Hand on the Plow

I feel we’re all struggling to find hope as the world slowly turns. I love Stuart’s story and advice, and think we also need to keep our hand on the plow.

Storyshucker

I watched the morning news but turned away when feelings of hopelessness washed over me as they reported infection rates and death tolls. Isolation is helping end this nightmare, they say, but for any one individual it can sometimes seem an exercise in futility. When a reporter stressed the importance of continuing our social distancing practices, an old memory crossed my mind:

“No.” Ms. Wade shook her head. “Here’s what you’re going to do.” She put her arm around my shoulder. “Keep your hand on the plow and hold on.”

I knew what she meant.

Having grown up around farming and plows I understood the metaphor, but until then I’d never heard anyone describe so succinctly a situation pertaining to myself. Don’t dismay, was her message. Simply continue doing what I’d been doing.

It was early 1980s and I was a twenty-year-old kid working a part-time retail job. Ms. Wade…

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The Halloweensie Winners Are In (Now Vote!)

Susanna Leonard Hill posted the 12 finalists in her Halloweensie contest for this year, out of 324 ENTRANTS!

Take a minute and read them (they’re each 100 words or fewer) and vote for which you feel did the best.

No, I didn’t win (again, and again, and again!), but feel that those who placed as finalists need the high-class opinions of anyone reading this to choose the best.

—–

#1 – Sneaky Sister

My sister swore her potion
Was succulently sweet.
She whispered if I’d drink it, I’d grow feathers on my feet.
My skin would glow magenta,
My ears would multiply,
The cobwebs sprouting from my nose would smell like mildew pie.

My sister said “Don’t worry,
There’s not a thing to fear!
Tomorrow all the side effects will (mostly) disappear…
You’ll be the perfect monster
For this year’s trick-or-treat!
Just guzzle my concoction, and you’ll terrify our street.”

But now she’s flabbergasted
Because I’m feeling fine.
I guess she doesn’t know:
I poured it in her cup
Not mine.

#2 – A Halloween Visit

The pumpkin-moon rises on Halloween night,
A tiny black coffin with eight bats takes flight.

An eight-legged driver with dagger-fanged jaws?
That’s not old Saint Nick, it’s his pal Spider-Claws!

His cobweb-wrapped presents of potions and spells
Will flip-flop your tummy with nose-burning smells.

He creeps down the chimney with barely a noise
To leave scary gifts for all ghouls, girls, and boys.

He might bring you nightmares or haunt all your dreams
With hair-curling howling and spine-tingling screams.

Then Spider-Claws shrieks from his cold, coffin seat—
“Happy Halloween all, and to all Trick-Or-Treat!”

 

#3 – The Nickname Cure

Matilda’s nickname gave her a case of the gloomies.

Especially today on Halloween.

Since her first day at Spookamentary School,

the zombies, ghouls, and mummies called her

W A R T I L D A !

The name didn’t suit Matilda. After all, her wart was teensy-tiny.

Moments before trick-or-treating, Matilda slipped into the science lab.

She picked a sticky cobweb and two bat wings from a box.

She stirred them up with one juicy, lizard’s gizzard.

“This potion will do the trick!” said Matilda.

She dabbed the mixture on her chin and…

Ka-BOOOM!

Matilda’s wart grew large and hairy.

“Perfect!” said Matilda. “Now my nickname suits me.”

 

#4 – Itchy Witchy Underwear

Every year on Halloween,
there’s pumpkins, costumes, and a scene
that thrills the region’s flight fanatics:
Myrtle’s Fright-Night Aerobatics!
But Myrtle’s stumbled on a hitch:
her witchy britches make her itch!
Charms and chants and incantations–
none relieves her aggravations.
Myrtle checks a cobwebbed cranny
for a brew to soothe her fanny.
“Use this potion if you dare.”
She pours it on her underwear.
“It’s done the trick! Oh, lucky witch!
Britches gone, but so’s the itch!”
Feeling breezy on her broom,
Myrtle zips to practice. Zoom!
On Halloween she wows the town–
but…
DON’T watch Myrtle upside down!

#5 – Tricky Witch Test

It’s Halloween! Tonight’s my chance. I’ve got to join the witches dance!

If I can pass this potion test, at last I’ll with cackle with the rest!

Two strands of cobweb, eye of newt, a pinch of stinky goblin root…

GULP!

Do you smell smoke? I feel a spark! I think I’m glowing in the dark!

What’s that? I passed? I got it right? I’m now a pumpkin burning bright?

Hooray! I’m glad I did so well, but how do I undo this spell?

BURP!

That’s all it took to make the switch? Tonight I get to be a witch!

 

#6 – Let’s Go Scarecrow

Screen Shot 2019-11-09 at 2.28.16 AM

 

Bloop-blop 

Past the oozing potion.

Let’s go, Scarecrow.

Shuffle-shuffle 

Under drooping cobwebs.

There’s the door.

TIP-toe TIP-toe

Shhh, Let’s go, Scarecrow.

DING-DONG!

TRICK or TREAT!”

“MWA-HA-HA-HA!!

AAAAHHH!

Let’s go! Let’s go!

Under the cobwebs.

Past the potion.

Through the maze.

Over the bridge.

Down the path.

Through the leaves,

PHEW!

Finally, safe at home again.

 

#7 – Tacky Trick

Itty-bitty corner,
teeny-tiny shed.
Eensie-weensie spider
hanging by a thread.

Spiderling is spinning.
Complicated! Tricky!
Can’t construct a cobweb.
Help! The strings aren’t sticky!

Searches for solutions,
while Halloween is new.
Awkwardly appears
arachnid has no glue.

Witchy whizzes in then,
(broom repair, you see),
catches Spider sobbing
among the web debris.

Witchy comforts Spider
with a shushing motion.
Utters muttered verses,
promptly pours a potion.

Golden drop is plopped
on Spider’s little backy.
Silken threads appear.
Some twirl and tie—they’re tacky!

Spider’s on the broom now,
trying to repay.
Sticky silk will mend it.
Witchy’s on her way!

 

#8 -Vampire Stains

Curses! No! It can’t be so!
I need to get to my chateau!
Zis cloak is now adorned with stains
From zees night’s many spurting veins.

Vhere’s my blood removal lotion?
Bleh! I vill just make a potion.
To rid ze blood, resume abductions,
Follow zees precise instructions:

Curls of cobwebs, vings of bats
Vort of toad and tails of cats.
Zen a scoop of Oxyclean
To look my best on Halloveen.

Ah-ha! That vorked! A vondrous trick!
Now back to hunting very quick.
Bleh! I’m shiny as a spark!
I’m much too clean; glow-in-ze-dark!

 

#9 – Boo Quiet To Spook?

It’s Halloween, and Glenda Ghost
must face the thing she dreads the most:
to haunt tonight, each ghost and ghoul
must prove they’ve mastered Spooking School!

So Glenda waits to do her best
while witches pass their potions test.
Next up, the werewolves howl and growl,
and black cats hiss and monsters scowl.

As Glenda’s turn approaches fast,
she fears her timid “Boo” won’t pass.
Would trick-or-treaters shrink in fright,
or laugh if Glenda spooks tonight?

The spiders spin,
then Glenda’s next!
She LOOMS—nose twitching, fingers flexed.
With cobwebs clinging, quiet “Boo!”
becomes a spookier
“AhhhhhHHHHHhhhhhhhHHHHhhhhhhhhh-Choo!”

#10 – Ghost’s Pest Problem

Ghost peeked out the window.

GHOST: Ahhhh!!!

He picked up the phone and dialed the number.

WITCH: You’ve reached Lotions, Potions, and Other Solutions, how may I help you?

GHOST: I’ve got a pest problem!

WITCH: Okay, I’ll send the exterminator.

Later…

Knock, knock.

Ghost opened the door.

GHOST: Finally, you’re here! They’re all over the front porch!

SPIDER: It’s that time of year. Halloween always brings them out, especially to haunted houses.

GHOST: You’re sure the traps will work?

SPIDER: Oh yeah, they always get caught in them.

Ding-dong.

GHOST: They’re here! Quick! Spin the cobwebs!

“Trick-or-treat!”

 

#11 – Gloona The Grinchy Witch

Gloona the witch was a ghastly old soul-

more greed than a dragon, more warts than a troll.

On Halloween evening, she mixed up a brew

with lizard tail, bedbugs, and pickled worm goo.

From out of her potion, a ghoulish mist crept.

It oozed through the streets until everyone slept.

