1. Tell me about your latest project.
My last project is a memoir, For the Love of God, which concentrates on growing up in Atlantic City during the rise of legalized gambling. It has a lot to do with the changes that were made in organized crime groups, as well as how it effected the locals. I am currently working on my second memoir, Mad World, which focuses on losing a best friend and lover during my first year at university. The flash-nonfiction piece that inspired this was recently published in the anthology Real.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
Growing up my father always read to me. When I was very little he would real children’s books to me, but as I got older he would find books such as The Secret Garden, which we would both enjoy reading together. As my reading skills improved, I would read to him at night before bed. To this day I still read every night before bed, and often read to my nieces and nephews via Skype before they go to bed. I think it is very important to have strong, creative influences in your life as a child, and have adults who encourage your exploration of those creative outlets.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
I wake up incredibly early, go for a run and then attempt to write for two hours, four times a week. On Saturdays I try and write a little longer, but I am teaching a 5/6 course load this year, so I have to find time to write when I can.
4. Who are you reading now?
I just finished Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her, and I’m excited to be able to possibly sit in on one of his classes when I go to Boston for AWP. I am also about to start the new Ian McEwan book that my friend shipped me from the UK since it isn’t released here for a few months.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The Great Gatsby, Dreaming in Cuban. As you can tell from the three books I have listed I am a huge fan of magical realism. I love stories that carry enough of reality to make the story work, but still heavily rely on the magical realism to give the work alternative meanings. I also believe that most people, who are successful, have what I like to call a Gatsby-ism. A need to prove people who who say that they are unable to succeed This is also a very prevalent idea in all of these three books, and something that I can personally relate to. I also find that books that display perseverance and magical realism are great teaching tools for literature & creative writing classes.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I’m not quite sure what you mean by this question.
7.What is a typical day like for you?
I generally wake up early, either go for a run or ride my bike, then take my dog out. I then give myself two hours of uninterrupted time to write, eat breakfast and then head to the university to teach.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
My dream writing space would be in a small room, without any large windows. I find that windows distract if I am facing them when I write. I also like to write in natural light, so I would prefer to have many small windows that ran across the top of the room. It is easier for me to write when it is colder out, so my dream writing space would be in a colder climate then that one that I am in now.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
When graduating from my MFA program, my thesis adviser told me that he didn’t think that I had what it takes to be a writer. That I was too driven, and too calculated. He said that if it was up to him, he would not allow me to pass. I am reminded of his words every day when I begin to write, and I have had a lot of success from the pain of his words. Without his hurtful and unjustified words I most likely would not have had as much of a drive. In the past two years since I have graduated from the program my work as been featured in six separate anthologies, Real, Yes! I Can, Thoreau’s Rooster, So Long & Christmas, Christmas. my memoir, For the Love of God, has been bought by a nice-sized publisher, and I have been featured in quite a few national publications such as Creative Nonfiction, Bootleg, Charlotte Viewpoint and a few others. I have also been asked to speak on a panel at the Southern Women’s Writers Convention and the AWP convention in Boston.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
If you want to be a writer, you have to do more than call yourself a writer. You have to put in 20x more than what you expect to take out of it. If you are not willing to give up you free time, certain friendships, or change your priorities, then you shouldn’t even try. But if you are the type of person who can take rejection, and turn it into positive creativity then you have the ability to flourish in this industry. It will hurt more than it will make you happy for a long time. It will take many tries until you get people to accept your work, and it will take even longer to get to a place where people are willing to pay for your work. But if you have the drive, and the talent, I would tell you to push on. There are too many people who do things half-assed in today’s society, so if you are willing to put in more effort than everyone else, there is a really good chance you might make it.
Meghan K. Barnes is a English & creative writing Instructor who holds an MFA in nonfiction from The University of North Carolina Wilmington, AWP’s 2nd ranked nonfiction program in the country. Her book For the Love of God will be released in Spring 2013. Her work has been featured multiple literary magazines such as Creative Nonfiction, The New York Times Magazine, The Beat & Charlotte Viewpoint, as well as six anthologies: So Long, Writers Block, Yes I Can, Christmas, Christmas, Real & Thoreau’s Rooster. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize in both nonfiction and fiction, and will be on a panel at this years Southern Women Writers Conference as well as AWP.