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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!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

Author Q & A with Amy S. Lerman

Author Q & A with Amy S. Lerman

June 15, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Amy S. Lerman. Amy was born and raised on Miami Beach, moved to the Midwest for many years, and now lives with her husband and very spoiled cats in the Arizona desert, so all three landscapes figure prominently in her writing. She is residential English Faculty at Mesa Community College, and her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming in Willawaw Journal, Stonecoast Review, Broad River Review, Radar Poetry, Rattle, Slippery Elm, and other publications. Her poem, “Why Is It?” was the inaugural winner of the Art Young Memorial Award for Poetry. Her poem, “For Me–Desideratum,” appeared in our latest issue of The Good Life Review.

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

Her response:  “During my graduate work, I took a reading French course and learned what I felt were “impractical phrases” compared to more essential ones, one being “beton arme,” which means reinforced concrete, so this has become a recurring joke between me and my husband for the few times that term has crossed our conversations :).  It’s sort of a postmodern twist that I’ve used it in this poem, “For Me–Desideratum.””

We asked her what part of the writing process is the most satisfying and also what fuels her desire to write.

Her response: “I love the space I get into when I write–the freeing of everyday distractions and issues–and ending a poem far away from where I began it. I often start poems with an idea of what I want to write about, but I’m happy to cede to the process, and even if what I write will be chucked or revised, I like pushing myself/my writing to go somewhere unexpected and surprising.

“Eavesdropping fuels me a lot and has since I was a kid. My parents always knew that I’d come home with an impersonation or story from the group sitting next to us in a restaurant. And, now, though everything can be a poem, I feel like a lot of material comes from the periphery–peripheral conversations I might have, peripheral people I might see, peripheral stories (not the headlines) I might read–and there’s constant material (if only my brain and fingers were always cooperative :).”

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

Her response: “Fly your freak flag! Don’t be afraid to experiment/go weird/play with form and imagery. After all, the worst thing/result is your work gets rejected and you can revisit/revise/reflect/redo/resubmit :).”

We think that is good advice for many writers. We know what comes in an early draft is rarely a poem’s best version of itself and also that the words are not set in concrete. The “playing” that happens in the revision process can often be just as satisfying as writing a first draft. 

We also asked what author(s) (or other persons) have been the biggest influence in her writing? Or what she enjoys reading and why?

 Her response: “Even though I’m mostly a poet, I read a lot of fiction. Some favorite authors include Elizabeth Stroud, Jhumpa Lahiri, Meg Wolitzer, Lauren Groff, Jess Walter, Tayari Jones, Richard Russo, and Haruki Murakami. Of course, there are too many poets of influence to list–Terrance Hayes, Sharon Olds, Adrian Blevins, and Stephen Dobyns come immediately to mind–and I’m drawn often to narrative poems, especially those using dark humor for levity, e.g., as Dobyns’ “Tomatoes.””

 Finally, we asked our signature questions, which is what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life?”

 Her response: “I like to think that phrase can apply to all–that everyone can have the opportunity for happiness, access, advocacy, fulfillment, joy, creativity, peace–so “The Good Life” phrase has very positive connotations for me, and I wish it upon/for everyone.”

Quite lovely, Amy. We do too. Thank you for sharing more about yourself and your writing life and thanks also for allowing us to publish your wonderful poem.

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

Author Q & A with Emdash AKA Emily Lu Gao

Author Q & A with Emdash AKA Emily Lu Gao

June 8, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Emdash (AKA Emily Lu Gao). Emdash is a multi-genre writer, poet, and teacher who currently splits her time between NJ and SoCal. Her writing is propagated from Spoken Word Poetry and Ethnic Studies, primarily grappling with queerness, mental health, and healing. Her poem “Statistically Speaking” appears in our Spring 2022 issue. 

We asked Emdash to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of her poem and what she learned from writing it. 

Her response: “I pulled this poem from my ribs in Spring of 2020 during a class with Professor Brent Armendinger; it’s been incredible seeing it grow and heal alongside me. It has slowly become my opening number at readings!

“”Statistically speaking” affirmed what a dear poet friend once told me: sometimes the poem isn’t ready for you to finish it just yet. And now it is. On a macro level, I am constantly learning as I write and revisit pieces. One of the best (and scariest) parts of writing is the unavoidable path to your truth.”

Her response is on point. Poetry reveals layers of truth as the lines unfold down the page, or in this case, across and down a grid of cells in a chart. And often, what the poem needs is to be put away, in order for us to gain more experience and clarity so when we revisit it, new truths are ready to be revealed. 

