Category Archives: Writing

You Can be a Writer by Teena Raffa-Mulligan

Who can be a writer? You can! – #readilearn

I always enjoyed writing with children — the entire process. We saw story potential everywhere and found inspiration in the things they said or did as well as in everyday occurrences and special events. It was great to wonder and consider the what ifs as we brainstormed and developed ideas and let our excitement pour out in words on the paper. Sharing our original stories with an appreciative audience gave purpose to the process and added to the enjoyment.

In this post, I share a delightful little book called You can be a writer written by author Teena Raffa-Mulligan that encourages and supports children as writers in similar ways. It is great for children to use at home or at school and would be a useful resource for parents or teachers as they foster their children’s interest in writing.

I previously introduced you to Teena when I interviewed her about her fun story for young readers The Apostrophe Posse.

Continue reading: Who can be a writer? You can! – Readilearn

Playing to Win #Valentiny Contest Entry

Playing to Win #Valentiny Contest Entry

I have regularly joined in responding to the 99-word flash fiction prompts at the Carrot Ranch for almost seven years. Today, I am joining in something a little different — a Valentiny Contest run by children’s author Susanna Leonard Hill. Although this is the sixth Valentiny Contest, this is the first I have entered.

The contest asks writers to write Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels brave! The maximum story length is to be 214 words (get it? 2/14 for Valentines Day), but it can be less. For more details and to read other entries, pop over to Susanna’s blog. Entries must be posted by Sunday February 14th by 11:59 PM EDT. (Words in italics are from Susanna’s post.)

My story is not specifically to do with Valentines’ Day, but I was pleased to find that the name Valentina means brave. Fergal also means brave. I have been brave to have a go. The word count of my story is 214 words exactly. I hope you enjoy it.

Playing to Win

On one side of the arena, Prince Fergal raised his sword. “I am the bravest of the brave, the strongest of the strong. No one can defeat me.”

On the opposite side, Princess Valentina raised her sword. “I am the bravest of the brave, the strongest of the strong. No one can defeat me. I challenge you to a duel.”

“I am Fearless Fergal!”

“I am Valiant Valentina!”

“Charge!”

The riders kicked their hobby horses into action. Across the arena they galloped, swords drawn, ready for mortal combat.

As they neared the centre of the arena, Fearless Fergal’s horse stumbled, flinging him to the ground.

“Ouch!” he cried, clasping an elbow.

The spectators held their breath. What would Valentina do? Would she drive her sword home and declare herself the victor? Would she insist that Fergal be her faithful follower forever more? Was there any way Fergal could claim victory?

Fergal didn’t look so fearless clutching his arm and rocking from side to side.

Valentina released her sword and leapt from her steed. She knelt beside him.

“Are you okay, Fergal?” she asked.

The spectators swarmed.

Fergal nodded. “It’s just a little graze.”

“Shall we go again?” Valentina asked.

“Another day. Let’s play something else now.”

The contest done. The crowd dispersed. Friendship won.

Thank you blog post

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

promises broken with substitutes

Does a substitute fulfil a promise?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, D. Avery stepped in (substituted) for Charli Mills by posing the weekly flash fiction prompt. (Charli is working industriously on her thesis for submission this week!)

D. Avery’s challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a substitution. How might a character or situation be impacted by a stand-in? Bonus points for fairy tale elements. Go where the prompt leads.

I recently posed a question about the effectiveness of rewards. Aligned with that are promises of rewards and threats of punishment — strategies used by parents (and others) in an attempt to control another’s behaviour.

I think the conversation around that previous post must have somehow influenced my response to this prompt. See what you think.

I won’t elaborate any further on rewards and punishments for now, but will allow the flash to speak for itself. I don’t get the bonus points for including fairy tale elements. I’m sorry to say that scenes like this are more real than fairy tale.

Special Substitution

“Where’s my Burger Special? You promised!”

“Here, sweetie.”

“Burger Specials have chips, not carrot sticks!”

The carrot sticks plummeted to the floor.

