Going Short by Nancy Stohlman: A Mum Life Success Story

I must say I’m very excited about this particular Mum Life Success Story. I’ve had the pleasure of featuring some truly beautiful, amazing and inspiring Mums through these Mum Life Success Stories and each one of them has had a unique and special story to tell, but never have I featured someone as well-known and accomplished as Nancy Stohlman.

I have to admit that when I received an email from her publicity manager, about promoting her new book Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction I didn’t actually know who she was. That is due more to my lack of time to read and search out great authors (because I’m busy with work, family and this blog) than it is about Nancy’s reputation. Once I googled her name, and announced the upcoming interview on twitter etc, I realised that Nancy was fastly becoming a household name.

After just a little research I discovered that Nancy was not only a talented performer, writer and professor, but that she was juggling it all with motherhood and so naturally, I had to request an interview for the next ‘Mum Life Success Story’ feature. Nancy happily obliged and answered all my probing questions about life, success and family and how she navigates it all. I was truly inspired and knew without a doubt that all of you would be inspired too. If by some off-chance you don’t know who Nancy Stolman is, let’s start with a bit of backstory direct from her publicity manager.

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Who is Nancy Stohlman?

Nancy Stohlman

Nancy Stohlman is the author of four books of flash fiction including Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities (a finalist for a 2019 Colorado Book Award), The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (2014), and The Monster Opera (2013). She is the creator of The F-bomb Flash Fiction Reading Series and FlashNano in November. Her work has been anthologized in the W.W. Norton New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, Macmillan’s The Practice of Fiction, and The Best Small Fictions 2019. Her craft book, Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction, is forthcoming from Ad Hoc Fiction in 2020. She teaches writing and rhetoric at the University of Colorado Boulder.

When she is not writing flash fiction she straps on stilettos and becomes the lead
singer of the lounge metal jazz trio Kinky Mink.  She lives in Denver Colorado and dreams of one day becoming a pirate.

Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction

Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction is Nancy’s latest contribution to the world of literature. Writer and Teacher Kathy Fish describes it as “The definitive, and appropriately concise book on the flash fiction form”. I have read some of the book myself and I can say Kathy is right, If you’re a writer (as many of my readers are) or want to start writing, Going Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction is a resource you want to have on your bookshelf.


Mum Life Success Story

With Nancy being the seasoned writer that she is and needing no help from me to tell her story, I decided to publish this feature in interview format rather than the story form I usually employ. First I asked Nancy to tell us a little bit about her family.

Tell us a little about your family?

I have two kids—Maiya is 22 and just got her first apartment; Felix is 15 and just got his learner’s permit (yikes!). My partner Nick and I have been together almost a dozen years. We’re all creatives: Nick is a classical pianist and Maiya is a visual artist, so I’m proud to have passed down a family value of artistry. My own parents were also creative; I remember musical jam sessions, a lot of clowning in my household growing up.

When did your love for writing begin?

I remember I was 10 years old on the bleachers at a soccer game when I announced I was going to become an author. I was a voracious reader, of course. I grew up on military bases overseas, so books were my constant friends through all the moving and the various cultural and language barriers. After my author announcement my mother let me use her electric typewriter and I wrote a musical: Superman, The Musical (ala Christopher Reeve). I felt so important as I sat there clicking the keys, feeding in the paper. I don’t know what happened to the musical, but I still feel the magic when I sit down to write.

What inspired you to write your upcoming publication ‘Going Short’?

I was inspired to write Going Short about 10 years ago, when students and fellow writers kept asking me to recommend flash fiction craft books. I didn’t know what to recommend—there were almost no craft books aimed at this growing genre (nor by women). So I decided to take it on myself. I thought it would be easy, something I could write in a year or two. Ha. It took me almost 8 years! But I’m extremely proud of the result—I hope this book becomes a friend to the writers and readers who fall in love with flash fiction.

Are there any major obstacles you’ve had to overcome to get where you are now?

Oh yes. Self doubt. Fear. Creative deserts. Jealousy. Self-sabotage. It’s not easy to go for your dreams. There’s so much risk. Every step you think you might be crazy. Every step you expose yourself to…all of it. Not everyone is rooting for you, so you have to cheer yourself on no matter what. It’s not always easy. It takes courage and bravery, not just one time but every time. Over and over. So my challenge is to reach deeper and keep finding that courage. It’s either that or give up—which keeps me motivated on the hard days.

