Interviews, Uncategorized

Oliver Barton on Intuition, Inhibition, and Listening to Your Inner Creative Child

Oliver Barton

Oliver Barton will be joining Kathy Fish and I in the beautiful hills of Casperia, Italy, next May! I got a chance to chat with Oliver a bit about his writing process and how to stay in touch with the creative inner child and a sense of play while making art.

Nancy Stohlman: The biggest challenge most writers have is finding the time to write. How do you “retreat” in your day-to-day life in order to honor your creativity?

Oliver Barton: Time is not the real issue with me; my enemy is prevarication. One way I combat it is to repair to a café. There I can sit in the isolation of the babble of voices and lose myself in whatever I’m trying to write. I like to write in longhand there so as to be entirely divorced from the temptations of the web. Otherwise, there is the time before getting up, lying in bed letting a story unfold…

Nancy: You said to me recently, “A wonderful thing about writing is you never quite know what’s going to emerge from the miasma of your brain!” I love it! Tell us more about your relationship with writing and flash fiction?

Oliver: In a writing group we run, as an exercise, we give ourselves ten minutes and a more-or-less randomly chosen trigger, and simply write. No time to have second thoughts or to plan, just to get going and see what happens. And nearly always people end up with a beginning, a middle and an end that they never expected. Wonderful! Let the right-side of the brain take over – is that it? It is no big deal if the piece is rubbish, it doesn’t matter. So we don’t worry about it and most of the time little gems and an extraordinary variety result!

Nancy: Yes, I do something similar–creative play! What piece of your own writing are you most proud of?  Where can we read it (if it’s available)?

Oliver: Today, I think I’m most proud of The Signpost, (https://www.dropbox.com/s/shyd0un7fo0rt8o/The%20Signpost.pdf?dl=0).

Nancy: Wonderful! Now react to this quote by Edgar Degas: “Painting is easy when you don’t know how, but very difficult when you do.” Do you think it’s the same for writing? 

Oliver: A dreadful little rhyme we used to chant in the playground when I was very young and which we thought exceedingly funny comes to mind:
See the happy moron,
He doesn’t give a damn.
I wish I were a moron –
I say, perhaps I am.
As a child, anything goes until the great adult world says, ‘No, you should do it like this,’ and inhibition and embarrassment sets in. The lesson for me, and perhaps from what Dégas said, is to use your experience and knowledge and skill to present what the inner child wants to say.

Nancy: I love what you just said about inhibition and embarrassment as the real enemies to our inner child’s wisdom–I agree. Have you been to Italy before? What are you most looking forward to?

Oliver: Yes. Thrice to the Castello Sannazzaro in Giarole, where we sang Renaissance polyphony for a week, and a trip to Ostia Antica and Rome. What better place to let the writing flow, along with the wine! Who knows what will result.

Nancy: Wow!! Tell us something (else!) we don’t know about you?

Oliver: I once toured with an opera group playing the part of the Betrayer in the Guise of a Dog while suffering from Shingles.

Nancy: I adore opera. Maybe you’ll sing for us in that big castle in Italy??? Anything else you want to add?

Oliver: I have a website, www.musicolib.net/index.html, which currently is music that I’ve published (online), much of which I wrote and also houses archives of the Green Branch Opera Group.

Nancy: Thanks so much for taking the time, Oliver! I look forward to seeing you again in May!

JOIN US in Italy in May 2019! Find out more:

Oliver Barton used to write Computer User Manuals, but having retired, now prefers to replace writing facts that nobody reads with producing whimsical fiction that lots of people enjoy! In a previous existence as a Maths teacher, he wrote and directed two full-length plays, and he has composed a number of musical pieces, mostly for choir, which have received performances in widely-flung places around the world. They are freely available from his web-site, www.musicolib.net. He and his wife Cath have published two slim volumes of stories and photos, available from Lulu – Candyfloss, and Candyfloss II. They run two writing groups, which keep them in trim as writers and provide inspiration and encouragement to other local writers. In his writing, he seeks to bring a wry touch to the commonplace activities of everyday life – “in the ordinary is the extraordinary.” Frequently, angels and bad-tempered mythical beings such as garden gnomes creep in, despite his best endeavours. He has assembled a collection “Away with the Fairies,” where they have taken over, and has a novel, “Mouse” currently maturing between revisions.
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Cath Barton’s Award-Winning Novella, The Plankton Collector, Now Available!

Nancy and I are so excited that Cath Barton and her husband Oliver will be joining us at Palazzo Forani in Casperia for our Springtime in Italy retreat in May! Cath’s novella, The Plankton Collector, won the New Welsh Writing Award 2017: Novella Category. Congratulations, Cath!

I found Cath’s writing in this compelling and mysterious novella so rich and evocative. Here is an excerpt:

“No-one knows his name, or rather they know him by different names, depending on when and where they meet him. All he asks is to to be acknowledged and listened to but, like the plankton, he is a wanderer – though on land rather than in water – and is never in one place for long. He passes un- remarked in the crowd. He is the man at the next table in the café. The one drinking his morning coffee like any other. The one reading the newspaper. Or the one simply sitting and staring.”

Here is a description from the publisher, New Welsh Rarebyte:

“In this atmospheric novella, the mysterious Plankton Collector visits members of a family torn apart by grief and regret. he comes in different guises. For ten year-old Mary, he is Mr Smith who takes her on a train journey to the seaside. Her mother, Rose, meets him as Stephen, by her son’s graveside. Rose’s youngest, Bunny, encounters him as the gardener. For husband and father David, meanwhile, the meeting is with a love from his youth. And long-lost Uncle Barnaby takes the children for a week’s holiday during which their parents begin a reconciliation. All visitors are manifestations of the Plankton Collector who teaches those he encounters the difference between the discarded weight of unhappy memories and the lightness borne by happiness recalled.”

This debut has already received high praise:

‘Painterly… lush dreamy prose creates a vivid landscape, while its lyricism transports the reader. Cleverly creates a universe of new realities.’ Cathryn Summerhayes

‘A beautifully controlled mix of magical realism and nature writing about time, healing, trauma and the fluid, unreliable nature of memory.’ David Lloyd, co-judge of the New Welsh Writing Awards 2017

Cath’s novella is available for order HERE.

Check back for Nancy’s fascinating interview with Cath on Monday!