When a friend writes me and says, Would you interview my friend? I do everything I can to say yes. So this interview is a result of that request from my college friend Manny. If you have ever struggled with the path your life has taken, if you love someone who has Down Syndrome, if you doubt the reasons you life has come the way it has, I think you’ll appreciate the words of Jack Barr.
1. Tell me about your latest project.
I have recently written my first book, Failing at Fatherhood. It was released this past November. A publisher contacted me about two years ago after he read my article about our family on CNN. He encouraged me to write a book and share my story with a broader community. That led me to writing Failing at Fatherhood.
2. What role, if any, did books, writing, and reading play in your childhood?
I was not an avid reader growing up. My parents encouraged me to read, but I was more interested in outside activities. After I became a Christian in college, reading became more important to me. One author that encouraged me in my journey was Tony Campolo. His book, Carpe Diem, opened my eyes to our calling as Christians and the needs of others around us.
3. What is your writing practice, your writing routine?
Since I have finished my book, I occasionally blog. Usually I blog when something in the news or my life strikes me as an interesting story to share with others. Recently I wrote about Brittany Maynard and Lauren Hill. I shared my own thoughts about their stories and my personal experience of watching my father die of cancer when I was eighteen years old.
4. Who are you reading now?
I have three authors that I follow on a regular basis: Michael Connelly, John Grisham, & Ken Follett. I enjoy “getting lost” in their stories and taking a break from my other responsibilities. I also read various Christian authors when I find a topic interesting to me. Right now I am working through a devotional book entitled, Conversations, by Brian Rice.
5. What are three of your all-time favorite books? Why do you love those?
Tony Campolo – Carpe Diem – It was the first Christian book I read that embraced difficult questions about Christian beliefs. Tony gives you honest insight into what it means to be a Christian and follow that calling.
John Grisham – A Time to Kill – I grew up in the South, so many issues in this book I saw in my own community. This is the first book I read by Grisham, and I have been reading his books ever since. The book gives us a true glimpse into racism and makes us question our beliefs about justified murders.
Mitch Albom – Tuesdays with Morrie – This book prompted me to become a teacher and the purpose of my life. The topics discussed in this memoir should be topics discussed between every pupil and teacher.
6. How do you balance “building a writing platform” and the actual writing to set on that platform?
I didn’t really follow a traditional writing process. I just wrote my story. It was easy for me to write because it was a story I wanted to share. After battling depression for a year, I knew I wanted to help other fathers. The publisher contacted me before the book, so I was writing with the idea that my book would be published. Since writing the book, I have learned that promoting a book might be the hardest aspect of being an author.
7. What is a typical day like for you?
First we live in Bangkok, and I am a teacher at an international school. I start each day at 7am at teacher devotions. From 7am till 3pm, I am teaching or overseeing the athletic program at our school. Usually from 3pm till 5pm, I am coaching a sports team after school. At 5pm, I journey home to spend time with my wife and daughter. My daughter goes to bed around 8pm, and I read for an hour before going to bed around 9pm.
8. Describe your dream writing space?
Somewhere quiet. Does not really matter the location. As long as my three-year-old daughter is not running around my feet, then it will work for me.
9. What is the hardest writing critique you ever received? How did you respond?
That was probably some of the comments from readers about my CNN article. I wrote about my journey in raising a daughter with Down syndrome. I never realized that people could be extremely mean and hurtful. I am not a traditional writer so when people critique my writing, I accept that with a willingness to improve. But when people attack my beliefs, personal choices, and my own daughter for being different, I realized that the world could be a hurtful place. How did I respond? I cried.
10. What is the best wisdom you have to share with other writers?
Write about what you care about. I never wrote to be famous or to earn income. I wrote because I cared about the topic and my future readers. If you write to serve others, then you will always be happy with the finished product.
Jack and Jana Barr are missionaries in Bangkok, Thailand. Three years ago, Jack and Jana did not know God would use their daughter Marley, to forever alter their life plan. Marley was born with Down syndrome and that event sent Jack crashing into a sea of depression. They started, If They Had A Voice, an awareness campaign that focuses on Down syndrome abortions. Jack also wrote his first book, Failing at Fatherhood.