Writer Of The Week: Mary Barr

Writer Of The Week

Our Writer Of The Week is Mary Barr.

You can read Mary’s story, “What The Books Gave Back”, in our January 18 issue.

A library and its books are the focal points in the story. How important are local libraries to you?

Local libraries are very important to me.

It’s not just the wonderful selection of books on offer — books that can open up whole new worlds — it’s the atmosphere.

The information resources, notices and group activities draw in people of all ages and backgrounds.

They seem to reflect the best of all that is good in our local community.

This is your first published story in the “Friend”. What motivated you to write for the magazine?

I’ve always enjoyed reading the “Friend”. It’s been around our family throughout the generations — and I’ve Scottish relatives, so there’s a geographical connection, too.

But I was particularly inspired last year by the 150th Anniversary Edition, which beautifully explored the history of the magazine.

To think the “Friend” continued to be published through two Worlds Wars, witnessed men on the moon and saw women get the vote!

I was just in awe of how it has evolved and continues to do so whilst maintaining a warmth and kindness in its pages.

I thought, “I’d like to be part of that”!

The ending to “What The Books Gave Back” is both creative and inspirational. Was it always your intention to highlight the magical power of stories?

My story was inspired by a “Friend” writing prompt, which was a photograph of a room divider built entirely of books.

My intention was to find another way to recycle books and turn that into a story.

I began by working out a loose storyline; then, as I continued to write, the ending of the story just emerged naturally.

What types of stories do you enjoy reading in your spare time?

I enjoy reading a variety of genres.

I like something that gives me new perspectives on life and the human spirit — life-affirming stories, with strong characters.

But I also enjoy humour, a good mystery or a courtroom drama.

I often read the Costa Book and Short Story Award winning writers for pure enjoyment.

Currently, I’m reading Sebastian Faulks’ “Human Traces” on what it means to be human.

It has mixed reviews but, so far, I’m finding it fascinating.

Notebook and pencil or laptop? Kitchen table or study? Blank wall or inspiring view?

I use a pen and A4 pad while working out the bones of a story. I leave this handy so I can add new insights or ideas as they spring to mind.

When I feel I’ve done enough there, I move to the laptop in my “writing room” and type up a first draft.

Here I have a small desk, books, family photographs and, through the south facing window, the companionable, waving branches of a large sycamore.

What’s your one top tip for an aspiring Writer Of The Week?

It’s been said before, but write every day if you can — even if it’s only a writing exercise.

Also, give your first draft free rein. Let it all pour out on to the page; no-one’s going to see it, and there might be some real gems in there that you might have stifled if you’d tried too hard to get it “right” first time.

You can shape and edit it later in draft two . . . or three . . .

Good luck!

For from from our Writer Of The Week series, click the tag below.

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.