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One of the best ways to have fun while learning, or to learn while having fun, is by playing board games. Playing games together as a family helps to bond family relationships. Adjustments can be made to suit most numbers and ages and rules can be adapted to suit your purposes. While the main thing is to have fun together, there is a lot of learning going on too.
One of the greatest benefits of playing board games is the development of social skills.
Some of the social skills children learn include:
Getting along and taking turns
Playing fair — accept the roll (if dice are used) or draw (if cards are used) for example, and respond accordingly: don’t try to pretend it wasn’t a “proper” roll (e.g. dropped); or attempt to change the count by skipping or counting twice on a square.
Abiding by rules — all games have rules. For games to work, the rules need to be followed by everyone. That’s not to say that rules can’t be adjusted to suit the ages and abilities of the player, but there needs to be agreement, and it never works if someone just decides to change a rule mid-game to benefit themselves.
Resilience — stay strong and focused and don’t crumple with repeated setbacks: okay, so you’ve been swallowed by this same snake three times now; next time you just might overcome it.
Persistence — keep going: you might roll a succession of small numbers but each moves you closer to the goal.
Humour and fun — always look for the light side: it is just a game after all.
Being a gracious winner and loser — while winning usually feels good, it’s not the winning that matters, it’s how you play the game that matters most.
Depending on the game you play, children may also be developing their skills with literacy and numeracy, or even adding to their store of general knowledge.
A plethora of games are available – new ones and old favourites. Games can often be picked up cheaply at second hand stores or dollar shops. They can also be home made. I have made some that can be downloaded and printed from my readilearn website for just a few dollars each. You can check them out here.
As a child I used to have fun making up games to play with my brothers and sisters. As a parent, I enjoyed making up games with my children. In fact, the Trick or Treat Halloween Game is based on one my daughter and I made together when she was about six or seven.
Why not encourage your children to make up their own games too, or make them up together?
Hundreds of different games of all varieties are available. Those listed below are just some of my favourites that are suitable for the 5 – 8 age group and older. I haven’t even touched on some of the more recent games, of which many more are produced each year.
Alongside some of the games, I’ve listed skills, in addition to the social skills noted above, that children may employ when playing the game.
Please let us know some of your favourite games in the comments.
No equipment necessary
Games like I spy, I’m thinking of or Guess my number require no equipment and can be played anywhere, anytime. These games, while not board games, are good for car trips or waiting times and are also great for combating boredom.
I spy can be played using a beginning letter, for example I spy something beginning with ‘t’; a colour, for example I spy something that is orange; or a shape, for example I spy something that is round like a circle; or by a use or feature, for example, I spy something that has legs.
In I’m thinking of one person decides on a secret person, animal or thing, for example an elephant. The other players ask questions to find out what the secret is. The questions can only be answered with yes or no, for example: Is it living? Does it live on the land? Can it fly?
In Guess my number players try to guess a secret number by asking questions. The questions may only be answered by yes or no, for example Is it bigger than, Is it smaller than, Is it odd? Is it even?
Pencil and paper
If you don’t have a board game handy, but you do have pencil and paper, you can play games like:
Noughts and crosses
Dots and dashes
Word search (e.g. find all the little words you can using the letters in ‘ornithorhynchus’)
I don’t think any of these require an explanation. I’ve put them here mainly as a reminder. However, please let me know in the comments if you would like an explanation.
Snakes and Ladders (subitising dots on the dice, counting by ones, one to one correspondence, recognising numbers to 100)
Ludo (subitising dots on the dice, counting by ones, one to one correspondence, strategy)
Chinese Checkers (strategy, planning ahead)
Draughts (strategy, planning ahead)
Scrabble (recognition of letters and words, spelling words, counting score)
*Cluedo (asking questions, recording pertinent information, deductive reasoning, problem solving, planning ahead)
Monopoly (subitising numbers on dice, counting by ones, counting money, reading, comparing amounts of money, following directions, planning, making decisions)
Connect 4 (strategy, planning ahead)
Pass the Pigs (counting, adding to 100, planning, strategy)
Yahtzee (chance, patterns of dice, counting, making decisions, strategy)
Card games are also fun; e.g.
Games with a regular pack of cards
Strip Jack Naked (also called Beggar my Neighbour)
Once again, I don’t think these games require an explanation but please ask in the comments if you would like any additional information.
Games with their own sets of cards
UNO (matching colours and numbers, understanding special cards)
5 Alive (adding numbers to total 21, understanding special cards)
And of course, don’t forget the jigsaw puzzles which help children relate details to the big picture, examine details, and develop knowledge of space and shape awareness.
I hope my brief list has inspired you to open that cupboard and bring out all those old games gathering dust. I hope it has reminded you of fun you had playing games as a child, or, if you didn’t play as a child, bring out the child within to play now.
*I mentioned changing the rules to suit your players and situation. I thought I’d tell you some ways we changed the rules of Cluedo to suit us playing as an intergenerational family. All the players agreed to the changes, acknowledging that the changes would streamline the game and make it more enjoyable.
When we first introduced the game to the younger children, they played as partners alongside an adult so they could learn what was required and pick up some strategy hints for recording information.
We found it tedious having to roll the dice to move from room to room, only to be called back into another room and away from where we wanted to go. First, we eliminated use of the dice, agreeing that we could simply move to whichever room we wanted to be in. Eventually, we streamlined even further so that just the token player we were investigating and the weapon appeared in the room. This made it easy for everyone to see what was being asked and avoided having to repeat multiple times. It made no difference to the fairness or the outcome but the game moved more quickly and was more enjoyable.
Adjustments can be made to almost every game you play to make them more inclusive.
Every day is a good day for playing games, but they may be even more important during our days when outings are restricted.
I’m certain some of the superheroes in this video will be combating boredom with board games. Enjoy!
Until next time, Norah
Norah Colvin is a lifelong learner and passionate educator. She believes in the power of education to change lives and is committed to raising awareness of ways to support and enhance learning.
Norah has spent her life learning and thinking about how children learn and how best to support their learning. Her own observations as learner, parent and teacher have enhanced understandings developed in both formal and informal study situations.
She believes strongly in the need for learning to be self-initiated, directed and motivated, and the importance of timely and appropriate support for learners on their individual journeys.
While no longer working with children in a school setting, Norah continues to share her passion for education through writing.
Kids and learning are two things close to my heart. I have always been an advocate for education and learning, especially for young children, for that’s where it all starts. Parents are their children’s first and most important teachers and, although they may share responsibility in partnership with others, they never fully relinquish that position.
I have been a teacher all my life (my mum always said I was good at teaching my younger siblings how to get up to mischief) with involvement in some form of education since earning my first teacher qualifications after leaving school. Probably the only thing I wanted as much as being a teacher was to be a writer. Now I am fortunate to combine both.
I write two blogs, both with an educational focus, and freelance for other educational publishers. My ultimate aim is to be a published author of children’s stories. My first eponymous blog is the one through which I met Charli and engage with The Carrot Ranch. The second is part of a website for which I write teaching resources to support teachers of children in their first three years of school.
Over the years I have written numerous posts that promote early learning with suggestions of how parents can support their children’s learning from birth (or earlier). Having supervised my daughter’s education at home until she was nine, I have some sense of what parents are experiencing now as they juggle their new responsibility for ‘schooling’ their children with other ongoing responsibilities.
I have always promoted education as something different from schooling and I believe that parents would be wise to focus on their children’s learning, as opposed to ‘schooling’ during these different days. Many activities that form part of everyday routines are rich in opportunities for learning and, if we ensure children are interested and engaged, they will be learning. My belief is that we all, parents, teachers (and especially those ‘in charge’ of teachers) need to lighten up and reduce stress all round in these circumstances. The children will survive. They will learn. That’s what they were born to do.
