The Green-Eyed Ides of March: On Artistic Jealousy

Shakespeare was the first to call it the “green-eyed monster.” And since we are here, in a month of green, with green holidays and the Ides of (backstabbing) March, let’s talk honestly for a second about artistic jealousy..

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that, despite our very best efforts, artistic jealousy affects us all at one time or another. Recently, on a low day, I was feeling a twinge of the green and decided to put it out there on social media: “What do you do to not ride the green spiral down?” So many responses from funny to inspiring to serious, but the bottom line: most people could relate.

hulk-angry
If you have never been jealous of a colleague’s work or success, then you are a bigger person than me. Mind you, I try very hard to not go there, and I genuinely like my colleagues and I want them all to succeed. Nineteen out of twenty days I subscribe to the “we all win when we all win” mentality, and I deeply believe it’s the only way to have a rewarding artistic life.

But… no matter who you are, there is probably somebody out there who is kicking more butt than you, and it seems to be happening effortlessly (even though we rationally know that’s probably not true).

Over the years I’ve been jealous of many things. When I was overworked I was jealous of those with open, breezy writing schedules. When I was broke and raising two small children, I was jealous of those without financial worries or those who had the financial means to support their writing. When my creative well was dry and parched I was jealous of those whose muse never seemed to grow tired. When I couldn’t get published by a dream journal I would be jealous of those who did. When I was struggling to sell a manuscript or get a publisher/agent, I was jealous of all the new books birthing.

And…on and on.

If you look at the world through this lens, it truly doesn’t end. Of course you might have noticed that the common denominator in all these examples is ME! When I was feeling low, then I was jealous. And for me, that’s the key discovery here: Jealousy is triggered by a feeling of lack inside of ME–it really has nothing to do with them. Because if we were having a gold star day, then our colleague’s success, muse, money or time wouldn’t affect us at all.

To deny these feelings only stuffs them down deeper and then you end up with hemorrhoids and cancer. So while I don’t have a magic answer, here are three things that help me:

1. Speak it. Acknowledge it. Don’t pretend you aren’t feeling it. Tell someone. Or tell everyone on social media. Jealousy grows when it’s allowed to fester, so don’t let it fester. (Did you notice that “jealousy” contains the word “lousy”?)

2. Do something nice for yourself. You probably wouldn’t be feeling this way if you were having a gold-star day, so you probably need a little extra something. There was a time in my life when I would go eat a banana split every time I got a rejection. It just made the rejections go down easier and I love hot fudge. So…do something nice for yourself.

3. Try to remember Georgia O’ Keefe’s best advice ever: “I have already settled it for myself, so flattery and criticism go down the same drain and I am quite free.”

Meaning: Take all the good days and good reviews and all the bad days and bad reviews and flush them both down the same toilet and get back to work.

In solidarity!

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High Altitude Inspiration: Four Days in the Clouds with special guest Randall Brown!

 Join us in August 14th – 18th, 2019 for

High Altitude Inspiration:

Four Days in the Clouds in Grand Lake, Colorado

Just Announced: Special Guest Randall Brown!

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Rise above your normal vantage point. Put your head in the clouds. See what inspiration waits for you when you take the birds-eye view, perched above Grand Lake and nestled in the grandeur of nature and the majestic Rocky Mountains.  

Commune with your fellow writers in a rustic, peaceful setting. Clear your mind. See the big picture. Open yourself to inspired creativity and expansion. Take your writing to new heights with us this August in Colorful Colorado.

Join Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman for an all-inclusive four-day retreat with two group sessions each day (including craft talks, generative writing exercises, workshopping sessions and one-on-one mentoring as well as plenty of inspired individual writing time), three delicious locally-sourced meals per day, sunset group writes and a final evening literary salon in the stunning chapel overlooking the lake. 

Now with a special BONUS session with renowned flash fiction writer and teacher Randall Brown! 

Randall Brown is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live, his essay on (very) short fiction appears in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, and he appears in the Best Small Fictions 2015 & 2017 & 2019The Norton Anthology of Hint Fiction, and The Norton Anthology of Microfiction. He founded and directs FlashFiction.Net and has been published and anthologized widely, both online and in print. Recent published work includes the novella How Long is Forever (2018)the poetry chapbook I Might Never Learn (2018), and the flash fiction collection This Is How He Learned to Love (2019).  He is also the founder and managing editor of Matter Press and its Journal of Compressed Creative Arts. He received his MFA from Vermont College.

Hope you can join us!

