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!

The Good Life Review Team


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,

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!

~The Good Life Review Team


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!!

~The Good Life Review Team


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
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. 

~The Good Life Review Team


Author Q&A with Jane Muschenetz

Author Q & A with Jane Muschenetz

August 18, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Jane Muschenetz. Jane (Yevgenia!) is a Ukrainian-born, Russian-speaking Jew, who was granted asylum as a refugee in the US at ten years old. Today, she is a fully-grown MIT nerd, mother, and emerging artist and writer. She is currently working on her first poetry chapbook, “All the Bad Girls Wear Russian Accents,” forthcoming in 2023 from Kelsay Books, and is expecting her first CNF essay, “‘Nothing to Talk About, a Fairytale in 5 Acts,” to be released in September. 

Her poem “For Those of Us Forced to Flee” was the 2022 Honeybee Prize winner and appears in our Summer issue.

We asked Jane to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of the poem.

Her response: “In this time, when my birth country of Ukraine is under siege, so many of us are feeling our sense of security and ‘home’ shifting beneath our feet. How to find hope and belonging despite the rise in domestic violence, political division, isolation, and deaths of despair? Despite the fact it has been over 30 years since my family and I fled the Soviet regime to establish a new life in America, I was surprised how relevant those experiences felt in our present world.”

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

Her response: “Hope. I think the right poem, at the right time, can save a life as much as the right surgery can. (This holds both for the writer of that poem and the reader of it.) Writers/poets from all walks of life, across languages and centuries, whose words ring a truth inside me and make me feel a deep human connection despite our apparent differences, inspire me.”

We could not agree more! The human connections we make during our one precious life are so valuable and as writers we have to recognize that sharing our work can help others feel less alone in the struggle. It really can make a difference!

We then asked Jane to share her biggest fear as a writer. 

Her response: “Often, I get these doom-spiral thoughts questioning the point of all this writing. The world is full of voices so much more salient, talented and capable than mine, after all. I have to immediately give that part of me a hug. What’s the point of not writing? I have learned to ask back.”

That’s the nemesis of many emerging (and established) writers. It also plays into what Jane shared is the most difficult part of the artistic process for her. 

“As an emerging writer, I am just starting to learn about navigating this world professionally, which, for a long time, seemed like a faraway dream.  Figuring out how to get my work out to readers, building my writing community, and using my time efficiently, is a big learning process.”

On the flip side, we asked her about the most satisfying part of the artistic process. 

Her response: “Completing a poem, that “yes” feeling when reading it to myself, knowing it says something true and beautiful.”

We asked Jane what she likes to read and/or what the biggest influences are in her writing. 

Her response: “Poetry, of course. I am a sucker for Fantasy, Fairytales, Young Adult-a good story. Lately, I’ve also been reading historical perspectives on writers and thinkers in times of political strife -giving myself a mini ‘Course 101’ in gender studies and civil liberties.”

And lastly, when we asked what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The good life.” 

Her response: “The word ‘peace’ immediately comes to mind, and the health to enjoy it. My wish for myself and all of us is–be well…  well-loved, well-fed, well-traveled, and well-read.” 

She also expressed her gratitude to those reading for spending time with her work. 

Thank you for that Jane! Having more “peace” in the world for individuals and society, in general, would go a long way toward healing the damage caused by so much conflict. We want to thank you for sharing and participating in our Q&A and congratulate you for winning this year’s prize! We are grateful that you gave us the opportunity to publish your words!!  

~The Good Life Review Team


Author Q & A with Jennifer Downes

Author Q & A with Jennifer Downes

August 10, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Jennifer Downes. Jennifer is a writer, actor, and producer based in NYC. She is the Associate Artistic Director of New Ambassadors Theatre Co. She is a graduate of the William Esper Studio and studied writing under Jerome Perzigian and Stephen Molton. Her script “Camp” was the 2022 winner of the Honey Bee Literature Prize in script writing and appears in our Summer issue.

We asked Jennifer to tell us some detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of her script and also something that she learned in the process of working on it.

Her response: “I finished the revisions for this piece about 15 minutes before the deadline to submit it–there’s nothing like “deadline mode” to really make me able to kill my darlings and make a better draft!”

“This is one of the more sweet things I’ve ever written. I tend to write a lot of dark comedy and this felt like getting in touch with a very different side of myself. It also felt distinctly feminine, which was really lovely to engage with and spend some time with that part of myself. Thinking about and indulging in the girlish friendships I remember from my childhood and translating them to these characters was a particularly joyous writing experience.”

We asked what part of the writing process is the most difficult for her. 

Her response: “The first draft is always the most difficult for me. I tend to want it to be perfect on the first go, and that can really freeze me from actually writing. I’ve tried over the last few years to get out of that habit and get more into the (forgive the phrase) “vomit draft” mode, where you just let whatever comes out of your brain be what goes onto the page, and then you can edit from there. It’s still a bit of a struggle, but I think I’ve made a little progress towards that goal.”

We then asked what is the most satisfying. 

Her response: “Editing is the most satisfying for me. I love the feeling of going over a page and cutting an unnecessary line or tightening a joke–then at the end you read the same page over and it just feels better. When I can read through my script and it feels breezy I know I’ve done some good editing.”

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

Her response: “When I have an idea for a project it just sort of sits in my brain. The world or the story will just live in my brain as its own space, its own little room that I can walk into and know that I need to put it down on paper (or pdf) for other people to see this room I’m in. …Also deadlines. Deadlines are great.”

We agree that deadlines can be very motivating, especially when you have a project that is so close to completion. We also asked her what author(s) (or other persons) have been the biggest influence in her writing life.

Her response: “I love reading science fiction–I’m a big fan of Kurt Vonnegut and Neil Gaiman. I am also an avid Jane Austen reader, I re-read Pride & Prejudice every winter. I think they’ve all influenced my writing in different ways, but mostly to not shy away from having a particular voice and also having a distinct sense of humor to your writing.”

As always, we asked what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life.” 

Her response: “Enjoying some fresh air with a hot cup of coffee and something new to read.” She also wanted to share her hope that people enjoy being in the darling world of Camp when they read as much as she did when I wrote it.

Jennifer’s full-length play Tight Five which she co-wrote with her writing/life partner John Peña Griswold is premiering at Cherry Lane Theatre in NYC July 13-17th. She also has a short play, Skim, playing in the New Ambassadors Theatre Co. “Blurring Boundaries” festival the first two weeks of August at the Tada! Theater.

Congrats on seeing that work come to life! And thanks so much for participating in our Q&A and allowing us to publish your wonderful script!!

~The Good Life Review Team


Author Q & A with Helyn Trickey Bradley

Author Q & A with Helyn Trickey Bradley

August 4, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Helyn Trickey Bradley. Helyn is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest with her patient husband, three children, and one dog of questionable character. When she is not on deadline, she tries to find zen in the general chaos by reading in coffee shops and eavesdropping on other people’s conversations. She writes essays and articles for national publications including Oprah Magazine, CNN, PBS, and The Oregonian. Helyn has an MFA in creative writing from Portland State University, and she is hard at work on a novel. Her nonfiction essay “Backwards and Blind” appears in our 2022 Honeybee Prize issue.  

We asked Helyn to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of her essay and share something it taught her.

Her response: “I think for most people, the idea of impending death is frightening. I know it is for me. So, the concept of putting my mother on hospice felt like a looming black cumulus cloud, and the weight of that was on top of some serious sorrow about having to move my mother into Memory Care and, due to COVID-19, not physically see her again for a year. Writing this essay helped me get more comfortable with the idea of my mother dying and my anger at precious time between us lost. Writing this essay helped me be more present for her in her final, beautiful moments, which I hold in my pocket like a love note. I write to sort my emotions. When, after a year of being homebound, I was able to physically race a scull across a wild, roiling river, the feeling of freedom and release was intoxicating. That moment felt very much like when I write something that feels true for me – the release and freedom of finally saying exactly what I feel, minus embellishments. It was cool to merge the release I felt with rowing with the release I get from writing out hard emotions.”

