How Do You Write? with Rachel Herron: Nancy Stohlman on Why Writing Short is So Exciting

Rachel Herron and I chatted back in March about writing routines, phases of the creative process, finding flow and one of my favorite quick inspiration hacks: The Sunrise Drive. She is an amazing interviewer and we had some amazing conversations (see below for the time stamps).

00:00 Intro

00:23 What’s Going On Around Here

02:17 Taxes, Money, & Debt

12:22 Hush Little Baby Launch

13:27 Introducing Nancy Stohlman

16:00 Discussing Flash Fiction

20:03 Creating a Writing Routine

25:13 Harnessing the Different Creative Phases

27:48 Creating the Conditions to Get into Flow

29:58 Keep Writing and Editing Separate

33:44 Getting Inspired by Art

37:48 The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

38:33 For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

40:12 Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction

43:28 Outro

How Do You Write Podcast: Explore the processes of working writers with bestselling author Rachael Herron. Want tips on how to write the book you long to finish? Here you’ll gain insight from other writers on how to get in the chair, tricks to stay in it, and inspiration to get your own words flowing.

Support Rachael on Patreon

International Book Awards AND The Great Fiction Flash Off this weekend!

The Great Festival Flash Off

Saturday, June 26, 2021

11 am to 8 pm (London time)

Cake Pops: Making a Savory Micro Sequence with Nancy Stohlman: 5:00-6:30 pm (London time)

Okay, bakers. For our technical challenge we want you to craft a string of 5-10 perfect mini-flashes into a showstopping centerpiece. The sponge should be poignant, the flavor should be profound, and the texture should be compact and dense, yet expansive and memorable. Identically perfect, well-rounded, separate, but together.

Few people know that Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets actually create a sonnet sequence. While they can obviously be read and loved alone, strung together they invite a new perspective. In this class we will use all the tricks and tools of compression, as well as consider the broader scope of a larger story. Inspired by sequences in literature and the natural world, we will crack stories open and string stories together to create a savory micro sequence that is both tiny and epic.

I promise you can’t eat just one!

More info and Register Here



Going Short is feeling like a rock star today!

(*just announced) International Book Awards: Finalist

Next Generation Book Awards: Finalist

Reader Views Award: Winner

Thank you to Ad Hoc Fiction and everyone who has believed in this book!

Get Yours Now

Beauty in the Aftermath: A Creative Call to Action


Are you feeling the shift? Something in the water these last few weeks… unfamiliar frequencies, extra static that you can’t quite put your finger on? A cautious shift into…joy? Hesitancy? Both?

In the U.S., there has been an impulse to move forward, and quickly! Take off your masks, everyone! Hug your friends! Go to Disneyworld! And yet it’s unsettling. For 18 months we’ve been dreaming of this kind of permission, but now we may feel stunned. Pausing in a fog of new feelings.

I’ve been trying to put a name to this feeling for weeks. It’s like slipping between worlds, inhabiting a strange, transitional, duty-free zone between here and there. A kind of reverse culture shock tinged with trauma.

Go with me for a minute…

You probably know about culture shock—if you’ve experienced it, you may remember feeling unmoored in the new spaces—not quite sure how to navigate in the face of so much difference. But…you eventually embraced the unfamiliar and opened your heart to the difference, and in that opening you found new ways, new foods, and new rituals.

I mean, that’s why we travel, right?

Fewer people talk about reverse culture shock. I first experienced it after spending 3 weeks on an anthropology trip in Nepal in college. We had been well prepared for the culture shock of Nepal—but, after 3 weeks of adjusting to a new everything: new climate, altitude, food, customs, time zone— we were completely unprepared for the re-entry. We had changed, and the old ways now seemed foreign and awkward. 

Returning created just as much disturbance as leaving—maybe more because we were unprepared for it.

But reverse culture shock is only part of the current equation. There is also the very real trauma of surviving a life-threatening situation. I don’t use the term PTSD lightly. But we carry the aftermath of life-threatening trauma—wars, accidents, abuse, starvation, or a deadly pandemic—in our bodies, sometimes for years, maybe even a lifetime. My grandparents lived in the shadow of the Depression for the rest of their lives.  

It was once explained to me that US soldiers in Vietnam began to experience more frequent instances of PTSD in part because of airplanes. In earlier wars, soldiers traveled home by ship, a process that took several weeks, and they traveled together. There was a natural buffer—a liminal time between the site of the trauma and the re-emerging into society. There were weeks of distance, processing, grieving, and connection among the soldiers that helped the re-entry process. But in Vietnam (and subsequent wars), most soldiers were debriefed and flown home on airplanes—leaving them only 18 hours to transition worlds. Which means they were in a war zone on Tuesday; thrown into their old lives and their old relationships on Wednesday. No wonder they struggled (and continue to struggle).
So combine the two—reverse culture shock with a bit of collective PTSD, and we get closer to defining this strange, in-between space we’re inhabiting these days. We are facing the aftermath and not sure how to reacclimate.

So now what?

What does a community of sensitive, emotionally attuned people do now, at this threshold? When there is a feeling of cosmic trepidation, hesitation, when making simple decisions seems overwhelming? When your creative work—wherever on the continuum you’ve been over the last 18 months—is again shifting. Perhaps the ripples we’ve been feeling is humanity herself shaking to be alive.

Now, as always, we turn to the artists—you and me—to hold a new vision of the world. More than ever we need the beauty makers and visionaries, the poets and painters and preachers. The storytellers. Our time has come, fellow art makers. Now, in the Reconstruction of our world—let’s help to leave it better and more beautiful than we found it.

Proud to be on your team,

“The Wacky, Weird, and Wonderful”–Zoom workshop fundraiser for Brilliant Flash Fiction


Saturday, JUNE 12, NOON MDT (Denver, CO, time)

Everyone attending the workshop will be eligible for a drawing to win one of 3 signed copies of Nancy Stohlman’s book, Going Short.

About the workshop:

“The Wacky, Weird, and Wonderful: Dazzling Narratives and Experimental Flash Fictions”

The constraints of flash fiction have ironically created a new sort of genre freedom, and flash fiction writers are embracing contortions that wouldn’t work in other forms: a motley circus of tightrope walkers and jugglers and trapeze artists plunging against their boundaries and defying narrative in breathtaking ways. In this one-hour workshop we’ll examine, discuss, and take bold risks with experimental narratives, attempting the kinds of literary acrobatics and daredevil antics that emerge when plots are forced to bend in small spaces.  

acrobats balance on Empire State Building, 1934

From Brilliant Flash Fiction: If you want to attend this workshop, please email with WORKSHOP in the subject line, giving your name and an email address where we can send a Zoom link. We ask participants to donate $20 by clicking the Donate button at Everyone attending the workshop will be eligible for a drawing to win one of 3 signed copies of Nancy Stohlman’s book, Going Short.

More info, as well as contests, submissions, and other awesomeness, at Brilliant Flash Fiction