Everything is a Story: Reflections and photos from the 2022 Spanish Flash Fiction Retreat

From Nancy Stohlman:

Wow! The Spanish retreat was an incredible experience. The combination of novelty, space, time, and total immersion with other creatives, spending a week with your tribe, pushed and encouraged, detoxing from the usual distractions to enter that space of raw creativity is both deeply healing and deeply inspiring. On a retreat we remember that everything is a story waiting to happen.

writing (photo by Chelsea Stickle)

We had a wide range of amazing writers—from published to unpublished, brand new to flash all the way to flash veterans; we had a pair of friends reuniting from two different countries, a pair of sisters reconnecting in the yurts, and people representing California, Baltimore, Texas, New York City, Portugal, France, Spain, Qatar, and of course Denver, doubly represented (by Nancy and Kathy).

There was a group hammock, fiery sunsets, and (multiple!) spontaneous performances of the Grease soundtrack. There were massages and hikes in the Sierra Nevada mountains. And there were surprises of course, part of any good adventure. From the exploding chairs to the nudist beach to the historic heat wave that swept Europe during our retreat (!), all that material filtered through our bodies and onto the page. We risked both vulnerability and connection and we bonded and played and ate and wrote—a lot.

workshop (photo by Lizzie Woolfenden)

And we were fed—oh yes. The food was as beautiful as it was delicious and all vegetarian. We were so inspired that we wrote a group poem (and sang a song!) to the many cooks and kitchen angels who spoiled us all week.

the food! (photo by Nancy Finston)

We were the first group of writers to visit House of Light, and they learned as much about us as we did about them—including the copious amounts of coffee and wine consumed (sangria happened!)—and we were delighted that the owners joined us for our final night reading.

Salon night (photo by Nancy Finston)

We reconnected with our writing and remembered that inspiration often comes at the crossroads between novelty and play. If we are too comfortable, or too serious, the words get stuck. After a week in Spain the words, ideas, and friendships are flowing!

I’m so grateful to my co-facilitator, Kathy, and to each one of the amazing writers who said yes to an Andalusian adventure. I raise my pen to all of you!

cheers! (photo by Nancy Finston)

From Kathy Fish:

The House of Light in Órgiva was a unique, magical space for us to gather. We were fed meals almost too beautiful to eat, we woke to birdsong, and ended our days with late sunsets bathing the hills in gold. Our group quickly gelled and became friends and encouraging cohorts. I found myself inspired by their energy and enthusiasm and all the beautiful stories they created, and cheered by the conversation and laughter at mealtimes and around the pool. The highlight for me was (as always) our salon night. The resident cats and dogs came around, too, as if they’d been invited or they were just curious about what us humans were up to. The readings that final night were superb. All in all, this retreat was an amazing experience I won’t soon forget. Thanks to everyone who took part.

workshop (photo by Lizzie Woolfenden)

from Cheryl J. Fish:

From Cheryl’s blog: “Thinking about the flash fiction workshop I just experienced feels like a re-birth. So much of what I know about story was reinforced, and yet there’s much more to realize and expand into. In flash you don’t explain. Inunendo rules in fiction that comes in under 1,000 words. It’s an opportunity to prove less is more. After twice-a-day workshops and prompts with Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman, and a wonderful group of writers from all over the place, I am ready to up my game in the micro and flash fiction worlds.”

the view (photo by Cheryl J. Fish)

From Philippa Bowe:

The Andalusian retreat with Nancy and Kathy was a delight from beginning to end. Workshops were enriching, enlightening, fun, creative, productive. Add in fabulous food, sunshine and company and you have an experience that, as a writer, is pretty near heaven on earth.

Writers and friends (photo by Chelsea Stickle)

From Pedro Ponce:

You will leave this retreat well-fed, rested, and, most importantly, inspired! Thank you Nancy and Kathy!

Workshop (photo by Lizzie Woolfenden)

From Marina Pacheco:

I learned a great deal at the retreat. Nancy and Kathy were fantastic tutors who took me on a journey of discovery that resulted in handfuls of new flash writing for me.

writers and friends (photo by Chelsea Stickle)

From Dorothy Rice:

What a wonderful group you brought together! I had such a great time and I feel really good about the writing I accomplished as well. The stories I wrote are so different from what I usually do, and there was something very freeing in that.

writing with a view (photo by Nancy Finston)

More photos from our gallery:

Salon Night (photo by Kathy Fish)
The view (Georgiana Nelsen)
At the beach! (photo by Georgiana Nelsen)
Consultations (photo by Lizzie Woolfenden)
the food (photo by Nancy Finston)
the beach (photo by Georgiana Nelsen)
Salon Night (photo by Cheryl J. Fish)
The light (Georgiana Nelsen)
food! (photo by Georgiana Nelsen)
Group Hammock (Georgiana Nelsen)
writing (photo by Lizzie Woolfenden)
windows of inspiration (photo by Nancy Stohlman)
food with a view (photo by Nancy Stohlman)
Andalusian sunset (photo by Nancy Stohlman)
workshop (photo by Lizzie Woolfenden)
salon night (photo by Nancy Stohlman)
Kathy and Nancy (photo by Chelsea Stickle)
Sangria and see you next time! (photo by Lizzie Woolfenden)

Next: August Flash Fiction Retreat in Grand Lake, Colorado!

2023 Retreats will be announced in the fall—get on the waiting list for first access!

Saturday, May 21: Virtual Workshop at the Writer’s Digest Short Story Conference

I’m excited to be presenting for the second year in a row at the Writer’s Digest Short Story Conference. This year I’ll be talking about one of my favorite ways to write flash fiction: using the power of implication to manipulate found forms. Come for the whole weekend (and some replays are available for conference participants).

This will be one of my few virtual workshops until the fall: I’d love to “see” you! xo N

From the website: Writer’s Digest is pleased to present an exclusive virtual conference for short story writers! On May 20-22, our 2nd Annual Short Story Writing Virtual Conference will provide expert insights from SEVEN award-winning and best-selling authors on the finer points of how to write a short story. Spend the weekend learning techniques for honing your craft skills, marketing your short fiction, editing, and getting the tools you need to advance your career as a writer from seven different published authors*, then (if you choose) submit up to 500 words of a short story to an editor for critique.

All details and full lineup:

May 20 – May 22, 2022, Short Story Virtual Conference

Nancy Stohlman: Literary Squatters: Using Found Forms to Write Fresh Flash Fiction

Time: 3:00 p.m. ET Saturday, May 21

See you there!

Upcoming Live Appearances!

How exciting to even be able to say that!

Friday, April 22: Fbomb Returns Live!

The F-Bomb returns to a live venue for the first time in 2022! Join us at The Roxy on Broadway on Friday April 22 from 6-9 PM. Our host will be Meg Tuite, with featured readers Nancy Stohlman, Kona Morris, and Robert Vaughan. 4-minute open mic spots will also be available for others to share their flash fiction with the crowd. Join us in the Speakeasy space, downstairs at The Roxy!

More info and reader bios on the Fbomb Website


Wednesday, May 18: Fbomb Prom II: Even Bigger Hair

It’s the second ever Fbomb Prom! Come dressed in your bad formal attire! Be in the running for Prom King or Queen (all genders in the running for both slots!) Use “prom” as a theme for writing a new piece OR just come to be entertained by host Nancy Stohlman and featured readers SETH and our reigning Prom King: Selah Saterstrom! Live at The Roxy on Broadway More info TBA!


