Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical: March 22

I received this very evocative “then and now” picture from the president of CU Boulder yesterday: This is the Old Main Building in 1918 and now:

CU snip

Which got me thinking about history, and how our story will be told 100 years from now. Let’s not forget that history is always written by the victors. So today, let’s do a little more time traveling, but this time:

Rewrite a scene from history.

In solidarity and love.

xoxo

Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical: March 20

“If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour, you’re gonna see some serious s***” ~Doc Brown, Back to the Future

header-a-message-from-the-future

I’ve talked with many people lately who are thinking about the future: what might our new world look like? It’s fertile material for all your sci-fi leaners, but it’s also just an interesting question. Will society go virtual like Ready Player One? Will we someday take virtual vacations (or virtual writing retreats!) like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Total Recall? Or will the Terminator show up with a message for us from the future?

So…let’s have some fun with our imaginations. Who knows–the future could be amazing.

Write a story in which your character receives a message from the future.

Of course what this message is, and how they receive it, is up to you.

Have fun with it!

Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Bonus Unexpected Sabbatical: March 18

‘But I don’t want to go among mad people,’ said Alice. ‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the cat. ‘We’re all mad here.’ ~ Lewis Carroll

I’m sure the world is feeling pretty mad to you right now. One of the reasons I love absurdity in art is because I believe when we stop looking for TRUTH with the capital T, when we embrace the madness, we’re able to see the more subtle, more real, and usually more potent truths bleeding through the surface of “silly” or “weird.”

f8c67347-8f87-4a8d-8996-29f41f23f973

SO…let’s enter the madness and embrace the weird.

Write a real story, something that happened to you or someone you know that was so ___________(insert adjective here) that no one would believe it’s true.

BUT, when you write it, do not stay bound to TRUTH with a capital T. Instead, invite the story to get even weirder, allow exaggeration and hyperbole to take it in strange directions, and see if something even more interesting starts peeking through.

Nancy Stohlman, Writing Prompts & Craft Articles

Not Writing: Why You Might Be Avoiding Your Work

I was inspired to address this issue after I read multiple social media posts, all from writers I admire, all lamenting that they “weren’t writing.”

Not writing is painful. Unfinished work sitting there is painful. You might beat yourself up with a bunch of “shoulds” and berate your lack of discipline. It can make you feel hopeless, drained of energy and questioning if it’s even worth it. No wonder you keep avoiding it!

head-in-sand

But there are usually some very good reasons why you’re avoiding your work. To start with, you’re a better writer now. Just do the math: if you started even one year ago, then you’re a better writer now. And that’s a good thing! That’s the beauty of practice paying off. But it can also feel frustrating when you realize that first story or first draft, the one you labored over, might have made you a better writer but isn’t at your level anymore.

Or you’re in a different emotional place. Often the impetus that drove us to the page resolves or fades; whatever we were grappling with has been settled. Perhaps we’re on the other side of a life change, and the early writing was part of our process, but now we aren’t “feeling it.”

Or you’re overly loyal to your original vision. After all, you’ve probably put in countless hours of work. But sometimes we become too attached to our original vision; sometimes we’ve read and reread our sentences so many times we can’t imagine them any other way. And when we can’t imagine new possibilities for our work, when everything is known and nothing unknown…well, then it’s no wonder we’re not writing.

And, finally, you might be shifting gears. This almost always happens to me after finishing a big project. After a book for instance, I like to consider myself creatively postpartum, recovering from the birth and taking care of the new baby for at least 6-12 months. Anything I try to write in that time will end up sounding exactly like what I was writing before because I haven’t shifted gears, yet.

But it’s discouraging, regardless of the reason, to find yourself fallow, quiet.

So what to do?

1.Give yourself a break. The creative process ebbs and flows, and what goes up must go down…and back up again. Trust the process.

2. Read. I especially like to reread favorite books in these periods. Sink into the familiar and remember why you love words.

3: Remember: creation is ultimately play. Get silly and messy and re-discover what is joyful. Be curious. Be ridiculous. Be shameless. Take a bold risk into new territory and allow yourself to fail. Remember: no one has to know.

