Sculpting Flash Fiction May 7-28

May 7-28, 2018

SCULPTING FLASH FICTION Online Course

Editing is the most important part of the writing process. As serious writers, you know it’s through the editing process that we begin to refine and sculpt our messages.But just as writing flash fiction requires a different set of skills, so does editing flash fiction.

article-2337449-1a32cffb000005dc-882_634x439In this 3-week intensive we will use the tools of ambiguity and implication; we will learn the different between chipping and chopping; we will learn how to shrink-wrap and swap text. You will learn how to achieve the specific needs of flash fiction as I guide you and other participants to edit your real works in progress.

Participants should have a basic understanding of flash fiction and come to the class with flash pieces already in progress. Each participant will have the opportunity to submit 1-2 stories per week.

This is an online workshop format class with limited availability.

Cost: $125

Contact me with questions at nancystohlman@gmail.com

Two summer flash fiction workshops!

Flash fiction workshops from beginner to advanced!

For more info and Earlybird Discounts CLICK HERE

WRITING FLASH FICTION

June 13-July 3

So you want to write flash fiction? Flash adorable_tiny_things_640_23fiction is redefining how we tell stories, and by embracing this compressed form, all writers–from poets to novelists to nonfiction writers–are cultivating a new set of skills and creating an entirely new kind of story.

In this workshop we will generate original flash pieces, examine what makes successful flash fiction, and try to differentiate flash from its cousins, the prose poem and the vignette.

LEARN MORE

 

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SCULPTING FLASH FICTION

July 11-July 31

Editing is the most important part of the writing process. As serious writers, you know it’s through the editing process that we begin to refine and sculpt our messages. But just as writing flash fiction requires a
bonsaidifferent set of skills, so does editing flash fiction.

In this workshop we will use the tools of ambiguity and implication; we will learn the different between chipping and chopping; we will learn how to shrink-wrap text, and most of all learn how to achieve the specific needs of flash fiction as I guide you and other participants to edit your real works in progress.

LEARN MORE

 

*New! Sculpting Flash Fiction

SCULPTING FLASH FICTION

An online workshop January 4-24

Editing is the most important part of the writing process. As serious writers, you know it’s through the editing process that we begin to refine and sculpt our messages. But just as writing flash fiction requires a
bonsaidifferent set of skills, so too does editing flash fiction. In this workshop we will use the tools of ambiguity and implication; we will learn the different between chipping and chopping; we will learn how to shrink-wrap your text, and most of all learn how to achieve the specific needs of flash fiction as I guide you and other participants to edit your real works in progress.

This will be a 3-week online workshop format class with limited availability. Each participant will have the opportunity to submit 1-2 stories per week.

Tuition: $109

Workshop runs January 4-24

Ask A Flash Fiction Editor: Erasure

Ask a Flash Fiction Editor: Endings

Ask a Flash Fiction Editor: Why Literary Bondage is Good for Your Writing

I’ve been a freelance editor since 2004 as well as co-founder and editor for Fast Forward Press from 2007-2013. I have edited four anthologies including Fast Forward: The Mix Tape, a collection of flash fiction that was a finalist for a 2011 Colorado Book Award.

nancystohlman@gmail.com or fill out the form below

The Great Shuffle: Ordering a Flash Collection vs. an Anthology

I hear a lot of authors asking for advice on ordering their collections. My first question to them is: Are you ordering an anthology or a collection?

Having done both, I believe what is required is very different.

Firstly let’s get our terminology straight. By anthology I mean a book of stories written by many different authors. The editor of the anthology conceives, solicits, judges, and orders the pieces into the final product. By collection I’m referring to a single-author collection where the author is putting their own stories into one book.

images (3)Ordering an anthology is a little bit like taking a 3rd grade class photo: you gotta get everyone in the picture. You might have pieces that are wildly different. You might have four kids wearing green sweaters. Your job is to make everyone look good. Whether you decide to put all the talls in the back or go boy-girl-boy, you are working with a lot of disparate pieces and are ultimately limited by your materials–your job is to try and place them in the most interesting and pleasing order, showcasing each and creating a solid whole.

When I edited Fast Forward: The Mix Tape back in 2010, I channeled the 1980s “mixtape” style (and we even had reader flip the book halfway through: Side A, Side B). It’s of course not the only way to order an anthology. You might put your most famous authors first. You might chunk the stories by theme, or style or even size (The Incredible Shrinking Story was organized largest to smallest).Mix Tape Cover

But if an anthology is a little bit like a Greatest Hits Collection, then the single author collection is The Concept Album.

I’ve edited four anthologies, so I thought I was all set to order my own collection. But right away I realized there was a far more potent and more dangerous power available to me now. Now I didn’t just have artistic license over the order—I had artistic license over the whole thing. Now I had the possibility of manipulating the actual stories as I built the collection—something that would be a cardinal sin in an anthology. And this is why I’ve come to the conclusion that the mixtape or any other approach that works for an anthology might fall short in a single author collection. In a collection you are also manipulating the vibrations of story next to story to create a greater whole.

Think about it: Anthology readers have no qualms about reading the stories out of order—in fact, we almost expect them to go straight for the Table of Contents, look for their favorite authors, and start there. But the reader of a collection will often enter the book with story #1, and in this way a collection must behave like a novel, enticing the reader to keep turning pages in a way that an anthology doesn’t have to.

I ended up spending nearly as much time ordering my collection as I did writing the pieces themselves, and as I continued to shift and flip my stories, watching for the telltale vibrations to jump the synapses, there was a pliability that had never been available to me when creating an anthology; I now had the creative permission to write the gaps, change the tenses, sync the characters, manipulate the narrators, and otherwise match or contrast the stories as needed. And they began to take on second and third layers of subtext–no longer just individual stories but part of a greater symphony telling an even bigger story that I had never even considered.

A friend of mine told me for her collection she threw all her stories on the floor, picked them up, and that was the order. And I must admit that part of me likes the simplicity and divine randomness of that method.

But I’d like to propose that the act of ordering a collection is as precious as the act of writing it. Writers who are too quick to “get the ordering over with” in their collections might miss a lot of untapped potential in their work. I believe the work of ordering  is just as delicate, just as nuanced. And can be just as revealing.

 

Nancy Stohlman’s books include the forthcoming flash fiction collection The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (forthcoming 2014), the flash novels The Monster Opera (2013) and Searching for Suzi: a flash novel (2009), and three anthologies of flash including Fast Forward: The Mix Tape (2010), which was a finalist for a 2011 Colorado Book Award. She is a founding member of Fast Forward Press, the creator of The F-Bomb Flash Fiction Reading Series in Denver, and her work has been included in The Best of the Web.

Check out her upcoming Writing Flash Fiction workshop here!

Writing Flash Fiction–Online Workshop Begins August 10

What would happen if you could double your publishing opportunities? Double your confidence? Double your writing skills and abilities?

Well, Flash Fiction is the new black and journals are hungry for fresh voices. Learn what makes successful flash–just because it’s small doesn’t make it easy–and get your work into the world in a bigger way!

Flash Fiction is a literary movement—freeing literature and turning it upside down. Flash writers are embracing a new kind of story–and it’s spreading. It’s abstract to pop art, it’s jazz to rock and roll. And it’s about time!

Join us for a 4-week online flash fiction workshop beginning August 10. The format will include weekly online instruction, plenty of editorial feedback, group-led discussions, as well as once-a week conference calls in a virtual classroom–the best of all technology and the chance to work with writers all over the world!

Limited spaces available–discounts and payment plans available for a limited time! See “Summer Writing Program”

Contact me for more information or to register at nancystohlman@gmail.com

FREE preview call Sunday, August 10 at 7 pm MST–contact me to register.

Join Facebook Event
https://www.facebook.
com/events/616231968457460/

adorable_tiny_things_640_23

 

Nancy Stohlman’s books include the forthcoming flash fiction collection The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (forthcoming 2014), the flash novels The Monster Opera (2013) and Searching for Suzi: a flash novel (2009), and three anthologies of flash including Fast Forward: The Mix Tape (2010), which was a finalist for a 2011 Colorado Book Award. She is a founding member of Fast Forward Press, the creator of The F-Bomb Flash Fiction Reading Series in Denver, and her work has been included in The Best of the Web.

Two Micro Fictions by Nancy Stohlman

indexIndentured

“How much are you getting paid to do this?” he asks.

“Enough to pay off my student loans,” I answer, as he begins to tattoo the Coca-Cola logo across my face.

Published in Blink Ink

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True Tales From Therapy #5

Though there was absolutely no correlation between seeing a new therapist, and that therapist killing himself with a shotgun the following week, Mr. G couldn’t help wonder, for just a fleeting second, if his wife’s claim that everyone was sick of listening to him whine about his problems had some validity.

Published in Right Hand Pointing

15 Flash Fiction Prompts

Flashnano Day 10: Write a story with a theme of escape.

Flashnano Day 11: Write a story while listening to the entire 16 minutes of “Rhapsody In Blue.”

Flashnano Day 12: Write a story around a compulsive behavior.

Flashnano Day 13: Write a story in the form of a fable.

Flashnano Day 14: Write a story that takes place in an abandoned landscape.

Flashnano Day 15: Write a story in exactly 15 words.

Flashnano Day 16: Write a story using the word “vexatious.” (Today’s prompt brought to you by Dictionary.com.)
vexatious \vek-SEY-shuhs\, adjective:
1. causing vexation; troublesome; annoying: a vexatious situation.
2. Law. (of legal actions) instituted without sufficient grounds and serving only to cause annoyance to the defendant.
3. disorderly; confused; troubled.

Flashnano Day 17: Write a story that features one predominant color.

Flashnano Day 18: Write a story where someone is lying.

Flashnano Day 19: Write a story that involves travel.

Flashnano Day 20: Write a story where the ending comes first.

Flashnano Day 21: Write a story that takes place in extreme weather.

Flashnano Day 22: Write a story that involves a miracle.

Flashnano Day 23: Write a story that includes a strong smell.

Flashnano Day 24: Open the book nearest to you. Incorporate the first sentence you read into a story.

Flashnano Day 25: Revisit a piece you’ve written this month (or before, if necessary). Cut it in half.

Check out all our Flashnano prompts (above) and jump on–there is still time!

tiny-objects-things-1

“I Pawned My Boyfriend for 85$”

pawnFlash fiction by Nancy Stohlman

I’m not saying I’m proud of how it all went down. But maybe if those collection agencies hadn’t been calling me all the time. After avoiding another 800 number last Saturday morning, I looked over at you sleeping, lips pursed, eyelids fluttering, all mussed up like a baby koala, and I thought: there are plenty of people out there who would pay good money for that.

You’re still pissed. I tried to explain that I won’t have the money to get you out until my next paycheck, but the pawnshop owner said that I was just riling up the merchandise and if I wasn’t gonna buy nothing then it was time for me to leave.

When I went in today you’d been moved to the front window display wearing a lovely tiara. I wondered if he would give me a deal on both because I really liked that tiara. You looked away when I walked in but then the owner said to be nice to the customers because Father’s Day is coming up, after all.

Today is actually our anniversary, but you didn’t want to hear it and wouldn’t open the card I brought. Look, you can’t hold onto your resentment forever I said. But you just turned away, tiara sparkling in the mid-afternoon sun.

Originally published in Blue Five Notebook. Read original here.

Ask A Flash Fiction Editor: Erasure

Ask a Flash Fiction Editor: Erasure

So first off, huge thanks to Denis Bell for allowing us to use his story in progress, “Dreams”, for our discussion of flash fiction today! (Full text of “Dreams” below).

One of the beautiful things about flash fiction is that, like poetry, it requires us to drastically trim, shrink, and carve our own thoughts. It leaves no room for bloating, filler, tangents or indulgences—and even forces us to utilize our silences.

