Nancy Stohlman

Brilliant New Collection by Nancy Stohlman: Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities

“Step right up and meet a woman so determined to be a star she’ll try anything, including spray on Instant Fame! Meet her reflection, who dreams of a life of her own and manages to find love on the Internet! See the man desperately trying to earn a world record in the most bizarre way possible! Learn the origins of the Four-Legged Woman and the Human Skeleton! Clown mothers, suicidal ringmasters, cult leader who teach the cha-cha and Alaska Jackson’s Traveling Medicine Show…each one takes center stage in this vaudeville of flash fiction. Flash fiction, microfiction, short-short stories… regardless of the name, it’s all the same—a compressed story that packs a punch. Enter a cabaret of the weird, the absurd, and the bizarre with this bold and bawdy new collection.”

Well, readers, I promise you this collection is like none other you’ve read and I’m thrilled that Nancy’s Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, published by Big Table Publishing, releases to the world October 26th. This latest is “pure Stohlman,” as Pamela Painter so aptly puts it.

Told in a series of connected flashes (actually microfictions, some as brief as one sentence), this book tells the story of circus clowns and sideshow performers, with Nancy’s inimitable style and wit and what James Thomas describes as “brilliant performance art on the printed page.”

The pieces are so inventive and daring, with a voice that leaps off the page. Nancy deals with deep truths in a way that bucks straight realism. As she puts it, she feels most comfortable telling her stories “slant.” One of my favorites is this mind bender:

Future Self

I was backstage. The crowd was applauding. I peeked

through the heavy maroon curtains and there was my Future Self

in the spotlight. She saw me and her face opened like a flower to

the sun.

I walked on stage and sat next to her. Then I noticed I was

sitting in a chair labeled “Before” as the audience clapped and

whistled.

I love what Steven Dunn has to say about this collection:

“Nancy Stohlman’s writing is so damn sharp here. And each of these shards that make up Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities is connected by this silly-sad-hopeful-absurd-melancholic web that catches everything you do not want, and you’ll find yourself longing for what’s not caught. But you will end up caught in the web too, with all of that mess. I’ve never read a book like this, and I’m excited to hear all of the conversations surrounding it.” ​~Steven Dunn, author of Water and Power and Potted Meat

If you’re in the Denver area, why not treat yourself to the book’s official release and performance on Friday, October 26th at the Mercury Cafe ballroom? 

Read more about this collection in Nancy’s interview at Pen and Muse.

Watch the trailer!

 

Interviews

Nancy Stohlman Interviewed at New Flash Fiction Review

Meg Pokrass recently interviewed Nancy at New Flash Fiction Review regarding her two stories in the New Micro anthology, her terrific, soon-to-be released book, Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, our flash fiction retreats, and more.

Below is an excerpt:

MP: Congratulations on your new collection, MADAM VELVET’S CABARET OF ODDITIES! Can you tell us why the world of circus life, the world of clowns, and side-show oddities and performers became your focus?

NS: Thank you! And so many ways to answer this question! So, I’ve been on stage since I was very little in one way or another. Actually my very first memory is of being wheeled around the Barnum and Bailey circus ring (with some other kids picked from the audience) by clowns. I remember the feeling of spotlights so bright I couldn’t see my parents in the audience at all, and I remember the clowns talking to each other like regular people and it occurred to me that they were regular people. Then when I was about 10 my mother actually became a clown (she was nothing like the clown in the book) and used to recruit us to come “clown” with her: at the retirement community, at the town picnics and parades and such. I loved recognizing my friends from school and realizing they had no idea who I was when I was in clown makeup.

But maybe the biggest impetus to write this book was the years I spent traveling with the Renaissance Festival. It was a weird and wonderful American pastoral time—I was in my early 20s, I lived in a van and traveled all over the country, city to city—I’ve been to 47 states. And I’ve tried to write about those years many times—I wrote a bad (unpublished) novel called American Gypsy years ago. But as I said earlier, I have an aversion to telling a story straight—I have to come at it slant. And considering the reality of this/that life is pretty crazy to begin with, it took me a long time to find the right back door into the material.

You can read the rest of the interview HERE.

Interviews

Negotiating Bliss: Tea and Time Travel with Sally Reno

Sally Reno small.full

Disclaimer: Sally Reno and I did not actually have tea during this interview, but we have had tea many, many times in more than a decade of work together. Sally is one of the most insightful writers I know and my go-to for feedback on my own work. So naturally Kathy Fish and I are just thrilled that she will be joining us this August in Breckenridge for our first flash fiction retreat!

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?

Sally Reno: A workshop retreat to a gorgeous spot, a solitary cabin in the woods, a house-sit with views, a borrowed beach house—all are bliss. But for me, to negotiate effectively with Time, writing must also be a daily fact of life. I write most of first drafts in my head and keep stacks of notebooks around for impulsive scribbling. Whenever I can, I write in my sleep.

Nancy: You’re one of the co-producers of Blink Ink, a tiny print magazine publishing exclusively microfiction stories of around 50 words. What is your biggest learning from this endeavor?

Sally: We are always  amazed by the  surprising and wonderful things people send us and the lovely circumstance that we can always find new things to try. The Big Learn has been how expensive it is to produce a quality print lit mag, even a ‘tiny’ one.

Nancy: What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?  Where can we read it?

Sally: It’s probably just a quirk in aid of forward motion but I’m always most excited about what I’m writing right now. I do still like some oldies. Most of my published writing is in print, so I have fewer links to offer. You can read my first Pushcart nomination (in under a minute) here:

Nancy: React to this quote by George Santayana: “To the art of working well a civilized race would add the art of playing well.”

Sally: Since I’m not a fan of civilization, I would say: No sane society, or one with any potential for joy, would make a distinction between work and play. Only a slave culture, like ours, segregates work from life and makes of that ‘work’ the only respected effort.

Nancy: Tell us something we don’t know about you?

Sally: I am a time traveler.

Nancy: Anything else you want to add?

Sally: Thank you for inviting me here. I had fun.

Sally Reno’s fiction is widely anthologized and s been among the winners of National Public Radio’s 3-Minute Fiction Contest and Dr. T. J. Eckleburg Review’s Prosetry Contest and has been nominated for Best Small Fictions and Pushcarts. Her microfiction has won Vestal Review’s 7-word caption contest, Fast Forward’s 6-word story contest and Radar’s 5-word movie review competition. She lives in a vapor cave with a big snake and serves as Pythoness for Blink Ink Print and Haruspex for Shining Mountains Press.

Join us! Check out our retreat offerings here: