Dani Hedlund published her first fantasy/sci-fi novel, Threads of Deception, when she was only 18. Don’t let her early success fool you, though. Dozens of editors, agents, and publishers never responded to the Elbert native’s submissions. “There were so many times that I sat in a dark room, staring at my computer screen, thinking, ‘Maybe I should become an accountant to make my mom happy,’ ” Hedlund says. So in 2007, two years after Threads hit Barnes & Noble’s shelves, Hedlund started Tethered by Letters, a Denver nonprofit that mentors writers by holding free workshops and showcasing their work in its literary journal, F(r)iction. Support the organization’s efforts by attending its April 7 gala ($150) at Baldoria on the Water in Lakewood. You could say no, but haven’t these writers suffered enough rejection? 

Online Exclusive: Q&A with Dani Hedlund

5280: What kind of initiatives do you run?
Dani Hedlund: A huge part of what our company does is help writers get agents. You would think most of the people we’d be helping would be people who went to school for English, but more than 80 percent of them are doctors, entrepreneurs, lawyers—intellectually complex people who say, “I never lost my love of literature. Can you help me?’

The largest program we’re running is going into Denver Women’s Correctional Facility and teaching a seven-week graphic novel curriculum. It’s small class of about 12 women. We’re distilling the turning point in their lives down and transforming it into a script with a storyboard. A lot of the women have never set out to accomplish something, and now they have skills that’ll help them during rehabilitation.

What niche do you think Tethered by Letters and F(r)iction fill?
DH: A lot of literary journals only publish traditional poetry. The things that got us into the industry were Neil Gaiman and Batman comics and Tolkien. People were really negative when we started—the audacity to publish a serious sci-fi story. But we’re getting young people reading, people who have never read poetry reading poetry. We get submissions from all over the country and have small bases in Edinburgh and Singapore as well. The goal is finding great voices that don’t have a traditional publishing industry to go to.

Do you feel a strong tie to Colorado?
DH: Denver has really opened up to us and loved us. Publishing is concentrated on the coasts—New York and Seattle. That means there are amazing voices here in Middle America that have no outlet. We’re trying to be this beacon between the coasts; we want to make sure we rise Denver up. Most of our staff is here; I’m from here originally. I grew up in Elder, Colorado—Denver was scary because it had paved roads and multi-lane highways. Denver over the last five to 10 years has seen so much population growth, but it’s also seen an emergence of art culture. As a city, we’re ready to get involved with literature and storytelling.