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.


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:




The Write Place to Be: Casperia in Italy’s Wars by Bryan Jansing

In anticipation of our Italian Flash Fiction retreat in May, we asked native Italian Bryan Jansing to talk a bit about how Casperia and the Sabina Hills feature in Italy’s long history.

Casperia in Italy’s Wars

by Bryan Jansing

The first stop after leaving Rome to reach Casperia is Poggio Mirteto train station. Standing before the hilly slopes and fast rising mountains as you leave the train into Poggio Mirteto is a large billboard dedicated to the partisan fighters of World War II. The 8th of September 1943 is an important date in Italian history; it’s the day Italy joins the allies. Poggio Mirteto, like many of the small towns and villages peppered throughout the ridges of the Apennine in the Lazio region, was nurturing grounds for the Italian resistance. As the armistice with the ally armies goes into effect, German soldiers flee Rome, passing through the hilly and stony slops of Sabina, Caspera and most importantly, through the train station of Poggio Mirteto. Over these tracks passed retreating Nazi soldiers, their equipment, prisoners and trains loaded with captured Jews headed to concentration camps.

Liberated from Mussolini, Italian soldiers and their generals, along with ally soldiers who escaped Nazi prison camps behind enemy lines, Jews who fled their captors and others on the run in these mountains unite to form the Italian resistance, the partisans.

the-campaign-in-italy-the-advance-on-cassino-may-1944Until the end of World War II this ragtag army, whose ranks are filled with a hodgepodge of unlikely heroes unite to sabotage the retreat and occupation of the Nazis. The billboard at Poggio Mirteto reminds us of these heroes who rose during a terrifying and bloody period.

Battles in these hills go back to the Etruscans, the first inhabitants of this region. The Etruscans ruled from 900 BC until a small village called Rome would revolt in 483 BC. Then there were the attacks by barbarians as the Roman Empire disintegrated, the feuding wars of the Middle Ages and the renaissance. Little towns like Casperia were safe in their fortified villages way up on high peaks and allied to like-towns through fiefdoms. It’s not hard to let your imagination run and let the array of time pass through you.

Italy lagged behind as a third world country without trains or paved roads to connect these old, medieval towns left forgotten, until Mussolini brought Italy to the industrial revolution in the late 1930s. For this reason, Casperia remains nearly untouched. Its charm and tranquil setting allow us to slip back to a time where life moved slower, where there was time to think, relax and catch our breath and strengthen our relationship with our often neglected muse.

Bryan Jansing is an international, award-winning author. His Flash Fiction was included in Fast Forward Vol. 3, The Mix Tape (2010), which was the finalist for the Colorado Book Awards. He has also written for Beer Advocate, Celebrator, Primo and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. His book Italy: Beer Country is the first and only book available about the Italian craft beer movement. Find out more about Bryan here

Read Nancy Stohlman’s interview with Bryan here: 


Tour Italy with the authors of
Italy: Beer Country The Story of Italian Craft Beer Book your tour:

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In bocca al luppolo!

UPDATE: Our Springtime in Italy Flash Fiction Retreat is SOLD OUT. We have openings in Grand Lake in August and exciting announcements coming soon!


“Time in Flash Fiction” by Sophie van Llewyn on TSS Publishing

A great craft article on using time in flash fiction with examples by Kathy Fish, Nancy Stohlman, AE Weisgerber, and many others–check it out!


Sophie-van-Llewyn-Resident-Flash-Fiction-Writer-with-TSS-Sophie van Llewyn was born in Romania. She now lives in Germany. Her prose has been published by Ambit, the 2017 & 2018 NFFD Anthologies, New Delta Review, Banshee, New South Journal etc. and has been placed in various competitions – including TSS (you can read her Flash Fiction ‘The Cesarean’ here). Her novella-in-flash, ‘Bottled Goods,’ set against the backdrop of communist Romania was published by Fairlight Books.


Time in Flash Fiction

by Sophie van Llewyn

Flash fiction is an exercise in brevity: this is nothing new. But this doesn’t mean that flash fiction has to limit its temporal reach to a short span of time. Flash fiction can stretch far beyond the few pages (or the fraction of a page) it occupies. It can encompass hours, days, months, a lifetime or even more, as we’ll see in the examples listed below. They illustrate the various techniques that can be employed to make time dilate in flash fiction — or rather contract to a few dozens or hundred words. It is no small feat, and the result of this kind of compression can have a staggering effect on the reader.

There’s also another aspect of time in flash fiction to consider: because of the low word count, there are only so many words than can be used in order to establish a timeline. It’s an art in itself choosing those very words that tell us more about the character’s situation, about his or her personality, while giving us a feel of the atmosphere of the era (this is especially important in the case of historical fiction), or just placing us in time. It’s the ability to choose from all the spectrum of the character’s activities and surroundings: the ones that tell us most about the character’s set of circumstances. Stripping an entire lifetime down to a few details — this is a skill which entire books could be written about.

In this essay, I only aim to showcase some of the ways time can be used in flash fiction, using the accustomed examples that are free to read on the Internet. Think of this like a door, setting your imagination free, allowing you to be creative with the use of time in your own work.

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