Guest Post, Michelle Ross, Kim Magowan: Delightful Anarchy: Why and How We Collaborate

Origin Story

Kim: It wasn’t our idea. Some journal—Sundog, I think—was running a collaboration contest, and Michelle proposed that we give it a shot. We each wrote an opening paragraph of a story and lobbed it to the other. The first of those stories has never been published—indeed, I think neither of us has submitted it anywhere for ages—though I still like it (recalling it now, I want to dust it off and send it to some journal). The second, “My Co-Worker Aldona,” is one of my favorites.

Michelle: Actually, I’d been thinking for some time about trying out collaborating, but it’s true it took the Sundog contest to motivate me to act on it. There was no question that Kim would be the writer I’d ask. Oddly enough, we didn’t actually end up submitting to the contest because by the time the deadline rolled around, our flash fictions had been accepted elsewhere (other than the one Kim mentions above that we’re less sure about).


Kim: We don’t have any. Michelle writes a few sentences and tosses it my way, I write more and toss it back. We decide when it’s done, and we edit together, sometimes as we go. We have no word count, no implicit or explicit regulation on when it’s time to lob the story to the other. Basically we toss it when we get stuck, or when we’ve handed the other person a good shoehorn in. It’s delightful anarchy.

Michelle: If there’s any rule it’s that we try to keep the momentum going by not letting a story sit for long. Often we lob a story back and forth several times in a day. Rarely do we allow a story to sit longer than a day or two.

Reasons to Do It

Kim: Because writing is lonely and isolating—one is isolated at one’s desk, isolated in one’s head. It’s much more fun to turn it into a conversation.

Because it’s fast! Solo, we each belabor a story, tweak it, tweeze it, get annoyed by it, and chuck it in a (metaphorical) drawer. Stories huddle in those drawers for years. When we’re collaborating, we run. We don’t wring our hands over a sentence: we hurl that smoking potato at the other. We wrote one of my favorites, “War,” in a day; it was accepted by Monkeybicycle the following day.

Because it’s good practice on how to adopt a different voice, try on a different style; it’s narrative dress-up.

Because it stretches us. I think we’re writing one kind of story, and then Michelle throws in some unforeseen element—a self-defense class, a book on how to fix home appliances, a surreally boring movie—and suddenly the story has morphed into something else altogether, something weird and unpredictable. The flower just became a cactus or a toucan.

Michelle: Because it’s tremendously freeing to surrender some of the control over a story’s plot and aboutness. Knowing that at Kim’s next turn she could take the story somewhere I don’t anticipate, I don’t need to concern myself too much with where the story will go. I can focus on where the story is now.

Because collaborating helps me break the bad habit of expecting too much of myself too quickly. That is, when I write a story solo, it’s tempting to sit at the computer too long, to exhaust myself to the point that when I finally walk away, I’m leaving on a low point instead of a high point. When all I have to concern myself with is the next paragraph or two, that’s a very doable task and a relatively a short time commitment. I’m much more likely to walk away from the computer feeling energized and eager to come back to the story when Kim returns it to me.

Because it’s fun.

Lessons Gleaned

Michelle: I feel I’ve learned so much from collaborating with Kim, but most importantly the value of writing in short bursts of an hour or so at a time, the value of keeping up the momentum by not letting a first draft sit unfinished for long (a terrible habit of mine), the value of pushing to the end before revising (another terrible habit of mine), and the value of not overthinking a first draft (terrible habit #3). I still make some of these mistakes in my own writing, but less and less so.

Kim: The best take-away for me is collaboration makes me freer and less fussy. Collaboration feels like the writing version of improvisation. It gets me out of ruts. Also, we are not at all proprietary about our parts of the story. I feel as comfortable changing a Michelle sentence as one of mine; I don’t have any sense of, “This part of the story belongs to me, this to Michelle.” In fact, I occasionally read a sentence in one of our stories and I can’t immediately remember which one of us wrote it (though if it’s about science, that’s a good clue that it’s Michelle! When I throw in something science-y—I think working with Michelle gives me the bug—there’s a good chance she’ll need to fix it. “Actually, I think you mean beakers”). Michelle and I have pretty different styles, so it’s been fascinating to me how well we blend.


Michelle: Submitting collaborative fiction can be a bit trickier—figuring who will send a story where, keeping each other updated about where stories are being considered, where they’ve been rejected.

Kim: One journal wouldn’t allow us to submit a collaborative piece, which shocked us both.

How to Find Your Collaborator

Michelle: Obviously, you want to choose someone whose writing you admire and whose instincts you trust. It’s perfectly fine, and perhaps even for the best, if you have different writing styles or preoccupations as a writer. It’s also perfectly fine to disagree some of the time, as long as you’re able to resolve those disagreements. I think that ideally you should collaborate with a writer you know fairly well, with whom you already exchange drafts. Kim and I had been exchanging work for several years before we began collaborating. We were already each other’s first readers.

Kim: What Michelle said—find a writer whose work you love and whose judgments you value. Michelle and I first “met” each other over a story: I loved her story (“Cinema Verite”), and the comments I gave her were useful. Also, find someone who has strengths you want to borrow. I’ve always admired the humor in Michelle’s stories— her writing, like Lorrie Moore’s or Amy Hempel’s, makes me laugh. And I think our collaboration stories are pretty funny, even the sad ones. She lightens me. Michelle is ninja when it comes to restructuring stories, moving around pieces. It’s like being on one of those crazy Top Chef team quickfires: we’re good together because we can lean on each other’s skills.

Michelle: I do love moving pieces around. Quite often I find the fix to a story that isn’t quite working is largely in reshuffling the pieces. And funny that Kim says I lighten her with humor. I think Kim does the same for me plenty of the time. Also, I think that working with Kim makes be a better constructor of sentences. Her sentences are always at once so elegant and sharp, like dancers wielding scissors.




Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award (MCP 2017). Her work has recently appeared in Cream City ReviewThe ForgeMonkeybicycleTriQuarterly, and other venues. She is fiction editor of Atticus Review and a consulting editor for the 2018 Best Small Fictions anthology. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Michelle Ross’s website



Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short story collection Undoing won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award and is forthcoming in 2018. Her novel The Light Source is forthcoming from 7.13 Books. Her fiction is published or forthcoming in Atticus ReviewBird’s ThumbCleaverThe Gettysburg ReviewHobartNew World WritingSixfoldWord Riot, and many other journals.

Kim Magowan’s website

Guest Post, Diane Payne: From Migration to Hibernation

Back in the dial-up day, before there were so many online literary magazines and publishing resources, I used to scroll through the Call for Submissions in the print version of Poet and Writers, looking for anthology themes as a means to find inspiration to start writing about something, anything.  Now the calls for submissions flood my Facebook and Twitter feed, entangled between the endless calls to sign petitions, dogs howling at TV videos, and the tiresome parenting memes. The expediency of posts is overwhelming. At night, my dreams are filled with so many imaginary Instagram and Snapchat images, I feel unmotivated and unable to write notes in my dream journal.

This past week, on a day when I thought things couldn’t become even more bleak at work, they did.  Then a call for submission flashed by with the theme:  A World in Pain. Seemed like a twisted moment of fate.

But I did not want to address this theme about our World in Pain since that has seemed to be our country’s mantra since the last presidential election. The dogs and I took the easy way out and we left for a walk.

When I returned from the walk, for some stubborn reason I decided to tackle this unpleasant theme, but not in my usual creative nonfiction form, but as a migrating bird flying from Canada to Mexico, flying over those borders with relative ease, free of the Facebook and Twitter feeds, the endless news on TV and radio. At times, the effects of climate change made the journey more difficult, and the bird learned to be on the lookout for the elderly, who have already endured a life time of personal tragedy, leaving them less grief-stricken and immobilized, and more enthusiastic about the arrival of the birds.

Then the short story ended and I felt a little better about life.

Until I submitted the story and discovered that the  magazine had closed their fiction submissions early, perhaps even at the very moment I tried to send the story, because just the day before, I could have submitted the story, had I not decided to sleep on it first. Perhaps this was their own personal twist to their theme of pain.

And then, just like that, another call for submission emerged with a climate change theme, and that bird flew off for another migration while my submission now enters a form of hibernation.

Guest Post, Susan Grimm: Writing Fears

Pen on PaperIn some ways, being a poet is useful. The likelihood of my relatives reading my work is very slim. Also, the nature of poetry often allows me the ability to write about something without having it look as if I’m writing about it–skewing the narrative. But those two comforts only address fears about reception, personal reception.

There is still professional reception to fear and fears about ability. They may be true fears, but they also equal reasons not to write, so that’s how I treat them–the barrier I refuse to admit exists.

Am I good enough? For who? I must believe in myself. What I write is often more than I expect—I surprise myself. So my fears of ability can be a) ignored/squashed/quelled or b) worked on by curing.

I spent a lot of years going to classes and workshops and getting degrees and reading and reading and reading and writing and writing and writing and sharing in writers groups. That’s what I call working on the cure which also sometimes involves eventually distrusting what comes easily— words, approaches, flat-footed emotions, inanimate lines.

I remember earlier times when I thought I was not ready to write about something which meant I was unsure of my ability to present it. Very early on in my writing career, I remember trying to write a poem about a visit to a Put-in-Bay winery. I wanted to somehow have the idea of the wine and the idea of the fountain in the poem, but I couldn’t do it–lack of ability. I worked and worked and worked until the bottle of wine and the glasses themselves became the fountain.

A few years later, before, I think, I’d even taken a writing class, I went to my first writing conference. It was wonderful. As part of the experience, I’d prepared poems for an individual conference. When I met with the poet who would comment and advise, he remarked on my lackluster titles, praised the originality of a single metaphor, and talked about people who wrote only for themselves, how that could be fulfilling.

My contrarian nature rose to the fore and saved me. By voicing my own fears, he pushed me past them although I’m pretty sure that was not what he meant to do.

Just now, coming off of a long dry spell, I encounter the greatest fear—can I still do it? is there anything left? I remember that negative adviser and imagine the long face he would pull. My contrarian edge digs in. I turn to the back of my notebook for the bits and spangles I’ve recorded even though I’d had no time/headspace to write.

— laid out like Gulliver
— origins of bludgeon?
— rain forest, rubber glove

I sign up for a winter break poem-a-day because it’s important to be kind to ourselves. It’s important to keep writing even if we don’t know why.

Ambition moves in me like a fish.

Guest Post, Patricia Caspers: 13 Ways of Looking at a Writer

Scorpio Patricia CaspersEach week I scour my twitter feed for signs of my Scorpio horoscope via Astro Poets (AKA Dorthea Lasky and Alex Dimitrov, for those two people who don’t know). Sure, I could thumb a few words into the search bar and voilà, but where’s the hunt in that? I want to scroll through my feed of poems and shiny disasters and stumble upon phrases like this recent treasure: “Never getting over being alive is poetry.”

I love the way the Astro Poets inspire me to wonder.

Here’s a Scorpio horoscope that caused me some big wondering:

“There are so many ways to look at something. There are at least 13, but also maybe more. You get into that one way and it’s strong. But is it always right— no. Start to turn the facets until you see yourself clearly again. Luck will arrive soon.”

“That one doesn’t apply to me at all,” I thought out loud the first time I read this tweet, but then I reconsidered.

Because here’s the thing: I’m a poet. That’s how I’ve defined myself since I was nine years old. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to be.

But here’s the other thing: Nobody else really knows it. So when I go on Twitter, and I see all the beautiful people – who are often so very much younger than me – becoming famous for their poetry, I’m happy for them. I really am. A win for poetry is a win for the world; there’s no doubt about it. But there’s a teeny place in my heart that asks, “Why not me?”

And then I am sad.

But I know why not me. Not me because I’ve written maybe a total of three complete poems in the last year, and I published all of one. I can hardly expect to have my poems recited in the next Greta Gerwig film if I don’t do the work of creating them or sending them off to poetry journals for excoriation.

OK, so I don’t really need to be a famous poet, I tell myself. I’ll be satisfied with an eclectic cult following.

I’m beginning to think that’s not happening, either.

I’m a failed poet.

Meanwhile, in the last two years I’ve written more than 100 weekly columns for my local newspapers. At one time or another every column I’ve written has also been written in the form a poem that no one read. I write about my teenage parents, my father’s drug addiction, the car wreck that took his life, my lifelong struggle with depression, the time I was too drunk to consent.

Recently my column was picked up by another news outlet in a neighboring county, and last year I was named the best columnist in the state by California News Publishers Association.
Better than that is the fact that almost daily I receive messages from readers who tell me my column is the best part of their day.

“I felt like you were telling my story,” they say.

“You are the butterfly,” they say.

“Thank you,” they say.

I’m not telling you this to brag. Well, maybe just a little; I am a Scorpio after all.

The truth is I find it all a bit baffling. All I ever wanted to be was a poet, but somehow I’ve ended up becoming a columnist instead. Clearly, I’m no Pauline Chen, but I do have what some might consider a tiny, eclectic cult following.

Still, I feel like a failed poet because every time I receive one of those messages I think, “It’s just a column. It’s not poetry.”

So I thought about my horoscope, and I considered 13 ways of looking at a writer, as well as something else Dana Levin once said, which was along the lines of this: When you find people who love your work, love them back.

Levin was talking about loving the small literary journals who love us instead of chasing the ever-elusive behemoths, which is solid advice, but maybe it also means that when people tell us we have a gift, we should believe them and love them for it – even if it’s not the gift we hoped they’d open.

Sometimes life is a trip through the constellations when we thought we were just hitchhiking across town – and that’s a kind of poetry, too.

Guest Post, Jessica Morey-Collins: Writing Poems in the Age of the Automobile

Highway and RainbowWhen written with the intent of being read, poetry is a form of humanism, a means of putting someone’s thoughts in closer proximity to other people. The practice of artfully arranging words to communicate an ideal/situation/experience to a reader invokes the dignity of everyone involved in the transaction. Poems emerge from and enter our human bodies, speak to our human instances. Even misanthrope poets engage in the humanist act of crafting language to connect their miserable existences to others’. Poetry is an occasion of closeness.

To state the obvious, the advent of cars was transformative. Suddenly, we could get away from each other. Industry could distance itself from commerce and commerce from residence. With cars, we needn’t proximity to our workplaces. Vast swaths of the American landscape were crafted for the man in his machine. From long lonely stretches of desert highway to dense meshes of urban overpasses, this land was made for you and me in our vehicles. For our vehicles to touch one another is an obvious problem. The road is an occasion to create and maintain distance.

Southern California’s mountains are majestic—incendiary, purple, awash in murk. Its valleys hum and swish with motors, tires complaining over roads. A child of divorce with Mom in the valley and Dad in the mountains, I was reared in a car. My first time living away from daily car rides I became ecstatic. Age 20, my cousin and I spent a summer working at a Girl Scout camp in Alaska. I swung my arms and spontaneously sprinted—living on my own two feet, living on the land, I felt freer than I’d ever imagined. At age 24 I moved away for good—to the dense rails and efficient busses of Taipei, the water-bound and buckled roads of New Orleans, to cycle through clinging mists in Oregon.

Seeing the faces of other commuters changed me. They were weary, exuberant, quotidian and unusual. Moving more slowly through cities enamored me of their habits—timed flashes, turning trees, egrets stilting through bayous.

In dreams I still fling up and down mountain roads that rear and buck through fog.

While they present curated experience, to meet people in poems is to reckon with their idiosyncratic perspectives: where they overlap with your own, where they vary; tender comparison, sharing. To meet people on the road is to reckon with catastrophic risks. Each vehicle represents the potential to irreparably damage my body and my economic prospects. Each vehicle represents my potential to demolish myself and others.

Maybe it is a failure of my character, but I have a hard time mustering love for my fellow humans when we are wrapped in glass and aluminum and hurling ourselves toward destinations. Maybe it is a failure of my imagination, but I have a hard time loving the landscape when I blur past it.

The privacy of a personal vehicle insulates the particular—tinted windows ensure the inside isn’t visible, that the intimacy within stays hidden from observers. Poetry—at least some of it—does the opposite, making art out of the personal; showing, telling. The poems that I tend to love gain energy from idiosyncrasy—the precise things that are tucked away into the privacy of single-family dwellings here in car country.

But this is the landscape we have made, the landscape on which and out of which we write. To write for lovers is to write for the roads that bring them to each other. To write for friends is to wish their cars carry them safely to and from their literature. To write for readers is to strain against the confines of the automobile age and it’s insulation and distance. As roads carry us farther away from each other, poems whisper, “Come closer.”

Guest Post, Dinah Cox: Hidden Insight in Early Drafts

scrambled eggsA commonplace among fiction writers is not to write about “themes” but to write about characters in such an easy and effortless way that both plot—if you still believe in plot—and any potential “themes” emerge organically, almost as if by magic. In general I agree with and even applaud this notion; if, for example, I set out to write a story about the dual themes of failing infrastructure in public education and the growing problem of students disrespecting their elders, I might end up with a grouchy jeremiad rather than a character-driven narrative with the potential to move and delight. Too often, however, this commonplace becomes an excuse for writers to steer clear of political subject matter in favor of some specious notion of the writer as an impartial observer of characters’ inner-lives, as if those characters exist in a vacuum, forever free to express their pure and holy human desires without the complications of cultural and historical forces. For this reason, I try, in my own fiction writing classes, to complicate the common advice “not to write about theme” and instead sometimes urge the opposite: write toward your obsessions, I say, but do not begin with them.

Take, for example, my story about failing infrastructure in public education and students disrespecting their elders. Let’s say I’ve been worrying about those issues—and maybe I have been—and let’s say, further, thinking about the broken furnace and the student who won’t buy any books both trouble me to the extent I find myself returning to images of decay and willful ignorance every time I set pen to paper. Should I reject these impulses? In fact, I should embrace them: if I wake up every morning in a rage—and often I do—because of the nefarious machinations of the executive branch, I should honor those impulses for the sake of my status as a citizen and the sake of my status as an artist; indeed, the true artist could hardly ignore them.

Back to my story about failing infrastructure and recalcitrant students: how to write such a wonderful story? Begin with an image. Begin with a character. Begin with a setting. Two students are eating scrambled eggs in a cold classroom at six in the morning. The professor has yet to arrive because class doesn’t start until 7:30. Why have the students arrived so early? Why are they eating scrambled eggs? Why is the classroom so cold they’re forced to keep their coats on? Perhaps I begin my story, and realize I’ve been worried to death about the implications of the historic budget shortfall in the Oklahoma State legislature. Writing further, I realize there’s an American flag hanging in the corner of the classroom. What happens? How does the student, who came to class wearing his coat and hat but did not bring along books or a notebook and certainly not a pen or a pencil, regard the feeling of cold scrambled eggs forming a rock in his stomach at the exact moment he pledges allegiance to the American flag? Perhaps I have some hidden insight into these problems that I didn’t know about until I began writing this story.

Here again, my advice to students is to write toward these insights, but not to begin with them. Whatever insights we might have before we begin writing our stories, poems, and essays might be good for a lark—they might even be good enough for a Facebook post or a pithy tweet—but until the story begins, until the character spits a mouthful of runny scrambled eggs onto the cold floor of the classroom, until the professor walks in and says, “what in the hell is going on here; this American flag wasn’t here yesterday,” until we observe the characters in action, we’re merely talking, talking, talking and not telling a story at all. But it’s a mistake to ignore these insights, these obsessions, these “themes” in favor of some higher standard for artistic creation that never existed to begin with; there’s a reason James Baldwin’s great essay, “The Creative Process” calls the artist “the incorrigible disturber of the peace” and not the high-minded keeper of the peace. We must disturb the peace. Begin with a character. Begin with an image. Begin with a setting. The student spits a mouthful of scrambled eggs at the professor. There’s a disturbance stirring, and we’re listening.

Guest Post, Kerry Cullen: On Heroes

One particularly boring day in 9th grade Chemistry, I wrote a story about my group of friends defeating our evil teacher. I folded it in a note, and passed it along the back row, where the story’s heroes read it one by one, stifling laughter and sneaking glances at the blissfully unaware teacher. We had recently decided we were all superheroes– vigilantes, to be specific. Everyone got a nickname and a power, debated among the group. I still didn’t have a name or power, and I was too self-conscious to make up my own, so I asked a friend.

He screwed up his face, thinking. “What are your skills?”

“I dunno.”

“Well, you’re good at writing. You could be the journalist that follows the superheroes around!”

“So like, a secret superhero disguised as a journalist?”

“No,” the boy said, already shaking his head. “No, that wouldn’t make any sense. If you had powers, you’d be fighting the bad guys with us. You can’t have powers.”

“So I’m not part of the team?”