Saturday, May 21, VIRTUAL: Writers Digest Short Story Conference

May 20 – May 22, 2022, Short Story Virtual Conference

Writer’s Digest is pleased to present an exclusive virtual conference for short story writers! On May 20-22, our 2nd Annual Short Story Writing Virtual Conference will provide expert insights from SEVEN award-winning and best-selling authors on the finer points of how to write a short story. Spend the weekend learning techniques for honing your craft skills, marketing your short fiction, editing, and getting the tools you need to advance your career as a writer from seven different published authors*, then (if you choose) submit up to 500 words of a short story to an editor for critique.

Nancy Stohlman: Literary Squatters: Using Found Forms to Write Fresh Flash Fiction

Time: 3:00 p.m. ET Saturday, May 21


June 6-13: Open Your Art Flash Fiction Retreat, Orgiva Spain

If you’re a flash fiction writer who’s longing for a new creative spark, an adventure to energize your spirit, and camaraderie with your creative community, then join us this summer for a writing retreat in the sunny hills of Andalucia, Spain!


July 8-10 Flash Fiction Festival, Bristol UK

The July 8th -10th weekend Flash Fiction Festival is for beginning and experienced writers who want to learn more about flash fiction – an exciting and continually emerging short-short form of prose, growing in popularity around the world. Come to have fun, meet old friends, make new ones, be inspired by leading flash fiction practitioners from the UK, USA, Ireland and Germany and immerse yourself in writing, reading and listening to flash fiction throughout the weekend. All sections of the community, from all corners of the globe, are welcome.

Full program and booking here:

Sessions with Nancy:

The Deep Zoo: Excavating and Animating Our Impossible Stories

Going Shorter: Writing Beautiful Flash Fiction


August 9-14 & 16-21: Open Your Art Flash Fiction Retreat, Grand Lake, Colorado

If you’re a flash fiction writer who’s longing for a new creative spark, an adventure to energize your spirit, and camaraderie with your creative community, then join Nancy Stohlman and Kathy Fish this summer for a writing retreat in the glorious Rocky Mountains!

“The Coyotes” by Nancy Stohlman in Flash Fiction Festival IV Anthology

The Coyotes

by Nancy Stohlman

          I was kidnapped by the coyotes when I was 15, when my breasts and hips were soft enough to distinguish me as a woman. Not that they hadn’t been watching me before—they had. I remember the friendly neighborly warning—you should be careful letting her out, he said to my mother. A coyote has been watching her. In the daytime? Oh yeah, they don’t care if it’s day or night the neighbor said, tipping his hat. My mother didn’t pay attention, saying it was ridiculous. Coyotes don’t even like little girls she said.

          The night I was kidnapped she tried to call me back inside but I was already wild, I’d already jumped through the tear in the screen door and out into the gorgeous summer night, the air thick like black cake. The last thing I heard was—fine then, stay out there. I was smoking a stolen cigarette on a stoop still warm from August, my long body stretched out and barefoot, when I heard the first scuffle, the hiss of a cat. Then the shadow moving up the sidewalk, eyes locked with mine.

          I wonder what my mother heard. They called it a nervous breakdown in those days.  Could she hear the scream, the quick silencing pounce, the way we folded into the sewer drain? Did she cry for me, my mother, or was she still grieving her own life when the coyotes came for me, when the full smell of coyote hit my face, tufts of black fur still stuck to the sides of his mouth when he reached for me, followed by a nauseating tingle through the tip of my right breast that I would never, ever be able to scrub off?

          Strange, but what I remember most from that evening was how beautiful it was to be alive. The sweetness of lightning bugs. The silent, witnessing stars. The crickets, pausing when we passed. My last breath of free air and my final glimpse of the world, framed through the circular sewer pipe and bluish with the moon. Watching. Complicit.

          Did she finally put it together from her bed, the doctors asking who did you leave watching her? the doctors telling her to get home quickly, the doctors telling her it might be too late. What did she do when she found me already gone, my skin left suspended in the air like dust particles stirred up in a sunbeam?

****

Buy Flash FIction Festival Four Anthology here: