Dani Hedlund talks The Literary Tarot from The Brink Literacy Project!

Today Melissa got to sit down and chat with CEO and Founder of Brink Literacy Project, Dani Hedlund. They chatted all about their new Kickstarter, The Literary Tarot, their imprint, Friction, and more! Check it out!

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Interview scheduled by Jeffery Haas

Theme music by Ardus

Dani Hedlund


[00:00:00] Melissa Sercia: This is spoiler country and I’m Melissa surgeo today on the show. I’m excited to chat with founder and CEO of the brink, literary project editor and chief and art director for friction and creator of the literary taro, Ms. Danny Headland. Welcome

Dani Hedlund: to the show. Well, thanks so much for having me.

Thanks for being here. How are you today? Oh, I’m I’m lovely. I mean, we’re in the middle of a Kickstarter, so I’m very tired, but I’m definitely up, right?

Melissa Sercia: Yeah. I bet. Yeah. It’s stressful. Launching a new project. Yeah, you’re probably not sleeping

Dani Hedlund: much. Right. Well, it’s certainly far better than the day before launch, where I kind of impulsively decided at one in the morning that I should learn how to make a video.

So that took up like, you know, five hours of sleep time where I was just Googling, like, how do I move a graphic in Adobe? Oh my God. Yeah.

Melissa Sercia: I’m so bad at graphics. I, it takes me forever to don’t feel bad. It takes me like three hours to make one graphic, three different apps, you know? [00:01:00] So, so D tell me a little bit about yourself, your background.

How long have you been in the publishing industry?

Dani Hedlund: Oh, goodness. Honestly, since I was a wee one I started this nonprofit when I was 19. So I’ve been running it my whole adult life.

Melissa Sercia: Wow. That’s awesome. And tell me about the project. You know, what inspired you to create it and, and what what is this, what is it about?

What does it

Dani Hedlund: entail? Yeah, of course. So the literary taro is in a lot of ways. Exactly what it sounds like. It is a taro deck that merges the secrets of the literary Canon with each card, but the premise was. Some of the best living storytellers alive to come in and then choose a classic that they loved, whether or not it was a book or a poem, a short story or a play.

And then we would help them pair it with a taro card that exemplified those same themes. And then we bring in a bad-ass team of artists and bring the whole thing to life. But we didn’t anticipate the sheer level of [00:02:00] amazingness that ended up coming on board. I thought we’d get a couple of best-sellers and then kind of fill it out with a bunch of writers who are rising up at the industry.

But instead it’s pretty much 78 of my favorite writers alive. So it really escalated very quickly.

Melissa Sercia: That’s amazing. Yeah. I was looking at the, the roster if you will. And I was so just blown away by how many fantastic authors you were able to collect, you know, to, to add their, their their talent and their expertise, you know, particularly Margaret Atwood for one, I mean, what was that like when you found out she was going to sign on for the project?

Dani Hedlund: It was, I was at a breakfast place with my partner and I remember getting the email and it was definitely one of those junctures in the conversation, or I should have been paying attention, but instead I just like wind completely silent. And then just started this like 14 year old girl is Yelp kind of like what I would have done at an insane concert if they had like flown over me and sprayed me with water out of their silly little [00:03:00] squirt guns.

Yeah, everyone stared. And then I tried to explain, and that just made it worse. Wow.

Melissa Sercia: That’s amazing. Yeah. I mean, just so much talent. How many authors total is it? It’s 78, 78. Wow. And you know, they were so did they, they came up with their own ideas, essentially. Right. They came up with their own little story and then you did the panel.

Dani Hedlund: So people came kind of one of two ways. Most of the authors weren’t familiar with taro. So we started with their classic. So, take someone like Lev Grossman, for example, who of course wrote the magicians trilogy. She was really interested in the king Arthur mint. Like he’s writing a book about it right now.

So when he came in and he was like, daddy, this is what I really like. And so I sat him down and I was like, him, talk to me about what you like about. This famous book and we really distilled down those themes. So instead of him kind of going for the typical, like king Arthur is a big manly man, and he does matter.

Imagine things. He was like, [00:04:00] I’m really moved by the fact that they fight for this concept of Camelot in, even though inevitably it’s all going to fall apart. So he then sat down with my witchy taro group and we were like, okay, out of the 78. Which one is about like building for an ideal, but inevitable failure.

And so we matched it with the world card. So a lot of people kind of went from that angle, but then there were people like Margaret Atwood, Kelly, Sue DeConnick, who knew a lot about taro. So they instead started with a card, they chose something and then they were like, okay, let me look through all of the literature.

Right. And what exemplifies the kind of upright and reverse definitions of this card in the literary character. And we were just kind of there as, I mean, editors, cause that’s what we do intermediaries to sit down with the classic and sit down with a card and make sure we were bringing them together correctly.

Melissa Sercia: Wow. That’s so interesting. And it sounds like it was so much fun. Just getting to sit down and actually pairing them all together.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah. It felt a lot. [00:05:00] It feels a lot, like kind of buying a front row ticket into a way that the people I respect most in the world think like everyone just wears. I mean, they were opening up about, Hey, this is the first time I read Tom Sawyer and here’s the kind of feelings it gives me about my mother.

