Interviews, Uncategorized

A Virtual Gallery Exhibition: Jeffrey Spahr-Summers interprets Grand Lake 2019

Creative people are usually creative in multiple ways. On many of our retreats, we are lucky to have amateur or even professional photographers and other visual artists sharing some of their non-word-related creations as well, and in Grand Lake we were thrilled to have the artistic eye of Jeffrey Spahr-Summers interpreting our mountain sanctuary. Below you’ll find our first “Virtual Gallery Exhibition”, which represents only a small sliver (link to more below). I find it visceral, trippy, surreal, sometimes seeming to actually vibrate, in moments channeling Van Gogh and Monet. Truthfully I can’t find an adjective that really sums it up: gorgeous, stunning, amazing…none of these do it justice.

When I asked Jeffrey if he wanted to caption the photos he said, “Let them speak for themselves.” So…without further preamble: ENJOY!

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And a slideshow!

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Check out more of Jeffrey’s work (including his amazing words!) at

 

Jeffrey Spahr-Summers Photography

And join us August 19-23, 2020 for our return to Grand Lake, Colorado!

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Now Open! High Altitude Inspiration in the American West, Aug 19-23, 2020

We are returning to GRAND LAKE! 

High Altitude Inspiration in the American West
Aug 19-23, 2020

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Travel to the Great American West, the spirit of which has always attracted the bold and pioneering, the dream seekers among us. It is a place that has inspired artists and writers for decades. Give yourself the gift of a creative reset, four nights in the Rocky Mountains where you will achieve new heights, commune with fellow writers, and take your writing to the next level.

Join Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman in Grand Lake, Colorado, for their 3rd annual summer flash fiction retreat in the beautiful, rustic American West and second year in Grand Lake. Grand Lake is less than 2 hours north of Denver and is in one of the prettiest areas of Colorado, adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Grand Lake is a quintessential mountain town in the famous American Rocky Mountains, complete with a deep, trout filled lake and surrounded by towering pines and majestic peaks. Gather with the hummingbirds at our secluded vantage point in the clouds. Walk one direction and end up on the rugged trails of Rocky Mountain National Park. Walk less than a mile in the other direction down the hill and drink some local Colorado whiskey or a microbrew in the cowboy-reminiscent historic mountain town. Listen for the old-fashioned dinner bell announcing delicious, healthy meals.

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Shadowcliff (Jeffrey Spahr-Summers photography)

High Altitude Inspiration in the Great American West

Accommodations

FAQ/Other Questions

Registration

We’d love to have you!
Kathy and Nancy
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Onward to France! “The Big Blonde and Company” by Jill Royce Loomis

Getting to work with writers through many phases of their process, and watching creative work bloom and come to fruition, is a special gift indeed. Kathy Fish and I feel lucky that Jill Royce Loomis, who first joined us in Grand Lake in August, is going to continue the adventure in France! In her own words:

For someone who tippy-toed into the Grand Lake flash retreat, the creative leap I’ve made since is remarkable.  I was eager to learn and classes on innovative flash forms and the dance between order and chaos were enlightening.  The class on absurdism was terrific.  Experimenting un-selfconsciously with accomplished writers was a breakthrough, and the result was surprising.  Who’d guess that in retirement I’d become a FBomb performer!  Nancy demystified the process, pushed me in front of a mic at the retreat and I loved it.  Then Paul Beckman gave me a turn on FBomb night at KGB Red Bar.  I’ve read and revised this flash piece, but new ones are emerging!

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Jill Royce Loomis reads her work for the first time at the Grand Lake retreat Salon Night! Go Jill!

The Big Blonde & Company 

by Jill Royce Loomis

The big blonde swanned into the dimly lit bar wearing high heeled boots, a tight V-neck and a leatherish skirt barely covering their pink parts, trailing smoke from a Vogue super slim and a diminutive friend in grey wool wearing sensible shoes and a matching demeanor.

Beaming at admirers present and imagined, veiled in a fog of Shalimar, the big blonde cruised to a corner booth, stretched a bespangled arm along the back of the red tufted vinyl and called for an ashtray, rosé in a tall glass with ice and change for the jukebox.  “Don’t forget my swizzle stick,” they trilled, drumming long lacquered nails on the Formica, smiling gaily, and patting a brilliant soufflé of varnished hair.  Their escort sat with an inscrutable air, admirable posture and a five o’clock shadow at a neighboring two-top, their large feet tucked demurely underneath, holding the straps of a purse with both hands and sipping ginger ale through a straw.

Administering quarter after quarter as the music blared and hoisting glass after glass of cold rosé, the big blonde announced each song and its ranking on their personal scale of Great, Greater, Greatest ignoring the groaning and emptying of seats following too many Bee Gees and Barry Manilows.

In due time, when their brassy head was wobbly and their pronouncements unintelligible, the little companion rose and slid into the booth murmuring encouragement as they pushed the big blonde sideways, upright and out the door.

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Our France retreat is now sold out but we have spaces available in Costa Rica    Eco-Flash: Writing in the Blue Zone, March 21-27, 2020

Join us!

Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Revising Flash Fiction: An Inoculation Against Cliches

Writers fear the word “cliché” almost like it’s catching, a sort of literary herpes. The problem with clichés is that we’re surrounded by them—in speech, on television and movies, on billboards.  Clichés are the currency of communication in both speech and the media, so it can be hard to disentangle them from the air we breathe.

Fun fact: The word cliché began with the printing press. In those days, when you wanted to create a page of text, you had to assemble it letter by letter. Words or phrases that were used a lot started to come pre-assembled to save time. These pre-assembled stereotype blocks were called “clichés.”

Sayings and slang are one type of cliché. Think: “On a dark and stormy night” or “happily ever after.” The first guy who said, “It’s raining cats and dogs” must have seemed like a genius. But when you hear that phrase now you don’t picture the dogs, the cats, the sounds of their furry bodies smacking the ground. And that’s the problem. If good writing intends our readers to engage, then clichés encourage us to disengage.

I love this alphabetized list of cliches from the How to Slay a Cliche website:

but here are other types of clichés so insidious we may not even recognize them: descriptions like a “pounding heart”; characters that are all good or all bad like the jock, the cheerleader, or the villain; plots that unfold/resolve in predicable ways, like “the butler did it” or waking from a dream at the end of the story.

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Any overworn idea can become a cliché. I once had an editor tell me that all my characters “rolled their eyes”. Not believing her, I did a search through my manuscript and found over 100 instances! Needless to say (cliché!) I have not had a character roll their eyes since.

The sin isn’t in writing clichés, the sin is in not revising them. Each mindless cliché is instead an opportunity to say it in your own, unique, fresh, fantastic way. And that’s the real problem with clichés—they aren’t your original creative wonderful fresh brilliance but a mosaic of everyone else’s rehashed ideas. You don’t want your readers to disengage from your writing because it’s been said a million times (cliché), you want them to be on the edge of their seats (cliché). But if you’re using predictable combinations of words or writing about predictable situations, then your reader is more likely to tune out (cliché) rather than tune in, because he or she has already “been there, done that” (cliché.) See?

So here’s my favorite technique to inoculate yourself against clichés:

Step away from your work for one hour and instead write a story using as many clichés as possible. Cliché phrases, ideas, concepts, idioms, characters, descriptions—really do it up. This will be liberating and fun and ridiculous.

Then after an hour, return to your editing and watch all your own clichés pop right off the page.

Uncategorized

“Into the Great Wide Open”– Grand Lake recap and announcement!

Some of you might know I grew up overseas—my dad was in the military and we were stationed in both Germany and Spain during my young school years. And, as an American growing up overseas, I would often long for everything American, especially what I saw as the “great wide open” of America–that mythical place where there was an entire grocery store aisle of breakfast cereal (this one blew my mind) and everyone owned a big ranch and wore a big hat like J.R. Ewing on Dallas; a place where you could ride your horse through the quintessential landscape of tall pine trees and wild bears and rugged cowboy mountains.

Fast forward a few (ahem) years and enter Colorado:

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The view from Shadowcliff

I already knew that I loved Shadowcliff Mountain Sanctuary from Kathy and my initial scouting visit one year ago. But I forgot how beautiful it was until I returned this August for our High Altitude Inspiration retreat. Even a (now) Colorado girl like me can’t help but be impressed at the picture perfect view from just about every window (no filters on these pictures!)—the gorgeous city/lake of Grand Lake on one side, the majestic mountains leading into Rocky Mountain National Park on the other. Honestly, I don’t think we could have picked a better location for the Wild American West.

(And for those of you who remember the fox sighting in Breckenridge last year, you will be pleased to know that we had both a bear and a moose (with a baby) sighting!)

Of course, location is only one part of a great retreat—the rest is that elusive beast called “group chemistry.” And boy did we have it. With a short retreat (4 days) there was no room to dawdle, and our group coalesced almost immediately like longtime friends reunited. And consider this is true in more ways than one, as many of our relationships had already been started online and only became flesh and blood in Grand Lake—always so significant in this internet age.

Frankly, we loved it so much that we are doing it again August 19-23, 2020.

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Sunset campfire. Photo by Ryan Stone

So…if you’ve always wanted to see the Great American West and do some serious flash fiction writing at the same time, consider joining us next year! We will be limited to 14 participants, so mark your calendar and stay tuned.

Registration opens soon!

(Can’t wait until August? Join us March 21-27, 2020, in Costa Rica. Registration now open)