Are there any funny, intense, or inspiring stories you can tell us about your experiences in writing and/or publishing?

For years I fantasized of spending “three weeks on an island all by myself just writing.” Sounds magical, right? Then, last year, I decided to do it. I was already in Italy co-hosting a flash fiction retreat (so amazing), and when it was over I found a super remote island in the Adriatic, rented a renovated wine cellar for $150 a week, and went on my own sabbatical. And I wrote every day. Every blissful day. I mean, I woke up, I wrote, I walked to get coffee, I wrote. I ate gelato, I walked to the empty beach. I wrote. It was magical, and I discovered what I call Holy Boredom. And because of it, I finished this book.

What would you say is your biggest challenge with balancing family life with your career? How do you find balance (if you do)?

Funny, but I think this question is part of the challenge—if I were a man I would likely never be asked this question. Because I’m a woman, there’s an expectation (even from myself) that I can and will do it all: be a loving mother, chef, teacher, partner, friend, housekeeper, nurture all my relationships…oh, AND write books, teach on campus, run retreats, and attempt to dream my own inspiration into being. And, because all women are amazing, we do it. All of it. But I like to envision a world where men are asked this question, too.

The short answer of how I balance it all? I fail. I succeed. Then I fail. I do my best. And sometimes I schedule a weekend to myself and that’s important, too.

How does your experience as a Mother help with your writing and vice versa?

Once I had kids I knew the luxury of waiting for the muse, was over. If I really wanted to be a writer, I had to begin now—there was a little person watching me. So I wrote during nap time and in the evenings after bedtimes. I mean, I wrote entire books during nap times, during pre-school. Later I wrote on trains and buses while commuting to campus. I learned to seize THIS moment, imperfect but available, because the perfect moment is just an illusion. So in a very real way my children forced me to get serious and make it happen.

And writing makes me a better mother, too, because I’m honoring that creative part of myself. I’m more present for my family when I’m present for myself. Put on your own oxygen mask before you help others.

What advice can you give to other women (mothers in particular) wanting to chase their dreams of becoming a professional writer?

Just begin. The perfect time, the perfect location, the perfect idea—you could be waiting forever. The real day-to-day of writing is messy—there is nothing idealized about it. And yet, allowing yourself to be creative is amazingly, imperfectly perfect. On a good day, it’s still just as magical to me as that first time at my mom’s electric typewriter.

Plus, the very best thing you can do for your children is to show them what it looks like to not give up on yourself. They will be watching and learning from your actions far more than from your words.


More Mum Life Success Stories…

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MOMS MADE FOR MORE: A Mum Life Success Story

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This month’s Mum Life Success Story embraces all that I hope for, for my readers here at Mum Life Stories. Independence, perseverance, courage, identity, and a can-do attitude toward chasing her dreams. She’s on a mission to not only see her own dreams and desires fulfilled but to help others do the same and to find their true selves amongst all the noise this world throws at them. 

A true inspiration, April Sky is a single mum, business woman, life coach and entrepreneur. How she got to where she is today can only be attributed to her own determination not to give up, not to allow her circumstances or the obstacles that inevitably come, to prevent her from being all that she can be.

I could go on with the introduction but I think I will just let her do that herself. Afterall who can tell you more about someone than that someone themselves?

“Hi, friends! My name is April Sky and I’ve been a divorced full-time single boy mom for the past three years to my wild-ass, beautifully creative,  five-year-old son. Together, we live on our own in Montana (United States). Both businesses that I’ve built/run and supported us with financially, were started after he was born, making our journey quite the freaking ride.”

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Becoming Mum

Before April was a mother she was quite satisfied in her job as a teacher. She was married and certain that she was supposed to be a stay-at-home mum.

“So, I had my son, loved him fiercely, but felt an extreme pull to somehow financially contribute, which then birthed my second baby, photography. Two years later, that business exploded into a profitable wedding photography venture that not only gave me my independence, but it gave me a voice, something that had been squashed out of me since I was little. I knew in my soul that the identity I had lived and the life I had built around me was not okay or healthy and most importantly, not what I wanted to raise my child around. 

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When Jaemon was not even two, I signed up for, trained, and ran my first half marathon. It was in training that I realized I was in a very unhealthy marriage and was not being true to who I was deep down. I was a lost mom who had never ever had the opportunity to be her true self. I wasn’t really even sure who that was, I just knew it wasn’t who I was at that moment. So, after an internal battle for the ages and essentially no emotional support, I left. Hello single mom life.”

Troubled Beginnings

Many of us can probably relate to the fact that who we become as adults and how we feel about who we are is shaped by our childhood and the influences and experiences we go through. Some experiences are good and help us learn how to cope with the world and some damage us and tear holes in our identity that take many years to repair. April had an experience in her childhood that did just that.

“The shaping of who I am and why I lived a life of lost identity until the age of 27 started when I was five-years-old, when in a moment I lost the trust of a family member and of men really altogether. With this story comes tears, guilt, trauma, lasting damage, grief and several rounds of counseling (my current counselor is my jam). It was at five that I lost my voice and quieted that fire I knew even then was inside of me. I recall sitting on my bedroom floor, lighting candles and asking God or the universe to please make me ‘normal’ and like everyone else. At age five.

My wandering soul was old then and although it was beautifully different, outside circumstance told it not to be. It’s because of this that I am now louder than my circumstances. It’s because of this that I left my child’s father because I damn-well wasn’t going to watch my son’s old soul be shamed out of him as well. Celebrate your differences because they are gifts that were given to you for a reason.”





Finding her voice

After a difficult separation and a series of other traumatic events, April and her son found themselves called to a totally new city, completely on their own.

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“That is where the second business was created, ‘Moms Made for More’. If you cannot find what you need, you create it and that’s just what I did nearly two years ago. What started as a Facebook group for moms to feel safe and interact, snowballed into a full-time business of teaching moms that they can be both a stand-out parent AND a badass dream achiever, simultaneously and it starts with finding their voice.

With dreams comes heartbreak, grief, pain (both physical and mental), loss, and failure. But, you know what sets those that reach their dreams from those that don’t? The will to keep going. I used to, and still catch myself occasionally, living in a limited belief that because I’m a single mom with little to no help emotionally or financially, that it’s harder for me and it’s why I haven’t x,y, or z-ed yet. It’s not because of my situation. It’s because I’m still falling back into that limiting belief occasionally that because I have developmental/past trauma or because my child struggles with sensory issues or because I live dollar to dollar or because so few around me think like I do, that I’m not getting farther faster. In reality, it’s because of these things that I am absolutely fit and ready to do what I’ve been called to do which is to serve moms by being who I am and by using my very loud voice.” 

Balance

I always ask my Mum Life Success Story Mums how they find balance, between family, work, dream chasing and community. April didn’t hold back on being authentic about her struggle.

“Simple answer. I don’t, but what I do find is myself, over and over again. I’ve put in so much emotionally and financially into truly TRULY peeling back the layers and discovering who I am at my core so that, although I’m constantly evolving and growing (as we all can if we give ourselves space to), I know who home-base April is and it’s from there that I find my “balance.” It’s from there that I know what lifts me/weighs me and from there that I’ve learned how to structure my days and my weeks and my year for success as I run two profitable businesses and raise an incredible little boy on my own.

I’m also a planner whore and have my goals with actionable steps plastered all over my walls, haha. Benefit of being single. I believe with my entire being that a dream without a plan stays just that, a dream. So, I feel it, I think it, I speak it into existence, and then I plan it, step-by-step. Solid recipe for turning your dreams into reality. But again, that’s what works for me. Figure out WHO you are and you’ll know what works for you, too.” 


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Future Goals

By now I think you’ve gotten the picture that April is a planner and a visionary, so it should be no surprise that her goals for the next fews years are extraordinary. Of course my question about what she sees herself doing in 5 years was met with great enthusiasm. 

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“Oh my goodness, so I’m a 3 on the Enneagram (run and take the paid version if you have yet to) and so I LOVE getting questioned on my five-year plans. In five years, my ultimate goal is to do less, but achieve more (thank you Kate Northrup). However, if we’re getting specific, allow me to word vomit. I’m a firm believer that when you write your dream as if it is happening/has happened versus the possibility of it happening, the universe loves you more for it.

