Interview: Barbie Angell on Roasting Questions

Roasting Questions Flyer

Barbie Angell is Asheville’s “poetess extraordinaire.” She has performed her poetry before audiences at bars, coffee shops and this Friday she’ll be at The Hop West promoting her new book Roasting Questions, a collection of children’s poems. The Hop West book release event is free and runs from 7 – 9 p.m. Visit Barbie’s web site for more details or visit The Hop West for directions.

Her previous self-published volumes of poetry have sold over 500 copies, according to her publisher, and she has earned a loyal audience from people who don’t know they like poetry to celebrated artists like Rosanne Cash and David LaMotte. Barbie kindly agreed to an interview to discuss the release of her first book Roasting Questions.

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For those who don’t know a thing about you, tell a little about yourself and how you came to poetry.

Barbie Angell

As a child, I loved reading Shel Silverstein. I was sick a lot & often alone and Shel’s poetry really grabs hold of loneliness and pushes the reader into a new world with quite tilted perspectives. My first Christmas in Mooseheart, a sort of orphanage, I was given a diary. Knowing I didn’t have the privacy required to keep an actual diary, I chose to hide my thoughts in poems. When I was in college I realized that, while poets didn’t appreciate my rhyming style, people who didn’t normally go to poetry events really loved my work. I was able to tap into an entirely new audience who had previously been ignored. In 1997 I was offered a children’s poetry gig which paid $75 for a half hour of performing. I didn’t write children’s poetry, but I needed the money, so I chose some of my rhyming pieces that were G-rated and the event was so successful that they gave me the job the next 2 years.

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Roasting Questions has been in the works for a little more than a year. Tell how the Roasting Questions developed as a collection of poems for children of all ages.

Barbie Angell

The book has changed a great deal since its inception. Originally it was going to have poems with blank sections for the children to draw a picture and also pictures with blank sections to write a poem. I still plan to do that book, most likely as a black and white supplemental to Roasting Questions. The pieces that ended up in this book were all given final approval by my seven year-old son. About half of them are also ones which I perform when I do bar shows and get the same incredible response from adults as they do at my children’s performances.

I’m unbelievably proud of Roasting Questions. Laura Hope-Gill assisted in the editing of the pieces and Michele Scheve and I brainstormed about the layout. With each “problem” that arose, I ended up finding a solution that made the book even more rich and quirky. Those two ladies from Grateful Steps Publishing House taught me a great deal and because of them the book is everything I could have hoped for.

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This is your first published book. Years from now, and hopefully many published books down the road, when you look back at Roasting Questions what do you hope readers will remember as the enduring idea of the book?

Barbie Angell

I absolutely hope you’re right and that this is the first of many books. The main philosophies behind Roasting Questions are fairly simple. I try to speak to the reader the way that Shel did, not over their heads or talking down to them, but speaking directly to them. Letting them know that we are all confused at times, all struggling with who we are and who we want to be. In the end, even though we’re all different, we want to connect with each other and be the best “us” we can be.

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