Bill Arnott’s Showcase Interview: Barbara Black

Welcome back, Showcasers, to another fun Q&A author interview. Today we’re privileged to chat with musician, poet, and mixed media writer Barbara Black. Welcome, Barbara! Please introduce yourself with a bio:

I’m Barbara Black, a late-bloomer creative writer, emerging from my freelance writing-editing background into poetry, fiction, and libretto-writing. My first book, a short story collection titled Music from a Strange Planet will be published by Caitlin Press in 2021. My work has been published in Canadian and international magazines and anthologies including the 2020 Bath Flash Fiction Award Anthology, The Cincinnati Review, The Hong Kong Review, The New Quarterly, CV2, Geist and Prairie Fire. I’m honoured to have been a finalist in the 2020 National Magazine Awards, nominated for the 2019 Writers’ Trust/McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize and to have won the 2017 Writers’ Union of Canada Short Fiction Award. When I’m not corralling words, I might be out on my Triumph Street Triple RS bagging curves. I live and garden in Victoria, BC, Canada.

Q. (I’ve seen social media pics of you on the Triumph – very cool!) In addition to your writing awards, what do you feel you’re best known for?

A. The top two contenders would be: Quirky but penetrating and humane fiction, and my love of bees (and all pollinators). It is no coincidence that my nickname is BB or Bee.

Q. (It makes perfect sense!) And what do you feel brought you here?

A. After a prolonged stretch of hermitude, I started “creative” writing and took an oath to “say yes to everything” and the opportunities poured in and the seat of my office chair wore out. But I am grateful.

Q. (Well done; I like that approach.) Who do you consider a role model or mentor?

A. I’m eclectic and wide-roaming. I like people with strong and unique voices. I would cite artists Louise Bourgeois (who doesn’t love a giant spider?), Frida Kahlo and Artemesia Gentileschi, masters of beauty and daring, who are not afraid of the dark. Writers … Anne Carson, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Patricia Lockwood, George Saunders, Sylvia Plath, the raw truth that is Nina Simone, and the passion of Piazzolla.

Q. (That’s a remarkable list.) What’s your advice to others?

A. Never take advice from others. (Bill interrupts with a laugh.) But seriously, as a writer, my advice is: write it and they will come. If you find your authentic writing voice, people will be drawn to it. Don’t write to the market. And read, read, read.

Q. (Perfect advice.) And tell us please, what are you currently working on?

A. My latest baby is a flash fiction manuscript tentatively titled Little Fortified Stories, appetizers so tantalizing you might wolf them all down and never feel you need dinner. Also in the works is a libretto for a comic Chamber Opera titled “Twisted Tales,” for mixed voices and chamber ensemble in collaboration with composer Katerina Gimon and Vancouver’s Erato Ensemble. I love collaboration.

Q. (I see collaborative elements in your artistic hand-collages.) And what are your favourite: book, album, movie, and food dish?

A. I still can’t resist Melville’s slightly unwieldy but brilliant Moby Dick. On the minimalist side, I cherish Chekhov’s compactness, the mystery of Bruno Schulz’s The Street of Crocodiles and the sheer strangeness of Diane Williams’ Collected Stories. Pianist Fred Hersch’s album Solo Fred Hersch. Dish? Much like short stories, I go for the layer-thing in food, so my vote is super-stacked multi-layered ground pork-eggplant-zucchini-red peppers lasagne. Insert Italian nummy word.

Q. (Bella!) And for a trademark Quirky Question. Make a choice: Everybody Loves Raymond or Frasier?

A. Awkward. I’m a TV abstainer. (Alcohol’s OK, though.) But if I had to pick a DVD series fave I would go for Inspector Montalbano, cuz Sicily! and I love Montalbano’s humanity and expressive hand gestures.

(Bill) I’m seeing a trend here, and I like it! Thanks Barbara, this has been fun. You’ve given me some “new” authors to add to my to-read list.

Watch for Barbara’s short story collection, Music from a Strange Planet this Spring. And you can see more of Barbara’s diverse talent on her website: barbarablack.ca, social media @barbarablackwriter, and find Barbara’s innovative hand-collage poems and stories on Instagram @bblackwrites.

(Photo by Erin Clayton Photography)


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Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, theGone Viking travelogues, andA Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot(Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land. 

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