The Smokelong Flash Cab with Nancy Stohlman!

 

 

Christopher Allen and Helen Rye of Smokelong Quarterly picking me up in the Flash Cab on location at the Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol, UK. “The Bad Thing” was first published by Connotation Press and will be re-published in the Best Small Fictions 2019 Anthology out later this year.

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On Finding Inspiration: Holy Boredom

I’m bored the kids whine as soon as summer begins. Boredom seems bad. And it’s so easy to fill the empty spaces with a million easy-to-reach options: from food to electronics to conversation. “If you have time to lean, you have time to clean!” say the Ghosts of Restaurant Managers Past. Empty time seems wrong somehow.

But let me suggest, after putting it to the test myself, that the real key to finding inspiration no matter where you are is a healthy dose of Holy Boredom.

I’m writing to you now at the end of my sabbatical. (After 10 years of teaching college I decided that I was giving myself my own sabbatical!) And I’ve discovered that even on sabbatical, once the initial excitement wears off, it’s easy to get bored. My budget wine-cellar-turned-apartment has no television. Internet is spotty and unavailable altogether once I leave my apartment. But it took me about a week to discover this because, of course being someplace new makes you want to walk, explore, snap pictures. Which is why inspiration, real inspiration, did not arrive for me until week 2, when I’d explored all the crannies, eaten at all the restaurants, took all the pictures, and finally found boredom.

Holy Boredom—that place of nothing-ness where everything already lives.

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My guru is always (gently) reminding me that I need to meditate. I try. I have an app. I schedule it in my normally busy schedule, in between A and B. But the real point of mediation, as I understand it, is to quiet the mind, to silence the honking horns of urgency.

Holy boredom is to creativity what meditation is to the mind. Intentional stillness. Wide open space with no agenda. We think we’re so busy because the outside world is always pushing down on us (insert job, obligations, etc.) But also we do it to ourselves. We keep our mind busy, spinning, distracted. it’s not until you reach a place of actual boredom that inspiration, that deep inspiration, can shyly arrive.

So it’s not the table with the view by the sea that creates the inspiration—it’s the wide spaces of nothingness you create around the table. Staring out a window with no agenda. A long silent walk (with no phone). Room for boredom without the usual distractions: music, television, conversation.. It’s from that deep stillness your most original ideas can finally bubble to the surface.

As a disciplined person, one who normally uses all time available with military precision, scheduling in boredom seems, well, silly. But the good news is that this can happen here, now: you don’t have to travel anywhere to create pockets of holy boredom—they already exist, we just fill them so fast we don’t even see them: whoosh! Gone. So this summer, if scheduling “writing time” seems too intimidating or exhausting, why not just make room for a bit of daily boredom in those spots that you usually fill with blur and noise and see what bubbles up instead?

To Your Success!

PS: Maybe find a Boredom Buddy to keep you accountable?

PSS: Tell me how it goes!

Write a Flash Novel with me in July!

Write a Flash Novel (online course)

July 8-19, 2019

This class is now SOLD OUT.

7ce163b50c8d11cda50c0af6d803e41cDo you have a large, book-length idea that you’ve been wanting to bring to fruition? Do you love the intensity of FlashNano or NaNoWriMo? Then get ready: In 10 days we will create a literal “flash flood” and you will leave the workshop with the bones (at least) of a flash novel.

What’s a flash novel? With the scope and complexity of a novel, and the size and ingenuity of flash fiction, the flash novel is a new type of book, a breakout genre that can deliver a sophisticated reading experience in a compact space. In this workshop will envision, draft, collage and create the momentum for that large-scale idea you have been wanting to tackle.

Participants should come with a basic understanding of flash fiction and have ideas for a book-length concept.

Cost: $149

 

Flash Fiction editor Tommy Dean interviews Nancy Stohlman in CRAFT Literary Magazine

CRAFT’s flash fiction section editor Tommy Dean chats with Nancy Stohlman-Author about MADAM VELVET’S CABARET OF ODDITIES, flash fiction, craft, and more:

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EXCERPT

Tommy Dean: What was your process of crafting this collection together? There’s seems to be a shift from the constant narrator around page twenty-one to twenty-two with the list of circus performers. Was this intentional? What effect were you hoping for?

Nancy Stohlman: Oh yes, very intentional. And even more so in the work I’m doing now—I teach that there are many ways of approaching a collection. One way is to look at it like a “greatest hits” album of work in an order that is rhythmic and pleasing and that is perfectly alright. But I tend to go for the “concept album” approach instead, allowing the juxtapostions of story against story to create another layer of white space and give birth to a second layer of story. It’s my favorite part these days.

Read more:

https://www.craftliterary.com/2019/05/28/interview-nancy-stohlman/

So You Wrote a Book? Robert Vaughan

Robert Vaughan’s latest book Funhouse is a wild ride–he starts us off in the kiddy rides and before we know it we’re doing double loops on the Scrambler and full speed on the Centrifuge, the floor dropping away and we’re spinning and stuck to the wall, hair full of static like crazy cotton candy.

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Nancy Stohlman: Describe this book in 6 words:

Robert Vaughan:

Harrowing

Neglected

Frightening

Hilarious

Oddball

FUN

NS: You have authored multiple books including Addicts and Basements and Rift, which you co-authored with Kathy Fish. How is Funhouse different from your other books?

RV: Funhouse is a varied collection and contains four diverse sections. There is the opening flash and micro pieces. Then the two middle collaborative sections, “Hall of Mirrors” which I like to refer to as the “Kids in the Classroom”; and “Tunnel of Love” which is my nod to the numerous musical Divas. It also is my first book to contain my short stories in the fourth and last section of FUNHOUSE (unlike only flash or prose poetry in previous collections).

NS: I loved this tiny story, “Corn Maze”: 

“I got lost in a corn maze this morning. I know you’re not supposed to panic, but this happened in Soho. I met a lot of other people in there. Many of them were in the arts. One girl told me she’d been in there since Labor Day. I think she said this out of shame. She was wearing white shoes.”

For me this is the perfect example of a micro—lots of implication and white space for the reader to fill in the rest of the story. How you decide what becomes a micro and what becomes a poem?

RV: First of all, thanks for liking this tiny piece. I never really know what something I write is, prose or poetry or whatever. I often like to say that categories of writing were made for libraries and bookstores! I know there are all of these defining “rules,” etc. But I do feel like I tend more toward the gray areas, or middle ground, then the “defining areas” of what others tell us are a micro or a poem. It’s probably what drove me to start Bending Genres journal and workshops/ retreats. Who knows?

NS: Your “Hall of Mirrors” section (2) is somehow both sweet and chilling at the same time, like Shel Silverstein crossed with Tim Burton. I could totally see this as a stand alone (freaky) children’s book. Talk about your inspiration for this. Would you ever consider publishing it as a stand-alone?

RV: One of my favorite book collections as a kid was a gift from my grandfather. It was The Gashlycrumb Tinies by Edward Gorey. I was fascinated by the poem lure (it’s all Iambic pentameter), completely entrancing gore and horror. Each kid dies (“A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B was for Ben who was bitten by bears…”) So, my “Halls of Mirrors” is a nod to Gorey, and grandpa, but also in my own way, I decided to twist it, make it my own. And it’s a great idea to possibly make this into its own chapbook. Any takers?

NS: Loved your choice of “divas”—I approve of all of them! Explain your process: did you pick the line from their song and then break it apart or how did you use it as a starting point?

RV: This section began in 2013 when my friend Joseph Quintela started a project while at Sarah Lawrence, called The Word Poeticizer. He asked 15- 20 of his poet friends to re-assign their own definitions of words. Then you could feed anything into his Word Poeticizer and pop a new version of the lyric or poem out. Then I decided to do the nod to divas, or female singers who have meant everything to me. I chose a line, and it evolved into these prose poems. My last part was asking Eryk Wenziak to do the layout, and he laid each poem on the page so uniquely, many with much white, and symbolic space.

NS: In your “Tunnel of Love” section (3) you literally doubled your alphabet, using pretty much every symbol available on the keyboard. If I were to name this section I would have named it The Scrambler! There is a lot going on in this section and it’s definitely your most avant-garde. Talk about your inspiration here.

RV: Again, because we used the Word Poeticizer, it became quite odd, more abstraction. I wavered with editing these “too much,” and then decided to go back to the originals, which became the “Tunnel of Love.” I felt like I wanted one entire chunk of the book that left people sort of “huh?” And yet, many times, I’m told it is a reader’s favorite part of Funhouse. I also think because it was a collaborative project at the onset, asking Eryk to add his brilliant touches really made it all the more wondrously strange.

NS: You are a writer that really embraces (and promotes) the hybrid form. Gun to your head: Prose or poetry for the rest of your life—what do you choose?

RV: I’d take the bullet! HA. Actually, I have to choose poetry. It’s my go to, again and again. With all of the bullshit going on the world, poetry helps me to balance, to feel more deeply. And my mentors are all poets: Dorianne Laux, Ellen Bass, Marie Howe, Nick Flynn. But then there are all these amazing contemporary writers who effuse hybrid forms: I’m thinking Sabrina Orah Mark, Alina Stefanescu, Kaj Tanaka, Len Kuntz, Maggie Nelson, Meg Tuite, Steven Dunn, and so many more. Deep Gratitude to them all!

NS: You seem inspired by visuals—both the drawings in Hall of Mirrors (amazing artistry by Bob Schofield) and the use of white space in Tunnel of Love are very visual. How important are visuals to your creation process?

