Creatively Speaking Radio: Live Tomorrow!

Saturday, Oct 6, 2018

9 am PST
12 pm EST

Click next Saturday 10/6 @ 9am PT to listen to discuss her forthcoming collection of flash fiction, Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities.


From the website: Nancy Stohlman is a writer and professor with 7 books of flash fiction (either anthologies she’s edited or books she’s written). Nancy’s new book, Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, is releasing this October. Flash fiction, you may or may not know, are stories under 1000 words, and lately there have even been subcategories such as microfiction that are under 300 words. The skills required to create stories in these tiny spaces is amazing, and the stories are brilliant. Flash fiction is really taking off in the underground and Nancy loves being on the forefront. To learn more about Nancy Stohlman and her work, please visit:, and the link to find out more about her performance is:


JUST ANNOUNCED! James Thomas will be Madam Velvet’s special guest on Oct 26!

JUST ANNOUNCED! Pre-show surprise: James Thomas, long-time friend of flash fiction and credited with inventing the term in 1992, will be coming to introduce the show and do a live interview with Bryan Jansing: “What the Heck is Flash Fiction?” James is the co-editor of the numerous Norton flash fiction anthologies, including the latest New Micro: Very Short Stories, and will answer questions and share his experiences watching the form change and gain legitimacy in the last 25 years. Interview begins at 6:30 so come early!

The book that started it all in 1992                    The latest book: Just released in 2018!

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Reserve Tickets

Mad V poster

Interview in New Flash Fiction Review

Meg Pokrass interviews Nancy Stohlman about her stories in New Micro (W.W. Norton & Co., 2018) and her new forthcoming flash fiction collection, MADAM VELVET’S CABARET OF ODDITIES. This interview is part of New Flash Fiction Review’s ongoing New Micro Interviews series

MP: In “Death Row Hugger” I admire how it is written with a great deal of humor. There is that wonderful, fantastical line about prisoners eating steak or lobster or smoking Cuban cigars on their last day, and yet there is a strong feeling of sadness about the story, particularly in the end. How did this piece come about? Can you tell us anything about your relationship to creating comic/tragic stories?

NS: “Death Row Hugger” arrived initially as a dream—many of my pieces do. In the dream I had this strange but very strong sense of loss: I was in a very dark room and I was hugging someone and there was this very sad and almost desperate quality to the hug. I woke up still feeling this hug tingling on my skin and how unsettling it was and quickly jotted down whatever I could remember in the notebook by my bed. This story was one of those special gifts where the whole story rises out of the dream ether fully formed.

In terms of comic/tragic stories—that’s an interesting question because I don’t do it intentionally—I think the world is funny and tragic and raw and beautiful and so maybe the ideas that strike me as worthy of actually writing down always naturally reflect those qualities.

MP: In “I Found Your Voodoo Doll on the Dance Floor After Last Call” there’s a mystical quality. The way you bring in the voodoo doll is very visual and disturbing. We’re looking at it just as your speaker is, and as the story rolls on, we realize that she is becoming the voodoo doll, rather than the other way around. Here, you open the story up with the doll as metaphor in the first sentence. How important is the first sentence in microfiction?

NS: The first sentence is key in every piece of writing, from fiction to journalism. So on one level the first sentence in flash or micro is not more or less important than the first sentence in a novel—except in a novel we might give an author a paragraph or even a whole page before we stop reading. In microfiction, the paragraph is the entire story. So you really have to jump in and not hold back.

In “I Found Your Voodoo Doll…” the title is a setup into that first sentence, so the story really begins before the story begins, even. Because we are working in such constrained spaces, flash writers have discovered how to make use out of every possible space.


How to Write When You Don’t Have Time to Write

Let me be clear—I’m writing this while sitting in the middle of class. My students are free-writing and I am writing with them–because I always write with them and because I get 10 minutes to write.

Maybe that wasn’t the answer you were hoping for. But it’s my reality. Week by week I take stock of my schedule and I try to designate and carve my writing time out. It changes every semester—sometimes it’s during office hours. Sometimes it’s before dinner. Sometimes it’s after the kids are in bed. But increasingly those times are now being swallowed up, too. Office hours and that hour before dinner are now gone with the 4:30 class and the commute. So what to do? Write only on weekends? Wait until Christmas?jimmy-writing-out-on-toilet-paper-better-call-saul-rico-recap-including-classic-styles-envision-toilet-paper

I’m sure you all have some version of this scenario. For many working writers the daily routine of writing is a privilege and a luxury. I have writer friends who just wait until the semester breaks and do all their writing then. That doesn’t work so well for me. I feel like regular contact–however brief—with my creativity is more productive than marathon sessions where the work feels like a stranger.

So how do I write? Here’s what I’m doing this semester:

Schedule my writing time. As in: write it down on the calendar every week just as I would schedule a doctor’s appointment or a conference call. And don’t forget the very important write it down part.

Don’t discount the 10-min slots. A lot can happen in 10 mins (see my old post here). And don’t forget: I’m drafting this article in class while the students are free-writing for 10 minutes. And also don’t forget that 3 classes with 10-min free-writing sessions each equals half an hour of writing. It adds up.

Write everywhere. Not only can you write in 10 min bursts but you can do it everywhere. The 10 mins you waste on social media while waiting for someone in the car, during the bus or train commute, waiting in the doctors lobby—always have a notebook with you ready to go.

Keep a list. Keep an ongoing list of all the stories you want to write. Keep it on your phone or in your wallet and add to it every time you get a new idea—this will allow you to jump right into an idea when you find yourself alone with 10 mins rather than floundering and wondering what to write.

Write it down now. Don’t wait. If the idea is coming, go to the bathroom and write in the stall if you must. Because if you think you will remember this great idea when you get home…you might not. I’ve lost a lot of good ideas this way.

Use voice memos. Sometimes the idea won’t wait for you to find a pen. When you are without paper, speak your writing into a note on your phone.

Block out a weekend or a whole day whenever you can. This requires some planning, so don’t wait. Do it now and write it on the calendar and guard it like date night, like your creative relationship depends on it (it does).

Set yourself up for success. Some people approach writing like exercise—they think they have to work out 3 times a week or it doesn’t count. But it’s easy to falter under such high expectations. Don’t set yourself up for failure with an unrealistic goal.

Be realistic but committed. Have you ever learned an instrument? Carving out just 15 mins a day to practice is powerfully cumulative. And fifteen mins of writing every day will make you and your work progress. It’s not easy, it’s not glamorous, but it will work.

And finally try not to be jealous of those with wide open writing schedules. Assume they’ve paid their dues in other ways and be grateful to be a writer, dammit! It’s truly a gift to be here!

To your writing success!

PS: Do you have other tips? I’d love to hear them! (I really would!)

Rare Bird Radio Podcast: All About Flash Fiction with Karen Stefano, Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman

It was a pleasure to chat with Karen Stefano and Kathy Fish on the Rare Bird Radio! We managed to talk about process, specific stories, and even give a mini workshop. Check it out!

Stefano is Fiction Editor for Connotation Press. Her stories have appeared in The South Carolina Review, Tampa Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Epiphany, and elsewhere. She was nominated for the XXXVIII Pushcart Prize. To learn more about her work, please visit

Nancy Stohlman’s books include The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (2014), The Monster Opera (2013), Searching for Suzi: a flash novel (2009), Live From Palestine (2003), and Fast Forward: The Mix Tape (2010), an anthology of flash fiction that was a finalist for a 2011 Colorado Book Award. She is a founding member of Fast Forward Press, the creator of FlashNano, the founder and curator of The F-Bomb Flash Fiction Reading Series in Denver, and her work has been recently nominated for The Best of the Web.

Kathy Fish teaches for the Mile High MFA program at Regis University in Denver. Her short fiction has appeared in Indiana Review, The Denver Quarterly, New South, Quick Fiction, Guernica, Slice, BEST AMERICAN NONREQUIRED READING 2018, edited by Sheila Heti. THE LIST: 25 PROVOCATIVE WOMEN WRITERS (Black Lawrence Press, 2014), and BEST SMALL FICTIONS, 2016, 2017, 2018. She is the author of four collections of short fiction: a chapbook of flash fiction in the chapbook collective, A PECULIAR FEELING OF RESTLESSNESS; FOUR CHAPBOOKS OF SHORT SHORT FICTION BY FOUR WOMEN (Rose Metal Press, 2008), WILD LIFE (Matter Press, 2011), TOGETHER WE CAN BURY IT (Lit Pub, 2012), and RIFT, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015).

Oct 26: Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities performance tickets!

A curious new collection of flash fiction by Nancy Stohlman!

With all-new original music by Nick Busheff!

      Book release and performance

Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities

October 26, 2018

Save the Date!!

Mad V Front Cover

Did you like The Monster Opera? I’ve teamed up again with composer Nick Busheff and a cast of characters you will recognize along with some special guests (to be announced!) to launch my new book, Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, into the world! Thank classic vaudeville, think weird carnival, think clowns, traveling medicine shows, ringmasters and sideshow barkers! With all new original music by Nick Busheff! Signed books will be available! Costumes encouraged!

Tickets $10 in advance ($12 at the door)–on sale now!
Mercury Cafe Ballroom (upstairs)
2199 California Street
7:00 pm

Friday, October 26, 2018

1 ticket: buy-now-button

2 tickets: buy-now-button

3 tickets: buy-now-button

4 tickets: buy-now-button

Need more than 4 tickets? Let me know and I’ll send you an invoice:

**Don’t live in Denver? Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities books will be available online earlier in October, stay tuned!

“Here we are in a house of mirrors, where we meet the microfiction reflections cast by a host of intriguing characters with cracked sensibilities—and we meet the entertaining Nancy Stohlman herself, in all her guiles and guises, a word magician dancing us around the stage of her glittering cabaret. This book is brilliant performance art on the printed page.”~James Thomas, coeditor of the WW Norton’s Flash Fiction books

“Madam Velvet, Hah!  This Cabaret of Oddities is pure Stohlman–wild world records, mothers as clowns, circus performers like the ape lady, the human pincushion, and dog-faced boy– topped by the Fantasy Hand Job Brothel.  We will all be returning to this startling and outrageous collection for years to come. ” ~Pamela Painter, author of Ways to Spend the Night

“Nancy Stohlman’s writing is so damn sharp here. And each of these shards that make up Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities is connected by this silly-sad-hopeful-absurd-melancholic web that catches everything you do not want, and you’ll find yourself longing for what’s not caught. But you will end up caught in the web too, with all of that mess. I’ve never read a book like this, and I’m excited to hear all of the conversations surrounding it.” ​~Steven Dunn, author of Water and Power and Potted Meat

“Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities’ is a work of irrepressible imagination, bawdy, dire, and endlessly appealing. It’s also a memoir by means of dissociation–an exercise that goes to the heart of fiction, and anyone alive.”~Robert Shapard, Coeditor W.W. Norton anthology series in Sudden and Flash Fiction

“Nancy Stohlman writes all of her stories with moxie and flare, and her singular verve vibrates through her latest collection. She takes the reader on a carnivalesque but touching ride through a hall of mirrors that includes misfits, eccentrics, and outcasts. Be careful to look twice through the mirrors in these stories because there is always more to see.” ~Grant Faulkner, co-founder of 100 Word Story and author of Fissures, a collection of 100-word stories