top shadow image

Skull Kids

Publication Details



Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone
in the Woods

Dylan Sanders

ISBN 978-09-9099-2172 © 2018
perfectbound, 50 pages (6.5" X 9")

$15.00 plus $3.00 postage

Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods "has the feel of other collagist, altered realities, and sequences of Bolaño and Ballard. Like all our great literature of youth and childhood, Skull Kids is fantastic, terrifying, irresistible, wise and fun."

Tim McIlrath, lead singer of Rise Against, says, "Lurking in the gray area between resignation and resolve, Sanders takes us on a journey where, rather than seeking a destination, maybe the point all along is to get lost." This second edition of Skulls Kids brings together Sanders' original story, restored to his intended prose sequence with a selection of his poems.



Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods, by Dylan Sanders. (Decatur, IL.): Bronze Man Books, 2018, 50 pages, 6.5 x 9, perfectbound. ISBN 978-09-9099-2172. $15.00 plus $3.00 postage

First Edition 2016
Second Updated Edition 2018 designed by Dayne Sanders and edited by Rory Arnold
Layout & Design by Rogelio Diaz, Stephen Gardner, Lavante Smith, Molly McCool
Original cover design by Sarah Suits

Overview & Blurbs

Bronze Man Books is pleased to announce the publication of a second edition of Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods, by Dylan Sander. This collection includes prose poems and additional poetry by Dylan Sanders.

"Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods has the feel of other collagist, altered realities, and sequences of Bolaño and Ballard. It is informed and accessible, unlike Eliot even when Sanders is echoing Eliot from The Waste Land. Like all our great literature of youth and childhood, Skull Kids is fantastic, terrifying, irresistible, wise and fun. In the months leading up to its release, Skull Kids has won the praise of writers and rock stars reading it in manuscript and heralded the launch of this smart and wonderful book. Dylan Sanders is here, picking up that apple that rolled here from somewhere and throwing it back." - Stephen Frech, from the Introduction

"Skull Kids takes you with it on a helpless free-fall into the abyss from the very first sentence. Groping in the darkness, the story unfolds like a poem and bounces between characters that are linked in ways that reveal themselves when the time is right. Lurking in the gray area between resignation and resolve, Sanders takes us on a journey where, rather than seeking a destination, maybe the point all along is to get lost." - Tim McIlrath, Rise Against

"Following the voices of three stories intertwined, Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods pulls the reader into a dark world of myths, love, and fate taking root in the folklore of modern gaming culture and splaying its branches outward and upward to the sparsely-trodden paths of our imaginations. Thick with mystery and rich with intrigue, prepare to find yourself lost in these pages time and time again." - Riley McShane, Son of Aurelius, Allegaeon

"Skull Kids is a thought provoking read that challenges morale." -Taylor Lipton, Abriosis

"A fearless lyrical exploration of the fantastical and the everyday, Dylan Sanders' Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods, stands as thoughtful homage to the wild, beautiful and grotesque imaginings of nature and the human mind." - Alxs Ness, Abriosis

"Built with things of legend and lore, Skull Kids is ripe with ancient imagery nestled in haunting woodlands. With a sense of desolation and discovery throughout, this enthralling story is littered with lines that push up forgotten memories of childhood, returned by primal youth with archaic wisdom that defies age and culture. It's brimming with passages that inspire the imagination and leave a deep-rooted imprint. You will be pulled into the world without wanting to leave." - Marcus Lemoine, White Spot

"It's fitting that the original impetus for Skull Kids came from a video game—it's both a small thing with a shocking number of moving parts, and a lovely artifact of youth's terror and tumult. Sanders's short book spins a haunting, elliptical tale that's by turns funny, nostalgic, sorrowful, and as creepy as the title implies. Reading it feels more interactive than receptive, like a memory that you never knew you had." - Doug Moore, Pyrrhon

"Skull Kids is a great read for any Zelda enthusiast out there!" - Alterbeast

"A tale where you find yourself lost in the forest that is your life, trying to understand without fear that the inevitable will come and you have to accept it; such is a real victory. Pure fucking genius." - Mathieu Dhani, Epiphany From The Abyss

"Skull Kids careens madly from stunning images of nature to horrifying recognitions of inhumanity. It is a wildly original and interesting read." - Nick Lee, Moon Tooth

"In Skull Kids, Dylan Sanders tackles the odyssey trope, but refuses to conform to any sort of conventionally linear storyline inherent in that tradition. Instead, he remixes the familiar to create a journey that is both cyclical and unique. Like much of Sanders' work, Skull Kids dares the reader not to define it, but instead let it unfold on its own terms. But for a work that is experimental in its narrative, Skull Kids is acutely accessible; the themes dealt with in the collection are themes understood for their universality. The speaker wrestles with quite normal fears—of fading love, of not belonging, of failure—in a world that behaves abnormally. The narrative, then, adheres to its own alternative set of laws, utilizing recurring images and language that further twist the meaning of "odyssey" with each poem. The moments of uncertainty compound until it isn't clear where the journey ends or begins, and that distortion certainly may be the point. After all, where does truth end and legend begin? In Skull Kids, they coexist in the same rebellious forest." - Emma Wilson, author of Map to the Multiverse

"I enjoyed it. It set a dark mood. It felt visceral, almost uncomfortably real, but at the same time the elements of fantastical horror were there as well . . . reminded me of Lovecraft. I just may have to replay Ocarina sometime soon now. I know trying to have a career in creative writing is difficult . . . creative minds are under-appreciated in this day and age. Do not stop writing." - Eric Peters, Hoth

"Dylan Sanders seamlessly navigates multiple literary points of view concomitant with the narrating of the skull kids' characters. Often hallucinatory yet grounded in detail, Sanders' prose captures the energy of storytelling without sacrificing the open nature of the fantasy and horror genres." - Don Anderson, Agalloch

"Sander's Skull Kids is an alarming but refreshing poetic narrative about the difficulty and triumph of creativity. With inspired sentence cadences and rhythmic phrasing, Sanders provides a forest guide for the creative mind. It is no easy path. Sander's work relates the ecstatic conflict, difficulty, but also relief of creation. Rich with imagery—frightful, naturalistic, and sensual at once—Skull Kids shows that the work of making art is a wilderness journey one feels might have been made before, but which always remains foreign. It also signals growth." - Carmella Braniger

Introduction to the Second Edition

"Youth, like the people we love, disappears so fast."

It's heartbreaking how briefly Dylan was with us. He saw so clearly through the veil of our assumed lives, and you can read in his work this perceptiveness and skepticism of any easy givens.

In the wake of his death, there has been no easy way forward, but we want this book to be among the assurances that there is a way forward. This second edition of Skull Kids: Poetry to Read Alone in the Woods is intended as a memorial to Dylan, a gift to friends and loved ones, and a call to saving action for others who might be feeling desperate or lonely or without options. It brings together Dylan's original story restored here to his intended prose sequence and a selection of Dylan's poems collected in a section titled Skullkids: Poems to Read Alone in the Woods.

Dylan's family has asked that you not let this book sit idle: read it, pass it on to someone as a way of prompting awareness of and action to prevent suicide. To help, we have assembled a Suicide Prevention Resource page at the end of this collection, where someone in crisis can and help and understanding and where friends and family can and comfort and information about how to help.

Books need readers, no book more than this one.


Skull Kids started as an endeavor into local mythologies — okay that's a lie, but it sounds a lot better starting from there. It really started out with me forgetting that the submission deadline for the Bronze Man chapbook contest was quickly approaching; I had nothing prepared. This was going to be my last chance at getting some work published before I graduated (GOALS!). I took inspiration from a series that was still nostalgic to me: The Legend of Zelda. My end goal was to take a single creature and expand on it, building a world around it without turning the project into some half-assed Zelda fanfic.

I decided to use the mysterious creatures known as skull kids, kids who got lost in the woods and eventually died there, becoming mischievous forest spirits. I decided I could make this story my own and eventually, over the course of close to two months of (daily?) writing, Skull Kids emerged, a skeletal infant with 21 narrative poems or vignettes that followed two different nameless main characters, a skull kid and a human who are destined to meet in the forest.

Fast forward: it was selected as a winner! From there, Bronze Man discussed their desire to make Skull Kids a graphic novel, with which I was totally on board. In terms of marketing, I had very little idea what I was doing, but I decided to use my love of the music community by contacting some of my favorite music artists and asking them to read and comment on the book, a decision that garnered raised eyebrows. In total so far I've easily asked over 100 artists to read the book. About half of that asked to see the manuscript. And half of that replied with blurbs praising it etc. So first, thanks to all those artists I harassed over Facebook. Thanks to my friends, family and colleagues. Thanks to my professors and thanks to Bronze Man for sticking through the passive aggressive emails and art-related frustrations.

I guess what I want to say is this: Do what you want. Just because something hasn't been done your way before doesn't mean you're wrong. Just because you don't read a how-to book on writing poetry doesn't mean you can't write well. The same goes for practically anything else you do in life. Make up new words. Make up new places. Make up new history. We are always making our own mythologies no matter where we're from, and sometimes small pieces of mythology tell small truths.

~Dylan Sanders

About the Author

Dylan Sanders photographDylan Sanders grew up in a small Midwest town in Illinois. He spent his younger years playing video games such as Guitar Hero and, of course, Zelda, which is where he got his inspiration for this chapbook. Dylan has always loved literature and always loved sharing his favorites. Dylan considered reading a "significant awakening to a person's background and forthcoming existence." In addition to reading he found a niche for writing. He started writing in middle school and never stopped. He graduated from Millikin University in December of 2014 with a degree in Creative Writing. He used his talents to write articles for,, and has had poetry published in Jenny Magazine, Poet's Haven, and The Gambler. He also enjoyed writing critiques for many heavy metal bands.

Even though Dylan had all of these accomplishments, he suffered from severe depression. His misfortunes took him to a very dark place. Dylan committed suicide on June 29, 2017. Dylan "always found tragedy to hold the greatest potential ...". Because of that, his parents are committed to supporting the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people in the United States. Those younger people are the target group for this book. The Sanders are hoping that Skull Kids will be the foundation that leads that target group to choose other alternatives. They ask that you not let this book just sit on a shelf collecting dust. Please pass it on to someone you know or even someone you don't know. Spread awareness of this book and the potential for suicide.

Together, we can make a difference.

Suicide Prevention Resources

For those in crisis or for those looking for information about suicide prevention, we have assembled the following list of resources.

Crisis Hotlines
Suicide Prevention Phone Line
          National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) (Press 1 for Veterans Lifeline)

Suicide Prevention Text Line
          Crisis Text Line: Text TALK to 741741 Veterans Crisis Text Line: 838255

Organizations with Suicide Prevention Initiatives
The following organizations detail suicide recognition, safety, prevention, treatment, and educational programs, often with strategies for particular populations: LGBTQ, veterans, teens, and the mentally ill.

American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
          Their Find Support tab provides information for friends, family, and anyone in crisis.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

National Alliance on Mental Health Illness

          Their Find Support tab provides contacts and resources.

JED Foundation.

          The JED Foundation provides suicide prevention and mental health resources for teens and young adults.

bottom shadow image

small bmb logoBronze Man Books
Millikin University
1184 W. Main St.
Decatur, Illinois 62522

© 2019 Bronze Man Books • A Millikin University Press •