didn’t even wince.

Practice and peppers prepared me for what happened that rodeo. I drew last and waited my turn to ride my horse as fast as he’d run from one end of the arena to where the goat was tied to a stake. I had my length of rope in one hand and reins in the other. I was fired up and ready!

Then, the contestant before me rode his horse over the goat, injuring it. No one had thought to have a backup goat, so the event temporarily paused as one was located. I don’t know where they found this goat, but he was bigger than any I had tossed. He was triple the size of the goat all the other kids had tied.

And I was the youngest and smallest.

With a click of the tongue, a shout of “Haw!” and giving my horse his head we flew across that clumpy arena sod to the Big Billy. I jumped off my horse, and the chase was on. I grabbed the rope, held mine in my teeth and grabbed my way to the goat. I wrestled and tried every leverage move I had learned. He broke free and butted me with his horns. I grabbed the rope again. And again. And Again.

Finally, I tied that goat and received the worst time that rodeo. That wasn’t the year I won the trophy, but it was the year I won the respect of my buckaroo community. I had grit. I had tenacity.

Writers have to have the grit of a buckaroo who carries his saddle between rodeos. Writers have to have the tenacity to not quit the longest ride they’ll ever have chasing publication the way bull-riders chase those perfect 8-seconds. Writers have to be willing to take down the big goats.

That’s why we rodeo at Carrot Ranch. All year we practice the literary art form of flash fiction in 99 words, no more, no less. So once a year we put those skills and safe writes to the test. We rodeo.

A rodeo is a contest in which writers show their skills with the flash fiction form. It’s an exciting break from the weekly challenges and an opportunity to compete. Like a cowboy rodeo, this event includes different contest categories to show off a variety of skills. The 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo runs October 1-31.

Contestants will get to wrangle tight word constraints, tell emotive, compelling and surprising stories, and write across genres and audiences. Some contests will call for specific craft skills, like using dialog to carry a story. Other contests will add twists to the prompts.

The following Rodeo Leaders return to stimulate your writing this October: Geoff Le Pard, Irene Waters, Sherri Matthews, Norah Colvin, and D. Avery. Over the next five weeks, each leader will introduce you to their contest, judges, and tips for competing. Each contest comes with a top prize for the winner: $25.

Unfortunately, it was too big of a billy goat for me to get a digital book together from all the entrants last year. We had more words than I anticipated and much editing was needed to include all the stories. I do an anthology once a year, too and I was unable to edit two big projects. Having learned from my first flash fiction rodeo, I will post a full collection of each contest up to a manageable word count.

That means I’ll be picking the most polished and accurate. After all, it is a contest, so here are a few tips for winning or getting selected to be in the collection:

  1. Be exact in word count (use Word Press or a word counter tool).
  2. Read the directions, complete the response, and re-read the directions again. Revise.
  3. Set your first draft aside for at least a day. You’ll edit better fresh.
  4. Read your entry out loud. You’ll catch word omissions or clunky phrasing.
  5. Take time to polish your most important words — verbs. Use active voice.

We will be simplifying rules and focusing on 99 words. Each contest will offer a week for contestants to respond. Contests will post every Tuesday at 12:09 a.m. EST (set your clock to New York City). Contests will close the following Tuesday at 11:59 p.m. EST. We’ll be using the forms for submission. If you’ve been practicing the weekly challenges, this will all be familiar to you.

Now to add a bite of jalapenos to this rodeo!

How tough do you think you are as a writer? Got grit? Got tenacity? Got skill? Then you might be willing to try the TUFFest Ride. Now, pay attention because this contest is not simple and it begins in September. I’m looking for the Fab Five (yes, I have the Fab Five Leaders, but I also want five fabulously tenacious writers with skills).

The TUFFest Ride. Here’s how it’ll go:

  1. In September, writers will have five chances to enter a 24-hour free-write (September 1, 7, 13, 19, 25). You only have to enter once to qualify. Free-write will be 297 words (that’s three 99-word flash fictions).
  2. October 1: Writers tune into a live video posted at Carrot Ranch Facebook Page for the announcement of who will be selected the Fab Five from the September entries. These five writers will have five days to do a new free-write.
  3. October 8: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 99-word challenge to rewrite their free-write. They will have five days to write.
  4. October 15: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 59-word challenge to rewrite their 99-word story. They will have five days to write.
  5. October 22: The Fab Five tune into a live video for a twist to a 9-word challenge to rewrite their 59-word story. They will have five days to write.
  6. October 29: The Fab Five tune into a live video to find out which three advance. The remaining three contestants will have 24 hours to write a final 495-word story from their TUFF exhibition.
  7. November 2: First, second and third place announced. All five contestants will win a prize (yet to be determined, based on sponsors).

The TUFFest Ride is a big billy goat commitment and a true test of flash fiction writing skills. Our leaders are eligible to enter, as are any judges. Leaders and judges won’t enter contests they lead or judge.

My TUFF judges are two of my grittiest Copper Country friends — Cynthia Drake, who some of you might recognize from my posts about the landslide that hit her Ripley home in June. She is living in our RV and beginning the long hard process to rebuild. Laura Smythe is our mutual friend, a New York City-educated poet and fellow instructor at Finlandia University. She’s also a publisher and book designer. By fun coincidence, she designed one of the books of a Rough Writer! They are both up to the challenge with me. And I hope you are, too!

Tips to strategize TUFF:

  1. Breathe. Control your breath, and you control your mind.
  2. Enter as many of the 24-hour September free-writes as you want.
  3. Or focus on one date and be prepared for the revealed prompt.
  4. Remember, initially, it’s a free-write. Don’t think, write. Be outlandish, surprise yourself. This is what “follow the prompt” prepares you for in writing creatively.
  5. Be willing to commit to the October write-offs if you win a Fab Five slot.

Next Tuesday, join Geoff Le Pard as he offers tips for his October 3 Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest.

Carrot Ranch Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges will go on hiatus after the September 20 challenge. It returns November 1. If you are not interested in contests, you can play as a challenger. Or check out the expanded Advanced Flash Fiction Challenges to do on your own.

Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #7

Murderous Musings Winner at Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsMurderous Musings

By Sherri Matthews

When I set my Murderous Musing’s prompt for Charli’s Flash Fiction Rodeo, I expected a few good folk to turn bad, but not thirty-two of them. And what a deliciously devious lot they are! Thank you so much to all who entered; my esteemed judges and I read wide-eyed and suitably horrified through a disturbingly chilling collection exploring the dark side of the Rodeo.

Some had us baying for the same sweet revenge, such was the pain of the story.  With others, we pondered the tragic price of a seething jealousy, bitter resentment and an all-consuming rage.  One or two gave a chuckle, clever in the twist at the end.  We enjoyed every flash and it was a close call, but we agreed our overall winner is Mr Blamey by Marjorie Mallon.

Mr Blamey by Marjorie Mallon

Mr Blamey had no first name. He had a forgettable face, an indeterminate dress sense and no habits to recognise him by. Yet he got the blame for everything. Getting the blame for his innocent endeavours had taken its toll on Mr Blamey. On his calendar he marked the fateful day his wife’s cat died in bold red ink. He had fed him last. His wife blamed him but bought a new kitten. It died too. A succession of cat deaths followed, his wife grew angry, she hissed and scratched. To placate his dearest, he made her a special anniversary cat stew. She ate it up and died too.

