BIW Member Interview
Cornelia Barr lives in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, with her husband Matt, two exuberant dogs, and six cats; they all follow the adventures of her daughter Annemarie, from teaching in New York City to sailing on a tall ship to dancing flamenco in Spain.
Moe: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Cornelia Barr: For years and years I was what Julia Cameron calls a “shadow writer.” I worked as a copy and developmental editor for book publishers and really liked helping other people bring their vision into focus. Once, someone introduced me as a writer, and I corrected her: “Oh no, I’m an editor–that’s different.” Around 1999, I realized that instead of editing other people’s bad writing, I could produce my own bad writing and enjoy it a lot more! I also got the idea for a novel that wouldn’t let go–about historical secrets at a living history museum that come out and wreak havoc. It’s now finished, and I’m seeking an agent.
Moe: Describe three lessons you have learned about writing.
1. Rewrite! Having been an editor, I know I can write absolute drivel, come back and revise it, and make it into something good.
2. Always keep the reader in mind, whether you’re writing fiction, ad copy, or a travel article. My mantra is, “We’re in the communication business–so communicate!”
3. Don’t lose focus of submitting work for publication, if that’s your goal. It’s hard for me to finish a piece and send it out the door, but it’s really important.
Moe: What are you working on now?
Cornelia Barr: Pitching my novel, The Tanner’s Tale; launching a blog, working on another novel; and seeking publishers for some short stories in order to enhance my “fiction cred” with agents.
Moe: Do you have a favorite writing-related book?
Cornelia Barr: Definitely, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I like the structured approach to unleashing creativity (I think it appeals to the workaholic in me).
Moe: What is your favorite writing website?
Cornelia Barr: Right now, I have to say Backspace, because of my focus on finding a berth for my novel.
Moe: Do you have an important BIW tip you’d like to pass along?
Cornelia Barr: Preparation is key–not only getting chores out of the way and the kids stashed somewhere, but getting your papers and ideas in order beforehand. In my most productive BIWs, I begin to write, or at least outline, before the start of BIW to get the juices flowing. (Note to self: Follow this advice!)