Palmer 284Barry Palmer, an intern for The Doctor TJ Eckleburg Review discusses writing, characters, and what’s not for your granny.


Q: How did you learn about Eckleburg?

Barry Palmer: I first heard about Eckleburg while looking over information for the Johns Hopkins MA in writing program some years back. It definitely helped draw me towards the Johns Hopkins Program.


Q: What genres do you write?

BP: I write contemporary literary fiction, mostly short stories.


Q: What are your favorite things to write about?

BP: My favorite things to write about are decisions, and the consequences of indecision. Love, loss, and longing are also favorites of mine.


Q: What have been one or two of your favorite pieces you have seen in Eckleburg so far?

BP: “For His Now Dead Mother” by Jessica Baker was one of my favorite works of fiction that I have seen in Eckleburg so far.


Q: How do you approach writing?

BP: I approach writing scene by scene. Often it starts with a character in a certain situation in one vivid scene. I wonder at how he/she got there, and the story builds itself from there.


Q: In 5 words or less, describe what kind of a journal you think Eckleburg is.

BP: Not something Grandma would get.


Q: Anything else you want to share?

BP: I am an amateur painter and photographer as well. My paintings have been used by BubbleFish Designs for t-shirts, sweatshirts, and skateboard designs, as well as Deviation USA for downhill ski and snowboard designs.


 Born and raised in Upstate New York, Barry earned a BA in English from Cornell University in 2001. His professional career has taken him here and there but he never lost his passion for writing. In 2012 he stepped away from the world of corporate finance and went back to school to pursue his Masters in Writing from Johns Hopkins University. He currently works as a Consultant to an Online Media Company and lives in Baltimore, Maryland.


INTERN SPOTLIGHT | Richard Perkins

Perkins 284Question: How did you learn about Eckleburg?

Richard Perkins:  I took the intern class taught by Rae Bryant because I wanted a better feel for the editing process at literary journals and I wanted to sharpen my critical reading skills prior to setting out to finish a collection of connected stories, revising a novella, and re-starting a novel. Decomposing and recomposing Eckleburg has been a very valuable capstone event for the Writing Program for me.


Q: What genre do you write?

RP:  I write fiction in both short form and longer forms. I deal with realism from a modernist sense, but I also try to capture some of the chaotic impact of multiple-source inputs on our contemporary lives as post-modernists are determined to do. There have been enough unexplainable moments in my life for me to recognize there should be a place at my reading and writing tables for small, subtle doses of magical realism. I am currently exploring essays and creative non-fiction as well.


Q: What are your favorite things to write about?

RP:  I have admired (or have been puzzled by) many real-life characters who, as I reflect on them, often become inspirations for composite characters in my fiction, which is often set in national security, international relations, or international travel contexts. Large-scale contexts can and do influence small-scale personal decisions and vice versa. Individual drive and principle go up against hubris and politics every day, with single actors and teams of actors knowing the odds aren’t very good. These are chosen paths of some of our modern-day samurai, cloaked as fairly ordinary public servants, trying to find partners, to start families, to raise responsible children, to pay their bills, to make headway on college loans, to sort through multi-ethnic and cross-gender issues, and to do right things in the public interest—regardless of politically motivated agents trying to redefine both the “right things” and “the public interest” for each and every inning. Most of them need to fight viciously in order to capture moments for tenderness, for appreciation of locations of natural beauty—let alone to write about them or to photograph them in the middle of the chaos. These struggles to hit the pause button should be part of stories that need to be told as well.


Q: What are one or two of your favorite pieces you have seen in Eckleburg so far?

RP:  “Small Fiery Bloom by Ross McKeekin and “Salvage” by Jill Birdsall


Q: How do you approach writing?

RP:  With hot coffee (that becomes cold coffee which means there needs to be a microwave nearby), a notepad for capturing details that come up that need to be researched later, a computer, and a couple of characters in mind who are of very different opinions about what they want and/or how they are going to get what they want.


Q: In 5 words or less, describe what kind of a journal you think Eckleburg is.

