Author Q & A with Michael Wesner

Michael Wesner’s story, The Shapiros, won over our fiction editors and will leave you laughing at life and either nodding, or shaking your head. In this Q & A, Michael explains how this “Frankenstein” of a story came to be and what writing it taught him…

Author Q & A with Michael Wesner

January 26, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Michael Wesner. Michael holds a BA from Eckerd College, where he studied Creative Writing with a particular emphasis on the use of humor in literature. His story “The Shapiros,” appeared in Issue #5 ~ Autumn 2021.

We asked Michael to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of his story. His response was as follows: 

“The Shapiros” is a Frankenstein’s monster of several half-baked story premises I’d had, all inspired after I moved to Florida. Some ideas came from reading local “Florida Man” news articles, like a Sheriff who arrested a man for assaulting his partner with a burrito, or a middle school girl who called in a fake bomb threat to get out of class. Others were scenes I’d observed in passing, like a local church that was converted from a Chinese buffet or a former neighbor who dragged a construction ladder into a bay to swim near dolphins, then screamed loudly at her kids about her ex-husband one Independence Day. I wanted to explore these stories through fiction, but I struggled to unify them into a cohesive narrative. The breakthrough came when I asked myself, “What if all of these weird stories came back to one person?” The story came to me quickly after that, as I tried to weave all those wacky, almost unbelievable premises into one character. The burrito might not have made the final cut, but I was left with what I think is a pretty colorful character study on the State of Florida.

Following through on that, we asked Michael what he learned (about himself, craft, or life in general) as he worked to merge all the different stories and characters together in one piece. 

His response: “I learned a lot about empathy while writing this story. A friend of mine who critiqued an early draft summed my feelings up perfectly when they said, “I’m certain that I would hate Sherry Shapiro in real life, but I can’t help but love her while reading this.” The details in the story might be funny circumstances, but weaving them together forced me to reconsider the humor behind them. Sherry Shapiro might be the funniest character I’ve ever written, but she’s also a contender for the saddest. Fiction forces you to emphasize with those who you might otherwise ignore.

We also asked Michael if he has any projects or upcoming events he would like to promote? 

I’ve recently started a newsletter/blog in an attempt to force myself to write more often. It’s easy for me to get tunnel vision and only think about fiction pieces, many of which never see the light of day, so this project is my attempt to write about more mundane topics just for the sake of writing about them. I cover concerts I’ve enjoyed, my favorite Lyft drivers, and every now and then I include a photo of my dog. If you’re at all interested, it’s called “Elephant Graveyard,” and you can find it on Substack:

The GLR has verified and certified this newsletter as top-notch. It’s lighthearted, entertaining, and quite insightful! We hope you keep at it, Michael. 

Finally, we asked, as we do, what he thinks of when he hears the phrase “The Good Life”. 

His response: “The phrase reminds me of the way a preacher might describe Heaven, or a retiree might refer to their retirement. Essentially, “The Good Life” sounds like satisfaction after years of hard work. I suppose that makes it an apt name for such a quality literary journal, where writers can read and appreciate one another’s work and recognize the dedicated labor that went into their art behind the scenes.”

Awww shucks. Way to butter us up! Our team first met while attending the University of Nebraska learning to fly and land that MFA plane, so we very much appreciate the time and effort that goes into each and every piece of writing. Thanks for sharing!

And thanks for being a part of our autumn issue and for participating in this Q & A!

~The Good Life Review Team