“Time in Flash Fiction” by Sophie van Llewyn on TSS Publishing

A great craft article on using time in flash fiction with examples by Kathy Fish, Nancy Stohlman, AE Weisgerber, and many others–check it out!


Sophie-van-Llewyn-Resident-Flash-Fiction-Writer-with-TSS-Sophie van Llewyn was born in Romania. She now lives in Germany. Her prose has been published by Ambit, the 2017 & 2018 NFFD Anthologies, New Delta Review, Banshee, New South Journal etc. and has been placed in various competitions – including TSS (you can read her Flash Fiction ‘The Cesarean’ here). Her novella-in-flash, ‘Bottled Goods,’ set against the backdrop of communist Romania was published by Fairlight Books.


Time in Flash Fiction

by Sophie van Llewyn

Flash fiction is an exercise in brevity: this is nothing new. But this doesn’t mean that flash fiction has to limit its temporal reach to a short span of time. Flash fiction can stretch far beyond the few pages (or the fraction of a page) it occupies. It can encompass hours, days, months, a lifetime or even more, as we’ll see in the examples listed below. They illustrate the various techniques that can be employed to make time dilate in flash fiction — or rather contract to a few dozens or hundred words. It is no small feat, and the result of this kind of compression can have a staggering effect on the reader.

There’s also another aspect of time in flash fiction to consider: because of the low word count, there are only so many words than can be used in order to establish a timeline. It’s an art in itself choosing those very words that tell us more about the character’s situation, about his or her personality, while giving us a feel of the atmosphere of the era (this is especially important in the case of historical fiction), or just placing us in time. It’s the ability to choose from all the spectrum of the character’s activities and surroundings: the ones that tell us most about the character’s set of circumstances. Stripping an entire lifetime down to a few details — this is a skill which entire books could be written about.

In this essay, I only aim to showcase some of the ways time can be used in flash fiction, using the accustomed examples that are free to read on the Internet. Think of this like a door, setting your imagination free, allowing you to be creative with the use of time in your own work.

Continue reading:


Grand Lake Retreat Announced: Flash Fiction Summer Camp!



How does communing with your fellow writers in a rustic setting in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains sound? How about a chance to clear your mind at high altitude, open your mind to creativity and expansion and take in the “grand” view?

This year Nancy Stohlman and Kathy Fish have chosen beautiful Shadowcliff Mountain Lodge in Grand Lake, Colorado for their summer retreat! Grand Lake is just 1.5 hours north of Denver and is in one of the prettiest areas of Colorado, adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park.

We’ll spend four days and nights with mountain air, lakeside views, skies full of stars and lots of flash fiction. We’ll generate stories, we’ll sculpt stories, we’ll rest, we’ll share, we’ll conference and we will be inspired together in the beauty of late summer in Colorado, under the August meteor showers. We may even spot some wildlife!


Join us! Find out more!


Total Lunar Eclipse in Costa Rica During “Writing Wild” Retreat Jan 20, 2019

How cool is that??

During our Breckenridge retreat we were visited by the Elusive Red Fox Totem Writing Spirit–right up to our front door!

Looks like we will be having a lunar visitor during our Costa Rica retreat this time:

Capture 2

Read more about the January 20, 2019 eclipse here.


Timetables for Costa Rica according to here:


Bring your binoculars!

Love, Nancy and Kathy

Interviews, Uncategorized

“Writing Flash Feels New Again”: John Wheway on Surrendering to the Muse


I had the pleasure of meeting John Wheway in person at the Bath Flash Fiction Festival last July, and Kathy Fish and I are just thrilled that he will be joining us in Casperia, Italy, next May! 

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?

John Wheway: I have few claims on my time, so my challenge is to surrender to the muse rather than carve out hours. Writing happens mostly every day, at almost any time.   Writing in the bath, I hardly notice when the water that almost scalded my skin starts giving me wrinkles. Writing in the small hours on my iPad (favourite writing tool since typewriters disappeared) absorbs me like my childhood devouring of books under the sheets by torchlight.  On walks, the enticement to write can maroon me in the middle of a field. Surrender is the thing, being willing, any time, anywhere, to write.

