Interviews, Nancy Stohlman

Gorgeous, Fast, Heartbreaking: A Flash Fiction Conversation with Chelsea Voulgares

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We are delighted that Chelsea Voulgares will be traveling from Chicago to Colorado this August for our first Flash Fiction Retreat! So happy to welcome you to the Rocky Mountains, Chelsea!

Nancy Stohlman: The biggest challenge most writers have is finding the time to write. How do you “retreat” in your day-to-day life in order to honor your creativity?

Chelsea Voulgares: It’s difficult sometimes to find the time and energy to write. I have a nine to five administrative job, but I’m very lucky to have my own office at home. My partner Rob and I bought a cute Chicago-style bungalow two years ago, and I was able to claim one of the small bedrooms on the first floor for myself. I spend a lot of time in there on the weekends, and each weeknight I try to write for at least an hour, right when I get home from my day job. I also try to use a few lunch hours per week to write. A closed door and some earplugs, that’s my retreat most of the time, and it’s usually pretty effective.

Nancy: Yes–being able to close the door to your own writing space is so important! Tell us about your relationship with flash fiction?

Chelsea: I started reading flash regularly after Amelia Gray published her amazing collection Gutshot. I think I’d written a few micros before that. Once I read that book, I started following the online magazines that publish flash, places like Corium and Cheap Pop, and quickly realized it was a genre with a lot of energy. A big group of extremely talented writers were crafting these gorgeous, fast, heartbreaking pieces. I read more, started trying to replicate what I saw, and then began sending out my own short-shorts. My first published piece of fiction ever was a micro-fiction I placed in Literary Orphans.

Nancy: I love Literary Orphans! What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

Chelsea: A few years ago I attended an Anthony Doerr lecture at the Tin House Summer Workshop, where he discussed something he called “Two Placed-ness.” I’m going to butcher this, but his idea was that the most interesting stories always occupy two spots of space-time. So, for example, the main character is eating a sandwich in the present, but she’s also remembering how her mom always put pickles on peanut butter sandwiches when she was growing up. Those two moments exist together in the story. That idea of “two placed-ness” really cracked fiction writing open for me.

Nancy: Wow, I love that idea of “two-placed-ness.” What piece of your own writing are you most proud of and where can we read it (if it’s available)?

Chelsea: I have the most fun writing work that has a silly or humorous side. I’m really proud of a piece I wrote in another of Kathy’s workshops called “Berta.” It’s about a teenager who works in a Halloween-themed ice cream shop with her sister, with whom she’s fighting. The shop’s mascot is the titular “Berta.” You can read the piece online at Bad Pony magazine.

Nancy: React to this quote:  “This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” ~ Alan W. Watts

Chelsea: Wow. I feel like I could learn a lot from Mr. Watts. I’m constantly distracted, not zen at all. I recently began writing longhand—that helps immensely with direct engagement, but I tend to approach everything very seriously, as if it’s all work. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy writing—I love it—but I tend to be very rigid with it. Not very playful.

Nancy: Oh I’m happy to introduce you to Alan Watts! I put a video at the end in case you want more. Now tell us something we don’t know about you?

Chelsea: A lot of people may already know this, but I love love love horror movies. My favorites are Alien, this indie horror film called Teeth, and the original Halloween.

Nancy: Anything else you want to add? 

Chelsea: Yes! Two things, actually.

First, I run a literary magazine called Lost Balloon that publishes fiction, nonfiction, and prose poetry of 1,000 words and under. I’m always looking for submissions by talented flash writers. We have an open submission period the first week of every month, and our guidelines are on the website.

I also have a chapbook-length manuscript of flash fiction, and I’m looking for a publisher. It placed as a top-five finalist this year in the Gold Line Press Fiction Chapbook contest, and a different manuscript of mine (with a few of the stories from the current book) placed as Runner-Up in last year’s chapbook contest from Split Lip Press.

Nancy: Congratulations, Chelsea! Here’s wishing you success finding the right publisher and everyone check out Lost Balloon!

Chelsea Voulgares grew up in a Rust Belt town in Ohio, trapping lightning bugs and singing in the show choir. Now she lives in the suburbs of Chicago, where she edits the literary journal Lost Balloon. Her fiction has appeared recently in Passages North, JMWW Journal, Bad Pony, and Jellyfish Review. You can find her online at www.chelseavoulgares.com or on Twitter @chelsvoulgares.

NOTE: Want to join us on a Flash Fiction Retreat? Colorado is sold out but check out COSTA RICA and ITALY Retreats!

 

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