Sue Spitulnik

Flash Fiction and personal thoughts



Ranch Romances – 297 word flash

The three ruling hens sat atop their shed. Claudia, a Rhode Island Red, said, “I don’t know why we can’t have more than one rooster. I could use a little more romance.”

Matilda, a Bantam, scoffed, “Honey, that’s not romance, that’s that dang rooster pushin’ us around when he wants somethin’. Besides the rancher don’t care if our eggs are fertilized or not and two roosters would mean fightin’ between ’em.”

Beatrice, the Barred Plymouth Rock, replied, “Be glad we got us one rooster, the poor donkey over there thinks the llama is going to show ‘im some lovin’. Friendship yeah, but that’s it.”

Claudia answered, “Talk about unromantic, the horses and cows get a long gloved arm to make ’em pregnant, got nothin’ to do with romance at all; it’s got to do with blood lines and makin’ the rancher more money.”

Beatrice clucked, “Speakin’ of the rancher, he could use some romance. He’s been kinda’ crabby since his kids won’t help run the place and his wife ran off with that guy who shoed the horses.”

Matilda expounded, “I told ya that would happen first time the farrier jumped out of his truck and the missus got a good look at him, even at their age.”

Claudia speculated, “I heard the rancher talkin’ with the vet about some carrot ranch. Is that a new place nearby?”

Beatrice answered, “Na, that’s a place he sends his writin’ to.”

Matilda asked, “What-a-ya mean sends?”

Beatrice explained, “On the silver thing he calls a lap-top. He does his writin’ sittin’ on the porch, then hits the submit button with a big smile.”

Matilda looked thoughtful. “Well maybe those writers should all get together in one place. I’ll bet one or two of ’em would find some real romance.”

In response to prompt; ranch romance from Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Literary

Let It Go – Flash Fiction

The cocky author had gone to the writing conference feeling he would come away with an agent; the pamphlet said he could pitch them. He listened, open minded, to the various panel discussions and realized he would have to rewrite his whole manuscript so it started and ended with a bang. He decided it wasn’t worth his time, and appreciated the writing he had done had gotten him through a rough patch in his life. All was not lost: the next time he read a book, he read for pleasure instead of learning the craft. He felt oddly free.


In response to Charli Mills June 21, 2018, prompt at Carrot Ranch Literary: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about “not all is lost.” It can include recovery from disaster, an unexpected insight after a fall, or however the phrase moves you. Go where the prompt leads.


June 21: Flash Fiction Challenge

Getting to Know Famous People

Where would we be without biographies of famous people, and more so without the people who write them? I think biographies are so popular because we like to know what makes other people tick, or what adversities they overcame to achieve their status in life. We like to have the back story of how a famous person started as just another little kid in a poor town in the Midwest, or any other location or learn how famous sports stars learn to deal with throngs of admirers and spend their money, or what foundations they start to help others. The list could go on to include famous scientists, politicians, historical figures, movie stars, artists, musicians and teachers. I’m sure I missed someone. Continue reading “Getting to Know Famous People”

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. 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.

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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”

When Dreaming

When I dream, I am young

Not naive young, like in high school

but thirty-something young

with enough experience to have a few smarts


When I am in public

I still notice the guy in the crowd

as if I were still young

dark hair, dark eyes, like my first childhood playmate


When I think of working

Now I have decided what I would like to do

I am young enough to do it

With energy, interest and no pain


When I hear a concert mentioned

I still want to go

Alas, the ears hate loud noise

And the thumping bass makes me nauseous


So here I sit at my computer

In a fine back support chair

Wondering if others imagine themselves

In an age they are not Continue reading “When Dreaming”

Thank a Veteran

Today is Veterans Day. I will be spending the evening with a special group of Veterans who are my personal friends. We belong to the Rochester (NY) Veterans Writing Group. Following is part of my portfolio that is on our web-sight page:

When we gather, we catch up on each other’s news and then write for about twenty minutes from a prompt sheet that gets our ideas forming. There are usually four prompts provided by one of our facilitators. After writing, each person reads aloud what he or she has written. Members of the group then offer constructive criticism on how to improve semantics. Suggestions are made for extending the piece into an essay, short story, or whatever. That’s the plan.

