Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘My Mother’s Cottage’ #99Words #SundayBlogShare

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to write a story about variations in property values. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

My Mother’s Cottage

I wished I hadn’t inherited the beautiful, but run down cottage from my eccentric yet inspirational mother. I’d have preferred to hear her reading extracts from her bestselling novels, but she finally succumbed to a long illness and donated everything else to Cancer Relief.   

It didn’t feel right to sell her home, but I couldn’t afford the maintenance, until I met Jason, who contacted me on Facebook. He was the first to offer to pay for spending a few hours in my mother’s study.  

Now we’re married, the cottage is fully booked for years and the value has tripled.

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Exterior view of the Emily Dickinson Museum with Dickinson’s bedroom visible on the second floor.CreditGreg Miller for The New York Times

We all enjoy visiting an author’s House-Museum with all the other visitors and tourists, but what would it be like to spend a week, a day, or even an hour alone, in the same room where one of your favourite writers penned their novels? Imagine sitting on Charles Dickens, Charlotte Bronte, Daphne du Maurier, or Ruth Rendell’s chair, at their desk, in their study. Would it be inspirational, scary, or life changing?

I visited Emily Dickinson’s homestead in Amherst, on several occasions, the last one in 2007. It’s a beautiful house with a delightful garden. I peeked into her bedroom, where she cut herself off from the rest of the world writing her cryptic poems, rarely leaving its confines. Much has been written about her mental frailty, some scholars have suggested the possibility of agoraphobia.

The Dickinson Homestead was certainly atmospheric, and I can imagine that time alone, in her room, would prove inspiring, and it’s now possible to rent her room for private visits, by the hour.

I recently came across an article about Emily Dickinson’s Museum in the NYT by a reporter who had paid for the privilege of spending an hour, alone in her room. The idea of such a possibility inspired this week’s flash fiction.

If you are interested in ghost stories or paranormal events, the reporter narrates a very spooky experience in Miss Dickinson’s bedroom. Follow this link to read more about it.    

Emily Dickinson’s bedroom in the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Mass., with a replica of one of her famous white dresses.CreditGreg Miller for The New York Times

Which author’s house-museum’s have you visited?

Which is your favourite?

Would you enjoy spending time there alone?

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This week I asked my older grandson to colour a picture of a cottage, while I wrote a story about one.

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘A Thousand Paper Cranes’ #99Words #SundayBlogShare

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to include ‘the charisma of cranes’ in the story. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

Miss Martinelli’s Present

We’ve come to see Miss Martinelli,’ said Sally.

‘I’m afraid, my daughter isn’t receiving visitors,’ Mrs Martinelli said, wiping her eyes.

Sally pointed to a group of children holding a chain made of coloured paper. ‘We’ve brought her a present.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Miss Martinelli is our art teacher. She taught us origami, so we’ve made a thousand paper cranes to decorate her room.’

‘How beautiful, but why?’

‘She told us about an ancient Japanese legend which says if you make a thousand paper cranes, the Gods will grant you a wish. We all wish her to come back.’

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I’m afraid I know nothing about cranes, so I looked them up, and the ancient Japanese legend inspired this sentimental flash. I know there are great teachers out there and fabulous students too.

More about this legend here.

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A summary of my conversation with my grandson who is very intrigued about these stories I have to write every Sunday!

‘So, granny, what’s our story about this week?’ My grandson asked me.

‘Cranes’ I replied and his face lit up.

‘Like the ones on my truck?’

He has various mechanical cranes, with and without trucks which he loves to play with.

‘No. A crane is also a type of bird.’

So I showed him some pictures on google images. We have lots of fun searching for information and pictures on google!

‘I know why he’s called a crane.’ Miguel nodded sagely.

“Really? Why?’ I asked him.

‘He stretches his neck, like a crane.’

I can’t fault his logic!

So here are two pictures I printed out for him to colour this week. The one below is his sister’s watercolour fish, painted a couple of weeks ago, but I love it.

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘Speed Dating’ #99Words #SundayBlogShare

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to include ‘a line’ in the story. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

Speed Dating Lines

“You’re a writer?”

