Interviews

Of Communion and Co-Creation in the Rockies: A Conversation with Kristinha M. Anding

Nancy and I are very excited that Kristinha M. Anding will be joining us for our Grand Lake “Flash Fiction Summer Camp” in August. Kristinha is a fascinating person and I very much enjoyed our chat.

Hi Kristinha! First, have you been to Colorado before? 

I did a wilderness vigil last year in Colorado. I spent four days and four nights alone on a mountain, fasting and leaning into the slow, resilient conversation of stone and pine and sky. I came away feeling humble and heartbreakingly welcomed.

Wow, that sounds amazing and so beautifully put. And what do you most look forward to at our retreat at Shadowcliff Lodge?

I am eager to listen to the work of others and co-create the shelter of a temporary human writing community, informed and supported by the larger ecological community of the Rockies.

Yes. I love the sorts of connections that are forged in this way, too. It’s one of our “missions” for these retreats actually.

So in your reading life, what sort of stories so you find yourself drawn to?

I love stories that involve mythic sensibilities and seem to emerge from the deep-time dreaming of the land, stories where you can feel the pulse of what Clarissa Pinkola Estés calls el rio abajo rio, the river beneath the river. Terry Tempest Williams, Jay Griffiths and Sylvia Lindsteadt are a few of my favorite writers. As we are in dire times climate-wise, I find myself increasingly drawn to works of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry that touch ecological themes in some way.

What is your favorite story of your own?

I write a lot and had a past life as a journalist, but admittedly stink at submitting my creative work. Here is something I did manage to get published:

http://unbrokenjournal.com/2018/04/deer-crossing/

Oh wow, I’m so struck by the rush of feeling in this piece. So beautiful and haunting:

“It doesn’t make sense Renee and I said barely meeting one another’s eyes and the couple behind us stopped now asking if we needed help telling us they had seen you too without them I wouldn’t have known this was real their witness the only thing keeping me from believing you had been a ghost at the edge of the road staring me in the eye before choosing collision teaching me something I have barely begun to hear leaving me holding nothing and everything.”

Thanks for sharing that, Kristinha. Is there something about you that you’d like to share that is surprising/funny/endearing/strange whatever? 

I don’t know why, but this completely random tidbit comes to mind: I used to have an unusually deep belly button. How deep, you ask? Well, there is a cave in Ireland called Oweynagat, whose engulfing maw is said to be a portal to the Otherworld. About that deep. Removing lint felt like an archeological dig. That deep. I held a severe interiority.

But that changed after my pregnancy with my second son, who extruded my abdomen and then emerged from me, 10 pounds of raw, reaching human. As my postpartum body settled into its new shape, I realized with a shock that my hallowed umbilical cave was gone. My child and this tectonic shift of motherhood had erupted me into an “outie.” (I think I’m still adjusting to that.)

Ha, I love it! Can’t wait to meet you in person in Grand Lake, Kristinha. Thanks so much for sharing!

Note: A few spaces remain for “Flash Fiction Summer Camp” in Grand Lake in August. More information HERE. 

Kathy fish, Nancy Stohlman

Costa Rica Wrap Up and Announcement!

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Kathy’s thoughts:

“I wondered about the explorers who’d sailed their ships to the end of the world. How terrified they must have been when they risked falling over the edge; how amazed to discover, instead, places they had seen only in their dreams.” ~Jodi Picoult

I thought of this quote on the flight to Costa Rica, wondering what lie ahead for us. Though Costa Rica is hardly the “end of the world,” I’d never been there before. I’d only seen pictures. Pictures and descriptions of the country and of Peace Retreat. Nancy and I took a huge leap of faith for ourselves and our participants, hoping we’d chosen well. We really wanted this 2nd outing for Flash Fiction Retreats, and indeed, our first outing outside of the U.S., to be a success.

My impressions:

Costa Rica is wild. And although there are resort towns and luxury hotels, Peace Retreat was neither situated in a resort town, nor was it a luxury hotel. And we didn’t want that anyway. We wanted, well, peace. We wanted to retreat somewhere that our group felt like it largely had the place to themselves (except for a handful of yoga students and teachers and some volunteers, we did). We wanted to feel immersed in a peaceful, exotic setting surrounded by nature. We got that. Each day, I woke up just before dawn, to the sound of the birds and the howler monkeys. For the first few days, the wind was powerful. We were surrounded by trees. We spotted iguanas, bright green parrots, horses along the road. A young piglet even came up to greet us on our walk to the beach.

We were lucky enough that there was a full lunar eclipse during our retreat. We stayed up late to watch it, binoculars tilted to the sky, on a beautiful windswept night. Another night, we participated in a solemn and unforgettable cacao ceremony led by a local shaman. 

