1:1 - Mark Killian

Posted on: August 28, 2014

Interviewed by Sam Chow
Over the next few weeks, 1:1000 will take you behind the scenes with our core writing and editorial team. We'll show you more about what makes these writers tick (or maybe twitch).

This week we sit down with Mark Killian, a copywriter by trade who not only writes for a living, but spends his free time gracing us with his eclectic collection of stories, such as “Go Deep,” “Golfonomics," and his most recent addition, "Put a Blue Ribbon on My Brain," which are as likely to make you laugh as they are to make you cry.

1:1000: Why writing?

MARK KILLIAN: There are many reasons, but I think Roger Federer summed it up best when he spoke to a bunch of bankers at the Credit Suisse headquarters. To paraphrase, he said the key to success is focusing on your strengths, not trying to overcome your weaknesses. Scholastically (and in other areas of my life) I have many weaknesses, but I've never had a problem completing a writing assignment. Damn the SATs for implementing the written portion AFTER my graduation.

1:1000: You clearly draw a great deal of inspiration from Roger Federer and Stephen Colbert, what is it about them that inspires you? Do you have any writer idols?

MK: Roger and Stephen (we're on a first name basis (in my dreams)) are blueprints for the man I hope to become. I'm not foolish enough to think I will ever come anywhere near their personal or professional successes, but as the 4th Earl of Chesterfield Philip Stanhope (thanks Google) once said, "Aim at perfection in everything, though in most things it is unattainable. However, they who aim at it, and persevere, will come much nearer to it than those whose laziness and despondency make them give it up as unattainable." I think Rog and Steph are about as close to perfection as humans can get. They love their jobs, their wives, their families, and they're surprisingly humble for people who have accomplished such greatness in their fields. Plus, Colbert's from coastal South Carolina. Before him, the only famous person I could relate to (geographically) was Vanna White. As far as writers are concerned, many of the greats have horrible personal lives. All of them seem to be divorced or mentally tormented or struggling to overcome some kind of addiction. There are many writers I admire for their style and accomplishments, but I reserve the word "idol" for people who embody the total package.

1:1000: In addition to 1:1000, you make a living as a copywriter. Writing clearly takes up a lot of your time and your mind, so what inspires your writing? How do you avoid writer’s block?

MK: Talking to myself. I don't have "voices in my head" in a The Shining sense of the word, but my brain can sometimes feel like a crowded coffee shop. I hear all of my thoughts bouncing off one another as if I were reading my own mind, especially when I give my brain a topic to ruminate on. That's the beauty of the 1:1000 concept. I'll look at a picture, the "voices" will start chattering, and I'll follow the "voice" that I feel is saying the most interesting things. The same goes for a work assignment. As long as my head is talking, I'll continue to write down what it has to say. (Disclaimer: I've never been psychoanalyzed, so there is a chance that was just the rantings of a mad man.)

1:1000: Um…so what are the voices telling you now Mark?

MK: They are telling me I have the right to remain silent.

1:1000: You’ve written stories ranging from social commentary (e.g., “Roses”) to more humor-heavy tales (like “Pissed”), how would you describe your writing?

MK: Once again, it's the voices. Sometimes the funny ones are the loudest (“Pissed”), sometimes it's the sincere ones (“Roses”), and sometimes it's a mixture of both (“Hokey Pokey”). I'm just their stenographer.

1:1000: How do you choose the photographs for your stories?

MK: For the most part, I leave it up to the voices. And yes, I'm aware the voices thing is getting old, but I can't help it. It's the truth. Anyways, I usually go to our Stories to Be Pinterest board or Flickr and scroll through until the voices see something they like. However, there have been a few occasions (like with “Pissed”), when the story came first.

1:1000: What's a day in the life of Mark Killian look like?

MK: Monday through Friday, a day in the life of Mark Killian would bore you to tears. I am extremely dull and regimented. I eat the same three meals at the same times every day. I wake up, I go to work, I exercise, I Hangout (virtually) with my Lady, and I go to sleep. I am the personification of my favorite quote from The Picture of Dorian Gray, "Good artists exist in what they make, and consequently are perfectly uninteresting in what they are." On the weekends, I'm a little more willy nilly. I hang out (physically) with my girlfriend, watch movies, and eat nitrates. I'm a real daredevil.

1:1000: The protagonist of "Finding Faith at 10,000 Feet" also seems like he would be the type to avoid nitrates. Is that story, or are any of your stories, autobiographical?

MK: The most autobiographical story I've ever written was either “Pissed” or “Put a Blue Ribbon on My Brain," although, they were slightly embellished for comedic effect. “Finding Faith” was close, minus the decision to fly to New York for a second opinion. I find that humorous stories are easiest to draw from real-life experiences, because I've had a pretty plush life. The hardships I've faced would make anyone with real problems laugh, so I laugh along with them.

1:1000: What does a hypochondriac do for fun?

MK: What DOESN'T a hypochondriac do for fun!? (Most things.) Lately, I've been having a blast on this website/app called GoodGuide. They've taken over 200,000 consumer goods and rated them according to their impact on your health, the environment, and society. As a hypochondriac, I mostly use it for health. Fun fact: pretty much all hand soaps want to give you cancer. Don't believe me? Go to GoodGuide. Then, of course, there's always the WebMD Symptoms Checker. HOURS of fun. And by "fun" I mean crippling anxiety, but it's the kind of rush I used to get from haunted houses.

1:1000: Other than listening to voices inside their heads, do you have any advice for those out there who want to write, but are too afraid to take the plunge?

MK: Do it. Seriously. It's that simple. Writing, like all art, is subjective. I have read books that make me think, "How in the hell did this get published!?" But that's just one man's opinion. There's always going to be someone who thinks you suck. Like Federer said, focus on your strengths. Don't try to win over the people who think you suck. Just try to please the people who think you're talented, even if it's just one guy named Sam Chow who has read every piece of grammatically incorrect and misspelled crap you've typed since high school.

Sam: Aww! I get a shout out?

Mark: Of course! Anyone who read the "poetry" that came out of my first "heartbreak" deserves a humanitarian award.

Sam: You were painfully emo.

Mark: I will cause you pain the next time I see you.

Sam: Nothing can hurt worse than those poems.

Mark: Valid point.

