Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts



The Night Before – Rt. 66 trip

This morning we leave on the first leg of our Rt. 66 drive in our six-speed 2009 Red Mini Cooper Convertible, but last night we had a vacation worthy experience at Michael’s Valley Grill on Old Penfield Road in Penfield, NY, a suburb of Rochester.

Let me back up. I belong to an international writing group called Carrot Ranch Literary, whose lead buckaroo is Charli Mills. I got to spend four plus days with Charli in July and now consider her not only a writing mentor but a personal friend. She is studying for her MFA (Master of Fine Arts) on-line and is sharing her classes with us. This week was about deep mapping, which means use all five of your senses to scope out a place and describe it. I think I have that right. So tonight I observed more than just the people I saw. I watched what they did, how they interacted, and got caught up in the fact they were having a good time. I’m not practiced at writing observations so please bear with me.

Old Penfield Road has many restaurants. We eat breakfast at Steve’s Original Diner so often the owner and employees know us by name and vice versa. We like to sit at the counter so we have time to talk and look at pictures of pets/children/and grandchildren. One of the girls has been our coach for this trip. Thank you, Rhonda. On the other side of the street is Charlie Brown’s. We eat dinner there often enough that I get a kiss on the check from the owner when we arrive and leave. We feel at home, enjoy the live music, and take our friends there.

Back across the street again is Michael’s Valley Grill, owned by Michael and Priscilla Petrillo. They have live music too and a friend of mine recently told me if we, my husband and I, liked jazz, we should be going to Michael’s on Saturday night. Tonight, we did. If you have ever been to New Orleans, the restaurant has that feel. What do I mean? On a recent trip to Nola we experienced something you don’t often see in the northeast. Anyway, I don’t. A person was a person. It didn’t matter the color, the clothing, or the make-up; the people that were in the French Quarter when we were there were “just humans” and everyone interacted with everyone else. It was refreshing. I saw and felt the same thing this evening. It was a treat. The band started with Joe on piano, Curtis on drums, then added Terrance on sax and Art on guitar. I’m sorry for the pink hue to the photo, there were red lights on the band.


The band, left to right, Art, Terrance, Curtis, and Joe.


Some of their friends and family were in the crowd too. I have to admit something and I hope I don’t offend anyone. Those African American women and men know how to dress. I always feel like a country bumpkin when I’m in a room with them. Not everyone was in a suit or dress, but the ones that were looked mighty fine no matter their ancestry. It seemed most took more time than I did to get ready to go out, but then I came home and spent time in front of the computer. We all have our strengths.

“The Grill’s” walls are lined with artwork; all by David Colon Jr. ( One wall has the band members. The watercolor of Curtis is being entered into a northeast competition in the next couple of months. I expect it will do well. Working behind the bar was Max. He’s been there over ten years and knows what people drink. He also knows their habits so no one waited long for a refill. At just the right time he made Priscilla what I think was a chocolate martini which she sipped before leaving for the evening. I asked her if I could photograph the art work. She said, “Of course.” I also asked permission to write about their business. She didn’t ask to read what I wrote before I post it. She also wants to live the next month vicariously through me, so now my plan to blog our trip is even more important to accomplish. Here’s a picture of Max, and one of the watercolors of the band.

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Watercolors of the band and humans.



Max, a fun, quick bartender.


We got there early enough to watch Michael escort a couple to their table. He allowed the woman to take his arm and walked slowly with her saying they were only going to the fourth table from the door. We were still at the bar when that couple left. The man stopped to talk to my husband about his handle bar mustache. That happens a lot. The mustache is a great conversation starter. We get to know a lot of people that way.

When Art first came in we talked to him, or my husband did, about the fact he was wearing a New York Yankee’s hat. Art deduced right away that Bob is a Red Sox fan, even more so after Bob showed him his socks. About the same time the band was playing a song that included the lyrics, “take your shoe off.” Max and a few others did as they were told, but then put them on again. It made for a light hearted moment and some big smiles. Michael’s was a fun place to be tonight. From where I was sitting at the bar, I could see the cars enter and leave the parking lot. There was one thing in common, there were no inexpensive ones.

If you have the chance, visit Michael’s Valley Grill on a Saturday night. The food is great, the service is top notch, the Nola atmosphere is a breath of fresh air and on Saturday nights the live band is the icing on the cake. No one will rush you out the door so it’s the ideal spot to visit with friends and be pampered. And don’t forget to check out the art work by David that is for sale.

The Price of Enjoying Live Music

Last Wednesday, 1/30/2019, schools were closed in Western New York State because the Polar Vortex came calling. The temperature hovered around zero and the wind blew gales. We had pre-purchased tickets to hear The Canadian Brass perform at our world famous Kodak Hall Eastman Theater. I half wanted my husband to say we weren’t going. Instead we put on our fleece lined jeans, a couple of layers of shirts and wore our warmest winter coats. So did everyone else. In our glamorous theater there was not a suit or dress in sight, except on stage. The music did not disappoint. In fact it was fantastic, catchy, even awe inspiring. The performers were also entertainers and we went home with happiness in our hearts and a new knowledge of an instrument we found out was a contrabassoon. Neither my husband nor I had ever seen one. The lady next to me showed me one on her phone, during intermission. The Fox model 900 costs $28,995.00. That’s more than my present car. I digress. Continue reading “The Price of Enjoying Live Music”

My First Guest Post

Raw Literature: Support System

by Charli Mills

By Susan Sleggs

I have read and heard in classes a writer should be able to condense a raw piece of literature down to one word or subject. That’s easy to do when I write flash fiction from a prompt by Charli Mills because she gives us the one word as a starting point. I find it challenging and fun. I love reading all the different takes on that one word. We certainly think and write with a different slant. When applying my craft in other venues such as poetry, memoir or other fiction that one word isn’t so easy to decipher. What is easy is to give credit to my support system for any writing I may accomplish. They encourage me with praise, and sometimes a nudge.

I first met my now husband in 2001. I told him I had a novel running around in my head but didn’t know how to go about writing it. He listened patiently for almost ten years then one evening while we were out listening to a Frank Sinatra impersonator, he noticed tears running down my face. He asked why. I told him I had just figured out how I could tie my story together. On the way home, he firmly said, “Now you have the missing piece, sit down and write it or quit talking about it.” I knew he was serious and I wasn’t about to quit talking about it. Halfway through the two-and-a-half-year writing process that started in 2013, he wished at times to never hear me mention it again. It became my total focus. Another nudge happened when I became frightened about the fact all my characters are a part of myself. I wasn’t sure I wanted my readers to know me so well. He assured me only a few people would be able to recognize that, so I went back to writing.

The first couple of weeks of actual writing I realized how much research I had to do. I wanted to find an Air Force pilot to model a character after. I called the local Veteran’s Outreach Center, and they directed me to the Rochester Veteran’s Writing Group whose doors are open to all vets, family members, and friends. As an ex-Air Force wife, I walked fearlessly into that first meeting on May 2, 2015, and not only found my pilot, but one that flew the exact airplane I wanted information about. The group has twelve regular members; two from WWII, three Viet Nam and the rest from Iraq and Afghanistan. We write from prompts every month and share our memories in a safe, non-judgmental situation, just like at Carrot Ranch. We have become special friends who understand PTSD, sacrifice, brotherhood and share the love of writing. That ex-pilot and I have read, critiqued and edited each other’s manuscripts. He is one of my best cheerleaders.

During the same time, I started taking classes at Writer’s, and Books, a Rochester, NY, based non-profit that promotes writing and reading. I learned about story arc, not using the word was because it tells instead of showing action and that the publishing industry doesn’t like exclamation points. I also joined another local writing group, the Lilac City Rochester Writers which is made up mostly of published authors who are willing to help other writers. I have learned much from their programs. It’s amazing when you put a group of people together who have the same passion how quickly they all become mentors to each other.

People have told me it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a college education, but I disagree. There are so many things I have had to learn the slow hard way that had I more education I would have learned in writing classes like the first draft is not the completed project. Writing is never done; there is always one, or many more adjustments that can be made. At times I find that disheartening and I retreat to my sewing room where I finish a quilt and give it away relishing the fact “done is done.”

In my quest for writing knowledge, the fact you must keep writing to improve became apparent, so I started a blog in July of 2016 ( I share memories and information based on the National Day of Calendar. That’s where Robbie Cheadle found me and became my first international blogging friend. The Tanka Tuesday poetry challenges she entered grabbed my attention. I didn’t use the prompts for poetry but for the keywords in my first efforts at flash. She also introduced me to the Carrot Ranch. I took a flash fiction class in September 2017, and to my delight learned I could write short fiction. I submitted my first 99-word flash at Carrot Ranch last November and look forward to a new challenge each week. The content of my blog has changed, and my group of national and international friends keeps growing.

When Charli Mills asked if I wanted to share my writing process I was elated and humbled as my journey is far from over. My novel, even at the end of its eighth draft needs more work. I have let it languish for the last year, and since I have learned to write more concisely, I’m thinking rewrites to tighten the scenes might even be fun now. I need to get to it. The problem remains, my story is a soap-opera type family saga, and they are not the in thing right now.

As to my process, there is something I can’t explain. Insights come on a regular basis when I am listening to live music whether it is a crooner, jazz or country. And the irony of the whole situation is I am known for always having an opinion and lots to say, so being recognized for doing something short and concise makes me laugh and want to forge ahead.

Thank you to my support system, especially the folks at Carrot Ranch who keep giving me challenges, are positive, and I’m getting to know better as each week passes.


Susan Sleggs is a retiree who blogs from her home in the Finger Lakes region of New York state. She spends as many hours quilting in her sewing studio as she does writing in front of the computer. Memoir, fiction, and free-form poetry are common writing genres, but flash is her current passion.


Raw Literature posts as an ongoing conversation about those first works we create as writers, as literary artists. Guest Authors share personal insights on their craft, its process, the experience of creating raw literature and what they do with it. Carrot Ranch is a dynamic literary community that creates raw literature weekly in the form of flash fiction (99-word stories). If you have an essay idea, pitch to Charli Mills, Lead Buckaroo, at

Charli Mills | March 20, 2018 at 1:29 am | Tags: support networkSusan Sleggsveterans | Catego

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