L. L. Barkat

L.L. Barkat is the author of Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places, a spiritual memoir/Christian living book (InterVarsity Press). Says author Don Everts, “Barkat’s courageous, unblinking honesty is a gift.” And theologian Scot McKnight has said, “The only writer I know quite like Barkat is Eugene Peterson.” She is Managing Editor and culture columnist for HighCallingBlogs, Staff Writer for International Arts Movement’s Curator Magazine, and is currently engaged in an art pilgrimage of sorts. She blogs at Seedlings in Stone. You can follow her on Twitter at @llbarkat.

I met L.L. through a blog I read several years ago. Sadly, I don't remember which one, but I was drawn to L.L.'s blog and began to read it avidly. When I knew I would be attending Mt. Hermon in 2008, I discovered she would be doing one of the classes and I was finally able to meet her. What a special lady.

MG: When did you know you wanted to write? How long have you been writing?
LL: I’ve always loved to play with words. I still remember the day I got a good mouth washing for playing with a very unfortunate string of rhymes. I was probably about five at the time, and in some form or other I’ve been playing with words ever since.

Along the way, people began to ask me to share my wordplay. “Could you do the devotion for Lesley’s shower?” “Write an ad for baby wipes.” (I was a graphic designer at that juncture.) Then it became teaching, ministry talks and ultimately The Egg and Cheese Breakfast. The Breakfast was a Saturday morning date. My husband took me out specifically to say, “I think you should be a writer.”

MG: How often do you write? Do you have a routine?
LL: I’m still waiting to become the kind of cool writer who spends every Wednesday night at a coffee shop. Or perhaps find myself getting up at dawn to pen my reflections in a leather-bound journal.

In the meantime, I’m what I call an “occasional writer.” That doesn’t mean I only write once in a while. It means I write for occasions. A speaking engagement. A requested article. My blog, at least one to three times weekly. Really, I’m no Emily Dickinson. No one’s going to find piles of my private writing in some long-forgotten drawer.

MG: What kind of stories do you tell?
LL: All kinds. For me, it’s about the telling, the word play, sharing my voice… more than sharing any particular kind of story.

MG: Do you have any other pursuits besides writing?
LL: I’m a perpetually curious person. One day (or year) you’ll find me studying French for no apparent reason. The next I’ll be trying the life of a raw foodist (that lasted about 8 months, by the way, and I developed a fine allergy to almonds through it; there’s a reason they say curiosity killed the cat!) Okay, but here’s a quick list. Currently I’m teaching myself cello, piano, Spanish. And I’m on an art pilgrimage.

MG: Do you have a favorite author or genre?
LL: I’ll read anything by Wendell Berry or Annie Dillard. And I recently discovered the beautiful fiction of Tove Jansson, as well as the poetry of Greek poet George Seferis.

MG: If you could keep only two writing books, what would they be and why?
LL: Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write—practical wisdom in daring prose. Abigail Thomas’s Thinking About Memoir—honest, cheeky, smart, humorous.

MG: If you could visit only two writing blogs, what would they be?
LL: Uh oh. I have to admit. I don’t read writing blogs.

MG: Why did you want to pursue publishing?
LL: I prefer to say that I grew into being published. It was a natural progression that goes back to Question 1. Sure I took steps. I went to a writer’s conference and learned more about the business. Mostly though, my big opportunities have come through blogging—not through pursuit, so much as through ordinary relationships and just sharing my work freely.

MG: What’s been the most difficult aspect of trying to get published?
LL: Embracing my particular gifts and finding the places where these gifts fit. It can be a time-consuming process. Most of the rejection I’ve faced has come from pitching my work to the wrong publications. Over time, though, I’m finding my niche. For the most part I don’t try to get published any more. I blog, and I have regular places where I show up… as Managing Editor for HighCallingBlogs and as Staff Writer for International Arts Movement’s Curator Magazine.

MG: What’s one piece of advice you’d give other writers, about writing or seeking publication?
LL: I like Julia Cameron’s view. We all have the right to write, regardless of the publication question. So go ahead and write. At the coffee shop, in a leather-bound journal, for occasions. When we relax and enjoy ourselves, publication often begins to pursue us, rather than the other way ‘round.
MG: Thanks for helping me with my ambitious project.

Read more interviews here.