micro monday poetry

New Bone Fear by Rhony Bhopla

New Bone Fear | Rhony Bhopla

A chirping, then
the beak
of a mourning dove
stuffed, muted
at the first
daily police siren.

The neighbor’s dog
wails crescentic urgency,
I hallucinate
warning sounds
before a voice
from a chopper
takes the place
of flocks.

Stephon Clark’s
final breath
expired some miles away—
there, I see
my question
mark on 29th.

No words. No answers.
Just my daily
new bone fear.

Construction cones
around new asphalt,
and accurate lights
and crosswalks
with mechanical
chirping sounds
—his new Meadowview.

About the Author:

Rhony Bhopla is a poet and visual artist. Her poems and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Notre Dame Review, Cherry Moon: Emerging Voices from the Asian Diaspora, Northwest Review, and Harvard Review. She is a 2019 Rooted and Written Fellow and a member of the Mapmakers Alumni Institute. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Pacific University.

flash fiction micro fiction micro monday

Dress Code by Kennedy Essmiller

Dress Code | Kennedy Essmiller

Gather round, girls—preteens, tweens, teens—crowd together. It is time for your annual women’s talk. You each are given two squares of tile with shimmering surfaces to stand, to sit. You can reach out and touch the shoulder of your best friend, the shoulder covered in a wooly sweater despite the Oklahoma heat. 

The Dress Code is in place for a reason, the administration says, the office ladies tell you, the women who give you Band-Aids and Tylenol, the women who are paid to protect. 

Pay attention. 

This year will be no different than last year or next year. Each girl, each woman, could say the speech by heart. You silently mouth along. 

No spaghetti straps—blouse straps must be at least three fingers width apart, but not three of your fingers, three of your male teachers’ fingers. You think that maybe we should use Mr. Stewart’s as his are the smallest, thinned with age, the skin sagging with the weight of wrinkles. The thought of his fingers on you bare shoulders make you squirm, and you shudder and spill out for a moment, briefly broaching the borders of your carefully allotted tiles.

The administrators continue. 

Do not wear skirts that are above your knee and don’t even think about shorts. Jeans or dresses, there is not an in between, not for the Daughters of Christ. You cannot wear such skimpy attire around the boys. You remember the-not-so-virgin Mary, they ask, like clockwork. Of course, you remember her, even those of you who were years behind her, those of you who never even saw her belly swell with life. Mary, whom they memorialize and vilify with each and every meeting, ever since she fell pregnant four years ago, back when most of you were in middle school, beginning to receive the same speech she had received. 

The road to pregnancy is paved with short skirts and spaghetti straps. If you get yourself pregnant, you will be asked to leave. If you get yourself pregnant, you will become a cautionary tale, told to future generations, the children you will carry. Your name will be heavy with shame, taste metallic in your mouths. They do not say what will happen if you get yourself pregnant and hide it, remove it, make your own choices about your own body. Your body, Mary’s body. 

Mary, who used to read Junie B. Jones to you when she babysat, who was forbidden from walking across the stage at graduation.

And still, it continues. The boys cannot control themselves—boys will be boys. You are women, the presence of blood between your legs declares it so. It is your obligation, your privilege, and your joy in life, to protect the boys, the students, your teachers, your principal, and your friends’ fathers. 

You think of the father of your best friend, consider his eyes on you, and you shy away from her, inching ever so slightly back, retreating ever so slightly into your squares. 

If your shirt is hugging your budding breasts, it is too tight. If your shirt is hanging low and revealing your collarbone, it is too loose. Show no straps, bras are a hidden delicacy, meant to be shared between a man and his wife. Embrace your femininity. Wear makeup and shave your legs. Be ashamed of your body. Cover your legs, only sluts wear red lipstick. Boys don’t like girls who don’t put out the effort. Adjust your cleavage or your male teachers will have no choice but to send you to the office. Be ashamed of your breasts that can sustain life, boys will view them as sexual organs. 

Their perception is the authority. 

Cross your legs, collapse into yourself, take up as little room as you possibly can. Remain in your two tiles, always. Boys like small girls, petite girls. Obey the Dress Code, or you will be sent to the office, sent home to change. 

Your education, your comfort, you are not valuable.

About the Author:

Kennedy Essmiller is a queer writer who earned her MFA at Oklahoma State University. Her short story, “Mountains” won second place in the University of Western Alabama’s 2017 Sucarnochee Review Fiction contest. Her nonfiction essay, “The Three Drinks of Christmas” was accepted for publication in Oklahoma State University’s online undergraduate literary magazine Frontier Mosaic. Her short stories, “Permanently Inked” and “Bittersweet” were chosen as the winner for the 2018 and 2019 Oklahoma State University Ruby N. Courtney Writing Scholarship, respectively. She is an academic advisor and dog lady. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @kennedywogan.

announcements team member spotlight

Introducing Cid Galicia

Introducing Cid Galicia

January 13, 2023

Today we want to shine a spotlight on team member Cid Galicia. Cid is currently in his final semester in the MFA program at the University of Nebraska-Omaha. When I first met Cid about a year ago, what stood out to me was the energy and enthusiasm he had for the program and the people he was connecting with. He was eager to learn more about TGLR and our team and didn’t skip a beat before volunteering to be a part of it. He joined in the spring as a reader for our 2022 HoneyBee Prize (our 8th issue). A few beats later, when an opportunity at a more permanent spot as an editor opened up, he was the first to throw his hat into the ring. 

Now, as we near the release of our 10th issue, I’m excited to finally, *FINALLY*, officially introduce him and share more of what he’s shared with us about himself and his writing life, beginning with why he decided to pursue an MFA. 

Honestly, it was covid.  The idea of an MFA and transitioning into the higher education community has always been a goal, but it continuously seemed like a far-off destination.  During covid, I was very lucky that no one in my family was deeply affected.  I had peers and coworkers who had the opposite and even deaths in their families/communities.  That is when my mortality/finiteness kind of slapped me across the face. I had this realization that if I had any remaining goals I wish to pursue/achieve, I should have started yesterday.  I was on an amtrak train home for the holidays (I love writing on trains) and that was the moment I decided I would begin pursuing graduate school for my MFA.

I love the fact that he pinpointed the exact moment, which made me curious if there was some point in time or event that sparked his passion for writing in the first place. 

As with many writers, at a young age, I found myself in a different mindset than many of my peers.  And, in order to clear my thoughts and calm myself, I just began to consistently journal.  In high school, after a struggling freshman/sophomore year, I was finally able to test into AP English classes.  I had an amazing teacher, Ms. Majerison,  that year who introduced me to poetry, and that is when I became deeply interested in the craft and began to pursue it on my own.

I then asked some of the same questions we’ve asked our contributing authors over the past year including what fuels his desire to write and also what the biggest influences in his writing have been. 

Human relationships are the most fascinating experiences to me, and all platforms: friendship, family, young, old, intimate, and platonic.  I love watching, observing, and experiencing them personally.  I love thinking and writing about them.  Most of my poems stem from that idea of human connection.

One of TGLRs previous poetry editors, Ally Guenette, completed her thesis on discovering your writer-genealogy–which I thoroughly enjoyed. Interestingly, and cliche enough, my first adolescent inspirations were Poe and the rap group Bone: Thugs In Harmony.  Back then, rap/rappers really had a lot of strong poetic connections.  Later was introduced to Rilke and T.S. Eliot.  I was drawn to Rilke because he also had a deep focus on love and relationships and Eliot for his long poems and vibrations of form and the musicality in his work.

By his own account, Cid has “been in a ravenous state hungry for experience, growth, and community” and has found what he’s been desiring in each semester of the MFA program. Here’s a little more of what he elected to share about his experience with each of his mentors in the program thus far…

Semester 1: Elizabeth Powell

She was my first mentor in the program and met me exactly where I was–an adult educator who had not been in academia for decades.  She helped me navigate the university topography again and reassert my voice.  My first poetic love is for old forms: sonnets, sestinas, and villanelles.  She, however, pushed me outside of those and, in response to my forced evacuation from Hurricane Ida, introduced me to hybrid poetic writing as a new vein for written expression.

