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Raw Literature: Young Sung Hero

Raw Literature posts as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it.

Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99-word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

We welcome a university student to Raw Literature this week. He’s working on his master’s degree in creative writing and explains how he came to write the following short fiction and why.

The Best Days of Their Lives? by YoungLee Giles

Charlie was sat on the floor with his arms wrapped tightly around his knees. He took a long, slow, inhale but continued to shake like someone who’d just been pulled out of a frozen lake. The girl sat next to him was whispering the lord’s prayer, her words sounded distorted, as if they were coming from the mouth of Charlie Brown’s teacher.

Her prayer was silenced as more gunshots smashed into juvenile innocence trapped outside. Terrified screams ran down the hallway desperately trying to escape the indefensible. There would be no detention for running down the corridor ever again.

‘This morning I told my mum I hated her.’ Luke Noonum the hardest boy in the school covered his face with both hands but his vulnerability had nowhere to hide.

Charlie’s world churned eternal regret. His tears were sincere but too late.

‘The police will come soon.’ Mr Smart head of year ten wasn’t convincing, his words were pale and insignificant.

Charlie looked around the room, a faint glimmer of hope hidden amongst tearful sobs was rapidly fading.

Outside more gunshots violently consumed the void. Charlie could hear the loud thud of broken dreams hitting the floor. A long, spray of automatic gunfire was replaced by a deathly silence and the sound of footsteps approaching. The young girl sat next to Charlie grabbed his hand and squeezed it tight. Her nails dug into his skin. The door to the boiler room started to open and darkness replaced the light.

###

I wrote my short story in one take, immediately after reading yet another a horrific newspaper article about a school shooting. I started thinking about the children, what would go through their minds? As a child, death is an abstract concept, when a child knows death is imminent, how do they make sense of it?

When I read about a school shooting, it keeps me awake at night and really gets under my skin. I’m left with an array of uncomfortable questions which I can seldom answer. I believe it’s important that we continue to ask ourselves questions, and never become desensitized regardless of how often they happen.

I thought about the child shooter. It’s natural to automatically label him or her evil or someone with mental health issues. To try and neatly tie things ups by saying the killer had mental health issues is just plain lazy. If I were to develop this short story into something more, I’d like to explore the killer’s mind and his background. To humanise the killer would make the story even more chilling.

Many stories that I write are ones that find me, awake me and force me to pick over uncomfortable questions. I want to delve deeply into the subject matter and force the reader to ask themselves their own questions and to achieve an emotional response, to move, unsettle and at times upset. I’d rather tackle a strong, emotive subject like this rather than something straightforward that ends with a happy conclusion.

I’m currently studying for a master’s degree in creative writing at Sheffield Hallam University in England. For this semesters script and novel module, I must come up with an idea for a short script. After writing this story, I developed it into a script for radio drama. In doing this, I was able to give each character a strong identity and some background information on the killer. I’m quite happy with the result and might submit it to the BBC.

Much of my work is of a dark, realistic nature. Some would say I’ve lived an unconventional life. I’ve lived much of it in a darknet type reality, and this has shaped my writing. I lived in Mozambique during the civil war and witnessed many horrific things. I was only 17 years old and my years in Africa had a profound effect on me.

After my African adventure, I bought a one-way ticket to the South of Spain and somehow ended up living with an old hippy (who was also a big hashish dealer) on the island of Ibiza. When I returned to England, I became a part of the acid house generation, dancing in fields and warehouses across the country. I became a drug dealer and fell into an illicit lifestyle and was lucky not to end up in prison. Several years later I moved to London and enrolled at Middlesex University. To support myself, as well as dealing drugs, I put on club nights for students and accidentally became a DJ. I became a fairly successful DJ playing around London and being flown around the world. I worked with fashion designers, putting music to their shows during London fashion week, I was the music director for a French play called Bintoe and produced music under the name Ok_Ma, putting out several releases on different record labels as well as making music for television. I always wrote, but mainly music-based material for music magazines. I worked for a few magazines and somehow became an editor of a small magazine called Ecentral which focused on the area of Shoreditch London, but it didn’t last long as the magazine folded due to financial troubles.

In between my DJing and other activities I wrote a 60-thousand-word novel but trashed it due to my insecurities.

As my DJing continued to take off so did my drug use, I had no idea that I was an addict. To me, an addict was someone on the street stealing to buy their drugs. I lived in a nice house, wore designer clothes and drove a flashy car, but I was no different from the scruffy man panhandling. Inside I was dying. Firstly cocaine then came heroin. After about fifteen years of daily use and trying to keep a respectable face on, my life came crashing down, I lost everything and ended up in rehab. I got clean, relapsed, got clean, relapsed.

Eventually, I ended up in a rehab for 8 months and was able to address many deep issues. Whilst there I wrote a novel about a person who ends up in strange rehab. A publisher read it and wanted to publish, but I’ve now realised it’s not ready so am using it for various university assignments where I can edit and improve.

When I came out of rehab, I enrolled to do a master’s degree in creative writing. After a few months at university, I relapsed once more and ended up in a detox unit which was housed in a mental health ward. In there I wrote every day as it was an extreme place but writing gold. I witnessed many bizarre, violent, scary and strange events and I wrote about every one of them. Luckily, I was able to keep up with my studies, and today I’m clean and working hard at my deadlines. I left school with no qualifications (I went to college to get them), so to be doing a master’s degree is unbelievable.

A chapter of my book is being published in May in a university book called Matter, a collection of creative works from the writer’s of Sheffield Hallam University.

Recently I’ve also found a memory stick containing the first novel I wrote and lots of writing that my father did before he died. He was in the special forces and worked around the world, some jobs were somewhat semi-legal. I’m currently looking at editing his journey from Seoul, Korea to London England in the 50’s as I think I can make it into an interesting story.

If I can stay well, I’m confident that my future can be an interesting one. You can read the first draft of my book here. Also on the link is an audio of my first chapter voice by English actor Terry Burns.

Raw Literature: Writing with Mother

By Robbie Cheadle

About mid last year, my Mother and I decided we should write the story of her growing up during the Second World War in the small town of Bungay in East Anglia, Britain.

I had listened to my Mother’s childhood stories for my whole life. I thought her tales of chamber pots and an outhouse, food, coal and clothing rationing, icicles inside the scullery windows, washing using a copper tub and a mangle and children being sewn into their vests called stays, were very interesting. The additional overlay of war conditions only added to the excitement as she spoke of buzz bombs that suddenly dropped out of the sky, wreaking devastation on the area below, American soldiers billeted in canvas tents on the common, and the family hiding in bomb shelters during air raids.

I thought my Mother’s story was interesting enough to warrant writing down and I also thought it would be a good way of preserving some of the histories of life in a small English village during WWII and allowing people, especially children, to gain knowledge of the hardships experienced by people living through a war. My rather optimistic reasoning was that if children were made aware of the horrors and hardships of war, they would be more inclined to ensure such a state of affairs never occurs again.

