Joe Jarboe

Across the Chicken Yard is one of many stories based loosely on my childhood experiences. I grew up in the Kentucky countryside, sandwiched between older and younger brothers. I’ve been mining this material for about three years now, and I believe I’ve found my true voice in it. The fiction-writing bug bit me seriously when I was thirty-six, and I’ve been writing fiction for thirty years, novel-length mostly. Short stories have bubbled up recently. My early guideposts were Hemingway, Jack London, and Mark Twain. Their lean prose and richness of detail (and Twain’s humor) appeal to something deep in me. More recent influences have been Ron Rash and Cormac McCarthy. A craft book I found early, one I return to often, is Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular, by Rust Hills. My training is from independent workshops. This winter, at age 67, I enrolled in a low residency MFA program (an old wolf trying to tune up his howl). My work time is morning; two to three hours and I’m spent. Early on, I tried outlining, but the process seemed to sap the energy out of the piece (I can talk the energy out of a piece, also). Place is usually the first trigger, then some revealing event or epiphany, then a central character and the cast. I pick a time/place/situation that seems compelling and plunge in, moving toward that event or epiphany that first motivated me. It’s working so far, and I enjoy the surprises that pop up along the way. Complete the draft then get into rewrite. If the inner editor comes on too early it will shut down the flow and undermine confidence in the story. Some writers say stories come to them fully formed, but I always have to dig. Remember the one rule of writing: whatever works.