This is what really happens; most of us have chosen a prompt that requires a walk down memory lane: it can be a poignant memory with a good, or not so good, outcome while in the military; a humorous escapade from childhood or adult life; something a loved one did or experienced; a subject we feel strongly about and why; or sharing what losing a loved one feels like. After each person reads, the others acknowledge that the emotions shared are legitimate, worthy, and acceptable. The military brotherhood understands the range of feelings and the impact of PTSD. It’s a safe place to share. Personally, I always need my box of tissues; that’s just how I’m wired. Funny, I can talk about a situation, but when I read my own writing, I cry. Sometimes it’s embarrassing.

The number that attends the group ebbs and flows. There can be as many as twelve people and sometimes only five. Most attendees have served in a branch (or two) of the U.S. military and others have close affiliations to a current or past military member. There are no rules other than to have a desire to write, share, and learn. And, it’s free.

Attending this group for over a year now has given me some remarkable gains — friends, understanding, and knowledge. I am part of the tribe and I belong.

My husband is a veteran, as is the father of my children. I pay close attention to the Veterans who are my Facebook friends and vote the way they do because I trust their judgement. They have paid the price for the freedoms we enjoy in this country. May I suggest, today and every day; Thank a Veteran.

Thank an Author

This day was originally designated to thank the many authors that you lean on for entertainment, a bit of learning and for filling many hours with new friends and characters you can’t forget.

I have a new reason to thank an Author. In my quest to become a published author myself, I have joined a local writing group whose members are already published. Each month they have a speaker that teaches a fundamental of the writing process. One such talk was about “building the world” or location of the story and the characters will come automatically. I tried it, it works! Another talk was about build your hero and heroine so you know how they will act in a situation. How do you do that? Say you name your hero Jim Bob because the story is set years ago in the Tennessee hills. If you plan ahead on paper his looks, personality, religion, birth position, education, whether he likes animals, etc., as you write about the situations Jim Bob finds himself in, you will know how he would act. It really is that easy. I learn something useful at every meeting.

On a personal level, one of the authors has helped me learn some key ways to shorten my sentences while at the same time making them more active. It was a “trick” I knew nothing about, yet is so simple once someone shows you how to do it. I am indebted to B.L. She has quickly become a friend and mentor.

The fact authors want to help other authors be successful by helping them learn how to write better has made me thankful in a whole new way. I am now reading their books with a new appreciation. It is a big rush to be able to tell my family and friends, “The lady that wrote this book is a friend of mine.”

The next time you read a book by your favorite author take a minute to think about who helped him/her become a better writer and maybe even send them a thank you note for a story that touches your soul.


What are you reading?

It’s National Read a Book Day.  Give yourself permission to take time for yourself and read something you like; an old-time western, a poignant love story, the biography of someone you admire, a kids book about animals (because you still like the pictures), a spy novel,  a young adult story so you can remember how innocent we once were.

I’ve mentioned before, this long family saga novel I have written.  I’m working on the fifth draft, tightening and removing the fat.  (It’s harder than writing it the first time!)  I have had about ten people read it so I can utilize their feedback to improve my work.  It’s interesting to discover each person wants me to slant the story to fit how they think.  My most recent reader was the only one under the age of 30.  When she got to the ending, at 4 AM, she woke her husband to tell him the outcome.  I had surprised her.  That’s a good thing.  Personally, I’m glad it wasn’t me she woke up at that time and told her so.  Her husband defended her and said he does the same thing to her.

So what is my book about?  It’s about how far a mother will go to secretly stay in touch with her only child after his father has disowned him for not following family tradition of becoming a doctor; about the wife that can continue to love her  husband and protect  his reputation because she has that secret contact.  It’s a portrayal of friendship and support between different sets of people and how many secrets they keep from some to help others; the story of four generations of a dysfunctional family that knows how to present themselves as happy and whole.  It’s fiction, not about my family, but each character has surprisingly similar characteristics to someone I am close to, and/or parts of myself.  That frightened me when I first started the project.