More info here:

So You Wrote a Book? Christopher Allen

Christopher Allen is the author of the flash fiction collection Other Household Toxins. His work has appeared in Split Lip Magazine, Longleaf Review, Lunch Ticket and lots of other fine places. He is a nomad.
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Links to the book and other promo links:
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Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities a finalist for a Colorado Book Award

 

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Big Table Publishing, 2018

I’m a BIG FAN of the Colorado Humanities and the Colorado Center for the Book and the work they do, including the annual Colorado Book Awards. So my mind was blown when the list was announced yesterday and Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities was among the four finalists in Literary Fiction! I’m so deeply moved to have this weird, unconventional book of flash be honored among other great works and writers of fiction including Nick Arvin, Tiffany Quay Tyson, and Ramona Ausubel!

Thank you to everyone who has believed in me and in my work for so many years.

Check out the whole list of finalists and support organizations like the

Colorado Center for the Book!

 

Buy a copy of Madam Velvet from Amazon:

Buy a signed copy from me:

Thank you!

xoxoxoxo

Nancy

 

 

 

So You Wrote a Book? Meg Tuite

Meg Tuite’s work is at times uncomfortably intimate, vulnerable but never precious. Like one of her characters who is being asked by her therapist if she has a history of mental illness, she responds: “I don’t know anyone who isn’t mentally ill.” In Meg’s latest book, Meet My Haze, she takes that signature matter-of-fact approach to otherwise dark topics, and her exploration of dysfunction is sober and pragmatic, only hinting at the drama underneath. She can conjure entire histories in an off-hand comment about father’s “pasty skin” that another writer would spend an entire book on. And that is Meg’s gift–even in the condensed world of flash fiction she has a poet’s sensitivity for brevity and density of language and meaning. She is a poet storyteller in prose skin.

Tammy Faye w_Meet My Haze

Nancy Stohlman: Describe this book in six words.

Meg Tuite: ‘It’s a parade of the lonely.’

NS: You have published many other books, including Domestic Apparition, Bound by Blue, and Bare Bulbs Swinging. How is this book different than your other books?

MT: Each book has been work and I’m happy to have them out there. I worked hard on all of them. Bare Bulbs Swinging is a collaborative poetry collection with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale and we won an award for it. Bound By Blue is longer short stories. A newspaper reviewer wrote “She wouldn’t know a happy ending if she saw one.” That’s true. I wouldn’t believe it. I am drawn to those who expose their inner lives or at least have an awkward time trying to conceal it.

 NS: “The blasphemy of a coat” or “three tornadoes away from sanity”–You have so many gorgeous, stand-out phrases I can’t possibly list them all. There is a wonderfully poetic sensibility to your sentences—they are dense and complex. Does your work come out this way or is language something that you spend a lot of time sculpting?

MT: I am in love with poetic prose. The rhythm of words and how they meld with each other helps when the content tends to be darker material.

NS: So…are you a poet or a prose writer at heart? Like if someone held a gun to your head and made you choose would you pick lines or sentences?

MT: Definitely poetic prose.

NS: I love the way your matter-of-fact demeanor takes the edge off some of these dark topics and you humor that is right on point. In fact, I think one of your gifts as a writer is being able to add the exact right amount of humor to otherwise intense, serious, even tragic moments. I actually laughed out loud at the description of a hospice worker tying her elderly patient back into a chair: “our movements are sluggish and dragged out like German cinema.” How important is humor in your writing? Do you think humor opens the door to these otherwise overwhelmingly heavy topics?

MT: Humor definitely cuts the edge on the intensity of the situations. Although, not all would agree. Here is the Kirkus Review I received for Meet My Haze:

“Tuite offers a series of tales that catalog the many ways in which minds and bodies can break down.

In this dark, often morbid short story collection, the author explores the underbelly of humanity in all its decay. “A day with death is never a dead day” begins the first story, told from the perspective of a hospice worker. Various characters with mental and physical infirmities come to grips with tragic events as each story unfurls. A microwaved lava lamp explodes in a hapless father’s face in “The World Gravitates Toward the Ditch”; in “The White Witch of Ojo,” a scoliosis-afflicted witch declares that her landscaper has no soul; a woman meets Don Quixote, Socrates, and Plato on her deathbed in another tale. These stories contain plenty of blunt talk about such topics as impotency, scatological obsessions, and suicide. It seems as if nothing is too foul; one story introduces a Great Dane that eats “soiled underwear.” In one particularly violent tale, a woman deliberately injures her genitals with a lemon zester, “breaking open cells like succulent seeds in juice flooding the tile with the pinkest reds she’s ever seen.” Occasionally, though, the stories turn tender, as in “The Vastness of Love,” in which a mother overcomes her agoraphobia to take her children to the library every Saturday. Tuite is clearly a talented writer, and her descriptions are superb and visceral; for instance, she describes a man’s teeth in “A City Bound by the Corpse of the Habitual” as being as “brown as his beverage.” The stories’ first sentences are like literary whiplash, jolting the reader to attention: “Freud proved that eels have testicles and I can’t even get out of bed,” she writes at the top of “So Who Knows More about Eels?” But the shock and awe and gratuitous gore eventually grow tiresome, and many vile characters exhibit few redeeming qualities, making it difficult for the reader to sympathize with or invest in them.

