Barbara Garro is in the forum today to talk about her spiritual books and the fascinating and full life behind them. Please have a seat and join me in my discussion with this natural storyteller.
Tim Greaton: It’s great to have you here, Barbara. I know you have lived a full professional life. Could you tell us a little about your career before writing?
Barbara Garro: First, I had to make money to support my art, so as a teen, I went up the ranks in the corporate world, eventually became the Director of Risk & Insurance Management for Comcast Corporation in PA. Then, I had a life-altering accident and became the writer, producer and actor of “The Mother Goose & Gander Show” for children from 3-8, which ran up and down New York State during the 1990s and still runs in some markets. Altogether, I have had nine careers with the credentials to support them. For Risk Management, I have my Chartered Property & Casualty Designation. For my Personal and Business Coaching, I have completed Coach University’s Two-Year Corporate Coaching Program and Coach Training Institute’s Personal Coach Training Program. As an actress and singer, I have been trained by various singing coaches and for singing and acting by Joe Balfior who started The New York State Theatre Institute out of Troy, New York. For fine art, I have been taught by Master Artists Morris Blackburn at the Philadelphia Art Museum and Tom Vincent of New York City. I have my Master of Arts in Liberal Studies, and wrote my thesis on how children learn. I also create exciting sculpture, training currently under Patrice Mastrianni in Saratoga Springs, New York. I am also a professional storyteller and have been a Liturgical Minister teaching the Liturgy to children for over 40 years and still do it.
Tim Greaton: Wow. I’m tired just thinking about it. I know you work just as hard on your current writing career, too. Have you always been so self-motivated?
Barbara Garro: At five, I got picked up by the Police for soliciting on the street with my three-year old friend, Rosenn, the first and only time. When television was first coming into homes, I saw a beggar with a tin cup getting money from people. I had a tin cup, so I and my three-year old friend went up on Broadway in Camden, New Jersey, and said to passersby “Pennies, Pennies.” One lady asked me if it would be okay to give me a quarter. I couldn’t figure out how to divide a quarter in half, so I told Rosanne, I would give her an extra penny. I put one of the dimes we got into the gumball machine in Hurley’s Furniture Store and only one gumball came out. I complained. The clerk told me the machine did not know the difference between a penny and a dime and no, she would not open the machine and give me my dime back or nine more gumballs. After we left Hurley’s, a Police Car stopped and asked me if I knew where I lived. I told him I did and he told us to get in the car, he was taking us home. My mother sat me down and told me that, even though I saw a beggar on television begging on the street, it was not something nice little girls did and never to do it again. And, she took all the money in the tin cup, too. My friend’s mother came over and asked my mother if she had beaten me for doing such an awful thing. My mother said she had not, that I did not know I was doing anything wrong and we don’t beat our children. She had given Roseann an awful beating with the strap and told my mother she did not want to play with Roseann ever again. As a creative and curious kid, I had the perfect parents who taught me right from wrong and explained why something I did was wrong the first time I did it. Mother didn’t raise a fool, so I rarely did the same wrong thing again. Let’s just say I kept my parents and the angels on their toes the whole time I was growing up and as long as they lived. Anything I asked my parents about, they gave me information. Anything I asked my parents to help me do, they helped me. I learned to jump rope, ride a bicycle and do the Charleston by four, build a dinosaur at eight, tap dance and ballet at eight. Also at eight, I wrote my autobiography, albeit it was short. As a curious child with lots of freedom, I would go into the woods and see how things grew, how the animals lived, visit, feed the horses that lived on our Main Street in Maple Shade, New Jersey and ride horses when I got the chance. Once, I walked under the street through the sewer pipe to see where it went, and occasionally wander through neighbors houses who left their doors open-never got caught either. I saw a lot and did a lot, because I loved being outside, still do.
Tim Greaton: It sounds like you had a fascinating childhood and amazing parents. How have they influenced you over the years?
