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Travel to the Rodeo

Sherri Matthews has kept her feet in the stirrups at Carrot Ranch while riding hard to revise her memoir. She’s one of our premier memoir writers who also pens a hapless village werewolf character who first debuted here in flash fiction. Her fiction can turn a dark twist as deftly as a rodeo bronc.

This year, Sherri seeks inspiration from travel. It’s not her first rodeo, so as a leader she’s going to shake up her event. Her husband Mike Matthews and friend and fellow writer, Hugh Roberts, joins her in the judging. Here’s what she has to tell you to prepare for her event.

Rodeo #3: Travel with a Twist
By Sherri Matthews

In July, I had the good fortune to spend a week’s holiday with my husband on the Italian Amalfi Coast. I say good fortune, because hubby won it, thanks to a random prize draw. We couldn’t believe it. Who wins those things anyway? Surely it’s a scam? But I can report back that it’s no scam because I’ve got the pics to prove it.

The holiday was as filled with twists and turns as it was unexpected, not least of all thanks to hurtling along Amalfi’s hairpin coastal road in a taxi driven by an Al Pacino lookalike who, for no good reason, suddenly pulled over to check something in the back of his car. Though the beautiful Tyrrhenian Sea sparkled far below us, I couldn’t get ‘The Godfather’ out of my head and hoped we wouldn’t end up swimming with the fishes.

Which got me thinking: how about a Travel with a Twist prompt for the Rodeo?

Think of the story behind the smiling vacation faces many of us find on Facebook. Chances are they’re no more than that, no drama, just a snapshot of a happy moment caught on camera. But what would change our perception of those perfect, happy pics if we knew something nobody else did?  What if the man in the photo had just taken a call from his neighbour back home warning him that his house was broken into? Or the grand-children, all milk teeth smiles and ice-cream sticky cheeks, missing their Mum, who’s away on honeymoon with her new husband?

If travel stories have you dreaming of your own private island with palm trees and sandy beaches and an ocean as warm as a bath (the only kind you’ll catch me in), then go for it. But maybe in your story, it’s a woman travelling in thought when she finds an old photograph from that holiday taken years ago with their husband, who has since left her for a younger model.

Perhaps your holiday is a bus trip to the next town over, just for the day, a scenario that makes me think of one of my favourite films. A story of unrequited love, the characters played by Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins finally meet again on Blackpool Pier after years apart, but it’s too late for their love. It’s early evening, and the lights come on, and everybody claps.  The favourite time of day, Emma Thompson’s character notes, giving the film’s title: ‘The Remains of the Day’.

Wherever you go on your travels, keep the judges guessing to the end. And those judges…? As before, Mike Matthews and Hugh Roberts will be assisting me with what I know will be a hard task if last year’s Murderous Musings entries are anything to go by.

Huge thanks both: Mike, lovely hubby and fellow traveller, my sound-boarder, proof-reader and keen observer of life and writings.  And Hugh, lovely friend, blogger, and author with a delicious flair for writing sizzling short stories, published his first collection, ‘Glimpses’, last year, the second volume of which follows this Christmas.  Hugh also won first place in Norah Colvin’s, ‘When I Grow Up’ competition in last year’s Rodeo.

That’s us packed, then, ready to go. How about you?  Whether near or far, will it be holiday heaven or holiday hell, funny or sad, romantic or dangerous? It might be a BOTS (based on a true story) or wild and wacky from the deepest depths of your imagination. We don’t mind. Go where the plane/train/automobile takes you, but remember, it must have a twist. We can’t wait to find what’s hiding in your suitcase.


Rules and prompt revealed October 17, 2018, at 12:00 a.m. (EST). Set your watches to New York City. You will have until October 24, 2018, at 11:59 p.m. (EST) to complete the Travel with a Twist contest. Sherri, Mike, and Hugh will announce the prize winner plus second and third place on November 30. Carrot Ranch will post a collection of qualifying entries.

Other competitions:

Rodeo 1: Dialogue led by Geoff Le Pard and judges Chelsea Owens and Esther Chilton

Rodeo 2: Memoir led by Irene Waters and judges Angie Oakley and Helen Stromquist

Rodeo 4: Fractured Fairy Tales led by Norah Colvin and judges Robbie Cheadle and Anne Goodwin

Rodeo 5: The Sound and the Fury led by D. Avery and her judge Bonnie Sheila.

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

Rough Writer Around the World Tour: Sherri Matthews

One virtual literary space is neighborly with another: from the wild west of Carrot Ranch to the lush pastorial countryside of England, the Summerhouse is the latest stop on the Rough Writer Tour Around the World. Sherri Matthews is more than a literary friend and original Rough Writer — she’s also my trusted writing partner and one of the advisors to Carrot Ranch Literary Community.

Sherri and I share much in common in our approaches to writing craft and processes, and yet we both take one different genres. We’ve learned much from each other by sharing our processses. I’m delighted to share the Summerhouse stop with all of you. Continue over to Sherri’s virtual and eternal summer place: Real Memoir, Imaginary Flash Fiction and Not Your Typical Anthology.

Join us as we continue the tour:

Raw Literature: Asperger’s, Voice and the Search for Identity

By Sherri Matthews

The first few pages of the children’s book, ‘Are you my Mother?’, both captivated and troubled me as a girl. The story tells of a baby bird who hatches while his mother is away from the nest looking for food.  The hatchling flies the nest to look for her, but he has no idea what either he nor his mother, looks like.  He asks everything from a kitten to a boat, ‘Are you my mother?’, but to no avail.  Then he starts to cry.

Thankfully, unlike the baby bird, I didn’t have to search for my mother. But I questioned my identity when, after my parent’s divorced and I no longer lived with my dad,  I was told to use my stepfather’s surname. In 1970’s Britain, I was the only one of my friends from a so-called broken home; I understood it was to save face, but I didn’t like it.

At sixteen I determinedly and proudly took back my family birth name.

A year later, married to an American and living in California as a ‘Resident Alien’, I embraced my new home as ‘mom’ to my children and nurtured my family’s cultural split personality. I reminded them often of the great gift they held as dual American and British citizens.

Their father, however, came from a family who vehemently disputed their roots, albeit good humour.  Mostly.  Some said Greek, others Spanish and Mexican. Their family arguments baffled me; they were all born and bred in America, so didn’t that make them, well, American?  But the family discussions rumbled on for decades, with no resolve.

It made me think more deeply about my British heritage.  My paternal grandmother was Irish, but I never laid any claim to being remotely Irish.  I have no family there (Nana died when I was six) and have never been there (but would love to). So far as I was concerned, I was born in England, grew up in England, so I’m English, right?

Then my youngest recently took a DNA test and surprised us all.  Spanish and English was no surprise, but there was no Greek or Mexican.  There was, however, a high percentage of Native American (father’s side) and Norwegian (my side).  The results raised more questions than it answered, but at least I now know why I’ve always wanted to visit the fjords.

But for my youngest, diagnosed seven years ago at eighteen with Asperger’s Syndrome (high functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder), the search for identity has nothing to do with DNA or citizenship. It is a constant and acute awareness of being different from the world around you no matter what you look like or call yourself or where you live.

My Aspie describes it like, ‘Living in a town where everyone speaks a different language and you can’t understand what they’re saying.’  The unremitting internal reminder of feeling like an alien takes an exhausting toll, which leads to anxiety, depression and eventual social avoidance.

When I started my blog in 2013, I didn’t think it would be much more than an online diary about my writing progress to publication, but I hadn’t been blogging more than a few months when, out of a growing passion to better express what family life is really like for and with an Aspie, I wrote a post about it.

I had barely fifty followers and a few ‘likes’ when I wrote The Love of Animals and Asperger’s Syndrome, but five years on, this post receives almost daily visits, more than any other post I’ve written since.  I am moved by the stories other Aspies share with me about the way their pets bring comfort and unconditional love to their otherwise hostile world.

Another post followed at a time when I battled for professional support for my child. My Aspie had slipped through the cracks at school, and in that post, I challenged the silence, acknowledging my long-simmering pain and yes, anger, at my child’s apparent invisibility.  I wanted to reveal the beautiful, creative, kind and wise, astute and intelligent soul hiding behind the mask of Asperger’s.

Metamorphosis

Writing, The Voice of Asperger’s Syndrome emerged out of my ever-increasing need to shout, ‘Hey world, this is what my Aspie goes through every day!’ But coming from my private, and until then silent, place of powerlessness in my perceived inability to help my Aspie, I realised I was subconsciously pleading, ‘I need help too!’ And what I didn’t expect was the way writing those posts also helped me.

Crushing isolation and loneliness often define the life of an Aspie, but as a mother and a carer who thought my voice was just a drop in the crash of a wave, I found a ‘me too’ connection that acknowledged my loneliness too.  I found a community that said you and your Aspie are not alone.

Are you my Mother’ ended well: the baby bird and his mother had a joyful reunion, and I smiled with relief.  I have great hope that my Aspie will one day find an answer in the search and find joy and relief within.  Perhaps it really is possible to live happily ever after, whether in or out of the nest.