“I substituted them, hon. Carrot sticks are healthier. We want to be healthy, don’t we?”

A mouthful of half-chewed bun adorned the table. “That’s disgusting!”

“Multi-grain’s healthier. Try some more. You will like it.”

“I don’t want substitutes.”

The poorly-disguised plant-based patty frisbeed across the room.

The parent hauled the protester from the restaurant.

“You promised Burger Special!”

“You’ll get something special, as soon as we get home.”

“There’s no substitute for proper parenting,” tut-tutted a diner.

Thank you blog post

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

The ripple effect

The Ripples of Life

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about life as a river of consciousness. Think about the possibilities of the prompt. Go where the prompt leads!

The 99-word responses to Charli’s prompt will be collected and gifted to Sue Vincent on 17 February. So, if you would like your writing to be included in that collection, please pop over to the Carrot Ranch for more information and to submit your response using the form.

The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic flash fiction contest is now also live. You can find out more about it here. With a very attractive $100 first prize and one of Sue’s books for each of five runners up, it is worth entering.

When I read Charli’s prompt, I immediately thought of the ripple effect of our lives, the effects that occur while we are on this Earth and those that continue long after through our children and our children’s children, and through lives we have touched from near or far, like a river of consciousness that flows through humanity from beginning to end.

I cannot think of the ripple effect without thinking of a wonderful book written by learning futurist Tony Ryan. The Ripple Effect was first published over twenty years ago and is still just as relevant and available today. It is filled with stories that show the difference that even the simplest of actions can make each day. The contribution that Tony’s book has had on lives in those 20+ years must be immeasurable.

I have previously written about Tony and his book in Ripples Through Time, Add a Sprinkle of Glitter to Make Your Day Sparkle and @aussietony’s 20 gift suggestions for life-long learning. In 3 Inspiring Educators, I nominated Tony as one of those being a positive influence upon my work as an educator.

In response to Charli’s prompt, I had three main thoughts:

  1. The ripple effect as in the day to day ripples we create for ourselves and others with our thoughts, words and actions.
  2. The thought that every molecule of water is recycled over time and through all generations of plants and animals, including humans (my interpretation of an idea shared by Deepak Chopra in a seminar I attended many years ago).
  3. The ripples that are passed down through time from one generation to the next and beyond. This can sometimes be seen in families that generate function or disfunction over time. I was recently reminded of this phenomenon by Alfie Kohn in his book Unconditional Parenting.

These thoughts combine into one: that, whether we think about it or not, what we do in the here and now has effects of which we may never know.

Here is my response to Charli’s prompt. I hope you enjoy it.

The Ripples of Life

The stone made a mini fountain where it plunged into the water. The boy and the man watched the ripples spread. The boy’s eyes filled with wonder, the man’s with life’s wisdom.

“Where do the ripples go?” asked the boy.

“Everywhere,” said the man. “Even when we no longer see them, their effects go on. Like that stone, we make a splash in our family when we arrive. Our circles grow as we grow. Our lives touch more and more. We may never know the effects, but they are there, rippling through the world, flowing forever in the river of life.”

Thank you blog post

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

Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic

The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic

Are you ready to ride in the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic? The contest, with a $100 prize, is now live. Pop over to the Carrot Ranch for details.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

by H.R.R. Gorman

Here at the Carrot Ranch, we take the business of 99-word literary art seriously. Those who participate in the Ranch prompts or yearly Rodeo saddle up to TUFF (The Ultimate Flash Fiction) it out and train new Rough Riders as we go. Now, the Ranch is hosting a new event to sharpen minds, welcome new hands, and celebrate one of our own the best way we know how: our first ever Rodeo Classic.

