Author Q&A with Marc Eichen

Author Q&A with Marc Eichen

by Christine Nessler

February 22, 2023

This week’s Author Q&A is with Marc Eichen. Eichen has a Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Geography, Clark University. From 2015 through 2022 he was a Visiting Faculty member at the State University of Zanzibar. His fiction focuses on life in Zanzibar and in red-state America. He has had stories published in Still Points Arts Quarterly, The Adirondack Review and West Trade Review and reprinted in Toyon. He is the winner of the Richard Cortez Day Prize in fiction. A book of short stories in Swahili and English will be published in Nairobi Kenya in 2023. He is represented by Kristen Carey at Blue Hen.

Eichen’s fiction short story, Who Takes the Bus in LA is featured in Issue #10 of The Good Life Review.

Tell me about yourself.

Many fiction writers are reluctant to talk about themselves – and I’m no exception. Where I stand out, where I hope to stand out, is on the page.

With that preface, ok, here goes. I grew up in New York and began life thinking I would be a musician. Life intrudes (and I wasn’t good enough) – so I spent much of my working life as an academic administrator, first in New York and then in Massachusetts, where I live with my wife, Deborah Drosnin, most of the year. 

When I’m not in Massachusetts, I live in East Africa, Zanzibar (Tanzania) to be specific where I’ve had the privilege to learn Swahili and teach natural resource management at the State University. 

Some of my fiction focuses on the intersection between the Swahili and foreign communities. This is particularly interesting and challenging for me. How do you make sense of that friction, or lack of friction because the communities don’t “see” each other? China Miéville’s novel, The City & The City is a good example.

I don’t think you need to come to Zanzibar to observe this. And some of my fiction, including Who Takes the Bus in LA?, is about the poor, the ragged, the old and otherwise marginalized and often unseen communities in the United States.

What is your writing process? How do you make it a part of your daily life?

I try to write four days a week and always in the morning. I tend not to write at home because the distractions are endless. So I’m lucky enough to have found The Writers’ Room of Boston and I work there. 

What inspired you to write Who Takes the Bus in LA?

Both Deborah and I grew up in New York City and we lean in toward public transportation. So when we were visiting LA before the pandemic, we took the bus. Taking the bus in LA is a meme. Many Angelinos would ask, who takes the bus in LA if they’re not crazy or unhoused?  

Riding the bus in L.A. is a parallel city. It is the purest expression of L.A.’s one-hundred-year dialogue of urban and antiurban, a bridge to the city’s streetcar past and an epitaph to its car-addled future. Riding enables another mode of looking, seeing, hearing, and smelling that “eludes the discipline” of automobility even as it reproduces it. (Hutchinson, Sikivu. “Waiting for the Bus.” Social Text, vol. 18 no. 2, 2000, p. 107-120. Project MUSE

For all these reasons, I find the stories of people taking the bus and driving the bus to be of interest.

Please tell me some unique details related to Who Takes the Bus in LA and what you learned from it.

I’m always interested in place. How does place influence what we see and who we are? How would the protagonists in this story live in Boyle Heights and yet have never been to Venice Beach? Why would they think Culver City was another world (because for them, it was)? Is it possible to transcend our individual world and tell a story which would resonate with someone from another place? 

What is your favorite book? Or who is your favorite author?

Wow, that’s a hard question. Ten authors in no particular order: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Donna Tartt, Richard Russo, George Saunders, George Eliot, Olga Tokarczuk, Russell Banks, Zadie Smith, Benjamin Lerner, David Foster Wallace. I could go on.

If there’s any common thread, with the exception of Olga Tokarczuk and David Foster Wallace, these writers embed you in the story. They are all wonderful writers, but they’re not self-conscious writers. Their work doesn’t say, “hey – look at this piece of genius.” 

What books did you enjoy reading as a child?

My mom read A Child’s Garden of Verses (Robert Louis Stevenson) to me and then, it was one of the things I wanted to read most, when I was able to read. As a teenager I would never leave the house without stuffing a book into the back pocket of my jeans. I went through jags, reading as much as I could of a particular writer before moving on to someone else: Thomas Wolfe, Henry James, Henry Roth, William Faulkner, Laurence Durrell. Even on the subway in New York, slamming through the tunnels with the windows open, their work would bring me somewhere else.

Do you have a specific genre you enjoy writing the most?

I write literary fiction. I love poetry, but I’m entirely in awe of people who are able to write it. There are wonderful science fiction writers (Samuel Delaney, Ursala K. LeGuin, Octavia Butler, N. K. Jeminsin), but I find much of this genre formulaic and uninspiring. 