Silences can be full of meaning—think back to the last time you sat in an uncomfortable silence with someone. What isn’t said is just as important—and often louder—than what is spoken.

ghost

The first time I ever heard the term “erasure” was in a class at Naropa taught by Laird Hunt. It was the first time that I had ever considered cutting intentional holes in my work, rather than just trimming to remove fat and fluff. Well-placed silences can carry huge implications.

Most of us understand the implication of silences in speaking. When I teach performance, I remind my students to

pause…

…because a pause is a way to emphasize what just happened.

Or

a pause can shift a mood… to prepare for what is coming.

As a listening audience, we understand the signals that silences create. We understand how the absence of sounds adds drama and importance to the remaining ones.

The same is true on the page. As a flash fiction writer, we can trim our stories to create gaps of information and to leave purposeful ghosts.

So Denis, let’s look at your story in progress, “Dreams”, with this in mind:

First off, I love the universality you establish as you begin to take us into the dream sequences—the images are both familiar and unique. I love the staircase he’d never noticed and I particularly like the way the family members come in and out. As the interactions with mother and sister grow even weirder, the story takes on a dimension of foreboding, the ghosts in the texts become real, and the reader is disorientated in a good way.

There are a lot of stories out there where a character “wakes up” at the end, (think Bobby Ewing in the shower of Dallas). But I like how you take that cliché and make it fresh by allowing the waking to be a vital portal into the final pieces of information (more on that later).

I think there are two (or three) important places in this story where some strategic cutting will activate the power of silences.

In flash particularly, you need to arrive into your story at the latest possible moment. And while your opening right now is fairly concise, I wonder whether you can begin with the second paragraph, jumping right into the staircase and the dream sequence? We will recognize the dream landscape in the title and your descriptions, so we probably don’t need that extra setup.

I have the same thought about the middle section where he wakes up and then falls back asleep. It seems to me that it serves as a literary device to remind the reader that we are dreaming, but again I wonder if a succession of dreams with no interruption would be more interesting? Without all the awakened asides, we will be fully embodied in the dreamscape, and we will accept the oddity of things (such as the mother talking to him even though she has been dead for 15 years) with the same certainty that Joe accepts them. (Brilliant, by the way, how you state that so matter-of-factly.)

Which brings us to the end. I really love the idea that the waking life Joe is contemplating suicide, and his dream world and dream sister stop him—it’s a great crossover. If you make the other cuts I’m suggesting, then the question becomes how do you successfully give us the suicidal info only at the end. I think the place to look is your last paragraph, where he wakes up with “steely intent” and thinks of the knife. The way it’s written now makes it almost seem as if he has never considered suicide until this moment. So we’re left wondering: what just happened? Is he so mad at his nightmare that now he’s going to kill himself?

We might need a longer beat between the dream world and the real world. Maybe when he awakens he’s reminded of his pain, which he had forgotten in the dream world. Perhaps we, like Joe, need to see a few choice items that remind us, “Oh yeah, we hate our life”. Perhaps he sees the knife sitting next to the bed where he left it before he passed out? The empty bottles? The phone off the hook?

Ultimately the ending will be most effective if we are gaining a final level of insight into Joe. This is not the “surprise! we were dreaming all along” ending that can come off as too easy but it instead adds a layer of organic surprise. Joe wakes up and remembers that he is in a hospital, missing both his legs. Joe wakes up and remembers that his wife left him. Joe wakes us and remembers…that he has nothing to live for. Whatever it might be. But do it through showing us what he wakes up into.

With a bit of focused trimming your story is going to ring both haunted and wise, lovely and liquid. You are almost there. Thanks for letting me play with it—keep going!

~Nancy

 (I welcome all comments and conversations, so join in! And feel free to find me on Facebook or contact me at nancystohlman@gmail.com)

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Dreams

By Denis Bell

On the day after his thirty-second birthday, Joe took a swing at the foreman and was fired. Now he spends most of his days in the bedroom, ensconced there with a bottle of Jim Beam and a bag of weed. He sleeps fitfully and has a series  of vivid and affecting dreams.

