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. Too often we think we have to be the source of genius or somehow in control–it’s so freeing to let that go. Instead, when we remember our true position: midwife to the muse, not the source but in service to the artistic impulses, then risk becomes synonymous with courage and trust. And all art comes from courage and trust.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’ve been a flash fiction writer and champion for more than 15 years. When I discovered the genre at Naropa’s Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, my creative world exploded into a million flash fiction-sized pieces, thankfully never to be re-assembled. Flash fictions, which are compressed, highly crafted stories in miniature, most of them 1,000 words or less, have changed the way I and many others write–not because the world has somehow lost its attention span (as some people mistakenly assume), but because the world demands more substance and less filler. Flash fiction is all meat and no fat.
I’ve published five books of or about flash fiction, and in March, 2023, I will be releasing my 6th book, After the Rapture, a socio-satirical flash novel set in a post-Rapture landscape. What’s especially interesting is that I wrote this book before the pandemic, but now it will be releasing to a post-pandemic audience, possibly commenting on things I could never have anticipated when I wrote it. Art is wild like that, isn’t it? I love when I remember that the art is always smarter than the artist who created it.
Some of my other books include the flash fiction collections The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories, Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (finalist for a Colorado Book Award and Wheatridge Book of the Year), and Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction, which is the perfect flash fiction companion for the flash-curious as well as the veteran writer (also on audiobook). And every November I host FlashNano, a free, 30-day challenge to write one flash fiction story per day. We just had our 11th FlashNano!
I’ve also been teaching for 15 years, beginning in the colleges of Denver. then at CU Boulder, and now largely at private workshops and writing retreats in both local and international locations–including France, Iceland, Costa Rica, Spain and Grand Lake, Colorado. I adore working with and for fellow creatives–while art is always born in those dark, intimate places in our private hearts, the inspiration for art thrives in community and radical engagement with this beautiful and ever generous world.
Sign up for workshops, retreats, FlashNano, and more at my website: www.nancystohlman.com
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Well, we would start with a ride on the Lightrail to Union Station (shoutout to the Lightrail!) for coffee and then walk to the Contemporary Art Museum, my favorite museum in Denver, checking out their latest exhibits and ending at their rooftop cafe for something sweet (like those better-than-Hostess-chocolate cupcakes). Then a walk to pay our respects at the Tattered Cover, the best bookstore in Denver, of course. Sunset drinks at Peaks Lounge on the 27th floor of the downtown Hyatt, which is one of my secret spots and has the best views of downtown Denver and the Front Range. We would wrap up the night with some blues or tango dancing or maybe even catch a poetry reading at the one and only Mercury Cafe, or conversely a rendezvous into Meow Wolf’s Convergence Station, which in my opinion can go 12 rounds with the original in Santa Fe (I was worried, but they really did it right!)
And last but not least, a late-night smothered green-chili breakfast burrito at Pete’s Kitchen on Colfax.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
This shoutout goes to the Fbomb Flash Fiction Reading series (the first flash fiction reading series in the country and about to celebrate its 10th anniversary!) for helping me achieve my secret mission of making Denver the flash fiction capital of the world! Also a special shoutout to Marilyn Megenity, former owner of The Mercury Cafe, for her decades of support for me and thousands of other Denver artists.
Other: www.flashfictionretreats.com www.fbombdenver.com Buy After the Rapture: https://masonjarpress.com/chapbooks-1/after-the-rapture Buy Going Short: https://www.adhocfiction.com/2020/08/going-short-an-invitation-to-flash-fiction/ Going Short Book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lxrMMX81YXg&t=4s Watch me read My Mother is a Circus Clown from Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (with Nick Busheff on piano) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZdOGFsjBlE
Lynn Hough, Elizabeth Woolfenden, Ryan Stone, After the Rapture Cover design Ian Anderson, Going Short design Janice Leagra,