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Joyce Barbagallo


Joyce Barbagallo
Joyce Barbagallo

Literature: Fiction

By: Gail Obenreder

Reading makes me feel connected, and I hope to have the same effect with my writing.”

Joyce Barbagallo began keeping a journal at the age of thirteen, and she has never stopped writing. But in 2010 she committed to “a more disciplined and formal approach” to the craft, taking classes and attending conferences and seminars, coming to “enjoy the art of fiction, both the short and long form.”

Reading fuels Barbagallo, and it always has; it’s “a lifelong pleasure [and] the biggest influence and source of inspiration for me as a writer.” Growing up in a family of six in Swedesboro, New Jersey, she haunted the local library, a favorite place, “hunting through the stacks to find a book to get lost in.” She relished the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder including the Little House books, James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small series, and Walter Farley’s Black Stallion tales.

Barbagallo still loves to read great fiction, and these days she is passional about contemporary writers like Richard Russo, Téa Obreht, and Elizabeth Strout. But she also has a lifelong interest in all the arts. She earned a degree in Art at Glassboro State College (Rowan University) and – concurrent with her 30-year career as a graphic artist – has taken classes at Delaware College of Art and Design. “I draw and paint when I have the time,” and Barbagallo relishes experiencing other artists’ work in all media and fields.

Sugar Sand (2020)

(short story excerpt), Little Patuxent Review

The drive to the bay had been a spur of the moment thing, a last crabbing run before Terry left, “for good this time.” JR raised his eyebrows in doubt at his friend’s worn-out declaration of escape; he’d heard it before. Still, he was up for any excuse to ditch work, the coast and sea air an easy lure.

With only a thermos of coffee and three stale doughnuts, they arrived at the marina before dawn and were gliding across the water in a green wooden skiff as the sun rose. They worked the baited lines in near silence for hours. Tiny waves lapped against the side of the boat, gently rocking it between the occasional lift of a swell. By nine they had a large cooler full of crab.

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A Delawarean since 1992, the busy Established Fellow has also continued to hone her writing craft with workshops and classes at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts, Temple University, and Rosemont College. When she’s stuck as a writer or has “trouble getting into the flow of the creative process,” Barbagallo finds that if she can “stay in the chair, sit with the discomfort, and keep the pen moving without judgement . . . something good will come out of it, i.e., one good sentence I that I can build on.”

Barbagallo finds it rewarding to work on a piece, “draft after draft . . . whittling away at the prose [and] watching characters come alive on the page.” It’s especially gratifying when “something I’ve written resonates and illuminates a common experience.”

The pandemic has had minimal effect on her personal writing practice, but it greatly impacted Barbagallo’s outreach to her “writing community and the ability to share with fellow writers.” And even though professional gatherings have now returned, she finds that meeting online remains an additional way to talk with others about ongoing projects.

Barbagallo values the Division’s dedication to Delaware arts and artists. Her Fellowship is “a much-appreciated source of encouragement” for her writing practice, as well as for her creative aspirations, allowing her to explore classes and upcoming conferences. “Writing is a pretty solitary business,” Barbagallo concludes, and “being recognized in my discipline is uplifting.”

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