Q&A with Terry Barr

We are thrilled to feature Terry Barr’s Cold Coffee as part of our new weekly feature series. As part of our weekly features, we are interested in learning more about our authors, and hope that their experiences will help to empower other writers. Please enjoy this brief Q&A with Terry!

What is your favorite childhood book?

My favorite childhood book was "Beautiful Joe: A Dog's Own Story" by Marshall Saunders. I found a copy of it a few years back in an antique store. I loved the book, narrated in first person by Joe himself, because it showed compassion and alerted me to how inhumane people can be toward animals--and also how loving.

What is the first book that made you cry?

Probably "The Call of the Wild" made me cry. I loved Buck and hated to see him go wild in the end. Now, I like his "choice."

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Don't be afraid to be funny. Not everything is deadly serious when it comes to writing.

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

When i was five and visiting a friend's hose, I wanted to show them that I was disappointed that I couldn't stay for supper. I really wasn't disappointed, because my friend's mother was a terrible cook, and mine was terrific. Anyway, to feign disappointment, I said "Dad blame it." My friend's mother turned abruptly and scolded me about using "slang." I didn't know what I was saying then, just repeating what I had heard at home. This same family, though, made no bones about using "Ni***r" for black people. Very enlightening for a small boy.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I have one book that I'm currently shopping around. At least one more beyond that.

What does literary success look like to you?

Those moments when I am reading an essay to an audience--any size audience, any place--from one of my two already published books (from Third Lung Press of Hickory, NC).

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

In the sense that I go deeply inside myself, lose track of time, and find details and memories coming from some hidden part of my mind, yes, I do find writing "spiritual." I think doing yoga is spiritual, too, but that's as close as I ever get to anything of that nature.

Do you hide any secrets in your work that only a few people will find?

Not really. I change names, but anyone who knows the story, or rather who lived the story alongside me, can reasonably figure out who these "characters" are.

Anything else you'd like to share?

Regarding the essay published here, I still like to find old diners, even if the coffee is not "gourmet." There's a place in Bath County, VA., called The Country Cafe. They serve Maxwell House, and it's delicious. It tastes like a memory that I enjoy re-experiencing.

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Weekly Feature: Terry Barr

The year I started teaching in South Carolina, I’d often get up at 6 am and head down to the diner closest to us, a place called Bullock’s. My wife didn’t have a job yet, and truthfully, we were both teetering on depression.

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