Starting with one

© Charli Mills

© Charli Mills

There’s an event worth celebrating at the Carrot Ranch this week. Two years after posting her first prompt encouraging writers to hone their writing skills by joining the 99-word flash fiction posse, Charli Mills has posted her 99th.

I’m proud to say that I’ve been there since the first, riding the range of story prompts with others who have gathered around the campfire to share stories, wise words and writing tips in response to the nurturing offered by Charli’s warm, honest and generous spirit. It is she who is the hub around which has formed a community that is welcoming, supportive and encouraging. She is the one who keeps the wheels turning, the imaginations stirring and the words flowing.


© Charli Mills

It is fitting, therefore, that her 99th challenge is to in 99 words (no more, no less) write about the idea of “just one.” If all it takes is just one, what is the story? Explore what comes to mind and go where the prompt takes you. Bonus challenge: eat cake while you write, or include cake in your flash. She is the “just one” who, week after week, writes an inspiring post, sets a thought-provoking challenge, ropes in the writers and compiles the stories into a collection as diverse as the readers. It would be interesting to know how many writers have answered every prompt. I don’t think the number would be large as even I didn’t manage to ride every muster.

I take this opportunity to congratulate Charli on her initiative. In this recent post she restates that “the original intent of Carrot Ranch as of March 5, 2014 was to create a bully-free zone where writers could learn to access creativity through problem solving (the constraint); write from a unique perspective (diversity); read and discuss the process or prompt (engagement).”  There is no question that she has achieved that and more. I have met many wonderful writers, bloggers and friends through my visits to the Carrot Ranch. If you are not yet a visitor, I suggest you pop on over. You’ll be warmly welcomed.


Recently I received as a gift a book called “One: How many people does it take to make a difference?” The book is filled with many wonderful quotes, stories and suggestions; too many to share, in one post anyway. I decided to open the book to a random page and share what I found. This is it:

“If someone listens, or stretches out a hand, or whispers a kind word of encouragement, or attempts to understand, extraordinary things begin to happen.” Loretta Gizartis

Loretta Gizartis

That’s a pretty powerful quote. The effects of Charli’s “just one” contributions are easy to see. The quote is equally applicable to teachers and the effects that they may have upon the lives of others.

Readilearn bookmark

It is lovely when teachers are publicly (or privately) acknowledged for the positive influence they have had upon a life. Charli did this recently when she acknowledged a high school teacher who had encouraged her to achieve more than she thought she could.

stephen hawking - teacher

Last month when announcing the Top Ten Finalists for the Global Teacher Prize Stephen Hawking acknowledged one who had had a powerful effect upon his life. He said,

“Thanks to Mr Tahta, I became a professor of Mathematics at Cambridge, in a position once held by Issac Newton. I have spent my life attempting to unlock the mysteries of the universe. When each of us thinks about what we can do in life, chances are we can do it because of a teacher.”

Even teachers need mentors and many can name one who has made a difference to their lives.  As if in response to Charli’s challenge, this week Vicki Davis, the Cool Cat Teacher, nominated “just one” personal mentor who had taught her the most about teaching. Of Maryfriend Carter, Vicki says,

“I’m grateful for her mentorship and encouragement in my life. She changed my thinking about teaching as she taught me about teaching. She single-handedly convinced me that testing doesn’t work and what does.”

But not all who teach the most important lessons in life are “professional” teachers. There is a great saying that goes something like, “When the student is ready the teacher appears.” I often say that my own children have been my best teachers. But I have also been inspired by other wonderful teachers too. I have mentioned many of them in previous posts including here, here and here.

However, my response to Charli’s flash fiction challenge aims to demonstrate that even the smallest, seemingly inconsequential, action can have a powerful effect upon the life of another. Sometimes we learn of the effects, sometimes we don’t; but when we do, the effect can be magnified. I hope it works.

The Power of One

Only much later, through a chance meeting with mutual friends, did she discover her power of one.

“I know you,” said the other, pointing her cake fork. “You’re the one.”

The old fear gripped, twisting tight. Her cake lost its appeal.

Which one?” another asked.

“In the foyer. On the first day. You spoke to me.”

“Oh,” she reddened, shrinking to nothingness inside.

“I was so nervous. You made me feel welcome, at ease. I’ve been wanting to thank you.”

“Oh,” she lifted her fork, smiling. “You’re welcome.”

“If only you knew,” she thought. “I did it for me.”

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.



23 thoughts on “Starting with one

  1. Bec

    What a great post and lovely FF! It’s wonderful to read your praise for Charli. I have enjoyed reading the FF over the years. I also loved this week’s – and I think I can remember to what it’s referring!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sacha Black

    Ha loved this piece of flash it made me smile. Also couldn’t agree more. There is ALWAYS one teacher. Always. I will never forget mine. They hold such a special place in your heart. I suspect that you, Norah, are many peoples one. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. katespencer17

    Norah both you and Charli have a knack for encouraging and spurring others to want to stay engaged, to learn and grow. This post is a beautiful tribute to the work Charli does. So few of us have shown up at the weekly challenges each time; yet we all look forward to reading the outcomes, as we know Charli is there. That is incredible, just in itself. I always liked the statement, “when the student is ready the teacher appears”. That has been true in my life. Not all teachers show up in school rooms; more often they show up in the classroom of life. We are all teachers whether we know it or not and Norah, you are showing us “who are ready” how to be better at this important task. You are encouraging, and leading by example. Lovely post and flash – both full of heart and inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you very much for your kind and encouraging words for both Charli and myself, Kate. I very much appreciate them.
      I love your phrase “the classroom of life”. That is the most important classroom, isn’t it. The lessons don’t always go as planned, and we don’t always learn the lessons we hope to, but somewhere in there, if we look hard enough, we’ll find the answers we need.
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash. Thank you for your lovely comment.


