Writing in the Blue Zone: Eco-Flash Retreat in Costa Rica, March 21-27, 2020

Jungle walks ending at the untamed ocean. The sounds of parrots, iguanas and howler monkeys. You, barefoot and writing, writing, writing…

Playa Negra sunset

The Nicoya peninsula of Costa Rica is one of five “Blue Zones” in the world, areas where people are healthier, happier, and live longer. And if that wasn’t enough, Costa Rica is also a world leader in environmental initiatives and action–surrounded by the beautiful wilds they have taken it upon themselves to be leaders in preserving and caring for their piece of the planet. According to Adventure Sports Network, Costa Rica is “paving the way  to sustainable tourism:”

”The land of “Pura Vida” produces 93 percent of its energy using renewable resources, and in 2017 it broke its own record by running for 300 days solely on energy from renewable sources. Despite being small in size, Costa Rica accounts for five percent of Earth’s biodiversity, and luckily 25 percent of its territory is protected by the National System of Conservation Areas. The country is forward thinking, and by 2021 it hopes to be the first carbon neutral country in the world.”

Join us for our return to Peace Retreat in Playa Negra, Guanacaste, a short 20-min walk to the Pacific Ocean (and one of the world’s rare black sand beaches) for an immersive experience of discovery, creation, inspiration and building community. You will gain perspective, respite, focus, time, camaraderie and the gift of prioritizing yourself and your art.

Find your inspiration and happiness in the Blue Zone as we write together in symbiosis with nature, breathe clean air, eat gentle, healthy foods, sleep to the sounds of the wind, shed the excess mental baggage and find our bare, creative hearts in the land of Pura Vida (pure life), all the while remembering that the care of our planet and the care of our our creativity always comes from our hearts.

Connect with your Creative Heart and discover the secrets of the Blue Zone with us in March.


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Creative Renaissance, Our Italy Retreat: Kathy’s Recap + Testimonials


Writing & Workshopping in “La Scuola”

Our recent retreat at Palazzo Forani in Casperia was such a fabulous, inspiring experience for me as a teacher. Nancy and I could not have asked for a more wonderful, talented group of writers to work with. Lasting memories, great new friendships, lots of new writing, terrific food (and wine!). I will never forget it. But! Importantly, we wanted to make sure it was a great experience for our participants! Below are some of the very kind words they had for our “Creative Renaissance” retreat. I want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. ❤


“The writers retreat with Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman was an inspiring, magical, once-in-a-lifetime experience. They are wonderful instructors, writers and mentors with great insight into the craft, as well as the writing life. I also loved meeting people from all over the world who are passionate about writing. I left the retreat feeling re-energized and refocused about my writing. In short, I loved every minute.” ~K.B. Jensen

“Location, location, location? Not only. This experience pulled my writing in new directions and left me with a sense that a retreat can be both demanding of one’s mind and easy on one’s spirit. Kathy and Nancy were inspiring instructors who brought together a talented and generous group of flash fiction-loving writers. Together, they offered guidance that I can continue to draw on each time I take to the page.” ~Charmaine Wilkerson

“Retreating with Kathy and Nancy in Casperia was very special. I learnt such a lot from them both and from all the other great writers in our group, and now I’m ready to take my flash fiction to the next level. ” ~Cath Barton

“Kathy and Nancy’s workshops and one-on-one sessions are invaluable. In addition to excellent instruction sheets, they provided inspiring examples that supported the lessons. Our group dynamic was warm with praise and constructive criticism. Outside of the ‘work’, we had wonderful cultural immersion – at one point almost everyone up to their elbows in pasta making. An unforgettable week in a stunning setting!” ~Marie Gethins

The Sabina Hills

“Every detail was meticulously thought out by Kathy and Nancy to assure an absolutely enchanting experience. A perfect mix of work and fun.  Can’t wait to do it again! ” ~Jayne Martin

“Kathy and Nancy, together with the other participants, helped me discover side roads into the well-worn highway of habit and comfort in my writing, opening up new vistas and possibilities. Free yourself from the tramlines and explore, they cry!” ~Oliver Barton

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“A Real-Life Game of Clue”: Nancy recaps our Italy retreat!


Picture this: 15 writers gather high in the rainy hills of Italy in an old medieval palace for a week…and someone gets murdered! Was it Kathy in the granary? Miss Jude in the kitchen? Charmaine in the red tower? Madam Marie in the dining room with the spider? Kim and Kirsten in the arches with the gargoyle? Professor Oliver in the billards room or the twins Beth and Nicole in the Saints Bedroom? Was it Cath in the Rose room or Gina in the library with the candle?

Thankfully nobody was actually murdered during our Springtime in Italy retreat, but if we’d wanted to play a real-life game of Clue, this would have been the place! As one of our participants, John Wheway, said: “This is the craziest place I have ever stayed!” and I couldn’t agree more. From holding classes in the medieval olive oil cellar to Jayne Martin ending up in the carefully preserved “cardinal’s bed”, our retreat at Palazzo Forani was haunted, mysterious, and beautiful, the space an antique relic lovingly cared for by the Forani sisters, who became like family. The wine and words kept flowing, the language barrier made for some great laughs, and the spring rain kept us inside the palace and focused on writing. Our final night salon in the Virgil tapestry room was dreamy and unreal. Good food was eaten, good friendships made. Forever grateful to such an amazing group of writers coming together and laying it all out on the (pasta) table in Casperia, Italy. It was an honor to both facilitate and be part of the group creative process. Saluti until we meet again! ~Nancy



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Saturday May 25: Flash Fiction Featured Reading at Rome’s Otherwise Bookstore

When in Rome, Read Flash Fiction!

