Terry Barr: How I Write

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Care to introduce yourself? What do you write?
My name is Terry Barr, and I write exclusively Creative Nonfiction, mainly reflections from my life growing up in Bessemer, Alabama, during the Civil Rights era. I also write about my marriage to a Middle Eastern woman and our joys and pains in raising two daughters.

What are you currently working on?
Currently I’m working on several smaller pieces–about growing older, about inter-ethnic spaghetti suppers, and about my love of 90’s Tv including Northern Exposure and The X-Files. I’m also collecting my “Bessemer” essays for a book. Some of these focus on strange deaths–witches, murdered janitors, and a boy who tried to beat a train.

One word that describes your writing habits?
The word that best describes my writing habit is “coffee.”

Do you write using a computer? A mobile device? If so, what software do you use? (Operating system, apps, etc.)
I use a MacBook Pro for some free writing and for revision. I love its intuitive sense. Mainly I use Microsoft Word; otherwise, I’m not computer savvy and use no apps, unless iTunes on my iPod counts.

Do you write longhand? If so, what medium do you use? (Type of notebook, pens, pencil, note cards, etc.)
Mainly I write longhand, using black, Moleskine notebooks, standard sized, ruled, and .5 or less Pilot G2 pens, black ink. I usually write in my study, sitting in my leather chair, cup of coffee on the table beside me, surrounded by books. Sometimes either my dog or cat find their way to my lap, so my longhand gets a bit shaky. My best time to write is mid-morning, usually for a couple of hours till 12:30 or 1. If the writing is going well, I’ll come back in the late afternoon for another hour or so. But I love the freshness of morning; and I especially love the feeling after of knowing I’ve already spent a good chunk of the day doing what I love. I teach at a small college and thankfully don’t have classes until afternoon, with Fridays off!

Complete this sentence: My biggest writing quirk is…
My biggest writing quirk is mundane. I have to have coffee when I write, preferably cafe au lait with a good Sumatra roast, though sometimes Brazil enters that picture.

What are you currently reading?
I’m currently reading Rick Bragg’s biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, and essays about JD Salinger.

What music (or other audio) do you listen to while you work?
I have a wide taste in music and always play something tranquil and moody while I write, like XX, Beach House, Merchandise, Angel Olson, PJ Harvey, or Jason Isbell.

The best piece of writing advice you’ve received?
The best writing advice I ever received was from Hemingway who encouraged writers always to know where they plan on starting the next day. I make notes to myself about what comes next, and they have proved invaluable. That’s the most disciplined thing I do when it comes to writing.

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