Nicholas Cook on Flash Fiction, Writing Retreats, & Creative Inspiration

Nancy and I are absolutely thrilled  that Nicholas Cook will be joining us in the French countryside for our French Connection Retreat in June. Nicholas took a few moments to chat with me about writing and writers, creativity, and flash fiction.

Hi Nicholas! Have you ever done a writing retreat before? And what are you most looking forward to in France?

I did a workshop in Taos, NM last year with Robert Vaughan and Meg Tuite. It was a blast, and I made some good friends and even managed to get a story from the workshop published. As for France, I’ve never been before so I’m looking forward to all of it, but mostly the chance to work with Kathy and Nancy, especially as I am interested in flash novel(la)s.

What inspires you creatively?

I find reading other peoples works inspires me the most. Otherwise, music, walking the dog, traveling, re-reading books.

Aw, I love this photo of you and your dog. I get the same creative boost when I’m out with my dog as well. Can you share a piece of writing of your own that you especially love and/or feel most proud of (and talk a bit about why?)

“The Eclipse” which was published in Lost Balloon in 2017. This story was a finalist for the 2018 Best Small Fictions and a Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction contest honorable mention. This is still one of my favorite stories of mine and one of the few I can go back and read and not cringe over. The story came together easily and was inspired heavily by the story Pool Night by Amy Hempel, who I was re-reading for the hundredth time. I like it because the voice and character are very different than what I usually write.

I love this story, Nicholas. I remember reading it when it came out. It does remind me of Amy Hempel’s work, quiet but powerful. No wonder it was recognized. What books or short stories have you read many times, and what draws you back to these works?

I will re-read every piece of flash written by Claudia Smith until the day I die. She was one of the first flash authors I really “got” over a decade ago, and her work still resonates with me (the voice, simplicity and economy of words, and emotion). Other flash authors I love are Cathy Ulrich, Kathy Fish, Kim Chinquee, Meg Pokrass, Tiff Holland, Casey Hannan, Robert Scotellaro, and so many more. As for novels, “Why Did I Ever” and “One D.O.A…” by Mary Robison are essential reads and I re-read them in some form once a year. Mary Robison has one of the most distinct and captivating voices and is a huge inspiration to me. I find I think like a lot of her characters (although maybe not so exaggerated, I hope).

Thank you for the mention! I feel the same way about Claudia Smith Chen’s, work and Mary Robison is an all-time favorite writer of mine, too.

Forgive me, but I always ask this question: Is there something funny / interesting / weird / wonderful about you that you’d like to share? 

I’ll have been traveling around Europe prior to and after the workshop as I’ll be on a twelve week sabbatical from my job. I’m excited to see what inspiration that brings! Maybe I will stop writing about the southwest and deserts.

Nicholas Cook’s fiction has appeared in Lost Balloon, Jellyfish Review, Unbroken Journal, Bath Flash Fiction Award, and elsewhere. He was a finalist for Best Small Fictions 2018. He lives in Texas.

Note: Our French Connection Retreat sold out very quickly (you may get on the wait list for it though!) Check out our other upcoming retreats in Costa Rica (there’s a VERY special limited time discount you might want to jump on) and Grand Lake, Colorado. 

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!


Know anyone who could use a half-price writers’ retreat? Special deal on Writing Wild in Costa Rica!

Limited-Time Opportunity for a Half-Price Flash Fiction Retreat in Costa Rica, March 2020!

With the purchase of one all-inclusive retreat package, get a 2nd one for half off!

Invite a friend to join you for our Writing Wild in Costa Rica Retreat March 21st-27th & gift them with the half-priced fee (as low as $725 all-inclusive) OR register together and split the savings! We can only extend this deep discount to the first TWO pairs of writers to register. If interested, act soon! 

Your all-inclusive fee includes:

  • Six nights accommodation 
  • Three Delicious, Ayurvedic Meals Per Day
  • ALL workshops + One on One Consultations
  • Airport Pick-Up & Drop-Off
  • Final Night Celebration & Salon Reading Under the Stars
Samadhi Suite

“This retreat EXCEEDED all my expectations. Gorgeous location, perfect weather, delicious food & friendly, accommodating staff. I’m a flash fiction writing newbie and learned so much from everyone. I will carry the knowledge and wonderful memories with me forever!” ~Lucy Merklee

More About Writing Wild in Costa Rica
All-Inclusive Fees & Accommodations
Register / Request More Information 


We’ve also just opened registration for our 3rd annual Colorado Retreat. Check it out: High Altitude Inspiration in the Great American West for August 19th-23rd! 


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


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


FAQ/Other Questions


We’d love to have you!
Kathy and Nancy

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!

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.


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!