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Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts

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flashfiction

Papa’s Bar – 297 word flash

When I was sixteen my Dad came home from deployment and announced he was going to retire at 20 and open a bar near the base. He wanted to convert an old house, keep the back yard and turn the front yard into parking. I remember Mom looking at him for a long moment before saying, “That’s a hard life and zoning could be a problem for that type of location. Will you ever be home in the evening?” For the next six months, once a week, we had a meal in a bar so he could check the competition.

I don’t remember if there were zoning problems when he found his old house. He had contractors gut the first floor and turn it into a homey, inviting space with long bar and commercial kitchen. The upstairs they opened up into a big family room, with dining area and even a double bed. They named the bar “Papa’s” which I thought was ridiculous. I didn’t know at the time my children would be the one’s eating in that family room and playing in the back yard if they wanted to see Papa when we came to visit.

Years later when my father died we got the following note in the mail:

To Papa’s family, The first time I entered Papa’s Papa introduced himself, asked my name and never forgot it. When I was homesick, that’s where I went, not to drink, but to chat with Papa about life and the military. He did the same for all who entered. He might not have been home with you, but he was there for us. I hope you know he served until the end. Thanks for sharing him.

My wife and I now run Papa’s. She knows everyone’s name.

 

Written in response to the prompt, papa’s bar, for Carrot Ranch Literary rodeo.

Taking Stock

This past Saturday I went to an all day writing conference hosted by a local organization called Writers and Books, a non-profit that promotes literary art. I got to chat with some former teachers, spent time with a past fellow student and learned a few things. There were four different sessions going at the same time so you could pick the discussion that  would be of most use to your own situation. I sat in with the agents and learned they get between 25 and 30 query letters a day. That means yours has to be not only good but exceptional to be noticed. In the publishers forum I heard that the first paragraph of the manuscript has to be a truly awesome hook to get the person wanting more. I came away from the day with the conclusion that there are a lot of writers out there; some are pretty good, fewer are really good and even fewer get noticed. (Sort of like in the music business.) I didn’t hang around to pitch my manuscript to an agent because I have now accepted it needs more work than I am willing to put into it. I can still brag I wrote a good novel that my friends like, but it will probably never get published unless I do it myself.  Continue reading “Taking Stock”

The Mentor Behind My Flash

Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology

Charli Mills Interview

Charli Mills Interview

The Congress of Rough Writers is an anthology that showcases flash fiction from a diverse set of writers. What was your inspiration for putting this collection together?

Carrot Ranch started as a sandbox — an online place to invite other writers to play for the sheer joy of creating literary art. The weekly flash fiction challenges created a safe space for writers to explore and push into their craft 99 words at a time. Maybe it was Julia Cameron’s teaching that we can be creatively healthy as we gain experience. We created a literary community with diversity that blows my mind every week. It’s uncoached and has no expectations beyond meeting the constraint and boldly going where the prompt leads. The writers inspire me to work with their material in an artistic way, to show how individuals of different backgrounds, genres, and levels can collectively create a powerful vision.

I’m a little jealous because you got to work with so many talented writers on this project. What was the development process like in putting this work together?

Right? The Congress holds some amazing talent. That’s what made me think of calling them the Congress of Rough Writers in the first place because I felt like Wild Bill Cody gathering talented riders from around the world and getting to play with their feats. The development process included coordinating with Sarah Brentyn who developed the structure from my crazy ideas to pull together memorists and fictioneers and build from their original material. I’ve become enthralled by the challenge of putting together collections of 99-word stories, and it’s like a secondary artwork to me. Norah Colvin developed my ideas for building community and wrote a clear and compelling educational component. We had a great challenge throughout the process to uphold different styles of English from global writers. C. Jai Ferry line-edited the entire book and several other Rough Writers served as editorial advisors. It’s not easy melding world styles but we succeeded. It’s breath-taking to work with a large group of writers beyond submissions.

I enjoyed how this collection showcased stories that were only hundreds of words long but managed to inspire some thought-provoking ideas. What was your favorite story from the collection?

Just as any reader acknowledges, we often pick a favorite based on how it personally resonates. For me, that one story is Pete Fanning’s original 99-word “Normandy.” He manages to express what the combat veteran’s experience is like as he ages. The story gives me shivers every time I read that final line, “I was alone on that beach.” I’m a spouse of a combat veteran and we’ve had hard times. We are finally getting him VA care although it’s a fight every step of the way. As my spouse’s advocate, this is my battle. So, to read Pete’s story to a group of combat veterans and their spouses, there was not a dry eye in the room. This is the power of literary art in 99-words. Pete nailed it.

