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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Cassy’s Cafe: A Mum Life Success Story

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If there is one thing I love about the invention of the internet, it’s that I can interview someone on the other side of the world and write a story about them without even leaving my own house. Heck, I don’t even have to talk to them on the phone, I simply do what I do best and write to them, and they write back. How amazing is that? I love that it’s so easy to connect with new people, people that I wouldn’t otherwise ever have a chance to meet or get to know. 

Through the stories that I’ve been privileged to write in the last several months, I’ve met some amazing women, women who are pushing past the obstacles and setbacks that life inevitably throws their way and chasing those elusive dreams that so many people talk about but so little achieve. These women have inspired me and I hope inspired you also.

One such lady who’s positive attitude to life caught my attention on Instagram (@lifeofcassy2019) is Cassandra Sojka.

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Immigration of Cassy

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This months ‘Mum Life Success Story’ Mum, comes all the way from The Gambia (otherwise known as ‘The Smiling Coast of Africa’). Cassandra Sojka, originally from Stockholm Sweden, moved to The Gambia in 2013 where she now owns and runs a successful Cafe/Restaurant (Cassy’s Cafe) with her Husband Ladislav. They have two children, Aiden (5) and Mio (3).

If you’re asking the question ‘where the heck is The Gambia?’ your not alone. Cassy admitted to me that she needed to check a map before going on a family holiday there in 2011 because she had no idea where this country was.  I myself had to google it and discovered that it’s actually the smallest country within mainland Africa.  It occupies a small sliver of land around the Gambia River and is almost entirely surrounded by Senegal with the exception of its western coastline along the Atlantic Ocean (Wikipedia 2019). It’s best known for it’s subtropical climate, pristine beaches, and abundant birdlife, drawing tourists all-year-round. 


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So why the Gambia?

Cassandra says “Ever since I was young I wanted to move from Sweden to another county. I didn’t know where to, when or how but it was just always my dream.”  It was during her family holiday in 2011 that she fell in love with the country and didn’t want to go home when the two weeks were up. “My sister and I booked a single ticket back to the Gambia only a few days after we got home. During our 1, 5-month stay we met a lot of new people and my sister got a job offer. I convinced her to stay as she could just return home to Sweden if she didn’t like it.” It was obviously some good advice as she still lives in the Gambia now.

Cassy travelled back and forth, as much as she could, at times working 6 jobs in Sweden in order to save for the trips. “My sister was there and also the man that would become my husband. We were not in a relationship yet but we loved spending time together. In 2013 we decided to give our relationship a real try and I decided to move down to the Gambia permanently.”

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They got engaged and Cassy got pregnant just 6 months after they decided. 3 years and 2 kids later they started thinking about how they could make an income without leaving the kids for long hours and making next to nothing because in the Gambia, salaries are bad and working hours are long. “The only thing that made sense with two young kids, was to open something of our own. We went back and forth on what we could do, what would work in this small, developing, beautiful country. A café and a restaurant were closing down in a complex and we decided to jump on the opportunity. We believed it was something the Gambia was missing. We had to act quick, so within two months after we decided, we were open.”

Obstacles

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Cassandra says she still doesn’t know how they did it, without savings and so fast, but it just goes to show that it’s possible to do so much more than you think. “Both my husband and I are very spontaneous people. I’m also very positive so thinking that we would fail or that it wouldn’t work is nothing I remember even having in my mind.” 

That’s not to say that there were no obstacles. Every huge life decision, especially when you have a family, comes with a certain amount of hurdles that need to be cleared before the race can be won. The 10 foot hurdles some people may see however, can seem more like 10mm if approached with a positive attitude and a determination to overcome.

“There were two obstacles when we were about to open the café. The first one was to leave the kids with a babysitter. To find someone to trust and to spend more time away from them. We just had to get used to the idea like anyone else that is going back to work. I brought the kids with the babysitter to the café a lot in the beginning.” 

The second issue was money. For a while, they weren’t sure how they would be able to pay for everything they needed to open a café. “We asked a friend to help a bit and the rest just worked out” and they did make it work “after two months we expanded and after only a few months open we climbed up to number 1 on TripAdvisor and still remain there.” 

After 2 years in operation, Cassy’s Cafè is a thriving business “it’s a hangout spot for a lot of different people, from local celebrities to teenagers and families. Coming to work makes me happy.” 

