In Episode 54, we talk to writer Nancy Stohlman about her award-winning book Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction, the power of flash fiction as a fully realized genre, and how to write and teach flash fiction.
Nancy Stohlman is an award-winning author who’s been writing, publishing, and teaching flash fiction for nearly 15 years. Her books include The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories, The Monster Opera, Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, and Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction, which received the 2021 Readers View Gold Award. Her work has been anthologized widely, appearing in the W.W. Norton 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 leads workshops and retreats around the world. You can learn more at her website nancystohlman.com and find her on Instagram @nancy_stohlman and Twitter @nancystohlman.
Find Going Short here!
People and Texts Mentioned in the Episode
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- Naropa University
- Going Short: An Invitation To Flash Fiction
- Episode 32: Writing about Love and Grief and Also Aliens with Marissa Lingen
- Federico García Lorca
- Theory and Play of the Duende
- The War of Art
- Tom Waits
- Nobody Wants to Read Your Shit
- Fast Forward Press
- Anne Lamott
- Ad Hoc Fiction
- “Death Row Hugger”
- “Death Row Hugger” film adaptation
- Dr. Steven Mentz
“What I really discovered, and was such a relief for me, was not every story is 60,000 words, and if you push it to try to make it cross that finish line so that you can call it a novel, then have you sold out your own idea, perhaps?” @nancystohlmanTweet
“It was so liberating for me to have permission to let my story decide how long it needed to be and not [let] conventions decide.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“Flash fiction is like when you’re at the airport and you are sitting next to somebody and they’re gonna get on a flight in 20 minutes and you’re gonna get on a flight in 20 minutes and you end up having this amazing conversation for 20 minutes. And then they go their way, and you go your way, and you never see them again. Is there anything less profound and wonderful about that 20 minute conversation versus if I was that person’s friend since childhood and knew every little thing about them?” @nancystohlmanTweet
“This is the kernel. This is the heartbeat here. And I can give it to you in this little flash fiction piece.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“Sometimes you want to go on the whole journey. But sometimes you just want to see the heart beating and just look at it and just realize how powerful that is.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“Poetry and flash fiction, they share brevity, but they also share complexity, and they share a lot of depth. A lot goes on in these tiny little spaces.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“Flash fiction is not just a little knock-knock joke on your way to work. It’s like a whole thing that’s going to be ringing in your head for the rest of the day.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“That’s one of the things I really love about the constraint of flash fiction […] You’re playing with the form. You’re pushing against it. It’s like air inside of a balloon.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“Knowing what the edges are in any form allows me to kind of create a shape that I may not have created if I just had all the room in the world.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“Are you writing what you think other people want, or are you writing what’s really in your heart screaming to get out?” @nancystohlmanTweet
“When you start listening to your own work and seeing yourself as being in service of the story–the midwife of the story–you’re not the creator. You’re the midwife, and it’s coming through you. So get out of the way, and it will tell you when it’s done. I think if that’s where we can position ourselves as writers, I think the best work will come through that way.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“So many of the lessons that I have in the book Going Short come from years and years and years of creating context for [my] workshops.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“I think that most writers or artists in general, just kind of feed off that novelty where everything is unfamiliar and I’m suddenly actually present in my body paying attention to the world in a way that I’m not when everything is familiar…I think that’s really what I love about being a writer who travels–is just forcing myself to slow down and actually not be sure of anything and notice everything.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“I think it’s important to remember too that our creativity [is] seasonal.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“Around 2010 or so, I was like all right, well, there isn’t this book [about how to write flash fiction], and there needs to be this book, so I guess I should write this book.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“Women have helped create [flash fiction] just as much as the men.” @nancystohlmanTweet
“Learning how to finish a book is just as important as learning how to begin a book, but we don’t practice that enough.” @nancystohlmanTweet
This episode was recorded on March 15, 2021. Because we recorded via Zoom, there may be occasional audio hiccups. Our theme song is “4 am” by Makaih Beats. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher and follow us on Twitter @WritingRemixPod.