Mother and I embarked on this interesting journey of writing down her history. Initially, I wrote a series of essays based on her different life experiences. These essays were not in any particular order but were written more as she remembered and thought about different events and happenings in her early life. My Mother was only one year old when the war broke out in 1939 and six and a half years old when the war in Europe ended on 8 May 1945. The idea was that we would write the basic information and order and edit it afterward. This process of writing essays took from May until November 2017. Once the basic writing was done, I put the various pieces together and ordered them in a way I thought was appropriate.

We went on holiday for four days after Christmas and my Mother, and I spent a couple of hours a day editing the manuscript and adding pieces of information. It was quite amazing to me how my Mother kept remembering new things as we went through the draft book. The manuscript grew by approximately 3,000 words during those few days. Writing with my Mother was not all plain sailing. She had very exacting ideas about how the story had to be written, and she didn’t want anything that wasn’t “entirely” true included. In other words, it had to be written exactly as it happened and no minor poetic license was to be applied.

At that point, we had a fairly good draft, and I turned my attention to creating the illustrations out of fondant. We had discussed illustrations, and we both thought that keeping to my usual style of fondant figures for the new book was a good idea. We also agreed on the inclusion of a few of our family recipes that were appropriate for the time period and style of the book.

By March 2018 the new book was in a sufficiently good form for me to send it to a few proof-readers/editors. I received good feedback from all three, but Charli gave me two great pieces of advice.

The first was to include dialogue in the manuscript. Strangely, I had included very little dialogue. I am used to writing non-fiction publications on investment in Africa which don’t need to include any “warmer” tones. My Mother had said she thought I needed to make it “warmer” but she wasn’t able to explain what she thought I should do so when Charli mentioned including dialogue I understood what she meant immediately.

The other great idea Charli gave me was to include a timeline of the events of WWII as they pertained to Britain and to overlay my Mother’s childhood over this timeline. This was a stroke of genius as far as I was concerned. I created a detailed timeline, and this led to my including all sorts of additional titbits of historical information. As the advice came from an editor, my Mother was then willing to accept a bit of poetic license so long as I didn’t stray too far from the facts. An editor, of course, must know far more about book writing than me. Letting an older sibling do something which she had done when she was older but which fitted nicely in at a certain point in the story became acceptable.

We are now nearly at the end of the re-write and editing which has actually resulted in me revising most of the original ordering of the book, and I am very happy with it. We are hoping to finalize the manuscript for a final proofing by the end of May.

It has been a wonderful journey of discovery with my Mother, and I have enjoyed it so much we are talking about writing another two books to cover the next two phases of her life. The gradual changes that took place in England after the war and her decision to come out to South Africa.

***

Robbie Cheadle was born in London in the United Kingdom. Her father died when she was three months old, and her mother immigrated to South Africa with her tiny baby girl. Robbie has lived in Johannesburg, George and Cape Town in South Africa and attended fourteen different schools. This gave her lots of opportunities to meet new people and learn lots of social skills as she was frequently “the new girl.”

Robbie is a qualified Chartered Accountant and specialises in corporate finance with a specific interest in listed entities and stock markets. Robbie has written a number of publications on listing equities and debt instruments in Africa and foreign direct investment into Africa.

Robbie is married to Terence Cheadle, and they have two lovely boys, Gregory and Michael. Michael (aged 11) is the co-author of the Sir Chocolate series of books and attends school in Johannesburg. Gregory (aged 14) is an avid reader and assists Robbie and Michael with filming and editing their YouTube videos and editing their books. Robbie is also the author of the new Silly Willy series the first of which, Silly Willy goes to Cape Town, will be available in early July 2017.

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Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

Open Call for Guest Writers

The well has gone dry, writers! We’ve had a terrific run of guest writers who have explored and shared their creative projects and processes through the Raw Literature series at Carrot Ranch. I’m not convinced we’ve run out of creativity to share because the well is deep and we just need to go further.

If you want to catch up on our 2018 series, be sure to bookmark these terrific Raw Literature Guest Essays:

Carrot Ranch offers several options for Guest Posts. They publish on Tuesdays and will run until September. That’s when we start preparing for the Flash Fiction Rodeo. You might want to write a guest post for several reasons:

  1. To build your writing portfolio.
  2. To expand your writing platform.
  3. To bring visibility to a book you or another community writer has published.
  4. To try your hand at an advanced creative writing prompt.
  5. To get better acquainted with the community at Carrot Ranch.

If you are interested, I’m signing up guest writers for the following:

Raw Literature explores the creative process and early creations in writing. The series is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it.

Platform shares successful marketing tactics for authors or bloggers. Carrot Ranch upholds that every writer’s platform is different according to how it’s built from the basic bricks that include branding, credibility, community, and target audience. This series examines how to use a platform for marketing books or developed content.

New! Peer Book Review is intended to grant space to regular writers and readers of Carrot Ranch to share the books of others in the community. Many of the Rough Writers & Friends are authors, and you can find a variety of good reads on the Books page. Reviews are the best way to support authors, and this series seeks to encourage peers to offer thoughtful book reviews.

In addition to guest essays, Carrot Ranch challenges literary writers to push their craft with Advanced Flash Fiction. If you are interested, you can take these advanced challenges at any time. Post on your blog and link back to Carrot Ranch or submit as a potential guest post.

6th Sense Challenge reminds writers to explore the world with more than the eyes. Writers create visual images for readers through all five senses of sight, sound, scent, touch, and taste. This challenge is to write the same 99-word story five times using one of the five senses. In the final sixth story of 99 words, create a sixth overall sense that combines the best of the sensory elements.

History Challenge encourages writers to dig into the past to find forgotten stories. Possible places to look include one’s own family tree, vital records, scrapbooks, school yearbooks, archived newspapers, town histories, local cemeteries and old house records. The idea is to start with a name and date of a person’s lifespan. Using local libraries, museum reading rooms, state archives or online sources, piece together vital facts and imagine a story. It can be told in one, three or five flash fictions of 99 words each.

Ultimate Flash Fiction Challenge imitates the five steps of writing a book. It’s a progressive, five flash writing activity. Your own results will surprise you and improve your approach to book writing. This advanced challenge welcomes all writers, especially those who write books or want to better understand how.

It’s a five-step process:

  1. Free write for five minutes;
  2. Write a 99-word flash fiction;
  3. Reduce it to a 59-word flash fiction;
  4. Reduce it to 9-words;
  5. Build it back up to 599 words in three-acts.

You can submit a post, essay or story to wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

Raw Literature: Meet My Other Half

By Juliet Nubel

Until last autumn, I honestly thought I knew who I was and where I was going. As an aspiring writer in any case. The complexities of my childish fifty-something brain have never quite been sorted out, but at least I have always known what I want to write. I want to write words which obtain a smile, a smirk, a quick snort or a long hoot. I want to fill my pages with hahahas and heeheehees. I want to be the Chuckle Queen who refuses to take herself seriously either in the flesh or on paper, filling the air and the screen with a silly, feathery lightness which reflects my desire to float through life towards infinity and beyond, laughing all the way.

That was always the plan anyway, from the young age of seven when my school notebooks were filled with funny anecdotes and badly drawn three-legged dogs. The aim to amuse continued to sweep through my long teenage letters scrawled to friends, describing trips and tribulations during the badly-permed eighties. And it has always been the undercurrent at my blog OMG I’m fifty! — a purely self-indulgent, observational space which I like to describe as a mishmash of moments in the life of a very ordinary fifty-ish wife, mother, daughter, sister, and wannabe writer. Most of those moments have made me laugh in some way or other and have hopefully got a snigger or three from readers along the way. And really that was my only goal. Nothing more, nothing less. A simple need to make people laugh in this big, grey, ugly world ruled by outstandingly strange, angry and ugly people.

But that was then. What happened in October 2017 has somewhat changed that plan. That was when I seriously bumped into Sarah Brentyn. We had already rubbed shoulders at her blogs Lemon Shark and Lemon Shark Reef and I am a great admirer of her style and tone. But this time she was asking for help. How could I refuse? So I wrote a piece, only fifty words long, to help victims of the hurricanes which had just swept through the Caribbean. Sarah had offered to put forward one dollar for every piece she received, and although this type of writing was extremely far-removed from what I normally do, I accepted and posted this on my site:

Her face in my lap was the colour of ash. Pain-darkened eyes pleaded with mine.

“Will they be able to fix it quickly?”

“Of course they will”, I lied. “They’re on their way.”

My eyes smiled down at hers, carefully avoiding looking at the tiny arm, broken in two.

The process was hard. Fifty words is nothing. How could I create any kind of emotion in so few syllables? So I cut and cut until I was pleased with my tiny little flash. Based on a real moment spent with a young girl who had just fallen from her pony, I wanted to convey the worry and pain she was feeling and my forced, fake optimism that everything would be just fine. What I didn’t know then was that it would be the first of many flashes. That the little flash bug had just bitten me, slipped under my skin and would make me scratch and scratch at its itchy presence for the weeks and months to come.

Sarah then directed me to the Ranch Rodeo right here which I entered on five separate occasions and, to my surprise, gained a second-equal place in Irene Waters’ Scars contest with this short story:

Linea Nigra

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.

Where that piece came from is a mystery to me. It took me to places in my story-telling brain that had never been entered before. Painful places — sheer, rocky-edged cliffs I had to ascend; long, low, winding tunnels I had to crawl along on my naked belly to rip the right words from the deepest recesses of dripping caves. I was right there with that young girl scrubbing at her scar in the scorching bath. And I think the judge who picked me, Angie Oakley, knew that I was there too. Next came a sharp, murderous piece for Sherri Matthews’ prompt, and a very TUFF father-son story for the finale. They all took me to a level of writing I had never experienced before. The shift in style was perturbing, surprising, but exciting too.

When the Rodeo was over, I immediately started following Charli’s weekly challenges, Thursday now becoming my favourite day of the week. As soon as the post and the prompt have been read, I start thinking. Sometimes inspiration comes fast, sometimes I mull. But I haven’t missed a single one since November and probably never will. I am addicted to the effort they demand and the pleasure they procure. And the feedback from the other writers is a precious gift.

But I rarely share these little stories on my own blog. Why? I’m having trouble trying to explain it, even to myself. Maybe because some of them are so unlike the chatty, bubbly persona I like to portray there. Am I afraid of strange looks from family and friends who do not see me as this type of writer? Or do I hold onto a firm denial of the fact that I don’t always have to be funny or smart-arsed or droll? That I can have another side to my writing which may be bleak and sad, or shocking and odd. That there is a distinct, imaginative part of me which I have always refused to acknowledge and possibly even accept.

But whatever it is that has been holding me back is beginning to ebb away. I am starting to realise that I can be made up of two distinct halves. That writing is much more than just black or white, it is a multi-faceted occupation which allows us to shine through many different keyholes. That I can allow myself to start working on a collection of short tales which spring from dark inner places, and at the same time dream of finally finishing my comical book about my miraculously long marriage. The two are wildly different yet ultimately they are compatible. Why choose just one half when the other is well and truly present? 

So if we ever have the pleasure of meeting, and you care to ask me “Will the real Juliet Nubel, please stand up?” both halves of my writing-self will slowly rise, merge into one, and firmly shake your hand. There may be a cheeky sparkle in my eye, but if you look deeper, you will see that the glint comes from a roughly hewn block of granite. The one where I sharpen my penknife each week at the Ranch.

About Juliet Nubel

Juliet is the author of the blog omgimfifty.com She was born and bred in Glasgow, Scotland then studied social anthropology (don’t ask) at St Andrews University, long before Will and Kate had even heard of the place. Love brought her to France then took her to Miami and Barbados for three years before bringing her ‘home’ to Angers, a beautiful French city where she now lives with Hubby and their two daughters. She works full time in an English language school but for the rest and best part of her time, she can be found writing on her pet iPad in their favourite leather armchair. She uses blogging, and more recently flash fiction, as her training ground for that book she keeps planning on finishing. She is also a regular contributor to the British website fabafterfifty.co.uk  under her maiden name Juliet Young.

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Raw Literature posts as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99-word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

Raw Literature: A Writer’s Journey

By Rachel Hanson

I’ve had the pleasure of writing a few 99-word flash-fiction pieces for The Ranch over the last year or so and I was SO FLIPPIN’ EXCITED when Charli asked if I would consider writing something just a little longer about my journey to start a page on Patreon.

Those of us who are creators know that writing something amazing that is helpful, moving, and engaging takes a lot of time and energy. Even something that we might finish in a few minutes (lookin’ at you, 99-word flash-fiction) can take a pretty big emotional toll. In the years I’ve been writing I’ve had the opportunity to come to this realization on my own. As a teenager writing on Open Diary, engaging on MySpace, starting a WordPress blog, writing and publishing a short story, being called a monster on Facebook, and sharing my words in far reaches of the internet I’ve learned the importance of self-care. Giving myself distance, actively not engaging because I can’t take the toll, things we all do to ultimately be the best creators we can be.

After years of baring my soul and working to minimize the consequences, I decided to start writing on SteemIt. SteemIt rewards quality content creation and community building through cryptocurrency (Steem Dollars, similar to Bitcoin). I thought this could be a way to recognize that there is an economic benefit to creating quality content and helping to create a more compassionate world. Although I am still on SteemIt, I continue to run into the problem of engaging. I am delighted to do it, but with limited time it can be a legitimate struggle. I don’t do as well as I would like.