A well-written but excessively gruesome collection of stories that, in the end, provide little insight about human suffering.”

It doesn’t seem that the Kirkus reader saw any of the humor in this collection.

NS: Some of your stories are so gritty and raw—I love how you just seem to unabashedly lay it out. Do you ever second guess whether a story should be published?

MT: It’s not the grittiness that stops me. If anything it’s that I’m not sure if the story is ready. I rarely send a story out that I haven’t sat on for a while. It has to read well aloud and on the page for me before I will submit it.

NS: You have an entire story, “Letter to a Dead Writer,” dedicated to Clarice Lispector. Talk about her importance to you and your work.

MT: Clarice Lispector is an inimitable writer that you either LOVE or HATE. I distinguish her as a philosopher. Reading her over and over always feels like the first time. She is brilliant and unparalleled. Her words inspire me.

NS: What is your favorite story in here and why?

MT: The World Gravitates Towards the Ditch took a long while to write. I sat on it for months and then, apparently sent it out to a few places when I was drunk. I found out it had placed with the Bristol Short Story Contest through twitter. I saw writers talking about the long list and congratulating me along with many others. I have no memory of sending it to the contest, but was elated that I did. I placed third and also the story was short-listed at Glimmer Train. I don’t send to contests very often. Unless I have the cash, the willingness, and a few drinks! Damn!

NS: We are both Big Table Publishing sisters! But you have published with many presses–talk about publishing with Big Table.

MT: Robin Stratton of Big Table Publishing is amazing! I love her and the books she publishes. And I was really excited that you had a book that was coming out of BTP, as well! Congratulations! There’s a lot of promoting to do with this press. You are amazing in that arena, and we’ve talked about the title you came up with in terms of getting the book out there once it’s been published: So You Published a Book: Who the Fuck Cares!” I totally get that! I’m not as good at promoting as you are. I love that you had a circus and did an entire performance the evening of your launch party! That is so great! Meet My Haze kind of fell through the cracks. I do love the collection, but didn’t push for reviews or interviews. I so appreciate your interviewing me now! Thank you!

NS: Your work has won or placed for many prizes. Do you approach prize submissions differently than regular publications? More or less experimental? Advice for authors wanting to venture into contests more?

MT: Try not to send out to contests when you’re drunk! It’s helpful to remember where you’ve sent the stories.

NS: Best advice ever–ha! Anything else you want to add? Advice to writers working on a book, perhaps?

MT: I have always gone the indie route. I do love indie presses. They tend to give you a lot of leeway with your cover, your title, and your format. I haven’t looked for an agent and so have nothing to add in that arena. One thing that’s important to know is that you have to do the work. You pay for the readings and set up the engagements. So be excited about your book. Let the world know that it’s out there and celebrate the work that you’ve done!

Links to buy the book:

megtuite.com

bigtablepublishing.com

Amazon 

Thank you so much, Nancy, for the insightful questions and taking the time to send them my way!

LOVE LOVE, Meg xoxo

meg tuite

Meg Tuite is author of four story collections and five chapbooks. She won the Twin Antlers Poetry award for her poetry collection, Bare Bulbs Swinging. She teaches at Santa Fe Community College, senior editor at Connotation Press, associate editor at Narrative Magazine and fiction editor at Bending Genres.  http://megtuite.com

“Loch Ness” in Flash Fiction Festival Anthology Two

Loch Ness

by Nancy Stohlman

After the rapture, the people voted to drain Loch Ness—the infamous lake in the Scottish Highlands that may or may not have contained a monster—and find out the goddamn truth once and for all.

The draining began on a Saturday. The water was channeled through makeshift valves and diverted north for 16 miles, all the way to the sea along carefully built irrigation ditches. By Saturday night the people were getting impatient; the lake emptied so slowly, like a clogged bathtub. But as the water table lowered over subsequent days, travelers arrived from all over Scotland, then the greater UK, and then from all over Europe to wait on the lakeshore edges, excited by every rock suddenly exposed. But the rocks always proved to be just rocks, and somehow the people already knew what was coming. They continued anyway. People came from all over the world to witness this slow draining of imagination, the small water of faith shrinking day after day until it become impossible to deny that the bottom of Loch Ness was covered with rocks and shells and abandoned furniture and clumps of waterlogged trash, and the people knew it was too late to put all the water back and pretend they hadn’t seen the bottom, because even if the water returned the monster would not.

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Buy the anthology here:

Join us in Bristol in 2019 for the 3rd Flash Fiction Festival!

flash-fiction-festival-twoSixty micro fictions written by participants and presenters inspired by the second UK Flash Fiction Festival held in Bristol, July 2018. The stories here, by writers from several different countries, touch on world politics, relationships in all their forms, fantasy and historical themes. Short-short fictions that surprise and linger long.