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.
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:
We wrangled words and created stories from around the world.
‘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.’
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