Shortly after joining SteemIt and writing there, I had the opportunity to attend a BossedUp Bootcamp (BUBC), where one of the seminars was about negotiating your salary. The incomparable Kathlyn Hart talked about how scary it can be to negotiate your salary but that women, who are socialized to not be too pushy, actually end up missing out on over 1 million dollars throughout their life. Not asking for what we deserve is really hurting us! I came back from BUBC with a renewed desire to negotiate for myself, not just money but also for more control over my time.  I knew I could do it. What’s more, I knew I had to do it. For myself, for my daughters, and for my husband.

I have to admit that at first all my firepower was geared toward my 9-5 day job as a higher education professional. I have the experience and was confident I could land a better paying job. After a few didn’t pan out (although one is about to pan out – visit me at rachelahanson.blog for details soon!) I realized that other people make real money writing. I love to write, I love connecting on the page, and I was already busting my butt to create amazing content. After a lot of thought, talking to friends who use Patreon (Justin Grays was a big influencer) and doing a super-scientific Twitter poll that seven people participated in I decided that Patreon was the way to go. I’ve only been at it for a few weeks (a natural born marketer, I am not) but I’ve found the experience to be truly delightful and it gives me hope that as my message grows, so will my patrons.

*Full disclosure: Charli is one of my patrons, as are my parents, and my best friend Cheyenne.

Rachel Hanson’s work has appeared on LevoOpen Thought Vortex, and The Relationship Blogger where she talks about the challenges of being a working professional and a parent, family traditions, and developing a strong marriage when through the very real struggle of having young children. You can also learn more about Rachel’s professional experience by visiting her LinkedIn profile.

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Raw Literature posts as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99-word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

Seeking the Well

I’m like an eagle standing on the ice. The thaw is near enough that I can hear the trout beneath claws designed to grab what I need — words like trout populate the pond of my stories. So close. So close.

But the words I wrote populated pages requested by clients. Nothing creative. Nothing literary. I interview board members and vendors. Such as the ice-cream maker who explained the moment she realized sugar was killing her husband. It was Valentine’s Day and she returned home with a box of chocolate. He loved his chocolates and Mountain Dew. But on that day he met his wife at the door, he told her he had diabetes.

This client told me her story and how years later she still has that unopened box of chocolates in her kitchen cupboard. Her husband stuck to a life-changing diet until he told his wife if he had to give up ice-cream he didn’t think he could stick to it. They were chemists and turned their kitchen into a working laboratory until they created a satisfying, sugar-free, dairy-free, whole-ingredients, plant-based ice-cream.

The secret to their company’s success? They made their mission fun. They were the eagles who broke through the ice and found the pond swimming with all the trout the would need.

I was that eagle on the ice trying to figure out how to break through after my second run at NaNoWriMo in 2013. For 22 years I had been writing for businesses and organizations, writing features, local profiles, and columns. I was a professional writer, a marketing communications manager with a thick freelancing portfolio, but I faced the ice — I wanted to write creatively; I wanted to spread my wings and be a literary writer.

After reflecting, as I do every turn of the year, I felt ready to make the literary leap. But how? I knew I could address writers with my professional experience and share business skills and marketing communication strategies. And that was the first stab I took as the eagle on the ice — Tips for Writers: By What Authority. One person read it. I thought of attracting readers through Ranch Recipes after all my writing beat had been local food systems — artisan cheese-makers, food-justice advocates, and chemists-turned-ice-cream-makers.

No, it was time to take the full literary plunge and it had to be fun.

Anyone who has been writing since the 1990s likely knows who Julia Cameron is — she wrote The Artist’s Way. She is someone who shares my love of Joseph Campbell’s work (especially the hero’s journey), reminding me to follow my bliss just as the creator’s of healthy ice-cream followed theirs. Her method includes daily free-writing, a practice that silences the inner critic. After all, we want to play with our bliss, not analyze it into an early demise.

The other part of her method includes a weekly activity to “fill the well.” She writes:

Art is an image-using system. In order to create, we draw from our inner well. This inner well, an artistic reservoir, is ideally like a well-stocked trout pond. We’ve got big fish, little fish, fat fish, skinny fish– an abundance of artistic fish to fry. As artists, we must realize that we have to maintain this artistic ecosystem.

If we don’t give some attention to upkeep, our well is apt to become depleted, stagnant, or blocked. Any extended period of piece of work draws heavily on our artistic well.

As artists we must learn to be self-nourishing. We must become alert enough to consciously replenish our creative resources as we draw on them– to restock the trout pond, so to speak. I call this process filling the well. (From The Artist’s Way, posted at Julia Cameron Live.)

Understanding that the well is filled with the art — and raw literature — of others, and that creativity is a tribal experience, I sought to make Carrot Ranch a playground for writers. Flash fiction would be the game we played. Nearly four years ago on February 13, 2014, I wrote my first Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge:

Word prompts continue to make for enjoyable practice. Practice makes for better craft, of course, but it also can be freeing. If it’s just “practice” then the writer can leave behind her critic or his editor, and just do the one thing we all want to do–write.

Take a break to have fun, and you just might return to your work renewed with playful creativity. I’m looking for some writers to play with once a week. The game is flash-fiction and each week will have it’s own prompt. Only 99 words, so not a big commitment. You can even develop a blog post around your submission and meet other writers–poets, bloggers, authors, j-students, teachers. If you write you are invited to play. Nothing serious; it’s just practice.

In other words, I had played with raw literature in mind from the beginning. I had no tribe. I trusted the ice would give and trout would be plentiful beneath. I trusted that if I sought the well every week, other seekers would show up. The first to do was was Norah Colvin. Norah’s first words to me ever were: “Powerful. Sad. Unjust. Distressing. Hateful.” I’m not sure those are the attribute of a strong friendship, but she trusted the space to leave a meaningful comment.  And she later returned with her own flash fiction.

We all improved our responses. Practice with any art or skill results in breakthroughs. But the greatest breakthroughs came in recognizing the power of the tribe. I’ve never grown tired of what the well reveals each week. I can’t predict it. But I know it’s going to be powerful.

From our earliest attempts at Raw Literature, our tribe became the Rough Writers. We’ve grown and taken on more Friends as writers also seek the well at Carrot Ranch. We are now a literary community and have debuted an anthology based on our earliest 99 words. We launch our book on February 4 with a live Facebook Event on February 4 from 11:00-11:20 am (EST, same as New York City). Like our flash fiction, it will be quick, inspiring and celebratory of the tribe.

On Monday, February 5, Geoff Le Pard will kick off a Rough Writers Around the World Tour. Every Monday will be in a different country with a different Rough Writer. February’s line-up includes:

Geoff Le Pard (UK) at Tangental on February 5
Anne Goodwin (UK) at Annecdotal on February 12
Anne Edall-Robson (CA) at Ann Edall-Robson on February 19
Sacha Black (UK) at Sacha Black on February 26

This is what one reviewer has to say about The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1:

“A fascinating book packed with bright ideas and worthwhile material. I was greatly entertained by the stories and essays and so taken with the idea that I thought I would give it a go with a 99-word review.

