About Me

Barbara Jean Walsh


onl Barbara Jean Walsh is a freelance writer and editor living in Alameda, California. Her most recent project has been designing and editing a major book on high-speed powerboat design. She has also been the co-host of “It’s My Boat” Radio, and had a long career in the marine industry working primarily for WoodenBoat Publications and IBEX (the International BoatBuilders Exhibition & Conference). She has also been a library director, English instructor, and newspaper reporter. She has a B.A. from the University of Maine and an M.A. from the University of Denver.

 

“In Her Own Words”

New England

Although I grew up in Maine, I was born in Hyannis, Mass., so I always considered myself to be a Cape Codder. I spent much of my childhood and youth plotting about how to get away, but it took me awhile to find my wings. You’ll find a lot of scenes from Maine in my young adult fantasy The Fisherman’s Bride. The third child of four, I graduated from what was then known as the “University of Maine in Portland-Gorham” or “PoGo U” in 1970 and went to work in Portland Public Library to save money for graduate school.

Out West

I followed that with a year at University of Denver and spent some time in Hawaii but again returned to Maine and accepted a job at what is now Maine College of Art. The next three years turned out to be key in awakening a creative seed in me. In 2012 I made a presentation about Art from 1973 -1976 explaining how I found my spark. I still had that itch to see other parts of the country, though, so I moved to Clifton, Arizona, and spent two years in the high chaparral as director of a county library in copper-mining country.

My son has written an essay about that time when my remote library was part of “the safety net.” While there, I had to face one of my great fears: Living in a place where people did not think I was funny. Take note: A dry New England sense of humor does not translate well into the language of the jackalopes.

Nebraska

Next, I lived in yet another part of America: The Heartland. I was library director in Seward, Nebraska, a small town outside of Lincoln. There I experienced life in the Midwest B.W. (before Wal-Mart), but I also was a witness to the Farm Crisis and the havoc that took place in our rural communities. My son was born in Nebraska and remains a mid-westerner. To no one’s surprise but mine, I eventually felt a tug of homesickness.

And Back Again

In 1987, I returned to Maine just in time for a recession to hit. Fortunately, I was able to weave together several concurrent part-time jobs, including one at a tiny library in Brooksville, Maine, and one at WoodenBoat Publications Inc. in nearby Brooklin.

During the next three years, my job at WoodenBoat grew from front-desk receptionist to managing editor of Professional BoatBuilder magazine and by then, I was ready to move again, this time to Missouri where my husband had been offered a job. We all said our farewells, but within a month, I was on the phone looking for stringer work. Sometimes things just don’t turn out the way we expect.

Lake of the Ozarks

During my years in Missouri, one astounding event took place: I received a letter from the daughter whom I had lost to adoption in 1966—and a hole in my heart began to heal. She and I are still celebrating today. I stayed in Missouri for a decade, working for WoodenBoat remotely and also reporting for Lake Area News Focus, which gave me the ability to write very fast since I was being paid by the word.

South Florida

As part of my job at Professional BoatBuilder, I had visited South Florida annually for IBEX (the International BoatBuilders Exhibition and Conference) in Fort Lauderdale and little by little had come to love the area, especially if I could get away to the Keys, and even so more if I could go all the way to Key West. Once my son graduated from high school, competed a tour with AmeriCorps, and started traveling down his own path, I was ready to take up an offer to move into some friends’ apartment in Delray Beach, Florida.

Living four blocks from the beach, with a sweetheart deal for rent, I started to travel out of the country for the first time in my life. Professional BoatBuilder sent me to China to survey the boatbuilding scene there. I went to Europe on a vacation, and then to Cuba to celebrate my 60th birthday, and next to Costa Rica for a yoga retreat. I also began to meet some of the folks who gave me the skeletons that I later fleshed out as characters for my Slicing Heaven blog.

I had created the blog primarily as a way to teach myself how to use WordPress, but it took on a life of its own. I really had no plans ever to leave South Florida, but when my friends needed to liquidate their property, I re-assessed my living situation, and asked myself, “Where next?”

Going East to Get West

By then, my son was living in the Bay Area, and I made California my destination. But, I decided to go East to get West and took six months to make the trip—travelling through England, Egypt, and China, working remotely all the time. I’ve now lived in the East Bay since May 2009, and I feel I’ve only begun to explore all that it offers. I’ve had the good fortune to become involved with dragon boat paddling, the Pegasus Project, and Oakland Nights Live—participating in the annual “rants” twice. In 2013. My theme was Women, Work, and Hover Cars.

I separated from WoodenBoat Publications in October 2013 and am now an independent writer and editor. One of my favorite projects at Professional BoatBuilder magazine was ProBoat Radio, a weekly talk show for the marine industry, and my colleague Ann Avary and I  followed up on that with “It’s My Boat.” Our podcast has a magazine format and includes humor and entertainment as well as advice. We are now on hiatus but hope to re-start the podcast soon.

I am also the editor of Performance by Design: Hydrodynamics for High-Speed Vessels, written by noted naval architect Donald L. Blount. This is Mr. Blount’s legacy book, and we expect it to be required reading for naval architecture students for many years to come.

My creative writing includes a lot of postcard poetry which I publish on my tumblr, and of course, Slicing Heaven: Tales, Poetry, and Recipes from the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range. Recently, I have been the SF Bay Ferry’s Artist in Residence, and I also wrote and performed a one-act play at StageWerx in San Francisco. I like seeing my poetry collections turn into small books, so I will continue doing that.

You can keep up with my projects through my tumblr or my Amazon Author’s page, or just drop me a line.

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