Barbara Garro: As a beautifully loved child within loving paternal and maternal large families, lots of people influenced me as a child, took exciting interest in me and everything I did and wanted to do. My parents probably influenced me the most, my father a successful entrepreneur who told me, “Babe, you can do anything you want to do.” At four, my mother sent me to the supermarket to buy Red Heart canned dog food at the supermarket several blocks away. I walked the wrong way on Broadway and finally realized it and turned around, found the supermarket, got the dog food and went home. My mother simply asked me what took me so long and I told her. At eight, I needed weekly allergy shots in Camden, a long bus from Maple Shade that was several big city blocks from the bus stop. I was really worried that I would not get off at the right stop, not be able to find the doctor’s office and not be able to find my way back to the bus. Yet, I did it all and both my other and I were really proud of me. My father owned a large service station and at eight it was my job to write up and sent all the reminders of service due on their vehicles each month. My mother, because my father worked long hours mostly seven days a week, taught me how to do carpentry, garden, paint, wallpaper, knit, crochet, cook, bake and create the most amazing arts and crafts. Both of my parents could draw well, just came natural. My father sang opera whenever he was home and could play by ear any instrument that he took in his hands. My mother and father were literary people and my mother recited the famous poets’ poems to me as a toddler and into my teens. My mother had an extensive library of the arts and the Master Painters and Writers influenced me greatly from before I could even read. I would draw, copying the masters whenever I was sick in bed, which was a lot, since I had asthma and allergies until puberty.
Tim Greaton: It seems you had a true renaissance family. Have those various interests stayed with you?
Barbara Garro: Like my parents, I can do many things and love working with both my hands and my mind. So, I am also a fine artist doing shows, commissions and winning awards. I am also a trained actress who has written, acted with a vent, Gander and several other puppets, half-hour cable television shows: The Mother Goose & Gander Show and God’s Neighborhood, for children 5-8, which still play in some venues. My garden is beautiful. I decided here and there over the years that I liked making and painting sculptures, so I use what I create for all the gifts I need to give. I listen almost exclusively to classical music at home and in the car, so I also create paintings that commemorate the Master Composers. I am an incessant non-fiction reader, researching all kinds of things that interest me. For example, I read poetry every morning while I drink my tea. I love going to yard, estate sales and going into antique shops and looking at antique catalogs, some of which I use to get ideas for Egyptian sculpture. For example, I drink my morning tea out of a cobalt blue cup that has the Eye of Horus on one side and a flying bird on the other. Of course, I love dance, studied ballroom dancing. I also love singing, am in the Resurrection Choir and have fulfilled one of my Bucket List dreams by singing on stage by myself with a band behind me. As a paid actress, I have been the Campbell Soup Girl at a huge event the company held at its headquarters in Camden, New Jersey. As a volunteer actress, I tell stories in public, depict various women in the Bible for Christian groups. And I do keynote speeches to help people communicate better using my Character Architectural Technology which has the U.S. Patent & Trademark Registered Mark. I also teach at high school continuing education every spring and fall: Honing Your Intuition to Grow Yourself a Life You’ll Love; It’s Not Your Fault You’re Fat; Solving People Problems without Losing Yourself; and Grow Yourself a Relationship with Jesus You’ll Love. Giving back, I volunteer monthly at Mary’s Haven, a Home for the Dying, Lector at my church, sing in the Resurrection Choir, and teach the Children’s Liturgy monthly, something I have been doing for over 40 years. I also volunteer at the oldest continually operating Coffee House, Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, NY and volunteer at our Film Form.
Tim Greaton: What kinds of books do you read? Are they in the same genres in which you write?
Barbara Garro: Yes, definitely. I have been a syndicated business columnist for over twenty years that is published in all fifty states and twenty-four foreign countries, so I keep up with the latest business book and interview authors whose work interests me. As a writer and teacher of fine art, poetry and writing as well as line-editor, I read non-fiction books, especially fine art and poetry. I study extensively religious writing, attend religion classes at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, read Joseph Girzone’s religious fiction books, Bibles of all stripes, lives of the saints, Judaism and other religions. I also write and read self-help books. I read humor books. Occasionally, I read Richard Paul Evans fiction and other intriguing authors. Another subject that intrigues me is paranormal subjects, dream analysis, psychology, messages from the other side, and near-death experiences.
Tim Greaton: There was a place from your past that you’ll always remember. Could you tell us about that?