What part of the artistic process do you consider to be the most difficult, as well as most satisfying, and why.

Interesting you ask this question. I’ve noticed that each individual in my wonderful writers’ group has a different strength. Mine happens to be drafting – getting an initial draft on paper. What I work on after that is the voice of the story, finding the voice which tells the story in the strongest, most authentic way. Re-drafting at the word level is the most difficult for me. But I try.

Do you have any fears as a writer?

Not having anything to say. Telling the same story over and over. My fabulous agent, Kristen Che at Blue Hen, who reads my first drafts, is able to say, “You’ve done this before – try it another way.”

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

Walking in the mountains in New England or on the beach in Africa with my family, talking about a book or maybe just watching the sunset. Tuko pamoja milele. (We are together, always)

Thank you, Marc, for sharing your words with us and we appreciate the extra time and consideration you put into answering our questions. It was a pleasure working with you. We wish you the best in life and with all your writing endeavors!


Author Q&A with Gargi Mehra

Author Q&A with Gargi Mehra

by Christine Nessler

February 16, 2023

This week’s Author Q&A is with Gargi Mehra. Mehra is a software professional by day, a writer by night and a mother at all times. Her work has appeared in numerous literary magazines online and in print, including Crannog, The Forge Literary Magazine, The Writer, and others. Her short stories have won prizes and placed in contests. She lives in Pune, India with her husband and two children. You can read more of Mehra’s work on her website or catch her on Twitter: @gargimehra.

Mehra’s collection of flash fiction stories, Mothers and Brothers is featured in Issue #10 of The Good Life Review.

Tell me about yourself.

I’m a software professional who writes in her spare time. My first love was programming but writing came a close second. I write fiction in the time between my work and life, and have been doing it for many years now. I have more than fifty stories (including flash and micro-fiction) and twenty essays published online and in print. I have written a novel or two as well, and hope to get them published in the future.

What is your writing process? How do you make it a part of your daily life?

I write most of my stories on weekends and holidays. I use the little time and energy left over after my day job to hunt down markets for my work or write down story ideas and snippets of sentences.

What inspired you to write Mothers and Brothers?

A writing prompt about domestic drama led me to write Blood Brother first, then I wanted to try different points-of-view and formats. This led to the other stories.

Please tell me some unique details related to Mothers and Brothers and what you learned from it.

Each has a distinct viewpoint and offers a different perspective even though the stories themselves vary. In “Things That Happened on Your Birthday” I intersperse historical moments with life moments. This proved fairly challenging and I felt it did not strike the right note until multiple revisions. I learned the art of writing a hermit crab flash fiction and eventually enjoyed the process.

What is your favorite book? Or who is your favorite author?

Writers are voracious readers and can rarely have one favourite book or author! My favourite remains PG Wodehouse, but I do keep up with the modern bestsellers, whether it’s Less by Andrew Sean Greer, The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins, or The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides.

What books did you enjoy reading as a child?

Like most readers I picked up the love of books from my parents. I read all the classics, like The Great Gatsby and the books of Jane Austen, especially Pride and Prejudice. I also enjoyed Enid Blyton and the mysteries like The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew.

Do you have a specific genre you enjoy writing the most?

At the moment I most prefer writing literary fiction, but I have dabbled in speculative and humorous fiction too. 

What part of the artistic process do you consider to be the most difficult, as well as most satisfying, and why.

Writing the first draft is the part I find most difficult, because the superb ideas in my head simply dissolve to mush on the paper. It takes a concerted effort to put one word after another and bring to life what you thought was a winning story.

On the other hand, I love revising my stories. The process of chiseling and imbuing life into the story, transforming it from plain words into something special and unique – that’s something I really enjoy! Even though it can be as challenging as drafting, at times!

Do you have any fears as a writer?

I do sometimes fear that some of my stories will forever remain unpublished. I fear that if I write and publish a novel it may sink to the bottom of the Mariana Trench! But for the most part I remain optimistic about success.

What is your favorite thing about writing flash fiction?

That I can finish drafting a piece in a day, and multiple stories over a weekend! It’s another matter making them publication-worthy. It takes just as long or sometimes even longer than a short story!

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

I think of family and friends, and feel complete gratitude.

Thank you, Gargi, for sharing your stories with us and for participating in this Q&A. We wish you the best in life and with all your writing endeavors!


Interview with Author Moni Brar

Interview with Author Moni Brar

by Christine Nessler

February 8, 2023

Poet Moni Brar shares pieces of her own personal history as a reflection of a collective history in her poem, Migrant Wish. Through her poem she explores numerous challenges she has faced as a Punjabi immigrant who moved to Canada from India during her formative childhood years. The poem, along with much of her writing, has also helped her examine the themes of identity and belonging within the context of the immigrant experience.

Working through personal and collective intergenerational trauma, Brar’s poems can be challenging to write. However, poetry allows her to apply different lenses to those difficult occurrences in her own past and that of generations before her. Migrant Wish allows Brar to rewrite some of these experiences she and others have faced as immigrants, or at least question them.

“In Migrant Wish, I am trying to take the past and envision different futures with it,” said Brar. Although she grew up and lives in Canada, Brar often is asked ‘Where are you from?” an insensitive question based on the color of her skin but also deeply wounding for a woman who continues to struggle to find her place.

Moving between the first and second stanza of Migrant Wish, Brar tries to resolve the division she feels inside herself. 

“I have this desire to belong to an environment, culture and country that I feel like I will never truly belong to because I straddle two worlds,” said Brar. “So, it’s that living in the in-betweenness and this sense of having a splintered self that I try to reconcile.”  

Throughout her childhood and teenage years, Brar vividly remembers shouts of derogatory names and jeers of ‘Go Home!’ when out in the community, both alone and with her family.  In the first stanza, she explores that feeling. As a child she wondered, what is home?

“Is it a house that you go home to each night and sleep in,” asked Brar. “Or is it a place that you belong to, a place that accepts you and invites you to belong to it?” In Migrant Wish, Brar writes, “Don’t they know that such a place no longer exists? That you are firmly wedged between two worlds that continue to reject you? That the notion of home exists only in their minds?”

 The second stanza was inspired by the SS Komagata Maru, both a ship and an example of one of many incidents in the early 1900s where immigrants of Asian origin were denied entry into Canada and the United States. 

“Though that incident happened long ago, the ripple effect is still felt within my community and even within the embodied experience of being a Punjabi-Sikh person today.” said Brar. 

She shared her own experience of being denied entry recently when she was stuck in an airport in India for two days, meaning only to pass through on her travels. The airport officials wouldn’t allow her into the country, or to transit through, so yet again Brar had the sinking feeling she didn’t have a home despite being in the country of her birth.

“If Canada isn’t home and India isn’t home, then where do I belong?” asked Brar.

The third stanza calls out cultural appropriation, something Brar has spent a lot of time butting up against in recent years. Things she was once ridiculed for as a child, like turmeric tea and facemasks, are now seen as trendy for wellness in pop culture. 

“It’s fascinating to me that in my lifetime I have seen this transition,” Brar said. “Who is wellness for?” She points out how traditional ayurvedic remedies once used by diverse populations, including the economically-marginalized, are now being overshadowed by consumerism and capitalism, making these wellness remedies inaccessible for the originators. Turmeric, who knew? Oh yeah, Punjabi women, that’s who.

The final stanza references a poem called A Brief for the Defense by Jack Gilbert. In her poems’ response, she questions what Gilbert really saw in Calcutta, wondering if perhaps he was looking through a lens of white privilege and needed to make the scenes of poverty, greed, and prostitution more palpable for himself rather than the reader. 

As a poet, Brar’s struggle is to stay true to her artistic voice.

“One of the big challenges I have in the artistic process is trying to find a way to honor art making and meaning making in my own cultural way and with my mother tongue,” said Brar. She is caught between trying to make art as a Punjabi woman and making it relevant to people who don’t come from the same worldview or frame of reference.

But oftentimes, the struggle comes back to a sense of belonging.

“My biggest concern mirrors this larger insecurity I have of not belonging,” Brar said.  Identity and belonging are not just themes of Brar’s writing, but rather a constant undercurrent. 

The exploration of the interconnectedness between identity, belonging and land has connected Brar with her Indigenous brothers and sisters in Canada. Upon hearing the name of our online literary journal, The Good Life Review, she was reminded of a concept central to Indigenous value systems, “the good life”—to live a life that is balanced, and in connection with family, community, and the land.

This Good Life is something Brar aims for in her work. 

“I am trying to create a balance through my writing,” Brar said, striving for connection with her family, her Punjabi and Canadian communities, and the land to ground her poetry.

Like Canada’s truth and reconciliation work, Brar is hoping to shed light on and address past wrongs and a dark history. 

“We are starting to face some of those dark moments in our past,” Brar said.  She categorizes her own poetry as ‘dark’ because she explores topics such as religious violence, sexual abuse, intergenerational trauma, and occupying both the role of the colonized and the colonizer. But the way she explores those topics and often the themes of belonging and land become transformed through the medium of poetry. 

“Poetry renders the dark into something beautiful,” said Brar.

You’ll find her beautiful poem, Migrant Wish, in Issue #10 of The Good Life Review.


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


Author Q&A with Lauren Davenport

Author Q&A with Lauren Davenport

December 21, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A features Lauren Davenport, a writer based in Brooklyn, New York. Lauren writes fiction, nonfiction, and more, and has been a New York Public School Educator of high school students for over twenty years. Her short nonfiction essay, Failure, is all about her profession and teaching experiences. We asked Lauren to share a little more about her writing life including some unique detail related to the writing of the story and what she learned from it.

This piece is seven years old! It haunted me just like the ghosts and I kept fiddling with it.

Time is a magical gift to writers. The simmer and slow cook method seem to work for me anyway.

We then asked what part of the artistic process she considered to be the most difficult, as well as most satisfying, and why.

Starting is the worst part for me, I procrastinate out of paralysis and talk myself into anything except actually writing-it’s pathetic honestly.

[However], I think when I’m in the thick of it and writing awaytime just dissolves and I’m not worrying about anything except trying to have my fingers keep up with my thoughts.

We asked her to describe her biggest fear as a writer.

Reading my work when it is out in the world and wishing I could change this or that. It happens every time and I guess it always will but it is scary to let anything go.

We asked Lauren what fuels her desire to write.

Boiling over with observations about the world that I fear no one wants to hear yet I need to share.

We wrapped the Q&A with the question of what comes to her mind when she hears the phrase, ‘The Good Life’.

I think of pasta. I have no idea why but I truly see spaghetti twirling on a fork.

That’s certainly one we haven’t heard before, but a great answer! Thank you Lauren, for sharing your story with us and for spending a little extra time on this Q&A. We wish you the best with your students and all your writing endeavors!

~The Good Life Review Team


Author Q&A with Noelle Nori

Author Q&A with Noelle Nori

December 8, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A features Noelle Nori. Noelle holds an MFA in Writing from the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University. Her fiction has appeared in Crack the Spine and The Write Launch and she was longlisted for The Masters Review 2021 Novel Excerpt contest.

Her short fiction, “Let it Burn,” appears in our autumn issue and invites the reader into the intimate space of an exercise studio where one participant works through an intense class that conjures thoughts of loss and longing–heavy lifting that is as much mental as it is physical.

As we do with all authors, we took the opportunity to ask Noelle a few questions about her writing and writing life. She elected to share what the most difficult part of the artistic process is for her.

Letting myself sit with the discomfort and ambiguity of not knowing what comes next and trusting that I will eventually figure it out. This usually happens somewhere in the middle of a piece and is actually something I’ve been experiencing more and more lately, but I’m trying to take it as a good sign that I’m pushing myself to improve. If I knew exactly where a piece was going and how to get there, then I would know exactly how to write it, and where is the challenge or growth in that? Part of the magic of writing is figuring things out as you go along. You have to pull that rabbit out of the hat for yourself before you can do it for your reader!

In contrast, she also shared the part of the process is the most satisfying.

When I write the ending or last line of a piece and have a sense of ‘Yes, that’s it.’ It’s kind of like slotting the last puzzle piece into place – so satisfying! It doesn’t necessarily mean the piece is totally done (I likely still have editing to do), but it’s exciting to see that north star that I’ve been writing towards finally shining on the page.

That is a satisfying moment indeed! And we love the analogy of the North Star, as a navigation point that is leading the story (or writer) to its destination.

Of course, we always want to know what people think of when they hear the phrase “The Good Life.” Here’s how Noelle responded to the question…

The following words come to mind: comfort, meaning, ease, expansiveness, abundance, joy, family, friends, flow, purpose, fun, creativity, and love. The tangible representation or fulfillment of those words might look different at any given time. (‘Comfort’ can mean a hug when I’m feeling down or lounge pants after a long day!) But they all add up to that ‘good life’ feeling.

Thank you, Noelle, for being open to a little Q&A and for allowing us to publish your story. We wish you the best!

~The Good Life Review Team


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


Author Q&A with Anne Whitehouse

Author Q&A with Anne Whitehouse

November 10, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We then asked what fuels her desire to write.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~The Good Life Review Team


Author Q&A with Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter

Author Q&A with Bridgit Kuenning-Pollpeter

November 3, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~The Good Life Review Team