Category Archives: author

JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Why I Felt Jealous of a Twelve-Year-Old

by Sam Snoek-Brown


I knew almost as soon as I could write that I would become a writer. In my childhood, I put a schedule on my door insisting on undisturbed writing time each day. I had my parents custom-build a desk into the nook of my closet, with a small bookshelf installed above it, a gooseneck lamp, a door I could close—barely into a double-digit age, I had my own writing space. I wrote my first book by age twelve, won writing contests, and had only to wait for success to find me.
None of that is true. Or, it is true, but not of me. Working for a city newspaper during my college years in Texas, I was assigned to report on the local library’s youth writing competition, and all those wonderful, writerly details—the schedule, the desk in the closet, the book, the ambition—are from the profile I wrote about the young girl who won that year.
In my actual story, my parents gave me a desk, but I used my pencils and ballpoint pens to stipple the surface until it looked less like wood than like pumice. In second grade, I spent hours alone in my room writing pages and pages of material, but it wasn’t creative—my mother got tired of forbidding me my misadventures and told me to copy the definition of “No” 100 times, unaware that “No” comprised a full three pages in our family dictionary, two columns each page, in tiny print. I didn’t write a book by age twelve, but I did invent lyrics to absurdist songs about defecation and once adapted “On Top of Spaghetti” as a bawdy sex lyric.

In other words, I wasn’t born to be a writer. Or at least, I didn’t behave like one when I was a kid. My father wrote scathing editorials and short satirical pieces, my paternal grandfather was a natural storyteller full of a ship captain’s sea yarns, my maternal grandmother was a closet memoirist—but I was just a kid. There was nothing magical about my upbringing, no prophetic sign that I would take up the pen and the keyboard and become a writer.

Though there was my seventh-grade English class.
My middle school had begun a program of weekly “sustained silent reading” periods, and my English teacher, Mrs. Hoffmann, added a second period of “sustained silent writing.” We were allowed to write whatever we wanted—journal entries, rap lyrics, love poems—and I decided to write a novel.
I’d been reading a lot of my father’s action novels and was just beginning to discover Stephen King, and I realized that when I tried to predict what might happen next in whatever novel I was reading, I wasn’t hoping to decipher the story, I was wishing the story had gone differently—I was inventing stories of my own. I was rewriting stories as I wanted to read them. And right around the time I began to think that if Don Pendleton could knock out half a dozen Mack Bolan/The Executioner novels every year and sell millions of books, then surely I could, too, my English teacher gave me the gift of designated, disciplined writing time.
My first novel was about a teenager whose parents were killed by an evil crime boss surrounded by ninjas; in his sorrow and anger, the teenager devotes himself to martial arts and fights his way through the ranks of minions to confront the crime boss.
I eventually gave up on that novel, but Mrs. Hoffmann—who, after school, had become my first writing mentor—insisted I keep telling stories. My father signed me up for a writing workshop on how to publish (neither of us knew until I arrived that the workshop was for romance novelists, but I eagerly took notes on plot outlines and novel advances). I developed a sci-fi series about an alien race and invented a religion and a language. I began writing horror, stories about necrophiliacs and occult serial killers and mutated warriors held prisoner by secretive government agencies. I found Anne Rice and spent most of high school and college toiling over a melodramatic vampire novel.
Which is to say that by the time I wrote that newspaper article on the young library contest winner, I already was a writer. Yet I still hesitated to call myself one, and I marveled at this kid living a literary life I still felt outside of.
When I started that novel back in middle school, I began imagining the origin story for my writing career—publication as a teenager, phenom status, appearances on talk shows—and ten years later, working on that article about the kid writer, I began to wonder if I’d missed my chance. My origin story was too long delayed. I had wasted all those years poking holes in my writing desk and making up feces songs instead of becoming the writer I dreamed I ought to be.
In some parallel universe, there is a version of me that did publish as a teen and go on talk shows. He is telling the origin story I wrote for him decades ago. In another universe, there is a version of me who has never published. He is still concocting new origin stories, new fantasies. They will go into a password-protected file where no one will read them except that other Sam, late at night, only the computer screen and his fantasies alight in empty room.  In yet another universe—this one—there is me, many writerly milestones behind me but still sending ahead invented milestones to reach for (an advance on a book deal, film rights, career stability). And here I am, revising my childhood origin story, realizing that I started out as a writer in exactly the way I ought to: by daydreaming, by writing the stories I wanted to read, by crafting the story of myself, by always trying to make it a better story.

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Samuel Snoek-Brown teaches writing in the Pacific Northwest. His work has appeared in dozens of literary journals, and he serves as production editor for Jersey Devil Press. He’s the author of the chapbooks Box Cutters (sunnyoutside 2013) and the forthcoming Where There Is Ruin (Red Bird Chapbooks 2016), the forthcoming novella In the Pulse There Lies Conviction (Blue Skirt Press 2016), and the historical novel Hagridden (Columbus Press 2014), for which he received a 2013 Oregon Literary Fellowship. He is online on Facebook, Twitter, and at snoekbrown.com.

JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Life Writes Itself

by Levi Andrew Noe

Most of my collected notebooks from age 7-27


It all started in kindergarten with my breakthrough story “The Bose Busbros,” (The Bossy Brothers).  It was my first typed draft of a semi-autobiographical tale. It chronicled a young boy whose elder brothers refused his right to hot chocolate and sent him to his room.


You could say I was always a writer. From the moment I learned how to shape words into somewhat cohesive sentences, I was telling tales, filling notebooks, and frustrating teachers with my illegible handwriting.

I haven’t deviated much from my hopes and dreams as a 9-year-old, as recorded in the notebook entry below left. Though experience has taught me those lovely lessons like cynicism, world-weariness, and the plight of the starving artist, my deepest hopes still place me as a would be “famous author.” I abandoned the visual arts, however, just after elementary school.

Middle school served to squash most of my passions and creative pursuits, as public school and puberty are so infamous for achieving. But in high school a new art form sowed its seeds in me: music. I was in a couple bands including pop punk, emo and/or hardcore, called Knester, Sell Out Boy, and A Call to Arms.  As arrhythmic and cacophonous as it was, in music the spark of artistic creation was again re-ignited and reimagined.

I was the bass player and backup screamer in A Call to Arms. We played house shows, dingy cafes and friends’ birthday parties. We were terrible, beyond offensively awful, but we played our angsty hearts out. Through music a new writing style emerged for me in the form of poetry. It was not my calling to play music, but music fuels, inspires, and moves me deeply, and I believe it permeates my writing to this day.

My college years came and I continued to grow, both as a writer and person. In those formative times I dove into academic writing right alongside dumpsters, beer bongs, and the bohemian lifestyle. Through it all, I found a deep affinity for every genre of writing. I graduated with a B.A. in English Writing and a minor in Holistic Health, but not before I took a semester off to hitchhike up and down the West Coast, sleep in bushes on the side of the road, and spend a few month at a yoga community in the redwoods of California.

It was those days, my wandering, unrestrained, wide-eyed early twenties in a perpetual existential crisis that formed the bedrock of who I am today, in my writing and in my personal philosophy. Post college, I continued in my voyage of discovery, but in a slightly more responsible way. I spent a summer in Ketchikan, Alaska working at a coffee shop, teaching yoga, picking berries, catching salmon and writing all the while. The jaw-dropping, infinitely astounding natural world is still probably the greatest muse for my writing.

In 2011, just after the great earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, I decided it was a good ideato go teach English there, just about 150 miles from Fukushima. Japan is a place so full of wonder and weirdness, tradition and contradiction. It certainly inspired a new era of writing for me. I began my first novel (still unfinished), as well as many pieces of every genre which I have placed into various manuscript collections (waiting for their time), and there I continued and deepened my love affair with haiku.

Following teaching in Japan, I took the long way home. I traveled through southern Japan, then flew to Bangkok, Thailand. By train, bus, van, boat, tuk-tuk, and motorbike, I made the loop through Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. I spent a few months in SE Asia and it was no big deal, just totally changed me forever and was one of the most important periods of time in my life thus far.  Then I spent 1 ½ months in India, got my yoga certification in Rishikesh, swam in the Ganges (the clean(er) part), and saw about one thousandth of what I wanted to see of the Himalayas. Needless to say, this period of my life carved its story through every aspect of my being.

But home’s call is always strongest, and always pulls at the heart the hardest. I returned to Denver, Colorado as a new, worldly-wise, battle hardened, adult(ish) person.  I came with goals, with plans, with a new perspective, and some sense of what I came here to do in this life.

Since 2013 I have started and liquidated four businesses and conceived of dozens of others, one is still currently running and semi-viable. This business is Tall Tales Yoga, the merging of my three greatest passions, teaching yoga to children through storytelling. In addition, I have self-published four children’s books, and had a couple dozen short stories, poems, articles, flash fiction, creative non-fiction pieces published. I started the podcast Rocky Mountain Revival as another merging of some of my greatest loves: literature, music, and podcasts. To top it off, I’ll be getting married in July to a woman who is as perfect as any creature on this earth can be.

Life has had its ups and downs, but through it all, writing has always been my salvation, my torment, my obsession, and the most constant of all my psychoses. So, now that I think about i. Life has been pretty good to me, though I don’t always feel that way or appreciate the opportunities and experiences I have been given. I still don’t feel like I’ve “made it,” whatever that means. But I’m blessed in my own relative ways. And whether or not I become a famous author, a wealthy entrepreneur, or a successful human being, at least I can say I’ve done some shit, and I’ve given it my damnedest. Thirty might feel like a long life subjectively, but I know what those elder and wiser than me would say: “You don’t know shit yet.”



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Levi Andrew Noe was born and raised in Denver, CO. He is a writer, a yogi, an entrepreneur, and an amateur oneironaut. Levi won first prize in 2011 and 2013 in Spirit First’s international poetry competition. His most recent or forthcoming works are in Ink, Sweat & Tears, Connotation Press, Boston Literary Magazine, Crack the Spine, Eunoia Review, Scrutiny Journal, and many others. He is the editor in chief and founder of the podcast Rocky Mountain Revival, Audio Art Journal.
Twitter: @LeviAndrewNoe, @RockyMtnRevival

Stroking the Details to Deepen the Story

Reprinted from Flash Fiction Chronicles article dated January, 2011

One of the comments that is difficult for many of us to come to grips with is when someone tells us our stories are not deep enough or that we haven’t given the reader enough to go on. I used to think: we’re talking flash here, micro flash, hint fiction, short shorts!  How am I supposed to “go deep?”
But for something to resonate, it must have context.  Readers want to feel empathy with the main character—or some kind of emotion for the main character—even if it’s distaste.  The question is, how does a writer do that with a limited word count?
Details not only set up time and place, but also suggest a back story, the circumstances, or even a trait or two of the main characters.  Specific details also anchor the story for the reader, giving them something to visualize while reading on to find out what happens next. Context and empathy come about through concrete, specific details that immerse the reader in the writer’s world.
A lake and two small boats give
context to Munch’s painting

I’m not suggesting there’s any need to describe an entire room or tell the reader the exact time of day, but rather to stroke in a detail much as a painter might do.  If you examine a painting closely, you may discover that the person in the background is just a line squiggle with a touch of brown at the top to suggest hair and a swish of red to suggest a skirt or as in Munch’s The Scream: two small boats in lake.

The man screaming in the foreground of the Munch painting is alone while behind him there are two figures on the road and two boats on the lake.  I have no idea what the artist had in mind, but for me, this structure and detail suggests a strong fear of facing the world alone or facing death and because these details are behind him, he has no hope.

These details do not need to be written into a piece immediately in the rough draft–get the story down first–but can be added in the revision stage of the process once the writer understands what details will best serve the story in a thematic way

So detail, if carefully chosen, can suggest setting, foreshadow events (remember Chekov’s gun), as well as deepen character, and underline theme.

Here’s an example:

Water drips from icicles outside the kitchen window. Clear skies glisten through dirty glass panes. I’m pouring my first cup of coffee when I hear snow sliding down the roof and know it’s time to call Carissa.

This image sets scene as well as mood

This is the opening to my story, “Spring Melt.” It’s a stroke like a painter’s stroke.  The whole house isn’t  given, not even a whole kitchen,  just the suggestion of a house because it has a kitchen, dirty window panes, and a sloping roof.  There is a sense that winter is passing into spring and that brings the narrator to a decision to call some woman. It’s a specific image to carry the reader into the next paragraph, but also to give the story context and later, a thematic pay-off.

Details should be as carefully chosen as anything else in a story.  Which will enhance the character and hint about what could happen next? Physical appearance often dictates personality.  A woman who has always been admired for her beauty may never feel compelled to grow artistically or intellectually, and therefore has little to talk about except hairstyles and Botox. This narrowed point-of-view could, in turn, bring conflict to a piece about marriage or best friends or wherever the writer wants to go.  

Showing tension between characters through dialogue becomes easier when there is a trait or detail in the story that sparks deep feelings.  Here’s a brief exchange between Anna and Matt from “She Can’t Say No” to show how this can work.


…Alone at the table, Matt asks Anna how she knows his friend, Kerrick, a fast-track kind of guy, gel in his hair and Hugo Boss shoes.  

“I met him once,” she says and smiles. When she smiles, the scar on her upper lip whitens. Sometimes when he wakes up alone in the morning, thinking of her, the word “harelip” pops into his brain. He’s hinted to her about childhood operations, bringing up tonsillectomies, appendectomies, avoiding the words “quadrilateral mirault flap,” but she says nothing.  

Looking at her mouth now, he can almost feel its slight ridge on his tongue. He coughs. “And?”  

And what, Matthew?”  

“You were flirting.”  

“I know.” She slips the side of her naked foot along Matt’s calf and tucks it behind his knee. “I’m sorry.”