Following this, we asked Em to share what fuels her desire to write. 

Her response: “An ache to heal, grow and decolonize, hopefully shedding shame in the process. An astute desire to shed more light on mental health issues. An acquired taste for humans, including myself.”

We then asked if she has any projects coming up she’d like to share with our readers. 

Her response: “My chapbook ABC Redux, a rerelease of a chapbook I made in 2019, is set to drop by the end of this summer/early fall. I am hoping to get back more into Spoken Word by the end of this year as well. Follow me @emdashh for juicy updates! 

We then asked what author(s) (or other persons) have been the biggest influence in her writing? 

Her Response: “Not an author but to two different entities: (1) open mics and (2) every teacher I’ve ever had a 1-on-1 conversation with. I owe my voice, my confidence, and my will to keep going, to you. These cosmic entities raised me. Thank you so much.”

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

Her response:  “Witty ice cream, shoulder kisses, and a trusty bookshelf.  Oh, and a well-reviewed Bluetooth speaker with mighty longevity.” 

We can certainly agree with that!

Emdash is currently an MFA candidate at Rutgers University-Newark and her poems can be found in The Agave Review, Curious Publishing, and Queer Rain. She recognizes mental health challenges many people experience and recommends free, 24/7 resources like the like NYC Wellness Line and The Trevor Project


Thank you, Em, for participating in our Q&A and being open to sharing more about yourself and your writing (and Spoken Word) life. We are grateful for the opportunity to publish your poem!!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

Author Q & A with Emile Estrada

Author Q & A with Emile Estrada

June 3, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Emile Estrada. Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, Emile immigrated to the U.S. due to the deteriorating political landscape of his native country. He studied philosophy at San Jose State University and currently resides in the state of Arizona. His story “Waiting for Things to Die,” is available in our Spring 2022 issue.  

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

“Even though much of what happens in the story is fictional, “Waiting for Things to Die” is based on reality to a certain extent. The story is in a way a tribute to my grandfather who in his last few years lived alone in a decrepit cabin in the Venezuelan countryside, the last survivor of his generation all but forgotten by most.”

Following through on that, we asked him to share something he learned about himself, writing craft, or life in general through working on the piece.

His response: “‘Waiting for Things to Die’ is a rewrite of a story I wrote nearly ten years ago when I was a freshman in college. I had tried time and time again to finish it but ended up shelving it in frustration. Finding it and going back to it made me realize that I need time in my writing, to put a story out of my mind for a while, and come back to it with fresh eyes and rested hands.”

We think this is true for many writers. Sometimes when a draft (or experience) is still fresh, you can’t see beyond it to understand what the piece really needs in order to be the best version of itself. This also ties in nicely with his answer to what part of the artistic process is the most satisfying. 

His response: “Definitely revising. I truly believe that a story is actually written during revision. My first drafts are word vomit. I have an idea of where I want a story to go, but that’s about it. I don’t plan my writing. I find the idea and it is a stream of consciousness until it’s finished. Whatever comes to my mind goes on the page. But revising I take far more seriously, and usually, my final drafts, if there ever is such a thing as a final draft, are much different from the original product.”

Again, we think a lot of writers can relate to this and probably also to his sentiment about what fuels his desire to write which, as he points out, is less about desire and more about compulsion and necessity. 

“I don’t see writing as something I desire to do. It’s not even something I particularly enjoy doing. I’ve written in the past but never seriously, not with intention of being published anyways. But in the past couple of years, writing has become something of a compulsion, something that I can’t help, and giving into this drive to write has done wonders for my mental health. Now it’s just part of my daily routine, like going to the gym or brushing my teeth.”

We also asked Emile if he could give his younger self some advice, what would that be. 

His response: “Start earlier. Start when you’re young. Writing requires time and practice. Any craft takes hours and hours of preparation. Athletes spend hours and hours every week practicing and lifting weights and doing conditioning just to perform for a few minutes once a week. Writing is no different.”

Such good advice!! And our final question, as always, was what he thinks of when he hears the phrase “The Good Life.”

His response: “I think of contradictions and impossibilities. I see a process without certainty. I see a need for steady ground and solidity in the face of the trembling phenomenal and the fluid noumenal. But if anything is Good it is living life like it’s a work of art and you’re the craftsman.”

Thanks, Emile, for taking the time to consider our questions and for allowing us to publish your wonderful story.