Put a Blue Ribbon On My Brain

Posted on: August 26, 2014

I’m sweating, I’m wheezing, I’m bleeding, and all I can think about as I sprint back home is talking to my lady.

          Me: Why snakes?

I hit send, toss my phone on my bed, and head to the refrigerator, where a chilled Brita pitcher beckons me from behind my meticulously arranged magnet collection.


A chilled, EMPTY Brita container. I flip the lid off, sending it spinning to the ground, and place the BPA-free pitcher beneath the spout. The anger turns to fear once I remember–or can’t remember, rather–the last time I scrubbed the kitchen floor.

“One. Two. Three. Four. Fi … GOT IT!”

In under five seconds, I bring the lid from the questionable floor to the sanitized counter and turn the cold-water knob. The liquid pours at that perfect speed where the water fills the top at the same rate it drips to the bottom. While beads of clean H2O seep out of the charcoal filter, I check for a response.

          The Lady: LOL

She leaves it at that. Not because she’s vapid or disinterested. She just knows me well enough to know “Why snakes?” was just a precursor to a much longer message. She knows “Why snakes?” is my way of saying, “Are you there?” And I know “LOL” is her way of saying “Yes. Always.”

          Me: Seriously, why do snakes exist? Give me one good reason. And DO NOT say because they eat rats. I will punt a fucking rat off my porch like a placekicker. Try kicking a snake. You know what will happen? It will wrap around your ankle like a garden hose, a garden hose with FANGS!

I toss the phone back on my bed and return to the kitchen.

“Which superhero will it be today?” I ask myself, studying the lineup of Marvel pint glasses I won during a White Elephant gift exchange at a company Christmas party. “Spiderman? No. Tobey Maguire ruined him for me in Spiderman 3. Captain America? No. Leadership skills and an indestructible shield are useless to me right now. The Hulk? Possibly. I am furious. Wolverine? Hmm. I am bleeding. Alright, Hulk or Wolverine? Hulk or Wolverine? Hulk. Or, Wolverine? Hul … verine. Wolverine. I have enough rage. I’m going with Wolverine.”

I grab the glass and shut the cabinet before I can change my mind. The water is far from cold, but it’s a lot cooler than the 103-degree temperature I was stupid enough to run in. I go back to my room and stop myself from flopping my sweaty body on my bed, but not fast enough to prevent Newton’s First Law of Motion from making perspiration rain on my lion blanket.

“Dammit. That’s going to need a wash. But then again, I sweat every night. Yeah, but that’s a different kind of sweat, a cleaner sweat. True.”

I reach for my phone without allowing anymore grossness to fall from my bangs.

          The Lady: LOL. I’m going to assume you didn’t get bit.

         Me: No, but I could have!

I turn Wolverine upside down and drain the glass of its contents. I need a refill, and the phone is coming with me. Before I even make it to the door, I feel a vibration in my hand.

          The Lady: Did you even see a snake?

         Me: No, I didn’t see a snake, but if Jaws taught us anything, its that the things you don’t see are
sometimes scarier than the things you do.

I place my phone on the toaster and grab the Brita from the refrigerator, which had no effect on the water temperature.


The roar of my phone vibrating the toaster startles me enough to knock my pouring hand off track. Water cascades over my fingers and onto my mold-resistant standing mat.

          The Lady: Did you at least see a stick that looked like a snake?

         Me: EVERYTHING I saw looked like a freaking snake!

I put the phone on a stove coil and use my kitchen towel to wipe up the spill.

“This is going to need a wash,” I said, noticing the fresh patch of filth on my dish cloth. “SON OF A!”

My phone clamors around the stove, making the drip trays sound like Caribbean steel drums being played with a jackhammer.

          The Lady: Where were you running?

          Me: The Greenbelt.

I put the phone on the bamboo cutting board and toss the towel in the laundry hamper so I don’t accidentally use it again. I’m greeted by a blinking notification light upon my return.

“Note to self: always put your phone on the cutting board”

          The Lady: Why the Greenbelt?

          Me: I thought it’d be a nice change of scenery, but I immediately regretted that decision once I realized all the nooks and crannies turned the trail into one giant rattlesnake Whack-A-Mole. Step over the wrong rock, and HISSSSSSSSS! Your Achilles tendon becomes a serpent’s chew toy.

I put my phone in my pocket and open the sliding glass door leading to the porch.


I mistake my roommate’s deflated bike tube for the same abomination that sent my pulse north of 200 BPM during my run. My anxiety reaches its peak when my lady texts me back, buzzing my outer thigh and sending me over the edge.

“TO HELL WITH SNAKES,” I scream, flinging the bike tube off the balcony and leaving it dangling from a tree branch like some kind of evil Christmas ornament.

          The Lady: You practiced that joke all the way home, didn’t you?

          Me: How’d you know?

I take off my shirt, which weighs twice as much as it did before my run, and twist it into a knot. I proceeded to squeeze with all my might, imagining the sweat gushing from the creases is blood spurting from a serpent. I don’t stop until I feel another rumble in my pocket.

          The Lady: BECAUSE I KNOW YOU, BOY!

Her use of all caps proves it.

          Me: THAT’S WHY I LOVE YOU, GIRL!

Written by: Mark Killian
Photograph by: Chris Boyles
Inspired by: "Slow Show" by The National

1:1 - Ben Cook

Posted on: August 21, 2014

interviewed by Mark Killian
Over the next few weeks, 1:1000 will take you behind the scenes with our core writing and editorial team. We'll show you more about what makes these writers tick (or maybe twitch).

This week we learn a little more about a relative newcomer with a newborn, Ben Cook. Ben is a veteran of the airline industry who was tired of keeping his writing aspirations grounded, so he joined our little site to let his prose take flight. Thank goodness he did! Otherwise, we’d never have wonderful stories like “Tending to What Matters,” “Arbor Day,” “Some Dreams,” and his latest, “Like There’s No Tomorrow.

Mark Killian sat down with Ben at their individual computing machines, thousands of miles apart from each other, to interview him via G-chat. Although Mark's never met this man in person, they soon found a kinship through notes on their writing styles and movie preferences.

1:1000: Benjamin. How art thou?

BEN COOK: Tired. Very tired. Our newborn, Bryson, didn't feel much like sleeping last night, which means no one felt much like sleeping.

1:1000: Oye. I have heard of this unfavorable aspect of parenting. On a good night, how much sleep do you get with a newborn? Same question for a bad night.