***

Sherri Matthews is a memoir writer from England who enjoys walking and photography. Her writing has appeared in magazines, anthologies, and online. She has worked in both the medical and legal fields in the UK and California, where she lived for 17 years raising her three children. Chasing her writing dream throughout, she began her writing career in earnest from home while caring for her youngest, diagnosed with Asperger’s. Since then, Sherri has been published in a variety of magazines, anthologies and company websites. Today, she lives with her husband in the West Country of England where she keeps out of trouble writing her memoir, blogging, walking and taking endless photographs. Her garden robin muse visits regularly.

Memoir Blurb

 

Amazon US (Heart Whispers)

Amazon UK (Heart Whispers)

Amazon US (Slices of Life)

Amazon UK (Slices of Life)

LinkedIn

Google+

Facebook

Blogging at: A View From My Summerhouse

<<♦>>

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.

 

All-Around Best of Show

From Lead Buckaroo, Charli Mills

The dust has settled, and the bulls are back out to pasture after the first Flash Fiction Rodeo at Carrot Ranch. From idea to event, this was no solo endeavor. It took a community to dream, organize, support, promote and engage.

To all of you who wrangle words at the Ranch, to those of you who quietly read from the other side of your screen to all who dared to make this contest their “first rodeo,” thank you!

Our Flash Fiction Rodeo consisted of eight unique events that differed in length, prompt and form. Each leader devised their own contest and rules for participation. We worked together as a team to shape the Rodeo, and each leader worked with a partnership of judges. We allowed leaders and judges to enter any contest they were not judging. We also allowed writers to participate as challengers if they did not want to enter as contestants.

A toss of hats in the air to the Rodeo Leaders who showed leadership on and behind the page. Not only did they work diligently to make each event fun and fair, they also rode hard to keep pace with an event that spanned three months. Their counsel, creativity, and camaraderie have kept it all rolling at Carrot Ranch. Thank you, Geoff Le Pard, Norah Colvin, JulesPaige, Sherri Matthews, D. Avery, Irene Waters and C. Jai Ferry. You all earned your spurs!

And a huge Rodeo Thank You to all our judges: Robbie Cheadle, Anne Goodwin, Barb TaubLucy Brazier, Susan Zutautas, Susan Budig, Angie Oakley, Sharon Bonin-Pratt, Mardra Sikora, Lisa Kovanda, Hugh Roberts, Mike from the UK, two anonymous judges in the US, and Sarah Brentyn. Your tasks were not easy, and I appreciate the regard you gave to all who entered.

Thank you to all who rodeoed!

Garth Brooks sings an edgy song in tribute to rodeos. He croons, “It’s the ropes and the reins, the joy and the pain, and they call the thing rodeo.” To me, it’s like the calling to write and be read.

A literary artist has something in common with rodeo’s biggest hero: tenacity. You write, revise, polish, submit, wait for — all in hopes to win that gold in the buckle. The gold might differ from writer to writer. Maybe you want to publish, maybe you want validation, maybe you just want to give your words wings and let them fly. The Flash Fiction Rodeo honors all the sweat, tears, mud and blood writers put into their craft. All who rode the Rodeo in 2017, you got grit!

We hope you’ll stop by the Ranch for some good reading and writing. Keep working your skills, wrangling words and roping stories. Keep on the path you’ve set for yourself. Write on!

See ya’ll next Rodeo in October 2018.

***

From All-Around Judge, Sarah Brentyn

This was a whopper of a job.

Initially, there was a panel of judges. And then there was one. It was supposed to be three and wound up being little ol’ me. But I took up the challenge, happy at heart!

Choosing a winner for this final contest was extraordinarily difficult because let’s face it, they were all winners. Literally. They had all won their respective contests. Also, they are different in genre, form, and length. I was comparing apples to oranges to turnips.

Alas, this is an ‘overall winner’ contest, and an overall winner there must be.

During the past few months, I distanced myself from the contests. I popped in to say ‘Congrats’ then snuck away. Names were removed when I received the final entries.

It was delightful to read these. They are well-written, fantastic pieces. Thank you to everyone who entered the Carrot Ranch Rodeo contests and to the winners who gave me wonderful stories to read. I am honored and humbled to help announce the winner of this collection of contests.

2017 Flash Fiction Winners include:

The All-Around Best of Show goes to:

Rodeo #4: Scars (“Galatea” by D. Wallace Peach)

Congratulations, Diana!

***

That concludes the Flash Fiction Rodeo for 2017. However, that is not the last word. Carrot Ranch is completing an e-book collection that includes the winning entries, honorable mentions, entries, challenges and a few new pieces from our judges and leaders. Stay tuned later this month!