Semester 2: Maray Hornbacher

This lady is a badass!  Can we say badass and post it?  Anyway, I was feeling on fire after semester 1 and wanted to see how I could push myself.  I remember my first impression of her, my first semester, was something like this:  I bet she’s awesome, but she would burn me alive! Not this semester, but one of them for sure! By the end of my time with her I had written over 40 pages of critical writing and had 2 poems accepted to journals!  Marya is fire!

Semester 3: Kate Gale

If you can survive The Marya you can pretty much figure your way through just about anything. I decided to take myself to the next step and that was to ask if Kate Gale, head editor of The Red Hen Press, would accept me as an intern for the optional third-semester internship option. Through that experience, I have been able to work through the many moving parts of literary press anatomy. My highlights have been managing the creation of a poetry anthology, making my blog posting debut, and teaching poetry through their Writers In The Schools program.

That sounds like an action-packed ride for sure and though everyone’s experience is different, I’m 100% with Cid in that applying for the program was one of the best decisions of my life. It is, after all, part of what led me to the “good” life I’m living right now. This is precisely why I’m always curious about other people’s thoughts about the phrase “The Good Life.” Cid’s Response: 

Now that I have roots in The South–specifically New Orleans, when I hear The Good Life I think of live music, dancing, drinking somewhere with the Open Container law, writing near The Mississippi, and a good make-out session.  That sounds really good to me.

Cid’s recent publications include “Letters to Marya” in Trestle Ties and “Danni” in the Elevation Review. He’s also got several poems forthcoming in 2023: “2am Dances With My Father.” in South Broadway Press, “We Swayed Furtively” and “Mongamish” in Roi Faineant, and “Club Dances and Car Window Kissing” in Trampoline. 

Cid… Thank you for jumping in on this journey with us and for the fantastic energy you bring to  the team. I feel fortunate to have met you and look forward to future shenanigans! Best of luck with that 4th semester!!


PS. More about all of our TGLR editors is available on our Masthead.

announcements event

Third Thursday – Voices at Larksong

Third Thursday – Voices at Larksong

January 6, 2023

Happy New Year and welcome to 2023! We’re looking forward to all that this year has in store and excited to announce that we are kicking things off right with a local, in-person reading in January in Lincoln, Nebraska. Though our team is scattered across the US, from New York to Oregon and Texas to Minnesota, we have a healthy cohort that reside in and around the Omaha Metropolitan area and we’ve been invited to participate in Third Thursdays – Voices at Larksong.

On January 19th at 5:30, TGLR will be converging on the Larksong Writer’s place in Lincoln to connect, read from our personal collections, and share a little bit about our journal.

Readers include: Cat Dixon, Tacheny Perry, Michelle Pierce Battle, Tana Buoy, Annie Barker, and Shyla Shehan.

  • Where:  1600 N Cotner Blvd, Lincoln, NE
  • When: 5:30 – 7:30PM. The event will begin with a social half-hour and the reading with a Q&A will run from 6 to 7:30.
  • Cost/Tickets: This event is free and open to the public. We can’t wait to meet you!

A huge THANK YOU to Larksong and Karen Shoemaker for making this event possible and for her long-time dedication to writers and the literary community!

More about all events and workshops offered by Larksong Writers Place can be found by visiting their website at


Author Q&A with Jessica Pulver

Author Q&A with Jessica Pulver

December 28, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Jessica Pulver. Jess is a mother, social worker, and aspiring gardener nestled in the woods outside Portland, Maine. She majored in Creative Writing at Swarthmore College over twenty years ago and recently returned to the writing life. Her work is forthcoming in Literary Mama, Waccamaw Journal, and Kaleidoscope Magazine, and her short nonfiction, Explication Of My Guilt, appears in our latest issue. We took this opportunity to ask Jess a few questions about her writing and newly rediscovered writing life. 

We began by asking her to share a little bit more about her latest essay. 

This piece is obviously about something painful and difficult for me to write about. I had written several other essays with scenes of Leo’s birth and my subsequent guilt woven into them but had not isolated them in such a focused way. Readers of my earlier essays responded to the imagery and the strong emotions, but often asked me questions related to the events – it seemed I was never telling enough or doing enough justice to the fullness of the experience. I felt I was being honest and forthcoming in my writing, but realized I was doing so in pieces rather than as a whole. I set out to write this essay to take on the most ambiguous aspects of the birth trauma and address them directly. Doing so forced me to articulate precisely what I was trying to express – not only about what I felt when it happened, but also how those feelings changed over the years of raising Leo, and what I make of it all now. It was a cathartic process and felt deeply releasing to complete. The essay feels like a resting spot on a journey and reminds me that in years to come, my perspective on my guilt will continue to evolve. 

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

The most difficult part of the writing process for me is committing to the time it takes to write. I am a mother, a therapist, a wife, a friend, a daughter, and a gardener most of the time before I am a writer. My life at this stage of parenting is bursting with micro-responsibilities for Leo and his two also-somewhat-complicated younger siblings. I am not accustomed to laying aside time in my schedule for writing, and I am always surprised by how long it actually takes to put words on a page that I want to stay there the way they are! I struggle to justify the time I’m spending –  to myself but if I’m honest, more so to others, because once I start writing I love it so much that it seems self-indulgent. It is not earning money, it is not even something that can easily be shared for the benefit or pleasure of others without even more work and time (and luck). 

As I write this response, it occurs to me that I am expressing a sense of guilt about writing; I hadn’t thought of myself as a person necessarily prone to guilt but here it is again. I do believe our dominant culture places entirely too much emphasis on productivity and infuses many people’s hobbies, relaxation, and community-building with a sense of guilty pleasure.

This is all so true and relatable. Not only does it take considerable time and effort to work on ones writing, but it can often be seen as unnecessary and not productive in the eyes of society. These factors make it very difficult to prioritize in our busy lives. If we were to view it as more essential, for the catharsis and human connection, then perhaps it would change the way people think about it. We then asked Jess to share her biggest fear as a writer.

My biggest fear as a writer is to turn out to be not as good at it as I hope to be! Right now, since I’ve only returned to writing in the last twelve months after majoring in creative writing at college over twenty years ago, I am riding a sort of beginner’s luck. I have lots of ideas, at the sentence level and at the concept level, and I feel motivated to find a shape for them all. I feel successful in having published two poems and two essays right out of the gates, especially since I had previously written entirely poetry. But writing essays and even dipping my toes in fiction has me feeling excited and aspirational – so my fear is that this comes crashing down if I get further into the writing experience and receive consistent rejection from the publishing world, mixed with lukewarm support from friends and family.

Again, very relatable fears, and as we are all living that “writing life” here at The Good Life, we know very well about the rejection that comes with sending your work out. With all the time, effort, and possibility of rejection, what fuels your desire to write? 

I’m fueled from multiple angles! Writing is an opportunity, to be honest in a way that isn’t possible when speaking with even the most intimate people in our lives because we’re able to take the time to be more thorough and to get the words right. It’s also a privilege to put that honesty out in the world, in hopes that it empowers others to be honest with their own feelings and to feel encouraged to share. As a therapist, I’m daily in support of people struggling to find words for their feelings. We as a culture are not in the habit of discussing our feelings accurately even privately, and we are taught to carry shame around the prospect of making them public. This distresses me when I see the effects on people’s lives. I think of my writing as a place where I can make some difference in righting this (no pun intended).

In my own relationships, I think of writing as a way of showing love. Capturing scenes with my children in particular – their voices, their surprising responses to the world – is definitely an act of adoration for them. At the same time, I’m driven to give depth and complexity to the relationships with my family and friends on the page. I’m somewhat obsessed with the project of expressing the contradictions and messiness of relationships and showing that this is not only okay, but it is also a source of wonder and gratitude. I want my essays to be sort of mini-love manifestos to the people in them. 

Lastly, I feel a real affection for the particular ways people speak, as well as the sounds of words when they’re beside one another swimming in my own head. Often while I’m doing something mundane, a phrase or sentence cadence will arrive in my imagination or memory in a way that feels randomly compelling. It feels in those moments like I’m a conduit for that splice of language music. I then get the fun of writing around that sentence and trying to give it ground and a larger meaning. 

