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announcements

2022 Pushcart Prize Nominations

2022 Pushcart Prize Nominations

November 30, 2022

With one day to spare, our 2022 Pushcart Nominations have been signed, sealed, and are on the way to Wainscott, New York. Huzzah!!

Pushcart is one of the most honored literary series in America and each year editors of small book presses, magazines, and journals are invited to nominate poetry, short stories, essays, or stand-alone excerpts from novels. As such, we are grateful for the opportunity to send six pieces published in 2022 for consideration. The following are this year’s nominations:

Congratulations and best of luck to all!

Cheers,
The Good Life Review Team

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announcements team member spotlight

Introducing Tacheny Perry

Introducing Tacheny Perry

November 26, 2022

2022 has brought a number of BIG changes to our growing TGLR fam and with those changes, a renewed sense of enthusiasm for our organization and mission. As we glide toward 2023, I’m excited to introduce/re-introduce new and existing team members and shine a spotlight on them, their writing lives, and their contributions to our efforts as a budding literary journal. Up first, is the lovely Tacheny Perry who is an editor on our flash fiction team and who also recently stepped into the role of Managing Editor.

Tacheny joined our team in 2020 shortly after we released our 1st issue but it really feels like she has been with us since the very beginning because of the time we spent together in the MFA program at UNO. In truth, when Tacheny volunteered to take on more work for the journal, we were not yet operating with all the traditional roles of a publication, so I’m grateful she’s been open to assisting as we learn and grow. 

I’m also grateful she took the time to answer some questions so I could share more about her and her thoughts on writing. The first question, and one of my favorites, is about when she first discovered her love of writing. 

I was in grade school when I first fell in love with writing, first grade, to be exact. We had been assigned to write and illustrate a story. Mine was about a dinosaur I rode to school and was maybe eight sentences long. Nevertheless, I was hooked.

I then asked what prompted her to get an MFA.

It was a couple of things. First, I wanted help with the manuscript I was working on (a manuscript that quickly got put aside for other projects once I really got into the program). Second, I had just spent the last eight or so years as a full-time stay-at-home mom and I wanted to nourish a different side of myself and seek out intellectual challenges. Plus, the low residency program gave me the opportunity to get out of town and have someone else cook for ten days a semester! 😊

I also asked Tacheny some of the same questions we’ve asked our contributing authors over the past year including what the most difficult and satisfying parts of the artistic process are for her. 

It varies, but currently, it’s difficult to carve out enough time to be able to get words onto the page. Life is busy, motherhood is tiring, and sometimes Netflix is easier at the end of a long day.

As for something satisfying, I really love editing. I like taking an initial idea or a sloppy story and turning it into something meaningful. I love seeing patterns and significant details rise to the surface and making a story shine.

I asked what her biggest fear is, as a writer.

I think my biggest fear as a writer is that I can’t actually write. Of course, we all have stories that don’t work and drafts that are embarrassing to read in the morning, but sometimes I worry that even the pieces I like are terrible and everyone around me secretly wonders why I even bother. Then I have to remind myself that even if that is true, I like the stories and I am someone. Worse case, I’m enough of an audience.

I then asked what fuels her desire to write. 

I write for two main reasons, first because I’m called to. I don’t mean that in a vain way. I simply mean it’s how I process emotions, events, thoughts, and dreams. My brain constructs and organizes through storytelling. Second, I write because I want to connect with people. There have been times in my life when I have felt very isolated and during those times what I needed most was to know there was another human out there who’d felt the same. I want to be that for someone else. I want to connect through the characters I create.

I think this answer is both relatable to most writers but also gets at the very heart of why we’re so passionate about publishing other people’s work. Those human connections are so valuable, I daresay vital, to our existence. We (TGLR) want to be a conduit for those connections and when we see it in action, it can be pretty amazing.

And, in a way, each story, poem, or shared experience shapes who we are. Following that line, I wanted to know more about author(s) or other persons that have influenced her writing.

I think it would be too hard to pick only a few authors, there are so many I admire and try to emulate in my own way, but it’s easy to pick my biggest influence: my family. When I was struggling with reading in grade school my mom was there to encourage and read with me. When I finished writing a story or a poem in junior high or high school my dad, an author himself, was there to praise a specific phrase or creative character. And when life rolled forward and writing got buried under other obligations, it was my children who helped me find my voice again and my husband who told them to stop yelling long enough for me to get a thought onto the page. 😉

And of course I could not end without asking the classic Nebraska TGLR question, which is what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life.” 

When my relatives from California visit Nebraska they love waving at everyone they pass because the people smile and wave back. That is what I think of when I hear the phrase “The Good Life.” I think about living in a place where people ask how you are and really care about your answer; where family is a phone call and a short drive away; and where there is always a neighbor who grocery shops better than you do and who has the sugar you need to finish your cookies.

When the cookies are done, Tacheny, let me know and I’ll come get some. 😉 And from the bottom of my heart, thank you for being on the team, for helping with calendars, meetings, and communication, and for conspiring with me about the future!

Cheers,
~Shyla

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interviews

Author Q&A with Briana Wipf

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!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

Author Q&A with Ernie Sadashige

Author Q&A with Ernie Sadashige

November 17, 2022

When we, TGLR, set out on a mission to publish stories and poems that “reveal the complexities hidden in the heartland and beyond” what we were talking about are pieces like the one from Ernie Sadashige. His story, Ersatz Coffee, shines a light on a part of Nebraska (and US) history that is not widely known: During World War II, thousands of Axis prisoners of war were held throughout Nebraska in base camps that included Fort Robinson, Camp Scottsbluff and Camp Atlanta. In this week’s Q&A we had the opportunity to do a deeper dive with Ernie about this topic, his story, and his writing life.

We began by asking him to share a little more about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of his story.

Many people are unaware the U.S. hosted World War 2 prison camps. The prisoners eased the labor shortage caused by Americans fighting overseas. Apparently, the German POWs were quite happy. In some ways they lived better than U.S. citizens who endured food and fuel rationing.

Sadly, POWs were treated better than Black soldiers. In Robert McLaughlin’s short story “A Short Wait Between Trains,” published in 1944 by the New Yorker, prisoners and guards dine together while segregated Black soldiers went to the back kitchen to get food.

We asked Ernie what else he learned through writing this piece.

The honor of the Greatest Generation. German prisoners lived under minimal security. One prisoner even walked back to camp after being left on a farm. Many POWs befriended Americans even as both sides fought gruesome battles in Europe. Some Germans returned after the war and married local women. It’s an attitude lost these days in our politically divisive society and amid the war crimes in Ukraine.

We then asked Ernie a few questions about his writing life, beginning with what the most difficult part of the writing process is for him.

Recently it’s finding something worth writing about. Sometimes it’s finding the right way to tell a story. I’m working on a prose poem now that’s already lived seven story lives in the first, second and third persons.

And what is the most satisfying? What fuels the desire to write?

That rush when a story finally feels “right” after weeks or months of revision and editing. It means I’ve given my characters my best.

I love telling stories. It’s so much fun watching my experiences or those of people I know become the characters I love. When that happens, I want to share those stories, like a proud parent or friend, even when my characters mess up. 

We then asked Ernie to share his biggest fear as a writer and his one word answer sums up what most of us probably fear on some level:

Failure.

We asked him to share what advice he would give to his younger writing self.

Live your life to the fullest. Any experiences that become source material are a bonus.

We asked Ernie what author(s) or other persons have been the biggest influence on his writing?

I am so grateful to my first writing teacher, Michael Deagler, who introduced many marvellous authors, including Gillian Flynn, whose dense prose I admire. Meg Files and Natalie Serber are both wonderful authors and excellent, supportive teachers. “Ersatz Coffee” came from an assignment in Natalie’s class.

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

A life well lived for yourself and others. In the 1998 movie “Saving Private Ryan,” Matt Damon’s character asks whether he lived a life worthy of the sacrifices others made on his behalf. That’s “The Good Life.”

This is wonderful, Ernie! Thank you for sharing your work with us and taking extra time to participate in this Q&A. We hope you continue to find things worth writing about and we wish you the best!!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

Author Q&A with Anne Whitehouse

Author Q&A with Anne Whitehouse

November 10, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Anne Whitehouse. Anne lives in New York City with her husband and daughter, and is the author of a novel, Fall Love, as well as numerous poetry collections, short stories, essays, and feature articles. Her most recent poetry collection is OUTSIDE FROM THE INSIDE (Dos Madres Press, 2020), and her most recent chapbook is ESCAPING LEE MILLER (Ethel Zine and Micro Press, 2021). She’s excited about her newest chapbook, FRIDA, about Frida Kahlo, that is forthcoming from Ethel Zine and Micro Press in December 2022.

Our autumn issue featured two of her poems, “Meditation at North Beach Park, Burlington” and “Yahrzeit.” We asked Anne to share some unique or surprising details about in the origin, drafting, and/or final version of these poems and what she learned through writing or revising.

“Yahrzeit:” Because our standard calendar is a solar calendar, and the Hebrew calendar is a lunar calendar, the dates of anniversaries often differ. Jews refer to the anniversary of a death as a “yahrzeit,” which is Yiddish for “year/time.” I wrote the poem a few years after my parents’ deaths, two years and a month apart, as I reflected on the incongruous coincidence that two people whose marriage was so incompatible and yet who stuck it out share the same yahrzeit. 

“Meditation at North Beach Park, Burlington:” Last May, my husband and I attended our daughter’s graduation from a master’s program at the University of Vermont in Burlington. We were at a picnic at North Beach Park hosted by her department when a storm suddenly blew in. I was in a reflective mood, thinking about this rite of passage—the end of our daughter’s formal education—which led to other thoughts about history, youth and age, and the contrasts between the generations.

These two poems came directly from my own experience. I feel blessed when that happens. It is not often, so I try to recognize when some aspect of my experience presents itself to me as a potential poem. It is easy to get caught up in the moment and ignore it. One must pay attention.

We then asked Anne a few questions about her writing process, beginning with what she has found is the most difficult part.

For me, the most difficult part of the process is getting started. After years of practicing my craft, I’ve learned that I can invite inspiration in. I can create a welcome environment for the muse. In other words, I have to be thinking, “I want to write a poem,” in order to be inspired to write the poem. That’s why poetry begins in desire. It begins in the desire to create the poem.

On the flipside, is the question of what she finds most satisfying.

The most satisfying part of the artistic process is after I have completed a poem, when I read it over, and I am pleased with it. In that moment it seems possible to write another poem right away. Even though that almost never happens, it’s a satisfying feeling.

We then asked what fuels her desire to write.

Not any one thing but a combination of things fuels my desire to write. Sometimes it’s a wish to make sense of something I don’t understand. Sometimes it’s a desire to leave a record for myself and others—of who I was, what I was thinking, how I was feeling. Sometimes it’s a wish to make sense of someone else’s life and experience. The world is full of oddities and miracles. Nature is beautiful and terrible. Human history teaches us that good and evil are forever in strife.

We asked Anne what her biggest fear as a writer is, but she elected not to answer because she’s superstitious, which made us want to know more but we didn’t press. Instead, we asked what authors, books, or persons have had an impact on her writing.

I think real influences are unconscious. If I am aware of the influence, it is meretricious and perhaps does not serve me. There are so many writers that have been important to me that it is impossible for me to name them all. I tend to like what I call “minor writers,” perhaps because I am a “minor writer.” Not everyone can be the greatest, and maybe greatness is overrated.

In poetry I go for sound and sense. Yeats and Baudelaire are life-long loves. In the past several years, I’ve been writing a series of essays about Poe and Longfellow, whose lives and works are mirrors and contrasts. I’m a big user of libraries, and I’m constantly reading. This year I read two books by Delia Ephron that moved me deeply, her memoir, Left on Tenth, and her novel, Siracusa.

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

I think of cultivating contentment, of being satisfied with what I am and what I have. Of having enough to satisfy my needs. Of being in possession of my health and my wits. Of being able to love and be loved, to appreciate life’s beauties, and to acknowledge the happy occasions because there is no escaping the sad ones.

This is really beautiful. Thank you, Anne, for jumping in on this journey with us and allowing us to share your poems. We’re grateful that you took the time to participate in this Q&A and we wish you the best!!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

Author Q&A with Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter

Author Q&A with Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter

November 3, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A features Bridgit Kuenning Pollpeter. Bridgit is a mom and freelance writer from the Midwest. She is a graduate of the MFA in Writing Program at the University of Nebraska whose work has appeared in 13th Floor Magazine, Hippocampus Magazine, Random Sample Review, and elsewhere. 

In 2023, she will lead a creative project with Anastasis Theatre Co., which will include directing and writing. You can follow her on Twitter @bkpollpeter or @AnastasisTheat1 to stay updated on the project.

Bridgit’s essay “Mutation of a Body” appears in our Autumn issue and we asked her to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of the essay and what she learned through writing or revising it.

Her response: “A unique detail about the inception and drafting of this piece is the power of my emotions to drive my creative force, fueling my narrative voice and rhythm. Through writing and revising it, I discovered that my power as a writer lies in my deep emotional connection to the events and people I write about. I need a visceral reaction to dig into the story.”

We then asked her what part of the artistic process is the most difficult and why.

Her response: “For me, I find it challenging to revise once I’ve completed a piece. Initially, a burst of creative energy surges through me, but once the final spark lands, I find it difficult to revise and edit with intention.”

On the flip side of that, we wanted to know what was the most satisfying part of the process.

Her response: “It’s incredibly satisfying to pluck the perfect word and paint the just-right image to find narrative flow and purpose in my writing.”

This is great and we agree that there is a certain energy you feel when you know you’ve captured exactly what you want and how you want it, especially when you know it will convey the sentiment or message perfectly to a reader.

We then asked Bridgit what author(s) (or other persons) have been the biggest influence on her writing or what she enjoys reading and why?

Her response: “I read anything, but I love writers who think outside the box and aren’t scared of lyrical prose—writers who speak with unabashed authority and use their art to change the world. A couple of writers who’ve had major impacts on me are Maxine Hong Kingston, Lidia Yuknavitch, Neil Gaimon, Roxane Gay, and Quiara Alegia Hudes.”

What a great list! We then asked her what her biggest fear is as a writer.

Her response: “My biggest fear as a writer is being unseen, or, rather, unread. This is probably my biggest fear as a human in general.”

This concern is shared by many writers and, as she succinctly put it, is a basic human feeling. It’s relatable but also seems to be connected, in a way, to the other comments Bridgit offered when we asked if there was anything else she wanted to share with anyone who might read her essay…

Her response: “To readers taking the time to read this piece, I appreciate it so much. While the events of my vision loss may have started tragic, I do in fact have a blessed, fulfilled life. For me, the tragedy in this piece is not that I became blind, but that I live with a horrific eating disorder, and that my mental health resulted in my blindness. But living as a blind person for the past 20 years, I can say it’s not a sub-parr existence, and it’s not stopped me from living and achieving.”

This is both beautiful and inspirational! Thank you Bridgit!!

As we always do, we concluded our Q&A by asking what she thinks of when she hears the phrase, “The good life.”

Her response: “The good life for me is lounging in the sun, its warmth swathing my body, as a light breeze ribbons around me, while my daydreams pop in vivid scenes in my mind. And a Mojito in my hand doesn’t hurt either!”

Cheers to that! Thanks again Bridgit for trusting us with your story. We’re deeply honored for the opportunity to share it and more about you with our readers. We appreciate you taking the time to participate in this Q&A and wish you the best!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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announcements

2022 Best of the Net Nominations

2022 Best of the Net Nominations

September 30, 2022

Hello friends. Autumn is in the air and that means it’s “Best of the Net” season again. Yes, we are aware that those other journals have already had their nominations in for WEEKS but, here at The Good Life Review, we are seasoned procrastinators!

For those who don’t know, Best of the Net is an annual contest by Sundress Publications designed to elevate and celebrate a growing collection of writers and publishers who are opening the door to transformation through art. More about the contest can be found here.

This year we were allowed to nominate two fiction stories, two creative nonfiction essays, six poems, and three pieces of art published between July 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022. For us, this includes any work appearing in issue #4, 5, 6, or 7. We’re thrilled to announce the following nominations:

Congratulations to these fine artists and best of luck snagging that prize!

Cheers,
The Good Life Review Team

Categories
interviews

Author Q & A with Suzi Banks Baum

Author Q & A with Suzi Banks Baum

September 15, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Suzi Banks Baum. Suzi is a writer living in Great Barrington, MA. Her writing deals with topics such as female sexuality, and the trials and tribulations experienced by women in the modern world. Her nonfiction essay “Connect: Disconnect” is this year’s winner of The Honeybee Prize in Nonfiction which was selected by guest judge Jessica Hendry Nelson. Here’s what Jessica had to say about the essay –

“Connect: Disconnect” strikes me with its unapologetic exploration of the power and pleasure of female sexuality. With fine attention to language and cadence, it combs memory to unpack a complicated legacy of want and wonder. This essay does not flinch, capitulate, or mitigate. In charting her voracities, the narrator reminds the reader of the vital power of her own.” 

We asked Suzi to share some unique or standout detail regarding her writing process for this piece.

Her response: Connect/Disconnect was inspired by a brilliant piece of writing by Merritt Tierce in the NY Times last November, titled, “The Abortion I Didn’t Have.” Reading Merritt’s work made me realize that in the years of work on my memoir, I had skirted the topic of my sexual coming of age but hadn’t really given it space in the narrative. My writing partner Sue and I decided to write, to simply write what came forward as we put our minds into that time in our lives. I wrote pages and pages. I spoke to my high school best friend, talked to my friends from camp, pored over my journals. I tried to piece together the throughline of my experience of waking up in my body sexually.

We asked her what she learned about herself or craft through the making of this piece.

Her response: That though my writing life is largely solitary, just me at my desk with a pencil or my laptop, the development of a piece exists in relationships, in reaching out to people I trust, in listening and reflecting on those conversations. My writing partner and I talked weekly. We were setting off into dangerous territory, examining the influences and expectations and restrictions that we felt as young women in our early lives. Our trust in one another helped me write because I knew that she’d read my pages no matter what, and she’d support me taking the risk of exposing a very personal part of my life. I did the same thing for her. I feel emboldened by writing all of this. The person who I first had intercourse with, the guy who I gave my virginity to, to use the term of that time, is dead. I tried to find people who knew him, I spoke to my close friend from that period of my life and got her impressions. I realized how much shame and amnesia I’d chosen to live with until I began writing. The more I dug into the timeline, the facts, the influences of that time, the more I wanted to write.

We asked Suzi what part of the writing process is the most satisfying and why.

Her response: “I love to free-write. I have been addicted to pencils since I was a tiny kid. I love the feel of graphite on paper. I wake up early, make a cup of tea, and hopefully, without any distraction, go right to the page. I write a full page at least, or more. But I usually stop at 3 pages because that signals to me that this topic or scene or memory is something to return to later. Also I love to read and take notes. Give me Orion magazine or the New Yorker or American Short Fiction and I will soak up the writing and take notes, find small phrases to use as prompts for a free write. I like to copy out sections that are deeply affecting. I learn from the writing of others. A book that has been on my lap for the past year to dip into like that is a collection titled, Hearth: A Global Conversation on Identity, Community, and Place edited by Annick Smith and Susan O’Connor. I aspire to write like the writings anthologized there.”

We followed up on that by asking what fuels her desire to write.

Her response: In my free-write journal, I taped an image of an engraving from 1649 of women being hung for witchery in England. I look at the women with their hands tied, necks in nooses, and I think, yeah, my story is worth telling. I believe writing loosens bonds which have kept women silent for generations. Creative expression can disrupt each of us enough to let that which is uncomfortable have room. Also, the natural world, which I am privileged to live amongst. I am taken daily by the woes and delights of foxes, and fireflies, snow drifts and different kinds of ice, the rapture of a rose blossom and the savory tang of a bite of a basil leaf. These things, along with swimming and love and making something like sense, compel me to write.

We asked Suzi if she has any projects coming up that she would like to share.

Her response: I teach book art because coupled with my infatuation with pencils is my devotion to books, the kind we can write in, create in, delve into, that invite us to explore our inner worlds and digest and integrate life experiences. I will teach a book art workshop at the Art School of Columbia County, NY in September, a live and in-person 2-day workshop. Then in late November, my online workshop, Advent Dark Journal, a 6-week exploration of art, writing, and ritual centered around flourishing in the holiday season when so many people feel disconnected from the sacred and overwhelmed by the glare of tinsel. Both of these events are listed on my website, SuziBanksBaum.com.

We asked her to talk about her biggest influences in writing/what she enjoys reading.

Her response: My first influence is Katey Schultz, who has been a colleague and friend for the last 10 years or so. She invited me to the writing residency at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, a residency which I now administer. We have taken each other’s classes, written elbow to elbow at my backyard picnic table, I’ve slept in the Airstream trailer in her yard, we’ve read each other’s work and listened to our frustrations. Please read her work. I recommend Flashes of War first. I have been part of Katey’s Monthly Mentorship program for the past two years, learning about revision and how to sustain a writing life. That mentorship, with someone whom I trust deeply and love heartily, who I respect as a writer and rely on as a colleague, has been deeply nourishing. Second, because this person has shaped me since I first picked up my pencil and began to write about my life inside motherhood, is the writer Terry Tempest Williams. The passion and determination which shine through her is pure manna. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Terry after a talk she gave at the Carey Institute in Millbrook, NY and to introduce her to my kids. They knew what a life-moment it was for us all to hear Terry speak about the United States and our difficult relationship with land and our collective history of colonization, and about being present to the changes our planet is undergoing. Terry’s writing feels both intimate and wildly public at the same time, exposed but also pointed and full of space for inquiry. Terry draws conclusions but she leaves space for reflection that makes me feel included. I hope you’ve read some of her work. If you haven’t, start with When Women Were Birds.

We asked her what else she would like to share with potential readers.

Her response: I recognize that writing clearly and frankly about sex, about what is consensual and what may not be, is a daring act of boldness. I could have cloaked this story in fiction, but I decided not to. I am committed to people making space and finding some sense in their lives through the expressive arts. I believe it is how we begin to identify what truly matters to us and what we stand for. That space allows us clarity on which actions we are willing to take, what comfort we will risk in order to live our fullest lives.

And last, but certainly not least, we asked Suzi what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life.”

Her response: I think of connection, of there being room enough for the stories of anyone who has a story to tell. The Good Life conjures up to me a wide long table with place settings for everyone who thought that fully expressing themselves was only for a select few. The Good Life feels spacious and inclusive and kind and respectful. I grew up with such a clear prescription of what a good life was and I have lived long enough to recognize that what is good for the collective is something far greater than that early definition and I am so grateful to know that now.

This is so lovely! The “connection” of which you speak and there being space enough for everyone to tell their story is part of the reason we started this journal and website in the first place. We’re grateful that we were able to connect with you and that you trusted us with your story. Congrats again on winning this year’s prize!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

Categories
interviews

Author Q&A with W.W. Webb

Author Q & A with W.W. Webb

September 8, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with W.W. Webb. Wesley is a farm-raised Georgia native. He knows how to use dynamite and graduated from Yale University. He is a former trucker, pharmacy tech, teacher, computer programmer, carpenter, handyman, political operative, roofer, and business owner… A man of many talents!

In fact, we’re very grateful to have had the opportunity to work with Wesley as he was kind and patient enough to help with code behind the scenes in WordPress. We’ve been publishing stage and screenplays since our 3rd issue and are excited to learn the best way to format scripts so they are displayed correctly. Thanks again for that Wesley!

His script “Road Music” was selected as the runner-up for this year’s Honeybee Prize in Poetry by guest judge Charlene A. Donaghy. She had this to say about it–

There is an eerie truth to Road Music even as it lives in a world of magic with a tinge of horror. As humans we take many roads: easy, less traveled, right turns, left turns, tough uphill climbs, easy downhill slides, roundabouts…all metaphors for our lives. Ward and Dee emphasize these human “travels” adrift on a deserted country highway, a location that seldom means sunshine and butterflies. As a stand-alone piece, Road Music is just enough to make the audience ponder. As a precursor to a longer piece, if that is the road the writer might decide to meander down, Road Music sets up many possibilities along the “…lullaby of asphalt or the steady crump, crump of concrete.”

We asked Wesley for some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of his script and to share something he learned through writing and revising. 

His response: “I wrote the old cowboy’s soliloquy in July 2018 during a road trip to visit family and attend a film festival. The visuals for the lonely landscape came in October 2018 during a road trip to another film festival when I drove along US 160 on the plains east of Trinidad, Colorado. I wrote the script itself in February 2019.”

“My original plan was to produce and direct this script at some point. I hadn’t bothered to submit it anywhere until April when I discovered the Honeybee contest and its theme of the Plains. I thought, oh, Road Music might fit into that.”

Indeed it is a great fit! We then asked Wesley what the most challenging part of writing is for him and then on the flip side, what part is the most satisfying.

His response: “With a family, children, film crew jobs, and a farm in the mix, protecting my writing schedule from interruption and distraction is a continual challenge. In 2019, I remodeled the farmhouse’s kitchen and added a high counter where I can work on my laptop while keeping an eye on the main field. In 2020, I converted part of a tool shed into a mini-studio where I can retreat to read, write, and draw.

“Writing is when my mind feels most engaged, challenged, and happy. Frequently, in every project, I experience moments when the dam breaks and the words pour out onto the blank page. That flow brings a serene joy.”

These questions lead us to ask what fuels his desire to write. 

His response: “I grew up in Georgia and storytelling is a key part of any Southerner’s DNA. Reading was a huge comfort in my youth and has remained so throughout my life. As a teen and onward, my secret dream was to join the fellowship of writers and perform that special alchemy of turning words and sentences into stories.”

We then asked what his biggest fear is as a writer. 

His response: “Starting out after college, obscurity was a concern. My sister once asked if I would leave behind a trunk full of unpublished work somewhat like Emily Dickinson. In recent years, as I’ve picked up accolades here and there, my current worry is that I will run out of time long before my ink runs dry.”

That sounds like there’s not only a lot of past writing that has potential but current too. With all that, we asked Wesley to share what projects he has that are currently “in the works.”

His response: “I have always enjoyed animation, and I have an animated short for children in the works. In March, I finished Legacy of the Witch, my first TV pilot spec and first collaboration with another screenwriter, Michael Keeling. In our fantasy script, witches and Vikings battle to save humanity from a dark sorcerer and his army at Stonehenge. Although our initial contest submissions haven’t earned any recognition yet, I remain hopeful about its prospects.”

We then asked him what books or authors have influenced his writing or what he likes to read. 

His response: “Shakespeare is an essential source — the eloquence and depth of expression is like drinking from the purest mountain spring. During the pandemic, I needed a break from the daily burden of reality and turned to fantasy: Naomi Novik’s novels were particularly delightful. (Uprooted, Spinning Silver, and her Temeraire series.) Another memorable treat was the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness. (Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night, The Book of Life.)”

And to round things out, we asked Wesley what he thinks of when he hears the phrase “The Good Life.” 

His response: “Among my books rests a Penguin Classics copy of Cicero’s On the Good Life. I haven’t ever read his thoughts on happiness, but now I have the perfect reason to begin.”  


Huh! We should probably take a look at that one too. Congratulations again, Wesley, on your winning script and thanks so much for participating in our Q&A!!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

Categories
interviews

Author Q & A with Sequoia Maner

Author Q & A with Sequoia Maner

September 1, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Sequoia Maner. Sequoia is an Assistant Professor of English at Spelman College and her deeply moving and heartfelt poem “dear sister” was selected as the runner-up for this year’s Honeybee Prize in Poetry by guest judge Kwame Dawes. He had this to say about it –

“A touching poem in which one sister speaks to the other, celebrating their resilience and survival despite the ruptures of being fostered, being cared for by the state, and facing the challenges of neglect. The poem ends with the allusion to Atalanta, the goddess The fact that the spelling in the poem is the same as the spelling of Atlanta, the city, does provide a marker, like the dialect at the core of the poem, drawing us to the African American and Southern experience.” 

We’re delighted that Sequoia took the time to answer some questions about her poem and her writing life and grateful she was open and vulnerable with us in her responses. First, we asked for some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of her poem and she elected to share something about all three. 

Origin: In March of this year, I met my sister for the first time. We were separated from our mother and hidden-away from each other in foster care. After 35 years apart, we have come together as grown-ass women and as poets. It’s wild. This is my first writing about the experience.

Drafting: I revised “dear sister” during my time as a Hurston/Wright fellow in July of 2022, I thank my amazing cohort & workshop leader for holding my tender poems about the child welfare system with compassion.

Final: This poem is my heart. I’m honored to be selected by Kwame Dawes for the runner-up prize, truly. 

What a heartbreaking and incredible thing to experience and to write about. Putting yourself on the page in that way no doubt leads to a great deal of introspection and discovery. We then asked what she learned about herself, craft, or life in general through writing and revising the poem.

Her response: “I learned that I’m always gonna be a sad-girl poet, no matter the subject, and that’s alright. Grief is an elemental part of the human experience & an elemental part of me.” 

We asked Sequoia to share the part of the artistic process that is the most satisfying for her and also what fuels her desire to write. 

Her response: “Sounding out a poem, either alone or in front of an audience, and moving energy. A good poem shifts the air and courses through the body. I love that act of transformation.

“Poetry erupts from me, flows through me, becomes impatient then petulant if I turn away for too long. There is no other option. Even the most difficult writing gives me a deep sense of pleasure and belonging because, during the process, I know that I am fulfilling my purpose.”

We then asked what her biggest fear is as a writer and she gave us two answers: 

  1. Dying before I’ve said everything; dying before I’ve read everything. 
  2. Making some kind of horrifying mistake in a published piece & having (black) writers whom I admire turn away from me, leaving me in lonely obscurity for the remainder of my career. Haha! This second fear is irrational, I think. 

We asked if she has any recent or upcoming projects she’d like to share. 

Her response: “Yes, I have two recent publications: Little Girl Blue: Poems (winner of 2021 Host Publications Chapbook prize) and a study of Kendrick’s Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly (33 1/3 series, Bloomsbury). 

More projects are coming: a bibliographic review of the poetry of Jayne Cortez; an essay on the funk impulse of rap music; a memoir.”

That’s quite a lot going on and kudos for getting so much wonderful work out into the world! This leads us to ask what her biggest influences are and what she enjoys reading. 

Her response: “It seems I always return to Langston Hughes. The novels of Toni Morrison and James Baldwin are well-worn in my house. For laughter, I read Chester Himes & The Boondocks comic strips. For solemnity, I read Etheridge Knight, Robert Hayden & Georgia Douglas Johnson. For inspiration, I read Evie Shockley. Douglas Kearney, & Lucille Clifton. For theorizing, I read bell hooks, Christina Sharpe, Kevin Quashie, & Robin DG Kelly. My favorite audiobook is Mariah Carey’s memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey. I really want to spend long, uninterrupted time with the poetry of Sherley Anne Williams.

And finally, as it is will all our artists, we asked what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life” and her response seems to be a poem, in and of itself…

“clean air
clean water
sound mind
dreamy sex
dreamy sleep
lush crops
clear sky
stormy sky
homeostasis
no racists
no rapists
no capitalists
no prisons
no police pigs
no slave wages
no war
no war
no travel restrictions
no abortion bans
no capitol insurrections
no hands-up-don’t-shoot shooting deaths
no CPS-gonna-take-your-babies kinda deaths
no blue-ooze*-wipe-your-home-away type of deaths
but all the blues

*Shout out Jayne Cortez, I am thinking of her poem “I Got the Blue-Ooze 93”

Sounding this out causes quite a bit of movement.. Love it!!
Thanks again, Sequoia! We’re honored you trusted us with your words and glad you’ve been able to create something from the experience of being reunited with your sister. We wish you the best in life and all your writing endeavors. 

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team