Nancy: I love that, and I’m amazed that you can write in the bath! Tell us about your relationship with flash fiction. Have you always written short or is this a new endeavor for you?

John: At twelve, I wrote a 400 word prose piece. I’d never read anything of that length, so I guess I invented flash privately for myself. In my early twenties, I drafted an experimental novel which didn’t quite work, but from which I rescued and shaped fragments, which became ‘The Green Table of Infinity’ (Anvil Press, London, 1972). Like much flash, they sit on the fence between story and poem. After this, I neither wrote nor published for many years. When I felt moved to write again, one manual that helped was Roberta Allen’s ‘Five Minute Fictions,’ which prompted over a hundred pieces of Flash. But I didn’t revise, didn’t publish them. I turned to writing poems instead. Meanwhile, Jude Higgins, my wife, plunged into writing and promoting flash.  I peered over her shoulder, but it’s taken time for me to exchange the sentence for the line as the primary unit of composition. Seeing the spectacular things Lydia Davis and our friend Meg Pokrass could do with the form is a constant inspiration. Writing flash feels new again. In the book I’ve begun to write about childhood, poems and flash together will form the texture of the weave.

Nancy: “Writing flash feels new again”–I just love that. You are also part of the Bath Flash Fiction Festival, which I was thrilled to attend this past July. What has been your biggest learning as part of the team responsible for the success of such a dynamic gathering of writers? 

John: To be accurate, I wasn’t officially part of the Festival team, but being the director’s husband, I learned I must endure like Atlas.  I enjoyed hosting Meg Pokrass at our house, and also my young friend, David McCormick, a volunteer. And the festival each time has been like a garden coming into bloom.

Nancy: A beautiful garden, I might add! This is not your first time to Italy, or even your first time to the tiny town of Casperia! Can you share with the rest of us what you most liked/remembered about being in Casperia?

John: Wonderful eating places tucked into farms and hamlets – homely, hospitable, but each with its unique, exquisite antipasti. A terrace over a steep valley with cafes for watching people (and goats – were there goats?).  During wild days of thunder, lightning and deluge, holed up in our rented cottage, I dug out Saramago’s ‘All the Names’ from a bookshelf.  I read, deafened to the storm. By the last page, the storm-clouds blew away.

Nancy: It sounds so incredible–I can’t wait! So now react to this quote by Italian writer Italo Calvino: ” “Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.” 

John: As for cities, so for ourselves.  Waking up is hard to do.

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

John: I tend to think pride, like shame, disrupts the non-judgmental openness writing requires. I might be willing to say, I’m proud to persist at writing –  but edited, this comes out as ‘I persist at writing,’ which is an improvement, don’t you think?  I’m pleased and grateful to have learned recently that my poetry collection ‘A Bluebottle in Late October’ is to be published.  There are links to already published poems and flash on my website ‘johnwheway.com‘ where you can also order copies of my vintage prose chapbook ‘The Green Table of Infinity’.

Nancy: That’s fantastic, congratulations!! Tell us something we don’t know about you? 

John: I’m probably two inches taller than Beethoven.

Nancy: Anything else you want to add? 

John: Many yet-to-be-written poems and fictions.

John Wheway’s poems have appeared in New Measure, Stand, Magma, The Warwick Review, Poetry Review, the Yellow Nib, Poetry Quarterly, the Compass Magazine, South Word, Agenda, and the High Window, in three Templar anthologies and in The Echoing Gallery from Redcliffe Press. His flash fiction has appeared in Flash Flood 2017, Flash Flood 2018, and Flash Fiction Festival One (Ad Hoc Fiction – 2017). Anvil Press poetry published his chapbook The Green Table of Infinity, and Faber and Faber published his novella Poborden. He has a Creative Writing MA from Bath Spa University. His poetry collection, A Bluebottle in Late October, is to be published in 2020.

