Interview with Heidi Barr

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I am excited to introduce you to Heidi Barr, a local author in the Twin Cities who is participating in Brush & Pen: Festival for Artists and Authors. She is the author of two books, Woodland Manitou and Prairie Grown

Katelyn: Heidi can you tell our readers a bit about yourself that isn’t writing related.

Heidi: I grew up in eastern South Dakota, on the prairie and presently my family and I (myself, my spouse, and our six year old) make our home in the St. Croix River Valley, just to the west of the border between Minnesota and Wisconsin.   It’s a landscape full of lakes, rivers, bluffs, ancient glacial potholes, small towns, organic farms, and plenty of winding trails to explore all of it. We live in a little red house perched on the edge of a ravine on the shores of a tiny lake, with a large field just up the hill from the house that provides space for a large vegetable garden, several types of berry bushes, and an apple tree.  It’s all imperfect and takes a lot of work to maintain, but I love it here.

I’d love to say my lifestyle is all yoga, meditation, foraging for wild edibles, reading/writing, and raising my child, but there’s plenty more that goes on around here: I maintain a full-time wellness coaching job with a tech start-up, and we spend a lot of time gardening, hauling wood, doing laundry, preserving food, paying bills and maintaining/fixing the house.  We keep one television in the basement, though I haven’t turned it on more than a handful of times in the last several years. My spouse and I both rely on the internet and computer technology for our day jobs, but we do our best to not let devices take up too much space in life. (This is, of course, easier said than done.) As with all humans, my life is one of constant evolution, trial and error, beauty, destruction, and breathing into the spaces that exist in between where I am and where I want to be.

Katelyn: It sounds like you are super busy! It would be great if we could just do yoga, meditate, go for walks in the woods and do what we love! I am glad you find time for writing.  Can you tell us what inspired you to start writing?

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Heidi: I’ve always enjoyed writing – I wrote my first “book” as a small child and have been writing down stories and thoughts ever since.  When blogging became a thing, I jumped on it, and I’ve been maintaining several blogs and guest writing for others ever since. I think what inspires me is having a medium with which to express myself that doesn’t require immediacy – I have always been a soft-spoken and quiet individual who likes to think things through before offering an opinion, so being able to contribute my voice to the conversation of the world via the written word has been important.  I love the art that arises from of a well-placed word and the beauty of a poetic paragraph – the way that words can open up worlds has always intrigued me.

Katelyn: It sounds like you were a born writer. Do you have a genre you prefer to write in and to read?

Heidi: I like reading all sorts of things, and I read all the time…but my favorite genre to read and write are the memoir and nature-based nonfiction.  I also enjoy a good fiction book now and then, and I’ve recently started dabbling in writing poetry. Some of my favorite authors are Barbara Kingsolver, Mary Oliver, Michael Pollan, Katherine Center, Cheryl Strayed, Kent Nerburn, Alice Walker, and Elizabeth Gilbert…..among others.  This list could get pretty long, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Katelyn:  I see some of my favorites on your list. I always like to ask authors why they write because everyone has their own reason.

Heidi: I write because it’s often the best way to figure out what I think about something.  Life is full of questions and contradictions, and mulling over what’s going on and putting pen to paper is an illuminating activity in many ways.  Sometimes I don’t really know what I think about something until I write about it. And as so many writers say, “I write because I can’t not write.” It’s just part of who I am.

Katelyn: as creative people, we all find ourselves with creative blocks at times. What do you do when you get a creative block?

Heidi: Go outside.  As a primarily nonfiction writer, there is new material happening all around me all the time.  I just have to be present to it and sometimes let it be for awhile. Even if it feels like I’ll never have another idea or sentence again, I always do.  Life has a way of continually providing the raw materials we need to be creative.

Katelyn: We kind of covered this in an earlier question but could you say more about what Writers inspire you and why?

Heidi: Well, all of the writers that I mentioned earlier are inspiring! Anyone who can take their experience, the truth as they know it, and write it down in a way that others can understand is inspiring.  Writers who don’t shy away from challenging subjects and take risks. Writers who keep an open mind and can see through the lens of the other (whoever the other might be)

Katelyn: I know there will be someone reading this who wants to write a book. What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

Heidi: What worked for me was starting a blog and publishing posts regularly.  Often times you hear the advice of “write every day, no matter what” and maybe that works for many folks, but it’s not been true for me.  I write when I have something to say (and granted, sometimes I have to dig for that something….) Aside from the logistics and how and when to write…..Tell your truth and don’t diminish someone else’s.  Keep a journal. Let other people read your work and read the work of others. Read a lot of books and essays and poetry. Write bad first drafts and learn to edit yourself. Practice letting go and allowing things to evolve, even if they aren’t following the path you think they should.  Don’t let rejection stop you from sharing your story – and write to write, don’t write to publish – writing to write is the only reason I continue – the publishing is a bonus.

Katelyn:  I started with a blog too.  I feel it is the easiest way to get started and often what you post can turn into parts of your book.

How can people support you in your writing career?


Write reviews!  Buy books! Come to author events!  Some of the best things you can do for authors, in addition to supporting us directly with a book purchase is to share information about our work and books via social media or with folks you think might enjoy it/them. If you know folks in the media or in bookselling/promotion, make the introduction. For indie authors especially, purchasing directly from the author or via the publisher (rather than on Amazon) is always a good idea, as is asking your local library and bookshops to stock specific books. An old-fashioned “how’re things going with your books?” is always welcomed as well – it all makes a difference.

Katelyn: I love those ideas! Especially sharing on social media because recommendations are the more powerful way to promote someone.

Thank you so much Heidi, for sharing about yourself and your writing with our readers. Where can people find your books?