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May Story Chat Summary

The Story’s Success

With 255 recent views, 42 likes, and 205 comments, Charli Mill’s story, “As Far As a Former Prisoner Can Go” continues to make Story Chat a raging success. If you love to read short stories, you will enjoy Story Chat. For links to all of the Year Two stories bookmark the Story Chat Page or visit one of the authors’ recent blog posts listed below.

Flash Fiction from several Story Chat Authors on Carrot Ranch Literary Community.


What Charli Said About Story Chat

Charli Mills talked a lot about how to give and take analytical or even critical remarks about writing. In one of her comments on her blog, she talked about Story Chat with another author and had this to say about Story Chat.

Michael, my gut would feel punched every time we went into peer critique back in the ’90s. Yet, went I graduated with my BA in writing, I realized that what I missed most about the college experience was the feedback! I wondered if I’d ever feel not-nervous about it. Fast forward to my MFA and my gut tightened again., knowing that the hallmark of any MFA program is peer critique. I figured I was more mature and I had already adopted a practice of positive reinforcement. Then…I had an entire class on what makes critique productive. I swooned. That was the framework I needed (and every writer needs whether they know it or not). I developed a methodology around productive peer critique and I’ve taught it in both ENG I and ENG II classes and watch how it builds good reporter among my students as well as give them useful feedback. I now know that if I focus on productivity, I relish the feedback. I hope you get the chance to read my comment at Story Chat about how to use the feedback that way. Try it out in safe spaces first!

Charli Mills Comment Section to Michael’s Fishbowl

99-Word Summary

The Measure of a Man’s Best Friend

The Greyhound halted. This was where $200 took James. He disembarked, shouldered his prison-issued backpack, and read the station’s name: Kum & Go.

“Here to rob it?”

James swung to see a man by a pickup; opened his mouth, then shut it. The man had no legs. The truck had a dog.

-But not just any dog. “Buttercup!”

The yellow lab hurtled out and licked him, desisting at her master’s call. James had trained her in prison, as a service animal for a wounded soldier.

James looked up, and both men saw each other -clearly- for the first time.

©2022 Chel Owens

Attendance with Abbreviated Chattering

Going into a chat room online is much the same as going to a party. Story Chat is kind of like a warm homey chat room. There’s a lot of off-topic conversation as well as niceties. Since this is a summary of the chatter, not a taped recording to be used in a murder trial, I edit (not murder) comments with a chainsaw. To do this, I take out the parts that I think are white noise or unrelated and leave some of the raw emotional comments brought out by the story. To read the unabridged comments, feel free to refer back to the story post.

If the chatter has a blog I linked a recent post to their comment. Many of the participants also created a flash fiction post for Carrot Ranch Literary Community. Those who linked here are counted as attendees. 🙂

