How to Become Brave (on the page at least!)

Spoiler Alert: I don’t have the answer! But let’s consider….

I used to live walking distance from The Mayan Theater in Denver, one of the old movie houses from the 1930s that now lives its life as an art film theater. Since it was just around the corner, and therefore I could decide to see a movie 15 minutes before it started, I would often find myself at a movie I knew nothing about. Eventually it became almost a game, a wonderful grab bag of mystery prizes–which lollipop will I get? Approached with a sense of playful curiosity, even a boring movie was still an adventure.

As a young reader I approached books much the same way–I went through my dad’s entire library, reading Kon Tiki and Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darnest Things just because they existed.
I often feel far away from that curiosity and exuberance, now. Sometimes I think I know too much. I know which books I should be reading, be they classics or what’s hot. I know what “good” writing looks like. I know what my writing “should” look like. Rarely do I read a random book or watch a random movie. And rarely do I show up to the page without an idea or a goal.

So…is this the opposite of being brave? A literary version of playing it safe?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic. Recently I was a guest in a college creative writing course, and after class a young man came up to me and asked with complete sincerity:  How do you become brave?

I fumbled for an answer, assuring him that I’m constantly doubting myself and falling prey to comparisons like everyone else. But the question was so beautiful, so spot-on….and so universal. 
How do we become brave?

When we talk about bravery we usually assume it’s hard. Brave people climb mountains. Brave people get on stage. Brave people write books or jump out of airplanes. (Why does writing a book sometimes feel like jumping out of an airplane??) 

But perhaps another way to think about creative bravery is a willingness to show up for what my teacher calls the “lovely possibility” of everything turning out right. We show up for the lovely possibility that the movie will be amazing, the book will become a new favorite, the performance will reach audiences. We show up for the lovely possibility that today our own writing will dazzle and surprise us.

Making art on any scale is an act of bravery. To trust a vision and to bring it to fruition is a courageous act. Period. Thankfully the arts give us many opportunities to become brave. You don’t just win the brave game once and then it’s over. Instead, we spiral around our own courage again and again. Each day you face whatever brand of risk is in front of you, starting with the page, and you show up for the lovely possibility: what if it all goes right?

So…perhaps one way we can cultivate bravery is to remember all the times we already have?

For instance: At one point, whether it was last year or decades ago, the act of writing words down at all was an act of bravery. 

But you did it. And then you got braver. 

Maybe it was the first time you called yourself an artist or spent money on your art–taking a writing class or buying the musical instrument or the art supplies.

Maybe it was the first time you let others read/hear your work.

Or the first time you sent things into the world, risking rejection. 

Or the courage to show up post rejection and keep going.

But it doesn’t stop there. There is the bravery required to write a manuscript. To publish a book and have it out there in the world. To teach a class on writing. To start a journal or press. To try something completely new after having success. To write your truth in whatever form that takes, over and over and over.

I think knowing too much can stop us before we even begin. We’ve read the reviews. We know the odds. We’ve heard the horror stories. We become less willing to risk failure. We have forgotten the adventure of it all.

Maybe cultivating bravery is to also cultivate our lost exuberance for adventure and playful curiosity, the same adventurous spirit that would take us into a movie or book or most importantly to the blank page with a sense of wonder and magic. We cultivate courage, not without fear but with fear. 

What if we show up for the lovely possibility of it all being amazing?
I think that takes guts.
xo Nancy

2023 Writing Retreats in France, Colorado, and Iceland!

If you’re a flash fiction writer who’s longing for a new creative spark, an adventure to energize your spirit, and camaraderie with your creative community, then join us in 2023!

Registration starts in October!

Chalais, FRANCE: June 26-July 3

Grand Lake, COLORADO: August 15-20

Laugarvatn, ICELAND: October 25-29

Get on early access WAITING LIST here 

Do you dream of uninterrupted days to write in beautiful locations? Do you long to meet, be mentored by, and network with other writers? Are you enamored with flash fiction and want to learn more or refine your work?

We give professional and aspiring writers, struggling to create amidst the everyday demands of life, the gift of time, community, instruction, and the opportunity to reconnect with your own imagination and sense of possibility so you can confidently bring the work inside you to fruition.

From past participants:

“The retreat was life-shaking. It was a dream to learn from writers whose stories I’ve read for years. The combination of Kathy’s generative workshops with Nancy’s editing/revising workshops is a great approach.  Peace Retreat is beautiful, and the staff couldn’t have been nicer. I came away with better writing AND eating habits.” ~Bill Merklee

“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

“A Flash Fiction Retreat with Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman is the perfect way to refresh one’s writing practice. Inspiring locations, like-minded short-fiction writers, and their hallmark positive feedback style make for a true retreat: Pressure-free, productive, and restorative.” ~Anne Weisgerber

“My week of “writing wild” at Peace Retreat in Costa Rica ” with Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman was an amazing way to start of 2019. Everything a writer needs to gain confidence and fire up her word machine was provided: time to write, community, useful exercises, mentoring, helpful critiques, encouragement, time for rest and contemplation, time for fun and games, time to reflect and dig deep. Stunning experience.” ~Gay Degani

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

If you want to learn about yourself as a writer and a person, if you want to open yourself to your creative potential, and your inner truth as a writer, take a retreat with Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman, they will guide you, encourage you, and inspire you. The rest is up to you, put aside your usual way of thinking, open yourself up to what you want to avoid, and.prepare to be amazed.” ~ Annie Bien

The French writing retreat with Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman – my first ever writing retreat – lived up to all my expectations, and they were pretty high. It felt like a fairy godmother had shown up, asked us what we wanted and needed most for a week of writing, thinking, creating, sharing, learning and laughing, waved her wand and made it all come true: exceptional teachers in an exceptional location in the company of other inspirational writers. With a pool and fabulous food thrown in. I feel I am leaving with my writing well filled up to the brim with riches for me to keep drawing from. Thank you Kathy and Nancy!” ~Philippa Bowe

Read “Everything is a Story”: Reflections and photos from the 2022 Spanish Flash Fiction Retreat

“After the Rapture” pre-sales now open!

My long-awaited flash novel, “After the Rapture”, is now available for pre-orders! I wrote this book between 2016 and early 2020, finishing it the same week the world went into quarantine. For the next year I watched as the line between truth and satire began to merge, and in the continuing aftermath it is now impossible to separate the two…

Pre-order from Mason Jar Press now!

Pre-sale price: $12 (regularly $14)

Pre-sale orders ship March 7, 2023

AFTER THE RAPTURE: In a world just slant from our own, the people are waiting for the Rapture. But what they get is not at all what they thought it would be. Whether they’re pilgrimaging to the Very First Kentucky Fried Chicken, living in life-sized Barbie houses, taking the Marriott staff hostage, trading Candy Corn on Wall Street or draining Loch Ness to “find out the goddamn truth once and for all,” there is a familiar sort of desperation in this post-Rapture existence. In moments you will laugh at the absurdity of their world, and in other moments the darkness will feel all too familiar…

BUT WAIT! Do you want prizes?

(I know you want prizes!)

Every month until the March 2023 publication date I will draw a “Waiting for the Rapture” winner of quirky fun prizes!


Prizes could include books, fab art, original music, or even a spot in an upcoming workshop!


First drawing September 30, 2022


CLICK HERE TO ENTER FOR PRE-SALE PRIZES!

And thank you!

“In this world of Walmarts, Barbies, Kens, orgies/time-shares, 7-11s, clones, a red Lake Michigan, and dreams, Nancy Stohlman’s humor and talent shines. The rapture becomes more than just a rapture: it’s a world turning on its head, acceptance, and then finding a new normal. Redeeming and heart-felt, this dystopian novel-in-flashes is one not to forget. After the Rapture is a rapture!” Kim Chinquee, three-time Pushcart Prize winner, author of seven collections and the novel, PIPETTE

“After The Rapture is a startling, rhapsodic, brilliant tome. Stohlman dares to venture into an intricate mosaic of layered, futuristic identities, individualities, and lives both wasted and yet fully explored. A dazzling oscillation of scintillating prose, on the threshold between the ephemeral and the eternal. After the Rapture is a book full of surprise and wonder, a compelling and majestic book.” Robert Vaughan, author of AskewFunhouse and Addicts & Basements

“Mesmerizing, challenging, funny, awesome, entertaining, bewildering, full of doom, wisdom, absurdity, and heart. I love how gigantic and scary Biblical personages and events are swallowed up by commercial / pop culture. It’s ridiculous, genius, and moving, all at the same time.” Robert Shapard, co-editor of the Norton Flash Fiction anthologies Sudden FictionFlash Fiction Forward, and Flash Fiction International

“Nancy Stohlman’s After the Rapture is the most raucous, innovative–and ultimately moving–disappearing act you’ll ever read. Brilliant!” SmokeLong Quarterly

Thank you so so much in advance! I can’t wait to share this book with you!