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

Author Q & A with Georgia White

Author Q & A with Georgia White

May 27, 2022

In order to keep the buzz about our spring issue going, we asked each one of our contributing authors some questions about their writing. This week we reveal the answers that Georgia White provided. Georgia is a queer writer based in Berkeley, CA, who is inspired by maligned women. Her previous work has been published in The Nasiona, the Santa Ana River Review, and the Nassau Review. Her piece appearing in this issue of TGLR is a flash fiction story titled “Iphigenia Recounts the Sacrifice.” 

We asked Georgia to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of her story and what she learned through writing it. 

Her Response: “This piece originally started as a monologue in a play in which Iphigenia was a side character at best. It was just her, in the underworld, speaking to the audience, and it was the first real moment where the fourth wall was broken and a character was allowed to ask questions. How many people watching remembered her name? What was she sacrificed for? Was it worth it?

“More than anything, I learned again what it felt like to be a teenage girl—the feeling that everyone already thinks you’re crazy and worthless, and all the world wants to do is take from you, and the only thing you can do is go for its eyes.”

We then asked what the most difficult part of the writing process is for her; and also the most rewarding. 

Her response: “I’ll sit for hours, even days, with just a first line or the seed of an idea or a handful of scenes. The difficult part for me isn’t coming up with what to write; it’s writing the parts in between the parts I most want to get on the page.

“I think the best part of the process for me is when I write something down and think, I need to send that to someone. I live for the moment when you feel something so strongly that it can to longer be contained to the page.”

We asked her what fuels her desire to write. 

Her response: “I am a person who needs to create more than anything. If I look down at the end of the day and all I’ve done is send emails, I’ve wasted the day. When I write, I’m creating people and worlds who wouldn’t breathe if I didn’t sit down and make it happen. The characters I write are real to me. It’s just a matter of letting them.”

We also asked Georgia what author(s) (or other persons) have been the biggest influence on her writing? Or what do you enjoy reading and why?

Her response: “If I had to pick my top three, they’d be Daniel Handler, Sofia Samatar (specifically her story Walkdog, which is one of the most brilliant things I’ve ever read), and Junot Díaz. Those are the people who I read and think, I need to write.”

And lastly, since we originally selected a name for our little lit mag, we have come to recognize that the phrase has been used in many ways and by many different people and industries over the years, but her response to the question of what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life” is one we had not heard yet…

The Good Life EP, by Sammy Rae and the Friends (@SammyRaeMusic). That album’s gotten me through a lot.”

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

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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Author Q & A with Jiahui Wu

Author Q & A with Jiahui Wu

April 6, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Jiahui Wu. Jiahui lives in the middle of nowhere and pays respect to the Kaurna people and their elders past, present, and future. She has work published in Plumwood Mountain, Cordite, Rabbit, SFPJ, and elsewhere. Her two flash fiction stories, “The Eternal Dead” and “The Couple” appear in our Winter 2022 issue. We asked Jiahui twelve questions and her answers to each were brief and to the point, much like her flash stories. 

1. What unique or surprising detail can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of your piece appearing in this issue?

The table and chair really are separated now. They will never find each other again.

2. What did you learn (about yourself or craft or life in general) through writing and revising this piece?

I learned the superfluous must be abandoned, and the true will only come through in prized solitude.

3. How do you know when a piece of writing is finished?

When I have no more to add, and there is none to take away.

4. What part of the artistic process is the most difficult for you and why?

When I am not creating. Because I become unbearable and unhappy, it hurts the people closest to me.

5. What part of the artistic process is the most satisfying for you and why?

When a piece is at its completion and I know it is a good piece. The reason is plain to see. Who doesn’t enjoy a moment of pure ecstasy?

6. What is your biggest fear as a writer?

That one day I may lose the ability to think, and hence be unable to write.

7. What fuels your desire to write?

The gods gave me a gift. I shall not waste it.

8. What are your thoughts on the practice of writing under a pseudonym?

Each to his or her own.

9. Do you have any projects or upcoming events you would like to promote?

I am putting together my first collection of poems. Stay tuned.

10. If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Read ceaselessly. Read selectively, since you are a slow reader. Throw all the writers you dislike out the window. I mean, their books.

11. How did the pandemic affect your writing?

Since without death everything loses meaning, the pandemic, with its innumerable deaths as a daily reminder that our time is limited, spurs me on.

12. What do you think of when you hear the phrase “The Good Life?” 

This life I live. Bees in the trees. Freedom.

We would like to thank Jiahui Wu for participating in our Q&A and for allowing us to publish her stories. 

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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Author Q & A with Lynne Golodner

Author Q & A with Lynne Golodner

March 30, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Lynne Golodner. Lynne lives in Huntington Woods, Michigan with her husband and four teens and works as a writing coach and professor. She has an MFA in Poetry from Goddard College, hosts the Make Meaning Podcast, and is the author of eight books and thousands of articles. Her nonfiction essay “Swimming: A Meditation” was featured in our Winter 2022 issue. 

We asked Lynne 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: “The idea for this piece first came to me when I was swimming (obviously) and just noticing its effect on me. I’d arrive at the pool stressed or anxious or in a hurry and everything would float away (literally!) in the process of my swim. I’ve been swimming for years and wanted to write about it but wasn’t sure about the focus of the story. At one point, it even focused on how the men in adjacent lanes would take up more room than the women and I thought I’d write about how sexism plays out in the pool (so glad I didn’t!). 

“I really love this piece because it evolved over time, and what I think is so strong about it is the attention to detail. Since I am in the pool at least 3 times a week, I pay attention and notice little details and collect them, which makes writing really come to life.”

We asked Lynne what fuels her desire to write and also what the most satisfying part of the artistic process is. 

Her response: “Writing is how I make sense of the world. It’s how I figure out what I believe and what I think about situations. It’s how I gain clarity in my own thinking. I love examining experiences and memories to see what lies beneath and threads through them. And in the process, I learn a lot about myself.

“I get the most satisfaction from playing with the words. I love the revision process when I can go sentence by sentence and examine the words to determine if I can find a stronger, more active verb, or more interesting detail.”

We then asked about the flip side of this and for her to share some challenging part of the process?

Her response: “Endings and titles, for sure. When I have a clear line of inquiry, I have no trouble with either one. But most of the time, I vaguely know what I want to write about and so much of the process is narrowing my focus and clarifying what I really want to say.”

We asked Lynne if she has any upcoming projects to share and she let us know that she’s leading a Writers Retreat on Mackinac Island in northern Michigan in September. At the time of our Q&A, there were a couple of spots left. Info for this retreat is at:
https://writingworkshops.com/pages/writing-workshops-mackinac-island-2022

We know that many people have missed writing retreats and also community gatherings during the long months of the pandemic so it is wonderful to plan and have these kinds of events to look forward to. We asked Lynne how the Pandemic affected her writing life. 

Her response: “It helped clarify what is essential in my life. So many things fell away and it turns out, I didn’t miss them! I devoted an hour a day to writing, and then two, and some days, that’s all I do. I started teaching writing for adults online and have developed quite a healthy community of writers in the past few years. I came back to what I love to do, and to myself.”

As we continue to ask that question, we have noticed that this is a trend among our writer friends–that so many folks found more time to write and developed stronger daily habits. It seems like a bright spot among so much hardship that people have endured during this time. Another bright spot is always hearing what our contributors have to say about “The Good Life.” 

Here’s what Lynne had to say about it: “Quiet time. People I love. Listening to the trees in the forest. Breathing in crisp cool air. Watching a fat robin alight on a branch outside my window that is dusted by snow. Being by water – lakes and rivers and oceans – and listening to its soothing swell. Having enough. Being enough.”

This does, indeed, sound like a good life. Thank you, Lynne, for participating in our Q&A and being open to sharing more about yourself and your artistic processes. We are grateful that you gave us the opportunity to publish your words!!  

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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Author Q & A with Joe Cappello

Author Q & A with Joe Cappello

March 24, 2022

This week we are bringing you highlights from our interview with Joe Cappello. Joe lives in the picturesque desert country of Galisteo, New Mexico and writes plays, stories, and memoir. His short play, “Sell Bots,” appears in our latest issue. 

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

His response: “In my view the root of many of our problems is inequity. We need to be fair in our dealings with each other. I set my play in a workplace because in my experience this environment tends to accept abuse and intimidation of employees as a part of doing business. Some individuals believe they are more important than others, that they are entitled to ignore the rules others must abide by. After completing my piece, I realized in order for us to get along, we have to acknowledge the importance of everyone’s role. Whether a person is the CEO of a corporation or a migrant worker harvesting crops in the field, he/she brings a skill to the work that shouldn’t be valued solely by money.”

We asked Joe how he knows a piece of writing is finished. 