BC: On a good night he will sleep for about six hours in between feedings (which I am not biologically capable of, but you end up waking up anyway). On a bad night he is up every two or so, crying. I probably average about five hours a night, my amazing wife gets by on even less.

1:1000: That's reassuring. That's about what I currently get due to my own psychosis/insomnia.

BC: Ha! The good thing about children is in a way they cure insomnia, you become so exhausted that you go directly to sleep when you do get a chance to lie down.

1:1000: That's also what I've heard. I have seen many a picture on The Facebook of a passed-out parent with a child sleeping on top of them.

BC: Yep, those are the best naps!

1:1000: And photo opps. How many kids do you have again?

BC: Two. Liam will be five in two months, and Bryson is one month.

1:1000: Does the thought that they may find your writings one day ever cross your mind? And if so, does it affect the things you say?

BC: Yes it does. I think that's one reason that I can be somewhat reserved in my writing.

1:1000: Speaking of writing, what say we launch into this interview? (Although, there is a chance those previous questions/answers will weasel their way into the final draft.)

BC: Fire away.

1:1000: Let's start things off the standard way and see if we can't make it a little weird down the road. First, when did you know you wanted to become a writer?

BC: Strangely enough, it was a movie that first inspired me to write. I was always a voracious reader growing up (thanks Mom and Pop for making us read everyday), but I never gave writing much of a thought until my senior year of high school when I saw Clerks. The fact that a dude could write and direct his own movie was incredible to me. Around the same time I got my first job in a bookstore and read Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. Between those two, writing became something that seemed accessible to me for the first time. I started writing but never really showed anyone.

1:1000: That is AWESOME! I too consider myself a movie-inspired writer, and High Fidelity is such a great book/movie! Probably one of the only times I feel the movie is better than the book. Any who, what was the first thing you wrote after watching Clerks. Was it a story or a movie? Also, why did you decide not to show it to anyone?

BC: I tried my hand at screenplays, but gave up fairly quickly. I didn't know any of the mechanics of it, and back in those days ('95 or so) we didn't have nearly the resources there are now. After that I switched to short stories. I guess I never showed anybody, because I didn't have much confidence in myself or my writing, which is sometimes still a problem for me.

1:1000: Ugh! Confidence. It is our greatest strength and/or weakness. So how did you work up the courage to put your work in front of 1:1000's ZILLION (joking, of course) readers?

BC: One night I was reading bedtime stories to my four year old and he asked if he could be an astronaut when he grew up. I told him that he could be anything he wanted to be. Later that night when I went to bed I felt like a hypocrite. Here I was telling my son he can be whatever he wants to be, when I'm not doing what I want to do with my life. I started writing again a couple of days after that.

1:1000: That is freaking BEAUTIFUL! I imagine the "Top 5 Jobs" list from High Fidelity really resonates with you. I love that scene when he realizes owning a record store is actually above architect and he IS doing one of his dream jobs.

BC: Ha! Owning a record store would actually be in my top five too.

1:1000: Then does music have an impact on your writing?

BC: Music has a huge impact on my writing. Definitely more than movies nowadays. Being a parent of little kids, you don't have much time for anything other than family fare, and there is only so much inspiration you can draw from Thomas the Tank Engine. I still try to read, but again I don't have much time to myself. But I have music on all of the time, when I driving, when I am writing, and even most of the time at home our TV is off and there is either music or NPR playing. When I am writing, I will generally stick to a certain genre for each piece that I write.

1:1000: Who are some of your go-to artists when seeking inspiration and how do they affect your writing?

BC: I have found that in life, and writing, you can never go wrong with Pink Floyd or Willie Nelson. Aside from them, I guess I tend to use the setting of the story to guide what music I listen to as I write. For example, when I was writing "Arbor Day" I played a lot of Bow Thayer, who is a Vermont musician, and Janis Joplin, because growing up whenever we drove across Nebraska my mom always played Janis. And sometimes the music inspires a change of direction. For "Like There's no Tomorrow" I was listening to an Icelandic band called Solstafir. Their music literally transformed what started as a tale about unrequited love into an apocalyptic love story.

1:1000: How important is setting to your writing, both in the story and where you physically are when composing the story?

BC: I do most of my writing at work, on my downtime, honestly, so for composition it doesn’t matter much, but setting is very important in my writing. I try to make the environment almost its own character, or at least have it drive the story in some way. I think it comes from moving around a lot, and from travelling. I love going to different places and seeing how they can transform my state of being.

1:1000: Is the airline industry the reason why you've traveled a bunch, or have you always hopped around the world?

BC: I wasn't much of a traveler before I started working for an airline, but once you have access to free flights, you tend to take advantage of that. It was especially true when I was younger. If I had nothing better to do, I would just hop on plane and go check out someplace I had never been. But having that freedom, combined with the fact that I was living in Las Vegas and in my early twenties, pretty much doomed my college career.

1:1000: Ha! I can imagine. What were you studying in college?

BC: I was a History major up until I dropped out of UNLV. I went back in 2005 and took a couple of creative writing classes. In 2006 I moved back to Colorado, where I am from originally, and I planned on transferring to a small liberal arts that has a great English program, but I couldn't afford it. That was last time I did much writing.

1:1000: Which had a greater impact on your writing, the classes you took or Clerks, books, and other real-world writing samples?

BC: Honestly I would have to say, even though I don’t watch them much anymore, movies taught me a lot. Kevin Smith, Richard Linklater, and Quentin Tarantino taught me dialogue. The Coen Brother’s movies taught me how much the setting can propel a story. I still take a lot of inspiration from books when I can, too. I reread To Kill a Mockingbird at least once a year, because to me, it’s perfect. I keep hoping that some of Harper Lee’s genius will rub off on me. Writing classes were great for peer-to-peer feedback, but I think I learned more from reading Stephen King's On Writing than I did from any professor.

1:1000: That's what I was hoping to hear. I have never taken a formal writing class myself, and have always felt it limited my ability to become a real writer. I'm starting to think that's a farce.

BC: I think it probably depends on where you go. The UNLV English department wasn't great. If I would have gone to Naropa (the little school in Colorado), who knows, I could have had a teacher that changed my world.

1:1000: Do you plan on sticking with short stories or will you attempt to tackle a novel at some point? Or, will you try a screenplay again?

