Welcome to Denver Writes

DAVE ALEXANDER – January 2015

1235942_10101489690400420_1449991138_nHi, I’m Dave Alexander. I’ve had a beard of varying bushiness for the last 12 years.  I’d usually rather run than walk, although my body doesn’t always agree.  I’m a weekend athlete who enjoys Ultimate, running, biking, hiking, snowboarding, disc-golfing and hopefully a few other sports that I haven’t even discovered yet. For work, I manage volunteers who help people with their taxes. I read a lot and write a little. I’m a bit of a cheapskate, but make exceptions for travel. I think you should start saving for retirement now. My favorite quote is “Ignore unsolicited advice.”  I like the world covered in snow, but not all the time. I like to take pictures. I’m drawn to textures, faces, and juxtaposition. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I’m not good at drying things off, including myself. What drew you to volunteer with Denver Writes? At the University of Missouri, I lived in a residence hall called FARC, or the Fine Arts Residential College, that was filled with all sorts of creative people- writers, artists, photographers, actors, set designers. It was the most creative and supportive place I’ve ever been. I lived there for three years and I’m always looking for ways to recapture that magic and that spirit. Denver Writes does it. I don’t think they’ll let me live at Backspace, but I enjoy the jolt of creativity I get whenever I visit. If you could meet any author or character from a book, living or dead, who would it be?There are so many for so many different reasons. I’m going to choose based on some recent reading.  In Jim Henson’s biography, the author and everyone quoted raved about what it was like to work with Jim Henson, but the words on the page never managed to capture it for me. I can’t even imagine his energy and influence, especially not from the quiet persona I’ve seen in a few interviews. He created these amazing worlds and characters with puppets and attracted hordes of talented people to work with him and around him. Although it seems like Kermit the Frog might be a good stand-in, I’d like to experience that energy and maybe bottle up a little of Jim Henson’s creative drive. Do you have a specific writing genre you tend to enjoy reading or writing more than others?With fiction, I’m a sucker for love and loss well told. Ann Patchett, Barbara Kingsolver, and Nick Hornby are my favorite authors for that reason. With non-fiction, I gravitate toward psychology and sociology, especially when it comes to making organizations and people better. Books about habits, making decisions, or about why we do the things we do tend to land on my reading list. Why do you write?I like the way the words sound in my head. It’s even better when someone else likes them too. There’s just so much possibility with writing. A simple phrase can mean a dozen things. Writers get to create whole other worlds or capture memories or express an idea, maybe in a way that no one has ever expressed it before. That brand new combination of words can resonate with someone else, maybe a thousand other people and they’ll carry that with them. How cool is that? If you could make a New Year’s Resolution to not do this one chore EVER AGAIN, what would that chore be?I’ve cut back on a lot of chores that I don’t want to do, so maybe I’ve been making this New Year’s Resolution for a while. This is also why my house is not as neat and clean as my mom’s.  If pressed on this resolution, I’d say the chore that I’d never do again is putting dishes away. I don’t mind washing the dishes so much, but the drying rack is where all my motivation falls apart. Maybe I just need someone to invent a cabinet that also acts as a drying rack because that’s often how I use mine anyway.
MARY BAITINGER – January, 2015 012 What drew you to volunteer with Denver Writes?
When I was a teacher in 2009, I found an e-mail that advertised MDPL (now Denver Writes) and decided to help out at the summer camp that year.  Although the student I brought with me that first summer didn’t continue, I was definitely hooked into participating.  I did camps in 2009 and 2010, but once I left teaching in the classroom and started working full time, I have tried to be at every monthly workshop and take pictures of what is going on.  I think volunteering as a whole is very important for everyone to do in some capacity (young and old alike), but volunteering with Denver Writes is especially fun because it reinforces what I have been doing actively since I was 12 years old.  I wish something like this program had been around when I was growing up, as I always thought of myself as an author and an artist, but no one would validate it for me (please, no sympathy–I did it for myself a few years later with a BA in English and a Master of Professional Writing).  As a teacher, I  felt there never was enough time for writing in the school day, and at Denver Writes, kids get *three full hours* to interact with fellow writers and feel a sense of pride that they, too, have a creative, active imagination they can share with others. If you could meet any author or character from a book, living or dead, who would it be?
I read so many books, children’s books especially, that this would be a difficult question to answer.  I can tell you that when I was growing up, I would write letters to authors I liked (i.e. Beverly Clearly and Rosemary Rogers of Freaky Friday fame), and they wrote me back (this was in the late 1960s and 1970s).  I assumed at the time that all the authors I read were still alive, so imagine my dismay when I couldn’t write a letter to C.S. Lewis because he  passed away in 1963.  These days I have a little less time to send letters to authors, but as a compliment to them, I enourage others to read their works and pass on my compliments in that particular way. Do you have a specific writing genre you tend to enjoy reading or writing more than others?
My favorite is middle grade (ages 9-12) fantasy, but I am open to all kinds and ages.  Within the fantasy genre itself, I like books and stories that blend different worlds with our everyday one around us. I recently finished writing a book for struggling readers (those a little bit older but still reading at the 3-5 grade level), and I’ve just heard there’s a need for books for students in grades 3-5 that are reading far above grade level that do *not* explore young adult themes and ideas.  This idea intrigues me, and I’d like to try my hand with something like that in the future. Why do you write?
I think it’s important to stretch your mind, like your body, every single day with all kinds of experiences and ideas.  When I write, I feel as though I capture a bit of the world around me and try to see it through the different perspectives of my characters and their situations.  Writing also uses both sides of the brain (left and right–analytical and creative) and I like the interplay that occurs between them.  Sometimes one side of my brain says, “Wow, Mary, look what you’ve written.  You should be proud that all this has come from you.  What is a great story!”  And the other side of my brain says, “Um, Mary, just what exactly are you doing here?  This word isn’t right–why is your character doing this–are you *sure* you’re a writer?”  In the end, I know I am truly indeed a writer, but I also understand (and embrace) that there is always room for improvement and growth, pen to paper or in other ways. If you could make a New Year’s Resolution to not do this one chore EVER AGAIN, what would that chore be?
I don’t like making my bed!  I have this habit that my bed *must* be made before I sleep in it again that night.  I used to make it right before I went to sleep (yes, weird), but now I make my bed right before breakfast in the morning, and that seems to be working out okay.
CLARE ALEXANDER – February, 2015 

What drew you to volunteer with Denver Writes?aimholiday2014_0992

I consider myself incredibly lucky to be able to write for a living, but as a journalist, I usually don’t get to write creatively. I saw something about Denver Writes’ murder mystery scavenger hunt on a friend’s Facebook page, and I thought, “That sounds like a cool organization.” I figured it would get me exercising my creative writing muscles again, and I was right! I love writing alongside the amazing kids who come to our workshops—they consistently inspire me.

If you could meet any author or character from a book, living or dead, who would it be?

Lily Bart from The House of Mirth is my favorite fictional character of all time. She makes terrible decisions, but she has this unwavering (and OK, sometimes a bit delusional) sense of optimism that helps her get through any situation. I see a bit of that in myself, so I think we would be great friends. (And perhaps I could talk her out of some of those terrible decisions!)

Do you have a specific writing genre you tend to enjoy reading or writing more than others?

I mostly stick to contemporary fiction and memoirs, but I try to read a classic or two every year, too. For some reason, my high school English classes skipped right over 20th-century American authors like John Steinbeck and F. Scott Fitzgerald, so I still feel like my literary education has some big gaps.

Why do you write?

In the introduction to Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand wrote, “In a book of fiction, the purpose is to create, for myself, the kind of world I want and to live in it while I am creating it; then, as a secondary consequence, to let others enjoy this world, if and to the extent that they can.” Which is a very Ayn Rand way of putting it, but it really resonated with me. Life doesn’t always go the way you want it to, but when you’re the writer, you get to be in charge of how things turn out.

If you could make a New Year’s Resolution to not do this one chore EVER AGAIN, what would that chore be?

If I could resolve never to do any chores ever again, I would. My husband would tell you that I do the bare minimum of chores as it is. I read a quote in the Oprah magazine a couple of years ago that said, “A well-kept house is the sign of a poorly lived life,” and I decided to adopt it as my personal motto.

PETER DERK – March, 2015

My name’s Peter. You can call me Pete if you’d like. They’re both solid names, in my (very biased) opinion. I started volunteering at Denver Writes about a year ago, and so far it’s been a blast. 

I live in Greeley, which is where I was born and raised. I’ve been working at the library here for almost 11 years, and in 2014 I was proud to be named Colorado Association of Libraries Librarian of the Year!

