Interviews

Poetry & Journaling One’s Way into Story: A Conversation with Lisa Trigg

Nancy and I are delighted that Lisa Trigg will be joining us for our Writing in the Blue Zone retreat in Costa Rica this March. I enjoyed Lisa’s responses to my questions below:

Lisa, thanks for your time! Have you ever visited Costa Rica before? And what attracts you to Costa Rica?

Never been to Costa Rica but it’s been on my list for years.  I’m attracted to the geography, the people and their politics.  If I can learn Spanish,  I will consider retiring there. If I retire.

What are you most looking forward to in our upcoming retreat?

Learning something new about writing/flash.  Getting inspiration, tips. Sight seeing/R & R, meeting new and interesting people.

What do you find yourself writing about? What themes and/or writerly obsessions? 

I’m presently engaged in planning/writing a series of “cycle stories” in the fashion of Ellen Gilchrist about the life and times of a young to elderly lesbian named Hazel Currie whom I’ve been collecting notes about since I was about 20.  I have drafts of 2 stories from that series and notes on more.  I think there might actually be 2 books worth of short stories, but one never knows how these things turn out.   I dictate notes on Hazel in a Day One journal throughout the day as I have thoughts about her.

I have a small series of flash stories that come to me as I do my work with people with serious mental illness in crisis.  These have social justice themes and are about hurt, broken people making their way in this world.   I’m very careful about writing these stories because I do not want to turn their lives in to entertainment, and because some of the stories are so distinctive that I have to be careful about violating HIPAA laws.  I work with a writer/writing coach who is also a trauma expert/therapist, Kay Morgan, PhD, to help me navigate these issues. So far, I’m more worried about it than she is. The best of those stories, “A Day’s Work,” I had published in a little ezine junoesq which is  now defunct, It’s about a homeless mentally ill man, Janik Muro, who works various strategies to get off the street for a few days because someone is killing homeless people in the camps around the city.  It has morphed into a not bad short story that needs more work and gave me ideas for a novel based on the main character in the story. That project is fermenting and I’m not actively working on him right now except for the little notes I dictate about him into my Day One journal when thoughts occur to me.

I might be obsessed with using technology to organize my very busy thoughts about my characters.

Your works in progress sound so compelling! And I’m going to look into Day One. I’m eager to read more of it when we gather at Peace Retreat. Please respond to this quote?

“When I think of the wisest people I know, they share one defining trait: curiosity. They turn away from the minutiae of their lives-and focus on the world around them. They are motivated by the desire to explore the unfamiliar. They are drawn toward what they don’t understand.”  Dani Shapiro 

Great quote and I agree with it wholeheartedly. I hope someone says this about me someday!

Would you like to share something about yourself that is interesting, moving, weird, funny, unusual?

I’m a lifelong writer/journaler, having focused on poetry in the past, but for the last 1-2 years exploring fiction, which was my original goal.  I was derailed into poetry after a Centrum Workshop where 7 beautiful woman poets performed their work each morning back in the days when they held the performances first thing in the morning.  When I got home, I was thinking in verse and wrote poetry for many years.  I think that writing poetry improved my language and has made me a better fiction writer.  I have many pets, am an avid ballroom dancer, and my idea of camping is Motel 6.  Still wake up excited to get to my job every morning and don’t plan to ever retire.  I once had a dream where I was disembodied, out among the stars, with a spotlight on me, and a deep voice boomed “And Lisa Trigg is the Homecoming Queen of the Universe!”  I’m pretty sure that Hazel is going to have this precise dream sometime during the travails of her 20s.

Love all of this, especially that dream! And I have found that the best flash writers have some background in poetry. We’re so eager to meet you in Costa Rica, Lisa, and getting to know you and your writing better. Thanks so much for your time!

Note: Some spaces remain for our Writing in the Blue Zone retreat in Costa Rica this March! Please consider joining us. We’d love to have you!

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How Travel Fills Our Creative Wells

*This post originally appeared on my website in 2018, but I found the lessons learned so fitting again this year that I am re-posting!

Traveling forces us out of what is familiar and makes our brains work differently. I think that keeps us young, vital, and full of creative juice and wonder. And what I continually learn every time I travel is also about “filling the well” and restocking the creative stores. So here are some of the things I’ve learned about my own creativity through travel (and the good news is you don’t have to travel to apply most of them!):

 

  1. Meet Your Writing Colleagues in Person

It’s so so important, in the internet heavy reality of our careers, to meet colleagues in person whenever possible. There is nothing that can replace looking people in the eye, giving them a hug, or sharing a meal (or a round of karaoke!), especially if you have “known” them online for a while.

