Real Memoir Imaginary Flash And Not Your Typical Anthology

Summerhouse in Spring (c) Sherri Matthews

When I moved house last October, I said goodbye to my Summerhouse.  That is, to the wood and nails of it.  To the little wooden house painted blue , strung with pretty bunting and lights which no longer belongs to me.

My Summerhouse wasn’t just my writing space; over the years, it was home to a nest of bumble bees in the ground below, several spiders and their cobwebs spun in dusty corners, and a hedgehog who took up residence at the back.

I miss it, but I smile through my wistful nostalgia when I look at the photos, because I know that it is the virtual essence of the Summerhouse that remains.

My Summerhouse is imaginary now, a virtual meeting place, but it is no less real, filled with you, my lovely people.  A community created by the footprints you leave with your beautiful messages and cheery smiles from all parts of the world, no matter what the weather or the time, or the day.

In fact, it as real as Charli Mills, talented, authentic and beautiful author, blogger and my dear friend extraordinaire.  As real as the imaginary place called Carrot Ranch that she founded in 2014, and as real as the literary artists who gather there.

I met Charli soon after, galloping in on a cloud of dust from Somerset to the Wild West, intrigued by her weekly flash fiction prompts.

Charli collaborated with flash fiction writers from around the world and through Carrot Ranch, her vibrant, all-inclusive literary community, formed the Congress of Rough Writers,  of which I am proud to belong.

Four years since that first gallop – and several falls later – I am thrilled that several of my flashes and my essay, Memoir to Flash Fiction and Back Again, feature as part of a collection from four other memoirists in our newly published Anthology:

The Congress of the Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1.
Charli Mills, Series Editor, Publisher & Lead Buckaroo
Sarah Brentyn, Editor & Contributor

Available in digital and paperback direct from Book Baby or Amazon UK  Amazon US

We wrangled words and created stories from around the world.

‘ 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.’

And today, I am honoured to announce the Summerhouse as host for this week’s Rough Writer Tour Around The World.

But how does a memoir writer like me (I don’t do fiction!) get to contribute to a flash fiction anthology? I chomped at the bit for the chance to express the many ways writing flash fiction has helped hone my memoir, as in this brief excerpt from my essay in the Anthology:

‘Memoir is truth, bringing the reader into the writer’s authentic experience.  Fiction takes us into worlds that the reader knows aren’t real allowing their imaginations to fly, but it still needs to be plausible.  With memoir, the reader knows the story is plausible (no matter how ‘far-fetched’ it might appear at times) because it actually happened.  Therein lies the challenge to reveal the truth without embellishment.  Many times I’ve written a flash that would seem to have nothing to do with my memoir, yet so often it reveals a dark and complicated aspect of my true story in new light, rejuvenating parts with ‘light bulb’ moments as I find a description, or a piece of dialogue or a reflective thought that I might otherwise have overlooked.’

And in this excerpt:

‘At other times, the flash takes a humorous turn, and sometimes my characters return for a mini-series.  Can this really be happening to me, a memoir writer?   This has been the biggest surprise of all.  Could these blocks of 99 word flashes, when put together, make up the outline of a more complete story?   Horror of horrors, I think.  This can’t be happening, can it?  After all, I can’t write fiction, remember.’

This is how I found my character Fred, the Hapless Werewolf.  I would never have dared splash such a story on the walls of the Summerhouse if not for flash fiction and the wonderful writing freedom it unleashed (and a few of you telling me you enjoyed it when I first published it here, thank you!). Here again is my first Fred flash:

Barking  – 99 Word Flash Fiction

“Mrs Barker?” enquired the policeman as Ethel’s bulk blocked the doorway.


“There’s been an accident.  The driver thinks he might have hit a deer, but before he could check– he’s a vet – he thought he saw ‘something’ run into the woods.  An abandoned car nearby is registered to your husband.  Is he home?”

“Something…what do you mean?”

The policeman coughed into a balled fist.  “A man, but like a wolf. He said…”

“Gawd! It’s High Wycombe, not the bleedin’ Wild West.”

Later, Ethel heard howling. “Pipe down Fred,” she cackled from the bedroom window, “you’ll wake the neighbours.”