  1. ANNE GOODWIN: I don’t like dogs or happy endings but really enjoyed this story of redemption. I take the points made by other readers about some of the details and coincidence but was too wrapped up in the emotion to notice. I laughed when Buttercup turned out to be a dog – I wasn’t expecting that. I could totally believe him spending all his money on the bus ticket – for me, it demonstrates his lack of preparation for the outside world and you can’t help worrying about how he’ll manage. Plus it reminded me of Jane Eyre: when she flees Thornfield after the aborted wedding, she leaves herself destitute by splurging all her cash on a coach ride as far away as she can. Sometimes people make bad decisions.”
  2. CARROT RANCH LITERARY COMMUNITY: (AUTHOR) “Michael, you reinforced my belief in coincidences. Not everything needs explaining. Good question and one that others have raised, too. I was trying to be clever and use a phrase I heard my former prison guard friend use — “gate money.” But in the story, there’s no context to explain it. Good point about “the stranger” evolving into “the man.” That caught me by surprise and I wrote it!”
  3. COLLEEN CHESEBRO: WORDCRAFT POETRY “Charli’s story had me in tears. I loved the synchronicity of new beginnings in her story. When I read a short piece of fiction, I don’t want any loose ends. I love that life seemed to come full circle for this prisoner and vet. I’ll have a go at the story to see what flows forth from the muse… ❤”
  4. DEB’S WORLD “Yes Charli, I can attest to that moment when a hardened criminal connects with a puppy and changes almost instantly! A great program helping to bring humanity back to these people. Well done for writing such a lovely vivid story.”
  5. GARY WILSON’S STORIES “It is a good question Jo and leaving a few such questions laying about that are not needed by this story often give us a fertile start on a sequel. I’m okay with a few of these as they help fill out the mental scenery of the story stage.”
  6. HUGH’S VIEWS AND NEWS “I’m not a lover of ‘happy ending’, probably because I write more dark fiction than anything else, but I was engrossed in Charli’s story right from the first sentence. Her style of writing kept me hooked right to the last words. I liked that Charli included lots of the five senses -sight, hearing, smell, feel and taste, so I didn’t think about any plot holes. I was satisfied with the outcome and so glad that Marsha mentioned ‘Coincidence’ in one of her comments because, like fate, I believe in both. Coincidence worked for James in this story, and he’s given a second chance to get his life on the right track again.
  7. JULES PENS SOME GEMS: Jules contributed her rewrite of Story Chat this month.
  8. MICHAEL’S FISHBOWL “I love just about anything that illustrates the coincidences we have all around us in life (if we notice them) so I very much liked that James got off of the bus in the town that Buttercup ended up in. How do you explain something like that? You can’t and that’s the beauty of things like that.”
  9. MY WIFE, MY VERSE, AND EVERY LITTLE THING: Chel contributed her rewrite of Story Chat this month.
  10. NBSMITHBLOG Nancy contributed her rewrite of Story Chat this month – a very touching story.
  11. NEW 2 WRITING “It was an excellent story, Charli. It would probably make a lovely longer tale, going on to find others who need help, will they trust him when they find out his background, maybe flashbacks to his life in prison, or the crime that led him to prison.”
  12. NORAH COLVIN “I know what you mean, Gary. But sometimes the most amazing coincidences occur – sometimes with a good result, sometimes not so good. Sometimes we’re not even aware of the way things must line up for certain events to happen, or how narrowly they are missed. I find it quite intriguing.”
  13. PRIORHOUSE BLOG “It was like you (Charli) took a chance with minimalism; there was a simple flow to the story that felt unpretentious. I liked so many of the comments here and your replies – and while maybe a revision would include a few things – there was something delightful in the minimal as opposed to someone who bogs us down with so many complex ideas or tries too hard or gets carried away with heavy words.”
  14. RETIREMENTALLY CHALLENGED: “Hi Charli. I enjoyed your story (I’m a sucker for happy endings) despite the questions it raised for me as a reader. “
  15. ROBERTA WRITES:  “This is a lovely story that ends on a positive note. Dogs and other animals are very therapeutic and it is nice to read about the love of an animal leading to a second chance for a person.”
