Erin K. Barnes is a Denver-based writer of memoir, speculative fiction, music journalism, and travel. A synesthete, PR wing woman, mother, and Colorado native, she penned a travel book of quick escapes from the city called Easy Weekend Getaways from Denver and Boulder, out May 19 through Countryman Press/W.W. Norton. It’s an easy guide to romantic getaways, boozy stopovers, foodie indulgences, wild adventures and spiritual journeys. Erin collected unique destinations and the stories behind them like the gleaming keys that hang from the Baldpate Inn. She was most interested in the wild and dogged Gold Rush spirit that lives on in Colorado eccentrics who’ve forged spaces for themselves, like the metalcrafted dragon of Bishop Castle, the alpine charm of Carousel of Happiness, the Victorian gothic grit of haunted mining towns, the glowing kitsch of Neon Alley, the majestic weirdness of the San Luis Valley, and other triumphs of determination.
While nursing her son, Erin wrote a bedtime novel to lull readers to sleep with fantastical dreamworld imagery. The result is Tintabula, an oxytocin-soaked psychic meditation on her family’s differently-wired brains. While her children won’t be able to read it for some time, she wrote this YA speculative fiction for them. Erin revisited her rebellious youth with a low art exploration of the Fort Collins punk scene of the ‘90s, Glory Guitars: Memoir of a Teenage Degenerate. The scene’s wastoid punks and sexual nihilism provide no shortage of cheap thrills, as well as a sharp lens to explore gender stereotypes that bind us all. Glory Guitars straddles this dichotomy like it’s a live rocket: joyful, explosive, visceral, manic and gut-punchingly heartbreaking. She hopes her children never read that one.
In the mid-aughts, Erin used her English/Writing degree to form an award-winning blog and writerly collective called the Donnybrook Writing Academy. As Headmistress, she oversaw the everyday operation of a tongue-in-cheek society blog by established Denver scribes under preposterous pen names. Erin is currently the Burrito Fairy for the belovedly offbeat burrito joint, Illegal Pete’s: she writes, does PR, and most importantly, feeds touring musicians and artists for free through their Starving Artists program. She’s also lead storyteller and public relations madame for the Black Monarch Hotel, a haunted bordello-turned-boutique hotel in the sleepy mining town of Victor, Colorado. She led the Black Monarch to international acclaim with her PR efforts, landing features in Travel + Leisure, The Daily Mail, Lonely Planet, Refinery29, and the Metro UK, which declared it “one of the US’s most haunted hotels, located in one of its most ghostly towns.” Erin recently teamed up with Runner’s High/Vice writer Josiah Hesse to cofound and lead The Haunted Writer’s Retreat, a five-day immersive horror writing workshop at the Black Monarch Hotel in the dead of winter. She’s editor of Cramped!, an anthology on the Cramps to become the first published book by iconic Denver art zine, Birdy. Erin is also working on an oral history-style book about Lipgloss, the legendary indie dance night that transformed Denver culture. Erin has led numerous branding and writing workshops for musicians at the Fort Collins incubator, the Music District, as well as a writing workshop at the annual Englewood Public Library curated by author Jason Heller. Recent bylines include a rant in Syfy about being sorted in Slytherine house, and a practical guide to recreating synesthesia for OK Whatever. Erin was honored as one of Westword’s 100 Colorado Creatives and 303 Magazine’s 70 Colorado Creatives. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and an elderly dog named Iggy Pup.