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

Her response: “Having a dedicated, daily writing practice is hard for me. I write every day for my 9-5 job but writing creatively is harder to fit into my life. Also, I’m a basher, meaning that I bash out a first draft of an essay in one sitting when an overwhelming urge to write and a clear vision of what I need to say overtake me. When my muse shows up, she’s carrying a club and wearing brass knuckles, and I don’t have much choice in the matter. I often drop everything else I’m doing to put pen to paper during these urgent moments, and I’ve come to trust my writerly instincts that calling in sick or moving meetings or foisting childcare onto my very supportive husband pays off. Still, I wish I could better muster a consistent and daily writing practice.”

And the flip side.. What is the most satisfying? 

“There’s nothing like the feeling of being in the flow when the words in my head come faster than what I can get on the page. It’s a spiritual experience for me.”

We asked Helyn to share her biggest fear as a writer. 

Her response: “I fear I will run out of time before I’ve written all the things I most want to get on the page. Leaving things unsaid haunts me.”

We asked her to tell us what the biggest influences have been/are in her writing. 

Her response: “I believe Toni Morrison’s “Beloved” is God whispering to us on the page. Morrison’s incredible talent leaves me breathless and ragged and transformed. I read “The Bluest Eye” for the first time when I was in high school, and it gave my young, scared self the courage to write my own words. After reading John Updike’s “Rabbit, Run” I thought to myself, you can do that on the page? – and I promptly decided to pursue an MFA in creative writing. I adore reading Alice Munro’s short stories as each is a full, satisfying meal that leaves me licking my lips. I had a hard moment of self-recognition when I read her short story, “Family Furnishings.” And Jacqueline Woodson’s novels-in-verse light me up, especially the heart-wrenching “Before the Ever After.”  The incredible use of language in Annie Proulx’s “The Shipping News” always reinvigorates me as a writer, so I re-read it all the time. And Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre” has served as my north star ever since I first consumed it as a willful teenager and discovered a similar soul in its pages.”

So many wonderful pieces of writing! And lots of options, too, when it comes to defining what “The Good Life” is all about. Here’s what Helyn had to say about that: 

“For me, the good life is a summer day near an ocean or sound or river or lake. It is toes dug into warm sand and the sound of seagulls fussing overhead. It is the piercing laughter and squeals of children playing nearby. It is reading a passage from a good book that stops me cold, forcing me to re-read the words, swirling them around in my mouth like a cold marble. The good life is having long, blank afternoons stretched out in front of me and plenty of books to read.” 

Love that! Thank you, Helyn, for participating in our Q&A and being open to sharing more about yourself and your writing life. We are grateful that you gave us the opportunity to publish your essay!  

~The Good Life Review Team


Author Q & A with Craig Moeckly

Author Q & A with Craig Moeckly

July 7, 2022

This week’s Q&A is with Craig Moeckly. Craig was born in Iowa and now lives in Minnesota with his wife and two daughters. Occasionally, during the long winter nights, he writes. His short play, “Dakota County,” appears in our spring issue. 

We asked Craig to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of his script. 

His response: “Some who read Dakota County may find Roy’s interactions with Eleanor and his depiction of her to Tom confusing – she is generous and loving to Roy directly but Roy paints her as a controlling woman. I understand the potential confusion but relationships, especially long-term ones, are usually complicated. I have found through many conversations with my own parents that in the minds of those in the relationship both things can be true. Additionally, after one of them is gone the recollections of the one remaining can shift. I find this observation interesting and wanted to capture it in the script.”

We asked Craig to tell us something he learned (about himself or craft or life in general) through writing and revising this piece?

