Interviews, Uncategorized

Flash Fiction: The Crush that Blossomed into a Love Affair–an interview with Marcy Dilworth

Marcy

Kathy and I are thrilled that we will be working with Marcy Dilworth for the first time this August in the gorgeous Rocky Mountains of Grand Lake. Here Marcy and I chat about flash fiction, best writing advice, and even exchange some favorite quotes.

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?

Marcy Dilworth: Argh. I’ve worked really hard to create time to write. And have succeeded. Except for the part about reflexively succumbing to distractions. Whether they’re of the social media variety, or the false necessity of ticking something off my endless list of to-dos (which we all have, whether they’re written or not!), or the household chore that shouts my name (also a false call – if I weren’t writing, I certainly wouldn’t be filling my free time with vacuuming), or fill-in-the-blank, I struggle with shutting them out. But I keep trying! The best motivation to block all that out is to remind myself how good it feels, how satisfying, to be immersed in writing something I value.

Tell us about your relationship with flash fiction?

My relationship with flash fiction? It started as a crush when I met FF in a wonderful class led by Caroline Bock. Over time, it’s blossomed into a love affair, albeit one where I still have much to learn about my partner.

I LOVE that description! What is the best piece of writing advice you ever received?

Read your writing out loud. Hearing your story amplifies rhythm, tone, awkward phrasing, even logical gaps. Sometimes it’s a happy surprise; nearly always, it reveals things that can be improved, tightened or eliminated.

That is one of my favorite pieces of advice as well! What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?  Where can we read it (if it’s available)?

I’ve published one creative non-fiction piece and the rest fiction. Because the CNF is about my mom, and it’s close to my heart, it’s the piece of which I’m proudest. I’m so grateful to Literary Mama for choosing this, Orange Communion.

Wow, this is gorgeous. And I also know you are also funny–I love the piece you shared with me from the “red sweater” Flashnano Prompt: North Pole BombshellSo, have you ever been to Colorado before? What are you most looking forward to?

I’ve been to Denver a couple times – decades ago for a business conference, and last summer for a day-long layover. I’m looking forward to experiencing the real Colorado, mountains, crisp air, sky clear and unencumbered by suburbia’s light pollution, quiet, green . . . I’ve been enjoying it in prospect ever since I signed up for the retreat!

Yes, Grand Lake and Shadowcliff are really the jewel of all that is “real Colorado. Respond to this quote about mountains: “He who climbs upon the highest mountains laughs at all tragedies, real or imaginary.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche is not known for being comforting, but that’s how I read this. It’s a suitable companion to a quote I come across in my “Writing Ideas” document every week or two – “There are seven billion people on this Earth and I have the audacity to think I matter.” – George Watsky. These quotes prompt me to let go of the irritations, worries and in-the-moment problems that cloud my vision, and just get on with it – where ‘it’ is doing what good I can and leaving the rest.

I love that Watsky quote, thanks for sharing it (I love quotes if you can’t tell)! Finally–tell us something we don’t know about you?

I love basketball, played in high school, coached my son’s team for many years, and am a feverish fan of the University of Virginia Cavaliers. I’ve got the season tickets (in the nosebleeds) to prove it!

Anything else you want to add?

I smile dreamily every time I think about “High Altitude Inspiration in Grand Lake.” This is going to be great!

Me too! We are so excited to have you and work with you in person, Marcy! Thanks for taking the time to chat with me!

Marcy Dilworth has been writing short fiction and nonfiction forever, but only recently started inviting anyone to witness it. Her stories have been published in Blink-Ink’s 10th Anniversary edition, Literary Mama, Writer’s Resist and 72 Hours of Insanity: Anthology of the Games: Volume 7. She earned her English degree at the University of Virginia, and her sense of humor and wonder from her kids. She lives in her recently emptied nest with her husband and their precocious rescue pup, Kirby.

Marcy’s Twitter address: @MCDHoo41.

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.

 

Uncategorized

Honoring the Voices in Our Heads: Retreat Participant Lisa Trigg Shares a Micro

Do you have a character, a story, a voice that won’t let you go? Likely this is for a reason! Lisa Trigg, who will be joining us in Yviers, France for our French Connection Retreat , shares with us just such a voice in her micro below:

Hazel Currie Asks Who is that Talking?

by Lisa Trigg

Here I am, falling in love with exactly the wrong woman wondering how I have let this happen. And the voice said, in parentheses (well, this is how it works. You don’t know.  You just don’t know what you want until you have it in your arms, smiling up at you, cracking jokes at your books, all those shoes in your basement, how often your watch tells you to breathe and drink water, and how much you talk to Alexa. You start remembering things you never thought of or dreamt about or read in any of your books. Suck it up).

What I want to know is.  Who is it that talks in parentheses?  Just who is it?

 

Lisa has a whole series of “Hazel Currie” stories and explains her inspiration for them:

Hazel Currie started talking in my head when I was about 20 years old.  She tells me stories, points out things that I should pay attention to, remember. She reminds me of things that I have forgotten that might be important, useful, that I should write down. She reminds me if I already have notes on a subject.  She does not usually know where those notes are. She is persistent and does not shut up until I write down what she says and I have done so since the beginning.  It’s the only way I can get anything else done.  I’ve been evaluated, and no, I do not need medication. To learn to make use of what she tells me, I regularly attend master writing workshops with writers that I admire, do close readings, work with a private writing coach, read craft books, other stuff that I have forgotten.”

 

(Note: Our French Connection Retreat is sold out, but registrations are now open for our return to Grand Lake, Colorado in August for High Altitude Inspiration in the Great American West. We’d love for you to join us!)

Uncategorized

A Virtual Art Gallery: Writing Wild Through the Eyes of Laura Alexander

Creatives of all sorts come on our writing retreats, and sometimes we are lucky enough to have a photographer among our ranks. Take a stroll through the virtual gallery of Laura Alexander, who is both an amazing writer and photographer, and see the Writing Wild in Costa Rica (January 2019) retreat through her creative eyes:

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Bill Merklee reading under the tropical stars on Salon Night

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Jungle cabina at dusk

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Kathy Fish and Gay Degani

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The Main House at dusk

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Transitioning from day to night

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Corey Miller

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Nancy Stohlman on Salon Night

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Sunrise over the classroom

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Kathy Fish and Lenore Hanisch

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The Jungle Path

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Bill Merklee

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Peace Studio

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Sunset at the Pacific

 

All photos courtesy of Laura Alexander.

Our return to Costa Rica has new dates: May 8-14, 2021.

We would love to have you join us! Registration will open Summer 2020.  Stay tuned or join our mailing list below for updates.

Our Grand Lake, Colorado retreat is nearly half full–join us!

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.