Intern Marc interviews Stacy Barton, author of “That Exit” in the Best of Potomac Review, Issue 50.

Marc: Growing up in Oklahoma City and now residing in Maitland, Florida, how much of an impact, if any, do your background, experiences, etc., have on the pieces you write?

Stacy Barton: I grew up all over; I was born and raised (off and on) in Oklahoma, learned to read and write in Tennessee, was an adolescent in Pennsylvania and moved to small-town Florida at the age of 19.  The land and the climate, the images and the sounds, the people and the stories that inhabit all of these places are woven into me.  When I was 6, living in Nashville, I made an audiotape of a Shake ‘n’ Bake commercial, complete with a veteran Tennessee accent.  We had lived there for three weeks.

M: Who is your favorite author and has their writing style influenced yours in any way?

Stacy Barton: My background is as an actress, and in my early days of writing I knew very little about literary authors.  After I had written my first few short stories, someone asked me if I liked Flannery O’Conner because I reminded them of her.  Can you believe that I didn’t know who she was?  Well, it wasn’t long before I was a huge fan…and even though a resemblance may have been unknown early on, these days I re-read my copy of A Good Man is Hard to Find for encouragement and guidance.

M: What inspired you to write the short story “That Exit”?

Stacy Barton:  <laugh> I was driving back from the Atlanta AWP with a friend in 2007 – when my book Surviving Nashville had just been released – and we stopped at a quick store in south Georgia.  There in front of me was a huge billboard with a giant splat of bird s**t over the Burger King crown…the makings of the first line of the story.  The rest of the inspiration came from the sad images that a rural, southern, quick store seems to hold…that and an overactive imagination – I feel people’s stories.

M: Which of the characters from “That Exit” do you consider is most like you and why?

Stacy Barton: Hmmm…all of them in some way – ha.  Once an actress always an actress I guess.  Truthfully I act them each out as I write – I know them from the inside.  But if I had to pick one, I guess I would say Georgia.  Not in circumstance, but in her self-conscious heart, her deep noticing, her worry and her hope.

M: Is there anything that you want your readers to take away from reading your stories?

Stacy Barton: I hope they feel something.  I hope they connect to something…either a piece of themselves they had tucked away, or a person they would never have noticed or considered.  Perhaps they might read a story and somehow see the world from another perspective.  For a moment anyway.  I believe stories are how we make sense of the world around us and I believe sharing them offers us a sacred way to connect; I would be honored if my simple stories were a part of that magic.

M: You are the author of Surviving Nashville and a show writer for Disney. You are clearly an accomplished author. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

Stacy Barton: That’s funny; I still consider myself to be aspiring.  (At the same time I do remember when I first started saving the poems I wrote on envelope backs and tossed on the floor of my minivan). My best advice is to write with abandon.  Do not write “good” stories, just write your stories – as Natalie Goldberg once said, “Go for the jugular!” After you have your tale on the page, you may do what you need to make it “good,” but judgment has no place in a first draft; first drafts are for spilling your heart.

M: What literary projects are you working on now?

Stacy Barton: My latest publishing news is that I have a new short story coming out in Gargoyle Magazine next June.  As for book projects, my first novel is with my agent and we have gotten some glorious rejections from some incredible places; for now I am in waiting mode.  I have a second short story collection that I am working on with the publisher of Surviving Nashville, WordFarm.  My editor says I need about three more stories to complete it.  Finally I am about a third of the way into a new novel that I am really excited about (no details at this time, it is “in the womb” so to speak).

Stacy Barton’s stories have appeared, or are forthcoming, in a variety of literary journals including Gargoyle, Potomac Review, Southern Women’s Review, Relief, Ricochet (Australia) and Ruminate.  Her story, “That Exit,” was recently chosen for the Best of Potomac Review. Her collection of short stories, Surviving Nashville, was released by WordFarm in 2007, and the audio version will be available soon.  In addition to short fiction, Stacy is the author of a picture book, several one-act plays, a Ringling Bros. Circus and an animated short film. Currently, Stacy works as a free-lance scriptwriter for the Disney Company.  Learn more at www.stacybarton.com or follow her on twitter @stacybarton.