His Response: “I had the general idea of this script for a while, but the characters don’t really start to come alive until you write them. I didn’t really know how Roy would sound until I started giving him dialogue. Then it was interesting how the phrases he used were influenced by real people that I’ve met in my life. A small example of how we are impacted through our life experiences and draw on them, consciously or not.”

We followed this up by asking what the most difficult part of the artistic process is for him and why. 

His response: “Making the time to actually do it. You get an idea in your head and think, “I should write that”, and then time is so easily filled that it just passes. Meanwhile, details of the original idea have fled along with the time so when you do force yourself to write, the story is no longer as clear as it was once. It can be frustrating, and you tell yourself that you’re not going to do that again, but you know you probably will. We’re our own worst enemies.”

I think many people can relate to this. Our daily lives are so consuming and our personal passions are often neglected. Time is a hot commodity and if we don’t prioritize the writing, those great ideas slip away. But when we do find the time, there is value in it. We asked Craig what the most rewarding part of the process is for him.

His response: “When someone else reads your work and it touches them in some way, especially when they come away with something you really didn’t think about when you wrote it. To me, it’s like cooking, what is really rewarding about the process is when others enjoy something that you created.”

We asked Craig to share his biggest fear as a writer and what fuels his desire to write. 

His response: “I don’t mind constructive criticism of something I wrote, in fact, I enjoy the opportunity to improve the piece. So, I guess receiving non-constructive criticism of something I wrote from someone I have reason to respect would be my biggest fear. That and forgetting a “really great” idea I had for a story. 

“I write for enjoyment–the process of writing and the exciting possibility that I just might write something that others enjoy, too, if I choose to share it.”  

We asked Craig what he would tell his younger writing self.

His response: “As soon as you get an idea, start writing it down, at least pieces that are clearly in your mind. I should tell my current writing self the same thing.”

When asked what he likes to read and why he admitted he’s an awful reader, “I probably have a dozen different books lying around that I’ve started to read but never finished. So, I’ve always enjoyed short stories, probably due to my short attention span, and that’s also what I like to write. Some of his favorite short-story authors include Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville.  

And lastly, but as always, never least… we asked Craig what he thinks of when he hears the phrase “The Good Life.”

His response: My much younger self may have answered this question in terms of fame, glory, or excessive wealth.  But living has changed my perspective of what “The Good Life” means to me, and it is now much more in line with that of the ancient philosophers. Most of them essentially agree that the good life is living a just life with virtue and good character, such as being trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, honest, selfless, generous, and such. Aristotle, however, was more comprehensive in his view of the good life. He laid out some objectives in addition to virtue, such as health, prosperity, friendship, respect, and engagement. I think if you take time to reflect on these principles proposed so many years ago, they serve as a sensible guide in striving to lead a good life. These principles feed into something I strongly believe in, which is genuine generosity, and I feel that engaging in this will ultimately make your life and the lives of others better. What positive contributions can you make to the world?”   

These are definitely words to live by. Thank you, Craig, for taking extra time to participate in our Q&A and also for allowing us to publish your script. We hope you continue to live that Good Life and always find time to write.  

~The Good Life Review Team

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The 2022 Honeybee Prize Results!

2022 Honeybee Prize Results

June 30, 2022

Background Image: Malia Nahinu

Thank you again to everyone who participated in our 2nd annual contest. We’re grateful for all the writers who sent us work and recognize that our organization could not exist without their dedication, passion for writing, and their courage to share.

We also want to extend our gratitude to this year’s judges who were wonderful to work with:
Kwame Dawes ~ Poetry
Charlene A. Donaghy ~ Stage & Screen
Mary Kuryla ~ Fiction
Jessica Hendry Nelson
~ Nonfiction

The results for all genres are as follows…

Poetry Winners:
First Prize: For Those of Us Forced to Flee by Jane Muschenetz
Runner-up: dear sister, by Sequoia Maner

Other Finalists:

  • I return to you, mother by Liz Holland
  • In Memoriam for a Chronic Pain Sufferer by Gillian Freebody
  • (un)inhabited by Moni Brar
  • HOMO by C.W. Emerson