People in stories don’t always have to agree and when they don’t, they argue, and when they argue, they bring up old grudges, other disagreements, and reveal who they are and what’s important to them.  In the example above, the relationship between the two characters is revealed by how Anna parries Matt’s jealousy.  It’s not a fight, but it’s still a moment of revelation.  Then Matt remembers how it feels to run his tongue along the scar on Anna’s mouth telling us that although he is jealous of her past with men, he’s also aware of her affect on him. The detail of her scar makes this scene more interesting and deepens the emotional risk for both characters.

Sometimes a story may work without specific detail, but going deeper can often be as easy as changing a word or two, adding a line, using a bit of dialogue, or throwing in a specific detail that gives the reader context for the unfolding events like Anna’s slipping her naked foot behind Matt’s knee. She has the power and he knows it.

Giving Context to Structure

Reprinted from an article that appeared in Flash Fiction Chronicles in June, 2009

Content, structure, and language work together


No one element can make a story work. Many writers use a series of steps—brainstorming, outlining, drafting, revision, editing, and proofreading—to juggle content, structure, and language. The order of each step is a matter of choice and fluctuates with story ideas. Here is my preference:

  •  To create content: brainstorm, free-write, draft a first draft
  •  To apply structure: outline first draft, then draft second draft
  •  To perfect language: revise, edit, and proofread

Content refers to the subject matter of a story


Allow the story to blossom
The who, what, when, where, and how of a specific idea.

A character (the protagonist) finds himself in a difficult situation at a certain time and place and must deal with that situation. 
How the protagonist deals with the situation depends on the protagonist’s wants, character, and the nature of the obstacles he must overcome.

Content provides the “story question or problem” that propels the protagonist through the plot and ultimately reveals a universal theme, a jolt, an epiphany, some small observance of life.
Content evolves from a premise, notes, a rough draft, research, observation, plus the attitudes and concerns of the writer.

Structure refers to the basic organization of a story


Unfold the story for maximum effect
Just as a play is divided into three acts, most stories have three main segments.

The opening (Act 1) gives a story focus and meaning by providing the premise, setting, and tone of the story as well as hints at the nature of obstacles the protagonist will face.

The main body of the story (Act 2, which I like to split into 2A and 2B) focuses on the protagonist’s actions to resolve the story problem.

The conclusion (Act 3) reveals the results of the protagonist’s struggle and infuses that struggle with meaning.

Each segment of a story has a similar structure: the overall story as well as each chapter, each scene within the chapter, each beat within the scene

Structure also involves other devices such as set-ups and pay-offs, sub-plots, and the shaping of structure specifically to content.

Structure evolves from outlines, note-taking, drafts or a combination of the three.

Language refers the diction and style used to express a story’s idea


Choose precise language
Diction refers the specific words that are chosen.

Style refers to how those words are combined, the order, the length of sentences and includes the use of literary devices such as metaphor, symbolism, and allusion.
Grammar keeps writing clear and understandable.
Language evolves from revision and rhythm.



Process is what brings these three basic components of composition together


The rough draft is about content…making it up.The second draft is about structure…making sense.The third draft is about language…making it clear.The fourth draft is about perfection…making it publishable.

Actually, the steps to the writing process bleed into each other like ink dropped from a leaky pen over one spot. The blotches don’t land in exactly the same place, but they seep beyond each other’s borders, and create a new kind of art.

Flash Fiction Blog Launched

The last couple weeks have been loaded with things to do, launching the new Flash Fiction Blog for Every Day Fiction, finishing up a long short story , and turning…one more year young. But the new blog has had most of my attention.

I’m such a fan of Jordan Lapp, Camille Gooderham Campbell, and Steven Smethurst who are the brains, beauty, and brawn behind the innovative e-zine Every Day Fiction. Not only do they supply a new story every single day without fail to their readers, they offer a community for writers and readers alike and constantly stay relevant.

Their mission is to maintain “a magazine that specializes in bringing you fine fiction in bite-size doses. Every day, we publish a new short story of 1000 words or fewer that can be read during your lunch hour, on transit, or even over breakfast” and this is exactly what they do.

Additionally EDF sponsors a forum at their website that gives writers and readers opportunities to exchange ideas, learn more about writing itself, and form friendships and support groups. The forum is home to a writing group that is private so writers can post drafts of their work for imput from other writers. Anyone can join, but the posts are not public so they can be then submitted to various venues.

Recently they launched Every Day Poets to give writers and readers of verse the same opportunities to produce and enjoy verse.

And now there is EDF’s Flash Fiction Blog where writers can post their thoughts about the art and craft of writing flash fiction. This exciting new venue lets fans of EDF writers read about the trials and tribulations of their favorite authors as well as giving fellow writers the opportunity read and share with their peers. Check it out soon and click on “Submit a Post” if you have something to say, whether you are published or not, whether you are a writer or reader, all ideas are welcome as long as they involve the writing and reading of FLASH.

If you have any questions for the editor, that’s me, and you can contact me at flashfictionblog@everydayfiction.com .