Lily Barlow, The Mystery of Jane Dough coming 12-4-18!
It’s kind of a downer when a writer has a tough time generating a bio that doesn’t sound like an accountant’s resume or a profile on Match.com. After re-reading a couple drafts...well...I wasn't even that interested in me. So I decided to uncork that good ol’ stream-of-consciousness, and just let it ride.
A Weird Obsession
A friend once complained she never met anyone more sensitive to color. It's a problem. I'm on the first name basis with people in several paint departments, because it's not just a color, it's a relationship. I buy those tiny sample paints in bulk and request a lot of experimental changes (“Can you make this yellow 75% lighter?”). One time, I had the guy match my husband’s purple button-down to get the perfect shade for my closet. Then there was my first house. I asked the painter to repaint an entire bedroom because the light blue he used wasn’t the light blue I picked. NC State fans will appreciate the difference between light blue and Carolina Blue. And that, my friends, is not a line I’m willing to cross. Go Wolfpack.
I enjoy superstitions, the more obscure the better. There’s something intriguing about a basketball player who does a certain shuffle every time at the free throw line, or a teacher who touches an inscription on the school building before walking through the door each morning. Braden Holtby, goal tender for the Washington Capitals, is one of my favorites. He flips a water bottle backwards into his glove at the end of each period; he also squirts the bottle when play stops. That second thing seems to be more an exercise in focus than a superstition, though. I read once that he zeros in on one drop of the water coming out of the bottle and watches until it hits the ice. No matter the why, I enjoy the ritual.
One of the first superstitions I acquired was throwing salt over my left shoulder anytime I spill the shaker. I also do it when someone else spills the shaker, because most of the time that person isn’t versed in this particular practice. I picked this baby up from my Gram, who was both Polish and Catholic, a combination known to generate a special brand of symbolism.
Devil in the Details
I have a thing for details, because it's all about the back story. Don’t just give me the bones. Flesh it out. For example, say a couple met at a restaurant for a blind date. Typically, the focus is on the couple and how the chemistry evolved. I need more, though, like what they ordered and did the server nail the specials. My all time favorite list of details is from the movie Bull Durham, when Crash Davis answers Annie Savoy’s question, “What do you believe in, then?”
Well, I believe in the soul, the cock, the pussy, the small of a woman's back, the hanging curve ball, high fiber, good scotch, that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent, overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. I believe there ought to be a constitutional amendment outlawing Astroturf and the designated hitter. I believe in the sweet spot, soft-core pornography, opening your presents Christmas morning rather than Christmas Eve and I believe in long, slow, deep, soft, wet kisses that last three days.
I like to tell stories with—you guessed it—lots of details, and I do it best in writing. Friends and acquaintances have for years and without knowing it been my practice field. I’ll snatch a nugget I once told someone and regurgitate it on the page if it meets a need. My love of details threatens to make my writing longwinded, but I control this with healthy cuts in an endless parade of rewrites. When it occasionally gets away from me, I have a quaint name for the problem; I call it the Walt Whitman Syndrome. Oh, Walt. I don’t particularly like you, but yet I am you, incessantly describing the details of each and every stinkin’ detail.
The big doors of the country barn stand open and ready,
The dried grass of the harvest-time loads the slow-drawn wagon,
The clear light plays on the brown gray and green intertinged,
The armfuls are pack'd to the sagging mow.
--Walt Whitman from Song of Myself
The Road I Traveled
I graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in Language Arts, Writing and Editing (so English). Then I got a Master's in education from George Mason University. I worked in fund development, raising money for nonprofit organizations, and I taught special education in the public school system for what seemed like a lifetime but in reality was only about fourteen years.
The Rest of It
I appreciate people who move turtles off the road, if they do it in a manner that's safe for themselves and the other drivers. Almost every cup of coffee I drink needs to be reheated in the microwave a minimum of two more times. Whenever we go West, something out there whispers love songs to my soul. It amazes me every day that my husband puts up with almost all of my nonsense. I'd be a superhero for the cape alone. When setting the lineup for my fantasy football team, the Free Range Chickens, I solicit a lot of input. Given the opportunity to smash a penny on the railroad tracks, I’ll do it every time, and I'm not sure that's even legal. I'm drawn to honeysuckle and graveyards. My last meal on death row would be a tomato sandwich on white bread with Duke's mayonnaise. I have an affection for the semi-colon. I wrote my obituary about ten years ago, for no particular reason. I'm always in a showdown with technology.
I hope my stories make you smile.