Tuesday, November 13, 2012

An Interview with Dixie Barnes

Bio: Dixie Barnes has been writing short stories since she was ten years old, when she wrote a story about a family moving by covered wagon to Oregon.  She loves writing young adult fiction, historical fiction, poetry, and essays.  She has written a cookbook “Down Home Cookin – Favorite Recipes” and has two novels in progress.  She worked as assistant editor for her local newspaper during the 1980s.  She lives in ClydeKansas with her husband and two dogs.  Her three living children and nine grandchildren all live within fifteen miles.  She claims photography, arts and crafts, and computers as her hobbies.

Please welcome nurse, artist, writer, wife, mom, and grandma Dixie Barnes to Unwritten! She is one of the several lucky souls who won an interview on my 20,00TH Hit Giveaway. I was fortunate enough to meet Dixie via a wonderful free six-week online writing session called F2K, sponsored by Writer's Village University. Let's rack her brain with some good questions while she's here!

Dixie, please tell us where you live and what you like to do when you're not writing or mentoring other writers.

I live in Clyde, a little rural town in north central Kansas.  We own a tiny little frame house on a street that we had thought would be quiet when we first bought the house.  But we soon found it is the street leading to the town dump, so there are trucks, pickups, and trailers passing by loaded down with tree limbs, and brush every day, and then a few minutes later, we see the same trucks returning empty for another load.  It's pretty busy.
I've been married to the same man for 42 years.  We raised four children, but lost our youngest daughter in a tragic house fire in 1999.  Teresa was 21 at the time and had just passed her LPN State Board of Nursing  Exam.  We received her nursing license a week following her funeral.  We started a scholarship in her memory at the local high school.  We've awarded that scholarship every spring since her death.  This spring we will award that scholarship to Teresa's daughter, Regan, who is graduating from high school, and plans to become a nurse anesthetist.
My oldest daughter, Rebecca, is a surgical RN at an area hospital.  She is married and has four children.
When I'm not writing or mentoring, I usually can be found spending time with my two Shih Tzu dogs, Starr and Bandit.  They are two years old and very time consuming.  They make big messes, but when they curl up on my lap and look up at me with those gorgeous brown eyes, I melt.  They've got my number.
I work full time as a registered nurse at a nearby skilled nursing facililty.  My duties vary, as some shifts I work as charge nurse, passing medications and doing wound treatments, and some shifts, I work in the Therapy room, helping the restorative staff exercise the residents, and coordinating the therapists with the nursing staff, and processing orders.  It's a fun job, but can be tiring. I'm no spring chicken anymore.
My husband, Dennis, is a long distance truck driver and is usually gone Monday through Friday, so I have the house and dogs to myself, except on the weekends.
I am president of the local art club, The Clifton Art Buffs, and we meet monthly to have a short business meeting and then spend a couple of hours working on art projects and visiting.  Our secretary gives us "homework" assignments to work on between meetings.  I paint with watercolors and oils, and draw with pencil and crayons and pastels. I've sold numerous works, but I don't make the big bucks like some artists do.
I also sell Paparazzi Jewelry and Accessories, and spend a lot of time at craft shows, gun shows, and other events displaying and selling my jewelry.  I've thought about making jewelry, but haven't had the time to really get into that yet. Sometimes, after I get off work from my nursing job, I grab a quick bite to eat and then head to someone's house to hold a party there.  It's a lot of fun.
I like country and 50s/60s rock music, gospel music, watching movies, playing my portable piano keyboard, photography, traveling in the mountains, attending country music concerts, and eating good food.

I've had the privilege of attending past F2K sessions as student, intern, and this session as mentor. How long have you participated in F2K, and what can you tell those unfamiliar with about it?