“Not technically,” he said. “But without you, who would know about all the stuff we’re doing? You would give the townspeople hope! Someone has to do it.” I refused.

I’ve always wanted to be a hero. I’ve always wanted to be one of the people out there in the worlddoing the courageous work that ordinary people don’t have the guts for. When I was an Evangelical Christian kid, I wanted to go into international missions. I wanted to adventure, take risks, go tounusual places. I was excited for the Second Coming– I wanted to live in a time of upheaval, to defend my faith against monstrous beasts. If not that, then I wanted to be a nun, to live an extraordinary life of prayer. When I moved away from religion and into LGBTQ rights activism, I wanted to be a different kind of hero. I wanted to go on a hunger strike in prison. I wanted to chain myself to a building, to put myself in physical danger for a noble cause.

I’ve always wanted to be a fiction writer, too. The most common advice given to fiction writers is also the best: “Ass in chair.” Stay where you are; keep writing. Of course you need to live a life in order to write, and in order to be a healthy human being– an often underrated pursuit among artists, but a necessary one nevertheless. A good writer, though, should be perpetually conscious of the work, always ready to use their few solitary moments to sit down and dig into the deepest marrow oftheir soul. It doesn’t look romantic, sitting in a chair all day; it’s not a hunger strike or a sit-in or an exotic adventure.

But it certainly requires fortitude. In one of W.B. Yeats’s last poems, “The Circus Animals’ Desertion,” a writer near the end of his life ruminates on the stories that he used to write about, great tales of adventure and triumph, vain gaiety, vain battle, vain repose. But in his age, the writer realizes that what he has left are not the mythical creatures and characters, the circus animals, all on show. Rather, it is the unglamorous murk of human emotion that he must write from. He concludes the poem, saying

I must lie down where all the ladders start
In the foul rag and bone shop of the heart.

I asked a professor in college once: how do you dig into the darkest parts of yourself for writing, and also live a healthy life? He peered at me over his fingertips, with his uncanny pale blue eyes, and said, “I am always vigilant.”

To be a writer is to be vigilant. To be vigilant is to be watchful, awake. To keep a vigil is to stay awake in prayer. To be a vigilante is to be ‘a self-appointed doer of justice.’

These days, I want badly to be a self-appointed doer of justice. Villains are everywhere and multiplying, and a clamoring part of me wishes that I could abandon my work and my ordinary life and even my writing to go on some death-defying, valorous adventure– ideally somehow involving magic?– that would mold me into a true hero, capable of quickly and concretely changing the world. I want to single-handedly save lives. I want to do something noble and powerful, worthy of an incredible story. Of course, if my impulse for action is contingent on story, my underlying desire is probably more about the tale than the act.

I’m not talking about small acts of goodness: calling senators, writing letters, doing volunteer work in a community, being kind and attentive to the people in your life. All of those and more are humbler works that come from less glory-hungry urges, and that, if done consistently, don’t make up merely one adventurous plot arc to tell and retell. Rather, they make up a whole life of daily, mundane choices, like waking up every day, getting your ass in that chair, and putting pen to paper. The only thing I’ve wholeheartedly kept from my former Christianity is an immense respect for and love of prayer. A favorite author once called prayer an ‘act of love’ and I’ve felt that definition ring true more than any other. For me, writing and prayer are inextricably linked– both a deeply embedded part of my childhood, both a salvation, reconciliation, meditation. Both annoying, sometimes. Both easy to procrastinate on, both unglamorous, both private, both practices that everyone else seems to do with more ease, more beauty, more reward. Both practices that thrive in questions and not answers. Both vigils. Both staying awake.

To be a self-appointed doer of justice, vigilante-style, you need answers. You need clarity and security in the knowledge that what you’re doing is right, or at least mostly right, or at least pointed in the general direction of the greater good. We will always have heroes and villains in this world, self-appointed doers who believe that they are on the side of justice. Who have been told what the side of justice is, and have decided to fight for it. Some fight for the weak and downtrodden and under-served. Some fight for their god. Some fight for their money.

And following them are the journalists, the storytellers, the poets. The people with more questions than answers, the people whose job it is to give the townspeople hope, or fear. The people sifting through what their leaders are doing to find the truth under it. The people who lie down where all the ladders start.

This world needs heroes. It needs writers, too.