I first worked with Sarah Russell in 2009 in the very first flash fiction course I ever taught (for real)! So much has happened since then, including many publications and much acclaim for Sarah’s work, so I was just thrilled to learn that she will be joining Kathy Fish and I in Grand Lake, Colorado this August!
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?
Sarah Russell: Everyone will groan when they hear my answer, because I’m a spoiled writer. Since I retired, I never plan any appointments or commitments before noon. That’s my time to write, rewrite, submit, rewrite, read, did I mention rewrite (?), and I guard it jealously. Plus, every morning my wonderful husband brings me breakfast in bed (which is also my desk and dog snuggling area) and then leaves the dog and me alone to work.
Nancy: That sounds dreamy! Tell us about your relationship with flash fiction?
Sarah: I write mostly poetry, but sometimes the words sneak off and become flash. No short stories or novels though. You gotta keep words in line or they start breeding like rabbits, and no one has time for that.
Nancy: Ha! Love it. What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
Sarah: It was from Ernest Hemingway who told me one day as we were walking through the tall grass of the savannah back to camp, “The first draft of anything is shit.”
Nancy: I love Hemingway. What piece of your own writing are you most proud of? Where can we read it (if it’s available)?
Sarah: I wrote a piece called “Mother’s Last Wishes,” in a class Nancy taught long ago that was published in the anthology The Incredible Shrinking Story and was also picked up for Flash Fiction Funny, edited by Tom Hazuka. It’s available at https://sarahrussellpoetry.net/mothers-last-wishes/
Nancy: I remember the evolution of that story so vividly–it’s had quite a life! I still use it to teach found forms in my classes–such a good story. Now have you ever been to Grand Lake before? What are you most looking forward to?
Sarah: Yes, I’ve visited Grand Lake several times since I spend a lot of time in Colorado. It is one of Colorado’s gems — mountain views (and altitude) to take your breath away, a beautiful lake small enough to embrace, and even a funky little town to visit if you get an itch for coffee at a diner. A wonderful setting for the retreat.
Nancy: React to this quote: “I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Sarah: That’s a great metaphor, certainly for my personal search during my restless early and mid-life, and for the peace I’ve found in recent years. I interpret Adichie’s coming home and finding yourself there as being unapologetically comfortable with who you are. I think I’m getting real close.
Nancy: Tell us something we don’t know about you?
Sarah: I have a good friend coming to the retreat whom I’ve never met.
Nancy: That is so exciting! And I’m so excited to work with you again, Sarah!