Nancy Stohlman

Ready to Virtual Retreat in Spain this June? Ask a question:

Consider this a personal invitation to join me on my teaching and scouting adventures this summer to Spain, England, and Colorado!

If you have virtually traveled with me in the past, you know how much I LOVE traveling/writing and sharing inspirational discoveries, photos, and the strange workings of my brain when I spend too much time alone! (And I’ll be scounting future retreat locations too: shhh!)

And I’m excited to give you a sneak peak into what goes on during a Flash Fiction Writing Retreat–without interrupting all the privacy and creation happening, of course!

So hang out with me and other amazing writers this summer! It’s the next best thing to being there in person!

Follow the adventures on:

Instagram and Facebook and Facebook Retreats Page

And (NEW!) since I will be creating lots of content all summer, I would love for you to Ask Me A Question (like these) I can answer for you while traveling…and it might even end up in a future workshop.

This can be a question about flash fiction, travel, writing, the writing life or process, craft, what I’m reading: you name it. I will try to answer all questions LIVE in Spain–we’ll see how it goes!

First Stop: Spain! (photo below from my scouting trip in 2021).

“See” you on the other side!

Happy traveling and writing, ya’ll!

xo

Nancy

Interviews, Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Spain Retreat 2022: Nancy Stohlman talks with House of Light in Andalucia

Costa Rica 2022

It’s always wonderful to welcome new retreats to House of Light, and in June, we are delighted that award winning author, professor and performer, Nancy Stohlman, along with Kathy Fish will be bringing their group of writers, to dive into their creative flow of words for the Open Your Heart Open Your Art retreat.

Thank you Nancy for taking the time to share more about you and your work… we can’t wait to meet you and Kathy in person! 

Nancy Stohlman and Kathy Fish

When did you first discover your love for writing and performing?

I’ve been reading, writing, and performing since childhood (as many future writers do). Growing up on military bases in Europe meant television in English was often not an option, and because we moved so often I became childhood best friends with authors and their books instead. Performance has also been part of my life for as long as I can remember–my parents were folk musicians (I was playing guitar and writing songs by age 10) and my mother started a Spanish clown troupe and recruited all of us (yes, I was a child clown). So…it’s in my blood.

So, what does Flash Fiction involves as a writer?

Flash fiction is all about compression, elimination, and the literary acrobatics required to tell a complete but compelling story in a small space.

I love novels, but as a writer (and reader) it’s a very different experience to tell a story when you have endless room to stretch out vs telling it in a restricted space. In that way I think flash fiction lies at the crossroads between the novel and poetry–we can tell epic stories with the skilled precision of language and white space, and the results are stunning.

Nancy reading at Salon Night in Iceland

Your bio describes you as a ‘rabble rouser’… tell us more!

I love to think out of the box and stir things up. I think that’s the job of all creative and visionary peopleto: envision possibilities where no one else sees them…yet. It’s really a sort of magic. And not only does this happen for me on the page, but also in the world. More than 10 years ago I started the Fbomb Flash fiction Reading Series–the first and longest running flash fiction centered reading series (it now has several spin-offs!) Around the same time I also started FlashNano: 30 stories in 30 days during the month of November. Last year was our 10th anniversary and we had over 2,000 participants! And of course five years ago Flash Fiction Retreats was just an idea I dreamed up with Kathy Fish–what if we could take writers to exotic places and give them the gift of just writing for a week? And now–poof! Here we are.

the whole gang on retreat in Colorado

What do you love most about hosting your writing retreats… what’s the most fulfilling part of your work?

I love hosting writing retreats! Kathy Fish and I have often remarked that every retreat has its unique flavour: not only is each location unique, but each group that coalesces has its own signature. And honestly, the best part for me is creating a safe, nurturing, and inspiring container for other writers like me. I know well how challenging the day-to-day of writing can be–it’s solitary work by its very nature, and alone we can find ourselves in a rut, bogged down by real life and uninspired. Travel has always been my way out of ruts–forcing me out of comfort and back into the space of novelty. To be able to give others that same experience–not only travel, time, and novelty but a real creative community welcoming you on the other side–feels like the gift I needed to give myself. Watching others walk away rested and inspired, with new stories and a reset on their lives (even just a week of catching up on sleep!)–it’s a gift I feel lucky to be able to give.

some cafe writing post-retreat in France

What are you looking forward to most about coming to House of Light?

I’ve been admiring your space and your vibe for SO long now that it already feels like it will be a homecoming. I can’t wait to eat Ceri’s cooking, sit in those hammocks, and just be in Spain. And those yurts! Those views! Can I sit on your terrace and write all day, please! Plus I’ve never been to southern Spain–so I’m excited about that. But mostly I’m looking forward to meeting our group in person and engaging with all the brilliance they will inevitably bring to the table–we have a mix of new retreat participants and old retreat friends, so I’ve been extra inspired (and excited!) as I prepare my brand new workshop materials. It’s like the first time every time!

Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Yes, we have 3 spots left, so if you are curious about flash fiction and/or want to commune with other writers for an amazing week of creativity, inspiration and renewal, then I’d love to chat with you! And if you want to know more about flash fiction, my book, Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction, is re-releasing as an audiobook on March 15–it’s a wonderful primer for newbies and a valuable resource for flash fiction veterans.

And of course: thank you for having us and for your hospitality! We can’t wait to give real hugs soon!

Find out more about facilitator Nancy Stohlman

Find out more about facilitator Kathy Fish

Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 29: Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical–A Deserted Place

I’ve been thinking a lot about deserted places, the way this worldwide situation is changing our public spaces. I was really moved by these photos of iconic places: The Eiffel Tower, The Taj Mahal, The French Quarter, The Pyramids of Giza, Times Square, The Washington Mall, The Great Wall of China…empty.

And on the other hand, the empty lake that I usually walk or bike around is now crowded–so many bikes there yesterday I felt like I was on the Tour de France.

As we continue to navigate places and and redefine our spaces, I want to invite you for your second to last prompt to consider the latent tension inside solitude.

Tell a story inside an empty landscape. Consider the latent tension of the rustling cornfield, the quiet junk yard, the silent train station.

eiffel empty

Much love and solidarity

xoxo Nancy

Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 27: Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical April 11–Bibliomancy

It’s a great word, isn’t it? Bibliomancy

It means to “consult” seemingly random passages from books as messages or guides–or in this case starting points or prompts.

(Officially it means: “foretelling the future by interpreting a randomly chosen passage from a book, especially the Bible.” From Wikipedia: “Bibliomancy is the use of books in divination.”)

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Your prompt:

Open the closest book and put your finger down on the page. Where it “lands” is your story starter: Use that sentence as a first line (or maybe the title)…

(Here is my result, from On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous: “What’s left of November seeps through their jeans, their thin knit sweaters.”)

Happy Writing!

xoxo

Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Day 25: Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical April 9–Parables

Last night I was rereading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron, and I wanted to share this parable about a man dealing with fear:

“He said he was determined to get rid of his negative emotions. He struggled against anger and lust; he struggled against laziness and pride. But mostly he wanted to get rid of his fear. His meditation teacher kept telling him to stop struggling, but he took that as just another way of explaining how to overcome his obstacles.

Finally the teacher sent him off to meditate in a tiny hut in the foothills. He shut the door and settled down to practice, and when it got dark he lit three small candles. Around midnight he heard a noise in the corner of the room, and in the darkness he saw a very large snake. It looked to him like a king cobra. It was right in front of him, swaying. All night he stayed totally alert, keeping his eyes on the snake. He was so afraid that he couldn’t move. There was just the snake and himself and fear.

Just before down the last candle went out, and he began to cry. He cried not in despair but from tenderness. He felt the longing of all the animals and people in the world; he knew their alienation and their struggle. All his meditation had been nothing but further separation and struggle. He accepted–really accepted wholeheartedly–that he was angry and jealous, that he resisted and struggled, and that he was afraid. He accepted that he was also precious beyond measure–wise and foolish, rich and poor, and totally unfathomable. He felt so much gratitude that in the total darkness he stood up, walked towards the snake, and bowed. Then he fell sound asleep on the floor.

When he awoke, the snake was gone. He never knew if it was his imagination or if it had really been there, and it didn’t seem to matter. That much intimacy with fear caused his dramas to collapse and the world around him finally got through.”

The power of parable, and the reason they have such a lasting effect, is because parables use the power of narrative to show rather than tell. And since human beings are by nature storytellers, the lessons are more usually understood, absorbed, and assimilated.

Most religious texts use parables, but other books I love that use parables and allegory are The Tao of Pooh and The Alchemist, if you are looking for some quarantine reading.

Your prompt:

Write a parable.

(These three steps are adapted from here)

  1. Start with the moral lesson. Think about a moral principle that has been important in your own life, or one that you’re still struggling to learn fully. You might also choose something that you’re curious about and want to explore.
  2. Consider its consequences. What might happen as a result of behaving (or not behaving) according to your moral lesson? In “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” the consequence of dishonesty is that liars will not be believed in important moments, and it’s hard to live without people’s trust.
  3. Write a story following a basic beginning-middle-end structure. The beginning sets the stage and tells us who all the main characters are, while establishing important themes; in the middle, some kind of problem, conflict, or danger emerges; and in the end, we learn about the results of that conflict.

(And for fun: here’s a picture of me with a cobra in Nepal when I was about 27. Unlike the lesson of the man in the parable, my face is saying: take the picture quick!)

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Happy Writing! In solidarity!

xoN