In one of the writing groups I belong to, most of the members are published authors.  One of the ladies has offered to help where she can; her advice was to make sure I don’t have too many was’s on a page.  If I do, I am telling the story, not showing the action.  WOW!  I just read page 16 of my manuscript and I found seven was’s in one paragraph.  I have a lot to learn! At least now I know one thing to look for.  After thinking about it for a time, I am actually looking forward to rewriting that segment.  It will definitely be better when I get done, maybe not the best it could be, but certainly better.

As you read your book, enjoy the story, then think about the fact it was probably not the author’s first draft.  In fact, it could have been the 50th or 100th draft.


National No Rhyme (Nor Reason) Day

When I first saw the picture for this day I wondered why they used orange slices.  Duh!  Orange is one of those words that has no rhyme.  There are a few others, but for as many words as there are, very few.  I’ll list some of them: arugula, beige, blitzed, chaos, circle, circus, fiend, film, gulf, kiln, midst, month, music, pint, purple, rhythm, silver, siren, toilet, width, woman.

It seems we could make a really interesting sentence using a whole bunch of those words strung together.  Have fun trying.  I tried to think if maybe we used an Irish brogue or southern drawl we come up with some words that sounded like they rhymed.  I gave up, not having either a brogue or a drawl.

So let’s look at the (NOR REASON) part of this day.  I hope you don’t mind my going off on a tangent.  I am currently reading a book that has so many words I have never seen before, mostly verbs, that I am questioning the writer’s goal.  I read to be entertained, not to take a vocabulary class.  My husband and I looked up one of the words last night and couldn’t come close to understanding why the author thought it was the right word to use in the context of his sentence.  I was glad it wasn’t just me that didn’t get it!

I have had the occasion to enjoy meals with  doctors, lawyers, and professors.  I have had people from those same professions in my quilting classes, and I have never met anyone that uses the big words they know while in general conversation.  They talk like anyone else does when around the table with friends.  So, why do authors do that, and why do their agents and publishers think it is all right?  Maybe I should be more open minded and enjoy the opportunity to learn, but it takes me out of the rhythm of the story.

I have often been told I write like I talk and I’m proud of that.  As you can see from my blogs, no big words here, just down home memories.  Many years ago I can remember using; the car was purple and going as slow as maple syruple…. I wonder what the context of the conversation was.

National Book Lovers Day

Books have always been a big part of my life.  Growing up whenever I asked my mother a question, she would say, “Go look it up.”  I guess she thought I would learn more if I took the time to get out the World Book Encyclopedia and do the work myself.  I remember sitting on the floor by the book case and after I found the answer to my question, looking at pictures and reading about other subjects.

I am six, and more years younger than my three sisters, so a lot of times, I needed to entertain myself.  Reading was a way to fill hours and I enjoyed it.  I can remember people’s names from forty years ago; unfortunately that doesn’t translate to authors and book titles so now when I am sitting in a writing group and they are rattling off names, I can’t join in.  It’s a bit of a detriment.

Once in high school I decided I wanted to write a short story for extra credit in English class.  It didn’t go well because I discovered how much work it was.  I now know that it was the lack of personal maturity and experience that were the bigger problems.  I am currently working on draft number five of the novel I wrote.  It needs to be condensed and I am learning a lot about editing.  Writing the original is much easier than rewriting.  It’s hard to let go of your own creativity.

I once read that a house with full bookshelves in a publicly used room meant the home owners were open minded.  We have lots of books on display in our family room.  About a third of them are reference books.  There is a series by Jennifer Chiaverini and another by Emilie Richards that are about quilters.  There are novels by David Baldacci, Tom Clancy, Jean M. Auel, Stieg Larson, Ann Rule, and J.K. Rowling.  There are also some that are by authors I have met recently.  The ones that are most important to me are by men that I went to school with: Bill T. Jones and Phillip Sheppard; and a family friend, Mick Foley.  I thoroughly enjoy being able to say I know the author personally.  It’s even more fun to see them in a public forum and be able to talk family with them.

Hopefully one day soon, my novel will be on the shelf too, in hardcover book form instead of a big pile of paper.

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