Behind the Words: Barbara Wanamaker

Posted by on Dec 6, 2013 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Barbara Wanamaker graced the first issue of Spry with “Errands,” an observant essay of a woman’s busy day. She was kind enough to answer some questions regarding her craft and what brought her to write this reflective essay.


Zac: In your essay, you approached the content in a more narrative approach. Did you do this intentionally, or did you find that this was how the story came organically? How do you feel your essay would have changed had you executed it differently?

Barbara: Errands emerged as a narrative.  I intended to tell this story with a panoramic view and the narrative voice worked well for that purpose.  Using 1st person could have been another option, but it would have presented the story with a tighter focus.  I wanted to relay a story about birds soaring overhead in a voice that mimicked their actions and I think the narrative voice helped me achieve this goal.


I found that the narrator felt disconnected from the world. She watched as the world moved, lives continued, but she rarely engaged in her own world. The beautiful moment of when she sees the birds and the freedom of their movements ripples beautifully until the last sentence. When writing this, did you recognize the juxtaposition you were creating with the chaos of human reality against the freedom of animal nature?

I do not agree that the narrator felt disconnected from the world.  In fact, I feel she was very connected, her observations astute.  Someone disconnected would not notice activities at a neighbor’s house while entering a car, or later stop to observe a mother struggling with packages and her child while trying to get home.  For me, the person who is disconnected from the world is the man the skateboarders avoid in the plaza. The narrator must be engaged in her world to notice what is going on around her.  The last line was not intended to cause juxtaposition between the birds and the humans.  It was meant to make readers aware that freedom can be theirs, that they can be as free as the birds if they would only stop and look up.  I guess in saying that and going back to the first part of this question, the narrator is the only one that looks up and thus obtains freedom, even if only for a few moments. In all the activity going on around her, she alone takes a moment to stop and observe a miracle freeing her from commitment, obligation, tasks.  And her heart is open enough to realize that God encourages all creatures to take time from their work to play.


How important do you think it is for writers to experience this type of freedom? Do you believe there is freedom after that first draft in regards to editing and crafting? In other words, do you think there is a certain aspect of freedom that is lost when one must edit and format one’s own work?

I believe that if a writer can free write their first draft, just let the words come and flow onto the paper, it justifies their words, gives freedom to their thoughts, their expression.  After, when the editing begins, the aspect of craft enters the work and there is some restraint in that.  Sometimes it feels as if straps with buckles are descending, yet other times it feels as if the sculptor is refining his image, putting eyelashes on the eyes and delineating the hairs on the head.  Crafting and editing brings finesse to a piece, cleans up the rough edges and if done correctly, spreads the wings of the piece farther so it can soar.

Since this experience or writing of this essay, have you found time to exercise a certain type of freedom?

My greatest sense of freedom comes when my husband and I put our dog in the car, lock up the house and drive to Vermont.  We spend time on our mountain with music, watching the sky and the trees and the animals that live within them.  Sometimes, we just spend time with the quiet.


What are you working on now?

Currently, I am working on several short pieces, both fiction and non-fiction, with the goal of putting them together into a collection that will be accepted for publication.  I take breaks from writing prose to create and edit poetry to compile into a chapbook. I am also exploring the possibility of establishing a community writing workshop to help seniors and youngsters share and preserve their stories.

You can read Barbara’s essay here.


Zac Zander lives in Connecticut with his dog, Kaki, who is named after the musician not the pants. He holds an MFA from Fairfield University and is working on a collection of essays.

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