Definitely a slower pace. Incredibly delicious meals. Fruit so bright and juicy and sweet it was like eating candy. Fresh vegetables and salads, fish, goat-milk dairy, rice, beans, eggs, and freshly baked bread. All of the Peace Retreat staff were so wonderful and kind. 

We had a pretty swimming pool with deliciously cool water. Bugs? Yes, a few. We were told “this is their home” and indeed it was. Some ants. A scorpion. A few mosquitos (but not nearly as much as we’d expected). This part of Costa Rica (the northwestern coast) is HOT and dry and a bit dusty. Certain of the trees actually defoliate this time of year, so was surprised to see these bare trees, which had their own strange beauty. But there was also a proliferation of swaying palm trees and others, lush with green foliage. Flowers and flowering bushes.

Situated on the equator, the Costa Rican sunset occurs around 5:30 year-round. The sunsets on Playa Negra were breathtaking. Walking back to Peace Retreat at dusk with a fat full moon rising and surrounded by the new writer friends I’d made felt so special, auspicious. I feel so honored to have spent time with this incredible bunch who wrote their hearts out and were so generous and encouraging with each other. I can’t wait to go back. 

Green Iguana

 

Nancy’s Thoughts: 

sand 1What a wild adventure! We saw iguanas, parrots, scorpions, hermit crabs. We heard the eerie, hard-to-describe sounds of the howler monkeys, saw a lunar eclipse, and watched the sunset on the ocean almost every evening. We got to take part in a traditional cacao ceremony, walked along the beach looking for a bonfire (didn’t find it!), and met the locals who set up a spontaneous bazaar at the Peace Retreat. We ate wholesome and fresh food 3 times a day and some us us did yoga in the mornings. I slept like a baby in my screened-in cabina, immersed in the sounds of the jungle.

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“Editing Flash Fiction” photo by Laura Alexander

Oh–and we wrote! A lot. Oh yes, we found perfect, breezy nooks for writing, reading, and in the afternoons my editing class was such a hoot. We had both brand new writers and veterans, but the synergy of the group allowed everyone to get into that perfect workshop balance–a combination of praise, useful suggestions, and inspirational group think brainstorms.

Our final night salon, under the twinkly lights and palm trees with the blessed humidity warming up our winter bodies and the staff of Peace Retreat were our perfect audience.

Eco-friendly Peace Retreat is the perfect blend of authentic Costa Rica with just enough creature comforts to make it relaxing without sacrificing the true experience for the sanitized resort version. Simple, loving, comfortable, perfect. We are so grateful!

A huge THANK YOU to everyone that took that leap of faith with us! Our writer participants were amazing, creative, genuine, and brought their full game to the Costa Rican adventure. We became like family for a week and the Peace Retreat staff became part of that family. A perfect place for some warm, tropical inspiration, meeting new writing friends, mentors, and bonding in a jungle adventure.

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“Salon night” photo courtesy of Laura Alexander

We loved it so much we are going it again next year!

Drum roll….

Our next Writing Wild in Costa Rica Retreat will happen March 21-27, 2020!

Information and Registration opens March 1. 

Read what our participants had to say about our debut Writing Wild in Costa Rica Retreat and consider joining us for 2020!

Interviews, Uncategorized

Truth in Art: A Chat with Jeffrey Spahr-Summers

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Kathy Fish and I are thrilled that Jeffrey Spahr-Summers is going to be joining us in Colorado this August for our Flash Fiction Summer Camp in the Rockies! I chat with Jeffrey a bit about his process, his writing, and his advice for writers, and the meaning of “truth” in art.

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?

Jeffrey Spahr-Summers: I’m an undisciplined writer. I do most of my writing in bits and pieces on the run. Poetry and flash fiction suit me in that respect. I find that I am more disciplined with photography.

NS: Tell us about your relationship to flash fiction?

JSS: I have written poetry for over 40 years. About four or five years ago I started writing short memoir stories, once there I turned to flash fiction. I am still experimenting and learning the craft.

NS: What piece of your own writing are you most proud of? Where could we read it (if it’s available)?

JSS: My favorite is a poem called, “Talk About my Girl’, which can be found in my book, ‘Until Their Bellies Bulge and Shine’. It was also printed in a literature magazine called, ‘Hammers’, in the early 1990’s. The poem can also be found on my website.

NS: You have published several books–what have you learned from that process?

JSS: Proofreading. Proofreading. Proofreading. Writing the book is only the beginning of the work. Books seem to grow along with you.

NS: You live in Colorado already–have you been to Grand Lake before? What are you most looking forward to at our writerly summer camp?

JSS: I haven’t been to Grand Lake since I was a child. I’m looking forward to the retreat to nature and the opportunity to interact with other writers.

NS: React to this quote by Gustave Flaubert: “Of all lies, art is the least untrue.” What do you think about the “truth” of art?

