Night Train is my main baby, let's keep that straight. However much it's 'my' journal, I feel constrained, by dint of the stories and poems we've published in the past, and our status as a non-profit combined with our incorporation as a quasi-educational institution, to a reasonable facsimile of what people expect to see. Else, why should they come back? And make no mistake, folks do come back to see what we do, and that's great. I appreciate their attention. I crave it, in fact. But there's always something else.
The great dirty or not so-dirty secret of my past, is that I grew up in the northernmost portion of the Appalachian Regional Commission designated 'Appalachian' area, north-central Pennsylvania. The stereotype, or more properly, the archetype, of the Appalachian region centers around the Kentucky/West Virginia portions of the ARC's designated area, but the economic difficulties and many of the same issues and similarities continued into that Bradford/Tioga county area in Pennsylvania, where I spent the first 24 years of my life. I played in cricks where all the rocks shone orange with runoff, where no fish lived, though the coal industry was dead by the time I was old enough to know what it had been and how it had caused the damage, and the lumber industry gone too, fifty or seventy-five years before. What was left to me and my friends was simply growing up and finding a way out, via the armed forces, via college, via just shitting and getting, if you could, the 'brain-drain' typical of rural Appalachia. You stay and become part of the scenery, or you never go back. Case in point, my father's family has lived, with three or four exceptions, in the same three-county area for 230 years.
We all know the stories, or we can look them up if we get the urge. Harry Caudill's Night Comes to the Cumberlands, revenuers, snakehandlers, the Hatfields and McCoys, feuding in general, moonshine, bluegrass, gospel, hard men, loose women, church women, coon dogs , coon huntin' and the folks who love them, or the NASCAR set, NRA set, however you choose to name them. I didn't see all of this, of course, being both Northern (pronounced Appalachia with a long second 'a' until I found out better, much later perhaps than I should have). and more well off than many in the parts of Appalachia below the Mason-Dixon. But what I found, in this literature of rural Appalachia and the rural south (and other places to be sure) was a sense that I had found something to mine, something that could be mine alone, something that felt exactly right to write about. And that's what I want this blogazine to be about.
I want to publish stories, poems, and essays about the rural life I lived for 24 years and still think of as my primary world and motivation. I still, nearly twenty years later, feel out of place in my chosen milieu, as a working-class kid who now teaches in private colleges and edits and writes. I don't have to explain that to anybody who's made the move themselves, but trust me, it's a bitch, and you never recover from it and the subsequent questioning of self and career that inevitably accompanies the process.
I'll have some official guidelines up soon, but suffice it to say that you can send your shit to rusty DOT barnes AT gmail DOT com. What I like I'll publish here as I get it. It'll even–gasp–be edited, possibly. You retain all rights to your work if published, of course, and as payment I will send you a book of my choosing from my personal library. It may be a little worn from reading, but I promise it won't be crap. All I ask in return–and I know it's a lot to ask for not much–is that you let me keep your story/poem/essay/interview on the blog in perpetuity. You can sell the thing to someone else the same day you sell it to me, I don't give a shit. What I want is to find good stuff and give it exposure. So previously published pieces, especially those appearing in print-only journals first, are fine by me.
I want to say something else, too. I don't plan on being super-polite here, or apologetic for my views. What I say here is just me, bs'ing with you all, discussing work, doing interviews, etc. and I don't expect much crosstalk between here and my official governmentally approved and sanctioned gig at the Train. OK?
If you'd like me to link to you and you have relevant content, hit me up via email, and I'll begin a list. I have interviews planned, art, poems, all kinds of neat and nasty stuff. As a final treat, I'll leave you with the work of the band that inspired this blogazine's title.
If your work has affinities with any of the writers I've listed in my profile, by all means, give me a shot.