She nodded, expecting him to make an excuse and move away, instead he asked, “Could you write me an original pick up line?”

“I’m not helping you lie.”

“Are you kidding?” He said waving his arm around the crowded venue. “Everyone’s expecting me to pretend.”

“You’re right. It’s so sad.” She stood, “I shouldn’t have come.”

“Wait, could I borrow your pen and notebook?”

She hesitated then pushed them towards him.

“I’m tired of pretending,” he wrote.

“Just be yourself,” she wrote back.

“Could we both be ourselves somewhere quieter?” he wrote.

She drew a smiley.

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Unusual place for me, I know, but this is where Charli’s ‘lines’ brought me this week!

I’ve never been speed dating, having been (more or less!) happily married for over thirty years, but I’ve heard and read a lot about it, and I’m afraid many comments are negative. You all know by now that I’m an incurable romantic, so for this particular couple in my flash, it ended well, and might even be the start of something honest…

If you want to know more about speed dating, follow the link under the picture.

What’s your experience or thoughts on speed dating?

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Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘Passing on the Spear’ #99Words

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to include a fishing tale in the story. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

Passing on the Spear

After Ernest Hemingway’s novella ‘The Old Man and the Sea’

Manolin pounded his fists on the weathered door. “Santiago, I’ve brought you coffee!”

The old man had spent the last weeks chasing a giant marlin and fighting off sharks with a simple knife on his way back home. The boy admired him as the best fisherman.

“Get dressed, Santiago! We need to go out to sea again. There are plenty more marlins to catch!”

Santiago looked up, his eyes shining and beads of sweat dripping down his brow. “You go. Here, I give you my spear.”

“But you must teach me!”

“Not anymore. Now I must join the lions.”

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This flash is a reinterpretation of the final scene of The Old Man and the Sea, where the Old man (Santiago) hands his spear over to his apprentice, the boy (Manolin) and closes his eyes dreaming of the lions he saw in his youth.

Santiago, believes his life has come to an end, after his final, exhausting and futile battle against the marlin and the sharks. He managed to return home, but the sharks ate his trophy, the marlin, which was strapped to the side of his ship, so he only had its carcass to show, and considers himself defeated.

The old man accepts his fate and the natural order of the cycle of life, according to which all creatures are both predator and prey. He has reached the end of his cycle and can no longer help his apprentice, Manolin. The old man gives the boy his spear, symbolically passing on his skill and encourages him to continue his own journey as fisherman. Meanwhile Santiago, dreams of the lions he saw in Africa when he was a young man.

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This weekend I was lucky enough to have my grandchildren again. They asked me what my friend wanted me to write a story about and I said a fish. They both decided to draw a mermaid!

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘Forest Bathing’ #99Words #MondayBlogs

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to write a story about forest bathing. You can use the Japanese term, Shinrin Yoku. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

Inspirational Walks

The Verger at Rochester Cathedral heard the author’s cane tapping the cobbled streets below his window. He must be on his way back from his daily, inspirational walk from Gad’s Hill.

Mr. Miles stepped out to greet his old friend. Turk trotted by his master’s side biting a dry branch collected in the woods.

‘A cup of tea, Mr. Dickens?’

‘Not today, Mr. Miles. The seventh instalment of Edwin Drood awaits.’

Miles sighed, watching him trudge up the hill, stopping to peer at the little graveyard under the castle wall where he had expressed his desire to be buried.

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Unfortunately, Charles Dickens died of a stroke before The Mystery of Edwin Drood was finished. Only six instalments were published. Dickens died in June and the seventh, unfinished instalment, would have been published in October 1870.

Neither was he buried at the cemetery at Rochester Cathedral, as had been his wish. Instead, he was buried at Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, due to the pressure of Arthur Stanley, the Dean, who was searching for a famous writer to boost the prestige of the Abbey.

Turk was his favourite dog, but he died five years before him, so Turk wouldn’t have accompanied Dickens on his last walks.

According to his biographer, Peter Ackroyd, Charles Dickens walked for twelve miles a day, either along the London streets or in the countryside in Rochester, Kent, where he lived. He was usually accompanied by one or more of his many dogs.

He either walked on fact-finding missions for his novels, or for inspiration and tranquility.

Gad’s Hill, where he lived for the last years of his life, is a forty-minute walk from Rochester. Dickens preferred to walk alone because his purpose was to think and create. More information on Dickens walks here.

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I find walking in nature, is invigorating and inspiring, so I do it as often as possible. I often post pictures and poems or thoughts after my #SundayWalks, as I did yesterday, for example.

I’m fortunate enough to live in the country, and like Dickens, the town centre is about a 40 minute walk.

I used to walk with my dogs, but they’ve both passed away. I often walk with my grandchildren and children or my husband. I enjoy walking alone, but I don’t mind being accompanied. Even when I’m chatting with someone, I feel inspired and always take a notebook with me to jot down ideas.

Here’s a picture of a path I often take for my walks.

Here’s recent walk with my grandson, who loves inventing stories on our walks. On this occasion, some sheep had been put out to pasture that afternoon.

Does walking leisurely in a forest or the countryside open your senses and inspire you, too?

Carrot Ranch #FlashFiction ‘Bats’ #99Words #SundayBlogShare

This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly #99 word Flash Fiction Challenge. This week’s prompt is to include a bat in the story. Check out other entries or take part yourself!

Bats

‘Granny, what do bats eat?’

I sighed wishing my daughter was here to answer her son’s question. ‘I have no idea, Jimmy.’

‘We need to find out.’

‘Why is that, sweetie?’

‘We’re doing a class project about what animals eat and I got the bat.’

‘Let’s ask google.’

‘Who’s that?’

‘Someone who knows everything.’

‘Everything?’

I nodded and tapped the microphone. ‘Ask your question.’

‘What do bats eat?’ Jimmy asked.

A woman’s voice replied. ‘Most bats eat insects and are called insectivores…’

Mrs Google is a really clever lady, granny. Can we ask her when mummy is coming back?’

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This weekend I was lucky enough to have my grandchildren visit. While we were busy doing some arts and crafts, I told my grandson I had to write a story about a bat. He was horrified at first and begged me to choose another animal, so I told him it had to be a bat, because Charli, was the boss and said it had to be a bat. He insisted they were black and ugly, so I suggested drawing a ‘cute’ bat.

This what he finally came up with. And he was wearing his batman sweatshirt!

While he was colouring his cute and colourful bat, I started jotting down some ideas and I asked him to help me write the bat story.

‘Shall we include a cave in the story?’ I asked him and he shook his head violently. ‘I want to know what bats eat.’ he said and so we asked Google and found out a few things about bats. He was relieved that they ate mostly insects!

We had a great time chatting about bats and colouring. His little sister joined us in the fun and his mum, my daughter, popped in now and again to check on our progress and chat. It was a lovely way to spend the evening, so I’m puzzled as to why my story took such a sad turn.

I suppose I was thinking how lucky we all are to have each other and how important siblings, parents and grandparents are for children. Sometimes we forget to value what we have, until we no longer have it. I certainly hope he never has to miss anyone in his family.

When we’d both finished our tasks, he said he’d like to send Charli the picture, so Charli, here’s the prettiest bat you’ll ever see! Thanks so much for the prompt and for hosting the weekly challenge.

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Rough Writers World Tour #Flash Fiction Anthology. How to Make Every Word Count #TuesdayBookBlog  

Writing is often a solitary endeavour, so supportive writing communities, like the Rough Writers at Carrot Ranch, led by Charli Mills, are invaluable to authors.

They’re a safe place where we can express our creativity, receive and offer feedback, and feel we belong to a greater worldwide community we would never be able to reach on our own.

Rough Writers are an encouraging and friendly group who often comment on each other’s flash fiction. There are usually lively discussions on the weekly prompt day and the round-up, as well as comments on each other’s posts.

My first contribution to the Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge was in February 2015. It’s been a great pleasure to have contributed with almost fifty stories over the past three years and to have read hundreds of other stories. I’m always amazed at how many different approaches the rough writers come up with to the same topic!