Do you plan to put another anthology together?

You bet! Right now, I’m working with 33 Rough Writers on seven new parts that will focus on what writers can do with serial material. We had several writers create returning characters or write follow-ups to interesting story developments in previous 99-word stories. I’ve invited these writers to craft complete three-act short stories up to three thousand words long. I’ve invited writers to write narrative essays to tell the real story behind a 99-word BOTS (based on a true story). Memoir expert, Irene Waters, will help me develop that section. Educator, Norah Colvin, returns to help craft a new educational component that encourages writers to use their material in clever ways beyond a single use. We are also playing with three acts by piecing together three 99-word serials. Instead of creating chapters from prompt-linked flash fiction, I’m arranging hundreds of 99-word stories into 10-minute reading collections and connecting the stories in surprising and compelling ways. And, because Carrot Ranch is about making literary art accessible, I’ve invited 26 more writers as Friends to respond to new prompts. Each writer will include a 99-word artist’s statement in the new collection. It will publish in November after a rigorous editing process. I’m so excited to be working with such talent and passion for literary art.

Links: GoodReads | Twitter | Facebook | Website

The Congress of Rough Writers: Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 (Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology) by [Mills, Charli, Amore, Anthony, Bell, Georgia, Black, Sacha, Colvin, Norah, Fanning, Pete, Ferry, C. Jai, Glaessner, Rebecca, Goodwin, Anne]

Witness great feats of literary art from daring writers around the world: stories crafted in 99 words.

Flash fiction is a literary prompt, form, and tool that unites writers in word play. This creative craft hones a writer’s skills to write tight stories and explore longer works. It’s literary art in thoughtful bites, and the collective stories in this anthology provide an entertaining read for busy modern readers.

Writers approach the prompts for their 99-word flash with creative diversity. Each of the twelve chapters in Part One features quick, thought-provoking flash fiction. Later sections include responses to a new flash fiction prompt, extended stories from the original 99-word format, and essays from memoir writers working in flash fiction. A final section includes tips on how to use flash fiction in classrooms, book clubs, and writers groups.

CarrotRanch.com is an online literary community where writers can practice craft the way musicians jam. Vol. 1 includes the earliest writings by these global literary artists at Carrot Ranch. Just as Buffalo Bill Cody once showcased the world’s most daring riding, this anthology highlights the best literary feats from The Congress of Rough Writers.

Buy Now From Amazon.com

 

First Impressions – Flash Fiction

I was late picking up my new out-door enthusiast girlfriend to take to dinner at my parents and never noticed something on the front of her wool jacket, but my mother did. On the way home I asked what the small opaque disks were.

“Oh dear, they’re fish scales. I helped Dad clean the fish we had for breakfast.”

“I want my parents to welcome you back if you’ll go with me again, please be more careful.”

“I’ll do that but you should know welcoming a red-neck like me and accepting me is two different things in my book.”

 

Written in response to Charli Mills April 26, 2018, prompt from Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a fish tale. It can be about fishing from any angle, about those who fish, or what might be caught. Go where the prompt leads.

April 26: Flash Fiction Challenge

 

Gotta’ Follow My Own Dream – Flash Fiction

Angry white caps filled the Puget Sound waterway I could see. The wind howled and rain was going sideways. The fury matched what I expected from my father when I told him I had decided to follow my own dream of becoming a pilot in the Air Force. Especially since he expected me to become a doctor like family tradition deemed. The storm also matched my own emotions how my decision would affect my mother. In no way did I want to hurt her but I felt she would understand and accept what was best for me. Sorry Mom.

In response to Charli Mills March 22, 2018, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme “follow your dreams.”  Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 27, 2018, by leaving a link, pingback or story in the comments.

Rules are here.

Carrot Cake – Flash Fiction

“Girl, you dare put a piece of carrot cake in front of me that’s got bugs in it?”

“Grams, you know those raisins aren’t bugs.”

“Well they look just like the weevils that got in our flour when I was a girl and I ain’t eatin’ that.

“Grams, you taught me to make that cake, pick the raisins out and try it.”

After a tentative taste Grams old face wrinkles. “This ain’t my recipe it’s got hooch in it.”

“It’s not hooch, it’s Jamaican Rum I soaked the fruit in.”