BC: Now that I am getting back into the swing of things, I would love to try and write a novel, or at least something longer than a thousand words. A screenplay would be fun, but since I don't have a whole lot of time for writing, I am going to stick to what is working for now.

1:1000: Well, we fully support and anxiously await whatever it is you do next, as long as it doesn’t result in you leaving 1:1000.

Like There's No Tomorrow

Posted on: August 19, 2014

I hold her close, feeling her breathing change gears; downshifting from the revved-up respirations of post-coital bliss all the way down to the content, languid yawns as her body slips into neutral. Utterly exhausted, her legs give a little twitch, kicking off the last of her tension like an unseen blanket. And then, right before going completely limp in my arms, I swear she murmurs something that sounds like “I love you”.

My pulse quickens. I want to shake her, rouse her from her peaceful slumber and find out for sure that her sleepy declaration wasn’t just some sort of auditory illusion or a figment of my overeager imagination. I want to wake her and find out that for once, maybe, just maybe, my love is not unrequited, that she didn’t turn to me out of loneliness, or even worse, out of desperation.

I long for her to open her eyes, those sparkling sapphires that bewitched me and reeled me in from across the crowded room. I want to hear her laugh, a sound so honest, so pure, that it renders me powerless, and to hear the melodic singsong of her voice. And more than anything I desperately yearn to hear the other sounds, the low guttural moans she made as I traced the contours of her body with my tongue, or the hushed whispers she used when she begged, “Fuck me. Fuck me like there’s no tomorrow.”

And I want her to wake because we had a vow, a promise to not waste the precious few hours we have together with something as humdrum as sleep.

But I can’t do it. I can’t bring myself to shatter her tranquility. Instead I slip my arm out from under her and slide in a pillow as a surrogate for her to nuzzle against.

I turn on the TV and scan the channels, but nothing is on, and I don’t mean in a how-can-you-watch-this-shit reality TV kind of way. Nothing but test patterns and white snow flash upon the screen. Where the hell are Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw when you need them? They would have kept it going. These new journalists don’t have any heart. Sure, they’ll put their posterior on the line for posterity’s sake, but when the end is nigh and there is no hope for fame or fortune, they cut and run like everybody else.

At least the power is still on. Somewhere out there, someone still has a little pride left and isn’t shirking away from their duty. Or maybe not—who knows, in this digital age it’s probably just some computer running it all, a computer that can’t comprehend the utter destruction that an asteroid with the innocuous name of XC17LR3 (or “Jesus” as my born-again uncle calls it) is going to unleash on good old planet Earth in T minus two hours; give or take fifteen minutes.

I pull on some shorts, slide open the glass door and step out onto the balcony to get a breath of fresh air. I scan the heavens for any sign of the approaching asteroid, but see nothing but clear, blue sky.


I didn’t believe it at first. Nobody did. The first reports came across as crazy conspiracy theories. In this day and age, internet rumors of a doomsday asteroid don’t make many folks bat so much as an eye. It wasn’t until the European Space Agency made an official announcement that people started paying attention. Even then, some scoffed at the notion. I guess it takes a little while to wrap your head around the fact that everything, from Nebuchadnezzar to Nirvana, Shakespeare to the Shawshank Redemption, all of it, the entirety of human existence, will be gone in a mere three days.

The first day was pure unadulterated chaos. Half of the population of the Earth didn’t have to wait for the asteroid. A few countries, sworn enemies from time immemorial, decided that the impending apocalypse was a good enough reason to go ahead and do a little smiting of their foes. And the suicides—apparently a lot of people decided they would rather go out on their own terms. Those that survived the first twenty four hours divided into three camps; those that huddled with their families, those that flocked to a church, and those that went full tilt boogie, running amok and raging all night at the end-of-the-world parties that were springing up everywhere.

I met her at the Church of the Resurrection. I had wandered in, not out of any sense of belief, but because it turns out I wasn’t cut out for unabashed hedonism, and I needed a respite from the chaos. The building was packed with parishioners, arms linked together, swaying back and forth and singing hymns. Off to the side was a group of people milling around a table full of food. I spotted my uncle snacking on a sandwich and started toward him, until she caught my eye.

She was manning the punch bowl, looking uncomfortable and out of place. She looked in my direction. Those eyes, my god, those eyes were incredible. She flashed a demure smile and quickly looked away. The nausea that had been churning my gut since I accepted the reality of my imminent death gave way to a new queasiness; a fluttering that I hadn’t experienced since I was thirteen. I knew that it was now or never. Literally.


Her arms snake around my waist and I let out a shout in surprise. She draws me in close, kissing my neck and nibbling on my earlobe.

“I’m so sorry I fell asleep,” she says in that low, seductive whisper. “I won’t let it happen again.”

I turn around to face her. I try to smile but my mouth won’t let me.

“How long was I asleep?” she asks, the playfulness gone from her voice.

“About two hours.”

She buries her face into my chest.

“I love you,” she says, and I know she means it.

“I love you too.”

We turn and look at the sky, still calm and perfectly blue, together.

Written by: Ben Cook
Photograph by: Hannah Chertock

1:1 - Natasha Akery

Posted on: August 14, 2014

interviewed by Ben Cook
Over the next few weeks, 1:1000 will take you behind the scenes with our core writing and editorial team. We'll show you more about what makes these writers tick (or maybe twitch).

This week we learn a little more about the ultimate multi-tasker Natasha Akery. She is a wife, mother, blogger, entrepreneur, and musician. Somehow she still finds time to weave some beautifully intricate tales like “The Extractor,” “Taboo,” and “The Wisest of All” for us here at 1:1000.

1:1000: When did you first know that you wanted to be a writer?

NATASHA AKERY: I've been making up and writing stories from the age of eight, but I think I knew when I was a freshman in high school. I'd been working on an exhausting piece of science fiction that exceeded three hundred pages, but never went anywhere. What was important about working on that story was that I needed to work on it every single day after school. The compulsion, the drive - it was intoxicating. I love to write. More so, I love to write about things that scare people and about the worlds that sometimes appear in my head.

1:1000: What projects, writing or otherwise, are you working on right now?

NA: Sometimes, I think I'm working on too much and it really overwhelms me. Currently, I have a faith-based blog where I share some of my unconventional ideas about Christianity. I started it mostly because I really needed to unload all of these fears and thoughts that I'd been bottling up because of growing up in the bible belt. As I've been writing, I've discovered this whole group of progressive, liberal Christians that I never knew existed, which was surprising and encouraging. I've also started a small business called Lumenkind, which serves women struggling with stress-related symptoms, illnesses, and disorders through the practice of yoga and writing. My first workshop is in September and I can't even believe it! My husband and I also have a musical project called Lockout/Tagout, and recently we've realized that we need a renaissance of sorts. I think we're going to spend the next few months writing and experimenting with a different sound.

1:1000: That sounds like an incredibly full plate. Any secrets you can share on how to find balance when living such a hectic life?

NA: Balance is so important for me as a Libra, but I honestly feel off kilter these days. The refrain in my journal entries as of late: "Who am I? What do I want?" I would say what's helped me most is observing a true sabbath: not the go-to-church-on-Sunday kind, but a day when I steer clear of my usual activities and connect with my husband and daughter. I had my first sabbath this past weekend. I turned off my phone and put it away. I didn't open up the computer once. I didn't make a move for the television. I think what pleased me most was my husband's response at the end of the day, that he really enjoyed how connected I was, and it encouraged him to ignore social media as well. So, I'm trying to integrate little sabbaths into my day. I've turned off the notifications on my phone and I try to have a purpose for opening up my laptop. Setting these limitations has helped me foster a deeper connection with my daughter, and I think it's helping my husband feel precious.

1:1000: When do you do most of your writing? Do you have a routine?

NA: As of now, the majority of my writing happens when my daughter Eleanor takes naps. My husband has been sweet enough to make sure I get an uninterrupted 3-hour block of writing on the weekends, which has made a huge difference. Do I have a routine? No, not really. I take what I can get. But I've never been one for routines really, at least, not ones that require I get up before the sun does.

1:1000: Has becoming a mother changed the focus of your writing?

NA: Eleanor has made me an honest writer, and by that I mean she has pushed me to tell the stories I want to tell. For a long time, I was so afraid of sharing what was inside of my head and heart, particularly because I've been immersed in an evangelical Christian context where people are hyper-involved in your "walk with the Lord." I think some of my narcissism comes from that because I've been taught to be paranoid. I've hidden a lot of myself, my creativity, and my convictions because I really didn't want to end up being someone's subject matter for their prayer time. Eleanor is truly my muse. She demands truth with every diaper, tear, and squeal.

1:1000: Besides your family, who or what inspires you?

NA: I'm currently reading a lot about minimalism, which is kind of a bare-bones approach to life. The less clutter and possessions I have, the more room I feel to create. People like Courtney Carver and Leo Babauta inspire me because they have businesses based on minimalism and a passion for helping people. I'm inspired by the transgender community and their battle for equality and social justice. I have a few friends who are transgender, and watching their transition has really opened my eyes to what prejudice looks like and how subtle it can be. I'm inspired by women who tell their stories, particularly of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse. I think a lot of people hear them and think, "Ugh, just get over it." But they keep talking, they keep telling their stories, and it's changing society. As for texts, I could read the Gospel of Mark, the Epistle of James, and the Bhagavad Gita every single day. The Gospel of Mark reveals a very human and mortal Jesus, which I think gets glossed over in Christianity because everybody treats him like a unicorn. The Epistle of James is all about how important it is to be in control of what you say because the tongue is like a wild fire. And the Bhagavad Gita? Just...all the feels. It's about God manifesting as a man and speaking to a prince about life lessons, and it's seriously just the most beautiful thing I've ever read.

1:1000: When working on a story for 1:1000, which comes first, the idea for the story or the photograph?

NA: My most recent story "The Wisest of All" is the first time I looked for a photograph to fit what I wanted to write. Usually, I pick a photograph and insert myself into the image, waiting for something to happen. It's peculiar because I really feel like I'm waiting for someone to show up so I can observe. And I just type as I follow them around the image.

1:1000: Readers have been captivated by your ‘Anna the Extractor’ series. Where did the idea for Anna come from?

NA: Call me clinical, but ‘Anna the Extractor’ is based on personal experiences. I grew up hearing voices, seeing spirits, and sensing presences. Each and every story pulls from an aspect of my life, or a memory. The development of the stories are inspired by research I've done on Jewish exorcism and the gospel accounts of Jesus casting out demons. The most recent installment, "Calling," is actually my mother's memory. She grew up on an island with her grandmother and developed a "spirit sickness," indicating that she was meant to become a shaman. But my mother didn't want to. Later, when I developed certain symptoms and were having supernatural experiences, she shared that memory with me. It's really fascinating. I'm hoping that Anna will eventually be novel-worthy, but we'll see. I don't want to pressure her too much.

1:1000: What are some recent things that blew your mind?

NA: Umm, this is embarrassing, but...I'm a narcissist. I didn't realize it until recently, but it's not the kind of narcissism that you'd expect. I'm not running around wanting people to look at me all the time, but my anxieties and the things I stress about are a clear indicator that I have a self-centered perspective of life. I'm always worried about what people think of me and my decisions. If people don't respond quickly to my text messages or emails, I assume that they're mad at me or don't like me. I quickly abandon projects when they aren't "successful," which is determined usually by someone else's level of success. I'm appalled when a blog post that I thought was brilliant doesn't have many views. Just yesterday, I was discouraged that only 11 women are signed up for my workshop in September and figured I should just forget about continuing with my small business. People have only known about the workshop for two weeks! That's a great number! But I'm constantly battling this child inside of me who is starving for attention and affirmation. So, yeah, narcissism blew my mind.

1:1000: What sage advice do you have for any would-be writers out there?

NA: Don't be afraid. Don't judge what you write. Don't edit while you're writing. What you write isn't stupid, and you're writing only improves if you stop criticizing yourself. Imagine that your inner writer is a child, is you as a child. Parent that child in the way you find most ideal. Encourage her. Motivate her. Ask her engaging questions. Listen to what she has to say. If you keep interrupting her, calling her names, and erasing what she says, she'll shut down. She'll die. The world is so much better if you keep her alive and flourishing.

The Wisest of All

Posted on: August 12, 2014

“We cannot eat of it. We cannot touch it. We will die if we do,” said the Woman.

The Serpent was puzzled.