If you would like to check out some of my suggestions, you could read these posts:
In this post, I want to share with you some online resources that you may find useful in supporting your children’s learning. Unless otherwise stated, the links lead to free information and resources and are suited for children up to about 8 years of age. I have avoided school-type resources in favour of those with more general appeal for a family to engage in at home. However, there is so much good stuff available for parents and children, I could not include them all. If you have favourite sites you use with your children at home, please add them in the comments.
Supporting young learners from birth
The Australian Literacy Educators Association has 27 Little People’s Literacy Learning Modules. They are organised around themes and each is packed with suggestions for parents to implement with their young children at home.
Talking is Teaching (US) is a website that supports parents support their children’s learning from birth. The importance of talking with children, reading to them, and singing with them is stressed and encouraged. There are many online and downloadable resources with explicit suggestions for parents to encourage their children’s development in language, thinking, maths, science, art and social-emotional skills. A great resource for parents of young children from birth, or earlier.
Books, stories and poetry
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has put together a great collection by authors and illustrators. There are book readings, audiobooks and eBooks, art lessons, activities and lots of other fun bookish things.
You can doodle along with Mo Willems and his Lunch Doodles. If you enjoy Mo Willems’s books and artwork as much as I do, you’ll love these doodle sessions.
Vooks (US) is a child-friendly ad-free streaming library of animated children books. For less than the cost of one book per month, you have access to dozens of animated stories, many of which have lesson notes and ideas for parents. (This site requires payment though offers a free trial for parents and a year free for teachers.)
The Oxford Owl for Home (UK) focuses on learning for children from 3 to 11 years of age and includes eBooks, videos of storytelling and reading (including by Julia Donaldson) and free activities for developing skills in reading and maths. The books and activities are organised according to their suitability for different age groups. Access to the site is free though registration is required for some activities.
John-John Dot com (Australia) is a video channel on which teacher John-John reads picture books.
Goodnight with Dolly Dolly Parton (US) reads a story from the Imagination Library every day for ten weeks.
Kids News (Australia) has a wealth of up-to-date news of interest to children. It covers a wide range of topics and includes suggestions of other things kids might enjoy such as book clubs to join and competitions to enter. The news articles contain video links and exercises for discussion and comprehension. To assist teachers and parents of students who are learning at home, it provides daily activities for children from age 4 to 14.
Scholastic has many free learn-at-home projects from PreK to year 9 with books (fact and fiction) to read, videos to watch and projects to do. There is something to interest every kid.
If you want to get involved in citizen science projects that advance scientific knowledge, there are plenty of those to become involved in, depending on your interests.
If you live in Australia or New Zealand, you can help track the spread of influenza and Covid-19 by joining Flutracking.
If it’s natural phenomena you are interested in, join iNaturalist to record your observations of nature and share them with fellow naturalists. Join hundreds of thousands of other naturalists and projects around the world.
There are over 50 projects you can join in from home with Zooniverse, including space exploration like this one:
Kathleen Morris (Australia), a primary tech teacher and host of the Student Blogging Challenge, has published a collection of 20 maths games in a free eBook which you can download from her website here. Like me, Kathleen is not a fan of worksheets and these games are easy to play with resources and equipment you probably already have at home.
While it may not be possible for you to physically visit a museum this year, many museums welcome you online. Here are links to just of few of the museums you may like to visit:
You may also like to explore the Tomb of Pharaoh Ramesses VI.
The Google Arts and Culture page provides links to many art galleries with much to explore.
Zoos and animals
At Explore.org livecams you can visit animals in their natural habitat, on farms, and in zoos. You can see dogs, cats, bears, goats, manatees — there are so many different animals and environments to explore.
Just ten of the many places also live streaming animals:
True to Life Books has 15 wildlife videos taken by wildlife author and photographer Jan Latta. The aim of the videos is to educate children about endangered wildlife. Videos include tigers, sloths, meerkats, pandas and koalas.
On Google Earth, you can explore 31 National Parks of the United States. You might even find others to explore around the world also.
For those interested in space, NASA has made its image and video library available to all.
I hope you have found a few new sites to interest you and your children. Remember to share any other favourites of yours in the comments.
Until next time, Norah.
By Norah Colvin
Fairy Tales — Fractured in 99 Words
Once upon a time on a virtual ranch,
Was a whole bunch of writers wanting a chance
To fracture a tale in no more and no less
Than 99 words to show who was the best.
The judges were ready, no red pen in sight
And sent out the prompt for writers to write.
In trickled stories one after one
Till time was up and the contest was done.
The judges then read them and read them some more
The stories that numbered ten times four.
They pondered, selected and collaborated
Till agreement was reached on the #1 rated.
Although many traditional fairy tales begin with ‘Once upon a time’ and conclude with ‘they lived happily ever after’, only one of the stories began, and only two ended in the traditional way (and not one incorporated both). I guess why waste words when you’ve got only 99 with which to play.
The criteria we set wasn’t necessarily easy: to retell a traditional fairy tale with a twist. We said it must include food and we must be able to recognise the story it was based on—all in 99 words.
Overall, responses were excellent with unexpected twists and turns and different interpretations of the original stories, some humorous, some a little dark. Only two stories were disqualified on the word count and two more for not being recognisable fairy tales. All others fitted the criteria giving us judges a tough job to select just one winner.
We were interested to see that a few fairy tales appeared in stories more often than others. Perhaps this was due in part to the requirement to write a recognisable tale as well as to include food in the story. Obviously, it was easier if food was in the original.
We were also pleased to see a modern thread running through the some of the stories. In fact, one of the things we all liked about the winning story was its contemporary feel.
Of the winning story, Anne said,
“This entry excited me from the very first reading in its freshness, yet faithfulness to the original right up to the final delightful twist. The voice is crisp and the pace snappy: a fine achievement in so few words.”
“I liked the modern touches with the GPS and the pizza, and I enjoyed the hint of trouble with the young man with the wolfish smile. I also liked the twist with the young man being attracted to the pizza rather than wanting to eat gran and little red riding hood.”
I also appreciated the use of the GPS and the recognisable touch with it taking her in the wrong direction. The name Scarlett, her task, and the wolfish grin all served to make the story recognisable, and the inclusion of takeaway food completed the requirements. All these worked together to make it the winning entry. We hope you agree with us.
Drum roll, please!
In first place is:
Scarlett by Nancy Brady. Congratulations, Nancy! (Winner of $25)
It was the end of Scarlett’s long day at her new job when she got a text from her mother:
“Take dinner to Gram.”
Grabbing some food from the establishment, Scarlett then plugged Gram’s new address into her GPS and set off in her little red Bug towards The Woods Senior Living Complex.
Yet, despite this, she got lost, making a wrong turn. At a stop light, she saw a handsome young man. She asked for help. Sniffing the aroma, he smiled wolfishly, gave her directions, and then hoofed it to Gram’s for Domino’s deluxe pepperoni and sausage pizza.
Coming a close second is:
Friends of Goldilocks by Hugh W. Roberts. Congratulations, Hugh! (Winner of the ebook, When the Buzz Bombs Fell by Robbie Cheadle and Elsie Hancy Eaton)
Looking in the fridge, Goldilocks was surprised the Bear family had left milk. However, it had turned sour, so she couldn’t make herself a big bowl of porridge to get rid of her hunger pains.
This was pointless, thought Goldilocks, as she got out her mobile phone to check who else had told their Facebook friends they were away.
Sure enough, local food blogger Chris P. Bacon had informed her followers that she was on an overnight food hygiene course.
Perfect. Not only would there be plenty to eat, but Goldilocks could rob the house at the same time.
Of Friends of Goldilocks, Anne said,
I loved the contemporary feel with Facebook used as a central plot device and the subversion of the traditional tale by making Goldilocks a villain. With a few more words – or a bit more time – perhaps the flow could have been a little smoother.
I liked this story because of the modern touches too. I enjoyed the mention of a food blogger in this piece, and I like the fact that Goldie was a robber and her being in the bear’s house was part of a bigger picture with a more sinister undertone.