In this Rodeo Classic, we’re here to celebrate a stalwart center of many blogging corners, Sue Vincent. Sue has variously contributed to the community here at the Carrot Ranch, through communication with many other bloggers, and run her own famous #writephoto weekly blog prompt. You can (and should!) follow her on her blogs, The Daily Echo and the shared blog France & Vincent. She has inspired us to become better writers and shown…

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Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic

Coming soon to the #Carrot Ranch: The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic

Sue Vincent is one of those special bloggers that inspires people all over the world. Readers have long been galvanized by her posts about mythology, about ancient ruins and medieval churches, and her daily #midnighthaiku. Even more have participated in and grown as a result of her #writephoto prompts. In addition to posting her prompts, Sue has tirelessly supported other bloggers by sharing others’ responses to her 19,000 and counting followers.

Recently, Sue has been faced with a new and difficult challenge: lung cancer. You can follow her blog to find out more directly from her. The Covid pandemic has served not only to pose a specific threat to a person with a severe respiratory illness, but it has caused loss of human connection through self-imposed quarantine.

Now it’s time for Sue to receive something back from the community she’s been a cornerstone of for a decade. Let’s bring the Rodeo into Sue’s house through her computer, and let’s come together with hearts full of joy. Join us for the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic at the Carrot Ranch – a contest, parade, and celebration all in one!

There are many ways to participate. One is to visit the prompt image, “Hidden”, at the Carrot Ranch. The prompt image and entry form will go live on Monday, February 1st, 2021. Enter a flash or a poem by Friday, February 19th, 2021, and you could win either $100 or a copy of one of Sue’s books. The form will allow you to give a small donation for Sue and her family, and a link can be found on the contest page. The winning entries will be announced at the Carrot Ranch on March 22nd, 2021.

If you’re not ready to rodeo, there’s always the “Parade”. Reblog one of Sue’s posts from any of her sites (Daily Echo or France and Vincent) with a comment about why you found it special. Follow her blogs. Read one of her books, then leave reviews where you can. Several people are already gearing up for the parade – so feel free to check out other people’s blogs for suggestions.

Also, go ahead and reblog, tweet, Facebook, or somehow otherwise share the contest! 99 word literary art is a fantastic way to celebrate a blogging hero and very deserving person.

Saddle up, everyone! It’s time for a Carrot Ranch Rodeo like none ever held before. The Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic begins on Monday, February 1st, and it’ll be a TUFF prompt to fit within 99 words. 

I hope to see you at the Ranch, buckaroos!

Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin free ebook

Sugar and Snails by Anne Goodwin #free ebook

I am absolutely delighted to invite Anne Goodwin back to my blog today. It is just over five years ago that her debut novel Sugar and Snails was published by Inspired Quill and I had the pleasure of her joining me to discuss the importance friendships — in person, virtual and in her novel.

At the time I had known Anne (virtually) for two years, but we’d also had the pleasure of meeting up in London (briefly) the year before when she revealed the (then still secret) book contract. I am honoured to count her as a friend.

My admiration for and enjoyment of Anne’s writing has only increased over the years. Since then, she has had another novel published and the publication of a third is imminent. I’ve lost count (she hasn’t) of the number of short stories she has published.

If you haven’t yet ventured into Anne’s writing, then now is the perfect time. During February, you can read the ebook of Sugar and Snails free. What a wonderful opportunity to get to know this amazing author.

Here is the link to sign up to this generous offer which closes on 28 February: https://www.subscribepage.com/sugar-and-snails-free-e-book 

About Anne

Anne Goodwin is the author of two novels and a short story collection. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Throughout February, subscribers to her newsletter can read Sugar and Snails for free: https://www.subscribepage.com/sugar-and-snails-free-e-book 

About Sugar and Snails

At fifteen, she made a life-changing decision. Thirty years on, it’s time to make another.

When Diana escaped her misfit childhood, she thought she’d chosen the easier path. But the past lingers on, etched beneath her skin, and life won’t be worth living if her secret gets out.

As an adult, she’s kept other people at a distance… until Simon sweeps in on a cloud of promise and possibility. But his work is taking him to Cairo, the city that transformed her life. She’ll lose Simon if she doesn’t join him. She’ll lose herself if she does.

Sugar and Snails charts Diana’s unusual journey, revealing the scars from her fight to be true to herself. A triumphant mid-life coming-of-age story about bridging the gap between who we are and who we feel we ought to be.

If you need a little more enticement, please view the trailer:

Find out more about Anne, or connect with her on social media via any of the links below:

Website: annegoodwin.weebly.com

Twitter @Annecdotist.

Link tree https://linktr.ee/annecdotist

Amazon author page: viewauthor.at/AnneGoodwin

Listen to Anne read

You may enjoy listening to Anne read excerpts of her stories on her YouTube channel:

Anne Goodwin’s YouTube channel

Including this excerpt of Diana’s earliest memory from Sugar and Snails.

Remember, to get your free Sugar and Snails ebook throughout the month of February, all you need to do is click this link and sign up to Anne’s newsletter.

Thank you blog post

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

flash fiction Riding the Zipline Down Under

Riding the Zipline Down Under #flashfiction

I’m not known for being adventurous. I don’t like heights or enclosed spaces or cars that speed. I’m not sure where my fears originated but they generally don’t bother me too much as they have little effect on my everyday life. I don’t have to clean windows on high-rise buildings, and I don’t operate the lifts inside them. I generally take the stairs if going only one or two floors, always checking the door will open again before closing it behind me. I can manage travelling in a lift, especially if there are few other occupants and it goes directly to my floor, but I am always relieved when it arrives and the doors open to release me.

I have never and will never ride a roller coaster or bungy jump; and haven’t as yet and probably won’t, travel on one of those ‘Eyes of’ the world. I don’t feel I am missing out by not doing most of these things. I think life is exciting enough without them.

That’s not to say I haven’t ever done anything I found terrifying. When I visited the Great Wall of China outside Beijing, I had to take a chairlift up to the top. My heart was racing, and my palms were sweaty, but I did it. Then I had to take a flume ride down to the bottom. If pressured, I might say it was even a little bit fun, but I wouldn’t choose to do it again, unless I had no choice as in this instance.

Probably the one thing I think I would love to do, if I was brave enough, is hot air ballooning. I think the sensation of floating up there in the air, looking down on the world, would be amazing. But it could also be terrifying. If I could get on without being overcome by anxiety and knew I could come down when I wanted, I’d probably do it; but I think that’s for another life.

Surprisingly, perhaps, I love being in a plane and looking down at the earth below. One would think a fear of heights and claustrophobia would prevent this. I can’t explain why it doesn’t. I love the moment of lift off, of being taken up into the air. I always thought it would be great to be a bird flying above the earth, looking down. It is a beautiful view. Perhaps that’s why Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach is one of my favourite books.

Anyway, because of my reluctance to do some of these adventurous things like jump out of a plane, go zorbing or ride a zipline, people close to me often joke that they will do them if I will, knowing full well that I won’t, and they won’t have to admit their own reluctance.

So, I was amused this week by a conversation with friend and fellow writer D. Avery on her post Zip: SixSentenceStory. (Please pop over to read it.)

In D.’s story, her young character Marlie made a zipline from the top of the fort for her doll. I was picturing a playground flying fox which I think I would have enjoyed as a child, had they been invented then, and commented that ziplines are fun. (My grandchildren love flying foxes.) D. replied, ‘… let’s agree to disagree on the fun-ness of zip lines. Tell you what, Buddy, you go first.’ Well, that sounded like a challenge to me and I told her that we could maybe go together in a next life or in a story. And so, the story was born, with a little help from Charli Mills.

At the Carrot Ranch this week, Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about dressing up. It can be a child or another character. Be playful or go where the prompt leads!

Perhaps it is a stretch to go from dressing up to a zipline, but we’d have to dress differently from our everyday, wear a harness, and harness a persona we wouldn’t normally wear, so I hope the stretch isn’t too far. After all, it is pure play through story and from USA to Australia is only halfway around the world. Charli always says to go where the prompt leads …

I hope you (especially you, D.) enjoy it.

Riding the Zipline Down Under

Many hid behind Norah’s fear of heights, speed and enclosed spaces. “I’ll do anything Norah does,” they’d boast, feigning bravery. D. said she’d ride the zipline from its start, high up in the US, all the way Down Under, if Norah did.

Dressed for warmth and to prevent chafing, they adjusted their harnesses. “You first,” said D., still not believing Norah would do it.

“Whee! I’m flying; flying without wings,” sang Norah, zooming across the landscape.

“I’m dying,” screamed D., squeezing her eyes shut.

“We’re here,” said Norah. “Welcome to Australia.”

“That was amazing,” said D. “I did it!”

Thank you blog post

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

In your dreams #flash fiction

In Your Dreams #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something a character never dreamed would happen. The situation can be fortuitous, funny, or disappointing. Go where the prompt leads!

When I began my blogging journey in 2013, I never dreamed that I would:

  • continue writing two or more posts a week for more than seven years
  • participate in weekly flash fiction prompts at the Carrot Ranch year after year
  • meet so many fascinating people from nearly every continent with varied backgrounds and interests
  • make so many wonderful friends in the blogosphere whose encouragement and support is constant (thank you)
  • become addicted to the conversations that occur on my blog and theirs
  • enter into a rodeo contest, a writing one at that, and receive honourable mentions for my efforts.

(99 words)

The 2020 rodeo is over now, the winners have been announced and prizes been distributed. All submissions (except for the TUFF contest) and winning entries for all contests are available to read at the Carrot Ranch on the Rodeo Contests page.

Scroll below my response to this week’s prompt for my rodeo submissions.

Dreams Fulfilled

She dreamed she could control the weather, but never believed she could. Until she did.

She wished it would rain.

 ‘It always rains in spring,’ they scoffed.

‘From a blue sky?’

‘Sometimes,’ they said.

She wished the rain would stop.

‘Showers never last long,’ they said.

‘I love rain,’ another said. ‘Can you make it rain forever?’

She wished.

Rain fell, first gently, then in torrents. It rained for months, overfilling rivers and washing villages away.

They begged her to make it stop.

‘I can’t,’ she said. ‘I must have dreamed three wishes. I never dreamed this would happen.’

My participation in the 2020 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo

I write and rodeo

I entered three of the weekly challenges and was a judge in the fourth. I also entered the TUFF contest that was held over four weeks.

Here is a brief description of each contest and my entry. I hope you enjoy them.

#1 Folk Tales and Fables — Kerry E.B. Black asked participants to write an original folk tale or fable with a western feel in 99 words.

My entry (earned an honourable mention):

Snow White and the Seven Gunslingers

The huntsman made the all-too-common mistake of revealing everything before enacting the deed. Snow White kicked him in the shins and escaped into the forest.

Exhausted, she chanced upon a cottage. It appeared abandoned so she went inside and soon fell asleep on one of the seven beds. She was startled awake by a septet of menacing heavily-armed gunslingers.

When she explained her predicament, the gunslingers were outraged. “He’s a bad one, and she’s the worst. Stay here. We’re onto it.”

She heard them say as they rode out of sight, “Hi Ho! We’ve got a job to do.”

#2 Double Ennead Syllabic Poetry — Colleen M. Chesebro asked participants to write in a new 99-syllable poetic form she created for Carrot Ranch.

My entry:

Pain — Inside and Out

Hoofs pound across the roof

Hunting a way in

The pillow muffles but still they thump so loud

Relentless drenching rains

Over all around

Hoofs pound inside my head

Brutal throbbing pains

Lightning lasers pierce my eyes I cry dry tears

The torture does not cease

Blinding like a rage

Hoofs pound inside my chest

Warning it will burst

While my clammy skin pours sweat in waterfalls

Pain grips my heart and shreds

What remains of me

#3 Git Along and Start Writin’ — Marsha Ingrao asked participants to write a 3-act story based on a western song in 99 words.

I was a judge, hence no entry.

#4 Wanted Alive — Sam “Goldie” Kirk asked participants to write a 99 word story in response to a wanted poster and the words ‘Reach for it, mister!’

My entry (earned an honourable mention):

Squirreled Candy

“Reach for it, mister, and you’re dead!”