Flash fictions are complete stories under 1,000 words and they are increasingly popular around the globe. Come hear 14 visiting writers from the Ireland, U.K., Switzerland, Canada and the United States read their micro-stories at this one-time event!

Saturday, May 25


Otherwise Bookstore


Outside Otherwise Bookshop.8dbb3d_64fe77135ca649da94edf8851a8fe164mv2

The evening features award-winning writers, publishers, and masters of the craft including:

Nancy Stohlman (U.S)

Jayne Martin (U.S)

Beth Gilstrap (U.S)

Bryan Jansing (U.S./Italy)

K.B. Jensen (U.S.)

Kim Samsain (Canada)

Jude Higgins (U.K.)

John Wheway (U.K.)

Cath Barton (U.K)

Oliver Barton (U.K)

Marie Gethins (Ireland)

Nicole Schmied (Switzerland)

Gina Headden (U.K.)

and musical guest Nick Busheff (U.S.)





Ryan Stone on the Magic of Flash Fiction: A Perfect Five-Minute Escape From the World

I’ve been working virtually with Australian Ryan Stone for several years, so I was thrilled to learn that he has decided to take the plunge and fly halfway around the world to join Kathy Fish and I in Grand Lake, Colorado this August!
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?
Ryan Stone: I still haven’t figured that one out! My writing is a series of staccato bursts, squeezed in around everything else. A common story, I guess. Nearly all of my writing starts while I’m running with my dog through the rainforest beside my house. He’s developed his very own ‘here we go again’ face that he pulls each time a run pauses so I can tap out a note or two on my phone.
I’m lucky enough to have my own room with a view, filled with my electric guitars, books, and music. On the rare occasions when I find myself in a quiet house with nothing else demanding my time, my favourite thing to do is to tuck myself away, put some vinyl onto my record player, and start revising all the drafts I’ve jotted down over the last few weeks. I find Metallica, Pink Floyd, Concrete Blonde, and The Doors work best when I’m writing.
Nancy: Ha! I can’t imagine revising to Metallica! Tell us about your relationship with flash fiction?
Ryan: I think I’ve always been a flash fiction writer, I just didn’t know it until recently. I’ve spent the last few years writing poetry. I’ve always had a particular fondness for haiku, senryu, and 5-7-5 as I love working within those tight constraints where I’m forced to focus on every single word. I’ve written a few short stories, and some longer ones, but I always feel like I’m padding in places. Since I stumbled across flash, I’ve pretty much written it exclusively. To my mind it’s the perfect middle ground between a poem and a short story. I love reading it too – such a magic form to provide a complete escape from the world for 5 minutes.
Nancy: YES! I can’t agree more. Now what is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?
Ryan: I can’t remember the exact phrasing, but my interpretation is, a draft is a beginning— revision is what makes good writing great. As silly as it sounds, for a long time I viewed my first drafts as almost-finished pieces. It wasn’t until I read that that I was able to view my drafts as a way of getting ideas out onto the page, and the revision process as the real honing and shaping that turns an idea into something more. I’m about as sharp as a bowling ball most days!
Nancy: What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?  Where can we read it (if it’s available)?
Ryan: In the fairly short time that I’ve been writing short stories and flash, I’ve been fortunate enough to win a few competitions and get some of my writing published. The piece I think sums up my writing style the best, and one I enjoy re-reading myself, is called Catching Tigers. It was a winner of the 2018 Scintillating Starts Contest at WriterAdvice.com, and has also appeared in a few of other places in different guises. The WriterAdvice version is my favourite:
Nancy: I’m so excited for you–congratulations! Have you ever been to Grand Lake before? What are you most looking forward to?
Ryan: No! Attending this retreat in Grand Lake combines two of the things on the top of my “must do” list. I live in Melbourne, Australia, and have always held a deep fascination and love for America. I’ve completed a couple of online courses with Nancy but have been dying to attend one in person, as well as travel to America. A perfect combination! I’ve been on a couple of surfing trips to Hawaii, but this will be my first visit to Colorado.
There are so many things I’m looking forward to on this trip that it’s hard to narrow it down to a single one. I love the outdoors, hiking and trail running, so one of the top things on my agenda is to get up early and explore a new trail or two while the world wakes up.
Nancy: Colorado is so beautiful–you have picked a perfect American spot to land, I promise! Speaking of travel then, react to this quote:  “We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the secret tonic of creativity. When we get home, home is still the same. But something in our mind has been changed, and that changes everything.”
–Jonah Lehrer, “Why We Travel,” Panorama Magazine (Deccember 2009)
Ryan: Wow! That sums up my thoughts in a far more articulate way than I’ve ever managed. After finishing a 3 year stint in the army, I surfed my way around Australia for 18 months. I discovered the truth in that quote for myself when I returned home. I wish I’d written it.
Nancy: Ha! Me too. Okay, last thing: Tell us something we don’t know about you?
Ryan: I have a good friend coming to this retreat whom I’ve never met.
Nancy: So exciting! And I look forward to meeting YOU in person as well! xoxo
My short fiction and poetry have appeared in publications including Eunoia Review, The Drabble, Algebra of Owls and Silver Birch Press, and won prizes in a number of competitions at venues including Grindstone, Writer Advice, Goodreads, Writers’ Forum Magazine and Poetry Nook. I’m a 2018 Pushcart Prize nominee and live in Melbourne, Australia.