Ah, F2K...I consider F2K and WVU my home away from home within my home.  Confusing?  Let me see if I can explain it to you.  I first was introduced to F2K from an online ad, I really don't remember exactly how I found it, but I think it may have been from another website I was exploring and a pop up ad appeared.  At any rate, I clicked on it.  This was back in 1998, I believe, give or take a year.  I loved taking the course as a student.  I had a lot of bad habits that I needed to break then. I used a lot of cliches, punctuation and grammar errors, etc.  F2K started my journey into the love of writing.  I wrote a lot in grade school and high school.  I wrote my first short story when I was ten years old, complete with description and dialogue.  But then I lost the impetus to keep writing after my years at the local community college.  I was too busy raising a family and working as a nurse.
Learn more about WVU and F2K HERE!
Give the Unwritten readers the scoop on WVU and the classes/groups you've found most helpful there.

WVU is a great place to learn the basics of writing.  It is totally online.  Students pay a modest membership fee yearly and then have free access to over 300 classes online.  Our motto is Writers Helping Writers.  All the mentors are volunteers who have donated their time and efforts to help new writers become successful.  The list of classes range from orientation class, punctuation and grammar, fiction writing, non-fiction, poetry, fantasy, horror, editing, preparing and marketing your novel, and much more.  The study groups is where most of the real learning is done, through posting student's works from their classes for critiquing and feedback from their peers and other mentors.  There is almost no politics or back-biting.  That is simply not allowed.  We are all there to help each other. Occasionally, a class will ask for a paperback book as a resource, but most classes can be completed without a book.  There is a section where students can post their "bragging rights" about books or articles, or other work that has been published.  Students are encouraged to share opportunities and contests to get published. There is a MFA course section for those wanting advanced training in fiction writing.  That class does require multiple books, but those can be obtained through Amazon.com fairly inexpensively.

Along with teachers, nurses are also my heroes. How has your job shaped your writing?

Thank you, Mysti.  Nursing has been a great way to expand my horizons. I was a shy, unobtrusive child and teenager.  Becoming a nurse was a way to show the world that I care, that I can be someone important.  It was a great pride and morale booster for me.  And it showed me how to become a compassionate and caring person.  I look at the world through different eyes as a nurse. I am more tolerant of those who are different than me. It also has given me a wealth of characters to include in my stories.  Of course, the names have been changed to provide anonymity to the innocent and the guilty. :)  I have one novel in progress that is loosely based on the nursing home experience.  It's the story of a charge nurse, who's facility is invaded by three convicts, recently escaped from prison.  The convicts take the nurse and her residents captive and are demanding a ransom and escape routes.
I've heard tell you're participating in NaNoWriMo. Can you tell us anything about the novel you're furiously writing in a month's time?

 My NaNoWriMo project for this year is actually based on a true story, but fictionalized somewhat, simply because it all happened way before my time and I don't have living resources to authenticate it more completely.  My Aunt Esther had done a family tree history book years ago, and shared it with each of the families.  I'm using the information from my copy, as well as data obtained from www.ancestry.com to fill in the blanks.  My grandparents traveled by covered wagon from Jewell Co., Ks. to Yuma, Colorado around the turn of the century and tried to live there.  Times were very hard for them, and they had their first born son there.  The child lived a little over three weeks before he died.  They couldn't stay there any longer; they returned to Kansas and homesteaded, raising 10 children.  The youngest, Opal Marie, is my mother.

What other writing projects are you working on, and what are your goals for them?

 I've already mentioned my family history project, and the nursing home invasion project.  I also have a novel for Young Adults about half completed. It is the story of three teenagers who accidentally step through a time portal and find themselves in 1887 without their electronic conveniences or any way of coming back home.  They get separated, and are trying to find the time portal once again to return to home and families.  I also write poetry occasionally, and I love writing flash fiction.  I recently won third prize in Mysti's blog for my Halloween scary story "Jill's Ordeal". Its the story of a young woman who is stalked by a vindictive and insane husband.

Random question time!! What is one talent you have that most people might not know about?

I crochet and do various crafts, and I love photography, especially of wildlife and flowers.

Ms. Barnes, would you be so kind as to share an excerpt of your writing?

