An Interview with Tina Barry

 
 

This summer, author Tina Barry will be teaching Gemini Ink’s very first online workshop, “Go Small or Go Home: The Art of Microfiction.”

Gemini Ink spoke with Barry about the rising popularity of short forms of prose, her current projects, and her upcoming online workshop.

Tina Barry is a freelance writer and the author of Mall Flower, a collection of poems and short fiction (Big Table Publishing, 2015). Her work has been published in The Best Short Fiction 2016, Drunken Boat and The American Poetry Journal, among other publications, and has been nominated for two Pushcart prizes. Barry earned her MFA in creative writing in 2014 from Long Island University in Brooklyn. She currently serves as a teaching artist at The Poetry Barn and a writing tutor for SUNY Ulster. Barry lives in the Hudson Valley, New York. Visit Tina at  www.tinabarrywriter.com.

 

Gemini Ink: Your background is mainly in poetry. What drove you to start writing microfiction? How is it different from some of your prose poems?

Tina Barry: Actually, I didn’t start writing poetry until I was in graduate school. I was first a writer of short fiction. There’s a fine line between my prose poems and fiction. I’m working on a series now that I call “poem stories.” The language is rich and the plots aren’t always linear; the pieces teeter between both forms. There’s so much to borrow from prose poems and narrative poems, so I’ll be using lots of them as examples in “Go Small or Go Home: The Art of Microfiction,” Gemini Ink’s first online workshop.

GI: What do you think is one of the most rewarding parts of writing short pieces, especially microfiction?

TB: Short pieces, long pieces—to start with nothing and end up with a story is thrilling.

GI: Who have you read in the past that really inspired you to write microfiction?

TB: Guy de Maupassant was an early influence. Lydia Davis, Amy Hempel, there are so many. I read and continue to read narrative poets such as Sharon Olds, Matthew Dickman, and Kim Addonizio whose poems tell such rich stories.

GI: What project(s) are you currently working on?

TB: I’ve been working on a series of short pieces about Virginia Haggard, Marc Chagall’s lover, and her daughter, five-year-old Jean McNeil. Both are fascinating women for many reasons, and yet they don’t always appear in historical accounts of Chagall. I wanted to allow the women to speak, so my “poem stories” are written in Virginia’s and Jean’s voices. In late October, I’m curating a show at the Wired Gallery in High Falls, NY, a small village where I live, and where Chagall, Haggard and McNeil lived from 1946-1948. The gallery is situated on the same street where the family resided. The show includes 14 women artists, working in styles that range from illustration to site-specific installations, who will each interpret a different story from the series. It’s really satisfying to introduce Haggard and McNeil to people who may not have heard of them, and to bring more attention to the artists’ work.

GI: Describe your first writing desk.

TB: I was a textile designer before I became a writer, so I used my old worktable. I still write on an artist’s table; I like to put paper clips and odds and ends in the little plastic wells.

GI: Recently, a number of different kinds of short fiction have gained popularity: flash fiction, nano-fiction and microfiction, among others. What do you make of that?

TB: We now communicate in short form: Twitter, emails, texts, etc., so writing creatively in that way seems natural. Online journals popularized the form too, so there’s more interest than ever in writing and reading it. I’m always perusing Flash Frontier, Connotation Press, Blue Five Notebook, and Five:2:One.

GI: What is your favorite piece of writing advice?

TB: The creative non-fiction writer and novelist Jo Ann Beard told me that if I read my work before submitting it for a critique, it’s like reading with s—t-colored glasses. You only see the flaws. It was good advice.

GI: Who are you reading right now?

TB: Margaret Atwood. I’m just about to reread The Handmaid’s Tale. I read the book in 1985 when it was first published. I found the maids’ predicaments harrowing then. Now, with the #MeToo movement and so many women’s rights under attack, Atwood’s story should resonate even more.

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