Love,

Nancy

Workshops Now Open (almost full)

Flash Flood: Write a Flash Novel (and Launch Your Big Idea) (WORKSHOP FULL)

August 22-Sept 2 (10 days, online asynchronous)

Do you have a Big Story Idea brewing, but you don’t know where to begin? Is it a flash novel? Novella? Collection? A regular novel or memoir or a million other things? Sometimes not knowing can stop us from getting started. Sometimes the scope of it feels overwhelming.

Flash Flood: Write a Flash Novel is my signature course designed to help you launch your Big Idea. For 10 days we will envision, draft, collage and create the momentum for that large-scale idea you’ve been wanting to tackle. We’ll begin breaking it apart and making friends with the scope of it, and in that process of discovery you will find momentum, insight, excitement, and sometimes a total pivot–that’s okay! For 10 days we’ll get out of our own way–10 days and a flurry of words and ideas and encouragement and camaraderie–and when it’s over you will have the bones (at least) of a longer project and a much better idea of where to go next.

Whether your book is fiction or creative nonfiction, if you are drawing on the skills of flash forms–from collections to novellas in flash to flash novels–then this class will help you launch your idea into the world. Many, many flash novels and other books have been conceived, executed, and written from the seeds of this class. Maybe yours?

*Participants should have a basic understanding of flash fiction. Come with your big story idea and be prepared to shake up what you thought you knew. (This course may be taken multiple times. It is also the prerequisite/jumping off point for the Flash Novel Mastermind, a private, guided, 12-week community incubator to write yourself to the finish line of the first draft–see description below)

**This class is asynchronous, meaning I am actively participating but the daily lessons are not “live” at a set time though I am engaged and active for the duration of our time together. We have many people from different time zones, so it’s a “rolling” class with people working from their time zone in the hours that suit them best. Most people spend an average of 1-2 hours per day (can be more or less). You have unlimited access to the community forum for the duration of the class.

Full payment of $250 is required upon registration. This holds your spot, as workshops fill quickly. The cancellation policy requires a 2-week notice – you will receive a refund minus a $50 cancellation fee. You will not receive a refund without the required 2-week notice. Please email me if you need to request an alternate payment plan.

REGISTER NOW


Beautiful Flash Fiction II: Pop Lit and Flash Fusion (WORKSHOP FULL)

September 5-9, 2022 (5 days, online asynchronous)

The world is a constant and incredible source of inspiration–IF we are paying attention. In this brand new workshop we will engage with unexplored or under explored avenues of potential inspiration including pop culture, science, math, music, trends, politics, fashion and more to discover unusual angles and back doors into new ideas. We will continue previous conversations on what makes something beautiful, actively blur the distinctions between low brow and high brow art, and elevate the mundane to the miraculous. As always, come with an open mind and expect to play.

Taking a deeper dive into the concepts from Going Short, we will try a variety of approaches to the compressed narrative and you will generate your own original flash pieces. 

*This course is open to writers with all levels of experience in the form, whether you are brand new to flash fiction, a writer coming from other genres, or a veteran flasher looking for a dose of inspiration and some writing camaraderie.

You do NOT need to have taken Beautiful Flash Fiction I to participate.**This class is asynchronous, meaning I am actively participating but the daily lessons are not “live” at a set time though I am engaged and active for the duration of our time together. We have many people from different time zones, so it’s a “rolling” class with people working from their time zone in the hours that suit them best. Most people spend an average of 1-2 hours per day (can be more or less). You have unlimited access to the community forum for the duration of the class.

Full payment of $175 is required upon registration. This holds your spot, as workshops fill quickly. The cancellation policy requires a 2-week notice – you will receive a refund minus a $50 cancellation fee. You will not receive a refund without the required 2-week notice. Please email me if you need to request an alternate payment plan.


Flash Novel Mastermind: A 12-Week Guided Community Incubator

September 12-December 2

To embark on the journey of a book is to lose sight of the shore, to surrender to the story and the muse. Now imagine boarding that ship out to sea with like-minded others, colleagues on their own creative adventures but together, in community, with expert guidance and encouragement.

The Flash Novel Mastermind is a private, guided, 12-week community incubator for flash novelists and flash novels in process…a space of content, coaching, and camaraderie where we build on the momentum from Flash Flood while also finding a rhythm that will sustain us over the long haul of actually writing a book to completion.  

Whether your book is fiction or creative nonfiction, if you are drawing on the skills of flash forms–from collections to novellas in flash to flash novels–then this is the community and support you need to write yourself to the finish line of the all-important first draft–that solid and complete lump of clay that lets you discover, finally, what this story has been trying to say.

*The Flash Novel Mastermind is only open to those who have taken Flash Flood. Registration and full details available August 25

GET ON WAITING LIST

I can’t wait to work with you!

xo

Nancy