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July 12, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Mary Barile was raised on storytelling. Her grandmother Mary Collins kept her Irish heritage alive by sharing tales of her homeland. For Barile, there was no other option but to share stories herself.
Barile’s dedication to the craft shines through in her latest book, Forgotten Tales of Missouri, a compilation of historical folklore, published in April. Although she finds it difficult to pinpoint a favorite tale from the book, she says she especially enjoyed working on the story of Liberal, a town set up as a haven for freethinkers in southern Missouri. The book also includes stories of Patience Worth and Queen Bevis that deal with spiritual connections and explain Barile’s fascination with ghost stories.
Where: Columbia Public Library, 100 W. Broadway
When: Friday, July 13, 7 p.m.
Tomorrow at the Columbia Public Library, Barile will host a ghost story event filled with tales that didn’t make it into her books.
Barile draws inspiration from writers and storytellers such as Mark Twain and Bram Stoker. She says she also does a lot of listening; audiences often give her ideas because many people have grown up with stories that span generations. Benjamin Gibson, Barile’s editor at the History Press, says she has “the passion of an academic for unearthing telling details” while sharing a captivating story.
Growing up in a diverse community also enriched Barile’s storytelling. “I grew up as the granddaughter of two sets of immigrants,” she says. “I lived in a neighborhood where pretty much every house on the block had an immigrant story to tell — who escaped from the Holocaust, who came from Russia before World War I, who came from China, who grew up in France. So I heard lots of different languages and lots of different stories.”
Barile, who holds a doctorate in theater, has also written plays performed in New York City; Washington, D.C.; and Quebec. Now the associate director of grants at MU, Barile moved here 11 years ago from New York when she fell in love with the area after visiting friends. “I did the opposite of Mark Twain,” she says. “He was born here and moved to New York; I was born in New York and moved to Missouri.”
Barile’s writing process takes time. Throughout the years she has accumulated stories, either through research or hearing them firsthand. Sometimes they don’t fit into her projects, but she always holds onto them. However, Barile doesn’t want to just retell stories, she says. She wants to give people a sense of the richness behind them.
After hearing noises in the Chancellor’s house, in which he often worked late at night, MU Chancellor Emeritus Richard Wallace relayed the happenings to Barile. He says he felt she would be able to weave an interesting tale that still remained completely truthful. Barile was able to use the story in her book, The Haunted Boonslick: Ghosts, Ghouls and Monsters of Missouri’s Heartland, published August 2011.
“She is an exciting, dynamic, imaginative individual,” Wallace says.