***

Please give our Rough Writer’s a debut anthology Vol. 1 a look-see. If you’d like to support our efforts as a literary community you can purchase our book online at Amazon. Soon to be available through other locations (officially launches January 19, 2018).

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Author Bio For All-Around Judge Sarah Brentyn

Sarah Brentyn is an introvert who believes anything can be made better with soy sauce and wasabi.

She loves words and has been writing stories since she was nine years old. She talks to trees and apologizes to inanimate objects when she bumps into them.

When she’s not writing, you can find her strolling through cemeteries or searching for fairies.

She hopes to build a vacation home in Narnia someday. In the meantime, she lives with her family and a rainbow-colored, wooden cat who is secretly a Guardian.

Books by Sarah Brentyn

On the Edge of a Raindrop

Hinting at Shadows

Author Page

Follow Sarah at:

Lemon Shark

Lemon Shark Reef

Twitter, Google+, Website

Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #7

Murderous Musings Winner at Carrot Ranch @Charli_MillsMurderous Musings

By Sherri Matthews

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

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

Mr Blamey by Marjorie Mallon

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

###

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

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

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

Hugh chose:

Jeff and Jenny by Kati MacArthur

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

###

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

Mike chose:

The Celebration by Colleen Chesebro

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

###

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

Sherri chose:

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

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

###

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

*******

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

Hugh W. Roberts  

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

Hugh’s blog link: Hughs Views & News

Hugh’s book: Glimpses

Sherri Matthews

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

Sherri’s Blog: A View From My Summerhouse

Memoir Book Blurb: Stranger in a White Dress

NOTE FROM CARROT RANCH:

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

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

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

My First Flash Fiction Rodeo Carrot Ranch @Charli_Mills

 

 

 

 

Flash Fiction Rodeo Contest #7

Murderous Musings:

When Good Folk Turn Bad At The Rodeo

By Sherri Matthews

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homemade Cider by Sherri Matthews

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

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

Ellen rubbed her eyes and yawned.

“I didn’t want you to worry.”

“But you needed my help…”

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

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

###

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Day After by Charli Mills

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

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

“Cobb?”

“He’s dead.”

“I know. But…a funeral?”

“He’s already in the ground.”

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

###

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

Submission Guidelines:

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

CONTEST NOW CLOSED. WINNER ANNOUNCED DECEMBER 19.

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

Judging

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

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

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

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

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

Announcement of Winner

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

Save

Raw Literature: Spring Review #1

January 4, 2017 we kicked off the new year at Carrot Ranch with an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers. What marks us as literary artists is not poetry or prose, it’s not genre or length of writing. What marks us as literary artists is creativity with the written word. After three years of writing with diverse writers from around the globe and across genres, I was curious about how we create in our chose medium.

It’s interesting to explore the whirring behind such inventive minds, and understand that the term raw literature applies broadly to what we do as much as what we first write. So far, we’ve had ten writers talk about what raw literature means, why writing is a creative process and how literature impacts other areas of life. It’s a dialog that could continue indefinitely and the conversation grows as we ponder what another has said.

That is why I’ll periodically pause for reviews of previous essays in the series. There’s good pondering and inspiration you don’t want to miss. This week we’ll catch up with the first three essays from guest writers.

  1. Sherri Matthews introduced the guest series with Memoir and What Lies Beneath, and reflects on her initial idea for a memoir. It’s a deep and introspective path to recreate life moments with words on a page. She writes, “But I am not writing a memoir for personal catharsis, nor to air the family’s dirty laundry, wreak revenge or set the record straight.  It’s an itch I can’t scratch, the baring of my soul in a gut-ripping, blood-letting, snot-flinging exercise in pursuit of the real story.”
  2. Sarah Unsicker has temporarily hung up her writing hat to serve constituents as State Representative of Missouri’s 91st District. What an historic time for a woman to be elected to office in the US. While she might not be writing creatively in her new role, it’s influence remains. She tells us in an interview for Rough Writer for Congress, “Literature helps people consider different situations in life with more empathy and understanding.”
  3. Geoff Le Pard jumped into the conversation with a lawyer’s regard for definitions. In Natural or Explicit, he explores the meaning of raw and goes beyond definitions to what it means to feel exposed, writing, “For any work, if we truly want to get that rawness, newness, freshness, we should be prepared for some hurt and not be scared to expose our vulnerabilities.”

Be sure to join catch up with us some more the next two Tuesdays. Join the conversation or consider adding to the continuing dialog. What does raw literature mean to you? How do you view yourself as a literary artist and what do you do with your first efforts? If you are launching a new book, consider writing an essay in this series as part of any blog tours you might be doing. You can share how your published work began as a literary artist’s first raw attempt.

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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.