Summit County authors use pandemic to get creative
Lisa Kaniut Cobb and Brittany Josie release young adult fiction and poetry books
Roughly three years ago, Lisa Kaniut Cobb began exploring a fantasy world. It’s similar to our own, but it has an ancient, secret society filled with shape-shifters called Netahs. Now, young adults can transport themselves to that world with Cobb’s first book of fiction, “The Netahs: Into the Wilderness.”
The novel follows Josh, a human and Netah hybrid who learns of his abilities when elk antlers start coming out of his head. He also discovers that his foster sister is a skunk, a friend is a raven, his bully is a bear and the school lunch lady is a heron. He and his friends travel from his Front Range school to the mountains of Colorado. It touches on themes of ecology as well as balancing and maintaining friendships.
“I just started with a series of what ifs and landed on, ‘What if a high school kid started turning into an elk, they didn’t know he was going to do it, and he had to get away before anyone found out?’” Cobb said.
Seminal young adult works like the “Harry Potter” and “Percy Jackson” series as well as authors such as Neil Gaiman and Martha Wells inspired Cobb to combine her love of animals as writing for children. Her first book, “Literary Ideas and Scripts for Young Playwrights” was released in 2004. The text captures her passion of volunteering in elementary school English classes to teach people about writing — and rewriting — their own stories.
Originally from Michigan, Cobb and her family moved to Colorado in 1998. They got a home in Breckenridge in 2006 after frequently visiting Summit County to ski, and she splits her time between the High Country and Denver.
Her desire to help others led her to be a ski school instructor for about six years in addition to making costumes for the high school and Breckenridge Backstage Theatre. Cobb calls writing “a new hat” to wear since she now has the free time
‘The Netahs: Into the wilderness’ by Lisa Kaniut Cobb
FriesenPress, March 2021
252 pages, $6.99 for e-book, $20.99 for paperback and $32.99 for hardback
Available from multiple retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and LisaKaniutCobb.com
On one hand, the coronavirus pandemic was difficult because she couldn’t be with her children and grandkids, but she’s also grateful that she had the time to write the book to occupy herself and stay motivated.
“I think the pandemic made it easier for me,” Cobb said. “Fewer distractions and I could just really concentrate on cleaning things up really well and doing what I have to do. … I started book two in between waiting for (the publishers) to get something back to me for me to review. I just kept working.”
No local events are currently in the works, rather Cobb is focusing on the rest of the series. She has started planning the third entry since the second book is almost finished, and she said she might go up to five total.
Poems for every season
Also inspired by Colorado’s great outdoors, in addition to writers like Walt Whitman, Audre Lorde and Rupi Kaur, local resident Brittany Josie used downtime during the pandemic to reinvest in practicing poetry. She posted snippets of her hobby on Instagram, and the positive feedback encouraged her to publish a book.
‘Weatherveins: Poems for Every Season’ by Brittany Josie
Self published, August 2020
195 pages, $14.99 for paperback
Available locally from Next Page Books & Nosh, Ohana, Frisco Arts Collective and BrittanyJosie.com
The collection of double-spaced lyrical poems, titled “Weatherveins: Poems for Every Season,” is broken into four chapters that deal with themes such as family, feminism and more.
“The book itself is about relationships,” Josie said. “It’s about romantic relationships. It’s about the relationship I have had with my parents, the relationship I have with myself.”
Fall and winter touch on dark subject matter like an end of an eight-year romantic relationship. But then spring symbolizes a comeback and growth. Summer is Josie’s favorite chapter, as it includes inspirational poems filled with strength. A standout of the section is “Don’t burn a woman/she is made of oxygen/she will blow your mind.”
About half of the poems were passively written throughout the years and others she wrote in roughly four months when deciding to complete the book. Writing was never more than a pastime before the pandemic, yet she fell in love with the medium at a young age growing up in Portland, Oregon.
“For me, writing was sort of a reprieve,” Josie said. “I would write all of my feelings down as that petulant teenager. Because of the situation at my childhood home, I moved out when I was 18, as soon as I possibly could, and I kept writing, but it was more of a hobby.”
She moved to Summit County in 2010 when she was 23 to pursue a healthier lifestyle. She sold her car, learned to mountain bike and commuted around Breckenridge on a bike. While Portland is a very artistic and creative community, it wasn’t exactly as active as Josie would have liked.
“The thing about Portland and the Pacific Northwest is that it rains,” Josie said. “There’s a saying that Oregonians don’t tan, they rust. It’s so true. And with that, you’re inside a lot. … I think that’s why I spent most of my life heavy or fluctuating in weight. And then when I moved here, the recreation was just so in your face. You couldn’t avoid it even if you wanted to.”
Josie bought a business when she was 25 and sold it three years later, entered the hospitality management industry and recently started her own life-coaching business, as well.
The active lifestyle bleeds into Josie’s poetry. She writes for the words to be spoken aloud instead of being read silently. The writing comes out more syncopated with internal rhymes, and Josie finds herself getting a rush of adrenaline for performing on stage as she gets out of her comfort zone.
Since June, Josie has been teaching poetry classes every Friday with Breckenridge Creative Arts to help people explore those same horizons. It’s fulfilling for her to see people realize that they can be creative and express themselves in unique ways. More recently, she has been running workshops for the clients of Summit Advocates for Victims of Assault.
“Art is universal, and that’s why I love poetry so much,” Josie said. “It’s using your words to relate to somebody else in a purposeful way.”
Josie has done some virtual readings and events like the Silverthorne Art Stroll, and she has an in-person reading this weekend that celebrates the one-year anniversary of publishing “Weatherveins.” To hear Josie read from the book, people can attend a spoken word event from 4-5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 22, at Next Page Books & Nosh, 409 Main St. in Frisco.
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