Uno Kudo Interview: Joe Saldibar

Joe Saldibar is the author of two short stories in Uno Kudo Volume 2, “Carol” and “Stripped Down”. They are stand out narratives from Uno Kudo, that blew me away, having details that glow and impress. Joe puts a lot of care into his writing. There’s also a level of intelligent humor in his stuff that is met in equal strides by his giant heart. He’s also the funniest guy that I’ve ever talked to online. One of those people that can turn a message board or comment thread section into a playground verging on work of art itself.


Joe Saldibar was destined to lead a life full of drudgery and boredom.  Then he discovered the power of the written word and the magic of storytelling.  As a result, he grew up to live a life of drudgery and boredom that was relieved on occasion by writing short stories and poetry.  Originally a native of the Northeast, he now resides in Denver (CO), where the winters are colder, the scenery more inspiring, and the pizzas far less interesting.  In his spare time he rebuilds old bicycles and takes pictures of marshmallow peeps.

stripped cover

Bud: You have two excellent stories in Uno Kudo volume 2.  Tell me a little about each one.

Joe: “Carol” started out at a coffee shop here in Denver.  I was listening to a woman as she told her friend about the things she was doing to “get back on track” with her life.  It made me think about how people are often very unhappy with themselves, even when they’re at least doing well enough to have friends to hang out with and coffee shops to hang out in.  “Carol” is really about how desperate some folks are to change who they are… and how they often fail because they focus on changing the most the superficial aspects of their lives instead of looking deep within themselves.

In some ways “Stripped Down” shares that theme of being willing to look beyond the superficial and to really strip down to that raw emotional nudity, where nothing can be hidden or tucked out of sight.  I wrote the majority of “Stripped Down” in one sitting- just there on the edge of my bed in the middle of the night, typing away until the whole story came out.  Perhaps it’s a cliche to say that I got it off my chest, but it really felt that way.


What’s the weirdest thing you ever saw?

Weird things are everywhere.  If there’s one thing I will never tire of, it’s watching people bring weird in their own wonderful way.

For example, that recent video from the East Coast where the guy was out jogging in the middle of Hurricane Sandy in shorts, sneakers, and a horse head mask.  As Bill O ‘Reilly would say,  “you can’t explain that!”

Last summer I met a guy who was on a mission to chug a beer on top of every Colorado mountain summit over 14,000 feet. There’s over 50 of them.  So he gets to the top if the peak we’re climbing, opens the bottle, and half of it blows out because of the lower air pressure.  Then he chugged the remaining foamy mess and cracked a huge toothy smile.  Weird?  Driven?  Perhaps both ?

You watch telenovelas, I’m ignorant. Tell me about that?

I started watching them a year ago while I was sick in bed. It’s a universal thing, really, watching TV when you’re sick. I thought  that since I was watching TV, I should make it useful, so I started watching “La Casa de al Lado” to learn Spanish.  The thing is, the only words you end up learning are the bad ones, like “Asesina” (murderer)

Some telenovelas are pure trash, others are pure gold.  Everyone is impossibly good-looking, even when their character is supposed to be ‘plain’ or ‘ugly .’  The story lines are ridiculous and the acting is way over the top.

But sometimes you find gold.  Telemundo’s series on Pablo Escobar is a good example of a show that can be entertaining, gripping, and educational all at once.


You make marshmallow art with peeps sometimes, what inspired you to do that?

I used to make single-shot pictures of peeps doing random things, like sitting under a Christmas tree or hanging out at the beach.  Someone sent me a link to a person who had created a 10-slide synopsis of “The Blair Witch Project” using marshmallow peeps as the protagonists.  That got me thinking about doing something huge, so I started making a version of “Titanic.”  That project stole a month out of my life.  I worked on it constantly every spare second that I had, because I wanted to have it out by the middle of April (the Titanic sank on April 15th).  I had a blast making it.  Part of the fun was just coming up with ridiculously low-budget props and sets- the “Titanic” is just a wooden boat I got from Mystic Seaport when I was a kid, and the blue diamond from the movie is just a wadded-up ball of blue construction paper.  When the stars of your movie are Leonardo DePeeprio and Kate Peeplet, you can afford to be a cheapskate. (To see the peeps movie, click here)

titanic rabbittitanic sketch

Do you believe in ghosts?

Totally!  Now, are they actual supernatural spirits, or just a lame excuse my brain makes to justify things when it scares me into running up the basement steps after I turn off the light?  That’s an open question.  Sometimes I wonder if what we see is simply something so outside of our realm of reality that we’ve yet to put a real name to it, and our attempt to tie what we see into our beliefs about spirits will someday seem just as silly as when ancient civilizations ascribed lightning to gods tossing thunderbolts or epilepsy to demonic possession.

Ever seen one?

The closest I’ve seen to seeing a ghost in action was in England.  We were staying at this old manor house- it started off as a 13th-century monastery and was rebuilt into a house in the 16th century.  My friend Laurel swore that her room was haunted by something.  So one day we were outside the building right underneath her window and we watched it open and close all by itself with no one inside.  Windows can sometimes go up by themselves or close by themselves, sure- but both?  At the same time?

photo (1)

Ever seen an alien?

No, but I had a blast driving through the back-end of Nevada in the middle of a pitch-black night looking for Area 51.  It’s not nearly as secret as they make it out to be.  You go there now and there are signs that say “Extraterrestrial Highway” and “Aliens Ahead!”  This is probably because there is nothing alien at all about Area 51.  Everyone knows that the real aliens are all stored at Area 52.

What’s your writing process like?

I like having a drink in my hand or on my table when I write.  Doesn’t really matter what is in the drink- it could be coffee (usually is, in fact), or a beer, or whiskey, or even water.  I like doing this because it’s a way to give yourself a little tasty reward for writing a line or a paragraph that you’re really proud of- like a literary drinking game.  “Yes!  I’m gonna celebrate this little moment RIGHT NOW!”

“Stripped Down” flowed pretty straight from start to finish, but most of my projects appear in chunks.  I envision a scene or a line of dialogue and right that down, then build the story between the various pieces.  It’s like building a bridge- you start with the abutments on the riverbanks and in the middle of the river, and then you connect those with the bridge spans, and then you pave the whole thing and open it to traffic.

With “Carol” it was a challenge because I’d written maybe 90% of it before I lost the whole thing in a hard drive meltdown.  So that writing process was more about trying to remember what I had written and how, and then recreating it.


Where are you from?

Straight from a working-class family in a working-class neighborhood in a working-class town in a state that’s mostly famous for the rich people who occupy maybe a quarter of the place, if that.  Connecticut is surprisingly blue-collar for a state where the manufacturing industry started to leave nearly a century ago.

My great-grandfather, Hannibal Saldibar, came to the US in 1905 aboard the RMS Republic. He headed up to New Haven and moved to what is now West Haven in 1910.  He spent the rest of his life there.  My grandfather lived there his whole life, and my dad lived there for a huge chunk of his life.  That’s pretty typical for folks in the area, though.  Unless they get sick of the weather and move to Arizona/Florida, they stick around forever.

We were one of those families where we didn’t have enough to buy what we wanted, but enough to buy what we needed as long as we scrimped and saved.  Going to Goodwill was always a trip because as kids were were absolutely, completely terrified of being spotted inside the store (or worse yet, entering or leaving the place).  Kids who were spotted by other kids got branded as “Goodwillers.”  It was really dumb, considering that just about all of us had either hand-me-down clothes from older siblings, or thrift-store bargains, or “blue light” K-Mart specials- talk about calling the kettle poorly-clothed!  But there’s that whole superficial thing at play again.  We were more worried about what we wore- even though we couldn’t afford to be super-choosy- than about who we were.

Where would you live if you could? Why?
I love the ocean.  I miss having an ocean nearby.  The beach is a great place to go for a walk and to forget all of your problems for a while, or to have a nice place to work out those problems in peace.  Out here we have the mountains, but you spend so much time climbing up and down that there’s not nearly enough time to have thoughts other than those related to route-finding and timetable-keeping.
I love cities.  I love the flow and the noise and the mass of people.  Small towns are nice and comfy, but the truth is that there’s not a lot to do on the weekends and that tends to create some weird small town atmospheres.  Sometimes you get a nice place full of nice people.  Other times you get a bunch of gossipy drama queens.  Or you get a bunch of boring dunderheads who think that half-price Jello shots at the local dive is the highlight of the month.  At least with cities you get ALL of these people.  Then you can pick and choose which group is best for you.

What’s your strongest memory from childhood? 
My folks got divorced when I was 15-16, and it was uuuuuuuugly.  Like most divorces, it was long and bitter and full of back-and-forths.
On the flip side, we had some great Christmas years before then.  My folks like the holiday and so did we kids, so we always did a ton of things.  Going to the mall for shopping, making out lists, taking the train down to New York City just to walk down 5th Avenue and check out the scene, playing Christmas songs on our giant old stereo… fun stuff.
In fact, it’s really at the final Christmas or two, after the divorce and before college, that the whole divorce thing really hit home.  All of those things just… stopped happening.  Or, we’d do them but only out of a sense of duty.  Or we’d do them but it would go terribly wrong.  My mom was not the best planner in the world.  The year after the divorce I helped her to get a Christmas tree from the local tree farm- it was only after we’d gone all the way into the fields and found our tree that she revealed that she didn’t have a saw to cut the tree down.  She had a serrated steak knife instead, inside her purse.  So we spent an hour hacking down this tree with this sad little knife.

Right now, there are no limitations, anything is possible for 24 hours, what do you do?
Ideally?  I’d sit down and write.  Write and write and write.  If indeed ANYTHING is possible, I’d teleport myself to Fiji with a notebook and a beach towel first.  Or visit the moon, so that I could pimp my book as being the first book written on the moon.  I’d call it “Fifty Shades of Moonlight.”

joe reading


5 Replies to “Uno Kudo Interview: Joe Saldibar”

  1. I love Peeps and this interview was fantabulous! I can always count on Bud for a good interview and I can always count on Joe to make me laugh and cry at the same time.

  2. Hi Tom, lots of questions there. Rolling 130km ride up in the Pontiac. some gevral sections. Not sure how they are this spring part of the adventure. Group is not mandatory and we sort of split ourselves into Relaxed , Steady and Faster , and We’re Jammin’ groups. I have no idea what T3 speed is or the speeds in numbers of our 3 groups. We base the speed on keeping those who show up to stick together as a group , a.ka.a group ride. The last 30km home is at higherspeed for those who feel like ripping it up ahead.Back for a hotmeal and a beer gives our events the social meeting side we like. Some do not stay for the meal but they pay for it anyway. Only you know if you would fit in butyou are definately welcome to come and see.Remote starts make for new roads for people.Gavin’s is a classic old valley tavern and makes for a greatday.-jl

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