#Breckenflash: Four Days in the Rockies with the Flash Fiction Crew

On August 10-14, 2018, we (Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman) officially launched Flash Fiction Retreats with #Breckenflash! Otherwise known as Rendezvous in the Rockies. Otherwise known as Mining for your Flash Fiction Gold. We were joined by an amazing group of writers, had perfect Colorado weather, and even some unexpected visitors!

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From left to right (top): Holly Lyn Walrath, Leslie Archibald, Chris Bowen, Jayne Martin, Pavlos Stravropoulos, Kathy Fish, Paul Beckman, Anne Weisgerber. From left to right (bottom), Jan Saenz, Annie Q. Syed, Nancy Stohlman, Chelsea Voulgares Not pictured: April Bradley, Sally Reno
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Photo by Paul Beckman

Kathy Fish: Whoosh! Just now coming down from our glorious time in Breckenridge! I’m so grateful for everyone who joined us for our maiden voyage retreat in the beautiful Rocky Mountains. I went in with few expectations and high hopes. I wanted each and every one of our participants to feel looked after and included. I wanted each of them to leave our retreat feeling inspired. I think they did.

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Beautiful Breckenridge Photo by Paul Beckman

Many thanks to Chris for keeping us well-fed throughout, with delicious meals and snacks. My favorite part of the retreat was our Salon Night, where everyone got a chance to read/perform their beautiful work in the stunning great room of the McWilliams House we stayed in. There were champagne toasts, terrific readings, and music provided by Nick Busheff. I myself felt so energized by working with everyone in the group: Anne, Sally, April, Paul, Chris, Pavlos, Annie, Holly, Chelsea, Jayne, Leslie, and Jan. Everyone was so engaged and wrote their hearts out. And I especially loved working one-on-one with each participant (as Nancy did as well). All in all, a wonderful time of great camaraderie and creativity in one of the prettiest places on earth. 

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Our good omen visitor welcomes us to Breckenridge Photo by April Bradley
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Paul Beckman and Kathy Fish among the aspens
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Our magical visitor Photo by Chris Bowen

Nancy Stohlman: Our maiden retreat in Breckenridge was so much fun! Our mountain lodge was quirky and very Colorado—wooden beams and wooden floors, rooms with names like “The Gold Pan” and “The John Wayne”, and a giant teddy bear that was bigger than a person! We had amazing views of the Rockies, an aspen tree canopy out front, and an abundance of little nooks inside for a writer to squirrel away with their writing. It was important for Kathy and I to strike a balance between structure and unstructured time for creative play—we wanted people to feel rested after retreating with us as well as inspired: that delicate balance between the scheduled instruction and the “timeless time” where we can get quiet and commune with our creative voices.

Annie Q. Syed with giant teddy bear

The evenings were full of laughter, stars (and the Perseid meteor shower!) and good mountain air sleep. The days were filled with plenty of nourishing food and camaraderie among so many different kinds of people—a stimulating blend of community and writing with many individual goals but all the same goal—to deeply commune with our work—whether in process or brand new. One participant said, “Even though I just met you all I feel like I’m with family.”

Yes, I felt that, too.

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Salon night! From left to right: Chris Bowen, April Bradley, Paul Weisgerber, Anne Weisgerber, Jan Saenz, Jayne Martin, Pavlos Stravropoulos, Chelsea Voulgares, Leslie Archibald, Holly Lyn Walrath Photo by Paul Beckman
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Now that’s a lot of pasta! Nancy Stohlman with participant and chef Chris Bowen

Deepest thanks to all our retreat participants who made the experience so special for us: Jayne Martin, Chris Bowen, Jan Saenz, Sally Reno, April Bradley, Leslie Archibald, Anne Weisgerber, Paul Beckman, Chelsea Voulgares, Pavlos Stravropoulos, Holly Lyn Walrath and Annie Q. Syed. We miss you already!

And YES! We DO have plans for a 2019 Colorado retreat so stay tuned! In the meantime join us in Costa Rica January 19-25, 2019, or Italy from May 17-25, 2019. We’d love to retreat with you!

Love, Nancy and Kathy

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Nancy Stohlman and Kathy Fish: Salon Night Photo by Paul Beckman

After 60 Years I Realized I’m a Writer: Getting Candid with Laura Alexander


Kathy Fish and I are thrilled that Laura Alexander will be joining us in Costa Rica this January for some rest, writing, and creative play. I chatted with her about flash fiction and becoming a writer later in life.

