Welcome to The Burning Hearth. This month I’m happy to be featuring writer/teacher/editor, Amy Barnes.
A little over a year ago, I set up my profile page and entered the world of Twitter. Often times, I felt like the new kid at school, sitting on a virtual buddy bench waiting for someone to ask me to play. One day, I was noticed by this stranger (to me) named Amy Barnes, who liked one of my tweets, and then another, and another. I left my bench and went over to her feed and followed her. (This was in the days when the follow button was still blue.) Little did I know at the time, how beneficial a leader into the flash world she would be. She is a working writer, who seems to never stop.
Amy wanted to write since her youth. After taking some college creative writing courses, she began writing articles and essays in her early twenties. She began teaching online writing courses at this time as well. In our pre-interview conversation, Amy shared with me the following.
“I started writing/publishing mainly in the travel space with an ongoing column about Hwy 41. That then morphed into SEO and non-fiction content writing for sites like Gayot.”
Her published works can be found in many places, including, Forbes, Fodor’s, Allrecipes, Apartment Therapy, Popsugar, Realtor.com.
Amy also shared, “I continued to write throughout my kids being in elementary, middle and high school but mainly took on projects in the commercial or lifestyle spaces. In 2017/2018, I moved back seriously into writing fiction and discovered flash.”
This is when she began researching places to submit and to read/edit for multiple journals.
I think one can safely say, Amy started writing and never looked back. She’s omnipresent, ubiquitous (chose your adjective here), and prolific, inexhaustible (and here). Her non-fiction writing is funny, as demonstrated in her piece “Dunning-Krueger Farts in a Jar: Finding Inspiration in Headlines” published January 5, 2022, at trampset. Her writing is also thought provoking and a pleasure to read like her piece “Parental Reckonings: Writing in the Silent and Loud Hours” published on the same day at Reckon Review. (A demonstration of her ever-present and high-volume self.)
Her fiction is simply stunning. Her collection Mother Figures (ELJ Editions) came out in 2021. If you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend it. While reading Mother Figures, I was humbled by her mastery of the craft, and captivated by the agility she exhibits, taking her reader from the real to the surreal.
The Burning Hearth’s interview with Amy Barnes
I want to talk about your writing, but first, given your long history of being a published writer, I would love to hear your thoughts on the changes you’ve witnessed in the world of writing, regarding both social media and publishing.
First, thank you so much for these awesome questions and your support of the writing community! When I started writing seriously as an adult, I was using self-addressed stamped envelopes to have my manuscript and response sent back. I also annually bought a copy of Writer’s Market and pored over it for places to submit. No social media. I did have early online columns about regional travel and also parenting. In the early days of online publications, I wrote SEO content (fur storage and colon cleanses, anyone?), online greeting card copy, website copy and other exciting words. I honestly have no idea who was reading what I wrote. There was no instantaneous digital awareness. In those early days, I also taught courses through email and eventually an online platform – courses on self-editing, journaling, making writing more sensory, Southern lit, mystery writing. I wrote short stories during those early years too, submissions that went into anthologies and live somewhere now on the Wayback Machine. They are the short stories and novel attempts that I go back to now and reread, and rewrite.
You have shared with me that you have a goal of writing a novel in 2022. First, do you have an idea of what your novel will be about? Second, what do you feel is the most daunting aspect of writing a novel? Third, what about writing a novel excites you?
I have several deserted novels in Google Docs. I have discovered something interesting, however, as I’ve written more short and flash fiction. While taking a SmokeLong Quarterly class, Christopher Allen gave the best piece of advice. He told us to choose a handful of themes, objects and then write flash/short stories to those themes. In that process, I’ve found my flash/short stories easily link together and there’s a linear path to follow. I always thought a novel would be overwhelming but I’m going to approach it again this year. Instead of flash or micro fiction as small pieces of the story, I’m hoping to apply the process to writing chapters and eventually, a novel or maybe a novel-in-flash.
I recently reread Mother Figures (ELJ Editions, 2021) and while I was transfixed by the writing of these stories, mainly “Cul-de-Sac Saint” and “The Good Mother” I would like to focus on “Moon Wrapped.” This, to me, is one of those stories where every line hits. Was this a highly revised story, or was it one of those that fell from the pen nearly complete?
While the idea for “Moon Wrapped and the initial story did fall from the pen, so to speak, it has been significantly revised from that original version. The title especially. It moved from “The Man is the Moon” (121 words) to a significant rewrite (338 words) and a new title “The Dad Ran Away With the Moon” to the final title, “Moon Wrapped.” The length dropped back down and vacillated between 280 and 290 words. I subbed it to Bath Flash Fiction and it didn’t make the long list. I’ve also fiddled with the form; it’s been in traditional indented paragraphs before it ended up in the fully justified block paragraph. Sublunary Review, with its overall moon-y theme, became the perfect home. My ELJ Editions micro chap had to be made up of stories under 300 words so it was a good fit length-wise there. So, a long journey for a tiny piece of fiction.
I think one of the reasons this story jumped out at me when rereading your book was that I had your story “Waxing Christmas” fresh in my mind. You contributed this story to my blog The Burning Hearth’s December issue, Voices of the Winter Solstice. It is striking to me, these two disparate uses of the moon.
From “Moon Wrapped”
It fell in the desperate slow way moons do, death-dropping, stealing any remaining summer light slivers.
With one last swipe, she threw it back to the sky.
From “Waxing Christmas”
My great-grandmother hung the moon.
The recipe kept sewn in a skirt hem, she tossed cookies skyward, waiting for the sun to bake moon dough, both visible in days.
In reading these two stories, it made me think of why stories will never go away; and, while there are all of maybe six or so universal themes we all pull from, there are many different paths into these themes. And, obviously, these two stories also show how the same metaphor can be used to very different ends, evoking opposing emotions. I would love to hear your thoughts on this.
The stories are most likely linked into a further collection. I think I do write on a few themes and get stuck in an object or form like the moon that becomes a character/object itself, a touchpoint. I also think the moon is a lovely thing that poets and fiction writers alike rhapsodize about. I like playing with that form and object in different ways, figuratively pulling it down closer to humans on earth instead of leaving it in the sky as unreachable.
Upon sending me “Waxing Christmas” you thanked me for guiding you to find some joy. Why do you think joy can be so hard for some writers to come by in their writing?
For some reason, I think it feels easier for writers to write darker words. The trauma. The pain. The things that mark our lives. Maybe those memories or ideas come first. Maybe we also think we have to evoke something dark or memorable in writing or people won’t feel something. The brooding poet image. In actuality, readers can feel joy or nostalgia or happiness. Your guidance helped me to swing back to that more joyous type of writing, to find the joy moments as touchpoints instead of always focusing on less happy things.
Before closing this interview, your full-length flash collection titled “Ambrotypes” is being released in March of 2022 by word west press. Please, share what you can about your upcoming release.
If all things fall into place with edits and blurbs and printing, the collection will launch at and around AWP in March, 2022. I’m both excited and terrified to do readings but will be participating! The book is in pre-orders now and around 140 pages of mostly published pieces of short fiction, flash fiction and micros. Most are from the last three years but there are older pieces that felt like they fit too. It’s interesting going through the progression of how and what I’ve written about in the last five years. There are objects and themes that link the stories but mostly as glimmers of words: canned peas and other foods, space, time travel, music, glass, bits of fairy tales. Tangible links and also people connections. Working with the word west editors has been an awesome collaboration. The cover began as a more literal representation of the title, Ambrotypes – we added the water and fish to reflect the surreal elements in the stories.
The Burning Hearth is thrilled to have featured Amy Barnes and is grateful for the time she spent with this interview. Click on her name to be taken to her on Twitter.
As always stay safe and well until next month, when The Burning Hearth features Kim Magowan. We’ll be talking about many things, including her soon-to-be-published collection How Far I’ve Come.