Beaming with glee, Gloona flew out unseen.

She swept through the city and stole Halloween.

She took every cobweb, each pumpkin and light,

the scarecrows, the sweets, the decor made of fright,

and inside her cottage, she laughed with conceit.

That is, ‘til she heard, “Ring-a-ding. Trick or treat!”

 

#12 – Broom Or Bust

The Witches-Who-Confer convene,

just once a year on Halloween.

 

The youngest witch to ever try

to earn her broom and learn to fly,

Sabrina stood before the crowd;

enacting words she spoke out loud:

“A pinch of cobweb, extra dusty,

metal shavings, not too rusty.

Put them in a pumpkin shell.

Add the potion; mix it well.”

 

Sabrina ducked behind the chair

as pumpkin pieces pierced the air.

And once the chaos came to rest

Sabrina said, “I tried my best!

I’ll go back home; I’ll hone my tricks

and I’ll be back when I am six!”

 

I know this is a tough choice!  But please read and consider and choose your favorite and vote for it in the poll below by Monday November 11 at midnight Eastern time!  That gives you 3 whole days to vote!

CLICK HERE TO GO TO HER SITE AND VOTE!

I Met Depression… and I Won

From the beautiful, authentic Heather Dawn:

A few years ago I was diagnosed with depression.

There are many reasons for falling into depression: Trama. Rejection. Bullying. Death or loss. Harmful world views. Stress. A life-altering event. Hormones. Lack of nutrition or sleep… and the list goes on.

Healing for each soul is a very individual path. So as I share my story of hope, that is all I want you to take from it.

There is hope.

Today I am alive. Joyful. Healed. Whole. And maybe what healed me can help you. But maybe you need to take a different path. That’s OK too.

I’m sharing to bring hope, not to say I have the answers.

In February 2014, I had my fifth child… a son. It was very, very difficult for me to face this addition to my family. Though I loved him more than words can describe, I was exhausted with the other children…

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Carrot Ranch Rodeo #4: TUFF Beans

Charli’s presented her most challenging contest yet, one utilizing a writing process called TUFF.

TUFF is The Ultimate Flash Fiction; wherein you, the writer, submit a 99-word flash, then parse it down to 59, then parse it down to 9, then rewrite a 99-word iteration showing how the story improved in this process.

Here’s what she says about it:

Now things are going to get TUFF. Our final contest of the 2019 Flash Fiction Rodeo is all about having the guts to revise. As if writing weren’t challenging enough, we also have to know what to cut, what to add, and how to improve our stories. Revision is where the work happens. TUFF is an exercise in getting to the heart of a story and rebuilding it with that understanding. TUFF stands for The Ultimate Flash Fiction. In this contest, you will be asked to write one story with several reductions and a final revision. Your revision should be different from your initial draft. That’s where a writer has to gain courage and insight. TUFF will help guide you if you practice it.

Keep in mind that the TUFF contest is all about process. So far in this Rodeo, writes have tested skills of storytelling, craft, and creativity. Now it’s time to show how you approach revising an initial story idea. Your first 99-words should be a first draft and your final 99-words should be polished and improved. The word reductions in between help you find the heart of your story (59-words) and a punchy line (9-words). Judges want to see how you manage the entire process of TUFF.

And yes, beans are involved.

CRITERIA:

  1. Your story must include beans (go where the prompt leads).
  2. You will submit one story, retold through varying word counts: 99 words, 59 words, 9 words, and 99 words.
  3. Your second 99-word story should show the evolution or transformation of revision. How is it different? How is it improved? Did the TUFF process lead to new insights that changed the final version?
  4. The story can be fiction or BOTS (based on a true story).
  5. It can include any tone or mood, and be in any genre, and don’t forget the beans.
  6. Make the judges remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must meet the word count requirements exactly. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99-59-9-99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 30, 2019.
  6. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  7. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.
  8. Use the form [on Carrot Ranch‘s site] to enter.

2019 JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

Throwback Thursday: The Pit of My Mind

Originally posted at The Bipolar Writer Collaborative Mental Health Blog in April of 2018. If you think it’s depressive; yes, it is.

A spotlight coming from a hole in a dark underground cave in Minorca

“Chelsea? Chelsea?” I don’t look up.

