Amanda E.K. Reignites Denver's Pot-Friendly Writing Workshop Lit on Lit

Amanda E.K. relaunches the pot-friendly writing class Lit on Lit on September 7.
Amanda E.K. relaunches the pot-friendly writing class Lit on Lit on September 7. From the Hip

Creative writing and cannabis go together nicely — at least that's what Suspect Press editor-in-chief Amanda E.K. says. So she's bringing back Lit on Lit, the popular workshops that she helped start in 2017. Back then, Suspect Press partnered with Puff, Pass & Paint to offer the pot-friendly writing classes, which, despite a positive response, went on hiatus. But now the classes are back again, held on the first Saturday of every month – starting at 2 p.m. Saturday, September 7, at the Coffee Joint, Denver’s first public consumption lounge.

On the cusp of Lit on Lit's relaunch, we spoke with Amanda E.K. about writing, weed and the weirdly wonderful mixing of the two.

Westword: What brought about the resurrection of Lit on Lit? Why now?

Amanda E.K.: I've been wanting to bring Lit on Lit back for the past two years, but have been waiting for the legalization of public consumption in places like Mutiny Information Cafe. When I realized that wasn't going to happen, I let it go for a while. I looked into a couple of vape lounges, but unfortunately, those didn't stay in business. I instead started teaching a weekly drop-in writing class at Hooked on Colfax in January, based off the Lit on Lit model — but without the smoking. And with the energy of that community, I started looking into vape lounges again and discovered the Coffee Joint, which is currently the only place in Denver to smoke legal cannabis.

What happened to the previous iteration of the class that it went away for a while?

Lit on Lit was started when the Suspect Press team paired up with Colorado Cannabis Tours and Puff, Pass & Paint. At the time, they had an ideal private attic location for consumption, complete with sponsors like Ice Cream Riot, City, O' City, and L'Eagle dispensary. It got attention from several national presses, such as Men's Journal, Yahoo Finance, High Times and Thrillist, which brought a video crew that had been following local weed connoisseur Jake Browne around all day to different cannabis activities around the city. We were honored that Lit on Lit was chosen as one of those featured activities.

When Puff, Pass & Paint grew out of the attic space and moved into a warehouse off I-25, the location and environment weren't as feasible for a writerly atmosphere anymore. Our audience didn't seem as motivated to travel to the new location.

Any changes to the new classes as compared to the way the old ones were run? Are they being run by the usual — pardon the pun — suspects?

Ha! In 2017, the classes were hosted by Josiah Hesse, Dan Landes and myself. This time around, I'll be the main host, but each monthly class may likely see guest hosts from the Suspect Press team. Currently the class doesn't have any sponsorship donations, unlike before — but I'm hoping that will change in the future. As for the class structure, it'll be similar to the previous iteration, with whole-group and individual writing exercises, and lots of stoned giggling.

Talk a little about the new venue, the Coffee Joint. How does that environment add to the experience?

The Coffee Joint is a unique space with a mini convenience store inside with snacks, tea and other beverages. They have private rooms for games, TV watching and hosting a variety of events. It's also right next door to a partnering dispensary, so if you forget to BYOC, you can pop next door before the class starts to stock up. I look forward to transforming the event room into a creative hub for a community of writers.

Care to talk up any of the work that was produced from previous Lit on Lit classes? What are your success stories?

In the previous Lit on Lit, we started each class with a round of Exquisite Corpse — a group writing exercise derived from an old Dada-era parlor game. Each person starts a story with the first sentence that comes to mind, then everyone passes their paper around the room until everyone's contributed one sentence to the story. It's a fun way to collaborate and get to know each other in a casual way. We'd read every mini-story out loud afterward, and the results were always unexpected and entertaining. One of our regulars, who worked in email marketing and collected all the spam emails he sorted through, would make poems out of the spam email subject lines, such as, "Of all the things you regret, don't let this be the one..." The Suspect team loved these poems so much we published one of them in our magazine, in Issue 15.

As you noted, the classes are BYOC. Any specific favorite strains of marijuana that you'd suggest are most conducive to the creative process?

I'm going to say what everyone says, and that's that sativa strains are generally the most preferred for creativity. They help expand the imagination, enabling access to new thoughts, concepts and ideas. One of our regulars from the previous class would bring Sour Diesel every week — an energizing sativa-dominant strain known for its dreamy cerebral effect. I also recommend Blue Dream and Golden Goat for accessing the depths of your right brain.

Pot aside, how do these classes differ from other writing workshops?

Lit on Lit seems to draw a lot of journalists and other professional and technical writers — writers who write for deadlines and paychecks and rarely for themselves. When you come to Lit on Lit, you don't have to have anything prepared. It's a chance to remember why you wanted to become a writer in the first place. When the pressure to write for an audience is removed and you don't need to think about grammar or editing, writing becomes fun, cathartic, and even therapeutic. I remember one of our regulars even saying she felt like the classes were as good as therapy sessions because of the release she got from the low-pressure writing prompts and exercises. She'd use the time to journal and process her past week.

You're advertising Lit on Lit as "queerer than ever." How will that show up in the class?

I've publicly come out as queer this year — a part of my identity I'd kept within my circle of friends for the sake of my family. But this year I'm owning my full identity for the first time. I was even invited to be on Mortified Live's Pride edition this past June. It's important to me that any of the community spaces I provide be inclusive to all identities and walks of life, and that I may use those spaces to encourage attendees to tap into their identities when approaching their creative work. This looks different for every individual, and creative writing is a great way to address the sides of ourselves that we may not yet be ready to say out loud.

One of the old writing aphorisms is "Write drunk, edit sober." How does pot fit into that? 

I can't say that I always apply this to my own writing, since I'll write stoned and edit stoned, but to each their own, right? For me, marijuana is a significant boost to my creative focus when I'm sitting down to write, whether it be journaling, short fiction, or my memoir, which will be released late 2020 through Suspect Press. I think pot is a great way to open up to the flow of new ideas and inspire you to get them on the page. You can always go back and edit later – that's the easy part. The hard part can be getting the story out, and in that regard, a little toke goes a long way.

Lit on Lit begins again at 2 p.m. Saturday, September 7, at The Coffee Joint, 1130 Yuma Court. Tickets, $25, are still available.
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Teague Bohlen is a writer, novelist and professor at the University of Colorado Denver. His first novel, The Pull of the Earth, won the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction in 2007; his textbook The Snarktastic Guide to College Success came out in 2014. His new collection of flash fiction, Flatland, is available now.
Contact: Teague Bohlen