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


Author Q & A with Alex Sese

Author Q & A with Alex Sese

September 29, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Alex Sese. Alex is a native of the Philippines who currently lives in Illinois as a full-time copy editor in medical communications and freelance fiction and nonfiction editor for Subtle Script Editing. Her story, “Love, Dad,” was this year’s winner of the Honeybee Prize in Fiction selected by guest judge Mary Kurlya. Here’s what Mary said about her story:

“Love, Dad” is a cleverly told story that employs misapprehension to brisk dramatic effect. As this short epistolary story reveals through masterful use of form, Dad and his legacy are far more nuanced and adoring than his earlier characterization portends, as is the medium through which he demonstrated his love, storytelling. 

As we do with many of our contributing authors, we asked Alex to share a little more about her writing and her writing life. We began by asking her which part of the writing process she found most difficult.

Her response: “To me, it’s finding that one line that anchors the whole story. Every piece starts with that one line that I’d really like to write and the rest kind of builds itself around it. It takes some time, reflection, and sometimes just luck to come up with it.”

This is a common obstacle faced by many artists. It is said that beginning is the hardest part. Afterwards, the rest just flows. We then asked her what fuels her desire to write.

Her response: “Readers, to be honest. I know they tell you to write for yourself, to write what you’d like to read. And I do. But every piece I’ve written is also a sort of love letter to someone out there. I hope that my words find them.”

It’s interesting to consider who we are writing for, ourselves or someone else. Perhaps we should be writing for ourselves but most writers probably have some person or audience in mind when setting out to write something new. The fact that yours are love letters is endearing and we love that! We then asked her who her biggest writing influences were.

Her response: “Haruki Murakami is someone I admire and consider his work as comfort reading. I think the way he makes me feel like I’m eavesdropping on his characters in their more somber moments influences what I hope my writing to feel like – intimate and gentle.”

Making a reader feel connected to the characters you create is a great accomplishment and goal! Finally, we asked her what comes to mind when she hears the phrase “the good life.”

Her response: The good life is one where we feel at peace with who we are.

Thank you, Alex, for sharing your “love letter” with us and taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you the best with all your writing endeavors.

~The Good Life Review Team


Author Q & A with Adeline Lovell

Author Q & A with Adeline Lovell

September 23, 2022

This week’s author Q&A is with Adeline Lovell. Addie is a native of Brooklyn, New York. She attends Smith College where her focus is Women and Gender Studies with a concentration in Creative Writing. She is the author of the award-winning story “Burning” and the runner-up for the 2022 Honeybee Literature Prize in fiction. We had the privilege to ask Adeline about the creative process for her latest work, “The Children.

We began by asking which aspects of the writing process stood out or surprised her most.

Her response: “This piece mostly started from stand-alone scenes that came from prompts in creative writing classes. I wrote the flashback scene with Brittany and Caroline as teenagers first, and then felt like there was more to their relationship, after they’ve grown and dealt/not dealt with their own dysfunction. I think the time that this is being published is the weirdest detail—I wrote this way before the Roe decision, certainly not expecting that if or when it was published, abortion rights would be in such a dire place. I feel happy that this is being published right now. I hope that now, this piece reads as another reminder of the many reasons that women make this choice, and that none of them should have to be justified.”

A very insightful and honest take on how this story relates to modern times! We then asked her what new discoveries she made about her craft and overall writing style in the making of this story.

Her response: “This piece didn’t feel complete for a long time—I wrote it non-chronologically, not even knowing if I could make it into a concise story. That’s pretty different from my usual process when I’m writing short fiction, so by the time I sat down and tried to consider it as a longer piece, a lot of it was already done. So that was a new experience for me, in terms of craft. I felt really tender towards my two main characters in this piece—I didn’t really favor one over the other—which was kind of new for me, given that they do a lot of unintentional hurting of each other. It was a really fun and interesting thing to explore

It’s always exciting to surprise yourself and learn more about yourself as a writer when drafting new work! We then asked Addie what she enjoys most about the artistic process.

Her response: I love the initial process of writing a story. Writing scenes for the first time, however much they end up changing, is so much fun for me. I feel like I’m often reminding myself that writing is supposed to be fun even as it’s also incredibly hard, frustrating, and occasionally infuriating. But I LOVE the feeling of getting into a zone where I know what I want to say and feel the urgency to write it.