  16. SCOTT BAILEY: (No blog) Scott contributed his rewrite of Story Chat this month. “Yeah, it’s a bit different and I had to alter the prompt some to make it believable (to me!). The service dog program brings the recipient (vet, 1st responder, cop…) to the prison for a three-day training class. The dogs have learned forty or so specific commands (turn on lights….) that the recipient needs to be trained to use with that dog. So in my way of seeing it, the prisoner simply HAD to know the Vet before getting released.”
  17. SIX CROOKED HIGHWAYS: “Previous comments cover most of the issues the story raised for me, especially regarding coincidences and whether an ex-prisoner would really exile themselves to nowhere when they’ve had plenty of time to make plans before being released. However, the more important issue for me is that this seems more like an educational piece about prisoner rehabilitation and support services for veterans than a character-driven piece of fiction. As you know, Charli, I love dogs but you are way too talented to be settling for Chicken Soup sentimentality.”
  18. STILL RESTLESS JO: “I know it’s irrelevant but I wanted to know why he was a prisoner.”
  19. STINE WRITING AND MINIATURES “This is a great story. It is going to be hard to rewrite it! I want to check out the group you are in. One of my biggest hurdles is not having anyone to read my writing. I know people read what I post on my blog but I have stories started and I always think that if I had some feedback I could work on them and maybe finish them someday!”
  20. SUE SPITULNIK Sue contributed her rewrite of Story Chat this month.
  21. TANGENTAL “Oh stop it Charli, I’m welling up. Throughout, the knowledge that here as well as in the US and no doubt many countries our Vets often end up institutionalised in the wrong ways hits home hard. I think the early exchange between James and the bus driver was masterfully described and set the scene nicely. Oddly the strangeness of buying a ticket to pretty much nowhere just to get away made a kind of sense to me. The weakness, as Cathy explores, is in the early interaction between the Vet and James. The unexplained threat, the coincidence of the dog being trained, esp if he was $200 worth of a bus ride away from the prison.”
  22. WRITING WRINKLES: “I’m balancing my wince at the jaw-dropping coincidence with my automatic ‘Awww’ at anything to do with dogs. And it is a heart-warming story. It’s difficult to understand the logic behind anyone using all their money on a bus fare, but then I’ve never been in that situation of wanting to get as far away as possible from somewhere more than I wanted anything else (including food? – maybe that’s just me again). We don’t know why James was imprisoned, but the reference to solitary confinement hints that he didn’t take easily to imprisonment. We feel the despair of his isolation now. (On the other hand, a gas station hints at the possibility of a lift out of there, so not a total disaster, although he has yet to recognise that.) Why does the driver expect to be robbed by the stranger? Is it something James is wearing? (Surely not prison garb? I don’t know how these things work in the US if you’ve no one to bring you clothes.) Is it his demeanour that hints at incarceration? (I did note the dropping of his eyes so as not to seem confrontational. There is information beautifully conveys in the occasional throwaway comment.) The blonde hair I first took to be a woman passenger, but a dog was much better. The coincidence of it being THE dog, however, was a little hard to take. However, once taken, the lifting of James’ despair and his restoration in the mind of the reader – and the driver – are enough to earn him a lift and some support. But a job as well…? Wow! Worth suspending a little disbelief and overcoming my scepticism for a warm fuzzy feeling to start my day.
  23. ALWAYS WRITE (Hostess) “Doug wants me to take out the like button, but, first I don’t know how to, and secondly, that is the way we nod our heads in agreement. When two chatters are going at it and having a great conversation, I don’t need to always comment, though I often do. Sometimes, I just need to like it and move on. I don’t need to agree or disagree, but I do need to acknowledge. Not everyone else needs to do that unless they feel led to do so. But the host/hostess, needs to acknowledge that he/she read each comment, and that’s how I do it.”