“I guess them bugs are good and dead then.”
**

March 16, 2018, prompt from Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about carrot cake. It can be classic or unusual. Why is there cake? How does it feature in the story. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by March 20, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published March 21). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

Celebrate Reading

What child doesn’t like Dr. Seuss, or adult for that matter? National read across America Day is celebrated on Dr. Seuss birthday. It was specifically planned for children to raise awareness about reading and to motivate them to do it. I happen to believe if an adult reads to a child when they are little, they will be more likely to read themselves. The adage monkey see, monkey do comes to mind.

I read Winnie the Pooh to my children when they were small and characterized all the voices. It was our special time to share closeness and life’s lessons. One of the few times in their day when they sat still. Now they are both so busy they rarely take time to read.

Knowing it’s adults that read this page I want to introduce you to flash fiction. A genre you will always have time to read because the stories are very short. At CarrotRanchLiterary.com you can click on the blog button on Thursdays then scroll down to read the 99 word stories submitted for the prompt word that Charli Mills has given for the week. There are usually between 40 and 50  submissions and they are as varied as the authors that write them. In fact, they are so varied, it’s fascinating to think about how many different subjects come from the same prompt. I post my own submissions on this page, so you have had a taste of what I write.

Authors tend to write what they know so I commend Dr. Seuss for being able to write about green eggs and ham, and other fanciful things. My mind doesn’t work in such a way that imaginary things become real because the words rhyme. It’s his gift to all of us, and I wager an awful lot of people who inhabit this earth know his characters and their habits. We are all richer for the interaction and if you can read these books aloud to your little one, you will enrich their lives too.

 

Ice-Flash Fiction

“My goodness, I’ve never seen such ice sculptures at a wedding. The liquor bottles are nestled in a huge block and the swans look like they could just up and fly away.”

“Ostentatious waste! If the bride turns into her mother the ice will be flowing in her veins.”

“For crying out loud, give them a chance before you predict their doom.”

“The groom’s already done that. I saw him last night kissing one of the bride’s maids.”

“A congratulatory kiss I’ll wager.”

“No, a long kiss with hands roving that would melt all the ice in this room.” Continue reading “Ice-Flash Fiction”

From Fire to Fireweed

No fire had ever come close to our valley before. We could see the leaping yellow and red flames over the crest of the hill. We tied wet cloths over our faces to hand out water to firefighters in the dense smoke. They said we were safe. We weren’t, but we had lots of warning compared to others and left with full cars.

Months later we returned with a builder who agreed to work around the original stone fireplace. Vibrant purple fireweed greeted us. The irony of the plants name made us laugh aloud. There had been enough tears. Continue reading “From Fire to Fireweed”

Flash Fiction Writing Contest

LCRW stands for Lilac City Rochester Writers. This is one of the local writing groups I belong to. We are hosting a contest as a fund-raiser and would love to have you join the fun. Submissions will be accepted through March 31.  If you click on the blue “Here” it will take you to the LCRW website for all the information and a Word Form that works.  Continue reading “Flash Fiction Writing Contest”

If Only – Flash Fiction

Her father worked evenings. That was good. She rarely had to be alone with him.

Getting off the school bus she checked the drive. He was home. Damn!

He would expect her to walk around naked so he could ogle and touch her.

Her mother was buried, no longer a wedge of protection. No siblings.

She stood there, on the edge; go in or not.

She backed away, fishing for her cell phone. She touched the only safe number.

“Dad’s home, therefore drunk. Can you come get me?”

Waiting, she decided to stick with the lie, he gets mean.

 

In response to Charli Mills -Carrot Ranch Literary

January 25, 2018, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that goes to the edge. Consider what the edge might be and how it informs the story. Go where the prompt leads.

Respond by January 30, 2018, to be included in the compilation (published January 31). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

 

A New Puppy – Flash Fiction

“Is it time for a new dog?”

“No! Maybe. Sandy was such a good girl how can I replace her so soon?”

“Because a pet is a companion. Maybe a different color or breed.”

“Has to be a cocker spaniel, but another color is intriguing.”

I went to meet a litter that was almost ready at the breeders.

“The mom’s name is Fancy. She’s from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.”

“Looks like she got dyed in the copper mines there.”

“Yes. We named her daughter, Miss Revere, like the pans.”

“I could call her Revi; sounds more doggish. Consider her sold.” Continue reading “A New Puppy – Flash Fiction”

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