Barbara Graham Tucker’s earliest memories have to do with stories. Her loving mother, Tessie Fraley Graham, read to her and her brother from Little Golden Books. She distinctly remembers the day she really learned to read—during the summer, in her parents’ basement in Maryland, curled up with, of course, a Nancy Drew book. The words stopped being marks to figure out and started to make joyful sense, and the thrill of them passing into her brain and creating pictures became a life-long love.
No wonder, then, that she has rooms full of books and wants to create more of them for others to enjoy! Sorry, Marie Kondo—all of her books give her joy, so she’s not giving them away!
In college Barbara fell in love with the study of communication and public speaking. She competed in individual speaking and oral interpretation events and appeared in theatrical productions, her favorite being one of the witches in Macbeth. After earning dual undergraduate degrees in Speech and in English Education, Barbara traveled to Athens, Ohio, to attend Ohio University, where she earned a master’s degree in Rhetoric and Public Address. She began teaching college in—well, many years ago. For twelve years she coached debate and individual speaking events, taking students as far west at Kansas and as far north as Chicago. During those years, she attended the University of Tennessee in Chattanooga and earned a master’s degree in writing so that she could become a professional writer. Among many beneficial courses she took Fiction Writing and found another passion.
As a new mother, Barbara looked for a life change and spent a few years more focused on her son than building a career. In the late 1990s, she moved back into full-time teaching in two-year colleges. Opportunities to travel to Europe and across the country many times arose. The passion for fiction led her to begin a novel, the first draft of which was a monstrosity. Two kind friends read it and assured her it was horrible, although there was hope for the basic story. After cutting 160,000 words down to 100,000, she found a publisher, OakTara Press, and eventually wrote a trilogy for them: Traveling Through, Cross Road, and Legacy.
In 2012 she started to explore self-publishing through the new tools available through print-on-demand, and she produced her first “independently published” work, The Unexpected Christmas Visitors. For a few reasons, this is her favorite, although she says that, like a mother and her children, they are all her favorites. First reason: it’s about refugees and persecuted religious groups. Second: it combines the Christmas story and Tolstoy’s story, “Where Love is, God is.” Third, it has a message she believes in. Fourth, it was a successful experiment: in self-publishing, in present tense, and as producing something as part of National Novel Writing Month.
From 2012 to 2015 Barbara restarted and finished her doctorate, but the “fiction bug” was still there. She workshopped a novel she’d started, Bringing Abundance Back. This was her first Southern-themed “chick-lit” genre of novel. She independently published it in 2015. It remains the one she is most proud of, (but like a mother with her children, she’s proud of all . . . )
With the doctorate finished and five novels under her belt, Barbara began to be available for speaking engagements. Based on a play she’d written and seen produced in 2014, she moved into the mystery genre with Long Lost Family in 2018. It was followed by Long Lost Promise in 2019. She plans to add several more to this series: Long Lost Justice, Long Lost Sanity, and Long Lost Innocence. These are her most popular books—everyone likes a good mystery with well-drawn characters.
As a long-time lay teacher in the churches she attends and participant in campus ministry, Barbara writes Bible studies. Leading in a Strange Land: A Study in Daniel and Leadership appeared in 2016, and she has produced the three in a series The Gospel According to Lazarus: A Study in John 11, The Gospel According to the Samaritan Woman, and The Gospel According to Philemon. Her next will be The Gospel According to Habakkuk and Faith Walking: Ninety Days in Hebrews. Barbara has experience teaching English as a second language to refugees, one of her favorite things to do.
Barbara also writes plays, short stories, and even a screenplay. She blogs, but confesses that the blogs have become an addiction and mostly a place to opine and sometimes rant a little bit about politics, technology, art, film, writing; her best blog posts are the ones that encourage readers’ spiritual walks. These blogs are partsofspeaking.blogspot.com and highereducationobserver.blogspot.com. She has chosen not to monetize these, so you can be assured there are no ads!
Despite the pandemic, she engaged in two new endeavors. In Fall 2020, the students at her college performed The Foark River Tanning Salon and Bait Shop, to prove theatre could go on in the pandemic. This is available for other theatre groups and a video can be seen here. Also in 2020, she joined Toastmasters International and became a fan. She competed (and lost resoundingly) in a humorous speaking contest, but believe Toastmasters is the next best thing to having competent communication training in college, plus being a lot of fun and a great way to network.
When she is not writing fiction and inspirational or theological works, Barbara Tucker is writing academic works. She researches the basic communication course, adult learning, higher education, High Impact Practices in education, and interpersonal relationships. Through a grant, she and colleagues produced a free, open resources public speaking book that is used on every continent except Antarctica: Exploring Public Speaking. It is now in edition 4.1. “Dr. Tucker” is a department chair and leader in faculty professional development on her campus. She was recently in competition for the University System of Georgia Board of Regents Award in Excellence in Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (which she was not chosen for, but that's all right.)
About fiction, Barbara says, “Storytelling is central to what makes us human. We crave stories but we also inherently know a good story when we hear it. It has truth—not just what theorists call verisimilitude, although for me personally that’s important. But truth can come through a story about beings on another planet that doesn’t seem like our own. We know when the story is true and good (not moralistic) and honest and well told. That’s what I want to achieve. I’m not John LeCarre or Cormac McCarthy. I can’t write about British spies or young cowboys or serial killers. I can write about ordinary people who turn out to be extraordinary and who have extraordinary stories. I write about families, mostly, because we all live in families and, whether we like it, our families determine so much of who we are, and the more we recognize that we can take what is good and move forward from the not-so-good.”
Another theme Barbara likes to explore in her fiction is how we think we know each other. We allow ourselves not to take the time or question our assumptions about others, ending up with sometimes harmful and erroneous view of other people. Thinking we know each other keeps us from really seeing and knowing each other. A paradox, maybe, but one that can often lead to hurt, misunderstanding, even tragedy. At the same time, we often do not know ourselves well enough, also leading to painful outcomes. This theme informs Long Lost Family, a mystery that shows the real mystery is not the “who dun it” but the secrets we keep.
Barbara is above all, thankful for the blessings of God and great relationships. She hopes to get to know her readers!