Chicken Soup and a Shot of Jack
by Clarence ‘Poet 402’ Barbee
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Chicken Soup, and a Shot of Jack is a strikingly impressive work of literary fiction from new author Clarence Barbee. The writer weaves his form of prose, delighting readers with thought provoking lessons on how to balance the good and bad in life. The book offers common sense values filled with humorous stories and tales.
She was amazing! A fire was burning on the stove, her son, who she had spent fourteen hours birthin’, was in danger of losing his left nipple by way of a hot dog grease fire. And all she could do was rock in that damn chair, and talk about the pork chop; which at this point was nothing more than a gnarled up bone.
- From the short story Just Had to Be Grown
Today I’m very lucky to be interviewing Clarence Barbee author of Chicken Soup and A Shot of Jack.
Hi Clarence, thank you for agreeing to this interview. Please tell us a little about yourself and your background.
Thank you for having me! I’m originally from Omaha, NE, and began writing in the 8th grade. I’ve always had a passion for stories about youth, and essays concerning life. I am an avid people watcher, which usually becomes basis for a poem, a story, or some kind of essay.
What were you like at school?
I was a work in progress in school. In elementary I was the class clown; I ridiculed everyone from my teachers to my classmates, and even the principal. Because my father was a school principal in the district, all the teachers felt they could use that against me, however that only fueled my fire. By middle school I began to calm down a bit and discovered writing. By my sophomore year in high-school I had really began to flourish, playing saxophone and getting my studies in order, but I was still quite the rebel.
Were you good at English?
I was decent at English, not a scholar, but definitely not a dunce either. I fell in love with words, with stories, and the meaning that came with them. I am surely not great with grammar, or spelling, but I can put phrases together like a mechanic rebuilding an engine.
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
I am very ambitious with my writing career. I believe that I will put in the work, and the outcome will be some of the best short stories. The goal I have with this current work is to get my name out to the public. With following works, I want to become a household name; if not a house-hold name, at lease a name in the schools. I feel that kids need to read more, and will read more if there are stories that interest them. I want to write those stories, get that reaction, and start those conversations.
Which writers inspire you?
I’m inspired by a few authors, one being Emerson, he is just magnificent with words and turning a phrase. I love reading Benjamin Hoff, his The Te of Piglet is one of my favorites. Alex Haley was definitely a favorite of mine; The Autobiography of Malcolm X definitely changed my life. I’ve recently discovered Miah Arnold, who wrote a magnificent essay You Owe Me in the Michigan Quarterly Review in 2012. I think that kind of does it for right now.
Would you give us insight into a main character in your collection? What does he do that is special?
This work is mainly essays and poetry; however there is a short story entitled Just Had to Be Grown. There is a little boy in this story, who is just a boy; mischievous, and testing. What makes this story special is many of the readers think this was a story from my past, something that my mother and I went through. However, it’s pure fiction, it’s fun as all get out to read—but pure fiction for pure enjoyment!
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a short story entitled The Mechanic. It’s loosely based off an experience I had with a mechanic and car drama I had a while back. I’m hoping to beef it up a bit, throw in some sarcastic laughs, and have it ready for my next book of short stories coming out soon.
Which actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your short story Just Had to Be Grown?
I think having Angela Basset play the mother in the short story Just Had to Be Grown would be fun. She has some really good facial expressions and great body language I think would really bring the character to life.
What made you decide to sit down and actually start to write?
I’ve always wanted to write a book, or several. However I lacked a lot of support from family, and loved ones. So as life handed me a big ole mess back in 2011, I started to fix my life. I started getting back to the person I wanted to be. And within that start, I was alone for the first time in my life, and made a conscious decision to start a book. I made a goal to publish it myself no matter the consequences, or critics. So when I saw how easy it was to do an e-book, I said, ‘hell, why not?’ Why not go and chase the dream, complete the dream, and keep it going.
Do you have a special time to write or how is your day structured?
Since I have a day job, that pays the bills, I write on my off days. Usually it’s Tuesday. So Tuesday looks like this: I get up, shower, and decide if I want to start off with playing some saxophone and making music or writing. It just depends on my mood. If it’s a writing day, then usually I’ll grab my laptop and decide if I want to go to my favorite coffee shop, or write at home. If it’s the coffee shop, many times, I’ll take the bus, or the train, just so I can experience the day and get some inspiration. If it’s home, then Pandora will get cued up with some nice jazz, and I’ll be off and writing!
