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  • Writer's pictureStefanie Barnfather


Updated: Aug 2, 2022

Have you ever wondered what it takes to be a full time writer? Are you interested in becoming one? Do you think being an artist could unleash your creative self-expression, bring you joy and make you money?

Me too.

Unlike popular opinion, being an independant artist is HARD. You have to manage tricky business details, have the confidence to take risks and fail, and -- more importantly -- you need to want to know who you are and what you'd like to say. I've been in the arts industry for over thirty years and still haven't figured everything out. But if you like to write, and are looking for tips and tools that could help you on your journey, follow me as I start Year Two of my Writer's Life. Together we can explore the artistic mess that audiences like to call "entertainment" -- and have a little fun throughout the process.

Why should you follow me, though? What could I possibly share that's different from every other aspiring artist's advice?

If you've read my bio, you've seen the titles, buzzwords and qualifications that are supposed to summarize a lifetime of work, learning and achievement. Truth is, those resume headlines mean absolutely nothing without context. So, instead of reciting what every media-pro says I'm supposed to "Yell to Sell", I thought I'd introduce myself a little differently.

Get ready for Story Time, friends! After all, I'm a writer.

The Tale of the Fractured Phalange

In 1994, I broke my toe during a rehearsal for THE NUTCRACKER. When I say 'broke my toe', I mean 'snapped that sucker clean in half'. I was in a plaster cast for three months and learned to hobble like a champ -- except you can't hobble in ballet. Shortly after the accident, I was dismissed from that year's production.

At the tender age of eleven, this devastated me. I was in the professional division at Alberta Ballet's School of Dance which meant ballet was all I did. If I wasn't dancing, I was reading or doing homework. I loved reading (of course) and I enjoyed school, but losing that show meant for three months I was excluded from the activity that shaped my life.

Poor, sad Stefanie.

What did I do? At my mother's not-so-gentle insistence, I tried something I'd never dreamed possible: I auditioned for a musical. I'd always loved musicals, but my singing sounded like a pug howling for liver treats. Or so I thought...

I submitted for a local production of ANNIE and was cast as Annie. Shock and awe! Who'd-a thunk it? And so began my foray into musical theatre. I retained a singing and acting coach, kept auditioning for shows (and getting hired) and eventually joined The Young Canadians, received certifications from The Royal Conservatory of Music and dabbled in film and television.

Who knew a broken toe could be a bridge to broader art forms?

The Tale of Educational Enlightenment

Like many artists who realize that being good at what you do doesn't necessarily pay the bills, I began my education career when I was twenty-eight -- and it only took an advanced diploma, one condensed BFA and a two-year teaching degree to get there.

After completing a year-long temp contract, I took my second contract at a spanking-new school and fell in love with the high stakes education world. I'd taught privately for ten years before receiving my degrees -- mostly dance, a lot of theatre and a smidgen of singing -- but working part-time for performance schools was nothing compared to the rigours of being a secondary arts educator. During the four years I worked at my second placement, I taught choir, drama, musical theatre, dance, technical theatre, directing, advanced acting, visual art, inclusive education and science.

What? Huh? But, I don't have a science degree! And how was it possible to teach all those courses over only four years? You see -- poor, sad, twenty-eight-year-old Stefanie struggled with asserting her boundaries or saying the words, "NO, THANK YOU."

I'm a sensitive soul (or HSP) and this overwhelming macrocosm soon became too much my personality type. But despite my once-beloved job ending, teaching showed me how important it was to meaningfully connect with people.

I love people. I find them fascinating. It was the relationships I built with my wonderfully complex students that taught me how exciting the world could be when you scratched the surface of understanding human behaviour. This is a huge facet of my writing. I write stories about ordinary people in extraordinary environments. I craft every character with care because of the respect I still hold for my past pupils and colleagues.

Even though education wasn't the career for me, the lessons I learned during my teaching time were invaluable.

The Tale of the CPTS Brain

Heads up: I'm a person who lived through multiple traumatic experiences. No, I'm not exaggerating. No, I'm not going to tell you what they were. Yes, compound trauma can happen to anyone. Because of my history and its effect on my mind, body and heart, I developed...

-- the Theme of my Writer's Life --

I don't take anything for granted. Loss of innocence, family, self and future can strike even the heartiest and most prepared person. I'm not trying to worry anyone. I'm a firm believer that with the correct intentions and a ton of effort, people can pull themselves out of horrible circumstances. With resiliency, time, care -- and luck! -- you can create the life you want. After all, pulling myself out of my horrible circumstances launched my writing career.

Due to the nature of my trauma, a year ago I found myself in a world I really hated. Like, really really hated. Like, rage-filled hated. I was doing things that depressed me, made me ineffably sad, and I felt like I was hitting walls every time I tried to pivot.

In order to legitimately save myself (no, I'm not exaggerating; no, I'm not going to tell you what happened; yes, shit can happen to anyone) I walked away from the live arts game to pursue writing. Which created...

-- the Thesis of my Writer's Life --

I've always loved reading and writing. I consumed all types of literature at a young age and found my heroes within the pages of books. The best life lessons were taught to me through story and those same stories helped me endure events beyond my control. Because of these events, my life took a thirty year detour to get me where I am now -- writing every day with manuscripts lined up for querying and self-publication -- and everything I learned in those thirty years informs my work and the stories I tell.

My creative background, my love of teaching and my desire to support others means I think deeply about what I share before I share it. Because of this, I believe you can trust what I have to say if you're looking for advice on how to manage your independant artistry.

So! New friends, old friends and soon-to-be-more-meaningful friends, if these three tales have hooked you and you believe I'm a person who could help with your own exploration of the world -- and your creative career -- I would be honoured to have you join me as I launch Year Two of my Writer's Life.

Now. Time for that fun I promised.

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