Wendy the counselor waits; I assume she waits patiently. She’s going to have to wait for a while, if she thinks waiting will get a response from me. I may be as mentally distant from her, the room, and life as possible; but, I smugly acknowledge, I still have my stubbornness.

“Chelsea?” She tries again, though not pleading or cajoling. The woman is too good at her job. Her paid job. The one I’m paying her to do. “I can come in there after you, if you need me to, but I want you to find a way out on your own.”

Fat. Chance.

I’m ugly. No one actually cares about me, least of all her. I’m paying her; she’s a paid friend. She doesn’t want to to see my face; my red, splotchy, tear-stained face, with stringy, greasy hair and imperfect, crooked teeth…

“Whatever you’re telling yourself right now is not true.” I hear, from a distance. “You need to stop listening to that voice, and meet each untruth with the more positive truth.”

Whatever. I’ve heard aphorisms before. know that my “voice” is the truth: the UGLY truth, yes; but the HONEST one. No one really cares. No one really cares. No one. People standing outside my pit, calling to me, don’t really want to be there. And, they are ignorant twits.

Whenever someone leans over the edge of The Pit I wait. “You don’t actually care!” I yell, from somewhere near the bottom, out of sight of any penetrating light. Occasionally, they take the bait; they lean closer. Grabbing them like a mud-pit crocodile, I drag them down with me to their doom.

“Wha-?” They manage, before getting a faceful of mud, moss, roots, overplayed apps, and wrappers from an entire package of Fun Size Snickers.

Believe me, that size of chocolates was not as “fun” as they said.

Soon enough, I have amassed a small pile of hapless prey. Almost all of them are not strangers; they’re me: Optimistic Me, Tried That Day Me, Motivated Me, lots of Medicated Me’s, Broke the Habit Me, and even Did Something Worthwhile Me. They’re not as big or strong as Me in The Pit, of course, which is why they’re lying, broken, at the bottom.

Balancing carefully, I decide to climb atop the living pile of bodies. They moan slightly, too down-trodden and depressed to fight back.

Knowing me, I’d probably kick them if they did fight. It’s easier to kick another down than help myself up.

Slowly, precariously, my head reaches sunlight. I climb higher, ignoring the complaints below. Helpful Me, the poor sucker, proffers a handy boost with her unbroken leg. Soon I see the top of the hole; I’m looking at ground level.

“Wow,” I breathe.

A slight, sweet-tasting breeze tickles my exposed face. A completely careless birdsong whistles down from a nearby tree. I see light, clear skies, beautiful landscapes. I can almost touch rough twigs and mossy ground. Almost.

A low shot of green underbrush in a forest under a bright sun

It’s not real, someone I know, inside, tells me.

“Come out,” my counselor requests. Still waiting. Perhaps she’s eyeing Medicated Me, just beneath a dirty sneaker, when she adds, “Medication is never meant to be taken on its own. Studies are clear that any treatment must include therapy.”

The breeze tastes of rain, as well. Storms will come, maybe soon. That whistling bird is a sitting duck for a hawk or fox, singing so anything can hear it. The impending storms will mar the sky -look! See? A cloud is already blocking the sun. The twigs and moss are not actually there. I’m sure they’re just fake craft-store props.

It’s too much.

I climb or stumble or intentionally fall back to the dark comforts beneath me. We all roll or crawl or drag ourselves to muddy positions as I select the easiest numbing solution nearby.

“Don’t do this,” I think I hear, from far away. Wendysomething?

You didn’t, Depressed Me says.

“Let’s play Fallout,” Addicted to Apps Me suggests. A few others perk up a bit in agreement. I acquiesce, and we all wait for it to load. We really ought to fix the WiFi in The Pit, but Motivated Me is still recovering from a concussion.

“Can I have a Snickers?” Pig Me asks. I hand her the bag. Thank goodness for home delivery, otherwise we might starve.

 

Photo Credits:
unsplash-logoJez Timms
unsplash-logoDeva Darshan
unsplash-logoIan Chen
unsplash-logoJanus Clemmensen

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Carrot Ranch’s Rodeo Competition, #2

It’s another week, and that means another contest over at Carrot Ranch!!

Here are the rules, according to Charli:

At Carrot Ranch, our weekly literary art and wordplay are expressed in 99 words. Several regular Ranchers often include the prompts or constraints of other writing challenges, and that is known as a “mashup.” This contest has several mashups based on multiple prompts derived from three Pro-Bull names, and the amalgam of two genres. Read the criteria carefully because this contest requires you to combine multiple writing elements and prompts.