And this is how it all began:

Thirty writers began with 99 words and forged literary feats. Vol. 1 explores the literary art of flash fiction, beginning with the earliest compilations at Carrot Ranch and later pieces based on a new flash fiction prompt. This is not your typical anthology. It continues with longer stories extended from the original 99-word format and essays on how flash fiction supports memoir writing. Based on the experiences at Carrot Ranch, the concluding section of Vol. 1 offers tips to other groups interested in using the flash fiction format to build a literary community.’


Naturally, we’re delighted to receive our first
5-Star Review from Readers’ Favorite by Charles Remington:

“A fascinating book packed with bright ideas and worthwhile material. I was greatly entertained by the stories and essays and so taken with the idea that I thought I would give it a go with a 99-word review.

Stories of ninety-nine words, no more, no less, little gems from the Rough Writers of the Carrot Ranch. Like wild flowers in an early morning meadow glistening with dew and I, a butterfly or bee, flitting from bloom to bloom, immersing myself in a kaleidoscope of experiences which pass through my mind like an ever-changing dreamscape. Stories of love and loss, victory and defeat, struggle and gain from the pens of talented authors with backgrounds as diverse as their stories. A brilliant idea that has created an astounding anthology, one that you will return to time and again.”


Thank You Charli Mills for creating Carrot Ranch,
to you and my fellow Rough Writers for making
the publication of this beautiful Anthology possible.


* I’ll be back shortly with Summerhouse updates and blog visits, once again well overdue.  I’m on the back-hoof once again in this virtual space that is all too real!
Love Sherri x







About Sherri Matthews

Along the way to completing her memoir, 'Stranger in a White Dress', for publication, Sherri has been published in national magazines, websites and four anthologies in memoir, poetry and flash fiction. Sherri raised her children in California, and today lives in England with her husband, Aspie youngest and their pet menagerie fondly called ‘Animal Farm’. She keeps out of trouble gardening, walking, and taking endless photographs, a few of the better ones she shares on her blog A View From My Summerhouse.
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75 Responses to Real Memoir Imaginary Flash And Not Your Typical Anthology

  1. Sue says:

    Oh, well done, Sherri !

    Liked by 2 people

  2. delphini510 says:

    Sherri, it is wonderful to hear from you from your now Imaginary summerhouse. You sound happy and full of new life. I get the feeling you settled in well.
    It is great to hear about the fun you lot have at the Carrot Ranch. You have been busy bees, can’t say I haven’t heard about some happenings but didn’t know how far you got. So your Anthology is out and flying. How wonderful. Will check it out and wish you all a wonderful journey around the world.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. restlessjo says:

    What an incredibly long way you’ve come, Sherri Matthews. I’m proud of you 🙂 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Charli Mills says:

    Arrrrooohhh! I can hear the call of Fred all the way from the Ranch and it sounds like the wild call of creative writing. I love your essay in Vol. 1 and Fred is my favorite hapless character to emerge from the Summerhouse vicinity. I like that we share much between us, and now we share the joy of virtual literary space. Thanks for a great stop on the tour!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Rough Writer Around the World Tour: Sherri Matthews « Carrot Ranch Literary Community

  6. I have a copy Sherri and have dipped into a few stories – it down loaded onto my laptop, not my kindle so I can’t read in bed:-) I’m taking my time anyway, as most of them leave me with something to think or feel as a result of reading. It’s such a great thing!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Great news, Sherri! Congratulations to all. I’ll be snatching up my copy!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love the thought of your imaginary summerhouse. I need one of those right now since winter has been a bit oppressive in my neck of the woods this year (Maine). But I live in a blue house which is my favorite color and now I know I can have an summer house any time of year – with cobwebs and the sounds of bees buzzy outside. Ahhhh! Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Molly, how lovely to meet you and what a joy to read your delightful comment and to know we share a love of a blue house 🙂 And Maine is at the top of my ‘to visit’ list, I have wanted to go there for as long as I can remember. Maine lobster on the beach, that’s all I want. Simple, right?! I hope beach weather won’t take too long to arrive for you once winter eases…even here, we just recovered from a snow blizzard that sent the country into convulsions and more snow on the way this weekend so we are told. Roll on spring! Meanwhile, I’ll keep the kettle simmering (or something on ice, depending on the time of day or night, ha!) and look forward to your visits as do the bees and spiders and of course, Mrs Tiggywinkle. Such a pleasure…thank you so much!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am imagining us having a meet up with warm breezes and cold lemonade as I recover from a shoveling marathon. Seventeen inches of snow! And more falling even as I type this. We lost our power at 5:30 this morning and I am holed up in our church since it has power and internet. I blamed God for the storm but he assured me it wasn’t his doing. Then to make up for it he told me I could say the F-word as many times as I wanted to today and he’d understand! Do come to Maine. It is a beautiful place – even today with the unending snow!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Hi again Molly, apologies for my late reply, got a bit caught up with behind the scenes stuff, as we do, ha! Oh I do hope you are back home with power now…yikes, thank goodness you had the church for warmth – and internet! Haha…sometimes saying the F-word is the only cure and God doesn’t mind when needs must, I’m sure of it (I say for my own benefit, as well as yours, 😉 ) Oh how I would love to come to Maine – ahhhh…warm breezes and cold lemonade in the summer sounds postively divine. We had more snow at the weekend – fell on Sunday, our wedding anniversary! – so we hunkered down by the fire and polished off a bottle of champagne. Lovely! I know it’s nothing like your snow, but we aren’t geared for it at all, throws the country into convulsions. Yet I remember winters growing up were always like this… Hope your snow clears very soon and spring soon to arrive…not long now!

          Liked by 1 person

          • How wonderful to have another comment from you, Sherri. I just left a comment on your ‘about me’ page. Congratulations on your anniversary – I love champagne. Glad you can relate to my penchant for saying the f-word when the weather is overwhelming. We are still very cold in Maine, but no more snow until the end of the week! OMG – 3-6 more inches. Tomorrow is the first day of spring according to the calendar but I know better. It is still ‘late winter’ here. Oh, well, you might as well laugh, right?


  9. I was very impressed with the quality of this book. Like the writing partner you describe above, it is authentic, beautiful, and displayed much talent. I knew I was in for great flash, but the essays were exceptional, making this much more than an anthology,educative yet highly readable.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The Summerhouse may be gone but your writing goes from strength to strength. A great anthology. Loved your essay. All at the Ranch should be proud.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am so proud and truly honoured that any of my work should feature amongst such a wonderful collection from talented writers like you Irene. I loved your essay too, you have taught me so much about memoir, more than anyone. Thank you so much… as I wrote in my essay, I wouldn’t have galloped over to the Ranch in the first place if not for you ❤ I'm walking on air, full of smiles after reading your lovely comment…! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Lucid Gypsy says:

    Well done Sherri! I used to write flash fiction all the time, I must begin again 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much G! Lovely to hear from you – I very much look forward to connecting with you again. I hope and encourage you give FF a try again, it is a wonderful genre, one that has transformed my writing and my memoir rewrites and above all else, great fun 🙂 x


  12. Juliet says:

    Hi Sherri,
    Lovely to get to know more about you and your writing path. Enjoy your new virtual summerhouse. It seems like a very happy place to be.
    See you soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Annecdotist says:

    Good to visit you again at the summerhouse, Sherri, even if the “house” part exists only in our imaginations. (Summer also with more snow forecast for the UK this weekend.)
    I’m glad you took a risk with Flash fiction as I’ve enjoyed your 99-word stories very much. Having read your engaging essay in the anthology a couple of days ago I wanted to pick up on your contrasting experiences of reactions to your foray into fiction. As you say, Charli was very welcoming and encouraging, whereas your creative writing tutor makes my blood boil (while yours turned to ice). It’s not easy to recognise the potential in a first attempt at writing but it’s a skill I’d expect from someone who gets paid to teach. Anyway … I’m glad to have met you via the Ranch.
    Another thing that struck me as I read your post is that even for those of us who regularly write fiction the prompts can take us to unexpected places. I’m finding that the opportunity to be playful – and sometimes downright silly – feeds back into my fiction in a positive way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hello Anne, I’ve rescued your comment from my spam, so you should be able to comment here no problem now. Sorry for the trouble you’ve been having, I’ve had this several times over the years and Akismet sort it out but they never know why it happens. It seems it’s happening to a few bloggers, as I also found a couple of Norah’s comments in my spam too, so I’ve rescued her too 🙂 You’ve made my day saying you’ve enjoyed my flashes, high praise indeed! And also so kind of you to read my essay. Ha…thanks for your blood boiling on my behalf! Yes, that was a rather unfortunate time, and you can see it had the opposite ice effect on me 😦 I did actually meet another tutor from the Writer’s Bureau who told me that particular tutor had left. He did apologise to me, saying he forgot how his words could be taken the wrong way by a new student like me…well, hopefully, he won’t do that again. Great to know how flash brings out your playful and sometimes silly side too! What a wonderful writing tool across the genres. Thank you so much for your great comment Anne, I’m very glad to have met you at the Ranch too (and I still have your book to read, so forgive me for taking so long, I seem to be an inordinately slow reader…but I have not forgotten!) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Norah says:

    What a wonderful perspective to show how flash fiction feeds into your memoir writing, Sherri. I’m so hoping your memoir writing didn’t feed into that flash that you shared though. 🙂 I remember reading it when you first published it. Those stories are hilarious. I love reading your writing and I am so looking forward to reading your memoir when it is published. It is an honour to be included in this anthology alongside you and other wonderful writers of the Congress. I hope readers are ready for the long-haul journey from the UK to Australia, as next stop is with me. I look forward to seeing you there. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha…don’t worry, there are no werewolves in my memoir Norah 😀 But I’m so glad you enjoy Fred’s antics! You always make my day with your lovely comments and spur me on to crack on with my writing. Knowing you enjoy reading it is the icing on the cake! Thank you so much as always. The honour is all mine, I am truly humbled to have any of my writing included in such a beautiful anthology by so many talented writers like you. I’ve got my bag packed and your essay ready to read as I journey across the globe next week to Australia to visit you Norah, and greatly looking forward to it! 🙂 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Great news, Sherri! I am going to grab a copy at Amazon right now! Congratulations. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  16. That is so awesome Sherri!!!! And will always carry with me the nostalgia of your summerhouse as you will my friend. It truly is a part of me through your wonderful writing. Well here I come Amazon! 🙂 ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Finding your comment here today has made my day Diane…the Summerhouse will never go away, and who knows, maybe another real one with wood and nails will appear again! Thank you so much for your amazing support and for never giving up on me and my writing dream. Couldn’t do it without you my friend! 🙂 ❤ ❤ ❤


  17. TanGental says:

    Funny how we come to the same point but from different stances. You feared fiction – you ‘couldn’t do it’ whereas I was terrified of memoir as I feared not being ‘honest’ in things like dialogue which I find help reveal my family but which cannot be accurate without a recording. Your piece brings that home to me and like you, indulging in short pieces of memoir on my blog has overcome that reluctance – I think my first memoir pieces were prompted by Lisa Reiter and now i have a book nearly ready. Funny old world…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny old world indeed…but I always knew there was a memoir in you Geoff, what fantastic news! I have always enjoyed reading your family memoir pieces and so glad that Lisa’s prompts got you started. I enjoyed them too and also very much enjoying returning to Irene’s Time’s Past prompts. I haven’t gone as far with fiction as you have with memoir, but I do now see more fiction writing in my future thanks to writing flash and how much I enjoy it instead of fearing it. I am loving Irene’s memoir posts at the Ranch and her recent post about dialogue is so helpful. I’m writing my memoir on the basis that dialogue cannot possibly be verbatim from over 30 years ago, but I can try to capture the way we would have spoken then and what would have been said as best as I remember, and I haven’t used a huge amount of dialogue so far. But you’re right, it is so important, as it does reveal character and the times. Sounds like you found the way forward with dialogue in your memoir. Congratulations Geoff…look forward to hearing more 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • TanGental says:

        It will be published soon. Love it if you would review it, if you had the time…

        Liked by 1 person

        • I don’t know how you do it Geoff! I’m keeping things humming along here but will have to ease off again for a short while as I’m back to hitting the memoir rewrites hard, hope for not too long…I’d love to review for you, honoured, but hope it’s okay it won’t be for a few weeks… let me know…


