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Spotlight: Dr. M. Leona Godin
Interview by Gretchen Gales
*Editor's Note: This interview project was created to help you as readers get to know our writers as well as the Quail Bell Crew to get to know each other better. This intervew was conducted by managing editor Gretchen Gales and focuses on the "Distill My Heart" columnist, Dr. M. Leona Godin.
How did you become associated with Quail Bell?
I'm a late bloomer when it comes to submitting my writing. My first published story was in FLAPPERHOUSE, a super cool zine based in Brooklyn, though I didn't realize they were so close when I was submitting to them. Anyway, when you first start submitting to journals it can be overwhelming. I spent a lot of sleepless nights checking out bios and following trails. I ran into a review of my beloved FLAPPERHOUSE at Quail Bell, and decided to submit. I think I was looking for something to sink my teeth into and so, instead of just submitting, I decided to apply to be a regular QB contributor, et voila, I'm still here!
What kind of writing do you do for Quail Bell? And do you do any writing outside of Quail Bell?
I have given Quail Bell poems and stories as reprints, and I've written a number of nonfiction pieces for my column Distill My Heart and others suggested by the editors. I write about my experience as a blind person and about disability related issues on my blog. I also do some web based ghost writing, and, oh yeah, I recently sold a little essay to O Magazine, so that bumped up my professionalism!
Who are the biggest influences on your writing?
This is always the hardest question! Like most people who read constantly, I'm influenced by so many different kinds of writing — from ancient mythology and the Bible to The Best American Short Stories 2016, from John Milton to David Foster Wallace, from Jorge Luis Borges to books on aromatherapy, trees and travel that I can't really say — it depends on the day!
What are your hobbies that don’t involve writing?
Mixing up aromatic concoctions, lotions and potions, sewing, walking, drinking...
Your Distill My Heart column is popular with our readers (as expected). How did you come up with the idea? I've been getting into aromatherapy for the last few years and have been drinking since I was a naughty kid. I saw deep connections between the distillation of essential oils, hydrosols and spirits that few people seemed to be writing about. It feels like booze is for dude writers and aromatics for chicks. I wanted to create a column that bridged the gap by using disparate sources — from biology text books to the Bible to herbals to create an intelligent conversation about all things aromatic and alcoholic.
What’s a book by a local or indie author you would recommend to someone?
I'm currently reading The Misadventures of Sulliver Pong by Leland Cheuk and really digging it.
Why are small presses so important in the industry?
A writer can spend her whole life submitting to the New Yorker and Paris Review without getting so much as a personalized rejection. Small presses offer much-needed outlets for emerging authors. There is something very important to an author's process to have something published, in order to then let go, write new things, and grow.
What is your doctorate in? Why did you pick that concentration?
I was 18th century British Literature, with a concentration on conceptions of seeing and not-seeing. The 18th century marked, in many ways, the beginning of modernity in terms of scientific discovery, but also in terms of literary ephemera. One of my faves Joseph Addison, who was basically the original blogger. He wrote a weekly paper, called The Spectator on all topics imaginable, and didn't care how many he sold, but only how many people read him in the London coffee shops!
You recently took on the #52essays2017 Challenge. What do you hope to gain from that (besides 52 essays) and what topics do you plan to cover?
I struggle to get personal in my writing. Sometimes I feel like my life is very boring and yet, it also feels like (or I fear that) the most interesting thing about me is my blindness. So I decided to take on writing a personal essay each week that centers upon one aspect of my autobiography as it relates specifically to the experience of a degenerative eye disease--without worrying too much about being wise or revelatory.
Finally, what's your favorite piece you've done for Quail Bell?
Well, I love the “Distill My Heart” series, but besides those, I think it may be “Sewing Blind,” my first published personal essay.
Welcome to our staff blog, where you can learn more about The Quail Bell Crew.
Christine Stoddard conceived the idea for Quail Bell in late 2009 after writing a children's story by the same name, and launched the website as a college blog in 2010. In June 2013, Christine and former art director Kristen Rebelo officially launched Quail Bell Magazine as a global web magazine. Read our editorial mission statement to learn more.