  4. Pingback: It Takes Just One « Carrot Ranch Communications

  5. Charli Mills

    Thank you for your ongoing encouragement and for your kind words! Norah, you’ve been one who has continued to feed and help me understand my own growth. In some ways, I feel like you are my teacher! You’ve only missed a few if you’ve missed any flash prompts at all. Funnily, it’s been the men who’ve remained constant once starting — Geoff Le Pard, Larry LaForge and Pete Fanning. As to your flash, oh, you capture the expression of kindness given — in hopes it is returned. Thank you for all your SMAG building online. May it bless your educational projects mightily!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Sarah Brentyn

    Aw! I absolutely love your flash! The whole post is lovely. 💕 I agree that Carrot Ranch fabulous. It is an amazing place run by an amazing woman with amazing people contributing. I feel lucky to be a part of it. *hands over freshly-baked cake*

    Great line about your own children being “my best teachers”. So true!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Sarah. I’m pleased to be jogging along behind you at the ranch. You’re the one streaking ahead with mane and tail flying, beauty in motion.
      Thanks for the cake. I’m pleased the flash worked. I hate to admit that I almost posted without it. Nothing came easily. That’s probably the story of my life. Might use it for the title of my autobiography. As if!


  7. thecontentedcrafter

    This is a lovely and well deserved paean of praise to the lovely Charli, Norah. I keep an eye on her posts from afar and read with interest posts like yours which respond to her prompts. She has a big heart and a talent for creating community! A most wonderful and much needed talent in the world today. I so enjoy the book you quoted from too 🙂 It is still beside my bed and still randomly opened, offering me the right thoughts at just the right time.

    I took time reading this post, popping back in time to read posts made before we met. I met Marie Clay a couple of times way back in the 80’s 🙂 She did good work. I also read the Doidge book when it was first published and it made a huge impression on me. My small library still contains works by other authors on this subject. I think modern educators should receive training in these new facts for sadly I hear so many still hold to the old dictums.

    Your response to the flash held a delightfully real touch – that moment of insight when we realise that something we did to ease our own discomfort had a positive effect on another. Well done!!

    And now I must hurry on for the boy is waiting for his morning walk! Have a good day Norah!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      I’m so envious that you met Marie Clay. I love her work. In the 80s I applied for a teacher exchange to NZ to see her work first-hand. “They” wouldn’t fund it, but I got to visit Adelaide for 2 weeks instead. She really knows about children, reading and learning. I often quote her words “reading is a thinking process”. Too often that is forgotten and children are taught through repetitious drills that keep thinking at bay – stuffs up their ability to learn to read no end.
      I’m pleased you read Doige’s book. Did you read the one by Barbara Arrowsmith Young as well? She amazes me!
      You have read my flash precisely. Thank you. 🙂
      Thank you for your wonderful comment. I hope the boy (and you) enjoyed the walk and the rest of the day.


  8. Gulara

    Norah, this is one of my favourite pieces of flash fiction. Very apt and celebratory. And the quotes are great. Well done to you and Charlie too for keeping up with this project.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Annecdotist

    It’s a great thing to celebrate, isn’t it, Norah, and you’ve been such a big part of the community, joining in right at the start while I, to my shame, watched from the sidelines thinking that’s impossible!
    And your flash is extremely apt – so many times we might have helped others without realising it, and often by doing so we are helping ourselves. And you managed to include the cake so subtly!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks Anne. It’s been a pleasure to ride alongside of you all the way. I don’t think you were much later than I in joining.
      I wasn’t sure that putting the cake in wasn’t a little overdone! It didn’t fit naturally at first.
      Thank you for your kind words.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. julespaige

    You reminded me of an encouraging teacher I had in High School. Sad to say that I cannot thank him now except in my mind. I think a few of the other English teachers I had in Jr. High were also paramount in pushing my creative writing – they most likely are long retired.

    There are teachers everywhere; some who I have met through blogging who would never accept the title. Because they are just having fun expressing themselves. But often they trigger an interest which pushes me to look up something and then ‘re-share’ – So we continue to teach each other.

    Yes children are great teachers too. 🙂 Your flash teaches us that too often we remain silent… when that little bit of verbal ‘thank you’ is just the right one thing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Norah Post author

      Thanks for sharing, Jules. I’m pleased that you can think of teachers who inspired you and pushed you into creative writing. Many of us can also be thankful to them for that. You are right about teachers everywhere. We never know who is going to teach us our next lesson or what it will be.
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the flash, and that it contained a ‘teachable’ moment.
      Thank your for your lovely words.

      Liked by 1 person


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