I was like, all right, let’s dig into that

Melissa Sercia: soul searching.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah, it was a lot of soul searching and there was also. Like I remember soliciting paired the hanged man, and she paired it with some Ts Elliot, and she really broke down like, Hey, this is what you probably read this poem as that’s the typical, like high school English teacher comes in.

But like, here’s what I’ve been mulling over for the last decade. And I was just, it was so fascinating. Wow.

Melissa Sercia: That’s so amazing. Yeah, I’m just wondering like the major Arcana, right? Those are ones you’ve stuck with as far as like the fool and the hanged man, as you were saying. What about the minor Arcana?

Is that, did you are [00:06:00] using like swords and Pentacles or did you come up with your own variations?

Dani Hedlund: So we actually renamed all the minors for people that are new to taro they’re their five suits. So the major are candidates for minor cameras and they all kind of speak to one part of the human experience.

So for example Pentacles are more dealing with the material world, like money and finance and security. And then you have something like cups, which is lot like about imagination and inner life. And so we really wanted to CAEP every level of the campaign in some kind of literary function, which is one of the reasons that the cards come in like this cute little like leather bound book, but we were like, well, let’s do go all the way into content.

So we sat down and we were like, we want to make it literary. So we chose like four literary things. Quill light, which is like inspiration and parchment. And then we distributed them to the suits that made really good sense to embody those sort of themes. And let me tell you, we thought [00:07:00] about it for at least two months, all these taro consultants I brought in my D and D group, which clearly are the most opinionated people I know, but yeah, we ended up changing it after one of the cards was even made because we were like, no, no, no, we’ve done this wrong.

Like, let’s go back to.

Melissa Sercia: So, what did you end up deciding

Dani Hedlund: for each? Yeah, so ones are ink and then cups are light. Pentacles are parchment. That one really, really made sense. We never changed that one. Right. And then Quill and sword and the sword and the wands were the one that we just. Like alternating on, but I think, I think we got it right.

Mostly because everyone was like swords just to be pokey. And I was like, well, that’s not as elegant as the things we were thinking of, but I guess sword should be pokey. Right?

Melissa Sercia: Yeah. And the quote would make sense then. Well, what kinds of tears do you have for your fabulous Kickstarter campaign and and what [00:08:00] kind of stretch goals have you reached?


Dani Hedlund: there’s some really exciting stuff brewing. So, there’s the basic sort of lowest tier physical fiasco you can pull off is just getting a deck. But it’s a beautiful deck. It’s foiled on both sides. It comes with this. I mean, probably my favorite part of the project is this miniature little guidebook where each of the authors will tell you what their card means, but they do it in the voice of the classic they’ve tried.

So you’re going to see something like Margaret out. Yeah. Who would, who paired Jane air with the queen of light, you know, having a 19th century Jane Eyre boys, when she’s telling you like, be, be very protective, but watch out for the dark side of that. So that’s really fun. It’s a little, a hundred page pamphlet that goes inside.

Totally rad like pho box with a magnetic hook that my printer almost killed me over, but the magnet was really important to me. And then you can kind of go up and get some additional stuff. So one of the things that our nonprofit does when we’re not putting out like super random [00:09:00] Teradeks is we publish one of the fastest growing literary journals in the world, and it’s called friction.

It’s beautiful. It’s full of stories and art. There’s a custom comic and every single issue. And so we actually curated and issue just about the Arcana. So you can get that in addition. So it’s like, Ooh, I got a tarot deck, but also I have pretty much the best stories that have ever been written about taro.

And then we have some really cool stretch goals that we are unlocking. I’m not allowed to talk about all of them. I can tell you that we will have something that makes the lover card a wee bit more scandalous. We’re going to have a. Hopefully a much larger sort of look into how each of the cards were made just in case you’re super geeky and really care.

And then of course we have all the normal swag that all of the young people tell me we need.

Melissa Sercia: Nice. And for those who aren’t, you know, maybe familiar with Kickstarter for your stretch goals now with the tiers, you know, people pick a tier essentially, and [00:10:00] they range in price, depending on how much you are getting in that particular tier.

Now with the stretch goals, is that something where everyone that backs receives or do they have to be at a minimum tier?

Dani Hedlund: So there’s going to be most, mostly it’s going to be, everybody gets everything. And a lot of that is because a lot of our tiers are set up just to make the thing you already bought better.

So you’ve got a deck. That’s cool. But what if I made both sides shiny? I covered it with the best, like most protective, durable spray known to man. I foil. The entire box I put in a bigger bag net, that sort of stuff. But then there’ll be like, sort of little things like right now we’re running a quiz on a quiz.

That’s not the right word, a poll, which postcards we’re going to give everyone. We have a whole bunch of little swag like that. I assume something really big. Like this is the largest book known to man in which you will hear everything there is to know about pairings. That would probably be an add on or a higher.

But mostly I’m one of the [00:11:00] Kickstarter backers that wants to be like, okay, I’ve invested in one thing and I just want that thing to get better over the next month. So a lot of it is geared towards thank you for coming in. Let us just make this thing shinier.

Melissa Sercia: Yeah, no, that’s really cool. Cause I was looking at it and you know, for the physics.

Product based here for the physical level is there’s only $50 really. That’s, you know, that’s such a great I think value especially for everything you’re getting from all these fabulous authors and then the art itself is absolutely gorgeous. I mean, how did you go about finding all of these artists to contribute?

Dani Hedlund: Well, I’m, I’m really lucky. As the director friction, I’ve had the pleasure of working with some of the best artists that I’ve ever, ever got the opportunity to meet. So we always, we have like a roster of artists that do all the editorial work and friction, and then we bring on a couple of new ones every time, just so we’re making sure we’re launching careers and spreading around finances and all that.

Good. So when we went into the terror project, I already knew three of my artists I really wanted to bring [00:12:00] on cause their styles really compliment each other. And that’s Sam, she does the major Arcana edge and Brett Nate splendidly. Wonderful. But that was like my three core artists that have similar styles.

And I was like, okay, I need to bring two more on. And so we brought two new artists on one of them was a recommendation from another friend that has now successfully run. The single most successful taro campaign on Kickstarter called the alley. Man, it ran in April and seven runs that and seven is just a damn deal.

And so I was like seven, I need another artist. And they were like, oh, I have this one. I really liked. So shamed Shan came onto the project and Chan does the light suit. And then I needed one more. And I randomly just found this gift of miss Frizzle on one of my artists pages. That was amazing. And I reached out to the.

Onboarded her absolutely love her and then discovered this is her first professional gig ever. So like she turned in mark Bowler’s card to me today and it’s absolutely [00:13:00] incredible. She is just knocking the socks off of all the biggest comic writers out there. And she’s like,

Melissa Sercia: wow, that’s amazing. So inspiring.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah, I’m really, really lucky. And we just opened up like a cute slack channel for them to talk to each other, but all they do is just like compliment each other socks off. And it just fills me with so much

Melissa Sercia: warms. It’s good to, to work with not just talented people, but people that are good on the inside as well.

You know, they have good hearts and care about the project they’re working. Yeah, we’re

Dani Hedlund: really lucky. One of the artists that’s the team edge has, is really good. She’s been with us for several years, but she’s done the cover of imagine effect she’s that D and D issues, that magic cards, like she really has her shit together.

And I know that she makes so much more money on other commissions than us, but she just loves the nonprofit. It’s really, really heartwarming. And I really hope there’s bonuses for the artists for each of the kind of stretch goals. So I just, I live for hoping that I can just [00:14:00] make those people more money.

Melissa Sercia: Yeah, absolutely. And for as far as the back of the cards go whose design was, was it.

Dani Hedlund: So that was Sam, Sam DOE. She has been with me for years and years. I readily found a comic of hers a couple of years ago that I loved, and I was like, I need this. And friction com come on over to the dark side, but poor Sam and I actually built the entire sort of aesthetic for the comic together in January and February.

So we haven’t been cooking it that long. And oh, I made that poor girl do like at least 30 versions of the back of that day. We did the Alice card, the first one for weeks, just trying to figure out the right color and the right design that we could replicate for that many. So that lovely human is such a trooper.

And I’m so lucky that she just didn’t murder me being like, this is great. Can you redo it entirely?

Melissa Sercia: Oh my goodness. Well, it looks fabulous and I think, yeah, it’s really, it [00:15:00] must be really challenging to, like you said, come up with a design. That’s going to go cohesive. Yeah. With every single other image.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah. The color palette for a super technical thing. I really thought Sam on it’s got like, it’s I thought it was a really sort of feminine pallet and I was really worried that it worked great for Alice in Wonderland, but we’re going to be really spiritual, like Dulce, I ask you. But yeah, no, they’ve turned into some horror comics to be with the same pilot and it just looks creepy and I’m so glad that I’m.

I ended up caving and listening to my artists because they were smarter than me because I really liked the look of it.

Melissa Sercia: Yeah. Now do the, the proceeds do part of them or all of them go back into the

Dani Hedlund: nonprofit. Yeah, absolutely. All of them everyone, but the artists are volunteer, including that huge roster of super famous people.

And the entire idea is. We used to have really sort of normal fundraising things for the non-profit. We used to have galas and in-person events, and that’s what supported most of our outreach and [00:16:00] our education work, but then COVID happened. So we were really like, oh goodness, like, how are we going to survive this?

And so we kind of had this mad idea to do this instead of, you know, getting a bunch of people into evening gowns and convincing them, they care about prison. Right. And this has been significantly more pleasant, but yeah, we’re going to pour all of the money from the sale of the decks directly into the charity.