I liked these aspects too and loved that Goldilocks checked Facebook to see who was away from home—a good caution to anyone who is travelling. The use of the mobile phone and a food blogger bring the familiar story into the 21st century.
In third place is:
Untitled by Sam Kirk. Congratulations, Sam! (Winner of e-book, Becoming Someone by Anne Goodwin)
The wolf was hungry and needed some action. On his way, he saw a beautiful girl in a straw house.
“Let me in, or I’ll blow your house in.”
“I don’t negotiate with terrorists” – were her last words.
Next, the wolf stumbled upon a house made of sticks.
“Let me in, or I’ll blow your house in.”
“I don’t negotiate with terrorists” – were her last words.
He salivated at the thought of bacon, looking at a piggie in a brick house.
He repeated his line.
“Not on my watch” – she shot him and used his fur as a rug.
Of Sam’s story, Anne said,
Like a traditional tale, this story makes a virtue of repetition but with a surprise and humorous ending. The opening line, linking hunger with action, left me unsure whether he wanted to eat the girl or have sex with her. Perhaps it was intentional, but it didn’t set the story up for me as clearly as I’d have liked.
This story is not as unique as the first two as the pig gets the better of the wolf but the idea of turning him into a rug was most amusing. I liked the comparison of the destructive wolf with a terrorist.
What I like about this story is that it kept to the same pattern as the original story. Neither of the first two pigs was prepared, but the clever third pig was. While I don’t normally condone violence, I think this is a very fitting conclusion to the story. It took me by surprise, and I laughed. It’s good to see women standing up for themselves and against terrorism—a few good messages rolled into one short story. I think the addition of a title would give readers advance notice of what they will read, but since a title was optional, it couldn’t lose marks for that.
In addition to the three winners, from the stories we all rated highly, we each chose a story for honourable mention.
Anne’s honourable mention:
Not-so Modern Love by Liz Husebye Hartmann. Congratulations, Liz!
“WTF! You cut off your toes to fit into my glass slipper? And you cut off your heel! What were you thinking?”
“Cindy!” The two stepsisters looked at each other. “You gotta give up something if you wanna marry a prince!”
Cindy rolled her eyes, grabbed an apple, and pushed through the kitchen door. “You found my slipper?”
“We’ll see,” Flashing his perfect princely grin, he held out the sparkling shoe.
She took it and slid it on.
“Perfect fit!” he crooned. “Now, I also require a prenuptial lobotomy…”
She crunched into the apple. “You really are a jerk.”
In the traditional telling, Cinderella has a satisfying plot, but the happy-ever-after ending is ideologically unsound. I really appreciated this feminist version although, for the contest, perhaps the food is too peripheral to the story.
Robbie’s honourable mention:
Goldie’s Quest by D.G. Kaye. Congratulations, Debby!
Starving and exhausted, Goldie trudged through the forest scavenging for anything edible when she discovered the house in the woods.
Goldie rapped on the door. Curious and desperate, she tugged on the door handle, elated to find it unlocked.
The aroma of freshly cooked sauce filled her nostrils and aroused her taste buds as she spotted three bowls of pasta.
Goldie didn’t hesitate to gobble up all three bowls then headed for the couch for a nap.
Half hour later she awakened to the discomfort of her rumbling, expanding stomach.
“Oh crap,” Goldie exclaimed. “That pasta was not gluten-free!”
I like this story. I thought the usage of the food theme was very good in this particular piece and the pasta not being gluten-free and upsetting Goldie’s stomach is so modern. Everyone I know has allergies, so this is very topical and will strike a chord with a lot of people.
My honourable mention:
Untitled by Geoff Le Pard
‘Mr ‘ansel? Bad news I’m afraid.’
‘Again? Do you builders ever bring good news?’
‘In Fairyland? You’ll want a happy ending next. It’s the gingerbread cladding…’
‘Yes? Has the cost gone up?’
‘I can’t get any, even with a sack of giant’s beans. You’ll have to make do with carrot or pumpkin.’
‘No way. You heard what happened with that Ella woman?’
‘That’s the one. Her godmother turned the town’s allotment into transport. No one’s changing my house into a veggie vehicle. Where’s the gingerbread gone?’
‘It’s that caterpillar, gone for partially peckish to very hungry and…’ *shrugs
Because this story had no title, it took me a little while to see where it was going, but it all became clear eventually. I like that a variety of different fairy tales and characters have been intertwined to create a plot with a problem. The conclusion, with the inclusion of a very popular and recognisable children’s story, though not a fairy tale, is amusing.
So, thank you to all contestants. We judges had a difficult but enjoyable task in reading all your story. I’ll conclude with a statement from Anne which sums up our thoughts.
Anne Goodwin: I had the impression – and I hope I’m right – that the entrants had tremendous fun crafting these stories, testament to the fairytale genre’s enduring appeal. But I also realised that Norah’s challenge was a lot trickier than it might initially appear. Food plus a recognisable story plus a narrative arc: not so easy to create a new angle in only 99 words.
All qualifying stories entered into the contest are now collected and available to be read under the Rodeo tab Rodeo #4: Fractured Fairy Tales.
Thank you, Charli, for hosting the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo for the second year. What a fabulous event that provides an opportunity for writers everywhere to participate in the literary arts in a supportive and encouraging community. We look forward to the third Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo in 2019.
A Flash Fiction contest by Norah Colvin
Co Judges: Anne Goodwin and Robbie Cheadle
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. [READ MORE…]
For insights and tips from the contest creator, read Norah’s Post, “Once Upon a Rodeo Time.” For word count, use Microsoft Word or wordcount.net. Be aware that punctuation and word-hyphens can change your word count so run it through one of those two counters.
Norah Colvin is an Australian educator, passionate about learning and early childhood education especially. She has many years’ experience in a variety of educational roles. She currently blogs about education and learning in general at NorahColvin.com and shares teaching ideas and resources more specific to early education and the first three years of school on her website readilearn.com.au.
Connect with Norah on social media
JUDGES (read full bios at SPONSORS)
Norah’s esteemed and talented judges are Anne Goodwin and Robbie Cheadle.
Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, was published in May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger and author of over 80 published short stories. Her short story anthology, Becoming Someone, is due in November 2018. Catch up on her website or on Twitter @Annecdotist.
Robbie Cheadle 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. Catch up with Robbie on her blogs Bake and Write and Robbie’s inspiration or connect with her on Facebook @SirChocolateBooks and Twitter @bakeandwrite.
This contest exhibits a writer’s ability to entertain by taking a traditional story and adding a twist, a surprise, or a new point of view while maintaining its recognizability.
The prompt word is “food”. Why? Because food features in many traditional fairy tales; including:
- Little Red Riding Hood — the basket of goodies for Grandma
- Snow White — the poisoned apple
- Hansel and Gretel — the breadcrumb trail and the witch’s edible house
- The Gingerbread Man —I need tell you?
- Stone Soup — ditto
- The Three Billy Goats Gruff —greener pasture
- The Three Bears —porridge for breakfast
- Jack and the Beanstalk — “Fee Fi Fo Fum. I’ll grind his bones to make my bread.”
- The Little Red Hen —bread
- The Three Little Pigs —the wolf’s dinner, of course!
You do not need to start with a story that already features food, but your story must feature food in some way.
Since Anne and Robbie, as judges, are ineligible to enter the contest, I invited them to write a fractured fairy tale for this post and was delighted when they accepted the challenge.
A single bite by Anne Goodwin
“Just a bite,” she croons. “One bite won’t hurt.”
Won’t it? Drenched in chocolate and sugar-icing, there’ll be five hundred calories a forkful, at least.
“Skin and bone, you are.” She cuffs my wrist between her little finger and thumb. “Don’t upset your brother. He spent hours crafting that cake.”
Where is the boy who preferred woods to kitchens? Where is the girl who ate without fear?
“Starving yourself won’t bring back your parents. Please, Gretel, eat!”
The gingerbread house looks lovely, but smells like a trap. “Let’s not cut it, Grandma. There’s a cake competition at the church.”
The Elvin Hill by Robbie Cheadle
Throughout the feast the Goblin King watched the Elf King’s daughters. He and his two sons were to choose a wife from among them.
A delicious meal was served. He noticed that one daughter did not partake of the food. She only ate fruit and drank water. When she danced with her sisters to entertain the visitors, tiny flowers sprang up where she stepped. He could see that her magic was white and not the usual black of elves.
He selected her, and a new generation of good elves resulted from their union. It changed the course of history.
So, the ingredients your story must include (otherwise known as rules):
- Your entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit.
- It must involve a recognizable fairy tale, character or setting. Note: the term ‘fairy tale’ is used loosely for any traditional tale. You are wisest to choose a story with which the judges will be familiar.
- Your story must feature food.
- Your story must entertain or surprise us with a twist or a new point of view. Humour is good, but so is dark. Go where the prompt leads.
- You have a week to write, so edit your manuscript to ensure it’s free of typos, spelling, grammatical and punctuation errors.
- Use the form provided below to enter (open this post if you are reading it in an email). If you do not receive a confirmation email, notify email@example.com.
- Entries must be received by October 31, 2018 at 11:59 p.m. (EST). Contest winner, second and third place entries announced here December 7, 2018.
- You may post a “challenge” in the comments if you don’t want to enter the contest, but don’t use the form. Only contest entries will be published.
Thank you for entering! The contest is now closed. Winners announced December 7, 2018, at Carrot Ranch
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.
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
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?
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.
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
Norah Colvin wandered onto a Ranch four years ago and discovered the joys of flash fiction. She brought with her a unique perspective, writing flash fiction with children in mind. Although some of her stories express the carefree spirit of children, often she tackles heavy issues, including bullying. With years of education knowledge and classroom experiene, Norah has become the Teacher at Carrot Ranch — a Rough Writer who remains curious to look up the meanings behind prompts and to share thought-provoking posts on topics that demonstrate what it is to cultivate a growth mindset.
We join Norah this week in Australia, and her fellow Aussie, Irene Waters next week on the Rough Writers Tour Around the World.
From Lead Buckaroo, Charli Mills
The dust has settled, and the bulls are back out to pasture after the first Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. From idea to event, this was no solo endeavor. It took a community to dream, organize, support, promote and engage.
To all of you who wrangle words at the Ranch, to those of you who quietly read from the other side of your screen to all who dared to make this contest their “first rodeo,” thank you!
Our Flash Fiction Rodeo consisted of eight unique events that differed in length, prompt and form. Each leader devised their own contest and rules for participation. We worked together as a team to shape the Rodeo, and each leader worked with a partnership of judges. We allowed leaders and judges to enter any contest they were not judging. We also allowed writers to participate as challengers if they did not want to enter as contestants.
A toss of hats in the air to the Rodeo Leaders who showed leadership on and behind the page. Not only did they work diligently to make each event fun and fair, they also rode hard to keep pace with an event that spanned three months. Their counsel, creativity, and camaraderie have kept it all rolling at Carrot Ranch. Thank you, Geoff Le Pard, Norah Colvin, JulesPaige, Sherri Matthews, D. Avery, Irene Waters and C. Jai Ferry. You all earned your spurs!
And a huge Rodeo Thank You to all our judges: Robbie Cheadle, Anne Goodwin, Barb Taub, Lucy Brazier, Susan Zutautas, Susan Budig, Angie Oakley, Sharon Bonin-Pratt, Mardra Sikora, Lisa Kovanda, Hugh Roberts, Mike from the UK, two anonymous judges in the US, and Sarah Brentyn. Your tasks were not easy, and I appreciate the regard you gave to all who entered.
Thank you to all who rodeoed!
Garth Brooks sings an edgy song in tribute to rodeos. He croons, “It’s the ropes and the reins, the joy and the pain, and they call the thing rodeo.” To me, it’s like the calling to write and be read.
A literary artist has something in common with rodeo’s biggest hero: tenacity. You write, revise, polish, submit, wait for — all in hopes to win that gold in the buckle. The gold might differ from writer to writer. Maybe you want to publish, maybe you want validation, maybe you just want to give your words wings and let them fly. The Flash Fiction Rodeo honors all the sweat, tears, mud and blood writers put into their craft. All who rode the Rodeo in 2017, you got grit!
We hope you’ll stop by the Ranch for some good reading and writing. Keep working your skills, wrangling words and roping stories. Keep on the path you’ve set for yourself. Write on!
See ya’ll next Rodeo in October 2018.
From All-Around Judge, Sarah Brentyn
This was a whopper of a job.
Initially, there was a panel of judges. And then there was one. It was supposed to be three and wound up being little ol’ me. But I took up the challenge, happy at heart!
Choosing a winner for this final contest was extraordinarily difficult because let’s face it, they were all winners. Literally. They had all won their respective contests. Also, they are different in genre, form, and length. I was comparing apples to oranges to turnips.
Alas, this is an ‘overall winner’ contest, and an overall winner there must be.
During the past few months, I distanced myself from the contests. I popped in to say ‘Congrats’ then snuck away. Names were removed when I received the final entries.
It was delightful to read these. They are well-written, fantastic pieces. Thank you to everyone who entered the Carrot Ranch Rodeo contests and to the winners who gave me wonderful stories to read. I am honored and humbled to help announce the winner of this collection of contests.
2017 Flash Fiction Winners include:
- Rodeo #1: When I Grow Up (“Father Christmas” by Hugh Roberts)
- Rodeo #2: Little & Laugh (“The Bus Stop” by Colleen Chesebro)
- Rodeo #3: Septolet in Motion (“Practical Magic, Or Even Best Efforts Need a Push Sometimes” by Deborah Lee)
- Rodeo #4: Scars (“Galatea” by D. Wallace Peach)
- Rodeo #5: TwitterFlash (Winning Tweets by D. Avery)
- Rodeo #6: Bucking Bull Go-Round (“Like Retribution” by Kerry E.B. Black)
- Rodeo #7: Murderous Musings (“Mr Blamey” by Marjorie Mallon)
- Rodeo #8: TUFF (“The Sun Shines on the Half-Moon Café” by Liz Huseby Hartmann)
The All-Around Best of Show goes to:
Rodeo #4: Scars (“Galatea” by D. Wallace Peach)
That concludes the Flash Fiction Rodeo for 2017. However, that is not the last word. Carrot Ranch is completing an e-book collection that includes the winning entries, honorable mentions, entries, challenges and a few new pieces from our judges and leaders. Stay tuned later this month!
Please give our Rough Writer’s a debut anthology Vol. 1 a look-see. If you’d like to support our efforts as a literary community you can purchase our book online at Amazon. Soon to be available through other locations (officially launches January 19, 2018).
Author Bio For All-Around Judge Sarah Brentyn
Sarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi.
She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them.
When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies.
She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.
Books by Sarah Brentyn
Follow Sarah at:
When I Grow Up
By Norah Colvin
Do you remember being asked this question as a child? Or contemplating it, even if you weren’t asked? Do you recall your childhood thoughts?
I remember having no aspiration prior to the age of ten when I decided I wanted to be a teacher. Although I loved writing, creating stories, songs, poetry and plays; writing was a part of who I was, an integral part of me, I didn’t consider a writer as something I might be.
It is often mooted that we are educating today’s children for a future of which we have no knowledge, a future we can’t begin to imagine. But hasn’t that always been so? Has any generation known exactly what life will be like for those following? While the rate of change may be increasing, change has always been.
Though it may sometimes appear otherwise, change creates more possibilities than the opportunities it erases. It may require us to let go of prior, and even current, world views in order to adjust and adapt our vision to altering paths.
I am envious of many of the choices available to young people now, and often lament that I was born too soon. But is it less to do with the time of my arrival than with choices I made? I think the answers are intertwined. The choices were influenced by the expectations of the era in which I grew up, choices that seem extremely limited, and limiting, now.
I wonder, if we could travel back in time and whisper in the ear of the child we were, somewhere between the ages of six and ten, what would we tell them to think, and how would we tell them to respond, when asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” How would we steer the journey?
Would you rather stay in the era of your childhood; or perhaps in childhood forever, as did the child in A.A. Milne’s poem who decided, “I’ll think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.”
Maybe you’d give instructions on how to be happy, a choice that is often attributed to the five-year-old John Lennon.
While John Lennon was supposedly told that he didn’t understand the assignment, I am giving you greater flexibility in how you respond to this first of the challenges of the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo.
CHALLENGE OPTION: This contest has now closed. You may use this as a prompt challenge. Weekly Flash Fiction Challenges resume November 2.
When I grow up. Cast yourself back to six years of age, knowing what you do of life in the present; what would you want to be when you grow up and how would you go about achieving that goal? Tell us in 100 words, no more no less. It can be real or imaginary, serious or light-hearted. Extra points for comparing it to your childhood choice, if you remember it.
Aim for a century – 100 words, not including the title.
THANK YOU FOR ENTERING! CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED
Submissions close at Midnight AEST 10 October. Submissions after that date will be disqualified.
The winner will be announced on Tuesday, 7 November.
Judges will rate the stories according to
- Story length.
- Relevancy to the prompt.
- How well the story captures the voice of a child.
- Originality, engagement, and interest.
- Story structure.
- Consistency with tense and agreement.
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.
Guest Compiler: Rough Writer & Ranch Hand, Norah Colvin
Last week when Charli wrote about games, she wrote about games for the fun of it, and more serious games that give us the run around with very little enjoyment. She challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball, hoops, tag. It can be made up, traditional, cultural or any kind of twist. Go where the prompt leads. There was no question about whether writers were game or not, and many joined in the fun. These are their contributions, starting with Charli’s own:
Games Across Rock Creek (from Rock Creek) by Charli Mills
“Rawr!” Cobb charged his five children on his hands and knees in the cropped grass in front of the west ranch house. Lizzie stood and giggled, blind since birth, she relied on her brothers to get around. Even playing games, the boys guided Lizzie. Cobb gently bumped her with his head and she squealed in delight. Young Charl tried clambering up Cobb’s back. Monroe boosted his youngest brother so he could ride Da’s back like a horse. Laughter carried across Rock Creek.
Sarah watched from the shadows on her side. Away from his precious family. The games they played.
Flash fiction by Pensitivity
It was the annual family picnic, everyone brought something for the table, we had a portable stove for making tea and loads of games.
With inherited grandchildren due to second and third marriages, there were over forty of us now, so we had plenty of options for team games and even a treasure hunt.
There were prizes too which was why the kids loved it so much.
The grand finale was always Scrabble.
Wrapped sweets were thrown into the air for the little ones to catch and collect. The older kids helped them so no-one went home empty handed.
Like Mother-Like Daughter by Ruchira Khanna
“Twist your waist along the loop,” she commanded from her balcony on the fourth floor.
“You silly girl!” she screamed when her daughter’s hula hoop came sliding down, “You ought to move your waist all the way!”
“Mom!” she cried out, “Chill!”
Sara’s friends tee-heed while the embarrassed mom stepped away.
There was a pause, and the daughter clarified with perched eyebrows as she adjusted her plaid skirt and put her loose strands of hair behind her ear, “My mom is the best, and she wants me to be the best too! What can I say!”
I’m Game by Geoff Le Pard
‘What shall we play? Rounders? Frisbee? Wheelbarrows?’
Penny and Mary exchanged a look as Paul pulled a ball from the bag. Penny giggled. “I’ll look after Charlotte, mum. You can be dad’s stooge.’
‘Stooge?’ Paul put hands on hips. ‘Is that what that school teaches.’
‘Love the double teapot, dad. What about a sand sculpture?’
Paul smiled. ‘Best one gets to choose the ice cream.’
‘Does everything have to be a competition, dad?’
Paul began digging. ‘Hmm?’
Mary whispered to her daughter. ‘Give it an hour and he’ll be fast asleep. Then we can go and get some tea.’
Bush rescue by Rowena
Bob saw the helicopters hovering over the lookout again.
“Blimey, another bloody tourist’s lost,” Bob announced, taking his eyes off the footy. “All our taxpayer dollars going up in smoke. They should pay. This isn’t a free country.”
“Daddy! Daddy!” The kids puffed. “Jet’s stuck in a tree.”
“How on earth did the dog get stuck in a tree? You gone mad?”
“Hamish threw his tennis ball over the edge, and Jet flew straight after it.”
“Bob, told you that dog’s a maniac.”
“So, all those helicopters are out saving our dog???? Thank goodness, he doesn’t have a collar.”
Bricktown Boys by Pete Fanning
Ron and I rode our bikes past the abandoned brick factory that lined Clay Street. I checked for new graffiti or tags or any signs of life.
Our part of Fairview was known for bricks. The blackened stackhouse stood defiantly against the sky as our monument, the teeth-like shards of broken windows were a warning, and the immovable darkness inside those old walls seemed to live in every man who’d walked into my living room.
The factory was our landmark. A big, tough, ugly, brick trophy we held up to prove how tough our neighborhood was. Bricktown. Enough said.
Counting by D. Avery
“Come on, Buddy, that’s at least fifty.”
When they were younger, they counted to ten. Then twenty-five. Fifty was a maximum.
Sometimes they just had their hands, clenching a fist with the index finger serving as barrel, thumb as hammer. Sometimes they’d find perfectly shaped sticks. Christmas might bring a realistic looking cap gun.
Cops and robbers, cowboys and Indians; “Bang, you’re dead”, and if it was an obvious hit you had to fall down for a specified count.
Now they were playing army. They were the good guys.
“Buddy, just get up. I don’t want to play anymore.”
Flash fiction by Bill Engelson
May 30th 1955
We were not supposed to play after dark.
“I want you back before the sun goes down. You pay heed.”
And our old lady meant it.
But the thing about dark, it sneaks up on you like the devil.
When your kid brain is consumed by the action, heart pumping, feet stomping, bush tromping, heavy breathing, finding that sweet spot to nuzzle into, to hide, to be sought but not found, that was the rush.
But there was that thing about dark.
It snuck up on sister Sue.
It stuck her in a sack.
And she was lost forever.
Come, Play along! by Kittysverses
The elders of Vasant Housing Society, were in a fix. It’s was two weeks since the summer vacations began, and all that they could hear was silence in their compound. True, the kids were forced to studying during the school days, but it was the vacations the elders wished they played. The victim in the form of modern gadgets was found. This kept the elders thinking, and they came up with a planof organizing traditional Indian outdoor games for the young and old. *Kho-Kho,**Gilli Danda, ** *Lagori, ****Dog and the bone were among the main events of the D-day.
Remembering Kabaddi by Anne Goodwin
Ram often dreamt he was a child again, running barefoot across the dusty earth. Amid the singsong voices of the staff, he often felt a child, unable to dress, wash or eat without assistance. But never before had he been led to believe he’d been transported back to childhood, his playmates’ chants ringing in his ears: Kabaddi, kabaddi, kabaddi …
He opened his eyes. The care staff considered the sports channel invigorating, but Ram wasn’t interested in cricket, rugby: English games. Now TV had stolen his memories, his village roots, taming the ancient game with a court and referee.
Let’s Play a Game (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
Jane smooths lotion over her knee, pausing over the scar. Ten, she’d been, suited up in roller skates with the key around her neck. Her friend Carla on her bike, eyes full of the devil. “Hold on to the sissy bar and I’ll pull you. It’ll be fun. Just like waterskiing.”
