Hannah Barnaby

Hannah Barnaby

When did you first feel like a writer?

When I was in eighth grade, my English teacher accused me of plagiarism. I had turned in an essay (I confess, I can’t remember what it was about), and he was sure that I had cheated because the quality was beyond his expectations. I finally convinced him that I had written it myself, and while the whole experience was kind of terrifying, it was also my first realization that writing could be so powerful, and that it could evoke such powerful responses. That was when I first felt like a writer. It was many more years, though, before I called myself a writer.

What is your philosophy about teaching a writing class?

I think a writing class works best if everyone feels that they are on equal footing, that their voices are important and their work is of value. That includes the instructor. I firmly believe that writing is a practice rather than a quantifiable topic, and only through the process of the writing itself can the way to write become known. In other words, there are no magic answers, but there are delicious discoveries all along the way.

If you could meet any fictional character, who would it be and why?

The first fictional character I can remember truly loving was Francie Nolan in Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. In the first half of the novel, she was a lonely little girl who treasured books above all else; in the second half, she grew into a self-assured young woman. I go back to that story again and again, and I always find something new to love about Francie.


Hannah Barnaby is a former editor whose first novel, Wonder Show, was a 2013 Morris Award Finalist. She holds an MA from Simmons College and an MFA from Vermont College, and she was the inaugural Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library. Hannah lives in Charlottesville with her husband and three children, and her second novel will be published in 2016 by Knopf.


“Answered questions, gave solutions.”

“Multiple approaches to plot, multiple sources, down to earth instructor.”

“She was fantastic, approachable, well-informed and organized.”

“She was excellent.”

“I think she did everything well.”