Peter Derk

Family Photo – Peter is on the right:)

It’s my dream to own an arcade machine someday. Preferably Robotron 2084. Preferably before the actual year 2084. What drew you to volunteer with Denver Writes?
I used to coach middle school and high school runners, but it’s been awhile. I missed volunteering and started looking for a good opportunity. Denver Writes pulled me in. The thing is, the emphasis on Saturdays is to have fun writing, and I think the writers really do have fun. They laugh, and they make each other laugh. They make me laugh too. I love being a part of an organization that does such crucial work, making writing about so much more than grammar and Oxford commas. Denver Writes is about world-building and storytelling, and maybe a good joke here and there. That’s what I love about it. If you could meet any author or character from a book, living or dead, who would it be? I thought about this for a whole week. And my answer is Stan Lee. I saw him speak once, and he was a charming fella. I don’t know if I could ever explain the impact Marvel Comics had on my life. Do you have a specific writing genre you tend to enjoy reading or writing more than others? You know, more and more I find that I’ll read anything if I like the style. Which makes me into both a good and a bad reader. I get to read across genres, which is awesome, but I give up on books so quickly when they don’t “sound” good to me. When the voice isn’t there. I write mostly fiction at this point, but I love a new project and am game for just about anything. Why do you write? I have a writing teacher who says “Fiction is the lie that tells the truth truer.” To me, that means writing is one way you can explain yourself to others. Writing, for me, has provided a few life moments where someone read my work and said, “Me too.” That’s the best feeling in the world.My writing teacher, Tom Spanbauer, also quotes the Dali Lama a lot. He says, “When you meet someone, look them in the eye and be kind, because within those eyes there is a great battle waging.” Writing makes me feel understood, and it makes me feel like I can understand other people better too. It makes me more patient in that way.Or, short answer that runs through this, Tom Spanbauer. He’s been a huge inspiration and he’s helped me a ton. What famous person would you like to meet for a cup of coffee or tea? Shoot. I already used my Stan Lee card. When we met before, did I impress him? Is he up for a second meeting? Okay, I would want to meet Shigeru Miyamoto. He came up with Donkey Kong, Mario, the Legend Of Zelda, and tons and tons of other stuff for Nintendo. He seems like an interesting guy. A quote about why he creates the things he does: “Not to make something sell, something very popular, but to love something, and make something that we creators can love.”
KEVIN PETERSON – March, 2015 Kevin PetersonWhat drew you to volunteer with Denver Writes? I feel like I’ve told this story a million times, but I found DW by accident. I was on vacation in California, and I ended up at an event for a similar volunteer organization, I immediately checked to see if there was a Denver equivalent. I think I made it halfway through the Volunteer section on the old MDPL site before I sent my volunteer email. If you could meet any author or character from a book, living or dead, who would it be? I think I would pick Douglas Adams. He was my first introduction to that specific type of dry humor in writing, which blew open my young mind. But it was the fact that along with the humor, his characters always felt real, no matter how absurd or alien they might be. Do you have a specific writing genre you tend to enjoy reading or writing more than others? My writing tends to be more personal, introspective, and grounded but also humor. (At least my sense of humor, which might not be the same for everyone.) Mostly Creative Non-Fiction. But I enjoy reading things that are more, let’s say fantastical. Something like Harry Potter, what really draws me to them is if they have a grounded emotional element, if the interpersonal relationships seem genuine and real, I’m going to latch on. Why do you write? I write because, I think if I didn’t, I’d go crazy. I would have to find some other type of outlet. I think writing is the easiest way for me to express and explore things that don’t make sense in the world around me. What famous person would you like to meet for a cup of coffee or tea? Does relatively famous count? I could list off a dozen or so Disney Animators… If not, I pick Taylor Swift, and I would spend the entire time pitching ideas for the eventual musical I’d want to write with her.
TINA BOOGREN – April, 2015 PictureI’m Dr. Tina Boogren, an educator and author, living in LoHi, with my husband of nine years and our sweet dog, Lucy. I’ve been volunteering with Denver Writes for a few years now and I absolutely love it. These student writers are amazing–I leave every Saturday workshop feeling both inspired and humbled. What drew you to volunteer with Denver Writes?

I watched Dave Eggers’s incredible TED Talk (‘Once Upon a School’) about 826 Valencia and I immediately knew that I needed to be involved in something like that locally. I did some digging online and found Denver Writes (which was Metro Denver Promotion of Letters at the time) and sent off an email expressing my interest immediately. I was a middle school English teacher for years and always led student writing clubs when I was in the classroom. Now that I’m out of the classroom and working as an educational consultant and author, I find myself missing students. Big time. Denver Writes allows me to get my ‘kid fix’ in such an amazing and inspiring way.

If you could meet any author or character from a book, living or dead, who would it be?

I go to many author readings and events and have been so lucky to have met so many of my favorite authors. While I’ve met David Sedaris a few times for book signings, I’d love to sit down and have dinner with him. I’d beg him to tell me stories and I’d just sit back and soak it all in. 

Do you have a specific writing genre you tend to enjoy reading or writing more than others? I love reading memoirs and essays and when I’m not writing educational books for teachers, I tend to gravitate towards writing personal essays myself. I also love to get lost in a big ‘ol book of fiction. And once I find a book that I love, watch out, because I can’t stop talking about it and pushing it on everyone around me. I’m a total book-pusher. Why do you write?

For me, it’s like Flannery O’Connor said:  I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.

If you could travel back in time, what year would you travel to?

Unless you can guarantee me that I’d get to hang out with J.D. Salinger, I really don’t have a huge interest in traveling back in time. I’m really happy living in the present.


1509780_847719112638_2021994178_nI’m Erin Christian, and I moved to Denver from Savannah, GA with my husband in August of 2013. My MFA is in Creative Writing with a focus on fiction, but I honestly spend way more time absorbed in stories written by others than I do writing my own works. While I have had a few of my stories published, I take the most pride in the awards I have won or been nominated for as a teacher. In Georgia, I was awarded the Fall 2012 DEEP Center Award for Excellence in Teaching and Mentoring for my volunteer work, and since becoming a teacher in Colorado I have been nominated for the Douglas County Apple Awards two years in a row. What drew you to volunteer with Denver Writes?Back home in Savannah, I volunteered with an organization called the DEEP Center; their focus was and is providing free creative writing workshops to middle school students. My time with DEEP was so fulfilling and wonderful that I began to miss being a part of that sort of creative community. So in October 2013 I searched online for a Denver equivalent and found Denver Writes! I have had such fun and inspiration volunteering here that I have been recruiting my own middle school students to join in! If you could meet any author or character from a book, living or dead, who would it be? Well, I have met Stephen King and Dr. Temple Grandin, and one of my favorite memories is of Stephen King looking me in the eye and saying, “You’re sick, but I like it” (when I told him I was eight when I read The Green Mile). However, if there were someone else on my list, it would have to be Frank McCourt. His books had such a profound emotional effect on me in middle school that I wrote to him when I was in 8th grade. He wrote back, and I’ve always wanted to continue that conversation. Do you have a specific writing genre you tend to enjoy reading or writing more than others? I love reading memoir and science fiction. In terms of writing, my major professor in grad school once told me I had Southern Gothic flair. Why do you write? My childhood was a bit unusual, and I honestly feel that it is therapeutic to take some of those bizarre elements and fictionalize them…have them happen to characters who are not me. Also, I like to explore the human condition in a variety of ways, and writing is a way for me to indirectly preserve my own perceptions, thoughts, and experiences. What is a toy you really miss from childhood? Simon. I could play that game forever and never get bored.


What drew you to volunteer with Denver Writes?

CaseyPictureAfter volunteering with 826 Valencia in San Francisco, I knew I wanted to work with a similar organization in Denver. What do I love about Denver Writes? The organization makes writing exciting and fun for kids. Whether composing valentines at the Tattered Cover or creating their first school newspaper, kids have the chance to see that their writing really matters to the wider world!

If you could meet any author or character from a book, living or dead, who would it be?

Hmm… I’d love to meet Jane Austen though I sense she’d be a little prickly at first. Maybe she’d warm up over a cup of tea!

Do you have a specific writing genre you tend to enjoy reading or writing more than others?

I love reading a good biography and most of my writing tends to be non-fiction.

Why do you write?

I think Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird said it best: “Until I feared losing it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” I feel the exact same way about writing. It’s just what I do.

Do you prefer pens or pencils and do you like your handwriting?

Absolutely pens. I love different colored ink pens and appreciate the old nuns in my grammar school who forced us to learn calligraphy. I didn’t enjoy it at the time, but now it’s fun to have a writing style that’s uniquely me.