Henry meant it. He hadn’t squirreled his penny candy away to let others help themselves to it. Every night, more disappeared. He’d wanted to catch the culprits alive and receive restitution, but they’d become too greedy.

His wanted posters hadn’t helped. A stake-out was the only way.

Night after night he tried to stay awake, but every night he failed and every morning, more candy had disappeared … until now.

The startled intruder dropped the candy jar and disappeared into the darkness.

“I’ll get you next time!” Henry fired after the squirrel.

4-week TUFF Love contest —  Carrot Ranch’s lead buckaroo Charli Mills asked participants to revise an original western romance through a 99-59-9-99 word process with each step requiring a different craft twist. Since the contest required all parts to be submitted, only the winning entry is published on the site.

My entry:

Spaghetti Western

TUFF Part 1: Original 99-word draft

Fortune teller said love’d arrive on a stage coach, but she’d given up waitin’, watchin’ and hopin’ years ago. The only thing ever arrived was trouble, and most of them in a skirt. She’d done alright for herself, runnin’ the only eatin’ house in town, servin’ up meals to ‘spectable folks, not them gunslingers and their sportin’ women types. She’d only had trouble once – addin’ a new dish to the menu and servin’ it up unannounced-like. Customers weren’t none too pleased when she served ‘em worms. “’tain’t worms,” she said. “It’s spaghetti. We’re in a spaghetti western, ain’t we?”

TUFF Part 2: 59-word Story with Original POV

Always independent that one, tough inside an’ out. Never needed no man, she said. No man ever good enough, as like. Spent her time ‘sperimentin’ and servin’ up grub in her eatin’ house. Never liked no trouble. One night trouble found ‘er. She served up some Eyetalian dish — spaghetti. Everyone spat it out, thought she was feedin’ ‘em worms.

TUFF Part 2: 59-word Story with Different POV

The fortune teller said love would arrive on a stage coach. I watched every coach for ten years. Not one eligible candidate stepped down — only gunslingers and floosies. Then one day, this elegant gentleman arrived. I thought I’d impress him with a new Italian recipe. He spat it everywhere. ‘Worms,’ he said. Like he’d never heard of spaghetti westerns.

TUFF Part 3: Three 9-word Taglines for Your Story

  1. Stage coach fails to deliver fortune’s promise of love.
  2. Serving meals no substitute for a helping of love.
  3. Italian spaghetti rejected. Spray deems it unsuitable for westerners.

TUFF Part 4: Final Revised 99-word Story with Prop

“I see love,” the fortune teller crooned, “arriving on a stage coach.”

She cut words from a travel brochure and pasted them above the door: “Amore. Prendere per la gola”. For years she waited, but no eligible men arrived — only gunslingers and floosies.

One day, an elegant gentleman with an exquisite companion stepped from the coach. Hearing they were siblings, she hoped an exotic dish might impress. Unfortunately, he accused her of serving worms. However, she was besotted. As they held each other close, she sighed, “I never expected to find love in a spaghetti western dish like you.”

Thank you blog post

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

Results of Carrot Ranch TUFF contest

TUFF Winner Announced

The results of the four-week Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction TUFF writing contest are in. Pop over to the Carrot Ranch to read the winning entry by Liz Husebye Hartmann – an excellent choice.
Thanks, Charli and all the leaders, judges and contestants for another great rodeo.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Everything about the TUFF Rodeo contest was difficult.

TUFF is an acronym for The Ultimate Flash Fiction. The contest challenges writers to revise their original 99-word draft through a series of word reductions. It gives writers the chance to think differently about their original draft.

To make the contest harder, each week of the four-part contest gave writers a new craft twist. When TUFF writers had to reduce their draft to 59 words, they also had to craft two different 59-word points of view. Next, writers had to craft three different 9-word taglines for their story. Finally, writers had to revise their original 99-words and add an eerily out of place prop.

Judges considered each entry’s process as much as the final result. They expected an original final 99-word story that incorporated the western and romance themes with an out of the place prop. They wanted to see raw ideas…

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