Balance

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That elusive question of “how do you find balance?” is always my favourite, probably because I struggle in this area and I’m always interested to hear how successful Mums manage it. “How do I balance life, kids, and business? Do I get tired? For sure! Is it worth it? Yes! I make sure to spend a lot of quality time with the kids both at home and out, I make sure we do a lot of fun things together.” Cassy admits that her energy isn’t always enough for the beach after work but it makes her happy. Seeing the kids happy, makes her happy.

I believe that scheduling quality time for relationships is an important aspect of finding balance between work and life. Cassy says “We have a babysitter two times a week so that my husband and I can have dinner and spend time together, even if it’s at work. What also works for me is to not have too many routines or too many plans. I like being spontaneous. I like being able to pick up the kids from school and together decide where we should go and how we should spend the afternoon. It’s the small things that make life good. Too many plans tend to stress me.”





The Future

When asked where she could see herself in 5 years, she replied “I hope the café is still as popular as today, if not more. I hope that we continue to grow and have one or two more businesses. I know it sounds like a lot but I believe it’s possible! I believe positive thinking really helps with whatever you want in life.”

Her advice to anyone thinking of starting their own business is to “Have a good partner. Especially if there are kids in the picture. It has to be someone you trust, that has the same goals as you. Someone that’s willing to work hard. For me, that’s my husband and that’s the biggest reason I manage the life I do and managed to stay happy. If it weren’t for him, I would have wanted to quit many times. We can believe that we can do it all on our own, but it’s also ok to admit we can’t!”

Whilst it’s not always possible to find that loving supportive partner, I agree that it’s a great idea to surround ourselves with positive people who are on board with our vision. Having someone there to lift us up when we stumble can sometimes be the difference between persevering and giving up.

What’s your dream for the future? Do you believe it’s possible? If not, why not? Drop a comment in the comment section below 🙂

If you’d like to follow Cassy’s family adventures, you can visit her account on instagram @lifeofcassy2019 or follow the success of her cafe @cassyscafe.


Going Short book coverGoing Short: An Invitation to Flash Fiction by Nancy Stohlman


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If you’d like us to share your Mum Life Success Story, please e-mail me at mumlifestories@gmail.com


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More Mum Life Success Stories…

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My Pink HaRe: Esther Rodriguez


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Educated’ by Tara Westover (Buy it now)


My Pink HaRe: A Mum Life Success Story

This page contains affiliate links, which means I may earn commission if you click on the links and make a purchase. Affiliate links help me earn money to keep going with this blog 🙂

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Welcome to our very first Mum Life Success Story. At the beginning of every month I will be bringing you a true-to-life inspirational story about a special mum who’s chasing her dreams, conquering her fears, beating the odds or simply making an impact on the world or her community. These are stories about Mums like you, mums that struggle, mums that cry, mums that strive, mums that push through the “have to’s” to carve out time for the “want to’s” and find the joy in the everyday chaos that is family.

I hope you find encouragement as well as inspiration from these stories and that you are motivated to push toward the height of your own Mum Life Story. One day you could be sharing ‘your’ unique journey with us. Feel free to comment below the story if you have any queries or words of encouragement.


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Esther Rodriguez

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Esther Rodriquez

Esther Rodriquez is a successful business owner, single-mum and foster parent, living the dream in Las Vegas, Nevada. From a young age, she knew that success wouldn’t come easy, that it would take hard work, determination and perseverance to reach her goals and make something of her life. She says “I started beauty school when I was 17 years old and never once worked for a salon under commission. Since day one, I always rented my own station and ran my own mini career. I think that’s just always been my mind set and dream.”

At age 18 and right out of beauty school Esther found herself pregnant with her son Adrian (now 12). After the birth of her baby she began working part-time at a salon on the Vegas strip, doing hair and makeup for weddings. She worked hard for more than 5 years to build her own clientele and start her own business and for another 5 years she branded “My Pink HaRe”.

2 years ago she met a young girl on Facebook who introduced her to a product called Monat, a naturally based, anti-aging hair care line that promotes hair growth. Esther was more than a little skeptical at first as it was Direct Sales, rather than a shop stocked product. She decided to sample their shampoo however to investigate whether it would work for her clients and herself, as her own hair had been thinning out and was dry and brittle from chemicals and heat. Her hair and literally her life have never been the same since.





As a hairdresser of 12 years who had tried every professional product available, she was truly amazed that a product actually did what it claimed to and her hair and her clients hair had never felt that good after bleach, ever! She jumped over the fear hurdle, trusting her gut and pushing aside her skepticism of Direct Sales, joining up and going Full Force for her clients, her son and their future. In just 3 months with Monat, Esther had helped over 200 people restore their thinning, damaged hair and earnt more money than she ever had in such a short time.

In just 1 year she saw her first business Boom because she conquered her fear and chased a dream. Her online direct sales business was a true blessing that she attributes to God firstly and secondly to the people that had supported her over the years and trusted her with their beauty needs. Due to her success, Esther travelled to Bermuda, New York City, Boston & Chicago all in one summer. Then she did something she never thought she’d be able to do. She opened her very own salon named “My Pink HaRe Salon Suites”.

Within 6 months her salon was nominated as ‘Best Salon’ in ‘The Best of Las Vegas 2018’ awards and to her amazement, she won! “In my heart, I know that one, God is amazing and two, none of this would have happened without him in my life and without me joining Monat when I did and going hard the way I did, because I believed and still do believe in the quality and ability of the products.” Her salon suite is now an exclusive Monat Salon Suite and they have recently expanded to a MedSpa to work under an MD and offer laser treatments such as Laser skin tightening, body contouring (which melts fat) and laser hair removal.

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Life Lessons

While Esther’s dreams keep her very busy, she still finds time to give-back to her community. “I work a LOT right now. I run my Monat online business trying to help woman and men from all over the country whose hair is thinning or breaking. I run my Salon Suites with some of the most talented and sweet ladies God has blessed me with to work alongside. I raise my preteen son who just started middle school and am also a foster parent for children in need. At the end of this month I will be getting my first long-term foster placement, which my son and I are super excited about. He is 9 years old.”

Life hasn’t always been a bed of roses for Esther and some time ago, a tragedy shook her world and shaped the person she is today. “About 7 years ago I had a brother who had an accident, went into a coma and passed away 2 years later. Before I lost him, I used to party hard on the Las Vegas strip every weekend. I sometimes wouldn’t come home at all and was a complete pothead for years. I partied like crazy, was wild and eventually got into pills like ecstasy. Things got worse for me while my brother was sick, I didn’t notice I was getting harder into drugs until the day my brother passed away. I realized tomorrow isn’t promised and I searched for God hard and deep and turned my life around as I found him more and more. I quit drugs and drinking and focused on God, his word and guidance, my business and my son. My brother is my hero and all he went through helped save me and touched many other lives.”


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Finding Balance

A question I like to ask all my mums (as I struggle with this myself) is ‘How do you find balance (if you do) between being a mum and chasing your dreams?” Esther was open and honest in her response. “Balance is hard … I think balance is the HARDEST thing about it all because I feel with everything I want to do and achieve I need more time and everything is so super important to me that prioritizing is difficult. I won’t stop when I have things to do either, I will stay up all night working when I’m trying to reach my goals for my son or business.

Sometimes I feel that even though I rarely receive any child support and I support my son on my own through my entrepreneur (mumtreprenuer) heart and mind set, I usually feel like a bad mother for not spending enough time with my son or at home. So I am looking forward to our new foster long-term placement so I can force myself to add more balance between work/business/and home.

Encouragement

Esther had this advice for Mums who dream of chasing their career goals. “Go in hard! Do it, give your all, who cares what people think, do it with all your heart and passion and to serve and help others, don’t do it just for the money. Do it because you believe in it! Stay persistent and don’t give up even when it gets hard. Just keep going and let God be part of it all every step the way.”

If you’d like more information about Esther’s Salon and services, visit www.mypinkhare.com or follow her on Instagram @mypinkhare

Next = Our Next Mum Life Success Story will be stay-at-home mum of 3 and fitness coach Sara Impriano.


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Want to be Featured?

If you’d like to be interviewed and featured in one of our Mum Life Success Stories, simply follow the easy instructions on our T & C’s page. We’d love to hear from mums just like you. Don’t forget, success can come in many different forms, it’s not just about making money. You don’t have to be a big career woman to be successful. Maybe you volunteer your spare time to take care of others, or your finding success in the goals you’ve set for your family, or your still in the process of fulfilling a dream, whatever your successful at, it can be an encouragement to others. Contact us at mumlifestories@gmail.com for more info.

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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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