‘Write On’ with Karin Barbee


Students might know her as one of their current or previous English professors, but one thing students didn’t know is that Karin Wraley Barbee is a published author.

First, she earned her MFA in poetry at Bowling Green State University.  After graduating, she also taught composition there for seven years, eventually settling down at Siena Heights University in 2011. Her husband, Matt Barbee was already working at Siena.

She said, “having done my undergraduate work at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio, I knew I’d have more opportunity to get to know my students at SHU.”

As a professor who teaches poetry, she has works of her own. Last winter, her book “Go Life!,” which is a book of redacted poems and are “created by pulling words from a source text and arranging them into a poem,” was published.

She said she chose to take from, or “redact from Sarah Palin’s autobiography “Going Rogue.'”

She made strict rules for herself, stating, “I would keep the words in the same order as I found them. I would try and take at least one word from each page. What I ended up writing was a series of poems that are not about Sarah Palin but about an unnamed woman who struggles to escape a mundane life and achieve greatness through political power.”

Soon after, she was excited to hear that another company was interested in her collection.

Though not released yet, Barbee is working on another manuscript “No Bodies,” which is the opposite of the other one, as it is more personal. She said she wrote it by taking a sabbatical last semester. It focuses on motherhood, communication and loss.

On Nov. 6, Barbee had an event in Rueckert Auditorium where she read a story that she published in Columbia Review that included some of her poems and fiction.

“The readings seemed to go well,” Barbee said. “I enjoy reading my work to an audience. I always get a bit nervous, more so as I get older and simply seeing the page clearly gets more difficult, but it’s a lot of fun to share work that otherwise will likely go unread.”

So what made her want to become a writer?

“I loved to write and read. I took quite a break between my undergrad and graduate degrees and had more than one terrible job in the interim. One day I just realized that I really loved to write. Graduate school helped me fall back in love with the process,” she said.

As a writer/author, the publishing process can be competitive, maybe even brutal, she said.

“Publishing is time consuming and expensive.”

She’s submits up to 15 journals just to get a poem published in one. She said publishers require submission fees, and then there’s the “waiting game.” Most of the time it takes five months, but some could take up to a year.

Actually publishing the manuscript is harder, she said, as one can either join a contest, or have an agent (if a previous successful writer) shop it around. Barbee said she did the former.

It usually takes around $15-$30 for them to read it, then they slim down contestants, and have a well-known writer choose the winner.

She has advice for any students who want to publish their work: first take classes (intro to creative writing/poetry/fiction), produce and revise, and try to publish it to either Eclipse or underground journals.

She said, “There are predatory publishers that accept just about anything but charge you an arm and a leg for a copy of the work in print. It’s a scam. So be sure you do your research and find journals that are publishing good work. There are several websites with information that can be useful. pw.org and Newpages.com are good places to explore.”

Here last tip: If you want to write, just write.

To look up and/or purchase more of Barbee’s work, visit her website at karinwraleybarbee.weebly.com.