Author Q&A with Briana Wipf

This week our featured author is Briana Wipf. Briana is at work on her doctoral degree with a focus on medieval literature and digital humanities. By her own account, she’s currently “neck-deep” in writing a dissertation that she wouldn’t recommend anyone read even when it’s finished. We would recommend, instead, her short fiction, Take Your Shot, which is available in our autumn issue. Read the full Q&A to find out what music she was listening to when she wrote this particular piece and what fuels her desire to write…

Author Q&A with Briana Wipf

November 22, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Briana Wipf. Briana is at work on her doctoral degree with a focus on medieval literature and digital humanities. By her own account, she’s currently “neck-deep” in writing a dissertation that she wouldn’t recommend anyone read. What we would recommend, instead, is her fiction and nonfiction available in The Blood Pudding, Montana Mouthful, Change Seven, Drunk Monkeys, and of course her short fiction, Take Your Shot, appearing in our autumn issue.

Before going to graduate school, Briana worked as a journalist in Montana–a setting which comes through loud and clear in this latest story. We asked Briana for some other unique or surprising detail about the piece.

I sometimes try to tuck references to books, movies, or music that I like in my writing. I was listening to a lot of Queen when I drafted this story. They’re one of my favorite bands. The reference to them is kind of a nod to that.

We then asked her to share what the most difficult part of the artistic process is for her.

I often find it difficult to tap into personal experiences or emotions long enough and deeply enough to work through the entire writing process. I don’t usually write autobiographical stories, probably because all my attempts are still in some state of revision somewhere. Sometimes it’s really hard to return to something very personal.

And on the flipside, what is the most satisfying?

There are times, both when writing creatively and back in my days as a newspaper reporter, that you just feel like you’ve captured the story. I can’t really explain what that looks like, but you know it when it happens. And of course getting published – I had my first story published at the end of 2019 after a decade of writing and submitting. The fact that I can say I’m a published fiction writer is still surreal to me.

But real indeed!! And ten years can bring a lot of ups and downs, what is your biggest fear as a writer?

My creative writing professor in college once told us to be absolutely sure a story is ready to be published before you start submitting because you don’t want something floating out there you later realize you don’t want your name on. I worry about looking back at something and hating it.

A very rational fear, that feels a little like a tricky predicament because, as writers, we’re often also plagued with knowing when the story is finished.. when it’s finally ready. If we always waited for that “absolutely sure” moment, we might be waiting for a very long time. But it’s pretty common too, to have early work out in the world that you grow to like a little less.

We then asked Briana what advice she might give to her younger self.

Don’t worry about having some sort of message or bigger meaning in what you write. I was paralyzed for years because of this – I didn’t have some great philosophical meaning to my writing and I thought that prevented me from writing anything worth reading. Somewhere along the line, I realized I can just write a story, and if someone enjoys reading it, that makes it successful.

We then asked her to share what fuels her desire to write.

I honestly don’t know. I’ve always written stories, for as long as I’ve been able to write. I think writing is a way for me to work through experiences or questions. A literary scholar named Peter L. Caracciolo observed in an essay called “The House of Fiction and Le Jardin Anglo-Chinois that early English novels and The Thousand and One Nights share a characteristic: “the sense that the world is full of stories, and that the common and appropriate destiny of experience is to be rendered into tales.” I think that’s how I feel about human experience generally – that it can and should be written down or told as stories to best understand it.

We totally agree with that, and it marries well with what was said about not worrying if there’s some deeper meaning in the writing. We are all, in a way, connected through our shared experiences and if just one person is engaged in a story and gets something out of it, then it’s worthwhile. And on that note, we asked what else she would like to share with potential readers.

Her response: “I hope you like the story!”

And of course, at last we asked what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life.”

Finding your people and finding your place.

That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it? Thank you, Briana, for taking the time away from your partner, pup, and that pesky dissertation, to answer our questions. We’re grateful for you willingness to share one of your stories with us and allowing us share it with our readers. We wish you the best!

~The Good Life Review Team

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