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CoastLine: John Bare on his first novel, biscuits, and losing his wife to Covid

Fair-Skinned Brunette with the Porcelain Shine is John Bare's first novel, published by Wisdom House Books
Wisdom House Publishing
Fair-Skinned Brunette with the Porcelain Shine is John Bare's first novel, published by Wisdom House Books

John Bare's wife, Betsy, was one of more than six-hundred-thousand Americans who lost their life to Covid-19. After her death in 2020, Bare finished his first novel, began making ceramic pieces of pie in honor of her, and decided to share his grief through art — and an exploration of vulnerability.

John Bare married Betsy Ross of Concord, North Carolina in 1992. He had no idea then that he would lose her to a deadly virus during a worldwide pandemic 28 years later. He chronicled his wife’s Covid-19 battle in an essay published by CNN.

John Bare studied journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill after his wife urged him to return to school in 1995. It was there he earned his Ph.D. He wrote a chapter for a 1998 book titled Assessing Public Journalism, in which he examines the belief systems of journalists. Bare later worked as a media consultant for projects at U.S. News & World Report, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and the Omaha World-Herald.

He moved to the nonprofit sector when he went to work for the James L. Knight Foundation and later joined theArthur M. Blank Family Foundation in Atlanta, where he is currently a senior vice president.

After his wife passed in September of 2020, Bare continued his work on his first novel, Fair-Skinned Brunette with the Porcelain Shine, a murder mystery published by Wisdom House Books in early 2021. He wrote lyrics to songs which make up an album called the Lassie James Songbook, named after the book's protagonist.

Set in Chapel Hill, Author John Bare describes the book as a love story to the town he called home during the mid-1980s and 90s.

Bare's art isn't limited to fiction and songwriting, however. He is a photographer and ceramic artist. Soon after his wife died, he began creating ceramic pieces of pie to honor her love of fun and dessert. More recently, he is making oyster shells.

John Bare ceramic oyster shell
John Bare ceramic oyster shell

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.