Tag Archives: Carrot Ranch flash fiction

tuning in to the outback radio flash fiction

Tuning In #Flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes something heard on the radio. It can be from any station or era. What is heard? A song, announcement, ad? Think of how radion (sic) connects people and places. Go where the prompt leads!

Carrot Ranch flash fiction prompt radio

My response is not a story. It is a reflection on a moment in time. As a child, I loved visiting my aunts, uncles and cousins on their Queensland stations. I hadn’t yet developed an interest in the news or felt it had a significance in my life and was fascinated by the importance it was given in these rural households. It’s understandable when I realise how much their lives were affected by things they couldn’t affect such as stock prices and the weather.

My uncle used to talk to the news report saying things like, “Go on, eh?” or “Is that right?” as if he was in conversation with the reporter. It was very endearing, but it also amused me knowing that the reporter was unable to hear him.

Nowadays, I find myself talking to the television news reporters in less endearing ways when I correct their grammar and terminology. I won’t be able to think of them all now — there’d be too many anyway — but here are three that really bug me:

  1. The use of ‘infer’ when the mean ‘imply’.
  2. Reporting that a vehicle lost control rather than the driver lost control. Until self-drive vehicles are readily available, I think the driver should be in control.
  3. Overuse of the word ‘left’, for example, ‘the man was left injured after the accident’. Surely, he was injured in the accident and not left anywhere. I’d understand it better if he was left on the platform after the train departed.

The radio was important to these outback families in another very special way. Since they were so far from schools, the children were schooled over the radio network with School of the Air and the support of parents or governesses. Many of the families, including my cousins, had special school rooms set up in which to take their lessons. While I loved their school rooms, I never got to see them ‘in action’ as I always visited during the school holidays.

Anyway, I digress. Here is my response to Charli’s prompt.

Tuning In

On sheep and cattle stations in outback Queensland in the pre-television and digital era, when mail and groceries were delivered fortnightly, the party line telephone and radio linked families with the outside world.

Mealtimes were scheduled to conclude with news broadcasts. The chatter and clatter ceased the moment chimes announced the start. Graziers inclined towards the radio, concentrating to extract words from the crackle, hopeful of positive stock reports, promising weather forecasts and news of world events.

Unable to affect, but affected by, the situations reported, the graziers returned to the day’s tasks, hopeful of better news next report.

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A place for everyone

A Place for Everyone #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features Lemon Queens. Maybe it’s an ancient fairy tale or a modern brand name. What ideas seep into your imagination? Is there a character or place involved? Go where the prompt leads!

Carrot Ranch - Lemon Queens

I thought it would be easy to write about sunflowers but, alas, I struggled. I finally came up with this story with the theme of diversity, acceptance, belonging and a place for everyone. I hope you like it.

A place for everyone

Rose prickled and turned away from the newcomer. “You can’t blow in here on a breeze expecting to be welcomed,” she whispered to a neighbour.

Sweet Pea belied her name, ignoring the stranger and trailing away to mix with others of her own kind.

Even cousin Marigold wasn’t hospitable, fearing he might spoil their whole bunch.

He didn’t tempt rejection by the glamourous golden Queen outstanding in the field.

Instead, he sailed right by and alighted far from cultivation where his lowly origins wouldn’t raise a brow.

“Look! A dandelion! Do you like butter or cheese? Let’s play!”

 

While many consider dandelions a weed, they actually have many positive uses.

Children love blowing their seeds around and, as the video below shows, physicists learn a lot from studying them.

When I was a child, we used to hold dandelion flowers beneath our chins to decide whether we liked butter or cheese. A lighter refection would indicate a preference for butter. A darker reflection would indicate a fondness for cheese. I don’t think our readings were particularly scientific, but we were always pretty confident of our interpretations.

I was also interested to discover that dandelions, sunflowers, marigolds, lettuce, artichokes and others all belong to the daisy family. Now I’m wishing I did my research first rather than leaving it until the last minute.

