My embarrassing writer moment, or Why I sobbed over a cake….😂

This story does have a happy ending, but here it goes:

When Going Short was first released as a print book in 2020, I knew the decision to release it in a quarantine year would mean some sacrifices: no live events, no release party, no fancy cake with a picture of my book cover on it. However, I felt strong enough that it was the right book at the right time that I embraced the virtual book tour and all the wonderful virtual events (and I don’t regret it!)

BUT…here’s the cake story: The night before the official release, I was in the kitchen, thinking about that cake with my book’s picture on it that I wasn’t going to get and I just lost it. All the self pity and all the fears of 2020 just bubbled up and out and I was found by my partner, sobbing at the dining room table about how I never get to have a cake.

So, like any good partner, Nick went on a mission to end this sobbing immediately (and for anyone reading this, if anyone in your life is ever sobbing over cake–heed this course of action!) 

As the story was later relayed to me, he went to the nearest grocery store bakery, but since it was already 10 pm, the bakery was closed, and the decorators were gone. However, the teenagers on the night shift, wanting to be helpful, (and maybe having had a sobbing cake episode in their own lives) suggested they could let Nick into the kitchen with some frosting tubes and he could decorate the cake himself.

The situation was of course, desperate. 

When I woke up in the morning on the official Going Short release day I saw this cake in the fridge:

And honestly, it’s my favorite cake ever.

So now, two years later, it’s a thing. This past weekend, in preparation for the Going Short Audiobook release, I still haven’t hugged most of you or had a pre-2020 style release party, but I’m eating cake. All week.

And I’m hoping you not only love the new audiobook (and my narration debut!) but that you eat a piece of cake with me! There’s no way I would rather celebrate than to eat virtual cake with you! For real!

Thank you all for the many years of support, inspiration, and friendship. If I’ve learned anything in these last two years, it’s to cherish your tribe in all the ways, hug them when you can, and always know they are eating cake with you, wherever they are.

Let the cake-eating begin!! 
xoxoxo Nancy

(Yes, I know this is a St. Patrick’s Day cake! I’m not good at this cake thing!!! xoxo)

AND Presenting….
GOING SHORT: THE AUDIOBOOK!

Listen exclusively on Audible NOW

For New Audible members: Listen for $0.00

Seriously!

Happy Reading and Writing (and Listening!)

P.S. Tell me what you think!! Nervous!

P.S.S. Head over to @apparelforauthors on Instagram this week, where I am talking all about writing and fashion!

Are You Taking Care of the Talent? (or My Biggest Takeaway from Costa Rica)

Thanks to everyone that virtually retreated with us last month! (Missed it? See photos here). And before we get too buzzy with spring activity, I want to share with you my biggest lesson/takeaway from our time together in Costa Rica:

Taking Care of the Talent

This is an industry term in the performing arts, something I first heard while getting ready backstage before a performance. I had asked an employee where I could get some water, and one minute later he showed up with an armful of bottled waters for the whole Green Room. Gotta take care of the talent, he said.

Wow, I thought. The talent. How fancy.

Seeing yourself as “the talent” might feel awkward, but in show biz it’s an easy distinction: multiple people can fetch water, but only ONE person is going to sing the opera, play the concerto, dance the ballet, or perform the stand-up set . And if that person can’t do their job: sing, play, dance or perform-–there’s no show.

For some, this concept can be downright uncomfortable. Many writers feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of other writers out there; we don’t feel special, we don’t feel like “the talent”–we feel like an ant in a swarm of ants all vying for one dropped crumb. 

But (and this part is really important!): we are the ONLY ones who can write our stories. 

Which means in a very real way: we are the talent.

“Taking care of the talent” became our unexpected mantra in Costa Rica. We all arrived fried, covid-fatigued, travel weary, and desperate for the promised “renew, recharge, reconnect”. And almost immediately shoulders dropped, jaws loosened, naps were taken, yoga was done. There was writing–oh yes, LOTS of deep, gorgeous, profound writing. But the most unexpected takeaway was remembering this simple fact: we cannot do our best work, we cannot achieve the heights and depths in our art, if we don’t take care of the talent. 

Self-care is a buzz word these days. But creative care, i.e. caring for the creative person in order to do the creative work, is about nourishing the vessel from which ideas must bubble up and through. If we are a conduit, a lightning rod from ether to earth, the channel by which ideas get down on a page (canvas, music sheet, etc), then we need to do some regular maintenance on the instrument itself.

In this case the instrument is you. 

Sometimes we don’t give ourselves what we need until we are desperate. Sometimes never. But, rather than wait until we collapse from burnout, we can ask ourselves this important question: Am I taking care of the talent? 

Costa Rica retreat, 2022

It became clear for me in Costa Rica that the answer was no. And, if I’m honest, I really never teach anything that I’m not also learning myself.So this season I’ll be taking my own advice and doing my own deep work, caring for the vessel in ways that are easily neglected in the deluge of daily life, and knowing that honoring my commitments to my own creative process will make me a better writer, teacher, and person on the other end. 

HERE’S WHAT I’M COMMITTING TO THIS SEASON (oh, the accountability of sharing it!): 

Daily Walks: This is something I do already, but I am going to make sure that at least 50% of the time I walk alone, chatting with my own creative thoughts (no podcasts!).

Journaling: I already journal every morning, but I’m also going to start using journaling as a transition into the actual writing (right now my journaling time is separate from my writing time).

Artist Dates: I forgot all about these! I need them! We all need them. Even just once a month–something that would delight you. And remember: they should always happen alone.

Napping: Seriously! Sometimes the best thing you can do for your creativity is take a nap. And let’s not forget when you nap you give yourself not one but TWO chances to wake up and write your dreams. Which leads to:

Sleep More: Folks, I’m getting ready for bed  by 9:30 these days. #notashamed #sleeprocks

Move Your Body: I was also reminded of this in Costa Rica–it’s not just about exercise, which is great. It’s about spending some time moving your body and listening to it. Our bodies are full of creative wisdom, if we listen.

Eat Regularly: I tell everyone who retreats with me to eat more and sleep more. Why? Often on a retreat the body is repairing all the damage done in previous months (or years!) For me, in this season, it means eating regularly. It’s too easy for me to sit at my desk for hours, sometimes forgetting to even drink water! Once our blood sugar is wonky (either from not eating or eating too much crap) we are not doing our best work.

Creative Check Ins: I have several people I call regularly (usually while walking) that are my creative check-in people. We chat about our lives, yes, but mostly when the phone rings, I know we are going to be talking about our writing. Having that level of focus with another creative person is extremely motivating, and I highly suggest finding a Creative Check-In Buddy (or three!).

The bottom line, as we awake from our winter slumber is this: Are you honoring the needs of the instrument that is you in order to do your best work? The opera singer takes two days off between performances. Even football players don’t practice on Mondays. 

So much of the writing happens before we ever get to the page! So here’s hoping you give yourself permission to take care of the talent that is you in whatever way your artist needs this season. Write. Rest. Nap. Maybe even schedule a massage. 

If anyone questions you, tell them I said you could!
xoxoxoxoox

Nancy

P.S. If you want accountability–feel free to share how you are committing to taking care of the talent this season! Reply below or come let me know on FB or IG!

Great Flash Fiction Festival Throwdown February 26th

Friends!

For a number of (good) reasons, I will not be teaching any online workshops until the late summer/early fall (more on that soon). So I wanted to make doubly sure you knew about this wonderful opportunity to work with not only me but an entire program of flash fiction greatness THIS SATURDAY via Zoom.

I will be ending out the program and teaching one of my favorite types of writing: The Strange, the Surreal, and the Absurd

Details and links to register are below. Note that all the times are London/UK time!~

more soon! xo Nancy


Online programme February 26

On the programme below, all the information to let you know what’s happening each month – 11.00 am – 6.30 pm GMT

You can book here.£30 for the whole day

  • A ‘Throw Down’ writing challenge set and judged by different judges.
  • one or one and a half hour workshops on different aspects of flash fiction;
  • at least two half hour mini workshops or talks on different aspects of flash fiction;
  • three fifteen minute readers’ slots;
  • yoga stretches for writers;
  • small break out groups to chat to writer friends from around the world.

Read more about the workshops on these two days here.

Note: If you can’t attend the whole day, events are recorded and videos are sent to participants after the day is completed.

Session and Workshop Descriptions

Nancy Stohlman

The Strange and Surreal: Opening the Back Door into Our Big Truths with Nancy Stohlman, February 26th 5.00 pm – 6.30 pm

While realism in fiction has its place, some truths can be clumsy when faced head on. When you cannot take the front door into your material because it’s too raw, painful, blunt or overdone—then you must find the back door, a less obvious way into the story where The Big Truth can be revealed. The strange and surreal can create faster pathways to emotional resonance by keeping the audience off guard, unprepared, and more receptive. Come prepared to get weird!

Nancy Stohlman has been writing, publishing, and teaching flash fiction for more than a decade, and her latest book, Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2020) is her treatise on the form. Her other books include The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories, The Monster Opera, and Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, a finalist for a 2019 Colorado Book Award. Her work has been anthologized widely, appearing in the W.W. Norton New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, Macmillan’s The Practice of Fiction, and The Best Small Fictions 2019, as well as adapted for the stage. She teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder and around the world.

Hermit Crab Hangouts, February and March half hours

‘Hermit crab’stories take different forms of writing, anything from recipes to flat pack instructions, to parking tickets to wild-life guide books, Q & A’s. It’s endless.She will introduce a different hermit-crab form each month with examples and get you to try out hermit-crab flash during the session.

Jude Higgins

Jude Higgins devised and programmed this and the previous online Flash Festival six month seroes as Director of Flash Fiction Festivals UK. She founded Bath Flash Fiction Award in 2015 and is Director of Ad Hoc Fiction, the short short fiction press. She runs a popular weekly online class to write and get feedback on flash fiction and this summer ran her first series of Hermitcrab Hangouts online. She has stories published or forthcoming in the New Flash Fiction Review, Flash Frontier, FlashBack Fiction, The Blue Fifth Review, The Nottingham Review, Pidgeon Holes, Storgy, Inktears,The MoonPark Review, Fictive Dream, the Fish Prize Anthology, National Flash Fiction Day anthologies and Flash: The International Short Short Story Magazine among other places. She has won or been placed in many flash fiction contests and was shortlisted in the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize in 2017 and 2018. Her debut flash fiction pamphlet The Chemist’s House was published by V.Press in 2017. She has been nominated for Best Small Fictions 2020 and for Pushcart Prizes and will be included in Best Microfictions 2022 has had stories included in BIFFY50 in 2019 and 2020.

Susmita Bhattacharya

Hour long Workshop For Young People wih Susmita Bhattacharya

A workshops happening in parallel with the events for adults with a special prize.

Susmita Bhattacharya is an Indian-born British writer. Her novel, The Normal State of Mind, was published in 2015 by Parthian (UK) and Bee Books (India) in 2016 and was long listed for the Words to Screen Prize, Mumbai Association of Moving Images (MAMI) Film Festival in 2018. Her collection of short stories, Table Manners, was published by Dahlia Publishing in 2018 and won The Dorset Award in 2019.She teaches contemporary fiction at Winchester University and also facilitates the Mayflower Young Writers workshops, a SO:Write project based in Southampton. She lives in Winchester.


Farhana Shaikh

Small Good Things. The joy of small press publishing: half an hour talk with Farhana Shaikh on February 26th.

In this 30 half-hour talk, founder of Dahlia Books, Farhana Shaikh will discuss independent publishing, building writing communities and what she’s learnt about her own writing from her publishing adventures.

Farhana Shaikh is a writer and publisher born in Leicester. She is the founding editor of The Asian Writer. In 2010 she established Dahlia Publishing to publish regional and diverse writing and the Leicester Writes Festival to celebrate local writing talent.
She was part of Curve Theatre’s Cultural Leadership Programme 17/18. In 2017 she won the Penguin/Travelex Next Great Travel Writer competition and has since been longlisted for the Thresholds International Short Fiction Feature Writing Competition and Spread the Word Life Writing Prize. Her short play Risk was developed through the Kali Discovery programme. She is the author of From Imposter to Impact: Arts Leadership in the 21st Century.