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

Laura Alexander: For me it’s always about discipline.  I am not very good at self discipline.  So, I have set aside two full days a week that I devote to writing.  I have to physically leave the house because I am so easily distracted.  One of the things I have  found is that when I am out and about I am always writing in my head.  I will see an interesting person or scene and start to describe it in my mind as I would if I were writing.  This gives me a chance to practice seeing things from a different perspective and using new vocabulary.  I also do a lot of self care now that I have time for that because I believe it is difficult to be creative if I’m not taking care of myself. I go for long hikes, paddle on the Bay, eat well, read a lot and every morning I write what Julia Cameron calls “morning pages” to just empty my brain.

Nancy: Yes, I’m a big fan of morning pages. You shared with me that you are just beginning your writing career at age 61–that’s amazing! What has been your life until now and what brought you to this decision?  

Laura: I have been a nurse for nearly 40 years and although I love my work as a nurse, I have always been a writer at heart.  I started a journal when I was fifteen when I had my first kiss and have been journaling ever since.  I have always loved writing letters and even with the ease of email I still hand write long, newsy snail mail letters to friends and family.  When I was going through challenging times in my life I experimented with writing poetry.   After 60 years I finally realized that I am a writer.  I recently went down to working three days a week instead of five so that I would have more time to devote to my writing.  This is my first foray into fiction.

Nancy: Tell us about your relationship with flash fiction. Have you always been attracted to short fiction or is this a new endeavor for you?  

Laura: Flash Fiction is a new endeavor for me.  To be perfectly honest I was not much of a fan of short stories until I started reading flash fiction.  I am most attracted to writing 100 word stories.  To me it is a huge challenge to write a story that resonates with people and brings out some emotion in just 100 words;  finding just the right words to be succinct and elicit some response.  But now I am looking forward to expanding my horizons a bit.

Nancy: Have you been to Costa Rica before? What are you most looking forward to?

Laura: Costa Rica has long been on my travel bucket list so I am very excited.  I am a huge nature lover and am looking forward to being in a totally different environment than the ones I experience day to day.

Nancy: What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?   

Laura: I have been writing a book for the past 5 years.  It is called “Letters to my Sons” and it is part memoir and part pearls of wisdom.  There are so many things that I wish I had taught my four sons before they left home and this is my way of doing that.   It includes stories of past experiences that resulted in my learning something about myself or the world.  I was hoping to have it completed about two years ago, but, well, you know how that goes . . .

Nancy: That’s a powerful impetus to write. Now react to this quote by Costa Rican writer Carmen Naranjo: ” “Stories break silence and nourish those who work, feel, and dream.”

Laura: Very often while I was raising my sons in an effort to communicate with them, especially when they were teenagers, I told stories to them either about something in my own life or a friend’s life.  These stories would “break the silence” and get us talking.  Everyone has a story to tell and it’s our job as fellow humans to find those stories and encourage the telling of those stories.  In doing so, we will all be nourished and our lives will be richer not only because we heard others’ stories but because we were encouraged to tell our own.

Nancy: You are so right–even in the real world we use stories to get at the difficult things. I love that. Now tell us something we don’t know about you?

Laura: My two favorite quotes are “When something goes wrong, the adventure begins” and “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”  I am always trying to have new experiences, both large and small.  Whenever something goes wrong in my best laid plans I try not to panic.   Instead I say to myself, well, this will make a good story.

Nancy: Yes–it’s all writing material! Anything else you want to add?  

Laura: This is a first for me, to hang around with a bunch of writers in a beautiful atmosphere.  I am very excited to be joining you and look forward to meeting everyone.

Nancy: We are happy to meet you too, Laura!

Laura Alexander currently lives in San Rafael, California with her husband of 37 years and works as a Charge Nurse for an Ambulatory Surgery Center.  In her free time besides writing she is an avid photographer, video editor and beekeeper.  Three of her four sons live in the area along with her new granddaughter so she tries to get in as much family time as she can.



Interviews, Kathy fish, Nancy Stohlman

Karen Stefano in Conversation with Nancy Stohlman & Kathy Fish

Many thanks to the amazing Karen Stefano, author of The Secret Games of Words and a forthcoming memoir, Vigilance, for inviting Nancy and me to take part in her wonderful podcast series. Here, we talked about all things flash fiction, about our flash fiction retreats, and did a “mini workshop” of our own flash stories. Have a listen!

Karen Stefano in Conversation with Nancy Stohlman & Kathy Fish


Writing Wild in Costa Rica: Last Room!

Our Writing Wild in Costa Rica Retreat is now nearly SOLD OUT and we have just one room remaining (see below)! Join us January 19-25th, 2019 at Peace Retreat in Playa Negra, Guanacaste, a short 20-min walk to the Pacific Ocean, for an immersive experience of discovery, creation, inspiration and building community. You will gain perspective, respite, focus, time, instruction and the gift of prioritizing yourself and your art.

The Shine Room is the biggest room of Casa Yoga, and is on the first floor. It has one queen sized teak bed, two single beds (that can be set as bunk beds), a teak desk, and a private bathroom. This shared space is perfect for a group of up to three individuals wanting to be in the main lodge and have more privacy.

Private bathroom in The Shine Room
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The Shine Room

This 7-day 6-night retreat will feature generative classes, workshops, craft talks, and one-on-one mentoring sessions as well as plenty of inspired individual writing time. All activities/classes are optional and participants can create a schedule that is supportive and nurturing to their process while finding just the right amount of motivation, guidance, and camaraderie.

Peace Retreat main house

Find out more or register here.

These spots won’t last long so contact us with questions. We’d love to have you!


Nancy and Kathy


Writing & Striving for a Happier, Healthier Lifestyle: A Chat with Lucy Merklee

Lucy Merklee will be joining Nancy and me (along with her husband, Bill) for Writing Wild in Costa Rica! Lucy comes from a corporate background and looks to explore creative writing, particularly the flash fiction form, with us this January.
Hi Lucy! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. Have you ever visited Costa Rica before? What interests/fascinates you about that part of the world?
I have never visited Costa Rica, but I have heard so many wonderful things from friends and family that have been. It is supposedly gorgeous and has wonderful weather year-round, so I am very excited to travel there with my husband for the retreat.
You are relatively new to creative writing. What got you interested? What do you enjoy writing about?
What interests me as a writer is anything that helps me grow as a person and enables me to get inside and really feel whatever the character is experiencing.
What comes to mind when you think of the word “retreat”? And how do you find ways to make time for yourself and your own creativity in your day to day life?
Two years ago as I was approaching my 50th birthday, I decided that I wanted to make healthier choices and live a happier lifestyle. So I engaged a life coach and he really helped me see things from a different perspective. I have lost 70 pounds and have never felt better. I still do have some weight to lose before I get to my goal, however my clothes fit and I feel great.
I really enjoy coaching other people on how to change the way they look at things, because then things change the way they look. I also love to give unsolicited advice, but no longer take it personally if people aren’t open at that moment to what I’m saying. Sometimes all it takes is the right person, saying something in exactly the right way, at the right time when you are ready to hear it. I strive to be that for everyone I encounter.
Now that my kids are grown, I am able to focus on what I want my second chapter to look like. I volunteer every week for two hours at the local animal shelter working with the dogs and the cats, and I absolutely love it. It’s incredibly fulfilling. I also mentor at risk high school students via a program through work, and I have received the president’s volunteer service award for the past three years because I volunteer over 100 hours a year.
Most of the writing I have done has been corporate in nature, as I have a Masters Degree in corporate communication. I also dabble in shorter stories and have an idea for something I want to work on while at the retreat in terms of flash fiction.
Oh, I’m excited to see your flash idea come to fruition in Costa Rica, Lucy! Can you share something about yourself (a memory, anecdote, coincidence, special/weird talent, etc.) you’d like to share with us?
I enjoy all forms of exercise including swimming (we have a pool, so I usually swim about a half a mile every day at lunch), walking, running (in the cooler weather I usually do about two miles a day), yoga, tennis, pickle ball, you name it, I am up for it! I also enjoy needlepoint, Reading, gardening, and can hold my own with the best of them on most TV shows.
Thanks so much, Lucy!
BIO: Lucy Merklee is a full-time working mother of two amazing adult children. She has worked at AT&T for 28 years in a multitude of roles and will stay as long as they’ll have her. Lucy lives in Wanaque, NJ with her wonderful husband Bill and two awesome cats. If anyone is looking for three hermit crabs, she would be very happy to rehome them with all supplies, as they were left behind by her daughter when she moved out.
Note: Does Writing Wild in Costa Rica this January sound appealing to you? A very few spaces remain! Find more information HERE.