I'd love to, Mysti.  This is the first chapter of my NaNoWriMo project, "Pioneer Spirit".

Pioneer Spirit

Chapter 1
 March 13, 1907
 Mankato, Kansas

“You may now kiss your bride.”

The sound of the wedding march music being played on the rickety old church organ filled the small church and spilled out into the church yard. Charley turned to his bride, lifted her veil, placed his hands on each side of her face and lowered his head for the expected kiss.  Nellie raised her face to meet his, and closed her eyes.  A tiny tear slipped from her eye and trailed its way down her young, lovely face.  Charley noticed the tear and frowned slightly.  Wiping the tear away with his thumb, he hugged her close, and turned her around.  They both faced the tiny congregation.

Behind the newlyweds, the preacher smiled and raised his hands toward them.  “It is my honor and privilege and exquisite pleasure to introduce to you Mr. and Mrs. Charles Loomis.”  Thunderous applause and whistles rose until they drowned out the organ, still playing in the background.  Charley gave his bride a gentle nudge and the two began walking slowly down the aisle toward the back of the church.  Nellie stopped and hugged her mother, Liza, and kissed her tear-stained cheeks.  Charley waited until Nellie backed away, then offered his new mother-in-law a hug and peck on the cheek.  He then turned to Nellie’s father, Alonzo Dye, and shook his hand before being swept into a bear hug. Nellie’s mother, Hulda, wiped away a tear before hugging him also.

Charley’s parents, John and Mary Anna Loomis, took their turn greeting the newlyweds. They hugged the new couple and offered best wishes for a long and happy marriage.  At last, the couple turned to face the congregation, which waited with even more congratulations and best wishes.  It was well over thirty minutes before the couple stepped outside the church into the bright sunshine.  The warm breezes were a welcome sensation on the skin.  More family and friends waited outside the church and bombarded the couple with rice and cheers of happiness.  Charley’s five brothers and his sister each greeted the newlyweds and offered their congratulations.  There was much laughing and good natured teasing. Finally, it was time to leave the church.

The couple raced to the buckboard, decorated with handmade lace and flowers.  Charley gave Nellie a boost into the front seat and clambered up into the seat beside her.  He grabbed the reins and gave the horses a gentle tap and coaxing sound to start them trotting away from the church.  Some of the congregation’s men scurried to their horses and gave the couple a chase.  Charley tapped the rear of the horses with a loud “Heeyaw!” and grinned as the horses changed their gait to a trot, then a canter.  Nellie grabbed her veil in one hand, and the handrail of the seat with the other and hung on for dear life.

The men quickly gave up on the chase, not because they couldn’t catch the buckboard, but because they wanted to give the couple some privacy. They returned to the church to gather up their women.  They knew the newlyweds would return to her parent’s farm for the evening’s festivities. There was plenty of work to be done, setting up the tables outside for the bounty of food and drink.  This promised to be the wedding of the decade. They didn’t want to miss any of it.

Charley slowed the team once the men fell away from the chase, and Nellie breathed a big sigh of relief.  She had loved the excitement of the chase, but the road was very rough, and she was having a difficult time keeping her veil in one piece.  She took out the pins holding it in place, and tucked the veil under her bottom on the seat of the wagon.  Glancing up at her new husband, she caught his wink, and laughed.  Nellie placed her arm inside his elbow and leaned closer to him.  She thought of the evening’s festivities ahead and smiled to herself.  She loved dancing and she knew her dad had paid for a group of fiddlers and a bass player for the dance.

She let her thoughts stray beyond the dance to the wedding night, and felt her face heat up in a blush.  She had heard stories from her newly married friends about the wedding night.  She knew a little about what to expect.  Mixed feelings crossed her mind.  She was a little frightened about what was going to happen, but at the same time, she was excited that finally her desires would be satisfied.  She had kept herself pure in readiness for just this night.  But she had felt the strange heat that stirred her belly and wanted to feel what might come after that.  Her friends said it was a beautiful thing. Would she feel the same way?