###

We judged all entries blind, so imagine our delight when our friend Marjorie, met in person at the Annual Blogger’s Bash in London three years running, was unveiled as our winner.  Many congratulations Marje!

We loved this flash for the way the apparently innocuous Mr Blamey, while living up to his name, was secretly capable of the most evil revenge. Who would have thought it? The slow-burn of his hatred for his wife and her cats weaves a perfectly murderous vibe throughout. Pushed to the limits by his wife’s ‘hissing and scratching’ – a wildcat! – Marje’s flash created the perfect storm for this murderous musing.

Emphasising the close call for the winning entry, we then had the difficult task of deciding our favourites out of our high scoring selection for honourable mention.  Each judge shares their top choice here:

Hugh chose:

Jeff and Jenny by Kati MacArthur

Jeff had thought all day about the things he’d do to Jenny when he got home. If only that bitch Sara wasn’t there. She’d gone into the kitchen to cook dinner, leaving him alone in the living room with Jenny. He watched the girl playing with her dolls in front of the television. “Come on up here, girl,” he said, patting his lap. She stared up at him, frozen. “Now, girl!” Jeff snapped his fingers. Jenny stood slowly. Jeff hauled her onto his lap, fingers digging under her skirt. Jenny cried out. The rush he got from her cries masked the pain he felt as Sara’s knife slid in.

###

Hugh says: ‘I loved the way it was told because, while I read it, it had me telling Jenny not to go to Jeff knowing that my fears of what he was going to do were about to come true. It’s a subject many of us prefer to leave behind closed doors when it comes to talking and writing about, but the author went ahead and wrote a fantastic piece of work which had an ending I was begging for because of the hate and revenge that built up inside of me while I read the story. And, what I also really loved, was that murder was on the mind of somebody in the background of the story which then went on to take all the glory and which had a standing ovation from me.’

Mike chose:

The Celebration by Colleen Chesebro

“Where am I?” I groaned and awakened slowly. I shivered as the cold sunk deep into my bones. My head pounded and a bright light glared into my eyes. A sharp metallic smell overpowered me. All I remembered was that I had left the bar late last night. It had been one hell of a birthday party. Panicked, I swung my legs over the side and realized my body hadn’t moved. I hovered above, a ghostly wraith of energy gazing at the twisted and bloody body below, where a knife had pierced my heart. My eyes gaped wide at the realization of my location. The sign read: City Morgue.

###

Mike says: ‘I chose ‘The Celebration’ for the cold horror of our mortal fear reaslised when the narrator finds out the truth of what really happened that night at the birthday party.  Great writing, I was glued throughout, not guessing at the murderous outcome for a fantastic twist.

Sherri chose:

Tele-Visions: Six Decades of Death Dealing by Bill Engleson

I’d sit close to the screen. Cross-legged. “You’ll ruin your eyes,” she‘d say. I’d shimmy back a bit. “Better to see, right?” It was. You could see the whole picture. It was a good lesson. I saw so many deaths there. The same people dying repeatedly. Death became…imaginary. Death was an act. I guess it wore me down. Odd, eh! One day, I was maybe …fifteen. Summertime. We were swimming at Cotter’s Bend. The Sweetwater River twisted there, dug out a deep pool in the sandstone. New kid. Smaller. Crappy swimmer. But he had guts. Kept on trying. And I suddenly had this urge. It was so easy.’

###

This excellent flash knocked me for six, a truly horrifying story all about the desensitising of a generation exposed to the constant streaming of ‘play’ violence on the screen. Truly troubling is the very end when the now older man, recounting his decades of ‘death dealing’, says:  ‘It was so easy’. I gave this top marks for its shocking twist and an all too tragic warning for our modern age.

*******

Thank you so much to Charli for letting me loose at the Rodeo and again, to all who entered and huge congratulations to Marje, Katie, Colleen and Bill. I’ve never judged a competition of any kind before, never mind a writing one, and it was my absolute honour and pleasure to read every single flash.  I also now have a much better understanding of what an incredibly challenging job that is! And thank you again so much to my two judges, Mike and Hugh, for giving up their time to help me.  Both a delight.

Hugh W. Roberts  

Hugh W. Roberts published his book of short stories, Glimpses, in December 2016 and is working on his next volume.  He lives in Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom, and gets his inspiration for writing from various avenues including writing prompts, photos, eavesdropping and while out walking his dogs, Toby and Austin.

Hugh’s blog link: Hughs Views & News

Hugh’s book: Glimpses

Sherri Matthews

Sherri, a Brit, raised her children in California for almost twenty years before returning to her home in England’s West Country in 2003. Along the path to publication of her memoir, she shares her ups and downs with her blogging community at A View From My Summerhouse.

Sherri’s Blog: A View From My Summerhouse

Memoir Book Blurb: Stranger in a White Dress

NOTE FROM CARROT RANCH:

Congratulations to all the writers who entered! You dared to stretch your writing and braved the first Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Each participant has earned the following badge, which you may copy and post on your blog, social media or print out and frame. It’s a badge of honor. And now you can say, you have had your first rodeo! You wrote well. Darkly, with murderous intention behind the scenes.

We want to share all the contest entries in a collection. We’ll be contacting each of our contestants and challengers to seek interest and permission to publish a digital collection in January. Writers retain all copyrights to their work.

We’d appreciate your feedback! We want to make this an annual event that is fun, engaging and supportive of literary art. Please take a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey. Thank you!

My First Flash Fiction Rodeo Carrot Ranch @Charli_Mills

 

 

 

 

Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #4

Scars

By Irene Waters

During October, the Rodeo, which was the brain child of Charli Mills from Carrot Ranch, gave us a wonderful opportunity to put ourselves outside our comfort zones by writing different forms and genres. Personally, I found it difficult, challenging but always fun and judging by the number of repeat entries, so did many others.

It was a pleasure to lead the fourth contest and come up with a topic and judging criteria. The topic – Scars – was inspired by a quote by Stephen King – whose book on writing should be read, I believe, by all aspiring writers. He wrote “Writers remember everything … especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar.” Entries were to show a remembered scar using any genre the writer chose in 198 words.

I felt honoured to be reading the entries submitted for the Scars competition. I had not anticipated the difficulty I would find in judging different genres in the one competition. It is a little like judging apples against oranges for, as a reader, memoir is read in a different way to fiction and both differ from poetry. All the work submitted had merit and all entrants should be proud of their stories.

For blind judging I devised a scoring sheet, giving us a mark out of 100. The top scorer was our winner — D. Wallace Peach with the entry Galatea.

Judge Angie Oakley said of this piece:

 I really liked the reworking of the mythic tale into a contemporary setting. It was authentic and powerful. I think the language was a cut above… poetic, dense and yet it told the story with clarity. It was a very assured piece of writing that wove a wider message into an intensely personal story. And the mythic underpinning serves to enhance the universality of the piece.”