Meg Pokrass

Writing Collaborative Fiction a half hour talk with Meg Pokrass and Jeff Friedmann, February 26th

Have you ever thought about writing stories with another writer? Meg and Jeff have a collection coming out with Pelekensis Press in March 2022 and will tell you about the process of writing together.
Meg Pokrass, is the author of seven flash fiction collections, two novellas-in-flash, and an award-winning book of prose poetry. A recipient of San Francisco’s Blue Light Book Award, her work has been internationally anthologized in two recent Norton Anthologies, Best Small Fictions 2018, 2019, Wigleaf Top 50 (multiple times) and has been published in over 500 literary magazines including Electric Literature, Craft, Tin House, Passages North, Wigleaf and McSweeney’s. Meg serves as Flash Challenge Judge for Mslexia, Co-Editor of Best Microfiction, 2020, Co-Founder Flash Fiction Collective Reading Series (SF), & Founding/Managing Editor of New Flash Fiction Review and a festival curator for Flash Fiction Festivals, UK.


Jeff Friedmann’s eighth book, The Marksman, was published in November 2020 by Carnegie Mellon University Press. He has received numerous awards and prizes for his poetry, mini tales, and translations, including a National Endowment Literature Translation Fellowship in 2016 and two individual Artist Grants from New Hampshire Arts Council. Two of his micro stories were recently selected for the The Best Microfiction 2021. Meg Pokrass and he have co-written a collection of fabulist microfiction that will be published by Pelekinesis Press in March 2022.

Fifteen minutes of Yoga stretches for writers with writer and yoga teacher Sudha Balagopal. Both February and March.

Sudha Balagopal

Each of the five months, Sudha will introduce stretches to rejuvenate and refresh writers sitting in front of a computer screen on our long festival days. Something really useful to take and practice at home as well as writing prompts and ideas.

Sudha Balagopal’s fiction straddles continents and cultures, blending thoughts and ideas from the east and the west. She is the author of a novel, A Dawn, and two short story collections, There are Seven Notes and Missing and Other Stories.Her short fiction has been published in journals around the world, has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fictions. Her novella in flash, Things I Can’t Tell Amma was highly commended in the 2021 Bath Flash Fiction Award and published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2021. When she’s not writing, she’s teaching yoga.

College, runs the yearly Culturama Workshops in the Arts month and lives in the Inland Empire.

One Sentence Stories with Matt Kendrick

Matt Kendrick

There are many flash fiction pieces written in the form of a single, looping sentence, rippling through their narrative without a solitary full stop. These one-sentence stories are often described as breathless. They can feel effortless, as if they have arrived on the page by magic; but there is often a clever architecture holding everything in place. In this mini workshop, we’ll look at some brilliant examples, considering the why, the where, the what and the how of this wonderful – but also wonderfully tricksy – narrative form.

Matt Kendrick is a writer, editor and creative writing teacher based in the East Midlands, UK. His short fiction has appeared in Bending Genres, Cheap Pop, Craft Literary, FlashBack Fiction, Fictive Dream, Lunate, Spelk, Splonk, Storgy, and elsewhere. He has been listed in various writing competitions including Bath, Flash 500, Reflex and Leicester Writes, and he won the Retreat West “Abandoned” flash fiction competition in June 2020. His stories have been featured in the Biffy 50 list for 2019-20 and Best Microfiction 2021. He has also been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions and the Pushcart Prize.

There are many flash fiction pieces written in the form of a single, looping sentence, rippling through their narrative without a solitary full stop. These one-sentence stories are often described as breathless. They can feel effortless, as if they have arrived on the page by magic; but there is often a clever architecture holding everything in place. In this mini workshop, we’ll look at some brilliant examples, considering the why, the where, the what and the how of this wonderful – but also wonderfully tricksy – narrative form.

Matt Kendrick is a writer, editor and creative writing teacher based in the East Midlands, UK. His short fiction has appeared in Bending Genres, Cheap Pop, Craft Literary, FlashBack Fiction, Fictive Dream, Lunate, Spelk, Splonk, Storgy, and elsewhere. He has been listed in various writing competitions including Bath, Flash 500, Reflex and Leicester Writes, and he won the Retreat West “Abandoned” flash fiction competition in June 2020. His stories have been featured in the Biffy 50 list for 2019-20 and Best Microfiction 2021. He has also been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Small Fictions and the Pushcart Prize.