Joe’s apartment contains a staircase he’d never noticed before leading to a large suite of lavishly furnished rooms. The apartment is much grander than he had imagined. Children are playing in some of the rooms. A cousin packs up the mood in a plastic box to be buried in the back yard at the end of the day.

Joe is presenting a report in science class. A new teacher is standing at the back of the classroom wearing a hood that hides his face. Joe’s classmates are cheering but behind the hood the teacher is angry. The teacher reaches into his pants and pulls out a –

The clock on the bedside table reads a groan worthy 11:35. Beside the clock are a stack of porno mags and a wadded up rag.  The room is too bright.  He stumbles to the window. Outside there is snow on the ground. A child’s broken tricycle is rusting in a neighbor’s yard. He pulls down the blind and steps into the bathroom.

When he gets out his mother is standing there, pretending not to notice the magazines. Why did you leave us like that, she asks. Joe looks away.

She tells him about a house in the country she bought for herself and his sister. Sturdy wooden frame, brass fittings, hardwood floors. Nice gated community. She wants Joe to move in with them. Now that you’ve lost your job there’s no reason to stay in this dump. Soon, he tells her. The conversation seems strange because both mother and sister have been dead fifteen years, but it would be rude to point this out.

Fragments of Joe’s past float through his dreams. The ramshackle house where he grew up. The dank cellar with the rusty furnace. His sister with her coloring books. Days spent fishing alone in the creek. His father fish-eyed and silent.  His mother grimacing as she reaches to button his coat, his father absently nursing a damaged hand.

The swish of a belt.

His mother’s cries.

Bloodless lips, twisted in silence.

White napkins dark and crusty with dried blood.

Memories from the night they died.

Don’t hide in the cellar, lend us a hand, his sister says (bossy as ever).

Joe awakes with a start, head full of steely intent. Thoughts of kitchen utensils. He starts to climb out of bed but a hand restrains him. Not yet, a voice whispers.

Flashnano Pep Talk/Writing Flash Fiction: What You Don’t Say Is The Story

In the month of November, in solidarity with our Nanowrimo friends, we’ll attempt to write 30 flash fiction stories in 30 days.

So you’re going to try your hand at this flash fiction thing, huh?

In the beginning you will still very often land closer to the 1,000-word cut-off mark, trimming and pruning to make sure your story makes it into the official flash fiction guidelines. As you become more comfortable with the form you will find that your stories naturally shrink and start to land well beneath the 1,000-word mark.

What happens in between is a process of letting go.

Boy-Jumping-From-a-Plane-with-an-Umbrella-76482First of all, let go of being good at it. Whether you come from poetry, longer fiction or nonfiction, it takes a while to get used to the new form. So let go of the need to be an instant expert. So many of us find it frustrating to “start over” and embrace being a beginner in a new genre. I invite you to instead see it as an opportunity.

Let go of exposition. We have become fond of our exposition techniques, our lush, sardonic, witty, poignant, clever, or otherwise expository voices. This is often the first thing to let go of in flash. It doesn’t mean you must let go of it altogether, but your urgent storytelling voice must trump your love of exposition for the magic to happen.

Let go of description. Not all together, but let your description come only in service of your storytelling. Let go of the urge to linger. In flash fiction, one well-placed detail brings an entire story into focus. Opt for one or two telling details over a wash of description—you just don’t have that kind of time.

Let your silences become informative. Don’t rush to fill them. As we learn to let go of exposition and description, we learn to embrace silence as a tool, and the juxtaposition of silences to infer information.

Let go of extra words. Try removing words and see if you can create potent gaps of intuition. See how much you can not say. Often what you don’t say is the story.

So what’s left you ask?

What’s left is tightly crafted little nugget of concentrated gold.

What’s left is flash fiction.

~Nancy Stohlman

Check here for daily Flashnano Prompts during November.

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