Love, Nancy xoxo

*excerpted from Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction coming this summer
Interviews, Nancy Stohlman, Uncategorized

Adventures in Writing: Ruth Ann Clark on Finishing, Flash Novellas, and France!

RAC2 France

 

We are so excited to get to work with Ruth Ann Clark this June in the gorgeous French countryside! We chatted a bit here about finishing, flash novellas, and of course: France!

Nancy: 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?

Ruth Ann: I’ve been an earlier riser all my life, and I don’t require much sleep. Regardless of the day of the week, I’m awake and up by 5 a.m. I write for two hours. As I’m recently retired, I now write from 5 a.m. to late morning. I’ve found I’m pretty useless after 2 p.m. Definitely an early morning person.

Tell us about your relationship with flash fiction?

I’m a novice. I became aware of flash fiction at a writers’ retreat at Interlochen (Michigan) last year. Although the retreat focused on the novel, several participants had written and published flash fiction. The form piqued my curiosity. I’ve read Brevity-A Flash Fiction Handbook, FLASH! Writing the Very Short Story, and Fish Anthologies 2019. I regularly review online sites to read submissions (mastersreview.com, lost-balloon.com, kenyonreview.org, mslexia.co.uk.)

What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

Two pieces of advice:

I’ve been advised to stay vigilant about overdoing descriptions. Easier said than done, but when I’m mindful of it, my writing improves.

An equally important piece of advice: read the writing aloud.

Yes! The reading aloud is key. What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?  Where can we read it (if it’s available)?

I’m not a published writer. I have been working on a novella (off and on) for ten years. It’s finally finished, at least I think a phase of it is. I’ve probably edited it more times than I’m comfortable admitting, but I’ve drawn the proverbial line in the sand: I’m on the last edit before passing it along to an editor/mentor in May.

Congratulations! So, have you ever been to France before? What are you most looking forward to?

I’ve never been to France. I’m looking forward to everything! I’m excited about meeting other writers, seeing the countryside, visiting museums in Paris and, of course, experiencing the food and wine!

Oh yes! Respond to this quote by French writer Emile Zola: “The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without the work.”  

Well, I’m not sure I’m an artist or that I have a gift. I’d say I have a passion. As for the work, I’m very disciplined. Working and reworking my writing has never been a problem. At the moment, the work I’m working on is to put my writing out there for criticism.

I think it’s all about the passion, truthfully. So…tell us something we don’t know about you?

Last summer I enjoyed a walking tour of Scotland. Slangevar!

Wow–I’ve never been to Scotland but it’s on my list! Anything else you want to add?

I recently acquired a small painting of a summer cottage (6” x 6”, acrylic and pencil). I asked the artist to describe the techniques she used to create it. The image itself and her description have inspired me to perhaps use them in my next writing adventure. I’m in the very early stages of possibility. I’m considering a flash fiction novella where each section begins with a different character or situation while each is informed by the same place. However, I haven’t ruled out the possibility of a longer form. To help with my thinking, I’m reading My Very End of the Universe: Five Novellas in Flash and a Study of the Form.

I love this idea, and I think I might be able to help with that in France (wink!) Thanks so much for chatting with today, Ruth Ann!

Ruth Ann Clark was born in Massachusetts, and up until twenty years ago, she lived on Cape Ann. The good people of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts refer to Cape Ann (located 35 miles north of Boston) as the Other Cape and Cape Cod as The Cape. Clark moved to Michigan in 2000 to be closer to her sister and her family. She still pines for the ocean, which means that she visits the Other Cape at least once a year. Clark has worked in human resources communications, regulatory affairs, and most recently fundraising. In 2018, she retired as a research analyst at Wayne State University in Detroit. She earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Lesley University, Cambridge, MA.  In August she will rent a little cottage in Rockport, MA on the Other Cape.

FYI: Our French Connection Retreat is sold out but we still have spaces for our High Altitude Inspiration in August.