Barry B. Wright - Doubt Is A Good Thing; It Keeps You A Little Off-Balanced As A Writer & I Believe Open To Alternative Possibilities (Author, Canada)

During my second year at university, my first article was published, in of all places, Northern Ireland while visiting relatives. When I boarded the plane in Toronto and left Canada for three and a half months to travel the United Kingdom, I never dreamt I would be writing an article on the new City of Craigavon for the Portadown Times newspaper in Northern Ireland. 

1. Tell us more about your background and journey.

I studied mathematics and science at university and graduated with a Bachelor of Mathematics Degree. Most eyebrows raise when told this because it is does not fit the profile of most writers. Upon reflection, I think it had more to do with not wanting to write all those essays expected in an Arts program. Yet, during my second year at university, my first article was published, in of all places, Northern Ireland while visiting relatives. When I boarded the plane in Toronto and left Canada for three and a half months to travel the United Kingdom, I never dreamt I would be writing an article on the new City of Craigavon for the Portadown Times newspaper in Northern Ireland. 

When I graduated from university, I worked for an insurance company as an actuarial student in the reinsurance department. At that point, I was soon to be married, and quite frankly I did not enjoy my chosen vocation. I think I was a restless soul at that point of life. With my wife’s blessing, I left the insurance field and returned to student-hood at the University of Toronto where I acquired my degree in education. With encouragement from my professor, Dr. H. L. Ridge, I wrote How Mathmore the Elf Saved Christmas (to teach younger grades about fraction operations) for a mathematics project. Five years later, while teaching High School, I received a call one evening from the same professor to join his team as co-author of the first mathematics textbook series for Prentice-Hall Canada called Mathscope. Needless-to-say, I jumped at the opportunity, and stayed with the project, in one capacity or other, for about ten years.

Always seeking a challenge, I joined two community theatre groups as an actor. It was during this period when the seed of storytelling was securely planted. A time where I learned how to dive beneath the skin of the characters I portrayed. What an enlightening experience! It taught me a lot about what was hidden inside me.

After retiring from teaching, I began a writing course at a nearby college where I had the opportunity to study with Canadian author, Sandra Birdwell. I must have rewritten chapter one of a book I hoped to write a hundred times (more than a slight exaggeration). When the course was completed, I still had not discovered my literary voice. It took at least two additional years before I discovered my voice. My first novel, Betrayal of Trust, under the pen name B. B. Wright, was the result of this effort. Short story writing provides me an opportunity to hone skills by experimenting with a collection of different ideas. Anything that captures my interest at some point ends up in one of my novels or short stories. The first drafts of some of my works (the raw stage before the full editing stage and publication) are found at Barry B. Wright.

2. When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I think I always wanted to be a writer. It just took time and a circuitous route and a lot of confidence-building to get there. I had to stop listening to that inner negative voice of self-doubt. My wife helped me through her support and strong encouragement to finally see the light of day. Now, not to write each day tweaks my conscience with a very guilty, uncomfortable feeling. In a nutshell, storytelling to me represents an act of gratitude to the books and people who have shaped my life. 

3. Is it a financially stable career?

I write because I love the creative challenge. The characters and situations they find themselves in are all my doing. None of it would exist without me. Now, I think that is more than pretty good! But, when all is said and done, I would advise not give up your day job until you have a steady source of income that covers your expenses. 

4. Who is your favourite writer and why?

Boy! There are so many that come to mind. Recently, I read American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. I am looking forward to reading her novels, The Outside Boy, and Crooked Branch and A Rip in Heaven. Stephen King, another favorite author, describes American Dirt as “A perfect balancing act with terror on one side and love on the other…The prose is immaculate, and the story never lets up…” That is why I chose her as one of my favorite authors. 

5. Where does your inspiration lie?

To quote Kahlil Gibran, “Work is love made visible.” Inspiration comes from life experiences, photos, articles (online and hardcopy), songs, podcasts, and on-line courses and lectures. Anything, in other words, that captures my interest is noted and placed in folders for possible future use. Often a lot of research precedes the writing of a novel as well as during its creation. My recent novel Angel Maker, written under the name, Barry B. Wright, is a case in point. 

