Category Archives: Denver

JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: What’s Writing? I Just Want to Help People

by Aaron Dietz

It started because I was bored. I was in a fine high school in Iowa and during class, I daydreamed stories and started writing them down.
I won ten dollars for writing a second-place piece for one of the high school publications, and it was a nice little story. But I had no idea why. It had just happened.
A couple years later a small zine published two pieces of mine in their first and only issue. I kept writing.
In Denver, I wrote for some more zines and eventually wrote a column called “100 Nights” for Needles for Teeth. I didn’t make it to night 100, but maybe I made it to ten.
In the year 2000 I started collecting some of the stories I wrote into a larger tale, like making a mixed tape, heavily influenced by my friend Joaquin Liebert, who once made me a mixed tape of the original Star Wars trilogy using only songs from a specific genre of music (I think it was classic R&B but I can’t pinpoint music to his level of geekhood).
I started calling my collection of stories a novel. I stitched it together like a series of documents, obviously influenced by books like House of Leaves.
Years went by. I collected rejection letters from publishers. I kept some special ones, including a hand-written note from McSweeney’s. I kept rewriting the novel.
I moved to Seattle, and rewrote the novel again while I worked on completing an   undergraduate degree—I was back in college primarily because I could pay the rent with student loan money instead of continuing a futile search for a job.
In school I took as many classes as I could that were taught by Bryan Tomasovich. He gave me more time than I deserved and pointed me toward the beginning of experimental fiction.
On Tomasovich’s recommendation, I submitted my novel to Emergency Press. They handed it back and said, basically, “We don’t like these parts. But what about these superhero parts? We like those.”
I rewrote my novel.
Whereas before I had used the superhero as a tiny symbol throughout, now it was a full-on superhero novel, told through a series of documents. It was funny, to a special kind of person.
Emergency Press accepted the book. It was published as Super on November 10, 2010, with an amazing look to the cover and interior provided by Charlie Potter. Friends gave me more time than I deserved to help promote it.
We put on what I like to think is Seattle’s most spectacular superhero pub crawl. I met Phoenix Jones and other real life super heroes, and went on patrol with them. I hung out with Black Knight, Blue Sparrow, SkyMan, Knight Owl, and so many more. I met fantastic people in plainclothes, too.
In 2011 and 2012, I took a minor break from writing and made short movies with friends. We made films in 24 hours and 48 hours and got relatively unexciting results.
Then we made movies in 8 hours and got excellent results.
This made me think about how I had just spent ten years or more creating a novel that didn’t really make the impact I had hoped it would, despite it being what I would call a satisfying little work.
I turned things around. I decided I’d create books in less than a month. I figured, they may not turn out to be as good as a ten-year project but they were darn well going to have more impact-per-hour-spent on them.
In 2013, I tried to make 12 books. I completed 9. Friends gave me more time than I deserved in helping me, including Charlie Potter again, who produced fabulous covers for 8 of the books.
The impact was small but for the time I spent on them, outstanding. Some books I produced in a weekend. Because of the small investment in time, the impact made sense and felt worth it. I was learning.
I started catching up on being an adult. This involved acting like I owned a home, which was good, because I did own a home (this had happened in the same year in which I produced 9 books). I wrote less and less.
My writing time became precious, but I was armed with the knowledge that I could create and produce satisfactory projects in very little time. And so I do.
I’ve become efficient: I rarely write anything unless I’m 80% sure it’ll be published in some form. Larger projects I get involved with are one-year projects at the maximum. Smaller projects are a couple weekends, maybe four at the most.
I work with the best people. Earlier this year I edited a book with Bud Smith—In Case We Die, an anthology of the strangest things that have happened to people. The intention was to encourage people to talk about the weird stuff that we don’t feel like we can talk about. It wasn’t a lot of work to do the book, and I think it’s helping the cause.
Recently, I helped put together the interior layout on For They Know Not What They Do: The Letters of Peter C. Kilburn. Peter worked as a librarian in Beirut from 1966 to 1986. He was taken hostage and killed.
I’m always telling people that they should write at least one book. It felt good to help Peter with his. It was probably about twelve hours of my time. Twelve hours to help someone posthumously produce their book? That felt great.
And that’s what I want: for the projects I do to feel good and have positive impact, within the very small amount of time I have to give to the art.
And that’s where I’m at as a writer, now, if I’ve even truly become one. Maybe I just like to help people, and writing just happens to be an efficient way to do this. And so here I am.

Aaron Dietz is the author of Super (Emergency Press, 2010), an experimental novel about superheroes that is obviously written by an instructional designer (there’s a test after every chapter). Dietz has created courses on computer programming, engineering, and green design. At parties, he likes to ask strangers, “What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you?”


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.”


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

JOURNEY TO PLANET WRITE: Syntax makes me hot

 by Sally Reno
It took 3 days to read on radio

I have always written short. I remember, before I was school-aged, composing little notes. As soon as I knew the alphabet, I had things to say. Very short things. This because my method was to ask my mother to spell out for me aloud the words I wanted. I somehow sensed that she was not going to be willing to spell me through anything like a Russian novel.

By 17, I was writing and publishing what would be called flash fiction today. The peculiarity of this was noted, but not always reviled. There was a lot more experimenting with form then than there is now.

“To irony, ambiguity, and tension–Andother things I do not wish to mention.”

~Kenneth Koch 

At Columbia University, I was fortunate in being able to take a poetry writing class with Kenneth Koch, a thing well known to be a life changing experience. He taught us never to undervalue either simplicity or surprise.
Lady Murasaki composes flash fiction circa 1000 C.E.
The magic words, “flash fiction” came along only recently, but people have always written very short fiction. The form has a history millennia longer than the long forms like novels. Romans of the classical age, early medieval Japanese court ladies, and 17th century Frenchwomen have been especial masters of the craft.
The next issue of blink-ink print, coming in early April and themed, “Mystery Train” will lead off with a 40-word microfiction by Petronius Arbiter, written about 54 A.D. Petronius lived in Cumae and had been to see the Cumaean Sybil. He constructed a couple of stellar sentences about the experience. When, eventually, he built a scene in the Satyriconaround them, the purport of the scene was to make fun of anyone who would say anything so preposterous as those two sentences. Yet, they remain one of the best pairs of sentences in all of literature.
I love sentences. Most writers will tell you they love words. Words are good, but sentences are the bees’ knees. Syntax makes me hot.
I have been a hired-gun writer most of my working life and have only gotten back to writing the things I wish to say in the last decade or so.
I began as a political speechwriter, which was my introduction to writing comedy. A joke I wrote for the Mayor of NYC to tell on The Tonight Show provoked more hate mail than anything the show had received up to that point—an early career triumph that I am unlikely to live long enough to top.
I am also a radio-head, another exercise in writing short best defined as getting to the point immediately or sooner. It also teaches the difference between writing for the eye and writing for the ear.
The Mayor tells a joke.

The best radio also breaks the waves of form. At WBAI, we read every word of War and Peace on-air. This was accomplished by relays of readers working around the clock. My best recollection is that it took about three days. We also pioneered naked radio, claiming to be broadcasting with no clothes on. We invited listeners to come down to the studio, take off their clothes and join us. It was a fine measure of living in heady times that so many people took us up on that offer.

This was before the corporate Kraken crushed the life out of broadcasting, but even then, the commercial spots were heinous. The effect of that, in legal language, was that of an ‘attractive nuisance’—something I could not resist messing with. To my knowledge, I was the first (and probably the last) to write and produce radio commercials that exploited multi-tracking capabilities around tiny whacked stories.  I recorded 30 and 60 second stories with bed music and the commercial message woven through them on side and travel tracks. Thus, I learned what is actually at stake when we say, “in a minute.”
Perhaps because of time spent telling other people’s stories, I like to throw some elbows in my writing. I like it even better when I hit something.
I am among those writers who need to get a first line down in order to release the goat pen of babble. That first line is often the first line of the finished piece but not always. Sometimes that first sentence is entirely gone when the piece is finished—the sacrificial sentence. I suppose this amounts to being mostly muse-driven. As such I don’t benefit from disciplines like writing at the same time every day or setting a daily quota of words or pages. Sometimes a whole piece will leap from my head fully-formed. Only the white goddess knows why.

See Sally Reno in action at the January F-Bomb event: MOUTH CRIMES with Gay Degani and hosted by Kathy Fish:


Sally Reno’s fiction has been among the winners of  National Public Radio’s Three Minute Fiction Contest, Moon Milk Review’s Prosetry Contest, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives in a vaporish grotto where she serves as Pythoness to blink-ink print and Haruspex for Shining Mountains Press.

Author photo by Jesse Coley