So with that said, I will be serving millions of moms through several platforms, I will be the host of a podcast (that’s coming at you this year), I will be the author of two published and impactful novels, I will be the author of a single-mom E book that helps get you through the first year as a single mother, I will be on the Ed Mylett Show (huge huge fan), I will be speaking heavily all over the world, and most importantly, I will be an exceptional mother and partner to the man my son and I have yet to meet.” 

April’s Advice

Feeling inspired? Wondering how you could become someone who motivates women to go on that journey of self discovery? April’s advice is:

“If you too would love to be a stay-at-home, full-time working entrepreneur mother who uses her voice to help others, it starts with you. The best gift I could have ever given myself and my child is the space and the time that I devoted to identifying who I am at my core and how I best care for myself to reach my highest potential. It takes trial and error, it takes falling on your ass, and it takes heartbreak, but holy sh#%, once you are on the “other side” looking back at your former lost self, you will smile and keep going. We are forever students of life, but if you want to say “F the Norm” with me and write your own story, it starts with identifying who you are, truly, so that your voice can get you to your highest potential, whatever that may be. 

For extra motivation or to find help getting started on your own personal journey toward self-discovery, you can visit April’s website at www.momsmadeformore.com

To see April’s awesome photography, you can visit her Photography website at www.aprilskyphotography.com

…and why not join April’s community Facebook group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/momsmadeformore/

 

Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog, if you’d like to read more Mum Life Success Stories, click HERE and if you’d like to be featured as one of our success stories, simply email us at mumlifestories@gmail.com or visit our T & C’s page for more info.

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Mangoes & Monkey Bread: A Mum Life Success Story.

 

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“Take the first Step, everything begins with the first step.”

At Mum Life Stories we are passionate about helping women (especially mums) to discover their own true identity and to develop the confidence they need to pursue their dreams. Discovering your identity is all about embracing who you are, your personality, your character, your body, mind & spirit, your culture, your background and all the experiences (good & bad) that make up your unique ‘life story’.

Sometimes life can take us out of our comfort zone or put us into situations where it can be difficult to maintain a sense of belonging, which in turn can foster a detachment of our self-awareness and identity. Knowing who we are and where we come from, is very significant in developing that sense of identity and helping us to embrace ‘who we are’ so we can start journeying toward ‘who we want to be’.

Emily Joof is one woman who knows who she is and is passionate about teaching her children and other children about discovering who they are and where they come from. She has recently self-published her first book ‘Mangoes & Monkey bread’ in the hopes of bridging the gap between her family’s life in Sweden and their heritage in West Africa. She was kind enough to share the inspiration for her story and the process behind it with me, so I could share it with all my awesome readers. 

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Emily

Emily (2)

A couple of months ago you might remember me posting a Mum Life Success Story about a lady who opened a Cafe in Africa (Cassy’s Cafe: A Mum Life Success Story)? That lady (Cassy) grew up in Sweden and now lives in The Gambia but Emily grew up in The Gambia and now lives in Sweden. I just thought I should clarify that in case the details seem a little familiar but you can’t quite put your finger on why, haha. 

Emily was born in Nigeria but grew up in The Gambia. As a young adult she moved around Europe for study, but eventually settled in Stockholm, Sweden when she got engaged to Charles and they decided that greener pastures and a family friendly city was the life they were looking for.

Emily is a Mother to two brilliant children, Ella (6yrs old ) and Louis (3yrs old). She is an Education Advisor who works in international development. She told me “I have always been passionate about development work, specifically working with children and youth and have been lucky enough to build a career doing something that means so much to me.”

As well as her full-time job, Emily is also a blogger, and an author of children’s books. She recently self-published her first book ‘Mangoes & Monkey Bread in English and Swedish. 

Inclusion has always been at the heart of everything Emily does “but I only recently linked it to children’s literature. I blog about diversity in children books and try to provide some nuance to the larger conversation.  It is important for me to remind us all that inclusion is a human right, one that we promised children everywhere through the United Nations Convention on ‘The Right of the Child’. So we don’t only do ‘inclusion’ from the goodness of our heart, or when we have time, or when we have room for diversity,  we have an ‘obligation’ to every child that they feel reflected, that they feel loved, cared for, protected and heard.” 

Emily says her next book in 2020 will be for children and their parents to celebrate these rights.