Stories of ninety-nine words, no more, no less, little gems from the Rough Writers of the Carrot Ranch. Like wild flowers in an early morning meadow glistening with dew and I, a butterfly or bee, flitting from bloom to bloom, immersing myself in a kaleidoscope of experiences which pass through my mind like an ever-changing dreamscape. Stories of love and loss, victory and defeat, struggle and gain from the pens of talented authors with backgrounds as diverse as their stories. A brilliant idea that has created an astounding anthology, one that you will return to time and again.” Charles Remington, Readers’ Favorite 5-Star Review

You might think that a 5-star review from an independent source before a book has officially launched is tops. But it’s the fact that the reviewer found the well and was inspired to write his own 99-word story. That’s the beauty of the Ranch — a deep and open well for all who seek.

The eagle has plunged through the ice.

Me, Too: Sexual Harassment Before It Had a Name

By Paula Moyer

Oprah Winfrey nailed it in her recent speech at the Golden Globe awards when she accepted her lifetime achievement award. Yes, we want a world where no one ever has to say, “Me, too” again. But we’re not there yet. In fact, we are so far from there that for a long time, these words from the poet Marge Piercy have captured the way these moments have landed in my heart and stayed:

A strong woman
is a mass of scar tissue that aches
when it rains and wounds that bleed
when you bump them and memories that get up
in the night and pace in boots to and fro.
 
— Marge Piercy, “For Strong Women”

So much has changed since 1975, the year I began graduate school at Oklahoma State University. This idyllic campus is the location of many of my “me, too” stories. Now, at the beginning of every school year, faculty members and graduate assistants attend a required annual orientation on preventing sexual harassment. I attended this school three years before the first sexual harassment lawsuit was won – therefore, before we had a name for the stares, gropes, and butt swats. Names have power – therefore, not having a name for one’s experience takes power away, tells the survivor: What happened didn’t really happen.

The faculty had one woman – an adjunct professor. Among the 15 or so teaching assistants, all but two were men. I had made the decision too late to apply for financial assistance. Instead, I got a job as the first female letter carrier on campus.

The following is just a partial list of the incidents I experienced or witnessed during the year I was there:

  • A faculty member berated a female graduate student in front of all the other guests at a holiday gathering and summed up this dressing down by calling her – well, a vulgar name for female genitalia that begins with a “c” and rhymes with “hunt.” (Over 40 years later, I can’t even bear to type the word.)
  • I was flatly told by a fellow graduate student that “no woman has ever gotten a Ph.D. from the history department at OSU.”
  • My department was on my route as a letter carrier. Often when delivering mail to my department, I was swatted on the butt by faculty members and fellow graduate students alike.
  • At an event that called for getting dressed up, a fellow graduate student interrupted me to tell me that I looked “good enough to rape.”

We had no name then for what was happening. We know now that the perpetrators were laying the cornerstones of a “hostile environment,” a key phrase used in sexual harassment cases.

Regarding the long-term effect of these events, I can only speak for myself. I left OSU for another school and then dropped out. Eventually, I went back to graduate school in creative writing and focused on memoir. But hold off – don’t say, “See? It all worked out.”

I have earnestly tried to not let these stories be part of my material. In fact, it has taken me a long time to write about what happened. When I first tried, several years ago, I got stuck. I felt like a time traveler, trying to describe to a modern audience something from the distant past, like polio epidemics before the vaccine. Then came the revelations of first one celebrity taking liberties with subordinates, and then another, and then the politicians. And then came the “me, too” movement on social media. My heart broke each time one daughter-in-law, and then the other posted their respective stories. I had wanted to help create a world where such remembrances were truly a thing of the past.

Apparently, this speaking out is part of how we bring about that new world: we “silence breakers” are Time magazine’s “Person of the Year.” Such stories, then, are still relevant. Further, I have to admit, so are annual orientations. The institutions offering the orientations may be flawed and self-seeking, but in this endeavor, they’re on the side of the angels. The speaking out and the laying down of policy may, indeed, help bring forth a place we can lay down the burden of watching our backs. Just as the scourge of sexual harassment has contaminated our writing, the freedom from it will bring fresh air to our material.

Toward that end, let us join forces to banish this pollution from our atmosphere. In this newly clean, newly pure space, may we reclaim our cores, our dreams, our souls — the drive that this tyranny has so wrongly depleted. May we rediscover our focus. May we commit ourselves afresh to our work, our stories. Our precious callings need nothing less.

***

Paula Moyer is a freelance writer, memoirist, and birth doula living in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is currently working on her memoir, An Inheritance of Spirit (working title).

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Raw Literature posts as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99-word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

Riding the Range

Raw Literature by D. AveryRaw Literature
by D. Avery

Charli Mills has welcomed me to the ranch but does she know that it’s a steel horse I ride? It’s likely she doesn’t care what any of us ride, is simply happy to have us ride for the ranch, but when I was in the saddle today it came to me that riding a motorcycle and writing are not so different.

‘Cars are cages’ say the patches on the leather jackets; motorcycles symbolize freedom. On a motorcycle you are out there, riding raw, having to be more observant and reactive and aware of your surroundings. Writers too step outside of the confines and illusions of safety, to take the world in and interact with it on a more intimate and immediate level. Both activities are often perceived as risky and challenging; writing is both. But with riding, there are ways to minimize risk, which may apply to writing.

Bikers know that speed does not necessarily reflect skill. We get better by attending to form first, through practice. Bikers know that the bike will go where you point your head, so we are ever mindful of the cardinal caveat, to look ahead, to look through the turns. You need to be aware of the pavement right in front of your wheel, to see that while not fixating on it, while looking ahead at the same time. You need to simultaneously read the pavement, the traffic, the context of the road; in town, is a car door likely to open on you, out of town, a moose to lumber out of the woods? Riding is like keeping track of the details and the big picture simultaneously while you swoop through your writing, anticipating problems and adjusting as you go. Just keep a relaxed grip on the handlebar so you don’t over-steer. Maintain your momentum and look and lean through those twisties, bringing your story safely through to the straightaway.

Skillful riders make slow speed maneuvering, as well as high speed cornering, look easy and graceful. They smoothly brake or shift to maintain momentum at any speed; they find the appropriate pace for the conditions and context of their ride. They practice their riding skills, they build experience; they even get help from other riders. Lone riders can find mentors in print, and while reading about riding is not actual experience, it certainly prepares one to get more out of riding, to know what to be mindful of and to be fortified with advice for when one does encounter the realities of the road. Soon after reading David Hough’s motorcycle safety books I took my first solo road trip. I encountered just about everything he had written about, from the oil slicks in the rain to the lumber in the road, to the inexplicably angry redneck in the truck. I recognized the hazards and reacted appropriately to them because I had read about them. With further experience these encounters are less dramatic and reacting is more automatic and ingrained. In writing terms, I have practiced, and have honed my craft. But starting out, it was helpful to have the advantage of others’ experience, knowing what to anticipate.