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First flight #flash fiction

First Flight #flashfiction

It’s almost spring here in the Southern Hemisphere. The garden is dressing up in blooms of many colours and filling the yard with the sweet scents of wattle, jasmine and other flowers. Bees busily collect the pollen, butterflies flutter from one flower to another, the butcherbirds sing joyously from the treetops, while the cockatoos noisily crack the wattle pods and prune the tree.

Things are starting to feel fresh and new again and encouraging me to emerge from my recent writerly hibernation. While, for the previous six years I’d hardly missed responding to a weekly flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch, I’ve not joined in for the past few months due to the demands of other work responsibilities. I finished that work a couple of weeks ago but have found it difficult to shake off the cobwebs and give creativity some air again. Perhaps spring and this week’s (extended) challenge provides the impetus for doing so.

In the current prompt, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone that flies. What is significant about the first? Go where the prompt leads!

When thinking of a first flight and spring, how could I not think of butterflies?

butterflies in the classroom

One of my favourite things to do with my children in the classroom was to have a butterfly house and observe the magic of all the life stages from egg to butterfly. It was wonderful to have this special little piece of nature up close in the classroom where we could see what you don’t always get to see in the world outside.

Every day we would watch, fascinated, as the caterpillars munched their way through leaf after leaf, growing bigger and bigger. We eagerly awaited the moment they would form themselves into ‘j’ shapes, alerting us that they were about to pupate.

We were amazed at how quickly they shed their last skin to reveal the beautiful chrysalis they had become. Then we would watch and wait until they were ready to emerge as butterflies.

We knew when it was almost time as the chrysalis would become transparent and we could see the wings through the case. When they finally emerged, we would give them time to spread and dry their wings before releasing them into the garden for their first flight.

The growth of a butterfly is a great analogy for creativity or the development of an idea or project. Sometimes a lot of hard work has to be expended before the idea is ready to take flight and the beauty becomes a reality.

Here is my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you like it.

Dear Butterfly, Love Caterpillar

Dear Butterfly,

You make the impossible seem possible. You inspire our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams. How can I be like you?

Dear Caterpillar,

Dreams create possibilities but now you are exactly who you were meant to be.

Dear Butterfly,

Life is monotonous. Everyone does the same thing, day after day. Shouldn’t life be more than this?

Dear Caterpillar,

Nothing happens overnight. Patience, determination and persistence will reward you in the end.

Dear Butterfly,

I’m tired. I can’t do this anymore. I think I will sleep forever. Goodbye.

 

Wake up, butterfly. It’s time to spread your wings and fly!

 

Another angle

butterfly clipart image

venkatrao, A butterfly flying with a dotted path over a hill background https://openclipart.org/detail/69967/1278212857

I thought I’d also share a poem that I wrote many years ago in response to an inspector’s visit to our school. As the title says, it is not really about a butterfly and was written long before I became the Butterfly Lady at another school.

I had always believed, and still do, that the children are the most important thing in the classroom and that we do our best for them every day. The teacher next-door wasn’t of the same view. We were in a large teaching space with our own areas separated by some cupboards arranged between us.

She spent a lot of time sitting at her desk, barking at the children to pay attention to her words. She had little of interest on display in the classroom and even less of the children’s own work. It was quite a contrast to my own space which was filled with activity, colour and children’s work.

When the inspector’s visit was announced, she suddenly decided to decorate her room and display children’s work. I was so flummoxed by this, that I was almost tempted to do the opposite. I believed that if what I did on a daily basis wasn’t good enough for the inspector, then it wasn’t good enough for the children either. I resisted the urge to tear everything down in protest (which might have been considered a flight from the situation) and wrote this poem instead.

Before reading it, I want you to know that the teacher and I were both teaching (perhaps I use that word lightly) year two and she was considerably younger than I.

Not Really About A Butterfly

Look at you now.

You put on your show.

Your butterfly colours are warmly aglow.

 

It’s hard to imagine

That not long ago

You were a mere silent pupa

With nowhere to go.

 

You flit and you flutter,

Cry, “Hey, look at me!”

And all turn their heads,

Wondrous beauty to see.

 

But where have you come from?

And how can this be?

 

Before . . .

Not one head would have turned.

There was nothing to see

— just a little green ball,

curled up on a tree.

 

Is it dishonest

to change rapidly?

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Tap into knowledge with books and reading

Tap into knowledge with books and reading

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes tapping. You can play with the sound, make it an action, or create something unexpected. Tap a story and go where the prompt leads!

As it usually does, the prompt led me to children and education, especially the empowerment that comes from being able to read. Reading is the key that unlocks the wonders of the world.

While not a continuation of previous stories, it does include some of the characters. I hope you like it.

The Key

Tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap.

Peter removed his headphones.

Silence.

He returned to his game. ZING! KAPOW! BOOM!

Tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap.

There it was again. Incessant.

What was It? Where was it?

He placed his tablet and headphones on the couch and crept towards the sound — the bookcase!

Tap-tap-tap, tap-tap-tap.

With every step, the tapping intensified. The dusty glass obscured the interior, but the key was in the lock. Should he, or shouldn’t he?

He did!

Into his lap tumbled a rainbow cat, a girl in a hood, a herd of dinosaurs, an Egyptian Pharaoh and all the wonders of the world. Magic!

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On the road with the library cat flashfiction

On the road with the Library Cat #Flashfiction

My passion is education in general with a focus on the education of young children. The development of literacy is a major part of that. Much of one’s success in life depends upon being literate. Literacy is recognised by the United Nations as a basic human right. Anything that impedes a child’s ability to learn to read and write violates that right.

Being literate is not only empowering, it can be a source of joy and escape. A literate population requires access to books of all kinds so that readers can choose materials relevant to interests and purpose.

I fail to see any sense behind decisions to have school libraries without trained teacher-librarians, or indeed, to close school and public libraries. I was incredulous when I learned that new schools were opening without a library, let alone a teacher-librarian. In my opinion, the library should be the hub of the school.  I am happy to say I am not alone in that thought.

But the idea needs more support. Fortunately, there is at least one Australian politician who agrees.

As reported on the SCBWI blog, NSW Member of Parliament David Shoebridge says that “libraries should be the heart of every school and that investment in school libraries is essential!”

In the next sitting of Parliament, he is moving that “every public school student in NSW has access to a quality school library and a qualified teacher librarian.”

If only we could get all MPs in every state to support the same movement for all our children, in every state, in every school.

Last week I wrote a story about a library cat. It was well received so I decided to write another episode this week.

Carrot Ranch - Open Road

Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch made it easy for me with her challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes the open road. Where will the trip lead? Who is going, and why? Follow the open road wherever it may lead! I hope you like it.

Looking for Love

Rainbow Cat clawed through the rubble. One by one she pulled out the survivors — Little Red Riding Hood, Little Miss Muffet, The Gingerbread Man; even Wolf who promised to behave.

“Where are we going?” squealed the Three Little Pigs as they piled onto the bus.

“Where children will love us, like before.”

For many, this was their first time beyond the covers of a book. As the bus roared down the open road, they peered through the windscreen and out the windows, dreaming up new adventures yet untold.

Spontaneously, they burst into a chorus of On the Road Again.

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The Library Cat Flash fiction

The Library Cat #Flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a library cat named Rainbow who escapes. Use this situation to write what happens next. Where does this e=situation take place, and who else might be involved? Go where the prompt leads!

I haven’t joined in the prompts recently for a variety of reasons — other priorities mainly. However, I couldn’t resist this one about libraries and stories — two things of which I am very fond.

I think a cat, especially a rainbow cat, would make a wonderful addition to any library, especially one packed with great children’s literature. I can just imagine the children reading while the cat devours every word.

