Writing Barn Regulars: Shelley Crain

An Interview by McKinley Michalowski, Writing Barn Intern

Writing Barn Regulars is a new, on-going series where we feature writers who join us at the Barn on a regular basis. Our community at the Barn is full of wonderful, talented, and diverse writers, who all have their own story. While they’re off writing stories of their own, we wanted to create a platform to tell you their stories. This is Writing Barn Regulars!


Shelley Crain has lived in Austin for 11 years, though by birth and by heart, she is a Kansas City, Missouri girl. With degrees in business, journalism, and conservation biology, Shelley managed to defy the odds and put all of her degrees to work as a planner and trainer for emergency response, safety and risk management and disaster recovery. Her work requires a lot of technical writing, but Shelley has always been inclined to creative writing. Through her time at the Barn, she has continued to push herself to develop the stories and characters from idea to paper. From her first time visiting the Writing Barn, Shelley quickly became a Writing Barn Regular.





First, what kind of writing do you do?
Is slow motion a genre?

No, actually my interest is in writing fiction novels.

I am currently working on a story line including several members of an underground resistance movement during World War 2…and hoping that before too much longer the first two characters I’ve been developing will come to life enough to speak for the others and let me know if they are going to share a single cover or require a cluster of stories that intertwine.

How did you find The Writing Barn?
One day I went online looking someplace that was comfortable enough to sit all day, and where there were few distractions so I could get back into my writing hobby. My intention was to find a location that served the purpose and was near enough to home that I would go more than occasionally. My hope was that I’d get really lucky and find some kind of class that would motivate me to keep working, or a writing group where I could share ideas.

I was thrilled when the search engine turned up www.thewritingbarn.com. I’d had NO IDEA a pivotal piece of my wish list lay cozily tucked into far south Austin (nearly in my backyard). When I saw the listing for an upcoming Write Away Day and realized I could afford to attend, I began what has become a very positive, productive, and self-indulgent habit of attendance.

What was your first experience at the Barn like?
As I mentioned above, my first trip to the Barn was for a Write Away Day. I was intimidated coming in that session because I knew there would be “real” writers there and they’d ask me what I was doing and expect me to have a full-fledged plot. Or be published. Or have conducted at least one book signing…something to give credence to my quaint little hobby.

But I was welcomed and encouraged from the beginning, and when I announced sheepishly at the end of the day that I had managed 20 pages of rough draft (thinking it seemed a paltry reward for hours of effort), the other writers responded so positively. Turns out even the most “real” writer in the room felt it was a success to complete no more pages in a day than you can count on your fingers and toes.

What breakthroughs, if any, have been made in your writing through your work at The Barn?
I am writing. Not often enough, not fast enough, not coherently enough, but I am putting words together into DropBox files, and some of them even make me very happy when I go back and read them again.

There are those who would presume – considering I pay money, and drive through Austin traffic to attend writing programs – that I am setting the bar pretty low to consider it a breakthrough to write. But before I started going to the Barn, I was as undisciplined with writing as I was with dieting or exercising. I very much wanted to do it. I scheduled time to do it. Then somehow I found myself snacking on the sofa and throwing toys to my cats.

How do you feel the community at the Barn has affected your work/life?
I’ve always been more likely to do things when I am accountable to someone else than to myself. Once I have registered for a session then I feel the obligation to attend, and once I attend I become motivated to produce. And once I begin to produce, it makes me happy. It’s one of life’s little upward spinning vortices that counterbalance the things that threaten to pull one down.

Why do you keep going back? (What has turned you into a Writing Barn regular?)
It feels good to walk in the door (especially when I manage not to whack my head on its Hobbit-sized frame). I know that for the next few hours I am not going to be sidetracked by cell phone Sudoku, or an episode of Murder In Paradise, or a cat laying adorably right across my keyboard or wrists.

The dishes and mowing, the family and friends, are all closeted away for a while, and I can focus all of my attention on tapping the creativity inside.

Well that and the cashews and good tea…

And lastly, do you have any advice for people who are curious about the Barn but haven’t mustered the courage to attend a workshop/class?
Invest in a Write Away Day or Write Now evening. If you decide you don’t like it – you are out little time or money, but if the support, relaxation and generative atmosphere work, you will have reaped a huge reward for that little bit of time and cash.

Making these days a habit will allow you to provide the creative part of your brain a steady diet of freedom.

And don’t be surprised if you start looking at the other course listings as a hungry man eyes a menu.