Riding with others is also beneficial to skill building. One time, riding with friends, having pulled off to gas up and have a snack, we all noted the mileage on our odometers and to our amusement, none of us showed having traveled the exact same distance, with Jim coming in at the lowest. “I pick better lines”, he said. It was funny, but he was the most experienced rider, so I seriously watched him as we rode on. Because not only is it fun to ride with friends, it is an opportunity to learn tricks and techniques, to see how others tackle the same road as you. If someone has good form, watch and learn. But of course, ride your own ride, as they say. Know when to set your own pace and to make your own calls. You do not have to ride with people that do not feel safe to your ride. And if you don’t want to slow down for your group, you may want to ride with a different group or solo. Know your strengths and own your ride. And yes, we are of course still talking about writing, though I have never written with an offline group.

Riding in a group, to be safe, requires respect and road etiquette of the members. But group riding provides a risk reduction through increased visibility. But what do people see? Do they see a rebellious gang, both intriguing and intimidating? A group of risk-taking outsiders that they secretly wish to join?  Riders or writers, with or without a cause, from the inside it feels good to be with people that ‘just get it’. We are bikers or writers because it’s what we do.

Writers and riders set out on adventures where anything could happen, their common goal to keep upright and between the ditches. How does one keep a two-wheeled steed upright? The same as you keep your story upright. Find that sweet spot of friction and momentum that keeps the contact patch humming with the road; the tension and pacing and rhythm of your words will keep your story from drifting or from skidding out of control. Practice and attitude will serve you well; envision the desired outcome. I remember an article in a women riders’ magazine about ‘riding it out’. Many riders have held the belief that dropping the bike is a legitimate and even inevitable strategy. In this article, the author suggested we visualize a more positive outcome when encountering a hazard, that we imagine riding it out instead of laying it down. We practice so that we can apply our skills and experience and will to recover from the patch of gravel; to making that quick swerve or quick stop to avoid the deer or the pothole. Similarly, you can bring all your skills and imagination to bear in your writing. You will hit rough patches; you can revise, you can choose a new line. But don’t lay it down. I never plan to, but when I ride I do wear the helmet and Kevlar in case I get knocked down, which is easier than donning the thick skin that writers must sometimes to withstand knockdowns and abrasions. Suit up, be prepared, and have fun. Go for it.

We are out there, vulnerable and exposed. We are out there, having a blast powering through turns, in the wind, being the wind. We are outside of our cages. We explore new roads, applying and building the skills and experience gained on familiar roads. We enjoy the ride. We write on.

Author of For the GirlsD. Avery is from New England and teaches middle school. She is the author of two books of poems, Chicken Shift, and For the Girls. She blogs and writes fiction at Shiftnshake where she archives all her Ranch Yarns.

 

 

Follow her at:

Amazon Author Page

Lulu

Twitter: ‪‪@daveryshiftn

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Raw Literature returns as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99-word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

Art is the Active Expression of Our Creative Skills

Raw Literature by Kate Spencer

Photo Credit: http://www.pablo-ruiz-picasso.net/work-9.php“So, who do you think painted this piece of work?”

Our European Art History instructor leaned against the rugged steel table at the front of the classroom.   I stared at the image on the screen.  The painting was of a solemn moment in time, a woman all decked in bright white kneeing before an altar.

“Rembrandt?” someone called out hesitantly.

“No.  Anyone else want to try?”

“El Greco?” said the woman beside me.

“No.” The instructor glanced around the classroom and with no further guesses forthcoming he gave us the answer. “It was Pablo Picasso.”

There was silence as we all digested this bit of information.  A lone voice echoed our thoughts from the back of the room.

“Picasso’s paintings were abstract with distorted figures. This doesn’t look like his work at all.”

“True,” replied our instructor. “Those were his later works. Like all great artists, Picasso learned and mastered the fundamentals of painting first.  He was 15 when he finished this large-scale oil painting of his sister taking First Communion.”

By the end of the class, I learned that there was a symbiotic relationship between art and creativity.

Creativity is allowing yourself freedom to explore beyond established rules; art is knowing which of the conventions to apply and keep while creating something unique.

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have. ~ Maya Angelou

When I was little, I remember waking up one morning to a world where the entire front lawn and even the streets were covered with a massive ice crusted white blanket.  My brother and I rushed outside. The snow was too crusty to make a snowman, so my ten-year-old brother suggested we build an igloo.  As the little sister, I got to cut out blocks of snow while he carefully stacked the slabs like house bricks around a circular perimeter.  We worked on it for hours, never quite getting the dome to close properly.  My brother still has the picture our dad took of us that day – two snowmen standing proudly beside our shoulder-high creation.

As children we freely engage with our universe in creative ways. I know I did. At some point I started comparing myself to others and in so doing convinced myself that creativity and artistry were gifts I did not share with others.

The truth is that we are all creative.  Besides artistry, creativity allows us to work through situations in life and find solutions.   It allows us to find unique connections between different ideas and objects.  It influences us when we are stuck in traffic and decide to explore an alternate route home or when we tell a story to a friend.  It plays a role in the words and images we post on Facebook and the outfits we pick out to wear each day.

The greatest thing about creativity is that once we open ourselves up to being more creative, it flows into other parts of our lives.  It’s like the secret spice that adds an additional layer of joy and fulfilment into our everyday lives.

 “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” ~ Pablo Picasso.

I view myself as a literary artist.  The words that make up my articles, stories, poems and blog posts are my paintings. Creativity allows me to explore different structures and concepts in my work. The artist in me decides which elements to apply and which of the many drafts I write becomes my final work of art.

But what about those who are not artists in the traditional sense? I believe Picasso was telling us to look beyond the convention and recognize the artist in all of us.

There is an art to how we run a business, raise our kids, cook our meals and repair antique cars.  There is art in how we decorate our homes, plant our gardens and go for walks. Art comes from the heart and understands that we create who we are and who we want to be.

In the end, our life is the masterpiece we leave behind.

***

Kate Spencer is a freelance lifestyle writer. She invites readers to come and dance through the daisies, sit by the fireplace and reflect upon life and simple pleasures.  A few years ago she published a commemorative book exclusively for her family filled with short stories from her father’s life.

Kate is a Rough Writer at Carrot. Follow her on Twitter @EloquentlyKate

Facebook

Blogging at:  ‘Eloquently Kate’

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Raw Literature returns as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.

 

Raw Literature: Publishing A Literary First

Essay by Elliot Lyngreen, guest author & flash writer at Carrot Ranch.