And it was. Hair flying, eyes streaming in the wind, both of them shrieking laughter, blazing down the middle of the street until Carla wiped out and Jane went flying and blood flowed. No helmets or kneepads back then.
Kids can’t come close to fun like that now.
Golem’s Truth by Jules Paige
Carrie wasn’t sure she wanted to play Golem’s Truth – being
Mal de coucou in this new neighborhood. The tendency in
these new situations was to play the awestruck outsider.
Be a parallel player without spilling too much of her own
With a strong desire to fit in with this group, Carrie had to
build up some nerve to please these ‘new’ friends. Without
putting up too much of a smoke screen.
This new twist on Truth or Dare and Spin the Bottle. A
couple had to go behind the barn, do something – And not
tell what they did.
Around and Because by Kerry E.B. Black
Henry stepped to the plate. Eager teammates turned from loaded bases. “Come on, Henry. Don’t blow it.”
“Again,” added Henry.
Two outs. Two runs down. The last inning of a decisive game weighed.
Queasy wriggled his stomach. His hands sweated. He gulped and swung.
Coach yelled, “Shake it off, Henry.”
He blinked tears. Two balls. A foul tip.
He prayed, swung, connected. The ball soared. Unaccustomed to hitting, he watched it ascend, bounce, roll. Team mates screamed, “run.” He did not. Three slid past him to home plate. They won around and because of Henry.
The First Game by Gordon Le Pard
“We will have to stop Sir.”
Prince Frederick looked up to the sky, there was no way the rain was going to stop.
They stopped the game sadly and walked into the tavern.
He enjoyed sports, and knew that this was a way into his subject’s hearts. The British loved sport, so did he and knew he had to show he was British, ‘Glory in the name of Briton’ he had told his son, and playing traditional British sports was one way to show it.
This game, however, was new to him.
“What’s it called?”
Lord Middlesex replied.
Safety first by Anthony Amore
The neighbor kids started using a basketball but it proved too heavy to shoot with a hockey stick. The six rode either skate boards or roller blades around the cul-de-sac taking turns shooting into a lacrosse net alternating between a tennis and a soccer ball.
Then someone upped the ante.
“Put the net at the end of our driveway,” he said. “No, there,” he added pointing down the steep asphalt incline.
The first nodded, “We skate down, shoot, score.”
“How will we stop?” someone asked, sensibly.
“Don’t worry; that’s why we have helmets. Who wants to play goal?”
I Got My Dude Right Here by Elliott Lyngreen
This dude had strolled up the cosmic black walkway spinning a gray-weather shreaded basketball ahead of himself so the english zipped it perfectly rolling atop the backside of one hand, up his arm, around his chest, swiftly down the other arm to a flip-spin onto the original hand with the middle finger extended in such wobbling revolutions he casually slapped, straightened so the ball turn smoothly and faster with each tap; then dropped so sweet as his knee come up, bumped the rock back up in one continuous motion continuing the tight whirling.
Asked, “who got last ya’ll?”
Face tag is our game by Joe Owens
Kaley looked at Casey with an unsure expression.
“It’s simple. Make sure they don’t see your face. If they do you are frozen.”
Kaley nodded with her understanding. She was totally zoned in until they picked the tagger.
“No!” she thought without speaking. Not him. Anyone but Eric.
Casey saw her expression, tapping her on the arm while asking with her eyes what was wrong.
“It’s nothing. I am good.”
“Wait,” Casey said her look of concern morphing into a wide smile. “I guess I know who you like now, huh?”
“Don’t say anything, promise!”
“I won’t have to.”
Wifflduff by Michael
This is a fun game to entertain kids in the back yard. The idea is to disassociate the words given with their meanings. For example, spaghetti. If you answer pasta or food, you would be wrong and out of the game. If you say dog/cat/elephant, you would be correct.
In the one minute, you attempt as many as you can. If you survive a minute, you accumulate how many you got right. One wrong and you are out, and as added fun, you have to prance around the yard like a chicken saying whiffleduffwhifflduffwhifflduff.
Hours of fun and excitement.
Wanna play? by Norah Colvin
From the verandah, the park looked enormous and inviting. The men, lugging boxes and furniture upstairs, stopped chatting. Mum bustled them too, ‘Here. Not there.’
‘Stay out of the way,’ she’d commanded. He suggested the park. ‘Not by yourself,’ she’d said.
He went anyway, crossing the wide road alone. He watched a group of kids kicking a ball around. They looked friendly, but… He glanced back at the house. Not missed. Would they let him play?
‘Hey, kid,’ one shouted. He turned to run. ‘Wait!’ called the voice. ‘Wanna play?’
Reassured by smiling faces, he joined in the game.
Strategy in the game by Jules Paige
Longhorn knew it was a paradox; Janice full of tension but
being in a semophoristic mood, she didn’t want to talk, not
in the park. The detective would have to bite his tongue on
all the questions that were musing around in his head. No
woman deserved the smooth playhouse of thieves that
people like Richard played in.
Once Longhorn had moved Janice into the safe house
code named ‘Neptune’ – he could end this stalemate and
she could open up about any information she possessed that
would put a final checkmate on Richard and put the rogue
Aw, Skip It! by Liz Husebye Hartmann
“Find one that’s flat and smooth…no bigger than your palm.”
“Bigger than your palm?” she tipped her head. “Or mine?”
“Great question! Let’s look and see what we find.” The water was clear, chilling his pale feet. She followed, knee-deep, eyes round.
“Curl your finger around the edge, and flick!” The stone sailed, tripped half a dozen times and sunk.
She grabbed a rock from his hand and threw it underhand. It arced and splashed.
“Good first try!” He spied the perfect stone, heard a deep splash and got soaked from behind.
“How’s that?” she laughed, hands on hips.
Up and At ‘Em, by D. Avery
“Come on Kid, up and at ‘em.”
“Uhhnn. Where’s Shorty at anyway? I heard she mighta went into town.”
“You heard, you heard. Ever heard of herdin’ cattle?”
“Shorty’s in town, probly playin’ cards, havin’ fun.”
“Shush. Shorty’s busy. And she might be gambling, but it’s a serious game she’s playin’.”
“I heard Shorty’s at the rodeo.”
“Well you heard right. She is, and it ain’t her first time. But this one’s big.”
“What can we do with Shorty away?”
“We’ll do what we always do.”
“Yee haw! Time to play with words.”
“That’s it Kid. Round ‘em up.”
Games in white gym suits by Floridaborne
“Gym suits, the only piece of clothing that could make Marilyn Monroe look dorky,” I said, showing my teenage daughter a garment hated by anyone with a brain in the 1960’s. “PE is why I had glasses in junior high!”
“You’re blind without them, mom!”
“I’ll compare it to making you wear one of my suits,” I said.
“We had a saying that boy’s don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses. You might as well be hiding behind a wall.”
“Why were you forced to wear glasses, mom?”
“I mistook my archery instructor for the target.”
Guest Compiler: Rough Writer & Ranch Hand, Norah Colvin
In the introduction to her post and flash fiction challenge, Charli discussed her feelings of contentment at having reached Kansas. She said,
“I had such a feeling of contentment when we breathed a sigh of relief upon arrival. Contentment to be among loving family. Contentment to be up to my eyeballs in historic records. Contentment to be gifted a chance to dig.”
But the feelings were somehow overshadowed by
“the shadowy beast of homelessness (that) follows, lumbering and restless. It’s been a year, and normalcy is something for other people. Rootlessness is something you can’t understand without experiencing it. And it’s punishable by society. The silent judgement of you did something wrong, you deserve this.”
With her feelings of contentment mixed with those other shadowy, less pleasant feelings, Charli challenged writers to write a story about feeling content. And write they did.
While Charli doesn’t often ask, she reached out for help with chores around the ranch, including compiling the flash fiction responses. I agreed to do it, and here is the result. Please forgive any errors and omissions. I’m not as experienced as the Boss Lady.
We’ll begin with Charli’s own story, which got us all started on thinking about contentment.
Happily Digging (from Miracle of Ducks) by Charli Mills
Danni heard Ike’s truck rumble down the gravel road. She knelt barefoot by a window to the past – a square troweled to reveal debris from long before. Sifting had revealed ceramic sherd, a few square nails, and a cigar token to the old Congress Hotel in Sandpoint. A window gave an archeologist quick insight to a possible site.
Danni pondered possibilities when she heard Ike’s truck door close. The sun had warmed the soil all day, and Danni was content.
He approached the fence and freshly tilled soil. “I thought you were gardening today.”
“I am,” she replied, smiling.
And on the advice of Anne Goodwin, this one comes in second with a story that shares a simple but effective way we can help ourselves by helping out here at the Ranch.
Contentment by D. Avery
“But I thought Shorty was the cook.”
“Shorty knows roundup like no other, one heck of a wrangler. Why she’s the ridin’est, ropin’est wrangler out here. There’s no better out on the range.”
“I hear she wants to grow the ranch. Expand the brand.”
“In a setting like this, we characters oughta rob a bank, hold up a train. For the Ranch.“
“Now Kid, Shorty don’t need that kinda trouble. Snap outta character and just hit the paypal button.”
“Yeah, I will. ‘Cause I like the content at this here ranch.”
“Didn’t you mean contentment?”
“Yeah, that too.”
Time Enough by Bill Engleson
One leg up. Then the other. Crack open a Club Soda. Mid-week. Something about being on the wagon.
It’s a warm day. I see the chores, piling up like a smattering of mumblety-pegs. Each one demands I take a huge bite and wrestle the task to the ground.
I exaggerate. But not by much.
“You’re taking a busman’s holiday,” she says, sneaking up on me.
“You mean, same old same old!”
“Yeah, that’s what I mean. Can’t get a lick a work out of you, Simon.”
“I’m a big disappointment to myself, sweetie.”
“Enjoy it while it lasts, lover.”
To Be Content by Pensitivity
I don’t need complications.
I’m a simple girl who likes the simple things in life.
They say the best things in life are free.
A walk in the park, birdsong, the scent of lilac on the tree, the gentle trickle of water from a country stream, dipping your toes in the water on a hot day, the sound of kids laughing, ducks and swans with their young, a tender smile from the one you love.
So many things we take for granted or miss altogether because we are too busy trying to survive in this cut and thrust world.
Contented by Michael
She watched him breathing deeply, the look on his face told her so much but she wanted to hear what he might say.
“So how are you feeling?”
“Very contented,” he replied in between breaths.
“So, what does that mean?
He waited a few minutes before replying. “I feel loved like never before, you have accepted me with all my flaws, and despite that, we get along so well.”
“You are worth it babe,” she said kissing him lightly on the cheek.
“You make me feel so good about myself.”
“It’s what happens when both of us are contented.”
Content by ladyleemanila
Do we do things or wait our chance?
I’d like to dance
And then you came
Told me your name
Sweet serendipity, what’s that?
I dropped my hat
You picked it up
Sweet as syrup
Overlapping paths we do take
We make or break
Life’s a delight
Makes us excite
So in love with you
At a sea so blue
You look so cool
Your smile, your care
We are such a pair
A flower that blossom
You’re my superstar
You came down from far
To make me happy on earth
And so with pleasure
I’ve got the answer
The Anniversary Dinner by Susan Zutautas
As soon as Jim walked through the front door the aroma of Megs cooking put a smile on his face.
“Oh my goodness woman what are you cooking? There’s enough food here for six people!”
“Just the two of us, I wanted to make it a special dinner. After all, it is our anniversary.”
“Are those lobsters?”
“They sure are, and to go with them we have steak, mushrooms, crab legs, shrimp skewers, scallops, and a Caesar salad. Just wait till you see dessert.”
Jim could barely do it, but he ate his cherry cheesecake and felt totally content.
The Return by D. Avery
“How far’d you get?”
“Far enough to figure some things out.”
“Figured out they don’t have as many seasons out west. If they have deer season, you’d hardly know it. They never heard of sugarin’ or mud season. I wanna settle in for mud season.”
“You came back because you wanna be here when the roads turn to shit?”
“Early April, right?”
“Yup. Lotta my Highland heifers are due to calve ‘bout then.”
“I figure that’s about my time too. We’re pregnant.”
He knew that rangy heifers usually became content after calving. He hugged her thankfully, hopefully.
Flash Fiction by Carrie Gilliland Sandstrom
She loved dusk most of all. The sky was an indigo blue with tiny stars sparkling, trying to be seen. She starred out their bedroom window, which she insisted on keeping open, even if just a crack. There was nothing better than feeling a cool breeze across her face as she burrowed deep under the warm covers.
A strong arm wrapped around her and pulled her close. She took a deep breath and slowly exhaled.
He kissed her gently on the shoulder. “This is still my favourite place to be,” he whispered.
“Mine too,” she said, already half asleep.
Gramma’s Legendary Cheesecake (A Tall Tale) by Liz Husebye Hartmann
“How’d I get here?” Alice tipped back in her porch rocker, watching sunset over misty mountains. “Cheesecake, darlin’…”
I raised an eyebrow.
“Back in the 80’s, Gramma’s Great Smoky Cheesecake was multi-billion, multi-national, with an option to go intergalactic. I was so busy dealing with the Martians, I didn’t see what was happening with my husband and the Venusians. When he filed for divorce, he wanted alimony—which translated to all-my-money. He got it, he spent it, but he still can’t make cheesecake.
“So here I am, and I couldn’t be happier! Have a slice…it’s Gramma’s special secret recipe.”
Zen by Reena Saxena
Michelle had been trying to befriend Maria in the club, for several weeks. But, Maria had chosen to ignore her, for reasons best known to her. One evening, they found themselves seated on adjoining bar stools.
“It is always a pleasure to see you. You radiate so much peace”.
“Yes, because I am content with my life”.
“I wish you would mingle a little more. Others need those Zen vibes”.
“I am content with the blessings in my life, and also problems. I do not wish that people add their two bits to it. Hence, I prefer my solitude”.
A Familiar Content by Lisa Listwa
It is almost time.
Steam rises in front of me, blurring my vision slightly. I inhale deeply, taking in all that I can by breath. A gentle heat kisses my cheek, turning my skin warm and moist. Bright flashes of orange and green swim before my eyes, darting impishly in and out of bouncy cream-colored curls. Metal brushes against porcelain. The distinctive clang of a muted bell beckons to my body and soul.
Slowly, I sip and taste, letting the warmth rush through my body, spreading goodness contentment around me like a favorite blanket.
Familiarity breeds comfort and content.
Contentment by Floridaborne
Contentment depends upon perception.
From age 0 to 20, I experienced a dream many children coveted; to live in the same house with caring parents. I wanted, more than anything, to travel.
At 23, I married. We were in Minnesota for 2 years, then traveled through 5 states, and lived in 9 homes during our first 7 years together. I loved that life.
Widowed at 33, I drifted around in a sea of discontent…until I discovered writing.
I might live in a shack with walls crumbling around me, but as long as I can write, I’m happy.
Silent Connection by Irene Waters
The cabin walls closed in. The fixed porthole prevented fresh air entering and the stale air weighed down on me. ‘I’m a sardine in a can,’ I fought the urge to scream. My heart pounding, I escaped to the deck. I paced, looking for a place I could sit and drink in the velvety night. All the seats, bar one, were occupied with lovers entwined. A solitary man, a priest, sat alone. He patted the seat, inviting me to sit. I did. We sat in silence. Connected. Content. Hours later he stood to leave, saying, “Sometimes, words aren’t necessary.”