  1. Eat Real Food

I’ve decided that’s the key to French food—it’s actual food. The dishes are deceptively simple but the ingredients are real—not processed, frozen, sugar added or factory farmed.

  1. Walk and take public transportation

Europe does this really well—whether it’s trains crisscrossing countries or metros within the cities, you can walk and take public transportation almost everywhere. I do this already in a limited capacity in Denver; not only is it ultimately cheaper, better for physical health, better for emotional health, and better for the environment, it’s also better for my creativity. My morning journals and first handwritten drafts now happen during my work commute.

  1. Dress up for no reason.

The French have this effortless chic style that I really dig—messy but beautiful and not overdone. But they put effort into looking nice for no reason. And when you look nice you feel nice.

  1. Don’t spend all day on the internet

Duh, right? But in Europe I didn’t have an international roaming plan, so I was inaccessible much of the day unless I was connected to external wifi. No surprise: I was much happier checking in with my online friends once or twice a day rather than all day long.

  1. Take more pictures

I’m a closet amateur photographer, and it was glorious to express myself visually for awhile rather than always with words. And It’s easy to take lots of pictures in an unfamiliar place. It’s good to take a break from your preferred genre and play a little.

  1. Learn another language

Seriously. It’s proven good for your brain as you age anyway, but as writers it reminds us of the plethora of new words out there. I speak mid-level Spanish already but I stared learning French on the Duolingo app in the spring and I highly recommend it. Just 10 mins a day—10 mins not on social media—and I usually did it on the train while commuting.

  1. Put away the phone.

Europeans have phones, and they will pull them out to text one another, but then they put them away. You do not see Europeans on their phones while sitting at cafes or on the metro. Even if they are alone they are watching the world go by. I felt self-conscious being on my phone in public there. I was happy putting it away.

  1. Eat slowly

I tend to eat very fast, like a starving wolf. I’ve justified this my whole life. I also burn the roof of my mouth regularly. I am now consciously slowing down, lingering and enjoying more.

  1. More cultural cross-pollination, please

Not only was I excited to read for new audiences, but I forgot the joy of also being a new audience member. Both in Paris and Bristol I discovered writers with different sensibilities, styles, and subjects. I felt for the first time ever like I was an “American” writer.

  1. Consume more art

When you visit a place like Europe there’s the unnaturally high consumption of art—daily museums, architecture, music. I consume a lot of art already but I’m lucky to get in one artistic outing a week.  Imagine how creative you would be if you did this as intentionally in your own town?

Happy end of summer! I hope to travel with you soon!
Xoxo

Nancy

Interviews

Paris, New York, Grand Lake…Taking Inspiration Where You Find It: An Interview with Jill Loomis

Nancy and I are so pleased to introduce you to Jill Loomis, who nabbed the last spot for our upcoming High Altitude Inspiration retreat in Grand Lake, Colorado. (If you missed out, but are interested in our other retreats, check out Writing in the Blue Zone, our March, 2020 retreat in Costa Rica!)

Hi Jill! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. We’re so excited for this August retreat in gorgeous Grand Lake. Have you been to Colorado before?  

I froze watching the Broncos at Mile High Stadium years ago.

Ha, sounds fun! What are you looking forward to in our time together in Grand Lake for this retreat?

Learning from experienced writers face to face.  Enjoying everyone’s company and the beauty of Grand Lake.  Gaining more confidence about my own writing.

How do you make time for writing in your life?

I wrote like a madwoman morning noon and night during two online flash workshops.  Didn’t make my bed or wash the dishes until I’d posted a piece or commented on another writer’s story.  On my own I might sit in the park and write, revising in the evening at home.    

What is the most inspiring place you’ve visited to date?

Lucky me I lived and worked in Paris, and I’m still besotted, but I love New York.  Here I get inspiration for characters when I’m riding the subway or just paying attention to what’s going on around me.

Oh wow, that IS lucky to have lived in Paris and now in New York! Both cities are beautiful and fascinating and great for people-watching. Now, I always ask this: Is there something fascinating / unusual / funny / great whatever that you’d like to share about yourself? 

 I was a ballroom dance hostess on a cruise ship.

Ah, I love that! Sounds like something that would provide tons of fodder for flash fiction writing!

Jill Loomis is a New Yorker and a newcomer to flash fiction.  She has the luxury of writing for pleasure after a long career raising funds for nonprofits.  Jill has been inspired by Meg Pokrass and the terrific writers in Meg’s online workshops, and she recently dared to submit several stories for publication.

NOTE: Our Grand Lake Retreat is now sold out, but spaces remain for our March, 2020 Writing in the Blue Zone Retreat in Costa Rica. We’d love to have you join us!

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Writing in the Blue Zone: Eco-Flash Retreat in Costa Rica, March 21-27, 2020

Jungle walks ending at the untamed ocean. The sounds of parrots, iguanas and howler monkeys. You, barefoot and writing, writing, writing…

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Playa Negra sunset

The Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica is one of five “Blue Zones” in the world, areas where people are healthier, happier, and live longer. And if that wasn’t enough, Costa Rica is also a world leader in environmental initiatives and action–surrounded by the beautiful wilds they have taken it upon themselves to be leaders in preserving and caring for their piece of the planet. According to Adventure Sports Network, Costa Rica is “paving the way  to sustainable tourism:”

”The land of “Pura Vida” produces 93 percent of its energy using renewable resources, and in 2017 it broke its own record by running for 300 days solely on energy from renewable sources. Despite being small in size, Costa Rica accounts for five percent of Earth’s biodiversity, and luckily 25 percent of its territory is protected by the National System of Conservation Areas. The country is forward thinking, and by 2021 it hopes to be the first carbon neutral country in the world.”

Join us for our return to Peace Retreat in Playa Negra, Guanacaste, a short 20-min walk to the Pacific Ocean (and one of the world’s rare black sand beaches) for an immersive experience of discovery, creation, inspiration and building community. You will gain perspective, respite, focus, time, camaraderie and the gift of prioritizing yourself and your art.

Find your inspiration and happiness in the Blue Zone as we write together in symbiosis with nature, breathe clean air, eat gentle, healthy foods, sleep to the sounds of the wind, shed the excess mental baggage and find our bare, creative hearts in the land of Pura Vida (pure life), all the while remembering that the care of our planet and the care of our our creativity always comes from our hearts.

Connect with your Creative Heart and discover the secrets of the Blue Zone with us in March.

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Interviews, Kathy fish, Nancy Stohlman

Flash Fiction Retreats: Interview with Christopher Allen at Smokelong Quarterly

Nancy and I were delighted to meet up with Christopher Allen in Casperia when we were there for our Creative Renaissance Retreat at Palazzo Forani. Interested in what we’re doing with Flash Fiction Retreats, Chris kindly interviewed us for Smokelong Quarterly. Here is an excerpt of that conversation:

Your latest retreat was at Palazzo Forani in Casperia, Italy. I just happened to be in the area on your free day, so I popped by and had lunch with you and your keen participants. We did a lot of eating and drinking. But what does a typical retreat day entail?

(Nancy): “Well, in Italy every day involved a lot of eating and drinking! But seriously, every location and every retreat has its own personality. The things that stay consistent is the general workshop schedule—most days we have a morning session with Kathy that is mostly generative and an afternoon session with me (Nancy) that focuses on revision and workshopping. We also have a final night “salon” where we all dress up and drink (more) wine and read our work. The salon ends up being one of our favorite parts and to prep for that I’ve been offering a performance class on the last day instead of a regular workshop session. So ideally by the end of the retreat participants write some new stuff, revise some old stuff, and read their work in public. You came on our free day (normally we will only have free half days) where participants can explore, take an extra long nap or dive more deeply into their writing. It IS a retreat after all—we want people resting and rejuvenating, not exhausted from classes all day.

But within that framework each retreat develops its own flavor. In Costa Rica we used the metaphor of the jungle as we designed our classes: “wild” writing, birdsong repetition, taking a machete to the overgrowth, etc. Last year in the high mountains of Colorado we were “mining” for silver and gold in our work; in Italy were drawing inspiration from the Italian Renaissance. We want our retreats to reflect and engage with the location. In Italy we were staying in a very old palace (palazzo) with all its creepy/romantic charm and Kathy did a special “ghost writing” session. In Costa Rica we were/will be staying in screened cabinas open to the tropical air and all the sounds of nature. In Grand Lake we will be in a big mountain lodge (think wood burning stove) overlooking a mountain lake.

One thing that remains consistent is that by the end of the week we have all bonded in a special way—writing partners and friendships that will last a lifetime.”

Many thanks to Chris! The rest of the interview may be found here at Smokelong Quarterly.