Today, Jodi Barnes joins me to talk about her new release, pantsing, and the incarceration of Santa Clause.
- Tell us about yourself: I wrote poetry as young as four or five, especially in church. Writing has always been part of my life, but I really got serious about the daily practice of writing almost seven years ago. I took a writing class with Carrie Knowles in Raleigh and we met every week for two-three hours at a stretch. I’ve been writing every day for the last five years.
- A pantser or a planner? While I do some planning, at least initially, I’m 85% pantser. Some of my best writing, I think, has come from letting go of preconceptions. There’s a quote, it might be Frost’s: If your writing doesn’t surprise you, it’s not going to surprise the reader. I like to be surprised every chance I get.
- My writing process is only standard in that I do it every day, unless I’m sick or away for a family occasion. I write while on vacation because it’s important and pleasurable. My process varies depending on deadlines, self-imposed or not. So, if I have a piece or collection that I know needs submitted by Dec. 1, I’ll only focus on the submission until it’s done. I want to get good at “time boxing” various projects so I make more progress on several things throughout my work day, but sequential seems to work pretty well for me.
- The biggest influence in my work and in my life is Tom Robbins. I “met” Tom’s work when I was 33 years old, a new PhD student in Athens, GA, with two small daughters. I first read Still Life With Woodpecker and thought I’d never read anything so wonderful until I picked up Skinny Legs and All, then Even the Cowgirls Get the Blue, Jitterbug Perfume. I have all his books and a photo of him with his arm around me, taken at Quail Ridge Books in 2003. He weaves theology, mysticism, sex and politics into his stories. He’s a very smart, talented guy who has the good sense to not take himself too seriously. As for poets, it’s probably Dorianne Laux (who’s at NC State) and Ruth Stone.
- Upcoming work? When I wrote Santa Breaks Bad, I was in the middle of writing and editing a collection of flash and short-short stories. I’ve been fortunate to have several of these stories already published, but that’s the next thing: I’ll finish a collection. Also, 14 Words For Love (started Jan. 2013) is an ongoing community literacy project that will gear up again in January for Valentine’s Day. Last year about 600 people around the world wrote 3,000 14-word poems and posts about community kindness, compassion, peace and forgiveness. I LOVE this project and hope to reach twice as many people next year.
- Tips for new writers?It’s just like learning an instrument or a sport or singing, dancing or becoming a physicist. You must PRACTICE. If not every day, you must get to the place where you feel the pull to do it every day. It takes time. Most people have the nascent talent but they aren’t patient enough. Also, take at least one hour every day or night to READ.
- Tips for old writers? See the above. Seriously. And when rejection slips overcrowd your inbox you have two choices: find other journals and magazines or pay someone to edit a few of your pieces. Critique groups go soft because people become friends. I love critique groups, but this is human nature. It’s rare that a friend or a spouse can tell you that you’re not hitting the mark. You have to take yourself seriously and invest in your own training and development.
In 14 flash fiction chapters, Santa goes off on a reality TV celeb and is swiftly incarcerated while political, social and supernatural forces conspire to cancel Christmas. Two brilliant women — a Russian hacker and a Moroccan pastry chef — enlist The Legion of Doom to free Santa. But not before Joker and the KGB attempt one last deal.The world of mythic, graphic and human characters becomes strangely credible in this international love comedy. Santa’s meltdown sets off a chain of events where everyone – Mrs. Claus, the Joker, Russian spies, and lovely Carmelita – is forced to face what they really want. As greed and jealousy infect humans and supervillains alike, only love can save them…and maybe Christmas.