Galatea by D. Wallace Peach

My father was Pygmalion and I his child chiseled by his scowls and smiles into the woman of his daydreams, a huntress, a poet, a woman who walked barefoot over mountains. In the light of his approving eye, I flourished in the myth of Galatea, a living statue until age cracked my smooth skin. What he thought was carved of marble I revealed as plaster, the child beneath growing beyond the sculptor’s control. I was a betrayal of his art, his vision, a flesh and bone girl with her own daydreams, and he said, “I don’t love you anymore.”

And so, the sculptor became a butcher, his chisel traded for a cleaver, Galatea gone, my myth smashed into rubble on the floor. In pieces, I sought new masters to glue together my shattered heart, unable to accept I was clay, not stone, and the only artist was me. For decades, I fashioned a new myth, molded her with tender fingers and scraped away layers of pain, all the while longing for my maker to undo the original wound. But time cannot be undone or cuts unmade. I forgave and finally became a woman wholly of flesh and bone.

###

Each judge then gave their personal three favourites:

Angie Oakley: 1. Galatea

Tying at second for her was Tsunami because:

I liked the tone and voice and certainty of this. And the way the story arced round to the end. Nothing was in that wasn’t needed, and it managed to tell a convincing and relatively complex story in a few deft strokes. Good control, As for the scar, it was implied, and that was OK.”

Tsunami by Bill Engleson

Jilly has this soft laugh. Athletic (or maybe I mean healthy.)

I find it soothing.

And sexy.

“Why the army?” she asks.

Aside from her and her husband, Steve, all my parent’s friends are fifty. Or older.

Ancient.

Why indeed!

I am stupid. That’s the truth of it. Failing Grade twelve and in need of a kick in the ass.

But I bullshit.

“To see the world,” I lie.

It is a warm spring day by the Millstream River.

Steve’s gone fishing with my mom and the old man up to the Qualicum.

“You’ll love the world,” she teases.

Good Friday, March 27th, 1964.

Nothing’s shaking.

Not in Nanaimo, anyways.

Elsewhere, the Alaskan earth cracks open.

The seas swell.

Up Island, a tsunami sweeps down the Alberni Inlet.

“Let’s go have a looksee,” my dad says.

We do just that.

We miss Steve’s call.

Later, my folks get the news, sit me and my sister down, say, “Jill was having a small operation. Something went wrong.”

“So?” we ask.

But we know.

In July, I leave for the army.

I still hear her laugh.

I prove to be a terrible soldier.

Eventually, her laugh fades.

Then, it disappears.

###

Equal second Angie Oakley chose Linea Nigra by Juliet Nubel because:

This was a strong story, complete in itself with a very neat way of integrating the scar in without it feeling forced. The language worked well…change of tone managed well, and the story economically told. Once again this person worked all the elements of the story with skill and clarity. And it had an important wider message to communicate.”

Linea Nigra by Juliet Nubel

She slipped out of her school uniform and into the scorching bath. The heat turned her pale skin a bright shade of pink which would have been unbearable a few months earlier. Now she needed that hot water running over her body. It helped the ache in her breasts. But it did nothing to relieve the throbbing pain in her empty heart and abdomen. And even less to remove the dark brown line running from her navel to her pubis – the mark of her mistake, which she scrubbed daily, hard and fast, without success. She was branded for life.

His tongue made its way down that fine brown line to reach more interesting parts of her naked body. Had he never noticed it or perhaps just never mentioned it? As his face came back to hers, he whispered the words he’d been saying for the last five years.

“Let’s keep trying.”

He wanted this more than anything. She did too. But how could she tell him that maybe she had only had the one chance? That any hope of a second chance had been thrown away the day she had given away her baby, all those years ago.

###

Ellen Stromqvist, our second judge chose as her favourite Not Forgot by Eric Daniel Clarke because:

“A good descriptive narrative that sets the scene well. Portrays on of the possible critical moments in a life when it could have taken an entirely different course. A poignant reflection on a moment in time and perhaps a lost opportunity for happiness. What might have been.”

Not Forgot by Eric Daniel Clarke

He stands a foot from the wall, illuminated by strobe lit blobs and spheres, hand in pocket the other holding a cold beer. 10 pm he’d guess, summer darkness outside lures moths to flight, rhythm finds his feet yet too soon for moves. She takes to the floor perfection slight yet curved, green eyed blonde focal point of his desire. No smile yet kindly declines the handsome or just confident, dancing with her sister or maybe a friend. He buys a second beer, a small one, returns, his space still there a few metres from her presence. 11.30 pm checks his time, no chance better men have tried, he moves. She turns to face his walk towards her, the beat slows, trace of a smile, no words, her fingers behind his neck stroke him closer, his hands on short skirted hips that sway in and not away. Sibling, friend, whispers, “we have to go”, he asks to see her, she puts her finger to her lips then his, says “I fly home to Germany tomorrow” let’s go his hand and disappears. Forty five years on he’s not forgot her touch, likes to believe she’s had a good life.

###

Her second choice Scars by Deborah Lee because it was a

“good story that clearly articulates the fickle nature of life, who for some is a never-ending struggle against the odds and despite all their best efforts fate ensues to defeat them.”

Scars by Deborah Lee

She hadn’t ended up homeless on purpose. Who does? A simple layoff, when the bubble burst in the two-thousand-oughts. She hadn’t been worried–at first. But it stretched, stuck. Unemployed or underemployed or temporarily employed for the next seven years. Her fault? Really? She’d tallied it one year: half a million applications and resume submissions. Thousands of call-backs, hundreds of referrals, dozens of interviews. But nothing permanent, nothing at her earning level, or simply nothing. A temporary job won’t get you an apartment. She’d felt cursed, marked, by the time she finally landed her present position three years ago.

And after three years, she’s still trying to unpack it. If her login fails on her company’s time card website, her heart pounds. A downward trend in the business for a month leads to sleepless nights about the company going under. FedEx loses her package with $24,000 worth of billable documents, and she’s convinced she’ll be blamed and fired. The slightest hiccup looms in nightmares as a security guard standing over her while she clears out her desk, then showing her the door to the street. Once you’ve landed on the street, you never forget how easy it was.

###

Her third choice was Teeter Totter by Frank Hubeny because it is

“A story everyone can relate to. Good descriptive language makes it easy to believe, nice reflection of writer’s feelings in cause and guilt of their actions. I liked the moral of the story ‘never get off when you’re at the bottom.’”

Teeter-totter by Frank Hubeny

It was my mistake to get off while I was on the bottom and my brother’s feet dangled above me. My father set up that sawhorse and extra piece of two-by-six board. He nailed small pieces of wood to keep the board from sliding around. He had enough to do building the garage. We wanted to watch or rather find something unusual to play with.

I don’t think my mother thought it was unsafe until afterwards either. Of course afterwards everyone reconstructed the details. My brother caught his fall. The board raced up to my chin and blood flowed.

We lived on a farm. The hospital was twenty miles away. I remember the guilt on my brother’s face, but he wasn’t guilty. My parents probably tried to determine who was guilty or stupid. Even at six years, I knew I was both. At my current age I wish I could give my parents a hug to take away their sense of guilt. Perhaps by surviving I did just that.

My father dismantled the teeter-totter and mom kept us busy away from the construction site. Today I remember the lesson: “Never get off when you are on the bottom.”

###

There were so many good stories. A couple took me to my passion of dancing, and I commend both writers as I feel they may have researched the judges (a competition tip I have been given but never done myself) – I thoroughly enjoyed your stories. Some of the stories I was uncertain whether they were fiction or memoir as they were first person narratives and I was uncertain how to read them. I have learnt that should I run another competition I would ask for the genre to be specified. My judging was based on a favourite in fiction, memoir and poetry.

Fiction: Hot Shot Holly by Liz H. because it

was a tale of resilience. It hooked the reader from the first line with the vivid visual images drawn of the fire. The narrative flowed smoothly with a good use of dialogue. I liked the manipulation of time starting in the present then looking back. It demonstrated healing and happiness despite an upbringing that caused scars.

Hot Shot Holly (and how she got there) by Liz Huseby Hartmann

Twin-bladed helicopters dumped the bright red slurry (water and fertilizer) on the manically dancing flames, then swooped through the smoky haze to the reservoir, to refill for another drop. Even with no wind, the wildfire gobbled the grassy plain, unsated by the acres of forest and homes already consumed.

On the ground, crews dug trenches, controlled burns, and kept chainsaws roaring, hoping that the scar of a firebreak would choke out the raging fire.

“Someday I’ll be skyborne, fighting fire by helitack,” Justin scanned the sky.

“Not me!” grinned Holly. “I’ve been training for this all of my life.”

**

“You think you’re such a hotshot, don’t you?” Her father sneered.

“It’s the booze talking,” Holly reminded herself. Unwilling to add fuel to his rage, she swallowed her hurt in silence.

“Don’t you?” he lurched towards her. Pushing the coffee table between them, she grabbed her bag and slipped out the open door.

“You’re nothing, slut. Just like your mother!” He snarled from the floor. “You leave now, don’t ever come back.”

“He won’t remember, when he’s sober. But I’ll never forget.”

Time to cut and run; she patted her pocket with the letter from the Wildland Firefighter Academy.

###

For memoir my favourite was: The Healing Tree by Karen Newburn because

it told of an ordinary life doing ordinary things that I could relate to. The writer placed me in the scene which was a scene we all know well. It was a tale of a mother’s loss and a son’s bravery but again it was a tale of resilience and healing.

The Healing Tree by Karen Newburn

The music in the garden section of K Mart screeched over-head with the sound of Whitney Houston’s hit I love you belting out its famous melody. I wiped my eyes, knowing that song reopened an old wound. I wanted to buy a Hibiscus Tree for my new garden, but couldn’t see one. I was about to give up as Houston’s song screamed out above me, so I stopped to have another look. The song was important, because we’d played it at our son’s funeral. Then I spotted a medium sized red Hibiscus buried amongst some larger plants. Thank you Luke, I whispered. I dabbed my eyes again as I strode past some inquisitive onlookers. ‘I will talk to you from heaven through those flowers’, I remembered Luke saying. He also asked me to plant it in the black garden at the front of our old house: He didn’t know about the newly formed rain soaked garden that appeared black in the dazzling sunlight. Luke’s sight had been taken from him due to the cancer that raged within him. He died two weeks later. The red Hibiscus representing to all of us Luke’s great enthusiasm and zest for life.

###

For poetry I chose Cicatrice by Susan Budig because it painted a vivid picture and aroused strong emotions in me as a reader. I could feel the pain, the hate, the love, and the healing.

Cicatrice by Susan Budig

He went to New Orleans on a road trip,
While I sat in a home, not mine, distilling
Our baby. But I named her mine.

And she was. I gave her a heart and eyes.
I gave her teeth and synapses—all that she needed.
I gave her away; he didn’t want her.

I didn’t want him.
I hated him with all my strength.
His abandonment. His cavalier attitude.

This hate eats at me.
Grows inside of me like
A malignant stone.

Now you, my new man,
My Studebaker,
You turn the stone over and look.

You see blood on the blade
Bright red anger.
You search my heart for a cicatrice.

Your finger traces a line straight
From my heart to my belly button
To discover the rawness of motherhood

Which has not healed.
You lean forward, cupping
The pain, the scarred flesh

Whisper psalms to close
The jagged edges
Stitching with your fingers laced in prayer.

Then with a chamois cloth
You rub on the stone
Until it shines like a diamond,

Which you give me,
Full of promise
That you will never leave me

That when I am ripe again
And blooming,
She will remain.
###

Well done all those mentioned and those not mentioned as well.

NOTE FROM CARROT RANCH:

Congratulations to all the writers who entered! You dared to stretch your writing and braved the first Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. Each participant has earned the following badge, which you may copy and post on you blog, social media or print out and frame. It’s a badge of honor. And now you can say, you have had your first rodeo! You wrote well.

We want to share all the contest entries in a collection. We’ll be contacting each of our contestants and challengers to seek interest and permission to publish a digital collection in January. Writers retain all copyrights to their work.

We’d appreciate your feedback! We want to make this an annual event that is fun, engaging and supportive of literary art. Please take a a few minutes for a brief 5 question survey. Thank you!

Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #8

TUFF: The Ultimate Flash Fiction

by Charli Mills

What if I told you that writing flash fiction will get you to where you want to be? Would you scoff, or consider the possibility? Would you think I’m handing you a magic elixir? Ah, an elixir. Let’s pause a moment and talk about the hero’s journey.

If you answered the call to participate in the Flash Fiction Rodeo this past month, you answered the same call every hero hears: the one the hero reluctantly answers. We think of heroes as Thor or Wonder Woman. Yet, the hero’s journey calls to us all. Winnie the Pooh and Frodo and Mary Tyler Moore are all heroes. It’s about the path:

  1. The call: the opening scene in which the hero is called out of the ordinary world.
  2. The test: the story develops conflict through tests, challenges, temptations, allies and enemies.
  3. The cave: the story leads to a crisis, the hero’s darkest hour in the abyss of ordeal.
  4. The transformation: survival transforms the hero who begins the journey home.
  5. The return: the hero returns to the ordinary world with the elixir of knowing one’s own transformation.

For many writers, the Flash Fiction Rodeo was a call to go outside one’s comfort zone. Even those writers who wanted the challenge pushed themselves to write more than one response or enter multiple contests. You were all stirred by the call. You are Heroes of the Rodeo. You faced tests, found glitches and helpers, made new writing friends, discovered stories within you.

Your crisis is personal, but I know you had one — doubt, fear, panic. Our inner critics chide, Who are you to enter a writing contest?  The Black Dog rips our confidence. Even when we boldly go forth, we fumble a word, forget a rule, or worry that a form went to the bottom of the bull pen. Maybe your crisis rose from a topic that stirred a painful memory. Maybe your crisis eroded your time and forced priorities. Whatever it was, it is yours, and you overcame it.

You survived the Rodeo.

Contest #8 delivers your elixir. Yes, it’s called TUFF, a play on the acronym and the idea that it’s a tough challenge. It’s five steps, five flash fictions! Yet, it is a tool, a gift to you that you will understand because it will resonate with what writing flash fiction has already taught you.

