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interviews

Author Q&A with W.W. Webb

Author Q & A with W.W. Webb

September 8, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

Author Q & A with Sequoia Maner

Author Q & A with Sequoia Maner

September 1, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

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!!  

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

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!!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

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!  

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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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.  

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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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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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

Categories
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