RV: Of course, I am a very visual person. And Bob did great renderings for the Hall Of Mirrors. Almost like he was in my head it is so terrific! I’d love to think I am a sensory person (all senses firing). I like to write from visual prompts, and I am also inspired by how words look on a page. How the author thinks about this (or in more cases, not). So, visuals are very important to me. And then, also, what is going on BELOW/ BENEATH/ UNDER.

NS: What is your favorite story in this book?

RV: ______________?

NS: This is your second book with Unknown Press. Talk about your publishing process.

RV: My fortune started with Gloria Mindock and Cervena Barva Press, she published “Microtones” in 2012.  Joseph Quintela published “Diptychs, Triptychs, Lipsticks & Dipshits” (Deadly Chaps). My first full collection, “Addicts & Basements” was published by Civil Coping Mechanisms. Michael Seidlinger cold- called me after hearing me read and host a reading at the Boston AWP in 2013. (can you say HOLY FUCK?!!) In 2015, Bud Smith (Unknown Press) suggested Kathy Fish and I to do a collaborative book. I thought: she’s never going to do this! Turns out, Kathy was in a tough writing spot. We work-shopped that entire year (Fish, Smith, Michael Maxwell and me) online in the Night Owl Café. This made RIFT a possibility, which became a book! Bud and I also chatted about FUNHOUSE along the way. It came out almost one year later (December, 2017). Every single publisher I have worked with has been beyond my wildest dreams. So professional, beyond qualified, and brilliant.

NS: Advice to writers?

RV: Write as often as possible. PAY ATTENTION! Believe in yourself. Be curious. Meet other writers and greet your family. Make love often. Take suggestions with an open mind. Travel whenever possible. Cook with others. Read, read, read…

NS: Anything else you want to add?

RV: Have I mentioned how much I adore and revere you? Truly, I do. I’m so grateful to anyone who gives back to our writing community, and you always do in such a huge way.

NS: BLUSHING!! Thank YOU so much, Robert. I am honored to call you a friend. xoxoxo

Links to books or other promo links:

www.robert-vaughan.com

www.bendinggenres.com

Robert Vaughan teaches workshops in hybrid writing, poetry, fiction at locations like The Clearing, Synergia Ranch, Mabel Dodge Luhan House. He leads roundtables in Milwaukee, WI. He was a finalist for the Gertrude Stein Award for Fiction (2013, 2014). His flash fiction, ‘A Box’ was selected for Best Small Fictions 2016 and his flash, “Six Glimpses of the Uncouth” was chosen for Best Small Fictions 2019 (Queen’s Ferry Press).  He is the Editor-in-Chief at Bending Genres, LLC.

Vaughan is the author of five books: Microtones(Cervena Barva Press); Diptychs+ Triptychs + Lipsticks + Dipshits(Deadly Chaps); Addicts & Basements(CCM), RIFT, co-authored with Kathy Fish (Unknown Press) and FUNHOUSE(Unknown Press). His blog: www.robert-vaughan.com.

“The Running of the Sharks” in Paris Lit Up Magazine

The Running of the Sharks

by Nancy Stohlman

After the rapture, the sport of bullfighting officially ended. Spanish matadors, national celebrities in crushed velvet, unfit for any other type of work, went sadly unemployed.

Belize saw an opportunity.  They designated a section of Shark Ray Alley, several miles off the coast, for The Running of the Sharks, where an assortment of tiger and reef sharks waited in a large cage.

All those who would have made the trip to Pamplona arrived instead in Belize. Thousands lined the swim zone with their boats, everyone wearing the traditional red scarf and eating the traditional red snowcone to symbolize the blood spilled in a good battle. As in Pamplona, participants could be amateur or professional, and the morning of the event they were all stretching and warming up on the decks of boats under the careless sun of a Caribbean morning. Then they gathered in the water.

On the first gunshot the participants had a one-minute head start, a froth of arms and legs swimming toward a safety boat half a mile away. On the second gunshot the cage opened and the sharks were released in a several-minute frenzy of man vs. beast. Medic boats lined the swim zone as pools of red blossomed and the maimed were yanked from the water.

The spectacle culminated in a final match between one shark and one matador in a snorkel and bedazzled wetsuit. The crowd submerged to watch the silent ballet—matador with harpoon and red flippers, shark with two rows of teeth and superior aquatic skills. Bubble gasps escaped from mouths as the matador attempted traditional arabesques and veronicas in the now underwater colosseum, daring to put his body as near to the shark as possible in their delicate dance of death.

But there were new rules: If the shark won he was set free, no shark fin trophies or shark meat for sale in the markets the next day.

To date, the shark has never lost.

*

paris lit up

Check out all the great happenings at the Paris Lit Up scene!

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: