Published Sept. 6, 2023
BY GRAYDEN MILLER
Jessica Barraco, the author of a memoir about her late mother, “The Butterfly Groove,” moved to Carmel about a year ago and has established her name as an author through holding events for her book as well as counseling high school students in preparation for college by explaining the process of how she became successful and the lessons she learned along the way.
Barraco has been sharing the memoir with the peninsula even eight years after its publication, promoting the journey of getting to know her mother after passing in the author’s early adolescence as well as retelling the life of her parent. After writing the book in six months, she says one of the biggest realizations for her as an aspiring author is that she was writing for others and didn’t know anything about those close to her.
The current parent of a two and six-year-old says that her job as a college counselor makes it easier to balance her family life with work. When asked about the future of her career, Barraco says she plans to stick with self-reflective pieces and journalism with the ultimate goal of helping out the community through her various work.
Living in Carmel for the past 14 months has been a change of setting for the former New Yorker, but in her time here, she has done three book events and interviewed with a local newspaper.
“It’s been really supportive,” says the non-fiction author. “Carmel is an artistic place, so it’s been nice having a smaller town feel to be able to talk about my book at events.”
Barraco attributes the process of being selected, or making it as an author, mainly to luck. She says that the right agencies can sign you, but these days, social media fame can make authors famous or being picked for Reese Witherspoon’s book club, for example.
Although the author has focused her time on writing and counseling lately, she has roots as a journalist, attending University of Colorado Boulder for journalism and having her articles published for about 17 years. Barraco says that journalism and writing essays can require an intertwined set of skills, such as finding the hook of a story, similar to finding what makes an audience interested and wanting more in an essay.
“I became an expert on the community in Boulder, where I went to college, and I realized that I didn’t really know anything about my mom,” says Barraco.
When living in New York City, Barraco worked for HarperCollins Publishers. From an early age, she knew she wanted to get into journalism from her bookworm roots, advancing her writing skills by constantly reading as well as writing in a diary. The journalist searched for a publisher for her memoir, but found that some of them wanted her to pursue the fiction route on her book, and she refused, wanting to maintain her original vision and chasing the truth behind her mother’s story.
Taking a screenwriting class at UCLA, the author wrote a draft of the memoir as a part of one of her assignments, but it ended up fitting the format of a book better. One of her long term goals is to start and finish a screenplay before writing another book.