That’s beautiful! As we always do, we ended our Q&A with the final question of what comes to mind when she hears the phrase “the good life?” 

When I think of The Good Life, I think of being held and surrounded, by arms, by water, by peace. I think of putting my hands in the soil every day and sleeping on the ground. I think of doing nothing else while eating except tasting and smiling at whoever’s there. 

Thanks so much, Jess, for sharing more about your life and your story with us. We’re honored you trusted us with your words and we wish you the best in life and with all your writing endeavors. 

~The Good Life Review Team

announcements team member spotlight

Introducing Terry Belew

Introducing Terry Belew

December 10, 2022

Today’s team member spotlight is on Terry Belew. Terry is currently in the midst of getting his MFA from the University of Nebraska-Omaha which is where I first met him. Unlike many of the folks on our team who have been with us since the inception of the journal, Terry came to us this past spring when he volunteered to read for our 2022 HoneyBee Prize (our 8th issue).

We’re extremely grateful that he decided to stick around for more TGLR shenanigans and are delighted to announce that he is now an editor on our Poetry Team. In fact, Terry eagerly offered to play a more active role on the team and is not only organizing and facilitating meetings for his team, but also assisting with marketing campaigns and coming up with fundraising ideas. Over the last six months I feel like I’ve gotten a good sense for who he is but wanted to take this opportunity to share a little more about him and his writing life with our readers. I asked Terry a number of questions, beginning with where he first discovered a love for writing and poetry.

I started to enjoy writing in elementary school when we were asked to illustrate and narrate children’s books. I became interested in poetry in high school after reading William Blake and Chaucer. Poetry really piqued my interest when I was a student at Missouri State and that’s when I took an introductory workshop class with my mentor and friend, Sara Burge. 

I then asked what prompted him to pursue an MFA.

One of the primary reasons I am pursuing an MFA, other than to write more and work with accomplished writers on improving my writing, is to help build my literary community. The literary community, at times, seems quite large. Still, we really are a small portion of the population and the more we can interact with one another and learn from one another, the better off the literary community will be.

I then asked 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. 

Right now, one of the most difficult parts is generating new material. At times, new material comes forth on a daily basis and I need to do a better job of making more time to write, but right now trying to generate new content is a struggle.

As for something satisfying it would be reading poems to my wife, who is a non-writer, and her being moved by them. I also am thankful for her listening to a poem over and over again, even though I might have changed three words or re-lineated and expect the poem to be better.

He also shared that his desire to write comes from simple observation and a love of manipulating language which I relate to and appreciate. I then asked Terry if he has any projects he is working on and/or recent or upcoming publications to share.

I recently “completed” my first book-length manuscript and have been submitting to book contests. I’ll continue to add and subtract content until it one day hopefully finds a publisher willing to take it in.

I’ve also had a few poems published in the last year or so, in West Trade Review, Solar, The American Journal of Poetry, Book of Matches and Split Rock Review, and in print in Storm Cellar. I try to keep submissions out, especially during the academic year, so hopefully I’ll be lucky enough to have a couple more forthcoming by the end of the year.

Amazing poems and that’s quite a lot for such a short time! Congratulations!! When I see this list and read the poems, it definitely makes me think he is making the most of this one precious Good Life. It definitely made me curious for his answer to what he thinks about when he hears the phrase “The Good Life.”

I’m not well-traveled, so the first time I went to Nebraska for my first residency and saw one of their mottos is “The Good Life” that’s my natural association. Having worked on The Good Life Review for a couple of months now, that’s also another natural association. 

When I think of “The Good Life” as a kind of situation, I think of living in the Midwest—as backward as some things are, I really enjoy the ability to live in nature and to have access to it constantly. 

Terry.. Thank you for being on the team and for being so willing to sacrifice your time and effort on making our journal and organization a success. And also for being open to this little Q&A. I hope you stick with us for a long time!!


PS. More about all of our TGLR editors is available on our Masthead.


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!

The Good Life Review Team

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!



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!

~The Good Life Review Team


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:


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!!

~The Good Life Review Team