Pen on Fire

A Busy Woman’s Guide Guide To Igniting The Writer Within

Originally published by Harcourt in 2004; reissued by Mars Street Press in 2018

Los Angeles Times bestseller and winner of the 2005 ASJA Outstanding Book Award

In her years of teaching, Barbara DeMarco-Barrett has found aspiring writers–especially women– blocked not by fear of the blank page but by the lack of time. We’re sure we need an afternoon to do any real writing, yet finding even an hour free of work, children, or chores seems impossible.

But you don’t need an hour. Start looking for just fifteen minutes a day–minutes spent stalled in traffic, waiting for water to boil, stuck on hold with the phone company–and DeMarco-Barrett will help you turn them into productive sessions that get and keep your creativity flowing. In short, inspiring chapters, she offers classroom-tested exercises and innovative techniques for generating ideas, as well as advice from well-known authors.

Give her fifteen minutes: She’ll ignite your pen and help you become the writer you have always wanted to be.

Pen on Fire Video

Some days you just need a jump start to your writing.

Video by Don Haynes and Travis Barrett


Praise for Pen on Fire

“Pen on Firehas got a wonderful mix of the practical and the inspirational, which can only come from a writer who knows what she’s doing and what it takes to get things done. She understands that hard work is at the bottom of good writing, but she also points out that a certain lightness and sense of exploration and play are important, too. Pen on Fire helps them to see that writing, although difficult, can be fun.”

—T. Jefferson Parker, The Fallen

“As women it is so often difficult for us to make space for our creative lives. We prioritize our families, our homes, the business of day-to-day existence, and expect creative work to squeeze in at the margins. Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s wonderful, practical guide teaches us to value our craft and, thus, ourselves.”

-Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

Pen on Firesoars with inspiration and crackles with joy. It’s a blessing for anyone going crazy trying to find time to write.”

—Carolyn See, author of Making a Literary Life

“We all know what it’s like to have that fierce drive to do something remarkable … and no idea where or how to start. Pen on Fire is a beginning writer’s dream cocktail of fortitude: equal parts compassion, inspiration, and fabulous limbering exercises. Want to be a writer? Drink deeply of Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s hard-earned wisdom.”

—Jodi Picoult, author of The Tenth Circle: A Novel

“So many people have told me they are burning to write, but can’t seem to find a spare moment. I wish I could track them all down and hand each of them a copy of Pen on Fire. Barbara DeMarco-Barrett shows us how, even in our fast-paced, overscheduled, culture, we have more time than we realize to realize our creative dreams.

—Gayle Brandeis, author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write

“Pen on Fire is a fitness gym for writers with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, who teaches, coaxes and cheers us on. After reading just three chapters, I somersaulted to my computer and wrote.”

—Diane Leslie, Fleur de Leigh in Exile and bookseller, Dutton’s Brentwood Bookstore

“Barbara DeMarco-Barrett’s Pen on Fire is filled with writerly wisdom culled from contemporary writers. The simple tips and easy lessons herein will provide inspiration to beginning and seasoned writers alike. I recommend it highly.”

—Jo-Ann Mapson, Goodbye, Earl

“Barbara DeMarco-Barrett has written a wonderful, even spiritual, guide for writers of all levels. Pen on Fire speaks to the magical as well as to the practical, with concrete guides, suggestions, and exercises. DeMarco-Barrett reminded me what fun it is when you get past the blood leaking from your deepest arteries onto the page.”

—Barbara Seranella, creator of the Munch Mancini crime novels