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Author Q & A with Jiahui Wu

Author Q & A with Jiahui Wu

April 6, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6. What is your biggest fear as a writer?

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

7. What fuels your desire to write?

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

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

Each to his or her own.

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

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

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

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

11. How did the pandemic affect your writing?

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

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

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

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

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

Author Q & A with Lynne Golodner

Author Q & A with Lynne Golodner

March 30, 2022

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

We asked Lynne to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of her essay and share something it taught her.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

Author Q & A with Joe Cappello

Author Q & A with Joe Cappello

March 24, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only don’t say it; write it.”

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

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

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

 With Goodwill,
~The Good Life Review Team


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

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Author Q & A with Cristina Legarda

Author Q & A with Cristina Legarda

March 16, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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Author Q & A with Geoff Watkinson

Author Q & A with Geoff Watkinson

March 10, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team


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

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Author Q & A with Sally Quon

Author Q & A with Sally Quon

March 2, 2022

This week’s Author Q&A is with Sally Quon. Sally is a dirt-road diva and teller of tales, living in the Okanagan. She has been shortlisted for Vallum Magazine’s Chapbook Prize for two consecutive years and is an associate member of the League of Canadian Poets.  Her flash essay, “Street People – Portraits of the Opioid Crisis,” appeared in our latest issue of The Good Life Review.

We asked Sally what fuels her desire to write. 

Her response:  “In “On the Road,” Jack Kerouac wrote, “the fields were the color of love and Spanish mysteries.” The words put together created something beyond their individual meanings. What an amazing gift! I want that for myself, to create word-paintings capable of making others see what I see when I look at the world.”

We also asked how she knows a piece of writing is finished. 

Her response: “For me, a piece of writing is never finished. It may have been published years earlier and I’ll still stop and think, “Hmmm…” before changing a word or a phrase. But there is that moment when what I’m working on aligns perfectly with where my heat is at, at that particular time. That’s when I’ll send it out into the world.”

We then asked Sally how the pandemic affected her writing.  

Her response: “As the pandemic hit, I was certain I would spend all my time creating amazing work. I was completely unprepared for the mental anguish that paralyzed me, rendering me incapable of writing anything beyond my journal. To be fair, that journal was accepted into the National Women’s History Museum as part of their coronavirus journal project. But it took months of creating little rituals to help get me through the day before I was able to start creating again.”

And finally, as it is will all our artists, we asked what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life?”

She responded, “When my daughter was small, she said, “We’re leaving the bad life and going to the good life.” Concerned, I asked her what that meant. It turned out she was referring to our upcoming move from a stifling apartment to a house with a yard. Ever since then, the good life, to me, has meant being in a place with easy access to the wonders of nature. Here in the Okanagan Valley, I’m definitely living the good life.”

That does indeed sound like a good life, and your blog is certainly proof of that!

Sally’s work has been published in numerous anthologies including Chicken Soup for the Soul—the Forgiveness Fix, BIG, Straightening Her Crown, and When Home is Not Safe. Her personal blog, https://featherstone-creative.com is where she posts her back-country adventures and photos.

Thank you, Sally, for participating in our Q&A and sharing more about yourself. Thanks also for being a part of our winter issue. Spring is just around the corner! 

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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Author Q & A with Jack Phillips

Author Q & A with Jack Phillips

February 23, 2022

This week we are bringing you an interview with poet and Naturalist Jack Phillips. Jack lives in the Missouri River watershed of eastern Nebraska and is the founder of The Naturalist School, a nonprofit organization devoted to poetic wildness and the consilience of creativity and ecology. His poem “Felis Ellipses” appeared in our latest issue.

We asked Jack to tell us some unique or surprising detail about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of his poem. His response was just about as poetic as his poem!

“Friends, poetry is a path, a lens, a raw impulse, and a for me — and for all who seek it — a way to connect with the wildly creative pulse and tissue of the cosmos. The sticky-slip of a tadpole on your skin or the baby-rattle wings of a dragonfly tug at the soul draws us deeply into the planetary body we share. Right here and now. On this day my friends and I slunk a frozen creek right through urban Lincoln and soon realized that we were so close to a bobcat in heat we could smell her. As I read her spoor-poem, her little press and step presently melting the snow, I composed a bit of ephemera of my own.”

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

“Yes! Frequently on Sunday mornings, we gather in a native place to saunter, write, make ephemeral art, listen to wild silences. No experience required — only feral desires and good boots. See thenaturalistschool.org.”

Many of Jack’s poems ooze the “Good Life” vibe, so we were especially interested in what he thinks about when he hears the phrase “The Good Life.”

“I have left Nebraska several times, thinking that I would remain in Alaska or Egypt or the Levant, but this is home. Of course, few of us are truly native here. My childhood sloughs and wooded creeks, sandy meanders, pop-up meadows have vanished; the wild Nebraska of my youth has largely disappeared. But a ghost wilderness survives, and it is good. Can you feel it?”

Yes, Jack, we can! 