Charley pulled the team to a stop beside the river in a quiet, peaceful glen.  The river bank sloped gently toward the water, with trees providing shade. Driftwood scattered here and there across the sandy soil offered seats for the pair.  Charley helped Nellie down and leaned down for another deep, tantalizing kiss.  She raised her arms around his neck and pulled him closer.  He groaned and scooped her up in his arms, carrying her to the riverbank. A blanket was stretched out across the sand.  He laid her down on the blanket then stretched out beside her.  She smiled up at him as he took her in his arms and caressed her face.  His mouth followed his hands as he explored her neck and descended downward. 

Nellie moaned softly as his fingers gently caressed her skin.  She arched her back as he peeled the dress away from her shoulders.  She felt a heat deep within her rise to a feverish pitch.  She marveled at how good this felt, and wondered what the end would be like.  She wasn’t sure she would survive if she didn’t find some relief.

The sound of the horses neighing and snorting brought Charley suddenly to his feet.  He reached for his rifle and ran toward the horses, leaving Nellie lying on the blanket, panting and confused.  She gathered up her clothing and attempted to reassemble her wedding gown, which was torn in a couple of places.  She found a tree branch caught in the lace and removed it, tossing it aside.

Charley reached the horses and realized why they were acting so strangely.  A cougar was stalking them and the scent of the big cat had reached their noses.  The cougar was only about twenty feet away when Charley raised his rifle and shot at it.  He missed by only an inch and the cat snarled and bounded away, leaving the horses shaking and agitated, and Charley feeling foolish for not securing the horses better.  He turned back to see Nellie walking with a slow pace and frightened look on her face.

“What was that?  Why were you shooting?”  Nellie had not seen the cougar.

“It was just a big cat, trying to get the horses.  He ran away.  It’s ok now.  We’d better get back for the dance now.”

“Yes, I suppose so.  But I might need a little freshening up before we face the family.”  She pulled the dress shreds apart.  Charley grinned when he saw how the dress was torn, remembering the intensity of their lovemaking session, then the grin was replaced by a frown as he thought about what he was going to have to explain to her parents.

“Everyone will be at your parents’ home for the festivities.  Maybe we should go to my parents’ house and get your dress stitched back up.  You can’t go back looking like that.  They’ll think you’ve been attacked!”

“Well, I was,” Nellie giggled.

“Grrr..come here, you incorrigible kitten!  I’m going to eat you alive,” Charley ran toward Nellie.  She screeched and side stepped his grabbing hands and ran to the wagon.  He swung her around to face him and his face grew serious.

“You know how much I love you?  I love you more than life itself.  I want nothing more than to make you the happiest woman in the world.  I would face an entire army to defend you.  I want to make beautiful babies with you.  I love you.” 

“I am the happiest woman in the world, Charley.  But if we don’t get back to the dance and festivities, we won’t be able to explain why we are covered in sand and in shredded clothing.”  She pointed at the sleeve of his white wedding shirt, and giggled.  One sleeve had a long tear in the back of the sleeve.  The same branch that had torn her dress had ripped his sleeve.

“Well, let’s get going then, Mrs. Loomis.  I want to start a baby tonight, and I’m not getting any younger.”

Nellie giggled and punched him gently in the arm as he lifted her back to the seat of the wagon.  It promised to be a long but exquisite night.

Thanks so much for being here, Dixie! I wish you a ton of success.

Thank you, Mysti.  I do so appreciate all that you do to help, both in WVU and through your blog.  I'm still reading your book "A Ranger's Tale", and so far it has been awesome.  Good luck in your writing career also.


  1. Hi, Mysti & Dixie!

    This is a wonderful post. I enjoyed the interview and excerpt! My goodness, Dixie, you are a super busy lady. Your family history sounds very interesting. :)

  2. I also live in Kansas, Dixie! It's nice to "meet" you! :)


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