RP:  Evocative, boldly engaging, avant-garde


Q: What are you looking for in submissions?

RP: I look for language that is uncomplicated; that lays out a story about hope, resilience, courage, or love—or some combination; and that results in some illumination (or a momentary dimming if absolutely necessary) of the spirit of humanity. Such stories necessarily require some rising and falling of tension from early on to hold most readers’ interest, and there almost always has to be something the main character wants that has been denied for some period of time. I am traditional enough to want to see a change or a possibility of change in a character. The ending shouldn’t be too neatly closed—unless maybe there is a clever surprise in there that, in fact, has been foreshadowed and prompts the rereading. I expect dialogue to reveal speakers who sound different from one another, and I expect the content of the dialogue will be more interesting than the tag lines. Working with Eckleburg staff, I have come to appreciate more reasons for introducing ambiguity into stories—so that there can be a wider range of individual experiences and subconscious processing involved in the “beholder’s share” of what has been created by the author of a given piece.


Richard Perkins grew up in New England, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, eager to learn about the world outside those places. He is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University’s MA in Writing Program and the Masters of International Public Policy Program in the School of Advanced International Studies. In former lives, he has been an aviator, an intelligence analyst, a business developer, and a systems engineer. He lives with his wife in Alexandria, Virginia.



debbie 284Intern Debbie McCulliss describes how she became with The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review and her interest in writing.


Q) How did you learn about Eckleburg?

Debbie McCulliss: I took a class with Rae Bryant (Editor-in-Chief of Eckleburg) my second semester in the MA in Writing Program at the Johns Hopkins University. I wanted to take her class, because I wanted to learn about literary magazines and publishing. The class was AWESOME. I was introduced to experimental writing and visual art for the first time. My perception about what writing is has changed. Rae exposed us to a variety of magazines and various styles of writing. Being from Denver, my participation in the class was online. A highlight happened after submitting an optional assignment; the boldest writing I’ve ever done. Within minutes, Rae wrote me an email: “Eckleburg would be honored to publish this piece.”


Q) What genres do you write?

DMC: Non-fiction, memoir, and poetry, but mostly I’m an academic writer. Most recently I’m tackling writing literary essays and weaving memoir and literary journalism together.


Q) What are your favorite things to write about?

DMC: Poetry in medicine, environmental medicine, narrative medicine, and memoir. After spending 30 years practicing as a registered nurse in hospital patient-care, program development and consulting, I became a certified applied poetry facilitator. My writing is based on my life experiences, finding the larger emotional story in each story, and my desire to teach others about subjects of interest through research and reflection.


Q) What have been one or two of your favorite pieces you have seen in Eckleburg so far?

DMC: The poem, “The Korean Bathhouse” by Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, prose by Chris Mazza and the visual art by Chas Schroeder and Jacob Oet.


Q) What are some publications you have/accomplishments you want to share?

DMC: My publications have appeared in Journal of Poetry Therapy, Studies in Writing: Research on Writing Approaches in Mental Health, Women on Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful Women, Statement CLAS Journal, The Journal of the Colorado Language Arts Society, and Red Earth Review.


Q) How do you approach writing?

DMC: Writing is breath. Being my age, I’ve got plenty of stories and curiosities. I approach academic writing cognitively versus exploring larger human themes that a reader can relate to in my nonfiction literary essay writing. Both demand excellence of craft, intellectual discourse, and attention to the reader’s experience.  


Q) In 5 words or less, describe what kind of a journal you think Eckleburg is.

DMC: Experimental and raw.


Q) Anything else you want to share about yourself?

DMC: I taught “Body Stories,” “Body Poems,” and “Writing from the Body” for the Therapeutic Writing Institute in Denver. The summer of 2011 I did five triathlons, my first. 


 Debbie McCulliss is a student at the Johns Hopkins University’s MA in Writing Program. She has an MSN, and her interests in writing and medicine range from poetry in medicine to environmental medicine. Originally from upstate New York, she’s lived in Colorado since 1977. Her passion is writing.