Discussing Writing and Publishing with Millersville Alumni Tyler Barton

Written by Heather Verani

Last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of interviewing Millersville alumni Tyler Barton, a writer who is hosting a fiction reading event of his debut short-story collection Eternal Night at the Nature Museum. This literary event takes place on March 28th at 7pm in McNairy Library at the alumni reading room (room 100).

Eternal Night at the Nature Museum received its interesting title based off of one of Barton’s previous works which is featured in this short-story collection. “It’s a short little one-page story” he describes, “that could also be considered as a prose poem because it’s very lyrical and shifting in a lot of different directions in a single page.” This almost-poetic short story is about a person being in a nature museum when a nuclear disaster strikes, and explores what it would be like to survive if that became your home for such an event. Although the collection of short stories doesn’t have a connecting thread, such as all the characters living in the same place or time, they do all share a common theme of home. Barton further explains this by stating all the stories deal with home by “either losing it, deciding to leave it, or finding it in a place you didn’t expect.” These stories differ in content, as they follow the lives of a variety of characters in disparate circumstances, such as having their house explode, or being evicted and accidentally joining a cult, but comes together as each character seeks to define what home is to them.

While speaking with Barton, I had the opportunity to ask him about his own personal writing process while creating Eternal Night at the Nature Museum. Although his process for each individual story is different, he describes to me how he depends on drafting stories as one of the first steps in his process. He explains that he likes to start writing a story “not really knowing where it is going to go” by starting with something small as the inspiration for the piece, such as a piece of language or an image that caught his attention. Then, he follows this in his writing until he reaches a conclusion, which creates a lot of stories that no gets to read or even see. Barton explains this further by stating they are “failed experiments” that outweigh the successful ones in number. As graduate students, we sometimes inadvertently put pressure upon ourselves to have each assignment or project to be perfect the first time. This is done either to make time for other work, or as a means to match the standards and expectations we have set for ourselves at this higher academic level. While speaking with Barton, it was refreshing to have this reminder that good writers will have many failed attempts and drafts of their work, no matter the genre, before they create something they deem as successful. It is important to acknowledge failure as a part of the writing process, for it provides us the opportunity to reflect on our mistakes and grow as writers. Another part of his personal writing process that also allows for growth as a writer is sending and trading his stories with others to receive feedback. This allows him to see how readers are understanding his piece, and then revise them until he is happy with the final result.

Along with his writing process, Barton also told me about how his collection of short stories came to be published. It took him five years to write and edit the stories apart of the collection, starting in 2015 and ending in 2020. When he graduated with his MFA in 2018, he had created an early first draft of the manuscript that later became part of Eternal Night at the Nature Museum. He spent two more years after his graduation writing and revising the piece, and then starting submitting it to presses for publication. In the summer of 2020, he found out that Sarabande Books wanted to publish his collection, which officially debuted in 2021. It is important to highlight this publication process, as I had previously written an article detailing Penguin-Random House’s process on how one could become published. Barton’s own process is much more realistic and approachable, as it shows those who would like to be published how they can achieve this goal in another way.

We are so happy to welcome Tyler back, and hope to see you at the event!

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