The first flash fiction anthology from Charli’s Rough Writers over at The Carrot Ranch was published in February, 2018. I am honored to have been part of that anthology, which was made possible by the participation of over thirty regular contributors to Carrot Ranch’s weekly Challenge, as well as Charli’s enthusiasm as group leader.

A very special mention and thanks to Sarah Brentyn, the fabulous editor of the volume, who made sure all our contributions were perfect (she certainly helped me make the most of mine! Thank you Sarah).

The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 is available for distribution in 17 countries worldwide.
It’s available now in print and e-book versions: preferably via book baby; and also on Amazon US, Amazon UK

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I’d like to share with you the one most important lesson I’ve learnt from writing Flash Fiction:

Make every word count.

The more I unclutter and draw my readers straight into the story, the higher the chances they’ll keep reading.

Contemporary readers are both busy and impatient, and their attention spans are shorter, because they’re more used to multitasking and online reading. I know this because I’m also a contemporary reader and I interact with many others! A great deal has been written about this, for example this article in the Guardian, Ebooks are changing the way we read, and the way novelists write.

Writing flash fiction (and poetry, but that’s for another post!) have both increased my confidence as a writer by:

· Improving my writing style,

· Enhancing my creativity, and

· Boosting my word power.

How to Make Every Word Count?

Whatever I’m writing, be it a poem, a flash or a novel, the first draft is all about finding and creating my story, so I write to my heart’s content, the more words and information the better, because at this point, I’m telling the story to myself.

It’s later, with the subsequent edits, when I start thinking of my readers, that I edit consciously and viciously. I ditch or combine scenes, shorten paragraphs and chapters, tighten sentences and ultimately, cut out words, or rephrase to clarify and get to the point.

In flash fiction, for example, a lot of the first draft will be brainstorming ideas, scenes, whole sentences, ignoring the word count.

Once I’ve completed my first draft, I start again and ask myself these questions about every single word:

· Does the word move the story on?

· Does the word tell the reader something essential?

· If I read the text without the word does the sentence still convey my intended meaning?

· Can I include the idea behind the word in another shorter way, for example with another expression or a different verb?

· Is there a more direct and clearer way of writing a sentence?

· Am I satisfied that each word conveys my intended meaning? There’s always a perfect word and I need to find it. I still have my original Roget’s Thesaurus, which I bought in 1980 on my desk, plus all the online tools available to activate all the vocabulary my brainpower can recall.

· Finally, I prioritize. I may need all the words, but I have a word limit. I must decide which words, or groups of words, even whole lines, are more essential than others to convey my meaning.

This is why it takes me less than thirty minutes to write the first draft of a flash or poem and several hours, often days, to come up with the final version.

With a novel it takes me about three months to write a first draft and at least six more for the subsequent drafts and edits.

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Before concluding, I’d like to indulge in a short trip down memory lane and include my first contribution to the Carrot Ranch 99-word Challenge.

Aunt Lucy (Published on 9th February, 2015).

“Your sister should have married.”
“She’s perfectly happy on her own.”
“I suppose you can’t blame anyone for not wanting to live with her, can you?”
“What do you mean?”
“She’s as mad as a hatter.”
“What a horrible thing to say! She’s not mad. She’s just different.”
“Look at her clothes and her sixty-year-old hippy friends. They still smoke pot, for crying out loud! Thank God we had the sense to adopt her child so she could have a normal life.”
The door opened.
“I wondered when you were going to tell me Aunt Lucy was my mother.”
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Here are my other contributions to Carrot Ranch’s Weekly Flash Fiction Challenge

Here’s a previous post I wrote about how flash fiction has improved my writing.

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You might enjoy visiting these other Rough Writers who have taken part in the book launch and tell us about how flash fiction has influenced their writing.

Irene Waters in Australia

Susan Zutautas in Canada

Norah Colvin in Australia

Sherri Matthews in the UK

Sacha Black in the UK

Ann Edall-Robson in Canada

Anne Goodwin in the UK

Geoff Le Pard in the UK

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What’s your experience of writing flash fiction? Has it helped you improve your writing, too?