A Writer’s Habits: Barbara Fenig

What type of writing do you do?
I write fiction, mostly short stories and short-short stories.

Where is your favorite place to write?
My bedroom. It doesn’t matter if it’s the one at Wesleyan, or at home in New York, or some temporary location. I just have to think of it as “my bedroom.”

What’s the first thing you wrote that you can remember?
I remember writing two stories at exactly the same time, fourth grade, but I can’t be sure which came first. I wrote a story about an aboriginal fairy that grants wishes. He brings the protagonist, a fourth grade girl, to Australia so that she can learn about the country for her geography test. The girl is confronted with the zone of A+ and F-. It’s a pretty wacky story. Here’s a quote, “I was flung against the wall of the A+ zone, and I took a bite of an A+. Then, suddenly, all of the bad luck that you could dream of happened. The aboriginal fairy wailed, ‘help!’ as a dragon took a bite out of his dried apple beard. When a flying F- floated by, I grabbed it and ate it.” I guess that I was grade obsessed in fourth grade. I also wrote a series of stories about a book thief named Jacques Blockhead. He stole books from kids’ rooms. Although Jacques loved to read, he wasn’t allowed to get a library card because he had been in jail.

How early did you begin writing?
I’m pretty sure that I began writing in first or second grade. I went to a Montessori elementary school, and they had us writing all of the time. It was really wonderful.

What’s the best thing you’ve read recently?
That’s so tough. My room is filled with books right now post-thesis. I’ve been reading a lot lately. Amy Bloom, my thesis advisor, recommended Alice Adams’s stories to me this year. Adams has since become one of my favorite writers.

What writers have influenced you?
This list changes pretty often, but my main influences will always be Aimee Bender and Amy Bloom, Andre Aciman, Paula Sharp, Douglas A. Martin, and Deb Olin Unferth (my Wesleyan writing professors).

When you start writing, do you start with a complete story in mind or do you pursue an idea and see where it takes you?
I always begin with an idea and some sort of outcome. Oftentimes, the outcome is pretty unrelated to the actual ending.

What has your favorite writing class at Wes been?
I can’t choose. They were all so incredible and necessary to my development.

Did you write a thesis? What was it about?
Yes, I wrote a thesis. It’s a series of five interconnected short stories that revolve around breaks in normalcy.

Are you involved in any writing groups or events?
Yes, Stethoscope Press, Ostranenie Magazine, Historical Narratives, Wesleying, and The Wesleyan Argus.

Do you hope to pursue writing in the future? How?
Yes, absolutely.

Barbara Fenig is a senior English major also pursuing the Writing Certificate. A Writer’s Habits is a series of interviews with student writers on campus.

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One Response to A Writer’s Habits: Barbara Fenig

  1. Kate says:

    Wow great interview.

    I’d love to hear more about Jacques Blockhead. What was he in jail for? Does he KNOW about Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education?

    Anyways, I hope it’s not true that ex-inmates can’t get library cards. Although perhaps Jacques can return the books to the kids’ rooms when he’s done with them? That would make him a more sympathetic protagonist. Just my 2 cents.

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