Category Archives: Writing

Hit the Road Jack #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “hit the road, Jack.” You can interpret the phrase any way you like — road trip, goodbye, or story. Go where the prompt leads!

I’ve written a nonsense story loosely based on young children as much as on characters from nursery rhymes. Anyone who has tried to get to the truth of a ‘situation’ with young children will recognise the complexities and difficulties involved and realise how quickly it can all be resolved with a distraction. I’ve used an interpretation of the phrase rather than the phrase itself. I hope you enjoy it.

Nursery Rhyme Nursery School

“What’s upsetting you, Jack?”

“Mary won’t let me play.”

“Why are you contrary, Mary? Didn’t Jack build this house?”

“He broke it too!”

“Don’t blame me,” said Jack. “The alligator smashed it.”

“What alligator?”

“The doctor’s. He trampled everything.”

“Don’t blame me,” said the doctor. “Polly said come quick.”

“Because … ?”

“My dolly got burnt from the kettle.”

“Who put the kettle on?”

“I did. But don’t blame me. Jack bumped me.”

“You were hogging pies.”

“You were sticking your fingers in them.”

“Look, everyone! Humpty’s cracked!”

“Who pushed him?”

“Jack?!”

Jack was gone. He’d fled the scene.

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For Earth Day #Flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about earthing. Put a character’s hands, feet or body and soul into the earth. Who needs recharging? What happens between the interaction? Go where the prompt leads!

The prompt coincided with Earth Day which, celebrated on 22nd April each year, is the anniversary of the beginning of the environmental movement in 1970.

In her post, Charli says, ‘Earth Day is a good time to talk about earthing. Also known as grounding, earthing describes interacting with the earth barefoot and bare handed.

It made me think of childhood days of playing in the dirt and making mud pies. As long as we were having fun, we never minded how dirty we got. I think now that maybe Mum may not have been so thrilled.

There’s nothing like children for being totally absorbed by something they enjoy and for making the most of opportunities that arise.

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

For Earth Day

“They’re very quiet,” said Dad.

“For a change,” said Mum.

“Suspiciously quiet,” said Dad. Mum didn’t stir — no way she’d abandon her match-3 game mid-level to investigate.

“Hmpf,” said Dad, marking his page. He slid into his slippers and shuffled to the door.

“What’re you doin’?” he yelled.

Two small mud-spattered bodies frolicking under the sprinkler in his freshly-prepared garden bed froze.

“Nuthin’,” said one.

The other gaped.

“Sure don’t look like nuthin’,” said Dad. “Git yerselfs outta there.”

He killed the sprinkler and fun in one.

“We thought you made it for us—”

“—for Earth Day.”

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Seeds of Generosity #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that seeds generosity. Who is generous and why? Think of generosity as planting a future outcome. Go where the prompt leads!

As for many other qualities and values, I think the seeds of generosity are sown in early childhood. The rewards are reaped throughout life, both for the giver and the recipients of the generosity.

I expected it to be easy to write a story about generosity. However, as with every other prompt, it was a battle to find an idea that wanted to work. When I finally found one and wrote it down, it was over 300 words!

I don’t think I’ve ever written that many words when composing flash before. It’s usually only about 150 words I have to whittle down.

Writing flash fiction is like writing a picture book manuscript. You tell just the bare bones and leave the rest up to the illustrator. However, with flash fiction, there is no illustrator.

Slowly, through six revisions, I condensed the story to 99 words. I hope it still makes sense and that you can paint in the gaps.

The Racing Car

Jamie was spending his birthday money—a rose for Mum, gum for Dad, balloons for Baby and a racing car for himself.

Mr Green counted Jamie’s coins. “You’ve only enough for three.”

Jamie pushed the car aside. “These three, please.”

As Jamie left, Mr Green called, “Wait!” He held out the racing car. Jamie beamed.

Nearly home, Jamie saw a little boy crouched beside a drain. A car, just like Jamie’s, lay far below.

“Foolish boy,” said the mother. “I warned you.” She dragged the howling boy away.

“Wait,” called Jamie, holding out his racing car. The boy beamed.

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The Hero of Your Own Journey

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that “rethinks the hero.” Define the hero, comparing or contrasting to the classic definition. Break the mold. What happens to the hero in the cave? Is it epic or everyday? Is there resistance or acceptance? Go where the prompt leads!

If there’s one thing that writers can do is write their characters out of any situation. What many of them wish they could do is write themselves into a publishing contract. Whatever we choose, we all must be the hero of our own journey.

Nearly every class has a clown who becomes the hero for students by adding a humorous diversion that reduces the stresses of the day. The same student may frustrate the teacher by disrupting the class and not taking the lesson seriously.

While I was never the class clown—I wouldn’t have enjoyed the attention and would never have been considered funny—I always liked to consider alternative possibilities and was sometimes accused of not taking things seriously enough while fending off accusations of the opposite by others. You’ve probably noticed similar in my writing. What can I say? I’m a Gemini.

Both writers and class clowns think creatively, which is perfect for World Creativity and Innovation Week which begins this Thursday.

Not so much in the younger grades in which I mainly taught, but in the older grades, students are often provided with hypothetical situations for which they are required to provide survival strategies. I’ve gone for the opposite of the literal cave, as Charli suggested, but still the literary cave.

I hope you think my class clown/writer has used their creativity to solve the teacher’s survival puzzle. If only it were that easy.

Survival Hero

“Consider this,” said the teacher. “You’re stranded alone in the desert. Your vehicle has broken down about 15 kilometres from your destination. Your visit’s a surprise so you’re not expected. There’s no internet service and your phone is dead. You’ve packed water and a little food in a backpack. What else should you take to be the hero of your own journey?”

The students huddled, discussing options.

“Compass,” suggested one.

“Pocket knife,” said another.

“Flashlight.”

“Mirror.”

“A pencil.”

“Why?”

“I’d just add an ‘s’ — change that desert to dessert and she’s sweet.”

“You’re our hero,” the others agreed, laughing.

Note: ‘she’s sweet’ is an Australian saying for everything’s okay.

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Time flies …

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a swift passage. You can take inspiration from any source. Who is going where and why. What makes it swift? Go where the prompt leads!

I think life itself is a quick passage. Time flies, as “they” say, quoting Virgil.

It is often also said, quoting George Bernard Shaw, that time is wasted on the young.

It’s only wasted because they have so much of it, they don’t know what to do with it. I wish they could save it up and use it when they get older and don’t have enough. I know I never have enough and wish I’d been able to save more of it for these rainy days.

Why is it that a day in a child’s life can be so looooong, and a year in an (older) adult’s life can be so short?

That’s where Charli’s prompt took me. I hope you enjoy it.

Regardless

“How long does it take to get old, Grandma?”

“Not long enough, Mickey. Never long enough.”

She’d once thought anyone over fifty was old, that it’d take infinity to get there. Now she well exceeded that number. She didn’t feel older, just creaked louder.

“My birthday takes too long. I want it now.”

“It’ll come soon enough, Mickey. Then another, and another. Soon you’ll be counting as many years as me.”

“That’s too long, Grandma.”

“When you get to my age, Mickey, you’ll see how short life is. Time doesn’t only fly when you’re having fun, it flies regardless.”

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Winning Story — Seeking Peace #flashfiction

I recently entered the Sue Vincent Classic Rodeo at the Carrot Ranch and was both surprised and delighted for my entry to be awarded first prize. You can read about other place getters here and all entries here.

The competition asked for 99-words stories with a beginning, middle and end to be written in response to this photo of Sue’s.

Here is my winning entry. I hope you enjoy it.

Seeking Peace

They stopped on a verge overlooking the valley.

“It’s beautiful, Dad. And so big. You said it was small.”

“Not small in size, son. Small in mind.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Folks round here didn’t want your mum and me getting married. They threatened to keep us apart. Cruel words were spoken. We left and never returned.”

“Why’re we coming back?”

“Your mother asked us — to make peace. Before it’s too late.”

“Like it is for her?” His voice trembled.

“Yeah.” He rubbed the boy’s head.

“Will we?”

“We’ll know soon enough.”

He inched the car towards the village.

***

Here is what the judges said about it.

“This author nailed a response to a photo challenge with the opening line, taking the reader from photo to story with an economy of words. This is a smart strategy when you only have 99 words or 99 syllables. We step out of the image into the lives of a father and son. The dialog is clear, sharp, and tells the story of loss and hopeful redemption. The judges appreciated a place not small in size but small in mind. That single concept conveys much. A well-crafted story with emotion and purpose takes ownership of the photo.”

What do you think? Do you agree?

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Announcing the WINNERS of the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic

The results of the Sue Vincent Rodeo Classic are out. You’ll never guess who won. You’ll have to pop over to see.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

When the Rodeo came to town, Rough Writers from around the world answered the call. You came, you sat in the saddle, you rode the bull, and you joined the parade.

Most important, you were inspired by our wonderful friend, Sue Vincent. Sue has been battling terminal cancer, and we’re thrilled that she is around to see the winners (though I admit I cheated and let her know the top winner a little early). Participants were allowed and encouraged to donate to help Sue and her family, but we believe the photo she provided as the prompt was worthy of any prize. Her photo prompted 63 wonderful 99 word stories and 99 syllable poems; if the average picture is worth 1,000 words, then we can be certain her prompt is way above average!

The Sue Vincent Rodeo Challenge Prompt

When speaking with Sue following the contest, we learned that…

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Deep Wishes - the marshmallow test

Deep Wishes #Flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about deep wishes. Where is the deep — in the sky, the ground, or outer space? What kind of wishes reside there for whom and why? Go where the prompt leads!

I don’t quite know how deep wishes got me to the marshmallow test which I previously wrote about here, but that’s where I landed. Maybe I was yearning for something sweet.

In the marshmallow test, children were left alone in a room with one enticing marshmallow on a plate in front of them. They were promised a second marshmallow if they didn’t eat the first before the examiner returned. The ways in which different children responded to the task were interesting and used for research into emotional intelligence and later success in life.

I had more altruistic goals in mind for the boy in my story, but in the end, he was more concerned with the present moment than life’s bigger issues. Children (and stories) don’t always turn out as you expect. I hope you enjoy it.

Something Else

His eyes were as round as the cookie. He shuffled on his seat. His fingers twitched. They slow-walked to the plate and he quickly drew them back. His head bent low over the cookie. He inhaled. Deep. Long. No rule against that. He checked for dislodged crumbs. None. He sighed. The door handle rattled. He sat upright, shoved his hands beneath his buttocks and looked at the ceiling.

“You resisted,” said the examiner.

He nodded.

“Not even a crumb?’

He shook his head.

“Then you may have two cookies.”

“May I have something else, please? I don’t like chocolate.”

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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.

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