Flash Fiction from several Story Chat Authors and others on Carrot Ranch Literary Community.

Themes and Tips in the Discussion

Feedback and Criticism of Writing

  • COLLEEN: “I enjoyed the way Charli’s story encouraged constructive critique. Yet, I don’t want folks criticizing those that are still learning. You know what I mean.”
  • SIX CROOKED HIGHWAYS: “I like to use the word ‘critique’ as a word that typically refers to a careful judgment in which someone gives an opinion about something. I have benefited enormously from true critiques, even when I’ve disagreed with them, especially when they are accompanied by some cheerleading to sweeten the pill.”
  • STINE WRITING…: “One of my biggest hurdles is not having anyone to read my writing. I know people read what I post on my blog but I have stories started and I always think that if I had some feedback I could work on them and maybe finish them someday!” 
  • CARROT RANCH: “Good analysis of “rot,” and the underpinnings of the story where verisimilitude cracks. As I mentioned elsewhere (and thanks for reading my response to feedback, too) I know I can spend more time on the character arc and reality of a newly released prisoner. I need to buy James a cup of coffee and get to know his backstory better without dumping it into the main story. A well-placed detail goes a long way or becomes a quick trip to believability. I also felt rot was cliche but it served a purpose. Iowa has distinct smells I could further explore (exploit?). Thanks for sharing!”
  • CARROT RANCH: “Christine, you bring up one of the biggest hurdles writers encounter and that is access to productive feedback. I’m reminded of how natural food co-ops would work together to do store audits. Collectively they gave each other constructive feedback to grow and improve. I also appreciate how you allow a story to flow (200 words) and then revise your way to 99. That’s a vital skill to hone!”
  • RETIREMENTALLY CHALLENGED: “Even more than the story, though, I appreciated the thorough and thought-provoking responses you gave to the feedback you received. I am new to fiction writing and so I especially value your “MFA-style approach to processing feedback in a productive.” Although I’ve shared a few short stories on my blog, I love how Marsha’s Story Chat generates more in-depth feedback than just “great story!” Even accomplished writers can benefit from a thoughtful critique.”
  • HUGHES VIEWS AND NEWS: “Yes, ‘great photo’ is just as bad as ‘great story’, Marsha. It doesn’t offer any feedback at all. And how can anybody respond to a comment like that other than with ‘Thank you.’ Whenever I read a story or see a photo I like, I ask myself what it was that makes the story or photo great and then feed it back to the blogger who published the story or a photo.”
  • GARY WILSON STORIES: “Are we really writers if we don’t take on those that send us off to research our details? Sometimes they bother me so much that I chose to limit my story to avoid the need to find a few hours to do exactly this. … There is always a place in fiction for suspension of disbelief and questions left unanswered because the answer is not germane to the story. Finding the balance between expecting all important questions to be answered for most readers and leaving things as a healthy thought-provoking mystery is part of the puzzle we try to solve.”

Ongoing on Always Write

Thanks, Charli for your wonderful story and great lessons. Thank you all for coming and commenting. You all are what makes Story Chat so great! That’s a wrap for thia month. Does anyone want any more mochi before you go?

45 replies »

    • It has been for me as well. I’m reading a great book about what readers bring to literacy called How to Read Like a Professor. I’ve found so many quotes I can use to explain the dynamics of Story Chat and to refine my questions as well. You would enjoy it in your spare time. It’s taking me ages to finish it because I have to go back and reread and absorb new material.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m really sorry that I wasn’t more involved in May’s Story Chat. I cannot believe the month is over! I’m still playing catch-up after being on holiday. Sorry Charlie and Marsha.
    Congratulations on a very successful story! Wonderful comments and a lot of engagement. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Also, just FYi
    For my May Thursday Doors Writing Chalkenge I chose to follow up on James’s story (I know many did the 99 CR entry, but then I saw Tang’s longer story and my muse brought me to James leaving prison through an opened gate.

    Here is part of It:

    Parole delays brought many tears

    Corrupt foreign courts

    Guilty from false reports

    All about the bribe

    Kept him locked up inside

    Patiently he waited for this time

    When he could cross the line

    Leave this place

    walk through that gate

    While in Seville, he trained more than 40 pups

    Called them all “Buttercup”

    He also spent many days in solitary confinement

    “For his safety,” he was told on each assignment

    Memories of those ten years


    while sitting on the stairs.

    The rest is here

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yvette, I love what you did to follow up on James’ story! That all the pus were Buttercups is a clever idea I didn’t think of. You filled in gaps yet created something new, too. Thank you!

      Liked by 2 people

      • It was a lot of fun thinking of James and maybe his back story – I thought about mentioning his friend gave him a ticket to the States and then $200,00 to go anywhere he wanted (and then made it to the gas Station)
        But decided not to-
        Anyhow – your month on story chat was super fun and will
        Be a special part of the highlights of 2022!
        Thanks again for the comment ☀️😊

        Liked by 1 person

          • How exciting Marsha

            I look forward to however you share takeaways from the book

            Did I mention my favorite part is the tone or energy of the author
            He writes with such “matter of factness” and I love how his expertise drips out naturally (from teaching lit courses again and again and likely from being a long time bibliophile) and there is a jovial, passionate desire to share with the reader that I find enjoyable there
            Sometimes I read a book and can feel the author is a jerk or just too full of their own ego
            And not to say our Professor doesn’t have ego and he might be aloof to students and have that “ego”
            air at times- but I never felt it in the book –
            Anyhow – hope your day is going well