Jack is the author of The Bur Oak Manifesto: Seeking Nature and Planting Trees in the Great Plains and co-editor of Natural Treasures of the Great Plains: an Ecological Perspective (with Paul Johnsgard and Tom Lynch). His poetry has appeared in Wild Roof, Flora Fiction, EcoTheo, The Closed Eye Open, Canary: a Literary Journal of the Environmental Crisis, and THE POET.

Thanks, Jack, for being a part of our winter issue and for participating in this Q & A.

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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Author Q & A with Jessica Mendoza

Author Q & A with Jessica Mendoza

February 16, 2022

Today we are pleased as punch to bring you the first of several interviews we conducted with authors that contributed their stories, scripts, and poems to our latest issue.

This week’s Author Q&A is with Jessica Mendoza. Jessica is a professional writing tutor born and raised in LA. She’s an avid reader, lover of small animals, and a serious movie musical nerd who spends her days talking about her various interests and story ideas to anyone who will listen.  We absolutely love her flash essay, “Nanami in the Blue Dress,” and were excited to learn more about her and her essay.

We asked Jessica to tell us something she learned about herself, craft, or life in general through writing and revising this essay?

Her response:  “‘Nanami in the Blue Dress’ was actually a piece that I had in my back pocket for years now. Being queer, Black, and Latina created a whole host of intersecting experiences that I didn’t realize affected me so deeply until I was fully an adult. I didn’t even know I had such intense feelings for this childhood best friend until I was in college and ran into her again. The whole process of meeting “Nanami”, befriending her, falling in adolescent, innocent love with her, then being rejected by her for my ethnicity completely shifted my own self-perception. In writing “Nanami in the Blue Dress”, I found that I keep a piece of my former love for Nanami to remind me of the way the world perceives me, and the way I must – unfortunately – be emotionally prepared for the prejudice of others. This piece taught me that the human experience of love and bigotry gave me wisdom that I would not come to understand for many years.”

Well put! Writing often helps us see experiences as they were and also process them in new ways to help us understand more about ourselves and the world around us. It’s a wondrous process. 

We then asked Jessica what she might tell her younger writing self. 

Her response: “I was once terrified of having my work published. I felt, somehow, that it would lay all the parts of me bare, and I’d be completely vulnerable. But the COVID-19 pandemic really forced me to prioritize. I had to sit down with my work and really ask myself if I wanted my writing to stay completely mine forever, or if I was brave enough to share it. I realized that I wanted my writing to be seen and that I wanted that vulnerability. I would absolutely encourage my younger self to be bolder and put her writing out there even if she didn’t like what she was working on, especially if she was scared. Waiting for perfection is a losing game, and nothing is gained if you don’t at least try.”

We agree that sharing what you have written and sending it out into the world to be published can be scary. As writers ourselves, we know that taking that risk goes hand in hand with possible rejection and that’s always tough. We’re grateful you took the risk with us and allowed us to publish your essay!

And finally, as it is will all our artists, we asked what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life?”

Her response: “I think of taking the scenic route. The phrase “The Good Life” inspires us to see the beauty in everyday life, and to see our very existence on this Earth as a miracle. The Good Life inspires warmth, friendliness, a cold drink on a balcony with the sun warming my face. It pairs well with the wonderful artwork and imaginative pieces published in The Good Life Review!”

Thanks for that Jessica! And thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions, share a little bit more about yourself, and for being a part of our winter issue!

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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Author Q & A with Betty J. Cotter

Author Q & A with Betty J. Cotter

February 1, 2022

Hello and welcome to February. Today we are rounding out our first series of author interviews with a Q&A from novelist and teacher Betty J. Cotter. Betty lives in Rhode Island and holds an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her essay “The Smock” appeared in Issue #5 ~ Autumn 2021.

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

“The Smock,” like many of my essays, started out in my journal. I had read a review of “All That She Carried” by Tiya Miles, about a cotton sack passed down by an enslaved woman to her female descendants. I wondered, What textiles will survive from the 20th century? I began riffing on aprons (“They are rich ‘sacks’ containing stories – pockets full of stories”) when I suddenly wrote, “My mother’s maternity top. She was wearing it when she slapped Andi. When she was carrying me. Why would she slap Andi? Dreadful! Yet I once slapped Perry – feel equally dreadful about that.” So I pretty quickly knew what the piece would be about, but I spent a few days exploring the issue – “thinking about pregnancy as confinement,” my mother’s anger, the contrast with the “gaudy, happy print” of the smock itself. Then, as I began to write the piece, I put the smock on. Wearing it gave me a feeling of creativity, closeness to my mother, even forgiveness toward myself. But by the time the essay was done, I felt depleted, writing, “these memoir pieces like ‘The Smock’ take a lot of juice out of me.”

One of our questions (and a common conundrum for many writers) is how to know when a piece is finished. We asked Betty how she decides a piece has found its final version.

