Writer Leah Rogin-Roper likes it concise. She’s a player in Denver’s flash-fiction community, but she’s just as likely to write a poem or a snowboarding article or about why white dudes don’t rule the literary universe. In the service of that belief, the Red Rocks Community College English instructor joined fellow authors Tameca Coleman, Steven Dunn and Carolyn Zaikowski to produce "108 Books You Should Read Before You Read Another White Dude," recently published online by Coleman’s Literary Citizen project, a list worth heeding in a changing world. Rogin-Roper talks about what drives her as a feminist and modern thinker by answering the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Leah Rogin-Roper: I get my best writing done when I’m walking — that’s when I really get into the creative part of my brain, when I'm moving outdoors. And Durban Poison is a great muse.
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
I really admire Gloria Steinem and Dorothy Pitman Hughes for being two strong, creative women who understood the importance of intersectionality before that was even a word. We could invite Julia Child to do the cooking, because I like it when other people cook for me. Her cookbooks have this subversive undercurrent of sly winks from the realm of domesticity, which I think is how a lot of women get through. I also love the idea that she was a secret spy!
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
I think our writing community has a lot of passion and this ability to make things happen. Someone will be talking about making a reading space, and by the next week, it's a whole new reading series. Someone writes a book of poetry, and by the next month, they've found a small press to publish it. I like the way art seems to be a verb in our community.
As far as the worst, I think white writers in our community need to work harder to make space for writers of color in thoughtful and deliberate ways. It’s easy to end up in little writer cliques, as well, and I’d really like to see that go away.
How about globally?
A shift is needed in the way people consume writing. Many of us have been omnivorous in the way we just encounter the writing that crosses our path without thinking about how it got there. Economic and power dynamics influence what gets called literature and what doesn't, and who is on the bestseller list and who isn't. It's important to consider the way we are all complicit in that and make conscious choices instead of just defaulting to the books that happen to be at eye level.
You’ve come this far in life. What’s still on your bucket list?
I always wanted to see Mary Oliver read, since she's the first poet I fell in love with and my mom's absolute favorite (I also have a tattoo of her poetry buried in the ocean on my arm). Now, it's too late. Life is like that, so I want to read all the books and travel to all the places and eat all the food while I can. I do have a more itemized list in one of my journals that includes things like snowboard on all seven continents (three so far!).
What advice would you give a young hopeful in your field?
Read more than you write. Listen more than you talk.
Denver, love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I periodically want to leave the country, but as long as I’m in the U.S., I feel like Denver is the best spot to be. I love the mountains and the sunshine. I love that I could start five writing groups tomorrow with writers I respect and admire. I love that I can go snowboarding and paddleboarding on the same day. I love that corner of Federal and Alameda with the best dim sum and banh mi and tacos, all within a mile radius. Sorry, I got a little gushy there...
The worst part of Denver is driving on I-70, or even worse, I-25. People laugh at me because I use Colfax and Federal as my major routes whenever possible.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
I’m a big fan of Steven Dunn. Both of his books, Potted Meat and water & power, are re-examining what fiction means. I grew up in Appalachia, and Potted Meat is the most honest book I've read about that experience. It catches both the beauty and the brutality that marked my childhood. His Art of Storytelling reading series is my favorite in the city. He's also generous with his energy and talent in a way that I really admire.
What's on your agenda in the coming year?
I'm hoping 2019 is the year my novel gets published. Just releasing that out into the ether this year and trying to put the work in to make it an actuality.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Tameca Coleman is on fire. Try to catch her at a reading if you get the chance! She is a creative force.
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Kona Morris and Sharena Smith (under the pen name F.C. Jackson) have been working on this sci-fi series that has every chance of being the Next Big Thing. Keep them on your radar.
The Front Range has so many talented writers; it's really challenging to pare it down to a reasonable number to mention here!
Leah Rogin-Roper hosts the FBomb Flash Fiction Reading Series, featuring Barbara Henning, at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19, at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street. Learn more about Leah Rogin-Roper and her work online.