Rosin up your writing gear!

CRITERIA:

  1. Write a story using all three bull names as names, places, or things: BodaciousNose Bender, and Heartbreak Kid.
  2. Combine two genres: game show and pirate. (Use the provided links for genre tropes and plots.)
  3. It can be fiction or fictionized BOTS (based on a true story), but if true, wow, what a life you lead!
  4. It can include any tone or mood.
  5. Use original details to express your tale.
  6. Make the judges laugh, gasp in surprise, or remember your story long after reading it.

CONTEST RULES:

  1. Every entry must be 99 words, no more, no less. You can have a title outside that limit. Check your word count using the wordcounter.net. Entries that aren’t 99 words will be disqualified.
  2. Enter this contest only once. If you enter more than once, only your first entry will count.
  3. Do your best to submit an error-free entry. Apply English grammar and spelling according to your country of origin style. As long as the judges can understand the language, it is the originality of the story that matters most.
  4. If you do not receive an acknowledgment by email WITHIN 3 DAYS, contact Charli at wordsforpeople@gmail.com.
  5. Entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. EST on October 16, 2019.
  6. You may submit a “challenge” if you don’t want to enter the contest or if you wrote more than one entry.
  7. Refrain from posting your contest entry until after November 28.
  8. Use the form below the rules to enter.

2019 JUDGING

Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo at Carrot Ranch, will collect stories, omitting names to select the top ten blind. Please refrain from posting your contest entry on your blog. A live panel of judges from the Keweenaw will select three winners from the top ten stories. The blind judging will be a literary event held at the Roberts Street Writery at Carrot Ranch World Headquarters in Hancock, Michigan. After selections are made, a single Winners Announcement with the top ten in each category will be posted on November 28. All ten stories in each contest will receive a full literary critique, and the top winner in each contest will receive $25 (PayPal, check, Amazon gift card, or donation).

Paint

Some great writers painted pretty pictures this week at Carrot Ranch. If you want to participate in next week’s prompt, click here.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Color me something new, something bold. Color over the mistakes and past regrets. Pick up a brush and paint bold strokes, flashy colors. This is a time to refresh.

Writers met the challenge with colorful stories full of emotion, surprise, horror and humor. All the paint cans opened to reveal a rainbow collection.

The following are based on the June 27, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves paint.

PART I (10-minute read)

Charli’s Starlingsby Chelsea Owens

No one knew where the starlings came from. One day, the sidewalks and light posts and old brick buildings were bare; the next, they were scattered with flight.

Up and down Shelden Avenue elderly friends stopped their morning walk and children pointed and pulled at parents’ pants.

Winged, irridescent forms swooped up a wall. Yellow-beaked stills observed from flower pots. A proud male perched…

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Where the Wild Things Were

This is one of the most fantastic pieces I’ve ever read.

Lunch Break Fiction

I walk towards the exit, beneath the Homecoming decorations. Shoulders crash into me, feet tripping my steps. They call me ugly. Gross. A freak.

On good days I’m ignored by the monsters. By teachers, by girls, hopefully by Tate Spiller. In the locker room, I dodge spitballs and wads of toilet paper thrown at my back. Then I go outside, walk the track and wait for the whistle.

I want to go back. To sail for weeks and through a day. To leave this forsaken place, where they are all the same. The same wicked smiles and the same stupid faces. The world all around is the same.

The things warned me not to leave. And I should have listened. I told them to be still and they stilled. They were frightened, rapt with wonder. I should have stayed and been a great king. In the wild I was a…

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Help Us Hit 10K

My pal, Stephen, needs just 70 more followers. Personally, I think he ought to offer free honeycomb ice cream when he reaches that milestone; too bad he’s over in Ireland and can’t deliver.

Fractured Faith Blog

We are less than 70 followers now off the BIG 10K at Fractured Faith. It would be great if we could reach this milestone by 21 May which is the blog’s second birthday. So, while we normally seek to give as opposed to take, it would be much appreciated if as many of you as possible could hit us with a reblog in order to help us over the finishing line. We are always grateful for the love and support we receive from our WordPress tribe.

THANK YOU!

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