His Response: “When I re-read my work for the umpteenth time and it generates at least a portion of the excitement I had when I started the piece, then I know I am done.”

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

His response: “Characterization is sometimes problematic for me. I can’t develop characters unless I know who they are, what motivates them in the situation I have created for them. Until I feel as though I am sitting next to a character having a conversation and sharing a beer with her, I won’t be able to do her justice in the work.”

On the flipside, what is the most rewarding part of the process?

His response: “I am most exhilarated when I have finished a piece and know I have done my best. Even if the work isn’t acknowledged by anyone else, it still gives me a sense of identity as a writer who has written and that in itself is reward enough for me.” 

That’s a great reminder that even when others are not reading our writing, it still holds value and meaning as something we’ve created and nurtured; in essence, a reflection of self with a backdrop of the wide world. For many writers, having others read their work provides a sense of validation and fuels their desire to write more. We asked Joe to share with us what fuel’s his desire to write. 

His response: “I am appalled at the amount of verbal pollution spewed into the air and online daily. I am weary of too many people with too much to say, fueling the negativity and hatred that has become embedded in today’s popular discourse. For me, I channel what I want to say into my work. I take great care in putting words on a page in my fiction, plays, and memoir. I want my work to creatively expose an issue, not coerce people into seeing my point of view like some do through inane twitter posts or the endless “talking heads” we are subjected to on cable news. As in my play, I am simply raising the curtain on one aspect of the workplace. Here it is. If you have a different point of view, I’d like to hear it.

Only don’t say it; write it.”

And finally, as we do with all our authors, we asked Joe what he thinks of when he hears the phrase “The Good Life.”

His response: “The good life is understanding the spirit within, what it is you were put here to do and fulfilling that mission with hope, love and laughter…lots of it!”

Cheers to that! We could all use more hope and laughter in our lives! Thank you, Joe, for being a good sport and answering many of our questions and also allowing us to publish your play. We do hope there is another act that follows, where Sam gets served some justice! 

 With Goodwill,
~The Good Life Review Team


Joe has a full-length play, The Stars of Orion, that was a quarterfinalist in the 2020 ScreenCraft Stage Play Contest which also received an honorable mention in the 2020 Bridge Award contest sponsored by Arts in the Armed Forces (AIAF). His short story, “The Secret of the Smiling Rock Man,” was a finalist in the Southwest Writer’s 2021 Writing Contest and has been published in the group’s annual anthology released in October 2021. His memoir, Chain Link Memories, appeared in the November 2021 issue of Shorts Magazine.

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Author Q & A with Cristina Legarda

Author Q & A with Cristina Legarda

March 16, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Cristina Legarda. Cristina was born in the Philippines and spent her early childhood there before moving to Bethesda, Maryland. She is now a practicing physician in Boston. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in America magazine, The Dewdrop, Plainsongs, FOLIO, HeartWood, Coastal Shelf, and others. Her poem “Imelda” appears in our Winter 2022 issue. 

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

Her response: “It’s a true story – in more ways than one, as so often happens in poetry. The Chanel No. 5 perfume bottle was literally one quart in size, but there’s truth undergirding the more magical elements too – a kind of mythic truth about the sinister workings of human power over other human beings. I can’t help but think that if I had written this as an adult when and where the events of the poem took place, I could have been jailed or disappeared. I feel very grateful that taking care with my words, at this moment in time, means choosing the best ones I can think of for the sake of craft, rather than making sure I don’t say or write something that might get me killed.”

Her response is both striking and poignant. Poetry uncovers layers of truth as the lines unfold down the page and those deeper layers are where the real magic of poetry reveals itself. We also sometimes take for granted that we can write whatever we want without fear of consequences, and that that isn’t true everywhere. Her comment is a good reminder.

We then asked Cristina to share something she learned about herself or craft through writing and revising this piece. 

Her response: “Craft both fascinates and intimidates me. I remember watching with dismay the scenes in A River Runs Through It in which Tom Skerritt’s character’s recurring feedback for his young son’s writing was to say, “Half as long.” These scenes helped me internalize the fact that I was going to have to cut ruthlessly, even lines I loved if I wanted to be a serious writer. My first draft of “Imelda” was a wordy morass of rambling sentences; I didn’t get to the smell of the corridor till the third of six stanzas. In the final version it’s in the seventh line – an improvement, I think. Writing this poem, I also continued to learn to be more intentional about diction. Where I originally wrote “gigantic” and “expands,” regarding the mosquito net, I now have “gargantuan” and “shrouds.” I needed the hints of monstrosity and dread that the original words couldn’t offer. Poetry really is a quest for the best words we can find.”