He remembered the day when the Creator made him and brought him to the Man to be named. The Man marveled at the Serpent’s long body and scales, holding him with awe and delight. The Serpent wrapped himself around the Man’s arm, darting his forked tongue out to inspect the warm, pink skin.

“Your name will be Serpent, because you see all things, making you wise and prudent.”

The Serpent lifted his head and met the Man’s eyes.

“Ah, but you are also wise,” said the Serpent, “and clever.”

“And you talk too much,” the Man replied with a laugh.

The Serpent remembered the day when he lounged on a branch of a tree in the middle of the Orchard of Eden, so named by the Man because it brought him great pleasure. The Serpent watched the Man pruning the trees and picking up fallen fruit, for the Creator made him keeper of the Orchard. The Serpent wrapped his tail around the branch and lowered his head down to peer at the Man.

“Why do you not eat the fruit of this tree?”

The Man glanced up from his basket at the Serpent, then up into the branches.

“It is not like the other trees. Her fruit gives Knowledge of both Good and Evil.”

“Is that not a desired trait?” the Serpent asked.

The Man looked down into his basket, his brow furrowed.

“The Creator said that if I am to eat of it, I must let my ego die. I would bear the responsibility of Knowledge. I am not certain I wish to carry that burden.”

The Man met the Serpent’s eyes, smiled with one side of his lips, and resumed his work.

The Serpent remembered the day when the Creator made the Man sleep, and formed the Woman from his body with one of his ribs. It was a wonder to behold their similarities and differences, lying next to each other upon the grass beneath the Tree of Life.

The Creator said to the Serpent, “The Man should not be alone. The Woman will help him be better.”

The Serpent watched the Woman’s eyes flutter open, watched her turn her head to look upon the Man. He watched joy and wonder wash over her face in much the same way as it washed over the Man’s when he held the Serpent on the day he was made. The Man awoke, and beheld the Woman with his eyes.

“At last,” he whispered, taking her into his arms, “Flesh of my flesh, at last.”

As the Woman embraced the Man, the Serpent noticed something about her demeanor. She, too, was wise and clever like the Man, but there was a part of her that was like him.

The Woman was sensible.

The memories of those days flashed in the Serpent’s mind as he looked into the Woman’s eyes. She stood beneath the tree of Knowledge, wrestling with her loyalty to what she had been told. And the Serpent was puzzled because she did not speak the Truth.

“It is not so, Woman. You will not die. You will know. You will know as the Creator knows, the difference between Good and Evil.”

As the Woman wrestled with her uncertainty, the Serpent pondered the reason for her Lie. Like a firefly at dusk, the Truth revealed itself to him and it made him bitter. The Man told her a Half-Truth, but why? To control the Woman? To keep her from having the very thing he was too afraid to have himself? The questions raced in circles behind his eyes until he noticed someone behind the Woman.

The Man glared at the Serpent, and the Serpent glared back.

The Woman plucked a piece of fruit from the tree and said to herself, “Surely, if it will make us wiser and more like our beloved Creator, it is good for us to eat.”

The Woman ate the fruit, and plucked another for the Man as he came to stand by her side. The Serpent watched the glare fall from the Man’s eyes as he looked down at the Woman, his companion, his love and equal. He took the fruit from her hands as she beamed up at him, and he looked back at the Serpent. But he was not angry now. He was afraid, afraid of the burden of knowing Right from Wrong, Good from Evil. He was afraid of the responsibility that he and the Woman would carry now, more than just caretakers of the Orchard, but doers of a Law that would etch upon their hearts.

The Man ate the fruit, and their eyes opened, and they were afraid. Before, the Creator would tell them all they needed to know, all that they had to do. The burden was on the Creator if they made mistakes. But the change was tectonic. They knew all that the Creator knows, the responsibility placed now upon their shoulders to choose rightly.

The Man and the Woman were ashamed of the Knowledge. When the Creator appeared in the Orchard, they hid, already stumbling over the ability to choose a Good action, or an Evil one. And when the Creator questioned them, the Man blamed the Woman, and she blamed the Serpent. All eyes turned to the wisest and most prudent of all creatures, and everyone knew what was happening. Everyone knew the ache that comes from carrying a heavy thing. It either brings out your self, or you let yourself die.

The Serpent watched the Man and the Woman leave the Orchard as the Creator issued a guard to stand at the entrance.

“It will be all right,” the Creator said. “I will go with them. There will be moments when they forget they know what is Good, and I will remind them.”

“And what shall I do?” asked the Serpent.

“Tread lightly.”

Written by: Natasha Akery
Photograph by: Emily Blincoe

1:1 - Dot Dannenberg

Posted on: August 7, 2014

interviewed by Natasha Akery
Over the next few weeks, 1:1000 will take you behind the scenes with our core writing and editorial team. We'll show you more about what makes these writers tick (or maybe twitch). 

This week we’re interviewing Dot Dannenberg, an English professor with a knack for snark and shade. But don’t let her sharp tongue fool you; she’s sweet as a Georgia peach when she’s had enough shut eye. Let’s meet the writer between such stories as “Product Placement,” “The Good Stuff,” and “One Lucky Bastard.”

1:1000: Your education and work experience reveal a long and committed relationship with words. When did this love affair begin?

DOT DANNENBERG: When I was five, I had a wonderful kindergarten teacher who emphasized a lot of creative writing and sharing--we wrote and illustrated our own stories, then read them aloud in the "Author Chair." That year, one of my stories (about a cowboy who loses his cows) won a county-wide contest. At that point, most kids graduated to video games and sports, but for me, the whole writing thing got more and more out of hand. I got really pushy with my teachers, making them use their bookbinding equipment on all my "novels" (featuring, usually, giraffes in space). By high school, I was monopolizing all my AP Lit teacher's time making her listen to my horrible, vague, Sylvia-Plath-esque poetry during her planning period. I also grew up in what my friend Katie likes to call a "learning family"--my parents always encouraged me to read whatever I wanted. The only rule was "no books at the dinner table." The rest is history.

1:1000: You’ve said more or less in the past that you don’t really consider yourself a writer. So, what compels you to write? 

DD: Oh, I very much DO consider myself a writer! For the longest time, I thought in order to be a writer you had to have a laundry list of publications and do the whole submissions hustle non-stop. I used to beat myself up about not getting up at 5 AM to write and not always obsessing about my characters, like some of my writer friends do. But then I realized a writer is simply a person who writes. And I am a person who writes. I will admit, though, that I am a very deadline-oriented writer. I can get a massive amount done in a very condensed amount of time, but there has to be an end goal in mind.

1:1000: You were a poet first, correct? 

DD: True. Sorry, poetry. I am a giant traitor. I started writing poetry in high school and studied poetry all the way through college. Afterwards, I got my MFA in poetry from Pacific University. I was actually terrified when I was asked to join the 1:1000 team, because I had never written what I considered a successful short story. But I found that flash fiction actually has a lot in common with poetry, structurally. You have a limited amount of space to work with, and you have to use that space as a window into an entire world. Also, poetry and flash fiction both depend upon image. The image takes the place of the backstory, the exposition, and all the blah-blah-blah. I also think poetry and flash fiction have to do the same work in their endings. W.B. Yeats said a poem should "click shut" like a box--I think the best flash fiction also does that. It has to feel complete, despite its length. I can't see the future, so I don't know if I'll ever go back to writing poems. I think, as a writer, I tend to get bored pretty easily. Once I finish a piece, I'm over it and on to the next thing. So right now, fiction is what excites me.

1:1000: In your stories such as “Brothers,” “Be Great” and “Los Niños,” you present cultural perspectives that are almost certainly from direct experience. How do these ideas occur to you? 

DD: A lot of my inspiration comes from my students. I teach English at a career college, and most of my students are from different cultural backgrounds than my own. Through getting to know them and reading their writing, they tell me the most heartbreaking stories about their lives. I don't lift their experiences directly for my own writing--that seems wrong to me, as they have their own voices and the right to tell their own stories. But teaching has taught me how to see the world through their perspectives, and once I'm in that world, it doesn't take long for my own characters to begin to speak. I do have a student who got pregnant in Nicaragua when she was sent there as punishment, just like the protagonist in "Los Niños." But in real life, the girl didn't have an abortion. Her son is in elementary school now, and she's back in the states for good. The inciting image behind "Be Great" actually came from a Facebook post I saw--someone talking about eating food their late grandmother had frozen the season before. For that protagonist, Z, I had one of my students in mind--just his attitude, more than anything, but it's not his story.

1:1000: In addition to multicultural perspectives, you also dabble in evangelical Christian environments with stories like “In the Darkness,” but the events that take place are a little hard to believe to the unfamiliar reader. What’s your motivation with these particular stories? 

DD: I think you've nailed it, actually--I want readers to see that these mindsets and events really do exist out there. I grew up, off and on, in the evangelical church, and it took until I went to college to realize that some of the things I experienced weren't the norm, even for people who grew up Christian. I'm especially fascinated by the way "youth" church was done in the late 90s and early 2000s--the purity culture, street evangelism, the attempt to stamp out secular influence. Many people I meet as an adult are so surprised by my church camp stories--white boys in blackface (really), people throwing their entire CD collections in the lake, pudding wrestling. (True! All of it!) So, in part, I think I write these stories to surprise and delight unfamiliar readers and strike a nerve of nostalgia in people who do remember this crazy stuff. But there's also a layer of complexity that looms anytime you write about religion. I don't really reflect on my time in the church from a place of bitterness, but for a lot of people, there is that baggage. And I like that you can't write about religion, even in criticism, without acknowledging that it still hits on elements of truth--the quest for connection, what happens when we die, how should we approach shame and guilt.

1:1000: So, can we talk about your dog? 

DD: CAN we. My dog's name is Moses. He weighs 95 lbs (he's half Great Pyrenees). He has his own Instagram feed (@thechosendog). Right now, he's lying on my living room rug snoring. Someone once referred to him as my "child," and I realized that actually, he's more like the house grandpa. He doesn't have a job. He sleeps all day. He barks when strangers walk by the property ("get off my lawn!"). He really only wants to eat cookies. Periodically, he complains about going up and down stairs. He is one of the great joys of my life.

1:1000: When you’re not fielding submissions, editing stories, and writing your own for One for One Thousand, what can you be found doing? 

DD: Grading papers. A lot of my life gets eaten up by teaching. I had a professor in college who worried over me becoming a teacher, telling me that teaching eats up all the time for writing. And in part, that's true. But it also fuels the writing. It's a delicate compromise. I like to remind myself that I have the same amount of hours in my day as Beyonce does. I also spend a lot of time listening to audiobooks on the metro and discovering new restaurants with my husband (who would like me to ask readers for support as he embarks on a 30-day frozen yogurt cleanse). And I go shopping a lot. Oops.

1:1000: These days, it seems like “highly sensitive person” is the new “introvert.” As an HSP, do you see that play into your writing style or habits? 

DD: In some ways, it's a natural fit. HSP, for readers who are unfamiliar, in general means I'm very stimulus reactive. Not just emotionally, but also anything sense-related--noises, smells, visuals, whatever. I in part credit my HSP tendencies for making me hyper-aware--I can catch all the small details of the world, then drop them like little jewels into my stories. I also think it's an HSP thing to not play well with others and have a general disregard for the man. As writing is a pretty solitary pursuit (and one that should turn a questioning eye on society), this works out well. The only time I'd say the HSP tendencies don't jive with the writer life is that I really can't get my best work done in coffee shops. THE COFFEE SMELL. THE BAD SATELLITE RADIO PLAYLISTS. OH GOD, MAKE IT STOP. I also get really growly when people try to read over my shoulder when my work is still in draft mode. GO AWAYYYYY.

1:1000: Do you have a muse? 

DD: I think right now I have several. 1. Sleep. If I get enough sleep, I am a manic robot who can do EVERYTHING. And that's inspiring. 2. My student, Tiffany, who shakes my world up every day with her one-liners (The latest: "You know there's a season for people to get pregnant? Everybody has their season. Mine's winter, so this year I know I gotta zip my coat allllll the way up."). 3. Moody movies (especially French art house crap or Noah Baumbach-type films). It’s the triumvirate: energy, reality, cerebral fantasy.

1:1000: What words of advice do you have for your eight-year-old self? 

DD: Stop eating bread right now, and you'll save yourself from 20 years of misery as a fat person. Oh, and also, keep writing! Kickball is totally overrated.

Bring Your Swimsuit

Posted on: August 5, 2014

Maggie wondered what it would be like to be a normal person—one whose mind didn’t whir like an out-of-date hard drive, spinning, unable to keep up with the new expectations of the world.

