Jonah Barrett and the Race to Debut Moss Covered Claws

By Aigner Loren Wilson

Every writer, and possibly every creator, knows the stress and joy of having a debut work premier. Tireless work is spent on the project in hopes that a personal vision of the world will resonate with at least one person. In a way, it is an attempt to spark in someone the same fire that one has when witnessing or reading something that just gets it. Local writer, filmmaker and OLY ARTS contributor Jonah Barrett is currently in the middle of that wonderful anxiety and serotonin inducing time with their first short story collection, Moss Covered Claws.

Barrett and their publisher Blue Cactus Press are taking a different approach to getting Barrett’s debut out into the world, however. Claws was originally slated for release last October, but the COVID pandemic put a halt to many industries, causing them to have to pivot, adapt, or fall by the waste side like a discarded mask. Blue Cactus Press, a micro-publisher based in Tacoma, publishes only a small number of books during the year. When the pandemic hit, Barrett and Blue Cactus publisher Christina Butcher decided to turn to crowdsourcing. 

“[We] wanted to do a Kickstarter because Blue Cactus Press is an indie micro-press and depends on the local writing community to hold it up,” Barrett says of making the decision to do a Kickstarter to fund the publication of their book. “We both agreed that we had a strong enough community pull that we could achieve our goal in time for printing.”

Kickstarter is a funding platform that allows creators to get financial support for their projects through people pledging money to help the creator reach their goal. If the goal for a project isn’t reached, then the project doesn’t get funded, leading creators to go back to square one. 

Barrett’s campaign is asking for $4,000 to allow Blue Cactus Press to print and distribute the book. For fans of speculative fiction based in the Pacific Northwest, Moss Covered Claws is one that might be worth adding to one’s shelf. Blue Cactus says in a release for the book, “Moss Covered Claws is a reminder that the Pacific Northwest is not known for its sunny days, but rather an overcast world of soaking gloom. From the salty beaches of the West Coast to foreboding forests in alternate timelines, from red light districts of 1906 San Francisco to the childhood room of a troubled youth, creatures weirde and fantastique ooze out from the pages of Barrett’s worlds. For the faint of heart, don’t worry, Barrett’s stories—though dark and heady—will always leave you with a sense of hope.” 

Some of the settings mentioned in Claws may be recognizable to readers who have traveled around the PNW. Barrett says of the locations featured in the book, “There is one story set at my old middle school playground, St. Michael School, and another set at The Evergreen State College dormitories. One takes place in Tenino. Two stories take place in Portland, Oregon.” The stories in the collection are original to the book, but followers of Barrett’s films will notice a repeat character within the pages.

Barrett says while contributions to the campaign are essential to releasing Claws, support in the form of spreading the word to help a local queer writer reaching their dream of publication is also greatly appreciated. Those who can contribute directly to the campaign will get access to signed print editions of the book, a journal and more books from the Blue Cactus Press roster.

“Keeping local literature alive is so important to me,” Barrett says. It has led them to partnering with other local fresh voices in the area. This month Orca Books Co-op and Blue Cactus Press are hosting an online reading with Barrett and other speculative fiction writers in the area. The roster of writers that will be reading their work and discussing writing are Cecilia Frank, Logan Fenner, Alissa Tu, and Daniel Wolfert. 

The Kickstarter campaign for Claws will run through November 29. If the book is fully funded, Barrett will take a much-needed break before diving into production and prepping the book for a March release.


Online reading of Moss Covered Claws and other local stories


7 p.m. Nov 19




Free, donations accepted


Facebook event page

Claws Kickstarter campaign

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