This is another perfect reminder that working through every piece is such a process. Again, as with the comments in the first response about “taking care” and “choosing the best words,” no stone goes unturned. It is tough to let go of those really great lines though, even if they don’t fit! This is a good lead-in for our next question which was to tell us what part of the artistic process is the most difficult and why? 

Her response: “I need a lot of internal self-talk to continue to believe in my own work when I feel stuck in the process of trying to get words on the page, and also because frequent rejection is such a normal part of the writing life (for those who want to share their writing publicly). I cope by trying to discipline myself to respond to writing prompts if I’m feeling “uninspired,” and also by accepting the fact that not everything I write will be or has to be publishable.”

Thank you for that Cristina! Anyone who is actively trying to get their work out there can relate to these sentiments. Discipline and persistence become necessary and it is, so much of the time, a solitary endeavor. 

Finally, as we always do, we asked Cristina to share with us what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life.” 

Her response:  “I think of Aristotle’s concept of eudaimonia, or human flourishing, which immediately calls forth a daydream of being engaged in a writing project at a desk near a sunlit window at a cozy farmhouse while close friends read or relax or chat in the vicinity, a pheasant sits on her eggs in the yard below, bees buzz at a honeysuckle trellis over the back door, and the aroma of puff pastry baking in the oven wafts to my window from the kitchen nearby. Bliss.”

This is such a poetic response in and of itself. Lovely to imagine this kind of “Good Life.” Thank you, Cristina, for participating in our Q&A and being open to sharing more about yourself and your artistic processes. We are grateful that you gave us the opportunity to publish your words!!  

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

Categories
interviews

Author Q & A with Geoff Watkinson

Author Q & A with Geoff Watkinson

March 10, 2022

This week we are bringing you an interview with Geoff Watkinson. Geoff has managed two literary journals, published dozens of essays, worked as a technical writer, marketing coordinator, publications specialist, writing instructor, and freelance writer. His flash nonfiction essay, “The Banks of Fairview Lake” appears in our latest issue.

We asked Geoff to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of his poem and to also share what he learned (about himself or craft or life in general) through writing and revising this piece?

His response: “I workshopped the first draft of this essay during my first creative nonfiction workshop of my MFA program at Old Dominion University. That was in the fall of 2011. That’s right – more than 10 years ago. It was much longer then—probably around 3000 words. I didn’t get it right then: there were too many themes I was trying to juggle simultaneously and because of that it just lacked focus. That was one of my great struggles then, and I can still struggle with it. I returned to the piece now and again over this past decade-plus, and realized, eventually, that this piece was much simpler than I was making it. And so I continued to cut with that mentality. I think I always had E.B. White’s “Once More to the Lake” in the back of my mind, and I’m not E.B. White. And that’s okay. What’s left is a much more condensed essay that, I think, doesn’t try to be something that it’s not. And that’s a good reminder for me. It’s also a good reminder to never give up on a piece of writing. I’m fortunate to have met writers along the way who turned out beautiful pieces of writing that took years to get right-ish. None of this is a sprint. It’s okay to shelf a piece for periods of time.”

We also asked Geoff if he has any upcoming projects he’d like to share or promote. 

“I founded Green Briar Review back in the summer of 2012, and we are going through a major reboot right now with a new editorial staff and just a different feel in general. Running a literary journal is tough because it’s a labor of love, and everyone involved is doing it between work that pays the bills and their own writing. I’m grateful for the journal to still be kicking and to have others involved who are passionate, dedicated, and thoughtful with everything they do. We have some major plans coming for this summer, in celebration of our 10-year anniversary.”

That is an impressive run indeed! As a group of MFAers ourselves, we totally understand the sentiment behind the endeavor being a labor of love. Congratulations on ten years and good luck with the reboot and all your personal writing adventures!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team


Geoff Watkinson has contributed to Guernica, storySouth, The Humanist, The San Diego-Tribune, The Virginian-Pilot, and Switchback, among others. His first nonfiction collection, Have Some Faith in Loneliness & Other Essays, is due out in 2021 (Dreaming Big Publications). He is the founder/managing editor of Green Briar Review (www.greenbriarreview.com). Read more of his work at geoffwatkinson.wordpress.com/publications, or find him on Twitter: @GeoffWatkinson.