Melissa Sercia: great. Now tell me more about the brink lit project for those who aren’t familiar. What kinds of things does your project do? Yeah,

Dani Hedlund: of course. So, Frank is a storytelling nonprofit, and we believe at the core of everything we do that stories have the ability to change. So we kind of tackle that in two ways.

The first way is the really obvious, like people out there with low literacy and low access to education, we need to do something about that. So we run programs in low-income high schools and homeless shelters and max security prisons, which is probably my favorite part. And just try to bring stories to those [00:17:00] people that really need them.

And then the other side of it is still making sure the great stories are being written and not just by like a whole bunch of white guys in New York, but by a huge, vast array of different experiences. So we run writer incubators, we run this really great little comic incubator. We go into communities that wouldn’t usually be able to elevate those voices through partnerships.

So we work with women in Afghanistan a whole bunch of really, really cool communities that are using storytelling as a way to cope with their own lives. And then we take those great stories and we put them in our publishing units so I can of course get them out into the world. But also I take those exact same books back into the classroom.

Because if you’re going to go teach in a max security prison and I’m going to throw a dead white guy down on them in the form of, you know, war and peace, I’m not going to be able to engage those students. I need to show them faces like theirs. So we do a lot of really cool stuff merging those two things.

Melissa Sercia: Wow. That’s amazing. That’s such a cool thing. [00:18:00] And I don’t think we hear enough about it. Yeah.

Dani Hedlund: Well, it is kind of an insane thing to do. Like God love my parents, but they’re still like unable to explain what I do for a living. People ask them to parties. Like I, my daughter, she, she spent a lot of time in prison and people pay her to make stuff up and I’m like, Yeah, it’s kind of light,

Melissa Sercia: right?

Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s similar. That’s one interpretation, right? Well, and you know what, first inspired you because you are the founder. What, what inspired you to, to start this, to begin with? Was there a certain incident in your life or someone you knew.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah, I, I grew up in a Heidi little farm town here in Colorado.

And for anyone else who’s grown up in like a very poor rural area. This will rate very true. We were renowned for growing alfalfa, but the only thing we grew better than alfalfa was teenage pregnancies and Methodist. [00:19:00] And it just, it seemed like my life was going to be much like what I saw around me, which was that this town would be this kind of Indus capable vortex.

And I was really lucky because we had a small town library and I was incredibly socially awkward. And so I spent a lot of time in it. And through that, not only did I gain the sort of educational skills I needed to get scholarships so I could get out of that. But more than anything, I just realized that my problems weren’t near as big as, you know, Frodo throwing a ring and you know, more door to save the world.

I just needed to not get addicted to meth, not get pregnant, leave the damn town. So by the time I actually got to accomplish that and I was at uni. I wasn’t so taken with everything that I had done, but how I actually had a huge leg up from so many other people and I wanted to start something that would help other people get access to those stories, but also help them be able to tell their own for any of lovely artsy people out there.

[00:20:00] You know, that publishing of. The most inaccessible industries. So I wanted to make sure that we kind of worked creating a ladder for people to climb up through that. So it started really tiny, like 19 year old, Danny pretty much has bullied all of the literary agents and editors. She knew, went to donating time to the literary community.

We started teaching as much as we could. Suddenly, we kind of had our own publishing unit because other people weren’t going to take chances on wild Saifai stories about dragons. We were going to do it. And yeah, that was 14 years of my life.

Melissa Sercia: Wow. That’s incredible. And you mentioned friction, which is a magazine and fiction magazine.

Now, how did that, did that come right away or was that something that came later?

Dani Hedlund: It definitely came later. We started doing online publishing in 2010. Kind of result of the fact that we had a lot of really talented writers, particularly that right. John rework, and they have really great manuscripts, but agents weren’t giving them [00:21:00] the time of day because they didn’t have any other publishing credit.

So typically when you submit a query letter to an agent to get a book deal, You’ll say what the book is about. And then like the third paragraph is like, oh, and I’ve also been published in the new Yorker and the Paris review. And I wrote an article for the Washington times and that will tell an agent, oh, like someone else has taken a chance on this writer.

They must not suck. I should request these pages, but for fantasy writers or anyone who is writing from a marginalized voice, it’s incredibly difficult to get those. So we were like, well, screw it. Like we’ll just publish stuff if no one else will. And that was a hilarious choice we made while inebriated and didn’t know how difficult it was going to be.

So we did it wrong for a while, but we started friction in 2014. The first publication was 2015 and that’s when we really got it right. We realized we wanted to put the story first, we wanted to do a combination of celebrity work, which is how we know a lot of the celebrities that are in this deck, [00:22:00] but we also want to debut talent and every single issue.

And we wanted really diverse storytellers and we also wanted to fully illustrate the entire thing. And the idea behind that. Literary magazines, especially they’re just ugly. I’m like, yeah. They’re just like, it’s a whole bunch of words on white paper looked like it was bound together by like an incredibly recreated Irish med.

Like that’s not okay. There should be the magical portals we remember as we ones. So yeah, we just, like, I worked at bartending job again on the side to pay for the art. We just started to grow and celebrities started to really find it a fun place to experiment. And a couple of our really good debuts went on to have really lovely careers.