Flash Fiction by Pete Fanning
Mr. Melvin strummed a gentle chord, as though playing a soundtrack to his memories. The guitar wailed, spilling sounds from his soul, crying out with all the hurt he must have felt in that old lying heart of his.
Another strum of the strings. Another song. Outside a siren wailed. The world was riddled with crime and hurt and too little kindness. I had a long way to go in my quest for peace. But in his apartment, watching him play, my mouth hung out to dry. I knew exactly what he’d meant.
There was truth in the blues.
The Traveller Returns by Anne Goodwin
No more lumpy mattresses in airless dormitories resonant with other people’s snores. No more restaurants serving chicken as a vegetarian meal. No more conducting conversations with a two-year-old’s vocabulary. It’s time to go home.
Home to a choice of more than three outfits. Home to friends for whom neither your accent nor your humour needs translation. Home to shelves of books you never thought you’d miss.
Enough of novelty and adventure. The old familiar everything thrills you now. Rain and roses, the Bobbies in their uniforms, traffic on the left side of the road. No excitement, no effort. Content.
Crossfade by Elliott Lyngreen
emanating layer upon layer
of prodigious cells burning off,
into, spectacular sun-bathing
upon a blanket.
cross fades flickering heats, afire,
but meaning poetry indescribably, harmlessly
watching these cilia in her corners
a cinnamon scent of some grand unlost memory
and recovers the eternity, grace
(the first smooth thighs of a 90s girl)
in incredible rays
and solid hypnotic
radiated sinks in radio-waves
into the way I can’t
see into this place
where my heart endlessly compresses
in these sweet beams,
to leave via the upstairs garrets
for more soft views,
Flash Fiction by Kalpani Solsi
I make an arduous mental effort to garner sepia toned
images vividly scattered on the periphery of my subliminal
existence and they slowly coalesce to form a perfect
As I obambulate the muddy road, the sights and smells
tickle my senses.
The play-ground reminds me of the agility of our minds
I lose myself in the pages of the library to find my voice.
Rainy splashes bring out the fecund innocence.
Pals widen the curve of my lips to spread consoling
I refuse to come out the labyrinthine garden of
Return If Possible, childhood.
The Bundle by Allison Maruska
I lift the bundle from the floor
Heavy yet not burdensome
I support with both hands
Though one would do fine
I’m holding more than it seems
I hold dreams
So I use both hands
Resting, I set the bundle on my chest
No rolling allowed
My hand offers support
A small yet meaningful gesture
The bundle settles
And takes a long breath as sleep arrives
I stroke his back
Feel his warmth
I close my eyes
Breathing in the contentment
Of his being
Contentment by Rachel A. Hanson
She was sitting on the deck listening to her children play while holding a steaming cup of coffee as the morning sun shone down as she closed her eyes, drinking in the sensations surrounding her.
“This is what perfect contentment feels like,” she thought.
“Mama, look!” Her toddler exclaimed excitedly.
She expected to see something remarkable. Maybe a butterfly or a squirrel scampering across the lawn.
She was not met with beauty, but danger! The baby had been trying for weeks to pull herself onto the ledge with no success. Today was the day the season of contentment ended.
Purpose in Play by Norah Colvin
They worked furiously as if with one mind; digging, piling, shaping, smoothing the sand. As if on cue, two began to tunnel through from opposite sides, meeting in the middle. Others carved into the surface, forming window-like shapes. Sticks, leaves, and other found objects adorned the structure. Then, simultaneously, the work stopped. They glowed with collective admiration. But Than was not yet content. Something was missing. He swooped on a long twig and stuck it into the top, antenna-like. “For communicating with the mother ship,” he declared. Soon they were all feverishly adding other improvements to their alien craft.
Finding Contentment in Being the Greatest of all Time by Dave Madden
The champ awoke in a daze. After a ten-year reign, his eyes struggled to focus on the cage side physician’s finger wagging in front on his face; the taste of blood in his mouth had yet to register.
An eerie silence filled the arena, and whispers of ‘next steps’ for the most electrifying mixed martial artist of all-time resonated into a deafening energy.
As his cognitive faculties slowly returned, the realization, at the age of thirty-eight in a young man’s game, of contentment from an untouchable legacy would lick his warrior spirit’s wounds after walking away.
Tentative Content by Kerry E.B. Black
Like their ancestors, they huddle in caves, but instead of hiding from beasts, predators come from their own blood-lines. They use the caves’ walls as chalk boards, creating places to teach cross-legged children in an attempt to establish some normality for their war-torn lives. From scavenged bits, they craft toys to amuse their little ones. They recite stories and sing nursery songs. Of the little food they scavenge, the best goes to the young. From their faces they try to hide the ravages, turning instead gazes of hope upon their progeny. In their safety they find a tentative content.
Serenity Square by Jules Paige
(Janice vs Richard #8)
Janice hadn’t realized that she had been leaning on the tall
Detective, James Longhorn while he had lead her into the
The police station and the court house were connected ‘L’
shapes that had two secure emergency egresses where
the two buildings’ brick and concrete stonework met.
Private offices looked into the acre of serene park that had
several shade trees and a koi pond in the middle. It was a
place to ease fears and promote contentment for witnesses
that needed a safe place as well as for officers of the precinct
and court to decompress.
Contentment Earned (Jane Doe Flash Fiction) by Deborah Lee
This one day makes the last five worthwhile.
Forcing herself to the grocery to stock up when she’s overwhelmed by a full workweek of politics and deadlines, senses raw from the onslaught of noise and movement. Barely edging the fenders past the posts in the underground garage, battling traffic and crowded aisles. The panic, the people.
All deposited against today, when she can stay in bed with the quiet, linger over coffee and sweet cream, plant flowers on the terrace high above the street. Dirt under her nails, the sun shining for her alone.
Far above the madding crowd.
Hope Doesn’t Knock by Sarah Brentyn
They say we should have hope.
Yet they take away everything that might make us feel hopeful. People seem content. I don’t understand.
One morning, after breakfast, I ask my father. He sits with me. Takes a breath. I think he is going to speak but he ruffles my hair. Tells me to enjoy my day. His eyes flick to the doorway.
I turn and notice my mother, watching us, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.
This is my cue to leave. When the door shuts, I see an ornament on the wood. This is not good for our family.
Summer Vacation by Diana Nagai
The waves gently buoyed them on the surface of the lake. Their floaties connected by each other’s resting feet. The summer sun heated their skin to burning levels.
She looked over at him, eyes closed, content as fuck. As if they hadn’t just fought World War III over breakfast. As if his half-assed apology was supposed to make her forget his need for constant confirmation of his masculinity. He only highlighted his frailty.
The resentment bubbling within her reached dangerous limits. Dipping her foot deep into the water, she kicked with everything she had, tipping the smug son-of-a-bitch overboard.
Just One Minute by Sherri Matthews
It’s a rope tying my guts together in hard knots. It sits there, like a weight pressing down on my chest making it hard to breathe. My heart pounds so loud I feel it pulsing in my eardrums and my head spins; I think I’m going to throw up. Anxiety Disorder, the doctor says. Not to be confused with ‘feeling anxious’. This is its bigger, older and uglier brother. It means business. It never leaves. But all I want is calm. A place where I can breathe again, to sink deep into a minute’s worth of contentment. That’s all…
Being Content by Geoff Le Pard
‘Mum what is adult content?’
‘You know. Stuff that only adults should see or hear.’
‘Oh yeah. Soz. Silly.’ Penny sniggered. ‘It’s con-tent, isn’t it? Not content. You know like dad after a curry.’
Mary smiled. ‘The content of the curry makes him content.’
‘What makes you content, mum?’
‘The family being happy.’ She smiled. ‘Your grandma was the same. She always said if we were happy, she was content.’ Mary thought back to her mother’s last days, when she knew she was dying. She’d been content then. It angered Mary then, that acceptance. Now maybe she understood it.