Guest Blog posts, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

“Recovering My Creative Self” by Laura Alexander

In this essay, Laura Alexander asks: “How many of us have not chased our dreams because of a flippant comment made by a friend, a teacher, a sibling, a parent?” When Kathy and I first met Laura in Costa Rica, 2019, she was a self-proclaimed “beginning writer at age 60,” and we all fell in love with her bravery and audacity. Here Laura shares some of the pain of loss and reflects on her creative recovery, which she likens to “finding a long-lost friend.” We’re so honored to share in her process and to reunite with her in person in Grand Lake, Colorado this August!

Recovering my Creative Self

by Laura Alexander

For as long as I can remember I have been an avid reader. My teachers would pass around the thin paper Scholastic Book Club flyers and I would pour over them finding at least 8 or 10 books I wanted to order. My Mom would limit my purchases necessitating me to make what I felt at the time were agonizing choices always leaving me wanting more. As my husband shares my love of books our home is wall to wall bookcases filled to the brim.

As strong as my love of books was, my love of writing was what really occupied my soul. Telling stories was my passion until eighth grade when I was asked to read one of my stories to the class. It was a humorous story and I was worried that no one would laugh. But the class did laugh and the further into the story I read the harder they laughed. My teacher, who sat to the right of me at the front of the class, was nearly falling over in her chair she was laughing so hard. What an adrenaline rush! I was filled with excitement and pride over my story writing skills until one of my classmates walked up to me after that class. “Wow,” she said, “I can’t believe how much Mrs. Gregerson was laughing at your story. The whole class was laughing at her. It wasn’t THAT funny.” Then she sauntered away never fully understanding the effect of her words on my future as a writer. From that day on I never shared my stories again. Although I kept a journal from the time I was 16 years old, my short stories stopped and my dream of writing slowly faded away. Over the years I still wrote long personal letters to friends and relatives, occasional poetry and of course my journal. But my artist child had died and it would take 47 years for me to bring her back to life.

At the age of 60, an age when many of us look at our lives and try to figure out what items are still on our bucket list, I discovered flash fiction and began my creative recovery. Using my photography as prompts I started writing 100 word stories. They were quick, they were fun and they fed my creative self-worth like nothing had since writing my stories in grade school. My short 100 word stories turned into longer 500-1500 word stories and then my memoir based on my journal which I am writing for my four sons. For the first time since eighth grade I timidly shared my stories again at the Flash Fiction Workshop in Costa Rica last year. I was lucky enough to be surrounded by fellow writers brimming with creative energy supporting my floundering efforts. I came home inspired and feeling certain this was what I was meant to do with this last third of my life.

We are so impressionable in our younger years, not yet having the wisdom accumulated through life experience. How many of us have not chased our dreams because of a flippant comment made by a friend, a teacher, a sibling, a parent? Trusting my creativity has opened up a whole new aspect of my personality that I had ignored for way too long. I have managed to recover a sense of safety and power with my writing and it feels heartwarming and soothing like finding a long lost friend.

Laura is a registered nurse, photographer and paddler living with her husband in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of her flash fiction stories are taken from her poignant experiences as a nurse and from the frequent misadventures of raising her four sons. She is currently working on her memoir in hopes of sharing her life’s journey with her boys and granddaughter.

And check out Laura’s amazing photo gallery of Writing Wild in Costa Rica

Ready to join us in Grand Lake this August? We’d love to have you!


Guest Blog posts, Uncategorized

“The Resurrection of Creativity and Personal Growth” by Leslie Archibald

We first had the pleasure of working with Leslie Archibald at our debut retreat in Breckenridge, Colorado, in August 2018 (long live #Breckenflash!). Now, with the distance of time and wisdom, Leslie beautifully reflects on her process, including breakthroughs, creativity fatigue, creating space. We are so looking forward to reuniting with her in France this June!

Breckenridge Retreat: The Resurrection of Creativity and Personal Growth

by Leslie Archibald

I’ve seen women insist on cleaning everything in the house before they could sit down to write… and you know it’s a funny thing about housecleaning… it never comes to an end. Perfect way to stop a woman. A woman must be careful not to allow over-responsibility (or over-respectability) to steal her necessary creative rests, riffs, and raptures. She simply must put her foot down and say no to half of what she believes she “should” be doing. Art is not meant to be created in stolen moments only. – Clarissa Pinkola Estés

While I contemplated how to articulate what I wanted to say about writing retreats, I came across this quote, ironically, on social media (my biggest distraction). Like many writers, I work at a full-time job outside the realm of writing which stifles my creativity and pushes writing to the bottom of the “to do” list. I spend each day writing emails, memos, and crunching numbers (nothing kills creativity faster than math). I come home, cook, clean the kitchen, and say hello to the family. I struggle in the evenings to find a space where I can write – – a space separate from the day where I can create and work on writing projects.

I volunteer at a local writers’ organization and routinely take workshops in search of that space. Someplace to turn my focus to writing and ignite a spark of creativity. Still, I find myself thinking about my “to do” list for the next day or having to hurry home to the family, again, smothering any inspiration those activities may incite.

I finally found that space in Breckenridge with Flash Fiction Retreats. In Breckenridge I was able to leave the daily grind in Houston and immerse myself in the written word. The carefully chosen venue had plenty of space for me to find my little corner to read, write or be inspired by nature. The group discussions were thoughtful and productive. They prompted a breakthrough on my work in progress and I received amazing advice in the “one on one” sessions with Kathy and Nancy. I also met a group of talented and encouraging writers who were happy to share their work and experiences to further inspire.

Stepping out of daily life and focusing on writing with other writers is the perfect remedy for battling creativity fatigue caused by daily processes in the workplace. There is no better group than Flash Fiction Retreats with which to do that.

Leslie Archibald

Leslie Archibald is a graduate of the University of Houston, majoring in English, Creative Writing with a minor in Women’s Studies. She currently works at a full-time office position while continuing to write and edit part time. She is a volunteer at Writespace, a local Writer’s organization in Houston, Texas and is the winner of the 2017 Spider Road Press’s Spiders Web Flash Fiction Prize for her piece “Sherry Baby.” You will also find her flash pieces in Tales of Texas Vol. 2 and online at Silver Needle Press.