The Birth of Mangoes & Monkeybread

Ella and fav books
Ella with some of her favourite books

As parents we want what is best for our children. We want them to know and love themselves, to have a positive self image so they can face the world with confidence. Most of us are also willing to go to great lengths to make sure they have every opportunity to achieve this. Emily is certainly one of those parents. “Diversity in children’s literature became the answer to one of my most challenging moments in life.  Like all children, my daughter then aged 4, struggled to find a space where she felt she belonged. She didn’t feel part of the norm, she felt unpretty, she didn’t want to be brown, she didn’t want to be different anymore.” 

Being in a country outside of their cultural heritage did not make it easy for Ella to feel like she belonged. “This universal experience of otherness was amplified by a mainly homogenous Scandinavian environment, and the one thing that lifted her spirits and got her singing again, was books. I had spent hours ordering in books, talking to librarians, reading to her, reminding her of the beauty in her brown, and sparkle in her curls. The message got through, one page at a time.” 

Reading these books became their ritual and their remedy. So together they read more and Emily blogged more. “One spring after a wonderful trip to The Gambia, filled with amazing moments with their grandparents, my kids asked for a bedtime story that had mangoes in it. Ella wanted to see the ‘spiky fruit’ she had eaten from grandma’s tree. She wanted to see the frozen green ditakh, that had been ordered just for her, so I started my search again and realised there wasn’t a single childrens book out there, that showed some of the fruits native to west africa that I myself had eaten pretty much every day when I was their age.”

This lack of availability of relevant children’s literature is what inspired Emily to launch her career as an author. “So I compiled our memories and discussions and Mangoes and Monkey bread’ was born. I realised there must be generations of children from the West African diaspora who couldn’t find themselves in the narratives available.” 

Emily was moved by the obvious need for not only her children and other West African children to learn about their own heritage, but for children of the world to discover the diversities of another culture. “I want to share our stories as far and wide as I can. In my house we read about galaxies, about sushi, we learn about nomads and Latin American festivals, we open up our children’s world and encourage to discover. We want African diasporan culture, colors, stories, to be part of that journey of discovery for all children.” 

Emily’s book is available on Amazon Kindle and in Paperback form.


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Mangoes & Monkey bread (Buy it Now)


Balance

Ella and mum

Something I always ask my Mum Life Success Story Mums is “How do you find balance, if you do?” Emily answered “Last year a friend asked me if I had a new year’s resolution for 2019. I said I didn’t, but I hoped to learn how to do one thing at a time. I can tell you now, I have failed miserably. I want to do everything, all at once, motherhood, parenting, writing, publishing, mentoring, traveling, inspiring, everything! Perhaps I simply find balance in the imbalance. 

In reality balance to me is more about a feeling of fulfillment which I see in my daughter’s eyes when she tells people, ever so proudly, that she is a character in a book, or my son pointing at the illustration saying ‘mummy its me’..everything in my life is balanced perfectly knowing they feel that self worth.”



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The Future

I asked Emily where she saw herself in 5 years. “In 5 years, I hope to be a happy mom, with independent self-assured kids who still come to me with their secrets and for cuddles from time to time.  I hope to be a person who has inspired someone to believe in themselves and take a leap towards whatever that dream is that makes their heart beat, that little bit faster.  I think the biggest obstacle for me is time. Time to do it all, fit it all in 24 hours a day, everyday.

Advice

Emily’s advice to anyone who has a dream they are not sure how to chase, is short and sweet but to the point and so simple it’s perfect. “Go for it, reach out to me if needed. Take the first step; everything begins with the first step.” 

You can read Emily’s blog Here

Follow her on Facebook at Mbife Books or Instagram @mbife_books/

 

Thanks

Thank you for reading this blog, I hope and pray that you receive inspiration and motivation from these posts to go forth and chase your dreams. Don’t forget to follow us (bottom of page) or sign up to our mailing list to keep up to date with all the latest stories, news & promos including giveaways and writing competitions, plus receive a FREE Ebook, exclusive to our email subscribers.


 

Get your FREE Ebook

Accomplish more IN a fraction of the time

The pace and intensity of our lives, both at work and at home, leave many of us feeling like a person riding a frantically galloping horse. Our day-to-day incessant busyness — too much to do and not enough time.

With this ebook you will learn to approach your days in another way, reducing stress and getting results through prioritizing, leveraging and focus!

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