Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What We Could Be: An Interview with Editor Stacey Barney

Ever since I first met Stacey Barney, an editor with G.P. Putnam's Sons, in 2009 at the Rutgers One-on-One Conference, I have been deeply inspired by the books she edits, the passion and poise with which she works, and the love of stories she shares. So I'm especially ecstatic to share her lovely interview, below!

You've worked as both a teacher and an editor. Can you share any reflections on the similarities and differences of these two vocations? 

I haven't been a teacher for more than ten years, so it's really hard to name specific similarities this far away from those classroom experiences, but I can say that my love of literature and the high I get from sharing good books remains the same. The students I taught have long since become adults with lives, jobs and children of their own, but I like to think the middle school or high school souls that still exist within them would be proud of the books I help bring into the world.

What most helps you sustain your belief in the power of stories and words? 

The stories themselves and a talented author's ability to make me feel something with their words and make me believe in the power and good of people. There are more of these stories than not and I'm so happy that after all this time, I still hunger for them and find myself satisfied by these powerful stories and words in a way that's truly life-affirming and renewing.

What do you think are some of fiction's most noble endeavors? 

I'm not sure I completely understand the question, but I'll answer it in two different ways and we'll see if either way gets the job done. If the question is what are some of the most noble endeavors (i.e. works) of fiction, it's fortunately a long list. A few of my favorites are To Kill a MockingbirdThe Things They CarriedPraisesong for the WidowAnother Country,Orange Laugter and The Book Thief. If the question is what noble endeavors does fiction seek to accomplish, my answer would be fiction's most noble endeavor is to mirror us not as we are, but as what we could be. Such a mirror would be at turns dark, hopeful and inspiring, but always riveting.

What makes you laugh so loud you're afraid of intense embarrassment? 

I don't embarrass easily and I laugh a lot. Loudly. Just ask my office-mates. Laughter is a by-product of joy and that should never be embarrassing. So what makes me laugh? Lots. Usually, unexpected truth and I'm definitely laughing with appreciation. Oh, and Golden Girls! Still! ;-)

Who or what do you admire? 

Every author on my list. It's a brave thing to write and be vulnerable on the page.

Stacey Barney is an Editor at G.P. Putnam's Sons. Some of her recent titles include Sparrow Road by Sheila O'Connor, The Lions of Little Rock by Kristin Levine and the forthcoming Black City by Elizabeth Richards.