            Liked by 1 person

          • I agree with you, although I haven’t read many of the books he discusses. Fortunately, he brings up the same books several times so you get a feel for them. Eventually, I’m going to have to bite the bullet and read a few more classics that he discusses. Then I’ll have taken his entire course and then some. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Marsha
    charli’s story chat entry reminded me about how diverse each month of stir chat can be.
    Now I have only been joining in with a handful – but it seems that each month it is a very different experience – sounds obvious but sometimes monthly (or weekly) challenges have a regularity and similar flavor.
    Not here – even though of course it has your consistent format with intro and questions – then active commenting – and the end of month summary –

    But I am really amazed at how diverse the whole thing unfolds for each author and their story!

    I alsways liked Charli and was just telling Norah Colvin this – that I feel so much more connects to Charli now through her story (which as you noted in the comment I left )
    my favorite part was that minimalism –
    Another favorite part was how it had no violence and was rather “clean” – I was able to enjoy it with my momma – – who can’t handle cussing, gore, etc – so to see her smile with the Buttercup reunion was a bonus that another story might not have offered –

    And if it was a story that was deep or complex – we might not have had that easy read on a cool spring day In Florida ☀️

    And reading everyone’s feedback was (as usual) a great part of story chat.

    Liked by 2 people

    • And the chat continues with your lovely comment. I appreciate how much thought you give to the story and to the chatting, both as a chatter and an author. The engagement makes it worthwhile to me. It’s exactly what I never dreamed it could be – an event, a social event, gathering of friends to discuss and analyse, joke, get to know each other better, and solve problems. It is a diverse group being from three continents, both male and female from all walks of life and probably political persuasing. Yet here we all gather as friends. It’s really super rewarding to note that many of the chatters follow each others’ blogs now and that many of them are relatively new members of the Carrot Ranch Literary Community. I can’t say enough about how much Charli has influenced the blogging world and is teaching us all to write one mini story at a time. I also love that she has branced out based on her Rough Riders’ interests to include poetry and other regular features on her blog. Thanks again, Yvette, for being such an engaging blogger. Your comments mean a lot to a lot of different people.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. So much to digest in here! And all valuable.

    I never thought about it before, but the critique portion of my education is something I miss. Reviews are almost too late. I think maybe that’s why I sought out critique partners, and I have two who are invaluable. I trust them completely. After reading this post, and considering it carefully, I’m certain I sought out CPs because I KNEW from my college days that constructive critiques are crucial. (Funny story, when I taught writing courses, I made my students do peer reviews, so I clearly knew on some level that they are beneficial. I just never traced this belief back to my own education.)

    Great post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you for the lovely comment, Staci. I taught writing at fourth-grade-level, and then to teachers as a California County Office history, math, and English consultant. (I’m liberal studies down to my masters’ degree in curriculum and instruction.) I realize now how limited my education is after writing a couple of full length unpublished novels and several children’s stories. I had several people, including some of the chatters who read my work and encouraged me. When I hired an editor, and started to read more critically – not just to enjoy the story – I realized how much my stories really did need another major rewrite. I also understand why it takes 25 years for some stories to develop. I look forward to reading more of your work and to welcoming you to the Story Chat Community.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m always amazed at the stories these folk produce. I can’t write fiction and I have enormous respect for Charli’s 99 word stories. Thanks for the summary, Marsha. Hope you’re having a great week.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Another example of why you should be glowing, Marsha. Story Chat is an exceptional feature you (with a sprinkling of Welsh Fairy Dust from Hugh!) have created here. More power to your elbow!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I know, it was amazing. Charli responded amazingly well to comments which invited a lot of chatter around writing. Then, of course, turning it into a Flash Fiction on her own blog was brilliant. Our chatters have become a community also, supporting each other, and that is so rewarding.

      Liked by 3 people




Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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