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I have been given the honor and opportunity by the inspirational Charli Mills of Thee Ranch (Carrot Ranch Communications, where flash is the fiction) to talk about my story of my first published piece of literature Inextricable Knot in some Raw Literature here. Sweet. Let’s rock.

Well, the idea still comes to me every morning. With highs from the radio like Finch (Bury Me) inside a vehicle, the morning commute crowds. There are many ways it could turn. Our destinations feel the presence and the world anymore, the highway multitude, speeding that could end up on the stage of AGT and reinforcing all the hearts with our performance. Or…

Yes, is there anything better than a road trip? Gripped to the wheel, is there anything better than driving a vehicle with one of your favorites reeling ears? And such emotions truly and equivocally warming, skin surfacings and porcupine dreams all instantly percolate alive? Make you feel ready to be thee great wave? That is how it begins anyway. And it began so long ago, dreaming to turn off any one of the exits fleeting for another destination than where we always end up; turn to where the world reads me as some tremendous book in the blast of an anthem. I truly wanted to capture that current, and that flow, and that sensation of traveling the road; and for…ever wanted it to open my book. But the way it begins to be imagined, turns in yet at a totally different destination.

By serendipity once along a road trip many moons ago when I was like 20 and with a few buds coming home from Syracuse, we were flying in this pouring rain in the middle of a fleet of semis all going 91 miles an hour and I thought THIS! THIS. This is it! I got chills and such heavy inspiration thinking, this is thee exact place the world goes now. So much metaphor and connection. This is where we exist, traveling enormous. This is such thee force. Such a fine scene for…the loads of material out there. I wanted so bad to spill out raw in the prose that was coursing ma soul right there and then in our sojourn placement flying along the turnpike, highway, the ineffable…but I don’t write like that.

But like anything and everything it turns away and divides, separates, the pack of semis drifts apart to other lanes, a variety of autos coast in and out, the radio changes to New Order (Ceremony) and the power in my hands breaks apart, and the true world arrives and there’s demand for more from the insides. But mine ache and distract and deter me from that long story which could arise, right? So, here is what I got so far.

It begins there, too; cuz I was reborn on a street, a 4-laned avenue when I was 12 and “I awoke” (what I told my photo caption should read on the website it was published on, if ya take a look; it’s ok but hey that must be publishing I guess, anyways…) in the summer of 91. That’s when it hit me; an automobile going well close to 50 maybe; in a residential zone, a street-lighted dreams distance, the busy road between my friends and our homes, our placements in the separation of our neighborhoods. And me, the guilty child, and yea, wanted to get up and just ride on along home. But drop back or resurface then unto that road this child we once were. Awake. Give him a chance to hear Ceremony. Read Pynchon. Oh my. Oh me. Oh Drop, yes oh graceful angels of destiny lower, place him breathing up ‘heavenknowsit’sgotobethistime’ into the rage -gasp! (and the world becomes wavy) as he opens the flashes and the world ripples outward; and I…yeah me, I want to ride along on my own shrinking moment, memory. I want to redo. But, I can see the whole thing over and over fearlessly still. ‘forev..erer’ — That is my perspective anyway.

Yet peel back them tears a little further and glimpse a force, and drive around as they cut my favorite T-shirt from my young lifeless body coming back alive; from these frail searches like for breaks and fractures, bruises, around my sides and my waist, looking for impressions, pain, checking the head maybe, whiplash; that. But with pulses and breathes around; scatterbrain consume the exulted—“did you black out son?”—form the crowd, paramedics, folks together harmony and rhythm it all again slipped but inside the horn renaissance you now swim in; ahhhh with me, and there see the low profile vehicle coming… and then on the other side there was pretty much nothing wrong. So, yea let me ride along on home. But…well, that is not in the literature, in the cards anyway; court date you know what I’m saying? But it was me, my fault anyway; but provides some good background, my un-layering, my memories, in the grimy enormous confusion; but the presence.

Kind of the idea…Just like that. A great collision this piece was turned out to be. Meant to be.?. Also, my wish for another way through life. A different story let me tell you in such a small thickly arched pocket, and form a manic congested little loop, down down down to swallow a scene where quick-as-the-energy sparked from an empty grave –am I ghost? that! but quaked!? Then disintegrate. Oh ho, bent loose in them physical  — just conquered — momentums of the earth, that all became the summer afterward, the…91 releases if you know what I mean (and I hope you do). All makes me wonder so much of that which is connected, but mostly, makes me grateful to still be alive; but mostly, like something the sacred hour that got tighter and tighter at every turn to twilight there that I came back into; sets me up to believe I will never be allowed out; until I go through THIS, write the nonsense, buzz ALL heartstruck about how I entered the darkness, but then marveled the light flooding back on down and throughout; but ewww more than anything else, but how I must tell it, now…so wrenched inside. How I am unable to be normal, yet I must be. And I just cannot. How it was there before all this.

(Until I explain it. Right? Right. Let me try here.)

Ok. Like take your Grateful Dead any day, I will take my Jefferson Airplane live instead. Or sometimes you need Mazzy Star (Had a Thought) in the ears on a rainy afternoon setting off coyly the momentum of these epic anthem stealings, this creativity of stealing Keyser Soze-esque fragments of them snippets of songs ‘inyoursmiletherearemanyofwaystocure_ThePain_uh-huh’ and literature and movies and reusing such for the moments when it comes time to define what it’s like coursing through these terrors to be alive right now with this wrinkle in my guts. But to reach, touch God say, in the Sistine! In the overwhelmed distractions and the overwhelming media around, and just to try and be…understood. And in control. Oh let me play the piano once for everyone. But, I can’t. No. To avoid the collision, Wait…Because I am really not telling it just…right. And that is why I write and write and rewrite; and wrote this piece and rewrote it ten thousand times and ten thousand ways. To make sure to take a stand; in myself; and against everything already out there. It is my stand against the psychology already established. And my stand in the reality of a disability. Not in fiction. It is my stand against that which is fuming down the highways ready to tell me that I am wrong; by showing exactly where it is I stand (or sit, for that matter). No, it is not another protest. Hang on a sec…

And so many times I wrote it; streaking the ineffable, taking note of the minor details of things on vehicles — the foaming on the road, a little piece whipped around a tailpipe of a pickup and shredded as it unravels, flutters galore…so maybe it would be; and in so many different ways; so right…I sorted through visions and very many different songs for the soundtrack within, to exactly grasp that feeling of what is I am trying to say; and where it could reach so many, and how celeritous it was going; and where; and why; and all that…’representation.’ Cuz it seems it must. And, well also, I mean, why else am I still here? Just for this piece? I hope not. So, let’s make it true, right. And make it rock. Great!

It was going to be such magnificence.

But you see, I have this problem. (I sometimes think I am talking to the stars..).. No seriously though, they call it IBS and I cannot disagree more. Call it something else. Please. You see, it is so much more than what it is and the way it is perceived. And that is where the whole Inextricable Knot thing turns. Turns out I have this problem (you know, with how they treat me and how they diagnosis it. Like it is something I do NOT have. Or, just have? A problem). Like it is a somatic disorder and merely inside my head or my psychology; because all tests cannot explain the pains I feel. Was it the accident? Does it matter? It was there before I am pretty sure. And I can’t take it too much anymore (and that was 30 Years ago! I was writing that…). And with how much it costs me trying to get help, how it makes me not even want to ask anymore. Write. Write it down yo…Cuz I really cannot afford to! But I got to. And I got to go go go but I got these lumps/growths forming all over me now. Oh what the hell are these?? So much…… yet it is; and yet it is completely not. So I wrote…

That is another thing I was trying to get to in this work. Reality. With fiction, kind of…Or, that I intended with the book, that which it was supposed to be; that originally was; then, this…Piece…And still is — as I left a novel in pieces on the cutting room floor, a great many pages and words and various images that were going to magnificently follow this fantastic opening scene into the chapters after…and rapturous speakers and so forth. So, somewhere it turned. Crash. Maybe it just simply crashed. I did. How it is completely out of my control; trying to fuel, feed and so forth; change roads so much, that I cannot disagree more, as I said. And, moreover, I have this problem because I cannot finish that novel; and just have this little story now. That! explains it all ever so perfect; but, furthermore, that I will not settle for a lack of explanation. I have the full argument in my head every single day driving to work; the full book; getting ready; turning awake; oh groans…but, cramps (Am I woman?)… furthermore, in my stance; bowels, mmm bowls over? and even still — at the toilet. I know — disgusting. Right? That is what this piece does. Where it goes. Zoom! Spoiler alert!! In my guts. Sunk. Oh how precisely that describes — whoosh! where it unsettles? Maybe. And here it comes down the heavy road. With a full force of passion, the music of the world through the 90s, and yet…

It is revealing these issues I deal with; that was going to be the book. That is the hook, the short of it; this piece; an overly described just awful mess of symptoms, condensed into which did not just magically come to me; or, desire to be turned to some shortened little path, a tiny portion of frustrated fiction. Cuz it is embarrassing and ridiculous and such a shame. Especially for men. Am I even a man? It is so much more. And I don’t think so in the world of them (men) — I tell you what. It is so hard enough to talk about awful poop anywhere, and even harder to be understood how different it is for folks like me; while not laughing out loud. And there is the secret to it, the taboo and the jokes and just between you and me, it simply, truly is really frickin gross; more gross than just having some potty issues coursing this circulation and such; but that is how it is viewed. A joke. So Cameron, I took a stand, too. Sat down and poured into notebooks so much ink; then typed it all up over the years. (I really would rather pen it all down down down I know that now). And, I got a great sense of humor (and threshold of pain) I like to think. Good outlook on things. But, I changed and changed this corrosion of the insides that it is constant, chronic, into words that maybe will convince them (whoever they are, right?) just a little better than Fluffy. HA! He’s great. To — ok- laugh a little — ok. But to make ya feel this way; all upside down and inside out, with finer details I must hide at these moments; but do not want to get too far into…cuz yea eww…Well, to show that it is my life. And that! is the other thing that I was trying to begin with this piece. Turn the literature from something out of imagination into the reality of living inside one of them fears of some dystopiated fictional character they made up. Yes, I just invented a word. Mmmayb…

It is unbearable at best. There has always been a sense that I can write what so many others have merely imagined. Yet, it did not turn out like that. And yet, maybe another one (piece) will. Hopefully it introduces that concept. Grounds all the fiction. And rises them up. Oh it makes me tire to think how much more I must create. Cuz this piece feels incomplete. To turn it into the story I see…

Well, let me tell at least (tell) Why it is called – Inextricable Knot. Cool? Cool. Ok great! The title comes from a line in the Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne: “This feeble and most sensitive of spirits could do neither, yet continually did one thing or another, which intertwined, in the same inextricable knot, the agony of heaven — defying guilt and vain repentance.” Now, while that has a deeper and different meaning as it refers to the minister Dimmesdale’s doom of being unforgiven, I thought, well that is very similar. Especially that mention of a knot. But, moreover, the purgatory of it all. And whether I talk about my symptoms or hold them secret due to the severity (it seems) of the awful things that happen, that no one wants to or needs to talk about or read anyway, or probably will if I unveiled the journal of these feelings inside, that character I am continually dealing with — cancer maybe, an inextricable lump, or knot, what’s that?!… — well it would not matter. It is my doom.

I really wanted to draw the line between. And still deeper, deeper, down…divide the mind and the body. Or, should I say eliminate the idea that this is in my mind, because…where was I? … oh that’s right…so, instead of a character in fiction and a terrific imagination of a story, instead of a short fiction, I attempt(ed) to place the feeling of living within some grotesque or diseased story; all at one instant but truthfully, maybe as being left lingering in a kind of stuck existence, an in-between place. But it is not imagination entirely. The body sends pain signals to the brain to tell it that something is wrong. I just wanted to say that just now. And with this work and the book I want/ed to redefine this irritable issue (along come a multitude of disabling issues out of one’s control, I know) and rearrange (all of you stars too;) the pieces — until these are some things that we can study and dissect, rather than use a cash cow. Cuz I am flippin broke in the ‘Black Market Mercurio’ (which is another story I got for ya’ll).

Anyways, it is meant to be an exciting little piece that is ripped away from the spectacle coming and was very hard for me to read, narrate, or audio that is…So, if you want to check it out, it is at an “online journal of deaf and disabled literature & art” — called Deaf Poets Society.

Now, you may be asking how is this a disability? And that folks is such a novel thing…That! Is why I think I needed to explain, write this piece again if it takes…; and that is why I am always writing things too personal; but, why and how this piece came to be…It feels incomplete and I am getting a little weak, tired, distracted by more things and songs to tell about…than I ever will be able to, you know…? but hey there’s nothing wrong with me. Cynical Right?

I hope it unveils a little more of yours truly and this…..whatever it is. So, yes, but please check out my my very first published material, my beginning to this whole literature thing. I Hope.

Find it here: Inextricable Knot

I cannot express my appreciation and gratitude if you do. And to Charli Mills at thee Ranch, and to the Deaf Poets Society for the opportunity to share my piece in their Issue 5 release.

As always, thanks for ragin’ and God bless.

***

Elliott Lyngreen was born, raised, and schooled Catholic. He’s a middle child of a very large mixed family. Stepsiblings and half sisters; a whole brother, and cousins upon cousins; not all blood, but all family. He’s a 38-year-old electrical systems designer for a local engineering firm. Marvel music, sports, photography, films, etc. and has been writing since 15. He proses on mostly short pieces. Afflicted by an indescribable sickness, he tries and aims to eliminate the idea of its definition as a frequent urgency manageable with dietary changes. Because it is so much more.

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Raw Literature is an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99 word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.