Barbara Garro: Sedona, Arizona is the place that is one of the ten best life experiences for so many reasons. It influences my belief that I can do anything I set my mind to do. So, I will share a story that brings that home. There, I learned about vortexes, magical energy places somehow connected, building on my belief that here is not all there is. I remember doing the vortex tour with my friend, Mae, who was about 300+ pounds in a wheel chair. It never occurred to me that Mae in a wheel chair could not go on the tour. I just proceeded that it was all perfectly a perfectly normal activity for a woman in her condition. For her, the experience was one of the ten best experiences in her life. The Tour Guide and I pushed her in her wheel chair partly up a hill over sand, so that she could be close to one of the vortexes and also in the shade. The other people in the tour bus were just amazed at what we were doing. While she stayed safely there, I went to the edge of the Grand Canyon and meditated for about 45 minutes, one of the most fascinating experiences I ever had. Being in spirit with the Grand Canyon was an amazing journey for me. I can still see it, still take myself there, still feel the heat on my head and back, still mesmerized by the wonder God made. This experience influences my life by showing me what else is possible; that I live in a world of miracles and fascination and takes me full circle to what my Pop told me as a little kid, “Babe, you can do anything.” That’s how I keep reinventing myself.
Tim Greaton: These days, you receive a lot of affirming comments about your work. Has it always been like that?
Barbara Garro: From the time I was fourteen, teachers, professors, magazine and book publishers, and readers have all told me I am a good writer and that they can see from my writing how well-read I am. People also tell me that my writing is evergreen, clear, concise and gives them unique ways of looking at things that they find helpful and refer to often. One woman just came up to me to tell me how much she uses the concepts in my book and how it changed her life and keeps changing it for the better. Many people have told me that they keep my first book Grow Yourself a Life You’ll Love right next to their bed so that they can refer to it often. Another thing several people appreciate is that I make them co-authors, not telling them what to think, but encouraging them to think about their lives and where they are going with them. Therefore, I write heuristic books that help them come to their own conclusions. My second book, From Jesus to Heaven with Love: A Parable Pilgrimage was nominated in 2011 for an EPIC Award in its Non-Fiction Category. My third book, The Comfort of the Shepherd: Parable Prayer and Meditation will be entered in May. The fourth book, third in the Jesus series, Living the Call of God, will be published in 2013.
Tim Greaton: So what can we expect in the future?
Barbara Garro: Three published books readily available on Amazon and various other Internet sites, in book stores, from the publisher http://www.CambridgeBooks.us currently. There is as third book in my religious series that the publisher has agreed to publish in 2013. Another publisher has agreed to publish two of my poetry books, but there have been delays. Currently, in my alphabetical poetry file, I have about 1,000 poems, separated into five books, some close to 300 pages. I have completed all the research (about two feet high) for my weight management book that is ready to be written when I get the time after I have found a publisher. The research is also completed to write CHILL: Using I.C.E. to Keep Your Relationships COOL! as soon as I find a publisher. I have done all the research to write a book about my father, again when I can carve out the time after I find a publisher interested.
Tim Greaton: As a teenager, you had a unique police experience. Could you tell us about that?
Barbara Garro: At nineteen, I was hugely naïve out of a protected Sicilian family. At a sports bar at a Super Bowl party on a Sunday, a detective I had met before said it was really noisy at the bar and invited me to his place. When he pulled up to a hotel, I thought it was strange that he lived in a hotel, but I still went with him. When we got up to his “apartment,” it looked like a big bedroom (I had never been to or stayed at a hotel) with some chairs. On the dresser was a silver container with a bottle of champagne over ice. He took off his gun, put it on the table and went into the bathroom. I picked up the gun and had it pointed directly at him when he came out of the bathroom as a joke. Obviously nervous, sweat beading on his forehead, he stuttered slowly, “Barbara, that gggggun hhhhhas a hhhhhair ttttttrigger. Ppppplease ppppput it ddddddown.” “Okay,” I said. Immediately, he took me home and I never saw him again. Looking back, I believe the angels were looking out for me.
Tim Greaton: You’re so upbeat, Barbara, that it might come as a surprise to a lot of people to hear some of your challenges. Do you have any examples for us?
Barbara Garro: I have had way too many near-death experiences, health and otherwise. There was the time my husband I was divorcing pulled a knife on me when the children and I were leaving a “friend’s’” house and demanded I take him somewhere in my car. We were in South Philadelphia, and I screamed my head off and the guys came out from everywhere, got him off me and let me speed away unharmed. The children still remember this. And “friends’” is in quotes, because they set me up, thinking they were helping us get back together. I never spoke with them again.
Tim Greaton: I have quite a few friends who do standup comedy. It still amazes me that you have also tackled that field…and did okay. What was that like?
