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Serendipity Happens

SerendipitySerendipity plays out in happy accidents. It’s not something you plan for, but it can be an unexpected gift that evolves from your plans. Or no plans at all. Take action without holding tightly to outcomes and you might get the most pleasant ride of your life.

Writers thought up all ways to express serendipity unfolding. The right moment, the north star aligns and friends happen into our lives or we happen to gift another unintentionally. Wrap yourself up in this series of happy accidents and contemplate your own moments of serendipity as you read.

The following 99 word stories are based on the October 14, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that reveals or explores a moment of serendipity.


One of Those Days by Sarah Brentyn

After getting a flat tire, breaking the heel off my shoe, and cracking the screen on my phone, the heater went. I called the repairman and made it to the post office just after they closed. That’s when I noticed I dropped my ATM envelope full of cash.

We spotted it at the same time, the man and I.

I, in new shoes, he, in tattered socks, dashed toward the envelope. He picked it up, looked around, and asked, “Did anyone drop their money?”

He stood.

I waited.

He walked.

It was the first time I’d smiled all day.


Lucky Moon by Sherri Matthews

His beady eyes watched as the back door slowly opened and a woman appeared, shotgun in hand.

She’d seen him.

“Keep still yer little sod…that’s right…” Ethel had him in her sights, about to pull the trigger, when startled by footsteps.

She zoomed round to face Fred.

“Ethel, please let me in, I’m cold and hungry!”

“What the…is that a nightie? Get in yer moron, we need words. But first…”

She swung back around but her prey had gone.

Safe in his burrow, he thanked his lucky moon that he hadn’t ended up a rabbit pie that night.


The Wrong Place at the Right Time by Norah Colvin

Marnie was puzzled. The card definitely said 225; but there wasn’t any 225. There was 223, and 227, but no 225. She peered at the crack between the apartments as if willing 225 to materialise. Exhausted and confused, unsure of what to do next, she slumped on the step.

“Can I help you?”

The question interrupted her muddled thoughts. Seeing kindness in the eyes, Marnie explained her predicament.

The woman read the card.

“Street, not Avenue,” she said, pointing to the sign. “Are you Marnie? Lucky I got the wrong bus today. I’m Josephine. Come on. It’s not far.”


Serendipity Do-Dah by Ann Edall-Robson

“Serendipity do-dah, serendipity day, my oh my what a wonderful day.”

“That is not how the song goes.”

“Oh yes it does!”

“Noooooo it doesn’t”

“Remember when you moved here?”

“Easter, sixth grade.”

“Remember how everyone ignored you, the new girl, because we already had enough friends?”


“Remember the school play where we were paired up to sing Zip A Dee Doo Dah?”

“Why would you remember something like that all these years later?”

“It’s what brought us together. It’s our song! So what if I change the words to my liking?”

“And you’re still a flirt!”


In the Cards byC. Jai Ferry

Madrid, New Mexico, was barely a blip on our map where we stopped to eat runny eggs and salty hash browns before stretching our legs downtown. We stepped into a mom-and-pop store with hand-painted silverware in the window. We picked through geckos carved into metal and chunks of turquoise until we found old black-and-white photographs turned into kitschy postcards for the tourists. We bought the one showing our seventeen-year-old mother wearing cheap lace. She was laughing with a man whose flattened boutonniere sagged from his lapel. Back on the road, we studied the first clue to finding our father.


Aha! Water…by Ruchira Khanna

Paula walked in a dainty fashion while skewing her eyes towards her parked car taking gulps that were becoming hard to swallow.

The blaring sun had scorched her body, and she had underestimated the weather by not carrying enough water with her. The walk that started off with enthusiasm was now a juggle between the mind and body that kept throwing weird messages across.

Not a single soul in sight.

Suddenly she heard loud thuds. She pulled away. Sprinters raced past her. Just then she felt a tap on her shoulder and a bottle of water was in sight.


Flash Fiction by Jeanne Lombardo

My phone again. A drowned alarm clock palpitating in my purse. No doubt Jill. The dean and her urgencies. Fuck this 24/7 access!

Driving back from lunch. Fumbling for the squawking little warden in my bag. I’ll die in my car some day, I think. Dammit! Missed it. No, the predictable whistle of a text message. Immediacy is Jill’s mantra.

