Marlin Barton is from the Black Belt region of Alabama, a swath of dark, rich soil that runs through the central part of the state. When he was in kindergarten, he was diagnosed with dyslexia and his parents were told by a pediatrician he would never learn to read or write very well. Luckily for Marlin his parents discovered a program that corrected his dyslexia through a series of exercises called patterning. While patterning each day, his mother would read to him, and once freed of dyslexia, he did indeed learn to write without leaving out letters and spelling backwards and a love of reading was already distilled within him.
While taking freshman English at the University of Alabama, he first became aware that he possessed more than the ability to write; he learned that he loved to write when the instructor made all her students keep a daily journal. He then tried his hand at writing poetry, and after deciding he was not a poet, began to wonder if he could write a short story and took several undergraduate creative writing classes.
He received a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Wichita State University and afterward taught at several universities and colleges, including Clemson University. During this period he also began publishing short stories in literary journals, and he went on to have work included in the yearly anthologies Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards and Best American Short Stories. He published his first collection, The Dry Well, in 2001, and two other collections followed, Dancing by the River and Pasture Art. In 2016 he was the first recipient of the Capote Prize for short fiction. He also published two novels, A Broken Thing and The Cross Garden, and his third, Children of Dust, is now forthcoming from Regal House. Maybe not too bad a track record for someone who would never learn to read or write very well.
Marlin lives with his wife Rhonda, and two cats, in a house that overlooks the Alabama River outside of Montgomery, Alabama, and, since 1997, he’s taught creative writing in a program for juvenile offenders called Writing Our Stories, created by the Alabama Writers’ Forum. He also teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Converse College in Spartanburg, South Carolina.