Barbara Garro: Funny, is easy. I took stand-up comedy and the teacher booked us into night clubs in our city immediately after the class and there we were out there for all to see, newbies on stage. People still remember me doing standup, keep asking me where they can see me again. One time, one woman even asked me in the Ladies’ Room and all the women there were looking and smiling. Actually, people do not realize how long it takes to write, practice and get ready to do a five, ten, or fifteen routine. Women have also been known to ask me in the Ladies’ Room, “Aren’t you Mother Goose?”
Tim Greaton: Who was the most memorable person you ever came across? Would you ever write a book about him or her?
Barbara Garro: Hands down, my former husband, the children’s father, was the strangest character I ever met in my life. He wasn’t a pretty picture as I learned more and more in eight years of marriage. Would I ever consider basing a book on him? It wasn’t a lot of fun for me. Why would I want to inflict his strangeness on readers? Maybe that is why I don’t write fiction, because my mind doesn’t go that way. I am all about non-fiction, what is real. All the strange, memorable characters I have ever met are permanently memorialized in my poetry, funny, strange and even scary. I don’t write fiction, except children’s stories occasionally, and even these tend to be factual, helping children learn how to take care of various animals, how to adopt a puppy. There is one about a dragon who eats churches that is looking for a publisher, but I made everyone up, not really imitating anyone.
Tim Greaton: You obviously have a strong sense of spirituality. Does that come from books?
Barbara Garro: The Bible is the one, still read it, still study it, write books about it, go to college courses to learn more and grow more and more in love with my God and the saints. Rumi, the poet, is next, read him every morning with my tea, Rumi: The Big Red Book. And I read many poets, mostly the classic poets. Illusions by Richard Bach is another. All of Joseph Girzone’s Joshua books. All of Richard Paul Evans’ books. I read incessantly and I could probably name dozens of books if I had the time.
Tim Greaton: You have a set process for writing. Could you tell us about it?
Barbara Garro: My system is the same for every book. Research, research, research. Collect, collect, collect. Write, write, write ideas. Then create the chapter outline for the book. Next, take, usually two feet of this stuff fine it in the chapter folder for each chapter and write the book out of the system, chapter by chapter. While I am working on a book, it is ever on my mind and everything I read, see, go to, hear is fodder for the book and I am constantly making notes and filing them into the chapters. For articles, the system is basically the same, except I write out of what I have collected. May sound boring, but four books later and counting, an internationally published writer for over forty years, it works. Everything I am writing or intend to write is always on my mind and I collect and collect and collect. I keep putting things into my weight management book chapters all the time, write poetry for my Saratoga Poetry and Song Focus Group for critique that has met monthly for over 20 years. Sometimes, I write thirty poems a month, but not a month goes by when I have not written poetry. I also write songs occasionally; then, a period will come when I am in song-writing mode. My song Magic Night Music is the lead song on Australian singer/songwriter Margie Ward’s album of the same title. She has promised to do a full album of all Barbara Garro songs in the future. For songs, the system is different. Words will just come and haunt me into life. Then, the music will come. How Magic Night Music became a reality was by sending an email to Margie with the words and then calling Australia and singing the song to her, so she could write the music. What a beautiful rendition of the song she did. She is so gifted, her voice has the clarity of a bell and her music is enchanting.
Tim Greaton: Do you have beta readers in your family or circle of friends, or do you trust your own instincts before you publish your works?
Barbara Garro: I am the writer and I do the writing, working with my publisher. Rarely do I go over things with others for my books, songs and articles. Interesting, every magazine publisher I have ever worked with nationally and internationally publishes my work the way I write it. My books, too, are basically published as I write them. I may run a concept or two by my trusted friends, but nobody reads my work before it goes to the publisher. I do write with much care and thought and I believe it shows. That being said, for my poetry, I have had my body of work gone through by professional editors twice. I run The Saratoga Poetry & Song Focus Group that I have run consistently for over 21 years every month and I facilitate this critique group that meets for three hours and hosts up to six poets and/or songwriters. So, there is much feedback and my poetry has been edited. In fact, it is really hard for me to re-type a poem without tweaking it a bit.
Tim Greaton: Which author do you model your work after?
Barbara Garro: For my religious books, I use St. Anthony’s writing style that is clear for all readers, the words of Jesus Christ, Psalms, Proverbs, the stories of the Old Testament as well as Barbara Garro. For articles and other non-fiction books, I write like Barbara Garro. For poetry, Rumi, hands down is a wonderful mentor to me from whom so much inspiration comes.
Tim Greaton: Do you think of yourself as a particular type of writer?
Barbara Garro: My goal in all my writing is to in an entertaining way enable people to grow mentally and spiritually from where they are, using St. Anthony’s writing style. As a non-fiction writer, poet, columnist, and blogger with the Garro Talk Art Newsletter on my website: http://www.BarbaraGarro.com, I am a clear, concise, cut-to-the-chase writer, with the most innovative, up to date information possible, relying on statistics for great clarity.
Tim Greaton: Could you tell us about your most recent book release?
Barbara Garro: In wanting to understand Jesus better, I did the research and work to help myself do that and write the first book in the Jesus series titled From Jesus to Heaven with Love: A Parable Pilgrimage. After that, it was a natural progression to help people learn to pray and meditate to grow themselves spiritually, so I wrote The Comfort of the Shepherd: Parable Prayer and Meditation. The next book in the series, Living the Call of God, like the second one is a natural progression and will deal with how to serve as Jesus asked.
Tim Greaton: What led you to focus on this series of books?
Barbara Garro: As a Liturgical Minister teaching The Liturgy of the Word for Children, I felt I would like to make my Christian faith easier to understand for believers of all ages over twelve. What a journey I am on, how gratifying a journey it has been. Somehow, I know that this beautiful journey will not end in my lifetime.
Tim Greaton: Will there be sequels after you next book?
Barbara Garro: After the third book Living the Call of God is published in 2013, I am re-evaluating my body of work to see where it behooves me to go next. Still, niggling in the back of my mind and forward at times is an idea to write children’s religious books about the Christian faith. I probably will stay in the five to eight age group that I have been serving for over forty years, although younger and older children have experienced my teaching. For example, when I teach the Liturgy of the Word for Children during Mass, parents, toddlers and grade school children come and we may have 20-70 children in the room. It all works. The children love it when they don’t have an answer to a question and I say, “Do you want me to ask the grown-ups?”
Tim Greaton: Which part of your books are the biggest challenge to write?
Barbara Garro: The most difficult part of each of the Jesus’ books is the section: “Message from Jesus.” Getting myself into the place where I could speak as Jesus took meditation, prayer and concentration. The most help in this regard came from my many years on the Guidepost Our Prayer live prayer line. The people who call are not calling me, they are calling God, and I am trained to be the messenger from the prayer line callers to God and back, keeping myself, my opinions, advice out of the way. So many times, callers have told me that I said things in the response to them that I had no way of knowing and what I had said was the perfect thing for them to hear to help. I always respond to these kinds of responses, “God knows and responds to your needs.”
Tim Greaton: After writing each book, do you ever wish you could change things?
Barbara Garro: Once I write a book, the journey is over. I work really hard not to waste my time busying myself with the impossible, anything over which I have no control. That being said, I have a publisher interested in an updated version of Grow Yourself a Life You’ll Love. Myself, my work, and my teaching has evolved since 2000 when the book came out. An update that speaks to that and the myriad of changes in our society in the last 24 years since I penned the book is desirable and most appropriate. Just need to find the time.
Tim Greaton: If you were going to throw a party based on one of your books, what would it be like?
Barbara Garro: The theme would be a costume party of the Thirty-Three parables of Jesus in the three books in my Jesus series. I would come as on a wheeled float as a Treasure in a Field, bejeweled and gorgeous, waiving, and my wheeled float would be able to motor around the room where we are having the party, so it would need to be a big ball room. The food would be Bible-themed, foods from Jesus’s time, great breads and dips, fresh and luscious fruits and vegetables, lots of nuts, cakes, candies, and a roasted PIG! Because roasted pigs are delicious and I am not Jewish.
Tim Greaton: It would be great if you could share your website/blogsite and links to where our audience could directly communicate with you and purchase your stories.
Barbara Garro: http://www.ElectricEnvisions.com
I am Barbara Garro on both Facebook and Twitter and WriterBarbaraGarro on Lunch.com and have two communities, also have a Word Press Blog for my writing and poetry and art.
Tim Greaton: Thanks for taking the time with us today, Barbara. I’m sure a lot of readers will be seeking your brand of spirituality after they finish reading our interview.
Barbara Garro: Tim, I can’t tell you how much fun I have had today. I am so grateful for your thoughtful questions. I’d love to have you at my party—next milestone is 75. I know how much I love to read real people’s stories, and I hope I’ve inspired others to write their own.