6. What piece of advice would you like to give to future aspiring writers?

To become a writer, you not only have to be brave enough to fail but you also have to learn how to accept and respond to criticism. I was lucky enough to have mentors who taught me that all criticism has an element of truth and usefulness. The problem is often not the criticism itself but how the message is sent and received. Do not take it personally. Search for the nugget hidden within the folds of the message. Most importantly, remember it is a lifelong journey of personal growth and fulfillment. And, may I say, enlightenment.

The first draft for many beginning writers is believed to be a do or die stage. Let me call it out for what it is. A MYTH. You know how it goes. If a writer has talent the story should flow out effortlessly and brilliantly at the first go-around. Balderdash! Ernest Hemingway called it out for what it is: “The first draft of anything is s***t.” I put in the asterisks. First drafts are nothing more than first drafts. A compelling book often requires many drafts to focus, tighten, enrich, and add complexity to the story. The first draft ensures you have a story which holds together, a beginning that delivers an in inciting incident that throws the protagonist’s world out of balance, a middle that escalates the conflict and an ending with a satisfying climax.

I think a writer is like a ‘test pilot’ who is never quite sure whether the plane will either get off the ground or return safely but would never give up that moment to do anything else. I think Thomas Mann is correct when he says, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." The crime writer Patricia Cornwall described it as “…emotional being---the effervescence, the sparkle,” which is essential to keeping connected to the reader.

According to a study by the Society of Education, India, “…writing is both more complex and more abstract than talk…Writing, therefore, is not just putting pen to paper or writing down ideas bit is how these ideas are presented or expressed effectively.” I share this research with you because I do not want anyone to become discouraged and give up. Though the research says writing is hard work, your attitude is the key to your success. Treat your writing as a relationship, as if it is one of your closest friends. Treat your characters with respect and accord them the same respect that every living human being should expect and deserve.

Doubt is a good thing; it keeps you a little off-balanced as a writer and I believe open to alternative possibilities. 

Every story I write whether it be a short story or novel, I see the importance of my early training in mathematics being played out. Ideas hooked together like a series of equations one dependent upon the other to produce a satisfying solution. I am willing to bet if you dig deeper into your early training and experiences, you, too, will find the latent tools necessary for your successful venture into the very satisfying field of writing. 

7. What has been your biggest challenge that you faced and how did you overcome that? 

Writer’s block is quite common. Luckily, it does not happen very often at this stage of my writing. In the early stages, writer’s block happened quite a lot. And staring at a blank screen did not help my growing angst. Solution? Just write anything even if it is nothing more than gobbledygook. The idea is to break through the log jam and get the oxygen moving through the body. Exercise is also useful. My point is not to fret over it. Relax and breathe deeply. The more uptight you are the less likely you are to be productive. Like most things in life, it will pass.

8. Which is your favourite book and why?

My most favorite book is Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright (no relation). Written in epistolary form and utilizing letters and journal entries, the book tells the story of Clara Callan, a single schoolteacher, living in a gossipy, bleak village in Southern Ontario during the 1930’s. The author’s natural and unadorned style of giving voice to Clara Callan’s quiet desperation did it in such a way that I was barely aware of how fine the writing was. Emotionally, the writing touched me deeply. Once I finished reading the book, it was with great reluctance I put it aside. I wondered about the other Clara’s I met in my life’s journey. If I could go back and visit them, it would be to see them through more sympathetic eyes.  

Barry B. Wright

Barry B. Wright is a retired high school teacher and author of Betrayal of Trust and Angel Maker, as well as numerous short stories which are available at Welcome to My Garden. He counts his experiences in education, acting, environmental initiatives, and local politics as some of the strongest influences on his writing. Currently, he is working on his third novel Sunnyvale. He and his wife live in the Toronto area in Canada. You can learn more at He is also on twitter, linkedin, and facebook.

 - Interviewed By Pratibha Sahani

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