  18. Congratulations, Sherri!!! What a great thing to have a group to help you through. Fiction is not my strong suit either. So where are you doing your writing now that you no longer have your summerhouse? Things always have to change. It’s life. Wishing you well, dear heart. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much Marlene! You always bring sunshine to the Summerhouse (and to me 🙂 ) I’ve got an actual office now, but it’s in a state of flux at the moment, not sure quite what to do with it. It’s turned into a bit of a dumping ground since we moved. So much to do still…but we’re getting there. The way the weather’s been here – frigid! – I’m glad to be inside. Sitting on the sofa with my laptop on my lap works pretty well right now…and I’ve got my lovely boy Eddie (cat!) right next to me as I type. So it’s good. But yes, things change…rolling with those changes is a must isn’t it?! And I know you know all about that. Will be heading over to you this week for sure dear friend…I miss hearing your news! Huge hugs right back until then… ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  19. Pat says:

    Well done and congratulations, Sherri, on your journey and writing. Even though things change and don’t remain the same for very long, it’s beautiful how you continue to blend and thread the old with the new. Keep doing what you’re doing — you’re a light to the world. Love and hugs from across the pond.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Pat, how wonderful to see your beautiful smile on this bitterly cold snow-filled day in Somerset! I expect you have a ton of snow that would make ours look piddling lol! Thank you so much for your beautiful message which really touched me. God bless you dear friend…I hope all is well with you and always sending love and hugs right back across that pond! 🙂 ❤


      • Pat says:

        Hi Sherri — snow . . . sounds like a wonderful thing! We haven’t had much of it this year and leaning towards a dry drought season. Hopefully, as spring rolls closer, we’ll make it up with some rain showers over the summer. So good to talk with you again and see you’re doing well. Always — love and hugs, my friend. God bless, too, from across the pond. ❤


  20. Ste J says:

    Virtual places are great as they cost nothing to heat and you can always stick on a handy extension (like a bar) if you wish. The anthology looks good, sounds very interesting and varied, I will add it to the list, how you delightfully burden me with books! Glad to see you blogging my friend, always love your words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha…too true! I love your idea of a bar…problem is, I might not ever get any work done! How lovely to hear from you my friend, I am on a mammouth blog catch up this week so very much looking forward to heading your way and reading your latest…oh you are missing some bitter cold here, Somerset Snow twice running, never mind up north! How you must be relishing your balmy temps and warm sea and star-filled skies. Ahhhhh 🙂 And thank you so much for allowing me to burden you with our anthology! I can’t wait to hear what you think of it…as and when, naturally! Hope you’re getting hold of plenty of books and enjoying your life to the fullest, as you deserve. See you soon!


      • Ste J says:

        The forecast is 34 degrees today, even my mother-in-law asked me to stay home because of the heat. We have a new puppy to take care of though so its all good. I would swap you about ten degrees right now though haha. Enjoy your crazy long blog marathon!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Swap away lol! Although I do confess, 34 sounds pretty good to me, I do like the heat. But is it humid there? I can’t do humid, dry heat is fine. I’m half Californian after all, lol. Oh a new puppy….how wonderful, but yes, hard work! Will be in touch very soon my friend, love hearing all your news and keeping in touch. Keep cool and I’ll keep warm and if we do that swap, maybe we’ll both be pretty comfortable. Ha…thank you, I’ve done more blog posts this month than I’ve done in the past 18 months I think!

          Liked by 1 person

  21. Norah says:

    Reblogged this on Norah Colvin and commented:
    Welcome to Sherri Matthew’s Summerhouse in the UK: this week’s stop on the Rough Writers Tour Around the World.
    Sherri discusses the role that flash fiction plays in her memoir writing in both an entertaining and informative way.
    After you read Sherri’s post, pack your bags and get ready to travel. Next stop will be with me: from the UK in the north to sunny Queensland in the south. See you then!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Jules says:

    One thing I’ve learned is to not say ‘I can’t’… I like all styles of writing, well mostly. I can do without the deep dread horror.

    So glad to have met so many wonderful folks through Carrot Ranch. Here’s to keeping all our Summer houses as real as we can. Hugs, Jules

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Jules! Ha…yes, I learned that once I started writing flash fiction. Never say never and never say I can’t! Thank you so much for heading over to the Summerhouse, it’s wonderful sharing our worlds. And we do definitely keep it real! Hugs back Jules 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  23. Pingback: Jump on board the Congress of Rough Writers Round the World Tour | Norah Colvin

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