She stared at Audrey Atkins in her pink bikini, its strings hugging the taut, tan surfaces of her neck and hip bones, and figured Audrey’s mind was as blank and free as an empty beach. Audrey probably woke up this morning--hungover, but not feeling guilty about it--wriggled into that bikini, and set off for the pool party. Nothing more.

Maggie’s day started at four a.m., when she woke from a nightmare about the party. In the dream, she’d forgotten her bathing suit and was completely nude. Everyone was staring, and there wasn’t a towel in sight. When she tried to cover herself, her hands shrank and her body kept growing larger until she woke, gasping in her twin bed.

She didn’t want to go to this party, but she’d promised her aunt she would give college life a better try. The sorority thing was not going to happen, but the honors welcome party had seemed innocent enough. Then Dr. Burman--who was supposed to host a cookout in his backyard--had to cancel, and Dr. Morgenthal volunteered to host. “BRING YOUR SWIMSUIT!” the new Facebook message said.

If cellar door was the most beautiful phrase in the English language, Maggie thought BRING YOUR SWIMSUIT had to be the ugliest. She owned one swimsuit, which was more of a swim dress. It was black and ruched “in all the right places,” her aunt had declared as Maggie emerged from the Macy’s dressing room.

“I’m leaving the tags on,” Maggie said, tugging the lycra skirt so it covered her ass.

“You won’t. You’ll need this—didn’t you see that pool behind the boys’ dorms when we did the campus tour?”

Maggie had seen that pool, and she had to admit, if there was one perk of the honors welcome party, it was that Dr. Morgenthal’s pool was not visible from every window of the boys’ dorm--girls splayed out on the deck below like meat.

Audrey Atkins was playing chicken, wielding a foam noodle as a sword to thwack another classmate. Her legs clenched around the shoulders and neck of a guy Maggie recognized from Dr. Peterson’s Calculus class. Calculus guy looked perfectly comfortable being separated from Audrey Atkins’s crotch by only the smallest triangle of fabric.

Maggie turned away. “Chips?” Dr. Morgenthal offered. Maggie shook her head. “Let me at least take your bag.”

“It’s okay. I might—change in a minute.”

“Good! The water’s great,” Dr. Morgenthal said, “and it’s too hot for jeans today.” She eyed Maggie’s outfit—frayed blue jeans, a black t-shirt, and a cardigan.

Maggie’s hard-drive brain whirred again, reciting all the rules she knew to be true:

When you are a girl who weighs 250 pounds, observe the following:
Do not eat in public, except for tiny bites when no one is looking.
No swimsuits, no shorts, no tank tops.
No dresses if you’re going to be walking, or your legs will chafe.
Extra deodorant.
You are invisible, yet people’s eyes are roaming your every roll and dimple.

Maggie planted herself in the shadiest deck chair by the food table. She watched a fly circle the ranch dip, then land in it. In the pool, the game of chicken had broken up in favor of a cannonball contest. Audrey Atkins bounced on the diving board, drew her knees under her chin, and hit the water with a pebble-sized splash.

“Boooo,” Calculus boy hollered when she surfaced. “I give it a four!”

“Hey!” she said, kicking a wave of water toward him. “Like you can do better!”

“Magnolia Clark!” a voice boomed. It was Dr. Peterson, her Calc professor.

“Maggie,” Maggie mumbled.

“So how’s freshman year treating you so far?”

Dr. Peterson was graying and wore crooked glasses. He also wore a Life is Good t-shirt and Hawaiian floral swim trunks.

“Fine,” Maggie cringed. “Are we still having a quiz on Monday?”

“Please, no school talk now! Did you bring your bathing suit?”

Jesus, will it ever let up?

“You know what?” she said, “I think I’ll go change now. Be right back.”

Dr. Morgenthal’s bathroom was pale yellow, and everything in it was plushy. The bath mat, in the shape of a rose, was softer than new carpet, and the toilet paper was the quilted kind Maggie’s aunt always said was a waste of money.

Maggie stripped off her clothes and stood naked in front of the bathroom mirror. Her mind whirred through all the usual insults—the names of animals she’d been called in the past, the clinical terms her doctor had used, concern knitting his brow. The words she knew weren’t healthy—words like disgusting and worthless. Constant, looping words. She shimmied into the bathing suit and snapped the straps over her arms. Ham arms, her mind spun.

Now comes the next phase—sitting ensconced in a towel, repeating “I’m letting my food settle,” through the next ten conversations to avoid unwrapping.

But before she could reach for her beach towel, the door to the bathroom swung open. A lithe body scurried inside, slammed the door, and locked it.

“Excuse me?” Maggie said.

“Thank God it’s you,” Audrey Atkins said.

“I’m in here?”

“Sorry. I had to—holy shit, I can’t even believe it. Maggie, he is such a pig!” Audrey’s face screwed up into a knot, her eyes swimming.

“You know my name?”

“Um, yeah? From orientation group? Everybody else was like, really lame? But shit, even the professors want to talk to you.”


“He is such a pig,” Audrey repeated, sinking down onto the rose bath mat. “I never should have worn this.”

“Wow, no—I don’t know what happened, but if that guy did something to you, a swimsuit is not an excuse.”

“Do you know this is actually my first time ever wearing a bikini? God, I am such an idiot.”

Audrey stole Maggie’s towel from the floor and wound herself up in it like an exotic cocoon.

“The string,” she sniffed, “slipped when I dove off the board. And Nick—he said my boobs looked like—" she gulped.

“You don’t have to say it,” Maggie said.

“Will you—come sit with me outside? I can’t leave. My roommate gave me a ride, and she’s being a bitch right now. She actually laughed when my top slipped.”

“Some friend.”

“Hey, the tag’s still on your suit,” Audrey said, and before Maggie could stop her, she stood and snapped the plastic loop with her teeth. Maggie cringed, anticipating the judgment when Audrey saw the size. But Audrey just tossed it in the trashcan.

“Okay,” she said. “You look great, but are my eyes super puffy?”

As she looked at Audrey, her barely-red eyes, her wet hair piled on top of her head, the pink bikini string peeking from behind the bulk of the beach towel, Maggie let her mind stop whirring.

“You’re good,” Maggie said. She opened the door and followed Audrey back to the pool.

Written by: Dot Dannenberg
Photograph by: Matt Crump

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