And that’s been really lovely. I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re a storyteller or you love stories or you love comics because comics are so good.

Melissa Sercia: Well, that’s so great that you do that and that you offer that because you know, yeah. You’re a hundred percent correct in the publishing industry.

It’s so [00:23:00] hard to break into, especially a traditional and I’m an indie author and also have some things with a small press, but yeah, when you first start out, when you don’t have that list of credits on your resume you know, it’s hard for, even for people to take you seriously or anything like that, which, I mean, on one hand you can understand it.

There it’s a fast paced world and they kind of want that guarantee that you’re going to sell. But but yeah, it’s hard because there’s just so many talented people out there, but. Get that first, you know, chance. So it’s great that you offer something for, you know, debut authors to to kind of explore and kind of find themselves.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah, I definitely, I definitely agree. And a lot of, I think a lot of the good we do in the world, isn’t just publishing, which is it’s good. It’s really good to publish brand new people. They get literary agents. Everyone’s happy. But we also, we offer free edits on every single thing submitted to us. So like 10,000 stories a year.

And the reason for that is if you’re here starting out writing, or you’ve [00:24:00] been writing for awhile. You could submit something and you’re going to get these blanket rejections, and it’s going to be like, dear author, thank you for your submission. And this doesn’t fit our aesthetic. Try again. And that could mean either like it was so close, but it just missed it by a little bit of length or a little bit of character development, or it could mean you are the worst writer who has ever committed pen to paper become.

But you don’t know cause you’re just getting the same form. So we try really hard just to pull back the curtain and just say, Hey, we rejected it for these reasons. Here’s some positive sort of steps you could take forward. And I think that that’s just so important to kind of toss a flashlight to someone in the dark so they can start moving in the right direction.

Instead of what I think a lot of us do is create. Which is the hangout in the dark and say, okay, I should just double down and write a book, but you’re going to write a book with the same sort of problems in your craft that you could have just gotten rid of. If you just want to workshop one thing all the way to fruition.

But not all of us have like [00:25:00] $200,000 to throw into an MFA that probably won’t help us anyway.

Melissa Sercia: Right? No, that’s so true. Things like that are expensive. And and, and even if they’re not expensive, everything you have to do tends to add up after a while, you know, $20 here, $30 here. And before you know it, you know, you’re in the hole and you still don’t understand, you know, like what, you’re, what you’re trying to accomplish at times, you know?

And I think that’s. Beta readers and critique partners are so important too. If you’re, you know, if you’re on a budget, but I think that’s great that you offer that feedback because like you were saying, it’s very, yeah. When you just get this sort of form response, you don’t know how to revise your submission to make it better.

If you don’t know why they rejected you in the first place. Yeah,

Dani Hedlund: absolutely. Yeah.

Melissa Sercia: Well, you know, what, what is your take on, you know, there’s a lot of changes happening in the publishing industry right now. You know, with traditional publishing models, changing and indie market growing, you know, kind of what’s your take on that?

Dani Hedlund: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think that there is a really [00:26:00] easy sort of negativity to slide into and almost every time I do panels at large conventions, this seems to be the predominant thought, right? Literacy rates are changing. No one’s reading. Everything is terrible. Shake our fist at nets. Oh, God, the end of the world self publishing is, you know, ruining everything.

And I just don’t think that’s true in the way that certainly things are changing, but we’re looking at audio books and digital sales in traditional marketing rising, and sure people are consuming stories a lot on streaming, but they’re still consuming stories. And that means we can get them on the other side.

Make sure you have never read a Batman comic, but you’re really into the movies and you’re probably going to try, and then it’s just going to be a gateway drug because comics are beautiful, same thing with so many of the great fantasy writers that are getting incredible shows. And so I definitely think that we just need to learn to adapt.

If people need to have [00:27:00] storytelling on the go, we need to kind of think about how to do that. And there are certainly larger levels of cynicism about how long it takes someone to engage, which is sad. Like we’re living in a generation of reading headlines and not reading articles, but I think if we can embrace it, if we can kind of figure out how to talk to the new way we communicate on the same level, I think we’re going to have a Renaissance of storytelling and the, on the publisher side, on the nonprofit bit, my office.

I’ve never been paid better. And I love that. Like, sure. You worked seven years to create a book. It got on the national bestseller list. Cool. But you also did like six weeks writing a Netflix show and it was the same amount of money. So I’m always excited for writers to be able to financially support themselves cause that’s splendid.

So sorry. That was a ramble against, I think the grain of what you wanted, the point is I have a lot of hope and everyone should go right in there.

Melissa Sercia: Yeah. Yeah. I agree. A hundred percent with that. I mean, there’s oftentimes when we [00:28:00] fall in love with a show on Netflix, I would say lately, you know, 90% of the time it’s, it’s based on a book.

So a lot of people, not everyone, but a lot of people will go, oh, that’s, that’s based on a book. I want to go read the book now to kind of see what happens there. Maybe they may. A show off of the first book and there’s a sequel that the show hasn’t gotten to yet, and you want to find out what happens next.