Her response: “Most of these short nonfiction pieces that I write are in revision until they get published. I wrote “The Smock” over five days in June, sent it to two places, revised it again in August, and sent it out three more times. I have a piece that I wrote in 2018 that has been revised many, many times, rejected by a dozen publications, and finally received a “maybe” this summer after I cut it substantially. There is a feeling in my gut that I get when I think the piece is as good as I can make it. I spent seven years working on my novel Sisters in Exile, and during that time I changed the point of view from third person to first to third again and the verb tenses from past to present. I also realized I had started at the wrong point and wrote an entirely new Chapter 1. The key is not to lose interest. As long as I am invested in the work, I can spend years on it.”

We also asked Betty how the pandemic has affected her writing. Her response is as follows: 

“This may sound callous, but the quarantine turned out to be a fruitful time for me. I know the pandemic has been horrible and many people struggled with social isolation, but when I lost my summer class (I’m an adjunct at two colleges), it opened up my writing time. I began a concentrated period of re-reading some of my favorite authors, including Anne Morrow Lindbergh, May Sarton, and Virginia Woolf. I had more time to compose, revise, and just think. Because I missed my favorite coffee shop, my husband set up a table for me in the backyard we call the “Meadow Cafe.” I rotated from the meadow to our patio to my upstairs office, and these options gave me a renewed sense of inspiration during the quarantine. 

“The mail also became my connection to the world; I began an intense correspondence with two friends. With Tara, a friend from graduate school, I exchanged letters about reading, writing, and feminism, and we even read some of the same new books. Arline, a former newspaper colleague, shares some of my cultural experiences and memories, having grown up in a working-class household, and we exchanged stories about our past as well as present days. 

“I also decided to subscribe to more magazines, literary and commercial; between the letters and the magazines, I always have something to look forward to in the mailbox. The result of all this reading, writing, and corresponding? I’ve had more publications in the last year and a half than I had in the previous decade. I’ve vowed I will never teach in the summer again. I’m also cutting back the number of classes I teach during the year. I feel like I’m finally having the writing life I always dreamed of.”

That sounds like a positive outcome and leads nicely to our final question. We asked her what she thinks of when she hears the phrase “The Good Life?”

Her response: “The title of the magazine really drew me. Americans think of ‘the good life’ as material, but to me it’s contemplative. The ability to reflect on our experiences and respond to art, nature, and other people in deeper ways is what makes us human.”

Betty is the author of the novels Roberta’s Woods (Five Star, 2008) and The Winters (which earned her a Fiction Fellowship from the R.I. State Council on the Arts). The first chapter of her novel Moonshine Swamp was selected for the premiere issue of Novel Slices (2020) and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Thanks, Betty, for being a part of our autumn issue and for participating in this Q & A!
Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team

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interviews

Author Q & A with John Rudoy

Author Q & A with John Rudoy

January 28, 2022

This week we are bringing you a bonus interview with scientist and writer, John Rudoy. John is interested in migration, tradition, and assimilation and what these broad concepts really mean for the individuals who go through them. His writing has appeared in Science Magazine and the Maine Underground Writer’s Anthology. His story “Winter Generation” appeared in Issue #5 ~ Autumn 2021.

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

“The story is purely fiction, but it is inspired by events in my family’s history that I learned of when I discovered some old writing by my great grandfather. He wrote largely in Yiddish, but I was able to decipher it because years before my now wife and I took German classes together when we were dating (Yiddish is written in the Hebrew script but its vocabulary and grammar are largely drawn from German). She fled Sri Lanka during the civil war there and ended up on an island in the Caribbean where nearly everyone was multilingual, so learning random new languages was her idea of a good time. It feels appropriate that a member of one, relatively new diaspora ended up helping a member of another, much older one, discover his origins.”

John also elected to give a little more insight into something he discovered through writing this story. 

“I am always interested in the setting a writer chooses for their stories. A setting is often a place you have lived in yourself, that you then choose to live in again, figuratively, while you write your story. What drives writers to choose the settings they do? I’m still not sure, but I surprised myself by settling on two places, Chicago in the winter, and the New England coast in the summer, that have both made very deep and very differently shaped impressions on me.  I am not sure this is something I learned about myself so much as further questions I have about myself, but I’ll say that counts.”

We agree that setting is a key component in most, if not all, writing because it provides so much context. Turning a magnifying glass inward, we can learn a great deal about ourselves from the places we gravitate toward using in our stories and poems. We also agree that this introspection often leads to more questions than answers. 

When we asked John what he thinks of when he hears the phrase “The Good Life,” his response was both astute and spot-on. 

The Good Life” raises the specter of ostentatiousness: champagne and yachts and shiny tuxedos. But “a good life” suggests a quotidian calm. A life that has worn tracks into the hardwood and the thresholds, and that knows, and is happy knowing, where its next step will fall. And to think some languages make do without articles! Don’t know how they do it.”

It is an important distinction indeed! That second sentiment is quite lovely and we can all aspire to feel that in our lives. Thanks for sharing, John, and thanks again for being a part of our 5th issue.

Cheers,
~The Good Life Review Team