Of course, I had libraries, books, stories and children in mind as I wrote my story in verse —aimed at a younger audience, of course. I hope you enjoy it, nonetheless.

 

The Library Cat

The library cat is fatter than fat.

She sits by the door on the welcome mat.

She greets the readers as they come in —

Nods her head with a welcome grin.

 

Sometimes she’s in. Sometimes she’s out.

She’s especially quiet when a reader’s about.

She sits so still you can see her purr

When the reader strokes her rainbow fur.

 

She’s heard every story there is to be told.

Even the classics never grow old.

But read her stories of adventures rare

She twitches her whiskers, “I’ve been there.

No need of a cape. Reading books is my escape.”

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Just Rigt

Just Right

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - gnome

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to in 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a gnome. It can be a garden gnome, a Christmas Joulutonttu, or a sauna protector. You can write magical realism, or feature contemporary gnome-like product.  Go where the prompt leads!

In my story, I have combined three themes: Christmas wishes, growth mindset and self-acceptance. I hope you like it.

Just Right

Longing for height, Gnomie joined Santa’s queue in the mall. Unfortunately, the queue hardly moved, and people grumbled when the air became hot and still. Elves demanded everyone disperse. Gnomie didn’t want to disperse. He wanted to be tall. Elves spotted him approaching Santa. “Hey! You there!” He froze. Santa glared, then said, “He looks about right.” The elves quickly explained — in the heat, Santa’s ring had slipped off and into the air conditioner, jamming the controls. No one could reach it. “I can!” said Gnomie, and he did. Elves cheered; Santa smiled, and Gnomie contemplated a new request.

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Would you like lime with that flash fiction

Would you like lime with that?

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - key limes

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes a key lime pie. How can you use it in a story? Is it about the pie? Or about characters making, eating, or otherwise engaging with one? Go where the prompt leads!

Now, we don’t have key limes in Australia. From what I can tell, they were ‘invented’ in the US, in Florida, and are not available here. However, we do have our own native varieties of finger limes which have been enjoyed by Indigenous Australian peoples for thousands of years and are now becoming popular worldwide for their spherical pearls, tangy flavour and variety of colours. You can find out more about finger limes here.

While I have three finger lime plants in my garden, they are still young and haven’t yet produced fruit. I wasn’t sure if finger limes might be used in pies so I searched for recipes. I was surprised that the only finger lime pie recipe I found originated in California: Citriburst Finger Lime Pie, which just goes to prove the finger lime’s spreading popularity.

However, a recipe discovered while searching that excited me even more was a lemon myrtle pavlova with finger lime pearls as garnish.  Even without tasting, I just know it’s my new favourite dessert.

Lemon myrtle, which I first tasted only a few years ago, is my new favourite flavour, so why shouldn’t a lemon myrtle pavlova become my new favourite dessert? (My first taste was in a lemon myrtle self-saucing pudding served at the Sounds of Silence Dinner at Uluru. It’s a taste sensation I’ll never forget in what was an altogether truly memorable experience.)

It may appear I’m digressing from Charli’s prompt, but she does say to go where the prompt leads. Lime has never been one of my favourite flavours. I always considered lime cordial a little too close to a dead ant flavour for my taste. I’m sure the key lime pie is nothing like that, and finger limes certainly aren’t. In fact, I don’t think any fresh limes are. It must be something done to limes during the cordial-making process.

Anyway, without further deviation, here’s my response to the prompt.

The Pie Contest flash fiction

The Pie Contest

The instructions demanding no sampling until after judging challenged Jack as he proceeded along the tables. With hands clasped behind his back, he read the labels: key lime, desert cherry, lemon myrtle … He paused at his favourite — Christmas pie. A splinter of crust on the cloth spoiled the sumptuous display, he reasoned. Though using the utmost discretion, he was caught and banished to the corner. The harshest possible punishment already dispensed, he grabbed the pie and shoved it into his mouth. Once seated, he thumbed his nose at the other judges who succumbed and followed him into temptation.

