Barbara Jean Walsh
I worked many years as an academic and public librarian before joining the staff of WoodenBoat Publications Inc., where I was employed for almost 25 years, gaining tremendous skills in the area of publishing, layout, and graphic design along the way. Since then, I have continued to work as a freelance editor and graphic designer. And of course, I’ve never fully left behind the skills I learned as a rural librarian, where part of my job always included mending and caring for old books.
In recent years, I am most proud of designing and editing a landmark textbook on high-speed powerboats. I also enjoyed working with Skagit Valley College to develop an online directory of Washington State’s many opportunities for young people seeking career paths in the marine trades, and I co-hosted “It’s My Boat” Radio. Earlier jobs including writing for a small town newspaper and teaching English. I hold a B.A. from the University of Maine and an M.A. from the University of Denver.
In My Own Words
I grew up in Maine, but 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 see 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.
I followed that library job 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 — Defining 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 Channing Kennedy has written an article 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.
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 Channing 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. Becca 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.
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. By the time my son had 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 a friend’s vacant 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, which I later self-published in a paperback edition.
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 Channing 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 arrived in the East Bay inMay 2009, and always felt that I had only just begun to explore all that it offered. I 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 had a magazine format and included humor and entertainment as well as solid advice.
I am also the editor and designer 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 was a founding member of the now defunct Good Point Collective, a far-flung group of editors and writers.
In November of 2015, I left the Bay Area along with my biggest fan Ron Johnson, and we moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, two miles away from my daughter’s home in Chicopee. The rest of my Western Mass story is yet to be told.
I can tell you that do enjoy Springfield — especially the riverfront where I have a wonderful time messing about in boats — and since I like seeing my poetry collections turn into small books, I will continue doing that. I make blank journals and have given several how-to workshops at Make-It Springfield‘s maker space on Worthington Street. With help from Make-It and the Springfield Culturnal Council, I will host a Book Crafters Fair in May 2017.
PIONEER VALLEY RIVERFRONT CLUB (Current) • Springfield, Massachusetts • Volunteer / Dragon Rays Team Manager.
SUNSHINE ARTS & LETTERS (2013 – present) • Springfield, Massachusetts • Owner • Freelance writer/editor • Designed and edited Performance by Design, written by noted naval architect Donald L Blount • Postcard poet, humorist, and blogger • Author of The Fisherman’s Bride, Postcards from Egypt, and Slicing Heaven • Podcaster • SF Bay Ferry “Artist in Residence” (April 7, 2014) • Wrote/Presented one-act play The Lost Child at StageWerx in San Francisco • Designed website www.GaleriaLAlvilda.com for Puerto Rican artist and my partner-in-art Alvilda Sophia Anaya-Alegria.
WOODENBOAT PUBLICATIONS INC. (1988-2013) • Brooklin, Maine • Produced more than 1,500 seminars for IBEX (International Boat- Builders Exhibition & Conference), facilitating speaker participation, onsite details, and follow-up • Broadcast 200-plus Internet radio shows • Managed editorial department office, including all work flow, for Professional BoatBuilder magazine • Covered boatbuilding in China, England, and the United States • Established online training courses and provided support to instructors and students • Wrote blog focused on making better presentations • Created classification system for marine-industry products and information.
MISSOURI OZARKS PUBLISHING (1993-2003) • Osage Beach, Missouri • Examined local issues in weekly newspaper • Built relationships with area organizations and governments • Created awareness of community infrastructure, needs, and concerns during a time of rapid growth and change
RURAL LIBRARY SERVICES (1976 – 1991) • Librarian in Clifton, Arizona; Seward, Nebraska; and Brooksville, Maine • Provided basic services as well as innovative community programming in literacy and in the arts & humanities.
MAINE COLLEGE OF ART (1973 – 1976) • Portland, Maine • Librarian and English Instructor.
Leadership, Volunteerism, and CommunityEstablish as part of the Conference on Marine Industry Technical Training, MITEC was a 23-member board all-volunteer council of marine-industry professionals. From 2006 to 2012, I was an executive-committee member ...
Read MoreI very much enjoyed being a volunteer at Toussaint L’Ouverture High School for Arts & Social Justice in Delray Beach, Florida in 2006 and 2007. I helped organize the library, ...