Rich Keller, assistant director of Northern Colorado Writers (NCW), fills some big pants as a champion of local authors in Fort Collins. But not only are the pants big, they also are wooden. I’m referring to Wooden Pants Publishing, which he founded to bring more laughter into the world. A lot of publishing companies won’t publish humor because they say that everyone’s humor is different, but Keller’s company claims to bring the bwah-ha-ha back to books by dealing with all strands of humor. He said, “The world needs more laughter. It’s tough sometimes to live here and people need a little laughter to do it. There’s enough darkness out there.”
As assistant director of NCW, Keller serves as an idea curator and social media manager. Throughout the day, my Facebook news feed is filled with thoughts, updates, information, and inspiration about writing and local authors who are members of NCW. All of that is coming from Keller. Since I have set up notifications for writing related groups on Facebook, my phone is constantly pinging to tell me what the people of NCW have been up to lately. You can find the NCW Facebook page here.
The thing I was most impressed about Keller during our interview was his relentless quest to get local authors noticed. He believes that’s the biggest challenge that writers have. There are so many writers out there and often times their books just collect spider webs in the back corner of a bookstore or don’t even make it that far. Keller’s doing his part to ensure that never happens. He hosts a radio show every first and third Tuesday from 3 to 6 p.m. on KRFC on 88.9 FM in Fort Collins. KRFC is Fort Collins Public Radio broadcasting music, news, and entertainment. In his show, he plays music but also, about 4:30 p.m., profiles local authors and has the authors read about ten minutes of their work. He said,
“My goal is to get a program on maybe once a month on KRFC where we have four or five authors read their stuff. There are so many authors in Fort Collins and northern Colorado, and they all need a profile. They need a place where people can listen to their stuff rather than a quarterly reading or something. They need to be heard on a regular basis.”
Keller also hosts the NCW podcast, where audio is posted once to twice a month and features interviews and information on a variety of writing topics. These can include upcoming NCW classes, conferences, tools, publishing, legacy markets, self-publishing, marketing, and entrepreneurship. And eventually Wooden Pants Publishing will have a podcast.
The surprising part of all of Keller’s activities mentioned above are that those are just his side activities. His “real” job is in IT at a company located on the east coast where he works remotely, mostly from an unnamed coffee shop where overheard conversations inspired his book Coffee Cup Tales and its sequel Coffee Cup Tales 2: Extra Foam. His other published books include: Paradise Not Quite Lost: A Saunders’ Savages Adventure, Dining with Zombies, Santa is a Stalker! And Other Modern Holiday Stories, and a book co-written with Missy Grynkiewicz Thinking inside My Box: Things Not to Ask Parents about Parenting.
Whew. I’m not finished yet. Keller also is married and is a father to five children. Being a husband and father is a full-time job in itself.
So where does Keller get all of his energy and motivation? Listen to what he has to say:
“I enjoy doing those things. I figure we’re going to die at some point in our lives. So I want to do it now because I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t want to be that person who says when I retire I want to do this because the day I retire, that’s the day I’ll get hit by the car. I want to enjoy the time now that I have, and not only with my family, but to do these things. You have to enjoy your life. I have to move forward, or I will never feel fulfilled.”
Since this is a blog about literary Fort Collins, let’s talk about Keller’s writing. Keller began writing professionally at the age of 16. He worked at a local newspaper in northern New Jersey where he covered things like board of education and council meetings and wrote feature articles about people he knew. He graduated with a B.A. in journalism from Rutgers University. After that point in his life, his father suggested he get a real job, so he did. He didn’t start writing full-time until the mid-nineties when he held a series of jobs writing for different companies, including Citigroup, AOL TV, and CliqueClack TV. He also was a comedian, performing at the Delaware Comedy Theatre and the Philly Improv Theater. When he moved to Colorado in 2010, he became involved with NCW. He has written for Rocky Mountain Parent, the Coloradoan, Fort Collins Magazine, Bella Spark Magazine, NCW’s the Writing Bug blog, and Wooden Pants blog. Since 16, he has written over 2000 articles on various topics.
Keller’s writing process is similar to a lot of the other authors I’ve interviewed in Fort Collins. He calls himself a pantser, which is someone who writes by the seat of their pants. His long hours spent at the coffee shop inspire his writing as he hears good story ideas throughout the day. He’ll write the idea down and then come back to it. He says he usually knows where he’s going with a story, so outlining is out of the question. Sometimes he knows the beginning and ending of the story and just has to fill in the middle. Other times he just writes to see what will happen. Things come to mind as he’s writing and he’s able to bring those ideas into his story.
Keller writes throughout the day; he doesn’t have a set schedule like other writers do. With five kids and a full-time job, he can’t get up at four in the morning to type out 3,000 words. He also says he needs to be in a place free of distractions, like a coffee shop, with his schedule clear. He needs to be out observing people. He said,
“Writers need to be outside. They can’t be inside their office looking at the walls, thinking ‘what am I going to write now’ especially when you’re doing stuff that’s happening in the real world. You want to be out in the real world and see what’s going on and put it all together. You want to be seeing what people are seeing, what they’re actually talking about, what their mannerisms are, what they’re saying in order to get an idea so you can start creating.”
Keller told me he loves to write and that he’s never had writer’s block. He treats writing as a type of therapy that releases a natural serotonin. Here are his books coming out in the next six months:
- Coffee Cup Tales 2: Extra Foam
- Her Father’s Wooden Leg, an online weekly or biweekly serial vampire action mystery co-written with another author
- The sequel to Paradise Not Quite Lost
- A short story anthology called Wooden Short Stories
- The Book about Squat, which is a combination of Keller’s personal essays, blog postings, and short stories.
I know you are curious as to why Keller chose the name Wooden Pants Publishing. Be curious no more. I asked for you. You’re welcome. Two books coming out in the next year inspired the name. One is Her Father’s Wooden Leg and another is I’m Not Wearing Any Pants. Put together, it becomes Wooden Pants. Keller said, “It [The name Wooden Pants] seems to resonate with everyone.”
Keller enjoys the literary atmosphere of Fort Collins. He said,
“It’s the environment, the fresh air… when you get a nice sunny day, and the trees are green and when we have seventy degree days, that brings on creativity that stokes the fire because people get outside, they can feel warmth, sunlight on their faces and that stimulates the brain and that allows them to breathe. There’s a lot of places to connect here. There are so many good groups of good writers out here and not just critique groups through NCW. You can tell by going to a conference how many writers are out there, and if you see all these authors and how successful they are, that allows you to think ‘maybe I can do it.’ And you could work toward that, toward living your dream.”
The productive author has some words of advice for fellow or wannabe writers out there. He said,
“If you want to write the great American novel, write the great American novel. Just don’t say you’re going to write the great American novel because it’s never going to happen. Get off the couch because it’s your worst enemy. Turn off the TV, go down to your typewriter or keyboard and start writing because you’re not going to learn the skill unless you practice it. And once you practice it and get good at it, you’ll be amazed at what you see. Trust me. That’s it. That’s how it happened to me. I kept saying it and eventually I did it and that’s where I am now, spending hundreds of dollars eating food here while I write.”