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Interviews

Author Jayne Martin on Fear & Self-Sabotage

Nancy and I were so thrilled when the lovely, funny, and talented Jayne Martin, who’d participated in our debut retreat last summer in Breckenridge, signed on again for our upcoming Springtime in Italy Retreat in Casperia. We’d interviewed Jayne before and thought this time we’d do something a little different, so we asked her to share some of her writerly wisdom with us here on the blog. Thanks so much, Jayne!

 

Let’s Talk About Fear

I haven’t been sleeping well. So last night I put an Advil PM on the bathroom counter to take just before going to bed. And I had a great night’s sleep.

Today I noticed that blue pill still sitting right where I’d put it. Never took the goddamn thing. But I believed I did and so my body acted accordingly. We create our reality according to our beliefs, which is great when those beliefs support our best interests. Not so great when they sabotage us.

Lately, I’ve been in a writing funk. Old demons long thought to be banished have arisen. In my case they’re saying, “You’re not good enough, so we’re going to keep you from embarrassing yourself by giving you a shitload of excuses to not write.”

You might know this particular demon. Or maybe you have one of your very own telling you:

“You can’t achieve your goals because your success will take time away from your family.”

“Other people get all the breaks. The odds are stacked against you, so why even try.”

“Look at all that competition! Damn! There’s not enough success, abundance (fill in the blank) to go around.”

Or the ever-popular, “You’re a complete fraud and you’re going to be found out.” Yeah, I got that one, too.

Recently, I called out another writer on what I saw as her bullshit excuses. I should know better. Not because of the obvious — I had no right to judge her — but because the Universe immediately held up a gigantic mirror and said “Judge not lest ye be judged, bitch.” And so I not only owe that other writer an apology, I owe her a big thank you and probably an expensive bottle of wine because now I’ve been forced to look at my own crippling crap.

I haven’t written a thing I’m proud of in months. The last two workshops I took I expected to choke and what do you know? Choke, I did!

The thing about these sabotaging beliefs is they lurk in the deepest crevices of our minds and then run our lives like little tyrants. We don’t even know they are there until what we don’t want keeps showing up in our lives instead of what we do want. “WHY THE FUCK DOES THIS KEEP HAPPENING TO ME?!”

I’m not a religious person, but a good quote is a good quote:  “As you believe, so it shall be unto you” – Jesus Christ (before we made him a Superstar).

Today I was given three opportunities from the Universe to turn around my fears. The first, as mentioned, was the direction to look at my own sabotaging beliefs before I judged others. The second was an invitation from Kathy and Nancy to write this post to which my immediate reaction was, “Oh shit! What am I going to write about?” The third was the loving outreach from a dear writer friend encouraging me to take an upcoming workshop.

Our demons are constantly testing our vigilance. So, I’m going to take that workshop with expectations of only fun and joy, and that is the experience I’m going to create.

Jayne Martin is a 2017 Pushcart nominee, 2016 winner of Vestal Review’s VERA award, and a 2018 Best Small Fictions nominee. Her work has appeared in Literary Orphans, Spelk, Crack the Spine, Midwestern Gothic, MoonPark Review, Blink-Ink, Cabinet of Heed, Connotation Press and Hippocampus among others. She lives in California where she drinks copious amounts of fine wine and rides horses, though not at the same time. Find her on Twitter @Jayne_Martin.

NOTE: Our Springtime in Italy Retreat is now full, but openings remain for High Altitude Inspiration: Four Days in the Clouds in Grand Lake, Colorado (this August) and we’ve just opened registrations for our return to Costa Rica for Writing Wild in 2020! Join us!

 

Kathy fish

“Just Read” (from an essay originally published in Lascaux Review)

I’m often asked my advice to writers. Mostly I say, just read.

Read Flannery O’Connor. Read Joy Williams. Read William Maxwell.  (Please read  William  Maxwell.)

Read about the universe. Read about neuroanatomy. Read “On the Origin of Species.”

Read “Nine Stories.” Read Tolstoy. Read Carson McCullers. Read Edward P. Jones. Read Willa Cather. Read Yasunari Kawabata. Study atlases and maps. Read E.B. White. Read fairy tales.

