Flash Q & A with Nancy Stohlman: Must flash fiction have a twist ending?

Nancy Stohlman answers your common and not-so-common questions about flash fiction.

Today’s question: Must flash fiction have a twist ending?

http://www.nancystohlman.com Nancy Stohlman is the author of Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction (releasing October 15, 2020 from Ad Hoc Fiction) as well as multiple books of flash fiction including Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (a finalist for a 2019 Colorado Book Award), The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (2014), and The Monster Opera (2013). She is the creator of The Fbomb Flash Fiction Reading Series and FlashNano in November. Her work has been anthologized in the W.W. Norton New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and the Best Small Fictions 2019. She teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction coming Oct 15!

Coming SOON!



Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction

by Nancy Stohlman

Publisher Ad Hoc Fiction

pre-sales and prizes begin late August!




Flash fiction is changing the way we tell stories. Carving away the excess, eliminating all but the most essential, flash fiction is putting the story through a literary dehydrator, leaving the meat without the fat. And it only looks easy.

Enter Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction. In this, her treatise on the form, veteran writer Nancy Stohlman takes us on a flash fiction journey: from creating, sculpting, revisioning and collecting stories to best practices for writers in any genre. It is both instructive and conversational, witty and practical, and presented in flash fiction chapters that demonstrate the form as they discuss it. If you’re already a flash fiction lover, this book will be a dose of inspiration. If you teach flash fiction, you’ll want it as part of your repertoire. And if you’re new to the form, you might just find yourself ready to begin.


“In Going Short, Nancy Stohlman captures the true spirit of flash fiction, those brief narratives imbued with all the urgency of life itself. An extremely practiced flash fiction writer, Stohlman is also a veteran teacher. She knows the territory and takes us on a trip from getting started to the finishing line, and everything in between. It’s hard to think of a more thoughtful, adept, and enthusiastic guide.” ~David Galef, author of Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook

“Nancy Stohlman has written the definitive, and appropriately concise, book on the flash fiction form. You’ll learn what flash fiction is and isn’t, tips on writing it, tips on honing, sculpting, and polishing it (I especially like her idea of “swapping” sentences and paragraphs in revision and “strategic cutting”), along with thoughtful discussions on the flash novel and tips for pulling together a flash collection. As a widely-published master of the form herself, Stohlman brings years of teaching experience and her own engaging voice and wit to this useful, encouraging, and entertaining guide. A must-have for flash writers of all levels.” ~Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life: Collected Works 2003-2018

“Going Short embraces the urgency and compression of flash in presenting specific, fresh suggestions for creating, drafting, revising, editing, and publishing both individual pieces and full collections. It’s a book that knows and teaches by doing. It is inspiring and insightful, a masterful craft book written by a master of the craft.” ~Randall Brown, author of This Is How He Learned to Love

“This book is an invitation to flash dance with Nancy Stohlman, an accomplished partner who will show you the steps you can take, the fluid moves you can make on the flash fiction studio floor.  It is all about practice. She will spin you around and show you things you didn’t know you could do, and lead you to a kind of prose performance you didn’t think possible. It’s all about paying close attention and getting it down with the necessary urgency. It’s not easy at first, it’s a tricky art form, but Nancy shares her sharp insight and offers short cuts to get you more quickly to your own satisfaction and your reader’s delight. And at the studio door when it’s time to leave, she hands you a scroll of a hundred good ideas and wishes you happy travel. Just follow the map.” ~James Thomas, co-editor of the Norton Flash Fiction books


nancy headshot roundNancy Stohlman has been a writer, editor, publisher, and professor for more than a decade. She’s published seven books of flash fiction and flash novels including The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories 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.

Photo by Lynn Hough Photography


Write a Flash Novel Aug 31-Sept 11: Registration open!

Flash Flood: Write a Flash Novel 

Aug 31-Sept 11, 2020

This workshop is now SOLD OUT. Stay tuned for future offerings!

Flash Novel Writing WorkshopDo 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 online 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 project. There is limited availability and this workshop will fill quickly!

Join us!

From past participants: 

“Nancy Stohlman’s Flash Novel workshop was so helpful and so much fun I took it twice. Nancy’s wonderful course materials—readings, commentaries, exercises, critiques—arrive each morning like a magical gift to unwrap with the day’s first coffee. Now I’m hoping she’ll offer a Flash Novel Next Steps workshop!” ~ Sally Reno

“Nancy will help you to become a better writer—while having an awesome time. The best thing about working with her is that it doesn’t feel like work; the atmosphere is positive, generative, encouraging. I took her “Write a Flash Novel” class. These days I’ve become a slower, finicky writer, but her class pushed me out of my finickiness and into producing work. I wrote the hell out of those two weeks. Every day there was an inspiring prompt and lesson. It coaxed me out of dull perfectionism and allowed me to make a mess (a requisite for any artist).” ~Leonora Desar

“Nancy is a gifted teacher and coach, striking just the right balance between inspiration and discipline. In her Flash Novel workshop, I learned how to let go of preconceived ideas about my material and explore its larger possibilities for characters, structure, and plot. By the end of the class, I had lots of great ideas and a road map for getting them on the page.” ~Pedro Ponce

“The day I signed up for Nancy Stohlman’s “Flash Flood: Write a Flash Novel” workshop, I entered with five underdeveloped ideas. By the workshops conclusion, one of these ideas blossomed into a cast of characters with personalized desires, humor encompassed in varying flash forms, and previews of my fellow writers flash novels in-progress. This workshop enables writers to construct a table of contents, toy with characters (new and old), and exchange ideas on how to proceed in writing their novel in flash once the workshop ends.” ~K.B. Carle

“Nancy Stohlman’s Novel-in-Flash Workshop was a thoroughly rewarding experience. Nancy was an encouraging and passionate instructor. She fostered a supportive community of writers. Her knowledge of flash fiction helped me move out of my comfort zone and try out different techniques I would otherwise have been afraid of trying.”~Candace Hartsuyker

“Nancy Stohlman’s Novella in Flash Workshop moved my writing ahead in a direction I never imagined.  Before it began, I feared I’d signed up for more than I could handle. But, in a ‘flash’, Nancy, a generous person, with an infectious creative spirit assuaged those worries. From the first workshop day to the last I received encouragement and insightful responses to my writing.” ~Jo Goren

“Nancy’s class was a delight to take. Her incorporation of multimedia into each day’s approach motivated me on new levels, and her prompts opened doors to reimagining my stories in ways I had never before considered. The focus ss on creation, not critique, which offered a comfort in that foggy, not-knowing phase of writing, something I’ve long struggled to find. This class was the gentle push I needed to dive head first into my ideas and let them carry me for while, before taking the reins. Thank you!”~Meagan Johanson

Register here


Questions? Contact me at nancystohlman@ gmail.com

I look forward to working with you and bringing your story to life!

xoxo Nancy

“Courtesy Call” in Fiction Kitchen Berlin

Thank you, Fiction Kitchen Berlin, for sharing in my odd sense of humor! Happy Friday, friends! xo


By Nancy Stohlman



Good afternoon Water World guests. We have an important call waiting for a guest by the name of—and she says my name—Please come to any guest services.

The kiosk is staffed by teenagers. I have a message?

The kid hands me the receiver of an actual red phone:


Congratulations! You’ve just been chosen to star on our Water World reality show, Escape from Water World! The way the game works is you have 60 minutes to find the key to your locker and leave the park. If you don’t find the key in time, the contents of your locker will be forfeited.

But my purse and my Diamond card and keys are in there.

Yes! And you have 60 minutes to find them and—here a studio audience chimes in—Escape! From! Water! World! Cheering in the background. Are you ready for your first clue?

I don’t want to play this game, actually—

Don’t hang up—we’re already filming.

The guest services kid gives me a thumbs-up.

Your first clue is: The woman in the pink has gotten too much sun. Find her and find Clue #1. And…begin! 60 minutes on the clock starting now!

This is ridiculous! I yell but he’s already gone. I hang up and walk straight to my locker, where the wristband that should open it no longer works, buzzing angry with each failed try.

Keep reading

Summer Reading: My Favorite (Writing) Craft Books

Happy Summer, friends!

Summer is my absolute favorite time of year (I’m a summer baby), so even though the world is strange, I’m finding lots of joy in not wearing shoes, or sweaters, eating lots of Popsicles, drinking iced coffee, journaling on my balcony in the soft summer mornings and reading long into the evening. I hope you’re finding this season more gentle and inspiring than the last!

And this time each year I usually write about my own summer reading. In the past I’ve shared my favorite summer rereads as well as my thoughts behind having a reading syllabus, among others.


This summer I’m thinking about craft books (in anticipation of my own, Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction, coming out this fall). And thinking about craft books has me thinking about the ones that have had big influences on my writing and creative practices, particularly those favorites on my shelves that I have read many, many times over the years.

So while this list isn’t meant to be comprehensive (I’ve read many other craft books that aren’t on this list!), here are my favorites:

On Creativity in General

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
I LOVE this book. It’s not writing specific but instead addresses the “battle” of the creator (you) against the “enemy”: resistance. I also love his micro chapters and was very inspired by his format when writing my own book.

The Artists Way by Julia Cameron
If one book put me on the path to taking myself seriously as a writer, it was this one. I first read it in 1995 (I’ve revisited it many, many times) and never looked back. Structured like a 12-week DIY creative recovery program, Cameron addresses common blocks and fears, and her two main tools of recovery–morning pages and artist’s dates—I’ve now been doing for 25 years.

On Writing Specifically

Sin and Syntax by Constance Hale
I was first assigned this book as an undergrad, then again as a grad student, and I’ve been recommending it to my own students for years. Again, this is not going to teach you how to write, but it invites you on a stylish, esoteric meditation into the glory of words and sentences themselves.

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
A classic. I love her snarky humor and the way she doesn’t take herself too seriously or make her writing too precious. Her opening chapter, Shitty First Drafts, is required reading for all my college students. She addresses both technique and other writing life stumbling blocks like jealousy and fear, and she ultimately reminds us that the writing always happens one step at a time, bird by bird.

Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
This book is a collection of Bradbury’s essays about the writing (and overall creative) process as well as a glimpse into his world. Written at different times in his career, I especially like watching how certain themes show up over and over (and some interesting asides like the process of making a movie from one of his books).

Ernest Hemingway on Writing edited by Larry Phillips
This is another compilation of writing wisdoms, most of them culled from Hemingway’s personal letters and other correspondences. What I like about this book is the wisdoms are truly bite-sized and could serve almost as a daily inspiration book. And ya’ll know how much I love Papa.

Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
This book is over 40 years old and I believe it’s truly timeless. In very short, often funny, and easily digestible chapters, Goldberg addresses both the micro: writing advice and specific exercises—as well as the macro: the big picture of “being a writer” and the trials of a writing life.

Becoming a Writer by Dorothea Brande
This book was initially published in 1934…and considering that 100 years ago women weren’t commonly regarded as authorities on writing, I find this book particularly unique. Brande doesn’t focus on technique but instead on creative mindset, self-commitment and personal “guts”–she demystifies the fantasy but makes you want to begin writing now.

The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
This slim book is a long love letter to creativity. Reading it, you feel let into Dillard’s personal process and conspiratorial details as well as feeling validated about the love, hate, and love of writing.

On Writing by Stephen King
Another classic, King’s book is half writing advice and half personal memoir of his life as a writer, but he somehow blends these two seamlessly. What I love is that in true King fashion, this book is still a page turner—his signature storytelling skills at play even in nonfiction.

On Writing Flash Fiction Specifically

A Pocket Guide to Flash Fiction by Randall Brown
A veteran of flash and long time teacher, Brown’s little book is a back pocket gem and a DIY for flash writers and the flash-curious. A inspiration to me, this book is a great primer for those wanting to cross over to flash fiction as well as great writing advice for all writers.

Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook by David Galef
Another flash specific book, Galef’s book brings lots of examples and exercises to the discussion, so this is the perfect DIY and/or teaching text for those who want more guidance through the many exciting ways flash fiction stories can manifest.

What are your favorite craft books not on this list?

And I’m so glad my book will be joining the ranks of these and other great craft books this fall! Pre-orders will be available later this summer/early fall—make sure you’re on my mailing list (or forward to others) to get the first announcements!



P.S. Can’t wait that long? I ran a “preview” generative online workshop using chapters of the book in June, and it was a full house and so much fun! So I’m running it again at the end of July: come write with us!

Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction

July 27-31, 2020


Questions? Feel free to contact me at nancystohlman@gmail.com

**In solidarity with Corona-craziness, I will continue to offer (limited) discounts on all my classes this summer.