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January 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

January 14Back in the early 70s the National Anthem made me sit tall in the saddle despite how small I was. My white-gloved hand pressed over my heart and  my other kept a firm hold on rawhide reins. The horse I rode was a sorrel named Gayfox and he was 17 hands tall. I was five years old. Unlike the cowboys I rode with, I kept my brown felt Stetson on my head because I was a girl and girls didn’t remove their hats for the flag.

The flag snapped as the Bolado Park Rodeo Queen cantered her horse in sweeping circles in the arena where my father rode bulls and his father competed in the unique buckaroo figure-eight roping. Some uncles would milk wild cows for comic relief and at last I’d get my chance to tie a goat. I only have the fuzzy snapshots of memory, but clearly I remember the gloves, the smell of horses and the Anthem. It might have looked like this:

Fast forward and I’m 21 years old and have accepted my first newspaper job as a beat reporter. Because I needed a non-buckaroo wardrobe, I sold my last horse, Scarlett the Harlot. I didn’t name her. I bought her from a preacher-man who didn’t have the ability to train her, and she was a pedigreed American Quarter Horse with cutting futurity potential. I chose to follow my dream to be a writer and I left behind my buckaroo life.

A new life ensued: babies and ballet, college and cross country, work and gymnastics. Freelance writing. Business communications. Marketing. Editing. Copy writing. Busy times. And the season has passed. I’ve returned west to revive dreams of novels that came to me when my arms were full of babies or my mind cluttered with work.

Somehow the buckaroo roots, the professional pen and the lingering novels in my head united as Carrot Ranch. It came to me as a sleeping dream. I woke up and wrote down that I was going to have my own business marketing, writing and educating. I set up Carrot Ranch based on a vision as fuzzy as those rodeo memories, but each time I came to it I worked on goals.

You probably don’t know my original website–it was a consulting-based business card. Last year, when I did a similar round of reflection and recalculating, I went literary. It was a thrill. I kept some pages so that I’d have landing spots for consulting business, but the truth is I land clients over the phone. Thus my strategies for that work has shifted and my niche has narrowed.

So last year I set a goal to find writers who would want to participate in weekly literary activities–writing, reading and discussing. I had no one in mind, but I wanted to rekindle that community feeling I experienced in college, workshops and in writing groups. I wanted to see if constraints still sparked my creative battery. I worked out my idea and developed a plan and process.

It worked. The flash fiction challenges have created authentic engagement. The quality of writing and the input has been rewarding full circle. My creativity has deepened and I’ve learned from so many other talented writers. Each weekly compilation is joy to read. We have created something real here.

Carrot Ranch is literary. My next goals have to do with building a readership base. Carrot Ranch will be a place to bring readers with exciting new content weekly and introductions to the writers behind the stories. I’ve even crafted a page listing books by the writers who gather here (under construction).

I hope the Rough Writers find this beneficial as much as the readers. I hope we can collaborate and expand some of the gems that reside in our archives. I hope this really feels like a literary community where writers can explore and create and readers can discover and relate.

A note about the new design, both Carrot Ranch and the Congress of the Rough Writers logos. A huge and heartfelt expression of gratitude goes to honorary Rough Writer, Ann Rauvola. Ann is a talented professional and I originally her met online through viewing her work. We both lived in Minneapolis and I brought her my employer’s publication for a redesign. She’s graciously worked with me ever since on This is Living Naturally, earning the publication three top national awards.

My Carrot Ranch dream, originally jotted down in a notebook was something I shared with Ann. She’s patiently waited for me to realize what it was to be–a literary community–and has tirelessly sought fonts and colors and feedback to develop the logos. She even held my hand today as I frittered with Twitter to get the banner to fit. I feel like that Rodeo Queen, snapping the banner of Carrot Ranch as we all cheer, ready for the next show to start.

First, note that this redesign and new pages is a “soft launch.” That means no promotion yet. First, I have glitches to work out including the bio page and its structure. I also discovered that I compressed the bio photos incorrectly and they uploaded all squishy. At least I figured out how to redo them.

The Bunkhouse Bookstore will link to books that the Rough Writers & Friends have authored. If you are in an anthology, cookbook or some other compilation, send me your Amazon book links. If there are readers among our literary community with books worthy of listing, shoot me a recommendation. It’s intended for emerging or fresh (less than 5 books) authors with whom we know through the circles of this group.

A collaboration poll is listed on its own page (if I’ve figured it out; if not it will say under construction). This project has greatly tested my WP abilities. I feel as though the past two weeks has been one rodeo ride after another. Still tweaks to make.

So let’s get this wild west show on the road Rough Writers! I can thank newly inducted Rough Writer, Sarah Unsicker, for pointing out that writing flash is writing a moment. Thus the new challenge.

January 14, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a life span. It can a life of a person  as if flashing by or the life of a honey bee. What key elements would show a lifetime in brevity? Does it add to a character’s development or create tension? What is the emotion or is it void?

Respond by January 13, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here.

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Named by Charli Mills

The seed endured frozen ground. When the thaw brought moisture, the seed swelled, pregnant with life. A bud born in the dark sought the light. Pushing against obstacles like million-year old stones and pasture sod and moss, gasping it emerged. Rain wet the bud, sun coaxed it to grow tall. Beneath a circling red-tailed hawk in a blue sky, the bud unfolded white petals. The horse snorted at it, then press a velvet nose to the grass and munched. The day the children plucked the seed grown up, they shouted its name in delight, “Mama! A daisy for you!”