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Interview With Kim Barnes Robert L. Root Jr. Kim Barnes had begun publishing as a poet andfiction writer before turning to nonfiction. Herpoetry and short stories appeared in suchjournals as The Georgia Review, Shenandoah, and Northern Lights and she received an Idaho Commission on the Arts Fellowship in 1991. With Mary Clearman Blew she edited Circle of Women: An Anthology of Contemporary WesternWomen Writers (1994). Her work on herfirst memoir, In theWflderness: Coming of Age in Unknown Country, won her a PEN/Jerard Award in 1995, given to an emerging woman writer of nonfiction. The memoir was published by Doubleday in 1996; the following year it was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Autobiography/Biography and won the 1997 Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Award. Her second memoir, Hungry for the World, is scheduled to be published in 2000 by Villard. She has a B.A. from Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho and an M.F.A. from the University of Montana in Missoula. She was born in Lewiston, Idaho, the town where she attended undergraduate college, met her husband, the poet Robert Wrigley, and presently teaches creative writing. She spent most ofher life growing up in the watershed of the Clearwater River, where she and herfamily now live, and it Kim Barnes Photo by RobertWrigley Robert L. RootJr. Photo by Caroline Root 170 Interview with Kim Barnes171 was the experience ofher childhood in a logging camp near Pierce, Idaho, and her adolescence in a Pentecostalfundamentalist family and community that served as the focus ofIn the Wilderness. She has written that the book "tells of my early life as a child coming to a sense of herself surrounded byforest, isolatedfrom the outside world. The wilderness I speak ofis both literal andfigurative: the land itself, but also the spiritual and emotional wilderness that Ifound myself aswirl in as I came ofage in thefaith of my parents. . . . The book details my journey out of that wilderness, my loss offaith, my struggle to make sense of my connection tofamily, church, community , and the land. " As one reviewer observed, "this memoir has a mythicfeel. " Her second memoir covers theperiod ofher early adulthood.Alert to the influences on her as a woman writer and as a western writer, she is also keenly interested in the craft of nonfiction. Her students at Lewis-Clark State College have read their work in public settings and some ofthem have published their work. Her teaching involves an exchange with her students—they gain her insight and experience with several genres and shegains what she calls "little doors into re-awareness ofwhat I'm about. " Kim Barnes was interviewedfor Fourth Genre in August 1999. Root: Before you wrote memoir, you published poetry and fiction. I'm curious about how the movement from those forms to nonfiction came about and what kinds of struggles you had with it. Barnes: When I first started writing as an undergraduate, my interest was poetry. Of course, as beginning writers do, I went immediately to my own life story as a place to draw on. I began writing poems about my childhood, and I found that they were starting to form themselves into longer, proseUke narratives. That jump from poetry into prose was kind of inevitable given the subject matter. Those smaUer narratives in my poems had their genesis in my experience ofgrowing up in the wilderness in the Clearwater National Forest, and in the logging camps and that Pentecostal fundamentalist faith I was raised in. When I started writing fiction, those narratives immediately began to open up. I had some pubUshing success and in fact one ofmy first published short stories was called "In the Wüderness." Root: What led you away from continuing to write those kinds ofstories? Barnes: They were minimaUy successful. From my perspective now I would say that I didn't feel Uke I was serving the story weU. I had a narrator who was my chüdhood self and what took place was autobiographical, but the tone of the stories was something completely different than when I 172Fourth Genre write nonfiction. When I would read in pubUc—for instance, a scene of faith healing in the church—everyone...


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