Where do your ideas come from?
My ideas come from life; my job, my family, people I meet on the street. Ideas are a funny thing, because they come at you from any and all angles. Once I was in a strip club, and ended up coming up with an idea about some strippers and a certain customer. It was amazing the way my mind just became more and more twisted up in this story. And all this because of a hole in the wall strip club—hey, like I said, ideas come from everywhere!
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?
You know, many times I just sit down and write. Sometimes within the development of the story, I’ll end up revamping the idea and need to plot it out. Or other times as the story develops I’ll take time to plot out a certain part of the story, but usually I just depend on letting my fingers find the story.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Sometimes, the hardest thing about writing is getting out of my own way. I think we as writers, try so much to develop things in our head before we actually start writing that we end up blocking ourselves. We outline, we cultivate the ideas so much, that when it comes to actually writing it, we can’t get the process out of our head and end up not writing.
Do you read much and who are your favorite authors?
I do read, but much of it is socio-political books. I like reading a lot of Black authors from the 60’s and 70’s, there was so much passion there, and then. It’s been hard for me to find a genre with that much passion in it. However I do run across a blog, or a book, or an essay that has that fire, and that passion which turns the page…oh so easily!
For your own reading, do you prefer eBooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
I like both. Sometimes eBooks can be a bit difficult, but many times I can do it with my phone which makes it good. And then there are times I like going to a used bookstore and finding lost gems which excites, my eyes, and fingers!
What are you currently reading?
At present I’m re-reading The Te of Piglet and I’m also engrossed in this Sociology/African American Studies book entitled Slim’s Table.
Tell us about the cover and how it came about.
I made an attempt to design my own cover…then I realized I was not a graphic design artist. I ended up putting it up on Facebook, and a poet-friend of mine messaged me and was like “What in the hell is that?” I was laughing, because I knew it was terrible. I told her, it was my book cover, and she told me, “You know I love you, and I cannot allow you to represent yourself like that. I will redesign your book cover.” And Ms. LaToye Manley-Davis went to work. She knew my work, my poetry, the balance I try to present in my writing, and she just captured it. She presented me with a few color schemes, and we decided on what you got. Without her, it would have been a black cover with some white writing…lol!!
Do you have a trailer?
LaToye did my trailer, too.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?
You know, I’m not sure if giving books away for free works. I am new to this process of self-publishing, however confident in my endeavor. A man once told me, if you are good at doing something, never do it for free. With this endeavor, I have to take that kind of mentality, because this book is damn good!
How do you relax?
Relax?? Never, my mind is always going, always creating, always thinking of the next story, the next poem, the next piece of music.
What is your favorite quote?
“Don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.”—el Hajj Malik el Shabazz (Malcolm X)
What is your favorite movie?
My current favorite movie is “The Sunset Limited”. The writing in the movie is phenomenal, and the delivery of the lines is amazing!
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Well, I’m glad you asked, you can find out more on my website.
Any final words?
I just want to thank you for taking the time to interview me. I’d also like to thank everyone for coming by and reading this. I hope you all buy the book (heck it’s only $2) enjoy the book, and get something good from it!
Thank you for taking the time to take part in this interview. I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get to know a little bit about you.
Clarence Barbee has been writing and performing poetry for over a decade. He has produced nine spoken word albums, under the pseudonyms Nabraska and Poet402. Clarence is now working on self-publishing books of essays and short stories.
In his professional life he has worked with, educated, and supported many children. Clarence believes in keeping an eye on political planes and social occurrences such as changes in world leadership, and social inequalities. These actions of men are a huge curiosity to the author; he believes in writing about them, and discussing them, so solutions can be made.
Clarence has taken these experiences and written about them extensively. He asks, “Who doesn’t want to be happy,” then goes about the business of finding the answer. Please take some time to join him on this journey as they are set through words, sometimes with music, and always taken with a grain of salt.
Clarence will be awarding $10 Amazon/B&N gift card to a randomly drawn winner via Rafflecopter during the tour.