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Winners are grinners #flashfiction

Winners are Grinners #flashfiction

During the month of October, the third annual Flash Fiction Rodeo was hosted by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch.

The Rodeo consisted of four contests; one held each week during the month.

The contests were:

Modern Tall Tales

This contest required a 99 word (no more no less) tall tale that exaggerated something that happened to someone somewhere. It had to be exaggerated to the point it couldn’t possibly be true but could be humorous, sensational, or melodramatic from any genre.

Pro-Bull Mashup

In this contest, the 99 word (no more no less) stories were to use all three bull names (Bodacious, Nose Bender and Heartbreak Kid) as names, places or things. The stories were to combine two genres: game show and pirate but could include any tone or mode.

Three-Act Story

A 99 word (no more no less) story told in three acts with a recognisable beginning, middle and end was the requirement of the next contest. The story had to be about someone, set somewhere and in which something happens. It could include any tone or mood and be in any genre. No specific prompt for the story was given.

TUFF Beans

For this contest, the story had to include beans. Writers were instructed to submit four versions of a story: a first 99 word story, a 59 word reduction, a 9 word further reduction and then a final 99 word final.

I was both surprised and delighted to find that I was placed second in the Modern Tall Tales contest and first in the TUFF contest. You can read my stories along with other finalist and winning entries where they are collected on one page for your reading enjoyment in the 2019 Rodeo.

Congratulations

I congratulate all the other winners and finalists, and indeed everyone who entered the contests. By having a go and constantly striving to improve, we are all winners in the end.

Thank you

I am also very grateful for Charli’s ongoing encouragement and support and to the judges who generously gave their time to read all the entries. You can read about the judges and the judging process here.

Challenges

While writers were invited to submit only one entry into each contest, if they wrote but chose to not enter or if they wrote more than one response, they were invited to post their stories as challenges. Some of the stories submitted as challenges make mighty fine reading and you can read them all by following these links:

Modern Tall Tales Challengers

Pro-Bull Mashup Challengers

Three-Act Story Challengers

TUFF Beans Challengers

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - winners

For this week’s prompt, Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about winners. Who are they, what’s the mood, and what did they win? Express emotion or subdue it. Go where the prompt leads!

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

Every Child Wins A Prize

Melissa goggled at the toy-laden shelves.

“Only $2 a ticket,” the vendor encouraged.

Melissa indicated a music box on the top shelf.

“You won’t win that. It’s just a ploy to get your money,” grumbled Mum.

“You won’t know if you don’t try,” he winked.

Melissa turned to Mum. “It’s my money.”

Mum humphed as Melissa parted with her coin.

The man fanned the envelopes, favouring one. “Take it,” he whispered.

Melissa ripped the envelope open and passed him the card.

“What did I win?”

The man handed the music box to Melissa.

“Prizes are for triers,” he smiled.

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young love #flashfiction

Young love #flash fiction

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - romance

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a romance. Focus on the relationship between two people. Build tension and end on a happy(ish) note. Go where the prompt leads!

I have been otherwise occupied the last couple of weeks, working to publisher deadlines that took precedence over my own, and haven’t been able to join in. I couldn’t let this one pass. I hope you like it.

True love

Although he’d written love notes and brought flowers nearly every day, he’d caught her unawares when, one morning, he whispered, “Will you marry me?”

His eyes glistened with hope, but she hesitated. She’d not encouraged him, not that way. How could she have anticipated this?

Crouching to look him in the eyes, she said, “Thank you for the compliment, Josh. You’re very sweet, but I can’t. I’m sorry.”

His lips quivered as he asked, “Why not, Miss Ruby?”

“Josh, I’m already married,” she said, showing her rings.

He was downcast momentarily, then suddenly brightened. “You could get a divorce?”

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