We had the good fortune of connecting with Nancy Stohlman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Nancy, what role has risk played in your life or career? In order to make art, one must become comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty. Real art is made inside the gap of uncertainty–we cannot “think” ourselves there. We have to move. Certainty comes from action. We embark on an idea…and only once we are in motion does the art take over. Which means a good deal of the time our job is to get out of our own way and write (create) whatever is demanding to be written–even if it surprises us! Especially if it surprises us.”
The Mercury Cafe: 2199 California Street, Jungle Room
It’s the 10-year anniversary of the Fbomb, the first and longest running flash fiction reading series in the country, and we are thrilled to celebrate at our original home with a very special Fat Tuesday reading and release at The Mercury Cafe with featured readers Jomil Ebro, Krystal Summers, special guest Kona Morris, PLUS a one-night-only opportunity to buy signed copies of After the Rapture before the official release date!
The Mardi Gras season is upon us, celebrating the life, death, and resurrection theater, 40 days in the desert, rising again after the rapture. It reminds us to balance lightly on the edges of change with flair and panache, and it invites us to try on new masks as we celebrate our history and look to our future with hands thrown high, like a gorgeous parade float holding our Fbomb community and rolling into the creative horizons.
Join us live on Tuesday, February 21 from 7:30-10 pm at The Mercury Cafe! . Open mic spots are 4 mins and first come first served. We will pass the hat in gratitude for the Mercury Cafe.
Featuring Jomil Ebro! Jomil Ebro is a professor of Composition, Creative Writing, and Journalism, Philosophy and the Humanities at Arapahoe Community College. He is also an ABD Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature and Consciousness Studies at the University of Iowa, where he also trained at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. At New York University, he received an M.A. in Communication and an M.A. in Cultural Studies. His poetry and critical essays include “Seizure of Happiness, Or, Two Almonds” in Cobra Milk (Fall 2020); “A State of Otonomy: Henry Miller’s Obscene Autobiographical Form” in the Modern Horizons Journal (June 2018); “The Calligraphy of Trees: Towards an Ethics of ‘Mysreading’ in Toni Morrison’s A Mercy” in the Journal of Humanities and Cultural Studies Vol. 3, Issue 2 (February 2018); “I’ll-iterate Thinking: Poetry, Perception, and the Dissolution of Center/Periphery Duality” in the Peripheral Matters Journal from the City University of New York (CUNY, Fall 2017); and “The Nearness of Elsewhere: Place and the Ethics of Remembrance in The Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin and Li Po” in the Modern Horizons Journal (June 2012).
He resides in Golden, Colorado where laughter, verve, and hope come in the form of his partner and son, walking by purple sunsets, steeping two different tea bags, trying to imitate Paul Simon’s guitar playing, and watering the long vineyards of desire. Jomil thinks in all sincerity and without hyperbole that poetry—in particular, the way it can teach us to give a name to the nameless so that it can be thought and sensed more fully—that poetry, as such, can save the world.
Featuring Krystal Summers! Krystal Summers is a writer and nanny more magical than Mary Poppins. When she isn’t taking children through chalk paintings, she’s outside somewhere with her dog, relaxing at her home in Denver with her husband, or starting more stories than she finishes. She will be published in the forthcoming Listen to Your Skin anthology from Q Publishing in 2023.
Special guest Kona Morris! Kona Morris is a writer, storyteller, and comedian. She has performed at storytelling events for The Moth, and most recently for the live RISK! show at The Hotel Cafe in Los Angeles. She was a regular on Monday Night Live L.A., a starring cast member of Denver’s Live Drunk History Comedy Troupe, and the Founder and Head Writer of the satirical comic book company Godless Comics. Kona has been featured at events around the world, and her stories have appeared in a variety of publications. https://www.instagram.com/kona_morris/
Hosted by Nancy Stohlman! Nancy Stohlman is the author of six books including After the Rapture (2023), Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (2018), The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (2014), The Monster Opera (2013), Searching for Suzi: a flash novel (2009), and Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction (2020), winner of the 2021 Reader Views Gold Award and re-released in 2022 as an audiobook. She is a fan of the short and the strange, and her work has been anthologized widely, appearing in the Norton anthology New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and The Best Small Fictions 2019, as well as adapted for both stage and screen. She teaches at the University of Colorado Boulder and holds workshops and retreats around the world. Find out more at http://www.nancystohlman.com
I’m still not even sure how it happened. I was sitting on a very small deserted piece of beach in Puerto Rico. I was taking pictures and warming my soul. And then: my phone was gone.