So I definitely think they compliment each other. But I mean, people used to say that, you know, in the eighties too, when, when people are watching television and playing video games all the time and oh, you’re just, no one’s going to read anymore. And you know, the, obviously hasn’t been the case, so.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah.

And honestly, I am not a big video game geek myself because I have no hand-eye coordination and I get Mario pass like that first little holy Ester jump over. But some of the storytelling that happens in video games, as I experienced from drunken conversations with my D and D group, and then people forcing me to watch all of the actual split screens are incredible.

I’m just, I love anytime I see. Good [00:29:00] storytelling. Hell I see a commercial that’s well, and I’m like, oh man, I’m feeling good about that commercial. Right.

Melissa Sercia: Yeah, no, there’s a lot of great content out there. And and like you of the stories are in everything. A friend of mine works on it, a very well-known video game and she is a storyteller.

She writes books as well. And, and they kind of, crossover in the sense of like her creative process, because I mean, you’re, it’s a different medium, but you’re still having to use some similar mechanics of character building and dialogue and all of that.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah. I, I definitely agree. I, I mean, I have to admit when we started this terrible project, there was a bit of cynicism in me.

I mean, I’m just, I’m a terrible cynic. I run a global nonprofit, of course I’ve just full of darkness. But when we first started, I’m like, okay, like I can see cool bits of Tara, like the arts really pretty And I, I like that during a reading, someone kind of live storytellers, but I’ve got to admit I was pretty skeptical, but honestly, when we started to dig into it, the fact that each of the cards kind of represents the positive and [00:30:00] negative traits we have as humans.

And we can see. It’s through the literature like, oh, so you’re a bit of a jealous human being. Oh, that’s led you to like, try to assassinate your niece. Okay, cool. I can apply that to my own life and maybe I just shouldn’t be so mean about that cruel thing. Someone said to me on Twitter. It’s it’s a cool kind of storytelling angle.

You can find good stories and interesting allegories to our own lives almost anywhere. If you just look.

Melissa Sercia: Yeah, absolutely. And, and we can back this until, is it June 30th?

Dani Hedlund: Okay. Oh, wouldn’t that be a great thing for me to know as the person running it? I can look it up. I get a really strong vibe. That’s correct.


Melissa Sercia: I’m pretty sure I wrote it down and I’m like, okay, I think that’s the right one. It’s going to be

Dani Hedlund: really embarrassing if you know this better than me, which I feel like you already

Melissa Sercia: do. I do my research. You’ve got a lot on your plate. Well, since this campaign has been so successful, cause I was [00:31:00] looking at it just the number of backers and just how quickly you reached your initial goal of getting, you know, completely backed.

Do you see yourself creating any more. Taro docs through Kickstarter in the future. Maybe based on other literary themes.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah, that’s a really great question. I hadn’t been thinking about it. And then I discovered a few weeks ago that some of our big celebrity. Had formed like a secret group to like, try to figure out what their next year’s cards will be and like call dibs early.

And I found out about those, what I was like, guys, we haven’t decided we’re doing a deck and they’re like, no, no, Danny, we’re definitely doing a deck. You just need to figure out like what kind of deck it’s going to be. So we’ve been battling around with kind of like whether or not we do something mythology based, which as writers, we’re all like super fascinated by it.

Or I’m interested in something that’s kind of like a villains deck. I mean, I think villains are usually the most interesting characters. There’s gotta be like a psychic deck [00:32:00] because Samwise Gamgee is clearly the hero and we just all need to know it right now. But yeah, also like, a modern classics, we did a.

Obviously a classics classic one right now. So the lawyers wouldn’t take all the money from the fundraising instead of us putting it into programming. Right. But we have some really high-level authors that are really keen to help us get rights. So if there’s some magical way in which we could broker the rights to 78 modern plastics, I would be a very happy person, but I don’t know how it kind of long, the big moment for terrible last, like we’re definitely.

I mean, I don’t want to say like a bubble, but I think we’re probably in a taro bubble. Like it’s really making a cool emergence and people are often discovering it for the, for the first time. And whether or not that bubble expands to next year is a pretty big

Melissa Sercia: ask. Yeah. I think there’s always going to be somewhat of a demand for it.

You know, to an extent I’ve been collecting taro docs since I was 16. So a long time the

Dani Hedlund: bubble, [00:33:00] you can just admit it now. Like the reason the terror was having a moment.

Melissa Sercia: So because I, yeah, I went on I decided a couple of years ago that I needed to leave up my collection. We can drastically. So I was buying like five and six decks a year.

So yeah, I think I did.

Dani Hedlund: I’m utterly enchanted with it now. So I’m really glad that 16 year old you started this whole thing. Right?

Melissa Sercia: Exactly. You know, what else would be fun to do? And I know has a lot to do with rights and things like that, like you said, but like a Y. Character fantasy, you know, something like, you know, darker shade of magic and shadow and bone like super fun, so much fun.

Yeah. Or even if they just designed something new for you would be amazing.

Dani Hedlund: I’ve been Elia junkie. Unfortunately not since I was a teenager, but since I was an adult I definitely kind of got into everything at the wrong level, but that was just so

Melissa Sercia: very cool. It’s that funny? How that happens when I was a teenager.

Reading, you know, Stephen King and Anne rice, but now as an adult, I’m reading [00:34:00] the ya’s stuff, you know, it’s 30 mass and you know, everything that’s come out actually the last five years, it’s just been such amazing stuff. But it’s funny how that flip-flops. Yeah, I was right there with

Dani Hedlund: you with like overly sexualized horror all through my childhood and teenage years.

And then that into my twenties, I was like, oh, Kind of frivolous. Amazing. Why a we’re like kissing and losing your virginity is the biggest thing that happened to you.

Melissa Sercia: Right? I know it seems so funny. And so simple, but you know, a lot of it too, I think is the world building is just so. Amazing. I feel like, especially like some of the top, you know, authors that are out right now, like just, you know, Ireland and Sarah J mass, as I mentioned that just the world-building and the, the way that they word, oh God, it’s like, it’s not purple prose, but it’s almost like purple prose done.

Right. You know what I mean?

Dani Hedlund: Yeah, I I was actually, Charlie Jane Anders is one of our contributors. Just put out her first Yia. It’s amazing scifi book. It’s [00:35:00] so good. But we were talking about it and she was like, daddy, I think the reason that why EY really does it for me, it’s just when you’re that young things matter in a way that like adults cynicism hasn’t touched yet.

And I, I think that’s one of the reasons that I could just live inside the WIDA universe. It’s almost a purity of just emotion and despair and happiness. And I just, I love it. It’s such a nice little kind of tonic to my adult. Citizenism

Melissa Sercia: all that like, thanks so much. Yeah. But like brings you back to like when you were a teenager and what you were feeling.

And you know, when I was a teenager, there, wasn’t a lot of good  out there. I mean, you know, You’re you know, VC Andrews, which was very dark. But yeah, I like now it’s just, I feel like the market is so much more accessible and there’s just so much more to choose from now as well, you know? Have you actually, oh, sorry.

Have you read the starless sea?

Dani Hedlund: By Erin [00:36:00] Morgenstern. I was about to say, how do I pronounce your last name? Yeah. More Erin is a delight. It is one of the terrible people who actually knew about taro. She does a great Gatsby card. It’s fucking

Melissa Sercia: gorgeous. Oh my God. Okay. I’m definitely backing it now. I was already thinking, okay, I’m in the backend now.

I’m definitely doing it. She’s one of my favorite authors and the star was the seriously, one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life. So I don’t know if you’ve read it, if you haven’t read it like tonight. Cause it’s, it’s so incredible. And it has what you were just talking about. All of that angst and those emotions.

Dani Hedlund: No, Erin is incredible. I of course I had, I’d read her work before, but I got to know her through the taro campaign and she. She’s just so insightful and kind. And I feel like so often, I mean, anyone who works in publishing knows that a lot of people that work in publishing are just terrible people.

And I constantly, like, I fear meeting someone that I really love because I’m like, please don’t let me down. Please don’t let me down. And Aaron was one of those last days, it was just like, [00:37:00] You’re you’re just as cool as I hoped for like, let us go on a seafaring adventure together.

Melissa Sercia: That’s so good to hear because yeah, when you go to cons and things like that, you’re like, well, I don’t know if I actually want to go get an autograph or meet them because what if they’re not as nice and it like ruins, you know, the fantasy you have or whatever.

What does that like? Don’t meet your heroes. So no, that’s really, really good to hear about her cause her writing son tastic. So I would like to hear when someone is also a decent person to on top.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah, I we got really lucky with this project mostly because you had to volunteer time as an artist to participate in it.

And that really knocks out like, gee, are you at all a selfish Cuban? No. Okay, cool. Come on over. So, yeah, especially cause I have to email 78 celebrities nearly every day with really complicated things. So it’s really nice that they’re just overwhelmingly kind.

Melissa Sercia: Yeah. And humble. And yeah. And if they’re, if they’re volunteering that takes away that [00:38:00] ego aspect of in a sense, right?

Yeah. Well, that’s awesome. I can’t wait to, to back list. When do you have like, w when’s the estimated like shipping, do you have that information?

Dani Hedlund: Oh, wow. Forever. So we’re still building them as we go, like errands card. The art got done. I don’t know, like six days ago, so we’ll continue doing art and then all the authors are continuing to do the write-ups over the summer.

And then we will be sending out the files to the printer. In the fall to keep it cheap for everyone. Instead of putting the books on a plane to get shipped to all, I’m going to say the U S and UK fulfillment centers, but I mean my garage and my partner’s closet. And so we ship it on boat and boat takes forever and COVID has increased custom time.

So I’m really hoping beginning of 2022, but I’m telling everyone like late spring, because I have never delivered late on a project and I have no intention of doing it. [00:39:00] It’ll be like magical early books, but it will probably be like, oh, this was just as terrible as we had anticipated.