So far in this Flash Fiction Rodeo writers have reflected back to childhood, poked at the hardness of scars, laughed when humor elicited fear, cast a magical spell with a new literary form, signed up for a twittering social platform to write publicly, braved the unknown with a bull draw, and contemplated murder despite being good people. This Rodeo was a rough ride, but you stayed in the saddle. You wrote.

Trust the surprises you made along the way. If you found yourself writing about a topic, or in a format or on a platform previously alien to you, you likely found a nugget of satisfaction. I’ll tell you something about flash fiction — it’s the constraint that shifts the gears in your mind to problem-solving speed. The 99-word format we challenge weekly at Carrot Ranch becomes satisfying because our brains recognize that we are going to solve a problem (write a story) and 99-words is the tool.

Now it’s time to challenge you to go where you want to go…as a writer, as an entrepreneur, as a creative person. TUFF is your elixir. TUFF teaches you that each flash fiction you write takes you closer to transformation. Call it creativity, an insight, an a-ha moment or a breakthrough. TUFF will return you to your ordinary world as a writer, author, educator, business professional, parent, creative with the elixir meant for you. Like your writing crisis, your writing breakthrough is personal. But it will happen.

Use this format any time you are struggling to write a scene, chapter or novel. Use it to write the various blurbs for your book synopsis. Use it to write out your goals, mission statement or vision for your blog, business or career. It’s a tool and it’s now yours. However, until November 6, it’s also the final Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest.

Submission Guidelines

Using the form below, write about a hero’s transformation after facing a crisis. Each step is its own flash fiction, but it is the evolution of a single story.

The Rules

  1. Use the form for all five steps to write about a hero’s transformation after facing a crisis.
  2. A hero is anyone or anything going from normal to a crisis to a transformation.
  3. Each step is a revision of the same tale, beginning with a free write and ending with a complete three-act story.
  4. In step one (free-write) time your writing to 5 minutes even if it’s incomplete.
  5. Enter the free-write unedited.
  6. You may edit steps 2-4.
  7. You must edit step 5.
  8. The final story has three acts: beginning, middle and end.
  9. Entries must be original (no cheating on the free-write; you’ll only cheat yourself out of the elixir).
  10. Entries due by 11:59 pm EST November 6. Enter each step in the form all at one time.

You have one week. Pace yourself.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED. WINNER ANNOUNCED DECEMBER 26.

CHALLENGE OPTION: Due to length, challengers are asked to use the form. Be sure to write (CHALLENGE) after your title. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

Judging

Charli will be joined by two Michigan authors over coffee, during a continuous Keweenaw snowstorm. Judges will consider the following criteria:

  1. The original idea expressed in the free-write.
  2. The process by which the writer uses steps 2-4 to work that original idea.
  3. The completion of the final story based on the original idea and the flash fiction process to get there.
  4. The unedited free-write reads like a draft.
  5. The final story shows insight, polish and has a beginning, middle and end.
  6. The interpretation of a hero (epic or common), crisis and transformation.
  7. The final deadline met: 11:59 pm EST November 6

Winner Announced December 26. All who stayed in the saddle and wrote for the first annual Flash Fiction Rodeo are heroes! Your journey is nearly complete. Thank you for your courage to express and share literary art with and among others.

Complete schedule of winner announcements:

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7

Murderous Musings:

When Good Folk Turn Bad At The Rodeo

By Sherri Matthews

Saddle up, tighten your reins and pull on your riding boots. And while you’re about it, watch your back, because wicked wranglings are afoot at the Rodeo. Western or English? Doesn’t matter. Thrown off a few times? Never mind. Devious, deadly or just plain dangerous, it’s time for some murderous musings.

Long fascinated with the dark side of the human heart, I read a lot of True Crime. Not for the gory details, neither for the whodunit: I want to understand the why.

As a memoir writer, I need to explore the true motives driving the story. I wonder how many of us ask ourselves, if truly honest, what might we be capable of if pushed too far? What would be our not so perfect storm?

But it never occurred to me that I could explore this through fiction. This memoir writer doesn’t write fiction, of any kind.  I can’t; I shan’t; and I won’t. But Charli Mills had other ideas. “Oh yes you can,” she said with a knowing look in her eyes. We’ve never physically met, but I’d know that look anywhere.

So I gave it a go, playing it safe at first with a touch of fiction based on a true story – a BOTS, I came to learn. Bashing out 300 plus words was the easy part; telling the same story in 99 was not.

But with practice it got easier and soon I was hooked.  And then the unthinkable happened: characters appeared from nowhere with ideas of their own and there I was, writing flash actual fiction.

Today, I continue to relish the delicious freedom I get from writing these bite-sized bursts. Coming up for air from my memoir, my fictional characters lead me away from the confines of memoir’s truth, allowing me to freely explore their world of darkest revenge, immorality and twisted justice.

This, I now understand, is why most of my flashes contain murderous undertones. What better way to blow off writing steam? I can’t remember what I was dealing with in my memoir when I wrote ‘Homemade Cider’, but I have told my husband he has no need to worry:

Homemade Cider by Sherri Matthews

They had shared their hopes and fears; heck, they had even shared husbands.  Now, as the two elderly women sat on the porch swing, a faded, hand-made quilt stretched across their bony knees, they said nothing. Only the crickets strummed their twilight song.

“I wish I had known,” sighed Mave at long last, shifting beneath the quilt.

Ellen rubbed her eyes and yawned.

“I didn’t want you to worry.”

“But you needed my help…”

“You were busy.  Anyway, Bob helped me bury him under the apple tree.”

Mave grinned. “Well at least he’ll make great compost…nothing beats homemade cider.”

###

I asked Charli to share her flash fiction process and how it’s helped her explore the ‘why’ in the murder of Wild Bill Hickok, the subject of her work in progress historical fiction novel Rock Creek:

‘London historian and biographer of Wild Bill Hickok, Joseph Rosa, claimed that the Rock Creek incident of 1861 remains among the most debated gunfights in the American West. At the heart of the debate are two questions writers often ponder — who is the villain and why?

My family handed me a myth growing up. The story goes that the first man Wild Bill Hickok ever shot was my third great-grandmother’s brother; my Uncle Cobb McCanles. Talk to any Hatley, Green, Paullus or McCandless and they’ll curse the villainy of Hickok, tearing the man down as a coward, shorter than history makes of him.

Talk to the descendants of Hickok and they’ll tell you what a fine and upright man Bill was. It’s understandable for families to cheer for their own kin and clearly see the murderous intent in the other. But add historians to the mix and you get more myth and romanticism. Hickok, one historian from Kansas wrote, was a chivalrous knight. A Nebraskan historian responded that Cobb McCanless was a family man cut down in front of his 10-year old son.

No one can definitely answer why. Why did these men clash in a deadly way?

Flash fiction became instrumental to my historical investigations. Writing tight snippets, I considered what it was like before and after Cobb’s untimely murder. These flash fictions became a way for me to explore emotion, reaction, pain and consider who was truly the villain. You’d be surprised by who has murder in mind, and readers like surprises. It’s all in the ‘why’.

