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Editor John D. Barry
Submitted by: akgmag.com interviews
John D. Barry is the Editor-in-Chief of Bible Study Magazine, a Senior Writer for the publication, a freelance book editor, and an expert blogger for Conversant Media Group. Logos Bible Software hired John to launch their first print publication with no magazine experience. He learned the industry in under three months and took the magazine from idea to reality in under six.
His publication was named one of the top 10 magazines launched in 2008 by Library Journal and quotes from him about the industry have been featured in several newspapers and periodicals, including Publishing Executive. In addition to these accomplishments, John is a minister and is very involved in the academic arena of Biblical Studies -- knowledgeable in ancient Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. John has just finished his first academic book, The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah 53:10-12, for which he is seeking a publishing contract.
Thank you John for taking the time to answer some questions for us! Please tell us what you're currently working on.
My ongoing project is Bible Study Magazine biblestudymagazine.com, which I produce, with the help of a fantastic team, once every two months. Bible Study Magazine is a non-denominational publication dedicated to providing readers with tools and methods for Bible study, as well as insights from respected Bible teachers, professors, historians and archaeologists. Our current circulation is 12,000 paid. Our total distribution is around 15,000.
I also just finished my first academic book, The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah 53:10-12, which turns the last thirty years of scholastic consensus about the servant in the biblical book of Isaiah on its head. The servant is the individual prophesied 500 years before Jesus that Christians equate with Jesus. Proving that he is resurrected in this ancient book is significant to Jews and Christians alike—in the sense that we now know how the servant brings reconciliation and restoration; he does so by means of his resurrection. Once a publisher accepts the work, then I will begin writing a popular-level version as well, which will connect all the passages in the Bible and show the relevance of them for our lives.
Have you received any awards for your work?
The publication I launched and edit, Bible Study Magazine was named one of the top 10 magazines launched in 2008 by Library Journal.
Do you also do speaking engagements, or seminars?
Don’t tell writing, but I love speaking more. I hope to take on more speaking gigs this year. Each year I speak at the regional and annual Society of Biblical Literature meetings. This year, I am also speaking at the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting. I was also recently asked to speak at Write-to-Publish, a national conference for up and coming writers, but had to turn it down because of prior engagements. In addition to this, I deliver sermons at a mission for the homeless twice a month.
How has your education, profession or background helped you in your writing career? Or conversely, how has you writing success helped you in your profession?
I hold a B.A. in Biblical Studies, graduating as the top Religious Studies student. I also am about to defend my thesis for my M.A. in Biblical Studies. Biblical Studies is a very tedious field that requires a very detail orientated eye; especially when one transcribes manuscripts, like I did for a while. The amount of writing and detail orientation required in my field in many ways prepared me to be an editor. However, I have to be careful not to cross-over too much of my academic writing into my popular writing, and the reverse. I don’t want to bore non-academics, and I don’t want to say things too bluntly to academics (I have to hedge my arguments for them).
Is there any aspect to your profession that gets you in touch with your readers directly?
I get letters to the editor almost every day. I respond to every one of them, which means I know my readers (at least the outspoken ones) better than many editors and writers. I also read what they have to say on Logos Bible Software’s forums and Logos Bible Software’s blog. Comments coming from all directions keeps you on your toes. I am accountable for what I say, but that doesn’t mean I am afraid to say what I think needs to be said. I love corresponding with readers—it is enjoyable for me, and likely, for them. I think editors should be accessible to readers, so I make an intentional effort to be so.
What will your next project be?
I plan to write a book titled The Infinite in Everything: Rediscovering Christian Mysticism. The book is about what it means to see God everywhere, all the time—to find heaven here on earth. This is the subject of my blog under the same title (conversantlife.com/johnbarry). Through the blog, I have discovered how much people enjoy engaging in discussion about this topic.
What type of work is the most rewarding or satisfying for you?
Writing that applies something seemingly abstract (like a historical biblical context) to something very tangible (the struggles and pains someone is enduring here and now). Speaking can have the exact same effect, but it is immediate, which is part of what makes me love it so much.
What can you recommend for writers who are just getting started and are trying to make a name for themselves?
Find the publications you want to write for and then pitch you (not just your writing) to them—keep it short and punchy. Editors are busy, so you don’t want to give them too much information, but you also don’t want to give them too little. Naturally, editors will ask for writing samples and a copy of your resume, so send that along in your first email to them. Make sure your writing samples cross borders—if someone can write a attention-grabbing story about a carpenter who is out of work, I know they can write a great story about a celebrity.
Likewise, if they can write well about New York during the Great Depression, I know they can write about a recent archaeology discovery—the writer is separated from both events by time and space. Make sure your samples use as many skill sets as possible (e.g., interviewing people, writing a good hook and lead, and research). And never, never, send a non-fiction editor a fictional piece or poetry—it is simply off-topic which tells them your writing will also be off-topic. An editor can tell if someone is a good writer within the first two sentences of their work, and sometimes of their email—so make sure all writing is catchy, interesting, and please, not cliché.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
Every day is different—that’s part of why I love my job. But in general, each day involves admin work in the morning—emails, phone calls, contracts, and more often than not, putting out whatever wildfire grew out of control overnight. The wildfires are usually a printing issue (e.g., not delivering files in the correct format), a shipment that may not arrive on time, or a new project that is behind schedule. If I can free up the time, I edit in the early afternoon and then write in the late afternoon to early evening. I wish my schedule were reversed; I like writing in the morning. For that reason, I try and come into the office on a Saturday morning once a month or so. Wildfires have usually been put out by then.
Much of my job also involves circulation management—marketing projects, print specs and bids, and making sure customers get what they ordered every now and again. You can see why fires flame fast. But if it wasn’t high pace and challenging, I wouldn’t enjoy it. I am a problem solver. Without problems to solve, I get bored.
Have you ever had a mentor, or someone who sparked your passion for writing?
Yes, but only through his writing—William Zinsser, On Writing Well. I pick up Zinsser’s book whenever I feel uninspired. He never fails to inspire me. Of course, as someone who regularly writes about the Bible, reading Scripture in a new way, or even just slowly gets me inspired as well. My passion sparks when something from the Bible touches me in a new way. Good writing has similar effects, which is precisely why I subscribe to The New Yorker and The Atlantic.
Who is your favorite writer/author?
Surprisingly, he’s not a journalist, but a poet—William Blake. His Songs of Innocence and Experience are absolutely moving.
Finally, a most important question: what was the last song you sang out loud when you were by yourself? :)
Jason Mraz, “Life is wonderful.” It goes something like this, “It takes a crane to build a crane. It takes two floors to make a story. A hen to make an egg, an egg to make a hen; there is no end to what I am saying … Life is wonderful, life goes full circle.”
Although I have to admit that I do sing the “nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, goodbye” pep song every now and again. And the worse part about it is that I sing it in a very bad operatic voice. I find it funny, but my wife probably finds it annoying.
Thank you John for an insightful interview! We wish you great success with The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah 53:10-12!
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