Join us in Casperia, Italy, in May 2019~

Interviews, Uncategorized

Oliver Barton on Intuition, Inhibition, and Listening to Your Inner Creative Child

Oliver Barton

Oliver Barton will be joining Kathy Fish and I in the beautiful hills of Casperia, Italy, next May! I got a chance to chat with Oliver a bit about his writing process and how to stay in touch with the creative inner child and a sense of play while making art.

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?

Oliver Barton: Time is not the real issue with me; my enemy is prevarication. One way I combat it is to repair to a café. There I can sit in the isolation of the babble of voices and lose myself in whatever I’m trying to write. I like to write in longhand there so as to be entirely divorced from the temptations of the web. Otherwise, there is the time before getting up, lying in bed letting a story unfold…

Nancy: You said to me recently, “A wonderful thing about writing is you never quite know what’s going to emerge from the miasma of your brain!” I love it! Tell us more about your relationship with writing and flash fiction?

Oliver: In a writing group we run, as an exercise, we give ourselves ten minutes and a more-or-less randomly chosen trigger, and simply write. No time to have second thoughts or to plan, just to get going and see what happens. And nearly always people end up with a beginning, a middle and an end that they never expected. Wonderful! Let the right-side of the brain take over – is that it? It is no big deal if the piece is rubbish, it doesn’t matter. So we don’t worry about it and most of the time little gems and an extraordinary variety result!

Nancy: Yes, I do something similar–creative play! What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?  Where can we read it (if it’s available)?

Oliver: Today, I think I’m most proud of The Signpost, (https://www.dropbox.com/s/shyd0un7fo0rt8o/The%20Signpost.pdf?dl=0).

Nancy: Wonderful! Now react to this quote by Edgar Degas: “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” Do you think it’s the same for writing? 

Oliver: A dreadful little rhyme we used to chant in the playground when I was very young and which we thought exceedingly funny comes to mind:
See the happy moron,
He doesn’t give a damn.
I wish I were a moron –
I say, perhaps I am.
As a child, anything goes until the great adult world says, ‘No, you should do it like this,’ and inhibition and embarrassment sets in. The lesson for me, and perhaps from what Dégas said, is to use your experience and knowledge and skill to present what the inner child wants to say.

Nancy: I love what you just said about inhibition and embarrassment as the real enemies to our inner child’s wisdom–I agree. Have you been to Italy before? What are you most looking forward to?

Oliver: Yes. Thrice to the Castello Sannazzaro in Giarole, where we sang Renaissance polyphony for a week, and a trip to Ostia Antica and Rome. What better place to let the writing flow, along with the wine! Who knows what will result.

Nancy: Wow!! Tell us something (else!) we don’t know about you?

Oliver: I once toured with an opera group playing the part of the Betrayer in the Guise of a Dog while suffering from Shingles.

Nancy: I adore opera. Maybe you’ll sing for us in that big castle in Italy??? Anything else you want to add?

Oliver: I have a website, www.musicolib.net/index.html, which currently is music that I’ve published (online), much of which I wrote and also houses archives of the Green Branch Opera Group.

Nancy: Thanks so much for taking the time, Oliver! I look forward to seeing you again in May!

JOIN US in Italy in May 2019! Find out more:

Oliver Barton used to write Computer User Manuals, but having retired, now prefers to replace writing facts that nobody reads with producing whimsical fiction that lots of people enjoy! In a previous existence as a Maths teacher, he wrote and directed two full-length plays, and he has composed a number of musical pieces, mostly for choir, which have received performances in widely-flung places around the world. They are freely available from his web-site, www.musicolib.net. He and his wife Cath have published two slim volumes of stories and photos, available from Lulu – Candyfloss, and Candyfloss II. They run two writing groups, which keep them in trim as writers and provide inspiration and encouragement to other local writers. In his writing, he seeks to bring a wry touch to the commonplace activities of everyday life – “in the ordinary is the extraordinary.” Frequently, angels and bad-tempered mythical beings such as garden gnomes creep in, despite his best endeavours. He has assembled a collection “Away with the Fairies,” where they have taken over, and has a novel, “Mouse” currently maturing between revisions.