Melissa Sercia: Oh my goodness. Well, you know, I kind of like that too, because.

You know, when you do, I’ve done several Kickstarters, backed them, not done them, but and sometimes when they’re kind of early in the, in the early stages, you back it, and then you kind of forget right. Over time things, you know, life happens or whatever. And then all of a sudden you get this package in the mail and it’s like Christmas, you know?

Dani Hedlund: Yeah, no, I definitely feel that way. There was, there was like a year of my partner and I’s life where we were very stressed out about work. And so we just gave ourselves a Kickstarter budget to buy board games and board games are notorious. So late on Kickstarter, like years later, really? Oh, wow. Oh, we ordered that three years ago, but now we have a game.

So I guess we’ll have an impromptu game night during COVID where none of our friends will come over. I guess we’ll play it together.

Melissa Sercia: That’s so funny. I did not, I have not backed. I’ve just, didn’t mostly done comic books on there. So I did not know that board games [00:40:00] were such a hot commodity to get.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah.

There’s also usually a big board game. Well, obviously printed in China, but often times game designers are printing, but the first time, like we’ve been printing in China forever. So it’s always like, oh, like we didn’t know that China shuts down for Chinese new year. So we’ll just like make bets, like when will the reveal come that they didn’t realize they couldn’t get anything done this month?

Melissa Sercia: Oh, it’s hilarious. Well, you know, before, before I let you go, I want to definitely ask you cause you have a ton of insight. You’ve been in the industry for a long time. So for, for our listeners any who maybe aspiring authors, you know, what’s the best piece of advice you can give to them?

Dani Hedlund: I definitely think the kind of cliche thing that doesn’t mean it’s less true.

To be a really good writer. You just need to read and write constantly. But beyond that, I think one of the most difficult things is that we cave under the first couple of rejections. And the thing is the [00:41:00] publishing industry is not made to be inclusive. Like we’re there, there are people trying and try really hard, but generally.

Most people are going to have to be able to white knuckle it through like one of our contributors, Ben Piercey who I absolutely love. It was just, you know, Stephen King is, you know, can’t tell anyone fast enough that Ben Pearcey is like the new hire horror writer of our generation incredible comic writer.

NEA grant fellow just bad-ass literally wrote three books that no one would read throughout his twenties and thirties that he had to burn. I mean, I don’t think he actually burned them, but in my head it’s just up in flames. So you’re looking at years of really pouring love into something and then having to redo it.

And unfortunately, that’s a lot, what being a writer is. And some people hopefully skipped the three book burn, but on average, all of the big writers that you see attached to this deck have written one to five books that did not get published before they had a [00:42:00] breakthrough. So just know that it is. It takes time.

It’s like any craft. You’re not going to wake up and be an Olympic level gymnast. Like you’re going to have to fight through it. So please, if you get a couple of rejections from the new Yorker or the Paris review, just keep writing, keep surrounding yourself with other people that love literature and you read their work and they read your work and just be as stubborn as possible.

Because if you really love it, you’re going to have to fight for it.

Melissa Sercia: Excellent advice. Very true. Def don’t give up and persevere because you just never know when you know a no is going to turn into a yes.

Dani Hedlund: Yeah, absolutely. Also it’s a gross thing, but definitely try to meet as many people as possible.

Right. Volunteer at like cute things. Like. Like just go out to stupid literary parties, try to hang out at your bookstore creepy amount. Like if there comes in for a reading, read the book and stay after even the most famous writers really struggle to fill out readings, just go and like, don’t be a [00:43:00] douchebag and be kind to the community.

Cause the literary community is loving and if you love it, it will love you back. So. To kind of fight the instinctual creative instinct that has to hold up in a small ball and like never leave into the sunlight.

Melissa Sercia: Yes, exactly. You definitely have to even if you’re introverted, there are things you can do, you know, like you were saying, going to small little bookstore events and things like that, and just,

Dani Hedlund: Think you don’t want to leave just like review books and post them on a blog that may or may not be read, like, be supportive on the interwebs, that kind of stuff.

Also really.

Melissa Sercia: Yeah, that’s so true. And yeah, making those connections online as well as in person. For sure. That’s great advice. Well, thank you. Thank you for being on the show today. This has been amazing

Dani Hedlund: for having me and thanks for the really insightful questions and for letting me spontaneously ramble about publishing and writing.

My favorite thing.

Melissa Sercia: Me too. I love I can talk about writing all day. So, you know, everyone that’s listening, make sure to check out literary taro at kickstarter.com and then you can [00:44:00] also go check out their content for stories and comics, friction lit.org. And then also you can find out more about literacy at brink lit.org.

Lots of different. Yeah. Options there for everyone and lots of great content. So yeah. Thank you so much for coming on today and you know, please come back any time. This has been an absolute pleasure.

Dani Hedlund: Of course. Any reason that you can get me to ramble, I’m happy to do it. And thank you so much for the time.


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