The sense of urgency that she describes is felt by many writers out there, as is the ultimate reward that comes with writing new work. We finally asked her about her writing influences and what fuels her desire to write:

Her response: Reading good fiction, seeing something that I want to find an interesting way to describe, getting overwhelmed by an emotion that feels important enough to explore in some context other than my life…I think Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Elizabeth Strout are probably my biggest influences. I write a lot about family dynamics and dysfunction, and every time I read them, I’m just floored by how compelling and smart their work is. 

We asked Addie if there was anything else she wanted to share with potential readers?

Her response: I feel like now is as relevant a time as any to remind everyone who is able to donate to abortion funds and listen to and amplify the voices of the poor women and WOC in red states who are most affected by new laws, and to never let the lawmakers who were responsible for this have a moment of peace.

And finally, when we asked her what she thinks of when she hears the phrase, “The Good Life,” her response was as follows:

There are so, so, so many things, but right now, I’m answering these questions outside a coffee shop with live music, drinking an iced lavender latte and sitting next to my best friend. It feels very relevant.

Thanks Addie for sharing your words with us and being a part of our Summer issue. We appreciate you taking extra time with us on this Q&A and wish you the best!

~The Good Life Review Team


Author Q & A with Suzi Banks Baum

Author Q & A with Suzi Banks Baum

September 15, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Suzi Banks Baum. Suzi is a writer living in Great Barrington, MA. Her writing deals with topics such as female sexuality, and the trials and tribulations experienced by women in the modern world. Her nonfiction essay “Connect: Disconnect” is this year’s winner of The Honeybee Prize in Nonfiction which was selected by guest judge Jessica Hendry Nelson. Here’s what Jessica had to say about the essay –

“Connect: Disconnect” strikes me with its unapologetic exploration of the power and pleasure of female sexuality. With fine attention to language and cadence, it combs memory to unpack a complicated legacy of want and wonder. This essay does not flinch, capitulate, or mitigate. In charting her voracities, the narrator reminds the reader of the vital power of her own.” 

We asked Suzi to share some unique or standout detail regarding her writing process for this piece.

Her response: Connect/Disconnect was inspired by a brilliant piece of writing by Merritt Tierce in the NY Times last November, titled, “The Abortion I Didn’t Have.” Reading Merritt’s work made me realize that in the years of work on my memoir, I had skirted the topic of my sexual coming of age but hadn’t really given it space in the narrative. My writing partner Sue and I decided to write, to simply write what came forward as we put our minds into that time in our lives. I wrote pages and pages. I spoke to my high school best friend, talked to my friends from camp, pored over my journals. I tried to piece together the throughline of my experience of waking up in my body sexually.

We asked her what she learned about herself or craft through the making of this piece.

Her response: That though my writing life is largely solitary, just me at my desk with a pencil or my laptop, the development of a piece exists in relationships, in reaching out to people I trust, in listening and reflecting on those conversations. My writing partner and I talked weekly. We were setting off into dangerous territory, examining the influences and expectations and restrictions that we felt as young women in our early lives. Our trust in one another helped me write because I knew that she’d read my pages no matter what, and she’d support me taking the risk of exposing a very personal part of my life. I did the same thing for her. I feel emboldened by writing all of this. The person who I first had intercourse with, the guy who I gave my virginity to, to use the term of that time, is dead. I tried to find people who knew him, I spoke to my close friend from that period of my life and got her impressions. I realized how much shame and amnesia I’d chosen to live with until I began writing. The more I dug into the timeline, the facts, the influences of that time, the more I wanted to write.

We asked Suzi what part of the writing process is the most satisfying and why.

Her response: “I love to free-write. I have been addicted to pencils since I was a tiny kid. I love the feel of graphite on paper. I wake up early, make a cup of tea, and hopefully, without any distraction, go right to the page. I write a full page at least, or more. But I usually stop at 3 pages because that signals to me that this topic or scene or memory is something to return to later. Also I love to read and take notes. Give me Orion magazine or the New Yorker or American Short Fiction and I will soak up the writing and take notes, find small phrases to use as prompts for a free write. I like to copy out sections that are deeply affecting. I learn from the writing of others. A book that has been on my lap for the past year to dip into like that is a collection titled, Hearth: A Global Conversation on Identity, Community, and Place edited by Annick Smith and Susan O’Connor. I aspire to write like the writings anthologized there.”

We followed up on that by asking what fuels her desire to write.

Her response: In my free-write journal, I taped an image of an engraving from 1649 of women being hung for witchery in England. I look at the women with their hands tied, necks in nooses, and I think, yeah, my story is worth telling. I believe writing loosens bonds which have kept women silent for generations. Creative expression can disrupt each of us enough to let that which is uncomfortable have room. Also, the natural world, which I am privileged to live amongst. I am taken daily by the woes and delights of foxes, and fireflies, snow drifts and different kinds of ice, the rapture of a rose blossom and the savory tang of a bite of a basil leaf. These things, along with swimming and love and making something like sense, compel me to write.

We asked Suzi if she has any projects coming up that she would like to share.

Her response: I teach book art because coupled with my infatuation with pencils is my devotion to books, the kind we can write in, create in, delve into, that invite us to explore our inner worlds and digest and integrate life experiences. I will teach a book art workshop at the Art School of Columbia County, NY in September, a live and in-person 2-day workshop. Then in late November, my online workshop, Advent Dark Journal, a 6-week exploration of art, writing, and ritual centered around flourishing in the holiday season when so many people feel disconnected from the sacred and overwhelmed by the glare of tinsel. Both of these events are listed on my website,

We asked her to talk about her biggest influences in writing/what she enjoys reading.

Her response: My first influence is Katey Schultz, who has been a colleague and friend for the last 10 years or so. She invited me to the writing residency at the Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts, a residency which I now administer. We have taken each other’s classes, written elbow to elbow at my backyard picnic table, I’ve slept in the Airstream trailer in her yard, we’ve read each other’s work and listened to our frustrations. Please read her work. I recommend Flashes of War first. I have been part of Katey’s Monthly Mentorship program for the past two years, learning about revision and how to sustain a writing life. That mentorship, with someone whom I trust deeply and love heartily, who I respect as a writer and rely on as a colleague, has been deeply nourishing. Second, because this person has shaped me since I first picked up my pencil and began to write about my life inside motherhood, is the writer Terry Tempest Williams. The passion and determination which shine through her is pure manna. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Terry after a talk she gave at the Carey Institute in Millbrook, NY and to introduce her to my kids. They knew what a life-moment it was for us all to hear Terry speak about the United States and our difficult relationship with land and our collective history of colonization, and about being present to the changes our planet is undergoing. Terry’s writing feels both intimate and wildly public at the same time, exposed but also pointed and full of space for inquiry. Terry draws conclusions but she leaves space for reflection that makes me feel included. I hope you’ve read some of her work. If you haven’t, start with When Women Were Birds.

We asked her what else she would like to share with potential readers.

Her response: I recognize that writing clearly and frankly about sex, about what is consensual and what may not be, is a daring act of boldness. I could have cloaked this story in fiction, but I decided not to. I am committed to people making space and finding some sense in their lives through the expressive arts. I believe it is how we begin to identify what truly matters to us and what we stand for. That space allows us clarity on which actions we are willing to take, what comfort we will risk in order to live our fullest lives.

And last, but certainly not least, we asked Suzi what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life.”

Her response: I think of connection, of there being room enough for the stories of anyone who has a story to tell. The Good Life conjures up to me a wide long table with place settings for everyone who thought that fully expressing themselves was only for a select few. The Good Life feels spacious and inclusive and kind and respectful. I grew up with such a clear prescription of what a good life was and I have lived long enough to recognize that what is good for the collective is something far greater than that early definition and I am so grateful to know that now.

This is so lovely! The “connection” of which you speak and there being space enough for everyone to tell their story is part of the reason we started this journal and website in the first place. We’re grateful that we were able to connect with you and that you trusted us with your story. Congrats again on winning this year’s prize!

~The Good Life Review Team


Author Q&A with W.W. Webb

Author Q & A with W.W. Webb

September 8, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~The Good Life Review Team


Author Q & A with Sequoia Maner

Author Q & A with Sequoia Maner

September 1, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~The Good Life Review Team


Author Q&A with Jane Muschenetz

Author Q & A with Jane Muschenetz

August 18, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~The Good Life Review Team