Remember that “fresh new voices” can come from people over forty. Find those writers and read them.

Read Shakespeare. Read Amy Hempel and Lydia Davis. Compare. At least once a week, read a book published by a small press. Read, read, read poetry.

Find a book on Entomology. Learn the names of all the insects that inhabit your backyard. (Or make up names for them.) Read Freud. Read graphic novels. Read prose poetry and flash fiction. Study the dictionary.

Read a book about a place you never been to from a writer whose name you can’t pronounce.

Read naked. But not in public.

Find and read a newspaper from the day you were born. Or any old newspaper. Learn another language, then read a novel or poetry in that language.

Read “One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish” out loud with no children present.

Read philosophy.

Buy a thick notebook and write “Sentences I Love” on the cover. Fill it up and buy another one.

Read collections of short stories and flash fiction.

Read the history of the town you grew up in.

Read Jane Austen and Edith Wharton and the Bronte sisters. Read Katherine Mansfield and Shirley Jackson and Kõbõ Abe. Read Grace Paley. Read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Read long into the night until the characters walk around in your dreams. Read “The Dead” at least one winter afternoon a year.

Or don’t read any of these and just read whatever the hell you want. Whatever books strike your fancy at any moment in time. The only mistake you can make as a writer is not reading.

But should your mother or your aunt or your grandmother or grandfather want to tell you their stories, close whatever book you’re reading and listen.

~Kathy

 

 

 

Interviews

The Fellowship of Other Creatives: Onward to Italy with Beth Gilstrap

Nancy and I are so looking happy that Beth Gilstrap will be joining us in Casperia for our Springtime in Italy Retreat this May! Beth generously took some time to chat with me. 

 Hi Beth! First, will this be your first visit to Italy? 

 This will be my first trip to Italy. I’ve been to Turkey, Czech Republic, Hungary, England, Scotland, Canada, and Mexico but never Italy. I am so excited as it’s a long time dream to visit.

 What are you most hoping for, for the retreat this May? 

 Travel and getting out of my comfort zone are always great for generating new material. I hope to focus on starting a new collection and building relationships with fellow writers. I live in Charlotte, NC, which though it has its perks, isn’t a great city for writers. Anytime I can take a break and bond with my people, I find it helps me make it through the rest of my time spent in a banking town.

 We’re gathered at Palazzo Forani, a bunch of writers from all over the world, communing over pasta and freshly baked bread and local wine…who is your dream guest or dream ghost that’s there with us?  

Oh goodness. Aside from an Italian grandma who I’d beg to adopt me and teach me her ways, I’d have to say Anthony Bourdain if we’re talking ghost. And if we’re talking guest, Samin Nosrat of Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. I’m obsessed with words and food and would follow those two anywhere though I doubt they’d want me as a sidekick since I’ve been vegetarian most of my life.

 Ah, great choices. What fun Anthony Bourdain would be. I’m sort of obsessed with Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat too! Switching gears now, I’m interested to know what’s your favorite story, poem, essay, flash, that you’ve written and why?

I still love this old one about the kind of fellowship you only find amongst other creatives. It’s calledSpaghettification.” I love to read this one because the rhythm becomes almost feverish.

Beth, this is gorgeous. I love this:   

Now…can you tell us something about you that’s wonderful, weird, unique, funny, endearing…whatever? 

One time I volunteered for a local cat shelter. I bottle fed some orphaned kittens and wound up keeping them. I have four cats and two dogs and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Aw, I love it. It says a lot about you, Beth. We’re so looking forward to seeing you in Italy this May. Thanks for chatting with me!

Beth Gilstrap is the author of I Am Barbarella: Stories (2015) from Twelve Winters Press and No Man’s Wild Laura (2016) from Hyacinth Girl Press. She serves as Fiction Editor at Little Fiction | Big Truths and a reader at Creative Nonfiction.Her work has been selected as Longform.org’s Fiction Pick of the Week and recently selected by Dan Chaon for inclusion in the Best Microfiction Anthology. Her work has appeared in Ninth Letter, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, The Minnesota Review, Hot Metal Bridge, and Little Patuxent Review, among others.

Note: Our “Springtime in Italy” Retreat is sold out, but we’re taking registrations for our Flash Fiction Summer Camp in Grand Lake, CO this August and have just opened registrations for Writing Wild in Costa Rica in March, 2020! We’d love for you to join us!

Nancy Stohlman

Spring is Coming: Planting Seeds for The Rupture of Your Creativity

Here in Colorado, the Rocky Mountains are still covered in what feels like endless snow, but underneath all that snow the spring flowers are actually stirring…we just can’t see them yet.

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Grand Lake, Colorado, in winter

This “stirring” is a potent metaphor for our own creativity: Sometimes we cannot see the fruits of our labor yet, but underneath the surface new life is growing still. And just like spring, one day we will look around and ask: Where did all these flowers come from all of a sudden?

But the artist knows that it never happens all of a sudden.

I love this quote by Cynthia Occelli:  “For a seed to achieve its greatest expression, it must come completely undone. The shell cracks, its insides come out and everything changes. To someone who doesn’t understand growth, it would look like complete destruction.”

frc3bchlingsblumen_im_schnee

So hang on! The rupture of your best work may be working its way to the surface right now!

That also means that now is the perfect time to start planting your creative seeds for the spring/summer: What creative flowers do you want to bloom this year? Do you want to send out more submissions? Enter a contest? Finish a manuscript? Maybe you want to get into a daily writing routine? Try a new form (like flash fiction!)? Get your website going? Network with other writers or go on a writing retreat with us?

Whatever your goals are, now is the time to put those seeds in the ground and let them stir–invisible but moving–towards fruition.

Happy planting!

Love, Nancy

Find out more about Flash Fiction Summer Camp in Grand Lake August 2019

Find out more about Writing Wild in Costa Rica March 2020

 

 

Uncategorized

K.B. Jensen: On Books, Bucket Lists, and Dreaming Big in Italy

KBPhoto

Kathy Fish and I are excited that fellow Denverite K.B. Jensen will be joining us in Casperia, Italy for our first European flash fiction retreat! I chat with K.B. here about books, bucket lists, and what it’s like to be bi-cultural, among other things:

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?

K.B. Jensen: To tell you the truth, I suck at that lately, which is why I’m excited to jumpstart my writing this spring with the Italy retreat. I definitely struggle to find the time to write these days, and I want to get back into the routine.

Writing a book is like putting together a puzzle, you have to keep chipping at it. The easiest time I ever had of it was when I was a stay at home parent and my kid was a baby and took naps. I never knew if I’d have thirty minutes to write or two hours, so I wrote my first novel like mad during her naptime. But now she’s older, and I work as a professional editor, publishing consultant and ski instructor, as well, so the writing time has become scarcer. What has been helpful has been to give myself permission to write and to write early in the day while my eyes are fresh. I recently literally wrote myself a permission slip for writing one hour daily. Lately, it has been mostly journaling and poetry, but it feels good, and it’s like playing the scales on a piano.

I also enjoyed doing challenges like FlashNaNoWriMo, where you write a short story a day. That was really helpful, Nancy. I love your prompts. Thank you for sending them daily in November.

Nancy: You are so welcome! And I relate SO much to the writing-during-naptime and I LOVE the permission slip! Can you tell us about your relationship to flash fiction?

K.B. I’m not married to it. I play with all sorts of lengths and genres. But I do love flash. It’s fun and playful. I also like writing concisely. I was a journalist for fifteen years, so I love brevity and getting to the point quickly.

Nancy: So what piece of your own writing are you most proud of? Where could we read it (if it’s available)?

K.B. That’s like choosing between children. I’m really proud of my books. Painting With Fire is more popular generally since it’s a murder mystery, but A Storm of Stories is probably my favorite child of the two. Both represent different times in my life with Painting With Fire drawing from all the crime stories I wrote as a newspaper reporter, talking to all those cops, neighbors and family members of victims. It is fiction, but it’s true to life.

A Storm of Stories is definitely more literary, poetic and metaphorical. It’s a complex book. I didn’t even realize I was writing it the way I was, but the themes just fit together into a bigger story. It’s a novel full of short stories with two strangers trapped in a car in a whiteout storm telling each other stories to stay alive. The stories all have the themes of love, craziness and impossibility. And then there’s the story and mystery of the two storytellers, as well. The things our stories reveal about us, what’s real and what’s made up. Storytelling can be so intimate and revealing. These main characters don’t know each other, but they do.

I also have an award-winning short story that’s speculative fiction about a woman who turns into her grandmother overnight, but I haven’t actually published it yet. You can find samples of A Storm of Stories and Painting With Fire on Amazon, if you want to get a feel.

Nancy: Since you have published several books—what are some of the most important things you have learned from that process?

K.B. Don’t publish in a vacuum. Never publish alone. I didn’t make that mistake, thankfully. I had a lot of help. I know a ton about publishing now that I wish I knew when I first started. I could write a whole book on that question. To sum it up? Go big. Dream big. Market big. Have a team.

I also learned to not be so scared. Weirdly enough, even after working as a journalist for magazines and newspapers, I used to be terrified of people reading my fiction. When my first book came out, I told myself no one would read it and that made me feel better. It was comforting. After 70,000 people downloaded it, I freaked out a bit, then let that fear go. So I have learned not to be scared of sharing fiction. I am still nervous about sharing poetry though. I guess I have it weirdly compartmentalized. At my first live-lit event years ago, my hands shook so badly, you could see the paper flutter. Hard to imagine now.

Nancy: That is such amazing advice, especially about fear. I agree–fear only holds us back. So proud of you and looking forward to seeing more in Italy. Have you been to Italy before? What are you most looking forward to?

K.B. I have always wanted to go to Italy. It’s been on my bucket list, but this is a first for me. I’m looking forward to meeting some cool fellow writers, getting some writing done, refocusing and being inspired by a beautiful country.

Nancy: React to this quote by Richard Branson: “The most talented, thought-provoking, game-changing people are never normal.” Are you “normal”?

K.B. Hell no. I’m definitely not normal. That’s a nice quote in that it spins it so positively.

Maybe that was why I was so afraid of sharing my fiction for so long. I was afraid people would read it and think I was crazy or weird. Then I realized, I am a little crazy and fairly weird, and that’s okay. Who wants to be normal? I like weird people too. Interesting characters.

Nancy: I agree! Okay, finally: Tell us something we don’t know about you?

It’s strange, in America, I feel Danish. In Denmark, I feel American. My dad hails from Copenhagen. He didn’t teach me any Danish as a kid. Maybe he wanted me to be American. I rebelled and learned it in college. After I learned, I recorded my grandfather’s World War II memories on tape on long distance calls, but they are all in Danish. I’d like to do something with those stories, as well one of these days, but the prospect of translating all that Danish is intimidating. One day. Another item on the bucket list. Maybe it will be historical fiction or true vignettes about his experiences. I’m not sure.

Nancy: Thank you so much for chatting with me, K.B.! I’m counting the days until our Italian retreat! Until then, where can we find your books?

K.B. You can find my books at:

A Storm of Stories

Painting With Fire

K.B. Jensen is an award-winning author, fiction editor, and publishing consultant with My Word Publishing. Her first book, Painting With Fire, an artistic murder mystery, hit the bestseller list for crime novels on Amazon and has been downloaded more than 70,000 times. Her second book, A Storm of Stories, veers into more literary territory with themes of love, craziness and impossibility. K.B. grew up in Minneapolis and moved from Chicago to Littleton, CO., with her husband, daughter and rescued border collie/lab mix. In her spare time, she enjoys teaching downhill skiing, writing poetry and traveling the world. For more information, visit www.kbjensenauthor.com.

P.S Our Springtime in Italy retreat is Sold Out, but we have room in our Flash Fiction Summer Camp (Colorado) and our just announced Writing Wild in Costa Rica 2020 retreats! Find out more:

Flash Fiction Summer Camp in Colorado: August 14-18, 2018

Writing Wild in Costa Rica 2020: March 21-27, 2020