The Day After by Charli Mills

“I’m not ready for this.” Sarah had spent the long night alone at the sod house, scrubbing congealed blood from her hair. The stained dress she burned in the woodstove. Several Pony Express riders came by to convince her leave on the morning stage to Denver. Hickok was not one of them.

Leroy settled a trunk with her belongings in the back of the buckboard. “It’s best you come with me, Sarah. Emotions are running hot.”

“Cobb?”

“He’s dead.”

“I know. But…a funeral?”

“He’s already in the ground.”

Sarah’s scalp itched. Triggers pulled in haste left no mourning time.

###

Now to the contest! Write a flash fiction in 109 words, no more, no less and weave a murderous vibe through an every-day setting, either in thought or deed.

Submission Guidelines:

  1. Submit your entry using the Contact Form below.
  2. 109 words, no more, no less, will be counted exactly. Title excluded.
  3. Weave a murderous vibe through an every-day setting, either in thought or deed.
  4. Add your name and email address, but please note, judging will be blind.
  5. Deadline for submission is 11:59 EST Tuesday, 31 October. Any entries received after this date will be disqualified.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED. WINNER ANNOUNCED DECEMBER 19.

CHALLENGE OPTION: If you don’t feel up to entering a contest, please feel free to respond to this in the comments as a prompt challenge. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

Judging

Go where the flow takes you, with bonus points for a twist that shocks the judges:

Mike Matthews, sound-boarder, proof-reader and husband extraordinaire; Hugh Roberts, friend, author and blogger with a deliciously dark flair for short stories; and me, Sherri Matthews.

We can’t wait to read your entries.  Have fun but don’t forget to watch your back: you never know who might be lurking in the shadows at the Rodeo.

NB: As providence would have it, I am in the throes of our house move this week. Huge apologies for my lateness in replying to comments, but I will return before the 31 October deadline.  Many thanks to Charli and Hugh for holding down the fort in the meantime.  

Next up: The Ultimate Flash Fiction (TUFF) by Charli Mills on Tuesday, October 31.

Announcement of Winner

Winner will be announced at Summerhouse and  Carrot Ranch on December 19.

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #6

Bucking Bull Go-Round

By D. Avery

Luck of the Draw, Resilience of the Rider

Bull riders are “today’s gladiators,” willing to risk injury and death for their ride to fame. Can you imagine straddling an angry, snorting 1800-pound animal that wants nothing more than to shake you off and perhaps gore and trample you, too? What must it be like to prepare for that, to face down fear as you approach the chute and settle atop this beast that you will dance with in the arena? What are people’s motivations to confront such a challenge, to set upon it and not only hang on for dear life, but to ride it with as much grace and finesse as possible, showing courage and skill in equal measure? Carrot Ranch’s Bucking Bull Go-Round event is a flash fiction approximation of rodeo’s most dangerous event, bull riding.

At the Professional Bull Riders’ (PBR) website, a bull ride is defined as

A contest of strength, balance, endurance, and effort between the world’s best bull riders and the world’s best bucking bulls. A rider must ride for 8 seconds with one hand in the bull rope and one in the air in order to earn a score. The clock starts when the bull’s shoulder or hip breaks the plane of the gate. It stops when the rider’s hand comes out of the rope – voluntarily or not.”

For the Bucking Bull Go-Round, contestants must first draw their bull:

  1. Enter for a prompt no later than 11:59 pm Friday, EST, October 27.
  2. Entrants will find out what prompt they drew on 12:01 am (EST) Saturday, Oct. 28 on the Flash Fiction Rodeo Event #6 post (this post).
  3. Then the clock starts, with contestant having until 11:59 pm Tuesday, October 31 to enter their stories, which must be in response to the prompt and include their own two unique prompt words, which are actual bull names from professional bull riders’ circuit.

The PBR also states:

The clock also stops if the Rider touches himself, the bull, or the ground with his free arm during the 8 second ride.”

To reflect the no touching rule in this event, you will show your hat in the air by sticking to fiction. Don’t even narrate in first person. While only the writer knows where a story idea germinates, your response should not be any form or function of non-fiction.

The PBR awards scores to both bull and rider.

A bull is judged on his athleticism and difficulty to ride. This takes into account spin (right or left), direction changes (movement forward and backward or side to side), kick in the back end, drop in the front, and body rolls. A body roll occurs when a bull is in the air and kicks either his hind feet or all four feet to the side. The more of these characteristics a bull displays during a ride, the higher the degree of difficulty.”

Your bull is your prompt words, so it is important that writers are aware of how bulls are scored so that they can enhance their own scores. The prompt words are each different and have their own inherent difficulties. It will be up to the writers to demonstrate these moves and their control of the prompt. In this event, the bull is not scored, but a high scoring story includes rolls and pitches, kicks and lunges, or changes of direction, based on the prompt words, even as the writing remains fluid and centered.

“A rider is judged on how in control he is during the ride. This takes into account how well he matches and counters the bull’s moves, how centered he is and how fluid his movement is during the bull ride.  Extra points may be awarded for style, such as spurring (marking out the bull; the rider lifts his legs up by the shoulders of the bull and returns them) which demonstrates complete control.”

In this event style is closely linked with control. Style is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. Style is when the rider has mastered the moves of the bull and now is showing moves of her own. Style is when the whole ride looks easy and smooth.

So that, with a lot of borrowing from the Professional Bull Riders’ Association, is a definition of an actual bull ride and judging. Actual life can also be fraught with bucking snorting challenges and bone jarring kicks and twists. Perhaps you have faced your own trials and dangers in other arenas, have already experienced eight-second eternities that would either break you or make you. In this event, just as in bull riding, just as in life, you may or may not feel that you got a good draw, but like the professional bull riders, you will draw on your skills and experience to steady your nerves and meet the challenge. Because in life, and in fiction, meeting challenge and facing fear aren’t chosen so much as lived, confronted as responsibility, obligation, necessity, and even possibility. What has been your toughest ride? Take inspiration from those moments or situations that make you hold on and dig in despite an uncertain outcome, where no matter how your ride ends, you get cowpoke credit just for putting your butt down on the bull’s back. Draw one of these bull names and work it into a flash fiction that shows challenge and daring.

Submission information

CONTESTANTS MUST COMPLETE 2-STEPS:

FIRST: enter name and email no later than 11:59 pm (EST) Friday, Oct. 27 to draw a prompt. If you missed the contest, you can take the challenge with unclaimed Bull Names (see list). NOW CLOSED.

BULLS & RIDERS (WRITERS) POSTED:

# Writer Bull
19 Etol Bagam Snake Eater
32 D. Avery God’s Gift
10 Charli Mills Lip Tricks
28 Bill Engleson Uncle Charlie
31 Diana Nagai No Refund
25 Jeanine Western Wishes
15 Susan Budig Poison Ivy
34 Lisa @The Meaning of Me Beer Goggles
17 FloridaBorne Chocolate Thunder
5 Frank Hubeny Perfect Storm
29 Judy E Martin Big City
38 Irene Waters Free Loader
14 Geoff Le Pard Two Telegrams
35 Khadija Chunky Monkey
16 Kim Blades Crystal Deal
4 Hugh Roberts Bad Rumor
2 Chris Mills Squirt Gun
27 Norah Colvin Fairy Tattoo
30 JulesPaige Drop Zone
33 Christina Steiner Perfect Poison
24 Colleen Chesebro Pearl Harbor
20 Theresa Gober Pork Chop
26 Jillian Green DiGiacomo Ugly Time
6 Liz H Houdini magic
13 jackschuyler High Tide
3 Bobby Fairfield Yellow Jacket
8 Kati MacArthur Cowtown Cartel
37 Kerry E. B. Black Law Dog
12 Michael Acid Rain
36 Nancy Beach After Party
1 Elliot Lyngreen Young Gun
9 Deborah Lee Sleeping Deacon
39 Robbie Cheadle Bad Medicine
23 Michelle Buck Final Fantasy
11 Joe Owens Maze Runner
52 Ritu Bhathal War Dance
47 Ann Edall-Robson Blueberry Wine
44 D. Wallace Peach Voodoo Child
18 FOR CHALLENGERS Wild Onion
40 FOR CHALLENGERS Crash Scene
41 FOR CHALLENGERS Cat-man Do
42 FOR CHALLENGERS Panic Attack
21 FOR CHALLENGERS Pandora’s Box
7 FOR CHALLENGERS Trick Treat
22 FOR CHALLENGERS Shiver Shake

SECOND: use the prompt assigned to complete the contest by 11:59 pm October 31.

Entrants must use form in this post to enter their stories. READ THE RULES. It’s more than using your Bull’s Name and the rules explain how to use the name.

CONTEST NOW CLOSED. WINNER ANNOUNCED DECEMBER 12.

The Rules

  1. Must enter your name to draw a prompt by 11:59 pm (EST) Friday, Oct. 27.
  2. Stories are to be 107 words in long in eight sentences.
  3. Stories are to include the two words drawn as your prompt (you may change the order of the words and they do not need to be adjacent).
  4. Write a fictional story that involves facing a challenge or fear.
  5. Stories are to be fiction only; no personal narrative, memoir, or non-fiction of any persuasion. Spur on a story!
  6. Go where the prompts lead, or buck, or twist. Hang on to your hat!
  7. Enter completed flash fiction for the Bucking Bull Go-Round by by 11:59 pm October 31.

 CHALLENGE OPTION: If you don’t feel up to entering a contest please feel free to respond to the challenge in the comments section of this post: BULL NAMES POSTED SAT. OCT. 28. You can pick from the list for the challenge. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

Judging by Nurse Crotchett, Ms. Critchley and D. Avery, all wild readers from the East.

Judging Criteria

  1. Word and sentence count; 107 words, 8 sentences
  2. Control; Story reveals effective moves based on the prompt words, even as the writing remains fluid and centered on the prompt theme
  3. Style; Deft handling of prompts, smooth writing, effective use of story devices.

Next up: Murderous Musings! by Sherri Matthews on Thursday, October 26.

Announcement of Winners

Winners will be announced on Carrot Ranch on December 12, 2017.

About Carrot Ranch

Carrot Ranch is a literary community committed to providing all writers access to literary art regardless of backgrounds, genres, goals and locations. Common ground is found through the writing, reading and discussion of flash fiction. The weekly online flash fiction challenges promote community through process, craft and exploration, and regular participants form a literary group called The Congress of Rough Writers. Their first anthology, Vol. 1 publishes in 2017. Carrot Ranch offers an adult-learning program called Wrangling Words, available to all communities where Rough Writers reside.

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #5

9X11 Twitterflash

By C. Jai Ferry

We’ve Passed the Halfway Mark!

We’ve made it to Challenge #5, and we’re still alive and writing, so for this challenge, let’s see how you do with some rather unnatural constraints.

Carrot Ranch writers are used to the challenges inherent in writing a 99-word story. Flash fiction requires a delicate balance between brevity of words and richness of story. Becky Tuch at The Review Review offers the following perspective on flash fiction:

Part poetry, part narrative, flash fiction—also known as sudden fiction, micro fiction, short short stories, and quick fiction—is a genre that is deceptively complex. […] Distilling experience into a few pages or, in some cases a few paragraphs, forces writers to pay close attention to every loaded conversation, every cruel action, every tender gesture, and every last syllable in every single word.

[The link above also offers some great insights from experts in flash fiction on how to write these stories]

The current challenge embraces the idea that every word matters by using a medium where every character matters: Twitter. Twitter gives you just 140 characters to convey your message (unless you’re one of the lucky few to have been granted the new 280-character limit), but of course adding hashtags (e.g., #FFRodeo) to enable people to find your tweets limits the number of characters even further.

The Challenge: #Twitterflash

In this challenge, you are tasked with writing a complete 99-word story using Twitter. The story—real or imagined (or anywhere in between)—can be on any topic and in any genre, as long as it is exactly 99 words (not including a title, if you choose to use one). Easy peasy, right?

Not so fast…

We do have some additional parameters:

  • Every story must be made up of 11 sentences of exactly 9 words each.
  • Each individual sentence should be tweeted, one at a time, for a total of 11 tweets (plus one tweet with the title, if you choose to use one).
  • Just to add some kick to the rodeo, every tweet must include two hashtags: #FFRodeo and #Twitterflash

Social media has become a finicky friend for the modern-day writer, and we hope you use this challenge to generate engagement with and amongst your followers and fellow writers. Although the judging will not consider the number of likes/retweets you generate (#itsnotapopularitycontest), we will be looking at how effectively you combine your wordsmithing skills with the Twitter platform—namely, we want every tweet to be truly tweet-worthy*. #MakeEveryWordCount!

*How the judges define tweet-worthy: Does the tweet make you pause (in a good “hey-this-is-cool” way)? Would you be curious? Would you want to read more? Would you retweet it? Would you follow the author in Twitter based only on this tweet? Would you read other (past) tweets by this author?

You’ve got 10 whole days to work on this challenge, which ends on Sunday, October 29 at 11:59 pm EST. Not a tweeter yet? Now’s your chance to join Twitter and gain some friendly and supportive followers. Not convinced? You can take this as a challenge instead and forgo the Twitter platform.

The Rules (#pleasebearwithus)

  1. To participate, start tweeting your story.
  2. The complete story must be exactly 99 words (not counting the title): 11 sentences with 9 words in each sentence (from first word to concluding punctuation mark, expressed or implied).
  3. Every tweeted sentence of the story must include both #FFRodeo and #Twitterflash in the body of the tweet. Additional hashtags can be included, space permitting.
  4. Sentences cannot be changed or adjusted once tweeted (i.e., no do-overs), but feel free to get feedback on where your story should go next from followers, friends, postal workers, your half-sister’s ex-in-laws’ dog trainer… Twitter is social media, so #besocial and #havefun.
  5. Because the Twitter timestamp only shows hour/minutes, please wait at least two minutes between each tweet (#veryimportantrule) to ensure that the judges read your story in the correct order (note rule 6 for exceptions). Other than the 2-minute rule, sentences can be tweeted in a short time span or spread out however the author prefers within the challenge timeframe.
  6. The numbering of sentences within the tweets is not required, but if you have enough free characters, please number your sentences (#savethejudgessanity). If numbering is included in every one of your tweeted sentences, you can ignore rule 5.
  7. Abbreviated words (e.g., 2 for to, bc for because) can be used as long as the meaning remains clear; these words still count toward the 9-word requirement.
  8. Entrants are encouraged to include any punctuation necessary for clarity; punctuation can be omitted to save Twitter characters if necessary, but the meaning must remain clear to judges/readers.
  9. Sentences must be in the actual tweet, not in a graphic attached to the tweet. Of course, feel free to attach graphics to any of your tweets because we humans like eye candy, but the judges will only consider the text within the actual tweet.
  10. Do not attach any “buy links” (i.e., links to places where people can buy your work) to the 11 sentences tweeted for the story, but feel free to share such links outside the challenge parameters (e.g., sharing buy links as a twelfth tweet for people who have enjoyed your challenge writing). #wesupportwriters
  11. Although there are absolutely no theme or genre restrictions, Twitter is a public forum, so tweet accordingly. Please write responsibly. We don’t want anyone to get banned (or worse) from Twitter. #dontwakethetrolls
  12. Multiple entries are allowed, but the entrant is responsible for ensuring that multiple entries are clearly marked as such.
  13. The nature of this challenge means that judging will not be completely blind. That being said, all entries will be copied in their entirety (as a story) into a master list and stripped of identifying information before being shared among the judges for evaluation purposes.
  14. Judges (and fellow Carrot Ranch writers and wranglers) may like/retweet your sentences and stories. These interactions are purely promotional and social in nature and in no way indicate, suggest, or imply that the judges endorse your story as a winning story. Judging will not begin until after the submission window closes.
  15. All decisions by the judges are final, and neither the judges nor anyone associated with Carrot Ranch are responsible for what happens on Twitter, including but not limited to delays, data errors, missing tweets, and trolls.
  16. Finally, if you’ve been bestowed with the new 280-character limit on Twitter, we kindly ask that you use only 140 characters for this challenge. #pleaseandthankyou

 CHALLENGE OPTION: If you don’t feel up to entering a contest or signing up for Twitter, please feel free to respond to the challenge in the comments section of this post: 11 sentences of 9 words each for a 99-word story. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

Judging Criteria

  1. Stories include exactly 11 nine-word sentences. If judges disagree on the number of words included, Microsoft Word will be used as the final word count.
  2. All 11 tweets per story include both hashtags (#FFRodeo #Twitterflash) and are tweeted before the deadline.
  3. Stories include a complete arc (i.e., beginning, middle, and end).
  4. Individual sentences are tweet-worthy and contribute to the story as a whole in a meaningful way.

 About the Judges

  1. C. Jai Ferry has published several collections of short stories. Her narrators are often described as brutally honest and likely needing some form of professional help.
  2. Mardra Sikora (#Twitterguru) is an author, speaker, and advocate who believes in the power of words and uses both fiction and non-fiction to advocate for and with her adult son, Marcus.
  3. Lisa Kovanda writes fiction and non-fiction books, stories, and screenplays in urban fantasy, horror, paranormal, historical, and biographical genres. She is also a paranormal investigator.

Next up: Buckin’ Bull Go-Round by D. Avery on Tuesday, October 24.

Announcement of Winners

Winners will be announced on Twitter and Carrot Ranch on December 5, 2017.

About Carrot Ranch

Carrot Ranch is a literary community committed to providing all writers access to literary art regardless of backgrounds, genres, goals and locations. Common ground is found through the writing, reading and discussion of flash fiction. The weekly online flash fiction challenges promote community through process, craft and exploration, and regular participants form a literary group called The Congress of Rough Writers. Their first anthology, Vol. 1 publishes in 2017. Carrot Ranch offers an adult-learning program called Wrangling Words, available to all communities where Rough Writers reside.

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Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #4

Scars

By Irene Waters

Welcome to Contest #4 of the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo. This competition is free to enter and carries a cash prize of $25 for first place. Winning submissions will automatically be forwarded to the All-Around Rodeo Winner which carries an additional cash prize of $50. Naturally you can’t have a competition without rules and as each competition leader has devised their own rules I suggest that you read those for this competition prior to submitting your piece. The rules follow the competition topic.

 

The Topic

As a memoir writer and reader I am very aware that it is the situations in life that have a massive impact on the memoirist, those events which leave scars, whether physical or emotional, that are the chosen part of the life to be relayed. As a flash fiction writer delving into fiction, a genre with which I have not previously attempted, I became aware that we draw from real life to write fiction as well as memoir. The more observant we are as writers the greater our ability to convince our readers of the authenticity of our story. The more we remember from our own life informs our writing. In his book, Misery, Stephen King wrote,

“Writers remember everything…especially the hurts. Strip a writer to the buff, point to the scars, and he’ll tell you the story of each small one. From the big ones you get novels. A little talent is a nice thing to have if you want to be a writer, but the only real requirement is the ability to remember the story of every scar.”

In a double length Carrot Ranch flash, or 2 chapters of 99-words each (198 words total), tell a story that shows a scar. It can be memoir, other forms of creative non-fiction,  any genre of fiction or a BOTS (based on a true story).

 

The Rules

  1. Submit using the form below.
  2. Length of entry to be 198 words measured on Microsoft Word or wordcounter.net. Title is not counted in word length. Please be sure of your word count. Entries exceeding the word limits will be disqualified
  3. Flash is considered to be a complete story i.e. has a beginning, a middle and an end. This is a judging criteria.
  4. Entries must be received no later than 11:59 pm EST October 26.
  5. Your entry must be original and in English.
  6. The Judges rulings are final.

 

CONTEST #4 NOW CLOSED. WINNER ANNOUNCED NOVEMBER 28.

CHALLENGE OPTION: If you don’t feel up to entering a contest, please feel free to respond to this in the comments as a prompt challenge. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.

 

Judging Criteria

  1. Complete story and structure
  2. Story Length
  3. Relevancy to prompt
  4. Grammar (spelling, tense, punctuation). Allowance will be made for differences in the language styles between countries and for the author to show her own voice.
  5. The Story

 

Judges

Irene Waters blogs at Reflections and Nightmares.

Angie Oakley blogs at Spry and Retiring.

Ellen Stomqvist is an avid reader.

More information about the judges can be seen here: for Angie and Irene.

Contest #4 Leader: Irene Water. For a full line-up of contests, see Events. Next up: 9×11 Twitterflash by  C. Jai Ferry on Thursday, October 19.

 

Announcement of Winner

Winners will be announced on Irene Waters website and Carrot Ranch website on the November 28, 2017.

 

About Carrot Ranch

Carrot Ranch is a literary community committed to providing all writers access to literary art regardless of backgrounds, genres, goals and locations. Common ground is found through the writing, reading and discussion of flash fiction. The weekly online flash fiction challenges promote community through process, craft and exploration, and regular participants form a literary group called The Congress of Rough Writers. Their first anthology, Vol. 1 publishes in 2017. Carrot Ranch offers an adult-learning program called Wrangling Words, available to all communities where Rough Writers reside.

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