Stage and Screen Winners:
First Prize: Camp by Jennifer Downes
Runner-up:  Road Music by W. W. Webb

Other Finalists:

  • Willa Cather Would Not Approve by David-Matthew Barnes
  • Scenes From a Breakup by Don Faust
  • Prom Court by Michael Towers

Fiction Winners:
First Prize: Love, Dad by Alex Sese
Runner-up: The Children by Adeline Lovell

Other Finalists:

  • Waiting for Jim by David Margolis
  • To Dust You Shall Return by Katharine Bost
  • Seth From Poison Control by Kaylee Schofield

Nonfiction Winners:
Winner: Connect : Disconnect by Suzi Banks Baum
Runner-up: Where All My Sick Things Go by Liliana Rehorn

Other Finalists:

  • Assembly Line by Michael Cannistraci
  • Backwards and Blind by Helyn Trickey Bradley
  • Reinventing the Circle by Jill Littig

This year’s winner of our Editors Choice Award is Helyn Trickey Bradley for her nonfiction essay, Backwards and Blind.

Congratulations to all finalists and winners! Stay tuned… All the winning pieces will appear in our Summer issue, coming in July. We’re extremely excited to showcase this amazing work!!

~Shyla Shehan and The Good Life Review Team


Author Q & A with Tamara Nasution

Author Q & A with Tamara Nasution

June 22, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Tamara Nasution. Tamara was born and raised in a small town in Indonesia. She has been writing since her preteen years and has several pieces of her works selected for publication, including for a poem contest organized by the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). Her writings are mostly derived from her personal experiences; she often writes about what it is like to be queer in a heteronormative society. Her poem, “Your Name,” appears in our latest issue. 

We asked Tamara to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of her piece.

Her response: “The words to my piece “Your Name” came very naturally to me. It didn’t take much editing but I did cut some lines I thought were irrelevant or too sentimental. While it is obvious that this poem is directed at a particular person with a particular name (a given first name that I adore), I wanted this piece to resonate with other people so in love they find their partner’s name rhyming, rhyming, rhyming with everything, as Carol Ann Duffy beautifully put.

When then asked what she learned about herself or craft or life in general through writing and revising this piece? 

Her response: “From this piece, and others I have written, I learned that my style of writing is confessional and it’s easier for me to articulate my feelings for the people I love instead of writing about my personal experiences detached or devoid of other people’s presence. I also learned that I love religious references and analogies, as seen by the line “harmonious reading of the Psalm”.”

We asked Tamara to share her biggest fear as a writer? 

Her response: “While it is the goal of most writers to have their works published, I find that I am not too fussy about the recognition and instead I want my readers to find some kind of comfort and solace in my writing. Therefore, it is my fear that I might produce superficial pieces that my readers do not relate with. I also have baseless fear that someday I will run out of things to write about, which I know is illogical because hopefully, my writing will only get more refined as time moves forward.”

We asked what fuels her desire to write. 

Her response: “Writing poems for me is a channel to speak about what I cannot convey coherently, both verbally or through structured written pieces like essays. Poems allow me to daydream of words that go together with the meaning only implied but are always open for interpretation, even for me as the author.”

We asked Tamara what she would tell her younger writing self.

Her response:  “I would tell her to keep writing and to trust the process and that it doesn’t have to be immediately good or publication-ready. Write for yourself and enjoy the contentment and comfort that it provides you.”

And finally we asked her our favorite question… what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life.”

Her response: “When I think of the phrase “The Good Life”, I think about my childhood, the time when I would spend my days picking gooseberries from my backyard and chasing dragonflies on a sunny day.”

When she’s not writing, Tamara works full-time in a nonprofit focusing on children. She is passionate about humanitarian aid and climate change adaptation. You can catch more of her on her social media: Instagram @kappaca and Twitter @sacredswamp

Thanks, Tamara, for being a part of our 7th issue and for participating in this Q & A!

~The Good Life Review Team