JSS: I think the truth in art lies in what compels us to create art in the first place, or to create certain pieces, as it were.

NS: Tell us something we don’t know about you?

JSS: I have moved 44 times, between 24 cities or towns, in my life.

NS: Anything else you want to add?

JSS: I am grateful to be participating in this retreat.

 Jeffrey Spahr-Summers is a poet, writer, photographer, digital artist, publisher, and editor living in Boulder, Colorado.

Websitejeffreyspahrsummers.com

Interviews

Meet Jason Lee Norman: Canadian!

Jason 11Nancy and I are excited that writer, editor, and publisher Jason Lee Norman will be joining us for Rendezvous in the Rockies, our 2nd Colorado retreat. Jason recently took the time to have a quick chat with me.

KF: Hi Jason! Have you visited Colorado before?

JLN: I have not been to Colorado before. Not even the airport. Never had a Denver omelet.

KF: You are in for a treat. And Denver omelets are great! Tell me, what do you most look forward to at our retreat at Shadowcliff Mountain Lodge?

JLN: I’m really looking forward to meeting you and Nancy and learning from you both. It will be an honor. It’s been a long time since I’ve taken time away to devote to my own writing so doing so at this beautiful spot in the mountains will be time well spent I’m sure.

KF: It’s a lovely place to rest and commune with nature and hopefully get a lot of writing done. So, as a reader, what sorts of stories do you find yourself drawn to?

JLN: I’m really loving flash fiction right now. I love these stories that can be so brief and pack such a punch. Generally I love stories that try a lot of the things that is attempted in flash fiction. Usually it’s just a unusual premise that the writer has to keep upright as long as possible like a surfer riding an enormous wave.

KF: That’s a perfect comparison. I love that. And what is one favorite story of your own?

JLN: What a question! I have a soft spot for a few stories for sure. One that I haven’t checked in on in awhile is called Beautiful Girls. I sent it to PANK and they published it online forever ago. Even in 2011 I knew that it meant a lot to get a compliment on your story from Roxane Gay. It’s sustained me for nearly a decade now. I can’t believe it was that long ago. I’ve written good stories since then. I promise!

KF: Terrific story. No wonder Roxane snapped it up. That’s definitely something to feel good about. Is there something about you that you’d like to share that is surprising/funny/endearing/strange whatever? 

JLN: Well I haven’t told anybody this one thing about me in a long time but I’m Canadian, eh?

KF: Wow, that’s the weirdest answer we’ve ever gotten to that question!

Thanks so much, Jason! See you this August in Grand Lake!

 Jason Lee Norman publishes Monto Books and edits Funicular Magazine. He writes and eats in Edmonton, Canada. 

 

Note: Spaces still remain for Rendezvous in the Rockies, Part II! Join us!

 

Uncategorized

Wild Life: Collected Works 2003-2018 by Kathy Fish is Required Reading for Writers

Fish - Cover Final.inddIf you’ve been waiting for Kathy Fish to release a new book, the wait is over! In Wild Life: Collected Works 2003-2018 (Matter Press, 2018), we get the old and the new and the best of both worlds: some of her favorite and most loved stories like “Space Man” or “Margaret and Beak Discuss Jazz For the Last Time” alongside her newer pieces, like “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild”, which opens the book and was chosen for Best Small Fictions in 2018. Think of Wild Life: Collected Works as a digitally remastered greatest hits collection with bonus, never before heard tracks!

All Kathy Fish’s work has a signature elegance, and a sort of strange, Midwestern fireflies-Dairy Queen-front porch charm permeates the pages—but don’t be fooled. She is graceful while she cuts deep. She can convey the gamut: nostalgia, horror, tenderness and tragedy in a few light-handed sentences, full characters in a few well-placed strokes. Kathy’s work has real heart, and her insights into the simple, beautiful, disturbing, bittersweet human condition are always on target. Her work leaves you yearning for something elusive, a familiar memory just out of reach.

From “A Room With Many Small Beds”:

Bobby Kennedy has been shot. It’s two o’clock in the afternoon and we have not eaten. Pearl sits cross-legged in front of the television with her cigarettes and her nail file. Her hair is set in empty frozen orange juice cans. She looks like a space alien or a sea creature. The neighbor kid is standing on our front lawn. I ask him what he wants. Get the lady, he says. Pearl goes to the screen door. Has the new baby been born, she asks. The kid hops from foot to foot like he has to go to the bathroom. I tug on Pearl’s shirt. His mother’s dead, I whisper.

efysswb5_400x400If you are new to Kathy Fish this is an amazing introduction to curated works spanning more than 15 years of her prolific career. And if you are already a fan you’re going to want to add Wild Life: Collected Works 2003-2018 to your Kathy Fish collection pronto.

Buy it from Matter Press HERE

Buy it from Amazon

Find out more about Kathy Fish on her website: