Barbara A. Barnett, or babarnett as we know her on LiveJournal, is a 2007 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, where she learned valuable things about writing and the evil ways of chickens. Her fiction ranges from the dark to the wacky and usually falls within the realm of the fantastic: fantasy, science fiction, horror, and the just plain weird.
With more than twenty publication credits under her belt already, Barbara's latest sale, Dumping the Dead, is slated to appear at EveryDayFiction on October 30. The recent winner of two Meager Puddle of Limelight Awards (for Best Short Story Title and Best flash Fiction Title) kindly agreed to answer some questions about herself, her work, and her winning titles.
JON: Congratulations on your double Puddle victories. Which came first, the titles or the stories?
BARBARA: In both cases, the story. I can only recall one time where I ever came up with the title before the story.
JON: How did you decide upon the title?
BARBARA: "The Department of Villainous Affairs" was a no-brainer; it's where the story's set. "A Song Never Tasted" came from the story's premise. The protagonist has been cursed to feed on the souls of other women, which she senses in the form of music. At the story's start, she feels that she's fed on every kind of song there is, but then she meets a young woman with a song she's never tasted before.
JON: Are these stories finished/published?
BARBARA: "The Department of Villainous Affairs" was published in 2006 in vol. 4, issue 14 of Flash Me Magazine. It's about a supervillain who encounters his greatest foe yet: bureaucracy.
I wrote "A Song Never Tasted" about a year ago, and it's currently making the slush pile rounds. I think it's one of my better stories, so I'm a bit disappointed it hasn't found a home yet.
JON: As a reader, does a good title make a difference to you?
BARBARA: Most of what I read is on recommendation or because it's in a magazine or anthology I've picked up, so the title doesn't really affect my decision to read or not. A good title will, however, catch my attention and make me a little more excited to see what's in store. Of course, then you run into the risk of the story not living up to the title.
JON: What are your long-term goals as a writer?
BARBARA: World domination through the subliminal messages encoded in my fiction. But first I need to achieve my other long-term goal, which is to reach more readers by selling regularly on a professional level. In the meantime, my goal is to keep improving, keep submitting, and try not to suck.
JON: Tell us about your very first sale.
BARBARA: My first sale was a humorous science fiction story called "Harvey Benson and the Search for the Meaning of Life," which I sold (after a rewrite request) to a now-defunct, pays-in-copies zine back in 1997. It was one of the first things I ever sent out, and it wasn't until several years later that I started writing and submitting regularly, but the editor had a lot of good advice to offer the newbie that was me, for which I was very appreciative.
JON: What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever had?
BARBARA: Learn the rules, but never follow one off a cliff.
JON: Do you belong to a writing/critique group? Why/why not?
BARBARA: I've been part of a group in Philadelphia for a couple years now, I participated in some online groups before that, and I've been through the Odyssey Writing Workshop. I like being in a writing group for the chance to hang out and talk shop with other writers. And while workshops and critique groups aren't for everyone, for me they've been a big help in improving my work. I think the key is finding the right group (I tried one a while back that, while full of very nice people, didn't help me as a writer) and learning how to filter what's useful and what isn't when you get feedback.
JON: Where can readers find your work?
BARBARA: I have a bibliography on my website--the address of which I'll save for the next question.
JON: Aside from Live Journal, where else on the web can you be found?
BARBARA: You can find my website at www.babarnett.com.