How? Honestly I don’t know.
Did the ocean demand a sacrifice? Was it dropped into quicksand and pulled to the center of the earth? Did it get sucked into some sort of vortex and is now living in a parallel dimension?
I may never know.
the last picture I sent to a friend before…
And yes, of course I scoured the beach over and over, ad nauseam, at multiple times of day and multiple tide levels. Asked the few passersby, checked the solo tienda, used the Find My Phone application from my computer:
Your device is offline, it said. No location possible.
Radical acceptance is not my forte. And yet here I was being forced into a radical acceptance/letting go situation. I didn’t like it! I just wanted to chill on the beach and relax, not have a life lesson. I guess when you aren’t paying attention, the universe has to get louder and more dramatic.
What would it mean not to have a phone for a week while traveling alone in another country?
No GPS. How will I get this rental car back across the island? How will I ever navigate through crazy town San Juan?
No camera. Not ideal, but do-able….
No texts or calls. I realized I only had TWO people’s phone numbers memorized! (Note to self: memorize your important people’s numbers)
No clock. No alarm.
No compulsively checking the weather, which apparently I do a lot.
No banking or budgeting apps…
The only thing I really needed was that GPS to get home. The rest of it I could actually manage old skool style. And I could certainly still write, which was the point.
So that’s what I did. I went for the better part of a week without the phone, by myself, in Puerto Rico. And I wrote. And I slept in (no clocks). And I didn’t reach for the camera with every pretty sunset (I managed to get a few in before at least!) And I didn’t answer texts because…I didn’t get any! I did no Wordle. I just sat.
So what does this have to do with writing?
I think two things:
The obvious lesson, of course, is to unplug. Like really unplug. We don’t allow ourselves enough space to think deeply for extended periods of time, to get lost in the crags of our minds–and the deep work, the profound work, always requires that we get still. Losing my phone forced me to quit the churning inside and get still. And that was what my writing needed, too.
And of course…surrender. Yes…that lesson we are so good at avoiding. But so often when we find ourselves stuck in writing or in life, it’s because we’re holding onto something too tightly: the past, the good idea that isn’t working, the way we think this is supposed to go. We assume that we’re in charge, and that’s the point: we are never in charge. How many times have I heard a writer say: I didn’t want to write about that (mother, childhood, etc.), but that is what is coming out. When it’s going well, the writing should surprise us, take us in new directions in content or even form. The work always has its own blueprint.
But, sometimes we have to let go of the ONE thing we REALLY don’t want to let go of–maybe it’s the original concept, the first line, the last line. The ending we mapped out years ago. Remember: the work is always smarter than we are, and we are not in charge of anything. I’ll say it again: we are not in charge of anything, really, in art or life. Illness always arrives unannounced. Pandemics happen. Sometimes the stars align and, honestly, sometimes they don’t.
But we always have the choice to lean into the discomfort and see what lives on the other side. Perhaps inspiration. Perhaps liberation. Perhaps the very thing you need in your writing or your life waits on the other side of surrender. Perhaps we’ve been knocking on the wrong door all along.
In Puerto Rico, I was eventually able to purchase a burner phone with GPS and get myself home. But losing my phone continues to provide a potent metaphor in releasing the old and stepping into the role of a beginner again–as a writer and as a human. And let me tell you: on the other side of surrender is a glorious field, vibrating with possibility.
So…what have you been holding on too tightly to? What would it be like to let it go and begin again?
To your continued brilliance and creative inspiration, no matter how unexpected the source.
Your cheerleader, Nancy
P.S. AND, for the brave, just for fun, try going 24 hours without your phone. Report back!
P.S.S. How can I help? Here are a few of my offerings below:
a 12-week incubator to get your manuscript across the finish line
February 13-May 5
Whether your book is fiction or creative non-fiction, if you are a dedicated writer, drawing on the skills of flash fiction, this is the container of inspiration, motivation, community and support you have been wanting to bring your ideas to fruition.
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 glorious Rocky Mountains!!