But it’s not Jill. Dear one,” the text reads. “Poss opptnty! Doc needs help w/ book. 30K, maybe more. Talk? Sak

Ahh, sweet little communicator. Cellular herald of new possibilities! Sit in my lap while I ponder the what’s-ahead…


Serendipity by Irene Waters

Blast, I slept through the alarm again.

Josh sat in the stationary traffic. Thank heavens the alarm hadn’t woken him. I’d have been on that bridge if I was on time.

“You’re fired. This is the sixth day in a row you’ve been late. It just isn’t good enough. Pack your desk and leave now.”

“The bridge collapsed. Lots of casualties.”

“Too bad. Out!”

Josh couldn’t take his eyes off the slender blue-eyed blonde headed woman smiling at him in the lift. Thank heavens I was fired. Instead of a computer screen I’m staring into the eyes of my future.


The Luck of the Irish by Geoff Le Pard

Mary climbed into the cab, while Rupert went to the far side. She wondered if this whole trip to Dublin to try and find her twin was a mistake. At least being with Rupert had, so far, been easy. Fun even. Though leaving Charlotte and Penny hurt.

‘So what are you two planning?’ The cabbie sounded cheerful. ‘Bit of romance?’

Mary snorted a laugh and Rupert joined in. She said, ‘We’re siblings. Looking for a long lost relative.’


‘Yes. Katherine Potts.’

The cabbie laughed. ‘Never. My aunt is Kate Potts. She’s English. Adopted…’

Mary shook her head. ‘Coincidence…’


The Offer by Charli Mills

Fiddle music faded, and Cobb wiped sweat from his brow despite the cool night. He set his instrument in its lined case and sat down.

“Woo boy! You play a mighty fine fiddle, Mister!” The short-legged man crouched by the crackling fire. Short legs, but he could dance a big jig.

Cobb looked up at the stars. “Mighty fine place you have.” He could imagine Mary’s face at seeing the rich sod. If this was his, he’d build a toll bridge across that confounded crossing, build a bigger barn, sell hay.

The man leaned over. “Wanna buy it, Mister?”


Touching History by Pat Cummings

Up ahead, the exit from highway 16 had two signs posted. “Tacoma Narrows Bridge” sat above the “Shake Shake Shake” restaurant sign advertising “Olallieberry Milkshakes.”

In line to buy our first olallieberry shake since we left Oregon, we chatted with the nice woman ahead of us, mentioning our purpose to visit Galloping Gertie next.

“You know the film of the bridge breakup? The guy running off, the last man off the bridge?”

Sure we did. It was iconic!

“Well, that man was my Dad,” she said. Solemnly, my spouse and I reached out to touch her shoulder, touching history.


North Star by Paula Moyer

Another day. Another eight hours of typing battle scenario. Jean logged her time at her summer job at the base while her mind drifted into her next-year’s move to Minnesota. The daydreams helped her muddle through the mindless work.

“What are your plans after the job ends?” an enlisted man, last of the draftees, grinned.

“I’m getting ready to move next year,” Jean replied with a blush.

“Me, too. I’ve got four more weeks. Then I’m going back home.”

“Where’s home?”

“Minnesota,” he said. His eyes looked faraway.

Jean stopped breathing. “Me, too.” It was all she could say.


Flash Fiction by Anne Goodwin

Ned hadn’t told his mother he called into Kathie’s Kitchen every afternoon. She’d say he’d get better coffee, and cheaper, at home. But Ned lived for Kathie’s smile when she set down his mug. Today, on his three hundredth visit, he resolved to ask her out.

Red-faced, he mumbled his invitation to the countertop. Her response stunned him. How could she be married? Hadn’t he checked her fingers for a ring?

“But my sister might be interested.”

Another woman emerged from the back of the shop. Identical twins, but only Kathie had that smile. “I thought you’d never ask.”


The Treasure by Jules Paige

She had to walk the dogs before she left for work in the morning. Today was trash day. And there was a glint at the curb. A gold ring with a ruby stone and four little baguettes. And it fit where a pre-engagement ring once did. She didn’t mind letting the old boyfriend think that another beau had given it to her. She was content to toss that fishy man back into the sea.

He’d come to collect it when he was on home from leave from the Navy. They both must have known they weren’t soulmates.


Story Time by Pete Fanning

Mia snuggled deeper into her father’s arms. “Tell me again.”

“Okay, so I walked into Mommy’s classroom, to read Green Eggs and Ham.”

“The wrong classroom.”

“Mommy! Let Daddy tell it.”

“Yep,” Daddy grinned. “But one look at the teacher and I was tongue-tied.”

Mia beamed at Mommy, who narrowed her eyes. “He was supposed to be in Mrs. Ruth’s room.”

Mia squealed. Wiggled from Daddy to Mommy, nodding. “But you let him stay?”

A quick kiss over her head. Mommy sighed. “Well, what was one story going to hurt?”

“Yeah, but, Mrs. Ruth could have been my mommy?”


Planning My Lucky Break by Luccia Gray

‘You’ve bought five hundred copies of your novel and left them lying around London?’

‘Strategically placed.’

‘Where would that be?’

‘On the underground, buses, theatres, museums, coffee shops, wine bars…’

‘That’s your marketing campaign?’

‘It is.’

‘But will anyone read them?’

‘Everyone likes books, especially commuters, art lovers, and people who drink wine and coffee.’

‘The question is, will you ever sell your books?’

‘It just takes one influential person to read it, love it, and spread the word. Just one.’

‘And if that one influential person doesn’t find it?’

‘Then I’ll buy another 500 and do it again.’


Cable Outage by Larry LaForge

Ed plopped in his favorite chair, beverage in hand, and turned on the TV for yet another football Saturday. After a few minutes, the screen suddenly went dark. Severe storms had taken out the cable.

What now?

Without saying a word, Edna reached over and handed Ed a book. He looked at the cover, shrugged his shoulders, and started leafing through the pages. He then straightened his posture and turned up the lamp. Soon, he was totally engrossed.

Hours later, Ed waived Edna off when she noted the cable was back.

Since that day Ed has rarely been bookless.


October 14: Flash Fiction Challenge

October 14I’m not sure what a photo of serendipity looks like, but I think this is a close match. The point is, serendipity really doesn’t have a look; it’s something that defies expectations, illuminates the darkness. It’s a vast vista of choices. You might set your sights on the Seven Sisters Peaks across the valley. Choose one peak. Set a course. Find the road turns, and adjust. Or you might stay right there on that slope of the Cabinet Mountains, admiring the next range but happy to stay put. Then a log rolls down the hill and knocks you off your feet. You must choose to stand up, go back or elsewhere.

It’s the nature of life that we make choices. Serendipity is the gift we find accidentally when we make a choice or life chooses a course of action for us.

If you set out for the Seven Sisters, it would be serendipitous to find an unexpected guide in a canyon, or the perfect photo opportunity of a bull moose who poses without threat and wins you a coveted photography award. If you stand still and get knocked off your feet, serendipity can still happen. Maybe you meet your future spouse among the rescue team or find a hidden cache of silver bullion at the end of your tumble. Take action; you’ll find the gifts.

But all too often we hold back as writers, afraid to take action.

Maybe because serendipity is no guarantee. And life is often like a journey with a bag of coins. Pull out one coin, and it’s lucky. Pull out another and you find the flip-side.  I’ve had lots of two-sided coins this year. I took my manuscript to a professional conference in LA; no one wanted my manuscript. I got to spend four weeks with my best friend; she died. I planted purple potatoes and nursed an old apple tree; others got the crops.

Yet, serendipity occurs between the flips of the coins. It’s not the good or the bad; it’s the unexpected that can come out of the flipping. I never knew that by going to LA I’d be one step closer to my dream of hosting writer’s retreats in beautiful northern Idaho. I let conference writers know that I have a guest room free for writers to stay and already, I’ve had two writers from NYC visit and even do a poetry reading at my kitchen table. The conference organizers know I live in a rural community and they’ve graciously offered to let me host a panel from the conference. Yesterday I set up my first panel in collaboration with my local library and a seasoned regional publisher. It opened unexpected doors.

Although I don’t recommend spending a portion of summer in a hospital room, I shared time with my best friend that death cannot rob from me. One of my most exciting pinch-me-moments occurred in that room when I received an email from a publisher expressing interest in my Rock Creek project. Sharing that with Kate was a gift. She knows best my long journey and even in her own situation she was truly a best friend and shared in the joy of that moment. No matter what comes of it, it was illumination in a dark place.

My apple tree harbored many gifts, just not the one I had expected. In May, I stood beneath the flowering branches and listened to the hum of life — bees and calliope hummingbirds that glittered gold and ruby. It was a sight to fuel my writing. The potato patch has become a bit of a family joke. What hasn’t violated my purple potatoes? First it was gophers, then turkeys and next deer. I dug up the remnants. Every large potato, every last one, was gopher-gnawed. The smaller ones were not chomped and I’ve enjoyed being the one to put the bite on them. Yet, in a moment of serendipity, when I thought the potato patch finished, a mama moose and her spring calf pounded the dirt with hooves the circumference of teacup saucers. Why, I don’t know, but to see moose in my garden made up for all other wildlife infractions.

But back to writers and serendipity.

Take action without holding tightly to outcome. Yes, have a goal, a plan of sorts, but keep an open eye to the unexpected. The agent who turns you down might buy you the time you needed to find a different path to publication. Or, in my situation with Miracle of Ducks, I knew something was off with the intro. My editor noted it but beta readers said it was fine. Because I’ve sat on it all summer, when I read the first chapter to my mother-in-law and her twin, it jumped out at me what was wrong. Truly a gift of sight! Sometimes we need to slow down and this process of writing invites us to do it, but we feel impatient. Fill the slow stretches with other projects. Learn to dance with your writing as if it were a life-long partner not some quickie date at the nightclub.

Serendipity will show you how those flip sides and lucky tosses come together eventually. By nature it’s accidental. But I also have a strong faith in God and am “confident of this, that he who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (based on Philippians 1:6). Now I know that we all have free will and unfettered minds to make choices. For me serendipity is a God-moment; a reminder that he doesn’t direct the good and bad that occurs in life, but he directs the good in me, thus giving me a purpose in existing. I don’t think God cares one way or the other that I publish books. But I do know he calls me into relationship. I pray hard when times are rough; I rejoice over good days; and I’m humbled by the gifts that only God would know I’d appreciate.

What is serendipity to you? Have you experienced it in your writing? Do you hold back, hold on to expectations or set out for yonder peaks, knowing something good will happen, even if by pure accident? Things to ponder as you write or consider the motives of your characters.

I’ve often wondered about Cobb McCanles and the bitterness he had to have felt at Rock Creek. He set out from North Carolina in February of 1859, when his family all relocated to eastern Tennessee where their views and values were more aligned with others. Like many Unionists, Cobb believed in the economic development of individuals. In a time when political tensions were mounting between the industrial interests of the north and the slave-based agrarian system of the south, individuals were seeking life-improvement out west. Fame and fortune is a stereotype, but one that describes the impulse to leave a known community and move to the frontier.

Historians claim that Cobb set out for the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush of 1859. If he did, he might have had early information from the northern Georgians who were seeking gold in Colorado, unsuccessfully at first. Residents of western North Carolina traveled annually to northern Georgia to buy supplies like coffee and sugar. Otherwise, families like the Greens from which Cobb’s wife Mary came from, were completely sustained by their own means — they grew crops, distilled whiskey, raised hogs, milked cows, spun flax and wool, built barns and furniture and made their own iron tools and nails. Outsiders called them poor, but they had all their needs met, including a fierce independence. It was men like Cobb and his family that also valued literature, music and education. These men didn’t want the gaudy wealth of planters but neither did they want mere subsistence in the woods. I imagine that after the economic crash of 1857, Cobb listened more closely to stories of the Georgia gold seekers. He was sheriff which gave him access to news through journals, county officials and local gossip.

Whether or not Cobb set out for the Pike’s Peak gold fields, he stopped at the Rock Creek Station. Think of it as an 1850s truck stop — a place for travelers to rest, buy food, take a bath, repair wagons, trade horses and hear the latest news of the trails. Serendipity occurred when Cobb and Sarah stopped at Rock Creek Station; Cobb asked if the owner would sell and he said yes. I don’t believe that Rock Creek, Nebraska Territory was Cobb’s expected goal, but he found a wonderful opportunity. The man was a builder, likely having learned carpentry from his father who was known as a cabinetmaker. The first thing he built was a toll bridge across the dangerous and steep crossing at Rock Creek. All in all, Cobb built a second ranch on the other side of the creek, a third a mile a way and he made improvements to the original, thus attracting the attention of the Overland Stage Company, the precursor to the Pony Express.

So why bitter? After his serendipitous gain of Rock Creek Station, every business dealing he made resulted in default. He sold and reclaimed the toll bridge several times because buyers never paid up; he reclaimed a wagon from a farmer who bought his hay and never paid; he became partner to the Pony Express with Rock Creek Station only to be pushed out by the company claim that it had to “own” its stations; the Pony Express never paid Cobb for his station.

Now you are seeing more of what I see in Cobb — a self-appointed adjudicator of the law, an ambitious and industrious man, temperamental and passionate, educated and brilliant orator, unfortunate businessman. He was also a dedicated family man. He was complex, that’s for certain. But truly, so are we all. Rock Creek was his moment of serendipity. It was also the place of his untimely death. Serendipity holds no guarantees, but we can take the gifts it offers.

October 14, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that reveals or explores a moment of serendipity. How did it come about? What did it lead to? You can express a character’s view of the moment or on serendipity in general. Use the element of surprise or show how it is unexpected or accidentally good.

For those of you who recognize, serendipity has been a prompt before. What can I say, but I like its magic! And it is never the same gift.

Respond by October 20, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!


The Offer by Charli Mills

Fiddle music faded, and Cobb wiped sweat from his brow despite the cool night. He set his instrument in its lined case and sat down.

“Woo boy! You play a mighty fine fiddle, Mister!” The short-legged man crouched by the crackling fire. Short legs, but he could dance a big jig.

Cobb looked up at the stars. “Mighty fine place you have.” He could imagine Mary’s face at seeing the rich sod. If this was his, he’d build a toll bridge across that confounded crossing, build a bigger barn, sell hay.

The man leaned over. “Wanna buy it, Mister?”


April 30: Flash Fiction Challenge

Carrot Ranch Flash FictionSerendipity. A good gift, seemingly by accident. Some would say coincidence. Others would say there is no such thing as coincidence. But a good gift, none-the-less lucky.

We often find serendipity when we write. Brevity taught me about nines: I can evoke a creative idea  at 99 words. This accidental discovery that word constraints turn my mind to flint that sparks promising impressions, I learned from poets.

Yet, longevity also offered a gift of nines.

When I attempted the National Novel Writing Month challenge, I had to write an average of 1700 words a day every day in the month of November. What I discovered by happenstance is that I struggle with flow up until word 999. Then it breaks loose and I’m a writing cannon-ball.

Receiving the gift of serendipity requires our participation, though. No one sits at home nom-nom-nomming on caramel popcorn, waiting for the patron saint of writers to materialize and pass out gifts like Santa Claus. Here’s what participation requires:

  1. You’re a writer. Write. While I do agree that writers need time for processing, day-dreaming and contemplating, we have to practice craft consistently. Free-write, journal or blog to limber up. If you write books, you have to write pages. If you write poems, you have to write verses. If you write blogs, you have to write posts. To achieve the finished product you have to write. And in writing, you’ll discover gifts.
  2. Allow for imperfection. I groan at my younger self as a writer. I was such a picky perfectionist that I’d write and re-write the first paragraph so many times it was like shoveling with a hoe–unproductive. Usually the pressure of a deadline would force me to break out of that perfectionist cycle. Later, I discovered that the magic of my writing happens unedited. Oh, it needs editing, but after I write, not during. It’s okay to break rules. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to write it differently than planned. It all leads to discovery and therein lies the gift.
  3. Show up. You have to go places to get places. When knocking on one door, the neighbor may answer his and have a gift for you. Take Bob Hoskins, British actor who died today at the age of 71. According to NPR reporter, Bob Mondello, Hoskins’ career was the result of serendipity: “Hoskins got his first acting gig, at 26, by accident: He went with a friend to an audition, just to keep him company, got a script shoved into his hand by someone who said “you’re next,” and decided to give it a shot.” Be alert for those chance encounters.
  4. Seek connections. Life has a way of weaving patterns even if we think we are following divergent threads. I grew up near wilderness with an eye for the natural world. In college learned nature writing. In my career I wrote farm profiles for the natural food industry. My daughter went to Baffin Island on a cultural exchange, giving me the chance to meet Will Steger which led me to learn about global warming and how it’s impacting the Inuit communities. Last November, I wrote my second novel project, “Warm Like Melting Ice” about a climatologist on Baffin Island. Just yesterday I found out that there is an actual genre called, cli-fi, that fits this novel like an Arctic mitten. Thank you, Anne Goodwin, for writing a flash cli-fi that led to this discovery. Suddenly, a lifetime of threads connected to reveal a tapestry.
  5. Dare to leap. Reading a post on Diane Mott’s blog, Being Truly Present, I related to her struggle to take off the training wheels. Two years ago I left my career in marketing communications to finish my first novel. I picked up client work writing content, reports and editing. As I built my writing presence online, I leaned heavily on my career writing to qualify myself as a writer. I felt that I was somehow less of a writer if I focused on literary pursuits, yet that is what I want to do. Yesterday, I re-branded my social media. I dared to leap. I dared to call myself a writer without having to focus on business or consulting. The training wheels came off.

How will you dare to leap? Serendipity can (and will) happen with your participation. You may set out to write one thing, but publish another. You may find an idea in flash that becomes a novel or you may take an idea for a novel and create brilliant flash. You can use the flash fiction challenge to explore, to compile material for longer prose, to  invent new possibilities. You can submit your flash fiction and see what doors it might open for you. Flash Fiction Magazine accepts submissions of 100-word stories–that’s near serendipitous to us writing 99-words!

This week, let’s take off the training wheels. You can leap as a writer and try something out of the ordinary for you or your character. What scares you? What scares your character? What lines of safety need crossing? Think about that moment when the screw-driver comes out (Mott’s terrific analogy). It could be exhilarating, terrifying or sobering.

I think about yesterday, when I deleted my Facebook “business consultant” page and reloaded it as an “arts/humanities” page. My mouse arrow hovered over the save button. Screw-driver quivered. Training wheels came off.  And I haven’t crashed yet (she says on Day Two).

April 30, 2014 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about the experience of letting go of  something that feels safe like training wheels. Respond by noon (PST) Tuesday, May 6 to be included in the compilation. My contribution is a reconstructed passage from my cli-fi novel in progress. It was a fun exercise to make flash from a scene. May you find an unexpected gift this week through your writing!

Saving Face by Charli Mills

“I always thought a beard was protective,” said Dagen.

Alex paused, inventorying survival gear: sleeping bags, rations, fuel, water. He responded to the American who volunteered for the rescue mission. “A frozen beard is a frozen face.”

Numbering fifteen, mostly Clyde River villagers, they left on packed skidoos. Skirting massive outcrops of black rocks rising from white tundra, the group met up with three Inuit hunters outfitted with dog sleds. They joined the search for the downed Hercules yet days away.

When Dagen saw the polar bear he thought, “I’m a bearded climatologist. What am I doing out here?”


Rules of Play:

  1. New Flash Fiction challenge issued at Carrot Ranch each Wednesday by noon (PST).
  2. Response is to be 99 words. Exactly. No more. No less.
  3. Response is to include the challenge prompt of the week.
  4. Post your response on your blog before the following Tuesday by noon (PST) and share your link in the comments section of the challenge that you are responding to.
  5. If you don’t have a blog or you don’t want to post your flash fiction response on your blog, you may post your response in the comments of the current challenge post.
  6. Keep it is business-rated if you do post it here, meaning don’t post anything directly on my blog that you wouldn’t want your boss to read.
  7. Create community among writers: read and comment as your time permits, keeping it fun-spirited.
  8. Each Tuesday I will post a compilation of the responses for readers.
  9. You can also follow on Carrot Ranch Communications by “liking” the Facebook page.
  10. First-time comments are filtered by Word Press and not posted immediately. I’ll find it (it goes to my email) and make sure it gets posted! After you have commented once, the filter will recognize you for future commenting. Sorry for that inconvenience, but I do get frequent and strange SPAM comments, thus I filter.