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We can’t wait to travel with you again!
We can’t wait to travel with you again!
Nancy and I are absolutely thrilled that Nicholas Cook will be joining us in the French countryside for our French Connection Retreat in June. Nicholas took a few moments to chat with me about writing and writers, creativity, and flash fiction.
Hi Nicholas! Have you ever done a writing retreat before? And what are you most looking forward to in France?
I did a workshop in Taos, NM last year with Robert Vaughan and Meg Tuite. It was a blast, and I made some good friends and even managed to get a story from the workshop published. As for France, I’ve never been before so I’m looking forward to all of it, but mostly the chance to work with Kathy and Nancy, especially as I am interested in flash novel(la)s.
What inspires you creatively?
I find reading other peoples works inspires me the most. Otherwise, music, walking the dog, traveling, re-reading books.
Aw, I love this photo of you and your dog. I get the same creative boost when I’m out with my dog as well. Can you share a piece of writing of your own that you especially love and/or feel most proud of (and talk a bit about why?)
“The Eclipse” which was published in Lost Balloon in 2017. This story was a finalist for the 2018 Best Small Fictions and a Glimmer Train Very Short Fiction contest honorable mention. This is still one of my favorite stories of mine and one of the few I can go back and read and not cringe over. The story came together easily and was inspired heavily by the story Pool Night by Amy Hempel, who I was re-reading for the hundredth time. I like it because the voice and character are very different than what I usually write.
I love this story, Nicholas. I remember reading it when it came out. It does remind me of Amy Hempel’s work, quiet but powerful. No wonder it was recognized. What books or short stories have you read many times, and what draws you back to these works?
I will re-read every piece of flash written by Claudia Smith until the day I die. She was one of the first flash authors I really “got” over a decade ago, and her work still resonates with me (the voice, simplicity and economy of words, and emotion). Other flash authors I love are Cathy Ulrich, Kathy Fish, Kim Chinquee, Meg Pokrass, Tiff Holland, Casey Hannan, Robert Scotellaro, and so many more. As for novels, “Why Did I Ever” and “One D.O.A…” by Mary Robison are essential reads and I re-read them in some form once a year. Mary Robison has one of the most distinct and captivating voices and is a huge inspiration to me. I find I think like a lot of her characters (although maybe not so exaggerated, I hope).
Thank you for the mention! I feel the same way about Claudia Smith Chen’s, work and Mary Robison is an all-time favorite writer of mine, too.
Forgive me, but I always ask this question: Is there something funny / interesting / weird / wonderful about you that you’d like to share?
I’ll have been traveling around Europe prior to and after the workshop as I’ll be on a twelve week sabbatical from my job. I’m excited to see what inspiration that brings! Maybe I will stop writing about the southwest and deserts.
Nicholas Cook’s fiction has appeared in Lost Balloon, Jellyfish Review, Unbroken Journal, Bath Flash Fiction Award, and elsewhere. He was a finalist for Best Small Fictions 2018. He lives in Texas.
Note: Our French Connection Retreat sold out very quickly (you may get on the wait list for it though!) Check out our other upcoming retreats in Costa Rica (there’s a VERY special limited time discount you might want to jump on) and Grand Lake, Colorado.
With the purchase of one all-inclusive retreat package, get a 2nd one for half off!
Invite a friend to join you for our Writing Wild in Costa Rica Retreat March 21st-27th & gift them with the half-priced fee (as low as $725 all-inclusive) OR register together and split the savings! We can only extend this deep discount to the first TWO pairs of writers to register. If interested, act soon!
Your all-inclusive fee includes:
“This retreat EXCEEDED all my expectations. Gorgeous location, perfect weather, delicious food & friendly, accommodating staff. I’m a flash fiction writing newbie and learned so much from everyone. I will carry the knowledge and wonderful memories with me forever!” ~Lucy Merklee
We’ve also just opened registration for our 3rd annual Colorado Retreat. Check it out: High Altitude Inspiration in the Great American West for August 19th-23rd!
“This retreat provided such a great learning experience with innovative lessons from some of the industry’s finest writers in a beautiful setting, and surrounded by a supportive bunch of friendly, like-minded people. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will remember fondly.” ~Ryan Stone, Melbourne, Australia
Hard to believe it was just over a week ago that Nancy and I were in Grand Lake, with a fabulous group of writers from both coasts of the U.S. and in between, and as far away as Canada and Australia. It truly was, as participant Ryan Stone put it, “a once-in-a-lifetime experience” for us too!
Maybe it was the setting: Grand Lake, adjacent to Rocky Mountain National Park, is one of the prettiest places in an already gorgeous state. And Shadowcliff Lodge is so perfectly rustic and homey. Maybe it was the staff: Friendly, youthful, and energetic, from all over the country, most of them living and working at the lodge for the summer. So eager to help us out and answer questions or just chat about their favorite fictional characters.
Mostly though, I have to say, it was the writers who carved out this time in their busy lives to come to Colorado and write with us. There was such easy camaraderie amongst this group of 13 plus Nancy and me. It’s what happens when writer/artist types “find their tribe” but especially when you get a bunch of flash fiction writers all in one place (I’m thinking, too, of the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol last June–same feeling)!
Highlights: The pre-retreat F-Bomb reading in Denver, featuring Randall Brown. All the wildlife: fox, moose, lots of cute chipmunks, hummingbirds flitting around the feeders and…one notable (but safe) encounter with a black bear. Thursday evening around the campfire on The Point, overlooking the town of Grand Lake and the lake itself, nestled amongst the mountain peaks. Talking and laughing and watching the sun go down and the full moon rise, illuminating the clouds. Whiskey and conversation late into the night in the top floor great room of Cliffside Lodge. The gentle sounds of water rushing over rocks in the creek that cuts through grounds of Shadowcliff. We ate and slept well, woke up to coffee brewing in the dining room of Rempel Lodge. Our writing sessions in the Chapel, with that stunning view. And our final night Salon/Reading in that same space, with everyone reading their work, champagne flowing, Nancy’s French pop songs playlist, and a cozy fire in the huge stone fireplace.
I loved that this group was so varied in their experience with flash fiction. Some had been writing and publishing it for years, some were very new to the form and excited to learn more. To a person, they were kind, warm, generous, and fun to be around. Everyone wrote their hearts out. I really believe Nancy and I get as much from these retreats as our participants. I came away feeling so inspired and grateful.
(Note: Lisa will now be joining us in France for our French Connection Retreat in June.)
Hi Lisa, first question, have you ever visited Costa Rica before?
Never been to Costa Rica but it’s been on my list for years. I’m attracted to the geography, the people and their politics. If I can learn Spanish, I will consider retiring there. If I retire.
What are you most looking forward to in our upcoming retreat?
Learning something new about writing/flash. Getting inspiration, tips. Sight seeing/R & R, meeting new and interesting people.
What do you find yourself writing about? What themes and/or writerly obsessions?
I’m presently engaged in planning/writing a series of “cycle stories” in the fashion of Ellen Gilchrist about the life and times of a young to elderly lesbian named Hazel Currie whom I’ve been collecting notes about since I was about 20. I have drafts of 2 stories from that series and notes on more. I think there might actually be 2 books worth of short stories, but one never knows how these things turn out. I dictate notes on Hazel in a Day One journal throughout the day as I have thoughts about her.
I have a small series of flash stories that come to me as I do my work with people with serious mental illness in crisis. These have social justice themes and are about hurt, broken people making their way in this world. I’m very careful about writing these stories because I do not want to turn their lives in to entertainment, and because some of the stories are so distinctive that I have to be careful about violating HIPAA laws. I work with a writer/writing coach who is also a trauma expert/therapist, Kay Morgan, PhD, to help me navigate these issues. So far, I’m more worried about it than she is. The best of those stories, “A Day’s Work,” I had published in a little ezine junoesq which is now defunct, It’s about a homeless mentally ill man, Janik Muro, who works various strategies to get off the street for a few days because someone is killing homeless people in the camps around the city. It has morphed into a not bad short story that needs more work and gave me ideas for a novel based on the main character in the story. That project is fermenting and I’m not actively working on him right now except for the little notes I dictate about him into my Day One journal when thoughts occur to me.
I might be obsessed with using technology to organize my very busy thoughts about my characters.
Respond to this quote:
“When I think of the wisest people I know, they share one defining trait: curiosity. They turn away from the minutiae of their lives-and focus on the world around them. They are motivated by the desire to explore the unfamiliar. They are drawn toward what they don’t understand.” Dani Shapiro
Great quote and I agree with it wholeheartedly. I hope someone says this about me someday!
Would you like to share something about yourself that is interesting, moving, weird, funny, unusual?
I’m a lifelong writer/journaler, having focused on poetry in the past, but for the last 1-2 years exploring fiction, which was my original goal. I was derailed into poetry after a Centrum Workshop where 7 beautiful woman poets performed their work each morning back in the days when they held the performances first thing in the morning. When I got home, I was thinking in verse and wrote poetry for many years. I think that writing poetry improved my language and has made me a better fiction writer. I have many pets, am an avid ballroom dancer, and my idea of camping is Motel 6. Still wake up excited to get to my job every morning and don’t plan to ever retire. I once had a dream where I was disembodied, out among the stars, with a spotlight on me, and a deep voice boomed “And Lisa Trigg is the Homecoming Queen of the Universe!” I’m pretty sure that Hazel is going to have this precise dream sometime during the travails of her 20s.